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  < BACK TO BOOK REVIEWS December 2007  

Person-to-Person Astrology
by Stephen Arroyo

Person-to-Person Astrology: Energy Factors in Love, Sex & Compatibility by Stephen Arroyo,Frog, Ltd. (North Atlantic Books), P.O. Box 12327, Berkeley, CA 94712, USA, 2007. Paper—404 pp.—$18.95 ($24.95 Canada) (ISBN 978-1-58394-204-8). Available from: www.northatlanticbooks.com (enter 'Arroyo' in the catalog search)

Stephen Arroyo is one of astrology’s most widely read authors. He has published eight books since the 1970s, including several that have served as standard guides to a generation of astrologers. His latest book is the fruit of more than 30 years of practice using his vast knowledge of astrology, along with psychology (he holds a master's degree in that field) and various other healing arts.

Let me say at the outset that, although this book is wonderfully rich in astrological content, it is also accessible to those with no knowledge of astrology. The introductory material and early chapters offer a thoughtful invitation to readers who have not considered astrology as a serious and useful method for understanding human relationships. Of course, Stephen Arroyo knows astrology to be an unparalleled tool for self-awareness and insight into human interactions. This book is both a sturdy and a subtle work — Arroyo has a grounded, practical approach to the complex world that astrologers inhabit.

Readers familiar with his previous work may recognize that the subtitle (Energy Factors) describes an essential focus of his approach. The four elements have historically been a foundation of astrological language, and Arroyo has fully developed and articulated their use for modern astrologers in his current work. This new book elucidates how astrology describes energy fields, both by element and by the specific sign connecting the individual to self and others.

By introducing the usefulness of astrology to newcomers, the author makes many interesting points, including blunt observations about contemporary Western society’s overall confusion, anxiety, and lack of self-knowledge. Arroyo writes that the cultural emphasis on building “self-esteem,” as well as various theories of understanding relationship needs and dynamics, pales in comparison to what astrology can reveal about one’s authentic self and deeper, individual motivations and expectations. Although experienced astrologers will naturally and enthusiastically share Arroyo’s view of astrology's practical applications, there are many other intriguing ideas in these sections: For example, the author observes that sex is overemphasized today, partly because, in our industrialized society, we have lost touch with the senses, and “sex remains the only contact we still have with the primal, physical life force and the world of nature.“

In a short chapter titled "Should I Really Take Astrology Seriously? Replies Throughout the Centuries," Arroyo surveys the great thinkers who have studied astrology (Sir Francis Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, etc.). Arroyo is obviously not a predictive astrologer; he feels that this approach does a disservice to astrology and turns serious-minded people away from an exploration of its potential. The author acknowledges that astrology is “hard to pin down,” and he recommends that astrology be judged and evaluated like other fields of study, such as medicine and economics, that are also “not completely reliable.”

The wonderful chapter, "Love, Sex, and Relationships: Throughout History and Today," discusses such topics as gender roles, the phenomenon of idealization, the marketing of sexual imagery, the ubiquitous search for soul mates, etc. — all contributing to “the substantial hurdles that one has to surmount in order to have successful and satisfying relationships in the twenty-first century.”

Arroyo's discourse in these beginning chapters is broad, exploratory and provocative. To simplify, I could say that he shows the reader astrology’s exemplary ability to describe how energy is exchanged in relationship dynamics, and he underscores the quintessential importance of polarity. The bulk of the book consists of Arroyo’s clearly written ideas about the basics of assessing compatibility in astrology. The author has assembled his material from his long observation and experience (as distinct from a theoretical model); from responses to questionnaires and interviews; and from quotes from other astrologers, e.g., Debbi Kempton Smith, Mary Coleman, Donna Cunningham, and Grant Lewi. The Moon, Mars, and Venus are highlighted and described by element and by sign. The essence of Mars and Venus in each sign is examined in detail and with mature psychological insight. Along the way, readers are given such important insights as a distinction between "feelings" and "emotions" and the differences between how men and woman experience planets in signs. There is an introduction to aspects and a brief chapter on "Using Astrology and Chart Comparisons Wisely and Realistically." The Appendices provide definitions of astrology basics, key concepts for the planets, and tables for Moon, Mars, and Venus sign positions (1927–2000) as well as for estimating the Ascendant.

Personal disclosure: I am a contemporary of Stephen Arroyo and have practiced astrology for many years. Although I am fascinated by the intricacies of the Vertex, the Parts of Love and Marriage, solar arc–directed planets, etc., in relationship analysis, I have come to the conclusion that what is really most important in the long term is how we feel when we are around each other. As Stephen Arroyo makes elegantly clear, this is not reductionism; understanding the fundamental energy exchange that we have with others is a gold mine for understanding human intimacy. We are not made smaller by such an approach, but rather we join the larger “cosmic psychology” that is the author’s deeper interest.

This is a wise and wonderful book. Stephen Arroyo has an undeniable mastery of his topic that seems only to have become more confident and profound over time. Person-to-Person Astrology is an essential, rewarding, and somehow warmly reassuring book on everyone’s favorite subject. Beginners will love it, and seasoned professionals will recognize what the author is saying and resonate with its timeless relevance.

Readers may also enjoy the interview with Stephen Arroyo in the current issue of The Mountain Astrologer (Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008).

— reviewed by Mary Plumb





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