Steven Forrest accepts the 2018 Regulus Award for Education in Astrology
So, what about twins – or people who are born at the same time in the same place? I often hear this question, where their charts are clearly the same or effectively, exactly the same, and yet, their personalities are very different. It's a serious question, and I have to say, I think a lot of astrologers get a bit squirmy about it. And it's understandable why, because if our premise is in the logic of conventional astrology, where we're feeling that we ought to be able to describe a person's personality from the chart, that the personality is revealed in the chart, if we have the same chart and two different personalities, clearly, the basic premise of our work is in trouble.
I would approach this from the evolutionary point of view and say that that premise is incorrect – that the chart represents a karmic predicament. You might say, a set of evolutionary intentions, a set of evolutionary or karmic impediments. And in other words, it's the soul's predicament, and how we respond to that is what creates our personality.
And so, we could find two different people, two different souls, clearly born with exactly the same chart and making a very different response to it. This is not surprising at all in the context of the evolutionary paradigm. But if we're doing the conventional descriptive astrology, the whole system seems to get very nervous in the face of that fact.
So there's probably the single most fundamental response I could make to this question of twins or time twins. I have to add to that an important technical note. I remember receiving literally this question. I had clients when I was a young astrologer in North Carolina, and there are these two guys who are twins and very much part of our circle. The idea is, these two are as different as night and day, but they're twins. They're born like 10 minutes apart. How could this possibly be true? The question came to me. I set up their charts, and I found that even though their birth times are very close, just 10 minutes apart, one of them was born with the Sun about to rise.
And for the other one, the Sun had risen. Obviously, the younger of the two. One had the Sun in the first house, one had the Sun in the 12th house. Those are entirely different situations, and that 10 minutes made a huge difference. And that's just an important footnote to add to this. Sometimes, two people have exactly the same chart or effectively the same chart, and then I'd go back to the first point that I made. But then, at the technical level, we really do have to be careful to discern differences that can be created even by a few minutes of difference in the birth time.
I would extend that a little bit further, and this would apply strictly to twins, rather than people who just happen to be born in the same hospital around the same time. But the psychological reality of being a twin is that there's a strong desire in us to individuate, typically, to not be seen as the same person. “I am different from you.” And so, I've noticed in working with twins a tendency for there to be an unconscious deal created between them, often from very early in life, where, “Okay, you do the Mercury and I'll do the Mars,” or, “I'll do this one badly, and you can do it well. I'll be the good one. You can be the bad one,” or vice versa; a sense of dividing up the energies and dividing up the possible responses to the energies in service of individuation. And this will tend to exaggerate the differences between twins.
Now, with all that said, I want to add one more point, and it's a fascinating one and a fun one and kind of a dangerous one, where we have time twins. They're not physical twins. They're from the same mother, but their charts are the same. They don't know each other, and they live incredibly parallel lives. There is a literature with this. Getting married on the same day, for example, and they both married somebody named John, of Italian extraction, and there are stories like this. You could Google “time twins,” and I suspect you would find a number of them. It's fascinating, and clearly, there's astrology operating in a rather mechanical way.
Everybody loves these stories. They vindicate astrology. But I do find them dangerous, because they also support this, to me, archaic and fading idea that we are somehow ... our natures and choices are determined by the planets. There's useful truth in that. There's a mechanical way that astrology does work, but I never want that to eclipse the sacred heart of astrology, which is this idea of individuality, freedom, personal responsibility, creativity and imagination. Those are powerful forces, and I don't want any time twin story to eclipse that holy truth.
Learn more about what evolutionary astrology means to Steven in his classic book Yesterday's Sky.
Now, the term evolutionary astrology is often associated with Jeffrey Wolf Green. And sometimes people have asked me why I continue to use the term. It's a somewhat delicate subject.
