Monday, 16 December 2013

The New Astrology of Towns & Cities - The astrological back story

Recently, thanks to a collaboration with the Urania Trust, whose trustees include Christeen Skinner, Lindsay Radermacher, Babs Kirby and Chair, Jonathan Powell, the second edition of the 1970's classic by Harold Wigglesworth, was re-published under the title: 'The New Astrology of Towns & Cities'. (Available through Amazon and I was privileged enough to edit it, as the book cover makes plain. If you're at all interested in the relationship between astrology and particular places, especially the major towns and cities of England, then this is a great little reference book to gift an astrology friend (or yourself, for that matter!)

As is often the case when it comes to researching written publications, the back story to this publication is an interesting astrological tale in itself.

When we set out to update the book, we knew very little about Harold himself, other than that he was from Clitheroe, a small town in Lancashire, and that he had passed away in the 1980's. By the end of the project, though, which largely took form during Saturn's transit through Scorpio (including that amazing grand trine in July 2013 with Jupiter and Neptune) I must confess to developing a strong awareness of Harold's presence, and for me, the book has come to embody this astrological placing.

Why? Well, for one thing, the sign of Scorpio can be a little spooky, and there were more than a few strange coincidences that occurred during the re-writing and publication process of TNATC. How can one explain, for instance, that Scorpio features strongly in the Urania Trust chart, my chart and as it turns out,  Harold's chart too?

A quick look at the UT website will tell you that it was formed at midnight on 9 November 1970 by deed of trust. This gives you a chart with Leo rising (also my AS) and a large stellium of planets in Scorpio, all very close to the IC, two of which are exactly conjunct my Moon in Scorpio. (You can see the chart at: ). The synastry between myself and the Trust, is pretty clear, then. So, imagine my surprise when it emerged that Scorpio is also prominent in Harold's chart! Unbeknownst to us, Harold was born with Scorpio rising - a fact that neither I nor the trustees was not aware of when we embarked upon the project. It was only when we approached his daughter, Sue, for some biographical information for the dedication page, that this rather remarkable information emerged. (Unfortunately we don't have an exact birth time or I woudl put up a chart here.)What is more, Harold was born in 1914, making 2014 his centenary year - talk about the ideal time to republish his book! Again, something that was not known to us initially.

I have heard authors remark that many of their books seem to take on a life of their own, and this one proved to be no exception. Certainly, to my mind, at least, it began to seem as though some kind of hidden intelligence was working behind the scenes to ensure that the 'reincarnation' of Harold's book took place at this particular juncture in time, when Saturn (the planet of the sage and of old age and death) was in Scorpio (sign of reincarnation, and symbolised by amongst other things, the phoenix.)

And typically, I found myself also personally implicated in what was happening. Given my research interest in dark/midnight sun themes, it didn't escape my notice that there are also some Sun-Saturn-Pluto connections woven into this story.

For one thing, having a Scorpio AS almost certainly means that Harold had Leo on the Midheaven. So, for me and the UT, with our Leo Ascendants, to update and republish his book, bringing it once again to public prominence, seems apt, since, in a synastry chart, both of our AS would appear somewhere in the region of Harold's Midheaven/10th house (even if one of them does fall in the 9th, this is even more fitting, given its associations with publishing).

For another, the UT chart, has a Sun-Jupiter conjunction in Scorpio in the 4th house close to the IC (another key theme in my work) while Harold has a Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Aquarius, which, if Scorpio is rising, happens to be setting on the western horizon (ie. conjunct the Descendant) of the UT's chart. This puts the UT in a unique I-Thou position of relationship with Harold, one that means honouring his work and ensuring his ongoing association with it, which is what we have tried to do with the dedication page and title credits.

Hopefully he is proud of what we have managed to achieve  - from a 30 page pamphlet, it is now a 260 page paperback with a glossy cover, updated/extended chart information (along with many new additions) and a vastly expanded notes section. There are also a selection of chart drawings featuring notable  places of historic interest such as Oxford, Norwich, Salisbury and London.

Finally, this project was somewhat delayed due to a number of extenuating factors. However, this meant that much of it came together under the influence of that magnificent major grand trine involving Jupiter in Cancer, Saturn in Scorpio and Neptune in Pisces. At the time this perfected (around the 18th of July 2013), Saturn was at 4-5 degrees Scorpio, the same degree as the UT's IC and very close to my natal Mercury in Scorpio. The transiting Moon also happened to be in Scorpio at the time...As if this was meant to happen so that the book could benefit from this very auspicious transit.

See what I mean  - spooky!

At any rate, the print version is now available at, as well as An eBook (EPUB) version is also available for iPad and Nooks, as well as those with Adobe Digital Editions readers. We hope to have a Kindle version out soon - perhaps in time for Harold's centenary.

