Friday, December 30, 2016

The Single Eye – Vision, Learning & the Astrological Sun

“The eye is the light of the body; if, therefore thine eye be made single, thy whole body will be full of light.”

                        -Gospel of St. Matthew

“Jian. To see. Without observation, Learning is impossible.”

                        -Everyday Tao

As a parent (now grandparent!), a former teacher and now, a full-time astrologer, I have long wanted to make astrological sense of how children learn. What follows here is a look back at my attempt to solve at least part of this puzzle in an article for the Mountain Astrologer, published in issue #126, April/May 2006. The observations in this article were based on personal experiences and years of study and working with students, many of them challenged with autism and other disorders. What follows is a slightly updated and condensed version of that original article, which began something like this:

What does vision have to do with learning? Aside from needing to see the blackboard in class, I never thought much about the connection either—until I encountered a behavioral optometrist who administers vision therapy to improve people’s learning abilities. Many of his patients are children diagnosed with the elusive “learning disorders”—Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia—and the therapy works well in many cases. As an alternative to drugging the children, it seemed worth looking into.

I quickly learned that vision therapists distinguish between “eyesight” and “vision”: Eyesight is the ability to see; vision is a process that integrates the sensory and motor functions of the brain and the body. Importantly, vision is a learned process that develops over time along with the child’s learning abilities. With optimum development, vision becomes an accurate navigational system (for example, our eyes guide our hands, when catching a ball). 

Numerous visual skills, aside from acuity (20/20 vision), can be undermined along the way, however—(e.g., eye convergence difficulties have a direct impact on reading ability). Vision and Learning reports that “25% of all children have a vision problem significant enough to affect their performance in school.”[1]

Exploring how all this relates to the astrological Sun (and its planetary entourage) has been intriguing. I hope what follows will inspire dialogue and someday, a coherent astrological model for learning and its challenges. Serious research remains to be done, of course, to test its validity with an appropriate sample of natal charts and case studies: To that end, I welcome input from interested parties. I believe the astrological community can offer important insights for any discussion on learning.

Many faculties and concepts are associated with the astrological Sun, but vision— with all its physical, mental and spiritual implications—is one that receives scant consideration. Medical astrology generally views the Sun as the ruler of the eyes, but Dane Rudhyar, in the Astrology of Personality, explores the nonphysical dimensions of this rulership—that is, the correlation between consciousness (a well-acknowledged domain of the Sun) and the human eye. He writes:

Building the field of consciousness on a clearly formed structure centered accurately in the ego is like building a perfect eye with the power of precise focalization through the lens and the eye’s muscles, so that the image reflected upon the retina falls exactly on the “yellow spot” of the retina which alone is endowed with full sensitiveness to light. It is what the great eye specialist and philosopher, Dr. Bates, called ‘central fixation’…If thus the chart axes represent the structure of the field of consciousness—the structure of the “eye” symbolically—the Sun stands for the “light” releasing the energy (the photons) by means of which vision is made possible. In a real sense the eye as an organ of vision is molded structurally by the nature of the light.[2]

Amazingly, our optical system operates something like a camera (see Figure 1 below); it is comprised of the lenses that take in light, capture and focus images, which are then “developed” in brain chemicals, processed in thought along neural networks, stored in memory and projected on our inner “screens.” In a very real sense, our optical system bridges the outer world (the Sun’s actual light) with our inner world (our capacity for transforming light into vision). It gets better.

Figure 1. Anatomy of the Eye

The Hermetic principle (“As above, so below”) provides a metaphysical equivalent to every physical organ. Hence, our “inner eyes” are the “lenses” of our Souls, drawing in spiritual light and bridging our inner world with the world of Spirit.

In fact, vision, as a faculty of the astrological Sun, links all levels of our being—from physical eyesight, to mental understanding and viewpoint, to transcendent/spiritual insight and creative/psychic “second sight.” Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all creative “visionaries.” This has critical implications for learning.

First, I will present a few basics; then, I will draw astrological implications. Behavioral optometry views vision as integral to our healthy development as whole beings. This makes astrological sense: the Sun represents our potential for wholeness. We grow into it, over time. Vision therapists study the visual system from birth, through three stages of development (broadly summarized in the Table, here):

Table - Skills and Learning Modes according to Developmental Stages

Developmental Stage
Emergent Skills/Abilities
Primary Learning Mode
Gross Motor
Basic visual focus and tracking (following a prompt); depth perception (binocular vision); basic hand-eye coordination; balanced movements and alternating left-right movements (crawling, walking, running, skipping, climbing)

Fine Motor
Ease with near-far focusing adjustment; refined visual tracking and “jumping” from point to point (e.g., connecting the dots); refined hand-eye coordination and vestibular (balance) sense; beginning image manipulation (visualization) and visual memory.

Refined visualization and visual memory; strong visual learning capabilities.


Structural and neurological refinements (such as developing neural networks or strength in the spine and legs) happen rapidly during the gross motor stage. The so-called “pre-school” visual/learning skills—recognizing and matching shapes and colors, letters and numbers, following lines with a crayon, pointing, counting and distinguishing “same” from “different”—are typically acquired during the latter portion of this phase.

The challenges of the “3Rs” (reading, writing, ‘rithmatic) are taken on during the fine motor stage. Gross motor skills continue to be refined during the fine motor stage, but the dominant learning mode gradually shifts from tactile (touching) to verbal/auditory.

This shift usually improves a child’s attentiveness when the teacher is speaking; the need to touch everything and move constantly is less urgent. In this mode, children typically understand material better when it’s spoken out loud (even by themselves).

Many learning difficulties arise from children getting stuck in these two stages, trying to use tactile/kinesthetic, or verbal/auditory skills to accomplish academic tasks better suited to more advanced stages.

Oculomotor skills develop along with the fine ocular muscles controlling eye movements; typically, these are the last set of muscles to develop. These skills, once acquired, free the child to learn and comprehend by sight, rather than by touch or sound, and this is essential for academic development.[3] Getting to this level of development begins at birth, however. 

