Orpheus: Voices in Contemporary Astrology

Edited by Suzi Harvey

Consider Publications, Frome, Somerset.
330 pages

Reviewed by Darby Costello

[This review first appeared in the Astrological Journal (May/June 2001)]

This is a book that I might never have read, had I not accepted a request to write this review. When it arrived I dutifully set about reading it, and found, to my great delight, that I had wandered into a world of such exciting and often exotic thinking that, having completed it, I read all of it again. Suzi Harvey is the editor and she has done a beautiful job - the eight essays in the book follow one another naturally. The very beautiful cover design, the shape of the large format paperback with its well designed pages make it a treasure for the senses as well as the mind.

The first essay is entitled Facing Janus: An Analysis of the Extremes of Saturn. It is by the French astrologer Andre Barbault, who has done much in his time to awaken astrology in his own country and even further afield. In this very incisive piece he brings Saturn alive in all its harsh and isolating demands. He tells us that he is coming out of a two year transit of Saturn and perhaps this is why we get the 'feeling' of Saturn so strongly from him. It is a sharp, deepening piece of work, and in spite of its dark tone one feels invigorated after reading it.

The second essay is by Liz Greene and is called Jupiter as a Parental Significator in the Birth Horoscope. Liz always writes with a clarity and grace that makes her weaving of mythology with psychological insight compelling. In this piece she deepens our conventional perspective on Jupiter, looking at its mythological background, pathological expression and its spiritual gifts as they shows themselves in the charts of Jupiterian parents and their offspring. As always with Liz Greene's work, I gained fresh understanding of my own psychological landscape and was immediately able to open up new and fruitful conversations with my clients.

Charles Harvey's War of the Worlds: Jupiter and Saturn in Conflict and Creativity, pulled me straight into the conflict he spoke of in the title. My emotions were very strong when reading it, because of his recent death, and so the next day I went back and read it again. It is a full and passionate exploration of the two planets, and as always with Charles, full of references to others' work that one would wish to follow up. After exploring the mythological and archetypal fields of the two planets he then discusses the Jupiter Saturn cycle in economic and market trends - there is useful information here! Before he ends he touches on philosophy, consciousness and disease in relation to these planets, reminding me of things I had once learned and telling me things I didn't know. His article touched both my heart and my mind, as Charles always did.

The Mutable Cross and the Postmodern Ethos is by Gerry Goddard is a fascinating discussion of our 'postmodern' stage of consciousness. He brings together the thoughts of many modern thinkers - Rick Tarnas, Stan Grof and Ken Wilber, for example - building on the work of earlier thinkers and philosophers. He examines our present time - its high creative expressions and its frightening pathological distortions - in light of the 'archetypal lattice work of the astrological model' and particularly the mutable cross. He gives us a sense of a deep structure emerging out of the current confusion and profusion, and illustrates how astrology might enter the conversation taking place in the larger cultural arena on the new emerging paradigm.

Otto Rheinschmiedt's has written on the correspondence of significant dreams and their transits and progressions in Astrology and Dreams. He looks a dream Ted Hughes had the night before he married Silvia Plath in light of his chart and transits, and later a dream of Sigmund Freud for which the time, and therefore the chart, is available. These were very interesting, but I also loved his pages on the history of dream interpretation and those on modern research on dreaming. His thoughts on the eighth house as the place where 'we can find evidence for the transmission of trauma from one generation to the other' set me thinking along lines I had begun to research years ago and will take up again now.

Lindsay Radermacher's paper on Signs or Symbols: Communicating Astrology with the Client is the fruit of her long practice as a consultant astrologer and her natural tendency to ask simple but exacting questions of herself and her art. She looks at the birth chart from many points of view and illustrates ways in which both astrologer and client can assume too much or not enough in a consultation. Then she discusses the very real problem of astrologers who have symbolic minds - how to convert symbols into signs. For that is what many clients want us to do. This is a very useful and thoughtful exploration of the problems and the beauty of being a modern astrologer.

A Vocation to Witness: A Study of Scorpio Problems and Passions by Suzi Harvey ends with a small and perfect homage to astrology. It begins with a discussion of Wilfred Owens whose poetry came from the Plutonic realms of World War I, in which he died at 25, leaving behind 'a kind of Orphic voice which enriches the world with its wisdom.' She then goes on to tell us the story of a woman who came to her for therapy, having suffered appalling losses in a very short time. Through the story of their work together, illustrated by her client's chart, she tells us much about Scorpio and its terrible reality and power to heal as new life and redemption rise out of immense devastation.

The last essay in this most satisfying book is by Brian Taylor. The Discovery of Pluto: An Unbidden Omen is long (more than fifty pages) and he says it should be considered as a 'work in progress'. But what a work! It is, in his words, 'an astrological contemplation' of the planet in light of its discovery chart 'in relation to the history of the nuclear era, and of the geography of the region in which the planet was discovered, and in which the atomic bomb was first detonated.' But it is much more than that, with its descriptions of symbolic underworlds from wide ranging (and mostly unknown to me) myths and legends. Having experienced deep bereavement himself he brought both his postmodern thinking and his fully lived insights to this powerful essay.

It was a privilege to review this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is available from The Wessex Astrologer, P.O. Box 2751, Bournemouth BH6 3ZJ. That is the main outlet but you can also find it at Midheaven Books, 396 Caledonian Road, London N1 1DN phone 020 7607 4133, email: midheaven@compuserve.com