Ikigai and the Earth Houses


A client said to me the other day “I just want to find my Ikigai.” At first, I thought they were using an ironic term for soul mate, but it soon became clear that here was a lifestyle concept encapsulated within a word, and of course it was a Japanese word, because the Japanese are really good at encapsulating lifestyle concepts into single words, from bushido to wabi-sabi to my personal favourite shinrinyoku (lit. ‘forest bath’). Ikigai means ‘a reason for being’ although not literally, because it is vaguely untranslatable, but it implies a sort of harmony between the four pillars of purpose in a human life, what you: love doing, are good at, can get paid for and is useful to the community.

Searching for Ikigai is a life’s work for many people, and that’s even before they get started on the actual task that has been found to be ‘the one’. It is little surprise therefore that it is one of the areas for study in which I am most frequently consulted in my work.

At a basic level, we begin this task by searching out the obvious and understanding factors such as the rulers and tenants of the earth houses: the 2nd, 6th and 10th. Broadly these correspond to what you can be paid for, how you spend your time, and your calling or vocation. These do not map directly onto the concept of Ikigai, but they overlap and for the purposes of astrology we can create a functional model of ‘a reason for being’ here. Of course, we can posit all sorts of correspondences, since the chart is a whole, and we are its product, but in terms of work, vocation, making a living, this is a good start.

Even this is a vast stage upon which to tread, and I do not want to exhaust either of us by attempting to encapsulate every facet of such a study, but instead I want to pose a question about the relationship between these house rulers and the quality of life that this confers. It is not truly a procedural study because it is subtle, and it is esoteric, so you will have to feel your way along.

First of all, it is useful to bear in your mind the sense that tenants fade, and rulers grow to prominence. By this I mean that there is a human tendency to explore and wear down the tenant of any given house and as time and age permit, the house ruler gains greater and more apparent supremacy over the affairs of that house. This effectively means that when we are young, we follow the path of the house tenants, so to use an example if we have Neptune in the 2nd house then we might earn money as a bartender when we are young, but if the 2nd house is ruled by Mercury in Virgo then by the time we are into our 40s, we are more likely to be earning money from an analytical or studious role. Admittedly, we might be working in the accounts department of a brewery, or simply have been promoted to keeping tabs on the stock for the bar we used to work at, but the essential point is that this gradual shift in emphasis between tenants and rulers is a broad truth for us all and for this reason, the relationship between these rulers is likely to define the essential quality of the ‘work’ conundrum that comes to settle in place upon us.

Now, it seems intuitive, obvious even, to suggest that the situation, placement and aspects to a house ruler will determine some of the qualities of that house and how we experience it in our lives. If the 2nd house ruler is afflicted, in detriment, and squared by several outer planets, then the inevitable truth is, resources will not flow gently, effortlessly and pleasantly into our lap. Perhaps less obvious then, is to consider that the relationship between the rulers of two houses will denote the essential quality of how those houses work together – or don’t work together, in the scheme of our lives.

When we can put these factors in context we have a powerful diagnostic tool at our disposal.

The relationship between the rulers of the 2nd and 6th houses, for example, tells us something about the ease or quality of how we earn money, and how we spend our time. If the ruler of the 2nd house is in a sympathetic sign and trines the ruler of the 6th, then money comes easily. What we enjoy doing with our time is lucrative. Here is a condition shared by such diverse luminaries as William Wordsworth, Freddie Mercury and Charles II, each of whom enjoyed comfortable, affluent, and even lavish lifestyles by the standards of their time, and that affluence resulted from doing something that came effortlessly and pleasantly to them. There is no sense that being a poet, a songwriter or a king was in any way a chore.


Bob Marley had 12 children by 9 different women

An interesting counterpoint to this is the singular case of Reggae star, Bob Marley, who despite having been one of the most lucrative recording artists of all time was not interested in money, and made little time for it, with the result that when he died he left 12 children, wives, several mistresses and numerous music producers, band members and other stake-holders to fight over his chaotically mismanaged millions. Marley’s 6th house ruler Venus, is in Aries and squares his 2nd house ruler Saturn, also in detriment in Cancer and the 7th house.

cropped_Jackie_JFK_John_F_Kennedy_engagement_anncmnt_photos_Richard_AvedonA similar set of conditions surrounds Jackie Onassis Kennedy, who despite being the daughter of a wealthy stockbroker, and the wife of a president and later an oil tycoon, never generated or earned any of her own money. Her Jupiter and Mars were in square, with the 2nd house ruler Jupiter in detriment in the 7th house of marriage squaring Mars in the 10th. So, there are difficult conditions attached to her resources and how she spent her time: both of which were dependent upon marital status (7th & 10th).

So, having the rulers of the earth houses in relationship is arguably more important than any other factor in terms of generating resources, and finding your Ikigai. Even having those rulers in unsympathetic signs and in hard aspect is better than there being no context between them. Bob Marley and Jackie Kennedy both illustrate the principle. The detriment, the hard relationship is no barrier to wealth, indeed, it promotes wealth, but the conditions around it are burdensome, in Marley’s case because he had so many dependents, in Kennedy’s because her wealth was entirely dependent on the men in her life. So you see, there are conditions, responsibilities, commitments.

But, let us be clear, there are many factors which govern the quest for contentment and fulfilment in a human life, and in the astrology, these are only a part of the overall scheme. We have to consider all parts to appreciate the whole. The earth houses only determine the realm of earthly comfort after all. They do not illuminate our aspirations, our tribal affiliations, our loves, hopes and dreams except through the most mundane and prosaic of lenses. What of the earth planets? What is the condition to the 5th house and our sense of doing what we enjoy?


Heinrich Himmler: October 7th 1900, 15:30 Munich, Germany.

