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From John Chau to Captain Cook: The fatal attractions of Missionaries and other Colonising Zealots. Part Seven: The Curious Case of Michael Rockefeller.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 00:00;
Published in Blog;

In November of 1961, one of the younger scions of the wealthy Rockefeller family, Michael Clark Rockefeller, disappeared somewhere along the coast of Southwest Netherlands New Guinea, as it was then known. He was the youngest son of Nelson Rockefeller who was later to serve as Vice-President to Gerald Ford, and at the time of Michael’s disappearance, was Governor of New York. 

Having served time in the US army, Michael, turned his attention to doing something he himself wanted. He’d completed a business degree and served his country’s military requirements, he knew he would be expected to go into business by his family. (This shows up in his four pillars but more on this shortly.) With an interest in the arts and a taste for adventure, he joined the Harvard Peabody Museum expedition to document and film the Dani cannibals in the Highlands of New Guinea who it was thought were facing distinction. “I want to do something romantic and adventurous in a time and place which is about to disappear”, Michael is reported as having said. 

However, both this first expedition and the one that followed, were contentious and caused grave concerns to the Dutch authorities, who strongly disapproved of the manner in which the Americans, Rockefeller in particular, encouraged intertribal conflict. It seems they wanted to be able to film warfare in action. Later, Michael again came in for Dutch censure on this second trip, for having taken in so many expensive gifts to trade with the natives in exchange for traditional native artwork. The crew were also looking to collect dried heads and this saw an increased desire on the part of the locals to go to war just to procure more skulls for the Americans. Of course, in today’s politically changed society, this seems to have been incredibly insensitive and totally culturally inappropriate; but we are talking early 1960’s here and not the 1860’s after all. Perhaps however, what it really reflects is the greed and ruthlessness of first world museums and their highly competitive and unscrupulous methods of filling and keeping their collections? 

Finally, Michael and a Dutch friend, Rene Wassing, began traveling along the south coast of Netherlands New Guinea as it was then known, now Irian Jaya, a part of Indonesia. They called in at villages and mission stations along the way, looking to trade for artefacts. They had constructed a small catamaran out of two canoes with a small covered platform between the two. The priests at the missions they stayed at warned them repeatedly that it was not at all suitable for the kinds of tides and seas, they were heading towards but Rockefeller chose to ignore these words of sound advice and carried on regardless. Shortly after, they found the advice of the priests had been right and their boat was quickly swamped, tossing them into the high running seas where they were forced to cling tightly to the upturned hull. Two native youths who were travelling with them as guides, set out to swim to shore to get help. By this time, they were fast losing sight of land and floating out to sea. Michael grew impatient and decided the guides had not made it to shore and decided to swim to shore himself. ‘Being restless and not one to sit around’, is how one account describes him. 

Michael said he was sure he could reach shore. In shark and crocodile infested waters, his companion, Wassing, refused to leave the comparative security of the hull of the canoes, which were at least still keeping them afloat. Although he remonstrated with Michael, pointing out that the tide was now against him, Rockefeller simply, stripped off, tied a red jerry-can to his midriff for flotation with his spectacles around his neck and set out for shore. This was the last he was ever seen. Later in the day a plane flew over and spotted Wassing on the upturned hulls. They came back and dropped provisions for him and eventually a Dutch government vessel turned up the next day and rescued him, 22 miles out to sea.

Rockefeller’s cobbled together catamaran; totally unsuited to the waters in which he and Rene Wassing were sailing.

An impressive rescue mission was mounted, with both Dutch and Australian helicopters employed, and offers of help from the US 7th Fleet. Even President Kennedy called to offer aid, sending a small ship, but all that was found after a week of desperate searching was a jerry-can floating 120 miles out to sea. Emphasis was laid on the waters being shark infested and the coasts with crocodiles, but it had to be admitted that with cannibals still active all along the coast, there was a distinct possibility of his having been taken and eaten by them. 

Some years later, a Dutch investigative journalist, and even some of the priests from the missions Michael and Rene had visited, voiced the opinion that he had in fact been taken by cannibals, killed and eaten. Further, there were reports that in 1958, several leaders from one of the villages in question Otsnajep, had been shot and killed by Dutch authorities. The question then was asked, were cannibals still active in 1961 and were they looking for revenge? Had they found Michael Rockefeller and killed, cooked and eaten him. Finally reports started to trickle in of men who said they had found a white man swimming towards the coast at the time Michael had gone missing. They claimed to have shot him with their arrows and dragged him ashore. They said they had then scalped him while still alive before killing, cooking and eating him in revenge for the earlier killings by the Dutch. Eventually it seems his mother, had sent investigators to see if they could at least find his remains. She had offered a substantial reward for any evidence that could conclusively prove either way whether he was alive or dead. One of these investigators did manage to obtain three human skulls and presented them to the family. The reward money was paid at that time without any comment from the family. Although we have no proof, this does at least seem to suggest evidence from the skulls was accepted by the family. Perhaps from dental records?  

So, what if any light does Michael’s Four Pillars throw on his disappearance and probable death for us today?

Michael Clark Rockefeller’s Four Pillars:

18th                                         May                                1938

Yang Metal                            Yin Fire                        Yang Wood

Dog                                       Snake                              Tiger 

Luck Pillar at time of Death: Yin Earth Goat

Michael Clark Rockefeller was a Weak Metal man.

