The Good Use of a Sharp Destiny and John McCain’s Literal Sabian Symbols

“Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you in return.” John McCain


Serving a cause greater than oneself was John McCain’s motto and redemption. Deep within, he felt a conscious responsibility to rise above all shortcomings to live a life based on lofty, moral standards. This is the mark of the Sharp Destiny shown in McCain’s chart by Jupiter and Saturn in Square Aspect. The characteristics of a Sharp Destiny, and how McCain made the best of its potentials is explained in the Essentials of Astrological Analysis by Marc Edmund Jones, pg 125:

JUPITER AND SATURN IN A SQUARE ASPECT indicate an ordering of life’s fundamental motives through which the native usually suffers very immediate consequences of the least neglect or abuse of his own potentials. He finds he must fight continually for the ideals in which he has come to take the most consistent interest, and also learns that his conscious well-being is wholly dependent on the moral struggles in which he becomes involved almost inevitably at every stage of his experience. If he does not relish the days in which he seems torn to pieces in self-uncertainty, he must discover ways to tear himself apart deliberately and in equally painful fashion on the behalf either of some cause of real significance or some conception that he can dramatize through his own being. Personal existence under this configuration can become either great opportunity or else a gradual disintegration of the soul in the very core of itself. 

Jones aptly exposes the inner workings of the heart and mind of not only John McCain, but all others who are endowed with this heightened conscious self-awareness, via the hard Aspect of Jupiter with Saturn on the celestial stage. The Square is a challenging configuration between the planets of Motivation that drives individuals to a realization that they must accomplish significant growth during their lifetime that will leave them better than where they started out in life. It builds character.

Joe Biden, in his speech at McCain’s funeral said, “Character is destiny. John had character.” When asked to explain McCain’s character to those not knowing him well, Biden further described him saying, “He lived by a code where honor, courage, integrity, duty were alive . . . . Underlying values animated everything John did, everything he was. He’d part company with you, if you lacked the basic values of decency and respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself.”  These are all appropriate comments about the man with a Sharp Destiny. They paraphrase as they define the Square’s intent to, “fight continually for ideals . . . and to tear oneself apart on behalf of a cause of real significance.” John McCain found cause in the American ideal – something much bigger than himself.

In his search for higher guide posts, John McCain admired certain philosophical and inspiring writings. He found these in his favorite 1940’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway. The book tells a story that is reminiscent of what McCain experienced throughout the Vietnam War, and the protagonist exemplifies the heroism and self-sacrifice displayed by him while captive during his military service. The tale evoked a deep and powerful calling for the naval pilot that is expressed so poignantly in the 1624 poem by John Donne. The last line of the poem was not only chosen by Hemingway as a title for his novel, but it has been used as well by the late John McCain in reference to his own calling.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne

In his latest book, The Restless Wave, John McCain wrote his lengthy farewell statement that in the end gives several references to John Donne’s metaphysical poem.

“What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a ‘part of the main . . . .” John McCain


With the backdrop of divisiveness in Washington and in the Country, McCain’s dedication to bipartisanship stands out all the more brilliantly. He was not held back by differences of opinion or policy, and would reach across the aisle to get things done with members of both parties. McCain believed in the concept of each being part of a greater whole. McCain’s natal Sun on the 7th house cusp encouraged him to reach out to others, in the name of opportunity and cooperation for the betterment of each participant. This is the meaning of relationship, and the four planets occupying that house emphasize continual interrelationships for growth through harmonious cooperation or open confrontation. Although there was always a need for establishing relationships, McCain also had traits that repelled others. He was well-known for his biting sense of humor and his volatile temper. But far from a deterrent, on the contrary, it became the defining moment for life-long friendships and political camaraderie. And as friends and colleagues gathered after his death, to give tribute to his character and to eulogize him, each in his own way gave their account of an encounter with both his destabilizing humor and fierce passion. Testimonials of both his light and dark side poured out from his own Party and from across the aisle:

Excerpt from remarks by Rhode Island Democrat, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – C-SPAN2, 8/28/18: John could be annoying. In Munich accepting an award for John, his beloved Cindy (McCain) said, “I love him most of the time. His temper could be explosive.” I read once about a man named for a South American volcano, because he constantly fumed and regularly erupted. And I thought of John. He loved a good fight and was eager to pile in. “A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed,” he’d say.

