Today we are witnessing a two-fold process of reorientation and transformation of the type of thinking which has dominated our Western civilization. On the one hand this process is the outcome of the development of modern science and of an increasing emphasis placed upon intellectual analysis and rigorous thinking, and upon the physical and neurological study of mental processes, cybernetics, and the like.
On the other hand a perhaps still more basic but slower change has to do with a growing awareness that the dualistic categories of classical logic and traditional morality, important though they be in most practical situations, are fundamentally inadequate. They hide rather than reveal the essential nature of existence. They cease to be valid the moment we experience our own depths of being and attempt to understand without prejudices our relation to the universe and to others and seek to build a global civilization within which not only varied, but often opposite approaches to life should become harmonized and integrated.
Jungian depth-psychology, Gestalt philosophy and the non-Aristotelian non-dualistic General Semantics of Count Korzybsky have been important factors in this reorientation and transformation of the mind of the most sensitive thinkers of our day. However, probably still greater has been the influence of certain aspects of Oriental philosophy since the Bhagavat-Gita, the Chinese Yi-Ching and the Zen approach to existence became an integral — even if very often but superficially understood — part of the cultural heritage of Europe and America.
In the renascence of astrology in the Western world since 1900 we can distinguish also two different trends. One of them relies essentially upon the traditions of the past, as they reached us via the Greco-Roman-Alexandrian writers. They apparently received their astrological knowledge from old Chaldean sources and passed them on to the most well known astrologers of the Classical European era. This trend is also related to at least the most popularized forces of Hindu astrology. In these types of astrology, knowledge takes the form of memorizable assertions as to what a multitude of relations between planets, zodiacal signs and houses precisely and concretely signify.
The other trend developing in modern astrology, while accepting the basic symbols and techniques of the past as we know this past, results from an endeavor to reformulate astrology in terms of new concepts. These being based on at least relatively new types of mental processes, values and meanings which are better attuned to the psychological needs of humanity in this crucial period of intense readjustment and transformation.
New Approach vs. Old Attitude
There are many ways in which one could study the differences between the two current approaches to astrology. In my monthly series of articles in several astrological magazines since I began to cooperate with Paul Clancy in 1933, and in my books, I have tried to define the possibility of reformulating on a non-classical and non-dualistic philosophical basis the main astrological concepts and the problems confronting practitioners when dealing with present-day individuals. In America Marc Edmund Jones gave the first impetus to such a reformulation, but developed it along the lines of a social psychology rather than on those of depth psychology. In Germany, before Hitler, new movements were proliferating and an amazing number of astrological treatises were published — the Uranian Astrology School in Hamburg being the most radical in its revolutionary approach.
In Paris, Neroman and his College Astrologique de France performed a most interesting pioneering work. He was an engineer and mathematician, and his movement is barely surviving him for lack of trained minds to handle the complexities of his comprehensive system. When I heard of his work in 1961 I was astonished to find significant correlations between his approach and mine, and I hope that his system and his voluminous books can some day be condensed for English-speaking students. His domigraphe, indicating the positions of zodiacal signs and enabling one to find the positions of the planets in the Campanus Houses for numerous geographical latitudes, with due allowances for celestial longitudes and latitudes, should assuredly be manufactured in the United States, for it is quite revealing (Neroman's system was developed between 1930-1940).
What I wish to clarify in this article is a basic difference between what I call the new approach and the old attitude embodied in such famous statements as "the wise man rules his stars". I consider this statement as characteristic because it presents clearly a dualistic picture: that is, on the one hand, man with his free will, and on the other the stars as influencing agents outside of man. The problem which causes the whole trouble when astrology is discussed by modern minds trained in scientific concepts derives from this dualistic attitude. It is usually formulated as follows: "Can the stars (and here in practice the planets are mostly meant) influence directly and physically a human being and even ordinary events of his life? And, if so, how can they do it?"
This, I believe, is a false problem: just as the problem of free will versus determinism, which has anguished so many generations of western philosophers, psychologists and moralists, is a false problem. Indeed, all either-or problems are essentially false problems, except where immediate action and very concrete decision between two alternatives is imperative, or I should probably say (in most cases, at least) seems imperative. But the fact that such an either-or decision is imperative implies that whoever is faced with it has placed himself, directly or indirectly through a situation forced upon him by his environment, in a predicament resulting from a basically unsound personal or collective attitude to life.
Formula of Potentiality
The individual person is not ruled by his stars in as much as he is the whole universe at a particular point of time and space. His birth-chart is he, as a concrete bio-psychic organism. It is his name, the symbol of his relative uniqueness of being. It represents his essential and structural individuality the particular space-organization of complex elements constituting his total personality. It also represents the basic schedule of actualization of his birth-potentialities, his destiny. Individuality and destiny are the two sides of the same coin: so are the total person and the universe as this person sees it.
