4 Capricorn Lessons for Christmas…

My wife is a 1st generation Persian-American, meaning her parents didn’t grow up with Christmas movies and dramas. So she missed out on a lot of traditional Christmas movies like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snow Man,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and, one of my favorites, “The Bishop’s Wife.” Even though, as a Muslim, I’m no longer enchanted by Christmas anymore, it was nice to re-discover some of these movies through older eyes, since I hadn’t seen a few in decades.  I realized that most of them had themes that related to what’s often associated with Capricorn. Only fitting since Christmas happens during Capricorn season. Some were more obvious than others.

“The Bishop’s Wife,” speaks to that on a more subtle level, considering the leads are two Capricorn actors, Cary Grant and Loretta Young, in the original film. In the 1996 remake, “The Preacher’s Wife,” Dudley the angel is again played by Capricorn Denzel Washington. (It’s also noteworthy that the Capricorn angel’s assignment and foil, the Bishop/Preacher, were both played by Pisceans—David Niven in the original and Courtney Vance in the remake.

Capricorn Cary Grant (Dudley), Pisces David Niven (The Bishop), Capricorn Loretta Young (The Bishop’s wife)

As for shared themes, let’s skip the most obvious one that they all talk about remembering that it’s Jesus birthday. Not all of them do it, but enough do.

Here are FOUR lessons:

1. Life is precious, so don’t waste it being angry. This is clear in “Rudolph,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Santa Claus is coming to town,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and several others.   Life can be long, as only Saturn, Capricorn’s planetary patron, can attest. Most of the things you could feel inclined to be pissed off about have changed, even if you haven’t.  And if those things or people haven’t changed and you haven’t changed, then being pissed off hasn’t worked either.  So you might as well let that go.  I guess Christmastime is as good a time as any.

 2. Appreciate yourself and your gifts as precious and unique.  The messages in the stop-animation movies are continually that it’s okay to be different and unique.  Now that may seem more an Aquarian theme, admittedly, but I think it works with Capricorn as they share a planetary patron, Saturn. I also think that the lesson isn’t so much about the gift, but having responsibility for that gift. That’s all Cappy, baby.  You can and do something about the gift. You only have to find your place for it.  And finding your place could come from hard work and breaking away from the pack like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, or it might find you, like one Christmas eve when Santa comes to ask if you’ll lead his sleigh that night.  But time and patience will render the perfect opportunity for you to share your gifts with the world.

3. Don’t confuse the essence of who you are with the way you narrate your story. Every single one of these dramas mess with time and plot on some level, whether it’s a time-traveling all in one night like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” the alternate universe of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or the memory erase of Dudley the Angel in “The Bishop’s Wife.” Even the more modern tale, “A Christmas Story,” has the lead narrate a childhood story without revealing his present.  True to form, the planet Saturn, also named Chronos–Father Time–teaches that time is a matter of perception. In fact, Capricorn shows us a trick of perception with time. There are some Capricorns (and folks, in general) who feel that time is something that must be constantly managed and controlled to achieve their destiny. Not saying they’re wrong, because sometimes that happens—they manage their microseconds and achieve everything they want.  Other kinds of folks and Capricorns, have to live long enough (and even that doesn’t always have to be long) for life to find them and unfurls their destiny and fame, like Dr. King or Zora Neale Hurston in due time.  We can believe that we’re masters of time, but it’s more our perception that makes time seem like it’s our servant.  What we’re really focusing on, as these Christmas dramas remind us, is that we live by our essence, not the tick-tock of the clock or how we see our lives in chronological order. However, you project your essence, whether it’s like Scrooge to think that time’s money or the sum total of useless, nonsensical moments because you’re suicidal, like George Bailey, is up to you. But that may not be the real you. You can change your story and order of it to match your essence.

