Master’s Musings May 2024

Upcoming Live Events

Master’s Musings, May 2024

Upcoming Live Events

 
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Master’s Musings
 
As many of you know, for about twenty years all of my high-level teaching happened in the context of my Apprenticeship Programs. They were four or five day “live” events, happening once or twice a year in the USA, Australia, China, and Europe. All together, the various groups met well over a hundred times. I feel that I grew up with those “AP” meetings, both as a teacher and as a human being. It was in those marathon teaching sessions that I found my true voice as an astrologer. I look back on them fondly.
Even though they ended in 2019, the roots of the present FCEA lie in those programs. The basic material we teach is the same, although it’s more polished, orderly, and succinct nowadays. The main difference between the FCEA and the AP is simply structure (not to mention having a fine staff of tutors so it’s not all just me talking.) As you know, our school curriculum doesn’t let you skip any steps. The AP, in all honesty, was more of a hodge-podge – the content was all there, but there was no order to the way it was presented session-to-session. The administrators and I would come up with an interesting topic, announce it, and people would sign up – or not, if the topic didn’t interest them. After they had attended any three such programs, they earned a Level One certificate. Three more, and they’d qualify for Level Two.
It worked. Many graduates of the AP have gone on to practice astrology professionally. I’m proud of them. The trouble was, depending on which programs they chose to attend, they might have missed something important – nodal analysis, solar arcs, or the composite chart, for three painful examples. 
We’ve plugged those leaks in the FCEA! Anyone who attains masters’ level in our program will be an expert “full service” evolutionary astrologer. That’s the good news.
The bad news, at least for me, is that I really miss the hugs! I miss just hanging out after a day of teaching and getting to know the students in a simple, human way. I miss the musical jam sessions, the wine, and the laughter. 
Going a little deeper, the social dimension of the Apprenticeship Programs created a lot of “real life” for us to digest as a group. There were affairs and romances, of course. Naturally, not everybody always liked everybody else. Happily, there were marriages and lifelong friendships that came out of it. We experienced some deaths too –  and little creates a sense of spiritual community as effectively as a member passing. As I think of that, my mind immediately turns to Joyce Van Horn who ran the Calistoga program for many years. She passed away a few weeks ago in Mexico. I feel a gap in my heart where we all “should have” gotten together as a community, mourned her passing and celebrated her life – but, alas, there was no more Calistoga group, so that didn’t happen.
In contemplating the creation of the FCEA back in 2018 and 2019, my main personal fear was that the online format would feel cold. I’ve honestly been surprised and delighted that I was totally wrong about that. Genuine warmth permeates our program. That I can feel closely connected emotionally to people I have never actually met “in the flesh” has been a happy surprise to me. 
But, as I mentioned, I do miss the hugs!
Speaking of hugs, last summer I presented a five-day program at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. It was a huge group – I think there were about 110 people in attendance all together. I was delighted to see that over forty of them were students in our school. Even though time was limited, it was a joy to be able to meet them all in person. Catie and Penelope were there too, along with our tutors Patty and Allison. 
That Omega program was a birthchart intensive. This coming July 28 through August 2, I’ll be returning to Omega, this time to teach an intensive about transits and progressions. I’m hoping that once again we can have a lot of FCEA people there. If you would like to learn more about that program and possibly attending it, here’s a link:
www.eomega.org/workshops/changing-sky

 

 

My plan for this Omega event will parallel last year’s approach. I’ll present some theory, then demonstrate it in practice based on a pivotal event in the chart (and life!) of a well-known person. Once we’ve done that, the rest of the program will follow the same tried-and-true formula we used for years in the old Apprenticeship Programs – I’ll reach into “the Sorting Hat” and pull the names of volunteers from the class. Their chart – and their transits, progressions, and solar arcs – will go up on the big screen, and we’re off to the races.
Toward the end of September, I will present a half-day workshop in the context of the Astro-Bash conference, right here in my hometown of Borrego Springs in the southern California desert just north of Mexico. Astro-Bash is a four-day conference with many speakers – in fact, I believe they are still signing people up to do short presentations, so maybe some of you might feel moved to apply. If so, contact Ralph McIntyre at macfuel [at] gmail.com.
This is the second year for Astro-Bash. It was a lot of fun last year. Our dark desert skies were an added treat at night. At that first one, I only presented one short talk, but this time I’ll offer a half-day workshop about how Pluto’s new Aquarian face will offer different possibilities and purposes by transit than it did while it was in Capricorn. Pluto-in-Aquarius is a beast we’ve not seen since Christmas Eve 1798 and so it’s time to renew our acquaintance with it. We astrologers need to learn to update our approach around those pivotal Plutonian events we’ll all be experiencing. 
Interested in possibly attending Astro-Bash? Here’s a link:
www.astro-bash.com

 

 
The FCEA is an international community. I’m acutely aware of the unfairness of how these two events I’ve just described present practical difficulties for our students living outside of the USA. I do take some comfort in knowing that at least we’ve managed to stage one of them on the East coast and one on the West coast – but I know that’s not much comfort to our Asian and European students. 
I do have some good news for our Asian students however. In October, I am planning to return to China. Once again, my sponsors are the wonderful NoDoor team. I’ll be speaking in Beijing for three days – Saturday through Monday – in mid-October. Plans are still formative at this point, but we’re considering a program about vocational and career perspectives. I’m up to my Adam’s Apple in trying to get a visa. Watch this space – we’ll keep you posted. 

 

 

What about Europe? We have no specific plans for an event there at this point, but let me just leave you with this – there’s been some “loose talk.” If it comes to anything, you’ll be the first to know.
Again, I do hope to see some of you “live, in person” before the end of the year! And I’m hoping that, with your kind permission, we can share a hug.
 
Steven Forrest
May 2024

 

Master’s Musings April 2024

The Planet that Rules the House

Master’s Musings, April 2024

The Planet that Rules the House

 
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Master’s Musings
 
Virgo is on the cusp of my 10th house. Since Mercury is the ruler of Virgo, we can say that Mercury rules my 10th house. That’s an example of a common phrase in the technical  language of our craft. It’s also a useful concept once we get clear about how it works. 
Let’s begin by recognizing that the word “rules” can get us into a world of trouble right from the starting line. It’s not that Mercury “tells my 10th house what to do” like a mean boss or a tyrant. As ever with rulership, it’s more about friendship between a house and planet than about any issues of authority or control. There is a resonance between a planet and the house it rules, that’s all. With planets and the signs they rule, the words we use to describe one are similar to the words we would use to describe the other. When a sign falls on the cusp of a house, the planet that rules that sign influences the house – but again, it’s about affinity, connection, and similarity, not about domination.

 

Rulership links one part of a chart to another part. It’s like an astrological version of the circulatory system in your body.

 

Even beginning students of astrology quickly become aware of the power of the planet that rules the Ascendant – the so-called “ruler of the chart.” What we are considering here is basically the same idea, but extended to include the rest of the house cusps.

 

Book of the universe – opened magic book with planets and galaxies. Elements of this image furnished by NASA
 
With my Virgo Midheaven, my profession naturally takes on a Virgo tone. For starters, it’s a service. It also involves some other Virgo signatures. For example, in order to live out my proper mission in this world, I’ve had to master a complex technical system. I’ve also benefited enormously from contact with teachers as I was “initiated into a lineage.” That idea of being initiated by mentors, by the way, is a big piece of Virgo (or 6th house) lore that often sadly gets forgotten in modern astrological practice.
I’ve got Saturn on my Midheaven too, but that’s a bit outside the point I’m wanting to explore in this essay – which brings us back to Mercury being the planetary ruler of my 10th house. That means that wherever Mercury lies in my chart, its energetic fingerprint is going to be felt in my career and public image.
In my natal chart, Mercury is on the cusp of my 3rd house – the house of language. And what do I do for a living? I talk and I write! My Mercury is in Capricorn – and what I talk and write about is complicated and requires an orderly, logical (Capricornian!) approach if anybody is going to understand me. Note how knowing where the ruler of my 10th house lies has added specific details to my chart’s description of my mission in the world. That’s one dimension of how the ruler of a house cusp actually works.
Many people have Virgo Midheavens and naturally Mercury rules them all – but that’s generally from a different position than my own Mercury. Take astronaut John Glenn, for example – he was the first American to orbit the Earth. Mercury rules his Virgo Midheaven, but from the 8th house and Cancer in a conjunction with Mars and Pluto. To realize his mission, John Glenn had to face the possibility of a scary death – there’s the 8th house signature, augmented explosively by the presence of Mars and Pluto. And he had to face that grim possibility while trapped in a tight little tin can a hundred miles up in the sky, which is where we see the Cancer symbolism (a crab in a shell!) come into the mixture.   
Like me, John Glenn had to master a complex technical system. Like me, he was part of a lineage – in his case, of explorers. And like me, he probably felt that he was doing a service for the world. All that is the mark of the Virgo Midheaven. He and I hold that in common – but beyond that, no one is going to confuse John Glenn with Steven Forrest. Our Midheaven-ruling Mercuries tell very different tales.
Here’s another example – one that demonstrates how widely the ruler of the Midheaven can range in meaning.
Back in Hollywood’s Golden Age, actor Bette Davis was often in the spotlight. Even now, nearly a century after her heyday, she’s still considered to be one of the most truly iconic film stars – and as someone who made it in the movie industry based on her actual theatrical talent rather than on having a pretty face. She made 82 films and garnered 10 Oscar nominations, including winning Best Actress for Dangerous in 1935 and for Jezebel in 1938. 
Like John Glenn and me, Bette Davis had a Virgo Midheaven, but this time we find that her Mercury lies in Pisces and the 4th house. 
What do truly fine actors like Bette Davis do? They become somebody else – there’s Pisces “transcending the ego.” To succeed at that, they have to hide their own natures – there’s the 4th house. 
Acting also involves mastering a set of technical skills, of course – there’s the signature of the Virgo Midheaven. But in Bette Davis’s case, those technical skills are subjective and creative as befits Mercury in Pisces and the 4th house. I’m also fascinated to think of the psychological work a fine actor must do in order to find the whole spectrum of human types inside themselves. To me, there’s something truly spiritual about that process. Once more, in those words, we feel the vibrations of both the 4th house and Pisces.

