Milky Way

Astrological Symbols Vary
With Context and Consciousness

July 2010

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The Protean Nature of Astrological Symbolism

In the last post in this series, we explored the fundamental mismatch between Science’s insistence on objective truth and astrology’s – especially psychological astrology’s – provision of subjective truth, that is to say, truth that depends upon the particular subject to which it applies, and that potentially varies from subject to subject.

Let’s say that we acknowledge this limitation. With knowledge of the subjective context, can’t we still be objective in our interpretation of the symbolism? After all, shouldn’t astrologers at least be able to agree within a fairly broad ballpark what Sun in Cancer, for example, means?

Supposing we agree, for the moment, that we’re talking strictly about psychological astrology. If we have a client with Sun in Cancer, and we tell her what most astrologers would agree Sun in Cancer means, then aren’t we being objective and thus scientific in our approach to astrology? Again, I say the answer is, “No.”

Let’s give ourselves a little reality check here. What can we say about Sun in Cancer that would be definitive?

Sun in Cancer describes “an emotionally sensitive person.” Does this sound like a reasonably safe statement?

What about Sun in Cancer conjunct Saturn and square the Moon? Think of George W. Bush (1) proceeding calmly with a photo-op at a Florida grade school after being informed that the Twin Towers were being bombed. Or – with the aid of his “compassionate” conservatives – trying to justify the use of torture, or preemptive strikes, or the suspension of habeas corpus. Emotionally sensitive? I don’t think so.

Sun in Cancer “likes to take care of other people.”

What about Sun in Cancer conjunct Pluto and square Uranus? Think of Imelda Marcos (2), known as the Steel Butterfly for her selfish indulgence of the perks of political status, without much regard at all for the needs of her people. When asked to justify her extravagance in a country wracked by widespread poverty, she claimed it was her "duty" to be "some kind of light, a star to give [the poor] guidelines." Is this a Sun in Cancer who likes to take care of people? It doesn’t appear to be.

Sun in Cancer “is a homebody, who stays close to home.”

My ex-partner (3), who has Sun in Cancer trine Jupiter in the 4th house, moved from London to Kenya when she was two weeks old, and by the time she was 20, had lived in 7 different countries on 5 different continents. She continues to travel frequently to this very day. Is this what we would think of as a typical Sun in Cancer?

What exactly is a typical Sun in Cancer? Science at least demands a rational explanation. Can we give them one? Or is Sun in Cancer more like a word, whose meaning depends upon the linguistic context – or the sentence – in which it is used – say like the word, “piece.” Would you like a piece of cake? When you lost the game of chess, how many pieces were left on the board? Was Lefty packing a piece when he broke into your house? It’s the same word, but its meaning changes with context. I believe the same is true of astrological symbols.

If an astrological statement means anything at all, insists science, its meaning ought to be consistent. But our experience shows us it is not. Astrological symbols are quite protean, changing within the context of their relationship to other symbols in the same birthchart.

The Problem of Consciousness

Astrological symbols are also protean because they depend upon the consciousness that is channeled through them. A former student with Sun square Saturn (4) was horribly burdened by fibromyalgia, and a litany of other health issues that prevented her from accomplishing much of anything at all. Mary Baker Eddy (5), who had this same configuration in her chart, also suffered from delicate health, but went on to found the Church of Christian Science after she “cured” herself reading the Bible. Franklin Roosevelt (6) suffered from polio that kept him bound to a wheelchair, yet he became a popular president of the most powerful country in the world.

Astrologers might agree that Sun square Saturn can present a series of difficult obstacles, against which an individual must constantly push, to get anywhere in life. But astrology cannot effectively predict whether someone with this aspect will actually get anywhere or not. This is because what each individual does with Sun square Saturn depends upon the level of consciousness, knowledge and experience they bring to it. These are factors that cannot be predicted by looking at a birthchart, because they are brought to the birthchart by the individual. They are a matter of consciousness, not astrology.

Science does not know what to do with consciousness. Most research scientists attempt to treat it as a biochemical or neurological by-product of brain chemistry. Some are beginning to suspect there is more to it than that (7). Those that delve into it come up against the unscientific realization that consciousness is largely subjective, not entirely a physiological phenomenon, and in some mysterious way able to alter reality as a non-material force. Science as it currently exists, does not have the tools to address these conundrums, which don’t fit the pre-quantum view of reality.

Despite the recognition by many non-scientists of the implications of quantum theory and other new cutting-edge ideas to the possibility of consciousness as we are coming to understand it, the current methodology of science is not sophisticated or malleable enough to encompass these ideas. As one critic of science puts it (8):

"Science . . . is too close to its own process of creation and its success to feel any urgency about the need to reappraise its principles. It has not deconstructed itself, re-examined its fundamental values, nor addressed the impact of new technologies on its moral, political and ethical obligations . . . In modern science, there is still no quantum practice or post-modern methodology of scientific truths and values. Science has not stood still but its evolution is measured according to the developing technologies of the time and not by any fundamental changes in the way that its 'truths' are validated or innovation in the process of scientific inquiry itself."

Thus, while astrologers can appreciate the implications of post-quantum physics for an astrologically compatible model of the universe, science proceeds in its Newtonian horse and buggy toward conclusions that fail to recognize the true nature of consciousness or acknowledge its impact on matter at all. The research scientist – who is intent on being a neutral observer – is ill at ease in a universe that its own cutting-edge research has begun to show is participatory.

The next post in this series is The Participatory Experience of Astrology is Not Predictable by Science

To read more blog posts, go here.