In Memory of Neil Michelsen
Astrology has lost its great and generous patron, Neil Michelsen. Neil died of cancer on May 15, 1990 around 4:30 to 5 A.M. in his home in San Diego. He had been critically ill for some months, but kept on working, trying to set up Astro-Computing Services (ACS) so that it could continue in the event that he did not recover. He was also working to finish his big book Tables of Planetary Phenomena which, like so much of his work, will be a truly valuable tool for astrologers. The book was completed, in the final stages of preparation for printing, when Neil made the transition that we all reach eventually. In fact, if some form of reincarnation is true as I believe, we have all made that journey a good many times. The important question is how much we contributed to life here on the physical level while we were here. On that score, Neil’s record can be matched against anyone.
Most of our readers have probably seen Neil’s chart since he used it in the ads for ACS horoscopes. He was born on May 11, 1931 at 5:34 A.M. CST in Chicago, IL. The enclosed chart also has his San Diego, CA house cusps written in just inside the outer circle.
As you will note, Neil was born just two months later than Mikail Gorbachev, and he shared the same challenging Saturn return this year. Where Gorbachev has natal Saturn at 20 Capricorn and progressed Saturn at 23 Capricorn, Neil had the reverse so transiting Saturn remains within two degrees of either the natal or the progressed position for the whole year. It is obvious that Gorbachev is dealing with power issues that make this year one of supreme challenge to him. Since Neil has left the physical body, the meaning of the continuing pattern in his personal chart is speculative, but I suspect that it pictures the changes in the executive direction of ACS (which was really an extension of Neil), and the company’s practical work to be successful without its founder. I suspect that Neil will be watching from the next level of life, and pulling for his creation. Most of the employees of the company have been with it for years, and they are committed to continuing its past record of good service at reasonable prices while also breaking new ground with new techniques in astrology and helping with astrology research. Most people have no idea how many times Neil quietly assisted astrologers who were testing their theories about astrology.
The high value Neil placed on his business shows clearly in his horoscope. He had a close conjunction between Saturn and Vesta in Capricorn in the ninth house: the two supreme workaholics in the sign of Saturn in the house where we look for ultimate value, meaning, and trust. Neil also had a Taurus stellium in the twelfth house, connecting the ability to earn a living to unconscious faith and ultimate value. Jupiter conjunct Pluto (equivalent to Scorpio) in the Taurus house was a third statement of the tendency to associate faith and material success, Sagittarius in the eighth house repeated the message, and Chiron in Taurus said it again. Neptune in Virgo again connected work to faith. The great danger of placing our faith in any part of life is that a threat to that area can lead to a loss of faith. When one’s identity (Mercury ruling the Ascendant) and one’s ego (Sun) are both in Taurus, material success is vital for a sense of personal power (letter one) and for self-esteem (letter five).
I am personally convinced that the cancer was an unconscious response to job pressures in the past couple of years. Professional astrologers had been the backbone of ACS business, and as increasing numbers bought their own personal computers, ACS had to shift to more focus on interpretive reports aimed at the general public. At the same time, expenses escalated. The company had to move to a building in a commercial zone, it put in an elaborate phone system with an 800 number, it let customers use credit cards, health insurance fees jumped, so the costs of doing business increased by a factor of four or more. With his Pisces Moon and strong twelfth house, Neil’s instincts were always to take care of anyone in need. I think that his self-image as a person who could provide for everyone was so challenged by the need to economize, to sometimes say “no” to requests which were clearly unreasonable, to actually (heaven forbid) fire an employee, that his unconscious chose cancer rather than use what the rest of the world regards as routine business practices. Pisces can be a savior or a victim, and the savior can easily turn into a martyr and hence a victim. There is a feeling of “if anyone is hurt, it has to be me.” Remember, Neil had his Moon in Pisces, five factors in the twelfth house, and Neptune square his Ascendant.
