gravityglue is the name of an Intagrammer who shares photos of stone sculptures, displaying extraordinary work in The Art of Stacking Stones. I used Balancing Stones as a metaphor for Astrology on my Facebook page, Hudson Valley Astrologer. My Instagram is tame by comparison, you can find me at hudsonvalleyastrologer, where I am “Balancing Stones” in the astrological sense. Nonetheless, on my last Facebook post I admitted to being “practiced in The Art of Stone Stacking,” but I have to confess, I am in no way at Michael Grab’s level. He’s the guy behind gravityglue. He is of a higher order altogether, an artist, in my humble opinion, from another dimension.
My actual stone balancing practice is about where my astrology was in 1998. That year I met Robert Wilkinson who was being interviewed on the local access television channel. Email and the internet were still nascent technologies so these local access channels played an important role in disseminating information for people, mostly about local happenings and events. But Mr. Wilkinson spoke about “manifestations” and “ages” that covered such immense expanses of time that my head began to spin. The next day I stopped in to see him at the Coffee Gallery on Wall Street in Kingston.
Robert Wilkinson was Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet’s (aka Thea) principle student in the New Supramental Cosmology. Patrizia introduced the world to an extraordinary form of “Balancing Stones” in her book The Gnostic Circle. Sadly, Robert passed away on December 27, 2020. He was an extraordinary Astrologer, one of Yogic proportions. To get some idea of the level of his work, visit the website dedicated to Thea’s mission. I am especially saddened, somewhat selfishly, because Robert would have been the ultimate guest on my inaugural podcast show. Just this past week, Alexander Mallon and I were discussing who we might like to get in the queue for episodes where we will explore a wide range of topics in Astrology. Robert was at the top of my list. He passed away 4 years after his beloved guru, Thea, passed; Approximately 36,960 hours apart. I can’t be certain of the exact time of death in either case, but I am drawn to the possibility that the numbers 3, 6, and 9 were somehow present, as these numbers are integral to the New Supramental Cosmology. The exact times of death likely show a slight difference in elapsed time from my calculation, but Robert wouldn’t expect a precise correspondence anyway. He had too much humility for that, and knew he was on the periphery of the line of avatars, a part of the balance only. But, he was very close to the Center. Close to the work. And close to Thea.
A study circle formed when Yahoo Groups was still all the rage. I joined a small band of initiates devoted to going deeply into Thea’s work and The Restoration of Vedic Wisdom. Robert Wilkerson was an erudite scholar on all matters of Hinduism and the works of Sri Aurobindo. It is worth mentioning again that his contributions to Thea’s work can be found on the AeonCentre site. Despite his enormous intellect, Robert was such an inviting character, and even though I was way out over my skis when we first got involved, he welcomed me. His intellect was as big and hefty as his body (heart), and he had a sense of humor to match. For some reason I was immediately struck by Robert’s wry wit. I’m not sure Robert had an easy go of it in this life, not in material terms, but his dedication and devotion to Thea’s work was total. The image of the “medicine dog” flashed through my mind, an essential message despite its suggestion of mischievousness and self-undoing. Native American’s considered the Coyote a power animal. And it may not be appropriate, or seem germane to the discussion to compare Robert to the “medicine dog,” but he had precarious balance about him, like one of Grab’s stones on end. It was my first impression of Robert. We need to pay attention to first impressions. Precariously balanced, but with a Tuarean stability, he was gravity’s glue himself. The ‘medicine dog’ image came to me uninvited and, ever since I’ve always attached this curious rascal mystique to him. He was no doubt a power figure in The New Supramental Cosmology, and abandoned his previous life in the investment world, to pursue his true vocation. Robert was called to serve a higher purpose. Perhaps he was merely reflecting back to me my own projection of the Coyote, my own propensity to trick and deceive myself, but I will be forever grateful to him for opening the door to an experience that proved wondrous and enriching beyond compare. He provided me an extraordinary opportunity to build a base of understanding that is with me to this day. A surrender necessary, and integral to the whole.
