Mental Chemistry in the Birth Chart
by Bob Makransky
Life is like bodysurfing: Most of the time, you’re just standing there, waiting for the right wave to come; then when it does come, you have to hurl yourself into it at precisely the correct moment and ride it to shore. If you’re a little too slow or a little too fast — or if it wasn’t the right wave — you’re left standing right where you were.
Dr. Marc Edmund Jones came up with a simple technique that indicates whether a person is too slow, too fast, or just right in grabbing and riding the waves of life.1 He called it “mental chemistry,” and it is shown by the combination of two horoscope factors:
1. Whether the Moon is relatively slow or fast in its daily travel;
2. Whether Mercury rises before or after the Sun.
The Moon’s relative speed shows a native’s perceptual capabilities: how a person processes information, whether his or her perceptions are alert (fast Moon) or deliberate (slow Moon). The Moon’s daily travel is simply the difference between the Moon’s longitude at midnight (or noon) Universal Time before birth and its longitude at midnight (or noon) UT after birth. Because this averages 13°10’ (13.37°) per day, we will define a native’s perception to be alert if the Moon was moving faster than this on the day of birth — and deliberate, if the Moon was moving more slowly than this.
In the words of Al H. Morrison: “The ‘fast’ Moon … scans rapidly with a wide-open search pattern. If there is anything going on, anything new or unfamiliar, anything different from expectation, it is instantly perceived. In a complex environment, as most social environments are, there are so many details and processes to notice that the ‘fast’ Moon native has his mind receiving an avalanche of input, fresh data.”2
On the other hand, “Where the Moon is slow in its apparent motion, the native’s perceptual capabilities are focused, or directed toward observing whatever the native is motivated to seek, or has been conditioned to pay attention to, or whatever he fears. Other information is simply not perceived, not observed. This leaves the mind relatively lightly burdened, with minimal input of perceived data to process.”3
The Moon’s speed, however, does not merely symbolize how fast information is gathered and processed; it also describes how people gather themselves together and gird themselves for action. The natives whose perceptions are alert move quickly to get on top of a situation: Their immediate impulse is to attack. They like things to be clear and definite and aboveboard, so they are nonplused by subtleties. When they have a bee in their bonnet, they have no patience for any other point of view, nor are they interested in exploring possible consequences and ramifications — they don’t even want to hear about such things. They move by impulse and instinct; they make up their minds immediately, and once their minds are made up, they cannot be budged or moved to reconsider. In conflict, they try to take their opponents by storm, to overwhelm them, to give them no space in which to move. Their actions and reactions are quick and decisive.
In contrast, natives whose perceptions are deliberate move slowly and hesitatingly: Their immediate impulse is to draw back. They approach things by indirection, by outflanking the situation, by bogging things down and operating under the cover of confusion. Where the alert types act like sharks, the deliberate types act like octopuses — hiding on the bottom and masking their intentions in a cloud of murk. In conflict, these individuals refuse to expose themselves but rather outwait their opponents, letting them make the errors.
The other horoscope factor that makes up a person’s mental chemistry is Mercury’s position relative to the Sun at the moment of birth. If Mercury is located earlier than the Sun in the zodiac — so that, at dawn on the birthday, Mercury has already risen (is in the 12th house) — then the native’s attitude is said to be eager. Whereas if Mercury is located later than the Sun in the zodiac — so that, at dawn on the birthday, Mercury is still beneath the horizon (in the 1st house) — then the native’s attitude is said to be certain. (See Table below.) The difference here lies in how people categorize information, interpret it, and fit it into preconceived patterns, whether these be individualistic (eager) or conventional (certain). This is a process of reason or self-consciousness rather than one of knee-jerk response.
