The 12 Houses
Polestar Astrology, like every form of Natal Astrology, calculates and charts Fate in terms of Twelve “Houses.” In Western and Indian Astrology, the Twelve Houses each comprise 30˚ of the night’s sky, making a 360˚ picture of the heavens. While Polestar Astrology clearly inherited this convention, I must again state that a Polestar Chart does not depict the sky. However, the Twelve Houses of Polestar Astrology share many similarities with their Western and Indian counterparts. They also share some stark differences.
Before we can delve into the 36 Stars, we must examine the Twelves Houses, for the meaning of any given Star is relative to its placement within a house. The Emperor in the Offspring Palace presents a very different image of Fate than the Emperor in the Pleasure Palace.
Each house is ruled by a Stem and Branch, a Zodiac Animal and Element. So, there is a Dragon Palace, Snake Palace, Horse Palace, and so on. Depending on the individual calculation, your Youth Palace, for example may be ruled by Yang Water Dragon. These elemental energies do not drastically affect the Stars but can sometimes diminish or exalt their influence. The Emperor, for example, is exalted in the Dragon and Horse Palace. I will discuss this further with each individual Star and with a Blog on Luminous Stars, Exalted Houses, and Fate Thresholds.
Unlike Western and Indian Astrology, the value system of the Twelve Houses is decidedly Confucian. Indian Astrology is remarkably complex in terms of its many layers of interpretation, and often this kind of analysis is necessary in a reading. Polestar Astrology, on the other hand, is not as concerned with that kind of detail, although there are many details available—influences from previous houses, 120/180˚ influences, borrowed Stars, Auspicious Star Formations, and so on. However, that kind of analysis often misses the forest for the trees.
Polestar Astrology is really concerned with the “Big Picture” of our Fate in terms of our relationships and participation in society. There are esoteric interpretations of each house, but the mundane interpretation is the main one. The Houses therefore have a straight forward meaning. While any given house in Indian Astrology may have hundreds of possible layers/meanings, in Polestar Astrology, the Offspring Palace is about your Fate to be a parent, period. I personally appreciate the simplicity and power of the Twelve Houses, but if you’re looking for psychology or insight into your deepest spiritual yearnings, maybe look to Jyotish.
Polestar Astrology is mostly concerned with our Fate in relationships and in the “world,” which mostly means “career” in the modern context. It does not say much about the type of career you should have, but it does say whether your Fate will be resolved through career and how/when that process is likely to happen. It offers a key to what we call “Fate Thresholds,” which is not a matter of what but where. If your primary Fate is to be a Parent, then career is simply not important, even if society tells you so.
The Twelve Houses provide a powerful yet simple map that shows where your Fate/Opportunities in life will unfold. They cover just about every aspect of human life.
The first three houses are read together for they represent our overall Ancestral Mandates
Ming Palace (命宮)
Summary of Fate and Hints of Character
The First House or “Ascendant” is called the Ming Palace. The Chinese Character 命 Mìng, again, means Life, Fate, Mandate of Heaven, Destiny, Purpose, and so on (宮 Gōng means “palace” or “court” and is the same for each house). The Ming Palace provides a concentrated image, a “Thumbnail Sketch” of a person’s dance of Fate. It gives us the big picture, a “principal” for the unraveling of Fate.
The Star/s that appear here are your “Ruling Star/s” and reveal the primary image/nature of your Fate in this lifetime. The attributes of your Ruling Star/s relate to your overall opportunities in life, and it is the only house that relates directly to your Character, or capacity (the rest of the Houses related indirectly).
The Stem/Branch of the Year and Hour you were born is the primary image of your Character, but the Ruling Star of the Ming Palace also gives us an idea of “what you’re like as a person.” My ruling Star is the Empress, but she’s afflicted, so I’m like a moody Empress.
The Star/s that appear here do not offer much insight into the events of Fate, but they indicate the “gravity” of our Fate. Liu Ming would call this “Fate Heavy or Fate Light.” Since the Stars are organized in a hierarchy, the more potent Stars suggest a more potent Fate. A heavy or potent Fate is full of predestined affinities, responsibilities, and obligations...“big karma,” which requires our time, attention, and freedom. A light Fate is characterized more by Freedom where relationships and responsibilities are less cumbersome.
It is possible for the Ming Palace to be empty, which means it is possible to be born without major Fate. An empty Ming Palace implies a life of Freedom to clear up minor details, help, and generally be of benefit to others. It can manifest as feelings of confusion, lack of purpose/direction, and so on. But it also implies an intentional birth, what Buddhists call a Bodhisattva, in which you resolved your Fate in a previous lifetime and came back to guide others. It can also imply that your Ancestors resolved Fate for you and gave you a free pass this time around.
The nature of this house reveals the certainty or likelihood that you will resolve Fate in this lifetime. If one of the Four Rulers shows up here, then resolution is almost guaranteed, provided you don’t screw it up. If the primary image of Fate is afflicted, then life is characterized by a hue of struggle. Fate can in this case still be resolved, but we must use our freedom wisely and look to the other eleven Houses as to where that resolution can take place.
The Ming Palace is where we examine the important astrological principal of Gănyìng, 感應, or reciprocity. We look at the how the overall nature of Fate will interact with a person’s Character. If, like me for example, you have a very Yin Fate (Empress) with a very Yang Character (Tiger/Dragon), then this creates a certain dynamic which may result in struggle, lol. So, it could be viewed as inauspicious. If you have a very exalted Yang Fate like the Emperor in the First House and you’re a Dragon, then this is Capacity meeting Opportunity, which would be interpreted as auspicious. The same situation would be inauspicious for a Rabbit or Snake, whose instinct is to hide/shy away from the spotlight.
The auspicious Gănyìng, 感應, or reciprocity between Character (Capacity) and Fate (Opportunity) is what the Chinese call “Destiny.” It is also simply called luck. The First House when read with the Character can tell us if a person has Destiny.
Traditionally, the Ming Palace is also said to offer an image of a person’s appearance, but I have not found this to have much/if any significance. It’s too simplistic. Although, I would say that I have an elegant and Empress like demeanor.
This House is always read first and sometimes again last to reinforce the central image or “story” of Fate.
Ancestor Palace (父母宮)
Ancestors and Parents – Elders, Ancestral Mandates, Past Lives
Technically, the Ancestor Palace is the 12th and last house, but I always read it second with clients, so I will do the same here. 父母 Fùmŭ here literally means parents, but in the Chinese Tradition our parents are a lot more than our parents. Our Father and Mother represent the connection to our Ancestral Lineage and are a symbol of our “precedent,” everything that came before.
Yang Stars represent our connection to our Patriarchal Ancestors, which can be every person on your Father’s side, including women, or it can be all the men in your family, including men from your Mother’s Side. The Yin Stars represent, then, the Matriarchy, all the women in the family or all the people on your Mother’s side, including men. It is up to you and your affinity to decided which is the case. The Stars in the Ancestor Palace represent the Yin and Yang of your heritage, your “Ancestral Qi,” or “Source Qi,” called Yuan 元氣.
Superficially, this house can represent our karmic relationship with our parents, which is perhaps the most meaningful relationship in our lives. It is easy to see family trauma and abuse here. In modern times, we “psychologize” our parental experience and spend a lot of energy examining our issues around our early nurturing. You can see that nurturing in this house as well as cues to the nature of birth itself. This house represents more than the personal matter of sorting things out with our living ancestors but of the long line of dead people who reproduced successfully to give you a body.
I read this house second because it represents our karmic affinity “behind the scenes;” it is a gate to the “spirit world,” the unseen influences that shape our lives. In the Chinese Tradition, the dead have a profound affect on the living. This house can represent seven generations of ancestral patterning, depending on the arrangements that show up here. We may be connected to what the Chinese call an “Original Ancestor,” someone far, far back in the family line. We may have a deep karmic affinity with a great, great Grandmother whom we will never meet or even see a picture of. We may also have no connection whatsoever to the family we are born into.
Like the Ming Palace, the influence of this house reveals the nature of your Fate in all the houses, for if your Ancestors bless your life, then no matter what difficulties you face, you will feel blessed. These Stars are like fairy godparents, protectors, guardian angels. They conspire to provide you with opportunities, guidance, and connections.
However, you may also be born with an afflicted Ancestral or Ghost pattern. Your life may be influenced by powerful self-destructive habits, ancestral patterns of addiction and illness that are not of your own making. You may receive a mountain of unfished business that compels you into obsessive ambitions that have nothing to do with you. For example, you may inherit a family business and be raised to take it over, which you go along with, but secretly you want to be an artist and resent the burden of all the responsibility. But you receive tremendous privilege and opportunity, so is this a blessing or a curse? That’s up to you to decided, but this House tells us about your obligations to your Ancestors that must be fulfilled one way or another.
The Daoist interpretation of Polestar Astrology looks at this house in terms of what we call “Ghost Profiling,” and they take it to be the most significant house, spiritually speaking. Buddhists read this House as a picture of your previous lifetimes/past life karma; both are acceptable interpretations.
When Ghost Stars show up here, or if they rule any House, I encourage people to study their genealogy and find out as many stories as they can about who they come from. There is often a story somewhere in the family line that has been forgotten, a person who wants to be remembered for their struggle. You may continue to repeat their struggle until this story is told.
Youth Palace (兄弟宮)
Time of Youth and Siblings – Childhood, Ancestral Mandates, School
The characters of the Second House, 兄弟, xiōngdi, are literally translated as siblings, but we translate it as the Youth Palace, for it represents the atmosphere or time of life that we call “Youth,” which is not clearly defined in our culture because we lack rights of passage. This house represents our possibility of resolving Fate in childhood through sibling relationships, early education, early life experience, and development.
All Chinese people receive three names like Mao Ze Dong 毛泽东. Dong is his personal name; Mao is his family name, and Ze is a name he shares with his siblings, and it represents the Chinese idea that we share a deep karmic connection, a “shared body of Fate,” with our siblings. So, this house can represent past life connections with siblings.
Perhaps you were soldiers on the battlefield, and you failed to complete your connection, so now as brothers, you shoot at each other with toy guns, and complete the circle. You may have been best friends in a past life and were so close that this time around you are brother and sister. It is also very possible that you have no karmic connection whatsoever to your siblings, and you grow up feeling like strangers. You may have half or step siblings with whom you share a deep bond or no connection at all.
This house also represents the notion that one child in a family may receive more Ancestral Fate/Mandates than another child. If the elder brother has a potent Star in the Youth Palace and the younger brother does not, then the elder brother may be responsible for completing the family karma. However, it was often the case that a younger sibling received this karma and would be the one to take over a family business.
It may represent the distribution of resources, inheritance, and responsibilities in terms of family life. You may have to grow up early and become a second parent, raising your younger siblings because Dad is out of the picture. Or, you may have an older sister who protects and parents you more than your parents.
Sibling karma may provide emotional support, or it may be a source of affliction, arguing, and discord, which is never resolved. Many clients have told me that they never speak to their siblings. I have yet only begun to describe a Ghost Star in this House before the client replies, “oh yeah, my brother is possessed!”
Potent Stars in this Palace can represent a strong influence of elders, mentors, aunts/uncles, and so on; it represents the presence of Ancestral Qi in our early life. Ghost Stars can represent unreliable, inappropriate adult protection or supervision in youth. An afflicted Youth Palace can represent early trauma, conflicts, and challenges that shape us for the rest of our lives, which can take place at home or school. In that sense, the influence of this house can extend far beyond youth, for so much of our lives is spent processing our childhood.
The most important theme of this House is whether Fate is resolved in Youth. I have an empty and afflicted Youth Palace, so although a lot happened to me, these events did resolve my Fate but rather created Fate that I am resolving as an adult. I often feel like a lot happened, but nothing happened. I did not exit childhood with any sense of resolution.
An exalted Youth Palace suggests that a person can complete their Fate in childhood, which I have seen many times, for these people are often at a loss about what to do with their lives and therefore consult an Astrologer. Our culture does not except the notion that a person can be complete in life before 18, but Fate wise this can be the case. It is possible to resolve your major Fate playing house with your sister, an idea that I try to communicate to clients, but I’m not sure people get.
An exalted Youth Palace indicates what the Tibetans call a “Tulku,” that is a person born with the Karmic legacy, skills, and/or maturity of an adult. What in the west we might call “old souls.” People with exalted Youth Palaces basically pick up where they left off last life and tie up loose ends before they exit grade school. These people are often precocious and show early signs of maturity, ambition, a so on. They often can’t wait to be adults and spend youth bucking authority, running away from home, and so on. They often feel like adults are idiots, or they may relate more to adults than to their peers, feeling above kid games. An exalted Youth Palace also implies that a person is free then as an adult to shape their life in whatever way they want rather than continue to pursue Ancestral patterns of Fate.
The next two Houses are read together, for they relate to our Ancestral Mandate/Fate to partner and start a family of our own.
Partners Palace (夫妻宮)
Partners and Marriage – Long Term Relationships
The characters for this house, 夫妻, fūqī, literally mean husband and wife, so we translate it as the Partners Palace. This house does not indicate other types of partnership, like business partnerships (that would be the Assistant’s Palace) but refers specifically to our Fate with long-term relationship patterns.
This House expresses the Chinese concept of 因緣 Yinyuan, which refers to a predestined relationship. The image used to describe this is of two trees who appear separate but beneath their roots are intertwined. Another term used here is “previously betrothed,” which implies a past life commitment that continues from life to life. This is somewhat similar but much less romantic than the western idea of “soulmates,” for this House also includes negative past life connections. The variety of paired Stars here today play out in a dizzying array of possibilities that stretch the traditional Chinese interpretation of this house for arranged marriage, which was its original intention.
The Stars in this House reveal the depth and importance of relationship and partners in your life. Stars here can relate to your partner’s appearance, character, or the nature of the relationship itself. They can also reveal a pattern of relating that has nothing to do with specific people but with your own desires/fantasies.
Major Stars often indicate specific Fate connections that may be resolved through marriage, or they can relate to many fated partnerships. I recently told someone struggling in marriage that they did not have Fate with one person but with many, which they knew but had been resisting due to the expectations of monogamy.
Traditionally, the Chinese placed significant importance on the marriage ceremony itself as crucial in the resolution of Fate between two people, especially if the House is exalted or contains heavily “Ancestral” Stars. Marriage to the Chinese, and to most traditional cultures, was not romantic but for joining two families. The ceremony was a ritual in which all the Ancestors of two family lines, living and deceased, met and blessed the joining of two people.
So traditionally, the ceremony is the main event in the liberation of Ancestral Fate, not the marriage itself. Ming would often insist that people with the Emperor or Empress here have a ceremony and invite as many family members as possible. Traditional Chinese and Indian marriage ceremonies include requesting permissions of the family elders, somewhat like the European tradition of the Father “giving away the bride,” a patriarchal custom, which in India is reversed; the man must ask permission of the Matriarchy.
Significant Stars in this House imply that the unraveling of our Fate comes through our relationship with another person. Perhaps your life is stuck, stagnant, then all the sudden you meet someone who whisks you up into a world of adventure that introduces you to things you later could never do without, that change your forever. Perhaps, they create opportunities in your life that influence your career, your spiritual path, your sense of purpose. Perhaps, your relationship is by all outer appearances boring, but this person becomes your anchor in life, supporting you through all the ups and downs. This kind of Fate often unravels in terms of the next House, the Offspring Palace. For many people, family life becomes the center of their Fate.
Afflicted, this House can represent many patterns of struggle. Ghosts in this House suggest Ancestors who died feeling unloved, unwanted, betrayed, abandoned, or abused by their partners, a pattern you inherit to play out while “dating.” Of course, our culture is profoundly disorganized and even sick when it comes to relationships, sex, and so on, so it may seem like everyone is playing out these kinds of patterns today, regardless of individual Fate. I am refreshed to find normal monogamous couples who get along; it seems like a rarity these days.
Depending on Character, Ghost Stars may cause people to drift from one partner to another disappointed, dissatisfied, and frustrated. They may prompt someone to repeatedly choose the wrong people, getting into or staying in abusive situations. Ghost Stars may cause quarrels, differences, and rifts between people that end in divorce. Their resolution often teaches people how to be in relationships. Perhaps, you had a challenging relationship that taught you how to be a partner, and now you are free for a healthy marriage.
Ghost Stars can also influence patterns of self-undermining—always wanting what you can’t have, impossible standards that no one can live up to, and so on, based on ghostly needs and fantasies of the “perfect person,” who of course does not exist. Ghost Stars may cause some people to give up on partnership altogether and choose to be alone, while deep down hoping to meet the right person. Or they may choose unconventional patterns of relationship that do not fit into social norms.
A classic story here is the young man who marries before going off to war. Every day he looks at the wallet photo, yearning to be home with his love. Back home, she waits patiently for him to return. He dies in battle, and his last thought is of getting back to her. In the bardo, he searches for her and finds that she remarried and forgot about him. Or, she never marries again and forever laments her long-lost love. Two generations later, you inherit the pattern of longing for your lost love from your great uncle and spend your life searching for the perfect person who is always out of reach.
It is also possible to have no significant Fate with a life partner, in which case you are free to choose and be chosen. Not everyone has a match made in heaven, and not everyone is fated to struggle. People with empty Partner’s Palaces often feel disappointed, since there won’t be a prince charming, but it may also mean that there will be fifty and you must choose. An empty Partner’s Palace means that you build Fate with the person you choose so long as you choose to remain together.
And yes, there is potential for love and happily ever-after, but it is rare. We do hear stories of people who marry their high-school sweetheart and grow old together. Often, this kind of strong Fate runs out, and if people don’t learn how to work with freedom in this regard, then it can dissipate. You may be “done” with someone, in which case separating can be natural and not negative. Divorce is not always bad and can often be a positive conclusion to a Fated relationship that is “done.”
Offspring Palace (子女宮)
Offspring – Children, Adoption, Sexual Identity, Legacy
The characters for this house, 子女, zĭnǚ, means sons and daughters, so we translate it as the Offspring Palace. This House reveals our Ancestral Mandate to create more Ancestors; it reveals our Fate with children and parenting. Traditionally, the Fate to be a parent pays back a karmic debt, eighteen+ years of taking care of someone who once took care of you. You own them big and so give them human birth, which they then owe in return and must repay through gratitude and service. Parenting, in this sense, is about completing Fated obligations and letting go of freedom.
It is important to note that this House tells us about your Fate as a Parent, not about the Fate of your children, although it can give a hint to their Character. If significant Stars show up here, it is therefore important to complete the Fate indicated to have a fulfilling life. People with significant Stars here who choose not to have children may be missing out on an important relationship that otherwise would have been crucial to their Fate.
Today, many people are choosing not to be parents, and probably for good reason, and many are having children much later in life. So, this House gets harder and harder to interpret in today’s culture. Essentially, this House represents our “Jing,” our fundamental predilection towards embodiment, towards reproducing ourselves, so although it is primarily about children, there are other interpretations we can derive from this principle.
Clearly, some people are born to be Parents. Strong Fated Stars mean that being a parent provides all the important life lessons and becomes central to your understanding of what it means to be human. A Fated past life connection with a Child brings deep joy, meaning, and fulfillment to life. The unconditional love of parenthood transforms you beyond what you could have imagined, and you can’t imagine life without your children.
From the Chinese perspective, that feeling of a past life connection can also indicate a “Returning Ancestor,” a person being reborn in the same family line. This may be a great grandmother coming back as your child. In this case, the Chinese would often name children after Ancestors. If you research your genealogy, you may find that you are a dead-ringer for one of your Ancestors, in which case you may be a returning Ancestor.
This House indicates how to be a parent. It may suggest conventional methods and/or going beyond the standard notions of parenting. Some children require a lot of attention, guidance, and advice. Others are “self-starters” who take charge of their parent’s lives.
We assume that children are innocent and helpless, but this is almost never the case. Children are not “tabula rasa,” clean slates; they each come in with their own Fate/Karma, and they need a lot less controlling than we often impose. Some kids need to be left alone to wander in the woods and skin their knees; others are very sensitive and need a lot of protection to flourish.
Stars here can indicate the nature of your child/children. Yin Stars are often interpreted as girls, and Yang Stars are often interpreted as boys, and although this is somewhat accurate, it is not always the case. Yang Stars often represent independent, precocious children who do not need much parenting, and Yin Stars often represent more “sensitive” children who require a lot of support. The nature of the different Stars indicates what kind of support that may be. If you give birth to an Oracle who sees ghosts, they may require a different kind of upbringing than a Vassal who should play team sports.
This House also brings up an important idea that we have difficulty accepting in America—that a child may resolve your Fate for you. In China this is called “a child brings honor to the parents.” This means that your children may grow to be successful and fulfil your Fate in Career/Wealth for you. You may work hard in your career, and your child may become the artist you always wanted to be.
We also believe that children are expenses. Many people say they will have kids when they get their lives in order, when they make enough money, or get the right job. But this House suggests that children might bring this Fate. Having a child may create the Fate opportunities you are seeking. You may be poor, but if you have the fate to give birth to an Empress, and she demands a castle, then her Fate may cause dad to get a promotion and raise. Liu Ming would often tell people to have children even if their lives are not perfect, for the children bring the order and resources. When I see strong unafflicted Stars here, I often emphatically say—MAKE THE BABIES!!!
When a person is childless/chooses not to have children and has major Stars in this House, then we may interpret it differently. As I said earlier, this House is about Jing, so Fate here may reveal a Fated pattern around sexuality, sexual identity, or their physical reproductive system. I have seen many instances of this being the case, although it can be a sensitive subject that clients are shy to discuss.
Ghost Stars here can indicate miscarriages, abortions, difficulty conceiving, and so on. These incomplete pregnancies can “haunt” the mother or siblings for many years. Traditional cultures often have rituals for resolving children who don’t make it to birth. These kinds of ghost can linger and produce the odd feeling that someone who is supposed to be here is absent. As an only child you may have felt like you had a sister; you may have felt her presence and poured tea for her, talked to her, and on. These usually fade in adulthood, but many people remember having “imaginary friends.”
Ghosts can also indicate conflicted relationships between parents and their children. Ghost patterns can cause discord, arguments, disagreements. Or, it can create distance, separation, the feeling that you have nothing in common. These children may leave home early, or rifts may cause you not to speak for many years. You may even loose a child to illness or accident.
In the case of people who choose not to have children or if for other reasons someone is childless, then this House can become about legacy. Someone may create a product, a business, a brand, a book, a trust-fund, and so on, that they leave behind for future generations. They may spend their lives working on a project that is like their “child.” They may gestate, birth, nurture, and release something into the world that fulfills this Fate.
This House also indicates Fate to be a step-parent, to adopt, or to raise someone else’s children. A friend of mine was adopted and has very clear karma to be a step-father, which he has fulfilled. It can also indicate working with children as a nanny, a kindergarten teacher, and so on, in which case you parent many children. I had one client who worked with inner-city youths and felt like the parent to hundreds. She never had kids of her own yet felt this aspect of life was fulfilled.
It is also possible for men to have Fate with miscarriage and abortion that comes through women, which is perhaps difficult to grok. A woman may have no Fate to be a mother, but the Father comes along, and his Ancestors take over the process.
It is very possible to have Fate with a child but not with a Partner. Some women just need a sperm donor. Dad may only be needed for a few minutes, while the Fate with the Child lasts a lifetime. Or, Dad may have the Fate and become a single father, it is rarer, but it does happen. He may also resolve Fate through being a weekend Dad. The time may be sparse, but it could be precious and resolve his Fate, being the only meaningful time in his life.
Traditionally, the influence of this house is said to fade for women during menopause. So, if a woman has significant Stars here and misses the opportunity, then the relationship will be postponed until the next lifetime, and you very well may be reborn to complete the relationship what never happened. That could even be the case this time!
The Property and Wealth Palace are read together to determine a person’s overall Fate with prosperity.
