In concluding this book,
a few essential points should once more be stressed.
The first is that while all astrologers, past and present, use the periodic motions of discs and points of light across the sky as symbolic means to discover the principles operative in a universe which they feel certain is ordered and meaningful, each cultural or religious tradition to which these astrologers belong interprets the order and meaning of the universe in a different manner. In other words, there is only one astrological field of observation — the sky and the motion of celestial lights across it — but many astrological systems and traditions. Similarly, one could say that all human beings have a religion which gives a particular form to their deep feeling of what the relation of Man to the universe as a whole is; but there are many religions, including those that deny the existence of what others call gods or God. One can also speak of science as the result of man's attempt to organize the knowledge he is able to obtain in one way or another; but each culture has its own characteristic manner of organizing and defining knowledge.
Each culture has thus a more or less characteristic religion, social organization, art, science, and astrology; and these equally important products of human consciousness can operate at one level or another, each level being defined by the character, quality, and inconclusiveness of the operative consciousness.
Astrology — just as religion, philosophy, the arts, or science — is a symbolic system. It interprets as well as organizes the results of collective — and in some special cases, individual — experience. To cast an astrological chart in the way it is done today is just as symbolical a process as painting an oil painting destined to be framed and exhibited in a home or museum, or writing a complex orchestral score, or filling a page of paper with algebraic formulas whose meaning only a trained mathematician can understand. All these totally different activities have essentially the same basic purpose: the formulation in a particular way of what human existence implies and means, whether the meaning given is personal or impersonal, positive or negative, harmonious or discordant.
Archaic astrologers spoke of the planets and stars as the light-bodies of gods; classical astrologers gave them mythological names symbolizing their assumed character; and modern astronomers see them as masses of matter in one state or another. These are different interpretations, using different symbols. Each was or is valid at the level of consciousness at which it was formulated. The names of the gods were mantrams, formulas of power — effective at the level at which the namers' consciousness operated and in the conditions of existence in which these namers lived and acted. In our technological era, the astronomers' and cosmophysicists' mathematical formulations are effective in enabling human beings to walk on the Moon or send radio messages via artificial satellites. Our modern technological universe is assuredly far vaster in a quantitative sense than the one of the old Chaldeans, but this does not necessarily imply that it is basically more significant or an inspiration for a more constructive, harmonious, and happy way of life.
In my approach to life, I assume that one can speak of a dynamic process of evolution from level to level; but other philosophers consider time and change as an illusion and assume that every possibility of existence is "now", either actually spread through infinite space or contained within an "absolute" state of being, beyond time and space. These are all interpretations of data finding their way by one path or another to the human consciousness — interpretations given a form by the mind using symbols. Whether these symbols are words, sounds, hieroglyphs, or numbers and algebraic formulas makes no essential difference. But the practical
differences are enormous. If we fail to recognize them, we wind up in a state of not only mental, but also emotional confusion — for our emotions are conditioned and often predetermined by the symbolic picture we, individually and/or collectively, make of the universe and our place and function (or lack of function) in this picture.
We do not know
what place we actually occupy in the universe, only the place we have in our picture
of the universe. In some pictures we are at the center of the scene and everything revolves around us, including the attention of the God we vaguely describe as the transcendent Creator of the universe. In another picture we are slightly more evolved animals on a planet revolving with others around small star, the Sun, which is only a small unit far from the center of a galaxy whirling through space in which billions of other immensely distant galaxies are also whirling.
These are all pictures symbolically representing collective states of consciousness. Similarly, all the data used in astrology are symbols. The manner in which we use them and our purpose in using them determine our state of consciousness and the character or quality of our activity. As however, the practice of astrology most often implies the relation between a consultant and a client, it is highly important for the consultant to adapt his or her interpretation to the level at which the client is able or desirous to respond to this interpretation. If this is not done, the client either does not understand and is disappointed by what he or she is told, or else gives to the interpretation a meaning that could be psychologically destructive — or considers the whole experience below the level of his or her intelligence or expectations.
It is therefore most important for anyone — astrologer or client — to understand that, even within the field of an astrological consultation in which personal problems, traumatic memories, and eager expectations are discussed, there is not only one way of approaching these matters and the most relevant astrological data. Even if the astrologer is not expected to act as a fortune-teller but is instead known to use a mainly psychological approach, it is possible that the client's problems, and his or her own state of consciousness and life-purpose, belong to a level at which the astrologer is not able to effectively and empathetically operate. The potential client should therefore be aware that there are several levels at which birth-chart, progressions, and transits can be interpreted. If the client is not aware of this, the astrologer should nevertheless realize that the case he is asked to deal with may be beyond this full understanding.
Just as a general practitioner or family doctor confronted with a difficult pathological situation sends his patient to a specialist, so if an astrologer is only used to dealing with people whose problems fall in conventional categories and is unable to operate beyond the strictly personal level, he or she should send an individual whose consciousness and motives have a more transcendent character to an astrologer operating at a more individualized and perhaps transpersonal level. It would be senseless and potentially dangerous for a mystically inclined individual experiencing a period of doubt and temporary confusion — a "dark night of the soul" — to go to a Freudian analyst for reassurance and guidance. At least such an individual should seek a Jungian psychologist.
The same situation can occur, and does occur today in many cases, with regard to the selection of an astrological consultant; and the problem this poses would presumably not be satisfactorily met by legalizing astrology and giving official diplomas to astrologers after a standardized kind of examination and test. Astrologers, as well as their critics, need to realize that there is not just one kind of astrology and only one level of interpetation. The level of interpretation should fit the level at which the person asking advice and guidance operates, or at least shows the possibility of effectively and relatively safely operating.
