The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 104, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Lynn Bell
Episode originally released on April 17, 2017
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released December 28, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Wednesday, April, 12, 2017, starting at 12:07 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 104th episode of the show. In this episode I’m gonna be talking with astrologer Lynn Bell about the astrology of family dynamics, and specifically, her book titled, Planetary Threads: Patterns of Relating Among Family and Friends. Before we get started with the interview just a couple of announcements. At the end of the month we’re gonna be giving away a pass to the upcoming Northwest Astrological Conference to one lucky patron of the show who donates on the $10 tier through our page on patreon.com. The Northwest Astrological Conference, or NORWAC, will take place in the Seattle area from May 25-29, 2017. The conference will feature 30 speakers talking about a variety of different astrological topics, as well as some great pre- and post-conference workshops, a large bookstore with hundreds of different astrology titles and more. The discounted rate for conference registration ends on April 22, so sign up now at norwac.net in order to lock in the lower rate.
The other prize we’re giving away this month is a copy of Benjamin Dyke’s forthcoming book, which is a translation of an astrological text by the 1st century astrologer Dorotheus of Sidon. Dorotheus’ work was extremely influential in the Hellenistic and Medieval astrological traditions and it contains some of the earliest treatments of natal astrology and electional astrology that have survived from the ancient traditions. So Ben will be announcing the release date of this book later in April, and you can find out more information about it, or sign up for his newsletter in order to receive the announcement as soon as it comes out, through his website at BenDykes.com. All you have to do in order to be entered into the drawing this month is become a patron of the podcast on the $5 or $10 tier through our page on Patreon. For more information, just click the Giveaways tab at the top of the podcast website at TheAstrologyPodcast.com. So with those announcements out of the way, let’s get started with the interview. So, Lynn, welcome to the show.
LYNN BELL: Thank you, Chris. I’m delighted to be here.
CB: Yeah, I really appreciate this. I picked up your book at the bookstore a few years ago and I’ve been wanting to talk to you about it. I’ve sort of read through different pieces over the years and we’ve had interactions over the past 10 years. I think I first met you almost exactly 10 years ago now, in 2007, and we talked a little bit about some of your research on the planetary joys. But I’m excited to talk to you about this ‘cause this is a topic that we haven’t touched on at all in this podcast so far, which is the topic of synastry, but also the specifically family members and different types of relationships aside from romantic ones through the sort of lens of astrology.
LB: Oh, fantastic that you haven’t treated this subject because it goes back to the very roots of astrology, the whole idea that the family we come in with is part of our fate in some ways.
LB: Certainly taken up by 20th century thinking.
CB: Yeah, I mean, it seems like no matter what sort of philosophical view you have, no matter how much free will a person might, you know, think that they have based on their philosophical or religious predispositions, you know, one thing that’s almost undeniably sort of fated or predetermined once you’re born is your family members and your family dynamics to some extent. Or at least whatever dynamics those set up certainly can be things that are, you know, set up as soon as you come into life and are somewhat outside of a person’s control to some extent. Anyway, so we’ll talk about that today. But maybe a good starting point is just, you know, finding out a little bit about who you are and what your background is and what your approach to astrology is. So when did you start studying astrology, or how long have you been doing it?
LB: Oh, well, I got interested in astrology very young; I was reading the horoscopes in the newspaper. And I would say 11, 12, 13, I knew people’s signs and birthdays. And I tried to find out more about astrology and it was very difficult to do at the time I was interested. There were no esoteric bookstores. I was in the Midwest. I was in Chicago, a big city. And the closest I came to getting in-depth was a book on palmistry, so I learned that, and I kept trying to find more information about astrology. And little by little, I learned enough, I taught myself, and I probably did my first consultation when I was about 21, something like that.
CB: Okay, so at 21 you’re in Chicago. And are you in school at this point?
LB: I was in university. I probably just really graduated from college. I talked to people about their planets, their Venus, their Moon, but I didn’t know how to cast a chart until that time; and I was encouraged by someone to do that. And then I went to graduate school and I found myself pulled by my passion for astrology and the pressure of graduate school, and I ended up dropping out of a PhD program to pursue esoteric studies.
CB: Wow, that’s a pretty big life decision. How old were you at that point?
LB: I was 23.
CB: 23? Okay.
LB: I actually took a leave of absence. And I had a four-year fellowship and I left and never went back.
LB: Wasn’t a very wise decision, but probably necessary.
CB: Yeah. And was your background or your focus in psychology at that point? Did you leave in order to pursue psychological astrology, or was that something that developed sort of later?
LB: I was studying literature and I had a minor in sociology, and I was looking for something that would make sense of the world to me. I was specifically psychological at that point in time, but the astrology I was drawn to was more psychological than not.
CB: Okay, so this was the 19-, what, 1960s, ‘70s?
LB: 1970s, yeah.
CB: Okay. And were you reading Dane Rudhyar and other authors like that? Were there any particular authors that you were drawn to at that time?
LB: I would go into bookstores and pick books off of shelves and read whatever I could get my hands on. And this is before Liz Greene’s first book or Arroyo’s. Those books were fantastic because they resonated with the way that I was thinking to myself about astrology, but they weren’t the first astrology books I read. I’d go from Ebertin to Alan Oken to Alan Leo; again, anything I could find. And a lot of it I thought was rubbish actually, and it was very hard to piece astrology together at that time.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. And sort of in the middle of this or at some point you actually picked up and you left Chicago and moved to Paris, right?
LB: I did. Well, I had already left Chicago for university and then graduate school in Oregon. And then I moved to Boston, to the Boston area, and from there I moved to Paris.
CB: Okay, got it. And Boston was actually kind of a hot-bed of astrological activity in the ‘70s, wasn’t it?
LB: That’s right. I managed to avoid the really well-known teachers. I went once to meet Isabel Hickey and I thought, “Nope, can’t learn from her.” And this is nothing about the quality of the teachers who were there, but I met many people like me who were beginning, questioning and asking what astrology really was, and I have lifelong friends from that time.
CB: Yeah, I mean, she would have been from a different generation, especially compared to the one, like yourself, that was coming in, and the need and the desire to focus more on psychological insights. I mean, I guess she or other astrologers that you would have encountered at that time would have had a more straight occult, sort of New Age or somewhat predictive bent; whereas the new type of astrology that was emerging was much more psychological in its focus, right?
LB: Yes. Isabel Hickey, who was a wonderful teacher actually—‘cause she was Liz Greene’s teacher briefly—was more from the Theosophical tradition. If I read her book today, I’d say, “So many wonderful insights.” I know there were the Sequoians, there were other people, but I wasn’t drawn to them. And I’m the kind of person who needed to follow an individual path, so I’m essentially self-taught.
CB: Sure, sure. Okay, so you moved to Paris, and you’ve been living there for 30 or 40 years at this point, right?
LB: Yeah, that’s right. Not quite 40.
CB: Sure. And your focus became eventually psychological astrology, and you became connected with some of the leading psychological astrologers. Especially this book that we’re talking about today, which I believe was your first book, came out or was published by the Centre for Psychological Astrology in the UK, right?
LB: That’s right. Centre for Psychological Astrology Press published it in 1999. I started teaching for them in 1995. And before that time I was doing most of my teaching in France, and the psychological piece really comes from my personal journey and the work that I did on myself and some of it has to do with the timeframe. It was very common—most of my friends were in analysis, most people did some kind of work on themselves. And I tend to think that this is fundamental for doing astrology, that you need to explore your inner issues to be a really good astrologer for other people. It doesn’t mean you have to do it in that way, but I needed to do a lot of work on myself.
CB: So who were some of the other people that you were working with or sort of interacting with by the 1980s and 1990s?
LB: Well, oddly enough, in France I was very connected to the humanist group. There’s a very powerful group here called the Réseau Astrologie Humaniste that was created by Alexander Ruperti, and I was friends with many of the people in that group and they invited me to be part of their group. So even though I’m not a Rudhyarian in any kind of fundamental sense, that was a very important influence in the astrology that I developed. And French astrology has a very powerful intellectual side, a very long tradition. Andre Barbault, who wrote some really important early books integrating Freudian ideas into astrology—there was a lot of work done here. And through the people I met doing that work, I taught for a while at a school called Agape here; there are many different ideas and traditions that washed in and out of my own practice. Most of my astrology came from the work I do with individuals. I’m a consulting astrologer and I’ve seen thousands of clients. And it’s actually being deeply involved with people over time and what they’re confronting and their processes that probably is the foundation for my own psychological practice.
