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Mapping the Psyche

An Introduction to Psychological Astrology, by Clare Martin

First published 2005 by the CPA Press, BCM Box 1815, London WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom, www.cpalondon.com. Copyright ©2005 by Clare Martin.


Astrology is a form of imagination emerging from nature and having direct relevance for everyday life. It is an applied poetics, a vision of life on earth stimulated by movements in the heavens, which can take us into areas of self-reflection as no other system of symbols and images can. [1]

Over the years of teaching introduction courses in astrology, I have often wondered why, in this day and age, when we should know better, so many of us continue to be drawn to astrology. When I ask a new group of students what brought them here at this time in their lives, I often get the impression that they have not chosen astrology but that it has chosen them. It is not uncommon to hear students say that they have been interested in astrology for years and, in a sense, have been resisting it for years, but have found that, in the end, it won't go away. And so we eventually find ourselves in a class, not really knowing what it will mean to us, if anything, or where it will take us, because something in us has decided that it is time to learn.

These classes are for that 'something' in us which I have gradually come to think of as a kind of shamanic calling. Could it be that astrologers are actually 'chosen for their role by the spirits of the universe'? [2] Certainly, many of us have experienced the standard signatures of the shamanic calling: that astrology comes upon us in spite of ourselves; that we often attempt to avoid making a commitment to astrology, for the very good reason that astrology is a demanding vocation which we sense will change our lives forever; that as we become mediators between the worlds, with one foot in the other realms, we can no longer live fully in the world. Ultimately astrology is not a technique but an initiation into a way of life which, because of its mysterious familiarity, often feels like a coming home.

Astrology is 'a saving kind of knowledge, an apprehension of the mysteries which run deep in nature and in the individual, a transforming knowledge which can only be acquired through learning that is far beyond intellect alone.'[3]

Astrology and psychological astrology are difficult to define exactly. Perhaps astrology can best be described as a mythical and magical language and, as with all languages, every astrologer will develop their own way of interpreting and communicating its meaning. This course draws primarily on the work of Carl Jung, who has given us a particular vocabulary which enables us to restore astrology to what I believe to be its rightful place, as one of the four great pillars of western esotericism, along with kabbalah, alchemy and magic. [4] In the esoteric traditions, the universe is perceived as 'an organic, alive and sacred whole, in which everything is woven together in one cosmic web, where all orders of manifest and unmanifest life are related, because all share in the sanctity of the original source'. [5]

For psychological astrologers the relationship between astrology and alchemy seems to be particularly significant. Historically, these twin sciences were not only strongly linked, but inseparable. The alchemists were practical people, and their approach is useful for the psychological astrologer since it encourages our active participation and personal engagement with the natal chart. In other words, there is a job to be done. The basis of alchemy is that nature, and natural humanity, are not created perfect. In our original state, we are 'a confusion of spirit, soul and body', unconscious of ourselves to a large degree, and therefore, according to Jung, capable only of collective functioning. The astrological birth chart remains exactly the same for our entire lives. There is no guarantee that we will be any more integrated, evolved, or conscious by the time we die than when we were born. In our natural state we live under the sometimes tyrannical dominion of the planets. But what we do with our birth chart, and how we choose to live it, is up to us. A psychological approach works against our natural state in the service of increasing consciousness. The alchemists were deliberately working against the natural order of things by helping nature do what she could not do for herself.

Nature does not produce anything that is perfect in itself; man must bring things to their perfection - this work is called 'alchemy'...Things are created and given into our hands, but not in the ultimate form that is proper to them...In the seed is inherent from the beginning the purpose and function...For alchemy means: to carry to its end something that has not yet been completed; to obtain the lead from the ore and to transform it into what it is made for. [6]

Alchemy is fundamentally optimistic. 'The opus alchemicum not only changes, perfects or redeems Nature, but also brings to perfection human existence.' [7] Like the alchemist and the magician, the psychological astrologer participates actively in a dialogue with nature. A psychological approach is not unlike the 'great work' or magnum opus of the alchemists. Both involve a careful and deliberate cooperation in the task of creating consciousness. This is no easy option since it involves prolonged periods of self analysis, the courage to confront and integrate our own hidden darkness, to recognise our self righteousness, defensiveness and deepest fears, and the decision to take personal responsibility for ourselves, rather than being content to live as passive victims of what we suppose to be our pre-determined 'fate'.

The process of psychological differentiation is no light work; it needs the tenacity and patience of the alchemist, who must purify the body from all superfluities in the fiercest heat of the furnace. [8]

The illusion that all our problems are caused by outside forces or can be blamed, for example, on our birth charts comes to an end when we start to take back our projections and to look at things from within. The process of individuation, of 'deliberately working against the natural order of things', leads to the creation of what Jung called the 'Self', an internal structure which gives us a 'feeling of standing on solid ground, on a patch of inner eternity which even physical death cannot touch'. [9]

The magnum opus had two aims: 'the rescue of the human soul and the salvation of the cosmos'. [10] This means that, however small and unimportant our individual efforts may seem, we will nevertheless be playing our own small part in helping nature do what she is unable to do for herself:

Once a vision of life as an organic whole is accepted in principle, humanity becomes in one sense a co-creator with nature, in so far as it can foster, ignore or destroy its identity with nature, for nature's continued existence depends ultimately on the kind of consciousness we bring to bear on it. [11]

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The Book"Mapping the Psyche"

First published 2005 by the CPA Press, BCM Box 1815, London WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom, www.cpalondon.com.
Copyright ©2005 by Clare Martin.
More Information about the Book.
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