Philip Seymour Hoffman: On the Cusp

Spiritual Company Newsletter

By Steffan Vanel • Astrologer • Tarot  Reader

February 13, 2014

I remember a day in the summer of 1996. I had entered into the most incredible, most delicious warm melting surrender into a blissful state of complete peace, complete freedom, freedom from any cares, worries or anxieties. I was totally fine with everything.

Earlier that day, as a passenger in my own vehicle, I ended up going off the road and rolling three times, fracturing three vertebrae and ‘totaling’ my truck, upon which I had only minimum insurance at the time, not even personal injury protection for the medical bills.

I would love to say that the peaceful state described above was as a result of a deep meditation practice. However, it was as a result of receiving a shot of Demerol, one of the strongest legal painkillers available. I saw first hand how easy it would be to become a junkie.

On this past Monday I was at the check-out stand at the drugstore and saw the cover of People Magazine with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s photo and the title: His Tragic Final Days: A Life Destroyed by Heroin, shocking me with my first learning of the sad news. I had just come out of my 10 days of silence and meditation the day before, so I came to the news in a bit of a time warp.

Of course I had to look at his Astrological chart, and of course there are things extremely interesting to note there relevant to his genius as an actor, as well as his predilection for the allure of drugs.

We do not have a birth time for him, however, and both the Sun and the Moon changed signs some time that day. This is something not uncommon for the Moon, which changes signs every two and a half days. When it is the Sun, which only changes signs every 30 days or so, we say they were born on the ‘cusp,’ the border between two signs.

When I attempted to use my technique with my Tarot Cards to ascertain a birth time for him I could tell the cards were being deliberately inconclusive. These factors and even other components in the chart amount to an enigma of a man, with components we will never see or understand. Components I believe Philip Seymour Hoffman himself never fully knew or understood. But these paradoxes themselves created a recognized genius.

If he was born before 10 am he was a Cancer. If he was born after, he was a Leo. Hilarion gives an explanation for those who are born on the cusp like this. He says that it indicates that the individual has been incarnating within a particular sign in previous lives. It has been seen, however, that it would be useful to move out of the lessons of that sign. So your guides arrange for you to incarnate in the sign next to it. To indicate that this is only a recent change, however, they arrange for you to incarnate on the cusp.

So, if he was born before 10 am it would indicate Hoffman was previously incarnating as a Leo, and to move him out of the proud, at times overly proud and self-involvedness of Leo, they moved him into Cancer, to bring in a more emotionally caring and nurturing side, while retaining a lot of that Leo pride, creativity and leadership capability.

On the other hand, if he was born after 10 am on the day of his birth it would indicate that he had been incarnating as a Cancer and they moved him out of the clingy, overly emotionally dependent possessiveness of Cancer into Leo to give him more of that creative Leo energy, but he would still have a lot of that caring/nurturing Cancer energy. Either way he would be a blend of both signs, but without a birthtime we don’t know the history and the movement of his cusp experience.

Of course with drug, alcohol, and addiction problems we Astrologers will immediately want to look at Neptune and the sign it rules: Pisces.

In a 60 minutes interview in 2006 after winning the Oscar for Capote, Hoffman admitted that he had gone into rehab for alcohol and drugs when he was 22 because he ‘got panicked for my life’ realizing that he had some things he really wanted to accomplish in his life and if he continued like this he wasn’t going to be around to do it.

The fact that he was already in such a state at 22 indicates that this propensity for drugs and alcohol started early in his life. Well, for childhood influences we always want to look at the Moon in the chart. And here we see another one of those enigmatic ironies or paradoxes.

If he was born before 9 pm he had the Moon in Aquarius, but square to Neptune. If he was born after 9 pm the Moon moves away from the square to Neptune, but into the sign of Pisces, ruled by Neptune. So there is either a Neptunian tension, or a Piscean quality to his childhood. Either way a profound emotional, imaginative sensitivity, but likely some pronounced experience of illusion, confusion, delusion, victimhood/martyrdom, and possible problems with drugs and/or alcohol. I often give a shorthand phrase for a Pisces Moon as being like ‘growing up in a fog.’

