A system exists which can explain the indescribable pain of clinical depression. It can also make sense of its onset as well as duration.
Before it can be examined, we need first to establish, just what is clinical depression?
We will not consult the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. It undoubtedly contains a description and checklist. Instead, fortunately for us, we have Styron’s book, containing 85 pages elaborating his experience of it.
Clinical Depression for William Styron
Its duration: The first signs started around June, 1985, when he experienced some acute, but temporary, states of unusual mental disturbance. By October, while in Paris to receive an important literary prize, he was so distressed he nearly skipped the obligatory dinner that came with the award. Right after that, he returned to the States, where he consulted a professional and started private psychotherapy several times per week. He asked for, and was given, a series of prescribed anti-depressants and sleep aids, none of which helped much. In December, exhausted and utterly without hope, he nearly committed suicide. Fortunately for Styron, during that, his darkest hour, he experienced a sudden, powerful affirmation of his life. As a result, he committed himself to the hospital. After nearly seven weeks there, he was discharged--well on his way to recovery.
He writes “I had now reached that phase of the disorder where all sense of hope had vanished, along with the idea of a futurity; my brain...had become less an organ of thought than a instrument for registering, minute by minute, varying degrees of its own suffering.” (page 58)
And, for those still not convinced of the horror of this illness, “[I experienced]...a curious inner convulsion that I can describe only as a despair beyond despair. It came out of the cold night; I did not think such anguish possible.”(page 64) That was when he started considering death preferable to life.
Other Types of Depression
Since the distinction clinical exists, there must be other types of depression. Again, without consulting the DSM, we can venture some:
Depression can result from re-stimulation of an unconscious pattern. For instance, as Gary Smalley and John Trent, Ph.D., so elegantly illustrate in The Blessing, a child whose parent withholds all positive recognition (called the blessing) of him may experience it as a wound which undermines his whole life. Even successful and well-married, some large part of his experience of living is ashes. Neurotically--which is to say, unconsciously--trying to work out that problem, his adult relationships will reflect the same dynamic: even what he does well is not appreciated. Or, if it is, it is not the right recognition because it is not from the parent who created the wound. The intensity of pain and resultant depression he experiences is based on the now-unconscious experience of withheld blessing.
Depression can occur because one is unable to: find a mate, have children, make a living, and so on. Sometimes these are essentially non-neurotic. Besides the economic problem of unemployment, it is difficult to be unemployed. Years back, when the Federal government withdrew financial support of farming, we went through a period where many small farm owners committed suicide. Besides the pain of physically losing his home, his roots, and his place of employment, the small farmer suddenly, and for an extended time, experienced himself as useless. Was he really useless? No, he was the same individual with the same wonderful knowledge and skills he always had. He just couldn't profitably use them. It is the same with some of these other "want-deprivations": it is difficult to be a parent if one has no children; difficult to be a spouse if one lacks a mate. What differentiates the depression of these want-deprivations from neurosis is they are primarily based on painful present conditions. They can often be re-thought in such a way that depression is eliminated. Infertile couples can decide to adopt; single people, that career is as important as marriage, and an unemployed individual may find an even better occupation.
These last two types of depression have no set duration--they can last two minutes, two hours, or two years. Their duration is altered by several factors: re-framing with a solution to the problem, re-focusing to non-depressing areas, windfalls, and even useful fantasy. If they last two years, they are usually accompanied by alternate experiences of better states. So, they tend to exist, or not exist--be on one minute, and off the next, like a light switch. They do not arise, gradually and relentlessly increase, reach an apex, then decline in reverse order. But, that’s what happens with clinical depression. And, although the other two types can be severe enough to lead to suicide, they usually leave most of the personality intact and functional. Not true in clinical depression. And, if the other two types commit suicide, it is often a surprise to those around them. Only the most dedicated optimists can be completely surprised by the suicide of some one suffering from clinical depression.
Clearly, we use the word depression in a variety of ways. Two aspects of clinical depression stand out: (1) it practically strips the individual of his humanity, and, (2) it manifests on a type of gradient.
