Astrology as Psychology

Zip Dobyns

As our readers know, I think the personality model of astrology is unique in having an external referent, the sky, in contrast to the many invented personality models in psychology which are circular. Someone makes up a model and creates questions which fit it. Subjects are placed in the model on the basis of these questions and, sometimes, their observed actions. If they change their responses and actions, they can be moved to a different place in the model. If an introvert acts like the “life of the party,” he can be moved into the category of extrovert. With the external referent of the sky, you can’t decide that because someone acts passive and inhibited, you will change their chart from having Mars rising to having Venus rising. You have to question your theories about what it means to have Mars rising and look for other factors in the horoscope which may explain the internal focus or inhibitions demonstrated by the individual.

I also think the personality model of astrology with its 12 basic drives/desires is superior to any of the personality systems invented by psychologists, but I continue to read the new theories of current psychology. Partly, I watch for a model which might be similar enough to astrology to be useful in research. Several research efforts have compared the results of psychological questionnaires with the judgments of horoscopes by astrologers, but so far with very little success. The only successful effort that I know of was the dissertation done by Vida Gaynor for a Ph.D. in psychology completed in November 1981. She compared the judgments of 3 astrologers with the introvert-extrovert scales on 5 psychological questionnaires on a sample of approximately 50 individuals. The most promising questionnaire was the one developed by Cattell called the 16PF. All 3 astrologers agreed with it to a significant degree. One of the astrologers also achieved significant results on Eysenck’s EPI questionnaire.

The August 7, 1999 issue of Science News has an article about competing personality models in psychology. A theory described as a “clinical upstart” is being promoted by Westen and Shedley, who are both psychotherapists and research psychologists. The two men contend that asking people questions about themselves and others can get information about their self-concept and social reputation, but it will not uncover the deeper organizing principles of their personalities. Westen and Shedley hark back to Freudian ideas, describing the mental life as consisting of warring impulses, ambivalent feelings, and a generous capacity for self-deception. Instead of a model composed of lists of traits or types, or the currently popular five-factor model with the dimensions of Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness to experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, Westen and Shedley propose 12 dimensions which largely correlate with categories of psychiatric diagnosis. Unfortunately, the only thing their model has in common with astrology is the number of categories. It may help psychiatrists label patients as high in psychopathy, hostility, narcissism, emotional dysregulation, dysphoria, schizoid orientation, obsessionality, thought disorder, Oedipal conflict, dissociated consciousness, or sexual conflict, but compared to astrology’s ability to provide both insight and solutions to ordinary people, I would judge it a catastrophe. In case you are curious, the 12th category, which they list 1st, is psychological health. 11 of their dimensions describe serious problems.

Astrology really does give us insight into the preceding description of personality. It accurately describes the warring impulses and ambivalent feelings which are inherent components of life, including freedom versus closeness, dominance versus dependency, personal pleasure versus shared pleasure, ego versus equality, passion versus intellectual detachment, practicality versus idealism, etc. Astrology is a universal psychological model. Common sense tells us that extremes in any desire will be a problem; that compromise is needed, that life is a balancing act. Problems may result from excesses or deficiencies. We may repress our emotions and the sub-conscious will produce body symptoms to warn us that it is unhappy. We may attract others who overdo what we are neglecting, forcing us to learn to do more in healthy ways. We may try to satisfy our desires in ways or in times which are ineffective, such as looking for “God,” expecting perfection, in a mate or a child or ourselves. When we understand the problem, we also understand the solution, though that is no guarantee that we can change the habits which have been producing discomfort. Change takes patient, persistent effort, replacing previous habits with new, more effective ones.

What baffles me is the failure of psychology to discover the value of the personality system of astrology. It is so clearly superior, so much more complex, complete, and sophisticated than any of the personality models I have seen. It has the sky as an external referent, so questionnaires are not needed. To understand a person in depth, you just need an accurate horoscope, which will describe the psychological issues in his or her nature. A list of past events is helpful to see how they have handled the issues in the past, but they can change their future if they change their habits. The materialistic beliefs of many, if not most, scientists may be part of what blocks the acceptance of astrology. “We can’t take it seriously if we can’t explain it.” The simplistic nature of “popular” sun-sign astrology probably turns off many educated people who have no concept of its complexity. Fundamentalist religious beliefs can lead to fear of astrology as something evil. A misunderstanding of what astrology is and what it can do is a block for many. When people think it should accurately predict all the details of the future and it fails, they may discard it. When they think it can only predict the future, rather than provide insight that permits the production of better life details, they may reject it as not helpful. The time will come when astrology will be the first used and most valued tool in any effort to understand life and the cosmos; when the pre-astrology search for knowledge will be considered a “dark age.” In the meantime, we need research to sort out and test the most reliable theories. We now have the computers, programs, and increasing quantities of data to carry out effective research. We just need individuals with some skill and time to do it.

Copyright © 1999 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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