Monday, October 25, 2010

The Astrology Reading: Notes From An Astrologer's Journal. Part 2

I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words didn't come. Silence is fine, I thought, she can see I'm contemplating the chart....but what was this internal sabotage happening within me? I Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this! I thought how much easier it is when the client does most of the talking. And, I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said--but the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner's mind. Use it.

My eyes circled Judith’s chart looking for a clue….then they landed on Venus. “Ahhh—look at Venus here! She’s not in the conversation at all! No aspect lines to her; she’s silent….except that she’s square to the Nodes. This is called ‘the skipped step’ in evolutionary astrology—any planet that squares the Nodes reflects something that has been skipped early in this life or in a previous one, and it’s a strong hint about what one must do now in order to stay true to one’s life course. ”

This felt important but I wasn’t sure where to go with just then. I made a mental note to come back to that solitary Venus. “And your Scorpio sun squares Uranus, the planet of unpredictability and change. Have you moved a lot in your life? That would be hard on Venus connections….”

“Eighteen times.” She began to talk of a life of broken relationships and innumerable new starts in different countries, with different jobs. There were so many endings and beginnings, no wonder she wasn’t eager to hear of yet another new beginning. What could I say that would make a difference?

“Venus…she wants to be brought into the conversation,” I insisted, while searching for the word to describe the spiritual aspect of Venus. Some old brain synapse came to the rescue: “Have you ever heard of ‘Sophia’? It’s a Greek word meaning wisdom. Originally she was the third person of the Holy Trinity. She was called ‘Hagia Sophia’ and she was seen as the feminine aspect of God. The Roman Catholics later changed her name to ‘Spiritus Sanctus’ and the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit was lost. Sophia is the aspect of God that finds the sacred in the commonplace, and she expresses herself through beauty and love, and sometimes through synchronistic human connections.”

Judith leaned forward to take a closer look as I went on: “I suspect your Venus here is not being nourished for some reason. Venus doesn’t care about being right or having the best job or having the right answers philosophically…but she wants to bring beauty and relationship into your life. She needs a voice…..”I I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that my beginner’s mind had somehow retrieved that insight.

Judith’s large dark eyes began filling with tears. “Last week I went to visit one of the Newport mansions here…and as I was standing in front of this exquisite tapestry someone came over and placed a huge bouquet of lilacs in front of it. The smell was so heavenly, and I suddenly found myself upset…crying. It was so unlike me, really.”

“Why was that unlike you?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

Sounds like you were struck by beauty, by Venus” I added.

“I prefer not to be so emotional; so out of control.” She sat up straighter. “I’ve been thinking I should be more restrained and not indulge myself…my mother is a Buddhist and she lives very simply.”

I could see that I was going to have to challenge her “internalized Mother” who was represented by Judith’s Moon in Capricorn. “That may be right for her, but perhaps not for you. It sounds like Venus, or Sophia, was opening your heart with that hit of beauty you experienced with the lilacs.”

She nodded her head just slightly. “My mother always complained that I had too much stuff and clutter around me when I was young, so when I moved here I decided not to take my things out of storage and to live frugally. I thought I should keep it uncluttered. I don’t even have a window in my bedroom.”

“It sounds austere; and not a way to nourish this Venus-Sophia—it sounds like you’ve been starving yourself of simple beauty for the sake of your mother’s values; not yours…”

Judith’s eyes were close to overflowing so I handed her a Kleenex. I could see her pain, but now where could I go with this feeling and thought? We were moving beyond descriptive astrology and I wanted to give her something more tangible to help. I cared about her in a way I don’t always feel. Psychotherapists warn each other about this “transference” of feelings that can happen in a session. Jungian analysts honor these feelings, but they caution against moving away from a professional detached attitude. I’m not so good at recognizing the dangers of these feeling spaces, with my Sun conjunct the permeable and boundary-less Neptune in my chart.

Judith picked up the small celadon vase that sat on the table between us. “It’s beautiful.” She laughed softly. “So does this help? I mean having this little vase, this little bit of Venus here—does it help?”

“Good question…yes, I think it does, especially because it’s handmade and it makes me think about what I can only imagine—about the potter who made it, and how it was once clay, and how it was shaped on the potter’s wheel and went through the fire of the kiln. So many changes….and yet it’s not worse because of all its changes and imperfections.”

She lowered her eyes and was quiet again. So I just stayed in the silence with her for a moment. In fact, I didn’t know what to say at all…so I picked up the little pot again and turned it over. “Ah! The name on bottom is ‘Maya.’ Do you know that means ‘illusion’ in Sanskrit? The Hindu’s believe that this reality—even this little piece of pottery, as we know it, is an illusion or dream. They believe that what is most real is beyond appearance, and that all things have a hidden life within them. I’ve always wondered if the potter knew the meaning of the word…”

I handed Judith the vase and she began rubbing her fingers across the pale green glaze. “There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of us all. Look at all the cracks and crackles…” she added as she continued stroking the surface. Then her finger ran across a chip on the rim. “It’s chipped even.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “Yet perfect.”

Just then I could feel the energy in the room change, as if a wave of ever so subtle sacred energy had descended on us. So we just sat there for a time, looking at the little vase, finally comfortable without words. At one point I found myself staring at the framed quotation on the wall next to the fireplace which reads: “Called or not called, God is present.” This saying was carved in Latin above Carl Jung’s door, and I was once so taken by what he was implying with this, that I had it printed in English, and always made a place for it in my office whenever I moved. And here it was again.

It was obvious that our session was over. As we stood to leave I leaned over and gave her a heartfelt hug and placed the little pot in her hand. She was about to refuse my gift, but I simply shook my head ‘no’ and walked to the door. As I closed the door behind Judith I thanked ‘Sophia’ for her unexpected arrival, for I too had forgotten about the power of Venus-Sophia. And as I stood in awe of the ‘little magic’ that had just happened, I remembered that when I let go and let the spirit ‘Sophia’ speak through me, she knows, far more than I do, what needs to be said and done.