What is meant by gradient? Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: G.& C. Merriam Company, 1971, p. 362) contains this: gradient: 1 a : the rate of regular or graded ascent or descent. Here I alter it slightly: the rate is not absolutely regular, but it is always in the same direction. It increases up to the point of nearly total debility. If the individual lives, at some point the depression starts to decrease, and likely, ceases altogether.
Here I assume Styron’s clinical depression was rather typical of clinical depression. Why? He wrote about it as if it were typical; he never wrote that there was anything not typical about it.
A model of a condition is simply a selective way of framing and measuring its phenomena. Whichever model best explains most of its phenomena is the better model. Whatever consistently demonstrates a gradient, or curve, has a model which explains it. Why? Because the curve is a measure of some actual phenomenon. When we know what it measures, we are on our way to having the model, or system, which will explain its occurrence.
For instance, every day--without clouds, here at 41N00 longitude--the intensity of sunlight increases, reaches a maximum, wanes, disappears totally for some time, then starts all over again, with seasonal variation. What is happening? It could be: the sun rotates around the earth (obviously). Or, the earth--somehow--rotates and tilts in relation to the sun. The latter, less obvious, explanation proved correct. Our present model of our solar system resulted from our attempt to explain our experience of it. We are so used to thinking in terms of that model that we seldom realize we have never actually observed what it explains. And likely never will. Who has seen the earth rotate around the sun? Even the astronauts? But, we now use that model in planning all our operations involving, for instance, space flights as well as commercial flights. Why? Because the model provides an excellent, time-tested, explanation for what happens.
Clinical depression as described by Styron--its onset, timing, duration, cessation--is best, and nearly completely, explained by astrology. What kind of astrology? A non-traditional one. It is not necessary to know all about it to read this paper. But it is available for when questions arise. Here are its basics:
This method is not traditional. It uses a birth and conception planets and their harmonics and houses, all of which share the same axis. :
This astrology uses the sidereal positions of the planets based on the Fagan-Bradley’s SVP. Here is the link to my paper on this site discussing the practical differences between the tropical (Western) and sidereal (Eastern) zodiacs. Contemporary western astrology usually takes the position that both zodiacs "sork." The paper shows that while the art part of astrology can use either of the zodiacs (and why they can), scientific astrology must use the sidereal zodiac, Tropical vs. Sidereal Astrology: a Discussion.
Harmonics are taken from the sidereal position of the planets. The Egyptian harmonic, discussed in the paper “About This Method” (link below), is used.
”Lights” include suns, moons, and moons nodes. When mercury rules one or two Angles, it also acts like a light and has the same orb as the other lights. The MC or Asc also acts like a light, but one with only a 2° orb, because when a set is on an Angle it does not need a light to be active.
This method uses only conjunctions, applying and separating squares, and oppositions. Orbs for static planets with lights is 5°; without lights, about 2.5°. Orb for MC/planet or Asc/planet is 2°. Planets so related to each other are referred to as in the same “set.” A set, then, is two or more planets (or an Angle) connected to each other through conjunction, square, and opposition within the defined orbs. Sets without Angles are more active when they contain a light, and less active without one. Learning to look in terms of “crosses” can be helpful in rapidly finding planets that are in the same set.
Because this approach uses both a birth and conception chart and they share the same axis, birth houses usually overlap different houses of the conception chart. These are called “house overlaps.” As it turned out in this paper, house overlaps were not significant. They can be for some other conditions. Throughout this paper I use the convention when writing about house overlaps of putting the birth house first, then the conception house. So, for instance, a “5th/1st” overlap refers to an overlap of birth 5th house with conception 1st house in that order.
Birth planets (including their harmonics) rule only birth houses. Conception planets (including their harmonics) rule only conception houses.
For a more thorough explanation of this astrological approach, refer to the following papers:
About This Method
Chart Reading Rules
In the partial charts shown below, birth planets and their harmonics are inside the circle. Conception planets and their harmonics are outside the circle. Conception sidereal planets are red; conception harmonic ones, black. Birth sidereal planets are blue; birth harmonic ones, green. Occasionally, because of space limitations, I have had to violate this inside/outside arrangement, but the color coding remains constant.
