The Humanistic Approach


Portrait of Alexander Ruperti 
(click to view image source)

Alexander Ruperti


Since the dawn of time itself, man has measured his life by the cycles of the planets - from sunrise to sunrise and from one new Moon to the next we have reckoned our existence by the heavens. Indeed it is this conscious awareness of Time that separates the human being from all other living creatures. His alone is the ability to see time as a continuum of past, present and future - for Man alone is the conscious awareness that his days are numbered. Humanistic astrology is the first approach to astrology to use the concept of cycles as the foundation for the under- standing and interpretation of its basic symbols: Houses, Signs, planets and aspects. This is more than a “new technique” of interpretation; it is a new approach. For thousands of years astrology has been based on a belief in the existence of cosmic forces, planetary rays or vibrations which directly influence life on this planet and force individuals to do cer- tain things or to experience certain events. Even today, despite the in- dividual’s abhorrence to viewing themselves as a victim of the universe, this belief system remains among most astrologers.


There is an attempt to water down the inherent determinism of astrology with the popular cliche, “the stars do not compel, they impel”; however, the difference between “compel” and “impel” is vague at best. The belief system remains. In that philosophy the cyclic inter-relationship of the planets has no significance, and neither does the periodical order of the universe.It is precisely that periodical order inherent in all cyclic inter-relationships of the planets which makes their use in relation to human life relavent and significant to the Humanistic astrologer.

What is a Cycle?


A cycle is a form structure in time. It is the context in which change takes place. All of existence is structured by time, and all activity takes in time. A cycle is the life-span of any given entity. Although a cycle has a recognizable beginning and end, it is erroneous to interpret it as a perpetual starting point - beginning, end and new beginning. Such a view of cycles in astrology will lead one to consider them as repetitive sequences of events. This is not a true picture of reality; for although the pattern of its unfoldment from beginning to end repeats itself, the contents of a cycle - the changing states, events or experiences within its span - are never exactly repeated. A day is a recognizable cycle. It is a time structure the form of which is determined by one axial rotation of the earth every 24 hours. Concurrently, the day is a portion of the lunation cycle described by the phases of the Moon and measuring the Sun/Moon relationship from one new Moon to the next; and both of these cycles are circumscribed within other cycles. It is this interrelationship among cycles which describes the total uniqueness of each moment and at the same time links them together in a rhythmic order. These time values revealed in the solar system - the greater whole of which the Earth is a part - act upon the time values of the individual. Astronomy provides us with the data, and astrology inter- prets these data with reference to the processes of life on Earth and parti- cularly within the individual.


A cycle, being a “whole of activity,” contains a middle as well as a beginning and an end, and there are recognizable phases of development as it unfolds. As soon as a particular moment is identified as being part of a cycle, it becomes inextricably related to both the beginning and the end of that cycle. Any specific moment within a cycle is considered part of the “middle,” a working out of the impulse which began the cycle, and is directed toward the consummation or purpose, of that cycle. Thus, all moments within a cycle stretch back to the cyclic root and at the same time forward toward the cyclic see. This simultaneous impulse forward and backward involves any particular moment with all the other moments of the cycle. Rudhyar calls this TIME-INTERPENETRATION. It is the fourth dimension of time. Rudhyar stressed the fact that such an inter-penetration of root, seed and all the other moments of a cycle means far more than the ordinary concept of cause-and-effect, which is based upon a rigid sequence of separated moments of time. Every moment in time is a part, aspect or phase of one all-encompassing reality - the Whole, and has its essential meaning only with reference to this Whole. Thus every apparently separate unit is involved with and participates in every other unit within the time span of a cycle. This is so because in any cycle the effect also acts upon the cause and every present moment is pulled by the future as well as pushed by the past. The entire cycle is implicit in every moment of it.


Astrology as a study of cycles then becomes a study of the inter-connections between all these factors - between the future and the past in every present moment; between the universal macrocosm and the individual microcosm. The birthchart is the starting point of the individual’s life-cycle. It is poised between the ancestral past - the karmic roots; and the potentially individualizing future - the dharmic life- purpose. It is the pattern or plan of what Jung called the individuation process, revealing in symbolic language how each person can fully become what they potentially are.


