I imagine that there is always a wonderful sunset in progress somewhere on earth; whether you see it is just a question of where you stand – a metaphor for the inner spiritual world that lies always within and is accessible with the right inner stance, or so we are told by countless mystics and sages.
The process of seeing the setting sun is, for me, in itself a spiritual experience, bringing me closer to that inner world. So the chance to stand on these Devon cliffs at the recent full moon, as the sun went down, was a privilege indeed. My trusty Panasonic ZX200 superzoom made a fair interpretation of the true glory of the colours, here presented in time sequence.
I was watching out for the green flash as the sun disappeared, but it was not to be on this occasion.
Meanwhile, behind me the unusually large April supermoon was coming up fast, a reminder that these two lights are inseparable and interdependent, as are mind and feelings, which they represent in astrology.
the interconnectedness of all things and the implications of that for the modern world, and
the need for development and growth of the individual psyche, from both psychological and spiritual perspectives.
These themes come together in a subject called astrological psychology, which I will briefly consider by describing their basic models of the human being.
Psychosynthesis is a transpersonal or spiritual psychology, which considers not only the personality or ego, but the higher spiritual faculties. Psychosynthesis was developed by Italian psychoanalyst Roberto Assagioli, a contemporary of Carl Jung. Both built on the work of Freud and developed psychologies with a spiritual dimension.
Assagioli’s view of human nature is encapsulated in his ‘Egg model’. The psychological ego lies within the dotted egg shape, in its conscious and unconscious guises. The transpersonal (spiritual or higher) self lies at the top and just outside the egg itself. The boundary of the egg is dotted, to illustrate the permeable nature of this relationship, i.e. that this higher self can be connected with.
It is easy to see that the stronger the ego becomes, the more materialistic the person becomes, the less she is open to the higher self, the less permeable is the shell of the egg. In the extreme case the habitual ego is effectively encased within a hard shell. The possibility of higher connection has all but disappeared. It is not difficult to identify individuals in the world where this is apparently the case. Their name is legion.
For most of us the shell is permeable, but the layer of habit is quite strong. Some effort and perseverance is required to connect to our higher faculties. This is where the addition of astrology can help.
Now consider the fact that all is interconnected. We are each part of the one whole, which includes the heavens. Not surprising then, that the configuration of the heavens at the moment we are born tells us something about ourselves. The connection is brought alive by astrology.
Swiss astrologer/psychologist Bruno Huber studied this connection while working with Assagioli, and eventually came up with a workable synthesis of the two disciplines. He identified correlations between the psychology of the individual and the astrological chart of their birth time, in the process creating an entirely new form of birth chart, which is beyond the scope of this brief article. His system was termed astrological psychology.
Huber developed his model of the Amphora, which takes Assagioli’s Egg and extends it into an astrological model of the psyche.
The Amphora relates the Egg to astrology, and shows a way upward towards our spiritual nature. The ego lies, as before, within the Egg, reflected by the personality planets [Sun, Moon, Saturn – glyphs in red] supported by the tool planets [Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter – lower white glyphs]. The Egg has been opened out at the top, where lie the top three transpersonal planets – the lowest, Uranus is the planet which helps ‘break through’ the shell of the ego, the middle one Neptune represents the universal love at the ‘neck’ of the Amphora, through which we must pass before the spiritual transformation with Pluto at the top.
Of course this is a symbolic representation, whose meaning in the context of any given individual and their birth chart can be teased out by the seasoned astrological psychologist.
This is just a taste of the rich astrological psychology that was developed by Bruno Huber with his wife Louise. The fascinating story of how this came about and the enormous dedication and effort of these two remarkable human beings is told in the recently published biography Piercing the Eggshell, edited by myself and Joyce Hopewell.
Featured image shows Roberto Assagioli and Bruno Huber. Amphora diagram is an extract from the cover of Piercing the Eggshell.
If I’m quick, I can sometimes catch myself doing or saying something in a manner that reminds me precisely of my father’s doing or saying of the same sort of thing. In lesser degree this also applies with mother and grandparents. And this is increasingly apparent the older I get.
I was reminded of this by this post from Aperture of Brahma:
“Conscious mind receives its governing tendencies from heredity, which means it is the result of all past generations… conscious mind learns through observation and experience. Thus, we develop patterns of behavior from our parents, who learned them from their parents.”
Of course, we are not the same as our forebears. We each have our own individual character, suffused with this hereditary/environmental background.
Apart from meditation and self observation, one of the most effective tools I have found to help understand and explore these influences in myself and others is astrological psychology, which in effect provides a guided tour of the in-born, hereditary and environmental influences in our lives, including how these are emphasised at different ages.
I hasten to add that astrological psychology is not something to be casually explored for 5 minutes then discarded, as we have become accustomed to in the internet age. To explore it effectively required a serious period of study, or you can cheat and speak to a consultant who has done that work.
