|The Manifesto|||||The Dominion|||||Texts and Articles|||||Review|||||Links|||||ACCUEIL (FR)|||||HOME (EN)|
|Religious Dimensions within Contemporary Astrology 1/2
by Brad Kochunas
Ed. N.: This text is the Master's Thesis of Brad Kochunas, Cosmic symbolism in the era of modernity (Comparative Religions, Miami University, 1985). My thanks to Brad for his permission to publish it here. Brad Kochunas can be contacted at: SoulPsych@aol.com .
1. Modernity and the Sacred
2. The Practice of Contemporary Astrology
3. Hierophanic Dimensions in Astrology
1. Modernity and the Sacred
Scholars of religion argue that modernity has had a tremendous impact upon the contemporary religious situation (Bellah & Hammonds, 1980; Berger, 1969; Eliade, 1954; Needleman, 1972; Roszak, 1969). This seems especially the case for the educated middle classes in modern America (Campbell, 1978; Marty, 1970; Remy & Servais, 1973). Modernity, though a word in common usage, may need some clarification. It does not denote simply a span of time but describes "a contemporary way of looking at the universe, of conducting public and private affairs, and of understanding the very meaning of life" (Coagley, 1968). Woolfolk and Richardson (1981) suggest that modernity refers to "the total condition of culture in those societies that have been transformed by science and the application of scientific technology" (p. 778). Some of its more prominent features include the legitimacy given to scientific and technological procedures, the weak legitimacy or illegitimacy given to forms of human experience which cannot be empirically verified, and the high value given to the control and manipulation of the world on the basis of the right to privacy and individual autonomy (Remy & Servais).
It is generally agreed among scholars that religion requires behaviors, concepts, and beliefs which either implicitly or explicitly depend upon a notion of sacredness, or, as sociologist, Peter Berger (1969) puts it, "an other reality, and one of ultimate significance for man, which transcends the reality within which our everyday experience unfolds" (p. 2). Whether this "other reality" be called supernatural, sacred, or the spiritual, its absence is a significant characteristic of modernity. "[As] a meaningful reality [it] is remote or absent from the horizons of everyday life of large numbers, very probably the majority, of the people in modern societies who seem to get along without it quite well" (p. 5). Modernity has effectively desacralized the world, denuded it of meaning, and eroded the power and value of myth and symbol. The modern Weltanschauung seems one wherein the universe is conceived as being mechanistic, obeying causal laws, empty, silent, and devoid of ultimate meaning. Humanity is viewed as alien, somehow in the world but not of it, and empowered with a utilitarian autonomy. Included in this vision is the root assumption that the only legitimate form of knowledge is that based upon rational, empirical, and positivistic inquiry.
Historian of religion, Mircea Eliade (1959) notes that the mythic view of the world, wherein the sacred resides, continues to exist however, as even "the most desacralized existence still preserves traces of a religious valorization of the world" (p. 23). Culturally speaking, the mythic view is given weak or no legitimacy and often appears in disguised or camouflaged forms. The sacred, as Eliade defines it, is the opposite of the profane. It is Being, meaningful, purposive, powerful, the really real. In the modern world there are numerous places where one might search for the survival or recovery of the sacred but the illustrative example for the purposes of this presentation is contemporary astrology and its practice.
Amidst the rise of new religious forms and practices known as the "spiritual revolution" in the decades of the sixties and seventies, astrology experienced a resurgence of popularity despite its long discrediting by the scientific establishment. Sydney Ahlstrom (1975) estimated the existence of over 10,000 full-time and 175,000 part-time astrologers in the United States. According to astrological observer, Geoffrey Dean (1977), the U.S. had three national astrological organizations and over 150 local associations during the seventies. Henry Weingarten, in his 1980-81 edition of the NASO International Astrological Directory, lists 271 separate associations, centers, schools, and bookshops devoted to astrology in the United States.
During the eighties and nineties astrology appears to have gained even more adherents judging from the profusion of astrological titles and public accessibility to them. The national organizations have become four; the Association for Astrological Networking, the International Society of Astrological Research, the American Federation of Astrologers, and the National Council for Geocosmic Research, all of which sponsor a variety of national and international conferences of varying sizes at regular intervals. Periodicals appear to have increased with, in some cases, a half dozen astrology monthlies available. Major online services now have astrology sites online and the internet has, at the very least, a dozen websites as of this writing. Astrology has grown far beyond the daily newspaper horoscopes and supermarket checkouts pocket books.
The renewal of astrological interest burgeoned during a time perceived as an era of religious crisis (Bellah & Hammonds, 1980; Marty, 1980, Roszak, 1969). Bellah and Glock (1976) note that this was during the time where the tradition of utilitarian individualism believing "in a neutral state in which individuals would be allowed to pursue the maximization of their self-interest, and the product would be public and private prosperity'" failed to provide a meaningful pattern of personal and social existence in the face of cultural events (p. 335). Part of what appeared on the cultural scene amidst the Vietnam conflict and civil rights protests, was a "new religious consciousness" which served as a context for the astrological revival.
Before proceeding further, it is prudent to briefly elaborate upon modernity, its roots, spread, and full flowering to gain the larger perspective on the conditions which allowed for the "new religious consciousness." The Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution marked the transition between the medieval and modern world. These overlapping eras gave birth to modernity and its processes of secularization and rationalization. Secularization denotes the increasing disengagement of religion from life in the "polis," and the "shrinkage of institutional authority over the spheres of public life" (Bell, 1978). The process of rationalization refers to that mode of inquiry whose procedures are logical, empirical, and objective. These processes increasingly disenchant the world for both institutions and individuals removing any sense of the presence of a transcendent quality to existence.
