Zodiacal Releasing: The Narrative of Our Lives

As an astrologer, I am very conservative about adding new techniques into my practice. In my experience, when reading an astrological chart, in many ways less is more. I have found that the more techniques I throw at a chart, the harder it is to interpret, and the fuzzier my reading becomes. For this reason, I was not immediately ready to jump on board when I first heard about an Ancient Hellenistic technique known as Zodiacal Releasing. This past February, however, the Hellenistic Astrologer, Chris Brennan released a podcast and YouTube video on this technique which included a good basic description of how to use it. You can find this video here.

What is Zodiacal Releasing and How Does it Work?

Zodiacal Releasing is a Time Lady technique. Time Lady techniques divide a person’s life into sections, with a planet or planets ruling each section. Zodiacal Releasing is a little different than many of these techniques in that it uses zodiac signs rather than the planets.

It is a rather complicated technique, and the division takes place on four different levels, with Level 1 spanning years and sometimes even decades and Level 4 spanning days or sometimes only hours. This technique uses the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune as the launching point depending on what you are using it for. Chris Brennan describes it as dividing one’s life into chapters and paragraphs, but it makes more sense to me to use the analogy of trilogies and story arcs.

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Evaluating New Techniques

Before I go into my thoughts about Zodiacal Releasing, I would like to explain my process for evaluating techniques to determine whether I will incorporate them into my practice. The practice of astrology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The ready availability of computers has made casting a chart much, much easier than it was when I was twelve years old and learning to cast a chart by hand on the kitchen table using my mother’s astrology textbook.  Furthermore, everywhere you look on the Internet, there is someone talking about a new (or old) technique or practice. If one were to learn and use everything available, it would be chaos. To manage this, I have a process I go through to sort through techniques that I encounter.

1. Is the technique sound on a metaphysical or philosophical level?

While some astrologers take a purely pragmatic approach to our craft, it is my own belief that we cannot separate what we do from our philosophy.  Sometimes, with older techniques, it is not possible to know their metaphysical basis; however, from my perspective, the older the technique is, the more likely it is to be sound on a metaphysical level, even if we do not know the underlying philosophy.

2. What is the lineage of the technique?

I think it is very important to know where a technique comes from to the extent that it is possible. Now, while I am not one who believes that we must trace every technique to an Ancient, Medieval, or Renaissance text, I do tend to favor techniques with a deep historical lineage. There is a problem, though. In the West, we lack a living tradition. At most, we have remnants that have survived through the ages.  So, when we uncover older techniques, we must reconstruct them, and we are very likely to get it wrong.

So, from my perspective, the best techniques are the ones that have stood the test of time. Given how broken the astrological tradition is, there is a surprising amount that has survived relatively unchanged. For example, with the exception of granting the Outer Planets rulerships over signs, the rulership system has remained largely unchanged since the Hellenistic Era.

With respect to modern techniques, I do not reject them out of hand; however, to me, the burden of proof with respect to them is extremely high.

3. How well is the technique understood?

In the past several decades there have been many dedicated translators and researchers who have worked hard to recover traditional astrological texts, including the late Robert Schmidt, who founded Project Hindsight, and Robert Hand. Even so, the process of recovering and understanding techniques is not an easy one. In many cases, all we have are incomplete texts without a living teacher to explain them properly. So, even when we have ancient techniques with a solid pedigree, we must still proceed with caution.

4. Does the technique work?

While this is not my first consideration in evaluating techniques, I am a practicing astrologer and not a researcher. If I am going to use a technique, it needs to work, and it needs to work reliably and consistently. Most of the time when techniques are presented, the astrologer will give example charts, and of course, it is important to carefully listen to the examples presented. That is not enough, though. The technique needs to work for me.

I first test a technique on my own chart. The reason I do this is that I know my own chart the best, and I have the most information about my own life. There is a disadvantage in that it is hard to be objective about one’s own chart, but I have long experience as an astrologer and in testing techniques on my own chart. If the technique does not work on my chart, and I cannot see a good reason why it would not, I usually reject it out of hand.

From there, I test it on other charts that I am familiar with, and then move on to charts of celebrities and famous people. I am a bit ruthless when it comes to these things. For me, the burden of proof is on including a new technique, not excluding it. I generally expect a technique to work at least 80% of the time, and for there to be a good reason why it did not work on the other 20%.

5. Does it tell me something I did not already know?

I already use a number of different techniques, and it is hard enough to juggle the sometimes confusing amount of information that can be gleaned. While there is something to be said for getting the same information from several different techniques, life is short. If a technique does not improve my readings, even if it meets all of the above criteria, I will not take the time to incorporate it in my practice.

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Evaluating Zodiacal Releasing

So, now that I explained my process for evaluating techniques, how did Zodiacal Releasing do? The short answer is…very well! For the long answer, let’s go through my criteria.

1. Is Zodiacal Releasing sound on a philosophical and metaphysical level?

The technique of Zodiacal Releasing was found in Book 4 of the Anthology of Vettius Valens, and he attributes it to Abraham. Generally, when a technique is attributed to a religious leader by a Classical text, it is an indication that the source is Ancient revealed knowledge. As such, it can be presumed to be sound on a metaphysical basis, even if we do not fully understand it.

Yet, the details of the technique also suggest its philosophical basis. In using the technique, one moves the Lot of Spirit, which is related to the mind and the will through the chart. In doing so, one pays attention to its relationship to the Lot of Fortune, which is related to bodily matters as well as luck or chance. In other words, this technique considers how one’s will interacts with the forces of fate or chance.

2. What is the lineage of Zodiacal Releasing?

As mentioned above, the technique is found in Vettius Valens’ Anthology and is attributed to Abraham. On the other hand, the technique had largely been lost, and as far as can be known at present, there is no mention of it in the texts from later traditions.