In The Mind & the Brain, neuropsychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz notes that, “Alone among the senses, the visual system receives no stimulation until after birth…The accurate wiring of the visual cortex that underlies the gradual improvement in vision occurs only if the baby receives normal visual stimuli.”[4] 

Since real conditions often fall short of ideal, learning deficits can result. This suggests the Sun’s rulership of overall, integrated brain function and thus the “process” of vision/learning in question: The Sun’s light energizes brain function, stimulating consciousness and, therefore, vision and learning. 

Vision and the Planets

Vision develops along with the rest of the body, making it a collaborative astrological affair—like our Solar system. The Sun rules the overall system; however, each part (planet, etc.) plays a role. Gross motor development seems to primarily involve the personal planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Sun; fine motor development adds Jupiter and Uranus to this list; and oculomotor development incorporates Neptune. The more complex the visual/learning skills are, the more complex the planetary mix is. These correlations will be discussed in more depth later.

The Moon and Pluto affect all stages through their impact on fluids (tears, aqueous and vitreous fluid in the eyeball), hormones and emotions. Saturn, as ruler of dense bodily structures and the skin, governs the protective, bony eye socket and likely, the eyeball’s outer covering (cornea, etc.). Along with Jupiter, Saturn also regulates the pituitary glands and, hence, the growth process itself.[5]

Medical astrologer Jane Ridder-Patrick suggests that Uranus—responsible for connecting spirit and matter—co-rules and coordinates the central nervous system, along with Mercury.[6] I would add to that the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerves connecting the hemispheres of the brain. 

Ridder-Patrick also notes that the eyes (the organs alone) are traditionally thought to be ruled by both Sun and Moon: the right eye of a man and left eye of a woman by the Sun; the left eye of a man and right eye of a woman by the Moon.[7] Not surprisingly, this suggests a role for emotion (i.e., when angry, we “see red”). It also accounts for tears hydrating our eyes (Moon rules water), and the connection of tears with emotions.

The Sun/Moon rulership also mirrors the interplay of yin and yang in vision and visual learning. Vision is both passive (receptive) and active (projective): like our “camera,” our eyes receive light reflecting off objects in our field of vision; in the retina, this light is converted into electro-chemical signals, which are transmitted via the optic and other nerves to various areas of the brain. 

The brain sorts through, interprets and refines (all active processes) the image it will then project on our inner “screen;” all of these are active processes. The brain does all this at the speed of light, of course!

The brain’s cerebral cortex (see Figure 2 below) is roughly 80% concerned with visual processes; the brain, in fact, operates like a symphony orchestra, conducted by il Maestro, the Sun. In an orchestra, the quality of each player’s contribution is critical, but the overall impact ultimately determines whether people leap to their feet cheering, or just clap politely and leave.

In terms of visual/brain function, the primary “players” are the actual organs of the eyes, their associated musculature and nerves, and the processing and feedback centers of the cerebral cortex (spanning both brain hemispheres). Mercury and Jupiter are thought to be the primary rulers of the linear thinking, logical left cerebral hemisphere; Venus, Jupiter and Neptune (with Mercury’s help in carrying messages), appear to rule the intuitive, imagistic, pattern-seeking right hemisphere.[8]

The Moon, as discussed, impacts both hemispheres with its effect on brain “chemistry.” Uranus is involved throughout, helping Mercury to coordinate everything.

Figure 2. The Bilateral Brain

Mars rules muscles, including those dedicated to eye movements, although Saturn and Jupiter get involved in contraction and expansion. Venus plays a complex role: Ridder-Patrick points to connections between kidney disease and diabetes; vision problems can result from both, possibly related to Venus’ rulership of the venous system (veins). It is likely that Venus also rules the vestibular nerve, which sends sensory signals to areas of the brain that govern balance. Improving balance often improves visual function.

Finally, in Venus’s compatibility with Jupiter and her role as the lower octave of Neptune, it seems Venus manifests Neptune’s more nebulous right-brain image production and pattern sensitivity—hence, her importance to all three developmental stages. Even pre-schoolers learn to make simple analogies and recognize patterns. Later, artistry evolves with visual function; a person with advanced oculomotor skills can acquire a refined “eye” for balance and composition that fits Venus’ profile.

Besides organizing, supporting and regulating visual function, Saturn grounds our visions in the “real world,” providing us with a culturally-conditioned inner censor (more on this under the issue of belief). Saturn is perhaps also linked with eye diseases such as macular degeneration. 

According to Ridder-Patrick, Pluto is associated with the amygdala, or primitive “reptilian brain,” and interacts with the hypothalamus (ruled by the Moon); as such, the amygdala keeps us alert to danger, produces defensive behavior and unleashes volcanic emotion.[9] I would add dread and paranoia (Pluto’s skewed vision) to the list.

When stimulated, the reptilian brain literally shuts off the higher learning centers, switching the brain’s focus into survival mode. This way, people who are over-saturated with fearful, violent, negative media images can be literally “dumbed-down.” 

The reptilian brain is also the source of vivid, paralyzing images held in long term memory—the type that intensive therapy works to transmute and heal (Pluto!). As illustrated so vividly in What the Bleep Do We Know?,[10] fear, rage and defensiveness shut down or severely hamper a person’s ability to envision (and thereby create) a positive reality.

The Sun taps his baton

Though it’s difficult to separate the brain, the mind and the optical system, the following faculties are closely related to vision. Again, the Sun taps his baton, and each planet plays its part: 

Perception: the objective ability to receive and decode visual data, likely ruled by pattern-sensitive, receptive Venus and discerning Mercury. Emotions create “filters” for perception: such subjectivity involves the Moon and, in cases of illusion/distortion or paranoia, Neptune and Pluto (seeing “through a glass darkly).”

Intent/focus: the active, concentrated ability to direct what we choose to see, ruled by goal-driven Mars and disciplined Saturn. Interestingly, the lens of the eye, which is adjusted by the ciliary muscles (Mars) to focus appropriately, is a crystalline (Saturn) structure.

Comprehension: the ability to understand what we are seeing, ruled by Mercury and Jupiter. This is distinct from “gut” instinct and intuition, which are more related to Moon-Pluto and Neptune.

