Vedic Spiritual-Psychological Astrology: The Astrology & Psychology of Self-Awareness, Freedom, and Meaningful Personal Growth
Vedic Spiritual-Psychological Astrology is an approach to astrology that combines astrology and psychology. It uses astrology as a pragmatic tool to address the issue of suffering (as conceived in various eastern spiritual traditions). This approach to astrology is not committed to any particular existing method of astrology as much as it is committed to a few core ideas. (At balraj.yoga, the first two of the following commitments underlie everything we do.)
The Core Commitments of Vedic Spiritual-Psychological Astrology:
I. A particular method of studying human experience and “psychology” called “phenomenology”.
The first commitment of spiritual-psychological astrology is to a particular way of studying and understanding human experience called phenomenology.
Strictly speaking, the assumptions made by this approach to psychological astrology can be examined and verified by paying attention to your own experience. No specific metaphysical or cosmological beliefs are required.
Our approach is called “spiritual” given that it concerns one’s sense of ‘wholeness’/‘completeness’. And it is called “psychological” not because it is grounded in any contemporary frameworks in psychology, but for more pragmatic reasons: (1) it is mostly concerned with one’s inner life [psyche + logos: a taking account of the psyche], and (2) to distinguish it from “predictive” astrology. As such, spiritual-psychological astrology does not employ any particular framework of psychology established by contemporary psychologists (or astrologers). It is, most basically, a non-predictive astrology of one’s (so-called) inner life.
II. A particular understanding of the basic problem of suffering/anxiety found in various eastern spiritual traditions, including “spiritual yoga”.
The second commitment of spiritual-psychological astrology is to a basic understanding of the problem of suffering.
In this context, spiritual-psychological astrology focuses not on understanding and/or resolving “complexes”, but rather on understanding the nature of experiencing and suffering. As such, spiritual-psychological astrology does not offer a way to “fix” or further avoid the unwanted dimensions of our inner/outer life/world, but rather—like the “psychology” of early yoga—privileges something like self-awareness.
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, et cetera. This sense of incompleteness/separateness produces a basic fear of being/becoming nothing and/or a sense of emptiness that weighs on the individual (“I’m not enough” or “there’s something missing/bad/shameful in me [that must be expelled]”).
In religious contexts, freedom from suffering is seen as a kind of permanent fulfillment, and is said to be provided in union with—or realization 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) that would relieve one of their suffering/anxiety. 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 in 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.
Perception 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/world alone is insufficient to live freely. Complete engagement in/with life requires confronting the anxious uncertainty of opening the heart, opening to those situations in one’s life/world that one is inclined to avoid. For this reason, classical eastern spiritual traditions provided practices for this primary re-habituation, practices that encouraged such qualities as attentional stability and generosity.
III. The view that the astrology chart provides pragmatic value about living a more deeply meaningful life in this world (with others).
The third commitment of spiritual-psychological astrology is to the astrology chart as a pragmatic tool.
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. Or we might call them dharma.
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 me to Infinity, but not that which I think will make me in-finite. In this way, there is a sense that I am actually working with the “self” rather than against it by trying to eliminate/fix it or even “replace” it via inner work and/or personal transformation.
In Vedic spiritual-psychological astrology, the pragmatic value of the birth chart helps the astrologer gain a sense of multiple important factors:
the astrological chart helps identify the specific way(s) in which this most basic yearning manifests;
the astrological chart helps identify the specific areas of one’s inner/outer life/world that one naturally prefers to avoid and towards which one would benefit from opening up (including relationships with others, one’s work/career, health, but also painful feelings and unwanted thoughts, etc.);
the astrological chart helps identify the instinctive self’s habits—the old maps—that prevent full engagement in/with the one’s world;
the astrological chart helps identify effective method(s) of re-habituation;
the astrological chart helps identify the ways in which you are not in possession of yourself but are rather something closer to dependent on or answerable to yourself, so to speak.
Seen in this light, psychological spiritual astrology is less about telling you if/when you will have/do/be what you desire/fear, and more about how you might abandon the pursuit of self-existence in order to create a meaningful life—including more fulfilling work/relationships, better health/mobility, etc.—of something like “creativity” and contribution. In other words, the practice of astrology for the Vedic spiritual-psychological astrologer is less about mining the astrology chart for already-established facts about one’s future and more about opening to the creative engagement with the (meaningful) freedom that opens up in the recognition of the ways in which one’s attention is “pre-determined”. This is the astrology of understanding oneself. This is the astrology of understanding the Self.