As Theodore Roszak noted nearly 30 years ago: “Ultimately no system is any better than the judgment and honesty of those who use it. Wisdom and decency are qualities of people, not of systems.” Astrology is a language, an exquisitely rich cryptographic system, and in all of its sundry specialties (natal, horary, mundane, etc.), layers upon layers of meaning are available to the interpreter. Still, neither the system nor its interpreter can know the deepest workings or capacities of any human being. So, in my experience, what astrology can “do” for anyone depends greatly upon the perspective, understanding, sensitivity, and capacity of the interpreter to integrate myriad complexities and translate them in an effective, understandable way that’s useful to the client and applicable to his/her life.
There’s no way to look at a birth horoscope and know whether the person is male or female; a Buddha or a bulldog; tall or short; straight or gay; black, white, yellow, red, or a multi-cultural mix of all of the above. Neither can we know that being’s level of consciousness. We do need to be aware that the chart itself has an innate “authority” (else why would the client be there?) which is animated by the client’s projections. So, when we work with an individual's chart in a personal consultation, we step into a multivalent environment. Once there, we open a dialogue with the sacred and profane, the conscious as well as disowned and unacknowledged attributes of that being. We are charged with helping the client discover what the chart says about the soul’s best intentions for this incarnation; the ways to resonate consciously with those intentions; and what challenges might be encountered. We go in search of the unique power as well as the special music contained within him or her, and we do so in service to the highest good of that soul and our own. It is a sacred, humbling trust.
On many occasions over the years, I’ve done emotional triage with clients who were told by another astrologer that they’d “never have children,” or were “destined to marry three times,” or had to stay with a battering spouse “because that’s your karma.” At best, such attributions are unfounded—and quite possibly projected—hogwash; at worst, they deeply violate the psyche of another human being. Astrology does show us that there can be issues around having children, being in a committed relationship, setting personal boundaries with intimate others, but the specific intricacies and nature of those issues regularly outfox absolutist language. E.g., you may give birth to three children or three books—or both; but you can have similar issues around those different kinds of births and the children that result from them.
As to the predictive capacities of astrology, it’s a given that we humans want to know what’s going to happen. That’s often the frontline of questioning; but beneath that is, I believe, a longing to understand the nature and meaning of events as well. In my experience, astrology makes a vast, superb bridge between our common life and the world behind this world, and I believe we’ve just begun to understand where that bridge can take us. How might we frame and move with what happens rather than getting focused on the specific manifestations it will have? And in the process, how might we avoid repeating outworn coping patterns and behaviors?
Very early on in my work, I had the painful—but ultimately grace-filled—experience of predicting something quite dramatic in my own life. When the event happened within three days of what I’d projected, I seemed to handle it “amazingly well” (as many around me noted); but in the process, I used astrology as a refuge from the profound emotional blow I’d been dealt—i.e., “Well, I saw this coming; obviously it was meant to happen,” etc., etc. As a consequence, for the next eight months I blocked the cycling of multiple normal emotions so successfully that my body finally took over, and I was desperately ill for nearly a year. From this—and most especially after I became a psychotherapist—I learned to take a very different view of progressions and transits and the language used to describe upcoming cycles in clients’ lives. We’re spiritual beings having human experiences; and, to me, that means going through the emotions attached to those experiences as well as coming to the most integrated understanding of what they’re about in terms of our own evolution. In other words, how might we participate insightfully and consciously in the evolutionary unfolding described in the chart? How might we, as Jung suggested, “do gladly that which we must do”?
There’s another factor here: as history shows us, the eternal nature of astrological symbols is not immune to the current cultural overlay, the beliefs and attitudes permeating the zeitgeist. Our interpretation of the symbols has deepened and expanded—evolved—tremendously over the past several decades, let alone centuries. For example, what is seen as undesirable rebelliousness in one culture or period of history can be viewed as valuable individualism in another. What was once a culturally reliable astrological indicator of the promise of marriage may or may not result in an actual marriage contract now—it doesn’t “have” to. Indeed, the person may fall in love with a country or a life’s work or a hitherto unrecognized part of the self and commit to a relationship with that. Apart from individual astrological consultations, my work as a psychotherapist allows me to witness just such phenomena in clients’ ongoing processes. This constantly educates me as to the nearly infinite manifestations of these very familiar archetypes and cycles in people’s day-to-day lives. And just as we interpret the same symbols on different levels for different people and contexts now, I expect astrologers of the future to be working from frames of reference and dimensions of consciousness we can’t yet imagine. However, the absolute Truth behind the symbols will remain the same—and stay forever out of reach, thus compelling us to keep stretching toward it, yearning for it.
For the next several years, as astrology signals our entry into one of the most intense periods of change in our lifetimes, we’ll be exploring and processing the ways in which our individual lives are being transformed as well as what these transformations can mean for us as a species and for life on our beloved planet. The ongoing human question: “How, then, shall we live?” will be writ large in the collective psyche. Since the archetypes being activated indicate that we humans are being called to go farther out and more deeply in simultaneously, and since it’s in our nature to search for resonance between that which is outside and that which is inside us, astrologers are in a unique position to provide many levels of insight and guidance and to help our fellow humans cooperate with the rhythms of this time-within-a-Time. We’ve been given a magnificent tool. I pray we’ll all be able to use it with humility, compassion, and wisdom.