 

DUAL RULERS

 

Earlier, I mentioned my own Virgo Midheaven. That of course gives me Pisces on my 4th house cusp. So what planet rules my 4th house? Is it Jupiter, the traditional ruler, or Neptune, the modern one? As usual, my suggestion is to use both of them. 
I’m always self-conscious when I go on at length about myself, so I’ll keep this brief. Taking the 4th house to be the “house of the home” implies not only the building in which we live, but also loving, committed relationships in it – “our family,” at least in some sense of the word. 
Let me start with Neptune – a planet which often entails letting go of good things for some higher calling. With often-ascetic Neptune ruling my “house of family,” I’ve never had children. My Libran Neptune in the 11th house has called me to “serve my tribe” in a way that never fit with the possibility of being a good, present father. So that never happened.
What about Jupiter, the traditional ruler of Pisces? I can relate to that too. 
Jupiter is conjunct my Sun in Capricorn and the 2nd house. Again, I could yack about myself at length here, but very simply I now live in a beautiful home that makes me feel like a rich man – there’s Jupiter in the 2nd house impacting my 4th house experience and style of life. I hasten to add that I definitely didn’t start out that way. I grew up in a 3-room 4th floor walk-up apartment in an edgy ethnic neighborhood just outside the Bronx in the New York City area. I’ve come a long way from there. Today I live in a style I could barely imagine then. 
I’m grateful for my life and I’d be the first to say that I have been lucky – but I’ve worked hard too. There’s the Capricorn signature – to get to my present 4th house home took a lot of hard (and very meaningful!) effort. Once again, the ruler of the 4th house cusp – in this case, the traditional ruler – tells the story, augmenting what we might see based solely on the sign we find there.

 

WHAT IF THE RULER IS IN THE HOUSE IT RULES?

 

Let me add one more practical perspective. About one time out of every twelve, you will find that the planetary ruler of a house is actually in the house that it rules. Obviously this affords us less enhancement of our perspective – although let’s add that it’s not unusual for the ruling planet to be in the next sign, and that can offer a bit of fresh information.
  • What I’ve found to be generally true in the situation where the planetary ruler is in the house it rules is that the person’s success in terms of that house depends very much on independent, “self-starting” activity. 
I think happily for example of my own 2nd house – the “house of money.” Sagittarius is on the cusp and Jupiter is in the 2nd house too, but in Capricorn. As I write, I am one month away from celebrating the 47th anniversary of me not having a boss. For most of my life, I’ve been self-employed. No one else has been signing my paychecks.
Did I mention feeling lucky? 

 

IN PRACTICE

 

Sometimes the connection between the house and the position of its ruler is very obvious. You can see that clearly in the three easy examples I’ve explored here – John Glenn, Bette Davis, and me. Other times the linkage is more subtle. In a moment, I want to present three technical views of planetary house rulers. Reliably, at least one of them will jump out as you compare a chart with the dynamics of a person’s life. 
Before I get there, let me emphasize that so far I’ve mostly been using the example of the planet that rules the Midheaven. That’s no accident –  in practical counseling astrology, questions around career are common and knowing the position of the ruler of the 10th house adds a lot of helpful perspective.  Still, every house has a sign on its cusp and in every case, knowing the position of its ruling planet adds a helpful dimension to our understanding. Where’s the ruler of your 7th house? You’ll see something there about your partner, if you have one – or where to look for one if you don’t and would like to change that. The ruler of your 5th house? What’s the natural style of your creativity and where might you find the most bang for the buck in terms of simple joy in your life?
I’m hoping that these illustrations have given you a feeling for how to work with the planetary ruler of a house. Again, just think of resonance or connection between the house and its ruler. Through rulership we link the basic meaning of a house to some other “foreign” part of the chart – and typically at first it’s a part of the chart that seems to have nothing to do with the house in question – until you think about it for a while. Then the linkage becomes apparent.
So far these examples have been about lives that are already lived – or mostly lived. That’s how we often can see the full manifestation of anything astrological, so it’s a good way to learn. But what about when we are counseling a young person – or counseling someone who’s feeling lost or confused in life? Then these principles can help us aim such a person in the right direction. That’s when they really turn to gold. 
Let me underscore once more that in thinking rigorously about the planetary rulership of houses, it’s mission-critical to get beyond the notion of the planet somehow “controlling” the house. Sometimes it actually works that way, but other times it’s the reverse. The bottom line is that the house and the planet are meant to be a team, working together to help people become what they are meant to become. 
I want to offer three interlocking perspectives on these planetary house rulers. Even though you’ll see some contradictions among them, try thinking of these three templates as different angles of understanding rather than as an argument where there’s going to be a winner. In practice, what I suggest is that if you feel stuck as you try to sort out a pattern of house rulerships, try switching among these three frameworks. In my experience, one of them will usually leap out – and with more penetrating analysis, you’ll typically find some relevance in all three of them.
  • The energy of the house expresses itself (reveals itself; flowers) through the house, sign, and aspectual position of the planetary ruler of its cusp.
  • The planetary ruler of the house cusp governs, overshadows and focuses the expression of the house energy. 
  • The planetary ruler of the house cusp serves the needs of the house, bringing it what it needs in order to shine.
Once again, planetary rulers of house cusps operate like the circulatory systems in the human body, carrying energy from one part of the chart to another, binding everything together. As ever, our goal in chart interpretation lies in wholistic integration. You have many planets in your chart, but you have only one head between your ears. Rulership is one of your most reliable allies when it comes to melding many symbols into one coherent message.
 
Steven Forrest
April 2024

 

Happy 5th Birthday to the School!

Happy 5th Birthday to the School!

Master’s Musings, March 2024

Happy 5th Birthday to the School!

 
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Master's Musings

 

The FCEA was born on March 6, 2019, in Pleasanton, California, at 10:00 AM-PST. That means it’s time to celebrate – we have our fifth birthday this month. When we arrive at that moment, Earth will have gone around the Sun five times and returned to its starting point – or so most people would think. The reality is a little bit more complicated than that. When the school was born, the Sun was in 15 degrees 52 minutes of Pisces. This year, it returns to that precise point a day ahead of our official birthday – at 4:13:11 PM-PST on the fifth day of March rather than on the sixth. That’s about eighteen hours early.
Why?
Let’s start by recognizing that the idea that the year is “365 days” long is a convenient fiction. Actually, it runs 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. That’s why 2024 has a “February 29th” in it – we’re in a Leap Year, where we add a day to reconcile the calendar with reality, at least approximately. As you doubtless know, we make that adjustment every fourth year so that extra “quarter of a day” in the true solar year winds up compensated, more or less. The underlying reality is that the convenient fiction of the 365-day year is only an approximate reflection of what’s actually happening in the solar system. And that “wiggle” between reality and your calendar is the reason why your true astrological birthday – when the Sun actually returns to its starting point – often falls a day before or a day after your calendar birthday.
All this might seem picky and irrelevant at a practical level. Mostly it is, except for its impact on one basic astrological technique: the solar return chart. That’s a chart set up for the moment the Sun returns to its natal position. For the school, that would be a chart set up for 4:13:11 PM-PST on March 5th in Pleasanton. A chart set for 10:00 AM the next day – our “birthday” – would be meaningless.
Here it is:
 
Solar Return charts are a staple of modern astrological practice. Our school’s birthday this month seems like a good time to introduce them. In simple terms, these “SR charts” are seen as a way of predicting the nature of your year ahead. Interested? They’re easily explored – all professional-level astrological software supports creating them.
The first thing I want to say about SR charts is that their absence from our 200-level curriculum might seem conspicuous. Why are they not part of what we teach at the school? After all, they’re the real deal. Many years ago, I used them all the time in my practice. I found them valid, but I also found that after I’d looked at a client’s transits, progressions, and solar arcs, the solar return chart didn’t actually add much that I hadn’t seen already. They were redundant, in other words, and actually less precise than our other techniques in terms of timing – everything was about “this year” rather than the way we can name actual dates with the other techniques.
As ever, all counseling astrologers face the tyranny of the one or two hour appointment versus the sheer volume of all the astrological information we have available to us. In winnowing down my own arsenal of techniques to the most impactful ones, solar return charts simply fell into disuse. As ever with the school, our guiding principle is to convey to you as efficiently as possible an approach to astrology that has been effective for me personally. That involves a lot of editing! Our overriding strategy has been to first set our students on a firm professional foundation, and only then encourage them to wander off in any directions that interest them.
For some of you, that might include learning about SR charts. If they attract you, go for it! I’d be the first to admit that casting one is an eternal birthday ritual for me. The technique is valid and sometimes illuminating. I set up mine on January 6th this year and saw my Sun in the 12th house. Nine days later I came down with the flu and was sidelined “on the mountaintop” for the next month. They work!
 

Location, Location, Location

 
I always advocate setting up a solar return chart for your birth place. There’s an astrological  cottage industry that involves sending people to exotic locations for their birthdays “so they have a great solar return chart.” It’s fun, and not a totally groundless practice, but if you’re an evolutionary astrologer, there’s a serious problem with relying solely on that technique. Remember: you have your chart for a reason and that reason is always rooted in the past. If we lose sight of that, we’ve lost sight of the metaphysical heart of astrology in the process. Let’s say your solar return this year shows the Moon’s south node in the 8th house. Some painful, wounded karma is surfacing. Now let’s say you don’t like having that kind of karma, so you decide to celebrate your birthday in Hawaii – that way, your south node will be in the much nicer 5th house.
Problem solved, right?
Obviously not. All we’ve done is to use astrology as a form of denial. Again, I don’t want to totally reject the idea of setting up your SR chart for where you actually are located on your birthday – that technique tells us something, but do be careful not to lose perspective: the SR chart set for the place of birth is the deep one.
Here’s a way of keeping perspective on these two approaches. If you move to a new home many hundreds of miles from where you were born, go ahead and set up your birthchart as if you had been born there – same time, different latitude and longitude. Your Ascendant and house placements will all look different. That relocated chart won’t replace your real one, but you’ll certainly feel its effects. That new chart acts like permanent transits in your new home – as long as you live there, you’ll feel that new emphasis in your experience.
The point is that it’s exactly the same with relocated solar return charts. You’ll definitely feel their influence – just don’t let them eclipse the birthplace version of that SR chart. That’s the deep one. That’s where you’ll find the soul of the technique.
 

How Do They Work?

