Monday, September 24, 2012

On Being an Unprofessional Astrologer

Astrologer Liz Greene on the King of Cups (Orpheus) from her Mythic Tarot: "the gifted counsellor and healer who can empathise with and help others, yet who cannot quite trust life enough to take its course. It is characteristic that many of those in the helping professions choose such a vocation because they have been wounded through personal relationships, often those with the parents; and thus they form relationships where they remain ultimately in control and cannot be that deeply hurt again."

Liz Greene, as usual, puts her finger on something. I had a ‘Yes!’ moment when I read it. It explains how I often feel about therapists or professional astrologers: the control thing in the relationship, that to me feels inauthentic. Instinctively, I want the readings I do to be a dialogue, a sort of wandering conversation that eventually covers everything. I think of the people I do readings for as friends rather than 'clients' (‘orrible 'orrible word). I don't agree with those sort of 'professional' boundaries where you keep your own personal life separate. That was what I didn't like about a counselling course I did recently, the uptight ‘professional’ behaviour that was expected. (I was told I suffered from 'resistance' in this respect!)

No, I want to put my feet up, share a glass of wine, create a feeling of ease and equality and friendship and informality, all those things that a ‘professional’ relationship inhibits. And not have any agenda about where it’s going to go or that I’m expected to solve any problems. In that context, I find, the best stuff happens. It’s about being human.

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PS Liz Greene and co-author Juliet Sharman-Burke are doing a day on the Mythic Tarot in Bath in November.  Highly recommended. It really is the best thought-through Tarot ever, and particularly relevant for astrologers, based as it is on the Greek myths. Go to

PPS If you haven't seen it, get the TV series In Treatment to see a (fictional) gifted therapist at work.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Uranus-Pluto and the EU

We’ve had the 2nd of 7 exact squares between Uranus and Pluto in the last few days. There have been Uranus-Pluto type events associated with it: the militarised stand-off between China and Japan over some disputed islands, the violent protests against the USA across the world over an anti-Islamic film. These events are not necessarily game-changers in themselves, though they point to deeper issues. But they are the sort of events you’d expect around the exact square, the froth that reminds us that Uranus and Pluto are particularly active right now.

Uranus square Pluto is like a change in a deep ocean current occurring over some years, and the events that express that change can occur at any time. But particularly, I’ve noticed, in the weeks leading up to an exact aspect. This seems to happen with any major planetary alignment. And in the case of Uranus-Pluto, the major event of this 2nd square occurred a few weeks ago when the EU put in place measures to protect members like Spain and Italy from excessive borrowing costs. In my opinion, at any rate. The interpretation of planets is as much an opinion as anything else is. There is not a clearly defined 'meaning’ out there that astrologers are able to divine.

The EU debt crisis has been keeping the whole world in recession this year. Or at least, not growing economically as it might. It’s easy to assume that’s a bad thing because the feelgood factor isn’t there. But if you can afford a recession – and the food still seems to be on the plates in the West – it maybe gets us to stop and think about what is important, our values. 

The Ingress Chart for Pluto's entry into Capricorn in Jan 2008 has quite a close Pluto-Venus conjunction. Venus is our values, suggesting that sort of mulling over, a re-consideration. The protests over the excesses of the financial sector would seem to be part of that. As would Jupiter's (excess) conjunction to Venus and Pluto.

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Greece is still a basket-case and we don’t know what will happen to her. But the EU could not afford to let Spain or Italy go under, they were too big to fail. And as I wrote about a month ago, before the EU made its move, when a crisis has been subjected to two squares from Uranus-Pluto, something has to give, you can’t just keep holding on, these planets of fate are beyond our puny grip.

I did tend to think, however, that it was going to go the other way. As an astrologer, you can know something decisive is going to happen around a particular period. But then you have to make a call with your merely human judgement!
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The crucial issue has been German backing, in the face of popular opposition, to helping out debt-laden EU members. And Angela Merkel seems to have manoeuvred that. It’s probably what she’ll be remembered for. I’ve always thought she had the makings of a great leader, and I think now she is doing that. It will take a while to finally sort this crisis, but Europe seems to have made the decision to stick together. 

The price of that, of course, is a surrender of sovereignty to central financial institutions, Brussels effectively having more say over the running of individual economies to prevent a re-run of this crisis. That is what nobody is saying. If anything, the politicians are saying the opposite. Spain’s leader recently said that if the country is bailed out, it will not allow any conditions to be made over how it runs its economy. Etc etc. Necessary froth and posturing. As John Pilger said, “Don’t believe anything until it is officially denied.” Expect lots more of this over the next year, as each country asserts its independence while quietly handing over more power to Brussels.