Featured image shows random pictures of grandfather, father and son from the web.
Pluto disappeared from our local Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope visitor centre some years ago, when it was decategorized from being a planet. It no longer seemed to exist, which seemed a bit unnecessary. Also, as one interested in astrology, Pluto is a planet of great significance here, and has certainly not disappeared from use.
So I was very interested to see this great post by Matthew Wright. He’s also questioning our tendency to classify everything into categories that may then obscure things of real significance, such as the astrological significance of Pluto!
Remember Pluto the planet? And then Pluto the not a planet? Well, it’s back. Possibly. Apparently an informal forum held the other week came down in favour of reinstating the ‘planet’ classification. Of course these things carry little weight with the International Astronomical Union.
What interests me is the way that the debate over whether Pluto is, or is not a planet also sums up the biggest flaw in modern human analytical philosophy; our need to categorise everything and fit it into patterns and slots as a part of being ‘scientific’.
In a way this is not surprising. We appear to be hard-wired to see patterns everywhere. Sometimes they even exist. The ‘evolutionary psychological’ explanation is that it conferred an advantage during our very, very long hunter-gatherer period. Humans who were better at identifying patterns were…
The Force of Character, James Hillman, Ballantine 1999
Reviews of James Comey’s recent book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership brought to mind this article I wrote, that first appeared in Conjunction Issue 40, July 2006.
The later years of life have a bad press in the modern world. Whereas in the past the aged were revered and respected, in today’s youth-oriented culture they tend to be seen as simply past it and somewhat irrelevant. Yet we live longer and longer. Why is this, and what is the purpose of such long life?
Psychologist James Hillman addresses such questions in The Force of Character. He takes us through many of the apparently negative aspects of aging and tries to draw lessons on why we go through these experiences. The body gradually declines, memory becomes unreliable, sometimes is largely lost, mental faculties may be impaired. But this is all part of a life process that does not have to be seen as negative. There is wisdom and learning to be gained from these challenges, just as with the different challenges of earlier life. And Hillman characterises three stages of this later life process – lasting, leaving and left.
This is not the place to explain these stages, but the key insight Hillman puts forward is that this is all about the development of character – as we get older the inessentials are gradually stripped away and what remains is the essence of the person, the character. Character is what makes us different from others, the essence of our uniqueness and “what gives sense and purpose to the changes of aging”.
This is a different concept to ‘personality’ or ‘ego’; it is almost impersonal. Hillman likens this to the bringing of ‘fate’ back into psychology: “Psychology shorn of fate is too shallow to address its subject, the soul.”
Character can influence events and people. Hillman quotes cases where the emphasis of particular characteristics by a strongly developed character has an unexpectedly significant effect on others. Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover, comes to mind!
Character cannot be objectivised; it requires descriptive language to describe it – adjectives such as ‘stingy’, ‘sharp’, ‘opinionated’, adverbs such as ‘slowly’, ‘carefully’, ‘deliberately’.
This is starting to sound a bit like astrology, and in particular astrological psychology. [Non-astrological readers ignore this paragraph!] Where the Natal Chart provides a sort of map of the essence of an individual, the aspect structure highlights basic motivations at a deep level, the planets, influenced by the signs, show how we most effectively operate in the environment represented by the houses. I could even extend this to suggest that the three charts provide a sort of map of Hillman’s concept of character. And the Life Clock identifies those times in life that are most propitious for the development of character, for becoming what we are in our essential selves.
Hillman’s book is an interesting read, although its origin as a stitching together of separately written pieces is sometimes apparent. You may well learn something about aging that you didn’t know. And it’s interesting to come across the development of some new psychological thinking that is totally consistent with the viewpoint of astrological psychology. Indeed, Hillman recognises the link with astrology:
“Character had [its oldest] refuge: astrology, where it still thrives today.”
Wyatt Robinson expresses important truths very simply on his blog. His recent post, Victimised, is about the stories we tell ourselves, and the effect that has on our lives.
You have to experience the world as someone, not anyone or no one. As such, in the story that is you, you have no choice but to assume the role of the central character and populate your story with the characters around you. Interestingly, that narrative tends to be a story who’s genesis is in childhood with our original cast of characters setting the mold for all characters to come. These original characters establish a set of expectations and those expectations become a self fulfilling prophecies which lead us to recreate our story over and over again. These expectations lead us to make assumptions about people’s motives and intentions which we twist into to fit our narrative. Of course, we have to maintain protagonist status…we have to keep living with ourselves…thus blame is typically aimed outward…plus the narrative has to survive.
Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli invented the concept of the subpersonality which links very well with Wyatt’s storytelling narrative. At different times we may be any of a number of sub-personalities, which were mostly established in childhood as a reaction to surrounding circumstances, and of which are not initially aware. Each subpersonality corresponds to a story we have told ourselves about the world, maybe subconsciously. Assagioli’s psychological approach of psychosynthesis encourages the uncovering and integration of these subpersonalities, and thus the development of a more whole person.