What is a Crisis?


Cycles are measurements of change. In order for any purpose to be realized, change must take place, and change necessarily involves crisis. Many have difficulty with the word crisis; confusing it with “catastrophe.” They study astrology in the belief that prior knowledge of “bad aspects” or “malefics” will enable them to avoid crisis. A crisis, however, is not a terrible calamity. It derives from the Greek word KRINO, “to decide”, and means simply a time for decision. A crisis is a turning point - that which precedes CHANGE. In order to avoid a crisis one would have to avoid change itself, an obvious impossibility.


Although all matter, both living and inanimate, is constantly changing, only man has the capacity for conscious decision. In order to evolve, he must abandon instinctive behaviour serving only survival or social compulsions in favour of conscious choice. The barrier to conscious choice is the “ego” that which society has told an individual that he or she should be, as opposed to the experience of Self, which tells him what he really is. It is conforming to the societal role that one assumes habitual patterns of behaviour. Then, when a time for decision (crisis) arrives, one allows those patterns to determine the choice, rather than using guidelines which issue from one’s own personal truth.


Unfortunately, the temptation to avoid making a decision in hopes that the need will disappear and things will remain at a comfortable “normal” is always present. Sometimes this technique appears to work, and the thread of the status quo seems unbroken; however, now matter how small the decision or how insignificant the crisis, this avoidance is a spiritual defeat. A refusal to decide, or a waiting for circumstances or other people to make the decision, does not absolve the individual from responsibility. Each time a decision is not made, the instinctive, unconscious patterns are deepened. What was a groove in childhood later becomes a rut and finally a grave. This repeated lack of conscious decision can build up the tension in a situation until it finally explodes. One may then be obliged to react to difficult and painful circumstances which could have been avoided if they had met the earlier and lesser crisis with objectivity and courage. The resultant catastrophe is not the necessary outcome of crisis, but of decisions avoided. Thus, to humanis- tically oriented astrologers, crisis are not external events, even though external events may precipitate them or condition their development. Crisis, both large and small, are essentially opportunities for growth - the only opportunities we ever really have. One must strive continually to be awake and free of the unconscious habit patterns which hinder spiritual growth. Thus, they will be able to use crises for their individual purposes.


The challenge of confrontations is endless. Some of these turning- points are biological (such as adolescence and menopause) and are met at specific ages, while others are individual and may occur at any time during the life-span. The potential for the later is inherent in the natal chart, and the interpretation of effects and responses will depend on the age of the person at the time of the crisis (see Chapter ll - “The Age Factor”). An astrologer can deduce the timing and nature of potential future crisis from the transits and progressions. If one expects a specific type of change, transition period or crisis of growth, he or she can prepare to meet it consciously and with open eyes, and may gain more from it in terms of personal maturity and spiritual unfoldment. Such knowledge may also help one to avoid overly hasty or rash decisions. Also, the sense of despair which often arises in the midst of a crisis can be dispelled by the astrologer’s ability to predict the cycle’s end.


Foreknowledge can also have negative effects, however. The anticipation of an impending crisis very often induces fear and anxiety - the primary causes of all evil. Ideally this negative approach should be less likely from the humanist point of view, since its aim is spiritual development rather than a materialistic enrichment or comfort. The humanistic astrologer should know, moreover, that crisis are not isolated events, but phases of individual growth. He should interpret them with reference to the smaller or greater cycles within which they occur - as phases of these cycles. The phase to which the crisis corresponds will reveal its meaning and purpose in terms of the nature, scope and purpose of the cycle as a whole. Humanistic astrology will therefore be able to bring a sense of direction,orientation and purpose- fulness to every crisis. The ability to envision what could and should develop in the future (i.e, the aim and purpose of the complete cycle) even while one is in the midst of a chaotic current situation is not aided by most astrological textbooks. It must be learned by facing experiences in the fourth dimension of time - that is, by seeing the whole cycle in every living moment and by approaching that present moment in a clear and conscious manner.


