Decades after that first small step, space thinkers are finally getting serious about our nearest neighbor By Kevin Hartnett
This week, the European Space Agency made headlines with the first successful landing of a spacecraft on a comet, 317 million miles from Earth. It was an upbeat moment after two American crashes: the unmanned private rocket that exploded on its way to resupply the International Space Station, and the Virgin Galactic spaceplane that crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing a pilot and raising questions about whether individual businesses are up to the task of operating in space. During this same period, there was one other piece of space news, one far less widely reported in the United States: On Nov. 1, China successfully returned a moon probe to Earth. That mission follows China’s landing of the Yutu moon rover late last year, and its announcement that it will conduct a sample-return mission to the moon in 2017. With NASA and the Europeans focused on robot exploration of distant targets, a moon landing might not seem like a big deal: We’ve been there, and other countries are just catching up. But in recent years, interest in the moon has begun to percolate again, both in the United States and abroad—and it’s catalyzing a surprisingly diverse set of plans for how our nearby satellite will contribute to our space future. China, India, and Japan have all completed lunar missions in the last decade, and have more in mind. Both China and Japan want to build unmanned bases in the early part of the next decade as a prelude to returning a human to the moon. In the United States, meanwhile, entrepreneurs are hatching plans for lunar commerce; one company even promises to ferry freight for paying customers to the moon as early as next year. Scientists are hatching more far-out ideas to mine hydrogen from the poles and build colonies deep in sky-lit lunar caves. This rush of activity has been spurred in part by the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million award, expiring in 2015, for the first private team to land a working rover on the moon and prove it by sending back video. It is also driven by a certain understanding: If we really want to launch expeditions deeper into space, our first goal should be to travel safely to the moon—and maybe even figure out how to live there.
Entrepreneurial visions of opening the moon to commerce can seem fanciful, especially in light of the Virgin Galactic and Orbital Sciences crashes, which remind us how far we are from having a truly functional space economy. They also face an uncertain legal environment—in a sense, space belongs to everyone and to no one—whose boundaries will be tested as soon as missions start to succeed. Still, as these plans take shape, they’re a reminder that leaping blindly is sometimes a necessary step in opening any new frontier.
“All I can say is if lunar commerce is foolish,” said Columbia University astrophysicist Arlin Crotts in an e-mail, “there are a lot of industrious and dedicated fools out there!”
At its height, the Apollo program accounted for more than 4 percent of the federal budget. Today, with a mothballed shuttle and a downscaled space station, it can seem almost imaginary that humans actually walked on the moon and came back—and that we did it in the age of adding machines and rotary phones.
“In five years, we jumped into the middle of the 21st century,” says Roger Handberg, a political scientist who studies space policy at the University of Central Florida, speaking of the Apollo program. “No one thought that 40 years later we’d be in a situation where the International Space Station is the height of our ambition.”
An image of Earth and the moon created from photos by Mariner 10, launched in 1973.
Without a clear goal and a geopolitical rivalry to drive it, the space program had to compete with a lot of other national priorities. The dramatic moon shot became an outlier in the longer, slower story of building scientific achievements.
Now, as those achievements accumulate, the moon is coming back into the picture. For a variety of reasons, it’s pretty much guaranteed to play a central role in any meaningful excursions we take into space. It’s the nearest planetary body to our own—238,900 miles away, which the Apollo voyages covered in three days. It has low gravity, which makes it relatively easy to get onto and off of the lunar surface, and it has no atmosphere, which allows telescopes a clearer view into deep space.
The moon itself also still holds some scientific mysteries. A 2007 report on the future of lunar exploration from the National Academies called the moon a place of “profound scientific value,” pointing out that it’s a unique place to study how planets formed, including ours. The surface of the moon is incredibly stable—no tectonic plates, no active volcanoes, no wind, no rain—which means that the loose rock, or regolith, on the moon’s surface looks the way the surface of the earth might have looked billions of years ago.
NASA still launches regular orbital missions to the moon, but its focus is on more distant points. (In a 2010 speech, President Obama brushed off the moon, saying, “We’ve been there before.”) For emerging space powers, though, the moon is still the trophy destination that it was for the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In 2008 an Indian probe relayed the best evidence yet that there’s water on the moon, locked in ice deep in craters at the lunar poles. China landed a rover on the surface of the moon in December 2013, though it soon malfunctioned. Despite that setback, China plans a sample-return mission in 2017, which would be the first since a Soviet capsule brought back 6 ounces of lunar soil in 1976.
The moon has also drawn the attention of space-minded entrepreneurs. One of the most obvious opportunities is to deliver scientific instruments for government agencies and universities. This is an attractive, ready clientele in theory, explains Paul Spudis, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, though there’s a hitch: “The basic problem with that as a market,” he says, “is scientists never have money of their own.”
