I believe in the future, I may live in my car
My radio tuned to the voice of a star
— Paul Simon
SINCE IT’S POSSIBLE for horoscope columns to be effective without astrology itself working, we can look a little deeper into what makes this so. I suggest we don’t need to look too far: it is writing that makes horoscopes work and indeed exist at all, and it is the voice of the writer that for the most part makes writing work. Or not, of course.
Contact between a writer and a reader is intimate, perhaps more so than touch. Encountering a piece of writing, a reader surrenders his or her own inner mental environment to the stream of thoughts presented by the writer.
With this stream comes a sense of the writer’s presence, a quality of tone, imagery, and the ideas themselves. In effect, the writer temporarily inhabits the reader’s conscious mind, as well as several levels of unconscious experience, such as subtle emotions and physical response to what is encountered. There is also a psychic level. A clear writer and a receptive reader are connected energetically with a bond that goes far beyond the words on the page.
Once data enters the brain, say neurologists, it never really leaves. What we see or learn may reside latently, never to be remembered again; or it may stay readily accessible; or it may reside as an “unconscious influence”; but what we see, hear, feel and read collects within us. And at times, it can do so quite distinctively. A writer with a strong voice can become an influential presence in a reader’s life, particularly if a relationship is developed over long period of time. We’ve all had this experience. A fiction writer can create a whole world to which we are privy. A good nonfiction writer can explain a complex technical issue in a way that feels approachable, and in the process helps a reader meet the subject on their own. We take what we learn from the book, but we also take the writer’s approach, and often, their voice.
Self-help writers can convey the feeling that they understand your problems, and in the process, that sense of understanding can be conveyed to the reader as a quality of self-understanding that may be accessible all the time. This, too, is a phenomenon of voice. How a writer addresses a reader shows them a potential way they may address themselves, and setting an example is a powerful way to teach.
A similar phenomenon exists when therapy works well. With an understanding, trusted therapist, their voice begins to replace the harsh, judgmental voices of parents, teachers and others who may have taught us to be self-critical or self-defeating. As children, we heard these damaging voices, and often learned to speak to ourselves in this way. Whether children believe what they are told about themselves or not, the quality of an authoritative adult’s voice becomes an active inner experience that can dominate their personality on the most private levels.
After a period of time, a therapist’s voice, interacted with and listened to carefully week after week, can become a readily accessible means of processing a new problem or experience outside the therapy room. But it’s not just a voice; often it’s a kind of adopted sub-personality. We learned to do this from having the relationship, which involves taking on some of who the therapist is — their wisdom as well as something about them personally. Like ego is itself a kind of fictional entity, this fictional inner therapist can help us transcend, or exist as an alternative to, deeply negative influences until we begin to encounter a true inner voice of Self.
This transference may be the only teaching there really is, and it may be the one factor inherent in all forms of human contact. What we are teaching transcends the subject matter and almost always goes to the level of existence. In this way, an oboe teacher can become an important mentor; a housekeeper can become a trusted advisor; a cab driver can show up as an incarnation of God, which is the story of the Bhagavad Gita (Lord Krisna is really a chariot driver, but you get the idea).
Something similar sometimes happens when we follow horoscope columns. That is, the voice we encounter on the pages of the newspaper or on the Internet can speak to us in other times and places where no writer has written anything. The voice of the writer, listened to every day or every week, can become an inner experience with a life of its own.
Yet horoscopes hold a special place for many readers because the writer is allegedly speaking on behalf of the heavens. So the astrologer’s voice becomes, in a sense, the voice of the heavens, or one such voice. In this particular respect, astrology transcends psychology and all forms of conventional reason; people approach astrology with an entirely different point of view than most other subjects. This viewpoint embraces their relationship with the total cosmos, which is what Saturn, Xena and the Galactic Core have to do with them personally, as individuals with needs and desires. And it is astrologers who give that personal meaning its personal message.
