The Man One of the most fascinating characters of our time is the Indian author Salman Rushdie, born in Bombay on 19th June 1947 and now living in hiding somewhere in the United Kingdom under the protection of the British state. Salman Rushdie is a magical author whose grasp of so-called reality brings the reader into a world in which everything is possible and where the imagination is supreme. I have heard, but I do not know if it is true, that Rushdie was a copywriter who made a fortune from creating a slogan for cream cakes. The slogan was “naughty but nice”. The wonderful thing about this slogan is that consumers are being given permission to enjoy themselves – it becomes permitted to break the rules for the sake of pleasure. For, if there is one thing that runs through the books of Salman Rushdie, it is a tolerance, acceptance and compassion for the ordinary human being, whose lot in life is, generally speaking, rather hard. Another theme which can be discerned from the writing of Salman Rushdie is his contempt for those who have sold their souls for power.
The Individual and the Nation
Not only is Salman Rushdie a great novelist, he also has a wonderful sense of the nature of time and the significance of the moment. In his first major success, Midnight’s Children , the opening paragraph describes the main character’s fictive birth in this way: “I was born in the city of Bombay … once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 1 5th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more … On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world”. During the book Salman Rushdie shows he is fully aware of how significance is embedded in every moment of time, and appreciative of the fact that the birth of the individual and of the nation are part and parcel of the same energy – a central theme for the whole concept of astrology. Those children born closest to midnight at the time of the independence of the Indian nation somehow encapsulate the fate of that nation during the course of their lives. Salman Rushdie was actually born remarkably close to the time of Indian independence, so there is perhaps some correlation to the fate of both Salman Rushdie and India.
At any rate, in the month of February 1989 – in a remarkable parallel to the central idea of Midnight’s Children , in which the historical development of India is a secondary yet causative theme in the life of the central character – riots in England, Pakistan and India left several dead and hundreds wounded as a result of the launch of Salman Rushdie’s book – The Satanic Verses – which was alleged to have blasphemed the Muslim religion. At the same time, Salman Rushdie’s life as a hunted man began. On February fourteenth 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued an Islamic death sentence – fatwa – on the novelist and Salman Rushdie has been on the run ever since. The death sentence, which technically extends to anyone who even owns the best-seller, cost the life of the novel’s Japanese translator who was stabbed to death in 1991 – and its Italian translator was wounded during a knife attack in the same year.
Looking at the horoscope of Salman Rushdie, the planetary positions powerfully show the theme of writing. If we are to accept the data from an Indian astrological magazine, Salman Rushdie was born at sunrise just four hours after a new Moon in Gemini. This new Moon was in precise conjunction with Uranus, and even more precise semisquare to Pluto. The connection with Pluto and Uranus emphasizes the theme of terror embodied in this time, and the provocative nature of Salman Rushdie himself. Obviously Salman Rushdie was destined to shake up the intellectual community with his writings. He is a revolutionary whose job it is to communicate ideas from a completely new angle. It was at this time that Sony Corporation had its beginnings – another example of the revolution in communication that happened at this time. Also, in an interesting parallel to the fatwa, at the time of his birth in America, alleged Communist sympathisers in Hollywood were rounded up and forced to reveal any connections with the Communist Party. And those that refused – the Hollywood Ten – were sent to jail. America certainly had its own capitalist equivalent to the fatwa at this time. Other indications which are favourable for writing in the horoscope of Salman Rushdie are the conjunction between Venus and the North Node – also in Gemini – which shows, through the trine to Neptune in Libra, the capacity to communicate in a lyrical and poetic way. Venus and the Node in the 12th house indicates the creative and lonely exile of Salman Rushdie, and the precise sextile to Saturn may also show the difficulties and restraint which must be involved in all his relationships, now that he can rarely show himself openly.
Mercury, the planet which traditionally represents the power of communication, is placed at 21 degrees Cancer in trine to Jupiter in Scorpio and in a precise sextile to Mars in Taurus. It is a very curious thing that the twenty-first degree of Cancer and Capricorn are associated, directly or indirectly, with warped values and murder. Mass murderers have throughout history had a tendency to have significant planets placed on this degree, as has been well-documented by astrologer Dennis Elwell in his book The Cosmic Loom . Considering the placement of Mercury for Salman Rushdie, it is interesting then that the writings of Salman Rushdie have been so profoundly associated with death.
