Review by Kenneth Irving
A first impression of this book, should you happen to come across it in a bookstore (remember those?), might be that it belongs to the genre known as “coffee table” books, something that is at least partially true. The book is nicely designed, replete with sometimes breathtaking graphics, and printed on heavy, glossy stock, so certainly it would make a handsome addition to one’s living-room decor just for that fact alone. But while it is certainly not a textbook or a technical work on astrology, it is in fact quite useful as an introduction to the subject.
This is because the author, Roy Gillett, happens to be a practicing astrologer with many years of experience spent studying astrology and practicing the craft of using it to counsel clients. He has also been involved in software development, is President of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, and if anyone reading this in the U.S. has been to an international gathering such as the United Astrology Conference (UAC), you will have had a chance to see him lecture. So even if the text of the book is written at an introductory level, what it says is well- informed.
One interesting feature of the book is that it is paired with a web site — just type the name of the book into a Google search box, and you’ll find it. The site is as nicely designed as the book, and the two complement each other well. One problem with some books of this genre is how to make the information they contain useful to whoever reads it, and that means at the very least that the reader needs a basic birth chart. In the pre-computer days that need would be addressed with pages and pages of tables in an appendix, and in the post¬computer age I’ve often had to review books that had a disk stuck in them, for the do-it-yourselfers brave enough to cope with the process of installing and running the software it contained. As often as not I myself couldn’t install it, and when I could it didn’t produce much useful information for the effort.
Now it is easy enough these days to get a chart online, and an accurate chart at that, so if you have a favorite site you use for that purpose you might do that if you plan to read this book, though you should still visit the site, which has extras beyond the chart. You’ll find the process of setting up a chart for yourself at secretlanguageofastrology.com very easy. The chart itself is from Astrolabe, which advertises its software in our pages. What you end up with is a nice printout that includes the chart and a brief paragraph of interpretation for each planet in the sign it held at the time and place of your birth, and you can use that to understand better what the book says, not to mention understanding yourself better as well. It would have been nice if the aspects could have been marked on the chart, as though aspect lines are shown, the type of aspect isn’t indicated. Minor “what ifs” like this, however, don’t detract from the book’s overall value and usefulness.
Though the book as a whole provides a very thorough rundown of the basics of astrology and how they come together in an actual birth chart, in its 18-page introduction it gives a knowledgeable, but all too brief, history of astrology, along with a defense of what astrology actually is and what it does. If you occasionally get skeptical feedback when you mention your interest in astrology to others you’ll find this part of the book useful. The introduction also gives a brief survey of various types of astrology you may come across in your studies, though the subject of this book is of course the standard astrology used in most Western countries. There is a nicely organized resource section in the back that will give you further reading and help you find ways of connecting with others who share your interest.
The Secret Language of Astrology is both entertaining and educational. Though it is a feast for the eyes and fun to thumb through, it is not just another pretty coffee-table book. It provides a helpful learning experience, giving readers insight into both astrology and themselves.