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Gore Vidal: Defender of the American Republic [View chart]
Born into a political background, Gore Vidal was brought up in New York state in the USA. He lived in the house of his maternal grandfather, Democratic Senator Thomas Gore, who, being blind and therefore in need of assistance, used to take his grandson with him into the Senate. Originally named Eugene Luther Vidal, as a teenager he adopted his grandfather's surname as his first name, and from then on was known as Gore Vidal.
Vidal became a successful author when he was just 21 years of age. Over a 60 year career he has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books, as well as essays and articles, plays, television scripts and screenplays. His writings have often been ground-breaking, and as a result have attracted controversy. His third novel, The City and The Pillar, published in 1948, was the first book by an American author to openly and nonchalantly deal with same-sex relationships. It led to several of his next books being ignored by influential reviewers.
As well as writing scripts for films, Gore has also acted in them, both as himself and in character roles; for instance, Bob Roberts (1992) and Gattaca (1997), to name just two of his more recent and well-known character appearances.
He is known for his depth of interest in and knowledge of politics, and has twice stood for election in the USA in 1960 and 1982. Throughout his life his connections with famous politicians, writers, and other artists, have been a defining feature and have informed his novel writing as well as his political campaigning. His determination to reinvigorate the founding ideas and ideals of the USA, and his criticism of those whom he sees as causing the country to veer ever more sharply away from those constitutional principles, has led to him being described as 'the last defender of the American republic.'
This article looks briefly at Gore Vidal's nature using basic astrology.
Quintessential Gore Vidal
The quintessential Gore Vidal quality is usually considered to be his fantastic mind: his piercing and profound intellect, his extensive knowledge of political history, his formidable skill, style, and confidence as a debator. His unwillingness to compromise his outspokenness in the face of upsetting the applecart is similarly key to his character. Erica 'Fear of Flying' Jong has described his writing and debating style as operating according to 'the prizefighter paradigm'. All these qualities are very clear in his birth chart.
The first thing to notice about his chart is the cluster in Libra in the 10th house: Sun, Mercury, and Mars. This is an extremely socially conscious collection of placements, and encapsulates many of Vidal's quintessential qualities. His trenchant wit, his fierce mind, his skill in the art of debate. His social connections are also part of this - Libra being the sign of the diplomats and the socialites, and Sun, Mercury, Mars signifying what is noticeable about a person, where the attention goes, where they define a sharper sense of who they are.
For Gore, his career and status are absolutely required, and these placements indicate someone who very much wants to be appreciated and well regarded, but who is also inclined to push very hard for personal desires. A great strategist and tactician - the 'art of war' - is what this clustering of planets conveys. It also conjures up the phrase 'the pen is mightier than the sword'.
All this is reinforced by the fact that in this trio Mercury is on the halfway point between the Sun and Mars. Thus all his creativity (Sun) and his 'fire in the belly' (Mars) is pinpointed and expressed through his mind (Mercury) and his words (Mercury), resulting in a vigorous, robust, and incisive style of writing and debating. The 10th house position of this triple conjunction and this midpoint structure shows that he most naturally focuses this energy of his psyche straight out into his dealings with the outside world in the form of his vocation and reputation. Thus he is determined to achieve and to be respected, but also to be loved (Sun, Libra).
Mercury ruling the MC adds another layer of confirmation to this psychological structure, backing up all the above comments about the 10th house. Mercury is in septile aspect to the IC, assuming the birth time is correct (it is from the birth certificate, but few people are born precisely on the hour). If the time is accurate, then his desire to connect and his desire to communicate (both symbolised by Mercury) link directly to his background (IC) in an inspirational way (septile); in other words, this is the astrological signature of his family connections providing a source of inspiration to him.
'Speaking his chart', Gore has said:
"But once you know what you want, you are in a stronger position than those who can only say, "Oh no, you mustn't do that."
In this statement, Vidal expresses perfectly his Sun-Mercury-Mars cluster in Libra in the 10th house. Four out of these five factors are goal-oriented. The fifth factor is Mercury, which is about making one's mind up about things, thinking things through, forming opinions, speaking one's mind.
The arts, literature, and the gentility of Gore Vidal
As well as Mercury being on the Sun/Mars halfway point (aka 'midpoint'), Gore Vidal's Mercury has one other midpoint: Venus/Neptune. This midpoint is, in terms of character, at the other extreme to Sun/Mars. Where Sun/Mars is confrontational and direct, Venus/Neptune is acquiescing and indirect, where Sun/Mars is decisive and incisive, Venus/Neptune is indecisive and diffuse, where Sun/Mars is forceful and 'macho', Venus/Neptune is receptive and yielding, where Sun/Mars is brusque and attacking, Venus/Neptune is the epitome of civility and gentility.
Venus/Neptune linking with Mercury shows an interest in the arts. It speaks of imagination, style, and charisma. It is dreamy and unfocused, floating and flowing, accommodating and beguiling. It is the desire for refinement and gentleness, kindness and consideration, unselfishness and compassion, and it both complements and contradicts the darker qualities of the Sun/Mars combination: coarseness, brutishness, selfishness and destructiveness.
