What is astrology?…since you ask…

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

(Arthur Koestler from The Sleepwalkers)

Where we live...
Where we live…

The story of humanity is one of an unending attempt to create some recognisable order from the chaos of our earliest origins. In order to survive and evolve as a species, we have  created contexts for ourselves over many millennia from our interpretations of the world around us.

Modern science has shown us that we are part of an interconnected universe of mind-boggling complexity, in its minutest essence a vast energy field, ever moving and changing to the shifting dance of waves and particles – chaos and order forever interweaving, forever returning to and arising from the Quantum Vacuum, or in Buddhist terminology the Void, or in Western spiritual terminology, the Ground of our being.

The vivid quotation from the philosopher Arthur Koestler illustrates the origins of the ancient art and science of astrology – literally ‘the study of the stars’, whose basic precept “as above, so below” demonstrates that our modern understanding that we live in an interconnected cosmos is not a new idea at all.

It has been around ever since we fragile humans, vulnerable to the vagaries of a tempestuous earth with its storms, earthquakes and floods, began to evolve a context of meaning by plotting with increasing sophistication as time went on, the movements of the heavenly bodies in the starry skies above us.

From observing the regular patterns and cycles followed by those heavenly bodies, and recording with care what links there seemed to be between such movements and the ebbs and flows of human life, the early astrologer/priests began to be able to determine (with varying degrees of accuracy – prediction in any field of endeavour has never to this day become an exact science!) the fate of the king and the nation according to the movements of the planets.

Personal horoscopes plotting the patterns of individual life were unheard of then. Individual personal horoscopes are not to be found until the fifth century BCE: the oldest known personal horoscope is from the year 410 BCE.

Modern-day astrology is very different from the fate-ridden pronouncements of the past. The twentieth century saw big shifts in our understanding of science, history and culture which moved us from the Modernist era of  ‘grand narratives’  describing with confidence and conviction the way we are as humans, to an altogether less certain set of perceptions.

Just as modern science has shown us that there can be no absolute objectivity since the presence of the observer can be shown to influence the outcome of the experiment, so we now live in a Postmodern era where we understand that we are embedded in the unfolding action of the plot of life on Earth. Thus we shape our ‘reality’ even as we are living it – and indeed recognise that there are probably many ‘realities’. Absolute truth is not what it once was!

Astrology, too, has moved with the times although there are still many reputable and respected practitioners who stick closely to traditional methods of interpretation and prediction rooted in antiquity. Knowledge of astrology doesn’t result in harmonious agreement – even if it is to differ! – amongst astrologers. Far from it. In that respect, we are just as riven with conflicts and disagreements as any other human group.

Modern psychology, rooted in the great insights of Freud and then Jung who was basically a mystic, more eclectic and open minded in his knowledge base than Freud, has had considerable impact on how astrology is now taught and practised.

In antiquity, the planets were seen as gods whose interaction with and action upon humans’ lives determined their fate. Jung’s great contribution to the modernising of astrology in the 20th century was his formulation – from the study of universal myth – of the concept of the collective unconscious, an updating of the ancient idea of the World Soul.

This collective unconscious comprises a group of energy patterns or archetypes, an idea taken from the Greek philosopher Plato, which are present in all cultures across the world and which shape every aspect of human behaviour.

Jung’s view was taken up by the first of the great psychological astrologers Dane Rudhyar in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and further developed by other astrologers, most notably well-known Jungian analyst, astrologer and author Liz Greene whose fusion of mythology, Jungian psychology and astrology further shaped the model known as Psychological Astrology which has become very influential in the thinking of many contemporary astrologers, myself included.

To be continued….

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800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

8 thoughts on “What is astrology?…since you ask…

  1. Anne, a wonderful and informative post. Thank you. I appreciated the emphasis on Jung and the connection to psychological astrology for which I am deeply grateful. When I learned of Jung, his concept of “collective consciousness”, and his views which differed from Freud were the first focus. Never was mention made of his astrological knowledge and awareness. I learned of that much later. It all makes so much sense when I contemplate it. I look forward to the “to be continued” portion when it arrives. I have learned so much from your writings and appreciate you for offering us all your experience and knowledge. I send you healing energy and prayers for peace.

    1. Anne, thank you for providing that link. A fascinating, in-depth review of Greene’s book offered more than a glimpse into Jung’s evolution. I enjoyed and was intrigued by what I was reading, while also feeling that questions still lingering within me were somehow beginning to be answered.

  2. Via Facebook:
    8.3.20:
    Leslie Hoffman:
    It is indeed having a moment. I’ve been surprised at the increase of recent reading requests that have included young adults.

  3. Yes, Leslie – the Uranus/Neptune in Capricorn generation are not finding much succour in tradition of most kinds…they are very open to alternative ways of looking at what we are doing here, and why we are here at all…

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