Arrival – a film about astrology?

The film Arrival appeared on mainstream cinema screens towards the end of last year and has been widely acclaimed as the best science fiction film for many years. It has been both a critical and commercial success. Although there are perhaps one or two clichés near the beginning, Arrival is far more sophisticated than the average film about aliens visiting Earth. There is an unusual depth and intelligence throughout, as themes of love, grief, memory and the passing of time are explored. What does it mean to be human, what is our purpose? The film is nicely paced, the award-winning music is suitably haunting, there is often a sense of magical wonder. Leading actress Amy Adams is outstanding.

Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, Arrival is an adaptation of a 1998 short story Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang. Amongst many other things, it explores the idea that language determines thought and perception. The concept of linguistic relativity has been linked to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, first published in 1940 by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Philosophers such as Wittgenstein (“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”) have explored similar territory. I had never come across Chiang before but one review had this to say about him:- “If there is a single recurrent theme in Ted Chiang’s work, it’s the attempt to square the circle between human fantasies of belief, and the perceived certainties of a rational, scientific worldview. There’s a strong sense in Chiang’s work that he sees conflicts of faith v reason, or freedom v determinism, as illusionary. That if we can simply see clearly enough, all conflicts give way to harmony. Chiang’s rigour and logic take him to a point of mysticism.” (1.)

After a brief but important introduction, the film begins in the style of many other science fiction films about aliens landing on Earth. The spaceships hover in twelve locations around the world and there is worldwide panic as humanity wonders what to do next. Some strange sounds are recorded at the spaceship that has arrived in Montana and the American government calls on linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to lead an investigative team. “You approach language like a mathematician”, Ian says to Louise at one point.

To the accompaniment of a drone that would not be out of place in a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony, Louise and her crew make their way down a tunnel in the nearest alien spaceship. This begins a series of attempts to communicate with the Heptapods, as the aliens become known. They are more interested in visual communication rather than sound.

IdentifyingLogograms

In Arrival, each logogram is divided into 12 sections, just like an astrological horoscope. As a person learns the alien language, their perception and experience of time is altered.

For astrologers, this is where it starts to get really interesting. In reference to the twelve spaceships, we have already been told that the twelve fit together to form a whole. The aliens now gradually begin to communicate by drawing a series of circular puffs of smoke in mid-air, each of them containing specific visual blobs that carry highly complex information. These circular patterns bear a striking resemblance to horoscopes, both visually and in their function. The alien language of the Heptapods is nonlinear, with no beginning or end – the whole of a particular sentence or idea is communicated at once, not in a progressive order. The past, the present and the future are presented as one.

Louise and her team set about examining the meaning of the circles, as do investigative teams in other countries. Problems emerge when different conclusions are drawn about exact interpretations of one particular message. Does it mean “Give technology now” or “Use weapon now” and is this a threat of some kind? This leads to a global crisis point and the final scenes of the film, when it becomes clear that Louise’s perception of time and reality has become altered by learning “The Universal Language”.

Researching on the internet, I have not been able to find any acknowledgement of astrological knowledge in relation to the film or the original story. It has been suggested that the alien circles may have been inspired by a Zen calligraphic symbol. Presumably, the number of striking similarities to astrology must therefore be a co-incidence. A visual language based around circles and symbols, a language that communicates complex information and changes our perception of time, a language which when learnt can change our experience of what it means to be human in the world. That certainly sounds familiar to serious astrologers! See this excellent film and draw your own conclusions, or lack of them.

  1. “Ted Chiang, the science fiction genius behind Arrival”, The Guardian, 11th November, 2016.

The original version of the above article appeared in the March/April 2017 of The Astrological Journal, the flagship bimonthly magazine of the Astrological Association.

