Astrology and the Archetypal Power

of Numbers, Part One

Preface

This book is the second in a series of books outlining a language of spiritual psychology that I call astropoetics. Astropoetics is a hybrid word meant to describe a poetic approach to astrology, applied to the human quest for meaning, purpose, and a deeper sense of connection to all of life and to the larger universe of which it is part.

 

A Word to Non-Astrologers and Skeptics

 

Not everything that can be counted counts,

and not everything that counts can be counted [1].

 

Although astrology has fallen into disfavor and has been seriously maligned – usually by those who know little or nothing about it – it has also been taken seriously by some of the greatest minds our culture has ever produced, including Hippocrates: the father of modern medicine; Nicholas Copernicus: the father of modern astronomy; and Carl Jung: the father of modern psychology. Through the 17th century, it was taught at every major university in the civilized world – not as the irrational superstition it is considered to be today – but as essential to an understanding of the natural order of things.  Despite the institutionalized cultural bias against it, and centuries of vociferous rejection as a worthy discipline by religion, science, and the media, some form of astrology has existed in virtually every culture on the planet since humans first looked upward in wonder to the nighttime sky, and it continues to flourish today in the popular imagination. 

 

Belgian archeologist and historian Franz Cumont once called astrology “the most persistent hallucination which has ever haunted the human brain,” intending to put to rest what he considered to be our neurotic fascination with it. “How could this absurd doctrine arise, develop, spread, and force itself on superior intellects for century after century?” he wondered.  Indeed, this is a question worth asking, along with the corollary question (mine, not his):  “Is it really all that absurd to think that we might actually be a part of the cosmos at which we – astrologers, scientists, ‘superior intellects’ and ordinary human beings from every culture and walk of life – continue to marvel?”

 

The very premise on which astrology is based – namely that there is a discernible relationship between the evolving cosmic order (the macrocosm) and the journey of an individual soul (the microcosm) – has been disavowed by science.  And yet, the absence of this premise in contemporary discourse contributes greatly to the alienation and disenchantment of postmodern humans, who are often cast adrift in a cold and lifeless universe to which they do not feel as though they belong.  Without a language with which to understand our personal connection to the cosmos – such as astrology – we lack the profound sense of being an integral part of the natural order of things that gave meaning and purpose to the lives of our indigenous ancestors, who were not too sophisticated or jaded to look up into the nighttime sky and marvel at the patterns they saw coalescing and dispersing there.  In discussing why young people today (those born since 1980) have little interest in the scientific worldview – with which astrology is generally sharply contrasted – economist Jeremy Rifkin (The Empathic Civilization 608) clearly spells out the problem:

 

[T]he scientific method [is] an approach to learning that has been nearly deified in the centuries following the European Enlightenment.  Children are introduced to the scientific method in middle school and informed that it is the only accurate process by which to gather knowledge and learn about the real world around us. The scientific observer is never a participant in the reality he or she observes, but only a voyeur. As for the world he or she observes, it is a cold, uncaring place, devoid of awe, compassion, or sense of purpose. Even life itself is made lifeless to better dissect its component parts. We are left with a purely material world, which is quantifiable but without quality. The scientific method is at odds with virtually everything we know about our own nature and the nature of the world. It denies the relational aspect of reality, prohibits participation, and makes no room for empathic imagination. Students in effect are asked to become aliens in the world.

 

Although it is rarely considered as a viable alternative to science, astrology addresses these issues.  It provides a more open-ended way to gather information about the world around us and about ourselves – not in an objective voyeuristic way, but as active participants in our own lives, and in the larger evolutionary processes unfolding within and around us.  It facilitates an understanding of self that is filled with purpose.  It propels us on a quest of meaning, wonder, and self-discovery.  It connects us to others, the entire web of life, and the cosmic order in which we play our part.  It does not dissect the world into fragmented pieces, but rather shows how it all the pieces fit together into an integrated, cohesive whole.  It unabashedly discusses quality.  And it triggers the empathic imagination through its willingness to explore the hard facts, not just literally, but as metaphors and symbolic portals to a multi-dimensional truth larger than can be comprehended by the rational mind.  Astrology – in its essence, if not always in its practice – provides the foundation for a psychology of soul that offers everything that is missing in science.