Even if this is a total illusion, that is, if astrology is pure bunk and all the glyphs, symbols and patterns that astrologers work with are “meaningless,” the reader often makes this presumption, and as a result, an astrology writer holds a lot of symbolic power from the outset. Astrology writers, and counseling astrologers, are sought out for this purpose — you might call it the cosmic perspective — and when what they say is confirmed by events, dreams, or the reader’s inner thought process, the effect is enhanced greatly.
Very few people get away with quite this. Some ministers do, but their insistence that they actually they speak for God, who allegedly has subjective opinions and judgments about people, has a way of belying itself, often laughably. The doctor who can tell you whether you’re going to live or die, and have you believe it, is expected by a cultural standard to be omniscient, malpractice litigation aside. Astrologers are doing something a little subtler. We profess to speak on behalf of seemingly impersonal planetary bodies, whose messages we convey in a distinctly personal way. Somehow we get from a huge ball of gas with rings orbiting the Sun moving one-half of a degree, to the statement, “You…”
Then, the whole process is cloaked in a kind of game, put next to the crossword puzzle.
Game or not, astrologers are often speaking into a deep existential vacuum — that is, a longing for meaning and information — and the potential ethical issues here are monstrous. There are few people who do not feel overwhelmed by life, cheated by life or who are not in some way struggling. We live in genuinely overwhelming times, and are all expected to give so much of ourselves. To say that most people lack a cohesive, workable philosophy of life is an understatement. Under these circumstances, those whom we seek out for information, ideas, advice or answers can have a lot of power, especially if they are presumed to be getting their information from the celestial sphere.
Hopefully, the astrologer’s personal philosophy of life has considered the implications of what they do with the power they have. Hopefully they walk their talk, and mean what they say, and learn from their mistakes. Hopefully they won’t go too far just to get rich.
Perhaps the best astrologer you can hope for is one who has not had too easy of a life, who recognizes this fact, and who consciously remembers what pain is — but who is not attached to it. Such an astrologer has made some progress solving their problems. An astrologer needs to be optimistic, that is, they need to be adept at making the most of life, and of conveying this strategy to their readers or clients. But it’s important not to causally make promises they can’t necessarily keep. Essentially, astrologers need to be able to relate to people and what they go through, consciously working with the idea that a better life, or a better response to life, is possible.
When it’s all done, the message comes across in a voice that a reader is gradually going to take, or and even take on, as with so many voices before; but due to the fact of astrology, its cosmic metaphors, all its odd synchronicities and seemingly impossible personal insights, there is a quality of being “from beyond this world” that astrology can often have.
As I am writing, one of my clients just emailed to me: “I don’t feel inspiring. I feel exhausted and deeply emotionally tired. I spend a lot of time working on that inner voice to change and reshape its message to one that is positive, productive and peaceful.” How we may accomplish this has to do with listening to the messages we habitually send ourselves. Are they self-critical? Do we tell ourselves that what we’re working toward is possible? Do we tell ourselves that we’re worthy of love? Do we tell ourselves that our contribution to life counts for something? Do we recognize ourselves as autonomous people? Do we feel that our problems have solutions? Do we give ourselves a break?
Your astrologer had better be dedicated to sending you positive messages about yourself, and be the one committed to holding the faith that you really can make your life better. If not, what exactly are they doing? We all have an inner capacity for faith, and an inner capacity for fear. Which is an astrologer going to feed?
Or we might put it this way: what are the limits on what an astrologer thinks is possible? Is he or she familiar with win-win situations? Has the person had a good orgasm lately?
2. Examples of the Cosmic Voice
Writing astrology is a surprisingly inventive process, leaving just about complete latitude for anything a writer wants to say, and any way they want to say it. Basically, as long as you make a vague shred of sense and some people come back tomorrow, you can say whatever you like.
Sportscasters don’t get this much berth. They have to follow the rules of the game, and they can’t decide if one side wins or loses. But an astrologer can decide if you win or lose, even if they are dreaming the whole thing up and you fall for it. Because of this nearly total freedom, what a horoscope writer is really doing is standing as a kind of intermediary between fate and free will.
