Some thoughts about Humanistic Astrology
-by Moris Wolf Hoch-
At the threshold of the next millennium, we may well ask a simple but important question: how can we, as students of astrology, best bring forward a more perfect life-style, a life-style that is harmonized with the new unified world that is forming, a life-style based on astrology?
This question surely has no right or single answer. But if a new millennium deserves a new astrology complete with new insights, perspectives and a new direction equal to the challenge--then a worthy candidate, I suggest, is holistic or as it is usually called 'Humanistic' astrology.
Humanistic Astrology was first presented in the writings of Dane Rudhyar, the talented astrologer-musician and seminal mind and author (born March 23, 1895) who is considered the originator of this branch of astrology. The following quotation conveys the spirit of his message:
"We need something in which the individual learns his own function in the world, because if you are to have a global world, the individual has to be so well established in his own identity that he can afford to cooperate with other people all over the world, independent of their culture, their race, their traditions and so on. It is very important therefore, that one should learn how to establish oneself in one's own identity."
We find similar sentiments expressed by the eminent psychiatrist, Victor Frankl. In 'Man's Search for Meaning', a book born of his experiences while a prisoner in Nazi death camps, he writes:
"Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must
carry out a concrete specific assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor his life repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it."
These two sages of the twentieth century think alike. Their approach is different but the spirit remains the same. Indeed they exemplify what they are teaching. To be an individual is not to be unlike others. Rather, it is to share a common humanity with others--in one's own way. Theirs is a message that reminds us to take responsibility for realizing our unique individual identity and true role in society.
Perhaps we are being too serious? But isn't that what humanistic astrology is about--serious assessment of our possibilities and unique opportunities for self-realization?
The humanistic astrological frame of reference is the planet earth because that is from where Man peers out to the surrounding vast and starry skies to view the heavens. It is the human viewpoint. From there the astrologer-astronomer, like those of the previous millennia, views the wandering stars, the planets, going now forward, now retrograding, now forward again. The raw data of astronomical observation has not changed. It is the common side shared by astrologers of the past and of the future. But something has changed and if it is not by sophisticated telescopes, computers and software, or other tools that the astrologer of the future offers something new and timely to answer humanity's need for meaning and fulfillment, then what is it? What the humanistic astrologer has to work with are new concepts.
Alexander Ruperti, a colleague of Dane Rudhyar, brings many of these new concepts forward, in his book, 'Cycles of Becoming'. Some of the concepts discussed are 'cycle' 'phase' and 'age factor'. It should be noted that much of humanistic astrology borrows from Analytical (Carl G. Jung), Depth (Ira Progoff) and Transpersonal Psychology (James Hillman). They are about identifying processes of personality growth and transformation so that self-conscious awareness can be directed towards actualizing the individual's possibilities for adjustment and fulfillment. Psychology does
this with dream and journal work to gain intellectual apprehension of what is going on; in humanistic astrology, by telling the story (by means of progressions and transits) of a life cycle whose original impulse and compelling movement is the personality's growth and self-realization.
In humanistic astrology a 'cycle' is a process, symbolically synchronized with planetary movements, whose purpose is the development of an idea called the 'seed' idea. The seed idea is developed throughout the cycle and in the course of its unfoldment it is challenged by 'crises'. A crisis is not in any way something to be avoided. In this context it refers to a moment when self-aware change within one's personality is occurring and can be directed.
There are many types of cycles and there are also cycles within cycles. The 'generic' cycle and the 'individual' cycle refer to the movement of a single planet. The generic cycle is a general cycle. Its significance is independent of any specific horoscope. It is the cycle of a planet starting from its original position in the horoscope and subsequently aspects that original position. For example, Saturn, in its generic cycle, will square itself, trine itself, etc. In the individual cycle, however, Saturn's significance is related to its movement through the houses, which, of course, are unique to an individual's horoscope. Furthermore, there are cycles, which refer to the movement of two planets such as the Jupiter-Saturn cycle. Thus Saturn's movement may be identified by generic and individual cycles and also, within these cycles, by the Jupiter-Saturn
'Phase', as you might expect, is a time period in the cycle. It defines the time period from when a planet aspects a point or planet until the next aspect. For example, Saturn conjunct the Ascendant followed by a conjunction to Mercury and then a trine to Mars are all time periods or phases, following one after the other, in which developments occur and which sum up with other phases to define the cycle.
