Thursday, July 24, 2014

Consciousness, the World and Mythological Thought

Consciousness and the outer world are inextricably tied to one another. How we treat the world is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. If we see the world as essentially soulless, as lifeless matter to be used without consideration, then that is also how we treat ourselves and each other: as units of economic productivity, to be tossed aside once we are of no use.

I suppose I’d trace it back to Science, with its tendency towards materialism; to Protestantism and its work ethic – good units of economic productivity go to heaven; and to the Old Testament God, who enjoined mankind to rule over all the animals.

So the environmental crisis is really an inner crisis. The environment is suffering because people are suffering; we have become split off from our natural relationship to the world, with its respect and its give and take, and split off therefore from a natural relationship to ourselves.

And I think this broken relationship is also reflected in the scientific view of the macrocosm, a place that is 99.99% chilly and lifeless, and whose destiny is to become increasingly that way, the eventual ‘Heat Death’ of the universe. Give me Armageddon any day!

I don’t see science as the objective art it claims to be, i.e. that it is simply discovering what is ‘out there’. It can easily seem like that if you’re not very reflective. The world so impresses us with its hard, separate reality that it can be hard to experience it as intermingled with, and conditioned by, consciousness. Quantum physics has known this truth for over 100 years, that you can’t separate the observer from the experiment. But it is subtle.

Eurynome Creates the World
So I don’t see the largely lifeless scientific universe and its eventual Heat Death as objective. It is an idea that reflects our broken consciousness, and we have found the evidence to support the idea, something that humans seem to be very good at! I think it takes a balanced human being to be ‘objective’, to see the universe in a way that reflects its real nature, which is one of aliveness: and there are many ways to do this, many Creation Myths, which are true to the extent that they reflect a living universe in which people have a balanced place (i.e. not ruling the animals!)

The Hunt for Dark Energy
From this perspective, the hunt for ‘Dark Energy’ seems to me quixotic. We may or may not find the stuff. But to say that 99% of the universe is missing and undetectable, that it can only be inferred, is also a way of saying that the universe we have in a sense created is woefully narrow.

We need to think mythologically, because that allows room for the part consciousness plays in generating views of the universe. Science is a myth, a story, that does not recognise itself as such. Its mythological nature is repressed, and when you repress something it comes back at you in demonic form: a chilly, lifeless universe that is 99% beyond our ken.

Truth lies more with the intuition, with direct experience, than it does with the intellect, which needs to have a supportive rather than a commanding role. I see an idea as true if it is imaginatively appealing, if it ‘rings true' in my experience, more than whether I can find hard evidence to support it. That way my experience of myself and my view of the world are not at odds.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


As Iraq splits apart, we see Tony Blair shrilly insisting that it was not caused by the 2003 invasion, contrary to what a lot of other people see as common sense. In my last piece, I had a look at Blair’s chart to try and explain this departure from reality.

Tony Blair by GWB
George W Bush, by contrast, does not seem to have said anything about Iraq as it is splitting up. A few months ago he revealed his paintings to the world. He isn’t brilliant, but who is? He has done a painting of Blair that is recognisable. He has done one of Putin in 2 halves, one of the face he shows to the world (which may just be a photo), and the other half of the man behind the mask. Bush said that when he met this closed book of a man, he could sense his soul. Much of Bush's diplomacy was based on building personal connections, and he now seems to be turning this ability to connect into paintings. In a way, he is reflecting on and digesting his experience. We don't know what this sensitive man feels now about Iraq. And it is in such contrast to Tony Blair.

While he was President, a lot of people seemed to feel that Bush wasn’t leading his own life, that he was following in his Dad’s footsteps and was swayed too much by the old men from his father’s administration that he surrounded himself with.

His chart is not a very public one. I can see ‘leader’ in Blair’s chart quite easily, but not so in Bush’s. I can see a power of expression through the Mercury-Pluto Rising in Leo, but I would see that more in an artistic context: the feelingful and imaginative 12th House Sun in Cancer square to Neptune, and the aesthetic Moon-Jupiter in Libra.

I see what he is doing now as so much more in accord with who he is.

His Sun is not very strong in a worldly, assertive sense, being both in the 12th House and square to Neptune and people-pleasing Moon in Libra. I’d say that caused a ‘loss’ of his identity earlier in his life (the alcoholism would have been part of that) and a vulnerability to the expectations of being the eldest scion of a wealthy political dynasty. He would have to both make money and succeed politically, and he did both in a cack-handed sort of way, through family connections.

