Happy Birthday, Inner Sky!
Thirty years ago this month, The Inner Sky was published. That book coming out was probably the most pivotal biographical event of my life. From that moment onward, everything changed. Doors opened for me that never would have opened otherwise. On the strength of that book alone, I’ve seen much of the world. I’ve met countless wonderful people all over the world. I have a beautiful home. I’ve walked China’s Great Wall. I’ve flown First Class to South America on a “secret mission” under an assumed identity. I’ve patted a kangaroo in Australia and I’ve walked in the old harem of Topkapi in Istanbul.
And for thirty years, I have not had to suffer a haircut unless I wanted one. No boss! No commuting! Only one necktie in my closet!
Most importantly, I’ve been able to live a meaningful life, one for which I feel grateful nearly every day—all because of The Inner Sky, born into this world exactly three decades ago, in August 1984.
For me, the story started three years before that, in July 1981. My phone rang. It was a young literary agent in New York who had heard of my work and wanted to know if I might write a book on spec that she would represent. Six weeks later, on the strength of a sample chapter, I had a deal with Bantam Books, which was then the biggest English-language publisher in the world. They paid me a five thousand dollar advance and I began writing in earnest. On a manual typewriter. I was thirty-two years old.
At that point I had been making my living as a full-time astrologer for almost four years, since November 1977. My practice was strictly local, but successful. I was booked many months in advance. Praise the Lord, I had “quit my day job,” working for the University. But I had been having doubts about my direction in life. I’d been thinking, “at this rate, you’re going to be, like, really old . . . like forty . . . and still be the hippie astrologer in the town where you went to college.” I counseled myself, “Maybe you ought to get a grip and go to graduate school or something. Get a haircut.”
Then I realized, “No, I love astrology. This is what I will do with my life.” At that moment, before any book contract fell in my lap, I had crossed the Rubicon inside myself and committed to this path I have been on ever since.
Uranus was then transiting my Scorpio ascendant. Time to individuate, time to be true to myself—and time to figure what “myself” meant. In this case, I think I got that right. And one thing about Uranus—if you are true to your heart in a Uranian time, magic happens. Some astrologers say, “expect the unexpected”—a good line, but kind of hard to apply concretely! I followed my heart, committed to the “shipwreck” of being an astrologer no matter into what kind of existential cul-de-sac that choice would plunge me—and the next thing that happened, that literary agent is ringing my phone and I am signing a book contract with the biggest publisher in the country.
That kind of miracle doesn’t happen! At least that is what common sense would suggest. But it did. That’s Uranian magic. If you follow your heart, the universe will make a path for you.
All I would add is that this pretty principle—which of course verges very close to a cliché—absolutely will not always work for you! The timing has to be right. But it does work in Uranian times. That’s simply because that kind of faith is that lesson that your soul is trying to internalize during a Uranian episode. In a Saturn time, for one contrasting example, you might be invited to learn patience and endurance. In a time of twelfth house emphasis, you might be called upon to hold onto hope in a time of loss or endings.
Life can’t be reduced to bumper stickers, but with a knowledge of astrology, we can at least know which bumper stickers are going to serve us best during a given period.
In 1981, the Uranian bumper sticker served me well—or we might equally say that I served it well, because what actually happens to us in our lives is always based on how our consciousness interacts with a certain archetypal field of possibility. I could have ignored my own heart. I could have chickened out and followed a more predictable career path. (And of course, like the rest of us, I have screwed up a lot in life too and learned things the hard way.) In this case, though, I got it right. That Uranus transit changed my life—and brought The Inner Sky into the world.
I spent the next three years writing the book. I had a great editor at Bantam, a fellow named Peter Guzzardi. He’d just finished editing Stephen Hawking’s volume, A Brief History of Time, when he got going on helping me with The Inner Sky. I’ve always loved that Hawking connection and felt, even though no one knew about it, that it expressed synchronistically the convergence of physics and metaphysics which is one of the paradigm-shifting dramas of our times. Who would have guessed that The Inner Sky and A Brief History of Time shared any DNA? Sadly, I have never met Stephen Hawking, but somehow the ley lines of our lives entwined there in our shared relationship with Peter at Bantam Books.
We struggled with the question of a title. The project’s working title, which I loathed and dreaded, was Astrology 101. In the final hour, Peter and I were on the phone jamming over what to call the book. Spontaneously, from somewhere in Neptune’s realm, I blurted out “the inner sky.” Peter exclaimed, “Yes! Yes! That’s it!” I beamed. Then he said, “That sounds just like Inner Tennis!” Which was a book on the bestseller list at the time. He liked that subliminal market tie-in.
Well, OK, that was good enough for me. I had rescued my book from being called Astrology 101, which as I think back would have significantly diminished my life, or at least my poetic pretensions.
When my own author’s copy of the book arrived, probably in about July 1984, just before it hit the bookstore shelves, I reverently opened the package and pulled out my firstborn . . . only to gasp. Under the words The Inner Sky, done in chaste, receding, silver-gray letters, Bantam’s marketing department had emblazoned their own big, bold, bone-white “subtitle,” THE DYNAMIC NEW ASTROLOGY FOR EVERYONE!
Welcome to the world of marketing.
