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Astrology and Psychology – Jungian Principles

Astrology and Psychology

Astrology, having existed for more than 3000 years, can consider itself to be the elder sister of psychology.

Both disciplines concern themselves with the psyche. As with astrology, there are different branches and schools of psychology. Some prefer scientific approaches - if this is possible with the complexity of the human psyche and others follow holistic or alternative concepts. These latter approaches often display parallels to astrology and combine easily with it. Among them is Carl Gustav Jung's Analytical Psychology.
His and other psychological schools will be introduced in the section Astrology and Psychology. We will attempt to highlight their similarities.

Jungian Principles

The Swiss Psychologist and former Freud disciple Carl Gustav Jung was interested in the teachings of alchemy and astrology, especially in the later phases of his working life. The resulting insights can be found in his Analytical Psychology. This theory goes far beyond the teachings of Freud.

Freud assumes that a child is born as a "tabula rasa", and the character begins to form from birth onwards. Jung, on the contrary, states in his book Psychological Types: The individual disposition is already a factor in childhood; it is innate, and not acquired in the course of life.

The whole theory of astrology is based on this principle. Liz Greene, a Jungian psychotherapist and astrologer, is convinced that astrology can help to discover the nature of this innate seed. Astrology can not only tell us about the self we know, but also about the one we do not know, she writes in Relating. The horoscope, being a "map of the psyche", can point to character traits which have not yet become conscious. With its help we may get to know ourselves better and come to a more complete understanding of our true nature. Jung's Analytical Psychology attempts something very similar: individuation and arrival at one's true self.

Some of the Jungian principles reflected in astrology will be described on the following pages. We will look at the concepts of "Synchronicity", "Archetypes", and the "Psychological Types".

Synchronicity

In 1952 Jung published an article called "Synchronizität als Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhänge" (“Synchronicity as the Principle of Acausal Connections"). The concept of synchronicity goes beyond purely causal explanations of the world - which is still the domain of our natural sciences. Jung argues that incidents which occur synchronously (i.e. at the same time) do not necessarily need to be causally related. There may, however, be a meaningful connection between them.

Anthony Stevens describes an experience Jung had. In a dream he met a figure with the wings of a kingfisher. Jung wanted to draw the figure in order to remember the image. While drawing, he found in his garden the dead body of a kingfisher. These birds are extremely rare in the area around Zürich. This extraordinary situation coincided with strong inner emotions.

You are probably familiar with situations which cause you to think: "This cannot be a co-incidence!" Maybe you have finished reading a book which communicates unusual ideas. All of a sudden people in your environment talk to you about these ideas, there are reports on TV, and on the internet you keep coming across similar concepts. Such incidents occur simultaneously, but obviously one does not cause the other. They seem to be connected in a different way.

Brigitte Hamann, a German astrologer,  sums up this phenomenon in her article “Gedanken über Astrologie, Synchronizität und Prognose" (thoughts on astrology, synchronicity and prediction):

A certain incident occurs to a certain person at a certain time in such a way that it gains a special meaning to him in that it reveals important meaningful connections in this persons life. Any other observer of the same incident would consider it a random occurance without any meaning whatsoever. For him, there is no synchronistic connection to the event, and therefore it means nothing to him.

Astrology is based on the principle of synchronicity. The "influence of the stars" does not exist in a causal sense. There is no causal influence at all. Astrology "works" - if this is the right word - in the way inscribed on the tabula smaragdina:

What is below is like what is above. And what is above is like what is below, so that the miracle of the One may be accomplished.

One could say that the universal is reflected in the specific. It should therefore be possible to draw conclusions regarding earthly events from planetary constellations. Liz Greene:

The positions of the heavens at a particular moment in time, by reflecting the qualities of that moment, also reflect the qualities of anything born at that moment. [...] One does not cause the other; they are synchronous, and mirror each other.

This is no doubt an extended notion of synchronicity, because it does not simply refer to an individual and his relationship with his direct environment. In fact, it sees everything in the universe as being interconnected in a meaningful way. This attitude of assuming meaningful connections between phenomena which occur simultaneously is common to astrology and Jung's synchronicity.

Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Sigmund Freud is often considered to have "discovered" the unconscious as being that part of the psyche which contains unpleasant or traumatic experiences suppressed by the conscious mind. Jung goes a step further: He is of the opinion that there is not only an individual but also a collective unconscious which contains the immense psychic inheritance of human evolution. According to Jung, this inheritance is reborn in the structure of every individual.

