Born to Play the Role: Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. is another unique astrological case study for while he has appeared in movies dating back to the 1970’s, his drug and alcohol problems in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s practically derailed his career.  The Marvel superhero franchise revived Downey’s career with the movie, Iron Man.

Downey’s portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man was so convincing that the subtle traits he added to the character (i.e. machine gun-like quips and witty repertoire) became a staple of the character in comics and cartoons going forward.  Since this character represented a milestone in Downey’s fame and success, it stands out as an outlier in his career making it a great subject for astrological analysis.

RDJv22nd and 9th House Stelliums

With more than half the chart (seven planetary bodies) focused on the 2nd and 9th houses, these two areas of life are immediate areas of attention with the 2nd being the more straightforward of the two to delineate.  The 2nd house represents our talents, personal resources and our personal stark weaponsfinances.  The Mars-Uranus-Pluto stellium conjunction positioned here reflects how Tony Stark (and his family) made money through inventing and developing technological (Uranus) weapons (Mars) of war (Pluto).  The fact that all three planetary bodies (including 2nd house ruler, Mercury) are retrograde is striking.  Retrograde indicates that the archetypal function is under review.  For Tony Stark, his discovery that Stark enterprise weapons were being sold to terrorists and used for illicit activities forced him to review and investigate (retrograde) how Stark enterprises (and himself) makes money (2nd house).

The 9th house represents areas of expansion, travel, higher learning, law and foreigners.  At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be an accurate reflection for the plot of Iron Man, but using derived house technique uncovers some interesting synchronicities.  Moving counter-clockwise from the 2nd house, the 9th is eight houses away.  In other wstark rich1ords, it is the 8th house from the 2nd.  The 8th house represents other people’s resources which includes inheritances.  Considering that Tony Stark inherited Stark enterprises from his father, it makes sense that a stellium conjunction including his sense of self/ego (Sun) would hinge upon what he inherited.

The Sun’s conjunction to the midpoint of the Moon (family archetype) and Saturn (father archetype) and opposition to the midpoint of Mars (derived 8th ruler) and Neptune (actual 8th ruler) confirms the importance of his family to his identity as well as the challenge of establishing and defining himself within the confines of his lineage/inheritance.

Venus’ rulership of the 10th house of the father and presence within this conjunction provides more confirmation, but the mutual reception between Mars (9th ruler) and Mercury (2nd ruler) offers the strongest evidence of the interdependence between Stark’s finances (2nd) and his inheritance (derived 8th).

Mystic Rectangle

Configurations that incorporate both hard and soft aspects are some of the most productive and successful.  In previous articles, we explored multiple charts containing a kite configuration and noted how the opposition of the “spine” of this configuration motivates and inspires the grand trine that is connected to it.  Robert Downey has a configuration very similar, but just as powerful: the mystic rectangle.

Mystic Rectangles are basically two oppositions intersected in such a way that they form trine (120 degrees) and sextile (60 degrees) aspects to each other.  With Downey’s chart, the Mars-Uranus-Pluto stellium opposed by Saturn and Chiron is intersected by the Jupiter-Moon conjunction that is opposing Neptune.  Each angle of this rectangle is forming a trine and sextile to angles at the end of the other opposition axis.  As a result, the challenge or barrier presented by the opposition is mitigated by the planetary bodies forming supportive relationships.  Dane Rudhyar referred to this configuration as “practical mysticism” and it is possible that he was referring to this configuration’s ability to create solutions.stark inventor1

At a high level, Tony Stark is an inventor who can create just about anything to solve a problem.  His talent (mystic rectangle) in this area is so pronounced, he could be viewed as a technological wizard.  Since this configuration is the heart of Downey’s chart, it is essential that its individual components are dissected in order to understand the manifestation a bit more clearly.

Mars-Uranus-Pluto Opposition with Chiron & Saturn

Saturn’s opposition to the previously analyzed Mars-Uranus-Pluto stellium echoes the theme of Stark’s finances being under review.  As a major symbol of karma, Saturn represents the archetypes of hard lessons, discipline and accountability.  Its placement in the actual (not derived) 8th house of inheritance reflects Stark’s painful awareness (opposition) of how his inheritance was originally amassed and its impact on his current finances.

