Astrology: To Know Oneself
It is important for you to understand that it is my view that the primary purpose of astrology is to learn about yourself -- to know yourself. In other words, a successful astrologer comes to know him or her self through practicing astrology.
What are Techniques?
Each generation of astrologers passes on a body of technique and it is up to each student of astrology to realize those techniques or to develop new ones. Without the realization, there is no astrology being done. And the path of realization is like a flash fire that leaves behind it a residue -- the particular technique that remains after the insight has passed. W. B. Yeats had a poem, a line of which went something like "The grass cannot but keep the form, where the mountain hair has lain."
These techniques or sacred remains are potent. They are the essence of our most inner experience and they are what are passed on to the next generation. When you learn or receive a new technique, it is important to revivify or realize it. Otherwise, it remains one more stone around your neck -- a mindless imitation.
Techniques as Empowerment
In this short period of time, I will do my best to present to you a technique that I have accumulated over the last 30 years. I would like to make it available to you. And to steal a little from the great poet Gertrude Stein, "before this technique will be presented, this technique will be presented," something like that. Or, in other words, there is a difference between your expectations of what I have to say and what I have to say. Much of my job will be to disappoint your expectations.
Heliocentrics Lineage Andrew McIver
I was introduced to heliocentrics back in the 60s, but not in the way you might imagine. In the mid-60s, I met an 80-year old man, while I was walking on the campus of the University of Michigan. This was not your average meeting. In the midst of the many people surrounding us on that busy campus, like slow motion, we each became aware of the other. It was as if we were in a great cathedral and we moved toward one another as if we were the only ones there. Great stalks of light seemed to shoot out of his eyes. It was an important event in my life.
It turned out that this man, whose name was Andrew McIver, was a traveling initiator for a Rosecrucian order. He had been born in Scotland and then resettled in North America. For a number of years, I worked with Andrew McGiver in a close teacher/student relationship. Although (as you can see) I like to talk, I seldom spoke in this relationship. I listened as this very wise man spoke to me. I would sometimes spend 10 or twelve hours with him without ever saying anything myself. He did not require me to respond. I would return to my apartment at the end of the day, exhausted from the taking in of material.
And he would speak to me like I had never been spoken too before. He knew what he was doing and he said that he was tuning me like one would tune an instrument. Someday he said, years from now, I would respond to his tuning. And one thing that he said over and over again (and this is why I tell this story) was "Michael, imagine yourself standing at the center of the Sun." Then he would growl in a way that I could never imitate and say "that's hot stuff."
I, of course, took this in as much by osmosis as anything else, without much understanding what it all meant. He died in 1969 and I, his only student with him at the time, saw to his burial and even designed a gravestone -- a glyph of the Sun. Although I had been studying astrology for some years already, it was not long after his death that I found myself discovering heliocentric astrology. Without even remembering what he had said, I was imagining myself standing at the center of the Sun. And that is the beginning of my study of heliocentric astrology. I had the supreme good fortune to meet this teacher and to be able to receive some small portion of his teachings.
Since I was working with programmable calculators in the early 70s and personal computers in the mid-70s, I had been exploring all of the various techniques that the history of astrology had presented to us. From my point of view at the time, these were all to be treated in an equal manner. That is, every technique had its own merit, and all were equivalent ways to look at oneself through astrology.
And that is the way I approached helio astrology, just like I had approached secondary progressions or harmonics -- as another technique in a long list of interesting techniques.
I looked at my helio transits and they were useful to me. They worked. I looked at the difference between planetary placements in my geo and helio and charts, and learned something. For example, my geo Mars is in Aries, but my helio Mars is in Aquarius. I found that interesting. My personal or geo Mars was hot and full of fire, but my inner or helio Mars was group oriented -- other things were accomplished. These kinds of things were what I was thinking.
Helio is Different
In other words, I was extending the techniques and the way I used these techniques from the astrology I knew to another area of astrology that I did not know -- in this case, heliocentrics. I am sure we all do this. It did not, at first, occur to me that this area might be different and that, aside from differences in technique, there were differences in level -- great differences.
The first glimmer of what helio was all about came when I began to study aspects and aspect patterns from the heliocentric perspective. I began to examine what the planets were doing, not in relation to Earth (our particular perspective), but in relation to each other and to their great shining center, the Sun.
"We don't Live on the Sun"
Since I have spoken about helio for many years now, I have heard all of the comments from those who have not studied it. "We don't live on the Sun", "We don't live on the Sun, so how could helio be important ."This sort of thing.
