If this book is of any enduring use, my hope is that it encourages you to get into the living feel of astrology. We need to make it personal, to eat it. Like everything, astrology is in one sense an illusion, a transitory fart in the voidness, but for us now, in terms of the collective illusion we have all chosen to live in today, it's a very useful means of getting clear on what on Earth is really going on around here.
On the very day I wrote the first rendering of this chapter in 1986, transiting Uranus was forming an exact trine to the Pluto (in VIII) in my chart. Uranus was transiting through my XIIth, approaching the ascendant. I went over to some woods in the sunshine and watched spiders' webs dancing in the puffs of breeze, and lay on a wonderful oak tree with a leaning trunk. I let my energy out, let the tree take it, and absorbed the energy of the tree, hugging the trunk.
It was immensely restful. The tree didn't care about all my screw-ups, yet it helped me untangle and drop them. Suddenly I felt that the life-changes I had been finding some difficulty in accepting were totally alright. It was okay to go with it, and my underlying anticipation concerning the immensity of the changes I was going through and my capacity to work with them melted away.
No astrologer, no matter how brilliant, interested, impassioned or successful, can really tell you neat answers about how it all works or what will happen to you when, say, Neptune is sextiling your natal Sun, or Jupiter is conjuncting your descendant. Sure, we can try, but the insights and expressions an astrologer may receive and transmit on behalf of a client in no way replace the direct and full experiencing of the energy in question, by the client, in real-life terms. An astrologer can only really help us make sense of our present, and attempt to help us get hold of the issues and themes and energies at work.
Even though I may be considered to be a 'good' astrologer, I certainly do not understand the full and complete implications of what Uranus is doing to me when it trines my natal Pluto. And thanks be for that! I can get some inroads into the question, and attune somewhat to the energy frequencies involved, but the clarity and all-knowingness often projected on me as an astrologer is not there. Not to the degree many people expect.
Astrology does, however, give me the language to be able to get a reasonably precise read-out on the kinds of energies at work for me at any moment. Not that I will come out of it with a pat answer about what the outcomes will be – this is neither the point of astrology as a tool of consciousness, nor of life, as an educational gift of the universe. Neither is astrology meant to give us a nice comforting mental understanding of what's befalling us, because this would remove creative potential and the essential richness of life. Astrology isn't a way of by-passing life or avoiding its experiences – or, particularly, as many would have it, receiving only the 'good' experiences and avoiding or filtering out the 'bad' ones. Every single event of our lives is good if we make of it a conscious learning experience. Badness is a choice of the mind.
A few days before my first writing of this chapter, I went to London to sort out some things, and visited a close friend in jail, who was likely, according to expectation, to be spending some 7-10 years there. When the inmates were trooped out behind the partitions, to meet their visitors, there he was, totally occupying his space, shining with a light which I had not witnessed amongst any of the 'free' people I had met in the previous few days, in city or country. He shone with a light of acceptance: he was totally acknowledging of his current fate, accepting that it was his own actions which had transported him there (although there's no way he was inherently a criminal!), and accepting that the ruling which was to be made over him was going to be right and meaningful, in some way, even if he knew not how, and even though it was painful for him.
Transiting Pluto was approaching conjunction with his natal Sun conjunct Neptune (in Scorpio), and T Saturn was then squaring his natal Pluto. You might guess that he was inside for drugs – he had been a rare cannabis dealer with integrity, but his address had been picked up in another dealer's address book, implicating him in another's crimes. My gift to him, on my visit, was a book on mindfulness meditation: I had T Uranus trine N Pluto (hinting at freedom), and I was meeting him while he had his T Saturn square N Pluto (imprisonment) and giving him a meditation book! (Sometimes this astrology business is rather freaky, with the underlying interconnections it reveals!) Yet he, in his apparent misfortune and subjection, was demonstrating to me that he was making his experience into something wonderful, positive and enlightening: he was demonstrating that his body could be beleaguered, but his soul was free as a bird.
