Humanistic Astrology

First Published 1996

Part One
Part Two

Part One

On the evening of 26 February 1969, something occurred which quickly and irrevocably changed the face of astrology. It was the evening Dane Rudhyar, the most respected and influential astrologer of the 20th century, realized the time had come to movementize the holistic, non-predictive approach to astrology he had been developing since 1932. In spite of Rudhyar's contribution of more than 1,000 articles, several hundred lectures and many books on astrological subjects, the public perception of astrology and the way astrology was practiced changed little during the decades of work leading to that decisive evening in 1969. Astrologers still thought of planets, aspects and other astrological factors as essentially "good" or "bad," as exerting a "favorable" or "un-favorable" influence. Clients sought their services to learn "what will happen," and with few exceptions astrologers saw the prediction of events as their stock and trade. Rounding out prediction, astrologers also provided clients with cookbook character descriptions usually conditioned by a rigid morality inherited from the Victorian era. Back then there were few qualified teachers of astrology. Astrological knowledge was transmitted largely by way of books. With the exception of the works of Marc Edmund Jones and Dane Rudhyar, the body of serious astrological literature constituted books written either by astrologers of the Victorian astrological revival or by writers informed almost exclusively by 19th century astrologers.

One might wonder why the modern works of Jones and Rudhyar made so little impact on the astrological community at large until the 1960s. Both men were highly visible members of the astrological community and their books sold fairly well. Yet books sold are not necessarily books read, much less understood and placed into consistent practice. But in the final analysis, Jones and Rudhyar were regarded as intellectuals, and their books were held to be difficult to read and understand. Before the 1960s, astrology held little interest for modern men and women exposed to university learning, so it is no surprise that the intellectually demanding and often abstract character of the work of Jones and Rudhyar posed an obstacle to most experienced and novice astrologers. Additionally, because astrologers and their clientele saw prediction as astrology's raison d'être, there was little incentive to understand and practice Rudhyar's holistic, non-predictive approach.

By the early 1960s, however, astrology gradually began to attract college-trained enthusiasts. Newcomers fell into two broad, often overlapping, groups. One group attracted individuals with backgrounds in science and the new field of computer technology, many of whom wished to prove or disprove astrology's validity. The other was made up mostly of young people trained in psychology and the social sciences who saw in astrology a valuable tool capable of providing significant insights into individual and social psychology. Most of the newcomers were to some degree knowledgeable of statistical techniques, and realized astrology could offer an exciting and important field for statistical research. Indeed, the advent of the computer age and the introduction of university-trained people into the astrological community inevitably led to a quest for the astrological holy grail-the attainment of social and intellectual respectability for astrology by submitting convincing statistical "proof" of its validity and reliability.

While the statistical and scientific movements in astrology gradually gathered momentum, far-reaching and unprecedented social-political change erupted throughout North America and Europe. Thousands of disillusioned young people and discontent middle-aged intellectuals participated in a loosely defined "counterculture" movement which challenged and rejected many of the cultural values and assumptions underpinning post-WWII Euro-American society. In search of life's deeper meaning and more inclusive life directives, many took serious interest in astrology and by 1968 began congregating around Rudhyar.

I will not repeat here what I have written elsewhere (see Rudhyar: Friend, Sage, and Exemplar) regarding Rudhyar's initial contacts with the counterculture in San Francisco during 1968 (encounters in which I was present), except to state that Rudhyar soon attracted a very large following because his approach uniquely answered the needs of those attracted to it. Encouraged by the support of new minds, Rudhyar realized the time had come to movementize his approach to astrology with the formation of an informal group known as the International Committee for a Humanistic Astrology. As Rudhyar states in his preface to my A Handbook for the Humanistic Astrologer
The inner urge to start the International Committee for a Humanistic Astrology (ICHA) came to me rather unexpectedly in the late evening of February 26, 1969. The immediate incentive to make such a move was the reading of printed material that emphasized the need for using the scientific tools of statistical research, and indirectly if not explicitly downgraded any other approach to astrology. I realized that the time had come to publicize the fact that the scientific analytical and "event-oriented" approach to astrology was not the only and most significant one. (p. xvii).  
Although Rudhyar had been developing a holistic, non-predictive approach to astrology since 1932, he seldom used a specific term to distinguish it from traditional astrologies. For awhile he called his approach "harmonic," and he consistently stated it was founded upon holistic principles and "holistic logic."(1) In 1969, however, he chose to term the approach "humanistic" because he realized the situation current in astrology at that time
resembled in many ways the one that led to the emergence of humanistic psychology, under the leadership of Abraham Maslow, Anthony Sutich, etc.— a psychology tracing its immediate origin to the work of Carl G. Jung, which in turn had ancient European and Asiatic roots. The humanistic psychologists spoke of their movement as a "third force" in order to situate it in relation to Freudian psychoanalysis and the experimental laboratory psychology developed in universities especially since the behaviorists and, in Russia, Pavlov. In a similar sense, my approach to astrology differs from the traditional type of predictive fortunetelling and the recent research movement based on empirical and statistical techniques. As a result, after some hesitation because of the (to my thinking) unfortunate concepts associated with classical humanism as a life philosophy, I decided to use the term "humanistic astrology." (p. xvii).

