This book review is long overdue—I promised Noel Eastwood (of Pluto’s Cave Psychological Astrology and Tarot) quite awhile ago that I would review Psychological Astrology and the Twelve Houses (2015), and my schedule is finally clear enough that I can do so!
I was very excited to read his book because it takes on some intensely personal subject matter from a psychological perspective, which Noel is uniquely qualified to write about, since he is that rare combination (that I wish we had more of in the astrological world), a practicing psychologist and astrologer. His areas of expertise are Jungian and archetypal psychology, astrology, Tarot, and Taoist meditation, so he’s well-versed in the realms of the psyche.
My first impression, once I got started reading, is that this book is an ideal blend of serious subject matter handled with respect for the reader, with just enough astrologese for the basic-to-medium-advanced astrology student. Noel does not overwhelm you with the level of detail that is automatically off-putting for the beginner. You won’t be scared picking up this book, in other words, if you aren’t an astrology expert.
This is book is for the person who (in my opinion) would be unsatisfied with the superficial or cookbook style astrology book and is looking for something that goes deeper, that explains the pieces of the self we don’t usually discuss, even in the astrological world, but most people who want to understand their own (and others’) psychology wish could be discussed with some depth and understanding of what’s really going on in our psyches as expressed through our natal charts.
Pluto’s Cave “is a metaphor for the hidden world of the unconscious,” and in this book, you’ll be seeing terminology to help explain the purpose of our hidden drives (Noel calls these our “dragons”); the parts of our unconscious psyche that split off and “feed our dragon” (“Inner Selves”); and our potentials, our “Wishing Wells,” that might “remain untouched throughout an entire lifetime.”
He begins by explaining some fundamental principles of astrology that you need to know (without too much arcane detail) to help you understand why we have houses at all, where they come from, who originated the system we usually use today (Placidus), and how the chart is set up. The importance of the Ascendent and Midheaven are discussed, and Noel discusses his own chart a bit to give you an idea of how his approach (through meditation, for one thing) might apply to you.
The book proceeds house by house, explaining what each house means as well its psychological implications. There’s a brief explanation of the meaning of empty houses, as well, for people who are concerned about what it might mean to have some houses devoid of planetary energy (I get this question a lot from clients, so I know people are concerned about what it means).
With each house, Noel takes you through an Archetypal meditation exercise, so that’s pretty cool, because you get to see how each house affects you (and how you relate to the concepts of each house). I would really suggest taking the time to go through each house and let go of any preconceptions about this process; just let yourself flow into the meditation, and see what comes up for you.
I’d also suggest keeping a journal as you go, because much of this flows by so fast, it’s easy to forget or miss what your subconscious says to you. Meditation is intense, and intensely useful for self-awareness, but the glimpses into one’s inner world are so brief as to almost be like inducing a waking dream-state, and it can be very important to capture as much of that awareness as possible, to review what you’ve seen and learned about yourself during this process.
Now, with 5 planets posited in the 8th, as you might imagine, I stopped and paid special attention to what Noel has to say about the 8th house. If you’ve read this website long enough, you know that I write about the 8th, sometimes because I feel the need to balance out what other astrologers (who do not necessarily have 8th house planets) think about this house, but also because the 8th is mostly-misunderstood (and its traditional role as “The Entrance to the Gates of Hell,” while Draco Malfoy-cool and all, has not helped our reputation in the real world. where most people only think they want everyone to run shrieking to the canebrake to avoid us). The point of this book for me was to see just how well Noel understands the Plutonian who dwells in Pluto’s Cave.
The primary statement he makes that I absolutely agree with is that “[M]ost astrologers do not grasp what kind of power is described here.” Since I have spent most of my life either living with or involved with as friends other 8th house people, I can tell you that most 8th house people also do not understand their own power, and therefore, they frequently misuse it or never really learn how to control it.
Noel calls for (but much more nicely, probably because his Ascendent, Capricorn, is just better-mannered than mine, Sagittarius) the same thing I always say to 8th house people, which is, Yes, you’re hyper-cool, you’ve got Pluto coming out the wazzu, now show me you know how to control it. Games and manipulations are par for the course with this house, and therefore I was very glad to see Noel handle this house cautiously.
Listen, I have been young and stupid; I have mishandled this energy, and it’s still possible to mishandle it. But if you are serious about shamanism or some other deeply spiritual path, let’s say, getting mastery over this house is crucial.
Moving on: Once you’re done reading through and meditating on the houses, Noel gives some examples from his psychological practice where he discusses depth trance therapy in the instance of an older man with pronounced 12th house placements, who was punishing himself because he believed that he’d been the instrument by which his grandmother died when he was still just a child. Fascinating detail, particularly for anyone considering depth therapy, or anyone becoming a therapist.
The rest of the book is divided up into extremely useful sections which explain how the entire structure of the chart (hemispheres, orientation, East-West, etc.) play into the personality and psychological ‘you’ that is represented by the natal chart. This on its own gives you more useful, ‘basic’ but never insignificant, information about astrology than most books I’ve seen these days that are this broadly-written and attempt to cover as much material.
When the importance of the angular houses are explained, for example, Noel does not just walk you through a simplistic 1-2-3 explanation, he gives you the kind of detail that you really need to understand not only what an angular house is, but what it means. I don’t see that added usefulness in every book these days.
My thought is that if you read this book for nothing else, get it for the series of meditations Noel asks you to do; those on their own are very valuable. The second most important thing about this book, from my perspective, is that it’s not superficial in any way; it’s emotionally honest and open. It’s not coy. It’s not promising you that if you just sit back and let the author drive, you’ll be an astrological adept at the end; you must participate with this book to get out of it what’s possible, but even if you don’t do the meditations, you’ll still learn a lot about some astrological details you most likely didn’t know before, particularly if you are new to astrology.
I give this book a 10 for ease of reading and comprehension. No matter who picks this up, no matter what your current skill level or ability with astrology, you’re going to come away knowing more about yourself, and that’s largely because astrology is usually explained through the head/mind; it’s very much an intellectual pursuit (more Uranian than Plutonian, let’s say). Less often do you see an author go into his or her own emotions to show you (not explain, show) how to work with emotions.
There are only two books I can think of that are written in a similar personal voice that does not shy away from discussing truly painful subjects. One is Donna Cunningham’s Healing Pluto Problems. The other (which is probably less well-known but is truly excellent, particularly for its unusual focus on Saturn and reincarnation regression therapy) is Astrology and Your Past Lives by Jeanne Avery.
Speaking as a professional astrologer, I personally got the most out of the very end of the book, where Noel discusses ‘houses as psychological defenses.’ I know other books have been written, most notably by Liz Greene, regarding psychology’s role in astrology (and I’ve read 98% of her books). I would never say don’t read Liz Greene; however, if you want something a little less academic, perhaps, something a little less centered on the specifics of Jungian analysis and more on ‘how does all this apply to me’, I think Noel has claimed that middle ground, and I look forward to reading his future books.