THE NINTH STEP - Establishing a Proper Attitude
Toward Astrological Predictions
One of the most essential things to learn, as one undertakes the study of astrology, is the nature of the distinction between the two fundamental phases of astrological technique: the spatial phase, which refers to the study of the birth-chart (or of any set celestial pattern), and the durational phase, which deals with the related and periodical motions of celestial bodies through days, months and years motions which are recorded in the tables of the ephemeris. We have studied the meaning of this distinction mainly with reference to planetary aspect and their traditional classification into good and bad categories. I stated that what is called form or structure can be considered either as a space factor, or as a time factor. The structure of a birth-chart is a space factor; that is, a combination of shapes or more precisely of angular relationships (aspects). The chart as a whole has form, much as a painting or a statue has form. On the other hand, the columns of an ephemeris reveal another kind of form, similar to that defined in music under the name "sonata form," "fugue," etc. form produced by cyclic sequence and development, by repetition and rhythmic accents.
The modern astrologer follows ordinarily three basic types of procedure. First, he studies the birth-chart as a combination (or sum-total) of static and set planetary and cuspal position within the frame of reference of the zodiac. Then, he enters the realm of duration and time-sequence; and the studies what are called "progressions" (or "directions") and "transits." Some astrologers lay more stress on the former, others on the latter. In most cases both factors are calculated and given significance. It is usually from a study of progressions and transits that indications as to the future of the person whose birth-chart is being studied (the "native") are mostly derived; but many inferences as to future events in terms of basic crises of growth - can also be made from the birth-chart considered as the unchanging "blueprints" of the person's character and so-called destiny.
In the next chapter I shall discuss the precise meaning of transits and progressions, and their practical fields of application. But before we come to these more specific subjects it seems imperative for me to discuss the general matter of astrological prediction and the psychological attitude held toward such predictions. It is particularly important for the would-be astrologer to realize that the moment he enters the realm of duration and of processes of growth the realm of evolving and dynamic factors in actual experience he is confronted with problems which differ basically from those he meets while interpreting the once-for-all set birth-pattern. Philosophers might say that the latter deals with the factor of "being," the former with "becoming" yet these metaphysical terms may be more confusing than helpful.
It would seem best to say that the birth-chart (a space factor) refers to the abstract character of being, while the transits and progressions (time factors) refer to the progressive realization of being. To study a birth-chart is to study the "anatomy" of personality that is, at the physical level, the place which bones, muscles and organs occupy in relation to each other and within the boundaries of the organic whole, the body. On the other hand, the progressions refer essentially to the "physiology" and "pathology" of personality, that is, to the actual functioning of organs or more accurately, to the series of modifications brought by the process of living and of personal growth to the functions of the total organism of personality.
The anatomy of a person determines the physical (and to a large extent, the psychological) potentialities of life and character for this person. But what is determined is only a sum-total of "potentialities" not actual facts or events. A weak or twisted body may become either the structural foundation for a brilliant, successful individual, or the curse of a hopeless personality. Acute psychological complexes can serve the goal of self-realization or lead to fruitless neurosis.
When the astrologer interprets the birth-chart of his client and conveys to him the results, what he does or can do is to change to some extent the orientation of the client toward the basic foundations and possibilities of his life. Such a change of orientation can have far-reaching effects. In some cases it might be as effective as if the person were suddenly brought in contact with a new religious or social outlook, which, if eagerly accepted, would transform the substance or quality of his relationship to other men and to God. As the individual learns to see the constituent parts of his own personality in a new light, as he comes to reinterpret his obvious and painful weaknesses, his disturbing conflicts and his unclear hopes, by considering them in relation to each other, his attitude toward the failures, assets, gifts and aspirations which he counts as his own is bound to be modified. This change of attitude or orientation will be a step either toward more effective integration or toward greater disintegration.
In other words, what the astrologer tells to his client will build in him a complex picture. This picture will act upon his consciousness in a way basically similar to that in which the vision of the crucified Savior dying to redeem man's sins acts upon the "pagan" ready to be converted to Christianity. It is a powerful symbol, and it acts as such. In acts upon the person's imagination, far more than upon his rational analytical faculties. It establishes a new allegiance, a new polarization of the will which is always the servant of the imagination perhaps a new faith . . . or else, a new fear and a new sense of hopelessness or of optimistic self- indulgence.