Wealth Palace (財帛宮)
Wealth – Finances, Resource, Inheritance, General Fortune
The Characters for this house, 財帛, cái bò, are straight forward and literally mean wealth; cái means money, resources, valuables, and so on, and bò refers to silk, or “finery.” So, we translate it as the Wealth Palace. This House reveals a persons Fate with cash, hard currency, investments, inheritance, windfall, and prosperity. It indicates their personal ability to earn/generate income, use, and save money through industry/effort. It can also represent fated connections with wealthy people.
In principal, it represents our Fate with managing our resources, which in ancient China meant something much different than today. In this sense, it should always be read in relation to the Property Palace to understand a person’s overall Fate with prosperity.
In agricultural society, wealth was considered cyclical. In cyclical time, wealth varies according to the cycles and seasons. Spring brings the wealth of “new,” Summer the wealth of “abundance,” Fall the wealth of “harvested security,” and Winter the wealth of “calm abiding.” In other words, when you live with the cycles of nature, especially if you are a hunter or farmer, you accept times of abundance and scarcity as demonstrations of Nature itself, nothing to get excited or panic about.
Our culture operates on the myth of linear time, which may be the single greatest disaster in human history. We view wealth as an endless, aggressive pursuit of acquisition; we attempt to live in eternal Summer, which cannot be done. A select few have abundance and the rest live in scarcity. We overproduce and have changed our very climate.
Obviously, the cyclical values of this tradition do not align with consumer capitalist American values. We must interpret this House, then, with the larger Fate of our culture in mind, which has most people in debt, living pay check to pay check, trying to make ends meet.
In the Chinse view, you are not poor if you have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. Wealth is something that comes and goes in cycles in an atmosphere of nature’s generosity. This house, then, demonstrates the principal of Wealth, although we often read it in relation to money, because that is what our society dictates.
Because our society has such a crude relationship to wealth, this House is straight forward in interpretation. This Stars in this House, especially Yang Stars, indicate how our Ancestral or Past Life Fate comes to pay us back in the form of income. Most Stars are modest in interpretation. On the surface, they can indicate if you will be paid well/fairly for your efforts, or whether your finances will increase steadily throughout your life. Yang Stars often indicate that your income is direct; you work a 9-5 and earn a pay check. Yang Stars convey the American dream of “pulling yourself up by your own boots straps.”
Yin Stars, then, tend to indicate that your money comes from indirect sources. This may be in the form of family money/inheritance, a benefactor, financial loans, alimony checks, investments, side-jobs, or perhaps you are a consultant and the money you earn is only tangentially related to the money you help produce.
Yin Stars also represent a flux in income, that it comes and goes. People with Yin Fate here may at times be interested in earning and do well and at other times have no interest at all and are content with very little. Unafflicted, Yin Stars are considered a gift from your own past life generosity, or simply a privilege inherited from your ancestors.
Ghost Stars usually indicate a struggle with finances that we interpret as Ancestral patterns around scarcity. Perhaps, your great grandfather worked his ass off to get the family started in America, but he died poor, worried about his family’s future. You, then, inherit both his work ethic and insecurity, working 60 hours a week only to feel lack and wanting. This Fate may be resolved if your perseverance finally pays off; you get promoted and work less or retire and feel satisfied, freeing the Ancestral pattern. Or, it could be resolved through changing your relationship to money altogether, renouncing everything and living on a self-sustaining farm.
These ghostly patterns can come in the form of debt - medical, legal, and so on. You may be Fated to work hard only to lose everything in extensive legal battles. Or, you may get sick and be overwhelmed by medical bills. You may inherit a family fortune that is wrought with challenges you did not expect. As we say, more money more problems. Ghosts can certainly manifest as irresponsible, selfish, or careless behavior with money.
In some cases, Ghosts Stars are associated with “windfall,” meaning sudden unexpected income. This may come in the form of gambling, striking it big in Vegas, or winning the lottery. Ming would often tell people with certain patterns to test their luck in this regard. Traditionally, the windfall is viewed as ghost resolving through one last throw of the dice. However, the danger of this ghost pattern is to win big and then lose big. If this happens, take the money and run!
An exalted Wealth Palace indicates that your major Fate is resolved through engaging with resources. The real crux of Fate resolution in this House is the feeling or satisfaction, contentment, completion, and so on, feeling that you are/have enough.
An exalted Wealth Palace can indicate doing very well financially. It can indicate prosperity, but if you get rich and feel no satisfaction, then you are not resolving Fate. If you are not generous, if you do not give back, then you are not resolving Fate. You may have good Fate to earn a fortune, but if you’re greedy, then this turns ghostly very fast.
Your Fate may be a rags to riches story. You may be born into poverty, but if your Wealth Palace is exalted, doing well is not a matter of if but when. And again, it does not indicate the amount of money earned but the corresponding feeling of contentment and satisfaction that comes through having what you need, which inspires the feeling of generosity. Generosity is the natural outcome of abundance.
This House can also show us hints of career. Polestar Astrology does not indicate specific careers all that clearly, even in the Career Houses, but the Wealth Palace can indicate being paid as a consultant, artist, doctor, healer, astrologer, spirit medium, teacher, and so on. You can of course be all these things without any indication whatsoever.
Health Palace (疾厄宮)
Health – Physical Constitution, Illness, Death, Doctoring
The Characters for this House, 疾厄, Jí è, literally mean disease/sickness and distress/disaster, and traditionally it was called the Death Palace. We, however, translate it as the Health Palace, for death has become a little too morbid in our culture for us to relate to, and this House covers a lot of potential health related factors. In fact, this is one of the more difficult Houses to interpret due to the variety of experiences it can refer to.
The Stars appearing in this House can refer to a person’s physical constitution, Fate with illness and injury, capacity to heal/recover, relationships/karma with doctors/healers, and Fate with medical treatments. It also has implications concerning a person’s longevity and the potential for early death/long life. The Stars may reveal patterns around diet, exercise, and lifestyle. They may reveal Ancestral Patterns of illness, congenital conditions/predispositions, and Fate for addiction, abuse, and so on. This House can also reveal a talent and affinity for practicing medicine and the Fate to be a healer, often after a process of personal illness and recovery. We can say that the House refers to all aspects of health and wellbeing – mental, emotional, and physical.
The Polestar interpretations of the various stars have many implications that can be read in relation to Classical Chinese Medicine. Each Star has its own associations with illnesses, syndromes, and parts of the body, associated with organ networks and the five-phases. The Stars also correlate to certain seasons and can tell us if a person heals best in Winter or Spring.
To understand this House, we must understand the basics of Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine seeks a certain balance and does not have any concept of an “ideal state” that exists separate from the individual. Our sense of normal is always in flux and changes relative to our age, the season, and the environment in which we live. In other words, there is no normal or healthy anything, for what is one person’s medicine is another’s poison. Chinese Medicine is also not morbid; death may be the perfect resolution of illness/Fate, given certain situations. The hysterical preservation of life at all costs does not fit in with this tradition. It may be someone’s Fate to go through a debilitating illness and not recover, for they may in that process understand the very meaning of life—who are we to judge?
As symbolic representations of Ancestors, the Stars offer an image of inherited Ancestral Patterns of illness, and the House can be read in correlation with the Ancestor Palace as an image of a person’s inherited constitution, genetic memory, or what we now call “epigenetics.” Illnesses that do not respond to standard treatments and that do not have clear medical diagnosis are thought of as being inherited from the unsettled dead.
It is important to note that the Stars in this House CANNOT be used for diagnosis, but they can be used for prognosis. We cannot determine if someone will fall ill, but if they do, we can determine the nature of the condition in relation to Ancestral Patterns, and we can determine the likelihood of recovery. Astrology is not an alternative to medical diagnosis, but it can be used as an effective tool to aid treatment. Many factors of Character also determine a person’s elemental makeup, such as excessive Fire in a Chart, which can tell us a lot about their health issues.
As Astrologers, we must not jump to conclusions and diagnose people. I have looked at the chart of Stephan Hawking and at many charts of people with debilitating illness. I have seen many people with the same star arrangement as Stephen Hawking who have a very different expression of the same Stars, and I have seen people with the same condition who have a different Star arrangement. There is a vast range of potential possibilities in each Star, and we cannot predict how they will manifest. I have jumped to conclusions before and been very surprised by how different the client’s situation ended up expressing. So, I always give as many interpretations as I can and do my best not to spook/scare people who have potentially a challenging Health Palace. We also don’t want to avoid difficult possibilities and sugarcoat a situation.
Ghost Stars here can create a wide variety of experiences, ranging from chronic, sub-clinical, minor conditions, to allergies/food sensitivities, to mental/emotional problems, and so on. An afflicted Health Palace may manifest for one person as an unhealthy obsession with illness, such as hypochondria. Or, it may compel a person to constantly seek medical attention—they may go an acupuncturist one day, a chiropractor the next, a shamanic healer on the weekend, followed by a fast, a cleanse, and then an obsessive fixation of the next fad diet.
Ghosts can cause mistreatment, overtreatment, improper/incorrect diagnosis due to constantly changing symptoms. Or, an afflicted Health Palace can manifest as accidents, injuries, accident-prone behavior, and even suicidal tendencies, risk taking, and addictions that push the bodies limits.
Yang Stars traditionally relate to our Patriarchal Ancestors and Yin Stars to the Matriarchy. We can therefore determine where an Ancestral Pattern may originate from. Again, Patriarchal Stars can indicate anyone from your Father’s side, or all men in the family, and Matriarchal Stars can be your Mother’s side or all women, regardless of side. We receive our body from our parents, literally, and our strengths and weakness express the continuity of our heritage.
Yang Stars typically represent strength, endurance, and a straight forward experience of illness and recovery. People with Yang constitutions are more likely to be injured rather than ill. When they get sick, it usually goes away on its own, and if they see a doctor, they get treated and recover, simple as that. The danger with strong or exalted Yang Stars here is being too strong for your own good. These people tend to overwork, overextend, and then burn out due to exhaustion. Think of the marathon runner who drops dead after running 26 miles. These people tend to ignore signs and symptoms and push through pain; they have difficulty resting, saying no, shutting down the productivity. They are restless, compulsive, active, and do well with routine and habit change. Yang constitutions usually have high metabolism and pay less attention to diet. They tend to be less sensitive to environmental factors and mental issues.
Yin Stars typically represent sensitivity, receptivity, openness, susceptibility, and vulnerability. People with Yin constitutions do not have a straight forward experience of health. Their health comes from weakness rather than strength. They are sensitive to many influencing factors—environmental, emotional, and so on.
Some Yin Stars make a person susceptible to what the Chinese call “possession,” which implies that we are invaded by some kind of “outside” force due to poor boundaries, immunity, and defenses. People with Yin constitutions tend to be more lethargic, less active; they need to rest more, and they must pay very close attention to their health, which is changing all the time due to many complex factors. They may get stressed out and then catch a cold. They may hear about a friend’s illness and then start to get the symptoms. Yin Stars, in general, are much more difficult to interpret.
An exalted Health Palace can indicate that a person’s Fate revolves around a personal path of illness, healing, and recovery. Illness may be a spiritual experience, a call to wake up. These people are shamans. They are brought to death’s door, so they can return to heal others. Or, an exalted Health Palace may simply indicate a long life of health with little to no illness/injury; they may be blessed with no Ancestral Patterns of illness and the strength to overcome all minor conditions. They may inherit “good genes” and never experience health challenges, dying peacefully in old age. Some people become healers because they were healed and want to repay. Others become healers because they understand that their own health is a privilege and they want to use it to be of benefit.
Certain Stars indicate the potential for the study and practice of medicine. Others indicate the potential to excel at athletics and physical culture. A person’s Character has a huge influence on how this turns out. A Horse or a Tiger will tend towards athletic expressions of physicality, while a Rabbit or a Goat may seek the intuitive art of medicine. Other Stars turn this House into the spiritual path and inspire people to practice yoga, meditation, and so on, using the body as the means to liberation.
The next three houses are read together to understand a person’s Fate in the world through work/career and travel.
Career/Travel Palace (遷移宮)
Career and Travel – Immigration, Journeys
The Characters for this House, 遷移, Qīan Yí, literally mean to immigrate, migrate, or move, but we translate it as the Career/Travel Palace. This House lies directly across from the Ming Palace and provides an image of your Fate “in the world;” it represents your life’s journey outside your family and place of birth. It is read in conjunction with the Assistants and Superiors Palace to give the overall shape of our work/life in the world.
For those born in modern industrial countries, this House may describe a professional career or the journey of discovery to find a suitable career through education, job hunting, experimentation, climbing the corporate ladder, or travel. It tells us how important/significant “working” will be in your life. The nature of that work is then refined in the following two houses and may be indicated elsewhere in the chart, such as the Wealth (ex: investor, banker), Health (ex: doctor, athlete), or Property (ex: real-estate, architect).
First and foremost, this House tells us if you were born in the right place. Certain Stars can indicate if you “missed the mark,” in terms of birthplace, and if you must travel to resolve your Fate. Ming used to joke that you may have died, been in the bardo and were circling the globe looking for Mongolia, but you crash-landed in Minnesota. You, then, grow up feeling like home is somewhere else and you go on a journey must find it. This House describes the potential success of that journey.
If you possess and exalted Seventh House, you may travel extensively, resolving past life connections in different countries, states, cities, searching for home, meaning, career. You may successfully immigrate. There may be a whole new life/Fate waiting for you in a foreign land. The first time you arrive in Spain, you start speaking Spanish and never leave. Ming referred to this as a “Fate Threshold,” a doorway in the Chart to a new life.
Significant Stars here offer a journey of discovery through travel. I have the Emperor here and have traveled in over twenty countries and lived abroad (it’s afflicted, so I’m back, lol, and still looking). I personally feel that traveling is the best education you can receive. To step outside of your comfort zone and experience other cultures, languages, and environments is extremely transformative. You may unravel your Fate here and discover yourself as a wayfarer, expat, or pilgrim. You may return to the place of your Blood Ancestors, take pilgrimage to India, or maybe you travel to Bhutan and discover a strong karmic affinity with Buddhism.
An afflicted House may suggest you have Fate for an unsuccessful immigration, like me, as if you just needed to complete some obligations, perhaps a spell abroad followed by a pilgrimage home. It may also suggest a kind of wandering, moving from place to place, never feeling at home. Or, you may journey abroad only to be met with disaster, illness, accidents, theft, and so on, and this may be a perfect resolution of Fate.
If interpreted as the Career House, then significant Stars here can mean that your Fate unravels in the workplace. You may have no/minimal Fate for marriage/children and an exalted Career Palace. This does not mean that you won’t/can’t have kids, but it does suggest that your job will be an exciting, fulfilling place of interest and that your home life may be uneventful. You love your kids, but at work you come alive, expressing your purpose/calling.
If the Superiors Palace is exalted, then, if read in conjunction, this House can indicate a “rise to success.” You start as the janitor and work your way up to CEO. Or, you start a business in your garage and sell it to Microsoft for millions of dollars. This house can indicate whether hard work, perseverance, and persistence ultimately pay off.
It can also be modest and suggest a life of mediocrity, “quiet desperation,” which is the case for many people. Remember, Fate is not about big or important but about the feeling of “completion.” You may never have an exciting career, but if you die feeling satisfied with having tried your best, then this can be a resolution. If, you die feeling incomplete, full of regret for never having “made it,” then this may kick start your Fate next lifetime.
Afflicted, you may wander from job to job, unfulfilled and bored. You may collect many skills and become a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Ghost Stars may manifest as obstructions—you get fired/laid off, passed over for promotions. Your startup fails, and you must start again with nothing. For many people work is drudgery; they tough it out and work their fingers to the bone for little reward. But, perhaps you have an exalted Offspring palace, so work sucks, but you come home to your kids who fill your life with joy. Everyone’s chart balances out in some way.
Yang Stars indicate that work tends toward skill building, that success comes through getting good at something through discipline. Yang Fate in this house can manifest more “superficially,” meaning your career may not be glamorous, spiritual, flashy; you may rise to be the manager of a Home Depot. But for a Horse with the Emperor here, that may be a perfect fit.
Yang Stars also imply that your work life is very active, dynamic, eventful, even stressful. Yang can also mean physical; perhaps you become a carpenter, electrician, hair stylist; you become skillful in the use of your body. Modest Yang Stars can be manual labor, retail, and so on. The Assistant’s Palace tends to indicate service work, but that can also show up here.
Yin Stars indicate that success comes through intuition rather than skill. Getting ahead, being promoted, landing the job has more to do with feeling, being, more to do with your deportment, even your appearance, rather than your resume or skill set. You may have an extensive skill set, but if your Fate here is Yin then it is the appropriate application of that skill at the right time through intuition that opens doors.
Yang Stars tend to be more about showing up and doing repetitive work. Yin Stars may be much more relaxed. Yin Stars can manifest as work that is indirect, discreet, abstract, or intellectual. You may sit at a desk all day moving numbers around on a screen and have no idea what you are doing, but you get a paycheck. Or, you may work behind the scenes, like all the people listed in movie credits. You never see them, but they make everything possible. Yin Stars may mean that you get paid for your appearance (ex: model/actor), intelligence (ex: teacher), or presence (ex: counselor, therapist, chaplain). You never “produce” anything tangible, but you help, inspire, and support others to do so.
Yang Stars indicate that you are “fresh,” compelled by Fate to create and manifest your interests, sparked by Ancestral or Past life prompting. Yin Stars indicate that you may have done something for many lifetimes and that you need to “remember,” which may manifest as a natural talent for something you have never trained for.
Yin people are “naturals” and pick things up immediately, while Yang people must work really hard and may struggle to attain mastery (Yin Fate is hard work too, jut a different kind). You may be a natural at playing Piano but can’t understand math to save your life. Or, you may be a science wiz and practice guitar for ten years only to be mediocre. Everyone has past life affinity somewhere.
Assistants Palace (交友宮)
Service – Friendship, Subordinates, Servants, Staff
The Characters for this House, 交友, Jiāo Yŏu, literally mean to make friends, so we translate it as the Friendship Palace and/or the Assistant’s Palace. This House refers to a wide range of Fate possibilities and relationships, so it can be difficult to interpret. Overall, the House profiles our predestined connections with the help or harm that comes from non-family people and/or our Fate to help or harm others. It is important to note that this House (and the Superior’s Palace) is bi-directional—it can refer to your role in life as an Assistant or the influence of others Assisting you.
This House represents the deeply held Chinese belief that we do nothing alone. Everything we do that is important is done through joint effort. Our primary support is family, but for many people, family is rough, and they find their deepest connections in life through friendship. In the Confucian Tradition, love is the primary characteristic of friendship rather than marriage. In work/career, our success often comes through our connections, teamwork, associations, and opportunities that come through others.
We read this House in two ways. First, as a relationship House, it indicates your Fate with friends, co-workers/colleagues, schoolmates, people you consider peers. It also indicates your karma with receiving help, with people who “assist” you in the resolution of your Fate.
Some people have little Fate with their birth family; they may have siblings, but they are distant or difficult to connect with. Often these people develop sibling type bonds with friends. Perhaps, you work in the same office for twenty years, and your co-workers become your family. Ming used the term a “circle of returners.” In other words, you share deep past life connections with friends, and they become instrumental in the resolution of your Fate. Perhaps, you were all in a platoon in the last life.
An exalted Assistant’s Palace can imply many important social connections, an avid social life, or several significant life events that happen socially. You may have an abundance of people who are there for you, who show up when needed, a strong and well-knit network of social support. You may be the life of the party and feel at home in social gatherings. Character makes a significant difference in this regard; a Dragon may have a hundred important friends, and a Rabbit may only have three. You may also constantly find yourself helping your friends; yours is the shoulder to cry on. Many American sit-coms portray exalted Assistant’s Palaces; think Cheers—a bar where everyone knows your name.
Or, if afflicted, you may experience discord, betrayal, or a life changing “falling out” with someone. You may try to connect with people, but they reject you. You may find connecting with others difficult or bewildering, every attempt going wrong. You go to parties (if you even get invited) and stand in the corner feeling awkward. You may drift from one circle of friends to another, meeting many people, but failing to form deep bonds or support. You may feel alone, like people aren’t there for you, despite being in a crowd. Or, you may give up and do everything alone, never asking for help or relying on others. Again, Character makes all the difference here. A Snake may be fine with being self-reliant, but for a Pig this could be a nightmare.
If we interpret this as a Career House, then Stars here can literally indicate an assistant at work. Perhaps, you are the boss or charismatic leader, but you cannot manage your appointments to save your life, so you have a stellar assistant who makes your career possible. Or, you may be constantly promoted and helped due to the support, admiration, and recommendation of others. You may meet someone at a conference who changes your life, offering you a new and exciting career. Or, you may be credited success without having done any of the real work.
If afflicted, you may experience scandal, confrontation, slander/gossip, and undermining in the work place. You may experience competition with others that always gets the better of you. Others may make mistakes for which you get blamed. Or, you may follow others or be part of a team that loses or fails, leaving you without a job. You may hire an assistant who embezzles money from you and ruins you company. There are many ways this House can go wrong, and many ways it can go right. A prized assistant may also make you a millionaire.
If this House has significant Fate, it can indicate a life or a career of service. This can be completely menial. You may be Fated to be career waitress/waiter (wait person?) or receptionist. My favorite restaurant back home has been staffed by the same people for over twenty years. I have literally been going there since I was a kid, and I every time I return it has the same wait staff and same chefs behind the counter. I imagine they all have exalted Assistant’s Palaces.
We can interpret many service-oriented careers from this House, from social work, to teaching, consulting, housekeeping, and so on. Many people dream big, but most end up “doing small;” not everyone becomes an astronaut. This House exemplifies those content to do simple, humble, or unrecognized work. Think “Jeeves” the butler.
You may feel at home subordinating, following orders, working with the chain of command or be fated to always rebel against it. You may excel in teamwork, networking, schmoozing, or hobnobbing with the rich. You may be a bodyguard, samurai, bouncer, and so on. Perhaps, you are a professional athlete who makes a living because of a team.
I often use the phrase, “behind the scenes” to describe this house and sometimes give the example of Bernie Sanders. He has the Emperor in the Superior’s Palace and so has Fate to be a leader, but his assistant whom you never heard of, who does all the work behind the scenes and without whom he could not function, may have the Emperor in the Assistant’s Palace. From this House, you may wield power from second place, from “behind the throne.”
It is often the case that people have Fate in both the Superiors and Assistant’s Palace, in which case, you may indeed become very well know, but you remain humble and use your position or voice to exalt and help others. You may have times in the spotlight but also do a lot of work behind the scenes which goes unnoticed.
Or, an exalted Assistant’s Palace can propel you on a spiritual path of service and devotion. You may become a monk, join an ashram, and spend your life serving a community or teacher. You may give up a distinguished career to feed the homeless. Or, you may dedicate yourself to starting intentional communities, bringing people together, performing rituals. You may find your tribe in a Sanga, Kula, or Witch Coven. If afflicted, you may be at risk in following others; you may join a cult and end up “drinking the cool-aid.”
If this House has significant Fate, it suggests that you Ancestors manifest and work to bless you in Career by creating opportunities and connections. They may work as protectors/guardian angels in the world, preventing you from disaster. It may also be the case that a family business or family wealth is the key to all your success socially, politically, offering you connections to career, for example through a fraternity.
If this House is Empty, then you have no Fated requirement for service. Rather, you may be a leader. This may also mean that you have little help, few friends, and must work hard to make connections with people. It may also mean you must go at it alone. Often this house is a “mixed bag,” and I find it to be one of the more difficult ones to describe to clients.
Superiors Palace (官祿宮)
Officials – Leadership, Teachers, Mentors, Bosses
The Characters for this House, 官祿, guān lù, literally refer to the position of a Chinese government official, and we translate it as the Superiors Palace. Sometimes it is translated as the Career Palace, or Official’s Palace, for it gives the image of a person’s “advancement and development” Fate. It offers an image of how our Fate and achievement relates to “authority.”
