Life without Pluto

P1020127

Astrolabe in the house – now a museum – of Leonardo da Vinci,  Amboise, France

On 24th August 2006 a group of scientists and astronomers got together in Prague and decided to demote the status of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet. Their decision came after a lengthy period of search for the definition of what a planet is.

Several years later I visited the Jodrell Bank Observatory with two children aged 8 and 10. The Observatory has a brand new visitor centre and I was looking forward to seeing how they had reconfigured the site and displayed the old brass observational sextants and other instruments, including the famous mechanical orrery with its planets orbiting the Sun. I was very disappointed. All of these had gone, along with the Planetarium which had offered interactive quizzes and visual high speed trips across the galaxy.

In their place were two very modern buildings with slick display boards, often accompanied by a video but not much else. Equipment and fun experiments in the hands-on area for children had been reduced and the two children I was with soon lost interest as there was little to engage them. In one area, empty apart from displays on the wall and a large modern orrery suspended from the ceiling, we searched out and named the planets. Pluto, long demoted, wasn’t there and I explained to the children why it wasn’t there, also telling them it had been discovered in 1930. The new visitor centre may be state of the art, presenting bang up to the minute modern science, but all sense of the history of discovery behind it had been erased.

This got me thinking about how life, for those heretical beings amongst us who dare to claim we are astrologers, would be without Pluto. OK, so Pluto has been around a relatively short time and its discovery and subsequent inclusion in astrological charts and interpretations is also relatively new. But its discovery, after lengthy research by Clyde Tombaugh, coincided with the start of an era of world war and disruption, brought to a halt by the dropping of the atomic bomb. Astrologically Pluto is often feared, or at least treated with due caution and respect as it can herald big changes and upheavals often leading to transformation. The Hubers, in their book The Planets, describe Pluto as one of the three transpersonal planets saying, “The stimulation of Pluto’s energy makes us experience an expansion of consciousness affecting all of our lives”. Would we want to be without this?

When using astrological psychology, especially with a client, it would become quite difficult to interpret a chart and give a consultation without including Pluto. Symbolically, Pluto offers opportunities in life for us to transform ourselves and our ways of thinking and move on. It can encourage us to go boldly go where we’ve not been before, sometimes plumbing our inner depths and spaces and demanding that we make ourselves anew.

As an astrological psychology consultant I know that real, deep, life-changing experiences or issues can be triggered by Pluto in the natal chart. I’ve been able to support people going through Plutonic changes as they travel through challenging times. But one thing is for sure, and that is that we’ll come to grief if we try to use Pluto’s energy to gain personal power and control over someone or something. But we can learn to use the energies of Pluto, a transpersonal planet, not for ourselves, but for those things which affect the collective, embracing change, transformation and the good clear out and spring clean that goes with it.

IMG_1621Reflecting on my disappointment that Jodrell Bank had changed and become more slick and glitzy, I can raise a smile at the thought of Pluto at work in this complete makeover. Gone is the old, the history and the links with the astronomical past. However, the best part of the visit was a guided walk around the enormous, and famous, Lovell Radio Telescope. Like following the stations of the cross in a church, we were taken to a series to display boards around the perimeter of the telescope. I learned more in the short talks at each than I ever have about  – yes – the history of this impressive piece of engineering, once the largest radio telescope in the world but now demoted to the third largest.

In the makeover, the baby wasn’t quite thrown out with the bathwater after all. I wonder – did Pluto get the last laugh here?

Nature v Nurture

CET in colour

When I was training to become a teacher, I remember one lecturer stressing that the child (and ultimately, the adult that he or she becomes) is a product of heredity and environment.

The formula given was H x E = I: heredity combined with environment makes the individual. It’s maybe a bit simplistic but it gets the message across. Nature and nurture together have a huge impact on what we become.

In my book The Cosmic Egg Timer – a comprehensive introduction to astrological psychology –  I include a chapter explaining the Family Model, the primary source of heredity and environment, in the natal chart. By considering the planetary positions of the Sun, Moon and Saturn in a person’s chart, a lot can be learned about the Mother/Father/Child relationships which existed as that person was growing up, and what might have shaped and influenced them. Astrological psychology is about self-awareness, personal growth, and taking charge of your own life. It has nothing  to do with prediction or “fortune telling”, and often a lot to do with healing personal rifts and wounds.

