How to Approach Astrology

I started learning and practicing astrology many years ago, when I was in grad school. At that time, there used to be these bulletin boards, which were essentially chat forums. And there was one for astrology called alt.astrology, on which I was an active participant. One of the things we would do was to ask each other for help and opinions in interpreting horoscopes, based only on birth data and gender–no other information was revealed. So we were effectively doing “blind” readings.

It’s been a long time, and I have forgotten the specifics of many of those exchanges, save one which I remember to this day. A woman posted birth data about a male friend who was in his mid or late twenties, and asked for an interpretation. After looking at the horoscope, one of the things I said is that this person would try to convert others to their religious belief. To which she came back with this: “That is so true – he is a Jehovah’s witness and goes around knocking on doors to convert others.”

It was simply astounding that astrology could pinpoint with such remarkable accuracy a very specific–and important–factor in a person’s way of life. I think that was the turning point for me, because here was an interpretive technique that I reasoned out of basic principles and tried blind on a human, and it worked! And I was just a beginning student of astrology, with very rudimentary knowledge of astrological principles.

One thing astrology is not is science. Astrologers don’t work with literal facts, but with metaphors and symbols which are brought to a person’s life. For example, for this Jehovah’s witness horoscope, what I saw was Jupiter and Pluto in Leo in the 9th house. The metaphors I was working with were: Jupiter is growth and expansion, Pluto is will, dominance and transformation, Leo is fiery inspiration and self-confidence, 9th house is enlarging or deepening one’s perspective, be it through faith, belief, religion, higher learning, travel, philosophy, or law. In my interpretation I brought these metaphors to life in a particular way: I “guessed” that the Jupiter-Pluto combination would be lived as a supercharged will to dominate and transform, in the area of religious belief (9th house). The response about this real person (brought to life!) filled in the blank with an inspired, confident manner (Leo, knocking on doors), along a very specific path to conversion (Jehovah’s witness).

The same set of metaphors could be lived very differently by someone else. Jupiter-Pluto-Leo-9th house could be a celebrated professor of philosophy widely admired for their inspired teaching: 9th house for philosophy, Jupiter-Pluto for wide impact in molding/transforming students’ perspective, Leo for theater and inspiration. You can feel the likeness between the way the professor and the Jehovah’s witness go about their calling, but their actual paths in life are so very different.

Astrological theories and techniques apply to people, and a person makes a choice as to how to respond to circumstances. The horoscopes of two people might be very similar, but one of them chooses to apply themselves to constructive causes and becomes an upstanding member of society, while the other chooses to walk on the wild side, and becomes a criminal.

The horoscope by itself is only going to show a particular configuration of energies, but not how they will be expressed by the individual. My “blind” reading was an inspired educated guess. As an astrologer, I don’t really want to do blind readings–brazen guesses of extremely specific actualities can easily go awry. More importantly, they do nothing to get across the underlying characteristics that could provide deeper insight. Instead, what I want to do is to line up those metaphors and principles, and then discuss with the individual various possibilities of living these metaphors based on their background, and the realistic options available to according to their circumstance and environment.

This is why, in Western astrology, signs and planets are drawn in horoscopes using what are called glyphs, as a means to trigger imagery and symbolism, from which can flow a stream of consciousness process of associating these glyphs with a multitude of possible manifestations in real life. It’s a right-brain thing. Astrology is ultimately an art, making meaning out of a rich set of techniques and measurements.

So astrology is not a science. Statistical studies of astrology that are undertaken to show this equals that are doomed to fail because they start with a false equivalence between inviolable literal data and metrics that science works with, and metaphorical artifacts that is the domain of astrology. It’s not that astrologers don’t work with data, it is that they have to interpret data as metaphorical qualities.  The horoscope is a real enough construct, the planets are out there, their positions as laid out in the horoscope are calculated using the scientific equations for their orbital motion.  But, they are not to be taken literally, in terms of gravitational pull and such. They are to be interpreted as agents of synchronicity.

Astrologers work from the position that a person has the freedom–however limited it might be based on circumstance–to respond to the world along one of several manifestations of the inherent proclivities symbolized in their horoscope. The inner life vs outer manifestation is captured beautifully in an elemental dictum of astrology: “as above, so below”. Meaning that our life on earth below acts synchronously with the planets in the skies above–the inner life and outer circumstances inform and mirror each other.

This inner-outer dialogue must be axiomatic in how you approach learning and using astrology. For every metaphor, symbol, and principle, you want to put the manifest options out there and rise to the occasion by picking the option that is most resonant with your life, as it is now, and as you want to evolve in the foreseeable future. With sufficient knowledge of the symbols, principles, and techniques of astrology, you can interpret your horoscope better than any other astrologer can because you know your own life–outer and inner–like no one else ever could, and you know which possible real-life manifestations of the horoscopic symbols are most meaningful to you.


Subscribe to alerts
for future blog posts

Related Posts

Special Yogas in the Jyotish Chart

Previously, I wrote on how to start interpreting a Jyotish chart, first by considering the quality, significations, and strengths of the planets, and then by

The Puzzle Master

Will Shortz has been the crossword editor at New York Times for 30 years. He is the most celebrated puzzle maker in the world. When