CB: Sure. And so, part of the premise of this is just using the birth chart as sort of a map that shows different psychological dynamics within an individual, right?
LB: That’s right, but not only. I think astrology has always been psychological. It’s always talked about the nature of our temperament and the nature of our character and how that influences what happens to us. So even though it’s not specifically discussed with that label, psychology has always been part of the art form as far as I’m concerned.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. There’s always been that stream, but certainly there’s been a lot more tools in the development of depth psychology in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Certainly it seems like that’s provided astrologers with a lot more insights and avenues that have been useful in terms of integrating some of that work in depth psychology into astrology and astrological consultations in order to make them more helpful or in order to encourage some actual process of healing or working out psychological issues, right?
LB: Not just psychological issues, but also soul issues; really helping people remember who they are and in some ways come into an alignment with self. Am I the person I’m meant to be? That is a psychological question, and it’s also a philosophical question.
CB: Sure. Who am I? And why am I who I am? And why do I react to situations in the way that I do or to other people in certain ways? Why do certain dynamics come up in my life at different points, and so on and so forth?
CB: All right, well, that brings us then to the topic for our discussion today. So this book that you published, Planetary Threads, which I really enjoyed, this version of it is a revised and expanded version that was published in 2013 by Ibis Press of a 1999 publication by the Centre for Psychological Astrology Press. And it’s interesting and unique as a format because all of, or at least most of the CPA books are sort of edited or cleaned up transcripts of actual seminars that were given at some point in the past with an audience and with audience interaction, right?
LB: Yes, in my case I’d say they’re largely rewritten. For some people, they speak with such clarity that you can almost take what they say and write it verbatim; that’s not my case. I can be very elliptical, I follow ideas and chase them, so there’s a huge amount of cleanup you have to do to write a book like this. To some extent the questions of the audiences are mostly real. Sometimes we add some to make the text clearer, and I think it depends on the author how much of that is done. In this book, these were two seminars that I gave on two different dates that were put together. And the second book I wrote for CPA Press on solar returns, I added a huge amount of material that wasn’t in the workshop I gave, and I had to transfer it into the back-and-forth dialogue form, which helped with clarity in writing and communication I think.
CB: Yeah, it makes for a unique read. Even though sometimes you’re talking about, you know, what can be serious or kind of heavy topics there’s a lightness or an ability to read it in a way that feels lighter and easier to read through, even though it can be heavy material at times just because there’s this sort of back-and-forth-dialogue-type presentation of the material.
LB: Yeah, I agree, Chris. And I’m glad you say that because some people say, “Well, why don’t you just write a book without all those questions?” And for me it gave me more freedom in the writing process and probably lightened me up a little bit.
CB: Yeah, I mean, it reminds me of reading a dialogue of Plato’s or something. You know, Plato didn’t write just straightforward instructional, you know, philosophical texts, like a textbook or something, he wrote dialogues. And most of what we know about Plato’s philosophy is from this discussion and this process that happens when you have a dialogue between teacher and student or two people in order to create a sort of dynamic. And sometimes that dynamic can be useful in focusing in on specific topics, but doing it in a way that’s more approachable than just a block of text.
LB: Well, I’d love to think that the dialogues in this book had something connected to Plato, but it might very well have been Liz’s idea. Liz Greene created the Centre for Psychological Astrology, and she insisted that we keep the books in dialogue form; that was her vision for the press.
CB: Sure. Yeah, one of my favorite books is Nick Campion’s book, Astrology, History and Apocalypse, which is a book on the history of astrology, but it’s based on seminars and it’s in that sort of dialogue format; so anyway, it’s just a really unique and interesting format for an astrology book. So it brings us to our primary topic then or the primary topic of the book, which is that you focus in the book on family dynamics, but not just family dynamics, but also other areas and interpersonal relationships in a person’s life, including things like friendship and how that can be analyzed through the birth chart, both through basic placements in a person’s birth chart and how sometimes that can characterize different dynamics that they have with different people in their life, but also by comparing the birth charts of two individuals in order to see the dynamic between them through the synastry and things like that. Had that always been an interest or a focus for you? When did that become something you were sort of interested in or passionate about?
LB: Good question. I think I mention in the book that that interest in friendship as a counterfoil to family in part came out of thinking about quincunxes, about what is not in relationship to this. For example, when people have a really difficult family relationship—I mean, a very, very problematic past and problematic story—very often the solution is somewhere completely other. And in this book I was looking for a way to put together ideas that were related but different, and that whole idea of how we are related to others I suppose is the key to the way those came into relationship.
CB: Sure. Especially in terms of family members, part of the premise of the book is that the family contributes in some way to our experience of ourselves and that it’s one of our first environmental influences as soon as we’re born. You know, we have certain family members in our life, and we have both different ways that we’re perceived and experience based on placements in our chart and we’re also gonna have different dynamics with them based on our synastry with those people, and in some ways that’s gonna inform or alter. I guess what was a really interesting premise, as I was rereading parts of the book recently, one of the ideas that it brought up for me was just that, you know, you can have two people that were born at the same point in time in the world and have the same birth chart, you know, even in the same hospital, but each of those people would go home to different families; and each person’s experience of their family and their family members and the influence that those family members has on them is gonna be very different, and they’re gonna have different synastry with those people. And that’s part of what you’re trying to address in this book is how those different dynamics can influence a person or sort of be characterized by placements in the birth chart, right?
LB: Absolutely. And one of the things that’s fascinating is to think about people who get switched at birth and how they develop. It’s the old ‘nature/nurture’ story of how much of who we are is shaped by those other people around us, who are described in our chart in some way, but who won’t be exactly the same; because as we know the symbols of the chart have a whole bouquet of possible meaning or possible manifestation. So if I have, let’s say, a strong Saturn connected to the parental images, I might have a family that’s very, very traditional. I might also have a family that’s very poor, that has struggled in order to survive or even to exist in the world, but I could also see someone with a strong Saturn who’s given a sense of tradition and identity. So the planet itself has this range of interpretations so that someone born with the same chart will get a version of that planet, but not the same version.
CB: Right. So there’s a wide variety of different ways that a specific placement can manifest. And it seems like a large part of the book is actually dealing with different combinations and different observations that you’ve had about how you’ve seen some of these combinations work out in terms of people’s experience with different family dynamics, and figuring out ways to describe that archetype in a broad way that’s still applicable in more specific instances, right?
LB: Yes. And sometimes I ask people the question, “Why this family? What did you have to do with these people?” And in some cases the answer is not much on a fundamental, and you’ll meet people—often Uranians—who have never felt that this was the place they were meant to be. They’ve always felt ‘other’ or different from the tribe they came in with, and that’s a very interesting way to begin life. For other people there’s a sense of debt or, “I need to make sure it’s okay for these people who I spent my childhood with—I need to take care of them,” and obviously when they say that you can hear planets like the Moon or Neptune. And again, I hear this in the way that people talk to me, but often I see it in the chart, and I see what people are carrying from family. One of the premises also is this idea that family gives you a task that may not just be individual, that may be a task that connects you to them. And there’s a certain point in life where your individual path bumps up against unfinished business from the family. I’ve found this fascinating and worked a great deal with this with my clients.
CB: Right. One of your points was that sometimes similar chart placements or signatures can repeat across different generations, and that sometimes this can indicate or at least reflect certain dynamics that are being passed from like generation to generation within families, right?
LB: That’s right. I remember I did a workshop on family at one of the UACs, maybe in 1999. Actually 1998—because it was before I wrote my book—and I actually met someone at that workshop who had a Saturn pattern in his family and then later let me use that example for the book. And we did quite a lot of research together, getting birth charts of different family members. And it was fascinating to do the work with people in a group who I didn’t know and to see the stories that emerged when I asked for Saturn connections over several generations. So yeah, when you start working at it, it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for every individual either. Identifying a pattern is the first part of the work; then understanding what the pattern means takes a lot of time. And one of the ironies of this work, Chris, is that I was very interested clearly in my own story and I tried to do a lot of research on the past, and some of the information that I was looking for came to me 10 years after I finished writing this book.