I knew from that moment that somehow he wouldn't be in jail for long. Even though rationality had it that he was due for seven years incarceration, I knew that he was perhaps learning too fast to need it. We manifest every single life experience in order to learn from it all, and once we have exhausted the need for the experience, we unmanifest or change it. In my friend's case, he was extradited to New Zealand (the scene of the crime), where he soon became the chief gardener in an open prison garden, and he landed up teaching astrology to the governor of the jail! Sometimes there are mysterious reasons why we should have certain kinds of experience.
One historic example was King Wen in China, who was imprisoned for 30 years. While in jail, he committed his knowledge of I Ching to paper, in effect penning the classic version which was to survive and serve millions of people for three millennia afterwards. It helps to be open to the possibility of hidden significances such as these, as we battle our ways through life. Frequently, if we think laterally, such significances have an immensely positive feeling to them, even if, objectively, we might be in dire straits at the time. Another example was the choice of Nelson Mandela and his ANC colleagues who, when imprisoned on Robben Island, chose to teach each other all that they knew – thereby laying the basis for a future government and culture of reconciliation which brought about the remarkable changes South Africa saw in the post-apartheid period of the early 1990s.
If we 'get it', and go with whatever life is intimating us to do or to sort out, situations change. Either our disposition changes, or our circumstances can change, or often both. It didn't feel right that my good friend should be kept 'inside' for so long – but, for him, in retrospect, the experience was deeply valuable, even if painful. At the time I felt he would be out of jail within one or two years. In fact he served five years. Thus my prediction of the time was incorrect. Why? I could not know the full reasons why he needed to be there, or what would happen in the way of valuable experiences along the way. I could not predict that he would master the art of gardening or teach astrology both to prisoners and their captors!
Which just goes to show that, if we are honest, we must concede that it is not possible, or even desirable, to foresee the future. And just as well, too: if we could predict the future, we would shut out the Great Unknown, and we would lose something very meaningful and crucial to the very nature of life. I learned this lesson when living in Sweden (an extremely organised, rational country), where I saw how a whole society could structure its known universe so well that it appears to fend off the chaotic Unknown. Sweden was ahead of its time in this respect – now, at year 2000, the whole 'developed world' is seeking to close all its loopholes, seal all its borders and sanitise every possible irritant, legislating and regulating itself to death. Yet, in the case of Sweden in the late-1970s, within a few years, there were foreign submarines (symbolising dark elements lurking in the unconscious) espying its defences, rain-showers of radiation from Chernobyl falling on its clean lands and people, and, worst, infidel foreigners came along and killed Olof Palme, the Prime Minister, one of the guarantors and creators of this stable security. Swedes as a nation manifested a big lesson, that you cannot consciously create an entirely safe reality: just when you're not looking, the Unknown will get you, opening up an entirely new set of possibilities! Every nation has its own story, and every individual too: Sweden merely serves as an example of a human trait. Without these disruptive divine interventions life would not only be very boring, but it probably wouldn't work!
So, to return to my incarcerated friend, the Pluto transit of his Sun-Neptune conjunction certainly changed his life – in an entirely unexpected way. I was able to use astrology to help him understand his strange circumstances in a larger cosmic context: his inner guardians were lovingly taking him through an initiation to force a cleansing and an emergence of something deeply new (yet probably ancient too). I have not met him for a decade, so I know not how things unfolded in the longterm, after his release from jail. This too is one characteristic issue for practising astrologers: you lose touch with most of your clients, so you cannot check where things went after they came for a consultation! Yet it was a moving learning experience. Interestingly, my purpose as a soul-friend to him started just before he went into jail, and it ended shortly after he came out!
<H2>Levels of Time</H2>
This concluding chapter was originally a neat diatribe on how all the planets have their own time-spectrums and realities, which interweave on an energy level, entering and departing from our lives in intricate fashions... What's really on my chest is this: what's the best way to encourage readers to live and work with astrology to the degree where it becomes genuinely valuable in helping you conduct your life? I decided to point to some of my own experiences. Astrology is not just a neat way of explaining things, giving things contexts or understanding. It does serve these purposes, but the true usage of it goes back to what the ancients worked with when they went to such lengths as they did to develop their own knowledge.
