Journey Through Space | Monthly Forecast | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Journey Through Space 

Curiosity Rover makes its way through the Dingo Pass on Mars. - NASA/CURIOSITY ROVER TEAM
  • NASA/Curiosity Rover Team
  • Curiosity Rover makes its way through the Dingo Pass on Mars.

Lots of astrology happens in March 2014, and that happens to be the month that includes my 50th birthday. It's also my 20th anniversary as an astrologer. It was on my 30th birthday in 1994 that I walked into Esoterica Books in New Paltz and purchased my first astrological ephemeris, the book that tells you where to find the planets on any given day, making astrology possible.

In this edition of Planet Waves I want to tell you what led up to that moment and share some of what I've learned in those 20 years, but first an announcement.

At 7 pm on Saturday, March 8, I will be hosting an event called Journey Through Space, co-sponsored by Chronogram, at BSP in Uptown Kingston (323 Wall Street near North Front Street). This is my birthday event as well as my anniversary as an astrologer. We'll have music by Blue O'Connell, my astrology teacher (and improv pianist) David Arner, and the electronica ensemble Home Body.

I am planning this as an initiation ceremony. I'll be playing my first gig as a guitarist—first in a duet with David and then later in the evening with my music teacher Daniel Sternstein and the BSP house band. By some odd coincidence, all of my astrology teachers are not just musicians but composers as well, so I thought a musical event would bring that full circle—or more accurately, full ellipse.

I can barely believe I'm turning 50 (everyone must say that) but it feels even more unusual to look back on two decades as an astrologer. I do mean 20 solid years, plus an approximately seven-year warm-up. Barely a day has gone by when I have not done some serious research, chart casting, reading,or writing on some astrological topic. If I have missed any days at all, there have not been many. I have a restless, curious, relentless mind. Astrology is always interesting, always new, always offering something useful and alive.

Early in my career as an astrologer, I became aware of Chiron, a planet discovered by astronomer Charles Kowal in 1977. It was the discovery of Chiron that helped guide astrology from its murky occultist days into the modern era as a healing art. Though many astrologers don't use Chiron, all astrologers have felt its influence.

Chiron has a 50-year orbit, so when one turns 50, that is their Chiron return. When I was new to this work and its many challenges, both intellectual and human, I always kept a collection of people over 50 around me, that is, a number of Chiron return graduates. I considered 50 to be one's coming of age as a community elder, and over the years I have initiated many people into that status at the time of their Chiron return. Now by my own definition, I am about to become a community elder.

Mentorship is a primary theme of Chiron, as is conscious healing process, growing into self-awareness and the integration of diverse talents and gifts. When you think of Chiron, think "holistic" and "whole system thinking."

I've taken two main approaches to astrology—the healing and personal growth angle, and an integration of astrology with writing about world events.

The spiritual and psychological dimension you're familiar with in my horoscopes, and in my essays about relationships, therapy, and ethical issues. Sometimes this involves the direct use of astrology; the rest of the time the discussion is informed by astrology, which is always working in the background.

I believe I've made a contribution to my field in this area of the work, especially in developing the use of newly-discovered planets that tell the story of the human condition we face today. However, I've gone a lot further with something else—the integration of the personal dimension with world events, and describing the spiritual implications of what we call the news. This has a long history.

When I got my first journalism job in 1988, I was hired by a newspaper in central New Jersey called the Echoes-Sentinel. The editor, Florence Higgins, was an astrologer. I mentioned her last month—the lady who could shock the staff of all seven newspapers in the chain with rumors of Mercury retrograde.

The day I was hired, I was given the one available desk in the office, which had an astrology calendar hanging over it. This began for me what would become a permanent association between newspapers, news reporting, and astrology.

The three writers at the paper would cover town boards, planning and zoning boards, land use, and development. As we did that all day long, we would be given updates by Flo about the condition of the planets. I would study the astrology calendar, trying to make some sense out of it. None of this got into print, but nobody left the Echoes-Sentinel without learning the basics of astrology.

I was also studying A Course in Miracles during this time, which is advanced training in spiritual psychology and healing. Flo read my chart, sold me my first tarot deck and my first set of runes, and basically got me started on the path I am on now. Nearly all of this took place in a newspaper office.

For the next seven years, I learned journalism working as a reporter and editor. I covered American Medical Association conventions, federal agencies like the ATF, liquor and beer marketing, education law, the nurse shortage, and many facets of business reporting.

In 1989 I came to New Paltz to do news reporting and poetry, and started a news service covering the SUNY and CUNY systems and the goings-on in Albany that affected public higher education. All that time, I continued with my spiritual and mystical studies.

