Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Case for Psychological Astrology

Katie Gallanti © 2002-2011. All rights reserved.

This is an article I wrote in 2002, when I was still a baby astrologer and metaphysician, as part of my Transpersonal Psychology Masters Degree Program. I submitted it as the final paper of the Psychological Personality Theories class, with permission from my very open minded instructor, to make a case that astrology too had personality theories, which preceded or paralleled modern psychology, and to make the case for astrology as a serious psychological tool

Astrology, defined as both a science and a healing art, is a collection of ancient wisdom and empirical observations passed down through time, linking the positions and movement of the stars and planets in our solar system to individual and collective events and behaviors on Earth. Extremely respected in ancient times, astrology is now mostly disregarded as a serious discipline by the intellectuals and scientists of our day, who believe it to be a strangely surviving set of obsolete superstitions, appealing to the gullibility and curiosity of the uneducated masses. For the world of science astrology is indeed dead.

Having emerged from the intense studying and training required in order to become a physicist, I also held the scientific view outlined above. I had heard the explanation that astrology was based on the old medieval cosmology that saw the Earth at the center of the Solar System, rendering any further interest in astrology ridiculous and, like many others, never gave it a deeper thought after that. I rejected astrology on the basis of this assumption alone. Even once I separated myself from the world of science and became interested in metaphysics and spirituality, I continued to show no interest or respect for astrology. One day though, after a long day at work, I just happened to browse through the astrology section at a local store and picked up a fairly basic relationship astrology text book and found in it such an accurate description of my latest sadly ended relationship, I was taken aback. This was no ordinary relationship, with no ordinary man and I was slightly stunned that just by matching our data, as exemplified in the book, I would get such an accurate profile. I thought this to be a coincidence, of course, but my curiosity was piqued and I left the bookstore with a bunch of “learning astrology” type texts, determined to look into this more. Arrived home I decided to take the following week off work, study all of the books, in order to have finished with astrology by the end of the week (a result of an obsession with learning I would later learn to be characteristic of my Moon in Gemini square Pluto/Uranus and Mercury exactly sextile Pluto). 

I immediately realized that my notion that astrology was faulty by definition, for being an Earth-centered system, was wrong. Astrology was purposely choosing Earth as the center of its reference system, because interested in the effects of the cosmos on Earth, seeing events through the Earth lens. Choosing a reference point and coordinate system appropriate to the experiment at hand was a perfectly acceptable thing to do from a scientific standpoint. Far from having exhausted the subject, by the end of the week, I had more questions than I had answers. Astrology, that I had until that day associated with the columns in newspapers and women’s magazines, was a much more complex and subtle discipline than I had ever anticipated. It was far more scientific, even at a first glance, than I ever thought, full of mathematical concepts and psychological explanations. The reading of the birth chart seemed to be such a complicated affair, that, even with my extensive scientific training, I felt lost amongst the multitude of variables. I realized that to understand if astrology truly worked or not, something that I was now determined to find out, I had to study it properly, aware that I had just scratched the surface, none the wiser about it’s intricate workings. It was so that, at 29 years old, I joined my first astrology class, with slight embarrassment at first, but determined to figure astrology out, to see if this was the mambo-jumbo I had always believed it to be or if there was more to the ancient art. 

Needless to say, I encountered little mambo-jumbo, but much incredible wisdom, depth and knowledge. I continued with my studies, becoming a student at the Faculty for Astrological Studies in London, gaining their Certificate and working through most of the Diploma program. I now use astrology as part of my healing work and consider it an invaluable tool for introspection, diagnosis and psychological insight. At some point along the journey I stopped the constant questioning of the validity of astrology. Astrology had proven itself to me many times over. To this day, I have yet to stop marveling at its accuracy and depth in assessing and understanding the multifaceted personalities and growth cycles of my friends, family and clients. 
But, what is astrology and how does it work? 