Like the Assistant’s Palace, it is bi-directional. It can refer to figures of authority in our life and/or our role in that regard. It also can be read as a relationship and/or career House. It is not always either/or and can offer a wide range of interpretations. It is important to note that this House refers to Fated relationships outside the family.
As the final or “highest” career House, it relates to success, achievement, ambition, and innovation, to being well known, recognized, rewarded, or influential. An exalted Assistant’s Palace may mean that you become a doctor, but an exalted Superior’s Palace could mean that your methods change the practice of medicine. This house can be the difference between being a mere salesman or pioneering an innovative marketing tactic that changes our culture. It can also be the difference between simply moving abroad (7th House) or going down in history for introducing smallpox to the Aztecs.
If we interpret this as a relationship House, then Stars that show up here indicate the help or harm that comes to us by elders, teachers, mentors, bosses, employers, gurus, leaders, and so on. The Fate here connects us with people more experienced, advanced, or influential than us. These can simply be authority figures in the workplace, whom you may or may not respect. Or, they can be great teachers whom you respect/admire/revere.
Because of the potential trust we place in our superiors, the relationships here have the potential for great cause and effect. We can be greatly influenced for better or worse by those with power, and as we all know, power is easily corrupted and so often abused. So, an afflicted Ninth House can manifest as abuse that comes from the throne, strange relationships with teachers, or you yourself harming others.
Stars in this House often imply a journey of apprenticeship. You meet a mentor, study with them, and follow in their footsteps, which has been the ideal model in most craft guilds. Perhaps, you meet someone already practicing your dream job, so you work for them and learn the tricks of the trade. They may retire, leaving you the position, or you may do your own thing having them as a model.
This House can indicate becoming a boss, manager, and/or decision maker. It denotes responsibility and leadership. You may be Fated to rise in the ranks to become the boss and make important decisions that influence people’s lives. Traditionally, it refers to the role of government officials in China, which were the most prestigious jobs in the nation. Government Official were highly educated and respected members of the community who commanded as “parents to the nation.” This House indicates if someone will become an official or simply meet officials, which is further inferred from other Houses.
Spiritually, this House can indicate a Fated relationship with a teacher or “guru,” and traditionally, this House indicates connections to “lineage,” a much-misunderstood term in modern times. The Ancestor Palace can indicate this as well, but this House tells us of what Ming called your “Wisdom Ancestors,” inexplicable karmic connections to people in traditions that are not connected to your culture, heritage, or country.
You may become a disciple, study with a master, and inherit a lineage, taking on students yourself. An exalted Superior’s Palace can indicate that the major Fate of your life unravels by following this teacher, like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid. Completing this Fate is considered complicated business in many traditions, especially in Tantra where people vow to follow a teacher/lineage for as many lifetimes as it takes to become enlightened.
Again, ghosts here can indicate abuse or betrayal from a teacher. It can indicate joining a cult and/or becoming a cult leader yourself. There are so many examples of fallen gurus in the modern spiritual scene that I don’t even know where to start; it may in fact be all of them.
An afflicted 9th House may simply indicate a strong mistrust of authority, a rebel without a cause. You may rebel against your parents, teachers, cops, priests, and so on, throughout your life, with or without cause. You may become an activist and work to dismantle oppression and patriarchy, which may have positive results, but could leave you bitter, frustrated, and disillusioned. You may spend a lifetime fighting the man only to burn out. But, of course, you may change people’s lives all along the way; such is the nature of ghost resolution.
Gone wrong, this House can make you a gang leader, drug lord, or dictator. It can lead to corruption, despotism, and jingoism of the worst order. All the worst acts in human history can be related to this House (and possibly the 8th House), for it represents the power to influence people on a larger scale. We see here the importance of Character and Fate. You may have the character, or capacity, to be a great leader, like an Earth Dragon, but if this House is afflicted, you may become a gang leader in prison, when in a different context you may have become a general and been rewarded for aggression.
If we further interpret this as a Career House, then it relates to the notion of success and achievement, contributing to your field. You may have an exalted 7th House, in which case Career is important, but if your 9th House is empty, afflicted, or debilitated, then you may work hard and not achieve success. You may never be recognized for your accomplishments. If they are both positive, the you will most likely do very well. You may even innovate. You may invent the next giz-widget, doohickey, or phone thingy.
This House is exemplified by inventors, contributors, creative people who change the game. I like to think of Steve Jobs. It is also exemplified by great political leaders, or by people who change the world with an act of defiance, like Rosa Parks.
It can also relate to fame and have nothing to do with talent. As we all know, many of the most talented people you will ever meet will never be famous, and many famous people are hacks. From an Astrological point of view, this is all Fated. Hard work and talent do not always pay off. When they do, when Character and Fate match and someone rises to excellence, this again is called “Destiny.”
Yang Stars here tend to relate more towards career and success. A strong Yang star here can create ambition, the drive to succeed, as well as the karmic connections to make it happen, especially if combined with an ambitious character. A Dragon with an exalted Superior’s Palace is certainly auspicious, because they will try to rule the world anyways. A Rabbit, who may shy away from the spotlight, may feel tremendous anxiety if their Superior’s Palace pushes them towards leadership.
Yang Stars indicate a “rise” to power based on perseverance and indicate that a great deal of Fate is resolved through career. They also suggest that a person will be lead from an obvious or primary position, like an Emperor.
Yin Stars, like the Empress, suggest that power is wielded from a hidden, unusual, or secondary position, from behind the scenes. Ming introduced many people to the idea of “Yin Power,” which is fundamentally difficult for Americans to understand. Yin Power is essentially passive, and for many it appears manipulative. Yin Power is wielded through seduction, suggestion, body language, through “psychological” tactics. Our culture looks down on this kind of power, although we use it extensively on each other and throughout the world, because Yin Power works. Marketing is based on Yin Power. A “damsel in distress” may achieve everything in life without ever lifting a finger.
Yin stars suggest that your rise to success happens because of unseen factors which can appear lucky—being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, and/or being gifted/given opportunities that you did not appear to earn. To people with Yang Fate here who work their ass off to get ahead, Yin Fate appears unfair, for it looks effortless. Yin Fate can often manifest as privilege, family power, and influence; you may be promoted because your boss knows your father, or you may use family money to swing an election.
When read together with the previous two Houses, the Superior’s Palace offers us a complete image of someone’s participation in society through “work,” which can be refined through other Houses. For example, an Exalted Superior’s Palace in conjunct with an exalted Property Palace means that one can exert their influence through real-estate and material wealth.
The Property and Wealth Palace are read together to determine a person’s overall Fate with prosperity.
Property Palace (田宅宮)
Ownership – Home, Inheritance, Real Estate, Collections, Immigration, Feng Shui
The Characters for this House, 田宅, tián zhái, literally mean farmland/field and residence/home, and we translate it as the Property Palace. This House has two distinct meanings. Primarily, the Stars here describe a person’s relationship to material goods, real estate, and Fate with “ownership” of real property, whether through purchase or inheritance. Combined with the Wealth Palace, it is what Ming called a person’s “stuff and home” Fate.
Secondarily, or perhaps on a deeper level, this House represents our Fate with the Chinese principal of Feng Shui, or the auspice of Placement. Like the 7th House, it may tell us if we have strong Fate with “place.” Energetically, it represents “home,” so it can manifest as the Fate to create that through owning land, a home, or through creating security via the possession of goods. Or, it can imply that creating or looking for home is a big deal for you. Is there a natural geographic/geomantic home for you? Perhaps, you must find it, so this House can indicate immigration.
As the Feng Shui House, certain Stars can indicate if Feng Shui is a major influence on you. You may be greatly affected by or connected to the land, nature, or objects in space. Perhaps, you become ill, and nothing is working. You change the direction of your bed or the color of your sheets, and all the sudden you get better. You may be struggling in a new town. You move and all the sudden everything clicks into place. You may be disoriented by disorganized arrangements and patterns and have an instinct for design, in which case this House can indicate career architects, interior designers, and Feng Shui consultants.
In the Chinese value system, ownership is not about the accumulation of stuff or “toys,” trying to “get yours” and die with the biggest pile. Fate with ownership of material goods or real estate is an opportunity to be generous. Real wealth is something that can be measured. Land can produce food; a home can provide shelter—to share this with others is the greatest opportunity to be generous. Money is abstract, especially today, a play of numbers on screens. You may have a debilitated Wealth Palace and have no money but an exalted Property Palace and live on a farm with everything nature provides.
Often, this House is straightforward and has to do with our Fate to buy, own, and sell property. It can represent the Fate for inheritance and family money. Or, it can represent a career as a real estate broker, buying and selling properties at a profit. You may own several properties and rent out the rooms or have an “Air B&B.” You may become a landlord, manage an apartment building, and collect passive income.
Major Fate in this House can indicate that many things in life revolve around your Home. You may work from home. You may spend a fortune fixing up a piece of property, only to have it lead to all sorts of adventures, like in the movie the Money Pit. You may buy or move into a house only to have a series of complex situations happen with neighbors, roommates, city planning committees, and so on.
Fate here can impel you on a mission to find home, wandering from place to place in search of belonging. You may never feel at home anywhere or even feel like home is haunted. Ancestral Ghosts here can come from histories of war, exile, and migration.
Ming told a remarkable story of a woman who bought and sold properties but never felt at home, especially in the kitchen. She never cooked, and as soon as she fixed up a house she would sell it. Later, she uncovered a family story—during World War II, the whole family was sitting to dinner when the sirens went off. Her grandfather told them they were staying, and the whole family died at the dinner table in an air raid. So, of course, she inherits in inexplicable fear of being in the kitchen.
This House can manifest as a gypsy or nomad spirit. You may spend your entire adult life wandering; you may even feel claustrophobic, trapped after staying in one place for too long. You may be uprooted due to causes and conditions beyond your control, or you may move for work after being promoted to run the head office in Chicago. Or, you may have deep karmic connections to your hometown and never leave.
Many people throughout history were born and died in the same bed. And, countless people have been exiled due to war. The Stars here indicate something of your Ancestral Patterns around exile and migration. A Chinese saying goes, “we only dig in our ancestors,” meaning they have lived on the same land for so long that the soil is made of the dead. You may inherit a family farm that has been there for generations; it could be a curse or a blessing.
This House may also indicate other kinds of possessions. You may buy, fix, and sell cars. You may own and operate a clothing company. You may produce artisan soaps and sell them at the farmer’s market. Your life may be intimately connected to the material, the sensual, the manifest. You may cultivate the Earth and feel connected to the cycles and seasons. You may weave baskets or make goat cheese or derive great power from a spiritual connection to objects. You may be a collector, your Fate tied to art, tea pots, ritual bells, and so on. In Confucian culture, you are not considered a gentleperson until you have a collection. Art dealer is a perfect manifestation of this house.
Yang Stars tend to manifest as more worldly Fate Patterns. Yang Fate is to own, operate, and invest. Yang Stars can be indicative of careers in real estate, architecture, design, and so on. They may be connected to production—you may build your own house. As per usual, Yang Fate implies dynamism, that working actively with challenges unravels Fate. In terms of inheritance, Yang Stars imply the patriarchal line, such as our current fake “president” who has exalted Patriarchal Fate for inheritance.
Yin Stars often turn this House into a much more passive situation. You may inherit property or wealth and have everything taken care of for you, never having to work. Or, you may work with real estate, real goods, but the situations all manifest mysteriously, beyond your control. You may be constantly gifted things and return that fortune through generosity.
Yin Stars more easily manifest as generosity, spreading the wealth through charity, philanthropy, and leaving behind a legacy/creating a foundation. Yin Stars are often more associated with luxury, finery, comfort, refinement. They also heighten the affect of Feng Shui on a person as well as the identity with regional, geographic, ethic, or familial ties. Yin Stars indicate inheritance from the Matriarchal line.
Pleasure Palace (福德宮)
Pleasures – Luck, Hobbies, Interests, Enjoyment/Satisfaction
The Characters for this House, 福德, fú dé, literally means happiness and virtue, sometimes “blessed virtue,” and we translate it as the Pleasure Palace. I always read this House last, for in many ways it is the most important, for it tells us about our Fate to enjoy our life. It reveals Fated patterns of “inner experience” that manifest in our pursuit of satisfaction. We may have grand, exalted Fate, but if we don’t have fun, if are not satisfied when our Fate is complete, then what’s the point?
Without satisfaction, we may very well create more Fate, which from a Buddhist perspective keeps us spinning in the wheel of Samsara, for the relative world is by nature unsatisfactory, temporary, and when we try to find lasting/permanent satisfaction, we experience discomfort. This tradition accepts the Buddhist principal of Samsara but also shares a more Daoist belief that life alternates – sometimes it is an awful place, sometimes it is a wonderful place. Happiness is possible but never permanent. This House reveals our capacity for temporary satisfaction as it comes and goes.
Some, after the sea of obligations have been fulfilled, after all the Fated work has been done, are left with fond memories of joy and love. Others only remember the struggle, the battles fought – but here is the key – some are Fated to be grumpy! We must let grumpy people be grumpy. If we tell pessimists to stop being negative, we turn them into hypocrites, and they spend their lives being a “nice person” and then shoot up a school. This goes hand and hand with understanding Character; a Tiger with grumpy Fate (such as myself) needs a lot of acceptance.
This House suggests that we may not be free to enjoy ourselves, which was a huge revelation to me. I’ve always wondered why some people are blessed with a sunny disposition and have such an easy time having fun, while others find it so difficult. From this tradition’s point of view, we may inherit patterns of ghostly inhibition or unbridled gregariousness from our Ancestors.
At its core, this House reveals our Fate around “satisfaction,” but it manifests in patterns of enjoyment, pleasure, fun, hobbies, interests, entertainment, socializing, and so on. It tells us a very important thing—does fun provide you with Qi, or does it drain you of it?
Some people are at risk with they pursue pleasure. The first time they take a drink they’re an addict, and two years later their life has gone down the toilet. Others may actually be Fated to “follow their fun.” Liu Ming was a Fire Pig and had the Emperor in the Pleasure Palace, so, according to him, his Fate unraveled when he followed his sense of enjoyment. So, for him, doing drugs was a much different Fate scenario than for others. This may be auspicious for some Characters, like Pigs, who will follow their fun anyways, and bewildering for others, like Snakes, who distrust the display of the senses.
Is fun a battery for storing Qi? Are you a flirt who goes home glowing from flattery, or are you exhausted by promiscuity? When you listen to an amazing musician do you feel joy, or does it cause you to reflect on being a failed musician and feel bitter? When you work hard for something and achieve it, do you feel satisfied, accomplished, or are you already on to the next task, the next goal to accomplish? We often discuss these patterns as extrovert/introvert and type A/B people, but they may also be viewed as Fated Patterns.
When exalted, this House becomes difficult to interpret and often puts it into a “spiritual” dimension. It means that a person’s life revolves around a deeply personal sense of pleasure; they literally can’t avoid it. It is easy to assume that these people are party animals, but when this House is exalted, we cannot say anything about how it is supposed to manifest. A person may be completely boring by our standards, but inside this may be the perfect manifestation of their enjoyment. They may receive infinite pleasure from the fit of a good pair of shoes and not think highly of the experience. They may appear miserable from our perspective, but they may deeply love their struggle and turn it into amazing art. Who are we to judge?
If this House is unafflicted, then a person can “trust” their sense of pleasure; it may even become a mandate. They can go to the party, the festival, do the drugs, buy the toys, and follow this to their heart’s content. Doing so will catalyze their Fate and propel them in life. If strongly Fated, they may not be able to stop themselves. These people need to know that this is okay, even if society calls them irresponsible. Often, these people turn their passion, interests, hobbies, etc., into their career. Their interests are so strong that they can’t live life any other way. So, these people become artists, musicians, humanitarians, and dharma bums.
If the House is afflicted, then a person cannot trust their pleasure principal. Ghosts here imply that we inherit patterns of dissatisfaction, even addiction, and these can manifest as a wide range of harmful behaviors. This House can go very dark, but we must never jump to conclusions. My Mother had a very afflicted 11th House and died of addiction. Yet, I have seen others with the same arrangement with very different stories. However, the potential is always there, so we must read carefully. The darkest stories of addiction and abuse can certainly manifest here.
Ghosts in this House represent Ancestors who could have died having fun (overdose), died from abuse, or who never had a day of fun in their life. You may inherit a pattern of all work and no play and become very critical of pleasure. You may be Ebenezer Scrooge and think happy people are stupid. You may criticize people who go to clubs, but secretly yearn to be a maniac on the dance floor.
Some Characters, like Horses or Oxs, tend to turn everything into an assignment or job, so afflicted may turn out well or compound the already gloomy part of our Character. You may work at work, work at play, work in the gym, work on your spiritual path, and so on. You may be addicted to “busy,” which is an epidemic in our culture. You may be unable to rest and do nothing, repeating the life pattern of your great grandfather who worked in a factory and never got a day off. You may only have fun at school or at the gym, addicted to self-improvement.
Conversely, your grandparents may have worked every day of their life, and now you are free to have a life of leisure. You inherit money, privilege, and opportunities and do not give a fig about bettering yourself. You may feel guilty because of the advantages you’ve receive, but if it is Fated, then you should not. You have an Ancestral Mandate to enjoy your life. The difficult comes when this turns to entitlement. Inherent in this Fate is gratitude and generosity. Let your heart overflow with gratitude and give back. Positive can also flow into positive. Your grandmother may be jolly, and so you are too.
You may have had a great aunt who was poor. One day, she gets invited to a rich friend’s house and tries Belgian Chocolate for the first time. She leaves and never gets to taste it again. Now, three generations later, you can’t stop eating sugar. Or, perhaps like me, you had a relative who had a heart attack on the dance floor and now literally feel like dancing is life threatening (don’t worry, I’ve worked through this sort of).
Patterns here can create creativity and spontaneity or routines and ruts. You may find yourself on wild adventures, meeting and connecting with amazing people. Or, you may do the same thing day in, day out, and hang out at the same bar with the same friends. You may be bursting with possibilities or have no idea what to do with yourself. But, this can be made positive. If you tend to get stuck in a rut, then it means that you can enjoy discipline, which for some Characters is a nightmare. But for others it can help them excel at activities that require rigorous practice.
Fate here may create deep affinities for art, music, sex, literature, history, performance, movies, and so on. You may have Fate to become a master calligrapher or ballerina. You may become the world’s leading expert in ants. You may spend your life pursuing an unfulfilling career, while in your private life you’re obsessed with playing chess. You may retire or quit your day job and travel the world playing chess and become a grandmaster.
Yang Stars here tend to manifest as more ordinary, socially acceptable pleasures. Yang Stars make people active pleasure followers. They may love socializing, parties, sports, travel, competition, and so on. Yang Stars may find it easy to accept trendy or popular enjoyments. Yang Fate makes for “divas,” those who demand entertainment; if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing. Yang stars are more “hedonic” and likely to revel in food, sex, and song.
Yin Stars tend to manifest as a wide rainbow of “other possibilities.” Yin Stars may create a deep affinity for the occult, for astrology, tarot, ancient wisdom, and the like. Yin Stars are much more fluid in their expression—they compel people towards deep, hidden dimensions, which express as an intuitive sense of enjoyment.
These people may be shy, weary of enjoyment, because it may be weird, strange, taboo. They may appear normal but have a pleasure dungeon in their basement, or on weekends dress up as a Klingon and attend sci-fi conventions. Yang Fate can express this way too but would do so for the socializing and dressing up, while Yin Fate may feel a deep connection to the principals of Star Trek, which they can recite in Klingon.
Yin Pleasure Fate here tends to find people, while people with Yang Fate tends to pursue it. If you have major Fate here, then the rest of your life may manifest through this House. You may meet your Partner at a sci-fi convention and start a business teaching Klingon to fellow Trekies.
Empty Court (空宮)
The Characters, 空, kōng gōng, literally mean empty court, and it refers to a House that contains no ruling Stars. The message of an Empty Court is simple—no Fate. It means that freedom and choice are the main situation and so become very important. You must choose and create your Fate here if you want it. And, there may be few options or choices. It implies that you completed this karma in a past life, or that your Ancestors have freed you of it.
Some people have a few Empty Courts (I have 4), and some people may have none. There is a tradition of “borrowing stars” from the opposite House, which are like a “Fate echo” and can tell a story of an Empty House. But I find that freedom is a much more important message. In a way, choice can activate the borrowed stars, making them come alive; they represent potential, but are otherwise not important.
Body Palace (身宮)
The Character 身, shēn, means body, so we translate the secret 13th house as the Body Palace. Due to certain Polestar calculations, one of the Twelve Houses becomes a secret 13th House that we call the Body Palace. It can be any one of the 12 Houses. Mine is the Wealth Palace. Which ever House it is, that House becomes connected to and expressed in some way through your body. This is open to interpretation. It may indicate a path of career, health/wellness, or situations surrounding your embodiment, such as being a doctor or athlete, or it may relate to an illness or recovery. I have seen many health care practitioners with this in the Wealth or one of the Career Palaces.
The Three Motives of the Mantic Arts—an introduction to the practice and system of Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù 紫微斗數 (Polestar Astrology)
This will be the first blog in a series exploring the system of Fate Calculation in Chinese Polestar Astrology, a task I have been avoiding due to the sheer magnitude of information I have learned on the subject but have yet to organize. In my previous blogs, I spent a considerable amount of time introducing the basic teachings of Chinese Astrology—ancestors, yin-yang, the five phases of Qi, and the 12 Qi Characters of Destiny/ “Animals,” making sure to cover each of the 12 Zodiac Animals in detail.
Polestar Astrology teaches that life is a dance, a reciprocity, 感應, between three factors—Character, Nature, and Fate. The purpose of the 12-part series on the Zodiac Animals was to introduce/explore the idea of Qi Character, or Xing 性, the notion that Time (Qi) itself is characterized and that we can use symbols to describe that Character, and therefore, ourselves, for we are living embodied expressions of Time. The purpose of this series is to introduce the idea of Ming, 命, or Fate. I will conclude with a series on Nature, 道德, which is perhaps the most important and yet most difficult to discuss.
Everything I have discussed thus far has been general Chinese Astrology, and it is now (finally!) time to delve into the ACTUAL system of Natal Astrology/Fate Calculation, which is what I do with clients. This system is widely unknown, for like Daoism, the authentic lineages of this tradition have been lost but continue to exist in fragmented/watered down forms. It has survived in China as a kind of folky “fortunetelling,” which it absolutely is NOT.
The true tradition of Chinese Mantic Arts is a complete spiritual path that synthesizes many Chinese traditions, which I have been trying to piece together for many years in the footsteps of Liu Ming, who received lineage transmission and texts on the subject through his Daoist teacher. The tradition includes Feng Shui and can also be called “Astro-Geomancy,” for the subjects are two sides of the same coin. Ming also taught Feng Shui at the Golden Gate Academy for many years, but I have yet to delve into the subject.
The information Liu Ming taught on Polestar Astrology cannot be found in any books. Some of it was oral transmission, some was translated from ancient texts, and a lot of it he figured out in the 800, or so, astrology readings he did over several decades. I have done about 170 since I started doing readings three years ago, so I’m catching up. My knowledge on the subject, however, is by no means complete. I do, however, feel somewhat capable of doing the subject justice, and I will flesh this out over the rest of my life.
There are no “how to” books on this subject, because there is an unspoken agreement that no one would ever write one, an agreement based on the assumption that the tradition would survive this “dark age.” Maybe they have survived in China; I wouldn’t really know, because I haven’t been there, but as far as I can tell this tradition may die out. Or, at the very least, it will fail to be transplanted here.