The Aquarian and Uranian nature of progressive rock

Aquarius

Aquarius

As both a fan and musician, I have had more than a passing interest in progressive rock (prog rock or prog) for the last forty years. As an astrologer for the last thirty years, I noticed some time ago that Aquarian and Uranian themes are very common in the charts of many progressive rock musicians and that the whole musical genre is essentially Aquarian-Uranian in nature. From the often original and experimental nature of the music, to the eccentric musicians themselves, to the frequently intellectual lyrics in search of the truth. Not all Aquarian and Uranian musicians are prog rockers and not all progressive rock musicians have Aquarius or Uranus strong in their charts but the link is there.

Progressive rock gradually evolved out of the late 1960s, beginning with the more experimental sides of the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys and others. “Progressive” and “experimental” are of course words that are frequently associated with the astrological symbolism of Aquarius and its ruling planet Uranus, both being concerned with challenging existing conventions and exploring new territory. It has been suggested that Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by The Beatles was the first progressive rock album and it certainly has many features that have come to be recognised as prog rock trademarks. There is an overall concept, a Progrockcolourful album cover – a piece of art in itself – and an extraordinarily wide range of musical and lyrical influences. Others have suggested that In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) by King Crimson was the beginning of progressive rock. By the 1970s and the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes having established themselves, progressive rock had emerged as a subgenre in its own right. The term “prog”, sometimes used in a jokey or derogatory sense, appeared much later.

 

 

SevenFourUnusual and quirky (Aquarius) time signatures and unconventional song structures are often a feature of progressive rock. Rather than conforming to the more typical 4/4 rock and pop beat, artists such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree often use alternatives such as 7/4 or 13/8. Pink Floyd’s Money on Dark Side Of The Moon and Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill are examples of using a 7/4 time signature. Aquarian progrock often breaks the musical rules in all sorts of ways – the traditional verse and chorus structures are frequently avoided in favour of extended instrumental sections or other alternatives. Unpredictability is the name of the day, although critics have observed that this can seem musically pretentious, sometimes appearing to sound different for the sake of being different. Such criticism is of course unlikely to bother a musician with several planets in Aquarius or a strong Uranus in their birth chart, who will follow their own path, regardless.

Dave Gilmour, Sun square Uranus

Dave Gilmour, Sun square Uranus

A quick look at the astrological charts of famous progressive rock musicians confirms the prominence of either Aquarius or many close aspects between Uranus and the personal planets. Guitarist Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd was born a Pisces Sun with a square to Uranus. In a 2014 interview promoting Floyd’s The Endless River album, producer Youth gave a perfect Sun-Uranus description when  commenting on his experience of working with Gilmour:- “It’s funny with David, you think he’s going to be one way and then he goes completely the other. He’s unpredictable like that, and that’s good” (1). Keyboard player Rick Wakeman of Yes has Moon and Jupiter in Aquarius, flautist and singer Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (a brilliant eccentric if ever there was one!) has Mars conjunct Uranus in 10th house. The extraordinarily gifted and uniquely intelligent guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson) was born with a close Venus conjunct Uranus trine Jupiter and another multi-talented guitarist and musician Steve Hillage (originally with the eccentric and sometimes brilliant Gong) was born with a close Mars conjunct Uranus at the apex of a Cardinal T-square. Kate Bush, who made her spectacular live comeback in 2014, has pretty much transcended all genres but the strong prog leanings are there. She has a natal Sun-Uranus conjunction and almost certainly, depending on the time of birth, Moon in Aquarius.

 

Peter Gabriel's Aquarian birth chart

Peter Gabriel’s Aquarian birth chart

At their 1970s peak, Genesis were one of the most interesting and innovative progressive rock bands. A very English group of musicians making clever and eccentric (Aquarius/Uranus) music, fronted by Peter Gabriel’s clever and eccentric theatrical performances.  Although Genesis became more commercially successful after Phil Collins took over as singer, most prog fans consider that the more interesting and original ideas (Aquarius/Uranus) started to run out after first Gabriel and then Steve Hackett left the band. Both Hackett and Gabriel have natal Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius, being born one day apart on 12th February 1950 and 13th February 1950 respectively. The Aquarian urge for freedom and independence would have played its part in them branching out to pursue extremely successful solo careers, each achieving substantial international recognition for their artistic brilliance across a number of musical genres.

