The late Alexander Ruperti, in an article about Dane Rudhyar that he contributed to the Astrological Journal in 1986, wrote:
‘There is not one Astrology with a capital A. In each epoch, the astrology of the time was a reflection of the kind of order each culture saw in celestial motions, or the kind of relationship the culture formulated between heaven and earth.’ 
This is a statement well worth remembering, and even repeating to ourselves each time we attempt to define the nature of the astrology we practice according to our own individual belief system or world-view. Even more than the context of the culture (and subculture) in which we live, the predisposition of the individual astrologer shapes the definitions and expressions given to astrology, in both practice and philosophy. Astrology cannot be explained by any single theoretical framework, but must be viewed against a specific religious, philosophical, social, and political background and, equally importantly, from the perspective of individual practitioners working within a particular milieu in a particular place, in a particular decade of a particular century. Today, unlike our medieval counterparts, we have a wide range of religious, social and political perspectives from which to choose without fearing we will be burned at the stake, and it becomes increasingly questionable for any of us to attempt to find the ‘One True Astrology’ which will provide us with absolute spiritual and ideological security while identifying heretical astrologies as ‘incorrect’, ‘bad’, or ‘false’.
Now I would like to show you the results of two surveys given by astrologers to astrologers. These surveys highlight the important issue of individual as well as cultural differences.
- As a healing art 92%
- As a psychological tool 99%
- As part of a ‘metaphysical religion’ 61%
- Conjoined with ‘other esoteric teachings’ 25%
In a paper entitled ‘Who Holds the Cards? Women and New Age Astrology’, published in a collection of essays called Perspectives on the New Age, Shoshanah Feher interviewed a group of astrologers at an American astrology conference. She asked them how they viewed astrology, and we may assume that how they – or we – view it is also how they – or we – practice it, and the perspectives, attitudes, and motivations implicit in the ways the various placements of the horoscope are interpreted by the individual astrologer. 92% of Feher’s interviewees understood astrology as healing art; 99% understood it as a psychological tool. 61% linked it with ‘a metaphysical religion’, suggesting a particular school of belief such as Theosophy, Neoplatonism, Buddhism, or modern paganism, while 25% stated that they combined their astrology with spiritual disciplines of one kind or another, such as yoga, meditation, or ritual practices. 
This survey certainly confirms Ruperti’s statement that there is not one Astrology with an upper case A. But Feher’s survey cannot actually be seen as a comprehensive cross-section of astrologers’ approaches to their astrologies. No questionnaire, especially one which involves the ticking of boxes, can encompass the immensely subtle and complex ways in which individual astrologers combine different approaches to their work in highly creative ways. Also, the survey is limited in terms of its cultural setting, because it was conducted at an American rather than a British, German, French, Swiss, Slovenian, Russian Italian, or Danish conference. The percentages would probably be different in different countries, and even in different regions of a single country, because no nation has a homogenous culture. Moreover, Feher’s categories are very limited and basic, and every one of us could easily elaborate and expand on her simple lines of approach and offer more nuanced and sophisticated definitions. Since 1992, when the survey was done, the definitions of astrology given by astrologers have inevitably shifted as the outer planets have shifted signs, the world around us has changed, and new paradigms have emerged that have influenced astrology no less than fashion, music, literature and art. New definitions and terminologies – or much older ones, emerging for the first time in many decades or even centuries –have entered astrological discourse to complement already existing definitions, while some definitions, which were the height of fashion at one time, are no longer taken seriously by many astrologers. In another decade, our perceptions of astrology will have changed yet again. Nevertheless, despite the limitations of this survey, Feher’s work demonstrates in a clear, simple, and inarguable way the great diversity existing within the astrological community.