One company aspiring to the delivery role is Astrobotic, a startup of young Carnegie Mellon engineers based in Pittsburgh, which is currently positioning itself to be “FedEx to the moon,” says John Thornton, the company’s CEO. Astrobotic has signed a contract with SpaceX, the commercial space firm founded by Elon Musk, to use a Falcon 9 for an inaugural delivery trip in 2015, just in time to claim the Google Lunar X Prize. Thornton says most of the technology is in place for the mission, and that the biggest remaining hurdle is figuring out how to engineer a soft, automated moon landing.
Astrobotic is charging $1.2 million per kilogram—you can, in fact, place an order on its website—and Thornton says the company has five customers so far. They include the entities you might expect, like NASA, but also less obvious ones, like a company that wants to deliver human ashes for permanent internment and a Japanese soft drink manufacturer that wants to place its signature beverage, Pocari Sweat, on the moon as a publicity stunt. Astrobotic is joined in this small sci-fi economy by Moon Express out of Mountain View, Calif., another company competing for the Google Lunar X Prize.
Plans like these are the low-hanging fruit of the lunar economy, the easiest ideas to imagine and execute. Longer-scale thinkers are envisioning ways that the moon will play a larger role in human affairs—and that, says Crotts, is where “serious resource exploitation” comes in.
If this triggers fears of a mined-out moon, be reassured: “Apollo went there and found nothing we wanted. Had we found anything we really wanted, we would have gone back and there would have been a new gold rush,” says Roger Launius, the former chief historian of NASA and now a curator at the National Air and Space Museum.
There is one possible exception: helium-3, an isotope used in nuclear fusion research. It is rare on Earth but thought to be abundant on the surface of the moon, which could make the moon an important energy source if we ever figure out how to harness fusion energy. More immediately intriguing is the billion tons of water ice the scientific community increasingly believes is stored at the poles. If it’s there, that opens the possibility of sustained lunar settlement—the water could be consumed as a liquid, or split into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel.
The presence of water could also open a potentially ripe market providing services to the multibillion dollar geosynchronous satellite industry. “We lose billions of dollars a year of geosynchronous satellites because they drift out of orbit,” says Crotts. In a new book, “The New Moon: Water, Exploration, and Future Habitation,” he outlines plans for what he calls a “cislunar tug”: a space tugboat of sorts that would commute between the moon and orbiting satellites, resupplying them with propellant, derived from the hydrogen in water, and nudging them back into the correct orbital position.
In the long term, the truly irreplaceable value of the moon may lie elsewhere, as a staging area for expeditions deeper into space. The most expensive and dangerous part of space travel is lifting cargo out of and back into the Earth’s atmosphere, and some people imagine cutting out those steps by establishing a permanent base on the moon. In this scenario, we’d build lunar colonies deep in natural caves in order to escape the micrometeorites and toxic doses of solar radiation that bombard the moon, all the while preparing for trips to more distant points.
gical hurdles is long, and there’s also a legal one, at least where commerce is concerned. The moon falls under the purview of the Outer Space Treaty, which the United States signed in 1967, and which prohibits countries from claiming any territory on the moon—or anywhere else in space—as their own.
“It is totally unclear whether a private sector entity can extract resources from the moon and gain title or property rights to it,” says Joanne Gabrynowicz, an expert on space law and currently a visiting professor at Beijing Institute of Technology School of Law. She adds that a later document, the 1979 Moon Treaty, which the United States has not signed, anticipates mining on the moon, but leaves open the question of how property rights would be determined.
There are lots of reasons the moon may never realize its potential to mint the world’s first trillionaires, as some space enthusiasts have predicted. But to the most dedicated space entrepreneurs, the economic and legal arguments reflect short-sighted thinking. They point out that when European explorers set sail in the 15th and 16th centuries, they assumed they’d find a fortune in gold waiting for them on the other side of the Atlantic. The real prizes ended up being very different—and slow to materialize.
“When we settled the New World, we didn’t bring a whole lot back to Europe [at first],” Thornton says. “You have to create infrastructure to enable that kind of transfer of goods.” He believes that in the case of the moon, we’ll figure out how to do that eventually.
Roger Handberg is as clear-eyed as anyone about the reasons why the moon may never become more than an object of wonder, but he also understands why we can’t turn away from it completely. That challenge, in the end, may finally be what lures us back.
Does astrology work ? It is quite a perilous exercise to write an article stating a few truths drawn from actual experience, a risky but interesting challenge for the author of this site. But without danger, where would the adrenaline be? It is so good to try to talk about astrology upstream, and not only to discuss how it functions, for a person who has spent a lot of time using its techniques. This is what we have done for Astrotheme's visitors, trying to use everyday words devoid of technical jargon, with no historical or specialised argumentation, and with the only aim to reach to as many persons as possible, yet without proselytizing. Just a few judgments coming from experience, a pragmatic vision of this tool for knowledge, which is what astrology is all about.