Astrology is a very vast science that studies the relationship between the planets and stars seen as influencing every aspect of life on Earth. The philosophical assumption of astrology is the “as above, so below” principle, first mentioned by the Greek philosopher Plotinus. "As without, so within" is also Huston Smith’s understanding of the philosophical basis of the ancient art, when he states "the isomorphism of man and the cosmos is a basic premise of the traditional outlook". This premise develops into the idea that the character and destiny of an individual human being are reflected in the configuration of the cosmos at the moment of birth precisely because that person embodies the divine will of that moment. This idea has also been expressed as the “macrocosm within the microcosm”, a principle that is now finding validity within the realm of holographic science and fractal mathematics with studies indicating the repetition of the images and themes of the whole in the most minute sections of it. 

As the scope of astrology is huge, I will here concentrate on the aspects of the science relative to the individual, it’s behavior and development, better known as psychological astrology and the study of the birth chart. 

Psychological Astrology and the Birth Chart
The birth chart is a freeze frame of the picture of the sky at the time and place of birth. The drawing of the birth chart (a long involved set of calculations, now become instant, with the advent of computers) is quite simply the plotting of the map of the Solar System centered on Earth and the client for that particular moment in time and space. This process is also known as the casting of the horoscope. The astrologer will first draw a circle divided into twelve zodiac signs. Then will calculate the ascendant and divide the circle further into twelve houses. The astrologer will then plot the positions of the ten planets (the sun and moon are considered planets in this context), the Mid-Heaven, the Nodes and other astronomical data. The particular combination of planet, sign and house placements along with other variables in the chart is mostly unique for each individual and is believed, in psychological astrology, to give access to a minefield of information regarding the client’s personality, childhood issues, repressed material, spiritual yearnings, life themes, challenges, psychological development and life cycles. 

Taking a snapshot into the various components of the chart, we can briefly delineate their psychological interpretations from an astrological prospective (with a special emphasis on “brief”, as volumes could be written about each one of them). 

The twelve zodiac signs represent the “quality of the experience” and are divided into different subgroups by polarity (negative and positive), triplicity/mode (cardinal, fixed and mutable) and quadruplicity/element (earth, fire, air and water). The negative/positive polarity has been associated to the Ying/Yang, the masculine /feminine and the introversion/extraversion of Jungian psychology. The modes represent three ways of approaching the world, typically the “cardinal” mode being one of initiative and molding of one’s environment, the “fixed” mode being one of stability, perseverance and conservation of energy and the “mutable” mode one of adaptability and flexibility. The elements are yet another differentiation in the qualities of expression, water being associated to the emotions and feelings, air with thinking and the mind, earth with physicality and material world and fire with action, creativity and instinct.

The ten planets represent the “energy building blocks” of the personality itself. The Sun and Moon represent the paternal and maternal influences, the masculine/feminine polarity, the ego and the feeling nature. The inner planets represent the personality’s style, Mercury embodying the mind and communication, Venus the artistic and love nature, Mars the aggressive/assertive nature, the sexuality and the personal drive. Jupiter represents expansion and growth whilst Saturn restriction and limitation. The placement of Saturn often indicates areas in which the individual is challenged or wrestles with it’s own fears. Saturn is also seen as the boundary between the personal and transpersonal. The outer planets, also called transpersonal planets, represent the energies that take the individual out of itself or connect it to a larger whole. These slow moving planets, that take years to travel through a sign, influence generations through the individuals that embody them and are the clocks that shape the times. Uranus shows where one brakes from the mold and challenges the status quo sometimes with rebellious flashes of insight. Neptune is the way in which the quest to transcend the self is manifested or alternatively how one chooses to escape reality. The placements of Pluto show us the areas of deep transformation, often through a non-gentle process of psychological death and rebirth, of the collective and individual psyche. Many depth psychologists have a prominent Pluto in their chart. Pluto is also connected to the use and misuse of power, with many politician and influential people carrying this energy.

The twelve houses represent the “areas in which the experience is focused”. When many planets fall in a house, that house becomes prominent for the individual. A brief summary of their meanings. 1House- the Self and the physical body. 2H-Money, values and possessions. 3H-Communication and learning. 4H- Home, family, roots, the mother. 5H-Creative expression, affairs, children. 6H- Health, routine, small animals. 7H- Marriage, business partners, open enemies. 8H- Death, rebirth, transformation, sex, taboos and the occult. 9H- Higher learning, philosophy, the law, universities. 10H- Career, the father. 11H- Groups, friends, humanitarian goals. 12H- The subconscious, retreats, ashrams and prisons.