CB: Right. Isn’t that always the case? I think I’m experiencing that a little bit recently myself.
LB: Yes, especially if you try to be all-inclusive; which I suspect a book of 600-pages is probably trying to be as inclusive as possible, which is probably an impossible task.
CB: Right. Yeah, never set yourself an impossible task. But yeah, I mean, one of the things that’s interesting about this work is a lot of charts you used were client examples and things. And with this book being based on the seminars that you did 20 years ago, I’m sure you’ve had so many additional observations since then and other things where, you know, you could imagine that this would have been a great example for this chapter. And your practice has sort of grown and matured in different ways probably since then, right?
LB: It has. And at the same time I sometimes need to take my attention totally away from family; I will get bored if I do the same thing all the time. So I wrote an article about family dynamics for The Mountain Astrologer maybe last year—or maybe the year before, I can’t remember—and I used some totally new examples for that. And when I teach the book I’m always looking for new examples, and they’re always coming to me through my work, through my clients, because people naturally would send me their brother’s or sister’s or mother’s or children. Obviously, people bring children’s charts to you. Of course sometimes you see them when they’re newborn and then you consult for them 25 years later if you’re like me, which is a completely different experience. And then there are examples that don’t have permission to use but that have affected my thinking about fate, how people are connected, what we’re here to do together. Yes, it’s always evolving, always moving.
CB: Sure. So one of the things that you talk about—just circling back around to the topic—is just that this is an experience that most astrologers have. And what’s interesting, that you focus on in your book, is sometimes family members will have similar placements or the same placement, and you’ll see that repeating across generations or see that repeating within a single family unit. Sometimes somebody will have a placement within a family that contrasts or stands out as being, you know, what everybody else has and that puts them in a certain sort of relationship to their family unit that can sometimes make them like, you know, an outsider or can indicate contrast between them and everyone else. So that’s one of the sort of fundamental distinctions that it seems like you were making early on, or that maybe integral to the approach to studying this topic is identifying similarities between family placements vs. identifying sometimes major things that are different or sort of discrepancies in some sense.
LB: Yes, that idea of looking for what’s similar and what’s different, I think we do that naturally as astrologers, and then opening it out to look at your family members is very powerful. This is work that you do over time. If, as an individual, you start to gather the charts of families, it’s not something you can digest in a day or a weekend or even a few months. Usually when I did groups on family, we would tend to look at one family at a time. And people would have to gather charts and sometimes there was a lot of resistance to the process because it’s more information than you can take in. So I have a lot of respect for the way this unfolds in its own timing. These days, with the internet, you can do a lot of genealogical research easily from your desk; that wasn’t the case when I started doing this work.
CB: Sure. I mean, I was surprised at one comment at one point where it seemed like one of the audience members was saying that they hadn’t ever looked at a family member’s chart, or that they had put off doing it or something like that, like they had some kind of resistance to it. At least, for me, some of the first charts that I looked at were charts for other family members, just because you have immediate access, typically, to those birth times, or you can ask a family member a birth time. And so, a lot of astrologers who are just getting started sometimes their first experience at looking at charts, other than their own, is starting to look at, you know, people that they know well, who they can get a birth time for. I mean, do you feel like that can change your perspective on those people by looking at their chart and seeing how certain placements either fit what you would expect them to have vs. other placements that are surprising to you because they present something about that person that maybe you didn’t expect?
LB: Oh, I think it’s huge. It’s an extraordinary revelation when you’re an astrologer and you really look at someone else’s chart without the filter of your own prejudices, as much as that’s possible. And I find that when I work with people I’m often looking at their projection. And especially when I work with astrologers I often take them back to their own chart because your chart and the aspects to your Moon, the aspects to your Sun, to the 4th house, to the 10th house often have a lot to say about the way you experienced a parent, and maybe, in fact, more important, in terms of your psychological process than the chart of the other person.
So it’s really important to understand the images within the individual chart that are passed down to you, that, again, you will see if you have the Moon in a fire sign you will have a more dramatic filter for the mother than someone who has the Moon in an air sign, but you have a sibling who doesn’t have that and sees a different piece of the same person. When you start to put those things together a lot of pennies drop; there are a lot of moments of, “Oh, I never thought of it that way.” And these usually come when you’re working in a group or working with an astrologer to help guide you to that.
LB: The irony for me—I alluded to this earlier—was that I found my mother’s birth time a few months after she died. I had a, you know, fake birth time.
CB: Oh, wow. So was it the wrong birth time?
LB: Yeah, it was the wrong birth time. I mean, it wasn’t completely inaccurate, but the new birth time made even more sense. But it’s as if fate conspired to not get me that birth certificate until she was no longer there, for example, and it’s often like that with people. And I also think we have blind spots. We know that astrology is an extraordinary way to move beyond our blind spots about other people. But the people closest to us—and again, it depends on the kind of relationship we have with them—if we have a really flowing, open, warm relationship with family, looking at their chart is unthreatening. If you have a difficult, problematic history with conflict or resentment, oppression then it can be very challenging to look at their chart.
CB: Right. And, I mean, that’s a basic premise that astrologers take into account, but it’s such a fascinating idea from a philosophical or a number of other standpoints. You know, there’s a distinction between who a person is based on their birth chart—to whatever extent that reflects who they are on some fundamental level—vs. what your perception of that person is based on, you know, the placements in your chart, or how your chart interacts with theirs. You could have two people in a family that experience that person in radically different ways based on even just their birth chart placements; like you said, two siblings, for example, experiencing the mother in a very different way based on certain placements in their own chart. And that realization, once you get into astrology, is a pretty powerful thing in terms of just realizing, you know, the power of that in terms of different interactions that people have and how they can be colored by things that they’re not even aware of.
LB: Right, and often I use this. Sometimes people will come and work with me over time—not immediately—because I always want to have a relationship with an individual. And I know there are astrologers who don’t take third-person charts in a reading—and obviously you can’t do this kind of work if that’s how you proceed—but if someone says, “I’d really like to look at my mother’s chart and understand our dynamic; I want to see it more clearly,” then it’s such powerful work; I love doing that work with people. And inversely, people can be very delicate about the chart’s of children, especially new children who’ve just emerged in the world. A lot of people will say, “I don’t want to know that much.” And then of course other people will say, “Oh, thank God I saw an astrologer. It helped me so much to understand my children’s personalities: how to educate them, how to work with their natures. It made a world of difference to me.”
LB: I think it depends on your temperament.
CB: Yeah, so is that something that you take on a case-by-case basis, or most astrologers take on a case-by-case basis? Especially with, you know, reading the chart of a younger person and the desire, on the one hand, for a parent to understand their child better and be able to do things that are most suited to the child’s temperament in order to help them grow and have a successful hand-up on life vs. not wanting to develop prejudices or preconceptions about the child that could be harmful or limiting in some way, I guess.
LB: Yes, that’s right. I often have people come to me who’ll say, “I don’t know what to do. I have a child with four planets in the 12th house. I’m worried.”
CB: So you try to talk with them about that or talk them through that, or maybe talk them out of that I’m guessing in some instances, so that they’re not as concerned.
LB: Yeah, absolutely. You know, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
LB: I remember I had a client, her child was two, and was in this, you know, terrible phase. And she said, “Sometimes I think she’s really a monster. Look at this Pluto in her chart.” You have to step someone back from also projecting some terrible, negative future onto their child’s chart. People see very, very strange things, so there’s a lot of work that you can do in both directions with that.
CB: Sure. So moving into a more technical discussion, I mean, some of the different things you talk about of course in the book is house placements and just how the placement of different planets in certain houses can typify the dynamics that will arise with those different people in the native’s life: so placements in the 3rd in terms of informing the dynamic with siblings, placements in the 4th with parents, placements in the 5th house with children, and so on and so forth. So is that one of your primary axis points for describing or being able to articulate some of those dynamics that will arise in relationships between family members?