Unfortunately, in our society which in theory worships the ideal of individual freedom and individual equality, yet in fact functions in most instances according to collective values and standardized goals, it is difficult for most people — including psychologists, medical doctors, and astrologers — to accept the concept of a hierarchy of levels. Everybody has to be treated the same way, regardless of racial, cultural, class, and personal differences. Yet, wonderful and ideal though this concept of equality is at a spiritual level
, it cannot constructively apply at the level of personal psychology and in terms of the most effective and meaningful way of meeting the problems of individuals. Any sensitive psychologist or astrologer is aware of this during a consultation, but in most cases there is a tendency for a consultant to seek safety in standardized techniques.
Impersonality and objectivity and a traditional or official interpretation of symptoms are needed up to a certain point; but they can also be means to evade responsibility and play safe. Astrological aphorisms or statistical percentages can indeed be devices making it easier for consultants neither too brilliant nor intuitive to avoid taking personal risks when faced with non-routine situations. Any subjective evaluation is avoided as being unscientific, but what is really meant is unsafe
. Yet spirit is the subjective polarity of being. Religion refers to objective forms and collective symbols and values; spirituality essentially is a subjective factor.
What occurs during the process of radical transformation is that the subjective pole in an individualized field of human existence gradually shifts from one level to the next. The pleroma state of consciousness is a trans-individual kind of subjectivity. The whole is subjectively present and conscious in every one of the billions of participants in its activity. One might speak here of transsubjectivity
, though such a word has no realistic meaning except for those who have at least a faint glimpse of the implications of the transindividual state of being. The consciousness of the whole is present in all its parts, whose coherent and integrated activities bring to objective manifestation its subjectivity. At the pleroma level of transindividual existence, the whole does not have an I-center; because the center is everywhere
. This is what the famous phrase of the French philosopher Pascal (who was probably not its first author) tries to convey by defining God as a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.
According to the philosophy of holarchy I have been presenting, the universe is not only a hierarchy of wholes; each level of wholeness, abstractly speaking, is characterized by a quantitatively
immensely larger circumference: and each change of level of wholeness requires a new qualitative
relationship between center and circumference — thus between subjectivity and objectivity. This, of course, is a highly metaphysical concept, but it also has extremely practical implications. The evolutionary path that individualized human beings can and eventually will tread does not lead to bigger and better men and women, but to "more-than-man".(1
Transpersonal astrology likewise is not to be thought of as a bigger and better kind of astrology; it is "more-than-astrology". It does not deal with a "whole-ing" process (or, as Jung conceived his kind of psychology, a "healing way"), but a transformative process. It can only be wisely used by men or women who have experienced at least a "rite of passage" marking the entrance to "the Path". In the past this passage and implications were a jealousy guarded secret, and involved harsh tests of personal
Initiation. The person, as a product of biology and culture, had to prove himself or herself able to surrender totally to a power essentially working from the outside. But once the individual status is reached and the principle of subjectivity operates at the center of an autonomous and self-actualized human being — as the individualized, subjective "I" — the passage to a transindividual level can occur in a more internal, more conscious, and presumably less formalized manner. Life itself, and the complex interplay among individuals or individuals-in-the-making, each struggling to assert autonomy and uniqueness, become the Tester.
As always, the first test is overcoming the inertia of the past. From a transpersonal point of view, the birth-chart represents the stage on which the Great War, like the one described in the Bhagavad Gita
, or in a different sense the alchemical Great Work, takes place. It also indicates the relative potential strengths of the factors involved in the conflict or transmutation. But this is only the beginning.
In theory, the newborn's first in-breathing
impresses the potential solution of the basic problems life will present upon his or her etheric body but there is nothing yet in the body to be conscious of and to hold this primordial revelation. The first out-breathing
(the "first cry") represents the answer of the body to the revelation — an unconscious, strictly biological response. Then life-in-the-body begins, as heart, lungs, and nerves become definitely interconnected according to the fundamental rhythm of the biological
selfhood. Eventually, a collective-socio-cultural personality develops through family contacts and education; then perhaps a truly individualized selfhood, at least relatively free from bondage to biology and culture, autonomous and self-actualizing.
If there is a step beyond individuality — if fulfillment
of individual selfhood is not accepted as an end in itself, but rather as an illusory goal that must be deliberately discarded — then the dynamic intensity of the process of transformation
increases. The birth-chart is now seen as an altar on which the fire of constant overcoming must burn. That fire can be watched by the transpersonal astrologer as he or she studies the progressions of the whole chart (and particularly of the Sun and the Moon), then the transits of the personal, social, and transformative planets. What counts is the dynamism of the process. Everything is seen moving, active, interacting — playing its role in the great drama of the transmutation of the "I" into the "We", of individual consciousness into Pleroma consciousness.
Thus a new astrology takes form — always challenging, never to be fully objectivated and solidified into the safe patterns of standardized meaning: transpersonal astrology, to be used only by
individuals and for
individuals in whom the fire of transformation burns.
This fire is a subtle power, relentless in its consistency. It flows up, in antiphony with the descent of spirit-manifesting light. It is a song that has forgotten the notes many cultures have produced during many individual lives. At times, this song may seem tragic, even ruthless, but it always is inherently peace. It is the song of the Sage within the heart — a song of love escaped from the prison of pain. In it, the Yang of spirit and the Yin of transhuman desire blend in a silence that is wisdom — that is nothing, yet embraces everything. It is the Whole singing Itself "I" in a myriad of silences.
Cf. in my book Fire Out of the Stone