And allow me to finish this rambling foray into the human condition with a cautionary tale. When searching through many thousands of charts for any which encapsulated the ideal of material placements, I found one individual who evinced the rulers of the earth houses in a Grand Trine configuration: Heinrich Himmler, architect of the holocaust. The ruler of the 2nd, Mars, trines the ruler of the 6th, Moon, trines the ruler of the 10th, Jupiter. Whilst we could discuss the implications of this arrangement endlessly, it does set in stark relief two profound technical principles. First, the rulers of the earth houses are in perfect harmony. Himmler rose from absolute obscurity – at one stage he was a chicken farmer, to become the second most powerful man in the Third Reich in a matter of a few years: a truly meteoric change of circumstance. Second, the Grand Trine which facilitates this dynamic is, not for nothing, plagued by a tendency toward being the path of least resistance. As the well-known maxim says: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.


The Dream Dealer

It’s a time of reflection, do you feel that?

Saturn in Scorpio is really starting to work his magic. Except it doesn’t really feel like magic. Or if it is magic then it’s some old-school thaumaturgy, or one of those terrifyingly savage shamanic rituals that unfortunate sailors would get caught up in, far from home, in the South Seas in the 1700s. It isn’t fun at all.

When the Moon hit Saturn in Scorpio, the energetic landscape changed. What I really became aware of was the way in which Jupiter in Gemini was suddenly, through an act of contrast, laid bare, and he looked kind of ridiculous. Suddenly that boundless frivolity started to seem dumb. It was, in true Saturn style, a reality check. The fact is that Jupiter is appalling in Gemini. Arguably not as appalling as in Virgo, but appalling nonetheless. Jupiter, who likes depth and substance has nowhere to go except to spread himself further on the surface, because Gemini gives no natural depth. Saturn in Scorpio gets seriously deep and suddenly Jupiter looks like a second hand car salesman arguing life perspectives with Alan Watts. In many ways I am far more comfortable with Saturn in Scorpio – as ridiculous as that sounds – than I am with Jupiter in Gemini.

In part that’s a generational problem. Having pondered the conundrum for some time I believe that Neptune is partly to blame (blame? Neptune?) for this. Allow me to explain.

Neptune always gets cast as the good guy; if I may quote myself (from “Orcus” p. 202):

“I believe that Neptune is given a fabulously good press by contemporary astrology, and one that is scarcely deserved. Certainly, Neptune’s reputation is enormously positive compared to his brother Pluto’s, and yet I am endlessly sceptical about how deserving of his many generous epithets Neptune truly is. Like the ocean, Neptune seems beautiful, yearning and restive, a vastness of potential and a personification of a gentle eternity, but it seems that way from the perspective of the safe shore. Anyone who has been beyond sight of land in a black and angry sea understands that Neptune’s power is just as dread as his brother’s; equally as alien and inhumane. Pluto’s realm is buried, however; unknown to the living, whereas Neptune’s treacherous tides and currents are glamorised by his glittering waves and gentle breezes. Neptune’s dreams, poetries and symphonies are spin-doctors par excellence.”

Neptune’s wonderful trick is that he flatters to deceive by presenting us with an image of the ideal that we cannot possibly hope to realise. Then, unattained, the dream becomes a goad to our discontent.

And, when you get to grips with it, Neptune describes your dream. With Neptune in Scorpio, the basic premise is a kind of unencumbered Spartanism. You dream of a life of purity, of minimalism, of spiritual depth. If that Neptune is in the 6th house then you will have a dream about starting your day by donning your robe, walking into the clean air as the day breaks, up to the dojo under the mountain and beginning your meditation. If the 7th house, then instead, you awake in your remote cabin to find sunlight streaming through the trees. Your beautiful, funny, successful wife has made a pot of rich Columbian coffee and you join her on the porch to listen to the birdsong. In the 8th, you wake up in the presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria. The Swedish women’s volleyball team are staying on the same floor…

Okay, I’m joking, mostly.

But you get the idea. Neptune has a dream. It is highly personal and always alluring because it is purpose-made for you. With a Scorpio placement, the quality of that dream is always going to be characterised by depth and richness. It is not a case of bigger and better; rather it is a case of finding something pure and valuable, like a rich seam of gold deep in the black earth. Imagine that for a moment, it shines in the darkness and promises so much.

The placement of Pluto and aspects to Neptune are going to have a profound influence on the themes of your dream. If you have Scorpio Neptune in the 7th and Pluto in the 10th, then after you have drunk coffee with your wife, you climb into your Porsche and drive into the city to make big-money deals.  If Neptune trines Mars then of course, all the girls flirt with you, you’re so charming after all, but they all know that you’re happily married and can’t wait to get home to see your wife.

With Sagittarius, the dream changes, fundamentally. Now Jupiter is running the show, so it’s not a seam of gold buried deep in the earth any more, rather it’s a bright, hot-air balloon drifting gently in the balmy summer sky. You’re up there in the clouds looking down on the glittering panoply under your feet.

With that Neptune in the 6th house, you want a daily routine that’s filled with fun and laughter and good times. Yes, you can feel that can’t you? You get up and the kids are laughing, the sun is shining, your handsome, jovial husband is cooking breakfast and telling goofy jokes. You sit down to eat and your best friend calls and you arrange to go out for lunch after your yoga class. You see? That is the “more is more and it will all be great fun” style of Neptune in Sagittarius’ dream.

Inevitably though, the dream can become something of a curse. Actually, it invariably does, and when we experience hard transits to that Neptune, we begin to feel just how painfully short of that dream our reality actually is. The Neptune squares are the time in our life when we get the best opportunity to feel how far from that dream we are, and to make necessary adjustments, which invariably require coming to terms with the fact that we are going to have to let go of some things that don’t serve that dream. But that isn’t the only time we can improve the situation.