They used astrology as a way of identifying how to work with energy alchemically and magically. They sought to facilitate and assist the flow of the emergent universe and life-process, and to fit their own lives into this flow to further their own fortunes. This was spiritual-shamanic energy-work, work which involves total dedication – and this work is of vital importance today too. We will not save the world from a sorry future by carrying on in our own little ways and staying shut away in our self-created mini-universes: we need to make a more fundamental change. We need all manner of tools to aid us, and a living, breathing astrology is one such tool.
We have manifested a situation of potential planetary disaster, chaos and collapse in order to face the consequences of our own collective acts and omissions. We manifest societal and global threat today because we omit to use our wisdom, knowledge and insight. So we have unconsciously created a world situation where we must have our arms twisted. Seemingly, we need first-hand experience of the consequences of making a hopeless mess – a mess with such dire consequences that we really get the message about why we are here, and what we can do to fulfil our reason for being here. It's likely to hurt. It must. We knew it would hurt, but we left it until later, hoping the problem, the consequences, would go away. It needs to hurt because, as the Buddha once said, 24 centuries ago, "The experience of suffering leads to the path of enlightenment". It doesn't have to be this way – we can apply our wisdom and foresight – yet we have made it this way. We're on the edge of becoming a new humanity, and we came here to be here for that squeeze, that rebirth, and to do it. Like birth, it demands labour. Yet the work involved in birthing is also 'good work', worth doing for the results which come. And it leads through amazing doorways.
The situation is so critical that we need to use every means at our disposal. This means opening up to the full range of insights and solutions available to us. It means being aware – in whatever way is best for each and every one of us. If astrology is a valid path of awareness for you, then use it. Apply it.
Levels of time. We tend to addict ourselves to a solar perception of time, and to an out-there-oriented mode of daily awareness. We make ourselves busy so that we don't have the time to perceive the meaning of time. Time exists to spin things out into protracted and specific experiences of the consequences of previous actions, and the causes of future ones. Our society reinforces this addiction through 'education', technology, the nine o'clock news, the bank manager, and through facts (questionable little things that they are).
Hence we started, in chapter two, with the Moon cycle – a fast and transient element of time. We progressed through the faster-moving planets, moving eventually to an overview of history. Have you yet managed to discern at least some of the different elements of time which exist in your life, as described by astrological cycles? These layers of time interweave through our consciousness and life-experience, yet we spend a lot energy and time working to remain unconscious of this. It is possible to feel directly what part of your being, or your body, is resonating with which level of time at any moment – where you're coming from at that juncture of time. And it's possible to use astrology in a way which highlights the remarkable patterns, tides and flows of these tapestry-weaving energies.
Jupiter and Saturn interject their own longer-term perspectives, and occasionally, we squeeze our attention and energy into working with these, toward the longterm ends we perceive to be important in our lives. These energies concern our capacities to invest energy in directions we perceive will be purposeful and fruitful, and to reap from life the gleanings which help us better ourselves in future. In terms of the fortunes of our life-cycle, Jupiter and Saturn cycles are crucial in mapping our 'destinies' in quite real terms. And it is the experience of these two in particular which prompts us to look further, past the ring-pass-not (Chiron) of paradox and contradiction, into the realm of deeper reality – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Yet even these cycles, though long to us, are transient – they do not constitute 'ultimate reality', beyond change and time.
All of the energy-cycles are at work all of the time, but at any one time one or a few energies are in the foreground of life-experience while others work in the background, or offstage altogether. Different energies activate specific sub-personalities, threads and life-stories in our being, preoccupying us specifically. When you're driving hard through life, it's Mars and/or Jupiter energy, when you're feeling appreciative or close to another, it's Moon or Venus energy, and when you're getting down to those tedious but important chores you've been leaving for so long, it's Saturn energy. Recognising this, we can choose to move with life, to use the energy available to help us. By this, I do not mean that we need to refer to the ephemeris three times a day. It means that we need to attend to different areas of life at different times, following our intuitions and the messages we get from within. To everything there is a time and season, and if we want to go skiing, it does pay dividends to await wintertime!
