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.
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.
In my youth I was always fascinated by numbers. The Fibonacci series is one of the most interesting sequences of numbers, first mentioned by Leonardo Fibonacci (c1170–c1250), the leading mathematician of his era, who popularized the Hindu–Arabic numeral system in the Western World.
The series of integers comes from 1, the symbol of unity, followed by 2, an expression of duality. (Some people prefer to begin with two 1’s, sometimes preceded by a 0; the resulting sequence is essentially the same.)
Each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two, so we have:
I was always intrigued by the fact that 144 is the square of 12. Is it the only Fibonacci square, apart from the trivial case of 1 and maybe 0? This was long the subject of conjecture, but it was eventually proved that 144=12×12 is the only square of the sequence. Now 12 is a multiple of 2’s and 3’s, and occurs in many human systems – measurements, money, astrology, and so on. This seems somehow significant.
A similar conjecture applies to number 8 being the only cube of the series, which I believe is also the case but is far too complex a subject for this blog.
The Golden Ratio
The ratio of consecutive numbers of the series converges onto a number called the Golden Ratio, usually symbolised by the Greek letter φ (phi).
φ = 1.61803398874989484820… (and so on)
It turns out that φ is found all over the place when we measure nature and its patterns. For an excellent, but rather mathematical, overview see this fascinating post on the golden ratio on the blog ‘Rationalising the Universe’.
The Golden Ratio was seen as very important in the art of the Renaissance, and of course turns up in the work of Leonardo da Vinci mentioned in the preceding post.
In one of my particular spheres of interest, the golden ratio turns up as a key ratio in the psychological perspective on the house system in the astrological psychology of Bruno and Louise Huber. So it would appear that maybe the ratio pervades not only the outer ‘objective’ physical world, but also the inner ‘subjective’ world where it relates to space and time.
Another intriguing fact is that Golden Ratio is very similar to the ratio of kilometers to miles, e.g. 8 kilometers is approximately 5 miles. This is entirely coincidental. [Or is it?]
There is a battle of ideas in understanding the human situation and its history.
On the one side, we find the ardent materialists, who profess to be scientists but in reality follow the pseudoscience of scientism. They present a history of the ‘big bang’ and the gradual coalescing of matter into galaxies, stars and planets. Then, on planet earth, came land and sea and a favourable atmosphere, whence emerged plants and the panoply of animals, fish, birds and so on. And eventually random mutation led relatively recently to the human being, who at some point mysteriously became self conscious and completely different from the other animals. And the inexorable march of science is slowly explaining all these things, and will eventually be able to explain the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness.
In this sort of world view there is little room for astrology, which is hence denigrated by its popularisers, such as Richard Dawkins and the ex-rockstar Professor Brian Cox. Indeed, there is little room for the ‘interiors’ of things, as opposed to their exterior manifestation.
In the other side, we find a view from inside out, taking consciousness as the primary feature of existence, and showing how consciousness itself has evolved since its dawning. In the beginning is a seamless unity with the world; then the emergence of self consciousness, magical and mythical stages moving into rationality, a super rationality of the divorced ego and ultimately a purported more integrated participatory consciousness.
In this sort of world view astrology, and particularly astrological psychology, finds a natural place in meaningful relationship of the individual and the whole. And it is
this sort of viewpoint that is explored by another ex-rockstar Gary Lachmann in A Secret History of Consciousness.
This is really an exploration into ideas rather than the telling of a particular story. Lachmann looks at the work of many thinkers who have spent their lives investigating aspects of such stories. A partial list of these explorers will give some idea of the vastness of his scope: William Bucke, William James, Henri Bergson, A.R.Orage, P.D.Ouspensky, Helena Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner, Goethe, Erich Neumann, Stan Gooch, Julian Jaynes, Colin Wilson, Owen Barfield, Jean Gebser, and so on.
This is a very readable, but also quite demanding book to read, covering such a wide range of extraordinary human beings and their major contributions to understanding consciousness. A veritable tour de force!
