Category Archives: metaphysics-spirituality

Hardwiring Happiness

We are biologically evolved to react to danger and thus remember the bad times – those with the best fight-or-flight response survived. Yet neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, building on the work of many recent authors, claims that we can actively train our mental happiness pathways to compensate for this bias in order to lead happier lives.

The practice he recommends is very different from simple affirmations. The exercises to promote the happiness pathways in our brains reminded me of acting exercises that I had in school to conjure up a mood. Readers are encouraged to “take in the good,” becoming more aware of and responsive to positive situations all around us every day, with many examples of how to do so.

I found this premise very intriguing and also reminiscent of simply counting our blessings. The author goes on to suggest developing the technique to overcome habits, free yourself from old emotional wounds and learn new skills. I’m not sure that someone who’s not astrologically predisposed for focus and discipline can really get this technique to work on their own for more significant issues, and perhaps it makes more sense for shorter-term and general outlook.

This book is easy to read and may have been more effective at a shorter length. But it seems like a great idea and I’m already trying it with success!

Zen Koan

An ancient zen koan says: “The enlightened man is at one with the law of causation.” What does this mean? I think it has something to do with our ideas of fate and free will.

We ordinarily think of the concepts of fate and free will as two opposite things. The Chinese master from the 13th century who recorded the koan, however, is suggesting that they are both parts of one whole, like dice which reveal multiple faces.

I’m a very martian person and I often wonder if things would fall into place without my ever taking the initiative. But first of all, because Mars is so prominent in my horoscope, it’s quite difficult for me not to act. And I imagine that things would fall out differently if I could control myself and be more patient or passive.

Still, I think the zen koan implies that I should try to let things go, to not be so attached to results and to try to go with the flow of the Universe more. It doesn’t appear to say that I can ever totally over-ride or escape “causation.” That would mean trying to control the Universe, which the Greeks would have called hubris.

Being an astrologer, however, I also think there’s room to consider that I’m here for a reason, which is indicated in my horoscope. And that, too, is part of the causation that I find myself in. Living that reality, it seems to me, may also be part of being “at one with the law of causation.”

Of course, when we do become enlightened, all will be crystal clear!

Beethoven Lives

Ludwig von Beethoven was born on December 16, 1770 in Bonn, Germany. He had the Sun, Moon and Mercury all in Sagittarius. Beethoven’s music is immediately recognizable for its drama and liveliness, which convey a feeling of vitality – it always moves forward. (Mozart also had the Moon in Sagittarius and his music exhibits a similar vital energy.)

Astrodatabank lists several possible times of birth for Beethoven, and I prefer the chart for 1:29 pm. This puts the Moon and Mercury in the 8th house of the metaphysical world and the Sun conjunct Jupiter in the 9th house of international acclaim. Beethoven lives on through his music across both time and place.

The composer’s success took some time to achieve, however, and even much of Europe did not appreciate his work until after his death in 1927. While Jupiter conjoins the Sun, it’s in its detriment in the sign of Capricorn. Success would therefore take time and effort, but could be long-lasting. Saturn in the 5th house trines Beethoven’s Sun, Moon and Mercury, giving a similar indication for the longevity of his creative work.

Our popular image of Beethoven is with a striking head of long hair. Astrologically, hair is ruled by both Capricorn and Saturn, and its abundance is indicated by Jupiter. Several locks of Beethoven’s hair which still exist were taken after his death (a customary memento in the 19th century).

A fascinating book called Beethoven’s Hair documents the travels of a lock of the composer’s hair and its recent journey to the U.S. Medical tests revealed conclusively that the composer suffered from lead poisoning, also ruled by Capricorn and Saturn. Since Jupiter in Capricorn conjoins the Sun in the 9th house in Beethoven’s horoscope, we’ve learned more about his journey through life from his hair’s travels after his death!

