Humanistic Psychology Humanistic Astrology


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During the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest in those aspects of life which are distinctly human and subjective. This approach in psychology has been termed "third force" or "humanistic" psychology, and it is distinctly different from the more mechanistic models of man constructed by previous generations of psychologists. Although Humanistic Psychology is growing at a rapid pace and is increasingly influencing other fields of study, it is still considered by many old-school psychologists to be insufficiently precise and "scientific." Humanistic Psychology is a more comprehensive and holistic approach to man's psychic and emotional life than the majority of other approaches commonly used in the field. Its very comprehensiveness, and its emphasis on holism and subjectivity naturally make the inclusion of easily measurable, objectively-verifiable data more difficult. Still, there is one psychological tool that fulfills Humanistic Psychology's need for a precise system of human types and differences; and that is astrology.

How is Humanistic Psychology different from other approaches to understanding man's nature? First of all, all humanistic psychologists exemplify a trust in the wholeness and potential for growth of each individual person. As psychologist Carl Rogers (1967) writes:

... the subjective human being has an importance and a value which is basic: that, no matter how he may be labeled or evaluated he is a human person first of all, and most deeply. He is not only a machine, not only a collection of stimulus-response bonds, not an object, not a pawn. (p. 2)

Another psychologist, Maurice Termerlin (1963) writes:

Unlike scientific goals, the goals of a humanistic psychotherapy are neither predictability nor control. In fact, the more successful psychotherapy is, the less predictable the individual be comes, because his rigidity is reduced and his spontaneity and creativity are increased, (p. 37)

What Termerlin says about Humanistic Psychology might seem to conflict with the emphasis on prediction found in popular ideas about astrology and indeed in some types of astrological practice. Within the scope of a Humanistic Astrology, however, the emphasis is upon the person rather than upon a specific "event." As the foremost spokesman for Humanistic Astrology, Dane Rudhyar, has written, "people happen to events." This is the crucial difference in emphasis between Humanistic Astrology and other uses of astrology. Likewise, the entire emphasis in a humanistic approach to physical or psychological states of "disease" changes from knowing what kind of problem a person has to what kind of person has a problem.

Another important new emphasis in Humanistic Psychology is that man's potential for creativity and self-actualization is regarded as more essential than his limitations, abnormalities, and difficulties with social adjustment. In fact, Humanistic Psychology is the only popular approach which allows for man's uniqueness and individual tone of being, the very factors with which astrology deals specifically and exhaustively. The humanistic-existential psychologist Rollo May (1969) defines "being" as the individual's "pattern of potentialities," and he goes on to say that 'These potentialities will be shared with other persons but will in every case form a unique pattern in each individual" (p. 371). This quotation from Rollo May could just as easily refer to the individual birth-chart (horoscope), for the astrological birth-chart symbolizes in holistic fashion the unique "pattern of potentialities" which enlivens each of us.

One of the most active promoters of a humanistic approach to psychology is James F.T. Bugenthal, editor of the book Challenges of Humanistic Psychology. In an article called "The Challenge That is Man" (1967), Bugenthal writes:

To make a statement about a distant galaxy is to make a statement about oneself. To propose a "law" of the action of mass and energy is to offer a hypothesis about one's way of being in the world. To write a description of micro-organisms on a slide is to set forth an account of human experience The humanistic psychologist... accepts this basic subjectivism of all experience as his realm of endeavor.

I mean, very literally, that any statement we make about the world (the "out there") is inevitably, inescapably a statement about our theory of ourselves (the "in here")... . The ultimate subjectivity of all that we call objective is expressed by many writers, from varied backgrounds... . The revival of humanistic psychology means that scientific attention is once again directed toward the primacy of the subjective, (pp. 5-7)

In this quotation, Bugenthal is outlining his vision of the holistic nature of the universe, which is the basic philosophical premise of astrology. Bugenthal further describes what he sees as the primary aim of Humanistic Psychology:

