15th of June 2016
ADRIAN: Hello, Mr. Grasse!
RAY: Hi, Adrian!
ADRIAN: Well, Liz Greene says you don’t choose astrology, it’s astrology that chooses you. What do you feel in this regard, how did it start for you?
RAY: How I got into astrology, you mean? My evolution, is that what you’re asking?
RAY: Yeah, first, when I was a teenager, I’d heard about astrology, of course, since it was in the news and permeated the media. This was the 1960s, remember, and Linda Goodman’s book, Sun Signs, was out; you had songs on the radio like “This is the dawning of Aquarius,” and so on. I didn’t really think much of that at the time, but I read a book by Joseph Goodavage named Astrology; the Space Age Science which fed my interest more. Then when I was 19 or 20 years old, I started studying with a few different teachers, and one was a professor at a local college that was offering an experimental course on astrology, of all things. Her name was Maureen Cleary, quite a briliant woman. She passed away just a year or two ago. Several years before becoming an astrologer, she had been a psychology student at the University of Chicago and so impressed the faculty there she was invited to teach with James Hillman, Mircea Eliade, and others. Pretty good for a 25-year old.
My other main teacher back then was a Swami in the Kriya Yoga tradition by the name of Goswami Kriyananda. There are several teachers by that name, but this one was Goswami Kriyananda, from Chicago. To make a long story short, I became absolutely fascinated by the subject, almost obsessed, because what I began to see was how uncanny it was not only with prediction, but with understanding psychology.
Those first two teachers were at opposite ends of the spectrum, in a way. What I mean is, Maureen Cleary was a psychologist and more involved with a form of “psychological astrology” which was very big at the time. On the other hand, Kriyananda was more “old school” and more involved with what some people would call “nuts and bolts” astrology, event-oriented astrology. He was very much into teaching traditional sources and techniques, though he also taught a more spiritual dimension to astrology. It was an absolutely fascinating education being exposed to such different approaches, and I try to incorporate both of those now in my own work. I also studied with Kriyananda’s teacher, Shelly Trimmer, who was a student of Paramahansa Yogananda back in the 1940s. I began to take on clients fairly early and started to develop my own sense of the discipline.
Let me back up a little bit. Around the same time I got into astrology, I came across Carl Jung’s idea of synchronicity, and began to explore some of different ways that synchronicity helps to explain astrology. Conversely, I also began to understand how astrology helps to explain synchronicity, and so my first book The Waking Dream actually arose in part out of an effort to understand the ways astrology can expand our understanding of synchronicity beyond just a sense of isolated coincidences into something far more all-embracing.
I continued to explore various aspects of astrology, such as mundane astrology and how it relates to cinema and the arts, and also the doctrine of the chakras and how it relates to astrology, for example. I hope that answers your question in some way.
ADRIAN: Sure. Can you please name three people who most influenced your way of thinking? Why them?
RAY: Actually, the ones that I just mentioned have been the most influential in my teaching and writing: Maureen Cleary had an extraordinary insight into the psychological side of astrology, Kriyananda had an encyclopedic understanding of astrological techniques and philosophy, and Shelly Trimmer had a profound understanding of astrology’s more esoteric side. By far those three individuals have shaped my understanding. There have been others, like Dane Rudhyar, who I was able to meet at one point, and of course figures like Rob Hand, Noel Tyl and Stephen Arroyo… It’s an almost unending list, but my first three teachers were by far the most significant.
ADRIAN: What is astrology? What does astrology mean for you?
RAY: Well, you could talk about many different tracks of astrology, but for me, one basic approach I’ve used in some of my lectures is that I break down astrology primarily to three distinct levels: personal, collective and universal.
On a personal level you can talk about how it illuminates the individual’s life and individual psychology, as well as astrology’s predictive potentials for individuals. There is something called “horary astrology” which relates to questions posed by individuals, as well as “past life” astrology where the horoscope is said to reveal information about someone’s karma and previous incarnations. And that’s all just one level, the personal.
On the second level, the collective, you can talk about how astrology illuminates the life of societies, of entire generations, of the world. We generally refer to this as “mundane” astrology. You also apply astrology’s predictive side to this level, too, in forecasting for societies, nations, and world events generally.
Then, on the universal level, you can talk about astrology as an archetypal language of existence, and how the zodiacal signs, the planets and the different aspects represent a symbolic code to understanding the Divine Mind, the Mind of God, you could say. And so my study of astrology has been on all three of these levels. I believe you can place all other facets of astrology pretty much under that three-fold umbrella.
ADRIAN: So, you do believe in God, but from this point of view…
RAY: I believe in “God,” but I don’t claim to have an understanding of what that really means. I do believe that there is a divine principle, though I don’t know whether I should call it a being, or whether to call it something totally ineffable and beyond comprehension. But there is clearly an organizing principle by which everything interrelates. In a sense, you could almost say that the main message of synchronicity and astrology is that everything interlocks.
To put it another way, if you walked into an orchestra hall but you couldn’t see the conductor, yet you saw everybody playing perfectly in unison, you might well assume there was some organizing figure who was harmonizing all of those musicians, whether you chose to think of that as the composer or as the conductor. Likewise, when you study astrology for any period of time, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that something is organizing everything, there’s a “conductor” of sorts. For instance, how is it possible I could have a planetary aspect fire in my horoscope—say, a so-called “lucky” aspect, like Jupiter conjuncting my natal Venus—and I’ll be walking down the street when someone comes up to me and offers me a 100 dollars out of the blue. Now, if I had walked out the door few minutes earlier or later, I might never have met that person. So what brought us together at that precise moment when the heavens were aligned that way? Likewise you can talk about someone who has a difficult aspect in their chart and they wind up crossing paths with a thief who robs them. Who or what is choreographing everything like that? Is it a giant being, or is it some abstract organizing principle? The ancient philosopher Plotinus didn’t use the word God, he simply spoke of the One, which is a pretty safe way to talk about it (laughs). But yes, I do believe there is something along these lines, absolutely.
ADRIAN: I asked this question because there are a lot of people who perceive a contradiction between astrology and religious beliefs or spirituality.
RAY: Right. Which is, as I see it, a total misunderstanding of astrology, and even of Biblical scripture, since in the Bible you have passages like the one in Luke which says “There shall be signs in the Sun, the Moon, and the stars,” or words to that effect. This is an age old theological problem, of course, and over the last 2000 years astrology has fallen both in and out of fashion with the Church, depending to some extent on how the Church has viewed nature at any given time. If nature is the instrument of God, for instance, then there is no real problem reconciling astrology with the notion of God.
Here’s a simple analogy that I could use to explain it. I live in a very conservative religious community here in Illinois, and I spoke to someone recently who took the extreme skeptical view that we’re not really meant to know the future. I asked him, do you ever watch the weather report on TV? He said yes, and I said, “Well, why is that not against your religion? If we’re not meant to know the future, how do you justify paying attention to the weather person? And why would God have put signs in our environment that help us understand what’s coming up if we weren’t meant to see them?”
The other factor here is when someone claims that astrology denies free will, or that it somehow circumvents God’s grace. No, not any more than the knowing the weather does. You always have free will in how you respond to the signs and symbols that astrology reveals. For example two people can be born at the same time and still have very different lives, they can choose to manifest the horoscope differently. A metaphor I often use is how you can give a piece of sheet music to two different performers, and one of them might be a jazz musician, while the other might be Vladimir Horowitz, a more classically-trained performer. And they will play that piece of music—say, Debussy’s “Claire de Lune“—very differently. Yet it’s the same sheet music with the same exact notes. In much the same way, there is free will in how you respond to the “sheet music” of your horoscope as well.
