James Holmes: a look inside the Batman shooter

The Batman shooting in Colorado has produced a reaction of horror and sadness throughout the US and around the world.  The shooting occurred at the July 20 midnight premiere of the newest Batman movie and left 12 people dead and wounded 59 others. The perpetrator has been identified as James Holmes, aged 24, a PhD student in neuroscience. This latest in a long line of gun rampages has left many feeling insecure and fearful and has raised some difficult questions.   How could anybody commit such pre-meditated savagery on a such a large scale?  And more puzzling still was how could someone who seemed so outwardly normal be capable of such an awful crime?

Holmes gave no indication of any strange or violent behavior before the shooting.  He had no criminal record and no history of mental illness. Everybody who knew him saw him a quiet and somewhat shy person but was generally friendly and seemingly quite stable.  No one knew he had been stockpiling weapons and ammunition, booby trapping his apartment with explosives, and plotting for months to carry out this heinous attack on completely innocent people in a darkened movie theater.  It is a reminder perhaps that nobody truly knows what is going on inside another person.  We can gain clues about the true nature of the people around us through interaction and by watching their behaviour, but there remains a hidden core inside that remains ultimately elusive behind the public mask.

Astrology offers a window into the otherwise secret world inside each of us. While we do not know his time of birth, we do know that he was born on December 13, 1987 in San Diego.  We can then cast a chart for noon as a stand-in for his exact horoscope.   The quickest way to understand what makes a person tick is to look at their Moon.  A person with a strong and unafflicted Moon will generally be happy and well-adjusted.  A person with a Moon that is associated with malefic planets will tend to have mental and emotional problems.  Right away, we can see that James Holmes is likely quite a troubled person.  His Moon is in early Virgo closely conjunct Ketu and squared by Saturn.  Ketu is the Sanskrit word for the South Lunar Node and symbolizes the tail of the snake.  Ketu is often cited as a spiritual influence by many traditional astrologers.  In a more secular person, however, the Moon-Ketu influence can make the person overly sensitive and vulnerable to being overwhelmed by outside influences.  Ketu can also destabilize the mind and can detach the person from reality.  The Moon-Ketu person may find living in the real world more challenging that for the average person.  They will therefore need to find escape and sanctuary through various means -- meditation, quiet alone time, artistic pursuits, fantasy, among others.  Some of these coping mechanisms are healthier than others. 

Just how adaptive these behaviors might be in part depends on the condition of the Ketu-Moon conjunction. In Holmes' case,  the conjunction is under a lot of planetary stress since Saturn is casting its full strength square aspect onto the Moon.  As a malefic planet, Saturn has a negative effect on the Moon.  Saturn-Moon contacts are frequently associated with depression. Saturn-Moon aspects tend to repress emotions and make a person more reserved. This can result in a bottling up of feelings that can lead to problems later in life.  Interestingly, Saturn was also conjunct the Sun on the day of his birth.  So this is a double influence of Saturn on both the Sun and Moon.  He is therefore likely a very repressed and controlled person who may have had difficulty coping with change and uncertainty.  Apparently, he had recently dropped out of the Ph D program after doing poorly in the second term.  This personal failure probably hit him very hard, especially since he was unable to express his inner sadness and disappointment. His over-controlled nature may have been unable to process this failure which must have come as a particular shock given his outstanding academic performance as an undergraduate the year before.  At its most general level, Saturn can distort and undermine how other planets are supposed to be functioning.  Saturn therefore not only blocked the normal flow of emotional expression, but it may have distorted it too.  Remember, that Saturn is not only aspecting the Moon but the Moon and Ketu acting as a pair.  Since the Moon was already made abnormal through its conjunction with Ketu, Saturn's influence then potentially takes it into more damaging territory.

