by Michael Bryant Msw Asw
Mental illness is a subject not often addressed in astrology. One reason may be the emphasis on prediction in Vedic astrology, leaving “psychological” astrology to Western astrologers. Another, more probable reason may be because many astrologers, Vedic or otherwise, simply do not feel equipped or knowledgeable enough to deal with this subject. This may be deemed an area best left to therapists or medical professionals.
We may come across the charts of individuals or work with clients who experience existential or neurotic crises. However, it is an altogether different matter when addressing the issues ranging from borderline psychosis to actively psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia or manic depressive states (or “Bi-polar Affective Disorder” – the less pejorative contemporary medical term.)
As an experienced psychiatric social worker and counsellor, I have worked for over twenty years in both America and England with individuals who suffer from mental illness. When individuals with a history of chronic psychiatric illness are in remission and well, it may be impossible for a lay person to “identify” that only recently they may have been experiencing hellish hallucinations or perhaps felt suicidal.
My point is not to stigmatise or scaremonger, but rather to emphasise that as practising astrologers, we have an obligation to be aware that people may seek astrological advice during difficult periods in their lives. If an astrologer gives advice and cannot recognise the potential mental health problems from the natal chart, they are doing the client an extreme disfavour. How then do we gain the knowledge of this aspect of astrology?
Interestingly, classical astrological texts did address some of the possible indicators of severe mental illness.
As with any astrological work, listings of any medical / spiritual illnesses should not be taken in a literal cookbook fashion, but applied in a studied, judicious manner, after examining the whole chart.
The “Jataka Tattva” lists some of the following conditions as possible combinations for mental illness:
- Jupiter in the ascendant and Mars in the seventh house or vice versa.
- Saturn in the lagna and Mars in the 5th, 7th or 9th house.
- Saturn in the 12th house associated with a waning Moon.
- Saturn in the lagna, Sun in the 12th house and Mars or the Moon in a trine.
- Association of Saturn and the lord of the second house with the Sun or Mars.
- Birth in the hora of Saturn or Mars, a Sun-Moon conjunction in the lagna, the 5th or the 9th, and Jupiter in a quadrant.
- Mandi (the malefic sub-planet that has no physical existence but has a Saturn-like quality) in the 7th, afflicted by a malefic. The same result may apply if Mandi is in the 5th house.
- Rahu and the Moon in the Lagna, and malefics in the trines. (i.e., “Pishacha Grasta” Yoga, a combination for being overtaken by the “spirits”, indicative of phobias.)
As previously stated this must be corroborated by other indicators such as:
- Afflictions to the Moon (mind), Mercury (nervous system) and Jupiter (maturity / wisdom). Particularly, when all three of these planets are afflicted, conditions leading to mental illness are highly possible.
- An afflicted fifth lord. The fifth house can correspond to thinking, logic and wisdom.
- The lagna and or Aries, both which indicates the head, if afflicted.
- Kemadruma Yoga – This is a condition occurs when the moon has no planets in either of the signs surrounding it. When there is no planet in the 2nd or the 12th from the moon, the soundness of the mind may become an issue. Again, the entire chart needs to be viewed.
Always look for confluence in the chart, before making such a serious decision. If there is a likelihood of mental illness, these indicators will often show up not only in the rasi chart, but also the Navamsha and possibly other divisional (harmonic) charts.
In an attempt to illustrate some of the above astrological indicators, what follows is a case study of a schizophrenic man.
(see chart – Chart details: D.o.b. 17.9.1960, Time of Birth: 16h30 BST, London).
This individual lives at home with his elderly mother and has been under the care of NHS-based community mental health teams since the onset of his schizophrenic illness in 1981. Although he has remained well enough to not necessitate frequent hospitalisation, and has never been a danger to himself nor others, he is unable to work due to constant problems with his hearing “voices.” The medical model would understand these voices as “auditory hallucinations.”
Although these voices are not frightening to him, they are extremely distracting and weaken his concentration. The medication he regularly takes as prescribed by psychiatrists takes an edge off of what would be a disturbing quality, but does not remove the chonic persistence of his voices. He regularly “dialogues” with these voices, forgetting who is around him. Ironically, he is an avid reader of newspapers and can hold for brief moments, informed conversations about current events. This usually is not sustainable and he reverts to a form of communication that is childlike, tangential and incapable of any abstract thinking or complexity.
General chart overview
Many of the planetary combination indicators given above both from the Jataka Tattva and the “additional indicators” list are present in this particular chart:
1. Jupiter is in the lagna and is opposing the seventh house Mars. (It is interesting that even though Jupiter should be strong in its own sign of Sagittarius, this does not prevent schizophrenia, in this case. It may however, lead to the fact that this individual is a “relatively well” schizophrenic.)
2. Saturn is also in the lagna, associated with Jupiter. This would create a restriction on the otherwise strong Jupiter in Sagittarius.