The Astrology Reading: Notes From An Astrologer's Journal

As I opened the door of my office I was struck by Judith’s stunning presence. Thick dark hair, flawless white skin and near-black eyes, framed an impeccable face hinting of sadness as well as "some purity of heart." I knew she was thirty-five years old yet something made her look older than her years. She wore an old-fashioned summer hat and pearl earrings. Judith was coming here today for her first astrological reading, and as she extended her hand, I was impressed by the gracious formality of her handshake.

The flesh and blood reality of a client always shocks me at first because after spending a few hours analyzing their charts, I think I know them, and I don’t. Clients never seem to look as I would imagine them, and it’s humbling to be so often wrong and to see how graciously they’ve survived even with what looks to be the most challenging of charts. I try to remember that what I see in the chart is partially biased by my perceptions —yet the “woundedness” in the chart always seem to leap out first—the t-squares, the South Node, the oppositions, the conjunctions of certain planets. And, I’m continually surprised by how well most people thrive despite living under what the ancient astrologers called “malefic” aspects.

Of course I never use those words--- sensitive astrologers try to avoid any judgments of good, bad, malefic or auspicious. We also don’t know how a person is choosing to live out their chart, or how they’re living out the transits that are happening now. “No transits come before their time” my teacher used to say. Astrologers are aware that certain karmic factors may have been involved with us being ‘fated’ to be born with “givens” such as gender, nationality, good or bad parenting, but the “Formula” I honor is this: fate + character = destiny. The key word is character.

Fate is simply the “givens” at birth; the time and place and zeitgeist of that time—like being born a 1950’s Ford model car, doesn’t really make you better than a sixties Chevrolet. Just different. The force and choices of character however, makes all the difference. It’s about those free will choices we make along the way that determine our destiny.

Judith’s chart had a “motivating” grand cross, and I was curious about her choices and how she was living out this challenging aspect. Squares and grand-crosses like this tend to motivate people because they can be so painful, and some of the most famous “achievers” in history have had motivating charts like this.

And so I invited Judith to sit, motioning her to sit in the soft green chair, hoping she was approving of the setting for her reading. She stared at the carved Goddess face in the black wrought iron inset in the fireplace, and I hoped that the numinous face would bring the spirit of the goddess into the room. Its downward looking eyes knew how to keep a secret.

“Lovely” she whispered, as I silently admired the pristine clarity of her English accent.

The amber stained glass lamp between us shed a warm glow in the room, as I turned the recorder on for our session. I took out the charts in my usual fashion, and was eager to tell her all the good omens of new beginnings I saw there. The “significators” were all there: Jupiter had just crossed her descendant, Saturn was just leaving the 12th house, and the progressed moon would be coming to conjunct her natal Jupiter shortly. It looked like a new beginning if I ever saw one. And so I began….

“The birth chart is like a conference table, and these planets are like the different parts of your self sitting around the table. The Sun is the chairperson and represents your basic identity, the Moon reflects your emotional nature, the Ascendant has to do with your style of negotiating in the world… and the Nodes have to do with your life direction and soul purpose. See these aspect lines in the center? They connect all this—all these voices in our psyche—these planets—and show where the conversation is challenging, flowing or avoiding…they show the alliances and tensions between different parts of yourself.”

She nodded her head as I went on: “So we see your Sun is in Scorpio, an emotional water sign. There’s a curious hunger about the Scorpio nature, and they look at the hidden side of things, such as secret motivations around sex, power and money. They want to know what the emotional bottom line is….they are gifted with a penetrating intensity and the power to heal themselves and others. Scorpio has three symbols: the scorpion, which is capable of attack as well as killing itself with its tail, the eagle, which gives perspective and vision, and the phoenix which has the power to rise from the ashes of death. Scorpio folks often have had a life of many chapters, in which there are numerous ego deaths and rebirths. Being able to let go of the past is important for them….for you….”

“Oh yes,” she sighed. “I’ve had to do that many times. I’ve had a life filled with so many chapters with radical beginnings and endings. It’s exhausting.”

“And many people with their Moon in Capricorn, as you do, can have a hard time expressing all their emotions. Scorpio and Capricorn don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes they’ve had childhoods with mothers that were austere, strict, or not there in some way….not always, but we see here that the assertive planet, Mars, is in Aries squaring your Moon, so we get a hint that your mother may irritate you, and that this relationship is challenging for you…especially since Mars is coming from the 4th house of home and family of origin.” I was using the “rule of three” here—to see something reflected three times in the chart before mentioning it.

Judith quickly agreed with that observation. I explained the nature of her rising sign—her persona and style in life, and the nature of the “conversation” that was going on with her trines, squares, and oppositions. Then I began hinting at what might have been the emotional climate for her during the last two years while Saturn was transiting through her 12th house of the unconscious—what I call the “house that Carl Jung built.”

“For many people it’s a time of soul-searching and inner questioning; a time for reviewing one’s life, and listening to dreams and synchronicities. For many people it can be a lonely passage, because our culture is more outer directed. It’s a good time for inner reflection and for doing creative things such as painting, poetry, journaling, collage, music—anything that can help you see yourself reflected in what you create, or see yourself as a channel for allowing spirit to enter.”

I waited for a response, but she just looked blankly at the chart. Her Sun was conjunct Neptune, which sometimes reflects a spiritual, ethereal nature or a love of music, so I ventured---“Do you listen to music very much? Has it been a help?” It was interesting for me that I found it hard to tolerate her silence.

“Well yes. It has been a lonely time these past couple of years. I’ve been brooding over the mistakes I’ve made in my life.” She leaned back and stared at the ceiling. She was being polite, but not completely forthcoming about what was really on her mind. Obviously I hadn’t touched on it yet. I could see that she was going to be a bit private till I hit upon something that truly resonated with her. Not unusual for Scorpios to be a bit private, and very “British” as well.

I pulled my thoughts back to the charts and went on: “Saturn often drags up old memories and fears that we thought we’d put to rest a long time ago. It’s been sweeping through your unconscious, churning things up for the past couple of years….I think of transiting Saturn here as the “Graduate School of the Soul” and the good news is that you’re about to graduate! A new beginning….”

“So I’m graduating…” A slow smile began emerging. So what do you see for me spiritually? I mean….I’ve been reading all these books because I’ve been feeling so miserable, trying to meditate, but that’s not working too well. I spend a lot of time taking long walks alone…”

“Everything you’ve said is just right for Saturn going through the 12th house of the unconscious, but now it’s time to start, ever so slowly, coming out of seclusion and into the world more…! Ah…. look here, do you know what this glyph means? I pointed to the symbol of her North Node. This Node describes the direction your Soul wants to grow towards—it’s good soul medicine—and it’s in Gemini.”

