Review by Marianne Jacuzzi
CVA Journal (Council of Vedic Astrology)
The Path of Light, a two-volume masterpiece by James Kelleher, accomplishes something extraordinary. It presents a comprehensive introduction to all the basics of Vedic Astrology, clear for beginning students. Yet at the same time, it provides detail invaluable to seasoned astrologers, serving as an encyclopaedic-like reference for all aspects of chart interpretation. Its structure recalls some of the Indian classics. But Kelleher writes with the insight of the modern mind, authentic to the classical tradition yet updated with context applicable to our contemporary world.The text flows with lucidity, the wisdom of Kelleher's vast experience distilled into language that propels the reader onwards with page-turning delight, sustained throughout the total of approximately 900 pages! An initial read from start to finish boggles the mind, but it is an experience well worth the effort, clarifying as it does the overall structure of the two volumes. The depth of detail in all the many sections will require careful rereading over time. There is so much here to digest! Yet what beautiful books to have on one's shelf to refer to for continual guidance. The two volumes have an aesthetic appeal with artwork and design worthy of the classics they are destined to become.
As a Vedic Astrologer steeped in the teachings of India, Kelleher makes clear from the outset, and throughout the text, that Jyotish is an ancient spiritual science, part of a rich Vedic heritage. For the practitioner it is sadhana, and so a sattvic lifestyle, meditation practice, and a Vedic-inspired world-view rightly belong to the path of a Jyotishi. Personal vignettes from Kelleher's own spiritual path intersperse the text, each providing a refreshing pause from the rigour of astrological instruction, each portraying something important about Kelleher's spiritual understanding through the delightful medium of personal story.
For instance, on a boat trip in India, Kelleher learned the value of aparigraha, when his Indian guru made an oblique remark about the cumbersome size of his luggage, subtlety highlighting the freedom of other seekers who had learned to shed excess baggage, making clear that "The fewer possessions you have, the less you have to worry about." (P.39 Vol 1) In another story, on a back-packing trip in the California Sierras, Kelleher experienced a kind of yogic awakening. "There comes a point in every backpacking trip when boundaries dissolve, the ceaseless chatter of the mind falls away, and a hiker feels at one with the natural settings around him." (p. 279, Vol 2)
In the main body of the text, Volume One consists of six chapters. Chapter One introduces Vedic thought, placing Jyotish into its historical and philosophical context as a Vedanga. It briefly outlines the four Vedas, the four Purusharthas, the six limbs of Jyotish, and an overview of the history of Jyotish, introducing the great classical texts of Jyotish and the masters who wrote them. It discusses key concepts of the zodiac, the measurement of time, the precession of the equinoxes, as well as the Yugas (both Sri Yukteshwar’s theory and the standard Hindu concept).
Chapter Two provides a detailed discussion of karma, clarifying common misconceptions that reduce karma to a prescription of "doing good". It explains how the ultimate teaching of karma transcends worldly benefits altogether. For the concept of karma that underpins Jyotish (and indeed all of Vedic thought) upholds a vision of freedom from the bondage of ALL karma, where "the various positive and negative vibrations of consciousness are stilled". (p. 46, Vol 1) Kelleher calls this equanimity, and discusses how in its absolute state, equanimity is samadhi. In this, Jyotish echoes classical yoga, where the various stages of samadhi culminate in the burning of all residual karma, necessary before total liberation. The chapter delineates the types of karma and their intensity and discusses the subtle relationship between free will and destiny.
Chapter Three introduces the twelve signs. It clarifies the difference between classical Indian interpretations (aimed at a more predictive style of astrology) and modern Western interpretations (offering a more psychological approach). For each sign, Kelleher lists the classical attributes, but goes on to explain in great detail how to understand those attributes in the context of contemporary society. The personality features each sign embodies come to life with his vivid descriptions and examples. He explains how each type approaches life, how it functions in relationship, and most importantly, how its unique style of spiritual evolution leads towards enlightenment.
Chapter Four introduces the nine planets. It highlights the Indian understanding of "graha", the planets as living entities, as divine beings with symbiotic relationships to the subtle bodies of other living entities. Kelleher lists the classical attributes for each planet, its indications for the body, and its role in Ayurveda. He describes its manifestations high and low, its superficial and deepest expressions — painting a vivid and memorable picture. Each description concludes with a relevant myth from Indian tradition. The chapter also discusses shadbala, exaltation, debilitation, planetary friendship, combustion, vargottama and other teachings related to the grahas. Succinct and precise, it offers a textbook-like review of these important concepts.