Abbreviations used are b = birth, c = conception, and t = transiting. Even though the harmonic used for each chart is always two more than the chart’s number, in these papers—for ease of reading—I write the harmonic number the same as the chart number. For example, the 5th chart uses the 7th harmonic, but I have established the convention of writing harmonic planets for the 5th chart as, e.g., c5 mars, which reads, “the harmonic for the 5th chart for conception mars.”
In reviewing this paper (April, 2013), I see that below I started using the term "watch" without defining it. Indeed, I assumed in astrology each "watch" coincided with the approximate (ideal) two-hour division of the 24-hour cycle (the 360° nativity called the birth chart) into 12 watches to match the 12 houses per chart of each individual's chart. Looking up "watch" on Wikipedia, we find it has a biblical history, with both Roman and Jewish definitions. Navies also use watches. Here is Wikipedia's discussion of same: "A watch system, watch schedule, or watch bill is a method of assigning regular periods of work duty aboard ships and some other areas of employment. A watch system allows the ship's crew to effectively operate the ship 24 hours a day for the duration of long voyages or operations. In the traditional Royal Navy watch system, those members of the crew whose work must be done at all times of the day are assigned to one of two divisions: the Starboard or the Port division. These two groups of personnel alternate in working the following watches:
- First watch: 2000 to 0000
- Middle watch: 0000 to 0400
- Morning watch: 0400 to 0800
- Forenoon watch: 0800 to 1200
- Afternoon watch: 1200 to 1600
- First dog watch: 1600 to 1800
- Last dog watch: 1800 to 2000
The Royal Navy traditional submarine three watch system is 2 on 4 off during the day (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and 3 on 6 off during the night (8 p.m. to 8 a.m.)
Since I was only interested in using the term watch as a heuristic device, this previous ommission has no bearing on the results of this study. Here, again, I am using the term "watch" as covering the approximate two-hour intervals of each of the twelve houses of the twelve signs of the tradtional zodiac.
Unlike my usual care observing dates of publication, I see this paper also lacks same--it is usually right at the top of the paper on the left. Since its link on the Home Page falls between the paper on Whitman (April, 2000) and the main paper on autism (October, 2000), this paper was likely first published in the summer of 2000. This work, which is based on research, is always evolving.
So, the 3rd or mind watch, then, occurs appromately between midnight and 2:00 a.m. in every one's chart and correlates with the 3rd house of tradtional astrology. That area has traditionally been associated with conditions, talents, habits, and problems of the mind. Here we use that area to analyze Styron's clinical depression.
For something like depression, one can (and should) analyze both the 3rd house of the 7th chart and the whole 3rd chart (which is a harmonic magnification of birth and conception 3rd houses). Either or both can show mind pathology. In this paper I looked only at Styron's mind watch in his 7th chart, the major chart of this method. It describes not only the traditional 7th house matters of close relationships (marriage, partnerships, close friendships), but just about every other aspect of our lives. As can be seen, it does a more than adequate job representing Styron's clinical depression. At some point I should like to add the analysis of his 3rd chart.
I should add one more point I too easily assumed others would already understand. Because this method uses both birth and conception charts arranged around the same axis, except by accident no 3rd house will fall in the same area of the dial as the time period midnight to 2:00 a.m. If you take the birth and conception charts apart, they show that those watches fall in the prescribed time period. Because of the problem of orienting the chart with two simultaneous sets of houses, the birth/conception chart was long ago standardized so that the sign Aries falls on the traditional East point (9:00 a.m.) of the chart. That made is so that all charts are seen from that point of view. This was less confusing than every other approach I tried.