4. Know what you want and be ready to hold on to it. Christmas/Capricorn season rolls around to remind us what’s important, especially since a lot of our true desires get buried through the years, not just the year.  I was most intrigued by this lesson in “The Bishop’s Wife.”  SPOILER ALERT!, in case you’re like my wife and haven’t seen it:  The Bishop almost comes to blows with Dudley the Angel over his wife. Dudley smiles, saying his work is done, even though he had indeed fallen for the Bishop’s wife and thus had almost fallen as an angel. (I suppose Dudley even had a stirring of his own desire too. Dudley reminds the Bishop that he had prayed for guidance, thinking what he truly desired was a cathedral. Dudley came to guide him toward his real desire: the love of his wife. It’s interesting because Dudley does this for every character in the film, getting them to tap into their true and deepest buried desires. Like those characters, once that desire surfaces, then it can fly and become our destiny, if we let it.  Christmas is a time to tap into that. A precious time to unwrap our real gifts that have been wrapped so lovingly by the Cosmos and to cherish who and what matters most as the best way to be present.

And here are some horoscopes to contemplate the season as well:

Aries [March 21st to April 19th]

Taurus [April 20th to May 21st]

Gemini [May 22nd to June 20th]

Cancer [June 21st to July 21st]

Leo [July 22nd to Aug 21st]

Virgo [Aug 22nd to Sept 21st]

Libra [Sept 22nd to Oct 21st]

Scorpio [Oct 22nd to Nov 21st]

Sagittarius [Nov 22nd to Dec 21st]

Capricorn [Dec 22nd to Jan 20th]

Aquarius [Jan 21st to Feb 18th]

Pisces [Feb 18th to March 20th]

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/zodiac-lounge-your-horoscopes-this-week-1223-1229#ixzz2oPGQoFKS
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Nothing like the Sun…

As Venus prepares to retrograde in Capricorn, I can’t help but think about what she and her retrograde signify in our larger American society. One manifestation of my recent thoughts on her comes from my studies in Islam. In Islamic thought, there’s the concept of Allah (G-d) as reflective of two principles: Tanzih and Tashbih. With the concept of Tanzih, everything in the Cosmos is unlike Allah as Allah is incomparable and transcendent. It’s the opposite of thinking that God is everything and everything is God. With the concept of Tashbih, everything relates or is like Allah in that Allah has those traits or is the source/embodiment of a trait that we express as well, like love or mercy. One interesting distinction is that Tanzih often emphasizes how Allah has distance from us through wrath or judgment. Tashbih relates more to the mercy and compassion of Allah.

If you’re curious about how Venus relates to race, racism or injustice, you might want to start here with Nick Dagan Best’s amazing correlation between Venus cycles and African American history. In that blog post, Nick does an amazing job of illustrating that the similitude function of Venus warps in American polity when it comes to race. It becomes a dissimilitude instead of a similitude. This dissimilitude between what’s perceived as Black & White is what’s at the heart of the unjust experiences of Black people. In fact, it was a few weeks before the last Venus retrograde in May 2012 that much of Black America was mobilized to bring George Zimmerman to justice for the murder of Trayvon Martin in late February of that year. And then he got off this year. I’m not in the position to debate the measure of justice Trayvon’s family received as I didn’t watch the case closely. However, it’s become apparent to many that the “Stand your ground” laws and practices are coming under question, like with the cases of  Marissa Alexander in Florida (again) and Renisha McBride in Detroit, MI. With the McBride case about to go to trial, I find it all too strong a parallel with what we were contending with during Venus’ last retrograde.

But what set me flowing about Venus retrograde as a manifestation of Tanzih or what’s incomparable is the rash of “blackface” shenanigans we had this past Fall. Here’s a piece from fellow Ebony.com writer Jamilah Lemieux about it.  But a thought occurred to me this year about blackface that hadn’t before: it would seem some White folks find being a Black person in costume incomparable to their own experience without wearing brown or black make-up. That’s bizarre since I’ve never donned any White make-up to be any number of White people I’ve been in my life.  It’s as if the color of a Black person’s skin becomes the only pathway to finding a shared point of humanity in “being” or looking like the person. This not only shows a paucity of imagination, but empathy as well. It’s as if for these folks, some of them even good hearted in wanting to pay tribute to some notable Black person, Blackness is a thing so incomparable to their own Whiteness, so tanzih in their own experience, that they can not enter the guise of someone else without painting themselves. That’s profoundly sad. It’s not even maddening for me anymore.

