The word “Astrology” comes from the Greek astrologia, from astrologos, astronomer (astro- star + -logos treating of, from legian speak of) referring to the study of heavenly bodies. Astrology studies the essential connection between the motions of stellar bodies and life on earth. The significance of this relationship between the Celestial Sphere and life on earth is predicated upon the fundamental notion of the ‘Doctrine of Signatures.’
Astrology is one of the oldest systems of knowledge and understanding in the world. People have always looked up to the heavens to try to understand life on Earth and today’s world is no exception. There are many types of Astrology that are taught around the world and many Astrologers can’t seem to agree between themselves as to what is the “right” way to read a chart.
Although, at core, astrology has always been a theory of correspondence between planets and human affairs since its inception, the term “astrology” is nebulous, vague, and connotative of a loose federation of related areas rather than designating a precise field of study. Astrology holds the distinction of being both a superficial, inconsequential diversion and novelty that, as critics rightly claim, indulges human fears and irresponsibility while simultaneously being the province of highly sensitive intellectual intuitives who prize the subject as the “philosopher’s stone,” the “elixir of knowledge” and the “holy grail” of wisdom.
“Astrology” exists on a continuum. It alludes to both mass-marketed fortune-telling while it describes a complex hybrid of art and science that rightfully deserves to be considered somewhat arcane and esoteric. It is both a diversion, parlor trick, and humorous affair while also being a discipline that penetrates into the essence of reality more than any other field of study can potentially achieve. Thus, astrology is not unlike any other belief system that splits into both “esoteric” and “exoteric” camps with the embers of the deep core of the original insights of the discipline kept alive by thoughtful and earnest individuals through the centuries as a more observable and accessible forms proliferate, creating a soft, sweet, and non-nutritious outer shell over the heart of the discipline.
It is at certain times in history–the 1960’s and 1990’s in recent times–that the heartbeat of the inner core of astrology beats fast and hard enough to revitalize the profundity and depth of the discipline and to burn off the dross and mildew of the protective sheath surrounding it. During these times a truer astrology emerges, attracting a large number of new initiates while bearing bounty to those who have studied it for years.
Astrology: fortune telling, serious study, or both?
So, although there are “astrologies,” it is the deeper core of these disciplines that will be addressed when asking the question, “What is astrology?” As stated above, astrology is a theory of correspondence, epitomized in the hermetic maxim, “As Above, so Below.”
This assumption implies that there is a relationship between planets and human affairs. Moreover, this implies that there is a meaningful bond between phenomena on earth and planetary positions in the solar system. To greater and lesser degrees, cultures across the world at roughly the same point in human history had the belief that the “wanderers” or planets of the night sky meant something of importance to the human predicament. It is this core assumption–fueled by equal parts awe, mystery, and the urge to know and master the environment–that has been the unwavering insight of astrology, keeping it alive through the evolution of radically divergent belief systems. It is this pattern-seeking and meaning-making function of human consciousness that is constantly, if not obsessively, trying to interrelate and connect itself to the outside world.
Thus, with “as above, so below,”-this theory of correspondence-astrology purports that the planets, human consciousness, and worldly affairs are all interconnected by some pattern or force that interlocks these seemingly disparate elements together, not unlike a fractal of chaos theory, or a set of Russian dolls.
Astrology assumes that human consciousness, worldly events, and planetary alignments interlock like fractal patterns or Russian dolls. In a more current terms, astrology is a theory of resonance. This new conception of astrology doesn’t belie the fundamental assumption of astrology being a theory of correspondence, but it offers more clues and inroads as to how it potentially works.
Under a theory of resonance, some unifying “stuff”–fields, vibrating strings, invisible quantum foam, waves, archetypes, or consciousness itself–is primary to the foundation of the cosmos, or more precisely, our solar system. Planetary positions of the solar system somehow correlate with the vibrations of this foundational stuff, not causing it to resonate in a certain way, but merely being an outer, observable reflection of this fundamental, unifying, resonating “stuff.” This resonating, invisible “stuff” saturates and pervades all of existence and is hypothetically nonlocal and outside of physical space and time yet nonetheless influencing it in a dramatic way.