 

The first modern psychologist of soul Carl Jung once said (Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious 344, footnote 168):

 

I do not hesitate to take the synchronistic phenomena that underlie astrology seriously.  Just as there is an eminently psychological reason for the existence of alchemy, so too in the case of astrology.  Nowadays, it is no longer interesting to know how these two fields are aberrations; we should rather investigate the psychological foundations on which they rest.

 

Astropoetics

 

In this series of books, I have taken Jung’s advice, and sought to carefully develop a working integration of astrology and psychology – especially Jungian psychology, with an eye toward illuminating the soul’s experience as it struggles with both the human predicament and its spiritual longing to be an integral part of something larger than itself.  I call this integration of astrology and spiritual psychology “astropoetics.”

 

As an astrologer of nearly 40 years experience, I believe the soul can be observed with uncanny clarity in relation to its movement through various cycles, which wax and wane in predictable rhythm, and are mirrored in the movement of planets and other heavenly bodies through the sky. Unlike some astrologers, I also believe that the mystery of soul is best approached through a language that is poetic in its use of words. A poetic language conducts its quest for the truth obliquely – through simile and metaphor, image and symbol, suggestion and allusion, rather than direct, dogmatic statement of fact. When astrology is approached poetically – as a right-brain contemplation of imagery and symbolism, rather than as an interpretative system based on authoritative prepackaged definitions – it becomes a potent language of soul that allows for the possibility of deep and penetrating self-discovery.  It is this possibility – of knowing oneself with the insight of a poet, speaking a language both pragmatic and steeped in compelling mystery – that pulses at the heart of the astropoetic journey.

 

Astropoetics is the study of the relationship between cycles and patterns in the cosmos and life experience on earth, understood poetically through an intuitive, intimately subjective, and image-oriented perspective.  Astropoetics draws its inspiration, its rationale, and its imagery not just from astrology, but from a broad range of sources, including but not limited to number, astronomy, mythology, psychology, the wisdom teachings from all traditions, poetry, literature, music, art, film, other dimensions of contemporary culture, and especially from the poetic nuances of everyday experience, both individual and collective.  The Astropoetic Series takes as its ambitious mission, the integration of these diverse sources of linguistic food for the soul, within an astrological context.

 

Because this book builds on concepts introduced in my previous books, it seems useful to provide a brief summary of the discussion so far, for those who have not yet read them.  Some of these concepts will be merely useful, and others essential, to understanding the arguments put forth here.  While I would recommend reading these books in the order they were written, this preface should suffice to bring the reader who is not inclined to do that, up to speed.  This preface is also oriented toward non-astrologers reading this book, whose primary interest is not astrology, but Pythagorean number theory.  There are reasons why I link these two subjects, which should hopefully become more apparent as you read on. 

 

The Seven Gates of Soul

 

Prior to The Astropoetic Series, I wrote a book called The Seven Gates of Soul: Reclaiming the Poetry of Everyday Life, which outlines a 6000-year history of ideas about the soul, culled from Eastern, Western and indigenous religions; and European philosophy from around 600 BCE through the 20th century.  In distillation of this perennial discussion, I arrived at my own definition of soul as the inhabitation of Spirit (Conscious Intelligence, both immanent and transcendent) within a mortal body.  It is this embodied soul – the human being struggling to make sense of everyday life, as well as longing to glimpse a spiritual context in which everyday life evolves a larger, more deeply meaningful sense of purpose – for which Seven Gates, and the books that follow are being written.  It is this embodied soul for which a language is necessary – one that is capable of describing its journey in intimately personal terms.