So, by necessity, we are dealing with a reconstructed technique. This is not an ideal situation, but if it passes all of the other tests, it is certainly not a reason to exclude it from consideration.

3. How well is Zodiacal Releasing understood?

There have been astrologers, including Chris Brennan, who have been researching and working with Zodiacal Releasing for over a decade. While there is a lot of work still to do, this seems to be a good start.

4. Does Zodiacal Releasing work?

When I watched the YouTube video explaining this technique, I was impressed from the beginning. With just a superficial understanding, the technique captured the major turning points in my life. The more I learned and the more I played with the technique, with my own chart and the charts of others, the more impressed I became. I think I can safely say, even with the limited understanding that I have, it is by far the most accurate timing technique that I have come across.

5. Does Zodiacal Releasing tell me something I did not already know?

Yes, it does. In applying this technique, I understood things about my life and my life direction that had long baffled me. When I practiced the technique on a couple of my friends, they reported that it really helped them understand the meaning of things that they had gone through in their lives.

How to Learn Zodiacal Releasing

Zodiacal Releasing is one of the more complicated techniques that I have come across. I would definitely classify it as an Advanced technique. I would not recommend it to a beginning student of astrology. A good understanding of astrology in general and at least some familiarity with Traditional/Classical Astrology is necessary.

As mentioned before, the technique is described in Book 4 of Vettius Valens’ Anthology. A full translation of Anthology translated by Mark Riley is available for free pdf download here. The technique is also described in great detail in the last chapter of Chris Brennan’s book, Hellenistic Astrology.

On the other hand, this is one technique I would not recommend learning on your own, even if you are an experienced astrologer. If you are interested, I would start by watching the YouTube video I linked to above. From there, I would highly recommend Chris Brennan’s course.

He teaches this technique as a part of his Hellenistic Astrology course, but he also has a stand-alone course on Zodiacal Releasing available. It consists of an 18-hour video lecture plus a great deal of bonus material. While you do not get individualized instruction, there is a comments section, and he does answer questions that way.

Next Steps

As you might imagine, it is not often that I incorporate a new technique into my practice, so it is always exciting when I do. I still need to work with and practice this technique before I fully incorporate it.

For a while now, I have been considering a new project. I got this idea when I listened to the full soundtrack for the musical Hamilton. The final song talks about Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and all that she did after he died to preserve his memory. I thought about the many other stories of feminine bravery that we know nothing about. My idea was a site specifically devoted to telling these stories. I have a lot on my plate right now, and I did not know how I would find time for another site.

Yet, with this new technique, it occurred to me that I could combine this project with my research of Zodiacal Releasing. My plan is to write a biographical article about each woman, and then to include bonus astrological articles about them whenever possible, using Zodiacal Releasing and other techniques.

The new site is live, and its name is Quiet Heroines: Celebrating the Power of the Feminine. I plan to have the first article up on Sunday, April 7, 2019, and it will be about the woman who inspired the site, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Can Eclipses Bring Good Things?

When reading the article on my astrology site regarding the Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2019, a friend of mine noticed that I suggested that the launching of the modern Olympic Games was related to the Saros Series that this past Lunar Eclipse belongs to. In response to that, my friend asked me whether eclipses could bring good things?

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That is a really interesting question, I think. In my research, many inventions seem to have been related to eclipses, as was Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. This would seem to be problematic to my assertion that eclipses represent periodic, temporary triumphs of Dark over Light. Or is it?

It would take a wiser person than I to have anything that resembles a full and complete answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts on the matter. To start with, I think that it is undeniable that eclipses can bring things that are beneficial to some people. For example, I live in the United States, and I would not be living here if the discovery of the Americas did not happen. On the other hand, this discovery was not beneficial for everyone, and indeed, it was quite harmful to the original inhabitants of this continent.

In order to unravel this mystery, it may be helpful to look at the Symbol of the Cross and our nature as Axial Beings.

The Symbol of the Cross

The CrossI have discussed the Symbol of the Cross before, but here is a brief overview. The Cross relates to the material world. It has two axes, the horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis relates to pure materiality, and the vertical axis relates to spirituality. Even though they cross in the middle, these two axes are independent of each other. One can do very well on the material axis while falling into Darkness on the spiritual axis. In the Christian written tradition, Jesus is reported to say, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24, NRSV. Likewise, it is possible for someone to do poorly on the material axis while rising towards the Light on the spiritual axis. Indeed, in the same Christian tradition, this was the fate of the saints and martyrs.

Inventions and discoveries often give us a more comfortable life on the material level. In this sense, they are good and beneficial. On the other hand, they are usually neutral and can even be harmful to us on a spiritual level. In many cases, inventions are necessary due to the fact that we have declined on both a material and a spiritual level. See also The Bugbear of Literacy by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.

So, in effect, there is no reason why there should not be things that are beneficial on a material level associated with eclipses. I would say that even so, there is a good chance for there to be an element of Darkness involved as well. That is certainly the case with the discovery of the Americas, and it could be argued that there has been some Darkness surrounding the Olympics from time to time in its history. I will address the Olympics in more detail later, but before I do, I would like to discuss another element of discoveries related to eclipses.

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Eclipses and the Modern Scientific Worldview

Not only have there been many discoveries that have been astrologically associated with eclipses, but eclipses themselves have led to direct discoveries about the Universe, or at least the mechanical workings of it. While these discoveries are interesting and even useful, they have also prompted the current belief system of the modern Western scientific community. This belief system appears to be that the Cosmos is merely a mechanical place governed by chance and random events. In this belief system, an eclipse is merely a shadow.

Yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is almost a religious fervor to encourage people to go out and watch eclipses. In a sense, viewing an eclipse seems to be almost of the nature of a religious test to prove that one is not bound by the “superstitions” of the past. In this respect, I do believe that the modern embrace of eclipses is an intentional movement into Darkness, even though there have been technological advancements associated with it.