Obviously there is a greater likelihood of the Moon being in Aquarius, square to Neptune, and this does fit my own personal sense of him after the research I have done for this article.

An afflicted Aquarian Moon like this would likely create a cool emotionally-detached childhood, but one at odds with a Neptunian vulnerability and pain being played out in different ways by different characters in the childhood drama, at different times.

All I could get from Wikipedia was that his parents divorced when he was nine and his mother is a family court judge and lawyer, and his father was a Xerox executive.

My inclination towards the Aquarian Moon Square to Neptune is because of how he could quite lightly, rationally, intelligently speak on that 60 minutes interview about such an emotionally vulnerable and painful period of his life. And yet, even with that rational, cool assessment of himself he was still not successful at avoiding plunging again into that Neptunian Sea of heroin escape from the pain.

This dichotomy and conflict must have been really bearing down upon him recently as Saturn was, somewhere in this time period, squaring his Moon and, we do know, Saturn was exactly conjunct to his Neptune on January 14th. And Saturn has a way of really bring things ‘up in your face.’

Philip Seymour Hoffman was born in 1967 and this same Neptune was also sextile, harmonious with, the Pluto/Uranus conjunction, the Astrological signature of what we now call ‘The Sixties.’
This gave Hoffman the ability to put that Neptunian imaginative pain and sensitivity in service to, or in comfortable expression of, Uranian surprise freedom and Plutonian intense depth of revelation and transformation of one’s being. These planetary energies and relationships are relatable to these quotes about his acting:

From actress Meryl Streep:

“I sat up straight in my seat and said, “Who is that?” I thought to myself: My God, this actor is fearless. He’s done what we all strive for – he’s given this awful character the respect he deserves, and he’s made him fascinating.”[27]

From David Fear of Rolling Stone:

“No modern actor was better at making you feel sympathy for fucking idiots, failures, degenerates, sad sacks and hangdogs dealt a bum hand by life, even as — no, especially when — he played them with all of their worst qualities front and center. But Philip Seymour Hoffman had a range that seemed all-encompassing, and he could breathe life into any role he took on: a famous author, a globetrotting party boy aristocrat, a German counterintelligence agent, a charismatic cult leader, a genius who planned games of death in dystopic futures. He added heft to low-budget art films, and nuance and unpredictability to blockbuster franchises. He was a transformative performer who worked from the inside out, blessed with an emotional transparency that could be overwhelming, invigorating, compelling, devastating.”

Hoffman also had Saturn trining, harmonious with, Jupiter in Leo, hence his incredible discipline and dedication to his Leonine creative expression and Jupiter expansiveness in doing so. The Jupiter in Leo would also be relatable to those who have noted his profound dedication to his children.

Hilarion shares this one component of Jupiter in Leo:

Regardless of the aspects to Jupiter, the Leo position always indicates that at least one of the children of the individual will do quite well in the world’s eyes, will be a “success”. Usually the individual will have a very close emotional tie with that child as well.

The Saturn in Aries in his chart was square to his Mercury in Cancer and this Square is what was undergoing perhaps the most intense pressures of his life at this time, pressures from the currently on-going Pluto/Uranus Square we are all having to deal with in some way, individually and collectively.

Uranus in Aries was conjuncting the Saturn and squaring the Mercury. Pluto in Capricorn was simultaneously squaring Saturn and opposing Mercury.

We don’t know the houses and thus the arenas or ‘stages’ where these characters were acting out their parts without the birthtime. We can know this about Mercury in Cancer and Saturn square Mercury from Hilarion’s Astrology Plus:

Cancer. Mercury here if afflicted will make it very difficult for the rational mental processes to operate independently of and unaffected by the emotional life. Negative feelings and emotions will have a way of muddying up the reasoning ability. The main lesson is to separate thought from emotional influences. If well aspected in Cancer, Mercury gives a love of home and especially, warmth for children within the family circle.