LB: Clearly I would start with that as a foundation. Also, by the way, in terms of work on siblings, when I was doing this work I met Brian Clark, who you may know—who is an Australian astrologer; a very wonderful astrologer; also a psychological astrologer, originally Canadian—and he wrote a book called The Sibling Constellation. And he was writing his book when I was beginning to write mine as well, and he looks at the charts of Freud and Adler and Jung and their relationships with siblings and parents. It’s a fascinating study. I think it’s out of print now, but he did some wonderful work on that as well. But I don’t think it is only the 3rd. So the 3rd house, yes, it’s not just siblings, but the astrological tradition says that the 3rd house is kin.
And sometimes I relate this, Chris, to the whole idea of the Moon’s joy in the 3rd house, that this is what comes before us, this notion of the Moon, how we’re linked to other people biologically or connected. I am interested in how the 3rd house with, say, a very strong Jupiter, can mean you had an uncle who was an extraordinary personality. Jupiter, in particular, in the 3rd house might speak to an uncle who opened you up in many ways in life, and not everybody has that of course. But some people don’t have siblings, but they have 3rd house planets. So again, how do you deal with that?
CB: Right. And it’s interesting that sometimes, you know, people’s experiences of their chart and of different people in their lives as a result of their chart—or at least in concert with their chart—sometimes will assume that the relationship or the dynamic that they have with their family members is the same dynamic that everybody has. So it’s like if they have, let’s say, Mars in the 3rd house and they have conflict with siblings, they assume, you know, everyone has conflict with their siblings or something like that because they’re experience of what having siblings is like is so different compared to, you know, somebody else, but that’s their own reference point. So they just sort of assume that it’s the same for other people, or they at least make assumptions about those relationships that aren’t necessarily universally applicable.
LB: Yeah, that’s right. And this is part of the work I think of psychological astrology—and any astrology—is owning your filter which gets in the way of how you see something because you’re trained to see it from that competitive or conflictual point of view that would be represented by Mars. Now, this said, Mars is also meant to represent brothers, and Venus to some extent might represent sisters. These aren’t the primary meanings we would give to these planets, but they can suddenly act in that way in a horary chart or in a birth chart.
CB: To what extent do you feel like people can sort of transcend the filters that they have surrounding some of those relationships based on how their chart is set up? Do you feel like people ever can truly step outside of, you know, themselves and the filters that they have? Or is that always something where there’s a sort of struggle, or they have to make an effort, and even then maybe it’s not 100% neutral or objective?
LB: I think with a lot of time and experience you do step out of your filters, maybe only for moments. I think sometimes you get rid of them and they disappear. Doing the work on family, I was always fascinated with people who had very different family structures than I did. So I’m friends with two sisters in Paris, and one of them is a songwriter and she wrote this song called “Sweet, Sweet Sister.” And they were apparently inseparable, very close, they adore each other, they’re very loving; and I was fascinated by this relationship because mine were clearly very different. And over time you meet enough people so that you’re aware that other people’s experiences are different than yours; I think this is one of the great gifts of astrology generally.
CB: Yeah, seeing all of those different possible manifestations and that people do have much different experiences with different people in their lives, which is very well-described by, you know, whether there’s flowing placements in different parts of the chart or whether there’s more challenging, you know, aspects or placements in different parts of the chart. So I mentioned siblings and parents. What are some of the other houses that you look at in terms of different dynamics interacting with people in their lives?
LB: Well, when you’re thinking in terms of family everything in the chart becomes relevant, but probably the most important houses are the 8th and the 12th because these tend to be houses where things get pushed aside. You could say these are houses that in psychological astrology we tend to connect to things that have been willingly forgotten or hidden. The 8th house is a house of what is hidden, what’s unknown. If you have your parental significators, like the Moon or the Sun here, this says there’s an aspect of the parents that is hidden from your view. There may be secrets carried by the parent, and a large number of placements in these houses indicates things that have not been integrated or resolved in previous generations. I like to say that the 8th house are things that have been hidden from us, and the 12th house are things that have been forgotten in the current generation, and maybe you would have to go back and do some research to even find out about them.
And one of the examples I talk about in the book is Freud’s chart; always a great example. Freud had a Moon in Gemini in the 8th house and also Saturn in the 8th house, and of course he was busy rooting out other people’s secrets. But his father had two wives before he married his mother, and the second wife was never talked about; the second marriage was a secret. And apparently Freud’s father, his second marriage was with a woman who had psychological problems. So this is one of those fascinating things where something in the past reemerges to become a motor in the other person’s psyche, and these are very interesting in family work. So it’s not only your relationship with your parents or your siblings, what you remember, but also those things that are bleeding through or filtering through tribal consciousness, family consciousness. I would call it ‘a family unconscious’.
LB: Or you could just call it ‘the ancestors’.
CB: Sure. So things either being passed, you know, across many generations or sometimes things that are just happening across a single generation that may not be clear and maybe informing unconscious dynamics within the family but that are not sort of fully in view or that people are not necessarily fully aware of.
LB: That’s right, and sometimes they are. I remember a young woman who came to see me who had Pluto conjunct Uranus on the 4th house cusp; and I say ‘young’ because at the time she was probably not 20. You know, Pluto-Uranus on the 4th house cusp is a story about the family. And when I asked her, it turned out that her father had been born in Germany, had been sent by his family to England as a young man, and the rest of her family had been wiped out in the camps. So the Uranus-Pluto was very clearly the story of her family in her chart, but it happened well before she was born. And yet that Uranus-Pluto energy was in ‘her’ chart, which means that she’s the carrier of an experience; she’s asked to transform something that came through to her.
CB: Right. And you say at one point in the book that, “A fundamental aspect of this family work turns around the ability to see how even a difficult event or circumstance can also become a gift or a source of strength in some way,” especially if the person sort of looks at and acknowledges it and attempts to work through it in some constructive way.
LB: Yeah, I think that’s true. Can you think of any examples for yourself, Chris?
CB: For myself in terms of, what?
LB: Yeah, something difficult that you received from the family that may have become a gift in some way.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I can think of examples, but I don’t know if I want to go into that, but I think that is a good access point for maybe understanding more. ‘Cause a lot of what you do in the book is you have such a rich history to draw from in terms of your client and consulting examples that it’s like you’ve had many different instances of a lot of these placements, and so you’ve seen the full spectrum of different manifestations. And you spend a lot of time in the book especially talking about different planetary combinations and how sometimes those archetypes can manifest when they’re tied into certain family dynamics. What are some of your most, you know, easy-to-delineate planetary combinations—when they’re tied in with certain family dynamics—that sort of stand out to you in your mind? Like the one you just mentioned with Uranus and Pluto conjunct the 4th house cusp.
LB: Right. Well, what comes to mind right now as you ask me that question are examples around money. For example, oppositions in the 2nd and 8th house often indicate stories, especially if they’re going to involve personal planets; they often indicate family stories around the ups and downs of money. The same is true when you see oppositions in the 3rd and 9th house; then it’s not about money, but it’s about different belief systems in the world. Sometimes you have families where one parent’s Jewish and the other’s Catholic; or in these days of more global families, one is Irish and one is Italian, or one is Asian and one is African. You have these combinations so that the opposition means you’re actually being asked to bring together two different cultures, so the dynamics in a chart often give you clues as to what’s being worked out.
The 11th house, one of the other meanings of the 11th house is your position in society, your social status, if you like. The 10th house is your personal accomplishment and maybe your reputation, but the 11th house is, “What group do I belong to?” And if you have oppositions or, let’s say, difficult aspects to the 11th, oppositions between the 5th and 11th can often mean that parents came from different social classes. I know that’s not an obvious one. There are other houses, 6 and 12, of course indicating often difficult circumstances that families have had to deal with; patterns of struggle at different levels. Struggle. Healing. Exile.
LB: That’s another place I would look for family patterns. I know that’s not exactly what you asked me, but it’s what came to mind.
CB: No, that’s perfect. And, I mean, it raises some examples that I use in one of my lectures for the rulers of the houses. I like to use Ernest Hemingway, for example, who had the ruler of the 6th house of, you know, illness in the 4th house of parents. There was this genetic disorder that he inherited from his father, and it caused sort of a wasting away towards the end of his life, and then eventually his father took his own life. And then Hemingway grew up and sort of around the same age started experiencing the same degenerative sort of disease that he inherited from his father and then eventually took his own life as well in this sort of repetition in terms of some of the things that he inherited in terms of that struggle with illness from one of his parents, so sometimes you do see dynamics like that.