Belief: the tendency to see selectively only what we “have eyes to see,” ruled by Jupiter and Neptune (with some interesting input from Saturn). Fundamentalism (which takes various forms, but always seems to include a willful blindness to all but one point-of-view) implies Neptune’s and Pluto’s involvement.

Imagination/creative visualization: the ability to mentally manipulate images, to create inner visions and connect disparate realities in unique ways, ruled by Neptune and supported by Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus (“Eureka!” experiences).

Psychic attunement (also called “second sight”): the ability to tap into the collective “mindfield” and capture information, often in the form of imagery. The pineal gland (ruled by Neptune) is thought to be involved with psychic ability; this gland is known to be light sensitive. “Gut instinct” seems associated with Moon-Pluto. Again, support comes from Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus.

These last two faculties evoke vision’s collective and transcendental dimensions. Many spiritual teachers and quantum physicists agree that this level of sight is creative—that (both individually and collectively) we create what we en-vision—and alternatively, what we see is, on some level, our own creation. (The content of today’s media should raise a red flag here.)

Dimensions of life

Vision also links the various dimensions of human life, from individual to collective. Cultures have always been sustained by “visions” that incorporate worldviews and belief systems. For some, vision quests are essential, an initiation into adult status in the culture. The initiate is imprinted with the vision, often earned heroically, which fuels his or her being (Sun) with purpose from then on. Such visions tend to fit cultural expectations and ideas. 

For instance, Native American visions might involve Spirit animals, or the four sacred directions. Those who have been culturally conditioned to see angels with wings will see angels with wings. If visions connect a person with Spirit, why shouldn’t Spirit choose to communicate in a personalized symbolic language?

Through its symbol-making and unique spin on universal archetypes, a culture forms a consensus reality that defines it. In today’s global culture, however, individuals are defined less by the worldview of their ethnic or tribal groups, families or local communities. Big Media literally encompasses all, casting a Neptunian spell that routinely neutralizes or co-opts culture-related self-images, serving up pre-packaged images in their place. Not all media influence is negative, of course—Neptune’s waters can relax and heal, but they can also swallow us whole.

Assault on the Sun

What does it mean to lose the ability to produce our own visions? To begin with, three important skills may be impaired: 1) visual thinking—the ability to manipulate visual scenarios in your mind (a highly efficient way of processing information); 2) visual memory—the ability to recall learned material; and 3) visualization—the ability to use the “mind’s eye” to conceptualize and manipulate ideas. The latter is an important creative skill, with spiritual implications. We literally bridge Heaven and Earth with our vision-making capability.

Bridges connect or “mediate” two realities; hence, the term “media” for the global electronic web ruled by Mercury-Uranus (low tech/high tech). As a bridge with the world-out-there, media can promote a positive sense of global collective identity (Uranus); the 2004 Indonesian tsunami relief effort illustrated this well. However, the media that literally hijacks our awareness with seductively “real” imagery and illusions (i.e., this past year’s epidemic of “fake news”)  is Neptunian.

With relentless repetition, Neptune’s media images and messages become our reality, unless we have a basis for comparison. Unfortunately, media images are easily manipulated—the film Wag the Dog made that eerily clear.[11] Pluto and Neptune work together frighteningly well in this arena. 

Basically, whoever controls collective vision—the media (campaigns waged on Twitter?)—controls consensus reality. Astrologically, the usurping of our ability to form independent images amounts to an assault on the Sun.

This assault has very real consequences for learning. For instance, millions of American kids are medicated with psychotropic drugs (Neptune), aimed to control behaviors related to three vaguely defined (Neptune again) disorders: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); its hyperactive corollary, ADHD; and dyslexia. Tragically, overworked teachers often pressure parents to medicate their children, to render them teachable. There’s no consensus on what causes these conditions, however—or, if they are really “disorders” at all.

Viewing these conditions as Neptunian dysfunction makes sense. Afflicted individuals often have low self-esteem (perpetuated by poor school performance); they often need to interact intensely with their environment through their tactile (touching, handling everything), kinesthetic (constant motion), or verbal faculties (talking incessantly).

In terms of vision therapy, such kids are stuck at an immature visual stage: They haven’t mastered the oculomotor (Neptunian) phase that allows them to use vision alone to learn more efficiently. Dyslexics are especially challenged in this regard. Astrologically, Neptune’s encroaching action (whether natal, or environmental) may crowd out the mental visions children might otherwise produce through reading and interacting with people and places.

Hence, kids need to experience the world through other senses. Hard aspects between Neptune and the personal planets (particularly the Sun) may signal this condition. Seen from this light, these disorders have something in common with blindness and other sensory impairments. Intelligence is rarely the problem; being able to access that intelligence and use it effectively is another story.

Being and Point-of-View

Considering the Sun’s connection with both Being and Vision, it would seem the less our visions of reality are mediated, the better. Direct experience is certainly a more positive use for Mercury-Sun. When the Messenger is unobstructed or distracted, he keeps our brain’s neural networks crackling nicely, interacting with our environment and forming our own point-of-view (our reality!).

The mediated approach throws up barriers for Mercury. Repetitive media input creates well-worn neural circuits that literally occupy our individual points of view. These messages act on our brains just as the embedded journalists support the U.S. occupation of Iraq by managing public perception. Advertisers are well aware that incessant repetition of their messages is what sells product.

The plot thickens. The Sun rules many things, but it is an inextricable Whole. An impairment to any of its capacities handicaps all its capacities. In light of this idea, an assault on a child’s vision-producing capabilities is serious indeed. For instance, if Neptune, through the media, encroaches upon our “bridge” to Spirit, how does that affect our ability to be self-reflective, to learn abstract concepts (Jupiter), to grow in wisdom? The developmental timeline and the natural order of the Solar system suggest that we need to master Jupiter before we can assimilate Neptune.

The special case of Autism

Autism is an area worth researching in this regard. In my experience working with affected children, I have often sensed Neptune’s debilitating involvement. For starters, the typical withdrawn behavior feels Neptunian: the “I” (Sun) is elusive in lower-functioning autism. Also, impaired physical vitality (Sun) and dysfunctional vision are also often present.[12] 

Like ADD- or ADHD-affected children and blind individuals, individuals with autism often compensate for confusing visual information by using other senses.

