In this case, I am writing a “notice,” not a “review” of this book because it’s important, but I have not finished with it and do not expect to: I expect to be consulting it for the foreseeable future (does that deserve a “pun intended”? Maybe).
There are various currents within astrology at the present time, e.g.: mainstream modern astrology, traditional astrology, and depth-psychological or archetypal astrology. There have always been various functional approaches as well: natal, horary, and elective (including magical) astrology. I got into the study of astrology through the Hermetic-magical door, so I am generally drawn to the traditional camp.
Here’s the thing, though: traditional astrology is complex. Modern astrology added the invisible planets and some asteroids, but de-emphasized or discarded planetary conditions, the Lunar Mansions, and many of the aphoristic ways of evaluating charts that characterized astrology from Ptolemy through the Renaissance.
There is some crossover between the currents, and Demetra George represents such a tendency. She restores a good deal of traditional material, rejects sign rulership by invisible planets, but allows some role for outer planets and a variety of asteroids. She has been at this for a good while, and has built a strong reputation within the community.
I admit I have trouble with the asteroid material, for the simple reason that astrologers interpret them according to the mythos of their names, whereas the names were assigned by astronomers who were not trying to make any such connection. At most, they were trying to match the importance of the mythic name chosen to the size and brightness of the asteroid. And yet, George has assembled a lot of research on the effectiveness of her approach, so maybe I am just stumbling over a bit of remnant literalism (the other obvious possibility, that it’s all creative baloney that works precisely as well as the astrologer’s intuition, is not ruled out yet).
This book is aimed at the developing professional astrologer, so it includes much material about how to engage with clients and control the reading process. If you never expect to do readings for others, you can skip or skim some of that, but it is very insightful and worthwhile for anyone.
The great thing about this book, though, is its integrated and structured approach to evaluating a natal chart. I had expected to take about six weeks at most to get through enough theory to understand that well enough, and then move on to magical astrology, but I still have not achieved any level of comfort with that nearly half a year later. I do expect that when I finish one pass through the relevant chapters of this book, I will be ready to move on (for the time being: it’s a lifetime study).
In the meantime, I went to a New Year’s Eve party last night at a place a bit less urban than my house, and got to see more of the actual constellations in the background instead of just Venus followed by the waxing quarter moon followed by majestic Jupiter, and I fondly recalled Renna Shessho’s advice to understand astrology by getting out there and stargazing.
That brings up another interesting tendency in neo-traditional astrology, the restoration of the influence of certain key fixed stars. This tendency has significant esoteric support, and it also makes a bridge between tropical and sidereal astrology. Unfortunately, George does not entertain this aspect of astrology, so one has to look elsewhere for guidance on such matters as the baleful gaze of Algol.
In all, this is a very useful handbook, and although no one book is going to serve every purpose, this one might come close.
Astrology and the Authentic Self
Integrating Traditional and Modern Astrology to Uncover the Essence of the Birth Chart
6 x 9
November 1, 2008
[Complimentary review copy from Red Wheel/Weiser gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]