Written By: Anne Beversdorf – published by Infinity Astrological Magazine, 2018 / 11.12.2018
We are a rare community, astrologers. We share a complete language system—the astrological language. And we all love finding new friends who speak our astrological language. There are dialects of our language, too. Sometimes these dialects are SO distinct it may seem like we don’t share a language at all. You can see these big dialectical differences when you compare modern western astrology to Vedic astrology, Chinese astrology, or even when Hellenistic astrology is compared to Evolutionary astrology. As our world becomes more diverse, as we each learn about “others,” it’s important that we continue to be communities that respect and learn from others. This includes becoming familiar with different astrological dialects. As an astrologer who works with both Western astrology and Vedic astrology I am “translating” dialects all the time.
When you work with more than one system there is a risk of combining rules and patterns in a willy-nilly way that becomes a bit messy and a lot less precise. This can work, but it means tossing out millennia of patterns that definitely work, thereby muddying the interpretive process. Not that it can’t be done: I’ve known astrologers who put together what, in my mind, are the most bizarre combinations and come out with valid information. I think the beauty of our field is that we are working with a hologram of the actual UNIVERSE of meaning, and no matter where you stand to look at the hologram, it has a fair chance of showing you the true picture.
My approach to using two systems is to keep them separate. Yes, there are techniques that bridge both systems: Graphic ephemerides and Sabian symbols point to spots in the sky and defines circumstances by that point rather than by the zodiac used. The Moon’s point is where the Moon IS, whether you call it Taurus, Aries, or McGillicudy. And yes, there are parts to Vedic astrology that have shaped my approach to Western astrology, but a lot of that is my early introduction to Western astrology left out a lot of detail. When reading charts for clients, I go back and forth constantly. It’s possible this weird combination has to do with my early exposure to Hellenistic astrology.
In the early 90’s the astrological world was blessed by the work of Robert Hand, Robert Schmidt, and Robert Zoller who dug up (almost literally) untranslated astrological texts from the ancient world—in Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew. These had never been translated into modern languages.
Even the work of Hermes Trismegistus contained a lot of astrological material which was simply LEFT OUT of translations because “astrology is nonsense so why translate it.” ARHAT and Project Hindsight started publishing translations and giving seminars on what they were learning about ancient western astrology. The problem was, they were finding text fragments that gave long lists of rules and then the fragment would end and no one knew what to do with partially discovered rules. With time, they discovered many fragments from different writers that seemed to be part of a complete body of knowledge. They worked on piecing the fragments together to reveal a full body of astrological knowledge that had been lost to us. As a result, many current young astrologers are focused on ancient western astrology.
At that time, however, I was already studying Vedic astrology. I kept seeing vague parallels to the interpretive patterns of Vedic astrology in these ancient western fragments. Feelings were floating around in my body that I might well have been a Greek astrologer at the time, sometime in 300BC-200AD, when eastern and western techniques first “met” each other, and the West was fascinated by the learning of the East and the East also learned from the West. I knew this was home territory for me, but I also knew my love was the PRACTICE of counseling astrology, and at that time there wasn’t enough information for the ancient western stuff to be useful in practice. With five planets in earth signs, my system had to be useful, so my focus would have to be on the Vedic tradition which, though ancient and in need of re-interpretation for modern western cultures, still existed intact. So I kept my ear open for the ancient rediscoveries, subscribed to the Project Hindsight translations and workshops, and practiced Vedic and Western astrology.
To see how Western astrology changes relate to changes in Vedic astrology, look at the work of the brilliant Indian astrologer, and teacher K.N. Rao. Rao has spent his astrological career testing out old rules against current circumstances and updating out-of-time interpretations. In Rao’s astrology a certain combination no longer makes you the “owner of 10,000 elephants”. It makes you a very wealthy person. And the pattern that used to say “prostitute” is now found in the charts of many upright actors and actresses who “sell their bodies to the public” by playing heroes and villains on screen. So the Vedic tradition has rules that hold true if you take into account the culture and attitudes of the times. The changes have to do with updating conclusions to relate to the modern culture rather than losing whole bodies of techniques and then discovering fragments and figuring things out from scratch.