Many people with autism are rigidly pattern-bound, developing photographic memories and feeling secure only when things stay exactly as they remember them. Saturnian routine and structure combat Neptune’s slipperiness.

Visual impairments vary with affected individuals, but are known to include: over-reliance on peripheral (side) vision; poor binocular (two-eyed) vision (impairing depth perception and making eye contact disorienting); looking through, rather than at objects; an inability to fixate and focus on objects; and a tendency to visually sweep their environments from side to side, using the whole head, rather than eye movements alone.

In turn, these impairments result in challenged hand-eye coordination and motor skills, “wandering eyes,” the inability to shift from near-focus to far-focus (say, in time to perceive a vehicle coming down the street), short attention span, and difficulties with socialization.

Naming an object in the field of vision can be difficult for someone with autism, even if the person can point to its printed name. Seeing and knowing (perception) and verbalizing are all brain-related (Sun), but in neurotypical development, these three work seamlessly together. With an assaulted Sun, these functions are fragmented and erratic, at best. Is the media the actual assailant? For those born with autism, obviously not; as we will see, there can be plenty of natal challenges.

Environmental factors such as toxins and the media could certainly contribute to or exacerbate the challenges, though. Since behaviors typical of ADD/ADHD and autism often surface during pre-school years—considerably after birth—Neptune’s media influence is also worth considering. Becoming immersed in an illusionary media reality (Neptune’s influence on perception) may do little to improve the isolation that often accompanies such developmental challenges.

Seeing, Understanding and Believing

Clearly, vision involves more than perception. We must also understand or comprehend what we perceive. Comprehension is a complex phenomenon involving several areas of the brain and the optical system. Astrologically, Mercury and Jupiter are implicated, as rulers of the Gemini/Sagittarius polarity. Mercury is thought to govern the “lower” functions of understanding such as concrete, linear thinking, simple analytical functions, “mapping,” step-by-step problem-solving, etc. These left-brain skills allow us to survive in our everyday environments—the province of Gemini and the 3rd house.

The “higher” functions of understanding are relegated to Jupiter, ruling Sagittarius and the 9th house. Jupiter interprets and critically analyzes information, deals in abstract concepts and strategies. To Mercury’s “physics,” Jupiter provides the “metaphysics.” Mercury says: Show me! Jupiter observes, reflects upon what is seen, thinks in terms of the Big Picture, forms beliefs and strategies, using the “inner vision” characteristic of the oculomotor stage of development.

Jupiter’s influence spans both left and right hemispheres, it seems. This makes sense if we consider Jupiter’s rulership of both Sagittarius (abstract analytical, interpretive) and Pisces (holistic, imagistic).

In fact, the entire mutable cross seems implicated in our two-sided brains (Fig. 2, above): the Gemini-Sagittarius polarity accounts for Mercury and Jupiter’s joint rulership of the left hemisphere; Virgo-Pisces accounts for Mercury, Venus (exalted in Pisces), Jupiter, and Neptune ruling the right. As mediator and coordinator, Mercury and Uranus have their say, ruling the connective corpus callosum.

Astrologically, anything affecting one sign in a cross affects them all; physiologically, both brain hemispheres must work together smoothly for effective vision and understanding to develop.

This brings us to the issue of beliefs. Certainly, they help us to form our visions of reality and of ourselves. Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore calls Jupiter (ruling belief systems) “the senior member of the Sun’s family; indeed, it has been said that the Solar System is made up of the Sun, Jupiter and various minor bodies.”[13]  

This seniority mirrors the importance of beliefs to vision. Not surprisingly, Saturn plays a role, as well, working hand-in-hand with Jupiter. Through a visual/brain mechanism known as suppression, our brains can override what our eyes tell us is real, with what we believe to be true.

In other words, we really do see—as the Bible said—what we have “eyes to see.” In optical terms, suppression (Saturn) is the brain’s way of settling discrepancies between what the right and left eyes report to it by simply blocking one eye’s information. Implying a value judgment (Jupiter), this explains how Saturn and Jupiter help socialize us.  “Managed information” may take on different forms, but it all amounts to support (Jupiter) of one point-of-view, at the expense/suppression (Saturn) of another.

Despite the cliché, seeing is not necessarily believing. The film What the Bleep Do We Know? cites Caribbean natives who could not see Columbus’s ships on the horizon, because they had no beliefs or experience to validate the sight. The real was literally suppressed, until a shaman sensed what was happening.

Intolerance may also have some roots here: a strong suppression mechanism may neurologically block a person’s view beyond his/her beliefs. In extreme cases, Pluto probably plays a role, as well. Individuals with strong Jupiter, Saturn and/or Pluto influences often hold unassailable beliefs and opinions; unfortunately, delusions may follow. 

Chart 1. Source: Kepler 8.0. Rodden rated: AA

Deluded sight
Anorexics, for instance, often have body image issues—“seeing” themselves as fat, even if they are actually emaciated. Singer Karen Carpenter’s natal Jupiter (Chart 1, above) is a case-in-point: Ruled by insecure Uranus in Cancer, her Jupiter is tightly conjunct Mercury, opposite her Moon/Pluto (body/emotions) conjunction, and trine Neptune. Interestingly, her Chiron (21° Sagittarius) is sextile to and ruled by Jupiter: She was both wounded and celebrated. 

Clinching it all, Carpenter's sensitive Pisces Sun (co-ruled by the delusion-prone Jupiter-Neptune trine) was indeed “assaulted” by an opposition from driven, perfectionist Saturn in Virgo and by tri-septiles with both Mars and Pluto.

The Eyes of the Mind

Optometrists, unconcerned with delusions, work to counteract (through corrective lenses) our blurred focus—a Neptunian challenge. Visual acuity (the ability to clearly see what we point our eyes at from a standard distance[14]) would seem to be the domain of Mars and Saturn.

Clear focus depends upon effective oculomotor muscles (Mars-Mercury; nerves are responsible for signaling the muscles when needed) and an appropriately refracted lens (Saturn). Intent (Mars) sets the whole process in motion; when therapy is needed, disciplined effort overcomes Neptune’s undermining tendencies. 

