Steve Pavlina’s Seven Principles for Smart People: Astrology and Personal Development

Steve Pavlina, the blogosphere’s foremost authority on personal development, has written a fantastic book on astrology and the Tarot.  The odd thing is that he doesn’t know it.

ire21In fact, as far as I know, Steve is completely ignorant of astrology and the Tarot.  He is something of a mystic — by his own account, he has contacted dead people, entered the astral realm, and channeled spirits — but this isn’t his main focus.  Instead, his passion is personal development — the pursuit of individual growth.

Personal development is a wide area of interest, and covers everything from time management to strength building to better business practice to exploring psychic powers.  Steve has touched on every one of these topics on his blog over the past four years.  Partly in order to bring all of these diverse interests into one framework, and partly because he’s a nerdy guy who likes challenging puzzles, he has written a book called Personal Development for Smart People, in which he boils his mission of growth down into three basic principles (and four derived principles) which can be used by anyone as a guide to self-betterment.  The seven principles are Truth, Love, Power, Oneness, Courage, Authority, and Intelligence.

What Steve doesn’t realize is that these seven principles are already an integral part of astrology and the Tarot.  In fact, the mapping is incredibly straightforward, as you’ll see.  But that doesn’t mean Steve’s work is redundant.  On the contrary, he brings a fresh perspective and insight into these ancient symbols, and lays out a framework to put them to work in your life immediately.  In this series of articles, I’ll review his book, show how his system maps to astrology and the Tarot, and tie the systems together to produce a rich tapestry of direction and possibility.

Personal Development for Smart People:  the Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth

Steve is a somewhat polarizing figure, and few people agree with him on every issue.  He sees his mission as one to inspire others in their growth and development, and he doesn’t hesitate to use harsh medicine on occasion, or to dive headfirst into controversial topics.  But his writing is always engaging, not least because he willingly shares his most painful personal moments in order to drive home his points.

In the very first sentence of the book, he introduces Steve at age 17, sitting in a jail cell, charged with felony grand theft.  His goal in bringing up the story is not to boast of how far he’s come, but to inspire us with what is possible.  Any problem can be solved, he is saying, with the consistent and persistent application of the principles in this book.  It won’t necessarily be easy, and to his credit, he promises no painless solutions.  But there are solutions, and they are well worth pursuing.

Steve first lays out three basic principles of growth (Truth, Love, and Power), and then shows how they can be combined to create four further principles (Courage, Oneness, Authority, and Intelligence).  Specifically, Courage = Love + Power; Oneness = Love + Truth; Authority = Truth + Power; and Intelligence is the combination of all three.

The three core principles are designed to be universal (applicable to anyone, anywhere, anywhen), complete, irreducible, non-contradictory, and practical.  Taken together, they can be used as a guide of thought and action for any situation.  Whether you’re trying to lose weight, contact the spirit world, or redecorate your apartment, Truth, Love, and Power are your allies.

For example, when you want to lose weight, you have to have Truth to help you accept where you are now and what it will take to effect the change you want; you have to have Love to give you understanding of your body and its deepest needs, and compassionate feeling for your own foibles and weaknesses so that you can overcome them; and you have to have Power to fuel your desire and transform it into the necessary action.

Mix Well

Combining the three core principles to create the other four is an interesting leap.  To my mind, these four are not logically derived (Steve gives no equations anywhere) but instead stand in the place where the core principles mingle.  Authority is Truth empowered, while Courage is Power motivated by Love.  I’m not clear on how Truth and Love give rise to Oneness, but I can’t deny its intuitive appeal.  And as for Intelligence being the combination of all three — frankly I wouldn’t have chosen this word.  To me, “Intelligence” implies little more than “capacity to reason”, but Steve is using it in a transcendant sense — something more like sentience or even creativity.

Practical Application

In the second half of the book, Steve leaves behind the seven ivory towers, and shows the real power of his approach.  He attacks half a dozen different areas of life — habits, relationships, career, money, health, and spirituality — and shows how using these principles in a practical way can foster betterment in each area.  This is not a book of platitudes and abstractions:  he gives actual solid advice firmly grounded in his abstract foundation.  Here are some of my favorite practical ideas from the book:


“Experiment to discover how music may boost your effectiveness.  Try trance or rock music for email, classical or New Age music for projects, and total silence for high-concentration creative work.”