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The EU (or EEC as it was) and the Euro were both inaugurated on the 1st of January, in 1958 and 1999 respectively. So they both have the Sun around 10 degrees of Capricorn. Pluto reached 9.5 degrees of Capricorn this year, and Uranus reached 8.5 Aries. So the EU and the Euro are both under intense pressure to reformulate their inner goals. This is what Uranus-Pluto does to a person’s Sun as well. Particularly with Pluto, you get these crises, where the old you no longer works but you hang on for as long as you can, trying to make it work, secretly knowing the game is up and longing for it to be up, and then finally you give way and allow the new a bit of space, and then the new gradually takes over.

And that is what has happened with the EU. The crucial step of allowing the new in, putting in proper backing for Spain and Italy, has finally occurred. The first actual crossing by Uranus-Pluto of the EU’s Sun will be next year, but the main observable events in these crises can easily occur beforehand. Or not. You never quite know.

But the fact we have not yet had an exact aspect shows how much working through there is to do. It’s a huge seed that has been planted, with huge implications.

Both the EU and the Euro have Angles at the end of the mutable signs, classically a good time for endings, for fallings apart, rather than for beginnings. Hence this mega-crisis. Who knows, the EU may still disintegrate. What it really needs is a re-launch without those mutable Angles. Maybe the treaties required to enact the new financial order will be far-reaching enough to amount to that. As long as they don't re-launch at one minute past midnight on 1st Jan on a 29 Virgo year. Some years are 29 Virgo at that time, some are 0 Libra, which would be much better: a new (0 degrees) partnership (Libra).

What will happen to Greece? The only way for Greece to stay in the EU is for much of her debts to be written off, much more than have been written off already. The issue was kicked into the medium grass last month when a report was commissioned, due sometime in the next couple of weeks. There is the issue of ‘moral hazard’: if her debts are largely written off and she carries on as a member of the EU, then other countries will feel, and Greece herself will feel, that it doesn’t matter if you live beyond your means, because you’ll get rescued.

I think Angela Merkel’s instincts are to keep Greece in – mother Merkel, with Sun in Cancer, but conjunct Uranus, reflecting the division in the country of her childhood, East Germany, and the division threatening her ‘country’, the EU, now.

But Greece may have to be sacrificed to show that the EU is serious about spending controls. On the other hand, investors may then feel that Spain or Italy could be chucked out, bringing the crisis back all over again.

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Look at the Greek chart for Dec 13th this year: Uranus will be stationing almost exactly opposite natal Moon-Pluto. Expect an autumn of instability for Greece. And then continuing pain over the next few years as Uranus-Pluto heads on to hard aspect her Saturn-Ascendant at 11-13 Cancer. Uranus can be about splits, sudden departures, and it is perfectly possible, astrologically at any rate, that Greece will suddenly leave the Euro this autumn. The Moon in a chart is the people, so if Greece leaves it may be due to pressure from the people on its government, which is doing its best, according to its mandate, to stay within the Eurozone. The leader is the Sun which, at 1 Leo, will be experiencing a square from Saturn this autumn: pressure to succeed in the face of adverse events, maybe even failure to succeed.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Astrology, Magic and Self-Knowledge

You can get something to happen by having a clear plan of what you’re trying to achieve, and going out and doing it. That is Mars, with a bit of Saturn-shaping. It is generally how the world works.

But you can also use magic. This is the outer planets. With magic, it is not about a sharply defined subject (you) imposing its will on a sharply defined object (the world.)

It involves a more subtle understanding of how the world works, in which subject and object are one. The word magic comes from the ancient Greek magos “one of the members of the learned and priestly class”, which in turn comes from the old Persian magush, possibly meaning “to be able, to have power.”

That last one sounds about right – to be able, to have power. I don’t know about it having much to do with priests and scholars, though: they are good for performing other people’s rituals and preserving other people’s words, but I don’t think of them generally as having much power of their own.

(Incidentally, I don't think JK Rowling understands anything about magic, but I think Philip Pullman does.)

