The Poet of Film and the Mystic: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Chögyam Trungpa

Pasolini

“Take a moment to Live,

Take a moment to Cry,

Take a moment to Love,

and Don’t ask Why.

 Winter Kills mixed by Armand Van Buuren (2020 )

In the search for the ultimate in Pisces season, two birthdays today give pause for reflection on a certain type of madness with a method. One is a celebrated filmmaker from Italy and the other is a celebrated Tibetan Buddhist guru. They were both born on March 5th when the sun was getting to the mid point of its time in Pisces. Nothing unusual in that you might say; millions are born when the sun is in March under the sign of the fishes swimming in opposite directions. But by bringing into focus these paradoxical qualities we can see that it’s as though some are born with an unconventional streak, a skill for challenge that baffles the rest of us most. A grain of dirt by its grittiness is said to help polish the pearl to its maximum beauty.

They can even use shock tactics can be used as a tool to help people wake up-but it is true that not everyone wishes to wake up as sleeping is much easier to handle. There is violence in this method- shock- and who likes to be pushed outside their comfort zones? But in that shake up there can enter visions of a world which is elevated, like suddenly seeing your life from a mountain top. This sudden access to a realm where the internal and external are fused together better understood as mythopoeic. It is a symbolic understanding of external and internal factors as one and the same phenomena-the bedrock of the astrological viewpoint in fact.

Pasolini: the Poet of Film

Film as a medium requires an ability to translate experience into shifting imagery that represents thought forms. There is a deceit at its core in that you watching the dark and immerse into a pseudo-reality, the suspension of the imagination, but we are willing to be carried along and do not want it to end and return to the dullness of daily existence. There is also a glamour- those creatures on screen become larger than life, more beautiful. This effect is pure Neptune- a shimmering mirage. So a prominent sign of that is his Neptune in Leo – which is the hallmark of a career in film; Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick all have this placement. Director, Robert Altman, also has Neptune in Leo with sun in Pisces. A huge number of very well known actors also have Neptune in Leo. Pasolini’s Neptune is in a fire trine with Mars in Sagittarius and Chiron in Aries so his films became the sword on which he was eventually tortured and pierced.

Arabian Nights by Pasolini (1974)19
Arabian Nights (1974) Pasolini

There is what I’d call a ‘juicy’ cluster of asteroids around his Moon in Taurus in the 3rd House. There is not just one but three very evocative energies, suggesting his view of sex was earthy but spiritual. Eros, at 18 ° Taurus, Vesta, goddess of holding the flame of spirit at  22° and Chariklo who is the very ground of being. This enhances the sweet fervor of the Moon in Taurus raising it even higher than its usual exaltation- and it being in the third enhancing his ability to translate that into a visual language for others. Pasolini depicted sex with new levels of earthiness and showed it as natural and part of the fabric of life, not just in his notorious ‘Trilogy of Life’ where he selected stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio’s Decameron and the Thousand and One Nights. This was an ambitious achievement. According to the BFI notes “In this brazen and bawdy triptych, the director set out to challenge consumer capitalism and celebrate the uncorrupted human body while commenting on contemporary sexual and religious mores and hypocrisies.”  This is quite a mouthful for what really is just a celebration of life with highs, lows and the bumpy in-betweens.

Pasolini
Pasolini patchwork

People tended to forget that Pasolini was a poet first and not just a film maker. He had the Sun, Venus and Uranus all conjunct in Pisces in the first house. This made his films stand out even from the other great Italian directors. He crafted films how a poet saw the world- with vision- similar to Jean Cocteau with a spark of originality pitching them at the mythic level. Films are dreams come alive on screen. This was a very sensory way of looking where conscious and subconscious elements are fused into a symbolic mode of expression. The camera loves what it sees. What Pasolini made were really film-poems where the plotline and the superficial slickness or concessions to realism were disregarded.

He made great use of long silences to build up moods and of authentic locations like Yemen, Bakhtapur in Nepal, Cappadocia in Turkey and Mali. This style uses a mode of consciousness that is neither realism nor surrealism, but mythopoeic. He said he saw the world as ‘miraculous’. The Pisces stellium enhances this flow of that being in the world according to Pasolini, and is what Jean Genet called ‘extreme comprehension’ and ‘lightness’ of style as in Theorem (1968) which leaves the aftertaste of an enigma.