Our Nature As Axial Beings

This being said, I think there something different going on in the case of the Olympics. Yes, there have been negative things associated with the Olympics including violence and countries using them for political purposes in terms of boycotts and the like. On the other hand, I do believe that the modern Olympics is a positive development not just on the material level, but a movement towards the Light on a spiritual level. Indeed, even the negative things that have happened may have prevented wars and more serious problems as countries could take their aggression out on the Olympics instead.

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Yet, it does appear that they are related to eclipses. There was a Total Lunar Eclipse that occurred on November 4, 1892. Later that month, on November 23, 1892, Pierre de Coubertin launched the plans for the modern Olympic Games. This eclipse was 44 minutes long, and if you count a month for every minute of totality, this would mean that the full impact of this eclipse would not be felt for another three years and four months. This would be the end of March and early April 1896. This was the beginning of the first modern Olympics in Athens.

So, what is going on?

I think this has to do with our nature as Axial Beings. Humans are the ones with the power to choose. Even if Darkness is present, we have the choice to embrace it or reject it. From my research, one of the features of eclipses is that they seem to be times when our Axial nature is tested. There are many repentance stories surrounding eclipses. One of them was the Eclipse of Thales that stopped a war according to Herodotus. There was a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. There was a Solar Eclipse that occurred during the battle, which caused the parties to stop fighting and negotiate a peace.

Perhaps the launching of the modern Olympic Games is of this nature.

Implications

So, what does this mean?

In Modern Astrology, often eclipses are presented as times of opportunity and spiritual growth. It would seem that this might be the case from what I have said.

Yet, I think this goes too far.

Of course, whenever we have a crisis, there is an opportunity for growth. When there is a death in the family, when we have a tragedy, or when we face a serious illness, it is common for people to view these as turning points in their lives. They can even be the catalyst for deep spiritual awakening. Does that mean we should embrace these times? There is the old saying, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

This leads to the deeper question of what is the point of suffering, which is a subject that has confounded spiritual leaders and theologians for millennia.

I cannot claim to have the answer to this question; however, I think that the best practice is still to avoid eclipses as much as possible. Yes, it seems like it is possible that good things can come from eclipses, but it is not something to expect or hope for. Just as we might experience spiritual growth from a tragedy, we would not willingly embrace such a tragedy to obtain this growth. In the same way, it seems like a bad idea to embrace eclipses.

Being Without a Living Tradition

One of the biggest challenges as a Filianist is that there is no living tradition to draw upon. As I have been thinking of this, it has occurred to me that this is also a challenge for Western astrologers who are trying to work in a more traditional manner.  I would like to share some of my thoughts and ideas about this.

What is a Living Tradition?

Before I begin, it might help if I explained what I mean by a living tradition. A living tradition is one that has been passed down in an unbroken line from teacher to student from either a time that cannot be counted or from a genuine source of revealed knowledge. With respect to Filianism, such a living tradition no longer exists. We believe that there was a time that there was a feminine living tradition, but any line between teacher and student has long been broken.

hieroglyphs-541146_640There are remnants of the feminine tradition in the patriarchal traditions practiced today, and there is archeological evidence that there was a feminine tradition that existed in the past. While these things are to be valued and treasured, they are a poor substitute for having a true living tradition.

In Orthodox Filianism, this is dealt with by keeping to very simple devotional practices and by not allowing for priestesses or anything of that nature. This is in the Orthodox version only, however. Many independent Filianist groups do allow for priestesses.

The lack of a living tradition is also dealt with by being honest and humble in what we profess, exercising a great deal of caution.  We use the remnants of the feminine tradition that can be found in various cultures today, in the East and in the West, and supplement this with some of our own materials and practices.

Reconstructed Traditions

The problem of a lack of a living tradition is faced many who are not Filianists as well. In the West, Christianity was ruthless in rooting out “pagan” religions and traditions, so those who wish to explore these forms of wisdom and spirituality are in a similar position.

One of the other ways to deal with this problem is to try to reconstruct these traditions from the written and archeological evidence that we have available to us. An example of a reconstructed tradition is the modern Druid movement. It could also be said that the modern practice of Traditional/Classical Astrology is a reconstructed tradition.

Uncertainty of Interpretation

The difficulty with a reconstructed tradition is that there is very little certainty that one is interpreting the material that we have accurately.  In many cases, we do not have written records. If we do have written records, they often must be translated. Furthermore, we have to deal with the problem of texts. The printing press was not invented in the West until the 15th Century, even though it was developed in China about 600 years earlier.

Before that texts had to be copied by hand. Of course, the scribes in those days were surely more accurate than someone completing such a task today would be. On the other hand, we are still dealing with uncertainty that increases the further the text is in time from when it was written.

The other big problem is that even when we have written materials and even when we have original texts, not everything was written down. Of course, some information was probably deemed too important to reduce to writing, but even more of an issue is that writing was a major project. Just as secret matters would not be written, neither would things that were common knowledge. It would be far too much of a waste of time and resources.

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Adaptation to Modern Times

Even if we did have perfect information about broken or destroyed traditions in order to revive them, we would still have the problem of how to adapt them to modern times. I do not believe in evolutionist ideas about “progress,” nor do I think that we are more advanced than our forebears. However, we are not the same as them either. Our physical, mental, and spiritual capacities are greatly reduced. At the same time, we have more technology which artificially enhances our computational abilities.

Because of this, any revival of spiritual traditions, or any revival of traditional sciences such as astrology, needs to take into account our reduced abilities to understand and to implement its doctrines or teachings.

In a living tradition, this adaptation would have taken place over time, as spiritual leaders or masters of the craft would have made small adjustments from generation to generation. Every now and then, there would have been major changes as a leader emerged. In the present, we tend to think of these leaders as innovators. Within a true living tradition, however, these leaders are not innovating but are making large-scale changes to adapt a tradition to the present age.

