Astrology as Archetypal Language
" Or, Why the Planets Don't Control Our Fates"
Antero Alli ©1999-2009
If you care enough to define the terms of your life and are brave enough to act from that personal vision, your life will be transformed by the heat, light, and force imparted by the sources you are living for, the animating principles governing existence itself: the archetypes. Traditional astrology symbolizes these archetypes as planetary glyphs on the natal horoscope with the assumption that the out-there planets control our fates. I must confess: I have never felt at home with this Planets-as-Puppetmasters notion. I don't believe that the planets control our fates. Until we grow more accountable for the lives we are living, it is more likely that we are controlled by the personal and collective forces of our own:
* Ego structures, presence and vitality: Sun
* Habits, emotions and need stuctures: Moon
* Thoughts, intellect, learning and talking: Mercury
* Affinities, aesthetics, love and attraction: Venus
* Excitements, will to action and aggression: Mars
* Beliefs, dogmas, ethics and perceptions: Jupiter
* Fears, ambitions and commitments: Saturn
* Self-sabotage, subversion and mischief: Chiron
* Innate autonomy, rebellion and social activism: Uranus
* Dreams, aspirations and disappointments: Neptune
* Soul intent, power (politics) and obsessions: Pluto
Archetypal forces act as autonomous energies with lives and agendas of their own. What I hope to encourage here is an intuitive grasp of the archetypes as living forces within our humanity; in humanity we discover the divine and within the divine, our humanity. With this perspective, the language of astrology can be studied and used to deepen experience of the very life living through us. After a simple semantic adjustment is made -- think forces, not planets -- we can learn to use astrology to discern two distinct yet related energies: personal and transpersonal. Astrology, as I'm using it here, involves a process of setting up communication lines with energies -- spirits in the material world -- for the purpose of knowing them more directly, of embodying them, and realizing ourselves in the process.
Personal and Transpersonal Forces
Our modern society has effectively trivialized and taken for granted these archetypes by masking their mystery with inane mundanity. Let us re-imagine our habit patterns (Moon) as sacred and the force of our theories (Mercury) as ideas about God. Try looking at your motives (Mars) as your reasons for living. To continue along this line of questioning, we must be willing to part the veils of societal conditioning to catch more glimpses of the essences of, not only astrological symbols, but the living truths these symbols refer to. We begin with the personal forces.
The personal forces are symbolized by Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn; the transpersonal forces include Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. The chief function of the personal forces are ego-stabilizers. Each represents a different way of serving personality development and socialization. Each personal force (symbolized astrologically by a planet) refers to a piece of what it takes to become a whole person. As each personal force is integrated into the weave of the developing personality -- sometimes with suffering, effort and struggle -- they combine to characterize and eventually crystallize as our fate: the person we are becoming. Perhaps as astrologer Robert Hand suggests, personality is a modern word for fate.
Transpersonal experience gives our personality a context beyond itself yet also inclusive of itself. This often occurs through experiences of what I call outside shocks. They are 'outside' in that these experiences are beyond the control and comprehension of ego. Real life delivers outside shocks that confront ego with objective truths, those existing conditions of real life that the ego did not cause or cannot manipulate or, never even considered. When faced with circumstances beyond our control, we either learn to acquiesce or surrender or, we extend our suffering by resisting its reality. I see outside shocks symbolized by the transpersonal planets, or forces, as the shocks of oppression/freedom (Uranus), the shocks of isolation/unity (Neptune), and the shocks of impermance and death/rebirth (Pluto).
Outside shocks trigger growth spurts, inciting new possibilities where previous crystallizations and limitations thwarted our further development. With each new shock, the personality can often enter a temporary disorientation period, a rapid growth cycle, wherein creative opportunities emerge for rearranging and realigning our life and more truth as we know it. It just takes a certain perspective and receptivity to notice this.
The Sun as a Dynamic Presence and Force of Being
Given the sun's cosmic status as our chief source of light and heat, the astrological Sun makes a royal symbol for the degree we personally generate light and warmth. Spiritually, the Sun represents the existing conditions of where and how we shine and radiate the being we are. This beingness requires absolutely no understanding to exist -- it simply is -- and is already expressed through the existing conditions of the innate spirituality symbolized by the Sun.