- Believe in reincarnation: 78%
- Believe in the law of karma: 63.5%
- Believe in a Supreme Consciousness 52.2%
In his doctoral dissertation for Bath Spa University, entitled ‘Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement’, Nick Campion introduced a number of much more sophisticated questionnaires to ascertain the nature of the beliefs and views that astrologers hold about their study.  Participants were invited to tick multiple answers; they could define astrology in several different ways, rather than having to choose just one. The questionnaires included one exploring the religious affiliations of individual astrologers, including their religious upbringing and current religious behaviour and attitudes. He found that 78% of the astrologers who responded to his questionnaire believed in reincarnation; 64% believed in the law of karma; and 52% believed in a Supreme Consciousness. Although statistics are usually utilised by sceptical sociologists for the purpose of debunking astrology and are rightly distrusted by many astrologers, here the statistics were not intended to prove or disprove astrology’s validity. They explore the multiplicity of attitudes and beliefs within the contemporary astrological community, and are highly relevant to our understanding of the intensely individual nature of astrological theory and practice.
We all have a particular spiritual or religious perspective, even if this perspective is atheistic. Atheism is itself a form of religion, since it involves a positive belief in the absence of any numinous or divine element in life; an excellent example is Richard Dawkins, who exhibits all the characteristics of a fanatical religious reformer in his efforts to stamp out religion. Our religious world-views will inevitably colour the ways in which we understand the purpose of astrology and therefore the manner in which we present our interpretations to the client – even if the client has a religious perspective entirely different from our own. Religious or spiritual perspectives are intimately bound up with our morality, our ethical choices, and our ways of viewing – and living – our lives. If we choose to advise or counsel clients, that advice – even if we make a strenous effort to offer ‘non-advice’ – will be conditioned by our own moral and ethical priorities.
|British (AA conference)||American (UAC conference)|
|- As a science
- As a divine science
- As a psychological tool
- As a form of divination
- As a religion
- As a path to spiritual growth
- As a form of counselling
- As a healing art
- As a means of predicting the future
Like Shoshanah Feher, Nick also issued a questionnaire about how astrologers understand their astrology. His questionnaire is more detailed and more revealing. He conducted his survey with two groups of astrologers – one at a UAC conference in America, and one at an AA conference in the UK. The differences between British and American astrologers responding to the same questions, although never drastically in conflict, are as fascinating as the varying views individual astrologers hold about their study. Among both American and British astrologers, the largest percentages viewed astrology as a psychological tool (65% of British, 61% of Americans) or a path to spiritual growth (66% of British, 56% of Americans), or both (remember that people were invited to tick as many choices as they wished). A similar number (58% of British, 65% of Americans) understood astrology as a form of counselling. More Americans (40%) than British (33%) defined astrology as a form of divination. A surprising 36% of Americans (but only 25% of British) see astrology as a science; but 52% of Americans and 42% of British see it as a ‘divine science’ – the definition given by most astrologers from antiquity to the modern world, from Dorotheus of Sidon in the 1st century CE through Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE and Paulus Alexandrinus and Hephaistio of Thebes in late antiquity, through the Arab astrologer Al Kindi in the 9th century and the Jewish astrologer Avraham Ibn Ezra in the 12th, to Bonatti in the 16th century and Placidus and William Lilly in the 17th, to Alan Leo in the 20th, from whom most of the astrology of the twentieth century has ultimately sprung. (We will look more closely at him later.) A small number of astrologers responding to Nick’s questionnaire understand astrology as a religion. 58% of Americans and 53% of British perceive it as a healing art, while a large number of astrologers – 42% of British and 43% of Americans – also see it as a means of predicting the future.
In the astrological community, discussions about the definitions of ‘real’ or ‘true’ astrology have, sadly, sometimes disintegrated from genuine debate to virulent attacks upon any astrologer whose perspectives do not agree with the spiritually or historically enlightened individual upon whom the cosmos has bestowed the One True Revelation. Although this kind of exaggerated animosity says a good deal more about the personal issues of those engaged in such polemics than it does about the nature of astrology, there is nothing new in the debates themselves; various schools of astrological and philosophical thought have been in open disagreement since Hellenistic astrology began to develop in the last centuries BCE. Astrology has never stood still, but has ‘lurched from paradigm to paradigm’, variously envisioned by its practitioners as well as its critics as science, art, divination, shamanism, craft, astral magic, philosophy, religion, psychology, and poetic metaphor. Whether the heavens are mechanistic or created and inhabited by deity, and whether the future is entirely, partially or minimally predictable, these are beliefs open to interpretation according to the religious perspective, cultural bias, and individual temperament of the astrologer. Historically, astrology has demonstrated the capacity to retain a stable tradition of symbolic forms while adapting itself to a vast variety of cultural settings and an even vaster variety of individual perspectives and practices.
