“When once you grasp that astrology is in the earth and of the earth and covers the entire earth and everything in it, when you take an abstract astrology out of the sky and put it on the earth and in the ground and make it tangible and real, you will be astounded at the sheer scope and scale and power of it. We have hardly uncovered a tenth of it. As vast and complex as astrology is, it amazes me we have learned as much as we have. Astrology is reality itself.” — David Roell, (1952-2014)
“I’m picturing carloads of naked dancing girls, every Monday around 10 a.m.. My reward for getting the newsletter out. My mind, as you can see, races sideways.” David emailed this to me one morning, shortly after meeting his Monday morning deadline.
And I responded: “Yep — the Roell mind running sideways, zig-zag, up, down, and occasionally into the velocity of your leg that’s about to kick a hornet’s nest.”
But forget the naked dancing girls and consider the quote that opens this tribute for my Mercurial-minded friend and fellow astrologer David Roell who died — too young, at 62 — a year ago on July 27 — at his home in Maryland.
I want to highlight his achievements up front, to pique your interest and the desire to explore more of David’s kaleidoscopic command of astrology. George Harrison once remarked: “The Beatles saved the world from boredom.” And David did exactly the same for astrology.
Roell’s earth-based theory of the zodiac, of which he refers in the opening epigram, is the cornerstone of his astrological legacy. His grand idea is carefully articulated in the forward to his reprint of George McCormack’s classic Long Range Weather Forecasting. It’s also available online, in his article The Right Theory of Astrology, featured in his newsletter — the same newsletter that was emailed weekly, to thousands of eager subscribers.
The Earth’s Aura
As students of astrology we’re each taught that the Tropical zodiac is constructed of mathematical divisions of the ecliptic, and thus not really ‘real’. David’s assertion returned the zodiac to terra firma — from which all of the zodiac’s descriptive elements — air, fire, water, and earth are derived — a reattribution that solves many of astrology’s niggling mysteries.
“The theory that emerges is that planets interact with each other,” David wrote, “and that the net result of such interaction upon the Earth are the twelve signs of the zodiac, which do not fall from the sky, but radiate from the Earth itself. The signs of the zodiac represent the vibrations of the Earth.”
Like many of David’s theories, some outlandish or hyper-seminal, the earth-based zodiac impugned tradition. I pointed out once that Alan Leo and Dane Rudyhar proposed a similar concept: Both astrologers saw the zodiac as something akin to the Earth’s aura, in which the Earth floated, like a gyroscope. David was intrigued:
“Yes, that comes close,” he said, “but it’s slightly off and lacking.”
His theory, as you’ll read, was literal. He surmised that all planetary bodies contained hexahedrite at their center, a six-sided crystalline form of iron, which radiated the zodiacal field outwards. He highlights this crystal component in detail in one of his final newsletters.
Child of Mercury
With his chart ruler, Mercury, in the 9th House (conjunct the Sun and sextile Jupiter), David was, as classic markers go, an astrologer’s astrologer. (It is the planet Mercury — not Uranus — that is associated with astrologers). Publishing and broadcasting were David’s mission. And so he wrote astrology books, revived astrology books, published astrology books and touted astrology books. He was also a wily gadfly (appropriate his Gemini ascendant) with the precocious, uncensored candor of a child.
When I once, in jest, wrote to him that Oprah Winfrey had contacted me after reading our interview (published here, a few years back) he took my ‘news’ to heart and mentioned “her interest” to his newsletter audience. Later, post my clarification, he exploded, explaining that he once again needed to berate himself for taking people at their word.
I offered my Venus in Gemini as evidence of my writing style. To which he redressed me again; and the fallout stuck. David explained how too much (or poorly delivered) humor interrupted the receptivity of the reader and made the writer appear either vague or insecure. Instinctively I knew he was correct and adjusted my writing style from that day forward.
The Roell Way
As a writer, David had a clear, congenial voice; but it was never empty of insights that could excite curiosity — or animus, whenever he’d breach politically correct protocol. Often with David, within a single article (or conversation), I’d move from admiration to anger — in a heartbeat. He explained to me once the rationale for his particular style:
“I am stream-of-consciousness, have been since the age of 16 or so. I do not know any other way to be, which means I have no memory unless contextual. I regret that, failing to find peers, I have become more interested in me than I am in anyone or anything, which means the people who appear in my life are by default more interested in me than I am in them.”
He applied this same skill to reading horoscopes:
“Always, always, go with your hunches,” he advised. “If you stop to think about it, your brain will get in the way and kill it. Because that’s what brains do. Kill things.”