The book sold pretty well for Bantam in the first couple of years, 30,000 copies or so, well enough at least that they offered me a contract on the follow-up volume, The Changing Sky. Meanwhile, the reputation of The Inner Sky slowly penetrated the more serious world of astrology—although real astrologers had some understandable attitude about “popular” astrology books. It actually wasn’t until about three years later that I received my first invitation to speak at a conference. That was quite a memorable experience for me. It was in New York City, for the NCGR I think. I got off the plane from North Carolina and climbed up on a stage with Robert Hand, who was a legend in my mind. He was gracious to me and I will always be grateful to him for that.
To the best of my knowledge, this was actually the first time in my life that I had met another astrologer. There’s my natal Saturn conjunct the Midheaven in action—the Lord of Solitude on the cusp of the House of Career.
My lack of contact with astrological teachers was a double-edged sword. On the bad side, I re-invented the wheel many times and missed the chance to sit at the feet of many luminaries who might have helped me. On the plus side, in my seclusion I did develop a kind of astrology that was different from the mainstream. All in all, I think my isolation benefitted me more than it hurt me. The first words of the first chapter of The Inner Sky read, “People change. And yet one assumption runs like a virus through most astrological writing: people do not change.”
That still says it all.
My work with clients, right from the beginning, was based on the idea that our psychological and spiritual journeys are intertwined and that evolution occurs via wise choices we make over many lifetimes. I’d cut my teeth on Edgar Cayce and Ram Dass, along with Carl Jung, and that philosophy underlies every word in The Inner Sky. The term “evolutionary astrology” occurs many times in the book. Editorially, Bantam wanted me to soft-pedal the metaphysics—not to over-use the world “soul,” for example. In that, I think they seriously misread the market. Those soul-references are in there, buried in the pages of the book, but perhaps somewhat less prominently than what was in the words I was actually saying to my clients at the time. I don’t really regret that. The Inner Sky was always meant to be a primer—a book that would reach out to a wide range of people and attract them to a more choice-centered kind of astrology. I’ve always viewed my more recent book, Yesterday’s Sky, as the companion volume to the first one, picking up where it left off. As The Inner Sky focuses on psychological perspectives on our evolution, Yesterday’s Sky focuses on the more metaphysical, reincarnational perspectives. But of course the two cannot ultimately be separated and the soul of each book exists between the lines in the other one.
Once a book is in print, it is graven in stone. That’s the horror of it. You can’t take it back. I’ve been grateful to whatever gods and spirits guide my life that there is really nothing major in The Inner Sky that I would alter. I marvel that it was all there in my head when I was only thirty-two.
I do feel that I could have done a better job with the Pluto section, although I still believe what I wrote there to be true and useful. I attempted to correct all that in my 1994 volume, The Book of Pluto.
If I could go back and add anything to The Inner Sky, it would just be a better metaphor than “the Mask” for the meaning of the ascendant, even though that image works pretty well. After I’d finished the book and it had all been laid to rest, I realized that the ascendant is better expressed as “the stained glass through which the psyche shines into the world.” Masks hide a face; stained glass does not hide the light shining through it. Instead it filters it, gives it a tint. That’s how the ascendant works, and I could have made that more clear.
Live and learn, thank God. In astrology, there’s always more to discover. And the more you discover about yourself, the more deeply you see into astrology’s crystal ball.
So happy thirtieth birthday to my firstborn child. People with literal kids always seem to have a feeling for where they are in life’s chronology. Your kid’s hair turns gray and that’s a bit of biofeedback for you! I’ve never had children, so I tend to forget my age. But I look at the yellowing newsprint pages of that original $3.95 Bantam mass market edition of The Inner Sky, cranked out on a manual typewriter by a skinny young guy living in a three-room walk-up next to a gas station in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and I get a vertiginous sense of time passing. I feel some pride. But mostly I feel gratitude for the life I’ve been given and the doorway into a wider world which that book opened for me.
I‘d like to close this little reminiscence with the words that close The Inner Sky. Thirty years down the road, and I can’t improve upon them.
“And who are we? Who is doing the observing?
That is the deepest riddle of them all, and answering it is the endless, impossible task that makes us human.
Astrology cannot answer that riddle for us. But perhaps it can carry us a little closer, make us a little wiser. In astrology, we are the border dwellers. We are the ones who live on the shoreline, where waves of consciousness break on the rocks and dunes of the physical world. We exist in both, and both are reflected in us.
In astrology, we are the dreamers, and what we are dreaming is the universe.”
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NEW Webinar August 23!
In this live webinar, Steven will teach chart analysis skills through the chart of prolific American director Martin Scorsese. If you've ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during one of Steven's readings, this is your chance.
Steven will look at the major themes in Scorsese's chart, demonstrating the backbone techniques of his evolutionary astrological approach. This webinar is especially aimed at astrology students who would like to learn how to analyze a natal chart from the ground up.
To get the most out of this webinar, download and study Scorsese's natal chart before the webinar (you will receive a copy with your registration). To sharpen your skills even more, you might also consider forming a local or virtual study group to discuss the chart before and after Steven's presentation.
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Saturday August 23, 2014
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8 hrs. 18 min. | Includes handouts
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