There are other points of meaning in the chart. The Ascendant or rising sign- representing the public self, the behavior the individual displays as it first socially interacts with its environment. The Descendant- representing the qualities we seek in a partner. The IC- representing the qualities of our most inner self. The MC or Midheaven - indicating the qualities we are looking to embody through the career and chosen vocation.

Putting together this vast array of data is the job and art of the astrologer. The relationships between all components are observed through a series of rules and laws that are beyond the scope of this paper. They delineate an incredibly detailed picture of the personality structure of the individual, not limited to the description of personality types, but comprehensive of a wealth of information regarding their inner world. It is possible, for example, to see physical, emotional and sexual abuse within the birth chart, the quality of the upbringing and relationship with parents, abandonment issues, relationship issues (just to name a few) making psychological astrology an incredible diagnostic tool for the counseling arts as well as an excellent tool for self-exploration. 

Astrology also allows the mapping of the unfoldment and development of the individual in time, through the observation of the movement of the planets in the sky and an array of mathematical techniques. It is amazing to see how the natural cycles of the macrocosm are reflected into our lives, delineating a cyclical nature of time that is common to all beings that inhabit it. Personal crises are predictable in astrology as well as the psychological focus of the crisis itself. The nature of the challenge is easily identified by the transiting planet in question, illuminating thus the nature and deeper meaning of the issue. And-something that clients are often delighted to hear- predicting the time period by which the crisis will subside.

Astrology is a very ancient science present right from the beginning of the first complex civilizations (Sumerians, Egyptians). The psychological aspect of astrology has evolved with man and often in parallel with psychology itself. I would dare to say that astrology was the psychology before psychology, as before the Copernican revolution astrology, science, philosophy and psychology were pretty much an undifferentiated whole. After the split between the sciences and other disciplines, mainly fueled by a desire for autonomy from the rigid churches of the times, most astrologers became merely astronomers in a world that glamorized logic over the more subtle inner workings of the Soul. For a few centuries astrology suffered a dark night of the soul, falling almost into oblivion and pursued by few. It re-emerged between the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th through the works of Alan Leo, Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society with renewed and deepened thrust. This was also the time in which Sun sign astrology was invented, the common kind of astrology we see in newspaper and magazines. This phenomenon had the double effect of spreading astrological knowledge to a wider audience as well as resulting in a severe trivialization of some of its concepts, that has contributed to giving astrology a bad name to this day. 

As astrology was emerging from its deep sleep in modern form, depth psychology was birthing through the works of Freud and Jung. From this point onwards the development of psychological astrology runs very much parallel to the development in psychological thought, sometimes influencing it, as in the case of Jungian concepts, sometimes being influenced by it. 

Astrology and Depth Psychology 

Jung was the first to recognize the vast potential of astrology as a tool for exploring the depths of the human psyche. In various writings throughout his life, Jung made reference to his profound respect for astrology. He asserted that astrology had a great deal to contribute to psychology and admitted to having employed it with some frequency in his analytic work with clients. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, Jung would draw up a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. "I must say," said Jung, "that I have very often found that the astrological data elucidates certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand. From such experiences I formed the opinion that astrology is of particular interest to the psychologist, since it contains a sort of psychological experience which we call ‘projected’ – this means that we find the psychological facts as it were in the constellations”. 

Jung regarded the signs and planets of astrology as symbols of archetypal processes that originated in the collective unconscious. He viewed the archetypes as both subjective and objective, evident not only in the innate ideas of human consciousness but also in the fundamental processes of nature, of which the planets and their motions are a part. Jung also recognized that astrology could be used as a means to identify periods of life crises, as human experience seemed to correlate to planetary motion. He stated that he had observed many cases where a well-defined psychological phase had been accompanied by a planetary transits. Although Jung never developed any systematic theory of astrology, it appears that his own theory of analytical psychology was heavily influenced by it. There are so many parallels that one is almost forced to conclude that at least some of his major concepts were borrowed directly from astrology. The most striking similarities appear in the delineation of the two attitudes of extraversion and introversion, corresponding to the positive and negative astrological polarities and the obvious parallels between the four Jungian functions and the astrological elements. Others include the ego/Sun, the persona/Ascendant, the shadow/Pluto, the anima/Venus, the animus/Mars, and collective unconscious/Neptune. Planetary aspect patterns have also been equated to Jung’s “psychic complexes” and there is evidence that Jung developed his ideas on synchronicity through observing the correspondences between events and planetary positions.

