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.
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.
How often in a lifetime, for example, are you going to say the words, “will you marry me?”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
The fabled Age of Aquarius – does it mean anything at all? Ever since the musical Hair was first performed back in 1967, there has been a vague sense that the Aquarian Age had something to do with hippies or free love or world peace or . . . something.
Anyway, from that long-haired point of view, the Age of Aquarius probably ended about fifty years ago . . . unless you bring up the subject among a group of astrologers. Then what you will typically see has very little to do with “harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding . . .” Then what you will typically see is closer to World War Three. Opinions on the subject of the astrological ages tend to be trenchant – and the general thrust of them usually runs down the road of claiming that the Age of Aquarius is real enough, but that it is still way off in the far distant future.
I disagree. I think we are in it now. I think we have been in it for over a century already.
In this newsletter I want to make my case that the Age of Aquarius dates back to 1903-1905.
Let’s start with Science Class.
All eyes are on the sky this month. As most of us probably know by now, Jupiter and Saturn come together and form their every-two-decades conjunction on December 21. And this time they really come together – they stand only one-tenth of a degree apart. That’s close! They won’t “blend into one star” as some people have erroneously said – you will still see two points of light. But it will be a striking sight, something you may have never before seen in the sky.How close is one-tenth of a degree? Here’s a way to visualize it in advance before you can actually see the real thing. Hold your arm straight out and stand your pinky-finger straight up. The span across your fingernail is about one degree.
Hey, but what if it’s cloudy on the night of the 21st? Have you missed the whole thing? Do you have to wait another twenty years? Well . . . it’s both worse than that and better than that. The next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction occurs in October of 2040, but it’s a just pale version of this one – the two planets are much further apart (because of declination) and somewhat lost in the Sun’s glare. Twenty years after that one, they are at it again – but once more, conditions are similar to 2040.
One tenth of that. Close!
A few weeks ago, a French gentleman named Olivier Clerc contacted me about the possibility of getting more of my work published in his country. Naturally, from my point of view, that is an attractive thought. He has connections to the French publishing industry and there are some encouraging early signs that it might happen. I hope so. Getting this kind of astrology out to the global community is a pretty good summary of my life’s purpose.
In an email exchange I had with Olivier this morning, he wrote glowingly about a section of my book, The Night Speaks. He suggested that I publish it as an article on my website. I’d come to the time of the month when I needed to be thinking of a newsletter topic, and, well – voilà, as they say in France. I put two and two together.
I originally published The Night Speaks in 1993, at the time of Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn. I wrote quite a lot about that epochal event in those early pages, but of course it was “pure astrology.” No one, myself included, really knew yet what the alignment would bring. I was writing about it in real time, as clueless as a newscaster “on the scene.”
In 2016, we brought out a new edition of the book. I added a “23 years later” perspective on what I’d originally written about the conjunction. That is the section of the book that Olivier Clerc was praising and asking me to share with a wider, current audience. He pointed out that many of my long-time readers who bought the earlier 1993 edition would not even know of this more-current version.
There was a second reason for me to offer these words again in this newsletter context. As a citizen of the United States here in late October 2020, I am of course nervously awaiting November 3rd and the results of our national elections. I do not know how they will turn out, so I can’t yet write a meaningful commentary on them. The deadline for my newsletter comes earlier, yet I felt the need to say something relevant to this turning point in my country’s history. As I re-read this section of The Night Speaks, it struck me as deeply “current” in a kind of mythic, meta-political way.
So, thank you Olivier – and here is the “Update, 2016" section of the book. There are a few references to the longer, original historical analysis which appears in both editions, but I think you’ll be able to follow along without difficulty.