So what's the deal with astrology? I was raised to believe it was bullshit - like playing the lottery, a way to sucker the naive and unsophisticated. Unable to grow up free of Christian fundamentalism, though I myself was raised in a perfectly nice mainstream Protestant denomination, I also got a taste of the attitude that astrology and other occult practices are the work of dark forces, of Satan, perhaps, and ought to be avoided. That's an interesting attitude because it presupposes that these practices work on some level. My academic studies in philosophy eschewed anything that smacked of the irrational - even those nice mainstream Protestants. I never believed that astrology was evil; the fire and brimstone folk never got to me. I simply thought that it was false and silly and got in the way of my taking seriously an earthbased spirituality.
In graduate school, I started working with a massage therapist who also did energy healing - "whatever that is," I thought. I couldn't deny that her work was very effective and that I could feel something going on in my body. She's also a smart woman from an academic family who herself had gone to Swarthmore, and I admit with some embarrasment that her intellectual cred made me more willing to trust her. She recommended her astrologer to me, describing her as the smartest woman she’d ever met. My curiosity was piqued.
It was many years after first learning of this astrologer that I actually went to see her. First I sent Adonis,* as a gift for his 29th birthday, which I knew was astrologically significant as the Saturn return. I trust him implicitly, and when he raved about his session, I decided to visit the astrologer myself. Her intelligence, depth of knowledge, and insight blew me away. I didn’t understand how she did what she did – and I still don’t – but my two hours spent with her gave me enormous insight into myself and my life.
Now I’m part of a spiritual community, many of whom are highly trained in astrology and use it as a tool in their spiritual lives. My astrologer, who is 60, took her first astrology class from another member of the group when she was an undergraduate at an Ivy League university and he was a member of the mathematics faculty, teaching astrology as a graduate seminar! Many members of my community have shared in spiritual community for 25 years or more; they have studied with the same teachers, learned astrology together, started an esoteric publishing company, sat in audience with the Dalai Lama, and so on. There was a time in my life when I would have written them off (without knowing them) as New Age weirdoes. Yet they are some of the most loving, compassionate, spiritually curious and mature people I’ve ever known.
Maybe astrology isn’t bullshit. Maybe it’s a kind of literary device for interpreting a life. (I’ve thought of tarot cards in the same way.) Or maybe there’s more to it than that. I’m more open to mystery than I used to be, simply because my life experiences demand it of me. “As above, so below.” “As without, so within.” We are made of the same stuff as stars. The universe is contained within a leaf of grass. Everything vibrates with energy. Perhaps the arrangement of the planets when an infant is born energetically influences the course of that life. Perhaps the relation between planets and person isn’t causal but synchronicitous – meaningful because we give it meaning…but then that meaning becomes objective, or independent of the meaning-makers.
*Those of you who read SB and know your Greek literature and mythology will understand who Adonis is.