The astrologer discussing the client's birth-chart is thus responsible for helping him to establish a new relationship between his conscious ego and the potentialities inherent in his total nature. It is, or at least it can be, an enormous responsibility, and as we saw previously it is a responsibility which essentially does not stop with a brief astrological reading. However, this phase of astrological interpretation the outlining of a picture of inherent individual potentialities as seen in the birth-chart and in no other way presents a type of normal and spiritual responsibility quite different from that incurred when the astrologer makes definite forecasts for his client on the basis of a study of progressions and transits.
In the first case, the natal chart picture, if wisely presented, has to stand against what the client knows about himself. The client if he is mature can refute it on the basis of his own experience. If some points brought forth in the interpretation arouse in him a sudden feeling of recognition if they "click" this indicates that he was prepared to receive the knowledge or the revelation. Otherwise he will normally refute the astrologer's findings as nonsense and as a proof of the lack competency of the interpreter. He can refuse to believe the truth or adequacy of the picture of himself presented to him; in fact the average person confronted with such a picture often closes his mind to it, forgets it promptly, or twists it to suit his own ideas about himself. Thus, the danger of the picture having disintegrating and negative effect is relatively small, provided the astrologer does not lack utterly in the most rudimentary knowledge of psychology and of human nature; also, provided the client is not a hopeless neurotic ready to believe in anything simply because it is astrological, especially whenever it happens to strike the negative aspect of his personality.
The situation is different where prognostications are made to an individual, because in this case the individual has no recourse against the impact of such revelations. He is almost totally unprotected against their possible negative effect. Even if he reasons himself out of being consciously affected by the forecasts, his subconscious memory does not let go. This is worse obviously if the event or trend prophesied is unfortunate and ff fear of its results is aroused which is the case in nine cases out of ten! but it can even have psychologically disintegrating effects when the thing expected is very fortunate, for it may lead to a self-satisfied expectancy blurring the edges of the individual's efforts.
As the astrologer seeks to "see ahead" in the client's life (and obviously this applies as well to his own life) he no longer deals with set and unchangeable celestial birth-patterns. He moves in a realm of forces in motion, of forever fluid relationship a realm in which, in the first place, anything may happen because there is no way whatsoever of limiting the range of possible influences; and, in the second place, the kind of expectation which an individual has of the future is a powerful factor in determining what is actually to come. One should never forget this point.
No man lives alone. He is part of a family, a group, a nation of humanity at large and ultimately of the entire universe. He acts upon that of which he is a part, but he is far more effectively acted upon by these various wholes of which he is a part. How, then, could an astrologer attempt to picture coherently and validly all these inter-related influences and mental impacts which assail any individual, especially in our wide open and chaotic twentieth century society? On the other hand, the future is not something that happens of itself outside of the individual. The individual's attitude towards it helps to create it; and this only makes it impossible to determine absolutely future events, it means that the astrologer assumes a great responsibility in conditioning his client's attitude toward the future.
All of which does not mean however that forecasts as such are unreliable and deceptive. Not only can it be proven statistically that predictions made by efficient and wise, thorough and personally unbiased astrologers hit a very fair percentage of accuracy, but one can easily see how astrological predictions can be correct and in which way and within which kinds of limits one can expect them to be reliable. The basic fact to keep in mind is that whatever happens to an organism (a body or a whole personality) can occur only within the limits of its capacity of response. Nothing can come out of a person which was not potentially within that person.
Translated into the language of astrological technique, this means that whatever may be the impact of planetary configurations and influences after birth, this impact will follow the lines of functional response shown in the birth-chart. Likewise whatever be the illness or unusual sense of exaltation which a man may ever experience, he will experience it with his body and psyche thus, within the limits set by the basic "anatomy" of his physical and psychical organism. The fundamental structure of an individual personality is the "law" and the "truth" of that personality, and all that comes to the individual is conditioned by this law and this truth.
