Military personnel are struggling to retrace the steps of the suspected shooter in Thursday’s massacre at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a devout Muslim, has been named as the gunman. He allegedly opened fire shouting “Allahu Akbar” (god is great) before killing thirteen people and wounding 28 others. He was shot down by police and is currently on a ventilator.
Hasan has described himself as being of Palestinian descent (second generation), although some sources have listed his background as Jordanian. He was born in Arlington Virginia on September 8, 1970 (no time available), and joined the army immediately after completing high school, against his parent’s wishes. He attended Virginia Tech as an enlisted soldier and went on to medical school at a military university, earning his medical degree in 2001. Further education trained him to be a psychiatrist, and he was promoted to Major in 2008.
Hasan’s parents died in 1998 and 2001, after which time he is said to have become more devout, attending the local mosque regularly and after September 11 he became more and more outspoken against the “war on terror” which he felt was a war against Islam. Perhaps as a result of his increasing distress about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he became the target of harrassment from other soldiers and had recently hired an attorney to attempt to be released from his military obligations.
Hasan’s astrological chart reveals a deeply introverted individual, with four planets in the service–oriented sign of Virgo. Virgo is very much about rules and the need for life to follow a certain order, and it is likely that Hasan embraced life in the military as a means to achieve that sense of order. News reports suggest that he joined the army against his parents’ wishes out of a sense of duty to the United States.
Hasan’s Virgo planets form a challenging square to his Moon which is in Sagittarius. Sagittarius is the sign of optimism and faith, and the Moon describes our emotional needs. This placement suggests that Hasan was always struggling between a rigid sense of duty and routine (Virgo) and a need for freedom and escape (Sagittarius), and perhaps his religion, which falls under the Sagittarian mantle, provided that hope for release.
Hasan’s chart also reveals a bit about his desire for love, with Venus, the planet of attraction and relationships, in the intensely passionate sign of Scorpio. The intensity of Scorpio can make relationships difficult or overwhelming, especially for someone with such a well-defined need for order and routine (Virgo) with a secret desire to escape (Sagittarius). His Venus conjoins Jupiter, which ordinarily can be a blessing in drawing and attracting love, but in this case may have simply served to expand (Jupiter) the obsessive intensity of Hasan’s passions which, because of his lack of success in the area of relationships, may have instead been funneled through religion (Sagittarius Moon).
Although Hasan’s Mercury (his thoughts and communication) is in the sign of Virgo which typically conveys an orderly and detail-oriented mind, it is retrograde in his chart which suggests that he had difficulty expressing himself and felt that he could not make himself heard. This tendency is exacerbated by a conjunction of Pluto, planet of obsession and intensity, to Mercury in his chart which enhances a potential for obsessive and destructive thinking.
We also see Saturn, the planet of self-doubt, is retrograde in this chart. Retrograde Saturn typically describes an individual who has a tendency to be self-critical and more than others, to feel a sense of inadequacy. Saturn in the chart is opposed by Neptune, planet of illlusion and spirituality, suggesting a tension between his need for structure and rules (Saturn) with his desire to escape or transcend his life (Neptune). The combination of Saturn and Neptune can lead to a Grand Delusion in which the ends justify the means.
I want to emphasize that this is not a particularly difficult chart; these are garden variety challenges that are found in virtually every chart. Each of us has the choice every moment whether we are going to react to the challenges in our chart, or consciously strive to become better integrated and better able to make the changes in our world that we desire.
During the period of time in which Hasan’s parents died, which seems to be the turning point in his life that propelled him into a more intense embrace of his faith, transiting Pluto was beginning a challenging square to the Virgo planets in his chart. Beginning with a square to his Mars in 1998 with the death of his first parent, which could have unearthed (Pluto) a deep rage (Mars) within him, Pluto went on to square his Sun in 2001 with the death of the second parent, a time that coincided with the September 11 attacks. By this time the underworld of Hasan’s psyche would have been deeply activated, and it appeared that he used his religion and his outrage against the wars as an outlet for the emotional debris that was released by Pluto and intensified by the presence of Saturn, the planet of tests and challenges, in that square formation.
Back in 2001, transiting Saturn was oppose Pluto in the sky, a planetary combination that peaked with the September 11 attacks. At that time both planets formed a square to Hasan’s Virgo planets. This would have been a time of tremendous distress for anyone, and for someone with an unresolved sense of identity such as Hasan had it evidently created a powderkeg of distress. I suspect that it was this period which holds the clues to Thursday’s events. t it
In 2006, transiting Pluto completed the transit of Hasan’s Virgo planets with a square to Pluto in his natal chart. We call this the “Pluto square,” one of what I affectionally call the “midlife crisis transits.” Pluto rules transformation, death and power, and at the time of the square from Pluto in the sky to Pluto in our chart nothing is simple or easy; we are often blocked at every turn. This can be an opportunity for us to become empowered and clear about our motivations, or it can be a time of great distress. Often it is both.
In Hasan’s case this Pluto square was immediately followed by a transit of Saturn across his Virgo planets again, which just completed in September. Saturn was exactly conjunct Hasan’s Sun in June when another Muslim went on a shooting spree at a Little Rock recruiting center, an event which apparently had an effect on him.
At the same time, Hasan’s progressed Mars (rage and aggression) was exactly conjunct progressed Pluto and squared by transiting Saturn, and the inner rage which has been building beneath the cautious Virgoan personality began to explode. However, Saturn’s pressure and confinement was creating restrictions and compression that likely exacerbated the developing rage within him.
Again – there is nothing in this chart that would have suggested or excused an act such as this. After an event such as this one, the people that knew the shooter always say “he was such a quiet man,” or “I can’t believe he could have done this.” Had Hasan not retreated so completely into himself where he could not find a more objective way to handle his emotions and create the change in his life that he desired, there could have been a very different outcome. How ironic, and tragic, that as an army psychiatrist he was trained to accomplish this very thing for other soldiers.