 
A solar return chart reflects the tone of the year ahead. Where will your energy be focused? What kinds of events, opportunities, and challenges are likely to come surfing into your life on the waves of synchronicity? As we bring our evolutionary philosophy to bear on solar return charts, we ask ourselves questions about what our soul is learning this year and how to adapt to it. We ferret out timely warnings about any karmic pitfalls that might be looming.
  • In other words, in pretty obvious ways everything you’ve been learning in our FCEA training applies to solar return charts.
Here’s an example. July 1981 changed my life. That was the month in which I got the contract to write The Inner Sky. My solar return for my birthday in January of that year shows a massive Mercury influence – that’s no surprise with an (unexpected) publishing contract in the future. Virgo is rising, so Mercury rules the chart. Gemini is on the Midheaven, linking Mercury to my career – or in FCEA terms, linking Mercury to my mission in the world. Mercury itself is on the cusp of the creative 5th house, and in a conjunction with my natal Sun. That SR chart was Mercury City, in other words – and I was soon under contract with Bantam Books to write the book that altered the direction of my life.
I should also add that I had a grand mal love affair with a woman who had both her Sun and Moon in Virgo that year – there’s the fingerprint of that “house of love affairs” Mercury again. In this case, that intimate drama was aided and abetted by a very karmic south node/Mars conjunction, also in the 5th house – all that, plus a tight Venus-Neptune conjunction in Sagittarius. Romantically, I was doomed, but professionally, things looked pretty good for me, in other words. And it was all there in the SR chart set for my birthplace. At the time, I was actually living 400 miles away in North Carolina, so the relocated chart wouldn’t have reflected reality nearly so deeply.
Here’s another example:
Taylor Swift’s time of birth has an X rating on Astrodatabank, but they favor a time of 8:36 AM on December 13, 1989, in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Trusting a chart with a shaky birth time is risky business, but Swift is having such a big year that if the 8:36 AM birth time is accurate, her solar return chart should be reflective of her current situation.
Here’s her current (possible) solar return:

That late-Capricorn Pluto is conjunct her Aquarian Midheaven, and she has of course become  a lightning rod for right-wing projections, not to mention becoming a “plutocrat” in the sense of being the first musical star to experience a billion-dollar tour. Uranus tightly conjunct the SR  Ascendant naturally reflects the extreme and unpredictable “wild cards” that have characterized this period of her life.
More striking to me (and perhaps in the long run to her as well) is the massive reference to intimacy built into this solar return chart. Currently she is very publicly and apparently very seriously in love with NFL star, Travis Kelce. Reflecting that relationship, with Taurus rising, Venus rules the SR chart, for starters. From our evolutionary viewpoint, that Venus is further strengthened by the Libra south node, suggesting some intimate karmic chickens coming home to roost for her this year. The 8th house refers to intimate bonding – the true mysterium tremendum of human sexuality. There we find both the Sun and the Moon. Clearly, she’s having a massive 8th house year. 
Naturally betting on the longevity of sexual passion among rock stars and movie stars is shaky business, but in the case of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce I think we are looking at the real deal. With an 8th house like that one in her SR chart, her heart has probably never been opened in such a grown-up intimate way. At the very least, Taylor Swift is having a taste of what real marriage actually means – all those weird, wonderful psychic interminglings are undoubtedly happening for her and Travis. If I were sitting with her, here’s a thought I would run up the flagpole – despite the hype and fru-fru (and enormous success) of her Eras Tour, the soul-meaning of this year has more to do with Travis Kelce’s impact on her than the private jets, the public hoo-rah, and the billion dollars. I suspect that as I said that, she would nod her head and we would have a moment of sweet mutual understanding.
As a side note, given the good alignment of this solar return chart with Swift’s current existential realities, I’d be inclined to take this 8:36 AM birth time for her seriously.
What about the FCEA? How does our solar return look for the year starting on March 5?
Like Taylor Swift, we’ve got an 8th house Sun this year too, but I doubt we’re going to fall in love with Travis Kelce. In the chart of an institution such as ours, a strong 8th house does bode intense, transformative relationships. We’ll see that happening in the school in general. I suspect lots of “buttons will be pushed” emotionally as long-buried emotional material surfaces for many of us. As a school, we’ll need to have a long talk with ourselves. It’s a time of deepening. 
One classic meaning of the 8th house is “other people’s money” – Taylor Swift certainly has found a lot of that green stuff this year. The FCEA is not looking for investors, but if we were, this chart would support it. Will there be some unexpected financial developments for the school? Let’s keep our eyes open for them.
I’m struck by the double-whammy combination of Saturn conjunct our Sun and the Capricorn Moon in the 6th house. Both configurations have a hardworking vibration, for sure. There’s a nose-to-the-grindstone feeling of building, building, building, not to mention the school simply maturing – that’s Saturn again. I’m immediately drawn to think of our struggle to get our social platform, Circle, cooking. It’ll happen, honest! 
It doesn’t show in this chart format, but that Capricorn Moon is wildly Out of Bounds too – 27 degrees 47 minutes south declination. Given the 6th house focus, does that portend staff change? Unexpected developments in our support team? Circle figures in there too – it’s a tool that supports us.
Finally, you’ve got to love that Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in the 10th house – all told, this SR chart looks like a bouncy, nose-to-the-grindstone ride in the general direction of success.
 

Want to Learn More about Solar Returns?

 
One can delve more deeply into solar return charts than I have in this quick overview of the technique. Again, all of our basic evolutionary principles apply – we just have to make sure we are aiming them in the right direction, which is to focus our sense of our soul-aims for a given year.  
As I mentioned, I don’t actually use SR charts very much in my own practice and so we’ve not employed them as part of the FCEA curriculum. If you’d like to learn more, the best book I know about the technique is Cycles of Light by my dear friend, Lynn Bell. It was written in 2005 and is now happily back in print and available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Steven Forrest
March 2024

 

An Integrated View of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto

An Integrated View of the Outer Planets

Master’s Musings, January 2024

An Integrated View of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto

 
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Master's Musings
 
On December 7, 8 and 9, 2023, I did a long online program for my Chinese students. It was  called “Working With The Invisible Planets.” The teaching went well, but it was tough going for me  – three back to back six-hour classes, running from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm each day, starting on a Thursday. That timing corresponded to the class opening at 8:00 on Friday morning in China, so it worked well at their end, but not so well for this “morning person.”
Even though those hours were hard for me, I am glad I did it. There are many reasons for that – I love my Chinese students, for starters – but the main one is that much to my surprise I actually learned something new, fundamental, and, at least to me, rather eye-popping about Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. That kind of surprising serendipity happens sometimes – I’m going over what I think of as familiar territory, and suddenly a new understanding comes into focus. Lightning strikes and in a flash I feel the way I felt studying astrology when I was 19 years old. Back then, those lucid moments happened frequently – astrology felt like a rich, new continent where I was always tripping over unexpected nuggets of gold. Those lightning bolt experiences are less common for me now, but I’m grateful that they still happen from time to time. Fresh astrological mysteries and patterns still reveal themselves.
About my new insight into Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto – let me give you a little background first so everyone is up to speed. In the FCEA 300 courses, we go deeply into each of the planets, singly or in groups. One of those groups, which we study in FCEA 304, is about this trio. They’re very different beasts, but we link them together under the banner of “The Invisible Planets” – and what that means is simply that we can’t see them unless we use a telescope.
The “invisibility” of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto is of course a literal reality, but it also provides a fine metaphor – we can only really get to the higher potentials of these three bodies if we use “unnatural means.” Here’s what I mean. Mars might do its job well simply by instinctive reflex – we see a bear and we run away, for example. Not so with our invisible worlds. To get each of them right, we have to go beyond the natural reflexes and instincts of our “monkey bodies,” and that never happens automatically. It takes something more than our inborn instincts – something that doesn’t arise naturally or spontaneously in us.
 
  • Uranus requires individuation – we must overcome our herd instinct and truly think for ourselves. Nobody does that on automatic pilot.
  • Neptune requires an expansion of consciousness. We must overcome our instinctive sense of our separateness from everything else – that means our reflexive identification with our physical bodies and our egos, not to mention their preservation.
  • Pluto requires brave inner work. We must overcome our natural defensiveness in relation to our own shadow, our wounds, and our unconscious mind. We must acknowledge the unknown and the uncontrollable. We must face psychic fear. We must recognize our own mortality. We must let our guard down.
 
 
All of this is familiar territory to any of our students who have gotten past our 300-level courses – and really, to anyone who has been studying evolutionary astrology for very long in any fashion. We’ve not yet arrived at my “light-bulb moment.” To get there, we need to add another layer to our thinking.
In my Chinese program, I told the story of how at some long-ago astrology conference, I was invited to be on a panel tasked with “finding God in the chart.” Lots of the panelists pointed to the Neptune, Pisces, 12th House family of symbols. In practice, that’s a helpful answer. But I disagreed. I told everyone to look outside the circle of the chart – the space outside it is what represents God to me. 

 

  • Everything in the chart represents your personality – your “ego,” in the technical psychological sense of the word. The mystery we call God lies beyond all of that. (Neptune doesn’t).  
  • Astrologically – or astronomically – that realization directs our attention to the space beyond Neptune and Pluto, or more properly, to the space beyond our solar system.
 
At the deepest level, the purpose of life lies in reaching a kind of mingling transparency with that vast spaciousness. Call it “God” – or enlightenment, salvation, heaven, satori, nirvana, cosmic consciousness. The words don’t matter – in fact, at that level of being, words only get in the way.
Everything I’ve said so far is material I’ve taught for years. Most of you are quite familiar with it. My lightbulb moment as I prepared my notes for that Chinese class, came when I realized there was a natural, step-by-step sequencing of Uranus to Neptune, to Pluto – and from there, into the Great Beyond. What I found was something we might call “the unified field theory” of the invisible planets.
I can make this clear most easily if I start in the middle, with Neptune. In The Book of Neptune, I introduced the planet as “the window” between the ego-mind and the deep space of consciousness itself. Neptune isn’t the soul – it works more like an interface between individual consciousness and the vastness of what lies beyond it. Meanwhile the light of the mysteries shines back into our lives through that same Neptunian “window.”

 

  • The paradox of windows is that they are both inside and outside the house – and that’s Neptune. It’s the part of the ego that can potentially look beyond itself. 
 
Looking through Neptune’s window gives us an entirely different perspective on what it means to be human. We realize that we are composed of consciousness. Flesh and bones are only substances we inhibit briefly (and repeatedly) on our deeper journey. From that Neptunian perspective, life looks totally different to us than it does to the rest of the human race. Probably the clearest illustration of that principle is that, from Neptune’s viewpoint, death isn’t really such a big deal – try popularizing that idea at your local shopping mall and you’ll see what I mean by thinking differently from the rest of the human race! 
To even begin to think in Neptunian fashion, we must separate ourselves from that collective, “shopping mall” mentality. We must, in other words, individuate – and that’s why everything in this invisible planet sequence starts with Uranus. I began to realize that, while Uranus has many meanings and applications, its most fundamental purpose is to be the first step on our journey to the “outer space” beyond Pluto. 
As we begin to think of ourselves as souls rather than as hungry, horny, angry monkeys, we have definitely left the “shopping mall.”

 

  • Uranus allows us the freedom to get to Neptune. With it, we escape the materialistic “common sense” illusions of consensual reality.
 