The Sun – our star – symbolises, in the natal chart,  the will and the mind together with IMG_0698aspects of the personality which relate to “self”, like self-confidence, self-esteem and self-identity. A young child is not ready or capable of developing these things for him/herself; they’re something which develops slowly as the child grows and matures. The child therefore projects their own Sun/sense of self on to the person in the family whom they assume plays that “leadership” or sense of self role.  Traditionally that is the father, but nowadays it could just as easily be the mother, in which case the child will look to the mother to fulfil both parenting roles. Note that this role may also be shared by both parents, depending on the role each assumes within the family set up. Ideally, the Sun in the natal chart will be placed high and somewhere near the top of the circular chart. This “perfect” placing doesn’t always happen and variations and what they mean are explained in The Cosmic Egg Timer.

Saturn, the planet which is sometimes associated with boundaries and restrictions, is symbolic of the physical self as well as security in all its manifestations. Security means different things to different people, but one thing is for sure –  we all need security, especially when we’re children. Who is the first and best person to offer this, along with protection? Mother of course, so a child will project their Saturn needs on to her. She’s the one who gives out the rules and guidelines on what’s what as the child grows up. She – or the parent who assumes this role (again, it could be either) – is the one who keeps us on track. Ideally, in the natal chart Saturn will be placed low down. You can read more about this, and why, in The Cosmic Egg Timer.

The Moon symbolises emotional needs and how people express themselves with and through their feelings. Feelings can be a minefield which some people prefer not to walk through, and the sensitivity and vulnerability of the Moon is something which can stay with us into adulthood. The Moon in the natal chart represents the child in the context of the Family Model – it’s about you or me as we grew up in the family we were born into. In the chart the Moon is ideally placed somewhere on the horizontal axis of the circular natal chart where it stands the best chance of making contact with others and connecting with them.

There is much more about the Family Model in The Cosmic Egg Timer, where family relationships, family dominance and specific bonding between child and one or both parents is covered. Once our own Family Model is understood, a lot of insight can follow, along with healing some of the stuff left over from childhood.

 

 

 

 

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse

BoymolefoxhorseThis book was a Christmas gift (thank you daughter) and its simple message, full of wisdom and magic, bears hope and significance for the times we are living in as 2020 and the new decade begins. It’s about love, friendship and kindness.

I’ve read it through cover to cover, I’ve dipped into it, and I’ve used the attached glossy ribbon it comes with to mark pages which hit the spot for me when I open it at random. I’ve even had a go at playing the music printed inside the front and back covers; there’s no title, just the instructions “Lively and in strict time”, the musical staves themselves adorned with drawings of the four characters in the title, and horse, like Pegasus, with wings, galloping and flying through the notes. I recognise the tune but can’t name it; it’s a cheerful trotting tune.

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse is a book which will entrance children and have equal appeal for the oft-neglected inner child in adults. With my astrological psychology hat on, I’ve read passages which I can relate directly to the psychological meanings of the planets in a natal chart and the sub-personalities of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis. The mole is like the Moon – needy for love, wise about love, but not averse to substituting it with cake.

The mole tells the Boy “I’ve discovered something better than cake.” “No you haven’t,” said the boy. “I have,” replied the mole. “What is it?” “A hug. It lasts longer.”

The Boy is lonely and full of questions. He seems to be searching for himself and perhaps could symbolise the Sun/sense of self. He wants to get back home and is joined on his journey by the mole, the fox and the horse. The fox is quiet and buttoned up, having been hurt by life. He doesn’t say much but the other characters include him and love him just as he is. The fox has a Saturnian quality; he is restrained and caught in a trap when the boy and mole discover him and set him free. His presence is welcomed even though he is silent. The fox rescues the mole when he falls into the water, and contrary to his nature, doesn’t attempt to eat him.

The horse is the last character to appear. He is white and wise and very special. He has Jupiterian qualities of wisdom and Neptunian qualities of unconditional love and acceptance. “When have you been at your strongest?” the boy asks the horse. “When I have dared to show my weakness. Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing the give up.”

The horse also reveals to his travelling companions that he can fly, but I won’t spoil the rest of the story or the magic for you because this illustrated book is beautiful to read, to look at and to provoke thought and introspection. The author, Charlie Mackesy, has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press.

In these changing, troubled times, it’s essential to have reminders of how we can be when we draw upon our latent goodness and decency and give it out into the world. “Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse. “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

 

December dawn: and a new decade

P1080237

Drawing back the curtains this morning, this is what I saw. The pink of the rising sun set against the the pale blue promise of clear skies to come, with the silhouettes of nearby trees standing dark and proud in contrast. A touch of soft grey mist hovered gently in the middle distance.

Another day was dawning, and soon it will be another decade.

That we are moving from the 20-teens to the 20-twenties in a few day’s time has only recently registered with me; I’d only got as far as musing on the past year, let alone the past decade.

