The Death of Robin Williams

On August 11, 2014 we learned the horrible news that Robin Williams had taken his own life. The surreal juxtaposition of a comedian and artist with an almost boundless supply of wild, creative energy with that of a severely depressed, suffering and manic individual are almost impossible to reconcile, but these layers can exist within an individual. It has been almost seven years since this tragedy and I hope we are at a point where this event can be analyzed because there is some valuable insight to be gleaned from reviewing the involved astrological transits. As a result, this analysis[1] leans heavily on the details and timeline of events provided by Dave Itzkoff in his Vanity Fair article that can be accessed here.

October 2013:

The reported onset of Williams’ variety of symptoms and physical ailments began in the month of October.  Because the article does not specify the exact date when symptoms began, we will default the transits to 10/24 for the following reasons:

October 2013 – Initial Onset
  1. Uranus – Pluto Square: This powerful aspect was almost exact around this time frame and the clash between their generational archetypal natures can’t be overstated. Pluto is correlated with intensity, (painful) transformation and eruption while Uranus is disruption, change and revolution. The last time these two bodies formed a significant (hard/challenging) aspect to each other was the 1960’s. Therefore, the disruption they manifested in 2013[2] had strong echoes to what was felt back then. For Williams specifically, transiting Pluto and Uranus injected their natures into his life personally due to the opposition (from Pluto) and square (from Uranus) to his natal Mars-Uranus conjunction. With natal Mars ruling the 6th house of general health, the massive upheaval and disruption often associated with the confrontational relationships between these bodies were almost certain to have ripple effects on Williams’ health. Their slow-moving nature was the larger cycle that provided the overall framework (or narrative) that would dictate the manifestation “triggers” from most of the other smaller, faster planetary transits.
  2. Saturn at the Ascendant: The Ascendant represents the cusp of the angular 1st House and of the four angles within an astrological chart, the Ascendant is the one that is the most active and visible. Basically, planetary bodies that transit to the Ascendant almost always make their presence known through very visible manifestations in the individual’s life. As an area of manifestation, the 1st House represents, quite literally, the physical body. Saturn represents the archetype of restriction. Therefore, its transit over the exact degree of the Ascendant during the month when Williams began to experience symptoms that would eventually be connected to initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy-Body Dementia is significant and represented a major correlation in how these diseases would present significant inhibitions and barriers in the basic controls and movements of the body.
  3. Chiron: Chiron’s dual aspects to the natal Moon (by conjunction) and Venus (by opposition) are significant for a number of reasons. One, the Moon represents the stomach and it was reported that Williams was experiencing a variety of stomach symptoms during this time frame. Two, Venus rules the 12th house of mental health. Archetypally, Chiron represents some type of “wound” or “wounding” that may possibly remain with the individual for the duration of their life. This transit has a strong correlation to the dementia symptoms that Williams would exhibit over the next eight months.
  4. Mercury at the Ascendant: This particular transit reinforces the delineation from Saturn. Mercury was also retrograde for a portion of October and this date, specifically. Mercury retrograde periods have a reputation for mishaps, accidents or in revisiting or focusing on errors or problems that have occurred. There is little doubt that this internalization process was not only heavily focused on the inhibitions and restrictions that the body was facing, but also the malfunctioning of the mind itself due to the fact that Mercury is the natural ruler for general thinking processes. There is one other problem here as well: Mercury retrograde can severely impact the accuracy of any diagnosis provided during the period.
  5. Retrograde: In addition to Mercury’s retrograde status, the other glaring phenomenon is the fact that two of the other planetary bodies referenced above also happened to be retrograde around this time frame. That is a high degree of retrograde energy, so it highlights one of the core manifestations of this astrological dynamic: internalization. In other words, the retrograde activity correlates with Williams’ acute sense, awareness and/or recognition that something was terribly wrong. As a matter of fact, Mercury’s transition into retrograde towards the end of October tends to infer that the symptoms probably initiated somewhere around the beginning to the middle of the month.

May 2014

During the following May, Williams finally received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.  Again, the article fails to provide an exact date, but I have defaulted the chart to May 14, 2014 for the following reasons:

