Mundus Volubilis

the flowing universe

Astrology

“The purpose of astrology really should be to give you an understanding of your place in the universe and the kinds of energies that are flowing through you and through the physical universe.”

Robert Hand

(Part 2)

The Natal Chart from an Animistic Perspective II -mundus volubilis

The Risks of Psychological Interpretation

When reading a birth chart, we must be careful not to use psychological interpretation with too much certainty and too narrow a scope. Otherwise we may end up believing that we know more about the other person than they themselves do. Would we walk down the same road as Freud did in his analysis of Dora, for example, claiming that his patient was lying and/or was in denial rather than reconsider his interpretation?

My major criticism of Freud's way of treating Dora is that he was repeatedly and highly controlling of her and that he used gaslighting and other indoctrination methods to pressure Dora into accepting his interpretations about her unconscious desires and complexes. […] Freud's overriding need to prove his theory right led him to insist on the validity of his interpretations, speculations, and inferences. In Ornstein's words, "He practically fought Dora's subjective experiences in order to establish the validity of his own (more experience-distant) dynamic-genetic explanation".
What Did Dora Want? The Abuse of Power in Freud's Analysis of Dora. In: Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis. Theodore Dorpat - J. Aronson - 1996

When we make a mistake in our literal interpretation, we can quickly prove ourselves wrong. But when it comes to the psychological dimension, we run into all kinds of complexities: projection, rationalization, etc. - the list is endless.

Some elements of the natal chart will inevitably talk about the native as a "child" and also their "child(ren)". Where do we draw the line between literal and metaphorical information? How much of the "offspring" indicated in the map depicts an actual child and to what degree is it symbolic in the Jungian sense?

baby mundus volubilis
"The child is potential future. […] This agrees exactly with our experience of the psychology of the individual, which shows that the "child" paves the way for a future change of personality. In the individuation process, it anticipates the figure that comes from the synthesis of conscious and unconscious elements in the personality. It is therefore a symbol which unites the opposites; a mediator, bringer of healing, that is, one who makes whole."
The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. C. Jung-R. Hull - Princeton University Press - 1980. [278]

The Problem of "Meaning"

An experience is inaccessible from a binary "symbolic/literal" axis because it can unfold both ways (and more) at once. So how is it possible at all to interpret a natal chart and say something both about the physical and the psychological reality of the native without becoming dogmatic? The problem of "meaning" is so complex: what exactly are we looking for?

No matter how much we study and research, no matter whom- and whatever we encounter, all will feel "meaningless" until we connect to their (and our own) animating force.

In animism, knowing is intimacy

The distinction between the inner and the outer is very important in symbolic thinking, but it is irrelevant from an animistic perspective. Reality is one and all phenomena are mixed: nothing is purely inner or outer, pure spirit or matter.

The function of consciousness in this context is not to connect, disconnect or transmute the inner with/into the outer, but to engage deeply with who- and whatever surrounds us. Its role is to form an intimate relationship between what is distinctly human and Life itself. Cats offer and share their catness, birds their birdness and humans their humanity. Here, there is no need to define what makes a cat or what makes a human being.

to be continued...
Suggested reading

The Natal Chart from an Animistic Perspective Part 1

the natal chart from an animisitic perspective 01

When we start studying astrology, we usually begin with identifying and defining elements of the horoscope. And there comes a phase when we need to switch from creating a “patchwork” of information to actually being able to make sense of it all. There are many authors who discuss how to combine a list of keywords into a synthetic whole (in all the senses of the word). But this kind of interpretation will always be our own construction, and we have to keep that in mind. Otherwise chances are that we won’t notice when planets, signs and houses do not “behave” as we expect them to. Read now

The Woman who Eats the Sun

goddess Nut - mundus volubilis

In ancient Egypt, the goddess Nut was the mother of gods. She was the night sky; and the Milky Way in particular. Alternatively, her body can be interpreted as the path of the stars, and she might even have been one specific constellation. Naked, in her full feminine beauty, she was bending over the Earth with her two hands and feet touching the North, East, South and West. Read now


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(Part 1)

the natal chart from an animisitic perspective 01

When we start studying astrology, we usually begin with identifying and defining elements of the horoscope. And there comes a phase when we need to switch from creating a "patchwork" of information to actually being able to make sense of it all. There are many authors who discuss how to combine a list of keywords into a synthetic whole (in all the senses of the word). But this kind of interpretation will always be our own construction, and we have to keep that in mind. Otherwise chances are that we won't notice when planets, signs and houses do not "behave" as we expect them to.