“The main reason the odds of success in many competitive endeavors seem low is that there’s so much ‘churn’ at the bottom.  New people constantly enter the field, give up within the first few months, and get replaced by more newcomers.  They try it, they fail, and they move on.  They lack the courage to persist when the going gets tough.  But if you just stick with it long enough, you’ll soon bypass the slush pile and get into the long run where the odds keep getting better because you’re gaining valuable experience and wisdom.”


“There are two basic ways to earn money:  1.  Make a meaningful social contribution, and recieve payment commensurate with the social value of your contributon.  2.  Take advantage of market inefficiencies to extract money without contributing any substantial value…  Here’s another way of labeling these two strategies:  1.  Contribute.  2.  Mooch.”


“The truth is that if the average person wouldn’t consider your current health practices extreme, you probably aren’t very healthy.”


“Recently, Erin and I … walked into a touristy-looking shop, picked up a strong vibe from a woman we’d never met, and started up a conversation.  Thirty minutes later we’d become friends and said good-bye with hugs…  Before I experienced the mind-set of oneness, I could never walk into some random store and expect to be hugging someone I’d never met before.”


“Personal relationships can be a tremendous source of spiritual growth.  While it’s possible for us to fall out of touch with reality if we spend too much time alone, such problems are less likely with abundant interaction…  The people around us will tell us we’ve gone off the deep end.”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

So where does Steve’s approach fit with astrology?  Extraordinarily, Steve’s seven principles fit like a glove onto the seven visible astrological planets: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  The fit is so apt that it barely needs defense or explication.


“Truth is like the sun.  You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.”  — Elvis Presley


“The moon is nothing but a circumambulating aphrodisiac divinely subsidized to provoke the world into a rising birth-rate.”  — Christopher Fry


“Bear up, my child, bear up; Zeus who oversees and directs all things is still mighty in heaven.” — Sophocles


“I am the womb of the world and the cause of this teeming of creatures, And if discouraged I ceased, God’s world would lose heart and perish.”  — Aphrodite, speaking to Zeus in the Ilion


“Ares, exceeding in strength, chariot-rider, golden-helmed, doughty in heart, shield-bearer, Saviour of cities, harnessed in bronze, strong of arm, unwearying, mighty with the spear.” — Homer


“Nondescript monsters … fitted with miscellaneous limbs, were once produced spontaneously by Ge out of the primeval mud, when she had not yet solidified under a rainless sky and was deriving no moisture from the blazing sun. But Khronos (Time), combining this with that, brought the animal creation into order.” — Apollonius Rhodius


“Hermes, draw near, and to my prayer incline, messenger of Zeus, and Maia’s son divine; prefect of contests, ruler of mankind [power], with heart almighty [love], and a prudent mind [truth].”– Orphic Hymn to Hermes

Love and Oneness, the Moon and Venus

A note on Venus and the Moon is probably in order.  Venus is the traditional ruler of Love, so it may seem odd that I’ve assigned Love to the Moon.  However, under Love, Steve discusses all kinds of love — romantic love, Platonic love, love of art and beauty, love of service, joy, etc.  He even includes blocked Love, which is arguably the ultimate source of fear and the emotions derived from that:  anger, jealousy, bitterness, and so forth.  So in a very real way, the Moon — which astrologically oversees emotion — is really the ultimate symbol of Love in all its manifestations.  Venus, on the other hand, is much more about love between individuals — love towards others. As such, it is a planet of drawing together that which seems separate — i.e., Oneness.

…And Beyond

Also, you might be wondering about the other planets — Uranus and Neptune — and dwarf planets (like Pluto and Eris and Ceres and…).  Don’t they get principles?  I discussed this matter in depth in On Pluto, but in summary I am a bit reactionary with regard to planets that are not visible to the naked eye.  To me, their meanings seem rather arbitrary, and I feel on firmer ground with the seven planets that have been around for millennia.  If they were good enough for Ptolemy…

Seven Planets for Smart People

The purpose here is not to say that Steve stole his ideas from ancient astrologers.  What it shows, I think, is that Steve has intuitively tapped into ancient wisdom, and even built upon it.  Steve’s insights about the relationships between these forces can inform astrological analysis; and likewise, astrological concepts can enrich Steve’s system.

