Vincent van Gogh, his Chart

It is quite appropriate that Andrew has chosen Vincent van Gogh to demonstrate his thoughts on the Part of Fortune. For my European readers, there is a major exhibition of van Gogh’s work at the Albertina in Vienna.

The proposal of using a phasal Part of Fortune is not conclusive. It is, however, an idea worth considering.

Let us look more closely at Vincent van Gogh’s chart:

First we need to discover the Temperament. The Ascendant is cold and moist Cancer. Its ruler, cold and moist Moon is in her cold and dry third Quarter and in the hot and dry sign of Sagittarius. There are no aspects to the Ascendant The trine of Venus ( hot and moist) and Mars (hot and dry) and the square of Mercury (dry) warm and dry things up considerably. So we have a cool and dry melancholic Moon with a phelgmatic Ascendant (cold and moist) that through the above-mentioned aspects becomes tepid and moist, giving it a more sanguine touch. But we have also to consider any aspects made to the Moon as well as the season and the condition of the Lord or Lady of the Geniture. The Moon is conjunct a hot and moist, oriental Jupiter, this is cooled and dried a little by the conjunction to the South Node and also the trine to occidental Mercury. The season is hot and moist Spring and the Lady of the Geniture, Venus is oriental and also hot and moist. These other factors bring a strong sanguine factor to the forefront. So Vincent van Gogh is basically sanguine with some melancholy. I have chosen Venus as Lady of the Geniture as she is not only in her exaltation and triplicity but also angular. Jupiter would also be a candidate as he is in his own domicile. Unfortunately he is cadent and so I think the accidental dignity of being angular gives Venus precedence.

There is another factor that should not be ignored. The pre-natal eclipse on December 11, 1852 was at 19 Sagittarius in conjunction to the natal Moon. This is very important as it gives a strong lunar focus to the chart. It is not an easy situation as the natal Moon is peregrine, cadent and along with her dispositor, Jupiter conjunct the diminishing and unfortunate South Node. To complicate matters further this cluster of planets is square the Venus/Mars conjunction in the 10th house. Venus as LoG will have a hard time making her influence felt. Mars and Venus are also disposited by Jupiter. It might also be of interest that both the Moon/Jupiter and the Venus/Mars conjunctions are intensified by the planets of each conjunction also being parallel to one another. This is like a double conjunction, and very strong. The planet that is the “bad guy” in the chart, the one that Vincent van Gogh had difficulty in accessing is Mercury. Mercury is peregrine. What makes him difficult is that he is either ignored because of lack of reception (Sun and Saturn) or detested by the other planets. The Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are all in signs of his detriment. Venus and Mars are also in his fall. Mercury is also Lord 12. Mercury is trine the Moon and Jupiter. Is this good? If we look at the biography we can see that the easy reception of Mercury into his detriment brought many difficulites, not only professionally but also healthwise. Particularly since both Jupiter and the Moon are in the 6th house. Jupiter also Lord of the 6th along with the 10th. We could say that Vincent’s nervous system could not handle the intensity with which his chosen profession was passionately lived. He suffered from nervous exhaustion towards the end of his life.

Vincent did not have an easy time finding his profession. He decided to become a painter fairly late in life. He was twenty-seven. Before that he tried unsuccessfully to establish himself in two highly mercurial professions. The first was as an art dealer for Goupil and Co. and the second as an evangelical preacher in the Borinage (Vincent’s father was a calvinist clergyman). At Goupil he was considered unsuitable because he had problems dealing with customers. Vincent hated, in his eyes, flattery and hypocrisy. While preaching in the Borinage he literally gave all of his possessions to the poor until he only had the clothes on his back. This was considered unacceptable and even shocking to his superiors. It was Venus combined with martian drive that eventually showed him his profession. The square to Moon/Jupiter shows he wasn’t a ‘natural’. All that he accomplished was through intense discipline and hard work.

In the next article we will look at some relevant solar returns.

Some Thoughts on Temperament: Phlegma and the Phlegmatic

It is thought that every human being when healthy has a balance of all four Humours. Each Temperament is a slight constitutional emphasis of one particular Humour.

One of the best ways to deepen ones understanding of the Temperaments is to find an example where one of the Humours is expressed in an extreme form and where this is also a healthy state. The human being, regardless of temperamental disposition, has a balance of the Humours. The best place to look is in the animal realm where it is possible for one of the Humours to be emphasised.

Consider the following table:

It gives a schematic overview of the Humours with their element, qualities and central organ with which they are associated.

We will use this table as the starting point of our investigation of the Temperaments.
What kind of creature is a visible representation of phlegm? First it must be cold and moist, secondly it must have an affinity to water, thirdly an excess of phlegm or mucus must integral to its healthy state and last of all is brain-like?

A good candidate is the garden snail. Snails thrive in a cold and moist environment, the garden snail is the humble cousin of a large family that prefers the sea. Mucus is part of their nature, so much so that they use it to walk on. Mucus is also used to protect themselves from being injured by hard and sharp objects as well as potential enemies, hard and aggressive creatures (ants). They protect their soft and moist bodies with a shell made of calcium – not unlike the brain being protected by a hard skull. Snails are nocturnal, usually searching for food during the cooler and moister night. They are also a creatures of habit, quite often returning in the morning to the exact place where they rested the day before. They are also able to adapt their “foot” to the exact form of the surface they are resting on so that a suction effect is produced, making them more difficult to remove. The snails slowness is proverbial.