ADRIAN: Okay. But we should address the problem of determinism versus the free will.
RAY: You know, this is a vast question, and there are many subtleties here… I do think that there is a certain amount of predetermination, I don’t deny that.
ADRIAN: Because otherwise you would not be able to predict anything, right?
RAY: Yes, but remember—astrology talks in a language of symbolism, and when you talk in a language of symbols you always have octaves of meaning. In other words, a Mars-square-Mercury pattern in the chart of a five-year-old will not manifest the same way for them as it will when they’re 70 years old! Likewise, someone may have transiting Jupiter conjuncting their natal Venus when they’re seven years old and perhaps be given a toy they really love, okay? But for someone who is 40 years old, that same aspect might manifest as falling in love, or maybe they’ll make a killing in the stock market or gambling in Las Vegas. It’s the same archetypal symbolism, yet with very different expressions. So you actually have a certain amount of control over the octave at what you express that energy.
Here’s a perfect example: I had two clients come to me separately, who were born within a few days of each other. They didn’t know each other at all. And they both had transiting Saturn crossing over their natal Neptune virtually at the exact same time, in both cases about a week before I met with them. I asked both of them what happened about a week earlier, when Saturn was exactly on top of their Neptune. The first client said that he got arrested for drunk driving at the time, while the second client said he joined AA the Alcoholics Anonymous in order to quit alcohol! Think about that. It was the same planetary symbolism, but in the latter case the client decided to manifest the symbolism from the inside out, you might say, by using the Saturnian discipline to voluntarily stop their drinking. But in the other case, the person didn’t use any discipline and fate interceded and did it for him; the Saturn-Neptune symbolism manifested from the outside in, as it were. So it was the same symbolism in both cases, because their charts were quite similar at the moment, yet they chose to manifest the Saturn-Neptune in completely different ways. There was free will in how they chose to respond to the stars. This relates to what some astrologers refer to as “redirecting” the planetary energies. One way or another, the energies have to manifest, but like my friend Richard Tarnas said, “Astrology is not concretely predictive, it is archetypally predictive.” So that’s where the element of free will comes in. Does that answer your question?
ADRIAN: Yes! There are so many contradictory perspectives in this world of astrology, like the Vedic and Western and so on. But the most confusing thing is they all seem to have results. How is this possible?
RAY: Yeah, that’s a very good question, but I frankly don’t think they have exactly the same results. How do I put this? Let me frame this in a broader context. As you know, there are many different methods of divination; there’s palmistry, there’s the I-Ching, there’s astrology, there’s tarot and so on. And each of these has its own particular framework of meaning and symbolism. So you may get a slightly different answer going to a palmist then you will from a tarot reader, or from an astrologer or a crystal ball reader; an astrologer might be better at timing while a tarot reader might be better at certain other things, for example.
Likewise, there are different frameworks of symbolism within astrology itself. And they can each comment on your life from different perspectives, but they may not come up with exactly the same answers. So a Vedic Astrologer can be quite accurate, and using their particular system and very different perspective they will come up with their own set of answers. And some of those will overlap on what Western astrologers might say, but some of them won’t. Along a similar line, by the way, I wrote an article for Mountain Astrologer that will be coming out later this year (2016) which suggests a possible way of reconciling Tropical Astrology and Sidereal Astrology. I think that both systems are accurate in their own way, but they don’t always come up with exactly the same answers.
Now let me add something else here. As I said, I do believe some astrological systems are better at certain things than others. Here’s a particularly dramatic example of that. I had a yoga scholar come to me years ago who was born with a close Sun-square-Moon. He had been previously to a couple of Vedic astrologers, but they weren’t able to shed any light on something going on his life that was causing him a lot of problems—some serious digestive issues, I learned afterwards. When I looked at his chart, I saw that transiting Pluto was sitting right on top of his Virgo Moon, and triggering that natal square. Among other things, I mentioned that that could be producing some very serious stomach problems—which is when I learned he was dealing with ulcers. He wondered aloud to me why neither of the Vedic astrologers he saw had come up with that, and I told him that it was probably because those Vedic Astrologers did not use the outer planets and so missed that powerful Pluto aspect. And with their different zodiacal system, they didn’t see his moon as even being in Virgo, which relates to digestion. On the other hand, there are some things that a Vedic Astrologer might come up with that I might miss entirely, using their particular framework of symbolism. Now, does that shed some light on your question?
ADRIAN: Sure. Would you like to discuss about the most common objection towards astrology and how to reply to it?
RAY: Sure, happy to give it a try.
ADRIAN: Excellent! So, in your opinion, what’s the most common objection towards astrology? How would you reply to it?
RAY: The most common one I encounter with skeptics is that there’s no rational explanation for how it works. Of course, most people tend to come at it from a strictly causal view point, like the way one billiard ball on a pool table affects another, so it’s hard for them to wrap their mind around a symbolic and synchronistic system like astrology. And so how could Pluto possibly be affecting us when it’s so far away? Or how can an astrological chart still operate after someone dies, like when you see when a dead celebrity suddenly come back into the news? Or how can Mercury retrograde affect us when it’s not really going backwards, and that’s just an Earth-based delusion? There are so many different things like that. How can Jupiter be a “lucky” force, or Saturn be associated with “loss”— things like that make no sense from a purely materialistic stand point.
A big part of the reason why I wrote The Waking Dream was to try to place astrology into a broader world view, within a framework of symbolic thinking. Because I see both astrology and synchronicity as part of a symbolist world view, one that sees the world as a kind of dream, as a symbolic language. That’s not easily digestible to a pure materialist, of course, who prefers to think of matter as just matter. If a materialist were to go to Mars and touch the soil, for instance, that’s all it would be to them; that handful of soil would be composed of certain elements and chemicals, but in the end, it’s just matter. Whereas an astrologer sees everything—not just the planets, but everything—as infused with meaning, with symbolism. To them, the world is permeated by a hidden, somewhat invisible framework of correspondences. These are things that can’t truly be understood from a purely materialistic standpoint, anymore than if you were to give a copy of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to a scientist and ask them to scientifically show you where the “meaning” is in the book, or in its image of a great white whale. They would analyze the letters on each page under a microscope, they could weigh the book on a scale, and do all sorts of things. But to understand the meaning of the book requires a more hermeneutic strategy, a more symbolic mindset. So you couldn’t really prove to a hardcore skeptic that astrology works unless they actually experienced it for themselves. It may not yield its secrets to conventional scientific testing, true, but it does stands up to empirical testing of that more personal sort, where you actually experience its meaning and symbolism for yourself, whether that takes one year or twenty. For me, it didn’t take long to see how accurate it really could be.
So that would be one key objection, and that’s how I would address it.
ADRIAN: Do you think that at some point in time the science will eventually discover how astrology works, maybe through some invisible rays or energy fields of some sort?
RAY: Personally no, I don’t think it has to do with energy fields, I don’t think it has to do with material properties. Now, I do think it’s possible that there are some statistical studies which could verify that astrological connections are indeed real, like the Gauquelin studies, but that’s very different from explaining how it works. For instance, one example I’ve used a lot is that of Mercury retrograde, which many astrologers believe has real effects in our lives. But like I said earlier, that’s purely an Earth-based illusion so you can’t say that it has anything really to do with the planet itself, or with some sort of “backing up” rays coming from the planet Mercury! It’s a phenomenological condition, and a symbolic one.
