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Friday, 18 October 2013

The Light of Venus - author: Adam Gainsburg; review by Diana McMahon Collis

Celestial Spot has had a little gap whilst I have been kept ultra busy with external writing, editing, author support and consultation services.  Apologies to fans of the blog, but I shall now be posting some book reviews by way of a little catching up... Here is the first one and I hope you enjoy it.  It may have special interest for fans of the Sun and Venus, but also for anyone interested in understanding more about their life purpose... Celestially yours, as ever!
Book Review of:  The Light of Venus
Author:  Adam Gainsburg
Published by:  Soulsign Publishing, Virginia USA 2012 (paperback edition)

Review Text Copyright Diana McMahon Collis 2013 + beyond
Review First Published in The Astrological Journal Vol. 55 No. 1 January/February 2013



Adam Gainsburg’s book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding about their unique purpose on this planet, particularly through their “dharma” – or spiritual responsibility – describing the unique gift that each person can bring into the world.
Whilst the book’s title focuses on one particular planet, it is not just a study of Venus, or yet another planetary ‘cookbook’.  The Light of Venus is primarily about the relationship of Venus to the Sun in the sky.  In that way it instantly reminded me of Dane Rudhyar’s work on Moon cycles (The Lunation Cycle), but Gainsburg explains, that systems such as Rudhyar’s rely on an equal-phase formula (phases of equal duration), whereas his own study and theory has been based upon direct sky experience – ie “astrophysical” rather than astrological.

This book is about the cycle of Venus in relation to the Sun and the particular stages (phases)  of that cycle.  The author observes the movement of Venus from Morning Star to Evening Star and back again, indicating that each person has a personal Venus phase (although, paradoxically, this links them to a higher, collective purpose).   Understanding this phase can demonstrate “how your inner feminine nature can contribute to our improved collective femininity”.  Gainsburg suggests that Venus-Sun ‘alchemy’ shows the heart’s intelligence, providing a route away from perceived separateness, towards a more connected, personal communion with life in general – quite a profound idea.  This work is rooted in solid experience, though; not only has the author spent much time literally observing the sky, but also many hours with clients, noting how the Venus-Sun phase has played out in their experiences.  I wish that he had been able to include some actual case studies, as this would have made his arguments more persuasive.
On with the theory, however: as any astrologer knows, it is not unusual for there to be a range of contradictions within an individual horoscope; Gainsburg goes on to describe how Venus’s natal phase can seem at odds with the horoscopic placement of Venus by sign, house, aspect and dignity.  The main thrust of the book may, however, detract somewhat from the established idea that, inner planets usually point to more personal aspects of a person’s character and life experience, whilst outer planets are often seen to better represent the collective – or a sense of shared, ‘generational’ consciousness.  Gainsburg’s take on the Sun-Venus cycle together suggests that they are “dynamic stages of a collective developmental process”, although he does emphasise a “personal communion” according to specific phase.  It may be that he is describing a difference between the ‘mundane’ self and ‘higher’ self, towards which – the theory appears to go - the feminine life force (or side of the brain) has a stronger access link.

 It is worth mentioning that Gainsburg observes a synodic cycle, not a sidereal cycle for plotting the phases, with this definition: “ (from Greek synodos for “with the path”) ... synodic cycles are measured from the conjunction of two or more bodies to their next conjunction.  Synodic cycles are formed by two planets which share a path together or travel with one another.  (Wikipedia defines a synodic day as sunrise to sunrise and a sidereal day as star-rise to star-rise; apparently, if we are talking about a synodic month, this represents the Moon’s phases, focussing on the Moon’s position in relation to the Sun as viewed from earth).  Details such as this and the emphasis on sky-watching, as opposed to astro-logging (presumably working only from ephemerides, logarithms and maths), emphasise a subtlety of astrological approach that is often missing in a lot of astrological literature. 
As teachers of astrology often find, if we pull the old literature apart too much we can start to see flaws in the astrological system.  To an extent, Adam Gainsburg’s approach shows up these flaws, which is oddly quite refreshing - perhaps because it reminds us just what a complex subject astrology can be, as well as how simple it could be!  I felt reminded of the split in astrology between an externally observational, physical practice (more akin to astronomy) and a logical, table-building, mathematical practice, both with relatively ancient routes of course.  Yet I am tempted to call Gainsburg’s approach “retro” – in the nicest possible way.  The Light of Venus reminded me a little of some of the 1970s astrological literature and of the Jeffrey Wolf Green school of astrology.

