Alex O’Connor, the Net’s “Cosmic Skeptic”, describes himself as the most atheist person he knows. An impassioned and successful youtuber and podcaster when not at study as an Oxford philosophy and theology undergraduate, he is the most vehemently atheistic person I’ve listened to on the Net.
I have done so because he is so clearly one of a kind, a phenomenon whose psychology interests me more than his ideas with which he endeavours to puncture all over-confident belief. O’Connor is like a twenty first century excited Shelley at Oxford without the poetry but with the protests and causes which include Veganism – atheist Shelley was a vegetarian in case you weren’t aware.
Even at seventeen there was already a side of Alex (b. 1999) that for someone so young would seem remarkably savvy, self-dramatizing, sophisticated and decided in his views – in his earliest youtubes, especially if wearing a Micky Mouse shirt, he looked like a child ready to scold the world. He has always given as good as he gets and more, often in torrents of words and at great speed. But now and again there emerges a more sensitive, vulnerable side, one that is even disarmingly candid enough to admit that despite himself and all the reason and logic he periodically briefly fears hell, his “hell blips”, an interesting point on which I comment later.
But first for something that Alex would dismiss out of hand, something of forbidden, esoteric, invisible realms, namely what one can derive, and rather clearly, from his birth data. Even without the desideratum of a birth time this still proves oddly eloquent with its information, especially when one includes the modern input from asteroids.
THE ARIES COUNTER RELIGION IN CONTEXT
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Roger Scruton, A C Grayling and Madalyn Murray O’Hare (who said she liked a good fight and fighting God would be the ultimate) were all born under Aries as were Satanists like the poet Baudelaire and California’s Anton Le Vey (The Satanic Bible). The blood and guts, super-patriarchal sign of Aries was the same one that oversaw the age of Aries under which the scriptures of the Old Testament were forged, the same sign that much later produced the founder of the Salvation Army, General Booth.
Fast forward to today in which New Atheism is almost a product of Aries, and ….unsurprisingly….. we find that Alex O’Connor was born March 27th 1999 in Oxford, on 6 degrees of the fighting, head butting, crusading, psychologically rather patricidal or father rivalling sign of Aries, an inclination often crucial to the sign’s belief patterns at the archetypal level.
Whether believing or unbelieving, Aries is much inclined to fundamentalist, evangelical, crusading and literalistic treatment of issues. Thus the bible can readily assume the status of pure lie if the world was demonstrably not created in seven days, a perspective others could find as oddly alien as proposing a parable of Jesus is “untrue” because it fails to tell us the name of the sower who went out to sow and the day he did so.
COSMIC SKEPTIC UNDER THE SIGN OF THE RAM
Alex’s identity- giving Aries sun at 6 Aries is conjunct philosophy and religion planet, Jupiter at 9 degrees. Not so surprisingly, since conjunctions are very for or against something, Alex has been studying philosophy and religion – to meet the enemy in its den so to speak! It’s not such an odd choice for him because at 3 Sagittarius, (the religion and philosophy sign that traditionally Jupiter “rules”), contains the wounded healer Chiron. This suggests despite some more or less permanent hurt around beliefs, Alex can still make mileage from it given the planetoid’s basically fortunate trine to the natal sun.
The sun being the identity and will, anything conjunct or aspecting it counts. Alex calls himself “Cosmic Skeptic”, so suitably asteroid Skepticus conjuncts his sun and his Jupiter from between them both at 7 Aries while the Alex name by which he is commonly known, falls at 6 Pisces exact semi-sextile his 6 degree Aries sun.
What the Cosmic Skeptic wants and loves is science. That he really does o is indicated by Scientia at 29 of the birth sign Aries being there on what’s called an anaretic degree indicative of a certain insatiability and/or dissatisfaction. The situation is further problematized by the fact that Scientia is in out-of-sign conjunction with Saturn (the doubting, empirical, scientific but also limiting factor in things) at 2 of practical Taurus. Science will not have the required answers in many instances.