I’m pretty sure the answer is not just in telling folks to step out their “Tanzih” zone and reach for more Tashbih. I think we can find a more nuanced way to appreciate space for both. That’s what made me think of Shakespeare’s Love sonnet 130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

What’s beautiful about this sonnet is how Shakespeare expresses how we can have the idea of the incomparable yet find love and appreciation all the same without denigration. A love sonnet is naturally under the auspices of Venus. A Venus in Capricorn is an astrological marker for how Venus seeks to find and experience value in the world of competence and materialism. Taken together, I hope we experience events, whether it’s the McBride case or Alexander case, or, heaven forbid, something new, that help us bridge the gaps in our imagination and empathy. That we find more space for tashbih and reserve the space for the incomparable for Supreme values that borrow from the Divine, but can never embody wholly as humans. One of those values is not your skin color, though.

Happy Full Moon!

Here’s how the Venus retrograde may manifest for some by Sun, moon or rising sign this week:

Aries [March 21st to April 19th]

Taurus [April 20th to May 21st]

Gemini [May 22nd to June 20th]

Cancer [June 21st to July 21st]

Leo [July 22nd to Aug 21st]

Virgo [Aug 22nd to Sept 21st]

Libra [Sept 22nd to Oct 21st]

Scorpio [Oct 22nd to Nov 21st]

Sagittarius [Nov 22nd to Dec 21st]

Capricorn [Dec 22nd to Jan 20th]

Aquarius [Jan 21st to Feb 18th]


Pisces [Feb 18th to March 20th]

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/zodiac-lounge-your-horoscopes-this-week-1216-1222#ixzz2nlP9euLq
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Fast and furious: Five Things To Consider with Mars in Libra (starting Friday!)

I can’t help but think about an odd synchronicity between the death of Paul Walker, the newest details about the Metro-North train derailment in the Bronx  and tonight’s new moon at nearly 11 degrees of Sagittarius. If we make allowance of a little more than a degree of orb, tonight’s new moon is conjoined to the fixed star Antares.  I’m a big fan of Marina Partridge’s thorough breakdown of the fixed stars, but this keyword breakdown stunned me:

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 2.26.35 PM

Seems almost too fitting to describe how “fast and furious” can get you in trouble. It’s believed that Walker (who starred in six films called “Fast and Furious”) was a passenger in a car that was “joyriding” too fast. It seems that Metro-North train that derailed was also going too fast. That’s a kind of sober reminder for all of us to slow down.

For the astrologically astute, you might notice that the fixed star, Antares, references Ares, the god of war. Ares is what we now call Mars, from Rome.  The other big celestial event is that Mars goes into Libra on Friday and that’s where he’s going to stay until July 2014!  That’s a long freakin’ time!  As I’ve tweeted recently  and put in this week’s horoscope for Libra, it’s ultimately a good thing for Libras, whether we’re talking those who have the Sun, moon or rising in Libra. You’ll be a little more amped to kick ass, especially if someone has been showing theirs to you.  But if we can step away from “signology” for a minute–when we’re overly concerned about events by “our” signs, I’d like to talk about Mars in Libra itself.  Mars in Libra is a planet in detriment, meaning that he’s in a sign that’s the opposite to his home, Aries.  More specifically, he’s in a sign of Venus; so the “god” of war has to use Venusian charms and wiles, like diplomacy, manners, or consensual debate/discussion. Mars can’t stand those things.  I talk a little more about the difference between planets in detriment & fall here. But here’s a little more to know about a planet in detriment.  Regardless, Mars is gonna be a testy little bugger, but this could lead to good, if not great, things if managed with care.

Here are, at least, five things to consider with Mars in Libra for the next 7 months

1. Slow the heck down. Mars is going to be opposite Uranus about three times in the next 7 months, including exactly on Christmas Day. Mars opposite Uranus is a classic signature for accidents or sudden disruptions. Of course, this could include all the stuff you can’t control, but get real about the things you can control like…slow down.

2. Nice-nasty. Like I said above, Mars’ natural inclination is not to be nice, though it’s not necessarily to be mean either.  Overall, he just wants to fulfill an action as effectively as he can. His emotions or those of others only come into play if there’s a hold-up or some frustration. In Libra, he’s encouraged to think about other people’s feelings. When that happens, he could be inclined to be what’s called “nice-nasty,” meaning he has a veneer of niceness to his nastiness.  You know like when you say to your honey, “Could you pass me the damn remote, please?”  Ain’t nothin’ cute about passive-aggressiveness.  If you feel aggressive, own it first. Doesn’t mean you have to act on it, but only unpleasantries can ensue if you don’t acknowledge it in the room with you.  Once you acknowledge it, perhaps you can tone down the aggressiveness and somehow get back to the action that’s required or requested, perhaps even pleasantly.