I said conditioned; I did not say fated. The events of the inner or outer life may be a compensation for inherent defects or weaknesses. A small opening or a solution of continuity in the fabric of personality may become, under the pressure of social or cosmic events, a gaping hole through which forces of evil pour. Nevertheless there must have been a weak point in the armor of the personality if this occurred. The weak point must register in the birth-chart, and if this intrusion of elemental or destructive forces occurs, the astrologer should be able to see (by means of his various methods of probing into the dynamic processes of human living) how and under what basic circumstances this intrusion took place. To know this, of itself, might be of no great value to the afflicted person; but the wise astrologer can discover, besides, the particular frame of reference within which it happened thus essentially, why it happened.
Let us say that a Jewish citizen of Germany is persecuted and tortured during the Nazi regime. His individual reactions to the gruesome experiences are conditioned by what he inherently is as a human individual thus, by the potentialities found in his birth-chart. He may survive the ordeal more or less intact in his personality, or he may lose his mind or die. The type of ordeal, the conditions in which it occurred, and the timing should be indicated by some astrological factor or group of factors. But the student of astrology must realize that any number of factors could refer to this type of tragic event. Powerful transits, a concentration of progressed aspects, eclipses, etc. might be the astrological indicators. No one could say a priori and ahead of time which would be the fatal symbols and still less whether the Nazis would be at the time ruling Germany!
What is even more significant, psychologically and spiritually, is that the persecuted Jew might have suffered primarily, either because he was an individual predisposed to certain types of personal tragedies, or because he was a Jew living in Germany. For the individual to know that, indeed, is of great spiritual importance; for be can thus determine the "frame of reference" of his tragedy and the scope of his response to humanity and the universe and, as a result the scope of his responsibility (viz. his capacity for response).
The modern psychologist who belongs to Carl Jung's school of thought will at once realize the significance of the above statements, for he is accustomed to differentiate between the "personal" and the "collective" unconscious, and to refer the indications derived from dreams and other psychological factors to either field. The astrologer must evolve some similar type of technique if his interpretations and prognostications are to be of real value to his client. Above all, he should understand that the value of astrology psychologically speaking, at least does not reside in his ability to tell what is likely to happen (he can never say more!) as much as to help the client to understand fully and in terms of his total being what is happening, or has already happened.
Practically no one ever knows what his "total being" is. Most people live in a few corners of their nature, respond only with the periphery of their being, and never use more than a very small fraction of their brain cells and, in general, of their inherent potentialities. A birth-chart is such an abstract symbol (dealing only with a few basic functions) that it is impossible for the astrologer actually to deduce from it all that a client should like to know about his potentialities. Here is where the use of the progressions and transits comes in; for by studying them the astrologer may be able to learn which of these many potentialities will be accentuated through the process of actual living, which ones will focus the attention of the native or be brought to his attention by the pressure of his personal and social relationships. He may learn also approximately when these focusings will take place, and under what general type of circumstances. This knowledge, if properly used, can contribute to the attainment of a fuller, richer more total personality.
What happens to us is what needs to happen to us. As we go on living and experiencing, we relate ourselves with men, with collectivities and with a universe which is dynamic and impersonal. We encounter historical tides, waves and undertows. They move according to vast social and cosmic rhythms. Like radios being tuned in on this wave-length or that other, we experience these historical waves according to our own ability to respond to them our selectivity. The "progressed aspects" made by our planets indicate changes in tuning and in our modes of response. But we can get through our receiving apparatuses only what is there. We may tune in to a wave of Uranian rebellion against binding relationships. The astrologer can tell us when we shall do it; but he cannot tell us what this Uranian wave will bring to our consciousness. It may be a local political fight, or an opening for a new demonstration of our capacity for initiative. It may be a planet-wide upheaval.
The former instance might stir us into the type of responsive action which would give us local prestige and power the local frame of reference being something which we can constructively encompass and successfully deal with. But we might be a German Jew living during the years of national or world-wide persecution; and in this case, our rebellious Uranian response to life would probably lead us into situations, and against collective forces, which we are utterly unable to meet constructively. We are overcome; the Uranian crisis has proved destructive but no one could have predicted the substance and social circumstances of such a tragedy. What could have been predicted is only that we would tune in at such a time to a Uranian type of historical wave. Most of us can handle a small town's historical processes; very few can deal with world history and retain their integrity or health.