One may state the same idea in religious terms by saying that the birth-chart of a person represents "God's idea" of that person and of the function he should perform within the society and the planet in which he is born. A birth-chart is a formula of potentialities. The one task of the person having this birth-chart is to actualize as fully as possible this set of potentialities within the environment of his birth, an environment which can be greatly expanded, yet remains birth-centered. The individual is not different from this set of potentialities. His freedom is relative and it consists basically in being able to gain a true and complete picture of himself. He can only do this by freeing himself in varied ways from the mass of collective ideas, of group feelings and traditional behavior or patterns which have been forced into his consciousness of existence and of interpersonal relationships ever since he was born.
The teen-aged person or college graduate does not know usually who he is: he knows himself only as an ego. This ego is the sum-total of the more or less definitely stabilized responses to the pressures of his environment and to the impacts of his education. It is the basis of his character, what he stands for as Paul Smith in relation to his family and social environment.
Build-up to Letdown!
The young person's true self is covered up by all this accumulation of collective influences and by the results of material, psychological, social, cultural impacts which have moulded his character whether his organism-as-a-whole accepted them readily or rebelled more or less aimlessly or subconsciously against them. When the philosopher-astrologer said that "A wise man rules his stars," he must have meant by wise man a man wise according to his culture, religion and social-ethical concepts. That is, a wise ego able to avoid trouble and disturbing emotions, a man who could be shown as an example of virtue, overcoming bad influences and cultivating good attitudes in human relationships, thus living a life free from deeply upsetting crises.
A nice picture! Yet by fitting his aspirations to it, by training his mental energies and ego-will to achieve it, a man might well live the most meaningless life in terms of "God's idea for him," i.e., in terms of his true individual selfhood and destiny. Yes, freedom; but the freedom to become what you really are not — until perhaps you are no longer able to hold at bay the powers of your true fundamental nature (as Zen says) and a violent crisis occurs. The crisis may be a psychotic episode, as psychiatrists, those high-priests of normality and social conformism, see it. It is no doubt what Jung called "the irruption of repressed contents of the unconscious." But what is actually the unconscious?
The result of the crisis can be tragic indeed. It can also mean a catharsis and a return to what Zen calls "the face you had before you were born." The you before you were named and moulded into some extraneous shape by your environment, or by your rebellion against this environment and your reaction to the hurts it brought you in childhood and adolescence.
Is the crisis bad? What the planets indicate is that, at the time it takes place, you will be challenged to transform yourself. They do not say that outside celestial powers will make you explode. The challenge is presented by your own true self. You are your planets. Your ego, this social construct, can refuse to face the challenge directly. Would that be ruling your stars or would it not mean rather the triumph of the fear, insecurity or pride produced by the influence of your environment? Most likely you are not quite able to refuse the challenge, but you manage to evade it partially and to shirk the basic issues. This is what we call freedom — but is it?
As for the great authentic decisions of which the existentialist philosopher speaks glowingly, if they are really authentic and autonomous they reveal the emergence of your true nature and the actualization of your basic birth-potential. But, if you are really your true self, then you are no longer free. You inevitably act according to your truth of self or what the Hindu calls your dharma.
It is this dharma of which the birth-chart is the formula, a formula using as algebraic symbols the planets and the motions of the earth in relation to the Sun and to the Galaxy. I called astrology the algebra of life thirty years ago, but with reference to modern man I should better have said: the algebra of personality.
Key to Living
What is the main value of astrology? I say that it is not to predict future events! Even if a Nostradamus is supposed to have predicted historical details which happened centuries later, what is the sense of such prediction? The idea that if we are told that a crucial situation is ahead we will prepare ourselves and face it better is rather naive, psychologically speaking. What of the fear this knowledge will produce in most human minds?
Events are not what matter most. It is how we respond to them as they happen which really counts. Indeed one can say that life does not happen to us — we happen to life. The event of itself has no meaning; we give a meaning to it. We call it good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate.
Existence is a magnificent play of forces, being neither meaningful in itself, nor moral. To the Hindu sages and seers it was the lila — the play, the delight, the love-drama of the Deity. This Deity too was in all the players, experiencing the myriad of roles of the vast cyclic performance, always renewed, never the same in an infinite sequence of universes answering to the infinity of possible combinations latent in Space, this measureless reservoir of inexhaustible potentiality.
