Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Personal Experience vs The Men in White Coats

Here’s to reclaiming the primacy of personal experience over what we’re told. We have heard that the Earth goes round the Sun, and it would be unreasonable not to believe that. But our experience is of the Sun moving across the sky – ie the Sun going round the Earth. That, in my book, makes it also true. It is not that the Sun SEEMS to go round the earth, but that REALLY it is the other way round. No, we have to believe our senses, or where are we? Both are true, and if anything I think personal experience needs to be given the greater weight.

And it is the same with astrology. Statistical testing has repeatedly shown that astrology does not work, and again it would be unreasonable not to believe that. That debate, in my opinion, is over. But our personal experience is that astrology does work, that it is powerful and descriptive and full of strange and magical coincidences. Both are true, and they are contradictory, and I think it is good to have to live with such contradictions. They push us to ponder the nature of knowledge itself. What is knowledge, can anything really be known in this vast ocean of unknowing in which we exist?

Ignorance is not so much lack of knowledge as thinking you know when you don’t. When you think about how much consciousness – or the brain – structures experience, then what’s REALLY going on becomes all the more mysterious. It’s not surprising that there are contradictions between different ways of knowing.

Our job is not so much to push at the frontiers of knowledge, as it is to deconstruct our natural tendency to think we know more than we do.

Modern means of knowledge have disempowered our sense of knowing based on experience. It is the ‘men in white coats’ who know best, who have ‘proofs’. Psychologically I don’t think it is much different to the medieval priesthood knowing best.

It is interesting that ‘men in white coats’ are the people in authority, the arbiters of what is real, and that the term applies to lab scientists as well as to the people who take you away to a mental hospital. Is there an unconscious connection here, a collective knowledge that rationality pushed to its extreme is a form of madness?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


In Feb 2009 I wrote: “The US handed over power to a new Iraqi government at 9.26am on 28 June 2004. The Sun-Moon-Angular Uranus Grand Trine suggests to me a natural instability and fragility which is unlikely to last much beyond the departure of US troops…. There is no reason to suppose that militant Islam will not also make advances in Iraq as the US presence recedes.”

Iraq 2004
I’m not claiming particular prescience for the astrology here, because it seems a fairly commonsensical position to have taken. But all the same, this chart does seem to work quite well for the current incarnation of Iraq, reflecting events well and therefore allowing us perhaps to dig a bit deeper. It’s often hard to define THE chart for a country. There are usually several charts, describing different aspects of the  country, or periods in its history, and exact times can be hard to find.

(PS It turns out the time zone for the chart I was using was an hour out. Uranus is not in fact Angular, but the Sun-Moon-Uranus Grand Trine stands. And the source for the chart? Can't find it, but I know I noted down the exact time from the news when the event occurred.)

The recent foundation of the Islamic State Caliphate is a case in point. There are a number of conflicting accounts of when the declaration was made, and we may never know for certain. (See my recent piece on the subject.)

Islamic State Caliphate
Now here’s the spooky thing: the natal chart I use for the Caliphate and the 2014 Solar Return for Iraq each occurred on 28 June 2014 within 25 mins of each other. The planets are virtually identical by sign and degree, it’s just the Angles that are a bit apart.

Iraq Solar Return 28th June 2014
This occurred because the Iraqi SR Chart for this year happened to coincide closely with the start of Ramadan – the Muslim holy month, which also was the time that Islamic State, for reasons of religion and power, chose to found the Caliphate. Any chart for the Caliphate would be within a day or so of this one, so the overall point still stands.

It’s a bizarre coincidence. It suggests that the fates of IS and Iraq are intertwined this year – which is obvious. And it also suggests, to my mind, that it is not just a matter of enemies opposing – IS vs the Iraqi government. It is as much the rulers and people of each moving towards each other, becoming one. That is understandable for some of the Sunnis, not so much for the Kurds and majority Shias. However it works out, willingly or unwillingly, there is a curious sympathy between the 2, and a movement towards becoming one country. It’s like twins born 25 mins apart, who can be both opposites yet closely tied to each other.

And even if you don’t accept the Caliphate Chart, the Iraqi Solar Return occurred within 25 mins of the technical start of Ramadan (the first sighting of the New Moon), the holiest month of the year, strongly linking the fate of Iraq this year to Islam.

The territorial ambitions of IS?


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 What I want to do now is to analyse the Iraq Chart and look at the transits etc and see where they lead.

Iraq 2004
First of all, you can see America's hand in the current Iraq's creation: The US Sun-Jupiter at 13-4 Cancer  conjoins the Iraqi Sun-Saturn at 6-15 Cancer. There are other contacts, but that one is striking. Along with the US Saturn squaring both these planets. The expansionist (Jupiter) leadership (Sun) of the world's policeman (10th Saturn) creating a leadership (Sun) and law and order (Saturn) in Iraq.

