I’ve sort of wondered recently, do I have a particular approach to astrology? I probably do, it’s just that I haven’t tied it into a bundle and called it something. I’m not sure I’d want to, because for me what is important is the astrologer hirself (pronounced with a Scottish accent), not the set of ideas around them. It seems to be a well-trodden path to establishing yourself as an astrologer that you need a book and a specialty, and that is what you are known for. Up to a point, that seems fair enough. But also, people can look really good on paper, and become well known and respected, without being that substantial as people. This idea gets raised a lot in Buddhism, where you have the famous teacher who knows everything there is to know and can argue and present brilliantly, but the guy with the real insight is the cowherd that nobody looks twice at.
For me, it’s the person that matters, and that applies right across all the counselling/ healing/’spiritual’ fields. I think astrology, because it is a craft based on such a multitude of ideas, is particularly prone to identifying substance with intellectual attainment. The well-known names in astrology are often not particularly known for their ability to read personal charts. They may be perfectly good at that, but it also seems to be an increasingly well-trodden path to stop doing much in the way of personal charts and to enter the academic world. Astrology has an issue with intellectual credibility, and the more it allows itself to feel wrong-footed by the establishment, and desperate to prove itself in their eyes, the more one-sidedly intellectual it is liable to become.
Because surely this is what astrology comes down to, the ability to sit down with someone and be of real help to them. And that is not just about the ability to read charts. More importantly, it is the ability to identify what the important issues are for someone that will help them move on, and to have sound, uncommon sense things to say about those issues. And this comes back to where you are as a human being. Have you had that initiation by life that allows you to see beneath the conventional surface to what is real? Is what you know really your own, is it lived? In astrological terms, have you allowed Neptune and Pluto to madden you and tear you apart, and have you seen what they were getting at? You may be 20 years old and have understood that, you may be 80 and still taking the world at face-value.
But coming back to where I started. Do I have a particular approach? Well I’m thinking it could be called polytheistic astrology. The planets as gods. Not planets as principles or even archetypes but as actual gods who have claims upon you. Gods whose presence you sometimes feel. Those ‘parts of the psyche’ that they represent are in a sense independent of you, not located purely ‘within’ you. The psyche as an objective reality, as Jung put it. As James Hillman said, the soul has become located within the person and not in the world, which is why he thinks psychotherapy has not helped make the world a better place.
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Astrology has a particular offering to the modern world in this sense, because it sees the synchronicity between inner and outer events. It sees, in other words, that the soul is in the world ‘out there’, that inner and outer are not separate, that there is an underlying unity.
And the gods also straddle this modern divide. If you have say Mercury square Mars in your chart, you could see it as a challenge to be bold in your thinking and speech; and if you are not bold, well maybe it’s going to come out some other way, maybe you’ll find yourself swearing aggressively at people. But also you could see it as the gods Mercury and Mars ‘out there’ making claims upon you that are conflicting because they are in incompatible elements, say Fire and Earth. And maybe the way to move it on is by propitiating them. You do ceremonies, build altars to them and their elements, invoke them and honour them.
Often we use astrology as a psychoanalytic tool, and that’s well and good. But maybe we don’t need that analysis of how ‘our’ personality works. Because it’s not ‘ours’ anyway. You belong to the gods, not the other way round. If we honour Mercury and Mars, and let them know we want them to work together, then we can leave it to them to sort that out. They are much bigger and more powerful than us, it is in a sense not our place to try and sort them out. And what they might have in mind when it comes to working well together might be quite different to what we have in mind. It might involve some sort of deal. They might think it’s perfectly OK to swear and curse sometimes. The gods are not moral in a conventional sense.
I’m not claiming originality for this approach. It’s just what I lean towards. 3 years ago, in the middle of a series of Neptune transits, I felt I needed more vision in my life. So I drove off and did a ritual to Neptune that involved both the beach and a forest. 2 weeks later, to my surprise, I found myself getting ready to move house, setting in motion a chain of events that is still unfolding.
Astrology shows us that there is this much bigger understanding, bigger picture that is beyond our limited human grasp. It may not matter that much whether we understand ourselves in a psychological sense. People got on for thousands of years without modern psychology. What does matter is the understanding that there are these larger forces – which as an astrologer I identify with the Greek gods – and that our job is to feel them and honour them and live by them. That is the beginning of wisdom. Our life is not ‘our own’, we cannot dream up whatever we want and then ‘empower’ ourselves to have it. That is wrong-headed. As Jung said, Free Will is about doing gladly what we have to do.
So I’m a polytheistic astrologer. I think I’m probably also an evolutionary astrologer, but not in the sense that is normally understood: From Wiki “An evolutionary astrologer works from the belief that souls reincarnate and evolve over many lifetimes and are therefore born with pre-existing experiences and orientations that affect the soul's current incarnation. In the evolutionary astrology paradigm, the natal chart is believed to show the soul’s intent, the life lessons of a person's present life, and to give insight into lessons and learnings of past incarnations. In the evolutionary astrology paradigm, the natal chart is believed to show the soul’s intent, the life lessons of a person's present life, and to give insight into lessons and learnings of past incarnations. ”
I only do past lives on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My point being that I don’t do belief if I can help it, in the sense of basing my thinking on ideas I cannot verify for myself. I can read evidence for past lives, but I have no experience of them. Nor am I aware of ‘pre-existing experiences’. Of course, we have an innate character that is not just the product of our parents and surroundings, that is observable, but you don’t need to invoke past lives to explain that – indeed, why explain it at all? I don’t mind past lives as a story we sometimes tell ourselves, but we need to dance lightly with it, not take it too literally.
I mean, the world we actually experience is not literally there, it is a product of the brain and an artificial separation into inner and outer, subject and object. So a fortiori I don’t think we can take something we do not generally experience, i.e. past lives, literally. And even more so the lessons we are supposed to have learnt in those past lives.
And the idea of a soul intent I can’t really buy either. I can buy the gods’ intentions, I’m happy with that. But I’ll leave that to them, it’s not for me to poke around there, like trying to open a flower bud before it’s ready. Besides, they might change their minds!
I’m evolutionary in the sense that I have observed that life is always moving on to some new stage. This is Pluto. You see it in plants and animals, not just in the course of their individual lives, but in the way species change over long time periods, and the way life seems to bring in new elements: that is Uranus. And you see it in people, in our own lives and in others’ lives. And usually I see my job as an astrologer as identifying how people’s lives are trying to move on (yes, it’s life, not them, that provides the impulse) and take the side of that bit that wants to move on. That is the main thing, everything else follows from that. If you answer that call to change, to become someone in a way more than you were (which often involves becoming less, stripping away the old), then you are doing that life needs of you. That is often a very hard thing for people to do, and some people move faster than others, some barely at all in the course of their lives. But I think most personal difficulties in a way come down to this. Are you prepared to change in the way that life is asking you to? And as an astrologer I can have a good idea of what way that is, that is where I can be of help.
So I am an evolutionary astrologer in the sense that my experience is that life is always moving on to a new stage in its own mysterious way, and my main job when I read a chart is to identify and back that process.
So there you have it: I’m a polytheistic evolutionary astrologer.