Although humanistic astrology can greatly assist in the under- standing of future crisis, this approach may be even more valuable in understanding those crisis which have already occurred. Such hind- sight is the best preparation for constructively and significantly meeting the crisis of growth yet to come. Yet, like any technique, its value depends on the person using it - their courage, their wisdom and their spiritual vision. No one can see, whether in a birth-chart or in the person themselves, anything which is beyond the scope of their own understanding. An astrologer can only get out of a birth-chart what they put into their own life.


Progressions and Transits - The Paths of Unfoldment


When I first became interested in astrology over forty years ago, there was a controversy raging among astrologers concerning the relative value of progressions (or directions) and transits which still persists. The current pseudo-scientific trend in astrology has led many astrologers to give up their use of progressions and directions, and to rely exclusively on transits. Other astrologers use both sets of measure- ments but confuse them, considering progressions, directions and transits to all refer to external events. The humanistic astrologer uses both progressions or directions and transits but defines them as distinct categories. Since this book deals primarily with transits, there will be no lengthy discussion of progressions and directions. Suffice it to say that, in the humanistic view, they refer essentially to an internal or subjective process of growth of individual potential. They deal with the gradual transformations which occur as the purpose and character of the individual revealed in the natal chart are revealed through the process of life itself. Progressions show how the entire natal structure unfolds of itself, according to the individual need and rhythm of development, so that what is an abstract archetypal identity at birth may progressively become a fully actualized and integrated person. There is no outside pressure involved here; that is provided by the transits. Progressions deal with the transformations of the rhythm of the Self itself, while transits refer to the impact of the environment as a whole upon the Self.


Although one is not free to change their potential of existence (the birth-chart), an individual is free to decide what they will do with that potential. The fulfillment of possibilities could be easily accomplished if human beings lived in individual vacuums - isolated and independent one from another. But as in fact we are all part of a collective environ- ment, our individual success in realizing our individual potential is dependent on that collective. Planetary, racial, social, cultural and familial considerations all exert constant and powerful pressures, especially in the early years; while they provide the raw materials for the growth of the conscious mind and for the necessary development of a sense of self, they also tend to obscure, stifle, distort or adulterate the birth potential. These external pressures are measured by the transit cycles, which show how the conscious mind may be developed by experiencing a multitude of impacts and relationships. Self-actualiza- tion must be a conscious process, and it is only through the conscious use of the confrontations revealed by the transit cycles that this can be achieved. These confrontations, however, also produce all manner of tensions, fears, inhibitions, ambitions and desires, which nearly always belie the birth potential and tend to make the individual into what in essence they are not. Some of the confrontations may cause pleasure, happiness or even exaltation, while others can cause pain, misery and depression. When the transits reproduce planetary positions and aspects contained in the natal chart, they tend to strengthen the basic factors in the essential nature of that person. When, on the other hand, the transits upset the birth pattern too strongly, the pressures may tend to disintegrate the personality.


The birth potential - the archetypal essence of Self - remains what it is throughout the life. It is the permanent factor in every individual - the seed-form of one’s being and destiny. Everything that surrounds the individual in life (described by the transit cycle) will tend to change the quality of their essential being. Day by day one’s integrity will be challenged. All those factors to which the transits refer will draw one away from the essence of their true identity, regardless of motivations and intentions. The best, the highest and noblest of these forces - even love - will tend to change the true experience of Self and its inherent destiny.


To sum up: progressions deal with the internal unfoldment of personality, while transits refer essentially to the external impact of society and the cosmos upon that personality. Neither of the two should be considered alone.We react through transits as well as we act through progressions. A person is born as a seed of unique potential and that seed should normally unfold into the realization of a fulfilled personality. The universe, however, does not stop at the moment of birth. All things which come thereafter in the universe astrologically in the form of transits will also exert an influence upon that unfolding personality and one must react to them. This is the eternal way. Man is not bound by fate. New situations arise within the universe at every successive moment, but no one is compelled to respond to them in a predeter- mined way. Therein lies one’s freedom, but one must choose it.