The Grand Trine, which involves the 2 biggies, the Sun (also the chart ruler) and the Moon, is fundamental to the Iraq Chart. A preponderance of Trines isn’t necessarily what one would expect in a chart of a troubled country. But the Trine, a harmonious aspect, doesn’t mean ‘good’ so much as ‘easy’.

It has been said that Grand Trines are sometimes found in the charts of psychopaths: they expect life to be easy, and if someone gets in their way, they simply dispose of them.

Uranus is an outer planet, invisible to the naked eye and therefore beyond conscious control. He doesn’t have to mean instability, but in this case it’s a fairly obvious interpretation. The leader (Sun) and the people (the Moon)  between them won't be able to control the country. A further instability is created by Uranus squaring Venus, the ruler of the MC.

The Sun in Cancer trine Uranus reflects the divisive tribalism of the Iraqi government. It has always been tribal. Under Saddam Hussein, the minority Sunnis controlled the majority Shias. Under the present government, it has been the other way round. The Sunnis have a grievance, facilitating the invasion of the Sunni Islamic State. The Americans have been pressuring the government, which was led by Nouri Al Maliki, for a long time now to be more inclusive. But it’s not the way they think. It shows what can happen if you invade a country and try to impose your political system – ‘advanced’ liberal democracy – on a country to whom it is alien. Countries often have nasty dictators for a reason, which is that the alternative – warring tribes - is worse.

Uranus opposite 1st House Jupiter suggests that the divisions are religious as well as ethnic.

Natal Mars in the 12th square to the Moon suggests a country whose people will not easily fight for it. There have been reports of Iraqi fighters simply fleeing the advance of IS.


Neptune is currently passing over natal Uranus and will soon square Venus, ruler of the MC – suggesting a dissolution of the State.

The big transits that have been going on for some years are Pluto and Uranus hard-aspecting the (wide) Sun-Saturn conjunction. This will reach its conclusion in 2 years time when Pluto makes his final opposition to Saturn. Pluto opposite Sun described, amongst other things, the exclusion from power of the Sunnis and Kurds. Uranus square Sun and Saturn describes the ongoing shakiness and instability of the leadership (Nouri Al Maliki was forced to resign in August) and law and order, the basic structure of society. Pluto’s opposition to Saturn suggests the destruction of the current Iraqi system of government.


At the end of April there was an eclipse of the Sun at 9 Taurus, 1/2 a degree off the Iraqi North Node. Eclipses often catalyse significant events, and this occurred at a point that is suggestive of the country’s destiny. It occurred as transiting Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto created a Cardinal Grand Cross over natal Saturn. Six weeks later ISIS fighters began to take over Iraqi towns and cities.

April 2014 Eclipse over Baghdad
So will Iraq fall? The answer from the transits seems to suggest yes.

The natal chart is highly unstable. The transits now and over the next couple of years reinforce this take. The April eclipse suggests the arrival of a moment of truth in the country’s destiny.

Iraq: Progressed Chart Oct 2015
In the Progressed Chart, in 9 months time the Sun-Moon Cycle will enter the closing – or Balsamic – phase, which suggests an ending, or the beginning of the end. A year after that, the Prog Asc will change sign from proud Leo to submissive Virgo, while the Prog Moon activates the country’s North Node: we have already seen what the eclipse to that point did.

And then there are the Solar Returns. 2014,15 and 16 all have either Pluto and Uranus on an Angle, suggesting instability and destruction. 2017 does not, but it has a Mars-Jupiter-Pluto Cardinal t-square, suggestive of religious brutality.

So it’s not good news for the Iraqi people. With IS being Sunni and Iraq being mainly Shia, that will add to the brutality. It will be worse than under Saddam, because he did not insist that everyone had to be Sunni.

The US and its allies, as we know, are undertaking airstrikes, which they will probably keep up and which will slow IS down. But, as one US General said after Vietnam, if there was one thing they had learned, it was that you cannot win a war against guerrillas by bombing alone. And there seems to be no appetite for sending in ground troops. The airstrikes are as much a face-saving exercise as anything else, the western governments having to appear to be doing something to oppose IS.

I’d say from the astrology that Iraq will fall to IS in 1 to 2 years’ time.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


The idea of Fate can seem like an affront to our self-respect as human beings, to the idea that we have Free Will, that we make our own choices in life. It can seem like a throw-back to primitive superstition.

And this polarity is understandable when you look at our religious background with its all-powerful, all-determining God. We want none of that, and rightly so.

Our destiny is no longer controlled by God but by ourselves, we have Free Will, and we are guided by reason.

