Tag Archives: Leonardo Da Vinci

The 11th House: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

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Giclée artwork by Jean-Luc Bozzoli

Traditional rulerships, which have certain limitations, force us to paste the sign’s meaning onto the house.

This carries with it some problems, since not all things true to the sign are going to be true of the house. Instead of focusing entirely on the nature of the sign ruling the cusp (Aquarius, in the case of the 11th house), we should consider focusing instead on the nature of the element (Air) combined with its associated ruling planet (Uranus) and ask, what does that tell us about the nature of the house involved?

Most of the time, of course, Aquarius itself is not actually on the 11th house cusp. In my chart, for example, the 11th house has Scorpio on its cusp, which automatically gives my 11th house a Scorpionic overtone. Scorpio there makes it harder to function as an air house, for one thing. This is going to matter more to an interpretation of my chart than the question “Is my 11th house in any way Aquarian?” The answer is, no, it’s really not. But do we really need Aquarius muddying the waters, so to speak, when we have Uranus and the element of air to work with?

Then I take a look at what we know about Uranus: its myth, history, and association with Ouranos, the Ancient Greek sky-god. That combination, plus the sign on the cusp of the 11th, will tell me a lot more about the person in question than asking in what way they are, or aren’t, expressing Aquarius energy.

Besides which, I refute the idea that any house should be constrained by keywords like ‘friendship’, ‘membership in groups’, and ‘dreams, hopes and desires.’ Once you start looking at houses and their axis relationship to their opposite house, and the ways in which each house is a mirror for its opposite, you begin to see a much larger picture of how the chart functions. This also gives you the opportunity to see how the 11th fulfills the promise of the 5th, or the ways in which the 5th foreshadows what happens in the 11th.

To understand the 11th house experience, filtered through Ouranos/sky god myths, the element of air and how we have come to connect it with the workings of the intellect, we then look at how Western society arrived at our perception of intellectual ability; specifically genius, which is the apotheosis of creative ability alluded to in the 5th house of creativity.

The word ‘genius’ was not always associated with ‘exceptional talent or native ability.’ Every child has a talent of some kind, but that doesn’t make every child—or every grown-up who develops that talent—into a genius, yet the 5/11 axis shows that potential. Ambition and setting of goals seen in the 10th finds expression in the 11th, the house of one’s true vocation—which might not be a job at all, and might not pay any money. That on its own does not make it an avocation; instead, the 11th is the house I look to for one’s true calling or life purpose.

The lineage behind the meaning of the word ‘genius‘ is long and complicated.

In brief, it began as a derivation from the Greek for “distributing destiny” or daimon. It was adapted by the Classical Romans and came to be linked with one’s personal guiding spirit, or life-force. It isn’t until the 1600s that the word is associated with exceptional natural ability, and starts to be applied to creative geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci and his contemporary, Michelangelo, whose unique vision marked them out from other artists, inventors, and creators of their day.

This is the essence of genius, the idea that the ability is so remarkable as to be extraordinary. This brings me to the nature of the 11th house, which, if the hierarchy of the horoscope has any validity at all, should be the place where we look for advanced intellectual ability.

The term ‘genius’ is fraught with difficulty in a postmodern era. Children marked as geniuses, or those with obvious, extraordinary talent, don’t always show up on the radar until later in life; in contrast, child prodigies often have social problems, fitting in with their peers and their own family, leading to isolation. Genius brings with it many problems, not the least of which the fact that use of the terminology itself is under debate.

Once again, the association with some numinous, poorly defined divine source, is a problem for postmodernists. We tend not to think like that; it’s too romantic, yet you’ll find mathematicians and scientists falling into the trap of referring to extraordinary mental feats as ‘acts of genius,’ a vague and muddy phrase if ever there was one.

Think about what it takes to be a genius, the fact that you are marching to the beat of your very own drummer, and you begin to understand the fundamental isolation of the 11th house. Collectivism is all well and good if you fit into the zeitgeist, but what if you’re on the fringe, or the edge, of the coming change?

If you’ve created the idea that foments the revolution in thought, design, or implementation, it’s most likely you’ll be either reviled or put on a pedestal. Either way, no one knows who you are. They do not understand, and it’s likely they’ll never understand, that underneath all of this intellectual ability lies a real person.

The 11th is where, no matter the level of intellectual ability, one finds the kernel of what makes us human, which is our ability to express ourselves through our humanity:  through our ability to speak, draw, write, paint, sing, dance, create. Ironically, these abilities also distance us from others. All of the higher-order cognitive functioning skills belong here.

Communicative ability, a higher-order cognitive skill, becomes problematic, though, since we can speak precisely, and convey our deepest meaning, or we can obfuscate, mislead, and misconstrue, all the while being very intellectually capable, yet socially inept. The 11th, therefore, stands for our ability to both connect, and disconnect, from society.

Leonardo da Vinci was a prototypical genius whose life was extremely odd, when viewed from the more prosaic perspective of ‘ordinary people’. He was never published, for one thing. He was too busy creating and inventing to care excessively if his work was being promulgated to the masses. He was also an omnibus genius, in that his primary talent lay in drawing and painting, but it branched out from there into invention and architectural design.

Extraordinary images in Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks; the notebooks themselves have an extraordinary history, as most were lost or sold off, only to be rediscovered much later.
Extraordinary images in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks; the notebooks themselves have an extraordinary history, as most were lost or sold off, only to be rediscovered much later.

Albert Einstein is another good example of a genius, and he was a very interesting person. I like Einstein for a lot of reasons; he has great quotes, for one thing (see below). But I like him best for things like the time he failed his entrance examination to one of the schools he attended in his teen years. The thing is, being a genius does not mean you’re perfect. Geniuses tend to fail at tests, do badly in school, and never get published. This is normal for geniuses, so if you have a genius in your life, be kind to him or her, because it’s hard work being brilliant, and no one treats you kindly because they’re either too busy making fun of you, or asking you to do their homework for them.

That's not a shower cap; that's his hair
Albert Einstein was pretty impressive too. That’s not a shower cap; that’s his hair.
An Einstein quote: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”