Astrology Institute Newsletter: June-July 2013
July 12, 2013
By Joseph Crane
“Astrology and the Soul” update – Perugia, Italy conference July 14-15 – Interview with Joseph Crane by [Chinese] Journal of Astrology – New Article: “The Sunless World of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale – Profile: Nelson Mandela
As summer approaches life has become very interesting for many of us – possibly as the famous Chinese curse. The good news is that Jupiter entered Cancer, its sign of exaltation, on June 25. The next day, however, Mercury went retrograde further along in the sign of Cancer the next day and Mercury will stay retrograde until July 20. This seems to be a particularly nasty case of retrograde Mercury, from what I have heard from friends and clients.
For my part, on the day that Jupiter entered Cancer I learned that my mother had just died suddenly in her sleep. What followed is what you would expect: crowds of family and relatives, many decisions to be made, nostalgia and poignancy and the dark clouds that begin to hover at the boundaries of one’s daily awareness and manifests in a thousand different ways. It seems that the sense of loss comes gradually and episodically. At this time transiting Pluto is moving toward my Midheaven degree and it will stay there for the remainder of 2013. My new era of life begins with a two-week trip to Italy that will include the usual tourist destinations as well as a quick trip to my ancestral home – that has not yet been converted into a parking garage.
“Astrology and the Soul” update
This new course is almost completed and it has been a good adventure for all of us. We began by surveying the many concepts of soul in our culture, surveyed ancient concepts and soul and character and how these can be determined astrologically, to depictions of the soul’s journey up and down the planets, the concept of World Soul, Renaissance astrological magic, the daimon and its influences on some modern psychological literature. It has been a successful (and open-ended) journey for everybody.
After this course is complete in August it will take on a new incarnation as part of the Kepler Certificate Program. There will be three courses of 4-6 classes each that will take place in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring sessions respectively. The Autumn course will look at the connection between soul and character and the winter course will pursue the connection between soul and calling. The spring semester will take on the soul and karma, looking at theosophy and modern spiritual approaches to astrology.
Needless to say there will be much you will read about this upcoming program and look for the August Newsletter for details.
Perugia, Italy conference July 20-21
The title of this conference is “The Ways of the Moon” and my talk is on the Moon in ancient and medieval astrology – and literature, too. At this time the plan is for me to deliver the introduction in Italian and do the remainder in English, including discussion in English. This is all that my Italian skills can handle right now.
Here’s the lecture description in English.
When we learned astrology, we learned that the Moon symbolized nurturing and supporting, our feelings and emotional responses. Yet the history of the astrological Moon is long and its use by astrologers has had a complex development. In this talk we examine how astrologers in ancient and medieval times viewed and used the Moon astrologically, as a planet of movement, communication, and adaptation. As the fastest-moving heavenly body, Moon was also the carrier of ordinary time. We will note how these ideas also appear in the literature of those times. We will also look at some early doctrines about the prenatal Moon and its importance in the birth chart and a chart example.
And in Italian:
LA LUNA IN ASTROLOGIA TRADIZIONALE di Joseph Crane
Nell’apprendere l’Astrologia, abbiamo imparato che la Luna simbolizza la cura e il sostegno, i nostri sentimenti e le risposte emotive. Eppure, la storia della Luna astrologica è lunga e il suo uso da parte degli astrologi ha avuto uno sviluppo molto complesso. In questo intervento, Joseph Crane esaminerà il modo in cui gli astrologi del periodo antico e del Medio Evo videro e utilizzarono, astrologicamente, la Luna, come pianeta di movimento, comunicazione e adattamento. La Luna, essendo il più rapido corpo celeste in movimento, è anche portatrice del tempo ordinario. Joseph illustrerà come questi concetti appaiono nella letteratura di tutti i tempi. Prenderà anche in considerazione le antiche dottrine sulla Luna prenatale e la sua importanza nel Tema natale con l’esempio di un grafico.
I hope to see some of my European friends, and maybe an American too.
Interview with Joseph Crane by [Chinese] Journal of Astrology
In the early days of last spring I was contacted by Sabrina Huang who requested an online interview with me. It was recently published and I am enclosing an English version of the interview here. Ms. Huang was particularly interested in my background, interests, and my view of the future of astrology. (If you want to check out the Chinese language version of this publication, here’s a link: http://astro.fashion.qq.com/atopic/zxxk201202.htm )
Here is the interview.
