The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 165, titled:
With Chris Brennan and astrologer John Green
Episode originally released on July 28, 2018
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released June 16, 2021
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan. And you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Monday, July 23rd 2018 starting at 11:56 a.m. in Denver, Colorado. And this is the 165th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode I’m gonna be talking with astrologer John Green about the concept of synastry in western astrology. Hi John, thanks for joining me today.
JOHN GREEN: Hi Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for asking me along.
CB: Yeah, I’m excited about this discussion. As I told you before, I’ve been wanting to do an episode on synastry for quite a while now. And I know a few listeners have been asking me for that for a few years, but it just hadn’t come together cuz I hadn’t found a good person to talk about the subject even though a lot of people use synastry on some level in their practice. I didn’t know a lot of people who specialized in it or who had written a book on the topic. Even though it’s kind of a long standing practice, it doesn’t seem like they’re that many books on the topic. But you actually just published a book specifically dedicated to synastry a few years ago, right?
JG: Yeah, that’s correct. I felt there was a sort of gap in the market for a synastry book. It’s always been one of my favorite sort of tools of astrology. And when I was studying myself, I kept looking for a book that felt right to me. And then when I was teaching, students would say, “Can you recommend me a synastry book?” And I was sort of having to say, “No, I can’t. Stop playing.”
JG: And so I had to plan to write it. And that sort of finally spurred me into actually writing it to fill that gap, if you like.
CB: Right. Well, I got the book. I’ve read it, and it’s an amazing book. The title of the book is Do You Love Me? The Astrology of Relationships. And this is published in 2015, right?
JG: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Okay. And why don’t we start with a little bit of background information for listeners of my show that might not be familiar with your work yet? What’s your background in astrology? How long have you been studying it? How did you get into it? And so on and so forth.
JG: Well, I guess a long time is the short answer. I got into it at a very young age. My mum and dad were both not astrologers but just interested in the idea of astrology. They had few books, and they used to read their horoscopes in the newspaper and stuff. So even from quite little I got used to people saying, “Oh, I’m a Pisces. What does it say for me today?” and whatever and this type of thing. So I think that sort of hooked me in. And then I used to read voraciously as a child, and so I suppose probably early teens. I started getting into astrology books borrowing as many as I could from the library and then started doing a few courses after that starting off with little sort of local evening courses. And then later on when I could afford it, I finally took the course at the Center for Psychological Astrology Liz Greene’s school in London.
CB: And that’s in London?
JG: Yeah. Well, it used to be. No longer does diploma courses. So that’s where I sort of qualified in that. And then after that I, through accident really, ended up teaching at the CPA. I originally decided I’d study astrology just for pure interest and to look at my chart and other people’s charts never expecting to become an astrologer, never expecting to teach astrology. But I found getting more and more interested when a vacancy came up at the CPA to teach a foundation course. I offered my services and thankfully was taken on. And so I’ve been teaching ever since.
CB: And what was that timeframe when you first started studying there at the Center for Psychological Astrology?
JG: There would have been sort of late ’90s–
JG: -when I was studying there. I said I had studied courses before, but that was for the diploma level stuff.
CB: Got it. And so you came to specialize in that specific approach to psychological astrology?
JG: Yeah, I would say it was the approach that always interested me. I was very interested in psychology as well growing up. So I used to read a lot of books on psychology, too. So, bringing the two together felt right to me. And so that was the approach that worked for me.
JG: I had other approaches, but that’s the one that jelled.
CB: Sure. Well, and especially in that period in the 1990s. That was coming off of or was still in the sort of like a renaissance of some of that work with the Center for Psychological Astrology, and I just remember there were so many great books that were coming out of Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas and other sort of figures associated with that group in the 1980s and forward.
JG: Absolutely. They were publishing a lot through CPA Press. They were also doing Apollon which is the journal of psychological astrology which only ran for a few issues, but it was a very high and interesting standard of journal.
CB: Right. And all of the work being done sort of stood out especially during that period I would think during like the 1990s in terms of the quality and the depth of just the thought and sort of underlying sense of almost like academic rigor that was going into it even though it was still very practically oriented-type astrology.
JG: Absolutely. It’s a very in-depth approach. In more recent years, I think psychological astrology perhaps people see it in a slightly different way because a lot of astrology has got psychological. But it’s often psychological in a more sort of pop psychology sense whereas the work that we did at the CPA and I’m trying to carry on through my school takes a very in-depth approach. Depth psychology, it’s not just a sort of general type of, I don’t know, like quiz you get on Buzzfeed or something like that. That type of level of astrology of psychology, it’s one that works deeply like work you would work with a therapist or a counselor.
CB: Right. It’s like taking some of the sort of evolution of astrology from just basic character analysis in like early 20th century Alan Leo type stuff to the insights in the work that was done especially by Jung. A lot of the episodes I’ve focused on earlier this year have focused on Carl Jung and some of the work that he did and then the gradual integration of some of his work in depth psychology into some parts of the astrological community. But the primary leader of your school Liz Greene was like one of the primary architects for the integration of Jung into astrology it seemed like in the late 20th century, and so that would be part of the legacy that your school has continued through till today.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. Continuing that. Yes, for Jung also bringing in elements of Hillman, etc. And this type and other psychologists working today and so that brought in that sort of archetypal edge as well as the union approach as well.
CB: Sure. Brilliant. All right. And so as for yourself, so you teach through the Center for Psychological Astrology still. And you also have a couple of other websites, right?
JG: Yeah. Liz quite a few years back decided to stop doing the diploma level at the CPA. And I was teaching online for her at the time, and I felt there was a lack with the loss of that course of diploma level pure psychological astrology. And so I wanted to continue that work and do it in my own way, if you like. I had a meeting with her. I asked her if she wanted to carry on doing a diploma if I helped her, and she didn’t wanna continue that area. I think she reached a point where she’d had enough of that. And so with her blessing, I started my own school Mercury Internet School of Psychological Astrology or MISPA as we call it for short and started with that so that it’s a diploma level course again where we can go into real depth when looking at the charts.
CB: Okay, that’s brilliant. That actually makes a lot of sense because it seems like her work Liz Greene’s work over the past decade or so shifted more towards working on academic scholarship. And she went back to school and got her PhD and is working almost in sort of not quite classics but something along those lines at this point whereas you’re really continuing some of the practical-oriented psychological astrology work that sort of was initiated by her school a few decades ago.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. You’re absolutely right. She has moved into more of that academic thing in her work. You talked about her book on Jung and Jung and The Red Book in your podcast. And she’s moved into that area which is fantastic, but it means there’s a need for a school like ours which allows students to learn that in-depth psychological approach and work with it with their clients. So, that was the idea that I wanted to continue.
CB: Sure, that makes a lot of sense. All right, Well, let’s transition then into our main topic here. And in trying to sort of put this together, I usually try to talk about subjects like this that are like basic subjects that astrologers take for granted but sometimes just present them or talk about them as if the audience has no background. And I was trying to think about what the starting point was then for an episode or discussion on synastry. And it seems to be that just starting with the concept of natal astrology and the notion that the basic premise of natal astrology is that the birth chart reflects some things about the native’s life and their character and their psyche and that synastry seems to be essentially an extension of that. Because if the premise of natal astrology is that your birth chart will represent something about your psyche, then naturally that can lead to almost a natural conclusion where you might wanna compare how one chart compares to another in order to describe something about how two people might get along. Is that the basic entry point for synastry? Or how would you set that up?
JG: Yeah, I think absolutely. I think as human being, we’re basically social animals. And therefore after we’ve sort of looked at our own chart and explored that region of who am I really and what am I like and what do the planets show about that, I think the very next step is to go, “Well, how do I relate to others?” And all this is a tool. It’s a technique that allows us to compare two charts and see how we do relate to other people whether it’s obviously a love partner which is often one of the foremost uses for it but also within families, at work, with our friends, etc. Those relationships are so important to us to have a technique that allows us to look in that and not just see whether we might get along with someone or not get along. But what those reasons are and how we can actually do something about it, what can we change to perhaps make it a better relationship.
CB: Sure. So the basic premise, the basic sort of conceptual or theoretical premise is that by comparing the birth charts of two individuals, you can actually describe something about the dynamic in the relationship between those two people regardless of what type of relationship it is. There’s something about their dynamic that can be described by comparing their birth charts to each other.
JG: Yeah, that’s in a nutshell basically. Yeah, you’re just looking at the impact of one chart on another.
CB: Okay, brilliant. So, this practice is a practice in history. I’ve tried to trace it at one point to see how far back it goes. And even though there’s not a ton of books on synastry especially recently or even traditionally, I have found references to the topic that date back to the first century and the second century in the works of Dorotheus of Sidon and Claudius Ptolemy. So it seems like the practice of synastry actually dates back really far. But despite that, it’s not something that’s often explored very–I don’t wanna say very deeply. But just as we said earlier, there’s not a ton of books on this subject. What are some of the classics that do exist here today?
JG: Well, this is an interesting thing. Just to go back to what you mentioned, yeah, those early mentions by Ptolemy and Dorotheus. It’s interesting because it does show that it was a technique that was used back then, but they’re very brief mentions. And often they’re about a marriage, if you like. And they’re talking about just the Sun and the Moon or Venus and the Sun and this type of thing which is interesting. And I think it says something about the relationships of the time. Obviously, at that time often once you’re in one marriage, that was it. That was your life marriage. People didn’t get divorced. You might have a mistress or whatever. I know someone like Henry VIII or whatever indulging in several wives. It was sort of set, so it was really seeing if this was a good marriage or not. I think as time has gone on and obviously relationships, we tend to have a lot more relationships now. We meet a lot more people. And obviously with regards to love relationships, we don’t expect the first person that we fall in love with to necessarily be our marriage partner. And even if we do marry them, we don’t necessarily expect that it will last forever. So I think it’s interesting that time has changed, and I think that’s why nowadays is perhaps a more important time for synastry because it does bring that in more.
CB: Right. That makes a lot of sense. So there’s something about the astrology being culturally relative and the different sort of nature status of relationships in modern times that in some ways almost makes synastry more relevant now than its [unintelligible 00:15:19.22]
JG: Yeah, I think it makes it more important. And people are more inquisitive. People question and analyze their relationships whether they are into astrology or not. It’s, “Why did this relationship go wrong?” Or, “Why do I always attract the same type of guy or the same type of girl?” or whatever it might be. So I think it is one of our times, if you like.
JG: And it’s bringing–Sorry.
CB: That makes sense.
JG: You said what classics are there. I haven’t read all the books on synastry. I read a few, and then I stopped when I was writing mine because I didn’t wanna read out what other people have written whilst I was writing mine.
CB: Sure. It’s basically two, right? There’s two main synastry books that I think everybody knows about. One of them is–
CB: –Davison’s or Davidson who I think he was like a president of a lodge or something at one point. And that–
JG: Yeah, Davison. And he also developed the Davison composite chart which is a different technique with relationships.
CB: Okay, but he deals with synastry briefly in his book.
CB: I forget what the name is.
JG: I think it is called Synastry.
CB: Okay, so it’s like that book. And that stayed relatively in print. And then the other one that was relatively popular was the book by Sakoian and Acker on like the astrology of relationships or something like that, right?