What does it mean to self-realize? When the being within you is affirmed, its innate forces of heat and light radiate vital emanations of warmth and charisma to the world. When this being is negated -- by self-denial or accepted negation from society -- our inner light dims down. If we persist in a state of self-negation, this inner light can flicker and die out like a pilot light in a furnace. The dynamic force of self-realization gains momentum through any experiences affirming the being and thus, accelerating the experience of being nobody but yourself; a heroic struggle in any society bent on selling you promises to become everything but yourself. Over-emphasize this solar force of the Sun sign, however, and risk suffering the various maladies of hubris, arrogance, and big ego burnout.
The Moon as an Emotional Force of Habit and Need
If the Sun represents the fiery self-realizing force of who you are becoming, the astrological Moon reflects the life you are already living. The Moon refers to your existing biological, instinctive needs for comfort, survival, and happiness -- the simple needs. Yet when denied, we create a life complicated with frustration, discontent, and depression. The Moon in your chart can tell you where (the house) and how (the sign) to most effectively engage your security habits when life's stranger, weirder episodes leave you feeling anxious. Picture your habit patterns as sacred.
Some people eat to soothe their nerves or read a book or talk on the phone or have sex or watch television. Whatever gets you through the night. The Moon defines familiarity and this familiar sense is always subjective: one person's safety can be another person's danger. Live too much for your Moon (for comfort and security), however, and your life bogs down into an insular coccoon of inertia; there's a fine line between a rut and a groove. We humans are a clinging species and our natal Moon remains a soulful reminder of our personal weaknesses, shortcomings, and humanity -- how we are like everybody else. The Moon informs us of what we are attached to, as well as where and how we need to be attached. The Moon refers to our most personal way of expressing ourselves in our moment-to-moment reactions to the immediate environment. Your Moon sign symbolizes your emotional style.
Mercury as a Mental Force of Ideation and Learning
As much as our instinctive life refers to how we are all linked by biology, the mental force of our ideas effectively divide us as people. Rather than what we think, it is how we think that most separates us from each other and determines whether we are actually communicating or merely passing wind. Mercury articulates our thinking style: how we tend to figure things out, solve problems, and interpret experience.
When the Mercury dominates a given chart, that person's mental energy can tend to over-emphasize; sometimes, we over-think and talk too much. Mercury isn't synonymous with intelligence as a whole but represents the symbol-making muscle for developing language, analysis, and logic. Intellectual geniuses, for instance, can also be emotional idiots, i.e., jerks. If you look at the mind as a very powerful lens, it is easy to see how the force and nature of your thought processes influence your perception and how you translate your experiences. Thoughts, in and of themselves, may be autonomous, lighting from mind to mind and held only by the force of commitment. The Greek word for God is theos -- do all our theories reflect ideas about what we know (and don't know) about God ?
Venus asa Magnetic Force of Love and Attraction
Just as the conceptual force emanates from the head center, so does Venus symbolize the heart center's existing emanations of affinity and attraction. Though love itself cannot truly be defined as an idea, it can be experienced. Awareness of love often begins with a basic affinity, be it with a belief or an art form or another person or a favorite food. This affinity develops into a love through the deepening of our likes, our tastes, and our personal aesthetics.
Astrological Venus also symbolizes the magnetic force of pleasure: what pleases us and what we find beautiful. Without these values, we are left with a loveless life, a life barely worth living. The force of love expresses value and worth and the sign that Venus resides in conveys how self-worth is defined. The quality of love in your life is determined by the nature of what magnetizes you, what you are attracted to, and what you attract to yourself, for whatever reasons. (Love can be blind -- who has not loved for all the wrong reasons ?) Venus refers to how we are touched and moved towards intimacy. Though love exists everywhere, love is easy to overlook when ideals and expectations about what loveis or should be create more affinity to abstractions than to the experience of love itself. Love is never what you think. Love is real only when you are aware of it as a living force of affinity, a presence, harmonizing you and the beloved, whatever and whomever that may be. The nature of personal love differs for each individual and the sign Venus and house is in may indicate how. Love to one person may be anything but to another.
