The Man One of the most fascinating characters of our time is the Indian author Salman Rushdie, born in Bombay on 19th June 1947 and now living in hiding somewhere in the United Kingdom under the protection of the British state. Salman Rushdie is a magical author whose grasp of so-called reality brings the reader into a world in which everything is possible and where the imagination is supreme. I have heard, but I do not know if it is true, that Rushdie was a copywriter who made a fortune from creating a slogan for cream cakes. The slogan was “naughty but nice”. The wonderful thing about this slogan is that consumers are being given permission to enjoy themselves – it becomes permitted to break the rules for the sake of pleasure. For, if there is one thing that runs through the books of Salman Rushdie, it is a tolerance, acceptance and compassion for the ordinary human being, whose lot in life is, generally speaking, rather hard. Another theme which can be discerned from the writing of Salman Rushdie is his contempt for those who have sold their souls for power.
The Individual and the Nation
Not only is Salman Rushdie a great novelist, he also has a wonderful sense of the nature of time and the significance of the moment. In his first major success, Midnight’s Children , the opening paragraph describes the main character’s fictive birth in this way: “I was born in the city of Bombay … once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 1 5th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more … On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world”. During the book Salman Rushdie shows he is fully aware of how significance is embedded in every moment of time, and appreciative of the fact that the birth of the individual and of the nation are part and parcel of the same energy – a central theme for the whole concept of astrology. Those children born closest to midnight at the time of the independence of the Indian nation somehow encapsulate the fate of that nation during the course of their lives. Salman Rushdie was actually born remarkably close to the time of Indian independence, so there is perhaps some correlation to the fate of both Salman Rushdie and India.
At any rate, in the month of February 1989 – in a remarkable parallel to the central idea of Midnight’s Children , in which the historical development of India is a secondary yet causative theme in the life of the central character – riots in England, Pakistan and India left several dead and hundreds wounded as a result of the launch of Salman Rushdie’s book – The Satanic Verses – which was alleged to have blasphemed the Muslim religion. At the same time, Salman Rushdie’s life as a hunted man began. On February fourteenth 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued an Islamic death sentence – fatwa – on the novelist and Salman Rushdie has been on the run ever since. The death sentence, which technically extends to anyone who even owns the best-seller, cost the life of the novel’s Japanese translator who was stabbed to death in 1991 – and its Italian translator was wounded during a knife attack in the same year.
Looking at the horoscope of Salman Rushdie, the planetary positions powerfully show the theme of writing. If we are to accept the data from an Indian astrological magazine, Salman Rushdie was born at sunrise just four hours after a new Moon in Gemini. This new Moon was in precise conjunction with Uranus, and even more precise semisquare to Pluto. The connection with Pluto and Uranus emphasizes the theme of terror embodied in this time, and the provocative nature of Salman Rushdie himself. Obviously Salman Rushdie was destined to shake up the intellectual community with his writings. He is a revolutionary whose job it is to communicate ideas from a completely new angle. It was at this time that Sony Corporation had its beginnings – another example of the revolution in communication that happened at this time. Also, in an interesting parallel to the fatwa, at the time of his birth in America, alleged Communist sympathisers in Hollywood were rounded up and forced to reveal any connections with the Communist Party. And those that refused – the Hollywood Ten – were sent to jail. America certainly had its own capitalist equivalent to the fatwa at this time. Other indications which are favourable for writing in the horoscope of Salman Rushdie are the conjunction between Venus and the North Node – also in Gemini – which shows, through the trine to Neptune in Libra, the capacity to communicate in a lyrical and poetic way. Venus and the Node in the 12th house indicates the creative and lonely exile of Salman Rushdie, and the precise sextile to Saturn may also show the difficulties and restraint which must be involved in all his relationships, now that he can rarely show himself openly.
Mercury, the planet which traditionally represents the power of communication, is placed at 21 degrees Cancer in trine to Jupiter in Scorpio and in a precise sextile to Mars in Taurus. It is a very curious thing that the twenty-first degree of Cancer and Capricorn are associated, directly or indirectly, with warped values and murder. Mass murderers have throughout history had a tendency to have significant planets placed on this degree, as has been well-documented by astrologer Dennis Elwell in his book The Cosmic Loom . Considering the placement of Mercury for Salman Rushdie, it is interesting then that the writings of Salman Rushdie have been so profoundly associated with death.
