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Dennis Elwell

Dennis Elwell

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The Alma revisited… WAS IT AN ACCIDENT? By Dennis Elwell

Doubts about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, don't go away, with fresh developments keeping the pot boiling. I have been asked a number of times if the heavens give any clue to the real cause of the crash. Do the planets indicate an accident, pure and simple, or something more sinister?

A second question interests me even more. Could her death have been averted, through intelligent astrological input? Diana had faith in a motley of astrologers and psychics, and it is perhaps a standing reproach that they failed to signal danger. Many astrologers tend towards fatalism in these matters - what will be will be. My own approach is more proactive. Astrology takes us into the engine room, so to speak, and shows us where the levers are. Surely this privilege invites us to tinker with them, to bring about more positive results than would happen if the gears were left to turn by themselves.

We can tackle both these questions confident that astrology must be able to throw at least some light on them, otherwise our pretensions are worthless. There is however an important proviso. The plain truth is that astrology today is too often practised in a dilettantish fashion, and so never gets the chance to demonstrate its value. Yes, you can take a broad brush approach, you can keep it simple. But answering the kind of questions we are considering here, an astrology of the objective rather than the subjective, requires submitting charts to an investigation forensic in its detail. In combines the full range of available techniques, or at rate those of proven value. There are various brands of astrology, and I favour what I unhesitatingly call analytical astrology.

This approach complicates the picture somewhat, while clarifying it at the same time. But it does give a more faithful representation of reality. When we consider events in the world out there, they can never be reduced to a single cause. They arise from multiple causes operating at many different levels, an intricate lattice where meanings need to be teased out a step at a time. Taking in the whole landscape at a glance we generally fail to make any distinction between different kinds of events, but give them all equal value. Yet some events are more determinative than others, genuine new departures, with a greater quotient of initiative. (They remind us of the values of the cardinal signs.) On the other hand some events are knock-ons, domino effects. Again, some events happen because the countervailing forces are weak or absent.

A distinction can also be made between events that have a high visibility and those that, seemingly less important and relatively hidden, will turn out to be pivotal. This is true as much at the personal level as in the wider world. If you have an upcoming progression, say, watch for these pivotal events, which may pass almost unnoticed at the time. It could be something as unspectacular as reading a book that is destined ultimately to change your life!

And drawing closer to the astrology surrounding Diana's death, events also seem to be ranked in hierarchical order, with some overarching the others and imposing their agenda. Here is a problem on which astrologers have never agreed, neither practically nor theoretically. It is this. In the charts of all the individuals, or even the majority, caught up in some disaster, can we expect to find astrological justification for their personal involvement, or have they just been sucked helplessly into a situation not of their making? If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself on the Titanic, or in the Twin Towers, you may reflect in your final moments on the brave assertions of astrologers on the theme of the stars inclining but not compelling.

Disasters will happen, but personally I would rather be somewhere else when they do. I don't want to be a film extra. Cast me as a spear carrier, and I will happily exercise my free will and step aside to give somebody else their five minutes of fame. You would not have to persuade the population of Hiroshima that it is possible to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time without your own planets having given proper authorisation. Yet paradoxically astrology nowadays is almost wholly the astrology of the individual.

What we are witnessing, both in the world at large and in an astrology that claims to reflect the world, is a complex of interactions, some factors powerfully dominant, others relatively weak, all impacting on each other. And the point of this digression is to ask whether in practice astrology reflects that degree of complexity, or whether astrologers don't try to impose on it a bogus simplicity. Puzzlingly, some astrologers even take a sort of theological stance, adhering only to the Ptolemaic aspects, for instance, or refusing to recognise planets beyond Saturn. I would not wish to argue with those whose astrological concepts differ from mine, except to ask them if their methods honestly do produce the goods.