The aspects are indeed written in the stars. On any given day, this is the indelible factor that all astrologers work with. What the astrologer does is help you understand, interpret and deal with the situation they see. And in this, they are merely assisted by what their astrological charts say.
Astrologers bring to our writing our entire worldview, our personal values, our psychological history, our personal baggage, and most of all, our spiritual process: that is, our way of coexisting with existence itself, and their idea of what they think a person is. Yes, we bring our astrological training, but that always contains a lot of values and ideas and the definition of a person, whether stated or not.
And we show up with who we think WE are: with our ideas about ourselves. Does the astrologer you’re reading think they’re the most educated person since T.S. Eliot? Do they fancy themselves a great philosopher, psychologist or author? Do they take the ‘humble scribe of the stars’ posture? Are they here to entertain, inform, or question? Do they think women are people, or that men have feelings? Did they figure out they can make easy money doing the work?
Astrologers also show up with their negotiating skills and problem solving abilities, to the extent that they have any. That’s because every chart and every day’s aspects present something that at least needs to be interpreted or negotiated, or at worst a problem that needs to be solved.
Once again, these questions hold even if what’s written in the ephemeris or shown in the charts is inherently meaningless; an astrologer is going to look there, and see something, and they will attempt to explain, apply or resolve it in some way. Or at least the responsible columnists will. We’ve all run into those columns where the writer presents a problem and either predicts a difficult or unfortunate outcome, or fails to present a solution. Maybe they don’t see a solution, or maybe they want you to come back tomorrow and see if you offer one then.
I have long maintained that astrology needs to put its best practitioners into the newspapers and magazines, because that’s where most people go for their astrology, and where most people hear about astrology. Though some “serious, proper” astrologers poo-poo Sun-sign columns, claiming it is not really possible to do what we profess to do, in actual fact, these columns are written and they are read. And there is no argument against the Sun sign column that cannot be used against astrology itself. So the profession might want to give up and if people want to specialize in King Henry VIII, the NASA missions or the Beatles, that’s their prerogative; and leave the Sun sign columns to the people who can handle them, and who love to do it.
On that note, let’s take a look around the Internet today and see what turns up as the Cosmic Voice for Reason. This article was written on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, so I’ve used columns and aspects from this day.
Here is a basic statement of the day’s aspects, which have emphasis on Pisces because all three planets associated with that sign — Venus, Jupiter and Neptune) are involved. Venus has just crossed the South Node in Libra, and is exactly trine Neptune, the ruling planet of Pisces. It’s about to make a conjunction to Jupiter in Libra, another ruling planet of Pisces. This is in the 8th solar house of Pisces, an important relationship house, but one particularly associated with financial and sexual relationships and commitments. The Moon is in Cancer, and made squares to Venus and Jupiter. The Moon also makes a quincunx to Pluto, said by most astrologers to be an aspect of adjustment. The Sun in Virgo (another relationship house for Pisces) is opposite Uranus in Pisces.
So let’s look at some Pisces horoscopes from the current time frame, starting with several daily ones from today, and looking at weeklies last.
First, Mystic Meg, the astrologer that “serious astrologers” love to hate. I find her to be dependably on point, touching on themes that I might even be thinking of the moment I open the newspaper. She used to give advice about what to have for dinner, which was good because it reminded Londoners to eat better. Let’s listen to her voice and see what we learn from her.
Pisces, Tuesday, August 30 by Mystic Meg
“Your planet Neptune fine-tunes your intuition so you know just what to say to get love back on track. You find a new, gentle way to boost health that is good for you and a relative. A favour done for a friend will be repaid in a generous way — and can have a work link.”
We can be assured from her tone that things will work out; Mystic Meg is on the case. The Cosmic Voice ala Meg speaks diretly to you, and is an advocate for equanimity; mentioning Neptune is good for credibility, and she even leaves out the word “ruling.”She seems to know that a lot of Pisces live one-way trips and is quietly advising them to get off the sacrifice thing, which is a way of conveying empathy. She points her readers toward their intuition, which is usually a good idea, unless there are aspects that suggest there might be some interference.
