Alanna: Hello there! Thank you so much for doing this interview for Musing Mystical. After reading Alchemical Tantric Astrology, I feel like I understand myself in a whole new way. I really gained a lot from the book, and believe it’s truly the future of astrology, so it’s a real pleasure to chat with you.
Rico: Thank you Alanna for your interest in ATA. I feel blessed to have someone with your depth of interest and understanding to read my book. You are the perfect reader and to hear that it has touched you so deeply personally is especially rewarding. Since we are all participating in the monumental shift of the Great Ages from Pisces to Aquarius, I would like to think, as you mention, that ATA will play a role in this major shift. As you know, Aquarius and its rulers, Saturn and Uranus, play a primary part in the first Hermetic house, awakening the Cosmic Serpent at the Root Chakra.
Alanna: Yes! I absolutely love how you reframe the astrological seasons, sharing information about Aquarius as the first Hermetic House. This is something I really resonated with, yet I feel like it’s *hidden* information. What aspects of Aquarius energy make it the point in this system?
Rico: Aquarius contains many hints about awakening, especially in relation to Capricorn. Aquarius time contains the beginning of Spring and in the language of the seasons puts the emphasis on waking up from Capricorn’s dark winter. Aquarius is associated with surprising Uranus and its radioactive alchemical metal uranium, which compares to Capricorn’s serious Saturn and alchemical metal lead. Most telling is the fact that when the planetary rulers of the twelve signs of the zodiac are arranged in their natural order, Capricorn and Aquarius relate to Saturn, which becomes the bottom of the ATA chart and relate to the first Root Chakra in the Tantric Chakra system. It does seem rather “hidden” and I often refer to the ATA system as “Hidden in Plain Sight” because when we look at the natural zodiac and its rulers, the dual rulership order seems so obvious. It seems only natural to put the zodiac in the order of the ATA system with Capricorn and Aquarius on the bottom and Cancer and Leo on the top so that they line up in perfect order with the seven planets, seven alchemical metals, and seven chakras.
Alanna: Well speaking of beginnings, maybe I should start by asking more about your astrological career. What drew you to astrology and what’s maintained your interest for so long?
Rico: I would have to say that “It’s in the Stars.” Double Scorpio loves penetrating to the core, and Virgo Rising, ruled by Hermes/Mercury in an air sign and the third house is a definite set-up. Ha!
In the mid-1960s, transiting Uranus met up with Transiting Pluto in my natal first house of identity and I dropped applying for Dental schools and instead transferred to U.C. Santa Cruz, a new experimental campus of the University of California, and started over taking all the subjects I was now finding most interesting: Psychology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. I found Carl Jung and his writing about Astrology fascinating and had my chart done by the local iconic astrologer, who helped me get started by providing basic training wheels, and off I went.
A chance opportunity to attend a workshop with Dane Rudhyar put me over the edge, by seeing what was Possible. I took quite a few courses in Psychology and thought that I might get into counselling, but fortunately found Astrology much more interesting. I just plain love astrology, but in another sense Astrology found me and has not let go. Humans and cycles are totally enthralling for me.
Alanna: I completely agree! I too transitioned from studying psychology to becoming an astrologer. I saw in your website biography that you studied Archetypal Psychology with James Hillman – a true legend! Do you have any memorable stories of Hillman?
Rico: I have been very blessed with great teachers. In this case, I was in a Master’s class in psychology that was focusing on Carl Jung because the professor, Gorgen Tappan, was a Jungian therapist. As a class we got fascinated by Hillman’s book Revisioning Psychology and couldn’t stop, which led to reading everything we could find by Hillman. Word got to Hillman that there was this Master’s class in sunny California that was going crazy over his work and somehow things got arranged so that he became our visiting professor. I took a really long time writing my master’s thesis so that I could continue participating in his classes for several years. We got to hang out with him in many venues, e.g., I really enjoyed our informal dream groups and other small group meetings.
It is somewhat embarrassing, but I was constellated as the person who asked him the most challenging questions, so he once referred to me as a “bring down.” At the time I considered this a compliment of sorts, being called a “bring down” by Mr. Depth Psychology himself. Ha! I was a smart ass Puer to his serious Senex. I enjoyed watching when his brilliant wife, Patricia Berry, on a few occasions had challenging dialogs with James.
