New Introduction to The Night Speaks
This is an excerpt of the new introduction for the 2016 reprint edition of The Night Speaks
Which one of your kids do you love the most? Anyone who actually answers that question obviously has no future in politics. In a similar way, authors, down the road in their careers, are often asked which of their books is their favorite. The stakes are lower, but the dilemma is the same. Books are like your kids.
Any book, at least any book worth writing, comes straight out of the marrow of your bones. If it gets a “good report card” from the critics, you glow — and you are tempted to show that review around like endless baby pictures. One bad review, and you metamorphose into mama bear facing down the bully who stole your kid’s lunch box — even if the critics are right.
You love all your books, in other words, the warty ones no less than the handsome ones that go agreeably to bed at bedtime, make straight A’s, and become class presidents.
But if you threaten me? If you say, Steve, confess! Which book is your favorite or you will face waterboarding, dentistry, and a tax audit, I would probably go with The Night Speaks. It was my fourth-born, but we’ve always had a special relationship. It brings me a lot of joy to bring this updated version to life. I am particularly happy that younger astrologers will now have it in their arsenal. As I believe you will see, this is a different kind of astrology book, unlike any others you might have read. It is a book you might want to give to the people you love who think you are a little crazy because you believe in astrology.
Why might anyone have a favorite child, however secretly? I suspect the answer lies in some fundamental sympathy between their natures. Parent and child “understand each other,” often wordlessly. One child got your eyes, another your nose. But sometimes there is one who seemed to get your soul. It has always been that way between me and The Night Speaks. These pages came whole-cloth straight out of my own DNA. Without a doubt, it is my most personal book. I am sure it reveals more about me than I know, or perhaps would even admit. Astrology has been a major focus of my spiritual experience. I have devoted my life to it. This is the book about why.
In 1984, Bantam Books published The Inner Sky. I was instantly catapulted from being an obscure young hippie in North Carolina to the lofty reaches of . . . well, astrological obscurity. But by the time my second book, The Changing Sky, came out in 1986, I was gaining some traction in the astrological world. In 1989 the third volume of my “Sky” trilogy, Skymates, was published. That one was coauthored with my then new wife, Jodie Forrest. By that time, I was a familiar face on the astrological speaking circuit.
I am still satisfied with those three volumes and happy that they remain available and widely-read after all these years. I often marvel at the fact that, had I everything to do over again, I would not change a word in any of them today in any substantive way.
My first three “children” have grown up and done well, in other words. I am proud of them. But fear not, I won’t bore you with baby pictures.
My seven-year career with Bantam Books was a blessing, but it came to a natural ending. Bantam is a popular, mass-market publisher, while serious astrology is a niche market, not really in their marketing territory. The “Sky” trilogy sold well enough to be kept alive for longer than many paperbacks, but not well enough to be long-lived. It wasn’t Harry Potter or the Holy Bible, in other words. One day, I got the news that all three books were all going out of print. In the language of the publishing industry, that meant that “the rights reverted to me.” I could do what I wanted with the texts — not the physical books themselves as printed by Bantam. Those left unsold were destroyed. But the actual words I’d written: mine, all mine.
But what to do with them?
Angels intervened. The late, great Neil Michelsen had founded ACS Publications in 1973. He approached me about his company taking over all three “Sky” books. I was delighted — my babies would live to see their seventh birthdays! I only later found out that Neil was seriously ill at the time. He passed from this world in May 1990, shortly after we had signed the contract that kept my books — and my career — alive. I will always be grateful to him.
The Night Speaks was the first book I wrote specifically for ACS. They were hesitant when I proposed it, explaining that philosophical books “hadn’t done well for them in the past.” Understandably, the typical book-buying reader was looking for personal insight and encouragement in the vein of “self-help” books. But bless them, ACS, under the able guidance of Neil’s widow, Maria K. Simms, and my editor there, Maritha Pottenger, agreed to go with my proposal. The Night Speaks was born. I had started the actual writing in 1988 or so. It was finally published in 1993 — writing a book takes a while, but even after the author types “The End,” a lot of wheels have to turn before a reader holds the printed volume in his or her hands. I was already well into writing The Book of Pluto by the time The Night Speaks came off the conveyer belt.