So magic means you can get things done, but on a basis of inner power. Which isn’t something you can acquire, nor is it something you’d claim to have, or even a word you’d use. That is a crude, worldly, exoteric way of thinking. No, it comes from having the right relationship to yourself, self-knowledge, being at ease with who you are. It gets called ‘esoteric’, like some hidden yogic mystery that you have to go to Tibet to acquire, or to a Toltec Master. But that’s because over the centuries we’ve had it knocked out of our culture, first by Christianity, and latterly by the modern establishment religion, science.

Establishments find it easier to function if people look to them for guidance rather than to themselves. They will often insist on it. I suspect it’s always been that way, at least to some extent. I expect it.

So it’s about having the right relationship to yourself, and to the world. You can’t separate the two. And then you get things to happen not by pushing events, but by creating space for them. This is particularly Neptune’s realm. You mentally, emotionally, intuitively align yourself with the event you want to unfold, you keep yourself aligned, and you wait for it to happen, or for the opportunity to present itself.
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Awareness is vital here. You can’t just magic anything into being.  It’s no good wanting 2 plus 2 to equal 5, for example. And you can’t easily go against a strong natural force, like rabbits eating your lawn. But you might get the clouds to rain! And if you just ‘want’ something, well it won’t have much power unless it is something – or someone! – you really need, that makes intuitive sense as well.

And you don’t know the precise nature of the outcome, because it’s not like pushing billiard balls around a table. If anything, it’s about being the pocket and waiting for the balls to drop in, in the trust that it will be the right ones. But you probably don’t know which the right ones are.

It’s plugging into a wider wisdom that seems to know what’s right for us. We don’t know what’s right, not precisely, and not beyond a limited degree.

But we can take steps, the future needs constant dreaming into being. That full alignment of ourselves is central. And with that we can do ceremonies, rituals. We can create them ourselves, like I did in my Neptune ritual, which bore fast and powerful results. And it was based around a myth involving Neptune and Odysseus. And I didn’t know what I wanted, just that I needed to move forward.

I don’t entirely like the word magic, because we are dealing with a natural, albeit often unrecognised, means of action. And magic has connotations of Will in the narrow sense. People often use the word ‘manifest’ these days, which relates, but it is clich├ęd and often wrong-headed.

I think the word that probably comes closest to what I’m talking about is prayer! Yes, praying to whatever you conceive of as ultimate. I suspect the Catholic saints work quite well. Not so sure about the Christian god, he’s so twisted, but even then it probably works to some extent. I think I prefer the natural world in its entirety. It’s tangible, it’s there, it’s real. It’s not some being you’re not quite sure about, or a cosmic idea. What is there apart from the natural world? It is everything, so why not pray to that? We are part of it, we are intimately connected to it. Unlike god, whose good books we have to keep in.

So praying as directing your intention out there into the natural world. But with integrity, with the sense that you are fully aligned with what you are doing. And it doesn’t have to be just for yourself. It can be for others, help for others. We can use magic there as well. Of course, we can’t know what’s best for others – we don’t even know what’s best for ourselves – but sometimes it’s obvious, like health, or life, or something they really want.

It’s that inner alignment that is key. Self-knowledge. That is where the power to produce results comes from. And that is the chief task of life, finding who we are, building a self.

Often with astrology readings, people’s difficulties, and even illnesses, seem to me to come down to a disconnection from who they are. That deep feeling you have when you are at ease with yourself, when the voices that tell us we should be this or that, or that we’re just a pile of crap, are quieter than usual -  not entirely gone, that would be remarkable.

So for me an astrology reading is about finding out who that person is, and what they are habitually doing that conceals them from who they are. That’s part of it. It’s not just that we do things that get in our own way. The deeper self also has to be built over years and years by acting on that which is original to you, taking your gifts and talents seriously (it took me years to take my interest in astrology seriously), creating your own spring of knowledge and understanding. Not letting yourself be drowned out by all the voices telling you what to think and how you should be living. At the same time, that oppositional pressure, those demons, can be exactly what are needed to push us to change.

So to be powerful in acting magically, in manifesting, usually takes years. Which doesn’t mean some people aren’t naturally gifted at it while being a mess with the rest of their lives! But it involves a very different way of thinking to the usual Saturnian mode, cause and effect as a product of personal will. There is a place for this, of course, for everyday tasks. But even then, it needs to be in the service of Neptune. 

Saturn can easily dominate Neptune, and then everything goes wonky. Like trying to make an artist (Neptune) work 9 to 5 (Saturn). 

