Winner of the Astrological Association’s Student Writing Competition 2017
"Let’s say it clearly now: it is because objective scientific thought has laughed at astrology that our art is of utmost importance. It provides a different language to understand life: an approach that does not long to find truth but meaning." In this impressive prize-winning essay, the author identifies the unique contribution astrology makes to our understanding – through paradox, symbolism and subjectivity.
There is an opened door
and yet it needs to be forced.
Perhaps the door needs to be closed
in order to go through it.
Roberto Juarroz, Sixth Vertical Poetry, 104
Astrology helps us to embed our lives into greater cycles. It reminds us to be humble, that our time on Earth is nothing compared with the age of the Universe and that there are other elements which are equally (or perhaps more) important. It is also a way of speaking with the divine. “One respects the earth because it is one’s mother, an animal because it may be a reborn ancestor, and the stars because they are messengers, guardians and protectors”i . As Dane Rudhyar puts it, “astrology is a language”ii . “The only thing needed is to understand the language in which it is written”iii . In fact, the moment of astrologyiv seems to be of paramount importance because it opens a dialogue with the above in order to negotiate our destiny. Furthermore, the humanistic and psychological approaches to astrology reinforce the idea either (or both) that there is a goal in our development (as portrayed by the planetary cycles) – a destiny to fulfil that goes beyond the boundaries of our ego – or that the astral chart can be a great tool for self-awareness and self-knowledge.
These statements could be used to uphold the importance of astrology. However, they are dyed to match our current cultural values: production, goal-centred expectations, functionality and pragmatism. Astrology is important if it is useful. Indeed, our art teaches us that we find the question of worth linked to the question of praxis. For in the scheme of the astrological houses, the 2nd house of values is trining the 6th house of routine and useful matters. It is only logical that in order to make astrology important, most positions will strive to make it useful. In fact, a kind of spiritual narcissism has made us believe that our trespasses and sorrows are meant to help us evolve into a better self. Under this idea, people expect to gain enlightenment as if it were a career matter: by holding up to certain steps dictated by some religious authority that would guarantee grace and wisdom. But that is a misunderstanding of the word evolution (as evolution happens with no purpose or goal whatsoever). Besides, attachment – even if it is to a sacred doctrine – would probably stand in the way of achieving higher states of consciousness.
Under the light of these reflections, we now need to ask some questions. What if astrology was not useful in a productive sense? Would it still be of importance? What if there is something unique in astrology that is not related to attainable results, if it is not pointing or directing us to any kind of goal in this race for development?
One of the assumptions of today’s world is that scientific truth is the way to a more fulfilling and real future. Predictive statements and the ability to control strong and dangerous forces are taken as evidence. We now fly airplanes, take pictures of the strong chaotic forces of the beginning of our Universe, can measure the amount of radiation and, in many cases, can avoid a lot of diseases. In order to achieve this amount of knowledge, objectivity and distancing oneself from the object of study were proven as crucial. Within this paradigm, astrology has little to offer. Yes, it is true that there have been several attempts to prove astrology scientifically but, frankly speaking, most of them tend to failure.
Dennis Elwellv explains how difficult it may be to probe astrology scientifically as “the cosmos may have categories of its own” and not the ones we use to measure astrological manifestations (among many other reasons). Geoffrey Corneliusvi , on the stand of divination, suggests that the validity of a chart interpretation depends on whether or not it matters to someone. This approach is clearly against the objectivity and distancing required in scientific research. For this kind of logic, what cannot be measured does not truly exist. It is interesting to emphasise here that the deductive reasoning was born in Greece “…as a response to the persuasive speech of the orators, sophists and politicians of the time”vii . While it was shaped as an answer to cultural needs in a specific time of history, it later found itself raised to the status of ultimate process for reaching truth. Since then other ways of thinking, understanding and approaching life have lost their importance and significance.
Now the more entrenched we are in the “searching for one truth” paradigm, explained in mathematical formulae or physical laws, the more astrology loses importance. For it has nothing to offer to that way of thinking. Astrology encompasses a whole different approach. Scientific thought seems to act as censorship: what cannot be proved cannot be real. Subjective experience cannot be of importance. Each event on Earth (and beyond) needs to be submitted to some mathematical law. But when we read the world through astrology, we understand that there is not one truth or one single awareness of matters. For the moment and place of birth gives each one of us our own veracity. Different kinds of perceptions are worthy and valuable. For instance, we know that in each chart Jupiter can be placed in different signs and houses or in aspects to different planets, thus meaning that many different ideologies are likewise legitimate and valuable. The same happens with the rest of the astrological factors.
