THE ASTRO-PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH TO SELF-EDUCATION
AND ITS DANGERS
In both the ancient system of education to personality through yoga, and the modern practice of psychotherapy and psychosynthesis, great stress is placed upon the part played by the spiritual Teacher and Guide — or the psychologist — in the process of "liberation" from bondage to the past, "assimilation" of the contents of the generic and collective unconscious, and "union" with the spiritual Source or Self. There are several reasons, at different levels, why education to personality is believed to require an educator — one who "leads out" (e-duco means "to lead out"). On the other hand, it is also evident that if the number of individuals potentially able and ready to enter upon the path of conscious and responsible development of personality is very large, the problem of finding enough adequate "educators" becomes very great, because such a type of educator or personal Guide requires spiritual abilities, a profound sense of responsibility, and a power of understanding and compassion rare indeed in our age, or in any age. And, as Jung said: "No one can educate to personality who does not them self have it."
As a result, a number of psychologists — especially Dr. Fritz Kunkel — have sought to formulate principles and methods whereby self-education to personality becomes a possible, and not too dangerous, process. The value of astrology is particularly great in this field of self-education — even though the use of astrology toward the fulfillment of a mature and creative personality is never without danger and pitfalls. A better idea of potential obstacles in the way of self-education through astrology can be gained from Kunkel's discussion of these obstacles from the point of view of what he calls "religious self-education," provided we also realize that his point of view may overemphasize the dramatic element.
The first obstacle is the egocentricity of the motive leading one to undertake a conscious and self-determined process of education to personality. According to Kunkel, "The motive must be personal though not egocentric. The mature unegoistic personality should be the goal" for "God wants the person rather than the cause" (be the latter social, moral, or religious). "The ideal motive" is "God's own command, the voice which told Jonah to go to Nineveh and Jesus to go to the desert in order to be tempted. But we are rather deaf, nowadays, or we mistake the stirring of some unconscious egocentric desire for the voice of the Lord. . . . Fortunately God uses many languages. . . . The language which we understand best is suffering. . . . Suffering should make us aware of the fact that there is a higher goal, and that more suffering is in store if we fail to reach this goal. . . . The decisive point is that the goal of our self-education must not be an arbitrary idea about what we want to be like. It has to be the very goal of human history, the will of God."
In other words, the goal of self-education is to become fully and consciously as an individual person what we are potentially as an idea or plan in the divine Mind. It is to fulfill the law of our individual being, our vocation; to find our individual place in the universe and in humanity. Or as the mystic injunctions of old had it: "Know thyself" and "Become what you are." The essential means to reach this goal are to "cooperate with life" (Kunkel) by "finding out what may be the desirable step, the creative reaction, in every given situation." If this be so, then obviously the value of astrology is incalculably great; for the birth-chart symbolically expresses the individual law of being — thus, what we inherently "are." By studying it we can "know ourselves." By carefully ascertaining and meditating upon our astrological progressions and transits, by erecting horary charts to discover "the desirable step in every given situation," we should succeed in cooperating with life, consciously and in deep understanding of the meaning of every life-confrontation.
Kunkel does not refer to astrology in his book, but the "serious obstacles" he mentions in the way of such a cooperation apply just as well to whoever uses astrology as a technique of self-education.
By analyzing ourselves, it is said, we shall grow even more egocentric. Introspection leads us into all kinds of vanity, until finally our main occupation will consist in writing a diary, and our chief interest will lie in becoming a more exceptional case. This is true, if the original motive was too egocentric. But if sleeplessness or marital troubles gave the incentive, be sure your pains and sorrows will prevent your becoming an interesting case. Therefore it would be better to wait until the situation is disagreeable enough.
In other words, unless there is a driving urge, born of an intolerable life-situation or inner discontent, to face oneself unaided and to win or die, there is indeed a danger that a prolonged study of one's reactions and psychological problems might lead to a worse "cramp in the conscious" — to use Jung's splendid phrase — than ever before. I would add that it is not only egocentricity (in the usual sense) that is to be guarded against; but a tightening of the structures of consciousness, an "ego-itis" (inflammation of the ego!) due to an over-subjective and rigid focusing of the problems of life.