Some Key Features of Humanistic Astrology
During 1969-70, Rudhyar wrote a series of booklets outlining the key features and chief concerns of humanistic astrology. The material was later compiled under the title Person-Centered Astrology. It constitutes the foundation work of humanistic astrology. Some of the key features of a humanistic astrology— summarized in the above extracts, in the humanistic astrology movement's original statement of purpose and in Person-Centered Astrology— include:

1. A consistent, holistic philosophical and psychological foundation.

Yet a humanistic approach to astrology is not merely psychological. A psychological foundation is required, however, because a humanistic astrology must address the unprecedented psychological and spiritual needs of modern individuals. Because a humanistic astrology is based on holistic principles evoking the whole pattern and potential of one's life, it requires a profound philosophical foundation integrating all aspects of existence. Humanistic astrology is founded upon a consistent and all-inclusive philosophy and metaphysics of Wholeness. Its philosophical, metaphysical and psychological underpinnings are open to the scrutiny of anyone wishing to read the books listed in the bibliography.

2. A humanistic astrology is essentially a symbolic language.

It is founded in a holistic perception of the cyclic character of individual and collective existence. It is not based on an unknown causal connection linking the positions of celestial bodies with the life-events and personal attributes of human beings. Humanistic astrology is securely grounded in holistic principles and their operation. It holds that everything is in some way related to everything else. That the part cannot be separated from the whole, and that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Propositions entirely consistent with today's new science.

As a symbolic language, humanistic astrology does not regard the planets as "causes" exerting a mysterious and irresistible force or influence upon our life and character. Or, as Marc Jones once put it, "the planets are not like pagan gods, ever meddling in human affairs, but are cosmic bodies conveniently revealing patterns of universal energy." Humanistic astrology is a symbolic language, not a science or system of forces. In such a symbolic language the planets of our solar system and their cycles symbolize essential functions and processes operating within any whole.

The humanistic approach to astrology holds that we simply don't know the precise operating principle behind astrology; and because we view astrology as a symbolic language, we don't need to engage ourselves in such issues. On the other hand, supporters of determinism and causality in astrology are unable to fulfill their intellectual obligation to either 1) demonstrate, or at least theorize, a causal operating principle linking stellar cause with human events and character, or 2) present a set of clear and consistent principles upon which their claims are based, and convincing statistical evidence supporting such claims. We may speculate about synchronicity or implicate and explicate orders, but if we are intellectually honest we must admit we don't know precisely how and why astrology "works" in a rigorous scientific sense. We shouldn't be ashamed to admit it. Even contemporary scientists do not really know how and why some of their "laws" operate.

3. Astrology is an ancient, yet ever-changing method of attunement to the rhythmic order of the Universe.

The individual is inseparable from the universal Whole. Each of us is a particular aspect of the Whole. As Rudhyar writes in Person-Centered Astrology, the "individual person is the universal Whole, focused at a particular point in space and in terms of the particular need for it at the exact moment of its emergence into independent existence." (p. 41). Yet today's men, women and children find themselves out of tune with the cosmos, acting in discord to its harmony. The landscape of the past few centuries illustrate the course of such discordant paths.