All that your birth-chart reveals to you is a play of forces. The main themes of your existence are there latent, as the oak is latent in the acorn. Nothing in it is good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate. There are no bad planets, no bad aspects. To call Jupiter the Great Benefic is quite senseless in this new approach to astrology of which I am speaking. Saturn may bring pressures, hardships; but since when can anything acquire form and power of resistance without pressures or hardening processes? Individuality has form. A great destiny is a life eminently structured, and there is no leader without a core of steel.
Astrology is an art. A birth-chart is a hieroglyph, a structural formula which must be interpreted. The value of astrology is that it can help us to be objective to our existence. It can reveal to us what we are potentially, what we are meant to be underneath the superficial scaffoldings and the external compromises, evasions and fears which make up our ego.
Astrology is a discipline of thought, a training for the development of an intuition of deep sea-currents underneath the play of surface-waves. It does not deal with phenomena and incidents, except in its most popular aspects. It deals with the structural organization of a few basic forces, drives and organic functions within any truly organized system of existential activities — thus within our total person, both physical and psychic, biological and mental. This is the genius of astrology, that any factor in the birth-chart, the progressions and the transits can be operative at any one of several levels and refer to many different, though related, events. Above all astrology deals with relatively unique situations, be they personal or collective.
Man Becoming an Automaton?
Modern science on the contrary is based on classes of phenomena, and sets of characteristics shared by categories of entities. It has no interest in individual persons. Individual cases are merely anonymous data for the calculation of statistics. Moreover, science is still haunted by an Aristotelian two-valued logic — that is, by the either-or, true-false, this-therefore-not-its-opposite concepts.
This makes science very practical and convenient, for everything except for discovering who you are underneath all the results of statistical tests. Yet what is important is for you, the ego buffeted by all kinds of extraneous pressures and frozen by countless anxieties, to discover who you are — to feel, sense, hear or intuit the basic rhythm of your individual selfhood.
Of course astrology cannot tell you in so many rational words who you are. It nevertheless can change your outlook, redirect your thinking process. This in connection with certain philosophical and psychological studies so that you may stop looking at yourself piecemeal and morally, with condemnation, fear or pride. But it should be the kind of astrology of which I am speaking here. It demands that you should look neither for excuses, nor excitement, nor for masochistic enjoyment in the evoking of dire eventualities which are pictured on the faith of traditional statements.
However if you seek to know the You that vibrates at the core of every cell of your being, the You that is a cyclic but temporary expression of transcendental being, force or consciousness (and all three at once) which may be called "God," or the divine Soul to which this You belongs, and to which you can resonate in moments of great intensity or profound peace — then your birth-chart can reveal the meaning of this You. You may see where and how all the apparently conflicting forces within your total personality fit, what they signify in relation to each other. You learn to accept them, to accept yourself, so say Yes to what you are and not to what your parents and your society have tried to make you.
In order to achieve this result, astrologically speaking, you must study your chart as a whole, just as you look at a painting as a whole. The painting will not speak to you if you analyze every square inch of it separately, and you manifest like or dislike for this little bit of red, that green sweeping line or the harsh contrast between a crude yellow and some vapid pink. Astrology, I have often repeated, demands an esthetical, not an ethical approach, if it is really to make sense. No one planetary factor can be considered significantly if isolated from and unrelated to the others. No birth-chart is better than any other. All that we can say is that some charts refer to an easier or smoother form of existence than others. All have their essential value. Every man has his life-potential to actualize. Every man and every destiny (dharma) is valuable in the harmony of the whole.
After saying all this, a question inevitably comes to the mind of the student or practitioner who has become acquainted with the involved and confusing technical discussions concerning the validity of this or that astrological frame of reference, of sidereal vs. tropical zodiac, of this or that house-system, of progressions, directions, transits, Arabian parts, etc. I will be asked: "Do we have today truly adequate instrumentalities and really correct methods for the erection and the interpretation of birth-charts, if your approach is to lead to the results you evoke?"
In all honesty I must answer that many of the data we use today in erecting our charts are, in my opinion, not the most valid ones in terms of my approach to astrology. They do work, to a considerable extent because astrology is essentially a system of symbolism. Yet the usual textbook's emphasis is placed on factors which belong especially to the classical approach to astrology, but which have only a secondary importance according to my approach. The more important factors, especially the natal Houses, are not given their rightful place, nor is their meaning correctly understood. This is due to the fact that the zodiac and the factor of position in the zodiac have been the most emphasized data. This is a correct emphasis in a strictly geocentric (i.e., earth-centered) astrology, but it loses a great deal of its meaning in a person-centered astrology for the development of which I have been working.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1966 by Dane Rudhyar
All Rights Reserved.