This first volume of the CPA Press Seminar Series explores the fundamental issue of how we defend ourselves against conflict and suffering through characteristic psychological mechanisms reflected in the natal chart. Unless we understand our own defence mechanisms, we can create enormous problems both for ourselves and for those with whom we are involved; and unless we understand the defence mechanisms of others we may fail to comprehend their needs and feelings as well as their behaviour. The pathological dimensions of defences and their creative contribution to the personality are carefully examined, with an emphasis on the value of defences and their function as sustainers of psychological and physical life.
Part One, The Psychology of Defences and Their Astrological Significators, begins with an assessment of the classical psychoanalytic delineation of defence mechanisms – oral, anal and Oedipal – linking these with particular elements and their characteristic behaviour patterns. Defences as expressed by each zodiac sign are discussed, as well as the typical defence systems of the planets and planetary aspects. The chart of Richard Burton provides material for an exploration of special defence patterns such as violence and alcohol addiction, and example charts from the group generate further discussion about the many ways in which we both protect and injure ourselves in the face of what we experience as life’s threatening force.
Part Two, Saturn and Chiron as Defence Mechanisms, uses these two complex planetary symbols to explore all the experiences and feelings of denial and deprivation, wounding and damage, which make us erect barriers against life and each other. The characteristic defences of Saturn – avoidance, compensation, projection, scapegoating, envy, contempt – are discussed, as well as the positive and constructive function of Saturnian defences if we can bring some consciousness to the operation of our defence mechanisms. Chiron’s meaning and expression are then explored, including the application of myths about Chiron to human behavioural and emotional patterns and the complex issue of collective wounding. Example charts from the group highlight specific configurations of both planets, leading to a discussion of the creative ways in which we can approach what may initially seem like our greatest failings.
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Review by Robin Heath: Astrological Journal, July/August 1996
If you are one of those people who skips a review if the first sentence doesn’t grab you, then let me immediately tell you that this book is the nearest thing to attending one of Liz’s seminars without actually being there. A kind of virtual CPA reality, if you like.
The Centre for Psychological Astrology has boldly entered the publishing market with this first volume, and if one read Charles Harvey’s Notes in the last Journal, one would understand immediately some of his prime reasons for wishing to see the standards of astrological publishing raised. I won’t repeat these here, suffice to state that in-depth astrological debate within the current publishing scene is, in Charles’ view, an endangered species. So, here is an alternative approach – a brave new venture from CPA Press about the work of one of the most widely read astrologers. An exciting challenge for any reviewer!
The book continues in the lineage of the earlier Development of the Personality series, begun under the earlier Sasportas/Greene CPA partnership and published by various concerns. The layout and style will therefore not surprise anyone who has copies of these earlier volumes. The contents page is much more comprehensive, enabling rapid location of quite specific material within the seminars covered. The book is split into two quite distinct halves; Part One, the Psychology of Defences and their Astrological Significators and Part Two, Saturn and Chiron as Defence Mechanisms. Both parts are based on two seminars given to CPA students in Autumn 1994, and thus represent very contemporary material.
As I began to read the book I became aware that something stylistically had changed from those earlier seminar-driven works. There was a more relaxed feel to the interchanges between tutor and students. There was far more humour and anecdotal material. There was a feeling that increased editorial freedom was allowing a more complete shape to emerge. There was much more contact between the described event, its atmosphere, its teacher and its purposes. Any reservations I had about the book looking too much like a textbook quickly evaporated as astrological expertise was seen intertwined with the psychological, mythological and historical material to weave an exciting and revealing texture. One really learns about human life from such a synthesis of disciplines and expertise and, whether you love or hate psychological astrology, here we have several real and previously unselected charts of ordinary people (if there is such a thing) being discussed in-depth and we are not dealing with abstracted concepts floating about in the air over the seminar – we are experiencing astrology in action. Such treatment clearly reveals the meaning and value of Liz Greene’s approach because the owners of the charts, together with the rest of the student audience are clearly seen to respond to the interactive nature of the dialogue. The charts of popular figures are also used to prove the general validity of the material in question.
The book begins with a concise and snappy account of the “Holy Trinity” of oral, anal and Oedipal stages of childhood. Freud’s model is then integrated within Liz’s unique style of delivery, complete with astrological and anecdotal examples about human defence mechanisms. Each of these stages will be projected into adult life and Liz discusses their likely manifestations, both useful and destructive, and how to recognise defenses presented to the outside world, and most usefully, the astrologer. The reader is then given a “defenses by element and sign” and then a “defenses by planet” treatment, with fine examples and some quite dynamic interchanges within the group.
Part Two begins by identifying the quite different defense mechanisms represented by Saturn and Chiron on a birth chart. It was twenty years since the world first caught a glimpse of Liz’s future role through Saturn, a New Look at an Old Devil and the work on Saturn presented here acts rather as an appendix chapter to this seminal work, also demonstrating that which has been achieved with psychological astrology since the heady 70’s.
The recent Bath Astrological Seminars included a day with Liz on the subject of Chiron, which I attended, and I was struck by the realisation that so much work has also been done with Chiron – another discovery of the 70’s – in order to understand its astrological place within the scheme of things. The section on Chiron contained here collates this material and is presented in a most clear and illuminating manner. The example charts are well chosen and well discussed.
I had some doubts concerning the style of the book and its text, which is relentless and rather too much like a galley proof for my taste. I would have liked some relief in the form of more spaces and, dare I say it, barriers and boundaries separating key areas of text and examples. At times, this type of book, resembling the script in a play, becomes visually monotonous and I would have preferred the “Liz” and “Audience” separating paragraphs highlighted in bold text. There are no “degree” signs superscripted within the text so one finds the clumsy and unit-less “The progressed Sun is at 20 Cancer”. Perhaps this could be put right in future volumes, for although we all know what it means, it lays astrology open to criticism if we omit units from our numbers. Dr Greene also used to provide artwork for her books and, sadly, this too has disappeared.
It is too easy to criticise a book for what are, after all, essentially layout and not contextual faults. These days, image is frequently more important than content to many publishers and the content of Barriers and Boundaries is solid gold. CPA Press are to be congratulated for spreading this quality of astrological material to a much wider audience than CPA students. This book deserves a place on the shelf of all practising astrologers and any astrological student (which we all are) needs to read this material. Thoroughly recommended.
© Copyright 1996 The Astrological Association of Great Britain
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