Peter Gabriel - Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius

Gabriel – Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius

With his Aquarian Sun and other 7th house Aquarian planets on display to the public, Peter Gabriel is the living embodiment of the most highly evolved Air sign. A major feature of Gabriel’s birth chart (2) is a powerful close opposition between Pluto in Leo on the Ascendant and Jupiter in Aquarius on the Descendant. Gabriel has achieved huge recognition and success as both a Pluto in Leo rock musician and a Jupiter in Aquarius visionary humanitarian. The tension between these two is mediated by a gifted and magical conjunction between Mars and Neptune in Libra, a perfect combination for a socially conscious artist and musician. He has often been years ahead of his time (Aquarius), from his founding of the Womad festival, to his support for world music through his record label and recording studio, to his involvement with one of the first music download services, OD2. Receiving the Prog God award at the annual Progressive Music Awards in London, September 2014 from comedian and prog fan Bill Bailey (there’s a fair bit of Aquarius in his chart too), Gabriel said:- “Despite prog probably being the most derided musical genre of all time there were – as today – a lot of extraordinary musicians trying to break down the barriers to reject the rules of music… We didn’t always get it right, but when it did work we could move people and get some magic happening.” (3)

 

Steve Hogarth and Fish - Mars in Aquarius

Steve Hogarth and Fish – Mars in Aquarius

Mainstream progressive rock was carried into the 1980s by Marillion, who are still going strong today. Both the original Marillion singer Fish and new boy Steve Hogarth (who has actually been with the band since 1990) have a prominent Mars in Aquarius. It has often been said that guitarist Steve Rothery is Marillion’s greatest musical asset, and Rothery was born with an almost exactly stationary Uranus in Leo. (Astrologer Stephen Arroyo recently observed that due to the use of computers, the importance of natal stationary planets is now often over-looked (4), something that contemporary astrologers might want to bear in mind.) Marillion were years ahead of everyone (Aquarius) when they famously first used crowdfunding to raise money for an American tour in 1997. As with many newer and lesser known 21st century prog acts, the Aquarian internet has continued to be essential to the band, enabling them to build a worldwide fanbase whilst remaining largely independent (Aquarius) of the music industry.

Francis Dunnery, Sun trine Uranus

Francis Dunnery – an astrologer with Sun trine Uranus

 

No piece on astrology and prog would be complete without a mention of Francis Dunnery, who is himself an accomplished astrologer. The inspired ex-It Bites and ex-Robert Plant guitarist and songwriter has a close Sun-Uranus aspect and Saturn in Aquarius. Appropriately, he runs his own label called Aquarian Nation.

Although progressive rock has always survived and thrived underground, it was uncool for many years. Since Radiohead’s OK Computer in the late 1990s, prog rock’s influence has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream again – prog is no longer quite such a dirty word!

Notes

  1. “The Making of The Endless River”, Prog magazine, October 2014, p.44.
  2. Peter Gabriel, born 4.30 pm, 13th February 1950, Woking, England. Time of birth is from memory, according to astro.com databank.
  3. “Peter Gabriel honoured at Prog music awards”, BBC News website, 12th September 2014.
  4. “Experiments and Experience with Astrology: Reflections on Methods and Meaning”, Stephen Arroyo, CRCS Publications, November 2013.

This article was originally written for a book on the astrology of music, due to be published by Flare Publications, UK.

Tony Blair – astrological birth chart

With the recent publication of the Chilcot report, here is an updated look at Tony Blair’s astrology chart (born 6.10 a.m., 6th May 1953, Edinburgh in Scotland). Blair of course had the same natal chart at the time of his landslide victory in 1997, at the time of his decision to invade Iraq, and now. As a life changes, so does the interpretation of the birth chart.