Across the world, “secret” (or better private) traditions are being published widely in the hope that they survive modernity. Yes, there are general books out there about Polestar Astrology, but they are, for the most part, useless in terms of interpretation. Kwok Man-Ho’s book, for example, is 700 pages and contains almost no information. It is for this reason that I write this series. In the United States, the only people I know who offer authentic Polestar Astrology readings are Ming’s students, who are few and far between. Ming himself had the intention of writing a book on the subject, but he never did, despite teaching many classes and producing copious notes, many of which I will draw from in the following blogs. It is possible for his students to “edit” his notes into a book, but I would rather just write the book, giving full credit to Ming as the source and inspiration.
Much of the “living transmission” on the subject I received from my teacher Dharma Bodhi, who studied with and lived next to Ming for many years. I have hunted down old students and put together many notes that may have otherwise been lost.
Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù, also called Polestar or Purple Star Astrology, teaches us how to understand, navigate, and ultimately unravel something the Chinese call 命 Ming, which we translate as Fate, the Mandate of Heaven, and sometimes Destiny (which is really a different idea altogether). The following series of blogs, then, will attempt to unravel this bewildering concept in terms of the 12-Houses and “Stars” of the Polestar System, which are poetical symbols describing the nature of Fate.
I will preface this by saying that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT FATE IS. I have been wrestling with the concept for many years, and the more I understand it, the less I know. I will do my best to explore it in terms of my experience, but I do so from a place of humility and open ended curiosity. I have no answers, for there are no answers in Astrology—only more questions. Whatever Fate is, it is enormous, and like Karma (a similar idea from India), only a Buddha can understand it.
Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù 紫微斗數
So, what is Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù? In short—divination. But otherwise, it is not entirely clear, for its origins are shrouded in mystery. It appeared in China in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and was further developed in the Song Dynasty (960-1280 CE) as a response to the influx of Indian Astrology brought by Buddhist monks. Prior to this period, China had no well-developed form of Natal Astrology, despite the many thousands of years of Astrological calculation that preceded Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù.
It never occurred to the Chinese that any individual was significant, not even the Emperor, so they never bothered with Natal Astrology. But, with the influx of Indian Medicine, Astrology, religion, and so on, it became popular to get Natal readings, because Indians brought to China the idea of a “self” with a story. So, the Chinese decided to create their own version of Natal Astrology that expressed Chinese values. The values of this system are a synthesis of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, and I will draw upon all three for my understanding in an attempt to connect them to modern life.
The tradition has a largely Daoist pedigree, and the main teachers credited with its creation are Lu Chun Yang, 呂純陽, during the Tang Dynasty, Chen Xi Yi, 陳希夷, during the Song Dynasty, and Luo Hong Xian, 羅洪先, during the Ming Dynasty. There is also an oral tradition that attributes it to the Daoist Immortal Chen Tuan, 陳摶, who is the progenitor of Yun Gong, 雲功, or Dream (literally cloud) Yoga in the Liu Family Tradition, which will be the subject of another future blog series.
The system is named after Zĭ Wēi, the Polestar/NorthStar, the only star in the sky which does not move, which every culture on Earth has used since time immemorial to guide themselves home. It is the pivot of Chinese Astrological/Astronomical calculations. The Polestar changes every few thousand years due to the movement of the Earth, and in this age, the Polestar is Polaris, which the Ladle of the Big Dipper points to year-round.
The Chinese observed that everything in the heavens moves except for this one star, which was to them quite significant. The Chinese called it the Emperor, and Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù teaches that all Fate is recorded and distributed from this pivot (not literally of course).
The Daoist tradition of Polestar Astrology talks of Nine Heavenly Realms that we transverse on our way back to Source upon completion of our Human Fate, 大圓. The Polestar is a symbolic representation of the Yang Light emanating from the Ninth Heaven that facilitates the celestial currents of Ancestral Fate resolution throughout our world-system. These currents are sometimes called the Empyrean Matrix.
The term Zĭ Wēi literally refers to a kind of flower, which some believe to be the Purple Myrtle flower. Zi, 紫, means purple, and Wei, 微, in this case, means something delicate, fragile, subtle, and profound—a flower, a metaphor for Fate. Dŏu refers to the Big Dipper, and Shù here means calculation.
The system is also called Purple Star or Flying Star Astrology, and it is associated with a transmission from Shang Qing 上清 Daoism, associated with teachings that manifest from realms of Purple Light. The tradition was said to have been downloaded to Earth through trance mediums/shamans 巫 from beings called the Jade Ladies, 玉女, (there are also Golden Lads 金童) from the “Purple Library,” an Immortal Realm that serves as an intermediary between Heaven and Earth. All the teachings from this time are called the Purple Teachings. Earlier transmissions in China were called the Yellow Teachings, associated with the Yellow Emperor.
Jade Ladies are like Dākinīs in Tantra, or Angles in the West, enlightened feminine beings who hold and transmit Dharma teachings. Chogyam Trungpa called them inspiration beings and said that inspiration is the body of the Dākinī. When you feel alive, inspired, and wisdom/insight pours through you, the Jade Ladies are said to be giggling around you.
Jade Ladies are depicted as teenage girls made of purple light who appear in dreams/visions. Wherever they gather, amethyst crystal is said to form. 西王母 Xi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West, the Daoist Female Immortal who presides over this tradition with Zhen Wu, 真武, is said to fly around the world touching those who will become Immortal. Jade Ladies gather around whomever she touches and transmit teachings from the Purple Library. There are many poems from the Shang Qing period that describe the Jade Ladies as muses, who come and go, often creating despair in their absence. Shang Qing Daoism is a highly detailed and complex spiritual path that views the Stars of the Polestar System as Deities. It is like Tantra, which developed around the same time, also from Deities through trance mediumship.
This series of blogs will systematically explore 36 “Stars” from the Polestar System. Polestar Astrology does not reference the Planets of our solar system like Western and Indian Astrology, but rather it refers to the nature of Stars in significant constellations like the Big Dipper. Some systems use up to 108 Stars, but we will focus on what are considered the most important 36, with an emphasis of the “Royal Court,” the Twelve Ruling Stars of Fate.
The Stars symbolically describe the Nature of Fate. Since the system was developed for and by/in the Chinese Imperial Court, each Star is a character in the Chinese Imperial Court, ruled by the Emperor and Empress. The Stars, and therefore Fate, fall into two categories Yang and Yin—the Northern and Southern Array, led by the Emperor and Empress respectively.
However, it is very important to understand that Chinese Astrology is NOT “Astronomical” but mathematical. Polestar Astrology has astronomy in its distant past, but a Polestar Chart does not depict the night sky. There is no illusion that this is an accurate depiction of where these constellations were at the time of your birth. The system is said to have been “revealed” by patterns observed in the sky, but these patterns are mathematical and said to be an “independent influence” that forms/shapes the causes and conditions of Fate. Polestar Charts are calculated by numerical equations/numerology, depicting sequences of Time beyond the physical reality of Stars in the sky. It is better referred to as Chronology rather than Astrology.
Many of these constellations/stars have today disappeared, which to the Chinese mind makes them more potent, for they have gone to the realm of the Ancestors. So, although some of the Stars do have the names of currently known astronomical bodies, what we call “Stars” in this system are better understood as poetical representations of Fate, mathematical patterns found in Nature, an endless spin of celestial Qi.
The Stars of the Celestial Court and their various arrangements when interpreted become a form of Divination or Mantic Art. But who and what is being divined? The standard Chinese answer is the dead – our Ancestors, our life before birth. The Stars form an image of the precedent/cause of our birth and can be interpreted as a both a symbolic and literal picture of our Ancestors, which I will explain in more detail as we go through each Star. In short, the dead run the living.
The Yang Stars represent Patriarchal Fate associated with “action/doing,” and the Yin Stars represent Matriarchal Fate associated with “receptivity/being.” In this tradition, we are intimately connected with the dead, and we must play out the patterns of unfinished business we inherit at birth before we can experience the Freedom of our Original Nature.
Ming might say that we are the warm wiggling end of thousands of dead people, responsible for at least seven generations of beings. When we get a human body, we inherit the unfinished business, gifts, talents, and so on, from all the bodies that preceded our body – it’s the tax we pay for birth. Fate is said to be a “Mandate” that comes from our Ancestors to complete what they could not. The Twelve Ruling Stars represent our accomplished Ancestors; the rest are what the Chinese refer to as Gui, 鬼, or Ghosts, “unfinished business,” which I will cover in detail.
The Buddhist interpretation suggests that the Stars represent our past life Karma, which is the cause of our re-birth, and that we are here to finish our own unfinished Karma from past lives. Both are possible interpretations.
Traditionally, you would receive a Qi Transmission of each Star in ceremony. You would hear a description and then be shown an image and receive a Mantra for each Star, which were often thought of as Deities. Since I never got to have that experience, I can’t comment on it, although I have gotten some of this through dreams.
Here is a list of the 36 Stars that represent every conceivable pattern of Fate that we will explore in the following blogs:
The Four Rulers
紫微 Zi Wei – The Emperor
天府 Tian Fu – The Empress
天相 Tian Xiang – The Tutor
天機 Tian Ji – The Oracle
The Four Honorables
太陽 Tai Yang – The Sun/Prince
武曲 Wu Qu – The General
太陰 Tai Yin – The Moon Lady/Princess
巨門 Ju Men – The Great Gate
The Four High Ranking
天同 Tian Tong – The Vassal
天梁 Tian Liang – The Roof Beam
文昌 Wen Chang – The Magistrate
文曲 Wen Qu – The Priest
The Four Major Ghosts
廉貞 Lian Zhen – The Concubine
七殺 Qi Sha – The Seven Killings/Executioner
貪狼 Tan Lang – The Greedy Wolf
破軍 Po Jun – The Rebel/Breaking Rank
The Four Minor Ghosts
火星 Huo Xing – The Fire Star
鈴星 Ling Xing – The Water/Ringing Star
擎羊/羊刃 Qing Yang/Yang Ren – the Goat Blade/Sacrifice Star
陀羅 Tuo Luo – The Humpback/Rejection Star
The Four Incidentals
右弼 You Bi – The Right Assistant
左輔 Zou Fu – The Left Assistant
祿存 Lu Cun – The Storehouse
天姚 Tian Yao – The Beauty Star
The Orphan Spirits
天魁 Tian Kui – The Leader
天喜 Tian Xi – The Happiness Star
天鉞 Tian Yue – The Halberd Star
地劫 Di Jie – The Loss Star
地空 Di Kong – The Void/Empty Earth Star
天刑 Tian Xing – The Punishment Star
天馬 Tian Ma – The Travel/Heavenly Horse Star
紅鸞 Hong Luan – The Red Bird
The Four Transformers
化祿 Hau Lu – The Salary/Prosperity Star
化權 Hua Quan – The Authority Star
化科 Hua Ke – The Examination Star
化忌 Hau Ji – The Jealousy/Scandal Star
Again, I will cover each of these stars in blogs to come.
The Three Motives of the Mantic Arts
This tradition is a “Mantic” Art, a form of “Divination.” Humans have always had a deep curiosity and/or a fundamental instinct for survival; we’ve been divining the ways of Heaven and Earth for as long as we’ve been around. Divination (related to Shamanism) is the “old religion” and, in a way, lies behind all the world’s religions, and, in the broadest sense, lies behind all human culture.
Divination is the curiosity about and attempt to shape the direction of Time and experience. You may have philosophies, teachings, stories, and so on, but as soon as you try to make these practical, apply them to experience, you are attempting to shape the future, you are Divining, and your teachings or “view” will determine the fruition of your methods.
The future is unformed, empty, but the “present moment” has momentum (called the past), expectations, and direction, which can be read and shaped. Every spiritual tradition is trying to do this in one way or another. Every culture has systems of divination, such as Tarot, Astrology, the Yi-Jing, Bird Song, Tortoise Shells, and on. This tradition takes this premise and turns it into a deliberate path called “Resolving Fate,” which is the purpose and fruition of Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù.
So, what is the view of the Mantic Arts? Traditionally there are three views or motivations for practicing divination—fear, advantage, and wisdom. Before we get started, it is important to examine which of these motivates you. These motives can apply to anything you do in life. It is important to be honest. This tradition emphasizes wisdom as the path, but we may unconsciously be operating from all three.
Simply put, humans are freaked out about the future and want to feel better; we want to feel in control. Divination is most often used to “predict” calamity and provide safety out of a fear of the unknown. This is fine. Used in this way, Divination provides knowledge of possible futures so that we can avoid “punishment” for our misdeeds, bad karma, ancestral ghosts, and so on. Divination from the motivation of Fear often seeks “answers” as to why life is so difficult—why does this keep happening to me? Fear is not bad, for it often gets us started on the path. However, it is limited, emotionally painful, and will only take us so far.
The second motive is advantage. We learn and practice Astrology to get one-up on the Universe. Although fear is often still the underlying motive, Astrology used for advantage is usually a lot more fun. We use Astrology to become better people, to learn more about our patterns so that we can do better in life. This kind of Astrology is often about timing, knowing when to advance and retreat. It can be used to predict the stock market, when to invest, when to start a business, when to get married, whom to marry, when to buy a house, when to have children, and so on. This motive is also fine, but it often stays superficial, and we end up creating more and more Fate in the process of trying to control our Fate, rather than being free of it altogether. The clear majority of Astrology I see out there is done with this motive. It often looks spiritual, but beneath the surface, many use Astrology as a tool to gain advantage over a scary world. I have tried to use Astrology for personal advantage, but I’m not very good at it, lol.
Wisdom – Cultivating the Way
The situation we find ourselves in is a cosmic soup in which all Time and Space are an Irresolvable Chaos, called Huntun 餛飩. When we look closely at our situation, we find no particular time, place, or self but the patterned appearance of these factors bewilders us for lifetimes. Reality appears to be ordered/patterned, but analysis brings no certainty, and the illusion of knowledge is big trouble.
Analysis brings with it an irresolvable confusion that humans have debated about since time immemorial, called Religion/Science. Modern Science/Scientism tells us that we are close to figuring it all out, but I’m not too sure. When we look closely, chaos appears to be the source of all things, and this is the Paradox that lies at the heart of our experience—qi strands of Time and Space weave together to form an unreadable astro-geomantic pattern the Chinese call Dao.
What is the unknowable Dao doing? Constantly displaying itself as dualistic, ephemeral, impermanent, dream like phenomena called a self/world. What appears to be knowable and that which is unknowable are in fact not different, for the dual world is a continuous expression of the non-dual. The microcosm of our personal Fate mirrors the macrocosm of the nameless Dao. Through relaxed observation this becomes apparent.
The spiritual path of the Mantic Arts, and the true purpose of this tradition, comes through embracing the irresolvable. Relaxing our need to know/understand becomes the direct path to wisdom. The dual-world we are divining, called an Astrology Chart, which appears to be comprehensible, reveals Pattern within Chaos and Pattern as Chaos. Astrology becomes a mirror that reflects our Original Nature which is beyond concepts (the meaning of Chaos).
Our practice is to investigate the weave or matrix of patterns that make up our experience through the symbols of the Polestar System. Without any compulsion to predict, fix, or improve, any particular part, our false notions of an abiding self and world unravel. Chaos is never vanquished; Samsara is never fixed/improved. It is reveal as Dao.
The Mantic Arts are a non-dual revelation of things as they are. Life is revealed as an ever-flowing phantasm of light that cannot be named/known, and we agree to be swept up in whatever has been “pre-ordained” by our Ancestors. Polestar Astrology simple points the way.
The fruition of this tradition, then, is called 大圓 Da Yuan, the Great Completion, similar to what Tibetans call Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Ming named his school after this teaching. The Resolution of Fate comes through the realization of the perfect completion of things as they already are. Everything that has ever happened/will ever happen is a perfect demonstration of your Original Nature, no matter how you feel about it. You have always been light having an experience of light. Like Ming’s teacher, those who realize the Great Completion do not leave behind a corpse but rather demonstrate their completion in a Body of Light. When we discuss the teachings on Inner Nature, we will examine our experience as a rainbow of five colored lights.
Fate, Freedom, and Reciprocity
Unlike the West, China has never argued about fatalism and free will. It has long been understood that one cannot exist without the other; they alternate, blend, and define each other. Freedom, or open space, is the main experience we are in. Therefore, our Astrology Chart is defined by our choices, by how we use our Freedom in response to our Fate, and as I covered in the 12-Animal series, how we use our Freedom to cultivate our Character.
There is no auspicious chart. The auspice of any chart is made by what the Chinese call Ganying, 感應, or reciprocity—the relationship between Character, Freedom, and Fate is a reciprocity determined by choice. We find our life in the play/dance of these factors, and Astrology is found in the dialogue between them.
The next blog of the Fate series will cover the 12 Houses of a Natal Chart. Given my life/schedule, it will be a slow journey, but I look forward to it nonetheless. Stay tuned!
Believe it or not, the Earth is alive. In fact, the Earth and Universe are Life itself. There is nothing but sentience—living awareness. And yet so few of us feel this. Modern life has hardened our senses, and in many minds, Modern Science has made the Earth into mere chemistry, biology, and physics. Those with salvational views may believe the Earth to be God’s creation, but this makes it little more than an artifact, albeit a magnificent one. These are both, of course, myths (myth not meaning false but simply different stories explaining Reality). And while these myths hopefully seem outdated in the modern technological age, they still influence our culture a great deal.
The Chinese Tradition has a different myth. If we call the Scientific myth “mechanical/chemical” and the Creationist myth “ceramic” (implying the universe was made by an outside agent, like a potter shapes clay) then we can call the Chinese myth “organic.” In other words, the Chinese see the Universe as an organism, growing from the inside out, a living flowing process of eternal cyclical movement (Qi), and their view of the living world is vast, incomprehensible to modern minds. Daoists say we share this space with 64,000 kinds of 64,000 kinds/categories of birth (animal, for example, being 1 kind), most of which we cannot “see.”
In the Chinese organic view, the Earth is populated by a vast network of “realms” and “spirits,” governed or “managed” by the blessings and unresolved patterns/issues of everything that came before, and we call these precedents “Ancestors.” These realms share the same space (there’s only one space), but they “vibrate” or move at a different frequency, so to speak. When other beings in other realms are happy and being themselves, they are invisible to us, and we are invisible to them, and we do not “possess” one another.
Although this may sound “conveniently un-provable” by modern scientific standards, modern science states that our eyes cannot see most of the spectrum of light, heat, and so on. In the same way, the Chinese see Earth as “Multi-Dimensional,” with the many simultaneous unseen dimensions intertwining, blurring, and flowing into one another. The deep ocean and dense wilderness, for example, are considered hell and spirit realms, and in the Chinese View we should not disturb these places, for they are full of beings we cannot see, and their exile, say through de-forestation, has powerful consequences, for they are loosed elsewhere. Some of these “other” beings we can see, such as animals. But we can all agree that your Dog does not see the same Earth that you do, meaning they do not see most colors.
You may say—we cannot see heat in the same way a snake can, but we can detect it with instruments and “prove” its existence. You may say, we cannot see ghosts or detect them with machines, so therefore they don’t exist. In response to this, I would ask you—what color is your mind? Obviously, your mind, like a mirror, has no color; you cannot “see” your own mind or “prove” to another person you had a thought, but I doubt you would say your mind has no life.
And sorry, the brain is not the source of the mind; it is only a conduit. The mind simply has a different kind of reality—a mental one, and materialistic science will always be at a loss so long as it considers the mind to be an emergent property of the brain. It is not. Until this difference is acknowledged and reconciled, Western Science and Eastern Wisdom will never actually meet.
Like your mind, many types of beings in the universe have a different, non-physical “un-measurable” existence, and the Daoist/Tantric traditions teach many ways to “see” them with “other” eyes; Daoism teaches that we have five eyes, like the popular third eye depicted in new age literature. So I will unequivocally say that as human beings we can cultivate the ability to “see” other realms, to open our wisdom eyes, but in order to do so, we need to first acknowledge that subjective reality is in fact a reality, and then we need to practice meditation. Many modern meditation teachers now liken meditation to developing an internal microscope, which is a good place to start.
All kinds of birth (womb, egg, moisture, mental/miraculous/light, etc) are Life. In the Chinese View, rocks, trees, rivers, indeed everything on Earth, is alive, that is to say everything has Qi; everything expresses an immortal continuity, a web that has no weaver and no beginning. Buddhism calls this interconnected web Indra’s Net, which is sometimes likened to infinite drops of dew in a vast spider’s web, each drop reflecting every other drop ad infinitum. The Net represents dependent origination, interpenetration, and emptiness.
Central to this organic view is the continuity of Life, called Immortality. I will explore the notion of Immortality later, but to begin, we must understand the fundamental notion that we express an ongoing continuity; in other words, we come from somewhere. We express and come from a past rhythm, like the ripple of waves on water.
Where do you come from? This may sound like an obvious question, but have you ever seriously thought about it? Chances are you have probably thought about it a little but dismissed it as unimportant.
Where do we come from? The short answer is—we come from parents who came from parents who came from parents and so on. We come from life and have the ability to generate life. As long as humans get horny, we can keep the life going forever. You are a link in an unbroken chain of an uncountable number of beings who reproduced. The very fact that you're here means that life has come to you unbroken from the beginning of the Universe. I'll give you a minute on that one.
The proper term for this is Ancestry. Your Ancestors are your precedent; everything that you are you inherited from them.
If you dismiss your Ancestors as unimportant, then you are an anomaly among the human species, for most humans, all over the Earth, in most civilizations throughout human history, have considered Ancestry extremely important. And our culture today does not. Some may argue that this disconnection from our roots, from history, and from our Ancestors is the very reason for our confusion and discontent.
We do not seek to liberate the negativity of our past, and so we are ruled by it. A saying goes—those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. One only needs to study history to see that humans have repeated the same patterns again and again throughout time. And one only needs to examine the politics/rhetoric/cultures of our time to see that we are now repeating history, only this time we’re doing it with guns and giz-widgets at an exponential rate.
In the study of Astrology, we study our history—what preceded our birth. A natal chart is a map of your karma at the moment of birth and a map of your Ancestors, which are actually one in the same. Your “past lives” are also your Ancestors in the Buddhist interpretation of Astrology. Your body, too, is a map of your Ancestors. In order to honor the past, we begin with our Ancestors because they gave us our body; they gave us life, and they give us our Fate.
In the Chinese View, you have many “bodies.” You have a family body, a social body, a friendship body, a cultural body, a religious body, a karmic body, a dream body, a universal body, an energy body, an ancestral body, and so on. Your life is lived in all these bodies, and your Fate, too, is related to each in turn.
These bodies are like a Russian Doll, and some are so big that you cannot really work with them, at least not without straining yourself. So in Spiritual Practice, we work from the inside out with the view that the subtle affects the gross more than the gross affects the subtle. Our ancestral body is at the core of our fate and is actually the easiest to work with. As our bodies radiate outward, they open into our “shared” fate/karma, and our ancestral body lies at the core of this shared fate. There is a reason we are born into our family.
We share fate/karma with our family—why else should our lives be so intimately connected? In the Chinese View, we don’t really have personal fate/karma. In other words, our karma is not isolated in a box for us to work with as a private experience. Our actions ripple throughout the universe, spiraling in and out in our many bodies. The very fact that you were born to your parents means you are connected to them, and everyone in your family is linked throughout time, playing out many roles in many lifetimes.
This ancestral body includes about seven generations of humans and is likened to a stream. There are many streams of karma/fate in the universe; some flow into each other, and all are heading toward the sea, which in turn becomes rivers again in the cycles of time. Some rivers come from different mountains and take different paths to return home. The timeliness of our birth, our birth chart, tells us which river we’re born into and where this river runs. In Polestar Astrology, we call these “Currents of Fate.”
When we are born we enter, or re-enter, the stream, heading to the Ocean, returning to source. Not all currents are the same; some are like lazy rivers and some are like white water rapids. The nature of each stream is determined by all those in it, in other words—by our Ancestors. Through birth, some are dumped in the rapids and others ride in a yacht. This stream is a stream of human mind/hearts connected by karma and fate in the cyclical flow of time. Each of these cycles spans about seven generations forward and backward from each person.
