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How you see astrology itself determines how you engage a chart...

By John Townley, February 2015

When I began as an astrology student, sometime in 1968, my first teacher Al H. Morrison used to hand out a valuable set of copied, typed sheets, entitled 15 Points of Professional Astrology, by the early twentieth-century astrologer Vivian Robson. It was, in effect, an “order of battle” in which an astrologer should approach a chart when analyzing it. What comes first, then next, what’s more or less import in weighting, and so on.

Formalized “orders of battle” on land or sea have been around since just slightly after organized conflict began, and they go through major sea changes when the technology of conflict changes. The most important recent ones in modern history are likely the Napoleonic Wars (when Nelson won at Trafalgar by turning the rules on their heads with a “line-ahead” attack instead of the long-prescribed  “line abreast”); WWII and blitzkrieg (“lightning war” where armored cavalry, air strikes, and paratroopers spearhead sudden overwhelming attacks); and most recently guerilla or asymmetric warfare where a diffuse, hard-to-find smaller force can tie up or defeat a much larger traditional one. All three were driven by changes in technology and in the understanding of how to use it.

Concepts of the horoscope have changed from divine clockwork to inborn character psychology and again are moving on...

The approach to reading a horoscope has gone through similar shifts over the years, based on the prevailing philosophy of universal structure and scientific measurement of what that structure might be. The first big shift was the result of Copernicus and heliocentricism, when astrology began to be looked at as more spiritual or symbolic than physical, as the original view of a directly connected earth-centered universe was set on its ear. As individualism and secularism stepped in to take an even greater toll, by the twentieth century the next step was to turn it into a pseudo-science somehow connected and perhaps backed by modern psychology and/or inner organic proto-symbolism (the “Jungian” approach) that depicted an inborn template of character. 

Currently tentatively underway is a shift toward a much more physical and environmental approach, in which only known principles such as gravity and electromagnetism are in play, within which individual events and persons float in mutual resonance with interacting cycles of force, rather like boats upon the sea. In less-nautical, more-geek parlance, that’s like we’re individual nodes oscillating in a matrix or network, where shared planetary repetitions (and thus degree areas) nudge and unite us in sets, within a broader overall manifold. Indeed, the physics of it is likely similar to harmonic analysis in music or light spectra, or orbital mechanics, coming full circle to the earliest thinkers in cosmology such as Pythagoras.

Critical Assumptions

Each of these approaches entails many critical assumptions about what’s important to look at that the subsequent ones later eschew. We no longer look at the planets as messengers of God or clockwork Fate, so that sort of plug-in approach (which still lingers in textbooks today, particularly in things like elaborate rulerships, the final dispositor, and the like) has been largely abandoned. More recently, the later soft psychological approach is falling on hard ground as psychology itself is turning out to be both more genetically hard-wired than previously thought at one end, and more environmentally in tune at the same time on the other. Further, the implications of chaos and fractal-theory concepts of the criticality and extrapolation of initial conditions (the original essence of the natal horoscope itself) require separating what is organically derived from a birth pattern from what is simply ancillary to it.

     A more environmental view of astrology sees individuals as interacting nodes in a network, selectively joined by transit waves.

Here are just four of multiple sea changes in concept that are now resetting our "order of battle":

1. We can now toss out a lot of accumulated detritus that simply doesn’t belong – the first of which is anything that precedes the natal instant itself, since that is the sole opening into the independent life envelope under consideration.  Already-in-play things like genetics, sex, race, economics, and preset exterior conditions are background, albeit important as the stage setting. So that means, for instance, that where an earlier astrologer might judge that a native with a fourth house Jupiter is born to wealth (in actuality far more poor than rich are born with this each day, simply because there are more poor), it is still reasonable to say that there may be greater support from the home early on and because of repeated positively-reinforced cycle hits there, the native will have a better chance of winding up better-off eventually. That same cumulative approach applies to every planet in every house, a sweeping readjustment of analysis. The basic concept is no longer God-given fate nor inborn trait, but all-surrounding environment and its post-birth cyclical reinforcement of habit and expectation upon a given initial pattern.

2. Another big change, already partly-recognized by the previous twentieth-century view, is the signs of the outer planets. These distinguish whole sets of individuals, in some cases whole generations in a block, not individuals themselves, except as they are aspected by faster, more personal planets in a chart. For instance, Pluto in Leo was a major component of many Baby-Boomers, but also of the immediately-previous generation that inspired them, and there was a distinct separate set of Boomers who had Pluto in Virgo, and had a very different group style. But a square of an inner planet to Pluto in either sign will still yield similarly troublesome results, regardless of sign, in an individual. That’s a big change in approach as well, as it separates the scales of cycles that can repeat multiply in a human’s life (and thus build, reinforce habits and expectations) from those that only repeat over the longer lives of societies, nations, cultures -- and it also highlights where the two scales meet.

The natal horoscope doesn't come full-blown from above anymore, but influences development within that grows with time.

3. Yet another changed priority will be how transits to natal are perceived. Both earlier astro-approaches looked at them as highly event-generating in and of themselves, whereas the new view paints them more as generating tides within a greater background, which increase likelihood of events entirely relative to opportunity, proximity, and stability of specific circumstance. And in this view, a rising tide doesn’t float all boats, just those a) not beached and b) in deep enough water and in position to take advantage of the rise. A good look at photos of any English harbor at high and low tides graphically illustrates the effect.  It also looks at the general state of transits in the sky (current mutual aspects at large) as reinforcing or conflicting wave forms setting up a variable sea which affects all, but particularly relevant and proportionate to how an individual is aligned with them.

4. Further, these waves are selective to the degree areas along which they resonate, and they literally sort out and shepherd individuals with like degrees into similar, recurring "families" that often have even greater strength than more traditionally-viewed genetic ties. This effect has been given many literary names from "karmic" relationships to Kurt Vonnegut's "karass" in Cat's Cradle. It is what nudges into place the warp and woof of our relational surroundings without and also gradually forms within us what we may mistakenly call character itself. In fact, it is so ineluctably pervasive you can even use it to rectify your birthtime.

These are just a handful of the kind of resets the evolving practitioner should consider to make analysis both simpler and more effective, in a shift that effortlessly dismisses the old free will vs. determinism debate as a red herring born of scientific and philosophical myopia. It’s a unifying approach that will require a lot more  inquiry to steady it in order to resolve the multiple questions of why astrology works that most astrologers today can't answer, but the theory is already there in principle, and it is up to the individual practitioner to lay a hand on it and fine-tune its practical applications.

Life and death play out upon the surface, but sea and sky resonate regardlesss, propel the players and their patterns...

But as with the literal “order of battle” on land and sea, evolution and change is the only certainty. There we’ve moved from simple hand-to-hand brutality, through standoff strikes and bombardments at long distance, to coming robotic swarms in dizzying conflict with other automatic devices, right back to the individual door-to-door level.  We can only hope the evolution of our understanding of the solar, lunar, and planetary tidal forces around us all will overtake the pace of the skills of mutual destruction we so singularly practice while sailing on life’s sky-born ocean...

P.S. So what would be a nice, textbook "15 Points"-type listing of what to look at first, next, or discard for this new approach? That will be the subject of the next, hands-on article on the new environmental astrology...stay tuned!


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