It’s a reasonable assumption given the name O’Connor and the fact of being raised Catholic, that some kind of Irish background (even if strongly rejected like a James Joyce in revolt), is somewhere involved. If that’s the case, it would be well covered by the way that asteroid Ireland at 7 Libra happens to oppose (challenge) the sun and Skepticus, while asteroid O’Connor at 8 Capricorn is in tension square to sun and Jupiter; so it looks as though Alex might well be opposed to, or opposed by, or in some kind of tension with, family identity and legacy.
Unless Alex was born early or late in the day, the self-dramatizing Leo moon would have to have been more or less opposite Uranus, itself strong for him in its own sign Aquarius heightening any contrarian impulses. Indeed, at 15 Aquarius Uranus is on one of the six world points, helpful to the kind of wide, popular impact made. Uranus to any planet, but especially the moon, is common in gay charts, so whether or not Alex is gay, the aspect reflects the importance of the ever tricky gay theme for his anti-faith position.
Mars, Aries’ ruler, is at home in the chart within its other sign of affinity, Scorpio. From there at 11 degrees of that sign it’s opposed to Venus in its natural sign, Taurus, (though engaging what interests by house we can’t really guess without a birth time). The aspect nonetheless bespeaks the fixed, stubborn, tenacity in opposition to anyone or anything with possibly a quarrelsome, difficult relation with the opposite sex. The wide conjunction of Mars with Saturn could be, as Alex seems to be, a bit overworked, workaholic and /or obsessive.
THE OTHER AND QUIETER ALEX
Against this fighting warrior pattern of someone possibly trying to rival his father (who unlike the rest of the family we hear was atheist), there is almost another Alex, represented by a close tension/frustration square of Saturn to Neptune. This can be a sad and sorry, vulnerable and depressing, sometimes sickly aspect. Religiously it engages the strong doubt factor of Saturn which in this case is directed upon the kind of things Neptune represents – not least the mystical, the poetic, the mysterious and, some astrologers would say, Christ. There’s also some association with music and in his spare time apparently Alex pursues it.
Interestingly as I recently pointed out at the time there were rumours that Pope Francis doubts many things and even privately denies Christ’s divinity, a natal opposition of Saturn opposite Neptune in the Pope’s chart must be taken into account.
I won’t say all that strikes me about Alex’s pattern, but I will mention that the hell asteroid Hella is in Capricorn, the sign most inclined to be in fear of anything. But there is more to the confession of hell blip fears than just the astrological hint of it. It is arguably quite meaningful and could well be set against other stories of mental attempts to banish God from such as the philosopher Sartre and the radical feminist Mary Daly. And this has next to nothing to do with the religion as child abuse idea that Alex derives from his local Oxford hero Richard Dawkins.
Sartre is an interesting case because he didn’t carry heavy baggage from any Catholic upbringing, and almost uniquely for any atheist admitted in his autobiographical Les Mots, that when he was young Christ had appeared to him, but that he had turned away in irritated disgust (it’s not clear why so, but possibly because he felt he had been caught out burning the carpet with matches). Sartre admits that had his response been different his life might have been different. It’s not the quote I want, but later in the philosopher’s life and from the Net I do find Sartre quoted as saying “That God does not exist I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget”.
THE ALEX “HELL BLIP” AND A PERENNIAL TRUTH
Like Sartre (and many others), Alex believes science has made God impossible. But really what has made God “impossible” is a type of science-associated western dualism whose starting point is misleadingly “objective” as though able and justified to stand apart from a deity that can be observed like a galaxy and grasped by so many facts and arguments. This type of inquiry may take some people some way, but divine truths are always more spiritually than intellectually discerned.
The widely accepted notion that God created something ex nihilo from nothing is misleading as some Jewish mystics (and St Teresa of Avila who had a vision of everything inside God) realized. If “nothing” could even exist it would be a rival to God. Any divine creation is thus necessarily within a prior formed womb-like space within deity. In this model of spiritual reality it has to be that people are closer or less bound, nearer to or further from the sustaining God.
