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    The Endless Sky – Or how I spent my summer vacation

    The Endless Sky – Or how I spent my summer vacation

    In early August, Michelle and I got back from a couple of months in rainy New Orleans. Lucky us – we beat hurricane Ida by three weeks. Michelle needed to be there to photograph some clients for her portrait-painting business. The house she still rents on Prytania Street is urban and too noisy for me to record listenable readings or to shoot video, so I was left with seven weeks that were basically in my own hands. This was the first time that kind of time had opened up in my life in exactly forty-three years and ten months – I know the number that specifically because it dates back to when I sold my sailboat, stopped trying to be Jimmy Buffett and got to work on being myself. 

    Being a Capricorn, facing seven weeks of vacation would have driven me directly into psychotherapy, so I needed something to do. As I cast about for possibilities, I remembered a project I’d been thinking about attempting for a long time. Over the years I’ve written a huge number of articles and newsletters on various astrological topics. I had always wanted to assemble them into a single volume – a sort of “collected essays” book.

    I started poking around my old files. Even with some fairly draconian editing and rejections, I realized that I had plenty of material for a book – seventy-one of the articles I had written over the past couple of decades passed my strict muster. I saw a couple of obvious holes in the project too, so I wrote a couple more essays to fill them.

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    Astrology And Psychotherapy

    Astrology And Psychotherapy

    Maybe I am sitting with a client who has the natal Moon on the Midheaven. The symbols tell me that she has been “called to a mission” in this lifetime – that she has something important to do in her community, something that will touch the lives of people with whom she does not have any kind of personal karma. With signs and aspects, I can get a lot more specific, but that’s not my point here. I want to write about a very slippery question, and that is the relationship between astrology and psychotherapy. My client with the Moon on the Midheaven is just my launching pad. 

    We are all responsible for the way we “inhabit” our birthcharts. That element of free will is absolutely central to my understanding of astrology. One dimension of that pivotal principle is that we are all free to blow it – free to let fear, bad social conditioning, or sheer laziness take a bite out of our lives. That’s true of you, me – and my client with the Moon on her Midheaven too. The fact that she “has a mission” does not mean that she will rise to it. Some personal “Moon work” must serve as the foundation of any gift she is eventually able to give to her community. That will require some effort.

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    A Case Study in Reincarnation - September Newsletter

    A Case Study in Reincarnation - September Newsletter

    Past lives are a slippery subject. An unscrupulous astrologer could tell you that you were once Christopher Columbus’s red-headed Scorpio girlfriend, and what can you say? It can’t really be proven one way or the other. 

    Reality itself is the ultimate test for any theory. Much of the theory behind evolutionary astrology rests upon an acceptance of reincarnation, but how can we actually test any of it, let alone prove it? Our critics often make that exact argument and it is difficult to refute. Probably the best response we can put forth rests in the words of the Tibetan saint, Padma Sambhava, who once simply said, “if you want to know your past lives, consider your present circumstances.” The evidence of your prior lifetimes is, in other words, visible in your present life.  The stories we tell based on our analysis of the Moon’s south node and the planets connected with it echo in our daily lives today. That’s really the heart of the matter and our best response to our critics but it doesn’t get even close to really proving the idea of reincarnation.

    And that circles us back around to our initial dilemma: our whole system rests on something that people have to take on faith – or not.

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    August 2021 News

    August 2021 News
    Recently I was interviewed by a South African online magazine. I liked the spirit of the interview a lot and I decided it would make a good newsletter for this month. The magazine itself is more broadly spiritual than specifically astrological, so the interview isn't technical at all. It's more personal and philosophical, and it felt good to do it. Some of the bits you'll read here will be familiar to people who've been following my work for a long time. Some of you new readers can catch up, starting with me at age ten or so gazing through a little telescope through the atmospheric muck a few miles north of the Empire State building in New York City. I was obsessed with the heavens, but the metaphor I had been fed for understanding them -- astronomical science, circa 1960 -- was failing me miserably. Even as a kid, I sensed that there was more coming to me directly from Jupiter than photons of light . . .

