Thus for me, Astrology plays a key role in keeping my heart open because it allows me to identify and separate the elements of my personality from my consciousness. It also gives me greater compassion towards others. When I worked at Ernst & Young I worked as part of a team of senior HR managers. One of my closest friends worked with me. We also worked together with a friend who became jealous of our closeness and in revenge she told our director that we were plotting to make decisions about the department thus undermining him. This was not true and my close friend was so hurt and angry that he transferred to another part of the firm. He was bemused that I was able to still relate to and keep my heart open to our friend who had done this to us. I thought about why that was the case and I realised that it was down to Astrology. I knew she was Sun-Mars conjunct in Taurus opposite Neptune in Scorpio and that it was a repeating pattern for her that she would compete and then when she felt unable to compete she would undermine people through “black magic” (passing on negative, heart-constricting gossip). I recognised that I could be anyone, I could probably even be a chair and she would act the same way, she was simply playing out her chart; in many ways it was not personal even though it felt so. It enabled me to keep my heart open and even to be able to help her see her pattern (chart) playing out.
Both Astrology and the I-Ching have played dominant roles in my life for the last twenty-six years. I was first introduced to Astrology by my mother’s interest back in the late 1970s. We used a starter kit to work out the family’s charts and it is difficult now for me to look back and separate my knowledge now from what I actually believed or knew then. I find that my memory is that I always knew my chart and those of others to some extent. I think I did always have a background awareness but by the time I was at University I was a staunch skeptic in terms of Astrology and had bought into the cultural norm that it was nonsense. At university I met two friends, Rhodri and Johanna, who introduced me to both Astrology and the I-Ching (and subsequently to my friend Chrissy). Whilst I still expressed some skepticism – or at least ambivalence, their insights into my personality and, having given them my parents charts, their insights into them was so accurate it was impossible to deny the validity of Astrology. After a year or so, I gave in. Where it was particularly valuable to me was in describing the different elements of my personality. Having someone describe accurately the feeling of my Cancer moon with it’s sensitivity, need for close relationships and it’s difficulty being away from home for the first time, in contrast to my Sun exactly conjunct the ascendant in Sagittarius with it’s confident and independent exterior was such a valuable insight. At the time I was struggling with relationships. My friends said that it looked like I needed a lot of freedom in relationships. No, no, I protested, I tend to attract women who need a lot of freedom; I am very committed in relationships. They asked me how long my relationships had lasted. I had to admit that the majority were around two to three weeks but I ended them because the other person was not committed. They could not help laughing. I then pointed out that my last relationship had lasted a year and a half, which did make them consider my point about commitment until I admitted that I had spent over 4 months of it traveling and she had been away for another 4 months of it. Astrology described so accurately my inner experience and how people were reacting to me. My doubts evaporated and I became fascinated with learning more about myself and others. Since most people are fascinated by themselves it was not difficult to learn.
However, whilst I was busy learning about Astrology and gaining insights, I was still troubled about what to do with these insights. They gave me such rich information but they didn’t provide me with insight on what to do about it. Thus came the second part of my friends’ gift: introducing me to the I-Ching. If Astrology was the illumination that suddenly allowed me to read the road signs of this journey of life I was on, then the I-Ching was a perfect driving instruction manual. Astrologers as a group tend to be more like academics than the occultists that many would like to believe them (although I am conscious that over the last 15 years in my work, those who don’t know their chart or brand it rubbish, have become the rarity. Most people have had some contact with Astrology and most, interestingly, are respectful of the insight it provided).
The Delphic oracle’s leitmotif was “Know thyself”. If you want to do so, then I have yet to find any tool to rival Astrology in providing this insight. However, as I discovered studying for my diploma from The Faculty of Astrological Studies, knowledge of Astrology was not synonymous with wisdom. I remember my wife attending classes and being stunned by a brilliant astrologer who advised someone with Venus in Sagittarius that they were bound to want affairs and find it difficult to commit to relationships so they had better have affairs since they needed freedom but not tell their partner! I was amazed that an astrologer could be advocating such an unenlightened perspective. I had associated astrology with wisdom (not unusual perhaps given my preponderance of Sagittarius) yet it became clearer and clearer to me that Astrology was a phenomenal tool but only a tool. This tool provided objective information about individual personalities and about the universe and how it was working. Yet it’s value as a tool was entirely dependent on how skilfully or wisely it was used.
