New York, May 3, 2018 | View as Webpage
Planet Waves
One of my many astrology bookshelves, though the top shelf is closest to my video desk. I like to collect editions of books; I think I have every early edition of Barbara Hand Clow's book on Chiron. I also have a healthy collection of ephemerides. The bell is a space clearing bell, and I am obsessed with dice. 
A Method for Learning Astrology
By Eric Francis Coppolino

Wednesday on my Facebook timeline, a discussion began about the best astrology books. Be it known that I am skeptical of nearly all of them. Most books over-complicate the matter, they avoid the bare-bones techniques that you need to use, and they are overloaded with pseudo psychology. Many take such a dark view of people and what we go through, there should be a trauma recovery group for astrology students.

I am extreeeeeeemely finicky about whose ideas I will let into my mind, even whose books I will keep on my shelf. Once an idea enters your mind, it does not leave. And if an idea enters your mind that makes you feel bad about who you are, or doubt who you are, or projects the fear of negative outcomes, it can take a lot of processing to move it through.

In my view as a trainer of professional astrologers, one must have two solid years of therapy before working with an astrology client. If you want to practice readings along the way, I suggest short tarot readings, which are more intuitive, and less on the level of psychic surgery. 

Therapy is essential because you will encounter many situations in the counseling room where you must be able to sort out your stuff from your client's stuff. You will need to understand projection, and how not to take on the material of your clients, or put your material onto them.

An Art of Literacy

Astrology is an art of literacy, and you must build on conventional left-to-right literacy and convert your thinking into a holographic, circular, cyclical model. You must know what words mean, and the larger concepts they convey. 

So speaking of books, start with a good dictionary (Arkana Dictionary of Astrology by Fred Gettings) and a basic encyclopedia (Anthony Lewis, but I don't trust his interpretations of the asteroids). 

Bear in mind that I learned astrology reading the New York Post horoscope by Patric Walker. By "learned astrology," I mean that I went from zero to about 50 mph just by studying a newspaper horoscope, along with The Book of Thoth and the Thoth tarot.

When we talk about reading astrology books for the purpose of learning astrology, there must be a theoretical approach in the background. It's vital to recognize that nearly all modern astrology is psychological astrology. This is considered a benefit. However, in my view, psychological astrology is like watching a baseball game from the sidelines, and theorizing. Actual astrology is like playing on the field, and going to bat.

Most astrology students fill their head with psychological astrology and very little reading of actual psychology, which is usually MUCH more interesting than astrology books. Authors such as John Bradshaw, Alice Miller, Eric Berne, Erich Fromm and Fritz Perls provide a deeply useful set of references for the practice of astrology, because they are studies in human nature -- not theoretical psychology imposed on astrology.

Classical astrology -- not medieval but Greek -- is the foundation of the astrology we use. Set within a modern context, the demonstration of the true miracle of astrology comes from working with horary: the astrology of ideas and questions. 

Natal astrology is something of an afterthought to horary, though wisely informed by it. Once you know horary, it's an easy step into progressions, which are the full expression of the natal chart. Natal and progressed go together, largely because the progressed chart demonstrates the most important thing about the natal chart: IT IS A THING IN MOTION. It's not a static picture, being acted on by transits. It develops and unfolds and becomes something new more or less constantly.

Of Houses, Motives and the Spiritual Foundation

The most useful and misunderstood topic in astrology is the houses. Without an understanding of the houses, there is no way to read astrology effectively. The houses are the basis of the syntax of the reading: the steps you follow to get to an interpretation.

The houses also form the context of any reading. They are what bring the "celestial order" to Earth and into real life. I have yet to read a decent, flexible description other than one that I've written, called It's All in the Houses.

If you want to learn astrology, I would suggest you not stuff your head with one book after the next, but rather take a minimalist approach; an orderly approach; and learn astrology mostly from charts -- from practice -- and not from loads and loads of pseudo psychology, which I would define primarily as the false study of purported motives. Once you start getting into the study of supposed and presumed motives, you're about to be lost. There is too much room for projection. If you want to understand motives, ask people, and observe them. 

Astrology needs a spiritual basis. Otherwise it's as neutral as any set of tools. For that spiritual basis I would recommend either A Course in Miracles, so that you learn how to ask for help when working with someone; or, in the alternate, the work of Alan Watts, such as The Supreme Identity or The Way of Zen.

To understand why humans need astrology, you must understand sex and the inherently spiritual basis of sex. I will attach a separate reading list at the end; however, I recommend two works:
<> Tantra: The Indian Cult of Ecstasy by Philip Rawson
<> The Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich
Classical But Without Getting Hung Up

Having trained many professional astrologers, I've developed an approach that lays down a foundation of classical astrology without getting hung up in it. After one has studied ethics, and is widely read in at least three non-astrological subjects (one science, one literary and one musical or artistic), I would suggest this:
-- Learn some basic form of divination and get pretty good at it, such as I Ching or tarot. Divination is the basis of astrology. My goal in educating a beginning student is to get them to the point where they can understand what I consider the very best astrology book and one of the few books I would take to another planet: The Moment of Astrology by Geoffrey Cornelius. 

