Coincidings: State of the Art

I want to give you a sense of what kind of astrology I am doing. First, I view biographies through astrological filters. These filters are combinations of major planetary aspects. When I search through the millions of Wikipedia biographies, I find those who were born during recurrences of the same planet figure. In my years of experience, I find that “astrology works” in this sense: some persons born under similar planet figures will: 1) stand out because they exemplify the symbolism of those aspects; and 2) show parallels because they stand out in analogous ways.

I’ve been studying a pressing question for astrologers who wish to understand planet combinations by seeing them in real life. Can we see differences between the bios of people born under different planet figures? The idea is to pick combinations that are distinct from each other. We are looking for sharp symbolic contrasts.

The other thing we are looking for when selecting a planet figure is its rarity. Knowing the relative rarity of the coinciding events near birth enables us to identify and highlight the planetary aspects that mark a nativity because they are its rarest features.  Since events that coincide more closely result in a rarer figure, this makes it possible to narrow the search to a smaller cohort by choosing these events.

I’ve found notable people born under each of two planet figures. In one group are four subjects born during three Sun-Venus-Neptune stelliums, in 1795, 1881, and 1935.  In recent studies of these four, I characterized them as “visionary nature spirits” (Keats and Oliver) and “charismatic hypnotists” (MacLane and Erhard). Do they reflect different sides of Neptune?  Here are links to their Wikipedia pages:

Four other subjects were born during a single Sun-Mars-Saturn-Uranus stellium in 1897. That four-planet pile-up is unique within a 600-year range. I wasn’t looking for Uranus, but it was part of the Sun-Mars-Saturn huddle I found. This is as far from Sun-Venus-Neptune as I can imagine, symbolically speaking. What might we expect of such a combination? If you’re imagining major, world-class badassery, you’ll not be disappointed. These four men were all born Nov 21-26, 1897:

If there were a theory of “time waves” that manifest the symbolic activity of the planets over time, then this could perhaps be considered evidence in support of that theory. In the absence of any such theory, I still have a clear intuition of the hidden factors behind this phenomenon. I do see this as evidence of the symbolic activity of the planets over time, an activity of an intelligible nature.

Below are links to four video segments from our Zoom class of Saturday, Jan 29. The first two segments cover the group comparison just introduced above. The Trump segment is included by popular demand. The closing discussion is between Dale Nelson and myself, with some observations that I hope are helpful for making sense out of this novel astrological method.

These videos are far from perfect, but I think they are worth sharing.

Chart and Bios for the Su-Ma-Sa-Ur group:

Charts and Bios for the Su-Ve-Ne group:

Trump counterparts:

Closing discussion:

Mary MacLane: The First Flapper

This is the conclusion of my posts on the varied manifestations of Sun-Venus-Neptune conjunctions, starting with John Keats and Werner Erhard, and last week with Mary Oliver. This week we have one of the most famous women you’ve likely never heard of. Four lives, one triple conjunction that keeps on recurring.

(Excerpts from

Mary MacLane (b. 1 May 1881) was the first of the modern media personalities: a pioneer in self-revelation, in defiance of established rules, in living on her own terms – and writing it in brilliant style. At age 19 she burst upon the world out of Butte, Montana with a journal of private thoughts and longings that incited national then international attention. In the books and newspaper articles that followed she evolved a completely new, individual voice decades ahead of its time.

With her debut book, I Await the Devil’s Coming (1901), Mary MacLane attained spectacular media and literary fame. She went on to become a pioneering newswoman, gambler extraordinaire, bon vivant, and a star of the silent screen. She influenced Gertrude Stein, inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald, was puzzled over by Mark Twain, and upon her death in 1929 was eulogized as “an errant daughter of literature … the first of the self-expressionists, and the first of the Flappers,” as the creator of “that revolution in manners, that transvaluation of values in the female code of behavior known as the Roaring Twenties.”

For much more on Mary MacLane, see:

Mary Oliver: John Keats’ kindred nature spirit appears at last

This series of posts began with the English Romantic poet John Keats and the triple conjunction of Sun, Venus, and Neptune at his birth in 1795. I identified Werner Erhard as one notable person with this same planetary figure that formed in 1935, but I overlooked another. The late Mary Oliver, whose work is inspired by nature rather than the human world, surely seems more like a kindred spirit to Keats than does Werner Erhard, who was born five days before Oliver. The triple conjunction of 1935 occurred between their births.