She frowned. “But isn’t Gemini disorganized and superficial…and talks too much?”

I laughed and went on: “Gemini is the communicator. And every sign has a negative side that it can operate from, but Gemini is summoned to talk, or write, or teach or somehow communicate with the world. And it has an insatiable curiosity that packs more into one lifetime than most of us ever will. Gemini’s are willing to throw themself into the chaos of life to make order out of that chaos. Their openness allows them to experience such a variety of things, and it’s only from our point of view that it looks out of control at times. Gemini is called to fully experience life— in the valleys and cities and marketplaces of life, rather than in retreat on any “spiritual mountaintop”.

I could see that Judith was with me now. “With a Sagittarius South Node you may have had “blinders” on in a previous life-- if you believe in re-incarnation-- blinders that kept you focused on what you believed. Now your beliefs are getting bigger and being tested by life. You’re opening to a wider perspective. As your South Node in Sagittarius implies, you’ve seen the larger perspective on life--the view from the mountaintop, but you’ve had these blinders on too—now, you’re learning to live with the relativity of things in the everyday world. Not simple anymore.”

Silence. There was so much information in front of me on the chart I felt overwhelmed. It’s so hard, and such an art to try to synthesize the birth chart with the transiting planets and to put it all into words something that will be helpful—suddenly I felt overwhelmed and unfocused.

I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words didn't come. Silence is fine, I thought, she can see I'm contemplating the chart....but what was this internal sabotage happening within me? I Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this. It’s so much easier when the client does most of the talking! I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said. But the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner's mind. Use it.

(continued in next post )

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Simple Grace

Private Journal~

The air smelled warm and chemically sweet in the nursing home. I pressed “two” as the elevator slowly rose to the second floor. The door opened, and I walked across the dining area looking for Mom. She wasn’t there. The other patients were slowly eating though many had their heads drooped over as if they were asleep. Hardly anyone talked. The lights on the Christmas wreath on the far wall twinkled in the somnolent dreamscape.

The door was open to her room, but the curtains were drawn around the bed. Could she have died? The hall was so quiet, maybe no one had noticed. Pulling the curtain open I saw that her eyes were closed, her jaw was open and breathing weak. I sat down next to her, took her hand in mine, and began to pray to God to release this Soul, if this was for the highest good of all.

“Isabelle?” She stirred and opened her eyes. “It’s you?” I could hear how hard it was for her to talk.

“Yes, Mom, it’s me.”

Her lips pursed, as if to say more, but we were interrupted by a nurse checking her vital signs. I was asked to wait outside.

I walked back towards the dining room and collapsed into a chair. Staring blankly across the room at a simple crèche of Mary and Jesus in the stable I saw the naïve tackiness of the plastic figures. But it didn’t strike me as naïve or cheap this time; instead I remembered how Mom had put real straw in the manger of her plastic crèche, and I remembered the time she devoted each year to setting up the Christmas village under the tree. We both loved the miniature scene that transported one back to a simpler time and place. There was always snow, the girl always had an ice mirror to skate on, and the warm lights of the church were welcoming.

Simple grace. I thought of the simple grace and perfect faith I had felt on the day of my first communion. Dressed in white, like the little bride of Jesus, I wondered if I would feel a tingling as the body of Jesus, in the form of a simple wafer, was placed in my mouth. As I grew older I lost the peace that came with such simplicity and embodied faith, but in its place came a trust in the cycles and the process of life, leading again, to a vaguer but still simple “goodness/Godness”. Astrology had given me that, yet what would happen if all the astrological signs were present for this great transition, and nothing happened? Would I lose my faith in astrology? Would I lose faith in synchronicity and the mysterious correspondence that existed between the chart and life events? Would I even lose faith in this Goodness, this God?

I was too tired to think anymore. Seems as if I’m forever attempting to read the mind of God. And God’s mind is ultimately unknowable, yet ‘learning lessons of compassion’ would sometimes feel like an excusable reason when life felt unfair and the transits were hard. But now, all I could do was to let my head fall on the table in front of me like some of the other residents of the home. My energy was spent….this must be what it’s like to die here, I mused.

And for the first time, tears began to flow into my lap. They came in a flow of gentle drops….till I felt cleansed and empty. I must have fallen into a light sleep, as I seemed to drift back to my sanctuary room, and staring at the astrology charts I imagined the signs had changed once more….but, like in a bad dream when you’re called upon to know something you don’t know, I felt ashamed. Here I was, unable to read what was the charts. I couldn’t remember if it was an ending or a beginning, or whose it was.

I awoke by the soft touch of a nurse’s hand on my shoulder. “You can go in now, dear.”

I sat down next to the bed again, and took her cool hand in mine. Her eyes opened again and she whispered: “I love you…..”

I waited for the rest of the sentence. But there wasn’t any more. I was shocked. “I love you too, Mom.” Then she closed her eyes as if to close our session, and I walked away. When I got to the elevator I panicked, and ran down the steps instead. This was one of the very few times she had ever said “I love you” when it wasn’t followed by a “but…” I had been graced.