Mercury makes an extraordinary journey in Rushdie’s progressive horoscope. Starting at 21 Cancer, it goes stationary retrograde around the age of 12, fatefully returning to the 18th degree of Cancer where it trines Jupiter at the ill-reputed degree 18 degrees Scorpio (associated in horary astrology with ill-fated Serpentis ). The retrograde Jupiter in Scorpio likewise makes a retrograde journey in the progressed horoscope, and Mercury makes rendezvous twice with this planet – the last time being when both are direct in 1988 with the release of The Satanic Verses. With this “fortunate” trine – the fated meeting between the writer Mercury and the religious fanatic Jupiter in Scorpio – Salman Rushdie made his name internationally.
The Fundamentalist Weapon
At the time of the fatwa in 1989 the planet traditionally associated with death, Pluto, was at the 15th degree of Scorpio. Some astrologers call the fifteenth degree of the fixed signs the Avatar degree – it is the point at which a planet has the greatest power. Looking at the horoscope for noon on February 14 1989 we can also see that Mars is at 15 degrees Taurus – in exact opposition to Pluto. The significance of this opposition can hardly be underestimated. This was one of the most murderous days in this century – aptly reflected in the riots of the time. The opposition of Mars and Pluto in so potent signs shows amongst other things the inhumanity of the inexorable will of the Iranian fundamentalists of the time. One could perhaps be tempted to have an understanding attitude towards pious Muslims who were offended by Rushdie’s work, but the horoscope for the fatwa has all the signatures for extremism and religious intolerance. The Sun squaring Jupiter from Aquarius to Taurus, shows a bigoted fixity of opinion, and this square makes a stressful midpoint pattern with the Neptune/Saturn conjunction in Capricorn showing the influence of religion on matters of state. This fatwa pandered to the populism of Moon in Gemini trine Venus in Aquarius, and is simply a work of evil-mindedness. The Mars/Pluto opposition falls on the Mars/Jupiter opposition in the horoscope of Salman Rushdie, and of course Mars in opposition to Jupiter reflects the struggle against religious fanaticism (Jupiter retrograde in Scorpio) which has always characterised Salman Rushdie. Unfortunately, by presenting the wife of Mohammed as a prostitute, Salman Rushdie gave expression to the subsidiary sexual theme in this opposition with the appalling consequences this was to have subsequently in his life.
Progressions for 1989
That 1989 would be a fateful year for Salman Rushdie was clearly shown by the progressions at that time. Apart from the aforementioned progressed Mercury trine Jupiter, the Sun progressed was now at 6.40 Leo, precisely on the Saturn in his horoscope. Over the course of the next few years the progressed Sun would go on to make a conjunction with progressed Saturn. 1995 must have been the year when the trials and tribulations connected the death threat were at their highest. At this point Saturn progressed had reached Pluto progressed and the Sun progressed was in conjunction with both making a triple conjunction which would have been crushing for the soul, but obviously gave Salman Rushdie an almost superhuman power. There can be no doubt that there were concrete threats to his life during this period.
Rushdie – the Symbol
It is the fate of Salman Rushdie to have become more than simply a writer, he has also become a symbol – a symbol of the rights of the individual to express ideas and opinions in the face of intolerance and fundamentalism. Thus the symbol of Salman Rushdie has become more important than the author Salman Rushdie. He is a living challenge for democratic governments to manifest the their support for human rights in the face of economic and security pressures. In November 1996 the government of Denmark was nearly toppled because of the uproar in the intellectual community when the visit of Salman Rushdie was cancelled because of fears of repercussions from Islamic fundamentalists.Salman Rushdie performs in the literary world the same kind of function that the Dalai Lama performs in the spiritual – both reveal the cowardice and lack of principle amongst some government leaders and the courage and sense of principle amongst others. There can be no doubt which course of action is honourable yet political leaders persist in letting political or economic issues decide over matters of principle for short term gain.
Adrian Ross Duncan
The client A middle-age woman, who had spent most of her life alone, visited me one day, and the consultation was dominated by her fantasies about being followed by strange men and a general sense of being persecuted. She had Pisces rising on the Ascendant, with Neptune in exact conjunction with the Descendant, which, according to astrological theory, would tend to induce fantasies in relation to other people. When she left at the end of a rather difficult session – as she was obviously something of a borderline case – I decided to go shopping. After some minutes I opened my door to leave my office, only to find the client talking to herself on the stairs. Acutely aware that it might seem like I was following her, I smiled weakly and closed the door again, waiting until I saw her depart in the direction of the bus stop. I then left, taking a new route into town so as not to pass the bus stop, and after about 20 minutes brisk walk I arrived at the town square. As I entered the square the bus drew up and my client got out, virtually bumping into me. She took one look at me, abruptly turned around and walked rapidly in the opposite direction! Were the stories of being followed that this lady told true, or not?