The Astrology of Easter

Easter’s date each year has astronomical origins. Passover begins on the 14th day of Nisan, after the spring equinox, and celebrates the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian slavery. The sign of Aries begins on the first day of spring and seems an appropriate time for the Hebrews to embark on a new phase of their experience with energy and enthusiasm. The Hebrew calendar is lunar, and the 14th day of Nisan coincides with a full Moon. The full Moon astrologically also nicely describes the drama of this important event.

Christians celebrate Easter on the Sunday after Passover, so it’s the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the spring equinox. Easter represents hope and renewal, which are also tied to the sign of Aries. Aries is represented by a ram, a male sheep, and a lamb is a young sheep. Jesus is often referred to as the “lamb of God” since he sacrificed himself. This ties in with the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, in keeping with the symbolism of Aries, as are knives and bloodshed. The death of Christ heralds a new era of spiritual vitality, which coincides with the growth and renewed energy of the natural world in spring.

Dr. Sacks and Mercury

Neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks was born on July 9, 1933 according to His article, “The Joy of Old Age (No Kidding.)” appeared in the New York Times on July 6, 2013. In it, Dr. Sacks discussed turning 80 and how he associated it with the element mercury, which has an atomic number of 80. Although Sacks is obviously not an astrologer, his essay is chock full of allusions to Mercury.

Sacks says that, “My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.” Here he refers to siblings, well-known as Mercury-ruled. And Mercurial people are often youthful, no matter what their age.

One reason Dr. Sacks is grateful for a long life is because he’s been able “to write a dozen books and to receive innumerable letters from friends, colleagues and readers,” although he also realizes that at his age, “dementia or stroke looms.” Writing and correspondence are Mercury-ruled pursuits and dementia and stroke both impair Mercury’s ability to express itself. He reports that his father, who lived to age 94, said that in his 80s he felt “an enlargement of mental life and perspective” – once again, referring to the intellectual capacities ruled by Mercury.

Dr. Sacks’ article was reprinted in AARP The Magazine’s February-March 2014 issue, which appeared under Mercury retrograde. A re-print is quite a Mercury retrograde phenomenon. Coincidence?

Obviously Mercury is an important planet for Sacks! When we look at his horoscope we find that his Mercury is involved with oppositions involving the Moon, Venus and Saturn. This is the dominant pattern in the doctor’s chart and part of his essential experience. He’s been challenged to express himself through creative writing (Mercury conjunct Venus in Leo). His expertise as a doctor (Saturn in Aquarius) and ability to objectively analyze human behaviors (Moon in Aquarius) all play their parts in Sacks’ work as he explores the unusual ways our brains and minds can interact.

As an astute observer of the human situation, Dr. Sacks tunes in to astrological truth without having studied it. He has clearly become an expert in understanding others, and, in fact, life itself, also represented by his Moon-Mercury-Venus-Saturn oppositions.

Contradictory Points of View

Swami Vivekenanda had great insight into differing points of view:

“We know there may be almost contradictory points of view of a thing, but they all point to the same thing.  Suppose a man is journeying towards the sun and as he advances he takes a photograph of the sun at every stage.  We see that no two are alike; and yet who will deny that all these are photographs of the same sun, from different standpoints?

In the same way, we are all looking at truth from different standpoints, which vary according to our birth, education, surroundings, and so on.  We are viewing truth, getting as much of it as our circumstances will permit, coloring it with our own feelings, understanding it with our own intellects, and grasping it with our own minds.  We can know only as much of truth as is related to us, as much of it as we are able to receive.  This makes the difference between man and man and sometimes even occasions contradictory ideas.  Yet we all belong to the same great truth.”

 – from a lecture at the Universalist Church, Pasadena, California, January 28, 1900

JFK Redux

The media has been having an orgy, feasting on the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy.  Does astrology show our obsession with him?  Of course. 

Kennedy’s South Node in his 9th house closely conjoins the U.S. Sun.  Judith Hill says in her book, The Lunar Nodes, that the Sun entity (the U.S. in this case) “…may cause you grief or trouble at some point.  Or sometimes they drain you.”  This seems appropriate, if understated, for Kennedy.  Obviously he would not have been killed had he not been president of the U.S.!  Hill also suggests that “It can be a karmic bond.”  For us, the country as a whole, Kennedy as a South Node person seems to be someone that strikes us to the core; we don’t seem to be able to let go of him.  Since the Nodes are diametrically opposed, those who want to know more about his position (North Node) or his at times creepy lifestyle (South Node) are both fascinated. 