Gazing through that Neptunian window into the mysteries beyond it is tricky. That’s because the window is dirty. It’s cluttered with what Buddhists call “obscurations” – or what a modern psychotherapist would call “our personal issues.” This is where Pluto enters the story. 
Say there’s a woman who actively identifies herself as being “on the spiritual path.” She’s the real deal. She’s sincere about it – but let’s also say that she hates her father, maybe with good reason. Still, fairly or unfairly, her unresolved hatred of her father “dirties her window.” If she could get past that hatred, she would see through the window more clearly. None of this is about morality. None of it is about right or wrong. It’s simply a fact – dirt on a window makes it harder to see through it, period. Philosophy has nothing to do with it.
Our Neptunian windows are always dirty, one way or another. We all have unresolved karma, in other words. That’s why we’re here in these monkey-bodies in the first place. If something scared us in our childhoods (or in a prior life), when we look through the window we see fearful things. If we were conditioned by easiness and a coddled existence, we expect evolution to not require effort. If we were embattled, we project “war” onto every process and experience. 
Obviously, there’s a place for the south node of the Moon in our thinking here, but let’s just file all of those karmic issues under “our obscurations.” The point is that dealing with them is Pluto work. That’s how we clean our windows.
Here’s the sequence. With Uranus, we begin to look beyond the normal human reality of life lived unreflectively and instinctively. We began to sense that the tribe may have missed something truly fundamental about the purpose of life. “Normal” people – the ones dominated by ego, hunger, fear, and aggression, in other words –  may, in fact, have missed the whole point of human existence. 
With Neptune, some light starts to shine through that muck, flowing in from the higher realms – and, fascinated, we begin to turn our attention in that beguiling direction. The more we see that great light, the hungrier we become for it – and that soon brings us face to face with resistance: our psychological and karmic issues. We realize that our journey to the Light must route through the Darkness. 
Pluto work is difficult, but as we loosen the shackles of our own madness, we stop wasting energy on life’s dramas. With that energy redirected, we become powerful enough to make the great leap into the vastness – a vastness that has been our true nature all along, only we didn’t know it. 

 

  • In that “empowerment,” we feel the shamanic dimensions of Pluto. 
 
With the discovery of Eris in 2005, the realm of the “Trans-Neptunian Objects” – the TNO’s – opened up. Pluto is really one of them – that’s mainly why the astronomers downgraded it from a full planet in their nomenclature. Rather uniquely, Pluto weaves in and out over Neptune’s orbit. That orbital quirk is a big subject, but it provides us with what I think is the reason we experience Pluto with such power and intensity – again, it’s like a shaman journeying to the Underworld, then coming back to the “village” of our everyday minds with some heavy, but ultimately empowering, messages.
I believe that the TNOs are emerging as a map of the unconscious mind and the archetypes which animate it. That’s a big subject too. Suffice to say that beyond the realm of the TNOs – which is the karmic and psychological minefield we must navigate as we liberate ourselves – we meet the realm of deep space. We meet the thing that since the beginning of human time many of us have called God.
So here in skeleton form is the model that dawned on me as I was preparing my Chinese class. I think of it as the “unified field theory of the invisible planets:”

 

  • Uranian individuation allows us to realize that “the obvious, common sense truths of life” are mostly an illusion.
  • That liberating Uranian realization gives us the freedom to “get weird enough” to believe the insights, experiences, and information we sense streaming in through Neptune’s window. We stop dismissing them as “craziness.” 
 
In our desire to see through that window more clearly, we feel compelled to clean it. We begin to deal with our own issues – mostly the fears, angers, resentments, and desires that separate us from the rest of life. That Plutonian process simultaneously clears us and energizes us enough to make a leap in consciousness – one that takes us eventually beyond these bodies and entirely beyond this time-bound, three-dimensional world.
 
Steven Forrest
January 2024

 

A New Project for the School

A New Project for the School

Master’s Musings, December 2023

A New Project for the School

 

 

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Master's Musings
 
Some people are simply perpetual students of astrology. They love our ancient art and they can’t get enough of it – and when it comes to something you can’t get enough of, astrology is as good as it gets since the field is practically infinite in scope. Those eternal students are welcome in our school – we know that not all of us are set on becoming practicing, counseling astrologers, and that’s fine. But of course for many of us, our aim is to use our astrological education to start making a difference in other people’s lives, perhaps even doing astrology professionally. While we welcome everyone, our school is specifically geared with that counseling intention in mind – and that leads us directly to a basic challenge: learning astrology theoretically is one thing, but learning to present consultations to the general public is another.
 
When it comes to sitting confidently with clients, there’s no substitute for practice. Your voice will become more fluent – and more your own – over time. To help you get there, we also have our more advanced courses. For example, we just finished our first master class, which was a big success. Our counseling course will open up soon too. Together, those courses will help prepare you for “the real world” of working with clients. 
 
What this newsletter is about is that we are planning another way to support you in getting there.
 
The purpose of the FCEA is not to “clone” me – well, at least not exactly. Obviously there is some of that “cloning” in the mixture. My long-term hope has always been to help everyone in the school “stand on my shoulders” – then once they’ve taken in the view, to see things I’ve never seen or figured out myself. Astrology is vast, but over the years I’ve whittled its corpus down to some core techniques that are powerful, robust, and meaningful enough to enough people that you can build a popular practice with them. In the school, we put blinders on you and aim you toward mastery of that single approach – a process that takes three or four years, thus shaving centuries off the impossible process of “learning everything about astrology.” 
 
 
Once you’ve neared the end of your FCEA training, you’ve won half the battle: you’ve got the theory down. The next stop is finding your own voice. Again, some of our advanced courses will help you with that process, but we are in the middle of planning another way to support you. We intend to create a library of actual readings that I have done. Here’s how it will work – or at least how we hope it will work. Getting there will require your help.
 
 
INTRODUCING CIRCLE – A NEW FCEA COMMUNITY FORUM
 
We have exciting news for 2024! We will soon have Circle implemented – a sort of private social media “watering hole” for the school. It’s being created as a space for the FCEA community to connect and communicate with one another in a fun and informal environment, and will also include a library of videos and other materials. 
 
We are also hoping that this new community forum will create a wonderful replacement for our discontinued study group calls. Although the study group calls have had a low participation rate (only 10%), we understand that the 10% of students who did attend them valued them very much. Yet the low participation rate did not make them sustainable for the school. We trust that our new offerings through Circle will offer everyone a new means of inspiration and an even more sustainable (and hopefully broader) community connection. It will also better serve our international student body who reside in a wide variety of different time zones, as Circle will be available 24/7. Once we open this online gathering space in early 2024, everyone will be able to engage with the platform to some extent. 
 
We realize that the past distinctions between Student and Member were confusing, especially because we have always considered every student an integral member of the FCEA Community, whether or not they had paid for the additional benefits of FCEA Membership. So, from now on, everyone will be considered a Community Member—as we introduce two levels of membership: the FCEA Membership (free) and the FCEA Premium Membership (for an annual fee) which will feature enhanced memberships benefits.
 
Here’s how all of this will work: Everyone who registers for an FCEA account on our website is able to watch Free Community Calls available on forrestastrology.center – and now they’ll also be able to create a free FCEA account on the Circle platform. FCEA Members who purchase the Premium Membership will be invited to attend all of the FCEA’s live Monthly Q&A calls with me (which are included in our courses for current students) and have the opportunity to continually chat and comment as a community within the Circle platform. Premium Members will also be able to access all previous Q&A Calls (from December 2020 through the present day) on Circle, and chat and comment there as a community, continually. 
 
Premium FCEA Members who are also students at the 200 Level and above, and including FCEA graduates, will gain special access to a rotating library of donated recorded Steven Forrest readings.
 
CALLING FOR VOLUNTEERS
 
Over the years, many of you have had me do private readings. We would like to ask if you might consider sharing them with the school. Immediately I want to underscore that this would be completely voluntary, with no pressure implied. For totally understandable reasons, many of you will want to keep those recordings confidential. Again, no pressure!
 
If you do decide to help, we will keep everything confidential, at least with the boundaries of the school. But I often use people’s names – at least their first names – in the readings. And naturally we would need your chart as well. We can delete last names from them. We could even delete birth data, but it’s often not hard to reconstruct it from a chart. The reality is that other students would often “know it was you.” We want to be transparent about that. Sometimes when I do a reading for someone, they’ve shared sensitive information with me in advance. I may reference it directly in the recording. If anyone in that situation prefers not to share the reading, we support you 100%. In fact if anyone prefers not to share their readings for any reason at all, that’s fine too – yet again: no pressure!
 
For legal and ethical reasons, we will have anyone who volunteers their recording sign a waiver granting the school the right to use the material.
 
Naturally, we’d be interested in all kinds of readings – a birthchart analysis, transits/progressions, even synastries. We welcome any and all of your submissions through this online reading donation form.
 
We hope you will consider it, but please don’t do it if you feel ambivalent about it. If we don’t have enough volunteers from within the school, I would plan to put out a more general request on social media. Over the years, I’ve done many thousands of readings for the general public – some of you may actually be reading these words. Depending on the response of our FCEA community, we may or may not reach out more broadly.
 
Access to these readings will be posted in a limited access area of the new FCEA Circle platform, accessible only by 200 Level students and above, and graduates of the FCEA, who have active FCEA Premium Memberships. Therefore, these readings will not be available to the general public – it’s strictly for our student body. 
 
Soon after receiving your reading donation application, we will have a page on the website where you can easily complete the online waiver and securely upload your reading. Thank you so much for your consideration!
 
SO WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
 
That question brings us right back to whether or not the FCEA is an attempt to “clone Steven Forrest.” I think the most honest answer is “at first yes, and then ultimately no.” And with that said, we swing back to a point I made right at the beginning of this newsletter – first you learn astrological theory, then you find your own voice. Inevitably your voice will at first probably resemble my own at least to some extent. 
 
Over the years, I’ve developed a huge reservoir of stories, metaphors, and images. They all work well for quickly telegraphing complex astrological ideas across to my clients. I am hoping that if you let some of my readings drone in the background as you drive your car or clean your house, you’ll pick up some of that language. I encourage you to use any of it that you want. I have no proprietary feelings about it – in fact, I probably “stole” half of it myself, except I can’t remember when or from who. 
 
THE TIME TABLE
 
When will we make this happen? Soon! There are too many wild cards in the mix for us to be more precise than that. Getting Circle up and running – and getting us all signed up for it – is a process that will take a while. Then there’s the unanswered question of how many of you will feel comfortable sharing your readings. We know they’re very personal! So we’ll see how long that takes.
 
We’ll do this though – and I’m confident that it will be a major piece of the “endgame” of your FCEA education.
 
Steven Forrest
December 2023

 

Planetary Dispositors

Planetray Dispositors

Master’s Musings, November 2023

Planetary Dispositors

 

 

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Master's Musings
 

NOTE FROM STEVE . . . A few weeks back, Catie shared with me that Cliff Passen had wondered why we never covered the question of planetary dispositors in our FCEA program. As I thought about it, I decided it merited a short handout in our 101 course. As I got into writing it, I realized that dispositors were a richer topic than I had anticipated. Since so many of you are beyond FCEA101 at this point, I’ve decided to let the handout be my column this month so everyone can have a look at it.

From time to time in your astrological reading, you will run into the word “dispositor.” It’s a fancy term for a simple idea – one that’s based directly on the principle of planetary rulership. Say Mercury is in Aries. Since Mars is the ruler of Aries, we would then say that Mars disposits Mercury or that Mars was Mercury’s dispositor. In a nutshell, a planet’s dispositor is the planet that rules the sign the planet happens to be in.

