Sunday, August 19, 2007


It seems to me that astrology and science pull in opposite directions, they describe very different types of truth. So that any attempt to ‘prove’ the truth of astrology by statistical means is misguided.

Scientific truth is always generalised, it goes from the particular to the universal: it sees the universe as a machine in which certain sets of conditions always give rise to certain results. A particular event is of significance only inasmuch as it is an example of a general law.

But a human being cannot be reduced to a mere instance of a general law, a human being is particular and individual and ultimately unknowable. To the extent that science tries to reduce people to generalities, it is a de-humanising influence. This occurs particularly when science is in the hands of people who have the irrational, unprovable superstition that reality is ultimately scientific and ‘rational’, and that everything must be seen in scientific terms.

For science, the Eureka! moment is when you realise a general law like E=mc2. For an astrologer, the Eureka! moment is generally when you make an individual’s chart work for them, when you are able to put into words that person’s unique and particular way of living out the symbols in their chart.

Of course astrology also deals in general ‘laws’, like the nature of the 12 signs. It also moves from the particular to the universal, but in a very different way. Astrology doesn’t try to ‘reduce’ people to the signs. It is more the nature of artistic truth. A novelist will create characters, based to some extent on his/her observations of real people. If this is done well, the characters will seem real to us, and we will feel something is being said about people in general. But that general truth is arrived at through the depth with which the individual has been observed. The individual is central, yet also mysteriously connects us to a wider truth – but not one that can be proved statistically. This would be absurd, because the novelist deals as much in felt/intuited/experienced truth, that gives us a sense of human nature, as he/she does in truth that can be put into words: and even then, how do you couch those words in scientific terms?

It is the same with the signs of the zodiac. Some artistic genius saw the underlying patterning of human nature that the signs describe. But the essence of the signs is more about having a feeling for the type of character being described than about words. It’s like can you reduce your mother to the things you might say to describe her?

Astrology is also divinatory truth. It is about making connections between apparently unconnected events – i.e. the planets and ourselves – and realising what one has to say about the other. How can that possibly be scientific?

It is the same sort of truth as when an unusual event in nature occurs, and you feel there is a particular message in it for you. Like when you see, for example, a bird of prey doing something it doesn’t usually do, and you go away and think about it, and eventually the meaning dawns on you. In the same way, the universe at the moment you were born has a particular message for you about your soul, and the astrologer’s art is to help you read that message. Scientifically, this makes no sense at all.

Astrology is a higher form of knowledge than Science, because Astrology can understand and accept scientific truth, it can be incorporated within its body of knowledge. But Science has no way of understanding Astrology, the truth of which does not lie within its narrow method.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007


I’ve just read two obituaries of a guy called Albert Ellis who I hadn't heard of, but who was, apparently, ‘the grandfather of cognitive-behavioural therapies’. He was voted by the American Psychological Association to be the second most influential psychotherapist of the 20th century after Carl Rogers, and ahead of Freud.

“Freud was full of horseshit,” he liked to say, while Freud’s central concept of neurosis was “just a high-class word for whining.”

He used to run Friday night workshops which became legendary. “Let me tell you why people are always making you so angry,” he informed a troubled young woman in 2005 (when aged 91), “Because they’re screwed up! They’re out of their fucking minds! We’re all out of our fucking minds!”

This mantra, which he repeated regularly, was behind his 'Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT)'. Its starting point was that we have negative emotional reactions not to events themselves, but to our beliefs about them. He rejected Freud’s focus on unpicking a patient’s childhood experiences. Instead, he advocated identifying and modifying these “irrational beliefs”, which usually take the form of a hidden demand that reality should be different than it is.

“There are three musts that hold us back,” he wrote. “I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” We upset ourselves with the grandiose requirement that we should perform perfectly, and that others should be nice to us. But in fact we are imperfect: we fail, in love and work, all the time. And other people, often enough, “act like jerks.”

This approach led him to emphasise short-term treatment, aimed at changing one’s way of thinking, here and now. “As I see it, psychoanalysis gives clients a cop-out,” he said, “ They don’t have to change their ways or their philosophies; they get to talk about themselves for 10 years, blaming their parents and waiting for magic-bullet insights.”

Early glimmers of REBT could be seen in a nerve-racking experiment Ellis conducted as a teenager, with himself as the subject. As a 19 year-old, he was painfully shy around women. So during a month of visits to the Bronx Botanical Garden, he sat on a bench and spoke to every woman he saw. His 130 attempts at conversation did not lead to true love, but that was beside the point. He had proved to himself that rejection, though unpleasant, was not unbearable: there was no need to “awfulise” it. “Nobody vomited and ran away,” he wrote. “Nobody called the cops.”