There are also plans to extend the series by 'mapping' the astrology of the towns and cities of Ireland and Scotland, so watch this space!

NOTE: It is with sadness that I have to report that Harold's wife Margaret passed away in November of 2013. I just wanted to wish the Wigglesworth family my sincere sympathy and hope that the republishing of Harold's book will bring them some comfort. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Dreams, Visions and the Thought of the Heart

"Each of us carries within himself an Image of his own world, his imago mundi, and projects it into a more or less coherent universe, which becomes the stage on which his destiny is played out." - Henry Corbin

I have long been interested in dreaming since a psychic told me over a decade ago that my ancestors wished me to take more notice of my dreams. Since then I have studied various traditions, including theurgy (practised in the Near East by the ancient Egyptians as well as Greeks, particularly during the Hellenistic era), active imagination (practised by the likes of Carl Jung and taken to a more practical level by people such as Edward Steinbrecher) and done a brief course or two in shamanism.

What I have realised is that, at the base of virtually all traditions, lies the visionary experience, one that utilises the creative imagination and which involves some sort of meditation/visualisation technique but ultimately, demands an active and participatory relationship and interplay between you and what many people refer to as the sub-conscious. In the words of Joseph Joubert,  "Imagination is the eye of the soul."

Some people try to short circuit this process with drugs while others seem to like the theatre and indeed, status, of being considered a member of an initiated circle. To dress these things up in cultural baggage to me can be quite divisive and ultimately leads people to believe in elitist notions that they need to join some special club, employ certain rites and rituals or use some sort of guru or middle man to put them in touch with or develop a gift that essentially, every one of us has, and in fact tap into most nights (even if we don't always remember) and which anyone, with a little practice, can potentially master.

While traditional meditation techniques can certainly help you to develop mental self discipline and sometimes even extra sensory perception, it can sometimes distance you from your own inner world because it is all about detachment from feeling and desire, and it does not always have the vibrancy, texture and excitement of the internal dream landscape in which you are personally implicated and where you have a deep personal relationship with every element.

Henry Corbin, the French scholar of early Arabic Platonism, who was also an Eranos regular and contemporary of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, was, however, convinced, that the only way to experience the divine was via the intensely personal symbols and language of your own creative imagination. Immersing yourself in this dream-like world, he believed, would ultimately lead to an encounter with your own inner source of wisdom, or what he called the 'Angel of the Face', which many may equate with Jung's concept of the Self, or indeed, the spiritual notion of the Soul or Higher Self . For him, the way to the divine was via the 'thought of the heart'  - an intensely personal experience that embraced feeling and comprised the language and symbols of your subconscious but which often, paradoxically, would open you up to a relationship with spirit (an experience referred to by Corbin scholar, Tom Cheetham, as the 'world turned inside out'.) James Hillman, in deference to Corbin, and very much in keeping with the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, described this 'thought of the heart' as the 'thought of images', stating that 'the heart is the seat of imagination', and that 'imagination is the authentic voice of the heart.'

In fact, according to Corbin scholar, Tom Cheetham, Corbin, perhaps rather fittingly for an Aries, was very much against the idea of getting too attached to any one belief system, philosophy or tradition because it can lead to what he calls 'idolatry' and 'fundamentalism.'
In his new book on Corbin, All the world an icon: Henry Corbin and the angelic function of beings (2012), he writes that:
“Henry Corbin was a partisan of the freedom of the Imagination and an implacable enemy of fundamentalism and totalitarianisms of all kinds. He stands as a champion of the individual human spirit against the power of social institutions of every sort—religious, political, academic. His work provides us with an example of how we might live the Mosaic prohibition against idolatry. Every time we find a new truth, cling to a new fashion, believe in a new idea, a new savior—whether in science, in art, in politics, in the life of the mind, or in religion—we erect a new idol. Corbin’s entire metaphysics denies us the false security of putting faith in anything fixed and immobile. The Imagination never stops.” (p. 15)
So, imagine my surprise when I came across this little beauty, A Field Guide to Dreaming - Mastering the art of Oneironautics, a rather charmingingly presented, yet practical guide to the art of lucid dreaming by Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeisel and Thomas Peisel, three writers, filmmakers and lucid dreamers from New York. Published by Workman Press and featuring gorgeous illustrations by Mahendra Singh, it aims to demystify a process that has long formed the central tenet of many esoteric practices, including shamanism, but has roots that date back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who practised dream incubation at Plutoniums, just like the one I featured in my previous post, and beyond.

According to the authors, who are self taught 'oneironauts' (Greek for dream navigators), the tips and guidelines found in the book have been developed as a result of their 'own experiences with a decade of lucid dreaming as well as the real life experiences of many other lucid dreamers, writers and scientists.'