Early the next morning she died. Jupiter was quickly approaching my Sun, and my grief began lifting like the morning mist, being ‘over-lightened’ by this mutual act of simple grace.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Astrological Signs of Death

artwork: Susan Boulet

Dear Kendra~

It was good to hear from you and to hear you are well. I simply haven’t been able to write till now, but here I sit, staring at the computer screen back in my astrology “office” in Newport, R.I. I left Sophie and Alistair to come back to care for my mother in the nursing home. Her stroke was massive, and the astrology charts are blatant in their verdict. All the signs are there: the subtle and foreboding omens of a mind and body slipping away. I feel exhausted in dealing with a problem that has only one solution—death. This is the final act in a long and tortured relationship that has been bandaged, but not healed. But no matter how much one may know in one’s mind that the end is near, and try to put it all in perspective, the reality is always a shock. And I can feel my grief…

This morning when I went to the nursing home, my mother was scared and wanted to talk about dying. I told her how I had heard that dying is sometimes compared to slipping out of an old shoe that was too tight. She seemed to like that. The nurse came by with some pumpkin pie and I fed us both, spoonful by spoonful, and there was something about feeding her this way that felt healing. Then I rubbed her feet for a few moments before I left and went back to my “sanctuary.” It was hard to leave, but yet I couldn’t seem to stay longer today…

Kendra, did I ever tell you about where I work? Sometimes I think of it as a sanctuary—it’s a small room with high ceilings and dark wood walls. It has a small fireplace, two comfortable olive green chairs facing each other with a large amber stained glass light between them. There’s a Victorian writing desk on the side—it’s made from a deep grained oak and has several drawers and secret nooks. It’s called a Larkin desk, and was traditionally bought with coupons by Victorian ladies who bought enough Larkin Soap! On the desk I keep a fountain pen, a leather journal, and an ink-stained blotter that I found in Florence once. The amber lamp casts a soft glow across the writing table, and I love the spare moments when I actually use my old pen and journal. There’s a bookcase next to the desk and at least a dozen journals I’ve kept through the years.

Anyway…when I sit at the desk I look out the front window to see the old Redwood library with its enormous copper beach tree. (How appropriate or strange it is that the historic library and the astrologer’s office should be right opposite each other!) When I first opened this space I wondered if the townspeople would even allow an astrologer on this well-heeled end of Bellevue Avenue. So I found an antique pendulum clock and put it in full view from the front window, hoping that the Victorian ambience would not feel threatening. So far it has worked! And for me it has created a sacred space.

The only anachronism here is the computer, but I must have it for the astrology programs. And here is what I’m staring at: Mom is 88 years old, with transiting Saturn conjunct her natal Saturn in the 12th house, and Uranus conjunct the Moon. The transiting Uranus on her Moon is the shock of this change, this stroke. The restrictive 12th house atmosphere of the nursing home and her paralysis is echoed in the 12th house placement of Saturn….and she’s having her third Saturn Return. The Saturn metaphors of transition with solitariness seem fitting. And dying is both work and letting go…ah, not easy! Everyone has a third Saturn Return around the age of 88, if they live that long—did you know that? Not all of us live to see it or live through it, but how interesting that it’s seldom talked about.

Death is usually indicated in the chart of a person who is close to the dying person—rather than the person themselves. It often marks its presence by a strong Jupiter transit in the caregiver when it’s a matter of “When will she be released? And me?” And I see that Jupiter will be aspecting my Sun within the next couple of weeks. And with her 3rd Saturn Return happening at the same time as Uranus, the planet of sudden change, aspects her Moon, her emotions—well, this is as close to a prediction of a death as I’ve ever seen. In fact, if it doesn’t happen now, I think my faith in astrology will be severely tested…we’ll see…the question is: Can we do any more healing between us? Till later my dear~Isabelle

Monday, October 18, 2010

Astrological Symbols and the Greek Inscription on Jung's Bollingen Stone

Dear Kendra~

Knowing that I’d have to leave Sophie and Zurich the next morning, we spent a few hours wandering the old city in search of the perfect “parting” gift for me to give Sophie. What I found was a little framed photograph of the “forgotten stone” carved by Carl Jung at his private sanctuary at Bollingen. It’s full of carved astrological symbols. At first, Sophie thought it was a strange little image.

“I don’t have a cross as a talisman of the astrological mysteries,” I tried to explain, “Or a symbol of my spirituality, but this stone mandala comes pretty close. It’s called the ‘forgotten stone’ because it was left at Jung’s house by mistake, by men who were delivering supplies from a quarry nearby to his home. When they remembered the large square stone they’d left, Jung refused to let them take it, saying ‘No, it has found its way here.’ And in honor of his 75th birthday he carved into the stone….”

Sophie looked at it closely, as I continued: “You see first, it’s a mandala divided into four; the number of wholeness. In the center is a little monk holding a lantern—some call it a ‘homunculus,’ which, in ancient texts, meant ‘the little man inside the brain’. And if you look closer, you’ll see that he has the astrological sign for Mercury on his robe. It looks like a pendant he’s wearing. And this is the sign of Mercury, or Hermes, who’s the one who links the outer world to the inner world. Heaven and Earth. God and man. He’s the one who communicates. Everyone has Mercury in their own astrological someone where…doing something. And if you know what sign and aspects Mercury takes in your chart, you learn a little more about yourself.”

She looked curious. “You once told me that my Mercury was in Scorpio, and that it meant I loved delving into the hidden and invisible worlds…..interesting! What do the other astrology signs and writing mean? Sophie asked, pointing to the glyphs.

“On his right side of him you’ll see the astrological signs for the Sun and Jupiter, and on the left: Venus and the Moon. These relate to what Jung called “the alchemical sacred marriage” of the male (Sol) and female (Luna). Jupiter is grace, and Venus is love. The planets across the horizontal line—just like the horizontal line on the cross hint at a receptive grace, and the vertical axis points to human pain and striving. On the top here, is Saturn, and beneath him is Mars. These ‘yang’ signs represent the struggle to live on this earth—the resistance of Saturn and the assertiveness of Mars. Together the planets in the four quadrants tell a story….and Jung believed all “the opposites in our nature”, even of good and evil were intimately related and inseparable. He even felt God and man needed each other, in a sense, to be whole.”

Sophie reached across the table and touched my hand. I felt a little unnerved, because her gesture went so far beyond anything I had said. But she simply said: “Go on….”

“…and look here at the Greek writing around the center; the translation’s under the photo: ‘Aion (time) is a child at play, gambling; a child is of the Kingship. The man who accomplishes, the homunculus, traverses the dark places of the world, like a star flashing the deep, leading the way to the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams.’”

“It reminds me of Jesus saying that we must become like little children again to enter the kingdom of heaven,” Sophie added smiling.

“I agree…truly, here’s another human on a cross, and he’s trying to communicate a great mystery….through symbols.”

“I get it…but now…don’t say anything, Mom. I’m going to do a little magic on you. I’m going to pray now…see if you can feel it.”

And I did. I had no words for it.

And that’s what happened today, Kendra—! I’ll write tomorrow when I’m on the plane back to the States.