There’s another example I’ve often used in connection with that one, from the Native American tradition. As with many indigenous traditions around the world, when a child was born in a tribe, you looked to see what was happening in the environment. So if a deer was running by at the moment the child was born, you might call the child Running Deer. That’s not because some force field was coming off from the deer towards the child, but because of the symbolism involved! The child was born in a moment in time that was imbued with a particular matrix of meaningfulness and symbolism, and so reflected that matrix of meaning. Now, that’s not to say that there are no physical forces involved at all, such as solar flares, electromagnetism and gravity, and all that. Those may all play their part. But the fundamental basis of astrology, in my opinion, is symbolism and meaning.
ADRIAN: Can we discuss a bit about the proper use, the misuse and the abuse of astrology?
RAY: Right. Well again, it’s a very broad question, so let me take it one level at a time. As with any discipline, there are many ways an astrologer can make mistakes or mess up people’s lives and cause more harm than good. For example, it’s not common but I’ve known astrologers who use it in very negative ways, where it becomes almost like a power trip, where they tell people bad news about themselves or use it to gain advantage over others. One has to be very careful about how one delivers negative news, too. If someone walks out of your office depressed and hopeless, you failed as an astrologer, as far as I’m concerned. You have to find a way of framing the problem so that they see it in a more hopeful light. That’s as true for therapy as it is true for astrology, by the way. How do you reframe the problems and challenges in the stars, and how do you give the client a sense of possibility rather than impossibility?
It’s not quite as common nowadays, fortunately, but there’s a certain very limited, one-dimensional approach to astrology where you look at someone’s chart, and suppose they were born with Mars squaring their Moon, so you say, “Oh, you’re angry, you get in lots of fights”—and that’s as far as you go with it. To my mind, that’s a very simplistic and perhaps even harmful way to approach astrology, because it’s so narrow minded and limits the client’s options. In fact, that Mars-square-Moon has many facets and levels, so you can also talk to that person about their strong warrior energy and how it can be used in more positive ways for constructive change. For example it could indicate someone who’s an athlete or a social activist, and might even indicate real courage. True, there may be impulsiveness and anger as well, I’m not denying that, but it’s important to realize there’s a spectrum of possibilities there, not just one level.
An astrologer can be a negative force if they cross the line and try telling people what to do—”Oh, your chart shows all this emphasis on Gemini and Mercury, so you should become a writer!” Sure, that’s one possibility, but it’s not your job as an astrologer to tell them how they must manifest it! I think some of the same problems which attend astrology attend the field of psychology, too. Just as there are both good and bad astrologers, there are good and bad psychologists.
You might also see astrologers misusing astrology in broader ways, on the mundane, socio-political level, by inserting their own biases into their interpretations. For example, a Republican might look at Obama’s chart and say, “Oh, he’s a terrible person!” On the other hand, a liberal might look at George Bush’s chart and say, “Oh, he is a terrible person!” And one has to be responsible when making predictions in the public arena as well. I remember years ago when an astrologer predicted that astrology showed California was going to fall into the ocean on a certain date, which panicked a lot of people. Needless to say, the disaster didn’t happen. I could probably go on, but those are a few of the things that come to mind. Does that address your question?
ADRIAN: Loud and clear. During the twentieth century there were some revolutions happening in astrology, and you were a contemporary with at least one of them, which occurred in the seventies—the psychological orientation. Can you say some words about these revolutions, and maybe we can predict what the next one might be?
RAY: As far as I see it, there have been three major revolutions which have taken place in astrology over the last century or so. I don’t know if revolutions is the right word, but there were certainly three major developments.
The first of those would be the psychological shift. Carl Jung and Freud were largely responsible for that, in terms of their influence seeping into astrology. Now, you did have inklings of psychology in astrology before the 20th century, no doubt about it. Quite a few centuries ago, you could find comments about certain character traits as indicated by certain zodiacal signs or planetary aspects. But that moved into a whole new dimension during the twentieth century, to such a degree that astrology is now used as much for exploring and mapping the inner landscape as for looking at the outer events in a person’s life. As I said, my first two teachers were at different ends of that spectrum. Maureen Cleary was far more oriented towards psychology, and while Kriyananda had a deep grasp of the spiritual dimensions of astrology, he regarded psychological astrology as too often being very vague, and not practical enough. Funny enough, there was actually more overlap between their approaches than either of them seemed to realize, because Kriyananda could be very insightful in his interpretations about psychology oftentimes, and Maureen Cleary could be very astonishingly accurate when talking about the practical side of what the chart showed. So I think the division between their approaches was not quite as big as it first appeared.
At any rate, the second major “revolution” in astrology has been the introduction of computers. I remember when I was first doing astrology, how long it took just to construct a chart, especially when it came to things like progressions. It’s almost unbelievable how different it became when computers entered the picture, not only in terms of the speed with which you could conduct astrology, but with the sharing of information via the internet. As a result, you now have a new crop of astrologers who are quite brilliant and who can draw upon and benefit from the research of their colleagues, as well as from those who came before. I can’t say enough about the impact this has had; this really has been a kind of a Renaissance in astrology.
Which leads me to the third shift in astrology, which has been the rediscovery of the ancient traditions, whether those be Medieval or Hellenistic, Chinese, Arabic, and so on. So, as a result of these three revolutions or shifts, we now have almost an embarrassment of riches, since there’s almost so much to draw on—in a way, I’m almost glad I’m not a beginner just starting out right now, because there’s so much to learn! I had a new student not too long ago who said they felt actually overwhelmed by all the astrological information out there, since they believed they had learn it all in order to become a good astrologer. I said to them, no, not necessarily. For some people, it would be better to just put down your stakes in one territory and develop that as much as possible before taking in everything. In fact, sometimes I think it’s possible to know too much.
ADRIAN: What do you mean by that?
RAY: Okay, I had a client come to me who had been to an astrologer who was extremely well-versed in many aspects of astrology—modern, Hellenistic, Evolutionary, etcetera. And when that astrologer read her chart, he tried to fit so much information into the reading that my client walked away feeling like the main thing she wanted to know hadn’t really been addressed, not in any depth. It was simply too much of a good thing, in other words. I looked at her chart and saw that she had a very tough energy, a tight Saturn-Pluto-Moon in the fifth house involved in a wider T-square. It was an especially difficult pattern, and I spent most of the reading focusing on it, because I intuitively sensed it was perhaps the most important challenge in her life. She was in tears by the end of the reading, because it turns out she had been abused as a child, had several miscarriages, and this was the area she was really most curious about. So there were many other things I could have spoken about in her chart, but sometimes less is more. And so having all this information now at our fingertips can be extremely useful, but we have to be selective, we have to be somewhat cautious in how we use it.
But so, those are the three revolutions, if we can call them that: the psychological, the technological, and the historical, or the resurrection of those older traditions. Now, what was your other question?
ADRIAN: I wondered if we can predict where the next revolution in astrology will start?
RAY: I was discussing that with my boss at The Mountain Astrologer not long ago, Tem Tarriktar. I honestly don’t know how to answer that specifically, other than to say that I think there could be a new synthesis coming together, which draws together all of these other factors we’ve been discussing. In the same way, if you had asked an astrologer in 1850 to predict what was going to happen to astrology in the twentieth century, how could they possibly had foreseen any of these three movements? But what we’re seeing now could be something new, an amalgamation, a synthesis of existing elements, techniques and traditions. Some of my colleagues are now involved in trying to create a synthesis of existing elements, of bridging Eastern and Western astrology, of Western psychological with Eastern or Vedic systems. And there are people trying to find ways of bridging Sidereal systems with Tropical systems— I’m working a little bit on that one myself.
