Tag Archives: astrology

Astrology and the Cycles of Time

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Sample natal horoscopes, from “The Circle Book of Charts,” compiled by Stephen Erlewine, 1972

On Monday, November 11, the planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun, beginning at 7:35 AM EST and lasting five-and-a-half hours.  It will be visible during daylight hours throughout the Americas and seen as a small dot on the sun’s surface, with viewing through solar-filtered telescopes and binoculars recommended.*

Meanwhile, the October 28, 2019 issue of The New Yorker magazine includes an article about the resurgence of interest in astrology.  Titled “Starstruck:  Why we’re crazy for astrology,” by Christine Smallwood, the article claims that interest in this ancient discipline petered out after the 1970s but has made a comeback in recent years, especially among millennials. The current trend employs all the panache of modern technology, from pod-casts to computer apps and on-line chat rooms.  There are on-line classes.  There are zodiac-themed products like clothes and lingerie.  It has become a booming business, complete with all the glitz of modern commercialization.

The astrologers interviewed in the article highlight astrology’s ability to describe character in non-judgmental terms.  They downplay predictions, and emphasize timing.  In short, it appears that this new appreciation reaches a deeper level than I remember from the 1970s and 1980s.

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Ephemeris tables of planetary positions for November and December, 2019, “The American Ephemeris for the 21st Century,” Neil F. Michelsen, 1992

I have studied astrology for over 35 years, and still keep an ephemeris (a table of planetary movements) beside my reading chair.  I still have the tape recording from my introductory horoscope reading.  I was so impressed with the astrologer’s ability to “see my soul,” that I bought the classic beginner’s guide, Isabel Hickey’s Astrology: a Cosmic Science, that day.  For several years, I was possibly obsessed and collected two full notebooks of horoscopes on everyone I met.  I joined the American Federation of Astrologers, attended conferences, hobnobbed with other astrologers, and shared the language, which sounds like a secret code to the uninitiated.

I soon learned to downplay my interest, and finally, not to mention it, because people were simply not interested, scornful, or even threatened.  But I found the astrological approach consistently provides a comprehensive framework for understanding human character.  My natal chart highlighted potentials that soon prompted me to take the science pre-requisites to enter, then attend, medical school.  I followed up with a psychiatry residency but was astonished to learn that astrology far surpassed psychiatry in its grasp of the totality of the human psyche.

Fundamentally, psychiatry—and possibly all Western medicine—focuses only on the negative, on abnormalities, disorders, or illnesses.  Astrology offers balance.

There are many ideas about whether, why, or how astrology works.  After all these years, I’m still skeptical, even though it has greatly contributed to my philosophy of life.  In the early days, I felt in touch with the ages, knowing I was studying a system that in one form or another has evolved over 6000 years (at least), in every known culture.  It corresponds to the “archetypes” that Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described.  Jung himself was a student of astrology and alchemy, for their spiritual aspects.

Fundamentally, it is based on geometry and is the parent of astronomy.  Long before we had religions or governments, we had the sun, moon, and stars.  Early man looked to the heavenly bodies for guidance and learned to predict the coming of the seasons by the gradual lengthening and shortening of days.  The moon’s cycles, too, became associated with certain kinds of earthly events.  Over time, and over cultures, the visible planets (“planet” means “wanderer”) were noted to move against a background of stars that formed patterns of constellations in a ring around the earth.  In Western astrology, some of these patterns became the twelve constellations of the zodiac.

It’s important to note that a horoscope is completely impersonal in that it is a symbolic map of of the skies as seen at a specific moment in a specific place.  That’s why an astrologer can cast a horoscope for anything, such as the time a question is asked (horary astrology), the signing of a contract, or the birth of a nation.  The natal horoscope, then, pinpoints a time and place, and an individual’s birth is an event that occurs then and there.  The individual then embodies all the potential of the moment.  As the child grows, the moment becomes personified through the individual’s experiences, choices, and reactions.