These streams connect most strongly through blood, but some connect in other ways. You may have Wisdom Ancestors and are fated to connect to your Ancestral Stream through a teacher or lineage. Your best friends or co-workers may be your Karmic Ancestors, and your Fate may be to re-connect with them in this lifetime to work in the world. Whether this is the case or not, your Fate is connected to your family, at least a little, and this is what Astrology tells us—where and how your Ancestors appear in your life.
In the Cycles of Fate, some humans, through spiritual practice, good luck, tremendous sacrifice, or great generosity resolve their Ancestral Fate and exit their stream at the moment of death. At this moment, a human who has lived a complete life, who has resolved their karma, can choose to “return” into the cycles (also called saṃsāra) and take birth in a new stream, the same stream, or they can leave the Realms all together, becoming a “pure/light being.”
In Buddhism, a returning being is called a Bodhisāttva, and we assumed that if someone returns to the Six Realms, they do so in order to help out in the flesh. If they leave the Realms they can become a “Beneficial Ancestor” and benefit beings from “behind the scenes.” If, say, your Great Grandmother chooses this role, then she may appear in your Natal Astrology as a guiding force in your Fate and in the resolution of the Ancestral Stream through your conduct in the world. Your Beneficial Ancestors become your drive, your calling, and they give you your path in life, directing you, prompting you, creating opportunities in order to liberate the whole family. They work in the world to create positive circumstances in the resolution of your Ancestral Fate.
As an Ancestral Body flows, Beneficial Ancestors come and go, holding “office,” so to speak. Your Great Grandmother may very well be the precedent for your career. If you powerfully resolve your Fate in career, she may release into what the Daoists call “Great Completion,” or the “Body of Light,” returning to Source. If we resolve all of our Ancestors and Karma, we can experience Great Completion/the Body of Light in this life and leave behind no corpse, meaning that we resolve our birth.
That being said, not all of your Ancestors are happy and resolved; some become what we call Ghosts or Demons, meaning they had an incomplete death, get “stuck” in their transition, and you inherit their “unfinished business,” which I will discuss later.
All of your Ancestors together, form a “team,” a pattern of Karma/Fate which you inherit at birth. As an Astrologer, I read the Fate you where given at birth as a pattern, determined by the Twelve Ruling Stars, which we again call your Current of Fate or Fate Stream. All the Stars I read in a Natal Chart represent Yin and Yang Currents of Ancestral Qi/Fate.
Polestar Astrology, which is not Astronomical but Chronological, actually describes the flow of these Currents in the Universe as they are governed by the greater macrocosmic cycles, spiraling outward from the Polestar, the fixed point in our Heaven, which from the Chinese Perspective is the Emperor of Fate, the place where Karma/Fate is recorded and dispersed. Heaven flows in a pattern and governs the flow of Ancestral Streams on Earth. A human being is where these two things, Heaven and Earth, Life and Death, meet.
In other words, your Ancestors are important. Of course, I’m sure your parents/grandparents are important to you; perhaps you are even in psychotherapy because of this. And although modern psychology gives us a vocabulary for understanding our family relations, in my mind, it completely misses the mark. The influence of our Ancestors is far greater and far more significant than most of us realize. Indeed, it is far greater, albeit far less dramatic, than our “Mommy and Daddy issues.”
Ancestry has been abstracted by being “psychologized,” and so many of us explore our family issues, but few of us actually honor them. In other words, we exalt our issues and do not exalt our Ancestors.
In Chinese Astrology, we call the presence of the Ancestors in our life Yuan Qi, or Ancestral/Original Qi. In the modern parlance, your Ancestors are your “issues,” and they are also your talents, goals, aspirations, and health.
In the past century, terms such as “Ancestor Worship” and “Spirits” have been used to denigrate many old-world traditions by relegating them to “superstition.” It was not only Missionaries but Anthropologists and Modern Scientists alike who brutalized the Animistic Traditions because they did not perceive their own view as religious. In other words, we are plagued by hundreds of years of Western Scientific Materialism and Salvational Christianity misinterpreting other cultures by perceiving them through their own lenses. It is only in the past 20 or so years that scholarship has begun to rectify this.
Sadly, our cultures (especially here in America) are losing touch with our ancestral roots, and we have certainly lost touch with the Spirit World (the subject of another Blog). As a culture, we do not honor our Elders, and we do not honor our Ancestors. As a result, the past few generations have become very “loose;” we have become a generation of ghosts. We drift around like floating heads, and the quickness of our technological advancement has displaced us from the cycles of nature so fast we have barely begun to realize the consequences. Furthermore, the popular myths of Creationism and Scientism have dominated our minds and made us insensitive to the vast networks of life on Earth, which is exemplified in the phenomenon called climate change.
This network, this flow of life has many dimensions, names, and expressions which I have already mentioned—the Spirit World, the Ancestors—if we open our minds to the situation we are actually in, if we experience everything in the world as alive, and if we learn to honor and respect this life, then we have the opportunity to transform our experience and reconnect to our Nature.
I do not personally believe that science has “disproven” the old world views; rather, I believe it never understood them in the first place. I do not advocate a “return to the jungle,” (maybe a little) but I do believe there is great value in understanding what the Chinese and many other Traditional Cultures mean by Ancestors. And I believe there is even greater value in honoring our Ancestors in the terms of these Traditions.
Ancestral Qi is actually the main subject of Astrology, which is difficult for most people to understand. During Astrology sessions, I introduce this idea to people, and while most are open to it, many look at me like I’m crazy. It never occurs to us that our neurotic self-limiting tendencies are not actually ours. Our human freedom simply hosts and expresses inherited patterns.
So far in this blog, I have gone to great lengths to discuss foundational view teachings on Yin-Yang, Hun Tun, the Five Elements, but when it comes down to it, Astrology is about Ancestors. This is a huge topic, and once we understand the basic view on Ancestral Qi in a practical and accessible way, the entire tradition of Chinese Astrology opens and becomes a powerful tool in the path to Human Freedom.
But before I explore the practical understanding of Ancestral Qi, I would like to return to the subject of Immortality, an often misunderstood idea from Chinese and Indian cosmology. Immortality is often interpreted as not dying. The longevity cults and traditions of Immortality in China have long been interpreted as attempts to extend physical life forever, in line with Western myths about the “fountain of youth,” but from the Chinese perspective this is nonsense.
Immortality has nothing to do with not dying. Your Original Nature is immortal. The purpose of studying Astrology, following a Spiritual Path, and resolving our Ancestors is to discover our Original Nature. In other words, when we have resolved our Fate, when we are free of the tangles of Karma, we touch our Source which was never born, never dies, and yet flows forever in an Immortal Procession. Reproducing eternally in sex-paired opposites, Life has been flowing forever since beginningless time.
Realizing the dimension of our experience which is already immortal, we become Immortal—we realize that what we are in Essence does not die because it was never born. By realizing Immortality all of our Karma/Ancestors are liberated into the Eternal Now. In the Chinese/Indian View, a Realized Immortal is free then to benefit beings in all the realms throughout time, no longer bound to the Fate of their Ancestors.
So how do we work with our Ancestors? How do our Ancestors influence our everyday life? Well, this is actually quite simple. First, we have to get the basic view that we have no abiding self.
If we have no abiding self, what are we? In short, we are a compound of our Ancestors. In other words, we are a stream of thousands of people flowing together into a single body/mind. We identify with this stream and call it “I/me,” because our nature is reflexive, but actually you are the flowing karma of many other people, and they too were a compound of many other people, individual expressions in the flow of Ancestral Streams.
Let’s first take your body—obviously you received your body from your parents. When your parents kicked boots, Yin and Yang, Red and White, came together and produced a third, a combination of two Ancestral Streams. So you may have your Mom’s eyes, your Dad’s jaw, your Grandmother’s butt, your Dad’s poor circulation, your Great-Grandmother’s hair, and your Great-Uncle’s freckles. Our physical constitution and health are clearly an expression of many people. Our health and fate for illness and disease is largely Ancestral (or produced by our freedom/conduct).
But what about the rest of you? Our culture recognizes that talent “runs in the family.” But we don’t seem to acknowledge that everything runs in the family. Your intelligence, talents, interests, likes/dislikes are also inherited from your Ancestral Stream. Perhaps, you inherited your Grandmother’s intellect or your Great-Great Aunt’s musical abilities. In other words, in order to honor our Ancestors, we must realize that EVERYTHING we are has a precedent; everything comes from an Ancestor, from past actions. We are simply a new and unique combination of all the people we come from, including our own “past lives.”
So this obviously means that we inherit negativity as well. Our fear, neurosis, hatred, prejudice, dullness, allergies, illness, accidents, addictions, and so on also come from our Ancestral Stream. Since our culture is narcissistic and self-obsessed, we exalt our “specialness” and blame ourselves for our negative traits, creating all kinds of stories about how messed up we are. Or we blame our parents, which is the wrong interpretation of the Ancestral View. If we are taught from an early age not to identify with the negativity we inherit, then we can work with it without blaming ourselves or our parents.
Of course, we must take responsibility for our actions, but we need not blame ourselves for, say, inheriting a long pattern of addiction. Take responsibility to break the cycles of negativity you inherit. If you take this kind of responsibility without blame then you will realize that no one (no “self”) was ever personally responsible, and all of your Ancestors become free. Unfortunately, many paths, such as psychology, exalt the notion of working with our negativity without teaching us that it was never “ours” (or anyone’s) to begin with, and so cycles of blame perpetuate in endless “talk therapy” sessions digging through the past.
You may be addicted to chocolate. You just can’t stop eating it. Well, perhaps your Great Aunt grew up poor and only tasted chocolate once in her life at a rich person’s house. Perhaps, she died poor and never tasted chocolate again. So she died with the taste of chocolate as a painful reminder of everything she could never have and always wanted. Now you can’t stop eating chocolate, and it is giving you respiratory problems. You have to stop but can’t because you identify with the problem and do not realize that it is not you who wants the chocolate but your Great Aunt. Her desire was passed down to you energetically, so to speak. In the Chinese View, all of our patterns are like this. All of our compulsions, addictions, and bad habits are just streams of karma that get passed down through Ancestors.
Perhaps, your Grandmother died in World War II. She was sitting at home, heard the sirens, and a bomb was dropped on her in an air raid. Now you’re 35, have no stability, and move from place to place because every time you make a home you feel unsafe, like something bad will happen, and you have to get out.
Maybe your Great-Grandfather lost everything in the Great Depression and could not feed his family. He turned to drink and became very depressed. Disgraced he hanged himself in the barn. The family survived but never spoke of him again. Now you’re a teenager and are haunted by an irrational depression; one day after school you try to hang yourself in the garage.
Your Grandfather was an immigrant. He worked 80 hours a week to build a business from nothing in a new land. Through hard work he succeeded but never spent any time with his children or wife. Now you’re 40 and a work-a-holic. You have spent your whole adult life getting ahead and succeeding, making the best of what your Grandfather created for you, but you too never see your family.
Here’s a personal example. I had a relative who had a heart attack on the dance floor and died. And I hate dancing. If you ask me to dance, I feel like I’m going to die.
Or, let’s take the Buddhist perspective of Ancestors as past lives. You have been a monk for the past 30 lifetimes. Now you’re a Modern American and have a tremendous impetus towards the spiritual path and have no idea how to date (okay that one’s me too).
This can get very dark. Say you lived all of your life as a good person. But your village was raided and in your last moment before death you watched a soldier murder your child. And in that last moment, you bit down and felt the most unbelievable rage followed by the desire to kill the person who killed your child. And in death you forgot all the goodness of your human life and could remember nothing but the rage and the feeling of biting down, in which you get stuck, unable to release. In anger, you chase after the only beings you can “see,” and your great nephew gets terminal cancer.
In the Chinese Tradition, this is called Possession. And these issues are called “ghosts” and “demons.” This is a huge topic. In short, a ghost is an Ancestor who had a very incomplete death, full of longing, desire, and dissatisfaction, which you may inherit as anxiety and low-self-esteem. A demon is an Ancestor who died full of anger and hate, which you may inherit as an incurable illness or irrational aggression or as a freak car accident.
Anyways, you see where I’m going with this? This may sound negative, and I don’t want to spook you. I want to open your mind to the continuum of death experiences and to the notion that while your body may die, your energy, your momentum, your karma continues and becomes Fate in your Ancestral Stream.
But we are not bound to the Fate of our Ancestors. According to Astrology, every Human is a compound of three things—Character, Fate, and Freedom. Humans are, by nature, Free. I’ll say that again—WE ARE FREE BY NATURE. Our limitations, our Karma, and our Fate are inherited. We have no Self. We are a swirling stream of past actions coming to fruition in a mind/body, and nowhere in this stream is there a solid “you.” What you call “you” is just the ability of this compound stream to self-reflect.
When we liberate our Ancestors, we are free to rest in our Nature, which is clear, radiant, calm, but also dynamic and active. A Human Being free of their Ancestors is relaxed and has no compulsion to do anything other than respond appropriately to their Natural Appetites. The momentum of pain and happiness behind them has vanished into light. The more we relax into our Nature, the more we experience ourselves and the world as a phantasm of Light (Qi).
So how do we work with our Ancestors? Better yet, how do we honor them? First—get an Astrology reading! As I mentioned—Polestar Astrology describes the nature of your Ancestral Qi in terms of your Fate and Karma. A reading will tell you if your Fate is in family, career, children, money, and so on, and this tells you how all your Ancestors are crowded behind you.
All my Fate is out in the world, for example; it is not with marriage and children. Of course, I can have family, but if I do so they will be a demonstration of my Freedom. Knowing where our Ancestors are pushing us (and you should already be aware of this to a degree because it’s your life) is helpful. We can deplete ourselves wasting energy in the areas of life that are not fated.
Honor yourself as an expression of everything and everyone that came before you. Recognize that all of your talents and skills, fears and neuroses, come from others. This means letting go of self-hatred and blame as well as self-cherishing. When you do this, thousands of ghosts disappear into light. Letting go of self blame does not mean blaming our Ancestors, for they too were in the same position. We want to liberate them, not blame them. And we do this by following a spiritual path.
By choosing to work with and release our limiting patterns, we release our Ancestors. Release self blame and self-cherishing—cultivate self-respect and self-love. Love yourself—love your Ancestors, for they are one in the same. You are your Ancestors—they exist in you, as you; they do not float around in heaven/hell—they are your living body/mind.
If we live a very thorough life, full of intent and generosity, and if we cultivate a spiritual path, then in the moment of death we do not get “stuck.” Our issues do not get passed down. If we do not have a complete experience of life, then we do not have a complete death; we get stuck in the “bardo,” between birth and death, like a skipping record in a place outside time, and our momentum continues. So most importantly—cultivate self reflection and release your negative patterns through conduct and meditation.
Honor your literal Ancestors; this means your Parents, Grandparents, Culture, and so on. You should thank your Parents for Life; you should honor their wisdom and treat them with respect. You should love them no matter what, no matter what kind of childhood you had. Your enlightenment is theirs too.
Ritual offering is one of the most powerful ways we can honor our Ancestors. Every Chinese home has an Ancestor Altar. Create an Ancestor Altar and make offerings to it every day. Put pictures of your family on the altar and offer them symbols in the form of food, flowers, incense, prayer, songs, or anything that comes from your heart. When you make an offering, cultivate the intent to free everyone in your family line from all their/your negative Fate. You are thousands of people embodied, and everything you do you do as them, for them.
Do prostrations in front of your Ancestor Altar. In the Tantric and Daoist Traditions, prostrations are the main practice for liberating your Ancestors. Visualize all your Female Ancestors in an unbroken line behind your left shoulder and all of your Male Ancestors behind your right shoulder. Honor everything you come from and bow (even better get transmission on Prostration Practice and do it as part of your spiritual path). Prostrations are embodied—your body is the living expression of your Ancestors, and to bow in full prostration with your body to the stream that generated it is very powerful.
Have proper funerals. Whatever your deceased Ancestor expected—do that. If your Dad was an Irish Catholic and wanted you to get drunk at his funeral and tell stories about him—do it. You may say, “I’m a Buddhist; I don’t drink.” On that day you get drunk like an Irishman. If your Mother wanted to be cremated—do it. Never do what you want at their funeral—do what they wanted and expected—this helps their transition, especially if you have strong family traditions, which is why it is important to write a will. Do not chant Buddhist Sutras at your Irish Grandmother’s funeral—you will probably confuse her. Tell their stories, and allow yourself time to grieve. Say everything you wanted to say to them, and make sure that you keep speaking to them for at least seven weeks after their death. Visualize them resolving into light and love.
Also, if you have the honor to be around a Family member in the dying process, do whatever you can to make their experience peaceful and full of resolution. Do not cry and sob and wail around a corpse. The dead can hear for a long time after death. If their last moments are of you crying “don’t leave me!” They may stick around as a ghost.
Research your genealogy. Find out who you come from, where you come from. Make a family tree. Get a DNA test. Find out all of their names and stories. Go back as far as you can. Find out if and how they immigrated. Did they go to war? Were they farmers? What languages did they speak? Has anyone in your family been forgotten? Are their sad stories waiting to be told? Sometimes, an Ancestor can linger for generations, just waiting to be remembered, for their name to be spoken. Sometimes this is enough.
Eat the food of your Ancestors, at least a little. If your Ancestors spent the past three hundred generations eating potatoes, pork, and cabbage, or yak butter and barley, or rice, beans and squash, or bread, clams, and pasta, and now you’re a gluten free-vegan…they may be unhappy. If your body came from pork and cabbage and you’re giving it tofu …unhappy Ancestors. Of course, eat what you want, but try to eat Ancestral Food mindfully at least every once in a while.
And finally—contemplate the preciousness of Human Birth, the reality of impermanence and death, the difficulties of saṃsāra, and the truth of fate/karma. These are called the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind towards the Dharma. While the Buddhist Traditions are immensely complex, 98% of the Buddhist paths are in these preliminaries.
To be born human and to hear the Dharma is said to be very rare and therefore precious. Imagine a single sea turtle swimming alone in a vast infinite ocean. This turtle only comes for air once every million years. On the surface of this ocean floats a golden ring, tossed about on the waves. The likelihood of being born human and hearing the precious Dharma is said to be as rare as this turtle coming up for air and poking his head through the golden ring. So be thankful for being human, having human parents, and for the chance to make human babies. Out of all 64,000 x 64,000 kinds of birth, human beings are the most free and the most apt to become enlightened, even more so than Deities. All the more reason to thank and honor your Ancestors.
Everything is compound, processional, and in a state of flux/flow, hurling toward death. All compound phenomena are impermanent and subject to birth, old age, sickness, and death. YOU WILL DIE. And this is not morbid or depressing—it is natural. Death is as natural as Birth. Birth is the cause of death. We live in order to learn how to live and so how to die well and be liberated in the moment of death. Contemplate this every day, so that when loved ones die, and when you face death, you can relax and open into the experience. Death is the greatest opportunity to understand Life, and you do not have to wait until death to learn this lesson. Die before you die and you are free.
Saṃsāra means to cycle. Everything cycles in time—this is the meaning of Astrology. The cyclical procession of Time is Immortal—we cannot get out of it. This was the realization of Mahāyāna Buddhism. We’re Immortal, and we either cycle in Ignorance or Enlightenment. So if we’re Immortal and here forever, we might as well work for Liberation so that we can help out. If we do not take up the Path and free our Ancestors, our Karma, then they and we continue to cycle in Ignorance and suffering, repeating the same patterns of negativity forever. But if we follow the Path, liberate our Ghosts and empty our Hells, then we realize that saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are the same place, the same Immortal Procession of Light, and we are free to relax, go with the flow, and benefit beings with our naturalness and generosity.
Every action has a cause. And every action is a cause. This is called Fate or Karma. In every step, in every thought, and in every action contemplate this. When our actions and our experiences are incomplete, they continue as fragments, called ghosts. When our actions liberate ourselves and others they continue as virtue energy, called good karma or Beneficial Ancestors.
Our Ancestral Stream is full of Ghosts and Beneficial Ancestors, and their blessings and issues create the tapestry of our life. This tapestry is nothing other than past actions coming to fruition. If we truly understand the nature of this matrix, we can disentangle from it. Its nature is empty yet luminous; it is unrestricted and free to manifest as the appearance of cause and effect. As long as we identify with the cycles of cause and effect as truly existing, whether good or bad, we cycle in ignorance. Realizing the Emptiness of Fate and Karma, we experience the universe as an empty display of Loving Awareness-Light, and we are Complete.
Our Completion is not ours but belongs to our Ancestral Stream. Our Liberation liberates the countless beings who came before us, going back to beginningless time. Our Precious Human Birth and our opportunity for Liberation were given to us by our Ancestors. So honor them, and honor yourself.
Stay tuned; in my next Blog I will begin my exposition of the Twelve Characters of Destiny.
Many people consider Astrology abstract and irrelevant to ordinary life, but the truth is quite the opposite. The assumption that Astrology is strange, superstitious, or occult comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what Astrology actually is.
So what is it? In short, Astrology (better understood as Chronology) is the study of Time, Cyclical Time to be precise. Time is the flow or rhythm of our experience in the rhythms/cycles of Nature, reflected in the rhythms of the human body/mind. If you do not think Time is relevant to human life, then feel free to stop reading. If you do, then please keep reading. I would like to offer you some reflections on Time and the spiritual path.
What do I mean by spiritual path? I use this term a lot, but I honestly have no idea what people think when I do. So here, I define the term “spiritual path” as an ongoing interest in cultivating your humanity, which means being interested in what you must do as a human being. Furthermore, this cultivation must be based on a coherent and cohesive view about the nature of human beings/reality. The spiritual path according to the Chinese and Tantric Traditions begin with an interest in your natural and inherent human condition. This begs the question—biologically we are human, so can we resist our humanity? Actually yes.
From the Confucian/Daoist perspective, we are given human birth by our parents, obviously, but we must qualify as a human through education, conduct, and self-reflection. In other words, if we are not properly educated in expressing and relating to our humanity, and if we do not discover these values/virtues in our own experience and conduct, then we can use our freedom to express non-human qualities.
Humans, for example, may use argument to warm up conversation to agreement and compromise; if argument turns to anger, blame, aggression, and violence, we are expressing demonic rather than human qualities. If we spend our life blaming others, we are not qualifying as human and may not be born human the next time around.
Generosity is natural to human beings, but if we do not experience what it feels like when someone is generous to us and act from this feeling, then we may not choose generosity and opt for selfishness, which is a non-human virtue. Because we are free, we can choose limitation and therefore need education and self-reflection. The spiritual path, then, begins and ends with cultivating our human nature, which according to the Chinese Tradition is already in perfect harmony with “Capital N” Nature but may need some education. And unfortunately, most of us receive a very poor education in our humanity.
The Human Spiritual Path cultivates the fundamental aspects of our humanity that we cannot escape. Within the context of Daoism and Tantra, these inescapable human qualities fundamentally relate to Astrology, which is what I would like to discuss here in brief. These are the breath, food, sleep, sex, and death. As human beings we must do these things, and they are all rhythmic, i.e. Astrological.
The following list outlines the categories of spiritual practice and cultivation according to the Human Spiritual Path of Daoist/Tantric Astrology. If anyone tries to sell you a spiritual path that does not engage with these principals, they are selling you a fantasy religion.
As humans, we must breathe. This is the most basic and fundamental rhythm we cannot escape for more than a few moments. The Daoist/Yogic traditions of meditation are very interested in breathing, as you may have noticed. Most basic meditation practices will ask you to relate to your breath in one way or another.
In Chinese Medicine, we breathe Tian Qi, or Heavenly Qi, which when combined with eating or Gu Qi, Earthly Qi, forms the basis for producing Blood and Chen Qi, or ordinary Qi, the basis of our ordinary experience.