For example, if you have Saturn in your 7th house, you might want to look at Steve’s section on Authority in Relationships (in which he suggests finding a social mentor or coach, but reminds you that you are the final authority in your own relationships).  Astrological transits and progressions, which describe the interactions between planets, can cast light on potential (apparent) conflicts between Steve’s principles (what happens when you have Mars square Saturn, and your attempts at establishing your authority are frustrated by a lack of courage?).  And the signs of the zodiac (which I have previously analyzed using the eight-circuit model) can suggest ways in which the seven forces are expressed in different personality types.

And for You?

If you would like an analysis for yourself, using your own chart, I’d be more than happy to provide one in exchange for a donation of any amount you feel is fair.  You can use the contact form.  Make a note of your name, birth time and birthplace, and provide your email address so I can get back to you.

In the next article in this series, I will review the interactions between Steve’s principles and the larger body of astrology; and in the following one, I will map these principles into the Tarot.


26 responses to “Steve Pavlina’s Seven Principles for Smart People: Astrology and Personal Development”

  1. Fascinating review. You’re right that I’ve never studied astrology. I know that I’m an Aries, I recall that Venus is a symbol of love and Mars of war, and I’ve seen a few horoscopes, but that’s basically it. I never investigated it with any depth and have never read a book on the subject.

    As for the Tarot, I’ve had a few people do readings for me over the years, and I attended a very basic 2-hour class on the Tarot at the Psychic Eye, but I don’t even have a Tarot deck and don’t know much about it. I just remember something about swords and pentacles. 🙂

    Since the point of the PDSP book was to uncover timeless, universal concepts, it doesn’t surprise me at all that the core ideas could have been expressed in ancient systems in different ways. It should be possible to express the core concepts of any growth-oriented system as combinations of truth, love, and power.

    Another blogger told me that the ideas in PDSP overlap the teachings of the Kabbalah, which I’ve never read.

    It will be fun to see where else these ideas pop up.


  2. Great post, as always, Jeff. Are you sure Steve didn’t pay you to write it? 😉 It makes me want to buy his book more than I already did! I’ve always felt he was more than a little pagan, even if he’s not always aware of it himself–I don’t remember which article it is now, but I remember laughing around when I first discovered him to read the phrase “as within, so without.”

    I look forward to the next post, as I’m more familiar with the Tarot. I’ve already made some of the connections in my own mind, I think.


  3. Hi Jeff,

    I can shed some Light on the connection between Truth, Love and Unity for you.

    As you know I work with the Archangels and Source as a healer – something that I think most healers eventually come to know is that all sickness, imbalance, brokenness, etc. is really just illusion – it is a reflection of a misbelief – that works its way into the energy fields, the mind and into the body.

    What is the misbelief? That you are anything less than Divine.

    The Truth will set you free:

    It all starts with neutrality. When seeking Truth one really desires understanding – this desire for understanding then allows a release of their agendas, judgments and attachments to what is happening in their lives. Truth allows us to put everything down and look at what actually is.

    As understanding comes in from pursuing Truth, we naturally enter a state of compassion for ourselves and others – As we see the operations from all sides – our understanding of ourselves and others grows and with this compassion comes the higher vibration of Love.

    Love allows us to see ourselves and experience ourselves as whole and complete – and this is what gives rise to Unity within us.

    I don’t consider myself to be a Christian, however – if you look at the bible as a metaphor – the story is told very well. Man separated himself from the whole of creation by his judgments, placing everything he encountered into two categories – good & bad. Because he himself has both components in operation, he is torn in two as well.

    Christ represents a lot of things- mainly love and compassion and redeems man to his true state of wholeness and unity – he is man as seen through the eyes of Truth (God in human form) – when we no longer live in separation…we recognize our own divinity and this is Unity.

    The truth will set you free – indeed!

    Angel blessings,



  4. OMG, Jeff!

    Over the summer I met another psychic named Angie who just moved to town. This is awesome, as professional intuitives learn more by sharing techniques than any other route… It’s hard to find a lot of “continuing ed” in this realm…

    So, Angie and I are “swapping” modalities/techniques. Just yesterday I was showing her the draft of my course-in-progress, explaining to her the frame of reference I use for identifying/reading spirit guide circles.

    Both of us have a decent understanding of both Tarot and Astrology… But it was Angie who showed me that the structure of my readings corresponds in an absolutely uncanny way with the Astro Wheel of Houses and the Tarot spread that corresponds with them.

    We did some experimenting and found the assignations of guides & guardians to be very much accurate with these layouts/charts.

