“Your lives are in your own hands. Your charts, like your lives, are open-ended, and like magic circles, are capable of transformation. You have such immense possibilities, and whatever possibilities you follow, every experience, no matter how difficult, can be a source of growth, strength and fulfillment. You can turn your conflicts into joys, your squares into trines”.
-Tracy Marks, The Art of Chart Synthesis
In this article, I would like to explore the healing potential of a more integrative approach to astrology, one which seeks to reconcile traditional predictive or prescriptive models with a more choice- and client-centered approach.
The question of the relationship between fate and free will lies at the heart of current debates about the purpose and nature of astrological interpretation and practice. It would indeed appear that an integrative model of astrological theory and practice must address and attempt to resolve this philosophical dilemma which has such potential to divide astrologers and weaken the credibility of our craft.
Some astrologers, notably Dane Rudhyar, Stephen Arroyo and Tracy Marks, have spoken of a ‘transformational’ approach to chart interpretation. Using this approach, the birth chart is envisioned as a mandala, a symbol of our highest potential, of the fulfillment of our destiny, of the actualization of our purpose. Crises are viewed as opportunities for growth, as providing moments of decision. Inner conflicts are seen as either reconcilable or fuelling achievement and creative agency for change.
There are points on the path of psychological growth where our darkness needs to be faced, where we need to confront and embrace the shadow side of ourselves, to integrate that which we have denied and rejected. And there are other points where we can seek salve for our wounds, catalysts to effect transformational change, elixirs to soothe our hurts, and techniques to overcome obstacles and resolve conflicts.
These are the strategies available on the healing path, strategies which enable us to overcome our problems, or if they cannot be overcome, at least acknowledged, accepted, or ameliorated. Through consciously embarking on a pathway towards healing, transformation and the search for wholeness, we are exercising our capacity for choice and decision.
To assume our power to choose is to accept responsibility, to be responsible or response-able — able to respond, rather than be acted upon. It is to act in such a way as to grow from the acorn into the oak, to become who we are meant to be, to fulfill our self-hood, to individuate.
The Transformational Astrology of Dane Rudhyar
The word ‘crisis’ is derived from the Greek word krino and means “to decide” . Crises, or transitions, as denoted by transits and progressions to the natal chart, are therefore potential times of decision-making. Interestingly, Dane Rudhyar has defined this freedom to choose, to make creative decisions at times of crises, as our ability to exercise our free will . Our freedom, he says, resides in our spark of divinity. This idea appears to be at odds with the thinking of many that our ‘fate’ resides in our spark of divinity or even in our character. The astrological world view is, in general, a high ly deterministic one. It acknowledges the existence of pre-dispositions, of pre-determined character traits and determinable or predictable outcomes for dynamic planetary interactions with the natal chart.
Rudhyar however, is one of the rare astrologers who has made allowance for what he calls “the factor of indeterminacy”, that which cannot be determined, cannot be predicted, and cannot be known before the event. This factor of indeterminacy, he says, is our spark of divinity. Herein lies our freedom, our power to choose, to determine how we respond to the conditioning factors of heredity, environment, culture, religion and so on.
Rudhyar defines our free will as “the will not to conform to the past”. He says that we can transform our past, or our ‘nature’, “by the introduction of a new vision, a new goal or realization…..No man is absolutely free…but every man can, at crucial times of decision, transform to some extent his natural conditions by some creative response which was non-determined and essentially unpredictable until it was made” .
It is ironic indeed, that Rudhyar’s approach should imply that the tool of Prediction, which we astrologers know and love so well, could be better used to exercise our free will rather than conforming us to our fate. What an interesting twist!
The Impact of the Astrologer on the Chart
It is important to consider the extent to which our personal world view, our belief systems, our life experience, our culture, and so on, can influence the way we view the birth chart before us, and indeed can impact on the entire astrologer-client relationship.
Carl Jung has referred to the “uncertainty principle”, and one wonders whether there is a parallel here with Rudhyar’s “factor of indeterminacy” . Jung stated that “the observer is inseparable from the observed and always disturbs it by the act of observation” . If we apply this principle to the astrologer, we can see that the astrologer is inseparable from the chart he or she is reading and that we disturb it by the very act of observing it. In other words, we have an impact on the chart. We influence it, just as scientists have found that the experim enter has an influence on the outcome of the experiment. We read the chart through our own subjective interpretive lens. And it is here wherein much of the astrologer’s power lies. For, it is at this point that the astrologer can, and often does, project his or her own world view (interpretation) on the client. Here lies the danger of the self-fulfilling prophecy and an intimation that sometimes, the astrologer may even influence the client’s fate through strongly-directed thought forms.
It would seem appropriate here to consider more fully the issue of fate and free will.