Humanistic psychology has as its ultimate goal the preparation of a complete description of what it means to be alive as a human being. This is, of course, not a goal which is likely ever to be fully attained; yet it is important to recognize the nature of the task. Such a complete description would necessarily include an inventory of man's native endowment; his potentialities of feeling, thought, and action; his growth, evolution, and decline; his interaction with various environing conditions ...; the range and variety of experience possible to him; and his meaningful place in the universe, (p. 7)

Unless he is familiar with the uses and precision of astrology, Bugenthal is doubtless unaware of how close the achievement of this goal is. Using astrology as a psychological tool, all of the points listed in the above quotation can be clarified and systematized in a comprehensive way, while at the same time maintaining the openness and potential for individual growth that is so important to a humanistic psychology. Bugenthal also touches upon the question of predictability:

... humanistic psychology seeks to so describe men and their experiences that they will be better able to predict and control their own experiences (and thus, implicitly, to resist the control of others), (p. 11)

This aim is exactly that of Humanistic Astrology, as set forth by Dane Rudhyar in his voluminous writings. And this predictability does not in any way contradict the premise of man's individual freedom, for the important and fundamental freedom is to choose one's own attitude to a given set of circumstances. As the psychologist Carl Rogers (1967) writes:

It is this inner, subjective, existential freedom which I have observed. It is the burden of being responsible for the self one chooses to be. It is the recognition by the person that he is an emerging process, not a static end product A second point in defining this experience of freedom is that it exists not as a contradiction to the picture of the psychological universe as a sequence of cause and effect, but as a complement to such a universe. Freedom, rightly understood, is a fulfillment, by the person, of the ordered sequence of his life. As Martin Buber put it, "The free man .. . believes in destiny, and believes that it stands in need of him." He moves out voluntarily, freely, responsibly, to play his significant part in a world whose determined events move through him and through his spontaneous choice and will. Again to quote Buber. "He who forgets all that is caused and makes decisions out of the depths ... is a free man, and destiny confronts him as the counterpart of his freedom. It is not his boundary but his fulfillment."

We are speaking then of a freedom, which exists in the subjective person, a freedom in which the individual chooses to fulfill himself by playing a responsible and voluntary part in bringing about the destined events of his world. This experience of freedom is for my clients a most meaningful development, one which assists them in becoming human, in relating to others, in being a person, (p. 52)

One of the few drawbacks of the humanistic approach to psychology today is that it is attempting to maintain an open, comprehensive attitude toward the individual person without the determining limitations of relative and constantly changing categories, which categories, however, are absolutely necessary in order to attain the descriptive accuracy and theoretical certainty aspired to as Humanistic Psychology's ultimate goal. Hence, we find that much of Humanistic Psychology remains only a set of attitudes or a general approach rather than developing into a precise and useful theory of personality and human growth. Many humanistic psychologists are hesitant to adopt any set of standards or procedures for distinguishing different human types because they have seen that such theories in the past have been used merely to support the social ethic of a particular historical period and eventually degenerate into severe encumbrances in a therapeutic situation. Also, many humanistic psychologists nowadays are actively involved in researching the importance of transcendent, mystical, or "trans-personal" experiences. Such research leads them to confront metaphysical questions and realities; and an acquaintance with that level of experience makes it all the more obvious how insufficient older theories of personality have become. Hence, I feel strongly that the only standard of reference and life-context that is universal enough to provide a foundation for modern humanistic psychology is the universe itself, with its unchanging patterns, cycles, and rhythms.

This is the kind of humanistic astrology that Dane Rudhyar has been developing for the past forty years, an astrology which is person-centered, rather than event-centered, an astrology conceived essentially as a language using the cyclic motions of celestial bodies as symbols which convey to human beings a direct and practically-applicable understanding of the basic patterns which structure individual and collective existence. Such an astrology, i.e., one dealing primarily with form and structure of the whole, provides a meaningful foundation for a psychology which deals mostly with the "contents" of personal experience. Within such a broad context, and seen in perspective against such a universal background, the everyday experiences of normal life and the occasional crises which shape new phases of growth are seen as more understandable and inherently more meaningful. As Rudhyar (1971) writes:

The point is to be able to see where everything that happens at any time fits into the total pattern or structure of your existence.