We want to look at those two qualities very descriptive of clinical depression, using astrology as the model for explaining them. And we want to know if there is any kind of astrological gradient which matches the manifestation--its strength and duration--of the depression. If the match occurs, then we will know what the gradient measures, and then we will know why it is accompanied by such temporary destruction of the personality. Here are the two significant qualities:
(1) Its dehumanization: the planets from the most outer, pluto, to the most inner (or closest to the sun), mercury, also form a loose type of gradient. It is of types of consciousness, from least familiar to most familiar from our point of view. To simplify considerably, planets represent the following forms of consciousness:
Sun through jupiter enable the experience we call being human, providing the astrological principles out of which personality is built.
- moon.............automatic habits and thoughts
- uranus...............(outer planet consciousness)
- neptune............(outer planet consciousness)
- pluto................(outer planet consciousness)
A simple, very basic definition of each planet’s influence in the mind watch is:
- Mercury indicates affinity for communication
- Venus indicates affinity for art and beauty
- Mars indicates affinity for doing
- Jupiter indicates affinity for expanding thru mind
- Saturn indicates affinity for limiting: narrow or serious, mind
- Uranus fosters the range from innovative to rebellious
- Neptune fosters the range from creative to psychotic
- Pluto fosters the range from investigative to withdrawn
As can be seen in the first list above, saturn is a little different from the first seven planets listed. Saturn is at the outpost of the planets of personality. Going out from it, through uranus, neptune, and pluto, we have types of consciousness familiar to humanity only in their stepped down, very diluted form. We do not "control" those forms of consciousnes because their bailiwick is outside of the knowledge of personality. Coming back (starting at pluto and neptune) from them, it is at saturn that individual consciousness is split off (limited) from the cosmic and made finite. Life has been individualized, but it still lacks human attributes. Attributes come from further in--through jupiter, mars, venus, mercury, moon, and sun.
An excellent diagram/schematic, called the Tree of Life, exists which furth elucidates how the levels of the planets are correlated with levels of incarnating. In the paper on autism, here is its link: Paper on Autism (do a search for Tree of Life). I highly recommend reading it for a better understanding of the astrology of what happens when individuals are shorn of personality, as occurs both in severe autism and clinical depression..
When an individual experiences an excess of saturn in his chart--necessarily implying a deficiency of the other planets because only so many positions of influence are available--he experiences, therefore, loss of (many of) his human attributes along with his power to enjoy them in himself, or in any one else.
With every chart consisting of birth and conception planets, every one, therefore, has two sets of planets: two suns, two moons, two mercuries...and so on. But the method also uses harmonics for each planet, so every individual chart has four sets of planets. That is okay, rather than confusing, because they act in a manner similar to the bases of DNA. Their repetition and position together spell out what becomes the life of each individual.
In Styron’s chart, it just so happens both his saturns fall in his conception mind watch. In Darkness Visible he acknowledges--previously not appreciated--his penchant for writing fiction describing dark conditions, including four major characters who commit suicide. He states, also, his father had problems with depression.
Because saturn travels slowly, its position at birth is usually not that far from its position at conception. Therefore, people often have both saturns in the same watch. So, too, both can fall in the mind watch. If we assume equal viability of infants with their saturns within any watch, and equal distribution of births over 24 hours, then only about 2/24, or 1/12, of humanity--or even less--has both saturns in its mind watch. Where did that figure come from? There are 12 watches per chart, and two charts--birth and conception. Each chart has one mind watch. So, each individual has 2 x 1 mind watches out of a total of 24 watches.
Does 1/12 of humanity experience clinical depression? It would be difficult to know for sure. The condition also invites suicide. However, it seems unlikely (but not disproved) that about 8.3% (1/12) of humanity suffers clinical depression. If it did, the research outlay for clinical depression would exceed our military budget. It never has. So, even with two saturns in the mind watch, they influence the individual’s mentation, but they hardly disable it.
It takes real excess--that is, far more saturn influence--to disable that wondrous invention, a human mind.
Now we can get into Styron's astrology for clinical depression.
The partial chart below shows Styron's tendency to clinical depression. We need to analyze it.
