The Practice of Astrology at the Transpersonal Level - 4
The Birth-Chart as a Symbol of Individual Karma
A birth-chart calculated for the precise time and place of the first breath of a human organism is the foundation
of a transpersonal as well as a person-centered interpretation. It represents what a human organism — which has the possibilities of becoming first a "person", part of an organized community (sociocultural level), then an "individual" emerging as a self-actualizing, autonomous "I", and last, of growing beyond this state of strictly individual selfhood — starts from
The birth-chart refers to all that conditions
the possibility of a human being's growth. But by saying "conditions," I do not mean "determines." Conditioning refers to a base from which one can operate in any direction; the character of this base conditions what one is as one proceeds, but it does not determine what one will do and, still less, think
. For instance, the fact of being born as a member of a minority group in a city tenement indicates in social terms what the person starts from, and this "conditions" the nature of the person's experiences in childhood and youth; yet it does not "determine" whether he or she will become a heroin addict or the executive of some important business firm — both possibilities are there. The birth-chart of many an artistic or literary genius is often very similar to that of a psychotic in a mental institution.
Objectively understood, what we see in a birth-chart is the state which the solar system, viewed from the Earth, has reached at a particular moment. This state is a composite of the cyclic motions of all the planets, including the rotating motion of our globe around its axis. This birth-chart is a "snapshot" of an immense continuum of activity in which all the planets, the Sun, Moon, and stars participate. We seem to have arrested that complex motion when we take a picture of it with our "astrological camera", the birth-chart; but, in fact, the cyclic movements keep on going, each according to its own rhythms. The patterns produced by the relationship between any two or three of the moving celestial bodies will keep repeating themselves, as they have in the past. But they interact with other patterns in always new ways, unless we postulate a definitely limited universe.
The birth-chart is thus not a static picture drawn by a cosmic architect imagining fanciful buildings. This is why to speak of a birth-chart as the "blueprint" of personality, while it is a convenient and at a certain level valuable simile (I have used it extensively myself), it is nevertheless not really an accurate statement of fact.
If we focus our attention on the personality of an individual and try to discover what we can expect of it as a whole at a particular time and in order to satisfy a particular interest or purpose, we can assume that it has a somewhat monolithic "character". But in fact a person is not a static entity that can be isolated from the forever moving universe — as for instance a statue. A human being is a small area of space in the midst of the immense wave which is the evolution of mankind. It is an area into which a vast number of ancestral currents of — we may want to assume psychic, mental, and spiritual forces that, when seen in their interrelated state, we call "past incarnations" — converge
Every human being is the convergence of a multitude of dynamic currents of energy and memories unrecognized, yet latent, and susceptible of being revived. The past of a countless number of atoms, of genetic patterns always seeking to repeat themselves, so great is their inertia, of cultural endeavors, and discoveries that have generated currents of energy as yet unexpanded — and, if one believes in individual
reincarnation, of spiritual decisions which created either fulfillment in success or failure: all of this past acts in a new combination at the moment of birth. Every human life is, I repeat, but a brief moment in the total evolution of mankind — a drop of water within an immense wave, rising or breaking. When a baby is born, this evolution does not stop; the planets do not cease revolving around the Sun, nor does the Earth stop rotating around its polar axis. Because all these motions have inertia, every present moment in a dynamic process is founded upon a never-entirely-ended past. But every present moment, because of the same inertia, also contains a future in potentiality.
The realization of this fact has given rise to the concept of causality: every event has causes and will be the cause of future effects. This is also the basis of the Hindu concept of karma
, which has become greatly materialized and emotionalized in India as well as in America. As the birth-chart symbolizes what the past of a particular evolutionary strand in the total evolution of mankind has led to, the birth-chart can therefore be considered to represent the karma of the newborn. This newborn is the result of millions of causes which, when considered together constitute his or her karma; and, being dynamic currents of energy, these causes will produce effects. What so many people fail to realize is that we can give different interpretations to the fact that all these currents have converged to form a particular human being.
When interpreted in a materialistic sense, the principle of causality leads to determinism. It has thus been said that if all the causes operating in the past were known, their effects, and even the future effects of these effects acting as causes, could also be totally known. Causality leads to the concept of predetermination. The fallacy of such an idea is that it considers the operation of forces only at one level - the physical level. It is fashionable today to speak of this type of thinking as "linear" thinking. From my point of view, which I expressed in my book, The Planetarization of Consciousness
) it concerns itself with only what are called "horizontal" relationships — the relationship between entities operating at the same level of activity and consciousness.
The relationship of a newborn to his ancestors is a horizontal relationship, because it links in a linear sequence entities operating at the same biological level. Similarly, if by reincarnation one means the successive reappearances of the same entity, and one does not take into consideration any other factors except this entity periodically passing from the state of consciousness in a physical body to that of consciousness in a "body" made of non-physical substance, this too refers to the "horizontal" type of relationships between a series of incarnations, each one being the effect of previous causes (karma), and becoming the cause of future lives — i.e., generating new karma.
The situation takes on a different aspect if we use the principle of holarchy as a basis for our interpretation of causality and karma. We then have to consider not only the relationships between entities operating at the same level, but the interaction between greater Whole and lesser wholes-that is, between entities operating at different levels. One can call the latter type of relationship "vertical", though it is actually quite an unfortunate, even if convenient term. This so-called vertical type of relationship is rather one of encompassment
: the greater Whole encompasses all the lesser wholes participating in it.
If one understands the implications of this concept, the whole picture of the world-process and of the possibilities inherent in the state of individual existence radically changes. The cause-and-effect principle working in "horizontal" sequences and karmic relationships is not in any way negated, but it is seen to refer to only one type
of relationships. The "vertical" type introduces into human existence — and into the operations of all that exists in the universe — a new factor in the light of which many things that have so long appeared mysterious and miraculous can be interpreted in a simple and at least potentially understandable manner. For vertical relationships refer to the direct influence or impact (perhaps the "blessing" or healing power), of a greater Whole upon the lesser whole — thus of Humanity (as the planetary Being), or of some "divine Hierarchy" upon men and women in need of help or inspiration.
This directly applies to the transpersonal interpretation of an astrological birth-chart, because in light of it what is seen in the chart can be given a new meaning. The picture presented by the chart is still understood to represent the starting point of the individual. It depicts the convergence (and indeed focusing) of past cycles of activity into a new human being, thus his or her karma. But it can also have another meaning. It can be seen to represent the meaning and purpose with which the greater Whole, Humanity, has invested this birth — thus the dharma
of the new human being.
Aurora Press; Santa Fe, 1977. Return
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