Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Astrology of Disintegration

One of the things that I find so fascinating about the Cure's 1989 album, Disintegration, is it's close correlation to the Saturn return period of band leader Robert Smith. I have wanted to write this for some years, particularly after having undergone my own Saturn Return. For those readers who may not be familiar with this more esoteric astrological concept, I will briefly explain.

Saturn Return

Saturn return refers to the point at which the planet Saturn returns to the same location in your chart as when you were born. The astronomical orbit of Saturn is roughly 29.5 years (29.66) in length. So, for instance, if you have Saturn at 23 degrees of the sign of Leo in your natal or birth chart, then at some point, roughly between the ages of 28-30, it will return to this same degree of the same sign. The discrepancy between the astronomical orbit of Saturn and the astrological degrees is due to astrology taking into account periods of retrograde motion, where the planet appears to move backwards in relation to the movement of the Earth. So in astrology, we say that your Saturn return relates more to the precise degree of the sign than to the physical orbit.

The years between 28-30 are the first return period in most people's lives, but if you are of particularly long-lived genetic material, you may experience up to three complete Saturn cycles in your life. Although many people can feel the effects of Saturn return beginning up to 2 years in advance and continuing for up to 2 years afterward, generally speaking the time within 18 months immediately surrounding the 29th birthday is the most intense period of change, with the entire 3-year cycle from 27-30 encompassing the majority of the transformation.

Saturn the planet is known in astrology as the Teacher, the Taskmaster and the Disciplinarian. Well, that doesn't sound like any fun at all, does it? The lessons of Saturn are generally among the most difficult in life, and yet paradoxically, these can be the most rich, rewarding and long-lasting of lessons should we be lucky enough to master them and work through the Saturn Return period of our lives with integrity and honesty. Saturn Return can be a painful and bittersweet time of transition, where we lose much of what we knew of before and struggle to be reborn as our true selves. Many people experience a process of being stripped to the core, where all of our masks are torn away and we must retreat into ourselves for an extended amount of introspection and meditation.

Saturn removes the illusions surrounding all of our thoughts and feelings. Relationships may be thrown into a new light, as we finally begin to see those around us as they truly are, including ourselves. It is as though our whole lives before this time have been spent creating a cocoon of our own making, a safe and yet self-limiting space where we do not see outside of ourselves very well. Then, when we finally do break free of the cocoon we emerge sparkling new, different, much more complete and infinitely more beautiful than we were before.

Robert Smith's Chart

I have not been able to turn up a confirmed time of birth for Robert Smith, so the chart that I have done relies on my experience as an astrologer in order to determine his time of birth. I have not done a thorough chart rectification in order to determine an exact time of birth, so the following is merely speculation, based on a cursory rectification that uses his marriage date and the major album release dates as significant events. I have also included his family's move in March of 1966 as a relocation event. Using the Solar arc progression of year-for-a-day, I have tentatively identified his birth time based on these events as 11:08 am, on April 21st, 1959 in Blackpool, UK.

>>Download the chart here (pdf)

In this chart, Robert's Saturn falls at 7 degrees of Capricorn in retrograde, and the birth time of 11:08 am would place the planet in the 6th house. The 6th house is known both as the house of health as well as the house of how we work. With Saturn in it's native sign of Capricorn, the experience of Robert's Saturn return is that it was most likely an intense period of adjustment with lots of very strong lessons about duty, responsibility, mortality, dealing with the harsh realities of life, and the pain that can come along with those lessons. One's career is of ultimate importance to those with Saturn in Capricorn, and they have a deep desire to invest everything into being successful. Natives of this aspect also find it very difficult to delegate responsibility, and this is borne out in the making of Disintegration, as we shall see.

With Saturn in the 6th house, Robert may also have experienced some health issues that intensified his feelings of mortality, and may have come to the conclusion that he needed to change or improve his habits in order to live a longer and healthier life. A retrograde Saturn very often points to issues of dealing with authority figures, so he may have felt that he was on the receiving end of a lot of undue criticism from people who were in a position of power in his life, such as record label executives or others who affected the way he worked. He may have had to come to terms philosophically with his day-to-day work of being a musician as being his job, and may have had to impose or increase the amount of organization on his life which may have not been there as much in the past. Saturn in the 6th house calls us to impose order on chaos, and to create a reliable, steady routine that allows us to flourish.