There’s so much to say and I will point you to it rather than repeating it. For her life story, see Mary Oliver’s official website,, and For a rare interview late in her life, hear

Even though she is one of America’s most significant poets – and these days, best-selling as well – Mary Oliver did not go looking for fame. Oliver’s poetry won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement. Reviewing Dream Work (1986) for the Nation, critic Alicia Ostriker numbered Oliver among America’s finest poets, as “visionary as [Ralph Waldo] Emerson.”

Next week, I will write about another remarkable woman with another Sun-Venus-Neptune conjunction. There’s something curious about this combination, that gives rise to visionary nature spirits on the one hand, and charismatic forces of nature on the other. Werner Erhard is without question the latter type. So is our mystery woman…

Mary Oliver and companion regarding each other benevolently:

Hitchcock and Borges: A Counterpart Study

This week: Masters of Suspense and Surrealism

Last week, I posted an earlier study of a Saturn-Pluto opposition, with Mercury conjunct Pluto and opposite Saturn. (That is the Stan Grof study posted here awhile back.) This week, we have a new study of another Saturn-Pluto opposition, and this time it is Venus that trines Saturn and sextiles Pluto. Renn Butler has this to say about Saturn-Pluto principles:

“Powers of intense discipline and endurance… concentrated force and pressure, deep and systematic self-exploration… Ominous forebodings and sense of danger, feelings of anxiety and fear, a dark and sinister atmosphere.” (1).

The subjects of this study are Alfred Hitchcock and Jorge Luis Borges, two men gifted with keen senses of the strange and macabre, which they expressed in their creative work. I don’t know if Borges shows up in Renn’s video lectures, but Hitchcock does, in the Saturn-Pluto lecture at least.

The British director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a series of Surrealist masterpieces in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s, was the first popular director to work in the Surrealist mode. The horror film, of course, has for decades drawn, tongue-in-cheek, on the dark jittery side of Surrealism. (2)

His best movies were meticulously orchestrated nightmares of peril and pursuit relieved by unexpected comic ironies, absurdities, and anomalies. Films made by the portly, cherubic director invariably progressed from deceptively commonplace trifles of life to shattering revelations, and with elegant style and structure, he pervaded mundane events and scenes with a haunting mood of mounting anxiety.

Before filming, he drew precise sketches of every scene, meticulously listing each camera angle. Working with his screenwriter for months, he freely adapted material, writing up to 100-page shot schedules without dialogue. 

Francois Truffaut, a leading director of France’s New Wave, praised him as “the most complete film maker” of all American directors and “an all-round specialist, who excels at every image, each shot and every scene.”

Lauding Mr. Hitchcock as a leading “artist of anxiety” with a “purely visual” style, Mr. Truffaut commented that “Hitchcock is almost unique in being able to film directly, that is, without resorting to explanatory dialogue, such intimate emotions as suspicion, jealousy, desire and envy.” (3)

It has been said that Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges is the father of Magical Realism as a philosophy and style of writing, and as such, surely Borges owes something to Surrealism. He came of age in the 1920s, when surrealists and their art were just starting to make appearances in Europe, where he traveled extensively in those years.

“…the mystical, enigmatic and paradoxical imbued the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentine author whose concise, intricate work overflowed with wonder. He penned densely philosophical short stories and poems of his own and literary hoaxes that intentionally blurred the line between reality and fiction… Mr. Borges was widely considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature, but he never received it.”

Italo Calvino said of Borges: “He manages to condense into texts which are always just a few pages long an extraordinary richness of ideas and poetic attraction: events which are narrated or hinted at, dizzying glimpses of the infinite, and ideas, ideas, ideas.” (4)

If You’re Curious

With Venus both trining Saturn and sextiling Pluto overnight on August 17-18, 1899, this recurrence event is shared by both men, even though they were born 11 days apart – Hitchcock on the 13th and Borges on the 24th. This is within my normal range of dates, extending one week on either side of the birth event.

This Saturn-Pluto opposition is quite close by degree, and the Venus aspects tie together the slower opposition, forming a three-aspect figure, a half-kite. In the same way, a looser outer planet aspect can be connected by inner-planet aspects. Since events that coincide more closely result in a rarer figure, this makes it possible to narrow the search to a smaller cohort by choosing these events.

  1. Butler, R. (2018). The Archetypal Universe, p 195.

Ursula K Le Guin: A tribute

Ursula K. Le Guin Is Still the Radical Feminist We Need Today” (2)

Today (Oct 21) being her birthday, this is a chance to post an astrological tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin that I began not long after her death in 2018 yet never quite seemed to finish. Now, I find that there’s still more to say.