JG: Yeah, which is more a sort of cookbook style which is what they do well. But it’s that type of thing which we’ll probably talk a bit more about later.
JG: The other one I liked was Robert Blaschke’s book which is part of his series. He did a series of books. And I think the fourth one I think in this series is relationship astrology.
CB: Right. And–
JG: And it’s quite complex, but there was some good information and good stuff in it.
CB: Okay. Yeah, I’m looking at your bibliography right now. And it’s titled Astrology: A Language of Life, Vol. 4 Relationship Analysis by Robert P. Blaschke published in 2004.
JG: Yeah, that’s the one. Yeah. I thought that was quite a nice one. A lot of the others tended to perhaps dwell on the warm and fuzzy, if you like. So they tended to give a rather isn’t this wonderful view of relationships. And obviously while that’s maybe what we’re looking for, it’s not always what we end up with.
JG: So I think any good synastry book has to go into darker places and has to look at the realities of relationship.
CB: Sure, definitely. And then just because I did remember the title correctly really quick,the Sakoian and Acker book was titled The Astrology of Human Relationships published in 1973. And yeah, so not a ton of books around. So then that becomes then part of your motivation for writing this book. Some of those other books aside from Blaschke’s which is relatively recent only 10 years before you wrote this one, the other two were also written in sort of a different era. And–
CB: –did you feel like you needed to bring something to it in terms of where contemporary psychological astrology is at at this point relative to what those books were doing back in the 1960s and ’70s when they were published?
JG: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was a different time as far as how people relate, for a start. And also it’s that thing of, as you mentioned, psychological astrology sort of through the perhaps the late ’70s and ’80s and then towards the ’90s was really going into depth in these things. And there hadn’t been a book written during that time. And there wasn’t one by Liz or by Howard or any of those people involved certainly in the UK and that sort of psychological astrology movement. And so I felt that there was an area that needed exploring that went more into the psychology of relationships, if you like.
CB: Right. And that makes sense, but it’s also surprising just because astrologers often are almost–One of the points you make I think at one point in the book is that astrologers often are almost implicitly using synastry even when they first meet people. Sometimes astrologers will ask for the person’s birth data. Or if you’re meeting another astrologer, you might ask them for their Sun, Moon, and Rising. And even though on some level that’s partially to understand the person in and of itself, there’s another level where astrologers are probably immediately relating those placements back to their own via synastry and therefore sort of doing some quick synastry work in order to get a sense of how they think their interactions with that person might go.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. It’s something I’ve seen a lot. You go, I don’t know, to the pub after an astrology talk. And you’ve got a whole group of students, and one of the first things they’re checking out what the other person’s chart or the other students’ charts, how do they relate. And you always hear like, “Oh, my son’s on your ascendant.” Or, “I’ve got this on your that.” And you hear these things. So I think it’s something that innately astrologers are interested in and use which again as you mentioned seems surprising why there wasn’t a focus on books that really went into it.
CB: Right. It’s kind of this mysterious area where everybody’s using it, but a lot of the sort of principles aren’t or were not until your book articulated very well. So, one of the points that you make early on in the book that I thought was really interesting is that you say that the purpose of studying synastry is not contrary to one’s expectations or an expectation that people might have. The purpose is not to have perfect relationships but instead just to help understand the dynamics involved in your relationships better, right?
JG: Yeah. And it’s an important point as you mentioned. And I made the point sort of earlier in the book purely cuz I didn’t want people to think, “Well, if I understand synastry, all my relationship problems are solved.”
JG: And I think I say in the book I get asked that because I talk about astrology, “Are your relationships perfect?” And no, they’re not. And that’s just the nature of relationships. And I think there’s an inherent thing that we think we’re looking for the perfect relationship. That’s how we’ve been brought up, and we’ve been fed this diet of through fairy stories and films and books, etc. of the perfect romance. And then when we experience relationships for ourselves, I’m talking particularly about love relationships, they’re not as good. They don’t work in that way. It’s not perfect. We don’t all live happily ever after. And actually what happens a lot in relationships is we end up repeating patterns whether it’s patterns of our own making or patterns that we saw amongst our parents and family members as we were growing up. And so that’s why I wanted to say it’s not a key to having perfect relationships. It’s a way of understanding yourself and others which hopefully can then open sort of doorways of communication to actually talk about things that might be working or not working in your relationship and also remove some of the blame. We tend to fall into the trap of relationships of blaming others for something. We think we should all feel the same in a relationship that how I feel in a relationship is the same as how my partner might feel in a relationship. But of course we don’t. We’re feeling different things, we’re thinking different things. And so it’s about opening up that dialogue and allowing people to talk about sort of honestly about their own feelings to help build a better relationship and understand themselves better rather than just, “This is how to have the perfect relationship.”
CB: Sure, and maybe having a better access point for trying to work on some of the issues or the shortcomings since they’ll always be something that’s not perfect in a relationship. But maybe it’s just more of a matter of having better tools to go about addressing those things in a constructive fashion versus doing what people normally do which is just kind of grapple with them as they can sort of blindly as they go through the relationship.
JG: Absolutely. And I think for astrologers it gives you another language to express it. Now that can be a problem in itself–
JG: –because it could end up being the “Yeah, well, your Saturn’s on my Moon.” sort of argument. But–
CB: That’s so funny cuz anybody that’s ever been in a relationship with another astrologer, that’s a funny classic astrologer squabble that every astrologer will eventually have is resorting to synastry placements in some sort of dispute.[John laughs]
JG: Yeah, absolutely. And so, yes. It can build more problems on top, if you like. But I think if we’re open with each other, if we stop for a moment and perhaps laugh after the “Your Saturn’s on my Moon.” comment and actually start to unpick it and try and talk about it how we would do to a client so whereas as astrologers we use that “Your Saturn’s on my Moon.” but talk about the actual dynamic of how the one person’s Moon feels that sense of security, that sense of emotional well being and how that’s affected by the other person’s Saturn being there and what’s the underlying essence beneath that. And then if you can open up the dialogue around that, then you might start getting somewhere.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. So, synastry is weird though because on the one hand you have sort of normal relating between people. But sometimes it seems to explain why two people can relate to the same person or two different people can have entirely different perceptions of the same person and that sometimes there are these dynamics that come up in relationships in our interactions when you meet somebody that seem to be–I don’t wanna say come out of nowhere, but sometimes you can just get along very easily with some people whereas naturally sometimes you might run into like miscommunications out of nowhere that you’re not really expecting with another person that aren’t either necessarily the fault of one person or the other. But for some reason you just don’t quite get along or don’t quite click as well as you could, and synastry seems to be a large part of sort of the thing underlying that mystery it seems like, right?
JG: Absolutely. I think that’s quite a useful way to learn synastry, if you like. If you’ve got access to people’s charts, if you think of two or three people that you get along really well with and you think of two or three people that perhaps you have a problem with whether it’s a boss or a friend of a friend you don’t really like or whatever and compare those synastries to your chart, see what parts of your chart are set off by their chart, etc. What aspects are there between? And you start to then build up a picture of one, how you relate to other people and then why certain people set–It’s no fault of their own necessarily. By being them, they’re just setting off a part of your chart that perhaps you’re not very comfortable with a part of it that you wanna sort of bury under the carpet and leave alone. And they sort of remind you of that. And so we try and keep a distance whereas others perhaps we’ve got nice Mercury synastry or Jupiter synastry, and we feel comfortable with them. We enjoy communicating with them, spending time with them socially, this type of thing. That’s on a very simple level. When you start looking at those, you start to understand more why you have those feelings with some people and not with others.
CB: Right. Sometimes it feels very liberating or reassuring about that because sometimes it can almost explain when something’s not working and you don’t know why or sometimes you’re attributing it to the other person or to malice or something like that. But sometimes you sort of glance at this synastry and just realize there is a sort of difficult cluster there of combinations and that part of it is not necessarily to do the fault of the individuals.
CB: Sometimes obviously it is, but other times there’s just something about the way the two of you get along or you just rub each other the wrong way. And that’s just a sort of basic dynamic between you that has to be navigated for better or worse, but it’s something that’s sort of almost like pre existing based on the way your birth charts are interacting in some weird way.
JG: Yeah. And it allows you, I think, to perhaps be a little bit more forgiving. If you take something like a Saturn connection to something in your chart, you may feel that they are authoritarian towards you or they’re always trying to put these boundaries up or whatever. Just thinking of normal sort of Saturn type words we might use. But once you realize that’s there, then you realize that perhaps they’re doing that because part of your chart your Sun for example may be setting off that Saturn then which is an area where they feel vulnerable, where they don’t necessarily feel competent or they might try and pretend to be from out of it. And so therefore I think you can then become a little bit more forgiving and perhaps a little bit more gentle towards them which by doing so you’ll then find that probably the way they come back to you is a little bit more gentle and forgiving. And you can start to build sometimes relationships that initially were antagonistic into something more workable, and that may not be with regards to a love relationship. But certainly if it’s something like your boss who you’re gonna need to work with anyway, it can be quite useful to find those ways of bringing up a closer relationship rather than always being antagonistic to one another.
CB: Right. That makes sense. So, developing a sense of empathy on some level for the other person but also realizing that the way that you perceive and experience this person may be different in some crucial ways than how another person might experience them just based on how your birth charts are interacting?
JG: Absolutely. I think we all do that to that extent. We have a view of ourselves of how we think we are. And we sort of assume that everybody sees us in the same way, and then sometimes we might get delighted when somebody falls in love with us. But we might get very upset when someone really doesn’t like us and we don’t really know why.
JG: But everybody’s like that. We come across in different ways to different people, and they pick up on different parts of ourselves because it echoes parts of themselves or echoes a part of them that they’re not very comfortable with. And so we all go around having these different relationships with people, but sometimes we don’t take that time to really think about why that might be. And I think this is where synastry can be helpful and we use it like that.
CB: Sure. So, one of the things that I was thinking in reading your book and coming across some of these sort of discussions about the philosophy and some of the conceptual structure underlying synastry and some of the implications for it is that at one point earlier in your book, you go into the birth chart itself and how the birth chart and some of the placements related to just relationships in the birth chart can indicate major themes with different people in our life that are just indicated in the birth chart as just general themes. But it seems like synastry is this other kind of wildcard factor that exists in people’s lives because they can specify dynamics that come up with specific people in our life whereas let’s say having Saturn in the seventh house or having Jupiter in the seventh house might indicate some general themes about relationships or what we’re likely to encounter or how we react to relationships in our life. The actual synastry is much more specific with how some certain dynamics will play out with individuals in our lives. And sometimes people may have certain placements that emphasize our own natal placements or they may have certain placements that just are not connected to our placements at all. But, generally speaking, other people’s birth charts this is a factor that’s outside of our own natal chart. So it’s outside of something that can be discussed just by looking at the birth chart in and of itself.
And one of the things that this made me think is that perhaps the concept of synastry and the existence of synastry may be part of the answer to the issue of twins or to time twins where even though two people may share the same chart like let’s say two people were born roughly in the same hospital around the same time and therefore have the same rising sign and everything else, they’re then gonna go off and have experiences with different individuals in their lives and different relationships. And the synastry in those relationships are gonna react uniquely to different parts of the chart, and therefore emphasize different parts of the chart. And perhaps the way that they grow into their chart and start to experience things as they mature and become older ends up being different or slightly different based on those relationships in the synastry that they have with individuals in their lives from that point forward. I don’t know if you’ve gone in that direction or if that’s going a little too far afield here. But it’s just something I was thinking about.
