by Robert Wilkinson
This is from one of my talks when I was asked just what astrology is. While I could not possibly explore the full implications of that question, this is a part of what I had to say. (I originally had an audio link of me giving the talk, but it was on a server I no longer have access to, and I haven't figured out whether I want to use a ton of bandwidth to offer it again.) Anyway, here's a piece of "What is Astrology?"
Levels and Dimensions in the Quest for Understanding
Astrology is the art and science of the cycles of life. They begin at our first breath, and continue until our last. We have many cycles that affect us, some short, some long. Some cycles last so long that we never experience the whole of them unless we become fully realized Beings, as in the case of Neptune and Pluto, outermost two of the three invisible “Spiritual” planets. We would have to live for 250 years to experience a complete cycle of Pluto in our chart. However, there are other cycles that we all experience many times in our lives, and through these we come to know key themes and lessons related to why something happens when it does and how that impacts the way we are shaping our “destiny.”
We are the ones in command of our responses to life’s challenges. This is our true “response-ability.” If we know what is happening and why at any moment in time and experience, we have the ability to adjust our responses consciously within the many cycles that work across the personal, interpersonal, and the transpersonal dimensions. This helps us fulfill old karmic patterns while offering opportunities for us to transmute our energy in positive ways, generating detachment, dispassion, discrimination, and bodhichitta, or goodwill.
In the personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal dimensions we have many cycles going on simultaneously on four levels, those being the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, or archetypal realms. Thus we have personal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual cycles going along with interpersonal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual cycles going, as well as transpersonal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual cycles of activity, with all 12 “bandwidths” functioning simultaneously. We can also call the transpersonal realm the realm of truth, of archetypes, the quest for the higher or greater self, or the realm of higher service we do for our world. So you can see that our life lessons and transformational experiences work out through different cycles operating on each of these 12 bandwidths, or frequency zones, throughout our lives.
Most people think that astrology concerns only such things as “I was born at such and such a time, and that gives me the times to get married, buy a house, get divorced” and so forth. It is mostly regarded as a predictive tool. While that is true, it is also true that there are much larger cycles of change going on that affect all of us regardless of whether our Sun is in Taurus or we have a Sagittarius Rising a Moon in Gemini, Jupiter in the fifth house or Saturn in the ninth. This is the Transpersonal level of existence, the cycles of things beyond our immediate control or creation that sweep across large populations of people, regardless of their individual cycles of activity.
Character Is Destiny
Regardless of the larger patterns at work across generations and continents, we always have the ability to control our responses to circumstances. If “character is destiny,” in the sense that as we make our character we make our destiny, then obviously we are in charge of our own fate, regardless of external passing circumstances. As one who is dedicated to understanding “the intersections between fate and free will,” I found a long time ago that there are only two things that are “destined” in this world: One is to be born when you were, where you were, to the people you were born to. The other is in the timing on certain choices. Not what choice you will make, but when you will have to make a choice. Even not to choose becomes a choice here. Everything else in life is a product of free will, our own or someone else’s, which challenges us to act, react, or deal with what is being acted upon us.
In astrology, all cycles have a beginning and an end, followed by new cycles. Between beginning and end in anything, there are times of harmony and times of friction, times of flow and times of blockage. Many astrologers believe that the harmonious aspects mean good things, and frictional aspects mean bad things. While this can seem to be true, I take the approach that a harmonious aspect, whether at work in your birth chart or in the heavens above, is a challenge for us to come to correct understanding. A frictional aspect, on the other hand, is a challenge for us to act correctly.
There is no thing in astrology that compels you to be defeated, to be a victim of circumstance, or anybody else. Here finding the right point of view can help us to a greater comprehension. Many times in life, we don’t “win” even if we do our best. In those cases, I have found that we are cultivating a quality of our character as revealed in the birth chart. When we go through difficult circumstances, regardless of the apparent cause, we’re chewing up old karma, fulfilling an old tendency or potentiality, and being given a chance to cultivate a strength, a skill, an understanding or a way of acting that can serve us in the future so we don’t have to go through that friction any more.
In group astrology, or collective astrology, sometimes I have found that frictional aspects going on in the sky can indicate pandemonium on Earth. In those situations, sometimes the best thing we can do is not lose our cool even if everybody else is losing theirs. Just don’t make it worse, and you’ll look pretty good by the time the psychic “storm” passes and the whole thing is over and others have either created a mess, deconstructed their reality, or done something to destabilize their lives.
The forces symbolized by astrological planets are always in flux. There is no absolute time of good or absolute time of difficulty. I have found that often we are actually doing quite well in some aspects of our life and challenged in other aspects of our life. Each person has a unique situation. Just because everybody else is having a difficult time doesn’t mean you will. And just because everybody else seems to be “doing well” is no reason for you to beat up on yourself if you feel that you’re not doing well.
A lot of this has to do with the difference between perception and experience. We often perceive something completely different from what we’re actually going through. We just as often don’t know our true realization until after we’ve already gone through the experience. In predictive astrology you may see when something’s coming down in the cosmic moment, but it may take an hour or a day or a week to realize what that transit was about. That’s why you may hear an astrologer say “Such and such is going to come down on such and such a day” and it seems not to be happening. Well, it may very well be coming down on that day but we may not be perceiving it as it happens. It may take us some time to figure out what it was that happened, and that’s why reflective meditations can help us see things from different perspectives.