Pisces, Tuesday, August 30 by Alison Moroney
“Pisceans tend to be swept away upon a wave of destiny during August 30 to September 1, but also have the opportunity to take advantage of the current favourable tides, especially in the domain of career.”
Alison is taking the weather report approach; take advantage of the favorable tides now, while they last, because things could turn soon. I’ve never read her during “unfavorable tides” so I have no idea how she would handle them. Alison wins an award for imagery; she was the only writer of the many I reviewed who accurately described what was happening at this point, which is that Hurricane Katrina was certainly sweeping things into a rather large wave of destiny.
Pisces, Tuesday, August 30 by Jacqueline Bigar
“A loved one or a child inspires you. Still, you find that your dream world could easily take over. A boss or authority figure demands your attention. A discussion about funds and some basic issues is key. Tonight: Now let your imagination rock and roll.”
The Cosmic Consciousness here feels we need to be content with the basic facts, in outline form. She no longer gives the days ratings with little stars any more. It was a real drag to be having a horrible day only to find out that was five stars — no room for improvement.
Pisces, Tuesday. August 30 by Jade Wise
“It’s a dandy idea to regularly schedule time to put your feet up and appreciate all the wondrous things that abound in your life, from the very smallest joys (caramel-covered apples and multicolored Post-It notes) to the largest (friends, family and nature). So even though you have tons of bubbling energy to spare, give yourself permission to do not a darned thing with it except enjoy the life you have.”
The Cosmos in has heard of candy apples and Post-It notes, which helps us relate to the vast, impersonal astral forces operating in our lives. Most important, It knows that we’re a very stressed out society, and that even Pisces need to chill a little and not be so competitive (Jade is writing about the Venus-Neptune trine, which has an easy feeling to it, and the Sun-Moon trine in Pisces charts that day). This falls into the “on the seventh day God rested” genre of messages. With the Virgo Sun about to oppose Uranus, I hope the forecast is a little livelier tomorrow.
Pisces, Tuesday, August 30 by Jonathan Cainer
“The impossible is always tricky. Once it has been accomplished, people are full of logic. ‘This is how it happened…’ they say, in a tone of voice which implies that they were always expecting such an outcome. When, though, someone dares to admit that they really do not know how they managed to make something occur, they are looked at disdainfully, rather as they are when they announce their intention to try something that most people think of as hopeless. You had best decide what you want today; an explanation — or a result.”
Jonathan, a Sagittarian, lacks the debilitating phobia for ideas that so deeply troubles humanity these days. The Cosmic Voice via Jonathan approaches life as if philosophical contemplation while riding the Tube were totally natural for a Daily Mail reader (it might be, these days). And he is not fooled by “consensus reality” — that which everyone else believes, which is presumed to be true, and which is often ridiculous. Essentially, Jonathan’s Cosmic Voice gives his readers permission to be nonconformist. In this entry, he works with the theme of not knowing how something works or whether it will work out (several other writers address this, contained in the Sun-Uranus opposition), and he sends out notice that people are often not so smart as they portray themselves; he is a skeptic, in your favor. Finally, he does something quite responsible for an astrology writer, which is ask his readers to make a decision about what they want, presenting two rather interesting choices. Free will still exists.
Pisces, Tuesday, August 30 by Sally Brompton
“Some people complain that you lack self-discipline and they may be right, but what you lack in strength of will you more than make up for in creativity. And with Neptune, your ruler, in fine form today, you are sure to come up with something that shuts up your critics. You are and always will be a free spirit. You don’t need self-discipline.”
Sally is good at the take no prisoners approach to the astrology column. She’s probably pretty sharp at billiards, too. Her astrology seems to be driven by her Libran passion for justice; one gets the impression that unless you’re treated fairly, she’s personally going to get on an airplane and kick your boss’s butt. She addresses “you” rather than “Pisceans” in general; horoscope columns are always about you, even if 19 million other people are reading, but somehow she says this with authority unusual for other writers. Sally is not flowery or circumspect, but rather uses her space to deliver a clear, succinct message that you don’t have to mull over during lunch to understand. The Cosmic Voice of reason wants to tie up the loose ends and make sure you remember exactly what she said, and not forget it, either.