My personal Scorpio response to his Aries persona aside, I was deeply affected by these fortunate years focused on Hillman’s ideas, perhaps most memorably by themes such as Psychology as Soul Making; the dialog of Soul and Spirit; multi-perspective vs. literal interpretation; and his original unique interpretations of myth, alchemy, and current events, etc., etc.
Alanna: Wow! I love these stories. I’m always reading Hillman, and imagining you there with him, challenging him nonetheless, really cracks me up. Then your thesis was titled “Hermes: Logos of Psyche” — I have quite a few questions in regard to it! Were you already studying astrology when you wrote it? Did doing research on Hermes impact the way you look at this planet/archetypal energy in an astrology chart? Can you tell us a bit about your thesis?
Rico: I was already involved with astrology when Hillman came on the scene in our Psychology M.A. program at Sonoma State University, and the application of Archetypal Psychology to the mythology of signs and planets was seamless. At that time I began a rough version of the twelve signs of the zodiac from the perspective of Archetypal Psychology.
Hermes/Mercurius was a natural focus not only due to the influence of Jung and alchemy, but for the accent on Mercury in my natal chart and for the association of Mercury as the ruler of Astrology in general. I look especially closely at Mercury in a person’s chart, since it reflects on their all-important use of language, and I am keen to notice the archetype that Mercury expresses in every chart I encounter.
My master’s thesis, “Hermes: Logos of Psyche” basically takes on the task of showing how the many myths about Hermes/Mercury demonstrate a privileged position in Psychology (as the Logos of Psyche). So I focused especially on the myths of Psyche and Eros and the philosophical psychology of Logos, along with the extended myths and history of Hermes and the hermetic tradition. Included was a section on Hermes and the hermetic tradition as connected to astrology, where I gave an introduction to the two signs ruled by Mercury, Gemini and Virgo. Two signs, by the way, which are highly accented in my natal chart.
As for the Logos part, I bring in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and his thought regarding hermeneutical phenomenology, which has a connection to Hermes’ archetype as translator. Hermeneutics is the philosophy of interpretation and translation, especially of biblical texts. Although the thesis was written for the M.A. program, it built upon the exceptional undergraduate program of Humanistic Psychology I was privileged to attend at U.C. Santa Cruz. Most notable in this regard were classes with Norman O. Brown and his books, Hermes The Thief and Love’s Body.
Alanna: Wow. Mercury is one of my favorite planets, and I’m always digging deeper into the archetype. This work sounds amazing – and I will be checking out those books and ideas you mentioned. Now, I think your reading style, which integrates wisdom from many sources, is very impressive. Your website states, “My form of interpretation relies heavily on humanistic and archetypal astrology, gender-balance, and some references to occult traditions such as numerology, alchemy, and yoga.” What are some things that catch your attention the most when doing a chart reading, how do you determine what aspects to focus on?
Rico: Interpretation is a hermetic art, as briefly touched upon above. Understanding astrology as a language and the astrologer as a translator offers a wonder-full way into chart interpretation. Hermes as messenger and translator is on a way to language. Martin Heidegger has this beautiful thought about the deep Greek meaning of Logos or word or language as a Way or Path through the forest that opens now and again on an opening that reveals.
I like to see the astrologer as an artist who is practicing with all his tools as a painter practices painting over and over until it is no longer an effort. I do not feel that I need to think about what tools to choose. Translation has similarities with magic as the word and image are creative.
Alanna: How have your unique experiences contributed to your astrological understanding that you put forth in the ATA system?
Rico: Perhaps we can envision two streams coming together in ATA. One is all the study of astrology and listening to astrology teachers that accumulates knowledge, like the upward inhalation. The other stream is the downward exhalation that simplifies and eventually completely empties. This second stream is practiced by yoga and meditation and helps the astrologer to sense the subtle meanings. Both of these streams are important for all astrologers, but especially in ATA where the ultimate goal is aligning with the cosmic cycles or universal breath.
Alanna: I know developing the ATA system has been a journey of many years, what inspired you to finally write the book now?
Rico: There are actually no beginnings to the circle but we can look back and see how the various parts of the book were coming together over the years. Specifically the study and practice of astrology on one hand and the study and practice of yoga on the other hand. I was inspired to write articles to send out via email and to make introductory pieces on the signs and planets. I taught a few classes here and there and in my meditation and dreams (a friend calls it “Night School) the questions and answers started to coalesce.