Dreams can be considered as a possible gateway to both the personal and collective unconscious. Dream figures like the dark persecutor or the innocent child are symbols which represent a connection with dimensions we are not aware of. These can awaken certain associations within us which we could not perceive with the rational mind alone.

Jung discovered that many of these symbols are of a universal nature. They can be found in the myths and fairy tales of all peoples. They show a "knowledge" or "wisdom" common to all of humanity. Jung therefore called these symbols primordial images or archetypes. The primordial images themselves cannot be accurately described. Liz Greene sees them as energy patterns which express themselves in our whole environment. Although they themselves have no clear form, they express themselves in the symbols of the world around us.

In this sense, the solar system may be seen as the symbol of a living energy pattern, reflecting at any moment the smaller forms of life which are contained in it. The individual horoscope is a symbolic representation of these energy patterns. In these symbols we can see the seeds of the individual's potential personality. Jung describes the planets as "gods", symbols or powers of the Unconscious. However, these "gods" work differently within different individuals.

Viewed astrologically the symbol of the sun represents the core, the center, the figure of the king or boss as well as the creative life force found in each individual. These interpretations can be drawn from this one symbol without being arbitrary. Liz Greene describes the symbol as the primary mode of expression of the Unconscious. In Relating she writes:

A symbol suggests or infers an aspect of life which is inexhaustible in interpretation and ultimately eludes all the intellect's efforts to fix or contain it. One cannot ever fully plumb the depths of its manifold meanings.

A central archetypal symbol in astrology is the circle of the horoscope. In all cultures the circle is considered to be a symbol of wholeness. In the same way the horoscope represents the wholeness of the individual and the archetype of the "Self".

Psychological Types

You are probably familiar with the kind of situation in which you say something completely objective and rational, but your partner shows an emotional reaction and feels personally hurt. Or have you ever been annoyed by your wife being so utterly down to earth, when you would like to build castles in the air?

This interesting but almost incomprehensible phenomenon is well-known. Despite their individuality people "allow themselves" to be pigeonholed into certain categories.

Carl Gustav Jung explains this phenomenon by categorising poeple into four psychological types. According to his theory the conscious self knows four main modes of perception which express themselves differently and more or less strongly in every individual: the thinking function, the feeling function, the sensation and intuitive function. They can be defined as two antithetic pairs: thinking and feeling are rational opposites (in the sense that they evaluate and judge things). Both sensation and intuition are considered irrational functions, because they do not judge, but simply record things. Of course, not all four functions are equally strong within any one individual. One function dominates, while the other tends to be "underdeveloped". In order to become really whole, a person should attempt to develop all four modes of perception. This is an extraordinarily difficult task. Jung writes in Psychological Types:

We know that a man can never be anything at once, never complete - he always develops certain qualities at the expense of others, and wholeness is never attained.

In astrology, the twelve signs of the zodiac are attributed to the elements of air, water, earth and fire. Liz Greene considers the four elements to be the "pillars of astrology". They inform us about the predominant attitude of a person. If an individual's horoscope is dominated by fire signs, astrologers speak of a fire type. His or her predominant form of perception is "fiery", which is equivalent to the Jungian intuitive type.

The Thinking Type and the Air Element

The thinking type has a predominant thinking function. This individual considers the world in a rational way. He or she analyses things according to the laws of aristotelian logic, and evalutates them using "objective" criteria. He tends to categorise the phenomena of his environment. He is good at giving or receiving criticism, drawing conclusions or finding evidence.

Viewed astrologically this function is reflected in the air signs gemini, libra and aquarius. Liz Greene points out in Relating that the air element is the only one which is not represented by animal symbols in the zodiac. Gemini and aquarius are human symbols, and libra an objective measuring instrument. She writes:

Air is the element which is most typically human, the furthest removed from instinctual nature; and it is the human kingdom which has develpoed or perhaps overdeveloped in the last two hundred years the function of thinking as its great gift.

If in a horoscope more than one planet and / or the ascendent are in air signs, the individual will perceive his environment mainly through the reasoning mind. He is interested in "reasoned" discussion, not in feelings. With a predominance of air, the feeling function often remains "underdeveloped". He might find it hard to decide "on a gut level" or to accept subjective criteria. There can be difficulties in showing emotions or reacting emotionally.

