Maps and Models of Life
As our readers know, I speak and write constantly of the importance of our belief systems in shaping our experience of the world. We can only see and hear and understand what fits our beliefs. A lecture which I gave in July 1993 emphasized the superiority of the astrological model of human nature to the numerous psychological and so-called occult models which are used by millions of people. Any model, map, or graphic-conceptual system can be useful. No one model has final, absolute truth. But, as I explained in my talk, astrology is almost unique since it has an external referent system while almost all the other psychological models (including the “occult” ones like the Tarot, the I Ching, the Kabalah, etc.) are circular. Human beings first create these other models and then fit people into them. In astrology, the sky at birth provides the model and we always have it as an external referent against which we can check human character and the events in their lives to see whether they match—to see whether our understanding of the model is accurate. (Palmistry is the other model which has an external referent—the palm of the subject’s hand. Numerology offers a little, but different cultures have used many different number systems so they are partially a human creation).
An example can help to clarify what I mean by “an external referent.” Let’s take psychology’s widely used model of humans as divided into introverts and extroverts. Based on their concepts of these terms, psychologists create questionnaires which subjects answer, and based on their answers, the subjects are placed into one or the other category. Sometimes there is a middle category for subjects who don’t clearly fit the description of either introvert or extrovert. If a subject at a later time answers the same questionnaire differently or behaves in a way that is obviously contrary to his/her category, the subject can be reassigned to the other category. Unanticipated behavior does not force the psychologist to question his or her understanding of the model. They can reassign the subject.
In astrology, we might take the example of Mars on the Ascendant versus Venus on the Ascendant. If an individual with Mars in that highly significant position has events in the life which do not fit our conception of a rising Mars, we cannot blithely transfer the subject into the category of a rising Venus. We have to revise our interpretation of a rising Mars. We may have thought that a person with a rising Mars will always be aggressive but we discover that some people with that pattern have multiple accidents or surgeries or are witnesses to violence. So, if we are open-minded and intelligent, we investigate and (hopefully) discover the concept of repression. We find that people who do not allow themselves a constructive outlet for their self-assertion may unconsciously turn the life force against themselves with painful consequences.
It is also obviously true that despite its external reference system, astrology is still subject to distortion since the interpreter’s belief-system is always a factor. That is the central teaching of our church, LACCRS. IF an external reference system were adequate by itself to insure accurate interpretations of the model, we would not have dozens (or maybe hundreds or thousands) of different astrological systems in existence, each with their supporters who are convinced of their own accuracy. The external map-model does put some limits on the freewheeling imagination of astrologers, but it hasn’t prevented the use of many different zodiacs, many house systems, different numbers of elements (the Chinese have five), different types of aspects (the Hindus aspect whole signs so a factor anywhere in Aries squares a factor anywhere in Cancer while western astrology says that 1 degree of Aries is trine 29 degrees of Cancer. For the Hindus, there is no aspect between a factor at 1 Aries and another at 29 Virgo, a space we would consider an opposition), etc.
We can offer the excuse that both the sky and human nature are very complex so it is not easy to make precise correlations between the two. But I think that the primary reason for this diversity/confusion/disagreement in astrology is the inevitable subjectivity of normal humans. We each live in our own belief system and we are frequently only aware of it when it is challenged. And, even then, the normal reaction is to defend the beliefs by ignoring or denying the contrary experience, rather than to investigate to see whether our interpretation of our model might be improved. In my experience, the normal human reaction to a challenge to a personal world-view (belief system) is similar to the reaction to an earthquake—panic, though anger is also common for challenges to one’s beliefs.
A small comment in a review of my San Diego lecture will illustrate how difficult it is to hear (or at least to describe) what is contrary to our own model of the world. In my talk, I said that the models of the Tarot, the I Ching, the Kabala, etc. are all different from each other and from astrology. They are like different languages, so that attempts to translate one into another can be difficult and often ends up distorting one or both models to make them “fit.”
I say in every talk that in my model of the cosmos, ultimate reality is mental; that the material world is created by some form of consciousness including the unselfconscious. I do NOT use the words “energies” or “forces” or “influences” at any time since most people interpret those words as meaning physical energy and physical influence—some kind of radiation or force field. But a review of the talk quoted me as saying that equivalent energies might be at work in these different models but the forces are all slightly different. In place of words like “energy” or “forces,” I talk about “psychological meaning.” The sky gives us “information.” The Tarot and all of these other systems are psychological models, conceptual systems, not forces. I think that the energy which drives the cosmos is the life-energy of desire for expanded experience and awareness, but since most people will either not understand or not agree with that belief, I do not use the words which most people interpret as some type of physical or material power. Obviously, my selective use of words has little effect when astrologers are so used to conceptualizing astrology as a set of forces that they automatically (subconsciously) translate my words into their familiar belief system of physical forces and energies.
I could cite another experience when I was interviewed at an astrology conference by a newspaper reporter. I stated my beliefs at the beginning of the interview. I think that astrology is a symbol system, a clock which tells time but does not “make” time, a mirror which shows us the psychological drives which we developed in past lives and brought in to this life as a collection of habits. Our habits create our Karma, so if we want to change our Karma, we have to change our habits. The horoscope symbolizes these inner drives, showing where they are in conflict and where they are supporting each other. Each of the basic drives (symbolized by a planet, a sign, and a house among many other available factors) can be satisfied in a variety of ways. We do not have to have changes in the sky to change the details of how we are trying to satisfy some of our basic desires. With self-awareness and effort, we can change the habitual ways we seek our desires. We can compromise the conflicts, and can balance the imbalances which make us less effective or which produce pain. At the end of the interview, during which I never used the words “energy” or “force” or “influence,” I again repeated my initial statement that astrology is a symbol system which lets us see our own nature in the mirror. The reporter responded, with absolute astonishment in her voice, “You mean, you don’t believe there are any influences from the planets?”
The point of the preceding is simply to illustrate the degree to which our subjective system of beliefs determines what we can see, hear, and understand. We do not experience the world. We experience our (mostly subconscious) interpretation of the world and that interpretation is determined by our (mostly subconscious) belief system about the world. When we start to become conscious of our controlling beliefs, we can start to question some of them and consider the possibility of more effective beliefs. When we realize the total power our beliefs have over our lives, we are more apt to look in earnest for more effective beliefs. Philosophical theories are not easy to explain or to grasp, but they play such a powerful role in our lives, it is important to keep trying to become conscious of the theories-beliefs which are shaping our experiences.