But it was never him. That is why he has disappeared. He wouldn’t even help the Republican campaign at the last Presidential election. I think it’s an extraordinary psychological story, which may one day come out.

Putin: Bush felt he could sense the soul of this closed-book of a man
By transit, the news of his painting exhibition came out on 4th April 2014, while Pluto was starting to station 14 minutes away from an exact opposition to Bush’s Sun: such powerful astrology says that the painting is not just the hobby of a bored ex-President, but part of a process of a profound change in which a more real person is emerging. This process will continue as Pluto goes on to square his Moon and MC in the coming years. He may even become a good painter, because the artistic element is so strong in his chart.

Bush also has natal Uranus conjunct North Node (as has Barack Obama). So he needs to break the mould if he is to feel fulfilled. The mould, I'd say, of his family background (Cancerians are very sensitive to family expectations.) Again, his re-invention of himself as an artist could be his means of doing this.

During the period of leaders with 12th House Suns which we had in both the USA (2000-2008) and the UK (1997-2010), I wondered about it, because it is unexpected. A strength of this placement is the ability to be a mouthpiece for the collective, and Bush and Blair both had this quality strongly (and it is for the same reason that artists can speak to the collective, and why dictators fear them.)

But in a public person, the 12th House Sun will also want to hide, being far more comfortable in quiet solitude and contemplation. You are not likely to get a leader that you feel you know. And I think this applied to all 3 of Bush, Blair and Brown.

With Bush, as I said, there was always the feeling that he was living out someone else’s expectations. With Blair (whose paternal grandparents were both actors, and who married into an acting family), there was a wall of rhetoric with enormous public appeal that won him 2 landslide elections. But who was the man, what did he really stand for? None of us really knew who this arch people-pleaser was. Until enantiodroma occurred, the phenomenon of turning from one psychological extreme to another. When the prospect of war with Iraq came about in 2002, he quickly turned from cautious people-pleaser into doing what he believed in, with religion as a back-up, regardless of what others thought. And with a big dose of 12th House self-deception thrown in.

Gordon Brown having just lost the General Election
Bush and Blair both had a persona they could project, while Gordon Brown did not even have that. Prime Minister for 3 unhappy years, he began his premiership with a telling image, speaking from a podium with half his face hidden behind a recorder. Most of Brown’s personal planets are in the 12th House, but he also has Moon in Leo in the 4th conjunct Pluto: that is the hunger for power that was always snapping at Blair’s heels, even though his personality was unsuited to leadership. Lacking, like Bush, planets at the top of the chart, he has gone happily into anonymity since losing office.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Iraq was always a divided country, artificially created by the French and British, with a Shia majority and Sunni and Kurd minorities. And sometimes countries like this have nasty dictators because that is the only way there will be any stability. Afghanistan is also a case in point.

So when the US and the UK invaded Iraq in 2003, there was always going to be a problem of sectarian strife which, it turned out, the aggressors had no plan to deal with. And the consequences of this are what we are seeing now, the Americans having left, as the country splits apart. The Sunnis have a real grievance, in that the Shia government is excluding them from any say in the country. A lot of them are also jihadists intent on Sharia Law, a fundamentalist strand that was fanned by the 2003 invasion.

All this is, in a way, common knowledge and common sense. But not to Tony Blair, who leaped to the defence of the 2003 invasion when Iraqi cities began falling to the Sunnis. The reason this is happening, he said, is because the West has not been sufficiently assertive in combatting the jihadists in Syria: they have gained strength and are now spilling over into Iraq.

He kind of has a point about Syria, except the West began by supporting the rebellion against the dictator Assad (the West regularly changes its mind about dictators), but then found the situation to be more complex when the Islamists got involved. And the West had lost most of the political capital that enables intervention precisely through its botched invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, under Saddam Hussein, any invaders would have had short shrift: there was stability of a kind.

But it’s not really worth arguing with Tony Blair. As I said, it is common sense. Moreover, I’m not very interested in politics, except inasmuch as it shines a light on human nature and character. And in the case of Mr Blair, we seem to have someone who has lost touch with reality. He has his political actions to defend, and like any politician he wants to defend them, but history is so clearly proving him wrong about Iraq that the only decent thing to do seems to be to shut up, if you can’t bring yourself to admit you were wrong. You don’t see George Bush defending the invasion, that old hate-figure who seems to be showing more integrity than Blair.

