Thursday, May 18, 2023

Astrology: Letting the Gods Speak

I’ve been reading Robert Harris’ “Pompeii” for a book club I am part of, and he talks about various Roman gods and the offerings to them as part of daily life, and I realised wow, that is powerful and real for me. Astrology has given me a connection with this mythology that is normally one of the functions of religion. This is how it was hundreds of years ago,when most people shared the same Christian mythology and it was reality for them.

Seated Jupiter found in a Pompeii house


Nowadays we have creation stories – the Big Bang and Evolution – that have a literal explanatory power, but it is a disenchanted universe they describe. There is not that presence that the gods have, that transcends death and imbues our lives with purpose and meaning.

For me, astrology is about these meaningful presences working through our lives, rather than about objective principles on a piece of paper. The 10 planets are 10 gods and goddesses whose calls need to be answered. (Only 2 of them – the Moon and Venus – are female, so I think they need emphasis when we do a reading. I think we also meet the feminine in eg Mercury’s dual nature, and in the workings of the outer planets, whose presences we need to surrender to.) The meaning of life is to be found in balancing the calls of these various deities. The chart helps us to do that.

A mythology that is real has the quality of telling us that yes, this is how it really is. When you die, Charon will actually ferry you across the river Styx to meet the dark Lord Pluto, so you’d better have a coin with you to pay the ferryman, or you will be stuck in limbo forever. Unless your mate from the pub also dies and is able to lend you a tenner.

Christianity has just one god: I think monotheism lends itself to fundamentalism, which means that there is only one reality. The polytheistic nature of astrology means there are many gods, many realities, and it is much harder to get fundamentalist about that.

The Old Testament god arose amongst a wandering desert people, where there was just one simple, harsh reality – the desert, the sun, and the struggle to stay alive – and their mythology, with its one harsh god, reflected this.

Astrology can be made as complex as you like, and the synthesis of various factors can add to the interpretation. There is a delight to be found when you put various factors together and come out with something that is precise and true. But at a certain point of complexity, the mind is too much present, and it becomes harder for the gods to speak directly through us. They speak through our bodies, whereas complex astrology easily retreats to the head. This is why I like to concentrate on the Sun and Moon when I do a reading: not just because they are the most significant planets, but because we all know them, we have a relationship with them that goes back millions of years. We feel them, it goes deep, and because of that they can speak through us.

This, I think, is the real function of tradition: to lead us to the point where we can trust our own direct connection with its presiding gods. When that happens, the institutions are of course no longer in control, which is why they banned dancing in medieval churches. And you see astrologers who are very committed to what came before, aligning themselves with William Lilly, Ficino or anyone else from the past, on the grounds that if it is old, it must be true.

I had an instructive interchange on this topic over my book Surfing the Galactic Highways, before it was published. A reviewing astrologer told me I needed to quote authorities from the past for what I said, and my response was well I said it, I am the authority, what I say works, what is the problem? We were inconjuncts. 

But that is the difference, in whatever spiritual tradition you look, between the majority who are followers, and the minority of mystics who are easily viewed as heretics. Another way of saying this, in the case of astrology, is that it is essentially divinatory rather than scientific or objective.

Don't get me wrong: we need the tradition. We need to value it and guard it. It is where we all start. But it becomes like the stabilisers on a kid's bike which need eventually to be removed. When I was that age, I went down to one stabiliser for ages, and then my mother removed it without telling me. And I was fine, I could ride on 2 wheels, because I hadn't noticed what she had done. But I was also cross with her, I felt deceived. I suppose my point here is that we need to let go and trust what comes through us. Trust that inner thing that has brought you to astrology, speak from it, give it free rein.

I am talking about the necessary shift from Capricorn to Aquarius and then to Pisces. In Capricorn, you gradually master the tradition as handed down. You learn the formal meanings of the planets and signs etc. Once that has become second nature, you earn the right to reinvent the tradition. That is Aquarius. A tradition has to be continually reinvented and updated, or it dies. But Aquarius is still quite strongly intellectual, even though there is a breeze of something other and sometimes disruptive passing through. It is when we get to Pisces, the pure channelling of the gods, that we get the best astrology. The tradition is seen way below as the launch pad. But these moments are not the norm. And we don't always recognise them when they happen. But we need some of it in any reading we do.

A friend commented recently that there had been a certain point in the reading where I just seemed to be downloading. I wasn't aware of it. The reason I am not usually aware of it is because I am Aquarian. So something Other is passing through me, but I can always justify it in terms of the formal meanings of the planets, so I think that is all I am doing: speaking from the tradition. 

I think astrology is one of those things that gets you, that is in your bones, and you cannot ignore it. If you drop the stabilisers and speak from that place in your bones, or with a planetary god or goddess standing beside you, you will say things that land in the other person, that tell them what they need to hear.