In late 1991, the PCB accident at SUNY New Paltz happened, and for the next three years I covered the cleanup, the cover-up, and expanded my investigation into Monsanto, Westinghouse and GE, the companies that created the mess. The Las Vegas Sun, the Village Voice, Sierra magazine, the Ecologist, and many other magazines carried my articles. I developed a specialty in chlorine-based compounds, the history of PCBs and dioxin, and built a considerable portfolio covering scientific fraud.

To sum up that message, at the time I started studying astrology, I did not revere science as a god, nor as a valid religion. It's not that I inherently distrusted any scientist; all I needed was a good answer to the question, "Where's your data?" That question is the single most important tool anyone needs when confronted by a scientist with an opinion about something, especially if that something sounds kinda deadly.

At some point in this era, someone suggested that I check out the horoscope in the New York Post. I wish I knew who that was, so I can thank her. I am sure she lived in the Hudson Valley and may be reading. 

So I started picking up the Post and reading the horoscope—and I was amazed, day after day, without exception. The writer, Patric Walker, clearly had unusual gifts for both astrology and writing. His daily entries were maybe 50 words per sign, but he could convey with detail the nuances of my inner thoughts, my environment, and advised me how to handle them.

Patric demonstrated to me that astrology was real. After about two years I could not stand it anymore. I had to know how he created these readings.

On my birthday in 1994, I had my deposition taken by the state Attorney General's trial division. I was in the process of suing SUNY New Paltz in federal court. I am not sure what they were thinking when they declared me persona non grata for my reporting on their PCB and dioxin problem—maybe that I would suddenly abandon my search for truth and justice for the students defrauded into living in those dorms.

What they got was a federal summons and complaint, and a year of litigation, ending with an apology that my civil rights had been violated and a significant cash payout to me—something that the state does not do. The lawsuit received national press coverage in the New York Times.

Still wearing my suit from the deposition, I walked into the bookstore with my then-girlfriend and collaborator Hilary Lanner-Smith, and bought the Rosicrucian Ephemeris of the 20th Century, purchased the New York Post, and started studying astrology that evening. Yes, in the ancient astrology text known as the New York Post.

After my 20-year world tour covering astrology and teaching at conferences, teaching engagements places like Omega Institute, and mentorship with many noted astrologers, studying Patric Walker remains the single most valuable learning experience I've had as an astrology student. And I got that information from a tabloid newspaper, for 25 cents a day.

One year later I began writing the Planet Waves horoscope. When I took up astrology, still deeply immersed in my environmental reporting, I did so consciously bringing in a world-wise ethos. I was accustomed to documenting the veracity of my words with thick binders full of research. I put that same depth of inquiry into astrology, digging into its history, tradition, and modern practice.

As for my writing, astrology gave me the chance to be personal. I learned the most important thing of all from Patric Walker: speak to one reader, not to a group of them. To write a meaningful horoscope, use the same tone as a letter to a trusted friend. It was exactly this kind of personal contact I was looking for when I changed tracks from investigative reporting to astrology.

Almost immediately, I began applying astrology to world events—that is, the charts of news events, people in the news, and trends of all kinds—particularly social trends and the cycles of history.

This has been done before, but I have often found it confusing, too technical, and lacking in a compelling narrative. So, I set out to tell a relevant story that anyone could understand. I am not sure I succeeded (the first use of the word "conjunction" can scare some people away), but I have done my best.

Integrating astrology into the news provides several benefits, the main one being context. Astrology allows one to see the connections between events, and to follow a contemporary event along a story arc into the past and the future. Using astrology, no single incident stands alone; it's connected to everything and everyone around it. Astrology reveals the web of life and the karma that underlies situations. If you know where to look, astrology points to how we can personally take action.

I consider this a model for how to make the news relevant to people, and a new approach to community-based journalism. What we think of as the news has a really serious problem: it's alienating and usually irrelevant. Interconnection and context allow the inclusion of the reader into the scenario, whether it be an understanding of the emotional impact, of the cultural changes implied by a development, or how an individual can adapt to the opportunities and the demands of the present moment.

Looking at the charts for spring 2014, I think that news astrology is going to have its moment. There will be a lot of news—and a lot of astrology lurking underneath it. The process begins to take shape with the Mars retrograde that starts on March 1 (Mars chose the first day of its own month to station retrograde). And it comes to a peak in late April with a grand cross and a potent solar eclipse a few days later. Look for coverage of that in the April issue of Chronogram and check in with Chronogram's 8-Day Week or for immediate updates.

I look forward to meeting you on at 7 pm on Saturday, March 8 at BSP in Kingston.

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