If you think about that for a moment, one further point immediately becomes clear: when a planet is in the sign it rules, nothing can disposit it.

Otherwise all planets have dispositors.

In our evolutionary system we recognize dual rulerships. That means that any planet that’s in Pisces has two dispositors: Jupiter and Neptune. Ditto naturally for planets in Aquarius and Scorpio.

Technically, that’s the basic idea of dispositors right there. Pretty simple really. Let’s talk about what it means.

Basically a planet’s dispositor has a certain degree of influence over it. Understanding the exact nature of that influence can add some helpful nuances to our grasp of the disposited planet’s function – but do keep perspective: understanding the impact of a planetary dispositor is secondary in importance to its basic sign, house, and aspects. Saying that the dispositor “rules over” the planet that it disposits pushes the idea too far. As ever, the dominator tone of the word “rulership” is a medieval hangover that always tends to take astrologers down the wrong road. Rulership is really about resonance, common ground, and mutual influence.

In practice, the dispositor represents a trio of interlocking influence over the expression of the planet which it disposits.

Relative to the disposited planet, the dispositor wields three pressures:

  • It represents a Guiding or Governing Principle
  • It represents an Overriding Concern
  • It represents a Constraining Limitation

Consider the chart of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. We start with something that should be no surprise for a performer of his renown and durability – he has both Venus and Neptune in his 5th house. Both planets are in Virgo, so their dispositor is Mercury, which we find in Leo and in Jagger’s 4th house. Without going deeply into his chart, let’s see how our basic principles apply to him.

Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones

Like the 5th house, Leo relates to performance – once again, that’s no surprise. It’s where the 4th house placement of his Mercury enters the picture that everything gets interesting and we really begin to see the signature of a planetary dispositor. The 4th house is deep, internal, and hidden. Those are not the first words to enter our minds when we think of Mick Jagger strutting on the stage!

  • But reflect for a moment: is the “sex machine” we see fronting the band the real Mick? Of course not – it’s a performance, quite literally. It is a persona that he has adopted in pursuit of his craft.

I once heard a cute quote from one of Mick Jagger’s daughters when she was young – “Everybody thinks my father is the devil and he lets them think that.” She obviously “had his number” – but probably that was because he had given it to her in the intimate domestic context of 4th house privacy, trust, and confidentiality.

  • Applying our principles regarding the dispositor, we can see that throughout Mick Jagger’s long career, A Guiding or Governing Principle has been to stick unwaveringly to the public image he created.
  • Meanwhile, An Overriding Concern and A Constraining Limitation in his life has been to keep his real self buried in the 4th house, at least in terms of his public identity as a performer.

As a footnote, presumably doing all that has kept him living in something pretty close to a literal palace – that’s a Leo/4th house signature too, and it brings us closer to conventional astrology.

By the way, it is mission-critical for us as astrological counselors to remember that none of this is intended to be critical of Mr. Jagger. It’s just how a dispositor works. His chart is his path, just like yours. He’s followed it – and in this case it appears that he’s done it very well. How many men over the age of eighty can convince the world that they’re still dangerous sex machines?

Sometimes one planet disposits all the rest of the planets in a chart. For that to even be a possibility, two conditions have to be met. First, there has to be a planet in the sign it rules. Second, there can be no other planets in the signs they rule. If those two conditions are met, there is a chance that the single planet occupying its own sign might be the final dispositor of the chart. To find out, you have to follow the chains of rulership and see if they all lead back to that first planet.

Here’s an example of what that looks like – and note the “dispositor tree” on the right side. That shows these lines of power and how they all trace back, in this case, to the Sun.

  • The Sun is in Leo, the sign it rules.
  • No other planet is in that “dignified” condition.
  • The Sun disposits Mercury, which through Virgo, disposits Venus, Pluto, and Uranus. Through Gemini, that same Mercury disposits Jupiter.
  • Venus disposits Mars and Uranus disposits the Moon, while Pluto disposits Neptune – which finally disposits Saturn. That’s everything.

Without knowing about dispositors, we would have no trouble respecting the strength of a Leo Sun in the 10th house! But now we see that reality spelled out even more clearly – how the pressures and possibilities of a Leo “mission” in the world completely “govern, override, and constrain” this person’s life.

Most charts don’t have final dispositors like this, but you’ll often find a long chain that leads back to one single planet. Look at the realities of the person’s life, and you’ll see an elevated level of influence wielded by that planet. Once again, it “governs, guides, and constrains” almost everything – at least almost everything in the realm of the planets it disposits.

As I mentioned, we’ve placed a similar version of this essay as a handout in FCEA101 – very early in our school curriculum, in other words. All in all, it feels right to do that. Dispositors are an elemental piece of astrological theory, one that’s inseparable ultimately from the whole idea of rulership. It feels right that we introduce the word pretty much from the beginning of a person’s astrological studies. My only hesitation is about overloading our 101 students with too many technicalities, especially ones that might not deserve to be up there on equal footing with the foundational basics of signs, planets, houses, and aspects.

The bottom line is that knowing about dispositors is something we should probably hear about in the 3rd grade – but then revisit when we get to college.

 
Steven Forrest
November 2023

 

Photo Credit: Jerzy Bednarski, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Launching The Master Practicum

Launching The Master Practicum

Master’s Musings, October 2023

Launching The Master Practicum

 

 

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Master's Musings
 
On Monday, September 25, we had our first meeting of our long-awaited master class – FCEA-306. Fifteen students were enrolled, and fourteen were present. The course will run for a total of seven weeks, with each session 90 minutes in length. The first one went smoothly, as did the next two. We seem to have found the right template for making the process work – more about that in a moment.
Personally, seeing FCEA-306 finally happening was a happy moment for me. I’d actually been waiting for it since March 6, 2019, which is a long time! That was the day that Catie, Jeff Parrett, and I committed to creating the school. Altruistically, my motivation in launching the FCEA was to make sure that this form of evolutionary astrology would outlive me, but I had a more personal motivation too. I felt that the best use of my remaining time on Earth lay in teaching more advanced forms of astrology to serious students. That meant master classes! I knew in order to make space in my life for that, I would need to cut back on teaching the basics over and over again. 
The dilemma was that in order to be in a position to have master classes, we needed some masters! People like that are not the products of weekend workshops. Astrological mastery comes with time and commitment. We had to wait about three years for the FCEA’s first wave of students to make their way through the foundational courses and get to the point where they were ready for me to work with them individually. 
Exactly how to do that was the problem. Ideally, each student would do a complete analysis of a birthchart, a transits-progressions situation, and a synastry. I would listen to all three and offer personal feedback and support. Multiply that by fifteen students and it was clear that time was going to be an insurmountable problem. Catie and I had to get creative. Seven classes of 90 minutes meant that we had a total of just over ten hours to work with. That meant about 40 minutes per student. How could we best use that time?
The plan we came up with seems to be working very well. Each week we assign a single chart to the class in advance. We encourage the students to study it as if they were preparing to do a consultation for the person – to be ready for anything, in other words. When the class meets, Catie and I take turns asking specific questions about the chart. For example, we might ask something technical – say, a prominent Venus-Uranus opposition. Or we might ask a more general, integrative question, such as how would you counsel this person about career? Then we roll the drums. I reach into a hat and pull out a random number. Each number corresponds to one of the students in the class. That student is then invited to take about ten minutes or so to respond to our question. I let them run with it for a while, then I coach them a little further, helping them polish their comments and insights. 
Once a person’s number has been pulled from the hat, we set it aside – that way, we’ll make sure that everyone has had a turn before anyone is called upon a second time.
In that first class, we worked with five students. I found that number very encouraging since it means that all the students are likely to get at least two or three opportunities to share their knowledge over the total of seven weeks in the class.
The first four of the weekly sessions will involve looking at a natal chart. Then two will be transits-progressions situations and one will be a synastry. We’ll use the same four natal charts for all seven sessions. The reason is simple: to do a good transits-progressions analysis or a synastry, you need to understand the natal charts thoroughly. That takes time, which is in short supply with only ten hours of class time. It seemed more efficient to build on the knowledge we had all gained from looking at those four natal charts earlier in the program. The first chart, in fact, was “Matthias Brown,” who had already made an appearance earlier in the curriculum.
Our four natal charts are fictional – there are no famous people or anyone we know personally. It’s pure astrology, in other words. Still, all astrologers are helped if they know a little bit about someone’s practical situation. That’s because there’s much that’s relevant to life but which cannot be seen in a chart – for instance, a person’s current relationship status, or some specific circumstance that overshadows everything, like maybe they’re fabulously wealthy or in a wheelchair or serving time in prison. We can always do helpful astrology while only knowing the date, time, and place of a person’s birth – but knowing a bit more helps us to speak more clearly. To help out, I constructed short biographies for each of our four fictional characters. Those are available to all of our FCEA306 students in advance too.
I mentioned that we had fifteen students signed up for the class and only fourteen present. Absent was our friend, Cezary Piscorz. He was a victim of our frustrating Time Zone problem. It is an absolute joy to me that our FCEA student body is so international, but it does create insoluble scheduling problems. Our class started at 5:00 pm-Pacific Time – which would have been the wee hours of a Tuesday morning for poor Cezary! (That time worked out all right for everyone else, although naturally it was easier for some than for others.) 
For Cezary, we’ve made a special arrangement. One of our seven classes will occur at 8:00 am-Pacific Time, which is late afternoon for him (and awkward for some other class members). On that day, we will suspend our usual process of pulling a number from a hat and just start with Cezary. He can catch the rest of the classes via recordings, but we’ll miss his lively presence at our meetings.
I want to thank Cezary for his patience and understanding. Meanwhile I want to applaud this first wave of FCEA master astrologers-in-the-making individually by name. Thank you, Cezary, Raine, Sophie Salanat, Lauren Neubauer, Karla Smith, Lelia Thell, Lidia Ranieri, Linda Walker, Barb McNemar, Paula Crall. Teema Loeffeholz, Alan Egge, Sharon Kruger, Kimberly Blanchette, and Jackie Johanasen. 
I’m proud of all of you!
 
Steven Forrest
October 2023

 

Some Thoughts About Reincarnation

Some Thoughts About Reincarnation

Master’s Musings, September 2023

Some Thoughts About Reincarnation

 
Steven Forrest

In our Q & A session on August 23rd, our new student, “L,” asked the following question. “Most of us have had many past lives. Which past life is shown in the birth chart? All past lives perhaps? Or the most relevant past life/lives? Or the most recent past life/lives?”

I responded during the call, and if you want to watch the “live” version, remember that if you are an FCEA student or Community Member, all those sessions are recorded, indexed, and always available to you. By the way, we know that for many of you, even here in North America, the timing of these Zoom calls is somewhere between awkward and impossible. Our apologies for that. There really aren’t any good solutions to that problem, other than us seeing to it that recordings are provided.

