Right or Left? The Astrology of Political Persuasion

(This article appeared in the May/June issue of the NCGR memberletter)

by Bruce Scofield

While observing this latest presidential contest I asked myself just how does one become a Democrat or Republican? It amazes me how passionate and deeply committed some of my friends are to their political parties, to the extent that I really can't bring up the subject for fear of either of us losing any sense of credibility to each other. The division between parties is deep. Most people will only read or watch political news from their perspective. The Democrats read their email form Moveon.org while the Republicans subscribe to GOPUSA.org. It appears to me that people on each political side will invariably see what they want to see, or hear what they want to hear, when watching their party's candidates speaking or debating. Why is this so and does astrology have anything to offer in solving this mystery?

My analysis of this situation has led me to a view that is consistent with psychology, brain science and astrology. It assumes a few basics, most importantly that people become who they are in large part due to brain circuit imprinting at very specific, astronomically timed stages in their development. In a book and several articles I've outlined this view in the form of a detailed model in which astronomical cycles of the Moon and planets act as triggers during childhood development.(1) The fundamental concept here is that people become who they are in stages and that what happens during those stages is formative. We become our imprints and these imprints are embedded in neural networks established on specific layers of the brain – reptilian, limbic and neocortex. Consistent with the regular cycles of astronomical bodies, I argue that all people respond to the same timetable, but not all people have the same experiences at the same stage of development and this accounts for differences. One person may have a wonderful childhood but a miserable adolescence while another may have been ignored as a child but loved as a teenager. In this way we become who we are. Astrologers realize that people are always being influenced in various ways by transits, progressions, directions and other forms of dynamic astrological influence. In my view, it is these planetary factors that determine the general tendencies during any stage of development. Later in life events reactivate the original imprints stimulating unconscious responses and behaviors. But it is the cycles of the planets themselves that structure development and it appears to me that the first two stages, those ruled by the Moon and then Mars, determine our political orientation.

I have suggested that periods of imprint vulnerability are triggered by the solar return, or its opposite point, the demi-solar return. In ancient astrology transits that occurred around the time of the birthday were considered very important, and it is essentially these factors that are taken into account in the reading of a solar return. Given the fact that nearly all organisms, and certainly mammals, are responsive to the solar day and the length of the solar day, i.e. the year, it is possible that life has used the sun as a means by which natural ontological processes, which must take place in a certain order, are gauged. In other words, developmental stages proceed in the proper order by counting solar returns and the environment operative at these times becomes the framework around which the stage takes form.

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It may be that the Moon is the primary astrological force in the first two years of our lives. Corresponding to Freud's oral stage, it is symbolic of mother, family and security. It is probably the most powerful astrological force in life for the first two years, then abruptly wanes in influence until about age four when it turns off. During those first two years we learn how to feel at home with ourselves and others and we establish unconscious, deeply felt, standards that we use for the rest of our lives in evaluating whether or not a situation is protective. It is the way of evolution for us to have an automatic evaluative response to our environment and it is in our first two years that the templates for security and belonging are established. It may be that the primary location in the brain for this lunar imprint is in the limbic or paleomammalian layer of the brain, a part of the brain that has a connection to tribal instincts.

At about age two, near the second solar return, Mars completes it first cycle since birth. Upon the Mars return the next stage of development, one corresponding to Freud's anal stage, commences. It runs for the next two years taking imprints and then diminishes in potential to record experiences. The Mars stage of development is concerned with autonomy, territory and power. By age two we are walking and talking and beginning to explore our world. Around age two we learn to control our muscles in toilet training, stand on our own two feet and defiantly say “no” to others – these are the terrible two's. Here evolution establishes a pattern of response to challenges, one that involves fighting to protect ourselves. In stage two we learn how to take care of ourselves and stand up for ourselves without any outside assistance and we learn where we stand in relation to others. It is possible that the brain stem, what is sometimes called the “reptilian brain,” is the physical location for the Mars imprint. This part of the brain is extremely ancient and we share it with most other animals as it allows for survival in a competitive world.