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    Why I Use Placidus Houses

    Why I Use Placidus Houses

    There are many different schools of thought in astrology. Strange as it might seem, in the right hands all of them seem to work, even ones that contradict each other. Western Tropical astrology versus Vedic astrology is perhaps the classic illustration – those two systems can’t even agree on where Aries is!  I think of myself as a Capricorn, but in Benares I am transformed into a Sagittarian. It’s confusing, but I like to keep the word “versus” out of the discussion as much as possible. Both systems, Western and Vedic, can help people. Both can illuminate the mystery we call human life. Reading an astrological chart is not linear and logical like reading a newspaper or a column of figures. I always despair when someone asks if I can “take a quick glance at their chart.” There is no such thing as “a quick glance.” Deciphering the message of the planets is a lot more like interpreting a dream or a poem – there’s more than one right way to make sense of it, in other words. 

    The last time I had a reading myself, it was actually with a Vedic astrologer. That was intentional. I knew that if I asked an evolutionary astrologer to look at my chart, my ego would get in the way. I’d be too busy “correcting” the person to learn anything. But Vedic – I know almost nothing about it, so I was able to simply listen. It was helpful, so long as I focussed on the plain English of what the astrologer was saying, and ignored the discordant astrological language. Me, a Sagittarian? Mister work-all-the-time Capricorn? Forget about it. 

    Anyway, I am writing all of this because in this newsletter, I am going to jump into one of the bloodiest shark tanks in the whole chaotic, contentious astrological community – the question of which house system to use. There are at least a dozen different ways of laying out the houses of a chart, maybe more. When I was a young astrologer, I tried as many of them as I could find, naturally always using my own chart – and the realities of my own experience – as the acid test. Very little in astrology is ever totally clear cut – again, a chart is more like a dream than a computer manual. But during those early years Placidus houses won the battle for my heart and my mind. I’ve used them ever since, successfully, with thousands upon thousands of clients over the past fifty years. Nowadays, I rarely even consider other systems.

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    Venus: The Fine Art Of Rejecting People

    Venus: The Fine Art Of Rejecting People

    Once in teaching a class about the planet Venus, I startled my students – and myself too, a little bit. I heard myself say that the main function of Venus lies in rejecting people. That of course is far from how we normally think of Venus! We imagine the “goddess of love” greeting us doe-eyed and misty, with open arms, receiving us into her heart without even a smidgeon of criticism, hesitation, or pre-conditions. 

    People sometimes spend their lives looking for that kind of perfect love. They are humanity’s tragic romantics. Most of them die lonely. Pete Townshend of The Who released a song forty years ago that seemed to say it all – The Sea Refuses No River. That line, to me, represents one of the high points of rock’n’roll poetry, but it actually has very little to do with Venus. In actuality, his words are purely Neptunian, and not just because of the maritime reference. It is Neptune, not Venus, that loves people unconditionally. As most of us quickly learn, there is a huge difference between the way we imagine that God loves us and the ways our parents or our partners love us.  With parents and partners, while there may be sincere hugs and kisses, the package also includes a few eye-rolls and some disapproving looks, along with “helpful” lists of the myriad ways we might improve ourselves.


    Venus doesn’t “love everybody” – that’s Neptune’s job. Venus
    picks and chooses, and that means some element of rejection must always be part of the process. Venusian love is personal. It is “me and you” stuff, not “me and the human race.” Sexually Venus tends to be binary, or at least it aspires to that condition.

    How often in a lifetime, for example, are you going to say the words, “will you marry me?” 

     

    Gone are the days when the reflexive answer was “only once” – but most of us who do choose to marry try at least to keep the number down to the fingers on one hand. This observation leads us directly to Forrest’s Theorum #376 – most of us kiss a lot more people than we marry. And what’s a kiss but a preliminary investigation of the possibility of deeper intimacy? Even among the most sincere people in the world, those investigations are far more likely to reveal reasons not to be together than reasons to tie a life-long knot. 

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    The Centenary of Robert A. Johnson

    The Centenary of Robert A. Johnson

    On April 22, 2010 at 10:05 AM, as the direct result of an incredible series of “coincidences,” I met the late great Robert A. Johnson. Many of us have his books on our shelves – he sold 2.5 million of them, including He and She and We and my personal favorite, Balancing Heaven and Earth: A Memoir. He died on September 12, 2018 at the age of 97. I’m writing about him in this newsletter because he would have turned one hundred years old on May 26th of this year – and also simply  because I miss him. He was a good friend.