L’s questions are so fundamental to the practice of evolutionary astrology that I wanted to explore them a little more deeply here in this newsletter. Let me start by saying that it is of course quite possible to adapt our work to accommodate clients who aren’t comfortable with the idea of past lives. We can always talk about ancestral themes, DNA, and so on — or we can just bow deeply before the unknowable mysteries of the universe, and add the observed fact that, whatever the reason, everyone arrives on Earth with an inborn nature and certain astrologically-predictable challenges. In practice, I always ask my clients if the idea of past lives works for them. Only twice, in all the years I’ve been doing this work, has anyone ever said no. One was a professor at Catholic University in Washington D.C. – and he came back three or four years later and told me it was OK to talk about past lives this time. The other was a psychotherapist in Marin County, California — go figure!

First, here’s the simple part. L writes, “Most of us have had many past lives.” I think it’s more accurate to say that we all have had many past lives. Even people for whom this is their first human incarnation have lived in animal bodies. Have you ever met someone who behaved like a baboon, for example? Or like a dog fighting over a bone? For what it’s worth, my personal feeling is that some four-footed beings are ahead of some of us two-footed ones – that the reality is not as simple as “you graduate from animal high school and go to human college.” That’s just my opinion, and many metaphysicians would disagree with me. In fact, let me be clear: pretty much everything you’ll be reading in this essay is nothing but my opinion. Much of it is informed by Buddhism, Ram Dass, Edgar Cayce, and other wise teachers, but all these things are hard to prove or even to investigate in a foolproof way. Take what you like and leave the rest. These are the best truths I know.

L had a few more questions: Which past life is shown in the birth chart? All past lives perhaps? Or the most relevant past life/lives? Or the most recent past life/lives?”

“All past lives” would probably paint your chart black – it would require such a density of symbols that you couldn’t read anything from it at all. The deep truth is that a very great number of prior incarnations in various forms has brought you to where you are today. Fortunately, our techniques of nodal analysis filter all of that past-life information in an extremely radical way. Very little of that information actually gets through. These filters work in a very practical way, only telling you what you need to know. Everything else gets left out. You may have been one of the twelve apostles. Maybe you were Geronimo. You may have been Cleopatra – but if what your soul is working on in this lifetime isn’t connected to those particular past lives, there will be no symbolism in your chart for them.

  • Maybe you were indeed “Cleopatra,” but you worked that karma out long ago. It no longer holds you back in any way. Poof – no nodal evidence for that lifetime appears in your birthchart.
  • Maybe you were “Cleopatra,” but you’re not yet ready to wrestle with that karma. You’re saving it for a future lifetime when you are wiser and more evolved than you are today. Once again, poof – no nodal evidence for that lifetime appears in the chart.

That’s how the “nodal filters” work. So much of this line of thought is contained in one phrase that most of you have heard me say many, many times: what we see via nodal analysis is unresolved karma that has ripened. “Unresolved” means it’s still holding you back somehow in terms of your evolutionary intentions for this lifetime. “Ripened” means that the time has come for you to deal with it – you’re ready, in other words.

Back to L’s questions:

Which past life is shown in the birth chart? 

Answer: the one (or ones) that are actually pressing at you in this present life.

All past lives perhaps? 

Answer: definitely not all of them!

Or the most relevant past life/lives? 

Answer: L totally nails it here.

Or the most recent past life/lives? 

Answer: not necessarily — karma often takes a while to ripen.

I always like to underscore the fact that we don’t read astrological charts the same way that we read newspapers. Symbolism is not literalism. As we do nodal analysis, our aim is to invent a story that resonates emotionally with the person’s actual karma. Liberate yourself from the feeling that you need to find the literal reality of anyone’s prior lifetimes. We can’t do that and we don’t make that indefensible claim, nor do we burden ourselves with that impossible task.

If in a prior life, you were literally a rock star, but I tell you a nodal tale about how you were a movie star, I’ve done my job – that story is close enough to ring the right emotional bells. Same thing if I tell you a story about how you were once a victim of religious persecution and the reality is that you were a victim of racial or gender prejudice. In other words, the story doesn’t need to be literally true in order to be emotionally relevant – and thus capable of triggering a cathartic reaction in the client. Remember: everything starts with the south node of the Moon – we’re talking about the history of the emotional body, not a checklist of biographical “Mercury” facts. We don’t typically remember our past lives in a concrete way. What we remember is what they felt like. That “Moon energy” is what reincarnates with us. That’s where we store the hurt. That’s what we see in the chart. And that’s where we look for the cure.

Built into this line of thinking is another practical point. Most of the time in practicing evolutionary astrology, we tell a single “once upon a time” past-life story. That simplicity may or may not reflect literal reality. Karma, by its very nature, tends to be habitual and repetitive. Might a soul cycle through several lifetimes in which it kept making the same mistake over and over again – marrying the wrong person, for example? Sure! But our single past-life tale covers all of those emotional bases and that’s the point.

Perhaps the most slippery question of them all is one that L didn’t ask. What exactly reincarnates? That’s a conundrum that keeps philosophers and metaphysicians talking until the wee hours.

Here’s how I understand it. I’ve been a Capricorn with an Aries Moon for almost seventy-five years now. After all that time, I’ve gotten pretty used to it. But at the moment my physical body dies, will I still be a Capricorn with an Aries Moon? That’s hard to answer – something of that imprint might survive in my post mortem consciousness for a while. But if we accept reincarnation, we know for sure that when I am reborn, I probably won’t be a Capricorn with an Aries Moon anymore. In other words, what reincarnates will not be my present personality.  Among people who are drawn to the idea of reincarnation, there is often a naíve attitude that “you” just come back again in a new body as if nothing had really changed. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that. The reality is that “you” as a personality are truly dead and gone.

So what else are you besides your personality?

That brings us right back to our slippery question: what reincarnates? Your soul? Here in the western world, we often use that word. Buddhists generally don’t like it. That’s because they aren’t comfortable endorsing the idea of any kind of eternally separate individuality. Instead, they often refer to the mindstream.

In some ways, mindstream is a more rigorous concept. In other ways, I might say what’s the difference? For what it’s worth, I do use the word “soul” myself – but let me explain why “mindstream” works better when we’re wrestling with the profoundest kinds of metaphysical questions, as we are here.

At some undetermined point down the line, I won’t be a Capricorn with an Aries Moon any longer – but, for good or for ill, my mindstream will have been conditioned by all my experiences in this lifetime. In other words, something far bigger and more ancient than my personality will digest everything I’ve learned as Steven Forrest with his Capricorn Sun and his Aries Moon. It will all enter my mindstream. But underlying that immediate addition to my mindstream is another, deeper sedimentary layer – that’s all the accumulated impressions of my own prior lifetimes, digested and turned into feelings, attitudes, understandings . . . and errors, hurts, angers, and so on. My experiences as Steven Forrest will simply join that larger flow.

  • The mindstream is what reincarnates, not the personality – but underlying and shaping my future personality is that mindstream. Hopefully, as a result of being myself for all these years, it will be a little wiser and a little clearer.

Purifying that mindstream – teaching it love, not fear, generosity rather than grasping, acceptance, not aggression – is the purpose of life. Your present chart is just your particular current tack on those ancient, eternal challenges. It shows you where you’re stuck and exactly what you need to do to get free.

Think of it like a shirt you’re wearing. You may like it, but tomorrow you’ll take it off and put it in the wash. Personalities are like that. Mindstreams – or souls – are a lot more lasting.

 
Steven Forrest
September 2023

Walking Our Talk

Walking Our Talk

Master’s Musings, August 2023

Walking Our Talk: The FCEA’s Current Transits and Progressions

 
Steven Forrest

It’s time for another peek at the school’s chart. A long hard look at your own transits and progressions can help keep you honest, and it’s the same for the entity we call the FCEA. That’s how we walk our talk – we listen when the planets shine a light on our path.

Most of us have seen the school’s chart before – here it is again in case you’re newly part of the family. This time I’m showing it with the current progressions in the middle ring and the current transits in the outer one. As usual, for clarity’s sake, I’m not progressing the outer planets – they’re too slow to be of much practical use. I’m also only using the transits of Jupiter through Pluto – they’re the ones that have time enough to pack the symbolic punch of deep developmental meaning. Everything is set for July 14th. There’s nothing special about that date – it’s just when I happened to be writing this essay. All of these bodies move slowly enough that nothing significant will have changed by the time you’re reading this.  


Chart Wheel

One glance at the basic natal chart of the school and you can easily see astrology at work. We’ve obviously got a massive 11th house. That’s because we’re a tribe – a group of people who have come together for a common purpose. There’s lots of Pisces energy too – after all, we’re a spiritual tribe. Our path is one of education – there’s the Gemini Ascendant and the big 9th house. None of that tells us anything we didn’t know already, but it demonstrates a good reality check if you’re using an “event” chart like this one – if it’s not true in “obvious” ways, that’s a sign that the chart itself might be flawed. Births are pretty objective things. Not so the “births” of ideas, relationships, or businesses. If the chart doesn’t echo reality in a crystal-clear “duh” sort of way, you’ve probably got a problem. No worry, we’re definitely good to go in this case – the school’s chart represents our reality very well.

Look at all those transits and progressions! As usual, one glance is enough to make you feel like you’re juggling a few too many balls. Birthcharts are complicated enough, but adding transits and progressions can be overwhelming. Much of the art of our work lies in knowing how to edit the clutter – that’s always our first step. Diving in willy-nilly without a plan is invariably a recipe for catastrophe. Those of you who are currently in (or beyond) FCEA201 know that our basic tool here is what we call The Four Nets. If you’re just beginning our program, you can read all about them in The Changing Sky. Basically they are simply a rough method of sorting through a slew of transits, progressions, and solar arcs with an eye on thinking in terms of first things first.

In no particular order (yet), here are what seem to me to be the biggest things currently going on in the school’s chart.

  • Transiting Pluto is squaring the school’s Uranus.
  • Transiting Uranus will hit the Ascendant in two years
  • Solar Arc Saturn is conjunct the school’s Pluto
  • Transiting Saturn is sweeping through Pisces, hitting all of those Piscean planets
  • Transiting Neptune is conjuncting Mercury 
  • The Progressed Moon is in the 12th house heading for the Ascendant
  • Transiting Jupiter will soon be squaring our Sun and Moon
  • Transiting Jupiter will trine the Sun and Moon in two years

Got all that? The heart boggles in the face of it all. We need a way of getting a handle on the complexity. The Four Nets to the rescue! Be warned though – they’re flawed. I wrote them so I should know! By all means, use them, but only as a starting point. The trouble with the Four Nets is that they suffer from the same limitations we find with the orbs of aspects. What orb should we use for Mercury? The right answer varies with Mercury’s strength and centrality in the chart. If Gemini is rising and the person’s Sun is in the 3rd house, you’ll want to use wider orbs with Mercury – that’s because of that person’s enhanced sensitivity to those areas of life. It’s exactly the same with the Four Nets – a progressed Mercury, say, trining natal Neptune would rise higher in the Nets for people who have that same kind of enhanced Mercurial natal sensitivity – and it would sink in importance if they didn’t!