We are gifted another opportunity when Saturn moves into Neptune’s sign. It rarely feels like an opportunity, because the nature of these two energies are fundamentally dissonant, but for those born with Neptune in Scorpio, now is the time to make the hard and often onerous changes in your life which will help you to make the dream a reality. This is because the planet of reality is bearing down on the planet of fantasy, and when they finally meet, they are going to find a middle ground. It might be that Saturn gives way and you work hard to realise the dream, or it might be that Neptune gives ground and you start to get real about what is possible, and adjust the dream accordingly. Whichever way it goes, and usually there is a combination of both, after this transit, your ideal life, and your actual life will be closer than ever before. The process will not have been easy, or enjoyable, but you’ll be glad of it when it’s done.

With Neptune in Sagittarius, the situation is unique and considerably more compelling. Neptune in Sagittarius’ dreams and aspirations are in many ways bigger than Scorpio’s, and easier to deflate for that reason. But the great cosmic mechanism has ensured that Neptune in Sagittarius gets a double dose of adjustment as Saturn moves into Sagittarius between December 2014, and December 2017. People born in about 1971 are already being given a taste of this problem because – born between 1971 and 1972 they have Neptune in Sagittarius and Saturn in the early degrees of Gemini. They’ve lived with the dissonance of Saturn opposing Neptune their entire lives and as Neptune squares the opposition around now, the reality check can be especially sobering. Neptune is so very idealistic in Sagittarius after all, and the opposition to Saturn really polarises the fantasy with the reality. The dream is extremely positive and the dawning truth at the time of the Neptune squares can feel like a wet blanket the size of the old Soviet Union when it descends.

For those born somewhat after, they will experience Saturn moving into Sagittarius at the same time as their Neptune squares. It’s a double ‘turning of the screw’ on the dream of the perfect life, and for that reason it will feel very tough.

But in both these cases, all is not lost. The adjustment is painful and dissonant, but it also offers a powerful opportunity to make a shift of consciousness, which is always Neptune’s exalting pressure, into a truly spiritual mode of life. Once made, that shift is a panacea for the harshness of Saturnine reality, because it recontextualises material reality, success, status and toil into immaterial terms. Status is no longer being seen as a success, but rather in knowing that one is a good person. The small chores of life are no longer drudgeries, rather they are become meditations. What we call “work” is now “the Work”. Fundamentally, this shift is found in the realisation that the life of contentment and ease that we yearned for is not ‘out there’ but it is inside us, bound up in the distortion of perspective that we are somehow hard done-by, a victim of somebody else, or of God, or that, in fact, because we are good, we deserved better. Saturn teaches our Neptune that nobody gets what they deserve, they get only what they need to let go of the illusion that they deserved better.

How big is your Pluto?

This is an interesting diagram which delineates the ‘strength’ of Pluto through the signs. With Pluto, stronger does not mean better, it means, well, stronger. To have sympathy with an energy does not always mean to have more of it, indeed, Pluto is subtle, deep and most of all hidden, so to have Pluto in positive, outgoing and extrovert signs, like Leo, Libra and Sagittarius is uncomfortable for Pluto, who enjoys Scorpio for precisely the reason that he can remain subtle, deep and hidden.

But there is a way in which stronger does mean better, provided you can utilise the lessons of Orcus and find true spiritual integrity. In this way you will not be ‘broken’ by Pluto. So if you have Pluto strong then you are facing a major test in this incarnation, and one which you will learn at a much greater personal cost (but also a cost to those in your life) than the majority whose Pluto’s are less ‘out there’.

If you have Pluto close to an angle, then he becomes even stronger, and he is also strong in the 5th, 7th and 9th houses. So if you have Pluto rising in Libra or Sagittarius, and to a slightly lesser extent Leo, then know that you have quite a trip ahead of you and you need, for the sake of your eternal soul, to get down to some serious spiritual work if you want to avoid the burden of a lot of karmic payback as well as realise the not inconsiderable benefit of having transformed a great deal of Hadean force. That will make you quite formidable, but in a loving and meaningful way.

Plus, what choice do you have? Any other road leads only to unhappiness.

Future Imperfect

I think one of the great uncharted territories of astrology lies in the arena of prediction. It’s probably foolhardy, as an astrologer to even try, but we all fall for it from time to time, on any map of useful astrological employments, prediction ought to be accompanied by appropriate warning: “here be dragons” or somesuch. As it happens I have discovered a very powerful means of predicting the future, but even though it is astounding, it is also, without question a little like looking at the future as though it were a narrowly possible present. It resembles a distorted image, as though the lens of viewing were dark, uncertain and dim. Very often, the image we arrive at is rather like a jigsaw puzzle before assembly; once the future falls into the present we understand what we are looking at and how all those pieces fit together, and it makes complete sense; every piece is utilised and adds to the overall picture. Where then is the use? Well, I believe that even knowing the pieces is enough to give us clues about the general tone or theme of the big picture. When I look at those jigsaw pieces and discern a bright spray of hydrangeas, patches of thatch and blue sky, and dark glints of leaded glass, I can guess that the overall picture is of an ancient English country cottage, and the same is true enough for astrology. I can predict that somebody I know will become very sick this year, that somebody I love will die next year, and that too, for many people I know, the more things change, the more they will stay the same, and I can know all of this regardless of how the reality transpires once the future is realised.

It might seem strange, but this is not illogical. The art of prediction can never be an exact science, and while to a very great extent the exactitude of the future sketch – it cannot be more than impressionistic – is dependent upon the skill of the practitioner, even the most skilled cannot ever create a precise image of days to come.

One of the reasons for this is precisely because we do not have fate. Very few aspects of human life are set in stone. It appears to be true that our lifespan is fixed, the day we are born we are fixed into a specific timescale, which can be likened to a movie before we have watched it. We can read the back cover and discern the movie’s genre and broad themes, we can take note of its running time, and perhaps we can understand some of the characters that will be involved in driving the plot, but we cannot know the plot, nor can we understand how the movie will end.

