Six Lessons from Bruce Lee’s Astrology and Philosophy
As the catalyst who brought martial arts into the mainstream, Bruce Lee resides in our hearts as a legend whose physical prowess was only matched by his philosophical wisdom. In examining his life and ideas, we’re motivated to achieve the fullest expression of ourselves, too. In gleaning Bruce Lee’s astrological chart, we can gain deeper understanding of his greatness, and are inspired to seek such greatness within ourselves.
Sagittarius Sun, Sagittarius Rising
Both Bruce Lee’s sun and rising were in the happy-go-lucky sign of Sagittarius. He often spoke of the importance of optimism: “Choose the positive,” he advised. “You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.” The optimistic lens through which he viewed life allowed him to not be a victim, but to leverage whatever happened to him: “To hell with circumstances, he said. “I create opportunities!”
Even when he hurt his back which put him out of commission — a devastating fate to a devout martial artist — he was able to turn such a negative into a positive: “Sure, my back screwed me up good for a year, but with every adversity comes a blessing because a shock acts as a reminder to oneself that we must not get stale in routine. Look at a rainstorm; after its departure everything grows!”
Further, he kept negative thoughts at bay, never allowing circumstances to damage his self-image or determine his fate: “Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality,” he said, asserting that no matter what blows we get in life, we cannot be defeated unless we deem ourselves so. It would seem Lee perceived difficulties as par for the course — a necessary ingredient in building one’s character. He once said, “I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.” Here, we see that Lee was so optimistic, that he was able to view even the tragedies of his past as stepping stones for his future.
Additionally, Bruce Lee’s optimistic Sagittarian mindset kept him from dwelling on misfortune or any other unhelpful thoughts; he kept in motion, moving toward his goals: “So, action! Action! Never wasting energy on worries and negative thoughts.” Here, we see that action is the antidote to discouragement; before a worry or negative thought has a chance to take hold, if we can just take action to move us forward, we’ll move past the problem and into the realm of the solution.
It was perhaps his optimistic belief in himself that allowed him to achieve all he did in just 32 years. He encourages us to not only be optimistic, but to maintain an optimistic view of ourselves: “One will never get any more than he thinks he can get,” he said. Here, we see how belief in one’s self is prerequisite to making anything possible.
IT’S ALL IN YOUR [SUBCONSCIOUS] MIND
Sun in the 12th House
With his sun in the 12th House of the Subconscious, Bruce Lee knew the power of the mind to create reality. He probably trained his mind just as well as he trained his body, making it automatically react the way he wanted it to. He once said, “The mind is like a fertile garden — it will grow anything you wish to plant — beautiful flowers or weeds. And so it is with successful, healthy thoughts or negative ones that will, like weeds, strangle and crowd the others. Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind for they are the weeds that strangle confidence.” We, too, can create a gorgeous reality for ourselves — beautiful flowers that bloom — if we can train our minds to only entertain compatible thoughts. If we consistently keep our focus on what we want to see, optimism will become an automatic response, as quick as a block that comes when an opponent strikes.
With his sun in the 12th House, he was able use his conscious mind to inform his subconscious and implement the thoughts he wanted to think, and he did this religiously. Taking a note from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, in his notes he wrote, “Reorganizing the influence of my subconscious mind over my power of will, I shall take care to submit to it a clear and definite picture of my major purpose in life and all minor purposes leading to my major purpose, and I shall keep this picture constantly before my subconscious mind by repeating it daily!” By submitting (another 12th house theme) to his “clear and definite purpose,” Lee made familiar to his subconscious mind what he wanted to accomplish, so that his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors created an automatic response aligned with his vision. We, too, can commit to the daily practice of impregnating our subconscious minds with our ideals, helping us to believe they are possible. “If you think a thing is impossible,” he said, “you’ll only make it impossible.” The inverse is also true: if we think a thing is possible, we will make it possible.
