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Astrology as a Healing Art

by Stephanie Austin M.A.

True healing involves more than eliminating symptoms or problems; it requires the discovery and embodiment of our spiritual identity. Astrology heals by providing a sacred, meaningful context for our experiences, a sense of purpose and place, and of the profound interconnectedness of the universe

Astrology, at its deepest level, addresses the meaning of the events and issues in our lives. Its language of cycles and symbols provides us with a multi-leveled perspective which can make sense of lifes' ups and downs and encompass the full spectrum of human experience into a developmental progression. Astrological archetypes embrace the scope of the infinite evolution of being. With it we see that "to everything there is a season". Astrology describes the natural rhythm and flow guiding our growth, and shows how we can consciously participate in the process of transformation. In this way, it provides healing on a philosophical or existential level, helping answer the questions-- who am I, why am I here and where am I going?

Astrology also facilitates healing on a psychological and emotional level. It can describe the structure of our psyche, the "software" of our personality. By naming the different components of our personality, we can act more from conscious choice and less from unconscious projection and repression. The zodiacal signs and planets symbolize the archetypal energies we are seeking to express, and the aspects the type of dialogue needed between them for integral functioning. The form of the birthchart itself is a mandala, a universal symbol for integration and for the passage between dimensions or levels of wholeness. Through archetype and myth, astrology illuminates the pathways to wholeness, within our selves and our lives.

The root of the word "heal" is the Anglo-Saxon word haelen, which means to be or become whole. Astrology also reminds that we are part of a larger whole, thus imparting healing on a spiritual level as well. Healing is in essence about relatedness--to ourselves and the universe.The most profound healing comes through experiencing the intrinsic unity and interconnectedness of all life. Healing is this rememberance of the sacred. Astrology's language of archetypes and cycles guides us to embody our divinity and fulfill our unique role in the universe. Astrology heals by showing the intimate and immediate connection always present between the sacred and the mundane-- the ancient Hermetic principle of "as above, so below". At any moment we can gaze into the mirror of the cosmos and see our divinity reflected back to us.

These levels are interrelated and in dynamic dialogue with each other. The astrologer heals by listening for each of these levels and focusing on where the client is now in their life's journey. At times the astrologer may act primarily as a map-reader, providing an overview of the present stage of growth and indicating where the next steps toward wholeness may lie. At other times, or more often in addition, the astrologer functions an educator (in the original sense of "educere"", to bring forth or evoke), helping people recognize their deeper needs, and providing options and information for them to take charge of their own well-being. As a guide, someone who has traversed similar ground, the astrologer may share insights from their own experience and observations. As a healer, the astrologer seeks to recognize the spark of the essential self and fan it. As astrological counselors, perhaps the most important function we can perform is to bear witness to the client's inner truth, for it is the truth that heals.

And the truth is found in and with Love. Astrology heals by helping people become aware of how they are not loving themselves and by describing the most direct routes to self love. The planetary placements of the birthchart symbolize these pathways. We all can nurture ourselves through the symbolic qualities of our Moon placement. We can open our hearts with Venus and Neptune, revitalize ourselves with Solar and Martial energies, and break free with Uranian and Plutonian forces. We can dialogue with our oppositions, activate our trines and satisfy our squares. And we can find the Center, the point of integration and transcendance, by meditating on our birthchart as our personal mandala.

We also need to look at the external components of our lives as well (the second part of the Hermetic principle--as without, so within). Examining the kind of work we do, where we live, the types of people and activities we have in our lives and bringing those into alignment with our essential self is a vital part of the healing process. By reviewing the themes of the birthchart, astrologers can describe in detail in what kind of "soil" or environment the seed of the natal potential would thrive. Analysis of quadrant composition, planetary angularity, and other indications gives further information for bringing forth nascent energies.

Assessing the proportions of the elements of earth, air, fire and water, we can suggest the physical and psychospiritual climates most conducive for growth. These associations are simple but quite powerful. For example, for a Sun in a water sign, or a predominance of the water element in the chart, literally spending time by a stream, lake or the ocean, or even taking baths can be revitalizing and healing. Likewise, for fire, being outside in sunshine, for air, deep breathing in clear, open vistas and earth, working in a garden or with our hands recharges us and reconnects us with our essential fuel supply. A similar analysis can be done for optimal psychological and spiritual climates as well.

An in-depth, multi-leveled examination of the birthchart, in dialogue with the client, can draw attention to untapped potentials, as yet latent from lack of self confidence, adverse social conditioning, or any number of reasons, and provide support for the individuation process. Astrologers can help people see their energy leaks; the "looking for love in all the wrong places". We can redefine problems and pain as self-correcting mechanisms, as information meant to lead us back to the blueprint of our soul. By explaining life as a process of evolution, astrologers can defuse some of the fear of change, the most formidable block to healing.