The counsel of a humanistic astrologer, and especially the study of humanistic astrology and the philosophy of Wholeness upon which it is founded, can help modern individuals alienated from the universal Whole attune themselves with the cosmos and realize their purposeful and creative place within its orderly rhythms. In Person-Centered Astrology, Rudhyar states that the attitude underlying humanistic astrology is "an antidote against the poison of extreme individualism which has posed to our present society problems that are practically insoluble, unless a new world-view is very soon developed and it spreads broadly through the collective mentality of mankind." (p. 66).

Attunement with the orderly rhythms of the cosmos, however, should not be confused with clichés like "the wise man rules his stars." Nevertheless, a chief exponent of the ancient revival movement in astrology has repeatedly misrepresented the humanistic approach to astrology as being in accord with much, if not the whole, of ancient astrology because clichés like "the wise man rules his stars" are supposedly of ancient origin. But the cliché is not really humanistic.

Statements and aphorisms of this type are rooted in an antiquated and obsolete worldview of force acting upon force. From such a view, individuals are subjected to the impact of planetary or cosmic forces. Such forces were held to be good or bad, malefic or benefic. The birth-chart was thought to be exterior to the person, an unintegrated and chaotic bundle of cosmic forces acting upon the native, for good and for bad, somehow determining his character and fate. The most a "rational man" could hope to do under such circumstances was to attempt to rule over the forces shown in his horoscope and somehow optimize his lot. It is little wonder that ancient astrologies, which pitted the puny force of solitary humans against the seemingly boundless force of the cosmos, were hopelessly pessimistic and foolishly deterministic. Having embraced such a dismal and regressive view, it is no surprise that in their efforts to minimize the value of humanistic astrology the proprietors of ancient revivalism frequently intimate that attempts to actualize one's potential are doomed to almost certain failure.

An authentic humanistic astrology views every human individual as a particular aspect of humanity, born at a particular time and place in answer to a particular cosmic and all-inclusive human need. As Rudhyar writes in Person-Centered Astrology, clichés like "the wise man rules his stars" makes little sense because the "true Sage is the perfect harmony of all the energies which operate and exteriorize themselves through his total being at any particular moment. He totally fulfills his 'dharma,' his truth of being [which is symbolized by his birth-chart]. Each moment of his existence is for him one phase of a total process which unfolds in beauty, significance, purposefulness and peace." (p. 43).

An authentic humanistic astrologer is fully aware of the arduous nature of self-actualization, yet he or she also realizes that it is truly human to try to fulfill one's potential as fully as possible. Most importantly, such an astrologer realizes we are living through perilous and unprecedented times demanding us to take the next evolutionary step ahead.

4. The birth-chart symbolizes one's seed-pattern of potentiality, and with its aid seemingly unconnected and often confusing life-events and personal crises may be understood anew as orderly and meaningful phases and turning-points in a lifelong process of self-actualization.

As I wrote in my A Handbook for the Humanistic Astrologer, from a humanistic approach "the birth-chart is not something the person has to overcome and it is not judged in terms of good or bad. The humanistic . . . astrologer sees the birth-chart as a seed-pattern, describing what the individual may grow to become, what he or she is potentially; though, of course, the person may not actually fulfill this potential to its fullest. In other words, the birth-chart describes what should be and what experiences are needed to bring about the actualization of what is at the moment of birth only a set of potentials." (p. 13).(2)

For an astrologer sincerely and consistently practicing the humanistic approach, the birth-chart is regarded as one's unique "celestial Name," a sky Signature. The person is not thought of as being exterior to his or her birth-chart, but rather he or she is the wholeness of the chart. A particular chart is not regarded as being any better or worse than any other, instead one's birth-chart is regarded the best for the particular purpose one was born to fulfill. Yet fulfillment and self-actualization must be won through self-devised, self-induced efforts. In the revealing booklet My Stand on Astrology, Rudhyar states that the birth-chart reveals "not what necessarily is, but rather what should be. It does not tell how the basic drives in the human nature of the individual inevitably will operate, but instead how they should operate." (p. 22).

From the approach of an authentic humanistic astrology, the birth-chart and its progressions and transits do not show what will occur in terms of specific future events, but rather it symbolizes the process through which one may effectively, consciously and creatively participate in a gradual and orderly actualization of one's birth potential and unique life-purpose. Rudhyar writes in My Stand on Astrology that the study of a birth-chart and its progressions and transits should "help us realize the meaning of what happens as it happens- and more often than not after it has happened, because our mind is then probably clearer, more objective. This is what humanely and spiritually matters. We can change the past by giving it the meaning of a prelude to our fulfillment instead of a heavy weight of frustration or guilt." (p. 25).

