Why Astrology?

Leonardo da Vinci, “Vitruvian Man”, Italy, 1490. Man in perfect proportion.

Like many, my study of astrology began when I was a teenager. I found a paperback copy of an astrology book called “Astrology Interpreted”, by a woman named Charlotte Abell Walker. It was written in 1928. It was unusual in that it seemed to be a ladies’ parlor curiosity, and one could imagine it being read aloud at parties, to the general amusement of the crowd. It also had another anomaly, in that it began the astrological year with the sign of Capricorn, a detail which I would only understand as unique many years later, as most astrologers consider that Aries begins the astrological procession. Despite the strangeness of the volume, I was immediately fascinated. Who wouldn’t like a book that strives to describe the particulars of human personality, specifics of how we interact with the world, and with one another? Intrigued by what I had found, I was hooked.

I found myself looking for astrology books whenever I could, shyly scanning the small occult sections of the local bookstores, seldom finding anything beyond the popular yearly horoscope digests that most people are familiar with, and associate with astrology.  Eventually, I found “Chart Your Own Horoscope” by Ursula Lewis, a slim volume that put into my hands a tool that set me on a path of discovery which has only grown more complex and fascinating over the years.  I was excited about this system of thought, new to me, but apparently as old as the ages, and I was eager to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with people.  I found some who had similar interests, but quite frequently I ran into criticism and scorn, denial and fear, which only spurred me to delving deeper into the study. The appeal of the occult had set its power over me, and I was helpless to deny it. Once I hit university, I bought all the books I could afford, took classes with an experienced, published astrologer, and just kept studying. My degree in Comparative Religious Studies infused my astrology and occult studies with a depth and fullness which I don’t believe I could have achieved otherwise, particularly my studies of the Classics, the foundation of Western archetypes, and the breeding ground for all astrological thought.  A span of Jungian therapy helped too, so richly focused on symbolism and its role in decorating the labyrinths of the human psyche.

Despite these studies, somehow I just wasn’t convinced. Something rankled me. I would later find this to be a fairly common occurrence among astrologers. I felt I had no choice but to turn away from astrology completely. I couldn’t rightly believe, and yet I couldn’t disbelieve either, and I was at a standstill. Life had bounded beyond my theoretical understanding, and though I had accumulated years of knowledge, I felt unschooled and confused. It worked, but why? I had read so many different theories, and found to my chagrin, that akin to any orthodox religion, a lot of it boils down to simple faith.  It works because you believe in it, you believe in it because it works.  Nothing more, and nothing less. This was not satisfactory to my mind, and I let the practice lie for ten years. I immersed myself in yoga and Vedanta, letting study of the body and spirit take central focus, and I carried on. Eventually growing older, with the ensuing changes one encounters, mostly in the appearance of Death as a real factor to contend with, I felt that old love rekindling, and I dove into the study again with a renewed sense of direction. I decided to approach the practice as if a total beginner, relearning what I already knew, with different perspectives emerging, the concepts reformulating with a new spin.  The decade and ensuing distance that had passed were necessary to give me the experience that comes with age and informs our view on the world. 

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines understanding thus: “ the power to make experience intelligible by applying concepts and categories”.  The key word there is “experience”. It is one thing to read about the potential harshness of heavy Pluto transits, sitting isolated with 20 years of life behind us, knees quaking as we review words that include “transformation” “destruction”, “ending”, and other such concepts that weigh so heavily with import.  What will happen to me?  Will I lose everything?  Will I die?  So much fear, so much worry. It is only with time and experience that we can really appreciate these heavy topics for what they really are, and realize meanings that we may have romanticized or obfuscated in haste. It is an old saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  When we are only partially informed, we don’t have the capacity to face situations with full strength, or as any given situation actually requires. We may not have the structural integrity of thought required to correctly inform our choices and actions.  But with time, we have an increased capacity to address circumstances productively, peacefully and in stability. A new way of applying our variously accumulated concepts and categories is achieved, allowing us to comprehend the weakness of our previous foundation.  Is this ageism?  Perhaps. But astrology is after all an occult pursuit, and so by its very definition is the study of that which is hidden from view. It stands to reason, then, that our perceptions of nuance only improve with time and age. And besides, maybe it’s a good idea to practice a little conservative ageism every now and then.  There is a view that youth is the vehicle and source of true passion, achievement and intelligence, and behind that often stands the assumption, also characteristic of youth, that one can freely careen through life, trucking along, picking up, messing up, and dumping whatever and however we choose fit, and that we can sort it all out “later”. As I am Saturn ruled, I refute this, and would prefer to see people approach astrology with a healthy dose of trepidation. Frankly, as a study of life, astrology should scare you a bit, because the fact is – life is frequently quite terrifying. This factor of caution and a healthy “fear of God” seems to be largely missing in our society today, and if the study of astrology can bring it back, then I’m all for it. And, given the current divisions in the astrological world, it would be very fine to see a sense of cohesion and respect rise from the factionalism, born of careful Saturnian consideration. There is currently much attention being paid to labeling, a misuse of “concepts and categories” which ignorantly cuts away truly useful insights in favor of popularity. None of what we know is gospel, yet taken as a whole, the field is an astonishing boon to a society deeply in need of philosophical guardianship.

So then, why astrology? Because it works. Because it is fascinating. Because it is humbling. Because it is fun. And because it’s all about you. Astrology can help you explore that often quoted, rarely enacted Delphic maxim: “Know thyself”. Astrology can help you investigate your idiosyncrasy, your behavioral patterns, capacities, foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Astrology is a great and fine tool. Use it as you will, but use it with caution and respect, for as most great tools, it can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Don’t be greedy, but if you just can’t help yourself, be bloody sure you know it, and why, because ultimately life has a funny way of biting you in the ass when you least expect it – so expect it. Prepare yourself wisely. Drop your facades and open up. Allow yourself to listen, and learn. Shit happens – to you, to me, to us all. So then, use the study of astrology as a map to guide you through this intricate, beautiful life, and may the Light forever illuminate your journey.

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