On Friday evening, May 26, in Seattle, I presented a keynote talk at the sold-out NORWAC astrology conference. The title of my talk was one of my favorite subjects – “Reconciling Astrology and Spirituality.” We’ve put the talk up on Youtube. You can watch and listen to it here:
Thinking back, maybe I should have titled this keynote address “Reconciling Astrology and Spirituality (or trying to)”. It’s not always easy!
In my twenties, I wrote my first astrology book – one that never saw print. It was basically a statistical study attempting to prove astrology in a scientific way. If you’re interested, I spoke of it in a bit more detail during this keynote. I bring it up here because one of my (many) rejection letters from publishers contained a line that I’ve been wrestling with ever since: “The thrust of modern astrological publishing is egocentric and I suspect it will remain that way.”
Yikes! Do we actually “resemble that remark?” Sad to say, the answer is often yes.
There’s no shortage of silly ego-flattery in pop astrology – telling people what they want to hear and neutralizing any desire in them to improve themselves. Often such astrology encourages people to blame their problems on everyone else or on their “bad aspects.” In every case, it’s “me, me, me” – and that’s the definition of egocentricity.
Very probably, if you are evolved enough to be reading or hearing this newsletter, you can see through those kinds of manipulative games. They’re only part of what I am talking about here.
Loudly and clearly, psychological astrology can be enormously helpful to people. It can give them perspective on where they hurt. It can help them find ways to maximize their highest human potentials. But it too often revolves around the life of the ego – although here, I am not using the word “ego” in a totally poisonous way. We need our egos! They are what allow us to navigate our chosen path through life.
People who seek out the counsel of a skilled psychological astrologer might gain insights, for example, into how that Neptune/Moon conjunction in their 4th house might really open up their understanding of specific ways that their parents failed them. It might even generate compassionate insights about how those parents got that way.
That’s all potentially terrific, but all of it still revolves around you. It’s still about your ego, in other words – and to truly grasp what I mean here, please separate the word “ego” from the word “bad.” They are far from synonymous. If you want, you could switch the word “ego” with the word “personality.” We all have personalities and let's not define that as a problem.
Still, here’s the point of friction. Every spiritual tradition reminds us that we are not ultimately our personalities. We are not ultimately our physical bodies or our storylines. Ultimately, we are consciousness itself – something far vaster than the ego.
- There are many spiritual paths that souls can take as they pass through this earthly realm, but all of them hold one point in common: they are all about separating consciousness from personality.
Whether we’re talking about the silliest pop astrologers or the wisest psychological ones, they all focus on “you.” Moments ago, I praised psychology – and psychological forms of astrology – and I meant it. But, stepping into edgier territory, can we imagine a person who has perhaps had “too much” psychotherapy? We all know the type – the world revolves around their needs and their feelings. They’re self-absorbed. They never accomplish very much in life. They’re often terribly selfish people – which brings me directly to my point: in such folks, ego is running rampant.
And that’s not spirituality.
So, cutting to the chase, can we ever actually reconcile astrology and spirituality? I believe there is a way and I believe it is completely valid, but that it requires a major reframing of the underlying purpose of astrology. It’s nothing less than a true paradigm shift.
Much of what I am about to explore here is implicit in the theories of evolutionary astrology, but it could readily be applied to any of the many branches of our craft. There’s no reason that a person practicing Jyotish or Hellenistic forms of astrology couldn’t make this same leap.
- To accomplish this transformation, we shift from the assumption that clients are their personalities to the notion that they are souls who are using their personalities as evolutionary vehicles.
That might sound a little abstract. To bring it down to earth, here’s what I mean. Say we have a person who’s all about the Fire element – lots of Sagittarius and Aries, with Mars rising. Say that, based on his behavior, that individual could fairly be described as a daredevil – no surprise there with a chart like that! Then ask yourself the critical question: what evolutionary purpose might be served by someone being a daredevil?
Doing scary things acclimatizes us to fear – we get used to it, in other words. For example, I hear on great authority that the first time you parachute out of an airplane, it’s absolutely terrifying – but by your tenth jump, you’re not so scared anymore.
- Might a soul take embodiment with such a fiery chart in order to learn about courage?
- Can we imagine an evolutionary situation in which a soul might benefit from becoming braver? A situation where that kind of change has become an evolutionary necessity?
- Note that we’re no longer answering the usual astrological question: what does this chart mean? We’re now asking why we have that chart – and the answer transcends personality. The answer is in the spiritual category.
From the perspective of this paradigm, instead of our astrological holy grail being a list of “personality traits,” we see those personality traits as tools that a soul is using in order to fulfill an evolutionary purpose. We are all born in what the late great Ram Dass once described as “a karmic predicament.” Our charts reflect that predicament – but, much more encouragingly, they also contain methods for dealing with it.
Bottom line, if we are attached to anything – fear, lust, money, shame, status, whatever – it’s an aspect of our ego that’s holding our soul back. As we resolve it, we free our souls to hit Warp Drive. The simple point is that your chart tells you how to do that. That, in fact, is why you have that chart.
Rather than endlessly reinforcing ego and all its illusions of permanence and separateness, this view actually reconciles astrology and spirituality. It is also unabashedly pagan – and by that I mean that it affirms and celebrates worldly experience rather than denigrating it. It’s not the kind of gloomy, shaming spirituality that’s all about “transcending the flesh.”
It’s not about longing for the famous “pie in the sky” they often hawk in churches and temples. In this view, our bodies and our personalities – and our egos – can be tuned in a way that opens the right doors to the higher ground for us. We can speak of what Buddhists call “skillful means” – the idea that while the zeal to evolve is always laudable, it works a lot more efficiently if we can accurately diagnose the true nature of our blockages and attachments and apply well-suited remedies to them.
Here are the kinds of spiritual questions we astrologers can answer for people:
- What should I personally do in order to maximize my own evolutionary momentum?
- Where do I personally put my foot next?
- Is, for example, my speediest path forward to pursue intimacy – or to pursue independence and tolerance for solitude?
- What about devoting myself to inner work versus devoting myself to the service of other beings?
- Should I go to the party? Should I be generous with myself and eat, drink, and be merry – or do I benefit from not giving so much power to my physical appetites? Which path works best for me, given my particular karmic predicament?
Naturally we are all beset by people eager to advise us in such matters. The mistake every one of them invariably makes is the assumption that there’s one right answer for everybody. There isn’t! We’re all in a specific spiritual situation – a specific karmic predicament. What is a skillful means for you might not work for me.
I finished my talk with these words:
You are an ancient, luminous soul on a mysterious journey through a universe that is an incubator of higher consciousness.
Would a map be helpful?
Have a look at that map of the sky at the instant you took your first breath in this body.
That’s your ticket home.
Listen to the podcast version