During the period of the Renaissance, human attention and concern was turned from heaven to earth. Humanity was interesting in its own right as was the natural world. Artistic and intellectual enlightenment brought a more critical approach to all forms of study whether classical antiquity, geography, natural history, or theology. This new humanism insisted upon the autonomy of the individual and man became the proper study of mankind.
The Reformation brought with it a new individualism disclosing an inner directedness and the right to private judgment. The medieval focus upon other-worldliness was rejected and attention was refocused upon the world. The hierarchical structures of both heaven and earth were shattered. Humanity no longer needed the institutional mediation of the Church to acquire salvation. Salvation was potentially available to any individual, the relationship between God and man begins to take on the form of a private affair. What the Renaissance had done for arts and letters, the Reformation had accomplished in the realm of religion.
The Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brought about "the death of Nature" (Merchant, 1980). The medieval, vital, living, organismic universe was reduced to a piece of clockwork, lifeless and desacralized. The earth was no longer a maternal provider in a vital sense, it had become a spiritless mélange of utile commodities. Men such as Bacon, Descartes, and Newton fostered a world-view which ushered in human feelings of alienation from the world and placed a high value upon the conquest and control of nature. One sees in these centuries the labor and birth of what is called modernity.
The movement away from a religious order of life characterizes the Renaissance, the Reformation and the shaping of the modern scientific mind in the seventeenth century. But what began as the expression of human authenticity rapidly passed into a period of man's autonomy. The industrial and technological revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were paralleled by the political and social ideologies which developed after the French Revolution. Secularization can be regarded as a complex process because it means both the liberation of humanity from systems that suppress and obstruct the expression of the human integrity, and the repudiation of all religious visions in the name of independence and autonomy (Idinopulos, 1971).
These centuries had brought about the birth and childhood of modern humanity. Hampden-Turner (1982) quoting E. A. Burtt, notes that humanity was reduced from an integral part of the medieval Great Chain of Being, to a puny irrelevant spectator ... imprisoned in a dark room. The world that people had thought themselves living in--a world rich in color and sound, redolent with fragrance ... speaking everywhere of purposive harmony and creative ideals--was crowded now into minute corners in the brains of scattered organic beings. The really important world outside was a hard world, cold, colourless, silent, and dead...(p. 30).
The modern world then is a situation in which the value of once powerfully lived myth and symbol has been diminished, authority and tradition delegitimized, and the category of the sacred reduced so as to be almost unfamiliar to the modern person. Human autonomy and the right to privacy have been exalted, while the sacred, it would appear, has been eclipsed.
The flowering of modernity for all intents and purposes, has brought about the loss of the sacred. Theologian, Albert Outler (Jan. 2, 1981), writes: The loss of the sacred, then, is a code phrase for the nearly total disappearance, in the collective consciousness of "modern man," of not only any vivid sensibility of that sacred presence in which we "live and move and have our being," but also of that sacred order by which we ought to live (p. 17).
An order which is mere order, not given by the gods, therefore, not sacred, is not perceived as orderly even though from the viewpoint of objective, impersonal scientific description its order can be stated in precise mathematical formulae. Objective cosmos becomes personal, existential chaos, a sense of individual destiny is traded for statistical probabilities. The modern man or woman, ultimately alone, is cast adrift upon a dark sea of meaninglessness, for in losing the sacred, humanity loses its rootedness, connectedness, and meaningfulness. A kind of paradoxically frantic malaise settles in and humanity finds itself in much distress for the modern world offers no secure answers. Humanity's raison d'être has been superseded by the provisional paradigms of a rigorous scientism. The lack of a framework by which the world can be meaningfully organized leaves the modern individual fragmented and cognitively distressed. Historian of American religion, Peter Williams (1980) argues: "What most people cannot tolerate for extended periods is the lack of a satisfying framework through which they can make sense out of what they perceive to be inequity or other misfortunes. Much can be endured if it can be interpreted and experienced as part of a larger whole in which all is fundamentally well despite occasional or even frequent, breaches of order and justice. What renders even minor ill fortune intolerable is the lack of such a cognitive framework, where no order is apparent, and existence is reduced to a series of random acts of meaningless violence." (p. 150-51)
Charles Birch (1971), writing in Zygon, has distinguished four categories within what he terms with clever insightfulness, the yawning in much of modern life. All of these have to do with a lack of harmony and order with the individual's relationship to himself, his relationship with others, to the environment, and to the "whole scheme of things." Birch describes these situations appropriately as inner chaos, social chaos, environmental chaos, and metaphysical chaos, all locatable under the rubric of "estrangement."
Given the pessimism and tragedy of the modern situation, is it possible to recover the sacred? Among historians of religions, many would agree that "the loss of the sacred is never complete, even in a radically desacralized society" (Outler, Jan. 23, 1981). The rise of the "new religious consciousness" in the decades of the sixties and seventies comes as an attempt by moderns to be in touch with the sacred. But whether this "spiritual revolution" was a reaction against, a response to, or a natural extension of modernity, is not of major concern here. More relevant for present purposes than the causes of this new spirituality is its character. Thomas Luckmann (1967) has described it usefully with the terms "privatization" and "consumerism." Privatization in the realm of religion refers to the increasing removal of religion from being a public to a private affair of the individual. The private sphere has gained increasing prominence in the modern world. As the power of institutional norms declined, it left wide areas in the life of the individual unstructured. Luckmann continues: "From the interstices of the social structure that resulted from institutional segmentation emerged what may be called a "private sphere." The liberation of "individual consciousness" from the social structure and the "freedom" in the "private sphere" provide the basis for the somewhat illusory sense of autonomy which characterizes the typical person in modern society" (p. 97).