For the illustration of this non-technical article, it became rapidly obvious that astronomy images are needed... The staggering sight of certain galaxies or nebulae is not only splendid but enables to open one's mind towards... more consciousness and a more intense feeling of being alive.
Incidentally, this article was written in slightly more than two hours, with no preparation and no plan. For this subject, and for some reason which probably lies in my subconscious and comes from the desire for purity and complete spontaneity, I was most eager to express a sort of rough opinion, a testimony coming from… the guts and sheer experience; it is easy to realise it when a text is written as it comes, and for the author, it is a rewarding exercise because genuineness always has a unique sparkle. For the reader, it is also a token of sincerity. Of course, the purpose is not to convince. Indeed, in politics as well as in spirituality, to change direction is a complex issue. As far as the quite bizarre field of astrology is concerned, irrational behaviours occur quickly, usually with a little disdainful smile from those who, obviously, have been beyond the naive propensity to believe anything, to dream blissfully, and to delude themselves about a necessarily silly system because it offers off the beaten path possibilities, which other human disciplines do not. The list of the authors of scornful smiles towards astrology is quite long, just as long as the list of more open-minded people who, either have tried themselves to learn this tool which astrology is – which, like psychology or history, is not a science – and became convinced that it works or at least has some degree of efficiency, or because they no time or no interest, leave the door open, thinking "finally, why not?", after all, one does not know much, would it be solely in the area of the spouting of the thought – WHO handles thought at the moment it emerges... - or about physical laws for which the 21th century is mere prehistory, as all scientists know. Indeed, life is evolution, knowledge is not static, and the only mistake which must not be made is to gorge oneself with certainties, including that which consists in associating "too good" results with absolute scientific impossibility. I believe that my experience is quite similar to that of everybody, i.e. that of a person who, a priori, before discovering it, was "against" astrology and considered it... crap meant for gullible people, or in the best case, an idle fancy with a tinge of poetry in which all the intellectual energy spent was finally used to create a nice virtual world and arouse pleasure.
Paradoxically enough, relatively few astrologers are interested in astronomy. This is not my case. I even dreamed I would become an astronomer when I was small, and nowadays I feel the need to have a telescope at home, even though... I seldom use it because, unfortunately, the sky above the region of Paris is too polluted.
As luck would have it, I was in the bookstore where I used to go several times a week to get all sorts of books according to my quite strong curiosity and my need to understand hidden things, and I stumbled on an astrology treatise, the famous one authored by André Barbault (André Barbault is a respected French astrologer and author who devised a computer-generated astrological portrait in the early '70s.). As I flicked through the pages, I was a bit amused to see the natal charts of historical personages, quite rigorous rules, an apparently sound functioning, and I thought that for once, I ought to read an astrology book, and at least, this one does not seem too naive. In addition, there were a few recipes for the compatibility of couples, and since I was in love of one of my school comrades, in that Terminale C class (In the French education system, the last year of secondary school with a maths option), I thought, well, I am going to have fun and see whether, according to astrology, my compatibility with this beautiful brunette, the sight of whom would pierce my heart, is good or not! With a good dose of scepticism and quite negative preconceptions, I started to learn to erect a natal chart, interpret it, and become initiated into all the predictive techniques, synastry, and other relishes having the charm of that which is unknown. Since this article is not a book, it is necessary to get to the heart of the matter. Actually, I realised quickly that among the concepts of signs, houses, planets, houses in signs, planets in signs, rulership, aspects, nature of the planets, etc. it would take some time before being rewarded, venturing into uncertain territory alone, and interpreting charts without opening astrology books every thirty seconds. Indeed, to my view, the first obstacle for anyone willing to get an idea about astrology is the huge contrast between serious astrology on the one hand, and on the other hand, the ordinary media and its horoscopes by signs or by decans – which are of no value, it is necessary to say so, absolute void, and the biggest hoax because a natal chart cannot be reduced to the position of the Sun in one of the zodiacal signs. Absurd columns with equally stupid predictions – here again, and it is difficult to refrain from giving names, be it to quote people who saw Kerry as the winner of the American elections in Telestar (A popular French television weekly) or in other magazines, or in general a little bit everywhere because it cannot be repeated often enough that there are two types of astrology, that of horoscopes in magazines which are nonsense, a mere commercial lottery. From this perspective, it is easier to understand the disdainful smiles of those mentioned earlier, and I particularly think of Guy Carlier (A French TV presenter and humorist), whom I nevertheless find quite pleasant, and of Alain Gillot-Pétré (He was a French TV meteo presenter), a declared enemy of astrologers. I remember for instance a TV programme featuring Paco Rabanne (He became famous as a fashion designer. He is not an astrologer but a weird visionary, also quite nice), and gorgeous Elisabeth Tessier (A professional French astrologer whom the late President François Mitterrand consulted. The thesis she defended at La Sorbonne University was the subject of a hot controversy) who was castigated by Guy Carlier... Thus, there is a big discrepancy between junk astrology and genuine astrology. The latter consists in extracting information from an exact natal chart based on a date of birth and location, and whenever possible a time of birth, and to deduct relevant results from this chart.