Chapter Five covers the Houses. It is by far the longest and most comprehensive chapter in Volume One. It begins with the various features of houses in general, the different systems of house division and the different types of houses. Kelleher uses the North Indian style of chart, and so explains how that chart is drawn and read. For each house description, he synthesises the often disparate indications of a house, showing how they interface to suggest a common denominator. For instance, the 12th House that indicates loss, spiritual liberation, travel, enclosures, bed pleasures, and sleep makes sense as "the place where the ego retreats, dissolves, and ultimately finds bliss". (p. 301, Vol 1)
He then proceeds through two orderly interpretive delineations, in the manner of many Indian classics. First of all, he looks at the ruler of the house in question as placed in all the other houses, one by one, in both its positive and negative expression. For instance, what happens when the ruler of the 8th House is placed in the 1st house? With benefic influences? With malefic influences? What happens if that 8th House ruler is in the 2nd House, with influences benefic or malefic? And so on, in all the possible combinations. Here Kelleher's interpretive skill shines, and here lies a learning opportunity for the attentive reader. At first I found all this information overwhelming. But then I slowed down my reading, stopping to anticipate what Kelleher would say in each situation. I tried to grasp the principles behind his method, for it is all systematic technique, applied with intuition and a beautiful underlying logic.
In the second delineation he offers a similar learning experience. He analyses each planet as it falls in each house, both positively and negatively. For instance, what does a positive Mars do for the 5th House? What about a difficult Mars? In all possible combinations, Kelleher elucidates how the grahas activate the bhavas and how their qualities blend.
Chapter Six presents the nakshatras. Exquisite full-page colour plates for each nakshatra introduce the chapter, each an example of the refined beauty of classical Indian art, each portraying a lesson through symbol. A black and white illustration heads each description, offering further pictorial insights. For each nakshatra, Kelleher delineates its meaning, symbol, shakti, degrees, and deity. He includes an updated interpretation of its attributes and shares some of the colourful mythical stories with which it is associated.
Volume Two, The Domains of Life, builds upon the foundation of Volume One. It provides a systematic approach to chart analysis applied to the domains of life, and thus demonstrates the art of interpretation for real life concerns. Chapters One through Six elucidate key concepts essential to this art. Chapter One presents a clear methodology for synthesising the interface of planets, signs and houses. The other chapters cover the most important yogas (combinations), the role of divisional charts, dashas, drekkanas and transits. In the chapter on drekkanas, black and white images, which Kelleher interprets, offer rich symbolism — another layer of meaning to inspire the intuitive mind and offer poetic nuance to the art of synthesis.
Chapters Seven through Nineteen each focus on a specific domain of life, with stories from Kelleher's journal punctuating their flow. The chapters cover the most common life issues that clients present in contemporary Western practice. Kelleher begins with the Psychological Profile, delineating a methodology for reading the fundamental drives, interests, motivations, fears and obsessions of the native, particularly through the 1st House, the Sun and Moon, but also the placement of other planets that contribute modulation.
Each chapter on the Domains of Life applies a slightly different set of interpretive techniques as relevant to that domain. In the process, Kelleher introduces more advanced techniques of chart interpretation, such as the Yogi Point, Avayogi and Duplicate Yogi, the Tajika System, the application of Divisional Charts, Drekkanas and Nakshatras, and much more. The following dimensions of life each have a chapter in Volume Two: health, career, money, relationships and marriage, children, parents, brothers and sisters, house and residence, vehicles, pets, education, spirituality and Jyotish.
Many chapters include case studies from famous persons. For instance, the chapter on marriage, which introduces principles of chart comparison, presents a fascinating analysis of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Onassis, both the striking features of their individual charts and the correspondences between them, tracing how the dramatic events of their lives are portrayed in the two charts. It is a study of entwined destiny.
Chapter Twenty, "Life According to Mark" focuses upon an ordinary person, born in Seattle, Washington in 1952. Short passages written in first person tell of significant life events, beginning for Mark in infancy. After each passage, Kelleher analyses the dashes, transits and divisional charts to explain how karma ripened in the life journey of Mark. It is a fascinating read — the colourful story of Mark's life, but particularly Kelleher's astute analysis. If anything demonstrates the accuracy of Jyotish, it is this chapter. The reader observes the uncanny correlation between planetary configurations and the dynamic of life unfolding through time. Thus this monumental book, The Path of Light, concludes at a very high point, leaving me in awe and wonder once again before the majesty of cosmic design and the power of Jyotish to reveal to mere mortals something of the mind of God.
Kelleher maintains a fine balance throughout this work, clearly presenting techniques, concepts and methodology, yet never losing sight of the spiritual depth of this science. He has created a book of scholarly significance, complete with glossary, index and bibliography. And though research of classical and contemporary texts certainly contributed to its formation, the Path of Light is much more than a work of scholarship. It is the distilled knowledge of a seasoned Jyotishi, whose personal experiences over a lifetime of practice in our contemporary world make the ancient teachings accessible. It contains so much wisdom, all impeccably organised and elucidated. It belongs on the shelf of every Jyotishi today! I just hope I can maintain the beauty of my copies with all the wear they are getting and will continue to get for many years to come.