Thursday, June 30, 2011

Elections & the Higher Cycles of Fate

When I talk to clients sometimes I get the impression they think I don't step outside my door without doing an election. Having done elections for over a decade I realize that it just isn't practical. And while it's probably not that great for hard selling, frankly elections aren't as all important as client appear to think.

Definitely for important activities it is nice to get a good election, to start with the flow rather than fighting against it. But again, I get the impression that some clients feel that if they only found the "perfect" election that success is 100% assured. A good reason, therefore, to be super prickly and insistent about getting the election of the century from 9-5 Monday-Friday in the next 5 days!

Think about it, if I pick an absolutely fabulous time to announce my candidacy for President of the US, will I be elected?

This mono-focus on the time of the election loses sight of the fact that elections are just one of multiple, interlocking circles of fate and while significant are probably the least important. If we pick a good time for an investment, for example, this is dependent on our personal fate, as set forth in our natal chart and the fate of our family which conditions how much money we have and our training, the fate of our locality, the fate of our nation, plus the local, national and world economies.

Lilly has an excellent discussion along these lines,

..for a Beggar's child may have a Nativity [natal chart] equal with a King's but then they are not both the sons of Kings...[while] a King obtains extraordinary or very great honour upon the influence thereof: the young Beggar having the very same [chart factors] has no more falls to his share, then either to fall to some course of life, not so sordid as to beg. A King has Loans or Moneys of his Subjects; it happens the Beggar has some more than usual bountiful Alms from some good people. A King performs some honourable exploit: a Beggar has more than ordinary respect among his fellow-beggars..."

Christian Astrology, pages 616-7.

I've often thought that if you had an extremely positive natal chart or election in Poland in 1939 you'd get to be a penniless refugee rather than being dead.

So let's consider planting. Clearly, even if you had a superlative election if you plant tomatoes in Iowa in January, they will not thrive. I planted mine a bit early, but covered them from the last cold snap and now they are doing great, without an election. The higher cycles of fate, here of the seasons, overcome the lack of an election.

Now certainly if you can elect, it is often worthwhile to do so. I once elected the planting of 20 seeds and every single one germinated, which was far better than normal.

This explains, however, why I have a more relaxed attitude about elections than some of my clients. They are like astrological magic, most useful in addition to taking practical action, not capable of totally overthrowing all of the other cycles of fate by themselves.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

At the End of My Rope with Electional Clients

I'm at a point where I am seriously considering dropping doing elections altogether, it's just too much aggravation!

How did I get to this state? Let me lay out the typical electional client scenario. The client knows a little bit about modern natal astrology. They have a limited date and/or time range available, usually in the next 30-90 days, but often less. I had a recent client who had less than week available.

I look at the date and time range, and give what I consider to be the best of the times and dates available.

The client gets the analysis, in which I layout the factors I considered and invariably says, "I'm worried about X or Y or Z" They then say, "I like date A, B or C better, could you please look at them for me?"

From the client side this is all very understandable, they are trying to find the absolute best time to do whatever it is they want to do, and from their knowledge of astrology they can see that there are MAJOR PROBLEMS with the election I propose, whereas the election they suggest is MUCH, MUCH BETTER!

The problem is that the client doesn't understand the following:

(1) Traditional astrology is different than modern astrology

(2) Electional astrology is different than natal astrology


How about some examples? Traditional versus modern: A recent client was concerned about Saturn in the 1st, except that Saturn was dignified by exaltation, triplicity and face and finally direct. As Bonatti says in his Aphorisms

The 44th is, To consider if the Significators, Fortune or Infortune, be in his own House, Exaltation, Triplicity, Terms or Face (but the latter being not of that virtue with the rest, ‘tis necessary it should be assisted with another Dignity, which is Hayz or Light); for in such case the Infortune loses his sting; and being rein’d in like a wild horse from doing mischief, his malice is converted into good, and though this seems strange, yet the ancients affirm and I myself have often found it true by experience.

Natal versus Horary: same client was concerned about the Moon square Saturn, and was not particularly mollified when I pointed out the aspect was separating. In horary and electional applying versus separating is a key different, applying showing current and future events, separation past or events that will not come about Christian Astrology pages 109-10

NO ELECTION IS PERFECT! This is the hardest concept for clients to grasp. Again the client yesterday, I explained it by saying, "What if I was a matchmaker and you said, 'get me the best date that walks down the street in the next 20 minutes' I do and they say, 'Hey this guy is short and fat, I want someone like Brad Pitt or maybe George Clooney' How likely is it that Brad Pitt is going to walk down the street in the next 20 minutes?

