by Hadley Fitzgerald, MA, MFT
Heartfelt and perplexed concern was writ large on my wise old mentor’s face as he drew me aside in the clinic one morning 20 years ago and told me he wanted to know how someone as “obviously intelligent and grounded” as I was could believe in astrology. I was nearing completion of my graduate work in psychology, and he’d been watching me for a while. My response to his earnest inquiry was – and still would be: “Astrology isn’t something to believe in – it’s something to know about.” I went on to say that I believed my knowledge of astrology was going to make me a better therapist, and that if he really knew about it, he would have to “believe” in it, too.
Eight years prior to that conversation, I hadn’t merely undertaken an intense study of astrology: I’d fallen completely in love with it. And I had done so despite the edict from my Irish Catholic background avowing that my eternal damnation was assured should I decide to dabble with this “instrument of the devil.” Interesting word, “devil.” Spelled backwards it speaks to something we each hope to have done with some measure of integrity and grace by the time we make our transition out of this life.
I discovered that, far from being an instrument of the devil, the astrological symbol system was one of many magnificent tools we’ve been given to show us how, with the exercise of our free will, we might best walk our individual paths with integrity and grace and thus live a deeper, richer, more soul-full life. The mythic and poetic dimensions of astrology brought me much closer to the mythic and poetic dimensions of life and, thus, to what I think of as “God,” than any tenet of religion had ever been able to do.
While I acknowledge that the map is not the territory, for nearly three decades now, much of my view of what’s going on in the world has been derived from my understanding of archetypal energies as they are depicted in astrological symbolism. Worlds away from anything written in the popular press, this astrology is not a science but a language of acausal connections between the soul, the spirit, and the cosmos – a language that offers a rich, profound and, if we will allow it, an ever deepening perspective on the many layers of meaning in our personal and collective lives.
Like so much in our lexicon, the word “astrology” (and, oh, how I wish we had a synonym for it) has become a kind of dustbin term into which people toss reductionistic images of the self-serving oddballs and lunatic fringe soothsayers the media so loves to “consult” for its own amusement. In the midst of all this, there is a great deal of serious work being done in the field. Clients and practitioners alike now approach astrology with a diminished interest in predictions and a growing awareness that this ancient art is bet combined with modern psychological insight to examine one’s capacities and inclinations while also addressing the needs of the heart and the yearnings of the deeper self. Contemporary astrological perspective aligns with that of G.K. Chesterton: “I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act, but I do believe in a fate that falls on men unless they act.”
There is no way to look at a birth horoscope and know whether the person is male or female; tall or short, straight or gay; black, white, yellow, red, or a multi-cultural mix of all of the above. How perfect for a world of post-modern and peri-millennial boundaries du jour. So, when my colleagues and I look at an individual’s chart, we enter into a dialogue with the sacred and profane, the conscious as well as disowned and unacknowledged attributes of that human being: we go in search of the unique power as well as the special music contained within him or her, and we do so in service to the highest good of that soul and our own. It is a sacred trust, and not a day goes by without my knowing how blessed and privileged I am to be a guardian of it.