Why did you believe in astrology

Symbol language of astrology / Part 1

Interview with Liz Greene, by Nicholas Campion


In parts three and four of the interview, Nick Campion talks to Liz Greene about her experiences with astrology and the consequences she draws from it in terms of its properties and practical application.

Liz Greene and Nick Campion have known each other for many years and had a friendly conversation. We have therefore decided to keep the more familiar you form in the translation. You can read the original English text in the American astrology magazine "The Mountain Astrologer" (Feb / Mar 2002), which is still available at www.mountainastrologer.com.


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Nick Campion: I would like to start with an extremely important question: How did you get into astrology? Was it a gradual discovery or a sudden revelation?

Liz Greene: It was more sudden than gradual. There was no time in my life when astrology was not present to me - even in my childhood it was always there. But she never played a special role for me. During my studies I went to an astrologer to have my horoscope read, and that was the starting shot. That fascinated me and then I wanted to know how it worked. So I started looking into it intensively.

Nick Campion: You must have been in your early twenties at the time.

Liz Greene: I was nineteen. Some of my friends went to Isabel Hickey's and asked me if I would like to have her do a horoscope interpretation too. So I went with you. She was arguably the most important astrologer on the east coast of the United States at the time. Many people know her, including Howard Sasportas and Darby Castello. [13] Many people went in and out of Isabel Hickey's. She was a tough theosophist, very esoteric and quite dogmatic. But her astrology was solid and her belief system fit the zeitgeist.

Nick Campion: What did you study?

Liz Greene: Psychology.

Nick Campion: Was that your main interest?

Liz Greene: Yes. It all started when I found Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" when I was twelve.


Nick Campion: So you were a precocious kid?

Liz Greene: I was definitely an early Freudian!


Nick Campion: Was Freud's discovery a revelation for you?

Liz Greene: It was a really important revelation. Suddenly the penny fell. Not that I understood everything Freud said straight away, but one thing immediately made sense to me: the fact that there is a side in people that he does not know - that unconscious processes are constantly going on inside. I knew that anyway, but nobody believed me. And then there was this book that confirmed exactly what I was aware of from an early age. I started researching. I read everything I could get on psychology, including literature on psychological topics. So I was mainly inspired by psychology and psychologically oriented literature, not primarily astrology.

Nick Campion: Was your psychology degree Freud-oriented or behavioral?

Liz Greene: Behavioral psychology.

Nick Campion: Rats in cages?

Liz Greene: Yes, rats in cages. And loads of sociology and statistics that I hated. But I think I understood even then that it is important to have a piece of paper in hand, a degree. So I came to terms with it.

Nick Campion: So you discovered astrology during your studies. Did astrology give you new insights at nineteen, as Freud's discovery did at twelve?

Liz Greene: Yes sure. It was through astrology that psychology began to make sense. It was just like my discovery of Freud: suddenly the penny dropped. Astrology has shown me aspects of ourselves that we normally do not perceive, facets of life that we do not usually understand.

Nick Campion: And that's where you saw the direct connection between astrology and the kind of psychology you've dealt with before. When did you discover Jung?

Liz Greene: I read Jung at some point in my youth, but he didn't make sense to me as much as Freud. Then between twenty and thirty I would come back to him, and then the spark jumped.

Nick Campion: And that was in connection with astrology?

Liz Greene: Yes.

Nick Campion: Did you work as a psychologist at the time?

Liz Greene: After getting my PhD, I did fairly conventional, orthodox psychotherapy, including some Freudian techniques. At that time I had no official training in Jungian therapy. I didn't do that until 1980. Before that I trained with Ian Gordon-Brown and Barbara Somers at the "Center for Transpersonal Psychology" in London. There I slowly got what I needed - something very deep and fundamental that I could grit my teeth on and work really hard on.

Nick Campion: Did psychoanalysis give you this depth?

Liz Greene: Well, boys version of that. I am no more or less a Jungian than any other kind of Jungian, but I felt that the Jung Training had more potential to help people than the Freud Training.

Nick Campion: Jung himself drew so much from astrology and esoteric tradition that it is probably easier to combine him with astrology than Freud, for example. You moved to London in the early 1970s. I remember seeing your name on Time Out, the London events calendar. Back then you offered astrology seminars at an alternative organization, and I still thought, "I have to go there," but unfortunately that got lost in the hustle and bustle.