The privatization of religion in modern society becomes an individual quest for ultimate meaning outside the norms of the conventional religious traditions. Coincident with the increasing appearance of privatization in religion is the theme of consumerism. Luckmann explains: "The sense of autonomy that characterizes the typical individual in modern industrial societies is closely linked to a pervasive consumerism.... The subjective preference of the individual, only minimally structured by definite norms, determine his conduct.... The individual is left to his own devices in choosing goods and services.... Even "ultimate" meanings in a relatively autonomous fashion." (p. 98).
The individual is free to shape his own quest for ultimate significance picking and choosing from a veritable supermarket of spirituality. Luckmann continues: "In the absence of an "official" model the individual may select from a variety of themes of "ultimate" significance. The selection is based on consumer preference, which is determined by the social biography of the individual, and similar social biographies will result in similar choices. (p. 105) This individual religiosity, as Luckmann terms it, privatized and consumer oriented, has determined much of the contour of the new religious consciousness. That modernity provides a situation that fostered the religious revival seems unquestionable though the reasons why are disputed (Campbell, 1978).
The privatized quest for ultimate significance is particularly well suited to foster an interest in occultic practices (i.e., astrology) which are by and large carried out by individuals or small groups for private purposes and generally not conducive to institutional structuring. Though some scholars would question the religious dimensions of occultic practices, others viewed this occult flourish "as part of a new religious cultural revitalization" (Campbell, 1978; Greeley, 1970; Roszak, 1972). Religiosity has moved from communal and public forms to individual and private forms almost of necessity as modernity is fundamentally a "rejection of explicit sacrality, of the sacred which presents itself openly as such" (Remy & Servais, p. 80). The sacred now survives in other than its traditional embodiments of communal ritual and myth, it is cloaked in the guise of individual quests for ultimate meaning, self-realization efforts, archetypal psychology, and archaic Western wisdom traditions like astrology, tarot, alchemy, and the Kabbala. Williams alludes to this privatized religiosity briefly: "For many people, the experience of the integration of the self with the cosmos, or the achievement of a sense of internal harmony, has been achieved (or approximated) not in the context of formal institutions but rather by the self or in a small group.... Many of these newer groups do not perceive or label themselves as specifically religious.... But the impact they have upon the individual participant resembles very closely that which has traditionally been the province of religion." (p. 16)
If indeed the astrological revival in the sixties and seventies and its growth through the eighties and nineties can be regarded as an attempt to recover the sacred in the midst of the profane confines of modernity then it seems necessary that those who practice and/or believe in astrology in some way be identified and that the elements of sacrality in astrology be described.
References of the 1st Chapter
- Ahlstrom, S. E. (1975). A religious history of the american people. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
- Bell, D. (1978). The return of the sacred: The argument about the future of religion. Zygon 13, 3 (September, 1978). 188 - 208.
- Bellah, R. N. and Glock, C. Y. (Eds.) (1976). The new religious consciousness. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Bellah, R. N. and Hammonds, P. E. (1980). Varieties of civil religion. San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers.
- Berger, P.L. (1969). A rumor of angels: Modern society and the rediscovery of the supernatural. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
- Birch, C. (1971). Purpose in the universe: A search for wholeness. Zygon 6, 1 (March, 1971) 4 -27.
- Campbell, C. (1978). The secret religion of the educated classes. Sociological Analysis, 39 146 -56.
- Coagley, J. (1968). Religion in a secular age. NY: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.
- Dean, G. and Mather, A. (1977). Recent advances in natal astrology: A critical review 1900 - 1976. Subiaco, Western Australia: Analogic.
- Eliade, M (1959). The sacred and the profane. Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc.
- Eliade, M.. (1954). The myth of the eternal return or, cosmos and history. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Greeley, A. (December, 1970). Implications for the sociology of religion of occult behavior in the youth culture. Youth and Society 2, (2) 131 - 140.
- Hampden -Turner, C. (1982). Maps of the mind. NY: Collier Books.
- Idinopulos, T. A. (1971). The erosion of faith. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, Inc.
- Luckmann, T. (1967). The invisible religion. NY: The Macmillan Company.
- Marty, M. E. (1976). A nation of behavers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Marty, M. E. (Summer, 1970). The occult establishment. Social Research 37:2 212-30.
- Merchant. C. (1980). The death of nature: Women, ecology, and the scientific revolution. San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers.
- Needleman, J. (1972). The new religions. NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.; Pocket Books, 1972.
- Outler. A. (Jan. 23, 1981) Recovery of the sacred. Christianity Today 25 21 - 25.
- Outler, A.. (Jan. 2, 1981). Loss of the sacred. Christianity Today 25 p 17.
- Remy, J. and Servais, E. (1973). The functions of the occult and mysterious in contemporary society, in G. Baum & A. Greeley (Eds.), The persistence of religion. NY: Herder and Herder.
- Roszak, T. (1972). Where the wasteland ends. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
- Roszak, T.. (1969). The making of a counter culture. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
- Weingarten, H. (1980). The naso international astrological directory, 1980 - 81 edition. NY: National Astrological Society.