The weird and unique feeling of infinity which emerges from the sky when one gazes into space is one of the numerous methods for starting a meditation on the purpose of one's life.
Indeed, commercial astrology and horoscopes published in the media are nonsense and above all, unfounded, but genuine astrology, which includes several schools and requires many years of learning, is difficult to grasp. Therefore, a lot of time is required because without learning by rote numerous dozens of basic notions, it is very difficult not to get lost. Of course, one can have fun, but if one expects some degree of proficiency or just wants to be able to follow the rules of this tool, one will have to spend several months studying. I shall briefly address a few other obstacles which claim so-called scientific bases and may prompt doubts, discouraging people who are curious about astrology even before they get a chance to start studying it. I think for instance of such a statement as "astrology is bullshit since everyone knows that owing to the precession of the equinoxes, and when one says that the Sun is in Aries although in fact, it's been a long time since it has left this constellation." This is obviously stupid because by definition, in astrology, signs do not represent the constellations bearing the same name, but they refer to the immutable cycle of the seasons. Thus, the sign of Aries corresponds to the spring equinox in the Northern hemisphere, and not to the stretch of space occupied by the constellation of Aries. But I will not elaborate any further on these technical details because they are not the focus of this article, the purpose of which is only to give a testimony and to state that astrology works, in the light of an experience and a practice which cover a span of thirty years plus. So, after a few weeks, astrology became clearer for me. Actually, I understood that finally, there were three essential functions and a fourth one as the wild card, if I may say so. First, there is the astrology which analyses the personality, the character, the motivations, the typology, and the behaviour. Then, there is a second astrology, well-known, which checks the past and analyses the present by superimposing the positions of the planets at a given period on the planets of the natal chart, using various techniques such as transits, solar revolutions, progressions, etc. Lastly, there is the astrology which compares two charts in order to understand the relations between two individuals who may be more or less compatible.
After the feeling of infinite in space, the questioning about... whatever pre-existed automatically arises. The sensation of the infinity of time, the research of the causes, and the voyage back beyond them necessarily makes a normally constituted human being feel dizzy. Such vertigo arouses a stronger desire to understand the meaning of all this and therefore, the commencement of spiritual quest.
These three types of astrology, or rather, these three functions of astrology, are the three major sections of this discipline. The fourth one, which I referred to as the "wild card" earlier, is mundane astrology which forecasts or explains certain global events such as wars and peace between countries, periods of growth or periods favourable for the evolution of a given area – science, humanism, religion, spirituality, etc. - assassination attempts, natural disasters, inventions, etc. For all four sections, it is clear that people don't have the same propensity to "believe" or not. Many people have no problem acknowledging that astrological portraits are mind-boggling because they are so accurate. I leave out the cases which present no problems, i.e. most of them, or the cases of people of good faith, again the majority, and I address only the case of sceptical people. Regarding forecasts, it is slightly more delicate. Recalcitrant people are usually more numerous, and there are even some astrologers who want to limit astrology to the functions of personality analysis and are adamant about this. The good-looking and talented Françoise Hardy (A famous French composer and singer of the '60s. She authored a book on astrology) is one of those people. The other sections of astrology seem too risky or difficult to them, unless they deem them... impossible for x reasons known to themselves only. Regarding couple's compatibility, also referred to as synastry, the subject is less known and better accepted because if one considers that astrology can analyse the personality, why couldn't it analyse two personalities and see if those two get along well or not...
Astrology is a mere set of efficient techniques for those who practice it and those who seek advice from it. However, although astrology and spirituality are disjoint, questions on human being, which the former necessarily indirectly arises, create... a bridge towards the quest for Reality.
Lastly, there is mundane astrology, which is the most difficult one. It must be acknowledged that using astrology to forecast global events equates to taking up an almost impossible challenge. Certain facts are mind-boggling, but I would only say that, to my view, this field pertains to research, and it is important that one does not believe what one reads here and there... Those who talk rubbish are definitely more numerous than those who really make predictions. Does this mean that mundane astrology does not work? Not necessarily, but there still is a long way to go. It is probably too early for our time, at least this is my opinion, formed after 35 years of experience and hindsight. Let's get back to astrology learning. Once the two obstacles mentioned above are overcome, i.e. the venom of the ignorant mass and its bitter judgment, castigating with a conceited smile any effort made towards the shameful direction in which astrology is, and the fact that many long months will have to be spent to understand and master the concepts and the rules – actually, in my view, this is not enough, and I believe that after a whole year of reading and practice, one gets a good idea. After 5 years, one is able to make a few interpretations, after 15 years, one has good bases, and after 30 years, although one still keeps on learning, one has some good reflexes which enable to avoid making mistakes. It is after this period that amazement starts... Bewilderment starts with the portraits. The hurdle lies in establishing the hierarchy of values and discarding whatever is superfluous. Indeed, the beginner tends to look at tons of details and get lost in a whole set of numerous meanings. Once this difficulty is solved, it is true that, if the sceptical person has paid the price and dedicated his time to learning, he usually loses his incredulity and the self-satisfied smile of the person who cannot be taken for a ride...