Finally, in Never Enough: The Story of The Cure by Jeff Apter, Robert is quoted on page 233 as saying that the album is directly influenced by "the fact that I was going to be thirty". Most of the time, the influences of Saturn Return are so powerful in an individual's experience that they are felt and acknowledged even by those who do not possess a belief, or even knowledge of the aspect.


Many sources, articles and interviews of the time mention that Robert had gone into a deep depression following the Kissing Tour of 1987. While the Cure had just completed a sold-out global tour and had released a very commercially successful album with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, as the tour came to a close, the band was in a state of chaos and upheaval. Relations with Robert's childhood friend Lol Tolhurst had become very difficult due to his increasing alcohol abuse, and Roger O'Donnell had been brought into the band in order to have a functional keyboard player within the group. Robert had gotten his first real taste of global pop super-stardom, and was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the accompanying demands and difficulties. As Robert approached his 29th birthday in April of 1988, he had isolated himself in a flat with his fiancee, Mary Poole, and was reportedly dealing with his depression through increasing amounts of LSD.

It was during this time that Robert began to work independently on much of the material that would eventually result in the songs on the album Disintegration. He is later quoted as saying "I would have been quite happy to have made these songs on my own. If the group hadn't thought it was right, that would have been fine." To me, this quote clearly presents the idea that the seeds of genius at the heart of Disintegration were being formed in the seething, internal cauldron of chaos and transformation that characterized Robert's mental and emotional processes during his difficult Saturn Return period of 1987-89. The demos which Robert had created independently were shared with the band following his 29th birthday of April, 1988. During the months following, in summer of 1988, the band gathered at drummer Boris Williams' house and recorded the first songs of the album, based on the demos that Robert had previously recorded.

Interestingly, it was after Robert had gone away from the group once more that he again independently wrote the song "Lovesong" as a wedding present for Mary. Robert and Mary were married on August 13th, 1988, not even 4 months after his 29th birthday, and her wedding present became one of the Cure's top selling singles of all time, and their biggest American hit to date. A very strong characteristic of the Saturn Return time-frame is that individuals will either divorce or separate (if already married) or will meet or marry their life partner, so again the timing of the wedding of Robert Smith and Mary Poole is very meaningful in this context.

Intimate relationships that can stand the test of Saturn tend to be stronger and even more committed than before, so again the fact that they have now enjoyed (nearly) twenty years together is significant indeed. Finally, that one of his strongest commercial hits is based upon his love for Mary and was written during this time of intense creativity is also to me, significant.

Disintegration was recorded in Hook End Manor Studios during the fall and winter of 1988, and it was completed with an ever-increasing sense of hostility and isolation within the band. Robert famously barely spoke to the other band members during the recording sessions. During the winter of 1988, the final departure of Robert's childhood friend, Lol falls right in line with the energies of the Saturn return, where everything that is unnecessary or which does not support us in our growth must fall by the wayside.

Fortunately for us, Robert was able to channel many, if not all of the lessons of his Saturn Return into a magnificent masterpiece. Even the name of this album speaks of the effects of the Saturn return upon this artist. It was released on May 12, 1989, just a few weeks after Robert Smith's 30th birthday. Although it was released to some critical acclaim at the time, it is now widely hailed as one of the musical masterpieces of the late 20th century.

The songs on Disintegration embody the lessons of the Saturn Return in an extremely emotional, raw and beautiful way. They capture the entire range of feelings inherent in these turbulent years, from the absolute despair of the understanding of the mortality of existence to the transcendent, eternal love of the soul-mate. From the powerful anger of "Disintegration"( the song) to the soulful howl of "Prayers for Rain", we are captured and carried along on Robert's journey through his long night of the soul. Existential horror resides alongside open anguish, and is contrasted neatly with both the pathos of "Pictures of You" and the cartoonish, mocking, nightmare landscape of "Lullaby".