JG: Well, no. Certainly with time twins, people born around the same time. Yeah, absolutely. Your experiences of each relationship are gonna be different. One of the things I dwell on in the book is looking at the relationships between your parents and your relationships to your parents and also to siblings because those early relationships are very, very important to us. And so two people could be born with a very similar chart. But depending on what their parents are like although they’ve got the same internal aspects within the natal chart, they have different parents. And therefore, the synastry aspects between the parent will either complement those and maybe give them a sense of a good relationship with a parent growing up or for another person could be a difficult one. And then going through those early relationships, one helps shape who we are. And also we tend to look for repetitions unconsciously. It’s not something we’re doing because we want to, but we look for the familiar. We look for something that echoes those relationships we grew up with. And unfortunately even if those early relationships were not good, we can often unconsciously still be looking to experience those same type of relationships with our partner or with other people as we grow older. So certainly then I think there’s that part those different relationships shape us and then also how we react to them. And how we then grow from it is obviously gonna give those differences. With regards to actual twins with the same parents obviously, that’s a slightly different thing. But what I’ve often seen with actual twins is they live out different parts of the chart.
JG: So it’s almost like 120 degrees or “I’ll take this aspect, and you take that aspect.” And so one of them is living out one part of the chart, and another lives out others. And so again with synastry if you’re not living out that part of your chart, it may not have such an effect on you as it might do to your actual twin.
CB: Interesting. Yeah, I’ve been meaning to do an episode on twins at some point. So that would actually be an interesting topic to return to some time. And that actually raises a separate topic that you mentioned later in the book which is that sometimes especially in a consulting setting when you’re seeing clients and doing astrological counseling, it’s important to establish that the people will live out different parts of their chart maybe at different points in their life or they’ll be at different stages where maybe there’s a difficult indication in the chart that shows a tension or that they’re prone to having certain types of difficult relationship themes for whatever reason. But sometimes that can be something that the person has already overcome or gotten through or like learned and somehow progressed beyond in some ways or at least become better at dealing with versus let’s say if somebody’s younger and they haven’t dealt with that yet or they haven’t figured out how to overcome or to resolve that part of their chart. So that’s a factor that you’re taking into account anytime you’re applying something like this?
JG: Yes, it is. Obviously, we all have good configurations that perhaps are easier for us, configurations that we find difficult within the natal chart. And so we might have a theme around something, I don’t know, like a Saturn square, Venus or whatever. Though we live out within our relationships cuz we’re trying to get to sort of understand it trying to become whole and trying to find ways that we can integrate these two planets that are perhaps often rubbing each other up the wrong way, if you like. And of course by going through relationships, and those can be parental ones or with teachers or with friends as well as with partners, we come up against the same situation. Now obviously the ideal thing is that we learn something from that. We grow, we change, we find a way of perhaps making that Venus-Saturn square work a little bit better for us.
And therefore that need if you like doesn’t need to keep coming up in our future relationships because we’ve sort of moved on from that. We’ve found something different. Now there’s plenty of other areas in the chart that probably then need working on, and we might find we start attracting partners whose synastries sets off that in our chart. But, yes, relationships can change. It also transits of course. We may have had our Saturn return or something and started to understand a bit more about how Saturn works within us and therefore not need to sort of explore it so much within relationships cuz again we’ve learned a bit, we’ve grown up if you like and this type of thing. So we’ll change over the course of our life. It isn’t always to do with age. Some people can learn these things very young depending on what happens in their life. Other people could be on their second Saturn return, their second Saturn return. And that Saturn lesson still hasn’t quite sunk in, and so they’re still experiencing it within some of their difficult relationships and so on.
CB: Sure. And that seems connected with one of the statements that you made at one point in the book is that you see the chart as kind of like a blueprint for self realization to some extent. And you use the Jungian term or use that as a sort of synonym for the Jungian concept of individuation, right?
JG: Yeah, individuation. It’s the idea of becoming whole or I think in simpler terms is sort of becoming the best person you can be. It’s not about being some super hero or whatever. It’s purely about integrating everything, all the cards that you’re dealt if you like in your chart, integrating them so they work well or as well as they can do for you and that you’re that best person that you can be. And the individuation term it’s a nice way of describing it, but people tend to think of it as this sort of achieving Nirvana or achieving Godhead or whatever you might look at it. But actually it’s an ongoing process. It never really stops. Jung describes it as a circumambulation around the self. You keep sort of going over the same process. You keep walking around yourself and seeing if you can improve this bit or improve that bit, so it’s an ongoing process over life. But the chart psychological gives us an idea of what is there, what we hold within us. And so in that sense, it’s a blueprint. And then how we live our life and how we make the best of that chart, how we bring the things together that we find difficult as well as making the most of the talents and the good parts that we have, that’s sort of the way through it. You can’t change. It’s a seed. It’s an acorn. It has to grow into an oak tree. It can’t become a maple tree. So, there’s only a certain path we can go along. But that’s the idea. That’s what the chart is, so we are constantly working on that. And the more conscious we are of how we’re working psychologically through things like astrology or through working psychologically on its own, you’re starting to shift and starting to change that.
CB: Right. And perhaps once you realize that you’re an oak tree, trying to be the best damn oak tree that you can be within the constraints of whatever that actually means.
JG: Yeah. I think it’s about not setting unrealistic expectations. You can only be who you are. And so I think it’s about coming to terms with that as well.
JG: You cannot be a totally different person just cuz you want to be. It has to be within what the talents, the skills, the person that you are within really.
CB: Yeah. Well, that’s part of the reason I like that you framed it as self realization just because or reframed it that way just because that seems much more process-oriented. And, yeah, more in some ways about the process and about something that’s ongoing rather than something that is like a singular destination that you will arrive at fully at some specific point in time.
JG: Yeah. No. [laughs] It’s not that. It’s absolutely an ongoing process. It never stops. And it’s just something that you keep working on. The way Jung described, it’s something that happens anyway. We all grow older. We hopefully get wiser from the experiences we’ve had in this type of thing, so we’re all growing in a way. In a psychological sense it’s about whether you sort of decide to work on it consciously rather than just let it happen as you get older. And the idea being that if you do approach that consciously that maybe you can do it a bit quicker or make things a little bit easier for yourself, this type of thing.
CB: Sure. So, along those lines, one of the points that you make specifically about synastry in the book as a sort of conceptual precursor is that we can predict dynamics that will arise as a result of synastry in people’s relationships between their charts or by comparing their charts that you can’t necessarily predict how those dynamics will be resolved. And this seems like it’s a really crucial point in terms of astrological counseling both in terms of what the astrologer is trying to accomplish and what they attempt to accomplish especially with their client. But also it seems important in terms of the client’s expectations of what the astrologer is gonna tell them. So I thought that might be worth expanding on a little bit.
JG: Yeah. No. Absolutely. And I think the thing is, if we go back for a second, Howard’s talking about that. Obviously we don’t know where somebody is in their own sense of development, and so we can look at the dynamics involved in synastry. And we can say, “Okay, this is an interesting dynamic.” But then we’re going back to is as we just mentioned. But how do you cope with this dynamic in your chart? How do you cope with this Venus-Saturn that we talked about? And so that’s one part of it, so we don’t know how to resolve without talking to the client as to how they feel about that particular area of their chart and how it comes up within relationships. And then of course it’s not just one person. It’s another person as well and how they cope with it and what they do with it. And so, from a counseling point of view, I always tell my students we’re not there to show off. We’re not there to be all-wise or all-knowing. And neither should we try to be. We’re there to explain the symbology to the client. “This is what the astrology symbology means. This is what it’s about. This is how I’ve perhaps seen it work in other people before. How does that feel to you?” And you’re always checking back in with that client as to whether it makes sense to them, whether they understand what you’re talking about. And then our role is enabling them to look at it for themselves and to find answers within themselves. So we’re not there to fix anybody. We’re not there to sort out their relationships. We’re there to give them an insight into the dynamic that’s going on using our knowledge of the symbology of astrology and allow them to then come up with the ideas from within themselves that, “Well, how might this work better? How can I work with this better with my partner, with my boss, with my mom or whatever?”
CB: Sure. So instead of the client sort of coming into your office or let’s say to a couple coming into your office and you sitting down and looking at their charts and then making specific concrete predictions about like, “X, Y, and Z will happen in this area of the relationship. And this is your fate.” or whatever in terms of certain things that will happen and whether your relationship will be successful or whether it will not last. Instead, the focus here is more on trying to describe the dynamics that will come up in the relationship, whether those are challenging or whether they’re easier and then just sort of presenting them with some options for how that can play out and trying to get some feedback to see what end of the spectrum they’ve experienced so far up to this point.
JG: Yeah, cuz I don’t think there’s any help in predicting something about a relationship. One, people are incredibly unpredictable when it comes to relationships. And two, does that really help anybody? When you’re looking at it from a psychological point of view if you said to someone, “This is really difficult. You might not wanna bother.” then supposing they took your advice, then they’d walk away from that. But when we’re talking about this self realization process if you like, then in a way they’re missing out on an important lesson that that relationship is there showing them something about themselves and vice versa to the other person involved. And so actually we have to go through good times and bad times in our relationship and learn from them to move forward. And I think often when you’re doing relationship work with people, it’s less about telling them what their relationship is about but normally about explaining to them why they’re finding repetitions in their relationship. And it’s usually because you walk away at a certain point or you don’t work through this dynamic there in your chart. It keeps coming up to meet you again.
And so you finish with one person, and you meet a new person. And you think, “Well, this person is wonderful. They’re exactly what I wanted.” And then six months down the line, you’re complaining to your friends, “Oh, they are exactly the same as the last one and the one before that. Why do I always have this bad luck with my partner?” And usually it’s because there is something in your chart, something to be learned, something to be understood. Because it’s a dynamic you’re struggling with within yourself that you’re putting out there onto somebody else. And they’re taking that hook because it’s usually around problems that they have themselves as well. But that’s usually what we’re working with with relationship. It’s to help people understand what’s going on in the relationship and find a way of working with it and thus understanding more about themselves rather than just going, “Yeah, this is great.” or “This is bad.” Because I don’t think that’s helpful to anybody.
CB: Right. And one of the potential pitfalls or hazards or problematic areas of synastry that you talked about a little bit in the book is the concern that any counseling astrologer would have about sort of introducing a certain amount of prejudice to the client about their relationship and what the relationship will be like or what sort of dynamics will arise in the relationship which could end up causing them to have a certain view of the relationship or to color their view of the relationship early on in a way that’s unnecessary or not helpful. And you actually even raised the sort of question at one point about whether an astrologer should see or do a delineation like a synastry delineation for a couple early on in a relationship versus waiting until it’s a relationship that’s been around for a little while before accepting to do that kind of delineation.