Let’s take an example of a particular astrological configuration, and look at it according to different astrologers at different epochs. The further back we go in history, the less individual the interpretation seems to be: the broader cultural context appears to dominate in those settings where a theocracy or universally accepted religious framework, such as the medieval Church, is particularly powerful. The configuration I want to examine is Mars in the 8th house, which has had rather a bad press over the centuries.
Natal chart: inner wheel. Transits at time of death: outer wheel
This is the natal chart of Princess Diana, who was born with Mars in Virgo in the 8th house. The birth chart, drawn according to the Placidus system – only one of many perfectly valid but different house systems currently in use – is shown on the inner wheel, while the transits for the time of Diana’s death are shown on the outer wheel.
The first astrologer I will quote is Vettius Valens, who worked and wrote in the 2nd century CE. He would not have used Placidus houses, as they had not yet been developed; he would probably have used whole sign houses, and Mars in Diana’s chart would then appear in the 10th house. However, the object of this exercise is not to prove the superiority of a particular house system, but rather, to explore the various interpretations of a single astrological configuration, and anyone unhappy with this example might equally consider the chart of John F. Kennedy, who had Mars in Taurus in the 8th house in both whole sign and Placidus systems. Vettius Valens tells us in his Anthology, IV.12:
‘The 8th: death, benefits from fatality, lawsuits, weaknesses...When malefics alone are present [and Mars would be alone in the 8th with the Moon’s north Node, since Uranus and Pluto were unknown in Valens’ time], then...the natives take upon themselves accusations of murder, or contrive something dangerous for themselves.’
Julius Firmicus Maternus was a Christian astrologer living in the 4th century CE under the rule of the Christian emperor Constantine. In his Mathesis, written in the 4th century, he is far more fatalistic than Valens:
‘Alone in this [the 8th] house, he [Mars] predicts poverty, difficulties, fevers, riots, revolutions, dangers. But if the Moon is in the 2nd house from the Ascendant, this will make a violent death.’
The Moon in Diana’s natal chart, as we can see, is indeed in the 2nd house by the Placidus system, although Firmicus may have used either whole sign houses or an eight-house system known in antiquity. His deeply deterministic approach continues through the medieval period – Avraham ibn Ezra in the twelfth century, for example, states that Mars in the 8th indicates ‘getting killed or being devoured by animals’.
This approach to Mars in the 8th continues into the 15th century, as we can see from the Opusculum Astrologicum of Johannes Schöner:
‘If they [the malefics] are in the 8th, the kind of death is known from the evil significator...If Mars is in an earth sign, [he will be killed] by a fall or accident.’
We do not detect much of a change in the early 20th century, even with the presiding influence of Theosophy, from which modern ‘spiritual’ astrology has emerged. Surprisingly, Alan Leo, who usually deals with non-predictive approaches that emphasise personality qualities and spiritual potentialities, and whose chart we will be looking at a little later, shows a similar, although milder, determinism when he informs us, in How to Judge a Nativity:
‘Mars in the 8th house indicates a liability to a violent or sudden death.’
The word ‘liability’ is significant, as it implies a likely potential rather than a predetermined fact.
Sepharial, likewise working from the Theosophical tradition, also states:
‘Mars in the 8th: The marriage partner spends the substance of the native; strife concerning the property of deceased persons; danger of a violent death.’
Once again, the word ‘danger’ signals the possibility – however small – of more than one option.