The reason that Reason does not permanently obliterate hell fears even while it can appear to abolish deity as an idea, is because God is already within the self and will forever be so, at least as regards the individual’s spiritual part (which God won’t destroy but only “quarantine” else he would not be the Creator, Lord of Life), a quarantined separation that may be “forever” because the post-mortem, purely spiritual realm are essentially timeless.
Given the element of freewill possible within the temporal, material zone, the individual is only ever nearer or further in relation to God. The more reflective individual will intuit something of the sort. Hell is simply “outer darkness”, the darkest and furthest point away from the inclusive divine light. Early world myth is broadly agreed on the withdrawal of the Creator God from an imperfect/become evil world. The general human sense of rejection by, or distance from, a deity now only rather conditionally approached if at all, is reflected in the way that the world Christianity originally entered, assumed the darkness and living death of Hades/Hell, was, except for a few heroes, the automatic fate of the majority.
The Christian hell is thus effectively God experienced as what mystics and visionaries experience divinity most essentially to be, namely (spiritual) fire, but in hell as nothing else, i.e. fire uncombined with the other elements that make life pleasant and possible. As theology of the Eastern churches has it, it is the same light that shines on the saved, torments the damned.
Anyone who has been off-put or plain embarrassed by the kind of supposedly knock down arguments for faith delivered by evangelists behaving like second hand car salesmen, may be pleased, amused or occasionally enlightened by Alex’s tenacious dismissals and chop logic. But Alex himself can in turn also presume on listeners, try the patience and give a few uneasy feelings.
FEELING WHERE WITHIN BEING HE IS
There is a troubling je ne sais quoi about Alex’s vehemence (albeit this is not always in evidence) and will to demolish any and every contrary position for the sake of it. One feels at times it approaches the madness of Aries poet, Alfred De Vigny, whose hatred of God was such he wanted to burn churches down (Aries is a fire sign!). And there is a real risk of engaging madness when one insists, like the devil, the “father of lies” (Joh 8:44), on unacceptable levels of lie and libel like proclaiming the bible “corrupt from beginning to end” and religion “child abuse”.
All the historic ills and errors of religion admitted, such talk is simply to ignore the comfort and inspiration towards good that the bible and faith have given to many. Denying such things gets too close to talking Reason but writing the next instalment of Le Vey’s Satanic Bible. And these wild declarations anyway profit from a Christian tolerance that especially Islamic society would never allow for similar religion-directed accusations.
To skate over these problems and endorse illusions as Alex sometimes does, risks calling good evil and evil good many consider to be at the heart of the unforgivable sin against the Spirit (Luk 12:10) or, to the extent there is a will to destroy faith and draw people, especially the young and confused, away from God, it approaches the great offence it would be better to be drowned in deep seas than to commit (Matt 18:6).
So, at this level and beyond the intellectual entertainment, the Alex phenomenon can convey an unhealthy vibe. And we can safely predict God and hell are not going to leave Alex at the waving of any rational wands. They will simply recur, possibly a little fainter with time (because as philosopher Simone Weil had it, if we are deaf, God is like a beggar who keeps returning until suddenly he doesn’t). They will recur because Alex is clear-minded and sensitive enough to register at unconscious levels where he stands with Ultimacy. Since everyone has some deeper consciousness of sorts, Alex’s hell fear is the only, yet in its way perfectly authentic, God consciousness or “conversation” with the divine that he can have and may always have as long as his protests and ultra-empiricism endure.
Whether this type of peculiar individual “conversation” would ever alter its disconcerting direction and tone I couldn’t say, but to the extent Theotes (Godhead) at 10 of mutable Gemini makes what’s called opportunity sextile to beliefs planet Jupiter at 9 Aries, one can only affirm some species of opportunity exists.