JG: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of points in there. One, looking at it too early I think can certainly either prejudice people within it or you’ve got that thing of people actually not interested in listening particularly with a lover. We’ve fallen in love with someone. It’s usually quite some time before we can hear something that might be wrong with the relationship. We want to hear that it’s gonna be all good. We want to hear that it’s the right thing for us. And we’re very good at sort of blocking off whether it’s a friend saying in our ear, “I’m not sure he’s right for you.” or an astrologer saying, “Well, this looks problematic here.” We’ll probably just ignore it and probably blame the friend or blame the astrologer and move away from that.
JG: So, I think we have to let people get to a position in a relationship where they’re past that sort of honeymoon phase if you like where everything’s rosy and starting more to perhaps a relationship is becoming more serious or they reach some difficulties and then want to work with it because they believe their relationship is worth working at. And I think that’s where we can be helpful. And I think it’s important ethically as astrologers that we’re careful with that, that we don’t always realize the power that we have coming in as an outsider looking at strange symbols on a piece of paper and telling them something about their life that feels accurate. And it’s very easy for even just a flippant comment or a small comment that wasn’t really meant as anything that deep or serious to take root in people’s mind and then to dwell on it and build on it. So I think we always have to be really careful which is why certainly the school I run or whatever I recommend that people learn counseling skills training, and I know it’s part of ISAR in that as well to understand the dynamic when you’re working with people and talking to them so that you know the right way to talk to them, to listen to them, to understand how they might take the various things you say and work with that sensitively.
CB: Right. There’s been a few younger astrologers I’ve talked to recently who have sort of gotten launched into their careers as astrologers and started seeing clients and started reading people’s birth charts and sometimes have become popular on like platforms like Twitter or YouTube. But then I’ve been surprised and realized in some instances that even though they could read charts that they were kind of out of their depth or that they had some work to do because there were a lot of things coming up in these sessions that were obviously really intense or really sensitive psychological in sort of counseling dynamics and that they realized that they needed to learn more about counseling in order to be equipped to deal with those issues. And that’s a lot of what you sort of teach and what you try to train people on, right?
JG: Well, yes, it’s certainly a part of it. And I think it’s vital that astrologers do learn these very techniques because we all love astrology with all your listeners listening to this. But it’s very easy to get carried away with that love of it and want to share it with people and tell them stuff, but we have to be aware of the effect that has on people and how they respond to things and whether they’re ready for that, how they might take it. And so we need to be very strong in these techniques to be able to deal with it properly. And so I think it’s a vital part of any astrologer training to be able to work with people, and it’s not something that you can just sort of read a quick book on and go, “Well, that’s fine. I know what I’m doing now.” I think it’s something that needs practice, and it’s something that needs courses, etc. where you practice these techniques and work through it and realize how it feels when you are talking through these very intimate parts of your life with other people. So, yeah, it’s something I do feel strongly about. It’s just an important factor.
CB: Sure. And this idea of prejudicing the client about their relationship, it’s kind of raised an issue or something I’ve struggled with at different points or not struggled with but wrestled with is just this question of is it problematic to say anything at all? Especially let’s say if we just limit it to somebody’s come in and they’re asking for you as the astrologer to look at and tell them some things about a relationship based on their synastry with their partner. And one of the issues is can the astrologer fully control what ends up being helpful or harmful to the person? So you mentioned sometimes the astrologer can just make some offhand remark that the client ends up taking much more seriously or maybe they take the comment in a way that they interpreted differently than how it was intended by the astrologer. And sometimes it’s kind of weird how there’s certain comments or certain things that might stick with the person that the astrologer might not expect or not anticipate. And I wonder sometimes how much the astrologer can control those things versus not being able to especially when talking about something as sensitive as relationships.
JG: Yeah, certainly it goes back. First point would be to go back to that idea of having training in counseling because I think immediately that gives you an insight into it. And I think people that have done that are far more careful and cautious about how they talk to their clients.
JG: The other thing I will often look at because if I’m doing synastry work, I want the permission of everybody involved–
JG: –whether that’s a relationship or whether it’s a mom and daughter or whatever unless obviously parental. Perhaps someone’s passed on or whatever and is not available. But certainly within a love relationship, I wanna work with both people really.
CB: So that’s a really important point cuz that’s like an ethical consideration that some astrologer and sometimes this is like debated. But you are strictly and very strongly on the side of you have to get all consent from every party whose chart is analyzed in any astrological consulting setting.
JG: Yeah. Yeah. And even that probably isn’t enough, Chris. Cuz if you think about it, you might be interested in it. But if your partner wasn’t into astrology and you said, “I’m going to my astrologer. Can I give them your birth detail?” They might go, “Yes, fine.”
JG: Whereas I think really they’ve got to have an understanding of what information is contained within a birth data which we know. But someone who’s not into astrology doesn’t really have a clue what giving date, place, and time tells people about who they are, what they are, etc. So, I think that’s another consideration. But, as I said, I would certainly get permission. The other way I can look at it sometimes is if someone is having problems, is not to look at their partner’s chart at all but to look at theirs and talk about their way of relating. So you’re looking at all the same sort of areas that I talked about in the chart. But you’re not looking at the interrelations between their chart and their partner, but just looking at these potential areas if you like which are important to their relationships. And therefore you can do a very good reading for someone talking about how they approach relationships, what they’re looking for in a relationship, what their expectations are. That can be incredibly helpful without actually involving the other person and then also not getting into them going back and saying, “Well, my astrologer said that you’re a–” [laughs]
CB: Right. Yeah. Yeah, that you have–
CB: –issues with your parents that aren’t resolved. And that’s why.
JG: Exactly. Yeah, or you treat me like crap–
JG: –whatever it might be.
CB: So that’s a really important point cuz that’s actually basically one of the first chapters of the book is in your book on synastry you do not dive right into synastry. What you actually start with and what you emphasize is you have to start with the birth chart of the two individuals involved.
CB: What I meant by that is analyzing them and for their sort of relationship predispositions ended in and of itself by looking at specific things in each individual chart to see how that chart deals with relationships or how they’re naturally predisposed to approach relationships.
JG: Absolutely. I think this is vital. I think we’re not really doing synastry unless we take that step. And this was perhaps one of my things with a lot of synastry books was that it immediately goes into what happens if your Sun is on their Venus? Your Mars is on their Jupiter or whatever. And it doesn’t talk about, “Well, what was that doing in your chart?” Because my Jupiter is not the same as your Jupiter. My Mars is not the same as your–We’ve all got different approaches, too. And so by taking an understanding of the natal chart first and understanding what is it about–What do they look for in relationships? What do they expect from them? How do they experience love? Is it something that’s comfortable for them or something that’s difficult for them? How do they express themselves, etc. And you look at the whole chart of each individual, and then you start bringing them together once you’ve got an understanding of what each component of the two people’s charts are about. And so, yeah. That’s why, as I said, you can absolutely do a very good reading on or consultation rather about how they relate with one person without even bringing their partner in. And the same with often parents, they wanna know about their children. And again, that’s an area of ethics of when can children give permission? Is it okay to do that? Whereas, again you can look at a parent’s chart from the point of view of being a parent and what they experienced as a child and how they are perhaps relating that to their child again without actually bringing in anything about the child and the synastry to them. And so in a way, it allows the client to get useful information and something that often opens their eyes quite a bit without sort of compromising any ethics on regards to permission from other people involved.
CB: Sure, that’s such a fascinating sort of area. Yeah, that could be a whole topic episode in and of itself cuz then you get into other things like celebrity charts and like public figures and the appropriateness of that where there’s some similar debates about using charts of data that’s publicly available versus not and other things like that. But just to circle back around to your–[John laughs]
JG: Yeah, it’s a huge area.
CB: Right. No, but I’m actually really fascinated by it. So I must stop myself from going too far into that cuz I’d be interested in talking a bit more but maybe another time.
CB: But one of your points basically that just sort of rephrased or reiterated is that if the point of synastry is that it activates natal placements in each chart, each person’s chart is capable of activating placements in another person’s chart. Then the question is what did those original natal placements indicate in the first place? And this becomes one of your major criticisms of the book of other sort of cookbook style approaches to synastry which is mainly what most other synastry books do in just delineating that when one person’s Venus is conjunct to another person’s Jupiter, it means this. They’re not interpreting those within the context of how they are actually situated in each person’s birth chart. But instead they are doing it in isolation which is gonna be limited in terms of its usefulness because it’s not taking into account the actual condition of the planet and its actual specific placement in each person’s birth chart.
JG: Yeah, and I probably make a bit of a big deal of it in the book. I don’t necessarily have anything against sort of cookbook astrology books. I may come across that way in my book. The fact is all students love them, and we do it with books on planets in signs, planets in aspect, all of that type of thing because it helps us learn. And I get that. And so, yes, students love them. But the problem, and I think it’s particularly emphasized in synastry, is that it just doesn’t give us an accurate picture. And so therefore I wanted to make it clear in my book that if you wanna learn it, the actual technique of synastry is incredibly simple. You can teach it an hour or so quite easily. But it’s the complexity of interpreting it that takes years of practice, if you like. And so what I wanted was the students to start from that principle of realizing you’ve got to go straight for complexity, that you can’t do the shortcode of just going, “Well, this means this.” Cuz that’s on that. Because it doesn’t take anything into it. And so for example I sort of talk about–Let’s go back to Venus square Saturn. So someone’s Venus is square to Saturn in their chart. And so therefore that idea of being valued or being loved, etc. brings along the sort of baggage of Saturn.
And so it’s often that sort of feeling of lack as they were growing up that they didn’t feel perhaps a parent respected them enough or valued them enough or loved them or whatever. And we take that forward into our relationships and say, “I am not worthy of being loved.” This is quite a common feeling for people, “I’m not worthy of this love. I’m not worthy. I shouldn’t be feeling this.” or whatever. And so you take something like in a cookbook where it says, “Well, this person’s Jupiter is on your Venus.” That’s a wonderful combination. Your desire links with the planet of joy and abundance and whatever. And so therefore that’s a fantastic aspect. But of course that’s shining a light on a feeling of inadequacy, if you have Venus square Saturn.
JG: You’re feeling, “I’m not worthy of love.” And so there’s this other person’s planet emphasizing that which makes you feel overwhelmed by it. Big Jupiter can often be overwhelming, but you’ve got that sense of vulnerability whereas the Jupiter person may feel fine because they’ve got it trine to the Sun. The person whose Venus it is square to Saturn is overwhelmed and probably a bit unsure. And, “What is this person doing? Why do they care about me?” And they’ve got feelings of uneasiness which the other person hasn’t.
CB: Right. So the cookbook delineation is gonna delineate that just positively cuz it’s a Venus-Jupiter combination, but it’s not taking into account the fact that in the Venus person’s chart they have its square Saturn. And so there are some other things that come along with the activation of that planet that need to be taken into account to get a full picture. And if you only take into account just the initial synastry placement, then you’re missing part of the picture.
JG: Absolutely. If you’re a smart astrologer, you also look at Jupiter square to Saturn if it’s within all. But Jupiter square Saturn again is not the same thing as Jupiter conjunct Venus square Saturn. Because again it’s missing that connection between Venus and Saturn and how they are relating to one another.
CB: Sure. So that brings up then I guess a really important point which is that even though in the cookbooks synastry is often presented as primarily just person A’s planet being trine to person B’s planet equals whatever delineation. In fact, what you’re actually looking at in synastry is complex sort of clusters of planets that are intertwined in person A’s birth chart and how those clusters interact with other complex combinations of planets and another person’s birth chart. So it’s more like planetary sort of pictures or signatures and how those signatures match up with other signatures in another person’s chart.