When, how and why did you enter into the world of Astrology?
In the mid-1980’s I was living at a meditation center and was kitchen manager there. Along with Buddhist practice and study I was very busy, and I began to relax at night by looking through my girlfriend’s astrology books. (Later we were married.) At that time she was taking an astrology course in Massachusetts; she recorded the classes on tape and I began to listen to them. I had no previous acquaintance with astrology.
On one day off at the meditation center, I spent an afternoon reading Rob Hand’s Horoscope Symbols and Dane Rudhyar’s book on the astrological signs and realized that astrology was profound and that people could benefit from it. Soon I was talking with people at the center about their birth charts, and, a few months after moving to Massachusetts, I started small astrology groups. It all seemed to happen very quickly.
I often tell people that astrology has been the only thing I’ve encountered that I ever had a gift for, and if instead my gift would have been in advanced computer technology or high finance, I would be a wealthier person.
What did you do “before astrology”?
As I mentioned above, I was a kitchen manager at a meditation center. Previous to that I had worked in residences for mentally retarded adults, became a supervisor, and then a staff training coordinator. And before that I studied philosophy and literature at Brandeis University in the Boston area.
What about hobbies and interests?
They haven’t changed since I was in college and I went through a “culture” phase: I still go to museums, listen to classical music, even read poetry. I have some background in history and I use that to understand politics and current events. I have been an avid bicyclist since I was young and now I have taken up running, up even participating in longer races. I have been a Buddhist practitioner and student for over thirty years, although this hardly is a “hobby” or “interest” anymore.
How much is astrology a part of your everyday life? Apart from teaching and writing, of course?
I should probably track my daily transits more although I have a good sense of what predictive indicators are active for me at any given time. I also tend to do charts of moments when unforeseen or uncanny events occur and interpret them like horary charts.
What has astrology given to you?
At first astrology helped me have a greater appreciation for all kinds of people who are very different from me. As I’ve worked with clients and with the charts of historical or notable people, I have come to love people in all their diversity and how their minds work and how they conduct their lives. Astrology has helped me be a more tolerant and humane person.
My work in the history of astrology has also allowed me to appreciate astrology as part of the wisdom traditions of western culture, and that with what’s important in life hasn’t changed over time. We don’t know a lot more now than they did in the past; it’s just that we use indoor toilets, drive cars and consult our computers.
If you weren’t an astrologer, what would you be doing?
When I’m not an astrologer I work with people as a counselor and as a neurofeedback provider. I particularly like working with people with various addictions. I have also worked in other fields doing teaching and working with students in academic programs. These days I like writing most of all and if I wasn’t writing about astrology maybe I would be writing about other things.
You have quite a long career in astrological teaching. What do you like about teaching and what not?
I love teaching, especially that part about exchanging ideas and allowing people to appreciate their own intelligence and good heart. I have worked hard to learn what I know; I become irritated when people demand that things be made easy for them when much of the learning process is to take on the challenge of learning difficult material.
Most of all I have enjoyed working with students over a long period of time and seeing their long-term growth of knowledge and confidence. Over time my friendships have come to include several people who first knew me as their astrology teacher.
Which are your favorite areas (subjects) in lecturing?
Over the past several years I was working on a book for astrologers about Dante that came out last year with the title Between Fortune and Providence: Astrology and the Universe in Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is the best thing I ever wrote and I’m very proud of it. I’ve had a chance to do some lectures on Dante and I have always loved doing them. Of course I have more experience teaching Hellenistic astrology and I enjoy that as well.
Which areas of astrology are you mostly interested in, you yourself?
I would like to learn more about late Hellenistic and early medieval astrology, for there are places of intersection between the two, as cultures changed in the Middle East and the Byzantine world.
I also am interested in working on an introductory astrology textbook that uses traditional astrology and in a psychological astrology based on traditional sources from the ancient world.
Why you prefer Traditional Astrology not Modern Astrology? What is the major difference of these two in your view?
