Prologue: After many years as a counseling astrologer, I want most of
all a practical astrology – an astrology that provides a benign
roadmap, a friendly ally on life’s harsh journey. I believe astrology
is a healing art and a sacred science. If this is so, a larger energy
encompasses an astrology reading and big responsibilities are part of
the journey. Immediately a ground that covers past and future opens up,
when the chart is assessed. Working with astrological systems tends also
to expand the spiritual worldview, as an interconnected universe hits
you between the eyes. Certain assumptions of rational science are challenged
when cosmic synchronicities and patterns emerge. In this way astrologers
could be said to practice a healing art.
A Soulful Subject
True to the deep search for knowledge flagged by Pluto’s passage through Sagittarius, western astrologers have been learning more about their rich heritage. The very structural beginnings of rules and rulerships, exaltations and receptions, houses and planetary powers, have been revivified, as English translations of Greek and Latin texts have flooded into the community. Some dedicated American astrologer/scholars have recently bestowed a wonderful gift. The Project Hindsight team took on the task of translating many ancient ‘root’ texts, in 1993. Robert Schmidt has now translated most of the works of the Hellenistic astrologers of the Mediterranean area and the Near East from 2nd century BC, while Robert Hand and Robert Zoller have translated many Latin works from the later Medieval tradition.
Describing Hellenistic astrology as “the true source of all later Western astrology”, Robert Schmidt explains that its underlying cosmogony considered stars and planets as representing “the essential components of the cosmic soul”. (1) Charts were perused to find the individual ‘pilot of the soul’, the planetary power most capable of leading us true. Rob Hand likewise concludes in a recent interview, “the natal chart is a statement of intention by the soul.” He believes the modern quest for self-actualization is compatible with the ancient Aristotelian notion of causes, which suggests, “a human being is a soul actualizing itself in a body.” (2) If life indeed is about actualizing the soul’s potential, then astrology can provide a healing roadmap for the journey.
English astrologer John Frawley, author of “The
Real Astrology” and subsequent books, interprets traditional astrology’s
emphasis on the “faculties of the soul” as definitely being
the astrologer’s business. He suggests that by studying these faculties
we can help get “the person’s nature into some kind of coherent
pattern so it can go forward…Astrology can help by seeing how things
are ordered within that individual.” (3) Frawley does much in his
writings and lectures to demystify and simplify modern techniques, while
advancing astrology as a sacred science, rooted in the spiritual tradition.
Yet his sense of “standing within the tradition and looking out
from the middle” (3) moves him to omit the outer planets. Nonetheless,
the three outer planets that were discovered with the advent of the telescope
- Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, are our modern inheritance. It doesn’t
take much work on planetary cycles to see that their aspect cycles synchronize
perfectly with the current renaissance and expansion of modern astrology.
The Intersection of Fate and Free Will
The intersection of fate and free will is one way to describe the human condition – its gift and its wound. As Rob Hand suggests, “any chart has the potential for actualization that would lead to an enlightened being. But the circumstances, contingencies and accidents…simply do not allow that to happen most of the time.” (2) Could it be that astrology has a role to play as a healing perspective, an integrated way to view one’s life? Any little flashes of awareness are a boon to someone in the dark.
Some things seem fated to be hard work. The 6th and 12th houses show unequivocal statements about the illness and suffering we experience in our life yet, planetary and house strengths help elucidate healing. Any major aspect connection between planets, even if a square or opposition, is a dialogue and potentially a source of strength. Free will is most likely to come out and play in useful ways, when strengths are known and inspiration is present.
The Lightness of Being?
Saturn also ‘joys’ in the 12th house, so perhaps as Frawley suggests, Saturn’s self-discipline and restraint can replace self-undoing. Liz Greene says of Saturn in the twelfth, “Saturnian energies geared initially toward self-protection and defense against the environment, are rendered ineffectual.” (5) It is the inner Saturn, which disciplines the self that can be effective. This house is also linked to mystical consciousness and is the place of service and surrender. In fact, the 12th is the house of introspection on its deepest level. Does the traditional definition of ‘Bad Spirits’ reflect a fatalism and lack of interest in psychology inherent in the worldview of that time? Since human nature often resists the sacrifice and inner work the 12th requires, it is more readily a house of ill fortune than good fortune, yet with potential. The 12th house receives the first light in the clockwise rotation of the earth each day, but by the anti-clockwise movement of planets this is the final and weakest place. Perhaps in this way it is truly a house of illumination as well as our secret darkness.