If myths are public dreams and dreams private myths as Joseph Campbell said, then myths are living realities playing as dramas in our lives not just remote stories from the past.  This allowed Pasolini to transcend labels even as an Atheist, Marxist, Communist, Homosexual or Activist etc. So do not expect any of the usual clichés. The Trilogy of life is unabashed in its celebration of the body almost as if a child was reveling in the humor, the silliness of sex, the sensations and the simple joy- all very Moon in Taurus- but also of seeing the world head on, fresh and simple and giving the common people a voice – Mercury in Aquarius. It is occasionally erotic but not erotic in a manipulative way. It is more like the simple truth of sex and of the body. Many copycat ‘Decamerotic’ films exploited this sexual element just to make money. He watched in horror at this seeing the despoiling of ‘innocent bodies’ which was not his intention- high-minded Pisces is not really made for this world. 

These films while uneven in quality are still life affirming and have an authentic feel that other films strive to achieve but never reach. Salo (1975) released after his death is a different matter as his intent was to rub people’s noses in the sadism and malpractices of elite families. It is the one film that triggers people about the horror and systematic abuse – to actually look at it head on is the challenge most do not wish to make. Far from being salacious, it is intensely moral- another contradiction of Pisces using Uranian ‘shock’ with a bit of crazy wisdom.

Terzieff
Terzieff as Chiron in Medea (1969)

Some also comment that the most spiritually authentic version of the life of Christ was The Gospel According to Saint Mathew (1964). This film surprised people as once again he posed the problems and left them open to question. He exalted the peasantry and pre-Catholic state of mind and said that Catholic church is “the superficial crust over the Italian people.” The pagan underbelly was left untouched. He saw the epic and sacred even in in the most humdrum of events- myths then are all around us embedded in the everyday. Pasolini uses the film Medea to place the words of wisdom in the mouth of the centaur Chiron played by French-Romanian actor Laurent Terzieff who had Chiron in Gemini trine to Mars. Chiron begins the film teaching Jason his wisdom. The story is well known from Jason and the Argonauts, but this film focussed on Medea played by Maria Callas who killed her own and Jason’s children in revenge.   

Chiron reveals all that is prophesied about Jason’s future long before it happens adding that “only those who are realistic are mythical and only those who are mythical are realistic.” This is essentially the belief of the psychological astrologer because myths are the keys that unlock the code of reality and the hardest thing to learn is that the mistakes we make are a necessary part of the unfoldment in every day life.

Pasolini death
Birth 1922 and Death Pasolini 1975

There is something of the martyr – again very Piscean- that sense that he sacrificed everything for his art. Pasolini was reviled and loathed as he was a provocateur. He was indicted for either obscenity or blasphemy 33 times and was acquitted 33 times. Rejected by the Italian media and politically he nevertheless persisted in an uncompromising works. He was prophetic he was as he said back in the sixties that hyper-consumerism would become the most insidious poison. He was even murdered brutally in 1975 on a stretch of land near Ostia with fingers pointing to neo-fascist groups as orchestrators of the assassination. One comment he made in 1967 is telling: “It is only at the point of death,” Pasolini had said in 1967, “that our life, to that point ambiguous, undecipherable, suspended – acquires a meaning.”

It is morbid to speculate the death time for Pasolini as it is not clear what the exact time was but in the absence of a clear story about what happened astrology can play the psychic detective and give some clues, perhaps even a message for the 21st century? Astrology has an unnerving sense of accuracy in the way it parallels events be they good or bad. His body was found battered and burned around 6am on the morning of 2nd November 1975. My guess is that the time was around 3am when the angles would chime in, but even without an exact time, it is clear that transiting Pluto in Libra was square to Pasolini’s natal Pluto in Cancer. Transiting Mars also conjuncts that natal Pluto in Cancer. Neptune loves to mystify and spin lies also transits Pasolini’s natal Mars and the details of this case are still to this day being un-ravelled with the accepted wisdom being -better to let it rest as it would uncover too much of a painful can of worms.