 Love, Isabelle~

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saturn and Venus: Love and the Demands of Love.

Private Journal, Oct 14th

Before Sophie and I even had breakfast, I looked at my emails—I’m forwarding them into my journal for pondering—

Dearest Isabelle~

I wonder if you’ll get this before you and Sophie get to Zurich. I want so much to see you both again, and yet I feel…tormented. I don’t know how to reconcile me, you…. Us. Let me tell you what happened today….

As you know, I’m not in Zurich, but in Saneen where the Krishnamurti center is, and today I was looking for a card for my friend, Adria…I guess you’d say I was looking for an anniversary card to mark this past year of our closeness. I’ve mentioned my friend, Adria, to you—but I’ve never told you that she’s been almost a partner to me—but not really—that’s not what this is about…it’s about me standing in front of the cards in the store intending to do one thing, but doing another. As I stood there reading the anniversary cards my eyes began filling with tears and a great sadness came over me. I realized that my heart was still with you, Isabelle…that it was our many years together that mattered, and not this past year. I knew then that I wanted to come back to you—I know that my detached and independent way is fine within intellectual circles--the Krishnamurti world---but I want our life back-- our family back.

You said to me at Lindisfarne that you sensed that “our story” wasn’t over yet, and I didn’t know what you meant then. But there’s something about the continuity—or severance—of a relationship that strikes close to the bone. The ego feels so liberated at first, feels so free from the difficult yoga of partnership, but then in time, there’s a sense of loss, as if part of who I am and who we were was never true or good…and it was; it was very good. Maybe you understand this. And now I think you’re right….some deep part of me feels a loneliness I barely understand. I need to see you… When? ~Tell me what you think~with love~Alistair

Yes, this felt good…full of promise. But then I glanced at my emails again, and saw there was another one that just came up---from the “Hartford Hospital” in Connecticut informing me that my mother had suffered a serious stroke, and they were doing all they could, in their power, to keep her in stable condition, and to find and inform me of this. They said time was crucial.

What do I do?? I can’t believe I’m going to be ripped away from this possibility of getting together with Alistair here, and showing Sophie the places and ideas that are so dear to my heart! This can’t be happening…and yet it is, and now when Sophie wakes up, I’m going to have to tell her that I have to leave—right away! OMG, this must be Saturn. Doing what must be done.

Saturn conjunct Neptune and Venus: the "Unfolding Story" of Love and Illusion

Dear Kendra~

We got to Zurich in the pouring rain and wandered through the streets of the old town looking for a place to stay. Finally, near exhaustion, we stopped at a café for coffee—cappuccino (!) and I spotted a marionette-puppet shop across the street… so we ducked in there, and I turned into a kid again looking for the lost Pinocchio… but instead I left with one scruffy-looking marionette of a street musician playing a fiddle! Don’t know why I treasure these little guys so much, but being as I was a rather lonely only child, I can only suspect they were special “friends” to me when no one else was there.

As it turned out, the shop-keeper rented rooms above his shop, so we finally found a place to settle into, and Sophie and I took our computers out and set them up in private corners of the quaint high ceiling room. How strange they seemed in this history soaked room—! Here’s a photo I took of the painting that hangs on the far wall of our room. I’m totally transfixed by its quality of “yearning.” Sophie says it’s by one of the pre-Raphaelite painters—an artist named “Waterhouse” and is a painting of Dante’s ‘Beatrice’~

So, we agreed to spend a few moments checking our emails—this was the first one I saw:

Dear Isabelle~

             Take a look under the musician’s hat. There’s something there for you…


“What’s this?!” I turned around to see Sophie grinning like a cheshire cat.

“Check your marionette again—he has something for you…”

I slowly unwrapped the purple tissue and untied the package and looked at the marionette’s quixotic face. And there, under the stove-pipe hat, was a tiny silver mandala on a long delicate chain. A perfect sphere, inclosing an equal sided cross.

“And this one is for me-- she took out a little green velvet bag and held up what looked to be the same. But it was different—this was a circled cross, a Celtic Cross with the vertical cross longer than the horizontal….

“They’re different—but, almost the same—I found them in Whitby that last afternoon when I was out walking by myself, and I love how they’re similar—but different, like us.”

My first thought was terrible. I wanted to take a scissors and snip off the long end of her cross. I wanted to make hers the same as mine—to take off the unequal long end and to remove all the painful connotations of that long center cross-post—like the one Jesus was nailed to. I wanted her to have a perfect astrological mandala. I wanted her life to be a perfect balance of opposites….these were “mother instincts”….yet my life was so far from a perfect mandala. Instead I broke into tears and hugged her.


So here we have: Saturn conjuncting Neptune and Venus. Sometimes the easiest way to get to the meaning of aspects is to break apart all the words that describe each planet and then combine them together….so with Saturn one might say: solitary, disciplined, melancholy, re-structuring, serious, practical, harvest, maturing—and then with Neptune: dreamer, visionary, imaginative, permeable, illusion, escapism, ego-less, spiritual, addiction, yearning, sacrifice… what do you get: a solitary dreamer, disciplined imagination, melancholy re-structuring, practical addictions…that’s a good one! I think there’s an important distinction between preferences and addictions. Preferences you choose, and have control over, whereas addictions have a hold on you. So if we can upgrade our addictions to preferences, and find the path of moderation, this is ideal. This “taking control” or disciplining is Saturnian, and the watery, ethereal qualities of Neptune can be held and used well when they are combined, like water being held within the banks of a river.

Now, we can add the third element: Venus. Astrology is never simple; it’s like a complex puzzle or crossword, and so it’s a good idea to solve the clues you can see first and work up to what seemed at first too difficult to understand. So take the planetary meanings apart first, and then look at what they do when they’re combined together. With Venus added to this Saturn/Neptune puzzle we get the clue that we are dealing with the Venus realm—the realm of the heart, beauty, and relationships. But though Saturn sounds harsh, it actually is “exalted” in Venus-ruled Libra and in the ancient texts because Saturn likes the way Venus desires to structure relationships.