“Imagine if your hunch was right. What would that mean? In other words, what’s the next hunch? And the one after that? Spin out a story, make up a fantasy, see where it goes. And when you’ve done that, then stand back and take a look at the chart as a whole. Does it make sense? Does it tell you new and surprising things? Could it (gasp!) be right?”
His was the speed reading school of chart interpretation:
“Try to delineate a chart in five minutes. In sixty seconds. Speed will make your mind work. You will be right more often than you think, but even if you’re not, you can always, as they say, sin in haste and repent at leisure”
David’s manner of reading a horoscope was reckless and completely opposite my present approach to astrology. But still, I eagerly awaited his Monday morning newsletters. I delighted in David’s manner of remaking a chart to fit what he considered the truth — versus the consensus perception of a public figure.
An example: When whistleblower Edward Snowden‘s birth time (which produced a Gemini ascendant) had been officially confirmed, David disregarded the Double-A data — declared it doctored — and demonstrated, step-by-step, why a Cancer ascendant was the correct fit for Snowden.
Because David read charts in a traditional manner, similar to my teacher Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, it must have been nostalgic reverie that his writing inspired in me. His application of horoscopic rules — very much horary-based — was like tracking the twists and turns of a mystery narrative. And Ivy delineated natal charts in a similar manner.
Roell’s method embodied the same joy I’d felt as a teenager, when I first discovered astrology in the 70s, complete with the belief that absolute facts and secret insights could be directly culled from a horoscope; a condition I no longer consider possible, nor teach from — but still, how fun it was to believe and dream like that back in the day.
Your wife just gave birth to a baby boy. You’re sanctioned a father now. And all of the experiences that accompany fatherhood await you.
You are a woman who just turned 68, and with this new chronological phase arrives an array of feelings and sensations. Your wisdom continues to develop but you pause now, to consider your options: To share your knowledge with others or live a quieter life of solitude.
Viewed from the archetypal realm, the new dad will soon be channeling the archetype of The Father. And the older woman is now ready to embody the archetype of The Crone or The Wise Old Woman.
But what does any of this mean?
As I’m typing this right now, I don’t feel the archetype of The Writer possessing my mind and my fingers on the keyboard. It’s just me, enjoying the process of sleuthing syntax and feeling a dull ache in the low of my back.
Can’t the two individuals mentioned above have their own unique life experiences without the depersonalizing intervention of an archetype?
Yes, they can. And they do. And archetypes need not be involved.
Archetypes are not literal structures that, once evoked, descend and encapsulate us within Platonic bell jars. But this is the conjecture that spurs everything that’s been written about, expounded upon and woven into the world of modern astrology.
Why are we hypnotized by archetypes?
My theory goes like this: In an attempt to explain the human predicament — the big questions about ‘who we are’, ‘what we are about’, ‘where we are going’ — we’ve cut ourselves in two and crawled up into our heads: The conceptual realm of the archetypes.
By abandoning a full-bodied experience of reality, we feel safer from life’s unpredictable and impermanent nature. Human bodies (and lives) have a short run. Archetypes are forever.
Many Annoying Questions
What do those archetypal dimensions have to do with the you that is sitting here, right now, reading this sentence? The you that is a unique phenomenon, the you that there is only one of, and will only ever be one of within this particular moment within the time/space continuum — and future moments too.
If you abandon the archetypal scaffolding (and as astrologers many of us have been cornered into this conceptual framework for decades), you’re left to fend for yourself. The rawness and freshness of your being becomes the ‘lens’ that life is viewed through.
What if your style of being a father is completely revolutionary to the category of ‘being a father? What if you bring to the ‘father-child’ relationship a way of being that has never been documented? Is an inspiration to other fathers in-the-making?
Why must we be cut off from our ‘is-ness’ and have our lives circulated through something that is essentially an imaginary, lifeless concept? This makes no sense. Worse, for astrologers, it generates a force field of nonsense that hovers around the sensitive relationship between the astrologer and her client.
If, as an astrologer, I can not communicate with my client without employing archetypes, then I have cut us both off from the human experience of engaging in an inquiry that is present-based, vital and alive.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
The planet Mars’ bio-field does not filter through an archetype before registering within the flow of a client’s life experience. Mars exists, the planet is real, it is a life form unto itself. |
So when I am working with a client and we are discussing the themes related to the planet Mars, I want to know how she experiences this particular aspect of her nature. What is her relationship to the qualities that, heretofore, astrologers have assigned to the planet Mars? Not the Mars archetype, but the planet — the being, the angel or cosmic entity — that is Mars as the planetary body exists in real time within the living field of present-time reality.
