September 11, 20127 Comments

“Astrology for the Astrologically Challenged” by Deborah Smith Parker

The two questions I hear most in my astrological practice are some version of “What’s happening here?” (More like “What the @#%&*! is happening?”) and “How will it turn out?” Astrology can help a lot with both of these. Overall I’d say as a profession we’re especially good with the first and not bad at all with the second.

But the map is not the territory. The astrological chart is the “map” of the person’s orientation, past, present and future, to his or her combined environments of finance, possessions, home, creative opportunities, work and service, relationships, debt and so on around the chart providing key navigational aides for encounters involving those environments. This is the arena which largely consumes us and its material measurements, chief of which are success or failure.

However, the “territory” is something on an entirely different plane which I have come to view as the person’s level of consciousness and state of his or her soul. I don’t think astrology or any other discipline, including and especially religion, is in a position to assess another person on either of these “measurements.” Nor do I feel in any way qualified to offer any criteria to do so.

So I’ll fall back on what my Jungian analyst would say when cognitive discourse fails us and that is that we simply need a story. I happen to have one. It has remained dormant for decades and then last year roared out of my past demanding to be understood and told with a more mature perspective than I had at its genesis at age 14 in a junior high biology class.

As part of an experiment several bulbs were planted so that when the experiment concluded a cross section of the root and stem structure for all the bulbs could be revealed and photographed. About six bulbs were planted inches below the earth’s surface. One bulb was intentionally planted upside down. I know there are some plant species in which bulbs can be planted upside down and it won’t matter, but in some the shoots won’t be able to grow normally and thrive. These bulbs were the latter.

The photo in our text books showed the conclusion of the experiment in which the shoots from the bulbs planted right side up had shot up strong and healthy several inches above the earth’s surface. But the shoot from the upside down bulb never made it. The path it took was clearly evident. It started growing straight “up” out of the bulb, which of course was straight down. Then the shoot made a sharp turn stage left and then another so it completed a U turn to head directly toward the surface and the nutrients only the Sun could provide. But its inner resources stored for this journey were exhausted by the cruel necessity for this convoluted detour. The bulb and its shoot died a couple of inches below the surface.

In the grand scheme of things how should that bulb be considered? The bulb didn’t plant itself upside down. It had to start where it was. Should points (I use this term figuratively) be given because once it realized it was headed in the wrong direction—away from the light—it changed course toward the light?

I’d like to think that extra credit would be given because the shoot growing from that bulb, if stretched out in a straight line, was actually quite a bit longer than those that grew from bulbs planted right-side up, the portions that grew underground, that is. Was that bulb considered a failure because it failed to break through the surface, or could it be said it exhibited heroic perseverance under impossible conditions?  And what about the one who planted the bulb upside down, particularly considering it was done not accidentally but intentionally?

Today I am amazed at how differently I consider that story compared to when I was 14. Sitting in that classroom I felt both saddened and sickened seeing that poor withered plant next to its healthy neighbors who had it so much easier. I felt then that I was witnessing depressing failure. Now I am filled with amazement—amazement that the little shoot knew which way to go and expended all of its inner resources, more so than its advantaged neighbors, to reach the Sun’s light.

If we just looked at the map this would be a story of failure. But it’s a story of the territory and on that plane is a blazing success story of Life in which there really is no failure. For those of us whose bulbs were planted upside down this is heartening indeed.

(Deborah Smith Parker is the author of “Humanus Astrologicus” available in soft cover on this site and now on Kindle. 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. Sandra Shrader says:

    Thank you, Deborah. Love this insight about how a measure of success is uniquely individual and personal.

  2. Rafi Simonton says:

    A built-in irony appears in the phrase “the map is not the territory.” Alfred Korzybski used the phrase to demonstrate how we equate words with what they represent. He advocated getting rid of the “is of identity.” Such as: Adam IS a fascist! The “is” implies stasis– but maybe Adam will change. We’d need a fascistometer to measure this objectively. To restate by Korzybski’s rules, Adam seems to be a fascist… to me. Now we know where judgments come from, and who makes the grass green.

    Hopefully, clarity increases with age. Or with knowledge, anyway. So happens I have a degree in botany and a master’s in theology. Acquired after decades of experience as a mechanic. Thus my approach, while comfortable with the realms of the Jungian psyche and with western esoterica in general, is literally well grounded. All plants and their seeds “know” (by chemical signals, pigments, etc) that the apical meristem shoot goes up against gravity, and the apical meristem root goes toward gravity. in addition, the tip is light seeking; if detection fails, it diverts all energy into etoliation (elongation,) trying its best to survive. Notice the innate wherewithal for exploration, for seeking light.

    A few days ago, I went to a beach here in the SF Bay area. Which has a trail used by dog walkers. I saw a yellow lab with her human, the dog obviously with a look of joy on her face. I said so to the owner, who replied that the dog did indeed really like this place. So I gazed skyward, saying “ah, proof there is a Dog!” The owner understood. Well, what else would heaven and deity be like for a canine?

    I feel, then, the same way for humans. They process from where they are. There seem to be levels of soul, levels of consciousness. Sure, a continuum of sorts. But we understand via discrete symbols, by measurements, by maps… like astrological planets and transit charts. Which doesn’t exclude galaxies or the entire cosmos; that level approaches the Infinite Divine. The fully Spiritual. No need, then, for saying ” including religion, especially religion, is in no position to judge.” First, that “is” of identity has crept in. Secondly, interpreting a chart utilizes judgments. And thirdly, religion includes as many wild and florid variations as does the realm of plants. Ways of seeking Light.

  3. Minton Brooks says:

    This is an inspiring story! The little shoot that (almost) could. All living things seem to have a fierce and tenacious will to live, and will thrive even in the face of adversity if given half a chance. This seems to be especially true of humans, but I guess that is another story. Thanks Deborah!

    (I’m trying to remember what school you were in when you were 14).

  4. Jill Estensen says:

    So then is human perspective our chemical signal to relate to where the light is in our life and head in that direction? Direction changes with growth/territory.
    Thank you Deborah for the mind candy!!!

  5. Whitney says:

    Well I’m a little late to the party but I wanted to comment on this one. I can certainly relate to taking the longer route and the exhaustion that can accompany the journey. While most of my time with Marsha was above ground, I think the move to Oregon turned Marsha upside down. Looking back on our time here – I’ve been able to flourish before as well as after her passing but I think it was the death knell for her. In the end, certainly, we were clearly growing in opposite directions.

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