Furthermore, each astral chart is like a rabbit hole that goes deeper and deeper, striving for new meanings. The interpretation of a chart is never closed but always open. In fact, astrology is said to be an art. At the instant of a chart reading, some meaning is created specifically for that time, place and person. When done by another astrologer or by the same one in a different time, new understandings arise.
Paradoxically, the importance of astrology lies in the fact that today’s world does not give it any importance. The less status the so- (self-) proclaimed authorities of the ‘official’ truth confer to a certain discipline, the greater it becomes, the stronger our need to keep it alive. Perhaps we should be grateful to the Sun-sign columnists that have shown astrology as an easy, funny matter to be read on a Sunday’s newspaper. By making it look naïve and simple, they helped its survival. What kind of damage could such a column make?
The “damage” in fact could be great. It is in the smallest of elements that lies the biggest strength. The stronger an entity becomes, the more energy it demands to keep its vigour. We know this because we know the history of the countries of the world. Scientific discourse, while trying to demonise astrology and to diminish it, has actually helped it grow stronger. While they played the role of Capricorn, we had to shed under the sign of Aquarius (a little bit of the lights of both Saturn and Uranus). Astrology supporters were forced to review their arguments, to work on their skills, to value their offerings. While Capricorn goes in one direction, Aquarius follows a multiple path. Let’s say it clearly now: it is because objective scientific thought has laughed at astrology that our art is of utmost importance. It provides a different language to understand life: an approach that does not long to find truth but meaning. And meaning is multi-layered and in constant change and development. It cannot be measured and may not be related to any mathematical or physical law. Through astrology, the world is enriched and seen as a living symbol of a breathing cosmos whose implication is endless in both collective and individual ways. Subjectivity becomes paramount then, and one’s own truth, fundamental.
Now the other assumption of today’s world is that of productivity. In order for something to be useful, it has to produce something. As said before, this is shown in the astrological houses and also implied in many spiritual schools that promote the “evolution of the soul”. Spirituality is meant to do something in order to be of value: to take you somewhere, to give something back or to make you achieve some bright goal. But astrology has little to offer in this sense. Of course, as with everything we do, it can be forced to be somewhat productive: self-knowledge and self-awareness could promote change in oneself; and elective astrology could help us run a successful business. And again, it is only normal to cling to these statements in a capitalist world that is obsessed with productiveness. In fact, when astrologers are questioned about their practice, many tend to answer: “Well, it works” – as if working, being effective, makes astrology important. But these are only the consequences of our practice, and they become our focus because we feel we need to justify it in a world with capitalist values.
I am afraid I need to reinforce the idea that astrology does not long to find truth but meaning. The more we accept that astrology may not respond to productivity as it is understood today, the more important it becomes. The less significant it is considered by the capitalist world, the greater its value. Because it stands on a different ground than anything else. In economic terms, it stops the monopoly of productivity and rational thought. It means not to increase production or economic benefits but to find personal meaning in each instant. Even though it is an old practice, it raises a constantly new voice, one that is multi-coloured and not grey and dull. Meaning is always changing, always in motion. For instance, the astrologer may see a Neptune transit and prefer not to do anything. Others may see him/her as a lazy, cowardly person who is not fighting for his/her desires; or they may say he/she is lost and confused. But the less he/she does, the more he/she is doing, the more he/she is attuned with the cosmos and the spirit of that moment of planetary cycles.
I must insist: the more the capitalist world seeks production,
the less significant astrology will seem to it. And yet, the more
important it becomes.
Now it is because of this paradoxical position that astrology has been pulled into, that we can see and draw our final conclusion. The importance of astrology lies in its capacity to be applied to any context, as a tool to understand and see the paradoxes that are in constant manifestation in front of our eyes. While many arts and sciences would help us reduce these paradoxes and sort them out, astrology proposes a unique and different approach: not to crack them but to embrace them, to hold them up with awareness and purpose. So the Moon-in-Virgo-Sun-in-Aries native does not need to choose one way of being or the other. As Cat Cox, my tutor at the Faculty of Astrological Studies, once told me: there is nothing to be “fixed”. He/she could simply be helpful, attentive and cautious while also being assertive, energetic and driven by competition. What is asked of this person – and I am not entirely sure that “asked of” is really the correct phrasing – is to live a paradox, to give body to it and to experience it. To do so, he/she needs to accept the fact that he/she is this contradictory opposing tendency which will manifest over and over again in his/her life. For she/he is not simply the person going though these situations but the entire scene that is constantly being constellated around him/her.