We are almost always dealing with a very small set of possible elections due to practical considerations, often we are limited to business hours, for example. We usually have a limited date range to deal with. This means that we cannot get the perfect election and invariably have to settle for the best that we can get, rather than the election of the century. There will almost always be negative factors in the chart, and the best we can do is minimize the negative and maximize the positive as much as possible.

This is not what client want to hear. They want to hear that everything is wonderful with their elections. I'd love to be able to do that, but I have to work with what the Heavens provide me with.

This problem is compounded by the client, not understanding traditional and/or electional astrology and thinking that innocuous factors are negative or otherwise misunderstanding how traditional elections are done. A constant problem is looking at irrelevant houses, "I don't like Saturn in the 3rd" in a business election for example. In natal astrology, yes we look at all the houses. In horary and electional we concentrate on certain key houses. Besides, Saturn and other negative factors have to be SOMEWHERE in the chart, we can't whisk them out of existence!

Finally the client is worried, worried they won't get whatever they are hoping for from the election, worried about X, Y or Z from their limited astrological knowledge and worried that clearly I don't know what I'm doing since I gave them such a piece of $^%& election.

So they tell me, "I'm worried" and they suggest other elections. What I don't understand about this is, if I am so inept that I overlooked important negative factors in my suggested election, isn't my opinion worthless? Why bother with me further at all, why try to get my seemingly useless seal of approval on further elections?

From my standpoint, 99% of the time the concerns that the electional client expresses are either irrelevant, confused or factors that we are stuck with due to the limited range of dates and times available. For $55 I don't have time to spend an extra hour, patiently explaining the intricacies of traditional electional and going through endless elections until the client is satisfied, when they don't know what they are doing.

Ultimately the problem is that what electional clients are looking for is a secretary or personal assistant to pop up charts for them to repeatedly reject, until they finally find one that they like.

As an attorney, this is like having a client want to edit my briefs and change my legal arguments. It's definitely the clients' role to decide the ultimate objective and to set the practical parameters, time, date and location for the election. At that point I take over and use my expertise to get the best possible election that I can using these parameters. The client can decide that they will not use the election, but it is rude and foolish to try to micro manage an expert. If you know enough to micro manage you can do the work yourself presumably!

So I don't know. If I didn't have to earn a living, I think I might just quit doing elections. It's a no win scenario! I thought I would put this out there as a warning for fellow professional astrologers and also to see if anyone had a bright suggestions about how I can perhaps alter clients' expectations or better deal with them in the context of elections. I have started doing a big disclaimer on my website, which is also sent to every electional client. See Electional ordering with disclaimer

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making Money As an Esotericist Through New Techs Paradigms

I got into a "how can you accept payment for the sacred art of X, Y and Z?" discussion on a group that got me thinking and I realized that books, whether as hard copy or electronic media, were likely to be considered more broadly acceptable. Of course, the "everything I want should be free" contingent won't like any of this, but nobody gets paid for nothing clearly isn't a viable option for the economy.

I'll still run into people that tell me they have written a book, or worse, a novel and are looking for an agent, so they can get a publisher. Folks, this is a very 20th century approach! This is still thinking in terms of printing technology where you do big print runs, store the books in a warehouses, sell through intricate distribution chains from a distributor to book stores. The publisher takes big risks and has big capital costs for author advances, printing, marketing, editing etc. The focus is on bestsellers and mass sales with a tiny profit per sale. Very hit or miss and only for the big boys.

Or alternatively you can do the tiny occult press thing. Again a big, big risk because you need to sink a huge amount of money into your print runs. Sales are slow, then you sell out your print run after many years and suddenly with the book out of print the price skyrockets and the used books dealers get the profit.

The game has, or rather, is changing drastically. Amazon killed the local bookstore. But they never had the titles I wanted anyway, even a huge Borders only had 100,000 titles, while Amazon has everything in print, literally millions of titles.

But the real change is print on demand (POD). Instead having to sink money into print runs, you publish by uploading a pdf and then when the customer orders it, the printer prints the book for them. The cost per copy is higher, but you don't need to have any money upfront. No risk means you can take more chances in terms of sales.

Put that POD book on Amazon and customers can't tell the difference between you and Random House. They order the book and it shows up looking like the paperback or hardcover they are used to.

Now Amazon takes a hefty bite and POD is more expensive, but you aren't paying the bookstore its 40% trade discount and you've cut out the publisher and distributor.