It's possible and worthwhile to enter an intimate relationship with the natal chart and meet the energy that animates it before we start to understand it intellectually. This is what I call an "animistic" approach (as opposed to a "symbolic" one).

What is animism?

Animism has as many definitions as many people have cared to define it.

..“animism” has been, and continues to be, used as a label for a range of phenomena. [....] [It] points to scholarly and popular efforts to understand what activates, energizes and motivates the ways in which lives are lived – either as individuals or with others.
Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Graham Harvey - Routledge - 2015, p. 6.

As an animist, I perceive life as something we participate in, not as something we have. And in this sense, everything that exists is alive. The Gibraltar Campion flower grows nowhere else in the world but on the Rock of Gibraltar. Because the rock participates in the life of the flower, it is alive.

The Complications with the Symbolic Approach

Many of us start learning astrology by attaching keywords to planets. And at one point, the list will become overcrowded and full of overlaps. For example, each planet will become so rich in "meaning", always modified by a specific context, that in the end they don't seem to "mean" anything at all.

From a symbolic viewpoint, it is important to distinguish the inner from the outer. The role of consciousness is to connect the private (inner) with the shared (outer) and transmute one into the other. We make the inner manifest in the outer world and give the outer world an inner representation.

But the temptation to have something to hold onto can be too strong, and we might want to compensate for the plasticity of symbols by using examples that suggest a one-to-one correspondence between planetary placements and specific (psychological) situations.

This brings the danger of falling into a mentality where our "modern" symbols become just as fixed in meaning as in "traditional" astrology. It makes little difference whether we move on the "literal" or the "psychological" plane; whether we call Saturn in the fifth house "difficulty with /having children" or "the classic indication of the unloved child" . 1

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Suggested reading

Thoughts on Planets Aspecting Each Other

Thoughts on Planets Aspecting Each Other - mundus volublis

Planets are to astrology as metals are to alchemy. Both traditions work with deep and diverse imagery. Each symbol on its own has been the subject of several books and extended research. And yet, when it comes to discussing astrology, we often stick to a vocabulary that is surprisingly static – considering that we are talking about human beings and dynamic physical, psychological and interpersonal networks. Read now

The Woman who Eats the Sun

goddess Nut - mundus volubilis

In ancient Egypt, the goddess Nut was the mother of gods. She was the night sky; and the Milky Way in particular. Alternatively, her body can be interpreted as the path of the stars, and she might even have been one specific constellation. Naked, in her full feminine beauty, she was bending over the Earth with her two hands and feet touching the North, East, South and West. Read now


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Thoughts on Planets Aspecting Each Other - mundus volublis

Planets are to astrology as metals are to alchemy. Both traditions work with deep and diverse imagery. Each symbol on its own has been the subject of several books and extended research. And yet, when it comes to discussing astrology, we often stick to a vocabulary that is surprisingly static – considering that we are talking about human beings and dynamic physical, psychological and interpersonal networks.

When someone is new to astrology, it can be particularly challenging to figure out how these symbols interact with each other in a natal chart.

The Sun in “Sun square Jupiter”, for example, is quickly labelled “ego” and “pride”, and Jupiter becomes “grandiosity” and “lack of restraint”. At the same time, the Sun in “Sun trine Jupiter” will be “spirit” and “creativity” and Jupiter will stand for “wisdom” and “generosity”.

sun mundus volubilisBut the Sun is the Sun and Jupiter is Jupiter, whichever way they contact any other planet. The meaning of the Sun involves all mentioned above (ego, pride, spirit, creativity) and much more. The same is true for Jupiter – who, by the way, also signifies popular culture and traditional beliefs.