The experience led directly to the “shame-attacking exercises” he later prescribed to his patients. “Stop somebody on the street,” he advised, “and say ‘I just got out of the loony bin. What month is it?’ And learn not to feel ashamed when they look in horror at you, and think you’re off your rocker, which they think you are. But you’re really not. You’re being very much saner than they are.”

In his final years, the Directors of his Institute threw him out and stopped paying for his accommodation and medical care. He took them to court last year and won, and ended up back at the institute. True to the principles of REBT, he insisted that the contretemps hadn’t upset him: there was no point, after all, in demanding that the whole universe fall in line with his wishes. The other board members, he said, were “ fucked-up, fallible human beings, just like everyone else.”

He probably was one-sidedly rational. I found this quote by him: "Witness, for example, the fervent testimonials that innumerable people keep giving for cults, superstitions, and hoaxes like astrology, shamanism, psychic surgery, fortune telling, channeling, witchcraft, communications from ghosts, satanism, and demonism."

Mind you, I don't necessarily think people are being unreasonable if they think astrology is nonsense. There's no reason why it should work, which makes it all the more wondrous that it does. And you can't write off people's opinions just because they haven't tested astrology: so many ideas and theories come our way, astrology is just one of them, and we have to be able to form opinions about things. Like whether we really are ruled by aliens, or whether the moon is hollow (as I was knowingly informed once). I don't think a belief in astrology is any less strange.

Back to Albert Ellis. He was born 27 Sept 1913 (no time). His chart has a powerful signature: a Cardinal t-square involving the Sun, Jupiter and a Mars-Pluto conjunction. I know someone else with a Cardinal t-square involving these planets, and this person is not pleasant! Always starting fights and plotting, and never getting anywhere.

But if you can live it, it's very powerful and creative. Ellis had Sun in Libra (relationship to other people) in a t-square with Jupiter in Capricorn (structured philosophy) and Mars-Pluto in Cancer (tough love! - or transformative care for others that goes to the root of the matter.) That Sun square Pluto demanded of him that he become authentically powerful (hence the experiment in the park aged just 19 - apparently he eventually became very good at picking up women), and with Mars involved as well, he was tough enough to stand up to the hostility of the psychotherapeutic establishment to his ideas. This tough, combative power, so necessary to his life, also led to an enduring criticism: that his tone could make him sound as though he was urging people who, for example, were severely depressed, simply to pull their socks up.

He had another side: Venus in Virgo conjunct the Moon and sextile to Pluto. So under the abrasiveness was a real sensitivity, insight and care. Venus is about how we relate to others (Don't expect others to be perfect! he would say with Venus in Virgo), and his natal placement was at 1.15 Virgo. It is an important planet for a therapist, and appropriate that he should have died on 24th July under a Venus Return, with Venus stationing at 2.41 Virgo.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


It’s often not possible to have a final answer as to the correct chart for a country, and there may be more than one valid chart that describes different aspects of the nation. For the USA, one of the classic cases is that of the 2nd July vs 4th July charts: the first being that of the legal declaration of independence, and therefore describing the first working of an independent US government; the second being the public declaration of independence, which therefore relates more to the country as a whole and its ideals. Both charts can be seen to work in their own way.

The UK has a number of charts as well. For example, for the monarchy, we can use the 1066 chart for the coronation of William I, or the 1801 chart for the proclamation of George III as the first king of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland.

For the country itself, the two most recent charts are for 1801 and 1922. In 1801 Britain became united with Ireland, and in 1922 the South of Ireland seceded. So was the 1922 event just a re-organisation of the UK, or was it a whole new incarnation, which therefore gives us the most recent chart for the UK? You can take your pick.

For now, I’m going to look at some aspects of the 1801 chart, based on the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland which came into effect at 00.00 hours on 1st Jan 1801.

What is immediately noticeable is just how Cardinal this chart is: Sun, Moon and Angles are all Cardinal. This gives a nation that likes to act, to take initiative and to be in control, a very good chart for the successful empire-building that was going on at the time and subsequently. And an unaspected Pluto in Pisces. Unaspected planets aren’t that easy to interpret, but Britain did build the largest empire in world history: an unrestrained Pluto (power and riches)? And Britain ruled the seas: Pluto in Pisces. Jupiter (expansion) in the 10th (world stage) also helps, as does Moon in Cancer in the 10th - at home on the world stage.