    When I was just an infant in diapers, Robert was studying directly under Carl Gustav Jung in Zurich. He was also in formal psychoanalysis with Jung’s wife, Emma. He’s known internationally as a “Jungian author,” which I suppose works as well as most labels do. There was a lot more to him than that, but instead of trying to “profile” him, let me tell you one of my favorite Robert stories. He used to travel to India pretty much every year. Once when he was about to present a talk there, he received a lengthy introduction in Hindi, a language which he did not speak. As he stepped up to the podium, he asked what had been said about him. He was told that he had been introduced as “an enlightened being” – which was kind of a shocker to him since he never spoke of himself in those terms. He inquired as to why such a thing had been said. And the man introducing him announced, straight-faced and serious, that the evidence was that Robert “didn’t eat much, didn’t say much, and didn’t do much.” It’s funny, of course. But it really did illuminate something deep about Robert A. Johnson. Beyond his piercing intelligence and his profound insights, beyond his public identity as a world-class intellectual, there was simply a kind of magical silence that radiated from him – a quality of sheer stillness

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    The Parallax Moon

    The Parallax Moon

    If someone were to ask me about the purpose of my life, I’d say that it was about bringing choice-centered, evolutionary astrology to a wider audience. When it comes to accomplishing that goal, the basic problem we all face is that astrology is such a fabulous language, but in order to speak it, a person needs to take a six-week course in its grammar and vocabulary. Most people don’t have the time or the motivation to do that. That leaves a lot of them thinking only of Sun signs. That’s fine, but of course Sun sign astrology is astrology running at 10% of its potential power.

    Apart from a stint with Elle magazine a couple of decades ago, I’ve stayed away from that kind of popular astrology. I’ve instead made my own stand a little higher on the intellectual food chain – but, other than with my serious students and in my books, I’ve always tried to keep the welcome mat out for relative beginners. Those of you who have followed this newsletter for a few years know just what I mean.

    In this edition of our newsletter, I am going to break that pattern. I want to present an advanced subject. It may leave some of you scratching your heads, but I hope it has another effect. I hope it gets you interested in a subject that has been ignored for too long. The area I want to present, while it’s not a new discovery, is an area of astrology which is begging for more attention. As ever, it takes the community of astrologers, working over at least a generation, to come to anything like full understanding of anything new. No one astrologer can do it on his or her own. Going further, Tony Howard tells me that we’ve had some questions coming in about this subject lately, so maybe it’s in the air. In any case, welcome to the curious case of the “parallax Moon.”

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    Retrograde Natal Planets

    Retrograde Natal Planets

    Yikes! Mercury was retrograde when I was born! Am I doomed? Will the check be lost in the mail for the rest of my life? Will my luggage never arrive at the same city I do?

    Retrograde natal planets often scare people, as if something were wrong with being born with planets moving in that  “backwards” condition. Yet most of us have at least one of them, and often more. They are far from rare, in other words. And they aren’t some kind of high jinx in your chart either. They are just different from planets moving in direct motion. It’s sort of like being left-handed.

    The overriding principle is that, first and foremost, there is nothing “wrong with” anyone’s chart, ever. The basic laws of the universe preclude that possibility. Your chart is perfect. It fits the needs and conditions of your soul like the proverbial glove. Retrograde planets, squares, oppositions, Mars, Saturn, and Pluto – all the “bad guys” – we need every one of them, and they can be “good for you.” That’s a philosophical point obviously, but understanding it is mission-critical, at least in the context of evolutionary astrology. (If you would prefer an astrologer who would describe you as doomed by some configuration in your chart, I can make some referrals.)

    Hold your arm out in front of you and point your index finger straight up. Now look at your fingertip through your left eye, then through your right eye. Your finger naturally seems to jump back and forth against the background scenery. Look at Pluto against the starry background in March, then look at it again in September. It’s the same thing. Like your finger, it too has jumped backwards. That’s because in March, earth was on one side of its orbit, while in September it was halfway around, on the other side. That’s as if the distance between your left eye and your right eye were about 186 million miles – and that’s far enough to make Pluto seem to jump.

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    Planetary Exaltations; Planetary Falls

    Planetary Exaltations; Planetary Falls

    Everyone with an interest in astrology soon learns about how particular planets rule certain signs. To many astrologers, that makes them automatically “good.” To those same astrologers, for a planet to find itself in the opposite sign is unfortunate. The term they use there is ”detriment” – obviously, not such a good thing. This common notion is simply incorrect, in my experience. The error is easily proven too. The infamous Yorkshire Ripper had a really “good” Mercury – in Gemini, conjunct his Gemini Sun. I suspect he excelled at talking his victims into vulnerable positions. Meanwhile, Rev. Martin Luther King had a “bad” Neptune – in Virgo, the sign opposite Pisces, the sign it naturally rules. Did that mean he had no spiritual life or that he lacked a visionary imagination?

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