As with General Charles Gordon, he has Yang Metal sitting on the Dog of his Day Pillar, meaning that he too had Days of Fai Kong, signifying that he was an especially strong and resilient character. His interest in the arts can be taken from his having the match of the Tiger in his Year of Birth and the Dog in his Day Pillar. Such Star of Arts is also a loneliness star, it indicates that he was a young man who would also have suffered considerable loneliness in his time. One factor I find particularly interesting is the Yin Fire sitting on the fire of the Snake in his Month of Birth. Since the Month Pillar represents our parents and it is his conquering element, rather than it being his money element, or the element he conquers, which is what it ideally would be, ie wood. It indicates I believe some likely tension between he and the pressure he would have felt to conform to family expectations. This is not to say there was the same tension between his actual father, who was in deed a wood man. I believe, this is probably an indication as to why it was so important to Michael to go somewhere completely different and be involved in something so utterly removed from the type of work he was later destined to do.

Michael Rockefeller

Another intriguing factor in his Four Pillars to conjecture about, is Michael’s sexuality. He was known to be gay, in a time when it was neither socially acceptable and indeed could be legally hazardous to be known as gay. What if anything does his four pillars show of this facet of his life? It is notoriously difficult to predict with any absolute certainty about who may or may not be gay from one’s four pillars. However, there is a clue or two here for us to follow. As there are no particular combinations of animals that tell us this kind of thing, one thought is that homosexuality may show up in the elements. Since the other four elements, wood, fire, metal and water, are distinctive, earth by contrast has some of all the others in it and so contains a kernel of all, thus making it indiscernible by itself. Thus, when found as what is often described as ‘a problem in the House of Spouse’, it may be an indicator that someone is gay. Notice I have said, may. There are no definitives with this. However, Michael did have a lot of earth in his four pillars and since he was metal and there is only the earth of the dog in his House of Spouse, and yet more strong earth to be found in his previous and last Luck Pillars. Indeed, the Luck Pillar he was in at the time of his disappearance was Yin Earth sitting on the Goat. 

So, just what did happen to Michael Rockefeller? Do his four pillars throw enough light on the day of his disappearance to show us more clearly? I believe so, although we certainly cannot eliminate all mystery from this story.

Date of Michael Rockefeller’s Disappearance:

19th                              Nov                                  1961

Yang Fire                    Yin Earth                          Yin Metal

Dragon                           Pig                                  Ox

The day was a Weak Fire day, this in spite of the Heavenly Stem of Yang Fire. Since it was the season of Water in the Month of the Pig, the fire of the day was weak. Weak fire is emotional, explosive and shows an anger that is deep and resentful. Is this perhaps our first clue that Michael was killed for revenge by tribesman still livid at the earlier Dutch killings of their own men three years earlier, as was feared by those who went searching for him? Furthermore, being a Dragon Day, no noblemen were likely to come to rescue him. There was a strong Clash between the Snake of his own Month of Birth and that of the Month of the Pig the day he disappeared. 

However, the most intriguing factor I think is the presence that day of Yang Fire in the Day Pillar. There is a distinction needed to be made here between, Yin and Yang Heavenly Stems and whether someone’s element is then either weak or strong. Yin Fire, for example is the Yin expression of the element. It is often described as being like a candle, flickering and the Chinese character that is used to represent it is this . Yang Fire is likened to the Sun and is represented by the Chinese character   . By contrast what determines the strength or weakness of the personal element, is primarily the season. If it falls in its own season, fire in summer is going to be strong, but fire in winter will be weak. This is not the same as the Heavenly Stems at all.  Since Michael Rockefeller was a Weak Metal man with Yang Metal as his Day Stem, the element that had control over him was his destroying, or conquering element, Fire, specifically Yang Fire. If this element is present on the day some one is killed, and there is a suggestion that it might be homicide, this is one way we can tell whether it is likely or not to in fact be murder. Furthermore, if the suspected killer has that element too in their own four pillars, and can be placed at the scene of the murder, it is usually understood to be a strong indication that that person then is the killer. This is how feng shui masters asked by law enforcement officers over the years, to help them identify the possible perpetrators begin to work it out. In this case however, we have no body, no evidence, no definitive information as to exactly what happened to him when he got out of that boat, just supposition and rumour. How then can we tell if he simply drowned at sea, was taken by sharks or even crocodiles or was instead the victim of foul play; the first white man to be seen by vengeful tribesmen with a score to settle? With the presence of the dragon that day, I think it is impossible to tell with any real certainty. It is likely there will always remain some final mystery as to what exactly happened to Michael Clark Rockefeller. Dragons are after all, of all the animals in the Chinese zodiac the most mysterious and mystical.  

Go to Part Eight: From John Chau to Captain Cook: The fatal attractions of Missionaries and other Colonising Zealots. Part Seven: The Curious Case of Michael Rockefeller.

The Four Pillars of Koda Shosei: Thank you for taking to time to read this article. If you would like more information on how to have your own Four Pillars drawn up, please feel free to contact me. 

Danny Thorn


Feng Shui Consultants New Zealand

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Dec 2018

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