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  Home › Writing › Book Review: Orpheus, Voices in Contemporary Astrology

Orpheus - Voices in Contemporary Astrology

Book Review: Orpheus, Voices in Contemporary Astrology

I really think I have bought too many not so great astrology books, so I took a long time convincing myself that buying this would be a good idea. Tempted by it containing a piece by Charles Harvey and another by his wife, I am also reasonably interested in anything by Liz Greene. However, though familiar with some names, I had read nothing by the other authors. Was the book going to be useful and interesting? I wondered. Would it tell me something new, something not contained in all those other astrology books? Was I going to want to read any of it again? These were my criteria as I read small sections when browsing bookshops. The problem was all those unfamiliar names and strange sounding sections, some obviously very exciting writing nestling amongst some strange looking stuff. A curate's egg, perhaps.

This contents list includes links to the sections of the book I have reviewed, my biases are blazingly obvious.

Facing Janus. Andre Barbault.

This is excellent. Some of the best writing on Saturn I have ever read. Barbault examines Saturn's bi-polarity, contrasting a group of example chart/personalities who exemplify, "the 'typical' Saturnine personality: disciplined, resigned to duty and hard work, serious, rigorous in their purpose and ambitions, tending to stoicism, pessimism, sobriety, practicalities. In this intellectual being, what emanates from the unconscious is the Sun-Saturn imperative of the superego, a heavy millstone weighing like a cold glacier on the shoulders of the conscious ego." With a second group "the less obvious Saturn type: here the ego is under siege from the bottom up, the pressure of the unconscious being a tidal wave of Id forces. In this personality, no brakes are applied and the engine of desire races ahead to satisfy the emotional urges and needs which dominate him. Immaturity and 'spinelessness' are the hallmarks of this individual. An insatiable hunger for safety and comfort make his life an unbridled race to appease his innermost demons."

This is great astrology writing, no traces of the overly poetic, vague or 'New Age'. Barbault doesn't spend time gabbling on about archetypes or Carl Jung. He writes about Saturn as we know it, relating familiar human impulses and personality traits to the astrological factor in question. This is what I want to read, clear descriptions of astrological realities related to real personalities and life experience. As the quoted sections illustrate, Barbault discusses two essential sides of the Saturn experience and how these play out. His piece doesn't pull any punches, he tells the plusses and minuses of Saturn I recognise them.

The piece concerns how we can live with this planet, cope with its pressures and the losses it often, and ultimately brings. I shall read it again; it provides such great descriptions, ideas that anyone going through a tough Saturn transit could relate to.

contents list

Jupiter as a Parental Significator in the Natal Chart. Liz Greene.

I have not read this yet.

War of the Worlds: Jupiter and Saturn in Conflict and Creativity. Charles Harvey.

This is the last major essay by Charles Harvey, one of the truly great astrologers, written during the last year of his life as he was fighting cancer. Harvey states that, 'the purpose of this essay is to use the study of the relationship between Jupiter and Saturn to begin to develop an astrological geonome project... this essay is a first humble attempt to identify, or at leats point towards, some of the key issues that are being unfolded by the Jupiter-Saturn synod.'

This concept of an astrological geonome project is useful, powerful and typical of Harvey. We astrologers do need to map out the DNA of planetary combinations thoroughly. Holding this concept in mind should inspire us to move beyond the standard, often cheap, simplifying cookbook approach and build something that is more comprehensive, subtle and interesting.

Such ideas are typical of Harvey, another can be found in Working with Astrology where Harvey and Michael Harding compared the process of interpreting astrological information to putting together the various points of colour in an Impressionist painting. These dignifying, vivid metaphors and similes stick in the mind as anchors, bolstering confidence in the complex process of understanding symbols and charts.

The piece, as a section of the astrological geonome project - is admirably thorough. Harvey looks at this pair 'in relation to mythology, the idea of achetype, psychology, philosophy, economics, consciousness [and] disease.' Highly recommended.

contents list

The Mutable Cross and the Postmodern Ethos. Gerry Goddard.

I have tried to read this - I've read a large part of it - but I'm left not very interested and don't get to the end. This is my problem, my bias, you may well love this piece. I get put off because it feels intellectual and wordy (smattered with terms like 'hegemony', 'absolutising' 'logocentric') but I like the ideas in here I am familiar with, or can be bothered to try to understand. The description of the cultural context we are practicing astrology in is a great opening, for example, and understandable by anyone. Goddard is very into thinkers like Ken Wilbur, Huston Smith and Richard Tarnas, a list that may clue you up as to whether you will enjoy this. Tarnas' Prometheus book I found interesting and pertinent in that it provided some real and solid astrology and a great perspective on what Uranus is about. Perhaps contrasting that, this piece relates real astrology to cultural development and is abstract rather than directly practical. Ultimately it left me floundering, through a combination of my own lack of intellectualism, vocabulary and though I tried to be interested, in the end I was thinking 'So what?'

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Signs or Symbols: Communicating Astrology with the Client. Lindsay Radermacher.

A gem of an essay that deals with this thorny issue fantastically well. If you ever read charts I think you would benefit from reading this. It is very grounded, realistic, helpful and teaches. I know that when I read it again I will learn more from it.

contents list

Astrology and Dreams. Otto Rheinschmiedt.

I haven't read this as I am not interested in the subject matter.

A Vocation to Witness: A Study of Scorpio Problems and Passions. Suzi Harvey.

Details a powerful case history Harvey worked on as a therapist and then astrologer. Great descriptions of what Pluto and Scorpio are and entail, as well as eloquent stating of how astrology can reassure and support; 'As a kind of background presence in therapeutic work, the astrological chart can help one hold the innate unity of the person in mind, it connects one with the 'native soil' of the individual, which stimulates the imagination and encourages a respectful intimacy. It reaffirms the fact that, despite the confusions and a client may bring, there is a deeper purposeful intention to her life which she is seeking. Knowing that all the gods are there within the cosmic mandala allows the therapist to carry the hope when what a client presents is hopelessness.' Recommended.

contents list

The Discovery of Pluto: An Unbidden Omen. Brian Taylor.

This is fascinating read. Brian Taylor gives the accurate chart of Pluto's discovery and explores this in relation to other Plutonian events, such as the discovery of Plutonium (the chart is given). A convincing case for the importance of various degree areas being important in relation to Pluto and finally, the apparent Plutonian nature of various aligned sites across California, Arizona and New Mexico are looked at. Another section of the book I shall read again.

I have to say that I thoroughly recommend this book. While it contains pieces that I am not very interested in, the three best bits, by Andre Barbault, Charles Harvey and Lindsay Radermacher, are so good as to justify purchase through their presence alone. Much of the rest also really stretches the mind. In fact, this goes beyond the tame, obvious and easy subject matter of much astrological literature and contains differing and radical voices - two great plus points. It offers seed ideas that will stay in your mind and maybe blossom, and touchstone descriptions of some basic astrological building blocks so precise and insightful you will want to return to them.

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