Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Astrology Just For Writers - Part 2

Linnea has posted on Beauty, the standards of Beauty and what causes us to be attracted to percieved Beauty. Of course all the poets, philosophers and even scientists studying animal mating habits have gnawed on this problem of beauty and attraction longer than Romance Writers! (??? maybe???)

Honest, folks, we didn't put our heads together and concoct these two Astrology posts to come between her posts. But once again, the post I'd prepared before seeing Linnea's comments actually is connected to what she's thinking about.

Many of you who know some superficial Astrology have seen how Sun-Moon-Rising Sign combinations blend into certain types of physiognomies. People really LOOK LIKE their natal charts. The more people you know -- from first sight all the way to an understanding of what makes them tick -- the better you get at guessing Natal Signs. People really are (at some level) "what" they look like. People who look similar to others you've known, really MAY (operative word, MAY) - have similar personal characteristics.

But astrology isn't just 3 parameters blended -- it's 10 variables in 360 degrees, each degree casting a different shadow on the variable occupying it. Then each variable is shaded and nuanced by the positions and relationships of the other variables. Then comes the "wild card" of the Soul activating the pattern -- each Soul casts an individualized, totally original, one of a kind, twist on the entire pattern. So two people who look absolutely identical will be absolutely nothing alike.

So our eyeball impressions, our subconscious analogue mind, draws incorrect conclusions about people based on how they look.

Still, there are patterns. Aries emphasis lends a shade of impulsiveness -- but the person may be an impulsive lover, or an impulsive driver, or an impulsive speaker, but likely not all of the above. A person who looks like the other impulsive person you know won't necessarily manifest impulsiveness in the same life-area.

You can't judge a person by their chart -- or their appearance.. But nevertheless, we do -- especially where Beauty is concerned. Is Beauty skin deep - or deeper? Will your soul-mate appear repulsive to you at first glance?

Learning a bit about Astrology can help a writer create verisimilitude in characters' reactions to each other and to Beauty, and to distinguish between Beauty, Attractiveness, and Sexiness. Certain surface physical characteristics GO WITH certain personality traits (such as impulsiveness -- Aries shapes the head.) If you describe a certain physical appearance, then show the reader opposite personality traits and don't know what you're doing -- nobody will believe your characters are real. That's fatal in a fantasy worldbuilding situation.

The reader must believe the characters are real -- because everything else isn't. There's an art to mixing appearance with personality traits -- but there's a science to it, also. That science is Astrology.

So now to Astrology Just For Writers - Part 2. You may want to read last Tuesday's post to pick up the thread.

Ancient Wisdom says "the stars don't compel; they impel."

Here is where the writer must choose some of the elements of the THEME of the work. Here is where the universe building begins.

In order to build a character which is unique -- yet comprehensible to the reader in terms of what the reader already knows about human nature and life-patterns -- the writer must select (and then stick with) a philosophical answer to the question about the relationship between the bodies in the sky and the life of a person. The nature of the relationship you choose will reveal much about the universe you build -- and perhaps more about the universe you live in than even you know.

Everything else in your THEME -- which dictates every event, every character trait, and mostly the resolution of the conflict -- must be totally consistent with the answer you choose to the question of how the Heavens are connected to human life and personality. This answer must reflect where you stand on the existence of God, The Soul, Immortality after Death, maybe even The Resurrection. Well, at least where you stand for the purpose of this story.

What is our Universe? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of your life? What is the purpose of your characters' lives?

All of those answers are dictated by your answer to the question of the coincidental connection between Life and The Planets. (even transposed to other solar systems).

Is the connection mere accident? Is the Universe an accident? Is the Universe a mechanism? Was it "created" to be a mechanism and left to run unattended? Or is the universe and all life the direct, ongoing, result of the conscious attention of the Creator?

If the Universe and Life have a meaning -- then maybe The Planets are a clue to that meaning left for us to puzzle out?

Or maybe there is no meaning - and the search for meaning is a waste of time?

Or maybe there is no meaning - and the search for meaning can actually CREATE meaning?

Any of these postulates will generate a vast, rich, wonderful and fertile imaginary universe to tell stories in. Each answer (and all the ones I haven't mentioned) defines the specific audience for your fiction.

Your fiction will make sense only to those readers who share your answer, or can stipulate it for the sake of argument (believe 6 impossible things before breakfast). To extend the "reach" of your fiction to the widest possible audience, you need to find the answer shared by the largest number of people even if they've never asked themselves the question.

Subconsciously, each of us harbors a philosophy which contains answers to all these questions.

