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The Birth of Psychological Astrology
(Part 1 of 4)
by Glenn Perry, PhD
Editor's Note: I'm so excited to deliver my very first submission as your brand new Astrology Co-Editor, and delighted to offer an article from the hugely respected Glenn Perry, PhD. I've studied with him myself, so I enthusiastically vouch for his amazing depth of knowledge, his clarity of delivery, and the integrity with which he approaches psychologically astrology. This article, The Birth of Psychological Astrology, is excerpted from his book "Essays in Psychological Astrology." This piece, Part 1 of 4, is a must read for anyone interested in astrology as a healing tool, those who are fans of Carl Jung and Dane Rudhyar (great stuff on them!) and for anyone curious about how astrology has evolved from an ancient fatalistic approach, to one that promotes positive personal growth and fulfillment. See Part 2, Part 3.
The following article is excerpted from "AstroTherapy: An Outline of Theory & Practice," which is a chapter in Glenn’s book Essays In Psychological Astrology.
It is difficult to appreciate just how far astrology has come over the last 30 years. It wasn't until the advent of humanistic psychology in the 1960's that astrologers began to think seriously about the chart in terms of growth and transformation. For those who began studying astrology only recently, it might seem that it was always this way. But it was not. Although Jung (1962) once said "astrology represents the summation of the psychological knowledge of antiquity" (p. 142), the fact is that there was very little in astrology prior to the 1960's that bore much relationship to what we would generally consider "psychological" today.
Ancient peoples initially perceived the planets as gods that ruled over the various processes of Nature, much as a king ruled over his subjects. The conceived relationship between celestial and terrestrial events was linear, dualistic, and hierarchical: a superior power had dominion over an inferior one. While later and deeper forms of astrological philosophy recognized that macrocosm and microcosm were actually interpenetrating and thus their relationship was not linear or dualistic, this view declined with the collapse of the Hellenistic culture in the 3rd century. A simpler model prevailed during the medieval period and persisted in one form or another right up to the 2nd half of this century. Human beings were perceived as fated recipients of cosmic forces that could be propitiated but not denied.
Such a gloomy determinism was reinforced by a value laden terminology that too often described the birthchart in ominous terms, e.g., malefic, evil aspect, debilitation, affliction, detriment, fall, destroyer of life, hell of the zodiac, and so on. Of course, there were "good" parts to astrology as well, such as benefics and exaltations, but these only served to underscore the determinism of the system. Planets were variously conceived as transmitters of mysterious rays or electromagnetic forces that impacted upon the individual at birth. Understandably, this induced individuals to focus their attention outwards to see what malice or affection the gods might have in store for them. The rigid determinism of traditional astrology did not allow for the possibility of change or growth in consciousness. Instead, people more likely consulted the stars as a means of avoiding a calamitous fate or of exploiting opportunities for manipulating circumstances to personal advantage.
The implication of traditional, event-oriented astrology was that the individual was a potential victim of an indifferent universe over which he had little or no control. Accordingly, astrologers were only too eager to give people what they wanted—predictions, advice, warnings, and simplistic solutions to what we now recognize to be complex, psychological problems. At best, traditional astrologers were well meaning individuals interested in the prediction of events and the description of character, and they did no harm. At worst, they were fear peddling parasites who exploited the insecurities and anxieties of the people who purchased their services, and they did great harm.
The vast majority of mundane predictions about illnesses, accidents, divorces, shipwrecks, earthquakes, scandals, inheritances, marriages, job promotions, and the like, were utterly useless except to create an addiction to the astrologer whose pronouncements appeared to offer some promise of control over the events in question. But no astrologer could predict with certainty exactly what the events would be, under precisely what circumstances they would take place, or how they would affect the person. Especially lacking in such predictions was the meaning and purpose that the event might have beyond its immediate effects. What relationship did it have to the consciousness of the experiencer? What opportunities did it offer for self-insight and growth in awareness?
Likewise, the traditional astrologer's description of character was generally limited to superficial trait descriptions heavily laden with moral judgments and glib advice. At best, the astrologer confirmed what the individual already intuitively knew. At worst, the astrologer confused or upset the individual with interpretations that were shallow, insensitive, judgmental, overly negative, or just plain wrong. There was little if any attempt to address the deeper dimensions of the chart that hinted at unconscious beliefs and fundamental drives that underlay surface behavior. Character was seen as either static and unalterable, or easily modified by following the cosmically informed counsel of one's astrologer. Such assumptions appear naive from the perspective of modern, depth psychology. We now recognize that while changing one's inborn character can be extraordinarily difficult, it can be achieved through courage, persistence, and hard work.
It was the Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, who first recognized the vast potential of astrology as a tool for exploring the depths of the human psyche. In various writings throughout his life, Jung made reference to his profound respect for astrology. He asserted that astrology had a great deal to contribute to psychology and admitted to having employed it with some frequency in his analytic work with clients. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, Jung would draw up a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. "I must say," said Jung, "that I very often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand" (1948).
Please return for Part 2 of “The Birth of Psychological Astrology” which discusses Carl Jung and his ideas surrounding astrology. Fascinating stuff – especially for you Jungians out there!
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About the Author
Glenn Perry, PhD, is an astrologer and licensed psychotherapist in Haddam Neck, CT, USA. In addition to private practice, Dr. Perry lectures internationally on the application of astrology to the fields of counseling and psychotherapy. He has written seven books and is a Board member and qualitative research advisor for ISAR. Dr. Perry is president of the Academy of AstroPsychology, an online school that offers an accredited Masters Degree Program through the Graduate Institute of Connecticut. Contact: 415-479-5812 or visit www.aaperry.com.
Dr. Perry is the author of seven books:
An Introduction to AstroPsychology
Essays in Psychological Astrology
Stealing Fire from the Gods
From Royalty to Revolution
The Shadow in the Horoscope
Issues and Ethics in the Profession of Astrology
Depth Analysis of the Natal Chart
Please visit Dr. Perry's website: www.aaperry.com
Contact Dr. Perry: email@example.com
More about Dr. Perry
Dobyns, Z. (1973). The astrologer's casebook. Los Angeles: TIA Publications.
Jung, C. (1948). Letter to Professor B.V. Raman. American Astrology, June, 1948.
Jung, C. (1954). Interview with Andre Barbault. Astrologie Moderne, May 26, 1954.
Jung, C. (1955). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle. In C. Jung & W. Pauli, The Interpretation of nature and psyche (pp. 1-146). New York: Pantheon.
Jung, C. (1962). Commentary. In R. Wilhelm (Trans. & Ed.), The secret of the golden flower. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.
Jung, C. (1976). C.G. Jung: Letters (Volume II). Edited by G. Adler and A. Jaffe (R.F.C. Hull, trans.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Rudhyar, D. (1936). The Astrology of Personality. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
Rudhyar, D. (1972). Person Centered Astrology. Lakemont, GA: CSA Press.
Rudhyar, D. (1975). From humanistic to transpersonal astrology. Palo Alto, CA: The Seed Center.