    I’m tremendously excited because this means I can teach people to do readings according to either method or a combination, as a basic format.

    So, this is “all about me” sorry – I haven’t read Steve’s book, but this is very interesting… I will have to check it out. I tend to feel that these “correspondences” point to a collective truth that we may all truly access, by a variety of paths.



  5. Thanks for dropping by, Steve! Aries are always welcome. 🙂

    Since folks have spent millennia trying to tie together astrology, the Tarot, and the Kabbalah, I’m not surprised at all that your seven principles map to the Kabbalah as well. As you say, universal should mean universal. However, I don’t plan to spend any time trying to work these principles into Zen. 😉

    By the way — I did an astrological reading just this evening, and to my delight, I found that your book’s discussion of Oneness, along with Paula’s comment below, gave me a great insight into her placement of Venus. It was electrifying. Thank you!


  6. Clare — I’m so glad you liked the post! No, Steve didn’t pay me to write this review, although he did send me a free copy of his book. 🙂

    One thing Steve definitely shares with 99% of the pagans I know is the tolerance of other belief systems, and the knowledge that excessive dogma leads to excessive problems. He’s forging his own path, and is delighted when other people do the same. And you’re right — there are a lot of universal pagan beliefs reflected in his writing.

    I look forward to hearing how your thoughts on the Tarot match up with mine, Clare!


  7. Paula, your explanation of how Truth, Love, and Oneness come together is crystal clear and eminently logical. Awesome!

    I’m not sure I agree with your analysis of the Eden story — there is a lot of fear and guilt wrapped up in it, which I can’t help but feel is misplaced — but the essential message of the illusion of separation is undeniable.


  8. Slade, wow! Are you saying that your reading format follows the twelve houses, without your being aware of it? That’s pretty awesome! The houses are a relatively late addition to astrology — Kepler, I have heard, thought they were an abomination — but I can’t imagine a reading without them.

    I recently got a book on the Druid zodiac — an analysis of druid artifacts that points to the idea that the ancient druids had a zodiac that was different from the one we use today. If so, that would be extraordinary. I am chomping at the bit to read this book and compare it to standard astrology!


  9. […] the first of a three-part review of PDSP and its relationship to astrology and the Tarot here: Steve Pavlina’s Seven Principles for Smart People: Astrology and Personal Development And as a way of helping you incorporate Steve’s principles directly into your life, I’m offering […]


  10. Hi Jeff,

    Growing up partially in and partially out of the Christian belief system I know exactly what you mean – I went from believing that I was magickal and that the entire world existed to support me in my life purpose to encountering the message that human beings are inherently flawed – and I agree that fear and guilt are always misplaced!

    I have an unusual approach here so I thought maybe I should explain my system to you.

    Certain energies (like guilt, shame, blame, fear) don’t resonate with me at all so I completely ignore them – actually, it’s more like I can’t even see them they are so far down the ladder from where I’m usually standing! I tend to instead, focus on the Truth underneath it all.

    I sift for Truth from every spiritual source I encounter – taking the pieces I can work with as-is, creating something new (through working with Source) – or in this case shaking them loose of a lot of unnecessary stuff altogether – which Source says isn’t needed anyhow 😉

    It’s a bit unorthodox – but it is a system I developed because I could not find anything that exactly fit (my hero was Joseph Campbell – I learned from him that I did not have to choose by watching his approach to the study of world myth). The advantage to this approach is that I can find something I Love and real beauty housed within every faith I encounter – I absolutely adore this freedom and at the same time feel connected in some way or another – to them all 😉

    I can’t wait to learn more – it really is fascinating!

    Angel blessings,



  11. Jeff, Steve, Paula… I hit the “leave a response” link after reading the post, but before scrolling down to read everyone else’s part of the conversation — all fascinating pieces here. I was so struck by the synchronicity of my own discovery, I’m afraid I jumped too quickly to a personal (off topic) comment.

    Jeff, you know so much more intellectually and historically about astrology than I do — I’m not exactly “fluent” but I have grown up around astrologers and I guess I have absorbed ways of “organizing” personality traits and life areas. It would probably require me to study the correlations, and honestly, I may never get around to it… But, to answer your question, the Houses and what they represent tend to correspond with the certain assignations of issues or attributes that some guides speak to or seem to govern. This seems to be particularly the case when I read the “higher” level entities, or angels. I don’t know that the Houses works quite the same way with personal spirit guides.