5. Humanistic astrology restores cyclicity to astrology.

Humanistic astrology is a cyclic astrology, it restores cyclicity to astrological thought and practice. It is unfortunate that other forms of modern astrology, and the medieval, classical and ancient Greco-Roman astrologies of the past, have fallen victim to linear thinking, having all but forgotten the fact that astrological frames of reference are cyclic and holistic in nature.

Linear thought is behind the fact that most astrologers still tend to see the components of any astrological frame of reference as separate, isolated entities rather than as interdependent and interacting parts of a whole system. The meaning and nature of the zodiacal sign Virgo, for instance, is inherent in the fact that it is the sixth sign (or phase) in a series of twelve. Following the fifth or self-expressive, creative sign Leo, it therefore symbolizes, among other things, adjustments needed by the self-expressive individual in order to engage in harmonious relations with others (symbolized by Libra, the seventh sign of the zodiac, which begins at the fall equinox).

Similarly, planetary aspects are not viewed as isolated positional values but as interdependent phases of a whole cycle of relationship. The meaning of any phase between two planets is derived from its place and sequence within a whole, unfolding and spirallic cycle of relationship. From such a perspective, there is a very real and significant difference between waxing and waning aspects.

Each cycle begins with the release of a new set of potentialities at the conjunction, culminates at the middle of the cycle with either a fulfillment of purpose on an organic and functional level or a gradual realization of failure, and ends, to begin again on a new level, at the next conjunction. The cyclic process is dynamic and spirallic: each new conjunction between two planets occurs at a different point in space because both bodies are in constant motion. The structure of the cycle is ever-repeated, but the experiences encountered and their reception (the cycle's content) differ with each cycle.

An astrological chart is a complex of relationships frozen in time— but planetary relationships are of a cyclic, dynamic character. The conventional way of looking at aspects is to see them as "snapshots," but we should not forget that they are moments of a continuous, endless process of cyclic change. All planetary cycles are in constant motion. To view aspects from a cyclic and process orientation is to recognize this fact and the essential difference between waxing (from the conjunction to the opposition) and waning (from the opposition to the following conjunction) hemicycles of development. Briefly, from such a perspective, the waxing hemicycle is involutionary, dealing with the development of instrumentalities and organic structures; the waning hemicycle is evolutionary, focusing on the extraction and essentialization of meaning from the experiences and forms built-up during the waxing hemicycle.

In The Lunation Cycle, Rudhyar writes, "the living reality of the birth-chart is the confluence of all planets' cycles, from which is born the 'chord of personality.' It is this chord which is the spiritual Name of the person. It defines the structure of his individuality and its cycle of development." (p. 11).

1. Holistic logic stands in contrast to intellectual logic. In The Astrology of Personality, Rudhyar explains, holistic logic
deals with wholes. It studies the structure harmony, the growth, development and the disintegration or transformation of wholes-whether these be the usual biological organism or more transcendent mental and spiritual wholes. . . . The true foundation of astrology is such a holistic logic . . . not the compilation of data or statistics, even though the latter may have great value in helping to make abstract interpretations more concrete and precise. This holistic logic, based on the perception of the wholeness of the material used as symbolical elements and of its functional coherency, is for the truly intuitive man as logical as intellectual logic. But it is not as rigid and set, at least in appearance, because it is creative. It is a function of evolving life. Like the logic of instincts, it adapts itself to new situations and to new levels of being. (pp. 60 & 82).  Return
2. The word "should" is ambiguous and some readers misunderstand its usage in humanistic astrology. Some give it a strictly moralistic meaning— as a moral duty or obligation, as something our mother would tell us we "should" or "shouldn't" do. Others give it a rigid meaning close to "must." Perhaps we should not have used the word in the literature of humanistic astrology. Yet it has been done and we should attempt to clarify its meaning. For example, when Rudhyar writes that the birth-chart reveals "not what necessarily is, but what should be" he is not using the word "should" in a rigid or moralistic sense, or to describe predetermined situations. Perhaps the word "appropriate," if understood in a creative, open-ended sense, would have been a more suitable and less ambiguous choice.  Return

Read Part Two

© Copyright 1996 by Michael R. Meyer
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