If the chart as a whole supports it, someone with Sun in a soft aspect with Jupiter can of course be a generous, optimistic person. A great host, child, sibling, parent, friend, student and teacher. Or a creative spirit. Or they may always look at the greater perspective in every situation. But/And they can equally be someone who simply fits in perfectly: who feels, thinks and acts just the way they are expected to. A hundred percent mainstream. Why question the system if it serves them well?

sun-jupiter mundus volubilisAnd when it comes to a hard aspect between Sun and Jupiter: yes, this could be someone irresponsible, lazy and arrogant – if one or both planets are disposed that way. In another horoscope, however, it might simply show that the person won’t fit in – maybe they hold unconventional or unpopular views, they identify with a minority, and/or spiritually speaking they are off the beaten track, and so on.

Aspects never stand alone. They are always part of a network: the map as a whole.

Even in extreme cases, in the charts of serial killers, for example, it is not the hard aspects in themselves that raise red flags. It’s the specific combination of hard aspects (tension) and soft aspects (how it is channeled) that we should pay attention to.

We follow the energy and see how it circulates in the chart. Without looking at planets’ signs, house placement and their role in the fabric of aspects, what can we say about the meaning of Sun square Jupiter?*

_____________________________

* Some natives with Sun square Jupiter: Nicolaus Copernicus, Napoléon I Bonaparte, Friedrich Hölderlin, Oscar Wilde, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Heidegger, Louis Althusser, Andy Warhol, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gwyneth Paltrow

Suggested reading

The Natal Chart from an Animistic Perspective Part 1

the natal chart from an animisitic perspective 01

Many of us start learning astrology by attaching keywords to planets. And at one point, the list will become overcrowded and full of overlaps. Read now

The Mystery of Capricorn

capricorn mundus volubilis

Capricorn is the tenth sign of the zodiac. Its period corresponds to the Winter Solstice, rich in symbolism of the interplay (and often struggle) between light and darkness. It is also strongly connected to all kinds of fertility rites. Its pagan connotations and its tie to the earth and the underworld are among the reasons why Christianity linked this sign to the Devil. Read now


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capricorn mundus volubilis

Capricorn is the tenth sign of the zodiac. Its period corresponds to the Winter Solstice, rich in symbolism of the interplay (and often struggle) between light and darkness. It is also strongly connected to all kinds of fertility rites.

Its pagan connotations and its tie to the earth and the underworld are among the reasons why Christianity linked this sign to the Devil.

capricorn mundus volubilisThe Abrahamic religions separate "spirit" from "matter", and this split is essential to their worldview. The god of monotheism is the god of spirit: it is in his best interest to separate his realm from that of matter, where he cannot be the one and only. The physical world is never homogenous, it cannot be. Nature is diverse, plural and forever changing. It cannot be ruled by one single force.

 

So, in order to be all-powerful, the god of monotheism had to create a sphere of "pure spirit", devoid of matter. But how to believe in such a heaven when it does not compare to anything we experience in life? That was quite a challenge for his prophets and religious leaders. Check in the history books how they coped throughout the ages.

 

Capricorn is represented by a hybrid: it is part goat and part fish. The symbol speaks of the ultimate mystery of life. Aren't we all connected? Aren't we all "mixed"? Aren't we both soul and body - both complete in ourselves and part of a greater whole? How is that possible? Capricorn is the key.

Suggested reading

Thoughts on Planets Aspecting Each Other

Thoughts on Planets Aspecting Each Other - mundus volublis

Planets are to astrology as metals are to alchemy. Both traditions work with deep and diverse imagery. Each symbol on its own has been the subject of several books and extended research. And yet, when it comes to discussing astrology, we often stick to a vocabulary that is surprisingly static – considering that we are talking about human beings and dynamic physical, psychological and interpersonal networks. Read now

The Natal Chart from an Animistic Perspective

the natal chart from an animisitic perspective 01Many of us start learning astrology by attaching keywords to planets. And at one point, the list will become overcrowded and full of overlaps. Read now


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  1. Saturn: a New Look At an Old Devil. Liz Greene - Weiser Books - 2011
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