Challenge of a Sharp Destiny – John McCain – 1936 – 2018

John Sidney McCain III served his country throughout his entire life, but it was during his tour of duty as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, and especially as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, that he unknowingly took on the challenge of the formidable Sharp Destiny, identified in his chart by the square between Jupiter and Saturn.

The naval captain managed to rise to the occasion, only after years of personal, agonizing struggles and peer criticism that the daunting configuration bestows on a soul in need of awakening. He gained a reputation from fellow airmen for recklessness in the cockpit, and later as a Senator, drew condemnation from the public for reasons that included racial remarks, (1) and for his involvement in the Keating Five scandal in 1989. There were character flaws to overcome, and the Sharp Destiny’s presence in the chart points to the need for correction.

Both McCain’s father and grandfather were distinguished admirals, and in 1954 their third-generation namesake followed in their footsteps by attending the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis Maryland. Unfortunately, however, he fell short by graduating 894th in his class of 899.

In spite of scoffing at rules and protocol, McCain was responsible enough to be trained to fly bombers from aircraft carriers. His headstrong and undisciplined nature may have led to carelessness, resulting in three flight accidents (2) before being assigned to the battle-worn carrier USS Oriskany.

There were younger pilots with better records and more experience, but McCain pressed for the combat assignment that would ultimately seal his fate as a prisoner of war. On his 23rd combat mission over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, his A-4 Sky Hawk was shot down by enemy fire. He injured himself severely while ejecting from the cockpit, but successfully parachuted into Trúc Bach Lake, only to be captured by North Vietnamese soldiers.

McCain would spend the following five and a half years in Hỏa Lò Prison, nicknamed “Hanoi Hilton” by U.S. prisoners, where he would be subjected to barbarous torture. Anyone shot down in military service is considered a hero, but because of McCain’s history of marginalizing proper procedures, his fellow airmen deemed the event pilot error. (3) Controversy often follows an individual with a Sharp Destiny. It comes as a result of the square aspect’s counter-energies and often manifests through demands from others who stand in judgment of a native’s acts and attitudes. External factors contribute additional pressures to a native’s inner crises normally felt under the influence of a square, especially one involving Jupiter and Saturn.

McCain’s notorious temper, coupled with periodic bouts of irresponsibility, set him up for condemnation. But ultimately he would confront himself, and tackle his shortcomings when forced to do so in the years of his solitary confinement. In his own words, “I had a lot of time to think over there, and came to the conclusion that one of the most important things in life – along with a man’s family – is to make some contribution to his country. . . I thought a lot about the meaning of life.” Time would give McCain the chance to achieve the lofty goals encouraged by the Sharp Destiny, so clearly defined by the renowned astrologer and creator of the technique, Marc Edmund Jones.

JUPITER AND SATURN IN  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 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.(4)

A Sharp Destiny is identified by a conjunction, square, or opposition between Jupiter and Saturn within a 10-degree orb. The same orb allowance is given for a Loose Destiny and is defined by a sextile, trine, or lack of major aspect between the two planets.(5) The Loose Destiny differs greatly from the more formidable Sharp Destiny described in McCain’s case, and affords the native the freedom to resist ingrained cultural standards, allowing one to dictate one’s own life path with minimal resistance from outside sources. Of the three major aspects defining the Sharp Destiny, the square and opposition are the most exacting. They drive an individual through inner struggle or direct conflict, respectively, to seek and live up to an exemplary high code of ethics.

The Sharp Destiny is prominent in McCain’s horoscope because Jupiter is High Focus at the midheaven and in square to Saturn rising in the 1st house. Neptune from the 7th house applies in opposition to Saturn, and Saturn, in turn, opposes Venus in the 7th. These oppositions, create the necessary polarization of forces that form a T-Cross that has its expressive outlet through Jupiter in Point Focus. The Sharp Destiny forms one essential angle of the T-Cross and becomes the signature configuration that assists the native’s development into a notable figure on the world stage.


The most difficult aspects of Dynamic charting (6) are those that involve Saturn and Pluto, especially when aspecting each other. Saturn is notorious for its unrelenting laser-like role in the refinement of character, and Pluto is associated with a wide spectrum of possibilities, ranging from a demand for the ego’s total surrender in the process of transformation, to the opposite extreme, in a profound gifting of power and influence.

At the time McCain was captured by the Vietcong, Pluto was transiting the 7th house at 21 Virgo 53 and well-engaged in its approximate three-year opposition to natal Saturn. This vigorous activation of the Sharp Destiny manifested the more arduous attributes of the planets involved and corresponds to the fierce abuse the native suffered while imprisoned. Here is where the most persuasive forces in the solar system, manifesting through people, pit themselves against another’s greatest fears and vulnerability. During his incarceration, McCain transformed his struggle for survival into the opportunity to develop better character potentials. The victim of torment and misfortune took hold of inner strength that gave power to his higher motivations, thanks to the Sharp Destiny’s potential for turning a person’s life around under pressure.