It’s said that we become that which we oppose, and in our flight away from God and towards reason and science, we have created a determinism just as rigid: a universe governed by immutable physical laws, with human beings as just one more expression of those laws. And without even the divine element that God, for all his faults, brought.

But that determinism tends to be hidden because, at least in the West,  in our day-to-day lives we do have the freedom to choose (up to a point) and to have opinions. We don’t have to be on our guard, whatever people say about government snooping. Of course, we CAN be brainwashed by all sorts of factors, and many of us are in different ways, it seems to be part of how large societies work. But the point is we don’t have to be, we have the option of thinking and acting independently without being sent to prison or burnt or beheaded.

These sorts of contradictions fascinate me. And I think they often arise because we think in rigid, literal, black-and-white terms. Life, hopefully, teaches us not to think like that. Education should also teach us not to, but I don’t think it does, generally speaking, because it has its own agenda.

And so Fate and Free Will can appear as irreconcilable opposites. I don’t think I need to argue for Free Will, because it is self-evident. Or is it? In one sense it is self-evident, in that from moment to moment we choose our actions. The devil is in the word 'choose', and how much of ‘us’ is involved in that choice. We can truly and genuinely and sincerely think we are acting out of Free Will, and then one day we realise we’ve been living out a programme we were brought up to live, or reacting against it, which is sort of the same thing. And the programming may have been making the choices to a greater extent than the little bit of consciousness we called our own.

And that is Fate, a certain kind of Fate, masquerading as Free Will.

So it’s complicated.


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And often we wake up to Free Will through crises, which are Fate in a rather different sense. As an astrologer, one sees this kind of Fate all the time through the transits of the outer planets to the natal chart. A god enters the scene. He is wild and bad-mannered and can’t be locked in his room, and a few years down the line you find you are a different person, maybe aware of the real reasons you’ve been like you are all these years.

And these crises are, to a certain extent, predictable. They are writ, they are Fate. It’s part of the astrologer’s box of magic tricks: so what happened to you around 1992, what major life change did you go through? And out it all comes, usually. Not always, because astrology isn’t mechanical and people aren’t mechanical.

Or take the financial crisis, the mother of all meltdowns, that began in 2008. Any half-way literate astrologer could see that with Uranus coming up to square Pluto at a degree that significantly impacted the charts of all the major powers, some sort of big crisis was on the way. And astrologers were in fact talking about it years in advance.

We’d have probably all had different ideas as to the nature of this crisis, although Uranus-Pluto has a way of being economics, so that would have been a reasonable guess.

So you can see that the future was both writ and not writ on a collective scale.

It’s mysterious. What is the chart if not our Fate? But it is not set in stone. It is more like a set of stories that have their own flavours and lessons and turning points, and that can even to a great degree be predicted in advance. And these pre-writ stories are not a denial of our Free Will, but rather contain points at which events seem to have guided us to the possibility of an accession of Free Will.

The chart is not literal, it is a divinatory lens. It is objective, in that many astrologers would accurately see the same sort of meaning in a chart. It is not just a lens for the astrologer’s personal dialogue with the gods, though it is that as well, making every reading unique and particular.

Through feeling and reading the relationship between the earth and the sky, astrology has over the millennia built a divinatory sea that anyone can tap into, a sea that points to our origins, in fact to the origins of everything, as lying behind the apparent material universe. For how else could we possibly know these things about people and world events from the chart? Certainly not from any physical cause.

As Wordsworth says in Intimations of Immortality:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream...

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar

So I think this is the sort of context in which the Fate element in astrology needs to be seen. Astrology gives us glimpses of the deeper stories behind our life, the intentions of the gods, if you like, the bigger cosmic picture behind who we think we are, that Aries has forgotten and that Pisces is privilege to, and that all the other signs are a progression towards.

Fate in this sense is not something that can easily be put in rational, logical terms. Even Free Will cannot very easily be expressed in those terms, not when you view it as the urge to enlarge consciousness.

We may not be able to explain Fate, but we ignore it at our peril. The ancient Greeks understood this well, though human rationality was given more power as time went on.

The ancient Greeks acknowledged the role of Fate as a reality outside the individual that shaped and determined human life. In modern times, the concept of Fate has developed the misty halo of romantic destiny, but for the ancient Greeks, Fate represented a terrifying, unstoppable force.

And they were right. Cataclysmic natural events apart (which nowadays we are largely shielded from, we forget the raw power of nature), you see the suffering people go through because they don’t know how to listen to themselves, the self being much larger than everyday consciousness and often how we have been taught to be. Life exacts its revenge, or tries to pressure us into submission. You get cancer, your wife leaves you, your kids disown you, you get fired, you lose your home, anything you try goes wrong, maybe you even die.

