URANUS, PLUTO, CHRIS
I’ve found myself feeling very sad about Chris Cornell dying, but honestly, I feel more sad about the way he died. He was someone I had appreciated my whole adult life, sort of through my peripheral vision. I never was such a big fan that I saw Soundgarden live, until a couple of years ago. But I saw they were playing Neil Young's Bridge concert, which I have been a regular attendee of, and knew they would sparkle in that all acoustic setting, and I wanted my kids to see them. I've written about the night before, and have some great pictures. Chris Cornell soared high above all other soaring voices that night that included Tom Jones, Norah Jones, Florence Welch, Eddie Vedder and Neil Young. Lukas,my oldest who had complained of having to go to “a Middle Aged Rock concert”, turned to me in amazement and said, “Eddie Vedder has such a big, handsome voice, but Chris Cornell singing is like Michael Jordan playing basketball."
I thought Badmotorfinger was the quintessential Gen X album. Heavy, dark, alluding to mysticism and suffering. It came out before Nevermind, and Soundgarden was the reason Nirvana signed with SubPop. By 1992 the big bands on MTV that seemed to be riding a wave of an emerging generation(Gen X) were Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Blind Melon, and Stone Temple Pilots along with some other bands that wouldn't last. Now, the lead singers of every one of those bands is dead from either overdosing or committing suicide(a distinction that seems pretty thin to me). The one exception is Eddie Vedder who stepped in for the lead singer for Mother Love Bone, Andrew Wood after he died from an overdose(Chris Cornell's roommate and best friend) and made them Pearl Jam. Every single one of those guys from Seattle is dead. None survived without Od'ing or killing themselves.
I've always thought the great artists of a generation spring up from the Primordial Ground we all share. When you see them, you know them. Often the first members of a generation to make themselves visible are Rock Stars because instruments and singing can be mastered by young men and women at an early age, and it’s a democratic form of expression(all you need are instruments). Athletes are the same. There have been other great bands, and other great singers from this time, and there have been other great artists in other medium(film, painting, architecture, literature)but the initial generation musical expression sprung up underneath the grey skies of Seattle. I tend to think of places as more states of mind that the collective gathering together share, then actually physical locations. Quantum Physics would say the same, and Tibetan Buddhism thinks of locations in this life, and before and after it as Bardo states. So Seattle is one living Bardo, Los Angeles is another, San Francisco another. But Seattle is where the singers from these seminal bands sprung up, and under it's cloudy skies their fates were sealed.
More interesting than the place these Singers sprung from is the time. Look at the birthdates of all these singers who brought their life to an artificial end
Andrew Wood January 8, 1966
Kurt Cobain February 20, 1967
Shannon Hoon September 26, 1967
Layne Staley August 22 1967
Scott Weiland October 26,1967
Chris Cornell July 20 1964
Those who know me, know I am a long time (mostly closeted) practitioner of Astrology(albeit with a Jungian bent.) For those who wonder if Astrology is real, my response is, “Is music real?” In Astrological history every one of these Singers was born during what was known as the historical Uranus Pluto Conjunction, which occurred from Roughly 1964-1971. The last time this conjunction occurred previously was during the Renaissance in Europe. But if you want to think of it in American Culture, it was roughly from Kennedy's Assassination until Jim Morrison's death(The final of three generational Rock N Roll avatars who died, )along with obviously more importantly, Martin Luther King and the Kennedys. You don't have to believe in astrology to know how turbulent this time was historically. From the Vietnam War, to the rise of the Counter Culture, to the Apollo Program to the paranoid lenses through which Richard Nixon, and those like him viewed it all. It was a time like no other in our history. The Trans Saturnian Planets are messengers of the Primordial. The machinations of the Solar System are the largest moving parts we can observe consistently. They're as close to indications of the mechanics of the Universe as we can see with the Naked Eye. Uranus represents the Primordial Archetype of Revolution. It's the moment when you realize the old ways are dead, and a new ways have arrived, whether you like it or not. Pluto is the God of the Underworld. He rules death, deep dark secrets, sex, violence, depression, and addiction(whose roots are always grown in depression), and the mysteries. He is the god of Rock N Roll. If you want to see the Influence that the Uranus Pluto energies had on particular people. Look at who the Beatles were in 1963, then look at who they were in 1970. But more importantly everybody(including the author of this piece) who was born during these times had these archetypal energies in their psychic make up. These are not particular easy archetypes to live with. They demand transformation of the deepest kind. A transformation of the Ego where it lets go of its' moorings in history and recall, and incorporates deeper Primordial Energies into it's experience of itself. Part of the fate of this experience is being provided with an ego constructed of unsatisfying experiences. Whether that be a family of origin, a culture's values, or a specific environment hostile to that particular ego's sensitivities. That could be a family that creates chaos and fear around a growing child, or it could be working class Aberdeen for a sensitive, creative person like Kurt Cobain. Sometimes, it's both.
So what does this have to do with Chris Cornell? I'm gonna get there. I wasn't particularly upset by Kurt Cobain killed himself. He'd already tried it and it seemed inevitable. He was an extraordinary talent, but seemed more interested in using irony and Heroin to hide his suffering, which to me always seemed like an admission of being unwilling to bear it honestly. I thought Shannon Hoon was uniquely talented and possessed something in his spirit and his band that recalled the hippie inspirations that would have been in the air and on the radio when he came into the world. He was also well on his way to bringing his own demise before we ever met him. Scott Weiland ran into me once when at a FourSeasons and gave me a dirty look, and my response to it was "Hey Fake Pearl Jam, watch where you're going.” It was a strange moment in my life and in this writing, cause it showed me I wasn’t susceptible to the charms of all Rock Stars. There was something about Chris Cornell that seemed different. He was incomparably talented. His voice transcended Rock N Roll. He was probably one of the most talented male singers alive in any medium during his life, and served both Soundgarden, Audioslave, and countless covers that he played with just his guitar, and a four octave tremelo that didn't seem real. He was a singular talent. Tall, incredible looking, amazingly gifted, and charismatic. He probably bore the struggles of a generation on the biggest frame with the most personal resources of all who fell before him. .
