Astrology provides an extremely sophisticated framework for understanding ourselves, others and the patterns inherent in the world around us. Often when presented with a chart, it is difficult to know where to start to describe the complex and overwhelming information to someone who has no knowledge of it but is interested in understanding more about themselves. It can be used simply to provide insight about the psychodynamics present in an individual's personality but I also notice that its real value lies in shedding light on the dilemmas that face people and how to approach these dilemmas. Today a client of Dawn's arrived, a young man who was coming to the end of his Saturn return. Saturn is currently at 23 degrees of Libra and his Saturn was at 15 degrees of Libra, but it was connected by a large stellium in Libra which extended to 24 degrees so in some ways his Saturn return was still active. He had, in the last year, been through a divorce and had found this very painful but had concluded that he had no other option than to end the relationship because he and his wife simply could not operate together. He had concluded that he had taken responsibility for the fact that he was so controlling - he had the Sun and Moon conjunct in Scorpio and Saturn, Mercury, Pluto and Jupiter in a stellium in Libra - by opting out of relationships. Given that he also had Neptune and Venus conjunct in Sagittarius he could see clearly that he had chosen freedom with concomitant loneliness as a preferable alternative to commitment and the intense emotions this created. Earlier in the day, someone else, who is currently struggling with some difficult transits had rung me to discuss a conflict over whether to go on holiday. As part of the discussion he had also been discussing some differences of view between he and his wife over understanding of spirituality. His wife, with Sun and Moon in Pisces with the moon opposite Neptune takes a very spiritual approach to life and advocates the necessity for belief and transcending one's ego. The person ringing me, a Sun-Chiron conjunction in Gemini in a t-square with Neptune and Saturn is somewhat more sceptical and requires a more intellectual approach through the organisation of a body such as the Anglican Church.
After speaking to my him, I consulted the I-Ching to understand its perspective on the situation and threw the beautiful 5th line of Fellowship with Men in a situation of Li (Clarity). Whilst Astrology described beautifully the situations being faced by this person and by this young man who was Dawn's client, how did this convert into something of pratical value and wisdom which would serve them in their dilemmnas? To describe the dilemma has some value in reflecting back to us our situation, but more than that, for me, Astrology helps provide insight into what might block us and how we might wisely deal with a situation. For the young man it became clearer as we looked at his chart that he was still dealing with his Saturn return and my experience of this is that it is a conscious choice that we make to come to terms with reality in some way and to let go of the dreams of youth. In his case, with Saturn in Libra, it was about relationships and he began to see that in throwing away his relationship he had shied away from a commitment and gone for the Venus-Neptune in Sagittarius dream of some divine goddess who would fulfil his dreams and not taint them with being human and involving him in difficulty and problems. In this context, the Astrology could be used practically; one of his main issues had been that his wife wanted them to sleep in the same bed but he found this all but intolerable. Looking at the chart, we realised that for someone who was Sun-Moon conjunct in Scorpio he desperately needed control over his own bed. He was amazed that the chart could describe how he felt so accurately. Yet his conclusion had been that this made him incapable of sustaining a relationship and that he should get away from being so controlling. We all explained that being a family with lots of strong Pluto aspects we were all very controlling in our own ways. My daughter Ind was brilliant in pointing out with a broad smile that no-one else was allowed to ride her horses but her. Our point was that he was not going to change his nature but rather needed to accept it and find a practical way to take responsibility for it. Astrology's ability to shed light on what can and cannot be changed in our own natures, what we have to accept we might never resolve or change is one of it's greatest gifts. In this instance it provided insight into the fact that he was unlikely to change having a controlling nature or having a need from freedom as well. It had not occurred to him that it was ok to search for solutions such as having his own bed or having twin beds that could be moved together and apart. His wife had also reflected that perhaps her insistence that he be contained was not accepting his nature. At this point it is valuable to understand the I-Ching's perspective. The I-Ching's perspective is that relationships are important and more importantly that loyalty is the key to this - as hexagram 37, The Family describes. In Hexagram 53, the Marrying Maiden, the I-Ching also describes relationships and talks about the need to keep a long term goal in mind - the health of the relationship, so that we are not put off by short-term emotions or difficulties. Yet the I-Ching is also interesting in suggesting in Duration (another hexagram about courtship and marriage) that the way that we embody our principles and keep them in mind is through a flexible approach. As it states, this appears to be contradictory, but it is not, it is that we keep the long term goal in mind but are adaptable in how we respond in the present. Thus, for this young man, he came to see that he had missed his Saturn return and thrown away a wife who, even when divorced, was still concerned to learn how she might have contributed to the difficulties in the relationship (a wife by all accounts well worth holding on to). He could also see that to avoid difficulty was to avoid relationship and have to embrace loneliness; that the pursuit of some divine image of perfection and going for the drug of romantic love was never to make a relationship with a flesh and blood human being and live in the lonely world of dreams (to understand how to approach relationships and romantic love We - The Psychology of Romantic Love by Dr Robert A Johnson is required reading). In this sense, the chart's value was in providing the keys for understanding his predicament and generating insight. In the other person's case, the dilemma he faced was a sense of disloyalty and the fear that the relationship might be broken or lost should he hold a different perspective from his wife. Yet, the differences that charts highlight are not indications of incompatibility but just that: differences. Most of the difficulty with soaring divorce rates, I can't help feeling, stems from misconstruing difference for incompatibility. But even if there are elements of incompatibility this does not preclude a relationship, rather these very elements are the work and growth that relationships entail.
In itself Astrology has no wisdom, it can be used to provide information which can then be translated into insight and used wisely and for me, this is it's greatest value, otherwise it is like a mass of interesting data, fascinating in itself but of little direct value. I have come across some people who are brilliant astrologers but whose interest is in the data and descriptive qualities not in applying the insights to help others learn and grow. The I-Ching hexagrams I threw, I realised, were describing the relationship between Clarity and how to apply it to relationships so I leave the last words to the I-Ching:
Nine in the fifth place means: Men bound in fellowship first weep and lament, But afterward they laugh. After great struggles they succeed in meeting. Two people are outwardly separated, but in their hearts they are united. They are kept apart by their positions in life. Many difficulties and obstructions arise between them and cause them grief. But, remaining true to each other, they allow nothing to separate them, and although it costs them a severe struggle to overcome the obstacles, they will succeed. When they come together their sadness will change to joy. Confucius says of this: Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings. Now the course is checked, now it runs straight again. Here winged thoughts may pour freely forth in words, There the heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in silence. But when two people are at one in their inmost hearts, They shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze. And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.