I could bring Saturn into the picture to confound the tangle of potentially negative events but I think this is enough to show that even if he had survived, that event would have damaged him for life- the potential was there. Yet he was brutally murdered and the shock waves are still reverberating. Pasolini’s Chiron is at 11° of Aries the point to which it will return in May of 2021- this previews perhaps a resurgence of interest in him as it completes a double return of his Chiron to the same point in the chart. The  centenary of his birth will be in 2022, perhaps when we will find out who really killed him. Several films have been made delving into the crime of his death and it would be true to say Pasolini has not gone away.  

The Crazy Wisdom Rinpoche

Chogyam Trungpa patchwork
Chogyam Trungpa patchwork

Some teachers of Buddhism are destined to stand out from the rest but get labelled ‘crazy’ so their achievements can be easily dismissed. Also born a Pisces, on March 5th was Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who studied English at Oxford and gained status as a spiritual meditation teacher and master for all those in the counter culture of the late sixties and early seventies. He was lauded even by poet Allen Ginsberg who had the Moon and Ascendant in Pisces and who was his friend.

Trungpa had Sun conjunct Jupiter in Pisces so did everything on a grand scale, in a way of largesse, all the while beaming from a moon-like face. He made many gnomic pronouncements like the one about the sky being like a blue pancake falling on your head. He talked of being aware of the space in between objects as sometimes more important than the objects themselves. He used a little metal mirror to prophesy the future. He saw in that mirror that he would go to the USA and become immersed in western culture, even to become more hippie than the hippies. And he accomplished all that seemingly with ease.

Yet he was sharp as a razor and super articulate and challenging as the crazy-wisdom guru. People approaching him could be terrified as he would peel away the layers of people’s false self. He said as soon as you name or claim enlightenment then you have already lost it to egomania. Also, he said that to follow your own intelligence was the way, to not rely on anyone or anything external including him. And to allow a bit of craziness into your life.

Trungpa
Trungpa giving a talk

The craziness in his chart is Uranus marking his Ascendant on his South Node, so eccentricity came naturally as well as being matter of fact about unconventional married life- even his wife called him ‘unfathomable’ after many years of knowing him. Trungpa loved misfits, the marginalized, artists and creatives of all types. He loved jokes and could make people laugh to ‘shock’ people into awareness of their neurotic tendencies.

Crazy wisdom as a concept comes from the words yeshe and chölwa ཡེ་ཤེས་འཆོལ་བ, which equates to ‘wisdom gone wild’. But what he meant by it was to be ‘fresh, sparkling and completely awake’ and to allow situations themselves to be the guru that guides you. If he was alcoholic then it didn’t affect his ability to teach and that in itself defied labels. He expressed even more of this Piscean nature: he loved Handel’s Water Music and taught dharma art which was to not actively create but to ‘receive’ images and treat every single step in the processes of life as sacred. He was an accomplished poet, calligrapher, photographer and a flower arranger, Japanese style. He said neuroses are like manure enriching the soil of the self; and he spoke of tenderness and compassion as strengths not weaknesses. He was often late but died too soon aged 47, so his time was brief.

“The realm of cults is fuzziness” according to cult analyst Hassan-but astrologers already knew this, which is like hearing Neptune speak;  the boundaries become unclear; where one thing ends and the other begins. Wherever the hierarchy of guru and worshipful students exists there is potential for abuse. But it is also true that if you happen to be a guru you are held to a higher standard what everyone else does without thinking they will be maligned for it- like smoke, drink and have sex. Gurus are not allowed to be human- seems also you can be condemned for not wearing the official Tibetan robes as if the costume itself carried the wisdom. Trungpa wore a suit instead to deconstruct that impression. For a guru to drink, smoke and have sex becomes a stain on their assumed perfection- even if they renounced their monk’s vows as Trungpa did. He never hid anything according to his friends, except perhaps the cocaine use. While revered as a living Tulku (living incarnation) in Tibet, Chögyam Trungpa used the conventions of Western social life to make his point. He was said to drink whisky and even gave lectures drunk. Perhaps the words flowed better? The ultimate spiritual wateriness is the norm for a Pisces as they have few boundaries- that might include the boundary between teacher and student. Did anybody notice Dionysus, god of the grape, talking through him and how many times have we done this in the pub? Dionysus is linked to Pisces.