Robert introduced me to an Astrology so vast and comprehensive that any Astrologer worth their salt might have rejected it out of hand and walked away. But, I was not just any Astrologer, which is to say I was hardly an Astrologer at all. I read a couple of books, the March and McEvers series for example, and was trying my patience with Tarot, but I was no Astrologer. So being introduced to The Gnostic Circle without any background in Astrology was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because I likely would have eschewed Thea’s writings if I knew more than I did. The fact that I came to her work as an “empty vessel” meant that my mind was wide open. It was a curse because I utterly floundered in a sea of Signs and Symbols without association. I began studying Synthesis of Yoga, and The Life Divine. But they were no help. Well, not for me, not at the time, or in terms of helping me understand the Astrology embedded in The Gnostic Circle.
The group became almost shrewish about things I couldn’t comprehend. Nearly militant about calendars and dates of festivals and the like. Waging a campaign against the corruption of the Zodiac which skews the Hindu calendar in favor of the stars at the behest of astronomers and science. I’ve a better handle on the spiritual perspective championed by Thea now, but at the time I could barely see the beacon of the lighthouse cutting through the fog. Like most astrologers, some very prominent ones, I was lost at sea.
Robert Wilkinson reached out to Robert Hand when AHRAT had first formed, after Robert (Hand) had left Project Hindsight. But the talks went nowhere. How could they? Hand, Schmidt, Zoller, and Black were intent on publishing their “translations” from “fragments” Thea called them. A “partial seeing” of the past. Thea’s work was pointed toward the future. She discussed The Gnostic Circle as a tool devoted to where Astrology is going not to where Astrology has been. Most of the “research” being done at the time and since wreaks of excess mentality, and why Sri Aurobindo waxed poetically that “the intellectual ages sing less easily.” What I’ve read of Project Hindsight and AHRAT certainly does not sing easily, and not in the way Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet’s writing sings. The two approaches to Astrology are night and day, and literally, not just metaphorically speaking. One approach operates in the dark, the other by the light of the Supramental, the Central Fire.
My frustration was growing steadily. I had a day job. Children. I devoted 15 hours a week not to my studies but to my kids. Their care, wellbeing, their academics, coaching them, and doing dad things around the house. Fortunately, I was able to read and fill my heart and mind with Thea’s unique Gnostic Knowledge, wisdom for the ages. However, there is only so much progress one can make on their path, their Yoga, or Dharma, working with the spare moments. Without any memory pegs to hang my hat on, I needed help. I needed to drop anchor, to let the fog lift, and see better where I was going. The internet was evolving quickly. We had the ability to search for things for the first time in history in a way that put information at our finger tips. I Googled “Astrology” and a few titles came up. I browsed and clicked around. Solar Arcs looked like an interesting book. It was written by Noel Tyl. The blue and gold embossed lettering on the landing page of his website was an image that suggested an established working Astrologer, one of stature, and perhaps of high regard. It simply said:
In its heyday, Noel’s Astrology forum was populated with some brilliant writers of astrology, and the forum is still active today. When I first tiptoed onto the site, a part of me was definitely intimidated, but the mantra posted underneath the link labeled Discussion Forum, invitingly stated, “Talking Together about Learning.” So, I thought, “hey, that’s me. I’m learning.” I was only on the board a short while, but I was already hooked. Masquerading as an Astrologer, as knowing way more than I knew, I would post and respond with my typical defensive blunderbuss. Looking back I am amazed that I had the gall to call Noel up on the phone and inquire about the Master’s Degree Certification Program, with the stated goal, “To Be the Best Astrologer You Can Be.”
“What’s your background in Astrology?” his operatic voice boomed in my ear. “You know, this course is really not for the feint of heart.” It wasn’t clear to me if this was a challenge, to which I was more than willing to step up, or a warning. If it was the latter, then the message didn’t register because I was oblivious to my lack of preparation. Noel, well knew that many seekers of Astrology, as well as critics, bring limited knowledge to the table with them, and especially if they have a chart with 9th House tension.
