Astrology is not about planets
by William Bezanson
For a half-century or so I have been intrigued about astrology. However, I was very skeptical about how a tiny planet such as Mercury, or even a huge one like Jupiter, at such great distances, could have even the slightest influence on our lives.
And yet there seemed such accuracy in astrology’s description of our personal characteristics. Its accuracy was uncanny at times!
Eventually I concluded that astrology works, but I had no idea why it worked. I refused to believe that it worked by means of planetary gravitational or magnetic influences, which seemed to be the implicit explanation of the popular astrologers.
Then one middle-of-the-night awakening revealed to me the proper explanation. I awoke with a strong urge to open the book Jung to Live By, by the Jungian Analyst Eugene Pascal, one of the most accessible books on the Jungian world view that I own. I started re-reading about archetypes, specifically about the various deities that manifest through the collective unconscious. (Archetypes are autonomous plexuses of energy residing in the collective unconscious, often having more impact on our lives than do our thinking egos. For example, when we are inexplicably aggressive, we are likely being dominated at that time by the archetype of Mars, the god of war.)
What suddenly occurred to me, in an intuitive flash, was that astrology is not about the planets’ influence on us, but about the archetypes’ influence on us. Not the outer, but the inner. Not the planet Mars, but the archetype of Mars. Not above, but below. Or rather, because there seems to be such an intimate correspondence, as below, so above.
Long ago in Mesopotamia people began to see images in the arrangements of stars in the night sky. One saw what looked like a ram, others saw a set of twins, a lion, and so on. Stories were told, and eventually the images became part of their culture. People attributed characteristics to the figures, or constellations (“star groupings”), in the heavens, such as those of a hunter, or a warrior, or a water bearer. Also, people gradually observed a correspondence between their moods and feelings, and the positions of planets moving through the constellations.
Keep in mind that back then, and even up until very recently, mankind lived much closer to nature. They did not have the distractions of television or computers. They listened to their own inner feelings, and they watched the outer world carefully. They observed, and wondered about, and told stories about the various star groups and wandering planets.
As an example of how this early thinking evolved, consider the planet Mercury. It has long been associated with communications and learning, but also with restlessness and inconsistency. About three times per year Mercury has a retrograde motion, that is, it appears to move backwards in the sky for a few weeks. (It does not really move backwards; that would be absurd to contemplate. It only appears to do so due to our own planet’s movement, which causes Mercury to appear to change direction against the background of “fixed” stars.) People who felt an attunement with, or guidance by, Mercury noticed that during these retrograde periods they felt out of sorts, made mistakes, and behaved erratically. Eventually such correspondences and behavioural patterns solidified over the centuries into systems of astrology that we know today.
In a similar way, various deities in the heavens were projections of the inner emotions, feelings, and moods that people experienced. These in turn were conscious manifestations of the much deeper archetypes. For example, the archetypal tendencies toward stability and stubbornness were projected onto the Roman goddess Venus (Greek Aphrodite), who became associated with the zodiacal sign Taurus and the planet Venus. As another example, protectiveness and jealousy were projected onto Diana (Artemis), who was associated with Cancer and the Moon.
So the key point here is that it is not the planets, or the constellations, ruling our lives. The signs of the zodiac are psychological projections on the heavens from our deep unconscious. (Some say that everything we perceive is a projection from our unconscious.) And the motion of the planets through the various zodiacal signs corresponds to moods and influences that we feel from our unconscious, that is, from the various archteypes that project externally as deities.
Planetary astrology is one of our realities. However, the actuality is closer to archetypal astrology, as introduced here. (See my article “Reality and Actuality”, http://omtimes.com/2012/09/reality-and-actuality.)
To paraphrase the simple analogy that Richard Tarnas uses (see below), when the hands on a clock line up at 12 noon, it is not the clock that causes it to be noontime or makes us hungry for lunch; it merely indicates the current time. Our long-standing habit, plus our cultural tendency to eat at noontime, is the cause of our feeling hungry. Similarly, planets do not cause anything to happen in our lives; they are simply indicative of the cosmic state of the archetypal forces at that time.
The planets are indicators, not causes, of our behavioural influences. As above, so below. As within, so without.
Discovering this explanation for myself (or rather, realizing what many Jungians and others already knew) gives me energy and enthusiasm to explore it for years to come. I realize that I am a mere neophyte in understanding the profound discipline of astrology. Eventually, I may come to understand that the planets really do influence us physically, perhaps by some mechanism that we don’t comprehend yet, such as subtle magnetic fields, or by a deeper understanding of the Oneness of All. (If everything is One—which I believe but don’t fully understand—then I and the planets are one, and thus, of course they influence me and I influence them.) But for now, this article stands as my current view on astrology.
As for why the archetypes and planets are in such close synchronization, and why there are twelve signs in our zodiac, these and related topics are subjects for another article.
This article bas benefitted from comments on an earlier version of it from Nancy Berranger, Jane Karchmar, and Paul Naras, and from the writings of C.G.Jung and Richard Tarnas. An especially relevant article, supporting my views here, is by Tarnas, “An Introduction to Archetypal Astrological Analysis”, http://www.gaiamind.org/AstroIntro.html.
I hope that my explanation here might trigger your curiosity to explore further along these fascinating lines. Ultimately, my hope is to nudge readers to recognizing the difference between reality (planetary astrology, in this case) and actuality (archetypal astrology).
William Bezanson is a retired engineer, fulfilling his passion for writing, and has published books on world stewardship, user performance-centered systems design, and mathematical beauty, most recently Abandoned Shopping Carts: Personal and Spiritual Responsibility. He is a long-standing member of a Rosicrucian order and two related initiatic, mystical orders. His mission in life is to help to bring about a Spiritual State in this Mundane World. He lives with his wife in Ottawa, Canada, and they have six adult children.
To learn more about him, visit his website.