Western astrology has had a very different past. Western astrology has been lost and found innumerable times in the past 2000 years. Contributing to the confusion and astrological changes of THESE times, we notice a funny thing happened to astrology in last 150 years. In the late 1800’s Alan Leo, deciding astrology was too complex for the masses, introduced Sun Sign astrology, seeding the ubiquitous “Astrology (Sun Sign) Columns” in public newspapers and magazines today and creating a huge rise in popularity of astrology. Before that time, astrologers were not even part of general awareness. In the first half of the 20th century, new astrologers centered the field with a primary awareness of Sun signs. Works published in the early 20th century were still using techniques which were almost entirely lost to astrologers who discovered the field after Alan Leo’s work.
This difference of astrological continuity is, in my opinion, the biggest difference between western and Vedic astrology. Western astrology wasn’t concerned about turning “elephants” into “wealth” because we forgot all about “elephants”. But each re-discovery of Western astrology incorporates current world understandings into astrological science. Sun sign astrology came along at about the time Freud’s work entered the world. It was active when Carl Jung started using astrology in his analytical work with clients. Sun sign astrology based ALL planetary positions on Sun sign interpretation. If you have Venus in Aries, just apply all the Sun sign Aries traits to the subject of Love and Money. If you have Mars in Capricorn, just apply all the Sun sign traits of Capricorn to Action, Energy, Anger… and so on. There’s nothing inherently incorrect about this, but it meant folks were doing astrology without any other techniques, therefore leaving a lot of gaps of details and understanding.
Thanks to Freud, Jung, Adler, Charles Tart and others, the whole field of psychology and later transpersonal psychology seeped into and began filling the cracks and crevices in the incomplete Sun-sign astrological system. Late 20th century astrologers found astrology to be a microscope onto the psychological and spiritual development of individuals. How brilliant! And this developed because of a lack of specific techniques.
Then astrological trends continued for another step and declared predictive astrology to be Wrong, both morally and practically, because “people can always transcend their astrological fate and astrologers shouldn’t make people feel they have no choices.” People using predictive astrology were now seen as fatalistic and backward-thinking.
Obviously, there’s stuff left out here. If astrology teaches us anything, it’s that the world doesn’t work when we think This OR That. It works when we see This AND That. Fate OR Free will? Rather Fate AND Free will!
People can change their fate IF they know how to handle correctly the energy fields they find themselves in. One WILL find themselves in difficult energy situations. Free will is in what you DO there. For instance, most young people faced with a Pluto challenge fight it until the situation gets really ugly. Most people would be aided by an astrologer’s advice on how to surrender to the energies of Pluto, etc. etc. But one doesn’t NEED an astrologer to do this.
My youngest brother, David is a neurologist, with no interest in or use for weird things like astrology. So I kept my mouth shut for years, knowing I’d otherwise be thrown out of the conversation. I did wonder when Pluto in Sag would be squaring his Gemini Sun. He was in med school at the time. So after he was out of med school and in practice—and a bit mellowed–I asked him what happened that year. I suggested that someone who had more power than he was standing in his way in a manner that could have damaged his career. He said there was nothing bad that happened, but that his adviser and research director had something against ANY idea that he proposed. He knew what he wanted to do for a research project and knew that the advisor would oppose it just because David asked for it, so he talked with a friend. The friend was another student that the advisor just loved. David asked his friend to suggest this would be a good idea for research but it would be an awful project….. so why don’t you get David to do it. Result: my brother got the project he wanted! Without astrology—but he used the correct technique to overcome the Pluto problem.
Those who say we can overcome the disasters of difficult transits are correct, but you can’t do it without knowing something, either instinctively or astrologically.
One reason I believe late 20th century western astrologers backed off from predictions is because not all predictions are about good things. How do you tell someone their daughter will be in a terrible accident in early March? How do you leave it out? My life changed when I discovered the remedies of Vedic astrology.
