October 2002 A Conscious Evolution Newsletter
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Astrology and Free Will

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Astrology and Free Will

by Sujatha Sridhara


Many people believe that astrology is a fatalistic art that leaves no room for human free will. In this view, a person’s horoscope reveals their inflexible destiny, which they are bound to accept, for good or ill, with no choice in the matter. However, a deeper understanding of astrology reveals that it reinforces the concept of free will by giving us the tools to make intelligent choices, rather than blindly following the path of least resistance. When we voluntarily choose to control our actions and reactions, we can change the nature of our lives and become the masters of our own destinies.

What is astrology?

According to popular astrology writer Linda Goodman, “Astrology is the study of man in relation to celestial bodies, or to be precise, the planets. It is a system of thought that attempts to show a relationship between man and all things.” Astrology explains how and why individuals react in a particular way to each other and to the events in their lives. Linda Goodman popularized astrology in modern times through her books, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, along with other books that delved more deeply into the art and science of astrology and its meaning for man. In these books she discussed two approaches to the study of astrology: reading the potential character and personality traits of individuals and predicting the future.

Most people’s understanding of astrology is limited to the daily columns in newspapers and magazines, to which they refer for day-to-day predictions, and to Linda Goodman’s first two books, which they may read to know their basic character. However, astrology encompasses a lot more, as Linda Goodman revealed in her later books, Linda Goodman’s Star Signs, Linda Goodman’s Relationship Signs, and Gooberz.

To understand astrology, we must discuss karma, because karma is a major foundation of astrology. Karma, a concept held in Hinduism and Buddhism, is the idea that a person’s actions in this lifetime can perpetuate reincarnation and determine the nature of the person’s next existence. Astrologers believe that the human soul is enrolled in a spiritual classroom. Spiritual lessons, however, are not learned in one lifetime, and many successive lifetimes are necessary for spiritual liberation. Astrologers suggest that each soul chooses to be born into certain conditions and with a certain set of personality traits for certain lessons to be learned. Along with this, individuals’ actions in each previous lifetime will, to some extent, define the experiences that they will encounter in the next - although some actions don’t wait another lifetime for their effect. Karma demonstrates the long-term responsibility for one’s actions. Astrology helps us to understand these choices made by the soul for its present life. “Astrology may be symbolized as God’s Computer to make certain karmic patterns more clear, serving the necessary and useful purpose here of holding Earthlings and their Karma reliably and sensibly, in some order of efficiency…” says Goodman in Gooberz.

Planets and personality

Astrology combines the art of psychology with the science of mathematics. Every individual’s birth chart, precisely calculated and intuitively interpreted, provides considerable information about him or her. Astrologers take the time of birth, date of birth, and place of birth to draw up the birth chart. A child’s cry at birth, his or her first breath, is the sign of life - the soul has adopted its chosen human form. This moment is recorded as the individual’s time of birth. The place of birth is important to ascertain the longitude and latitude of the location. The date of birth is required to determine the position of the planets on a given day. A formula is used to calculate the position of the Sun, Moon and planets at the individual’s exact time, date, and place of birth, and these positions are represented in a circular diagram called a horoscope or natal chart. The chart is divided into twelve equal parts, called houses. Each house corresponds to one of the twelve signs of the zodiac, depending on the time of birth, and each house governs a different area of one’s life - family, finance, relationships and so on. The planets influence the individual based on their position in the birth chart in terms of the signs and houses they are in, and in relation to each other through angular relationships called aspects.

Most people today can easily recognize their zodiac sign from their date of birth based on information in a book like Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. What this means is that each person will know the sign the Sun was in when he or she was born. However, that does not explain traits that are completely different from the descriptions of a particular Sun sign. As Grant Lewi explained in Heaven Knows What, “It is not a matter of the Sun in Gemini that sets a person apart - but the Sun in Gemini with the Moon in Cancer…the Sun in opposition to Uranus and trine Jupiter…the Moon sextile Mars...”