3. According to the above list taken from the Jataka Tattva, the next possible indicator of mental illness would be if Saturn is in the 12th house associated with a waning Moon.
In the Rasi chart, although the Moon is indeed waning, Saturn is at 18 degrees and the Ascendant at nearly 23 degrees Sagittarius, so even though Saturn precedes the lagna, it is still by Vedic standards in the 1st house. However, in the Navamsha the situation is reversed, there is a new moon, but Saturn is in the 12th house. In balance, this could arguably qualify to meet the given indicator being discussed here.
4. The fourth indicator does not apply. The Sun is not in the 12th house, nor does Mars or Moon trine Saturn.
5. The next indicator does apply as Saturn is the lord of the second house and aspects both the Sun and Mars. The second house is relevant as it may refer to speech. This would be very applicable given the description ana, this individual’s difficulty with communication.
6. Another area that does not fully apply. However, it is interesting that parts of this more complex combination applies or nearly applies. For instance, Jupiter is in a quadrant and in the Navamsha there is a Sun-Moon conjunction, although not in given houses.
7. Mandi is at nearly nine degrees Virgo in the tenth house. Mandi is not in the seventh house, but it is doubly afflicted by both Mars and Saturn. Mandi is conjunct the Sun, Mercury (exalted) and Venus, all of whom share this unfortunate dual aspect from Mars and Saturn. Interestingly, the individual under discussion has felt severe shame about his inability to maintain employment. He keenly desires to work, yet fears a repeat of his brief early employment experiences, which preceded the onset of his first mental illness. It was then that he began to suffer from his inability to concentrate due to hearing voices.
8. This indicator does not apply as Rahu and the Moon are not in the lagna.
In terms of the additional indicators given above:
Moon’s condition: The Moon, while not in a Kemadruma Yoga is surrounded in both adjacent houses by malefics, Mars and Rahu, giving a Papa Kartari Yoga. This does not bode well for the planet that is the significator of feelings and emotional reactions.
Mercury’s condition: Mercury, significator of reason and intellect, although in Virgo, unfortunately experiences aspects from both Saturn, Mars and the Sun in the rasi chart.
In the Navamsha, Mercury is formidably opposed by Mars in Scorpio.
Jupiter’s condition: Jupiter, planet of wisdom, as previously mentioned, is conjunct Saturn and opposed by Mars in the rasi. In the Navamsha it is conjunct Ketu in Aries in the seventh house.
Lagna’s condition: The lagna is, as previously mentioned is also conjunct Saturn and opposed by Mars in the rasi. In the Navamsha, it is conjunct Rahu and surrounded in adjacent houses by both Mars and Saturn.
No Vedic chart can be fully interpreted until the connections of planets and the Nakshatras (constellations) and Nakshatra rulers are examined. I will not go into a description of the meanings of the Nakshatras here, as this is a separate area of essential study for anyone interested in Vedic astrology. What I am attempting to do here is simply to show the interconnection of the planets and the Nakshatra rulers that they are located in:
1. Lagna lord Jupiter is in the Nakshatra of Mula, which is ruled by Ketu. Ketu, in turn is in Purva Bhadra, which is ruled by Jupiter. This establishes not only a Jupiter / Ketu connection, but also a connection between the first, third and second houses, dealing with the self (1st), the mind (3rd) and the home, private life, mother and peace of mind (4th).
2. The Moon is in Ashlesha ruled by Mercury. Mercury, in turn is in Hasta, which is ruled by the Moon. The houses affected here are the seventh, eighth and tenth. The Moon itself is in the eighth, a dushsthana (malefic) house. The eighth can be associated with “mental sufferings and psychological afflictions.”
3. Lagna and Saturn are both in Nakshatra Purva Ashada, ruled by Venus. Venus is in Chitra ruled by Mars. Mars is in Mrigashira, its own constellation.
The planets are located the first/seventh/tenth houses and own six of the twelve chart houses. So here is a very powerful connection for deeper analysis. Rahu is also in a Venus-ruled Nakshatra – Purva Phalguni.
4. The Sun is in its own nakshatra of Uttara Phalguni.
What I have attempted to do is to show the power of some of the ancient classics in terms of diagnostic tools perfected centuries ago. Meanwhile, psychiatry and psychology still grapple with clumsy, constantly revised diagnostic tools, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), the book by which all psychiatric clinical diagnoses are measured.
Keep in mind that all of the above has been examined without even beginning to look at an analysis of significant life events and corresponding Dasha / Bhukti planetary or transits or progressions.
The next logical progression would be to then approach the area of remedial measures, an area effectively blocked by the medical profession and the pervading contemporary approach to healing. Nevertheless, this should illustrate that the area of mental health diagnoses is certainly not an area that originates with western psychiatry or Sigmund Freud.