Please click on links to read the first two articles in this series of 3:
‘Astrology as a healing and a wounding art 2’
Part Three : Healing and wounding – a close and intricate weave
The big picture
I had hoped in asking for feedback from long-term students that they would provide a range of responses which illustrated the main themes regarding both the healing and the wounding dimensions of astrology – they did not disappoint me. Andrea’s“sense of awe” which inspires her to try harder to take responsibility for her life, live it in a positive way, is typical of the spiritual and soul healing which the study and practice of astrology can bring. This is well illustrated also by Marie’s concluding comment that ”whenever I feel I’m stumbling around in the dark, Astrology restores my faith in life by reconnecting me to a sense of meaning and purpose.”
However, there are also wounding dimensions to setting one’s small individual life in the context of the big picture. The planetary energies are archetypal, and the further out you go, especially to the great collective powers of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, the harder it is to hold onto any sense of personal identity, uniqueness. There is a cold inexorability to the unfolding of the planetary pattern through space and time, an utter impersonality. Being given a slice of that time and space as an image of one’s all too fallible humanness can be less than comforting, in fact can be very threatening.
I sometimes get a gut sense of this whilst out walking in the Scottish hills, something I am addicted to doing, and will do under almost any weather conditions. Go to wild, remote places and you will become aware of the archetypal forces of nature, their potentially destructive power, even as your soul is being uplifted by marvellous landscape and the utter peace of being where the only sound is of the wind and of birdsong. In these beautiful, peaceful places I have occasionally had fear descend on me even on sunny days, accompanying an awareness of how implacably indifferent the landscape is to my existence. Its power could sweep my life away given a sudden change of weather, or one slip on a hillside could turn me into yet another fatality statistic. As Shakespeare put it in King Lear :
”As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport.”
(W. Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1 )
The Five Sisters and Loch Duich, Kintail, Scotland
At times of personal bleakness which afflict us all on occasion , looking at the horoscope doesn’t always bring a sense of comforting connection to higher powers.
The individual chart
One of the most potent pieces of healing that astrology has to offer was, I felt, well summed up by Lisa, the one-off client:
”……..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 ……………”.
Over and over again, I have heard from clients that the most valuable thing about their astrology reading was just that validation commented on by Lisa.
But Charlotte’s question “why me? Why did I have to have this chart? “ clearly illustrates where all but the most blithe of us have surely been, as the harder realities of certain chart configurations began to dawn with our more sophisticated understanding of the implications of the natal horoscope.
Certain natal chart configurations may be wonderful opportunities for growth, but it’s usually going to be bloody painful when they’re triggered, and this is a lifetime’s reality which even the sturdiest of us find hard to face and accept, especially in times of vulnerability. If there’s anyone reading this who feels joyous at having been given an exact Saturn Pluto conjunction linked with most of their personal planets (me!), could they please phone me, and reverse the charges!
The contrasts provided so humorously by Alice, who celebrated her Sagittarian energies as “adventurous, lucky, fun loving and optimistic” but wanted to scrub out Pluto when she saw it sitting right on top of her Ascendant, who longed for Venus in Taurus whilst being decidedly lukewarm about her actual Venus in Capricorn, is so typical of most students’ reaction to initial exposure to their natal chart !
I think it’s also fairly typical of most astrologers’ starting position in their developing relationship with their own horoscopes over time. Ideally, one comes to the point of enjoying and utilising, for example, one’s Sun-Moon-Jupiter grand trine in fire without being too immodest about it, or too obviously pitying those lesser mortals not fortunate enough to have had this divine gift bestowed upon them.
If it is also possible to come to an acceptance of difficult energies such as Uranus Pluto rising – notice that Alice forebore even to mention Pluto’s close companion on her Ascendant ! – combined with finding some positive outward channel for its disruptive, wayward and potentially destructive power, then one is well on the way to living in a reasonably positive way with the unique challenges of the individual birth chart.
