Jung & Astrology
Carl Jung was among one of the earliest psychologists to recognize the value of astrology. He explored the theoretical basis of astrology in addition to the relationship between archetypes, and the planets and signs. He also demonstrated an interest in the technical interpretations of the houses, transits, and equinox precessions. In his writings, Jung referenced astrology in connection with his theories as well as noted his respect for its practice. It appeared likely that he believed astrology could contribute to the study of the human psyche and asserted to using it in his practice for this purpose.
Jung’s concepts exposed a comfortable relationship between psychology and astrology, creating a natural inquisitiveness regarding the connections between the two subjects. Many astrologers have devoted significant time studying the relationship between Jungian psychology and astrology; nevertheless, no strong standard exists today between the planetary meanings and his psychological system. A basic study of Jung’s writings however, compels us to make comparisons between the two topics.
There appeared to be many parallels between astrology and Jung’s psychological theories, too numerous to give proper consideration here. However, we will briefly address some of the astrological correlations that relate to the premises touched on above. It is likely that many astrologers associated the two psychological types – extrovert and introvert – to the polar opposites of the positive (Yang) and negative (Yin) zodiac signs. Furthermore, Jung’s four functions – intuition, sensation, thinking, and feeling – may be correlated strongly to the four elements – fire, earth, air, and water, respectively.
Fascinated with mythological figures and lore, Jung spent considerable time committed to exploring its depths and relation to the unconscious. As touched on above, mythology became fundamentally integrated with Jung’s theory of archetypes. In his search for greater understanding about the human psyche, Jung studied eastern philosophy, occult practices, physics, and astrology.
In his astrological studies, Jung mentioned in a letter to Freud that:
astrology seems indispensable for a proper understanding of mythology.
Jung further disclosed that astrology was also an archetypal language that defined the drives of human beings. “Astrology,” he says:
like the collective unconscious with which psychology is concerned, consists of symbolic configurations: the planets are the gods, symbols of the power of the unconscious.
Summarizing his findings, Jung wrote:
The collective unconscious. . . appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents. In fact the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious. We can see this most clearly if we look at the heavenly constellations, whose originally chaotic forms are organized through the projection of images. This explains the influence of the stars as asserted by astrologers. These influences are nothing but unconscious, introspective perceptions of the collective unconscious.
Based on these quotes and the material covered thus far, we know Jung viewed archetypes, such as astrological constellations, to be part of the collective unconscious. He believed these archetypes to be inherent and deeply embedded in human nature, and when they pushed into a more conscious state, they often displayed themselves as instincts, conditioned attitudes, or compulsive behavior.
Based on his opinions of archetypes and their external manifestations it is likely that Jung believed astrology was beneficial primarily as a tool to explore the depths of an individual’s psyche.
He indicated the truth of this in a letter to Freud (1911):
I make horoscopic calculations in order to find a clue to the core of psychological truth. . . .I dare say that we shall one day discover in astrology a good deal of knowledge that has been intuitively projected into the heavens. For instance, it appears that the signs of the zodiac are character pictures, in other words libido symbols which depict the typical qualities of the libido at a given moment.
He also noted astrology’s use to explore the psyche while attempting to sooth Freud’s concerns on the rewards of his astrological meanderings:
Please don’t worry about my wonderings in these infinitudes. I shall return laden with rich booting for our knowledge of the human psyche . . For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abysses of the unconscious. . .
Jung further described his use of astrology to acquire a deeper understanding of a client’s unconscious motivations in a letter to B.V. Raman:
As I am a psychologist I’m chiefly interested in the particular light the horoscope sheds on certain complications in the character. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis I usually get a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that I very often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand. From such experiences I formed the opinion that astrology is of particular interest to the psychologist, since it contains a sort of psychological experience which we call ‘projected’ – this means that we find the psychological facts as it were in the constellations.
The above collection of letters and writings clearly support the premise that astrology was a tool to explore the human psyche. Jung was a psychologist first and foremost, and used astrology primarily as a tool to uncover the depths of the psyche.
Jung also recognized that astrology could be used as a means to identify periods of life crises because human experience was shown to correlate to planetary motion.
I have observed many cases where a well-defined psychological phase of an analogous event has been accompanied by a transit (particularly when Saturn and Uranus were affected).
This discovery must have been exciting for Jung as it provided further insight into the meaning of psychic events.