Indentity is Circulation
At the time, I was understanding that we share in the life of our entire solar system. We not only live off the light and warmth of the Sun, but we are children of the solar system and its great center, the Sun. In other words, that inner life we all value is not just an Earth thing, but a solar system thing and a galactic thing. Our identity is linked to the centers we revolve around -- plain and simple. We are that. Or, that is our identity. The great insight for me at that time was that identity is circulation.
In other words, the process of identifying for each of us involves the flow of consciousness and the thrill of identification is the experiencing or connecting of ourselves to a hierarchy, something more than we had imagined -- connectivity. a conduit. Our essence is not so much an "inner core," but rather a relationship and our identity is simple circulation or the dawning of awareness of what is.
Space as Dark and Cold
So identification is circulation, but a circulation of what. I had been raised in the 1950s and Eisenhower era to appreciate myself (and Man in general) as a speck of dust in the cold black void of space. It was sheer chance that we were there at all. As I began to identify with the energy of the Sun and the solar system as a whole, I experienced myself as a part of that system and my consciousness as representative of our system. I was a child of the system and my intelligence was the intelligence of the system itself looking out. Where before my personal consciousness was like one tiny candle cupped to keep the cold, dark winds of the surrounding universe from blowing it out, now, I was all the consciousness there was looking around at my own creation. I myself was the spaceman that I had waited to arrive on earth. I was the intelligent life that I wondered when it would come. I was looking at myself. This is what I mean by "identity is circulation."
We are the Spaceman
All this was appropriately mystical. And I extended my understanding from the solar system to the local system of stars of which our Sun is one member, to our galaxy, to our local supergalaxy, and beyond. I examined everything that was known about the universe at the time and came to understand that it was about the life and death of stars, not unlike our own lives and deaths. I made friends with that dark cold "out there" in which I was raised and came to know it as the here and the now.
Astrologers I knew were unaware and not interested in this material. The exceptions were my friends Charles Jayne and Theodor Landscheidt. Jayne and I would get together whenever possible and speculate on such things as the structure and the location of the center of our local system of stars. I ended up spending a couple of years in astronomy/physics libraries collating the latest deep-space results into a book, Astrophysical Directions. I located the center of the local system for Jayne (somewhere in the middle of Virgo) and I was the first astrologer to locate and write about our local supergalaxy. I am connected, by lineage, in all of this to Landscheidt. So much for the macro view.
On the other end I began working with the horizon system. local space.
What am I saying? My geocentrical traditional astrological training and experience gave me nothing to compare with it. Compared to what? My experience with heliocentric and deep space on the macro level and with local space on the micro level gave me a flexibility and a perspective that I had never known existed. Geocentric astrology became a subset of helio astrology.
Retrograde: Psychologically Still Earth Centered
Since time is short, I will give you one solid example of the power of the helio perspective. For centuries, man studied the forward and backward motion of the planets in the sky that we have come to know as direct and retrograde motion -- the retrograde phenomenon. Who could explain it? The moment the heliocentric concept was presented, all of these various meandering motions fell into place and disappeared in the smooth circular motions as seen from the Sun center.
My thesis is that although science has known for centuries that the planets circle the Sun, the psychological correlate of that shift has yet to take place. In other words, psychologically we are still earth centered and have not identified with the Sun center. As scientists we are heliocentric; as psychological beings, we have yet to make that transition of understanding. It has yet to register.
This concept rolls off the tongue with no problem. Understanding what this means is what this presentation is all about.
Interface: Planetary Nodes
I have worked with many different heliocentric techniques. I published Interface: Planetary Nodes back in the mid 70s. It dealt with the nodes of all planetary orbits to each other, just as we have been concerned with the nodes of the planetary orbits to the eclipic -- Earth's orbit. Another technique, Burn Rate, represented a new way to consider retrogrades based on the relationship between the helio and geo positions for planets. But perhaps the easiest way to get a sense of what the helio has to offer has to do with the large planetary patterns that can be seen in helio charts.
Our solar system seems to have a life of its own -- a life of our own. The ever-changing aspect patterns are one way to get a feel for what the helio coordinate dimension has to offer.
Coordinate Dimensions -- Alternate Dimensions
It is important to understand that the various astrological coordinate dimensions (geocentric zodiac, mundane space, helio, local space, and so on) provide alternative views of the same natal chart or event. We have the same planets, the same moment in time and space, but viewed from radically different perspectives. No matter how valuable a single type of chart (such as the standard geocentric) is to your practice, the moment you have something to compare it to, you enter a new world.