For healing is often a journey into our deepest fears, into the malnourished or broken sense of self, to encounter a level of humanity deeper than the tragedy of the pain and to rediscover our inviolate connection with the divine. As counselors, we facilitate and participate in this journey, providing a supportive context and crucible for the healing process. The profound and magical mystery of healing is accelerated by the mere act of sharing, a mystery which we can but attempt to explain scientifically with concepts of criticial mass or morphogenetic fields, or by more mystical allusion, such as "when two or more are gathered". In the counseling session we are here together, both capable of suffering and both capable of healing. We are no longer alone with our burden and pain. It is my woundedness that allows me to connect with you in your woundedness. The healing process is always a dialogue and a mutual learning experience. Synchronicity draws the right client to the right healer/astrologer at the right time.

Healing is a transformational process which begins with self-awareness and culminates in expression of the true self. This process can be divided into four stages: self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-trust and Self-expression.

Everything proceeds from awareness. We must be able to see something in order to work with it consciously; that which is unconscious works us. With awareness comes the possibility of having real choice. So the journey must begin with self-discovery, and astrology provides a powerful tool for identifying and integrating the archetypal components of ourselves and our world. We learn that there are at least twelve different ways of doing anything, and thus begin to identify our patterns and assumptions within a more inclusive and holistic framework. We are able to see alternatives and expand the boundaries of our world.

The next stage is self-acceptance. Denying or resisting who and where we are prevents us from moving on to the next step. In order to change, we must start with the present moment. Knowing that we are enough--not perfect--but enough, allows healing to progress. Self-acceptance does not mean complacency. It means choosing to work with the present, rather than fixating on the past.

Self-acceptance also means replacing "should" with "could". It is important to be as gentle, kind and patient with ourselves as we can. Patterns created in early childhood and reinforced over decades take time to reorganize. Through techniques of transits and progressions, astrology articulates when and what kind of reorganization will be most conducive for growth at a particular time. As astrologers, we can help the client honor their natural rhythms and encourage the qualities which are already close to the surface. This can give the momentum and confidence needed to work on more difficult issues.

The third stage is the generation of self-trust--learning to esteem, honor and care for ourselves in accordance with our inner truth. This requires relaxing beyond the intellect into a deeper place within. We can facilitate this process for ourselves and our clients by asking "What feels right? What is true at this moment? Where is the energy right now?" By relaxing, asking for an answer, and then deeply listening and feeling, we can begin to trust our own inner wisdom. Ah, but which inner voice you say? There can be a chorus (or mob!) inside us. We need to honor and relate to all of them. That which is disowned or repressed will demand our attention in negative ways, and make it difficult to hear the voice from the center. Inner work on the first two stages of awareness and acceptance, plus continued practice of deep attention, strengthens our reception of our true inner voice. The more we listen, the more we hear.

As we relax into acceptance and trust, we can let go of self-defeating voices and patterns, releasing that energy for growth and development. It is usually not so much what we need to do, as what we need to stop doing, that ignites the process of healing. Often, as with Neptune transits, it is about not "doing" at all, but rather "being"--needing to spend more time in solitude or meditation, in nature or simply resting. Healing comes with attempting to do more of those things that bring deep joy and fewer of those that bring pain. Astrology can show us where the joy is for us.

This brings us to the fourth stage, that of Self-expression, embodying and living in alignment with our true nature and divine mission. This is a life-long process, in which we ever grow more deeply into who we really are, a process well described in the writings of Dane Rudhyar, Carl Jung, and many others. Each of us has a unique purpose and place in the universal play, a singular role and script in which we act, write and produce in a co-creative process with an infinite cast of characters and stage settings. It is the function of the astrologer to help the client recognize the essential qualties of their role, and to encourage and support its healthy embodiment in their lives.

While it is important the the astrologer be as skilled as possible in the tools and techniques of the profession, there is an element of healing that goes beyond technique. Love is the most powerful factor in any healing relationship. All techniques are really just forms in which compassionate love and understanding can be experienced. Much of our job as counselors is simply being as present as possible, listening to the soul of the client and reflecting it back.

The degree that we are able to do this kind of work will come from the depth of our own inner development and wholeness. As healers we must live our own message; loving ourselves, meditating, eating well, exercising etc. and working on our own wounds. Healing is embracing our own woundedness, our own Chironic struggle. It is living the knowing that in essence we are all spiritual beings learning how to be human.

Our deepest healing comes from experiencing that the ultimate reality in the universe is love, and that the purpose of life is to become more capable of loving. Astrology practiced as a healing art provides some of the reminders and signposts we need at times to help us keep sight of this spiritual dimension of life.