Why Astrology Works
I understand the criticism of astrology very well as I used to be an ardent skeptic myself. I found astrology to be appropriately placed next to the comics in the newspapers. How in the world can everyone born in the same month have the same experience today? That is ludicrous! I have learned that the newspapers provide pop astrology, it is simplified and unscientific. Astrology is an extremely complex discipline. I will attempt to illustrate how astrology works scientifically.
One reaction to astrology is that it implies fate or destiny; the personality is bound to certain routes of behavior. My belief is that astrology reveals energetic tendencies. The sun sets at night and humans are not naturally nocturnal, therefore we feel compelled to use this time for sleep. However, we can stay up all night if we want to. We have free will, although there are natural energetic tendencies that we follow.
Here is a useful analogy of a kayak that illustrates the free will vs. destiny debate. Free will would say that a person in a kayak is on a placid lake. There is absolute control of where, when, how and why any motion is made. Destiny advocates would say that the kayak is really on a waterfall. It is forced to travel in a certain way, with very little control. The conditions of the environment are set and can’t be altered. The kayak lives out its fate. The view from astrology is that the kayak is on a river. The river moves in a specific direction, the kayak becomes pulled in various ways and is forced to negotiate rocks or other obstacles in its path. However the person in the kayak can choose how to maneuver, skills can be developed to handle the current. There is freedom to how the river is approached.
My job as an astrologer and therapist is to help people become aware of the nature of the river they are kayaking down. With this awareness, skills can be cultivated to better maneuver. Ultimately, people can truly be in flow with the currents of their lives.
A Systemic Approach
Picture a room full of people. After introductions and pleasantries are exchanged, something truly incredible happens. A system is formed. On a physical level, the people share space, food, breath, sights and sounds. In addition, a whole series of interactions are initiated based upon looks and the perception of influence. On an emotional level, these perceptions affect internal states as well as outward behavior. People choose to approach or avoid others based upon the stimuli in the environment and how that information is assimilated. On an intellectual level, information is exchanged, structure (or the lack of) is established and people become active in the pursuit of a common cause.
A system is dynamic, with all parts of the system influencing the whole. Your body is a system. You live in an ecosystem. Systems are everywhere. Astrology is examining the largest of all systems that we know we are part of in regards to the emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels that are involved, the solar system. Astronomy has provided an enormous amount of information about how the planets operate on a physical level. There is much objective data about planetary orbits, atmospheric pressure, surface temperatures and so on. Astrology clarifies how this objective data affects the individual on a subjective level.
Astrology is based on the premise that all energy has objective and subjective components. Your favorite meal can be analyzed in a laboratory and miles of objective statistics can be given about nutritional value, textures, colors, weight etc. You probably rather just enjoy the meal. That is the subjective piece, how it personally affects you. Eating that meal may bring feelings of joy and a variety of tasteful pleasures. For some it may bring guilt, longing or shame. We all respond differently.
The central point is that all energy works on these two levels. Whether the energy takes the form of auditory, visual, olfactory or tactile there is a subjective component. The same is true with consciousness. Modern technology has developed many types of tools to measure neural responses, brain wave activity and so on. However, we do not need a scientist to tell us that our minds have a very personal part to them. The sciences and spiritual traditions are beginning to find great common ground in the truth that all energy in our world has both objective and subjective components.
Both science and spiritual traditions agree that everything is interconnected. Science has confirmed that all physical matter is interconnected at a molecular level. All life forms are connected through the biosphere. At the psychological and sociological levels, systemic functioning has also been confirmed. All major spiritual traditions, east and west, have interconnectedness as a guiding principle. Some dress this concept up as one god (monotheism) and others use more neutral, less personal ways to describe the relationship with the divine. Whatever terminology employed, the point remains the same: We exist in a world of mutual influence, the interconnectedness ranges from physical to emotional to intellectual. This indisputable fact is what many call spiritual Oneness.