This might take a year or two of study and reading charts, to get up to the point where you can follow along the chart examples that Cornelius uses. No other book describes what one does when one does astrology as well as The Moment of Astrology.
Additionally, you will need:
-- A quality loose-leaf notebook with good paper, blank wheels, sheet protectors to collect random scraps, and a good mechanical pencil. I recommend keeping your notes in pencil, so that you can erase, and are reminded that the world is subject to change.

-- An ephemeris in book form. Absolutely essential. The New International Ephemerides from Aureas spans the 20th and 21st centuries. Astrology students are abandoning the ephemeris, which is like musicians abandoning scales.

-- For a general reference, The Astrologer's Handbook by Sakoian and Acker is the most spiritually and technically clear, without a lot of heavy-handed viewpoint or dogma. It's just the basics.

-- For another general reference, though somewhat heavier handed, and an excellent introduction to Pluto, Astrology: A Cosmic Science by Isabel Hickey. The beauty of this book is that Hickey was so well read in Alice Bailey, and some of that comes through.
For classical astrology, here are my most trusted titles:
<> Whole Sign Houses by Robert Hand (monograph)
<> Night and Day by Robert Hand (monograph)
Astrology is part of a wider area of subjects, broadly known as "the occult." 
<> The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley covers tarot, kabbalah and astrology, particularly Pluto. As such, it stands as a fantastic introduction to "occult" topics, written with Crowley's acerbic wit and astonishing breadth of knowledge. It is by far the best book on the tarot, and thus an excellent foundation to astrology. Crowley understood Pluto before anyone else.
What is called "modern astrology" addresses the three outer planets of the 20th century: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. To that end, I recommend: 
<> Prometheus the Awakener by Rick Tarnas. (Monograph) This precedes Cosmos and Psyche by many years; I think it's more accessible, a small fraction the length; and it makes all of the same historic points beautifully. 
Then we get into the postmodern era -- the minor planets. I recommend:
<> Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs: To the Edge and Beyond. Melanie Reinhart gets it right when she teaches Saturn as a prerequisite to the centaurs Chiron, Pholus and Nessus. This is by far the best exposition of Saturn, put in simple, clear and humane terms. She then goes over Chiron and introduces Pholus and Nessus -- the first book in English to do so. This is a seminar transcript, which moves quickly, is fun, and is easy to read. Melanie's transcendent wit and love of existence shine through.

<> Chiron and the Healing Journey by Melanie Reinhart. The best book on Chiron -- best as in humane, deep, soulful and relevant. This book emphasizes "the work" of Chiron and the struggle to become whole. 

<> Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets by Barbara Hand Clow. This is a whole other take on Chiron, what you might call the Uranian rather than Saturnian take. I practically memorized this book and, assuming you study Melanie's work for some balance, it's a brilliantly useful work by someone who was, earlier in her career, a work-a-day astrologer on the level of Evangeline Adams. Clow's book borrows heavily from Zane Stein, who wrote an earlier work called Chiron: Essence and Application.
For humanistic astrology, that is summed up nicely in one work:
<> An Astrological Mandala by Dane Rudhyar. This is the most accessible book on the Sabian symbols and I think the jewel of Rudhyar's work. This is now a rare volume! Buy all the copies you can find, if at a decent price (such as $25 or so); note that they are going from $90 to $400 many places.
Returning to classical for a moment:
<> The Book of Rulerships by Lee Lehman is in my experience an excellent work on classical associations of the planets and signs. Lee Lehman is a true scholar and devoted author. This book is in dictionary form, so it's an easy reference.
Then there is spiritual astrology.
<> Esoteric Astrology by Alice A. Bailey to me is THE foundation of spiritual astrology. You do not read this book; you imbibe it over the course of a few years, a few pages at a time. There is no better description of the astrological signs in existence. She takes you below the surface levels into what is happening in the canyons and on the mountain peaks. Once you know this work, you will be able to smell the veracity of other astrology books from across the room.
For mundane astrology:
<> The Book of World Horoscopes by Nick Campion is your essential guide to mundane data -- the births of countries, states, and many major world events. If you are studying mundane (such as news astrology), which is essential to being an astrologer since we live in the mundane world, this book will be your best friend.
And one last: the groovy personality-level astrology of the 20th century has a home in a most excellent work, which nobody survives in one piece. This is a brutally funny book that will pack the kitchen at any party and has the most insightful, incisive thoughts on your basic "what is this about" astrology:
<> Secrets from a Stargazer's Notebook by Debbi Kempton Smith. This book is so funny and so astute that you will tend to memorize it as you go.
And there you have it. If I needed to import astrology to another planet, I would bring these few books. When I travel, I only take two books -- An Astrological Mandala and Esoteric Astrology -- and I am good to go.

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