William Styron Partial Harmonic Chart for the 7th House
Placidus: c11—13Gem, c12—15Can, c2—7Vir, c3—7Lib b11—24Sco, b12—15Sag, b2—26Aqu, b3—3Ari
Styron's conception 3rd house (“mind watch”) contains both non-harmonic saturns. (It is the group of planets around 2 o'clock. The two saturns look somewhat like scythes--you can see the lower hook, and the cross-bar that serves as the "handle.) Both are lighted, that is, both are involved with a sun, moon, or node (the "lighting.") C saturn at 5 Libra 17 (on the cusp of c 3rd and progressing forward) is lighted by c moon in Set (1) above. B saturn is lighted by b and c harmonic suns at 14 Aries 57 in Set (2). Since b7 mars, in c 3rd, also rules b 3rd, then Set (1)’s lighted mars/saturn/jupiter/jupiter/neptune influences b 3rd house, while only lighted b7 mars/c saturn influences c 3rd because it is in c 3rd. The whole set does not influence c 3rd because Set (1) does not contain a c 3rd ruler. But, a progressed Angle to his b7 mars/c saturn influences both 3rd houses.
Note he has 3rd/9th and 9th/3rd overlaps, a condition he shares with, among others, Nobel prize winner John Nash as well as David Koresh. While the 3rd house describes our ordinary or mundane mind, the 9th house describes our higher (philosophical, spiritual, religious, formal legal, etc.) mind. Third/9th overlaps (and vice versa) are excellent for creative insight, but can also lead to too little practicality, 9th house matters usurping those of the 3rd, as happened with Koresh.
Until progressions turned his conjunction of mercury, mars, and saturn in Libra into an excessive mars/saturn influence, Styron appears to have made the most of this set by writing fiction that centered on conflicted (mars/saturn) relationships (Libra).
If we could assign values to planetary conditions--here, our saturns in the conception mind watch--we could quantify their influence. If we can quantify them, we can find out empirically how much influence is slight, how much moderate, how much excessive, and how much extremely excessive. We can do that. My assignment of values won’t be perfect, but it will be reasonable, and it will be based on prior experience.
Sixteen years continuous research with this system of astrology has shown that planets have the most to the least influence (in decreasing order) under the following circumstances:
- when on an Angle (roughly equivalent to 6 a.m. and noon, and their opposites, 6 p.m. and midnight)
- when not on an Angle but lighted and influencing through rulerships an Angle. Any saturn can be "lighted" by any sun, moon, or moon’s node when they are in a relationship of 0, 90, 180, or 270 degrees to each other, and influencing an Angle when one of those planets rules an Angle)
- when lighted without influencing an Angle
- when unlighted and not influencing Angle
Assigning values, based on experimental observation of their power, to those four conditions, we have:
Condition Value 1. 10 2. 9 3. 4 4. 1
Condition 2 is almost equal to, or nearly as strong as, condition 1. Condition 3 has general life influence, but is not nearly as determining as 1 and 2. Condition 4 has little influence on the life until it becomes changed to 1, 2, or 3 by progression of an Angle or by progression of a light ruling an Angle. It is, so to speak, waiting in the wings to be recognized by some significant astrological change.
Before looking at Styron’s astrological influences prior to, and during, his depression, we need to add one more fact about astrology. In astrology, everything moves. Conception Angles and planets start moving at conception. When birth occurs, those planets and Angles also start moving. Moreover, everything moves at differing rates of speed relative to each other, but generally, a fairly dependable rate of speed relative to its own past motion. The rate also depends on which astrological method is used for moving them. This system uses the type called secondary progressions, which we will now label moved positions of the planets and Angles.
So, in looking at an individual’s chart for any particular date after birth, positions of planets and Angles must be noted for conception, birth, moved conception, and moved birth. All together, they indicate the individual's current (that is, that date) astrological influence.
Looking at Styron’s chart, we focus on his conception clock--that is, we orient ourselves from it, not the birth. (His conception "clock" is the one described above, around 2:00 rather than the birth one, which is around 8:00) Either orientation is possible, but here we are simply looking at the mind watch containing most of Styron's problem--his two saturns in his conception mind watch.