Couple of other points. First, you can target a much smaller, niche audience profitably. Our translation of the Complete Picatrix has sold less than 300 copies, which seems miniscule, but since we aren't splitting the profits with a publisher or distributor and we have no overhead, it's been profitable from the first copy. We even used the POD concept for our high end handmade cloth bound and leatherbound Picatrix editions.

Rather than doing very expensive print runs, the customer orders a copy and we had a local book binder do the binding. This meant that every customer of the cloth and leatherbound got a special dedication page with their name on it, the leatherbound, they could choose the color of leather, designs, sigils, etc, as well.

Basically we are back to the 14th century! Before printing was invented, each manuscript was done only after an order and could be done uniquely for each client. Modern technology has changed the publishing paradigm.

And this is just for hardcopy books! I'm not a big fan of selling pdfs because they are ultra easy to pirate. I know that some of the esoteric heavy hitters do have good luck with pdfs. I'm not quite ready to do Kindle or other e-book readers, but I think these have potential too. I was thinking I would do a pdf with a Creative Commons license that people could freely distribute it if they didn't change or charge for it, to get some useful information out there along with some advertising.

Any hooooo, when I heard on Jason Miller's Sorcery course (very interesting by the way, I love his practical approach) that a popular idea for making money with esoteric stuff is opening a bricks and mortar occult shop, I again, had to say, how 20th century! Heavy overhead, big time commitment and limited to local business. It might be worth it if you used the shop as marketing tool for your Internet business, but otherwise, no way!

I know that there are plenty of people out there that magic, etc., are just hobbies for or are something they do for free for friends and family. That's great, but there are increasing numbers of us that are so serious about this that they want to do it full time and give value for the $.

For those people, don't get locked in the past. We haven't really thought through how to use Internet and these incredible technological changes, but the opportunities are really out there! Don't get locked into the paradigms of fading technology!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Astral High Magic: De Imaginibus of Thabit Ibn Qurra

I am very pleased to announce the launch of the newest book from Renaissance Astrology, Astral High Magic: De Imaginibus of Thabit Ibn Qurra. Here is a link for MORE INFO

"What's this Chris?" "Don't you already have a translation of De Imaginibus?" "What's it about anyway, I've never heard of it?"

Ok, first this is a brand new and greatly expanded translation. I did the earlier translation, John Michael Greer, whose Latin is far better than mine, did this second and much improved translation. One thing that makes a big difference is that this translation uses two different versions of De Imaginibus, where the earlier translation was just based on one. So significant and important improvement! I've also gone ahead and revised my already extensive commentary and added several example talismans and charts, so you can see these talismans in action. Finally, Astral High Magic features the art of Robert Place, a very talented visionary artist.

But what is De Imaginibus? Why is it important? De Imaginibus means "On Images" or more loosely, "How to make talismans" This is the most important book of astrological magic after Picatrix. Everybody who was anybody, Albertus Magnus, Ficino, Agrippa and even Picatrix, quote from and use De Imaginibus. And truly it is the highest of high magic since it combines ceremonial magic with house based talismans the height, the acme, the summit of astrological magic.

This is a key text and if you are at all interested in astrological magic you want to have a copy, particularly of this newest, highly revised edition with a new, bigger translation.

The cost is $24.95 plus shipping, Here is the info page

Here's what John Michael Greer, the translator had to say about Astral High Magic: De Imaginibus of Thabit Ibn Qurra:

First of all, Chris isn't overstating the importance of this book. It's not an equivalent of Picatrix in any way; where the unknown author of Picatrix was a collector and editor who assembled every scrap of magical lore he could get into one big volume, Thabit ibn Qurra was one of the major intellectual figures of his time, a brilliant scholar and astrologer who wrote on a wide range of subjects and received patronage from the very top end of the political scene. De Imaginibus is Thabit's own work through and through, a description by one of history's greatest astrological magicians on his methods of casting elections for world-class talismans. Translating it was a little like sitting in a corner of Thabit's study and looking over his shoulder as he worked; I tried to catch some of that quality in the translation.

Second, while Chris tends to be overly modest about his Latin abilities, I had a huge advantage in making my translation that he didn't have -- since I was working off two different Latin translations of the Arabic original, which routinely used different words and grammar to communicate the same point, I was able to get a much more precise sense of Thabit's meaning. There are some places in each version where the Latin is ambiguous, and in making his translation from one version, Chris was forced to guess at the meaning; his guesses were good ones, by and large, but as it happened, some of them were wrong -- and that led him to misstate some important details of the magical work. Even if you've got the older translation, in other words, , you need the new one.