Given that we are, so far, earthbound beings, it’s understandable that astrology would take a geocentric perspective.  At birth, the individual is stamped with the cosmic pattern of that time and place.  I like to think in terms of electromagnetic frequencies, with each planet (as well as the sun and moon) having its own electromagnetic character.  As they move through time in their various cycles, and with respect to each other, the patterns change, as with a kaleidoscope, and either influence or reflect the meaning behind happenings in an individual’s life.

To understand the concept behind astrology, it’s convenient to think of a natal horoscope as a coded depiction of that person’s life drama.  The individual is the star of her own play.  In Western astrology, the planets–with the personalities of the Roman gods for which they are named–are the supporting actors; the signs are the filters or lights that they operate through; and the houses the props and stage.

As the sun, moon, and planets continue their cycles through a person’s life, they make angles (called “aspects”) to their natal positions, with each moving at its own pace.

Common questions about astrology have to do with whether it is presumed to “control” people’s lives.  My answer is a different question.  “Does the clock control your life?”  No, but it makes sense to go to the grocery store when it is open, if you want to buy food.

“Shouldn’t a life be timed from the moment of conception?” is another common question.  I respond that until birth, by whatever means, an infant is shielded from external cosmic influences by its mother’s protective vibrational field.

I once asked a fellow astrologer what she valued most about the study of astrology.  “Tolerance,” she said.  I had reached the same understanding on my own, and I still find that to be the case.  There are no “good” or “bad” moments, and each moment is unique in its opportunities and challenges.  Considering the infinite possibilities inherent under the cosmic clock that astrology reveals, the potential to deepen and bring that moment to fruition in a “meaningful” life becomes a horoscope’s greatest gift and challenge.

*For the astrologically literate, on November 11, Mercury will be retrograde and conjunct the sun at 18-19 degrees of Scorpio.  This conjunction will square my natal Mercury in Leo from 2nd to 9th houses, perhaps inspiring this blog post.**

**Added November 13, 2019:  Haha.  The joke’s on me.  I was doing something else when I suddenly realized the conjunction noted above occurred in Scorpio, not Sagittarius, thus squaring my natal Mercury in Leo and triggering my grand square in fixed signs.  The full moon in Taurus on the next day (November 12) was involved, too, with the moon conjunct my natal Jupiter at 19 degrees Taurus that day.   This is an embarrassing error, but is consistent with other features of my horoscope that indicate public embarrassment.  It challenges me to admit error, and apologize to anyone I might have led astray.

 

Surfing the Dimensions

camellia011316Can you describe this in three dimensions?  Of course not.  Fundamentally, the notion that “reality” is three-dimensional (or four-dimensional, if you include the concept of time) is based on a mathematical depiction of a box, but it doesn’t even describe what kind of box, its color, smell, materials, or anything beyond spatial measurements.

Nothing in nature can be described in three dimensions, yet mathematical rigidity limits our minds to its man-made constructs and inhibits understanding of the “essences” of physical reality.

Albert Einstein could never accept quantum physics, because he believed science should be able to predict with certainty.  That a quantum particle could defy attempts to predict its position and momentum simultaneously offended him deeply, yet probabilities rather than certainties make for an infinitely creative universe with multi-dimensional possible futures.

A desire to know “the” future, to predict or control it, has attended man’s evolution since time immemorial.  When there were no instruments except the five known senses for guidance, man looked to the stars and other natural phenomenon for understanding.  Whether a god or gods created man or whether man created his gods remains a subject of debate, but no one argues about the cycles of the sun, moon, and visible planets.  In earlier times, those who could predict eclipses and the like were believed to have godly powers.

In modern times, we don’t think of ourselves as superstitious, yet predictions abound, and they have the power to influence large groups of people.  But just as you can only predict an electron’s probable location at any given time, you can only predict probable events based on current trends and the beliefs that contribute to them.  A study of astrology shows how futile predictions are, because there are so many factors influencing any given moment.