The 3rd house/9th house example you mentioned made me think of a client I had once where one of the more difficult planets in the chart was ruling the 4th house of the parents, in the 9th house of religion; and it was placed in the 4th house—or it was placed in the 1st house. So it was the ruler of the 4th and the 9th in the 1st, and the native grew up with a very fundamentalist religious father who was a preacher, and who sort of taught some very extreme things. And the native herself grew up and became an atheist and that put her on the outs with her father, and that became a source of not necessarily trauma, but difficulty that she struggled with in her adult life as a result of the things connected with it. So it’s looking at the houses, you know, in those ways, as you were bringing up, and just looking at how some of those dynamics can play out through the parents or through other family members.
LB: Oh, well, those are great examples, Chris. And I would work in a very similar way. I would look and see the relationships between the ruler of the 4th house and its placement in the chart to help interpret what’s coming in through the father. And as you were speaking I pulled up Ernest Hemingway’s chart, and as I remember, his grandfather also committed suicide. And they didn’t just commit suicide—so that’s three generations of men in the same family, but they all committed suicide; his grandfather might have tried to shoot himself—but they used guns.
LB: And in Hemingway’s chart there is a Mars square Saturn opposition Pluto. Saturn is in the 4th opposition Pluto, and Mars is square. And they’re in mutable signs, which the Saturn-Pluto is Gemini-Sagittarius, which, again, is a sign of the mind. So what you’re talking about—the degenerative disease—I hadn’t actually heard that. I think that’s one of the interpretations of what happened to Hemingway. But certainly that image of violence—Mars square Pluto-Saturn—like how do you resolve, or how do you act when you’re in an impossible situation describes that T-square. And because the T-square is in houses connected to the family, it’s coming to him through the family’s inability to resolve an impasse.
CB: Right. I think you talk about that at one point in your book about Pluto. One of your main keywords for that being something about the inability to resolve an impasse or to overcome an impasse, and that being to you to some extent partially what suicide represented, the inability to past through that challenge or obstacle that came up for that person at that point in time.
LB: Yeah, and that’s not just for me. I don’t have a certificate as a psychologist, you know. I’m not a therapist. I mean, I’m trained in different therapeutic techniques like Ericksonian hypnosis, but I followed a lot of training with some pretty extraordinary individuals, particularly in family therapy, people like Jay Haley, Chloe Madanes. I read a lot of Bowen, and people who know family systems work will know these names. And I was very lucky to do a lot of workshops with some really exceptional teachers in the field in the 1980s, late 1980s, early ‘90s. So a lot of these notions, this idea about suicide—what it means in a family—that’s not an idea that comes from me; that is an idea that’s actually worked with in family therapy, particularly in systems work; so I just wanted to say that.
CB: Sure, got it. But it’s something that you see—like I think you said if Pluto is prominent in the chart sometimes you feel like that dynamic can be more prominent in terms of different generations than others. And at one point in the book you talk about drawing family trees or diagrams that show the family tree and sometimes noting, you know, when there’s been a death in the family or when there was a loss or a suicide or something like that as part of the overall family story in some sense.
LB: Yes, I often do that with clients, especially when clients come in and they start talking to me about something quite complex. I’ll often map what they tell me about their family, like how many siblings, who’s the oldest, what number are you. I’ll make a little map so I can kind of situate them in the story they’re telling me, if that seems to be important. And again, I don’t do this in every consultation; it’s not always the object of my work or subject of my work. But when it is, you know, I often take notes when I’m working with people, and I’ll have these genograms which I’ll consult when the person comes back; or when I’m hearing something I’ll go back to it and I’ll say, “Right. There’s this. That happened.” You know, sometimes I’ll remember a detail in the wrong way, so I like having those notes, seeing it.
By the way, I want to say there are quite a few astrologers in France that have pursued this model, maybe simultaneously with me—a colleague named Jean François Berry—and we call it psychogénéalogie; so psychogénéalogie is the French name for this particular kind of work. But imagine that you had a mother who had a series of miscarriages, for example. That might also be symbolized somewhere in the chart by Pluto because Pluto, as we know, is a symbol of that experience of being on the line between birth and death. And so, if you’re a child who follows a child who died or who couldn’t be born, you’re carrying something different from somebody who was born into a family without any of those issues, and that can also be symbolized by Pluto.
So Pluto doesn’t only mean things like an impasse or suicide, but it can have to do with a very powerful desire to control events and a refusal of events that are beyond your control. So here we’re talking about Saturn-Pluto in the case of Ernest Hemingway; it’s a Saturn-Pluto configuration. You know, that’s an interesting subject because there are several generations—the generation born in 2001, 2002 have Saturn opposition Pluto. The generation born in ‘46 and ‘47, some people in ‘48 have Saturn conjunct Pluto, as do the group of people born in the early ‘80s. And the people with these aspects are often very drawn to astrology, and we’ll have this aspect coming up and being activated in the next few years. And so, these issues will come up for people in general, but also in working with family, it will be time to kind of confront those shadows or those unresolved impasses, let’s say.
CB: Sure. And so, in terms of resolving things, I mean, part of the premise that you focus on in the book is just looking at either basic chart placements a person has in their chart and how that will inform family dynamics or family experiences or inherited things generationally; also, looking at synastry. But then sometimes transits and progression that come up later in a person’s life that activate those planets can coincide with a period of crisis or when some of those dynamics come more to the forefront in life. And a lot of your focus is learning how to turn those periods into opportunities for growth somehow, either for literal growth or for psychological growth in order to overcome or move past, or at least use more constructively some of those placements even if they’re more challenging.
LB: Yeah, you know, these can be very, very powerful issues in a person’s life. I’m thinking of a woman who I’ve worked with quite a lot who had an unbelievable relationship with her mother. Because she wanted to smoke dope and started having sex, her mother put her in a mental institution when she was 16; and, I mean, it’s a fairly extreme reaction. And the pattern of victimization was extremely strong for this person so that even later in life, once her mother had died, she would have situations of victimization. So you would go back, and again, work on the issue with the mother that was now projected on some kind of administrative figure denying, hounding her or threatening her with legal papers that were completely false, but almost like being persecuted in some way. So very often you will have to go back and work on the story many, many different times from many perspectives because these stories on the aspects of our chart can have great power over us and they can keep us from moving into fresh territory. They can keep us from going forward in our life without the imprint of the past.
CB: Right. Because especially early in your life, when you’re younger, you might respond to the activation of certain placements in your chart in a way that’s, let’s say, less constructive or maybe manifests the lower end of the spectrum in terms of, you know, a range of more constructive vs., let’s say, destructive, or at least problematic ways that you could manifest that placement.
CB: Whereas after successive times, if you hit that same activation over and over again in your life, maybe you learn how to do it a little bit differently or at least react to it differently if similar dynamics arise later on in your life.
LB: Yeah, I think that’s the goal of psychological astrology to actually help people do exactly what you just said. And, you know, I find that there’s a certain point where people, most people in their 20s, aren’t particularly interested in the past; they’re interested in what’s going to happen now. You have to have a certain amount of experience where you’re repeating certain behavior patterns before you start to link that to your past, and then you say, “Ah, there’s a relationship here. I need to understand this. I need to free my own reactions from the patterns of the past.” And it’s at that moment, it’s at the moment you begin to think like this—and it can be quite early for some people—that this kind of work becomes extremely fertile and very benefic I think, and can really liberate an individual from the ‘fatedness’ that the chart can describe.
CB: Right. By finding the parts of it where you have some control or you can exert some control—at least based on your reaction to events if nothing else—in whatever role that you play in helping to generate them.
LB: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s like with anything in astrology. If you have a really difficult aspect in your chart—a traditionally-difficult aspect like Mars-Saturn—Mars-Saturn has a requirement of you, and the requirement is that you do it better, that you go further. Now your experience of that might have been—especially with a difficult aspect like a square, an opposition, or even a conjunction—you had a parent who told you that what you did wasn’t good enough, and you carry a belief that what you do will never be good enough, how do you move beyond that filter? How do you move beyond that training? You give yourself difficulties and you overcome them; you make something extremely hard and you do it anyway. Now you may still carry this belief that whatever you did wasn’t good enough—you know, that’s a Saturnian pattern. You know, no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you tried to get it perfect, you’ve failed—but you didn’t; objectively, in the eyes of other people, that’s probably not true no matter what you feel. And that then becomes a very positive motor for some people to have a difficult or critical aspect in the chart, but only if they find a way to respond to it that’s healthy.
