The Comic Genius with Rick Tarnas

Reporting from the NCGR Conference in Cambridge, MA

Rick Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, is introducing the concept of humor and satire in the context of astrology. We’ve begun with the chart of his friend John Cleese, one of the elemental forces behind the British Monty Python comedy troupe. Rick notes that Cleese has a square between Mercury and Mars, which describes his aggressive, tense comic style.

John Cleese Natal Chart

But he also has Uranus in the aspect structure, giving a think-on-your-feet quality of inventiveness; which in this case combines with the assertive, competitive vibe: the mishap. Adding Uranus gives you the archetype of the trickster and the Prankster. Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers all have a Mars-Uranus aspect in the mix.

Cleese also has Sun-Saturn in opposition — the ability to never break irony; the ultimate straight-man. Sun-Saturn is pretty much the opposite of the Mercury-Mars-Uranus setup: deadpan, negative, constrained, contained.

He tends to begin his routines with a negative: “No it’s not,” “Your time is up,” and so on: a limit of some kind. He’s just shown us the Argument Clinic sketch from Monty Python.

Skipping ahead a few years, we got to see the Sex Education sketch from The Meaning of Life, the last Monty Python film. Note the incredible sexual tension of the Venus-Mars square, from Scorpio to Aquarius. In so many ways this chart is bursting with sexual energy — look at that 8th house! Imagine that much Aries in the 8th, with its feeling of being driven to find one’s identity in the midst of merging with others and uncompromising libidinal energy: SELF.

Check these clips out — and I’ll be back in a moment with a comment about Cleese’s minor planets, which touch on this point several ways.


Okay. Rick does not use the minor planets. He’s not against them — if they’re “burnished in your soul,” as he puts it; but they’re not part of his work. He also avoids use of the signs and sticks to the planets. It’s an interesting method (avoiding the signs) but you get used to it. Now — there are two minor planets that blaze out of this chart. One is the Moon square Chiron, from Aries to Cancer. There is a sense of a hurt child underneath this aspect, and that looks to me like the emotional engine driving his intensity. He is able to focus his sense of alienation into something that others can relate to and laugh at. I would say if you like the “wounded healer” concept of Chiron, this is a good example.

Yet the healer part is not a given; the emotional quality will work as a healing energy only if the person who has the aspect is aware of the energy and takes responsibility for it; which in this case would mean putting it to use. (This aspect is echoed in a nearly exact Sun-Nessus opposition, and for Vesta fans, notice Vesta-Nessus conjunct.)

Rick Tarnas

One of the ways he covers the hurt kid is by putting the parent archetype — Sun-Saturn — out there first; and then you get the rebellion of the Mercury-Mars-Uranus. Underneath it all, the troubled soul piece of the equation is Sun-Nessus. The expression aspect of this comes from the Sun; Nessus is what is being expressed from deep underneath. We will tend to express the most boldly that which is aspecting our Sun.

Second minor planet aspect is Jupiter-Eris in Aries, on the Aries Point. I don’t know what to make of this (I have a feeling Len will crack this riddle) but it has some involvement with how famous he is, because the Aries Point is all about fame. Eris describes a chaos factor in the psyche; the sense of not knowing who you are, and the sometimes mad attempt to find out. There is a bit of Everyman in the Aries Point connection.

We have the wisdom attribute of Jupiter; and the chaos of Eris. There is power in that eternal search for “wisdom” which is really the search for self.

9 thoughts on “The Comic Genius with Rick Tarnas”

  1. I love that “continuum between the passions and the wisdoms”……..and also the deconstruction of the Brits attitude to their own inherent superiority. I was a child of the 1960s …when the Empire was still in the minds of the British upper class…..and what we are eternally grateful for is the Pythons sacriligious assassination of those attitude scales …leaving us the people free to breathe.

    David Frost was a forerunner to the Pythons on That Was The Week That Was..TW3 …he of Frost Nixon and now English Motivator of Al Jazeera English Language TV. The British Aristocracy loved his blasphemous anarchy so much….they made him a Sir!!

    It is this satirical blood line that should give us all hope that the truth may yet surface….!!

    The only thing I would add to the Cleese chart observations….is that Neptune rising….in Virgo!! It is right smack bang opposite my own natal Jupiter ….so of course I now understand why a weekly fix could make me feel subversive enough to make Marxism fashionable……!!