Fate and Free Will
The nature of our belief system around the thorny problem of fate versus free will is likely to greatly influence not only how we see life but how we interpret a birth chart. If we believe that we are hapless victims of fate, that everything is pre-determined, that we have little ability to make choices and act for ourselves, then we will read a chart very differently to those who look for resolutions to conflicts, who believe in the innate capacity of the individual to make choices, to grow and change, and reach their fullest potential.
It is easy to polarise this issue, to take an either/or stance. I think it is possible to believe in both fate and free will, however I would assert that it is not possible to determine from the birth chart the precise areas over which fate rules, or in which areas we can exercise a degree of free will. We cannot know, therefore, what is fated before the event. We cannot know the specific nature of the event before it happens, or whether there will even be an event. We can generally only be wise about these matters after the event, in retrospect. What we can do is to have some control over the way we respond to life and its events. This is where our freedom lies.
This can be a very difficult area for astrologers. We want to control our lives, we want answers to the conundrum of human existence and human destiny, we want to know what is going to happen and when.
Why did we become astrologers in the first place? What was it that attracted us to astrology? If we can look at our motive for becoming an astrologer, we may be able to see a reflection of our philosophy of life, and perhaps gain some insight into how this philosophy influences the way we look at astrology and the way we interpret a chart.
Could it be that many of us take up astrology with a significant element of fear; fear of not having control, fear of not knowing, fear of uncertainty, fear of chaos, fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of fate? What better antidote to this fear than the practice of astrology, which claims to know that fearful future before it comes, which attempts to render the uncertain certain and the unknowable knowable. I wonder whether the underlying motive of many astrologers may be one of control — the conscious or unconscious desire perhaps, to control life, to control the future.
Why are so many of us obsessed with predicting the future? Why do we seek to warn our clients of impending danger when really we have no way of knowing whether a particular astrological configuration will manifest as danger or not? Some astrologers, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, have spoken of the reality of living with danger on an immediate and daily basis, and have stressed that this informs their desire to warn clients of impending ill health, accident or injury . This is understandable. However, it is easy to see from this example the extent to which our own personal experience, the nature of the culture in which we live, and the social mores of our environment, can condition and influence how we read a chart. If we live a life of fear we are likely to transmit this fear, in some shape or form, to our clients.
It would seem, therefore, that we warn our clients (and ourselves) of potential dangers so that we can attempt to control the future. And why? Because we fear that future.
There are those who say: we want to know what is happening and then we can do something about it; we can make preparations. Forewarned is forearmed, and so forth. My concern here is that presenting specific predictive outcomes and issuing prescriptive statements about the future may play into a client’s fears, thereby robbing them of the power to make their own decisions.
We need to acknowledge that we are just a small part of some grand cosmic scheme. It can be hard to feel comfortable with that, to acknowledge that we cannot know everything, that there is a mystery which lies beyond our rational comprehension.
Acknowledging the presence of this Mystery, of the Unknowable, enables us to be humble in our practice. For some it can mean a sense of powerlessness. In my grappling with this issue, I have discovered a widely-used prayer which somehow for me encapsulates the nature of fate and free will, and gives some helpful advice on just how to embrace the two within our own personal world view.
It is called THE SERENITY PRAYER and is widely used in 12 step healing programs throughout the world. I’ve subtitled it ‘The Astrologer’s Prayer’, because I feel it so aptly addresses the astrologer’s archetypal dilemma.
The Astrologer’s Serenity Prayer
grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change
to change the things
and the wisdom
to know the difference
The Implications for Prediction
It would seem therefore, that the issue is not so much whether fate exists or not. I have no doubt that most, if not all astrologers, do believe in the existence of fate. As astrologers, fate is, after all, our handmaiden. The issue is what we do with this belief.
How do we go about increasing the client’s choices? Firstly, we need to make every effort not to limit choices through the prediction of specific events. It must be said here that the term ‘prediction’ can also be applied to natal interpretation. A deterministic approach tells the client “you are like this”; ” this is how you are”, “your parents were like this”, and so on.
In predictive work, both natal and dynamic, it is important to look at and even extend a range of possibilities for any natal, transiting or progressed configuration. When we try to be specific we are attempting to circumscribe our client’s life, to define their fate according to the structures of own world view. We have no right to do this. It is dis-empowering to the client and bestows upon ourselves a dangerous godlike status.
It is important that we do not rob the client of the ability to make effective personal choices. What we can do is expand the range of options, enlarge the vision, and increase the potential for self-understanding, so that the client is awakened and can see with deeper insight.
A simple technique to use in the astrological exchange is to abolish the use of the word ‘will’, particularly in the interpretation of transits and progressions. Rather than stating this will happen, or you are like this, the words may, might, perhaps, possibly, tend to, and so on, leave room for movement, choice and change. The power of language alone, particularly in the astrological exchange, can mean the difference between em-powering or en-abling our clients or straitjacketing and dis-abling them.