May 2014 Full Moon – Diagnosis
  1. Full Moon: Full moons are extremely significant events and notorious for abruptly bringing things to light that may be good or bad.  If they tightly aspect and individual’s natal chart then this sudden (and sometimes shocking) awareness will manifest explicitly and uniquely into their lives.  This particular full moon involved Saturn, so the full moon’s themes would be blended with the archetypal functions of Saturn (restriction, inhibition, barriers, etc).  Also, Saturn’s retrograde status further amplified its involvement because it signaled that this awareness would be deeply ingrained into the individual.  For Williams, this full moon was in tight square to his natal Mercury.  Again, Mercury is the natural ruler for thinking processes, so together this delineation would involve the sudden and shocking awareness of a restriction that impaired Williams’ movement (1st house) and due to an attack (square) on him from his brain (Parkinson’s, Lewy-Body Dementia).[3]  The alignment of this full moon with Williams’ chart would be the most significant factor in estimating the actual timing of his diagnosis. 
  2. Grand Cross: The energy of this configuration carries a massive amount of conflict and pressure.  Individuals born with it may spend their entire lives trying to figure out an appropriate way to release all the pent-up energy.  Here, a transiting T-square from Pluto (apex), Mars and Venus-Uranus were all aspecting Williams’ natal Mars-Uranus.  Mars is the ruler of Williams’ 1st house, so we have a dynamic from the last major aspect repeated here.  Both transiting Mars and Pluto are retrograde so the internalized nature referenced earlier is also being repeated.  Mars and Pluto can be aggressive and destructive so hard aspects from both can feel like an attack and Williams probably felt like he was being torn apart as well.  At the very least, this configuration reflects the titanic physical struggle underway.
  3. Transit Mercury Square Natal Venus:  Mercury’s significance is further exacerbated with its repeated involvement here.  With Venus as the ruler of Williams’ 12th house of mental health, this square was another minor area of friction that added more fuel to the fire that the full moon and the grand cross had created.

August 2014 – Chart #1

August 10th was an extremely active day with many heavy and light planetary transits (including another full moon) all aligning specifically to Williams’ chart.  These transits/charts illustrate how Williams’ condition significantly deteriorated throughout the course of that day, ultimately leading to the horrible event that eventually unfolded.

August 2014 #1 – Full Moon (Exact)
  1. Transit Pluto Opposite Natal Mars-Uranus:  Pluto’s archetypal involvement is repeated here with the transit.  Not only was the significance of this transit due to the tightness of orb, but also due to Pluto’s retrograde status.  With Mars as the chart ruler (1st house/Ascendant ruler), Pluto’s slow moving opposition reflects Williams’ awareness of death as a release (transformation-Pluto) from the pain.  Pluto’s slow movement also indicates that this intention had probably been underway for quite awhile.
  2. Transit Mars at Natal Ascendant:  Mars represents, quite literally, aggressiveness.  It is the archetype of an attack.  When it transits through the 1st house, an individual may feel a bit more aggressiveness to those around them, but also to themselves as well. 
  3. Transit Venus Conjunct Natal Sun:  The transiting conjunction from Venus are typically viewed as pleasant events, but considering the shadows of the other transits it is quite possible that any happiness Williams was feeling was in his resolution to end this situation. 
  4. Full Moon:   The full moon in May aligned with transit Saturn and natal Mercury.  Here it is tightly aligned with natal Pluto.  As previously covered, full moons tend to bring to light shocking events or revelations that have a lasting impact.  Pluto represents, quite literally, the archetype of death, rebirth and transformation.  Similar to the one in May, the alignment of the August full moon reflect how suicidal ideations were reaching their peak on this day.  More specifically, with the full moon going exact around the late afternoon it is possible that those ideations may have become much more serious, conscious and intentional around this time frame.

August 2014 – Chart #2

According to the article, Williams left his wife’s presence around 10:30 pm and went to sleep in another area of the house.  Because they didn’t find his body until the next day, we don’t have a reliable time of death.  But, the transits offer a harsh glimpse of when this may have occurred.

August 2014 #2 – Potential Time of Death
  1. Transit Moon at the Imum Coeli (IC):  In many areas of astrology, the 4th house is considered to be an area that represent the end result, the outcome or “the end of the matter”.  It is also the house most commonly activated during major life milestones like retirement.  For Williams, the Moon’s transit over the cusp of this house (IC), reflected his emotional exhaustion and desire to end this situation and “retire” himself from it.  With all the other major transits going exact on this day, the Moon acts a bit like a “trigger”, activating the themes represented by the rest of the transit dynamics.  But, this event needed one more fast moving trigger…
  2. Transit Ascendant-Uranus Opposite Natal Neptune:  Uranus is the planetary body most commonly associated with surprise and rash decisions.  It breaks the rules and changes things in order to gain some degree of freedom.  Neptune is the planetary body most commonly associated with spirituality, confusion, dementia and surrender. The Ascendant moves one degree every four minutes.  As far as transits are concerned, it is the fastest moving trigger and often the final transit that activates a manifestation or event.  The opposition represents an awareness of all the energies at each polarity.  With an opposition, balance is needed between the two polarities, but individuals will often choose to “see-saw” back and forth before learning this lesson of balance.  At this particular moment[4], it is my opinion that in order to free himself from dementia, Williams made a radical decision to take his own life.  By doing so, he was permanently retiring. 

August 2014 – Chart #3

According to the article, a couple friends were watching the house the following day while they assumed Williams was sleeping in.  They became worried and sent a text at 11:42 am that they were going to break into the bedroom in order to check on Williams.  Shortly afterwards, they found his body.  The chart below reflects the alignment of that fast-moving Ascendant with natal Neptune this time.  Where the opposition in the previous chart reflected the awareness of a horribly radical decision, this chart reflects the awareness (opposition) of that radical (Uranus) decision in the fusion (conjunction) with the sorrow and grief (Neptune) that were the results of that decision. 