First, just as a matter of record, I was using the term “evolutionary astrology” before I'd ever heard of Jeffrey Wolf Green, whose work I respect tremendously. I don't mean to sound even slightly negative about him. But proof of the pudding, just very simply: my first book, The Inner Sky, came out in 1984 and I used the term “evolutionary astrology” many times in that book. That's simply a matter of record. Jeffrey's first book, Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul, came out in 1985, a year after my book. And of course, he was using the term “evolutionary astrology.” Meanwhile, there's a gentleman by the name of Raymond Merriman who's currently the president of the International Society for Astrological Research, who himself published a book called Evolutionary Astrology in the late 1970s.
I didn't know about that book, but if anybody were going to claim they originated the term, as near as I could tell it would actually be Raymond Merriman. I think the deeper truth is that the term was kind of floating around in the collective and it essentially embraced any kind of astrology that had two qualities. And one was that it had the tonality of modern psychological astrology but it also, in the second level, integrated it with reincarnation, integrated it with essentially ancient metaphysics. Ray Merriman's work was very different from mine. Mine has been very different from Jeffery Wolf Green's. I think what happened over the years is that I was using the term casually as a kind of a catch-all term, like “modern astrology,” except a little bit more specific.
I think Jeffrey became a bit more proprietary about the term, using it as a kind of product name, which was absolutely fine. For a while in the late 1990s he and I worked together and actually did a couple of books together. I had a conversation with him in which I said, “I'm not sure I'm going to be able to pull this off because the word ‘evolutionary astrology’ or the term has so much momentum in the culture of astrology now, but if you prefer, I would stop using it. I could call my work something else.” And Jeffrey said, “No, it was probably too late for that and it didn't matter that much anyway.”
Since then, there have been some complexities and some misunderstandings about it. But I continue to use the term. I often try to write it with a lower case “e,” so to speak, and a lower case “a,” rather than the capital “E” and the capital “A” just to let it be a somewhat more generic catch-all term for any kind of astrology that marries modern psychology and ancient metaphysics. To me, that is the essence of evolutionary astrology. It's what I've been practicing since the beginning of my career. And I suspect I'll continue until the end of the trail for me.
Click through to view the transcript:
There's a question I'm often asked and it's sort of a delicate one. People observe that many astrologers are starving — basically don't have many clients. And yet, I've been very successful. So, why is that true?
It's obviously a somewhat uncomfortable subject for me to explore, but I think that there is an important point to be made here. To say it very simply, as I compare the state of consciousness of my typical clients who are intelligent people, examining their lives in a psycho-spiritual way, and trying to grow and improve and make better choices in life – that's a typical profile of somebody who comes to me for a reading. And I compare that attitude with the mainstream conventions of astrology where we still might be hearing something like, "You're a Virgo so that's why you're picky." Or, "You're a Scorpio and that's why you're sexy but treacherous." This kind of descriptive stuff or rigidly predictive stuff. "You will get a divorce" – statements like that. And in essence, what I'm getting at is that I think the client base has gotten ahead of the astrologers as a group.
My own orientation to astrology is never predictive. And I tend to try to get beyond simply describing people, which is to say, pigeon-holing them, and instead coach people and talk about how to make better choices and how to be happier and putting the power and the responsibility for the shape of their lives right back in their hands. And I think people like that. I think it suits the philosophical tone of the times, the attitudinal values of the times. And that's important. And I also simply think that is a more accurate approach to astrology.
So, I suspect that much of my success, and the fact that I'm booked so far ahead, is really derived from that philosophical difference or even technical difference of approach to astrology where it's about questions, not about answers. And questions put the power right back in the hands of the individual who has come to me for a reading.
I'd add one more point about this. Sometimes I've heard the idea that my success is based upon the fact that I've written some popular books and I've been rather well-known through publication, having started out my publishing career with Bantam Books with The Inner Sky back in 1984. And certainly that helped and got my name out in the world and expanded my range of contacts. But I would also say that long before I had written a word of astrology, or published a word of astrology, my simple little practice in North Carolina, I was booked up eight months, ten months ahead. And that's purely because of this philosophical difference and had nothing to do with the star-maker machinery, so to speak, that I hooked into with publishing.
