Astrology Maven Alice O Howell

Friday January 15th 2016

A well-read client reminded me this week of the work of Alice Howell, the grandmama of psychological astrology, Jungian scholar, poet, traveller and wise woman.  She passed on in 2014 but left a large body of work, including her blog Credo, which is still up on the internet and full of pearls of wisdom.

Howell lived a long and eventful life and by the time she started writing her blog she had a wealth of experience to draw on. Here’s an example especially for those of you experiencing a Neptune transit or working in a therapeutic role.

“…When I was 21, my Teacher M warned me about being too eager to learn esoteric matters. I was astounded and confused – a whole new level of understanding had filled me with enthusiasm. Kindly, he explained that we become morally responsible for what we learn. That some knowledge has to be used with care and never ever to manipulate another person! This affects anybody who counsels or is a therapist or even a priest. The trap is using power unwisely and when used for self advantage, it is a form of “grey magic.” …

…Over the years, I have noticed a common phenomenon. Are there not times when we are reading something very spiritually significant and the paragraph turns to cement! Or one goes to a lecture and one sneezes or is distracted one way or another, and the thought goes thataway and one misses the point. It almost seems that the ego, center of consciousness, is protecting us. The cup is too small and the content spills over. We need for our cup to grow bigger. For example, it is said that one is not to study the Kabbalah until one is forty.

The very first day I had a conversation with my teacher, he mentioned a mysterious book called The Hieroglyphic Monad by John Dee. After an onerous search, I found a copy. Its contents were totally baffling. I have made a practice over sixty-four years, of picking it up every few years, and gradually the propositions, which are numbered, have yielded greater and greater sense. Now, at 85, I see how unconsciously I had to live their proof! Dagnabit! The joke’s on me!

My ego was my protector. The danger is that the shield can be artificially dissolved. Neptune rules the process of dissolving borders and the negative aspect of Neptune rules drugs, alcohol, and fumes. The result is the dissolving of the shield of the ego, and the unconscious swamps it with its uncontrollable contents! Illusions, delusions, and some of these have terrible consequences as the daily news testifies….”

Many of her books were written when she was into her seventh decade, so they also contain much experience to underpin her wisdom.

The interview below with Ray Grasse at the Theosophical Society in 1991 is fascinating. It’s always good to hear someone wise and brainy talking astrology. What she says about the Aquarian Age struck me in particular. Her warning about “depersonalisation” makes you think.

The Mountain Astrologer has a nice obituary that includes her natal chart and charts for the day astrology found her and the day she died. Take a look at the astrologer’s planet Uranus at 9° in those charts. 9/10° Pisces/Virgo is one of the degree polarities that CEO Carter labelled astrologer’s degrees.


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  1. mister says:

    There is something I have grown to understand over the past few years. Not at all unrelated to trawling the interweb and looking at various astrologer sites. There is a cult that builds up. The cult of the expert if you will. It is made up of those who know next to nothing about astrology, and are therefor just like a child willing to believe anything that those who are deemed by others who are supposedly more knowledgeable than the novice, but who in turn look up to a particular person or group as being for want of a better term masters. Kind of a self-fulfilling cult. Where the novice is directed to look up to a figurehead/s. They are the ones you need to aspire to be like.

    I have grown to realise through age and questioning that they are no better than anyone else. The information through reasoning and questioning can be faulted. It does not stand up one analysed.

    Always, interesting sure – but always question it. False prophets, and false idols and all that.

    • aqua says:

      Precisely, hence the expression ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’

      Trawling the astrological internet is like ricocheting through a hall of mirrors.
      Cut and Paste is the general rule, and sacred cows are regurgitated ad nauseum without further investigation, discernment or genuine application.
      Which is why I have so much time for Astrologers such as Dennis Elwell who advocate constant research and not becoming complacent about recieved definitions.
      Christina is absolutely right about going back to the chart.

      • Leonora says:

        We love Dennis Elwell! I totally agree re the cut and paste “wisdom” of internet astrology and the spawn of astrologers who select a theme (e.g fixed stars) and make up the rest!

      • Christina says:

        Big thumbs up for Elwell.
        I met up today with a fellow astrologer who’s been at it for years, and we were discussing this very thing. There’s also an over-reliance on texts as opposed to actual practice. Just because something was written 500 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s any more true than something written last week. This is why a site like Donna Cunningham’s is so useful also. She does the straightforward thing of just asking people how certain planets or aspects work for them. Simple and effective.

        • aqua says:

          And not just 500 years ago, some of the 80s humanistic astrologers views are too readily adhered to without critique in my view. I can think of one famous writer who has had enormous influence, whose views are so prescriptive in their own way and melodramatic as to be needlessly fear inducing and limiting.

          But Elwell is a good egg because he clearly enourages the reader to think for themselves.
          I particularly like his takedown of the relegaton of Chiron so early after its discovery, as the archetype of the ‘wounded Healer’.

          I dont know if youve read Robert Graves The Greek Myths?
          I loved them as a kid [ primarily for the naughty bits] and they it make it crystal clear that all the gods and demi gods had multiple stories and themes associated with them that varied from region to region.