Do read it if this is an area that is of interest to you. You might also be interested in my earlier post on materialism.
Based on an article that first appeared in Conjunction, magazine of astrological psychology, in 2012
Featured image of ‘big bang’ by cédric sorel, via Wikimedia Commons
“The true, the beautiful, the good: through all the ages of man’s conscious evolution these words have expressed three great ideals: ideals which have instinctively been recognized as representing the sublime nature and lofty goal of all human endeavour.”
When I first came across Plato’s ‘big 3’ I knew this expressed an essential truth. I wrote this original article in 2010 for the magazine of the Astrological Psychology Association, but I think it bears repeating here in edited form for a different audience.
It was in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato that the beautiful, the true and the good were first identified as primary intrinsic qualities, from which all other values are derived. Over the many centuries since, many philosophers have continued to regard these qualities as of prime importance; for example they formed the subject matter of Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant’s three major treatises The Critique of Pure Reason (truth), The Critique of Practical Reason (goodness) and The Critique of Judgement (beauty). Mystics and spiritual teachers have also championed these three essential ‘windows on the divine’, for example they correspond to Sri Aurobindo’s ‘three dynamic images’.
It is not surprising, therefore, to see beauty, truth and goodness identified as primary considerations in the ‘integral philosophy’ pioneered by American philosopher Ken Wilber. One of the building blocks of Wilber’s comprehensive philosophy is his model of the Four Quadrants. On the left we have the subjective ‘I’, and on the right the objective ‘You’. At the bottom the field of the ‘Collective’ and at the top the ‘Individual’. The words in the quadrants indicate the sort of field of human experience that relates to that particular quadrant. In this diagram Wilber can situate all fields of human endeavour. (See e.g. A Theory of Everything, or his magnum opus Sex, Ecology and Spirituality.)
It will not help us enormously to attempt to define beauty, truth and goodness in great detail; we all have a good idea of what they mean. Goodness is basically about how I, the subject, relate to the collective – Wilber’s bottom left ‘cultural’ quadrant. Truth is about how we relate to the world in an objective sense, and hence particularly relates to the second and third ‘objective’ quadrants – ‘social’ and ‘behavioural’. Beauty is the term we apply to the most exquisite features of the external world, and of our internal world, so essentially belongs to the field of the personal subjective – Wilber’s fourth ‘intentional’ quadrant. This mapping of the ‘big three’ onto the quadrants is given by Wilber himself.
Bruno & Louise Huber
Of course, the quadrants are not unique to Wilber. A similar model is found in the astrological birth chart, which is particularly related to the human psyche in the astrological psychology pioneered by Bruno & Louise Huber. The quadrants are related to the four elements Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
The Hubers discovered a relationship between the four quadrants and the stages of a human life, in a technique called ‘Age Progression’. At birth, we begin at the ‘I’point and move through the quadrants in a counter-clockwise direction, as follows. There is an interesting relationship with the ‘big three’ qualities.
Age 0-18. Life in the first ‘Impulse’ quadrant is about establishing and preserving the self in a formative environment, and adapting to this environment. How often do we hear the injunction ‘be good’ addressed to children? Goodness is about how we relate to others, and in those early years we learn what goodness is about, particularly relative to the demands of society. It is well understood that where this early conditioning is not available or unsuccessful there is a much higher chance of criminality in later life.
Age 18-36. Life in the second ‘Instinct’ quadrant is about establishing a position in the collective society as the unconscious social self. We learn to adapt to the You. We soon discover that ‘be truthful’ is the necessary condition to earn the trust of others, both in personal relationship and interacting with groups. So in this context truth is again about how we relate to others, but now these truths relate to objective things, such as laws and behaviours, contrasting with the more subjective codes of morality and goodness.