The unfolding pattern
The intricate weave of healing and wounding is very obvious in considering the responses to transits and progressions of those of us who have trodden the astrological path for a while. Trying to second guess the universe’s response to our presence in it, seems to be a favourite occupation of astrologers. This is trenchantly summed up by Andrea :
“I have to work hard to just meet life as it comes. For me, that’s a real challenge – astrology can help me to be more aware, but I have to resist the urge to think I know what it means before I get there.”
Astrologers can be hubristic, arrogant and just plain wrong in their attempts to know what it means before they get there – damaging to their clients as well as themselves. Astrology is a very powerful aid to awareness. It is also very useful in mapping out the terrain in broad terms, and in offering accurate timings. But life reminds us often enough, through our mistakes and errors of judgement of the planetary pattern, that the unconscious, by definition, is precisely that. It is not notable for an inclination to reveal deeper intentions beyond the ego’s access, just because some astrologer is standing somewhere near the entrance cave to its mysterious terrain waving an ephemeris, shouting ” I’m pretty sure this Venus/Uranus transit means…………”
Alice’s and Marie’s differing feedback on their response to transits, I think also sums up both ends of the healing/wounding continuum well, from a somewhat different perspective to that of Andrea. On the one hand we have Alice describing her teacher’s clarifying what was going on at Alice’s Saturn Return :
” …………………..The light had been switched on. It was an amazing experience. I felt understood, accepted, and not alone. ……..”
Marie’s reaction to recent transits affecting her elderly mother was a lot less positive :
‘”…….. I was scared I was going to lose her. She is 84 ; when I looked ahead to these Pluto transits, it seemed a likely outcome. I’m sure you would agree that projecting fear onto upcoming transits is one of the most obvious facets of the wounding side of astrology…….”
Yes, I certainly do agree ! And we’ve all done it, no matter how spiritual, actualised, wise or mature we think we are. Most beginning students find their introduction to transits and progressions enlightening, productive of a powerful
sense of meaningful connection to something greater than themselves, exhilerating – and scary.
As a teacher, I find I have to work hard to strike the right balance : between giving information, setting a constructive context, offering honesty and realism, always trying to be aware of my own permanent and serious limitations by virtue of being human, avoiding projecting my own particular fears, and bringing in the tempering influence of humour.
I also have to realise that students must negotiate for themselves, after all that, what the balance is going to be for them between the healing and wounding facets of the study and practice of astrology.
I always point out to them when they start expressing fears about upcoming transits – Saturn and Pluto being the favourite raisers of fear – that ninety nine point nine five percent of the human race has got through the whole of our collective history without knowing anything about astrology, despite the fact that one hundred per cent of us have always had every kind of transit from the start of life till its end. This usually helps! It is very important not to give the impression that astrological knowledge can protect us from life. Its great healing gift is that it can help us greatly to make some sense of it.
I would like to conclude this series by wondering why so few people, having penetrated such a complex subject to the stage of acquiring a reasonable degree of fluency, seem to give up the practice of astrology, despite its having a wounding as well as a healing dimension. I suspect a major reason is that once virginity has been lost, it cannot be regained. For most of us, the price paid for that loss of innocence is worth it, for the more complex and full, albeit more difficult, life that is opened up as a result. Once the gods’ fire has been stolen, it cannot be returned. Futhermore, as Charlotte put it :
” Personally, I couldn’t not know. Otherwise I wouldn’t have pursued the subject as long as I have. “
Trust a multiple Sagittarian to put that into words for the rest of us! There is an incurable curiosity in human beings, and a relentless drive to create meaning, perhaps in the hope that one day we will be able to heal the primary wound of not knowing why we are here. Once we have held the gods’ stolen fire overhead, and seen the intriguing, flickering, chimeric shadows it throws up for us, we become addicted to the quest to find what the shapes behind those shadows might be……..
This is an edited version of “Astrology as a Healing and a Wounding Art”, published in Apollon, The Journal of Psychological Astrology, in Issue 3, August 1999.
1700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009
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