And if you don't have the older translation, and you're going to be practicing astrological magic -- well, in that case, you need the new one!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why the Moon in the 1st is Meaningless: Traditional Astrology is NOT Reductionist

I definitely have a tendency to get cranky, certainly part of that is Mars in Leo retrograde opposed to Mercury, not an excuse for a character defect, but perhaps a partial explanation.

The other more reasonable explanation for crankiness is that it's hard to swim against the stream. What do I mean?

I frequently get questions like, "What does the Moon in the 1st mean?" and no other info! We don't know if this is a horary, election or natal chart, we don't know the surrounding life situation and we don't know the time, date and place of the chart. Under these circumstances, the Moon in the 1st is meaningless, because we don't know the context.

This is hard for the questioner to understand because the question seems natural to them. They almost certainly haven't thought why this is "natural' way to proceed, but it is, for most students of astrology and likely astrologers.

What they are doing is trying to break down the chart into its smallest constituent parts and then find the meaning in these individual parts. They can then take all of these meanings, string them together and understand the meaning of the whole chart. This is analytical reasoning "The process of separating something into its constituent elements." This is very basic to the modern scientific method.

We always have a worldview and a philosophy that we apply to organize and filter our experiences. "I don't have a philosophy" just means that we are unconscious of it. The standard scientific approach is reductionism Wikipedia article on reductionism "an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things" Understanding this method of organizing our understanding makes it perfectly understandable why it would be "natural" to want to break a chart down to understand it.

However, is this how a chart works?

I was watching some new BBC updating of Sherlock Holmes recently, which is a very good example of analytical reasoning. Holmes, looks for tiny details, the multiple scratches on a cell phone charge slot (modern) or scratches on a watch key slot (original), and deduces that the owner is frequently drunk or the burns on a discarded hat indicating the wearer has gas lights. Seeing all these tiny details separately, Holmes deduces the facts of the cases he investigates.

In fact, this NOT typically how actual detectives solve crimes. For example, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets is a 1991 book written by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon describing a year spent with detectives from the Baltimore Police Department homicide squad. What is notable about the murder cases that are successfully solved in the book is that either the detectives get a lucky break, slog, slog, slog or if there is a flash of brilliance, it is of a singularly intuitive, holistic nature. In one case, a very experienced detective comes into the crime scene and intuitively points to a glass sitting casually on the counter, with nothing apparently distinctive about it. The crime lab fingerprints it and it comes back with the fingerprints that turn out to be those of the suspect! The detective had been in many crimes scenes and the glass just "felt" out of place in the context of the entire scene. But what alternative is there to reductionist thinking? Was the detective just making a wild guess?

While the word "holistic" has been super New Age-ified, it does identify an alternative to reductionism. Wikipedia alternatives to reductionism
Quoting from Wikipedia,

"many systems are so complex that it will not ever be possible to describe all their details. Drawing an analogy to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics, he argues that many interesting and relevant ecological phenomena cannot be replicated in laboratory conditions, and thus cannot be measured or observed without influencing and changing the system in some way. He also points to the importance of interconnectedness in biological systems."

An astrological chart is not a long list of discrete bits that are best understood by breaking down into bite size pieces. This is a "cookbook" methodology "Moon in the 1st means X" "Sun in Leo means Y" "Jupiter trine Saturn means Z" All of the constituent parts of the chart need to be considered together so we can look through the chart and see the underlying pattern of the situation that the chart reflects.

So while holistic has connotations of loosey-goosey fuzzy New Age gibberish, while analytical seems very rigorous and scientific, in fact, when it comes to traditional astrological delineation, the holistic method gives the most voluminous, most precise and most accurate predictions.

Admittedly we need to start with a cookbook method at the very beginning of our astrological studies. But just like looking at Hitler's chart and others where we know the outcome already, these are kindergarten methods, not how we want to proceed if we wish to be masters of traditional astrology.

The traditional astrological learning process is not, as one would surmise from the analytical/reductionist methodology, just a process of piling up more and information. Invariably my students seem to bumble around when they get to actual charts and then suddenly "AH HA" a light goes on and they can put all the pieces together.

But this leaves me with a dilemma. How do I respond when someone asks "What does the Moon in the 1st mean?" For them this is a perfectly normal and natural question and if I am going to be a helpful teacher or source of information I should answer them and give a brief bite sized explanation of the Moon in the 1st, eg "You may feel more nurturing today. Feeling like mothering people and showing you care. Your emotions will right on the surface. You may feel more vulnerable on this day." online astrologer

This is like being a cab driver and having a passenger want to go to the Air & Space Museum on Sunday at midnight. Are you helping them by doing what they ask, when you know the museum is closed?

I suppose from now on, I can give them a link to this post!