 

In Seven Gates, I discuss the ways in which science and psychology, born in the late 19th century as a science, have disavowed the soul, and left postmodern humans largely alienated in a world to which they do not belong, and without a language of soul in which to discuss their experiences.  I show how an astropoetic approach to astrology – the cornerstone cast aside by the architects of Western culture – could once again provide such a language.

 

The seven gates in the title of this book are a reference to the mythological descent of the Sumerian goddess Innana into the Underworld, a journey that required her to pass through seven gates, shedding some outer garment and some aspect of her identity in order to stand naked before the unveiled truth.  In the book, Innana’s seven gates are meant to be a metaphor for various illusions about the soul that must be shed before a true language of soul can exist.  In summary, the seven gates are:

 

1) The religious notion of immortality, which can be seen with an appropriate level of detachment, as a lopsided identification of soul with Spirit.  I define soul instead as an alchemical fusion of Spirit and matter (the body), which is subject to the vulnerability that necessarily comes with mortality, but which also presents a unique opportunity to bring Spirit more deeply into the embodied world through our conscious participation in it.  A language of soul must encompass the experience of the body and the embodied life, and at the same time, provide a window through which we can glimpse Spirit at work within ourselves and within the world.

 

2) All the conditioned patterns of judgment that religion and psychology have projected onto the soul’s process.  The soul’s job is not to be good in a moral sense, but to attune itself from moment to moment to the ever-shifting balance between light and dark, male and female, hot and cold – and every other polarity – that characterizes the embodied life.  A language of soul must affirm both the innate human desire for pleasure, and the learning opportunity presented by the pain that comes with our inevitable mistakes.

 

3) The requirement that our language of soul speak exclusively to the rational mind.   The soul’s truth is often paradoxical, irrational, and rooted in sensory, emotional, and imaginal experiences.  By itself, the rational mind is a poor tool with which to approach the soul’s complexity, and any language of soul must speak not just to the rational mind, but also to the senses, the emotions, and the imagination – that is to say, must be poetic in nature and tone.

 

4) Science’s demand for objectivity.  The soul’s experience is highly subjective, and does not necessarily conform to consensual notions of reality shared by society or the culture at large.  Contrary to science’s insistence, objective truth is not the only truth worth pursuing, nor necessarily the most relevant.  Science’s emphasis on empirical observation can be useful to the soul, but only if conducted within the subjective context of a deeply personal and often highly idiosyncratic life process.  A language of soul must be adaptable enough to reflect the exquisite individuality of each soul using it, as well as those dimensions of the human experience that are fairly universal.

 

5) The scientific preoccupation with causality.  Contrary to popular misconception, nothing astrological (or symbolic, for that matter) causes anything to happen.  Instead, the information required by the soul to proceed wisely in its journey is reflected not just in the movement of planets, but also through the relationships we have with others, the movies we watch, the books we read, our dreams, chance encounters, conversations overheard by chance, the flight pattern of birds, tea leaves in a cup, the synchronicities we experience daily, and through countless other channels that broadcast simultaneously, as a reflection of the order of the cosmos and the soul’s participation in it.  The soul exists within a nexus of relationships, and any true language of soul must reflect this nexus and facilitate its exploration.

 

6) Our linear notions of space and time.  The resonant space in which the soul lives is not measured by distance, height, breadth or depth, but rather by affinity, contrast, and aversion.  Time is not chronological, but cyclical and bound by related memories – often distant in time – rather than a progression of successive events.  A language of soul must assess these dimensions of time and space qualitatively, rather than through the quantifiable parameters measured by science.

 

7) The notion that human life can be anything but a spiritual experience.  A true language of soul must recognize that everything that happens is an opportunity for the soul to learn, grow, and deepen its relationship to itself, to the Greater Whole of which it is part, and to the Spirit that encompasses all, out of which everything arises, and into which everything returns.

 

Lastly, in Seven Gates, I demonstrated how astropoetics could potentially fulfill every one of these requirements.  I will not repeat those arguments here, but instead refer the interested reader to the book.  Meanwhile, passing through these seven gates of misconception – perpetrated by religion, science, and psychology – equips us to begin to construct a language that allows us to breathe more freely, and discover soul on its own terms, apart from the conditioning imposed upon us by our culture.