Although Tony is an Earth Sun sign Taurus, Air is the strongest element, with a clear emphasis on idealism, social development and communication. In common with many ambitious and driven individuals, Tony has a fairly close square between his Sun and Moon, Taurus and Aquarius respectively. Taurus is solid, down-to-earth, often conventional and materialistic. Aquarius is idealistic, a social reformer, often unconventional, even eccentric.

Another obvious strong feature of the chart is a powerful conjunction of Mars (supported by expansive Jupiter) close to his Gemini Ascendant (rising sign). Any planet this close to the Ascendant degree in anyone’s chart represents a dominant energy of the personality. The Mars in Gemini individual asserts themselves flexibly, verbally and cleverly but dualistic Gemini can often be a bit too clever. Blair’s Gemini ability to communicate enthusiastically and openly is exaggerated by nearby Jupiter in Taurus. These characteristics dominate Blair’s whole personality, bringing an air of confidence, good luck and natural leadership ability. However, it’s perhaps worth noting that Donald Trump also has a close conjunction of the red planet Mars to the Ascendant degree and as the classical music composer Gustav Holst observed, Mars is also “the Bringer of War”.

TonyBlairChart

As shown by the Aquarian Moon close to his North Node in the 10th house, Blair has always been genuinely driven to make his mark on the world by expressing his humanitarian instincts. The Saturn-Neptune conjunction in Libra and his 6th house is also a sign of being committed to putting ideals of harmony and fairness into practice through hard work. At its best expression, this is an excellent combination for a diplomat. Some people now understandably dismissive of Blair as a money-grabbing warmonger might easily forget his work on Human Rights, the Northern Ireland peace process, and even apparently successful military intervention in Sierra Leone where he is widely regarded as a hero.

With chart ruler Mercury opposite Neptune and Saturn, ideas and words may not be what they seem – a struggle with straightforward communication is clearly shown. Tony has his Sun in the 12th house too, an astrological indicator that frequently corresponds with a complicated or confused sense of identity. At best, any ego problems here can be transcended and shared with the collective consciousness and there is often a spiritual theme to the life of a 12th house individual. Blair’s 12th house relationship with God and, as he sees it, the fight against global evil are fundamental to understanding the man.

BlairChilcotAs the Chilcot report approached, the bad publicity for Blair suddenly appeared under the first pass of a Uranus transit, opposing his Saturn-Neptune conjunction with a square to his Chiron in Capricorn, around April-May 2016. A simple interpretation of that could be “a shocking awakening to the balance between Blair’s idealism and realism, together with his wounded ability to take responsibility”, Chilcot confirming what we already knew.

Will Tony Blair be held accountable? Current reports say that he won’t have to face trial for war crimes. The financial integrity of Blair’s business and charity empire has also been questioned. The next two passes of that Uranus transit to Blair’s Saturn-Neptune are in late October-early November 2016 and late February-early March 2017. Pluto also continues to transit his Sun, Venus and Uranus, from mid-August through to early November this year. Over the next few years, both Uranus and Pluto continue to transit all Blair’s significators in the second half of the Cardinal signs and by 2018, Saturn will be well into his 8th house of transformation and “death and re-birth”. Pluto squares Saturn-Neptune in 2019, on its way up to Blair’s Midheaven.

pluto-glyphHowever they play out, there’s clearly some seriously confronting, tumultuous times ahead for Tony Blair.

Astrological mid-life crisis, age 37-42

Keepcalm

 

The astrological mid-life crisis (crisis = danger + opportunity, according to the Chinese) occurs for everyone at around age 37-42. It would be more accurate to describe the process as a series of crises. The exact timing varies and depends on the individual birth chart, but this is one of those astrological cycles that everyone experiences at roughly the same age. The peak of it usually lasts two to three years. Important long-term changes (some astrologers now consider an astrological mid-life up to age 50) are common as a result of how the person deals with the challenges that come up. As always, and at the risk of stating the obvious, you have a choice as to how you deal with it all.