Sometimes a crow is just a crow, and sometimes it means something. Sometimes these things just happen. It is a basic mistake to think that outer events always mirror inner events. No, the whole point is that reading signs is an art, and knowing when a sign is a sign and when it isn’t, is part of that art, and part of astrology’s subtlety.

That larger self is just one way of putting it. It is the gods knocking at the door. It is life itself and its need to move on. It is the Unconscious trying to further the process of individuation.

Whatever it is, it is not necessarily ‘nice’. Astrology in this auguristic sense disrupts our domestic sanitisations, the habitual and the safe, by revealing the intentions of the gods.

So the ancient Greeks understood Fate to be a dark god when resisted. Even, at times, when not resisted. The concept of Fate brings us closer not to that which is ‘nice’ but to that which is real.

As science and its ordered universe has progressed and tightened over the last 200 years, so have the outer planets, reality as uncontrollable Fate, emerged.

Bernadette Brady, in her book Cosmos, Chaosmos and Astrology advances the notions of Cosmos and Chaosmos. Cosmos is the ordered universe. Chaosmos is that aspect of the universe – eg weather systems – that do not obey the laws of predictable cause and effect and that science has had to find other ways of describing. Hence Chaos theory, and the Chaosmos, to which she proposes that astrology essentially belongs.

You could say that Free Will belongs to Cosmos and Fate to Chaosmos. Not that it is a rigid distinction. And Chaos theory seems to me to contain an inherent contradiction, in that is attempting to describe in rational terms that which defeats rationality. But at least it constitutes some kind of acknowledgement by science that there are aspects to reality that will forever be beyond its grasp. Quantum reality has similar implications. Chaosmos, however, is not merely the special case that science can't reduce to an equation: it is the larger reality within which the very specialised methods of modern science take their place.

But people aren’t always interested in philosophy, and why should they be, so these kinds of implications don’t always filter through. All the same, Fate as that larger reality beyond human control that needs respecting seems to be implied by both Chaos Theory and Quantum Theory. And Chaosmos seems a very evocative term for it, that also has a measure of scientific respectability.

Free Will can to some extent be explained in rational terms. Scientists can do brain studies on how we make decisions, for example. Free Will is an idea. But Fate in its deeper sense of the gods barging through our front door cannot be explained, merely described and evoked.

In 1996 I encountered the Norns in a book called ‘The Wisdom of the Wyrd’. They are 3 women who live in a hall by a well at the foot of Yggdrassil, the World Tree of Norse Myth. They take care of Yggdrassil with water from the well and sand from around it. They and other Norns determine the destiny of new-born children.

The author, Professor Brian Bates, called the Norns ‘Daughters of the Night’. I knew nothing about these figures, yet the imagery stunned me. For weeks afterwards it was like I was left reeling whenever I thought of these Norns. Even now I sort of go weak at the knees :)

I responded so strongly partly because Germanic/Norse myth is in me and probably in all northern Europeans. That is the strange thing about myths: we may not have heard them, but we recognise them all the same. The Lord of the Rings has that sort of quality, and it would, for Tolkien was deeply versed in European mythology.

And my response was to an image of Fate. But also more than an image. These ‘images’ (which is what nowadays we reduce them to, like one more defined thing to have ideas about) are also beings, they are presences that we can experience. I have that with Pluto. I often feel his presence when I am writing.


And I don’t think that is just a ‘subjective’ thing. These beings are real, they can be met and talked to. Yet they are also elusive, they do not just come at our bidding. And that is how I feel about the Norns. They belong to what Patrick Harpur calls Daimonic Reality.

And if I were southern European I might well feel the same way about the Moirai, the Fates, the 3 women who in ancient Greece allotted the Fate of everyone at birth. They each have a different function: one spins the thread of life onto her spindle, the other measures it, and the other cuts it: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.

The Norns and the Moirai suggest to me that in ancient times Fate was understood and even feared as utterly real, yet it was not taken in the literal way that we think nowadays. For us, something is only real if it is literal, if it is ‘out there’ in a solid way and can be measured. From that point of view, Fate can seem like a product of primitive ignorance. The modern perspective can seem to be above and beyond all that has come before, but I think it is an anomaly, a peculiarity that will right itself - maybe not for a while yet - because human nature will inevitably also right itself.

 So I think the Norns and the Moirai, understood in a non-literal way, bring us a long way from Fate as a sort of primitive determinism, that we moderns with our understanding of the way the universe ‘really’ works can afford to look down on.

I don’t think the relationship between Fate and Free Will can ever be pinned down. It is a dichotomy that is there for us to reflect on, to muse on, and in so doing to reach down below the surface of life and observe consciousness in its mystery and elusiveness.