If you are a fan of astrology, or if you make it your profession, sooner or later you are going to run into sceptics. They believe that astrologers are frauds and they ‘make it all up.’
Alternatively they believe astrologers are well-meaning idiots, along with astrology believers. This is quite funny, because these sceptics are the same people who live their lives by the clock and the calendar. Both of which are also made up. Frankly, the time and date are about as real as Narnia, lying behind the wardrobe in the famous C.S.Lewis classic. I realise that astrology is about as real as Narnia to people who are educated in a rational universe with only science and mathematics to hold them, but at some point, you have to challenge skeptics and ask ‘Why is your reality, more real than my reality?’
ASTROLOGERS USE THE EPHEMERIS TO READ ASTROLOGICAL SIGNS AND SYMBOLS
There are no lines or numbers in the sky telling you it’s 1.00am on Tuesday 1st. In fact, if you tell me this is reality and I’m in Sydney, I can point to Los Angeles on the map and ‘prove’ there is nothing real about your notion of time and date at all. All I have to do is call a friend in a bar in downtown L.A. to argue with you!
Time is a strange business. Can you tell anyone nearby what the present is, as you are reading this article now? It’s impossible because even as you are clicking your fingers to demonstrate it, the present has already become the recent past.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
Astrologers are very concerned with time because they use a book called an ephemeris which looks like some version of Doctor Who’s Tardis instruction manual. It spans huge chunks of time. For example, I have an ephemeris here which shows me 1900 to 2100 at a glance. And in that book astrologers like me, can read the signs and symbols and see history repeating itself. That’s how we ‘see the future.’ We are just noting the repetitions.
To me, 2014 looks a lot like life 12 years ago. Why? Because I am tracking Jupiter in the ephemeris. It also looks like life, 12 years into the future – for the same reason. That is Jupiter above, as a child. He was born lucky. Jupiter is a symbol for repeated good fortune as he cycles through each sign of the zodiac in your natal chart.
THE MOBIUS STRIP MODEL OF TIME
There are many different models of time and the one I like best, is a Mobius Strip. That’s the peculiar figure-eight shape which proves that some things are non-orientable. Like time, perhaps! You can’t make the strip go backwards and forwards in any reasonable order – it is a weird 8 shape – so instead it appears to fold in on itself in an endless loop. Astrology suits this way of seeing time. If you look at the narrow bits of the band, top and bottom, you can see the uncanny part where time crosses over. This makes more sense if you imagine a calendar going around the strip. At some point, if you were to write a timeline on the paper strip with a pen, 2014 may well crash into 2026.
I believe that the intersection of the figure eight shape – the part where the Mobius Strip meets itself in the middle, twice – is a synchronicity. It’s where two totally different parts of time (like 12 years ago, and 12 years forward) meet at the same point and connect. Why? Because they share similar qualities. Some people call this a meaningful coincidence. I would describe these intersections of time as the universe, chatting away. Attention must be paid, when there is a synchronicity. Here is a good example. When I first began researching the Mobius Strip three years ago, I was staying in a house with a dog who constantly bought her toy to my bed. One day I took a proper look at the toy. It was in the shape of a Mobius loop, made of blue rubber. Some weeks later, an old friend – a lifelong knitter – sent me a headband for winter. It was in the shape of a Mobius Strip. I was hitting a time intersection.
Basically, if you want one theory of astrology it might be this – history repeats and astrologers noticed. They realised that when the outer planets like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto move through signs like Aries, Taurus, Gemini and so on – similar trends, ideas and cultural waves sweep through the world. And we understand the meaning, based on the past.
Each sign means something. Each planet or asteroid means something. Put them together and you have a code. It’s rather like folk music in that it’s a shared information code which is passed on from one generation to another. It’s a language of time. These are memes, if you like. Ideas spreading from person to person. The word meme was coined by Professor Richard Dawkins, who loathes astrology, but nevertheless it’s a good model for astrologers to use. We work with ideas and notions which jump across time.