Having said this, unless one is particularly sensitive and vulnerable, getting to know oneself better, or having an idea about the meteorology, is rather helpful for evolving more rapidly. So, astrology would not be useless.
I wish to reassure those who are starting to learn. Actually, within a few days, as one reads the charts of acquaintances, one finds it mind-boggling. But once all the notions are well understood, one rapidly enjoys astrology and its batch of wonderments. This is precisely what happened to me after a few months. Then, if one does not want to stop while on such a good path, one buys books and learn... during years. To me, astrology is a tool, and not a religion or something important. It is one discipline among others, such as history or psychology. Of course, it is more helpful and somehow prompts to ask questions upstream. This is what constitutes its charm, even though in no circumstances, does it answer these questions. Astrology is anything except a spiritual path, a religion, or a moral code. It is just a tool which enables to understand our personality, our compatibility with people, and, with caution, to forecast climates, the meteorology of our evolution.
Some people have understood that astrology worked well and prefer… to avoid predictions. However, they are very few. There is indeed the auto-suggestion issue whereby the very fear of an unfortunate event might trigger it. Although there may be some truth in it, the amount of risk is minimal.
In my experience, right from the beginning, I observed that it worked. As everyone, one starts to read the charts of one's close friends and relatives, then one looks at the compatibilities, and above all, one plays at being God and analyses the future after having analysed the past. To understand the past, using the transits or any other techniques with a view to validating the rules, constitutes the best method. Regarding this last point, my opinion is simple: forecasts work fine, provided that two major conditions, absolutely impossible to ignore, are met:
This recalls the nice philosophical tale of Samarkand which can be summed up as follows: a Vizier walks across the city to work at the Sultan's palace. He sees an ominous woman dressed in black, the sight of whom makes his blood curdle... As she gets nearer, he notices her glare and her expression and understands that she is Death. He is in a state of terror and thinks that she is coming to take him... more below
The first one is that when you analyse a period of time, many interactions or influences are noticeable. But all of them are far from being equally important. One thing that we must never hesitate to say is that "strong" events are obvious, even though the way in which they will manifest does not always exactly match what we think. Nevertheless, the general tendency can be described accurately, assuming the practitioner is seasoned enough. Regarding minor, or "average" events, caution is required. There is a "scattering" of results, as if some people were more or less sensitive to certain transits etc. There are evidences that astrology should not be thrown out the window. The effects of very important forces at play are practically always noticeable. This is something I have observed on thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands cases, and each time, it is mind blowing because it completely rules out a vision at random of the period concerned. One must experience it to believe it: it is the number of disconcerting facts, totally incompatible with coincidence, which prompts to understand that one is not wasting time with this discipline. If one remains humble enough to accept that for less important events, or forces at play, there is some degree of uncertainty, and that one deals with probabilities of more or less favourable tendencies regarding such or such point, then, one remains on the safe side. Does it mean that astrology is deterministic and fatalistic? No, definitely. Everything unfolds as if there was a "tendency", some sort of more or less imposed, yet partial, structure. It seems that free will enables to react differently to the planetary climates undergone, and as the old saying goes, "The stars impel but do not compel". Many questions obviously arise on this subject, but the purpose of these lines is to share my practical experience, in all simplicity, without starting to give a structured explanation for each concept addressed, which would require several books.
Thus, he is terrified and starts to run like a madman to the palace, where he arrives out of breath to see the Sultan. "What's wrong with you my friend?" said the Sultan. "My Lordship, I saw Death! She came to fetch me, I am very sure... I don't want to die, I am too young, I have a family. Would you allow me to take a dozen days off and go somewhere very far because I don't want her to find me, I don't want to die!" "No problem", answered the generous and nice sultan. "You have always been loyal and reliable. Go to Samarkand, it is such a beautiful city, it will take your mind off things.
The other necessary and unavoidable condition, too often overlooked by many practitioners, is that our destiny develops only according to... what we are and therefore, according to what the natal chart describes, a natal chart which evolves, I need to underline this. Astrology obviously integrates this notion of evolution. There is no static state, no irreversible or fatalistic conditioning. A natal chart is mobile, and the human being is meant to blossom according to his basic characteristics, definitely with some degree of free will. In plain words, it means that the astrological natal chart is fundamental. Predictive techniques use two charts, the natal chart, which represents our personality, our earthly self with its usual features: affectivity, intellect, capacity of action, inter-personal capacity, vitality, sexuality, behaviour, psychological facets, blockages, etc.
