by Steven Forrest
I got a great question from a client a few weeks ago. I felt it was rich enough territory for a newsletter. Let me open with her words:
“When you have come through a major transit or progression and totally fail to get it right, what does the high road look like from there? In practical terms, we often just have to live with whatever consequences that may become a non-negotiable part of our lives after a less-than-optimal response. Life goes on, the stars continue to spin, new challenges await. But is it worthwhile to ask if any of the higher potentials of a "botched" transit/progression are actively recoverable? Or is it simply a time to assess, acknowledge the loss and the lesson, and move on? Is it all, you know. . . starlight under the bridge once a transit is over?”
Let me get rolling here with a question that has become a cliché: is there really any such thing as a mistake? I’m a Capricorn, so my answer is pretty simple: yes indeed – mistakes are part of life. The word serves a useful purpose and we need it in our vocabularies. And when we do make mistakes, there is always a price to pay.
Beyond that practical, grounded perspective, we enter slippery territory.
Mistakes come in a lot of different flavors, for starters. If my airline pilot aspires to never making any aeronautical mistakes, I applaud his or her excellent attitude. But, in the world of astrological counseling, we generally aren’t looking at mistakes of such a concrete nature. We are not talking about believing that two plus two equals five. In astrology, we are talking about navigating life itself.
Perhaps you were once married or partnered with someone. Perhaps you are not in that relationship any more. Was the whole thing really just a mistake? Is the question that simple? Maybe, with some relationships, we can just say yes. But with many, it’s a lot trickier.
A moment ago, I promised “slippery territory . . .”
Why did you marry that person? Retrospectively we can often come up with helpful psychological insights – for example, “Harry represented what I never got from my father.” A year of psychotherapy later and you realize that “Harry” was the clone of your failed father and that is why the marriage didn’t work. You were repeating an old pattern of wounding.
Maybe all that is true – but here’s another truth: in marrying Harry, you were doing your best. That marriage reflected your actual level of consciousness at the time. Another way to say it is that your marriage was an honest manifestation of how crazy you were then.
That last line doesn’t sound flattering – but as we reflect on it, it leads us to dive into some deep waters – waters where we might learn a lot about why we incarnate in this world in the first place.
If I say, “we are all here on Earth in order to grow and learn,” everyone agrees and tries not to yawn. We’ve heard that line before too, just like wondering if there is really any such thing as a mistake. But how, exactly, do we grow? It is possible – maybe even optimal – to sit on a mountaintop in meditation and learn everything that way, purely through insight and cognition.
The mind can play tricks on itself though, and often does – maybe what you “learn” on that mountaintop has more to do with your defenses and rationalizations than actual growth. In contrast, by “marrying Harry,” you really put the truth about your level of consciousness on the table. No lies were possible there. The conditions of your soul were translated directly into outward, existential reality, where you could see them, unvarnished and clear as a bell.
Incarnation works like a charm that way.
In our mistakes, we make our actual karmic condition visible. That is the actual mechanism of our evolution. Mistakes are why we have bodies in the first place. Making them is how we learn.
Was “marrying Harry” a mistake? Perhaps that is not even the right question. That marriage was simply an outward manifestation of the truth of your being at the time. None of us can ever do better than that.
The question of mistakes comes along a little later in the time-line. Let’s say that Harry left you for someone else. Let’s say you blame the failure of your marriage on “that bitch” instead of learning anything at all from the experience. There’s a certifiably 24-karat solid gold mistake. The marriage wasn’t a mistake, but failing to learn anything from it was.
People can use astrology to make money, foresee changes in fashion, or predict political outcomes. That’s fine. But ultimately, astrology is about the evolution of consciousness. To be as clear as we can be as astrologers, that is where we need to focus our attention – on consciousness itself. Did I learn what I needed to learn? That is the pivotal question. Whether you learned about the baleful impact of your father on your psyche by sitting in meditation on a mountaintop or by “marrying Harry” is really almost just a footnote. In this rigorous way of thinking, mistakes are a reality – but an event only becomes a mistake if you failed to learn anything from it. Otherwise it was just the evolutionary wheels turning in their normal, eternal way
The glorious German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, once wrote, ““The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” The line has a depressing ring to it at first, but it echoes the astrological perspective that I am exploring with you here. When we are living mindfully, we are always up against our own developmental cutting edge. Naturally we make some errors there. If, on the other hand, we “know what we are doing,” we are very probably doing what we have already learned how to do in the past. That is fine – but it doesn’t have much to do with growth. Where we are truly growing, we are error-prone. We have the most airtight, ironclad excuse for it too: again, we don’t know what we are doing. We’re only beginners.
We all naturally want to “get things right” and to “not make any mistakes.” At a practical level, that is a good attitude – in fact, let’s not even congratulate ourselves on having it: that drive arises pretty much automatically in the human psyche. As I mentioned earlier, I commend such a “make no mistakes” attitude in my airline pilot.
But in life? If we are unduly afraid of making mistakes, what happens? Do we learn anything at all? We can glibly announce that “everyone makes mistakes,” but the truth is more subtle. A person, through sheer timidity and conventionality, can resolve to live safely – and die of boredom at a ripe old age, having learned nothing at all.
A life with no mistakes is itself the most terrible mistake imaginable.
The absolute horror of astrology is, in my opinion, the way it describes Perfection. None of us can ever reach that golden city. If we hold ourselves to that standard, we tie ourselves in knots of fear and insecurity. Eventually, down that road, shame and self-doubt make us afraid to live. Your chart, along with your transits and progressions, works the same way the North Star works for a sailor at sea. If he is sailing northward, he aims his bow at that star. It orients him, even comforts him – but he does not expect to arrive there. To not be afraid of life is to not be afraid of mistakes. The two ideas are inseparable.
Marrying Harry took a bite out of your soul. Even the mistakes we are able to turn into wisdom, even the ones we harness in service of our spiritual evolution, come with a price tag. Growth and learning are some compensation for the pain and cost of those errors – and, if we choose to learn nothing, all we have left are the pain and the cost, and that is a thousand times worse.
Still, mistakes, while they are inevitable and purposeful and we shouldn’t be ashamed of making them, always damage us. They hurt. That is simply realistic. Blessedly, we have some power of regeneration. With time, we can heal. And most transits and progressions come around again in some other form, so we can take another shot at learning what we needed to learn. Yet the motivation to avoid errors arises naturally in us. It stems from the same source as our desire to avoid getting hurt.
In that quest to avoid damaging mistakes, astrology is a fine ally. It unerringly reveals to us the evolutionary meaning of whatever challenges are coming up in our lives. Transits and progressions illuminate exactly what we are trying to learn, whether we know it or not. Knowing the “lesson plan” in advance helps us cut to the chase. We waste less time.
If, for example, your soul is trying to learn something about surrender – say, you are in a Neptunian time – but you believe that you are learning a Mars-lesson about standing up for yourself . . . well, you are likely to angrily bang your head against the wall, and in the end, lose anyway. You can learn from that mistake too – but there is something to be said for going directly to Neptune School.
. . . and in Neptune School, don’t worry, you are guaranteed to keep on making interesting mistakes there as well. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that at least you went directly to making exactly the right mistakes. You were “defeated by greater and greater things.” And you were speeding toward the only safe harbor there is: the wisdom that comes from digested experience, taken with faith and a bracing jolt of humility.