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The strength of this book is the deep, rich context surrounding each topic. But for many, that would be its weakness.
I use it as a reference book - when I'm stumped by a chart, I just page through this book looking for new associations to break the logjam in my mind. But in truth, this is a book to read cover-to-cover, pasting in post-it-notes to mark the bits and pieces of unrelated but illuminating wisdom tossed into various discussions.
For example, in one very illuminating section of this book, Hickey discusses each of the signs as it manifests as the Ascendant - then under each sign as the Ascendant, she discusses each of the signs that would be on the other House Cusps if there are no interceptions, or if you use equal-house methods.
She shows you how the rising sign synthesizes with the signs on each of the cusps - to create some of the characteristics of people with that sign rising, and to color the house involved. This explains WHY a particular ascendant tends to produce people who behave a particular way.
The book is worth its price for that section alone -- if you're willing to just sit for a couple of hours and read all the rising signs, one section after the other. The faster you read it, the more sense it makes. The section is laid out very systematically, and that system reveals vistas of astrological truths in and of itself.
However, at random throughout the section, a few sentences, "throw away dialog," and offhand allusions are tossed into other topics to point you to bits of knowledge about how astrology works and what it's actually for. These bits are not taken up anywhere else in the book, not assembled, not set into a larger context, and not indexed. They just leap out at you as if outlined in soul-fire.
For example: In the section devoted to Capricorn Rising, which puts Libra on the 10th, Hickey says, "Venus's sign in Saturn's house is often loving for the sake of expediency. This is not true of the more evolved individual. Students often ask the question, "How can one tell the evolvement of an individual in the chart?" Character is shown by the signs in which the planets are placed. Planets in their sign of exaltation and in the signs they rule are indications of an evolved consciousness. Also the higher-octave planets -- Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, and Jupiter -- in the first, fourth, seventh, or tenth house show that the individual has had much soul experience in other lifetimes".
You see? For that alone, this is worth the cover price, and there are lots and lots of those throughout the whole book.
Maybe these bits of wisdom aren't actually true. But as you go, "Aha!" and pull out a dozen charts of people you know well to check out Hickey's theory, you learn vast amounts more about astrology than you ever would have without investigating that theory.
I came to amazon today looking for links to used copies of Hickey's book and was delighted to find it in print. I had been paging through this book at random the other day and it gave me a flash of inspiration. I used that insight to write two columns for my sf/f review column called ReReadable Books. Hickey had connected several sf novels for me, using the 7th House, the 6 of Swords and how they generate the art of storycraft. I'm a professional sf author, and teach writing online, and I needed to write a handout for the Writing Workshop at the World Science Fiction Convention. Before I leafed through Hickey's book, I had no clue in my mind what I could offer at that Workshop. Then I produced a 14 page essay which will probably be the October and November installments of my column.
So, the strength of this book lies in the context surrounding the facts, a context which assembles random bits of the universe in which you live into a pattern that makes sense. But that context material is so randomly placed - so "stream of consciousness" in the style of Hickey's writing that it's impossible to use this book just to find out, say, the signature of the advanced soul.
You'd never find it if you searched the index or the table of contents. You have to read the entire book. (stock up on post-its).
And if you like this style of astrology (with a karmic and spiritual bent) - you really need Hickey's book on PLUTO as MINERVA, and all about WISDOM. There's a lot in that book I don't agree with - but it surely makes you think.
Live Long and Prosper,