MEMES, IDEAS AND TRENDS REPEATING ACROSS TIME – FROM WORLD WAR TWO TO WALL STREET
The theory of memes, in the hands of astrologers anyway, can explain why the North Node and South Node in any particular sign bring familiar, powerful, worldwide trends and themes. During the Global Financial Crisis recently these nodes circled Taurus and Scorpio, the signs ruling money. The North Node was in Scorpio and the South Node was in Taurus. Saturn, which always brings restriction and limitation, was in Scorpio.
At the start of the Second World War, when rationing came in, the South Node was in Taurus and the North Node was in Scorpio. And Saturn was in Taurus. Notice the patterns? If you want to talk about a meme, look at the KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster, revived for the times from British government advertising during the Second World War. It was created when there was a major cluster with the Nodes and Saturn in the money signs, Taurus and Scorpio. And it became viral when the pattern repeated, over 70 years later.
And why does Taurus rule money? The bull. Cattle. Bulls and cows are an ancient trading property. And Scorpio? A scorpion can bring about your death. Scorpio thus rules your inheritance; the property you pass on when you are dead. The goods and chattels in an inheritance. For hundreds of years astrologers have known Taurus is salary and Scorpio is inheritance. They have also known that Saturn means slowing down – and the Nodes describe repetition. All of that has come together during the G.F.C.
Skeptics throw their hands up in the air and ask why astrologers believe that a distant planet can cause us to do anything, or experience anything. But astrologers never said that at all. There might be the odd eccentric who believes magical, invisible ‘energies’ or (in the old days) ‘rays’ made people act in a certain way, or brought certain conditions about (like a recession). Nevertheless, modern astrologers don’t believe that heavenly bodies cause anything at all. They just synchronise. They are an alternative ‘clock’ and ‘calendar’ and they no more make you broke, than the clock showing 4.00pm on its face, makes you have afternoon tea.
THE SYNCHRONICITY OF THE PLANET URANUS, ELECTRICITY, DEAD FROGS JUMPING AND REVOLUTION
In 1781 in Bath, England, a musician named William Herschel, helped by his sister Caroline, discovered the planet Uranus. At first this amazing new object had no name at all. Eventually, after many arguments, it was labelled after the Roman sky god who was the father of Saturn. In myth he was also the father of two kinds of lightning. Sheet lightning and forked lightning, according to the tale. They were known as Steropes and Arges in the Greek version of the story, which the Romans made their own. So the new planet – which was world-famous in 1781 – was immediately associated with the birth of lightning, or electricity – by the public.
Lightning is also known as an electrostatic discharge. In 1781 when Uranus was finally given its name, an Italian scientist named Luigi Galvani discovered the muscles of dead frogs’ legs twitch when struck by a spark. This was an early enquiry into bioelectricity – there is that word again – and it happened by accident in Galvani’s laboratory. You can read more about the ancient Roman story linking Uranus to sheet and fork lightning in this book extract.
The first time-jump or synchronicity in 1781, then, took the world all the way back 2000 years to a time when the Romans were creating their story of how the universe came to be. And astrology runs on synchronicity.
In 1781 something else was going on miles away from Bath, where the Herschels were celebrating their discovery of Uranus, and Italy, where Galvani was making a dead frog jump. It was taking place in the United States of America and it was also connected.
THE FRENCH SCIENTIST, THE AMERICAN INVENTOR AND THE ASTROLOGY OF URANUS
‘Come see my little cabinet experiments’, the French scientist Jacques Bianchi wrote to Benjamin Franklin, one of the fathers of the American revolution, in a letter dated 1781, the year that Uranus was discovered. Bianchi specialised in electricity. The French like the Americans would soon be swept up in a push for independence after that letter was written. So there were, indeed, radically new lives to be had that year. New worlds were being created. Entire nations were poised for revolt. And electricity was everywhere.
How does Uranus manifest today? Jumping from time, from Ancient Rome to 1781 and forward to the 21st century, it is still a symbol for electric inventions of all kinds. The internet is the best example of this. Smart phones are another one. These have recently powered a revolution in the Ukraine. The internet is being shut down in some countries where politicians fear rebellion by the people.
