Experiential astrology succinctly includes any technique that puts people into direct contact with their horoscopes. Its purpose is to place soul instead of prediction at the center of its inquiry. The horoscope need not remain a static, one-dimensional wheel of planetary glyphs and signs, but can become a field of planetary action that is interactive, imaginative, and vibrantly alive. Techniques include astrodrama (acting out the horoscope), group dynamics and process, in-depth therapeutic methods, artistic mandalas, contemplation of images, creating rituals and talismans, dramatic mythic storytelling, dreamwork, journaling, flower essences, and more. Many of these techniques are described in Barbara Schermer's Astrology Alive: Experiential Astrology and the Healing Arts.
The history of experiential astrology finds its roots 500 years ago with Marsilio Ficino, the first experiential astrologer. Ficino was the translator of the Hermetic writings, the principle translator of Plato, and the founder (under the enlightened patronage of the Medici family) of the Platonic Academy in Florence during the height of the Italian Renaissance. He was also a physician, psychotherapist, Christian theologian, musician, and astrologer. He developed a polytheistic psychology that integrated the astrological archetypes with imagination, art, music, ritual, talismans, and acts of deep contemplation.
Ficino's contemporary influence is especially felt in archetypal psychology, developed on a foundation of Jungian psychology, by James Hillman and his followers. At the core of archetypal psychology is Ficino's Neoplatonic philosophy, and Hillman acknowledges this direct influence on his thinking. An evolving archetypal psychology demonstrates room for an evolving psychological astrology. Further developments along this path have been taken by psychologist Thomas Moore, author of the best-selling Care of the Soul, who also wrote The Planets Within.
The recent history of experiential astrology includes a number of committed astrological professionals who are hard at work on its development, including Jeff Jawer, Kelley Hunter, Barbara Schermer, Wendy Ashley, Dale O'Brien, Steven Mac-Fadden, and Susie Cox. One example is the Roots Conferences organized by Kelley Hunter of the Virgin Islands. "Roots" was a series of experiential conferences held for six consecutive summers. Always chosen for their interesting astrological transits, these events drew on the planetary energy of the moment and included four to five days of interactive and contemplative group and individual activities. The groups of 40 to 100 were facilitated by six experiential astrologers who took turns leading an evolving psychospiritual process that led toward a celebratory finale, usually a three-hour outdoor full-moon dance complete with professional conga drummers, costumes, a bonfire, a glorious night sky, and exuberant and heartfelt dancing.
Importantly, many of the major astrological conferences now have experiential tracks included in their programs. The United Astrology Congress has had such a track since its inception in 1986 (thanks in part to Marion March), as have the annual Astrological Association conference in England, the World Congress in Switzerland, and the conferences sponsored by the Chiron Center in Melbourne, Australia. In the United States, experiential workshops and tracks have been regularly included at the conferences of the International Society for Astrological Research (ISAR) and the Aquarian Revelation Conference (ARC). In addition, six astrological schools around the world now either sponsor experiential workshops, including Astrodata in Zurich, the Chiron Centre in Melbourne, and the Dublin Astrological Center in Dublin, or offer extensive experiential training programs, including the Empress Center in London, Astrologskolen in Copenhagen, and Stichting Achernar ("school for astrology") in Amsterdam. All around the world, experiential astrology is alive and well.
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