I signed up, and Noel was onto me in no time, but he was patient and encouraging. Only on rare occasion did he breakout into one of his famous temper tantrums, a mythic outburst of tyranny and frustration. I thought it was more myth than fact, but holy smokes he could rail on about what to me seemed like picayune nonsense. A friend who had quite a store of natural astrological talent waged a mini war with Noel. I was the beneficiary of all my friend’s backbiting comments as he aired his dirty laundry with me, and probably everyone else he spoke with “privately,” in his attempt to poison the well. I’ll never forget one time at a student seminar, Noel and I were standing next to each other, his head a full foot taller than mine. My friend was acting in total rebellion as he took one last parting shot at the master before resigning from the course. Noel muttered to himself, generously loud enough for me to hear, “that’s a lot of displacement he’s got going on.” Boom! That was it! I didn’t fully know what he meant at the time, but Noel just stood there humbled, but aggrieved. He didn’t take it personally. This wasn’t the sort of thing that triggered Noel’s volcanic temper. He was bigger than that. But this idea of displacement, assimilated into my studies now, provided me a meta moment of just how brilliant Noel was as a teacher. He had his own insecurities for sure, but he knew his weak spots well. In this instance he was operating at extraordinary heights, and seized the moment with poise, grace and calm, providing me a lesson that I could put to work in my own self-examination.
The course was a terrific labor for me. Each lesson required me to not only read and write my response, but also to invest the time and effort to learn and put in the missing prerequisites. My “background in Astrology” was lacking, and the course assumed certain skills to have already been mastered. I was way behind. He supported and encouraged my studies nonetheless. One afternoon a mysterious box showed up with a few dozen Astrology books inside. He helped me in ways that seemed to touch the heart of the matter in me, so it was kind of bizarre to hear about alternative and disparaging opinions of him. That was not my experience of him at all, but I am not the kind of person to get caught up in social clicks, and personality power struggles. I ignored my friend’s castigations for what they were: displaced emotion.
After 9 years of involvement in Thea’s Study Circle, I resigned from the group. I decided to devote what little time and resources I had 100% into Noel’s course, to becoming a consultative Astrologer. It worked for a short time. I could concentrate better and focus more on each lesson since I was no longer being pulled in two directions. Unfortunately, my participation in Noel’s work waned eventually as well, mundane demands of life crowded out the time and money I had available. To be the best Astrologer you can be takes a full-time commitment to learn and practice. I was trying to stand on water, with one foot in two canoes. I was out of balance.
Becoming a Master Astrologer takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and study. Student expectations, like mine when I began to study, are often a mismatch with reality. Part of me must have thought that learning Astrology would take no more effort than it takes to read a dinner menu, and no more time than it takes to give the waiter your order. The truth is quite the opposite. Even a genius like Noel Tyl required an immersion of 3 years, when he concentrated all his attention on a full-time basis, absorbing and organizing a huge library of information from the greatest Astrologers who have ever lived. He was a scholar by dint of his Ivy League education, and a world-class performer by virtue of a career as a celebrated Wagnerian opera star. After a severely debilitating back injury that ended his opera career, he devoted himself to Astrology. He switched horses as it were, making his studies a part of his recovery. He was built for Astrology. For me to think that I could take all that in simply by reading what was on the menu, was a fairly arrogant and conceited point of view. How could I have been thinking that I might become a Full-Time Astrologer, studying on a part-time basis?
Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet and Noel Tyl were my Astrology teachers, and for a time, simultaneously. They were Masters at “Balancing Stones,” and their level of mastery no doubt was a reflection of their concentration, patience, and effort. The posts Michael Grab shares on gravityglue are beautiful and awe inspiring. Like the profundity of Thea’s work and Noel’s legacy, the beauty of his sculptures belie the work he invests in them. He is a master. Sustained by deliberate practice, and then with something else added, like all great artist analysts, his work clearly exhibits soul.
Discipline helps balance different areas of life experience. As individual’s we must “choose” to pursuit a certain path, conscientiously or not. Our family, friends, and employer, our clients and customers, even the nation, and all religion lie in the balance. We need their support and inspiration for whatever our soul work might be. In turn, the soul we put into our work will support and inspire them. I suppose this is why I love Balancing Stones. And why I love Astrology. R.I.P Robert Emmet Wilkinson. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of Astrology.