November 3, 20119 Comments

“Astrology for the Astrologically Challenged” by Deborah Smith Parker

I’ve been challenging a commonly held belief in astrology that the stars only indicate, they don’t influence. To recap from previous posts, I’ve been putting voice to this challenge after stumbling onto the definition of “influence” in my etymological Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition the first definition of which reads An ethereal fluid held to flow from the stars and to affect the actions of humans.

Since posting on this topic I’ve received comments on both sides of this issue—yes the stars influence, no they don’t, even that they can’t. The idea that stars only indicate is a relatively recent notion since the roots of astrology were founded on the notion that the stars were the instruments of the gods who caused everything that happened. This was derived from observations by the ancients that the movements of the planets into different constellations coincided with behaviors and events on earth. Therefore, planets were named for the god associated with the types of events and behaviors a particular planet appeared to evoke, like acts of war with Mars, good fortune with Jupiter, and limitations or losses with Saturn.

The Greeks were credited as the first to employ the scientific method, to proclaim that there was order to the universe and that natural laws governed acts of nature, not the gods. Knowing natural law meant that many phenomena were now predictable. Once the laws became known, so did many of their indicators. Thus, the gods and the stars began to move from cause to indicator. This was actually relatively recent in the overall span of human history.

But that doesn’t explain it all, does it? There is just this part of many of us that can’t completely buy it, can’t make that total switch, we who have experienced some form of connection or contact with something that comes from beyond where our everyday lives are lived and which helps us with the course of our lives in often indescribable ways.

So why does the role of the stars have to be either cause or indicator? Why can’t it be a little bit of both? Why can’t we make the conversation about what that looks like? We are not just hamsters on wheels spinning around the same tight circles trapped in tiny cages, although we all have moments when we feel that way. If you listen to people talk about their lives—and astrologers do a lot of listening—you will hear over and over that what changed and even transformed them was some deeply inspiring experience, a powerful spiritual awakening, a repeating thought they couldn’t push out, that they finally acted on that moved them into a new reality with creative possibilities.

The fact that these experiences of influence exist cannot easily be negated or denied. Different paradigms provide different channels for articulation of that influence. People tend not to question it much when it comes through the vehicle of their religion, or scientific discipline, or psychological or social construct.

But where does “it” come from, that influence? How does it get to us? How are we able to receive and process it? The fact that these gateways and their timing can often be identified beforehand in the astrological chart is fascinating.

I think the vehicle for influence in astrology is the planet Neptune and I will explore that in later posts.

 (Deborah Smith Parker is the author of “Humanus Astrologicus” available in soft cover on this site and now in ebook formats—for a ridiculously low price. To sign up to receive her blog or follow her on Twitter @astro_logicus and Facebook click to the right of this post.)

About author:

Deborah Smith Parker is re-writing the often impenetrable language of astrology into a much friendlier form. She has spent her 30 plus years as an astrological consultant, writer, teacher and lecturer freeing the rich astrological images and their descriptions increasingly buried under modern clinical and technological descriptions. Her additional work in public policy has provided many outlets for demonstrating her ability to break down highly complex systems into information that’s easily understood.

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  1. Bill Manville says:

    Beautifully — even persausively — written Deborah — but isnt astrologoy like religon–vast literatures without a single replicable example of what they are talking about?

  2. Jill Estensen says:

    Theory is to Science what spirituality is to Religion and what influence is to Astrology and what consciousness is to Psychology. Science, Religion, Astrology and Psychology are all based on human law. Laws that we humans have created to fulfill or explain our relationships to natural law and universal law. Each area is connected to the other…..they are inseparable by natural and universal law. Cause and effect.

  3. Debra, I love that you are writing so elegantly about this topic. After the past ten years of shamanic constellation work I experience astrology from an energetic space, non cerebral. I am starting to explore the influence of our personal and collective astrology through the lens of systemic thinking, and morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a developing universe with its own inherent memory and energetic influence. Rupert Sheldrake has observed this morphic field in nature, and we Constellators observe it in systems. So why not astrology.. it is an ultimate resonance system.
    With the recent passing of James Hillman I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes of his “We dont have archetypes, archetypes have us”

  4. It IS a tangle. Bill, your statement of “not a single replicable example” falls short. Since astrology speaks to non-linear systems, and since individuals are each TOTALLY unique, it’s impossible to get an exactly replicable planetary influence. But the trends do exist: Just read Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche to see the clear patterns.