There are different levels of chart analysis, and I venture to say that fairly sophisticated methods are usually required in unwrapping the full planetary potentialities of the moment. You will have seen physicists, chalk in hand, covering a blackboard with their equations. You may have heard about Bletchley Park, where during Hitler's war the Brits assembled the best brains in a bid to crack his Enigma code. Well, why shouldn't the cosmic code represent a challenge of similar magnitude? The future of astrology lies not in its grudging recognition by science, but more plausibly in shirtsleeve brainstorming sessions (yes, in a blackboard environment) by astrologers who are convinced they can make a difference. They know that the overmastering intentions of the cosmos cannot be undone, but believe that down the line events can be tweaked.

For all I know such think-tanks already exist. When you consider the massive security measures surrounding, say, a foreign visit by an American president, involving hundreds of operatives, it would be perverse to neglect so valuable a resource. We know that at one time the CIA showed interest in "remote viewing", but it has to be said that, while not disparaging parapsychology, the data of astrology are on a firmer basis. Has astrology, or some part of it, really been totally ignored by the secret services?

These backroom groups would routinely monitor the fault lines, and indeed the windows of opportunity, created by the changing planetary climate. The stellar conditioning is always there, but it does not necessarily activate automatically, a fact which has bearing on the question of prediction. In the case of Diana, astute astrologers would have already tagged the Alma tunnel in Paris as a potential trouble spot.

Their reasoning would run thus. In the lexicon of astrology the planets and their combinations assume concrete manifestation in the real world. Therefore Mercury-Pluto (among many other things) represents underground transport, whether by rail or road. Indeed those in charge of such systems or features could profitably study the changing mutual relationship of these planets. The best astrology is always done this way, within a fairly tight context, because its practitioners cannot be expected to have eyes everywhere.

Now at the winter solstice 1996 Mercury and Pluto were in semisquare. Their midpoint was squared by Mars, a planet often denoting trauma. Since this configuration had worldwide significance, interested parties would seek to localise it. At Paris ME/PL lined up with the 8th cusp (I tend to standardise on Koch houses, while noting cusps by Campanus and Placidus.) Again, one thing the study of this event endorses over and over is the traditional association of Paris with Virgo, and here Mars was in that sign. Astrologically-minded officials in the French capital might have pondered whether it was possible to identify which of the underpasses was thus singled out for unwelcome attention. Hopefully they would have noted that the Alma tunnel takes its name from a famous battle (Mars).

Another event might have convinced them the heavens had Paris in its sights. These charts can make themselves felt a few weeks in advance, and on December 3rd a terrorist bomb in the Paris Metro killed two and injured 20.

Now traditionalists will object that the winter solstice of 1996 cannot apply to Diana's death some eight months later. But the way the solstice and equinox charts are customarily ranked has been questioned. In the northern hemisphere at any rate the solstice might be seen as the sun's own birthday, an event commemorated in the Christmas festival. Back in 1931 a book by A. E. Thierens (Elements of Esoteric Astrology) stated: "In the Winter Solstice primarily, and the other three Quarters subsequently, the potential powers for the year are indicated; by the New Moons and Full Moons they are conveyed to the world of action, and by the daily transits they come to facts and happenings." Charles Carter, a leading British astrologer, also taught that the winter solstice was the most important of these charts, and moreover emphasised that it could make meaningful contacts (if very close) to the charts of individuals.

Apropos of which, at the solstice Diana's moon received a precise quincunx (aka inconjunct or disjunct) from that Virgo Mars. Mars at her own birth was also in Virgo, and it collected a double quincunx (sometimes called a yod) from solstice Saturn-Uranus. "An act of violence" is how Ebertin interprets this midpoint combination. Another quincunx was from solstice Pluto to her natal Mercury, which not only foreshadowed the Alma underpass but the intimidating paparazzi who that night were in hot pursuit. The peculiar characteristic of the quincunx is of coming unstuck, of not getting it together.