          Donna Cunninghams site is great like that, Dennis would have loved it. And thanks for reminding me about the astrologers degree, I saw you allude to it in your previous post and remembered that about Dennis chart cos I noticed his sun sits smack on my south node opposite Uranus. No wonder I like his style 😉

          • Jane Lyle says:

            It would be good to share experiences and observations of Chiron. It is named for a hybrid creature, and is both asteroid and comet-like as a physical object in space. Astronomers think Chiron may even have rings. This suggests a complicated presence to me, and not simply a ‘wounded healer’. I have noticed that by transit, and with transits to natal Chiron, it can act as a catalyst for outer events and manifestations of inner developments of many kinds – depending on other aspects, house position etc. Sometimes I wonder whether it acts rather like a powerful lunation or eclipse on a natal planet, sensitising it or bringing it to prominence? As far as I can see, not everything associated with Chiron is about wounds. Anyway, it seems there’s much more research to be done on this mysterious centaur. He lived on a heavily-wooded mountain, and I think he is still playing hide-and-seek with us between the trees!

          • Christina says:

            Yes. I struggle with Chiron and the rainbow flimflam — in my experience it seems to be a much sharper energy.

        • Christina says:

          PS I have just looked at Dennis Ewell’s chart and note that his Sun is one of CEO Carter’s other astrologer’s degrees 27/28 Aquarius.

          • silverhare says:

            Have searched for C E O carter’s astrologers’ degrees in vain- can you list them-many thanks

          • Christina says:

            Yes. He lists them in his book An Encylopedia of Psychological Astrology which is full of interesting stuff. I love Carter because he writes from experience. He’d looked at 100s of charts. I have it somewhere but can’t find it so off the top of my head. The degrees are on c.27° on the Aquarius-Leo axis, and c.9° on Pisces-Virgo, but I may be a degree out.

    • Christina says:

      Actually, I agree with you. Always go back to the chart and test the premise.

      What’s interesting about her idea of “deperonsalisation” is that, in fact, we are living in a period of, in some ways, much greater “personalisation” again. So it doesn’t quite fit, but Howell was feeling her way to an understanding of the Aquarian Age. I think she’s right that there are many signs we are here though.

      • Leonora says:

        IMO she’s dead right about the depersonalisation! The internet allows this wholesale! People exchange slings and arrows without knowing anything about the recipients, use aliases, even “fall in love” without actually meeting the object of their desire first! – surely falling in love with a projection? An abstraction? In the Aquarian age everything is defined by computer models – from the analysis of health (e.g NHS guidelines for treatment by GPs) to the weather and gradually, the individual (the polarity of Aquarius in Leo) will see more and more struggle for individual identity against globalisation.
        Our computers currently run on binary language and we are more and more subject to binary politics, media, thinking/reacting – so the shades of grey (e.g transgender) will surface as an inevitable cause for reconsideration! The world is divided into good cop/bad cop on every corner for now! My guess is that as the Aquarian age progresses and everyone is pulled up by their bootstraps into this “fixed” dilemma that many more shades of grey will surface. In the so called “new age” the adage “we are all one” has become a mistaken given. We are all OF one but we are individual sparks of the one, each unique in is way. The upside of the Aquarian age and internet so far is that we can all have a voice – but under what identity and at what cost? Depersonalisation begins the moment google asks for an identity to sign in to all its products and a given name is dropped for a pseudonym.

      • Christina says:

        On the other hand, her description of the vessel being too small is just right.

  2. Jane Lyle says:

    Very much enjoyed reading this. What Alice Howell said about ‘using power wisely’ reminded me of Dion Fortune’s approach. Here’s a quote from her, and although about occultism it might just as well be applied to other disciplines, including the practice of astrology:

    “Never trust the occultist who tells you that he is the head of a tradition, because if he were, in the first place, he would not tell the fact to the uninitiated, and in the second place he would in all probability be living in great seclusion and inaccessible to all but his immediate subordinates. If a man is a great artist he does not need to inform us of the fact; we shall know him by his pictures that are hung in the galleries of the nation, and we shall, moreover, find that he guards himself from casual acquaintances because of the inroads on his time to which his fame renders him liable. The more eminent a person, the harder he is to approach, not out of any spirit of pride and exclusiveness, but because so many people want to see him that discrimination has to be used in admitting them.”

    ― Dion Fortune, Esoteric Orders and Their Work and The Training and Work of the Initiate

  3. aqua says:

    Chiron sharper -Yes I would agree with that, and Elwells suggestion of maverick.

    In his mythology he clearly fostered talents in gods and had a civilising influence on other centaurs…something about not suffering fools due to long exposure to both dark and light energies and awareness of the necessity of both -akin to an irrascible Merlin and other witches, wizards and shamans.
    I suspect the acceptance of paradox ot the Yin Yang, is another strongly Chirotic theme.

    And obviously Journeying between worlds, shamanic drug taking as sacrament as well as all heirophant activities such as the priesthood [ By sacrificing their ”lower energies’ ie the horse part/their sexuality to a controlling authority [saturn/pluto] without personal insight, the journey to the underworld, or volition, the catholic church and the individual priests, set themselves up for a tsunami of deviated sexuality.
    So disparate elements reconciled or not, particularly body/spirit [thinking Pistouris here as someone who was a wounded hero, but didnt sacrifice his own ego, rather someone elses life on its altar.]
    David Bowie exemplifies strong elements of Chiron. Apart from any other consideration, I fear he had an unhappy relationship with his body.
    I suspect body shaming generally is a deeply chirotic theme, being made to feel different and not fitting in out of shame or societies current Neptunian fads and ideals, the ‘deformed’ person sitting on the village edge, who either is invested with wisdom or shamed, or both.
    So very tied in with monotheistic religons rejection of the body as inferior to spirit, reinforced through misogyny, the woman being more grounded in the ‘animal’.

    The recent conjunction with Neptune in its own sign, was deeply significant I feel in terms of unleashing shamanistic forces for good or ill…I mean lordy, look at all the beardy men….