Or I suppose you could get really speculative, when it comes to future trends in astrology. For instance what would astrology look like on another planet? Let’s say land on the planet Mars and our male and female astronauts gave birth to a baby; how would you do a chart for someone born on Mars? Or for someone traveling beyond the solar system entirely? What would the chart for an alien from another solar system look like, with a different set of planets altogether? And how would you know what the third planet from the Sun in the system Alpha Centauri means, for example? Or what would astrology be like in a solar system with two suns? What is the astrology of black holes? There are so many different factors that might play into this, but those are a few speculations.
ADRIAN: Humans develop now the artificial intelligence AI, and we have some significant results lately. Most probably these will be systems able to learn and to evolve somehow, maybe to think for themselves, too. Do you see any progress driven by the advent of this new technology?
RAY: Well, it is an interesting question. Now, if you’re asking in a broader sense, in terms of the AI revolution in general, I see that as part of the Great Ages, and the shift from the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Pisces. No question. That’s all part of the technological revolution that started around the discovery of Uranus in the late 1700s, and it’s all a reflection of the movement into the Age of Aquarius. What does that really means? And what does technology symbolize? It symbolizes a new kind of mindset, a logical, rational sort of mindset that’s taking shape. In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, look at the robot HAL. (By the way, if you move each of those letters up one step in the alphabet, notice how you get IBM!) In the old myths, the old traditions, the hero slays a dragon, which is a more instinctual, more emotional symbol. But in the movie 2001, Dave Bowman, the astronaut, has to slay a robot. So, what does that symbolize? It symbolizes that the challenge of our age isn’t so much one of emotional issues as it is dealing with the rise of the Machine—in other words, the rise of mechanistic logic. And I think the possibility that AI could rise up and take over is symbolic of the way our dry, sterile rationality could overpower us, or even eclipse our spiritual nature. Every age has its struggle, every age has its “dragon”—but the dragon of the Aquarian Age isn’t a dragon, it’s a robot, a machine, a computer, the AI. So that’s my answer to your question.
ADRIAN: Do you have any specialty in astrology, apart of these already mentioned?
RAY: Well, I’d like to think there are several things. One of those involves trying to bring together the yogic doctrine of the chakras with astrology, and how the horoscope reveals the subtle energies of one’s being. Another major focus for me has been mundane astrology, in terms of how astrology sheds light on cultural movements. I’ve focused a lot on the notion of the Great Ages and our shift into the Age of Aquarius, in terms of how that relates to cultural movements, like cinema, literature and politics. That was the focus on my second book, Signs of the Times. I have my degree in filmmaking, and I’ve written a great deal on the intersection of astrology and cinema, and how movies reflect the times and the aspects.
I been focusing a lot lately on the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, and how those play into personal horoscopes. I’m fascinated by the role of stelliums, both in the lives of individuals and societies, and in the importance of station points in both personal horoscopes and on the mundane level. I mentioned the chakras, and I think that applies not just to individuals but to our collective experience.
Also, I’m interested in that more universal level of astrology, and what it means as a symbolic language. In my book The Waking Dream, for example (particularly chapter 11), I tried to take what I learned from my studies of sacred geometry and from my conversations with teachers in the Kriya Yoga tradition, and hopefully shed some light on the deeper implications of astrology on that level. And lastly, a major interest of mine has been how astrology expands and forces us to rethink our understanding of Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. I believe that synchronicity is a far more expansive kind of phenomena than we see with just isolated coincidences—and astrology is the perfect example of that. That’s kind of a quick answer to your question.
ADRIAN: Can you describe some ways in which astrology has helped you?
RAY: Astrology has given me a radically different way of understanding the world, and my own world—in particular by illustrating how things don’t happen by chance. This gets to the fate and destiny question, and even though I don’t believe in rigid predetermination, it’s very interesting to discover that there are indeed timetables in the world, and that events aren’t haphazard. In an even broader sense, it does suggest to me there is a “God” or a God principle of some sort, for the reasons we touched on earlier. And it virtually proves to me that there is a transcendental dimension to our world, and to my world. That’s the “top of the pyramid” as far as what the value of astrology means to me.
There are many practical values, too, such as when I’m under a difficult energy or when a client it’s under a difficult energy, it helps to know there is a “shelf life” to that energy, so to speak, that it’s not going to last forever. Astrology gives you a time frame, it allows you to know in advance when the difficult times are coming up so that you’re not sucker-punched. It also gives you an understanding of the good, so-called auspicious energies, which you can take advantage of. So those are some things that I would say in answer to that.
ADRIAN: In your opinion, what would be the most effective way to live a transit, to go through it? Can you give one or two examples?
RAY: It depends on the transit. If it’s a difficult transit, I don’t think that it’s good to deny the energy and simply counteract it. Let’s say you’ve got a difficult Saturn transit. I don’t think the answer is to just rent a bunch of Jim Carry comedies and watch those on your DVD player. That might be good in its own way, but Saturn is there to teach you something about your limitations, too, or about letting go of excess baggage in your life. But it also cautions you, and may be saying it’s not a time to attempt certain projects. Like high-risk mountain climbing. Now, some astrologers might say because Saturn rules mountains, perhaps that’s the best time to burn off the difficult Saturn! But personally, if Saturn were squaring my chart in powerful ways, I would be considerably more cautious!
Or, if Mercury is retrograde and is squaring Saturn, is that a good time to start writing a book? Personally, I think not. Editing it, sure—but starting it? No. On a positive note, if I have a fantastic Jupiter transit coming up, that might be a time for planning a trip overseas. I’ve done that one myself. The trips that I’ve done under very harmonious Jupiter aspects have been remarkably different from the trips I’ve taken under more challenging aspects. Now, I’ve learned something from both, but I’d much rather have the easy energies over the difficult ones!
ADRIAN: Which transits do you find the most beneficial?
RAY: Well, it depends on what I’m trying to do. Different transits are good for different things, so that when I had Uranus trining my Mercury, I chose that as the time to write my second book on the Aquarian Age. When Jupiter was crossing my 9th house, that was a time that I did a long-distance trip. Now, if Saturn was trining or conjuncting my Neptune, say, I might take that as a time to work on my spiritual practice, or some artistic project. There are so many different ways that you can utilize different transits that I’d be hard-pressed to take just one.
ADRIAN: How do you do your reading? Do you use any technique in particular?
RAY: If someone wants a natal reading, once I’ve received their birth time and birthplace, I’ll sit down, calculate the chart and I will look primarily, first of all, to the Sun, the Moon, and the Ascendant. I’ll look to see if there’s any dominant pattern like stelliums or Grand Trines. But I will look in particular to the strongest, closest difficult aspects, the closest square or opposition or conjunction. One of my original astrology teachers, Goswami Kriyananda, made the comment that you can look at someone’s closest square or opposition and you could probably do a whole chart reading just on that one aspect and the person would walk away thinking how accurate you were! I find that that’s true. People are heavily defined by their strongest square or opposition. I’ll look to the career indicators in the chart, all the different things that factor into that, the 10th house and aspects to the Sun, the dominant square or opposition etcetera. I’ll look to see what the chart says about romance and relationships, because most people want to know about that. And I’ll look to the health indicators as well.
But I also ask the person: is there anything in particular that you’re interested in? Because it’s important to know what they want. They may want to know about romance, and you might spend the whole hour talking about business but it’s not what they want. So, I need to know to some extent what they want.
