The question of fate vs free will in astrology: Part I, a history involving Pluto

11 Jan 2018, 07:58 am

modern astrology

Even though Pluto was not discovered until 1930, its influence is evident in the evolution of modern astrology. The renaissance of astrology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries began with Alan Leo and the birth of the publication “Modern Astrology” in 1895 when Pluto was in the information gathering sign of Gemini.  Gemini is more concerned with the sharing of information than finding any kind of ultimate truth, and Alan Leo, who was a Theosophist, was primarily concerned with spreading the language of astrology to the masses via what we now call horoscope columns.

In England, astrology under Pluto in Gemini was a more academic affair but the “cookbook” texts of Charles Carter similarly helped to spread the language of astrology to more people than ever before. Carter’s words on fate illustrate the way in which the idea of predetermination was beginning to fade:

As regards the higher part of man’s nature, his rational, moral, and aesthetic faculties, it is my firm belief that, if we chose to unfold them, no stellar influence can prevent us, though it may place obstacles and hindrances in our path. There are parts of our lives which the stars do seem to a large extent to dominate, and there is a yet greater part which they undoubtedly can affect, both favourably and adversely. It is for us to place our treasure where they cannot penetrate; no easy task, it is true, but probably the one most worth performing.

The discovery of Pluto in the 1930s coincided with the scientific breakthroughs required to release the atomic bomb which symbolizes Pluto’s destructive force which sometimes requires complete annihilation followed by a necessary rebuilding phase.  But it also coincided with the groundbreaking work of Freud and especially Carl Jung into the workings of the human psyche and the idea that if humans were able to better understand themselves, they could change the world around them and ultimately, their destiny.

The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves. ~Carl Jung, Aion, Christ: A Symbol of the Self, Pages 70-71, Para 126.

read more about Carl Jung here. 

The work of Carl Jung helped to influence and inspire the development of modern astrology, with the bulk of Jung’s writings being published while Pluto was in Leo, the sign of individual expression and self-mastery, between 1937 and 1957.  Depth psychology asked the question: “What is the Self?” – a very Pluto in Leo idea.

Dane Rudhyar came of age under Pluto in Leo and was influenced by the quest for the ultimate expression of the Self and the idea that humans are not bound to a particular destiny but have the power to transcend one’s fate by utilizing the influence of the astrological chart rather than be a victim of it.  Rudhyar called this practice “transpersonal astrology”:

The humanistic astrologer tries to present to his client’s consciousness a concrete, existential picture of what the chart signifies – the tensions to be resolved as well as the special abilities, the conflicts to be harmonized, the possibilities of disintegration to be avoided, and the opportunities that can be expected for individual self-fulfillment. In other worlds, he tries to assist the client in what Carl Jung calls “the integration of the personality” – how to be a whole person.

The transpersonal astrologer sees the astrological situation with which he is dealing in a different light – a sharp, penetrating light that illumines and guides a process of transformation. In that light, everything in the chart is to be used for transformation; and this may mainly be self-transformation, or in a more fated, because transpersonal way, the transformation of the individual’s socio-cultural environment in which his destiny is to act as a transforming agent. In such a light a basic conflict shown in the birth-chart need not be “harmonized” in terms of individual fulfillment; it may have instead to be used as a dynamic instrumentality able to produce definite effects in whatever has to be transformed. The goal is not personal happiness, but effectively focused action.

Rudhyar’s works were not popularized until the resurgence in interest in astrology of the 1960s and the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in the conservative sign of Virgo. During that period (between 1956 and 1972) the traditional societal rules were broken wide open, and new ways of living were embraced. Rudhyar did more than anyone else to popularize astrology and opened the doors to other modern astrologers with which we are now quite familiar: Stephen Arroyo, Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas, etc. The emphasis on psychological astrology came to a head while Pluto was in the deep thinking sign of Scorpio (1983-1995) and was followed by an interest in astrological history under Project Hindsight with Pluto in Sagittarius, the sign that inspires a search for greater knowledge (1995-2008).

Project Hindsight was dedicated to studying and translating the astrological works of the ancient Greeks who originated what we now call western astrology.  Thanks to Kepler College which was founded in 2000, serious astrology students were able to study these ancient texts and techniques and in 2008 when Pluto moved into traditional Capricorn, the debate over the legitimacy of modern astrology (including psychological astrology, transpersonal astrology, evolutionary astrology and what I call transformational astrology) began.

Part II will explore this debate further and give me an opportunity to stake out a position in the argument.





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