Richard Tarnas – Cosmos and Psyche
I had heard a great deal of hype about this book, either about how excellent it was, or about how much it fails to add anything at all 'scientific' or what he has done as a respected Academic Voice to support the noble cause of astrology.
He does not write quite so much as an 'insider' as far as astrology goes, which is something I always find refreshing, though some of his conventions are less usual - for example, the 20-degree orb he gives to major planetary transits. No doubt, this is what makes some critics point out that in this way, you could make any mundane event fit the 'evidence' in a wise-after-the-event way. Anything could then be bent to fit the rules.
Actually, his analysis of outer-planet transits was a real eye-opener and makes more sense of them than any astrological book I have read to date. All of a sudden, it becomes a question of wondering why it had been possible to miss certain things before - perhaps because many of the books that first introduced me to astrology were content to name the outer planets as being merely 'generational' and therefore not deserving of any real consideration in looking at individual character. Yet surely, it is a mistake not to recognise how much we are a product of out times: this book puts every individual he looks at, ranging from every manner of political and spiritual leader, to writers who seem to capture the times they live in such as Orwell or Kafka, to contemporary rock stars: this book is nothing if not wide-ranging in its scope!
I believe that Liz Greene has published something on astro.com about how the 'generational' planets stamp character according to the times in which they are born.
By way of applying some of this to personal experience of having lived through periods of time and noticing first hand how the mood of the times can change: having graduated at a time when Pluto and Saturn were in aspect during the Thatcher years, I (along, no doubt with many others) was certainly in a position to see how public opinion and feeling polarised at that point in time, as the good Iron Lady made sure the 'more chilly but infinitely more invigorating' climate she had promised became a reality and then as she went warmongering in Argentina. It was just that at the time, it was less easy to pinpoint this chillier and more invigorating eighties zeitgeist to that particular configuration, as all 'generational' influences has been assigned to a fairly cobwebby back shelf of relative neglect.
It is perhaps his wide orb for major conjunctions such as the Uranus-Neptune conjunction as the explosion in Net culture followed in its wake along with the Hubble telescope are perhaps only things that are better understood within a longer perspective.
He does, incidentally as the book reaches its conclusion, predict as well as pinpoint certain configurations to Interesting Times - assigning, for example, Saturn-Pluto-Uranus aspect pattern with those that were active at the time of the Great Depression, a Grand Cross configuration involving Saturn and Pluto in the days leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks - reminding us too, that a similar configuration will take place in the next few years to come. So now, it is just a question of waiting to see how the configurations he examines to play out and how accurate his predictions prove to be. He does not, incidentally, play the doom-monger here, reminding readers that much depends on our own good selves and on the governments we allow in.
One of the reasons why the wise-after-the event criticisms seem a little unfair is because in so many of the autobiographies he looks at, he examines not only the natal configuration of a given individual, but also at what happens during important transits this planet makes to itself during that individual's life. He therefore looks at what happens in the life of Descartes amongst others for example when his sensitively-placed natal Uranus makes its 180-degree aspect to itself - in other words, the opposition - in relation to what happens in his life and what kind of live events helped shaped the philosophy he evolved. Once again, the absence of clichéd comments about midlife crises is refreshing, as is the more impersonal lack of use of Signs to comment on charts: not so much chest-bashing stereotyping there.
As for a possible, overall rationale of Why Astrology Might Work here, he falls back on the idea of Jung and synchronicity, whilst applying a little more the the rigour of his philosophical expertise to the matter. He suggests that synchronous events somehow possess an objectivity, as much as having subjective impact for the person undergoing these significant synchronous events, suggesting that outer Cosmos and inner Psyche cannot therefore be separated. So, physicists who take heart on the idea that a particle is a wave depending on how it is perceived should take part here, if they object to an overly-reductionist empiricism being applied to astrology. Here too, he seems to be referring to the theory expressed by Plato, that the truest of Ideas are actually objective, rather than subjective.