But then a very important shift occurs in the mid-20th century, perhaps reflecting increased secularisation as well as a growing emphasis on individuality rather than rigidly assigned social roles. The focus on potential rather than predictable events is apparent in Margaret Hone, who in The Modern Textbook of Astrology declares, in relation to Mars in the 8th:
‘Sexual life is of importance. Interest in psychic matters...Surgery and psychology attract the mind.’
No mention of death here. This is partly due to a kind of embarrassed unease among astrologers at expressing the kind of determinism characteristic of earlier paradigms – and a growing distaste, after the devastation of two World Wars, for acknowledging that one day each one of us must die. But it may also be due to a change in our perceptions of the nature of human beings, of life, and of the power of choice. The stronger the religious bias of the astrologer, it seems, the greater the tendency to focus on determinism, whether divinely imposed by a monolithic patriarchal God through planetary influences, or reflecting the inevitability of karmic rewards and punishments as fundamental to the soul’s evolutionary journey.
By the time we arrive at Dane Rudhyar, whose chart we will also be looking at later, we are offered a perspective focused on the human potential for transformation, reflecting not only the zeitgeist of the so-called ‘New Age’, but also the chart of the individual astrologer. In Rudhyar’s The Astrological Houses, Mars in the 8th indicates
‘how a person can best and most realistically approach both the opportunities and the restrictions involved in bringing the relationships he enters to a fruitful state...Through this relationship, the individual will experience a valuable self-transformation and be able to reach depths of awareness and experience which he could never have attained alone.’
And finally, we can give the last word to Howard Sasportas, who, in The Twelve Houses, displays his usual subtle irony:
‘The Scorpio Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” In deaths and transformations of a physical or psychological nature, Mars in the 8th will usually follow that advice.’ 
In these descriptions, we are seeing the reflection of shifting cultural paradigms. In historical epochs and cultures in which the universe was still peopled with celestial entities of great power and mystery, fate was an inextricable dimension of astrology, albeit negotiable through propitiation and magical rituals. Valens, the earliest of the astrologers I have quoted, displays an unusually psychological bias when he suggests that it is the individual who contrives ‘something dangerous for themselves’. As we enter the era of Christian theocracy, planetary fate becomes God’s instrument through a divinely created clockwork cosmos, and Mars in the 8th house can have only one possible outcome. The further we move toward modernity, the less bound to a specific religious perspective the astrological texts become, and the more clearly the personality of the individual astrologer emerges. In our post-modern era we are offered a plurality of approaches which reflects the increasing recognition that, as Jung puts it, ‘One sees what one can best see oneself.’
Now I would like to look more closely at the ways in which each of us 'sees what one can best see oneself', with a brief exploration of the charts of three of modern astrology's most creative founders.
This is the birth chart of Alan Leo, aka William Frederick Allan. Leo is generally acknowledged as the ‘founding father’ of modern astrology, and most of the astrology practiced today has emerged from his efforts to propagate what Charles Harvey called ‘a philosophically sound and spiritually orientated astrology that could be used for psychological analysis of character rather than simply as a means of forecasting’. 
Although Leo is overtly Ptolemaic when he speaks of ‘influences’ as though the planets were causal factors, nevertheless his astrology is spiritual and evolutionary, as demonstrated when he informs us:
‘I believe the Soul of Humanity is immortal or perpetual... I believe every human being belongs to a Father Star in heaven.. .and I am convinced that every man derives his will power from a Planetary Sphere of Influence which he uses, or abuses, by which he can overcome evil tendencies and control his animal nature. Hence Astrology teaches that Character is Destiny.’