Then, when I put all that together in my head, I go with my intuition, and the spirit of the moment, as to where to take the reading. My intuition has definitely become better as I grown older after having done this for so many years.
For an update or “progressed” reading, I first look at their chart to see what the most dominant transits are; is Pluto conjuncting their Midheaven? Is Jupiter in their Sun sign? And so on. And then I draw up a specific transit list to see what all the trends and dates are. But the key thing is to first determine what the big picture is, not just the individual dates. Those, I bring in slowly, and study the various progressions, solar arcs, progressed to progressed, etcetera. And I put it all together and lay it out for them in terms of what the key trends are, along with a certain number of dates.
But it’s very important for me when I actually sit down with them or speak with them over the phone to ask right at the start, what you’re interested in, what do you want to know? And I often start off the chart reading by asking what has the last six months been like for you, or even the last year? Because that gives me some very useful context, by which to understand what’s coming up. Sometimes I have a pretty good idea as to what’s going on, because the aspects can be so clear cut, but it’s very helpful to know where they’re coming from. So, that’s kind of a simple way of answering your question on those two levels.
ADRIAN: Do you do synastry readings? Do you do readings for couples?
RAY: Yes, although I am cutting back on that, because it’s an enormous amount of work, because you’re not just doing two charts or three, you’re doing five, six, or even seven charts all together. When I do couples work, I look at the individual charts first, both in terms of the natal and update horoscopes, all of them, and then I look at the compatibility charts between them. With those, I focus particularly on the key aspects, especially the Jupiter or Saturn connections, especially if one person’s Saturn is squaring the other person’s Sun or Moon—that’s a big, big deal. Or if one person’s Mars is sitting on top of the other person’s Venus, that can show tremendous chemistry, etcetera, etcetera. So there are a number of charts and can take so many hours that I may discontinue that entirely, because it’s so difficult.
ADRIAN: And when you do this, you work with both partners?
RAY: I prefer to work with both partners, if I work with the one partner and the other one isn’t present, I do ask if they get permission from the other person.
ADRIAN: I’ve heard about situations, when the astrologer discourages the relation. In what situation would you do it? For what reasons?
RAY: Oh (laughing)… are you asking me if I would ever say that?
ADRIAN: Yeah and for what reasons?
RAY: Oh, that’s a very good question. I would never say that, because you don’t know what a person’s karma is, okay? They might be meant to be together. No astrologer is omniscient, so we don’t know why that couple may be together. They may have some very difficult karma, but that could be exactly what they came here to work out. See? So what I would say to them? I would of course make them aware of the struggles, and how serious those struggles are, but I would also make it very clear that the chart doesn’t say they shouldn’t be together. If they’re going to try to make it work as a relationship, they have to be conscious of the challenges involved. I do think there’s free will involved, so I don’t think it’s ever completely determined that it won’t work out for them, no! But they have to be aware of the struggles and the magnitude of the struggles, and do try to give them hope, if they are both committed to it. There may be a karmic reason that they are together, but they have to make that decision for themselves.
ADRIAN: Can astrology predict the success or failure of a relationship?
RAY: My technical philosophical answer is no, but my realistic answer is yes. For example, one of my astrology teachers said that you can overcome almost anything in compatibility-astrology between two charts, but to be very honest, he said, there are two patterns he’d seen between charts that rarely work out for very long. And that was Saturn in one person’s chart closely squaring the other person’s Sun, or Saturn in one person’s chart closely squaring the other person’s Venus. That doesn’t mean they can’t work it out, it’s just means that it’s very, very difficult. And in my experience, I’ve found that to be pretty true. Those are especially difficult aspects to see in a synastry relationship, not impossible, just very difficult.
ADRIAN: What qualities recommend a good astrologer?
RAY: Well. I could say there’s a certain element of sheer intelligence, the ability to put together many complex factors, a kind of holistic intelligence. A big part of it is pure intuition. Some astrologers have intuition, but they don’t have a rational intelligence and some have the rational intelligence, but they don’t have the intuition! And some have both.
Something my friend Laurence Hillman has mentioned, which he heard from a teacher of his, and it’s vital, is life experience. Part of the reason I think I’m a much better astrology now than I was 20 years ago is that I have so much more life experience under my belt. And that’s life-wisdom that comes not only from the school of hard knocks, but also from having read a lot of horoscopes, having seen astrology in action with thousands of clients. And so, all of that experience has been absolutely invaluable, and it really can’t be taught. Well, some of it can, I suppose; I’ve tried to convey that in my writings, to impart what my experience has been and hopefully that’s been useful to some people. But that’s something that ultimately has to come from within, because you have your own set of insights and intuitions that arise over the course of your career as an astrologer, and can be very personal. That’s how I would answer your question.
ADRIAN: What’s the biggest challenge an astrologer faces? How to overcome it?
RAY: Challenge… Hmm… I don’t know if I have an easy answer to that. I think that might simply be Impatience… I’ve seen beginning astrologers get overwhelmed. It’s not the same for any two astrologers, of course, but I think that many beginning astrologers can become overwhelmed entering in the field by the technical side of it all, or by all the different factors in the horoscope that need to be juggled. But it just takes time and you have to be patient. As a beginning astrologer that’s critically important.
Another big challenge is that an astrologer can gets onto a given path, a tradition, or system and become narrow-minded in that one tradition so that they don’t see outside of it. For example, they might get into psychological astrology, you think that’s all there is, they might get into Western Astrology and think that’s all there is, or they might get into the Hellenistic astrology and think that’s all there is. We can become dogmatic. Or they get into Tropical Astrology or Sidereal Astrology and become dogmatic about it. One of the things that sounded very good to me about Kepler College was the fact that they tried to give students exposure to different systems to avoid that problem, of narrow-mindedness. I think it’s one of the reasons why some of the astrologers coming out of the Kepler school system could well devise some new synthesis, like we were talking about before. That could become very important down the road, even though I don’t know quite what form that might take, other than maybe a bridging of traditional and modern schools of astrology. So I think that’s an important one, of not getting narrow minded, not getting too fixated on a given system or school of astrology.
ADRIAN: Given your experience, can you give three pieces of advice for a student of astrology?
RAY: Well, that actually touches out what I just said. It’s a balancing act, it’s a razor’s edge between getting overwhelmed by too much information and getting too narrow-minded in a given route.
On the one hand I think it’s very important for an astrologer to first learn the basics in a given path but then to branch out and expose yourself to different systems and techniques. There’s wonderful stuff on YouTube where you can learn about different systems and ideas, great stuff. And I think that’s very good. But I wouldn’t suggest someone jumping into the deep end of the pool right away and try to learn all that stuff immediately, because that’s hard, you’ll be sent away to a psychiatric institution in no time at all. You need some slowness, you’ve got to pace yourself when getting in the field. I think that that’s one really valuable piece of advice.
ADRIAN: And the other two?
RAY: Yeah, I’m about to give you the second. The second piece of advice is, do as many charts as you can. The more experience you have doing charts, the better. You really do learn by simply reading for people. Maybe at first just read for free, for friends and family, and then you work up from there and charge money, perhaps. But pure experience is invaluable. Actually, I’m going to give you four pieces of advice.
The third piece of advice is to read the chapter in my new book Under a Sacred Sky called “The Seven Most Common Mistakes Made by Astrologers”. Because those are some of the things I learned the hard way, which I think are extremely important in order to avoid problems.
And then, the fourth piece of advice, at the risk of getting too self-referential here, read the chapter of my book called “On the perils of telling people what to do”. That one deals with the ethics and philosophy of changing other people’s lives.
