It is easy enough to talk about the positive healing benefits of an astrological framework, providing as it does a major defence against meaninglessness and insignificance.
Feeling connected at a personal level to loved ones and friends is recognised as a major factor in promoting and maintaining physical, emotional and mental health and happiness. Feeling connected at a more cosmic level, which astrology offers, lets us see that we are not random accidents in time and space, but threads in the weave of a greater pattern – very small threads perhaps, but contributors nevertheless. This awareness can promote a sense of spiritual wellbeing.
There is also the sheer fun, excitement and intellectual discovery which the study of astrology brings.
Every bright light, however, has a dark shadow; in the promethean nature of our art lies its shadow too. It is all very well to steal the gods’ fire, as Prometheus did, with the noble intention of liberating humanity from some of its bonds with the powerful enlightenment which that fire brings.
But fire burns. It is impossible to light up the darkness of our human limitations of perception, without the hand that holds the illuminating fire being burned by it. It’s not so easy to talk about that. But it does less than justice, in exploring the impact of the astrological model on human consciousness, to concentrate on the healing aspects of the interaction, whilst glossing over the wounding dimensions. Exposure to the model brings both.
On one occasion, I asked a small group of my tutorial students, who had studied and practised for long enough to experience both the light and the shadow facets of our great art, to write something about astrology’s healing and wounding dimensions. I was delighted by the honesty and perceptiveness of their feedback. Here is what ‘Charlotte’(1), 35 at the time of my asking, had to say:
(click on chart to enlarge)
“ I’ve never really been asked to consider the wounding aspects of astrology in such a direct way before. I did have a bit of a job focusing on the question without the more positive aspects coming up all the time! I think the serious study of astrology knocked me out of the idyllic vision I had had of my family background. I had to accept that my parents weren’t perfect, and the overall effect of this was enlightening but also disappointing. It kind of knocked me into the real world and showed me things as they were which I found quite hard to come to terms with.
Seeing things in black and white on the astrological chart led to a lot of resentment on my part, raising a lot of difficult questions which I’m still working hard to understand. I think this can sometimes sidetrack me and stop me getting on with things, and lead to some disasters which might not have occurred otherwise – although I would say I do have a natural tendency to analyse things anyway. Astrology just provides more scope for this.
There is also the question ‘Why me? Why did I have to have this chart?’ which may be quite childish, but did lead at one time to some resentment at the apparent unfairness of it all. Especially when you are grappling with hard Pluto and Saturn aspects. You know you have your work cut out for you, and that life is not going to be easy. The prospect of living your life with these aspects can be quite daunting and depressing, and lead to a lot of despondency at times.
Another factor that’s hard to take on board is that (astrology shows that) you are responsible for yourself. You can’t go around blaming other people for your misfortunes all the time. You have to take responsibility for your part in the drama. It’s your stuff, and you’re the only one who can deal with it. This can lead to a lot of self criticism on my part, and a good deal of depression if things aren’t working out.
Looking at it from a promethean point of view, Prometheus stole fire from the gods. He knew he would suffer for it, but he also, I think, knew on some intuitive level that he was doing the right thing. And in the end he was released from his suffering. Personally, I couldn’t not know. Otherwise I wouldn’t have pursued the subject as long as I have. I just hope it works out for me in the end too”.
I was moved by Charlotte’s feedback, which I think sums up pretty clearly some of the more challenging implications of having access to astrological knowledge. Perhaps we need to talk more about that…
(1) Not her real name – withheld (along with her data – AA: Birth Cert.) for confidentiality.
This is an edited short extract from “Astrology: a Healing and a Wounding Art” first published in Apollon, the Journal of Psychological Astrology, Issue 3, August 1999, republished as my 12th Not the Astrology Column in the Julyy/August 2017 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited byVictor Olliver.