People who take deep imprints one or the other of these first two stages (see my book or articles for information on the other stages) will have their personalities shaped accordingly. A deep imprint in the first, Moon-ruled, stage might occur due to experiencing a family divorce in the first year or two. At this age we are not very conscious of what is going on, but we feel our social environment and these feelings become the foundation for future evaluations of any social environments we may enter. Another deep imprint may occur when the mother finds that she has to work and is no longer available during much of the daytime to care for the baby. Yet another disturbing imprint may occur if the family moves during the first two years, changing the visual, audial and olfactory environment of the first next nesting experience. All of the above can establish a feeling of abandonment and an acute sensitivity to anything having to do with security, home, family and mother and this sensitivity and a response to it will become hard-wired in a neural network, probably in the limbic paleomammalian brain, and may function as a template throughout the lifetime. During our first two years the foundations of our future sense of belonging and security become deeply embedded. This is the lunar circuit.

In the second Mars-ruled stage of development, deep imprints likewise shape future personality, but in a completely different way. Experiences with autonomy are crucial during this stage and if efforts to be independent fail in some way, the feelings that accompany this crisis are imprinted. An example might be a two-year old who is particularly defiant but gets punished regularly by a parent who can't tolerate the constant rebellion. Another example would be a child whose parent expects too much of them in ways that have to do with physical performance, whether this be toilet training or simply walking or standing properly. If a child is not particularly athletically-inclined, a parent who is an athlete may consciously or unconsciously establish an imprint in the child of weakness and competitive failure. With failure comes a feeling of where we stand relative to others and a sense how we are ranked. Another important side-effect of this Mars circuit is the sensitivity to fear. Mars fights to defend itself from the fear of defeat.

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Not all species develop and imprint according to the schedule above. Certainly not reptiles or birds, but probably many socially-oriented mammals such as wolves, whales and other primates do. These first two developmental imprint circuits are so strong that we could say they dominate the basic behaviors typical of humans and other social mammals. The lunar imprint accounts for the sense of belonging to a group, family or tribe. Tribalism lies behind all sorts of behaviors. Being a fan of a baseball team or a rock group, or belonging to a church, are expressions of this basic urge to belong. Lizards don't have it nor do eagles, but cows and Canada geese do. Affiliation with a political party is an expression of tribalism. While we all have this drive, some of us have it in spades, and this is probably because we took a deep imprint during the lunar circuit.

Probably the other fundamental drive in humans, and most other animal species, has to do with ranking, territory and power – and this clearly comes out of the Mars-ruled second imprint circuit. The prime directive for life is to survive. Immortality is for bacteria which divide to reproduce, but since the advent of sexual reproduction organisms have had to find ways to insure that a part of them would survive into the next generation. The control and direction of DNA is crucial in this process and requires an organism to out-compete others in the sperm and egg race. We see this primary drive working within and without us all the time. Television ads sell products that enhance our ability to attract a mate. Boys compete amongst themselves in sports and only some will get the girl. Women accessorize themselves so as to attract a mate that will provide them with the security that they need to produce offspring. Men compete amongst themselves in business to see who can own the most stuff and thereby supply a woman of great appeal the security she demands. Corporations establish pecking orders from CEO down to door opener, a reflection of worth and rank that sends out a signal of success to the world. While human males may not butt heads (football?), lock horns (jousting?), puff themselves up with a red throat (a red necktie?) or simply impregnate as many females as is possible (some basketball players?), they do strive to improve their status in ways that insure reproductive success. Human females do the same thing by choosing males of socio-economic rank and working at looking young, which they know males go for. Most of this is unconscious and buried in culture, but it is there for anyone to see. It is precisely this stage that most programs of enlightenment and consciousness development strive to overcome and some people are able to do this to some degree.

Now what makes a Democrat a Democrat and a Republican a Republican? I'm suggesting that it comes down to the depth of imprinting in either of the first two stages of development, lunar and Martian, which occur in the limbic and reptilian brains, respectively. Those who had a rough or disturbing series of experiences during their first two years become sensitive to the issues of belonging, nurturing, protection and security. Those who had problems during the second Mars cycle, from ages two to four, become sensitive to issues of competition, power, ranking and self-reliance. The first will lean toward the Democratic party, the second to the Republican party.