Although astrologers have a wealth of astrological techniques available to them, almost all of these are based on the geocentric framework. Most astrologers have never had the opportunity to see their natal chart from any perspective other than the standard geocentric viewpoint. We have centuries of tradition based on this perspective. The moment we introduce an alternate way of looking at the same chart, something special happens.
We are no longer simply locked into one conception of things. We have something to compare our current knowledge to -- another point of view. Without a doubt, modern astrology is bound to the standard geocentric astrological viewpoint. There is nothing wrong with that view, but it is hard to know what you have until you have something else to compare with it.
Speaking from personal experience, when I began to study and explore my helio chart, it changed my astrological life. The helio not only offered another way of considering myself, but it also placed my previous geocentric experience into perspective. In other words, the geo/helio comparison helped me understand what I had been doing all these years in the geocentric mode. When I had an alternate perspective, I could see what I had all along. Although each astrological technique provides some means of comparison, the helio system is especially able to place our geocentric experience in stark relief by representing a more general and inclusive dimension.
We get a quite different perspective on any life and event. Aside from the value of any comparison, helio charts do not refer to the same level of life mapped by traditional geocentric techniques. Different centers (Earth center, Sun center) or different orientations (Local Space, mundane space) provide us with quite different perspectives on any life or event. This idea of centers and orientation is crucial.
Like many of you, I got into heliocentrics as a simple extension of geocentric astrology, which was all I knew at the time. In the beginning I made the mistake of assuming that helio and geo referred, for the most part, to identical levels of life. The single most striking realization I have had in my astrological career came with the growing awareness that the helio chart referred to my life in a very different way.
Because the helio chart and positions provide a perspective that includes our more traditional astrology within it, it is capable of enhancing our current sense of geocentric astrology or placing it in relief. I don't want to spend much time here on the astronomical difference between the geo and helio perspectives. Perhaps a single example will sum up the distinction between the two.
Most astrologers have seen the diagrams showing how geocentric retrograde motion works, usually a Z-shaped curve showing forward and backward motion of a planet against the stellar backdrop. The same motion seen from a heliocentric perspective offers only straight-ahead endless circular planetary motion. In fact, it is almost impossible to figure out what the geo motion is all about without reverting to the heliocentric diagram, which makes it all obvious. Of course, the history of astronomy supports this observation. When the idea of a Sun-centered solar system occurred, retrograde motion was properly understood.
The physical difference between the two systems described above has a psychological correlate that is every bit as clear and meaningful, yet most helio students have yet to discover this. Just as the helio diagram clears up any geocentric confusion we might have about planetary motion, so the heliocentric psychological experience has the potential of clarifying any geocentric obscuration we might be entertaining.
Helio Perspective -- First Look
I was amazed when I first became aware of the extraordinary perspective provided by the helio chart. I had been used to intuiting deeper areas of astrology from the standard geocentric natal chart. Suddenly here was a chart that brought these deep psychological archetypes to the foreground. The level of life and experience expressed by the world's spiritual leaders is conveniently mapped for us in the standard natal helio chart.
For me this was somewhat of a revelation. Among other things, it meant the end of trying to extract from my geo charts deeper insights and meaning than they, in fact, were meant to convey. Helio motions and meaning can be extracted from the geo chart, but it is as "through a glass darkly." I refer you to the simple astronomy example given earlier. It is possible to understand, through examining a geo chart, that the retrograde motion of a planet in fact moves always forward at the inner solar system level. Yet it is much more convenient to refer to the helio chart itself for a picture of these true or inner motions.
By definition, there can be no astrological map of the deepest self, the very ground of consciousness or awareness. It is inexpressible. And the helio chart is not an attempt to map that inexpressible essence. Neither is it a map of the more personal or psychological self as shown in the standard geo natal chart with its houses, ascendent, Moon, and what-not. The helio perspective is impersonal in this regard. There are no houses, no Moon, and no ascendent or midheaven to use for timing marks. If the helio chart does not map our personal circumstances, what does it show?
The helio can show the major life path or dharma for an individual. Somewhere between the personal differences that separate us and the one common essence we all share are a series of general types or approaches to life. I call them archetypes, but perhaps words like life-path, general-approach-to-life, or dharma-path may be more meaningful to readers.