But if you claim a lineage from Tibet, a strand of Buddhist practice then the chain of Bodhisattvas has its reputation tarnished. Not much can be fully confirmed but his close friends said he had a cocaine habit. Joni Mitchell even wrote a song about her meeting with Chögyam Trungpa:

“I pulled off into a forest, crickets clicking in the ferns

Like a wheel of fortune I heard my fate turn, turn turn

And I went running down a white sand road

I was running like a white-assed deer

Running to lose the blues

To the innocence in here

These are the clouds of Michelangelo

Muscular with gods and sungold

Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads”

Joni Mitchell

It is interesting that Michaelangelo gets in there as he was also a Pisces. Mitchell claims that she kicked her own cocaine addiction because of Trungpa Rinpoche.

Cremation
Cremation 1987 Astro-Seek

If you include the North Node Trungpa’s chart actually has a ‘Mystic’ Rectangle. Some might say this is not so important as the North Node is not a planet, or at the very least they would take out the word ‘mystic’ but it’s a tight rectangle configuration said to confer harmony among the planetary energies involved. But I’d say in the chart of a reincarnated ‘Tulku’ a rectangle is just that- mystical -especially in a Pisces native. It would heighten the spiritual impact of receiving downloads from the universe and hinting at a continuous ‘chain’ of being. A mystic rectangle appears in the chart of Krishnamurti on the day of his enlightenment under a Pepper tree. Something about transcendence here. 

The rectangle links four points in the chart two sextiles and two trines, creating two crossed oppositions. So here we have Jupiter is sextile to Uranus and the Moon is sextile the North Node. Uranus is trine the Moon and the North node is trine to Jupiter/the Sun. This blesses the chart with a radiance and originality of being and feeling. Most who came into contact with him declared they felt this energy immediately-some spiritual aura -where love and compassion were present and directly felt by those around. This happened  especially as a young man where his qualities were recognized by his elders. He always had time for people and would give advice freely to much older people.

What this rectangle might hint at is an exceptional inner harmony to render the challenges of the oppositions at least manageable by some inner gifts tied to these energies. The only issue with the rectangle formation is that it tends to lock the energies into that particular circuit. It ties together the Water and Earth elements. But to have the Sun, Jupiter, Uranus and the Moon working together would be a boost to his charisma, popularity, fresh approaches and perhaps a tendency to excess that might need to be reigned in and he would have been aware of that as he experimented a lot and said that “Knowledge must be burned, hammered and beaten like pure gold. Then one can wear it as an ornament.”

Cremation
Cremation of Chogyam Trunpa

Trungpa died of cirrhosis of the liver on April 4th 1987. He was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, not caring much about his physical health. On the day of his cremation on May 27th, in Vermont, followers noted happily that strange lights appeared in the sky like fragments of a broken rainbow. There was a halo in the sky. The sun, the moon were conjunct Vesta- the sacred flame, along with Chariklo. Chiron was just ten degrees away, all in Gemini. There was actually a rectangle formation as well with Venus sextile Mars, and Neptune sextile Pluto. Mars was opposed to Neptune and Venus was opposed Pluto. Tibetan lamas are known to choose dates according to astrology so this was not coincidence though I’m aware this makes it sound like hagiography, not astrological observation. But synchronicities like this do occur.

Rainbows and milk had apparently also appeared at his birth and the impression he left was one of a miraculous presence mingled with a prowling hungry tiger, which even if it was too much to handle, could not be erased from the memory.   While Pasolini and Trungpa are very different creatures, in worlds alien to each other, they both identified ‘materialism’ as the core problem just in different ways.

In the case of Pasolini it-consumerism as manipulated by corporatist entities that prevented people from maintaining an authentic connection to their natural selves. Trungpa’s case identified that people are so conditioned by society to want things as objects that they pollute their spiritual experiences with the same toxic consumerist mentality and in the ‘supermarket’ of religious experiences try to pile up items in the trolley. Both of them can be maddening, mystifying yet also inspirational this Pisces season. They were thoroughly immersed in their lives, lived hard and full. They held themselves to the highest standards seeking to go far beyond their human limits and their achievements will last.   

© Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, March 5th, 2021.

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Kieron is a London-based and trained astrologer at Proteus Astrology on Facebook and my home page:

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