CB: Right. And actually I appreciate that. I also appreciate something you said in the book where you actually acknowledge on the one hand that the focus of psychological astrology is figuring out how to take a crisis or a conflict and learn how to turn it into an opportunity for growth. But on the other hand there was a digression at one point when you were talking with an audience member, and you very clearly said at one point, you know, sometimes people do just experience a trauma or a loss or a hardship and that that’s not necessarily that person’s fault; it’s something that befell the person.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t see that discussion a lot in some of the late 20th century texts where it was almost like there was this desire to focus on empowering people by sort of giving the impression that the purpose of astrology was to take your fate back into your own hands, and that you could literally by healing psychological issues and integrating them into one’s personality in a constructive manner that you could almost stop things from manifesting externally as difficult events. But it seemed like you didn’t go that far. You were sort of clear to make a distinction between the things that are within a person’s control that maybe, you know, they could do better, that could be an opportunity for growth vs. the things that a person has to endure and sort of experience and doing that gracefully, but at the same time acknowledging, you know, things that are outside of a person’s control to a certain extent, right?
LB: Yes, this, to me, is an extremely important point and I think is in some ways a misunderstanding of psychological astrology, and again, maybe an immature relationship with psychological astrology. When I started out as an astrologer, I would have called myself a humanist astrologer. And by that I meant in the 1970s people were very interested in consciousness: there was humanist psychology and humanist astrology. And the idea was to develop human potential, and to move the human being out of the belief that we were programmed or limited in some way, but to open up potential; and a lot of this is in the consciousness movement as well. Now the thing is that’s a really admirable thing to do, and the consciousness that kind of erupted in part thanks to psychedelics in the 1960s was really something pretty spectacular to watch. And when I was a very young astrologer I kind of believed that if you became conscious you could change what happened. Now, again, then I always come back to my practice, working with people.
I remember in particular a client who was a psychotherapist. She was a nurse; she was trained as a therapist. She was a person who’d done a huge amount of work on herself, she was very conscious, and somehow she and her husband got themselves into a financial bind, and it took them 20 years—consciousness could do nothing to get them out of that bind. It helped them be aware of it, but it wasn’t like, “The day I understand this, I’ll be released.” It’s like, no, you signed this contract; maybe it was 29 years. You entered into something under these aspects and they locked you in, and your fate was to go through the consequences of a decision for a very long time, and then at one point you were released from that. So I realized in working with people that consciousness wasn’t the answer to everything, that there is such a thing as fate and it functions however. I don’t know if you know Dorian Greenbaum’s work, Chris. I imagine you do.
LB: But I was listening not long ago to a lecture of hers on fate and providence and the whole idea that in Hellenistic astrology, in the Hellenistic worldview, that there is also something called providence; there is this possibility. Not everything is fated, okay. I think this is very interesting in a chart. What is the part that you really can’t change, and what is your portion of difficulty? And what are the parts that can be changed? And, you know, in the different spiritual traditions of the world people say that if you ‘wake up’ it changes everything. And I don’t know if that’s true; I think you have to talk to the people who’ve had that experience. But there are still conditions that function in a person’s life that I think we see reflected in the chart, so even if you’re a psychological astrologer the notion of fate is extremely important.
Again, I want to mention Liz because Liz wrote a book called The Astrology of Fate where she takes into account some of these issues, particularly from a mythic perspective, like what does it mean to have a handicapped child born in a family, what does it mean to have child who dies in each generation—these very tragic experiences. These are things that we can’t snap our fingers at or wish away or go into a corner and “Om” and meditate and make not happen, and as astrologers we have to take these things into account. And I think that’s part of psychological astrology.
CB: Sure. Yeah, definitely focusing on those things that are within your power or do have to do with your reactions or, you know, the role that you play in events vs. those things that are outside of your control.
CB: And that sort of brings us back around to one other topic that you mentioned earlier that I was really excited to see in your book and that I’ve always enjoyed talking to you about at different points of the past 10 years. But you’re one of the first astrologers and certainly one of the first modern astrologers I know where part of your interpretive framework for approaching some of this work is that you are looking at the planetary joys scheme—that is the original, sort of traditional assignments of the seven traditional planets to seven different houses—and drawing some interpretive insights from those assignments as somehow informing some of the placements or giving a different perspective on why certain houses mean what they mean. And this was already something you had integrated into this book in the late ‘90s. So you’ve really been working on the planetary joys for longer than almost anybody I know at this point.
LB: Right. You know, they grabbed my attention at a certain point and I kept going back to them, and I find that they’ve really illuminated my understanding of the houses. You know, I was rereading what I wrote about the daimon. And I’ve been teaching workshops on the daimon in the past couple of years and really elaborating on that, but I still say what I said in Planetary Threads, and it surprised me that it was so developed there, I’d almost forgotten that. And I was fascinated by this material, but I hadn’t developed it. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to talk about the daimon quite so fully back in those days.
One of the reasons they interested me is that the 11th house always seemed a little bit bland to me in most astrology texts, as did the 3rd. Okay, communications, siblings. The 11th, hopes, wishes, groups. They seemed incredibly bland. And when you add the idea—you know, as ancient astrologers did—that this was a very fortunate house, one of the most fortunate houses in the horoscope, and that it was the joy of Jupiter, beyond that it’s the house of the good daimon, the agathodaimon, suddenly it made a huge amount of sense to me. You know, Chris, I used to think that there was something called the ‘ideasphere’, and I would imagine ideas flying around with wings, and that you would catch an idea or an idea would fly into your mind—and sometimes it would fly right out—but the planetary joys were one that kind of stayed with me.
CB: Sure. And you’ve especially lately focused on that idea of the daimon or the guardian spirit as really useful or as a good access point for understanding the 11th and the 12th houses better.
LB: Yeah, and the difficult daimon of the 12th house. Yeah, I think it adds a huge dimension to this. And one of the things I explore in the book is the idea that the friends that we meet, that the people that we’re drawn to, we meet them and there’s recognition there; and these are people who aren’t our lovers, but they’re people who somehow wake up something in us. And I would say I’ve been very fortunate in friendship, and I think this is true of many of us in the astrological community because we have each other. We, you know, are connected to a really exceptional group of people; when you go to astrology groups you meet a tribe of the spirit. And one of the things that holds us together, you know, again is why are people drawn together. Astrologers in particular are helping people understand their calling, helping people understand who they are, helping people understand what they’re meant to do, both out in the world and inside, in their own inner work. So maybe astrology is in and of itself daimonic art in that sense.
CB: Sure. And I was happy to see that that seemed to be an important component to you. Even though the book focuses on family dynamics, you also had a large section talking about the 11th house and the role that friendship plays as well. Because it seems like, you know, for different people they also have different experiences of that in their life that can vary very wildly, like you said, some people having a very positive and supportive sense of the role that friendship plays in their lives or having specific friends who do very helpful things for them or have played an integral role in helping them along the way, either one time in the past or as a continuing theme in their lives; whereas there’s other people where that’s a much more challenging area; I can think of some clients.
I had even an astrologer recently who was like a professional astrologer, but he had Saturn in the 11th and he had a real aversion to groups. And I was trying to get him to go to an astrology conference, and eventually he did during a Saturn square Saturn transit where that was like the breakthrough moment for him where he tried to overcome his fears and go and meet a group of other people who did the same thing as him. Somebody else might not think that’s such a big deal, or, you know, “Why would you have any concerns surrounding that?” But different people respond in different ways based on these placements, which is the entire premise of your book.
LB: Right. And also Saturn, of course, has its joy in the 12th house, the house of the difficult daimon. And so, there’s that fear that through people who are unfamiliar to you, outsiders in a way, that something difficult is going to come into your life. Rather than it being a benefic house it becomes something to be afraid of. And yet, at the same time, I know people with Saturn in the 11th who have stepped beyond that level of Saturn and have very rich friendships and lifelong, powerful relationships, so it doesn’t have to be that placement.