There are distinct approaches to life -- dharmas. Each of us seems to feel alone until we identify the particular dharma or approach to life that fits us -- the one we represent. These great archetypes persist through the centuries and represent great lines or lineages of practitioners. Recognizing our lineage and accepting our particular approach or life path can be of crucial importance to an individual. Knowing that others share our general approach to life is very affirming.
Self-Discovery: Helio as Confirmation/Clarification
Not knowing who we are or where we fit into the fabric of life can be discouraging. Waiting for someone to find or recognize us living here in this world is frustrating. Here we are, alive and living in time and space at the end of the 20th century. Although we have a sense of who we are, for the most part, we pass unknown and unrecognized through life. I can only guess how many individuals are waiting in their lives to be discovered or found. The number must be large indeed!
In my experience, the value of the helio perspective is that it enables individuals to recognize themselves, rather than persist in seemingly endless waiting for someone to discover them. Self-discovery has always been the path recommended by all those with spiritual insight, yet self-discovery seems about the last thing we ever get around to. The helio chart is a major aid in recognizing archetypes -- the lineage or general life-path to which we belong by birth.
Self-discovery through the helio chart may not be as elegant as actually finding a real-life teacher who recognizes you and introduces you to your life-path and to those who travel with you. However, I have found that doing a bit of self-discovery on your own is a lot better than endlessly waiting to be discovered. The helio chart allowed me to discover myself in ways that traditional astrology had not made available to me. This is why most researchers feel the helio chart is an inner or deep picture of our lives and selves. These kinds of life "quest-I-ons" are natural to heliocentrics.
Through the examination of helio archetypes, you can compare the charts of everyone you know or care about. You can classify individuals into several distinct archetypes. Understanding that there are different paths and examining individuals in terms of their dharma path (archetype) can help eliminate fear and attachment in relation to those you encounter -- the power of other persons over you.
Therefore, aside from all of the interesting geocentric techniques that also work heliocentrically transits, progressions, and so on I encourage you to make an attempt to empower yourself in the helio experience. If getting empowered in this sphere were as simple as saying a few words, they would have been said a long time ago. The most I can do here is tell you about the existence of this experience and encourage those interested to become aware of the special possibilities of the helio dimension.
There is not room here to go into all of the material on the heliocentric archetypes. If I can be of help, we have reprints available of articles I have done over the years on the subject. Please feel free to write to me and request a list. Write to Michael Erlewine, 315 Marion Avenue, Big Rapids, MI 49307. Now, on to another topic.
"As above, so below, but after another manner"
This familiar occult maxim might be the perfect description of what is involved in understanding the difference in the various astrological coordinate systems. It is easy to grasp the first part of this maxim, "as above, so below." Here is the long accepted idea of "wheels within wheels," of larger systems containing within them smaller systems. Of course the helio sphere contains within it the geocentric sphere, the geo sphere contains the local space sphere, and so on.
Something becomes clear when we examine the actual structure of the various cosmic systems: not only do larger systems embrace smaller systems within them, but each larger system may also have a different orientation (inclination) or perspective to the preceding one. In other words, aside from the tedious mathematics involved in coordinate transformations, there is an accompanying philosophical and psychological adjustment to be made, a shift in viewpoint, a change in approach or attitude to the subject.
Thus there is not only an expansion in perspective when we move to a larger coordinate system, but there can also be a reordering of our sense of direction and perspective. Here is where the second part of that maxim comes in: "... but after another manner." This is what tends to make it so difficult for an individual to see beyond his present dimension and get a feel for what is perhaps his or her inevitable future. Event horizons exist, beyond which (it seems) we cannot understand just how our life will go on. Examples of some of the classic event horizons we all may cross are puberty, marriage, childbirth, and, or course, death.
It is difficult to see beyond our present sphere into what our future might be like in these other dimensions, because we cannot help but conceive of all future events and landscapes in terms of our present line (linear stream) of thought. To pass through these event horizons involves total change on our part. We cannot watch ourselves change, for we are, in fact, what is in transition or change. We are changing. All of the material on rites of passage and initiation comes into play here.
The crossing of life's event horizons involves something more than a simple expansion of our consciousness. It most often requires a reorientation and reordering of our experience -- a change of approach or attitude. The new dimension or sphere we enter turns out (after some adjustment) to reveal our previous or past life in a new light. This is the idea of the last or latest judgment. We see our old behavior and opinions differently after we have gone through a transformation -- a new approach to life. A married person sees single life differently than before, and the parent has undergone an initiation that is hard to express to those without children.