This was the experience of “Travis,” a teenager I worked with some years ago, whose autism co-existed with visual impairments, among other difficulties. His Aquarius Sun is under siege, exactly square Pluto in Scorpio (see Chart 2, below).

Chart 2. Source: private conversation. No birth-time available.
He was both withdrawn and often fearful, to the point of panic. His Sun is disposed by Saturn (20° Capricorn) and Uranus (8° Capricorn), with Saturn ruling the tight six-planet Capricorn stellium they inhabit along with Mercury, Venus, Neptune, and Mars. This much Capricorn could be difficult on its own; added here is a retrograde Jupiter-Chiron conjunction opposing the Capricorn stellium from Cancer.

And, although Travis’s birth time was unavailable, the Moon’s movements that day suggest that it was likely within orb of his Cancer grouping. Moon opposite Mars-Uranus certainly fits the nervous, edgy demeanor I witnessed in him, not to mention the frequent stomach upsets he experienced.

Travis had many of the vision problems typical of children with autism: He focused poorly, relying heavily on peripheral vision instead (Saturn and Mars both conjunct Neptune); he walked gingerly because his depth perception (Mercury) and balance were impaired (Mercury and retrograde Venus conjunct Saturn).

Travis moved his whole head to visually sweep a scene; his hand-eye coordination was painfully slow, most likely because he was visually disoriented. Corrective lenses were inaccessible to him at the time; he couldn’t communicate well enough with the optometrist to be fitted for them (Mercury conjunct Saturn).

The upside of Saturn

For Travis, Saturn was both a problem and a remedy: by age 16—with daily prompting and practice—he had learned to read simple words and to develop awkward, but serviceable fine motor skills. Constant Saturnian effort was also needed to snap him out of Neptune’s imaginary world. His attention wandered easily, and sing-song repeating phrases (echolalia—in his case, often shouted) seemed to wash through his mind obsessively.

Many of these phrases were clearly absorbed from various media and snippets of conversation. Neptune is conjunct 5 planets in his chart and opposite at least Chiron, if not the Moon, and it impacted his every step.

Blindness and rerouted visual signals

Blindness also seems influenced by Neptune as well. Zecharia Sitchin, in his analysis of the Babylonian creation epic, the Enuma Elish, relates that the chaos of early creation (planetary “gods” vying for orbital territory, the Sun’s magnetic emissions threatening to destroy some planets, etc.) was quelled by Ea (Neptune), who “poured sleep upon Apsu” (the creator Sun).[15] However metaphorical, this image certainly illustrates Neptune’s affect on a blind person’s vision—the eyes are often literally clouded over, as if asleep.

In neurological terms, this “sleep” means that visual signals are rerouted: “The visual cortex no longer receives sensory input from the retina through the optic nerve, and as a result the somatosensory cortex, which receives tactile input, invades areas normally dedicated to processing visual input. People who have been blind from birth often have an exquisitely sensitive sense of touch, particularly if they learn to read Braille while still young. The feel of the raised dots is processed in the visual cortex.”[16] Mercury (ruling touch)—the Sun’s “counselor” Mummu in the epic—takes over the lead.

Chart 3. Source: private conversation. No birth-time available. 

Blindness and brilliance often coincide in some walk of life. Some people even claim that blindness is not a handicap but an asset to some fields—an idea that deserves further exploration. The noon chart for “Lance” suggests a possible Neptune correlation with this idea (see Chart 3 above). Lance was a 13-year old boy at the time I worked with him, and he was both blind and affected by autism—a brilliant, budding keyboard musician.

His chart features an interesting web of Neptunian influence: The Pisces Sun and Mercury are both ruled by Neptune, and a Pisces Moon is possible, though unconfirmed (no birth time available); Neptune is conjunct Uranus in Capricorn, and both planets are quintile Mercury—supporting effort-driven (Capricorn) brilliance. Jupiter in Virgo opposes Lance’s Sun, accounting for his higher-functioning (in autistic terms) capabilities. He read his Braille books and wrote on a portable Braille-writer with amazing facility.

Saturn in Aquarius disposits his planetary duo in Capricorn, keeping him motivated; I was always hoping that Saturn conjunct his Aquarius Mars would constrain some unsafe, maverick tendencies (like taking off unattended). Interestingly, in light of his blindness, Lance’s Sun is not assaulted by adverse aspects. As noted, the Jupiter opposition (Jupiter co-rules the Sun) is probably more helpful than not; the Uranus sextile supports Lance’s very focused Aquarius stellium (which includes both Mars and Saturn). 

I fully expected that Lance would integrate a mastery of both technology and artistry in his music as he developed.

Vision, writ large

Finally, no discussion of vision is complete if it neglects the faculties of imagination/creative visualization and psychic attunement: Vision, writ large. Those who consciously use these faculties are “visionaries.” They may be working in any field; the common thread is that they envision creative realities, and in doing so, impact humanity’s evolution. Appropriately, there’s often a strong outer planet dynamic operating.

Such Vision is morally/ethically neutral, however: Adolph Hitler and Helen Keller (charts not shown) could both be considered visionaries. Hitler exemplified the dark side of his Neptune-Pluto conjunction: His Sun semi-sextiles this conjunction and Uranus sesquiquadrates Pluto.

On the other hand, the chart of blind/deaf author and social activist, Helen Keller, features a Sun-Uranus sextile similar to Lance’s and a strong Neptunian influence: Her Pisces Moon is disposited by Neptune in Taurus, which is conjunct Chiron and septile the Sun in Cancer (some consider Cancer to be the sign of Neptune’s exaltation). This level of Vision can also be prophetic; eyesight is optional. Classical literature and mythology are filled with blind prophets—again, “sleep poured upon Apsu” by Ea (Neptune).

Visionary Force

George Lucas, director, producer, filmmaker and a visionary with enduring impact, is strongly rooted on earth with four Taurus placements (ASC, Sun, Venus and Mercury). Most of his films (especially the original Star Wars trilogy) have been space fantasies. Captured on film (a Neptunian art form), Lucas’s visions (Chart 4, below) are earthy, galactic, mythological and spiritual—all at once. Uranus in Gemini, rising after his Taurus Sun, disposits his Aquarius Moon, which is opposed by both Pluto and Jupiter in Sun-ruled Leo.

