Existentialism and Archetypal Astrology...a Path to the Numinous
This is an excerpt from my new, but yet unpublished book, called "Lifting the Veil; Becoming Your Own Best Astrologer." Although some of the book deals with the grammar of learning how to do this, there's also a section on mid-life passages and the journeys we take from our childhood religious views to new ways of seeing....and in my case it was from Catholicism, to Existentialism, to archetypal astrology. If you are interested in this kind of writing you might also enjoy the book: "North Node Astrology; Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose"
So where does Existentialism fit in with astrology? Existentialism focuses on the process of becoming an authentic human being in a world that appears to be devoid of a benevolent God. It offers us a place to stand that doesn’t throw us into a state of philosophic despair, but instead tenderly holds our humanity and proselytizes courage instead of dogma. And in some ways, I see it as a precursor to astrological thinking.
If we see existentialism as an unsettling inquiry into the nature of life imbued with deep religious skepticism, then we might also see it as a beneficial stage in acquiring sound astrological thinking. In the past, it has sometimes been equated with a “dark night of the soul” time, or a “morning sickness” or as Jean Paul Sartre said, a “nausea” in response to the inauthentic life of mainstream culture. I would venture to add that existentialism feels like the place in our philosophic journey where we question our life and don’t try to insert easy solutions. It’s a time when we try to live authentically, when we work at becoming a person of integrity and when we wait for rebirth. As the existentialist writer, Albert Camus said: “If there is a soul, it is a mistake to believe that it is given to us fully created---rather it is created here, throughout a whole life, and living is nothing else than that long and painful bringing forth."
Existentialism was born in part out of the despair of World War II. It was a reaction to the fantasy of ungrounded beliefs, hyped-up nationalism and pre-packaged religions. It might be seen as a stage in spiritual evolution, like the stage of pregnancy, as a stance that is “pregnant” with what is to come. Astrological thinking changed too, and emerged and birthed itself anew in those years after World War II. It was then that Dane Rudhyar and the early Theosophists birthed astrology out of its fortune telling womb and put it into an authentic philosophic-spiritual context.
I see existentialism as standing between the naïve acceptance of unquestioned religion and the acceptance of the mystery of spiritual gnosis, or knowledge based on experience. This “existential” way of seeing and being often comes before any openness to a “greater mystery” which could be described as the perennial philosophy that lies at the heart of every religion. It seems like a good foundational attitude to take into any astrological practice.
The willingness to be open to an experience of the “numinous” ---which could be described as a sense of the holy or the presence of Spirit--- requires an attitude of openness and critical discernment that both existentialism and astrological thinking aspire to hold. (Although not all existentialists would agree---they’re an unruly bunch!) For those of us who do astrology, we struggle to discern what is real and useful and true, while also holding to the place of acceptance of the cycles, life rhythms, and the numinous idea of synchronicity. And we offer our clients an open “weltanschauung” or world view that allows them to place our ideas within their philosophy. We can offer them astrology not as being a religion, but an intuitive art of the Spirit where we can track the movements of Spirit in time.
I see astrology as being balanced between an attitude which is both Saturnian in its efforts at discernment and Neptunian as a synthesizing art. Existentialism is Saturnian in its no-nonsense approach to the harsh realities of life, and although the art of astrology is more Neptunian, it doesn’t make a case for a God of a certain creed or fantasy. Astrological thinking instead implies that in this Saturnian world we are poised and resonating in a balance between the heavens above and the earth below, and that here there are cycles, seasons, and predictable movements that allows space for Neptunian mystery.
Some people would say this is a ‘stretch’ but I like to think of the idea of existential astrology as the initial philosophic place we stand in, and from there one goes forward into one’s own Neptunian or astrological cosmology. I’ve chosen to embrace “evolutionary astrology” which posits the belief in reincarnation and the evolution and growth of the Soul through time---but this is not for everyone.
On my spiritual journey, existentialism played a crucial part in my transition from Catholicism to a belief in the Soul’s evolutionary journey. After leaving Catholicism I lived and waited in an existential space until life and astrology began to show me more. And what opened up for me was an awareness that the numinous spirit could never be bounded or understood completely by any one system or religion or even astrology. However, how delightful it was to find that there are astrological prints left in the sand from the path of Spirit! And that there are clues in the heavens, the seasons, and the archetypes as to how to navigate a life. The markers are all around us, and astrology is one such pathfinder.
The existentialists have a favorite mantra: “existence precedes essence” implying that we are always in the process of becoming who we truly are. I would add that living an astrologically aware life helps us to discern the essence of who we truly are, thereby making the process of existential “becoming” a conscious one--and that is indeed a profound gift.
~Elizabeth Spring www.elizabethspring.com