 

Tracking the Soul With An Astrology of Consciousness

 

The key to this discovery lies in the exercise of consciousness.  The first book in The Astropoetic Series addresses the issue of consciousness, which I define as a set of perceptual filters that condition our sense of who we are, what we are doing with our lives, and what our soul’s journey is about.  Our answers to these fundamental questions – and our understanding of ourselves – shift as consciousness changes, and consciousness changes gradually, sometimes abruptly, through a lifetime of experience.  The information that we receive through our senses, emotions, and the images that arise within and without on a daily basis is designed to guide us along a continuum from utter separation, isolation, scarcity, vulnerability and disempowerment at one end to a supreme sense of unity and connectedness with all that is, abundance, invulnerability and empowerment at the other.  How and where we move along this continuum is a matter of consciousness.

 

The lessons and issues that arise for each of us along this continuum will in some sense be reflected by our birthchart – our personal map of the heavens at the time and place of our birth.  But how well we interpret and respond to the birthchart, and how much we learn from it will be entirely up to us – and again, largely a matter of the consciousness that we bring to it.  In this regard, a useful language of soul is one that can reflect not just the map of the terrain we will traverse in our soul’s journey, but also how conscious we are in any given moment with regard to the information available to us, and which set of filters we are using. 

 

In the first book of The Astropoetic Series, my intent was to address the question of consciousness, and show how astrology could be integrated with an understanding of the chakra system from yogic philosophy, in order to improve our language of soul.   Although consciousness can be understood in a number of ways, my preference for approaching it from the perspective of yogic philosophy arises from the decade of my life that I devoted to its study, under the tutelage of Yogi Bhajan and Swami Muktananda – a decade in which I was also learning and beginning to practice astrology.  As I demonstrate in some detail in Tracking the Soul, astrology and the chakra system supplement each other in ways that create a synergistic effect that is greater than the sum of the parts.

 

More specifically, astrology provides an unparalleled capacity to personalize the spiritual process, and to time it.  Each chart is a unique signature of possibilities for spiritual growth belonging to a particular soul, and encoded within each chart is a timetable for the outworking of those possibilities.  But astrology lacks an explicit understanding of the way in which consciousness alters the meaning of its symbolism, nor does it inherently include a discussion of consciousness as a framework for spiritual evolution.  Individual astrologers may bring a sense of this to their work, but it is not intrinsically a part of the astrological language. 

 

Meanwhile, the chakra system – developed over thousands of years of yogic practice as a universal framework – is lacking in individual nuance or any sense of timing, but it does provide a way of assessing consciousness.  Thus combining astrology’s exquisite sense of individuality and timing with yogic philosophy’s sophisticated model of consciousness provides a more complete system – that I call the astro-chakra system – than either discipline alone.

 

Observing life from within the framework of the astro-chakra system allows the hungry soul to perceive the poetry of its everyday life with more nuanced clarity.  Since my understanding of numbers in this book is predicated on an understanding of the chakras in Part One, and the astro-chakra system in Part Two, it will be helpful to the reader of this book, who has not read the others, to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the chakras.  Again, I would recommend reading Tracking the Soul before you read this book, but short of that, the following synopsis should help you comprehend the sections of this book, where I refer to the chakras.

 

In the yogic system, there are seven major chakras, which can be understood as descriptive of various sets of perceptual filters, worldviews and psychological frameworks that govern the movement of a given soul through life.  Yogic philosophy tends to consider the chakras hierarchically, as an evolutionary ladder upward toward ever-higher levels of consciousness.  Within the astro-chakra system, I have found it more useful to consider the chakras in a circular arrangement – suggesting their equality as co-existent states of consciousness that interpenetrate and often interact with each other.  Within this context, the seven chakras can be briefly described as follows:

 

1)  The first chakra is concerned primarily with matters of survival – both on the physical plane, and on every other level on which survival appears to be an issue.  As with any chakra, this is a matter of subjective perception rather than objective reality.  When the first chakra is emphasized, we see the world through a set of filters that allows us to secure our survival when it appears to be threatened, and to establish a safe and secure perimeter to our existence in which it is possible to construct a life of stability and continuity.

