Psycho-Spiritual Astrology: An Introductory Outline
The following note introduces psycho-spiritual astrology and is being updated.
Psychological-spiritual astrology or “psychospiritual” astrology is an approach to astrology that uses the birth chart as a pragmatic tool to address the issue of suffering (as conceived in various eastern spiritual traditions). Psychospiritual astrology is not committed to any particular tradition of astrology as much as it is committed to a few core ideas.
THE COMMITMENTS OF PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL ASTROLOGY
1. Psychospiritual astrology is committed to a particular method of studying human experience called phenomenology.
Strictly speaking, the only assumptions made by a psychospiritual approach can be examined and verified by looking at your own experience—i.e., by paying attention. No specific metaphysical/cosmological beliefs are required. What is Phenomenology? (Part 1: Defining Phenomenology) provides a heuristic introduction to phenomenology, and A Phenomenological Approach to Yoga (Part 1: Introduction) provides a general outline about what a phenomenological approach to yoga would look like.
2. Psychospiritual astrology is committed to a particular understanding of the basic problem of suffering found in various eastern spiritual traditions.
The search for fulfillment—of a final/permanent sense of ‘wholeness’/‘completeness’—is meant to remedy the basic problem of a sense of ‘incompleteness’, or emptiness/lack, etc.. This sense of incompleteness/separateness produces a basic fear becoming nothing and/or sense of emptiness (“I’m not enough” or “there’s something missing in me”).
In religious contexts, this permanent fulfillment (freedom from suffering) is said to be provided in union with—or realisation of, or surrender to, among others—God/Self/Life, etc.. In secular contexts, this search for permanent peace manifests in a number of quests, including (but not limited to) unassailable psychological health, romantic love, financial freedom, status/power, etc.. (These two basic incarnations of solving the basic problem of incompleteness—religious and secular—are not mutually exclusive.) The problem of suffering is a direct result of this basic yearning (for an unconditional sense of security). The independent sense of self is seeking a more “weighty” individual existence—more substance, more real-ness—to eliminate, once and for all, it’s unrelenting sense of vulnerability/incompleteness.
In this (age old) quest, the self inherits and develop habits to avoid whatever produces feelings of vulnerability—painful emotions, unwanted thoughts, and the people/situations that produce these emotions/thoughts. These habits are rooted self-interested motivations that operate at the level of lived experience (i.e., beneath the level of our reflective awareness). These self-interested motivations affect what we perceive, think, feel, and how we act—whether we like it or not, thus closing off domains of possible experience. In other words, this basic yearning is the origin of habits that prevent full engagement in/with life.
Moderating this basic yearning and its attendant habits is essentially a process of re-habituation, un-doing, forgetting. Processes of re-habituation require awareness and courage—a willingness to actively turn toward one’s own lived experience and be open to noticing something new (without any commitments to what said noticing might/will look/feel/be like). It requires openness—an openness as close to ‘unconditional’ as possible.
Perceiving itself is always already radically situated. And a failure to understand the terms of one’s situation doesn’t permit (what we experience as self-determined) re-habituation; it doesn’t permit the freedom to transform your situation. In other words, radical openness is an irrevocably embodied openness—it is the openness of a situation. It is the openness not of the mind but of the heart, unmoved by the self-interest of the habitual self.
But this task is not purely an intellectual one; studying the depths of your inner life alone is insufficient to live freely. Complete engagement in/with life requires opening the heart, opening to those situations in life that one is inclined to avoid. For this reason, classical eastern spiritual traditions provided practices for the cultivation of this primary re-habituation, practices that encouraged such qualities as attentional stability and generosity.
3. Psychospiritual astrology is committed to the idea that the natal chart provides pragmatic value about living a deeply meaningful life.
Even as we re-write old maps and as the grip of perceptual habits is loosened, there is always an excess of soul: we have a natural/spontaneous inclination to engage in some activities (as a karmayogin would—i.e., engagement for the sake of engagement, with no compulsive desire for some end that will fill up our sense of lack). We could call these types of things ‘inspirations’—i.e., things we experience as being “naturally” inspired—compelled, even—to do. The practice of following these inspirations functions as a fundamental kind of re-habituation; we’re no longer aspiring to some end that (we think) will fulfill our independent self, but rather become something like a participant in (the) wholeness (that precedes and exceeds ‘me’ and ‘my will’ and that calls me beyond my habitual, closed self). In other words, I pursue what calls us me to Infinity, but not that which I think will make me in-finite. In this way, there is a sense that we’re actually working with the “self” rather than against it by trying to eliminate/fix it.
The pragmatic value of the chart helps the psychospiritual astrologer define the following:
the specific ways in which this most basic yearning manifests;
the specific areas of life that one naturally prefers to avoid and towards which one would benefit from opening up (as a practice of opening the heart);
habits—the old maps—that prevent full engagement in/with the world;
the most effective method(s) of re-habituation;
the types of activities towards which one is naturally inclined;
The Yoga of Yoga further discusses the issue of suffering and the cause of suffering. Prakṛti & Puruṣa: Phenomenological Reflections further discusses our (inextricably “entangled”) existential situation. Yoga & The Meaning of (Your) Life discusses what it a “meaningful” life might look like from a yogic perspective. The Best Astrological Remedies: A Yogic Perspective discusses the shortcomings of more common ways we hope to solve our worldly problems (and what we might do instead).