Traditional astrology might be puzzled by the powerful Jupiter aspects when Neil died. P Sun was on natal Jupiter and P Mercury on P Jupiter while P Moon was trine Neptune. Neil had a deep faith that if he did the morally right thing, the universe would provide what was needed, and strong aspects to Jupiter, Neptune and/or Chiron tend to reinforce the faith. ACS had always justified that faith in the past, growing and thriving and giving. But the transiting planets in Capricorn had been setting off Neil’s cardinal T-square, calling for caution in handling the material world, for practicality, perhaps for belt-tightening. At the same time that P Sun was on Jupiter, it was also opposite P Vesta which is often associated with health problems when people are frustrated in their work, and P Sun had just started a square to Uranus. Neil had expressed his frustration over the need in recent months to concentrate on business details, on management decisions which had previously required little attention, on the Taurus-Capricorn nitty-gritty, so he had little time to do the creative work which he loved, programming and testing new techniques and theories in astrology, the Uranus in Aries in the Aquarian house. This basic conflict between freedom and creativity on one side and material responsibilities on the other side was shown clearly in Neil’s chart. P Uranus had held a square to Pluto and P Pluto had held an opposition to Saturn for many years, and the cardinal T-square was intensified in recent years as P Mercury, P Ascendant, and then P Sun moved into orb to the slow moving planets. P Vesta was also involved in the cardinal cross for many years in addition to a long quincunx to Mars in Leo. Fire-earth conflicts are typically experienced as personal desires and power in conflict with the limits which are inherent in the physical world.
The cardinal conflicts, especially since they were partly in fixed houses, are typical of some kind of power struggle. P Neptune (key to unconscious faith) was also involved in the pattern, holding a long octile to Pluto and a trioctile to P Uranus. When we have a power-struggle nature, we either express it voluntarily or there is a real danger of projecting it (which lets other people take our power and use it against us) or of repressing it (when one’s own energy attacks one’s body and creates illness). A competitive business is a good outlet for a cardinal and/or fixed T-square. But as indicated above, Neil’s deeply spiritual nature became part of the conflict, (Neptune aspecting the cardinal T-square along with similar patterns), making it harder to practice typical business methods. So he let people take advantage of him, like the authors to whom he gave advance payments who never produced the work, and the authors who persuaded him to publish books which failed to sell enough to cover their costs. He may also have repressed his frustration over the financial pressures which kept him from being as generous as he wanted to be. My personal belief is that his unconscious felt that cancer and death was a better choice than turning into an ordinary, hard-shelled, penny-pinching business man.
I felt that the potential for a healing was present in Neil’s chart because he really did have some powerful positive aspects, especially those involving the fire planets (Sun, Mars, Jupiter) though they were in earth and water signs or houses. The Sun on Jupiter has been mentioned, and P Mars had moved into Virgo in the Leo house where it formed a grand trine to P Vesta and the East Point as well as a sextile to Jupiter-P Sun. Fire factors represent our confidence in our own right and power to do what we want. This basic self-confidence produces our vitality and recuperative power. Earth and water symbolize the natural “opponents” of fire, as they remind us of the need for caution. Life is always a balancing act. We need all four elements. But when our fire is too blocked, whether by feelings that we can’t or that we shouldn’t do what we want, the life force is blocked, our immune system starts shutting down, and we are open to a variety of illnesses.
In contrast to the fire planets, houses, and signs, (which include all forms of letters one, five, and nine), the seventh and especially the eighth planets, houses, and signs show where we are most in danger of projecting our own power and feeling vulnerable to the power of others. Letter eight in our alphabet is especially associated with joint resources, pleasures and power. We need to share resources, pleasures and power, not take too much for ourselves or deny our personal rights and needs. Like all water factors, letter eight marks a time of closure and letting go to prepare for a new fire beginning. In Neil’s chart, the eighth house cusp aspects showed the potential for working out a balance between giving and receiving, between personal responsibility and shared power, or the aspects could symbolize letting go of the physical body. P Venus was on the natal second house cusp so it opposed the eighth cusp. P eighth cusp was opposite natal Mars and P eighth cusp in San Diego was conjunct P Saturn opposite Pluto and square P Uranus. The listed aspects are for the Placidus house system.
