This is my first blog post since back in March, when I decided to take a couple of months off from writing about astrology. My birthday is in early March; in astrology terms, this year I have transiting Pluto conjunct my natal Ascendant in my Solar Return chart, and that will continue for the next couple of years.
Pluto, the Cosmic Roto-Rooter – major change, major cleanout, major transformation – it kind of feels like the psychic equivalent of having one of those drain cleaner thingies shoved up my butt. I think of myself as being Closed for Renovations this year. Along with some major shifts in diet and lifestyle, this includes my needing to re-think my attitude towards astrology, how it works, and how it fits in the world today, in this period of global instability and national decline.
Putting in bluntly – why bother studying and practicing astrology in the first place? How do I make sense of astrology in a 21st century world, and what good does it do?
I have don’t the answers down yet, but I do have a sense of direction and where to look, and I have a sense that I am being guided in my search.
In this post I want to start to define the questions, and give you an idea of where I am looking for the answers.
I am basically a philosopher masquerading as an astrologer, so I will be widening the scope of the blog this year, and talking a a lot about the philosophical underpinnings of our practice of astrology today.
I think there is a serious need for modern astrology to examine its roots, and to come up with a self-aware philosophy in which astrology makes coherent sense, rather than trying to tack it onto a modern materialist and scientific worldview in which astrology is unprovable at best, and irrelevant and delusory at worst.
Why are people drawn to study astrology? I think that is largely a reaction against a modern worldview that is fragmented and devoid of meaning. We stare out at a meaningless and mechanical cosmos, tiny specks of matter on a tiny planet, with a life span that is less than the blink of an eyelid in terms of the overall life of the universe.
Think Existential Angst here, a universe empty of meaning. Angst is kind of cool when you’re a teenager, but it’s a whole different animal when you’re in your mid sixties and can feel the dark chill of decline and death approaching. I can’t duck the issue of death anymore, and I need a philosophy and spiritual path that includes dealing with aging and death.
In the modern world there is the sense that we are living in a universe that is either indifferent or downright hostile to us – you even see that in a lot of 20th century astrology, that narrows the scope of astrology to an inner, psychological and spiritual meaning. In terms of the larger world we inhabit, individual human life matters very little. So, we have a split between us living humans, and the world we inhabit.
Paralleling that, we are split and fragmented internally. Our culture has a serious mind-body split, where our bodies are unruly and sometimes hostile animals that we need to control and discipline the best we can, and that are destined to fall apart and die on us in far too short a time period. Our medical system treats the body as a mindless and inanimate machine, at the mercy of hostile invasion from enemies – from without like infectious diseases, or from within like cancer, where the body turns and destroys itself. We are in the middle, between diseases on the one side, and doctors with their machines and drugs on the other – and the message is very clear, that we are powerless.
We are split off from the world around us, and we are split off in consciousness from our own bodies, which betray and eventually fail us. This can leave people feeling very helpless and isolated indeed.
Much of the search for meaning in our culture seems to be channeled into the political arena these days – at least that is the sense I get from listening to the news media, and from watching what goes floating by in the badly polluted river that is my Facebook news feed. Most of that seems to me like meaningless noise that ingnores our real problems – it is like we are passengers on the Titanic right after it collides with an iceberg, and here we are, getting into fistfights about re-arranging the chairs on the top deck.
More powerlessness, more fragmentation, more meaningless noise. A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
So why bother studying astrology?…
Here is what I am discovering this year.
I am finding that, if we go back and dig into the philosophy and worldview that gave birth to astrology in the first place, we can find a way of thinking about that world that will restore meaning and wholeness to our lives, and that will heal the horrid splits and fragmentations of our modern materialistic world view.
This process takes a great deal of self-examination and self-awareness. We need to consider and make conscious the sorts of philosophical assumptions we are making today that got us into our current mess. We also need to re-think what sort of philosophy can give a sense of coherence and meaning.
I think that there is a living tradition of philosophy and spiritual practice in our own Western heritage that is deeply coherent, meaningful and satisfying, and that can answer these questions, that can give our lives coherence and meaning.
I think we can find that in our own Western esoteric tradition, which has its roots in the philosophy of Plato and the great Neo-Platonists. This year I am taking the time to explore Plato, the great Neoplatonists like Iamblichus and Proclus, and the great modern Platonists like Thomas Taylor. It is our own Western spiritual tradition, and astrology is a logical and necessary part of that worldview.
Can that tradition speak to us today, here in the 21st century? I am finding that it can. It feels like a home-coming, and the beginning of a rebirth.
I am exploring and re-thinking those roots this year, and I want to share what I am learning in the coming months in this blog.
Sound interesting? Stay tuned…