THE POWER OF THE SYMBOL

John Hammelton

       Many astrologers disagree among themselves about what constitutes workable assumptions concerning the principles astrology is based upon. Now that I have had the benefit of many years of study, I find that my once critical and judgmental opinions have given way to tolerance, and even encouragement for those that would try something new and different.

       My early study of astrology coincided with my college days as a graduate student in philosophy, and I learned to read everything with a keen eye. What other astrologers were doing came to make me realize there were more systems of astrology being taught and practiced than I ever imagined. With at least a half-dozen house systems, and two very obvious zodiacs, making an enlightened decision became a bewildering predicament. Thus, I began the painful process of stripping away everything that was not fundamental to the heart of astrology itself. While my basic beliefs have not changed over time, I now realize that there may be something inherently important in the often obscure ideas that many astrologers have come to accept as true, although adding new elements to fundamental beliefs may still raise questions.

        Astrology rests on objective and subjective foundations. While we do not have any problem dealing with the fact that there is a physical universe around us, or that our home is in a solar system in a very large galaxy, we only know that through our perception of them. Empirical philosophers talk about sense-data; they say we cannot know the world directly, there has to be something between the outer world and our ideas of it. The mind takes in data through our organs of perception, and our ideas are based on this information, but indirectly. Errors may occur. In astrological dialogue all the planets and stars are really just sense-data, and how the mind wants to interpret this information is based on symbols, or archetypes, and the language we use to describe them. Even language is subject to misinterpretation.

        The great psychologist Carl Jung's study of the human psyche has revealed the depths of the mind and the power that rests within its grasp. His discovery of the collective unconscious, archetypal contents, and psychic energy, along with his theory of synchronicity, gives new understanding to the workings of astrology through the human mind.

        When Jung talked about collective consciousness, he was talking about ideas and concepts that all mankind shares in conscious everyday thought. An object such as the moon is familiar to everyone, and most of us are aware of the phenomena associated with the moon such as its motion, phases, eclipses, etc. The collective unconscious, on the other hand, that area of the mind we don't have conscious access to, holds all the archetypal material or symbolism that we have bestowed upon the moon throughout history. The moon is the feminine principle: "she" is growth, healing, nourishment, procreation, and the emotional side of our personality, etc.

        Jung also talked about psychic energy. He believed that archetypal contents could be roused to greater energy levels, become activated, and be responsible for actions with often far reaching consequences, such as historical movements, or even the founding of great religions. His symbols could take on "numinosity" or become revved-up through periods of great emotion or inspiration. On the everyday level, Jung found, through experiments with extra-sensory perception, that the results always turned out better when the subject was involved, believed in his abilities, and tried to achieve good results. Success fell off when the subject became disinterested or tired. In other words, if you are a devout believer in something, your beliefs can take on energy that assumes a reality in itself, and manifest with a certain degree of certitude in the physical world.

        As astrologers, we can accept that the sun, moon, and planets, as physical facts, can hold a level of numinosity within the unconscious, and feel confident this will produce good results for us, and for the needs of our clients. It becomes a matter of choice, or decision for many astrologers, at what point to utilize lesser known aspects of this ancient art that could lead to vague and confusing symbolic interpretations because of uncertainty, or lack of an honest commitment to them.

        Probably the most powerful and purely symbolic icons of astrology are the Tropical sun signs. Their universal acceptance (in the Western world at least), and their long history, insures that as archetypes they will stay endowed with tremendous levels of energy, and their efficacy remain well established. Otherwise, how could the tropical and sidereal zodiacs both claim to have the same characteristics yet occupy different areas of space.

        Many astrologers "progress" the chart by using one of several methods; watching their fingers count ahead in the ephemeris and then hearing discussions based on new planetary positions seems a little far-fetched by some, but with serious, dedicated, and thoroughly honest astrologers, the power of psychic energy embodied in the symbolism results in apparent success and consistent interpretations. Many astrologers like to work with the moon's nodes and their meanings. My own investigation left me with no answers, but then I could never take them very seriously in reading the horoscope.

        What one wants to believe as valid in astrology is dependent on how convinced he or she is about those beliefs, and the extent they are ready to accept them as true. I have talked to astrologers with some of the strangest ideas, and many are thoroughly convinced their methods works. It is not for the rest of us to decide if they are right or wrong. If someone turns traditional astrology around, and is convinced in what they are doing, there should be no surprise to see it work for them too, odd as it may seem to us. Astrology is a nebulous science, and mystical in origin; in all likelihood it will never be proven.

        Nonetheless, a well balanced astrological foundation requires both an objective and subjective understanding of basic principles. The solar system exists for us objectively since we are in it, and subjectively since it is within us. Yet, it seems to me that only through astrology does the inner reality of the mind and outer reality of the universe come together in mutual equilibrium, and elegant symmetry.


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