Robin Williams is dead at age 63, apparently by his own hand. These are the plain facts of it. This came as a surprise, and it’s the kind of news that hit me like a punch in the gut. And yet, in hindsight (and isn’t hindsight always perfect?) it is no surprise. There is something obvious we all missed about Robin Williams — or that perhaps we saw and chose to ignore.
Robin Williams (born July 21, 1951, 1:34 PM Chicago Illinois) was arguably the funniest human of his generation. He’s best known as a comedian, and launched to fame in the 1980s in the sitcom “Mork and Mindy.” But his talents were too great to be contained by a sitcom, and before long he was starring in major films and was a leading force behind “Comic Relief USA” which raised millions for the homeless. We can look at Robin Williams’ birth chart and see the signs of potential depression: Moon in sensitive Pisces opposite Venus in Virgo. A Moon in Pisces is sensitive enough to life’s discomforts as it is, without any oppositions. The Moon’s ruler was Neptune, and Robin’s Neptune was in the 12th house. This is always the mark of someone who could stand to have some form of spiritual retreat in his life. It seems unlikely that the nature of his busy Hollywood lifestyle would allow for that sort of thing a lot, although he did end up in rehab a few times. The potential for something alone does not guarantee it will definitely happen. There was more to this suicide then simply indicators of depression in the birth chart. There were difficult transits happening when he died, but perhaps more importantly: there was something obvious going on all along with Robin Williams that you and I didn’t see, or chose to ignore, despite the fact that it was quite literally staring us in the face.
As far as the kinds of transits that could trigger a suicide: transiting Pluto was closely opposing Robin’s Mars-Uranus conjunction at the time of his death. A Pluto transit opposite either planet is going to be a challenge, and it can be argued that suicide is aggression (Mars) turned inward. Saturn’s recent passage over Robin’s Ascendant and close square to his natal Pluto undoubtedly weren’t helping either. Under the best circumstances, any one of these transits could be the sort of thing that would indicate a significant emotional crisis. And perhaps all of them put together were the final straw for Robin Williams, who had always struggled with depression. Anyone getting tough transits from both Saturn and Pluto is going to have a hard time. But this too misses what should have been obvious.
There is a cliché that artists need to suffer in order to create. I don’t know whether or not that’s absolutely necessary, but it certainly does seem to help. Whatever pain Robin Williams carried around inside of him was turned by the alchemy of Art into entertainment for millions. That is a profound blessing, but it may not have been enough to help him with his own burden. Whenever we see the art, we are also seeing the artist… but (by definition) that art is a distortion. It is what the artist wants us to see. It is an illusion projected from that artists own reality, whatever that may be. When we look at people, we tend to see what we want to see. When we see an entertainer, we want entertainment and not necessarily to dive deeply into his or her soul. When we look at the birth chart in to see the configuration of the planets, we don’t always see the entirety of the person… especially if there is something about that entirety that disturbs us or doesn’t match our expectations. I can’t claim any special form of clairvoyance or connection with Mr. Williams, but his natal Sun was conjunct my Moon and Ascendant, and his Moon was conjunct my Saturn, so there is a case to be made for me having seen his inner life perhaps a little more than the average viewer did, or wanted to. I can’t claim any special knowledge of the man, but ever since I first saw Robin Williams in the 1980s, and every time I saw him afterwards – whether he was being a comedian or being serious or in any of the roles he was playing – there was always one thing that stood out at me, and always disturbed me. No matter what role he was playing, clown or serious, actor or humanitarian, there was always sadness in Robin Williams eyes. Always. Go back now and watch any performance of his that you can think of, no matter what the role or genre, and tell me you don’t see it now too. And what’s more: you probably saw it all along but didn’t want to think about it too much. That’s how great his work was. Like a magician, he completely deceived you with his performance, and you were pleased to be tricked, and so was I. Sometimes life is a great adventure. Sometimes life is about facing the next challenge. Sometimes life is just about getting through the day. And sometimes, in words spoken by Robin Williams in one of my favorite films, What Dreams May Come… ironically about a man who dies and seeks out his wife’s soul in the afterlife to rescue her from hell because she’s committed suicide… It’s about not giving up.