“We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.” Carl Gustav Jung
his summer a fellow astrologer and I decided to teach a basic astrology class here in Miami called “Astrology Summer School.” I was putting together the slides for the first class and wanted to convey what astrology really is beyond the trite association with sun sign horoscopes. Astrology gets a lot of slack from the astronomical community because it’s not a science exclusively. And I say exclusively because astrology is in part a science. There is a left-brain aspect to astrology that requires an understanding of planetary motion, phases and cycles, and various mathematical concepts. We can empirically measure where Saturn is in relation to the sun. We can observe the speed of a planet.
And astrology isn’t exclusively a science because it combines the idea of symbols and stories to the planets and cycles. This is the right-brained, “art” part of astrology. Just like the visual artists who takes an idea and creates a representation of it on canvas, so the astrologer creates a story based on the ideas presented in the chart. While each astrologer will have his or her own unique way of telling the story, it will remain the same story at its core.
When it came time for me to create the presentation slides for the introductory lecture I had to sit back and evaluate what I believe astrology to be. And this is what I came up with:
Astrology is the Study of Time
If nothing else, astrology is the study of cycles. Like the above quote by esteemed psychologist, Carl Jung, what we’re watching is the movement of the planets around us. These cycles are what create time. The earth rotating on its axis while rotating around the sun creates the basic structure of our system of time- days and years. Each moment is part of a progressively larger cycles, so there is an interocnnectedness among all the elements.
The cycles of the planets have a correspondence with the cycles of personal and cultural development; and not because of some gravitational pull (although that’s never been disproven) but because the rhythm of the universe is present in the largest pieces of the cosmos and it’s present in the smallest atoms of existence. We’re participants in the universe, and so experience its ebb and flow.
Astrology is the Study of Fate
Astrology illustrates our energetic imprint. Each one of us has a unique destiny. And that destiny is the sum of our inheritance, choice, and chance. Our inheritance is what we come in with, our DNA. Science is continually proving there is no clear cut line between nature and nurture, but that there is a symbiosis between the two. Our choices are the exercise of free will in each moment that creates our reality. And chance is fate- those invisible forces that conspire to guide the outcome in a particular direction.
Astrology asks us to confront our ideas about fate, for if the stars can influence our actions then how and where does free will play into the picture? It’s helpful to remember that astrology is good at describing conditions, not outcomes.
Astrology is a Symbolic Language
Astrology is a visual language. It uses symbols for the signs and planets to describe how our energy is expressed in the world. The meaning of the symbols comes from mythology- those stories that are always true (meaning they transcend the present moment). These symbols have multiple levels of meaning, but combine to accurately describe our human condition.
When I say the word “tree” you get an image in your mind. It may not be the tree outside of your window, but it’s a “tree.” That’s called an “archetype.” Its’ not a specific tree, but it’s what a tree generally looks like: trunk, bark, branches, leaves. The symbols in astrology offer a language to help describe our experience in a way that is universal and at the same time personal.
What Astrology Isn’t
Astrology ins’t a religion. It’s agnostic in that it doesn’t favor one faith over another. What it does assume is a universal energy that permeates us, the world, and all that exists.
Astrology isn’t witchcraft. Astrology is its own system that simply looks to the mythology of the symbols we’ve chosen to represents the time keepers of the universe, namely the planets. There are many kinds of astrologers who each bring his or her own experience to their craft, regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliations (or not).
Astrology isn’t a strict science. As I mentioned above, astrology is a combination of art and science. It relies heavily on the ability to accurately interpret the symbols in a chart. Anyone can learn this ancient symbolic language and it’s not dependent on an individual’s personal psychic abilities.
Astrology isn’t the sun sign columns in the newspaper. Astrology, as practiced professionally, is a rich, deep, and intricate system. The sun sign columns in the newspaper look at one single factor (out of over 34,000 possible sign/planet/house combination, let alone the aspects and other astrological considerations).
Astrology is informed by your “world view.” Do you believe the world is just a rock floating around in outer space with no real connection to the cosmos or a deeper spiritual awareness? Or do you believe that you’re a part of a universe that is alive? How you perceive your place in the world will also influence your perception of astrology as a collective intelligence.
Astrology is a rich language that has been around for thousands of years and continues to grow in popularity as more and more people become aware of their connection with the earth and the universe as a whole. If you’ve never had a professional astrology reading then I would suggest having one before making any assumptions about what can and cannot be understood from the chart.