Le Guin blazed trails and changed the landscape for women writers of science fiction and fantasy. Her influence as a writer in the community of writers remains enormous. Here are some quotes from Le Guin and others, on the writer herself.

“…above all, in almost unearthly terms Ursula Le Guin examines, attacks, unbuttons, takes down and exposes our notions of reality.” (1)

“My first feminist text was The Left Hand of Darkness, which I started writing in 1967. It was an early experiment in deconstructing gender. Everybody was asking, “What is it to be a man? What is it to be a woman?” It’s a hard question, so in The Left Hand of Darkness I eliminated gender to find out what would be left. Science fiction is a wonderful opportunity to play this kind of game.” (1)

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. But then, so did the divine right of kings.”

— from Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards in 2014

“You cannot buy the Revolution.

You cannot make the Revolution.

You can only be the Revolution.

It is in your spirit or it is nowhere.”   

— seen on Ursula K. Le Guin T-shirt

Ursula Le Guin is one of the great world builders to ever put words to paper. She tapped into the divinity that shapes the world, to craft universes for our imaginations, and then shared these imaginings until they began to change the world, this world.

“To oppose something is to maintain it. … You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road,” she wrote in The Left Hand of Darkness. (2)

From my point of view, the most prominent planetary aspects at Ursula Le Guin’s birth were when Venus opposed Uranus and the Sun sextiled Neptune, especially since these aspect events coincided closely. This tense Venus-Uranus contact is closely linked to an image we might call the radical feminist, who leads the struggle for the principles of freedom and equality for women. Sun and Neptune in sextile suggests the strong visionary streak that is apparent in Le Guin’s writing.

The coinciding of these two aspect events within one day is repeated only twice in the 19th century, in 1864 and 1882. What follows are brief sketches of the two women who best fit the planetary symbolism of the radical feminist who is also a person of vision. They were born during the few days around these recurrences.

Marguerite Durand, born 24 January 1864, was a French stage actress, journalist, and a leading suffragette. Consumed by a passion for the equality of women, she was an attractive woman of style and elegance who was famous for walking the streets of Paris with her pet lion she named “Tiger.” Don’t ask me how she got away with that!

Durand founded a daily newspaper, run exclusively by women, that advocated for women’s rights, including admission to the Bar association and the École des Beaux-Arts. As well, its editorials demanded women be allowed to be named to the Legion of Honor and to participate in parliamentary debates. This included, later in 1910, Durand’s attempt to organize female candidates for the legislative elections.

At the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, she organized the Congress For The Rights of Women. Durand turned to activism for working women, helping to organize several trade unions. A specialized library, the Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand, was named for her, and houses her vast collection of papers from her activist career. (3)

Dora Marsden, born 5 March 1882, was an English suffragette, editor of literary journals, and philosopher of language. During her studies, Marsden involved herself with the British women’s rights movement. At the end of her compulsory service as a teacher, and after she was arrested in 1909, owing to political activity, she accepted a full-time position with the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and became nationally recognized as the organizer and aggressive leader of several spectacular campaigns.

Marsden eventually broke off from the suffragist organization in order to found a journal, The Freewoman, that would provide a space for more radical voices in the movement. She is remembered for her contributions to the suffrage movement, her criticism of the WSPU, and her radical feminism, via The Freewoman. Not to mention, that Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and James Joyce made their debuts in the journal Marsden founded, which later became The Egoist: An Individualist Review. (4)

There are common attributes that Durand and Marsden share with Le Guin. These women were influential not only within their professions but also as strong feminist voices and political activists for the essential rights of women. Each of them gives a unique expression to these shared qualities. I see these astrological counterparts as valuable illustrations of the archetypal character of these planetary recurrences, and how they find embodiment in life stories.





Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Counterpart Study

I’m exploring a new angle that may be of interest to the many astrology writers and teachers who use case studies to illustrate how natal aspects can show up in real life. Let’s say we’re creating course material for a class on aspect configurations such as grand trines, T-squares, and stelliums. First, we want to pick out examples of notable persons born under a certain planetary aspect figure.

Following my John Keats study, here’s another Romantic poet. Percy Bysshe Shelley was born during the 1792 Sun-Venus-Uranus triple conjunction. Renn Butler’s TAU (The Archetypal Universe), in the Sun-Venus-Uranus section, mentions “creative and aesthetic breakthroughs… a bright and sparkling charm… electric charisma”. It also quotes Shelley, and this was my starting point for choosing him.