Mental Chemistry “Table of Elements”
BODY FACTOR TYPE
Moon Fast (moves more than 13°10’ in 24 hours) Alert
(relative speed) Slow (moves less than 13°10’ in 24 hours) Deliberate
Mercury Rises before the Sun (earlier in the zodiac) Eager
(relative to the Sun) Rises after the Sun (later in the zodiac) Certain
Note: When the Moon moves at, or very close to, average speed, the alert/deliberate distinction blurs; likewise, when Mercury is conjunct the Sun, the eager/certain distinction is of less importance. At these points, therefore, the Mental Chemistry technique is not as revealing as it is at the extremes.
In the words of Leyla Rael, “The Epimethean [certain] Mercury type of person tends to react to life more cautiously and based on past experience (either his or her own personal experience or according to traditional, cultural patterns). But while such a person is at best thorough and objective, mentally free from many purely emotional prejudices, at worst he or she can cling almost obsessively to obsolescent ideologies or display a conservatism bordering on rigidity. The Promethean [eager] Mercury type of person tends to leap into life with his or her mental antennae fully extended to receive information. While such a person may be able to act based on a compelling inner vision of what is possible — and at best may be flexible, prophetic, and responsive to the needs of the moment — at worst he or she may be merely conniving, facile, and crafty, going this way or that according to his or her own advantage.”4
Another way of saying this is that the “certain” natives need to be sure of themselves before they act — they need to feel that their actions will meet the approval of their social milieu. Thus, they are restrained and oriented toward goals and purposes. These natives interpret the world in terms of a guiding philosophy of social responsibility in which each member must do his or her own share, and they are scrupulous in observing their part of the bargain. They play the game by the rules — whatever they conceive those rules to be. They are wary and dutiful, and they put their faith in principle and obligation.
The “eager” natives, on the other hand, are unrestrained and experimentative. They don’t need any social authority to sanction their actions, but rather they follow their inclinations of the moment. They do what is expedient or convenient rather than what will be thought praiseworthy by others. They are optimistic and freewheeling and able to bounce right back whenever life slaps them down.
The Mental Mix
When there is a perceptive alertness combined with a rational certainty (fast Moon and Mercury rising after the Sun), then the native is quick to react but possesses a powerful governor on his or her impulses. An example of this alert–certain type is Abraham Lincoln: He was a shrewd and opportunistic politician, but his conscience and sense of responsibility for the consequences of his decisions made him a target for the radicals and extremists surrounding him.
Contrariwise, when there is a perceptive deliberation combined with a rational eagerness (slow Moon and Mercury rising before the Sun), then the native is slow to react but possesses compensatory flexibility and adaptability. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln as president, is a good example of this deliberate–eager type: He held fast to his principles in complete isolation but always managed to come out on top — first, as the only Southerner to remain in the U.S. Senate after the secession of the Southern states and, later, by successfully defending himself against a trumped-up impeachment.
In both of these cases, there is a healthy balance between the perceptual and rational faculties: These natives are able to resolutely hold their ground in the face of confusion and to marshal their resources effectively to deal with situations as they arise. They are able to grapple directly with the problems of life and to take things as they come — to recognize which waves are the right waves and to know when to hold back and when to jump forward.
But when perceptive alertness combines with rational eagerness — fast Moon (alert) and Mercury rising before the Sun (eager) — or when perceptive deliberation combines with rational certainty — slow Moon (deliberate) and Mercury rising after the Sun (certain), then the perceptual and rational faculties are out of balance. Natives of these types are easily thrown off their stride or confounded by situations requiring quick decisions. They don’t really pay attention to what is going on around them, but rather only to their own reactions. The alert–eager types become flustered, and the deliberate–certain types become obstinate. In either case, these unbalanced natives tend to fall out of synchronization with the speed of their environment: Alert–eager natives move too fast, and deliberate–certain natives move too slow — their suggestions and actions are inappropriate.