Comment from Democrat Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois – C-SPAN2, 8/28/18: “. . . Typical John McCain. A volcanic temper, but an embracing, loving approach when it came to friendship.”

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican from Nebraska C-SPAN2, 8/28/18: “. . . After he was released, he wanted to make sure that he spent all of his time on big things. His impatience, his volcanic temper flowed directly from the fact that he thought that life was too short to waste on small stuff.”

These statements characterizing his temperament, and many others not referenced here, literally mirror McCain’s Neptune Sabian Symbol degree,  A volcano in eruption. Here is where the phantasmal images give truth and life to the metaphysical origin of the Sabian Symbols. In uncanny fashion, Senators and other friends, described John McCain’s temper using the word “volcanic” to describe it, just as it is stated in the visual image itself.

Neptune 16 Virgo 08
VIRGO 17 A volcano in eruption This is a symbol of that constant expansion of self and nature which constitutes reality in its most fundamental terms, emphasized here on the side of physical force and the blind urge of life to continue to be. Implicit in the wonder and destructiveness is man’s ease of self-recovery in the critical phases of his experience, often aided by the sheer violence with which he acts to meet some major issue. His irresistible outbursts may be merely the total mobilization of his deeper potentials. The keyword is EXPLOSION. When positive, the degree is creative passion as a rejection of superficiality and a genuine ordering of self, and when negative, petulance and tantrums.

THE CANCER DIAGNOSIS, July 14, 2017, the Transits and Progressions:

From the online Business Insider: McCain was scheduled for a regular physical on Friday, July 14, 2017 at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. The brain scan that McCain had undergone during  his physical had discovered something. He underwent surgery several hours later. The five-hour procedure was a minimally invasive craniotomy with eyebrow incision. ‘They cut a hole in my skull along my left eyebrow to look at my brain’s left frontal lobe and see what the trouble was,’ he wrote. It was a two-inch blood clot that they found and removed.  . . . But a few days later, it was revealed that the blood clot was a primary brain tumor.”

Chart #2, for the cancer diagnosis, shows that Progressed Saturn had been Retrograding in Opposition to natal Neptune for a period of years. Transit Neptune as well was moving into an Opposition to its own natal position. Progressed Mars was exact in Conjunction with natal Mercury which rules the brain. Transit Saturn was Retrograding toward a tight Square to its natal placement in the 1st house which rules the body, and was coming to a Station in August 2017 that intensified the pressure. And Transit Pluto was exactly Conjunct and Stationary on McCain’s Progressed Moon; this being the most telling of all astrological indicators of his fateful illness.


From the Washington Post, July 30, 2018, Peter W. Stevenson: “In the early hours of July 28, 2017, Sen. John McCain slowly walked onto the floor of the Senate. It was a vote for the GOP’s “skinny repeal” bill — a measure that would have permanently repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, among other provisions.  . . . As McCain’s turn to vote arrived, the Senate clerk nodded at him. The Arizona Republican paused, then gave a dramatic thumbs down, eliciting gasps from the Democratic side of the chamber and grim looks of resignation from the GOP leadership that had spent the past few hours trying to get him to change his mind.”

Chart #3, for the thumbs down vote by John McCain on the Affordable Care Act’s repeal, shows Squares from Transits Saturn and Uranus being of strong influence, “pushing” him toward the negative vote. The planets in the Department of Significance; Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, in addition to Transit Saturn’s Square to its natal location, are all activated on July 28, 2017. The saving of healthcare can also be seen in the Transit of Pluto in helpful Trine to natal Neptune. Emotions erupted in Congress on both sides in the early morning hours, to once again point to Neptune’s still active “volcano” in McCain’s 7th house of potential open conflict. No doubt this final vote will go down in history as the last monumental protest from the Senator toward what he viewed as a renegade Administration and Congress.

Transit Uranus was just shy of completing its 84 year cycle Return to its natal place, where an appropriate symbol of McCain’s concerns for healthcare can be viewed through its Sabian Symbol, A red cross nurse. Also in Point Focus like Jupiter, Uranus takes on a role greater than when it is not emphasized by T-Cross. Uranus being a strong player in McCain’s last year of life also correlates to his highly individualistic personality. Having two T-Crosses in the natal map (see chart #1), gives the native two outlets for personal self-expression, which often throws others off balance when they cannot anticipate which avenue of expression the native will take. It was difficult for friends or opponents to predict whether they would be meeting the Point Focus Uranian maverick head-on, or more pleasantly, the warm and enthusiastic support from the Point Focus Jupiter.