    I believe the transcendental planets–those not visible to the naked eye: Uranus, Neptune, Pluto–are those which move us from literal and material cause/effect relationships to those mediated by inner conditions. Authoritarian cultures tend to respond better to the visible planets, training their citizens to believe there is no valid “inner voice”, and therefore we see these people respond more immediately and materially to the visible planets. (Or at least, I see this when working with folks from these cultures/countries.) When we learn to respond to the inner voice–be it Uranus or Neptune, we have the opportunity to transform rather than react. Pluto’s a bit different: authoritarian cultures have little trouble there, IMO, because they never believed life was fair in the first place, and have learned that surrender is the only option when faced with overwhelming power.

    Sorry for the planetary ramble. As always, Deborah, you stimulate the mind!

  5. Deborah:

    I love this discussion re: whether the stars indicate or cause. I really look forward to the upcoming “Neptune connection.”

    The only valid comments I can make on the subject are from my personal experiences and observations, like everyone else. The observer is an inherent part of any reality – any determination of fact – as quantum physics indicates.

    So what happens to personal experience when observing the night sky? The limitations of space and time we experience as part of our human condition dissolve into an enormous stellar display of light emanating from vast numbers of stars’ individual activities over millennia. The apparently consistent light of these stars that we are viewing in our “here and now” expresses no such time and space limitation.

    So I wonder how feasible or relevant replicable examples of star and planet influence or causal effect on humans might be with such a vast and endlessly variable set of possibilities. Our universe is dynamic, not static, after all.

    Empirical evidence has “proven” many theories in science that have later been proven obsolete with the discovery of greater realities beyond that “proven fact.” The body of scientific fact we have now, like any other belief system has its limits and will appear to fail at some point in the endless and inevitable process of transformation.

    This observer’s experience of the wonder, mystery and beauty of the night sky, and the apparently related artistic expressions and stories of our ancient ancestors to the present, brings me to favor the idea that our sky images and stories are deeply imbedded in our common psyche. Thus, they would appear to act as cause AND to influence us on this deeper common unconscious level. They would function for us as inevitable living cycles and the mythic unfolding of our human story endlessly being created by each of us, as it creates us…Ah, Neptune!

    …I can’t wait for your usual eloquence, Deborah, in tackling such a fluid and uncontainable energy as Neptune…Debbie Keil-Leavitt

  6. It’s really a “Fate vs. Free Will” question, isn’t it? We have to ask ourselves, in which ocean do we swim? If a school of fish can make a collective turn all in one direction, what is it that says to us that we humans do not operate in the same fashion? It is the Ego which perceives it all as a completely individual, detached from everything else, just “my experience.” But as an astrologer, I have to say there are days when the phone rings, and every single caller asks the same question: “What’s happening in the stars today?” And they all repeat the same story, even if one is in Buffalo, the other in Poughkeepsie, and still another in Albuquerque. From my point of view, it was the gods who operated. From their point of view it was “bad luck,” or “Mercury retrograde.”

    Was it fate, or free will? Were they compelled, or impelled? We are not operating in a foreign universe; yet some of the symmetry in their narratives makes you wonder.

  7. Beautifully written and what a fascinating topic. I think as Claire-France says, it comes down to a basic fate v. free will.
    I believe there is a Greater Pattern; an order within the universe, like some great story playing out over millenia. Through astrology (and perhaps also with tarot), we recognised it. Perhaps the stars and planets are like writing. They tell the story but like the letters of the alphabet, they aren’t the story in themselves. They are a symbolic representation of the story. They are a vehicle for understanding.
    I don’t know whether I think the stars and planets influence as such, I think they are a reflection of influence – from some intelligent creative force. I do believe each of us has a part to play in the unfolding of the universe and of course with the unfolding of out history as a collective.
    I think the free will comes in how we respond to the story. Do we play our part or try to change the lines we’ve been given. What I see most often is that the underlying meaning is the same, it’s just the level of understanding that differs.
    Hmmm – you’ve given me a lot to think about 🙂

  8. Barry Ira Geller says:

    I love your charming way of elegant writing. Your “little bit of both” has credence but I think needs further definition as to quality of event. I believe it comes down to consciousness and magical personality — and the lack thereof. Even so it is a fine line between both. With the lack of awareness and consciousness of one’s causal Self, Astrology can be looked upon to appear Cause. As we become “closer” to our Higher Self, Guardian Angel, Inner Master — cause upon us lessons to the degree we become conscious co-creators (another way of saying we intentionally become aligned with Higher Forces), which ultimately root out the Personality’s ego.

    So to me it is always a sliding scale.

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