I’m an astrologer. I study the stars to know the self, and I practice astrology to lend a hand to others on their own path to the same. Astrology is the practice of stellar omen interpretation. It was first described to me this way by my teacher, Adam Elenbaas, and this was a major revelation in my thinking. “So like, tarot in the stars?” I asked. I’d always thought of astrology as a totally separate category from the divinatory disciplines that I was already so familiar with. This new way of thinking brought astrology under that same tent and rooted it in its original context. Western astrology was first developed by ancient Babylonian priests, seeking patterns in things like the way the clouds passed over the setting sun to discern pragmatic information about the King or the state. These are omens – events in the material that speak to other, seemingly disconnected events. The tools of the practice can be any sufficiently diverse set of symbols, which together form an arcanum capable of describing the world around and within the diviner. This has serious implications – what kind of world must this be, where objects in one time and place can speak to events elsewhere in space and time?
The Causal Model
The explanation I see most often employed to address the “how and why” of astrology is what I term “the causal model.” It appears often in the way people casually talk about the planets (“that’s Mars’ fault” or “Saturn is being such a pain in my neck”). Under the causal model, the celestial bodies are seen as compelling or impelling influences – the stars are in some way acting on us as causal forces. In other forms of divination, like casting disciplines such as tarot or geomancy, there’s nothing to draw us to this way of thinking – no one pulls the Tower and thinks the shake-up that it portends is caused by the sign that signifies it. No, the card serves as a microcosmic image of your macrocosmic circumstances. But the stars are unique – rather than being a microcosm that speaks to the macro, they are “more macro” than the events they are able to speak to. They’re “out there,” and yet they can speak to our lives down here. The causal model seems almost scientific – astrology can speak to the life because the stars and planets are actors, exerting their bigger, more powerful forces onto human goings-on, Mars casts his baleful rays upon us and precipitates the events he portends.
But like many elegant concepts, close inspection makes the whole house of cards fall down. If the stars and planets are acting on us, then how can the tropical Zodiac work? The signs that make it up are now quite distant from the physical stars that share their name due to axial precession. This is constantly bandied about to supposedly “debunk” astrology, but the idea that this should matter misunderstands the nature of tropical astrology. This is an accepted fact – the Sun rising at 15° tropical Aries actually appears in the sky in front of the constellation of Pisces. The “rays” of the stars of Aries do not physically pass through the sun to reach the child born in that moment. And what about forms of astrology where the placements of the stars are simply symbolic? In Horary, for example, the querent asks their question, and we interpret the sky at the present moment to discern an answer. Horary can be used to ask questions about things in the past and future, using the position of the stars in the now. If the stars impel, how can their position now act as an omen for what will happen to us in the future?
Carl Jung says of natal astrology, “We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born.” But what if the planets aren’t the arbiter of the quality of that season; what if they are not the causers of the events that they portend? Instead, what about this: the position of the stars and the events they portend are all equally products of a shared cause so large-scale that it is almost imperceptible from our perspective. The nature of this cause can only be glimpsed in pieces, and one of the ways to glimpse it is in the language of omens.
To illustrate this, I’ll borrow a metaphor. Imagine yourself as a 2-D creature (a line) living on a flat plane. If a 3-D sphere passes through a plane, it can only manifest in two dimensions: the sphere first touches the plane and appears as a dot, then grows to an increasingly large circle, reaches its widest point, shrinks until it becomes a dot again, and then is gone from sight. Our flat person can only see a portion of the 3-D sphere – they have no knowledge of the greater object or its activities in other points on their plane. So for us, we operate in 4-D space (the 4th being time) as 3-D beings. For us, our “sphere” is all time and space, but since we live on the “plane” of the 3-D, we can only in the normal course of things perceive events in the present that are near us in space. That present intersection of time and space is our flatland. Something extra-dimensional can enter our field of perception and we can see just a slice of it. But through the systems of omens built up through thousands of years of human effort and pattern recognition, we can perceive the sphere suggested by the point.