Often criticized by the members of the psychological world, Jung’s ideas had much influence on the development of deep psychological interpretations within the astrological arena, with many astrologers incorporating his ideas within the astrological framework.

Astrology and Humanistic Psychology

The first and most renowned of these was Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985). Born in Paris (France) he was awarded a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy by the famous Sorbonne University by the time he was sixteen. At this young age he had also already published a book on Debussy and the cyclical nature of time, already containing within many of the philosophical concepts that he would develop thoroughly later in life. He also had already become an accomplished pianist and was making his debut as a budding composer. In 1916 he immigrated to the United States where he lived most of his life mainly between New York, California and New Mexico. Dane Rudhyar was an extraordinary man of many talents, that remained by choice a “generalist”, excelling at and leaving a formidable number of books and works in the areas of astrology, philosophy, psychology, poetry, art and music, exceeding 1000 articles and twenty books in field of astrology alone. It is a challenge to convey the depth of Rudhyar’s work in just a few paragraphs without oversimplifying it and I highly recommend the direct reading of his work. 

Rudhyar’s first encounter with astrology was in the US, through his association with the Theosophical Society. His early works (1930’s-1940’s) were influenced by their ideas, eastern philosophy and the reading of Jung. At this stage, that he later labeled ”harmonic astrology”, Rudhyar viewed the birth chart as a living mandala, the planets and chart’s components as the archetypes who’s interrelationships (aspects) represented the archetypal forces attempting to transform into an integrated whole. He viewed the process of Jungian individuation as implicit in every horoscope.

In the 1960’s, influenced by the humanistic psychology of Rogers and Maslow, Rudhyar created “person-centered astrology” as opposed to “event orientated astrology”. The person was no longer seen, as in more traditional astrology, as at the mercy of external planetary forces, but events and planetary cycles were now the symbolic language through which the person could grow and unfold. “Essentially” states his wife in her summary of his ideas “ events do not happen to persons, persons happen to events-that is, the meaning a person gives to an event, and the response he or she makes to it, are more important than the specific nature of the event itself ". 

In this stage Rudhyar also further emphasized his attention to planetary cycles, seeing transits and aspects as representative of specific phases of longer cycles of development stemming from the birth chart, in the ongoing process of growth leading to inexorable self-realization. He viewed the birth chart as a seed-plan, showing the person’s unique path of development and potential, in which the divine essence of the core Self could be understood within the framework of a purposeful universe.

In his later years Rudhyar developed his astrology further, giving birth to “transpersonal astrology”. He now encouraged the individual to transcend its potential by using every circumstance, event, tension and crisis to overcome restriction form the past and from social and mental habits in order to ascend to a much greater spiritual field of activity and consciousness. 

Rudhyar was instrumental in bringing Astrology to the American public through his many articles published in specialized and general interest magazines and his works were read extensively by young people in the 60’s, resulting in the birth of a new generation of college educated astrologers that further revitalized the profession.

Astrology's Psychology Continues to Evolve
The application of modern psychological principles within the field of astrology continues to this day, having differentiated in many and varied approaches to the round art. Examples of this are Jungian schools of astrology such as the CPA in London founded by Liz Greene and the late Howard Sasportas and the wide publication of their many combined works of Jungian persuasion. Further developments in the filed of humanistic astrology are exemplified by the great work of Stephen Arroyo and others such as Zyporah Dobyns, Richard Idemon and Robert Hand. Also other trends have been explored, as for example, the application of the ideas of psycho-synthesis, Roberto Assagioli’s psychology of sub-personalities, where each component of the chart is seen as a sub-personality and the chart dynamics as the dialogue between them in their striving for harmony and wholeness. Also worthy of mention are recent works by Robert Blaschke, an emerging contemporary astrologer. Blaschke has delineated, through the study of the technique of progressions, an astrological development theory that shows how all later planetary cycles and events are recorded within the progressions of the first six and a half years of life. His theory confirms psychology’s theories arguing the supreme relevance of early childhood experiences in the shaping of the human psyche.

