It's often our habit to make assumptions. We think we perceive something correctly, but we may be off in left field and not even know it. This can be a serious problem in the practice of astrology. We glance at a chart and think we have it all wrapped up neatly. This can be an offense to clients. They don't want to be put in a box with the last person who had a similar combination in their charts. Naturally, we all just want to be seen for who we are, without prejudices and assumptions.
Recently I had a rather humorous lesson about this. My fiancee and I were going on a drive in a beautiful part of Maui, Hawaii where we live. I noticed that some of the mango trees looked sickly with patches of leaves that had turned brown and were drooping, like in the photo below. Whole hillsides were turning brown, or so it seemed.
My mind started reeling off assumptions: "The trees are sick because nature's out of balance";"It's an infestation of nasty insects;" "Isn't anyone doing something about this?" "See, real evidence of global warming!" We were passing some of the most pristine natural scenery with bamboo forests and waterfalls and I was depressed because of the poor sick mango trees. We passed a ravine where some mango trees had been chopped down, which only added to my proof that there was a real problem. When we got to the ranger station in Kipahulu I asked them about the mango trees. The rangers looked at me and started laughing,"Those are just the new mango leaves! They always look like that at this time of year!"
There is tremendous wisdom in the attitude of not-knowing, and remaining curious. Once we decide we know the answer we stop being open to learning the real truth. The Greeks had a proverb,“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” A similar quote from the Zen tradition says, "To know that you don't know is true wisdom. Thinking you know when you don't is the major obstacle to realizing truth."
A Zen story tells how a young disciple met with his teacher for the first time. As is done traditionally, the teacher poured him a cup of tea. He kept pouring and pouring until the cup was overflowing and making a mess. The young disciple said, "What are you doing? The cup is already full?" The teacher said,"Exactly. You are like this cup that is overflowing. There is no room in your head for me to teach you anything."
When analyzing a chart I find it helpful to remain open and not believe first assumptions - to keep an attitude of "maybe." Maybe it is, maybe it's not. To really know for sure we need to work hard on the chart and collect many clues that support our assumptions. Take for instance, the following chart:
In this chart, Saturn is the ascendant lord, placed in the malefic 12th house, with Ketu aspected by Rahu, and debilitated Mars. The ascendant also has the aspect of Mars. There are quite a few malefic influences on the ascendant and ascendant lord. Also, the Sun, which is the signficator of the 1st house, and overall health is debilitated and also aspected by a debilitated Mars. It would be easy to quickly make the assumption that this is the chart of a sickly person, just like the mango tree.
However, this is not the case. When you work harder on the chart, you'll see that there are many powerful yogas, like neecha banga raja yogas, and other combinations like the what K.N. Rao likes to call "The Great Parashara Exception," that reverse the interpretation. This is the chart of Demi Moore, the famous actress. Her chart is being analyzed in this month's Astro-Profile article by Marc Boney, M.A., entitled, "Debilitated Planets and That Great Parashara Exceptiom."
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
unable to say yes or no,
then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we're lying.
If we say "No", we don't see it.
That "No" will behead us
and shut tight our window onto Spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
beside ourselves, and only that,
so miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
we shall be saying finally,
with tremendous eloquence, "Lead us."
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
we shall be a mighty kindness.
- Jelaluddin Rumi
Sufi mystic poet