Chart 4. Source: Kepler 8.0, Rodden rated: AA

Lucas’s vision of the “Force” and “Jedi Knights” evoked Eastern religion/philosophy, but his stories are basically cautionary tales about the right use of power (Jupiter-Pluto). He promoted a visionary ideal of galactic fellowship that resonated with his Uranus trine Neptune (Gemini-Libra).
Star Wars (the first trilogy movie) was released in 1977, the year Chiron—the Teacher (among other things)—was discovered. With Lucas’s vision of a galactic future for humanity, perhaps this was no coincidence. 

Chiron trines his Taurus Mercury-Venus, with Venus dispositing his Taurus Sun. In the visionary individual, Sun-Chiron connections often mark a lifelong process of transcendence, to heal the painful dualities of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, and so on—the themes that pervade Lucas’s films. It is by this process that the Eye becomes single: Vision, learning and teaching converge.

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

Raye is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved. 

[1] A helpful source of information on the intricacies of vision and its impact on learning can be found at:
[2]Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality, Doubleday, 1970, pp. 252-253.
[3]Strictly auditory learners are at a disadvantage when reading aloud is not appropriate. Teaching methods that acknowledge different learning styles (e.g., Howard Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligences”) try to compensate for this difficulty, but they overlook the vision deficit issue.
[4]Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D., and Sharon Begley, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, HarperCollins, 2002, pp. 120-121.
[5]Jane Ridder-Patrick, A Handbook of Medical Astrology, Arkana (Penguin Group), 1990, pp. 17-18.
[6]See Ridder-Patrick, Medical Astrology, pp. 34-44, for more about planetary correlations with human anatomy and physiology.
[7]Whether or not these gender-biased rulerships say anything about the differences between male and female brains is beyond the scope of this article.
[8]Here, I am departing from Ridder-Patrick’s conclusion that Jupiter alone rules the left brain and Neptune alone rules the right brain: I set out my argument in the text.
[9]Ridder-Patrick, Medical Astrology, p. 18.
[10]William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vincente, directors, What the Bleep Do We Know? Lord of the Wind Films LLC, 2004.
[11]Barry Levinson, director, Wag the Dog, New Line Cinema, 1997.
[12]Interview with Mel Kaplan, O.D., “Vision Therapy for ASD,”, Accessed 12/29/2016.
[13]Sir Patrick Moore, Firefly Atlas of the Universe, Firefly Books Ltd. (Canada), 2003, p. 94.
[14]20/20 is the standard that optometrists use for acuity at a distance of 20 feet. Acuity is improved by using lenses that enhance the natural refractive powers of the eyes.
[15]Zecharia Sitchin, The 12th Planet: Book I of the Earth Chronicles, Avon Publishers, 1976, p. 217.
[16]Schwartz and Begley, The Mind and the Brain, p. 101.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Krampus or Jolly Old St. Nick? Saturnalia 2016

In the early morning of December 21st the Sun will enter Capricorn and begin what astrology generally considers the final quarter of the astronomical/astrological year. 

This assumes that this year begins every March as the Sun enters Aries at the Spring Equinox). 

While the Capricorn ingress is often given less predictive weight regarding the coming year than the Aries one, the winter solstice still holds considerable importance as we close out one calendar year and open the next.

For the record, collective astrological wisdom is divided about which of these two ingresses should mark the New Year’s inception because the natural cycle can be said to begin at either time: in winter, as the earth lies fallow and prepares to nurture the next season’s growth, or in spring, when visible growth actually manifests.[1] 

This time around, I would suggest that we explore the approaching Capricorn and Aries ingresses as one continuing story line in what looks to be a volatile 2017 narrative. Since a new presidential administration is also now incubating (winter) and will launch a mere 30 days from the Capricorn ingress, it’s hard to argue against the significance of this ingress. Given the importance of Capricorn in the major cycles of the coming 4 years, I would propose that we need to pay closer attention than usual to this year’s Saturnalia.

As the name suggests, the ancient agricultural societies venerated Saturn (agricultural god and Lord of Capricorn) and his days-long “festival of light,” culminating in the winter solstice.  Deeply attuned to natural cycles (their survival depended upon it), the Romans celebrated December 25th as the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus—the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.” Long before Christmas supplanted Saturnalia as the winter festival, people reveled in the return of longer days and shorter nights that would quickly follow.

Saturnalia was quite a raucous affair among ancient Roman partiers, however, one “characterized by role reversals and behavioral license.” Slaves and masters reversed roles symbolically for a day (with differing accounts of how far that went), class hierarchies were turned upside down, free speech reigned without recrimination, and so on. Saturn’s oversight of social structures and legal restrictions was suspended as the Romans “let it all hang loose” in the final days of Sagittarius. By some accounts, war couldn’t even be declared. 

A decided spirit of Jupiterian excess (Jupiter rules Sagittarius) thus consumed the revelers, a likely backdrop for the tradition of St. Nicholas, or as we know him now, the jovial (and generous) Old Saint Nick, or Santa Claus.

The tradition of an end-of-year “blow-out” has morphed over the centuries, of course, but is the behavior of people during the ever-extending Christmas season really any different? Employers typically treat their employees a little more like equals during Christmas (maybe Saturnalia inspired the first worker “bonuses?”), people routinely blow-out their diets, exceed their budgets and max their credit cards. Heaven knows the rules of polite behavior are out the window in shopping venues, from “Black Friday”-on.  

And war, thankfully, can’t be declared—Congress won’t be dragged back to Washington until January, come what may.

Interestingly, some European folk traditions reined in the end-of-year excess a bit by celebrating the character of Krampus, “…a horned, anthropo-morphic folklore figure described as "half-goat, half-demon",[1] who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts.” 