JG: That’s correct. And you have to go into that full complexity of it, and I think that’s one of the things–People like the idea of compatibility, and we’ve all seen the online quizzes or articles and, “Oh, I’m a Gemini. And he’s a Virgo. Is that compatible or not?” And it’s irrelevant really. To actually understand the depth of relationships, you have to look into all of these. And it’s not simple. You know it’s not something you can just do in 10 minutes. And so, yes, you can pull out little threads and quick snippets that you might be able to give someone. But if you actually wanna do it properly and you actually want to really understand the nature of relationships, you have to go into this depth.
CB: Right. So it’s the same issue that just computerized reports of natal positions in a person’s birth chart. If you generate like a report on astro.com or wherever which is just that they can give you individual delineations of what one placement should mean theoretically sort of abstractly in isolation, but they can’t synthesize them together. And that’s really the unique work that each astrologer has to do both when interpreting a birth chart but also when doing something like synastry which then becomes much more complex because you’re then trying to synthesize not just each natal chart in and of itself but also how those charts come together as a sort of complex cluster of combinations.
JG: Yes, and we should be pleased about that actually. Cuz it’s what protects our job from being taken over by robots.
CB: Right, we are safe from the robot uprising.[John laughs]
JG: Yeah, exactly.
JG: So, that’s exactly what we should be studying as students of astrology is all that integration and synthesis because, yeah, it’s job protection.
CB: Right cuz we’ve got at least a few more decades until–
JG: Exactly. Yeah.
CB: –singularity, and they become sentient. And then we’ll see what happens. But for now our jobs are safe, right?
JG: For now we are safe. Yeah. [laughs]
CB: All right, so circling back before we jump into the sort of final phases of this, what are some of the natal placements that you look at first when you’re first just analyzing each individual’s birth chart in order to understand how they’re gonna do in relationships or what kind of predispositions we might be looking at for that person?
JG: Obviously, the short answer is the whole chart.
JG: But I think there are certain specifics you can look at when we’re looking at each individual chart. The first thing I think the most important thing to start with is things like note the relationship with parents, so parental signifiers, Sun Moon, relationships between those 10ths and 4th house cusps, the rulers of those etc. Looking at those, what were the relationships we had growing up and what were they like? And obviously, not everybody has two parents, etc. and this type of thing but again, it’s important even if there’s a missing parent, to look at those because what were our expectations of the missing parent? Just because we didn’t have a mom or a dad, we had ideas about them, we had perhaps wishes, dreams, hopes of what they would be, etc. and they all play into our relationships as well. So, you certainly look at parental stuff, what we lack, so things like look at the elemental balance, modality balance. Are there areas in element or modality that are lacking within the chart? Often, we’re attracted to what we lack and this type of things.
CB: So, if a person has a bunch of fire placements but they don’t have any water placements, then they might attract a partner that has a heavy emphasis on water placements because they lack that in their birth chart?
JG: Yeah, and we’re looking to become whole, we’re filling the gaps in our chart. And often we do that same [unintelligible 00:01:26:04] but maybe we have a lack of us. And then often we look for a partner who can do that because it saves us the bother. So, the partner who can pay the bills on time, make sure that the rent’s paid, there’s a roof over the head, and take care of all those good earthly things so that you can go off and be fiery or watery or whatever you want to be. And the idea is obviously that we learn from that person and gradually start to integrate that lack within us and have an understanding of it. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Often, we just let them carry on paying the bills and then complain how boring they are because that’s all they do and can cause problems in relationships. But these are all things that often play into relationships that are attracting what we lack in the chart.
CB: Right. That’s really funny because, on the one hand, the person is perhaps attracting or has a tendency to draw in those type of people to make up for whatever might be a deficiency or at least something that’s not super present in the birth chart, but then it’s not always necessarily readily appreciated because it’s so radically different in its approach than what the person is used to doing.
JG: Yeah. I remember reading an article once about marriage guidance counseling article and it was saying that often, what brought people into marriage guidance was usually the same thing that they were first attracted to the person for. So, they liked them because they were a free spirit, but now their marriage goes because that person is too much of a free spirit and they’ve gone and had an affair or whatever, this type of thing. So often those things keep replaying again and what attracts us to that person can then become either, perhaps boring in that sense or it can become something that troubles us because we are not like that. And actually, it is about opening up to that and learning from them rather than just letting them get on doing that. So, certainly look at those things. Obviously, 7th house stuff or the Descendant sign, planets in the 7th, the ruler of the 7th, these are all quite important because they’re describing that arena of relationships. Obviously, you can bring in other houses as well depending on the type of synastry you’re doing, whether it’s work or family or whatever, we’ll bring in slightly different ones. Venus and Mars, obviously, we’d look at what do we value, what do we desire, how do we go about getting it? And then the Moon, we already mentioned with regards to our relationship to mother, but also that idea of what makes us feel looked after, what makes us feel safe, and primal emotional response to things so it’s wrapped up within the Moon. So, understanding of all of these will help build up that picture of what that person is looking for in a relationship, etc.
CB: Sure. And one of the things that you touch on especially when talking about the 7th house and things connected with it is the idea of projection as a psychological concept and it raised this question for me where sometimes it seemed like there was this question that was often unanswered about when is a person projecting things or creating situations in that way themself by projecting something outward versus when are things outside of their control? Or is that not the right way to ask that question or to look at it?
JG: No, no, no, it’s a good question, Chris. I think projection is when we put out our own unrecognized personal qualities onto other people if you like. An important thing is it’s not conscious, we don’t intend to do it. But for example, we may project say Mars in a Mars Saturn opposition for example because that aggressive energy doesn’t fit the self-image, we have of ourselves or maybe our parents always told us not to do Mars stuff, not to get angry, not to show aggression, or maybe we feel more comfortable with an idea of Saturn restraint, or maybe we’ve got Libra rising and we don’t know that, all of these types of things. So, for some reason, we’re not… So, we put it out there on people who to us seem like they’re aggressive and they’re always giving us a hard time, or they’re always playing up or whatever. And it isn’t a pathology, it’s a defense mechanism. Though we do it to be nasty, we’re not sure what to do with that energy so it’s easy to put out while it’s somebody else’s problem, it’s out there. So, this is the way in which these tricky aspects in our chart or things we don’t feel comfortable with make themselves known to the ego and it gives us a chance to start establishing a relationship with [unintelligible 00:06:25:02] once we become conscious.
Now, how do we know when we’re projecting rather than [John laughs] it being actually something we should be upset about? There’s no really any guaranteed signs, but I think projection is likely to be a part of the mix when we fall in love and when we have strong feelings about something whether it’s very positive or negative, often about people we know very little about or if we have a strong somatic reaction, we get butterflies in our stomach, or we feel sick, or we feel lightheaded, or whatever. And when we notice that emotional reaction seems to be much greater than the circumstances warrant. When it’s highly charged with emotions, when our reactions are out of proportion to the situation, that’s normally when it’s something we’re projecting rather than it being something the other person is doing or something that perhaps is just a problem. Perhaps we snap somebody’s head off because they’ve asked us something that touches a raw nerve, or we get obsessed about a particular person whether it’s positive or negative, can’t get them out of our heads or whatever, wakes us up in the middle of the night, etc. And we can project on things as well. We can project on racial groups, or political groups or all of this type of thing. But it’s when it seems almost unwarranted or out of proportion, there’s a huge emotional charge normally give us the clue that it’s something more about us than just… Obviously, we can get angry and we might get angry about a certain thing like racism or something like that and that would be a natural anger, but when it becomes totally out of proportion or with accusing other people of doing that when perhaps they haven’t really done that much to warrant it, that’s probably when we should start to look inward a little bit more and go, “Why am I having such a reaction there? What really has that person done?”
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And one of the things that you emphasize when you’re talking about the Descendant sign in the 7th house or 7th house placements is just the idea of sometimes those being whereas the Ascendant is more things that are readily clear about the person’s personality or their character that the 7th is sometimes things that they don’t acknowledge within themself and therefore tend to attract through relationships with other people who display those qualities. Is that the correct way of summarizing that or how would you put that?
JG: Yeah. No, I think that’s correct. The 7th house is how we view the other if you like, and so it’s very easy for anything in there, we start to see as belonging to others and not really part of us as you said that the first house was most strongly us. And people often say, “Well, what if it’s your Sun in the 7th or whatever?” Even the Sun can be projected onto something, onto somebody that we see them as embodying that. And then often we’ve never felt that we perhaps quite achieve what we wanted to do because we’re looking at other people and going, “Oh, they’re so good at doing that,” when really, we need to start owning it and realizing that it’s a part of us and it’s not just a quality that belongs to other people.
CB: Yeah, I’ve seen that as a common theme of like a 7th house Sun and I think you said something about this in your book of developing one’s identity within the context of other people or one’s identity sometimes being very closely attached to the partner in some way.
JG: Yeah, or to the idea of relationships. I think when you have a lot of planets in there, the idea of relationships becomes so important to you because [John laughs] that’s the way you discover about yourself to discover about the Sun. Or if you’ve got Mars, to discover your Mars, you have to experience it from others so that idea of relationships becomes strong and important to you.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. All right. So that leads us finally through this long and circuitous route, and I probably should have put this at the beginning, but [John laughs] to the basic components of synastry and what… [John laughs] Right, we’re talking about it in around the philosophy and again, the conceptual motivation and all these other things, but to get into the actual technique, there’s really two primary things from a technical standpoint that you’re looking at it seems right when you’re actually doing synastry and comparing two charts?
JG: Yeah, absolutely. You’re looking at the house of where does one person’s planet fall in what house of the other person? It always gets very difficult when you’re describing synastry because [John laughs] you’ve got this person and that person. It always gets a bit confused. So where does one person’s planet fall in the other houses of the other person? So that’s one part of it. What houses are stimulating if you like?
CB: So, if one person’s, let’s say, Sun falls in the 6th house of another person’s chart?
JG: Yeah, yeah. So, then it’s putting an emphasis into that area of life if you like. And it could be something very simple in that you met them at work or [John laughs] through your daily routines or whatever, but their Sun is bringing an energy to that area of life and often opening that up to you where perhaps, if you don’t have planets in yourself, it seems a little bit closed, that type of thing.
CB: Okay. So, planets activate the topics basically associated with the house that they fall in, in the other person’s chart?
JG: Yeah, yeah, that’s correct.
CB: Okay. And then what was the second thing?
JG: So, then the second part is cross aspects if you like. So, what aspects do one person’s planets make to the others? So, for example, is their Sun conjunct to your Sun, or square your Sun, or sextile your Sun and so on? Same, does Venus square the other person’s Sun? Does Saturn square the other person’s Mars? You’re looking at those cross aspects and you get familiar with it when you start looking at it yourself. But often as astrologers, we tend to put one chart around the other in a bi-wheel to show how it is. But that’s not always easy I think when you’re starting out to see the aspects. So, you can also do a grid, most software and things like astro.com will let you draw a synastry grid which maps out all the aspects between one person’s chart and the other and this type of thing, so gives you that view of how to look at it and what you’re looking at if you like.