    I did not know that the Houses were “added” later. For the last few years, I’ve been looking more for connections between Jung and Tarot than astrology, with archetypes being “programs” that are assisted or managed by certain entities.

    Overall, I guess my theory is that a Natal Chart is something like a “package” for the Akashic Record — like an Ingredients and Nutritional Information short-hand that summarizes what will be found within the contents, at a certain level…. ? But, as a package could say “carbohydrates” or “proteins X number of grams” there is any number of actual starchy munchies that could point to, not to mention all the flavor combinations…

    My food analogy is a little weak.

    I look forward to reading Steve’s book because of the discussion here.



  12. Slade, Jeff…

    This whole astrology/tarot thing is really interesting to me for several reasons. My Guides have been trying to get me to incorporate tarot into my healing work for about the last month now – As I knew that this would be forging my way into completely new territory – I have been putting it off – as it seems I haven’t spent all that much time in the familiar lately!

    I can’t deny the message however, through this post and the comments – as Slade mentioned there is too much synchronicity – it’s time to go receptive and invite the Guides to bring it on!

    I’m looking forward to your follow up posts Jeff and hearing more about Steve’s book which I haven’t read yet 🙂

    Love, love, love to you both,



  13. Slade — I didn’t think your comment was off topic at all.

    It’s fascinating that the Houses and the angelic domains are in sync in this way. I’d love to hear more about that sometime.

    Paula — thanks for the in-depth explanation. Your approach reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s definitely worth Googling! 🙂

    In the next post, I’ll be dealing almost entirely with astrology, but I’m going to try and do it in a way that will be useful for non-astrologers, too. In the final post, next week, I’ll look at the Tarot.


  14. Jeff — In summarizing Steve’s system, you write:

    “Courage = Truth + Power; … Authority = Truth + Power;”

    The duplications seems a little “iffy”: particularly as the diagram instead evaluates Courage as Love + Power.

    Could you please invoke whichever of Steve’s seven principles/qualities/”thingies” has dominion over the correction of typos, and correct this one?

    (Oh: by the way, thanks for having made terrific use/analysis of that dark “street kid” mythos that your last post covered.)



  15. Well, I meant that the duplication (no “-s”!) seems a little iffy …


  16. Whoops! Correction made, Kate. Thanks for the catch!

    (I guess correction of typos would be Truth. 😉 )

    And thank YOU for pointing me to that amazing article.


  17. […] of personal growth laid out in his new book, Personal Development for Smart People.  In the first article, I reviewed the book and suggested that Steve’s seven principles (Truth, Love, Power, […]


  18. […] the previous two posts in this series, I reviewed Steve Pavlina’s new book Personal Development for Smart […]


  19. […] into some universal, deep wisdom to extract these concepts. This is nothing new, as Jeff notes in his review, but the absolutely practical way in which these ideas are expressed make them easily applicable to […]


  20. […] chart, viewed through the prism of Steve Pavlina’s seven principles (see an explanation here). I will try to avoid astrological terminology. I cast his chart based on a birth at 7:24 pm, […]


  21. This is such an old post that I wonder if it’s even worth contributing to it since its now 10 years later but here we go:
    I see the astrological connection to the 7 principles somewhat differently and this is what I think:

    Truth = Jupiter
    Love – Venus
    Power = Pluto
    Courage = Mars
    Oneness = Neptune
    Authority = Saturn
    Intelligence = Mercury

    The Sun and Moon are Luminaries and therefore serve to illuminate this principles in areas of life especially for instance when the Sun is conjunct our Natal Saturn, suddenly we may find that our desire to activate our inner Authority may be heightened or put under the spotlight (Sun).

    There are now many texts to challenge a lot of what Ptolemy discovered back then which questions whether his discoveries were even his own but hey, no one knows shit right? I pulled this from my own personal experiences and how this planets personally affect me and the many many natal charts that I have studied over the years…thanks for reading.


  22. […] which my friend Eleutherios assures me is the Kabbalistic (and poetic) equivalent of Steve Pavlina’s three principles of personal growth; truth (wisdom), love (beauty) and power […]


  23. […] ότι είναι το καβαλιστικό (και ποιητικό) αντίστοιχο του Οι τρεις αρχές του Steve Pavlina της προσωπικής ανάπτυξης? αλήθεια (σοφία), αγάπη […]


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