Four Levels of Interpreting
Human Experience and Astrological Data - 1
Signs and symbols are produced in order to answer human needs.
But there are various kinds of needs. The psychologist Abraham Maslow spoke of a hierarchy of needs, some very basic and a manifestation of what in my book, The Faith That Gives Meaning to Victory
(1942), I called "man's common humanity", others less vital or crucial. In my recent book, Beyond Individualism: The Psychology of Transformation
), I speak of a hierarchy of functions
rather than of needs, for the basic fact is that human beings can operate at several levels of activity and in terms of a consciousness whose scope and power of mental association and abstraction increases at each successive level.
Four Levels of Human Functioning
All human beings operate at the biological level
as physical organisms, as bodies. They act and react in order to satisfy a few basic organic functions such as oxygenation through breathing, blood circulation, metabolic food-assimilation, adaptation to changing temperatures and existential situations, self-protection through a complex system of nerve impacts and transmission, and self-reproduction through sex. Each of these fundamental functions has what we might call psychic overtones manifesting as drives, emotions, and an overall sense of being a particular organism whose singular characteristics differentiate it from other human organisms.
Synthesizing, as it were, all basic biological needs is the need for security, not only as a particular person, but more deeply still as a member of the human species; for, at the biological level, the preservation and expansion of the species as a whole is actually of greater concern — unconscious though it may be — than the safety of any particular body belonging to that species. As in all animal species, the single organism (the specimen) is always expendable; what really counts is what might happen to the species. This is the real basis of our concern with what happens to babies, or even embryos, and the very deep unconscious foundation of mother-love — for the child symbolizes the perpetuation and future of the human species. Even in our period of complex and intellectual civilization, people go to great lengths to try to preserve the remaining specimens of an endangered species; and this concern is a faint reflection of what remains in the modern mind of the purely biological state of consciousness — a sense of biospheric guilt.
When, on the basis of the need for security, human beings find in themselves the urge to come together and unite their strength against inimical forces or animals — not merely according to biological descent (the family grouping), but beyond or outside of the deep organic and psychic bondage to such strictly biological types of relationships — the sociocultural level
of functioning is reached. At that level, the human being is more than a biological organism — a "body" — he or she becomes a "person". No human being should be called a person unless he or she has become a functional participant in a social collectivity. Social participation at the level of physical activity produces psychic overtones, which, being common to all the participants, are gradually and inevitably organized
, into a particular "culture", or to use a modern American term, a "way of life" But a culture is really far more than a manner of living. Culture establishes itself within the collective psyche of a community as a power that controls the basic emotional responses to everyday living and the collective mentality (primitive and instinctual or more formally developed as it may be) of all the human beings born within the social organism and subjected throughout their growth to the religious beliefs, taboos, and mental assumptions of the community or tribe.
Most human beings today are still primarily
controlled by biological drives modified and particularized by sociocultural forces. These forces are related to a specific racial temperament and the environment in which ancestors gradually formed a culture and thus a collective character transmitted from generation to generation. Nevertheless, for at least two-and-a-half or three millennia, a powerful and relentless trend toward "individualization" has developed, especially in the Western world since the Crusades, the beginning of Humanism and the European Renaissance. This trend has been given power by the development of the analytical and rational mind — since the 6th century B.C. in India with the Buddha, as well as in classical Greece — and the new, little understood yet deeply felt belief that every person has within himself the power to act, feel, and think as a unique individual
. This individual, being symbolically considered in Christianity as a "son of God" and. in Greek philosophy as a "rational" being, was thought therefore to be superior to all biological and social compulsions. The individual was indeed superior to, and essentially independent from, the whole earthly stage on which he came to play some kind of rather incomprehensible part. This playing of a part was often given the meaning of learning a series of lessons which apparently require being, as it were, thrown into "human nature" — a nature essentially alien to Man's immortal Soul.