Astrology does not give us the ability to predict the future, which is ultimately Unknowable. What it does give us is the ability to come up with a range of possibilities and options for the future, the presentation of which to the client can greatly increase his or her ability to make conscious choices and decisions and to take creative action, and thereby better exercise his/her free will.
I find it a marvelous thought that predictive or dynamic astrology could be used to increase our potential for free will, and not limit one’s options through an over-emphasis on a deterministic or fatalistic world view.
Applying the Transformational Paradigm
If we seek to understand the birth chart from a ‘transformational’ point of view, we can ask the following questions: What is the positive expression for this aspect? What is the gift of this planetary configuration? What is the highest potential that this person could express? How could he/she heal and ultilise that square? How could this difficult energy be creatively addressed? How can the conflict of this opposition be resolved? What are some creative outlets for this planetary pattern? How could this problem be solved? What are you seeking? What is your passion? What do you love doing? Can you see any other alternatives? What new goals could you set? What outcome would you like to choose if you could?
A Healing Approach to Transit Interpretation
Transits and progressions reveal the cyclic unfolding of the potential inherent within the natal chart, and mark turning points or moments of decision-making. Using the ‘transformational’ approach, transits are therefore viewed as providing opportunities for growth. No attempt is made to pre-determine the client’s future in specific terms. The focus is psychological and process-oriented, as opposed to event-oriented.
This approach allows the client to look at their life and make their own connections. The following demonstrates the basic principle of looking at transits from a ‘transformational’, healing or growth perspective.
Saturn transits – provide opportunities for becoming more realistic and responsible, enabling us to prioritize, to work harder towards completing projects and overcoming obstacles. Applying the principles of focus, structure, dedication and discipline, and recognizing the value of deepened commitment and achievement. A time to establish our identity, to mature, to plan and evaluate; and to manifest our goals and ideals into a solid and concrete form.
Chiron transits – provide opportunities for facilitating the healing of others, being healed, releasing one’s wounds, learning through illness and suffering, contacting and releasing deep-seated pain, mentoring others, or being mentored, learning to become philosophical about one’s life and its hurts, integrating the opposite polarity, building bridges and effecting reconciliation. A time to heal and be healed.
Uranus transits – provide opportunities for freeing oneself from outworn structures that are hampering growth, awakening one to new ways of being, feeling, doing. Contacting one’s uniqueness, individuality, sense of personal truth and creativity. A time to use one’s mind, to experiment, to become involved in humanitarian pursuits, group activity, politics, science, computers.
Neptune transits – provide one with opportunities to contact a more compassionate and spiritual side to one’s nature, awakening one’s sensitivity, creative inspiration, and desire to immerse self in the ineffable Other, the Divine. The opportunity to connect with a larger, collective or more spiritual purpose, through dedicating one’s energy in a spirit of selfless service and devotion. A time to watch one’s dreams, to open one’s Heart, to envision new ideals, to be imaginative, to contact the Muse.
Pluto transits – provide opportunities to greatly deepen and intensify one’s understanding of life; to explore the deepest parts of oneself, to journey into the unconscious realm of life and connect with one’s deepest sense and experience of self, will and purpose. Learning about power and powerful feelings, accepting and adjusting to changes and life transitions. Learning to let go and to trust. The time to seek self-transformation, through psychotherapy, encountering the wounded inner child, depth interactions with others. A time to release the past and the old, and to be reborn into a new sense of self.
There will be those who assert that any attempt to exercise one’s will, responsibility and capacity to choose is the ultimate act of hubris. There are others, of a particular psychological bent, who fear that a focus on a more transformational or choice-centered approach may lead to a Pollyana-ish denial or rejection of the ‘darker’ aspects of life and remind us of the need to embrace the dark as well as the light in our natures and in our lives.
An approach to astrology which is oriented towards healing accepts the given of pain and suffering, and seeks to ease that suffering. A ‘transformational’ approach acknowledges the divinity within and views each of us as possessing the inherent potential to grow, to become more of who we are and perhaps to dedicate our lives to a purpose beyond our small selves. Adopting this approach to chart interpretation does not have to deny the existence of the dark. Nor does it have to deny the existence of fate. But it leaves us room to move and breathe, to grow, to feel empowered to make decisions and choices, to take action and to accept responsibility for our own lives.
It is the process and the act of exercising one’s free will or capacity to make creative and transforming choices and decisions that is important. That is the empowering part. We make our choices and decisions and the rest will take its mysterious course. Ultimately, there can be no guarantees. And perhaps it is this that constitutes our fate. Let us not, meanwhile, rob our clients or ourselves of the freedom that is ours.
– by Candy Hillenbrand
 Alexander Ruperti., Cycles of Becoming, CRCS Publications, USA, 1978, p. 8.
 Rudhyar, Dane., The Lunation Cycle, Shambhala, Berkeley & London, 1971, p.124.
 ibid. pp. 124-5.
 Jung, Carl., Aion, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1959, p. 226.
 From conversations on the internet.