Friday, 24 December 2010

If Character is Destiny, then focus on Character

AstroPsychology emphasizes character over fate for a simple reason: human beings have more control over character than fate; thus, character deserves the greater emphasis. While outer and inner reflect one another in a process of ongoing, reciprocal influence, real change starts on the inside. Only by raising awareness, resolving internal conflicts, cultivating positive values, and making good choices can repetitive patterns of outer experience be appreciably changed.

Early childhood conditions signify the first and thus prototypical event pattern that reflects psychic structure. Cognitive behavioral psychology holds that what is most important about events is not the event itself, but how we react to it; experience and experiencer constitute an interactive system. Of course, this does not mean that the environment is merely the effect of how we perceive it. The constructivist position that we construct a reality on the basis of our meaning attributions is only relatively valid. It is valid in the sense that how a person interprets events is going to shape his subsequent experience; his interpretations will influence his feelings and behavior, and these, in turn, will influence responses from others. In this sense, each person does construct a reality that conforms to his or her subjective world. That subjective world, however, initially derives from a pattern of experience starting in infancy. It is this original, objective reality that suggests an inherited karmic fate earned on the basis of past actions in past lives.

Emotionally significant childhood experiences – the prototypical event pattern – become internalized and subsequently flesh out the innate contours of a pre-existent character. Formative experiences are formative precisely because they are metabolized to become part of psychic structure. Organization of the self includes mental habits, defenses, beliefs, expectations, and representations of self and other, all of which begin in childhood yet are prefigured by the horoscope before any actual learning takes place.

Again, this formulation is consistent with his Jung’s theory of synchronicity and his definition of archetypes as having a psychoid factor, meaning they shape matter as well as mind. A basic tenet of Jungian psychology (and AstroPsychology) is that archetypes are non-local; they do not reside solely within the psyche as structural elements, but rather are inherent in nature as a whole. Archetypes are immanent and thus infinitely diffused throughout nature. It is precisely this non-local, psychoid quality of planetary archetypes that mediate a meaningful connection between inner, psychic factors and outer, objective events.

Heraclitus' famous dictum, “character is destiny,” implied that subjective character and objective fate were two sides of the same coin. However, unless this maxim is framed in a context that includes reincarnation, we are forced into a deterministic model: the assumption that planetary forces, or a capricious creator, or random chance (genetic and social) is the ultimate determinant of character and destiny. I reject determinism unequivocally, not merely because it is profoundly disempowering, but because the primacy of consciousness as causal reality is increasingly supported by testimony at every level of human knowledge, from spiritual to scientific.

We are creatures of fate, yet have the power to choose. This is the classic paradox in which astrology and all human life is embedded. As a paradox, it can only be resolved at a higher level that postulates an eternal, evolving consciousness that incarnates as character and destiny, fate and free will. Ultimately, the horoscope can be interpreted as a learning process that symbolizes the subjective world, the objective world, and the dynamic feedback relations between the two.

If we have the capacity to learn from self-created experiences, then evolution is built into the very structure of the horoscope. The two alternative views—experience as entirely random, or fate as completely fixed—both equally deny the possibility of a divine purpose in human affairs; the first because it suggests the Universe is indifferent to human learning and the second because growth is pointless if it cannot empower individuals to better their circumstances.

If there is one thing that modern psychology has established beyond a reasonable doubt, it's that people can and do change. We so take this for granted in the 21st century that it is easy to forget that the astrology of our forbears was largely based on the presumption that people cannot change; thus, all was foretold by the stars. This is a pernicious belief that must be dispelled.

The view here is that fate can be massaged in the direction of more satisfying outcomes to the extent that the individual learns from feedback processes that are set in motion by his own choices. The exact degree to which fate can be altered must remain speculative. Still, this is an infinitely more hopeful vision than those twin pillars of despair—endlessly random experience or irrevocably fixed outcomes. Perhaps the greatest contribution of psychological astrology is the idea that character is fate, and if we can alter our character, we can mutate our fate.


Signs are not people. But whole horoscopes are not people, either. We may recognize that a real chart is a map of bewildering complexity; still, the map is not the territory. A horoscope is but a two dimensional approximation of a three dimensional, living, evolving, historical being that can only be truly known through discovery—in this case, discovering who the couple is at their present juncture by talking to them.

Because astrology is a powerful and somewhat magical tool, it is terribly important that we do not become inflated with our presumed knowledge. As Will Rogers quipped, “It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble; it's what we know that isn’t so.” In other words, it’s what we think we know that is not, in fact, true that is potentially destructive to clients. Humility, recognition of fallibility, and openness to uncertainty are among the most important qualities an astrologer can possess.

Beyond that, I recommend that astrologers err on the side of hope and express faith that clients' can manage and integrate their most challenging aspects. Given the demonstrable human capacity for change, such an attitude is not merely optimistic; it is realistic.

By Glenn Perry