How is breathing related to Astrology? First, you cannot inhale and exhale at the same time, which implies that breathing alternates (Yin-Yang) in the flow of Time. The fact that it alternates means that it is a rhythm which is the definition of Time/Astrology itself. While it may seem abstract, our breath is considered a microcosmic reflection of the rhythm of heaven/the universe. In Daoism, the breath is called the gate of Heaven and Earth (in and out), or the “Purple Palace,” which in Astrology is called the gate of Fate and Freedom. The breath is our main source of reciprocity with the world.
What most people don’t know is that our breath actually flows in reciprocity with the Sun, Moon, and Seasons. In Daoist and Tantric Alchemy, the rhythms of the Sun and Moon affect our solar and lunar channels, which help to regulate our breathing, for example alternating which nostril opens and closes.
Simply put, breathing is the basis of our Human experience and the basis of the spiritual path. We cannot stop, so if we want to have a spiritual path, we must become interested in our breathing.
We breathe from birth until death. Our first breath demarcates our “birth time” in Astrology, which forms the basis of our Fate.
As humans, the second thing we must do is eat. This means that we must also assimilate and eliminate. This pattern of eating, then, involves many rhythms related to Time/Astrology. We bite, chew, and swallow; our digestion undulates in a rhythm. We tend to shit (pardon my French) in a rhythm, too, usually in the morning. If we do not defecate consistently/rhythmically, this is a sign of illness.
For many reasons, eating is the basis of the Spiritual Path. Buddhist teachers may not tell you this, but I will say unabashedly that if a spiritual teacher does not ask you to relate to your diet (and this does not mean forcing vegetarianism for "moral" reasons) then they are teaching a fantasy path.
The experience of our body and health is founded upon diet/exercise. This is a big subject, so I will keep it short and say that we each possess a unique constitution that thrives on different kinds of food. In Tantra/Ayurveda, this principal is called “for whom and when.” In other words, in order to follow a spiritual path, you must cultivate your health through understanding your elemental constitution and then eat accordingly. The tradition of Macrobiotics/Dietetics is an integral part of Daoism, and Daoists have experimented with diet and meditation for millennia.
Eating and breathing produce Chen or Ordinary Qi, which allows us to do EVERYTHING, including meditation, Yoga, and so on. No eating, no spiritual path. Improper eating—poor quality of life, poor quality of meditation. Monks the world over are malnourished and unhealthy. Americans are often over-nourished.
How is eating related to Astrology?
First, food is planted, grown, and harvested according to the seasons (or at least it was before mono-cropping). The Seasons are fundamental to Astrology, and seasonal eating is fundamental to health. Eating according to Astrology profoundly connects you to the Earth.
Second, you may notice that you eat at certain, hopefully consistent, times of the day. According to Astrology, there are specific times in which we assimilate nutrients most effectively. Furthermore, according to Astrology, we should not eat dinner after the Sun goes down, for our digestive fire goes down with it. If we eat late at night and close to sleep, then our sleep and dreams are disturbed.
Third, breathing and eating produces Xue, or Blood, which, like our breath, pulses in a rhythm. In Chinese and Indian Medicine, we take a pulse because this fundamental rhythm reflects our health/state of being. The pulse alternates according to Yin-Yang and the Five Elements, which we read in/according to Time/Astrology. The Moon pulls the tide and regulates our pulse, since blood is mostly water. We have 12 pulses that reflect the path of the Moon through the 12 houses/28 Mansions of the sky from day to night.
Again, this is a big topic, and it is enough to say that if you do not pay attention to your diet, you are not showing up and inhabiting your life, and you are certainly not following a spiritual path.
Sleep & Dream
As humans, the third thing we must do is sleep and rest. We spend 1/3 of our life asleep, which may be 30 years if you live to be 90, so clearly it is important. Yet how many of us black out at night exhausted and wake up groggy, un-rested, and with no memory of the night? If this is you, then you are not fully on the spiritual path. You must sleep to be healthy. If you want to follow the Human Path of spiritual cultivation, then you must be interested in what you must do, so reclaim the night and actively participate in sleep and dream. Path/Shamanic Dreaming is a huge topic, which I will eventually write a book about, so stay tuned.
Sleep and Dream are fundamental to both Daoism and Tantra. Sleep and Dream are also related to Death, which is last on our list.
How is sleeping/dreaming related to Astrology? By now this should be obvious. We are not nocturnal; we sleep according to the rhythms of the Sun/Moon, which is the subject of Astrology. When the Sun goes down, our body begins to shut down and prepare for sleep. According to Chinese Astrology, the night has many phases that regulate our sleep and dreaming (to learn more read my blog on Conduct and Harmony with the Time of Day). The content of our dreams is both Astrological and Ancestral, Ancestral Qi being a primary subject of Natal Astrology.
If we do not learn how to have proper restorative sleep and if we do not consciously engage in our dreaming, we are not on a spiritual path; we are wasting 1/3 of our life. Astrology/Time is the context for understanding Sleep and Dream.
Mom and Dad got into a rhythm, and now you’re here. Sex is the only way into the human realm. So as humans, the forth thing we must do is have sex/reproduce. If you do not consciously engage with your sexuality, you are not on a spiritual path—period. If a spiritual tradition says that being celibate is more spiritual, it is teaching a fantasy path. It may be for some people, but probably not for 98% of the planet. Sexuality is absolutely natural; horniness, in a sense, creates the species. No sex, no precious human birth. In the Tantric/Daoist View sex has three purposes—reproduction, recreation, and re-creation.
According to Chinese Medicine, we produce something called Jing, regulated by the Kidneys, which is a kind of predilection towards physicality, towards manifestation. Jing carries our ancestral memory, which we inherit from Mom and Dad kicking boots. Jing reproduces us; a scar is faulty Jing memory. Made to reproduces us (the subject of Daoist/Tantric Alchemy), Jing also creates junior, which is why you have your Mom’s eyes and your Dad’s jaw. My Grandma told me I have the “Eartmann Nose,” which I channel from my Danish Ancestors.
How is sex related to Astrology? First, Natal Astrology is related to an event called BIRTH, you probably don’t remember it, but it was significant. The timeliness of your birth says everything about you. Birth determines Fate and Character. Fate is something given to you by your ancestors, part of which is passed through Jing.
According to Chinese Medicine, the quality of sex your parents had to have you has a great deal to do with your Fate, Health, and Character. When we have good sex, when we both lose our false self and find our humanity in the process, when we deeply want a child, and when all of our organs (not just our genitals) are aroused, our Jing becomes magnetized, and this calls forth powerful beings and makes great children. So according to the Chinese Tradition, it is immoral/irresponsible to have bad sex because it produces bad humans, hence the many manuals on sex in Daoism (which unfortunately get misinterpreted along with all the Tantric sex nonsense).
Of course, most sex does not make babies. But according to Astrology, our sexual chemistry is very much defined by our Astrology, a cornerstone of arranged marriage in both China and India. And seeing that every human being wants to have sex at least a little (probably a lot), then (regardless of with whom/in where) we should have good sex. Astrology helps us understand how two people relate sexually due to ancestral Jing.
Finally, sex/relationships are now the source of tremendous confusion, frustration, and suffering, especially due to a 3,000+ year history of transcendental over-masculinized religion that has repressed women and sexuality (and women’s sexuality) with the view that sex/woman/the body are sinful or an impediment to the Path. According to Daoism and Tantra this is inhuman. Sex is fundamental to our humanity and therefore fundamental to our Path; if we do not engage consciously with our sexual energy, we do not walk the Human Path.
Finally, as humans we must die. Obviously, you just had to be born or you would not be reading this. Birth is the only cause of Death. No one dies from illness, disease, accidents, and so on—this is an exaggerated myth. We die because we were born—period. Death is natural to birth in the same way that shitting is natural to eating; we may not like it, but we have to go. If we do not engage with death and mortality, then we are practicing a fantasy path. And this is not morbid.
Every human being has the natural ability to die well, but we cannot do this if we do not practice. Luckily you practice dying every night when you fall asleep, another reason to consciously engage with Sleep and Dream. Daoist and Tantric practices are largely a preparation for death.
That being said, we die like we were born—somewhere in the flow of time. Our predilection for illness and death is largely ancestral, according to Chinese Astrology. Astrology can help us understand our “ancestral stream” (which I will discuss in the next blog), and this stream tells us where we came from and where we are going. If we resolve our Ancestors (karma/everything that came before, i.e in Time), then we are able to experience our Original Nature and die as an Immortal.
Birth and Death form the basic rhythm of all Life, which is actually an Immortal continuity. Engaging with Death, especially through Sleep/Dream practice, we learn that our Original Nature was never born and therefore never dies; we learn that Birth and Death are a dream. Touching this primordial continuity and living from it is the meaning of Enlightenment and Immortality in the Daoist/Tantric Tradition.
Breath, food, sleep, sex, and death are the pillars of the Human Spiritual Path, and each show us the continuity of the Rhythm of Life in the flow of Time/Astrology. These are enormous topics, and my goal here was to give you a taste of how they relate to Astrology. If you are sharp, you will realize that the Human Path is all inclusive, meaning we cannot reject any aspect of our Humanity if we want to grow spiritually. This is not a popular idea yet in Modern Spirituality, most teachers start you with Meditation or Yoga, which goes to show how crazy it is. Meditation is useless if it is not contextualized within your actual human life, which is founded upon breathing, eating, and so on. This may sound controversial, but as I have said, any spiritual teacher who does not engage you with food, sleep, sex, and death are teaching a fantasy. You are human, and your human body and its natural appetites are the spiritual path—period.
Astrology offers a fundamental lens to understand our Humanity. Why? Because Astrology is the study of Time, and all of our experience happens in the cyclical procession of time. I contend that you cannot become enlightened or even live a full and rich Human life if you do not fully engage with these subjects through the lens of how they flow/flux/alternate in the rhythms of Time.
How do we engage with them? APPETITE
Appetite is the KEY to all of these subjects. The Human Path is inherent within you because you have a natural appetite, given to you by your Ancestors, for breath, food, sleep, sex, and death. If you learn to cultivate your body as a sensitive instrument, then it will tell you everything from when, what, and how to eat; it will tell you what kind of partners and sex you need; it will tell you precisely when you’re tired, and it will even tell you when it is time to die. If you relax into your Natural Human Condition through relating to these fundamental rhythms, you will realize that your Natural State is already in perfect harmony with Dao, no need for strenuous meditation and striving.
Finally, and above all, as humans, we MUST relate to other humans. The Path of Human Spirituality is the path of discovering your natural relatedness, and these five categories are a good place to start.
Stay tuned; in the next blog, I will discuss the meaning of Ancestors in Chinese Astrology.
From complete “I don’t know,” called Dao, our experience alternates in a pattern we call Yin-Yang. I have explored these concepts (Dao, Yin-Yang) as a basis for cosmology, cosmology addressing the questions—what is the universe; what is a human being? Cosmology provides a view for our experience, so we can work with it directly rather than conceptually. Delving further into basic cosmology, the Chinese Tradition describes the movement of Qi in a cycle of five phases, sometimes called “elements,” which I would like to explore.
First, I need to address two views central to Western thought, which are antithetical to the Chinese Tradition—theism and materialism. In ancient China, these would have been non-issues. In our culture, however, they are central. In short, Chinese Astrology operates from a non-theistic and non-materialist view. If we operate from a theistic or materialist view of reality, our use of Chinese Astrology actually won’t work.
Theism is central to the cosmology of India and the West. Although broad and diverse, theism is simple. Here, I define theism not only as the belief that God(s)/Goddess(es)/deities exist but as the belief that they are somehow significant. For example, God created the universe as in Genesis. Or, from the countless examples of India, we are penetrated by Śiva (called samāveśa), and our limited being merges with cosmic or divine Being. China heard many forms of theism and said—not interested. In response to the Bible—all deities who live in mountains say they created the universe, and they are all wrathful; why would you get involved with them?
Chinese Astrology is not atheistic; it is non-theistic. In other words, Chinese cosmology recognizes the existence of many, many kinds of beings (64,000 types of ghosts, for example), all falling into six broad categories shared with most Asian traditions—demon, ghost, animal, human, demigod, and god. While beings are not all “equal,” no one is more significant or important than another. There are teachings for ghosts, teachings for gods, teachings for humans, etc. We all move in different rhythms, have different kinds of bodies, and experience the universe quite differently. Deities are just other kinds of beings with a different, more exalted, more ethereal kind of experience. And in terms of a Universal/Primordial Being or Cosmic Consciousness often described in India, Chinese Tradition would say—very clever but “unknowable;” don’t bother. And Dao is certainly not God in the Western sense.
Many wisdom traditions say that we are really God in disguise. Many people want to discover who they truly are, find their passion, expecting to find God and great meaning behind everything, or that they posses great power or purpose. Many seek a big exalted enlightenment experience where everything is revealed, and we get to have a big birthday party—the big enlightenment doughnut in the sky. Liu Ming used to say that if you study Chinese Astrology and come out the other side of fate you should find out your own non-existence rather than the “real you.” The real you is something like space…very disappointing to the ego and not very satisfying to big spiritual appetites. In the study of Chinese Astrology, we are not looking for God’s plan or design, and we are not looking to find our purpose or passion. We are looking to find our ordinary human experience, situated in our actual situation, which is enormous.
Theism is not denied; it is more or less irrelevant to our ordinary human experience. In Chinese Astrology, we aspire to the human spiritual path, not the path of deities. The experience of deities is not given a special place, nor is the idea of one God. Confucius refused to talk about God—you actually had a father; this is significant; don’t make a bearded daddy in the sky. The human spiritual path is about how humans relate to other humans, not to God.
Chinese Tradition begins from the view that ordinary human experience is already complete, already in perfect harmony with the Dao. The only thing preventing this experience is false views about reality, based on our belief in an abiding world and self. We do not need help from God or deities to realize our Original Nature; we need only to be in our actual human experience—already perfect. The human path of spirituality is based on ordinary human life, which consists of ordinary rhythms such as waking, dreaming, and sleeping, eating, digesting, and shitting, inhaling and exhaling, circulating blood, all in relation our human experience of life on Earth.
Chinese Astrology is also non-materialist, which brings us into the discussion of five elements. Element theory in Europe and India is often materialist; when we say Earth Element, people often visualize dirt; this is not the case in China.
While modern physics is slowly offering us a vision of reality that has been know in Asia for thousands of years, we are still a decidedly materialist culture. In other words, we believe in a solid abiding world and that we are solid abiding beings. I might say the proof that I “exist” is that cannot pass my hand through the table. I know that my cat exists because he looks the same as he did yesterday and two weeks ago and so on. We believe in material, in stuff, in things. Since things appear to be stable and consistent, we think they are solid entities, existing from their own side. We entertain the notion that we are compound (made of parts, pieces, components) because we have common sense, but as a culture, we believe that these components are reliable. We searched for, and apparently “found,” the “God Particle.” We examine things in the hope that we will finally find something “undividable” (the meaning to the word atom), whether it be particles or light waves—there must be something that makes up or accounts for everything, some building blocks. This was the impetus for ancient element theory in Europe. Well, the Chinese Tradition, especially Buddhism, says—no. There is no ultimate stuff, and if there were it would be un-findable, ungraspable, and indefinable by concept; this is one meaning of the word emptiness. The fact that everything escapes investigation and description means there is nothing solid or abiding to ultimately find; everything is infinitely dividable. What you’re looking at is what you think you’re looking at. In other words, your world is a projection, a mental construct, the mind crystallizing a display of light and mirrors.
Holding the view of an abiding self and world is actually painful, and nothing will ever be more exhausting than trying to maintain this view, so let it go—that’s Buddhism in a nutshell. Reality is an unimpeded, unbounded, dynamic flux, so as soon as we fixate our view and hold on to stability/permanence, reality begins to grind us down—this is the meaning of the word dukkha in Buddhism. Suffering occurs when our view and reality are misaligned. The ancient meaning of the word dukkha comes from an axel that does not fit properly into its spoke; you can force it, but the wheel rolls funny, and the axle grinds away.
If people actually exist, then they actually die. If there was a creation, there will be annihilation—this is a nightmare. In this moment, we are hurling towards the grave, but there is no real “you” anywhere in this hurling; there is just the hurling, a compound in procession.
Everything is compound PERIOD. And everything is in procession, meaning in a flow/flux. This is what is meant by non-materialist. What we observe is movement, but there is no “thing” moving. What moves is Qi, but Qi is not a “thing;” it is just movement itself, and we describe movement as Yin-Yang, which further differentiates into a cycle of five phases. Two goes to five, making ten. In Astrology, these combinations of two and five are called the Ten Heavenly Stems—Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc.
This view is in direct opposition to theistic creationism and scientific materialism. Our culture tends to fixate in an either or situation in regards to religion/science. You either believe in science or religion or you compromise between the two while secretly believing that one is “real.” When push comes to shove, most of us believe in Scientism; in death we turn to science/western medicine to save us, especially when the machines go “bing!”
We cannot approach Chinese Astrology from this perspective; it won’t work. Yin-Yang and Five Element Cosmology does not involve creation or destruction. We speak of the procession as generating and concluding, but this does not imply a beginning or end. There was no beginning, no first movement, and no big bang that started everything (b/c what came before that?). Things resolve, but resolution is the mother of generation; death is the mother of birth. There is never an end to this continuity. Life is an eternal rhythm that goes—birth-death-birth-death…
In this view, there is nothing outside Yin-Yang and the Five Elements; there is nothing, no one, no creator watching and judging. If you use Chinese Astrology as a replacement view—if you replace God the Father/Jesus with Śiva, or Dao, or Buddha, this is almost as stressful as the view of a permanent soul/self. All you have done is found new language to substantiate ignorance.
In Astrology, we describe our Character and Fate in terms of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements, but in order to make sense of this, we must understand them as basic principles. Remember, these five phases describe the procession of all movement, all change, and all experience...your experience! Wisdom comes from your own living experience. Cosmology is not religious. It is a vocabulary to help us feel into our experience, nothing more. And, again, it is not materialist, meaning Wood Element is not lumber, Fire Element is not flames, Earth Element is not dirt, Metal Element is not gold, and Water Element is not H2O. They are principles describing the cyclical procession of Qi. While they are processional, they can appear simultaneous. They can be big, describing the movement of galaxies, or small, describing the movement of thought. We begin with Wood; we start with start.
Although we start with Wood, we must remember the mother of Wood is Water, meaning when things end and resolve they have nowhere to go, nothing to do except start over again. Wood Element is the starting over part of our experience, the Qi experience of start, made possible by death. Wood Element is the basic fundamental impulse or whim to manifest, generate, grow, and move. But it does not manifest; manifestation does not happen until Earth. Wood is eternal freshness, eternal beginning, naïve and new before everything, before thought. Everything is about to happen; Wood is the potential that never demonstrates itself. You cannot paint freshness and hang it on a wall, nor can you actually see Wood Element. The first two of the Five Element cycle are un-manifest, meaning they do not actually appear. They are the process that must occur before anything can appear. Wood is associated with the juicy, young, fresh, quality of experience. The image of Wood comes from the sapling, the sprouting seed, associated with spring and the color green/turquoise, the color of new life starting again. Even in the oldest tree, there is still something juicy sucking up rain. While we use this imagery to describe Wood Element, the actual experience of Wood is this impulse, this prompting before things manifest. When "spiritual people" talk about the Eternal Now, they are describing a Wood Element experience. Wood is the mother of Fire.
As soon as this prompting, this impulse to manifest moves, this movement generates a kind of friction or heat we call Fire Element. This heat gives manifestation a direction toward appearing. Fire Element is not flames. Fire is still un-manifest. In other words, we do not see heat/fire. What we call fire, i.e. the color of flames, comes from the moisture in wood; heat itself is invisible; it is just temperature. The image of Fire Element, associate with summer and the color red/orange, does come from flame, but this is only an image. Fire Element is the warming/heating up, directional part of our experience. For example, the end (water) of being satiated prompts the beginning of a new cycle (wood), which begins to heat up (fire), generating hunger. As soon as any impulse happens it gains a momentum, a direction; the Now, for example, has a direction; it flows. Fire is the quality of vigor, energy, the impulse of Wood Element getting excited, wanting to manifest and appear. So Fire is the mother of Earth, giving birth to appearance.
The heating, stirring, frictional quality of fire sparks and what “began” as an impulse manifests as appearance. Earth Element is the tendency of Qi to appear and manifest temporarily as form. Earth Element describes the continuity, the stabilizing of Qi in the cycle of change. Earth Element constitutes a great deal of what we consciously experience. Earth and Metal are the qualities of our experience which present a “world.” Looking in front of me, I see a form (earth), which, in and of itself, is non-conceptual. I call it “table,” and the table appears to be solid and exist. The continuity of “table” may last a while, but in a thousand years it will be decayed and gone. The Five Element cycle of change is largely invisible and does not actually produce anything that lasts. It produces temporary appearances; the temporary (however long) aspect being defined by Earth. The table appears to exist for a while, but it will disappear. Just because titanium lasts for a really, really long time (relatively speaking), does not mean it is permanent; titanium is still in a process of movement/change. Earth is heaviness, the experience of continuity and solidity. My body, for example, feels solid and heavy, and so I become attached to its existence. However, I shed me cells every 7-8 years; my body is not the same body I had at 16; nothing about it is stable; I may die tomorrow. The image of Earth Element, associated with the continuity of the seasons and color yellow, comes from the ground, the mountains, from things that appear to endure. Alone, however, Earth Element is mere appearance. As soon, as appearance manifests it immediately begins to transform and change, giving birth to Metal Element. Earth is the mother of Metal.
As soon as appearance stabilizes it begins to become particular, differentiated, and variegated. Nothing is what it appears to be. Metal is the maturation of Earth, appearance crystallizing into “things,” taking on qualities, but always changing in its particularity. The form in front of me is mere form, but as soon as I recognize and distinguish its qualities, I label it “table,” and it becomes a “thing.” I can now describe the table—Metal Element. Metal Element is the particular, conceptual, refined quality of our experience. Associated with fall and the color white/silver, the image of Metal Element comes from alchemy, the refinement of precious metals from raw ore. Practically, Metal Element is refinement, our organs refining and extracting nutrients from food, for example. Together, Earth and Metal constitute most of what we call “stuff,” appearance and conceptual designation. Qi has the tendency to appear as stable stuff, but this stability is merely a momentary aspect in the cycle of Qi. Soon, we forget, we have moments, perhaps when spacing out, when we forget about who we are and where we are going. Metal element is tenuous, strenuous, and refinement cannot be maintained. Our concepts about reality are limited and must fall apart. It is exhausting to maintain appearances, so Metal gives birth to Water, collapsing into oblivion.
The peak of manifestation and appearance has nowhere to go, nothing to do except collapse and fall apart. Water Element is the falling apart aspect of our experience. Water is the “end” of the cycle, so it is also the beginning, the mother of Wood. Water is associated with death, with dissolution. Our experience of life is full of death. We experience so many endings; it is amazing we fear death. Every inhalation ends; every thought passes away; every sensation dissolves. Every night we die when we fall asleep. Water Element is the collapsing of particulars into undifferentiated soup. If things didn’t end, nothing would move; there would be no room for anything new. The constant dissolution of our experience constantly makes way for the impulse of Wood, for newness. Associated with winter and the color blue/black, the image of Water Element is like water itself, describing the flowing, liquid, malleable, interconnected, fluid nature of life. Water Element is the recognizable, dramatic experience of change. Usually, we don’t notice change until things collapse and dissolve. Water Element is therefore associated with drama, with Big Yin. But nothing can end permanently; dissolution naturally generates the impulse to manifest; nature abhors a vacuum. So Water is the mother of Wood, and the cycle begins again.
What I have described here is the “generating” cycle of the Five Phases. Naturally, there is a “concluding” cycle. Water extinguishes Fire, meaning dissolution maintains excitement. Wood eats Earth, meaning freshness lightens the heaviness of the heart. Fire melts Metal, meaning inspiration softens rigid thinking. Earth absorbs Water, meaning continuity and stability upholds the fear of death. And Metal cuts Wood, meaning logic and reason edit naivety.