For the bigger things, we need Neptunian causality, to coin a phrase. To move house, for example, you need to dream it, and don’t be afraid to dream what you really want. 2 plus 2 can’t equal 5, but if you really need something, if it would help your life move forward - and that is the key – it is surprising what can happen in ways you wouldn’t have thought. Nature provides. Plants and animals are provided with what they need, so why shouldn’t we be? We have different needs a lot of the time, but we are part of nature, so nature will provide. That is what she does.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Astrology: Interpretation or Propitiation?

I have had Jung’s idea of the objective reality of the psyche in my mind today. It sort of inverts the usual way we think about things, in that the mind is by definition subjective, and everything else ‘out there’ is objective.
So what it is saying is that the mind is not us. Kind of.  Or rather psyche, the Greek word for soul (which psychology would do well to remember.) The psyche is ‘out there’, it is not under our control. It has its guiding presences, separate to our usual notions of our self, which have been there all along.

If you think about it, what we think and do is emotionally based. We do things because we want to. We are not in control of what we want, it presents itself and we act.

I am in control of my thinking, up to a point. But I am thinking about this subject, writing about it, because I want to. And the wanting came from somewhere else.

Poor human beings, thinking they are in control! We are like the froth on the ocean. But there is a powerful, meaningful, numinous presence there that makes sense of everything once we see we are the froth. A bit more than froth, but not a lot more.

I often say that the planets in astrology are the different bits of us. I suppose that is a good starting point. But they are also not bits of us. They are separate from us, they have their own life, they are gods. All the significant forces within us are not us. We are each directors in our own play. The script is there, and we can be creative with it up to a point. The actors are there, and each actor needs to be left to play his/her part in their own way. With us, the director, paying full attention.

So I think when it comes to chart interpretation, we can either see the chart as ‘my’ psychology (which has its place), or as a bunch of gods that need to be propitiated. This is clearest when it comes to the outer planets, Uranus Neptune and Pluto. These planets are invisible to the naked eye and are therefore outside the bounds of ordinary consciousness.

I wrote a piece a couple of years ago in which, looking for a direction forward, I did a ritual to Neptune. It took me, on and off, a couple of days driving around Cornwall. 2 weeks later we had found a house to move to (although that hadn’t been my specific intention), the move went smoothly, and a new life slowly began.

Neptune is what you imagine, what you dream, and at the time (as now also) I was undergoing some major Neptune transits.

So that can be the way of it. We may not know the way forward, but the gods surely do.

During that ritual time, Mars turned up in my van one night. Huge, in his armour. So the inner planets as well, they are not us. I think that Pluto, who turns up regularly, was also there. Yeh, he just told me. I remember now.
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And it’s about bringing astrology away from numbers and towards a relationship with the gods. Because that’s what astrology is about, it is about creating this living relationship. If astrology draws you, it is the gods drawing you, commanding you, even, taking you to your encounter with fate.

Astrology cannot be learnt in classes, though they can help. You become an astrologer when, like the tribal shaman, the gods choose you. They may make you ill until you learn to listen. They can keep you ill for decades if necessary, or keep your life just not working whatever you try. That is what I think a lot of these modern diseases like ME are: they are soul diseases. But we do not have the elders or the traditions to recognise it.

And to be an astrologer, you need to know something. Real knowledge that only the gods can give you, often by tearing your old life apart, getting you to look beneath the surface of life, beneath the conventional wisdoms and superficial judgements. You taste the dark earth.

This is why astrology’s search for respectability is such a fool’s errand. The judgements of the market place, of the academy, of science, of the man in the street, of institutional religion are superficial. They do not hear the same drum. Their considerations are more obviously practical, and in a way that is fair enough. Religion included: its concerns are largely influence and control. And that includes astrology-as-religion.

If the gods have their eye on you, if Pluto has abducted you, you cannot live by the same rules as other people. Your gaze is turned somewhere else. You can pretend to be normal, but people will often feel there is something different about you. And it’s really important not to care about what other people think, and really important to care what the gods think, so to speak. It can be difficult not to mind what others think, but learning that is central, it forges who we are. Without that, where is the pressure to change? It’s a matter of loyalties and where they lie.

 And there is such freedom in this. It’s not like the gods ‘telling’ you what to do. It’s more like you are free, as Jung put it, to do what you have to do. The spirit is free. But again, this is easier said than done, because where are the usual sources of security, what can you hold on to? It’s rather like death and why we’re afraid of it. But if your life is those gods, then I don’t think it matters if you are alive or dead.

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