He had his Mercury well-aspected to his Venus but again square to his Saturn:

When Saturn aspects Mercury, there is a restriction and blockage in the free flow of mental energies into the head chakras from the higher self. The net result is to make it more difficult than usual for mental operations and manipulations to be carried out. Where Mercury is dignified by sign, however, the clamp of Saturn does not interfere seriously with the mental operations and the effect tends to be more in the outer “arranged” part of the experience. Saturn-Mercury aspects will invariably cause restraints on the Mercury-related activities: travel, schooling, communication. These will be for the purpose of prompting a fuller appreciation of these areas than was the case in a previous life, when opportunities were available but were disregarded or ignored.

Now I don’t know about Hoffman’s academic capabilities. He definitely seemed quite capable to express himself quite coherently. And yet I think this Mercury in Cancer difficulty between emotional and rational mental capabilities is parallel to, or repeats the theme of, the suspected Moon in Aquarius square Neptune tension in his chart. This would manifest a similar dichotomy and difficulty as I explained earlier, between cool rational detachment and deep Neptunian vulnerability.

I think this was a component in what enabled him to take emotionally wounded characters with communication quirks and problems and bring them to life for us.

As one friend of his said: ” (he) played those characters so well because he knew about guilt and shame and suffering”.

I think this is also why he was not comfortable having his personal self being widely known to the public, stating that his job as an actor is to make that character believable and if you know too much about the personal reality of the actor that is going to interfere with your belief. Not the normal stance of a Leo, or even a Cancer on the Leo cusp.

Pluto and Uranus must have been making some incredibly intense demands upon his ability to think straight in relation to his own Cancerian emotions and Saturnian responsibilities.

And then there was Saturn quite likely, simultaneously hitting his Neptune/Moon Square, creating a similar tension but one that would bring in the Neptune drug/alcohol part of the equation.

Prior to his death Hoffman was performing the role of Willy Loman of ‘Death of a Salesman’ on Broadway. There are these quotes indicating that the intense emotional power and tragedy of that role is what really put him ‘over the edge.’

Playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman Changed Hoffman

“That play tortured him,” says Katz, and close friends say Hoffman wasn’t the same after he threw himself into playing the tragic character — breaking into tears nightly — on Broadway in 2012. “He was miserable throughout that entire run. No matter what he was doing, he knew that a 8:00 that night he’d do that to himself again,” Katz says. “If you keep doing that on a continual basis, it rewires your brain, and he was doing that to himself every night.”

Ethan Hawke Never Saw Hoffman Take a Drink Until Salesman

Not long after that production, Hoffman told a friend he had been sober for so long — 23 years — that he felt he could risk drinking again “in moderation.” But by the next spring he’d checked himself into rehab.

This quote is also extremely revealing of the Astrological dynamics at play at this time:
Friends Say Hoffman’s Final Bender Wasn’t a Suicidal Streak, But a Relapse Turned Deadly

“The addiction was always trying to find a way back in, and it started with the idea that the kid was an addict, and now he’s an adult with incredible willpower,” says Katz. (Hoffman checked himself into rehab at 22 after spending college at NYU partying hard). “He was a guy in his midforties who said to himself, ‘I never had a drink in my adult life.’ So maybe the adult thought he could handle it.”

I would say that it was the Saturn control and maturity and Aquarian cool rational sense of the ‘adult’ in him that was not fully acknowledging the Cancerian/Neptunian vulnerability of himself in evidence in this quote.

There is Internet chatter about the possibility of a diary found revealing that Hoffman was experiencing a conflict between his love for his long time partner and mother of his children, and another woman who had recently entered into his life.

Whether that is true or not, we do know that his partner Mimi O’Donnell has been quoted as saying that Hoffman had been asked to move out of their shared home as a kind of ‘tough love’ to encourage him to deal with and get a grip on his addiction problem.

I would imagine that his inability to keep a Saturnian discipline and control of his emotional actions and probably some coming down heavy on himself with Saturnian judgment and recrimination towards himself for that inability, especially when it separated him from those three children, was something he was having great difficulty coping with.

Hard to judge, but if I were to do so, I would say he really needed some deep self-forgiveness and love for himself, the kind that generally can only really come from a spiritual source, to be able to come out of the other side of such agony. Something which is now between him and his Maker. I wish him great love and healing, and for those that he cared for and who cared for him.

Steffan Vanel