In your horoscope Uranus in Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces tells you where you invent and create new life. And where you are galvanised (the word comes from Luigi Galvani’s name and it describes that electrifying moment when you spring to life, like a dead frog jumping). You can use technology or new inventions (running on electricity) to enable the change. To bring about the new order. Your laptop is the key.
Let’s go back to the revolutionary Ben Franklin (famous for his kite experiments with lightning) and his French friend, writing enthusiastic letters about electricity to each other in 1781, the same year that Uranus, the planet, was discovered.
Uranus, of course, was himself the target of a revolution in the Roman myth. His own children, the Titans rebelled against him, in collusion with his wife Gaia – and finally his Saturn, his son, castrated him. So the meme is expanding. This notion or concept is becoming richer. This is about revolution and rebellion, and yet it is dependent on electricity. What Galvani found in 1781 set the world on the road to the battery. Today batteries power the phones that power the revolution. Uranus is about industry and technology – particularly the kind that charges or plugs in – fuelling the human need for new freedom; new life; new beginnings.
In 1781 the Americans symbolically castrated the British in the final battle of the revolution at Yorktown. The British were emasculated. Just as Uranus was castrated by his son Saturn. When there is new life, often the old (the past) is cut away, or cut off, or cut down. You can see this in your own horoscope. Uranus shows where there will be repeated ‘cuts’ and edits as the old is sheared away to make space for the new.
When the Americans beat the British in 1781 and got their freedom, there was another astrological meme at large. The band played a song called ‘And The World Turned Upside Down’ on retreat. In the Roman myth 2000 years before, Gaia (the world) was indeed turned upside down when Saturn castrated her husband Uranus in the middle of intercourse, throwing his mother off his father. In astrology when we have a Uranus transit (we just saw a Uranus-Pluto square) we say ‘the world turns upside-down.’ We can also say ‘I feel as if lightning just struck me.’ Did you know that lightning strikes on Uranus are more powerful than those on earth? What you see below is the Uranian symbol (actually a telegraph pole overgrown with plants) in Edinburgh. I took it in Scotland as that country’s polls revealed she was moving closer to independence. Astrology is about synchronicity. Meaningful coincidence.
Uranus does not just represent electricity and revolution – radical new life – because it was written in an astrology book that you read somewhere, from the 1970s. There is ruthlessly symbolic logic behind what a heavenly body means in a horoscope. Look at what happened to Caroline Herschel, William’s sister (who was employed as an astronomer by King George III, along with her brother). Here is a woman in 1781, helping to discover a planet named for a myth 2000 years before (about a revolution) actually experiencing a revolution in her own life. She was, as far as we know, the only paid woman astronomer in the country. She was so galvanised, she became a scientist for the rest of her life, and a discoverer of comets, as the green plaque in her garden in Bath (above) attests.
WHY ASTROLOGY USES ANCIENT SYMBOLS AND CODES TO DESCRIBE TIME
The clock and calendar are useless at measuring the repetition of time. They only show linear time – the rather old-fashioned idea that time moves forward in a straight line. Consequently astrologers use symbols like Uranus which show clearly how history can repeat. So clearly, in fact, that casting a horoscope can help one to predict the so-called future, months or years before it comes to pass.
In astrology you can focus on the signs if you wish – Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius or Pisces. They are memes as much as anything else. Each sign describes a strong, potent idea which is still with us centuries after its original use as a symbol. This image below is of Aries, photographed in a Roman Catholic church, in Rome. I’ll be taking walking tours there from March 2015.
The heavenly bodies and points, ranging from the Sun through to the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Cupido, Psyche, Mars, Vulcanus, Jupiter, Juno and the rest – are astrological memes. Songs to sing. Painting to admire. Myths to pass on. These are archetypes. Archetypes which leap across the years. Ceres does not cause me to have problems with control freaks, any more than it causes you, but there is a connection across time when she turns up in a horoscope. A synchronicity.
