Astrology as a Tracking Device
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When we talk about tracking the soul, we are talking about understanding this life as an opportunity for learning and for growth. Specifically, in my book and my workshop, I am talking about using astrology as a tracking device. Astrology can be a very useful tracking device, provided you realize that the thing you are tracking – the soul, whose journey is essentially a matter of exercising consciousness – transcends astrology. The birthchart provides a map to the territory traversed by the soul, but the soul itself decides how to use the map.
I think it safe to say that most people who know enough about astrology to appreciate it’s true value have experienced their birthchart as a useful map to the interior and exterior landscape of their soul’s journey. The natal chart shows how we are hardwired psychologically, where our core issues are likely to be found, and how our external lives are likely to shape themselves around lessons related to these issues.
Using the techniques of timing that astrology provides – transits, progressions, solar arc directions, etc. – the birthchart also provides an excellent evolutionary timetable. It tells us when our core issues are likely to be triggered, and consequently when we will have our best opportunity for working toward resolution, healing and growth in relation to these issues. To the extent that we are interested in the application of astrology to matters of psychological and spiritual growth, these advantages are obvious and quite easily taken for granted.
What may not be so obvious to those of us who work with it day in and day out are the limitations of a purely astrological model. The birthchart, in and of itself, does not and cannot reveal the level of consciousness through which the symbolism of the birthchart is actualized.
One person with Moon in Pisces may struggle with tumultuous emotions that constantly threaten to overwhelm her and derail her conscious intentions; while another with this same placement may be highly intuitive, compassionate, and able to create a safe space in which profound healing can take place.
One person with Sun square Saturn may find life a constant losing battle against overwhelming obstacles; another may rise to impressive levels of accomplishment despite obstacles.
One person experiencing a Uranus transit to their Sun may experience an amazing breakthrough to new levels of possibility; another person experiencing the same transit will experience a breakdown, the collapse of life as they knew it, and the need to start over again from scratch.
In part these differences may be accounted for by astrological context, or how a given astrological factor fits into the birthchart as a whole. Moon in Pisces that is conjunct Saturn will function very differently than Moon in Pisces trine Neptune. Sun square Saturn in a t-square with Mars will function very differently than one in a t-square with Jupiter. A Uranus transit to a natal Sun that is opposed Uranus is very different than a Uranus transit to a natal Sun that is opposed Pluto. And so on. As we consider the whole chart, we will always find mitigating factors that make one placement, aspect or transit very different than the same placement, aspect or transit in a different chart.
Beyond these purely astrological differences, however, is something else. In his book, Measuring the Night, Steven Forrest points out that both Christ and a cockroach born under the manger at the exact moment of Christ’s birth would have identical birthcharts. What makes the difference between our interpretation of Christ’s chart and the chart of a cockroach, assuming we had the dubious pleasure of doing charts for cockroaches, is the exercise of consciousness in relation to the birthchart. You cannot predict how an individual soul will exercise consciousness in relation to his or her birthchart; you can only observe how he or she does.
Everyone who writes about astrology and most of us who work with counseling astrology use an implied understanding of consciousness to our work, but this is something that we add to our knowledge of astrology, not something inherently astro-logical. There is no astrological rule that tells us whether a Neptune transit will bring spiritual enlightenment or a psychotic break accompanied by terrifying hallucinations, or something in between. Astrologically, we can know that a range of possibilities are encompassed by the symbolism, but in tracking the experiences of an actual soul having actual experiences, this does not really help us much.
Because there is nothing inherent within astrology to guide us in making distinctions within the range of possibilities, it is useful to supplement the birthchart with a model of consciousness that delineates the possibilities more explicitly.
The next post in this series is Supplementing Astrology with the Chakra System.
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