Further, it would seem he took 100% responsibility for all of his circumstances, reaffirming his ability to create his reality. He believed that whatever happens in life is a result of one’s thoughts. In an interview when asked about raising his son, he said, “I will also teach Brandon that everyone — no matter who he is or where — must know from childhood that whatever occurs, does not happen if the occurrence isn’t allowed to come into the mind.” Lee understood that anything that happens corresponds to one’s thinking, wanting to incentivize his son to entertain only the best thoughts.
FOLLOW THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
Scorpio Stellium, Sun in the 12th House con’t
Bruce Lee fans are familiar with his “Be Like Water” quote, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that he had more water in his astrological chart than any other element. What’s interesting is that the water in Bruce Lee’s chart comes from his stellium (3+ planets) in the sign of Scorpio. Scorpio is “fixed” water — consistent and solid, akin to the quality of ice; it’s not flowing, yielding and flexible, as Lee told us to be. His teaching, “be like water,” may be testament of how we can only teach the lessons we need to learn: With so much Scorpio in his chart, it’s likely that he was naturally resistant and stubborn, a my-way-or-the-highway control freak like anyone [most likely] with four planets in Scorpio. He even admitted, “I have a sure-fire temper, man.” He understood that his emotions, if not properly harnessed, would not serve him: “Recognizing that my positive and negative emotions may be dangerous if they are not controlled and guided to desirable ends, I will submit all my desires, aims, and purposes to my faculty of reason, and I will be guided by it in giving expression to these.” Further, Bruce Lee deliberately ensured his carnal Scorpionic impulses were controlled because he knew they were not always reasonable and therefore wouldn’t lead him to his aims.
His Scorpio stellium notwithstanding, Bruce Lee’s ability to “be like water” is more reminiscent of his watery 12th House sun, which is about surrendering, letting go, and the dissolving of the ego. “The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be,” he said. In learning how to succeed as a martial artist, he learned how to succeed in life: “Everything you do, if not in a relaxed state will be done at a lesser level than you are proficient. Thus the tensed expert marksman will aim at a level less than his/her student.” It was this yielding that Lee mastered that, like water itself, permeated most of his teachings. It may have been his watery essence, too, which allowed him to achieve his goals — he was like water, able to go anywhere: “Water may seem to move in contradiction, even uphill, but it chooses any way open to it so that it may reach the sea,” he said. “It may flow swiftly, or it may flow slowly, but its purpose is inexorable, its destiny sure.” In being like water, Lee was able to attain his ends and maximize his potential.
THERE IS NO OPPONENT
Scorpio is the most intense sign of the zodiac, ruling the life areas of sex, death, and transformation. Scorpio is such a formidable, fierce sign because they’ve been through hell and back, and very little could be as severe as from whence they came. With Lee’s moon in Scorpio, it’s likely he experienced intensity from birth. It would seem so, his parents fearing his death. Fearful of spirits killing their son, Lee’s parents tried to confuse the spirits by originally giving him a girl’s name (the spirits only attacked males).
Further, Scorpio relates to emotional trauma, and emotion is symbolized by water. In his youth, after Lee jokingly pushed his sister Phoebe’s head under water, she retaliated by doing the same — except she held his head under the water longer. After this traumatic experience, it’s said that Lee never went into a swimming pool again. It’s interesting how this would indicate Lee had a fear of water, which he overcame by being like water.
This notion of becoming like the adversary is not only reflected in Lee’s relationship with water, but with those he fought, too. When describing his fighting he once said, “When the opponent expands I contract and when he contracts, I expand.” Here, we see how Bruce Lee became one with his opponent — his other half, the yin to his opponent’s yang.
In becoming one with water and one with his opponent, Lee sheds light on another truth: We are one with everything and therefore, there is nothing to fight but that which is within ourselves. Plainly, “There is no opponent,” he once said. Thus, fear of water is fear of one’s emotion, just as fear of an opponent is fear of one’s self. By dissolving the ego and perceiving ourselves as one with everything, we find that all of life’s battles are within; therefore, if all battles are within ourselves they are within our realm of control. Life, therefore, becomes an exercise of self-mastery; it’s about killing off the fearful aspects of ourselves and surrendering to our at-one-ness with everyone and everything — the universe.