At birth he started out with (where c = conception, and b = birth):
Condition of Mind Watch Value 1. c saturn at 2 a.m. conjunct c moon - no Angle rulers, no aspects to Angles 04 2. b saturn around 1:30 a.m. - no lights, no Angle rulers, no aspects to Angles 01 Total 05
We know that 5 is an entirely acceptable, that is, functional, value. How do we know that? Because, prior to his depression, he was a valuable, contributing member of society.
On June 1,1985, at the onset of his depression, he had these moved conditions:
Condition of Mind Watch Value 3. moved c Angle at 2 a.m., to 1. above 10 4. original b Angle at 7:40 p.m 00 4a. moved c saturn to around 1:40 a.m., that is, 6 hours, or 90°, from 4. 10 5. moved b Angle to 1:40 p.m., that is, 12 hours, or 180° from 4a. 10 6. original influences still in effect 05 Total 35
This, as stated, is an over-simplification. He has even more saturn influence than this. This, however, serves our purpose. With a value of 35, he has seven times the saturn influence he is used to. Indeed, since his mind watch starts out with more saturn influence than that of most people, he now has far more than most human beings will ever experience.
What was our key word for saturn? Limitation. What should our key word be for excessive saturn? Excessive limitation. That is, excessive limitation of both outgoing and incoming data. The fact that personality cannot grasp that much limitation makes the horror of experiencing it, while still alive, that much worse.
That much saturn influencing the mind watch simply, and effectively, dismantles the mind. Since our minds sustain our personalities, whatever reduces the former, also reduces the latter. This is true right up to near-total annihilation of the meaningful aspects of personality...as occurs with clinical depression.
Styron was going through a type of shedding of the personality that normally occurs with death. In dying, however--we know from reports--other sensibilities can function, so death is a far different experience than clinical depression. Is it any wonder, then, that some one suffering clinical depression believes he is beyond hope, and considers death as a form of release?
We have shown how excess occurred. It occurred because Styron’s original condition--both saturns in his mind watch--made him vulnerable to excess through moved positions. That is precisely what happened. At the time of his depression, saturn’s influence was, indeed, preponderant. We have explained the type of experience likely with that much saturn influence on the mind.
We still have not established how astrology shows the length and curve of his experience:
(2) Its duration and gradient:
I started with a birth time for Styron of 10:15 p.m., June 11, 1925, in Newport News, Virginia. (See footnote 1, below.) I did not check the timing--known as rectification--on his chart because I had no other dated events with which to check. Assuming the doctor and nurses are paying attention at delivery, birth time is often within 0-5 minutes of correct. I prefer it exact.
The interesting thing about Angles is that the two at the usual noon position move about one degree per year. The two around the 6 a.m. position vary more, moving from a lot less than one degree per year up to several degrees per year. The influence of a planet to a moved Angle--or moved planet to stationary Angle--lasts a little less than one degree: about one-half a degree before, and one-quarter a degree after exact contact. So, the influence brought about from moved noon Angles lasts about three-quarters of a year. Of course, a lot depends on whether the influence facilitates a condition or an event. Some events happen in a moment, with or without after-effects. Some events are protracted. This condition, which could be seen as a protracted event, built up, peaked, then abated. Usually conditions, as the term is used here, are something we live with all the time, like the color of our hair, or the tone of our voice.
Styron’s condition covered from June, 1985, until January, or February, of 1986--eight or nine months, or about three-quarters of a year. Considering that he had a number of astrological factors--all changing, all having influence on duration--his illness lasted about as long as the astrological indicators for it were excessive.
The actual curve of his illness also comes from his saturn values. As his moved Angles approach exactness in aspect, his saturn values are increasing. The curve turns at the exact aspect, and then his saturn values begin decreasing. It is just a little more complex than that: as an aspect approaches exact, it appears more powerful than after exact. So, his actual curve should drop off at a more rapid rate than it rose.