Bush and Blair both have 12th House Suns, not a placement you traditionally look for in a leader, due to its private, hidden nature. For the UK, it was part of a political era, because straight after Blair we had Brown, another 12th House Sun. And I think those Suns proved problematic, and I’ll return to that.

But they don’t make you nuts. Why is Tony Blair 'unhinged' (as Boris Johnson called him), but not Bush or Brown? I look particularly to his 10th House Moon in Aquarius, a very public element to his chart that neither Bush nor Brown have. This is why the latter two have been happy to slope off quietly since leaving office – indeed, they both seem to have wanted to. But with 10th House Moon, there is a need to have a public impact and to protect your legacy, which is exactly what Blair has done.

He has not had the quiet time needed to reflect on his actions. And also with 10th House Moon, his sense of himself in a very personal way is dependent on how the world sees him, so there is the defensiveness, backed up by Mars on the Ascendant.

And I think it is the sign of the Moon, Aquarius, which brings in the ‘nutty’ element. Aquarius can be a wonderful sign, full of progressive ideas and good feeling for humanity. I’m not saying President Obama is a perfect example, but he has Aquarius Rising, and his long overdue healthcare bill for the US shows what Aquarius can do.

But it is also a fixed sign, which can find it hard to adapt to changing realities. And it gets stuck in its head with ideas about the world which are outside the conventional wisdom, and that is both Aquarius’ strength and weakness. Because being outside conventional reality can mean you are nuts just as much as it can mean you are a progressive genius. Or both.

Anders Breivik: Sun-Mars in Aquarius square to Uranus
Aquarian Anders Breivik, who  murdered over 70 people in Norway on fantastical political grounds, is a good example. 

Uranus rules Aquarius, and you can see the same kind of syndrome when Uranus makes strong challenging aspects. Julian Assange has Sun in square to Uranus, and Mars in Aquarius. While the value of his Wikileaks project will probably always be a matter for debate, if you read up on the political ideology that fuels him, there is extreme paranoia about authority and childish naivety about the ‘cure’, couched in very intellectual language. (Assange also has Moon in Scorpio, and as a child spent time in a secretive cult, so you can see a motive there!)

So Aquarians/ Uranians, partly due to their lack of feeling (Blair has no personal water in his chart), can get stuck in their heads with wild self-serving ideas about reality. Those ideas are often political/ideological, because the Aquarian’s nature is to be involved with the collective. And being a fixed sign, they can keep it up for the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t of course mean you have to be nuts if you are Aquarian, most of us aren’t, but I think there is always that tendency to look out for: ideas that do not connect to the human realities around you. Aquarius is the water bearer, which gives them strong feelings (water) that they can also be cut off from (they are in an urn rather than in you).

And Blair’s ideas about Iraq, with which he seems almost obsessed, so clearly do not connect to the realities around him.

Analysing further, Blair’s Moon is in a (wide) t-square with the Sun and Pluto. That is not an easy chart to have. There is conflict at the heart of it in the square between the Sun and the Moon. The Sun, his identity, is private and reflective, and it is easily overrun by the dynamic Moon at the top of the chart, with its need to make a mark on the world and be in the public eye. Maybe that is why the man has got religion: it keeps his Sun happy, but again the Moon distorts it and persuades him that his political actions are God’s Will working through him.

And then Pluto in a challenging aspect to both Sun and Moon. Pluto in his most basic form is the pursuit of power, and that is very evident with Blair, even though he cannot see it himself. He happened to get on personally with George Bush, but the real attraction was power. That is also why he is close friends with Rupert Murdoch. If he was more conscious, this chart, through Pluto, would place a great propensity for honesty and personal transformation at the centre of his life. As it is, his life seems to be more about ‘external’ power for its own sake. Pluto can have a life or death quality, suggesting that it is more than his life is worth to admit error over Iraq.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Astrology, Science and Non-Rational Means of Knowing

Don’t get me wrong, I love astrology. But in the context of our wider culture, it understandably seems specialised and improbable. I don’t think it can ever be mainstream, because even as astrologers we have to suspend our disbelief due to modern astronomical knowledge: the main factor is that nowadays the Earth is commonly held to orbit the Sun (though with motion being relative, it can be argued either way); then there are the thousands of other objects circling the Sun that logically need incorporating; the signs are seasonally based (so that eg Aries symbolism is associated with Spring), yet astrology seems to work equally well in Australia; and the solar system itself is known to be part of vast Galactic cycles within cycles.