ADRIAN: If you would start again to learn astrology what would you do differently?
RAY: If I could do it all over again, I think one interesting approach would be to go to the Kepler School. I don’t frankly know how they arrange things now, I knew better a number of years ago, when I spoke to a couple of graduates and was very impressed with the curriculum and the teachers. I thought they had a very good system going there and that’s how I would probably do it, if I were starting out from the beginning again.
ADRIAN: What is the favorite aspect from your chart?
RAY: They’re all my favorite aspects. I’m not just being clever; I feel everything in my chart is a part of who I am, even the hard aspects. I’ve got basically a T-square to Saturn, with Saturn in the first house, which is a very hard aspect. But if I eliminated that from the horoscope, I wouldn’t be who I am. So, I don’t have “favorites” from my horoscope that way. If you asked me 20 years ago, I would have said, yes, perhaps Saturn trine Venus, or Saturn trine Mercury—something. But, again, I don’t see things in a strictly “good” or “bad” way anymore with my horoscope, I think it’s all “good” in the sense that all contributed to who I am.
ADRIAN: What was the most beneficial transit you had?
RAY: I know this is probably frustrating to hear, but I have to give a similar answer. I’ve benefited both from the easy and the hard transits in my life. However, I wouldn’t want to repeat certain transits ever again!
ADRIAN: Which ones?
RAY: For example, a number of years ago, I had a very difficult Saturn aspect. I was taking care of a sick family member for two years and it was the hardest experience of my entire life. But it was a valuable experience to go through, on a number of levels—spiritually, creatively, intellectually. But, boy, it was hard. If I could go back and erase that from my life, would I? I don’t know, because again, it’s made me who I am. But let’s just say I hope I never experience that again.
ADRIAN: From your point of view, what are the best questions a client can ask an astrologer?
RAY: If they are coming for a natal chart, the key question is when I ask someone at the start of a reading, What have you come here for? If they say something like, “I don’t have anything specific, I just want you to tell me what you see”—that gives me freedom to let my intuition go wherever it wants. I like that when it happens. If they are coming to me for an update reading, then it helps me to know if there’s something specific or they want to know about work, romance or money. I also think like it when they ask me what I see as the key challenge in their chart or what their key challenges are. That shows me they want to learn, that they want to grow, and it opens the door for me to talk about the more difficult challenges without worrying as much whether they’ll freak out. So if they have an exact Saturn square Mercury in their chart, I can talk about both the good and the not-so-good of that. I hope that’s clear.
ADRIAN: Right, yes. What was the most unusual question a client asked you in a reading?
RAY: Wow! Let me think. I don’t know if I have some pretty unusual ones. Well, I’m not sure. I may have to pass on that one.
ADRIAN: Who’s your favorite practicing astrologer?
RAY: I like different astrologers for different reasons. I haven’t read his work for quite a long time, but I was very impacted by Stephen Arroyo’s work. I love Liz Greene, I think what Rob Hand has done is extraordinary. My friend Laurence Hillman does great work with the Nodes. Rick Tarnas, I liked very much what he’s done with cultural and historical patterns. I almost regard Carl Jung as an astrologer, because so much of it is implicit in what he wrote. He clearly knew astrology. Those are the ones that come to mind. I know I’m leaving a lot out. But those are the names that come to mind.
ADRIAN: If you would have the chance of a reading with a famous astrologer of all time, which one you would choose and what would you ask of him?
RAY: I’m trying to think. I would be very curious to talk to John Dee and just for the heck of it, to see what he said about a chart like mine, or anybody’s for that matter. That would be fascinating.
ADRIAN: Would you ask him something specifically?
RAY: I think that I would leave it open to him, I would say just tell me whatever comes to your mind, about me or about my future. I would leave it up to him. That would be an interesting conversation!
ADRIAN: I have some questions about your books. How did you write your books? It was difficult? Can you share something about what motivated you to do such an effort?
RAY: Yeah, it was extremely difficult for all three books, but especially the first two. The first, The Waking Dream, was over 15 years of work, and went through maybe 60 or 70 drafts. But it was very difficult, because I’m a very slow writer. I was not a very good writer at the time either, and received quite a bit of discouragement from some of the people that read the first few drafts. I had my college degree in painting and filmmaking, and one of those early readers said, sorry, Ray, but you’re just not a writer, you should go back to arts. That was discouraging, but something was drawing me to the work. And I kept up with it draft after draft, so whereas it started basically in ’81, I didn’t get the book published until ’96. It changed a lot over those years. You know, I have Saturn trine Mercury, so writing comes slow for me.
The second book, Signs of the Times, nearly gave me a nervous breakdown, because I wrote the whole book in a questions-and-answers format, but after paying me the advance money the publisher said, sorry but you’ll need to rewrite the whole thing in an expository way; we decided we don’t like the questions-and-answers format. That turned out to be a blessing, since I like the end product better, but it was difficult at the time, and happened right when the Saturn-Pluto opposition around 2001 was hitting my Sun. Then when the book came out they changed the title from my original choice, The Dawn of Aquarius, to Signs Of The Times, which didn’t really say anything about the content, so that was frustrating as well. But most writers have their share of war stories like that; unless you self-publish, you don’t always have final say over the form your book is going to take. The third book was easier, because it consisted mainly of articles I’d written over the span of 20 years. It was an anthology, so the hard work had mainly been done already.
But what has motivated me with all the books and articles I’ve written has mainly been the thrill of coming up with ideas or perspectives that feel new to me, and then wanting to communicate that to others. You put the ideas out there and then hopefully get feedback. People may or may not agree, but ideally a dialog opens up, just like this conversation right now.
ADRIAN: I have a couple of questions about Signs Of The Times, the book where you try to understand complex development of our times by using the symbolic language to unlock the meaning of events. And I will give a quote from the Introduction:
“For thousands of years, mystics of all traditions have affirmed that our world is the reflection of a deeper spiritual intelligence made visible, reach in meaning and interconnectedness. They have said that beyond surface phenomena lies a hidden network of subtle correspondences and archetypal meanings; coming trends announce themselves ahead of time through an intricate language of omens and predictable cycles. […] all events are part of a vast symphony of meaning that extends to every aspect of our world. Weather patterns, the movement of animals and humans, the paths of the stars and planets, and the rise and fall of civilizations—all these are intricately coordinated within an orderly whole, with no occurrence accidental, no pattern superfluous. Like dream symbolism, a historical event can connect with a larger matrix of meaning in time and space far beyond itself.”
Well, this sounds fantastic. Can you please elaborate on this provocative statement and astrology, synchronicity and mythology, the three tools of the investigation you used throughout the book, and maybe give us some examples?
RAY: There are a number of points in that passage so I’m not sure which one to elaborate on. But, again, as I talked about earlier and as I mentioned in The Waking Dream, astrology on all of its levels presupposes that the Universe is itself a symbolic language that reflects the divine mind, you might say. It’s based on symbolism, and in much the same way that you can interpret a dream if you understand the language of symbols, you can interpret the dream of life itself, whether that’s on the personal level or on the collective level. And astrology is kind of a shortcut into this; it’s not the only method, but if there is a skeleton key to unlock the meaning of these things, astrology is it, because it gives you a basic vocabulary: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun, Moon etc. as well as the aspects and the signs.