Whereas the balanced types have self-control or an instantaneous analysis that reacts to sudden changes by stiffening to attention, the unbalanced types tend to either overreact or underreact — alternating between overweening cockiness and fierce indignation — with no middle ground of calm discernment. Thus, they tend to waste their energies in ineffectual posturing and are more interested in proving something or making an impression than working with other people. These natives are too set in their manner of being, too wrapped up in their own self-images, too self-satisfied, to make allowances for changing conditions or different types of people — they don’t really know how to interact. So, they tend to be escapists — to obsess over a niggling sense of personal privilege — rather than effectively deal with the realities of the situations and relationships in which they find themselves.
In the words of Dr. Jones, “When the effective set of mind … shows the combination of rational eagerness and perceptive alertness, the life is usually characterized by an altogether unnecessary impatience. The native is inclined to stumble over his own toes most of the time, and he is apt to end up with actions and associations that not only fail to fulfill their promise but often handicap him very seriously by exhausting every potentiality of his make-up.”5 Basically, what happens is that these natives are overly intense and pushy. They tend to blow minor issues out of all proportion and, conversely, to trivialize matters of the greatest urgency and seriousness. They run around in circles and don’t get anywhere. They set up a myriad of compulsive routines and are greatly annoyed whenever these are challenged or abrogated by circumstances. They have a fitful, flighty energy that is never comfortable or in repose; they are constantly fluttering and fussing about, making this or that unnecessary adjustment to the environment, to arrange everything neatly so that they can finally relax — but of course, they rarely do. They are constantly preparing for a future that never comes.
John Brown affords an extreme example of the alert–eager type (see Chart 1): His natal Moon was very fast (15°13’ per day), and his Mercury was six days from Greatest Western Elongation, which is as far from the Sun on the “eager” side as it can get (earlier in the zodiac).6 Brown was a rabid abolitionist and the instigator of the Potawatomi massacre in Kansas, where many innocent people were killed; he then led an abortive attack on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, aimed at fomenting a slave insurrection. John Brown, likely more than any other single person, made any last-minute reconciliation impossible between the North and South. He pushed an already strained situation beyond the point of no return: “The John Brown raid had jangled Southern nerves fatally. It started a chain of hysteria like the ‘great fear’ of 1789 in the French Revolution. Rumors of slave insurrection popped up on every side.... Extremists on both sides whipped up hostile sentiment between sections.”7 The alert–eager types are not so much ignorant of consequences as they are contemptuous of them. They shoot from the hip, push things to the limit, and stampede other people with their impatient absolutism.
In contrast, consider the opposite unbalanced type. According to Dr. Jones, “When the reason demands a continual certainty and the perceptivity tends to be deliberate, the individual is apt to withdraw within himself to an extent that hardly is to his interest and perhaps indeed to slip off into altogether abnormal practices and points of view.”8 Such deliberate–certain natives are perverse and contrary. They delight in phlegmatic wrongheadedness, in controlling things by being in no particular hurry. They make good diplomats, because they are willing to spend years holding out for the precise shape of the conference table or the order of seating around it. They are more concerned with form and decorum than with substantive issues. They tend to confuse indifference with disinterest, obduracy with strength, stodgy pride with nobility of spirit. They will not budge an inch from their inflated sense of dignity and righteousness until they are completely overwhelmed by events, and then their responses are usually too little, too late. They tend to be preoccupied with self-congratulations, gloating with smug pride over a past that never happened.