Most of us do not harbor a uniform and consistent philosophy - thus our actions often seem irratic to outside observers. Characters humans can believe in must share that inconsistency, but to gather a large audience for your fiction, you must use inconsistencies shared by large numbers of people.

The most recent poll of the population of the USA indicates that while most people don't bother with Church or other organized worship, they do by and large believe in a Creator who takes a personal interest in the universe and our lives.

Many people who study the Western Esoteric Traditions often start with Astrology and eventually delve into Tarot and end up studying Kaballah.

I have my own, personal answer (not used necessarily in all my novels, but visible in some). You don't have to look at the universe the same way I do -- but to write coherent fiction, you must look at the universe some ever which way! And each novel you write must adhere to a consistent view of the universe and try to impart that view to the readers.

The adventure of reading is to walk a mile in the main character's moccasins -- that means to learn to see the Universe from a philosophical view different from your own. To accomplish that, being human, we need an anchor -- an axiom of the invented Universe that is the same as our own innermost cherished assumptions -- our UNCONSCIOUS assumptions. Art speaks from subconscious to subconscious.

The view of the novel's universe does not have to be your own - but if it differs from yours, it must differ in an internally consistent way.

So, by way of an example, here is my own current (ever changing) take on this problem of the relationship between the placement and movement of the planets in the heavens and the placement and movement of us people below.

Astrology and Tarot are really two heads for the same sonic screw driver.

Astrology is all about this life (that started when you were born) with this personality (described by but not caused by the Natal Chart's organization). Life has its peaks and valleys and the personality of this life just struggles along coping as best it can.

The personality of this life is a sub-set of the Soul's Personality -- of "who" you really are behind it all, unknown to anyone but yourself and God.

The Tarot is all about the Soul's Personality and what it can achieve in this life, what it can learn, what procedures and techniques it can master in this life, what talents it can lend to the personality.

The Tarot deck has the structure of the Kaballah's Tree of Life - 4 repeating patterns of 10 numbered cards. (10 planets to track - 10 numbered cards per suit).

4 is the minimum number of variables necessary to form a Boolean Algebra. 4-ness is a very salient property of our 4-square reality (3 dimensions and Time).

There are 4 letters in the Ineffable Name of God.

I could go on and on -- but you get the idea. Numbers are the basis of reality, physical and psychological and spiritual. God is creating (present progressive tense) our entire reality via NUMBERS - via vibration, cyclicity. We are solidified spiritual speech.

The human being's Eternal Soul is one of God's creations.

The Soul enters manifest reality through the dimension of Time.

I learned that in a Chabad course on the nature of Time. For all the references and what I learned, see the first 6 review columns of 2007. They're all titled the Soul-Time Hypothesis: something.


It took me a few years to understand what it means that the Soul enters manifestation through Time.

My original education is in Chemistry with minors in Physics and Math. I think like a Physical Chemist. Mysticism bewilders me.

But I'm a born mystic. So I couldn't let go of this idea until I'd rearranged everything I know around it to see what this would do to my philsophy.

It changed my personal philosophy in subtle ways and gave me a new understanding of how it can be that we can take our birth time and place and mathematically describe our personality (not Personality, mind you) and the TIMING OF the challenges we must face in life, but not the nature of those challenges.

This solar system existed long before we were born (even before the Internet, believe it or not).
The solar system has changed over all that time -- we argue that our Moon may be a captive because it's so large, and we see that maybe Mars has a totally different northern hemisphere than southern because of a huge, gigantic, meteor strike long-long-long ago. We theorize that Pluto may be a captive and not a planet at all. Earth's periodicity - year and day length - have changed. The solar system has evolved. Galaxies likewise. All of space-time constantly changes.

It all spins. All the galaxies, our galaxy, our sun, the planets around our sun (planets around other suns) -- it's all MOVING THROUGH TIME.

At some given moment, our Soul injects into this giant physical reality and we are BORN. The Soul penetrates TIME generating a personality to deal with Time. From that moment on, the personality is subject to the linear sequence we call time.

(yes, I know about string theory, and M theory, and that there is no such thing as simultaneity, and how gravity and time interact and so on.)

Science spends most of its time studying Time -- measuring it, theorizing about the speed of light which is a component of so many of the formulas physics uses to build useful things.

We live inside a giant clock - and we spend our lives studying that clock, trying to hear it tick.

The clock ticks whether we're here or not. It doesn't cause us to be here. It doesn't waft us away. It doesn't limit us. It doesn't do anything except KEEP TIME.

