It’s True — Mike Brown Loves Astrologers

Photo: Mike Brown poses with Uranus, the first planet discovered by science. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dear Friend and Reader:

MIKE BROWN is one of the great astronomers of our day. I say this because he and his team have made some of the most significant discoveries in recent astronomical history — in particular, Eris and Sedna. Yet what is more, he has a gift for giving planets names that are bold, original and astutely call attention to crucial world issues. Read those links on Eris and Sedna and you’ll see what I mean.

His team’s 2005 discovery of Eris turned the world of planetary astronomy upside down the next year, when the International Astronomical Union (the IAU, the scientists who officially control names and categories of planets) defined the word “planet” for the first time. This was the meeting in Prague that we made such a fuss about (here is a link to one article, and another to refresh your memory, and here is the Wall Street Journal’s coverage featuring yours truly).

In Small World Stories, I joked that Kirsti Melto (a minor planet astrologer you read regularly on these pages) and I feel that Mike is an astrologer but doesn’t know it yet. I say this because he is connected to the archetypal world through his work as a scientist, and that work involves planets and mythological figures. He is in tune with the times — the first job of an astrologer.

I knew he loved astrologers. As we noted in the dedication to The Spiral Door, he looked at his watch the moment he discovered Eris, because he knew astrologers would ask the time.

He even told this to The New York Times! It is difficult to overstate what a bold thing that is to say. At the very least, it reveals he’s a maverick with a great sense of humor. At best, he reveals himself as someone who, in Gemini fashion, is open to both sides of the story and thus has an actual interest in the truth.

Then last weekend, he came out with the article you’re about to read below. It is extraordinary because, unlike most of his colleagues, he does not immediately assume that astrologers are all a bunch of scammers. This is an unfortunate prejudice that I’ve encountered too often, but then astrology does its part to earn this reputation — a topic for another article.

Mike has an interesting concept of how astrology works. He describes it as a kind of story that we follow, which he regards as a form of fiction. This s precisely how I describe it in the Planet Waves terms of service — personally applicable mythical fiction. He prefaces his comments by saying he does not accept that the planets have “control” over our lives. In this sense, he’s in accord with the majority of honest Western astrologers, whose work emphasizes choice and not fate.

He sees the common ground we share. He has an open mind, and is open to a dialog. This is rare, and if you believe in history, it is historic. Here’s his essay, with my reply published below. May his words not only ring through the centuries, but also open a door to a discussion that we, as in astrologers and astronomers, need to have right now.

Three pictures that shook the solar system. Discovery images of the dwarf planet Eris, which led astronomers to reorganize their concept of the solar system in the summer of 2006. The three images were taken 1-1/2 hours apart on the night of Oct. 21, 2003. Eris can be seen very slowly moving across the sky over the course of three hours. Photos by Mike Brown.

My Reply to Mike Brown

Sunday morning Jan. 27, Mike wrote to me and asked if I liked his essay. I initially wrote a response in 10 minutes before an early-morning photo session. Here is my refined response, which I have edited a bit for detail, clarity and point of view.

Mir or rather Mr. Mike Brown!

Kirsti Melto sent your essay to me last night, as excited as a little kid. First of all, I am moved that you took up the subject. You admit astrology exists and that you have heard of it, etc. :-))

I love your essay — for many reasons, including the fact that (like Phaedrus, in the Dialogs of Socrates) you get the discussion going.

Constellation Pisces image created with XEphem Software.

Is it not ridiculous that science does not at least credit astrologers with providing continuity, and with beginning the search in the days LOOONGGG before the existence of science? Science was born of the Enlightenment, just a few hundred years ago. Astrology is thousands of years old. Many names used by science were bestowed in ancient days by astrology. Let’s be friends!

I had planned a reply, at least in concept. Here is a sketch.

Both astronomy and astrology are intellectual maps of consciousness. It matters not that most astrologers skip the telescope and the science of it (minor planet astrologers though tend to know as much about the science as many astronomers, I have noticed).

