Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Seeking Freedom from Isolation

Note — there is a version of this article with a podcast about Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The chart of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death — that is, the chart for when his body was found, the only time we can know for sure — is thick with drug-related themes. We know that about the situation already; media reports say he was found with the hypodermic needle in his arm and heroin packets nearby.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and MIchael Angarano in Almost Famous.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and MIchael Angarano in Almost Famous.

Hoffman was considered one of the great actors of his time, often playing the roles of troubled, complex men.

His roles included rock journalist Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (who died of an overdose), the lead role in Capote about the life of writer Truman Capote, Andy in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and a weird film from a few years ago called Synecdoche, New York.

He also is credited with a diversity of Broadway roles, including none other than the terminally doomed Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. There is an idea among astrologers who specialize in actors and their biographies that the astrology of the actor is a fair stand-in for the astrology of the characters they play. Said another way, there is a strong association between the actor and their roles. While Hoffman had a reputation for diversity, his roles all seem to have something in common — a distant quality and an existential struggle.

The primary chart I am working with is that of Hoffman’s body being found on Sunday morning. It’s impossible to know the actual time of his death; the discovery of the scene is what we can know more or less for sure. I’ve seen no conflict in the time, so I am working with 11:30 am on Feb. 2 in New York City.

This is clearly the chart of a drug overdose. We see this in the Mercury-Neptune conjunction in Pisces, as well as a centaur planet called Pholus appearing in the 8th house, one house that often points to the cause of death. Pholus for its part is often related to substance issues, most often alcohol though it could be anything addictive and intoxicating. Pholus has the key phrase “small cause, big effect.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead in his apartment in New York City. Time source: media reports.
Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead in his apartment in New York City. Time source: media reports.

All overdoses are worth considering as suicides, but I don’t think this was an intentional one. I don’t think he intended to die. I think he got heroin a lot stronger than he was accustomed to. It’s something that can happen when someone is clean for a while and starts using again, or when they use a different batch with considerably higher potency than the last few times. It looks like one of those two scenarios was the situation.

Yet lurking underneath the immediate scenario of the overdose was a sense of being trapped in his situation, and these charts have a feeling of deep isolation and the drive to break free. No doubt heroin offered at least the sensation of that feeling, temporary though it was.

The chart describes a person who is well known but who feels invisible; someone who is loved but who feels that there is something blocking his ability to really make contact with others. He seemed to be so mentally oriented that he lacked real interest in sex or other forms of human closeness. It seems like sex was not something done out of passion or the drive to connect or even to conquer; for Hoffman it seems to have been a negotiated arrangement.

He may have had a long-distance love interest who actually did inspire his passions yet who was not in the area and with whom he could not actually be with, someone who was deeply important to him — and this added to the sense of isolation.

Here is some information from his natal chart. We don’t have his time of birth; it’s not known to the astrology community at this time. He is also born with his Sun right on the Cancer-Leo line — we don’t know what sign he is, though I would bet he is born with the Sun in very late Cancer. This indicates a life spent clinging to the edge, and describes a sensitive person who is easily overwhelmed. Sun trine very late-degree Chiron in Pisces makes perfect sense for this person.

My proposed rectification of Hoffman's chart. I have put his Sun in late Cancer rather than early Leo, trine Chiron; his Moon is in late Aquarius conjunct Pholus.
My proposed rectification of Hoffman’s chart. I have put his Sun in late Cancer rather than early Leo, trine Chiron; his Moon is in late Aquarius conjunct Pholus.

Regardless of the exact time, we can see some key transits. Here are a few:

Transiting Uranus is almost conjunct (two degrees) his natal Saturn, and of course transiting Pluto is squaring that. One’s Saturn taking a double transit from the Uranus-Pluto square creates obvious tension and pressure to change. Note, his Saturn is a complex placement. It was exactly conjunct Eris when he was born. It’s also squared by Pallas and Mercury. This creates a lot if internal pressure — the sensation of wanting to explode — and a depressive quality as well. He seems to have often put his feelings into cerebral override, adding to the sense of emotional pressure.