In one way of looking at the process it was seemingly aiming for the big 2020 era transit of the Chiron/Kundalini portal at the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius. My collection of writings was starting to look more like a book and I turned automatically to North Atlantic Books in Berkeley CA since they had published previous books (Prenatal Yoga and Conscious Conception). When I approached Richard Grossinger personally he liked what he saw and pointed me towards Inner Traditions, and they were also interested so a contract was signed and the publishing process began in earnest.
As an astrological aside, I have found that the transit of Saturn around my natal chart correlates strongly with my social introversion and extroversion. I have been having Saturn transit the quarter of my natal 4th, 5th, and 6th houses and it appears that I am once again becoming more visible socially. When Saturn enters Pisces and pops above the horizon, it will likely become easier to present the book to a larger audience. If I live long enough to see Saturn and Uranus meet my natal Uranus at the midheaven, then the book could be socially successful.
Alanna: Do you ever feel like your ATA sets you at odds with other astrologers? Or do you feel like it is usually well-received by others in the field?
Rico: The book has not yet had enough exposure to receive much attention from other well-known astrologers with the exception of Barbara Hand Clow, who absolutely raved about how much she loves it. Other astrologers who are friends have been very positive and supportive. The book will be in the hands of several other respected astrologers soon, and I am hoping for the best. The fact is that I do not see ATA in opposition to other forms of astrology. I see ATA best utilized as an addition to standard astrology. The natal chart is primary.
Alanna: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of your writing journey? How did you synthesize such wide bodies of knowledge into this applicable, innovative system?
Rico: I love to read and write. Remembering my natal Pluto and Mercury emphasis on depth and breadth, it has all come very naturally.
Alanna: Do you have any recommendations for someone wishing to learn more about alchemy? Tantra? Astrology? Perhaps a book suggestion?
Rico: The annotated bibliography in my ATA book should do the job quite nicely. For a unique treatment of all the above I would recommend my former wife, Jeannine Parvati’s and my book Conscious Conception: Elemental Journey through the Labyrinth of Sexuality. It is out of print but quite a few are kicking around the net, and I still have a few new ones for sale.
Alanna: A specific question I had about the ATA system is how would you characterize the difference between the upward energy of Aquarius-Leo and the downward energy of Virgo-Capricorn. Now that we’ve entered Virgo season, I am wondering what shifts I might be on the lookout for.
Rico: This is a very good and potentially far-reaching question. Basically I view the phenomenal world as dualistic and everything is alive and like the breath, inhaling and exhaling. As the alchemical dictum goes: “As above, so below.” The upward accumulating energy is like the in-breath and the downward distributing energy is like the out-breath. Likewise the transit of every planet, galaxy, and super-galaxy.
The complete process of breathing contains a time of full lungs connected in ATA with the signs Cancer and Leo and of empty lungs related to Capricorn and Aquarius. These two times of relative calmness have the potential of silent oneness or nonduality, which might be termed enlightenment, symbolized in Tantra as sexual union or in Alchemy as the divine marriage of Silver and Gold. The seven signs and seven chakras lead upward from Aquarius in terms of the Spirit and ascension, whereas the five signs from Virgo downward are related to the Soul (as per James Hillman and Soul/Spirit). Myths related to ascension might be Jupiter and Juno, or Dionysis and Ariadne, while the downward path might be related to Shiva and Kali or Pluto and Persephone as king and queen of the Underworld. The present transit of Pluto, king of the underworld, over this Root under-worldly portal at the end of Capricorn is highly charged!
Looking at Mercury as ruler, the upward sign of Gemini is the home of a Mercury/Hermes who is the alchemical minister acting to bring together the Sun and Moon in the divine marriage; whereas Mercury/Hermes as ruler of the downward sign of Virgo acts as psychopomps, carrying the Soul to the Underworld. As the inner planets (including Mars) recently transited the upper Crown portal and celebrated the alchemical marriage, the resulting insights, symbolized by the alchemical amalgam, handed off the fruits of their union to the Virgin of the Harvest in the sign of Virgo. Each cycle is different, but every year at harvest time we feel the energy shift from the fixed highs of solar Leo to the mutable metal Mercury moving downward with the noticeably less solar energy of Fall/Autumn.
