The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 42, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Mark Jones
Episode originally released on August 17, 2015
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Gulsen Altay and Andrea Johnson
Transcription released August 14, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. For more information about subscribing to the show, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. If you’re a fan of the show and you want to help support it, then please consider becoming a Patron of the show through our page on the website Patreon. By pledging as little as a dollar an episode, you can get access to some great benefits such as a private discussion forum, early access to new episodes, higher quality recordings and more. Today is Friday, August 14, 2015, at approximately 11:22 AM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 42nd episode of the show.
In this episode, I’ll be interviewing astrologer Mark Jones about his new book titled The Soul Speaks: The Therapeutic Potential of Astrology. To order the book or find out more information about Mark, please visit his website at PlutoSchool.com. Mark, welcome back to the show.
MARK JONES: Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me.
CB: All right. I’ve been wanting to do this episode for a while now, ever since we talked earlier this year and you mentioned that you were writing the book. And I’ve been looking forward to it and finally got a copy and got a chance to read it, and I was really impressed and excited because, essentially, you tried to write a book about what psychology has to give to astrology in some sense. And you included a lot of really good information that I think is practical and really useful for practicing astrologers but that they might not know if they don’t have your background in psychology and counseling. So maybe a good starting point would be what is your background, and what sort of training do you have that made it useful for writing this book, or maybe what motivated you to write it first?
MJ: So when I was in my 20s, around the nodal opposition at 27, just prior to the Saturn return, my father died. I was in a band. I was studying astrology intensely. I had been studying Kabbalah with Warren Kenton, or Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, as he was called in his Sephardic name, and that’s where I encountered astrology. And at this point, my astrology reading had taken me deeply into the work of Liz Greene, Howard Sasportas, Stephen Arroyo, the real modern epitome of modern psychological astrology.
My father died. And talking with a friend, we saw this really interesting guy, our first therapist ostensibly, and he recommended us for this training that was operating and is the reason why live in Bristol now. So very, very young, essentially babies on the course, we were 27 years old when we were accepted on a psychotherapy training in psychosynthesis. We broke the age requirement really. I think they let us on because we’d had experience in the Findhorn community in Scotland, a spiritual community. We’d had some experience of group work. But I’d only had a therapist for a few months and there were people in this training who were already therapists or who had years of therapy. So I was thrown into the deep end of group work, process work.
I remember the absurd feeling on the very first group workday. This lady who had been in therapy for years just took the stone in the center of the room, a speaking stone kind of thing, and just screamed at the top of her lungs, “I’ve always wanted to do that in a therapy group.” I was 27 years old, and I just sat there thinking, “WTF? What have I just signed up for?” And then they proceeded to have an argument for 20 minutes about whether we should have the window open in the room, and I thought, “I’ve come on the wrong thing.”
And then a few years into it, I just noticed this incredible transformation in me as I began to shift beyond my primarily conceptual and mental identity of myself into some form of experiential process, I mean, it really did get me on that level. And yet, I say all of that, the training was only something–it was a powerful something. But it was really my supervision group, when I started working as a therapist about four years later and my personal therapeutic journey with two spiritually-oriented therapists these started to come together then in the first years of practicing.
And I’d put astrology on the back burner. In fact, at some points during this training, I’d had to explain astrology to my course director. Here we are as therapists with this idea that the client will reveal something to us of their emergent self and we will help them facilitate that emergence, and here you are with this astrology thing, and you’re going to tell people about themselves, how does that fit with our view? And I took these things really seriously, I mean, I spent years contemplating that basic divide. Now this all emerges out of years of therapy work.
And then my astrological work–which didn’t totally disappear, so it started to come back into my life–I started to express it more and teach schools in the UK, and then got invited to North America and the real generosity of Canadians and Americans in being open to my work and inviting me to present in all these different places. I began to notice the way that my astrology work informed my psychotherapeutic practice, but I crucially began to notice that years of being a therapist was completely changing the way I did readings, completely changing the way I talked to people and the kind of insight I had to offer. And I thought–it wasn’t really a thought. It was more like you’re swimming along in a stream and you notice how two streams come together, the river just sort of deepens, widens. It was like, “Wow, I am being carried along in some immense river.”
CB: One of the statements, just to interrupt really quickly, that you make towards the beginning of the book is you say… You make a few really interesting, sort of quasi-provocative statements that I thought are worth probably highlighting here. You said psychotherapy has an advantage over astrology to the extent that psychotherapists have spent more time contemplating the complex dynamics of the apparent obvious reality of the two people in the room.
And you go on and make other similar statements towards the beginning of the book as you’re setting up the premise of what this book is for and why you’re writing it, saying that, for example, the understanding of the relationship between the astrologer and the client, in your perspective, still lacks a consistent focus in the astrological mainstream. So despite the almost revival–not revival–but the emergence of psychological astrology in the late 20th century, you still felt like there was something missing …
CB: …in terms of that in the astrological community. And what was that exactly?
MJ: I feel that psychological astrology–and this was something I wanted to avoid very explicitly in The Soul Speaks–has become a method. It has become a methodological statement or process. It’s become a form of astrology amongst other forms of astrology. I wanted to make the point in this book that the relationship between an astrologer and client was a counseling relationship no matter what form of astrology.
MJ: You could be a specialist in astro-location, astrocartography mapping, and it would still be a counseling-like relationship. If your client comes to you and says, “I’m unhappy where I’m living. I’m thinking of moving to the West Coast,” or “I am thinking of moving to Canada. Can you help me with the astro-location?” you’re going to discuss her Venus line, or her Sun/Jupiter line, or whatever in local space. You’re in a counseling relationship because she’s unhappy where she is, because she’s come to you for advice, because she is a supplicant other seeking your professional guidance and wisdom.
There is the edges of a counseling relationship, not a committed one. She’s not signing up for psychotherapy with you. She won’t be there three years later crying about early childhood loss, but it is, in and of itself, a counseling relationship. It has constellated one temporarily, simply by dint of the supplicant individual coming to the authority or the authoritative figure, And I wanted to address that. I wanted to show that the kind of counseling dynamics I’m talking about are just intrinsic to human relationships.
It’s not about a method. It’s not about trying to persuade people to read charts psychologically, or accept Liz Greene’s statement that Saturn in the 4th refers to the mother–or 4th house the father, sorry, rather than the mother…
MJ: … or whatever it is, or Moon/Sun dynamics representing the nature of the kind of mother you had with the Moon or the father with the Sun, or whatever methods psychological astrology have to approach early childhood experience, it’s not about that. It’s just about what actually occurs between two people in a room. And that’s where psychotherapy has had this edge because it’s studied projective and transferential dynamics between two people. It has studied the way that we repeat early childhood experience when we form significant relationships.
CB: Right. So essentially, when you put two people in the room, you create a sort of dynamic between them, especially when they’re in this counselor/patient–or whatever you want to call it, client/counselor relationship–that certain dynamics emerge. And because that’s virtually all that psychologists focus on, that’s what they do day in day out, they’ve developed different methods of identifying different dynamics that emerge during that and how to deal with them, and that’s something practical and valuable for astrologers no matter what your approach is.
MJ: Exactly. Exactly that. Simple, radical, to some, bleeding obvious to some others. If you approach astrology non-prejudicially, if you don’t have some huge agenda about the kind of figure you are by being an astrologer, you see that’s just obvious. You see, there’s a serious of dynamics going on. You, yourself have techniques that might expose patterns in people’s lives. The zodiacal time-lord or releasing techniques or whatever, you have them in your mind. It’s clear in your mind, or it’s clear and you’re evolving it into new directions as you progress in your development, in your maturation, in your career. How do you translate that to an individual? There is a communication issue instantly, isn’t there?
Some individuals might know astrology backwards and you can just talk to them on the level of a professional, collegiate relationship, but others won’t know a thing about it. What is it to communicate? As soon as you look to that other that comes to you with questions, you’re into a communication issue. You’re into relational dynamic, even a heart-centered dynamic. Do you care about this other person in front of you?
