By Ed Snow
Horoscope viewed as an evolving story that depicts a process of growth over time
Ancient stargazers made the first tentative stabs at understanding the relationship between terrestrial events and celestial movements. 3000 years later, contemporary astrologers continue to mull how best to decode and interpret the mysterious movements of Sun, Moon, and planets through the 12 signs of the zodiac.
While a plethora of interpretive techniques have emerged over time, there are two main approaches for interpreting birth charts in the current era, according to Glenn Perry, PhD, an astrologer and licensed psychotherapist in Melbourne, FL. Perry is the author of nine books on astrology and is Director of the Academy of AstroPsychology, an online school that offers courses and training in psychological astrology.
“The traditional way of interpreting birth charts focused on character delineations and fated events, treating both as relatively fixed outcomes. In contrast, a psychological approach views the horoscope as an evolving story that reflects a process of growth over time,” he explains.
In psychological astrology, character and events are still delineated, says Perry, but no longer in terms of fixed outcomes. Instead, events are interpreted as vehicles for facilitating a process of character development.
“As character evolves, so also does one’s narrative of the outer world. And as the upgraded, revised story supplants its more limited predecessor, this leads to increasingly satisfying experiences that reflect an evolution of the inner story.”
A Living Document
“In effect,” says Perry, “the astrological chart is a kind of living document or life script, which allows for continuing amendments and revisions. I especially like the word ‘script’ because it not only conveys the idea of story, but also of a set of instructions that are written down, as in a script to follow.
“That, in fact, is my thesis: the astrological chart is both a story and set of instructions for living – that is, for evolving,” he said.
In a horoscope, all of the elements of a story are implicit. The planets are the characters, both inner and outer, which are motivated by specific concerns and have potentials for certain kinds of action. The planets perform their roles in various settings (the 12 astrological houses). And they interact amongst themselves, forming supportive or stressful angles (aspects) as they strive to attain their goals.
“Of necessity, conflicts arise as symbolized by difficult aspects, which the life is dedicated to resolving. Taken as a whole, the chart reflects both character structure and plot structure. In effect, plot is the unfoldment of character,” he says.
Perry suggests the inner logic of this unfoldment is displayed in the chain of dispositorships that link planets together. In astrological parlance, dispositorship is determined by a process based on planetary rulerships. For example, Mars rules the sign of Aries and would dispose any planet that finds itself in this sign. If Venus is in Aries, for example, its expression would trigger the function of Mars.
Identifying Planetary Rulerships
Every astrological sign has a planetary ruler. When Planet A is posited in an astrological sign that is “ruled” by Planet B, the latter will carry forward the aims of Planet A. This continues as Planet C disposes Planet B, Planet D disposes Planet C, and so on round the wheel of the horoscope, like scenes in a movie transitioning from one to another over the course of the story.
“The chain of dispositorships linking the planets together reveals the structure of action or process in the life. Process structure usually revolves around a central theme or moral of the story and the life purpose of the individual,” he said.
“This approach to the chart is consistent with what psychologists call narrative therapy or personal methodology. A narrative perspective holds that human beings are better understood by a metaphor of story than of ‘thing.’ The thing approach, which is the traditional way of conceptualizing personality, reduces the person to a static character type – extrovert, borderline, hysteric, or simply a number if you ascribe to the Eneagram typology.”
Perry says he abhors typologies, including astrological typologies that reduce people to signs or planets, such as “he’s a Scorpio” or “she’s Neptunian”. Typologies tend to be reductionistic, linear, simplistic, static, objectifying, pathologizing, and dehumanizing.
“People are better described as stories because stories are complex, have movement built into them, and symbolize a process of change that leads towards resolution of conflict and growth of character.”
According to Perry, astrology teaches that identities are neither simple nor fixed. People are complex and continually changing in response to transiting and progressed planets. Transits and progressions are based on calculations that determine the current positions of planets in relation to their positions at the moment of birth.
“Each planet in the natal chart constitutes a sub-personality, or part self. These sub-personalities have the potential to become increasingly differentiated over time and, with sufficient effort, can be gradually integrated into a more-or-less unified sense of self that allows for the free, open, and balanced expression of its various parts.
“People are not only multi-selved, they are also multi-storied. There are many possible stories symbolized by the horoscope. Identities or stories are constructed from the meanings we give to experience, starting in infancy and extending into adulthood. Our capacity to create meaning derives from free will. Thus, meanings are freely chosen, even if certain experiences are, to some degree, fated by our birth charts.
“How we interpret our experience constructs a world-concept and a self-concept, which combine to produce a life story or script. As the person matures so does the story, edited and revised to honor the growth that’s occurred and setting the stage for yet new developments.
“Stories, like people, evolve,” he said.
In effect, says Perry, “Stories are built up from meanings that are inferred from experience. Because many of these story constructions were laid down in childhood, and thus form the bedrock of our personal theory of reality, they are necessarily narrow, arbitrary, and distorted. Worse, they can be grim, false, and self-limiting.
“Maladaptive beliefs and false ideas operate like self-fulfilling prophecies. They anticipate and are designed to prevent future suffering yet may actually bring a repetition of the very suffering they were designed to avert.”
“The good news is that we can amend these stubborn fictions by becoming aware of them, and there is no better way of doing this than through the study of one’s astrological chart,” he said.
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