3. Learn the difference between debate and an argument.  I’m sure there are cleverer, wiki-friendly descriptions of the difference between the two, but as someone who has been in a lot of debates, even a noted debate champion, I have my own distinction. With a debate, you’re examining the pros & cons of ideas, evoking either evidence or examples. In an argument, you’re examining the pros & cons of feelings. If discussing pros & cons for feelings sounds odd to you, then, congratulations, you have a glimpse of how pointless arguments can become. (Of course, debates can quickly become arguments, so it’s important not to “catch feelings.”)  Mars particularly gets thorny here, because he likes to win and thinks when doing something Libra-like, it’s still about winning.  That’s great if you’re a trial lawyer, but not so awesome if you’re discussing how you feel and your partner wants you to provide corroborating evidence with dates and witnesses for said feeling.  Libra expressions help us cultivate more “we” than the winning. There is a way to have both, though.

4.  Think about more win-win scenarios. Mars likes to think either a winner takes all or somebody’s gotta lose in order to win. In Game Theory, this is called a zero-sum game. In the hood, it’s called going out like a sucka. But these are not the only ways to victory. Win-Win goes beyond compromise or lopsided victories to envision outcomes where people can get maybe even more of what they want, if they’re willing to think out of the box, collaborate or re-direct their priorities.  It’s great to cultivate the winning spirit, but, perhaps, Mars’ long stay in Libra will reflect a change in more people seeking win-win solutions.

5. Standing up for real justice. Who would’ve guessed some 10 years ago, with the proliferation of smart phones with cameras, that we’d use the cameras more to film and post injustices for entertainment than to use the actual phone feature to call for help when an injustice is taking place?  For instance, like this or this.  My heart has been warmed by the outcries of people decrying unfair wages in fast food and retail jobs, but there’s a lot more work to be done. And it has to be a real sense of justice, not false cries for “justice” as we saw from “Bachelor” producer Elan Gale as discussed here.  We also later learn that Diane has cancer, unfortunately.  Yeah, Elan, live tweeting how you’re passing notes to what appears to be a self-indulgent, self-entitled woman was funny with the first note; but the subsequent later notes, a la “eating a d*ck” admonition ain’t a way to stand up for the “little guy” in retail or service industries.  Hopefully, we’ll do better before Mars moves on home into Scorpio in July.

So, I hope you’re better prepared for Mars in Libra on Friday.

In the interim, here are some horoscopes for how this week, including Mars going into Libra, may affect your favorite signs:

Aries [March 21st to April 19th]

Taurus [April 20th to May 21st]

Gemini [May 22nd to June 20th]

Cancer [June 21st to July 21st]

Leo [July 22nd to Aug 21st]

Virgo [Aug 22nd to Sept 21st]

Libra [Sept 22nd to Oct 21st]

Scorpio [Oct 22nd to Nov 21st]

Sagittarius [Nov 22nd to Dec 21st]

Capricorn [Dec 22nd to Jan 20th]

Aquarius [Jan 21st to Feb 18th]

Pisces [Feb 18th to March 20th]

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/zodiac-lounge-your-horoscopes-this-week-122-128#ixzz2mM0gB57Z
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Wind Chimes…

On All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween), we lost a great and notable spiritual teacher, Grandmaster Kham. Today is his memorial service, the day we say goodbye as a community.

Grandmaster Kham, photo credit: Zamani Feelings, 2013

Grandmaster Kham, photo credit: Zamani Feelings, 2013

If you haven’t ventured to Brooklyn or NYC, you might not have heard of him. It’s also possible you have. He was a venerable spiritual teacher to many.

Off and on for the last 8 years, he had a spiritual meditation and healing center across the street from my apartment. I never meditated in there or got any healing; but when I stopped in to say hello, he was always kind and supportive. He always introduced me to people in his shop as “The Professor” and would recommend my services to them.