The Vizier sets off straight away with a few servants, a dozen camels. During four days and four nights, he hastily heads towards mythical Samarkand, fleeing the woman in black and running away from what he believes to be his fateful destiny. After four days, he eventually reaches Samarkand, a splendid city bathing in an extraordinarily beautiful light... He quickly takes a bath, changes clothes, and, without taking any rest, he gets out to have a mint tea and visit the city.
By superimposing the chart – or planets' positions – of the period analysed on the natal chart, one identifies the forces at play, in hierarchy and categories, which have an intrinsic meaning but which, at the same time, depend mainly on the natal chart; this is what is often referred to as "resonance" with the natal chart. Let's take a concrete predictive case using transits for instance. One of the rules of thumb for predictions is to understand that transiting influences will fully manifest only if they are also found in the natal chart. Let's consider the difficult case of a transit of Uranus squaring natal Mars, with Mars in the 2nd House in Aries, and Uranus in the 11th House in Capricorn. These two planets are the most energetic ones, and at some time, their square triggers a blow-up in terms of behaviours or events, because the balance is too hard to maintain by the chart owner and meant to explode since the vibration does not correspond to his nature. Therefore, this explosive transit indicates that there is a probability that the financial area, or the way one earns a living, undergoes a very strong and unexpected jolt when the transit becomes exact or during Uranus' various passages as it retrogrades and squares natal Mars. This jolt may involve friends – it would be necessary to look at the rulerships. Now, there are two alternatives: if Uranus and Mars are connected in the natal chart, transiting Uranus will resonate with the natal chart, and it is most likely that important events, or the way they are felt by the chart owner, will be strongly experienced. The other alternative is that Uranus and Mars are not linked to each other in the natal chart, in which case it is clear that the effects of transiting Uranus, though violent, will have a less significant impact than in the first case.
The sun lights up the picturesque narrow streets, females are good-looking, and the shadows stretching their darker shape at this time of the afternoon increase the charm of the mythical city. The Vizier walks, deliriously happy to have escaped his fate. As he strolls and looks aside, he does not watch his steps and bumps into somebody! He immediately turns around and, to his stupefaction...
Similarly, a stern, wise and sometimes slightly solitary Saturnian, meaning a person with Saturn in his planetary dominant, who has an upcoming transit of Jupiter passing over his Venus will not turn into Julio Iglesias or Rocco Siffredi during the few weeks of this very nice transit! Provided these two conditions are met, i.e. some level of analogy with the natal chart, and caution whenever the influences at play are not very strong, astrology never disappoints, or almost never, as far as predictions are concerned. Regarding couple's compatibility, there are very important rules. It is not because a synastry is exceptionally good that it means, on the one hand, that one will fall in fall, and on the other hand, that the relationship will be successful. Let me explain: When one analyses the chart of a couple, one actually analyses three charts: the natal chart of each partner and the chart of the relationship. The latter is compared to the two natal charts and assessed using various possible techniques (composite chart, mid-space / mid-time chart, mutual planets-houses interactions, etc.). In addition of course, one must take into account the planetary climate of each partner, which is not simple. In couple's compatibility, here are the principles that must be borne in mind: Firstly, a fantastic compatibility between two persons never implies that they will fall in love with each other. Indeed, synastry only reflects how easy a relationship is in various areas. Conversely, a disastrous synastry does not mean that two persons will not fall in love with each other! It is important to highlight the above because a host of visitors wonder and sometimes e-mail us asking "I met with so and so, our rate was 80% but nothing happened, the relationship has not materialised, etc.", which is normal! Astrology, at least synastry, is unable to determine whether two persons will love each other. Love eludes the comparison of charts! Once again, if and only if, a relationship has already started, synastry will tell whether it will flow smoothly or not. In my view, that's already quite considerable!
A gorgeous and very pale lady, all dressed in black, stares at him with an almost astonished look and said, "Well, well, it's you, you are early. I did not expect you before several days yet." As she takes him by the hand, the Vizier, in a state of complete terror and at the same time strangely resigned, does not resist and follows Death, in great distress and without any possibility to rebel.
Now, like with predictions, it is necessary to take natal charts into account. It is simple to understand: if in his natal chart, anyone has a difficult affective structure, as in the case of a man having an exact Saturn-Moon square, with the Moon in the 7th House and Saturn in the Midheaven, and for instance, Venus square Pluto. His marriage should a priori take place late – if he ever marries, which is not quite sure – and the context of the marriage should not be very easy. Besides, it is most likely that in the affective area, he imagines nice things and that in real life, he undergoes a few disappointments. Although it is true that there are no such things as good charts or bad charts, there are still a few tendencies which are noticeable on the manifested plane. Let's imagine that this gentleman meets a lady with whom the compatibility is extraordinarily good. What would happen? If he falls in love, and his feelings are reciprocated, the odds are that things will not develop smoothly. Actually, because the synastry is good, which is the hypothesis we have chosen, in order that his destiny unfolds according to his natal chart, certain obstacles will crop up. Such hurdles probably obey some necessity in terms of evolution etc., but this is another topic... Nevertheless, the relationship is most likely to be pleasant and easy. The rest of the context will have to be assessed: what are the active transits of the moment for both partners, what is the natal chart of the lady in question, etc. As we can see, a relationship is a whole entity, a juxtaposition of five factors which already form a whole when taken separately: two natal charts, two forecasts or current planetary climates, and one synastry or couple report. The analysis of these five factors is the only process which enables to understand and offer predictions about what is to follow, and even then... solely if the magical spark is born between them. Regarding the spark, let's say that transits enable to forecast whether the chart owner is likely to fall in love during the considered period.
