Last fall, NASA crushed / shocked / surprised / amused much of the Western world with its announcement that astrology is wrong. Do a quick Google search and you’ll see what I mean:
Wait, what’s that? It’s controversial?!? Well, isn’t that fun!
(Yes, actually. Yes it is.)
My teenage son was all over this. It’s the fact that the zodiac is based on constellations, and Earth’s relative position to those star and planetary positions has changed over the last two thousand years or so that makes the current knowledge and application of the zodiac to be a little hincky.
But here’s my take on it, after a deep philosophical discussion we had last week. Are you ready?
It’s my humble opinion that the stars and planets are representative symbols of the zodiac signs and may continue to influence us, not because of physics or cosmology as we know them now, but because of our collective unconscious.
Stay with me, here.
Carl Jung, that old son-of-a-gun, developed this concept while he was working with schizophrenic patients at the Burgholzli psychiatrist hospital in the early 20th century. I like how it’s summarized at carl-jung.net:
The collective unconscious is an universal datum, that is, every human being is endowed with this psychic archetype-layer since his/her birth. One can not acquire this strata by education or other conscious effort because it is innate.
We may also describe it as a universal library of human knowledge, or the sage in [humans], the very transcendental wisdom that guides [hu]mankind. (emphasis mine)
So, we are each born attuned to an unseeable frequency connecting us to every other human being. Some of us retain this sensitivity as we get older (this would help to explain certain psychic abilities, as well as some mental illnesses), with varying degrees of strength, while the majority lose the sense of connection through non-exercise, distraction, and the mundane priorities of daily life. The best time or way for ordinary people to come into contact with the collective unconscious? Why, it’s in dreams, of course!
By the 1940s, Jung had expanded his theory to include and discuss the significance of archetypes. From simplypsychology.org:
Archetypes (Jung, 1947) are images and thoughts which have universal meanings across cultures which may show up I dreams, literature, art or religion.
Jung believes symbols from different cultures are often very similar because they have emerged from archetypes shared by the whole human race. For Jung, our primitive past becomes the basis of the human psyche, directing and influencing present behavior.
So, here’s where we come back to astrology: WHAT IF it influences individuals not directly through the stars, but through the way we have come to connect the constellations and movement of time to our collective unconscious, and the archetypes that the zodiac signs represent?
Once upon a time, in order to help make sense of the world, early humans began drawing connections between being born at certain times of the year, when specific heroes, animals, and magical beings were visible in the night sky as gatherings of light points, and taught each other over generations that an infant who joined the world on this day/night, at this time of year, would grow up with different characteristics than a sibling born at a different day and time. Such concepts made sense, then, in a time when magic and philosophy and storytelling were practical truths more than superstitions, and continued to be so informative and useful in communities and pairings that these ideas embedded or wove themselves into our collective unconscious — the unwritten history of humanity that gets passed on through an unmeasurable layer of electric signals touching and bouncing off each other all the time. Call them auras, if you like, or spirits, or souls. Astrology as a means of answering questions, determining destinies, making decisions, and righting wrongs became highly specified and nearly a science in its own right, until the scientific method arose and took priority in helping us to understand our world (with good reason, I might add — slight pun intended).
And eventually science came around to astrology, focusing its magnifying gaze on the source and impact of astrological beliefs and practices. If it was once based on star and planet positions, then that means (logically) once those positions have significantly changed, whatever influence they might have on the thoughts and actions of walking apes must be either significantly different than before (or negated entirely).
At this, my son crows triumphantly. Astrology is no more!
But if astrology is not wholly dependent on the positions of stars and planets — if it uses these as symbols of meaning, archetypes commonly recognized and shared among generations and communities and societies, connecting with other archetypes of other generations and communities and societies — then it still exists, has meaning, and thus has an influence on those who believe it does. The zodiac, whether Chinese, Native American, Celtic, etc., resonates deeply in the continuing human search for meaning, purpose, and connection. It’s a reflection of our biological need to categorize, our emotional need for bonds, and our intellectual craving for understanding. Therefore, we don’t really need to say that the stars and planets are influencing us, astrologically, but when we say that they are doing so through a horoscope, it’s a symbolic language that is being used, reaching out to the knowledge buried deep within the collective unconscious.
Do you think Jung would agree?
PS — I’m a Virgo. 😀