Mercury makes an extraordinary journey in Rushdie’s progressive horoscope. Starting at 21 Cancer, it goes stationary retrograde around the age of 12, fatefully returning to the 18th degree of Cancer where it trines Jupiter at the ill-reputed degree 18 degrees Scorpio (associated in horary astrology with ill-fated Serpentis ). The retrograde Jupiter in Scorpio likewise makes a retrograde journey in the progressed horoscope, and Mercury makes rendezvous twice with this planet – the last time being when both are direct in 1988 with the release of The Satanic Verses. With this “fortunate” trine – the fated meeting between the writer Mercury and the religious fanatic Jupiter in Scorpio – Salman Rushdie made his name internationally.
The Fundamentalist Weapon
At the time of the fatwa in 1989 the planet traditionally associated with death, Pluto, was at the 15th degree of Scorpio. Some astrologers call the fifteenth degree of the fixed signs the Avatar degree – it is the point at which a planet has the greatest power. Looking at the horoscope for noon on February 14 1989 we can also see that Mars is at 15 degrees Taurus – in exact opposition to Pluto. The significance of this opposition can hardly be underestimated. This was one of the most murderous days in this century – aptly reflected in the riots of the time. The opposition of Mars and Pluto in so potent signs shows amongst other things the inhumanity of the inexorable will of the Iranian fundamentalists of the time. One could perhaps be tempted to have an understanding attitude towards pious Muslims who were offended by Rushdie’s work, but the horoscope for the fatwa has all the signatures for extremism and religious intolerance. The Sun squaring Jupiter from Aquarius to Taurus, shows a bigoted fixity of opinion, and this square makes a stressful midpoint pattern with the Neptune/Saturn conjunction in Capricorn showing the influence of religion on matters of state. This fatwa pandered to the populism of Moon in Gemini trine Venus in Aquarius, and is simply a work of evil-mindedness. The Mars/Pluto opposition falls on the Mars/Jupiter opposition in the horoscope of Salman Rushdie, and of course Mars in opposition to Jupiter reflects the struggle against religious fanaticism (Jupiter retrograde in Scorpio) which has always characterised Salman Rushdie. Unfortunately, by presenting the wife of Mohammed as a prostitute, Salman Rushdie gave expression to the subsidiary sexual theme in this opposition with the appalling consequences this was to have subsequently in his life.
Progressions for 1989
That 1989 would be a fateful year for Salman Rushdie was clearly shown by the progressions at that time. Apart from the aforementioned progressed Mercury trine Jupiter, the Sun progressed was now at 6.40 Leo, precisely on the Saturn in his horoscope. Over the course of the next few years the progressed Sun would go on to make a conjunction with progressed Saturn. 1995 must have been the year when the trials and tribulations connected the death threat were at their highest. At this point Saturn progressed had reached Pluto progressed and the Sun progressed was in conjunction with both making a triple conjunction which would have been crushing for the soul, but obviously gave Salman Rushdie an almost superhuman power. There can be no doubt that there were concrete threats to his life during this period.
Rushdie – the Symbol
It is the fate of Salman Rushdie to have become more than simply a writer, he has also become a symbol – a symbol of the rights of the individual to express ideas and opinions in the face of intolerance and fundamentalism. Thus the symbol of Salman Rushdie has become more important than the author Salman Rushdie. He is a living challenge for democratic governments to manifest the their support for human rights in the face of economic and security pressures. In November 1996 the government of Denmark was nearly toppled because of the uproar in the intellectual community when the visit of Salman Rushdie was cancelled because of fears of repercussions from Islamic fundamentalists.Salman Rushdie performs in the literary world the same kind of function that the Dalai Lama performs in the spiritual – both reveal the cowardice and lack of principle amongst some government leaders and the courage and sense of principle amongst others. There can be no doubt which course of action is honourable yet political leaders persist in letting political or economic issues decide over matters of principle for short term gain.
Adrian Ross Duncan