Those who look at life from the existential point of view, seeing all as an absurdity, are destroying the health and vitality of man, as Victor Frankel's experiments have shown. What man needs more than anything else to be healthy is a sense of meaning. Meaningfulness is defined as passing through a number of phases which, related one to the other, become the frame of reference for whatever happens in your life. Showing man the meaningfulness of his life is the most important thing that astrology can do (p. 4)

Astrology is significant because it can demonstrate that life lends itself to a meaningful interpretation, (p. 5)

One reason for astrology's nefarious reputation in scientific and academic circles during the past decades is that most astrology (and almost all popular astrology) was still concerned with the prediction of definite events, rather than with the inner life of the individual person. The most important step that Rudhyar's Humanistic Astrology takes is that it shifts the emphasis from the outer world of events to the inner world of personal experience and growth. Various "predictive" techniques, such as progressions and transits, still have a place in a humanistically oriented astrology; but the significance of what such techniques indicate changes from a deterministic, meaningless act of destiny to a meaningful opportunity to experience and integrate new aspects of one's way of being. In other words, those times indicated as crucial (by the analysis of the cycles most vital to the person's individual pattern of growth) are seen as part of a larger pattern of growth and self-actualization. Hence, even difficult experiences assume a positive, growth-producing personal significance. Rudhyar (1971) explains this new emphasis on the individual person in astrology this way:

If you want astrology to demonstrate its genius, you must focus on that which is unique to astrology, in which it has the capacity to give the fullest value. That is the individual situation.

What you are trying to understand is the meaning of that situation as a whole. The reason the position of the planets is important is simply this: if you realize the universe is an organism in the broadest sense of the term, a system of integrated activities, then anything that happens within that system of integrated activity has a place and function within that system. If you want to understand a particular point in time-space within that system, you have to see it in relation to the whole system. The wholeness of the system is constantly working in polyphonic harmony with the life of the individual which has become separated from the whole by becoming itself, a little whole, a little organism. Each time anything individualizes out from the whole, it remains part of the whole The idea in astrology is to relate all the functional activity of a human being to ten basic symbols, or planets, each planet representing a definite quality of activity. Taken together, they represent a blueprint of a person as a whole, (p. 4)

In his booklet Astrology for New Minds (1969) Rudhyar explains this point:

. . . every individual person is a relatively independent organic whole in which a multitude of forces dynamically interact according to an original and originating pattern which establishes its life-purpose and its basic relation to all other wholes in the universe. This organic whole — the individual person — is essentially no different from the almost infinitely greater and vaster organized Whole, which we call the universe. Indeed the individual person constitutes one particular aspect of the universal Whole, focused at a particular point in space and in terms of the particular need for it at the exact moment of its emergence into independent existence. This is the moment of the first breath because it is then that the individual's basic rhythms of existence are established within a particular environment. (p. 27)

Since, as Rudhyar writes, th¿'substantial elements or basic drives in every organized existential system are the same," and since human beings on Earth are part of the same whole as the planets in our solar system, we have a basis upon which to build a cosmic language appropriate to man's actual way of being and pattern of functioning. In a lecture given at the American Federation of Astrologers Convention (1968), Rudhyar summed up what he considered to be astrology's most important use:

Simply this: to live a more conscious, more understanding life in terms of a more objective realization of the character and relative meaning of the basic factors which structure your existence, and the existence of people around you.. .. it is a way of wisdom.

Today, humanistic psychologists are attempting to create a psychology which emphasizes such positive factors as self-actualization, creativity, attaining higher consciousness, and realizing in an immediate way one's essential self. In astrology, the humanistically oriented psychologist, educator, counselor, or layman may find his most powerful and useful tool; for astrology presents us with a language which precisely describes the unique combination of universal factors operating within each of us.

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The Art Of Astrology

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