We can make some generalisations. Generally, the purpose of a human life is to raise consciousness, but unless you are committed to that goal you will not manage anything but the most meagre of gains. The great trick of the world is to make that objective antithetic to reason. The obvious statements of human society are at odds with spiritual perspectives. But that is as it should be, because spiritual progress is synonymous with struggle. Spiritual collapse is too, but that’s a story for another day, the quality of character is everything in this world. For me these are undeniable truths that make me foolish and misguided in the eyes of the many, but which leave me no alternative but to pursue this difficult path to self-realisation. Anything else is just – at best – treading water, and how better can one define time-wasting, energy-wasting? What is astrology? Is it a map of your potential or is it the blueprint of your prison? Until we understand our true nature, we are all in solitary confinement. A little like the Buddhist who understands that to reach Nirvana we have to let go of pleasure as well as pain, we can see that we have to transcend our trines as well as our oppositions and squares, and that, of course, is very much harder to do.

I love the phrase “at odds with yourself.” I find that it describes so well the great conundrum of human life, and the gift of astrology. Society creates enormous pressure to subscribe to linear reality because:

  1. It’s all there is.
  2. Anything else is therefore madness and,
  3. This is proven by the fact that there is no evidence that anything else works, therefore it’s all there is.

It’s a neat and circular system that leaves us devoid of options. You have to believe against all common-sense that a non-linear perspective is viable and make a leap of faith. Incidentally, nobody who ever made a genuine leap of faith regretted it, not once. So there is subjective evidence that it works, but that evidence is by design, immaterial. That’s the trap of course, moving beyond the material creates a dearth of (material) evidence.

So, while your future is within your astrology, with stunning precision, every detail mapped, we cannot without hindsight put it together in perfection. The evidence for the future is immaterial. It’s easy to understand why.

Most astrologers know that Pluto is often indicative of grandmothers. Nobody really understands why unless we put together the rulers of the 4th and 5th houses. Here then we have a concepts of generations, where we put together mothers and their children. If the 4th is your mother (in the lunar correspondence) then the 5th of the 4th is your mother as somebody’s child. The 4th of the 5th is the 8th, ruled by Pluto.

If you have Mars on the descendant, squaring Saturn in the 10th then you might deduce that since the 10th is the 4th of the 7th, the placement will likely manifest through the partner’s family. Alone, the 10th is the house that concerns itself with status, the 7th house alone is the partner, so with these two planets here there will be destructive and oppressive (Ma vs Sa) in-laws who are strongly status-driven; the native will find themselves drawn toward romantic relationships with people who have ‘difficult’ families. By the same token, the 7th is the 2nd of the 6th, which suggests that one would have to work quite hard for money. Now, you might think it’s the same for everyone, after all, who doesn’t have to work hard for money, but it’s not: a well aspected and strong Jupiter in the 7th is often indicative of somebody who comes into money easily, especially through marriage (see how it all adds up?) Both realities are honoured. The 10th is the 2nd of the 9th too, so here are philosophical, religious and civic values, and money earned from them. The 10th is also the 12th of the 11th, so it represents sorrow from friends, friends that are in truth enemies (the 12th is the house of secret enemies, the 7th of open enemies), or perhaps your alcoholic or addicted friends too, as well as those friends you make ‘down the pub.’ By the same token, the 10th is the 11th of the 12th too, so it represents your spiritual aspirations, charitable groups you might belong to and medical technology. As you can see, the range of possibility is vast, and while astrology tends toward clarity, as you become more and more self-aware, you begin to close off the channels of compulsive manifestation and the Universe has to get quite creative to find new combinations of derivative houses through which to manifest unowned energy blocks into your external reality. If you work with houses in this way, you can account for everything in creation. What is your car? Is it a pure 3rd house energy: something which gets you around within your local environment, or is it a 12th house manifestation: 10th of the 3rd, a status symbol encapsulated in a vehicle: no wonder that falls in the 12th house! You’re never going to be satisfied by that are you? Not for long anyway, no surprise that’s a Neptunian energy signature, and Pisces and Neptune often seem to give a great craving for ‘dream cars’.

This myriad array of potentials of course is what makes astrology ‘theoretically’ impossible, or at best, unwieldy. Fortunately we can see how astrology gets applied using various techniques – many of which have nothing much to do with astrology – and create a retrospective form of real-world astrology that is tailored to the individual. Anyone who claims they can look at your astrology without knowing the first thing about your life and tell you they know what makes you tick is lying. They can tell you only what is more likely to make you tick. Astrology can make educated guesses and very often they’ll pay off, but not always.

I’ve discovered something new however: a process of determining what makes a human being tick. It’s remarkable, eloquent and powerfully effective, very soon I will be making that information available, once I have structured it in such a way that it can be transmitted accurately. We astrologers are always trying to balance these two opposing energies: the need for precision and operating with a usable narrowness of focus with the complexity and infinite possibility of astrology’s descriptive language. It’s extremely skilled work, and even with the evidence of a life at one’s disposal it’s difficult, so the future adds another veil over the scene that is being explored, but things change, new discoveries are made, new methods are revealed and we move confidently into a future where astrology becomes that which it is: – undeniable.

Daybreak and the 12th House Sun

Why exactly all the fuss about the 12th house Sun?

I hear the reality of a 12th house Sun bemoaned on a frequent basis. That Venus in the 12th has its plus points too, but generally, wouldn’t it be better for me if…? It’s funny, because nobody makes a great hue and cry about having Sun or Venus in Pisces – which is fundamentally the exact same condition with only a nuance of difference at best – and yet the 12th house, like the 8th and to some extent the 4th gets this ongoing bad press. It all stems from the astrology of the ancients of course, for whom a 12th house Sun had undoubtedly harsher connotations in a world without the leisure and affluence to support any but the most worldly of considerations.