But as it had been with all the other members of his generation ,the Uranus Pluto conjunction in his native structure was difficult to live with. Uranus is electric, like amplified music, or like lightning. It pushes and pushes and pushes for something greater and yet unseen. Anxiety was a constant companion for Chris Cornell. He’d self medicated from the age of 12 with Marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, and it was finally Oxycontin sent him to Rehab in 2003. His sober years were the most productive of his life, he fronted two bands and released five solo records. He blossomed as a cultural archetypal presence. But the anxiety of his native experience never left him. And it was with him on tour with Soundgarden this year as he was using prescribed Ativan.
Pluto, arm in arm with Uranus, continued to dance along his side his whole life. Pluto rules death and the underworld, and when he left the underworld he wore a hat that made him invisible. But he was certainly visible during the Uranus Pluto conjunction from 63-71. Beginning with John Kennedy’s public murder, followed by Martin Luther King’s, Robert Kennedy’s and the Rock N Roll Triumvirate overdoses of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin of Jim Morrison. You’d think that the public deaths of the Uranus Pluto era would be enough to make Pluto visible in the Upper World. But electrified by Uranus, Pluto wasn’t even getting started. The Vietnam War and the democratized death by conscription it doled out, made death a presence in almost every neighborhood in America, and in those who lived in a class beyond the reaches of the draft, death seeped from their televisions into their living rooms on the nightly news. For the carefree youth of the time, death was never really far from anyone’s mind, even during the Summer of Love. As the youth culture prepared for the ecstatic rapture inspired by Uranus, Pluto appeared as Charles Manson and as the Master of Ceremonies at Altamont. In a moment when Uranus and Pluto are most naked, the Rolling Stones played ‘Sympathy for the Devil”(sometimes if Pluto is called he will appear) as Hell’s Angels (Pluto’s minions) beat a man to death right in front of them. In his feeble attempts to vanquish Pluto from what he had hoped would be The Rolling Stones Woodstock, Jagger pleaded for Uranus’s help. “Brothers and sisters, could we all just cool out.” Jagger pleaded for Uranus and his push toward universal brotherhood and values to control Pluto in what was surely the most egalitarian moment of his life.
Cornell’s music was dark, and Plutonion. The heaviness of Soundgardens music, like the music of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin(heavy metal is a plutoninan expression in almost it's purest form besides death ) evoked the underworld. He moved away from it with his solo work. But he continued to struggle with depression(a forced descent to the underworld.) Once saying “It’s hard to tell what everyday depression is, one day you’re talking about someone having everyday depression and the next day, he’s hanging from the end of a rope.” Here he foreshadowed his own death and shows that the seeds of his demise were already sprouting. Perhaps they’d always been there.
But Cornell ,who survived the death of his peers and even of his best friend and roommate, succumbed to Pluto later in life than many of his Uranus Pluto twenty something peers(but earlier than everyone reading this right now.). Everyone meets Pluto personally during their own death. We all get plenty of previews though as we lose friends and family who die before us. Anybody who has ever been around a dying person or even a pet can feel Pluto’s presence. But he is here nonetheless beside us in every moment waiting for his opportunity to reveal himself.
Cornell himself has become part of what is a larger generational pattern, mostly unseen to the naked eye.(As Pluto usually is). The Uranus Pluto generation of which he is part is in the midst of an epidemic of middle aged suicide. What he had avoided in his twenties, he had succumbed to, at 52. And perhaps this is why his death is so shocking. He seemed to have cleared that hurdle after escaping from his youth. Unlike Jim Morrison, who had a similar personal resources, he had made it into full blown adulthood, and seemed to be thriving. But he continued to struggle with Pluto as he revealed in the aforementioned quote. Though many from his generation have struggled with the same dynamics he finally succumbed to, Pluto doesn’t have to come calling before his natural time. The opportunity that Pluto offers is transformation, to let die what no longer serves us, so that new life can emerge in our Psyches and our lives. Pluto is also the god of regeneration, literally of plants and crops emerging seemingly from the Underworld. As Jungian Analyst James Hillman wrote in Suicide and The Soul, the suicidal impulse is a symbolic one. It’s desire to have something in us die, and in the charnels of our old life, something rises up through the ceiling and grows anew . Unfortunately for Chris Cornell, this symbolic instinct which can be heard in so much of his creativity(Nothing seems to kill me, no matter how hard I try" in Blow Up The Outside World)was literalized. That’s why it hurts so much for a generation who thought he had cleared the acute challenges of the Uranus Pluto pressure. I found his song, "Say Hello to Heaven", running through my head on Friday as his funeral was going on. It was as though, it was on a continuous loop, and it made me feel bummed. It was written for his best friend Andrew Wood, who had died of a heroin overdose in 1990, and performed with Temple of the Dog, who consisted of members of Soundgarden and until their recent discovery of Eddie Vedder, a singer less and grieving Motherlovebone. Andrew was the first of his generation's singer's to die prematurely, and Chris, its' last. As it rang through my head, it seemed like a song that ultimately, he written for himself. It's a paen to the ultimate transformation. Whether or not this can be achieved in this very life or not is perhaps the greatest mystery of them all.