This idea is reflected in the Christian tradition in the Gospel According to Matthew when Jesus says:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Matthew 5.17 New Revised Standard Edition

Without that organic adaptation over time, modern scholars and practitioners are in a very difficult position. This often leads to one of two extremes. On one extreme, scholars can decide to bend and shape the tradition to fit the modern world until it bears little resemblance to the original. On the other extreme, scholars can rigidly hold on to the letter of what was written to the point that it is unworkable in the modern world.

In Traditional/Classical Astrological circles, there are those who go to both extremes, and sometimes the same person will do both at the same time. For example, there are Traditional/Classical Astrologers who will insist that any technique or practice must be attested to by a traditional, pre-Enlightenment source, while at the same time also insist that astrology is purely mechanical, denying any spiritual or Divine powers that may be at work….a position that would have been considered absurd by pre-Enlightenment thinkers.

Modern Revelations

Now that we have looked at the problems with reviving broken traditions, what about modern revelations? There are many who have claimed to have received revelations about spiritual matters. In modern astrology, one of the most influential sources of alleged “received wisdom” comes from the Theosophical Society. One of the early leaders of this Society was Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to have received revelations from a brotherhood of Great Masters. On a smaller scale, the founder of one of the main branches of Evolutionary Astrology claims to have received some of the major tenets in a dream.

The problem with modern revelations is very similar to the problem in reconstructing or reviving broken traditions. The issue of continuing revelation is a subject of great controversy within a number of religious denominations. Those religions that do accept continuing revelation usually have some means by which to test and evaluate them.

Without a living tradition, it would seem that evaluating such revelations would be extremely difficult. How do you know where the revelation is coming from without a tradition to use as a standard?

So What Can We Do?

From all of the problems that I have raised, it would seem that the situation is impossible. How can one know anything or be sure of anything, especially in the West? There are some who turn to Eastern forms of spirituality as a solution. Within astrology, the Vedic tradition is one of the few surviving astrological forms that still has a living tradition to draw upon. The problem with that is similar to the problems with reviving historical traditions, however. As a Westerner, is it really possible to understand the Vedic tradition and get it right, especially without a guru?

Despite the broken tradition and despite all of the problems, I do think that there is value in the Western system, particularly for Westerners. This is the reason that I am slowly working to develop what I am calling Essentialist Astrology.

On the other hand, I think it is important to be aware that we are dealing with a broken tradition. As such, it is necessary to proceed with caution and humility, and to be cognizant and honest about what we do not and can not know.

10 Magical Things About the Natural World

This world is a magical place. It is filled with wonder and beauty. In many ways, it seems like modern scientists try their best to make us believe that the universe is dry, mechanical, and sterile. Yet, many of the things that they find are truly marvelous and mysterious. So, in that light, here are 10 magical things about the natural world that are often presented in a boring way.

1) The Big Bang

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If we are talking about magical and mysterious things, it seems logical to begin at the beginning. Scientists are pretty confident that the entire observable universe comes from something infinitesimally tiny approximately 13.8 billion years ago. While we often learn about this in dry, technical language, it is truly wondrous to contemplate. What makes this even more mysterious is that no one knows what caused the Big Bang. There are lots of speculations and theories, but that is all they are.

Another interesting thing is that for those of us old enough to remember analog television, the static that we would sometimes get was actually residue from the Big Bang!

2) The Speed of Light

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Light is an important concept on a spiritual level, but on a purely physical level, light is incredibly magical and mysterious as well. In our science classes in school, most of us have learned about the equation E=mc2. We also learn that this has something to do with the fact that the speed of light is the absolute speed limit of the universe. It is also fairly common knowledge that the closer to the speed of light we get, the slower we age.

Yet, take a moment to think about this and what this means. To begin with, it means that when we see the stars, we are actually seeing them as they were in the past. The further away the stars are from us, the deeper into the past we are looking.  For example, it is now thought that the North Star Polaris is about 323 light-years away from us. This means that what we see is the star as it was 323 years ago. The furthest single star that we can see with the naked eye is Cassiopeia, which is 16,308 light-years away, and on a dark night, we can see the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.5 million light-years away.

As amazing as it is that we can see 2.5 million years into the past without even needing a telescope, there is something about this that is even more magical. The closer we get to the speed of light, the slower time gets, but at the speed of light, time stops altogether. So, from the perspective of the light beam that started 2.5 million light years away, the trip to Earth was instantaneous.

3) Rainbows

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Intuitively, we all know that rainbows are magical. Yet, our science classes teach us that they are “just” light that has been bent and separated into separate colors by going through the water in the air, which acts as a prism.

When you look beyond the boring explanation and stop to think about it, this means that all white light has the colors of the rainbow in it, just waiting to be seen. That is pretty wondrous and mysterious.

4) Life

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Life itself is extremely magic and mysterious. While scientists believe that life came from some primordial soup by chemical processes, they really have no idea how or why that happened. Actually, scientists do not even fully understand what life is!

What is truly fascinating is how abundant and resilient life is, at least here on this planet. There is life in every nook and cranny on the Earth, even in the most hostile of environments. There are organisms that live in ice, volcanic springs, areas flooded with radiation, and any other environment that you can imagine.

Also, it is now believed that life began on Earth almost as soon as it was fully formed!

5) Stardust

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It is now believed that all of the elements that make up our Solar System, our planet, and even our bodies come from the residue of stars that exploded at the end of their life cycles. This means that we are quite literally made out of stardust.

6) Gravity

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Gravity is one of the most mysterious forces in the universe. It is what holds us to the ground, keeps us orbiting around the Sun, and keeps the Moon orbiting around us. Yet, no one really knows what it is. The mechanics of gravity have been well known for a few centuries now, or at least the mechanics when things are not too big, too small, or too close to the Sun.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, gravity occurs because somehow objects bend spacetime by their mere existence. Even this, however, merely explains the mechanics of how it works. It does not explain what it is or where it came from.

