Astrology by Hand Week 8
My Comments on Psychological Astrology
I received a lengthy and well-thought-out letter from Glenn Perry, Ph.D., a person that we have to take very seriously because he is not only an extremely thoughtful astrologer, but is also well-known as a practicing psychologist. Most of what he said in his email to me is also contained in the slightly edited version in the feedback section of this column.
I think Glenn objected to my rather secular view of psychology as applied to astrology—that is, a psychology that is not especially connected to any spiritual or metaphysical tradition. And it is true, I agree, that most humanistic and psychological astrologers do have a rather strong metaphysical bent. Insofar as psychological astrology ”transforms psychology into a more spiritual and metaphysical model,” such astrology can hardly be accused of being an attempt to make astrology conformable to the rationalism of conventional science. I have no problem with any of that.
Any astrological system that postulates, or is based on a spiritual or metaphysical view of some kind, is not part of the problem that I have been addressing, whether or not I personally agree with the spiritual or metaphysical views in question. It is only when there is a psychological astrology that attempts to make astrology a system of behavior and experience without such a spiritual or metaphysical foundation that it comes under the domain of my objections. I agree with Glenn that most practitioners of humanistic and psychological astrology do at this time operate out of some kind of spiritual foundation that is completely at variance with materialistic science.
However, the following is a statement that Glenn made that I would like to address in greater detail. Glenn wrote:
”I think the primary attribute of a psychological approach to astrology is its focus on integrating the birth chart, and thus the human potential for growth and change. Outside of this primary focus, there is probably no uniform psychological approach, although I would be willing to argue that there are probably very few psychological astrologers who are not transpersonally oriented.”
First of all, I think Glenn has given about as elegant a one-sentence definition of the psychological approach as anyone could do. I also agree that outside of that definition there are a tremendous variety of approaches. But what I want to focus on is that primary emphasis for a moment.
We can argue endlessly as to the reasons for focusing on human potential, whether or not it was to make astrology easier to fit into the mainstream of modern thought, or whether it was born out of a modern and genuine concern for development of human potential. Both, I think, are true at some level, and on the conscious level I think that the second is much more true. Yet it is this focus on the inward state and subjective state of the individual that I think constitutes the flaw of most psychological astrologies.
The pillar of the philosophy of science is the attempt to get at universal truths that exist independently of any observer. Once it was thought that there was a knowable, objectively real kind of truth—a kind of God’s-eye view of things. More recently, it has become acceptable only to try to approximate such a truth whether or not it does actually exist.
But the radical distinction between subjective and objective truth is a centerpiece of the philosophy of science. Modern third and fourth wave psychology has tried to give some legitimacy to the subjective. This is in contrast to science, which has relegated the subjective to a very inferior level of validity. Psychological astrology follows in this course.
My position, as I shall make clear, is that the entire notion of subjective versus objective has to be rethought, and any system that emphasizes the polarity in any way may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Astrology Is Much Weirder than Generally Supposed
In the next few weeks, I am going to be suggesting that the actual foundations of astrology are not merely the result of spirit, mind or psyche operating in a realm of matter and energy, but that the universe is much more intrinsically spirit, mind or psyche than it is matter—a very ancient point of view.
The difficulty here is that I have used several of the most undefined words in the entire metaphysical tradition of the West: spirit, mind and psyche. I do plan to present definitions of these words that I am going to use in these columns. I plan to do the same with other such words, such as soul and consciousness. I do not suggest that my definitions will be the only correct ones or even the best ones, but I do want you all to know exactly what I mean when I use these words.
As I continue to develop my ideas in these columns, I want us all to keep one basic thing in mind. Astrology is not just strange; it is extremely strange indeed, and if it is true, it may require going back to some of the oldest ideas in Western philosophy and evaluating them anew.
Next week I will get back to horary astrology and related issues.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Hand, author of Planets in Transit and other works, is now involved in the translation and publication of texts regarding ancient and medieval astrology through ARHAT Media Inc.