I’ve heard famous astrologers, not joking, say things like, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe that last reading I did. That client was just winding me up. My goodness they pissed me off.” I heard another colleague, “Why? What was up?” “Oh, they just wouldn’t shut up. The client just wouldn’t stop talking. I couldn’t present my astrological vision or wisdom to them in an uninterrupted style, and while, to me, this is just painful listening.”
From a therapist’s point of view, you want that emergent space to hold the emergent being. You want the person to come and share because it’s a sign of trust. It’s a sign of engagement. And then you wait patiently and listen and come in at the appropriate time with the questions they’ve come to you for, or the reception they’re looking for. And the other realization is that some of these people may appear to have questions but actually they want a trusted figure. They’re projecting authority, they’re projecting meaning onto you, and this happens even in conferences. You don’t even have to be having a reading with an astrologer to constellate that kind of transference. You could be sat at the back of a lecture hall and just think, “This person is the answer.”
And I think these are dynamics we have to be careful of. It’s not that that’s wrong. And to an extent, an individual that’s traveled to a conference or traveled for a reading with the great Chris Brennan, say, may have validity in thinking that maybe Chris Brennan really will help them, but there’s a danger in that feeling being unexamined that they project their personal power and authority and give it away in a way that’s detrimental to the next steps in their life.
CB: Right. You addressed this a little bit in a section discussing what sort of perceptions a client, or a patient, or–what’s the correct term? What term do you use? Client?
MJ: I use client. An analyst, a psychoanalyst, or a Jungian analyst might use patient but I use client. I don’t like the medical model.
CB: Sure, so client and what sort of perceptions a client is going to approach the astrologer with and there being different models of that, or like three. I think you identify typical things–not baggage, like baggage maybe isn’t the correct term–perceived preconceptions that a client will approach having a consultation either with a psychologist or an astrologer with, and to be aware of those because that can color the client’s perception of what they’re trying to get out of the consultation and who you are as a counselor, I guess.
MJ: And it can impact the astrologer themselves. You see, this is the other hook. I mean, I think it’s essential for deep work with people to understand their projection dynamics and the tendency of anyone in a significant relationship, including one’s personal relationships, to project one’s unresolved childhood material. I mean, just everyone does that somewhere.
But the hook here is also the dangers to the profession. Therapists, at least ideally–and this does not always work ideally, let’s be frank–they are supervised rigorously, especially in the early days of practicing. And by that I mean they are rigorously cross-examined at points: What do you think was going on here? How do you think you reacted? And they’re analyzed for: Are you inflated at this point? Are you deflated? Do you feel terrible about yourself, you’ll never be any good at it? Or do you think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and you’re just going to help millions of people without any problem?
And what one realizes when one identifies dynamics like that, positive projections are as dangerous to the professional as negative projections. There will be many astrologers that could come and talk to you and go, “I had this horrible reading. The person misunderstood what I said, they didn’t like it. I had a difficult time, they didn’t seem happy. It made me feel not very good about myself, I want to talk about it.” That’s easy to understand, to analyze how can I improve on that in the future. Was it just that the other person had an issue and didn’t like me or freaked out, whatever?
But what people don’t realize is positive projections, “You’re just brilliant, thank you so much, you’re the best thing ever,” that’s just as dangerous to professional equilibrium and integrity because it tends to elicit unconscious responses in the astrologer wanting to help people more, wanting to reach that extra mile, to have that pleasurable feeling of being the helper. And these are dangerous, potentially dangerous dynamics. They can lead people to say things that they didn’t really mean, to overreaching, or to simply just enjoying a projected energy and basking in it, which might fail the client, the person that traveled all that way to see you.
Because what I picked up is in a world that’s very fragmented about its sense of higher meaning, astrology that’s seen as a joke by so many people actually becomes much more important to some other people. In a world where there is no overt expression of a higher purpose or meaning anymore really–we’re not really, per se, a Christian culture anymore, America slightly more than the UK–and its science hasn’t really come up with a philosophy that‘s as complete as its technological vision, we lack this sense of why we’re here and what we’re doing, and people come to astrologers with that. They come with it right up inside themselves: Why am I here, and what am I doing?
I mean just feel the projected meaning in that right from the beginning. It’s something that–I’m not judging it. It’s not even wrong to feel that way at all, but it’s just how are we going to handle that? And how can we handle it in a way that gives the most power, and integrity, and sense of choice back to that client rather than holding onto it?
CB: And that actually brings us back to a point that I led us on a long digression from, which is your specific approach and the psychological school that you’re coming from has sort of an explicitly spiritual slant to it…
CB: …and that’s part of your background with psychosynthesis. Maybe you could explain a little bit and define… Because in the book several times, both on the cover and on the inside, you define yourself or refer to yourself as a psychosynthesis therapist. So maybe you could define what psychosynthesis is.
MJ: So in the early part of the 20th century, a young, Italian doctor-to-be, a polymath–as a teenager, he speaks seven languages–travels to Russia on his own, reads Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams when it comes out in the original German, writes to Freud as a teenager and has like a student correspondence with him, and becomes in Freud’s eyes the potential harbinger of psychoanalysis in Italy, a young, Dr. Roberto Assagioli.
And then Assagioli spends time at the Burghölzli clinic in Switzerland, and he’s a contemporary of Jung’s at that point. They’re studying together under Eugen Bleuler, who is the man who really puts together Freud’s theory as an actual working practice. A man who incidentally doesn’t buy into Freud, writes to Freud explicitly saying, “I appreciate your work like I appreciate the great work of a great literary master, but I don’t consider it just universal truth.” It really frustrated Freud.
But Bleuler is an incredibly creative, dynamic man working with very damaged people, and Jung and Assagioli are right there in the creative ferment of this new form, this new emergent form–the two people that will take it on further than Freud, the two people that will bring this explicitly psyche-led, soul-led in Jung’s case, and explicitly spiritual dimension in Assagioli’s case because he has a series of awakenings, or I suspect and intuit a near-death experience in early childhood which show him a certain vision of possibility of meaning.
So he’s studying all these great spiritual figures and all these great artists and philosophers from the past at the same time as he’s studying psychoanalysis. And right from a young age, he’s writing psychoanalysis, he’s only interested in the basement of the building. “I am interested in the whole building of the human, all the stories of the building.” He’s aware even as he studies with Freud that Freud is only interested in the subconscious drive, and mechanisms and hidden dynamics lurking under the surface. Assagioli is aware that we also have also this visionary element, that we repress this potential for power and creativity and beauty and joy, and he sees that from a very young age. So I trained in psychosynthesis.
CB: So eventually, Assagioli goes on to found the school of psychosynthesis as a specific school of psychology.
MJ: Yes. And it’s initially at the early Eranos conferences that get taken other by Jung later on–as Jung is less impressed at this point with Assagioli because of the Assagioli’s links to theosophy–by this point, Assagioli has already shown himself to be very inspirational teacher. And there are institutes popping up all over the world, especially just after the Second World War. What happens though is you have this fantastic meeting prior to the Second World War and then this tragedy in a way. Jung and Assagioli have been contemporaries and still have correspondence, although we don’t have some of it, which is very sad.
And then Rudhyar, Dane Rudhyar, is studying Jung, right at the heart of a certain aspect of the modern psychological, modern spiritual astrological movement and the roots of evolutionary astrology, as you and I have discussed previously. And in fact, you even pointed me to certain specific sections of Astrology of Personality, and this is the period that Rudhyar’s in. He’s writing Astrology of Personality in 1936, he’s been studying Jung, and he visits Europe and meets with Assagioli. And they discuss charts together, they study charts together, they discuss the vision of spirituality, they discussed the vision of astrology, and the emergent psychological paradigm and what role it could have within a spiritual compass. This is all in 1936.
And then, of course, Mussolini takes over in Italy. The Psychosynthesis Institute is demonized as a pacifist organization and therefore anti-Mussolini’s intentions. And Assagioli is imprisoned in solitary confinement for a month and then is on the run. And his family home is sacked and destroyed, his papers destroyed, his possessions destroyed, the house that he hung out with Dane Rudhyar destroyed. And he lives wild with British paratroopers that are behind enemy lines and members of the Italian Resistance, during which time his only son contracts tuberculosis of the bone through the exposure which he will die off a few years after the war. So the cost is tremendous, and during this time, Assagioli holds on to a private vision of a spiritual psychology, which then after the war begins to just flower in the world.