And that’s all it is really. People with an 8th or 12th house Sun have to be identified with non-worldly, non-superficial objectives. For the 8th, that means that privacy and power are the keystones of personal expression and self-development. In the 12th, the ego has to be transcended – which can potentially be astonishingly difficult because the level one exposition of that imperative is to be everyone’s doormat – a common complaint levelled both at and by your average Piscean incidentally – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown, all British Prime Ministers, shared a Sun in the 12th. Hardly doormats or ‘background’ types. So what makes the difference between the future leader of the nation and the future heroin addict or perennial fall guy?

For various reasons, superfluous to this discussion, I have been attending to this issue of late. Why does it happen that the 12th house Sun so often, as Alan Leo said it, is: “promised much improvement in worldly affairs as your life advances”? Sue Tompkins – whom I respect greatly even though I believe in this instance that she has it wrong – determines that the Sun in the 12th is so tired of being overlooked that they push themselves forward with even greater vigour in later life. Of course, this seems logical, but if that were the case then why should they often manage it so well? It’s not as though arriving late at the party qualifies one for being the life and soul of it after all. Surely those who have put more time into the business of being out front in life really ought to benefit more obviously.

I think the answer is very simply found in the instance of the Secondary Progressed chart. This perspective is sorely neglected in contemporary astrology, because the nativity is not in stasis. We are not fixed any more than the seed determines the tree. Certainly it determines the species of tree, but myriad elements of environment, meteorology and soil acidity will shape the resultant outgrowth. In this way, transits and progressions quite deliberately progress our nativity. It might not be therefore that the Sun literally emerges from the cabined confines of the 12th, but countless aspects of strength and dignity are shifted in the ongoing miasma of cosmic interrelationship as the chart progresses. In Tony Blair’s case, for example, he graduated from Oxford in the same year that his Jupiter emerged from the 12th house, the Sun having moved out of the 12th two years previously at the same time as his association with the Anglican minister Peter Thomson awakened within Blair a deep concern for religious faith and left-wing politics. The Solar identity begins to emerge at the exact moment that the Sun emerges from the 12th house by Secondary Progression.

This is no mere coincidence: it happens in every case. With Gordon Brown, the Sun emerged by SP from his 12th house in 1996, less than a year from the Labour party being elected to office whereupon he became Blair’s chancellor; and too the year that – when you follow the news stories of the day – Brown actually thrust himself into the public consciousness. This is not coincidence. Of course, anyone with an 11th house Sun has by definition therefore, to weather the relative obscurities of the long years of the 12th house transit. Consider as an example George W. Bush, whose Sun crossed the Ascendant by Secondary progression in 1983, the same year his father (Sun) became president. In 1995, when he was elected to office, his SP chart evinced not a single hard Ptolemaic aspect, a most beatific astrological disposition. The impression that any retrospective of Bush’s life confers is really one of obscure origins, a slightly murky past (complete with alcoholic tendencies and DUI convictions!) and an earlier life that is lived, to some extent, in the shadows. This period concurs perfectly with the 12th house transit of his Sun by Secondary Progression.

In some ways then, it is perhaps better to be born with Sun in the 12th than with Sun in the 10th, because there is a life that starts well and ends – if not badly – at least with greater obscurity than it began. The arc of that narrative is clear too, consider the businessman (10th) who makes his fortune then through a growing consciousness of the plight of less fortunate humanity (11th house) eventually becomes a philanthropist and gives all his money to the world’s poor and afflicted (12th).

Of course, we will never escape the blueprinting of our emergence into incarnation, so the 12th house Sun will ultimately require an identification with something that represents the infinite, that corresponds archetypically with the return to Eden, and that is why selfishness backfires in the long run on the 12th house Sun and the Pisces Sun alike, but to believe that such placements confer a life-sentence of obscurity and defeat is provably very wide of the mark.

Sadness flies on the wings of the morning and out of the heart of darkness comes the light.”
Jean Giraudoux.

The Astrology of Breaking Down

Today’s article is a story. Not a made-up story, it’s a real-life story, a part of my own story, and it demonstrates, I believe, just how astonishingly powerful astrology is when you are open to its most fundamental principles, when you are fluent (and that’s a potent word in this context) in its language, and how it is a diagnostic and therapeutic tool second to none if you are experiencing life problems.

There is a phenomenon in astrology which I call the cascade effect. I shall quote myself, because I want you to understand the cascade effect, if you don’t appreciate it truly, then you will struggle to harness the power of your nativity: instead, it will remain abstract, disconnected from your reality. So:

Any physical symptom is simply an expression of the astrology at the level of last resort. That psychic impetus that you have not manifested at some level higher-up in the totality of your awareness has – left with no viable alternative – found its way out into the body, and that is the cause of your symptom.”

Meditation or prayer is a powerful tool for healing when combined with astrological self-awareness

So, if you are sick, then there is a problem in your nativity that has been triggered. Of course, for the sake of clarity, this does not mean that if you have caught a cold there is a problem in your nativity; but if you are unusually sick, relative to the statistical norm for people of your age and background, and even, in fact, relative to your own experience. What this means is that if you become ill, and your symptoms are severe, chronic or unusually distressing, then the reason for that problem will be found in your nativity.

That problem will have manifested at different levels too, although, if it has reached the ‘low-point’ of the physical body, then the chances are that you haven’t noticed it manifesting in any of the higher levels, but have no doubt, it will have been there! I have a theory that these problems want to be noticed, simply because the natural impetus of the human soul is toward improvement and purification. Let me use an analogy.