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Democratic candidates are philosophically fixated around themes of belonging and protection of the tribe. For example, the democratic platform is very broad-based and includes a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. It tolerates gays, artists and people who protest the government. From its point of view, we're all in this together as one big family no matter how rich or poor you are. The weakness in this position is that in tolerating everyone, the chances of dissention are much higher than would be in a narrower set of the population. From the democratic perspective the more unfortunate members of the great American family need protection. This calls for social programs like food stamps and remedial governmental actions like education credits.

Republican candidates are philosophically fixated around themes of self-interest and self-reliance. For example, the Republican platform is always against taxes which they say discourages capitalism. Capitalism is the social program that sees competition as a benign force, an invisible hand that guides productivity among individuals and businesses. Competition is driven by self-interest – a winner wins because they want to be first. Competition also requires strength and the ability of one to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, i.e. self-reliance. The weakness of this view is in its failure to address the problems of society that cause some to fall below the poverty line and other issues of fairness. The Republican solution to most problems is lower taxes to stimulate self-interest and challenge those who haven't competed successfully in the market to solve problems themselves without government handouts. People strongly imprinted during this Mars circuit will tend to adopt belief systems that are based on fear including fundamentalist religions. They will also feel strongly about defending their territory and those of the country.

I'm not saying one party is better than another, just that they sure seem to be reflecting these planetary signatures. We know we all need both the Moon and Mars to function, but when one or the other of these astronomical bodies is heavily aspected, and usually afflicted, it becomes a driver of social orientation due to imprinting – and thus a shaper of party affiliation. There's a lot to be said for family influences and many of us tend to follow the party of our parents, but one could say that in a very, very general sense people with stressed Moon placements in their natal charts lean democratic and people with stressed Mars placements lean Republican.

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Some current examples shed more light on the situation. Consider Barack Obama. He clearly had a challenging childhood, or at least one without a father. He obviously came out of it fine, but he apparently feels strongly enough about it to write a book about finding his father. Presumably, Obama did better in his Mars stage and learned easily how to be independent and self-reliant. I believe Bill Clinton also had mother issues during his early childhood. Contrast this with George W. Bush who had a more protected childhood. He may have experienced competition with his brothers or father during his Mars stage and consequently became more fixated on Mars issues. John McCain comes from a military family, where no doubt expectations on his performance during the Mars imprint period were high. He ended his nomination acceptance speech with a chant of “fight, fight, fight.”

In my astrological model of human developmental stages I argue that each of the four primary stages has a higher octave signified by an outer planet. For the Moon this is Neptune and for Mars this is Pluto. In the case of the democratic mentality, Neptune signifies the tendency to fixate on the future. It is the Democrats that believe in the future - Obama's book “The Audacity of Hope” could be exhibit #1. Alternative visions of the future are vital at some points in history, but at others they are simply unrealistic and this is a point that Republicans often attack. The Republican mentality can be very Plutonian, however, and concerned primarily with control of territory and rank. This mind does not see the future except in terms of the present or the past – it is not able to conceive of anything that will allow for a loss of power, and it likes power that is hidden. State power is important to the Republican mentality and cooperation with other nations is important to the democratic mentality. Reagan, a Republican who was once a democrat, scared the Russians with threats of space weapons, but ultimately made peace with them. Jimmy Carter is still concerned with global cooperation while George W. Bush has been a failure at achieving it. It is only in the context of history that left or right leaning political actions can be interpreted as having a positive or negative impact on all of us. Sometimes we need to fight, sometimes we need cooperation. And let us not forget that the most recently evolved brain layer, the neocortex, is probably Mercurial and offers a way through the maze of these underlying, emotionally driven circuits.

(1) The model was inspired by the writings of Freud, Erikson, Piaget, Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, the later two describe the various stages of human development as circuits. (see Leary, Exo-Psychology, and Wilson, Prometheus Rising) What I’ve done in my book The Circuitry of the Self, is link the appropriate planetary correspondences with the eight circuits of Wilson’s writings which requires very little modification, if any, from what he and Leary were getting at. The connection with these psychological models and astrology is not completely new. Leary attempted to link his stages with the zodiac, with poor results in my opinion. Wilson suggested (in a personal conversation) that the first seven circuits might correspond to the order of the days of the week, but except for Monday through Wednesday, I find this linking lacking.

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