The number of books available in and out of print on astrology is mind-boggling and continuing to grow. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “static noise” in the overall stream of information, which can make finding the best books on the subject a daunting task. This monthly book review will focus on the best books for beginners, serious students, and professionals.
Choosing the Book
For this review process, I am looking at three main factors: the knowledge and wisdom of the author, the readability and delivery of the knowledge, and the usefulness of the book. The book this month is targeted at advanced students and professional astrologers. This writer takes a very interesting approach to using the house system as the definitive tool to understand and shape human personality.
The Book This Month – Birth Pattern Psychology by Tamise Van Pelt
The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-0914918332 and it can be purchased on Amazon for $14.95 USD. You can find used copies on Alibris for $3.96 USD at the time this article was written.
Published in 1985, “Birth Pattern Psychology presents a new method of personality assessment. Using holistic philosophy and principles, Tamise Van Pelt has developed a means to coordinate the astronomical data of the birth chart with a patterned measurement base. Human needs, attitudes and behaviors define the book’s content.” (back cover).
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book, a preface by Tamise Van Pelt, and references at the end of the book (but no index). Van Pelt is both a thorough scholar and a determined logical thinker. In the beginning of the book, she lays out the most current research into personality (at that time) and a strict methodology to reach her conclusions. “Birth Pattern Psychology is based on seven years of research and writing, data analysis of 2,000 birth patterns, hundreds of case histories, and more than two years of testing in actual counseling and practice.” (back cover)
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The book contains a preface, acknowledgments, an Introduction: The Birth Pattern Approach to Personality Measurement, Two Parts, an epilogue, two appendices, notes, and references. Chapters for Part One are: Measuring Basic Needs, The Hierarchy of Needs, Measuring Temperament Types, Measuring Temperament Traits, Measuring Behavior, and Personality in Synthesis. Part Two contains chapters on Masks People Wear, Divided Personalities, and Communication Failures.
This book is surprisingly precise with regard to the method. Essentially Van Pelt chooses to use the whole sign house system, which starts each house segment at 0 degrees of a sign. Then she ignores the angles and the sign meaning assigned to the chart to focus only on the points in each house based on the needs meaning assigned to each house of the birth chart. She only takes into account the Sun through Pluto and is not concerned with their meaning either. You must have an exact birth time to make this method work; without it, this book is a non-starter.
Focus on Chapter 1 – Measuring Basic Needs
“You live in a world of measurement. Measurement is so much a natural part of your life that your environment is filled with measuring devices. Look around your home and you will see measuring cups and spoons in your kitchen, clocks, and calendars on your walls. You might own a tape measure, scales, thermometer, barometer, ruler, yardstick. You drive a car equipped to measure its own speed, mileage, and fuel supply. But you are unprepared to measure accurately and objectively the one thing in your life that affects you most: people.” (1)
This paragraph certainly provides a great hook to get you to want to delve deeper into the text. Without a doubt, Van Pelt does her dead level best to provide an objective method for using a birth chart to assess and define personality types. For this reason, she does throw out most of the interpretive qualities of the traditional astrological chart analysis to get to an objective method. And she does an excellent job explaining and laying out the method, which makes this book such a compelling read.
In essence, she identifies four needs: growth, security, stimulus, and love. In terms of the houses of the chart and signs of the Zodiac, these would be the 1st/5th/9th fire houses (naturally ruled by Aries/Leo/Sagittarius) for growth, the 2nd/6th/10th earth houses (ruled by Taurus/Virgo/Capricorn) for security, the 3rd/7th/11th air houses (ruled by Gemini/Libra/Aquarius) for stimulus, and the 4th/8th/12th water houses (ruled by Cancer/Scorpio/Pisces) for love.
When you cast your individual chart, it is unlikely that Aries will rule your 1st House; there is a 1 in 12 chance. In this method, it does not matter which sign rules the house, just that it sets the placement of the points in a specific house. For example, Scorpio rules my first house and my Sun is in Aries, which means my Sun is in my 6th House, which is a security house. Based on the placement of all the other points in my chart, I end up with 5 points in the security houses (4 in the 6th and 1 in the 10th), so I have a dominant security need.
That, in a nutshell, is the method.
Focus on Chapter 6 – Personality in Synthesis
By the time you reach Chapter 6, Van Pelt has enriched her content to include not only the basic needs of the house triplicities, but also the hierarchy of needs in the individual, a temperament type, temperament traits, and behavior.
In my case, my dominant need is security, with stimulus as my second highest need (3 points). With security as my most dominant need, my temperament type is The Realist (the other types are: Growth dominant – the Individualist, Stimulus dominant – The Humanist, and Love dominant – the Romanticist). (58).
Temperament traits are determined by a calculation adding the points of two needs categories which results in six possibilities: spontaneous, continuous, hypothetic, empiric, organic, and panoramic. Based on my chart, the empiric trait is dominant, meaning I “want concrete rewards for my individual effort.” (89).
Behavior is measured using another quality of traditional astrology: cardinality, fixedness, and mutability, which align with the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th houses; the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 11th houses; and the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th Houses. Once again, you just total up your points in those houses to see if one of the behaviors: strength (1/4/7/10), sensitivity (2/5/8/11), or strategy (3/6/9/12) is dominant. In my case it is strategy.
Knowing the Reviewer
I have an academic background; my PhD is in English (1996) and my concentration was rhetoric and composition. Astrologically speaking, I am an Aries Sun with Mercury, my point of communication, also in Aries. These two facts about my background and astrological identity are the two main “lenses” for how I pick and interpret books. I want them to be well-written, researched, and presented (my academic lens), and I want them to be useful, direct, and pithy (my Aries Mercury lens).
I do recommend this book because I found it fascinating to apply such a clear-cut method to evaluate a birth chart, especially my own. And I have applied the method with clients to see how it works and it does work well, but it is not the only approach I would select, even at the author’s recommendation. That said; it is certainly a book worth exploring.