Uranus 9 Taurus 30
TAURUS 10 A red cross nurse This is a symbol of human service on the ideal or spiritual side and it emphasizes the greatest of all roads to self-realization. The steadiness of concern for the more extreme needs of others is dramatization of the most consistent opportunity for self to become momentarily a phase of all-self, and through that universal experience to become more satisfactorily whatever it wishes to be on its own account. The keyword is ENLISTMENT. When positive, the degree is a complete dedication of the self to the worth-while and enduring projects through which it can lose all sense of separateness, and when negative, a superficial pretense of humanitarianism in order to gain transient importance.


“I hope those who mourn my passing, and those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued success is the hope of the world,” McCain wrote in his personal statement in his latest book. “And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”

The luck coming to John McCain was due to the generosity of fate that put Jupiter, the Greater Benefic, at the natal chart’s Midheaven – its highest point. This brings the planet into High Focus as well as Point Focus of a T-cross. Jupiter’s Conjunction on the cusp of the 10th house lends the native the authority to wield power, and blesses the individual with high position and honor for deeds well done. McCain’s heroism in never giving in to the enemy during his imprisonment at the Hanoi Hilton, and his courageous contribution to his country as a statesman and Senator is a result of his well-placed Jupiter.

In his last years of life, McCain was on the receiving end of stark criticism, with character attacks from members of his own Party. Again, he had to withstand the onslaught of another type of torture from those not as devotion to the values of the Country as he was. Both the disapproval from some colleagues, and the final withdraw from this life itself, is shown most starkly through the Progressed Station of Saturn turning Direct in his 82nd year. The ephemeris graph shows the symbol for Saturn circled in red. It marks 82 days after birth and thus relates to his 82nd year of life. His bold rhetoric on bipartisanship, the character assassination, the hardship of illness, and his final year of life are all synchronous with this ultra-important Progressed Station. November 19, 1936 is the date of the Direct Station of Saturn that corresponds to the year 2018. Important Progressions and Transits for August 25, 2018 are shown in Chart #4.


For a nautical salute to the inner nuances of John McCain’s character, a list of a few astoundingly, literal Sabian Symbols follows:

Moon, 2 Aquarius 28 – A deserter from the navy

This one of the literal symbols reflects the maverick in McCain’s nature, and alludes to the time he was a POW. Truly not a deserter, but the symbol does describe his passionate refusal to surrender to unworthy precepts that forfeit true and lofty principles. The original version of the symbol states it in more certain terms: A deserter from the navy stands suddenly aware of the dawning truth that freedom is never the result of compromise. With fierce resistance, one shows dedication to one’s beliefs. Right or wrong, throughout his career, McCain clung to what he believed, but was the first to admit mistakes when made aware by his own conscience.

AQUARIUS 3 A deserter from the navy This is a symbol of human independence carried to a point of extreme rebellion against things as they are, here emphasized in a disregard of all consequences for the sake of an immediate liberation of the spirit. There is a demand for a more rewarding expression of individuality, and the reversed symbolism suggests that any late acceptance of full and personal responsibility for life is better than none at all. Except as man creates his own allegiances, his destiny holds no depth. The keyword is DEFIANCE. When positive, the degree is genuine psychological courage in a repudiation of all meaningless loyalties, and when negative, complete inability to follow the rules of any game..

Mars, 12 Leo 34
LEO 13 An old sea captain rocking This is a symbol of man’s great love for reliving his experiences in memory, and of his gift for achieving a mastery in advance of whatever new situations he may face by bringing all the ramifying relationships to a focus in a personal and competent grasp of their more pertinent potentialities. He fights the battles of the world in his imagination, over and over again. He knows that events repeat themselves, and so may be brought in leash. The keyword is RETROSPECT. When positive, the degree in each person’s unlimited capacity for calling up afresh the powers he has gained in his struggle toward self-fulfillment, and when negative, insensibility to present reality in a full surrender to the past.

The keyword, Retrospect for Mars, and the general explanation of the symbol, correlate with McCain’s return to Vietnam to come to terms with what had happened while in captivity. The words in the description of the symbol, “He fights the battles of the world in his imagination, over and over again,” seem to be those that reflect the actual excruciating experience of his imprisonment.

