What You See Is What You Get
June - July 2016
It all started when someone looked up. We will never know who. Most likely it was an instinctual, collective looking- up because survival depended on it. If our progenitors had not looked up and gured out that when the Sun was low in the western sky it would be good to retreat to the cave before nightfall, they might not have had a chance to contribute their gene pool to subsequent generations!
August - September 2016
You might have missed an interesting notice in a recent edition of Vari*ty magazine. It reads, “Cattle call for nine diverse actors. Work opportunities are virtually endless. Must be able to improvise when the situation calls for it. Successful candidates should be able to ourish in roles that are in and out of their wheelhouse. Their range of expression should be broad enough to accommodate dramatic highs and lows for a particular role while still maintaining the integrity of the character. Above all, they must be able to deliver their lines compellingly at every opportunity they have to command center stage.” Is this going to connect to a chart? Trust me, it will!
Vanilla, Chocolate, or Strawberry?
December 2016 - January 2017
Ever notice how many things are categorized in groups of three? Small, medium, and large; hot, cold, and just right; executive, legislative, and judicial; and, until Baskin Robbins came along, the venerable vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
So, perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that one’s karmic account can likewise be regarded as tripartite. As we will see, this perspective can give powerful insight into how a person’s destiny pattern interacts with free will.
A Rose by Any Other Name
February - March 2017
William Shakespeare and astrology? Of course! After all, he coined the term “star-crossed lovers” in his immortal Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Juliet famously asks: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” As astrologers, perhaps we could paraphrase Juliet: “That which we call a chart in any other form would look as compelling” (and tell the same story). The trick is to see the unity behind the various names and forms, and realize “Oh, it’s still a rose” in this or that astrological tradition.
Western astrologers are often puzzled by the strikingly different way the sky pattern is represented in Vedic charts, which could limit their exploration of this tradition. However, the various “roses all smell as sweet,” once you become famil- iar with the different varieties.
What’s it all about, Alfie?
April - May 2017
This is the title of a very popular song used to promote the lm Al e, released in 1966. The opening lyrics are time- less and relevant:
“What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
Or are we meant to be kind?”
Here’s Looking at You, Kid
June - July 2017
What is the most compelling form of communication? Many would immediately say it is the use of our voice. But there is an argument to be made for the power of a glance, e.g., Tony and Maria, in West Side Story, locking eyes across the crowded gym on that fateful night; the terrifying moment when you are eye to eye with a mama bear on a hiking trail; and even the creepy feeling of knowing that you’re being watched without seeing who it is.
The Intricate Weave of Relationships
August - September 2017
Our existence is all about relation- ships. Every moment of every day finds us relating to countless entities both animate and inanimate. Even the decision not to relate invokes energy and intention, which in itself is a kind of relationship.
We observed in the last column that grahas (planets) form relationships by yuti (association) and drishti (aspects). The latter can be either mutual or one-sided. The themes of the bhavas (houses) in the chart that are highlighted by vibrant active planetary relationships will predominate in the life of the native. Whether or not that is a good thing will depend upon the nature and strength of the grahas and the significations of the bhavas.
The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts
December 2017 - January 2018
My grandson is a LEGO® whiz. I can’t make heads or tails of all those little pieces, yet he revels in understanding the dizzying possibilities that each one represents in combination with countless others. As he works with his “creativity box” of recycled pieces from decommissioned action heroes, he puts together new and incredible creatures from combos that look, for all the world, as though they would never amount to anything
Elevator Going Up
February - March 2018
Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn a few years before I did. We all sang in the top-tier mixed choir of that venerable institution and were the children of immigrant Jewish families eking out a living in the late 1940s and early ’50s. The resem- blance ends there. True to our charts, they have worldwide recognition and I, alas, do not.
Timing Is Everything
April - May 2018
Have you ever noticed how many sayings there are concerning time? “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Time and tide wait for no man,” etc., etc. Our whole life is organized around time, and it is time that inevitably puts a “period” to that life.
Cosmic Duets: Enthralling Harmonies or Yowling Cats
June - July 2018
Shakespeare would have loved my favorite astrological metaphor of the grahas (planets) as actors in the play of our lifetime:
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Here’s my rendering of his vision: “This incarnation is like a play, and all the grahas onstage are merely players. They each have their time on cen- ter stage (dashas, planetary periods),1 with their entrances and exits. And one graha in its time (its dasha) plays many parts.” Not sure that my version will last several hundred years, though. Oh well, at least it is now getting published!
The Peanut Butter Sandwich
August - September 2018
Back in the days before lettuce roll-ups and gorgeous open-faced gourmet delicacies, lunch was an honest sandwich. The prevailing paradigm demanded that comfort food be found between two slices of bread, gluing everything together into one satisfying meal. To label the offering as a sandwich, all three components were non-negotiable. Probably, the king of them all was the peanut butter sandwich (with or without the jelly).
