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  < BACK TO BOOK REVIEWS September 2007  

When Stars Collide
Why we love who we love and when we love them
by Paul Westran

When Stars Collide by Paul Westran, O Books, Deershot Lodge, Park Lane, Ropley, Hants, SO24 OBE, U.K., 2006.  Paper—360 pp.— $29.95 (£16.99) (ISBN 1-905047-74-6). Available from: www.o-books.net

The central theme of Paul Westran’s book When Stars Collide (subtitled Why we love who we love and when we love them) is progressed synastry. This is an original and powerful technique, something that anyone with a serious interest in astrology should investigate. Regular readers of The Mountain Astrologer will be aware of Paul’s work through his article "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?"in the Oct./Nov. 2003 issue.

Progressed synastry looks at the connections from one person’s progressed chart to the natal and progressed charts of another person, and vice versa. Working with this idea (whose only other serious proponent to date seems to be Robert Blaschke), Westran builds a compelling case that progressed synastry reveals a lot about how relationships form, when they form, and what their dynamics may be.

When researching the subject, Westran began to look at the beginning and ending of celebrity relationships as a way of testing progressed synastry. He eventually built up a database of 1,300 relationships. Since much of the data (both natal and the beginning/ending of relationships) came from biographies, popular magazines, Web sites, and so on, the times of birth were frequently unavailable. Although Westran acknowledges that the Moon is an important factor in some facets of progressed synastry, the lack of times for many of the charts means that the Moon’s position cannot be known with sufficient accuracy, and he says little about it. The same might be said of a few other points, such as the progressed Ascendant. Nevertheless, this is a groundbreaking study, and as such it can hardly be criticised for not having a complete and detailed map of everything to do with progressed synastry. The main focus, in fact, is on the progressions of the Sun, Mars, and most especially Venus, which is described as “the prime mover in romantic relationships and therefore the most important element in the synastry of lovers.”

In Chapter One, Westran presents the basic idea of progressed synastry and illustrates it at work in five relationships (including his own). The next four chapters explain synastry and progressions and offer a “cookbook” section on the Sun, Venus, and Mars through the signs, along with an introduction to symbols and aspects. Celebrity relationships illustrate some of the themes.

I think that Westran’s aim in Chapters Two through Five is to equip his work to be accessible to everyone, not just astrologers. Personally, I believe that progressed synastry is just too complex and abstruse a subject to be taken on by people who don't have a solid background in astrology. But time will tell — perhaps in a few years, this opinion will sound as short-sighted as Decca Records turning down the Beatles in 1962. In any case, experienced astrologers will probably find themselves skipping fairly quickly through these chapters, since a lot of the material will be familiar.

In Chapter Ten, the author speculates on how astrology might work, and he sketches the case that conventional science is not equipped to be judge and jury in evaluating astrology. The rest of the book’s 16 chapters are devoted entirely to biographical material, i.e., looking at how progressed synastry actually works. This brings us to a major feature of the book: There are a lot of examples. I already mentioned the database of 1,300 relationships of famous people, who range from King Henry VIII to Gwyneth Paltrow. A hell of a lot of research has gone into this side of the book. The chapters in which Westran discusses the waxing and waning of relationships in the lives of John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor, Brad Pitt, and many, many more would be worth the price of admission on their own.

The emphasis that Westran places on his extensive database brings us to another point in this book. He says that “the secondary progressed horoscope [is] the most likely one to be amenable to certain types of scientific testing,” and he refers repeatedly to his own statistical research. (These statistics are contained in the book’s second appendix.) If probability shows anything, it is this: When an astrologer puts forward a hypothesis and calls for independent research into it, resounding silence will follow. I really hope this proves not to be the case this time. Westran’s findings look to be the most interesting area of potential research to come along in astrology in a long while. He puts it this way: “We won’t know for certain if the facts relayed in this book are revelatory of astrology or just of this astrologer until someone else looks at this idea, but I believe that we have only glimpsed a fraction of the bottom corner of the big picture of astrology at work.”

This is a hugely ambitious work. Although (for me) its ambition to be all things to all people doesn’t quite come off, it has great strengths in the radicalness of its central idea and the painstaking research that Westran has subjected it to. Besides that, he is a gifted writer and steers the reader through astrological theory and biography with an inventive and often amusing touch. I hope that this book meets with the success it deserves, because Paul Westran is an original and intelligent new voice in astrology. If you are interested in using astrology to understand relationships, this is essential reading for you.

Editor's Note: Versions of this review appeared previously in the AA Journal (July/August 2006) and on Deborah Houlding’s Web site: www.skyscript.co.uk


— reviewed by Garry Phillipson

— edited by Mary Plumb

© 2007 The Mountain Astrologer. All rights reserved.