- Williams, P. W. (1980). Popular religion in america. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice - Hall, Inc.
- Woolfolk, R. L. and Richardson, F. C. (1984). Behavior therapy and the ideology of modernity. American Psychologist, 39 (7) 777 - 786.
2. The Practice of Contemporary Astrology
Since astrology has little if any cultural legitimacy, one might expect its practitioners and believers to be located on the socioeconomic fringes of society. Were it this easy, the literature regarding this matter would be in consensus. The reality of this situation is that practitioners and believers are found in all segments across the socioeconomic spectrum. Astrology is found in a variety of forms performing various functions.
Wuthnow (1976), in a study of 1,000 respondents in the San Francisco Bay area, has found that the greatest commitment to astrology is indeed found among the marginal in our society. Implicit in his analysis is the assumption "that marginal persons tend to be dissatisfied with their lot and therefore resort to astrology as a means of coping with and escaping from their frustrations (p. 162). He writes that his inquiry "has given clear and consistent support ... namely that it appeals to the down and out more than to the socially privileged" (p. 164). His concluding statement contends:
But the greatest appeal of astrology appears to remain with the more traditionally marginal members of society. Interest and belief were about equally present among the young and old, but whether young or old, it was the more poorly educated, the unemployed, non-whites, females, the unmarried, the overweight, the ill, and the lonely, who were most taken with astrology (p. 167).
Additionally, he suggests that for this group astrology functions "in ways similar to, and indeed as a substitute for, more conventional religious commitments" (p. 167). In contrast to Wuthnow, sociologist Andrew Greeley (1970) finds that it is the upper middle class youth culture who have turned to astrology and related occultic disciplines as attempts to recover the sacred. Contemporary scientific, technological society has failed to provide them with fulfillment regarding religious functions. Namely, one can observe that the youth involved in these disciplines assert "that their sacred, mystical, or occult interests do indeed provide them with meaning, with community, with a contact with the transcendent, and with norms by which to live" (p. 137).
Historian Martin Marty (1970) has surveyed occult periodicals with special reference to astrology. He concluded that the literature is directed toward an audience which he terms the "Occult Establishment" and "gives every sign of being beamed at what is now usually called ‘middle America,’ ‘the silent majority,’ or ‘consensus - U.S.A"(p. 216). He further notes that there is a lack of communal impulse which is in line with Luckmann's (1967) notion of privatization. It is clear, however, that there is a religious impetus to this occult revival "with astrology at the base of it all running through the literature as a Grundmotif" (Marty, p. 216).
In another study by sociologists Daniel and Lin Jorgensen (1982) which attempts to identify members of the "esoteric community," they find that it is not a thoroughly homogenous entity. Their focus was upon a Tarot group but did not exclude astrological practitioners and believers in their comments about the "esoteric community." They found that this community is "marked in large part by participation in ‘psychic fairs’ ... [which] provide a crucial basis for social networks and solidarity" (p. 375). Their member identification supports Marty's contention of the middle class. They write:
Occult practitioners in the community studied are middle-aged, with a majority between thirty and fifty years of age. They are about equally divided between the sexes, with only a few more females than males. These people are predominantly white, middle class, and at least high school graduates: half of them claim some college, and a few people claim graduate degrees. The majority of these practitioners are, or have been, married, and they typically are parents (p. 377).
One other item of note from the Jorgensen study is that "a simple distinction between ‘magic’ and ‘religion’ fails to capture the manner in which occultists in the community understand and employ this knowledge" (p. 386). For practitioners and believers, their discipline forms a magico-religious philosophical system through which they understand their world. The Jorgensens argue that a functional distinction "between ‘magic’ and ‘religion’ is almost impossible to sustain empirically; and it is certainly not useful, except in the most ad hoc and a priori fashion.... " (p. 387).
The preceding studies demonstrate that there is no clear consensus regarding member make up of astrological practitioner/believers and other occultic disciplines. The members run the gamut between the poorly educated lower class minorities to the more highly educated white middle class. This situation is clarified when one considers that there are different types of astrology which function in different fashions.
In an article on astrology and French society, Claude Fischler (1971) acknowledges that astrology permeates all strata of society. Although he suggests that the majority of astrology’s prime adherents is comprised of women and youth in an urban milieu, he contends that various social classes approach astrology in different ways. Alongside the popular astrology of the mass media, there exists, he writes: "... a learned astrology, speculative and philosophical, which is inherited from, or is a renewal of, doctrinal occultism. One finds a so-called scientific astrology, comprising rationalism and seeking confirmation in statistics. Various astrological currents incorporate psychoanalysis, especially Jungian, in order better to approach subjectivity. We have also detected a specifically bourgeois, or at least elitist, astrology; a medical astrology coming to the aid of diagnosis; a business astrology to which some managers resort to support decisions made in the perpetual battle with chance and risks; a show business astrology (a milieu which is particularly sensitive to the combined whims of chance and the public--in other words, of glory). At the same time, a part of the counterculture ... heralds as prophecy and promise the age of Aquarius, and sees in astrology a path to existential revolution." (pp. 282 - 83)
Fischler goes on to suggest that astrology is closely linked with the advance and crisis of modernity, he writes: "Modern man also asks more and more questions about his identity. Family and birth, work and social status are no longer sufficient to situate and define the individual; in this area astrology appears as the tool of tools for insight and discovery." (p. 290)
Coincident with Fischler, sociologist of the occult, Marcello Truzzi (1972) has distinguished three levels of involvement with astrology. Truzzi's work is significant for it allows the observer to recognize that astrology is not all simply astrology. Levels of involvement shape the kind of member group which one finds and astrology functions in various fashions according to the level of involvement.
