Extract from the Preface to the latest book in the Astropoetic Series by Joe Landwehr Astrology and the Archetypal Power of Numbers (pp. xvii-xix).
Although astrology has fallen into disfavor and has been seriously maligned – usually by those who know little or nothing about it – it has also been taken seriously by some of the greatest minds our culture has ever produced, including Hippocrates: the father of modern medicine; Nicholas Copernicus: the father of modern astronomy; and Carl Jung: the father of modern psychology. Through the 17th century, it was taught at every major university in the civilized world – not as the irrational superstition it is considered to be today – but as essential to an understanding of the natural order of things. Despite the institutionalized cultural bias against it, and centuries of vociferous rejection as a worthy discipline by religion, science, and the media, some form of astrology has existed in virtually every culture on the planet since humans first looked upward in wonder to the nighttime sky, and it continues to flourish today in the popular imagination.
Belgian archeologist and historian Franz Cumont once called astrology “the most persistent hallucination which has ever haunted the human brain,” intending to put to rest what he considered to be our neurotic fascination with it. “How could this absurd doctrine arise, develop, spread, and force itself on superior intellects for century after century?” he wondered. Indeed, this is a question worth asking, along with the corollary question (mine, not his): “Is it really all that absurd to think that we might actually be a part of the cosmos at which we – astrologers, scientists, ‘superior intellects’ and ordinary human beings from every culture and walk of life – continue to marvel?”
The very premise on which astrology is based – namely that there is a discernible relationship between the evolving cosmic order (the macrocosm) and the journey of an individual soul (the microcosm) – has been disavowed by science. And yet, the absence of this premise in contemporary discourse contributes greatly to the alienation and disenchantment of postmodern humans, who are often cast adrift in a cold and lifeless universe to which they do not feel as though they belong. Without a language with which to understand our personal connection to the cosmos – such as astrology – we lack the profound sense of being an integral part of the natural order of things that gave meaning and purpose to the lives of our indigenous ancestors, who were not too sophisticated or jaded to look up into the nighttime sky and marvel at the patterns they saw coalescing and dispersing there. In discussing why young people today (those born since 1980) have little interest in the scientific worldview – with which astrology is generally sharply contrasted – economist Jeremy Rifkin clearly spells out the problem:
[T]he scientific method [is] an approach to learning that has been nearly deified in the centuries following the European Enlightenment. Children are introduced to the scientific method in middle school and informed that it is the only accurate process by which to gather knowledge and learn about the real world around us. The scientific observer is never a participant in the reality he or she observes, but only a voyeur. As for the world he or she observes, it is a cold, uncaring place, devoid of awe, compassion, or sense of purpose. Even life itself is made lifeless to better dissect its component parts. We are left with a purely material world, which is quantifiable but without quality. The scientific method is at odds with virtually everything we know about our own nature and the nature of the world. It denies the relational aspect of reality, prohibits participation, and makes no room for empathic imagination. Students in effect are asked to become aliens in the world.
Although it is rarely considered as a viable alternative to science, astrology addresses these issues. It provides a more open-ended way to gather information about the world around us and about ourselves – not in an objective voyeuristic way, but as active participants in our own lives, and in the larger evolutionary processes unfolding within and around us. It facilitates an understanding of self that is filled with purpose. It propels us on a quest of meaning, wonder, and self-discovery. It connects us to others, the entire web of life, and the cosmic order in which we play our part. It does not dissect the world into fragmented pieces, but rather shows how it all the pieces fit together into an integrated, cohesive whole. It unabashedly discusses quality. And it triggers the empathic imagination through its willingness to explore the hard facts, not just literally, but as metaphors and symbolic portals to a multi-dimensional truth larger than can be comprehended by the rational mind. Astrology – in its essence, if not always in its practice – provides the foundation for a psychology of soul that offers everything that is missing in science.
The first modern psychologist of soul Carl Jung once said:
I do not hesitate to take the synchronistic phenomena that underlie astrology seriously. Just as there is an eminently psychological reason for the existence of alchemy, so too in the case of astrology. Nowadays, it is no longer interesting to know how these two fields are aberrations; we should rather investigate the psychological foundations on which they rest.
* This quote is often attributed to Einstein. According to Wikipedia, “A number of recent books claim that Einstein had a sign with these words in his office in Princeton, but until a reliable historical source can be found to support this, skepticism is warranted. The earliest source on Google Books that mentions the quote in association with Einstein and Princeton is Charles A. Garfield's 1986 book Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business, in which he wrote on p. 156: ‘Albert Einstein liked to underscore the micro/macro partnership with a remark from Sir George Pickering that he chalked on the blackboard in his office at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton’.” Whether or not this quote can be attributed to Einstein, a moment’s reflection should convince anyone but the most dogmatic scientist that it is true.
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