So what does astrology offer to spiritual seekers?
Astrology can be approached on many different levels. Unfortunately, most of the levels it's approached on are very superficial such as horoscope columns in newspapers.
Even though I write one of those, I'm rather snooty towards them because I think that they do astrology a disservice. One of the reasons I took on the job of writing the column was that I wanted to bring some poetry and integrity to it.
I think astrology can be used to invigorate your imagination about the choices available to you. Astrology's really one of the few living mythic systems that we have available to us. We talk about the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, but nobody really believes in them with his heart and soul. Astrology is a remnant of the mythic thinking that comes from projecting our own psychological aspects onto imagery outside ourselves.
I'm very much a novice about astrology. Friends of mine who have done Chinese studies have referenced astrology as a Chinese science, and now you're saying, there are European roots to astrology as well?
The astrology that was used throughout medieval Europe originated in more ancient sources; Babylonia was really where it began. But astrology is integrated seamlessly into the Torah, the Kabbalah, alchemy, the esoteric traditions of the West. It is an understanding of archetypal forces and how they work in us.
It seems as if your astrology column is part imagination and part looking at various charts.
I don't regard astrology as a science by any means. I know there are some astrologers who fiercely believe in the science of it and I do think there is an objective element to it, but it's so slippery that I hesitate to compare it to science. With that said, I do draw up a chart for each sign for each week and have that matrix to work within. Each sign has a particular area of life lit up during any particular astrological month. For instance, what's your sun sign?Cancer
So we are in the astrological month of Taurus right now. It's the harvest time of the astrological cycle so in that sense it's a good time to bring to fruition any long-term projects you have been working on. Any dreams that you've been postponing are best activated now. That's just an example of the way that I might think.
The other key is imagination. Kaballah means to be receptive and that's a primary aspect of my work as a spiritual being and as an artist: to be attuned to what's happening outside my little realm. So that means anything from being aware of what the lives of the people that I know are like, to reading widely, to eavesdropping in public places, to doing something that I call whirlygigging, which is just walking around to places that I wouldn't normally go to to see what experiences cling to me.
What was your religious background? How did you grow up?
I was raised as an Episcopalian. I was also a Jesuit in a past incarnation and a Christian monk in another. At this point I practice a more esoteric form of Christianity--I'm not really a member of a Christian church--that I blend with paganism and the Western hermetic tradition.
So you were raised in an Episcopalian church, and then something triggered an expansion. Was there a specific event?
I came of age in the '60s; that infected me in the best possible way. The trigger event was listening to a recording of the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King. I heard it on the radio many years after he gave it, but it catalyzed a number of different forces that had been pouring into me. At that point, I was on track to be a highly educated East Coast intellectual.
Certainly listening to that speech wasn't the only force, but it shocked me into an understanding that astrology, Hinduism, and rock music were the cultural influences that were going to fill out my education in a way I needed desperately. I had a very clear intuition that unless I tuned into that other side of my brain--the imagination, the poetic sensibility--I was going to become an alcoholic or have some sort of nervous breakdown.
This happened while listening to a black Christian preacher?
Right. Martin Luther King was alive with poetry and passion. Now I look back and say that man had the fire of Kundalini in him. What does that mean?
Kundalini is the Eastern term for the life force. [It is awakened] through meditation and careful moral practices. You raise it so that it illuminates all seven of your chakras. But in plain terms, in more secular terms, it's the life force; in its most base form, it's sexual energy.
Can you give me a few guidelines for people who are seeking authenticity within astrology but don't really know what to look for?
The foremost practitioners of astrology work in books and in private practice.
Maybe you could suggest some books
Well, I'd start with Dane Rudhyar. He was a musician and a philosopher as well as an astrologer. He died in 1989, I believe. He was primarily responsible for bringing astrology into the 20th century and giving it a psychological foundation. He understood Jung really well and applied what he understood about psychology to astrology. I think that was crucial for making astrology useful for modern people.
I would also recommend Steven Forrest, "The Night Sky" and Caroline Casey's "Making the Gods Work For You." These astrologers have strong intellects, but aren't dominated by what I would call "a mental approach to astrology." There are a lot of people for whom astrology has become such an abstract exercise that it's lost its heartfulness; it's lost touch with the actual astrological forces. And if you are too concentrated on the abstract understanding, then you can't really make them a part of your visceral understanding.
What do you mean "astrological forces"?
I'm one of those astrologers that doesn't believe that there are beams coming down from Mars and Venus messing with our lives. However, I do see the planets as symbols of archetypal energies, which are all around and in us. In fact, the Eastern and the Western hermetic traditions talk about the sacred holy planets within us. I have a Mars within me; you have a Mars within you. We swim in the archetypal energies all the time and we use the planets to symbolize what they are.
Your column is entitled, "Free Will Astrology." Where does free will come in? Being trained in the Christian tradition, I have some sense of what free will means within that context, but what does free will means within astrology?
My personal belief is that the only free will that we have is God's will. In the sense that God has a will for each and every one of us. As long as we tune into the free will that God has for us, we can accomplish wonders. To the degree that we resist God's notions of what our destiny is, we cause a lot of problems for our lives. But in the more practical day-to-day application, I think that a lot of astrology columns tend to shut down people's free will by convincing them that their future is set in stone, that these impersonal forces have determined the course of their destiny and they have no choice in the matter.
Can you give an example of that?
I sometimes tell the story of when I was 19 years old and I encountered a person, who without soliciting it, gave me a combination of an aura and palm reading. He gave me bits of information and then concluded that I was going to die when I was 32 years old. You can imagine my 32nd year--even though, by that point, I had come to an understanding that many psychics are charlatans and even the good ones are wrong most of the time. Even though I had that intellectual knowledge, it still was a very potent seed in my gut.
My understanding of astrology is that it helps illuminate God's will for us, and helps us to overcome the conditioning that interferes with our ability to express God's will. In that sense astrology should and can open up our choices rather than close them down.
Say a few words that would help illuminate what you mean when you say God.
I am theistic and pagan at the same time, in the sense that I pay reverence to many different forms of God and also understand that there is a single intelligence in the universe. That single intelligence informs everything that we see, every person that we encounter; there is nowhere that God isn't.
On the other hand, I also know a very personal God that each one of us has access to. Some people refer to it as "Holy Guardian Angel," one's personal life line to that single intelligence. I think that we all have potentially the luxurious privilege of having a conversation with that personal aspect of God whenever we desire.