It is true that one can try to bail out of what is deemed ineluctable, especially during loaded periods such as under Uranus' tensed transits. However, as one believes that one is escaping one's fate, one might also jump into it with one's feet together even faster!
The lines above emphasise, I hope, how difficult it is to make a diagnosis and the large scope of the work it requires. My experience, once again with regard to this third section – since we have already addressed personality analysis and predictions – is that astrology works, provided that the natal chart is taken into account along with transits, progressions and solar revolution influences. Which experience? It is simple. When one is interested in this tool, one quite quickly makes interpretations, thousands of charts in several years. Therefore, each time one gets the confirmation that "heavy" or major events occur according to the rules used, and that in most cases, portraits are quite accurate although of course, certain scattered charts are much more difficult to interpret than others. One also knows that humility is a must and that for lighter things, i.e. minor aspects, less important or fast transits, one really deals only with probabilities, but... that's already quite appreciable. The last section, that of mundane forecast, is unrewarding. I will not enter into the details of the methods used, and I will only say that once again, my experience is quite a pessimistic one. Individual astrology offers results ranging from satisfactory to very satisfactory, but mundane astrology seems risky to me and, to state it clearly, not yet perfected enough. There may be a fifth section, that of prediction of success for business companies, projects, etc. The principle is to take the exact date of creation of a project as its moment of birth and cast a chart exactly as it is done for a human being. This method can also be applied to an animal, why not.
As expounded in this article, my experience prompts me to think that there are two types of outer events: the fundamental ones, which are very rare through a lifetime, and the others. The former seem to bear some form of determinism affecting the way events unfold, because the way we experience them in our inner self is a different thing and gives our free will every latitude in making decisions, including that to grant them importance or not.
The fans of this technique are often optimistic. Now, in my opinion, the real difficulty lies in identifying the exact date and time of the beginning of the project or a company. Let's take for instance the creation of a company, and why not, in France, the most difficult country regarding this topic, owing to all kinds of administrative hurdles: firstly, the date, time, and place of the "idea". Then, the determination of the name of the company. There may be also the date at which all the partners reached an agreement. Or the date at which the company's capital was deposited into the bank, or the date of the application or the official registration of its statutes! Or else, the date at which the premises for its head office are found... Actually, if one ponders a little bit more, for every case, the same questions apply because the exact date and time are not really significant. The same holds true also for the birth of a country, etc. As a result, examples are not easy to study, even though they are interesting for the astrologer as a matter of curiosity. I believe that great caution is needed in this area. Getting back to the example given at the beginning of this article, you may want to ask about the young lady, "So, was she compatible with you?" According to the analysis of the time, no! And actually, nothing happened, except in my head. Thus, astrology started to work well in those remote days despite the sadness of the conclusion. More seriously, the purpose of these lines is to say that the irrational refusal of some people, be they scientists or not, to consider that there might be something accurate in this discipline constitutes a real sign of laughable blockages on their part.
These questions would take us too far… Nevertheless, the Samarkand tale is a classic which tends to show the limits of free will in the field of real experiences. It is important to add that, as far as death is concerned, even though there are techniques which try to determine its date, no serious astrologer will claim to be able to do so. Why? Because, and it cannot be reiterated strongly enough, astrology describes a climate and probabilities, and nothing else. I would also add that this is at the same helpful, crucial, and an excellent thing. Nothing would be worse than absolute fate and shutting the door on hope.
Obviously, it is easy to understand its cause, which is certainly somehow the issue of how astrology works. Here, I have talked about concrete topics and experience, and not at all about the "why". Actually, being a scientist myself, in the beginning, what I wanted to know above all was whether astrology worked. Over 35 years of experience have answered my question although after six months or one year, I already got the answer, thus positive, just in case some visitors would directly start to read from this point on. The topic of why it works is completely different. Here are my impressions, given in a personal capacity: at first, I would consider astrology to be a small square of life, a bit like a helpful discipline, but without –let's say, directly – spiritual connotation. It is efficient, useful, but it offers no answer to the real questions of life, under no circumstances. What are we, what are we made of, what is Reality? Beneath thought, feelings, sensations, there is the consciousness of being, which is the only real thing, upstream. The intellect is unable to understand itself. A blind man cannot describe the colour red. Similarly, the intellect can but go round in circles when it comes to asking "who am I?", since we are not our thought and we are upstream of it or... of them, because one can rather talk about thoughts in the plural, which are like bees continuously buzzing, with an actor behind who undergoes and at the same time has the illusion of control... Of course, there is a link between these thoughts and our consciousness to exist, but... I should stop here... This is just to show that astrology answers none of these questions, that its field applies to the earthly sphere, to human psychology, to the explanation of behaviour, to the cautious forecast of the meteorology of events, and to the assessment of the smoothness, if any, of a relationship in a couple.