Yet, without gravity, we could not exist.

7) Snowflakes

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Almost everyone knows that no two snowflakes are alike. It is such common knowledge, in fact, that it is easy to forget just how magical and wondrous that this is. Even if it snows so much that it accumulates to 12 feet or more, each tiny snowflake in that pile is absolutely unique.

8) Flowers

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Flowers are truly amazing. They are so beautiful and diverse. Yet, what is the purpose of their beauty? It is said that it is to attract bees and insects to pollinate them. However, bees and insects are just as happy with soda in the garbage. In the Deanist/Filianist tradition, flowers are said to be love letters from Dea.

9) Geodes

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Geodes are truly amazing. Plain on the outside, and magnificent on the inside, they are full of magic and wonder. Also, just like snowflakes, there are no two geodes that are exactly alike.

10) π

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For every circle in the world, if you multiply the diameter by the mysterious, irrational number π, you will get the circumference. If you multiply π by the radius squared, you will get the area.  π is also used in calculating the volume and the surface area of a sphere. Spheres are ubiquitous in the universe, by the way. The reason that there are so many spheres is due to gravity. Apparently, any object large enough will eventually turn into a sphere.

Sleeping Beauty, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and the Soul’s Search for Spirit

Traditional Fairy Tales are one of the few places in the Modern World where we still have access to Perennial Wisdom. The written versions of these stories are usually chronicles of much older oral folktales, and they are rich with symbolism. Often, the themes of these stories are universal, and there are different versions told in different cultures throughout the world. The tale of Sleeping Beauty is one of these stories. In a previous article, I discussed the symbolism of Saturn in the French version, which was collected by Charles Perrault. In this article, I would like to talk about the main theme of this story, which is the jouney of the Soul to find Spirit. I will also be talking about the same symbolism in the Norwegian version of this tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Spirit and Soul

The terms, Spirit and Soul, can be confusing to the modern reader. Many people, even experienced astrologers, confuse them. They are quite different, however.

In order to understand these concepts, it is important to realize that on a deep level we are all One. Everything and everyone in the Cosmos springs from the same Source, and on a very deep level, we never left that Source. In the Feminine Scripture, it is written,

If thou wouldst find union with Our Mother, know that thou hast never left Her.

If thou wouldst escape the veil of matter, know that there is no matter and is no veil.

Cry Marya 12-13, Gospel of Our Mother God

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This may be what the monotheistic movement in the Abrahamic tradition was originally trying to convey.  A better description can be found in the Vedic concept of Brahman and the Buddhist doctrine of “No Self.”

This is reflected on a lower level even in the manifest, material Universe. It is thought that everything in existence started with a single particle, smaller than an atom. It is also thought that all of the matter that makes up our physical bodies and the world around us comes from the explosion of stars at the end of their lives. Even Modern Scientists deeply entrenched in Rationalism would say that we are made out of stardust. Of course, none of these Modern Scientific Theories “prove” anything about Fundamental Truth, but all of this does seem rather magical!

The Spirit is the part of us that is still connected with the One. At its Highest Level, the Spirit is still United with the One, but at a lower level, it is the part of the One that lives inside each of us. This is true nature of the Solar Principle in its purest form.

At some point, each of us became separated from the One, or Spirit, and began to experience individuality. We became Souls. Our Souls came from Spirit and they reflect the Light of Spirit, but to a greater or lesser extent, they are also removed from pure Spirit. Most of us who have incarnated into a physical body on the manifest world are trapped on what is known in the Vedic and the Buddhist Traditions as the Wheel of Samsara. Our Souls can be seen in the Lunar Principle.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is the journey of the Soul searching for Spirit.

Sleeping Beauty

In Sleeping Beauty, a King and Queen are childless for a long time, but eventually they have a baby girl. Depending on the version, a certain number of fairies or wise women are invited to her christening. There is one, however, that does not get invited. She comes anyways, and out of anger and spite for not having been invited, she lays a curse on the Princess that she will  prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and die.

One of the fairies/wise women cleverly waits to give her gift until the end. She is not able to completely counteract the curse, but she is able to soften it, so that the Princess will not die, but only sleep for one hundred years. The King outlaws all spindles and orders them destroyed.

Sleeping Beauty curse

The Princess grows up to be beautiful and perfect in every way. In turns out that there was a spindle still around even after the decree of the King. On her sixteenth birthday, the Princess does find the spindle, pricks her finger, and falls into a deep sleep.

The Princess in this story represents Spirit. She is pure and perfect in every way.  Yet, she has fallen prey to a curse. In a sense, so has the Spirit inside of us, by entering the manifest world. Yet, even though the curse was supposed to be death, the Spirit cannot die, but instead falls into a deep sleep. In a sense, that is the condition we find ourselves in this life. In Greek mythology, there is the River of Lethe, or forgetfulness, which we must cross in between lives. The word for Truth in Greek is Aletheia, or Unforgetfulness.

Sleeping Beauty AwakenIn both the German and the French versions, thorns grow up around Sleeping Beauty. A Prince braves the thorns and finds her. In the Disney adaption of the German version, he must battle the evil queen Maleficent as a part of the journey. In the German version, the Prince kisses the Princess and she awakes. In the French version, she wakes up at the appointed time with the Prince present, and there is a second story line of danger afterwards, but ultimately, they are able to be together in peace.

The Prince in this story represents the Soul. Our own Souls are barred from Spirit, which is asleep behind a barrier of thorns. Through his bravery, he is able to reunite with Spirit, and they live happily ever after.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

There is a Norwegian story with a similar motif as Sleeping Beauty called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. In this version, the genders of the characters are reversed. This gender reversal is of no matter, as Spirit and Soul, or the Solar and the Lunar, are beyond human gender.