Adding the illusory “yearning” nature of Neptune softens the picture, and we get a picture of what is happening, but not an answer. Will the yearning for Venusian love be compatible with the illusory nature of Neptune? Will Saturn show himself as the wise inner guide or a stern inner critic? Will transiting Saturn on this Venus-Neptune conjunction in Libra survive the reality (Saturn) and the disciplined duties (Saturn) or will Neptune obscure all the outlines of reality and true feeling, and turn this into a hauntingly beautiful dark painting one can barely see….?

Till later, dearest Kendra~

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Carl Jung: the Astrologer's Senex" at Bollingen Tower

Dear Kendra~

Here’s a photo of Carl Jung’s “Bollingen Tower” that I saw the last time I was in Zurich—such a magical place! I love that he built this stone and timber tower as his sacred retreat. There’s a wall here where he painted a vibrant mural of the outstretched wings of his spiritual mentor, ‘Philemon’. You can see this colorful painting in his journal: “The Red Book” –and he painted it without benefit of electric lights—! The mural within the round tower is the heart of this space, and it has a rustic, primitive and private feeling. He would take himself here to ponder, write, and cook meals over an open fire—apparently he was quite a good cook who loved cooking in a large pot—and if you were honored to be a guest at supper, he would suggest “quietness” while eating so that the food could be truly savored.

I can imagine him here, with his pipe, his paints and his….aloneness. He “attended to his inner life” and in this way he was an archetypal “senex”—the wise Saturnian elder man. Jung had a Leo Sun sign, with a Taurus Moon conjunct Pluto, and Aquarius rising.

He was also a bit of a trickster (like Hermes), and a shaman and scholar as well as a spiritual man and healer. His psychology came out of his life; he broke some rules, he kept to some. As John Perry, a friend of his noted: “There was always a little something magical about the way Jung’s mind worked. He said that he felt himself to be more shaman than psychiatrist.”

Sometimes I fear that most modern psychology, and even astrology, serves the ego’s fantasy of control, while Jungian psychology affirms “the summons to surrender to the gods”—to that which wishes to live through us…and calls us to listen to the inner archetypal voices which astrologers call planets.

Jung would counsel that we become a “disciple” to that which is calling us, and surrender to our personal discipline. A positive view of “discipline” don’t you think? Being a disciple to that which you really love? Still it’s never easy for us, nor was it for him.

His dearest friend, Toni Wolf, highly disapproved of his exploration of alchemy and astrology, but he pursued it anyway and that issue finally ended their relationship of many years. Did you know that she was his lover, companion, and ‘guide’ when he was going through his most difficult years during his Uranus opposition, around the age of forty? And that Jung’s wife, Emma, actually accepted Toni as a member of the family…so Toni would be present at Sunday meals…much more accepted in European culture at that time than it would be now! Anyway….

Did you know that Jung studied and practiced astrology for forty years before he published his work on synchronicity in 1950? He used the word “synchronicity” to explain how astrology worked, meaning that there can be a relationship between two things that don’t have a causal relationship—that is, that one event doesn’t scientifically cause the other to happen—i.e. pure cause and effect. But what is significant and necessary is that there must be an emotional meaningfulness to that moment in time. And of course, what could be more meaningful than our birth! Jung once said: “We are born at a moment in time, and like the grapes in a vineyard, we take on the qualities of the time and place from which we came.”

Jung used the birth charts of his clients to “find clues to the core of psychological truth…” (this was written in a letter he wrote to Freud in 1911). The fact that he respected and used astrology means a lot to those of us who combine psychology and astrology—which is what archetypal astrologers do.

But even if Jung didn’t have this connection, I would still be in awe of him as the archetype of the “Wise Old Man.” He honored the Mystery that we live within—that sea the Soul swims within—without getting dogmatic about it. Isn’t that the heart of wisdom; to honor the Mystery without literalizing it and without trying to make it fit precisely into concrete scientific or historical fact? Joseph Campbell later called this kind of truth a “myth” and he understood myths as revealing a very deep level of truth.

Today I feel more like a mentor in writing all this. But still the story continues here…and I haven’t heard a word yet from Alistair, even though Sophie and I will be in Zurich by noon today. I’m thinking of staying in a B & B in old Zurich if we can find a room. Perhaps I’ve honored the Saturn conjunct the Libra Sun today by writing about Jung as the astrologer’s “senex” while listening to Bach, on my Ipod. It has been pouring rain all day, and Sophie has been reading and sleeping this whole train trip—but she did tell me one thing—she has a surprise for me tonight when we get settled in our rooms….and that makes me a little fearful for some reason...yes, Saturn rules fear too...what do you think? I haven't heard from you in awhile....hope you are well, dear one~



Monday, October 11, 2010

Mirroring: That Which Is Above to That Which Is Below

Dear Kendra~
     I wish I could be like mythogical Merlin here, magically bestowing answers and comfort, but instead, you have me, your friend and mentor, who is more humbly "a reluctant astrologer." If I were him, I would be sharing with you how the Soul has such strange ways of mirroring the ancient esoteric saying: "that which is above to that which is below."  I would add too, that one is not to fear the dragons in the forest, but that the dragons in the psyche must be loved and appeased first.

You have serious questions about the "shadow side" of astrology--that there appears to be ways to make astrology "prove anything" because there are so many different ways of approaching this art. It's true that I don't see astrology as a science, with definitive repeatedable rules. But is anything that  "speaks" to such questions as fate, destiny, character, and cosmology, that way? I don't think we can speak of these questions that way. We can't deny our free will, and yet we can't deny the Mystery that we live within...

So, this mystery of astrology is illusive at times--with its "smorgasbord" of systems, or dialects---it  doesn't present a united front. It’s the ‘shadow quality’ of our work for sure. But there are two things that are important to remember: all astrology is here to remind us that we are part of a larger cosmos, plan and purpose, and that we can trust in a pattern that is greater and wiser than ourselves. People need to know that. They need to see how their particular story, with all of its gifts and woundness is part of a larger sacred story. And I believe, as the ancient Hindu's believed, that "Goodness" exists at the heart of it.

We go to astrology because we want “to know ourselves” so we can make better choices—but we want to know about ourselves without someone pathologizing, shaming or blaming us. We want to understand why we do what we do, and astrology—no matter what “dialect system” it uses—gives us a way to talk deeply about ourselves and our inner struggles.