Saturn-Pluto’s self-destructive tendencies are present through Stark’s playboy, party lifestyle,[1] but his capture, torture and enslavement by terrorists was the defining Saturn-Pluto event, awakening his responsibilities as well strengthening his will and resoluteness.[2]  The experience, both literally and figuratively, transformed him into a man of iron.  More than any other chart dynamic, the Mars-Uranus-Pluto opposition to Saturn is a strong signature of a technological (Uranus) warrior (Mars) transformed (Pluto) into iron (Saturn).

Chiron’s placement in the sign of Pisces indicates that drugs and alcohol are a “wound” for Stark (and Downey.) and the tight trine to Neptune, modern ruler of Pisces, confirms this delineation but also hints at the redemption (Neptune) available[3] should they (i.e. Stark, Downey) choose to transform (8th house).

stark alcoholic1

Pisces is also a sign that most easily expresses the quality of empathy.  Stark’s transformation in the Saturn-Pluto cave didn’t just give him a steely resolve, it instilled a sense of empathy for others as a result of the mistakes of his father and company.  One surreal manifestation of this archetypal wound is the arc-reactor placed in Stark’s chest in order to prevent pieces of shrapnel from reaching his heart.  Saturn and Chiron’s placement here aren’t just painful reminders, they are also teachers.

arc reactor2 arc reactor1Moon-Jupiter Opposition with Neptune

Jupiter’s rulership of the 8th house and placement within the 10th offers another example of Stark’s inheritance (8th) impacting his career and reputation (10th).  The conjunction to the Moon, a major significator of the family, in Taurus, a sign highly focused on money (and personal belongings), further underscores this repeated chart theme.  Overall, this conjunction reflects both Stark’s and his father’s (10th again) good business sense/ability and how it would be leveraged to benefit and mitigate (trine and sextile aspects) the challenges he would encounter involving his personal resources and inheritance.

The Moon’s tight opposition to Neptune highlights the problems in reconciling (opposition) his family’s legacy (4th house) as a result of his father’s disappearance (Neptune).  The 8th house is also the house of death, so Jupiter’s rulership of the 8th as well as as the 5th (derived 8th from the 10th) provide some foreshadowing of Stark’s father’s murder at the hands of the Winter Soldier.[4]

All of these dynamics paint an intimate portrait of stress, but also reflect incredible strengths and talents.  The unique feature of the mystic rectangle configuration is that the “strengths” are precisely positioned to provide assistance to the “stressors”.  As a result, the major life challenge of individuals with this configuration is finding balance amongst its dynamics.  This is no small feat and sometimes it takes a lifetime to achieve.  From his recent success, it appears that Robert Downey Jr. may have found it in his avatar, Tony Stark/Iron Man.

Villain or Hero?

Robert Downey’s chart is another great example highlighting the importance of evaluating the entire chart before judging isolated characteristics.  In the last article about James Earl Jones, it was noted that the archetypes associated with the Saturn-Pluto opposition were exacerbated by the lack of planetary bodies in an air element (and vice versa).  It was theorized that these dynamics represented the strongest symbolism for the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker and his de-evolution into Darth Vader.  With Robert Downey Jr., we have a chart that contains the same two characteristics and yet the vehicle of expression was the hero, Iron Man.  The reason for this difference is that Jones’ chart possesses no supportive aspects (i.e. trine, sextile) to help mitigate the challenge inherent within his opposition axis[5] while Downey’s oppositions are positioned in a manner that provide symmetrical and reciprocal support to each other.  Despite the shared characteristics between these two charts, this subtle nuance completely alters how the dynamics manifest.

End Notes

[1] This theme of alcohol abuse is covered in greater detail within the comics, but was present to a lesser degree in the movies as well.  Downey lived and understood this torment intimately.

[2] Please refer to the article on James Earl Jones’ portrayal of Darth Vader for more details on the Saturn-Pluto dynamic.

[3] Keep in mind that trine aspects are supportive.

[4] Jupiter’s tight conjunction to the evil fixed star, Algol, hints at this as well.

[5] Also, while Downey’s opposition axis laid across succedent houses (i.e. 2nd-8th), Jones’ axis was placed in the angular 1st-7th.  Angular houses (i.e. 1st-7th, 4th-10th) are the most active of all the houses and the 1st-7th are the most active of this subset.  Planets and aspects that are connected to these houses tend to manifest in much more visibly and forcefully.

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