This danger is somewhat lessened by contact with a good psychologist and especially a true guru because through this contact, the individual partakes in a broader life than their own even while concentrating on their own. Their problems and dreams become amplified and universalized and given a far larger frame of reference through the interpretation of the Teacher and Guide. Eventually, the student learns to see their self through the Teacher's eyes; and this extraordinarily valuable objectification of one's ego by means of a temporary identification with a wise and compassionate Teacher is lacking where there is only self-education.
The only alternatives to a living Teacher with whom one can exchange thoughts and currents of feeling are either an ideal spiritual Personage (Christ or a Master) who becomes like an objective touchstone of value, so real is the belief in what they represent in the student; or the astrological Sky — also an ideal personification (more abstract in character) of universal order and divine intelligence. The danger here is to build an "idol" and to substitute it for the living reality. This is a serious danger for the over-zealous student of astrology who increasingly refer their experiences and smallest problems to the birth-chart and progressions — or constantly erect horary charts before doing anything at all. To so behave is to substitute an external image of value to one's own inner experience of value. It is to become utterly dependent upon a symbol for living reality.
Just as no true psychotherapist or spiritual Teacher will countenance or encourage such an attitude of dependence upon them self in their client or pupil, so too should astrological charts be used in the process of self-education to personality: primarily or solely as a "court of appeal" asked to solve an especially confused issue without reliable or known precedents. No human should ask God a question they themselves can sincerely answer. What they should do, however, is to establish in their self a frame of reference to which, almost automatically, they can refer the problem for objective elucidation and amplification, so that it may be seen sub specie aeternitatis — that is, in terms of the pattern of all life-cycles, small or large (an "eternity" being, in concrete terms, nothing but a complete cycle).
Dr. Kunkel listed a still more serious obstacle to the successful attainment of the goal of psychological self-education: the integration of the total personality. And here we approach the rather confusing concept of what Jung called the Shadow. The concept seems at first quite obvious, but it is somewhat thrown out of focus by being related, if not identified (at least by Kunkel and a number of Jungian psychologists), with the controversial and ambiguous concept of "evil." As Dr. Kunkel saw it, the integration of the personality
. . . means the acceptance and assimilation of unconscious contents, such as repressed desires and undeveloped capacities, into our conscious mind. How can we do this? Our ego does not want to see the things which would destroy it. Its resistance against conquest of the unconscious is a struggle for survival. Only an objective helper, a psychologist, a modern father-confessor, can overcome this resistance.
Answer; This would be true if there were only one evil, one Shadow, one darkness. But evil is always manifold; and its different forms are contradictory and antagonistic. In time the Shadow, for instance irritability, will increase to the point where you identify yourself with its tendencies: "I am furious!" and then you will disown and condemn your former ego, the softness and smugness of the pseudo-Christian. The ego and its Shadow are equally evil; blaming each other they bring to light hidden hideousness. All our unconscious deviations and possibilities will become conscious if we go on raging against ourselves — which is the very meaning of the word "crisis." All we need, in addition to suffering, courage and patience, is a good, simple and clear psychology of the unconscious; a zoology, as it were, which teaches us how to deal with the beasts of our unconscious Zoo. Then our courage will grow into faith, and finally we will be able to face the lions in Daniel's den. Your unconscious resistance is the stronger the less faith you have; and vice versa.
This answer — based as it is on Dr. Kunkel's somewhat questionable definition of the ego — leaves many points unsolved. Above all, it does not tell what the seeker after completeness of personality will do when confronted with the aroused energies of the generic and collective unconscious, the revengeful monsters their repressions and fears have engendered in the psychic depths, all the blackness the individual's search for light has evoked by inevitable compensatory reaction. In many cases, this reaction of the dark roots of the psyche may not be so strenuous that it cannot be handled more or less sensibly by the lone traveler on the path of self-education. But in many other cases, the confrontations may be rather terrifying. A spiritual counter-action is necessary from a person who not only symbolizes light and wisdom for the distracted seeker, but who can actually wield the power of light, and is able to channel and focus "divine Grace" — and we shall presently discuss the meaning of "Grace" in the occult-mystical (as in Sufism) sense as well as in the religious traditions.