CB: Sure. And that bi-wheel or the practice of doing a bi-wheel is evidently very old because there’s been some astrologers consultation boards which are like little chest sets except, they have a zodiac circle in the middle of them and astrologers that evidently pull these out for consultations and then put stones down on the board to create the person’s birth chart for a consultation. There’s been one or two of them that were found that had two concentric zodiac circles one around the other that seemed they were set up either in order to study transits or potentially one of the academics who wrote an article on one of these boards, James Evans, speculated that one of them was for synastry. So, it’s interesting that that practice of actually using bi-wheels is probably pretty old going back to the first few centuries CE?
JG: Yeah, I think that’s really rather nice, actually. That’s such a convenient way as you say, whether you’re doing it for transit or synastry because you’re giving it that visual medium, you’re being able to picture it. And I know some students often struggle beginning spotting all the aspects or whatever, but start with the big one. So, start with this person’s planet is conjunct to that one or the other. So, start with that, or where they’re opposite, or square and then gradually bring in the other ones. So, I think it’s a useful way of doing it. The grades are great as well because they show you all the aspects but sometimes that can get a little bit bogged down. But I think it’s preferable to use a bi-wheel or get used to using a bi-wheel because then you start to see the aspect pattern and you’ve got that visual layout of where it is and what houses they’re falling, etc. all at the same time.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And you can see more of the combinations of multiple planets or one planet moving into another person’s T square, or grand trine, or what have you. So, you’re seeing the chart patterns interacting rather than just individual planets aspecting each other?
JG: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And so, that’s an important part of it and you just gradually familiarize yourself with it.
CB: Sure. And part of the access point for this seems to be in using bi-wheels is that synastry makes it or you could almost conceptualize it this way, and I’m not sure if this was the original access point or what, but it’s almost like each person and each person’s chart represents a transit to your own chart and you could almost just look at it like a transit, except it’s a permanent transit where this person somehow represents whatever the energy of that day was for you relative to your chart, except it’s stuck there and it’s like an unmoving transit. And it’s funny because as I’m getting older, I start to interact more with younger people where I remember, they’re adults now, but I remember being alive and looking at my transits on that day 18 years ago, or 20 years ago, or what have you and as you get older as an astrologer, you get a much more visceral realization that every person you interact with is a transit that you had at some point in your life, especially younger people that were born after you were, but it seems like that’s almost true just in general. Is it almost a general principle of synastry?
JG: Yeah. I think there’s that feeling of it. And I think it’s really important one is if you’re looking at parents and children and obviously the children were, as you say, because they’re young, absolutely a literal transit that happened to the parent when they were being born. And I think that’s a really interesting one to think about because maybe your Saturn return or it may have been, I remember with my son, it was my Pluto square that I was having when he was born but that transit moves on over time. But according to [unintelligible 17:28:19] synastry with that person, it there, it continues. And so, whereas you get rid of the transit or whatever, with your children, that permanent transit is there within your relationship to them.
CB: That’s so fascinating because then there’s something about that transit then that you’ll never escape in some way to the extent that that relationship is in your life permanently. But then on the other hand, because our relationships with individuals grow and change over the course of our life, it’s almost like you’re having an ongoing dialogue with that transit that might have different stages and different areas of growth at different points in your life.
JG: Yeah, and it allows you to work with it. If it is a big transit like a Saturn return, it allows you to constantly [John laughs] re-experience it should one wish having that transit over and over again, and so perhaps getting more depth and more knowledge out of it, then we would do when it’s just a transit and it moves on. And so, there’s benefits to it. Of course, [John laughs] let’s not dismiss that it can be problematical and that your child is always stimulating that energy. And if it was a particular trend that you found very difficult, then you better learn to [John laughs] get used to it or that constant difficulty may be felt there with that child.
CB: Right. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And it’s broadly or indirectly related to another principle that you mentioned at one point in the book which is that sometimes people attract individuals who play out or who represent specific transits so that you’ll be going through, let’s say, a Saturn transit and then somebody will show up in your life that has Saturn very prominent in their chart or you’ll be going through a Mars transit and somebody who has Mars is very prominent in their chart or maybe where Mars is very prominent in your synastry will then come into your life at that times that sometimes people take on the agency of transits or play out and represent transits in a very literal way.
JG: Yeah, I’ve seen that happen over and over again. Actually, there’s an example in the book. But I think one of the most common for people that use outer planets is if you think of the midlife transits of the Neptune squaring Uranus opposition that happens in early 40s, it’s a classic time to read books [John laughs] or movies or whatever. When people go through this often crisis, they tend to lose it a bit and there is either that Uranian person, that brand new person that comes in, or there’s that absolutely falling in love in a Neptunian way with someone that maybe wildly inappropriate or you think is this god or goddess that’s going to solve all the problems that you’re feeling because you’re going through these difficult transits and you get totally caught up in it, and that person really is just representing that Neptune square Neptune or whatever. And often, you find as it moves over, the whole thing crumbles if you like.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense in terms of some of those transits, especially the Uranus opposition happening at midlife and that as a classic thing that people know about or that’s become readily identifiable in our culture.
JG: Yeah, trying to recapture you or wanting to do something totally different and this type of thing. All of the planets are interesting with regards to synastry because they all act in a slightly different way. And one of the things I wanted to mention actually is, I think one of the misconceptions that often happens with synastry is how people feel these synastry aspects And I think people get confused if it’s, for example, this person’s Sun is on your Saturn, you experience what’s being set up, stimulated, [John laughs] touched in your chart. So, if one person’s Sun is on the other person Saturn, the person whose Sun it is gets a Sun experience initially, the person whose Saturn it is gets the Saturn experience initially. And then obviously as we mentioned earlier, you bring in all the aspects that person has to that Sun or to that Saturn. But I think it’s an important one that people don’t often realize is that, for example, there’s the person with the Sun, maybe they’ve got good relationships to it, so the initial thing is they experienced their Sun being set off. That can be quite a pleasant thing if we’re comfortable with our Sun. They don’t immediately experience that idea of a Saturn on it. It’s initially quite a good thing, feels nice to them. The Saturn person is probably feeling a little bit more uncomfortable because the other person’s Sun shining a big bright light on their area, feeling a little bit inadequate, not sure what to do. So, what happens is then the Saturn person reacts in a Saturnian way to that Sun. And they might do that by setting up boundaries, or they might do that by criticizing or whatever, typical Saturn reactions to it.
The second phase is when that person feels that Saturn to it. And then of course, what they often do is they might withdraw, feeling that Saturn person is not being very pleasant to them which they withdraw, that Saturn person feels even more vulnerable, tightens the boundaries, etc. And now, that’s where you get to build up an effect over time. But initially, that first feeling is purely just going to be, do I enjoy this planet being aspected in my chart? Is it a planet that feels comfortable to me? In which case, that can be quite an interesting thing whereas to the other person, if it’s a more difficult area of the chart, that feels quite uncomfortable.
CB: Okay. So yeah, that’s incredibly important underlying conceptual and technical principle here and interpretations is that you said in the book “you experience what is touched in your chart”. So, when you’re comparing two synastry charts whatever planet is being aspected in your chart, that’s going to be primarily initially what you experience in terms of that synastry aspect is the thing that’s being aspected in your chart being activated. In the same way, I guess, again, just going back to transits, where you’ll have a transit going across a planet in your chart and it’s that planet in your chart primarily, that’s representing the initial experience or the foundation of the experience that you’re having.
JG: Yeah, it’s that exact same principle, and I think we’re used to that with transits. So, I think you apply some of the same logic to that because the difference being is that this is a person you can interact with whereas of course of transit is what’s going on around you and you may feel more either in control of that situation or out of control of that situation. But with a person, it’s an interaction therefore, you can alter it and change it over time.
CB: Sure. And that’s the initial experience is the planet that’s being touched in your chart, but then you said the second phase is more like the person reacting in the way symbolized by that?
JG: Yeah. So, for example, by the example I gave initially, my Saturn is on your Sun, for example. Initially, you get a Sun reaction which if you’re comfortable with your Sun, you feel recognized for who you are, classic Sun stuff. I’m getting the Saturn reaction and I’m a little bit wary because your big bright light of your Sun is shining directly on my Saturn. So therefore, I might use Saturn defense mechanisms of withdrawing or criticizing or shutting down a bit. Now, obviously, you’re going to feel that. And that’s going to feel like it’s coming from me whereas actually, it’s a mutual thing because of that aspect. But so, I react in a certain way therefore, that you’re then going to have a reaction to that. How do you feel when I react in in a Saturn way to you? Do you want to try and persuade me otherwise? Do you want to withdraw and go somewhere else? And that’s how you start building up that pattern of it.
CB: Okay, interesting. So, it’s like the placement in each person’s charts are getting activated, but then it’s through those activations that they start acting like or acting out or taking actions that are in accordance with the symbolism of that planet and that’s what then leads to the interaction between them that will be influenced in one way or another.
JG: Yeah, and we’re back to that earlier conversation [John laughs] about your Saturn is on my Moon type thing, that’s where that argument comes up because that Moon person is feeling that Saturn and their reaction to it is like, “Well, you’re stifling my Moon. Stop it.” [John laughs] Whereas to the Saturn person, they’re seeing perhaps the Moon person is acting in an unreasonable way or irresponsible way because it’s not comfortable to their Saturn. And so, that’s where you get these arguments because you’re actually feeling very different things. And as I mentioned earlier, we tend to think, well, if I think this relationship is wonderful and they’re acting in a reasonably good way, then surely, we’re both feeling this. Whereas I might be very happy about the relationship and want to take it further and the other person is having doubts or feeling they don’t want to commit or whatever because of other things in their chart. So, you’ve got all these complexities going on.
CB: Right, that makes sense. And in terms of cross aspects between birth charts and through the synastry, this is I think as you said, the most important part of synastry, and some of the things that we’re looking at in terms of that in order to filter them are things like, is the aspect very close or is it a really wide aspect? Does that make a big difference in terms of how close to exact the aspects are versus ones that are further apart?
JG: I think it’s an interesting one. One of the criticisms of psychological astrology is we tend to use quite wide orbs and I think it’s because we’re less worried about predicting something, we’re more looking at fields of influence of things and how they operate psychologically. I don’t think there’s a huge difference. I think, obviously, the tighter it is, we probably feel it more of the time. It’s like, no aspects are felt 24 hours a day. So, these aspects of related have come in and come out so we’re not always feeling it, sometimes it’s more than other. And I think the tighter they are, the probably more often we feel that as being important. But I would certainly look at all of them if you like and this type of thing. And then obviously, you’ve got the type of aspect. And people often think about the idea of it being well, easy aspects are good for relationships and the harder aspects are probably difficult. It’s not. The fact is it’s actually the difficult aspects that often causes more passion, more interest, etc. because it’s that wanting to work things out within our own charts and so it isn’t always the easy aspects. We often get those easy aspects with people we want to hang out with so friends, stuff like that get easier aspects often. It’s like [John laughs] we almost want to make things difficult for ourselves and so we go for these relationships that are working things out. So, you often find those ones that stimulate the passion and excitement about something or the ones with a bit more tension.