But even if Holmes' mind is troubled, the Moon alone can not explain why he would suddenly turn violent.  Violence is typically seen through the planet Mars.  At its most basic level, Mars is the planet of action.  It is the planet that describes how we channel our id-like drives and motivations into real world action.  It expresses how our will can bring our desires into reality.  Mars is therefore associated with physical action, up to and including violence. We can see from his horoscope that his Mars was closely conjunct Pluto.  Pluto is the planet that is associated with power and coercion, so the Mars influence here might suggest that his initiatives would be channeled through a prism of power and manipulation.  He may see his normal id type actions as an exercise of power and an imposition of his will upon others.  The Pluto influence on Mars is definitely problematic at it tends to intensify the will and magnifies the importance of action from the simple pursuing of a goal towards something that is tied to the notion of power.  That said, it is still fairly common for normal and empathetic people to have this Mars-Pluto conjunction.  For example, it would be a very good conjunction to have for an athlete or anyone engaged in competitive activities.  In those instances, it may manifest as greater willpower and determination.  If the person has a stable Moon, then they would likely act according to the normal ethical constraints of society.  As we have seen, however, Holmes does not have a good Moon, so he is more susceptible to losing touch with ethical guidelines. 

Mars also suffers from its connection with Rahu and Ketu.  Although it is not a standard Vedic aspect, Mars is almost exactly 135 degrees away from Rahu and 45 degrees away from Ketu.  This is an astrologically significant aspect that binds the energies of both planets together.  In Vedic terms, this is the same thing as saying that Mars is conjunct Rahu and Ketu in the ashtamsha or 8th divisional chart.  This is another influence that further intensifies his Mars.  Mars with Rahu and Pluto is much more likely to have actions manifest at the extreme end of the spectrum.  The nodes Rahu and Ketu seek to erase boundaries and encourage transgression of norms and tradition.  This is one reason why, for example, Ketu is considered a spiritual planet.  Ketu seeks to erase the distinction between self and other, the mundane and the esoteric, and the individual and the universe.  Similarly, Rahu seeks to erase the boundary between the status quo and innovation.  This is why Rahu is considered the planet of scientific research since science attempts to reach into the unknown and force change upon our traditional body of knowledge.  When Rahu and Ketu are associated with Mars, it can describe a person who undertakes action in an unusual or ingenious or unexpected way.  When this occurs in a good horoscope with a more stable Moon, it can be quite positive.  The person may be blessed with an ability for acting quickly to changing circumstances or enhancing problem solving ability.  But in an afflicted chart with a troubled Moon, it can sometimes create problems, leading to actions that are bizarre, out of control or even violent.  Under this influence of Rahu and Ketu, action can then fall outside the normal boundaries of what is right and wrong as the person focuses solely on fulfilling his needs without regard for the welfare of others. 

Without his birth time, it is difficult to say exactly how James Holmes has become a notorious mass murderer.  And yet his approximated noon chart offers some clues about possible planetary short circuits that would have made him more volatile.  His Moon-Saturn aspect suggests he is a depressive who probably needs to control situations to feel comfortable.  The Ketu-Moon influence may mean that he may detach from the real world in order to cope with his extreme sensitivity.  And his Mars-Pluto-Rahu alignment suggests a possible violent outlet for his wants and desires.  Obviously, not everyone who was born on 13 December 1987 is capable of murdering people, even though they would share all of the basic chart attributes that I have discussed here. It requires another whole layer of planetary affliction for some of these planetary positions to become more dangerous.  For example, his Moon may be placed in a bad house (6, 8, 12) or be in a closer angular relationship with his house cusps.  Or his Mars alignment may be badly placed or more prominent in his timed chart since it would allow his secret violent urges to come to the surface more readily. 

In any event, the sad case of James Holmes provides a grim reminder of the how astrology can offer insight into the hidden world inside us.  While horoscope reading is, at best, equal parts art and science, there are certain patterns in his chart that reveal how such a normal looking person may actually be quite abnormal.  As it has for many centuries, then, understanding the arrangement of the planets in the sky is still a unique and powerful tool for lifting the veil of mystery that surrounds the human condition.