In a birth chart, the beginning, or cusp, of the 1st house is called the Ascendant. The sign of this house defines the individual’s personality. The sign in which the Sun lies defines the individual’s basic character. The sign in which the Moon lies defines the individual’s emotional nature. These three signs provide an amazing amount of information about an individual. Add to this information the signs in which the other planets reside, and we get clues to the potential character and personality traits of an individual.

Apart from the Ascendant (personality), Sun sign (character), and Moon sign (emotional nature), astrologers are always concerned about the position of the planets Saturn and Jupiter in the birth chart. These two planets play significant roles in an individual’s life. Each luminary and planet personifies certain characteristics in an individual. As described on the astro.com web site, “Jupiter represents the search for individual meaning and purpose, optimism, hope and a sense of justice, faith, a basic philosophy of life, and the striving for spiritual growth and expansion. Saturn shows how we experience ’reality’, where we meet with resistance and discover our limitations. It represents the conscience and moral conviction, the laws and rules that we chose to obey. It also tells us about our powers of endurance and the ability to concentrate; it lends qualities like earnestness, caution and reserve.”

Saturn’s significance lies in the fact that it symbolizes karma. Astrologers describe Saturn’s influence in a person’s life as a disciplinary force that sometimes appears to be creating obstacles and delays. Jupiter is said to offset Saturn’s so-called negative influence by creating opportunities and bringing in optimism. The aspects that other planets form with Saturn define the nature of difficult situations that an individual will encounter in different areas of his or her life; likewise, the aspects with Jupiter will bring in a ray of hope where there appears to be none. Saturn is the presiding judge who evaluates your karma and determines what is deserved in turn. Saturn is in charge of maintaining order and rendering justice. Thus, analyzing Saturn’s position in a particular sign, house, and its aspects with other planets, will reveal in which area of life lies the individual’s most significant life lesson.

Saturn might seem forbidding, but really he is a friend in disguise. Saturn helps us strengthen our resolve to rise above our restrictions and find a way out through trust and faith in a force greater than human nature. He teaches us patience. He shows us that with discipline and order in our lives we can live happier and more constructive lives. It is easy for people to act irresponsibly unless they have to face the consequences of their actions. Often, people complain about the way they are treated by others while failing to observe their own behavior. We may have forgotten our actions, but Saturn is always keeping an eye on us.

The other significant planets include Mercury, which represents reason and rationality of thought, Venus, which gives us a sense of beauty, Mars, which represents the energy and drive of a person, Uranus, which stands for intuition, Neptune, which gives us the supersensory, and Pluto, which describes how we deal with power.

Interpreting the chart

The location of the planets and luminaries on the birth chart are studied on two levels - their position in a sign and their house position. These positions provide information about influences in different areas of the person’s life. Additional insight is gained from study of the aspects formed between these planets and luminaries - conjunction when two planets or luminaries are close together in the same sign, trine when they are four signs apart, sextile when they are two signs apart, square when they are three signs apart, and opposition when they are six signs (180 degrees) away from each other. One can study aspects in one’s own chart and also between the charts of two individuals. Conjunctions, trines, or sextiles are harmonious aspects, while squares and oppositions are aspects of tension and conflict.

A particular planet rules each sign of the zodiac: Mars rules Aries, Venus rules Taurus and Libra, Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, Moon rules Cancer, Sun rules Leo, Pluto rules Scorpio, Jupiter rules Sagittarius, Saturn rules Capricorn, Uranus rules Aquarius, and Neptune rules Pisces.

A particular sign rules each house in the chart. For instance, Venus rules the 7th house - the house of marriage and close partnerships, Pluto rules the 8th house - sometimes referred to as the house of death and taxes, Jupiter rules the 9th house - the house of the higher mind. It must be noted that while specific signs rule specific houses, in an individual’s birth chart another sign could be the lord of the house. This difference between the ruler and the lord of the house is very significant in Vedic or Indian astrology, although lords are not commonly used in Western astrology. If the lord and the ruler are harmonious, the issues governed by the house will be less problematic.