One of the difficulties about ascertaining truth is to define the yardstick with which to measure it. Scientists have developed complex systems of measurements which have enabled them to map out the material world and describe its workings in intricate detail. Traditionally there has been a clearly defined division between subject – the inquiring mind – and object – outer reality. Though no more than a working hypothesis which is under constant revision, the belief system of science has functioned well. However, as science in the 20th century examines extreme states in the material world – sub-atomic particles and phenomena in the deepest reaches of space – the subject/object division begins to be undermined. On a simple level a researcher intent on a particular pursuit will automatically make choices which favour an intended result, and on a more subtle level in the sub-atomic world at least – the actual intention of the researcher can be scientifically shown to affect the outcome of the research. This means that modern science has now become aware that it must take the condition of the subject into account when measuring reality.
Cold Fusion confusion
On March 23rd 1989, the researchers Pons and Fleischmann claimed a world-shattering discovery at the University of Utah. The phenomenon of Cold Fusion was confidently announced to an astonished world. Instead of the several hundred million degrees normally considered necessary to fuse lighter nuclei into one heavier nucleus, thereby creating vast quantities of energy, these two researchers maintained that they had create fusion at room temperature. Initially this cold fusion process was apparently successfully replicated in France and in other laboratories around the world, yet at a subsequent federal conference in May, the process was discredited, and reports of successful replication dwindled. How could reputable scientists make such a mistake? It is an interesting fact that on March 23rd 1989 Saturn and Neptune were in tight conjunction, and this conjunction – which recurs in the heavens once every 36 years – lasted most of the year. Astrologers associate Saturn with form, and Neptune with dissolution, and on a more abstract level, Saturn relates to experienced fact and Neptune to fantasy and fiction. The conjunction occurred in the sign of Capricorn, which is connected with boundaries in the material world and the drive to overcome them (and on a more personal level the ambitious urge to rise in status).
As Saturn merges with Neptune an astrological picture arises of the fusion process, and the subsequent confusion about cold fusion, (- and loss of status for our two research scientists!). Was the whole thing fact or fiction? Such is the nature of Neptune – which casts its misty cloak around everything it touches – the truth may never emerge. Perhaps cold fusion really did happen, and can only repeat itself during the next conjunction of those representatives of the concrete and sublime, Saturn and Neptune? The important lesson of this event which shook the scientific world, was concerned with the nature of reality, the nature of illusion, and the difficulty of establishing objective truth.
As above, so below
The basic principle of astrology is that the smallest thing in the universe is subject to same process as the largest. The same rules apply for both, and indeed an action in one sphere will reflect an action in the other. That which affects us in our daily life reflects that which affects the universe. Furthermore time and the physical world are mutually interdependent. Astrology is unique in that it applies rules of correspondence between time and space, linking them to human character and history. Working with the concept of time and character brings an understanding of Fate – which in this context is in no way fixed, but interactive with character. If past actions create fate in the present, then so do present actions, putting the individual very much more in control of the time and its material consequences in the world than opponents of astrology might imagine.
Experience of the outer world is completely dependent on the physical senses and mental convictions of the individual. Apparent reality is entirely relative to the consciousness of the experiencer. Practising astrologers are well aware of how different psychological theories reflect the horoscopes of the psychologists who founded them. How literary themes reflect the lives of author. How films reflect the mind of the director. How actors choose roles reflecting their planetary transits. Every impression has to pass through the unique mental and physical filters of the individual. Considering the subjectivity of personal truth the most one can hope for in establishing truth is a broad agreement shared by as many people as possible about what standards to apply to reality.
The Battle for Truth
The more people who embrace a belief system the more power it has. That is why preaching was such an important part of the Christian religion. That is why defenders of the scientific model like the English professor Richard Dawkins and the American Carl Sagan invest so much energy defending the tenets of scientific belief and doing their utmost to discredit what they regard as the superstition of astrology. They understand that the real battle for truth is in winning the hearts and the minds of the people. Fighting for beliefs is essential to maintain power and influence. For astrologers the desire to defend their beliefs then is natural, though often misguided. Personal identity is often inextricably connected with the beliefs one embraces, and arguments are consequently infused with emotion, because a defence of beliefs often constitutes a defence of personal identity. It is normally the case that people cling to their beliefs during the whole of their adult life – especially if their work is centred around them. In the last analysis, great changes of thinking occur as old proponents of ideas lose influence and die, and proponents of new ideas come into prominence.