The present result — perhaps an end result — of such a trend toward an even more accentuated type of individualization has been our individualistic American society in which the individual is officially glorified and theoretically given an absolute value as well as "inalienable rights" — and very few duties, usually perfunctorily performed and in conditions which today often make their performance quite meaningless.
When a human being, having become a sociocultural person, is actually able to operate, (or at least consciously and emotionally claims
to be able to operate as a truly autonomous individual regardless of sex, color, race, class, or religion), new needs take form in this individual's consciousness; and they have to be met. These needs are particular to each individual; yet, they take specific kinds of forms for various groups or classes of individuals. While all these individuals are trying in some manner to assert their individuality within
the particular culture in which they were born and educated, they have also very often to against
the rules, taboos, and mental assumptions of that culture. Their needs thus create for them more or less acute problems which the social, cultural, and religious organizations based on the paradigms and taken-for-granted beliefs of the collective past may not be able to solve, just because these problems have an inherently antisocial and anticultural character.
Within these individuals (or individuals-in-the-making, rather), primordial biological drives and "programmed" sociocultural attitudes are still operative, usually as a deep, partially unconscious, and unrecognized type of bondage to the all-human biological and the more specialized sociocultural or religious levels of existence. Conflicts thus arise, which are often highly destructive or at least confusing if not bewildering. To meet these conflicts in a state of greater awareness and understanding, and to provide valid answers to the problems inherent in the process of individualization, can be the task that a particular kind of astrology can perform. But such an astrology must be geared to the demands of individuals as they have to deal with the generic and collective factors within themselves as well as with the uncertainties of their relationships to other individuals. Such relationships always have a more or less insecure, uncertain, and ambiguous character because they are no longer founded upon the solid basis of commonly accepted sociocultural responses, as they were at the sociocultural level. At the individual — or individualizing — level, they are instead subject to the vagaries of egocentric reactions and personal feelings.
level of consciousness and activity is thus the third basic level at which human beings can operate. This level has also its own specific needs, the fulfillment of which requires the use of a new type of symbols — or a new type ofinterpretation
of old biological imagery and cultural-religious myths.
On the foundation represented by the individual level, a fourth level is possible: the transpersonal
level. And the word transpersonal, as I use it, does not merely refer to what is beyond the personal. It implies a "descent" of power that meets, as it were, the aspirations or "ascent" of the human person who, having concentrated a long series of efforts toward the goal of actually becoming a free and autonomous individual, eager to stress his or her uniqueness and originality, has found these efforts leading to serious crises of belief and identity. During such crises, many confusing experiences and perhaps unclear revelations may take place — new feelings the individual could not account for, new visions and yearnings to merge with some mysterious subliminal reality, a new sense of "belonging", but not knowing really to what, and quite often hearing some strange internal voices.
All these largely unexplainable inner occurrences — most likely matching and often superseding outer shocks or psychosomatic illness — are expectable once the trend toward individualization and autonomy reaches an acute and perhaps dangerous state. As this happens, the experiencer may react emotionally and violently by rushing in the opposite direction, for instance longing for communal living and/or religious security — whether along the lines of ancestral patterns, or following some glamorous, exotic personage or tradition. Whatever the case, conflicts and uncertainties are hardly avoidable. Guidance is sought. The need for new symbols, for a new mythos
may become insistent.
Astrology can provide an answer to this need, just as it has proven able to meet the needs developing at the level of individualization. But in order to answer effectively and convincingly the needs of the new level of consciousness, a different type of approach to astrology is again necessary. A new light has to be thrown upon the old symbols derived from visible discs or dots of light in the sky. New ones have to take form to meet the demands of as yet unfamiliar crisis-situations — and modern astronomy has provided us with potentially usable and most significant foundations for the birth of a new astrological mythos
. On these foundations, a transpersonal kind of astrology may be built, not actually to "solve" personal problems, but to transcend them by illumining the process that produces them, and what is still more important, by suggesting how they can used
in terms of a new kind of purpose.
(Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books, 1979). Return