Instead of the stars as causal agents, I see instead an unseen hand of infinite dimension plunging through the material, turning as it goes a system of interlocking gears across all levels of manifestation, innervating them all with its motion. The events of the stars play out in the lives of man not because the one causes the motions of the other, but because the movement of the cosmos is the self-same movement of man. The body of God dances, its arms and legs make sweeping gestures across the skies, its fingers and toes dance across the Earth, its cells and organelles respond in kind, creating threads of seemingly disconnected synchrony in our realm. Synchronicity may not be truly acausal, but from our flatlander perspective it might as well be. It is the water that we’re all immersed in, and as such, the cause cannot be seen, only suggested.
So what about us? Are we just gears in this divine body’s motion, our choices preordained? No. Our decisions are interactive – we too are the causers of our own results in the same way that events on the cellular level can cause macrocosmic events in the body. We with our conscious minds aren’t just the executors of cosmic choices, but participants in them. We can ask for omens and contextualize with astrology – asking, too, is a choice. In asking, the call goes out across the body’s tendons, and the language of omens speaks to us in the symbol set we understand, through the pathways we’ve built through study or experience. The unseen gears of fate allow the sign to cross our paths in the right moment, so uncannily that it gives the illusion that it was preordained to be there. This is why I practice, to give a space for myself and others to step back and reorient in the language of the stars to see the connection between us and everything else.
The Land of Limits
A divinatory tradition with rules creates the boundaries required for the reception of discrete information. If we are swimming in a world full of speech, we must have limits. Limits sheer shape from unhewn wood. The mind of a child is born with many thousands more neural connections than the brain of an adult. As a result, it is formless, structureless. The process of maturation is through the death of those connections – by the time a child is 10, 50% of the synaptic connections it had at age 2 will be eliminated. As it receives boundaries, structures can emerge – we take a step into Saturn’s domain, the first of many of these initiations. Routes that information cannot travel are required for actual things to take shape from the infinite. We need constraints, defined symbols with set meanings.
We need limits, too, in our practice. If we constantly ask for a breadcrumb trail to follow, keeping our eyes low seeking the signs, we ignore that we’re a critical part of God’s body – we profane the temple. We must be willing to be the executors of our own volition as a living piece of this reality. Choices, hard choices, without anyone’s hand on my shoulder whispering “you’re going the right way,” have been the most critical forks in the road of my life, because when we’re asked to stand alone in the dark, without aid, that’s when your little hermit’s lamp alights one of the ever-branching paths of fate with your choice. Through choices, we reach out to meet God, and it meets you. Its cosmic body responds to our own whispered messages, their impacts reverberate through its fibers, causing their own effects. In reading omens, we are engaging in this dance, sensing the everywhere-presence of immanence and alterity. When I’m most in line with myself, I simply move, the way a dancer communicates wordlessly with their partner, questions unasked on my lips, in union and synchrony.
Credit & Sources:
As is the shared tradition of the several disparate lineages that I’m a part of, I want to give hearty thanks and credit to the teachers whose thoughts and words helped me form my own: Carl Jung, who in a book title alone brought a thought I’d been unable to formulate into sharp relief (“Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle”), Adam Elenbaas, my astrology teacher and mentor, Chris Brennan & Leisa Scheim, for their thoughtful discussion on the intersection of predestination and free will on The Astrology Podcast (most recently their episode on Zodiacal Releasing, linked below), Aleister Crowley, & Fr. Achad for the phrase “anatomy of the body of God,” & Edwin Abbott’s “Flatland” for the phrase Flatland. Also many thanks to my little sister Amelia (a dancer with a first house Saturn), Sevis, the only person who I’ve ever talked to about omens that had me enthusiastic nodding in fierce agreement the entire time, Seth Russell for an extremely useful conversation on higher dimensional visualization, and lastly but definitely not least, a supreme thanks to those who helped me edit: Patrick Davis , Shailer Kern-Carruth & Ryland Garnett. Years-long conversations with these three have shaped my thoughts in ways too broad-reaching to distill here.
Visualizing higher dimensional motion:
- Synaptic Pruning: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-synaptic-pruning-important-for-the-developing-brain/
- Gordon White & Eric Wargo on retrocausality and omens : https://bit.ly/2PNvFaV
- Chris Brennan and Leisa Schaim on the Astrology Podcast episode on Zodiacal Releasing: http://theastrologypodcast.com/2019/02/11/zodiacal-releasing-an-ancient-timing-technique