    But for John Cleese…..being the point of a yod in the first…..tormented on a daily basis by the 2 clusters in the 6th and 8th……..and sextile the Cancerian Chiron Pallas Athene in 11th……it is the channelling of those 3 central characteristics of straightman…..rebel…..and hurt child….that would determine which character he woke up as. The 8th cluster also connects directly to the Sun and Nodes so I would deduce that he had an imperative to work out who he was every minute of every day…in order to be able to actually communicate with anybody at all. And as for actually creating an ego shell that would allow him to connect with the Goddess….. you can kiss that right goodbye.

    As we now know 3 ex wives and 40 odd years of psycho-therapy….have confused him even more…..rather than let him know how truly loved he really is!!

    So once again…we see and extraordinary talent developed by means of a series of ploys created to offset dread…. and smooth out the teenage sexual evolution…. finally becoming ones greatest gift.

    And now…for something completely different…!!


  2. Tracy pointed out that Jupiter-Eris is his religious controversy, which of course most of us love…I would note that it’s Jupiter-Eris-Aries-8th, which is the funny bone where sex meets religion and pisses off the pope and is highly entertaining to the rest of us, less pope-like.

  3. my pleasure Len. Monty Python was a big part of my teenage education so it was cool to see John Cleese’s chart.

  4. wandering_yeti: wonderful, wonderful. What a great resource you are! Your knowledge of the Python catalog combined with your cogent recall of Eric’s work and your astrological acumen make for a great analysis. Think i’ll leave the floor open some more. Thank you, wandering_yeti!

  5. Example: when he goes off on a list of requirements that you can’t possibly remember unless you’re a machine or have already encountered the information enough times to have memorized it and then saying things designed to induce feelings of self damnation when the subordinate exhibits confusion is a basic tactic in the war of the rich on the poor. Credit card companies do it. I see in this the core attitude that enabled Europeans to ignore the humanity of anyone who didn’t live like Europeans, automatically thinking of people as backwards and foolish for being unable to comprehend ridiculously complicated structures of bullshit that have the actual effect of whipping up storms in people’s heads that render the world of the senses unintelligible except in so far as they coincide with the authoritarian self image. It’s quite a relief to be able to laugh at this stuff. It’s all in the timing. (there’s Saturn)

  6. In one of the classical stories of Eris that Eric wrote about years ago was that Zeus (Greek name of Jupiter) and Eris once got together to reverse the path of the sun in the sky. John Cleese’s characters take the British self image and break open all its vulnerabilities which is what’s really damn funny. His Jupiter might have made him simply militaristic and hacking off limbs instead of doing a goofy medieval knight sketch about hacking limbs off without Eris to help him make a joke out of it, turn the path of his culture’s self image backwards to enable funny interpretations. That self image is part of the European culture that whipped up feelings of superiority sufficient to wipe out brown people all over the planet not so very long ago with severe repercussions still reverberating. Monty Python gives us relief to know that someone sees through the authoritarian bullshit while helping us laugh about it.

  7. Mysti,
    Wow. Your comments have always been pertinent and profound, but this raises the bar. This blip / swoon thing you refer to, i’ve felt it but could not describe it. Will post my own take on Mr. Cleese’s Aries point conjunction later and seperately because your words deserve some “play” on their own. Thank you so much. You caught that sweet spot squarely.

  8. “We have the wisdom attribute of Jupiter; and the chaos of Eris. There is power in that eternal search for “wisdom” which is really the search for self.”

    Across the board I am asking people to skip over the ‘search’ part and assume that each aspect of the sensory array carries within it a wisdom and a passion. I.e., the ability to act with spontaneous precision (All-Accomplishing Wisdom) is intimately connected with the passion of Envy, and both are rooted in the sense-power of vision.

    What we used to call a ‘spiritual quest’ feels to me more immediate these days. “Looking for” takes too much time. Finding, on the other hand, is the act of running your mind’s touch along the continuum between the passions and the wisdoms. The indices between them aren’t quite ‘baryonic’ (nod to Len), but there is a blip, a kind of swoon you have to be able to tolerate in order to discern the relationship between the energy of the passion and the structure of the wisdom. If you catch that sweet spot, you will activate their co-emergence.

    (That activation has classically been the role of the ‘guru.’ But knowing that the wisdoms are a kind of *power* – not just a benefic View – changes the game.)

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