THE ASTROLOGICAL ASPECTS, THE HOUSES AND THE IDEA OF MEMES ACROSS TIME
Some of the astrological aspects themselves – the geometric patterns made between the heavenly bodies – are also cultural markers. The conjunction, semi-sextile, sextile, square, trine, quincunx and opposition – are archetypal. They show ease, flow and harmony – smoothness – as well as discord, sharpness, hardness. These are all ancient ideas, repeated across time. A trine, for example, is one side of a pyramid. An opposition, like two wrestlers fighting, is an ancient symbol for conflict.
The houses too, with all their inbuilt rules in relation to each other, describe ancient notions and passionate conflicts, which repeat in Shakespeare and also in Eastenders today. The stories remain the same because these are memes.
The First House is always in opposition to the Seventh House. Self-interest always clashes with a marriage. The Second House is always in opposition to the Eighth House. One’s own income is often at odds with family finance, or the interests of the bank. The Third House opposes the Ninth House. Basic, day-to-day communication (the message) conflicts with big ideas like philosophy or religious belief (the concept). The Fourth House opposes the Tenth House. This is a very old meme or notion which you will find right through art and literature – family versus career. The Fifth House opposes the Eleventh House in astrology. Children versus friends. Parenthood versus parties. The Sixth House opposes the Twelfth House. The unconscious mind (the Twelfth House) often works against the body, as in the case of psychosomatic illness.
HOW ASTROLOGERS PREDICT THE FUTURE
Did you know that the American astrologer Michael Lutin predicted America’s bulk collection of telephone records in 2006? Years before we had even heard of Edward Snowden or the N.S.A.? And that he did it in print, and online, in Vanity Fair magazine? Mr Lutin was working with an archetype called Pluto.
If you think that things are tough now, and that privacy and other personal liberties are being infringed upon, just wait. During the next 19 years, things are going to get much tighter. Controls and laws will become more stringent. Pluto in Capricorn will demand conformity, born out of fear that different is dangerous. The more resistance to government protection, the more protection the government will try to provide.
Note Michael is talking about Pluto in Capricorn here. The sign it entered in 2008, two years after he had written this prediction. This is a good example of an astrology symbol, which helps us to describe a repetitive theme in the history books. Pluto was found in 1930 when Hitler began his climb to power and the race for atomic weapons was seeded by science. Pluto was the Roman god of the underworld who became involved in a battle for control of the world with Ceres, who as we know is a mythological control freak. Pluto is thus a symbol of the lust for absolute power.
And Pluto in Capricorn? Capricorn is about the mountain which faces the goat (the goat being the Capricorn symbol). Any mountain shape is a pyramid, like Toblerone or Mount Everest. It is a symbol of hierarchy. Thus it describes government and big business. A tiny number of people at the top and the masses down below.
Using Pluto ‘in’ Capricorn (this planet passing through the sign, according to the astrologer’s ephemeris) it is possible for an extremely good astrologer like Michael Lutin to cast his eye eight years into the future and see something that looks an awful lot like the American government’s power grab on the internet. Total control of your phone privacy.
Astrology itself is a meme. A popular notion or idea; a trend; a fashion. It has also survived, as all the most useful ideas do. Today, astrology lives on in bestselling children’s books, like the Harry Potter series, written by J.K.Rowling who herself once created an astrological chart for a friend (for more on this please see British astrologer Robert Currey’s account on his website).
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as the astrologer Neil Spencer notes, ‘warnings of danger come to Harry via astrology, which Trelawney teaches with the aid of a splendid magical astrolabe to illustrate such delights as ‘the fascinating angle Mars was making with Neptune’. You can read more here.
For more on memes – the information which behaves like human genes – and replicates, mutates and evolves – see this piece in The Smithsonian.
If you are curious about the way history repeats, you can read more about Uranus in particular, on this website and track its movements in your own horoscope. Each time you experience a major Uranus cycle you will be galvanised; new inventions like the internet will play a part; you will be liberated because of a revolution; you will, effectively, be like a dead frog jumping!
Copyright Jessica Adams/William Morris Entertainment/Curtis Brown 2014.