The main problem we encounter refers thus to the nature of the Shadow — a Jungian version of the occultist's "dark Forces." Jung states that "the meeting with oneself is the meeting with one's Shadow." Frances Wickes in The Inner World of Man adds:
The personal Shadow is the negative side of the ego-consciousness. It turns toward the dark unknown . . . darkens and confuses our ego-choices. It contains also the strength of the dark forces needed for our life. It holds the negative intuition.
The nature of the Shadow can be understood abstractly by realizing that the ego is a structure, and that any structure (or form) divides the world into what is inside and what is outside of that structure. Consciousness is the inside content of the ego-structure; the unconsciousness, the outside darkness. The Shadow is the result of crossing the threshold from the lighted room of the ego to the dark outside. As one turns one's back to the lighted realm, one finds that the outer darkness is like a "black mirror" (such as painters have used in order to get a sense of plastic and light and shade values without the glamour of colored surfaces). This black mirror reflects the shape of the ego, minus the light and the glamour of the usual conscious feelings about oneself. This shape is the Shadow — a harsh, coldly objective, unfriendly and pitiless image of what makes one "different" from the whole world, what isolates and compels one to follow a particular and lonely road as the Karmic result of past frustrations, fears, and evil deeds. As we clearly and coldly see what our ego has become as a result of becoming imprisoned within walls built by our insecurity and fear, we become aware of it having turned into "the Shadow"; and it can be a sobering and, in some cases, a frightening experience.
It is an almost inevitable experience in the process of education to personality because there can be no integration and fulfillment of the personality without the eventual assimilation of the powers which are outside of our walled-in ego-structure, inasmuch as they belong to humanity and to universal life. How then can the experience be made bearable and relatively safe? By "projecting" this Shadow upon someone, who absorbs it without reacting to it in a still more intense and destructively dark way. This someone can only be a true psychologist and spiritual Teacher. In other words, if, as the would-be mature personality opens the door that leads to the outer darkness of the unconscious, instead of seeing nothing but a black mirror showing their Shadow, they see the image of their Teacher, they then "project" the Shadow upon the Teacher — they get angry with them, blame them for whatever happens, perhaps even see them as a betrayer. This may be a tragic experience, often referred to as psychological "transference," yet it is not as awesome as would be the experience of meeting "evil" personified as the reflection of one's ego. The experience would be disastrous if the Teacher, unaware of what was occurring, reacted in anger to the projection and projected the evil image back upon the disciple — and this is exactly what happens whenever one projects one's Shadow upon any less spiritual, less compassionate, and easily aroused person (friend, or marriage partner, for instance). But, the true Teacher understands; and, by returning love (or even impatience) instead of evil, they make it possible for the disciple to gradually become accustomed to, and unafraid of the ancient (in terms of reincarnation) evil, or, more normally, of the selfishness that has shaped the disciple's ego. The disciple comes to accept what they are as an ego, without too great a despondency or fright; then — in time — they are able to see beyond this Shadow the countenance of the true Self in whom (according to Jung's concept of the Self) unconscious and conscious complement one another, as the outside of any form complements the inside of it.
This mysterious drama between disciple and spiritual Teacher was symbolized in some ancient religious rituals by a "sacrifice." The Teacher gave the disciple a consecrated knife with which the disciple was to symbolically stab him to death; and the magic "power" of the Teacher entered the soul of the disciple, who became thus "initiated." This sacrifice motif is not only found in old religions (particularly the Hebrew), but it is indeed the very substance of the concept of Christ's Atonement through the Crucifixion. What this means, psychologically speaking, is that Christ came to focus, in His person, all the powers of the unconscious of a humanity bound by the racial-personal exclusivism inherent in the old tribal state of culture and religion, at the time when this humanity had become collectively ready to begin its "education to personality." Thus Christ descended to "hell" and "redeemed" the ancient collective evil of humankind — that is, enabled people to face more safely the image of their ancestral sins of separateness and pride, and (eventually) to assimilate them in clear consciousness. Christ is, in that sense, the spiritual Teacher of collective Man. In His name, the collective "Dweller on the Threshold" of humanity is potentially vanquished. It belongs, however, to the individual seeker after completeness and maturity of personality to emulate Christ; to take His cross and follow Him to "hell" and be resurrected; to overcome the Shadow by absorbing it in the name of Christ — through the power of divine Grace, the Holy Spirit of Truth and Understanding that, according to the Christian tradition, came down upon the Apostles at the Pentecost.
