Alan Turing and Divinatory Ethics

Genius codebreaker and computer science pioneer, Alan Turing, committed suicide by cyanide poisoning on June 7, 1954.  This week marks the 60th anniversary of his death.  Turing’s downhill psychological course began when Turing’s house was burglarized on January 23, 1952.  The police investigation revealed that the man who committed the robbery was sexually involved with Turning.  Homosexual activity was regarded as a crime in the UK at the time.  Turning was mandated to take hormone injections to reduce his libido and to enter therapy with a psychiatrist.

When authors Patrick Sammon and Paul Sen interviewed the daughter of Turing’s Jungian psychoanalyst, she told the following story about Turing’s visit to a fortune teller during a visit Turing made with Dr. Greenbaum’s family to Blackpool, an English seaside resort several weeks before his suicide:

“she remembers that Turing had turned up wearing a school blazer and trousers that were far too short for him.  Of their trip to the seaside, she told us, ‘There was a fortune teller’s tent on the promenade and Alan decided that he would like to go in and see the fortune teller.  And he went in there and he was gone for a little while and he came out and we looked at him, and he was ashen faced, absolutely horrified expression on his face.  He wouldn’t divulge what had happened, what the woman had said to him.  He was desperately, desperately unhappy.  And he didn’t say anything more after that.’”

The timing of the visit to the fortune teller several weeks before his suicide and Turing’s noticeable worsening of mood immediately after seeing the fortune teller suggests that something she said to him was quite upsetting.  This story is a cautionary tale for anyone who practices divination and does consultations for others.

Alan Turing was born on June 23, 1912 at St. Leonard’s-on-Sea in East Sussex.  According to AstroDataBank, Turing’s mother gave 2:15 AM as his birthtime, so it has a  Rodden rating of A (from memory).  Here is his natal chart with Placidus houses:

Alan Turing natal chart with Placidus houses.

The most striking feature of this chart is Uranus on the MC, an indicator of his prominence in the field of computer science.

In the Whole Sign and the Regiomontanus house systems, Saturn rules his 8th house of death and occupies his 12th house of self-undoing.  In the Placidus system, Jupiter rules his 8th cusp and lies on this DSC where Jupiter closely opposes his ASC, a symbol of his physical body and its vitality.

Mercury rules his ASC and is closely quincunx Jupiter, ruler of the Placidus 8th cusp.  In June of 1954 (the month of his suicide), a solar eclipse occurred at 8 Cancer 10.  During this solar eclipse there was a conjunction of transiting Sun, Moon and 8th-ruler Jupiter which fell exactly on his natal ASC-ruler Mercury.

In addition, in his primary directions for the summer of 1954, using the Placidus semi-arc method with the Naibod measure, his converse primary directed Mercury (ASC ruler) formed a square to his natal Jupiter (8th house ruler).


About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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10 Responses to Alan Turing and Divinatory Ethics

  1. james says:

    i was unaware of this story tony, so thank you for sharing. i think it is definitely worth pondering for anyone involved in astro consultations..

    regarding the primary directions and converse mercury to the square of jupiter( i have direct jupiter to the square of mercury, but can’t see the reverse in my list of both converse and direct pd’s), i am curious why you single out this one and not for example the direct pd of saturn to the square of venus? i recognize the importance of the ascendant ruler when asking, but i also think the 12th house saturn – which rules the 8th using a different house method – being directed to the planet in conjunction to pluto rising in the first house might have some direct say on this too.. it is strange why i can’t get this direction you mention as well as i am using morinus which is the program i think you are using too!

    i think the transit data for the time of his death is also relevant. there is a mercury/mars opposition on the date of his death which is directly on his natal mercury. what is less obvious is the position of pluto 45/135 both mercury and mars in this same transit chart.

    thanks for the exercise tony!

  2. James,
    I usually use Morinus but this time tried the new version of Solar Fire which has added primary directions to its options. I’ll have to check it against Morinus to see if they give the same results.

