My Worldview

Note: I am taking a break from writing my regular series of blog posts. I had a health crisis in March 2017 that necessitated my making major changes to my diet and lifestyle. For now, those changes are taking up most of my spare time and attention. I plan to resume writing later this year.

Introduction

I think it is important, when practicing astrology, to examine and make explicit the worldview that your astrology assumes, and what kinds of values it implies.  Since I am attempting to build a framework, I want to lay out the worldview I use, and the kind of values I think it expresses.

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Eclipse! Go Inside!

Traditional wisdom says that an eclipse is a good time to go inside. This was thought to be especially important for pregnant women. The eclipse is a time to avoid any activity, and just get quiet, get still.

I think there is a great deal of wisdom hidden in that saying, and I’d like to take some time to meditate on it here and draw it out.

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American God

This is being written in August 2017, on the eve of the Great American Eclipse. In this post I want to talk about what this event means, and how we can learn from it.

Whatever else an eclipse is, it is a point of intense focus. The zodiac degree of the eclipse itself is highly charged, energized. Eclipses also connote covering and uncovering, hidden things being brought to light, facades being pierced and shaken up. It is as if the Gods are using a big flaming pointer and saying, Pay Attention at this point!

The part of the world where the eclipse reaches its greatest totality is considered to be the focus of its action, where it is most intensely felt. The United States is the central focus of the track of this eclipse, since it passes pretty much through the heartland of the county.

The United States is a focus of the eclipse in another way – the zodiac location of the eclipse is at around 28 Leo, which is pretty much dead on the ascendant of Donald Trump, our current President. So Trump, and America, are what the Gods are pointing to here.

This is very apt, since it reflects the media’s total obsessive focus on the man – all conversations lead back to Donald Trump, and you can’t have the radio on for more than 5 minutes before he becomes the focus of attention. Trump is Galactic Center, and the entire rest of the known universe revolves around him.

It is common practice in mundane astrology to have the king or leader of a country be the symbolic representative of the country itself – so, for instance, Pope Francis effectively is a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church as a whole, and his natal chart, and the chart of his election as Pope, are a very good mirror of the state of the church today. Francis IS the church today.

In this eclipse, Donald Trump IS the United States.

By Dhruvnv (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Trump is a symbol for everything our country stands for today. The more I consider this, the more I think Donald Trump is a damned near perfect symbol for the acting values that drive the United States – not the values we pay lip service to, but the values that actually drive our government and our economy, the powers that be. The state of our country now is the logical result of the values embodied by Trump.

Donald Trump is a very wealthy business man – money, and the power and attention that money buys, is his highest value.

In this post I want to examine just what it means to make money your highest god, and look at the ways America reflects that. I think this is what the Gods want us to consider and learn from here.

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Return to the Source

This is my first blog post since back in March, when I decided to take a couple of months off from writing about astrology. My birthday is in early March; in astrology terms, this year I have transiting Pluto conjunct my natal Ascendant in my Solar Return chart, and that will continue for the next couple of years.

Pluto, the Cosmic Roto-Rooter – major change, major cleanout, major transformation – it kind of feels like the psychic equivalent of having one of those drain cleaner thingies shoved up my butt. I think of myself as being Closed for Renovations this year. Along with some major shifts in diet and lifestyle, this includes my needing to re-think my attitude towards astrology, how it works, and how it fits in the world today, in this period of global instability and national decline.

Putting in bluntly – why bother studying and practicing astrology in the first place? How do I make sense of astrology in a 21st century world, and what good does it do?

I have don’t the answers down yet, but I do have a sense of direction and where to look, and I have a sense that I am being guided in my search.

In this post I want to start to define the questions, and give you an idea of where I am looking for the answers.

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Astrology (Not) A Science

“Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.”
– Werner Heisenberg

Is astrology a science? The short and simple answer is, No. (Sounds of people rushing for the door.)

Is anybody still here? Okay, let’s chat.

The slightly longer, slightly more inclusive answer, goes something like this:

Science is able to map part of the order of the Universe. It is not sufficient to map all of it. There are other forms of valid order besides the scientific. Another way of stating that – the current scientific model is too small to contain all of the Universe, which includes ALL of human experience. The scientific model has its limitations and its problems, and a model that makes sense of astrology can address some of those problems.