CB: Great. That old adage that opposites attract sometimes in astrology manifests literally as synastry where there’s hard aspects creating more tension and excitement and passion versus if it’s just easy aspects, people might not find that to be as quite exciting or as dynamic.
JG: Yeah, if you think about with our own children or as well often those square aspects are the ones that we use for growth, the ones that spur us on to achieve things whereas whilst a nice trine might be a talent or whatever we have, they’re not necessarily things that push us forward. And so, I think you can apply that same type of logic to relationships. You need a bit of work to it, you need to find that reason to be attracted and that there’s something involved there.
CB: Right. That’s really funny then. And then how that comes up, or how frequently that thing comes up in relationships, or where you can see people that have recurrence of certain tense aspects. And sometimes that can be bad, obviously, or could be something that they’re having a reoccurring issue that they’re working out across multiple relationships, but other times, that can actually be quite constructive or the tension that that creates in the relationship is part of what keeps it fresh and keeps it going and stops it from getting boring in some sense.
JG: Yeah, I think we’re brought up to think that we’re looking for easy relationships and we’re not necessarily. Like I said, we’re looking at repeating those patterns and we’re looking at trying to understand stuff about ourselves. And so, we pick people that highlight those issues [John laughs] unconsciously, of course. So, that’s what we’re working on and so that’s why these difficult aspects because they provide that tension within our own chart, we’re looking to work it out and therefore, that’s far more attractive. This is not necessarily the case with friends where we don’t necessarily want to be constantly working something out with a friend. We want to be able to go and see a movie or have a drink and chat with them and this type of thing. So, have something a lot more easygoing or perhaps more similarities with us, perhaps feel more comfortable with that.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And let’s see other things in terms of aspects in the chart. So, we’ve touched on whether it’s easy or hard aspects, we’ve touched on whether the aspects are very close or very wide. One point where that would be relevant in terms of if it’s closer or not is that at one point in the later chapter, you do talk about looking at transits to the synastry and if there are placements that are closer to exact by degree between the two charts, then those placements are going to be activated by things like transits more or less simultaneously which might have some relevance in some way just in terms of the timing of things if both of you are constantly getting, let’s say, you have like your Mars is exactly opposed it at 20° and every time Mars comes up to those degrees to make hard aspects, it hits them both at the same time, that might be relevant in terms of just the sequence of things versus if they were a little bit further apart.
JG: Yes, that would certainly make a difference. And obviously, you’ve got those trends like Mars going quite regularly. Of course, if it’s something bigger like a transit of Saturn or whatever and it’s hitting you both at exactly the same time, that can be quite an ordeal probably. [John laughs] You’re both working through that and trying to maintain the relationship when you’re both feeling that stress on the same part of the chart, etc.
CB: Sure, like a few years ago when the Uranus Pluto square was exact for a few years in the cardinal signs. Yeah.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. If you add people with those degrees of cardinal in aspect to one another and then being highlighted by those, it’s an ongoing drama [John laughs] for everyone if you’d like and it becomes so much more personal. It’s not the case of one of the people in the relationships going through it. When you both are, then you both might be quite tense or you’re both having a difficult time at the same time, then it can be harder to relate.
CB: Sure, definitely. And then one of the questions I had is, do you group certain planets, especially let’s say inner planets, in terms of looking at those, or do you have a sequence when you do go into a consultation where you’ll separate them in terms of seeing like let’s look at how each person’s Mercury is configured to the other person’s Mercury in the chart to see how they communicate, or do you do group the planets in that way in terms of specific things that you’re looking for when you’re comparing synastry?
JG: I’ll come back to Mercury [John laughs] because that’s probably the exception. No, initially, I don’t. I think you’re probably starting out really, you’re just looking for all aspects. And in particular, I’m looking for say someone has a T-square in their chart, what planets of the other person are touching on that T-square, for example? Because something like a T-square is going to be a strong part of one person’s chart. So, one, you’d expect to see the other person have planets in aspect to it. And two, what are those and how is that going to work? And I’d look at that both ways. So, I’d look at major stelliums aspect patterns, this type of thing probably first. The Mercury ones in it an easy and interesting one because relationships are about communication, really. If you want relationships to work, it’s all about communication. And so therefore, it’s useful to study the Mercury’s and third houses and etc. or of both people that you’re looking at because how can they communicate with one another, is there an element in common, or is there some flow between those Mercury’s, or are they coming from totally different places? Is one a very airy Mercury and one’s a very watery one? And perhaps one is square to Saturn and the other is trine to Jupiter or whatever. [John laughs] How do they communicate, and how can they open up those lines of communication? And I think that’s an important one to talk about if you are working with a couple looking both charts is how they establish good ways of communicating and where that area of communication may break down because the way they communicate is different to one another.
CB: Sure. Okay. And then, it seems like sometimes there were other classic indicators, like Jung had the famous statistical test he tried to do where he went into it with a presumption that there should be in married couples, like a connection between the Sun, Moon and rising sign or something like that. Are there other groupings like that in terms of the Sun and Moon and the interconnection between those and synastry being important or Venus, and Mars, and so on, and so forth?
JG: Well, it’s interesting because I think we’re back to those early works mentioned, Sun, Moon, etc., within the marriage thing as far as the first century works as such. And then, more recently, I was talking to someone the other day who’s going through the Gorkhaland data of married couples and looking at their synastry and seeing what aspects show up. But I think a lot depends on what you’re actually looking for. And I think, if you’re looking for something saying, well, this is something that happens in all married couples, and that’s a very different thing from saying, but this is something that happens in all successful relationships. That’s one thing to look at. Probably whilst there’s an interest in that, I’d say one, even if there is a certain statistical this is slightly more than average in this, the fact is people have relationships because they are falling in love with someone. And I think, for me, my job is to help people with the relationships they’re having. It’s not necessarily to say, “Well, you need to look for someone who’s got their Moon conjunct your Sun or whatever because they’re the one you could perhaps get married to or whatever.” So, whilst statistically, it can be quite interesting, I’m more interested in each individual case that I’m working with, what is going on here, what is the dynamic, and how could they possibly work with that dynamic and make that relationship easier for them, or learn more about themselves by going through that relationship? So, I think that’s my area of focus rather than necessarily statistically saying if there is something relevant here that works in a number of cases.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And there’s many different reasons why different couples get together or stay together and there’s going to be some things in the relationship that are very good where they match and there’s going to be other things where they don’t get along as well. And I guess part of it is identifying those things. I guess I just wondered if sometimes, I don’t know if this is something I picked up through my early studies of whatever psychological astrological material I was reading or if it was just something that developed naturally, but just sometimes it seems like by looking at certain combinations of inner planets, it seems like sometimes you can get a sense for the reasons, the areas of the relationship where the people connect well versus the areas where they don’t. Sometimes, for example, strong Venus and Mars connections indicating a strong physical relationship, but if their Mercury’s are not connected very well for some reason that maybe they have difficulties of communication or if their Sun and Moon are connected well, maybe their emotional relationship goes well or there’s something about who they are individually as people that really they get along together, but maybe their Venus and Mars are not well configured, and therefore the physical side of the relationship doesn’t do as well or something like that.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. I have certainly looked along those lines. I think it’s also interesting to bring in planets such as Saturn. Saturn crops up a lot in long-term relationships and people often think of Saturn synastry to things as being problematic and it does have its problems but what you rarely get is a long-term relationship that doesn’t have Saturn connections. Because relationships aren’t easy and in order for a relationship to last, we need to be able to work at it and want to work at it. And what you find when our Saturn is similar, it’s something that we want to keep going out, to try and master, to try and get better at, to try and improve and get a fix on. And so, you do see those cropping up quite strongly in long-term relationships even though there are certain downsides [John laughs] to those strong Saturn connections.
CB: Sure, yeah, definitely. That makes a lot of sense to me. And then, of course, the outer planets are also very important. They seem a little bit more difficult to deal with those sometimes when you have strong outer planet connections through hard aspects to inner planets because it seems like there’s sometimes a volatility involved there that can be difficult to deal with.
JG: They are volatile. They’re often involved [John laughs] in, I’m talking here in difficult aspect for outers to as you mentioned, obviously, if you’re born similar generation, outers to outers can make conjunctions anyway, most likely, but yeah, volatile relationship and quite extreme relationships are the ones that are life and death to us where obsessive or jealous, or that means everything to us with Pluto or sparky exciting here one moment on the other with Uranus, or that very almost romantic courtly love idealization with Neptune where we placed the person on a pedestal as being so wonderful and then when we realize that they’re just a normal person and they’re not a god or a goddess, then we feel that terrible betrayal or loss of trust because they’ve led us down when, of course, they haven’t. It’s just that we projected so much onto them as being so important. So, these are very strong and powerful types of relationship to come in. We can work with them, we can manage them, but often they require a little bit more, but they are those tempestuous exciting relationships that you write novels about, or you see in movies, or you watch on soap operas type relationships, the all or nothing type ones.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think it’s one of the things about the outer planets and one of the reasons astrologers especially in modern astrology often default to them or look at them first because there’s something unique or something so characteristic about them that often stands out and that’s really distinctive way that it’s often the easiest to latch on to and delineate that just because it’s often so stark and straightforward and the way it manifests especially in relationships.
JG: Yeah. I would say especially in relationships, they’ve got that collective weight behind them, that whole generational thing. And so, it’s almost like it’s not just the person, it’s more than that. The same way that if it’s in the chart, if you have it in touch with parental signifiers and often, the parents seem like an archetype, that dad was Neptune, or mum was Pluto and we don’t necessarily have a clear picture of who they were as an individual because they get so overwhelmed by the huge collective nature of the outer planets. So yes, I think in a way, they are easier to delineate and they stand out as these very strong impulses. And so yeah, I think they do get probably a particular emphasis in modern astrology because of that, I would agree with you. And it is useful to come back to this Sun, Moon, Venus, Mars type things as well. But interestingly, [John laughs] they do show up quite often as well, but often there is a small part of our relationship even if it is a small part that links along those certain lines. Again, the person has talked about the Gorkhaland data, a Moon Pluto connection was showing quite highly in the data that he processed as well.
CB: Okay, interesting. And before, because we skipped over it in order to get to the main thing which was just aspects, is there anything else that’s important to mention in terms of what house one person’s planets fall in your chart that we didn’t mention? Or is that basically it that it’s just that the planet activates the topics associated with that house wherever it falls in your chart?
JG: Yeah, I think that’s probably the best way to look at it so as to start with. I would concentrate probably on the aspects first. House overlays are interesting for bringing in detail and bringing in ideas of maybe in this arena of your life and this type of thing. But I think that if you’re starting out understanding synastry and working with it, go through the aspects first and look at those first and get an idea around that and then use the house positions, etc. and the relationships between the house rulers and this type of thing to broaden out the picture to add to it and put a little bit more meat on the bones if you like.