You go and buy a TV, and because you’re short of cash, you buy it on credit. The next day you lose your job, and because you are always a bit short of cash you didn’t get any unemployment insurance, so you miss the first payment on your new TV. A month goes by and you receive a reminder in the post. You ignore it, thinking you’ll soon be back in work and you’ll sort it out then. Another reminder arrives and you ignore that, and the next, and you’re beginning to get a little panicky about it now. The phone rings and you’re screening the calls and it’s the credit company, so you start avoiding the telephone (we’ve all been there right?) A couple of weeks later, you get a really threatening letter telling you you’re going to be taken to court if you don’t get in touch and sort this out.

Now, you can carry on with this story, right up to the point where the bailiffs are kicking in the door and clearing out all your worldly goods, you get evicted and end up living in a homeless shelter; but since I already said this would be a true-story and not make-believe, I’ll leave all that to you.

The point is that your astrology works in exactly this way, except it doesn’t use uneasy feelings, reminder letters, phone calls and bailiffs; rather it uses synchronicity, feelings of discomfort, interpersonal conflict and physical sickness as a direct correlation.

What this means is that the Universe (which from a philosophical perspective is really your nativity) starts making things happen in external reality as a way of trying to tell you that you need to take note of this problem and start dealing with it. We call this synchronicity for easy reference. Astrology is a universal language; Mercury is concerned with an array of factors, from communication at the interpersonal level to nerves and lungs (and so on) at the physical level. Similarly, Mars rules assertion and competition at the interpersonal level and the muscles, the head (and so on) in the physical body. Therefore, if you suffer from neuralgia or frequent toothaches then the chances are that there is some difficult connection between Mercury and Mars in your nativity. This might not be immediately obvious, but here is a list of some possible interconnections:

  1. Mercury in aspect (especially hard aspect) to Mars.
  2. Mercury in Aries or Mars in Gemini.
  3. Mercury in the 1st or Mars in the 3rd.
  4. Having a stressor aspecting the midpoint of Mercury and Mars (e.g. Sa=Me/Ma).
  5. Having both planets in weak positions, thus Mercury in Sagittarius and Mars in Libra, (or even Mercury in the 9th and Mars in the 7th).
  6. Having another planet act as an intermediary: for example having Jupiter in Aries (thus ruled by Mars) in tricky aspect to Mercury. Or vice-versa, having Saturn in Gemini in tricky aspect to Mars.

Now the crucial point here is that this problem will be trying to get itself noticed throughout your life, but like the reminder letters from the credit company, you’ve been ignoring them. What happens next is that you get a (cosmic) phone call, and maybe you start experiencing heightened conflicts in your interpersonal relationships; you’re always arguing with some people (and just what is their problem anyway!) but still you take no notice, you stop answering the phone and eventually, the bailiffs start kicking the door down. AKA: you get sick.

There are  a number of other stages of course: you might get divorced, your car might break down repeatedly (that’s a Mercury problem too), but whatever, ultimately, if you don’t take notice at one of these other levels, eventually you leave the Universe no other option than to give you a really big and obvious hint and make you sick.

Of course, you can go on with this (as with the original story) and ignore the bailiffs too, but now you’re playing a high-stakes game. Your quality of life might be affected or you might be hospitalised: you could even die; and lots of people do, believe it or not, rather than fix the original problem which is sitting there (often plain as day) in their nativity.

So you see, by following the TV bought on credit example, you can begin to understand how your astrology actually works. It would be nice of course if we were able to work out what was wrong even before we got the first reminder letter, and actually, with practise you can. You can cultivate a habit of taking notice of synchronicity, those coincidences that seem too uncanny to truly be mere coincidences and try to interpret what the underlying message is all about, but of course you need to be aware of the universal and symbolic language of astrology before you can understand the message. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t be able to understand the message (you can of course use a good interpreter).

The human body is an energy matrix that is mapped by your astrology

Now, one more note before we move on; the reminders, like the problem that is attempting to get noticed are not random. They are always triggered by transits, directions, and especially – in my experience – Secondary Progressions. What this means is that you can usually find the cause of the sickness if you take a look at the Secondary Progressed nativity at the time the problem was first noticed. It is not always there (but that would be unusual, especially if the problem is serious), but if it is not, then it will certainly be obvious in the transit chart, the progressed Solar Return chart or somewhere else. You will find it if you know how to look for it.

Now, I could provide theoretical examples, but it would be more powerful, and easier, to give a real-life story to illustrate this issue. This article will probably be especially interesting to anyone with difficult aspects between Mercury and Saturn.

In my own nativity, Mercury is peregrine (not classically peregrine, but Ptolemaically unaspected). That means it receives no major aspects. There are only three minor aspects, a quintile (72°) to Jupiter, a semisquare (45°) to Pluto and a quincunx (150°) to Saturn. I have never had the slightest problem accessing the Pluto semisquare, Mercury is in Scorpio and in mutual reception with Pluto in Virgo, and I understand the quintile to Jupiter (I have a fortunate knack for learning: if I want to understand something I will), but I’ve never been especially aware of the aspect to Saturn.

There are two factors to consider here: the aspect, and the quality of the blend. A quincunx is an aspect which fundamentally connotes dissatisfaction: when you try to combine these two energies, you’re never entirely satisfied with the result; it therefore creates a push for perfectionism. Mercury – Saturn on the other hand has plenty of meanings, but fundamentally, it suggests that when you are involved in a communication or exchange of ideas (thus anything from a chit-chat to a formal learning process) there is a feeling of inadequacy, blockage, slowness or frustration. I’d never been consciously aware of any such problem in my life, any dissatisfaction with my communication or ability to learn and as a result I’d never taken too much notice of the aspect before but then, two months ago I began to develop a problem with my shoulder.

As an astrologer, I determined that I really ought to be taking notice of this, because obviously, I’d been ignoring a problem all the way down the line, so I needed to find clues. I thought about it for a few days and went to see the doctor. The shoulder had become so bad by this point that I was practically paralysed, I could hardly move and my every waking moment involved severe pain. The doctor told me that I had a nerve trapped between two vertebrae in my spine and prescribed me powerful painkillers and a muscle relaxant which helped but did not ‘fix’ the problem. I was therefore tasked with translating the problem into the universal language of astrology in order that I find a solution. So, I had: a nerve (Mercury) that was trapped, compressed between two bones (Saturn), which resulted in muscular pain (Mars) for which the doctor (Hygeia) prescribed drugs (Neptune).