The natal connection existed for a long time.  But why is it gaining momentum now?  Not all anniversaries are celebrated.  Transiting Pluto is within a degree of conjoining JFK’s natal North Node in Capricorn, dredging up his past.  To once again quote Judith Hill on this combination, “Pluto brings very deep, intense energy… Some individuals may experience an enhancement of personal powers… Your dharma may be pointed out…”  And Pluto can be obsessive. 

Of course, these are just a few of the many connections between Kennedy’s horoscope, the U.S. chart and current transits.  One symbol that I like is his Mars in Taurus conjunct his 8th house, representing the eternal (Taurus) flame (Mars) at his gravesite (after death – 8th house), being activated now by the transit of Saturn in Scorpio. 

But enough already!  Let’s put this guy to rest. 

There have been a lot of books lately on the Nodes.  I haven’t read them all, but I highly recommend Judith Hill’s excellent book, The Lunar Nodes (Stellium Press, 2009).  It describes eastern, western and contemporary approaches, natal placements and transits.  She really speaks from her own and client’s experiences.  It has a great Table of Contents and Bibliography though unfortunately no Index.  Buy it at  The Lunar Nodes: Your Key to Excellent Chart Interpretation

The Letter from the Virgin

In his debut novel, Anthony P. Geraci brings us an epic story of great scope, effortlessly placing us in 45 AD, the year 963 and the near future. The virgin of the title is of course the Virgin Mary, with her Letter part of the mystery we follow for two millennia. Geraci maintains both suspense and intriguing plot twists from beginning to end. After midnight, I didn’t especially want to continue reading about the pedophile bishop or evil Pope, but I could not put the book down!

Geraci is a masterful researcher, with each of his time periods vividly recreated, as are Rome, Avignon, New York City and other locales. We learn something of the history of the world’s oldest living institution, the Catholic Church, but its leaders are manipulating their message to obtain the greatest power for themselves. Church officials have forgotten their humanity and are as corrupt as any leaders in business, industry or politics.

Through dramatic situations and compelling characters, the author presents the spiritual world and divine inspiration as more real and legitimate than manmade laws. The dynamic women of the first two eras in the story move the plot forward as they try to be true to what they know is right, while opposing power-hungry men. Our final protagonist, a gay seminary student, is able to bridge both worlds, and is uniquely qualified to set things right and solve the mystery.

Geraci’s work is resonant of Taylor Caldwell, Dan Brown or even Indiana Jones. But this inventive and highly imaginative book is completely original. There’s both a satisfying ending as well as a surprising twist, and plenty of room for a sequel. Bring on the movie!

Swami Vivekenanda on Universal Truth

This quote from Swami Vivekenanda seems very fresh today, over 100 years after he stated it. It’s a good example of how the opposition aspect works constructively in astrology:

Any attempt to bring all humanity to one method of thinking in spiritual things has been a failure and always will be a failure. You cannot make all conform to the same ideas. If you and I were to think exactly the same thoughts, there would be no thoughts for us to think. We know that two or more forces must come into collision in order to produce motion. It is the clash of thought, the differentiation of thought, that awakens thought. Whirls and eddies occur only in a rushing, living stream. There are no whirlpools in stagnant, dead water.

Every religion has a soul behind it, and that soul may differ from the soul of another religion; but are they contradictory? Do they contradict or supplement each other?

I took up this question when I was quite a boy, and have been studying it all my life. I believe that they are not contradictory; they are supplementary. Each religion takes up one part of the great universal truth and spreads its whole force in embodying and typifying that part of the great truth. It is therefore addition, not exclusion. System after system arises, each one embodying a great ideal; ideals must be added to ideals. And this is how humanity marches on.

– from a lecture at the Universalist Church, Pasadena, California, January 28, 1900