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    Some Thoughts About Pop Astrology

    Some Thoughts About Pop Astrology

    Here are the first 39 astrological words that I ever published anywhere outside of my local community: “Back in the fifties when I was a little boy, I once put a quarter in a vending machine inscribed with paintings of various improbable creatures. Out came a packet describing the traits associated with my Sun Sign, Capricorn.” Those are the opening lines of the foreword to my first book, The Inner Sky, which came out back in summer 1984. The text went on from there: “the message was that I was shy and uptight, but that while no one would ever be very excited about me, I could console myself with the knowledge that I would probably get rich.”

    Those were hard words to read at the tender age of ten or so! The worst part was that they sort of halfway fit me, at least back then. Famously, far worse than a lie is a half-truth – they can be far more seductive. I doubt I was the first person to be hurt by that kind of pigeon-holing pop astrology. Somehow I think it planted an aspiration in me that I would be among the last.

    Bantam Books publishing The Inner Sky naturally opened a lot of doors for me. Miraculously, even though the book came out nearly forty years ago, I still believe pretty much every word I wrote in those pages. What I regret is not something I wrote, but rather what I did not write. And here it is in a nutshell: If it were not for that vending machine and its depressing message about Capricorn, I might never have become an astrologer. For all its many flaws, I cannot escape the fact that silly Sun Sign astrology gave me a start on the life I live today. I should be more grateful to it, whatever damage it might have wreaked upon my developing psyche. Even though that little packet about Capricorn was rigid in its delineation of my nascent personality and discouraging about my fate, it contained enough kernels of truth that I was intrigued. 

    As I suspect is also the case with many of you, the seeds of my interest in astrology had to fight their way into my life through the tangle of religious, cultural, and scientific barbed wire. For me,  that was amplified by me being an academically promising little boy in the strait-jacket culture of the late 1950s. Worse, for astrology to take hold of my imagination, the smattering of wisdom in that 25-cent packet had to fight against its own pandemonium of obvious errors. Looking back, it is a miracle that astrology won. 

    But it did. 

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    Are We All Suffering from Late-Stage Capricornosis?

    Are We All Suffering from Late-Stage Capricornosis?

    A couple of weeks ago, Michelle and I hiked up the most popular “tourist” canyon in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near where we live. It wasn’t exactly crowded, but we probably crossed tracks with thirty or forty other hikers. Passing someone on the trail, it’s my custom to say hi. Many returned my greeting, but I was struck by how many walked past us stone-faced and silent, as if we weren’t there at all. 

    “Ah . . . another sad example of dreaded Late-Stage Capricornosis,” I said to myself. Let me explain . . .

    Pluto entered Capricorn back in 2008 and it’ll be criss-crossing back and forth over the Aquarius frontier between March 2023 and November 2024. On April 1, 2022, it’s in 28 degrees 24 minutes of Capricorn – getting into the last degree and a half of the sign . . . hence my reference to the “late stage” of our current disorder. Those late degrees of a sign always have a special intensity. Picture a college dormitory at about 11:00 pm on the night before final exams. Naturally, you’ll be impressed by the scholarly zeal of the students. Every nose is buried in a book and will probably will stay that way until the wee hours. In much the same fashion, there was an Englishman who was going to be hung in the morning. Someone asked him how he felt about that. He said, “it composes the mind most excellently.” 

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    The Jupiter-Neptune Conjunction and Your Spiritual Self-Confidence

    The Jupiter-Neptune Conjunction and Your Spiritual Self-Confidence

    Astrologers everywhere are intrigued by the upcoming conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune. No doubt it will dominate the astrological blogosphere for the next several weeks. Keep perspective though – Jupiter’s relatively fast orbit guarantees that these alignments are not really rare events. These two planets are conjunct every twelve or thirteen years. At first glance, this might not seem to be a truly epochal astrological event. But this particular apparition promises to be a doozy. That’s because it is happening in Pisces. Astrologers might argue over which one of these planets actually rules that sign, but they all agree that it’s one of them. I prefer to think of Pisces as being ruled by both planets – and everyone agrees that when a planet is in the sign it rules, it is simply coming at us at a higher volume. Hence the reason this year’s Jupiter-Neptune conjunction promises to be pyrotechnical – we have these two gas giants, both at maximum amperage, and joining forces.

    Stand back, in other words.