The time-levels which really interest me are those interjected by the outer planets. Weirdness creeps in when Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are talking – unusualities, abnormalities, breaks with the past, unknowns. Usually, these planets interject when we're not looking, or when we don't want them to, just at the times we think we've got it sussed and made. Often we resist or deny the message, and try to maintain and shore up our normal known realities. But it doesn't work. Sooner or later, we find it doesn't matter what we want, hope for, feel we deserve or fear: another reality intercedes which opens us up to something beyond, something larger and more demanding of our attention.
It is precisely these influences beyond our comprehension which are the stuff that quantum leaps are made of. And it is a quantum leap gets us through our bigger personal dilemmas, as well as through the global dilemmas we have created. Nothing less will do. We've tried all the other ways, and even dictators, emperors and Supreme Soviets have not been able to stop the tide when it is coming for them.
Yet all is not lost, for it is only our known universe we have exhausted of answers: the Unknown is yet to come. It starts right now, and happens right here, in real, tangible terms. Despite its relative unknowability, the Unknown is possible to befriend. It is possible to recognise the experiential symptoms and omens of the Unknown when it is calling us.
We can do so by using astrological language to re-examine our pasts, to understand our present, and to become familiar with the way it all works in our own lives. It is possible to go out on a starlit night and talk, alone, with the universe, with the powers that be (however we visualise them), with the 'management' and the flow: it is possible to receive all of the information, guidance, directives and tips we need if we can but open ourselves up to what life is saying.
This is challenging, yet it indeed is true. Such communication comes through our inner feelings and our reading of significance within the events around us. It is possible to allow our soul to guide our personality, to speak with 'God' directly – and our ephemerides and astrological tools are a way of doing so. Not the Final Answer, but a valuable helper. We ourselves are the mediums of the divine voice, the actors on the stage of the Great Director. However, if the Brahmins of India are to be believed, all this business of life, the universe and everything is what happens when Brahma falls asleep!
The great thing about astrology is that it is a language. Contrary to many people's view, it is not a belief system. It is a set of tools for application in any domain. It's always "Astrology and...". Whatever your area of focus, astrology can offer direct and indirect insights. Direct through helping us diagnose people and life situations, and indirect through the changes of world-view which astrology can generate – whether or not one is thinking astrologically at the time. Though it involves our brains, it's something which grows into your bones, with the result that you can detect Neptunian weather, Saturnine situations and Marsy people without recourse to ephemerides or mental deduction processes. It's a matter of paying attention to our inner selves and our experience, and gathering astrological learnings through it, over a period of time.
I cannot say that I am a master of this, and I cannot honestly say I am ultimately happy and have resolved the outstanding issues of my life – far from it! Yet I can say that I've managed to make significant changes in my livingness, that I'm feeling the different for it, and feel motivated to share it, and astrology has been a major catalyst. In my higher moments I'm clear as a bell, and in my moods and struggles, I'm like a lost soul in the Slough of Despond. But there's a quality of consciousness generated through all this craziness, with the capacity to work miracles and render joy from sorrow and sight from blindness. Astrology, with my inner work, has contributed greatly.
The breakthroughs, the despair, the contentment and the hunger, the togetherness and aloneness – these are the magical brew we call life, and as passing states of being, our experience of them draws attention to what does not pass. The planets perpetually go their ways, and time and things come and go: but there is something left behind, consciousness, our 'cubic centimetre of awareness', which simply sees and experiences all. We learn most when it hurts most, when it shakes and quakes and rumbles, when there's nothing left to hang on to – this is what deepens the connection between life-process and consciousness.
When you've learned sufficient astrology, it's possible to chuck away your ephemerides and books, and you'll find it really starts working. Though you'll come back to the ephemerides and books again, using them in a different light. It's possible to know what's going on without props, though we need them to help us get us to a stage where we know we know, where it's in our bones. This is where the deeper power of astrology starts, when our brains become an accessory, not a central factor. This is where the creation and healing process grows, where we enter more genuinely into the Muse of Astrology.
One of the most meaningful practices in my own astrological learning process has been inner journeying – imaging and active dreaming – in which I went to visit the archetypes of the planets and configurations of my chart, to experience them imaginally. There are techniques for doing this, but in the end it is a matter of entrusting yourself to the inner imaginal process, giving yourself the time and opportunity to do it, and working at it over time. I have been an the middle of fire-battles between my Mars and my Pluto, and in the lengthy philosophical discourses which go on between my Jupiter and Mercury – in an experiential sense, both watching and learning how to participate. This work enables us to gather together the disparate sub-personalities which make up the team called 'myself and my life' and to get them to acknowledge each other and talk.
