Astrology Facilitates a Quest for Meaning
That Science Can't Recognize
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Science’s Inability to Facilitate a Quest for Meaning
Unlike more strictly medical modalities, but not unlike humanistic or transpersonal approaches to psychology, astrology has the added capability of facilitating the quest for meaning. The astrologer cannot infuse a birthchart with meaning, but he or she can help the client discover its meaning through a process of symbol amplification – circling around possible interpretations of a given astrological dynamic until some kind of “aha” experience allows the client to make a connection between symbolism and life. Through the use of techniques of timing – transits, progressions, solar arc progressions, etc. - the astrologer can also help the client gain perspective about how his or her relationship to the same symbols evolve over the course of a lifetime. As astrologer and client work together to illuminate a given pattern in psychological space and time, meaning gradually emerges.
Unfortunately, the scientific paradigm does not permit a consideration of meaning. In the 18th century, Immanuel Kant wrote a book called Critique of Pure Reason in which he argued that science could never prove or disprove the metaphysical speculations that lie at heart of the human quest for meaning – questions about the spiritual dimensions of human experience, about the existence of God or Spirit or the non-material universe discussed by the religious traditions of the world, or the place of human beings within the larger scheme of things. Since then, science has abandoned the quest for meaning to other distinctly non-scientific disciplines like religion, philosophy, and to some extent the arts. Because science has abrogated, and in many cases, disavowed the spiritual or metaphysical dimensions of what it studies, it cannot speak in any meaningful way about the quest for meaning that lies at the heart of nearly all counseling astrology, or counseling psychology for that matter. Psychology means “study of the soul” but in a scientific approach to psychology or psychological astrology, even mentioning the soul is taboo. Within the domain of science, the soul does not exist. It has not existed for over 300 years. Science considers the very concept to be nothing more than a philosophical embarrassment belonging to antiquity.
Consider the views of contemporary scientist Richard Dawkins, who suggests that (1):
"Natural selection, the blind, unconscious automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker."
Granted, Dawkins ideas are considered controversial in scientific circles. Many of his critics insist that science is not incompatible with religious views. Many scientists are in fact religious in their private lives. In their professional lives, however, they do not comment about the meaning of purpose of life, because these topics are beyond the scope of science.
Astrologers not pretending to be scientists are under no such compunction. In fact, ferreting through the patterns of the astrologically reflected life for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose is the essence of what we do, is it not? Aren’t we assuming that the universe has an order to it that can be discerned and that the person looking for a job has his place in that order, or the person who is sick is in some way out of alignment with that order, or that the person seeking a mate is looking for an alignment between charts that presupposes a potentially meaningful connection between them? Aren’t astrologers in the business of helping clients make meaning out of the seemingly random events of their lives? Don’t we hope to convey the message that they belong in a very specific way to the cosmic order of things?
If so, then how can we function as scientists, when science by definition has nothing to say about meaning, or subjective understanding, or the sense of purpose that arises from the whole of one’s being. Scientists are trained specifically not to consider the deeper, metaphysical implications of their findings. As a practical matter, as well as a philosophical one, scientists focus on the pragmatic predictive implications of their discoveries, not on their deeper cosmological significance. As science writer John Horgan has observed, “If the theory can foretell the performance of a doped gallium arsenide semiconductor, why worry about its epistemological implications? (2)” Science looks through a lens that precludes the possibility that we live in a meaningful purposeful universe, or at the very least disavows any interest in meaning – which after all, is a subjective phenomenon, outside of the purview of science. Are we willing to give up our passionate quest for the illumination of meaning in order to call ourselves scientists? Such a sacrifice would completely eviscerate the practice of most astrologers I know.
(1) Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W W Norton and Company, 1986, p. 5.
(2) Horgan, John. “Quantum Philosophy.” 28 May 2003. http://www.forunecity/emachines/e11/86/qphil.html
The next post in this series is Qualitative Time and Non-causal Phenomena in Astrology Have No Place in Science.
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