Let me underscore that point – the current scientific model does not include all of human experience, and some of the most important dimensions are left out.

Astrology works, it is valid, and I think it is demonstrable to anyone with a reasonably open mind. Astrology works, but it does not work the same way that Science does. It is pointing at a different kind of order that is bigger, weirder, stranger.

I’m going to paraphrase the quote by the scientist Werner Heisenberg that I used to start this piece.

Not only is Astrology stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.

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Time

“Slip slidin away,
Slip slidin away.
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin away.”
– Paul Simon

This post is being published in March 2017, and early this month I turn 65. I want to take time here to do a Saturn style meditation on the passing of time, as I pass this symbolic milestone into what our culture now calls the Senior Years – which is actually a euphemism for what used to be called, Old Age.

I am now officially old, and Saturn is the patron God of the years of old age. Saturn is also the ruler of my Capricorn ascendant, so S/He is the Lord of my chart. In traditional astrology terms, I am Saturn, so this should be the time of my life that I am really coming into my own.

Those of you who have been following my posts have probably noticed that Saturn is a pet theme of mine, a topic in astrology that I keep coming back to.

I think that each of us have our own distinctive spiritual paths, and you can get a feel for a person’s chart by looking at what planets dominate. The dominant planets will tend to define the person’s path to the Divine, how they conceive of the Universe and their place in it.

My path to the Divine is defined by Saturn.

Saturn is all about time – the figure of old Father Time, holding aloft either a lamp to light the way into the darkness, or a harvesting scythe that points to the cutting off point of death.

Saturn rules birth, time, death, and the process that weaves our lives together.

There is a sense of perspective that comes with time, and as I get older I am both fascinated by, and aware of, how time affects our lives, in a whole new way. I am particularly aware of how time intertwines with our sense of self.

So, these are my thoughts about Time – this will wander a bit, and take some different paths, but hey, that is part of how the process of time works. Thought, like Time, is not a straight line process; it has branches, it has dead ends, and sometimes it loops and curves back on itself. Thought takes time to unfold, as do the words that express the thought – and the thought process throughout my life that gives birth to these reflections.

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Velveteen Rabbit Revisited

I am writing this while Mercury is Retrograde, and I am going to use the opportunity to re-publish a piece I wrote a couple of years ago, and add some comments on how it relates to the ongoing theme of Saturn as feminine and Old Crone.

The name of the original post was,

Second Saturn Return and the Velveteen Rabbit.

I just had my Solar Return last month; I turned 63. I am just starting to seriously move into the part of my life where I increasingly deal with the reality of aging, decline, and eventual death.

This is a post-second-Saturn-Return kind of process.

Our youth-oriented culture has very few or no good role models for navigating this part of life well. Too often aging is a dirty secret that is denied, kept hidden or unspoken for as long as possible. Old people become increasingly invisible – I can see and feel that already. And death… people don’t die anymore, they make their transition, or go home, reunite with God or the Soul – anything to avoid admitting the stark reality of the cold, dead body lying there in the bed.

I think I found a useful metaphor for a graceful aging and death. It is from a children’s book called, The Velveteen Rabbit.

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Hall of Mirrors

Astrology and Reality

This post is going to be about astrology, and about reality, and about how the human mind works. I am going to be using astrology to question the validity of astrology.

Hopefully, by the time I am done with this meditation, reality will seem just a bit weirder, a bit less absolute, a bit more tentative.

You are about to enter a Hall of Mirrors – or rather, you about to realize that you are always living in a Hall of Mirrors whether you notice it or not.

Are you ready for a strange ride? Hang on to your hats and let us proceed.

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Jeffrey Dahmer – Dignity Gone Bad

The idea for this post was triggered by a very fine essay from the Seven Stars  Astrology blog – it is titled, The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner.

That essay begins with this sentence and opening paragraph.

‘The truth is that essential dignity tells you quite little about the “essential dignity” of a planet.

In a subsequent post (available here), I will explore in greater depth the obsession with dignity pointing, almutens, and sign-based indications of fortune/misfortune, which has done more to harm today’s practice of traditional astrology than anything else.’

To make his point, he uses two charts – that of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which has four planets with major dignity, and the billionaire media tycoon Ted Turner, that has no major dignity but several planets in debility.