Remember: use the Four Nets as your launching pad, but not as your crutch!

Let’s apply the Four Nets to the current astrological situation of the school. As we sort through our list of configurations while letting the Nets set our priorities, here’s what we see. (By the way, the numbered lines I quote in italics here are taken directly from the Four Nets handout in FCEA201. They’re also pretty close to what you’ll find in The Changing Sky where I first published them back in 1986.)

First Net

Our transiting Saturn is sweeping through Pisces, hitting all of those Piscean planets

4. Transiting Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto making a conjunction or hard aspect to the natal Sun, Moon, Angles, or nodal axis.

Our Progressed Moon is in the 12th house heading for the Ascendant 

2. The progressed Moon passing over the Ascendant or Descendant.

Our transiting Uranus will hit the Ascendant in two years

4. Transiting Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto making a conjunction or hard aspect to the natal Sun, Moon, Angles, or nodal axis.

Second Net

Our transiting Pluto square Uranus

4. Transiting Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto conjunct, square or opposed to any sensitive point other than Sun, Moon, Angles, or nodal axis.

Our transiting Neptune conjunct Mercury

4. Transiting Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto conjunct, square or opposed to any sensitive point other than Sun, Moon, Angles, or nodal axis.

Our Solar Arc Saturn conjunct Pluto

8. Any solar arc planet making a hard aspect or conjunction to any natal planet or point, or changing sign or house.

Our transiting Jupiter square the Sun and Moon

5. Transiting Jupiter conjunct, square, or opposed to the natal Sun, Moon, Angles, or nodal axis.

Third Net

Our transiting Jupiter trine the Sun and Moon

3. Any aspects made by transiting Jupiter not already covered.

What follows is probably the most important thing I’m going to say in this little essay: if you only looked at those First Net configurations and you did an in-depth job of understanding them and integrating them with each other, you would have been of enormous help to anyone who had been lucky enough to turn to you for counsel.

Never forget – we’re working for our clients, not to win some kind of award offered by a team of censorious techno-astrologers.

The bottom line is always to go as far with the Nets as you possibly can, but stopping just before your intuitive sense of the wholeness starts to get swallowed up in a lather of intellectual anxiety.

So what does it all mean? What can we learn about the school’s current evolutionary possibilities?

I’m going to be brief here since a thorough job of interpretation would require quite a lot of time and would be a lot easier to deliver orally rather than in writing. As you’re probably figuring out by now, I actually have two aims in writing this short essay. Obviously, one is to think about the school and our collective journey. The second one is to offer some guidance and encouragement about how to navigate the potentially-overwhelming labyrinths that the astrological symbols always create. Interpretively, this will be a simple strategic overview rather than a detailed analysis, in other words.

Let’s start with those three First Net configurations. They are our foundation. Beginning anywhere else could easily put the cart before the horse. The first thing I see is that while one of these First Net events is currently active, the other two crest in the near future and are thus less active right now. Let’s start with those two:

  • Number one, the progressed Moon hits the school’s Ascendant on March 3, 2025.
  • Number two, transiting Uranus soon follows, hitting the Ascendant in August 2025, retrograding over it that October, and making a final direct hit in January 2026.
  • Finally, Saturn’s current sweep through Pisces – number three – can thus be understood as preparation for the new beginnings the other two First Net events are prophesying.

See how that simple insight based on the relative timing of these three events gives us an initial interpretive structure? We’ll start with Saturn, and try to see how it can prepare us for those Moon and Uranus developments. Saturn entered Pisces in March 2023, but it will be crisscrossing our Sun and Moon between April 2024 and January 2025 – and note that Saturn’s finish in January 2025 comes just a few weeks before the progressed Moon hits the Ascendant and a few months before Uranus joins the Moon there.

We’ve hit upon a developmental sequence – and recognizing a pattern like that is pure gold in our craft.

Again, these configurations are vast subjects, but in essence with the Saturn transit through Pisces, we see the school in its current situation, which is that we are maturing. Reflecting that idea in material terms, we’ll probably be graduating our first class of master-level FCEA astrologers early in 2024 – there’s a very concrete (Saturn!) maturational milestone! Given Saturn’s nature, we’ll probably also be facing various (surmountable) obstacles – that’s usually part of Saturn’s signature too. The process of navigating those obstacles is often what actually matures anyone, the school included. Saturn usually also demands some hard negotiations, some compromises, and some sacrifices.

As one quick illustration of how this Saturn transit has already been at work, think of the big school Zoom Q & A calls that we do. From my point of view, the last two or three of them have been the smoothest ones ever. That’s because – live and learn, Saturn-fashion – we’ve created a format that really works: an hour on the submitted questions, half an hour or so on a chart reading, and the rest of the time for spontaneous discussion. We learned from our experience and improved things. We matured – and that’s pure Saturn.

With those two other big First Net events heading for our Ascendant, we’re focusing on building a vision for the future, but succeeding there requires some reflection  and patience. Building that “vision” is the message of the progressed Moon’s current position in the 12th house. Once that vision is “cooked,” the Moon hitting the school’s Ascendant in 2025 will be something of a “Grand Opening” – and with Uranus hitting the Ascendant at about the same time, we can safely “expect the unexpected.” We will also very probably take off in some novel or surprising directions.

That’s the message of the First Net.

Those novel and surprising directions are echoed further as we move into the realm of the Second Net. There we see Uranus in the spotlight once again, but this time because transiting Pluto is squaring it. That’s happening throughout all of 2024. Meanwhile, transiting Neptune is back and forth over our Mercury between May 2024 and January 2026. That transit echoes the “vision quest” elements we saw in that First Net progression of the Moon through the 12th house. Together these two Second Net transits caution us against the kind of unrealism (Neptune) that could lead to a real mess – something that Pluto squaring a 12th house Uranus warns us about as well. Right now, Saturn is teaching us to keep our feet on the ground. Our job is to remember that!

Solar Arc Saturn made a conjunction with Pluto in July, and that energy is still very active and represents more of the same. There are bumps in the road – delays and maybe a few minefields as well. We acknowledge all that, but we keep perspective – these are Second Net events, not First Net ones. We counsel alertness and caution, but not fear.

Moving on in the Second Net, transiting Jupiter squares the Sun and Moon between August 2024 and April 2025. That warns us specifically against over-extension – and it further focuses the cautionary notes we just struck. Concretely, the chart might be counseling us, for example, against taking on too many new students or new tutors, or simply spending too much money.

A little further down the road, transiting Jupiter moves beyond those squares to the Sun and Moon and slides into trine aspects with them. That happens between August 2025 and April 2026. By then, the progressed Moon is in the 1st house and Uranus is snicker-snacking back and forth across our Ascendant. If we’re careful, if we do the hard Saturn work, and if we let ourselves gradually feel our way into a new vision, we will have built the foundation for that new beginning, and I suspect we’ll be smiling gratefully at what we’ve created – there’s the message of Jupiter trining our Sun and Moon, probably bringing luck and opportunity.

Remember how you felt back at the beginning of this essay when I first listed the eight biggest events that were impacting the FCEA chart? Eight were enough to be overwhelming – and that was just the top eight! What if I’d added a bunch of Net Three events as well? Or Net Four? It’s simply too much for the mind to digest. But think about what happened to your attitude when we passed those eight configurations through the Nets.

  • The First Net reduced them to the three most important ones – and with just three events, we could begin to get a handle on the message. Our “overwhelm” was greatly reduced.
  • Even better, because they were First Net events we could reassure ourselves that we were keeping perspective and tuning into the big picture.
  • Then we noticed a pattern in those three events. We reflected on their timing and we saw how one of them was currently setting the stage for the other two.

A strategic approach like that is how we go from confusion to a story we feel in our bones and which we can tell with confidence. Once we have the First Net figured out, we just plug some Net Two and maybe some Net Three insights into the basic “big picture.” Always, our sense of the integrated wholeness of things that Net One generates for us is our foundation.

Beyond that, we embellish it with lesser configurations until our brows start to wrinkle – or our clients start to look glassy-eyed.

With experience, we improve even further – we sense when that dreaded glassy-eyed moment is about to arrive and we say Amen just before we get there. 

The next thing you know, you’re a professional astrologer and an FCEA graduate.

 
Steven Forrest
August 2023

Navigating Between Rocks and Hard Places

Navigating Between Rocks and Hard Places

Master’s Musings, July 2023

Navigating Between Rocks and Hard Places

 
Steven Forrest
We’re proud of what we’ve created here at the FCEA in the four years since we first conceived it back in March 2019. We’re also delighted by the expressions of support, enthusiasm, and appreciation we often hear from our students and Community Members. New businesses are famously shaky and many of them quickly fail. Not us! All in all, we’re doing OK and that’s thanks to all of you.
Naturally we hear grumbles from time to time. Keep them coming! We’re good, but we know we can get better and that’s our aim. Your feedback is helpful, even if we can’t always make everything fit everyone’s individual needs.
Sometimes “grumbles” isn’t the right word either – we also get lots of minor corrections and they’re always welcome. For one example, just this week a perspicacious student noticed that I’d made a typo in my handout about the discovery date of Eris. I had it down as January 25, 2005 when it was actually January 5 – obviously that mistake was not the end of the world, but it’s good to make things right! We fixed it right away. Someone else once pointed out an error in a birth time for one of our teaching charts – I can’t even remember which one, but we fixed that too. There have been a few more instances of little goofs on that kind of scale – not earth-shaking, but still important – and we wouldn’t have known about them without your help and sharp eyes, so thanks!
With the FCEA curriculum materials we can quickly fix things, but in my life as an author, I’ve had a futile ambition all along – it’s that someday I would publish a book without any typos at all. Still, even with a  dozen eyes, including my own, combing through the pages, that’s never happened. And once a book is in print, it’s graven in stone unless and until there’s a new edition. We can at least include a note about those kinds of errata in Moodle. We’ve done that – the bad charts for Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in Skymates II come to mind.
In pursuit of ways that we can possibly improve, a few of our tutors have let me know about some frustrations they’re hearing from students. Four of these issues have come up with some consistency and I want to touch on them here. Two of them are biggies and two are fair to call “small potatoes.” I should say right away that none of them are completely fixable, at least in the present circumstances of the school. Mostly here I simply want to say “we hear you” and to take the opportunity to explain our position. One aim we’ll always have here in the FCEA is to be as transparent with everyone as we possibly can be.
 