In ordinary cases the experience of the Shadow is not as terrifying as some occult novels have described it, for the simple reason that most people open the door to their unconscious very hesitantly and close it back at their first peep into the darkness beyond. This is both self-protection and lack of courage or faith. Then the Shadow is, as a rule strictly "personal"; that is, it is limited to the realm of what Jung calls the "personal unconscious," distinguished from the collective unconscious. The former deals only with whatever negativity an individual has accumulated (through fear, frustration, anger, etc.), since birth; but the latter is made up of the negativity of an entire people or race, of a whole family, or of a long series of "lives" (if one believes in the reincarnation of the "divine spark" within a series of personalities). When the evil the disciple meets at the threshold is rooted in ancient collective failure, then indeed the confrontation may be tragic. But it can hardly happen in an individualized manner except to strong and daring souls, who at the same time find themselves linked with transcendent powers of light. Then the individual person becomes a battlefield, and their main task is to remain steady and with clear faith, letting the God within them be the warrior — as it is said in the Bhagavat Gita.
It may also happen, of course, that a person is forced to face the embodied Shadow, not as an individual but rather as a member of a nation, social class, or religious group. They may be a Jew tortured in a Nazi concentration camp merely because they are a Jew, or a French Underground worker whose sense of collective spiritual value compelled them to face the massed evil of an invading nation that had given itself up collectively to the Shadow. In these cases, the individual is confronted with the challenge of developing their own power of resistance and endurance against a frightening collective pressure, of finding their own light through an intense arousal of the will to victory. Wherever such confrontations with more than personal evil are experienced, it is usual to find that, astrologically speaking, Neptune and Pluto are strongly active. The whole of this century, called the twentieth, is an outstanding case in point, for when the 1900 series of years began (midnight January 1, 1900) Neptune and Pluto (still broadly conjunct in Gemini) were opposing in the 9th house a massing of planets in Sagittarius (Jupiter, Uranus, Mercury, Saturn), Capricorn (Sun, Moon, Mars), and early Aquarius (Venus).*
*Historically speaking, the 20th century may be said to have begun only January 1, 1901; but with the numerical change from the 1800 to 1900 years, the new vibration 19 was really set into operation in the mass consciousness of humanity — which is what really matters.
And as Pluto was then yet unknown, the conscious emphasis, at least up to 1930, was set on the Neptunian power of dissolution — the dissolution of the obsolete framework of European feudalism and imperialism within the intellectual mind (Gemini) of Occidental man. When in 1942 Uranus came to activate the 1900 positions of Neptune and Pluto, the time struck for the release of new powers in humanity (atomic power) and of a new vision in individuals who had met the challenge of Neptune and Pluto in Gemini in their own birth-charts (those born approximately from 1888 to 1902).
The ordinary meeting with the Shadow in the average individual seeking to become a mature personality should, however, be understood most significantly, not in terms of striking Neptunian and Plutonian confrontations which may not necessarily be connected with such experiences of darkness, but in relation to the individual's approach to his own birth-chart, transits, and progressions. The particular quality of this approach characterizes what the individual actually is as an evolving and maturing personality, because it expresses how the individual is able to orient himself in relation to his own growth and to the process of self-discovery. And, as we already saw, "the meeting with the Shadow is the meeting with oneself' — i.e., with oneself, minus the lovely trappings, the flatteries, the pomp, and the sweet illusions which have been built around the ego. Thus one meets the Shadow whenever one is forced to face the harsh challenge of pride or happiness-destroying circumstances, or severe inner pressures compelling one to question what had comfortably been taken for granted. And this means particularly in astrology: facing "bad" aspects.