And it was massive in Italy. It’s still big today in parts of America, parts of Scandinavia, Holland, UK, Italy. Although it became a different thing in Italy, a slightly more academic thing. Psychosynthesis is still a living force in the world, although admittedly a somewhat esoteric one. But this is partly because of the destruction of Assagioli’s papers during the war, and his own decision to destroy some of them later on for whatever reason. I suspect because of his theosophical and spiritual interests which he felt the world was not ready for.
CB: Okay. So psychosynthesis is essentially then an attempt to integrate depth psychology with sort of a spiritual, metaphysical approach…
CB: …and an acceptance of metaphysical things. And it’s fascinating to me from a historical perspective because, as you said, Assagioli is a contemporary essentially of both Jung and Freud. And even though astrologers tend to focus more on Jung, and he tends to be the primary psychological model that astrologers have gone back to ever since Rudhyar, as you’ve pointed out, Assagioli had interactions with Rudhyar. And so, there’s the potential that Assagioli was also influencing Rudhyar at that point…
CB: …during that formative period where he’s writing some of his earliest works such as the Astrology of Personality.
MJ: Yes. And Rudhyar’s influencing them and astrology itself is influencing them. And the two great figures that will expand Freud’s work into psychic-, or spiritual-, or soul-centered territory–Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli–both allow astrology to dominate their learning for huge periods of time. Both are practicing astrologers. In the second half of Assagioli’s life, he wouldn’t work with clients without their chart. And all of this I uncovered in an archive in Florence a few years ago, when a friend and colleague spoke for a psychosynthesis conference in Rome.
And we were invited into the archive, and we’re being led into the archive in Assagioli’s old house, and the lady says, “This is the main room, but there’s a side room here.” And she almost looks at me and my friend and colleague, “And there’s a side room which we’ll let you in if you really want to,” and she points to it. And we look through this open door and there are three boxes lined across the wall that just say ‘Spiritual Astrology’ in English on them. And there’s just boxes of his astrological hand-drawn charts, handwritten notes, printouts, theosophical, Alice Bailey-influenced musings on full moon meditations, just masses of material. It must have taken hundreds of hours just drawing up all these charts.
And one realizes that Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli were not just students of astrology, they were dynamic practicing astrologers, and isn’t it interesting? A book that I started out to write about what psychotherapy in particular could offer astrology in terms of communicating with clients and the relationship dynamic and putting across a sense of service and meaning within it, also came this realization that astrology itself had supported these pioneering figures to go beyond Freud into deeper meaning.
It was a crucial part of the way they saw the world, and it helped them like an invisible architecture or scaffolding to develop this new, larger vision of the psyche that transcended Freud’s limitations. And that just fascinated me, this crucial cross-fertilization period in the mid-1930s, just prior to the Second World War that then gets blown apart by the Second World War. And all these people are on sort of opposing sides. Freud’s forced to escape as a Jew in Vienna, and Jung takes over the Psychoanalytical Society in Germany, and they’re all just desperate. And Assagioli is literally on the run for his life, would have been sent to a camp. It’s just remarkable really and tragic to some extent that this incredible coming together was ripped apart like that.
CB: Sure. So…
MJ: Yeah, go on.
CB: …you’re in the process of writing this book which you’ve been working at least since 2011, right?
MJ: I started with the ideas then. The writing began in earnest in the latter part of 2012, early 2013.
CB: Okay. So initially, the book was supposed to be what we can take from psychology and counseling as a practicing psychologist and therapist and what astrologers need to know in order to help them deal with some of the dynamics that come up in consultations. But in the process, you discover that your primary source and the founder of your psychological school himself was a practising astrologer and that informed in some ways the development of his system of psychology.
MJ: Exactly. I mean,9 can you believe it? After all those conversations on my training and these contemplations to discover that the man himself was on the same path. I mean, the book is still this attempt to take psychotherapeutic material and show astrologers how effective that could be in the setting of the natal chart reading or any follow-up work around it.
But yes, it became this bigger realization that at the heart of the 20th century–just prior to the Second World War, just prior to the Holocaust, the Atomic Revolution, just coincident with the discovery of Pluto basically, in a year that’s shaped by the discovery of Pluto–you have this incredible meeting of these figures who personally interact with each other: the founders of depth psychology and the core figure–in my view, Dane Rudhyar is the core figure–of the foundation of modern psychological, and especially modern spiritual astrology via evolutionary astrology, who I think one can correctly see Dane Rudhyar is the father of really.
CB: Definitely. Sure. So that was their contribution and an interesting personal discovery, but really the point of this book is to expose astrologers to and teach them some useful tools from psychology that can be used in the context of counseling. Maybe we should touch on some of the things that you do try to present or address. One of the things that was interesting is an extensive chapter dealing with different types of defense systems…
CB: …that people have when they come into a consultation that astrologers need to be aware of and know how to identify and deal with. Maybe we should talk about a few of those. What are some of the core defense systems that people have when they come in to see counselors?
MJ: So I present this as a whole chapter in there, and I’ve also a condensed article in The Mountain Astrologer on the same themes, and this is the core territory that will develop the Counseling Skills for Astrologers program that I’m developing in the aftermath of the book–a detailed, 12-part examination of how to deal with these dynamics of how we see the subject, of how we see the person in front of us.
Because what people tend to do is basically project unresolved parts of their identity into any situation or any relationship of any significance, and that is a universal theme. That doesn’t just happen in astrological consultations or psychotherapeutic consultations, you are doing that with your girlfriend this weekend. You are doing that with a friend. You are doing that with a teacher from school, your parent whatever. We just do that. That’s what human beings do when we feel unresolved about something, or it’s destabilized within ourselves, particularly if that instability relates back to early childhood material.
And what we see at the core of depth psychology become these insights from people like Heinz Kohut, and particular, Kernberg, these greats of the European psychoanalytical tradition. They argue that there are these completely legitimate developmental needs, that at certain points, for example, the child must idealize the parent. It’s crucial to their own self development and aspirational energy that they idealize the parent. It’s crucial that they find in the parents’ mirroring gaze, the way the parent looks at them, a special uniqueness, “Welcome to the world, Chris Brennan, we’re so glad you’re here,” a special uniqueness from the parents so you feel valuable, sufficiently valuable.
So we see that anyone who had any kind of break in this–anyone who had a dysfunctional family, or was taken away from home through illness, or a parent’s struggle with mental or physical illness, or working away, or just parents that had just lost their ways as people and failed to individuate in some way and be able to offer these stable, steady sources of light and compassion for their children–are deficient in these core developmental needs. And by saying their core developmental needs, what these people were saying was there will always be core developmental needs until they’re met, or until you see through them. So we unconsciously creates situations as adults where the deficiencies of childhood experience are re-enacted in order to see what’s going on. And this is happening all the time, and it happens in astrological consultations.
People, for example, to cover deep, deep anxiety about not receiving the mirror transference, the sense of being valued as a unique self may constantly pretend that they’re okay. “I’m fine.” “How are you?” “I am fine.” And we all know, don’t we, that there’s people who say, “I’m fine,” and it could mean all sorts. I’ve got clients that say, “I’m fine,” and they could mean, “I want to kill myself, I feel so bad,” but they say “I’m fine.” It’s just a defense against the deeper anxieties.
Whole astrology readings, I’m convinced of this, are conducted with a client in a stance that we could call an ‘adaptive stance,’ a survival adaptation, or using the terms of Winnicott–the British psychologist, a man who based his work on thousands of hours playing with children and observations of their experience–what he called the ‘false self.’ So if those early deficiencies are severe enough, and we don’t believe somewhere within that they can be met, we start to develop this false or adaptive self that pretends everything is okay, whilst compartmentalizing that some key part of what we really needed is put away somewhere in the back of our psyche because it’s too vulnerable. It would bleed too much if people saw it.