These problems are not necessarily insuperable, but you’d need quite a different astrology to make it all hang together. And we seem to have voted with our feet. The old system works, and we are by and large staying with it, even though its intellectual foundations are, for a modern, virtually non-existent.

And this lack of foundation, which I think needs to be squarely faced, points to what is really going on: astrology works through non-rational, divinatory means. That is its real strength and foundation.

And the system we use has the strength of having been built over thousands of years. Tradition is a funny thing. Even nonsense, such as parts of the Old Testament, gain credibility through being old. Old mistakes. Even the good stuff becomes wrong through being set in stone and worshipped. In this sense tradition easily disempowers.

But used in a ritual way, as a means to direct experience that lies beyond the literal, a sense of tradition seems to add power. That is why you get atheists going to church services: they may not believe the theology, but the ritual itself, the evocation of the numinous, still works.

And astrology as we use it has all that. In its own terms, the system is consistent and deeply thought through. And it has the added power of having been used for so long, which is a divinatory point: if you wanted an explanation, you could say a field builds up around a tradition, or the symbols within it, all those thousands or millions of human intentions building up over time.

The much younger Tarot has power for the same reason. The symbols have accrued something, you hold a card up and you feel something stirring within, a power takes hold.

These powers were a natural part of life until the modern age, whether through spontaneous omens, direct communing with the Other World, or a gift for reading the entrails of guinea pigs. We are the first society that has had to defend the very existence of these powers.

And that is the other reason that astrology isn’t mainstream: the non-rational doesn’t have much of a place, is even under attack. Yet it is our most valuable means of knowing.

I had the idea for this piece through thinking about what would be an appropriate divination system for the modern age, in the sense that it would take modern forms of knowledge into account and could be widely accepted.

I don’t think I have an answer. But ideally, it would build upon the old forms and so bring that sense of age and tradition with it. With astrology and tarot, we are dealing with archetypes, patterns of energy that are perennial, so there is something in those traditions that will always be relevant.

The main problem, though, is not whether astrology as used is dated, but that non-rational means of knowing do not have credibility, are even seen as risible (as an academic colleague of astrologer Geoffrey Cornelius said, they are ‘one mumbo short of a jumbo’). Even the term non-rational is a concession to modern ways of thinking, as though the rational is the main thing. Whereas the rational needs to be a support for the non-rational.

Some of the ideas behind science are very imaginative. Quantum reality. The Big Bang. Multiverses. Dark Energy. Relativity. Evolution. When you get down to basics, to what is ultimate, science seems to tell some great stories. They tell us they are facts, but who has or ever will see any of the above? No-one, for they are great products of the imagination, and that is why they have wide cultural appeal.

Even mathematics, the ultimate arbiter of reality, what is it? It is about balancing sets of arcane symbols. If the symbols balance, then an idea is real. If they do not balance, then it is not real. And this principle has real world applications. Where have we heard that before? Astrology, of course, which matches configurations of symbols with real world events. Mathematics in this sense is none other than high magic.

So behind science lies a great deal of imagination and even magic. It is just not recognised as such. But what we have are some powerful imaginative ideas supported by a rational framework. Which I think is how any system of knowledge works. The non-rational, in other words, lies at the very centre of science, just as it does with astrology, tarot and other means of divination, and around it you have the rational justifications.

When I think about Quantum theory or multiverses or dark energy, I don’t think maths - I feel these ideas, they have a power for me. If I saw them on Tarot cards, they would speak to me. And I think that gives me a truer relationship to these ideas than someone who thinks of them purely rationally, but who surely has an imaginative relationship to them which, whether or not he/she knows it, is primary.

So in any cultural resurgence of the non-rational, it is not a matter of adding it on, but of seeing that it was there all along, at the heart of things.

There are 2 MA courses in the UK run by astrologers, at St David’s and at Canterbury. How do you approach the non-rational in the context of academia? A tricky and controversial question. But the course at Canterbury (Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred), which is run by Geoffrey Cornelius amongst others, explicitly seeks to affirm and explore non-rational means of knowing. I am delighted by this uncompromising approach, albeit concerned, for the same reason, that it can endure.

Below are links to Geoffrey Cornelius (author of The Moment of Astrology) speaking in 2 parts on Limits of Rational Discourse in the Realm of the Daemon.  and

And a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"The whole world is an omen and a sign. Why look so wistfully in a corner? Man is the Image of God. Why run after a ghost or a dream? The voice of divination resounds everywhere and runs to waste unheard, unregarded, as the mountains echo with the bleatings of cattle."