by Hadley Fitzgerald, MA, MFT
By redefining the ways in which our society looks at what ails people on every level, the euphemism “managed care” has appropriated our reverence for the vast and mysterious ways the soul of each human being goes about its business. Hadley Fitzgerald, astrologer and psychotherapist, suggests that people are in need of something far more dimensional than the flip side of “mental illness.” A wise, careful, compassionate weaving of astrology and psychology can provide practitioner and client with a unique, evocative way of addressing and restoring the balance between earthly development and the concerns of the soul.
The stuff of life comes out of stars, every single atom, every single carbon atom, oxygen atom, and hydrogen atom. Your body elements were in a star probably more than four-and-a-half thousand million years ago. They were actually synthesized from hydrogen and helium in a star that length of time ago. If anybody tells you anything different, they’re mad.1
~ Sir Harry Kroto, Professor of Chemistry, Florida State University
What DNA is to the physical body, the archetypal world is to the psychic body. It simply shapes configurations in the psyche that we’re born with.2
~ Marion Woodman, The Crown of Age
All things are full of signs, and it is a wise man who can learn about one thing from another.3
Astrology came into me—not just into my life—one night while I was standing in the kitchen of a stranger. She uttered one declarative sentence, and the cosmos downloaded my life purpose on the spot. The original career plans and rigorous educational preparation into which I’d just poured heart, soul, and years vanished in a trice.
Psychology’s arrival was more oblique. Somewhere in the early days of my astrological work, I saw something in a client’s chart and asked a question that caused us to give one another a “Where did that come from?” look. She burst into tears and I froze, wondering what to do next. I’d stepped into a world beyond the world of our consultation and knew I was not qualified to move around in it, ethically or otherwise. As this began to happen more and more frequently, I would refer out to therapists I’d heard about, hoping the client got appropriate attention for whatever we had discovered. Then one day, alone in my office, I suddenly knewastrology would become an integral part of the psychology of the future—like the entwining strands of a double helix for the soul—so I decided to return to graduate school to figure out how to weave the two together.
However, as Joseph Campbell points out in his schematic for the Hero’s Journey, whenever we answer the call that draws us into a new dimension of our lives, we encounter a shadow presence guarding the passageway. We are tested—initiated—in some way.
In the earliest weeks of my astrological studies a teacher peered over my shoulder, literally clutched her chest and gasped as she asked about the quite rudimentary chart wheel I’d just drawn in my notebook. “Is that your chart?” “Yes,” I said, easily imagining I’d miscalculated something. She proceeded to point out all the troubles to which I was obviously heir in this life, and had I a slightly lower quotient of ego strength, I might have been reduced to psychic pulp on the spot. Instead, a voice in my head said: “Do not ever do this to anyone.” I smiled at the woman and quipped that, even though my life had not exactly been a cakewalk thus far, I was still ambulatory. I heard a disappointed “tsk-tsk” as she ambled away. She had seen something, but it wasn’t me.
Midway through my first year in graduate school some eight years later, as part of the mandatory course in psychological testing, we took each of the tests we were studying. During that time I was also earning a large chunk of my tuition by working as executive assistant to Dr. Clinton Phillips, the founder and director of the school. He knew I was an astrologer, but we never discussed what that meant to either of us. He liked me, I felt fortunate to work for him, and quite soon after he hired me, I realized I had also found my mentor in the psychological field.
One morning immediately upon my arrival at work he summoned me to his office. He looked like he had been visited by a spectre as he handed me a large manila envelope already open. Above his address in bold red ink were the underlined words “Refer for psychiatric treatment!” I wondered what we had on our hands. “Help me understand,” he said. Inside was a profile generated from one of the more well-known “personality” tests that everyone had taken during the course. I scanned the graph, the numbers, the pale-lettered summary and category breakdowns searching for a clue to Dr. Phillips’ distress; then I saw my name at the top of the first page. What I’d seen was not favorable, and he started asking some concerned questions about me and my life. I replied frankly to his queries, and as the minutes ticked away our mutual bafflement increased.
Then, as I looked down again at the first page of the report, I suddenly saw “Age 33, Male.” “Great,” I said, “on top of everything else they’ve made me a guy.” Dr. Phillips leaned over to see for himself, and his expression noticeably relaxed—as if the mystery had been all but solved. “Ah,” he said, “We’ll need to run this through again with you as female.” When I asked what possible difference that could make, he urged me to fret no more and get on with the day’s work. When the results came back the second time there were no “red alerts,” and my profile was within acceptable parameters.
Though I had this experience 30 years ago, I still consider it a “God shot”—i.e., a grace intended to alert me to something else altogether. That still-commonly-used test which I took in the late 1970s had, at that time, last been standardized on a population in the 1950s. So, my honest answers to the multitude of questions made me an acceptable, stable human if I were a 1950s female; but had I been male I would’ve “needed” psychiatric intervention. The test measured something, but it wasn’t me.