Shelley led a tempestuous life and voiced opinions very much out of bounds where he grew up, in England. He fits this planetary grouping with his radical poetry and political and social views, and his “urges to push the envelope with [his] eccentric manner” (TAU, p. 245). He advocated free love (classic Venus-Uranus), and was an influential vegetarian and an avowed atheist. Not to mention, his wife (Venus) Mary had a freakish imagination (Uranus); she wrote the novel, Frankenstein.

There were only two close recurrences of the Sun-Venus-Uranus stellium in the 19th century: one in 1822 and another on September 17, 1883, the same day William Carlos Williams was born. Williams is a major figure in 20th-century American poetry, who also wrote prose and drama. A doctor by day and a writer by night, he authored a stack of written works that, along with his medical career, would require an enormous reservoir of creative energy (classic Venus-Uranus).Williams was close to some of the Imagist poets, who were among the avant-garde of his day, but his own path eventually diverged from that group. He was a nonconformist among the rebels, a Uranian figure for sure. Two quotes that reveal his character: “If they give you lined paper, write the other way”; “The better work men do is always done under stress and at great personal cost”.

What about that 1822 recurrence? It was one day after the birth of Louis Pasteur on December 27, 1822. Pasteur was “a French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization. His research in chemistry led to remarkable breakthroughs in the understanding of the causes and preventions of diseases, which laid down the foundations of hygiene, public health and much of modern medicine”. (Wikipedia)

I will leave interpreting this one as an exercise for the reader. My take is that the symbolism works well if we remember that Venus is closely linked with health care and medicine (in contrast, Mars is the surgeon). And as always, Uranus is the innovator or discoverer.

Aspect figures for Astrology Writers and Teachers

I’m exploring a new angle that may be of interest to the many astrology writers and teachers who use case studies to illustrate how natal aspects can show up in real life. Let’s say we’re creating course material for a class on aspect configurations such as grand trines, t-squares, and stelliums. First, we want to pick out examples of notable persons born under a certain planetary aspect figure.

For instance, take the Romantic poet John Keats, who was born during the 1795 Sun-Venus-Neptune conjunction. Keats fits the descriptions given for this planetary combination in Renn Butler’s essential 2018 reference The Archetypal Universe: “a beautiful imagination, exquisite refinement, gentle humor… aesthetic epiphanies, spiritual devotion, union with the Beloved, ‘fellowship with essence’.” In fact, that last phrase is a quote from Keats.

No doubt, seeing even one good example of a certain aspect figure means a lot to students who are learning to grasp how the symbols go together. It shows that it is possible to pick out a symbolically fitting life story, linked by birth to that aspect figure. To go beyond a single example, and identify other recurrences of the same figure, is to open new territory for exploration, and pose new questions:

· Can we identify other bios that resonate symbolically with the first bio?

· Can we see the nuances of the symbolism by juxtaposing these bios?

· What can we learn by studying how often various aspect figures recur?

When I looked for other instances of that same Sun-Venus-Neptune conjunction, I found a close recurrence on 8 Sep 1935. This is 3 days after Werner Erhard was born, the fourth recurrence since 1795. Werner Erhard has led a dramatic life as a hypnotic sales talent who later became a leadership movement guru. He provides a clear contrast to Keats, while still fitting the planetary symbolism, though in a less graceful manner. Perhaps this (from Butler, 2018) would be a fitting image: “…the urge to take advantage of others through beauty or charm… A tendency to act like a religious or new-age beauty queen.” Despite (or due to) all that, Erhard has influenced many notable and influential people. And has often managed to redeem himself.

These symbolic exemplars are such different kinds of people that it enriches my experience of this stellium, with these contrasts revealing a whole range of expressions. Some people are more in touch with their daemon than others, and these are the ones we are looking for. John Keats and Werner Erhard surely qualify.

James Hillman on the Image, revisited

Last Fall, I posted here about James Hillman’s writings on “the image” and my ideas on what these insights might contribute to archetypal astrology. To quote briefly:

In From Types to Images, Hillman describes the phenomena of images:

… I do want to suggest the peculiarity in an image. Images, you know, are very odd arrangements. They are heightened intensified moments.

All the events of an image occur together. Simultaneity contrasts with the sequential reading of narrative in which events follow one after the other. (Hillman, 2019)

I only recently discovered that Hillman’s thoughts on images resonate strongly with those of certain Imagist poets such as Ezra Pound. I have to think this is not a coincidence, given Hillman’s literary studies.

It’s easy to imagine that he drew on these Imagist concepts in his writings on the significance of images to depth psychology. I believe it’s worthwhile to look for the influences on as significant a thinker as Hillman. Well, it turns out that Hillman did quote Ezra Pound and wrote about the Imagists at length (too long to include here) in a recent collection of his papers, From Types to Images Part 1, Ch. 3, entitled Persons as Images.

