As I am preparing to teach another round of astrology courses to another group of eager students, the question I’ve been meditating on is “why do I do this?” Or even more directly, “What is the value of learning astrology?” Especially considering the fact that the majority of students who have completed the courses I teach are not becoming full time astrologers. In fact, maybe 1 in 10 I’ve taught are now practicing full time, and yet the response to the experience of the course has been overwhelmingly positive. So what are people getting out of the study of astrology, and why are so many people so interested in it?
The simplest answer is that astrology is an exercise in symbolic thinking, and symbolic thinking is one of the fastest ways to engage more deeply or meaningfully with the everyday lives we live. The word symbol might bring to mind the idea that there are elaborate secret messages waiting to be decoded by astrology, and this might actually sound rather paranoid. But that’s not what I’ve come to understand as the value or purpose of symbolic thinking. Rather, symbols are living images.
They speak and move and take on a life of their own. They both direct us AND live within us as expressions of the soul. Learning any system of symbolic divination is therefore an exercise in learning to see the presence of both the soul and the spirit, working in tandem. By the language of astrology we see the starry and mysterious images that most closely reflect our eternal nature, perfect as it is, but at the same time we can’t help but see these same images as the exact moral and spiritual limitations or barriers of our lives, the exact pictures of suffering and pain that we yearn to escape from.
To learn any language that can help us both appreciate the nature of our humanity while also painting a precise picture of its personal limits, is remarkable. What’s even more remarkable is that this language is at the foundation of life as we know it. From the establishment of clocks and calendars, to the seven day week, to the solar year and lunar month, to the rhythm of the seasons and the primary motion of the sky as the earth spins on its axis, to the discovery of spherical trigonometry, the musical scale, geometry, and astronomy, astrology’s historical roots give coherence and order to the world we live in.
What’s amazing is that this system was never meant to limit or define all of physical or phenomenal reality. Sometimes people complain about time and calendars and math and science, and rightfully so as they perceive a world obsessed with order and rigidity or hyper rationality and control. But to properly understand the beauty of astrology and the elaborate laws and structures it provides us with, we have to go back to the fact that astrology was never meant to be an exhaustive description of reality “as it is” in some literal sense. Rather it was designed to be a symbolic image of eternity, or God.
Taken all together, astrology is thus about learning a language that invites us back into a symbolic image of order and meaning on the most profound levels. On the level of both psyche and cosmos at once, astrology teaches us that life is ordered and held benevolently by the unchanging laws of a divine intelligence while simultaneously presenting us with the full range of paradoxes and beauty present within a realm that is always imminent, never entirely predictable, and always changing.
Symbolic thinking in astrology encourages within us the bravery of fate. By the cosmic images of astrology we learn that accepting or “seeing” our symbolic place within the greater cosmos is the true meaning of freedom in this world of constant change.
Permanence isn’t a god trying to convince us of something, it’s an image of our place in God’s heart. Fate is intimately related to this specific place, for though we are all equally loved by the divine our places in the mansions of heaven are unique.
I see in the stars my real home and my real name. I don’t mean this literally. I mean this symbolically. And from that place, my life is sanctified again, right here and right now. Amen.
Blessings and Peace!