He had known of my work for years, including when the Zodiac Lounge used to be right up the street at its birthplace, the now defunct Food 4 Thought Cafe. He stopped by once to support  when we were there. The last time he came to the Zodiac Lounge was in April, at our most recent location at Freebrook Academy, to support us and his mentee (and my former astrology student), Janelle Belgrave. I was very happy about that.

What sticks out the most about Grandmaster Kham besides the assurance of his ever White-cladded splendor, usually seated in front of his center on warm days as you see him pictured above, are the wind chimes that hung over the front door of his center. When I first moved to my current neighborhood, it was a neighborhood in transition. My street was a stubborn firewall against the encroaching gentrification coming from a few blocks above it. There were really no cultural businesses on the block except his–and his wind chimes. The apartment building next to me doubled as a crack hangout with no apparent working doorbells because someone was always screaming for somebody at all hours of the morning or night.   But I also used to hear the wind chimes from my bedroom window. I knew intuitively that those wind chimes had a transformative purpose based  principles that Grandmaster Kham probably had studied from his deep appreciation and knowledge of Egyptian magic, history and lore. Next, my landlady got wind chimes over our building door. I always wondered if he, directly or inadvertently, inspired her.

About 2 years ago, Grandmaster Kham took the chimes down. I don’t know why, but one morning I noticed they were gone. Just before they were taken down though, a mosque had cropped up across from my house; an art gallery followed nearly a year later; a hip, thriving restaurant/bar has opened beneath me (I still groan about that); a  Habitat for Humanity housing condo complex is thriving next to me; the crack hangout apt. building was completely gutted, renovated  and re-housed with quiet neighbors who like to have subdued parties to make jack-o-laterns at Halloween; and there’s even a chai cafe around the corner. In other words, the neighborhood has changed. Perhaps he knew the chimes had done their job. I can’t say I like all the changes and there’s more work to be done, for sure; but I know the vibration of the neighborhood has elevated. Grandmaster Kham taught me that change does not have to be loud or with loud protests. It can happen with the sound of wind chimes.

For that and much more, I will miss him.

The Crusade Of Astrology

I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the State of The Art (SOTA) Astrology conference in Niagara Falls this year. I love this conference organized by Donna Van Toen each year. It’s small, but packed with a lot of great speakers and notable astrologers like Adam Gainsburg, Maurice Fernandez, Donna Van Toen, Pam Gallagher, and Vedic astrologer Kenneth Miller; a nice hotel near a great tourist site; and it had a slamming banquet this year.  I had a ball.

With this talk, I wanted to address some problems in our field that I’ve noticed for awhile. I wanted to talk about how we treat each other and what’s really important. I also wanted to address the lack of diversity in astrology, but without making it only about the diversity. It’s bigger than that. You be the judge for whether I tackled some of these issues adequately enough. But here’s the full transcript and mp3 of my delivery. I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re an astrologer or not. Thank you!

  The Crusade of Astrology

Talking about crusades doesn’t seem to be the likeliest of angles for usually secular or humanist astrologers. It seems likewise unseemly to evoke one of the bloodiest periods of human history replete with battles for prestige, land, resources and religious dominance as fodder for a keynote address. It seems an even odder choice for me as a former Baptist preacher-cum-atheist-cum-now Muslim astrologer. As you can see, I’ve had a few crusades of my own, so I’m not eager to make a public spectacle of any crusading efforts myself. Except in one very special way.

In 2001, then President George W. Bush and his administration were quick to remind us that the crusades between the East and West were far from over.   And I certainly have no interest in boring you with the painful lessons of over 400 years of the history of East battling West, except in one important way.

And that way isn’t even really for Astrology’s sake. Who would I be–who would any of us be–to think that a thing as old and vast as astrology has to rely on our puny selves to wield even mental swords to champion for it?

We may all have our moments of our unchecked hubris, but this ain’t one of ‘em.  At least not for me. Indeed, astrology has taken several heavy body blows over the last few centuries or so. Fittingly a lot of them came almost immediately after the Crusades ended in Europe. First, there were volleys of them from the Church. Then more landed from the skeptical Enlightenment that became the precursor of our “modern age.”

