Wednesday, July 13, 2022


 I stopped writing regular astrology blogs some years ago. I seem to have started up again. The reason I stopped is that I had used the writing to clarify what I thought about many aspects of astrology, and that process seemed to reach a natural conclusion. In 2016 I began a shamanic blog: It's still going strong, and you can sign up to the free email list.

Astrology is a sky-based path, shamanism is earth-based. Between them they encompass earth and sky. To call astrology a path, however, is I think misleading, just as it is for shamanism. The idea that we are on a path is modern and linear and rational. The purpose of shamanic ways is to live in balance, moment by moment, with the natural world. It doesn’t have to be going anywhere: that experience of balance is where the sense of meaning, of a properly-lived life, comes from. It is the same with astrology: it shows us how to live in accord with the will of the gods. It is not going anywhere.

Shamanism is based on the experience of the cyclical nature of life on earth, of the seasons returning and repeating, of life itself continually dying back in order to emerge renewed. Astrology is primarily based on the cyclical nature of the heavens. Both ways place humans in the context of cycles of the natural world. We are intimately, viscerally connected to those cycles. It is why I have some reservations about the idea of ‘evolutionary’ astrology – a modern linear model, sitting uncomfortably within an ancient cyclical model.

The experience of belonging to nature is something we have been forgetting for the last 2500 years, as we have incrementally distanced ourselves from the natural world. By the early 90s, this distancing from nature (via Buddhism) had personally made me ill, and shamanism was a sweet and irresistible corrective to this.


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Astrology easily retreats into intellectualism, partaking of that downgrading, even demonisation of the body that we have inherited from Christianity. Last night, with the writing of this article in mind, I had a dream about an academic astrologer from the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology faculty who was horrified at the idea of entering a sweatlodge. Point noted.

Astrology began to lose its direct connection with the sky 2000 years ago, with the arising of the astrological chart, and moved in the direction of mathematics.

In shamanic cultures, everything has a spirit. Everything is alive, rocks and water included. This is a natural and immediate experience for indigenous peoples. I think the onus is on science to show that rocks do not have consciousness, rather than for humans to have to prove that their direct experience is real. You could say that consciousness is the subjective pole of which matter is the objective pole. Which is why science will probably never be able to explain consciousness, because science is a technique for examining the world as object, rather than as subject.

It is not just everything on earth that has a spirit. Everything in the sky also has a spirit, and that was how astrology began. Stories from the sky spirits about our lives on earth, and how to live them well.

If you work shamanically, then you may have the experience of spirits, of presences around that want to help. If you are an astrologer, then some of your helping spirits are in the sky. There are dozens available to you. We may attempt reduce the planets to ‘principles’, to ‘archetypes’ that are ‘really’ projected outwards from the human psyche. But astrology is not fundamentally rational in this way, nor does it originate from a culture that saw the individual as autonomous and separate in the way that we do. For indigenous peoples, the self is relational rather than autonomous. This modern rationalisation of astrology as a ‘projection’ of the human psyche onto the sky assumes that the individual is not also the universe itself. Any half-way decent mystic will confirm that each of us is also the whole universe.

So the planets are helping spirits in the sky, who are intimately connected to us. A good astrologer will be able to tell you what they are saying. They will feel your sky spirits in their body.

Shamanism has helping spirits. It also has the Great Spirit, the great mystery at the heart of things whose designs are infinite and beyond our grasp. The helping spirits give us whispers of that vaster intention, they are a medium for it. It is the same with astrology.

I want to say something about the outer planets from this kind of perspective. You could say that the outer planets came in as God went out. They represent a return to a less authoritarian and more fluid way of experiencing the ultimate nature of the universe.

The inner planets, from the Sun through to Saturn, represent our conscious endowment, the different forces that we grapple with and try to bring into balance on a day-to-day level. They are not under our control, for they are gods. They are much bigger forces in whose dance we partake. We approach them with awe.

A fortiori the outer planets, who are in no sense to be managed, but surrendered to. They are the Great Spirit showing itself through three different ‘transpersonal’ lenses. My job as an astrologer is often to talk about this attitude of trust and surrender that is required. It goes against the prevailing cultural attitude of rationality and planning and will – even what might be called ‘responsibility’. It is a case of “Not My Will But Thine”.

Major outer planet transits always have the nature of an initiation into a new type of consciousness. We cannot carry on as we were, much as it is our human instinct to do so. We suffer because we are trying to continue as before, even though it is no longer working. There is something new that we cannot conceive of, because we have not experienced it, that we nevertheless need to remain open to, and allow it to change us from the ground up. These transits also drag us firmly out of the modern sense of the individual as autonomous, and into the indigenous relational self: the self as part of the human community and part of the universe itself. Our life works best when it is seen as serving that greater whole, rather than focussing on what I want for ‘my’ life.

Uranus, Neptune and Pluto: creativity, ensoulment and renewal respectively. That, at least, is one way of describing what it is they want us to surrender to, to trust in, and to allow to transform us. And surrounding it all is mystery. We do not know why this is happening, or what the larger design is. Well, we may get glimpses.

But really our task is to learn how to be with these transforming forces, and to be open to whatever outcomes are necessary. And the processes can go on for years, for the changes are deep. This is one of the gifts that astrology brings: stories from the heart of the universe that show the meaning of what can be very difficult and long-lasting periods of our lives.

I guess my purpose in writing this is to set astrology in something of its original context, of the shamanic cultures from which we all come, which were the norm for 99% of human history, and the same in principle the world over. In our rush to rationality and technological progress, we have separated ourselves from the natural world, and that is something we need to find our way back to, for it is reality. A natural world that is inspirited, and that will help and guide us, if we listen. Astrology is shamanic in this sense, for it is based on an original experience of the universe as alive, with spirits that speak to us, in this case from the sky.