The White Bear

In this story, there is a girl who was the youngest daughter of a poor husbandman. She was the most beautiful of all of the children. One day, a White Bear came to their door and asked her father if she could live with him. If she did, the White Bear would make them all as rich as they were then poor. The father said that he must ask his daughter first. At first the girl refused, but then she relented and said she would go for the sake of her family.

On the way to the home of the White Bear, he asked her, “Are you afraid?” Her answer was, “No.”

Journey with Bear

The White Bear lived in a beautiful home, and the girl had everything she could wish for. Every night, however, a man would come and lie down beside her. He would always be gone before daylight, so she never knew who he was.

The Mother’s Advice

After a time, she started to get homesick, and the White Bear said that she could visit her family. Before he did, he gave the girl a warning. He said that her mother would try to give her advice, but that she should not listen to it. If she followed her mother’s advice, it would bring misery on them both.

When she went home, the mother did indeed give her advice. She told her mother about the strange man who visited, and her mother told her that he was probably a troll. She said that the girl should hide a candle in her breast at night, and that she should light it when she was sure the man was asleep so she could see who he was.

When the girl returned to the White Bear, he asked if her mother had given her advice. The girl admitted that her mother had. The White Bear cautioned her again not to follow her mother’s advice.

Mother's Bad AdviceWhen the girl went to bed, just as before, a man came in and lay down next to her. When she was sure that he was asleep, she lit the candle that she had hid in her breast according to her mother’s advice. When she did, she saw the most handsome man she had ever seen. She was so enamored by him that she could not help but kiss him. When she did three tallows from the candled dripped on him and he woke up.

At this time, the man told him that he was under a curse to live as a White Bear during the day and as a man at night for the space of a year. If he could live with a woman for a year without her finding out, he would be free of the curse. Because the girl found out, however, he would have to leave her to go to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and marry an ugly Ogress Princess.

There is some overlap in this story with Beauty and the Beast, in which the Beast is Soul and the Beauty is Spirit; however, in this case, the White Bear does seem to represent Spirit. To begin with, Bears are magical animals with a deep history of being considered Sacred. Also, the girl’s recognition of the True Nature of the White Bear does not save him. Instead, her discovery before the appointed time cemented the curse. The mother’s advice can be seen as the wisdom of the world, which is often counter to the Wisdom of Spirit. The third clue that this is a Sleeping Beauty story is that the girl undertakes a Hero’s Journey to rescue her Prince.

The Hero’s Journey

When the White Bear leaves for the land East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the girl goes to find him, even after being told it was impossible. As in rise stories such as Cinderella, she receives magical help along the way.  You can read the full journey here, but whenever she asks directions, she is asked in return, “Are you afraid?” When she replies that she is not, the helper says that maybe she was the one who should have married the Prince. The helper gives as much help as he/she/it can, and many of them also give her inexplicable gifts in case they can be of use.

Eventually, the girl does find the Prince, who is in the custody of the Ogress Princess. For three nights, the girl barters one of the gifts she received along the way for one night with the Prince. For the first two nights, he is asleep and does not waken. Before the third night, however, he is told about the girl, and he realizes that he has been drugged. He does not eat or drink anything given to him, so on the third night, he is awake when the girl comes.

East of the Sun Happy Ending

The Prince assures the girl that he will work things out, and he devises a test that the Ogress Princess and her mother will fail, but that the girl will pass. When this happens, as in Sleeping Beauty, they marry and “live happily ever after.” The Soul has journeyed to find Spirit, which has led to Liberation and Enlightenment.

Essentialist Astrology, Defining My Practice

In the last several years, I have been working towards developing a philosophical basis for my astrology practice and refining my methodology accordingly. It has been clear to me for some time that I need to forge my own path in astrology rather than follow an already established one. It seems like it is time now to give that path a name and define my philosophy and methods.

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The Problem

I have been defining my practice as “astrology using Classical Western methods, grounded in the Divine Feminine.” I have come to think that there are a number of problems with this description, however. To start off with, it seems to be a bit too long and complicated. Also, given the present common usage of many of these terms, it can be a bit misleading.

With the internet and YouTube, many more people are exposed to astrology and the different branches and schools of thought in astrology than ever before. This being the case, how an astrologer labels herself or does not label herself brings with it certain expectations. For example, it seems that using the term astrologer with no other label or explanation tends to create the expectation of either Modern Psychological Astrology or a mixture of philosophies and methods. Classical/Traditional Astrology also creates a set of expections that I believe no longer fits what I do.

More problematic I think is the use of the term Divine Feminine with respect to the astrology I practice. While this is absolutely true, it may give the impression that my practice is limited to those who share my religious beliefs, in the same way as if I defined myself as a Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist Astrologer would. An even bigger difficulty is that there are several astrologers currently using the term Divine Feminine and associating this term with asteroids and the like. Also, as far as I can tell, all of them accept without question the association of the feminine with the nocturnal signs and the Divine Feminine as limited to the Lunar and Venusian principles. It is tempting to enter the fray in that discussion more than I already have, but it seems easier to just use different language to define what I do.

I had not intended to define a potential new branch of astrology,  but as I would say in Japanese, しょうがありません, shou ga arimasen (“it can’t be helped.”)

So, in that light, I have chosen the name Essentialist Astrology for the type of astrology I do. I think that this description is accurate. Also, from what I can tell, no one else is using it, so it does not come with any predefined expectations. I imagine that things will unfold as time goes on, but as of now, here is a prelimary definition of Essentialist Astrology.

Essentialist Astrology Defined

Below are what seem to be the basic tenets and assumptions of Essentialist Astrology.

The Traditional Model of the Cosmos

First and foremost, Essentialist Astrology asserts that the Traditional Model of the Cosmos is as valid now as it was in Ancient times. The scientific “discoveries” over the past several centuries do not call it into question, nor could they. Everything in the sensible Universe is a part of Earth, or the Sublunary Sphere, in this Model. All of the other spheres are above and outside of the material world that we can observe, measure, or extrapolate by reason. A fuller explanation of this can be found in the first chapter of The Feminine Universe, “The Image of the Cosmos.”