At the first and most superficial level of involvement are those people who read the newspaper and periodical astrology columns. These believers know their sun sign (the zodiac sign in which the sun was located on the day of their birth), but know little else about the "mechanics" of astrology. Truzzi feels that the overwhelming majority of believers (in the millions) fall into this category and are largely a middle-aged population.
At the second level of involvement are those people who possess some knowledge of the "mechanics" of astrology and have most likely had their horoscope or natal chart cast either by an astrological practitioner or by a computer service. These members have some knowledge of astrological language and reasoning. Truzzi suggests that this group is primarily of college age and numbers less than a half million. He further states that those people at the first two levels of involvement are mostly concerned with obtaining advice and prediction in strong contrast with the orientation of those at the third level of involvement.
According to Truzzi, at the third level of involvement are several thousand advocates. These people are very involved in the astrological literature and usually construct their own horoscope or natal chart. These practitioner/believers are generally not concerned with advice and prediction, but with astrology "as a highly complex and symbolically deep conceptual scaffolding which offers them a meaningful view of the universe and gives them an understanding of their place in it" (p. 22). Astrology for this group functions as a symbol system to respond to a "search for identity and for new sacred elements" (p. 22). It is this third level of involvement which is of key interest here. The literature produced by and for this audience most clearly demonstrates the hierophanic dimensions of astrological symbolism. For those readers unfamiliar with the term ‘hierophanic,’ it means the manifestation, disclosure, or revelation of the sacred.
The third level of involvement whose members have at best been only partially identified lacks an institutionalizing element, falling into that category of individualized quests for meaning. The communal impulse, when served at all, is met in the forms of lectures, workshops, and conferences where like-minded individuals can share ideas and experiences. So although it is difficult to identify the demographics of this group of practitioner/believers, it is possible to infer some things about them by surveying the current corpus of astrological literature.
The literature of concern are those works published from the sixties through the present and written by astrological practitioners to serve as guidebooks or manuals. These works invariably outline the author’s approach to the practice of astrology and help to define how astrology functions for the practitioner. Through a descriptive analysis of the literature, it is possible to understand what these practitioners say they are doing by practicing astrology.
Before proceeding, it is important to recognize that there are various traditional specialties within the discipline of astrology having a structural similarity but functional dissimilarity. All involve the construction of a natal chart or birth map which is a two-dimensional graphic representation of the solar system as viewed from a specific spatio-temporal locus. This locus is the time and place of birth or point of origin of an entity in the broadest sense of the word. This entity for example, can be a person, a collective, a nation, a city, an idea or question.
These various specialties within astrology are: (1) Mundane or Judicial astrology involving nations, political parties, various collectives, and the prediction of world political and economic events; (2) Physical or Natural astrology concerning the prediction of meteorologic, climatic, and geologic changes and events; (3) Electional astrology delineates the most propitious time to conduct business, sign documents, get married, change vocations or start a new enterprise; (4) Horary astrology has an oracular function and concerns the construction of a natal chart for the moment and locale a question was asked in order to divine the answer from the chart; (5) Locational astrology is concerned with matching the person with the most favorable environment in which to live for success; (6) Genethliacal or Natal astrology, the most common form of astrology, concerns the individual person and their relation to the cosmos. Natal astrology is the focus of present concern since it is most conducive to a clear description of the hierophanic dimensions of astrological symbolism.
In surveying available literature, approximately one hundred titles have been read in their entirety and close to the same number have been perused for additional information. In order that the material be more manageable, the works regarding natal astrology specifically can be usefully organized under five categories. These categories describe how astrology functions for different classes of astrological practitioners.
The first category is the astromantic. This category includes those works which are primarily predictive in intent. This is normally the literature directed toward those at the first level of involvement and is most commonly found as newspaper and periodical astrology columns and small paperbacks located at supermarket and pharmacy checkouts areas. The second category is the typologic. These works primarily typify or describe character traits of a person born at a particular time of the year. There is little or no emphasis on prediction in these works. This material can often be found in mass market bookstores. The third category is the soteriologic. Though these works may contain some predictive and characterological material, their distinguishing characteristic is their emphasis upon the soteriological or evolutionary themes concerning the human soul. These works answer the "why" of human events in terms of an evolutionary determinism. They are most easily located in those bookstores specializing in the occult and/or the metaphysical. While the typologic would generally be directed toward the second level of involvement, the soteriologic concerns those at the third level of involvement. The next category of works is the divinatory. These too are most commonly found in those bookstores catering to an occult audience. These works may also contain predictive and characterological elements, but their distinguishing aspect is the emphasis upon meaning and guidance in the individual's life in relation to cosmic purpose. This category lacks the determinism and moralizing tone that permeate the soteriologic works. The natal chart in the soteriologic material is something to be overcome and mastered. In contrast, the natal chart in the divinatory works is not an obstacle to one’s being but the truth of it, and is to be fulfilled. In addition, there is a class of works which can be termed therapeutic which blur the boundary between the typologic and the divinatory. They are a somewhat gray area coming out of the typologic but more than, and yet falling short of, the clear sacrality of the divinatory. All the categories coexist and none is pure nor exhaustive. Some works may blend and shade multiple categories. In what follows, each category will be examined and a representative member work cited. And finally, there is at least one element common to all the categories and fundamental to astrology. This is that the universe is perceived not as chaotic but as orderly in design whether by nature or divinity. Through the application of astrology, this order and design can be perceived and knowledge about humanity and the world gained.