Mars as a Motivating Force of Will and Action
The martial force symbolized by astrological Mars acts out through the physical impulses of your most visceral will to act. Originating in the motor -- or gut -- center, the motivating force of will knows action as sacred. Mars symbolizes the existing conditions of the force of will in your life; what drives you to do whatever it is you can do. Action burns energy. You can only do what you have energy to do -- try doing something you don't have the energy for. The sign that Mars resides in conveys a motivational style (the conditions necessary for triggering action) and the thrill-criteria for what turns you on and raises your physical energy.
Spiritually, Mars symbolizes what you are living for: Your will to survive and your incentive to keep living. Psychologically, Mars refers to what you are willing to fight for based on the knowledge of what you want and the will to act on that desire. Lose touch with the motivating force of will and you are more subject to the ebb and flux of your habits, affinities, and ideas. The active force of will (Mars) naturally opposes the passive force of habit (Moon) until the will to act becomes a habit (actors must learn this habit to perform on cue). With too much Mars, our behavior turns irate, aggressive and combative; not enough Mars can come across as indecision, passivity and apathy. What are you living for ? What gets you going ? What excites you and turns you on ?
Jupiter as an Uplifting Force of Expanding Consciousness
Any experience that genuinely expands consciousness -- such as travel to a foreign culture or doing something you've never done before -- can boost your confidence with a new perspective. This uplifting force of consciousness expansion is well symbolized by astrological Jupiter, especially when it involves taking risks and leaps of faith beyond what is known and familiar to extend our perspective. By growing more aware, we develop a sensitivity to what matters and what doesn't, what is worth caring for and what isn't. The more consciousness expands, the more conscience has a chance to develop. Through our own perceptions we come to a personal impression of truth -- our truth -- and form the beliefs to confirm and maintain these truths. Over time these beliefs can easily crystallize into fixed assumptions, expectations, ideals, and dogmas around specific issues and about life in general.
If we can remain open-minded enough to new information and fresh experiences -- those that do not always conform to our previous assumptions -- we can update our perception and outgrow obsolete beliefs. We learn new ways to keep learning. If and when our minds shut down, we suffer from the bigotry of fundamentalist thinking and its painful need to be right all the time. The force of belief is never the truth but rather your perception of truth. Natal Jupiter points to where and how your truth can be known, where your own consciousness needs expanding.
Saturn as a Limiting Force of Fear and Responsibility
Life's more expansive experiences can trigger forces of an equally constrictive nature when that abundance turns to excess and threatens your integrity. Eat, drink, and party too hardy and your health suffers. Awareness of real limitations on any level can be symbolized astrologically by Saturn, the limiting force of your actual fears and true responsibilities. Actual fear (not an imagined fear) is a survival signal alerting you to a life-threatening situation: You spent the rent money and an eviction notice is served.
True responsibility involves the effort to become aware of the consequences of your actions and to build your competence at meeting your basic survival needs. This means working to build and maintain the reality structures of your life and this process differs for each person. When Saturn's limiting force is ignored or denied, a potentially immobilizing condition arises. One's sense of reality becomes buffered by compensatory phobias (perceived threats) and considerations (false duty) and then, frozen by the frustrations of unmet needs and unrealized dreams. Saturn symbolizes the ability to reality check yourself, to be your own anchor.
In any astrology chart, Saturn can pinpoint a critical grow-up-or-freeze-up zone, defining the necessary issues for maturating the personality. Saturn means business. When Saturn over-emphasizes, spontaneity and creativity can be stifled and crushed. Too much Saturn spoils the party but not enough Saturn can spoil your entire life. By learning to respond to your real fears, you can develop enough response-ability to convert those fears into commitments. One hundred percent commitment amounts to integrity. Whatever you can get behind 100% is where you will find your real integrity and often that is symbolized by the House that Saturn resides in.