Transiting Pluto’s effects are usually recognizable when it comes within a five-degree orb of a natal planet, and its long duration may include highly consequential stations when conjunct or opposite within one degree. During the first few years of incarceration, Pluto would station several times, intensifying the dangerous situation as it threatened McCain’s very existence. Pluto stationed once in opposition to natal Saturn in May of 1968, and twice in conjunction with natal Venus, in December of 1967 and June of 1969. Events related to these stations, and to Pluto’s aspects to natal Mercury in the early 1970s, are disclosed in McCain’s personal account of his imprisonment.(7)

McCain was released from prison on March 14, 1973, as the war was reaching its end. His homecoming corresponds to 4th house “end-of-the-matter” aspects to Point Focus Jupiter in the 10th. Aside from the transits to and from Venus, the real harbingers of freedom came from the progressed Moon and the transit of Saturn respectively, in tight opposition to the greater benefic. The Moon was just beyond its aspect by 1 degree 30 minutes, while Saturn was tighter, with 42 minutes before exact opposition. The Moon and Saturn in tandem charged the situation with emotional fervor as the release from prison became imminent.

The Sharp Destiny brought into focus the chasm between American ideals and the despotism McCain endured while a victim in captivity. Upon his return home, he received physical therapy, attended the National War-College in Washington D. C., and in 1977, accepted the position of naval liaison to the U.S. Senate, which was the bridge that would lead to his political career, first as a lawmaker in the House of Representatives and later as a Senator.

McCain believed in the importance of bipartisanship. 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 political parties because he believed the individual was part of a greater whole. The Sun represents Will and Purpose (8) (its keywords) and its placement on the 7th house cusp encourages acting in partnership with others in the name of opportunity and cooperation for the benefit of all. The 7th house also rules open conflicts and outright warfare, and when compromise occasionally failed, McCain’s volcanic temper would surface in fierce confrontation.


McCain’s sporadic abrasiveness can be seen woven into his behavior through random planetary influences in his chart, including characteristics revealed through the Sabian Symbols.(9) In spite of his need for establishing relationships, his erratic and combative responses could repel others. He was known for his biting sense of humor and volatile disposition, but fortunately, those defining idiosyncrasies also contributed to lifelong friendships and camaraderie rather than proving a deterrent. When friends and colleagues gathered to eulogize him, each in his own way gave an account of an encounter with his destabilizing humor and fierce passion. Testimonials of his dark, as well as his light side, poured out from both Republicans and Democrats.(10)

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island remarked;

“John could be annoying. In Munich, accepting an award for John, his beloved wife Cindy said, ‘I love him most of the time, but his temper could be explosive.’ I learned once about a man who was named for a South American volcano because he constantly fumed and regularly erupted. And of course, I thought of John.”

Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois stated;

“Typical John McCain, A volcanic temper, but an embracing loving approach when it came to friendship.”

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican from Nebraska explained;

“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 the small stuff.”

These and numerous other statements reveal McCain’s temperament as it is symbolically reflected in his Neptune Sabian Symbol degree, 16 Virgo 08, A volcano in eruption.  Here is where a symbol’s phantasmal imagery affects actuality. In uncanny fashion, members of Congress and friends, described the statesman’s nature as “volcanic,” just as it is stated in the symbol itself. The symbol’s description, as Jones composed it, describes in detail the motives behind the native’s excessive emotional reactions, especially as it relates to the “mobilization of his deeper potentials.” And just as Senator Sasse concluded, the frustrations the native suffered were born of the need to achieve success with issues of grave public concern.

Neptune’s Sabian Symbol, 17 VIRGO,  A volcano in eruption. In Sabian Symbols in Astrology, Marc Edmund Jones writes:

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 reported the details of McCain’s threatening diagnosis (11);

“McCain was scheduled for a regular physical on Friday, July 14, 2017,  at the  Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Arizona. The brain scan, that McCain had undergone during his physical, had discovered something. He underwent surgery several hours later. And then a few days later, it was revealed that the blood clot was a primary brain tumor.”

During the discovery of the brain tumor, the fast-moving planets identified the timing of this event and linked the nuances of activity with the greater development of the slower celestial bodies. The swift movers fill in the details as the outer orbiting planets create the base-note foundation of experience.

Before the diagnosis of cancer on July 14, 2017, were several developing aspects involving the Sharp Destiny. Progressed Saturn was retrograding toward the closure of the five-degree aspect gap it had with natal Jupiter at birth, and at the same time was tightening its opposition with natal Neptune. Transit Saturn was also retrograding toward a station, that in the following month, would square its natal position within one degree. Transit Uranus was in a tight square with natal Pluto, and transit Neptune’s subtle effects were operating through an opposition to its own natal location. These compelling Dynamic aspects, to and from powerful outer planets, point to the seriousness of events, as they made an impact on the native’s health at the time.

