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Scala Coeli - by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher.

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Book Review

Scala Coeli: A Collection of Astrological Essays

by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher

Astro Mundi, (Greenock, Australia, 2012)
ISBN: 978-0-646-57061-7
291 A4 pages; paperback. RRP: AUD$39.95 + p&p
E-Book $24.95

Reviewed by Deborah Houlding.

Mari Garcia and Joy Usher are joint principals of the Astro Mundi School of Astrology and this, their first book, presents a collection of essays exploring various philosophical and practical astrological themes. For those new to their work, a relevant point about the authors is that they are extremely experienced consulting astrologers, with a great knowledge of the history, the myths and the philosophy of astrology - and they are skilled teachers: they know how to effectively communicate the points of greatest significance in order to enrich the student's understanding whilst focussing on points which give the greatest benefit to practical application.

As such, this book provides a rare combination of being able to explore certain points in great depth, whilst bringing clarity to principles that are then easily digested and put into effective use during the consultation process. As the sample pages show, the presentation of the ideas is perfectly pitched to be understood by those who are new to the concepts, but it is interesting enough to stimulate intermediate students, and deep enough to educate advanced and experienced practitioners. By offering a collection of essays this is not a book that aims to teach astrology as a system; instead it offers valuable additions to certain astrological themes, each of which deserves the focus given to it. And because of the way that the exploration covers both the philosophy and the demonstration of the knowledge in chart work, this is a book that has something to offer anyone seeking a fully rounded appreciation of astrology in both theory and practice.

The book features six in-depth essays, the first three by Joy Usher, the latter three by Mari Garcia. Each author also offers an introductory article which touches upon the choice of the book's title, and this is illuminating in showing us something of the personal motivation that drives the authors to want to communicate their ideas to other astrologers. Joy Usher's introduction begins with an explanation of what the Scala Coeli, 'Ladder of Heaven' is in philosophical terms, and how it represents a correspondence of number symbolism which is rooted in astronomical principles. This nicely sets the scene for a book which demonstrates that if we are to make use of an astronomical and numerical system, we need to understand how the concepts incorporate ideas that are drawn from deep philosophical wells, often representing a combination of Jewish theology, Pythagorean numerology, Greek philosophy and mystery traditions. Mari Garcia's introduction connects with a reference to a natural phenomenon called 'Staircase to the Moon', which occurs when the Full Moon rises over the exposed mudflats of Roebuck Bay, in Broome on the far west coast of Australia. This Mari uses as a metaphor for the way that there is a fundamental human instinct to reach for inspiration in the heavens and decipher the endless code written in nature. She ends with a reminder that astrology has a continuing role to play in humanity's quest for knowledge and understanding, and that astrologers have a 'duty of care' to engage in the 'love of wisdom'; though to provide 'the light' where it is needed this will sometimes require it's practitioners to descend back into the darkness of caves.

There are many elements of this book that give me good reason to recommend it. The essay themes are pertinent and some explore concepts that are rarely discussed elsewhere, except as abstract ideas that are difficult to connect to practical employment. Here we have a book which draws from the history, philosophy, mythology and theory of astrology, without ever losing touch with the fact that these ideas have shaped an employable art, and one that serves an important purpose in modern life. I was personally struck by how - despite the obvious expertise that has gone into the distillation of principles, which must have taken years of contemplation to crystallise so effectively - this book is completely devoid of arrogance and condescension to the reader, but instead uses every point as an opportunity to pass on something useful that will make the practitioner's employment of astrology more secure and meaningful. Through this collection of essays we don't just get access to interesting information, but we come to see astrology through the vision of the authors, who both have clearly derived a great sense of respect, inspiration and illumination in what they understand of the subject. So this is a refreshing approach and I found it pleasing that whilst certain ideas were advocated and explained, there were no divisive suggestions of exclusive approaches to astrology, simply the promotion of fundamentally important core principles that serve the interest of working astrologers in reminding us how all astrological techniques have a rich and fascinating legacy of philosophical tenets behind them.

Brief outline of the essays included:

1: Thema Mundi: the Birth Chart of the Universe - Joy Usher

Explains the first principles of Hellenistic astrology as viewed through the lens of the Thema Mundi chart, demonstrating how much of the astrology we take for granted today stems from this archetypal model, and how proper understanding of it enriches the astrologer's practice.

2: The Rulership Tree - Joy Usher

An exploration designed to extract the essence of planetary rulership into a model of practice so that all aspects, whether through planet, sign, or house, can be united within a logical format for chart interpretation.

3: The Gift of Sight - Joy Usher

Explores how Greek optical theory underpins the theory of aspect and planetary expression, with reference to practical examples to examine the impact of this theory, and how it extends into various elements of astrological interpretation.

4: The Moon's Noddings: Benediction or Curse - Mari Garcia

An exploration of an ancient technique which has had very little exposure in other modern works and which sets a template whereby the Moon, according to her condition, grants benefit or difficulty to other planets and certain areas of life.

5: The Dragon's Path: The Moon's Nodes in Astrology - Mari Garcia

Views the Moon's Nodes as a symbol of the purpose of an individual's life-journey. Examines and explores the origins of Node-theory and provides a working model for the interpretation of the Nodes in a natal chart.

6: Combustion & Cazimi - Mari Garcia

Explains how planetary expression is enhanced or hampered by the planet's relationship to the Sun and how this is related to the movement through their cycles, with demonstrations of its implications on the planet's expression in a nativity.


Deborah Houlding
May, 2012