And whole consultations can go on where the astrologer is like a magician showing the fireworks of the chart and the amazing possibilities, and the client is just there as a false or adaptive self, nodding yes, concealing their anxiety, concealing their real needs, concealing their real questions, concealing the real hurt in their lives because that’s what they do. And unless they’re helped, unless the environment is facilitative of a different way of doing it, they won’t stop because that’s really what people are like, isn’t it? The default setting of people is they don’t change unless something happens in order for them to do so. And so, it’s these kinds of dynamics–can we see into the deeper, more authentic experience of our clients being, and therefore use the chart and what it represents symbolically about their life to help facilitate the emergent authentic being within them, the emergent real self?
So I come from a psychotherapeutic tradition that posits that there is a real self. Freud struggled with this. But certain analytical thinkers like Winnicott and Karen Horney in America, even though they were followers of Freud, they saw that there was a real self, an authentic being, and I come from that tradition. How can we see through defense only and honor defense? Because people have defenses for a reason. People have defenses because they were in a family where if they stood out, they got slapped, or shouted out, or persecuted.
The healthy child will always want to share. The healthy child will come in and show you their painting from school or sing their little song, and they’re not frightened of being judged. The child from a less healthy family may hide everything because to be found out you might be abused, to be found out you might be molested or shouted at, persecuted or beaten. And people hide for all sorts of reasons, very legitimate reasons. You see, those reasons may have been absolutely essential to their survival when they were 3 years old or 5 years old. The problem is when they’re 35 years old or 53 years old, those very things that saved them at the time are ruining their lives, draining all their psychic energy, making them see every situation with this kind of hypervigilance: Am I going to be safe in this situation? Are people going to react to me in a destructive and blame-orientated way like they did back then? And this is all happening subconsciously, draining them.
And it’s like can astrology, this incredible symbolic map be pressed in terms of serving the emergent need of the client’s real being? Not because of its method, not because I’m an evolutionary astrologer or you’re a traditional or Hellenistic astrologer, or somebody else is a modern psychological astrologer, or Jyotish or whatever, but because we simply compassionately care about the space including the reality of the client’s life, that room is being made for them to be real even if it’s challenging or difficult. So it’s as much a therapeutic attitude as it is a methodological issue.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think you had a whole section talking about making sure that the discussion and things that are recommended especially match the client’s life, and that the counselor is very clear about what’s appropriate and what’s attainable rather than setting some sort of goal that’s not attainable or not realistic within the context of the person’s life.
MJ: I mean, that’s such a brilliant thing to take from the book. I appreciate the quality of your reading there. Imagine someone comes to you, and you do the Zodiac time-releasing thing.
CB: The zodiacal whatever-type thing…
MJ: Yeah, that’s the one.
CB: …that we referred to earlier.
MJ: Yeah, the Doctor Who technique.
CB: Right. That’s good. The time-lord techniques, I like that. That’s how you remember it?
MJ: Yeah. And you are giving them this amazing thing that could happen, it’s the full releasing of, loosening of the belt buckle. And then you present it, you get carried away, you’re so excited on their behalf. You might do this, you might write that book, you might journey to this place you were talking about, and they were just sharing with you a dream/fantasy that a lot of the time they feel disempowered about. If they don’t have room in that session to share their disempowered there, they might actually become inwardly crushed even as you’re selling them the inspirational message.
MJ: They might fall away from it inside because that’s what happens in their life. They have these dreams, they have this compensatory idealisms to compensate for inner shame and anxiety that their life might not amount to that. And it’s like can we become big enough as people, as practitioners that are service-orientated? So I’ve even proposed radical ideas. Could we even call some astrologers ‘research-astrologers’ and others ‘counseling-orientated astrologers?’ Because….
CB: Yeah, I remember this came up in our discussion earlier this year on Modern versus Traditional Views on Difficult Chart Placements. That was actually a point of contention in terms of whether or not ‘benefic’ and ‘malefic’ are …
CB: …distinctions that should be used or are legitimate technical distinctions versus whether they’re legitimate technical distinctions but maybe shouldn’t be used in consultations, at least in that terminology. It’s interesting reading your take on needing to be realistic with the client about what their situation was because that was my original counterpoint about why benefic and malefic is still a valid concept.
CB: Because one of the issues I’ve sort of encountered with modern astrology occasionally is just that in the desire to be empowering, there’s this often overwhelming sense of optimism that sometimes is way too optimistic and is lacking in realism about the actual circumstances in the client’s life. And I think if you go too far with that sometimes that can actually backfire and become disempowering, so I was happy to see you addressing that in this book.
MJ: Yeah, very good. I mean, you and I are on the same path there even if we have a different view on those terms. There’s so many things we could say here. Being realistic about what’s possible for a client is actually really empowering for them, just as it is to acknowledge the tremendous suffering in their life. To be excessively optimistic when a client is presenting information about terrible suffering, or abuse, or serious issues in their life like a disability or something is just simply insensitive nonsense. It tends to be the practitioner’s discomfort at facing the sheer level of suffering in the world and the particular suffering of the individual before them that makes them feel secretly and subconsciously disempowered, like there should be something in their magical tool kit as an astrologer to do something about it. Well, I just don’t hold with that at all.
I liked what you said in that last conversation about malefic and benefic being technical terms and could we find a different way of presenting them to clients. It’s just that there will be some clients–it’ll be hard for some people to understand this–but there will be some clients who’ve had childhood abuse, who simply will not hear malefic in anything other than in a “I’m wrong, I’m shameful,” kind of way.
MJ: I call it the ‘shame chart.’ Clients can’t even bear you to look at their chart because they think it will be a window into their soul and that that window will show that they’re terrible people. And it’s almost always a consequence of significant childhood abuse or persecutory anxiety that has come around through tyrannical bullying or persecution. And it’s an awful thing, and it’s very damaging to people. But there are more people than you think suffering with that very actively, and it really pays to pay attention to that. Because if they’re heavily-defended people, they won’t let you know that you’ve made them feel that way. They will just suffer silently and walk away, feeling more terrible.
CB: Sure. Yeah, actually I’m not even sure. It’s a debate that I’m having with myself as I’m developing and continuing to apply traditional and predictive astrology in consultations for a longer and longer period and getting more experience with it. The necessity of actually telling a client everything–actually I would backtrack on that a little bit and say there’s actually some instances where it’s not necessary to be perfectly blunt, or honest, or whatever with the client. But instead, you have to judge their level of–not consciousness because I really sometimes have a problem when it’s framed in that way–just what the client is able to deal with and hear at that time…
CB: …and internalize in a positive way versus what they’re not. And an astrologer really does have to be very careful about not going into and perhaps not revealing everything because perhaps they’re able to see things about a person’s life that that person might not be able to handle at that particular point in time.
MJ: I mean, we’re talking about the concept of readiness aren’t we rather than consciousness, what they’re ready for in their emergent life potential, and I think this is a very mature point. Why feel the need to say these things, or indeed, anything beyond what the client asks for sometimes in some situations when it’s delicate? Less is more. You learn this as a therapist, the value of silence, the value of just silently holding in an accepting, compassionate gaze the experience the client’s going through without trying to rescue it, without trying to brush it under the carpet, and that’s just a receptive stance.
I would encourage astrologers to experiment with the little moments of silence or receptiveness within a reading. It doesn’t have to be a performance dynamic where you’re pressured to somehow show how great you are that justifies the fee, or your reputation or something and that you have to come up with these deep, hidden truths about the person because of your genius. To me, these are all narcissistic reflections of our own unmet vanities and needs as professionals. We should be focused at times on just what this person needs. And even if we can see things, is it true? Well, it might be, maybe. But then is it kind, is it useful to this person at this point?
MJ: What’s kind and useful? What is a healing fiction? Because even if we’re good, even if we’re brilliant and we see something that doesn’t always work out like that. Life is way more mysterious than even the best predictive astrologer or the world’s greatest psychic could ever predict. So honor where they are and use the few gifts we do have to help them frame the next steps of their life. And then if they want more they could always come back, couldn’t they? And I’m working on models in the Counseling Skills for Astrologers course on follow-up readings, not long-term counseling. Just some readings are so intense for clients. I mean, it just hits people so intensely.