View on Tradition

Essentialist Astrology is rooted in the Western Astrological Tradition. It is an outgrowth of the modern practice of Traditional/Classical Astrology.  It gives the highest authority to techniques and principles that have survived through the ages to the presest day. Older traditions are given great respect, with the caveat that the older a tradition is, the less likely it is that we understand it properly. Essentialist Astrology does not reject post-Enlightenment innovations outright, but treats them with a high degree of skepticism.

That being said, in Essentialist Astrology, it is perfectly acceptable to adapt the Tradition to the Modern World, with the understanding that adaptation is different than innovation. It is also acceptable to reject apparent Patriarchal redactions to deeper astrological traditions.

The Janyati

The planets are not lifeless bodies orbiting about the Sun, but are representatives of Divine Intelligences. These Divine Intelligences have been seen as gods or angels in many cultures throughout time, and they continue to act in the Cosmos. In the West, the planets are named for the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses associated with these Intelligences; however, the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses are no longer worshipped by any culture today. Furthermore, the mythology associated with these gods and goddesses portrays them with human faults and shortcomings, and so, in this day and age, they create a barrier to our understanding of the High and Divine nature of these Intelligences.

Thus, it is necessary to use different names for the Divine Intelligences, and Essentialist Astrology calls them the Janyati, or Great Angels. The associations of the Janyati are as follows:

Sai Raya – The Sun

Sai Candre – The Moon

Sai Mati – Mercury

Sai Sushuri – Venus

Sai Vikhë – Mars

Sai Thamë – Jupiter

Sai Rhavë – Saturn

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Gender

Essentialist Astrology is feminine positive and rejects Patriarchal models of the Cosmos and society. Despite common belief, this is not a new or Modern way of thinking. Such ideas can be found as early in the Patriarchal Age as Plato’s Republic, and it is more likely than not that the earliest Cosmological and societal models were feminine.

On a practical level, this means that Essentialist Astrology rejects the division of the Janyati and their planets into genders. The Janyati themselves are beyond gender; however, they are usually depicted as feminine. This is because it is hard for humans to understand or image them as Intelligences without gender. Due to the nature of the world we live in, often when gender is undefined, images tend to default to the masculine. Thus, feminine images for the Janyati are more appropriate.

Also, as the currently accepted gender division of the signs seems to be a Patriarchal redaction of an earlier tradition and is redundant with the day/night division, it is rejected by Essentialist Astrology.

Living Archetypes

Essentialist Astrology treats the Zodiacal signs as the 12 main human Living Archetypes. Living Archetypes are not to be confused with the Jungian conception of archetypes as parts of the human psyche.  Living Archetypes are instead Perfect Forms created in the mind of the Divine Creator, and they are outside of and beyond human consciousness.

Conclusion

Over the past several years, my practice has unfolded along a path that is different from the current branches of astrology. As such, it seems appropriate to give this path the name, Essentialist Astrology. In this article, I have outlined some of its preliminary tenets. I am not sure how this will unfold, but this article is the first step in this journey.

Evolutionary Astrology, Thoughts and Musings

Evolutionary Astrology is a relatively new branch of astrology. This branch seems to claim to be able to trace the soul’s journey from incarnation to incarnation and to determine what a soul is trying to accomplish in this lifetime. This branch also claims to be an astrology about freedom and choice. As a caveat to this article, I have not studied Evolutionary Astrology in depth. My knowledge is based on the introductory materials that can be found on the internet. For this reason, I might be misunderstanding key concepts. My musings are from the perspective of an outside observer only.

Even though I use mostly Classical Western methods, there are things I do find interesting about Evolutionary Astrology, and in many ways, I want to like it. One of the main schools in this branch is led by Steven Forrest. When I was studying astrology in my teens, Steven Forrest’s books, The Inner Sky and The Changing Sky, were some of the mainstays of my self-education. I really like his approach to astrology and his gentle wisdom and humor.

I also like the use of astrology as a tool to aid one’s spiritual journey in this life. I disagree with the methodology of Evolutionary Astrology to the extent that I understand it, but I largely agree with many (but not all) of the core perceptions as outlined on Steven Forrest’s site. While I do really want to like it, there are some things I just can not get past.

Stairway

Is Evolutionary Astrology Just Another Astrological Language?

Before I continue, there is the question of whether Evolutionary Astrology is simply a new astrological language. If that is the case, as a non-speaker of that language, I really do not have any business commenting at all. It is tempting to go that route. After all, it seems best when we can all just get along.

I think, though, that Evolutionary Astrology really is more than just a different language. By its very nature, it is not just talking about the physical world or people’s inner psychological workings. It is talking about the soul and matters that touch upon Fundamental Truth.

One of the other main founders of Evolutionary Astrology, Jeff Wolf Green, says that he received the basic tenets of this branch from a dream. This is an example of revealed knowledge, further evidence that we are looking at claims concerning Fundamental Truth. This means that this is not just a new astrological language, but a philosophy, and perhaps a religion.

I accept as a given that as beings in an unEnlightened state, our ability to understand Fundamental Truth is limited. Different religions tell different narratives to describe Truth, but none of these narratives are Truth itself. This does not mean that knowledge of these matters is merely a matter of perception and opinion, though. When looking at matters of Fundamental Truth, there are ideas that are in error. Thus, I am examining the philosophy behind Evolutionary Astrology, as I understand it, from a Traditional perspective.

The Name, Evolutionary Astrology

The first difficulty I have is the name itself. From a Traditional perspective, the direction of manifestation is decline, not progress. The word, evolution, means moving away from the Center. The main philosophy behind Evolutionary Astrology is that our souls incarnate from lifetime to lifetime and that the birthchart can tell the “evolutionary condition” at the state of birth.

