An Astrology of Skepticism?
Is a predisposition toward belief or doubt shown in the astrological chart? In this series on the astrology of religion, we have explored the charts of a number of famous believers and doubters. Here were explore the astrology of religion in the chart of Michael Shermer, the famous skeptic.
The ingredients and recipes for this type of analysis can be found in the first post of the series, which you can view here, and were reviewed with additional comments a couple posts back, which you can view here.
Shermer is one of the most prominent skeptics in the world today as the founder of The Skeptics Society (skeptic.com) and editor in chief of its magazine, Skeptic. He is also a self-professed atheist – see here for his article, “Why I Am An Atheist”. You can read Shermer’s biography on Wikipedia by clicking here. His natal chart is shown below and has a Rodden Rating of AA.
Michael Shermer’s Central Belief Indications
Jupiter is strong in Shermer’s chart. Jupiter is advancing, in a sign of a light (Cancer), and regarded by both Lights. It is also receiving the application of its ruler, the Moon. When Jupiter is generally strong in this way, we might suppose that among other Jupiter significations being prominent in the life. For instance, we may suppose that the native has had many expansive spiritual experiences that transcended the known.
Benefic to Mixed
Jupiter is naturally benefic and is in the 11th (its Joy), while in sect. This is a very benefic Jupiter overall. Mars is the out of sect malefic and Mars opposes Jupiter. Jupiter is afflicted in this sense and can be mixed. Mars adds heat and contention to Jupiter’s significations, particularly upon activations of the Jupiter-Mars opposition.
Notes on Jupiter
The influence of Jupiter is substantial and mostly positive. The subjects which Shermer pursued in school reflect this. Those subjects were cultural anthropology and experimental psychology, both of which are more expansive, holistic, and Jupiterian fields. Later in life, he earned his Ph.D. in the History of Science. While an atheist, he has also argued that science cannot invalidate religion. Unlike many prominent skeptics and atheists, he doesn’t appear to advocate intolerance for others based on their religious beliefs. He does have a strong Mars-Jupiter signature in the chart which relates to argumentation and crusading for one’s beliefs.
The 9th, Taurus, is empty. Venus, the planet of sensuality, artistry, and pleasure, rules the 9th. Venus is advancing, but is in a cadent place. She does regard the 9th by an opposition. Overall, the 9th is only of middling prominence.
Somewhat malefic, mixed
Venus rules the 9th and is somewhat malefic here in the chart, as she is out of sect and applying a conjunction to a malefic (Saturn). She is also in both the bound and the sign of the out of sect malefic, Mars. Saturn is in very close aspect to Mars, and Saturn opposes the 9th. Overall, the 9th place has a very Saturnine influence on it, inducing much doubt, critical thinking, and need for tangible evidence when it comes to matters of belief and truth. In the evaluation of belief, Saturn leans toward science/skepticism, while Venus leans toward aesthetic value and human pleasure/joy. There may be an association of matters of higher truth or dogma with unpleasantness or strife. However, it is mixed in this regard, exhibiting a broad range, as Saturn is in sect and Venus is a benefic.
Notes on the 9th Place
Belief-systems and truth-seeking have moderate prominence in Shermer’s life. They are not as prominent as in most of the charts of vocal atheists we’ve seen. His evaluation of belief systems tends to be heavily influenced by aesthetics/pleasure (Venus rulership) and doubt/skepticism (Saturn opposes the 9th and is with the ruler of the 9th).
Saturn is moderately strong, as it is advancing but cadent. While Saturn has a strong effect on the 9th (via opposition), it doesn’t have a strong effect on the life overall. The life is not marked strongly by doubt, loss, dreariness, darkness, and negativity as it is in the charts of many atheists.
Mixed to somewhat malefic
Saturn is naturally a malefic and is ruled by the out of sect malefic, so there are some challenging circumstances indicated by Saturn. However, it is also in sect and conjunct a benefic, so there are definitely some benefits and positive outcomes associated with Saturn. Jupiter overcomes Saturn by sextile; another beneficial configuration. Therefore, there is a quite a broad mixed range with the significations of Saturn in the chart, from malefic to bringing about very positive developments.
Notes on Saturn
Saturn influences the belief system but doesn’t have a huge impact on the life overall. Saturn has both constructive and challenging associations.
Mercury is very prominent. It is strongly advancing on the Ascendant and rules the Ascendant. It is also very strongly in phasis (15 degrees from Sun). Therefore, Mercury is extremely strong and prominent in this chart. The god of movement, intellect, rational thought, and commerce has a very strong and pervasive effect on the life as a whole. Shermer encounters prominent Mercurial themes (complexity, rationality, ingenuity, synthesizing, commerce) in his typical life circumstances.
Mercury always has a broad range from benefic to malefic, but here it leans malefic due to its influences. Mercury is out of sect and in a dark place (the 2nd), while in the bound of Saturn, and applying to Mars. All of these indications push Mercury to be more malefic. In other words, we expect Mercury to be more geared into destroying than creating, and negatively evaluating rather than positively contributing something new. In the bound (and exaltation, and triplicity) of Saturn, we expect Mercury to be particularly at home with skeptical evaluation (Saturn pertains to doubt, judgment, and nullification).
Notes on Mercury
Mercury connects strongly with the Ascendant, indicating a strong identification with Mercury. It is also very prominent in the life generally. Mercury is in the 2nd of money and wealth, so while Mercury’s influence is pervasive and broad, the significations concerning commerce are particularly reinforced. We expect that Shermer is a shrewd business-minded individual. The general identification with Mercury is a very common theme among atheists and skeptics. As a whole, they identify very strongly with rationality and intellect. So far, half of the atheists/skeptics in this series (Randi, O’Hair, and now Shermer) have had Mercury as the actual ruler of the Ascendant.
A Mercury that is Particularly Skeptical When it Comes to Belief but Also Tolerant
With Shermer, we again see a strong identification with Mercury. By contrast, there is no identification with Jupiter, despite the fact that Jupiter has a significant influence on life circumstances. However, Mercury is the strongest overall influence in his life. We also see the influence of Saturn upon the belief system (9th) and rational thought (Mercury). Unlike many atheists, it appears that there isn’t a strong influence of doubt, dreariness, difficulty, and rejection in his life in general (Saturn is not very strong). Also, he may have had many spiritually expansive experiences in his life that tested the limits (Jupiter is strong). Perhaps it is this which has led him to be more tolerant of religion generally than many other skeptics and atheists. He remains open-minded and directs his attacks instead at specific ideas and claims.
Featured image of Michael Shermer at TAM 5 (cropped) by José Ramírez [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Final image of Michael Shermer by User: Loxton (Wikipedia) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons