Astrology as illustrative and reflective, rather than causative
I love this quote from Chris Brennans new book on Hellenistic astrology:
“Despite the formulaic nature of astrological omens, the astrologers themselves did not necessarily think that there was a direct causal connection between celestial and earthly events. Instead, the celestial omens acted as signs or indications of the future that were sent by the gods, and not as causes of the events that they correlated with. The stars in particular were seen as a sort of ‘heavenly writing’ that was inscribed across the sky. Naturally, as Rochberg points out, ‘the notion of the stars as a heavenly script implies their capacity to be read and interpreted.’ Thus in the earliest Babylonian strata of astrological tradition, astrology was seen to be a type of language.”
This supports what I often say, that the planets do not cause things to happen, rather they merely reflect ones karma. The birth chart is an illustration of ones sanskaras for a given lifetime, and there are various techniques to look more closely at a specific timeframe within the lifetime... We are drawn to astrology to gain insight, understanding, and acceptance of the complexity of circumstances we find ourselves in and the attributes we came in with, as well as the inner and outer events and developments that unfold over time.
It appears that some ancient astrologers placed great value on endeavoring towards acceptance of life as it is and developing forbearance, equanimity, and contentment regardless of circumstances (as revealed by, not caused by one’s astrology). The Vettius Valens (c.175 CE) quote at the beginning of Chris’s book is incredible: “Those who engage in the prediction of the future and the truth, having acquired a soul that is free and not enslaved, do not think highly of fortune, and do not devote themselves to hope, nor are they afraid of death, but instead they live their lives undaunted by disturbance by training their souls to be confident, and neither rejoice excessively in the case of good, nor become depressed in the case of bad, but instead are content with whatever is present. Those who do not desire the impossible are capable of bearing that which is preordained through their own self-mastery; and being estranged from all pleasure or praise, they become established as soldiers of fate”
This strikes me as counter to the modern concept of “manifesting” one’s desires and dreams. I resonate with Valens and appreciate the realism and dignity of his words. I am still certainly a proponent of trying one’s best to improve one’s self or one’s lot whenever possible, as that may also be part of the path, but striving for equanimity and acceptance if or when certain things seem unchangeable is just as worthwhile.
Visit the Happiness Series. Its a great resource for all kinds of inspiring, uplifting, and helpful information! Check out the Astrology section to read some of my articles. So far they have featured:
Last night Pluto turned direct after being retrograde since Apr 14th. When a planet prepares to change directions (or more accurately, its apparent motion from our perspective on Earth), it gradually and increasingly slows down first, comes to a full stop, and then slowly begins to move in the opposite direction. If the planet changes directions at a degree of the zodiac that aspects your chart, the experience of that aspect will be prolonged and intensified. In the case of Pluto, the slowest moving planetary archetype that we study in astrology, this means that if you have any significant planets or points in your chart at or close to 11º Capricorn or 11º of the other Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, or Libra), you will be feeling this Pluto station especially strongly during all of Aug, Sept, and Oct 2014.
So what does an intense Pluto aspect feel like? Well, Pluto is the god of the “underworld.” If you have been “abducted,” like Persephone was by Hades, you will be feeling it — maybe only symbolically or internally but possibly more literally, depending on what is needed for your personal growth. Read more...
In modern astrology we try to emphasize the positive psychological benefits of all planetary influences, so we use words like transformation, death and rebirth, and rising anew like the phoenix from its ashes, when speaking of Pluto. We talk about going within into the depths of one’s being and taking an honest look at what is hidden and lurking in the darkness of one’s unconscious. All of that is relevant and true, but sometimes Pluto transits are described that way instead of being described simply as being in hell, faced with cruel circumstances or actual criminals, and only to be released after a long and tortuous nightmare is over. During an intense contact with Pluto, it can truly feel like being in hell and it is possible you will meet some dark characters while there. I want to honor that fully. But in time, like Persephone, we may come to appreciate our time in the underworld. We have learned so much about ourselves and about life from the abyssal voyage. We have probably lost a bit more innocence and naiveté, painful as it is necessary. In Jungian psychology it is said that what is not given a conscious outlet in oneself will be encountered externally in others. By the time we return to the surface where the sun shines, we will not only be wiser and stronger, but we will be more whole, as we integrate our experience of Pluto. That is why Pluto is also associated with hidden treasures, riches, and wealth. We must venture down below in order to discover and take them for ourselves.
An Eclectic Approach ~ Modern and Ancient Astrology
There are countless ways to practice astrology and within Western astrology alone there are a huge variety of systems, paradigms, and techniques from which to choose. Throughout the years of my own study and practice I have found that it serves me to remain open to all the different paradigms that I encounter, while also remaining focused and not overly diffused with too many different techniques at once. My biggest learning is always through direct observation, so when it comes to where I put my attention within the wide variety of approaches, my eclectic approach is based on personal experience of the usefulness and relevance of a particular concept or system.
When I began studying and practicing astrology, I was mostly exposed to Modern Astrology and Evolutionary Astrology. This is mainly what is out there nowadays, has many merits, and no doubt still forms the foundation of my understanding of astrology. As time went on, however, I began to encounter more Ancient or Traditional Astrology and I found these frameworks to be equally valuable. For instance, I certainly honor the modern practice of paying close attention to the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as well as Chiron), as I and many people and clients I know experience monumental internal or external events in our lives that correspond with the transits from these planets. The Uranus/Pluto square from 2012 to 2015 is a palpable example of this, being unfathomably intense for many especially those whose charts were directly lined up with the degrees of this life-changing, era-defining square (By the way, the last exact pass of this square is on March 16th, 2015).
On the other hand, I found that shifting to the Whole Sign house system (the oldest house system known); using the antiquated classification of planets in dignity, exaltation, detriment, or fall; and looking to the ancient rulers vs. the modern rulers, for example — are all undeniably useful to me when I analyze a chart. I didn’t necessarily want to adopt these older techniques, especially ones that appear on the surface to imply a value judgement, but when I investigated them I couldn’t help but notice their definite relevance. Through contemplation I realized that instead of seeing a planet that is in detriment or fall as a “bad” placement, for instance, the classification is rather a tool to acknowledge when an aspect of one’s self or one’s life (as symbolized by the planet) is experienced as inherently more challenging or uncomfortable than other planets that are more “favorably” placed. These challenges are of course not “bad,” just as squares and oppositions (aspects known to be associated with more challenges) are not “bad,” but a planet in detriment, for example, may represent a part of one’s life where one undergoes more suffering and requires more work or adjustment. I view this type of inner work or challenge as part of the divine intelligence within all of Reality, reflected perfectly in the birth chart, and for the purpose of learning and spiritual growth for the individual.
This is a good segue to the last example I will mention, regarding what I resonate with from Evolutionary Astrology. Evolutionary Astrology suggests that the birth chart is a reflection of what is needed for the soul for spiritual growth in this lifetime. My view is that the birth chart is a perfect illustration of one’s karma (the results of past impressions and actions) in this lifetime. The birth chart is literally a blueprint for how one is fulfilling one’s spiritual purpose and direction in this incarnation. Yet it is an illustration made up of symbols and full of moving parts, not a black and white, simplistic, or static depiction. Therefore it requires on-going exploration and can manifest in a multitude of ways, which will also invariably change over time as a person’s consciousness expands. I am always delighted to learn how people are living their charts. it is always more perfect then I could have imagined by looking at the chart alone.
The Sabian Symbols are 360 symbolic vignettes each corresponding to a degree of the zodiac. Many astrologers use them in chart interpretation to get a richer sense of meaning for any important planet or point in a chart, such as the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant. For instance, when I was born, the Sun was at 5º41’ Leo. The corresponding Sabian for my Sun is:
Leo 6*: A sweet old-fashioned belle, and a pert and attractive modern flapper, stand in mutual envy of each other.
From the time I was a child and my mother told me this was the symbol for my Sun, it always resonated deeply. As I got older and came to understand my chart as a whole, I began to see how not only did it capture the essence of my core (the Sun), but interestingly it also captured other prominent themes in my chart, such as my Libra Ascendent (balancing opposites, seeing the other side of the story, and a focus on aesthetics etc), my Sun conjunct Saturn (Saturn represents tradition, and therefore is “old-fashioned”) and my Sun/Saturn square Uranus (Uranus represents breaking free from old structures, and therefore fits “a modern flapper.” In some mystical way, the specific Sabian symbol for the degree of my Leo Sun acts as a holon** for my whole chart. Not everyone resonates as obviously and spontaneously with their Sabians; sometimes it takes some contemplation to penetrate into the meaning of the symbol. Read more...
To look up the Sabian Symbols relevant for your chart, click here.
I happen to use this longer, more poetic version of the Sabians, because they seem to hold more meaning for me, personally. But there is a concise version that is more well known. In that version the equivalent of my Sun is:
Leo 6: An old fashioned ‘consevative’ woman is confronted by an up-to-date girl.
I dont feel this version captures my essence as well, but some feel the concise version is the more original version. To look up the Sabian Symbols in this version, click here.
Regarding the different versions of the Sabian Symbols, here is an excerpt from Diane Applebaum:
“The story of how the Sabian Symbols came about will be found in the second chapter of Part One in Dane Rudhyars ‘An Astrological Mandala.’ Briefly put, on a day in 1925 Marc Edmund Jones and a well-known psychic, Elsie Wheeler, sat in a quiet area of a San Diego Park, yet a spot not far from the bustling world. He had a stack of 360 index cards, each with a degree of the zodiac written on it. Jones would shuffle the pile, and then, as he drew an index card, without either of them seeing which degree was written on it, Wheeler communicated a scene that came before her minds eye. In connection with each card, Jones ‘made a brief pen notation of what she said.’
[One version of the Sabians is the concise wording that Jones jotted down on the notecards and another is a more expanded version that Jones later wrote.]
Although Jones felt moved to repudiate this later version, it is also said that early on he doubted the validity of the Sabians in general. Nevertheless, a circle of astrologers around him began working with the vignettes and found them uncannily accurate and informing. Which version is the most ‘credible I leave up to the reader to choose. In my experience the different versions work for different people. In connection with this, my mind always goes to the point in the story of events in the park that day in which Jones is said to have felt that one of the symbols that Wheeler had seen internally was incorrect. He asked Wheeler, who he apparently felt was channeling a representative of the ancient Mesopotamian brotherhood with whom this ancient system of symbols had abided, to inquire about the accuracy of this symbol. After making the inquiry Wheeler conveyed to Jones that the Brother’s answer was to the effect that it was up to Jones to discover.
I believe that this detail in the series of events indicates a significant aspect of the event that took place at that momentous point in time, and should not be discounted as an irrelevant detail or of no account. The meaning or meanings of this occurrence are not something minor or inconsequential to be cast aside as simply inscrutable or without implication to the subsequent unfolding of the phenomenon of the Sabians coming forth to be formulated. It is my opinion that that question and answer indicated the next phase after the park event — of bringing the conception to birth. The uncertainty that was expressed by Jones and the question he put forth are part of the profound and esoteric living dynamics of the advent of these symbols in their reappearance, now in the modern day world. As they unfold in this ‘incarnation,’ the symbols are ‘stamped’ with this seed-developmental phase, much as a natal chart illustrates dynamics that become stamped upon the incarnating soul at the moment of its first breath in this life, and the unfolding shown by the progressions.
It may be noted that it was Jones who wrote down the particular words on the note cards, the brief descriptions. I wonder what all Wheeler said in connection with each card. And even if the case may be that she spoke only those few words which he wrote on each card, the Brother may have implied that Jones had a designated destined role to play in the rich and more descriptive formulation and presentation of the Symbols to the modern day world.
Each version has adherents and resonates with intuitive knowing and insight. Each may serve as a tool that has the potential to spark inspired and accurate imagination in different people. The version I work with is the longer more descriptive formulations which Jones circulated not in book form but in manuscript form. They are titled Lecture-Lessons, and, according to the dates at the tops of the pages, were issued between May 18, 1931 and November 9, 1931.”
*Always round up to the next degree when working with the symbols. Dane Rudhyar’s explanation: “if the symbol is referred to the position of a planet in an astrological chart, Cancer 5º begins at 4º 1” (four degrees and one second or minute) and ends with Cancer 4º59’59”; just as the first year (year number 1) of a life begins at birth and ends with the first birthday. We are dealing with a process, and ‘Phase One’ starts the very moment the process begins.”
**A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part (Wikipedia).
To have astrological knowledge does not confer the ability to avoid challenges or lessons that must be learned in life. From the ego perspective challenges or unpleasant situations are always unwanted, but from a spiritual perspective the trials and tribulations in life are often exactly what is necessary to create the learning or shifts in consciousness that are required for the soul. Although attempting to live in sync with the rhythms of planetary influences is certainly beneficial, it is not only undesirable to try to avoid or prevent life lessons from happening or to try to control life through careful study or adherence to astrological interpretations, but it is impossible to do so. Life and learning cannot be avoided or stopped. Experiences will happen, suffering may happen, and learning and growth never ends. What astrology can offer is insight into the perfection of it all. By seeing and understanding the planetary correlations and synchronicities, astrology can contribute to one’s peace, patience, acceptance, endurance, hope, and trust in the divine intelligence behind it all.
Full Moon in Taurus ♉, Neptune and Chiron turn direct
The Full Moon is the climax of the lunar month and a time to observe with objectivity what is coming to light or to a head. At every Full Moon there is an opposition between the Sun and the Moon, and this polarization and tension of the opposites may be felt within oneself or within ones relationships and circumstances. When the Full Moon is in Taurus, the Sun is in Scorpio: on the one hand, there is a need to let go of the past in order to allow the necessary transformation of the self (Sun in Scorpio) — but on the other hand, there is a valid emotional longing for stability and security (Moon in Taurus), for instance…Read more...
The Sabian symbol for this Full Moon is: “A newly formed continent is seen, fresh and green within its setting of interminable ocean.” Something new is emerging — new ground to stand on and a fresh perspective. Yet it is surrounded by seemingly endless water, which can represent deep feelings, the unknown, or the infinite Divine (all of which can feel frightening to the ego).
Along with this Full Moon, both Neptune and Chiron turn direct after about 5 months of being retrograde. The retrograde period is a time of inner work — on the spiritual level with Neptune — and with Chiron, involves the healing of deep wounds. As both turn direct, we slowly see ways to integrate what we have been working on and move forward.
Wonderful intro to AstroPsychology by Glenn Perry (he articulates so well something Ive often tried to explain - that the birth chart is not fixed, but rather it reflects and embodies our ongoing evolution):
“The traditional way of interpreting charts is to focus on character delineations and fated events, treating both as relatively fixed outcomes. Conversely, a psychological approach views the horoscope as an evolving story that reflects a process of growth over time. Character and events are still delineated, but no longer in terms of fixed outcomes; rather, events are interpreted as vehicles for facilitating a process of characterological development. Read more...
As character evolves, so also does ones narrative of the outer world. As the upgraded, revised story supplants its more limited predecessor, this leads to increasingly satisfying experiences that reflect an evolution of the inner story. In effect, the astrological chart is a kind of living document, or life script, which allows for continuing amendments and revisions. I especially like the word ‘script because it not only conveys the idea of story, but also of a set of instructions that are written down, as in ‘a script to follow. That, in fact, is my thesis: the astrological chart is both a story and a set of instructions for living-that is, for evolving.”
There is a New Moon in Virgo tonight at 11:04p EDT, representing first the end of one cycle... And then the beginning of a fresh new one.
The Sabian symbol for this new beginning is: “Childrens voices and the smiles of elders; it is a merry go round with blatant music and unrestrained joyousness.”
The Virgo archetype represents necessary, honest, and critical analysis — of self first and foremost, and then directing that precise vision outward — for the purpose of improving the capacity to be of service... How do we embrace the current Virgo energy of work and service along with the potent New Moon symbol of “unrestrained joyousness?” On the surface the two themes may appear in stark contrast. Yet, as The Course in Miracles states, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” Read more...
The New Moon is conjunct the Sun and Venus, which corresponds with the opportunity to be in touch with ones core inner being, centered in the heart, and giving/receiving from that deep place. The New Moon also forms a grand trine (a harmonious, flowing relationship) with Pluto and Jupiter — all in practical earth signs, suggesting that there is abundant support to find our way to joyousness, while staying grounded at the same time.
“Joy is a quality of the soul and is realized in the mind when personality and soul are in alignment.” ~Djwhal Khul
“The only true measure of success is the amount of joy we are feeling.” ~Abraham-Hicks
In my experience, the deepest and most meaningful learning about astrology comes from experiential observation and involvement. Book learning is essential of course, but for instance, to truly understand the intensity of a transit from a slow moving planet to your birth chart, living through it or watching someone close to you live through it, is entirely different than reading about it. The theory you studied suddenly becomes tangible and is clearly manifesting before your eyes, and yet at the same time it is infinitely more complex and varied in its expression than you could have imagined. The same goes for truly understanding another human being, let alone yourself. It is a lifetime study. As an astrological counselor, I can study a natal chart for hours and hours, days, and weeks, but it would still take time to truly and comprehensively know the native (the owner of the chart). I may be able to quickly speculate about trends in character, predispositions, challenges, gifts, themes of the past and future, and various timelines of various archetypal influences affecting the individual, etc. And all of this can be immensely helpful for people in terms of inspiring self-understanding, self-permission to be who one is, as well as to give encouragement, patience, and strength with one’s life situation. Read more...
However, to really know a person, in a deep sense, and what it means to have a combination of particular planets in particular signs and houses with particular aspects, it takes time and keen observation. That is why I like working with people for a series of sessions over a period of time. We can go so much deeper into personality, life, or relationship dynamics, all of which the chart will illustrate in perfect fashion. Yet it takes time to unravel those mysteries written in a symbolic language. Like any relationship, it takes time and participation with someone to get to know them beyond the surface appearances or presentation. The same is true in a relationship between a counselor and a client and between an astrologer and a chart.