William Jennings Bryan (see Chart 2) provides a very extreme example of the deliberate–certain type: His natal Moon was very slow (11°47’ per day), and natal Mercury was three days past Greatest Eastern Elongation, which is as far from the Sun on the “certain” side as it can get (later in the zodiac). Bryan is principally remembered today as a thrice unsuccessful presidential candidate and the butt of defense attorney Clarence Darrow’s ridicule during the famous Scopes Monkey Trial; however, Bryan championed many Populist causes that were later adopted. Still, in typical deliberate–certain style, he tended to look back rather than forward. Although he was well versed in the Bible, he was ignorant of many other topics — particularly economics, his supposed specialty. In Theodore Roosevelt’s words, Bryan represented “a kind of rural Toryism, which wishes to attempt the impossible task of returning to the economic conditions that obtained sixty years ago.”9 Historian Richard Hofstadter points out that Bryan’s problem as a politician was that, despite his brilliance in focusing the popular sentiment of the times, he always followed behind his public rather than leading it.10
What counsel can astrology give to these “unbalanced” natives? This is not a terrible affliction, nor is it uncommon — half of all horoscopes are “unbalanced.” These natives are likely quite content with exactly how they are. They may seek respect more than effectiveness or economy of action. This counsel is directed more toward the “balanced” half of the population who might wonder how to understand and deal with the unbalanced types. The alert–eager natives need to have their quirks indulged; learn to tolerate their little obsessions and prerogatives — that is, be as alert as they are and thus avoid their tripwires. Conversely, the deliberate–certain types require a lack of bother or hurry — a patience greater than their own. This will prove to them that you mean business and thus win them over. In either case, you can get the unbalanced natives’ attention and cooperation by outdoing them at their own games: giving them the respect they need, so that they feel comfortable and can open up and relax into a situation or relationship. Dealing with the unbalanced types is a good spiritual lesson in flexibility and agility — exactly the qualities needed to catch life’s waves and ride them rather than get thrashed by them.
Chart Data and Sources
(Note: The author’s delineations herein are not birth-time sensitive; sources should agree only on the date and place of birth.)
Abraham Lincoln, February 12, 1809; 7:13 a.m. LMT; Hodgenville, KY (37°N34’, 85°W44’); DD: M. E. Jones, The Scope of Astrological Prediction, p. 173 (according to the midwife, the birth occurred “about sunup”); other sources give different times.
Andrew Johnson, December 29, 1808; 12:35 a.m. LMT; Raleigh, NC (35°N46’, 78°W38’); C: Caution, accuracy in question; Circle Book of Charts quotes Doane’s Horoscopes of the U.S. Presidents. Karum writes in AO-Science, Fall 1942: “Born at night, after the ball,” from a biography by R. W. Winston.
John Brown, May 9, 1800; 3:00 a.m. LMT; Torrington, CT (41°N48’, 73°W07’); DD: Penfield; Old File has 6:45 p.m.
William Jennings Bryan, March 19, 1860; 9:15 a.m. LMT; Salem, IL (38°N37’, 88°W56’); B: Dewey quotes Star of the Magi; attending physician Dr. Hill gives “a little after 9 in the morning.” Sabian Symbols No. 148 gives 9:04 a.m.
References and Notes
1. Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, Stanwood, WA: Sabian Publishing Society, 1970, pp. 382 ff.
2. Al H. Morrison, “The Hankar Crystal,” in The Astrological Review, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 1972), p. 24.
4. Leyla Rael, “Discover Your Problem-Solving Style,” in Dell Horoscope magazine, December 1978, p. 49.
5. Jones, The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, p. 383.
6. “Elongation” is the apparent angular distance of a planet (east or west) from its center of motion, the Sun. Mercury’s greatest elongation from the Sun is only about 28°, but at times, the maximum can be as little as 18°. For a complete explanation of the elongations, conjunctions, and stations of Mercury in the natal, progressed, and transiting horoscopes, see Bob Makransky, Thought Forms, available from www.dearbrutus.com
7. Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 605.
8. Jones, The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, p. 383.
9. Theodore Roosevelt, as quoted in Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, p. 812.
10. Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It, New York: Vintage Books, 1989 (originally published in 1948).
© 2001 Bob Makransky – all rights reserved
Bob Makransky started out as a systems analyst and computer programmer and has been studying astrology for 30 years. He is the author of Primary Directions (1988), a treatise on celestial sphere mathematics and house division, and Thought Forms (2000), an explanation of the theory and practice of magic from an astrological point of view. Bob lives on a farm in the highlands of Guatemala and runs a small resort hotel, which also offers instruction in channeling, conducting past life regressions, and working with nature spirits. He is available for astrological consultations at: www.dearbrutus.com