A Well-Appointed Sky
October - November 2018
In Vedic India, the calendric function was part of the duties of the astrologer, who was an expert in astronomical observation and calculations.
Major events in life like weddings, inaugurations, family reunions, etc., are meticulously and even professionally planned. Great care is taken in choosing a venue, color schemes, and even dress codes. It would be quite jarring if some- one turned up at a black-tie event at the Waldorf in shorts and a halter top, and it would be unseemly to hold a Golden Anniversary party in a hall located next to a cemetery or a garbage dump.
Still, it is common practice to plan an event in a place and at a time when the cosmos is very poorly dressed for the occasion, though this does not seem to be factored in at all. Most peo- ple don’t take into account the environs of the event beyond the local conditions of the venue.
Meet the Fascinating Wives of the Moon
December 2018 - January 2019What an exciting and varied life the Moon has! Every month, he gets to spend a night with each one of his 27 wives. Talk about variety being the spice of life! It’s quite a feat keeping them all happy, and, truth to tell, he was almost done in by some heavy-duty jealousy - but more on that later.
Four Weddings and a Funeral
February - March 2019Four Weddings and a Funeral Storytelling is mankind’s way of preserving wisdom and traditions through the ages. Fittingly, there are many fascinating stories about the 27 lunar mansions, or nakshatras, introduced in the last column. These stories provide deep insight into the behavior of people who have prominent placements in these asterisms. Among these tales are several centered around weddings. I have chosen a few to illustrate the variety and charm of this tradition and how some aspects of the story find their way into rich astrological interpretations.
A Heavenly Toolbox: The Panchanga
April - May 2019What is time? How was that concept cognized? A general definition is surprisingly elusive, and the nature of time remains one of the mysteries of physics. Technology, economics, philosophy, and medicine all have their own spin on the subject of time.
For ancient astronomers and astrologers, the nature of time must have seemed rather obvious; the heavens cause time because time is defined as the human perception of objects (the Sun, Moon, etc.) moving through space against the fixed reference of the star field. This idea is embedded in the oldest artifacts and inscriptions known to man.
Tweaking the Script
June - July 2019Imagine you are the playwright and director of the musical play of your life’s story. At the final rehearsal, you listen intently to the performers’ delivery of the lyrics you wrote. A good thing, because you realize your lead singer is emphasizing some words that convey a different meaning than what you had in mind. Then you hear another cast member singing off-key. To top it off, the splendid harmonious duet blending two great voices is unbalanced because one of the singers is drowning out the other. You are very thankful that all of this came to your attention while you still have the time and opportunity to make important revisions to improve the performance.
The Celestial Royals and the House of Windsor
August - September 2019Upon the announcement of the birth of a son to Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — I am sure I wasn’t the only astrologer to immediately cast baby Archie’s chart. I took a quick in- take of breath as I viewed it. Like Prince George’s, this chart had unmistakable portents of royalty.
Divisional Charts: A Fine Family or a Rowdy Brood
October - November 2019Growing up, I loved attending musical theater. To this day, those tunes pop up, seemingly at their own volition. Most recently I heard “Plant a Radish,” that hilarious and wise duet from the hugely popular Off-Broadway play The Fantastiks. Two exasperated fathers commiserate over their wayward children, proclaiming that planting a garden is much more pleasant and substantially less risky than “planting” potentially unpredictable and unmanageable children, because “once you've planted children, you're absolutely stuck.”
Divisional Charts: Fine-Tuning Timing
December 2019 - January 2020
Being an astrologer is a formidable task. Somehow you must navigate through a dizzying array of themes about our human life and recognize patterns that address the concerns of the individual who has come for ad- vice. Given all the variables that must be juggled, it can seem miraculous to pick up something meaningful from the overload of information. Yet there are ways to approach questions around the success or failure of a particular desire in life, such as having a child, getting married, etc. Such methods usually attempt to confirm attainment or non-attainment by using the rule of three - three independent variables pointing to the same outcome.
Magical Voice and a Peanut Butter Sandwich
February - March 2020
Say what? That's one crazy non sequitur! Or is it? Readers of my TMA contributions might hear some echoes of the past, so maybe it’s time for a scavenger hunt.
“Magical Voice: A Vedic Perspective” was the article I wrote that actually launched “The Eastern Win- dow” column, and I have been thinking to revisit it for reasons that will become obvious in just a bit.
“A Peanut Butter Sandwich”2 is the title of what I consider to be a seminal column in this series, as it brings together many of the foundation stones and methods that distinguish the tools of Vedic astrology discussed in previous columns leading up to it.
And yes, it could be a mess if a magical voice was chewing on a peanut butter sandwich right before performing, but luckily, we will be juxtaposing these two in a way that brings home the predictive power of Jyotisha.
