ON FRIDAY IT HAPPENED that a few of my natal chart clients were in Dublin, & just as I was finishing a Skype with the last one, an Irish director walked in off the plane & into the house where I work. He took a nap in an efficiency apartment adjacent to my workroom, then commenced rehearsing a Yeats play with a troupe of actors in the salon upstairs. I had no idea this would be happening. That’s the kind of house this is. It might be one of the last genuinely “bohemian” households in Manhattan. Thespians and poets are always climbing up and down the stairs, nurturing and collaborating on difficult and improbable projects with mystic lineages, living the complicated itinerant lives of passion I guess pilgrims have always lived.
...and hid his face amid a crowd of stars
It made me want to wonder formally why the theology of Yeats was such a turnoff when I first encountered it at seventeen. Growing up in Salem with a schizophrenic mother I was acutely aware that any mystic impulse in myself would need to be sheathed in a prophylactic of unadorned “reason,” lest I be accused of merely “hiding” my feebleness of character in fantasy, clothing feminine instability in the pathetic convulsions of the vaguely witchy, etc. I didn’t want to be put in a mental hospital, the way my grandmother had done to my aunt, the way my dad had done to my mom, the way, I guess, that was the way of Massachusetts. See the Confessional poets, who at least went in voluntarily. See Cool for You by Eileen Myles. Anyway really it was a double prophylactic and I don’t remember how young I was when I started wearing it: body condom one, to parry the propensity of older men to condescend to your intelligence by keeping your woo under wraps, and condom two, to ward off rape. Anyway, whatever, this synchronicity made me accept I need at least to try to read A Vision. Have you read it?
I think to some degree astrologers—all pilgrims—are like the disappointed lover in the Yeats poem “When You Are Old,” hiding his face in a crowd of stars. The impulse to look for God, or causes, or some way of actually feeling one’s place in the cosmos, would have to come—however much innate aptitude one might have—also from some sense of the wrongness of things.
The danger, for me, or what disgusts me when I get too far into esoteric study, or the bore of being made to talk astrology at parties (I don’t want to look at your esophagus when we meet socially), is that it all starts to seem like a convolution of spectator culture, except that somehow spectating the heavens is supposed to be more spiritual than spectating Us Weekly. That and the fact that astrological jargon has replaced the Freudian lexicon—not only because clinical psychology and psychiatry have so colossally failed us as a society, but also because, soft and make-fun-of-able as it might be, we are people and we periodically need to refresh the language by which we try to fucking get a grip on how and why we are the way we are.
It’s weird though, because I’m not particularly obsessed with astrology. You could find more devout practitioners. Easily. I started studying it because after I was in a car crash in Haiti, a Houngan (Vodou priest) tore a sheet of paper off his Bank of Haiti desk blotter and did my chart with a ballpoint pen, and because a possessed Mambo (priestess) had thrown down a card and groaned at me, cigarette in her mouth, bottle of rum in her fist, and her groan was translated as follows: “You have a talent big like mine. Why you don’t use it.”
They weren’t telling me specifically that I should study astrology, but a couple of other synchronicities—for example I fell in love with a guy whose grandmother was a pharmacist astrologer in Paris—made me think it might help me heal my anxiety that an avowed interest in “the occult” (rather than my very real, but disavowed interest) would turn me into a catastrophe like my mother.
During the period my mom’s schizophrenia seemed to be setting in, she was in a phase of manic creativity—writing screenplays, doing physics and AI research, and obsessively astrologizing on what was then called her “Word Processor,” using what I imagine must have been Robert Hand’s Astrolabe software. More on this tomorrow.
The Sun, Venus, and Pluto are entering a stunning conjunction in Capricorn, perfecting tomorrow, sextile Mars and Jupiter in Scorpio. Total-body romantic and erotic transformation, X-ray vision, the capacity to see where you’re going and the rocket fuel to get there, the poles of masculine and feminine within us somehow recharged and rebalanced, bride and bridegroom at their chemical wedding, two crackling Tesla coils firing hot and bright in the planetarium of the soul...
See you tomorrow,