As we shall see presently, progressions deal theoretically with the way we tune in to the various wave-lengths of experience and create our opportunities, while transits refer primarily to the impact of the outside world upon us that is, to the realizations forced upon us by our participation in the various private and public groups to which we have voluntarily given (or been compelled to give) our allegiance. Yet, in practice the two types of astrological factors are constantly interwoven. We cannot separate their effects, no more than we can separate the fact that we act as whole persons, according to an individual rhythm of growth or disintegration, from the fact that we act as parts of human groups and collectivities which move us and mould us, whether we are aware of it or not.
We should also never lose sight of the fact that we obey a definite rhythm of organic development, within a basic span of life, simply because we belong to the human species, genus homo sapiens. Thus planetary progressions and transits should be interpreted with reference to the human possibilities defined by the age of the individual.
In view of all this, we must therefore conclude that while the determination of the abstract nature of our individuality (the spatial pattern of our birth-chart) is a theoretically simple matter (even though becoming very complex if one attempts to bring the abstract indications to the level of basic actualities of temperament and character), the determination of the manner in which this individuality becomes revealed and fulfilled throughout the intricate cycles of life is most difficult. It is actually an impossibility, if by "determination" we mean the description of series of exact events to be expected as fated occurrences.
A single human individual represents a small cycle within an unending series of larger cycles, concentric and eccentric. All these cycles interact and interpenetrate. Nothing is isolated. No organism grows in a vacuum from birth to death, from seed to seed. All that the astrologer can reveal, while studying the case of an individual, is the time when the rhythm of this individual's cycle will become modified by inherent organic changes or by the results of having become related and open to the energies streaming from larger organic wholes of which be has become a part, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly.
No one can tell in advance what these results will be. Once the door is open, once the relationship is made (or broken), almost anything may happen. It happens it is true essentially in one particular direction, or in its polar opposite; but the exact nature, and especially the scope, extent and implications of the happening are incalculable. They cannot be known simply because one cannot know how the next larger organism will itself be related, at the time, to still larger ones. You open the dike through which the water of the stream connects to a river, which connects with the sea. You expect a few cubic feet of water; you may have to face a tidal wave. You expect a trout - and behold here is a man-eating shark! Astrology, as we know it today, cannot determine which of the two eventualities will come. It can only inform you that you will want to open the dike at a certain time and most likely will open it. From then on, the risk is yours.
In another sense, the prediction is of the same nature as that which the astronomer makes of the coming of spring at the time of the equinox. Spring will come: this is a general, abstract statement. But the actual concrete results of spring warmth, green leaves, flowers, and a happy sense of rebirth may come late in February or in April, because the precise crossing of the equator by the sun, while basic, is not the only factor in the change of climate and the growth of planets. Spring will come; but what kind of spring? What will it bring to mankind? To this also the astronomer can give no answer.
Likewise the astrologer can see that a definite number of days or years after the individual is born, Jupiter and Saturn win interact in the form of a square. From this and other factors he can deduce that a crisis in the development of the individual will come during a certain year or a little before, or a little later after. He may estimate with fair accuracy the basic character of the crisis, of the human need which it will focus, of the general type of individual activities and of circumstances which will be involved in that crisis. What he cannot foretell is, either what exact events will bring the crisis to a focus, or the manner in which the individual will respond to its challenge.
Every crisis is a challenge. Every definite progressed aspect or transit is an opportunity for transformation, expansion or purification. It is a door which opens upon the vast ocean of life and of the collective, universal unconscious. The main task of astrology is to help us to meet what comes to us through the threshold, and not that of speculating on some still remote openings of doors as yet unrecognizable. Every step forward every crisis of growth is a loss of balance at once counteracted by an equilibrium-restoring effort. If one tries to take two steps at a time, one falls.
The wise man knows this. He has no concern for problems which have not yet come. Yet in his understanding of the cyclic activity of nature he can take an impersonal long range view of things. By studying nature and nature's cycles he prepares himself to meet whatever nature has in store for him or for any other person to whom he is related. He learns the laws of change, he refuses to cling to forms and to fear the challenge of the new. He also refuses to worry about the new which is not yet born, not perhaps even conceived. He is wise, because he is as free of the future as he is of the past.
Such a wisdom is as difficult as it is rare. Yet without it, predictive astrology serves no valid psychological purpose.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1969 by Dane Rudhyar
and Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
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