Ludwig Wittgenstein is a paradigm example of an evolved Taurus
[Excerpted from my book Signs of the Zodiac: Clothing of the Self
Wittgenstein was arguably the most influential philosopher of the Twentieth Century. He was an intellectual giant who had the utterly dominating personality that some Taureans are fated to live through and others cursed to live with. [Other prominent examples are Hitler and Saddam Hussein.] Wittgenstein’s tortured character, with it’s implacable shadow qualities, illustrates the truth of archetypal psychologist James Hillmans view of the force of character: ‘Some of what is meant by force of character is the persistence of .. traits you can’t fix, can’t hide, and can’t accept. Resolutions, therapy, conversion, the hearts contrition in old age – nothing prevails against them, not even prayer .. Character is indeed a force that cannot succumb to willpower or be reached by grace.’
The dogmatic, unyielding quality of Taurus was deeply rooted in Wittgenstein. He couldn’t bear to be wrong and when convinced that he understood something, nothing would convince him to the contrary. For example, when fellow Taurean philosopher, Bertrand Russell, his initial mentor and later colleague, arranged for him to be tutored by a leading Cambridge logician, that logician ironically observed, ‘at our first meeting he was teaching me’. At a later point Russell told Wittgenstein ‘he ought not simply to state what he thinks true, but to give arguments for it,’ but Wittgenstein rejoined, ‘arguments spoil its beauty, and that he would feel as if he was dirtying a flower with muddy hands.’
The extremity of his ‘passion and vehemence’ and ‘arrogant inability to listen’ is indicated by these comments on his teaching style at Cambridge: ‘When Wittgenstein interrogated one of his students on a philosophical point, the nearest equivalent was the Spanish Inquisition. [He] had a personality of such domineering power that he reduced his audience to a state of terror.’ And students were not the only ones to attract his wrath, for ‘he would monopolize discussions at the weekly meetings of the Philosophical Club, aggressively destroying the arguments of professors and undergraduates alike.’
His was ‘daemonic genius at its purest – aspiring to the heights, yet living in shadow, driven to the point where it was all but out of control,’ liable to take extreme offence over trifles. For example, whilst travelling with a young friend, David Pinsent his biographer recounts: ‘When Pinsent stopped to take a photograph of the scenery, or even spoke to someone else on the train, this would provoke an emotional outburst, followed by a long fit of the sulks.’ The biographer comments ‘it is difficult to gauge how much this stemmed from Wittgenstein’s overriding need to dominate, and how much was due to lover’s jealousy [or other unspoken conflicts arising from his unspoken love.]
In significant respects, Wittgenstein’s life pattern and philosophy parallels that of the Buddha. [See end of this chapter for the Buddha.] He was born into great wealth and brought up in a palace in an exclusive part of Vienna, educated by private tutors in an atmosphere of cultural riches. He turned away from this life completely however to pursue philosophy, at one point spending two years in total solitude in an isolated part of Norway, attempting to discover a foundation for logic itself. He brought to the practice of philosophy the attitude that ‘one must understand or die’ – and a corresponding contempt for those for whom it meant anything less. Also, he gave away his inherited fortune to pursue a life of Tolstoyan simplicity, having converted to Christianity after reading Tolstoy’s The Gospels in Brief during the 1st World War.
His philosophy, at least the first phase of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, parallels the Buddha’s in its rejection of metaphysical speculation and mystical overtones. The Tractatus is an attempt to delineate what we can talk about in a meaningful manner, to ‘try to say what can in fact only be shown.’ God falls into the category of things which cannot be spoken about. ‘There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.’ And he concludes the Tractatus with the mystic’s familiar refrain: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”