Krampus has his roots in pagan lore, of course—once Christianity took over, he became a “Devil” figure. Just as we celebrate “Devil’s Night” before “All Hallow’s Eve,” Krampusnacht has made a comeback, celebrated the evening before the feast of St. Nicholas. Just as Jupiter and Saturn represent opposite dynamics that are equally critical to a functional society, the Devil (a Saturnian “Scrooge” figure) must be given his due to balance out Jupiter’s overindulgent tendencies.

 The coming year

Astrologically, the winter solstice chart is a “sneak preview” of conditions that will prevail for at least the first quarter of the following calendar year. The modality on the chart angles for these quarterly events is important: in general, when a Mutable sign rises, the chart is said to reflect only one quarter; when a Cardinal sign rises, the effects could be felt over a couple quarters, at least; when a Fixed sign rises, the chart is said to reflect the entire year. In my experience tracking outer planetary cycles, every seasonal ingress chart has something to tell us, but in the end, all four quarters are part of the larger cyclical picture.

In these somewhat unsettling times, next week’s winter solstice chart bears special consideration. Not surprisingly, mutable Sagittarius rises. The entire year ahead seems a bit unsettled and “fluid,” for that matter: the 2017 Aries, Cancer and Capricorn ingress charts feature mutable Pisces rising, with chart ruler Neptune conjunct the ASC in all three cases; the Sun enters Libra next fall with cardinal Capricorn rising.

Set for Washington, D.C., next week’s solstice chart is shown below:

 Sagittarius rises, disposed by Jupiter (Libra), sextile Saturn (Sagittarius), square Mercury-Pluto (Capricorn), trine Venus (Aquarius), and opposite Uranus-Eris (Aries). Saturn trines Uranus. As we’ll explore further ahead, Jupiter and Uranus-Eris are two legs of the cardinal t-square we’ve been experiencing for awhile; the key point here is that expansive Jupiter rules this seasonal chart, and its complex of aspects is going to keep things lively.

The mood may be like Mardi Gras for some sectors, especially the resource extraction industries, where environmental regulations will likely be rolled back quickly in a shocking, Uranus-Eris-type takeover of America’s energy policies. I suspect we’ll find out how Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson plans to steer the U.S.-Russia relationship (the Russian economy depends heavily on oil and gas resources) very quickly. Laissez les bons temps roulez may feel like the motto of at least this first quarter.

Restraining Jupiterian excesses in the economy looks to be challenging here, even apart from oil, gas and coal: trine Saturn, an aggressive Uranus-Eris is poised to roll out a new generation of tech inventions. Autonomous vehicles are already slated for testing and production in Detroit and other cities this coming season; there’s a good deal of optimism (Jupiter) about this and other robotics- and AI-enabled products. 

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet figured out how more job-killing technology is going to help the working American. More on this type of fall-out ahead.

Saturn remains somewhat toothless in Sagittarius, so the project of growth by any means necessary will likely proceed. Considering the cardinal t-square (Jupiter opposite Uranus-Eris, square Mercury-Pluto) embedded in all this, we can expect that the corporate sector (2nd house Pluto) will marshal this growth and innovation to achieve its purposes (8th house “other people’s money”—i.e., profits).

With Mercury’s involvement, we can expect to hear a lot about all the “jobs” Trump’s agenda is creating, but statistics may differ. As we’ll see below, the biggest “jobs creation” program may be in the military and police forces. Besides, this Pluto-dominated configuration (strengthened by Pluto’s long-term square to Uranus) is a better fit for Trump’s plans to cut taxes at the top.

Mutable Grand Cross: Sagittarius ASC-Gemini DSC exactly squares Nodal Axis (Virgo-Pisces); Nodal Axis = Mars/Neptune (midpoint, Pisces). The chart horizon represents the nation’s Self in relationship to Others, which includes the image the nation broadcasts to the world as it interacts with allies or enemies. In that sense, this grand cross suggests that we will project an ambitious policy of expanding our influence.

The means we choose are likely to be ideologically charged and possibly deceptive (Neptune/Pisces); clearly, those means will be backed up with military strength (Mars opposite Virgo N. Node). This will fit Trump’s campaign promises to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism” (an ideologically-charged way of framing the idea), and the Mars/Neptune midpoint reinforces this, as Michael Munkasey interprets it, “The threat of war or force to be used against the ideals of a people.”

The 10th house Virgo North Node here (opposite the Mars/Neptune point) suggests that military leadership will be highly prized, but also vulnerable to corruption: Munkasey adds, “…the use of internal rebellion as a means of weakening the military; military rule as a form of national glamor.”[2] 

Unfortunately, those who fear Trump’s eventual effect on our democratic system may also have reason for concern here—one possible side effect of this grand cross could be increased militarization of the home front police forces (his idea of “urban renewal?”). A new, robotics-enhanced generation of weapons manufacturing certainly fits the Uranus-Eris role here.

These grand cross points will be re-energized by the approaching February 26th solar eclipse at 8°+Pisces (a story for another day).

The Capricorn Sun falls in the 1th house of identity, is semi-square Venus (Aquarius), tightly sextile Mars (Pisces) and square the Moon (Libra).  Our electoral system is set up to provide Saturn/Capricorn energy for the newly-elected president’s incubational transition period, and a brand new Saturn/Uranus/Aquarius Sun for the actual inauguration. Trump’s “Make America great again” agenda is supported by these energies because his vision seems to be all about projecting strength (Saturn-Uranus) and making money (Venus).

With the Saturn-Uranus trine mentioned above (still in force on inauguration day), this revenue could be unleashed from controversial places—what that will mean on the ground is TBD. It’s worth noting here that this Uranus-Eris (Aries) also squares Trump’s natal Saturn-Venus (Cancer), while Saturn conjoins his Moon (Sagittarius); this suggests that his financial conflicts of interest will continue to be serious issues, not easily resolved.

As for Mars’ role in the configuration named in italics above, clearly Trump values Mars-style strength, as well (witness his Cabinet picks), but in Pisces, Mars’ power is expressed in the passive aggressive ways discussed above (Node = Mars/Neptune). Stay tuned for continuing angry Twitter-storms!