At around age 37 or so (for the current generation), Pluto squares natal Pluto – difficult but potentially deep evolutionary change that confronts some of us with internal and external power struggles and buried resentments. We may go a bit crazy as Pluto takes us on a healing journey, particularly if Pluto or Scorpio are strong in the birth chart.

NeptuneGlyph1Neptune squares its natal position in the chart at around age 41 and this can be very confusing and disorientating. Deeply held dreams and ideals can suddenly seem empty or no longer relevant. Disappointment and disillusionment is common, and a letting go of old attachments is necessary before the individual can begin to develop a restored sense of faith and philosophy of life.

Uranusglyph1The Uranus opposition Uranus transit at age 40-41 is often even more disrupting and in a different way. It has often been described as one of the most important astrological phases of one’s life. Uranus is the great awakener, that stirs up our reality so that we are never the same again afterwards. Sudden shocks, realizations, and complete changes of life direction are common at this time. Re-discovering one’s freedom and unique sense of individuality is important. Some people leave a marriage, relationship, or job. Others may go through a crisis in these areas that eventually strengthens their original commitment. The challenge is to be able to make the necessary changes without “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

Mid-lifeQuestions

If we manage to cope with these potential crises during our late thirties and early forties, a significant amount of unnecessary baggage can be left behind. The individual birth chart will give other indicators as to how easy or difficult this process is likely to be.

Please note, this is a deliberately brief and general summary. Good luck to all!

The Gods of Change by Howard Sasportas

TheGodsOfChangeThe late Howard Sasportas packed a huge amount of high quality astrological and psychological information into this intelligent, clear and accessible book  It was a constant companion for many years, both for my work as a professional astrologer and in following my own transits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. It is a classic cookbook on the outer planets, covering their transits to each planet and through each house.

The first section, “The Collaboration with the Inevitable”, is an excellent summary of how astrology can be used as a tool for understanding ongoing personal transformation, helping to turn perceived crises into opportunities. Sasportas then moves on to look in great detail and depth at the transits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto to each planet in the natal chart. A very large number of case histories are dotted throughout the transit interpretations, with a wide range of examples of how each planetary combination can show up in daily life. These possible events are considered in the context of the psychological development of the individual, Sasportas drawing on his extensive knowledge of many fields of psychology, mythology and spirituality.

HowardSas

Much of the astrological material here is similar to other classic late twentieth century transit books such as those by Robert Hand, Betty Lundsted or Stephen Arroyo (who Sasportas acknowledges), but Sasportas masterfully integrated a huge number of additional psychological and spiritual insights from many sources. Over 25 years later, The Gods Of Change is still a wise, compassionate and substantial contribution to modern astrology.

 

Astrologer Tim Burness

TimBurness

If you are interested in an interpretation of your astrological birth chart, please e-mail me  tim@timburness.com

Brief astrological biography

Tim Burness has run a busy astrological consultation and teaching practice at several points over the last 28 years, working with people from all walks of life. After being surprised by the extraordinary accuracy of a computer forecast in 1986, Tim began intensive study, drawing on a very wide range of sources. These included seminars by the respected psychological astrologers Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas in London, coursework with the Faculty of Astrological Studies and the books of internationally acclaimed American astrologer Stephen Arroyo.

Donald Trump's birth chart

Donald Trump’s birth chart, above

After interpreting many charts of friends, family and the famous, Tim gained massive experience in a short time from several years spent working regularly at psychic fairs and Mind-Body-Spirit festivals. Hundreds of face-to-face astrological consultations and personal feedback gave Tim a great opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.

Since his teens, Tim has also explored a wide number of other related spiritual interests. These have included courses in Shamanic Consciousness and Therapeutic Intervention at the University of Sussex, a large number of intensive self-awareness courses and involvement with various forms of Buddhism.