So, the trapped nerve immediately made me take notice of Mercury quincunx Saturn. But other events started to make themselves felt.

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car overheated (Mars) and all the water exploded out from a burst pipe in the engine (Neptune and specifically: Mars-Neptune, the explosion of liquids). The next day the temperature dropped and there was heavy snowfall so the water in the engine froze (Saturn), I hadn’t had a chance to put antifreeze in. This resulted in repeated problems with the car; it kept breaking down (Mercury-Saturn). I’ve actually become quite good friends with my mechanic as a result, because he’s had to fix the car (Hygeia) so many times!

So, all the clues are here: we have a Mercury Saturn problem, with elements of Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Hygeia thrown in for good measure. Now here is my nativity:

As you will see, all of the aforementioned planets are involved in a complicated matrix of hard aspects in my nativity. I was born with this problem. Evidently, I’d managed to ignore the reminder letters, and the phone calls, and now the bailiffs were knocking on my door.

So, what’s the story here? I included the Sun in this picture because it’s relevant.

When I was three months old my father left and I never saw him again (Sun opp. Saturn Rx). My mother remarried when I was 4 and I had never been especially interested in my biological father but through a long course of synchronicities I had finally got to the point where I’d decided to contact him, which I did: just before Christmas. So, for the first time in my life since the age of 3 months, I communicated (Mercury) with my father (Saturn). Shall we call that another coincidence?

So what then is the fundamental problem? As I said before, Mercury – Saturn aspects are all about feeling intellectually inadequate. That would probably seem quite laughable to anyone who knows me well, and indeed, if anyone had told me a year ago that I had a lack of confidence in my intellect I’d probably have found it quite laughable myself, but the more I examined the issue, the more it made sense.

The chakras are the primary energy centres of the human body

My stepfather, whom I love dearly, has always told me how incredibly bright I am, as has my mother. In my stepfather’s case that was all very well, but he is a Cambridge University professor and one of the most supremely intelligent, wise and self-possessed human beings alive on this earth today (which really is no exaggeration). That’s a real legacy to live up to. Upon serious reflection then, I now realise that this first became a problem for me at the age of 14 (when I had my first Saturn opposition, thus triggering the Sun opposition to radix Saturn and the quincunx to Mercury). I fell behind at school after being the highest achieving pupil in my year: and this at one of the best schools in the country. I essentially flunked my exams. Still, my parents persuaded me to go back and take A’ levels, but I lasted almost until the point of taking the exams and I dropped out again. Even still, I went back to school many years later and took A’ levels, this time at 29! The Saturn return: and I got into University as a mature student. I started taking History with Archaeology (how Saturnian is that?) but then decided that it wasn’t for me and switched courses: supremely late, to Computing with Psychology. I got two years through my course and became so discontented that I basically flunked out again.

I am quite sure you are seeing a pattern here.

Sun-Saturn connotes somebody who is not so much motivated by a desire for success as they are paralysed by a fear of failure. They can do quite well in life, but crucially, their efforts are fuelled primarily by not wanting to fail.

Now, the Mercury – Saturn connection provokes a test as does any Saturn connection, there is a looming qualm, an innate inadequacy which the native struggles to overcome, usually through persistent hard work. When connected with Mercury, that test relates to intelligence, one’s ability to learn and communicate knowledge, and it relates very precisely to academic matters, so Saturn here says: are you academically able? The aspect is quincunx, so there is a seeking after perfection, things have to be just right or the aspect nags, like grit in your shoe, demanding that you get it right. But then Sun-Saturn is paralysed by a fear of failure and the primary role-model for success in a man’s life are these exact male archetypes, Sun and Saturn, the living embodiment of which is found in the father or father figure.

So, when your primary father figure is one of the most well-qualified human beings on the planet (and he really is: you could count on one hand the number of people alive today with his credentials in his field, he has taught at Harvard, UCLA and held a professorship at Cambridge) then really, to say that’s a tough act to follow, is an astounding understatement. My younger brother summed it up rather astutely when I saw him a couple of weeks ago when he asked: “what actually is the point in trying to distinguish yourself academically in our family?”


It has dawned on me since that the reason I had always dropped out of education before I really got finished was because then I didn’t have to fail (Sun-Saturn) which meant that I wouldn’t therefore have to feel stupid (Mercury-Saturn). What else was there? Any child only wants to individuate and exceed their parents’ expectation, so what was I going to do, become a double professor?

And that’s when I realised that I had an intellectual inferiority complex. It’s not remotely my stepfather’s fault of course, he is as humble, gentle and kind as the day is long, he would never crow about his achievements – indeed, the only reason I even know that he is a professor, or where he taught is because I’ve read his biography in the numerous books he has had published. It hit me with a kind of kaleidoscopic rush. I can now sense the inner tension that builds as soon as I feel pressured to learn something, and it resonates dissonantly, at the same time, with an inner pressure to achieve that learning goal; to prove myself.

And do you know what happened as soon as I realised this?

The pain began to subside. Well, I have a lot of work to do and it will probably take many weeks to fix myself for good, but I feel as though I am on the mend.

Understanding this, let us revisit the story of my car:

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car went through numerous cycles of overheating and freezing (Mars – Saturn: Saturn is in Aries thus ruled by Mars), Mercury was retrograde (breakdowns) and in Capricorn (thus ruled by Saturn). The Sun – Saturn opposition points to a congenital weakness, my mechanic tells me that I bought the car with this problem (on Ebay), and of course, the mechanic himself is represented by Hygeia which is the apex point of a tee square from the Sun – Saturn opposition.