Finally, Tarnas the Philosopher does have a message, regarding the general state of alienation from nature and from our Souls, suggesting that Astrology can heal this split, allowing humanity to partake once more in a Sentient Cosmos of Meaning. He does tend to champion the Nietschean quest of the Solar Hero over the ground of the more nature-bound Earth/Lunar Mothers, in keeping with most astrologers, though he does emphasise that this may also be responsible for many modern social ills.
Overall, for me at least this was truly an absorbing and exciting book, no least because it was so wide-ranging in scope. Reading about the biographies of all the people mentioned here within the context of their times was fascinating, no matter whatever nit-picking flaws could be found with the book otherwise.
World Astrology - Peter Marshall
I received an autographed copy of this book as a present in a hardback edition.
It follows the quest of its author to find out whether or not his future relationship will be be a happy one, as he travels round the world to sample different astrologies in both East and West. This gives the book a slightly autobiographical flavour but in this way,certainly provides a fair enough commentary on how effective Marshall as Everyman finds each consultation with the astrologers he visits to be. It is therefore an excellent introduction not just to the history and origins of Western Astrology, but also to Chinese Astrology with not a few insights into how it actually works, but also Vedic Astrology.
Meanwhile, the delvings into astrology as it devolved from Mesopotamia and from the Ancient Greeks also gave a few unexpected insights on the way, from about how to find your Chinese rising sign, to what the Arabian Parts are.
One comment about how Western astrology has evolved - or rather, perhaps not evolved - concerns Marshall's comments about the split between Platonic idealism and Aristotelian empiricism.
It can be easy to recognise why so many astrologers might end up with an aristocratic disdain for the grubbiness of Aristotelian empiricism and the way it can so often miss the point in applying quantitative finds over qualitative ones, but it did remind me that maybe there is a danger to the Platonic approach too.
Plato insisted that as senses are subjective than therefore unreliable, only objective ideals could be trusted and Marshall points out that nowadays, most astrologers are most certainly Platonists.
Taking this observation further than Marshall went, the problem with that could be that any sacred cow could be deemed as an objective assessment in judicial astrology, no matter how dodgy. Any number of judgements could be made about karma for example that may well come from the astrologer's own prejudices than any true insights shown by the native chart into any given individual's real character.
So once more, here is an old argument raging within astrology to the present day. Sadly, the book does not mention Gary Phillipson's book on the subject where arch sceptic Geoffrey Dean for example is invited to have it out with arch believers in Cosmic Intelligence such as Dennis Elwell. However, the history of Astrology section is well-researched and informative on most of the Great Names who have left their mark on Western Astrology As We have Known It.
Peter Marshall takes the rather mystical, or at least romantic view, that Astrology must have devolved from the knowledge gained from an earlier and greater civilisation than ours.
As an introduction to what has shaped astrology all over the world and not just in the West, however, this makes an excellent introduction to the topic. Time to check out what the book has to say about my Chinese rising Sign and Nakasatra Lunar Mansions again.....
The Psychology of Astro-Carto-graphy
prefaced by both Erin O' Sullivan and Ken Irving, takes off where Jim Lewis
left off, after an untimely death. Astro-Carto-graphy was trademarked and
patented by Jim Lewis, as a totally new way to look at the astrology of
relocation and of mundane events.
In this book, there are delineations for what to expect on all the major pairings of planetary lines across the globe for each individual chart and what, for example, to expect on a Sun-Ascendant line, what may be emphasised in your life on where your Jupiter line crosses with Pluto and the like.
The book does emphasise that the planetary lines may be experienced differently, depending on your gender. Without getting drawn into arguments about gender-stereotyping, a Mars line may still be a less easily proposition for a woman than a man, if the culture in that country is unduly 'macho,' for example. Anyway, the separate 'readings' for either men or women for each planetary line is probably a sound idea.
The book does not simply, however, simply provide a set of cookbook delineations for relocators - there are case studies of individual clients too, as well as a look at how this method has 'worked' in the lives of famous people.