But you ask about the different "language dialects" between systems---such as the Vedic vs the Western, or the different house systems, such as Placidus vs Koch....well, I think most astrologers are simply drawn to a person who uses a particular method, and who shows them that it works --not tells them! And then they find a way to work within that language system as well. Astrology is like a romance language, derived from a similar root, and a "table is a table" whether we name it in French or Spanish. A table exists, just as a language exists, so it's ironic when someone says "I don't believe in "astrology" because I then feel like saying: "You don't believe in Spanish or French either?"

And of course, just because one person primarily uses the birth chart and asteroids and another relies on planetary progressions and transits, doesn’t make any of them wrong or better. It's a language that speaks to the Soul, and different dialects speak clearer to some people more than others. The ideal in any system is to be able to see a theme repeated several times in different ways—sometimes called the rule of three: you see a theme repeated three times, you know that what it points to carries weight….some truth.

So not only are systems, orbs, aspects, and "readings"  not perfect “black and white” paradigms, but people are often profoundly paradoxical! Like the planets that are held within the mandala of the chart, people have many sub-personalities, and are constantly in the process of changing as well! What underlies a good reading-consultation often has much less to do with the mechanics of the astrologer’s technique than something else--something most astrologers use almost unconsciously. Let me get back to this in a moment....but first your question--

Underlying all astrological technique is the shadow of the unspoken fear--- is there a better way or a more accurate way to do this? How do I know if this is the best way? These thoughts are uncomfortable, and most of us confront that nagging uncertainty by being certified within a certain tradition, or we proclaim to offer an eclectic approach depending on the circumstance and client.

As a counseling astrologer, you know that I went back to school in my forties to get a Master’s degree in counseling psychology (with an emphasis in the work of Carl Jung.)  And most of my astrology teachers used the tropical Placidus house system, and viewed the planets as mythological archetypes within a spiritual mandala. They saw the transits and progressions as challenging turning points along the process of individuation. I liked that! I liked seeing how the astrological elements related to the Jungian modes of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling. And I liked Steven Forrest’s evolutionary astrology and Alice Howell’s wise “kitchen table” wisdom. I liked Jungian astrologer Liz Greene’s depth as well as other British astrologers…. so I find that my eclectic brand of astrology fits ‘just enough.’ And when asked: Is astrology based on science, or synchronicity? I launch into Jung’s theory of synchronicity, and I’m off and running…that's my style.

But I’m still uncomfortable with variations of your “shadow question” such as—if the precession of the equinox’s is true, then isn’t Vedic more accurate in the predictive sense? And if the asteroids are archetypes why not use them more? And how can I justify my use of orbs and aspects? I don’t know, but I am most “reluctant” when it comes to predictive astrology, such as the Vedic, because we truly can’t know how anyone is going to “play out” their signs and aspects. We can’t step on anyone’s free will choices, and isn’t that wonderful?

I like to think that just as a carpenter will have his or her own reasons for using a particular tool for a given situation, we also need to have many tools and techniques for different people and questions. We might want to say, unlike using an authoritative text such as the Bible, that astrologers have to intuitively choose which technique to use to draw forth a response---and that what is more important is that we should be trying less to prove a point than to inquire into the client’s truth.

My bias is that my best “readings” are not the ones in which I rely heavily on prediction, but when the metaphors I use allow the client to see deeply into their life. I know this is happening when they start talking more than me, and when they start looking at the question behind the question that they presented initially. And isn’t the point--- to put the technique secondary?

So perhaps the answer is to be found in finding that “sacred place or temenos” where we engage with our Self or with our client in a way that resonates with the process of deep inquiry? Does it matter what astrological language we use? Perhaps it’s not about the Jungian evolutionary approach, or the Vedic approach, as much as it is about affirming what we, or our client, already knows to be deeply true.

So….what do we want? I think the hope is that there will be a synchronistic moment of “ah-hah” when there’s been an accurate mirroring of that which is above, to that which is below. Isn’t that what we long for---when some piece of the client’s truth and the astrologer’s technique rise up to a little epiphany together! Ahh…. then there is that felt moment of meaningfulness that makes all considerations of proof of technique secondary.

And so this is what I offer you: the idea that the technique that brings in the "magic of synchronicity" is already embedded in most systems---the idea of  deep listening and creating moments of connection and silence. Perhaps that is our only safeguard in truth-seeking; not forcing our predictions or symbolism or bias on our client, but honoring instead the idea that we are acting as Hermes did—as a communicator; as an instrument of the Divine.

We are looking at the Shadow—that’s delicate work! We’re looking at the blueprint of the psyche, and in those moments of listening with the heart we get a chance for the Spirit to enter; for what the Jungians call the numinous moment--- when we—or our client-- look at the chart and see the answers projected there---upon the clear sky of the heavens above and the gods within.

Ah…feel like I’m waxing a bit poetic here—but you got me going! Hope this helps~



Friday, October 8, 2010

You Can Make Astrology Prove Anything!

Dear Isabelle~

Sometimes I think you can make astrology prove anything. Isn’t it like the Bible—the way you can just pick the right verse and chapter, and prove anything?! I can imagine you can make a case for God’s approval or disapproval, or for Destiny’s "Astrological" approval or disapproval, on almost anything in the chart—?

Look at the choices we have—look at what astrology has in its toolbox: mid-points, solar return charts, transits, fixed Stars, progressions—just pick the question, choose your attitude and response, and you can back up anything you want to say with some aspect…why not? We can use Vedic, Sidereal, Placidus, or Koch systems, and then add an evolutionary, predictive, or psychological bias....and...does it really come out the same then... is it really all ‘under one sky’? And if so, how do I know what’s the best approach to use? Sorry if I sound like the great skeptic, but even you have called yourself the “reluctant astrologer.” What do you mean?



PS Why are you going to Zurich? Are you going to see Carl Jung’s house? Or is it because Alistair is at the Krishnamurti center near there? I hope it goes well…especially with Sophie—I hope she can be open to it all.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saturn in Libra: Pain, Possibility and Paradox

Saturn’s in Libra till February, 2012, but today October 7th, there’s a New Moon in Libra: the Sun and Moon are conjoined at the same degree and the “Reality Cop, Mr. Transiting Saturn” has just joined them---what a powerful “Call” that is to getting our relationships right! No blaming or shaming allowed, just do what needs to be done and make an attitude adjustment. I wish it was as easy as planting a potent seed.