Pisces, week of Aug 25 by Rob Brezsny
“You don’t need to know how your computer and car work in order to use them. Their inner workings may be unfathomable, but that doesn’t matter as long as you benefit from what they do for you. Let’s apply that same principle to a certain relationship that is perplexing you. You obviously get something out of your alliance with this person, since you’ve chosen not to leave it. Yet you seem bothered by the fact that you can’t figure out what you are to each other and where you’re supposed to go next. My advice? For now, stop trying to understand it. Just surrender to the fruitful mystery. Simply let your connection perform its enigmatic magic.”
Perhaps the most influential horoscope column ever to come out of the United States, Rob takes an entirely natural approach to his columns, that is, fortunately, catching on. Rob’s is the only column among those I’ve selected to use the word “advice,” though all are offering it; so he admits to being a kind of Cosmic Advisor/Friend who really gets how complex life and relationships are. He does something fancy, which is to address one specific relationship with some certainty, and leaves out the kitchen sink of other affairs and issues. This is a voice you can get to know, and take with you, which quite a few people do every week, in every corner of the United States. He is good at giving the impression that he knows you, and that he’s your personal astrologer — which he considers himself, actually.
Pisces, week of Aug 25 by Yasmin Boland
“No matter if you’re married or single, you still have big ideas about what would be nice where sex is concerned. And there’s no doubt that your expectations sometimes go into overdrive. That then leads to either the best romp you’ve had in ages…or to a big disappointment as you realize that not everyone shares your fabulously Hollywood ideas about what’s possible in the romance department. So what does one do, if let down in lust? Firstly, whatever you do, don’t look back. Secondly, try to maintain balance and decorum, waiting for circumstances to change. Not an easy thing to do when you’re aching with desire, but certainly worth having a go at this week. Wink wink.”
It’s always reassuring when the Cosmic Consciousness wants you to improve your sex life, particularly soon, especially if you’re a Pisces. I was reading all these horoscopes, with the approaching Venus-Jupiter conjunction in Libra — and noticed that nobody, not even me, wrote about sex. Fortunately, I emailed Yasmin and asked for her Pisces horoscope and there it was. Here, the Cosmic Voice of reason is telling you that you’re okay; your desires are okay; and that consequently, that being a woman is okay — this column runs in a women’s magazine. The Cosmic Voice seems rather down to Earth and practical here, and a good friend.
Pisces, week of Aug. 26 by Eric Francis
“As a former guilt-riddled Pisces, I can empathize with how difficult the feeling of deserving anything really is. Pisces’ usual trip of ‘wanting it all’ is just a thin cover for feeling like nothing is really yours. All you need to do to disprove this whole philosophy is to place yourself in a position to receive, and where you will approve of yourself for doing so. I remind you that by your gain, nobody loses. I remind you of all the times in the past when a slight revision of your state of mind, or shift in viewpoint, made an enormous difference, and the natural abundance of life rained down on you. Such is the story of your life now — if you say so.”
Today or this week, I’m the only one dipping into first person, that is, speaking with I statements in the horoscope. This is the, “What if the Cosmic Voice were one of us?” approach to the work. I think that personal experience is fair territory in an astrology column, though too much would get a little boring. No matter what, though, my approach is to speak in a natural voice, as close to a phone call or email as possible. For me, part of the need to use I statements is to take personal responsibility for what I am saying, and to keep myself and my readers grounded in the fact that I am speaking both from astrology and from my own values.
Patric Walker (1931-1995)
No discussion of voice in the horoscope column would be complete without inviting Patric Walker into the conversation. While I was in Woodstock in May, a very excited client arrived with a pile of musty magazines she had in her basement, which she had saved to preserve some of Patric’s columns. I took copies of the columns back with me and actually managed to find them yesterday for this article (right where they belonged). Just now, I went down for coffee and read through them, getting a little teary eyed.