The Swiss astrologer/psychologist Bruno Huber (with his wife Louise) took this a step further, by applying the best of the ancient practice of astrology to help in this process – an integrated method he called astrological psychology. Astrological psychology practitioners use the birth chart to help uncover unconscious influences on themselves or a client, and particularly in a time-related way. This is particularly effective in helping to uncover key influences during childhood, including specifically relationships between the child and those around them in father- and mother- roles (the ‘Family Model’). Once in conscious awareness, we have the chance to do something about it, and move beyond earlier blockages and coping strategies such as blaming. We can change our stories.
Wyatt ends his post with the following, which explains his title:
There are bad characters out there, but for the most part, most of us are not that. We might all be deeply flawed, but we are rarely sadistic, and in the end we all tend to walk away feeling the victim. I suppose we all are correct, we’re victims of ourselves. Victims of our stories.
Here I diverge from Wyatt’s post. No, we do not need to be victims. The story we tell is in the end up to us.
Evolutionary theory tells us that we emerged from a state of immersion into the world, as are the animals. The world was alive and meaningful, and every night we witnessed the full glory of the cosmos in the night sky. It was all one. We made sense of patterns of meaning, calling them what became known as gods. The sun was clearly the most important.
As we developed language and began to be more self aware, religions emerged based around these gods, pantheistic. Astrology was part of seeing patterns of meaning in the cosmos, and very much a part of this. I believe that the Hindu religions today are similarly pantheistic, and astrology flourishes in India.
From the so-called axial age onward, a series of monotheistic religions emerged from the austere Middle Eastern deserts, in turn Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and spread worldwide. From here on, I’ll stick to Christianity, the one I know most about.
When Christianity became a political project, in the time of Constantine, it became necessary to absorb the symbols of pantheism into that Christianity – politicians know they need to carry the people forward with them.
So you will find pantheistic and astrological symbols in most of the Christian churches – most notably in those wonderful Romanesque churches on the routes of the great European pilgrimages, such as that to Santiago de Compostella in Spain – and also notably in that great flowering of the Gothic cathedrals from the 12th century. See the stone signs of the zodiac, stained glass windows, the four elements of the fixed cross (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the wise men following the star, the green men, and so on.
So, certainly at this time, the church was happy to incorporate aspects of pantheism and astrology into its very fabric, their great archetypes enriching the religious experience. Look for it when you next visit one of those amazing religious buildings.
Of course this is all just circumstantial evidence and not a proper analysis. I’d be interested in any evidence that contradicts the suggestion that there’s no conflict between astrology and religion.
Images show the signs of the zodiac and tasks of the year on the cathedral in Amiens.
‘Take back control’ was probably the slogan that won the Brexit referendum, with the particular context of controlling immigration a close second. To people long fed a diet of stories about the inability to affect decisions taken by ‘unelected’ Europeans this had particular resonance. Add a charismatic leader and an inability of the Remain campaign to articulate the benefits of the European project, and it was enough to win.
Of course, what it really means is reverting back to the control of the nationalistic ego and retreating from the great cooperative European project, as in my earlier post A Psychological Take on Brexit.
Fortunately, life is not as simplistic as that and this is not necessarily disastrous. What it means is that we must recast our relationship with a rather sclerotic European Union in a way that more accords with the needs of today’s world. If approached in the right spirit (of which there is as yet little evidence), this could be to the ultimate benefit of both parties, despite the inevitable interim economic shock – a case of reculer pour mieux sauter.
Astrologers will know that Saturn is the key planet associated with ‘taking control’.Read More »
Today we say goodbye to the end of an era, and to Louise Huber who died in January. With her husband Bruno Huber, Louise established the system of astrological psychology – called ‘Huber astrology’ in astrological circles.
The Hubers had a strong spiritual and psychological background – they were instrumental in founding the Geneva branch of the Arcane School in 1956-58, and worked with Roberto Assagioli, founder of psychosynthesis, in Florence from 1959-61. Both astrologers and psychologists, they researched the stories of Assagioli’s clients, making a number of new astrological discoveries. On their return to Switzerland they furthered their research and began teaching, eventually founding Astrological Psychology Institute in Zürich in 1968.
Many psychologists, counsellors, astrologers and ordinary individuals have since studied with the Hubers and schools subsequently established in UK, Switzerland, Germany and Spain. Even more people have read one of their series of books on the subject. This growth psychology based around astrology really does repay the effort to study it.
Louise Huber was the organisational driving force behind API. When I first met her in the mid 1990s, she was a formidable lady, brooking no nonsense but with an enormous sense of humour. Attending her seminars was a joy and a privilege. It was also a pleasure to arrange with her the publication of the Hubers’ books in English by our publishing vehicle HopeWell.
After husband Bruno died in 1999, Louise was able to carry the work forward well into her 80s, assisted by her son Michael.