CB: Right. Yeah, I think it just depends on how it’s positioned in the chart. I mean, that’s actually a really interesting thing to me, going from purely modern astrology and seeing some of the debates and studying some of those debates that were happening in the 1970s and ‘80s and ‘90s by, you know, reading books by Liz Greene or Howard Sasportas or Arroyo or what have you and some of the things that were being rejected, like benefic and malefic as a distinction. There was just an observation that obviously some people will experience certain placements, like the placement of Saturn, and there’ll be some people that have a really hard time with that and that’s clearly an area of trauma or hardship or continuing difficulty throughout life, whereas there’s other people who, you know, have some issue with that early in life, but eventually it becomes something that they overcome and eventually becomes a source of strength and so on and so forth.
Therefore one of the arguments that was made a few decades ago was that we should reject that as a concept altogether, whereas it seems like most recently with some of the revival in older forms of astrology that some people—like Demetra, for example—have argued that, you know, planetary condition or the actual condition or configuration with other planets in the chart makes a big difference in terms of that. I mean, have you integrated anything, or do you take into account things like that in terms of trying to determine the planetary condition before making assumptions about whether it’s gonna manifest in a more constructive or destructive manner? I know one of your approaches is more instead of making assumptions about the person and their life—asides from just, you know, some basic assumptions based on the placement—you talk to the person. And it’s really more of a process of asking them about their life and getting straight to the heart of the issue rather than, you know, starting to throw out wild statements right from the start, right?
LB: Well, you know, I do both. You know, I think that we as astrologers are asked to do a little bit of astrological magic. My practice has evolved, Chris. In the beginning, as I said, in humanist astrology the idea was, yeah, anything can be good, anything can be bad, you know. And it’s true, I’ve had clients who’ve had Saturn conjunct Mars who couldn’t get out of bed, or depressives who got AIDS and died; and I’ve had clients with Saturn conjunct Mars who’ve won major literary prizes and are extraordinarily successful.
LB: Yes, they did have different conditions, but to me that’s not enough. My astrology changed a great deal when I started to integrate the consultation chart, which was in 1989. And I’m not a horary astrologer, but I became fascinated with horary and learned enough horary to have a very healthy respect for essential dignity, accidental dignity, and many, many other things in a chart. So I went back—and I think this was happening on many levels—in 1989. It was the Saturn-Neptune conjunction; Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus all coming into Capricorn. And we know that Project Hindsight begins around this period and Olivia Barclay is extremely important in England. So the incredible fertility that came from traditional astrology at that time, I encountered first through horary, and probably soon after that I came across the planetary joys in something that was originally written by Deborah Houlding.
So, to me, my thinking changed. And even in the Ruperti group in France—Alex Rupterti always used the traditional rulers; transpersonal planets were extremely important, but they weren’t rulers. So there are a lot of things that at some point I let go of and went back to because they worked better in my practice. And again, it’s always in the practice for me, that’s the testing ground of these ideas. I’m not a person for whom theory has control over the way I approach astrology. It’s the living matter of the consultation, the exchange, the art of astrology that informs what I find to be useful and to work.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think I was just mentioning, when I was talking to Kelly Surtees in the last episode, it’s like one of the things that new students of astrology eventually learn after a few years is that this is a lifelong study and that it’s so vast. It’s like nobody ever stops learning or stops growing as an astrologer. But you continually—every client you see—learn and add new observations and see a new take on even things that you’ve been using for a very long time.
LB: Absolutely. I agree completely. And I think that if you do stop, or you feel that you know everything that probably your work is going to go stale. You know, we can always learn; I mean, I find it very exciting. You know, I’m looking forward to reading your book one day, Chris, and finding out more about the things I don’t know anything about. And sometimes I hear about things and I just think, “Too complicated,” and I put them aside. And then there’s maybe a moment later where I’m interested and I want to find out more about them.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that’s always the challenge I think for a professional astrologer. You know, you only have so much time. How can you put everything down to learn a completely different approach?
CB: That’s why I kind of encourage newer astrologers to get as much of a cross-section as they can early on before they settle down and start specializing just ‘cause it’s a little bit easier then.
CB: But anyways, you mentioned something just now that I wanted to touch upon just really briefly because it’s sort of unique and interesting, which is just that you do use and place a lot of emphasis on the consultation chart, both with client work, but also even in the book. It was great that you started out each of these seminars talking about the chart for the start of the seminar and really using that as a jumping off point for part of what you would be covering that day, and just part of what was going on that day that was directly relevant to what you would be talking about.
LB: Yeah, I may do that a little less right now than I used to, but I love doing that and I love when a conference opens and people start with the chart saying, “This is what we’ll be moving into this weekend.” And it’s something that’s really common in the UK. In France, people don’t do it, and I was so shocked by that. We need to talk about the fact that there’s a Mars opposition Jupiter’s day. It’s going to be part of what we encounter; it will come up in the charts; I think anybody who works with astrology sees this over and over again. I wanted to go back to something earlier about why the 11th house is in this book on family.
LB: It’s like what do the people in our lives have to do with us?
LB: All these people that we draw into our lives—what they represent, how we respond to them—why is all this in our chart? Again, you know, why am I with this family and not a different one? Or why this friend? You know, obviously we could talk about why this partner or this love relationship, which is what most people talk about in terms of relationship. But when we step off that territory—certainly when we talk about friendships, it’s more neutral—it’s still fascinating. It still says, you know, what is this vast experience that our chart describes in our life? What is it all about? And, you know, these are the questions we never stop asking.
CB: Sure. I mean, another way to reframe that is maybe, what can I learn from this? Or what can I learn from this dynamic that I encounter with these people that’s described by these chart placements?
LB: Right, right. What can I learn through this? If we go back to your example of Saturn of course Saturn has to do with where our fear is placed. And if I saw Saturn in the 11th, again, if I put my ‘family’ hat on I would say that there is some experience carried by the fathers—that could be the father, a grandfather—of social rejection, on not being accepted in some way, of being shut out from the group, and that experience of Saturn is something that the individual is asked to work through in order to have a place in a larger social group. If you take that on and work through it willingly and confront the fear that’s there then it can give a gift again.
CB: I love that. That’s a great delineation. I really like that.
CB: Just your way of framing that, but also the way that you’re articulating it. You know, I’m getting out of a year of just very intensely focusing on how older astrologers would frame, you know, Saturn in the 11th or something like that and it’s so different, but there is this level of it’s so refreshing how in many ways you can frame a psychological delineation of the 11th. And there is something empowering about instead of it being just purely descriptive, it’s almost like proscriptive in terms of, “What can I learn from this?” and then framing all subsequent transits of, you know, Saturn square Saturn or the Saturn return or what have you as, “Is there anything that I can learn or gain from this, even if it’s a challenge or an obstacle or something that comes up in my way?”
LB: Yeah, I mean, I can well imagine, for example, if you’re a political figure like the current president of the United States who has Saturn in the 11th house, there’s this whole idea of who’s the insider and who’s the outsider that’s contained with a placement like Saturn in the 11th. And you probably know of course that Trump’s father went to jail at a certain point for, you know, some suspected financial dealings. So we can read that Saturn. You know, it’s very clear with that Saturn he came back and he was still successful and he overrode that, but there is this shadow on the reputation that has to do with Saturn in the 11th and this social shaming in that particular case. And, you know, of course this is a person who has a special golf club where only people with a certain level of financial ability are able to enter and everyone else is excluded. So you have this notion of inclusion and exclusion, which is very strong in the 11th house, and you can feel it being worked out on many levels in the larger group right now. I didn’t mean to get into politics.
CB: No, no, no, that’s fine. I’m trying to think of other things I meant to mention. So we covered the consultation chart. We’ve talked about some of the course houses that you talk about in the book, which are especially the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 11th in particular.
CB: We talked about some of the different planetary combinations that we’ve covered. I’m not sure if there were any others.
LB: Yeah, I think maybe one of the ideas is, you know, the genograms. The title of the book is Planetary Threads, and it’s planetary threads because it’s looking at the way we’re woven together. You know, we’re woven into the lives of other people; other people are woven into our stories and into our destinies. And, you know, it shocks me sometimes that I can say, “Well, it looks like there was someone in your chart. If I describe the masculine energy in your chart, I think of it as something with a hard cutting tool and, you know, very difficult, forceful, labor.” And someone will say, “Well, my father was a butcher,” you know. There’s this literal way of looking at an aspect in the chart, which is describing the story that you are carrying with you as you move forward in life. And again, the question is, why is that story in your chart? It could be a different story. Why that story of that person? What does that have to do with you? And what are you asked to do with that? It’s part of the material you’re given as well as you move forward in your own life.