Age 36-54. In the third ‘Thinking’ quadrant we establish ourselves as conscious and autonomous contributors to society. We begin to realise our true conscious self and understand our own life philosophy. We come to understand what it means to be ‘true to ourselves’. So this truth is about our inner life and what we are really about – if you like, our ‘soul’s purpose’ and any ‘life vocation’.
Age 54-72. Finally, in the fourth ‘being’ quadrant the full fruits of life are experienced, first out in the world and then as inner spiritual beings. Beauty is perhaps the quality that is closest to our inner spirituality. It is ‘peak experiences’ of transcending beauty that often signal events of spiritual significance. We recognise the beauteous radiance of sages such as the older Krishnamurti, the outer beauty a reflection of an inner spiritual beauty. It is pleasing to consider the prospect that such beauty might be a fruit of the later years of life after all those busy years of contributing to our society.
After age 72 we move on again into the first quadrant, but that is another story.
As shown by the quote at the beginning of this article, the fundamental importance of our ‘big three’ qualities was recognised in the late 19th/early 20th centuries by Rudolph Steiner, polymath and founder of anthroposophy. Steiner gave a more spiritual perspective on truth, beauty and goodness.
He suggests that a feeling for truth is connected with our consciousness of the physical body, and that living in truth helps to retain the sense of the connection between this physical body and pre-earthly existence. The physical body is clearly that part of our existence that most corresponds with the objective right hand ‘truth’ quadrants of the Huber and Wilber diagrams.
Steiner relates beauty to the etheric body – the formative forces that lie behind the physical body and provide the link with previous spiritual existence. He suggests that a highly developed sense of beauty gives us a right relation to the etheric body. Now the etheric body is the ‘inner’ corresponding with the ‘outer’ of the individual physical body and thus corresponds fairly naturally with the fourth quadrant.
Steiner goes on to relate goodness to the astral body. Through goodness a person can develop the actual power that will lead him directly into the spiritual world – a goodness that flows to other human beings and is not confined to self-interest. Again, the astral body is an ‘inner’ body, this time related to the collective and other people, which naturally corresponds with the first quadrant.
Thus Rudolph Steiner’s analysis from a completely different perspective is consistent with the Wilber and Huber models.
This exploration of truth, beauty and goodness has taken us from Plato’s philosophy via Ken Wilber’s modern integral philosophy to Bruno Huber’s astrological pychology and Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy. In the process, we can see that these high-minded philosophical ideals do have a very practical relevance to our lives and our life journey.
We might speculate on the Life Clock of the Western societies on some almost unimaginable timeframe and wonder if we are not in the period of adolescence towards the end of the first quadrant, where our concept of goodness is being thoroughly tested in the the current economic crisis [written in 2010]. It is clearly unthinking greed in the financial community that has led to the current crisis – ultimately a problem of lack of ‘goodness’, grasping for ‘me’ while letting ‘you’ go hang. Global warming presents another example – we collectively must have our creature comforts and travel, to the detriment of the third world, the environment and future generations.
And yet the encounter with ‘truth’ from the second quadrant increasingly comes to meet us – the truths of what is really happening in the financial world, to populations denied justice, to the environment – truths that cannot be avoided by denial such as has been evident for a generation.
When we can learn to face this truth with goodness, creating a just and more equitable global society that can sustain the global environment, we will be collectively metaphorically entering the second quadrant and approaching adulthood.
It is salutary, but perhaps also exciting, to realise that there is a long way for the our societies to go before they even get to the 3rd quadrant and start to become truly conscious and will-driven, learning to live out humanity’s true destiny.
What a prospect, to reach the fourth quadrant and for a society that lives in true inner spiritual beauty, which will of course be reflected in a world of outer beauty. No longer will the blight of ugly functional human construction mar the beauty of the creation; it will be enhanced and glorified…
Integral Consciousness, Steve MacIntosh A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, Ken Wilber LifeClock, Bruno & Louise Huber The True, the Beautiful, the Good, lecture by Rudolf Steiner, January 19, 1923
Featured image shows a sunset at Santa Monica, California