A horoscope is nothing more or less than a symbolic map of a moment in a specific place and time.  It is completely impersonal, but an individual’s horoscope, cast for the place and time of birth, describes the potentialities of the moment itself, not of the person incarnated at that time, although that person may manifest some or many of the potentialities indicated in the chart.

The so-called “scientific mind” does not accept anything it can’t measure and “prove” by “objective” criteria, meaning it meets certain “laws” of nature.  It’s important to remember these are not necessarily nature’s “laws” but man’s “laws” imposed on nature through mathematics. The ancient Greeks liked symmetry, so conceived of a symmetrical universe, but the cycles of time defy symmetry.  Calendars reflect the difficulty of fitting the solar system into mathematical  laws.  The earth refuses to orbit the sun in exactly 365 days but must take a quarter day extra to make its ellipse (not a circle) complete.  The lunar day is a mathematically inconvenient 24 hours and 50 minutes.  In short, it’s a wobbly universe, not predictable, but in terms of the human time frame, stable enough.

Science doesn’t have the instruments to detect subtle fields or the “essences” of things.  It approaches the “essence” idea with its relatively recent discovery of the electromagnetic spectrum, of which light is the most obvious manifestation.  Astrology and the loose assortment of “psychic” phenomena, operate like electromagnetic energy,  on the principle of vibrational patterns or frequencies.  The Oriental concept of qi, or “life force,” which permeates everything, may approach this idea of energy patterns that are as yet beyond the scope of human instrumentation.

Anyone fully indoctrinated into modern “scientific” thinking might be justifiably skeptical of the claim that there are energy fields outside scientific measurement.  Such people might scoff at the idea that human thought has the power to influence “the” future, yet science has begun to approach that threshold with quantum physics.  That the experimenter influences the experiment–and is necessarily a subjective part of the experiment–shatters the illusion that true objectivity is possible.

Attempts to predict “the” future are also attempts to control “the” future, and those who predict catastrophe become invested in the futures they predict.  They thus take subtle steps to bring about the future they fear, even though it may be disastrous.

It becomes a question of free will and the notion that you can choose what you think about.  Those who believe in pre-destination , that they are fixed on a path and have no choice but to follow it, do not understand the infinite variations possible within every moment in time.

 

 

Symbols and Psychiatry

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Corn snake, kco051316

Ten years ago this month, I had just retired my medical and DEA licenses, in search of better ways to inspire people regarding the mind and its potential.  A long-time student of symbolism, I write daily in my journal and regularly include references to astrology, mythology, religion, dreams, and other symbolic languages.  These universal concepts fall loosely into Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s idea of a “collective unconscious” and of “archetypes.”  As most people probably know, Jung was a protege of Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychiatry, whose The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, rocked the scientific world and initiated the field of psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

The following excerpts from my November, 2007 diary show how I play around with symbolism to help develop a deeper appreciation for everyday life.

ON PREDICTIONS AND FREE WILL

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 – I believe if the student fails, the teacher fails more, because the teacher is paid to teach.  The student (ideally), pays to learn.  This is why I’ve never believed in tenure and probably why I don’t believe in marriage or other chains on the future.  As an astrologer, I don’t believe in predictions either, but astrologers as a group would disown me for saying this.  They thrive on making predictions, and people expect them to do it, but no one can say that predictions are consistent with free will.

You have to be a free thinker to understand how limiting predictions are.

This moment, as I sit in my recliner on this beautiful sunny day, overlooking vast expanses of marsh and blue sky, I have access to all time, depending on my focus.  It can come as dream, memory, fantasy, association, feeling, impression, dimly or readily perceived.  A book once read is forever a part of my experience, because I have invested the personal effort to make it so.  A book once written is part of everyone’s experience, whether direct or indirect, as knowledge brought through on the verbal place is “thicker” and more physical than the more ethereal realm of imagination.  How can I know before I read a book how it will change my life?