And I’m not just talking about ‘the meaning of my soul purpose’ type readings. It could just be the periods of potential success in their life, or even if your astro-location line has this brilliant line going over this city you’ve never thought of before, that might spin a person out for the next few weeks. The concept of follow-up that I’m trying to work on is for some astrologers, and this won’t be all. But for some who are interested in exploring more consciously this counseling-orientated approach, there would be the capacity to offer follow-up work. Not developing a long-term, therapeutic relationship, but something to facilitate the transformative meanings and ideas that came up within the reading itself. Because many readings, even if they’re great ones, spin clients out. They go into a little tailspin in their life. Even if it was good stuff, they’re like freaked out because it kind of blew their mind or whatever.
CB: Because it’s such a shake up or such a transformative experience…
CB: …that you walk into a person’s life, shake everything up and then walk away if you’ve just done one consultation with them without any real follow-up or guidance to help tell them where to go or whatever after that point.
MJ: Exactly. And that’s why, to go back to your original point about realistic next steps, it’s worth spending a few minutes in a reading at times just checking out a client’s level of support in their life. Where they act? Are you having this incredibly intense, deep conversation with someone who has a loving family and loads of friends around them, or are you talking to a person that’s basically been on their own in a flat or an apartment for the last 18 months barely seeing anyone, really quite depressed? These are factors just worthy of note, not because you’re going to become their therapist and sort it all out, just for how you offer what you’re offering to them in the most sensitive way.
CB: Sure. And part of that brings us back to the title of the book. The question that the book posits implicitly is what is the therapeutic potential of astrology. And the answer to that, which you answer pretty quickly, is that usually therapists have to spend a lot of time and a lot of follow-up sessions getting to know a person. But what you argue is that the birth chart offers a tool that really allows you to speed up and enhance the process of getting to know a person, and thus, subsequently being able to address some of their either psychological issues or just life issues in general, and that’s the therapeutic potential of astrology in some ways.
MJ: Yes, very good. Absolutely. I mean the title The Soul Speaks is a literal translation of the word ‘psychology’: psyche, ‘soul’ from the Greek word for butterfly, logos, ‘word,’ ‘account,’ ‘speech.’ So literally, psyche soul, logos speaks. It’s just a literal translation of the word ‘psychology.’
And that’s a very good point. I mean I am a psychotherapist, so I can’t deny that the book really does raise ways of being therapeutic that you don’t have to be a psychotherapist to work with, but I am one. And the lady I was doing a reading for the other day who had years of high quality therapy was just so pleased with me. She was sort of bouncing for joy on Skype, and she exclaimed, “Wow, you’re a psychotherapist with a road map.” And it’s like after all these years of therapy, the feeling that she’d been with this quality psychotherapist without a road map, the difference was just startling to her.
CB: Right. An analogy to me would be like you’re in a dark room and there’s an elephant or something, and you’re trying to figure out what you’re in this dark room with, and all you can do is touch it with your hands and feel the outlines of it until eventually you realize what it is. And that’s sort of where a therapist is in some sense walking into a consultation with a client for the first time, whereas if you’re an astrologer and you have their birth chart with a birth time on it, let’s say, then basically you walk into a room and then you flip on the light.
MJ: Yeah, it can literally be like that. What I found is there’s a hidden dimension being a therapist, if you’re a particular type of therapist, that one’s inner intuition begins to turn on after years of doing it. And I’m around 10,000 hours of one-to-one work clinically with people and something is turned on with me that can turn on the lights on sometimes, or a different light without the chart, but you’ve placed that capacity with me with a chart. And you see now why I’ve developed certain teachings like Uranus, Trauma & Healing–certain perspectives on the outer planets and the way they interact with the personal planets–to represent symbolically emergent processes from deep unconsciousness coming through clients because I have based my entire astrological approach on the years of the psychotherapeutic training when I was doing really just massively consistent deep work with people.
And the fusion of the astrological light switch with the intuitional light switch that started to turn on within me just from being a therapist, plus the capacity to work in the dark is a genius point of therapy too. It looks like it’s just a disadvantage but it’s not. To be able to work in the dark is a fantastic advantage as well as a disadvantage. When you combine all of them–the light switch of the chart, the light switch of one’s intuition and inner knowing, and the capacity to work in the dark on the emergent edge of your experience, their experience, naked in the moment–it can be incredibly empowering.
You can have situations where a person that’s been in years of quality analysis can be 35 minutes into a reading and having breakthroughs that the last five years of analysis didn’t produce. It’s just remarkable. In those moments where I am witness to that, and it feels like I’m witness to it, I’m involved because I’m there sharing with them. I’m part of it, but also a part of me watches it, is witness to it, and it just feels like a privilege. It feels like an explosion of meaning that I’m just privileged to be a part of.
CB: Right. I imagine the capacity to ‘work in dark’ like that is sort of like working on a muscle that most people don’t use very much, but therapists do it to such an extent that it becomes something they’re really good at and strong at. But when combined with astrology, it becomes even more powerful.
MJ: Yes. And if occasionally some astrologers who didn’t want to train as therapists just did some push-ups in the dark to work on that muscle, they would find even with just minimal training in that area, it would add absolutely loads to what they’ve already developed through their astrological approach.
CB: Sure. All right. So quickly, I had written down a list to go back to a topic from earlier and hopefully not to repeat things. But I had written down a list of the different defense systems that you actually mentioned because this is one of the more interesting chapters. Most astrologers won’t be familiar with these things. They might have a passing familiarity with one or two. But I was wondering if I could just mention one and have you define it really quickly in like a sentence or two what it is, in order to give a preview of the different concepts that you’re addressing in the book.
CB: So could you just define very briefly what a ‘reactive formation’ is?
MJ: Reaction formation, well, it has some complexities to it. So let me say this–I’d happily come back sometime and just talk about this subject because it’s sufficiently complex.
MJ: Not reaction information, just defensive structures and how to move through them. The simplest way to understand reaction formation is to understand an example, an example of a certain type of it, admittedly. But I’m about to do a reading, a lady sits down, smiling, we’re just chatting. I’m setting up my computer because we both met on the stairs coming up at the NORWAC conference in Seattle, on the elevator. And she’s a few minutes early, and I haven’t turn the computer on, so we’re just making some small talk. I say, “Are you enjoying the conference?” or something as I set the computer up and get her chart. “Yes. Yes, so many people,” a big grin on her face. “I’m smiling so much,” she looks up at me, “my face hurts.” And I go, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And she goes, “Yes, I think I always smile a lot when I’m nervous.”
MJ: Reaction formation is a kind of defensive strategy where you take something unpleasant like anxiety, social anxiety, and you turn it into pleasing behavior. You form a reaction against it that you think you can get away with it, if you like, that can deflect from it. So for her, constantly smiling was a way of displacing the anxiety she felt.
Now the advantage here of being aware of that, to some extent, you don’t have to know the terms or read huge analytical books to recognize that when someone’s smiling to the extent their face hurts, and then they fess up to you that they do that when they’re nervous–they’re nervous. They’re nervous in the whole conference, they’re nervous in their life, and they’re nervous because of the reading. And so, I start the reading with a discussion of what she might be nervous about, and the reading is immediately into her authentic experience, nervousness. We don’t waste half the reading on her smiling.
MJ: And that counter-balance is the reaction formation defense.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s amazingly important in order to be able to identify those things and have some strategies for coping with them and addressing them, in order to have more constructive and useful and productive consultations. Yeah, we don’t have to spend the rest of this, but maybe just a few more for the sake of …
MJ: Of course.
CB: Okay. So one that people mostly are familiar with–projection.
MJ: Well, yes. And it’s much more complex, and it leads naturally to one of the others too, transference. But projection is essentially the capacity we all have to take unwanted or disowned parts of our own experience and either find them in other people, or in states of complex extension of projection–co-projective identification–almost recreate them in other people.