Uranus Rising: the individualistic, even eccentric Englishman, and the country that never quite fits in with the European Union. This is also partly due to the UK’s allegiance to the US, its outsized offspring. The UK has Moon at 19 Cancer and MC at 9 Cancer, so it feels at home on the world stage with the US, which has Sun at 13 Cancer, on the UK Moon-MC midpoint.

Libra Rising: the British sense of fair play. Britain is also known for treachery (‘perfidious Albion’, say the French), but the British don’t see this. Maybe it’s the unaspected Pluto again.

This Pluto was Direct by Progression from 1755 to 1957. This corresponds pretty well with the rise of what was called the second British Empire, after the loss of the American colonies, but including the acquisition of India and much of Africa, South East Asia and other territories, so that by 1921 it included a quarter of the world’s population. Prog Pluto began to slow down to go retrograde during World War II, and in the years after the war most of the Empire was dismantled. Prog Pluto has been Direct since 1957, as Britain has built a new, albeit diminished power-base in the world.

The Sun, Moon and Angles run from 7 to 19 degrees of the Cardinal Signs, and the last 2 transits of Pluto to these points have proved very significant politically. The first of these sweeps of Pluto through these points was from 1919 to 1931, and this was a period of rising power for the Labour movement, firstly through industrial action in search of better conditions, which resulted in the General Strike of 1926; this failed, but then the first proper Labour government was elected in 1929, and lasted until 1935 (they had been briefly in power, as a small minority government, in 1924).

The next sweep of Pluto through these points was from 1974 to 1980, and again we see the same power struggle going on. In 1974 the miners managed to oust the Conservatives from power through strike action, and the years that followed were ones in which there was a lot of industrial unrest and strike action, in which Britain was seen as ‘the sick man of Europe’. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was elected to power, and there was a sea-change in British politics (just as there had been in 1930, at the end of the previous series of Pluto transits). Rightly or wrongly, Thatcher broke the power of the unions and got Britain back on the road to economic health.

You could see these 2 periods as struggles between left and right wings of politics, with first the left gaining power and setting in motion a much more compassionate society, that resulted after the war in the creation of the welfare state. But Labour did not have a good economic record, and eventually a corrective in the other direction was needed, which Thatcher provided.

There is another of these Pluto periods coming up, between 2011 and 2018, as Pluto moves from 7 to 19 Capricorn. It is not clear to me what this struggle might be about, as the old imbalances are no longer there. We no longer have the old polarity of the Tories trashing the public services, or Labour trashing the economy. This has been Blair’s great achievement, to manage both the economy and the public services fairly well at the same time. And there is no sign of this changing.

So this next Pluto series of transits may not be about a struggle between political polarities. But there is no shortage of wider issues to be faced: environmental degradation, energy resources, nuclear proliferation – all of these are becoming pressing, they are global issues, and furthermore Pluto (and Uranus) will also be impacting on the charts of the major powers. If there is a political struggle, it may be about which party can deal most effectively with these problems.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007


Gordon Brown, the UK PM, has Sun, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Node in 12th House Pisces, as well as Mercury in the 12th. A substantial part of this man is hidden from view (12th) and it is chaotic, indolent, imaginative, creative, profoundly connected to the collective desires etc etc. But we don’t get to see this side, and never did in all his 10 years as Chancellor – apart from, perhaps, the odd flash via his concern for Africa.

What we do see is this unusually controlled, responsible accountant, which he is particularly playing up (successfully) at the moment, but it is not an act, it’s his comfort zone, and has been for years. Gordon, where are you?

This may sound like pop psychology, but being leader of the country, and being so connected to the collective, I think his missing 12th House gets projected outwards, it gets played out around him in major national events. This has been happening since the moment he became PM. All these events that he can’t control are his own suppressed 12th House Pisces.

There has been a remarkable run of uncontrollable national events in the mere 6 weeks since he has been PM. Within 2 days of him starting the job, there was a series of attempted terrorist attacks. Then we have had endless and unprecedented flooding in the UK (particularly appropriate for 12th House Pisces). And in the last 24 hours there has been a confirmed outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease: when this last happened, it spun out of control very quickly and became a national crisis.

At least it's cheaper for him than paying a dominatrix.

It is a strange set of coincidences, and I think it is psychologically fascinating. Chill out, Gordon! Stop "trying your utmost" as you put it.

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