Thus, this theory suggests that it is the invisible “stuff” of the universe (which has been called many names under the advances of twentieth century science–the implicate order, morphogenetic fields, superstrings, quantum foam) that is primary to causation as we know it; a prime mover that creates all forms and eneregy. Planets, human behavior, and earthly existence are the observable strata of these wave patterns and vibrations. Under this theory of resonance, planetary alignments are the clock hands that demonstrate how, when, and what energy patterns will manifest. Unlike the “energy” of Newtonian, or mechanistic, science, this “energy” is not neutral but has rich, deeply qualitative and experiential possibilities. The number of possibilities and the subtlety of subjective experience of this energy may be related to the sensitivity of the individual and society participating in the energy.
Finally, in a similar fashion, as author Victor Denis Purcel suggests, astrology is the empirical study of “libido” (Jung), “prana” (India), “chi” (China), and “vital energy” (homeopathy). (1) Although only superficially related, these terms all allude to attempts at studying the various ebbs and flows of a dynamic power or force that is consistently changing in the human body. Less imposing and more personal than the more macroscopic idea of “resonance”, nevertheless, this idea that astrology observes and charts the flow of psychical force in the human being is strongly related to the more scientific and clinical use of the term “resonance.” The common core between the assumptions of libido (and similar terms) and “resonance” is that something invisible, subtle, and with an almost infinite number of subjective states, moods, and observable behaviors can be quite accurately mapped by a correspondence of this energy to planetary alignments.
Astrology, then, regardless if couched in a theory of correspondence, libido, or resonance, is an empirical way to study the ambiguous composition of the human psyche. The philosopher Manly Hall put it succinctly: “astrology is the study of the anatomy and psychology of God.”(2) Astrology illuminates and amplifies the mystery of subjective experience but does not reduce it into sterile, hollow concepts that place certainty over and above Truth. It is a sensed-based way of validating a deep intuition that the rhythms, flows, twist, and turns of one’s personal life have meaning and are informed by a divine logic or intelligent presence. In short, astrology is a “transcendental phenomenology.” It is a way of partitioning the collective unconscious in sensible, understandable terms. Astrology represents a participation mystique that still glows, albeit somewhat dimly, in an age where humans have done a remarkable job at isolating themselves from nature, their own subjectivity, and an inner sense of knowing, or gnosis.
When a person is born the planets in the solar system are all in a particular place in the sky these planets, in addition to the exact point of the eastern horizon and the highest point in the sky at birth, constitute the factors in an Astrological chart.
This arrangement of planets will not occur again for over 27,000 years and therefore each person will have a different chart in some way from each other person unless they were born in the same place at the exact same time. When it comes to timing in Astrology, sometimes as few as thirty seconds of difference in the birth time will make a significant shift of interpretation, other times the factors present are in effect nearly all day, it all just depends upon each person so having the accurate information as close to the minute as possible is advised.
Each person has within themselves the same types of energy seeking expression. Each person needs to feel important in some way, however each person has a different way of showing this need for importance, similarly each person has some need of a living environment and has a different way of expressing what their ideal living conditions are.
This is a common observance through daily life yet Astrology allows us to see what these requirements are for ourselves from an objective perspective as well as to better understand the wants and needs of others.
These wants and needs are shown in Astrology by the ten planets in the Astrology chart. The planets are the active factors in a chart and as such show where energy is being expressed. Each planet has a type of energy associated with it and the sign of the Zodiac where the planet is located modifies this energy in its expression.
People usually know their “sign“, as in what sign the Sun was in when they were born. What’s usually less known is that the Sun relates to what we consider important in life, as such their Sun sign doesn’t necessarily dictate “who” they are but rather what they consider most important in life.
For instance, I know of a Virgo Sun sign who always has a sloppy house and is never employed, yet he always feels bad about this and makes excuses because he knows they are important, he just has low self-esteem and doesn’t follow through with actually doing what he knows matters. Just because a person may feel that something is important it does not guarantee that they will actually do something about it!
Astrology shows our natural tendencies and inclinations, it does not dictate our lives to us nor does it tell us our decisions on a matter. Astrology will however best explain our inner perspective and help us gain better control of our lives and the direction it is headed
Astrology is the best tool for understanding yourself and others in order to learn our individual needs so that we can develop our talents, channel our energy, and rise above our difficulties in life.
(1) Purcel, Victor. Humanistic-Existential Astrology: Principles and Evolution 2000.