Styron’s is my only case actually labeled clinical depression. However, I have a large file on manic-depression. Saturn forms the depression part of manic depression, now called bipolar disorder. Uranus forms the other pole. In this illness, also, excessive saturn influencing the mind watch is the sponsor of depression. In addition, I have always kept track of my own and the depression of other’s and its correlation with saturn.
I have an even larger file on suicide. Depression can be one of the causes of suicide. There are other reasons. A slow-moving saturn to an Angle/light was the major astrological influence in the suicide of Lindsay Crosby--son of Bing--in December, 1989. He had, by then, already been through several years of gradually increasing depression, though only hospitalized for several months. He was originally diagnosed as manic-depressive.
This model, an astrological one, makes it possible to bypass the dangerous--for clinical depression, as one example--step, “do psychotherapy.” Styron nearly committed suicide because the professional to whom he had entrusted his life was treating him for the wrong illness--neurotic rather than clinical depression. His was not just a neurotically-driven depression because he was not just fabricating it from conscious or unconscious material. He had an objective excess of saturn influencing his mind. However, even if he had been just being neurotic--whichever way it is viewed--while he was under the sway of seven times the normal influence of saturn, psychotherapy was not a viable option.
There are biological, psychological, spiritual, emotional...and astrological correlates of individual experience. Which provides the best explanation for what, when, why, and how long something happens? In each case, the answer to that question should suggest the primary model for understanding, and working with, the experience. If that turns out to be astrological, it doesn’t imply the exclusion of others. We want to intelligently use all the medicines in our healing arsenal. To insist that astrology provide the only model for understanding would be folly. At the same time, to insist modern science, as we presently know it, has the only helpful answers is also folly. Modern folly.
Astrology has been around for a long time. We--our ancestors--used to know that saturn (saturnine) and melancholia were connected. Today we call it depression, and write books claiming its explanation is completely mysterious. It is not William Styron’s fault: he picked the only explanation available to him--that his experience was inexplicable. Without, perhaps, realizing it, however, he did correctly identify saturn's influence. At the beginning of Darkness Visible, he quotes the Book of Job. Job is an ancient chronicle of the painful influence of saturn on identity as played out through relationships and material possessions instead of mind. Job also contains hints about excessive saturn's possible benefits, assuming the individual lives through, and is not too crushed by, his experience.
Even if astrology answers heretofore unanswered questions--why? approximately how long? how bad?--about clinical depression, how does knowing all this help?
Even with unspeakable experiences such as Styron’s, knowing his depression has a limited duration could help. William Styron's world had come apart. He believed--as do many in severe depression, or other very difficult experiences, for that matter--it would never get better. The fact is, assuming nothing has been hopelessly broken, this as well as many other dark conditions automatically start improving once the excess passes. This truth is related to that old question, “did the physician heal him, or did he heal himself?”
Knowing clinical depression is correlated with anything could help. Tradition has allotted three models for severe depression:
(1) it is biochemical, and is simply the victim's misfortune. Sometimes it is his genetic misfortune. Unless science has recently come up with answers, the biochemical model gives no explanation for the change in biochemistry--neither its onset, nor its disappearance.
(2) It is neurotic, and, therefore, based on repressed unconscious material. The depression--no matter how bad--will go away once the unconscious material is made conscious through psychotherapy. And,
(3) the patient is engaging in a perverse kind of mental gold-bricking.
The way the patient is treated depends on which model his healer subscribes to.
Why is it that humanity, every time it comes up with a new model--like the biochemical/pharmacological/molecular one--has to try explain everything that way? Our ancestors weren’t complete idiots.
The astrological model is best for explaining depression, including its onset, duration, and cessation. Scientists who ignore that model are, in fact, being...well...unscientific.
FootnotesAbout the Author
(1) This information was from Data News #27, page 3, by Lois Rodden, supplied to her by Frances McEvoy, who stated Karen Thorne, a friend of Styron’s wife, quoted him personally. Write Data News, 11736 3rd St., Yucaipa, CA 92399)
The free-hand drawing of Styron at the top of this page was done from the photo on the dust jacket of his book, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.
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