The Inner Sky by Steven Forrest
Steven Forrest’s book on the basic language of astrology is what I put in the hands of people who are just getting interested in astrology. Not only does it clearly lay out the meaning of planets, signs, houses and aspects, but it gives the student a feel for the very movement of astrology. While the birth chart is a static thing, we are not, and we can as we manifest the energies of our natal chart choose to become a happier human being. While the chart suggests certain pitfalls, awareness of these “shadow” tendencies helps us to combat them and grow towards our best self.
Once he has taught us the “words” of astrology, Steven Forrest then shares how to combine these words into “sentences.” How does the Sun in Libra in the Fifth House, for example, explain something about the native? The Sun is the identity, the “I am.” Who is this person? A Libra, a Lover, Forrest tells us, an Artist, or a Peacemaker. This is someone who seeks “unbreakable inner harmony,” and who realizes their peace must be obtained through “indefatigable effort.” And in what area of life does this energy manifest? In the fifth house, we experience joy, creativity, and the pleasures of being alive. Whatever this person’s struggle to bring peace and harmony into the world, she is going to relish every minute of it.
Steven Forrest also gives the astrology student a framework for putting these sentences together and reading the chart as a whole. To demonstrate his technique, I decided to use the chart of someone in the news during this fall of 2020, Senator Kamala Harris, the VP candidate chosen by Joe Biden. She is the Libra Fifth House Sun described above. The law, with its emphasis on justice and fairness for all, is a fertile, rich profession for the Libra Sun energy.
Guideline Number One, Forrest tells us, is to thoroughly understand the “primal triad,” that is, The Sun, Moon and Ascendant. We have examined the Sun, a basic identity which joys in pursuing peace and harmony in the realm of justice. The Moon is described as “the development of the ability to feel or to respond emotionally.” The question we ask of the Moon is, “What kinds of experiences are most essential to my happiness?” In Kamala’s chart, an Aries Moon is the “Warrior,” the “Pioneer,” and the “Survivor.” To be happy, she fights a battle, she breaks into new territory, she prevails. In the 11th house of Friends, this Moon seeks allies, fellow warriors and shared causes.
The third leg in the primal triad is Kamala’s Gemini Ascendant. Forrest describes the Ascendant as the vehicle we drive through life, the way this person appears to the world. In Gemini, this person presents as a Teacher, a Journalist, a Witness. A Gemini Ascendant is curious, communicative, and mutable, able to adapt as new information is processed.
Guideline Number Two, then, is to put the meanings of the planets on hold briefly and simply observe where the majority of planets fall in the chart. If they fall mostly above the horizon, the focus of the native’s life will be in the objective realm and events will be of primary importance. If the majority of the planets fall below the horizon, the emphasis will be on the subjective realm and the realizations gained through life experiences predominate. If the planets fall mostly of the eastern (left) side of the chart, the life is shaped more by freedom and individual choice, whereas planets on the western (right) side of the chart suggest the life depends on fate and destiny. The native must adapt to circumstances rather than determine them.
In the chart of Kamala Harris, we see seven planets below the horizon and three above, telling us that while she will certainly function in the objective world, the more important path for her will be learning from what she has experienced and building her inner realizations and resources. With three planets in the eastern half of her chart and seven in the western, her life will be shaped more by fate and destiny – which can be said about a career politician who is dependent upon voters to put her into office.
Guideline Number Three is to understand the “planetary focalizers” and identify what role they play in the chart. These include the planet which rules the Ascendant, a planet in its rulership, a planet conjunct the Sun, a stellium, an angular planet, or a singleton, a stationary planet, or a planet making strong aspects. This wide net makes it seem like all planets in the chart could be focalizers, but I will focus on the few which are pronounced in Kamala Harris’s chart.
Mercury functions as a focalizer, both because it rules her Gemini Ascendant and it conjoins the Sun by 4 degrees. This Mercury, is considered by Steven Forrest to be her “intelligence,” and methods of gathering and transmitting information. In the sign of Scorpio, Kamala’s intelligence is the Detective, the Sorcerer, and the Hypnotist, intense and able to “burn through pretense.” In her sixth house of Servants, she is able to develop her intelligence as a skill which she can use to serve others. Forrest tells us that conjunct the Sun, a planet “is grafted onto that far more influential solar principle.” Kamala’s penetrating intelligence, therefore, is a key part of her identity.
In looking for planets conjoined angles, we see that Saturn is in an out of sign conjunction with the Midheaven. This Saturn is particularly dignified because Saturn is a traditional ruler of Aquarius, and it is a “singleton” in this chart, the only planet above the horizon and west of the Meridian. It also receives multiple aspects, an opposition from Mars, a square from Jupiter, a trine from the Sun and Mercury, and a sextile from the Moon. Kamala’s Saturn is therefore a Grade A focalizer in her chart.
Saturn is identified by Forrest as “the development of self-discipline and self-respect. The development of faith in one’s destiny.” In Aquarius, this Saturn is the Genius, the Truth Sayer, the Revolutionary, the Scientist. In aligning herself, through great discipline and confidence, with her destiny, Kamala’s endpoint will not be conformity but to develop her genius, “the capacity to think freshly, to view old problems in new ways.” She values above all else the freedom to pursue her truth.
Guideline Number Four directs us to determine how the North and South Lunar Nodes “impact the other features of the chart.” While some of us have Lunar Nodes which float in the chart without much attachment to other planets or angles, Kamala Harris was born with the North Node on her Ascendant and the South Node at her Descendant, two of the most important degrees in her chart. The South Node, Forrest writes, can be a blind spot, a point representing something we may have learned in a past life or a “knowledge which already exists in a person.” At the Descendant, the point of connection with the other, the South Node could indicate someone who easily connects one-on-one but then could get blindsided by others’ expectations of her. She could end up in relationships where she is expected to be someone she is not. This is also a problem encountered sometimes by those with the Sun in Libra, where their need to connect and their ability to charm creates similar imbalances.
A North Node conjoined with her Ascendant, however, tells us “what we must become.” Kamala’s path is to clearly articulate, Gemini, who she is and where she stands. Once she has firmly created her own identity and purpose, she can function more effectively as a partner.
Guideline Number Five is to pull it all together, notice themes, tensions, clusters of meaning. I would invite you at this point to take a step back, look at the chart again, and ask, what emerges from my view of the chart?
Once I went through the same exercise, what jumped out at me were the number of oppositions, which Steven Forrest has identified as “polarity,” being pulled back and forth and eventually having to find a place of balance, compromising enough to incorporate both ends of the spectrum. Not only is the polarity of the nodal axis falling across her Ascendant and Descendant emphasizing the conflict between self and other, but her solar drive and allied intelligence for harmony and cooperation must function with an Aries emotional drive to unilaterally pick up her sword and leap into battle. The Mars impulse to assert her own expressiveness in Leo must hold space with a fabulously disciplined Saturn which demands she patiently bide her time to fulfill her aims. Even the Taurus Jupiter, loving the good life and abundance, must find balance with the Neptune in Scorpio, which knows only too well the suffering of those who have little or nothing to sustain themselves. This chart symbolizes a human being who lives her life in dual worlds and must carve out a third world which contains both.
When all guidelines are followed then, Steven Forrest instructs us with Guideline Number Six to recognize that “astrology has done its job.” We now have a set of “life issues” and are ready to open our heart and mind to consult with our client. If Kamala Harris were sitting down at your consulting desk (or Zoom room), what questions would you ask? How would you use astrology to reveal the power of her character, the challenge of her tasks in this world, and the impact of her destiny?