The stack of columns was wrapped in a copy of the New York Post’s daily from Jan. 7, 1993 (my only sample of his daily column that I have here). The column is quite literally stuffed between Wonderword, Scrabble and the comics; no little symbols for the signs; no picture — in the original Post layout that reminded me of the first time I ever felt astrology actually work.
“Maybe you now realize that one particular association is not quite so restricting as it seemed,” he said. “Indeed, you may even have come to rely upon that person’s practicality and steadying influence to see you through what has been an unsettling period in your affairs.”
Patric had a great way of speaking directly to people, and one of the ways he did that was to slip into the day’s horoscope in what seemed like mid-conversation. He presumes that you know that he knows what he’s talking about; he does not hesitate. He also understood relationships.
This little write-up reminds me of the Course in Miracles lesson, “There is another way of looking at the world.” He is encouraging his readers to take another view of life, to reinterpret something. He is not predicting and he’s not advising; he’s saying look at your situation.
He handles Sagittarius rather differently that day — solidly like a predictive astrologer.
“Although events which occurred around the time of the solar eclipse on Christmas Eve brought certain misunderstandings out into the open, there is still some resentment behind the scenes about the way things were handled, so expect Friday’s lunar eclipse to resolve the matter once and for all.”
He is writing about eclipses in the Sagittarius region, so he seems to be working more on the frequency of what is fated; that is how eclipses feel. He makes a lot of presumptions about what is happening in his reader’s lives, but the odd part was he basically had it right just about every time. This was so consistent that when his column felt like it was off, it was a good idea to check what you were missing that he knew about.
One last from that day, Libra. “Differences of opinion on the work front continue to dog your footsteps, and the approaching full moon on Friday in that area of your solar chart concerned exclusively with career matters indicates harsh words may have to be said before the way forward is finally clear.”
Patric liked to start with a concrete statement of what was happening in the present, and then move one or two steps ahead.
Let’s go back a few years, to his column in European Travel & Life from September 1990. This is the Pisces entry.
“Each and every September, the Sun is situated in your opposite sign of Virgo and as far away as it can possibly be from the position it occupied at the moment of your birth. Therefore, this is frequently a time when your energies flag and you tend to become embroiled in conflicts or arguments with partners or close companions. Currently, however, you really do appear to be coping with some kind of estrangement, alienation, or separation. But the Full Moon on the 5th will shed fresh light on these difficulties and will enable you to convince others that there is far too much at stake for a serious rift to continue. You certainly in need of all the support and guidance you can muster to decide which course of action to take concerning a career or professional matter. In addition, Jupiter in Leo signifies movement, upheaval, expansion and the ability to paint on the broadest possible canvas in life. Anyone who might be expecting you to settle for second best or play a subservient role is in for a rude awakening.”
Patric’s particular genius in astrology was to always see the way through the mire, and to have you come out the winner in every situation. Working with astrology, this is not so easy, because an astrologer can see the countless pitfalls that surround us. But what is the use of seeing them, if not to deal with them or avoid them? To do all the calculation and see the way into the clear is the mark of a talented, humane and most of all hard-working astrologer.
He also wrote a column for Mirabella, one of the more intelligent women’s magazines to appear in the United States. I’ll present this without comment, except to say if you write like this, you had better be a darned good astrologer. For Capricorn, in October 1993:
“Challenging aspects to Saturn, your ruler, and to both Uranus and Neptune, passing through your birth sign, signify how important it is to feel comfortable with yourself. What took place at the end of September should have made you aware that freedom from doubt and fear is more precious than recognition and status symbols. If you are typical of your sign then you are bound to be concerned about your earning capacity and investments. But on no account should you try to change horses in midstream this October. What transpires around the 18th will give you the perfect opportunity to prove your worth and, above all, to realize that it is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one look through the door of destiny can be handled at a time.” ++