FACE TIME
 
By far, the issue that comes up most often is the desire for more “live” interaction with the tutors and with myself. I have a lot to say about that, starting with a simple agreement: almost everyone agrees that more live interaction would be great! 
Let me first speak about the tutors, then I’ll speak about myself.
Our tutors are paid by the hour – not enough, not what they’re worth, but they are paid!.And there’s a lot of them and that gets expensive. Those hours mount up. The FCEA has no outside source of funding – even the loan Jeff Parrett gave us to start the school is being paid back with interest. You probably see where this is going. Financially, the school is usually “in the black,” but not by much. To afford more tutor hours, we’d have to raise our tuition rates. No one – including us – wants to do that.
Speaking for myself, I really do enjoy the many Zoom Q&A sessions we do. I like teaching. Beyond those, this (northern) autumn, we’ll finally reach FCEA 306 – that’s a course where I’ll be teaching “live” via Zoom in a small-class context. I look forward to that! Let me also add that  at the 300-level, students are advanced enough to begin working together with a tutor and their peers in live Zoom classes every week. Even better for many of you, we just started our 101Z and 102Z labs. They’re led by tutors on Zoom and students get live interaction every week there too.
One of my personal goals in framing the FCEA was for me to be able to do more teaching at a “master class” level. I felt that doing that would be a better use of my time than teaching the basics over and over again – hence the reason behind all the videos and handouts I’ve made for our curriculum, not to mention all my books. Those are where I teach the basics – although our Q&A sessions are actually often that too. And even there, we’re building our indexed reference library, which is also gradually becoming another resource in our basic curriculum. But a real motivator for me is to be able to teach at a higher level. As the first wave of FCEA students reaches the 306 level in a few months, we’ll finally arrive at that point.
There’s one more thing that’s sort of tangentially related – we’ll soon be implementing a platform called Circle (www.Circle.so). I honestly don’t know much about it yet, but we’re hoping it will facilitate an easier and more lively kind of social interaction among us.
Speaking of face-to-face interaction, let me add that it was a joy to finally meet some of you in person at the big ISAR conference in Denver last August and also at the NORWAC conference in Seattle just a few weeks ago. My upcoming event this August at Omega Institute in New York is promising to be a big one – last I heard, 107 people have signed up! I know many FCEA students are among them. (If you’re interested in possibly attending, here’s the link: https://www.eomega.org/search?query=Steven+Forrest). 
Then there’s Astro-Bash (https://www.astro-bash.com) starting on September 28th. Ralph MacIntrye, a former student in my old Apprenticeship Programs who happens to live in the same desert town as me, has put together a broad group of evolutionary astrologers as speakers. Our Dean, Catie, will be among them. I’ll do a keynote. Getting to Borrego Springs is not the easiest thing in the world, but for me it’s home sweet home. Maybe some of you can come too.
I’m writing about these in-person events because they’re part of how I want to address the whole question of more live teaching and “face time.” By the way, as I write these words, I’m aware of how unfair much of this must sound to our students who live in other countries. I’m sorry about that, but at least these events do provide another option for face-to-face work, at least for some of you. We still hope to create an actual FCEA conference at some point, but frankly we’re all just too busy running things day-to-day to even think much about it at this point.
Let me briefly belabor another obvious issue for a moment – like the rest of you, I have to make a living and there are only so many hours in the day. Most of how I support myself comes from work outside our school. That does put some constraints on my time. That’s of course true as well for our tutors, teachers, and staff.
 
THE CLONE WARS
 
There’s a second issue that’s come up from time to time. Let’s call it “the Clone Wars.” So, is the purpose of the FCEA to crank out dozens and dozens of robotic Steven Forrest clones? In response, I’d start by softening that language a bit, but basically let me admit that, yes, in a sense, that’s exactly what we’re doing. I don’t want to pretend otherwise. 
There’s something terribly unsettling about that kind of language! Cloning? What about respect for your own individualities? What about that core principle of any healthy kind of astrology, which is respect for human diversity?
Here’s our reasoning. Astrology is a wide world. I’ve often felt sorry for enthusiastic beginners attending their first astrology conference. If they listen to ten lectures, they’ll probably hear ten different takes on astrology. Many involve perspectives that would be very difficult to reconcile with each other, both practically and philosophically. There are helpful, impressive astrologers practicing in the Vedic traditions, along with many fine Hellenists, Uranians, and Cosmobiologists. There are good psychological astrologers – and in the FCEA we’re pretty close to them, but we’re not the same. Even in the mainstream forms of modern astrological practice, you have a dozen systems of house division to choose among. Should we use the Vertex? What about the Part of Fortune? What about planetary midpoints? What about harmonics? Black Moon Lilith anyone?
Again, I pity beginners as they try to pick their way through this whole smorgasbord of astrological possibilities. They often feel that to become good astrologers they need to understand it all. But no one can understand it all! There’s just too much. And on top of it, no client anywhere would have the patience, time, or attention span to listen to a session that applied all of those techniques at once.
My personal North Star has always been aimed at meeting the needs of those clients. Over the years, sitting with many, many thousands of them, I’ve honed my arsenal of techniques down to the few that have consistently seemed to work the best, at least for me and my clients. I’ve also only pursued techniques that answer the kinds of questions that I personally find most compelling – basically the ones around how our psychological processes relate to the growth of our souls. I find it more exciting to wrestle with those particular angels and devils than to try to pick the stock whose value is about to rise or the candidate who’s most likely to win the election.
The distillation of all that I have learned – and unlearned, and forgotten, and discarded – is the Steven Forrest Method. And that efficient, accurate, stripped-down package is what we teach in the FCEA. That’s what we’re “cloning.” The point is not that we reject all the other traditions and techniques – the point is that we want to chart the most efficient course from A to Z for our students, where A is a blank slate and Z is the ability to sit down confidently with an astrologically naive client and actually know what words to say. So we teach one method – again, call it “cloning me” if you want – and if you want to explore other methods, go for it! Just please do it outside the framework of our school. 
Learning this FCEA methodology is, as you know, a serious commitment. Even stripped down like this, it still takes three or four years of hard work to get on top of it enough to reach a professional level of competence. It’s sort of like going to medical school. The bottom line is that in the FCEA, our aim is to get everyone to “Z” as efficiently as possible, so we limit our attention to specific practices, while we discourage anyone from muddying the waters for the other students by wondering about what this chart would say in Porphyry houses or in Whole Sign House format. That’s not because those systems are wrong, but rather because they’re confusing to anyone who’s trying to keep their eyes on the prize as we’ve defined it. 
Once you’ve learned the Steven Forrest Method, you can take it anywhere you want. In fact, even now as active students in our school, if you want to check out other approaches or other teachers, go for it – just please support the other students by staying focused on our core curriculum.
There are a couple more areas where a few concerns have been expressed. They’re both comparatively minor, but I’d like to clear the air about them as best I can.
 
INCONSISTENCIES ABOUT ASPECT ORBS
 
I’ll own it! In the videos and handouts that comprise the FCEA curriculum, sometimes you see me suggesting an orb of 2.5 degrees for a certain aspect, then elsewhere I might suggest 5 degrees. I’m all over the map about orbs and I admit it’s probably confusing. 
Some of that is simply my own inconsistency – and that’s further exacerbated by the fact that, for example, The Inner Sky and The Changing Sky both date back to the 1980s, while much school material is practically current by comparison. So you’re looking at over three decades of my own learning curve. As an evolutionary astrologer, I am proud to say that I am not “the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!”
There’s a deeper issue. Universally, astrologers of all schools use wider aspectual orbs for the Sun than they do for Neptune. But what if that Neptune is in Pisces or on the Ascendant? Then maybe we stretch the orbs a bit further because the planet is a little stronger in that particular chart. What if a planet is in its own sign? What if it rules the Ascendant? What if two planets in a wide hard aspect to each other are also in mutual reception? That softens their tension. Do we still get any benefit from thinking of them as “in opposition?”
It goes further – what if we have a planet in the first degree of Aries and one in the last degree of Gemini? Geometrically, that’s a tight square – but the basic harmony of Aries and Gemini makes itself felt too. Clearly that square isn’t quite the same as one between Aries and Cancer. Now widen the angle between them a bit – at what point do you stop thinking of it as a square? It’s hard to be rigid about any of this, but clearly in practice that Aries/Gemini square would break down sooner than an Aries/Cancer one.
The point is that, beyond the exact geometrical angle between the planets, orbs are influenced by many factors. For that reason, only a (hilariously) inexperienced astrologer would formally pronounce that “the proper orb for sextiles is five degrees – not four, and not not six.” 
The inconsistencies you’ll encounter about aspect orbs through the FCEA curriculum materials fall somewhere between a happy mistake and a bit of a “time capsule” study of my own evolution as an astrologer over the years. Personally, I’m actually glad they are there – that’s because if I were consistent about them you might start to think that they were consistent themselves. They’re not!
 
REPEATING CHARTS
 
The further into your FCEA studies you go, the more charts you will see. Catie and I are really happy with the diverse spectrum of “case studies” the school presents. We’ve got mostly famous people, a few made-up charts, and the occasional client example – that, plus tons of “mystery charts,” which are mostly famous people supplied with false names. 
Basically, the more charts you look at, the smarter you get. That’s why, as an FCEA student, you’re subjected to such a flood of them. The only limit we’ve set is that we’ve mostly steered away from very contemporary examples, mostly because “the verdict isn’t in on them yet.” I’m profoundly grateful, for example, that when I was writing The Inner Sky in the early 1980s, I used John Lennon for my example. Imagine the mess I’d have been in today if I had used Bill Cosby – or that bon vivant and then-rising star of commercial New York real estate, Donald Trump. When it comes to analyzing a life, it’s often helpful to have the whole story.

One or two students have grumbled about seeing a particular chart used more than once. Why not switch to someone new? I believe the issue was around the chart of Muhammed Ali, although I believe Lily Tomlin comes up more than once in the curriculum as well, and there are others – Amy Tan and Jane Goodall, for example. They mostly occur at the 100-level where students are first building their confidence and we think a longer look at a single chart is probably most beneficial to them.
Our reasoning here is actually very simple, at least with Muhammed Ali. To understand anyone in the context of transits, progressions, and solar arcs – or for that matter, in a synastry framework, it is essential to understand the core birthchart. As you know, analyzing a birthchart is a big undertaking. It requires time. For that reason, Catie and I just decided that it made sense to introduce Muhammed Ali’s natal chart in the FCEA 100 courses, and then to build efficiently on that foundation when we got to the FCEA 202 Practicum and it was time to look at his transits. Why redo 101 material with a new person when we were ready to work with transits and progressions and everyone already had a strong foundation with Muhammed Ali?
In general, don’t worry – in our school, you won’t often see the same chart used more than once!
Those are the four areas I wanted to address in this newsletter. Once again, we always welcome constructive criticism and helpful suggestions, so please keep them coming. We won’t be able to make you happy every time, but we’ll do our best. 
Even better, do let us know when you’re simply feeling good about the school. Running it is a lot of hard work and positive feedback is what keeps us going, so thanks for that too!
 
Steven Forrest
July 2023