Works that regard astrology in its astromantic function focus on the prediction of specific events in the life of the person being examined. A basic assumption appears to be a dualism of the person as an agent against the forces of the universe (i.e., the actual physical influence by celestial bodies upon the life experience of human beings). This category of works also has a fortuna dimension, by which is meant that the tone of the works regard the eventuality of certain events in the life of a person with an eye toward the judicial consideration of days and events as being intrinsically favorable or unfavorable, desirable or undesirable. These works advise and warn those who use them.
Although there is a claim to free will for the individual, the tone of the works is decidedly deterministic. A representative work is Sydney Omarr's Weekly Astrological Guide for Aries 1978 (1977) in which claims are made that an individual using astrological forecasts can control their own life and get "on the road to success in love, business, finance, health,--in every vital area of your life" (jacket cover). The work also claims what appears to be the inevitability of particular events: "Omarr's forecast of Nixon's downfall, the end of World War II in mid-August of 1945, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Roosevelt's election to a fourth term and his death in office...." (p. 121).
Another work in this category titled Destiny Times Six (dodgers, 1970), portrays the predictive destiny with a heavy hand. The author in anecdotal fashion describes a session with a client regarding the killing of a psychiatrist by the client's son. The author pauses in her narrative to state that "I am often asked the question: Could you have warned Grace G. [the client] if she had come to you before the accident? Of course I could have" (p. 21). She later writes, "Perhaps someday I will open Edward's chart [the son] and see his improvement clearly marked. Or I will only see that his sufferings will soon be over" (p. 63). There is no lack of confidence certainly in astrology’s capacity for reliable prediction. But it is not only the predictive element which is intriguing, these predictions are generally framed in a fortuna context, emphasizing desirable and undesirable events. For example:
We can see periods of good aspects ahead, when we urge our clients to embark on new projects, to take reasonable risks. But we can also recognize times when aspects are bad, when it is wise to lie low, withdraw. Certain planets are beneficent.... Others are more questionable: Mars which can mean both sex and violence.... In certain relationships to each other these planets can trigger explosive events [for us] (p. 21).
The astromantic category fairly well represents the function of astrology with which the masses seem most familiar, that of the prediction of concrete events in terms of a desirable/undesirable contextual framework. The underlying tone is that of a fixed destiny to which a person responds by embracing or avoiding. This would also be the type of astrology reportedly favored by the White House during the Reagan administration.
The typologic category primarily focuses upon a descriptive analysis of an individual's character traits. It tends to be nonjudgmental and nonadvisory. These works attempt to present a character typology of individuals for the purposes of classification. It is nonjudgmental to the extent that no birth chart is judged to be any better than any other. There is in the astromantic works, the underlying sense that there are fortunate and unfortunate zodiac signs and planets and that one might prefer a better chart than be cursed by an undesirable constellation of astrological factors. This does not seem an issue in the typologic category.
This category is more involved with the individual than with the events that happen to him or her. There is still a sense of dualism, of the individual in conflict with their environment but the focus is upon the person and their response to the world rather than the kind of events that confront them as in the astromantic category. In one of the better works in this category, Essentials of Astrological Analysis (1974) Marc Edmund Jones writes, "Character analysis is the phase of horoscopy to which the greatest attention has been given in this century ... and to this the present text is devoted exclusively" (p. 7). The works in this category function in a purely typological manner, astrological symbolism is translated into personality characteristics. Jones’ book is basically 400 pages of astrological factors and how these factors have been manifest in the lives of 174 well known people.
In the last twenty years a number of typologic works have emerged in the literature which are no longer nonadvisory character trait description. They deal with a descriptive analysis of the personality and they go beyond it to how this material can be applied to guidance and counseling. As mentioned previously these works comprise a distinct category termed therapeutic, a natural extension of the typologic as astrology moves into the field of the legitimate helping professions. This material is noteworthy because it is being produced generally by mental health professionals, highlighting an emphasis on understanding psychological dynamics and by having a prescriptive quality to it. It very much reflects the same medical approach to the person as contemporary psychology with its focus upon problem identification, causes, and treatment. Some of its practitioners include; Alexander (1983), Bogart (1996), Dobbins (1973), Greece (1977), Idemon (1992), Pottenger (1982), Rose (1982), Sasportas (1985), and Schermer (1989). This category may be the fastest growing area in astrology.
In a simple but lucid example from the literature, practitioner/author, Stephen Arroyo (1975) writes: "Those having too little emphasis on the earth element [in their chart] are not naturally attuned to the physical world, the physical body, or to the limitations and requirements of survival in the material plane. They can therefore be "spaced out" since they are not grounded in the here and now realization of their dependence on material things such as food, money, or shelter and other practical considerations.... This lack of contact with the material world ... can lead to the person feeling totally out of place in this world.... He often feels that he has no place to stand, doesn't fit into any niche in society's structure and often has trouble finding a life's work that is satisfying.... Those with a lack of earth can benefit immeasurably by consciously cultivating a regular schedule in their lives, setting aside definite periods for eating in a relaxed way, exercising moderately, and getting sufficient rest. In other words, by consciously accepting the limitations of the physical world, they can master it and make use of the sustaining power of the earth." (p. 115 - 16)
What Arroyo is doing here is personality description and then suggesting what can be done in order to accommodate problematical aspects of said personality. There is no fortuna tone in these works, existential conditions simply are, possessing both a satisfying and problematic manifestation. If the problematic outweighs the satisfying, the practitioner offers guidance in terms of behavioral or lifestyle changes. These therapeutic works present a multi-faceted and complex picture of humanity in contrast to the automatism of the astromantic and the simple trait description of the typologic. In the categories described above, the religious dimension of astrological symbolism is hardly if ever in evidence but in the two remaining categories the religious becomes quite clear.