 

2)  The second chakra is concerned primarily with the creation of a pleasurable and fulfilling existence.  The second chakra is often associated with sexuality, but also encompasses our natural predispositions, innate desires, and natural rhythms.  When the second chakra is emphasized, we see the world through a set of filters designed to maximize pleasure, minimize pain, and organize our lives in ways that are enjoyable, emotionally rewarding, rich and abundant, in every possible sense of that word.

 

3)  The third chakra is concerned with the cultivation of a functional ego and an area of personal competence, talent and/or expertise.  At this level of consciousness, we are concerned with learning, acquiring life skills, establishing our place within the world, and making a creative contribution to it.  When the third chakra is emphasized, we see the world through a set of filters that illuminate both the opportunities for advancement within the world and the challenges and obstacles to our advancement.

 

4)  In the fourth chakra, we enter the world of relationships, including on a deeper level, our relationship to ourselves and to the greater world in which we live.  In this chakra, we learn how to negotiate our relationships, seek a deeper connection to what James Hillman has called the “soul’s code” or calling, and cultivate a nascent awareness of being on a spiritual path.  When the fourth chakra is emphasized, we see the world through a set of filters that allows us to see and understand how we are connected to everyone and everything around us.

 

5) In the fifth chakra, we are challenged to harvest and utilize whatever wisdom we have managed to earn by paying attention to our life experiences and learning from them.  Here, we are required to walk our talk and to share what we have learned.  When the fifth chakra is emphasized, we see the world through a set of filters in which we recognize everyone we meet and everything that happens to us as an opportunity to learn and to grow in consciousness.

 

6) In the sixth chakra, we learn to see the relative nature of our most cherished belief systems, and begin to evolve toward maximum flexibility in both our understanding of reality and our capacity to respond to it.  In the sixth chakra, we begin to shed what American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron calls the “story line of our lives” (35) along with our ego-bound identities to embrace a larger, more compassionate identification with the anima mundi, or soul of the world.  When the sixth chakra is emphasized, we see reality through a set of filters in which the illusion that we are separate from the world, from each other, and from Spirit, begins to fall away.

 

7) In the seventh chakra, we identify completely with Spirit – understood here as That Which Contains All That Is.  This is, of course, an elusive state of being, even for those who have attained a classic version of enlightenment, nirvana, or transcendence.  It is here that we face Buddha’s conundrum: whether to dissolve back into Spirit or to take the vow of the bodhisattva and work for the enlightenment of all sentient beings.  When the seventh chakra is emphasized, we see the world through a set of perceptual filters in which this conundrum resolves itself beyond the reach of any words we might use to articulate it.

 

Each chakra can be experienced as a set of opportunities for seeing and relating to the world in a particular way – which has both advantages and disadvantages – or as a set of issues encountered within that particular perceptual framework.  Often we will have both experiences simultaneously.  If, for example, I happen to be relating to the world through my fourth chakra, I will see the opportunities for meaningful relationship with others everywhere around me.  I will also be acutely aware of the ways in which relationships are difficult for me – that is to say, my inability to love myself and others, or trust them, or share myself with them, and so on.

 

Both our issues in relationship, and our predispositions toward relationship can be seen in our astrological birth charts through what I refer to in Tracking the Soul as its fourth chakra signature.  Each chakra has its own signature, which may or may not be emphasized in a given chart at birth, but which may also be triggered at various times in one’s life.  Whether or not we choose to view life astrologically, the chakra system can be useful in assessing the ways in which we choose to live our lives within the larger world around us.

 

Astrology and the Archetypal Power of Numbers

 

The chakras are also useful in understanding how the larger world around us is constructed.  Taken as a whole, the chakra system suggests that there are many ways to understand the world around us, and that how we perceive it will largely depend on the consciousness that we bring to it.  Yet the world also has its own reality, apart from our perceptions.  This is the objective reality measured by science in the quantitative language of numbers. 

 

Mathematicians and scientists use numbers quantitatively in order to measure various physical parameters of the world, without any reference to the interface between consciousness and reality.  But there is another sense of number that is also worth considering for its inclusion of this important missing piece.  This sense of number – originally taught by Pythagoras – was also known to Jung, who said (Synchronicity 41-42):

 

I must confess that I incline to the view that numbers were as much found as invented, and that in consequence, they possess a relative autonomy analogous to that of the archetypes.  They would then have, in common with the latter, the quality of being pre-existent to consciousness, and hence, on occasion, of conditioning it rather than being conditioned by it. . . . Accordingly, it would seem that natural numbers have an archetypal character.  If so, then not only would certain numbers have a relation to and an effect on certain archetypes, but the reverse would also be true.  The first case is equivalent to number magic, but the second is equivalent to inquiring whether numbers, in conjunction with the combination of archetypes found in astrology, would show a tendency to behave in a special way.

 

It is in pursuit of this inquiry that this book is being written, as the second in The Astropoetic Series.  Since, as Jung has indicated, the study of number is – at least from an archetypal point of view – also a study of consciousness, the inquiry about numbers in Astrology and the Archetypal Power of Numbers, Part One will build upon the foundation for a language of soul in the astro-chakra system as outlined in Tracking the Soul

 

In the same way that each chakra represents a particular worldview by a soul conscious at that level, each number represents a particular dimension of the world that becomes accessible to a soul who enters the Realm [2] it governs.  Entry to these Realms requires a soul to integrate various chakras in order to arrive at a level of consciousness through which they can be perceived.  As we work through the various issues associated with our chakras as reflected in our birthchart – the map of the heavens at the time and place of our birth – we rise to the level of consciousness necessary to make a difference in the world within one or more of these Realms.  How exactly this works will become more evident in a general way in Part One, and a more specific way in Part Two, as we consider the astrology of each Realm.

 

In this book, however, we will go beyond a consideration of individual psychology to consider the ways in which number is “pre-existent to consciousness,” which is to say, encoded in our collective psychology as human beings, and in the construction of the universe of which we are conscious.  The more deeply we go into this great mystery, the more apparent it will become that not only does the world shape us into becoming who we think we are, but that as we participate consciously within the world, we help shape the animus mundi, or soul of the world.  It is my contention that numbers are the key to this two-way interaction between soul and world, and that the birthchart – understood as a map of the Number Realms – is the key to approaching this fundamental relationship more consciously.

 

As the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”  It is my contention in this book – and apparently also Jung’s – that these stories (yours, mine, and ours) are laid out numerically in a way that only a poet can fully appreciate.  Let us then don the poet’s cap as we follow Pythagoras into the archetypal story of numbers that may hopefully one day soon, once again be not just for counting any more.

 

Endnotes

[1] This quote is often attributed to Einstein.  According to Wikipedia, “A number of recent books claim that Einstein had a sign with these words in his office in Princeton, but until a reliable historical source can be found to support this, skepticism is warranted. The earliest source on Google Books that mentions the quote in association with Einstein and Princeton is Charles A. Garfield's 1986 book Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business, in which he wrote on p. 156: ‘Albert Einstein liked to underscore the micro/macro partnership with a remark from Sir George Pickering that he chalked on the blackboard in his office at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton’.”  Whether or not this quote can be attributed to Einstein, a moment’s reflection should convince anyone but the most dogmatic scientist that it is true.

 

[2] In this book, I will capitalize the word “Realm” when it refers to the archetypal dimension of number, and to emphasize the idea that these dimensions were considered by the Pythagoreans to be aspects of Spirit, or the “One,” as they referred to it.

 
 

Copyright 2020 - Joe Landwehr