People ask me this often. I view myself as a modern astrologer with regard to what I look for in a natal chart with predictive indicators and how I talk with my clients. After many years working with features of modern astrology, I found that the concepts and language of traditional astrology are easier to understand and to communicate to others – they are less abstract and less rigidly psychological.
In a general way, modern astrology has forgotten the priority given to the seven visible planets and emphasizes signs and aspects as if they, instead of planets, were personalities in their own right. One issue that has linked much of my research and writing is to bring back the original significations of the seven planets.
For me the differences are in how I incorporate traditional elements to my astrology practice. I use whole sign houses, instead of Placidus or Koch or Regiomontanus, and therefore I do not emphasize the Midheaven degree as do most modern astrologers. I use the outer planets but never as sign rulers, and I never use quincunxes. My interpretations of house meanings uses many of their Hellenistic meanings; I work with the Lots of Fortune and Spirit and the Fixed Stars as they are presented in ancient astrology. I never use asteroids and Chiron only makes rare appearances in my astrology.
I am enough of a modern astrologer to use some direct midpoints and some aspect harmonic charts, particularly fifth and ninth harmonic charts. My predictive work is also largely modern although I add planetary period systems from ancient astrology, particularly decennials.
By my count, you have written at least three books on astrology. Most of them focus on traditional astrology. What attracted you to Hellenistic astrology in the first place, and what keeps your interest in them alive?
I had studied some ancient Greek language and literature in college, along with ancient philosophy, and found that Hellenistic astrology spoke to me very directly and it immediately helped me understand better the symbols of astrology. There is much more still to learn about this tradition and much information has been lost forever. Hellenistic astrology will always contain an element of mystery, of uncertainty, and this will keep me involved for a long time to come.
Since the cause of our interest in subjects often contains the seeds at least of how we learn about them, you might already have answered this question, but how did you learn so much about Hellenistic? What was your learning process?
I agree with your observation and without strong motivation (positive or negative) it’s hard to learn new things. In my case there were some opportunities that allowed me to learn about the Hellenistic tradition.
For a few years I was involved with Project Hindsight that translated and edited many of the works of ancient astrologers. My first book began as a series of articles for the American magazine The Mountain Astrologer about the astrology that Project Hindsight was working with. During those years I met a great number of very interesting people who have influenced my work in many different ways.
After I left Project Hindsight I continued to study many of its translations, and added to that much good work that has been done by others. I wrote Astrological Roots: The Hellenistic Legacy in part because I was concerned that this rich field of astrology might become lost.
I hear that you focus on "soul" recently? How do you think of "soul"? How important of it in our life? Do you think the soul is from our physical body or from our pastlife cycles?
I am skeptical about applying astrology to past life issues or even to the karma of one’s current lifetime, for, as I learned long ago, “only a Buddha knows a person’s karma.” I go more to the Stoic belief that a chart depicts the role one is to play in his or her world, and that a happier and more meaningful life comes from appreciating who one is and the world one inhabits. And astrology can tell us about both.
The ancient world thought of “soul” as the principle of being alive, and modern psychologists like James Hillman have looked at soul as being alive in the fullest sense. There is no inherent division between body and soul, as there is no inherent division between the person and his environment. These are fixed reference points that can lead us astray of we make too much of any one of them. Astrology can discuss all these features of life in their intimate involvement with each other.
What inspired you to establish the Astrology Institute? What's your first expectation on this school, has it changed since then? Do you gain some unexpected harvest from your institute?
This was an interesting idea from Jill-laurie who first introduced me to astrology. Several years after we began introductory classes, we had many students who wanted to continue studying astrology. As I had a strong appetite for learning and teaching astrology, we offered a two-year program in basic astrology skills and later another one on astrological counseling. These programs went on until we moved to Rhode Island, our marriage ended, and the economy declined in the United States. Today, aside from my consulting work, I offer classes and workshops, private tutorials and supervision for new consulting astrologers.
What would you say of the profession of astrologer in general? Which kind of qualities does this job require (ideally)?
I will just talk about consulting astrologers, for this is what I do and what I know best.