But, to be fair, it got hard, even brutal, for a LOT of people during and after the Crusades—from Jews, Native Americans, Protestants, feudal lords, and Africans to name a few. So Astrology’s beat down was part of a broader project for something else, something far more sinister and dangerous to human progress. Something worth crusading against.

And, of course, now would still seem a perfect time to take up a crusade for a field that appears to be besieged on all sides:

Take your pick with what.

By arcane laws evoked arbitrarily when we say we predict the future other than for “entertainment purposes only”;

By editors of “open source” Wikipedia who would shut us down when we attempt to demonstrate we’re anything other than a pseudo-science;

By the times we sometimes ferociously feud among ourselves to determine who is authentically practicing “real” astrology rather than any other permutations of flaky “Sun sign” stuff. (Never mind some of that “stuff” may have been the gateway drug for most of us );

Or when we constellate the borders of our organizations more with egos fearing personal extinction or when we loiter in online forums to skirmish for scraps of professional glory or just to let off some steam;

Or when astrology, once dubbed the “Queen of the sciences” can’t make an appearance at a major university unless as a continuing education course posted in a separate late semester catalog. Or as a class held in a basement of an old, soon to be razed academic building;

Or when major religions almost universally revile us though astrology has influenced all of their holy books and they still use principles from our art to mark their holidays as well.

And when it often seems easier for folks to come out of their sexual closets before coming out as an astrologer to their friends, family or co-workers.

Yeah, we have ample reason to stand up for ourselves, to muster up as many hurrahs as we can to crusade for astrology.

Yet I’m not confident that we could do that, much less should.

Which of the many versions of astrology would we trumpet for? Who should lead it when so many of our conferences bench the young to recycle veterans repurposing old lectures? Not too many conferences are as accommodating as SOTA. And it’s hard enough just to organize astrologers on a conference call, much less a call for a crusade for ourselves, by ourselves.

So if not for astrology, for what, as astrologers, should we crusade? It is this.

The “crusade” of astrology is to advocate for a living and meaningful Cosmos. A Cosmos that is as alive as feel we are—not a mere belief in astrology itself.  Our crusade isn’t to recover our once vaulted position as the “queen of all sciences.” It’s not for a mighty, united last stand to preserve our star-gilded empire.

Astrology can’t be about the business of privileging a “holy land” to keep a portion of its widely public secrets sanctified for some and hard to reach for others. We’re not marching to pillage and conquer “infidels” or each other. Astrology cannot afford to believe more in its workings and tools than what all its tools and workings are for.  If we do, we will surely lose a saner idea of a Holy Land, a figurative place that helps us become whole. We’re talking spirituality, not geography here.

Once, we were part of a whole and the whole was in us. We embraced something called an Anima Mundi, a soul of the world—before religion, before science came to take up so much space in our little cerebral cortexes. We didn’t see reason or revelation as set in a single moment of proof OR faith.  We were in communion with a Cosmos that we saw REFLECTED in everything—in the heavens, in plants, in animals, in our organs, and our personalities.

Of course, modern science and philosophy have been far less interested in the dynamism of a whole than the grand workings of individual gears and parts, whether those be the orders of knights, kingdoms, nations, or corporations. We’ve left behind many of the schisms of faith to create an even more profound schism between ourselves and a primal encounter with the world.

As Richard Tarnas makes the case in his book, Cosmos and Psyche, the divorce of the self from the Cosmos as alive has led to an alienating disenchantment of the self AND the world.  In fact, he says, “ …in a disenchanted cosmos, nothing is sacred. The soul of the world has been extinguished…the short-term and bottom-line rule all. “

And when the bottom-line rules all, our atomistic sense of ourselves has a price as well as a daunting tax. But it has certainly come with its benefits too.

The rise of the individual self has broadened and stabilized our definition of what it means to be a human being.  When we were more in our holism, we found it almost impossible to ever depart from the demands of a collective. One of the powerful gifts, for instance, of the Abrahamic religions, despite their legacy of bloodshed, was each person is responsible for his or her sins and the expiations of them.   The whole tribe didn’t have to sacrifice innocent animals, young virgins or whoever to appease angry gods.

Although we’ve still stayed fixated on our identities as part of a family, tribe, faith, kingdom, nation or race, it seems as if we’re getting progressively better, in fits and starts, with advocating for this idea of the individual. But we keep thinking that the individual, that non-divided thing as the word would suggest, can be separated from the Cosmos to which it inextricably belongs.

