The pragmatist philosopher William James was a Capricorn superhero. Sun, Moon, North Node, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, all in Capricorn. He spent most of his life suicidally depressed, which, if you look at his chart, you just think ouch and get it. But then he became a philosopher of great wisdom. And his philosophy is super-Cap — all about how to live your life and experience things, how to be pragmatic and human without the weight of the world smushing you.
So here is a selection of super Capricorn William James saying incredibly Capricorn things.
On the need for work, and steeling one’s self against your emotions (I call it, the “do your taxes even though it makes you want to cry” speech):
“‘Hang your sensibilities! Stop your sniveling complaints, and your equally sniveling raptures! Leave off your general emotional tomfoolery and get to work like men!’ But this means a complete rupture with the subjectivist philosophy of things. It says conduct, and not sensibility, is the ultimate fact for our recognition. With the vision of certain works to be done, of certain outward changes to be wrought or resisted, it says our intellectual horizon terminates. No matter how we succeed in doing these outward duties, whether gladly and spontaneously, or heavily and unwillingly, do them we somehow must; for the leaving of them undone is perdition. No matter how we feel; if we are only faithful in the outward act and refuse to do wrong, the world will so far be safe, and we quit of our debt towards it. Take, then, the yoke upon our shoulders; bend our neck beneath the heavy legality of its weight; regard something else than our feelings as our limit, our master, our law; be willing to live and die in its service.”
On the Capricorn cloud:
“The attitude of unhappiness is not only unhappy is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation.”
On Saturn’s benefits:
“Some men and women, indeed, there are who can live on smiles and the word ‘yes’ forever. But for others (indeed for most), this is too tepid and relaxed a moral climate. Passive happiness is slack and inspid, and soon grows mawkish and intolerable. Some austerity and wintry negativity, some roughness, danger, stringency, and effort, some ‘no! no!’ must be mixed in, to produce the sense of an existence with character and texture and power.”
On restriction and deprivation as a virtue:
“Among us English-speaking peoples, especially do the praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise any one who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant: the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are or do and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly — the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape.”
On experience over philosophy:
“Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.”
And, finally, about death:
“What do you think of yourself? What do you think of the world? These are questions with which all must deal as it seems good to them. They are riddles of the Sphinx, and in some way or other we must deal with them. In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap into the dark… If we decide to leave the riddles unanswered, that is a choice; if we waver in our answer, that too is a choice: but whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril. If a man chooses to turn his back altogether on God and the future, no one can prevent him; no one can show beyond reasonable doubt that he is mistaken. If a man thinks otherwise and acts as he thinks, I do not see that any one can prove that he is mistaken. Each must act as he thinks best; and if he is wrong, so much the worse for him. We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is a right one. What must be do? ‘Be strong and of good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”
Jessa Crispin is the editor of Bookslut.com and Spoliamag.com. She is a tarot card reader, specializing in issues with creativity and writing. For more information, go here. Her first book, The Dead Ladies Project, about love and travel and art, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago, October 2015.
Image: Olaf Hajek