With my professional astrology hat on, I could expand on the current on-going rubbing of the shoulders of the planets Saturn and Pluto. I’m not going to do that, apart from saying that Saturn, as I see it, symbolises dyed-in-the-wool traditions and Pluto is the force that seeks to break down and throw out what is no longer of use and move on. Read into and interpret that as you will, there’s enough evidence of this taking effect on a global scale.

Going back to the photo, what I’m struck by is how strong, upright and present that tree is in this scene. It’s a tree I see daily, and perhaps don’t take that much notice of, although I do enjoy getting out my binoculars to ID whichever bird happens to be perching at the top. Sometimes it’s a magpie, sometimes a blackbird singing its heart out, and sometimes it’s a woodpecker. All have to be viewed against the light, hence the need for the binoculars to get more detail.

Could the shape and silhouette of that tree be a metaphor for the year/decade ahead? It’s suggesting to me the need to stand strong and proud, to be unashamed, to be present, to have a straight back like its trunk, to reach high like its crown where the birds perch, and to have open, welcoming arms which reach upwards, like its branches.

The Magic of Psychosynthesis

We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.

As an astrologer and practitioner in astrological psychology, I can turn to my ephemeris to see what might be going on through an astrological lens, knowing full well that Saturn and Pluto have been in Capricorn for sometime now. Working alongside, they’re gradually grinding down and clearing out the outworn structures of the so-called “establishments” which are taking the hits. Like industrious workmen, they get on with their own jobs, coming together from time to time to combine both energy and effect. From April to June 2019 they rubbed along together for a while in conjunction; they touch base with each other again in December, staying in tandem in the near future until February 2020.

Will book cover

What, you’re probably wondering, does this have to do with Will Parfitt’s new book – The Magic of Psychosynthesis: initiation and self development? The answer is just about everything. The book is a treasure trove for anyone on the path of personal growth and self discovery – what the author calls The Work. Moving from the stage of Aspirant (as we all are) to Adept (what we aspire to) Will offers clear and detailed signposts for how to navigate, travel and develop our inner world, yet remain fully grounded and connected to the changing world and environment we live in.

The book acts like a spiritual satnav, gently guiding the reader through the principles of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis with a wealth of practical exercises to support the journey. Students of Astrological Psychology will already be familiar with the Egg Diagram, and with the analogy of the orchestra, the sub-personalities being different players within the orchestral whole, or Self.

Using reflective meditations based on Assagioli’s four steps in experiencing the will, readers are encouraged to explore their awareness and use of their own will, with techniques to build up muscle and strength here. In astrological psychology, developing the way the Sun – the sense of self – functions in your own chart could be worked on alongside this. I liked Will’s questions here: Who is running your life? Are you directing your life? Are you in control of your life? To what extent is the direction of your life determined by outer events?….

Other compatible approaches are introduced for use alongside the The Work, such as Kabbalah and Tarot. The practical exercises throughout the book can be taken at leisure; there is no pressure to work on them in a linear fashion and I for one will be going back to the section on training the imagination to do the suggested work on automatic drawing. The exercise on selling your soul I found particularly potent, with challenging and thought-provoking questions which hold up a mirror we may prefer to avoid looking in.

Developing the transpersonal qualities of Love and Will underpin much of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis; both are required, and while it is important to engage with the will, without love there is no cohesion, connection or wholeness. The Work, Will asserts, is about travelling the path of self discovery…and the journey has to include love too. Focussing on and developing the heart is therefore equally important, especially in these times of change and uncertainty. Will suggests that the simplest and most profound way to deal with obstacles, difficulties, challenges, opposing viewpoints (very pertinent right now in our Brexit-splintered society) is to remain heart centred. That, using an astrological psychology prism, requires stepping beyond the personal emotional needs of the Moon – our emotional needs and feelings –  in the chart and taking the leap to connect with the pure and highest manifestation of Neptunian energy – of acceptance, inclusivity and non-judgemental love.

The text of Will’s book is richly supported by references to other psychological and esoteric traditions such as Crowley, Gurdjieff, Regardie and Fortune. These do not intrude on the flow of the text with footnotes but are listed in appendices at the end of the book, along with an index of Practices and Spells.

Drawing on forty years of is own personal and spiritual development and his experience as a therapist, Will writes clearly and with warmth, as though he is speaking personally. For every exercise he emphasises the importance of grounding in real life what the reader discovers on their own explorations of the inner world. He emphasises the importance of coming back to earth, of being here now, in everyday reality and to opening the heart to love in all interpersonal relationships. This, he suggests, is especially needed in these challenging times of global change and upheaval and relates to what we as individuals can do, which is to live with a deeper consciousness of our self, and to live every day with love in action.