Liz Greene: That was 1975-76. The organization was called "Gentle Ghost".


Nick Campion: Since then, in all the years you've taught and worked with astrology, have you found a working definition for it?

Liz Greene: Nice question! No, not a definition that is "set in stone". For me astrology is a system of symbols. It is a lens, a kind of "visual aid" that uses certain types of symbolic images to understand deeper structures of life that cannot be grasped in an intellectual way. Of course, they can also be experienced in other, non-intellectual ways. Astrology is an instrument with which one can interpret life in terms of its underlying patterns. And that's why I believe that all the other instruments - like tarot, Kabbalah, mythology, literature, poetry, theater, painting, sculpture - are not only equivalent in terms of understanding these structures, but they have also enriched astrology. Astrology has enriched them in the same way. I don't think there is such a thing as "pure" astrology. Anyone who says so might just as well be saying that there is a pure English breed. Astrology is a lens, a symbolic language.

Nick Campion: If we look at astrology as a lens, it means that the astrologer is looking at something. In this case, the emphasis can either be on what is being viewed or on the viewer, the astrologer. And then different questions arise, for example: How does the perception of astrologers influence their astrology? Or what are you looking at, what do you see through the lens? Does the lens distort what we see? Are astrologers looking at something real, something real? Does astrology and what you see through the lens really, really exist?

Liz Greene: It depends on what you mean by "really". The zodiac does not exist as a concrete thing. It is the apparent orbit of the sun around the earth, which we have divided into twelve sections; each section is assigned a symbol image and a bundle of meanings and behavioral patterns. But the zodiac doesn't really exist in the sense that there are some animals out there flying around. So in a sense the whole system is not real. This table that we are seated at is what we would call real. But if you define reality as something more subtle, for example as connections or resonances between things, then these patterns are actually real. But it cannot be measured in quantities with the instruments of so-called reality. If you ask me like that, the problem is that I don't know what you mean by real. Or rather, I know what you mean, but if Richard Dawkins asked "Are these connections real?", He would mean something completely different by real than I do. [14]

Nick Campion: I meant "real" in the Richard Dawkins sense.

Liz Greene: In this sense, astrology is not real. That is not to say that it does not exist or that it has no validity - but, no, in that sense astrology is not real. I believe that there is such a thing as objective structural patterns, resonances or coherent connections between things. I believe there is a unity. Call it what you want, give it a mystical or hermetic or whatever name. And it exists outside of us. It's not just in the astrologer's perception.

Nick Campion: You put a very powerful quote from Gerardus Dorneus in front of your book "Kosmos und Seele", in which he postulates the unity of everything:

Don't you know that heaven and the elements used to be one and were separated by some divine influence so that they could create you and everything else? If you know that, the rest cannot escape you. Such a separation is necessary in all creation ... You will never make the one thing you are looking for out of something else unless you first become one ... [15]

Above all, this corresponds to the idea that astrology results naturally from the understanding that heaven and earth are one, and that the astrological experience also begins with ourselves. In the same book, however, you also emphasize the value of modern science that relates to quantities. And I wonder if you still stand behind what you wrote 25 years ago. It says there: "Astrology ... is a map of the legal systems according to which the life energies are effective - an astrology that is underpinned by statistical surveys and scientific research." [16] Does that still correspond to your current thinking? I ask because it has since been suggested that astrologers' attitudes towards a scientific and statistical approach have changed. Negative statistical results have encouraged anti-scientific attitudes among astrologers. Has your perspective changed since 1977?

Liz Greene: I think the research is very valuable to astrology in that it can highlight existing patterns. Sometimes research reveals structures that we did not expect, and that calls into question our previous assumptions. So: yes, it is important that we do statistical research. Even so, I don't think they're of much use in proving that astrology works. Because if someone has the attitude that astrology cannot work, then he will try to refute it or find mistakes anyway. And every statistic is refutable. Astrologers can make their own statistics, but there is no point trying to convince skeptics. If you make 300 horoscope readings in one year of people with a Saturn-Sun opposition, and 80% of them either had fathers who left them when they were very young, or fathers who died early, or fathers who already had them If you let down before giving birth, or fathers who were cold and aloof, those are statistical studies. Then you can say: "Well, 80% of the 300 Saturn-Sun horoscopes follow this psychological pattern." It can then be useful to examine more closely the significance of this Saturn-Sun aspect. But if you put this research on someone who is looking at statistics "more scientifically," they would probably say, "300 people is not enough. You need at least 3000 and a neutral control group." Whatever you do, he would always counter other tests. I think the research we do is very important to ourselves. To be honest, I don't really care if she convinces anyone outside of it or not. I think we have to operate them for our own continuous development.