For example, the shifting of the Great Ages is based on the precession of the vernal point, which is based on the first moment of spring. That’s how it moves backwards through the constellations and it’s moving now from Pisces into Aquarius. And astrology is astronomy that is symbolically interpreted, as Shelly Trimmer said. So, the precession of the equinox has a symbolic meaning, just like anything else in astronomy. And we’re seeing that in terms of the shift from Piscean types of religious ideals to more Aquarian scientific ones. That’s showing itself in all kinds of ways, such as the modern battle of secular society versus dogmatic religion. We don’t just see that in our dealing with Middle Eastern extremists but also in fundamentalist Christians; the abortion debate is the battle of Aquarius to Pisces, really, it reflects opposing values and paradigms. The pro-life forces are mainly Christian in their belief and clearly Piscean, while the pro-choice factions are clearly Aquarian in their emphasis on personal freedom and independence. If you understand symbolism, you see this larger shift in movies like the Wizard of Oz, and many, many others. I go into all that in great depth in the book.
ADRIAN: How can one learn this symbolic language?
RAY: Well, learning the basics of astrology is a great starting point—learning the signs, the planets, the aspects, the houses. That’s a start. But also, if someone is trying to apply that to the broader culture—mundane astrology in other words—one has to really have a grasp of world history. You can’t do mundane astrology without really being an historian and drawing connections. One of the curious things about my case, I suppose, is that I have my background in the arts rather than in academia, and one of the values of that has been that I don’t really think in linear ways. I was born more or less with a kind of ADD attention deficit, so I engage a lot in stream of consciousness. I’ll be thinking about something happening in politics and then start making a connection to something happening in movies, or something happening in the medical field, and let my mind wander across different fields like that. And before long and I’ve made some curious connections I wouldn’t have stumbled onto using straight logic. I think it’s good to have a multidisciplinary perspective on things, and astrology actually allows you to do that because the language of correspondences shows you connections between diverse areas. You can see how a given archetype manifests in very different ways, so that Jupiter rules institutions of higher learning but also governs long-distance journeys, it rules the pope, judges, the metal tin, clowns, and other things. So it’s conducive to holistic thinking.
There’s an example I used in a recent article I wrote for Mountain Astrologer about a very peculiar event that happened one night last year or the year before, where a man and woman were driving near a cemetery here in Chicago and suddenly saw a man dressed in a clown outfit in their headlights. They watched as he climbed over the gate of the cemetery and disappeared into the night. A very strange event and I thought to myself, Okay, what’s the symbolism there? A clown is a Jupiter’s symbol, and he’s going over a boundary, a gate, which is Saturn; and he’s going into a cemetery, which is either Scorpio or the 8th house. I looked at the ephemeris, what did I find? Lo and behold, Jupiter was squaring Saturn in Scorpio right at that time. And based on that you could start making connections to other things happening in the news at the time. But astrology gives you the key. If you understand the language of its symbols, you can start to decoding events and start drawing connections between different fields, and seemingly obscure connections. Does that answer your question at all?
ADRIAN: Yes. So, you work like the painter, only you don’t work with colors, but with events?
RAY: Yes, but an even better analogy might be music. I like to play around with music in my free time, and try to give expression to certain things in musical form which I can’t through books or articles. I took piano lessons as a kid, and had to learn a bit about harmony and the way that notes resonate with each other, not just sequentially, like 1, 2, 3, 4, but in how they sound together at the same time, like playing E on the keyboard at the same time as a G. I have no doubt that music works on a different part of one’s brain than reading or writing a book, say. Because in playing the piano, you might be playing many notes at the same time, and using six or even seven fingers at once! So, you’re training your brain to become more attuned to horizontal or later connections rather than just linear ones. In its own way, painting does that, too, because when you look at an artwork you have to see it as a whole, not just in terms of the parts, so it’s also a holistic process. But I believe that having a background in either music or art can be helpful for understanding things like astrology or synchronicity, and seeing connections between diverse phenomena. Do you see what I mean?
ADRIAN: Yes, absolutely. Astrologers noticed throughout the ages a kind of connection between opposites, a so-called law of polarity and one of the ways this law is manifesting is in relation with the astrological eras. In this respect, I find you highlighted masterfully some of the potential dangers of the upcoming Age. For instance you wrote: “the group could become so powerful it could prove difficult for any individual—law of abiding or otherwise—to go about his business without the mass mind checking up on him.
You made this prophetic statement in 2002, long before the era of selfie, Facebook or the Snowden scandal. Also, you said, “Yes, we can find fame, fortune nowadays, but there is a price; for while modern telecommunications afford us greater access now to the eyes and ears of the world, so the eyes and ears of the world have greater access to our own private lives.” It must be very nice to live to see your prophecy fulfilled, huh? What do you think, is there any way to avoid or at least keep in balance such potential pitfalls or we simply have to go through the agony of changing eras? Is there a way to avoid the hazards of that dynamic dichotomy between the masses and the individual?
RAY: Well, the polarity of the Pisces-Virgo axis brought us a dichotomy between reason and faith, in that you had the scholastics and scholars who tried to look at Christianity from a more logical, rational standpoint, and on the other hand you had those who felt that pure faith was the answer. But in the Age of Aquarius, the polarity now shifts to Aquarius versus Leo, and I do think that poses serious challenges to the individual, since Aquarius is more dominant and the Leonine individual takes second place, you could say. But there is always—always—the opportunity to remain above the crowd, and to not get lost in mob-consciousness.
I’ll give you an example. How is it that some people survived in the concentration camps of World War II and others didn’t? How is it that you could have figures like Elie Wiesel maintain their authenticity and inner strength despite the outer world and its challenges? I think that the challenges we face ahead may not be on that level, or be that obvious, but either way there is always the option of holding to your inner truth and not being swayed by the group.
I think Facebook is a classic expression of the emerging Aquarian Age. It symbolizes people who are interconnected with the masses, but in a very cerebral, detached way. By itself, social media is not bad, but if you have someone on Facebook or Twitter for seven or eight hours a day, the mass mind has clearly taken over their life. However, suppose someone goes onto Facebook maybe once or twice a day and plugs in just to make a few connections, and doesn’t put all their personal information online, they’re able to maintain some degree of privacy and aren’t nearly as caught up in the mass mind. They’ve balanced out Aquarius and Leo, you might say. But that other person, the one who is heavily caught up in the technology, they’ve more or less erased their personal identity by becoming so plugged in to the masses, it almost reminds me of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But we always have some control. As I mentioned towards the end of Signs of the Times, Yogananda said that you have to rise above the age in that you were born, and I think that’s true for all of us.
Let me state that differently. Just as there are octaves within any given horoscope, in terms of the levels at which you can manifest the energies of the chart, there are octaves or levels at which you can manifest a Great Age. So Saint Francis of Assisi manifested the Piscean Age very different from Torquemada, the head of the Inquisition, or Jerry Falwell, the American preacher. The highest expression of an age is usually expressed only by a small percentage of individuals during any given age. That’s how it’s always been, and likely how it always will be. The masses as a whole will probably never resonate to the highest potentials of an Age. That’s why they’re the masses!
ADRIAN: Even in the Aquarius Age?
RAY: Oh, yeah, I don’t think it going to be any different in the Aquarian Age. Just turn on the TV and 99 out of 100 channels are basically just bread and circuses. But there may be one or two channels that have something enlightening going on. To me that’s a metaphor for the Age itself. The masses don’t want enlightenment, they want entertainment. Now, I do think there’s something important happening, in terms of an awakening taking place in the world, no doubt about it. Just look at the Civil Rights movement, or how people are more aware of animal suffering and how we affect the environment. I even see some changes in how people think about spirituality. A person could turn on the Oprah Winfrey show, back when it was on, and see her interviewing some spiritual teacher talking about meditation, or talking about “the God in each of us,” for instance, so there do seem to be helpful changes taking place. But on a global level, will the collective ever reach a point of mass enlightenment? I personally don’t believe it, though I’d like to be proven wrong. In in the end, it’s up to the individual to remain firm in their own truth and not be swayed by the masses. Look at the great saints or yogis of the last 100 years; they’re the ones who tended to go out on their own and not follow the herd, and I think that’s always going to be the spiritual challenge for people.