    • james says:

      i have solar fire 7.3 which also has pd’s but i would be curious if they have made it more flexible with regard to the options – mundane verses zodiac, direct verses converse and etc. etc. i haven’t used that feature of sf for a long while. i have had sf 7.3 for 4 or so years..

      • I upgraded to Solar Fire 9 since it promised to do Placidus and Regiomontanus primaries. After reading your comment, I compared Solar Fire 9 with Morinus and found the results of primaries to be different. I have more faith in the accuracy of Morinus as far as primary directions are concerned. The relevant primaries in Morinus around the time of Turing’s suicide include:
        Converse square of Mars (12th ruler) -> Sun (4th ruler) – Ptolemy key.
        Converse Mars -> square of Neptune
        Converse Neptune -> square of Mercury
        Direct Jupiter (8th ruler) -> square of Mercury (ASC ruler)

      • james says:

        thanks tony. i appreciate your willingness to share your understanding of primary directions here. do you stick with the ptolemy key, or play around with naibod and the others too? i was using naibod key. does solar fire 9 let you choose the options that morinus does? that is a key feature of morinus that i think makes a huge difference. it is especially amazing as it is being offered for free. otherwise, i like my solar fire program at version 7.3. i also have curtis’s astro program but haven’t learned to use it. it is said to have all of what morinus has and more. maybe i will get round to learning how to use it, but i haven’t yet.

  3. James,
    Solar Fire has more limited options than Morinus. As for keys, I usually look at the Ptolemy and Naibod keys and at the midpoint of the two, which is often close to the time of an event.

  4. Erika Knowles says:

    Mr. Louis,

    I’m currently reading your book, Tarot Beyond the Basics. I was struck by the fact that you say you believe the Death card literally represents the death of a person. Eden Gray says that this is both inaccurate and also unethical. I’ve mostly subscribed to her belief that predicting death is beyond the scope of Tarot, and also that it would be incredibly harmful to tell someone in a reading that they were going to die. That seems to me to be the kind of situation that upsets people and freaks them out–so, even if predicting death from the Death trump, or maybe the Ten of Swords, do you believe it would be unethical to use it in that way? Do you think that maybe that’s the kind of disturbing prediction the fortune teller gave Alan Turing?


    • Erika,
      The section you are citing discusses the meanings of the cards rather than what you should say to a client about the card in a reading. I do find that the Death trump sometimes indicates an actual death. Since death is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, most often the Death trump signifies some other type of major transformation or change in a person’s life. In a reading, the meaning depends on many factors including the other cards in the spread and the querent’s situation.

      I would not consider it ethical to tell someone the cards mean they are going to die, but I would not exclude the idea of an actual death from my thinking about the card. I have no idea what the fortune teller said to Alan Turing but the effect of her words appears to have been devastating as it completely worsened his mood and preceded his suicide by several weeks. I agree with Mary Greer and other authors who feel that we should always look for ways to empower the client, especially when the more challenging cards appear in a spread.

      • Erika Knowles says:

        Mr. Louis,

        I mostly agree with you. But instead of usually indicating change instead of literal death, I would say that it always does. I see it as “rebirth.” To me it fits more with the lessons of the other cards if it means, rather, one end of a continuous cycle rather than the “end” of something linear.

        However, I will concede that if it represents literal death, even that could be said to be simply a transition from one “life” to another.


  5. Bernd Mueller says:

    Dear Tony,

    I highly recommend using Mirror Points (other word Antiscion Points) regularly in chart interpretation. Therefor we have to mirror every Planet or AC/MC over the Aries/Libra or Cancer/Capricorn axis to see if they are conjunct or build a square. If so we interpret them as normal main aspects! The orbis should be 3.5 degress maximum.
    Now look again at Alan Touring horoscope. You’ll find close Venus/Uranus, Venus/Saturn and Saturn/Uranus mirror point aspects. With Venus/Uranus mens got often tendency to homosexuality. With Venus/Saturn emotions and love life can be restricted or hindered. With Uranus/Saturn we are square with the tradition of society. So we got all the symbolism of Alan Turings trouble with his sexuality.

    Good luck

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