So when you read family in a chart, which I think is a fascinating thing to do, I really encourage people listening to this show to do this. You know, if you’re interested, it’s true, there’s a lot of material in this book about where to begin and where to go to. Erin Sullivan’s also written on family; so has Juliet Sharman-Burke, and Brian Clark, as I mentioned before in the English-speaking world. These will really enrich what you do if this is the kind of work you’re interested in. I love doing it in groups with people who know a little astrology and we explore together over time. I might do something like that online one of these days if people are interested.
CB: Yeah, that’s a great idea. I mean, where should people start if they wanted to pursue this, in addition to reading? But just getting the charts of family members and starting to look at those in order to understand their family members better?
LB: Yes, that’s what you would want to do. You want to get as many accurate birth times as you can. and unfortunately sometimes we can’t. If you want to go back and look at ancestors, which is a fascinating thing to do to see where a pattern comes in and dies out, there are sites like Ancestry.com which you can sign up for free, for a month-long free trial, and, you know, basically find birth dates, immigration dates, death dates of family members, which can actually make a lot of sense of events in your life; things that you hadn’t thought of. Were you born at the moment someone else died? Were you born at a moment someone else had a difficult experience? These are things that become very important in a person’s inner landscape. And the more you can fill it out, the more help you’re actually giving someone to move forward. So yeah, there are a lot of resources. You can even hire a professional genealogist to do this work for you if you’re really lazy.
CB: Yeah, I mean, knowing that that exists as a thing is actually kind of useful and important that there’s people that specialize in studying, you know, family lineages and things like that and sometimes getting into contact with a specialist or realizing that those resources are out there and available. You know, realizing that you had a distant relative a few generations back that had many similar chart signatures or placements as you can be kind of interesting and informative.
LB: Yeah, there’s also a profession, believe it or not, called personal historian—people are trained to delve into the history of a family—so there are lots of ways to go about this. Another thing I want to mention—which I really didn’t mention in the book because it was just coming onto my radar as I was finishing—is something called family constellations, which is a therapeutic technique developed in Germany by Burt Hellinger which has become very, very popular in many areas of the world where you act out the dynamics of your family patterns. This is something I probably would have done if I wasn’t in the middle of writing my book, but it’s another place to explore from a completely non-astrological level. I mean, there’s more things on a therapeutic level I could recommend as well.
CB: Is that like astro-drama? What is that?
LB: Family constellation?
LB: Family constellation has nothing to do with astrology. It would be actually like asking other people in the group to act out members of your family and placing them in space. They don’t actually know who they’re being chosen to represent, but things happen, you ask questions, dynamics revealed; it’s very powerful work. There’s also something called the Hoffman process, but probably unaffordable for most people.
CB: Sure. It just reminded me…
CB: Reminded me of something I’d heard, you know, Rick Levine and Jeff Jawer talking about—you know, doing a lot of astro-dramas in the past—where they would get a group together, and then you’d have somebody’s birth chart and then different people would stand around in circle in different parts of the chart and act out that part of the chart. And sometimes it could be a sort of intense, you know, experience having your chart sort of manifested externally in that fashion.
LB: Oh, it’s an amazing thing to do. I actually was at a conference in England where Rick did the astro-drama of Nick Campion’s chart.
LB: And I actually played the role of Nick’s ‘Venus’.
LB: There were a whole bunch of other astrologers acting it out and it was great fun both to participate in it and not. There’s another astrologer named Barbara Schermer—who also is no longer with us—who did a lot of work in astro-drama. And when Jeff lived in France, I remember him getting up and having people do the ‘Jupiter’ walk, and he actually had Alexander Ruperti—who’s a very, very tall, thin Gemini—walk with these giant, Jupiter strides. And Jeff of course was not very tall, but had the energy of some kind of nuclear reactor, for everyone who knew him. Yeah, so this is something that could be acted out; astrologically, it’s a good idea. I’m doing something like this soon in France; not on family themes, but just doing a workshop with astro-drama for a group of Jungians there to contact with Sun and Moon and Mars and Venus. So it’s a wonderful way to step into the astrology. Family I think needs a really good container if you’re really going to go into deep issues. It’s good to know what you’re doing. It’s good to have a little training, I think.
CB: Yeah, I could see how that could get a little tricky.
CB: All right, well, I think we covered most of the main topics that I wanted to cover. Yeah, and I’d really recommend people check out your book. And they can just learn more information about your work in general through your website, which is LynnBellAstrology.com, right?
LB: Right, right, that’s a good place to go. Yeah, and I do think Planetary Threads is a valuable book. You know, I just was looking at something in preparation for this talk, and I was thinking, “Oh, did I write that?” You know, when you write a book that’s often a feeling that you have. It goes on and has a life without you.
LB: But, you know, one way to look at it is just to start mapping family placements. One of the things I used to start with when I did groups was to have people map all the Moons in their family and then maybe all the Mercurys. But one of the ways into that—and I talk about this in Planetary Threads—is in your family, what is the thing that you don’t understand? Or what’s the thing that gets to you? Because everybody has something. And, you know, if your answer is, “Oh, my God, nobody listens,” or “Everybody’s talking at the same time,” or “We’re all talking past each other,” you might want to look at the Mercury patterns in the family. You might want to look at where Mercury is, what aspects Mercury has among different family members, what elements Mercury is in, and this can be an extraordinary revolution. Revelation. Sorry, not a revolution.
CB: Sure. I mean, a revelation that leads to a revolution in terms of understanding why we communicate in the way that we do within the family unit.
LB: Yeah, absolutely. But then, again, in another family that might not be the issue. So it might not show anything at all.
CB: Right. You know, it’s interesting looking at different charts like that with family members and seeing the different signatures, like the difference between a family that has, let’s say, a lot of Mercury-Mars squares—maybe there’s a lot of arguments or maybe things are very argumentative—vs. some Mercury-Saturn hard aspects and maybe there’s a lack of communication or maybe an avoidance of communication.
LB: Right. Imagine a family that has a Mercury-Saturn pattern and somebody who’s born into the family with Mercury-Jupiter; I think it would really be a torture.
CB: Right. I mean, that’s always the funny part, the outliers in the family and the way that they can either play a positive and interesting role as a counterbalance vs. sometimes how they can be the ‘odd man out’ and maybe bring in an energy that’s uncomfortable for other family members for some reason.
LB: Yeah. Yes, well, I’ve really enjoyed this discussion, Chris. It was fun to talk to you about family.
CB: Yeah, I’m glad we finally got a chance to do this. Thanks for coming on the show. Do you have any events or things coming up in the future that you’re doing in terms of either this, or just other work in general?
LB: One of the schools I teach for that people can tune into on a webinar is MISPA, the Mercury Internet School of Psychological Astrology, which was created by John Green who’s a student of the CPA, and in some ways aims to continue the psychological astrology education that we started there. And I’m doing a webinar June 4 on planetary joys, in fact, so if people are interested in that I really encourage you to come on. I also do webinars for Astrology University. There’s no program for the moment, but it’s another place to look. You’ll find it on my site if you sign up for my newsletters, which are rare, by the way. But the workshop on June 4 on planetary joys, yeah, I’ve mentioned a few things with you here today, but I’ll expand by thinking about them. And if you are curious and don’t know anything about them, I think it would be a really interesting thing to join.
CB: Excellent. And then you’ll be in Greece this summer at some point as well.
LB: Yes, in June, Hakan Kirkoglu of Istanbul is having astrology summer school on Crete. And I’ll be there, and Demetra George, and Wendy Stacey from the UK. And I think that’ll be fascinating. Well, it’s such a beautiful place, Crete, if you don’t know Greece. Great opportunity to go there. You can find the information about that on my website. It’s I think the last, second-to-the-last weekend in June.
CB: Okay, excellent. So yeah, people can check out your site at LynnBellAstrology.com. Awesome. Well, thanks a lot for joining me for this discussion today.
LB: Okay, thank you, Chris.
CB: All right, and thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.