We are Souls - we are swimmers in this ocean of Time. And we're trying to learn to swim. The ocean of Time doesn't cause us to learn to swim - we dove in ourselves. The waves of Time don't dictate which swimming stroke we'll choose to use.

The stars do not compel -- nor do they impel. They simply keep going -- and we are learning to walk to their beat, to jump double-dutch, or write a screenplay to the beat. I had barely managed to swallow this concept - the Soul enters manifesation through the dimension of Time - than these Chabad people taught me something else.

The purpose of human life is to make this material reality into a dwelling place for the Creator of it. Everything we are and everything we do (whether we know it or not) is targeted toward that very clearly visualized goal.

We didn't dive into Time just to play in the ocean waves (or at least not all of us or not every time we dive in). We are here to complete a task.

It just explains so much! The pervasive imagining of utopia, for example. So many really popular novels have been written about "the perfect world." And so many people feel that would be so boring they can't imagine it. Everyone has an opinion on utopia. Why? Because actually that's what we're here to do - to make the world easy, beautiful, loving, kind, generous, perfect. Everyone will be sane. (imagine that - I'm not sure I could stand it!)

Consider the Hero's Journey. Consider all the archetypes - King, Warrior, on and on -- each archetype is an imagining of something perfected, pure of its type. And these archetypes are real - they have power, they subsume so much of our existence. How is it we're able to imagine such things? Imagining is a kind of creating. Archetypes organize existence into categories by defining the pure form of the category.

Well, that's the kind of thing you can learn from Astrology. Astrology defines the archetype behind a life-pattern. People go to an astrologer in the grip of angst about their own personal, unique, individual life and identity -- but all Astrology can discuss is the archetypes behind their life and personality.

How those archetypes manifest within the time-frame of a given Life is entirely a matter of the human being's Free Will.

Of course, we do our best to avoid using our Free Will. We let parental conditioning, subconscious compulsions, other people's values, genuine childhood trauma, etc command our existence -- and to the extent that we abjure our Free Will, the fortune-tellers can "predict" our future just by applying the laws of Inertia. All the fortune-teller has to do is extrapolate along a straight line from the client's birth moment and "predict" what will happen next.

Real astrologers and Tarot readers don't do that. They are genuine spiritual counselors who attempt to explain the client's "now" (which can be plus or minus a few years) in such a way that the client becomes motivated to engage their Free Will and craft life anew.

Real astrologers and Tarot readers (and those who use other methods, too - runes work!) use these tools just as a psychological counsellor would use say the latest research on compulsive behavior to discern whether the client is suffering from compulsive behavior or something that mimics it. Some of the best astrologers and Tarot readers are actually psychic and can use that kind of sensory input to interpret a Natal Chart or card spread (or both).

When all the information is fully blended, it is very difficult for anyone, least of all the practitioner, to say where any given piece came from.

And it's the same with a writer. No way can a writer tell you where a particular character came from -- or why this or that trait of that character can't be changed no matter how the editor demands it.

Fictional characters are no more random collections of traits than human beings are. To be engaging, entertaining and comprehensible, a fictional character must be formulated exactly the way a human being is (only maybe not so complex). The writer achieves this creation of a fictional character the same way an Astrologer or Tarot reader achieves a comprehension of a client -- a gestalt of a thousand little things.

Astrology is all about Time and how our Free Will uses it to create our Life. Tarot is all about the Soul and how the Soul struggles to manifest some part of itself into Time, to learn to surf the ocean of time, big waves and all.

Astrology can clue you in to what you're doing - Tarot to how you're doing.

Look hard at your Tarot reading for a week, then study the transits to your natal chart for that week - keep notes while you live out the week - and eventually you will comprehend how these two tools are reading out the same forces and how you, yourself as an individual are creating something unique out of the grand archetypes.

Armed with this non-verbal level comprehension of the structure of the universe, you may be able to portray a character who will walk off your pages into the dreams of your readers.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. "Swimmers in this ocean of Time" -- what a beautiful image.

    Mike (the "Martian") in Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND says of one of the other characters that her cards are her "device for grokking." In other words, that the "answers" come from within herself, and the card-reading process is simply the way her unconscious mind articulates the responses to her conscious mind (if I understand him correctly). Similarly, in another work Heinlein says our conscious thoughts are really like the display window in a calculator -- they show the final results of complex processes going on "underneath." (I think that's from Heinlein -- unless it's Spider Robinson.)

  2. Fascinating post. Thank you so much for this indepth look. I truly enjoyed it.