CB: Sure. All right. Let’s see as we’re getting towards the end of this. We did mention briefly already transits, but transits are a major timing technique then still in synastry because as we said earlier especially with really close aspects between the charts, when one person is getting a transit especially an important transit to one of those placements, that means the other person’s going to be getting it either simultaneously around the same time and that becomes a useful tool for understanding, not just looking at the synastry in the dynamic that’s built into the relationship, but how that dynamic is being activated for better or worse at a specific point in time.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. I would also bring in progressions or solar arc depending on what you like to use. You can use all of these with them. Synastry is ever unfolding box if you like and so, you can then get to the point of doing the synastry between one person’s progress chart and the other person’s progress chart, looking at transits to that, looking at solar arcs to it if you want. [John laughs] Use whatever techniques that you like using. Sometimes it just seems to go on forever and it seems too much, so I’m quite a fan of keeping things fairly simple to begin with and looking between the two charts and then perhaps adding in some transits. But you can open up and you can use whatever, whether you use modern techniques, whether traditional techniques you want to use, you can still work with those. The synastry idea is, as you mentioned, a very old idea anyway and it’s just the comparison. So whatever techniques you like to use, bring that to it as well.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And one of the things I loved about later in the book is you mentioned, even though we focused most of this on romantic relationships and that tends to be what synastry is used for the most, it’s also applies to other types of relationships basically, anytime you can compare to birth charts so that can be applied to family members, to friends, to coworkers. One of the ones that was funny though that made me laugh that comes up very frequently for astrologers is the charts of astrologers and their clients and how an astrologer and their client will get along or how a consulting setting will go based on the synastry that an astrologer has with their client. Is this something that you pay attention to actively or passively, or how does this come up for you?
JG: Actively, I do it with every single reading. It’s interesting. And I think, obviously, with each of these examples, you’re looking for different things so you would work with different houses. For family members, you’re not necessarily looking at the seventh, you’re looking at family houses, etc. But the one with a client, I found very interesting and I think it’s particularly when you’re working in a psychological context, and we spoke about projection earlier, one of the classic things of projection is what’s called transference when people project stuff about their parents or whatever onto someone else, and whether you’re a counselor working with that person, or an astrologer, or a priest, or a doctor or teacher, you will get those projections put onto you and then we can also project our stuff back onto the client and that’s called countertransference. So, you get these ideas playing up. So, it’s important to look at your own chart as well as the chart of your client, and how do those interact, where might they push your buttons, where might you push their buttons, what might you project on them when looking at the synastry, and what might they be projecting on you? And so, looking at these factors along with other things like a consultation chart or whatever, allows us to have an idea and I think, more importantly, remind us that we are not some robot [John laughs] to go back to it sitting there in front of them that can just tell them about, we are a human being, they are a human being, we are interreacting. And so, in the same way that we talked about counseling training as that idea of understanding what is going on as a dynamic between yourself and the client and understanding what it might bring in you, what it might bring up in them. I think that’s a very useful thing to work with to give us that sense of our own awareness of who we are and what we’re doing and make sure we don’t go too wrong when we’re doing it if you like.
CB: Right. Yeah, I love that, although it’s a little frustrating sometimes because you realize that sometimes there’s just certain, I don’t know, there’s certain interactions that are going to be more difficult or a setup to have more challenging dynamics from the very start and that’s something that’s already there the moment you walk into it, and sometimes, with very brief interactions like that becomes even more obvious and then sometimes with more long-term ones just because it’s there on display immediately as soon as the interaction starts taking place.
JG: Yeah, but I think sometimes it’s useful to be aware of it beforehand and then perhaps prepare for it or try and work out different ways that you might approach it to see if you can make that happen in a slightly different way. We spoke about that self-realization, and obviously, we’re trying to help our clients with that, but it’s also an ongoing process for us. So, I think it can be useful. It can be amazing how many times clients bring up problems, or bring problems to the consultation that we’re going through in our own personal life, or touch on those things. And so, again, it’s part of this understanding the process of counseling part. For example, if somebody comes to you and they’re looking to leave their partner but your partner has just left you, [John laughs] trying to understanding the nature of that and how you’re going to deal with that is a very important part of it.
CB: Sure, definitely. Or sometimes having multiple clients in a short span of time that have the same placement or going through a similar situation in some way?
JG: Yeah, absolutely.
CB: All right. And so, where this eventually starts leading though is realizing that everything has a chart and eventually, every synastry can end up applying to any time something has a chart that you can have some synastry interaction with that thing and with the chart that it has and you even have a section at one point towards the end of the book about the chart of countries and how individuals through that synastry might relate to different countries in different ways.
JG: And it’s just fun to play around with. And the idea that obviously, when you can look at two charts here, you can use any chart you want. Maybe there’s a chart of a group you’ve joined and you want to compare yourself to that people do with their dogs and their cats and their horses and stuff, [John laughs] there are various ways you can use it. But I think the country one’s interesting because it brings up a different dynamic and that countries have a, if you like, a psyche or a national psyche, if you like, to collective within them that’s obviously formed at various times, but they’re interesting to look at from a…. We often use them on a mundane astrology level, but they’re interesting to look at from a psychological level. What does it tell us about this country? How do they react to things? And then, it’s interesting to put our chart into it and say, “Well, how do I relate perhaps to the country I born, or the country I want to emigrate to, or whatever? And look at that, but of course, it brings up that dynamics within a relationship between me and my boss or me and a friend, we can both change, we can both move, we can interrelate. With a country, of course, country doesn’t care about you. You may care about [John laughs] your country, but it cannot change the way it approaches you, it cannot decide it will talk to you in a different way. You can’t go into therapy with your country although [John laughs] some might hope they could do that. And so-
CB: I do wish I could do that actually. [John laughs] All right, go ahead.
JG: But yeah, but it brings up that dynamic because we have to accept that, yes, maybe they did difficult thing, maybe there are good things between me in this country, maybe there are things that bother me about it. Well, I can’t change that country so either I have to work out what I’m going to do about that. Is it something that’s too important that I want to leave, or I’ve got to [John laughs] disown this part of this country or whatever, or fight against it and try and shift things? But yeah, it’s an interesting thing because it does seem far more fated [John laughs] if you’d like, then perhaps that leeway that we get when working with a relationship with another person that we can communicate with.
CB: Sure. And that actually brings up, I don’t know if it was a specific point that you made or if it was just something that made me think of that, but where sometimes astrologers there’s almost this tendency to be almost initially at least a little bit more fatalistic about astrology even though much of our discussion and much of what you said has been much more process-oriented and using this as a tool for growth and self-reflection and helping a relationship, sometimes astrologers might make or have this predisposition to making snap judgments about synastry and there’s almost a certain amount of, I don’t know if it’s fatalism or if that’s the right way to describe it, but sometimes a tendency towards that amongst astrologers even if it’s not conscious or even if it’s not necessarily where they would go with it actively if they were trying to think about it in the long-term. Do you find if that’s the case? And is that natural? Is that okay? Is that a downside or a shadow side of synastry? Or how do you feel about that?
JG: I don’t find it fatal. I think that there is a tendency where we can be flippant about it and see a strongly difficult aspect, particularly one that’s come up before, say in a friend’s relationships prior and perhaps jump to conclusions. And I think, yeah, that’s probably something we have to be careful with. I don’t think it’s a problem necessarily with client work because I think you’re taking them and you may not have such a depth knowledge of them as you might do with a friend or a family member or something. And I think that’s where [John laughs] it can be useful of not always looking at the synastry of everybody that asks you to, so not always looking at your friends’ synastry within your partner, but perhaps getting a colleague to look at it who doesn’t know them as well, etc. Because I think, there is that tendency, oh, here they go again or they’re following that route again, I’ve told them about this before. Sometimes it can be useful to work from an outside perspective. And it’s always something I tell my students is to work with people that you don’t know as well because I think it allows you to be far more flexible, to be far freer, to not prejudge things or take things on board like that, but to come with a clear mind and just use the astrology.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. All right. And that last point, but just for that last one about virtually everything having a chart once you start getting into conceptional charts and electrical charts for countries and businesses or organizations like most astrological organizations have a chart, realizing that synastry even though it’s initially somebody might think that it’s used for very superficial or almost shallow purposes sometimes in relationship or just a very basic level to it that ultimately it becomes the access point for realizing that astrology is almost infinitely more complicated in the number of charts and the way that they’re interacting in the world is infinitely more complicated than we even realize. And so, synastry in that way becomes this really fascinating and still somewhat under-explored part of the art of astrology. And yeah, so that’s one of the reasons I was excited about your book and I was really excited and happy we’re able to have this conversation today because it’s such a broad and fascinating field, and I’m glad there’s people like you that are doing this work in order to develop a better understanding of how to apply it and how it works in practice and then conveying and passing some of that knowledge on to other people. So, thanks a lot for doing that work.
JG: No, I appreciate that. You’re right, it is quite a [John laughs] mind boggling thing when you start thinking all the charts, even perhaps in one day, you’re interreacting with people around you and things around you and countries and politicians and all of that type of thing. So yeah, it is limitless and I think it’s very relevant. As I said right at the start, we are social animals, we’re constantly interacting with people so anything that can work to perhaps help us get on with people or understand our relationships with people better, I think is useful work. We mentioned relationship because family is another one. We choose some relationships, family, friends, lovers, etc., and others are forced upon us, there’s our family, we’ve got that. So, I think understanding that rather than just always fitting into the patterns that we feel within the family, but having something to look at why does this happen when I meet up with my dad, or why does this happen between me and my sister, those type of things. Again, it can be very helpful in working with those relationships where we have to work with them whether that’s with family or things like a coworker, or a boss, where we can’t easily escape that relationship if you like.
CB: Definitely. And in that way, astrology becomes an incredibly useful tool for growth and for self-reflection, but also for improving one’s relationships just in general and learning how to manage them in a way that’s more effective and more successful than we might be without that tool.
JG: Yeah, absolutely.
CB: Brilliant. All right. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today for this discussion. People should, of course, check out your book and I’ll put links to the book in the description for this episode, but people can also just do a Google Search for the title which is Do You Love Me? The Astrology of Relationships. Where can people find out more information? Do you teach any classes on this, or where can they go?
JG: Yeah. As I mentioned, I run my own school which is mercuryinternetschool.com. And on there, we’ve got some videos as well that people can watch. We have courses that run in this. I have to available to Play on Demand the videos that came from the classes that went towards writing the book, those are available, and I probably will do another series on synastry at some point. Also, this October, for those of you interested in the SOTA Conference in Buffalo, I’m doing a workshop on synastry there so that might be of interest to some of your listeners.
CB: Okay, awesome. So, the State of the Art Astrology Conference in October, you’ll be doing a full workshop on synastry. And then this book was largely based on a series of online workshops that you gave in 2014 and then some of the text is actually the transcripts from that workshop along with some of the audience interactions. So, there’s probably more that you weren’t able to actually include in the book that’s included in that workshop, I assume, right?
JG: Absolutely. And I’ve been working on a whole thing of what we might need [John laughs] to bring into relationships and some relationship theory and how that might work. I’ll probably be talking about that there. So no, it won’t be a rehash of the book, don’t worry. [John laughs]
CB: Okay. Brilliant. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. So yeah, people should check out your school which is mercuryinternetschoolofastrology.com and your other website which is psychologicalastrology.com, right?
JG: Yeah, that’s right. And thank you, Chris. It has been an absolute pleasure and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.
CB: Yeah, I’m really happy with how this discussion went, so thank you so much for joining me today and we’ll have to do it again sometime.
JG: Wonderful. Thank you, Chris.
CB: All right. Well, thanks everyone for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to give it a good rating on iTunes and we will see you next time.