Jupiter 15 Sagittarius 06  
SAGITTARIUS 16 Sea gulls watching a ship This is a symbol of the spirit’s demand for its full share in the privileges and rewards of human society, and of the individual’s realization that his personal interests are served only as he maintains an unceasing vigilance in his own behalf. There is a continual and wholly impersonal give-and-take in every phase of life’s over-all economy, so that what loses its usefulness in one respect will gain an immediate high potentiality in another. Moreover, what man fails to claim definitely for himself is promptly surrendered to the devices of someone else. The keyword is ALERTNESS. When positive, the degree is a gift for recognizing every opportunity at hand, and when negative, aimless expectation.


VIRGO 7 A harem This is a symbol of the withdrawal from reality in one aspect as a means for regrasping in another, here dramatized by an acceptance of regimentation as a species of insulation against life’s demand for some more dynamic manifestation of the self. Implicit in the static symbolism is the necessity for using any fellowship in lesser values as a self-strengthening in a definite and renewed struggle towards the greater. An enforced conservation of energies need not encourage a surrender of basic ideals. The keyword is RESTRAINT. When positive, the degree is a courageous and complete disregard of limitation by the rejection of its terms at any cost, and when negative, self-betrayal for momentary ease.

The original symbol describes the image more meaningfully: The woman’s quarters of an Oriental palace are revealed; here are the bright and unafraid eyes of cloistered souls.

This image is reminiscent of the group of cloistered souls, his comrades-in-arms, with whom McCain spent a good portion of time at the Hanoi Hilton. John McCain will be well-remembered for the endurance he had to muster to withstand the excruciating torture he experienced as a captive during the Vietnam War. The Sun’s Sabian Symbol is not as literal as the others, and without mention of a sailor, a ship or the sea.  But in reverse interpretation, it suggests that at core was a being, who while withstanding devastating pain and confinement, found solace in right attitude, with a sincere dedication to the American experiment for which he fought so courageously to protect. His equal position within the “harem” of U.S. Senators, all working together for the Country’s good, brought to John McCain his life’s highest achievement and greatest joy.



A reading of McCain’s chart would not be complete without a look at the Transits and Progressions for October 26, 1967 when on a bombing mission, his jet fighter was shot down and he was captured by the North Vietnamese. The planetary Aspects that day, and for much time following, were profound and life changing. He would be in captivity for five and a half

Getty image – no copyright infringement is intend

years, suffering untold agony which can be seen astrologically in Chart #5 left. The most difficult Aspects that people endure, either in Transits or Progressions, are with Saturn and Pluto. John McCain had both planets, in Transit and Progression, in extremely challenging configurations to his natal planets on that fateful day. The Transit Moon, depending on the time of the event, made a Conjunction with natal Pluto and was the defining factor and indicator of the severity of the situation. Going forward, this would be the “inaugural” or event chart for tracking the progress of his long internment in captivity.

The chart shows that McCain had recently experienced his first Transit Saturn Return, and at the same time Progressed Saturn was advancing in Retrograde motion toward an Opposition to his natal Neptune. Transit Pluto, for a time, had been Opposite his natal Saturn. McCain was obviously engaged in warfare – direct and open conflict, a meaning among others, of planetary dynamics between the 1st and 7th houses in any horoscope.


McCain was released from prison March 14, 1973. Chart #5 right, shows many Aspects that are indicative of the end of confinement. Progressed Venus coming to an Opposition with natal Uranus, one of his Point Focus planets, and by that an important one, tells of the freedom long awaited had finally arrived. Progressed Mercury and Transit Pluto were both close to natal Mercury, indicating the profound good news. These two planets, being just a bit after the exact Aspect, shows that the knowledge of his release had been in the negotiating phase for some time before the actual event.

Progressed Mars was entering into its Conjunction with McCain’s natal Sun, to indicate an acceleration of activity and excitation in coming events. The Progressed Moon and Transit Saturn Opposite natal Jupiter were indicators of the principle of manifestation that all Opposition Aspects represent – in this case, the timing of the emotional release from captivity. Jupiter, activated by these two Dynamic planets, brought forth the good luck the native knew he had at root. The day of the release shows the Transit Moon once again very close to natal Pluto. And the Transit of the Sun and Venus in exact Opposition to Venus and Neptune respectively, buttressed the already very active configurations. Progressed Mars Conjunct natal Sun was initiating a new and better phase in the life of one so deserving of respect and praise for valor displayed through hardship.

The Sabian Symbols in Astrology by Marc Edmund Jones

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