I want to talk about astrology as a spiritual practice. In particular, there is a meditative discipline that I have been doing every morning for the past few years, that is the core of my work with astrology.
I call it, Consulting with the Gods.
But first, a bit of background.
At one point in my life I was a candidate for priesthood in the Episcopal church, and for many, many years I did what they call the Daily Office, which is a twice daily ritual, morning and evening, that is a mixture of bible reading, journal writing, prayer and meditation.
Specifically, there is a way of working with bible reading called Lectio Divina, divine reading. It is a kind of meditation, but not the discipline of emptying your mind that the word now usually connotes, thanks to the influence of yoga and other Eastern disciplines in our culture.
In the Western tradition, the word meditation means something closer to brooding, or ruminating. There is a marvelous phrase out of the Book of Common Prayer, where Thomas Cranmer talks of how we should “read, mark and inwardly digest” the bible reading. You take the text and go over it very slowly, really getting into the words and images. Then, when a particular phrase or scene or image catches your attention, you pause the reading and take it inside you and brood on it, turning it over and over in your mind, letting it speak to you, letting it take on a life of its own inside you. It makes the text come alive, it makes it your own.
You internalize the reading. If you practice it regularly, it very often gives the experience that God is speaking directly to you through that particular reading. The meditation becomes a dialog, a communication with living intelligence.
If you are a Jungian you might describe the process as Active Imagination. If you have ever tried that, you very quickly find out that the process takes on a life of its own, and it is far, far more than imagining in the usual reductionist sense of the term.
That is how I approach working with astrology.
For me, the planets of astrology are not concepts, or energy fields, or metaphors, nor do they stand for ‘the part of you that does X’.
The word archetype comes close. That concept is used by some astrologers with a psychological, Jungian bent, to represent active principles in the psyche.
However, too often I think the word archetype ends up being used in a reductionist sense so that the Gods of the planets are “only” psychological. They are indeed psychological, but they are also much, much more than that, and their reality and power is not only within our minds.
Or rather, as the subtitle of Lon DuQuette’s book Low Magic puts it –
It’s all in your head…
You just have no idea
How big your head is.
For me, it is far more satisfactory to say that they are Gods, living beings. They speak with us through our minds, and I view the archetypes or mythical figures as communication devices, ways that the Gods can be apprehended by our human consciousness.
Now, about my spiritual discipline.
Every morning, I practice a kind of meditation, in the Western, active sense of the term,working with the planetary Gods.
Each of the days of the week is assigned to one of the seven original planets, the Gods I think of as the Sacred Seven. Sunday is day of the Sun, Monday of the Moon, and so on.
Every morning I sit down with a cup of strong tea and my journal. I start with the planet of the day, write down the glyph of the planet, and start by just looking at it, seeing what associations it brings to mind. I sometimes write a few sentences from that.
Then, pen still in hand, I close my eyes, visualize the glyph of the planet within my mind, and say the name of the planet internally a couple of times. It feels like I am tuning into the planet, establishing communication with that particular God. I then pay attention to what happens within.
For me it usually starts with a feeling sense of the God’s nature. I stay with that, and usually images start to arise at that point. I write those down, see where they lead.
And then, very often, I start to get the sense of a voice, a message, and I record what I get – sometimes it is like dictation, sometimes it is a sequence of images, sometimes strong feelings that bring up other associations.
I get the sense of dialoguing with a living being. Mentally I can ask questions and get a response.
Internally the experience is that the Gods of the planets are communicating with me through this process. There is a sense of reality, of intimacy, of intelligence, of dialog, that the Gods are living entities who very much wish to communicate with us in this way. It is a living presence.
The Gods come alive.
I am now convinced that this kind of living relationship with the Sacred Seven Gods of the planets was once the core of the practice of astrology. All of the elaborate symbolism of our art is providing a framework that the Gods can use to communicate with us. My sense is that we are designed to have this kind of relationship, and I am also convinced that the Gods very much desire this and wish to re-establish this connection.
I want to make clear that I don’t think of what I receive as sacred scripture, or the pure, undiluted Word of the Gods. Any kind of communication like this always takes the shape of the participating intelligences. I know that this is shaped by my particular mind, my vocabulary, my feelings, predilections and distortions.
However, allowing for that, I have learned a great deal from this ongoing discipline, and this internalized relationship is the core from which my astrology reading comes. I don’t feel like I really understand any aspect of astrology until I have taken it into myself like this, to “read, mark and inwardly digest” and make it alive within me, make it my own.
If any of you, Dear Reader, have a similar experience or discipline I welcome your comments here; I would love to hear about it.