The 'age factor', like it sounds, takes into consideration one's age. It identifies 12 distinct levels of personality development each lasting seven years and is based on a life span of 84 (7 X 12) years. Thus, for example, the first Saturn return at age 29 occurs, in terms of the age factor, in the fourth stage or level, (4 X 7 = 28). So 29 years old (in terms of the 'age factor') is the second year of the fourth level. The stages are grouped into categories. For example, the stage from 28 - 35 is labeled the 'Individual or Personality' level. The stage from 56 - 63 is labeled the 'Power' level.
Thus the first Saturn Return (age 29) and the second Saturn Return (age 58) are different and can be compared and analyzed by age factor. Furthermore, each year of the seven-year stage has a specific function in bringing forward the theme of that level.
What should be obvious by now is that we are not seeking to predict events of the type that we read about in newspapers or follow on TV or the Internet. And it is not that we are oblivious to these worldly events. But what we are seeking is the meaning of events. Just watch any soap on TV and stop a few days and miss a few episodes--you'll see what I mean. When you pick up the soap again you want to know what happened, to fill in the gaps.
So, too, in our lives--we want to know what is going on, to follow the story line.
To apply these concepts to our horoscope we might try working with the Sun-Mars cycle. The current Sun-Mars cycle began in May, 1998 with the Sun-Mars conjunction in Taurus. It is a two-year cycle that concludes with the next conjunction of the Sun and Mars in Cancer, July, 2000. Presently, in April-May of 1999, Mars, opposite the Sun, is retrograde. The meaning of the retrograde movement of a planet (in the context of working towards self-realization) is that the energy that the planet symbolizes is up for
review and revision. The retrograde phase (Mars goes direct early June, 1999) provide us an opportunity that will not come again for two years. As Ruperti writes:
"The Mars retrograde periods every two years present us with a personal challenge to repair past wrong initiative or desire. They give us the opportunity to redress injustices, make right mistakes, be less ego-centric in our drives. If our initiatives and emotional desires have been without any clear purpose or spiritual objective, tension will build up from the time of the Sun-Mars conjunction to the Sun-Mars retrograde opposition, at which time the problems caused will call for a clear solution."
To understand the problems, just as in the soap opera, we need to know the beginning of the story. Without knowing the beginning we have no way to understand what has developed or occurred up to the stage that we are currently experiencing or to tie it in to the end. To do that, to find the beginning, we need to identify the conjunction that began the cycle. That conjunction represents the seed idea and is the theme of the cycle. The current retrograde motion of Mars that we find now (at the opposition) is
full of meaning and potential for growth just to the extent that we are aware of its beginnings in Taurus, May, 1998. The house position of the Sun-Mars conjunction in Taurus is the seed and root of the cycle; the house position of Mars retrograde is the area of life where the cycle intensifies and a change (crisis) can be experienced for personal growth and fulfillment.
So to repeat the question at the beginning: How can we live our lives in the new millennium in the light of astrology? How are we to view our horoscopes and where should we begin? Or better, how shall we begin? A few lines from a poem by T.S. Eliot may show the way:
"And at the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
©Moris Wolf Hoch (April 1999)
Mrris Wolf Hoch was born in Wetzlar, Germany in February, 1948. He earned a BA in philosophy at the University of Minnesota. He explored the exoteric and esoteric branches of Jewish lore and philosophy as a rabbinical student in Jerusalem from 1985 to 1991. His began his studies in astrology in 1991 after meeting a Kabbalist in Los Angeles who guided him in Kabbalah and Astrology. He currently resides in Arlington, Massachusetts and can be reached at moris @ lifespanastrology.com
The article printed above was also published in TIA, The International Astrologer, quarterly of ISAR, in the Spring issue (Vol. 1) of 1999