Healing and Synchronicity
The nature of healing can be a see-saw experience. When under the weakening influence of an illness we will often indulge in those very mental states that add to our condition. Knowledge of the counter dynamics of the chart can be very valuable here and the profitable energies of the angular houses and planets can be called upon. The succeedent houses, the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 11th don’t have angular strength, but have an important role. For instance the pleasure and success to be gained from strong 5th and 11th houses, the places where Venus and Jupiter ‘joy’, can counter the pull of negative mental states. The dignities, exultations, joys and powers of the planets are just part of a birth chart’s natural chords, the synchronicities that heal.
Opening the Vertical
Jean Houston, like many transformational teachers, addresses the issue of conditioning and talks about a spiritual energy, which cuts through, opening the vertical dimension of life. (7) This brings to mind the role of the IC/MC axis. Could this define our best chance to move into the energy of transformation and healing? The sign on the MC, the planetary ruler, any planets conjoining this point and their relationship to the ruler, will be the guideposts. Perhaps the IC energies define the starting point for healing and the MC the potential healing outcomes. For instance, that Virgo IC attention to physical details can provide the underlying ground for a Piscean experience of surrender, inspiration and spiritual healing.
Some Questions Raised by the Hellenistic Practices
Q1. Should we consider using equal houses or whole sign houses like the ancient Greeks? While equal houses put the degree of the Ascendant on every house cusp and let the Midheaven fall where it will, whole signs would take for example, all of Capricorn as your first house, even if your Ascendant is 28 degrees. This is the most ancient house system. Greek astrologers used whole signs but many also used a quadrant system to calculate planetary powers. And when they used equal houses there was quite a lot of flexibility within the sign, with the degree being more the power point of a house than the beginning. Considering this, Crane asks: “Could we … use both whole-signs and quadrant houses in different ways? It is not such a large jump to use quadrant systems to denote strength and the whole sign houses for the areas of life”. (8) Perhaps as modern astrologers, we can delineate areas of life and questions of physical tendencies in traditional ways using a traditional house system, yet still use our preferred house system to decide planetary powers and explore the path of balance and healing? After immersing himself in traditional systems and exploring whole sign houses, Rob Hand concluded tat this system had “compelled” his belief and suggested: “Draw your charts…with the spokes for your houses and the signs of the zodiac around the wheel…so that you can see them. Most computer programs have such forms…Then, as you analyze your charts, systematically compare the indications of either your favourite house system or Whole Signs.” (9) I personally prefer to erect dual wheels but different folks different strokes.
Q2. How do we weight contradictory information? Traditional astrology also has answers for this. When for instance two planets are in mutual reception but both in signs of debility, what is the strongest? For example Mars will be in Taurus and Venus in Scorpio in September 2005. Is it the positive influence of mutual reception or the negative influence of debility, which holds sway? In this case, mutual reception is the strongest, because when planets “deal” with each other, they give strength to each other. Likewise, “a ruler, in a strong house, can strengthen a planet in a difficult house” (8).
Essential dignities were also less important than house position when it came to calculating worldly happiness. Robert Schmidt called angular houses “pivot points” of the chart and Hellenistic Astrologers considered those, the only truly “profitable” houses. From the pivot of our 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th houses we leap into the business of life. A cadent house like the 6th is seen as wholly unprofitable – the house of illness. Yet, despite this, if the planet ruling the 6th is in the 10th, the 6th is immediately stronger. Conversely if the ruler of an angular house is in the 6th, it is immediately weakened. John Frawley offers the example of a dignified planet unable to be of full benefit because of a weak house placement, for example in the 12th.
Q3. Should we be using the traditional system of Planetary Joys to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the chart? Venus and Jupiter, for instance take joy from being in the 5th and 11th houses, while Moon and Sun “delight” in the 3rd and 9th houses respectively. Even the ‘malefic’ planets Mars and Saturn, delighting in the “profitless” 6th and 12th houses, can be strengthened and a positive boon under certain circumstances. Paulus Alexandrinus gave the example of Saturn in the 12th becoming a boon when “completely in sect”. (8) “In sect” means that in this case both Sun and Saturn are above the horizon and Saturn is in an Air or Fire sign.
The actualization of the soul’s potential is perhaps the task of being human. The natal chart will reveal many levels of potential but a human lifetime is not necessarily long enough to achieve these. Traditionally the ruler of the ascendant will describe the most automatic responses and something more is needed to move out of that repetitive loop. Astrology as healing seeks to define and communicate that ‘something more’.
NOTE The Project Hindsight progress was most thoroughly chronicled in
these and many other articles in TMA, most of which are available as back
Christine Broadbent is a full-time astrologer who loves her work. Christine
is currently in Auckland and will be available for personal consultations
in Sydney from mid April to early June. She will also offer consultations
in Melbourne in late June. Please phone +61 402 664 101 to make a booking.
Christine@astrologyspot.com.au You can also leave a message on 0402 664 101. Printed or email reports detailing your personality patterns or the influences of the coming year, are also available.