The first requirement is human being skills, particularly the ability to listen and appreciate the client’s viewpoint and to present information coherently and sensitively to them. Second is a decent knowledge of astrological symbols and a creative mind that can apply abstract symbols to the immediate circumstances of a person’s life. The third quality is an inner confidence that trusts oneself, one’s client, and the astrology one uses – and can learn from all three. The fourth may be more surprising: an astrologer should also have expertise in fields that are not astrology, for this implied the ability to have intelligent conversations across a variety of topics. At bottom an astrological consultation is an intelligent conversation.
What do you think of the future of astrology? How has astrological world changed during your involvement?
As somebody who has studied the history of astrology I often think about its future. When I started as an astrologer, the field was strongly influenced by” New Age” culture and by twentieth-century psychotherapy. I have felt that these influences on astrology have not been wholly positive and that they are only temporary. Instead, astrologers should look back farther in time and not lose astrology’s continuity with its past practice or with its culture’s wisdom traditions that include astrology. (It seems that today China is also recovering some of the culture of the past.) I also have faith that the work I do now will contribute to astrology’s future.
New Article: “The Sunless World of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale
I'm a big fan of approaching astrology through traditional literature and here's an example.
Here’s an essay I wrote last year on the planetary imagery and allegory in Chaucer's Knight's Tale. My article shows how literature can inform our understanding of astrology's symbols, how these symbols inform our understanding of Chaucer’s enigmatic Tale. It also argues for Chaucer's Knight being a "returning vet".
Although Chaucer’s great poem was written 70-80 years before Dante’s Divine Comedy, it is in most ways a more open-ended, questioning, and inclusive work than that by the great Italian poet. Although in Dante all is reconciled to a just and orderly God and his Creation, Chaucer has greater doubts – at least in this first of many Canterbury Tales. Both large works, however, combine strong philosophical and religious preoccupations with commentary on contemporary life – and a strong use of astrology to accomplish their purposes.
The Knight’s Tale is a pessimistic tract disguised as a heroic romance and its narrative and the symbolism of its characters strongly relate to astrology. It is also one of the earliest works to bring together planetary symbolism and the Greek Olympian cast of gods and goddesses – yes, ancient astrology did not do that.
Profile: Nelson Mandela
Over the past few months Nelson Mandela had been hospitalized and has often been placed in critical condition, although the latest news reports indicated that he may be released from his hospital – once again. During this time there has been turmoil in his family on the place of his final remains – for that place is destined to become a major international tourist site. International media has been well prepared with coverage of his life when he does die, and no doubt when he does die it will be a major international event. His birthday is coming up that the United Nations proclaimed in 2010 as Nelson Mandela Day: it’s a challenge for people and institutions to try for a better world. Perhaps all this makes this a good time to look at his life and his astrology.
Back in the mid-1960’s one of my classes was geography and we studied Africa. I learned about the new post-colonial reality on the continent, that many of the European powers had relinquished control over their African colonies and there were other successful movements by blacks to overthrow their white colonists. I remember learning that South Africa was different from the other places in Africa:, not only was the country dominated by a white government but they had a policy of apartheid by which blacks were isolated in their designated “homelands” and had no political or economic power within a mineral-rich and potentially prosperous country.
I do not recall back then knowing about Nelson Mandela and his imprisonment for life. As the South African government had become increasingly harsh and rigid, the ANC was moving toward more violent and confrontative approaches, and Mandela had previously gone abroad for military training. At the age of 9 I wasn’t particularly following this story.
As the next decades passed, South African became one of the world’s great problem places. The white government and society became increasingly rigid and repressive while increasing political violence and many black deaths rendered South African a pariah state; the end of apartheid became an international cause célèbreI I remember following the story that President Reagan’s had vetoes a sanctions bill was overridden by Congress. International sanctions on South African cost them billions of potential revenue, the country had been excluded from international cultural and sports occasions. During this time the cause of Nelson Mandela from prison had become part of the campaign against apartheid as he had become the symbolic leader for all the anti-apartheid forces. Although he had not been seen in public since 1964, Mandela had become a world figure.
On the other side was the South African government that was trying to find a way out of this increasingly untenable situation. During this time there had been secret negotiations between Mandela and the South African President P.W. Botha, but they had proved unsuccessful – the South African leader had imposed too many preconditions. However in 1989 the new President F.W. de Klerk desired to significantly reform – if not dismantle – apartheid. He needed a leader from the other side to negotiate with: in early February 1990 Mandela was unconditionally released from prison. This was televised internationally and billions of people – Ii included – watched the occasion. Mandela was 71 years old at the time.