The Sun’s relationship with Venus here is a bit tense, but in Aquarius, Venus is disposed by Saturn and Uranus; Venus’s trine to Jupiter suggests that the “good times” discussed above appear to keep rolling, at least for the first quarter. This probably has something to do with the release of pent-up profit potential as regulations are relaxed. Sustainable growth and prosperity for the nation-at-large is a whole different story.

The 1st house is naturally ruled by Mars, so with Mars-Nodal Axis-Neptune (Pisces) square the ASC, we have to assume that the new administration’s Mars-style power is vulnerable to circumstances—all the more reason it may be expressed in that passive-aggressive manner discussed above. Challenges to some of Trump’s Cabinet nominations are likely, although the chart’s easy Jupiter-Saturn sextile (Libra-Sagittarius) suggests that those may be put to rest quickly.

The equally easy relationship between the Sun and Mars in this chart suggests an overall fluid interaction between Saturn/Capricorn priorities (business) and Mars/Aries (military) ones. The Sun rules the internationally-focused 9th house, so business abroad appears to have the green light.

Chiron conjoins the IC (both Pisces) and opposes the MC (Virgo); Chiron trines Saturn (Sagittarius) and quincunxes Jupiter (Libra). It’s worth mentioning here that the solstice Uranus- Eris (Aries) also conjoins the Sibly chart’s Chiron, so there could be plenty of shock-induced pain to go around. The “grass roots” (solstice IC) appear to be on the receiving end here, and with Neptune (ruling Pisces) involved, the pain could be the pain of disillusionment.

The aggressive economic activity we’ve discussed above is, unfortunately, not likely to “trickle down” anytime soon. On top of radical changes to healthcare access, Medicare and Social Security, eliminating progress on minimum wage levels and civil rights will turn the screws even tighter. Unfortunately, blind faith (Pisces) enables victimization.

Krampus arm wrestles Old St. Nick

So where are we headed this coming quarter—for a rendezvous with nasty old Krampus, or a romp with good old St. Nick? Can these two arm-wrestle each other into an accommodation of sorts? Both Jupiter and Saturn will be feeling their oats—Saturn enters its home sign Capricorn in December 2017 with Jupiter still strong in its home sign Sagittarius; by the time Jupiter steps over into Saturn’s Capricorn turf  in November 2019, Saturn will have laid down the ground rules for their engagement. 

An incredibly intense period promises to ensue, as Jupiter and Saturn close out their 2000 Taurus cycle, each one in turn pausing in the process to begin a new cycle with astrological heavyweight Pluto.

So, there will be a lot to unpack over the next four years, but I would argue that this week’s solstice marks a critical moment in the remaining months of the 2000 Jupiter-Saturn cycle. The final sextile aspect in this cycle flags a period of relative cooperation between these energies, when our society needs to focus inward, eliminate ideas, trends and dynamics that are outworn and unproductive, and make space for the useful, productive dynamics that will carry us forward after 2020.

All of this will be unfolding against the backdrop of the Sibly chart’s 3rd quarter progressed lunar cycle, beginning in March. The February 26th eclipse mentioned above will roll out the red carpet for that 3rd quarter launch—described in detail in the May 3rd post here. All of this will unfold over the 4-year Capricorn adventure that looms ahead, but what about this week’s Capricorn solstice?

For starters, the Stock Market and the economy may feel vibrant for awhile, but economists are a bit white-knuckled right now about potential market bubbles, especially in housing, and their apprehension appears warranted. In fact, the coming months could be a very bad time to relax regulations (Saturn) because of this potential.

Before Saturn enters its home sign Capricorn, it first passes through a “trial by fire”—that sensitive Galactic Center (GC) at 26-27° Sagittarius; historically, transits of this point have not gone well for Wall Street (this was exactly the case in October 1929 when the market crashed and threw us into the Great Depression).

The “powers-that-be” shouldn’t ignore this warning—Jupiter and Pluto transited that same point during the 2007-08 crash that triggered the recent recession, beginning their latest 12-year cycle just past the GC in December 2007. Now, these power players are in the square phase of this new cycle (it was exact in November), so an unrestrained Wall Street could again push the economy into toxic bubbles and general havoc.  Given the parallels with 1929—including a presidential administration that sounds primed to repeat the 1930s—this needs to give everyone pause.

As Saturn closes in on Pluto between now and January, 2020, followed three months later by Jupiter conjoining Pluto, we’ll likely see intense efforts to derail any regulations on the financial sector. From where I’m sitting, that’s when things get rocky for Main Street. 

Let’s consider a bit of history: the Aries Jupiter-Pluto cycle that began in 1845 brought us Manifest Destiny and the national call to “Go West young man.” This call gradually unleashed a river of pioneers streaming westward to claim territories for the U.S. It’s not surprising that Neptune was also in Pisces from the late 1840s into the outbreak of the Civil War.

This Aries cycle thus pushed the free-state/slave-state divisions that led to the Civil War, and the coming Capricorn cycle is certainly capable of similar. There was nothing wrong with the American pioneering spirit of those times—let’s just hope we can figure out a less destructive way to express it this time around. What frontiers will we be trying to claim and settle in the coming decades?

Perhaps American tech industries have an answer for that—they certainly seem poised to launch a revolution of sorts. Clean energy (whether Trump invests in it or not), autonomous vehicles and AI-enhanced robotics seem to be primary targets, for starters. This solstice chart suggests that 2017 will be an important incubation period for this “next big thing,” but a world-changing launch such as the Industrial Revolution or the Digital Revolution is not likely to take off seriously until 2020 when Jupiter and Saturn launch their new Aquarius cycle.

In the meantime, perhaps we need to turn that “Westward, Ho” pioneering spirit more inward, to devise new human possibilities for the coming automated, “jobless economy” we’re hearing so much about. Figuring out how to balance Krampus and Old St. Nick will be a challenge—if business profits continue to be more important than humanity’s quality of life, will the robots buy their products?

A prosperous, hopeful Solstice to you all!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at: 

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved. 

[1] Baigent, Campion and Harvey, Mundane Astrology, Thorsons, Inc., London, 1984, pp. 249-250.
[2] Michael Munkasey, Midpoints: Unleashing the Power of the Planets, ACS Publications, San Diego, CA, 1991, p. 240.