The GESTALT of it all is that we are both responding to the times in which we are alive. We agree on one thing in exactly the same language: that to astrologers, the planets and their symbols (whether the name or the orbital elements) METAPHORS. They are not usually viewed as a “cause” — certainly not with something like Quaoar. In our official definition of astrology, Planet Waves describes it as a kind of personally applicable mythical fiction.

What we have in common is the search for truth and meaning — and the sky.

Vis a vis the quality of astrological literature — that depends entirely on the writer, Mike. I regret that there are not too many good astrology writers, which tends to inform the world that we are all typing rather than typing, to borrow from Truman Capote. The astrology you get is as good as the astrologer you get. It is not easy to convey the complexity of an astrological chart into clear writing. It takes dedication. Because many so-called astrologers are bottom trawlers feeding on human misery, not the quest for knowledge, it’s not really necessary to go too deep into the ideas in order to get the attention necessary to maintain a business.

The search for meaning extends through recorded history. The sky — the greatest mystery we can actually look at and see with our eyes — is going to be the first place most people with any sensitivity begin that search. And there, astrologers and astronomers are not brothers, but twins. Or, as one of your readers posted to your website, “Instead of looking at the two as brothers, I prefer to see astrology as the very old mother that gave birth to scientific astronomy only two or three hundred years ago.”

For my part, I wish that astrology would pay more attention to what you and your colleagues are doing (it’s still lagging terribly), and fall in love with the science and history of these planets. I for one am deeply moved to be alive, and to be an astrologer, in this incredible time of discovery.

The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

— T. S. Eliot
Burnt Norton from Four Quartets

Yours & truly
Eric Francis

Notes from the Technosphere

Annual Solar Eclipse of Feb. 7, 2008

By Kirsti Melto and Eric Francis | Lunations

New Moon in Aquarius — February 7, 2008, 03:44:27 UT. Chart by Solar Fire.

WE ARE in the middle of a transition to a new area of space, time and history. Pluto, the planet of transcendence and evolution, is newly arrived in Capricorn, one of the cardinal signs. Pluto’s movements mark the long eras in astrology, and Pluto will shuttle back into Sagittarius for one more stay midyear, before returning to Capricorn for good in the autumn. Mercury has recently stationed retrograde, and earlier this week, Mars stationed direct in Gemini.

Pluto, for its part, is currently tightly square the Aries Point, the first degree of Aries. Whenever the Aries Point is involved in an astrological setup, the news tends to have a personal feel to it, and events tend to affect a lot of people. For evidence of this, we need look no further than the primary elections in the United States, all of which are coming to a head in the next week or so. The Capricorn connection is that governments, corporations and anything that hangs onto tradition (such as large institutions like the Church of Rome) are subject to profound changes, restructuring and other forms of transformation in the coming years, in an era that has its roots in the current moment.

Highlighting this transition is the Aquarius New Moon of Thursday, Feb. 7, which is a potent annular solar eclipse. Potent means that the eclipse is conjunct many planets. Chiron, Nessus, Mercury retrograde, Neptune and asteroids Lilith, Bacchus and Vesta, have all accumulated in Aquarius and are in direct alignment with this event, which brings in many themes, all of which are bound by the signs Aquarius. Of note, the solar eclipse takes place at the peak of Mercury retrograde, the interior conjunction of the Sun and Mercury which is exactly less than ten hours before the eclipse.

Eclipses occur twice a year, when the Sun is near one of the lunar nodes. They usually come in pairs, solar and lunar. The corresponding lunar eclipse occurs in Virgo on Feb. 20. The current eclipse takes place on the North Node of the Moon, pushing its way into the future. The North Node, like the eclipse itself, is in Aquarius, the sign associated with social patterns and technology. It is interesting that so many of our social patterns are now integrated with the digital world. Many people have many things to say about this. Does digital technology bring us closer together, or does it alienate us? Does it enhance communication, or does it give us the cop-out of the “delete” button and the constantly changing online profile?