What happened over the next several years was remarkable. Although the path of negotiation was difficult and marred by violence, a free multi-racial election was held in 1994 and Mandela defeated F.W. de Klerk and took over the nation’s leadership. Over the next five years as his country’s leader, Mandela succeeded in dismantling apartheid and bringing the races closer together without violence and a cycle of revenge between the races. He had to reassure whites and also meet the growing expectations of black South Africans. He also had to make a clear break with the governmental policies and cycles of violence of his country’s racist past.
Some of Mandela’s moves were symbolic but were nonetheless important. South Africa’s re-entry into the world of international competition culminated in the rugby championship for the formerly all-white Springboks while South Africa was hosting this competition. Mandela had supported the formerly all-white (and despised) rugby team in its emergence into a national team. (See the 2009 film Invictus for detail and for a good movie.) More directly, Mandela also established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which traded amnesty for full disclosure of previous crimes during the apartheid era.
During his time Mandela had sought to improve the cultural, economic, and educational conditions for the country’s black majority. He made some progress although this long project still continues. His work on the cause of treating and eradicating AIDS had to wait until the end of his Presidency, after one of his sons died from the disease.
He has won as many humanitarian awards as can be won (including a Nobel Prize with F.W. de Klerk in 1993) and his international reputation is unparalleled, with the possible modern exception of Mother Theresa who died fifteen years ago.
With all these things in mind, let’s look at his birth chart, or should we say, a birth chart.
The best we know is that Mandela was born in the afternoon: even if we can be sure of the date itself. This chart has been rectified by the well-known astrologer Noel Tyl who has significant ties with South Africa. I am not complexly happy with this chart, but I will use for our purposes here, for there a few things I really like about it.
We begin with the Ascendant, of course. We know the usual connotations of Sagittarius – adventurous, visionary, and tuned into ideas – but this can take only take us so far. We can also note the presence of the North Node conjunct the Ascendant. Unlike some other astrologers, I do not use the North Node as a karmic position – what in the birth chart is not a karmic position? Instead I follow the traditional teaching that considers the North Node a factor of enhancement; this may argue for Mandela’s strong personal presence.
We look at the domicile lord of Sagittarius and we find Jupiter, exalted in Cancer. The placement of Jupiter in Cancer helps combine Jupiter’s interest in the “big picture” with Cancer’s ability to make things personal. Jupiter’s is strong in other ways – it is in sect and is oriental to the Sun, the planet that would rise in the East before sunrise on the day of his birth. Astrologers who use a quadrant house system (e.g., Placidus, Koch) may find Jupiter placed in the Seventh Place, not the Eighth. There is some justification for that, in the case of Mandela, although, in my view, if a sign is eight signs from the Ascendant it is by definition in the Eighth House. For a man who spent twenty-seven years in prison, I am not surprised by seeing the Sun and Moon along with the ruler of the Ascendant in Mandela’s Eighth and Twelfth Places. It well befits someone whose calling required had a great personal sacrifice; the chart of a fortunate man would not be that of Nelson Mandela.
We see that Jupiter is conjunct Pluto and that completely fits someone who has had a transformational impact on his nation. However, many people have such a configuration and this by itself would not argue for his unique path. Here the degree of this Ascendant fascinates me, for 23° and minutes of Sagittarius and 5° and minutes of Cancer are closely connected to Pluto by equal-power, contra-antiscia, or symmetrical to 0° Aries/Libra – take your pick how to talk about it. Thus we can account for the transformational effects of his character on his surrounding culture. This one factor has helped me acquiesce to the rectified birth time. Here the identification of Pluto with the power of transformation lives up to its promise.
Another justification for this birth time is based on a particular transit when Mandela began his long prison sentence – Uranus was transiting the degree of Mandela’s Midheaven at the time. One’s first response to this is probably a startle response – Uranus is a planet of freedom, not imprisonment! There is a common literary and historical motif of the contrast between inner liberation and physical confinement. Mandela did this but also went a few steps further by turning his calamity into future advantage: while in prison he learned the Africaaner language of his jailors and steeped himself in the history and culture of those who had dominated his country and oppressed his people. During this time he also read voluminously when he could and later was able to establish an active correspondence.