The earth is a relatively small planet in our solar system. Most of the other planets are larger and therefore emit more energy into the system. At any given moment there is a colossal energetic exchange occurring in this system. The planets affect one another through gravitational pull (seen most dramatically by the moon’s control of the earth’s tides), temperature (mainly the sun), and a host of other ways.
Each planet in our solar system has a highly individualized set of characteristics. Every planet follows its own orbital path and speed. It has a unique weight, size, color, density, atmosphere and axis. The energy that planets emit enters the solar system, and therefore enters the earth’s atmosphere. We are all affected by these energies, although we are mostly unconscious of it. The unconscious speaks to the conscious self in many ways including dreams. Dreams can clarify ways to use these energies and help integrate them into daily conscious life. We can also become aware of these energies through meditation, developing intuitive skills and by increasing sensitivity to the environment. Astrology provides a more concrete guide to assist in organizing the complexity of the enormous energy exchange that is called the solar system.
How does Astrology affect me individually?
At the birth of my son Drew, I felt an intense energy in the delivery room. I asked the doctors and staff if a birth always felt like that. I was told that each birth has a completely different feel. The incredible moment of birth, this connection between infant and environment is highly individualized. I believe it reflects the power of the child coming into his psychic connection to the universe.
When a baby is born into the world, he becomes autonomous from his mother for the first time. Before birth, he is subject to the bodily rhythms and cycles of the mother on physical and emotional levels. He is contained inside his mother and does not breathe the air of the atmosphere. All environmental stimuli are filtered through the mother before it has an affect on the developing child. Upon birth, the infant is exposed to the energies in the environment on its own. For the first time, there is an identity away from the mother. The umbilical cord is cut. The child receives a name and immediately begins to make his own decisions.
The condition of the planets at the time of birth becomes the natal chart in astrology. This time is extremely significant because the consciousness of the infant (as its own autonomous being) meets the energies of the solar system. This energetic structure becomes the reference point for future experiences. Many believe that like DNA and genetic contributions are imprinted into the biology of a person, the energetic conditions at the time of birth are imprinted into the unconscious.
Understanding astrology is not a theoretical exercise, it is experiential. Ultimately it is grasped not through the lens of the rational mind but through everyday living. This is accomplished by attempting to live more consciously in the world and cultivating awareness. Practicing mindfulness in daily living brings the reality of interconnectedness. One is able to feel close to nature, to other people, to the self and to the solar system. Through practice, one is able to see that within all interactions and energetic exchanges there is a subjective component. There is something to learn, something that potentially challenges us or affirms us. Life itself becomes a series of potential growth experiences. To me, this is living life in a spiritual fashion.
I do not believe that understanding astrological influences will always promote a healthier sense of well being. Life is just not that simple. Astrology is just a tool, not a cure all. At best it can illuminate the unconscious, but it can also trap people into an analytical approach to life, which is far removed from experience. The marriage between understanding and experience is clearly the most effective route to follow. My approach is to assist clients in making decisions and behaving in ways that are in accordance with their natural energetic tendencies. I also caution people not to use astrology as a substitute for doing the real work of facing who they are. Familial patterns and influences, identity and gender issues, societal factors and existential concerns are very much at play in the unfolding of the personality. My approach is to integrate astrological data into a holistic view of a person. Astrology is an effective tool, but a tool nonetheless.
Astrology works because everything is energetically interconnected. We live in a dynamic system that connects physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels of existence. There are objective and subjective components to all energy. The objective part can be analyzed with efficiency and rigor, which the miracle of science demonstrates everyday. What is elusive in that study is how the subjective currents within energy are distributed and received. This is the area of meaning, which evades the objectifying scope of science. Meaning is within the realm of morals, philosophy, spirituality and aesthetics. Although these areas can’t be analyzed in the same way as the physical world, they do exist.
All of the pieces are in place to validate astrology as the true spiritual science it is. It is the synthesis of large scale astronomy with its correlates to individual meaning.