In the soteriologic works, the focus is upon the salvation of the person. The works can be esoteric, as in Alice Bailey’s Esoteric Astrology (1950), or more exoteric, as in Isabel Hickey’s, Astrology, A Cosmic Science (1973). In either case, a person is regarded as spirit or soul embodied and evolving from the lower world of matter to the higher world of Spirit. There is a strong sense of teleologic purpose combined with the sense that something is amiss in human existence. Life on earth becomes a learning or testing ground for the soul. Through the use of astrology, the individual can speed up his evolution from gross physical existence to a higher spiritual existence. Several excerpts from Hickey's work exemplify this tone: "Truly it [astrology] is a spiritual science... An understanding of planetary influences allows you to take your life into your own hands and intelligently utilize the planetary influences that will help you in your evolution if you but will." (p. 5)
And again: "The physical planets are but outer forms through which soul energies manifest. It is these energies that affect us, . . . The soul is the unit of evolution. The personality is the unit of incarnation. When you become conscious of who you truly are--a soul using a personality through which to function--you will remember past lives. There is a Superconscious Mind ... where you can gain direct knowledge from the source of your Being." (p. 6) Also: "Each birthchart marks a step in the evolution of the soul and represents the character of the Self in the body and shows the environmental conditions necessary for the next step forward in consciousness.... He [the person] can pass by or pass up his opportunities; then he fails to pass his grades and is held back to do that grade over again until he is able to go on to the next grade. The true astrologer will be a healing agent and will know he is only the channel through which the Power flows." (p.275 - 76)
The vision in these few examples pictures a universe which is first and foremost a moral hierarchy, where separate souls embodied gain salvation from earthly existence through the gaining of knowledge, through experience, of the moral workings of the universe. Earthly existence is not the true home of the soul; in this sense, humanity is alienated. Each soul must overcome its birthchart (i.e., earthly conditions). This category is in marked contrast to the works found in the divinatory even though both may be considered to function in an explicitly religious sense.
Divinatory works focus upon the fulfillment of the birthchart as a set of celestial instructions given by what may be referred to as the Whole or God, viewing the birth map as a soul image, a psychic pantheon reflecting the various facets of soul unfolding in a life, one’s true nature. It is the person as an expression of a sacred universe, as an image of the anima mundi. It should be noted that the term divinatory is not being used in the conventional sense, but in the sense that Rudolf Otto (1923) expressed in his book, The Idea of the Holy. Divination "is not concerned at all with the way in which a phenomenon--be it event, person, or thing--came into existence, but with what it ‘means,’ that is, with its significance as a sign of the Holy" (p. 145).
These works have as their underlying assumption the classical Greek notion of "cosmos." As the exemplar of perfect order, the universe as "cosmos" was the Whole, a divine entity possessing positive value in its beauty and order. Humanity’s status was as an integral part of that Whole whose perfection resided in the integration of all its parts. The parts then condition the Whole but it is the Whole that gives meaning to its parts. Astrology then is divinatory in these works to the extent that the practitioner/believer feels that he or she is able to discover what his or her life means in the context of its positional value (i.e., the natal map) in relation to a "cosmos" that is by definition, sacred. If the individual can discover his place in the "cosmos" by the study of his natal map, he discovers his essential and existential meaning.
Physical existence in this category of works is not something to be painlessly gotten around (as in the astromantic), nor is it something to be overcome and mastered on an evolutionary journey (as in the soteriologic), nor is it to be manipulated (as in the therapeutic). It is rather something to experience, to be fully immersed in and attached to, to be deeply savored and suffered in wholeness. Earthly existence in and of itself, has intrinsic and a priori value, not a superficial value as in the soteriologic. Excerpts from these works express these ideas quite clearly: "... the individual person constitutes one particular aspect of the universal Whole... Is this universal Whole, focused at a particular point in space and in terms of the particular need for it at the exact moment of its emergence into independent existence... This means that man (...) is not outside of his birthchart. He is the wholeness of the chart. He is not in fundamental conflict with the energies of human nature ... for he is their harmony.... Every human being is a particularized aspect of the whole universe--or religiously speaking, of God (Rudhyar, 1972, pp. 41 - 43).
And again: "If some individuals consider themselves separate and alienated from humanity-as-a-whole and from the universe, and if they think they have to rule over their natural energies which they feel to be alien because they, as Souls, are exterior (and metaphysically superior) to them, this simply means that they do not realize what they are." (pp. 43 - 44)
These works in contrast to the soteriologic, are not so much ethical as they are aesthetic in their view of astrology. The following excerpt clearly demonstrates that: "Everything is "good" in its proper place and in relation to everything else. The Humanistic approach is a total Yes-saying to existence.... Every birth-chart is the "best" for the particular purpose of the individual to whom it refers, because he is, in structure and function, this art." (pp. 49 - 50)
The divinatory, unlike the typologic, is not only descriptive, nor is it simply prescriptive like the therapeutic, it takes astrology one step further into the transpersonal and sacred realm of cosmic integration. Whereas typologic texts for practitioner/believers may be felt to increase psychological understanding, and therapeutic writings aid problem solving, the works in the divinatory category additionally issue cosmic instruction. The birthchart from the divinatory perspective tells a person how he or she can "best fulfill his destiny" because everything in a chart "refers to the best [because the most natural] way of meeting life's experiences in an authentic manner (Rudhyar, 1972a, p. 46).