Meanwhile I had turned forty years old. Under the unsettling rays of my Uranian Opposition, I felt the need to break out of some fixed patterns in my life, to do something a bit more radical. My books were doing well. I was lecturing around the country. My private astrological practice was getting bigger all the time. I had some famous clients. I’d “hung out with rock stars.”
But I still felt like being an astrologer was like living in a ghetto.
In the original Foreword to The Night Speaks, I wrote, “Since the 1960s, in both North America and Europe, an astrological renaissance has occurred . . . I’ve watched it unfold . . . Over and over again, I've been struck by one overwhelming and dispiriting observation: hardly anyone outside the narrow walls of the astrological community or its committed clients even knows that the renaissance has taken place. To the person on the street, it might as well not have happened.”
That was the dilemma I wanted to address in The Night Speaks.
I loved astrology passionately. Every day I saw it helping people. But in the street, astrology was still mostly viewed as silliness. Anyone who “believed in it” was taken for a fool. Could I write the book an open-minded critic might read and perhaps be moved to give astrology an hour’s chance to prove itself? Could I write a book that my clients could confidently hand their skeptical friends? Could I break through the monumental wall of prejudice and ignorance that kept astrology trapped in its ghetto?
I had written three “How To” books. It was time to write a “Why To.”
For better or worse, we live in an age in which scientific evidence is often taken to be the final truth of any matter. I knew that any convincing work about “why to” use astrology would have to address the rational reasons for entertaining the idea that it might actually work. There are many! You will encounter a great number of them in the pages that follow.
As early as chapter two, I dive into what to me is probably the single most compelling and obvious piece of objective evidence for a connection between the sky and human affairs: the sunspot cycle. Most astrologers are unaware of it. As you will see, they should not be. Even though sunspots are a far cry from “Gemini” and “Libra,” I know of no single area where astrology — in the larger sense of the word — can prove itself so decisively, simply, and quickly to anyone who knows even the rudiments of recent history.
In terms of pursuing an argument for astrology that passes the “science test,” there is another reason to be excited about sunspots: they come with very little baggage. A person who reflexively bristles at the word “astrology” might very well listen curiously if we say, “There was once this Russian scientist who was sent to the Gulag because he had found evidence that sunspots, rather than class struggle, had driven history . . .”
Bless the scientists. Bless the noble human aspiration to learn the objective truth of how the universe works. But, to me, it is perilous for astrologers to feel that if we want to be taken seriously, we must become little scientists. We can pass that science test, but we can do so much more than that. We are the priesthood of the sacred sky — creatures of the Moon as much as of the Sun. There are compelling, poetic, heart-centered arguments for astrology. In writing The Night Speaks, I wanted to be very careful to hold that banner high and unabashedly. I did not want to bow before those pre-Quantum scientists who still believe in the myth of the separate, objective observer. I am happy to bring my team to play on their home court, but I don’t want to forget that I have a home court of my own.
You will see that approach right from the outset of chapter one, which is an account of the simple heart-impact of the night sky from the deck of a sloop out ghosting on dark waters under the stars.
In bringing The Night Speaks back into print after a long and complicated hiatus, I considered rewriting it in a major way but decided against doing that — with a few significant exceptions. In many respects, this is the book almost exactly as it was published in 1993. I’ve put a little literary polish on it here and there. Joltingly archaic references have been updated — many of my younger readers would not, for example, know what a “VCR” was, so it has morphed into “a video screen.”
Apart from those tweaks, there are two major additions to the original text.