Uranus as an Liberating Force of Awakening Autonomy
The transpersonal force of Uranus represents a shock of freedom in sudden, unpredictable ways. Freedom, as referred to here, is innate to being human. We are born free but over decades of societal conditioning, we lose touch with how free we already are and sleepwalk through life in a trance of spiritual amnesia. When the force of our autonomy (Uranus) is awakened, it may disrupt those habit patterns and learned behaviors that have been oppressing awareness of this innate autonomy. Uranus also symbolizes the rebellious, independence streak that is fiercer in some than others. When this freedom-fighting force dominates other forces, it can alienate us with too much independence and we can suffer excommunication from family, friends, and community. The electrical force of Uranus also sparks brilliance and genius, and the startling stubbornness for doing things with zero compromise; my way or the highway. The liberating force of Uranus can rattle your cage and shock you awake.
Neptune as a Dissolving Force of Compassion
Like the steady crash of waves on the rocky seashore, the transpersonal force of Neptune symbolizes a shock of unity through gradual erosion of boundaries, borders and barriers that have isolated us. Unity, as the term is used here, infers an indivisibility with all things; all existence is unified by virtue of all things existing...unity at the level of existence itself.
Astrological Neptune also represents the invisible, pervasive force of our dreams. From our highest expectations, ideals, and aspirations, to the night dreams where our dreambody dreams itself awake, Neptune symbolizes the spectrum of sublime immateriality: Of inspiration and madness, poetry and insanity, music and noise.
In context to life in the material world, Neptune refers to those areas subject to our greatest disappointments and disillusionments, as well as our most profound epiphanies and enlightenments. In relation to ego personality, this transpersonal force acts as solvent -- a kind of acid bath -- dissolving such self-imposed, arbitrary divisions as 'us' and 'them,' 'me' and 'you,' 'good' and 'evil,' to expose the underlying unity of existence. Neptune as the great leveler. Neptune also represents spiritual the need for ego sacrifice and intimacy with the formless substance of Void, the potential energy behind and within everything that exists. Exercising our capacity for imagination and inspiration encourages harmonious interaction with this elusive force astrology calls Neptune.
Pluto as a Regenerative Force of Death and Rebirth
The transpersonal force of Pluto represents a shock to our naivete around death and rebirth and any exposure to the numerous forms expressing natural decay and renewal. Death is always more shocking in materialistic, death-ignorant societies where the organic processes of decay are made taboo; money loses value when death is in the room. Astrological Pluto symbolizes soul intent, your deeper reason for incarnating (for more insight, read Jeffrey Wolf Green's, Pluto: The Soul's Evolution Through Relationships ). From a soul level, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences but rather spiritual beings needing specific human experiences to further soul-embodiment as humans.
This arduous humanization process is made intensely transformative by a major obsession, or fixation (symbolized by natal Pluto). Look at obsession as the concentrative power affording full intuitive contact with life energies. Real life comes at us in a series of deep plutonic shocks; even the most sheltered of existences must endure its own degenerative stagnation. When confronting the shock of death -- in whatever form -- the traumatized ego often responds by fixating itself on an obsession in an attempt to restabilize itself. Obsessions are often symptoms of undigested shock. Natal Pluto refers to specific obsessions and points of fixation, as well as where your greatest transformations throughout life are most likely to occur.
Why the Forces Will Not Go Away
These personal and transpersonal forces, as symbolized by the astrological planets, express the existing conditions and tendencies of energies actively influencing our daily lives. To the extent we are aware of their effects and interact with them is a matter of personal choice, effort, and the struggle to remain conscious of their imminent realities. Whether it is the force of habit or will or belief or the force of our dreams, there is no escaping their presence. Nothing can make them go away. No amount of self-denial, intoxication, or mental negation can truly control or extinguish the archetypes.
They are autonomous forces with lives of their own that seem to act out their own agendas or intentions. At best, astrology can be used as a language to track and understand these intentions and perhaps provide a code for interacting with the archetypes themselves. With enough practice and humility (always remember, we are not the archetypes -- we are nobody but ourselves), we can open the door to participate with them by aligning our consciousness with the forces that be. When diligent self-observation accompanies the study of astrology, this language avails itself as a true communications medium through which all manner of messages can be received, stored, and transmitted. We speak with the cosmos and the cosmos speaks back.
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