The wisdom of the Five Elements of Qi is meaningless until we recognize it in our own experience. The Chinese Tradition is relative. It does not come from God; it comes from humans. It must be examined, over and over again. Do not accept it until you examine it. If you can identify part of your experience that does not fall into these five categories then we can add a sixth. Since millions of people have not been able to do so over thousands of years of tradition, and neither have I, I find it comprehensive. Yin-Yang and Five Element cosmology is quite profound. Here, I have only attempted to describe the basic qualities of each as a basis for your own inquiry.
Next, we will delve into Character and break down the “folklore” aspect of Chinese Astrology. I, for example, am a Tiger-Rooster-Horse-Dragon! But what does that mean? Before that, however, I will discuss xiāntao, the Way of Immortals, the lineage this Astrology comes from.
Before delving further into the view teachings of Chinese Astrology through the five elements, I would like to offer a glimpse into the practicality of Astrology. While I often emphasis the “big picture,” this big picture can be difficult at times to connect with, especially in a culture which does not value cyclical time. So, I would like to offer a simple guide to a “Chinese Day.”
In the view of cyclical time, the energy of the universe moves in natural rhythms. These rhythms are mathematical and move in a pattern of 12 branches/Qi characters x 5 elements or 60, derived from the Jupiter cycle, the historical source of our 60 second/60 minute time measurement in the West. These rhythms of 60 spiral inwards and outwards from microcosm to macrocosm, including the rhythms of our body and the rhythms of the universe. While these cycles are endless, the most observable and practical are called the Four Pillars—the lunar year, month, day, and hour. For example, I am writing this during the Yang Water Horse hour of a Yin Wood Rabbit day of a Yin Fire Pig month of a Yin Wood Goat Year. These words describe the different patterns of Qi that the universe moves through all the time, around and around. Like the clock, these cycles do not go anywhere except in circles. I will have much more to say about the Four Pillars in future blogs.
For now, rather than going on and on about the view, I would like to emphasize the practicality of these cycles by describing the basic outline of the 12 hour day of the Chinese calendar. A Chinese hour is 2 western hours, covering the standard 24 hour day, and moves along in the pattern of 5 elements and 12 Qi characters of the zodiac, forming a 60 double-hour cycle, which spans 5 days.
Chinese Astrology teaches that the universe is exuding a certain pattern of energy during each phase of this cycle, and the energy available tends towards certain patterns of conduct. If we live according to this cycle, we have the momentum of the universe behind us, and we are more apt to live a harmonious life. If we resist or ignore these cycles, then we not only shorten our life, but we obscure the wisdom inherent in our natural condition.
The universe is already moving in a certain pattern; if we go against the grain, we slowly grind ourselves down. We can choose to ignore the natural condition with our freedom, and human beings are very good at adapting. So in some cases, we can succeed, but only temporarily. In this view, everything is self-resolving, so eventually, moving against this cycle will cause illness.
Unfortunately, our culture pushes us to be productive all the time, and our industries often force people into unnatural cycles. For example, service jobs often require people to work late into the night when they should be asleep, which causes them to sleep late into the day when they should be active. We do this for long enough, and we get used to it. If this is the case, then I offer this as something to consider in the long run. In youth especially, we have the Qi to avoid natural wisdom, but this only lasts for so long.
Our body, energy, and mind move in the same rhythm as the universe. When we live according to the natural cycles of time, we (microcosm) begin to mirror the universe (macrocosm), revealing our fundamental interconnectedness.
Although it is helpful to learn the natural tendencies of each time of day, it is more important to actually feel them. If we can sense the Qi of Horse Hour, then it becomes a source of wisdom. Horse hour is a time for productivity; hence, I am writing and am compelled toward activity.
I hope that this guide helps you tune into the natural rhythms of life. Here is a basic outline of the rhythm of the day (remember this changes according to the 5 elements, so eventually you will feel the difference between a fire dog and water dog hour)
Chen—Dragon: Yang Earth—7-9am (3rd Moon)
We shall begin with Dragon Hour from 7 to 9 am. Dragon is BIG YANG, associated with the rising sun. In the Chinese Zodiac, Dragon Qi is considered unlimited potential; it is all the animal energies combined into one mysterious, ineffable potentiality. Energetically, this is the most powerful and active time of the day. You should always be up, awake, and entering into action by Dragon Hour. This is probably difficult for people who like to sleep in. Actually, if you investigate your experience, you should be naturally compelled out of bed during this time, regardless of whether or not you are a “morning bird.” Since I was young, I have never been able to sleep in past 9. This is also when our digestion is most active. We can digest and assimilate anything during Dragon Hour, so this is the best time for a nourishing breakfast. This is the time to get the day in motion. Begin your day by Dragon Hour, and everything will flow along naturally.
Si—Snake: Yin Fire—9-11am (4th Moon)
After BIG YANG comes BIG YIN in the form of Snake Hour from 9 to 11 am. In the Chinese Zodiac, Snake Qi is associated with the unseen, the unknown, and with the empty nature of apparent phenomena. After the big energetic launch, Dragon Hour, the universe naturally recedes and opens into a space of self-reflection, without which Dragon Qi can become too ambitious, and we may exhaust ourselves during the day. Snake Hour is a tremendous open transparency in which we are able to see through our ambitions to the fact that Yang always turns back into Yin. Everything we work to achieve will fall apart, so the rest of the day should be filled with this awareness. Once we get our day going during Dragon Hour, we must slow down and reflect on who and what we are and on what we are doing. Snake hour should be a time for mystical self-reflection, revelation, and preparation for the rest of the day. Without taking this time to reflect, the rest of the day can become linear, and we may be fooled into the notion that we “progress” and that time is going somewhere other than around and around in eternal circles.
Wu—Horse: Yang Fire—11am—1pm (5th Moon)
After this necessary self-reflection, we are ready for Yin to turn back into Yang, and we enter Horse hour, the time for productivity, industry, action, and energetic independence. From 11am to 1 pm, we should naturally feel compelled toward productivity. This is when we should “work,” in terms of physical labor, building, construction, production, and so on. In the Chinese Zodiac, Horse Qi is associated with thoughtless action in the best sense. Horse is the wisdom of manifestation, of “doing,” and of embodiment. Horse is associated with craft and skill. If you are physically active and productive during Horse Hour, you will live much longer and not exhaust yourself. This is also the other time of day when our digestion is most active, so it is the best time for a hearty lunch.
Wei—Goat: Yin Earth—1-3pm (6th Moon)
Once we have completed our most vigorous and productive activity, Yang turns back to Yin, and we enter the refining and socializing Goat Hour from 1-3pm. In the Chinese Zodiac, Goat Qi is associated with the “herd,” with social order, cooperation, compromising, harmony, justice, fairness, and so on, and it is also associated with aesthetics, art, and beauty. Goat Hour, then, is the time to work and be with others and cultivate friendship and teamwork. This is the time to get together and do things in groups and to refine and adjust the productivity of Horse Hour. Once we create something, we must step back and adjust our creation to accord with social context and welfare. Building a table is useless if we do not sit down to eat, and what good is eating alone if your friends are hungry? Goat Hour is also the time for art and aesthetics. It is a time to paint, write, sing, or just stare out into the landscape and contemplate humanity.
Shen—Monkey: Yang Metal—3-5pm (7th Moon)
After the refining Goat Hour, Yin turns back to Yang, and we move forward into Monkey Hour from 3-5pm. In the Chinese Zodiac, Monkey Qi is associated with planning, strategizing, projecting, adapting, and imagining. Monkey Hour is the time to look forward to the next day or week and plan ahead. In terms of work, it is the time to cease productivity and to shift into imagination. This is the only time of day you should actually project into the future; plan ahead, and then drop it. In the wild, Monkeys are always scanning the environment for danger and anticipating threats. During Monkey Hour, our Qi naturally anticipates the end of the day and the transition into night. So it is a time of adaptation; soon we must head home, but before we do, we must digest the experience of the day, adapt accordingly, and anticipate what may come. Monkey Qi is also playful, so this is the time to end the seriousness of work, “quitting time,” when you should joke and have fun with co-workers before heading home.
You—Rooster: Yin Metal—5-7pm (8th Moon)
From Yang back to Yin, we receded into Rooster Hour, from 5-7pm, the time of completion. In China, this time of day is associated with “coming home to roost,” the time when all the chickens and animals make their way back to the barn. It is the “crepuscular hour,” the transition from day to night. In the Chinese Zodiac, Rooster Qi is associated with completion, precision, competition, and confidence. This is the time to go home. Once home, this is the time to take pride and have confidence in what you have done, to reflect and analyze. This is the Yin hour of digestion, the time for tea and a light supper, when we can refine and extract the most nutrients towards the end of the day. If there is a time to hang out with friends at the Pub, this is it; Rooster is associated with bravado, and with the kind of socializing that relates to the “pecking order.”
Xu—Dog: Yang Earth—7-9pm (9th Moon)
Once we return home, we move from Yin back to Yang into Dog Hour, from 7-9pm, the family hour. In China, they say if you are home and with your family by Dog hour, you will live a long and happy life. In the Chinese Zodiac, Dog Qi is associated with loyalty, dedication, faithfulness, and protection. By Dog Hour, you should be home and enjoying social time with the family. This is an active Yang hour, the time to connect and socialize with those closest to you. The family dinner, ideally, should happen late during Rooster Hour, and now this is the time to enjoy being home, to relax, read, watch TV, talk, play with the kids, play with the dog, and forget about the troubles of the day. Since we have domesticated dogs, they have been associated with protection, the family dog often staying awake until everyone is safe and asleep. Dog Hour is the first active phase of the night, when we cultivate vigilance and family loyalty. If we live alone, it is a great time to cultivate the same qualities with close friends.
Hai—Pig: Yin Water—9-11pm (10th Moon)
Now that we are home and have actively unwound during Dog Hour, Yang turns back to Yin and we relax, sinking down into Pig Hour. In the Chinese Zodiac, Pig Qi is associated with sensuality, relaxation, and enjoyment. It is the time when our Qi sinks down and prepares for sleep; Pig is the falling asleep hour. Associated with enjoyment of the senses, this is the time for sex, pleasure, and honesty (pillow talk) with our partner. This is the time to put on pajamas, relax in bed, turn out the lights, and fall asleep. If you should be up and awake by Dragon Hour, then you should always be in bed by Pig Hour—you will live much longer. It is the natural time of the day for falling asleep, which our culture rebels against (which is fine every once and a while; pig hour is great for parties). Staying up past this hour on a regular basis, according to Chinese Astrology, is a surefire way to get out of sync with the natural rhythm of life and cause illness, because the next hour is the beginning of the dream and sleep phase. If we do not respect sleep and follow the natural rhythm of the sun and moon, then we do not accord with the energy available for regeneration during the next few cycles, and our sleep is not restorative.
Zi—Rat: Yang Water—11pm-1am (11th Moon)
From Yin relaxation, we move forward into Yang sleep, the Rat Hour, from 11pm to 1am. By this time we should have entered into the first stage of sleep, related to the Rat. In the Chinese Zodiac, Rat Qi is associated with analysis, editing, and resolution. It is the wisdom of the compound nature of things, of taking things apart. This phase of sleep is light, and we experience resolving dreams where we edit our experience from the previous day. Our dreams during this time reflect ordinary life, and our subconscious takes this time to digest our incomplete and fractured experience. In a Rat dream, you may get in your car and drive to work, turn to Cynthia in the next desk to find that she’s orange. This is the best time to enter consciously into the dream state, into dream/sleep Yoga. Rat Hour is a preparation for deep dreamless sleep in which we process all the surface details of life; it is when we can make use of shamanic dreaming and dreams of portent. If we miss this time for Rat dreaming, then we may repress the opportunity for mental digestion/editing.
Chou—Ox: Yin Earth—1-3am (12th Moon)
After the editing period of Yang Rat sleep, we sink into Yin sleep, the Ox Hour, from 1am to 3am. Ox Hour is the time for deep, dreamless sleep. In deep sleep we truly rest and rejuvenate. In the Chinese Zodiac, Ox Qi is associated with the return to origin, with slow, steady, uncompromising Yin. During this time, we should have no consciousness and return to complete “I don’t know.” This is the best time to sink into the deep dark unconscious depths, which can eventually turn to Path Dreaming or Clear Light Yoga. If you are awake during Ox Hour, you miss the greatest opportunity for deep rejuvenation and restoration of the body, energy, and mind. It is important that we return to this deep “I don’t know” in order to re-attune ourselves to the natural cycle and start over again.
Yin—Tiger: Yang Wood—3-5am (1st Moon)
Emerging from the darkness of Yin Ox sleep, we break out of the murky depths into Yang Tiger Sleep, from 3-5am. In the Chinese Zodiac, Tiger Qi is associated with the daring, unconventional, fearless, inspirational, and symbolic. This is the second phase of Yang sleep. During the Rat Hour, we edit from the day and sink into Ox dreamlessness. During Tiger Hour, we emerge from the dreamless state to express wild, symbolic, creative, and fearless dreaming. This is when we can fly and visit other worlds; this is when we have “weird” dreams, the kind that make no sense whatsoever. Tiger dreams are a pure expression of the creative impulse of the unconscious. After the rejuvenation of Ox Hour, Tiger Hour is when we are naturally capable of lucid dreams and dreams of clarity, when we are asleep and know we are dreaming and have the full capacity to explore consciousness. According to Chinese Medicine, when we sleep, our "Hun Spirit" leaves the body; the Hun is the body in which we dream. Tiger Hour is when it can “astral project.” If we are awake during Tiger hour, we miss the opportunity for the full exploration of dreams and for the fulfillment of our true creative potential.
Mao—Rabbit: Yin Wood—5-7am (2nd Moon)
After the playful Tiger sleep, we transition from Yang to Yin again for the final phase of the day and the transition into the next, Rabbit Hour, from 5-7am. In the Chinese Zodiac, Rabbits are associated with the Moon, with intuition, interpretation, and the spirit world. Rabbits are most active during this “crepuscular hour,” this transition into day. The Rabbit is associated with the early dawn, when the first soft light begins to shine. It is a misty, magical, gentle hour, when the world is alive with this “bunny” energy. This is the time of day when we slowly and gently emerge from our den. It is the time to rise and prepare for Dragon Hour, the true start of the day. Rabbit Hour is a transition, in which our intuition and interpretation is activated, the best time to digest, record, and interpret our dreams. It is also the best time for morning sex, as Rabbits are associated with reproduction. Traditionally, this is also the best time for meditation and Yoga, so it is best to wake, practice, sit, and begin our day in this space of subtle yet gentle intuition. From here, the cycle starts all over again with Dragon Hour.
According to Chinese Astrology, this cycle is already the natural tendency of our life. If you are in touch with your natural condition, then this should feel natural. This is something to experiment with. It is best to feel into each hour and actually experience the Qi associated with the time of day, so you can go with it rather than against it. It is difficult for us “modern professionals” with such demanding lifestyles, but this is the way humans have lived for thousands of years. And remember, the view teaches that the cycles of time are cyclical, like the Sun and Moon. There is no “progression” in time; we do not move in a straight line, but rather we alternate (Yin/Yang) and go around and around in an eternal procession. The more we move with the natural flow of the Universe, the more we begin to mirror and eventually experience our natural state.
Certain aspects of Daoist and Chinese Cosmology have become “popular.” When I mention Yin and Yang, Qi, or Feng Shui, most people nod their head. However, many students, including myself, are too eager to abandon these basic notions to get to the “details,” the important part where we actually know stuff.
The engineering/mechanistic view of reality tells us that the universe is some kind of Swiss Watch, and that the significance of the universe is in the details. If we can examine all the details and measure everything, somehow this is supposed to produce insight. In the Chinese view, this is non-sense, like taking a watch apart to find the time.
Basic teachings are the key to wisdom. If we rush to expertise, we become hysterical maniacs. Master the basics, and you will flourish.
The following two blogs will zoom out again and continue to examine “the big picture,” the basics, what is called cosmology, the view of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements. To understand anything Chinese, we must understand these teachings in cosmological terms, meaning we must understand how they relate to our actual experience.
But first, I must say something about View Teachings and Astrology. Liu Ming made it a point to emphasize View Teachings. Why? We, as modern post-Christian secularized industrial engineer merchants, are far too eager to adopt techniques and methods from Asian Wisdom Traditions, as if the methods, the “doing stuff” part holds the key to “evolution/progress.” Expertise without wisdom roots is bankrupt and will fail. We must ask basic questions, again and again. If we do not start from a basic understanding of humanity, our expertise will lead us to aggression.
The ten million-billion things all fall into two categories—Yin and Yang. Forget the ten-billion; learn the two.
I have been studying and attempting to practice Asian religions for more than fifteen years now, and I have almost nothing to report. I have learned, however, that all methods, mindfulness for example, come from a certain “view” about reality. Furthermore, all methods are intended to have certain fruition based on that view. Without view, methods are meaningless and will at best produce a kind of neutral effect. If I have learned anything quantifiable, I have learned that methods are a dime a dozen. There are literally thousands of techniques of meditation, yoga, and divination. In short—if we practice a method without adopting the view, that method will not give its intended fruition; it may even be harmful.
I recently asked a friend interested in learning Tantric practice what he thought a human being was, and he replied, “a piece of shit.” And he is not to blame; our culture tells us that human beings are basically bad, and our popular media and Religion certainly reflect this view. However, the fundamental view of Tantra states that human beings are self-liberating expressions of a primordially pure enlightened essence (which is a little too profound for Daoism). If you believe that humans are basically sinful, bad, broken, greedy, and so on, then you can practice Tantric Methods, visualize chakras and channels, hold your breath, squeeze your perineum, and chant mantras for a million years and never experience liberation, because your view and your method are mismatched. When we study view teachings, we fundamentally alter our way of relating to experience, and this opens the space for transformation from the inside out.
If we adopt method without adopting view, then we supply the method with the view we already have, conscious or unconscious. In the case of Americans, this often places the individual and their problems (psychology) at the center of the universe. In this case, Astrology and Meditation become a new vocabulary for our own self importance. Chinese Astrology should make us gentle people and free us from the hysteria of self hatred and self cherishing. In the Chinese View, no individual is significant, and the goal of Astrology is to discover what we have in common, not what makes us different.
In the Chinese view, Astrology should never be used as a form of aggression, smashing our afflictions and murdering our obstructions to get one-up on the universe. Neither should the information be used to condescend and exalt us over others. Nor should it be used to obsess over details, as if the exact position of the north node of the moon will give us “answers.”
The View Teachings of Chinese Astrology, then, are of central importance to the practice and to receiving a reading. To make use of it, we must understand Chinese Cosmological View. It is easy to learn technical vocabulary and techniques; it is not so easy to change our view. And to be clear, view is not philosophy; we consider view as if it were describing reality as it actually is. Philosophy is an option—people should be kind; view is not an option—all that is compound is impermanent.
Finally, we must become aware of our eclecticism, our mixing of views. If you are an ex-Christian scientist who now believes humans are chemical skin bags, or a cultural Jew turned Buddhist, or a California Hindu-Yoga-Buddhist-Taoist-Whatever...this will have an effect on your practice. Eventually, eclecticism turns into something, usually an orthodoxy, but most often it just turns to confusion.
So far, I have discussed these view teachings by exploring the questions—what is a human being and what is the Universe? Within these basic questions, I have begun to explore fundamental view teachings on Character, Freedom, and Fate. I have also been hinting at the “Big Picture,” by discussing Hun Tun, the view that reality is an unknowable chaos, and that all we can observe is temporary cyclical patterns of movement. But how do these view teachings relate to our actual experience?
Take a moment and ask yourself—what do I actually experience?
The Chinese would answer—Qi. What is Qi? Qi is not substance; it is non-abiding movement. We experience movement, and all movement has a direction.
Modern new-age spirituality often talks about oneness. And the term non-dual often implies a kind of pretentious sophistication—that non-duality is the “highest” teaching. However, oneness and non-dual in the Chinese view are meaningless and say nothing about our actual experience. What we experience is dual movement alternating in a polarity. Like the poles of a magnet, this duality is inextricable yet defined by two-ness.
Life is splendidly dualistic. In most traditions, dualism is problematic. Duality is somehow a kind of evil, a misunderstanding, a delusion, rather than something that actually defines the natural world. Duality is the closest image we have to the natural world, and it is not mistaken.
This alternating image of the natural world is known as Yin and Yang, which is probably the most famous Chinese idea. To understand anything Chinese we must understand Yin-Yang. As I mentioned in the beginning, our tendency to obsess over details often causes us to overlook the big picture, but I assure you—if you study Yin-Yang theory, it will irreversibly change your life. It describes the whole of our experience, not through details, but through understanding that everything, absolutely everything, is in an alternating process of change.
The Yin-Yang symbol is now plastered on everything from surfboards to sauerkraut labels, so the idea is at least familiar. The popular understanding, however, tends to miss the point. Popular literature often splits Yin and Yang into two lists. On the Yin side you see words like—negative, dark, contracting, descending, cold, heavy, and substantive. On the Yang side you see the opposite terms—positive, light, expanding, ascending, hot, light, and active. And this is all true. But it is not the point.
I once mentioned Yin-Yang in conversation, and a friend asked “which one is push and which one is pull?” The Chinese answer is yes! In other words, it depends. We describe Yin and Yang only to get a basic understanding of their qualities. But they are a continuum. Our experience flows along an alternating continuum. This continuum is circular. We can identify something as Yin, and this means it is turning into Yang. We can describe something as Yang, which means it is turning into Yin. They constantly transform into one another as a kind of cyclical wave pattern.
Let’s take “cold” as an example. We can generically identify cold as Yin. But no temperature is static. A refrigerator can maintain a cold temperature, but this is strenuous (Yang), requiring energy. Cold in this case is in a tenuous state of Yang produced through effort. If the refrigerator breaks down, and it wants to, cold disperses and temperature warms. The heating process in this case is Yin because it is the natural release of strenuous energy. In other words, Yin and Yang cannot be pinned down in absolute terms like hot/cold; nothing can. Everything is not how it appears. Each appearance can be temporarily described as Yin or Yang on the Yin-Yang continuum.
Our actual moment to moment experience also alternates along the same kind of wave pattern. Any experience you can identify is turning into another kind of experience. Identifying confusion, for example, is clarity. Our emotions are never static.
We experience suffering, discontent, and disease when we believe our experience is static. But our experience is never stable; nothing is stable. We exhaust ourselves trying to make things stable and secure when their natural state alternates. This is the true wisdom of Yin-Yang. If we are upset, we are actually moving in the direction of contentment, only sometimes we have to go a little further down before we start moving up again. We may be elated in the thralls of a peak experience, but this means we are moving towards depression; you can only go “up” for so long. Experiences like happy and sad are identifiable through their contrasting opposite, and we vacillate through emotions all the time. The more we understand our experience as naturally alternating the more we can relax. Knowing that sadness is already moving in the direction of happy, we can learn to enjoy both, for they are each natural and tell us something about our experience. We develop equanimity only when we accept that nothing is static and that all movement is circular; we then begin to host the whole process.
In Chinese Astrology, this movement is called self-resolving. Yin-Yang is the basic pattern of movement, and it is a self-resolving pattern. This means there are no “problems” to fix. Everything coming apart is also coming together. If we have this big view, we do not need to panic when our life falls apart (panicking a little is okay). Something needs to fall apart for other things to come together. This is the natural cycle of everything from the vastness of galaxies to our very breath.\
We do not try to inhale; exhalation naturally resolves with inhalation—this is Yin-Yang. You cannot find a distinct point when inhalation becomes exhalation (go ahead, try!) because they are a continuum.