Once I had experienced this I saw different elements of myself in an entirely different light, and my astrological grasp of my life moved onto the cellular level. This later enabled another process to unfold, which arose as a result of camping out under the heavens with other people interested in astrology and natural or ancient ways (in the 1980s I organised a series of such camps, dedicated to holistic initiatory and educational experiences). When you're out in nature, sleeping on the ground and open to the elements, cosmic energies and earth energies penetrate you more deeply and consciously – our well-insulated walls and artificial environments are gone, and even the campfire behaves astrologically.
This leads to one final point. It's what the Tibetans call 'Turning the Wheel of Time'. Time has qualities and potentialities attached to it, and the main point of this book has been to share tools with which these nuances can be identified and worked with – not only as a coping strategy, but proactively. Put another way, we have a possibility, even a responsibility, to identify and invoke these special qualities and work to strengthen their influence in our own world. How do we do this? There are several ways. In the more esoteric area it can be through meditation, innerwork and affirmation. In a more mundane sense, the challenge is upon us to find and develop our life's work, and through this and in harmony with it, to evolve this contribution to the best of our abilities, using the knowledge, wisdom and skills available to us. This is a challenge to look not only at what we do but also at how we do it. Astrologically, this means that, when we are approaching a fullmoon, we act in ways which harmonise with this fact and makes use of it. The Moon doesn't do anything for us but, at any moment, it lays open potentialities we can make use of to further what we believe to be right and appropriate.
Further, we can apply this in relation to playing our part in history. When Uranus is passing through Aquarius, certain possibilities are available which will change when Uranus is in Pisces. We can act to accentuate and bring forth those possibilities not only in our own little life-domains, but also in the wider world, whether by innerwork, writing letters and e-mails, carrying out activities or dedicating our lives to a certain set of goals. We can bring forth the meaning of our time, and thereby we more consciously and intentionally play a proactive part in history. To the ancients, this was vital, and this was the driving force which caused ancient sages to devise the system of astrology: if you did not act to invoke springtime and fertile conditions, the coming season could not be counted on to fill our food-stocks sufficiently, and if the tribe did not move in accord with the powers and forces of nature and the universe, its fortunes would suffer. This was very logical – and it didn't take things for granted.
When President Clinton had Uranus opposing his Sun, he was exposed by the Monica Lewinsky debacle. At this point he was offered a choice: to try to cover his tracks and appear to the public (Uranus in Aquarius) that he wasn't a 'bad boy', or to stand to face the public and take a big risk – to face down his opponents and rise to his fullest stature. In doing so he could have fundamentally changed the American political culture, exposing many of its hypocrisies and evils. In doing this he could conceivably have shifted much of the world agenda. This would have involved staking his life on it. He had a choice to cause the world to own up to some of its own hidden truths, and thereby to have turned the wheel of time. At different points of our lives we are offered such opportunities as these. The default response to such possibilities is to run a mile in the other direction, or keep one's head down. As a result, opportunities are lost. Human history is littered with such non-events.
Turning the Wheel of Time does not mean trying to make the world go the way we want it to go – this is the problem, not the solution. It means helping forth what needs truly to arise – which, in many cases, we cannot even see. But the same is involved in childbirth, making love, gambling and exploring new frontiers. It means allowing things to come forth, and proactively standing up for the best options and often the greatest challenges. There are few rules to this, and in the end, we must follow our instincts, guidance or commonsense. Yet this constitutes one of the greatest challenges of our day. Astrology gives us tools to identify power-points in time and what to do with them.
With this thought I leave you, with thanks for wading through this book. The rest is up to you. And I'll do my bit in my corner of the universe! Good luck! Oh, and by the way, 'luck' is derived from a Germanic word which means happiness and 'in the flow'. It isn't about accidental good fortune – it's about skilfully surfing that wave. So, again, good luck!