It is important to emphasise that no function is in itself better than any other. All four types have qualities which are necessary for a holistic perception and evaluation of the world. An overdeveloped thinking function which ignores the other functions, leads to emotional coldness, lack of imagination and top-heaviness.

The Feeling Type and the Water Element

The feeling type is the polar opposite of the thinker. According to the motto "opposites attract", members of both types are often fascinated by each other. As with the thinking function Jung calls the feeling function "rational". It differs from the thinking function in that it evaluates situations and people using emotional criteria. This type is very sensitive to moods and atmospheres.

In astrology, the horoscope of a feeling type would show a predominance of the water signs cancer, scorpio or pisces. All of these signs approach their environment from an emotional point of view. Water types often act on their emotions rather than on reasoned argument. Most important to them is personal well-being - their own as well as that of others. Intuition, compassion and empathy, for example, are typical of cancer and pisces.

The individual with a predominance of water is, as opposed to the air type, endowed with the gift of being open to the dimension of the unconscious. Dreams and imagination are particularly meaningful to this kind of person. Scopio, for instance, is particularly attuned to the instinctual, dark side of life.

If the feeling function is overdeveloped within a person, he runs the risk of retreating completely from the "lighter" world of thought. He is controlled by subjective drives without accepting reason as a valid measure. Even though the reactions of water types to personal situations are almost unerringly accurate and appropriate (Liz Greene), it is still important for them to accept the importance of the world of logic.

The Sensation Type and the Earth Element

Jungs sensation type represents one of the two irrational modes of perception. "Irrational" is not used in a depreciative sense here - which is what one is tempted to do in our thought-driven time. It simply means that this function does not judge things. He comes to an understanding using his senses. He relies on that which he can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. One could call him the realist among the types who is completely down to earth.

In astrology the sensation function is represented by the earth signs taurus, virgo and capricorn. They are concerned with what is "real" or concrete. They "grasp" things, in the true sense of the word. The earth person picks up the stimuli of his environment and categorises them. He is practical and sober. The material and physical are his domains. This is where he is strong and has a good sense of what is practicable and appropriate.

The earth type may rely on his senses without even asking whether it "makes sense". He is less open to the dimension of meaning than his opposite, the intuitive type. An example: The two of them walk through the woods together. While the intuitive person appreciates the symbolic power of mother nature, the earth type will measure the trees, maybe considering their value for building furniture.

A person who can only see material things easily loses his connection with the whole. Asked about the meaning of life, he might just shrug his shoulders. Surrounded by things, he does not think about their meaning. Therefore, he is fascinated - positively or negatively - by people of the intuitive type. In order not to waste away mentally or spiritually, he needs to expand his view of reality by adding the dimension of meaning.

The Intuitive Type and the Fire Element

Intuition is the strength of this type. As with the sensation type, he is considered irrational in the sense of not judging. But he differs from the former in that his perception is based on mental or spiritual concepts. He receives his knowledge not by collecting and ordering facts, but by spontaneous insights which "erupt" into consciousness.

Fire is the astrological element of the intiuitive type. Aries, leo and sagittarius are the zodiacal fire signs. Poeple with a predominance of fire signs tend to be easily inflamed. Their spontaneity is almost proverbial. The Arien is focused on action which leaves everything else aside. Leo people are said to have a childlike directness and immediacy. People with sagittarius dominating their chart experience the world through visionary insights.

The individual with a dominant intuitive function runs the risk of being restricted by the hard facts of reality. If, in his fervour, he ignores the limitations of the material, his spiritual energy goes into the void. His commitment and farsightedness can make him overlook the obvious. Great visions remain unfulfilled and stuck in the world of the mind.

The half-god Prometheus brought the fire to humans which is the source of their spiritual and mental development. But without utilising this fire in a practical way it would have been useless and disappeared without a trace. In this sense, it is important for the fire type not to remain isolated within spiritual spheres, but to value and cultivate the opposing function of sensation and realism.

Books

If you want to know more about the interrelations between Jungian psychology and astrology, we recommend the following books, magazines and websites. The contents of the previous pages are based on these as well as others. Quotations by Jung are quoted from Relating.

Liz Greene: Relating. An Astrological Guide to Living with Others.

Anthony Stevens: On Jung.

Peter Niehenke: Astrologie. Eine Einführung. (only in German)

Jung-Zeit. Journal der C.G. Jung - Gesellschaft Köln e.V., Januar 1999 und Februar 2000. (only in German)

www.brigitte-hamann.de (only in German)