By Phoebe Wyss
What the world urgently needs today is a paradigm shift into a worldview that can restore meaning to our lives
Such a worldview once existed in Egypt. The ancient Egyptian cosmos was an alive, interconnected whole, informed by a creative intelligence and structured by mathematical patterns of order and meaning. Balance and proportion were maintained by the Goddess Maat, thereby creating a basis for aesthetic values and moral principles. And astrology headed the syllabus in the Egyptian temple academies.
In contrast, in the West today, four centuries of scientific materialism have conditioned us to see the universe as composed of inanimate matter randomly evolving through mechanical mechanisms. Matter, it’s believed, is what’s really real, while our thoughts, dreams and feelings are less real or just imaginary. From this perspective astrology makes no sense at all.
However, the good news is that an alternative cosmological paradigm is emerging by which astrology could eventually be reinstated.
When I set out some years ago on my quest to discover how astrology works, I started by investigating some new scientific ideas. I learned that, at the subatomic level, existence is a seamless, interconnected whole, consisting of waves of potentiality that only become particles when they’re observed. This sounded like that inchoate stream of consciousness running continuously through my head, out of which I can unfold specific thoughts by giving them attention.
Thus, when I read that the physicist Wolfgang Pauli had remarked that the quantum level appeared to him more like a giant mind than like anything material, I saw his insight as having the potential to bridge the cleft between mind and matter, our inner world and the material world around us.
Materialist Worldview Challenged
Back in the 1950’s Carl Jung’s work on synchronicity challenged the standard scientific-materialist worldview by suggesting that, on a deeper level of existence, subjective and objective reality were a unity. As an astrologer I’m no stranger to synchronicity. I experience daily how the patterns the planets create in the sky correspond synchronously to events unfolding in human life. And I’m given daily proof of the truth of the Hermetic axiom ‘as above so below and as below so above.’
For example, when I erect a birth chart, I rely on the sun, moon and planets at the time of birth mirroring the psychological patterns of its subject – and they always do. As Jung wrote: “Our psyche is set up in accord with the structure of the universe and what happens in the macrocosm likewise happens in the most subjective reaches of the psyche,” which is what astrologers have always known but most people find incredible..
Another new scientific idea that became a key for me, was that the mind is not restricted to the physical brain. In his book A New Science of Life Rupert Sheldrake writes ‘Minds are closely connected to fields that extend beyond brains in space, and also extend beyond brains in time, linked to the past by morphic resonance and to virtual futures through attractors,’ His theory of morphic fields helped me forward on my quest to discover how astrology works.
I connected this concept of an extended mind with the nested hierarchy model that derives from systems science, in which existence is imagined as a series of systems nested within one another like Russian dolls. The lesser systems are all wholes in their own right, while the meaning and purpose of the greater wholes permeates the lesser on every level.
I remembered that Pythagoras had spoken of a universal mind, present and active throughout creation in which our individual minds partake. In that case, I speculated, his universal mind as the largest whole must contain the human collective mind, which must contain the minds of our social groups, then our family and finally our Individual mind at the centre.
If the cosmos is structured as a nested hierarchy then all causation and meaning in it must be top-down rather than bottom-up as in the reductionist view. And, as the full meaning of anything can only be understood in the context of the larger wholes, synthesis rather than analysis would be the only way to discover it.
I now understand why people like Gauquelin who conduct statistical research into astrology have so far failed to produce significant results. It’s because they are working bottom-up, and have isolated the factors they investigate from their wider contexts.The concept of fractal correspondence, which also derives from systems science, became my key for understanding the phenomenon of the mutual mirroring of the macrocosm and microcosm.
In 21st century language the Hermetic axiom of ‘as above so below’ states that there’s fractal correspondence between the two. And, if the individual is a fractal of the whole, he’s like a mini-universe containing the whole within him. Conversely, as Richard Tarnas in his seminal book Cosmos and Psyche, (2006) claims, the cosmos is a living organism in the likeness of a human being, having a physical structure, rational intelligence and a soul level – the anima mundi – in which all human souls share.
Tarnas’ central thesis is the oneness of cosmos and psyche. His statement that ‘the psyche is not in us; we are in the psyche’ implies that not only do humans have an inner life, but the whole cosmos has interiority. Through tracing synchronicities between the cycles of the planets and world events over many centuries of history, he gives demonstrable proof of the unity of cosmos and psyche, showing that what happens in the world is an expression of archetypal patterns unfolding.
I continued my quest by investigating some ideas from Jungian depth psychology, and gradually the conception of an archetypal cosmos unifying psyche and the world began to make sense. The ‘anima mundi’ – soul of the cosmos – was the home of the archetypes, which we deal with in astrology. For Plato these were Ideas in the universal mind and for Jung foundational formative principles in the collective unconscious.
At first Jung saw them as purely psychological, but later in his career decided they must be cosmic in scope. The archetypes not only structure the human psyche but represent a greater cosmic matrix of meaning. Astrology, I decided, has a home in such an archetypal cosmos.
In the great anima mundi, in which all our souls participate, dwell the astrological archetypes, and are active as twelve formative powers. Their qualities and inter-relationships are bounded and defined by the geometry of the zodiac – a geometric template mirrored fractally in each individual psyche. The twelve archetypes each have their fields of potential expression, and their qualities and themes are reflected not only in human individual and collective lives, but they are immanent throughout creation.
Time, as we experience it, is patterned by sequences of different combinations of these archetypes giving each moment a unique quality. Within time’s cycles the archetypes rise in turn to prominence, and manifest their qualities for a while before sinking back into latency. Astrology is the art of calculating their cycles and describing the qualities of their different phases.
It appears that the roots of astrological meaning lie in the qualitative dimension of numbers, and of the geometric shapes that arise from them on the highest archetypal level. In other words these meanings are not a human invention but are inherent in the cosmos.
I see the circle of the zodiac as a geometric matrix held within the cosmic mind. It shows the eternal relationships between the archetypal principles – the alpha-omega state of the patterns that continuously arise and dissolve in time. The cosmic mind should not be seen as static but as a flowing continuum. And the archetypes, as core ideas in this vast mind, unfold into ideas, are given meaning by the cosmic imagination and thus create the patterning reflected in the events of human history – and in our personal life stories.
I believe astrology has the power to restore a sense of meaning to our lives by reconnecting us with these sacred archetypal forces within the universe. It can reveal the connective patterning lying behind our life experiences, and as such has great explanatory power.
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