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Tracking The Soul With Astropoetics

originally published in Spirit of Eureka, May 2008


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When most people who know nothing about the subject think about astrology, they think about Sun sign columns in the daily newspaper.  Those who know a little more about astrology, but have perhaps never actually read an astrology book or consulted an astrologer, generally consider it to be a form of personality profile.  Gemini's like to talk on their cell phones and drive at the same time; Scorpios make great detectives, but can also be moody, jealous and secretive; Libras are good party hosts, but can be indecisive.  And so on.  More sophisticated readers probably know that there is more to astrology than merely stereotyping people according to the tenets of pop psychology.  But even practiced astrologers armed with a full arsenal of techniques and a sophisticated understanding of human nature often miss astrology's true potential, and mistake it for a simple matter of decoding symbols in order to describe the human condition. 

This is unfortunate, for at its best, astrology offers those who understand the language a lifelong opportunity to observe and more consciously negotiate life's most intense and incomprehensible learning experiences – not through memorizing lists of keywords, nor looking up descriptions of decoded symbols in books, but by correlating life experiences to the movement of various astrological cycles.  The natal birthchart, drawn up for the time and place of an individual’s birth, serves as a point of reference for all subsequent observations.  As the planets move in relation to the natal chart, we simply observe what happens, and then relate our experiences to prior experiences that were part of the same astrological cycle.  When we do this, patterns begin to emerge and with our awareness of these patterns and the life issues they encompass, comes a greater capacity to live those patterns more consciously.  I call this process tracking the soul.

The soul, as I understand this word, is most definitely rooted in some larger, unfathomable Mystery – what many people call God or Spirit – but it is also unique to each of us, and experienced most immediately in the outworking of everyday life.  Tracking the soul then is a matter of observing everyday life within a larger framework of meaning and intuition connecting the individual to the cosmos, such as is offered by astrology.  My use of astrology to track the soul does not depend upon speculating about the meaning of abstract symbolism.  It is instead simply a matter of observing what is true for the individual soul within an astrological framework, when a given natal planet or planetary pattern is activated by transit.

As I write this, for example, I am beginning a new two-year Mars-Uranus cycle, meaning that Mars has returned to the position that my natal Uranus occupied at birth.  I am, in this moment, contemplating a controlled burn on my property with some ambivalence.  Traditional astrologers would easily associate Mars with fire, and Uranus with that which is out of control, thus giving some symbolic credence to my trepidation.  Yet, given that in many ways the conditions are ideal right now for such a burn, my ambivalence makes no rational sense.  If I track my soul through additional Mars-Uranus experiences, however, a more visceral pattern begins to emerge.

One cycle ago, during Mars’ last conjunction to my natal Uranus, I was witness to a horrendous head-on collision between two trucks traveling too fast and recklessly on a narrow country road.  The front end of both trucks was mangled beyond recognition, one driver was unconscious, the other was pinned in his vehicle and splattered with blood.  Being the first to arrive on the scene, I called 911, talked briefly to the police officer that responded, and left haunted by images that stayed in my brain for months.  One Mars-Uranus cycle before that, I found myself in an unexpected fistfight with a neighbor at a board meeting of the land cooperative where we are both members.  A few Mars-Uranus cycles before that, I had a horrible argument with my partner at the time that nearly ended our relationship.  While none of these events are related to each other, they all carry a certain ominous tone of foreboding that also seems to pervade the atmosphere in which I contemplate this controlled burn on my property.

As I observe a lifetime of experience in relation to my Mars-Uranus cycle, I see that it means certain things to me, that it brings a certain distinct qualitative dimension to my experience, raises certain issues, and can be correlated with certain images that come from my own life experience.  All of this crystallizes into a more visceral sense of the meaning of this cycle for me, and places my current state of foreboding into a larger context in which it may be justified, despite my rational assessment of the situation.

To distinguish my work with astrological cycles in this way from garden-variety astrology, I have coined a new word: astropoetics. The first half of this word, astro-, is meant to suggest that 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 the larger cosmic patterns that routinely coalesce and disperse in the sky.  The second half of this  word, -poetics, is meant to suggest that the ineffable mystery of soul can best be approached through a language that is poetic in its use of words.  A poetic language is one that 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 can potentially serve as the basis for a potent language of soul that allows for the possibility of deep and penetrating self-discovery.

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