Transiting Jupiter is conjunct his natal Mercury. This is the illustration of overwhelm/overdose. It’s the image of him seeking something wider, larger, deeper, more interesting…some spiritual meaning in his life. But in the death chart, Jupiter rules the 8th house (cause of death) and we can see that he was expressing this through a toxic substance. Note that transiting Jupiter is also square his Saturn-Eris conjunction — adding to the tension of that aspect and seeking an escape, which comes in the form of Jupiter.

Transiting Saturn is conjunct his natal Neptune. This can be the sensation of ‘the fantasy killed’ and it’s certainly an interesting image of an overdose. He reached or ran into a limit. It can be a frustrating transit for someone who is fantasy-driven or who depends on inspiration for their work; it’s the feeling of that inspiration not coming across. It takes discipline and focus (Saturn) to create and manifest what you imagine (Neptune).

He was in a node reversal, a transit that happens every 18 years, with the first event at nine years old. The lunar nodes (which are in an 18-year cycle) are reversed against the natal position, i.e., the transiting North Node is conjunct the natal South Node and vice versa. This can add to the feeling of being trapped in one’s own karma.

— Additional astrology: Elizabeth Michaud

18 thoughts on “Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Seeking Freedom from Isolation”

  1. “Russell Brand: my life without drugs – Guardian article

    “The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received “an inconvenient truth” from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change – I’m not that ecologically switched on – she told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.
    I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed…”

  2. although it’s also possible anyone hoffman was using with, if there was someone, may have freaked out and split. it’s not uncommon for someone also high on heroin and addicted to behave in ways that a non-addict would not, and fear, guilt and shame are powerful enough on their own, without adding an altered state of mind (and a famous person). i know of one friend of mine who did something along those lines “back in the day” while using, though he at least took the gal to the ER doors before splitting; while clean, he would do anything in his power to save a life.

    i’m not saying someone was there, just that we don’t really know one way or the other.

    in any case, it’s a sad, sad state of affairs. and apparently heroin use in general is on the rise, since it’s getting tougher for people to get pill-form painkillers. ugh…

  3. Mercury retrograde effects strike again. The screen shot of PSH from Almost Famous is misidentified. That is the back of Patrick Fugit’s head, not Michael Anganrano. Fugit played William Miller in the film, and PSH played Lester Bangs, who mentors the younger man.

    It’s amazing how often Jupiter is prominent in death charts. The ultimate expansion, perhaps?

  4. Eric, I think you are on-the-money regarding an overdose. At 8pm he made SIX (6) consecutive withdrawals, totalling $1,200 from an automated teller machine at a supermarket near his West Village home. The police know this from his bank records.

    A witness told investigators that he saw Hoffman withdrawing money around 8 p.m. at the supermarket while talking to two men who were wearing messenger bags, the officials said.

    $1,200 hundred is a lot! And other bags were found.

    Also, something I learned yesterday was that most experienced heroin users, use with a buddy nearby in case they overdose, to give them a shot of Naloxone.

    No buddy present (so he probably didn’t connect well with others). No Naloxone found. There *could* have been a subconcious wish to “end it.” Also, I think that Mimi was his “girlfriend” for several years, mother to his 3 children but, did not live with him and was never married to him, is pretty telling, regardless of astrology.

    I’m sure they will test the heroin found for potency but, other than that, we may never know. He grew up 8 miles from me in a very upscale neighborhood in Fairport, NY where his mother was a Judge in Rochester. My niece and nephews now go to the same elementary school he did. It’s very sad.

  5. I recall an article when Angelina Jolie was slammed for her statement about heroin being ‘a beautiful drug’. The reporter was blindsided by her open statement and liberally took it out of context. She backpedaled.
    She was trying to convey something deeper..and I wish she had been given space to describe it. Whatever the thing, I wanted to hear it.