Leo’s astrology, like other astrologies, reflects its cultural milieu: in this case the late 19th and early 20th century quest for hidden realities that presided over the spread of the Theosophical Society and the magical ‘occult revival’ at the turn of the century, as well as the publication in the early 20th century of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, Jung’s Symbols of Transformation, and William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience. Astrologers might also identify the great conjunction of Neptune and Pluto in Gemini in 1891-92 as a signature of this enormous cultural shift. But Leo’s astrology is also an expression of a distinctive individual. Leo’s astrological chart, with its powerful emphasis in fire, its weighting in the 9th and 12th houses, its Sun-Jupiter conjunction and Moon-Jupiter trine, and its exact Sun sesquiquadrate Neptune, suggests a man with a spiritual mission. Leo was determined to educate the larger public about astrology: he was a natural preacher and proselytiser, who had in fact worked as a commercial traveller before he immersed himself in his esoteric and astrological work. There can be no question that he believed wholeheartedly and intensely in the evolutionary spirituality he promulgated. There are astrologers working in the 21st century who, to a greater or lesser extent, likewise espouse this belief system, and many of them do excellent work with complete integrity and commitment. This kind of astrology is no more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than any other approach to astrology. Perhaps what is most important about Alan Leo is that his astrology, although articulated in the language of Theosophy and linked through its vision of spiritual progress to larger cultural trends, is also deeply and truly his own.
Next I would like to briefly explore the astrology and natal chart of Dane Rudhyar.
This is how Rudhyar defines his astrology:
‘I believe... in an astrology of transformation... My approach is oriented to the possibility of developing in every person a steady eagerness for self-transformation and independence from the socio-cultural patterns of the past. On the belief that there is latent in every man and woman the power to be greater than they are, more creative, freer, yet more deeply committed to a process of world-transformation, I stand...Every person is a “celestial”, if only he gains the strength and has the courage to stand by the truth of his being and to fulfill his place and function on this earth by following the celestial “set of instructions” revealed by the sky.’ 
Rudhyar is a close cousin to Leo in his emphasis on human potential and the spiritual understanding of human destiny. His religious commitment lay in Alice Bailey’s particular form of Theosophy, and he saw himself as a ‘seed man’ or avatar for the incoming New Age. But Rudhyar emerged from a very different cultural background. He was French, not British; in his teens he was immersed in the intensely self-expressive artistic and musical subculture of Paris just before the First World War; and most of his long astrological working life was spent in California, encompassing the great changes that occurred under the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s and the emergence of ‘NewAge’ thought. Rudhyar coined the term ‘transpersonal astrology’, injecting judiciously selected elements of Jungian psychology into what is essentially Alice Bailey’s Theosophical framework of the evolution of the soul, and emphasising the possibility of spiritual freedom from what he calls the ‘socio-cultural patterns of the past’. This is a quasi-psychological, quasi-spiritual astrology expressed in the 20th century language of New Age culture, which still proves inspirational to a great many astrologers, particularly in America.
Rudhyar’s birth chart reflects the kind of astrology he practiced and promulgated, because his astrology, like all our astrologies, reflects ‘what he sees best’. The 3rd house Sun in Aries suggests a pioneering educator; the Sagittarian Ascendant, with its ruler Jupiter in the house of others (‘the public’), emphasises his perception of himself as an avatar and teacher of spiritual knowledge; and his natal Chiron, close to the MC and in opposition to the Sun, reflects his concern for the healing of damaged souls and the freedom from old social and family patterns which was of such concern to him. Like Alan Leo, he is a fiery individual with Sun-Jupiter and Moon-Jupiter contacts, and this particular emphasis may reflect the focus on spiritual evolution which is common to both. Rudhyar has a greater emphasis in air, suggesting the need to develop an individual philosophy, a framework of ideas that incorporated, but was not entirely derived from, Theosophical sources. But for both these astrologers, astrology was viewed as a spiritual path and as a body of knowledge that should be made available to everyone rather than treated as an elite esoteric lore.
Finally, I would like to look at the chart of John Addey, who informs us:
‘Astrology has…aspects some of which transcend its divinatory function. For one thing, it is a system of symbolism of a high order which can be a most valuable aid to the contemplation of the truths of mystical philosophy… When we enter the realm of symbolism we open the field to the higher human faculties of reason and intuition, and to science and philosophy in their true and integral sense… The true practice of astrology depends upon reading the symbolism of the nativity, and a good synthesis depends upon a good analysis, and a good analysis upon a knowledge of the laws and principles of astrological symbolism.’