There is also the topic of the astrologer who analyses his future. Can he really change it? The wisest answer is that yes, one can strengthen the periods of invulnerability and thus, one's successes etc. One can also be careful and thus lessen the impact of risky periods, for practically all events.
I would say, and I believe so, that this is already quite considerable. The fact that it works is sufficient in itself, even though one would like to understand the whys in terms or physics or energy etc. Second reflection: we know only four forces in the universe: strong interactions (the cohesion forces of atomic nuclei), weak interactions (the cohesion forces of nuclei and particles), gravitational forces, and electro-magnetic forces. We are able neither to define the consciousness of being, nor to give a definition of thought and of ourselves. To imagine giving an answer to the whys of the functioning of astrology would require a better understanding of these two planes: the first one is that of physics, which is not as advanced as it is believed to be. The second plane is that of knowledge of human nature, which does not seem too advanced either... The first answer is that indeed, there is no known physical explanation as of today. There are statistics, sometimes disputed, and astrologers' experience dating back to the dawn of time – and the different schools, etc. which I have not addressed here of course – which are dismissed by detractors of astrology who are so stupidly and mechanically indoctrinated with their own certainties that they self-intoxicate themselves with their own rubbishes when... they do not act in bad faith.
Regarding major events, which can probably be counted on the fingers of the two hands throughout a lifetime, I think that the astrologer himself cannot avoid a few compulsory chapters of his destiny. This may be found disgruntling or laughable, but those who make numerous predictions are aware that it is difficult, or practically impossible, to escape very powerful configurations, be they harmonious or tricky. It should be borne in mind that what is tricky brings about awareness whereas on the contrary, what is felt as nice often yields spiritual numbness. Nothing is good, and nothing is bad; there is only a succession of tests, happy or unfortunate, and the will, or lack of, to increase one's consciousness of existing with them.
Of course, if anyone says to you "You practice astrology because you are in a fog, your mind is weak, you are indoctrinated, or you are Machiavellian, you do it for money, you are a poor insane person", there is nothing to answer since this blindness probably stems from a very irrational behaviour and above all from a pre-determined choice. Some detractors of astrology, perhaps less obtuse than others, may imagine, during a too short-lived stroke of intuition, that not all astrologers are in a complete fog, not all malevolent, not all interested in power or money, and even that the majority do not waste their time, simply because hands-on experience has shown them the evidence, that is does work, provided due caution is observed as mentioned earlier. Therefore, for these people, the following problem remains: "Well, let's suppose that it works and that there is some truth in it, but since there are no explanations to it, it cannot work, can it?" A logical mind would answer back "It works of course. It is not because we don't know yet why, that it can't work, since on the contrary experience proves that it does work..."
Besides, the fact that one possesses a few assets like knowledge of astrology, or the mere fact of seeking advice from it, is part of the protections which can be found in the natal chart. The person who never doubts anything, who remains narrow-minded and keeps on his superior smile in front of concealed knowledge –astrology is not the only one – this person usually has several tensions in fixed signs in his natal chart. Indeed, fixed signs are excellent and often endow with a strong will and persuasion power, to the detriment however of open-mindedness, or rather, the swiftness to precisely adjust to whatever is new to him. Once adjustment is achieved, he will become a fierce defendant of the very cause which he fought in the first place, at least in the best cases (smile).
The tradition does not hesitate to put forward such answers as "As above, so below.". This explanation is based on symbolism, the human being partly incarnated and partly spirit, and there is a connection between these two worlds, etc. But obviously, this is not an explanation. Astrology works although we still don't have its explanation in terms of forces. My opinion is that it will come. It constitutes an interesting subject, but not a fundamental one. The main point is to avoid talking nonsense and to be pragmatic. It seems to me that being open-minded is the only correct attitude. Although one can live without astrology, its offers much help to those who practice it or to those who seek advice from it. It is already very appreciable. Indeed, although astrology claims neither to give an answer about the purpose of life, nor to be absolutely reliable, and in spite of the fact that the explanation of its functioning is unknown... it nevertheless delivers obvious results. This is what justifies its practice. To my view, the only good attitudes are, either to use it with caution if it is helpful on a punctual basis or more, or to ignore it and ask "Why not, but in any case, I am not interested." The only totally ridiculous attitude is to display the self-satisfied smile of those who cannot be taken for a ride...
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