The fact that both these pairs of planets focus through Gore's mental functioning and verbal expression is demonstrated in this quote by his biographer, Fred Kaplan:
"I still find it amazing that Gore can possess a combination of courtliness, discretion, and sensitivity on the one hand, and on the other can be absolutely brusque - by normal standards just impolite with people."
Gore's books 'Dreaming War' and 'Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace' can be seen in this Mercurial midpoint structure: Mars symbolising war, Venus and Neptune symbolising peace, Neptune symbolising dreams, and Mercury symbolising the writing of books and articles. Another central theme of his writing and speaking - sex, love and relationships - is also shown here: Sun (sex as recreation), Mars (sex, desire, sex as predatorial activity, sex as conquests), Venus (relating, sex as love, sex as a means to finding the 'other' in oneself), Neptune (romantic illusions, the yearning to become whole and complete).
Interestingly, Gore Vidal has a fascination with twins and with the idea that another person can facilitate a sense of completion in relationship. Twins are astrologically associated with Mercury too, and so here we have another re-statement of the Venus/Neptune desire and longing for wholeness, and the idea of redemption through finding the other half of oneself.
On the surface and in the depths
Gore's Ascendant is Scorpio. The planets Venus and Saturn are conjunct in this sign, 'hiding' behind the Ascendant in the 12th house. Venus is close enough to the Ascendant to be part of the Vidal persona and to reveal a central strand in the thematic weave of his life. This configuration of signs and planets shows a focus on approaching life primarily as a contest of will-power and a deadly serious game of 'how to win friends and influence people.' This next quote, again by his biographer Fred Kaplan, illustrates this well:
"What surprised me at first, but not over time, was his remarkable strength. A combination of physical strength and of will power. It's one of the signs of potential for great productivity, a sense of discipline and endurance that Carlyle and Dickens - and James, in his way - all possessed. I think what differentiates 'great' people from others is that they have a steely, disciplined energy and strength - both mental and physical - and Gore has that."
Scorpio is a sign known for its tenacity and unflinching boldness when it goes after something or someone; it's a sign of extremes of behaviour and feeling, obsessions and overwhelming passions, doing nothing by halves and drawing on an inexhaustible wellspring of energy and indefatigability. It is also known for guarding well its soft inner core, its vulnerability and its sensitivity to pain. At its best it can be expressed as a constructive use of influence for the good of the whole; at its worst it often takes the form of an icy veneer over a heart poisoned by betrayals and the desire for revenge. People often say that they wouldn't like to have these people as a enemy, and that once this person is a friend they are steadfastly loyal and intensely committed. The presence of Venus and Saturn in Scorpio, along with the Ascendant, highlights these qualities in Gore Vidal, and on a humorous note, Gore once called himself 'the gentleman bitch' of American letters, which is a perfect way to sum up these Scorpio traits in combination with his Sun-Mercury-Mars cluster.
Further 'speaking his chart' - particularly the Saturn (cold, barriers) in Scorpio (water, emotion) in the 12th house (water, emotion) part of it - Vidal has said:
"I am exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."
As Erica Jong put it:
"He lives in splendid isolation [Venus, Saturn, Scorpio, 12th house = retreat, seclusion, private space] - aiming fiery feuilletons at a dumb and dumber world."
Yet he also admitted that he cries at sentimental films. This is a classic behaviour associated with Scorpio configurations that are backed up by other signs of denial of emotion: Vidal has Saturn in Scorpio, Pluto in the 8th house, Uranus in the 4th house, all symbolising a distrust of fully engaging with the emotions. The phrase 'I am exactly as I appear' is a very common Scorpionic piece of chaff designed to deflect and obscure from the truth of the sign, which is a tremendous depth of feeling that the person often feels will overpower them if they get too close to it in its raw form. In his interview with Anthony Clare for the radio programme 'In the Psychiatrist's Chair', Vidal dismisses the psychiatrist's probing about the unconscious, in what is again a brilliant display of classic Scorpionic evasion, designed to hide vulnerability and powerful sentiment. The area where he shows a mastery of his Scorpionic nature is, however, in his writing:
"Novel writing is a slow process in which hands and brain coordinate on a page. I've worked in the same fashion for half a century. Deep, complex ideas are just that: deep and complex, and they work best when you dont try to force them from the deep until they are ready to surface."
Another quote that aptly summarises the essence of his Scorpio Ascendant and Pluto in the 8th house:
"Everything has its time in life.... Life flows by, and you flow with it or you don't. Move on and move out."
These two quotes show the intrinstic and visceral understanding of the Scorpionic process: an ever-circling round of giving birth, living life, then surrending it all and letting go.
There is so much more that could be written about this 'deep and complex' person who has been so diversely creative and so continuously prolific, and who has endured the ups and downs of public life for so long. Gore Vidal's contributions to literature, politics, and society are unique and deserving of in-depth astrological study. Hopefully this relatively brief treatment will suffice as a simple starting point for further inquiry.
All quotes are from or were found via the Gore Vidal Index at: http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/vidalframe.html
(NB this is an external link. Also, upon clicking, it will open in a new browser window)
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