At Paris the winter solstice midheaven conjoined Uranus, which understandably had consequences for the French government. In June the socialist-led opposition swept to power, a nasty jolt for the right-wing President Chirac, who had called a snap election a year early to secure a mandate for his austerity policies, presumably without the benefit of astrological advice. However in a wider context this position of Uranus denoted upsets for "headline" personalities visiting France, and more especially Paris. It fell exactly opposite Diana's ME/MA, making a yod with both bodies, a distinct hint that motoring could be dangerous in a city not noted for its highway civilities.

As we see, to unpack the message of the heavens we need to keep in mind that every factor can be meaningfully linked to other factors, which may in turn connect with yet others, in a process of mutual modification and refinement. Therefore the best advice to astrologers has to be: Think patterns, not spots. Suppose Mars aspects Pluto. The question is, what sort of Mars is this, what sort of Pluto? How are their essential natures being modified? What does each bring to the aspect as a result? Their influence can be qualified in several ways, for instance by receiving another strong aspect, or by parallel of declination, or by standing on the midpoint of two other bodies.

This situation is conveniently exemplified in the chart for the crash in the Alma tunnel, in which Mars in Scorpio indeed critically aspects Pluto, virtually arc minute exact. The aspect is difficult to spot at a glance, and belongs to a series of angles based on the halving principle, aspects which more than any others indicate visible manifestation in the physical world. We start from the conjunction, and halving the zodiac gives the opposition, halving again gives the square (or quartile), halving again the semisquare (or octile), and thus progressing to the semioctile (22½º) and the demisemioctile (11¼).

The idea that our list of aspects can be extended to include such angles is not new, although the modern technique of harmonics has formalized it. Of course it was Kepler who was the first to guess that the Ptolemaic aspects might not be the whole story. Then writing before World War I the astrologer George Wilde proposed a series of new aspects, giving them such exotic names as the quinde-tricibinile and the septi-sexaquartile! My own method of notation is simply to use the harmonic number of the aspect, so that VE S NE means a septile between Venus and Neptune, and also multiples of the septile for that matter, since I admit I cannot distinguish qualitatively between the biseptile and triseptile!

It should be emphasised that the smaller the angles, the smaller the orbs, and it is contended that an aspect in say the 16th harmonic which is exact or nearly so, to within only a few arc minutes, packs a stronger punch than a wide square or opposition. So these are not to be regarded as 'minor' angles, rather as aspects valid in their own right, which merely need a sharper focus. It's rather like shortwave radio, the stations are transmitting all right, they need only to be more finely tuned.

Anyway, there in the crash chart we have a Mars-Pluto semioctile (Wilde called it the sedicile), which I write as MA 16 PL because it is the 16th harmonic, i.e. the zodiac circle divided by that number. Perhaps the easiest way to arrive at such angles, unless you have already factored them into your aspect array, is to get your computer to do an 8th harmonic chart, when the semioctile pops up as an opposition and its little brother, the demisemioctile, as a square.

Even taken alone, Mars-Pluto is certainly good news for the conspiracy theorists. A number of aspects can signify physical violence, but nothing matches the capability of this combination for sledgehammer brutality. As an indicator of forcible suppression it often appears in charts associated with assassinations (but not necessarily for the actual moment of such deeds). The peculiarity of Pluto is that it is the planet most likely to point to the eruption of violence after a longish build-up of anger or frustration.

A tip might be mentioned in passing. In charting these interactions I believe there exists a factor I call angle resonance, which means that (say) a sextile will chime in with any other sextile in the same chart. Simply because of the shared nature of the angle itself the two configurations wave to each other even though they are not spatially connected. Therefore it may be significant that another semioctile in the crash chart is between the Sun and Moon, with a mere 3' orb. The spectrum of significance associated with a combination of the luminaries includes the celebrity woman, the royal family, etc.

Following the dictum "Think patterns, not spots" we must look more closely at Mars-Pluto. What manner of Mars is this? It stands on the midpoint of the Moon and Uranus, which Ebertin in his useful book on planetary combinations interprets as "Acts of violence, injury." At one level it suggests emotional shock, and at another an independent woman, the loose cannon that Diana had conspicuously become.