The degree and quality of resistance an individual will have to the pressures and forces of their environment is difficult to ascertain. In addition to the socio-cultural traditions , racial or nationalistic loyalties and the subtle or harsh commands of public opinion as expressed through the mass-media (especially its advertisements), a person is also bombarded by solar and cosmic radiation, atmospheric pressure, the pull of gravity, and a host of pollutants which one breathes and ingests. All of these influences beat down upon the individual - strike at one’s skin, their senses, their mind and electromagnetic field (or aura) with unrelenting force. As long as the individual can resist these impacts they will live as a relatively separate organism. When the sum-total of these forces ex- ceed one’s ability to withstand them and one becomes too tired to hold oneself separate from that surrounding cosmic and social ocean, one lets go. The ocean then rushes into the void of one’s separateness and one drowns; goes insane or dies. The capacity for courage cannot be measured by a birth-chart, and no one can know fully the depths of their own capacity to resist - much less that of another. And quite apart from this personal quality of resistance, the pressure may be relieved because other people help carry one’s burdens. There are many incidents of a person being saved from an accident or even death by the love of another. Such help is, however, merely a stop-gap measure, and may eventually cause the person being helped to lose the ability to help themselves. Ultimately every individual must learn to stand alone.


So many contingencies exist that exact prediction of inner and outer events on the basis of critical transits alone is impossible. One must be attacked from without (transits) at a time when they are weak within (progressions) and otherwise unsupported, if one’s resistance against the constant pressure of society and the universe is to collapse. This relationship between progressions and transits must not be forgotten. A person need not follow some predominant collective trend because of a transit in force at the time, unless it corresponds to, or enables them to fulfill, some individual need revealed by their progressions. An individual may change their life consciously at any time as a result of a socially-motivated decision. Thus, the individual and the collective-social factors are constantly inter-related; and as a consequence, astrologers should use both progressions and transits.


Why do some astrologers emphasize transits and others progressions? Rudhyar once gave a psychological explanation for this. He noted that just as there were two basic types of human beings, there are two basic types of astrologers: extroverts and introverts. The extrovert centers their attention and interest in the outer world and in interpersonal relationships, while the introvert centers theirs on the subjective world of self, placing the greatest importance on what happens within their own individual being. The extroverted astrologer, therefore, would be the one who relies on the use of transits, while the introverted astrologer would stress the use of progressions. This difference of opinion is basically a difference of psychological and organic structure, and as a result it cannot be resolved into a common consent by mere intellectual discussion. According to Jung, these two types can never understand one another completely. Nevertheless, the humanistic astrologer must be able to realize that both of these points of view represent together the two halves of a complete truth and must learn to use both transits and progressions.


In addition to this inherent individual psychological predisposition, a proclivity towards extroversion exists in Western civilization as a whole. Collective values and collective fate weigh heavily on each individual in a “modern” society, and especially on those living in large cities, where the almost total dependency of one person upon the collective is a dominant factor in their life.


Yet another reason for the contemporary astrologer’s preference for transits is the desire to be recognized by the scientific community. In this, transits - the actual day-by-day positions of the planets - represent astronomical data, as opposed to the purely symbolic nature of all forms of progressions and directions, and are more scientifically palatable. As the event-oriented astrologer is often a follower of some scientific system of thought, this predilection for transits seems logical, even though a scientifically acceptable explanation of how the birth-chart remains a sensitive plate capable of registering planetary impacts throughout the life will always remain a nearly insurmountable difficulty.


The holistic astrologer does not study the heavens in hope of finding ways of avoiding undesirable situations. At the same time, one can no more discount transits than one can ignore the external world which they represent. The study of the unfolding of personality is a subtle balance of progressions and transits - of the external and the internal. A humanistic astrologer must understand and use transits in a way which is fundamentally different from their even-oriented colleague. While accepting the fact that we are all subject to the constant pressures of the outer environment, one must postulate that as individuals, we are capable of resisting that pressure we are inwardly strong enough.


The Study of Transits