Maritha on Counseling: All the Possibilities

Maritha Pottenger

Too many astrologers (professional and otherwise) try to treat our field as one of signs. This is true from the viewpoint of overemphasizing signs (and giving less weight than is called for to planets, aspects and houses). It is also true from the viewpoint of signs versus symbols.

A sign is a mark or some kind of device which has a special meaning. In our culture, the red, octagonal sign (labeled “STOP”) means to halt your vehicle and watch for a clearing before proceeding onward. Its basic meaning is to stop. We may have mixed feelings about it, but everyone agrees on its basic meaning. A symbol, by contrast, suggests something or embodies certain characteristics. It does not correspond to one simple meaning, but evokes a multitude of images. A cross, for example is a symbol of Christianity. Christianity means many different things to different people and we would be hard-put to define a simple, consensual meaning. To some, the cross represents mankind’s sins for which Christ died. To others, the cross represents the love of God that sent his Son to die for us. To others, the cross represents the murder and intolerance of the Crusades or Inquisition. And so on. The meaning we assign to the symbol of the cross will also change over time, depending upon our experiences in life.

Astrology is a system of symbols; it is not a system of signs. I see too many astrologers striving to make a simple equation in astrology: this equals that. The process can vary from a simplistic: “Sun in Capricorn equals good in business” to an infinitely complicated “Neptune in the 14th degree of Libra conjunct a certain fixed star in the 3rd house, making a 4th harmonic aspect to Venus equals a blind brother who plays only sad songs on the guitar.” Whatever the rationales presented, the underlying assumption is that certain astrological configurations “mean” (or determine) specific outer-world manifestations. Even when these astrologers claim to believe in free will, the bottom line is an assumption that there is one and only one meaning that is correct for each particular astrological piece. (And, the further assumption, if we were only good enough astrologers, we could define everything in the life from the horoscope.) I see little of personal choice in this!

Aside from the issue of personal power and responsibility, the “this detail in the horoscope equals that detail in the life” school of astrology is illogical. Take, for example, the field of vocational astrology. Certain books tell us to analyze the sign on the MC for the vocation; others point to the planet (using only the original five) which rises ahead of the Sun; others look to the planet occupying the 6th or 10th house, etc. The Department of Labor lists thousands of vocations, I would like to know how these astrologers hope to cover thousands of vocations with 12 MC signs, or with 10 planets, etc. The obvious conclusion is that any ONE sign or planet must represent hundreds (or thousands) of possible vocations. (So much for “this equals that”!) We come again to symbols—not signs.

The die-hard “signists” insist that we only need MORE information. If we could include each little mini-aspect and all the relevant placements, we would eventually pin it down to one possibility. They seem to envision life as the decision trees of computer programming: with each piece of astrological information you make a choice (A or B) which leads you to a particular branch; you make another choice which leads you to another branch, and so on until you get to the end of the road: THE decision. This is presently unarguable because mini-aspects and such are totally in contention with no one in a position to say who is right and who is wrong. However, I wish to point out another assumption which lies behind this approach. That is the assumption that the ONE meaning (which the “signists” are so sure exists) is the only one for that individual, throughout his or her life. Thus, if we really COULD pick a specific vocation from an individual’s chart, that would be the ONLY vocation for that person for their whole life. I, for one, find that an EXTREMELY narrow, restrictive point of view!

Naturally I have picked examples which I feel support my point most dramatically, but the trend is clear regardless of examples. “Signists” and their ilk come from the school of “There is ONE (and only one) right answer to the question.” They would like to believe that there is one true, most-correct vocation for everybody, one “true”, most ideal mate for everybody, one “true,” best place to live, etc. In our complex, highly inter-dependent world, I find that extremely unlikely.

Do you, the reader, believe that what is an extremely satisfying job at age 25 will be equally satisfying at 45 or at 65? The whole concept of “life as growth” cries against it! If we are truly here to learn and evolve, how can the horoscope be valid if it does not also reflect our capacity to change and grow? Whenever we demand a single “right” answer from astrology, we are limiting our human potential for growth!

Psychology has a concept called “tolerance of ambiguity.” I suspect that the capacity to tolerate ambiguity will become an increasingly valuable talent in the future. The more complicated life becomes, the more useful is a capacity to deal with ambivalences, balance opposites, and see many sides to an issue. The old, simple, black-and-white world is gone (if, indeed, it ever existed). Humans need to be able to consider many alternatives, weigh the circumstances, balance their options. In the future, the highest product of evolution may be beings capable of analyzing multi-dimensionally.

Consider the case of a woman who is having headaches and demonstrates all the symptoms of blocked assertion—constantly giving in to her children, always deferring to her husband, well-established in the traditional role of being a sweet, “feminine,” self-sacrificing individual. What is the “best” solution for her? What is the “best” solution for her husband? For her children? For society which benefits through her unpaid labor as a housekeeper, volunteer, etc.? Suppose she becomes more assertive and ends up divorced? It is easy for an outside observer to say, “well, her husband didn’t treat her right anyway” but will she be willing to pay that price? Is there ONE right answer to this issue?

I believe such situations are human dilemmas. We could say she is dealing with the 1-4 issue of personal rights versus dependency-nurturance which involves others, or with the 1-7 issue of my rights versus yours as a peer, or with the 4-7 issue of dependency versus equality, or with the 4-10 issue of dependency versus power; all parts of the cardinal dilemma. Or in more mundane terms, she is torn between her desire to be a good wife and mother and citizen and her desire to achieve something in the world beyond home and family and to do what she pleases some of the time. Even a single pair of planets (such as Mars conjunct Saturn in Cancer in the seventh house) may embody the whole cardinal dilemma. There is no “magic” answer. There is no single solution that means “Okay, I’ve solved that; now I can go on.” The dilemma changes as the kids grow up, or as the husband’s income or the world’s economy changes, or as personal growth introduces new aspirations. There are ongoing issues that we meet and do our best to deal with each and every day. If I am trying to integrate my “freedom versus closeness dilemma,” I do NOT one day find a magic solution that makes everything perfect. Day by day, I try to create a reasonable balance that works, in each individual situation, with each individual person, in the present context. And, day by day, I change the balance as I grow, as the people around me alter and as the circumstances change.

I sometimes feel like a broken record, but I must stress again the importance of the astrologer as a mirror or a clarifier—rather than as an authority or a predictor. I do not see any value in telling someone “You are going to get fat in that area,” or “You will take up music if you live there” or “You will meet a new lover there.” All those pronouncements take the power away from the individual and make it appear that only ONE possibility can occur. By contrast, if we focus on the ISSUES being highlighted, the individual is aware of MULTIPLE POSSIBILITIES and can choose to create the ones—moment to moment—which are most appealing. This means the person can also choose to create DIFFERENT options when the old ones are no longer satisfying!

We can choose to offer the constricting armor of a “this equals that” approach to our client, fitting them into the Procrustean bed of only one right answer—or we can choose to offer the open-ended universe of choice. The astrology we practice, and the lives we live, reveals whether we are on the side of stagnation, restriction and limitation or growth, evolution and all the possibilities!

Copyright © 1987 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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