I do believe in reincarnation, or transmigration of souls, but my belief is closer to the Vedic and Buddhist traditions, in which this transmigration is part of the Wheel of Samsara. The ultimate goal of our souls is not to “evolve” on this wheel, but to escape it. Now, of course, it could be that the name of this branch of astrology does not really encompass a belief that our souls are progressing through evolution, but merely addresses why we are still on the Wheel of Samsara. I do not know enough about it to be sure. On the other hand, the Vedic tradition of astrology, which does address matters of Samsara, has been around a long time and is deeply rooted in an unbroken line between guru and student. Is a modern, Western branch of astrology that does the same thing necessary?  That is really a question, by the way. I do not know the answer.

Pluto

pluto-2677026_640My biggest fundamental difficulty with Evolutionary Astrology comes from the heavy use of the dwarf planet, Pluto. Evolutionary Astrology claims that the sign and house position of Pluto is fundamental to understanding the soul’s purpose in this life.

This claim is going beyond saying the Pluto has an impact on our lives, which I think is possible. It is even going beyond giving Pluto rulership of the sign, Scorpio, which I think is false and a disruption of the entire system. This seems to be going so far as to elevate Pluto above the level of the Traditional planets on a spiritual level.  Indeed, one of the current schools of Evolutionary Astrology is called “The Pluto School.”

This elevation is not just a matter of technique by which reasonable astrologers might disagree. This is stating something about the nature of Fundamental Truth, and as such, needs to be carefully examined. I have come to see Pluto as representative of the poison of deformation or inversion of right and wrong, so this elevation of Pluto seems particularly troublesome to me.

Another difficulty is that Pluto was not discovered until 1930. Does that mean that we did not have access to information about the state of our souls until that time? This, more than anything, would seem to be a fatal flaw in the system.

On the other hand, according to Platonic and Eastern Traditions, we are currently in the late Iron Age, or Kali Yuga. This is the end of a larger cycle, and our souls could very well be using this lifetime to clean up old werde or karma before the next Golden Age begins. As such, we may need to deal with unsavory elements from our past lives, I do not know. If that were the case, perhaps we did not need to look at Plutonian issues until recently.

Still, from what I have seen, Evolutionary Astrology goes into areas of much complexity, and I wonder how useful and necessary this really is. Indeed, my own feeling is that being in the late Iron Age is all the more reason not to delve into such deep and dark complex matters.

In my own spiritual tradition, we are taught to turn away from these sorts of complexities as much as we can. In the Cry Marya, from the Gospel of Our Mother God, it is written, “All the complexities of the world are but the turnings of a labyrinth, and at the centre is the fiery rose-heart of our Mother, burning with perfect love.” We are taught that in this late Age, all that is required of us is to turn to Our Mother like humble, small children. We are assured that She will make up for any deficiencies in our devotion.

Tangled Tree

Fate and Free Will

Another difficulty I have with Evolutionary Astrology is what seems to be a rather extreme position on the question of fate and free will. One of the core perceptions of Evolutionary Astrology as outlined on Steven Forrest’s site is: “An acceptance of the fact that human beings are responsible for the realities they experience, both internally and externally.”

I am a strong believer in Free Will, and I have a lot of difficulty with Traditional/Classical Astrologers who take a mechanical and fatalistic approach to our craft. On the other hand, I do not believe that Free Will necessarily means the freedom of agency with respect to our material existence. If that were the case, it would seem to lead to some rather harsh results.

For example, what about children who are born into horribly abusive households or into extreme poverty? Are they responsible for their plight? In some traditions, including the Vedic one, the answer might be yes, because of misdeeds from a previous life. In the Buddhist tradition, all of life is suffering, and these situations just represent more obvious forms.

The problem of human suffering is particularly difficult for monotheistic faiths. Indeed, there is the old monotheistic paradox that if God were all-powerful, God can not be good, and if God were good, God can not be all-powerful. The issue of suffering is directly addressed in the Judeo-Christian written tradition in the Book of Job. There is also the famous question in the Christian tradition from the Gospel According to John, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2 NRSV

In the Filianic tradition, suffering is part of the necessary imperfection of manifestation, and it is beyond our power to fully comprehend from an unEnlightened state. We do not always have freedom of action or agency on the material plane. We do, however, have absolute Free Will in whether to turn to the Light or to the Dark, regardless of our material circumstances. This may or may not change anything in the physical world, but our choices will have a direct and clear impact on our souls.

On a material level, there are areas we have choice and areas we do not. I think it unnecessarily harsh to say that we are responsible for everything we experience.

The Moon’s Nodes

In Evolutionary Astrology, the Moon’s Nodes represent the life path of the native. The South Node represents where we are coming from and the North Node represents where we are going.

In Classical/Traditional Astrology, there is no consensus as to the meaning of the Nodes. In Vedic Astrology, the Nodes are the Head and Tail of the Dragon, Rahu and Ketu, respectively. Both are considered malefic.

In my own practice, I have not seen an appreciable difference between the North and South Nodes, and I tend to view both as malefic. They are the places that eclipses form. I see eclipses as waves of darkness over the world soul. I do believe they have a karmic influence, but not necessarily on the level of individual souls. I think they represent collective karma, and the place they touch our charts is where our individual souls connect with or are impacted by the world soul. I think this is particularly true for those born during or whose charts progress into eclipse seasons. This is not a Traditional approach, but one that I developed in my own experience and practice.

Conclusion

There are things that I like about Evolutionary Astrology, in particular, the practice of using astrology to assist with the development of the soul. It seems to be a popular branch of astrology in this day and age, and I can see how it can be helpful to people. On the other hand, I find some of the techniques and practices problematic, especially the elevation of Pluto and what seems to be an extreme position on the question of Fate and Free Will. These techniques and practices raise important issues with respect to the philosophy of astrology and delve into matters that relate to Fundamental Truth.