One thing that changed is that instead of being afraid to tell a client of a difficult future energy system, I can now tell them what could happen if they don’t do remedies and what might happen if they do remedies. The feedback from this is marvelous, and there’s no longer the problem of seeing something bad and trying to decide whether or not to warn someone. There are arguments that doing remedies is to put something other than yourself in control over your life, and that we have the power to change things ourselves and shouldn’t “give our power over” to remedies. Saints and wise men and women may instinctively adjust to difficult energy systems, but most people don’t fall in that category. Some of these saints and wise-persons, demonstrating how astrology doesn’t control them, have deliberately chosen awful dates to start some enterprise that ends up being successful. I’d bet they knew systems to remedy the planetary difficulties! Sharing remedy systems that allow a person to change their fate allows everyday people to get a glimpse of Life on the Wise Side.
Another of the basic questions about Vedic “vs.” western astrology is about the sidereal vs. tropical zodiac. There is about 24 degrees of difference between the two zodiacs, so 4/5’s of any western sign will be the previous sign in Jyotish. If your western Sun is around 24 degrees or later, you’ll keep your same sun sign. People are always saying stuff like “but I’m CLEARLY an Aries and not at all a Pisces, of all things!” The answer is that Aries and Pisces don’t have the western personality characteristics you’re thinking of. These are two totally different interpretation systems. Vedic astrologers are more interested in what HOUSE a planet is in and where is the dispositor (e.g., for the Pisces Sun, where is Jupiter? What sign? What house?) In Jyotish (Vedic astrology) the answer to what sign you are will be totally unrelated to the Sun and unrelated to SIGNS. It will be the Nakshatra, or lunar mansion, of the Moon. An Indian who is asked “what’s your astrological sign?” will answer with the name of the Nakshatra. The Moon has 27 lunar mansions, and these are the “signs” associated with personality characteristics. The basic interpretation system in Jyotish starts with planetary house/sign/Nakshatra placements and with dispositors’ house/sign/Nakshatras (well, also aspects, which are different, too).
And of course there’s the Fate vs Free Will question. Late 20th century Western astrology stresses free will over everything, but everyone has had certain experiences in life that definitely feel like Fate. Indian astrology offers answers to these questions, too. There are some things that are SO strongly indicated in a chart that they are part of what is called “fixed karma”. Out of 24 ways of determining whether or not a person will have children, 23 of them, in my chart, are flat out “no” answers. One says it might happen if I try real hard with a lot of technical help. Despite having wanted children for several decades and doing what I could to get pregnant, it never happened. When I discovered this pattern in my forties I was relieved to be able to follow astrology without worrying about supporting a child. Other kinds of karma give more choice. And remedies can change the situation UNLESS the Karma is fixed. (They can help emotionally even when the karma IS fixed.) When you combine the contemporary psycho-spiritual awareness of the western chart with the fate-free-will answers of the Indian chart, one can have a much clearer idea of what is possible and what we must prepare to accept (or, learn to love).
Modern western culture tends to suggest that we should be in charge of everything in our lives. Carl Jung said the key to happiness is to “love what IS”. To think we are the ultimate decider of everything in our lives is, to my mind, an inappropriate arrogance. None of us are autonomous. We are part of a large system in which all parts interact and affect the others. We are all subject to outside circumstances. We may have decided to enter life in a difficult family, during a long-lasting war, in a land where climate change forces life changes, where a loved-one dies prematurely. Once that first decision is made our freedom is in how we respond to these situations. We can own our own power, but we can’t claim the power of the gods, or Fate itself. It’s helpful to know the difference. Seeing how the interpretive insights of the two major astrological systems overlap and interact adds to one’s ability to see the big picture.
So using both Western and Vedic astrology gives us both history and contemporary views on life and how it works for us. It gives us opportunities to make the most of any situation and allows us to see precisely what energy systems we’re living in. In future articles we’ll cover more specific technique-related examples of how these systems work together.