Nick Campion: So if I understand you correctly, for you research is more of a qualitative approach based on case studies.

Liz Greene: Yes. The quantity is of secondary importance.

Nick Campion: Whether there is something "real" in astrology is usually traced back to the techniques used to create a horoscope or which house system the respective astrologer uses. The various house systems represent a major problem in astrology, apart from the problem of the sidereal and tropical zodiac. How do we know which house system is the right one, not to mention the zodiac? You once said that you should always use the house system that works best for you. It sounds like you are focusing on the astrologer, not astrology.

Liz Greene: Only in part. I think that all of these different structural approaches draw attention to something, but it is always a limited perspective and none of them can, by themselves, open up the whole. So I believe that all approaches are of value to certain astrologers, but not to others.

Nick Campion: So would you agree with the astrologers who say that every astrologer gets the clients he "deserves"?

Liz Greene: Yes.

Nick Campion: When you think this idea through to the end, it is actually very provocative. There is a client somewhere who suddenly feels the need to call you and ask: "Can you read my horoscope?" Is it like you've called that person to you?

Liz Greene: I don't know if it's an evocation. I think we have come back to resonances here. Let us assume that the Saturn-Pluto opposition forms a square with your sun, and that represents a symbolic image of who you are yourself at a particular time. You experience or experience or are shaken by a certain type of energy. It is both inside and outside of you. You may experience some things that have something to do with this opposition. How you deal with it depends entirely on you. For example, you could say, "Well, that's a very difficult aspect. I use it to do a PhD." Or you can lie down and just be a victim and say, "Oh, someone broke into my place" or "There was a riot on our street and someone set my car in" or whatever. The nature of the experience is related to how capable one is of dealing with who one is in that moment. In the same way, an astrologer can get a rush of clients who are resonant for what they are going through. So it can be that he gets a lot of Scorpios or Capricorns, or people who are themselves affected by this opposition. People may come to him with a mirror that is somehow resonant to the same vibrations as he is. I don't think the astrologer is calling the client. It's more like this: when you get to a certain point, things come into life that are on the same wavelength. It is not causal.

Nick Campion: A materialistic scientist like Richard Dawkins would undoubtedly have a physical explanation for the word "resonance". Do you use the word as a metaphor?

Liz Greene: Well, it is also meant literally. If you strike a tuning fork right next to a tuned guitar, you get an audible resonance. But if the guitar is out of tune, you won't hear anything. This kind of resonance happens on a physical level.

Nick Campion: Does that mean that we all react to the music of the spheres?

Liz Greene: I think we're even part of the music. It is an interplay of our chords and resonances.

Nick Campion: I would like to come back to your example with the Saturn-Pluto opposition. You said that someone with this transit can choose the role of victim or decide to make the transit usable for themselves, for example by doing a doctoral thesis. What's behind this choice? Can one also read the ability to make such a decision from the horoscope?

Liz Greene: No. The resonances are based on what psychology calls consciousness. And I definitely don't have a definition for that, except that it's "mercurial". Consciousness is like the figure of the Mercurial in alchemy. It is not tied to or limited by astrological patterns.Consciousness resides within and through these structures, and yet it can be outside and inside and around them. It is awareness that allows us to make decisions. This is what can transform our responses to the patterns. Either we are just this pattern and live it blindly, which is the case in the animal kingdom, or we strain our consciousness. The pattern does not disappear, but we are more aware of the individual notes in its chords.

Nick Campion: Are you saying that consciousness exists in addition to astrology, that it goes beyond astrology?

Liz Greene: Yes, that's what I mean.

Nick Campion: That sounds like the soul of the neo-Platonists. You would say that the soul is above the body, even above the stars. But if consciousness is beyond astrology, what about the so-called conscious planets like Mercury, Venus and Mars in contrast to the outer, unconscious planets?