If you simply think about this yourself . . . let's imagine quite specifically, the planet Uranus, “Lord of Earthquakes and Lightning Bolts,” so to speak, is entering your seventh house, your house of marriage. And the conventional astrologer would look at that and predict “disruption in your intimate sphere.” If you're a married person, “you're gonna get a divorce.” And it's mechanical.
Well, let's imagine that you're committed to your marriage but you're struggling within it. And the astrologer, at least evolutionary astrologer, realizes that Uranus is not a planet that will simply destroy things. But it refers to a more subtle process of trying to figure out who you are as distinct from what people around you want you to be and have trained you to be. You need more freedom and space for what you want to become – space for your individuality within your marriage. And then the question becomes, “Can you work with yourself and work with your partner to try to bring that sense of updating the relationship?”
And again, space for who you have become in the relationship. And if you can do that, you can make your marriage work. And if you can't do that, then the marriage will fall apart – and will probably need to fall apart.
And if you just put yourself in the receiving position for this kind of counsel first: "Oh, your marriage is doomed," versus this more helpful kind of coaching advice, you can immediately feel, I suspect, in your heart, how the second approach leaves you with possibilities, leaves you empowered.
And really, the whole point I'm making is that people in the modern world, in the psychological age that we're living in, that's simply how they think. And if our astrological language is resonant with the actual realities of their experience, they're gonna come to you for readings and they're gonna tell their friends about it, and you're gonna have a very successful practice. But if you're simply telling fortunes and pronouncing doom on people, the opposite will happen.
People sometimes say that when you're talking about past lives, as revealed by the birth chart, that you could say anything you want. That, “Hey, you were a pizza waitress who died in a tragic business accident in Chicago in 1937.” I could swear that was true and you could not prove me wrong – and I could not prove myself correct. This is a criticism that is often leveled against evolutionary astrology.
As that criticism stands, it’s of course clearly valid. We could say anything. But here’s the key to understanding why it's not quite as simple as that. The notion of unresolved issues from prior lifetimes, commonly called “karma,” a Sanskrit word that has entered popular usage in the English language, the concept of karma essentially boils down to the idea of habit. That there are repeating patterns in our lives that don't really do us any good at all, but we keep doing them over and over again. This principle, with which we're all I'm sure quite familiar, is assumed to extend from lifetime to lifetime to lifetime until we break the pattern.
The response to this criticism of evolutionary astrology is very simple. The proof of the pudding is that when we look at the karmic story, at the past life story, our assumption is that we will see the fingerprints of that story visible in the present life. Again, you cannot verify past lives but you sure can verify the patterns in the present life.
Just to go a little bit more deeply into this. If you have a friend, for example, whose father was a loving, well-meaning alcoholic who always failed her, it's a familiar enough sad scenario. Of course, it is not unusual for such a person to grow up and come into her maturity, and be trying to get the love that she never got from her father – from any man, let's say, to whom she is attracted, or woman for that matter. She might then have a pattern of falling in love with guys with substance abuse problems.
This principle of the repetition of our wounds is of course the basis of much psychological understanding just in the present existential, daily, one-life kind of perspective, where we would recognize that the traumas of childhood tend to get repeated in adulthood.
The premise of evolutionary astrology is that the traumas or unresolved issues from prior lifetimes work just like childhood, and that these things move on into the present life. Often, when I'm sitting with a client and making up a story about a past life, in other words, trying to come up with a fable or a tale that I think resonates with whatever the past life reality was, I'll have a funny experience. I'm in the midst of the story and the client looks at me sort of quizzically and says, "Are you're sure you're talking about a past life? That's already happened to me in this lifetime."
That's really the entire point. That these unresolved patterns tend to repeat. It's as if we're saying to the universe, "Set it up again. I want another look at it. I got it wrong or I was damaged by this in a prior lifetime, and I want to take another shot at it. I want to see if I can get it right this time around." The proof of the pudding of this reincarnational premise of evolutionary astrology is that the past lives on in the present. And we can observe that, and verify that – or falsify it – if it weren't true. So we see it right here and now.
- Steven Forrest