August 2014 #3 – Discovery of the Body

Awareness and Empowerment

I hope the intent of this article isn’t misinterpreted. I wrote this because I endured a similar experience during the same time frame. In October 2013, I was impacted by the same transiting Uranus-Pluto square that hit Robin Williams. For me, it triggered the onset of the Guillain-Barre’ syndrome, an extremely rare auto-immune disease that attacks the muscles and shuts down the body. Because of the disease’s uncommonness, many of the doctors I initially visited misdiagnosed the condition. When I located a specialist who was able to accurately diagnose it, they were not able to provide much insight into any of the other various questions that were keeping me up at night: “How did this happen? What triggered it? How do we fix this? When will I recover? How long will this last?” There were no definitive answers and little clarity. In the meantime, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t pick up my toddler. I wasn’t strong enough to hold a cheeseburger. My wife was bathing me. In many ways, I felt like my life had been stolen. Physically, emotionally and intellectually I was paralyzed. Without any answers, I slipped into an extremely dark place.

Fortunately, I was also a student of astrology and decided to use this area of knowledge to help shed some light into what was happening. Not only did I identify the specific transits that triggered the onset of this disease, but I also located the transits that reflected the beginnings of a recovery (May 2014) as well as the eventual return of my physical strength (August 2014). This astrological insight gave me hope which, in turn, became strength. It was exactly what I needed to stay positive. At my next appointment, as my specialist was evaluating possible drug and dosage options, I pleaded, “Please. Hit me with everything you have and with as much as you can give me.” By aligning the activities “on the ground” with the dynamics “in the sky” there was a good potential to maximize the effectiveness of their manifestation. In other words, if May 2014 was showing the potential of a recovery, then I needed to align with that potentiality. As a result, my doctor ordered a high dosage combo of both steroids and IVIG…and it worked. I started recovering immediately and this continued through the summer. By August, I was back to jogging again.

To compare and contrast the major milestones from my ordeal to Williams’ tragedy is a bit surreal. While the timing of these two scenarios appear to coincide, the actual experiences could not have been more different because of two key factors: awareness and empowerment. Much of Williams’ suffering was in the dark, unaware as to what was impacting him. With an awareness of the transits detailed above, any astrologer would have easily and quickly identified the archetypal dynamics at work. They would have advised Williams of the heavy transits that arrived in October and that their correspondences appear to be more than just physical. They would have explained the full Moon’s impact in May and also warned of the dangerous wave of transits that would join August’s full Moon. Ultimately, they would have advised Williams and his loved ones to exercise extreme caution and vigilance in order to prevent an accident.

But most significantly, they could have notified Williams that the rest of 2014 would have been tough because of slow transits from Pluto’s opposition to natal Mars, Saturn’s movement through his first house and the two more full Moon hits in October and November that would have specifically aligned with his chart.  Fortunately, there would have been some improvement in 2015 as transit Pluto pulled out of opposition, but with the caveat that the dementia may have become a bit more challenging due transit Neptune’s retrograde conjunction with the natal Moon and transit Uranus’ retrograde opposition with natal Neptune.  By 2016, both of these transits will have pulled out in addition to transit Saturn leaving his 1st house. 

Bottom line: Williams would have been looking at a year and a half long battle that would have required constant support and vigilance from everyone around him.  None of this would have been easy to hear, but it would have provided a roadmap of the terrain that laid ahead of him.    

The astrologer, Greg Bogart, once said:

Knowledge of astrology can’t prevent us from having to go through a crisis but it helps us to go through it with wisdom and courage.[5]

It is impossible to know whether Williams would have taken his life if he had full awareness of what was afflicting him along with a timeline of when symptoms would peak and recede. But, it is an axiom that despair is suffering without understanding. Ignorance can exacerbate a bad situation to a point where an individual may legitimately believe they are cursed. This is why I do not refer to this tragedy as a suicide, because this tends to infer the existence of a level of awareness, intention and control that reflects a free will being exercised at its highest capacity. When these are removed from the equation, the individual is handicapped. As a result, I believe Robin Williams’ death was an accident. A tragedy that may have been possibly avoided had there been a clearer line of sight as to what was impacting him as well as the ebb and flow of its intensity. And ultimately, this is educational because it makes me wonder how many other areas of life are at a disadvantage due to an unawareness of the astrological dynamics that may be impacting any particular moment.

[1] I will not delineate Williams’ natal as the focus of this article is on the transits.

[2] The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 as a result of police brutality and racially motivated violence against black people.  The square represents the conflict of the uprising and revolt (Uranus) to transform (Pluto) existing structures of authority (Capricorn).

[3] Much of this echoes the transits from October 2013.  In October, transit Saturn was aligned right over the Ascendant.  Here, it was retrograde and aligned with the full moon.  This progression reflects the worsening of Williams’ condition.

[4] The transiting Ascendant also made two more significant aspects around midnight and three in the morning.  Accordingly, these are two potential alternative times for this particular event.  In my opinion, considering the flow of energy that day, I don’t think it is probable that he waited that late.

[5] Greg Bogart, Planets in Therapy, IBIS Press, 2012, p.336.

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