All that being said, we still have Freedom, meaning we can resist natural cycles. Our culture has an immense prejudice toward Yang in the form of activity/productivity. This prejudice, I think, comes from a kind of general unnamed anxiety, stemming from many diverse factors. Christian linear time/original sin, mechanistic God is dead scientism, rugged mercantile individualism, 200+ years of war and aggression…fear and anxiety lurks beneath the surface of American culture. Our culture does not support us (my Dad once received a $300,000 bill for a two week hospital stay), and we rarely support one another (who are your neighbors?).
I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted just being an American. Our culture operates on the notion that progress is infinite. We are constantly trying to “improve” everything, and we are expected to be “productive” all the time, reflected in the standard 40 hour work week, which depletes us, leaving little to no time for anything but recovering from exhaustion. No one can work 40 hours a week and be healthy. Everything we do is work—we work at work, work on our relationships, work on our bodies, work on spiritual practice, work hard play hard. And we are at war with everything, trying to destroy cancer with aggression in the fight against death. All of this is excessive Yang, and it’s exhausting.
Because we have Freedom, we can resist Yin-Yang through Yang force, and we can resist our Fate, but not for long. Our excessive productivity depletes us and causes all kinds of illness and disease. Our standard of health is often, “just get me back to work.” Yin is weakness, and we hate weakness. Trying to be strong, strong, strong all the time is like a bridge with no sway; it will crumble in an earthquake.
According to Classical Yin-Yang theory, they are not equal, but they are a balance. Americans want everything to be equal, so we exalt yang. The universe, however, is about 98% Yin and 2% Yang, which is just enough to make it move. Very little actually requires effort. Most of what we do requires no effort—digesting, circulating blood, breathing, thinking, hearing, seeing, and so on. The planets revolve around the sun with no effort. These are natural process which the Chinese call Ziran, which means “of itself so,” in other words, Yin. We barely need to “do” anything; we are already flowing in a spontaneously arising self resolving universe. And everything that we identify with is actually a complete mystery of spontaneity.
I have no idea how I form thoughts, how I speak, how I remember. It would take a thousand years to describe in technical language the complexity of digesting a sandwich, and yet I do it without effort. Yang is the tiny push of a ball at the top of a hill that sends it rolling. The key to balance is learning when to apply just a little effort, which sets things in motion. But if we are applying effort all the time, we actually deplete Yang, which is limited (2%), and we become ill, sometimes so ill that death is the only Yin resolution.
Yin-Yang is both movement and rhythm, and movement implies that nothing abides. There is no “thing” that moves. How could there be? Qi is not a substance, a thing that moves—it is movement itself. Yin tends toward substantive, and in the process of this tendency it is already alternating toward dispersal. The constant alternating quality of movement is cyclic and rhythmic, and there is no end to this rhythm. Our culture has a linear view of time, and we are therefore terrified of death. Any tradition which has a beginning has an end. We imagine that in death we somehow “stop.” But nothing stops. And there is no first movement, because there would have to be something before it to generate it, ad-infinitum. And no amount of time deregulates the movement from Yin to Yang; the sun may be ancient, but its energy will disperse.
So how does this all apply to Astrology? First, our Character tends towards Yin or Yang. I am a Yang Fire Tiger, for example. Meaning, I tend towards the Yang impulse. Second, our Fate has Yin and Yang aspects. Meaning, some things we are fated to “do,” and some things are fated to happen of themselves. In general, our Fate cycles according to Yin-Yang. But these are the “details.” Without understanding the basic view that EVERYTHING is Yin-Yang, then trying to understand our Character and Fate is crazy making. We have to ask ourselves these basic questions again and again.
Every possible detail falls into either Yin or Yang, and the two are always turning into one another. We cannot make use of Astrology and fate calculation if we are hysterical over details. We study Astrology to see the cyclic pattern of our life, and Yin-Yang is the fundamental dynamic of all patterns. Without Yin-Yang we get lost in the details, and we miss out on true wisdom.
In my next blog, I will discuss how the Yin-Yang cycle further differentiates into the five-phases/elements. See you then.
In this blog, I would like to answer the question—what is the “universe” from the perspective of Polestar Astrology? In doing so, I would like to present the “big picture” of Astrology and how this view helps us to follow Astrology as a “wisdom path.”
The “Universe” is UNKNOWABLE. The Chinese tradition refers to the unknowable universe as Dao although that is not a direct translation (Dao has no English equivalent). A famous translation of the Dao De Jing goes something like, “that which can be known is not the Dao.” For those suffering from expertise, this may be disconcerting. Expertise is probably the biggest troublemaker in the world—assumed knowledge (especially of other people’s experience) is far more dangerous than conscious ignorance. One of my all time favorite quotes comes from a Christian mystic, Bernadette Roberts, “When you have learned it all and lived it thoroughly, then you had better get ready to have it all collapse when you discover the highest wisdom is that you know nothing.”
When we examine our experience, we find ourselves in a Cosmic Soup, in what the Chinese call Hun Tun. Within this Cosmic Soup, all Time and Space are an incomprehensible chaos. When we examine our experience closely, we are confronted with irresolvable, unending confusions brought about by analysis (scientism). In other words, the universe, the world, and our “self” appear to exist, but this appearance is dubious. When we actually try to find the objects referred to by these terms, we cannot. We find no particular time, place, or self. Rather, we find an infinite number of temporarily compounded “things,” each made up of smaller things, ad-infinitum, in the flow of ordinary experience, which is processional. And the universe, or Dao, as some kind of “Ultimate Reality,” is beyond conceptual elaboration, beyond the grasp of human thought. It is far too “big” to understand (duh!), which is the same as saying the universe is made up of things too small to understand.
Paradoxically, this Hun Tun, this irresolvable chaos is the source of every thing and every being. When we relax our need to know, our need to “figure everything out,” (scientism) we open the door to wisdom. When we embrace reality as incomprehensible, our experience opens up to what we can actually observe—temporary patterns of energy/light (qi). Our actual experience tells us that we are a weaving of “qi strands,” light waves. We are like a candle flame, a stream of energy that “appears” temporarily, displaying a certain pattern, which we call “Me/I” The world, too, appears to be solid and stable. But under close examination, the world is revealed as nothing but an appearance of cycling energy. What we know as the world, other people, events, and so on are merely the tendency of qi to look like “stuff,” crystallized by the conceptual process of labeling the unknowable.
I often make fun of western science because it seeks to "prove" through observation, and in trying to do so it proves itself wrong every five minutes. In the Chinese view, everything is fundamentally empty and ultimately unknowable, and therefore saying anything "conclusive" based on statistical data is foolishness. Wisdom Science does not operate from the assumption that anything reliable can be said about anything. The only reliable constant is change, and the patterns of change are all we seek to describe, and even these are not reliable as concepts. You may get cancer, but this will resolve in death. You may die, but this will resolve in birth. All we can say about health is "for whom, and when."
The view of Chinese Astrology, then, has two dimensions—the dual and the non-dual. Buddhism calls these the two truths, the ultimate and the relative.
In the non-dual view, we practice divination (fate calculation) in order to observe things “as they are,” to look into the fundamental nature of things, to break down our compulsion to predict, fix, or improve particular aspects of the limitless sea of Dao. Rather, we observe these patterns as compound and processional in order to recognize that we are too. The constant observation of flowing patterns, then, undermines our notions of a solid world and of an abiding self. When these notions fall away, what remains is the ever flowing nameless cosmos.
In this revelation, we experience ourselves and the world as a phantasm of light (qi).
This revelation, however, comes through the dual view of Astrology. In other words, what we divine through astrology is a dual (relative) vision, the dance of microcosm and macrocosm. As soon as we begin to name the patterns of qi, we separate them from the Chaos of Hun Tun and from the nameless Dao.
In the view of Chinese Astrology, the dual and the non-dual are not opposed; in fact, the non-dual contains the dual, and by investigating the weaving of the cosmic matrix we find ourselves in, we “unravel our fate.” Hun Tun is not vanquished, it is embraced, and we agree to be swept along in the cycles in which we are already flowing. In other words, our experience is already flowing, and by naming the patterns we find ourselves in, we define a sense of personal fate within the greater cycles. Through identifying our personal fate, our “karma,” we define a path composed of smaller cycles that we call health (our alchemical body) and happiness (our relationships).
By studying the dual vision of the universe, and by creating a personal sense of fate and freedom, we learn how to disentangle our qi from karmic debts (repeating patterns of depletion) and aggression (false views of a solid world and an abiding self). This disentanglement is called the resolution of fate. In the resolution of fate, we experience what the universe, the Dao, actually is—freedom, with no particular agenda.
This freedom appears to the conceptual mind as the irresolvable chaos I mentioned in the beginning, and because of our anxiety, we try to pin down and describe everything in order to get "control"(modern science). But when we are resolved of fate, this chaos relates openly with order, and the dual and non-dual are no longer experienced as two. In this, we experience our original nature, devoid of self/other, and yet freely generating character and fate. We find ourselves perfectly situated in the magnificent matrix of Dao—no self, no problem.
The resolution of fate is called “Great Completion,” the realization that everything is already harmonious, in Tibetan - Dzogchen, the “Great Perfection.” The universe (Dao) consists of cycles of fate (karma) moving from apparent Chaos to Great Completion and back again. These cycles, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, are self-resolving. Meaning, the universe is characterized by a kind of balance (yin/yang) which is self-correcting. Yin is always moving in the direction of yang, and yang is hurling in the direction of yin. Hence the famous yin-yang symbol depicted as one circle. Even when our life appears to be chaos, it is moving toward order. Completion comes when we recognize that perfection includes both chaos and order.
From the non-dual perspective, the universe is open space full of dancing light. From the dual perspective, this light vibrates/flows in cycles and “appears” as patterns, which we call “things,” people, places, planets, kittens, flowers, and so on. This experience of light, however, is unknowable. But it is an experience. In fact, Great Completion is demonstrated when we become we are—light having an experience of light. Those who experience Great Completion "light body" and leave behind no corpse, as Liu Ming’s teacher demonstrated. The Body of Light, however, is not a special experience; it is what the universe eventually does in the cycles of time.
Astrology as a wisdom path begins from the view that reality is an unknowable experience. We practice divination and study the cycles of change, time, space, character, and fate to undermine our notions of a solid world and of an abiding, separate self. So to answer, the original question—what is the universe? Chinese Astrology replies—unknowable. What we can “know” is only what we can observe, which is nothing but temporary appearance patterns.
In the following blogs, I invite you to come with me as I examine more of these temporary appearances. The Chinese Tradition of Polestar Astrology offers a complete cosmology, a complete picture of what it means to be a human being on earth. In the next blog, I will explore the concept of personal freedom through the “Five Element/Phase” cycle, what is called our “Inner Element.”
Before I delve further into the specific view teachings of Chinese Astrology, I need to backtrack and define why Polestar Astrology, in particular, is relevant to modern life. To do this, I will explore the question—what is Fate?
Disassociation and purposelessness are among the most troubling epidemics of modern technological culture. Now, more than ever, human beings dissociate from their natural environment, from one another, from history, from culture, and from their own embodied human experience. Disassociated from natural cycles, we consume in excess and throw everything out of balance. We have become a society of floating heads; we connect wirelessly, but in reality we seem to connect very little.
Our culture, especially in America, has lost any sense of coherent or cohesive values. As a culture, we are inundated with confusing, ever-changing ideas from the shrine of Scientism, which changes its mind every few hours, presenting us with contradictory and often conflicting views about everything. Most of us reject our religious heritage, and if we don’t, we tend to prosthelytize others or judge them silently. As a culture, we argue over just about everything, confusing each other with bad ideas, and, unfortunately, corporatism and consumerism provide the most coherent value structures in American society.
Our hard fought individualism has given us freedom, privilege, and comfort but no idea about what to do with our freedom. Because of this, many people lack what I will call “Life Purpose.” We’re not quite sure why we were born, and we spend a great deal of time wasting our energy in pursuit of an outdated and unsustainable model of success. Most of us exhaust ourselves trying to survive our own life.
The American Dream died (probably sometime in the late 80’s), and its ghost is dangerous. And yet the whole world tries to achieve it. I have been to over twenty countries; I have lived in Asia, and I have seen the whole world struggling to have “everything,” or in some cases anything at all. We want career, kids, family, money, two cars, a house, money in the bank, and so on. If we do achieve this, it is often because of privilege, plain and simple. Failing to achieve this, many become despondent and lost, and many blame themselves. And who’s to blame us for feeling this way?
The view of modern culture (or lack thereof) lags far behind the reality of our actual situation. We cannot have it all because resources are limited. And actually, we are not supposed to have it all.
In the Chinese view, we are supposed to have what we are fated for, and very few are fated for "everything." We’re supposed to work together and support one another to balance and create social harmony. What one lacks, another is fated for in abundance, and through social order and the distribution of resources we keep the balance. We have enough resources to feed, clothe, and shelter everyone on Earth, and yet we do not because we are disassociated from Natural Wisdom and one another.
According to the Chinese view, we waste tremendous energy and life force (qi) trying to achieve things we are not fated for. So first, according to Chinese Astrology, you have something called “fate.” This may be news to you, and you may even object, which is quite normal. So I will say upfront that fate is not determinism.
Fate means opportunity. Obviously, we all have different opportunities in life based on where, when, and to whom we were born, meaning our opportunity is Astrological. Furthermore, the circumstances surrounding our opportunities are much bigger than we can grasp. Our actual situation is enormous.
Some people seem lucky—in the right place at the right time. Some people are phenomenally talented and yet live lives of quiet desperation with little to no opportunity. The American Dream tells us we can “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,” and yet we all know this is insane. Through no amount of hard work will I be a center in the NBA.
The Chinese answer to this paradox is fate. We are each fated to have a certain potential for experience and opportunity in life, and this potential manifests or unfolds based on the timeliness of our birth.
Fate (opportunity), according to the Chinese view, is rhythmical, cyclical, and mathematical. The Ancients observed the cycles of time, space, and nature for thousands of years and discovered within these cycles a number of different patterns. One of these cycles generates what the Chinese call Character, which I will discuss in a future blog. Another, which I will describe here, is related to Fate. In Polestar Astrology, we call these cycles “Currents of Fate.”
The Currents of Fate are related to mathematical calculations based on the Polestar, or Emperor Star, the only star in the night sky which does not appear to move. If you visit the homepage of my website, you will see the Emperor Star in time-lapsed photography, the heavens swirling around it. Every few thousand years, the Polestar changes; it was Vega, and now it is Polaris. Every culture on earth since time immemorial has used the Polestar for navigation and, more importantly, for Astrology.
After thousands of years of observation, the Chinese noticed that the constellations in the night sky swirled in patterns around the Emperor Star, and that these patterns were cyclic, rhythmic, and mathematic. Furthermore, they noticed that the circumstances or opportunities of human life were intimately related to these patterns in a predictable way. These patterns are energetic expressions of vibrating light, and so are we.
Imagine that the energy or light of the entire universe (qi) flows in big cyclical patterns related to the relative position of heavenly bodies within space. From our position on earth, we are related mathematically to one of many intertwined and interrelated swirling patterns of energy within the galaxy and greater universe. Every planet, then, would determine different but related patterns. From Earth, our patterns are determined or calculated by the fixed position of the Polestar. The patterns observed shift every hour, every year, generating and concluding different phases in the cycles of time and energy (qi). This flow shifts from one pattern to another in a predictable way—sunrise, sunset.
Imagine now that the energy of the universe is not disconnected, cold, insentient energy, but rather that the whole universe is an intimate web of living, breathing, cycling energy. Finally, consider the possibility that you are also an expression of this basic living energy, and that you are fundamentally interconnected to these greater cycles and patterns which operate beyond the grasp of your conscious mind. No definable point of separation between yourself and the universe can be found; you are a breathing pulsation of the entire matrix of Life.
According to Polestar Astrology, when you were born, you emerged as an expression of the same pattern of energy the universe was exuding at that moment. Imagine that in each moment the universe is exuding or “doing” a certain pattern. At the moment of birth, the pattern of the universe, which you are fundamentally connected to, patterns you. In other words, you become a living expression of that pattern. Everything that “began” in that moment also expresses that pattern. These patterns radiate outward, containing and relating to one another like a Russian Doll, and they express a continuum from microcosm to macrocosm.
Imagine that in the moment of birth you are plugged into one of these streams, these current of cycling energy, forever connected to it temporally, and that this stream is already in motion, set to unfold as a rhythmic pattern, and it will carry you along in it like a flowing river. As you flow through life, this pattern of energy will unwind and create the potential for certain kinds of experience to manifest. This potential for experience, based on these patterns of energy, are what the Chinese Tradition calls Fate. These Currents of Fate are finite in number (518, 400) but infinite in their potential, variety, and multiplicity of expression.
Have I confused you? Not to worry. To simplify, you have something called “Fate,” which is determined by the timeliness of your birth, by whatever streaming pattern of energy you “popped” into.
So how is this related to life purpose? Polestar Astrology is also called “Fate Calculation.” A Polestar Astrology Session reads the particular “pattern” of your birth and can tell you the nature of how this pattern may unfold. Remember, it is not fortunetelling, it cannot predict the future, but it can tell you the possibilities within the container of your “pattern.” The value of Polestar Astrology comes through dialogue, meaning the Astrologer provides interpretations of Fate, but it is up to you to define that meaning in terms of your own experience.
The Chinese Tradition is very practical, coming from Confucian values. Fate, then, is read in relation to practical human life. In a Natal reading, I look at family, marriage/romantic partners, children, money, career/work in the world, and pleasure. And in the Chinese view, your fate lies within these categories. And while fate is spread throughout these categories, our major fate, what we are here to “do,” lies within one of them. Some people are fated to be parents, and that is the most important thing they are fated to do. The rest is unimportant in the big picture and may even constellate around parenthood. Some are fated for career but not everyone, which may terrify Americans. Some are just here to enjoy themselves.
Knowing this, Polestar Astrology can take an immense pressure off of the confusion of modern technological life. First, if we lack direction it can give it to us. Polestar Astrology can tell us, quite plainly, what we were born to do. Polestar Astrology provides the big picture, the context for our entire life. Sometimes fate is clear (yang) and sometimes it is mysterious (yin). Knowing that our life is fated to be unclear may actually relieve us of trying to “figure it out.” In that space we may even relax (!) and experience insight. Knowing that our fate lies in family life, we can relax and not waste our energy trying to build a “successful” career. In other words, knowing that we can’t “have it all,” we can stop wasting our energy trying to have it all, and we can put our energy into our fate.
Sometimes we are fated for difficulties. Polestar Astrology can tell us where those difficulties may manifest, which provides us a tool for navigating them. Some people are fated for freedom, knowing this we can use our freedom to experience our original nature and benefit others. Modern life tells us we are supposed to do everything, but perhaps this need not be the case. Maybe we can relax.
One goal of Polestar Astrology is to relax because everything is self-resolving. This means that in the cycles of time everything resolves of its own accord. Birth always resolves in death, which resolves in birth, both of which express the continuum of Life.
In my first blog, I asked a number of fundamental questions about life, the universe, and time. In this blog, and the in the blogs that follow, I will explore and attempt to answer some of these questions from the perspective of Chinese Astrology.
The first of these questions is, perhaps, the most important. Any religion, science, or system of understanding reality must answer this question before it can have any relevance in our life. If any system of inquiry, such as science, does not answer this question it has no basis, no fundamental starting point, and no coherent view on anything. This question is--what is a human being? We are human beings, and anything we do, create, or learn is a projection of this fact, and everything must relate to our humanity and to the relationship and significance of our humanity to the universe. In the next blog, I will answer the question—what is the universe? However, any understanding of the universe without an understanding of our humanity is meaningless and actually useless, for in order to understand what we are looking at, we must first know—what is looking?
The answer to “what is a human being?” may seem big, but it is actually not. The answer is simple, perhaps too simple, and yet this simple answer contains the greatest wisdom available to any person. A human being is a compound. You may be saying—what the hell does that mean? That’s not profound. Let’s unpack what I mean. For our compound nature is the basis of all Astrology.
First, this is a reference to both Daoist and Buddhist view, and here I will refer specifically to what Buddhists call “the four seals of Dharma,” (not the four noble truths), the four defining factors of Buddhism. “All compound phenomena are impermanent.” If we search our experience, we cannot find anything that is not compounded, meaning composed of many things. For example, everything we see is a compound of shape and color. Everything composed must decompose; therefore everything in our experience is unstable, in a process of coming together and apart, in a process of change. Human beings, then, cannot be “perfected.” Meaning that we do not evolve toward any kind of ideal state, but rather we are cyclical, and our life is a rhythm which contains ups and downs, good and bad. Since we cannot be perfected, we are relieved of any notion of progress and of any ultimate notion of “self-improvement.” The goal of being human is not to become perfect but rather to relax and understand our compound nature of cyclical and rhythmic change.
Our nature is movement. All that we can actually observe in ourselves and the universe is movement.
If a human being is a compound, this begs the question—a compound of what? The very nature of being compound means that we are a multitude of different processes in some kind of relationship with one another. In other words, to be compounded means to be in relationship, and we are fundamentally a series of relationships.
In the ordinary sense, we are a compound of ordinary things—you, sitting and reading this, are a compound of what you ate from breakfast this morning, of your relationship with your mother, of blood, muscle, oxygen, and probably a great many fantasies, ideas, beliefs, and so on. From the perspective of Daoism and Chinese Astrology, however, we are a compound of different cycles of “qi” in relationship with one another. Qi is described by what the Chinese call yin and yang and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), what are called the heavenly stems, and by the 12 animals of the zodiac, what are called the earthly branches, which describe different patterns and qualities of cycling energy. In human beings, these qualities compound to create what we call “Character.” So a human being has Character, composed of qi qualities. Character will be defined in future blogs.
What is qi? Qi is has not English equivalent and cannot easily be defined. To appease the Western mind, I will define qi as the movement/rhythm (meaning Time) of Light within Space. And so ultimately we are a compound of time, light, and space. In the relative world, this compound is characterized by yin/yang, the five elements, and the 12 animals (energy patterns) of the zodiac, which is nothing other than our ordinary experience. But the bigger picture of time, space, and light also compound to create what the Chinese call “Fate.” So a human being has Fate, not a pre-determined future but a pattern of energy set to unfold rhythmically over our life, manifesting as the different possibilities of our experience. Fate will also be defined in future blogs.
Because we are compound, we have no abiding self, for any self we could find would also be compound ad-infinitum. This means that our fundamental nature is not fixed and unchanging, but rather our nature is Freedom, the freedom of light to move within space unimpeded, and the freedom of light to move slowly, creating the appearance of solidity. So a human being has a Nature, which is fundamentally empty of solidity and therefore free to manifest or appear as anything, including the "world." But this freedom, what Buddhists call Emptiness, does not manifest chaotically. Freedom is Chaos, and because it is chaos it manifests as order (chaos without order would be meaningless), and it does so through rhythms of time, space, and light. The movement quality of time, space, and light create the “appearance” of a world and of an abiding “self,” but upon investigation these appearances are empty of any solid continuity. They are nothing other than movement.
To summarize, a human being is a compound of character, freedom, and fate.
Have I confused you? Not to worry, in the blogs that follow, I will define all these terms in further detail. To conclude, I will add perhaps the most important definition of a “human being.” The Confucian tradition calls this “human heartedness” and defines human nature as fundamentally good. A human being is fundamentally an expression of a basic goodness, a freedom which is beyond duality yet free to express duality. Our compound nature, which cannot be perfected because it will always decompose, is also not imperfect. It is the display of a kind of primordial perfection containing all possibilities, and it is our basic goodness that makes us capable of both compassion and hatred. The goal of Chinese Astrology is to become a gentle person, a person who knows that everything is falling apart only to come back together again in different ways, that birth is the only cause of death, and that human beings are perfectly imperfect—knowing this creates human heartedness; knowing this, we can laugh and not take ourselves or life seriously.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
This page is your source for short, pithy articles on the view teachings of Chinese Astrology. Here, I will share everything I have learned about how to follow Astrology as a spiritual path.