If we take these characteristics and lift them up to a human level and applied to the phlegmatic Temperament we could speak of the following factors:

• slowness
• vulnerability, protection through either a shell or a layer of mucus
• habit
• tenacity

Robert Burton describes the phlegmatic as, “slothful, dull, heavy, &c.” The above characteristics can easily be integrated.

The Temperaments are also used to describe the four ages of man. The phlegmatic Temperament is that of old age. If you observe someone who is over eighty some of these qualities are quite pronounced. Slowness of movement is obvious. But there is also the need to withdraw into one’s house. The day of the very old is ruled by habit and it is rare to find an aged person who is not convinced that his or her opinions are absolutely right!

We can of course continue our exploration of phlegma by looking at other molluscs. I would like to do this by looking at the octopus and the clam. Each can give a further attribute or show certain phlegmatic processes.

Some Thoughts on Temperament

It is difficult to understand the idea of Temperament out of a modern world view. The problem is that we have generally been infected with the idea that everything is based on substance and can be explained from a material standpoint. Along with this is the tendency to consider Temperament as being a sort of classification of “psychological” types. Both can be very misleading.

Consider the following. If someone asked you why a plant is green, what would you answer? Would you say that it is green because it contains tiny cells filled with a green substance called chlorophyll? This would be in accord with modern thinking. But this doesn’t answer the question. For all we are saying is that the green plant (chlorophyll is Greek for green plant) makes the green plant green.

A natural philosopher would answer this question quite differently. He would say the plant is green because it is alive. Its “greenness” tells us this. Green is an expression of “essence”. If a plant has died it turns brown and black, it looses its greenness. We can say that plants have one “Temperament” — green.

There are four Temperaments associated with the human being, each of which finds an expression in one of the humours (in German the word “Säfte”, sap is also used, which is very suggestive). These are phlegmatic – from phlegm (from the Greek phlegein, to burn), melancholic – from melancholia or black bile, sanguine – from sanguis or blood and choleric – from choler or yellow bile.

If we keep in mind that the Temperaments are an expression of the four qualities of warm, cold, moist and dry and if we keep in mind the above discussion about “green” it should be possible to come to an understanding about what was meant when speaking about the Temperaments. It would be to complicated here to go into detail, as this is a theme that requires volumes, but just to give an example of how differentiated the understanding of Temperament was here is a passage out of “The Anatomy of Melancholy” by Robert Burton which describes the underlying humours:*

“• Humours— A humour is a liquid or fluent part of the body, comprehended in it, for the preservation of it; and is either innate or born with us, or adventitious and acquisite. The radical or innate, is daily supplied by nourishment, which some call cambium, and make those secondary humours of ros and gluten to maintain it: or acquisite, to maintain these four first primary humours, coming and proceeding from the first concoction in the liver, by which means chylus is excluded. Some divide them into profitable and excrementitious. But [954]Crato out of Hippocrates will have all four to be juice, and not excrements, without which no living creature can be sustained: which four, though they be comprehended in the mass of blood, yet they have their several affections, by which they are distinguished from one another, and from those adventitious, peccant, or [955]diseased humours, as Melancthon calls them.

• Blood — Blood is a hot, sweet, temperate, red humour, prepared in the mesaraic veins, and made of the most temperate parts of the chylus in the liver, whose office is to nourish the whole body, to give it strength and colour, being dispersed by the veins through every part of it. And from it spirits are first begotten in the heart, which afterwards by the arteries are communicated to the other parts.

• Pituita — or phlegm, is a cold and moist humour, begotten of the colder part of the chylus (or white juice coming out of the meat digested in the stomach,) in the liver; his office is to nourish and moisten the members of the body, which as the tongue are moved, that they be not over dry.

• Choler— is hot and dry, bitter, begotten of the hotter parts of the chylus, and gathered to the gall: it helps the natural heat and senses, and serves to the expelling of excrements.

• Melancholy — Melancholy, cold and dry, thick, black, and sour, begotten of the more feculent part of nourishment, and purged from the spleen, is a bridle to the other two hot humours, blood and choler, preserving them in the blood, and nourishing the bones.

These four humours have some analogy
with the four elements, and to the four ages in man.”

a free e-book of this text is available at:

* It should be noted that this text stands at the transition to the modern period and so it is more “substantial” in its view. Even so it demonstrates that the idea of Temperament was imbedded in a whole world view and in order to approach it we have to capture the sense of the meaning. Trying to understand alchemical “terminology” is not unlike this. If we think that an alchemical author is talking about table salt when he speaks of salt is to be very much deceived.

Dr. Nostuabuk: On Temperament

While travelling through Italy I chanced upon Galen’s Nursery on the Via Appia. I bought four of his best Temperaments. Mr. Galen said that with proper care and a bit of humour now and then they should thrive well.

He recommended planting the phlegm pulmonaria somewhere shady as it was cold and moist in nature. I planted it underneath the shade trees by the pond where it has formed the most wonderful ground-cover.

He said the choler capsicum was sensitive to frost and preferred it hot and dry, so I planted it along a sheltered wall on the south side of my house. I have been rewarded by it every year with bright red and not too sharp fruit.

Mr. Galen suggested that the bougainvillaea sanguinica be planted somewhere warm and moist. It has since taken over the green house with a riot of flowers and sometimes on a warm summer evening it seems to move to some hidden tropical breeze.

The rock garden proved to be the best place for the melancholic sempervivum which likes a cold and dry environment.

Whenever I find myself in a dystemper I go into my garden and visit my four Temperaments and feel ever so much better afterwards.