Liz Greene: No planet can be said with certainty that it is conscious. One should see the planets as something that reflects structures. When an individual is aware of the pattern within, the planet is also consciously expressing itself. But just the fact that it is an inner planet does not necessarily mean that its structure is also conscious. I've learned that from my experience. There are people who go through the world without the slightest idea what the moon or Venus means to them. Whatever motivational pattern the planets reflect is part of our human nature, but we may be completely unaware of it. We project it, we are at its mercy, we are shaken by it, we identify with it, but we are not aware that it is within ourselves. It looks like it's "out there", like it's happening to us, but it is within us, we are ourselves. But the fact that it is within us does not guarantee that we are aware of it.

Nick Campion: But how do we know when we are actually aware of something?

Liz Greene: That's hard to explain. It has to do with the feeling of being in your center - not just on an intellectual level, but through and through. You are aware of yourself, but you still don't identify with it. It's like there's a space between yourself and the thing. Imagine I have a Mars transit today. You say the wrong thing and I get really angry. If I'm not aware of this anger, I just get angry. I don't even know that I'm angry. And the swear words come out or I'll smear one for you or I'll pour my glass of water on your face. No conscious individual behaves like that. I have no idea what I'm doing, what I'm saying, what I'm feeling. I just do it and then say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I don't even know what got into me." However, if I am aware, then I hear what you are saying, feel my anger, and maybe I also know why I am angry. I may feel the anger, but I am not the anger. That means that I can ask myself, "Did he really mean it? What did he trigger in me?" I can then work on it; if I'm still angry afterwards, I can calmly say: "Do you actually know what you just said? That hit me very much." Or I just keep my mouth shut because I realized that my anger has nothing to do with you: it's my problem.

Nick Campion: Accordingly, our inner thought processes seem to be decisive. If we look at astrology as language, could we refer to this conscious state of mind as Gemini or Virgo? Is he analytical?

Liz Greene: I don't think this is about analysis. Some people might make up concepts, but consciousness can also be watery, fiery, or earthy. It's a kind of awareness that tells you that you are not identical to what you are experiencing. You stand outside, not cut off from it, but just far enough outside to really see it. One can experience this quality of consciousness in many ways, it doesn't have to be intellectual.

Nick Campion: So when astrologers say - which they do very often: "Oh, I'm sick right now because I have a Saturn transit." Would you call that a false statement?

Liz Greene: Well, I say so too. But I know what I mean when I say it. When you talk like that, you're not saying what's really going on. It's shorthand, an abbreviation. We're not bad about a transit. The transit symbolizes what we experience, it does not cause it. Correcting other people's language is not my business, and I say it often enough myself, "What a miserable day! Saturn is on my so-and-so." It's an abbreviation.

Nick Campion: A transit is therefore a symbolic correspondence. This reminds me of the astrological aphorism that Charles Carter used to like: "The stars incline, they do not force." Geoffrey Cornelius added: "They neither incline nor force them to symbolize them." In this sense, do you see transits more as symbolic signposts than as causes?

Liz Greene: I also believe that the planets symbolize. I don't think that they force, incline, act or "do" anything else. They are just symbols.


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Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Nick Campion is the former chairman of the Astrological Association of Great Britain. He has been involved with astrology since the early 1970s and has been teaching since 1980 - at the "Camden Institute" in London, at the "Faculty of Astrological Studies" and, most recently, at "Kepler College" in Seattle. He recently graduated from the Study of Religions Department at Bath Spa University College, England. Nick Campion received the Marc Edmund Jones Prize in 1992, the Prix Georges Antares in 1994 and the Spica Award for Professional Excellence in 1999. He has published "Mundane Astrology" and "The Book of World Horoscopes", among others. More information about these books can be found on his website www.nickcampion.com


[13] Howard Sasportas founded the "Center for Psychological Astrology" in 1983 together with Liz Greene. Darby Castello teaches there.

[14] Richard Dawkins is a professor at Oxford University and studies the public's image of science. He is one of the best known authors of popular science books in Great Britain. He is also a militant, atheistic materialist and a vehement opponent of astrology and all paranormal claims and metaphysical and religious beliefs. His attack on astrology can be found on the Astrological Association of Britain website at www.astrologer.com/aanet.

[15] Liz Greene, Kosmos und Seele, Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a.M., 1991. S.11.

[16] ibid. P. 279.


Translated by Karin Hoffmann

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