In this “New Moon/Dark of the Moon” we are advised by the Farmer’s Almanac to “plant the new seeds.” Astrologers also remind us to plant our “new intentions like seeds” at the New Moon and not to disturb the seeds as the New Moon waxes towards the Full Moon. Then we see what we have planted. At Full Moons we can see clearly, sometimes get an epiphany/aha! Moment, and sometimes we feel “crushed” that the seeds didn’t germinate.

With serious Saturn being in “fair minded Libra”-- the sign of the weighing scales-- we often forget how unbalanced the process of weighing and balancing really is—! It’s been said that Libra holds more stress internally than any other sign, and is more like a finely tuned violin than a balanced symphony. Libra holds the tension of the opposites, and tries to do it with poise, but seldom do people know that the pressure of holding opposites, paradoxes, and ambivalence takes a great psychic toll. We all have Libra in our charts somewhere, and with Saturn in Libra for all of us now, we will collectively feel this pressure.

At this New Moon I’ve decided to plant the seed of hope for reconciliation between the three of us: me, Sophie, and Alistair. Writing about this in the journal helps do this, but I’m hoping that I can find some symbolic act, or ritual, that will indeed plant this seed. Do I dare talk this way to Sophie? Can we find a bridge between her Christian fundamentalism and my astrology? Does she even want to bring us closer, or is she still holding the pain and resentment of my leaving her Dad?

I know I will send something of this journal entry as an email to Kendra… should I mention the “gift of insight” this Saturn in Libra time has given me….? Does she know already know how I see both her and Sophie similarly? --and that I’m hoping that Sophie will someday see me in the same light as Kendra does? I don’t want Kendra to see herself as a substitute daughter, but I now see my yearning for closeness with Sophie…is this possible between mothers and daughters? Sad that it took the near-drowning of Sophie in Lindisfarne to make me realize how much I love her.

Ah…the mentor relationship with Kendra is so much easier, less emotional. Sophie and Kendra are about the same age, although Sophie has an Aries Sun not a Scorpio Sun, and she has an Aquarius Moon instead of Kendra’s Cancer Moon. The Aquarius part of Sophie can see the larger picture and be more detached at times, but Sophie’s Aries Sun will spur her on to doing things she thinks she cannot do—it will test her, and give her courage in the process. Her firey Aries Sun and airy Aquarius Moon are so different than Kendra’s watery Scorpio Sun and Moon. And me: an air-sign Libra with a fiery Aries Moon. Hah! Strange to think how Sophie and I have what astrologers call “the natural compatibilityof the Sun of one person matching the Moon of the other”…but….she is so very much her own person, and I am too…and that’s how it should be. Saturn in Libra though, is calling for bridges to be made.

So here we are--Sophie and I on the train to Zurich. She’s silently reading a book about Celtic Spirituality and I’m journaling on my computer, wondering how much of this to send to Kendra…and what Sophie and I can do to plant the seed of reconnection. Ah…she just put down her book; better turn this off--

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Private Journal: Saturn's Gift: "Inspired Melancholy"

This morning I've been reading that the medieval astrologer, Marsilio Fincino, was the first to express the “gift of Saturn”—namely that Saturn can be the midwife of insight. This is because depression, or “melancholia” as he called it, creates a permeable boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness, and allows us to adjust real issues that have gotten out of hand—our personal unfinished business. He says inner reflection, or depression, is experienced like a “falling into ourselves” that brings us to the point where we are no longer able to continue with life in the usual way....why? Because we’re not nourished any longer by what is—by what the ego has achieved and what the world has given us So we begin creating a bridge: first insight, then action, then change.

Sounds good, but at the moment I can feel the “melancholia” with Sophie, and I don’t have insight into what she’s thinking, so the feeling hangs in the air between us today like a gray mist. I wonder how we lost yesterday’s magical synchronicity at Whitby?

So as I sit here journaling (waiting for Sophie to get up this morning) I’m reading about how Saturn times can return us to states of contemplation, peace and equilibrium—or it can lead to what Carl Jung called “enantiodromia” –a complete and opposite change of attitude. This is when a condition is so polarized or severe that it polarizes into its opposite. I wonder if some of that is brewing.

During Saturn Returns and transits we are more permeable to feeling the defeats of the ego and we feel unseen and often lacking direction. Jung would say this space needs to be “held and allowed” until Saturn brings its gift of insight, creating a bridge for the Self to cross over into a truer destiny path. Jung talked about this in “holding the tension of the opposites” till the third way (the inspiration) is made clear. It arises from the depths of melancholia.

 I wonder how this is all playing out with transiting Saturn conjuncting my Sun now….I guess I’m living into it, rather than merely writing about it. When Sophie wakes up, we will decide if and when we are really going to get on that train and go visit her father…or not. We will see if there is still anything between Alistair and I...and I’d like to visit Carl Jung’s place as well…

Hmm….it seems as if astrologers either want to make light of Saturn transits, or tend to make them the opposite—fearful. I lean towards seeing the positive restructuring that Saturn wants to build, but I’m aware that it’s a mistake to turn the darkness of Kronos (Saturn) into too much of a good thing—for this would miss the fact that what appears to be the dark night of the Soul still is dark (!)--a “Nigredo” experience—even though it’s the awakening of imagination. Before movement, there is no movement, or stuckness.

I am waiting for Sophie to get up this morning. She’s a late sleeper. Yesterday she explored Whitby by herself for awhile, while I retreated to our rooms to rest and read…and even with my books and journal I feel this touch of melancholia—it’s true, Saturn is on my Sun, and I haven’t seen the bridge to the future yet. I wait for insight.

 “Saturn marks off the stages, the ages, separating time, history and the past. We lose energy as we move through this passage, as we are called to dance with an invisible partner. The antidote to Saturn is Jupiter, the planet of expansion, grace and opportunities, and Venus, the planet of love and connection and beauty.” I wait for Sophie….and then…? Will I wait for Alistair? Is he waiting for us? I wish one could take a dose of Venus and Jupiter as easy as one can take vitamin supplements….ah…I hear a stirring from the bedroom….