Planets are living beings, not chunks of dead rock floating around the Sun. If I’ve no living relationship to Mars within my own life experience how can I possibly discuss the Martian experience with my client? Read more
A group of therapists came together in Europe to participate in a ten-day workshop.
As was the custom, at the start of the gathering, the attendees gathered together in a circle to take make introductions and share a little about their practice and history.
About halfway into the process, a woman explained how she’d worked for years in a mental institution counseling dozens of patients each day. And then, after a pause, her face became grim. She continued:
One day while she was eating her lunch one of her clients committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the institute. The patient fell right past the therapist as she was eating her salad.
The woman’s breathing became rushed, she was crying and right on the verge of losing control.
But the leader of the workshop sensed that something was ‘off’ about the woman’s state; there was something not quite genuine about it. She seemed to be working herself into an agitated condition to alert her colleagues about the intensity she’d experienced throughout her career and how that intensity made her special.
At the end of her story she looked to the leader of the group for acknowledgment. And then everyone else in the circle turned and looked to the leader too. A concerned silence hovered in the air.
And then, after a pause, the leader shrugged his shoulders and announced:
“Okay. New rule. No jumping from the roof during lunch.”
The woman and all of the other participants in the circle burst into laughter.
You Didn’t Jump. So You’re Still Here!
I like this story as an allegory for looking back and reviewing the past seven years that accompanied the just-finished square between Uranus and Pluto; two of astrology’s most misunderstood and misinterpreted planets.
If you haven’t jumped off of a bridge yet, well, congratulations, you’ve passed a series of initiations that you were destined to encounter (should you consider your soul an agent of consciousness that traverses from life to life).
Your presence continues within the pulse of life. You’re still here and entwined with — and required to participate in — the incessant woof and warp of living.
This circle story also shows how we might expand beyond our pipsqueak sense of self, with its attendant stories and dramas that color and define us. The story also shows how the ordinary can shift to the extraordinary by involving humor as a transcendent ingredient. Life is tough, it sucks sometimes and then we laugh (or cry) and then we carry on.
I’ve written a lot about the alignment between Uranus and Pluto on this site, and discussed in detail some of the socio-cultural fallout with my colleague Jessica Murray. But now, as the final square clicks in and out of exactitude, I’m going to share some personal anecdotes, observations and insights with you.
Some Backstory First
Modern astrologers write from a Jungian perspective about the trio of planets that reside beyond Saturn (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). Because those planets orbit the Sun at a glacial pace it’s easy to associate them with ‘collective’ time — cultural trends and geopolitical movements; or even the rise and fall of civilizations — when you consider Pluto’s 248-year orbit around the Sun.
But let’s not forget that cultures and civilizations are aggregates of individuals. Folks like you and me. And, should you be open to an atypical perspective, the outer planets also mark moments in life that deconstruct your conventional sense of self.
If you are committed to upholding the values and standards you inherited from your family, church or the various authority figures that influenced your life, well, it’s likely that your ability to find resonance with the outer planets hasn’t developed.
Many people do not ‘register’ the outer planets in a personal sense, in much the same way most people do not practice Zen or involve their lives with depth psychology or spiritual practices that unravel the dominance of the ego and its allegiance to the instincts. This isn’t a judgment, just an astrological statement of fact.
The dominate theme of my work with clients during the past seven years has involved the personal particulars of accommodating the acceleration of consciousness that’s symbolized by the Uranus Pluto square. An unrelenting pressure that feels (to those aforementioned instincts) like a battle to the death.
Here are some notes, observations and insights I’ve gleaned by tracking my own experience and that of my clients. Make what you will of this. Nothing is etched in stone.
“We are not stamped at birth with our destiny, nor even our personality — there is no imprinting — but, being the person we are, we are born at a time that announces who we are.
Our destiny may be indicated at birth, but its realization lies in the future — indeed tragically it may never find complete fulfillment.
It is a pity that the idea of destiny has almost completely slipped from human consciousness, thanks to the propaganda that physical causation is the only causation in town, so that everybody must look to the past for meanings. The answers must lie in the genes, or in the childhood situation, and so on. Some of the answers may indeed be found there, but the true significance of our journey — like all journeys — lies in where we are going, not where we are coming from.
Aristotle wrote in the fourth century BC that the ‘nature of man is not what he was born as, but what he is born for.’
And I like this quotation from Nietzsche: ‘Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law of our today.’ ”
– Dennis Elwell
from Astrology is a Foreign Language on Skyscript