    Pisces represents many possibilities, but among them, it is the sign of the mystic. That means that the doorway to a transcendent dimension of the Jupiter-Neptune alignment will be wide open for anyone who wants to pass through it. That perspective on the conjunction is what I want to explore in this newsletter. First, let’s talk about timing. At one level, it’s very straightforward: Jupiter and Neptune form a single perfect conjunction on April 12, 2022. The next one will not happen until March 2035. This April, the alignment happens at 23 degrees 59' of Pisces, then it  quickly fades away as Jupiter pulls ahead, crossing into Aries on May 10. That’s where everything gets a little more interesting. Jupiter makes it a third of the way into Aries, then seemingly changes its mind and heads back to give Neptune a final kiss. It retrogrades into back Pisces on October 27, making a station on November 23 at 28 degrees 48'. On that day, Neptune is at 22 degrees 40' – which means that the two planets are only about 6 degrees apart and in the same sign. By anyone’s standards, that’s a conjunction too, just not a precise one.

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    February 2022: Solar Returns

    February 2022: Solar Returns

    Many years ago, at the exact moment of my birth, the Sun was located at 15 degrees 42 minutes 31 seconds of Capricorn. This past month, it returned to that precise point at 8:56 pm-est on January 5th. That’s actually the day before my birthday, and by most people’s standards about six and a half hours before it was time for me to blow out the candles on my birthday cake. It works that way for pretty much everybody – our actual “astronomical birthday” often does not fall at the same time as our customary one. It may even be the day before or the day after. The reasons are a little complicated, but they boil down to the way we smooth out the calendar for practical purposes – essentially it all stems from the same compromises that compel us to insert a 366-day “year” every four years.

    As astrologers, our computers take care of those details for us, so none of that has much practical meaning – at least until we start setting up Solar Return charts. I am sure that many of you have heard of the technique. In principle, it is a simple idea: we set up a chart for the moment that the Sun returns to its starting point and we begin a new yearly cycle. That “birthday” chart gives us insight into what lies ahead during the coming year. The trick lies in remembering that this “solar return moment” would only very rarely be the same as your actual birth time and date. If I had set mine up with my usual birth data – 3:22 am-est on January 6 – it would have been meaningless, almost more like a legal document than an astrological one.

    A moment ago, I used the phrase “what lies ahead for us during the coming year.” No astrologer would be startled at such wording, but then the fun would begin. Astrology means so many different things to so many different people. A conventional astrologer might use a solar return  chart (often abbreviated as an “SR”) to predict the events of the next twelve months. Jupiter in the 2nd house? I smell money. Venus on the Descendant? You will meet someone  . . . There may even be some truth in those predictions, but as an evolutionary astrologer, my questions are different. For one thing, I believe that choices you make, wisely or foolishly, have a lot to do with the future you create. My aim is to empower you rather than “predicting” anything for you. For another, I think that the message of the SR chart – and really of all astrological symbolism – is ultimately about what your soul is learning, how best to learn it, and how to avoid wasting those evolutionary opportunities.

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    VENUS IS RETROGRADE

    VENUS IS RETROGRADE

    As January opens, the planet Venus is moving in retrograde fashion through Capricorn. As it does so, it is threading its way through a crowded tangle of planets, sharing Capricorn with Pluto, Mercury, and the Sun. Venus turned retrograde on December 19 and will remain in that backwards condition until near the end of this month, finally stationing and turning direct on January 29th. 

    A retrograde planet is going back over ground that it has already covered, often re-thinking and re-framing it. That is one profoundly telling clue about the evolutionary meaning of retrograde bodies in general: they are always about the past. That is the key. As the great southern writer, William Faulkner once said, “The past is not dead. It is not even past.” There is, in other words, no way to separate our personal history from our experience of the present moment. Ask anyone who has ever been betrayed – can they enter into a new relationship without that old ghost haunting them? Once burned, twice smart, as the proverb goes – although in the case of intimate betrayal, “smart” might actually mean “wounded.”

    Venus retrograde may not be about those old betrayals, but that is certainly one possibility. Venus is, of course, the goddess of love. It is always about relationships, among other things. So let’s go with the “old betrayals” scenario for a while. We can use it to help us learn some principles that are more generalizable.

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    The Nodal Axis Shifts into SCORPIO-TAURUS

    The Nodal Axis Shifts into SCORPIO-TAURUS

    The nodes of the Moon spend about a year and a half in each sign before retrograding into the previous sign. (They are always retrograde.) The impact of the change on the daily headlines is unmistakable, and it is about to happen again. On December 22, the north lunar node enters Taurus, while the south node backs into Scorpio. They’ve been in Gemini and Sagittarius respectively since June 4, 2020 and they’ll cross into Aries and Libra on July 12, 2023. 


    These dates are, by the way, for the Mean nodes, rather than the so-called True nodes. I’ve always found the Mean nodes to be more accurate in the rare instances where there is any significant difference between the two forms at all. The dates I give are also based on the U.S. west coast – as ever, China and Australia are already enjoying tomorrow while we’re back here languishing in today. These are picky differences. In this newsletter, I want to focus on the bigger picture.

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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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