Now we examine Mandela’s luminaries Sun in Cancer and Moon in Scorpio. No matter what time of that day in which he was born, Moon would be in Scorpio and thus in fall on that day. Again, this does not make for a happy personal life, for even as a young man his drive and ambition overwhelmed his personal life and was brought his first marriage to an end. Moon in Scorpio is, however, intense and very tough, not particularly tender and accommodating; it sacrifices the convenient or even the interests of common sense to its passion. Having become in prison an international figure and an embarrassment to the South African government, Mandela could have secured his prison release many years before it happened; he could have “played along” with the government, returned to his “homeland” and nobody would have begrudged him wanting to live a pleasanter life than what he had experienced in prison. But he would and could not do this.
In this chart Moon is applying in a trine to the Sun and that would be the case unless he was born much earlier that day. The Sun is, of course, a symbol of leadership and the Moon’s application certainly points Mandela in that direction. However, Mandela’s Sun is not particularly dignified in Cancer and his leadership has been of a less regal and more personalizing nature. Ironically, with Sun in Cancer, Mandela is increasingly referred to as “Father of his Country” in South Africa. We could be more neutral and just call him “Parent”.
We notice a close separating Saturn-Mercury conjunction in Leo in his Ninth Place. Saturn is in detriment in Leo, being opposite one of its ruling signs Aquarius. Yet nobody is going to accuse Mandela of having lack of discipline! Saturn is in sect here and also is in a masculine sign and on the same side of the horizon as the Sun – the medieval call this in “hayz”. There is further enhancement as Saturn is in its own bounds. Saturn helps focus and constrain Mandela’s Mercury, giving his Mercury in Leo a greater objectivity and solidity that it otherwise would have. As a national leader Mandela was not a master of details, nor was he particularly nimble, but he continually kept focus on his objectives and worked doggedly toward them. This becomes even more important since the Lot of Spirit, the “Lot of the Sun”, is in the same sign Leo, therefore considerations of this Lot are strongly influenced by this Mercury-Saturn combination that lends itself toward focus and mental discipline.
Mars is in Libra in his Eleventh House, a fortunate Place, but is in the sign Libra, not such a fortunate sign for Mars. Mars is also out of sect here, yet Mandela has not shown the signs of an over exuberant Mars – at least not as a mature adult. That Mars is the ruler of his Lot of Fortune and is opposite the sign of the Lot of Fortune has not argued well for the quality of his fortune. Mars is helped by its relationship with its dispositor Venus that is in Gemini in the 7th. Together they give him a greater personal charm and lightness than his other chart indicators would suggest.
I end by quickly noting some of the important transits during the time of his release from prison and for the next several years. In 1989 Jupiter had been in the sign Cancer and was returning to his natal Jupiter and also in conjunction with natal Pluto. Jupiter had retrograded and Mandela was released at its direct station directly in conjunction with his natal Jupiter. And now, of course, as the world’s attention has been focused on Mandela’s possible death, Jupiter has been in the early degrees of Cancer. It is common at the time of a person’s death – especially for one of his prominence – that there is a strong Jupiter connection.
(During this time, using the Hellenistic method of circumambulations, the Sun’s direction had been in a trine to Jupiter: this is a very significant and positive direction for Mandela at that time.)
In 1990, as he was reintroducing himself to the world and had begun negotiations with the South African government to end apartheid, transiting Neptune and then Uranus were on his Mars and Saturn had a long dwelling on his natal Sun – these were confusing and difficult times, especially as the negotiations had proved difficult and he was facing rising expectations and rising violence by the black community. In 1994-5, when he became President and his first year in office featured the World Rugby competition, Uranus and the Neptune were in Capricorn both opposing his natal Sun. This is one case in with the visionary nature of the combination of Uranus and Neptune did work out in real life.
There is more to say about Mandela’s chart and when his life comes to an end there will be much more information and more astrology coming out about him and his life. When this eventuality does occur, hopefully later rather than sooner, we will revisit his chart and the relevant predictive indicators.