Another quote from this same book is a statement that for me goes to the very heart of archetypal astrology. Seeing persons as personifications, we might say. Hillman says it better:

All we need do is recognize that when we are seeing types, we have begun to imagine in a figurational mode. We have begun to personify. We have begun to envision presences as the determining powers and that life is a fulfillment of their predictions. Things run true-to-type in that each thing fulfills its image, imagines itself typically into itself, each image held within the relief of its specific form. It is the typicality inherent to the image that we acknowledge in science by speaking of prediction and in psychology by speaking of the archetypal. It is this typicality in an image that sets its limit and suggests its placing (topos).

So the evidence for a type is in the vision that sees its images. The word evidence refers to an act of vision. Seeing types is a Platonic act that cannot be established by an Aristotelian method. Two eyes, even with microscope, cannot equal that third eye. To restore images to types means seeing types as a mode of imaging that cannot be satisfied by empirically gathered evidence. (It is anyway the type in our eye—the ability to see similarities and to compare—that allows us to see resemblances in what we gather for evidence and in the questionnaires that yield this evidence.) The scientistic search for evidence betrays itself for what it is: loss of morphic vision, an eye unopened to the image.

Hillman, James. From Types to Images (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman Book 4) (pp. 25-26). Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

To describe Imagism in brief, this is from

Imagism was born in England and America in the early twentieth century. A reactionary movement against romanticism and Victorian poetry, imagism emphasized simplicity, clarity of expression, and precision through the use of exacting visual images.

Though Ezra Pound is noted as the founder of imagism, the movement was rooted in ideas first developed by English philosopher and poet T. E. Hulme

Pound’s definition of the image was “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” He said, “It is the presentation of such a ‘complex’ instantaneously which gives the sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.”

Planetary recurrences and extreme weather events

I wrote this on July 1, 2021… it’s about time I posted it to my blog!

I just wanted to share an observation that seems striking. We are in the middle of a Mars-Saturn-Uranus T-square that is tighter than any recurrences of this figure since Feb 1977. Back then, there was a very extreme weather event in Jan 1977 in North America: the Blizzard of 1977. And now here we go again, on the other extreme.

The previous time the T-square got that close was in mid-June, 1862. Here’s a quote I found about that summer:”The summer of 1862 was notably cold using the CET series. All three summer months (June, July & August) had below-average mean temperatures, with anomalies (on the all-series dataset) of -1.6, -1.8 and -1.0C respectively, giving an overall deficit of -1.5C. As of 2013, it ranks within the ‘top-15’ of coldest summers using that long series.”

— from…/

William James: A Counterpart Study

Let us examine the nativity of William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the “Father of American psychology”. His best-known work may be The Varieties of Religious Experience.

William James was born on January 11, 1842, under a triple conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. A brief search leads us to another recurrence of this planetary figure on November 16, 1901, in the same sign of Capricorn. The name that stands out from a few dozen Wikipedia entries is Ernest Nagel, a positivist philosopher of science. Nagel would be my nominee for the father of Reductionism. Not that it all started with him, but in one way, it did:

[Nagel] was the first to propose that by positing analytic equivalencies (or “bridge laws”) between the terms of different sciences, one could eliminate all ontological commitments except those required by the most basic science [namely, physics]. He also upheld the view that social sciences are scientific and should adopt the same standards as natural sciences.

At a meeting of the executive council of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) in Denver, Colorado in April 2011, Nagel was selected for inclusion in CSI’s Pantheon of Skeptics. The Pantheon of Skeptics was created by CSI to remember the legacy of deceased fellows of CSI and their contributions to the cause of scientific skepticism. (Wikipedia, 2020)

As such, both men being philosophers of science, Ernest Nagel stands in the harshest contrast to what William James stands for philosophically. James was a founding member and vice president of the American Society for Psychical Research, and his openness to the validity of paranormal experience had a significant influence in his day and after. He was convinced that the “future will corroborate” the existence of telepathy. Needless to say, we would find Nagel on the opposing side of this question.

This is an excellent example of contrasting parallels; James’ nativity, with its Sun-Pluto square, suggests that just such a character as Nagel could be in his story. While this did not happen in James’ lifetime, we can see how the ideas these men represent are still doing battle vicariously. This fits the pattern that we might call the Union of Opposites: they have a strong parallel, as in having similar academic specialties. At the same time, they are severely opposed in their philosophical positions; contrary counterparts, you might say.