Addey disliked the use of astrology as divination, and found distasteful any astrology in which the ‘guidance of some supposedly higher power is in some way sought or invoked’. Rather than pursuing a Theosophical vision of imminent New Age revelation and transformation, he emphasised the contemplative, philosophical dimension of astrology, and found his inspiration in the harmony, order, beauty, and intelligence of the cosmos described so eloquently in Platonic philosophy. Addey’s chart, unlike those of Leo and Rudhyar, is predominantly airy: both the Sun, which is the chart ruler, and the Moon, are in Gemini in an airy house (the 11th), with the intellectual aestheticism of a Sun-Venus conjunction and the innovative thinking of a Mars-Sun trine in air. John Addey has never attracted hosts of followers as Rudhyar did, nor did he seek to ‘advertise’ astrology in the public domain as Leo did. His astrology reflects how he lived his life: a deeply introspective, thoughtful, and profoundly reflective man, whose truths lay not in the inspirational tradition of Rudhyar or the Theosophical religious framework of Leo, but in the perfection of the geometric patterns of cosmic unity offered by ancient Greek thought.
(Astrology, Science and Culture: Pulling Down the Moon)
An interesting discussion about the ‘Varieties of Astrological Experience’ – a pun on William James’ famous early 20th century work, The Varieties of Religious Experience – is offered by Patrick Curry and Roy Willis in their book, Astrology, Science and Culture.  Inevitably, the authors have their own individual bias about astrology, which they make clear during the course of the book. However, every one of us has an individual bias, and the categories offered by Patrick and Roy can be useful in helping us to focus on the long history of differing religious and philosophical traditions from which we draw our modern astrological knowledge. These are simplified categories – there are only five – and I can think of some that are not included in their list. No hybrid categories are given, and no doubt every one of us could with complete justification argue that ‘our’ individual astrology does not neatly fit into any of Patrick’s and Roy’s boxes. There would be something seriously wrong if any individual perspectives did fit too neatly. As with astrological typologies, such classifications are meant to make us think, question, debate, and explore, rather than giving us a sanctified set of rules by which to define personal truths.
Current definitions of astrology as divination – the perspective that Patrick and Roy favour – is rooted in ancient Mesopotamian omen-reading, and reflects a particular cosmological perspective involving an acceptance of the objective reality of a plurality of deities and an ongoing dialogue with those deities to determine and negotiate ‘the will of the gods’. This places the focus of astrological work on forecasting, often, in today’s astrology, involving horary work rather than the movements of transits and progressions over natal placements. Overlapping with, but fundamentally different from, astrology as divination are the more philosophically inclined Neoplatonic and Hermetic approaches, which can encompass such complex spheres as astral magic and theurgy – even more emphasised in medieval Kabbalistic astrology – but which tend, above all, to view astrological configurations as symbols of a unified cosmos rather than either mechanical causes or representatives of a plurality of celestial powers. The idea of correspondences or ‘sympathies’ can be found in both divinatory and Neoplatonic/Hermetic approaches, but the latter tend to be more ‘inward’ and what we might now understand as psychological in the broadest sense.
The framework offered by Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE, which dominated astrology until the Renaissance and then again until the 20th century, is rooted in Aristotle’s vision of the cosmos as a great machine, created by deity but operating in an orderly, mechanistic fashion through time and space. This might seem to be a causal rather than a synchronous approach, more closely allied with what we now understand as science. But it might not be as simple as Patrick and Roy suggest. There is a complex interrelationship between causality as, for example, Alan Leo speaks of it when he declares that ‘character is destiny’, and the synchronicity between planetary configurations, human personality, and external events. So-called scientific astrology is rather a misnomer, since science as it was understood by astrologers prior to the Enlightenment encompassed much of what we might now assign to the sphere of religion. This is why so many astrologers spoke of their work as a ‘divine science’; they relied on the predictability of planetary movements and the reliability of direct experience – both reflections of what we might today call the methods of the natural sciences – but acknowledged behind this framework the living and interconnected nature of the cosmos and the correspondences between the human being and all the levels of the universe, material and supernal. Lilly’s ‘science’, with all its rules for the interpretation of horary charts, is still based on a worldview that encompasses an ensouled and unified cosmos. And most statistical research by astrologers – whether it is meant to convince an obdurate scientific community or is developed ‘in house’ to further our own understanding through empiric evidence – is rarely detached from this sense of an ensouled cosmos, even if it is devoid of overt religious or spiritual terminology.