So I don’t know, I’m an angry person. I’m inwardly critical, and I get angry, and I disown the anger. And all day long, I just meet angry people. All day long, people cut me off in traffic and scream at me–that’s a form of projection. It just seems like you’ve met a bunch of schmucks. And actually, occasionally, you can just meet some horrible people in this world, we can’t just be naive here.
But the tendency of projection–let’s say, I’m inwardly critical. Inwardly, I have this intense part of myself that’s always lacerating this other part like an intense internal critic going, ”Mark, this podcast with Chris Brennan is not going well enough, you’re not coming across in the right way, you’re not serving Chris’ needs by him asking you these nice questions,” some parental/teacher dialogue, and it’s lacerating the other part of me.
And then someone comes into the room, or Chris asks me a certain question, I can’t help it and blurt out some critical thing about Chris, some critical thing about the person that walks in the room. I criticize people around me because I’m projecting an unresolved state where I criticize myself within my own awareness outward.
CB: Sure, that makes sense.
CB: How does that relate to the other one which is transference?
MJ: Transference is the explicit and specific projections that are related to early infantile experience. So it’s the type of projections that were constellated by your parents and primary caregivers that would have appeared to you in your urgency of need as like gods. In the mammalian experience, we have these extended gestations and then these long periods where we’re vulnerable afterwards, not like a foal of a deer that’s born and can walk by the end of the evening, or a little baby crocodile emerges from the egg and can swim straight away. The baby crocodile’s big risk is that daddy crocodile might eat it. In the human realm, you’re vulnerable for years, months, years of your life, completely dependent.
And in that dependency, certain huge projected needs emerge, huge transferential needs to have parts of your own identity mirrored back to you, to have a parental figure that’s stable enough to take your projective energy and through their gaze, through their mirroring of you, through their response to you, give that projected energy back to you in a way that’s creative, that makes you feel, “Wow, I’m part of something. I’m part of a relationship.” And certain projective dynamics and certain transferential dynamics are arguably the crucial defenses, the crucial issues that are going on that ruin many people’s adult relationships, including their relationships with their astrologer or their therapist, but perhaps most painfully, their relationships with their husbands or wives, or boyfriends or girlfriends.
CB: Sure. Okay, one more. Countertransference.
MJ: This is the response evoked in the practitioner by the power of transferential energy. So when a client goes into deep transferential energy, when they are, if you like, projecting very early childhood material that is preverbal, that is extremely intensely energized, this can be like a feeling…
I was in a room once with a client, and it’s as if the client had become a squid that has just inked the whole room with blackness–a childhood trauma stage just came through. Imagine–it’s like drowning in it. It’s palpable in the space. It’s hard to keep your eyes open, your head up, it’s so overpowering, Countertransference is when the power of the transference evokes unconscious problematic responses within the therapist or astrologer.
CB: Okay. Something’s coming from the astrologer, the counselor themself?
MJ: Let me give an example, a young lady that came to work with me whose had a bullying and tyrannical stepfather. The original father had been an alcoholic, and this man had come into her mother’s life, and he was extremely critical and bullying of her. She used to be sick or feel sick hours before coming to meet me, how to wrestle to even speak to me, found me an intensely scary figure.
And we worked for months with this extraordinarily creatively, played games. I swapped chairs with her so she could sit in the therapist chair, but she couldn’t handle that. We threw a laptop cleaner, a little playful frog around at each other playing spelling games, childhood games. I was trying to break up the role because she couldn’t handle me as the authority figure.
And we made this incredible breakthroughs, and one day, she was just talking in this whole other way, she had really broken through it. And then what often happens is when people have very powerful patterns and they break through them initially, they get a kickback from their unconscious. They break through but it’s almost like the elastic band that’s attached to all the past issues just somehow catches up with them and slaps them back down.
So she was really breaking through and then she just shut down out of nowhere–just a total powerful shutdown like someone had cast a spell called ‘Silence’ on the room, ‘Silence’ and ‘Shutdown’–and this overwhelmingly, negative oppressive energy came into the room, almost instantaneously. And all this work that had come to this breakthrough moment felt like it was threatened, and for a split-second, I felt like shaking her or shouting at her and going, “For God’s sake, stay with it! Continue the breakthrough! You can do it!” But it was a real like shouty, ‘shake her’ kind of energy. And it just flashed through me for a moment, and I just completely let it go. I just didn’t buy into it at all. I just completely let it go, and I just sat there in the silence, until about 10 or 15 minutes later of silence, she started speaking to me quietly again, recognizing that something had shifted between us.
And what I let go off was the way the power of her transferential shutdown evoked in me– because of a sincere desire to help her and for her to transform–the potential to fall unconsciously into the role of the bullying stepfather where I’d be shaking her or going, “Come on, you can do it!” She would have experienced that as aggressive, it would have constellated.
So what countertransference does is it evokes something genuine in the therapist or astrologer at times, in this case, a lot of energy I put into helping her make this breakthrough, and then the shock and surprise of it shutting down again. But countertransference, it’s a transferential energy in her that tries to elicit a response from me that fits her known past. So it can just confuse the practitioner, and it can endanger them where they almost feel feelings that weren’t there before…
MJ: …and yet, they must have some root in their personal experience. So you see here the root in my personal experience was the assertion and will that had gone into the process, if you like, that wanted it to work out for her, and that could’ve been unconsciously co-opted into this bullying, slightly pushy kind of stance…
MJ: …which re-enacted that figure. And this kind of thing can happen even in a one-off reading this kind of energy can be constellated. If you touch something deep in a client, it doesn’t matter that you’ve only known them for 20 minutes. If you start discussing their Venus-Saturn aspect and something comes up about that, a lot of astrologers will just tune it out because they don’t want to deal with that level of depth. And I can understand that they don’t, but it does let that person down in a way. It fails to recognize what’s going on, that these transferential and countertransferential dynamics can come out of nowhere in a split second if there is sufficient depth.
There’s an old therapeutic idea that it just comes from years and years of being with the same therapist. There is a kind of transference that comes out like that because the therapist has become familiar to you like a parent or friend, or just like a piece of furniture in your life, and you feel comfortable enough to express certain things. But there’s another kind of transference that comes out instantaneously just because it’s in you, and that could come out hypothetically even in an intense way in an astrology reading, and I’m sure it has multiple times.
CB: Sure. So these are just a handful of this whole series of different issues that you deal with in a specific chapter of the book and you go in a lot of depth. So other ones are ‘congruence,’ ‘parallel process,’ ‘vicarious trauma,’ ‘idealizing transference,’ ‘mirror transference,’ and a number of others. Yeah, I think that’s a really useful chapter in the book, especially for people that don’t have any background in counseling or therapy because these are issues that do come up in just about any type of consultation that an astrologer could possibly do.
CB: So the rest of the book though, you deal with the planets for a large part, a large chunk of the book, first starting with Saturn and drawing it as the boundary line between the traditional or visible planets and then the rest of the outer planets that you refer to as ‘transpersonal.’ And then you have basically a chapter dealing with the outer planets…
CB: …in other ways from that point forward. What was the point of that part of the book? What can people expect in terms of your treatments of the planets there?
MJ: Well, I mean, the insight, in a way, was to do with the Saturn cycle, as well, linked to the formation of the personality developmentally. So it was a way of allying a key part of depth psychology insight, that psychological insight–particularly in the analytical traditions and the psychodynamic traditions–which is that there is a developmental model to the formation of the person. And the Saturn cycle corresponded really rather nicely with it, especially when you consider the way the Uranus cycle intersected with it.
MJ: And then I worked from a Harvard study called Seasons of a Man’s Life. It was primarily a study of man, but it did show almost to stunning degrees of accuracy direct correlation with the archetypal Saturn and Uranus transits–28 to 30, early 40s. And these were incredibly statistically significant in this study to the fact that the man wrote up this research in a way that it looked like he was astrologer. He would just go like, the ‘28-to-30-phase,’ or whatever because statistically it was just shown.