During my first year of consulting the I-Ching I asked about the relationship I was in. We had been together a year and a half and I wanted out. My girlfriend was short, attractive and we got on well together but having lots of Taurus she was beginning to put on weight and being so Sagittarian I wanted a girlfriend that was tall, athletic and youthful. I did not want things like getting fat, getting old etc. Besides, my girlfriend did not fully share my interest in Astrology and the I-Ching. It seemed time to leave; yet my heart could not quite justify it. On consulting The I-Ching it bizarrely told me that I should commit myself to the relationship and have a long-term perspective. It had clearly made a mistake so I asked it again. I received almost exactly the same answer! (I ought to point out here that I believe the I-Ching to have a well-developed sense of humour. One time when I received a hexagram with 4 moving lines in which I did not understand, I consulted it again to ask it to clarify exactly what it meant and it gave me the same 4 lines and hexagrams! On another occasion I was building a stone wall but could not find enough stone or the right type. I was so blocked and frustrated that I went into the house to consult the I-Ching and I threw the third line of Oppression (47) which says “One is oppressed by stone”). The advice bemused me but I had learnt to respect the I-Ching by then. I thought carefully about what I had thrown and I realised that I was going to reach this point in whatever relationship I had, so perhaps now was the time to learn to get past my romantic mind-pictures. I committed myself to the relationship fully in order to learn to give up on illusions about romance and commit to something real. The I-Ching was pleased with me. My girlfriend on the other hand was stuck in a black hole where she was happy with the relationship but worried that since it was her first real relationship (we were only 19 when we got together), what if she might be missing something? She decided to end the relationship. She came back to me within days to say she had was caught and perhaps she did not want to end it, but she was still vacillating and stuck so I gave her permission to go and be free. What I realised was that I had left the relationship cleanly, without messes or a responsibility for hurting someone. I also realised that I was ready for this stage when it occurred in my next relationship. I had learnt to move well in the way that the I-Ching teaches. Knowing enough astrology to see that I had a Sagittarian desire for a tall slim, youthful looking wife and that my Sagittarian personality would probably always be dissatisfied in relationships was a valuable insight. How to deal with this and to be in the I-Ching’s language “free of blame” was the necessary wisdom to complement the Astrology.
The I-Ching teaches that inhibition is the path to freedom. A number of psychotherapist friends of mine tell me that this is dangerous and that you should get everything out, yet learning as a student from my friend Chrissy she made a valuable distinction that is now very much part of the way that Emotional Intelligence has moved. Chrissy distinguished between repression, the denial of an emotion and inhibition, where we feel and acknowledge the emotion but choose not to act on it if it is not appropriate. It is interesting that the current research on the brain from people like Ian McGilchrist (The Master and his Emmisary) and a recent article in the New Scientist, both talk about the role of the forebrain in creating our ability to be aware and also to inhibit our emotions. What is fascinating here is that on Chrissy’s pattern the forebrain is ruled by Aquarius and Saturn – Awareness and Inhibition. It is extra-ordinary that Ian McGilchrist has reached the same conclusion from an academic and scientific background.
So, back to me (given I am the Sun rising in Sagittarius, I rarely stray far from this fascinating topic!), having split up with my girlfriend what happened next and why was this so valuable? What happened next was that I decided to give up on relationships and I set about missing the boat. Given that I have been a student of Chrissy’s for twenty-five years now, I must acknowledge my debt to her role here. It was Chrissy that taught me the I-Ching and furthered my interest in Astrology; she also had a profound influence in teaching me how to take a wise approach to life. In spending two years missing the boat, I was practising giving up the inaccurate mind-pictures or mental models that I had of the world. I stopped watching television, I meditated a lot and I sorted out my finances. I also gave up on career. I realised that I did not really know how to approach any of these areas and I realised that the models the world presented, which largely revolved around missing the boat were confusing and unhelpful. Chrissy’s advice was that it was not worth worrying about getting a girlfriend since Life already knew when and if that would happen. I notice that most people are busying trying to get somewhere or get something in their lives; whereas my experience has been that this is an illusion and that we are not in control of such things. Whilst waiting patiently and giving up on the world, I came to realise that the reason I was having difficulty in friendships and relationships was down to my Sagittarian shadow which had such high expectations about the type of girlfriends and friends that I should have. Sagittarius’ shadow is the groupie who has to be where it is at and have the trendiest friends and girlfriends. I asked Life, if it were possible and part of my journey, if I could have a very Cancerian and committed wife, who shared my interest in Astrology and the I-Ching. Then I sat down and practiced waiting and being content. The first thing that happened was that I met my life long friend Sam. Sam was a jewel, but I had to give up my Sagittarian shadow to see that. After two years, I met my wife (a woman with the Sun, Ascendant, Mercury and Venus in Cancer and a Taurus moon). She did not fit the Sagittarian bill but I learnt to inhibit my Sagittarian (and Uranian) dissatisfaction and after twenty-two years together I realise that it was perhaps the single most rewarding and valuable thing I did in my life. What is interesting is that the Sagittarian side of my personality expresses itself (and Jupiter in Gemini in the 7th) through travelling around the world engaging with people on wisdom and the I-Ching. When we inhibit our personalities from expressing at a more instinctive level we allow them to express in more evolved ways. This is not to say that the emotions we feel change but that we are less attached to acting on them. We can acknowledge our jealousy, rage, desire for power but not act on it. I think the great gift of Astrology is paradoxical, that it gives us the ability to separate our consciousness from our personality and to have the freedom not to act on its impulses and identify so strongly with it. The I-Ching guides us on how to move wisely so that we can be free of blame, of creating messes and hurting others. The combination of the two seems the most powerful axis I know of for living in an enlightened way.
PS. The Astrological Association is holding its conference on the 7th to the 9th of September 2012 (http://www.astrologicalassociation.com/pages/conference/2012/index.php). This provides a suite of seminars from top astrologers across the 3 days.