As a sample of Tim’s work, here is a brief interpretation of Donald Trump’s birth chart.

Astrology is a huge subject. Tim believes it really comes into its own when natal astrology (from the time, date and place of birth) is used as a guide to help us understand our life choices, psychological patterns and ongoing changes. This goes a lot, lot deeper than newspaper Sun sign horoscopes.

Bowie Astrological Assocaition article

Astrological Journal 2016, Bowie article

Tim has been featured in The Independent newspaper and on several local radio stations. More recently he has written articles for the magazine of the UK Astrological Association, including a major article on David Bowie. Tim is interested in raising the profile of accessible and intelligent astrology as a tool for personal, social and spiritual transformation. He is Vice-Chairman of the Brighton Astrology Circle and is also a musician and care worker. He was born with a Gemini Sun, Virgo Moon, Aquarius Ascendant and a rather tricky Mars-Jupiter-Neptune T-square, amongst other things.

As well as the sample interpretations and articles on this blog, there is a popular Cheeky Horoscopes page at the main Tim Burness website.

Donald Trump – astrological birth chart

TrumpCon

“Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale…” Paul Thomas, New Zealand Herald.

“Trump also personifies everything the rest of the world admires about America: wealth, power, confidence, and an ‘I can do anything I set my mind to’ attitude.” BJ Gallagher, Huffington Post. (Hmmm, really? Tim)

Born at 10.54 am on 14th June 1946 in Jamaica, New York, USA, several features stand out astrologically. Mars is close to the Leo Ascendant, dominating the personality. Mars in Leo asserts self dramatically, warmly, arrogantly, with the expression of desires strongly coloured by pride and an urge for recognition. Mars in Trump’s chart is not well integrated and has little in the way of close aspects to other parts of the personality. Consequently, the fiery leadership energy is likely to function as something of a “loose cannon”.

AstroTrumpTrump was born at the time of an almost exact Full Moon with Sun in Gemini closely opposite Moon in Sagittarius. It is of course well known that human behaviour can be er… rather eccentric at the time of a Full Moon and the chart shows unorthodox Uranus active here too. Uranians tend to be on a different planet to the rest of us, full of contradictions and very much a law to themselves. (Many of them even take astrology seriously – can you imagine that?) A Gemini Sun is clever, witty, with a tendency to know a little about everything but depth is not always their strong point. Moon in Sagittarius is full of hope and confidence but sometimes a superior and insensitive arrogance with it. Also closely involved in the picture is the spiritually significant North Node. Putting these features together, Donald Trump’s soul purpose is clearly all about talking and preaching entertaining madness!

Mercury squares Neptune. A close aspect between these two is good for artists but not so good for politicians, another example being Tony Blair, who has the Mercury-Neptune opposition aspect. The potential for misleading communication, through either deliberate deception or lack of attention to detail, is high.

ConTrumpVenus is conjunct Saturn in Cancer. This is a side of Donald Trump that will resonate with many Americans – the birth chart for 4th July 1776 is strongly Cancerian. Trump is an absolutely committed and sincere patriot. Venus in Cancer cares about family, home, the past and traditions. Saturn brings a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to these protective and family-orientated values. However, astrologers consider Saturn in Cancer a difficult placing (“in detriment”) that can show deep emotional problems. Based on the fear of one’s own sensitivity and vulnerability, there can be a tendency to cling to the familiar and the past. Jupiter in Libra indicates Trump’s hopes for peace and justice. In the USA birth chart, the Sun in Cancer squares Saturn in Libra, showing a similar combination of Cancer-Libra-Saturn issues to be worked through.

Transiting Jupiter has recently crossed into Trump’s first house, showing his increase in popularity amongst Republican voters. There are, as usual with astrology, contradictory indications over what might be coming up for Trump over the next year or two. God bless and God help America!