It is very difficult to communicate these differences to one who has not yet had that experience. It is not that we have somehow just gotten to be a "bigger" person -- able to tolerate more. What has changed perhaps most is our inclination or perspective. We do not want the same things we did want, or we want them after a different manner. We no longer feel the way we used to. Our life now revolves around a different center than before, or around the same center in a different manner. We have a new angle on life.
We all have some awareness of life's event horizons. The difference in meaning of the various coordinate dimensions by astrologers is less well recognized. And yet, most of these differences are graphically revealed through the study and exercise of the various astrological coordinate systems. For instance, what appears in one system as isolated and singular entities (apparently unconnected) can define the basic shape of the system itself when viewed from the perspective of another system. What appears "through a glass darkly" in one system (for example, retrograde motion) may be clear as a bell in another.
Identification is Circulation
A few words about centers. The word "center" is the same and yet different for each of us. What is central to us, the very center around which our life currently appears to revolve, is sacred in its ability to reveal and communicate to us something about our identity.
Our center always refers inward toward what we might call our essence, yet the means one person uses in referring to what is central may not even register for another. The center or lifeline of one individual may be a new car at one point in his life, a new wife or husband at another, and a child at an even later time.
At any point in life, the center itself is inviolate, although the outward form of how we access the center may be constantly changing. The different kinds of center and orientation may be conveniently expressed in the various coordinate systems of astrology: geo, helio, local space, mundane space, and so on. The origin or center chosen for a particular kind of astrological work should most correspond to the center of gravity, the "kind" of question or inquiry or level under consideration.
Thus, for a study of the incidents, accidents, circumstances, and specific terms of our lives, astrologers have always used the horizon coordinate system to the zodiac with its familiar MC, ascendant, houses etc. An even more exact form of this perspective appears in the horizon system -- local space astrology.
Studies of the general terms of mankind, psychological (the zodiac) or political/mundane astrology (right ascension and declination), involve consideration from the center of the Earth (geocentric astrology). The Earth is the center here.
For a study of the motion and relation of the bodies of our solar system considered as a functioning whole, the heliocentric zodiac system with the origin at the Sun center is appropriate. In the helio coordinate system, we examine the archetypes of life and consciousness and, in general, questions traditionally referred to spirituality or religion, perhaps now more recently also considered by some as depth psychology.
In fact, our life has many different levels, and our consciousness circulates from more particular to more general dimensions and back around again. Aside from our mundane focus, there are moments and even days for each of us when our awareness may glimpse cosmic dimensions. There are different levels of truth or reality.
What is essential as a singular kernel of truth to one person may appear to another as but one example among many of a larger ordering or structure. When we refer to the center around which we revolve, we share in the idea of centers; yet different ones among us revolve around or consider differently what is central or essential.
The astrological maps of these different regions, each with their particular center and orientation, are glimpses or snapshots of the larger picture that is our continuous lifetime -- a continuing experience or identification. In other words, all of these larger systems (such as the horizon, geo system and helio solar system) include us within their reach like a mother holds a child within her womb.
We are the children and particular representatives of the Earth, but also of the solar system, the Galaxy, and beyond. Their natures, identities, and selves are identical with our own. In fact, we have come from this so-called outer space through all time to be here now: ourselves. We have always been in outer space.
Our consciousness continually circulates from more particular awareness to more cosmic awareness and back around again. Seldom do we put it all together in conscious identification or awareness. The exercise of the various astrological coordinate systems, like exercising our muscles, can serve to remind us that all reference to centers, all referral indicates an attempt to achieve simple circulation (circle) or identity -- to remember or remind ourselves of who we already are and have always been. We re-member or connect all the pieces of our life together. Our consciousness connects and runs through them all and we achieve identification -- identity.
In other words, all discovery or identification is self-discovery, and identification is simple circulation. The goal of our study and our inquiry into astrology is to re-present and reveal the nature of ourselves and our intimate circulation, connections, and identities in the heart of the Earth, heart of the Sun, heart of the Galaxy, heart of the Supergalaxy.
All identification is simple circulation, a continuing or circle, and all inquiry, questioning, and search can but end in the discovery of the self, whether writ small in the corners of our personal struggle or writ large across the very heavens. Again, all discovery, all identification, is but re-discovery and simple circulation. The fact that the heliocentric and other alternate perspective charts are now coming into regular use represents a great step forward. Instead of having but a single snapshot of ourselves, we have multiple shots of the stream of our lives to compare to one another. Out of all these views emerges a better image and sense of who we are at all levels.