What’s the way out for us? Our greatest beauty and promise is in the first two letters of the word astrology, at least in English: AS. With A-S, we have a remarkable reminder of how one thing is like another yet wholly distinct. We unlock the mystery of the world by analog and analogy rather than the hubris and folly that we know exactly how the world is.  It’s even in our Hermetic credo: as above, so below; as within, so without; as the Cosmos, so the soul.

Models of analogy are not lost on the modern world. We all know units of stock on stock markets reflect units of value, not the actual cash worth of the company itself. (At least we learned that, again, after the housing and Internet bubble bursts.) We know that a dollar is a symbol of a value, not the actual value.

Yet too many seem baffled that when we talk about Saturn “AS” something we must be talking only about the physical properties of Saturn. We also seem confused, wanting to explain our field by appeals to electro-magnetic gravitational fields and the like. We want it to be more real as if analogue is not real enough.

The powers of analogy and analogue have their own power, their own beauty for which we can crusade. Of course, this power does not come without its problems.

The digital modern world provides great consistency and accuracy without any natural degradation like the analogs of tape recordings, records, film or paper.  We’ve come to believe what we can encode into bits & bytes is way better than the symbolism of what’s left to human assessment or vision, like your old Mercury thermometer.  We have come to trust the binary readout of machines rather than how we once had to read things naturally or with simple devices.

Yet I believe we lose so much when we come to believe more in machines or even see the world as Machine rather than the miraculous and living Cosmos that inspires us toward more life itself. Beholding a living Cosmos begets more life and is so worth our crusading energy.

Fortunately, this crusade positions us to have a lot more allies with similar modes of thinking—whether we’re talking about the meridians of acupuncturists, the symbols of Reiki, the ingredients of homeopathy, the picturesque divinations of tarot readers, the complex simplicity of casting cowrie shells. Or the hermeneutics of activists who show us how race, gender and class are also more symbols of human value and worth than what the literalism of science or religion recognize. We are people who know the world AS something, not for what it is literally.

This even forces us to face a truth about our own practices.  We often like to position astrological charts as things that speak plainly for themselves, that we can somehow know a person, a thing or event exactly as it is or should be. Or we’ll veer away from that altogether to read charts as an open field that’s impossibly fertile for any and every possibility.

Both of these paths construct an astrology that undercuts the true power of analogue and analogy in our work. Whereas digital media will attempt to reduce something to its exact similitude, analog seeks to make it just similar enough—leaving room for what can’t quite be described or known. You can call this mystery God, Noise, Chaos, the Cosmos, or nothing at all.  We sweeten our analogs and parallels to coax this dark mystery out into the brightness of day. We’ve not known to many other ways. We’ll never quite get it completely right.  And the “truth” may be that we’ll only ever see the world as we are, not as it is.

In this sense, we must become as children. But even a child’s world is becoming more literal. Once, we could learn the loopy beauty of cursive lettering in school. Not any more. Now all our “A’s” or “S’s” should look like the typefaces of machines, not what’s been fashioned by the uniqueness of our hands.

And speaking of hands, who has the time to think by way of analogy that the little hand on the eight and the big hand on the 6 means that it’s 8:30?  Who cares if the clocks once mirrored the Sun’s motion of right to left? Who needs suns and stars twinkling in the night when we can have crystal dashes that flicker the time, down to the seconds if we want?

We do.

See, this is bigger than astrology and the only crusade worthy of astrology’s fidelity. And historically it’s the only thing to which we have been loyal, considering how diverse our field has always been.  Maybe this won’t always be true. Perhaps we’ll see much of what Stevie Wonder saw, three Jupiter returns ago, when he says in his 1977 song, “As”:

As now can’t reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new…
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through
Until the day that you are me and I am you

 Until that day, let’s keep marching to the music of the spheres, enchanted by how things appear to be and spreading this enchantment of living Cosmos as far and as wide as we can.

Outwitting your stars…

At my Saturn return, I read Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, just before I went to India for the first time.  I loved it. But I particularly loved this section on astrology. As I prepare to write my first astrology book for the public, I’m reminded of so many of the good lessons I first learned about astrology from this chapter of Yogananda’s powerful book. I definitely would recommend it.  Enjoy this chapter, and, I do hope it gives you a little more insight on how to outwit your stars.