The themes running through the songs on Disintegration speak to the core of the human experience of love, death, suffering, wonder, deep connection with another soul, the darkness at the heart of joy and the glimmer of hope even in the depths of despair, so it is no wonder that this music has resonated so strongly with so many people since it was released.

Saturn Return and Masterworks

From science (Marie Curie's discovery of radium and polonium) to art (Georgia O'Keefe's first exhibition), from music (Duke Ellington begins to play at the Cotton Club) to literature (Shakespeare becomes head playwright at the Globe), the biographies of influential individuals worldwide abound with evidence of the transformative and powerful time that is the Saturn return. During this time, one's life is decisively and irrevocably changed, and one's future is shaped by the actions, experiences and decisions of the cycle. Astrologer and author Richard Tarnas in his work Cosmos and Psyche calls it a "period of biographical crystallization", and many astrologers consider it to be the final rite of passage into real adulthood.

From the end of 1987 through the subsequent release of Disintegration in 1989, it is clear that Robert underwent a transformative and powerfully life-changing time, and we are indeed fortunate that such a personal transformation has been shared with us in such an immediate and exquisite way.

I'll leave you with a few final words from Robert Smith about this time in his life:

"So it's all come back round to breaking apart again
Breaking apart like I'm made up of glass again
Making it up behind my back again
Holding my breath for the fear of sleep again
Holding it up behind my head again
Cut in deep to the heart of the bone again
Round and round and round
And it's coming apart again
Over and over and over"
-Disintegration (song)

For more information about Saturn Return, you can visit the following links:

Saturn, the 29th Year by Skye Alexander
Saturn, the planet of Karma -
Saturn Return


Julie said...

Interesting post. Disintegration is truly a masterpiece.

Helsabot said...

"Existential horror resides alongside open anguish..."
Wow, interesting read.

Thanks for sharing Rev!

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. I have tried to get Roberts chart before. I think I read in Ten Imaginary years or another cure bio that he was born around 8am. Maybe next time we can ask the man himself!

Anah said...

Rev, thank you. What a wonderful article, eloquently worded and true to the very nature of things.

cure_kitty said...

Great post rev! Very interesting interpretation of Robert & The Cure during the time of Disintegration. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rev, this is great article! This is really creative using astrology and tying it in with the happenings around Disintegration. I feel that I can look more deeply into the meaning of the songs on the album. I also have to really thank you because this piece of information has come at a great time in my life. I have always been into Astrology but have some how never heard of the "Saturn Return" phenomenon. I just turned 30 this year and from year 28 on, has been some of the most life changing events in my life. A major relocation, a major death in the family, a job change, and many small events all leaving me kind of in limbo...I am going to do more research about Saturn Return to see if it can help me further get through this crazy period. Thanks again for your time and efforts in sharing this with us!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is one of the most perfect fan-article I had read!
Can't hardly wait to share this post with my cure friends...Brazilians love this band!!!
PS: I read an interview a fan asked him his birth time, he asnwered 00:13 A.M. but You'll never know...he lies a lot on interviews!!!

lovecat44 said...

Very interesting read, thank you for working on this.

btw my posting code is "reastr"


Unknown said...

Thorough analysis; consise with the flair of informed imagination. I'm commenting a few years after the initial post, but I believe the chart of Robert Smith is still relevant & accurate. Do you currently create charts for anyone (like perhaps me)? I didn't see any outright information on such a request, but I can say I would be delighted to have one done by an individual who is clearly a master of the craft.

Jayme Hinds

Unknown said...

I was intrigued & amazed by this thorough, with a flair of informed imagination, chart created for Robert Smith. I do believe in the influence of astrology upon all aspects of our lives, but I had never heard of the Saturn Return, or it's effects of evaluation & transformation on us. I know I'm commenting a few years after the initial post, but I didn't see any obvious information about having a chart done (for perhaps, myself). You are clearly a eloquent master of the craft, & I would love to know more. I can be contacted at: