Tracking the Soul
With an Astrology of Consciousness
The Astro-logic of Consciousness
Although few astrologers would argue that any birthchart is written in stone, beyond the exercise of free will, choice or consciousness, little is written about the subjective interplay between astrological symbolism and the consciousness exercised in relation to it. The astrological community has little to say about consciousness – neither in terms of how it impacts the subjective perception of a birthchart, nor the way the meaning of a birthchart changes as the symbolism is embodied more or less consciously. As the first in a series elaborating an astropoetic approach to astrology, this book will be a partial attempt to remedy this glaring omission. For as we discuss the various tenets of exoteric astro-logic – hoping to feel our way into a more esoteric place of subjective wisdom – we can only do so within a framework recognizing the primacy of consciousness as the overarching context within which everything astrological must be understood.
Exoteric astro-logic can be helpful as a language of inquiry into the nature, meaning and purpose of life experience – as I will demonstrate in some detail in this book – but it is the inquiry that is primary. Ultimately, the birthchart and the exoteric astro-logic that infuses it with abstract meaning are only really useful as the point of departure for an exploration of the life that colors it with subjective nuance and the intimate particulars of actual experience. To put it bluntly: without an assessment of the choices made by the soul living the chart, the chart cannot be interpreted, except as an exercise in speculation. Our ability to say anything at all about a chart depends upon knowing something about who or what the chart refers to.
Interpretation as an Exercise in Consciousness
We must begin by recognizing that the astrological inquiry itself is an exercise in consciousness. What we “see” in a birthchart will depend upon the consciousness that we bring to it at various stages of our inquiry. However astutely it is approached in the moment, the birthchart is not something that reveals itself all at once, nor will it necessarily reveal itself in the same way tomorrow as it did yesterday. What we see when we look within it changes as we change. The same chart will be ours throughout a lifetime of experience, but it will not mean the same thing at age 47 that it does at age 7. The exoteric astro-logic we apply to the chart may be consistent, but the fruit of our application – the esoteric understanding that we gather – will ripen with age and spiritual maturity. Both life and our understanding of life as it is reflected in our birthchart are thus primarily a reflection of the evolution of our consciousness.
If we are attempting to understand our own birthchart, the quest is necessarily one that will evolve over the course of a lifetime. If this is true of each of us end-users of astrology (hopefully each practicing astrologer is also an end-user), it must be an even more profoundly humbling realization when we turn our attention to the birthchart of another. For what we see in any birthchart, and how we interpret what we see will depend upon who we are as souls, where we have been in our own spiritual journeys and what we are capable of seeing.
At best, when we interpret the birthchart of another, we stand outside of that life, attempting to peer through its walls with the x-ray vision afforded by our exoteric knowledge of astrology, and hoping to grab a snapshot of a moving human work-in-progress that the subject of the snapshot will recognize as theirs. Although many astrologers do accomplish this minor miracle on a routine basis, the ability to do so is at heart a profound demonstration – not of astrological prowess per se – but of the capacity of the astrologer to enter into the experience of the client and see it within the framework that astrology provides. It is not just our competence as astrologers that allows us to do this, but also – and perhaps primarily – our maturity as souls endowed with empathy, an awareness of the human tendency to project, and a high level of responsibility for our own subjective state of being.
This self-evident truth is rarely acknowledged among astrologers, who are weaned along with the rest of our culture on the expectations inherent in a dominant scientific paradigm. As discussed in some detail in The Seven Gates of Soul, science has vigorously sought to neutralize, if not eliminate altogether the impact of the observer on the observation. Through double blind experiments, endless replication by other experimenters, and other rigorous procedural checks and balances, the subjective is effectively squeezed out of any statement of scientific fact. Despite the fact that some of the more scientifically-minded in our community call for scientific rigor in the articulation of exoteric astro-logic, few practicing astrologers I know would feel comfortable knowing they are not an integral part of the equation by which the truth in a birthchart reveals itself in the course of a reading. In the best readings, a synergistic magic takes place that is as much a product of the interaction between the astrologer and the client – as two human beings in dialogue – as it is of mere astrological knowledge. Any practicing astrologer who has experienced this must acknowledge that the consciousness that the individual astrologer brings to the actual practice of astrology matters profoundly.
Most astrologers celebrate the fact that different astrologers bring different perspectives to the same birthchart, but we tend to consider our differences mostly in terms of preferred techniques, or of astrological orientation, rather than the more intangible factors that each of us brings to our work – personal history and background; cultural, socio-economic, political and religious biases; individual strengths and weaknesses; life experiences; unresolved psychological issues; personal beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life; temporary moods and mindsets at the time of a given reading, etc. Our focus is almost exclusively on astrology and our relationship to the language – even though each of us will speak a different language and see a chart differently – not just because of what we know about astrology, but also because of who we are.
It is important to acknowledge that the picture in the mirror gets passed through an additional set of filters when a professional astrologer “reads” the birthchart for a client. In order to function as a clear intermediary between a birthchart and its rightful owner, the professional astrologer must possess, in addition to his exoteric training, a deep esoteric understanding of his own chart and who he is in relation to it. Ideally, he will be consciously and intentionally on his own spiritual journey, preferably one facilitated by the application of astrology to his own life process. In addition to standard counseling skills, he must cultivate the ability to astro-empathize – to listen with astrologically trained ears for the subjective truth behind the symbolism of the chart. To do this effectively, he must set the intention to “get out of the way,” be upfront and honest about any personal biases that may skew a reading this way or that, and suspend his exoteric knowledge of astrology so that new information – supplied by the client – can register. In this way, his presence in the reading can become as transparent a filter as possible, and a genuine guide to self-knowledge for those who come to him for perspective.
Astrology as a Language for Self-Inquiry
Although I know from personal experience that this can be done, I have gradually shifted my own focus away from reading charts for other people to helping them to read their own. In 1993, after 25 years of professional practice, I began to promote self-reliance in the quest for guidance by teaching a correspondence course called Eye of the Centaur to those wanting to learn astrology to facilitate their own process of self-discovery. This book is written to serve this same student base and audience, as well as conscientious professional astrologers who wish to use an esoteric knowledge of their own chart as a platform for their practice.
Each individual, armed with a knowledge of exoteric astro-logic, and taught a few techniques of self-observation and memory work, is in a much better position to intuitively penetrate to the heart of the deeper esoteric understanding of the symbolism than any stranger, however well-versed in astrology they might be. We all need help from time to time, and well-trained professional astrologers can be a godsend in this capacity. But in the end, each of us must make sense of our own lives, and bring as much consciousness to it as possible. Astrology is even more valuable as an aid to this more personal, solitary process.
Some would argue that it is not possible to be objective about oneself. However, since it is actually subjective wisdom that we seek, and not mere astrological information, it is only as we attempt to see the image reflected in the mirror for ourselves that we can find what we’re looking for. It may take time, but it is not something that can just be handed to us, even by the most skilled astrologer. What we seek in this mirror is not just a static interpretation of symbolism, but rather an evolving sense of self, reflected through the dynamic track record of choices mapped to various astrological cycles. This mapping of choices to cycles, in turn, renders the birthchart comprehensible to us as a useful reflection of the evolving consciousness we have brought to it.
The Birthchart as a Template for the Tracking of Consciousness
Having established the primacy of this track record of personal choices, and encouraged the reader to explore her own, we are now in a position to understand how the birthchart itself might reveal, purely on the level of exoteric astro-logic, the tracks upon which consciousness will tend to travel. In The Seven Gates of Soul, I suggested that in the age-old argument between fate and free will, the birthchart represents a template of fate, while free will is what each of us brings to the template. Here I would add that fate can be understood, in part, as a set of habits of consciousness, which we are free to indulge unconsciously or to break with new awareness. Exercising this freedom is the essence of the choice we make at each juncture of our journey. Thus, the choices we track as we explore the birthchart are essentially between a set of defaults and a departure from habit, which broadens and deepens our way of being. Claiming the broadest and deepest possible way of being is then tantamount to fully incarnating as Spirit within a body – of becoming a fully embodied soul.
Astrology can be helpful in this process by revealing the default position from which we attempt to expand and deepen. Or put another way, the natal birthchart can be understood as a template of habit patterns, in the exercise of consciousness, against which we can measure our subsequent growth. In Part Two, we will look in some detail at how this template is constructed. We will map various states of consciousness to the appropriate astrological correlates, and develop a system through which any birthchart can be understood explicitly as a template for the awakening and development of consciousness. In Part Three, I offer additional suggestions for moving beyond the system into a more open-ended awareness of the evolutionary process at the heart of the life behind the birthchart. First, however, it will be helpful to differentiate between various states of consciousness, discuss the psychology that governs each state, and explore the habits of default that are implicated at each level.
Consciousness is a fluid media, and any attempt to discuss it in terms of discrete states is somewhat contrived. On the other hand, having a conceptual framework in which to explore the spiritual psychology of consciousness can be a useful point of departure for evolving a system of exoteric astro-logic conducive to a more nuanced quest for subjective esoteric wisdom, so we will persist a while longer in this folly.
The Yogic Model of Consciousness
An elegant and relatively simple system for understanding consciousness was conceptualized at least four thousand years ago (Judith 5) by yogic practitioners of a Hindu mystical tradition , postulating a series of seven chakras , through which primal energy and consciousness rise in the course of spiritual evolution. These practitioners were intent on charting their spiritual progress and articulating the inner work yet to be done, and used the chakra system as a point of reference. The system was passed down to successive generations of disciplines as an oral teaching, and eventually codified in writing a couple centuries before the birth of Christ. Though other frameworks are possible, in my experience none speaks quite so simply or eloquently to the possibility of human evolution. This perspective gains immensely in power and clarity when synthesized with astrology, as I will demonstrate comprehensively in this book.
Our modern understanding of the chakra system comes primarily through a Hindu teacher known as Patanjali, who lived three centuries before the birth of Christ. His teachings were first written down as a set of aphorisms in the Yoga-Sûtra, c. 100-200 CE, elaborated in the 16th century by Tantrik Purnanda-Swami in a text called Sat-Chakra-Nirupana, and transmitted to the West largely through the promotional activities of the Theosophical Society, an esoteric metaphysical group founded in New York 1875 by Madame Helena Blavatsky and Colonel H.S. Olcott. The Society counted among its members early western chakra authorities such as Alice Bailey, Annie Besant, and Charles Leadbeater. In the late 19th century and on into the early 20th, the Society published a number of translations, and sponsored various East Indian teachers in the US and western Europe, who brought with them variations of this ancient yogic wisdom teaching. In the 1960s and 70s, the chakra system was further popularized by spiritual teachers such as Parmahansa Yogananda, Swami Satchidananda, Gopi Krishna, Swami Kriyananda, Yogi Amrit Desai, Haridas Chaurhuri, Sri Chimnoy, Yogi Bhajan, Swami Muktananda, and others who traveled from India and established ashrams in both the US and Europe. More recently, knowledge of the chakras has been refreshed by a new wave of teachers, such as spiritually oriented psychologist Anodea Judith, medical intuitive Caroline Myss, and energy medicine pioneer, Rosalyn Bruyere.
My understanding of the chakra system comes from both Yogi Bhajan and Swami Muktananda, with whom I studied intensively from 1971 – 1979. This understanding necessarily differs from more traditional teachings through a consideration of this system within an astrological context, as well as through allowing my understanding of the system to percolate through a quarter century of life experience. While I have no interest in reinventing the wheel, I do intend to turn that wheel in kaleidoscopic fashion to reveal a layered multi-dimensional perspective that to my knowledge is not available elsewhere.
The Five Levels of Manifestation
Our discussion of chakras will be further developed through reference to a second, lesser-known system, as described by the Hindu concept of the five koshas, or levels of penetration of Spirit into matter. In The Seven Gates of Soul, I speak of the soul’s experience of embodiment as an inhabitation of the body by Spirit. Here, I will elaborate that understanding through reference to the koshas, which describe in more detail the extent to which Spirit has penetrated the material realm. Reference to this second complementary system lets us assess not only the quality of consciousness brought to focus through each astrological pattern that we study, but also the depth of awareness the embodied soul is being called to by its experience.
Within the Hindu framework, the koshas exist as intermediate states of receptivity to Spirit along a continuum of being that lies between pure matter, or prakriti, at one end of the scale, and pure consciousness, or purusha, at the other. Kosha is roughly translated as “sheath,” implying that within the yogic system, Spirit is essentially clothing itself with matter at various levels of transparency. At one end, Spirit wears the thick winter clothing of matter, and the soul is essentially oblivious to the presence of Spirit within the body. At the other end, Spirit is essentially naked, and the soul is fully conscious and essentially identified with Spirit.
Between the endpoints of pure matter and pure consciousness are distinct but interrelated levels of kosha, or sheathing, that find their expression within the human body. According to the yogic system, these are annamaya kosha, or the physical body itself; pranamaya kosha, or the vital energy body; manomaya kosha, or the realm of sense perception, emotion, memory, and ego-consciousness; vijnanamaya kosha, or the intuitive, meditative mind; and anandamaya kosha, or the ongoing state of bliss in which a full embodiment of Spirit is being realized in each moment.
While the five koshas can be understood as a hierarchy along which a soul becomes increasingly more conscious in the embodied state, it is also useful to understand that Spirit is continuously manifesting concurrently on all five levels. It is our awareness that draws one or more of the koshas into focus at any given time. Those koshas seemingly activated by our awareness will in turn determine the apparent circumstances of our lives. At any given time, however, it is possible to shift our awareness from one kosha to another, in order to understand more deeply how Spirit is available to us on a deeper or more all-encompassing level of penetration. Such a shift can suggest strategies for more effectively coping with whatever life issues appear to be related to the more obviously activated kosha.
For example, if you have just been diagnosed with cancer, then obviously your attention is being directed to annamaya kosha, or the physical body – that is to say, the densest layer of clothing assumed by Spirit. If you choose traditional allopathic treatment for this cancer, the available healing modalities of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery will all be directed exclusively to this level. Cancer – or any seemingly physical manifestation of Spirit in the body – is, however, never just a physical manifestation. It also reverberates throughout all five koshas, whether we are aware of these reverberations or not.
If you move to pranamaya kosha, or the vital energy body, and ask what is going on there, for example, you might well notice how you feel shut down on an energetic level, as though you don’t quite have the vital force you need to cope on the physical level. Going more deeply still, to manomaya kosha, or the realm of sense perception, emotion, memory, and ego-consciousness, you might then trace these feelings back to an incident of betrayal five years earlier by someone you loved deeply, from which you have never fully recovered. Moving to vijnanamaya kosha, or the intuitive, meditative mind, you might then realize the necessity for forgiveness and letting go, and understand – in a way that a merely medical model of intervention could never fathom – that your healing and recovery in some sense is actually more dependent on your ability to do this, than any drug you might take or operation you might choose to undergo. Were you able to accomplish this inner task, you might then become aware of how Spirit was manifesting on the level of anandamaya kosha, and suddenly know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that regardless of what appeared to be happening on the physical level – whether you cured your cancer or not – you would be absolutely fine.
This is a hypothetical example. But as we will explore later in this book, what happens at each kosha, and the interplay between koshas can be tracked with exquisite detail as we view life through an astrological template. Each astrological indication, including the birthchart as a whole, can be interpreted at the level of each kosha, so that it gives one level of meaning relevant to the functioning of our physical bodies, another relevant to the flow of energy through our vital body, another relevant to the ongoing operation of our sensory-emotional experience, and so on. Each level of interpretation will parallel, confirm, and enhance our understanding at every other level, creating a developed synthesis of observations at all five koshas that can provide a much more complete astrological picture than a mere consideration of astro-logic alone. For this reason, as we discuss the astrology of consciousness, I will employ the koshas as a useful component of the system.
The Chakra System Revisited
The primary component of this system – the seven chakras – is more familiar to western seekers, since it has been part of our common vocabulary since the integration of eastern and western religious cultures in the late 1960s and 1970s. The word, chakra means “circle,” “wheel of light,” or “vortex” and refers to a state of consciousness through which life energy, or prana, is processed and released into expression. The chakras are not explicitly physical in nature, though each is associated with an endocrine gland and with a group of nerves called a plexus. Each chakra also has its psychological correlates, which in turn determine the needs, desires, source of motivation, intention, and characteristic patterns of fear and resistance that can be associated with the prana or life energy that is channeled through it.
Chakras are sometimes also referred to in the Vedantic literature as granthi, meaning knots, or sankhocha, meaning contractions, implying that as we work through the blockages of fear and resistance associated with each center, we rise to a higher level of consciousness . Thus, within the system of seven chakras, we have everything we need to understand the consciousness that is brought to bear upon our perception of the birthchart. We also have a broader context in which to place our study of astro-logic that recognizes the central role consciousness plays in the soul’s evolution through the patterns represented by the birthchart.
Before we explore this system in more detail, I wish to present a perspective about the system as a whole that is somewhat different than that which originally governed the yogic practitioners that developed it. These practitioners envisioned the system as a hierarchical progression of evolutionary states that paralleled and in some ways depended upon the raising of kundalini energy up the spine from one chakra to the next. Kundalini, sometimes referred to as shakti, was a reserve of psychic energy thought to rest at the base of the spine like a coiled serpent. Various yogic practices were designed to arouse the kundalini, and draw it up the spine where it would open and activate higher centers of awareness. Through the ongoing practice of kundalini yoga, coupled with an ascetic life based vows of chastity, minimal concern for material needs, and non-violence, the higher chakras could be opened on a more permanent basis, and serve as the energetic basis for a life of refined motivation and expression.
While kundalini yoga is still practiced in both India and the West today, one need not subscribe to the practice in order to benefit from an understanding of the chakra system. Indeed, our purpose here is not to facilitate the practice of yoga, but to provide a context in which ordinary, everyday life might be understood with reference to consciousness, and a system of astro-logic might be used more consciously to map ordinary life as a vehicle for soul growth. From this perspective, it is somewhat misleading to think of the system in hierarchical terms, because everyday life is not a simple matter of progression from one state to the next.
Even within practice of kundalini yoga itself, spiritual progress is rarely a strictly linear proposition. One may experience the temporary opening of a so-called higher chakra, for example, before a so-called lower one is completely purified. One may also find it necessary to return to more intensive work on a lower chakra in order to sustain one’s experience at a higher level. In fact, while the aim of kundalini yoga is to raise consciousness up the scale, in practice, the real work of spiritual growth often requires going down the scale to deal with unresolved issues connected to the lower centers.
Since the ultimate goal – in the practice of kundalini yoga and in life – is to experience all chakras open and vibrating at an optimal level, even the notion that we are moving up or down the scale can impede our understanding of the process. In practice, our spiritual work, however we choose to pursue it, will involve moving between various centers and learning to negotiate more skillfully and gracefully the energy dynamic between them. For this reason, I prefer to think of the seven chakras as being arranged in a circle, rather than as a straight line, as this allows us to work with them conceptually in a more flexible way.
The Chakras Considered as a Circle of Circles
Some precedence exists for this view among Taoist yogis, who speak in modern terms of the microcosmic orbit (Chia 6), through which ch’i, or the Taoist equivalent of kundalini, circulates through the chakras in a continuous circuit. While energy flows up through the chakra system along the spine at the back of the body, it flows down through the same system in front of the body. Anodea Judith also speaks of the necessity for balancing the upward flow of energy through the chakras, which she calls the “current of liberation,” with a downward flow, the “current of manifestation” (14-15).
Conceptualizing the chakras as a circular continuum also creates a practical advantage in visualizing how they work together as a system. Among practitioners of both Taoist and Hindu yoga, there are known connections between various chakras that are not successive in nature – such as that between the second, or sexual center and the fifth or throat chakra, or that between the root chakra at the base of the spine and the crown at the top of the head. A circular model more easily allows for consideration of these kinds of connections, particularly within the context of spiritual psychology that is not dependent upon strict physiological correlates. The advantage of this will become clear as we proceed.
A third reason for moving away from a hierarchical model is that hierarchies invariably encourage judgment, which is nearly always detrimental to a clear understanding of the soul’s process. The natural assumption in contemplating any hierarchy is that higher is better than lower, but in the case of the chakra system, especially as it is considered from the perspective of spiritual psychology, this is not always the case. Energy medicine pioneer, Rosalyn Bruyere points out that it was the Victorian mindset, prevalent throughout the age of British Colonialism that endowed the lower chakras with their negative associations. She calls for a less judgmental approach that distinguishes between the frequency of energy moving through a chakra (consciousness) and the chakra itself (58) .
Outside of the context of yogic discipline, it is a mistake to make judgments on the basis of which chakras seem more open than others, or where the major concentration of energy lies. This is necessarily so, because different processes experienced at different points in the evolutionary process, or within different life contexts, may require a different mix of energies, and so-called lower chakras may well play as important, if not a more important role, than so-called higher chakras.
A young couple, desirous of children, for example, may be appropriately focused on clarifying issues within their second or sexual centers and their fourth or heart centers, while an older, solitary writer may be almost exclusively focused in her fifth or creative/expressive center. This does not mean, as a hierarchical interpretation of chakras might suggest, that the process of writing is a higher, more evolved activity than starting a family. Within the context of a quest for subjective wisdom, such judgments are, in fact, quite meaningless.
In The Seven Gates of Soul, I suggest that a major conceptual barrier to understanding soul process is the judgment projected onto that process, largely by religion. As the by-product of a religious orientation, the chakra system must also be purged of its judgmental overtones, before it can be truly useful. From a symbolic perspective, this can readily be accomplished by arranging the chakras conceptually within a circle, rather than along a straight line.
This approach also nicely mirrors our understanding that the circle is the basic foundation for all subsequent development of a cogent system of astro-logic. By synthesizing the astro-logic of the circle with a circular interpretation of the chakra system, we have the basis for understanding the movement of circles (chakras) within circles (the birthchart as a whole, and the various planetary cycles that circulate within it). Such a conceptual basis is itself astrological, since it employs the same symbol to explore the connection between the conscious evolution of an individual soul and the circulation of consciousness throughout the larger Whole or Cosmos of which the individual is a part.
A Word About the Psychic Correlates to the Chakra System
Before we can make the leap to a broader system of astro-logic, it will be necessary to briefly explore each of the seven chakras, and discuss their related psychologies. In the Hindu system, each chakra was part of an elaborate system of symbolic correspondences, involving animals, colors, a particular number of petals, and sounds. Since these are often suggestive on a subliminal level, and may intuitively engender a more personal set of associations, I will include them here for the reader to ponder, mostly without additional comment. Other aspects of the Hindu symbology can be rather esoteric, and are perhaps less meaningful or useful to the Western mind.
Although there is not universal agreement on these correspondences, the descriptions I have chosen come from a scholarly classic, The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), who translated them from original Tantric texts, written in Sanskrit, including Tantrik Purnananda-Swami’s Sat-Chakra-Nirupana. Woodroffe spent half his life locating these documents, which were well-guarded secrets of esoteric literature, and we can be reasonably sure they are as close to the source of the original teachings about the chakras as it is possible for modern western scholars to get, though certainly not the final word on the subject.
Even though we can talk about chakras as an objective system, chakras are by nature a subjective phenomena that will be experienced differently by different people. As Theosophist authority Charles Leadbetter notes, referring to the wide divergence of opinion regarding the colors to be associated with each chakra, “It is not surprising that such differences as these should be on record, for there are unquestionably variants in the chakras of different people and races, as well as in the faculties of observers” (97).
Woodroffe’s correspondences, drawn from original texts, are best understood as corroborated observations made by yogic practitioners whose intention was to purify and cleanse their chakras, not necessarily replicable by contemporary observers viewing the auras of ordinary people. On the other hand, the modern tendency to simply map the chakras to the colors of the rainbow (Bruyere 79, Judith 2) – while conceptually appealing – is probably not any closer to the actual truth for most people. For the sake of comparison, I include observations by Leadbetter, Judith, Bruyere, and Myss, where they differ from Woodroffe’s translations of Tantric texts.
The Chakras as a Model of Psychological Process
Given that our interest here is not the psychic correlates to the chakras, but rather their relevance to a psychology of soul, I offer this brief taste of the ancient teachings only as an appetizer to the main course. The primary discussion will revolve around an exploration of each chakra in more contemporary psychological terms, as it manifests on the level of each kosha. The psychology of each chakra will be most visible on the level of manomaya kosha, or the realm of sense perception, emotion, memory, and ego-consciousness – and it is largely here that we will look for the perceptual framework that makes the mirror of the birthchart what it appears to be at each level of consciousness. Manomaya kosha is where most of us focus most of the time, since this is where the melodrama of the soul’s everyday journey appears to be playing itself out. Yet, the melodrama is often merely the most noticeable manifestation of a process that is unfolding concurrently at all five koshas.
Each chakra will function not just in terms of psychology, but also on the level of the physical body, on an energetic level, as an intimately personal play of suggestive imagery that speaks directly to the intuitive mind, and as a statement of spiritual purpose, where even the most mundane of life circumstances becomes grist for the mill of our awakening. Most modern interpretations of the chakra system assume that the so-called lower chakras are closer to the physical end of the spectrum, while the so-called higher chakras are more spiritual (Myss 68-70, Bruyere 44-47, Anodea 7). This conception largely comes from the linear arrangements of the chakras up the spine, in which the lower chakras are literally closer to the earth. Using the circular model, by contrast, allows us to think of each chakra as a neutral domain in which Spirit can manifest on various levels of penetration as indicated by the koshas.
At shallower depths of penetration by Spirit, the first three chakras will appear to encompass a psychology that revolves primarily around earthly concerns, and to some extent, there will be a developmental progression to less worldly concerns as one moves into the fifth, sixth and especially the seventh chakra. But there will also be situations in which a deeper level of penetration of Spirit into matter in one of the so-called lower chakras can spark a powerful spiritual awakening, or conversely where shallow levels of penetration by Spirit in the upper chakras can manifest physically. In any case, spiritual development will not be a strictly linear progression from physical manifestation at the lower chakras to awakening of Spirit in the higher centers, and a dual system allows greater latitude in considering the actual course of the evolutionary process.
The Astro-Chakra System
In many ways, the chakra system – as understood by the ancient practitioners and modern adherents alike – constitutes a stand-alone approach to spiritual psychology. The depth and sophisticated simplicity of the system, refined through thousands of years of observation and practice, rivals anything modern psychology – still in its infancy – has to offer. This is especially true to the extent that modern psychology is built upon a scientific model, since, as discussed in The Seven Gates of Soul, such a foundation precludes serious consideration of the spiritual implications of psychological experience.
As many have pointed out, astrology is also a stand-alone system of spiritual psychology, refined through thousands of years of observation and practice. Any attempt to combine the two systems might seem an exercise in redundancy, were it not for the fact that each contributes something unique to the synthesis. As discussed earlier, 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 that the chakra system offers. Individual astrologers may bring a sense of this to their work, but it is not intrinsically a part of the astrological language.
What astrology does contribute is the unparalleled ability 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. For all its sophistication, the chakra system lacks these two essential ingredients. For this reason, bringing the two systems together – in a creative synthesis I will call the astro-chakra system – can only serve to enhance them both.
As we correlate astrological patterns with various chakras and koshas in Part Two, we will gradually evolve a larger conceptual framework in which the birthchart can be understood as a multi-dimensional template for the tracking of consciousness through the life of an embodied soul. The astro-chakra system will provide a point of access to the esoteric wisdom beyond the exoteric logic of astrology’s symbolism. It will render an astrology more fully capable of articulating the astropoetic impulse at the heart of the human experience and of facilitating answers to the deepest, most intimate questions the soul is capable of posing. It will also provide a solid foundation on which subsequent volumes in The Astropoetic Series (goes to READ: Books: The Astropoetic Series) – exploring the astro-logic of number, astronomy and mythology – can proceed toward the development of a true language of soul, which must necessarily have a systemic appreciation for the interplay of consciousness and symbolism at its base.
 As Bruyere points out, the chakras were known to other cultures as well – including the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Greeks and Native Americas – “although they may have called them by different names” (27).
 Unfamiliar terms, from various spiritual traditions, specific to the astro-chakra system, or unique to the practice of astropoetics can be found in the glossary, beginning on page 425.
 According to Ken Wilbur, “Liberation . . . is not the actual untying of these knots, but rather the silent admission that they are already untied. Herein lies the key to the paradox of the chakras: They are ultimately dissolved in the realization that they need not be dissolved” (121).
 This fearful attitude toward the lower centers was also adopted by the Theosophists, who often focused it toward the second or sexual center, which they replaced by the spleen. In a footnote to his classic, The Chakras, Leadbeater acknowledges this when he says, “The spleen chakra is not indicated in the Indian books; its place is taken by a centre called the Svadhisthana, situated in the neighbourhood of the generative organs. . . From our point of view the arousing of such a centre would be regarded as a misfortune, as there are serious dangers connected with it” (7).