Adam Schiff's Peanut Butter Sandwich
April - May 2020
The tenor of the times has prompted me to write another column on the power of confluence in predicting consequential time periods via the principles of Jyotisha. Although this was the topic of my most recent “Eastern Window” column,1 I could not pass up the chance to look at a starkly contrasting native, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Chairman Schiff has recently earned himself a place in history well beyond that of most other chairs of the Intelligence Committee and indeed most members of Congress, with the notable exception of some outstanding speakers of the House.
Enter the Dragon: The Story of Rahu and Ketu
June - July 2020
Our world is enlivened and justified by the recounting of myths. Robert Svoboda, in his brilliant work The Greatness of Saturn: A Therapeutic Myth, speaks of the potency of a living myth that nourishes us and in turn, gets rejuvenated through its retelling. Storytellers
typically vary the details but the myth remains a prism for focusing eternal realities. Such a tale is the great creation myth called The Churning of the Ocean, humbly rendered below.
For untold eternities the enmity between the devatas (gods, also known as suras) and the asuras (anti-gods, enemies of the suras) rages on. The de- vatas are blessed with immortality, a status that the asuras covet above all else. One particular asura, Rahu, is to- tally obsessed with this desire and his pursuit of that forbidden fruit is a pivotal factor in the story’s intrigue.
The Power of Illusion (or is it the Illusion of Power?): Rahu, Ketu, and the Wizard of Oz
August - September 2020
Eclipse — a most spectacular, terrifying, hoodwinking, conjuring, phantasmal, astronomical event. The disappearance of the Sun, the bloodying of the Moon. Reality or illusion? If what you see is what you get, it is both. The eclipse spectacle shows great invention and innovation, an extensive range of possible presentations, intensity, charisma, and a radically altered view of the cosmos.
And the illusionists? Those ambitious tricksters, Rahu and Ketu. They have no substance, are shadowy outsiders; but yet, there is power in the confusion they wreak, in the manipulation and misconceptions. Yes, illusion is potent, and the purveyors can whip up the masses, disguise reality, and become “Oz, the Great and Powerful.”
Passwords for Unlocking Codes of Ancient Texts
December 2020 - January 2021
The ancient texts of India are not easily accessible for those seeking trans- actional information logically laid out in a well-sequenced format. Not at all. Approaching these works as you would a biology textbook might be an unproductive and frustrating experience. Worse yet, it might discourage sincerely interested students from reaping the benefits of the deep wisdom cognized by the ancient seers.
The first obstacle is that the texts are sets of verses that were chanted by the teacher and repeated by the student until they were memorized. Miraculously, passing knowledge along in this way over untold generations maintained sufficient integrity that the verses could eventually be preserved by the more familiar means of scribing them on palm leaves or other suitable materials.
Passwords for Unlocking Codes of Ancient Texts: (Part 2)
February - March 2021
Are ancient texts just a different kind of fossil? Are those who reference the ancient writings fundamentalists? These are very reasonable questions when approaching wisdom traditions that draw their strength from the lineage of a teacher-to-student transmission based on knowledge literally passed down through the ages.
Among the six “passwords” introduced in my last column, there are two important ones for unlocking the mechanism by which the shastra (authoritative texts) stays relevant even in our modern times. Accommodating a new way of looking at an established principle, while maintaining its core truth, ensures that a wisdom tradition continues to breathe. Indeed, it is said that knowledge is sanatana (eternally true) when it is applicable to any person in any culture at any time.
Joseph R. Biden: Collaborator-in-Chief
April - May 2021
It’s been a long, long, long time comin’ but my change is gonna come.” It’s a good theme song for the newly elected 46th President of the United States. Third time is the charm for Joe Biden as he takes office with what is probably the biggest pile of problems on the largest number of fronts ever to confront a new adminis- tration. Does he have the right stuff to pull together his team, the opposition, and the country? Whew! That is a big ask. Let’s check it out.
October -November 2015
Who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” so magnificently that her version instantly topped the charts? Who held Las Vegas in the palm of her hand for ve years in a one-woman show? Who stepped into the giant shoes of Freddie Mercury, fronting the legendary band Queen to sold-out arenas?
This article first appeared in The Mountain Astrologer
October -November 2016
Ralph Nader or Benedict Arnold? Sherlock Holmes or Moriarty? Who is Edward Snowden? Perhaps he is a fascinating combination of all of these contrasting characters. Certainly, his compelling astrological destiny pattern matches the intricate tap- estry of his still young life.
Barack Obama The Agony and the Ecstasy
October -November 2017
Whatever one’s opinion of former President Barack Obama, the arc of his life is a compelling story of magical highs and paralyzing disappointments. Such a life inspires examination through the lens of Jyotisha. What in his destiny pattern could describe the magnitude of his achievements and the unparalleled obstruction that dogged him through his eight years as president? And what does the chart say about the character of the man?