Whatever may be the answer to these questions — questions which deserve asking — we need to recognize that we are indeed immersed in the digital world. That the members of our species with the most active minds are integrated with the technosphere, and that this is developing faster than we can currently control. More to the point, the leaders of the world are rapidly amassing technological power, ranging from unprecedented surveillance ability to nanotechnology capable of being injected as serum into our bodies. We are simply NOT seriously considering the effects of these things; we are, for the most part, unknowingly swallowing the red pill and diving straight into the Matrix.

In this discussion of technology, we need to look at two planets distinctly associated with the topic. One is a distant trans-Neptunian named Logos. Another is an asteroid called Atlantis. Logos is situated in Virgo, where it will be for a long time. It is currently square the centaur Cyllarus (“out of nowhere”) and opposite Pallas (politics, strategy). Needless to say, we must be aware of the rising tide of technological strategy of large entities like the government and the corporations it employs.

Then there is Atlantis, which addresses the use and misuse of technology, and the feeling of imminent doom. Atlantis would include distortions of science. Atlantis is in late Libra, about to change signs into Scorpio, where it will make a series of squares to the Aquarius stellium. This will likely call to light certain less savory aspects of our technology situation.

The Canadian professor and media philosopher Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) explained that any environment tends to be invisible. A media environment is so pervasive that we don’t see it. He devised many methods of sensing and making sense out of our media environment, one of which was a series of four questions that he called the “tetrad.” We can apply them to the digital world, which is a kind of conducting medium for thought, images and ideas:

* What does the medium enhance?
* What does the medium make obsolete?
* What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
* What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?

We could add, what is the mediums effect on our perception of time and our sense of identity? This, we need to ask as the Aquarius eclipse blows through the neighborhood, whisking us into a new phase of history. Aquarius always directs us to ask how we fit into groups that surround us. Are we more or less able to be ourselves? Are we free to think, feel and be? These are the things to ask yourself.

Here are some additional technical notes.

Later in the day of the eclipse, the Moon conjoins Neptune. This specific conjunction is also a kind of eclipse, called an occultation — so we have a double eclipse. The Moon will pass directly over the face of Neptune, rather than slightly above or below. In 2008 there is an occultation of Neptune by the Moon in every month except December — it’s a lot of eclipse energy in Aquarius! And a lot of Neptune.

Chiron and Mercury in the middle of Aquarius are forming a semisquare — a trigger aspect — to the Aries Point and thus raising our awareness of the choices and opportunities.

Bienor, a small Uranus-crosser discovered in 2000 in Chiron’s class is at the Aries Point, and ingresses Aries the day following the eclipse. Its name means “strong one.” It will remain in a square to Pluto for years.

There is not much told about Bienor in mythology. Bienor was one of the Centaurs that attended the Lapith king Pirithous’ wedding. Centaurs and the Lapiths started to fight and many of the Centaurs died in this battle. Ovid describes in Metamorphoses how Pirithous’ friend Theseus leaps upon the back of Bienor, and how Bienor gets killed by Theseus. “…He leaps upon the back of tall Bienor, never trained to carry riders…” There is something unique in his death, because Bienor is the only Centaur who dies in this way, somebody jumping upon the back of a Centaur. Centaurs were wild creatures, and this image painted before our eyes resembles a bit taming of a wild horse — in a way an insulting act, which at the same time represents something positive.

Perhaps the myth points us to look for the meaning of Centaur planet Bienor in connection of events that have been unique and happened for the first time in the history of mankind.

In the chart of the first lunar landing in July 1969, when the lunar module Eagle landed on the Sea of Tranquility, the Moon was in early degrees of Libra with Bienor (opposing the Aries Point), mirroring two things: the strong men who bravely set out for the Moon; and the strong feelings involved in this event, not just in the USA but worldwide. More than 700 million people saw the event on television (a new record at the time), including Buzz Aldrin testing methods for moving around, going back and forth in front of the camera the way a horse gallops. Jupiter and Uranus were in conjunction in Libra, exactly opposite the Aries Point. The experience was not just historical for the mankind, but also highly personal for the men who walked on the Moon. They were personal to us, like members of our families.

