Canada’s most famous poet is a man of mystery, mysticism and mistresses. Over the course of his life he’s enjoyed a varied career as poet, novelist, songwriter and performer. He’s rubbed shoulders with literati, generals, filmmakers, Zen masters and Hollywood actresses. Does it get any more eclectic than this?
Cohen was born September 21st, 1934, at 6:45am in Montreal. His father ran a clothing store and upon his death left Cohen a trust fund that allowed him some financial independence. He first made his name on the Canadian literary scene as a poet and novelist, but when neither earned him any money, he turned his talents to songwriting, where he found his niche.
Cohen has two Mahapurusha Yogas. Bhadra Yoga is created by Mercury in its own sign in the ascendant, Sasa Yoga by Saturn in its own sign in the 5th house. Each is independently strengthened, Mercury gaining dig bala (directional strength) in the 1st, Saturn being retrograde.
Bhadra Yoga exemplies an archetype: Mercurial nature, brainy, observant, analytical, clever with words, but also ambivalent, calculating and detached. Calling him a wordsmith is an understatement; essentially he has been a man of ideas – spiritual, secular and sexual – using his pen as a mighty sword.
Sasa Yoga offers another archetype: Saturnine nature, introspective, philosophical, spiritual, but also depressive and reclusive. Occurring in the 5th house, which rules both mind and spiritual nature, Saturn invokes a certain Spartan ethic. Indeed, Cohen spent several early years as a relative recluse in the Greek islands, and from the 1970s onward was deeply engaged in Zen Buddhism.
Over the years Cohen was romantically linked with many famous women, eg, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Rebecca de Mornay, but he says cowardice and fear prevented him from marrying his longtime partner, artist Suzanne Elrod, with whom he had two children.
His prospects for longstanding primary relationships are not strong. The 7th house lord Jupiter is ordinary in the 2nd house, aspected by malefics Mars and Saturn. The 7th house itself is aspected by malefics Sun and Saturn. Venus, karaka of love, is in the 12th house, a dusthana.
He has struggled with depression for most of his life. Saturn is powerful in its own sign in the 5th house (the mind), joined by the malefic (and deranging) Rahu, and aspected by a debilitated Mars. The Moon is in the 6th house in a sign of Saturn.
Spirituality is a major theme. An observant Jew with priests among his ancestors, he has consistently interwoven spirituality into his writings, referring to many of his poems and songs as “prayers”. One of his novels, Beautiful Losers, explored the themes of Mohawk Indian mysticism. Cohen became involved in Zen Buddhism in the 1970s, spent five years in a monastery in the 90s, and was ordained a Zen monk.
In the powerful 5th house, Saturn associated with Rahu invokes both the minimalism and “foreign” aspect of Zen Buddhism. The 9th lord Venus is gone to the 12th, suggesting mentors and gurus encountered in retreats and/or foreign locales. The 12th lord Sun, itself a karaka for the spirit, is exactly upon the ascendant.
Saturn dasa began in 1962, marking an era of dedicated craftsmanship, often in seclusion, to his writing. He moved to the USA in 1967 (Mercury bhukti) to pursue his new profession as singer and songwriter. His stature grew throughout the 70s, a combination of influences including the use of his music in Hollywood films and his collaboration with other artists to develop a new sound for his music.
Mercury dasa began in 1981, a prolific period that extended through the 90s. He got more involved in film, and made increasing use of video clips as new media to promote his work. He segued into a new musical mode epitomized by the album I’m Your Man, and saw at least one aspect of his social conscience (Mercury also rules the 10th, ie, social status) materialize when some of his work was adopted as torch songs by the Polish Solidarity movement.
He retreated to the Mount Baldy Zen Center near LA in 1994, during Jupiter bhukti, and in the following bhukti of his powerful Saturn, was ordained as a Zen monk, adopting the name Jikan, meaning “silence”. He remained in seclusion for five years, well into his Ketu dasa.
Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury dasas ran sequentially, and all delivered the results of Mars, whose nakshatras they occupied. Debilitated Mars in the 11th house owns the 3rd and 8th houses, both dusthanas (destroyers) thus characterizing “mis-adventures”, which can be correlated with his recurrent themes of infidelity and betrayal, depression, social injustice, war, and a lifelong predilection for the underdog, the “beautiful loser.”
The following dasa of moksha karaka Ketu (associated with Mars, aspected by Saturn in its nakshatra) saw a further extension of the same themes – creative work suffused with spirituality. Unfortunately, during the dasa of Ketu, aka “the headless one”, Cohen also lost sight of some vital worldly matters.
Immediately with the onset of Venus dasa, Cohen discovered that his longtime former manager had misappropriated $5 million (97%) of his retirement fund. Note that Venus is lord of the 2nd gone to the 12th, a clear indicator of financial loss. Although Cohen fought and won a civil suit, and was awarded $9 million, his former manager refused to disclose her financial records, the end result being that Cohen might never be able to collect the awarded amount.
To quote Cohen from one of his songs, “I’ve seen the future, brother, and it is murder.”