I teach a class at Kepler College on using the traditional system of planetary dignities to evaluate the condition and action of the planets in a chart, and I spend a lot of time and emphasis on the essential dignities. I use every one of the indications he mentions – dignity pointing, almutens and so on – and I find them very useful.  However, as he points out, if I am going to use those indicators, I need to be able to make sense of those charts.

My position is this – essential dignity is useful, but it was never intended to be used in isolation. It is part of a larger system of conditions for weighing up a chart that include what are called essential and accidental dignities, and all of them together are very useful for weighing up the condition and action of planets.

I use a weighted point system for evaluating planets, based on William Lilly’s system of dignities and debilities – in my class I nickname it, William Lilly’s Cheate Sheete. I am convinced that is largely useful as a training tool, a set of training wheels, teaching an astrologer the important indicators to scan for in the chart.

If you are going to work with the system of dignities, you need to be able to make sense of Jeffrey Dahmer’s chart.  That is what we will do here.

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What Went Wrong

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  – Yogi Berra

I’m writing this Sunday morning, November 13, 2016, the weekend after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

The title of this post isn’t about What Went Wrong to allow Trump to win. I’m not ready to touch that topic, and that would take me too far afield from the subject of this website.

What Went Wrong with the astrology predictions?

The majority of astrologers I know of predicted a Clinton victory. That was also my conclusion after looking at Trump’s chart, although I did not publicly post it. I still wonder about that.

There is one predictive technique that has me particularly puzzled here, and I want to look at it precisely because it makes no sense to me.

There’s a hellenistic predictive technique called Zodiacal Releasing, which is supposed to predict peak periods of activity. Chris Brennan has done a lot of very good work to revive that technique. In that system, Trump’s most recent peak period was roughly October 2015 to June 2016.

In other words, according to Zodiacal Releasing, Donald Trump’s peak period is past now.

I do not see any way I can square that with Trump reigning as President for the next four years.  In what conceivable way can the period of the Republican primaries be his peak activity, while the Presidency itself is past peak?

There are different ways to answer that, and most of the ones I have seen feel more like ducking the question.  Maybe he was born a little bit later than the recorded time, so his Ascendant is different. Maybe there are other astrological factors in play that “trump” this particular technique and over-ride it. Maybe there are more negative factors at play in Hilary Clinton’s chart – but we don’t have her chart, or rather, we have too many charts since there are at least 4 birth times out there. Maybe we shouldn’t have tried to predict this particular election since the charts we have are so iffy. Maybe…

I want to ask a more fundamental question here:

Is there something about the nature of astrology itself that makes predicting things like the outcome of an election a dicey procedure at best?

I think there is.

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Fate and Karma

If you are a serious student of astrology, sooner or later you have to deal with the uncomfortable fact that, if astrology works, it demonstrates that there are a lot of aspects of our lives that are beyond our ability to influence or control, and that may be pre-destined to a greater or lesser extent.

I am writing this in mid October 2016, shortly after the ISAR astrology conference where a panel of astrologers used their tools to attempt to predict the outcome of the presidential election.

If you had an accurate ephemeris, you could have drawn up the necessary charts a thousand years ago. If the predictive techniques have validity then the outcome of the election is indeed written in the stars, and has been written there for a very long time.  (I picture a medieval astrologer drawing back from his charts with a look of horror on his face, as he divines the ascent of a weird hulking beast with a shock of bright orange blonde hair…)

Most of the astrologers that I know insist, strongly and loudly, that they believe in free will. Nothing in our lives is fated, our natal charts are nothing but potential, and it is up to us what we do with it. The whole notion that there might be circumstances or events that are predicted in your natal chart that are out of your control, is just not acceptable.

So they insist that we have free will – just a bit too loudly, and a bit too often.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Think about it – if it was so very certain that we have free will and can choose how we want our lives to go, why do so many modern astrologers spend so much time and energy insisting on our free will? If free will really was that much of a given then you wouldn’t need to keep insisting on it over and over.

On the other hand, most of the modern astrologers I know who recoil in horror at the notion of fate, have no problem with the concept of karma. The same astrologers who vehemently deny the notion of fate and insist on free will seem to have no problem with turning around and saying that, if something negative happened to you, it must have been your karma.

Let’s look a bit closer at that.

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