The following could be more recent examples of the news now that Bienor has been conjuncting the Aries Point:

In January 2008 solar physicists announced the beginning of a new solar cycle. The Sun’s poles may be crucial to studies of the solar cycle. On Jan. 14, the Ulysses spacecraft was flying over a key region of solar activity, the Sun’s North Pole, something never done before at the onset of a new solar cycle.

Also in January 2008, an image taken by NASA’s Messenger probe revealed something we had never seen before: a first look at the previously unseen side of the planet Mercury after a Jan. 14, 2008 flyby.

Bienor may be associated with the strength of mankind expressed through technology, and when we combine it with the Aries Point, it affects “everyman.” Let’s not only hope and pray, but take concrete action to create technological justice.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, February 1, 2008, #699 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Pluto has begun its journey across your 10th house (Capricorn), so now is the time to commence the career discussion with yourself. Few people understand the impact they have, or can have, on the world around them. The 10th is usually experienced as authority others have over us, rather than the authorship we have of our lives. Pluto in this house is the power we have the opportunity to use justly, or not. Few astrologers see Pluto as a planet of opportunity — though I do. The thing is, the opportunities are unusual, and they require us to make real changes and to risk using our energy in the world such that we have an actual influence. And this means standing out. In theory, you should have no problem doing this, except for an itty bitty wee little confidence issue you may be facing. Here is a clue: don’t look to others for encouragement. Keep that one all to yourself.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Keep your perspective wide. Keep your plans loose. Climb (take the stairs) onto a high building and get a perspective of your environment. Focus your inner work on taking down the barriers that divide you from yourself — there is a lot you don’t know, and a lot of energy trapped inside this vicious thing called “belief.” Most of these involve ideas you have about the world, and what you want to do in it. You have an odd relationship to the past. Some days you may think, if it hasn’t been done before, it can’t be done now. Other days you think, if it’s been done before, why bother? And yes, in that case you may question if you’re capable of anything original. I assure you, what you do already is original. If you don’t see it that way, you’re not looking from the right perspective. Try again, then close your eyes and look in the other direction.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
What you wanted yesterday may not be what you want tomorrow. Get ready to do one of those incalculable Gemini 180-degree turnarounds, and then a couple more. This first one will help you resolve any concerns you have about having recently made the wrong choice about someone, something or yourself. Then in about two weeks, when Mercury stations direct, you will get some information as regards to the place you need to be, as in the geography of your life. But this is more about social and ideological geography. Where you need to be is where people both understand you, and where they are sufficiently strange to be interesting, creative and most significantly, not stuck. While you’re at it, every morning get on your knees and pray: “Thank God that I am so easily bored.”

