The following review of The Light of Venus appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of The Astrological Journal. It is reprinted here with permission.
“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.
While the book’s title focuses on one particular planet, it is not just a study of Venus, nor 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 have been based on direct sky experience, i.e. have been 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; the author has spent not only 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.
Venus’s natal phase can seem at odds with 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, while the 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 the ‘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 for plotting the phases Gainsburg observes a synodic cycle, not a sidereal cycle, with this definition: “(from the 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, focusing 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 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 oddly is 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 1970’s 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 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 may 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 and clients are busy wanting answers to slightly more mundane queries. Even if the book is going to be of only 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.
While 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 while 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; all 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 the 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; while 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 thirteen 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 identify your Venus phase instantly (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 such as “Notes for Consulting Astrologers”, “Meditation Images of the Venus Phases” (which reminded me of I-Ching hexagram phrases), “Venus Retrograde and Venus Invisible”, “Venus and the Moon”, “The Solar Feminine”, and more, across thirteen 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 on each sign against that which I know to be true about self and others and was quite impressed but how the interpretations really seemed to fit. Not only is this useful for self-knowledge, but it also helping me somehow to understand and even forgive some previously inexplicable behaviour through the years. I suspect that over time The Light of Venus could therefore be a helpful ‘manual’, 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 have gone into the creation of The Light of Venus, and for that reason alone it deserve 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.”
Diana McMahon Collis. The Astrological Journal
The Astrological Journal
The Astrological Association