The individual charts where redrawn in the book according to the new locations also did bring home the recognition that astro-carto-graphy maps cannot be seen in isolation to the natal chart. They simply remap the natal chart in relation to space and time in a way that presents new insights.
The book reminds us that this new method may also lend itself to the reality of how much smaller and more globalised our experience of the world may be, though it may left to future tomes to look at how astro-carto-graphy may be experienced virtually with the use of the internet for example, to say nothing of electional charting, or various kinds of wheelings and dealings between various multinationals.
Astrology, Science and Culture: Pulling Down the Moon - Roy Willis and Patrick Curry
Pulling down the Moon is a collaboration between the two authors above. It asks the basic question about of what astrology actually is. It may or may not have been fuelled by critiques such as those offered in Garry Phillipson's Astrology in the Year Zero, looks at some of the ideas that inform it, more from an anthropological perspective, however it does not follow a sceptical line. It raises the question of what deep hunger something that has been labelled as ’irrational superstition’ by the likes of Dawkins may be satisfying, in a world where Science supposedly Has All the Answers.
suggest that the great value of astrology is that it allows a cosmos previously
rendered soulless by the dualism of the Cartesian model to be ’reinchanted.’
The book takes great pains to demonstrate that the ’purely objective’
scientific world view is surely every bit as limited as the more ’subjective’
world of magic and divination and that that Science therefore cannot possibly
do Astrology justice. The desire to find objective criteria by which to judge
it is therefore unworkable, in a discipline where diviner and cosmos have to meet
These conclusions, however, do not always satisfy as much as they could.
The trouble with this argument is that if there is nothing more to astrology than just divination, then why bother to set up charts. Surely, a sandbox or tea leaves would do just as well alongside the 'uncannily accurate' readings gleaned from the wrong chart that brought about the sea change in outlook of Geoffrey Dean, who incidentally has also written a critique of this book.
Whilst recognising, therefore, that the search for an 'objective' astrology might truly be akin to pinning the butterfly in a lifeless collection of trivial data, the danger with this approach is that it may put asrology into a very precious position. It may mean that where there is no room for the valid findings of a Mars Effect, any kind of magical or spiritual prejudice may be allowed to flourish alongside any genuine insights that astrology may be able to provide within a consultation.
On this basis,
therefore, it might be questioned whether astrologers should be as prescriptive
as they are in deciding what the 'true' character and destiny of a given client
might be, even if this does not gel with a client's own understanding of
The book also tends
to be unnecessarily abstruse, making it almost impenetrable in some places, a
criticism I believe was also levied by Geoffrey Dean.
What is still interesting to me is its critique of the more modern monistic perspectives of astrology. The tendency in modern astrology is often to follow the Jungian quest of realising a central Self, but the problem with this is that on the one hand, it can be as reductionist of the multiplicity and richness of experience as any amount of Cartesian dualism - and here, the book follows on from the example of Hillman. It tends to allow sun-sign columns ’swell into overwhelming significance’ with all the hubris that that might entail within an atomised society where an alienated individuality is the norm (the authors may or may not be Marxists too, but this may not necessarily make this critique any less valid).
Leading on from this, on the one hand, the problem with taking an extreme monist viewpoint is that it can lead to an over authoritarian outlook on life, where Self, King, President and take on overwhelming significance and allow any kind ’One Truth’ fundamentalism so seductive. It could also help explain the huge commercial success of a rather black-and-white Sun-sign industry.
Finally, in keeping with the title, the authors remind us, taking an anthropological view yet again, how ancient the roots of astrology might really be. They are referring to the measuring sticks of Palaeolithic times, to the lunar calendars, suggesting, along with Sjöö, Gimbutas and Thomson, that the feminine lunar cycle may well have been central to an original understanding how cosmos and psyche are linked.
The book is not otherwise in any way unduly militant about this last point. It seems to be more interested in the idea of proposing an astrology that is closer to Cornelius's definition of one that is more truly to do with divination and 'negotiating our Fate' within the astrological consultation.