The author’s claim is that “What’s Your Phase” is the new “What’s Your sign” and suggests that “it may be that your greatest contribution comes not from your planets and thus your personal identity, but the spaces in between them”.  I like this approach as it reminds me of certain modern artists (playwrights, film-makers, authors, actors) who emphasise that it is not always what characters say that matters: it is the gaps in between what they say that often conveys something of profound importance!
Adam Gainsburg’s work is considered to be pioneering in the astrological field and as such it might be fair to compare him with other innovators, such as John Addey.  It is certainly refreshing to see someone talking about something that seems new, even if the relationship between the Sun and Venus has been there all the time!  With any new approach, though, I am eager to test it against reality.  Only then can I decide if I am going to add its methodology to the (already fairly packed) repertoire of tools for understanding “what’s in a chart” – and whether I should be pointing clients and students to the new information.  I want to feel satisfied that it adds something vital or at least very relevant, when students are already struggling to understand the basics of astrology or clients are busy wanting answers to slightly more mundane queries.  Even if the book is only going to be of passing interest to me plus nearest and dearest, perhaps the acid test for relevancy of astrological material  is that the information (or interpretation) has to ring true.   I am glad to report that I could certainly relate to the description of my own Venus phase; a part of me wished I had some other Venus phase, as what I read was effectively a repeat of a message I have received in other areas.  But there is value in having confirmation of what you already know –  this is sometimes what clients seek from a consultation session or reading.  For more objectivity and a fairer test, I compared the interpretations given of the various Venus phases against the charts and personal knowledge of a handful of people I am well acquainted with – and equally thought that the phase meanings reflected something quite profound about those people.

Whilst I prefer not to gripe about small technicalities in any painstakingly constructed art work, there are a couple of features that niggled a little, although they don’t detract from the core value of the book.   The first is that, whilst this may not strictly be an astrology ‘cookbook’, it does have a somewhat formulaic component.  This is particularly clear in the definitions of the “Collective Theme” of each phase, under the “Phase Meanings” headings.  These revolve around ‘feminine intention’ and ‘feminine identity’ and come across as variations on a theme, with verbs as their distinguishing factor.  Maybe this is just the way it has to be.  A book needs a structure after all; the material has to be clearly organised in some way.  But, when I noticed the similarity of the wording in these sections, I suffered that temporary experience of doubt and slight cynicism that I hear in the voices of those members of the public who say: “but when I read the sections in horoscope columns, I could relate to any one of them”.
The second factor is that the author mentions that he has taken pains to keep the book’s language simple and accessible; whilst I am sure that his intentions were true, I also think the book contains psycho-spiritually-based language that will be more accessible to some readers than others.  For example, a phrase  such as “Crystallizing our re-made feminine intention; radiating, manifesting our feminine destiny” might not bring immediate clarity to all.  This might not matter, however, if the book contained case studies and/or even a few metaphors that could help to elucidate and pin down meanings.  As it is, the language in the book seems to leave some of the’ meanings’ given open to further interpretation.

Moving on, to structure, as well as the key chapters on the 13 phases of the Venus-Sun cycle, there are explanatory chapters on Adam Gainsburg’s reasons for writing the book, the meaning of Dharma, the Feminine Principle and Feminine Self, astrology (the sky approach vs the other approach) and how the Venus phases work.  A further, tabled section clearly lists the Venus phase dates, helping to instantly identify your Venus phase (no clunky maths or chart scrabbling to do!). 
One way and another, the book has some hidden depths and extra little nuggets tucked away.  There is a glossary of astrological terms and some fascinating appendices, which include things like ‘Notes for Consulting Astrologers’, ‘Meditation Images of the Venus Phases’ (which reminded me of I-Ching hexagram phrases), ‘Venus Retrograde & Venus Invisible’, ‘Venus and the Moon’, ‘The Solar Feminine’ – and more, across 13 separate subject headings ( nice symbiosis!).   Last, but not least, there is an extensive bibliography and reading list, together with a resources section. 

Appendices can sometimes look like passing add-ons.  However, one of these focuses on the Venus-Moon ‘alchemy’ in the chart, an understanding of which can help “those interested in increasing their feminine authenticity” – a section which might be helpful for anyone working with their shadow side/dark side, wanting to get clear on actions that could move them more towards the light.  Once again, I ‘tested’ the readings of each sign against that which I know to be true about self and others and was quite impressed by how the interpretations seemed to really fit.  Not only is this useful for self-knowledge, but it helped me to somehow understand and even forgive some previously inexplicable behaviour through the years.   I suspect The Light of Venus could therefore be a helpful ‘manual’, over time or, at the very least, become one of those texts that I can reach for if I feel I have lost my way a little, to remind myself of why I am here and how to get back on track.  Clearly, a lot of time and love has gone into the creation of The Light of Venus and for that reason alone, it deserves careful, meditative reading.  It is a book that focuses on astrology as a tool for growth – on a global scale - but starting simply and very personally, with you - and me.  All in all it is a very thoroughly researched book, with a fresh approach and the kind of deeply insightful information that might make a difference to how you feel about yourself and your life.  For professional, natal astrologers, it might make a difference to your clients’ view, particularly if they are interested in concepts such as spiritual/personal/planetary growth and evolution.  Many of mine just want to know about quite everyday, down to earth things!  But I can see the concepts in this book appealing to those keen to pursue a spiritual path.  Adam Gainsburg has produced an interesting, refreshing book, worthy of praise and attention.
If you are interested to know more about your own birth chart, you may like to consider booking a Mindbliss Astrology reading: http://www.mindbliss.co.uk/astrologychartreadings.htm

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