So it’s incredible validation of the archetypal nature of the transits of these figures and really helped me feel confident about placing Saturn as the boundary of the personal self and its formation. It’s really what you could call the Cancer–Capricorn axis. It’s really the Saturn and the Moon, to me, and Saturn in phases, like Saturn square, Saturn opposition who are crucial to the formation of the ego and the personality.
And then the outer planets are really looking at deeper unconscious processes or parts of the nonlinear energetic dimension of the psyche. So clearly, some people don’t recognize that there is that dimension, but as a psychosynthesis therapist, I explicitly do. You have a nonlinear energy field in which parts of your capacities–including traumas or struggles, but also beauty, power, joy, vision, intuition, strength, compassion, lovingness–are held in these higher forms, almost like Platonic forms, you could say, pure essential qualities, from which, for me, your authentic self is actually built from these essential qualities. There is essential strength. There is essential lovingness.
And then there are the kind of refracted forms that strength or lovingness can exist in the world that are not the same thing. You can be with the person you love and be clearly in a slightly critical, slightly bummed out mood. And you still kind of love that person, but you’re not embodying the essence of love in that moment. Just like you might occasionally really genuinely feel strong, and other days, you might ‘fake it till you make it,’ as they say, which is clearly a non-essential state. It is you just trying to live up to the memory of when you did feel really good like that. And what we can say is this energetic dimension of psyche, or the being, or the self is really fundamental to profound transformation, and you can look at the way that the outer planets intersect with the personal planets as representative of the way aspects of the transpersonal self connect with one’s personal experience.
CB: One of the things I liked that you talked about a little bit–and different astrologers seem to have different associations or schemes for correlating the inner planets with the outer planets–I think you adopted one that Rudhyar outlined that I haven’t looked at in a while, but I actually really like it. I was rereading it in your book where you said that Uranus is a higher octave of Mercury, Neptune is a higher octave of Venus, and Pluto is a higher octave of Mars.
CB: Actually I really liked those associations compared to some of the other models that I’ve heard over the course of the past decade or so.
MJ: Thank you, and it’s a good spot. I mean, that’s direct from certain writings in Rudhyar, and he is radical about it. A higher octave is more than just the same thing stepped up, it’s radically transformative to the extent that aspects of the personal self might struggle with the higher octave unless there’s a transformation. And it’s a very interesting model, and really it leads to some interesting reflections on the chart in a larger way. And there’s actually a way that I might do in future work of relating that back to certain issues like projection and transference actually which I didn’t actually do in the book.
The book was so rich at that point that certain things were coming off the book that led to a succession of pre-conference day workshops at NORWAC, for example, or certain webinars I was teaching. Because the material was becoming so rich that there was just all this stuff flowering off it and not all of that went into the book.
But yeah, thank you for that. And you’re absolutely right, it just comes directly from Rudhyar. I mean to be honest, Chris, increasingly, even though I studied with Green after doing Tyl’s masters in counseling program in astrology…
CB: Jeffrey Wolf Green.
CB: Not Liz Greene.
MJ: Not Liz Greene. Pretty radically different. Even though I massively respect Jung and I respect her power and perspicacity as a Jungian analyst…
MJ: …I still find that psychological vision of astrology limited, although still very valuable. It’s not a part of astrology I’d like to see disappear because it leads a lot of people into deeper relationship with psychotherapy and its gifts.
But I increasingly see where I’m coming from in Rudhyar just to a level of explicitness that when I was reading a pamphlet of his recently called From Humanistic to Transpersonal Astrology, A) there was some sections of it I thought, “Wow, I could have just written that last week or something, and B) at the end, he’s discussing this philosopher-astrologer of the future who’s open to the spiritual mystery but is therapeutically-trained. And I just thought, “Wow.” It was like I just must be on this weird track with the guy.
And it’s kind of funny because in this book, it has this whole introduction about how Mark Jones of London…
MJ: …taught Rudhyar astrology. Then I’m reading Rudhyar in Humanistic to Transpersonal Astrology, and I am thinking, “Wow, I am just trying to embody what you’re writing here, and I did all of it without having read what you’d written here.” It made me smile. I just couldn’t agree with the best of Rudhyar more right now.
I just think the man, at his best, is brilliant. At his worst, it’s turgid, theosophical regurgitation, and I’ve read whole Rudhyar books which I didn’t find anything of value in. But if you pick the right books–Humanistic Astrology to Transpersonal Astrology is just wonderful. It’s just visionary. And he’s clear about it, he’s clear about the problems of astrology. And there’s a section that if I had not left the book in the other room, I’d read it to you, but it’s something like, “Having now received so many letters from people who’ve had astrology readings complaining about what was said to them and how hurtful or damaging it was, I now realize that we must look to the psychological maturation of the practitioners in astrology.” It’s like an explicit thing, and I read this after writing that book.
And that really was an element of my intention–why do we ignore the insights of depth psychology, and to realize that the insights of depth psychology are a different thing from psychological astrology. It’s not an invitation to drop your method. It’s not like I’m saying, “Don’t do traditional Hellenistic astrology, Chris Brennan. Come and do psychological astrology like Mark Jones does.” No, just only depth psychology existed and you can do the thing that you’re really into. You can just use some of what depth psychology came up with to make that thing more effective to the people that come to you for guidance from it,
MJ: And that’s just so simple, it’s so elegant.
CB: Right. Because what you’re referring to and what you’re addressing largely in the book is what doctors refer to as a person’s bedside manner, in some sense…
CB: …which is how do you talk to clients in the process of doing whatever it is that you do, and what sort of things are you aware of or take into account, and what is your general, almost in some sense, ethical guidelines for dealing with clients, and how will you respond to certain situations.
And that’s something that’s universal in terms of its applicability to different types of astrology, whether you’re doing Indian astrology, or Hellenistic, or evolutionary, or what have you. But it’s also something that, as you pointed out in the book, still surprisingly isn’t very well-defined in contemporary astrology. Because I think one of the things you’re alluding to is that so much of the psychological movement has almost been more about developing a technical psychological astrology as a technique or as a school of astrology rather than creating something that’s more broadly applicable to different schools, that’s just taking the best pieces from depth psychology and counseling and therapy and making them usable or applicable to astrologers
MJ: Hey, fair play, my friend. You read the book, and you’re just saying why I wrote to it basically, in a nutshell. And to underline the importance of one of the things you said, bedside manner, studies as to bedside manner and recovery clearly show a relationship. Studies as to the importance of the placebo effect, much of the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs, for example, can be put down to the placebo effect. People then take that as a reductionistic statement, and maybe it is about antidepressant drugs, but it’s clearly a statement about psychology, about how important some sense of rapport, or positive psychology, or trust in the person you’re with, or the doctor by your side.
And when it comes to therapeutic efficacy, studies of therapeutic efficacy almost always show that the quality and nature of the relationship is more important than the model of therapy being used. So the power of relationship and that sense in the trust in the bedside manner actually holds some of the healing and reparative power of the form. So it just seems to me obvious and just helpful on a massive level to focus on that explicitly at some point.
CB: Definitely. Even if you think your astrology is strong, it could be stronger by focusing on these things. Even if you’re technically proficient, you may not be proficient in this other way, or at least perhaps you could excel even more.
MJ: Exactly, and get your message across that you clearly care. Why have you done these hundreds of hours of reading and research and study to develop this vision of the meaning of astrology, only to have it fall on ears that through their complex defense patterns since early childhood and through their insecurity and anxiety and the situation may have shut down slightly right from the beginning. I mean, simple practical things like recording the reading and things like that do help the client in that regard. But imagine if alongside what you’re saying in its technical clarity is this empathic resonance that the client can really feel and really feel good about and you then feel good about positively reinforces the experience with the astrologer too.
Some astrologers who are really excellent practitioners struggle to do readings and don’t always enjoy them because they feel it’s such a strain to try and communicate their vision to this unknown person. Well, all of these rapport-building techniques, they help alleviate that. They make it feel like we’re all part of the human tribe, the human family working towards something, at least at its best.
