November 30, 2021
The nodes of the Moon spend about a year and a half in each sign before retrograding into the previous sign. (They are always retrograde.) The impact of the change on the daily headlines is unmistakable, and it is about to happen again. On December 22, the north lunar node enters Taurus, while the south node backs into Scorpio. They’ve been in Gemini and Sagittarius respectively since June 4, 2020 and they’ll cross into Aries and Libra on July 12, 2023.
These dates are, by the way, for the Mean nodes, rather than the so-called True nodes. I’ve always found the Mean nodes to be more accurate in the rare instances where there is any significant difference between the two forms at all. The dates I give are also based on the U.S. west coast – as ever, China and Australia are already enjoying tomorrow while we’re back here languishing in today. These are picky differences. In this newsletter, I want to focus on the bigger picture.
September 30, 2021
Maybe I am sitting with a client who has the natal Moon on the Midheaven. The symbols tell me that she has been “called to a mission” in this lifetime – that she has something important to do in her community, something that will touch the lives of people with whom she does not have any kind of personal karma. With signs and aspects, I can get a lot more specific, but that’s not my point here. I want to write about a very slippery question, and that is the relationship between astrology and psychotherapy. My client with the Moon on the Midheaven is just my launching pad.
We are all responsible for the way we “inhabit” our birthcharts. That element of free will is absolutely central to my understanding of astrology. One dimension of that pivotal principle is that we are all free to blow it – free to let fear, bad social conditioning, or sheer laziness take a bite out of our lives. That’s true of you, me – and my client with the Moon on her Midheaven too. The fact that she “has a mission” does not mean that she will rise to it. Some personal “Moon work” must serve as the foundation of any gift she is eventually able to give to her community. That will require some effort.
My client has been born to play some kind of helpful, healing role in the lives of strangers. They don’t know it, but those strangers are counting on her. If she does not rise to some approximation of her human potential, she will simply not be there for them. That means that her failure would create suffering for them.
Here’s where everything starts to get really sticky. That possibility of failure confronts astrologers with an uncomfortable truth that we cannot escape or sweep under the carpet. To what extent is it appropriate that we confront this client with the responsibilities that we see in her natal chart? More is at stake here than her own spiritual well being – other souls are depending on her. Do we have an ethical right to say that? Do we have an ethical obligation to say it?
August 28, 2021
Past lives are a slippery subject. An unscrupulous astrologer could tell you that you were once Christopher Columbus’s red-headed Scorpio girlfriend, and what can you say? It can’t really be proven one way or the other.
Reality itself is the ultimate test for any theory. Much of the theory behind evolutionary astrology rests upon an acceptance of reincarnation, but how can we actually test any of it, let alone prove it? Our critics often make that exact argument and it is difficult to refute. Probably the best response we can put forth rests in the words of the Tibetan saint, Padma Sambhava, who once simply said, “if you want to know your past lives, consider your present circumstances.” The evidence of your prior lifetimes is, in other words, visible in your present life. The stories we tell based on our analysis of the Moon’s south node and the planets connected with it echo in our daily lives today. That’s really the heart of the matter and our best response to our critics – but it doesn’t get even close to really proving the idea of reincarnation.
And that circles us back around to our initial dilemma: our whole system rests on something that people have to take on faith – or not.
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June 28, 2021
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.
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June 1, 2021
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.
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.
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April 21, 2021
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.
Enlightenment? Your guess is as good as mine.
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March 26, 2021
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.”
February 22, 2021
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.
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January 31, 2021
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?
Instead of calling it “good” when a planet is in the sign it rules, I find it is much more accurate to call it strong. But is strong the same as good? When a planet is in the sign it rules, they agree with each other. There is no friction. Their energy flows like a geyser, no questions asked. Conversely, when a planet is in the opposite sign – in detriment – it must deal with complexity and paradox – and that is not necessarily such a bad thing. Can we fight for peace? Ask Mars in Libra. Can questioning and doubting ourselves be a path to greatness? Ask Jupiter in Virgo. What about questioning our own beliefs from time to time? Ask Mercury in Sagittarius.
A while back, I made a video about this subject called The Grace in Debility. Click here if you would like to buy a copy of it. The video version is $15 and the audio only one is $10. In this newsletter, I want to tackle a very similar subject, albeit one that is not as widely known: the notion of planetary exaltation and planetary fall. It is not quite the same as rulership and detriment, but there are many parallels – including the widespread, unhelpful notion that exaltation is good news and that a planet occupying the sign of its fall automatically spells bad news.
As we just saw, when a planet is in the sign it rules, there is a very straightforward agreement between the two energies – Jupiter says “I feel lucky” and Sagittarius chimes in – “I bet there are no bears in that cave.” With exaltation, the situation is a bit more subtle. In essence, the sign has the effect of underscoring some specific potential strength in the planet – or similarly, of correcting one of its blind spots. The planet is therefore uplifted – “exalted,” if you will.
December 28, 2020
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.
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