We will really miss Neil but I know that he is rejoicing in the freedom of a new life. Those who appreciated his countless gifts to astrology can continue to purchase the products of ACS: charts, books and/or the new interpretive reports. And tell your friends. He wanted his business to survive and to continue to provide services to meet both old and new needs of astrologers. The horoscope for the incorporation of ACS certainly marks the present as a time of change but it is also very positive about the future of the company. The progressed (P) Moon was trine Pluto, sextile the P East Point, and almost immediately also sextile the Ascendant when Neil died. By June, the P Moon started a trine to Jupiter and it will continue into trines to P Mars and P Jupiter which are conjunct each other, sextile Neptune, and trine the local (San Diego) East Point. P local East Point was also conjunct the San Diego Ascendant and P Juno was opposite that local Ascendant, pointing to the changing partnership in the business. P Uranus holds a very long conjunction with the Moon and IC as well as a sextile to Juno. The aspects fit the astrological work done literally in Neil’s home, both in Pelham, NY and in San Diego until the recent move. I can’t imagine a more appropriate chart for a business which offers astrology and books and teaching than this one with Uranus on one angle, Jupiter in Aquarius on another angle, and Chiron near the MC. Other positive aspects also support the continuing success of ACS, including P Ascendant trine a triple conjunction of P Venus, P Chiron, and P Sun in 16 Aries, with P Ceres completing a grand trine in fire signs and houses. P Ascendant in San Diego was forming a yod (double quincunx) to Neptune and P Mars-P Jupiter to show the separation from Neil and a new path for the company, but the local P Ascendant was also sextile P MC to show success.
The asteroids are also amazing! Neil’s wife, Maria, my daughter, Maritha, and Neil’s son, Eric, are the directors who will be guiding ACS in the future. My son, Rique, is the main programmer. Martha was Maritha’s given name before she added the “I” in the middle to make it more original. Henry was the original name given to Rique and we used the Spanish version Enrique (to differentiate him from his father) but we dropped the “en.” My middle name given at birth was Herrick. My son Mark had already calculated the asteroids named Maria, Martha, Henry and Herrick. In the ACS chart calculated in New York, Henry is on the Descendant and Jupiter. P Henry is trine P ASCII (the set of characters used by most computers) and P Urania (like Uranus for astrology), and it is just starting a trine to Vesta to form a grand trine in air signs and houses. When the ACS chart is calculated for San Diego, Herrick is on the MC within 4 minutes of longitude and P Herrick is on the P 8th house cusp in the original New York chart. At Neil’s death, P Maria was conjunct the San Diego MC and Herrick. P Martha was on the San Diego Ascendant along with P The NORC (a prototype computer) and the local P East Point. P Vesta was on natal Martha, and Maritha has definitely been working harder during the last few months as she and Maria learned to handle the tasks formerly carried out by Neil.
On checking the complete list of named asteroids, I discovered that there was one named Erika. It was a common practice for years to add an “a” to feminize otherwise masculine names that were given to asteroids with “normal” orbits. As I have written before, the asteroids with unusual orbits were allowed to have masculine names. This male chauvinist practice was discontinued as feminism gained strength. Mark calculated the orbit of Erika so that I could have it for this article. Its natal position at 8 Sagittarius put it just past Neptune and the San Diego West Point but it was within my allowed one-degree orb of a conjunction with the Part of Death, an octile to Mars and square the P eighth house cusp and P San Diego. The ACS Mars is natally in Capricorn and ruler of the MC, so it symbolizes Neil as the Executive directing ACS. The conflict aspects fit Eric’s personal loss of his father. We also have the asteroids Williams (for my son William who took care of Neil in his last two months) and Mary and Patricia, the names of two employees at ACS. Natal Williams and P Mary and P Patricia were all in 16 Aries, in the same degree with P Venus, Chiron, and Sun which were mentioned above. The six factors in 16 Aries were also semisextile natal Mercury and sextile P Saturn. P Saturn’s square to Mercury in the eighth house was one of the clues to the loss of the head of the company, but the aspect will not last much longer while the Saturn-Chiron sextile will last for years.
So happier days should lie ahead, and in the meantime, those who would like to contribute to a Fund in Neil’s memory can send donations to the Neil F. Michelsen Memorial Fund, % Mary Downing, 78 Hubbard Ave., Stamford, CT 06905. NCGR, the organization of which Neil was president for so many years, is sponsoring the Fund which will be used to support astrology and astrological research.
Vaya con Dios, Neil.