Alanna: Wow! That imagery you provided about planetary energy within the inhale-exhale metaphor really helped me to connect with the concept in a new way. How do you feel an ATA reading differs from a standard Western tropical reading? Can one type of reading provide information the other can’t? What might a client want to consider when deciding which reading to select?
Rico: Ideally I recommend the two being done together, understanding the natal chart and major transits is an excellent precursor to looking at the ATA chart, then the ATA chart is most useful as a supplement. The whole process ideally refers back to the natal chart.
The ATA chart adds another dimension or several more dimensions but is still expanding on the natal chart which is the essence. The ATA chart adds the alchemical and tantric metaphors which ultimately can assist with healthful and enlightening resonance with the universal breath.
I am working on a book (very slowly again) about the Five Pillars of Yoga. All five (Advaita Vedanta, Ashtanga Yoga, Ayurveda, Astrology, and Vastu) help us to attune to the natural order of the cosmos. So many of the vibrations in the world today are random and arbitrary and therefore out of tune and this is not optimal. The ATA chart can be very helpful to bring many of our vibrations in tune with the natural cycles, especially of the planets, but also in relation to sounds, colors, geometric forms, etc.
Alanna: Oh, I certainly feel the out-of-sync vibrations, and find so far ATA has helped me to readjust to natural cycles. This is at the heart of why I practice astrology — to re-attune to the natural cycles of both Earth and the planets. And, Rico, another book on the horizon? What a joy for readers! Please keep us updated about its progress.
Switching subjects a bit, I know that you’ve written extensively on the astrological significance of 2012. Alchemical Tantric Astrology also delves into the current transit of Pluto. What do you foresee being major trends in the upcoming astrological climate? What advice do you have for the general public about what lies ahead?
Rico: I suspect that you meant the year 2020, but actually both years, 2012 and 2020, are important in ATA because of the emphasis on the sign Capricorn, which in ATA is pointing to completion. 2020 had such a large number of important transits across this potent portal that I was certain we would see major changes. And yes, Pluto is the big player still to transit this point. Since Pluto/Hades is the divinity of the apocalypse and King of the Underworld, I think that we will once again experience monumental changes. Pluto is also completing the American Revolution cycle of 250 years, returning to his place as he was in 1776! We can certainly expect that the tension we feel presently in this country will continue and likely grow in intensity over the next few years. A 250 years big cycle still needs to bottom out.
In 2023 and 2024 Pluto will transit direct and retrograde over the cusp between Capricorn and Aquarius that symbolically is associated in ATA with the release of powerful energy for transformation. This energy, which in some ways can be associated with what is called kundalini in yoga, can be highly positive for evolution, however it affects everyone differently and some who do not understand it tend to feel it is threatening and disorienting. When Pluto enters Aquarius to stay in 2024, all the major outer planets will be on the upward accumulating side of the ATA chart, suggesting, as mentioned above, energy relating to the in-breath, generally uplifting and refreshing.
This passage is another major one of many indications that the 2160 year Great Age of Pisces is ending and the Age of Aquarius is approaching. There are reasons to believe that this major shift will have accompanying turmoil. The Age of Pisces has had a large share of powerful teachers and saviors that may be problematic to release. Meanwhile, although Aquarius has its brilliant and positive frontside, it also has its share of negative aspects in its backside, perhaps most notably, runaway technology. With Aquarius as the first awakening sign of Alchemical Tantric Astrology, I like to think of ATA as an appropriate form of astrology for the approaching Great Age of Aquarius. I think and feel that the amazing transits we have been experiencing, as the planets have entered Aquarius and begin a new cycle and Cosmic Inhalation, are making important contributions to this larger shift of the new Great Age.
Alanna: This information is a wonderful guide to think about what might lay ahead. Thank you so much for this interview, Rico! It’s been wonderful chatting with you!
Rico: This has been a totally enjoyable and revealing experience for me too. Your excellent questions have helped me to explore new realms. You are welcome and Thank You!
For those who are interested, you can learn more about Rico and his work at his website.
Alanna Kali is an astrologer, numerologist, and pioneer spirit that loves to explore life through the lens of depth psychology. She has a passion for studying the humanities and social trends. Her academic work is centered upon reuniting body, mind, and spirit through eco-psychology. She loves reading, spending time in nature, and travel.