STAY TRUE TO YOUR VISION
Mars Opposite Jupiter
Mars is how we fight and Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. Though Jupiter rules luck, expansion, wisdom, and wealth, it’s named after the king of the gods, and can also denote forces bigger than ourselves. The configuration of Lee’s Mars opposing Jupiter shows his destiny to be pitted against forces much larger than himself. This proved itself to true throughout his whole life, whether he was fighting men twice his size or contending with high-power entities like Warner Brothers.
Lee had a very strong vision for Enter the Dragon. He wanted the movie to be a vehicle for his philosophy and the producers tried to ignore his ideas. Once shooting was supposed to begin in Hong Kong, Lee was unhappy; he didn’t want to shoot the film until the script was right. He insisted on a finished script before shooting, while the producers didn’t want to wait, thinking the script was fine. He felt that if they didn’t get the script right, it wouldn’t lead to the results he had envisioned. The producers wouldn’t even listen to him.
Lee knew that he was an essential part of the movie — the star and choreographer — so he held up production, refusing to come to set. Having a Warner Brothers’ crew and A-list actors hanging around not shooting was extremely costly and must have put producers in a tailspin. But Lee didn’t care. Even though the stakes were high, even though he had been waiting his whole life for this opportunity, he didn’t buckle to the powers much greater than himself. According to his wife, Linda, he was prepared to walk away: “Bruce was saying if they’re not even going to consider what I’ve done, well, sayonara. We’re done here.” The impasse went on for a couple of weeks, until finally the producers budged and listened to Bruce, and production got underway. The producers then objected to Bruce’s desired name for the movie, “Enter the Dragon,” but Bruce got his way with that, too. This “David and Goliath” story should inspire us all: “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man,” he once said. “But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.” Through this anecdote, we see no matter how big the forces against us may be, victory is possible with the right mindset.
The midheaven in astrology shows one’s pinnacle of success — the greatest contribution one can make to the world. With Bruce Lee’s midheaven in Virgo, his legacy shows us the importance of hard work, simplicity and excellence. He created Jeet Kune Do, a system of martial arts not fixed, patterned, or complicated but guided by philosophical ideas. His Jeet Kune Do allowed practitioners to fully express themselves through their bodies; Virgo, an earth sign, is very much concerned with the efficient functioning and health of the human body. Further, Virgo finds themselves in the work they do, and Jeet Kune do fully supports the exploring and understanding of one’s truest self.
Typical of Virgo is neatness and order — having nothing around that doesn’t serve some practical purpose. Bruce Lee encourages us to “hack away at the unessential” —that “it’s not the daily increase but daily decrease” that’s important. Through Bruce’s influence, we can fine-tune our lives, Virgo-like, editing out the unessential thoughts, behaviors and activities that don’t serve us in some practical way. In daily decrease, we are able to find our truest selves. He once said, “In building a statue, a sculptor doesn’t keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiseling away at the nonessentials until the truth of his creation is revealed without obstruction.”
In addition to being ambitious, Bruce Lee saw the work he did as an end unto itself. It was important for him to have a purpose as to maximize his potential. He once said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” This alludes to another Virgo attribute: focusing on the process — focusing on the work — and committing to it without lust for result. Process-oriented and patient, Virgos don’t rush to the finish line; they enjoy their process, which often is what makes their work so good. In this vein, Bruce teaches us to stay in the now and focus on the process: “The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.” Here, Lee reminds us to not focus on the result but to stay in the now, allowing the universe to orchestrate the rest. He relieves pressure on his predecessors, advising them to simply do their best: “Success means doing something sincerely and wholeheartedly.”
Finally, when it comes to Virgo, producing quality work is what they’re known for. They don’t take shortcuts; they’re prudent, dedicated and meticulous. Bruce cared much about such things: “What I honestly value more than anything else is quality: doing one’s best in the manner of the responsibility and craftsmanship of a Number One.” Here, Bruce asserts that one should act like the best — be responsible like the best and act like a craftsman of the highest caliber. Clearly, he did this: He acted like a Number One, and in the world he was Number One.