Ten years ago, with Chiron crossing my IC/South Node , I was drawn to reflecting on my involvement with astrology both as a student, practitioner and teacher. The result was “Astrology as a Healing and a Wounding Art”, published in Apollon, The Journal of Psychological Astrology, in Issue 3, August 1999. Now, with Chiron, Jupiter and Neptune squaring my MC/IC/Nodes, it feels like an appropriate time to offer out the observations and insights of my then clients and students to a new audience from a new context. Reading the article again after such a long time, their thoughtful comments still seem to me to be powerful and illuminating. I hope you enjoy and benefit from what they have to say.
The article will appear in three installments. It has been slightly edited. Names have been changed for confidentiality.
Part One: from Art into Real Life: the client’s view
“Teach me your mood, o patient stars
who climb each night the ancient sky.
Leaving no space, no shade, no scars,
no trace of age, no fear to die.”
We do not know why we are here. This could be said to be the primary wound of humankind. In order to assuage it, and in attempting to heal it, we have spun around ourselves a web of wonderful richness and intricacy, woven of many bright threads of myth, poetry, religious belief, art, sacred architecture, storytelling, music, adventurous quests of mind, body and spirit. Wars have been fought, and countless millions of lives destroyed, in the clash of differing religious beliefs, and socio-political theories, which have been created in our attempts to heal that primary wound by creating a sense of meaning and order.
However, despite the best efforts of the greatest minds throughout the whole of our history, we still don’t even know what consciousness is. Far less do we know why we tiny creatures, wonderfully creative and terrifyingly destructive, cling to planet Earth, an insignificant speck of planetary gravel hurtling through the vastness of infinite space.
Thus we need teleological frameworks more than ever. This need is reflected in the proliferation of paths on the quest for meaning which seem to be opening up as this new millennium begins. The longest trodden of them all, about to enter its seventh millennium, is astrology. Not only has it survived the onslaught of contemporary science – but may even be seen in some quarters to be making alliances with it !
Astrologer at Work - Mediaeval Style!
Wounding, healing and the art of astrology
It is important at this point to stress that astrology itself neither heals nor wounds. Having arisen aeons ago from attempts to create a meaningful context to human life through observation of the physical movements of the planets in the heavens, whether such a framework is experienced as wounding or healing is heavily predicated upon the attitude of the individuals who choose to use it:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
(W.Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)
It is easy enough to talk about the positive healing benefits of an astrological framework, providing as it does a major defence against meaninglessness and insignificance. Feeling connected at a personal level to loved ones and friends is recognised as a major factor in promoting and maintaining physical, emotional and mental health and happiness. Feeling connected at a more cosmic level lets us see that we are not random accidents in time and space, but threads in the weave of a greater pattern – very small threads perhaps, but contributors nevertheless. This awareness promotes a sense of spiritual well being.
There is also the sheer fun, excitement and intellectual discovery which the study of astrology brings.
The sense of wonder and significance which comes with realising, for example, that one transiting aspect can and does produce a range of observable manifestations, all apparently different, which spring from the same core, never quite stops being thrilling no matter how long you’ve been a practitioner. Saturn in Scorpio squared my Moon during the nineteen-eighties. I don’t especially recall what the emotional challenges of the time were. But I still vividly remember that my favourite silver chain turned almost black for no reason at the start of the transit, resisting several jewellers’ attempts to clean it up. It was dumped at the back of a drawer. Just after the transit was over, I came across it again – as sparking bright as the day I got it.
Every bright light, however, has a dark shadow; in the promethean nature of our art lies its shadow too. It is all very well to steal the gods’ fire, with the noble intention of liberating humanity from some of its bonds with the powerful enlightenment which that fire brings.
But fire burns. It is impossible to light up the darkness of our human limitations of perception, without the hand that holds the illuminating fire being burned by it. It’s not so easy to talk about that. But it does less than justice, in exploring the impact of the astrological model on human consciousness, to concentrate on the healing aspects of the interaction, whilst glossing over the wounding dimensions. Exposure to the model brings both.
The client’s view
Impetus in translating this essay from inner reflection to grounding in the actual world of people’s lives came, fittingly enough, from a recent chance encounter with a former client, Lisa, now aged thirty three. She was very excited about her imminent departure to live and work in California, and we talked about that. But then, quite unexpectedly, she brought up the subject of the one-off reading I had done for her eight years previously. In common with most astrologers, I am always interested in feedback from former clients, especially those with whom one only has a one -off encounter, and usually no idea of what the impact of the experience over time has been for them.
What she had to say was so clearly expressed that I invited her to email me with her comments, which she did. Here they are :
“ It must be about eight years since I came to you for a reading, but there are one or two things that stand out in my memory about that visit. The first was how accurately you were able to describe aspects of my character – I can’t pretend to understand it, but for some reason seeing it laid out in front of me was very reassuring. Perhaps because it gave validity to my personality. That was who I was, and you encouraged me to feel good and confident about that.
However, I think that the main benefit of that visit was the discussion relating to my decision making process. You said you imagined that I would find this quite difficult as there were three equally valid, and contradictory, aspects to my character. The outcome of that discussion was that I no longer got caught up in my inability to make a decision, something that used to cause me unnecessary stress. What I do now is to allow each of the viewpoints to surface until such time as the decision has to be made. It might seem like a simple thing, but it has had an enormous impact. Overall, I am less critical of myself. That’s got to be a good thing! ”
Lisa’s feedback was pleasing and illuminating to have. If compared with feedback which other astrologers receive on the effect of their one-off sessions, I feel pretty confident that the core of it would be similar, although of course individual clients as Lisa did, would also emphasise individual themes peculiar to their own horoscope. Competent and sensitive astrological work, one hopes, has an impact on clients’ lives where the healing dimensions are very much to the forefront of their experience.
In trying to establish a general guideline for the interplay of healing and wounding in people’s response to exposure to the astrological model, one could use the simple image of light for healing, and dark for wounding, quite effectively. My feeling is, if we take a broad spectrum from very bright at one end to very dark at the other, that one-off consultations, well handled, with clients who are at the right point of readiness for the experience, would occupy a position very close to the brightest end of that spectrum.
Where individuals find themselves, of course, depends on a number of factors such as age, experience, maturity, sensitivity or otherwise, degree of stoicism, capacity for joy and faith in life, predisposition to depression, and so on. There is also movement up and down the spectrum, depending on the same range of factors combined with what life chooses to dish up at various points. So this image is only meant as a general reference tool !
Chiron the Wounded Healer
However, experience and observation tell me that the more exposure there is to the astrological model, the more people’s position begins to shift from bright to darker, as the promethean implications of involvement begin to emerge. As I write this I am thinking of a very bright and gifted male client, now in his mid-forties, who has been coming for astrological reviews every year or two for over a decade. His horoscope is rich and complex; at its heart lies a grand cross involving the Sun, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and the Nodes. This complex pattern links in with both his brightest gifts and his deepest pains, and we have worked with that pattern on sufficient occasions now for him to have developed a clear understanding of the paradoxes it brings.
On balance, he feels that having the framework which astrology provides is more healing than wounding. But it doesn’t stop him, for example, fearing his Saturn transits, at the same time as he knows intellectually that the upcoming challenge of each one is to define who he is in the world more clearly, whilst jettisoning ever more of the painful old baggage which slows him down. He now knows that the problem with accepting Prometheus’ gift is that under no circumstances can one give it back, even if one feels too vulnerable at times to be able to cope with it very well………..
to be continued
1700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009
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