Mike Harding, Hymns to the Ancient Gods
Astrology tends to borrow the terminology of other disciplines - the Jungian perspective is the one that comes most readily to mind. It could be argued, however, that astrology might be better off 'finding its voice in the world' and to create its own coherent philosophy. This is what Harding sets out to do in this book.
He is possibly best-known for doing this by offering a fairly sobering critique about the limitations implicit in adopting a purely a Jungian perspective on the matter. To begin with, the rationale given by Harding may sound a little nit-picky, as Harding postulates a difference in meaning between 'synchrony' and Jung's own definition of 'synchronicity.' Harding makes the point that Jung never saw any real correlation between planetary alignments and happenings on Earth, other than those related to subjective events and subjective forms of divination. No doubt, Cornelius and his followers would have no quarrel with this Jung's definition at al, but Harding evidently does not see astrology as somethingthat can be reduced to a purely ’subjective’ form of divination.
Harding also makes the point that if there is anything to the 'Mars Effect' researched by Gauquelin, then the reasons for this might not, in fact, be due to either a cosmos moving in mysterious ways or due to any divinatory powers of the diviner, but in fact, due to the physical power of light.
Harding makes the point shown by one Peter Roberts - that whilst both Moon and Saturn can produce Gauquelin-type effects, in each case, each orb does so at about 10 degrees away from the Ascendant. Yet, the light from Saturn takes much longer to reach Earth than does moonlight - but what counts is the 'when' the light reaches us in each case. The equation then still comes to that 10 degree orb from the Ascendant in each case.
This may sound as though Harding wants to enslave us in a slave-bound Newtonian cosmos of cause and effect with no existential free-will choices, but Harding has quite a lot more to offer than that. He postulates that all known experience , both mundane and judicial, is rooted in a 'primal zodiac' that constantly reverberates to new transits. Chaos theory and non neoplatonist theories on number symbolism are also enlisted to postulate at a cosmos where it is less easy to evoke any kind of Grand Plan. How the raw matter of whatever planetary effects are responded to, however, depends on the level of awareness of the individual - or country - or corporation experiencing these transits. Whilst, however, there may be some free will to come into play regarding the response to whatever the 'stars' throw at us, Harding makes it clear that he in no way adheres to the 'we create our own reality' school and in fact speaks out strongly against notions such as these in a world where great injustices and inequalities of wealth remain unchallenged.
Whether or not the reader might be inclined to take on board all of Harding's existentialist/Marxist stance is up to them, but there is a message in the anti New Age stance that still seems as timely to this reviewer at least, as it ever was. It might therefore demonstrate a considrable lack of awareness of any astrologer, therefore, to suggest to someone living in an inner-city area deprived of access to adequate medical care that she wifully and wantonly ’chose’ to get cancer, or that hungry children growing up in third-world countries ’chose’ these circumstances as some kind of karmic Grand Plan.
counsels against taking on board Jung's concept of archetypes wholesale, in
order not to inadvertently take on prejudicial stereotypes of other cultures,
The biggest strengths of the book come through however, with the actual astrology, as Harding looks at the charts of Hitler's family and that of Freud, to name just two examples. One of the advantages of accepting the notion of a primal zodiac where the charts of parents or election charts of other countries are 'embedded' in each and every individual chart, is that it becomes less easy to view an atomised, individual birthchart out of context.
So where a dictator annexes another country or slaughters innocents us convincingly shown by Harding to be linked into midpoints involving, say, Mars and Saturn of the parent's charts within the dictator's chart, when such mundane events take place.
Equally sobering, possibly, is the way that deaths within a family can be shown to take place on certain favoured midpoints shared by all the family members.
All of these use rather more sophisticated astrological techniques than the ones used by a statistician relying totally on Gauquelin's method. Thus, the book is clear by what it deomstrates alone, that the limitations of the ’scientific’ approach to astrology cannot possibly do its richness justice.
This book presents many highly original ideas and avenues of exploration that might well be worth returning to.