First, my analysis of the correlations between human events and the sunspot cycle had ended in 1990. I’ve added a lengthy section which follows that cycle up to the present moment. The reasons are obvious—but I also really wanted my younger readers to see these energies operating in the shapes of the times they had actually experienced directly themselves.
Second, in the original volume, there was a section called “The Year 2000.” I’ve retained the heart of that writing, which was an analysis of the epochal Uranus-Neptune of the early 1990s — but I deleted the rest. What is gone was a look at a set of relatively trivial transits leading up to the turn of the millennium. At this point in time, all that material felt like yesterday’s news. I knew that if I as the author was bored reading it . . . well, pity you, the poor innocent reader. I replaced those deleted pages with a detailed, reflective look backwards at the Uranus-Neptune conjunction from the perspective of today.
Essentially, that rather rare planetary alignment predicted a major change in the mythology and assumptions upon which whole societies rest. When I wrote those pages originally, the conjunction itself was still in the future. I could only gaze into the crystal ball of astrological symbolism. Now in 2016, while it is important to remember that the cycle still has a century and half to play out, we can begin to see some of the handwriting on the wall — and to evaluate the prophetic accuracy of our crystal ball.
You can judge that prophetic accuracy yourself. My original words are all still here, unchanged.
Science has marched on over the past quarter-century. Most pressingly for astrological purposes, right as The Night Speaks was published in 1992, the first of the “trans-Neptunian” worlds was discovered orbiting out beyond Pluto. It was small and it easily passed under the collective radar. But the discovery of much-larger Eris in 2005 hit the cover of TIME magazine as “The Tenth Planet.” Shortly thereafter, both Eris and Pluto were demoted to “dwarf planets,” while a thousand more little worlds were found out there in the solar system’s deep freeze.
There’s a Uranus-Neptune paradigm shift for you! Astrology is reeling — or should be — as we internalize this major extension of the text we are all reading: the sky itself.
None of that material got into The Night Speaks. I simply didn’t know about it. No one did. If you are interested, I’ve covered it in some detail in my most recent work, The Book of Neptune, which was published in early 2016.
The scientific investigation of astrology and biophysical areas relevant to it has marched on too. The simple truth is that I am not in that parade any more. Life is short and we all need to make difficult choices about our priorities. My focus for the past three decades has been on what one might call “the clinical application” of astrological work — helping people one at a time as best I can, along with assisting others in learning how to do that good work themselves via my various teaching programs. With that mission to occupy me, I’ve got a perpetual tiger by the tail. There is little time left over for anything else. Bottom line, I have not stayed current with the work of my more scientifically-oriented colleagues.
Rather than stepping onto the perilously thin ice of my own ignorance, I decided not to update those parts of The Night Speaks. All the science in the book is pre-1990. If you are drawn to learn about the current state of that kind of material, let me refer you to the work of David Cochrane. He’s the past president of the International Society for Astrological Research, and is a fine source of contemporary information on this aspect of the field. Here’s a link to get you started: www.astrosoftware.com/AstrologyArticle.htm
My old friend Alphee Lavoie has been very active in doing statistical astrological research as well. Here’s a link to his group of astrological investigators — known to the world as the ‘gators: www.astroinvestigators.com
Change is eternal, and a bumpy road sometimes. My marriage to Jodie Forrest, to whom there are many references in this book, dissolved after exactly one complete Saturn cycle. These pages are a time capsule; she is still my wife in them.
Again in keeping with my intention of letting The Night Speaks be something of a time capsule, I’ve retained the original Acknowledgments page. Some people mentioned there have left this world, while many have left my life in one way or another. The wheels turn. The book would not have existed without them, so I here again honor and thank them.
To that list I would add my faithful and hyper-competent manager, friend, and cyber-wizard, Tony Howard. Very little that I do would be possible without him. I also thank our dedicated copy editor Carol Czeczot. And finally, my gratitude to Michelle Kondos for filling our home with paintings and my heart with light.
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