As well as a writing style that is refreshingly straight-forward, almost conspiratorial, without being in any way patronising or trying to dress up the technique in mystical clothing, the book is also not content light. A quick scan through the notes section at the back quickly attests that the authors have certainly doing some reading on the subject. The book also touches on some of the many traditions that have employed this ancient practice, along with the work of several pioneers in the field such as Carl Jung, as well as mentioning more recent scientific research work, all without being too academic or detracting from its main purpose : guiding the interested reader through the practical steps of how to become a lucid dreamer.

In a nutshell, this book will teach you how to reconnect with your dream life, cultivate the practice of lucid dreaming and then show you the possibilities once you're lucid, which are surprisingly vast. Once you realise the link between dreaming, active imagination, creativity, psychological healing and even visionary experiences, you will begin to see the possibilities that cultivating a participatory relationship with your dream life can open up.

Where Corbin diverged from Jung was his conviction that, rather than having universal meaning, this language of dreams and symbols is unique to each individual. The authors of this field guide, seem to concur, writing on page 78 that:

Many of us see dreams as puzzles, little riddles to be solved. We buy dream dictionaries to understand their meaning. Well, it's time to throw away your dream dictionary; it'll do more good in the local landfill. The fact is the dream belongs to the dreamer. Dreams are very personal, intimate things. An apple to us is not an apple to you. An apple to us five years ago is different from our present-day association with an apple. We believe that you and you alone are the final authority on what your dreams mean. 

They also emphasise the importance of intention, saying that cultivating a clear, specific and passionate desire is key to enabling the process of lucid dreaming in the first place. Many of us have come across this concept via books that focus on the 'power of attraction,' and I have found that any divination driven a by question that has the power of strong emotion behind it, often proves to produce exceptionally radical and clear responses. But really what else is this other than what we were talking about earlier - the notion of adding heart to provide added 'juice' to our thoughts and visualisations?

So, rather than taking hundreds of courses that dress this technique up in all sorts of rituals and rites, or distance yourself even more from the wisdom of your heart and what is rather disparagingly referred to as the "subconscious", why not just absorb the pointers from this distilled, and extremely simple and user-friendly book, written by people not trying to flog you a religion/cult/belief/therapy course and then just give it a try?

As well as a lot of helpful advice and suggestions, the book is also peppered with interesting extracts from other people's dream journals and experiences, along with snippets of information about related rituals, research and traditions, making it a fascinating and informative read that is still easy to dip in and out of because of the way it is laid out. A summary at the end of each chapter, plenty of bullet points and sub-headings make it easy to follow  - perfect if, like me, you read last thing at night and don't want to over-tax your brain or wake yourself up too much whilst still absorbing the little nuggets dished out on every page.

I liked the fact that the authors never tried to patronise me, made suggestions based on personal opinion and experience rather than universal, categorical statements and were modest enough to link their findings and material to wider humanistic and religious traditions and scientific research without having to make heavy assertions of 'faith'.

I also loved the fun illustrations and trippy bullet points (which look like bees one minute and little faces the next), as well as the pithy quotations at the beginning of each chapter.

Although it suggests several possible uses of this technique in both work and therapeutic situations, it is not a cure-all for every psychological ill, nor does it set itself up to be. It does, however, offer some helpful advice for those who suffer from nightmares in chapter 15, or who may be seeking healing, possibly as a result of grief or loss in chapter 16.

All in all, a little gem of a book and one I would really recommend, especially to first-timers new to the field. Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble now.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Archaelogists uncover Plutonium in Turkey

This article appeared in the news section of the Discovery Channel website. It may be of interest to anyone who has read the work of Peter Kingsley, especially his "In the Dark Places of Wisdom," which partly inspired my research into the black sun for my MA in Cosmology and Divination thesis. 

Pluto's Gate Uncovered in Turkey

A “gate to hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.

Known as Pluto's Gate -- Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin -- the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition. Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.
“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 AD) wrote.
“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.
Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento. D'Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis. Two years ago he claimed to discover there the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.
Founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), Hierapolis was given over to Rome in 133 B.C.
The Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties.
“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave,” D'Andria told Discovery News.
Featuring a vast array of abandoned broken ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, the site revealed more ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld -- Pluto and Kore.
D'Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave -- all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.
“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D'Andria said.
According to the archaeologist, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.
The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.
“We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D'Andria said.
Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the hell gate without any apparent damage.
“They hold their breath as much as they can,” Strabo wrote, adding that their immunity could have been due to their "menomation," “divine providence” or “certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.”
According to D'Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. Indeed, the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli's phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations.
“This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources,” Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.
Fully functional until the 4th century AD, and occasionally visited during the following two centuries, the site represented “an important pilgrimage destination for the last pagan intellectuals of the Late Antiquity,” Filippini said.
During the 6th century AD, the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.
D'Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site.

You can see a gallery of pictures by visiting the website.