If we can accept the idea that paradoxes are not wrong and that they do not claim fixing but merely acceptance, then we are ready to see some other interesting puzzles emerging through the astrological lens. For instance, we said before that astrology helps us encompass our life in higher cycles, making us humble towards the Universe. It is also true that it emphasises the idea that we are unique, true manifestations of our sole, authentic astral chart. This could over-compensate our narcissistic wounds, making us feel important and special. A contradiction seems to emerge: are we humbled or over-estimated? Perhaps both. We are humbled but also blissed with a feeling of uniqueness. Another classic paradox: is Saturn a bad guy who sets limits and boundaries or is he the defying master that helps us know our limits and build something worthy of permanence? And the most basic question: is it freewill or fate? Now we can believe in both even if it seems absurd. Yes, astrology teaches us to see Pluto and Saturn circling around in the sky, Lords of Fate and Destiny. But it also reminds us that we are marked by our Sun sign and that Apollo, breaker of family curses, is indeed the Sun.
As a matter of fact, the idea that astrology is paradoxical is embedded in its very same structure: we draw our charts in a circle (or a square) and not in a straight line. We graphically see that there are opposing forces inside of us as well as outside. But because of Aristotelian thought, we feel impelled to solve contradictions while the technique of our craft encourages not to do so. In a world that longs for certainty, productivity, finished ideas and dogmas, that is filled with “how-to” books and websites, astrology proposes a different approach: let who you are be, live your contradictory being, seize your time on Earth and experience life as yourself. “Truth is a pathless land”vii .
The understanding of astrology as a paradox could provide further meaning to human lives. Deep and unravelling. In fact, I believe that one of the defining marks of humanity consists in its being constantly exposed to paradoxes. For example, the tension between the heavens and the dust of the Earth fills us with the encouraging spirit of greatness and fairness, yet enslaving us to a mundane nature that demands that our physical needs be addressed. Both animal and civilised, star-gazing yet imprisoned in our bodies, we are a living paradox and we live in a paradoxical world.
Carl Gustav Jung liked the term persona. The persona was the mask used in Greek theatres and it was of such a dimension that the characters could be distinguished from afar. During our lives, we also dress up with these characters. At his turn, Assagioli suggested that a variety of sub-personalities live inside of us. Astrology supports this idea and not only brings understanding, consciousness and meaning to it but a quiet calmness as well. Astrology does not break paradoxes, it does not solve them. It legitimates them by making them come forward and be embraced in a creative non-judgmental way, allowing new perspectives and ways of being.
Astrology breaks with the model of one only verifiable truth, explained by detached, objective scrutiny. Consequently, it can empower us: it reminds us that though fated to a natal chart, we are a process that is unfolding, perhaps with no goal whatsoever. We are not one but many, we are but a constant being, a continuous becoming. For it seems that Whitman had it right:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes)ix .
i Nicholas Campion, A history of Western Astrology, Vol 1
ii Dane Rudhyar, The birthchart as a Celestial Message (as recovered from http://www.khaldea.com/rudhyar/astroarticles/celestialmessage.shtml )
iv Geoffrey Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology
v Dennis Elwell, Cosmic Loom
vi Geoffrey Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology
vii Lloyd, G.E.R., Reasoning and Culture in a Historical Perspective, Journal of Cognition and Culture 13
viii Jiddu Krishnamurti, Speech given on August 3rd, 1929
ix Walt Whitman, Song of myself, 51
First published by: The Astrological Journal, Nov/Dec 2017
Alejo López, born in 1983, holds a degree in Performing Arts and has recently become a psychologist. He started studying humanistic astrology in Argentina, his country of birth, when he was twenty. After a few years of wandering and travelling throughout Europe he decided to formalise his studies. Currently, he holds the STA Horary Practitioner Certificate and is pursuing his astrological education at the Faculty of Astrological Studies.
All images CC0 Creative Commons via pixabay.com
© Alejo López - published by The Astrological Journal /2017
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The first book available in English by the great French master astrologer Andre Barbault. The Value of Astrology offers incisive, captivating insights into the origins, classical tradition and modern uses of astrology.
18-Jun-2018, 12:02 UT/GMT
|Explanations of the symbols|
|Chart of the moment|