PENELOPE AND UNDOING

Thursday, November 22, 2007 – I’m approaching my multiple goals in piecemeal fashion.  When everything seems to be at beginning stages, as now, or beyond my capabilities, I feel frustrated and at odds with myself.  Re-doing things makes me feel like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in The Odyssey of Homer, who undid her father-in-law’s shroud every evening to avoid having to marry any of the moochers who invaded her home as soon as Odysseus stayed gone too long.

I used to think Penelope was a sap, but undoing is a matter of perception, and if you enjoy the weaving and undoing for its own sake, it is no longer a waste of time.  Here we have the clash of the results-oriented and the process-oriented approach.  Also apparent is the stated vs. actual purpose.  Penelope stated she wanted a shroud.  She actually wanted to stall for time, so the actual purpose was met.

She lived in a time when women were possessions, and we have that subversive belief still, although no one admits it.  Marriage is a testament to the people-ownership concept.  While presumably it’s a mutual ownership, no one expects men to be as faithful as women, although this is a generalization and less true than in the past.  In the great sexual shuffling of today, men and women seem equally unfaithful.

Probably few perceive the ownership attitude as clearly as I, the target of so many who want to own by any means available.  Insurance companies, government, bankers, stockbrokers, businessmen, acquaintances, friends, family, partners–all want an advantage and will look for or create excuses to cross the line of equality, move in and take over.

Am I bitter and cynical?  Yes.  I don’t like feeling this way, knowing it only hurts me to have this attitude.  Like it or not, I am a herald, of sorts, meaning I search restlessly for higher and more comfortable ground, especially mentally.  Those who would control will seek first to control the mind.

I can’t control my own mind, nor do I want to.  I like its free ranging ability and thrive on the little lessons obtained from every facet of my life.

How would I know about undoing if I did not live it, feel the emotions associated, know the practice from mythology and the term from psychiatry?

Unraveling a sweater – which I’ve already done once with this one because I didn’t like the stitch – brings many facets into play.

How would someone else handle it?  Who knows?  Most people would not attempt to knit a sweater at all, I suspect, and this is my contention with “most people.”

Nor will “most people” appreciate the value of the process as a means of showing how to solve problems, because this is my real purpose.  Rather than start over, I can adapt mid-sweater and potentially turn a mistake into a success.

SNAKES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Monday, November 26, 2007 – I’ve retired my medical license to become a New Age Profit . . . er . . . Prophet, for the Spirit of Capitalism.

I cut my fangs on Telluride politics and other stories from the Serpents of the Modern Caduceus.  What if there were two serpents in the Garden of Eden, and they ran the interlopers out, better to rest in peace without getting trampled?  Then they can bask in the sun of the Garden, eating of their favorite fruit, the apples from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now that Adam and Even have departed in search of something better, the wise snakes may rest assured the tree won’t be cut down to build a house, to hold squealing brats who like to torture snakes for fun.  Minimal risk of getting eaten for supper or skinned for belts and purses.  Why, now that God has expelled these demons from Heaven, the snakes are ecstatic.

Unfortunately, the Garden of Eden isn’t quite as lively as when the humans were around.  They provided entertainment, if only by making God mad.  We snakes can make God mad without even trying.  All we had to do was show him how dumb his latest invention was, and he threw them out and has been moping around ever since, feeling guilty about over-reacting.  Now, look at the mess man has made of his lives.

All we said was “Wise up.”  We didn’t say do it the hard way.  No.  That was Adam’s choice, to do it the hard way.

We snakes wise up the easy way.  When our skins get too small, we shed them and slither on out to greater dimensions of girth and wisdom.

Yes, snakes are hated and feared, because we are so smart.  We see life from the ground up, and we know where our support and strength lie.  Our raw intelligence knows its own turf and doesn’t seek to intrude on that of others.  Snakes don’t go looking for trouble, unless it’s entertaining trouble that enhances our wisdom and gets a potential threat redirected into other dimensions, like hell on earth.