Summarizing briefly, the literature surveyed discloses several kinds of astrology of which the most widely known is Natal astrology. The literature on Natal astrology specifically arranges itself into five functional categories. Astrology "works" differently in each category for whom and by whom the literature is intended. In essence, each level of involvement as described by Truzzi has its own literature. The astromantic is intended for those at the first level of involvement and tends to be superficial, and oriented toward fortune telling and prediction of concrete events. Typologic works engage the second level of involvement and occasionally the third, as do the therapeutic. They are less event oriented, focusing more upon the individual and emphasizing astrology as a tool for psychological understanding and problem resolution respectively. The soteriologic works suggest the third level of involvement as do the divinatory, providing a kind of "sacred canopy" for their practitioner/believers. Their primary distinction might be most easily understood as a difference between an "other-worldly" (soteriologic) and a "this-worldly" (divinatory) orientation. Both of these categories are explicitly religious, the former viewing human existence as a testing ground and way station for the soul, the latter viewing the universe itself and consequently, existence as sacred or ensouled. One may say that the goal of the soteriologic approach is perfection (i.e., the overcoming of a flawed existence), whereas the goal of the divinatory approach is wholeness (i.e., the acceptance and savoring of a flawed existence).
The task in the next section will be an exegesis of the literature found in the divinatory category. This choice is for the following reasons. This category contains the writings of the late Dane Rudhyar, one of America's leading astrological thinkers and founder of the humanistic and transpersonal approaches to Natal astrology. Second, his works are widely known and generally more highly regarded than those in the soteriologic category. Rudhyar's writings are prodigious and relatively easy to obtain, as are the works written by those who claim an indebtedness to him. Last, even though the divinatory and soteriologic contain religious dimensions, the former appears more popular, more systematic, and easily amenable to such an examination.
Despite the incongruity of cultural illegitimacy, the attraction of astrology becomes more understandable when one considers the possible presence of an hierophanic dimension in its symbolism and practice. Hierophanic elements, like windows through which the sacred is apprehended, disclose the very nature of the sacred, drawing people toward it, toward cosmic meaning and purpose with mystery, awe, and fascination. The following section is devoted to the task of demonstrating the hierophanic dimension in astrology and in so doing, one may reasonably assume that this factor can in part account for the continued popularity and attraction of astrology in this era of modernity.
References of the 2nd Chapter
- Alexander, R. (1983). The astrology of choice. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
- Arroyo, S. (1975). Astrology, psychology, and the four elements. Davis, CA: CRCS Publications.
- Bogart, G. (1996). Therapeutic astrology. Berkeley, CA: Dawn Mountain Press.
- Bailey, A. A. (1950). Esoteric astrology. NY: Lucis Publishing Co.
- deJersey. K. (1970). Destiny times six. Philadelphia: M. Evans and Co.
- Dobyns, Z. (1973). Finding the person in the horoscope. Los Angeles: TIA Publications.
- Fischler, C. (1971). Astrology and french society: The dialectic of archaism and modernity, in K. Thompson & J. Tunstall (Eds.), Sociological perspectives: Selected readings. Baltimore: Penquin Books.
- Greeley, A. (December, 1970). Implications for the sociology of religion of occult behavior in the youth culture. Youth and Society 2, (2) 131 - 140.
- Greece, L. (1977). Relating: An astrological guide to living with others on a small planet. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
- Hickey, I. (1973). Astrology: A cosmic science. Bridgeport, CT: Altieri Press.
- Idemon, R. (1992). Through the looking glass: A search for the self in the mirror of relationships. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
- Jones, M. E. (1974). Essentials of astrological analysis. Stanwood, WA: Sabian Publishing Society.
- Jorgensen, D. L. and Jorgensen, L. ( Summer, 1982). Social meanings of the occult. The Sociological Quarterly 23: 373 - 389.
- Luckmann, T. (1967). The invisible religion. NY: The Macmillan Company.
- Marty, M. E. (Summer, 1970). The occult establishment. Social Research 37:2 212 - 230.
- Omarr, S., (1977). Sydney omarr’s weekly astrological guide for aries 1978. NY: The New American Library.
- Otto. R. (1923, reprint ed., 1968). The idea of the holy. London: Oxford University Press.
- Pottenger, M. (1982). Healing with the horoscope. San Diego, CA: Astro Computing Services.
- Rose, C. (1982). Astrological counseling: A basic guide to astrological themes in person to person relationships. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England: The Aquarian Press.
- Rudhyar, D (1972). Person - centered astrology. Lakemont, GA: CSA Press.
- Rudhyar, D. (1972a). The astrological houses: The spectrum of individual experience. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
- Sasportas, H. (1985). The twelve houses: An introduction to the houses in astrological interpretation. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England: The Aquarian Press.
- Schermer, B. (1989). Astrology alive: Experiential astrology, astrodrama, and the healing arts. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England: The Aquarian Press.
- Truzzi, M. (Winter, 1972). The occult revival as popular culture: Some random observations on the old and nouveau witch. The Sociological Quarterly 13: 16 - 36.
- Wuthnow, R. (June, 1976). Astrology and marginality. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 15:2 157 - 68.
All rights reserved © 2000 Brad Kochunas