The first time I felt a genuine connection between my soul and music was given to me by John Coltrane. In my early 20’s while working the night shift at a supermarket, I found myself with nights off, being wide awake while the rest of the world was in slumber. One hot summer evening I took my Walkman and my new John Coltrane cassette titled OM and started walking downtown around 3:30 am. As if I was guided by some unknown force, I ended up sitting on the steps of a church that I had attended in the past, and I played the cassette. At this point, I had heard maybe 30% of Trane’s music and nothing past A Love Supreme. During the music, I felt a connection to a deeper part of myself that I had never felt before. What I was hearing was beyond any music I had ever experienced. I heard sound from beyond this known sphere of existence. My grandfather was a devout Catholic and sitting on the steps of the church with John Coltrane; I was spiritually awakened for the first time in my life.
Hearing many years later that Trane was on LSD during the recording doesn’t change what happened for me. Reading that he didn’t want it released makes me only grateful that it was. Between hearing OM and seeing Eric Dolphy play with him on a VHS tape that I borrowed from a library shortly after this, my life became devoted to music as something more than itself. Music became a gateway or a bridge to a hidden reality that I knew was there, even if I couldn’t see it. In the music of John Coltrane, you can both hear and feel it.
25 years later, I’m still listening. Although it could happen at some point, I don’t engage the universe with a tenor. I consist of different sounds. Part of my process is also researching the deeper reality that John Coltrane introduced to me during OM. Trane was into astrology himself to a degree naming tunes Equinox, and the 5th House. In Lewis Porter’s great book John Coltrane His Life and Music, he gives us evidence that Coltrane investigated some of his inner aspects, and interpreted that his chart meant he would not live to be very old–a shocking level of spiritual awareness and acceptance. As I did previously with Albert Ayler, I’m investigating John’s chart seeking knowledge as to the spiritual mechanics of life and death as viewed through the aural lens of music. From the other side, I can hear that the true path to the stars is in my own music. Along the way, however, I must take pause. I cannot look away from trying to see what I can hear. As with anything in life, with the astrology below I’m just scratching the surface.
John Coltrane’s Astrology Chart 9/23/26 5pm Hamlet, NC
Amazingly, if John Coltrane were born just 2 hours and 34 minutes earlier, he would be a Virgo, though he technically arrives with the sun in Libra. This pure cusp scenario gives him aspects of both signs, in a highly precise move by the universe. He, in fact, created the ultimate cusp masterpiece. Giant Steps is a genuinely perfect balance of the intellectual work ethic of Virgo combined with the creative and artistic aspect of Libra. Moon in Aries is the fuel for the emotional quality inherent in his music and also the passion behind his drive to incredibly move through such different musical periods so completely. All reports are that when it was time for him to leave Miles he had to keep moving. He had a fire inside and in his music. John’s Pisces Ascendant with Jupiter in Aquarius denotes someone ahead of his time–an innovator concerned with humanistic ideals and social change. A danger of the Pisces aspect is sensitivity and vulnerability to drug use. While John was battling the demons of addiction, he faced far more than physical and mental obstacles. Drugs and alcohol would have put him in danger of being cut off from his spiritual self. Jackie McLean tells a story of seeing him perform while going through withdrawal where he witnessed a man engaged in nothing short of a spiritual war within himself. His triumph over addiction opened a window to an unabashed pursuit of developing a closer relationship with God through music. In the recent Coltrane documentary, we hear more of his trial of survival. Balance in John’s chart is further exemplified with Mercury in Libra and Venus in Virgo, both in the 7th house of partnership with his Sun. His wife Alice was a Virgo. Their deep relationship was literally in the stars.
Saturn (the great teacher/focus) in the 9th House (Higher mind and spirituality) is where we can view some of the deeper realities of John Coltrane. To explore this area I had to turn to Vedic (or Hindu) Astrology. This aspect entails looking beyond all types of boundaries both seen and unseen to try and find a deeper meaning in life overall. In his musical journey, John Coltrane mastered boundaries of sorts, chordal harmony, on a level that nobody ever saw. Having conquered them, he moved beyond them through modality, and finally arrived at a place where the only thing left was his sound and God in direct communion. He had to reach this place that I call making eye contact with God, though John did it with his sound. He had to create newness in his music at all costs in pursuit of higher spiritual knowledge. A spiritual approach was mandated. Saturn enlists the virtue of a tenacious work ethic in pursuit of achieving a limitless potential. Also, Saturn provides power to obliterate any obstacles on the path to spiritual truth. Preachers often are found with Saturn in the 9th house. Saturn further pushed him to attempt to experience the infinite–to experience eternity in the here and now. Through his music with these influences, John Coltrane sought to reach a destination in the future where humanity reaches a place of selflessness and total peace. In summation of this aspect, through the perspective of Vedic astrology John Coltrane was on a musical quest to achieve immortality.
As we did with Albert, we must look at Coltrane’s relationship with Pluto, the most powerful planet in the Zodiac. He had Pluto in Cancer in the 5th House. Here is where we find the full spiritual power that he had within him. Pluto in the 5th house is a soul who must achieve creative actualization. These are people who feel that, and indeed do posses a unique destiny in their life. In the 5th house, your power of expression reaches the maximum level. In his music, John did not run from this uncommon depth of transformative power; he used it. He mastered his instruments to the extent that there were no limits in what he could play, yet he would try to reach brand new and seemingly impossible places with his music right to the end. Pluto in the 5th house is someone who must have a deep or profound purpose in life. The ultimate goal is understanding, acceptance, and application that the person is a channel for the creative force of the universe itself. John Coltrane took his sound into the great mysteries behind the forces of birth, death, and love.
An exploration of some further aspects of John Coltrane’s astrology deepens our picture and is by no means the end, only the beginning. Jupiter in the 12th house is in itself a blessing of a close connection to God. The words of John on the album A Love Supreme are a testament to this. He was fond of the spiritual study of different perspectives, and as he told Frank Kofsky, “I want to be a force that is truly for good.”
I have found at least two essays on the astrology of John Coltrane on the web, which were very helpful. Please check out Aqil who ventures without fear into the astrology of John Coltrane’s death. Nick Dagan Best has written a fascinating exposition of a powerful aspect that John possessed: Jupiter opposite Neptune. Neptune blurs the lines between the human being and higher reality, though it never stopped Coltrane from not just peering behind the clouds, but reaching out into Interstellar Space.
In a session yesterday with Daniel Carter and Bobby Kapp, Bobby told Daniel and I that he received a hug from John Coltrane once, and when it happened, John told Bobby that he drank too much. John had beaten the demons of the bottle and provided encouragement to Bobby who would eventually triumph over drinking as well. John Coltrane truly cared for others and all of humanity. While Albert Ayler was consumed by his relationship with the universe, John Coltrane was on a quest, in fact, a mission, to acquire as much spiritual knowledge as possible. His was a very personal quest with music as his primary vehicle of self-transformation. In transforming himself through music, he left a shining example of what we can create on a path to becoming, or returning, to who and what we truly are. I believe it entirely possible that the only way his mission could continue was for him to leave the physical world as we know it. His music proves that this higher world exists and that there is no reason to fear death.
John Coltrane left us with music that continues to change and transform lives and will continue to do so as long as the sun continues to shine. In doing so, even after his life here ended, his music continues to change the world as a force for good.
There can be no greater achievement.
Dedicated to John Coltrane
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