Now consider the Pluto arm of the aspect. On the day of the crash Pluto and the Sun joined forces in declination, a contraparallel, and this contact is a key strand in the drama. Allowed unhindered expression, Sun-Pluto represents the exercise of monolithic power, the sort that crushes dissent and pursues its goals relentlessly. Ecliptic-wise the midpoint Sun/Pluto fell opposite Saturn. Ebertin characterises this as the "ruthless overcoming of obstacles and difficulties." Diana was certainly presenting difficulties for the established order, and in Sun-Pluto-Saturn we could well be looking at a determination to remove them at a stroke. This configuration stands for repressive power, and is the most plausible witness to a possible hidden hand in mournful events of that night.

Crash Mars-Pluto locked onto the winter solstice Mars (by semisquare and semioctile, precise to within one or two arc minutes). It will be remembered that it then formed part of the ME/PL 8th cusp configuration.

And what are we to make of Mercury, the car, opposed by Saturn/Neptune that fateful night. In fact Mercury's proximity to the Sun might specify a royal car. The loss and confusion associated with a mix of Saturn and Neptune typically produce a sense of helplessness. For whatever reason, driver Henri Paul must have realised too late that he had lost control of the vehicle. Those familiar with the dark ways of the secret agencies describe how it is possible for the steering and braking systems of a car to be taken over remotely. This scenario became even more plausible to the conspiracy-minded when it was revealed that a few months earlier the Mercedes had been stolen and surgically stripped of its more intricate parts, including the power steering and antilock braking system, which had to be replaced. Well, well.

For remote control to have its intended gory result it would ideally be activated when the car was travelling where it would slam at speed into concrete, as happened in the Alma tunnel. It has never been explained why it was taking that diversion, but there was a good deal of suspicious activity in and around the tunnel at the time of the crash.

What cannot be overlooked in any analysis of this event is that fact that the same weekend saw an eclipse. Configurations formed at an eclipse can be relied upon to produce characteristic effects in the months following. Here there was an opposition of Venus and Saturn, sorrow for a young woman. Their axis fell on ME/PL, and no one can easily forget the television images of the scene in the underpass.

This was an eclipse of the Sun, icon of royalty and other top people. It took place in Virgo (Paris) which is no rare thing in itself. However, this time it fell exactly on the Paris meridian. An astrological "minder" would have counselled against any royal personage being in Paris at that time, and especially not Diana, because the eclipse ascendant (square ME/MA) fell on her natal Sun.

Diana was born under a Mars Pluto conjunction in Virgo, dividing its influence (according to various chart projections) between the 8th and 9th houses. At several key points during 1997 Pluto had been squaring this natal configuration. It also has to be noted that an aspect in "real time", i.e. currently in the sky, will tend to stir up any natal connection between those planets, which means that the Mars Pluto semioctile at the moment of the crash had particular import for Diana.

A number of other configurations added pieces to the jigsaw. There were Diana's own aspects, notably progressed Mars semisquare Neptune, exact. The winter solstice Sun in the 8th exactly square Saturn had its own story to tell, as did the summer solstice Sun square Mars, both signalling problems for the House of Windsor. But did those problems inevitably have to involve the tragedy in the Alma tunnel?

A journalist for most of his life, Dennis Elwell has explored any byway that might throw light on astrology, leading to a study of science on the one hand, and occultists like Rudolf Steiner and Gurdjieff on the other. Teaching himself the basics as a teenager, he became a regular contributor to American Astrology; a platform for the leading astrologers of the day. The association continued for twenty years. He began lecturing to astrologers in 1963 and has subsequently gained an illustrious reputation as an original thinker and stimulating speaker.
His book Cosmic Loom, was published in the same year and was recently republished by the Urania Trust in an updated and expanded version.

[ More articles by Dennis Elwell ]

© Dennis Elwell. November 2003

Mundane Astrology

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