ADRIAN: So in this situation we just start to notice around where the group becomes more and more powerful, can the individual go about his business without the mass mind encroaching on him or her?
RAY: Oh, I think that’s a real challenge, no doubt. And I think we’re at that turning point right now, when we have the power to turn the things around or it could become almost irreversible. In America we see this with the fact that the elections are almost always rigged and the mass media is being bought up by a few very powerful companies. There isn’t nearly as much independent media as there should be. And what does exist is hanging on for dear life right now. The internet is a saving grace in that regards, since it gives you an alternative doorway into what’s going on, as does Twitter. But it’s all at a very precarious turning point right now.
I think it’s inevitable that we’ll have to sacrifice our privacy to some extent. Curiously enough, people are willingly giving up their privacy on Facebook all the time, just as we’re giving up our privacy through emails which can be easily hacked. We’re giving up our privacy in all kinds of ways. To a degree I think it’s unavoidable that there’s going to be some intrusion. But it’s good to remember that even in a primitive tribe where you had a bunch of people living together under one roof, there wasn’t much privacy there either! A lot of people throughout history didn’t have any privacy at all. So this problem isn’t entirely new. But right now it seems that people are giving up their privacy willingly, almost like they’re happily walking right into this Orwellian…
RAY: Unconscious, yeah. The writer Mark Crispin Miller had a great line in one of his books, which does a twist on Orwell famous statement in 1984: “Big Brother is you, watching!” I love that.
I talk at the end of the book about prescriptions, about things people can do to try to keep this under control. Despite all the problems we’re facing, I think there is always the option of maintaining your own truth and pursuing your own spiritual path, and choosing your own response to conditions. If there is any one teaching that’s central to yoga, it’s that you can take back control of your consciousness, that you don’t have to let the outer world control your mental or emotional states. And I believe that’s possible even we’re living in a total surveillance society in the year 2035, should it come to that. But hopefully it won’t.
ADRIAN: In her book Heavens Declare, Alice O. Howell outlined beautifully one of the phenomena happening with changing eras: the new religion massacring the old one, just like the Christians massacred the Jews during Pisces era or, before that, the Jews massacring the old religion of the Bull from the Age of Taurus and so on. What do you think about this dynamic with the “new massacring the old,” and particularly the “new religion massacring the old one.” Is there any way to avoid this?
RAY: Well, I think that’s part of it. I wrote an article for Mountain Astrologer a number of years ago about how there are at least four dynamics in terms of the interaction between adjoining Ages. The one dynamic that’s most obvious to me is how a new era or Great Age attempts to massacre and wipe out the previous one, like Moses rejecting the golden calf.
But you see another dynamic in the way an older era or Great Age will try to squelch or bring down the new, emerging one—like Rome initially trying to halt Christianity, which represented the new Piscean dispensation. Or you see it in the way some of those rooted in the Piscean Age haven’t liked the incoming Aquarian one and so take to resisting modern technology, like the Luddites did.
The third dynamic is where you also see the new order incorporating the old one. Take for example musical groups like Enigma, or Deep Forest; they take modern technology but appropriate old shamanic chants or the sounds of Gregorian monks. It’s a simple example, but it illustrates my point.
The fourth dynamic is how the old dispensation will sometimes appropriate the new one, and an example of that is televangelism, where you have the Christian faith appropriating the modern technologies of TV and the internet. So there are four possible dynamics which you’ll find, at the very least. It doesn’t just have to be the new one wiping out the old. Now, I guess you can theorize a fifth dynamic, what might simply be called “peaceful co-existence,” where the new and the old orders work harmoniously side-by-side, virtually as equal partners. As an ideal, America was based on this sort of thing, in trying to strike a balance between religion and secular government, as a kind of peaceful coexistence between Piscean and Aquarian ideals. You see what I mean?
ADRIAN: Of course, that’s an excellent idea. And what is the situation now in the United States, in terms of where those ideals stand which your nation was founded on?
RAY: Well, as you know, what I was describing there was the ideal. And sometimes that can be very different from the real. Right now, the situation is extremely polarized, which is probably being aggravated by the lingering effects of the Uranus-square-Pluto aspect that’s been in effect these last few years. It almost feels some days like it’s reaching a breaking point, in terms of that clash between Aquarius and Piscean ideals, between the secular progressive movement and the more religious and conservative one.
But I don’t want to oversimplify this, because there are a lot of factors involved in all of it. On the one hand, the Aquarian Age does have to do with things like corporate stockholders, materialistic science, and all that, I don’t deny it. But that’s the more Saturnian side of Aquarius. On the other hand, Aquarius also has to do with notions of freedom and tolerance, enlightened rationality, and more positive things. It’s not just one or the other, it’s both.
I also see modern America struggling to try and reconcile these two paradigms in its attitude towards money and economics. Socialism is clearly more Piscean in its orientation, with its focus on compassion and shared welfare, while capitalism is more Aquarian or Uranian with its emphasis on personal independence and initiative. Either one can go to extremes. Pure socialism tends to deny personal initiative and independence, but pure capitalism can be very Saturnian and materialistic, very root chakra with no compassion towards others at all. So at it’s best, I suppose America would embody a peaceful co-existence of Pisces and Aquarian ideals, with a blend of compassion with entrepreneurial initiative and independence—”compassionate conservatism,” some might call it, or maybe “down-to-earth liberalism.” In other words, a blend between the two.
What complicates this is there’s not only a dynamic going on between the values of the Aquarian Age and the Piscean Age, but between the different sides of Aquarius itself—between its more business-oriented values and its more progressive, humanitarian ones. It’s a complex subject, but you raised a good question and I’m trying to answer it as best as I can. By the way, Pluto will be affecting the United States’ horoscope pretty powerfully these next few years, which could change the political and economic landscape in all these ways tremendously.
ADRIAN: One final question please. If you would be able to meet in person with an archetype, which one would you choose and what would you ask him?
RAY: I’m not sure how to answer that. Well, you know, there’s the wise man archetype, which Jung talked about.
ADRIAN: I meant a planetary archetype.
RAY: Planetary archetype? That’s tricky. I don’t have an easy answer to that, because one part of me would say that it depends on what time of day you ask! At one time I may need the ‘beauty” archetype in my life, but ask me at another time of the day or week or year and I might need the Sun archetype! Or when I wake up in the morning, it might be the Mars archetype, since I need to get up and get going. Realize, Adrian, I’m a Gemini, so you need to realize that when you ask a general question like that, you’ll never get a simple answer (laughs). So I have to say, each of those archetypes have a place in my life, depending on my need at the moment. It’s all a question of balance, as the Moody Blues would say.
ADRIAN: Thank you very much Sir, it was a treat. Thank you very much.
RAY: You’re welcome!
Ray Grasse can be contacted at www.raygrasse.com.
Here you can view his Secrets of the Esoteric Tradition webinar:
- Part 1: Karma, Reincarnation and the Soul
Part 2: The Microcosm and the Macrocosm
Part 3: Techniques of Transformation
Part 4: What is Samadhi?
Part 5: The Varieties of Mystical Experience
Part 6: The Mystical Cosmos