Looking at the finer details of Dynamic charting, are the very effective and developing transit-to-progressed aspects of import. When McCain was informed of his rare and aggressive cancer, transit Pluto was retrograde, and moving to meet with the progressed Moon at the exact same degree and minute, 18 Capricorn 1. Also, at the time of the diagnosis, the speedier transit of Mars was approaching a conjunction with natal Pluto. Thirteen months later, on August 28, 2018, the same Mars would station-direct in exact opposition to Pluto, announcing the native’s passing that took place four days earlier. Mars’ potent forces joined the overall buildup of the slower orbiting planets, and all gave warning of the impending fatality of the illness.


Ironically, at the time of McCain’s advancing illness, the Affordable Care Act was under scrutiny in the Senate. McCain’s own health concerns alerted him to make a profound statement by voting to defeat the bill to repeal the ACA. McCain’s thumbs-down vote was the decisive factor that resulted in the law’s continuance, although he had a history of disdain for it.(12)

Peter W. Stevenson from the Washington Post, relays the nuances of the historic congressional vote.

“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.”(13)

The planetary configurations in the early hours of July 28th, just two weeks after his devastating diagnosis and surgery, were similar to those that were active during events on July 14th. Additionally, progressed Mars was in close conjunction with natal Mercury, giving impetus to take decisive initiative as a result of serious thought to the issue at hand. The maverick politician made the difficult decision “hard” aspects propose, and voted against what his fellow Republicans favored. His conscious concern on behalf of average Americans can be traced to the influence of the Sharp Destiny that solidified his commitment to his high ideals. He demonstrated his devotion to the welfare of others through the protest-vote against what he deemed a renegade Congress and administration.

McCain’s health was continually challenged throughout his life. He suffered permanent injuries from being tortured, had recurring bouts of skin cancer, and was finally diagnosed with the cancer that took his life. The Sabian Symbols have already proven to be revealing when pointing to McCain’s “volcanic” temper. Here again, they are highlighted, this time by Uranus at 9 Taurus 30, in the degree of A Red Cross nurse, as another example of the remarkable concurrence between symbolic imagery and actuality.

Like Jupiter, Uranus is also Point Focus, because it is the squaring participant of a T-Cross with the Moon and Mars in opposition. When in Point Focus, a Sabian Symbol’s meaning is amplified. A Red Cross nurse articulates clearly, the ideals McCain embraced and expressed in so many concerns during his life, including the now-legendary thumbs down vote that gave longevity to the ACA as established during the Obama administration.

Uranus 10 Taurus,

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 the 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 worthwhile 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.


The Sabian Symbols examined thus far, have illustrated McCain’s outer persona as well as his deeper stirrings. A volcano in eruption points to his turbulent temperament while A Red Cross nurse celebrates his empathy toward others. Surprisingly, there are several nautical images that literally speak of the native’s naval background. The three symbols with brief comments are below. The degrees are rounded up to the following degree.

Moon, 3 Aquarius:

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 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.

Though never a deserter, the Moon’s degree, alludes to the time when McCain was a P.O.W. The symbol reflects his impassioned refusal, to surrender to the communist dogma he witnessed in the autocratic North Vietnamese regime. The symbol’s original version, from Jones’s 1925 mimeographed series, expresses the degree in more detail; A deserter from the navy stands suddenly aware of the dawning truth, that freedom is never the result of compromise. McCain held to his integrity and resisted any compromise with the enemy while in prison, and again, later, when in contention with his peers on the floor of Congress.

The second symbol to review is An old sea captain rocking, and it is extraordinary because it mirrors the native’s actual rank in the navy. McCain retired as a captain in 1981, but maintained a longing to return to Vietnam, to come to terms with the trauma of his once harrowing internment.

Mars, 13 Leo:

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 is 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 old sea-captain’s wish was fulfilled in April 2000, when he arrived in Hanoi, to review his past, and assist in the reconciliation, of the two governments that had been at war decades prior. He told reporters at an airport news conference, “I put the Vietnam War behind me a long time ago . . . I harbor no anger, no rancor.”(14) It was his “capacity for calling up afresh, the powers he gained through struggle,” as cited in the symbol, that gave him the fortitude to overcome justifiable resentments he held toward his prosecutors.

The 3rd and last maritime symbol to discuss is established by elevated Jupiter. Its influence is outstanding because of Jupiter’s distinction as both Point and High Focus and because of its participation in the all-important Sharp Destiny.  The symbol speaks of McCain’s unrelenting ambition which was fulfilled by his political career.