The parallels between psychology and astrology and the healing value of using both methods combined is vastly recognized in the astrological community, where many astrologers are now also counselors and therapists, with many astrological schools offering training in both subjects. The psychological world has been more resistant in incorporating the wealth of knowledge that astrology has to offer in any meaningful manner. Maybe if a scientific proof of the validity of astrology were found, cosmic influences on human behavior would be more readily accepted by all. But, is it possible to prove astrology?

A Possible Theory for the Validity of Astrology

Shunned for years by the scientists, astrologers themselves have sometimes become timid in claiming an objective physical proof behind astrology, often describing it as an amazingly accurate but purely symbolic system. Until recently Michael Gauquelin was one of the only to venture into a statistical analysis of the subject, as the statistical variables in astrology are so numerous and the chart calculations so laborious. With the advent of computers and the development of effective astrological software, many more attempts to statistically research astrology are being made. Might I add these attempts are being made mostly by astrologers rather than scientists, as scientists, with few exceptions, condemned astrology long time ago, with hardly any serious research to back their claims. Mark McDonough at AstroDataBank is one of the brave astrologers currently doing some very accurate scientific statistical research, that I am sure will soon be producing very revealing results.

Personally, since my first real understanding of astrology, I have always intuitively felt that a system as complex and as accurate as this, must have true physical explanations at its root. Recent astronomical findings have shown that the movements of the planets and the angles between them influence the electromagnetic field of the Sun. And it is a well-known fact that the electromagnetic field of the Sun influences the electromagnetic field of the Earth. We have plenty of evidence of these effects exemplified by phenomena such as the aurora borealis also known as the “northern lights”. In his book “ The scientific basis of astrology” Dr. Percy Seymour, an English astronomer, at one time principle lecturer at the University of Plymouth, supports this theory of local geo-electromagnetic field variations as the very likely explanation of the phenomenon of astrology. Seymour hypothesizes that the local geo-electromagnetic effects on the developing fetus might be the reasons for which astrology works. 

My personal opinion is that the explanation of how astrology works becomes self-evident, if we accept that the human being is not just comprised of its physical vehicle, but also of an electromagnetic field (or a subtle energy field of a nature we have not yet fully grasped). I feel that astrology is nothing but the imprint of the localized electromagnetic field, defined at the time and place of birth, on the yet undefined energy field of the newborn baby. I feel that as soon as the baby’s energy field separates from that of the mother at the moment of birth, it is as if the baby’s new independent and unformed energy field is literally stamped with the frequency patterns of the local geo-magnetic field. A geo-magnetic field that is modulated by the positions of the planets at the time and place of birth and the angles between them, as a consequence of the distortions that the relative movement of the planets create first in the field of the Sun and consequently on that of the Earth. The frequency stamp remains as an underlying influence for the rest of the life and is subsequently triggered by successive movements of the planets relative to the positions at birth, triggering the imprinted frequencies and stimulating particular aspects of the psyche associated with them. I see this as a process similar to a musical instrument's strings entering into resonance with a note that is played on a matching frequency. The human energy field can be seen as containing many frequencies imprinted at birth that are being played like an instrument by the planets as they trace angular significant positions, corresponding to particular frequency signatures, as they travel in their cyclical paths across the solar system. 

If we allow for the existence of the human electromagnetic field, the proof for astrology might just be right in front of our noses. To the people that argue that gravitational and electromagnetic distortions are numerically far too small to account for the claims of astrology, the advent of chaos theory, that postulates that the smallest perturbations can create extremely significant consequences, might eventually provide an answer. If the flap of the wings of a butterfly in America can be the cause of a tornado in China, the notion that the small field variations caused by the motion of the planets might have an influence on a human energy field does not seem that far fetched. Maybe the days of the proof of astrology are not so far after all.

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