Lastly, a particular house governs a particular aspect of an individual’s life. As delineated in Linda Goodman’s Relationship Signs, they are: the 1st house (Ascendant) - the individual personality; 2nd house - values and possessions; 3rd house - communication; 4th house - roots and origins; 5th house - pleasure and creativity; 6th house - work and routine; 7th house - relationships; 8th house - loss and common property; 9th house - philosophies and far countries; 10th house (Midheaven) - occupation and calling; 11th house - friends and acquaintances; and 12th house - beyond the personal.

An astrologer analyzing a birth chart combines the information about the ruler of a house, the lord of the house, the relationship between the lord and the ruler, the planets in the house and in a particular sign, and the aspects that form between the planets. Thus, the analysis of a birth chart is quite an elaborate affair that requires intense study and long hours.

Does astrology contradict free will?

Linda Goodman wrote in Gooberz, “Behavior may be analyzed accurately, yes…by astrology and this - the reading of potential character and personality traits is the true and helpful nucleus of this ancient art and science but as for the predictive portion of astrological study it is, even yet, sadly misunderstood by humans simply because it has been so grossly misinterpreted…If man and woman would learn…to govern the animal-human nature in them then each man and woman would be the powerful Master of his or her own Fate and Destiny…”

Astrology brings to light an individual’s personal nature, and the karmic trends in his or her life. Individuals are in continuous motion of action and reaction that stems from their personal nature. This personal nature is the individual’s perspective of the world; his or her values, beliefs, and ideas about how things should be. While not all actions are guided by personal nature, all reactions are. Individuals need to disassociate from their personal nature in action, and control their reactions. Right actions can change the course of an individual’s life. Right action requires right perception, without the biases of the personal nature. In From Mind to Super Mind, philosopher Rohit Mehta says, “Right Perception and Right Action are two sides of the same medallion-one cannot exist without the other.”

People with limited knowledge of astrology believe that it suggests life is predestined and that individuals’ actions cannot change anything. In Gooberz Linda Goodman acknowledges that most people “…fear and shun the art and science of astrology (because) they quite naturally think…that their future Destiny is entirely guided by the stars alone, therefore, if they can change nothing why fight against the tides of predestination?” However, astrologers explain why it is easy to predict the life of an individual, and why this does not contradict free will.

Knowing an individual’s personal nature gives astrologers the ability to predict his or her reaction to a situation. This reaction will have a consequence, which in turn will become another situation in the individual’s life. This is the nature of predestination that astrology discusses. However, as Linda Goodman emphasizes, if one can understand one’s personal nature, one can avoid reacting to some events and thereby avoid negative consequences. It is up to each individual to become aware of his or her personal nature and the way it interacts with other individuals, to understand the force of karma in his or her life, to avoid reacting reflexively to events and experiences of his or her life, and to act in this life with spiritual goals. Such deep self-awareness will eventually lead to enlightenment, and to the full realization that only when one understands one’s personal nature can one truly exercise free will.

Socrates said, “Know thyself.” The ancient Greeks believed that such self-knowledge was the most crucial human goal. To know oneself one must understand the workings of the mind. “For the unheard declarations of the mind, decide the noisy journeys of the feet” (Dr. Paul Brunton, The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga). Astrology is an effective tool in this process. Astrology can reveal hidden facets of us. In some ways it is akin to psychology in its purpose. In Grant Lewi’s popular Heaven Knows What, he declared himself “more concerned with astrology as the only real key to psychological understanding of self then with any of its other phases.” Like Linda Goodman and other modern astrologers, he believed that the basic principle of astrology is that man can choose to develop his good and constructive qualities, rather than to indulge his bad and destructive ones, and that he can choose his times for action and his times for inaction, rather than remain passive before the tides of circumstance. This to Lewi was Free Will in action.