  6. The vagaries of slowly studying astrology for three years: 1. Having this chart pop up all over the place in my face and 2. Item by item, recognizing it.

    Except for the moon and rising (which I now understand in many more ways than I have previously — the importance of houses and moon placement), this natal chart is my natal chart.

    And that creepy thing? That thing: Where were you when so-and-so died? Yeah. I’m doing that. And breaking it all down to the minutiae of ever-day choices, environmental context and… on and on…

    It is odd to step back and read what everyone has to say.

  7. comment to Facebook

    I think it’s important to publicize that this beloved man died of a heroin overdose because people need to come out of their DENIAL of the disease of addiction and all its horrific effects! It does not discriminate yet people just don’t want to believe it’s a medical issue, not a moral one!!! And the fact that he once had 23 years of clean sober time is VERY significant to show that the DISEASE of addiction is not curable yet is TREATABLE. The stigma needs to be removed people.

  8. For sure. I never, ever intend for there to be one reading of an aspect.

    I was just thinking exactly that (in the shower a moment ago) – that the intensity of Saturn-Eris is what he was channeling as an actor. There is some deep impulsive energy in there; and think of Saturn as a container over the fragmentation of Eris — and that container was in the process of being breached by the simultaneous transits of Uranus and Pluto. Had he lived, he would have undergone a total transformation of his personality and his acting.

    Any chart can be read on many levels and the reading is always context specific. My context was his psychological state at the time of death; his motives for his own risk-taking and escapist stuff. Clearly, an aspect that powerful (his Mercury-Saturn-Eris config) can reside at the core of the psyche (particularly when centered in Aries); with Mercury there, we have a manifestation right on the 1-A level of awareness.

    Speaking of Psyche, it would be good to know the position of that, as well as Bacchus and Dionysus.

    In Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS) addictions are considered “firefighter” parts of the personality. They are there to put out fires that are burning out of control. They have a role. Part of that role involved responding to Pluto square Saturn-Eris and Uranus conjunct Saturn-Eris. He was in a “change or die” situation.

    Deep tripping can forestall the impulse to change, for a while. A little later tonight I plan to look up more from the classical and modern homeopathic texts about opium. I will check if there has been a homeopathic proving of heroin per se – I am sure there has. These provings give insight into the mental state and energetic state based on material substances present in the environment.

  9. Eric —

    Awould you allow that there may be two ways to read that Saturn-Eris-Mercury-Pallas configuration? A shadow manifestation and a creative manifestation?

    Your reading of it makes total sense.

    But I also look at that Eris-Saturn in Aries — esp square Merc-Pallas in Cancer — as potentially an illustration of what made him such a great actor. He was able to contain his fragmented sense of self (and the force from that inner chaos) and channel it into a precise, solid structure, in the form of the characters he played. And it was in a constant push-pull with Mercury and Pallas: taking conscious, studied acting technique to his emotional expression — esp if Merc and Pallas are either on his MC or in the 11th with his Sun, acting being the apotheosis of the expression of his gifts in his community and the wider public.

    My guess would be that certain roles and theater/film contexts worked better than others in giving him a constructive channel for this mind/emotion override. I’m not saying he was not depressive, but that in his professional context, he could use that — and very effectively. I’d love to know what projects he was working on (or if he was not working — possibly even worse for him) when he originally relapsed, as well as when he went into rehab last year (obviously he was not working while in rehab, so that’s a double-edged sword / tough balance right there), and then again now when he overdosed.


  10. saravictoria — thank you for that extra info; brutal… and i can only imagine how painful it will be for those kids that “daddy overdosed instead of coming to get us.”

    i’m not meaning to imply that his death was intentional; just giving voice to how such things can play out in a child’s mind and get internalized with a false cause-and-effect line of thinking. heartbreaking.