It was when I looked at my Secondary Progressed chart that I decided to just buy a new car, I had already thrown away a small fortune on trying to get the old one fixed.

There are a number of remarkable features here. Before I explain though let me tell you a little about progressed Mercury. I was born with Mercury at 7 Scorpio, unaspected. Mercury continued to progress direct through Scorpio until 1984 – the year I first took my high school exams – when it turned retrograde. It moved back through Scorpio until it had returned to its birth position, when I decided to go back to school and get the exams I needed to go to University. When Mercury was in perfect quincunx to SP Saturn I actually made the decision that I would give up work and go back to school (although it took a while to realise that plan fully). When I experienced my Saturn Return I started University. Mercury continued to retrograde until it reached 1 Scorpio, in 2004. When Mercury came within a degree of the natal quincunx to Saturn (for the 3rd time now) I started to experience pain in my shoulder and the car started to break down.

Quite apart from the rather remarkable fact that SP Mercury has been in Scorpio my entire adult life: and will be until I am well into my 60s, what you will see is that just now, there is a Mars – Hygeia conjunction at the exact midpoint (all midpoints express the two aspecting points) of the Mercury – Saturn quincunx. Hygeia is indeed in exact squile (half-way between the sextile and the square) aspect (75°) to both Mercury and Saturn (don’t laugh, it’s an important and neglected aspect, especially for progressions – as is the squine: 105°). So, the mechanic, the doctor, my health are receiving the tension of needing to fix my intellectual insecurity complex. Mars (overheating, muscles) is manifesting in both the car and my own physical body.

Esoterically I have been reading an interesting book about chakra healing. I meditate most days so I am fairly comfortable with the idea of moving energy around my body, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve always experienced a sluggishness around the meridians in my right shoulder that run up into my neck. I’ve also suffered with a long-standing gallbladder problem (Pluto is on the degree for the gallbladder) and the gallbladder meridian runs up over the right shoulder blade, up the right-side of the neck and on upward through the throat chakra.

Mercury-Saturn of course certainly highlights the throat chakra as an area of potential concern and difficulty (Mercury: communication / Saturn: block). I have had to learn to moderate my communication over the last couple of years, the fallout from my divorce have made that necessary, and in the last few days I am beginning to find the requisite peacefulness of heart to speak my truth without recrimination. The heart chakra, precedes the throat chakra as energy travels up the spine, so the neck problem can only be cured with love and understanding.

What I have learned is this:

I do not need to prove myself to anyone. I am what I am and I live my life with integrity. I try to help people, for no other reason than that it brings peace to my heart to feel their pain easing. Those people who cannot hear me, I forgive, but until they too are able to set aside recrimination and blame I must remove them from my life, in order that I properly protect my sensitive emotional body and the wellbeing of my loved ones. I am learning to say only words which reflect my needs, but without bitterness or anger, balanced with the needs of those around me.

Over the coming days and weeks I will be writing to all those people that I have blamed so that I can express my regret and forgiveness.

That is the path to healing.

Erisian Elusiveness, Plutonic Potential

Here is an interesting idea.

Eris, Goddess of Discord, so named after being more or less directly responsible for the declassification of Pluto as a genuine planet and his reclassification as a ‘dwarf planet’ – if anyone is going to take Pluto down a notch or two it had to be Eris (the sister of Ares no less) – does not roll in a conventional orbit; she is differently inclined.

Which means that for long periods of her very slow perambulation around the Sun, she is far from the traditional ecliptic of the Zodiac; certainly, she makes an appearance in the Zodiac: in the sign of Pisces and Aries, (where she resides now from the astrological perspective) but in truth, she spends most of her time in realms far off the ecliptic and, heliocentrically speaking, has as her backdrop the constellation of Cetus. She’ll make a foray into Aries (and thus into the plane of the zodiacal ecliptic in 2065.)

What does this mean? The phenomenon of precession means that there is no absolute correlation between the physical zodiacal ecliptic and that which we use for casting nativities, but the planets do fall nonetheless in the same plane of the ecliptic. Eris is not at this time (nor at any point since her discovery has she been) in the zodiac at all.

Does this mean that Eris has no power until she falls into the scope of the ecliptical vibration? I certainly do not feel her influence (and I am not denouncing her for that is hubris), but I cannot make a case for the Erisian archetypes in a mundane nativity. Alternately, is she operating from an archetypal perspective that falls somewhat off kilter; Cetus is between and beyond the general region between Aquarius and Pisces; and might that explain how her influence is felt?

We do not wake up to the complex and far-distant archetypes easily. I see how completely Pluto has made his presence felt in human life of course, but it was not always so. The Wall Street crash of 1929 (financial wipeout) heralded his arrival, and the creation of an atomic bomb followed quickly, but it has taken a great deal of development to realise the transformative potential of Hades. What is truly wonderful is the understanding that with Pluto’s discovery our very beings were invested with a transformative potential! Previously, our astrology was fixed, now we are all waking up to the power to transform! Such a great gift was not even available to our great-grandparents, they were more or less cursed by the stars (or blessed of course), but now, if we are prepared to take the journey into the underworld (which is the monomyth as described by Joseph Campbell), then we can emerge, like Theseus from the labyrinth, one step nearer to our soul’s objective: Solar self-fulfilment. What a profound gift, and that too is Pluto of course: a gift beyond wealth!

So, I doubt I will make it to 2065 and I’m really not sure I’d want to, except for the interest of being able to see if there is a newly emergent Erisian reality at that time. There is so much to look forward to. Long before that the New Horizons probe will reach Pluto (on 14 July 2015, but surely it is taken as read that you shouldn’t peek into Hades’ realm?) And Regulus moves into Virgo in 2011!

So much to do, so much to get worked out, so many problems to fix (and that’s just my own!)