CB: Sure. Well, I definitely really appreciated the book. And I think other people that might be reticent about it or not sure if it’s useful for them, like traditional astrologers, for example, I definitely recommend it. Because I think a lot of traditional astrologers, when we’re translating these 2nd century texts, or texts from the medieval period, or even from the Renaissance like William Lilly or something, Lilly doesn’t have a chapter on dealing with transference and countertransference surprisingly.
MJ: He would have been ahead of his time.
CB: Right. Yeah, like I can imagine some translator trying to understand why they can’t translate this one Greek term and it’s because it’s, anyway. So there‘s things like that I think they are very applicable to even traditional astrologers or whatever school of astrology you’re from.
Because like I said earlier, since these older forms of astrology are just being applied in a modern context for the first time, there’s a lot of things that traditional astrologers are having to learn and put together from scratch in terms of the ethical, what should be said and what shouldn’t be said in a consultation, and how to do certain things ethically within the context of the 21st or early 21st century, and what’s appropriate versus not appropriate.
So I would definitely recommend this book to not just modern astrologers but essentially anybody who does consultations with clients and who reads charts for people, no matter what chart. If it’s a natal chart, or a horary chart, or even an electional chart, you’ll find something of value in this book. And I guess this isn’t the end of this process, but this is actually the start of a process for you because you’re going to be developing a course on this, right?
MJ: Yes, a 12-lesson, audio download with accompanying essays, 90-minute to two-hours of audio of each lesson with detailed essays breaking down psychological thought from the 20th century, alongside research into the origins of astrology and perceptions of astrology in particular, not the historical origins of astrology, the way we see meaning through astrology. And then practical lessons in projection dynamics, transference, countertransference. There’s a lesson on maturation and self-development and sections on the true versus, as it were, false or adaptive self.
And towards the end, there’s further practice issues of supervision and an ethical statement for astrologers that I’m developing with a professional colleague who’s involved with the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy on their ethical board–well, he’s a sort of an esoteric influence in that organization anyway–contemplating a statement of not something that you sign and feel heavy about but a set of guidelines, if you like, for ethical consideration for all astrologers.
How to contextualize the fragility, and yet, importance of the client’s need that seeks you out and comes for this relatively high investment process–paying reasonable amounts of money and sharing probably parts of their identity that they don’t share with that many people and their hopes and aspirations and dreams, where they’ll live, or whether they’ll have success in life, or what their psychological or spiritual issues of meaning are, or even just when to do something important in their life–it’s all to do with their life, how important it is to them. And clearly, that’s the most important thing to many people.
I have to say I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to read this book. And clearly, from my point of view, at least, you got it. Because I wrote this book, hand-on-heart–now I just noticed I just put my hand on my heart. You can’t see me, but I’ve just done it, and I observe myself doing it. I wrote this book as a non-denominational statement. I wrote the Counseling Skills for Astrologers course, even more so. I mean I barely mention astrology in the Counseling Skills for Astrologers course. Genuinely a traditional astrologer could look into it because it’s really just about how to communicate a message to the client.
But the book, I can’t help but refer to some astrology. I guess it’s technically an astrology book, but it’s minimal, isn’t it, at points? It’s really about what’s going on when we meet someone in that space.
CB: And I think even the astrology that you do deal with, especially in terms of the planetary cycles–like the different stages in the Saturn cycle or even the different stages in certain outer planets cycles–are still relevant and applicable and not going to be hugely controversial to most astrologers regardless of what their system is.
MJ: And that was the real intention here. I’m sure I’ll write some radical astrological statements at points. I’ve certainly made them in person about my own kind of field and other fields. It’s not like I don’t have a relationship to that community, but this just seem to transcendent it on a heartfelt level.
You see, from my point of view, what emerged as a therapist was the awareness of years of being a therapist and working with people for maybe 1,100 hours just one person, all the way to like 500 hours with one person, all the way to 40 hours with one person or one hour with one person just over their chart. So I’ve done over a thousand hours with one person, and I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of just one-off readings. And the thing that dawned on me from all these scales of experience–imagine having all those scales of experience. Imagine having the eight or 10 people I’ve worked with for over 200 hours or something, or over a hundred hours and scaling that back then to what could go in one hour.
And in all of that, what emerged for me more and more was the client’s legitimate need to be acknowledged and the primacy of their being to be cared about, that their life matters to someone for this short but intense and valuable piece of time, and the healing involved in that. Just that you care about them for that time, that’s a huge chunk of it regardless of what your astrological method is, or what you’re sharing with them–this information, this conceptual data that you’ve researched that you’re sharing with them via your words. Another huge part of what’s going on is just the fact that you care about their life and are engaged with them on that level that really matters. That is a huge part of the value of the experience for people.
MJ: Yeah. We can just pay more attention to that, and therefore make more and more people feel more fulfilled and more supported in their life, and then the vision of that just spreading out into the world on some level. My hope is that this is an emergent paradigm for the profession really to just pay more attention to that simple dynamic–not Mark Jones’s work, not even Mark Jones’s book on that approach–just that approach itself. Just caring about the being of the person in front of you, perhaps even more than your own astrological knowledge or your practice.
The process becomes really translating all these years of study and expertise that you have to meet the emergent need of this wonderfully complex person who’s traveled maybe a long way to a conference to see you, or contacted you on Skype from the other end of the country or the other end of the world. And the healing power that could come from seeing this really radical but simple truth, that the client’s being and their emergent life potential is more important than your astrological ego, your ability, your preparation, your intellectual clarity, their life matters more than how you practice astrology.
All right. Strive for excellence in your work, fine. But just surrender that to this person that’s come to see you for something. Make a creative effort to translate it to what’s emerging in them.
CB: You hear about doctors having the primary ethical directive of ‘do you no harm’ or something like that, but I think what you’re saying would make an excellent ‘Rule #1’ on the list of things–as a counseling astrologer, as an astrologer–in general about what your primary directive is in some sense.
CB: I think that’s an excellent vision.
MJ: Thank you.
CB: All right. Well, I think that is a good place to conclude our discussion. Other than the counseling skills program, what else are you working on, or what do you have coming up?
MJ: So I’m doing the second part of a webinar on Jupiter, Visions of Meaning. The first part was done last weekend, but it’s still available from the Astrology University. And it really explores perspectives on astrology, the way we can contextualize what astrology means to us, hermetic perspectives on astrology all the way through to modern perspectives, Rudhyar’s work, but it also then looks at even how we learn astrology, how we practice it, and how a vision of meaning is essential to that and what we offer people.
And then it goes into specific chart examples towards the end, which will be picked up primarily in the second part–detailed analysis of the Jupiter placement within multiple clients and famous people’s charts. So I looked at Richard Feynman, the theoretical physicist, for example, and Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning who survived the concentration camps and looked at Jupiter placements and the way it related to their vision of meaning or faith or what brought them through their life experience, so that’s an interesting subject.
And then, in September, I’m in Florence, after the Astrological Association conference here in England. I’m going to Florence to the archive of Roberto Assagioli again for four days to spend in the archive researching any last pieces of information I can gain from this incredibly fruitful interface of essentially Freud, Jung, Dane Rudhyar and Roberto Assagioli, and his astrological and psychological writings, so hopefully, there’ll be some more discoveries.
CB: Excellent. Well, I look forward to hearing what results from that and seeing what your follow up books are in the future. All right. Well, everyone can check out and order a copy of the book on your website which is PlutoSchool.com, or I think you can find it on Amazon and other fine booksellers worldwide.
Well, thanks a lot for coming on the show, and I’ll have to have you on again next time with whatever your next book is. But I think this one’s going to be big, so I hope listeners check it out and then leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
All right. Well, thanks for coming on the show, Mark.
MJ: Thank you, man. Thank you. I appreciate the clarity of your questions and the sincerity and integrity with which you approached what I wrote. And I really feel actually at points you truly captured what my own intention was and you really grasped it, so I’m really grateful for that. Thanks.
CB: Great. Well, I’m glad that we made this connection. And I’m glad that I was able to read this book because I think it’s important, and that’s why I wanted to have you on the show. And I’ve been dying to ever since we talked about it earlier this year that you were getting close to finishing it.
All right. Well, that’s it for this show. So thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.