 (June 21-July 22)
I’ve never read anywhere that Cancerians are wheelers and dealers, but you do know how to get the job done, whatever job it may be. That being said, your ideas about money are as socialist as anyone’s. You live on a planet where it makes sense to take care of people. The angle of your chart involving shared resources, investments and business deals is in exceptionally rare form. You are learning a lot, and getting your sea legs on the stormy waters of the modern economy. You know there are no guarantees. It’s funny — you don’t seem to be fazed. Even if you’re a little fazed, don’t worry about it — keep being creative, approach people directly, and be mindful of the timing. I suggest progress with discussions and research only through March 1, and not sealing any deal till the Sun enters Aries March 20. Take your time now — you will save it later.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You may feel the inevitability of a certain change without knowing what that change is. Keep close tabs on the people who are important to you — your awareness can lead to an influence that proves to be extremely helpful. You know things that other people do not. You are not intimidated by people in the ways that most people are. And you have the ability to keep everyone’s interests in mind at once. However, you are going to need to seek information as an active decision, rather than expecting it to come to you. It will come to you, if you take the first step and look for it. Or rather, listen for it. I then suggest you make a choice to not wait around and decide whether to act on certain information. Time is of the essence, and while speaking carries a distinct risk, keeping silent carries an even bigger one.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Pluto has finally crossed over the creativity angle of your solar chart. As any artists in the reading audience already know, creative talent is not something that happens to you, or at least not as an adult. It is less like being swept away by inspiration and more like getting minerals out of the ground and processing them into something useful. In other words, art is more about industry than it is about creativity. You need both, and all of the great industrialists brought with them an element of passion that we who use their inventions so casually would be wise to remember. If you are feeling a drive to go deeper into your talents, your inspiration and your sexual cravings, be prepared to do so methodically, and in the long haul. Be willing to do the boring part, and the juicy part will be that much more fun.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Are you feeling safe on the planet yet? Have you made it your goal? You need to learn from your successes. But remember, safety is a feeling, not a thing. You cannot possess it; you may only experience it. Often, we need to process our worst insecurities before we can let go into a sense of serenity. The past couple of months may have been a time of wrestling with your worst fears in a kind of subconscious psychological battle of evermore. Now that Pluto has ventured into Capricorn, you are free to discover that all your fears were really for nothing; you are free to express your determination to be an emotionally grounded person; you are free to feel like you belong in your own home, and I suggest you experiment with feeling safe inside your four walls. I assure you: that is available, as is a great deal more. The time has never been better to improve your living environment, in ways basic or radical.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Mars has vibrated to a halt in your extremely sensitive solar 8th house, the sign Gemini. You may be rethinking commitments, financial arrangements or, most likely, some element of desire. You are someone who wants what you want, and when you make a decision to commit to a decision, you need to give it a thousand percent. The kind of hesitation you may be feeling right now may be shaking you up, but don’t let it scare you. The point of making decisions is precisely that; the point of making commitments is that you are free to do so. There are always two or more sides to every story, and you can take great comfort in knowing that you are capable of seeing all of them. Invest your energy in that, and you won’t go wrong.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
Whatever is going on in a close relationship, you have your own needs to attend to, and moreover, you have the ability to detach from a tricky emotional situation. I don’t suggest you detach too much, however, nor that you focus on yourself to the detriment of others. The truth is, you have plenty of what you need, be it resources or emotional contact. I suggest you put your energy into giving rather than into having or getting. You never really feel what you have until you share it, and the truth is that despite all you have, you probably still wish you had just a little more. That’s a feeling you would be a lot happier without, because it cuts you off from your own sense of abundance. Give what you have, particularly to the people you say you love. Then, keep an open mind and see what happens.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
You are in a time of the most amazing blessings, though you may fear these come at a price. I can make it simple enough: the price of life is growth. If you commit to constant growth — which means awareness, self-awareness, and being impeccably honest with yourself — the benefits of life will rain on you. Imagine that everything that comes into your life becomes food or fuel for progress. Everything is an opportunity to raise awareness — or to lower it. If you become aware of fear, maintain your awareness rather than stuffing the fear back down. You may not think it serves any useful purpose, but it will be the thing that propels you to a state of emotional clarity. You may also be concerned that if you state your fears out loud (such as to someone you trust) you will “make them real.” I assure you, the opposite is much likelier to be true — you will dissolve them.

 (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
With Mercury retrograde in your sign, the world is getting an infusion of the most innovative version of Aquarian energy. You are likely to be dancing to the music of the spheres that only you can hear. What you have is a positively amazing opportunity to get around your obsession with rationality and even thought itself, and take the leap to the intuitive level. You may have no idea how you’re going to get there but consider the definition of the “quantum leap” from physics — something goes from one level to another, with no time spent between. You don’t go there in the sense of linear movement; you arrive where you belong. In human terms, you change, you arrive in an entirely different frame of mind, but you don’t know how you got there. Relax — you don’t have to know everything, and whether you are right or not matters a lot less than you think.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Most of the interesting activity in the sky is focused in your 12th solar house — that deep inner world associated with all things overwhelming in size and scope, too strange for words, and deeply mysterious in a way that eludes words. The 12th is also the house of the pleasures of the bed, as they say in India. I suggest that this be your time of making your sexual fantasies real. Dare to experiment; to share your ideas; and to ask others to experience them with you. When I say “others” I am referring specifically to Aquarius being the sign involved in your 12th house. There is always a group inflection with this sign, and an emphasis on friendship rather than romance. If your pleasures tend in this direction, I suggest you let them go there. More than anything, let your imagination lead you. If you can dream something, you can create it in your life.

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