Psychological astrology, which Patrick and Roy suggest elsewhere is more scientific than divinatory, in fact is neither; it has a much closer relationship with Neoplatonic, Hermetic, and Kabbalistic astrology, and relies more on the idea of symbolic correspondences and synchronicities than on what science terms ‘instrumental causality’. And whatever perspective each of us here espouses and feels most at home with, although we might make casual statements to each other such as, ‘This Saturn transit is making me feel really tired and depressed!’, it is unlikely that any of us actually believes that a large lump of rock and gases hurtling through space is actually ‘making’ us feel anything at all.
It would seem that the more sophisticated we become, the fewer certainties we can rely on in the study and practice of astrology. Discussions about technical issues such as house systems, dignities and detriments, out-of-sign aspects, ‘old’ versus ‘new’ rulers, methods of prognostication, or whether to use the natal or relocated Ascendant for solar returns, can only be resolved through experimentation and the realisation that human beings may encompass many different levels which can be approached through many different ‘snapshots’ of the heavens. Worries about the recent proliferation of heavenly bodies, or the astronomical demotion of planets such as Pluto to the status of ‘dwarf’, are only worries if we hope for some absolute doctrine which can tell us once and for all what is true and what is not. Such a doctrine continues to elude us, and we have only experience and experimentation to rely on in order to discover where and how each of us is able to do our best work. Attempting to define which astrology is ‘true’ and which is ‘false’ is an enterprise that can only succeed if we believe ‘true’ and ‘false’ to be absolutes that reflect our own uniquely personal convictions, and not the pluralistic and multidimensional vision of life shared by humans en masse. Although our symbolic system has retained its structural integrity for over two millennia, it is in the nature of symbols to reflect not only some mysterious and ineffable potency, but to lend themselves to different and often wildly contradictory interpretations, any of which, for particular individuals and cultures at particular times, may be experienced as ’true’.
Lack of certainty can result in anxiety, and anxiety can result in an intense quest for a single Truth that allows us to make clear, stark, black-and-white choices. Although apparently reassuring, this is the basis of fundamentalism, which is and has always been a characteristic human response to the terror of losing certainty. And fundamentalism, as we have seen all too well lately in the sphere of religion, and even occasionally in the sphere of astrology, breeds intolerance and hatred. We may find value in Hellenistic techniques or newly discovered heavenly bodies, or espouse a divinatory or a psychological approach, or a deterministic or a mechanistic one, or a poetic or a religious one, or a complex mix of any or all of these and many others besides. But what matters most is that we are able to recognise that astrology has always contained many astrologies, and that each of us must find the unique blend that reflects our own deepest aspirations and offers a vehicle for our own special talents. Perhaps the most creative thing we can do as astrologers is to find the astrology, and the way of living life, which most authentically reflects who we are as individuals, and practice it with as much skill and integrity as possible, with respect for the perspectives of those who, being different individuals, will inevitably see a different astrology that is also and equally valid.
To conclude, I would like to rephrase Alexander Ruperti’s quotation. He wrote:
‘‘There is not one Astrology with a capital A. In each epoch, the astrology of the time was a reflection of the kind of order each culture saw in celestial motions, or the kind of relationship the culture formulated between heaven and earth.’
‘There is not one Astrology with a capital A. For every individual astrologer today, astrology is not only a reflection of the kind of order our culture sees in celestial motions, and the kind of relationship it formulates between heaven and earth. It is also a reflection of the inherent temperament of the individual – our hopes, aspirations, personal histories, conflicts, fears, talents, and beliefs, both conscious and unconscious – and a reflection of the attitudes and perceptions that each of us brings to the story of our individual lives.’
Lecture by Liz Greene at the Astrological Association Conference, Sept. 2008