From Autobiography of a Yogi

Why I love Superman…

I’m excited about Chris Nolan’s reboot of the Superman franchise, set to premiere on Friday.

 

I’ve been a Superman fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen all of the live action movies. I can even do line for line renditions of Superman II. I watched every single (and sometimes tedious) episode of  Tom Welling’s 10-year journey to becoming Superman on “Smallville.” I’ve had hats, hoodies, capes, t-shirts with the “S” insignia and even considered getting it tattooed on my arm.  I’ve had countless debates with friends and strangers alike about the merits and clear demerits of Superman vs. every other hero in either the DC or Marvel Universe, especially Batman.  I’ve even written an astrological take on Superman (as a Gemini) for aol.com. (It’s offline now and they own the rights to it, so no link. Sorry.)

I know Supes is known as a corny, do-gooder with ridiculous powers, a ridiculous love life and with deep character flaws as he clearly lies to everybody close to him about who he really is. I still have hope that someone’s gonna get the character and story right for who he could be, even though few have. I still love him. Here’s why.

I was born with spina bifida. Without boring you with tedious definitions about what that means medically, let’s just say that I’ve had some 25+ operations, mostly early on in my life, to manage my disability.  I spent most of my first five years of my life with casts on my feet from surgeries to correct my congenital clubfeet.  I remember sitting up in my wheelchair or bed to watch the old, syndicated Superman TV series featuring George Reeves.  I was awed by Superman’s might, flying and super-speed. But, of course, I would. What else would be as inspiring for a kid bound to a bed or wheelchair?

But the real hero of this story is my mother. As I’ve gotten older, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her.  It wouldn’t be until I was nearly an adult that she would tell me what doctors had been telling her.  “Mrs. Reynolds, despite our surgeries, we can’t give you any assurances that Sam will walk normally, much less run and be active.” Or, “Mrs. Reynolds, there’s only a 50-50 chance that he’ll pull through this one.” Or, “Mrs. Reynolds, often children with Sam’s disabilities have cognitive deficits, so with special needs programs, he might one day be able to take care of himself. But he’ll still need special assistance for the rest of his life.”  She wasn’t a young mother, and she had family, including my father, to support her; but it must have been beyond nerve wracking to hear all these things about my life chances, again and again with each surgery to fix my life.

But I was a kid, watching a White man save the world, from another planet, in a cape and tights. And, as a kid, nobody told me that little Black kids with spina bifida couldn’t fly or be super.  So whenever I had my casts off, I would either have some Halloween Superman costume on with a cape or wrap some cloth around me and run through the house. Yes, run. I remember seeing the joy on my mom’s face when I would run. At the time, I just saw my mom being happy. Now as a grown man, I understand what she was seeing: a Super boy who had again proven the doctors wrong, again; who had given her a little more faith and a little more peace that I would be okay.

And over the years, as I let my imagination fly about Superman, I now can see what he did for me. He did, in fact, save me. He did inspire me. He got me out of my bed to be daring and believe that not only was life worth living, but it was worth doing it while facing challenges head on, for myself and for others.  And he spared me of thinking I had to become a Man of Steel since he already was. I have never had any serious pretenses toward invincibility, but I’ve become keenly aware, as someone with a disability, that most able people actually feel the need to be invincible somehow. I have never had the luxury of thinking that I am my body. I have not succumbed to the idea that how the world sees me is how I must be. Or how the world does not see me is how I am not.  I once wrote this poem about it:

 

Exposure

Most people live Life underexposed

So their pain of living rarely shows.

Those crippled by Life’s lens

Wear pain on their skins

and the façade of invulnerability

ends.

Of course, I wholly recognize that some are negatively affected by their perceptions of me as a Black man. I know that some people see my 4’11” frame and feel the need to contextualize me as a midget or even feel somehow I got the short shrift by life itself.  But these are not the conceptions of myself. For me, the first image of myself was as my mother’s Superman. So I will always believe in Superman.

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And for the record, especially to my buddy Daniel Older, a Batman fan, I’m not really a Batman hater. I just like to talk about how crazy he is. Here’s proof:

batsam