Jupiter, 16 Sagittarius:

Seagulls 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 overall 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.


John McCain died of brain cancer on August 25, 2018, just four days before his 82nd birthday. Referring to the title of McCain’s book, Character is Destiny.(15) Democrat, and former Vice President 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 continued,  “He lived by a code where honor, courage, integrity, and 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.   Biden’s words paraphrase Jones, as they express the Jupiter-Saturn square’s positive encouragement to, “fight continually for ideals, and to tear oneself apart on behalf of a cause of real significance.”

The most significant astrological event, at the time of McCain’s passing, is shown in the ephemeris for 1936. Counting 82 days after birth shows progressed Saturn had arrived to station direct at 15 Pisces 47. The station in real-time was exact on December 19, 2017, and corresponds to the diagnosis of the native’s illness five months previously, and with the death that resulted eight months later. A liberal time allowance is given to ultra-slow stations when pairing them with earthly events.

Progressed stations are powerful, and are indicators of life-changing experiences. But their significance intensifies, when in tight aspect with natal planets. In this unique case, Saturn’s station emphasized the completion of its square with natal Jupiter, and became the high point of the Sharp Destiny’s promise; signaling the last opportunity for the aspect to express its deep meaning. McCain had gained mastery over the destined square, that “followed” him throughout the years. In acknowledgment of the good reputation he worked so hard to achieve, he was given the rare honor, to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. It was the decision of congressional leaders from both parties, calling McCain, “a great American patriot, a statesman, who put his country first, and enriched this institution through many years of service.”

In his youth, McCain was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s protagonist in the 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, (16) which sourced its title from the 17th-century poem by John Donne, wherein the poet professes the vital interconnectedness of society;

“Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

McCain revisited the story numerous times during his life, as it presented a complex war of ideologies with which he easily identified. It paralleled his own experience, and became the seed of his growing embrace of a cause greater than himself, that came in the form of American values and probity of spirit.

McCain writes his parting words in his last book The Restless Wave:

“The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay ‘apart of the main.‘ I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life, lived in imperfect service, to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world.”(17)

The Sharp Destiny endowed John McCain with the “right stuff” to become the hero and role model for which he is ultimately known. The bravery he demonstrated as a naval airman and captive, and in his public service thereafter, are a testament and encouragement for future generations of Americans of both political persuasions to aim for their highest aspirations.

“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 Sidney McCain III



Chart Data – Chart wheels sourced through Matrix WinStar 6.0 software. Tropical, Placidus Houses.

John McCain, August 29, 1936, 6:25 PM, Colon, Panama – Rodden Rating AA, BC/BR in hand.

Capture by the North Vietnamese, October 26, 1967, 12:48 PM, Hanoi, Vietnam. Online resource, See:

Release from prison, March 14, 1973.

Cancer Diagnosis, July 14, 2017, 8:00 AM, Scottsdale, Arizona. Doctor’s appointment. See:

Affordable Care Act – Repeal Vote, July 28, 2017, 1:30 AM, Washington, D. C… See:

Date of death, August 25, 2018, 4:28 PM, Cornville, Arizona. See sidebar:

References and Notes (Online references accessed August to December 2018)

1., The Problematic Things Senator McCain Has Done During His 35-year Career in Politics, See: ttps://

2., Three flight accidents, See:

3. and, McCain’s flight record, October 6, 2008, See: and

4. Marc Edmund Jones, The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood, Washington, first edition 1960, p. 125.

5. The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, the Jupiter-Saturn square p. 125; conjunction p. 122; opposition, p. 124; sextile, p.127; trine, p. 126; no major aspect, p. 123.

6. Dynamic aspects are transits and progressions to the natal chart, including planetary stations.

7., McCain’s account of the times before his release, See:

8. Marc Edmund Jones, Astrology, How and Why it Works, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood, Washington, first edition 1955, p. 308.

9. Marc Edmund Jones, The Sabian Symbols in Astrology, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood, Washington, first edition 1953.

10. Excerpt remarks: Rhode Island Democrat, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, C-SPAN2, 8/28/18; Illinois Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin, C-SPAN2, 8/28/18; Nebraska Republican, Senator Ben Sasse, C-SPAN2, 8/28/18.

11., Aug 26, 2018, See:

12., McCain’s history on health care, See:

13., The ACA Senate vote, See:

14., McCain’s return visit to Vietnam, April 25, 2000, See:—hails-dawning-of-a-new-era.html

15. John McCain, Character is Destiny, Penguin Random House LLC, October 25, 2005.

16. Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, October 21, 1940.

17. John McCain, The Restless Wave, Published by Simon & Schuster, May 22, 2018.


One thought on “Challenge of a Sharp Destiny – John McCain – 1936 – 2018

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