  11. The Node reversal, which I hadn’t realized, while not the most obvious ingredient in tragic cocktail, really strikes me, as when I first looked at his natal chart, that Scorpio South Node conj. Mars said, “history of agony.” Connotes some very dark nights of the soul and worse; violent death, emotionally driven… That ballpark. I usually don’t feel it too personally when a celebrity passes. Lennon, of course; had a bonafide premonition on that one that totally freaked me out. But this man was so intensely, brilliantly human; as an artist I can’t think of anyone I respect more. Crazy Brilliant Soul Scraping Depth. On another note, relative to relationship themes in the death chart (discovery chart) apparently was recently separated or estranged from his wife. He was supposed to pick up the kids from her place and didn’t show; she made the call that lead to the discovery.

  12. Thank you for this Eric. Such heart breaking news. One can’t help thinking aout Heath Ledger too. I’m glad you chose a shot from Almost Famous – I loved him in that film.
    Really appreciated your comment, Amanda.

  13. Hi Eric,
    I am studying astrology and i am want to know why you say “The chart describes a person who is well known but who feels invisible; someone who is loved but who feels that there is something blocking his ability to really make contact with others. He seemed to be so mentally oriented that he lacked real interest in sex or other forms of human closeness. It seems like sex was not something done out of passion or the drive to connect or even to conquer; for Hoffman it seems to have been a negotiated arrangement.” from an astrological point of view?which aspects in his natal chart show you that?


  14. here’s the next part of my reply to eric:

    It also doesn’t mean he took no joy in his children; but people have all kinds of fucked-up ways of projecting their perceived failures and shortcomings onto their kids, assuming their kids see them the way they see themselves, which I think is rarely the case, esp while kids are young.

    It’s just such a shame; by all accounts, he was clean for a good 20-25 years… And SO.FUCKING.TALENTED.

    Also a decent, down-to-earth guy on set, from what I have heard. A friend of mine here in Portland met him while working her first PA job on a major film here in Maine years ago. She was terrified of screwing up her first real production job, and was too scared to reply the first morning Hoffman said hi to her at the food table. Lots of the other stars were total assholes (in general, and to her). But over the course of the shoot, Hoffman chatted with her on several occasions & was the only star to get his own food at the kraft services table, rather than have it brought to him in his trailer. She said his level of intensity while prepping for scenes was intimidating to her (then again, everything about that gig was pretty intimidating to her, as she describes it), but outside of actively prepping for a scene, he was a truly decent human being to others around him.

    So… He was troubled and had some sort of void in his life, or was under some new form of pressure, but from what I understand, he did not indulge in a lot of the bad on-set behavior many celebrities do. I think that’s an interesting layer… That whatever pain or lack or fear or isolation he felt, he turned it inward rather than acting out against others.

    Of course, heroin use, esp when it results in death, absolutely affects those closest to him negatively; but his initial direction of action with it is inward.

  15. Amanda asks: “I have a question about this section — mainly: what about his wife and three young kids?

    “Also, regarding his “feeling invisible,” I read a quote from him yesterday about how he very intentionally is not in the media much, b/c he really believes that an actor’s performance is more powerful the less the audience knows and is thinking about the actor’s “real life” — that it allows the actor to “disappear” into the character, and the person watching gets to have a richer, more pure experience of suspending disbelief and immersing in that world. He did not use all of those words but that was the gist.”

    My reply:

    Definitely points worth considering; I have seen many examples of how person can be surrounded by people and still feel invisible or isolated. i did not mean this in the artistic sense (staying out of the press) but in the emotional sense…how it felt to be in his body and emotions. When reading these charts I try to avoid media reports and bio information and just read the chart as I see it…

    You can be sure that he did not use and/or OD on heroin because he had such a fulfilling family life. Heroin use is driven by deep pain and a sense of disconnection.

    I am looking into the homeopathic provings of opium (the closest analoge of heroin available.) Just found this — “It is more difficult to estimate the action of opium than of almost any other drug.” — Hanhemann, as reported by John Henry Clarke.

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