With this, we are dealing with a basic factor in astrology which, as a rule, has been consistently ignored. We are dealing with the fact that the concentrated and eager study of one's chart — and particularly of soon maturing planetary configurations, by transits or progressions — is bound to force the potentialities of the individual life into more complete actualization; thus, to intensify the so-called "evil" as well as the so-called "good" in the individual personality. And, as human beings are usually more struck by and respond more crucially to the "bad" than to the "good," if a person strives after self-knowledge by studying their birth-chart with an intense belief in the validity of astrology, this study very often leads to an intensification of Karmic confrontations. This is as it should be; for this intensification of pain and tragedy through the focusing of Karma is an inevitable part of the process of purification and purgation (catharsis) of the ego. And this process is the first manifestation of the fact that the "education to personality" is gaining momentum and becoming effective.
As Jung pertinently wrote:
The fear that the majority of natural human beings feel before the inner voice (that which establishes one's "vocation") childish as one might suppose. . . . What the inner voice brings close to us is generally something that is not good, but evil. This must be so, first of all, for the reason that we are generally not as unconscious of our virtues as of our vices, and then because we suffer less from the good than from the bad.
The character of the inner voice is "Luciferian" in the most proper and unequivocal sense of the word, and that is why it places one face to face with final moral decisions, without which we could never attain consciousness and become a personality. In a most unaccountable way the lowest and the highest, the best and the most atrocious, the truest and the falsest are mingled together in the inner voice, which thus opens up an abyss of confusion, deception, and despair. (The Integration of the Personality; pages 302-3.)
We can see in our birth-chart the astrological equivalent of our "inner voice," for the chart constitutes a symbolic record (a "signature") of our individual law of being as the Great Architect of the Universe blueprinted it in the sky of our birth as an independent living organism. The birth-chart represents the state of the universal Whole in an individualized form. The individual is that form. The birth-chart is the hieroglyph of their individuality. The task (dharma) is to embody this abstract form in a concrete and wholesome organism of personality. As Jung used this term, personality means "fulfillment, wholeness, a vocation performed, beginning and end and complete realization of the meaning of existence innate in things." And, to realize this innate "meaning of existence" requires our being objective to it.
To be objective toward the things one likes and to one's ego implies a process of severance which, in turn, necessitates (almost inevitably) suffering and the experience of evil or contradiction. Evil, as understood in the European tradition, is God's adversary. It is God inverted or negated. Evil perpetually stands against all established and therefore static values — against what we normally consider as peace, law and order, health and happiness. But just because it denies what is, evil can be necessary to force us to give up the "good" for the "better."
Something good is unfortunately not eternally good, for otherwise there would be nothing better. If the better is to come, then the good must stand aside. This is why Meister Eckhart said, "God is not good, or else he could be better."
(The Integration of the Personality, page 304).
In its very first manifestations, the "better" often takes on the appearance of evil, because it is thrown out of correct perspective and deviated by its occurring within an irrelevant frame of reference. This produces fear in the minds and souls still bound to this now obsolete frame of reference; they react violently and senselessly, thus giving to the first unsteady and inchoate manifestations of the new the character of evil. Indeed, the evil nature of any new life-development consistent with human growth is an expression of the resistance and the fears of those forces (in society or the individual) whose privileged position depends on the preservation of the old order.
In astrology, this resistance and the fight necessary to overcome it are represented by planetary squares. A square between two planets occurs midway between the conjunction and opposition of these same planets. By generalizing the names associated with the phases of the Moon (i.e., the aspects between the Sun and the Moon), one can say that the "first quarter" type of square (from conjunction to opposition) represents a refusal of the ego and the will to adjust themselves to the inevitable results of the new evolutionary start which occurred when the two planets were in conjunction. On the other hand, the "last quarter" type of square (after the opposition) represents the refusal by the conscious mind to let itself be fecundated by the new vision which occurred during the opposition (the "full Moon" type of illumination). These refusals come to a climax at the time of the square aspects, and this climax releases a Shadow, as the by then crystallized past stubbornly blocks the new will or the new light, gesticulating against the inevitable (though alas! often tragically delayed) triumph of the creative Power in the individual or in society. The only way to dissipate this Shadow and the fear it inspires is to absorb and assimilate the creative Power which is Light. This is "theo-synthesis" — a process which is the vital core of any real self-education to personality; which transmutes fear into faith, the blasts of tragedy into the blessings of Grace that flows from the heart of divine beings in whom compassion and all-inclusiveness have become the irrevocable Law of their nature.
Astrology & the Modern Psyche