Unity in Duality
As we approach the millenium, and begin to integrate the philosophical consequences of the scientific discoveries of this century, a transition is occurring. Relativity theory shows the interactivity of subject and object, matter and energy, body and mind. The awareness of unity within duality is arising, and it is in this awareness that a meeting point can be found between the world of rational science and less-rational astrology. Astrology cannot be proved satisfactorily using methods of thinking founded on dualistic thought. But then there are aspects of modern science which do not respond well to dualistic logic either. Using old-fashioned scientific methods and demanding replication without consideration of the ever-changing cycles of time and its influence on the process, can lead both the modern scientist and the astrologer astray. Indeed, the successful practice of astrology is in fact dependent on the awareness of the interactivity between the mind of the astrologer and the object of his or her consciousness.
Astrology ascribes meaning to planetary events, and assumes that the energy which moves the universe has a kind of inherent intelligence. The astrologer maintains that there is a natural resonance between the evolving motion of the universe, and the development of the human soul. This is a very effective working hypothesis, and the astrologer who puts doubts about its effectivity aside and embraces the hypothesis wholeheartedly is rewarded by this intelligent universe. The clinical and objective approach of the sceptic will lead to very poor results in the interpretation process, whilst the enthusiastic believer will find himself in dialogue with a supportive universe, magically geared to his development.
The Consultation Moment
Consider the story mentioned earlier. I have clients daily and always uses the birth chart of the client in combination with the actual chart for the moment of arrival of the client. I find major correspondences between these two charts. One client born in January 1950 is a Capricorn with the Moon in Sagittarius and the Ascendant in Aries. The client arrives for the consultation in January 1996 with exactly the same combination of Sun, Moon and Ascendant. The chances of this happening are 1:1728. As if that were not enough Mercury is retrograde at 29 degrees Capricorn in both charts. This combination has only happened twice in the client’s life – at birth and during the day of the visit to the astrologer. Yet this kind of parallel is a normal occurrence in consultations.
The Unified Field
Astrologers – and indeed everyone else – create a world around them which reflects there methods for seeing the world. And the world responds intelligently. Events unfold in discrete harmony with the beliefs and conceptions of the observer. It is in the nature of things that events normally confirm convictions. Where the scientific approach to the consultation might see the client as the object, the non-dual approach sees the sensory and intellectual interaction of the astrologer and client as a unified field, which affects each individual equally. And in this unified field where consciousness focuses its attention on events, meaning arises. Objectifying astrology and trying to prove it removes the observer from the very field of consciousness in which astrology works so effectively. Conventional scientific methods may be effective at quantifying the stationary observable universe, but in the mysterious and invisible universe of consciousness – a world which has its parallels in the field of quantum mechanics – the concepts of relativity and paradoxes comes into their own.
The truth of Astrology will be accepted when the majority of people embrace it as a part of their reality. Today we are very close to this happening, and in all probability future generations will accept the natural correlation between Man and Cosmos in much the same way as we believe in, say, psychology, today. The question is not whether astrology is objectively true or not, but whether astrology will become a generally accepted representation of reality or not? Whatever the case, it should be clear that what the individual experiences as reality is not objective reality. Individually-experienced reality did not exist before the individual experienced it and will not exist after – the individual creates his own private experience of reality. This is why shared beliefs are so important – the more people who agree to share a certain interpretation of reality, the more that reality is validated. This does not make that reality objectively true. Astrology is simply a very good basis for constructing reality because it is based on the observable planetary system of which we are a part.
The Magic of Astrology
Astrologers will be able to produce irrefutable examples of the effectiveness of astrology. Obscure predictions which have come true. Wonderful correlations from their own life. But their reality is based on the same rules as the lady client described earlier. They are being followed – by the interaction of the world with their own belief systems. It is perhaps more relevant to ask whether the system in question enriches their life, whether it harms or does good, than whether it represents truth. The world is vast, and the capacity to extract meaning from it unlimited. Astrology is one way – a very effective way – of doing this. So is astrology true? Not in an absolute sense, no, but relatively yes, of course. It is arguably more effective than any other system for mapping out the character of events and their significance in time. It is not an infallible system, but it has its moments. As when Michael Baigent predicted so accurately in 1983 in the book Mundane Astrology that the Soviet Union would experience from 1989 – 1991 “some basic restructuring of the nation…a change …with regard to the leadership and the style of rule. It would appear possible that this period will herald some new revolution in Russia which would restructure the country dramatically… the tight command structure will fail and the country will collapse back into the numerous autonomous states that it once was”. Yes, there are times when it feels like a privilege to be granted insight into the ancient art.
Adrian Ross Duncan