These two seemingly minor episodes nearly a decade apart initiated me as an astrologer and ultimately as a psychotherapist into a different perspective from thence forward. As an astrologer, I’ve seen again and again how the patterns of meaning offered up in astrological symbolism are infinitely richer than many of astrology’s proponents, let alone opponents, still seem willing to allow. Astrology becomes narrowed when the chart is used to render a static description of personality—however “accurate”—rather than to provide the thread that anchors passage into the psyche’s labyrinth. As I’ve garnered experience in the psychological field, I’ve seen some of the best minds and most caring hearts put forth insightful interpretations of the human condition, yet, at the same time, circumscribe it.
In Anatomy of the Psyche Edward Edinger noted: “The process of psychotherapy, when it goes at all deep, sets into motion profound and mysterious happenings. It is very easy for both patient and therapist to lose their way. This is why narrow and inadequate theories of the psyche are clung to so desperately—at least they provide some sense of orientation.”4 In both fields—and particularly for those of us wearing both hats—we are ultimately vulnerable to speaking from a perch, as it were—i.e., to providing, as Hans Strupp wryly put it, “a supply of interpretations [that] far exceeds the demand.”5
Awareness of the power to label people and potentially proscribe their lives with such interpretations, let alone do so erroneously, is sobering. My experience of both astrology’s and psychology’s capacity for such proscription—and such error—whether at the hands of a practitioner or an established system, comes as no news to any of us practicing in either field. But in this time of managed-care-driven, cut and paste therapy and myriad astrological models that still lend themselves to the language of causality—both of which are operating in a manic zeitgeist scornful of soulfulness and depth—I hope we can continue to clarify and refine what we mean when we reference psychological astrology lest it become just another division of either field and thereby dilute its own deepest alchemical potential. In other words, when we say we practice psychological astrology, are we: referring to—and treating in terms of—a cosmic version of the DSM-IV? Seeking to restore something to the field of psychology itself? Or ultimately crafting a practice that transcends both?
Most of us are familiar with the Greek roots of the words “psychology” and astrology”: yuch [psyche], astron [astron], and logos [logos], but these, too, get shorthanded, so I’ll revisit them here. Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon6 tells us that yuch can be defined as “soul, heart, spirit; breath as a sign of life; things dear to life; the mind, as in understanding.” For astron we find “star; colloquially, the stars” (which can include the planets); “the heavens”—and in still more ancient Greek “a flame, light, fire.” That same dictionary gives nearly half a page to definitions of logos, among them: “the word, or that by which the inward thought is expressed; that which is said or spoken; language; talk, speech, discourse, report; thought, reason; tale, account, narrative.” Factor in the designation psychotherapy—too often used interchangeably with psychology—and there’s a noteworthy nuance. The Greek noun qerapeia [therapeia] and verb qerapeuw [therapevo] can be defined as “waiting on, tending to, fostering, nurture, care; to do service to the gods, to attend to, to heal, to cure.” Psychotherapy: attending to, nurturing the soul—and therefore listening, deeply, to what it has to say.
So, then, at the heart—the root—of psychology we’re dealing in soul-language or soul-talk, the soul’s account of itself. But just as science has been divorced from the spirit of a more profound knowing, it’s not a big stretch to say that psychology has become divorced from soul, becoming in its modern form largely ego-centered in both its language and its goals. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that since we know a healthy ego navigates the world more effectively than one full of fear and self-loathing. Still, as writer Michael Ventura observes, in the long run “the soul doesn’t give a damn what the ego wants”7—a deeper river runs through us.
In ancient Greek we find yuch was the word for butterfly as well as for soul. 8 The journey “from caterpillarness to butterflyness,”9 as Ram Dass called the soul’s journey through a lifetime, is also an exquisite metaphor for the process clinicians seek to refine in the alembic of the therapeutic relationship. Integrated skillfully into that process, astrology, the narrative of the heavens, can provide the light, the necessary fire, to alchemize deeper levels of understanding as to the nature and purpose of the transformative journey. The resultant soul helix enables us to consider DNA from another angle—as our Divine Natal Agenda.
I often cite the Greek writer and spiritual seeker Nikos Kazantzakis for his wise and challenging perspective on our human existence. I don’t know that he had any knowledge of astrology, but his concept of the purpose of a lifetime could easily contribute to an astrological manifesto. He imagined every human soul as a one-of-a-kind, unrepeatable piece of the whole spirit of God. He wanted each of us to think of ourselves as solely responsible for the salvation of the world, in the sense that, when one of us dies, what our unique being could do for humanity, is lost to the world forever. He urged us to take on the sacred task of plunging far enough into our own souls to find and free what he called “the endangered spirit of God”10 inside ourselves—i.e., to contemplate and become ever more conscious of our purpose, our life path, in the world—lest whatever contributions we came here to make remain undeveloped, and the world be the poorer for that.
In its best and most artful form, the practice of psychology and of psychotherapy would contradict little, if anything, in Kazantzakis’s postulate. When entwined with astrology in its best and ever-evolving form, the consequent double helix provides the profound and necessary cross-links to help us address the predicament James Hillman describes in The Soul’s Code: “The soul of each of us is given a unique daimon before we are born, and it has selected an image or pattern that we live on earth. This soul-companion, the daimon, guides us here: in the process of arrival, however, we forget all that took place and believe we come empty into this world. The daimon remembers what is in your image and belongs to your pattern, and therefore your daimon is the carrier of your destiny…That innate image can’t be found, however, until we have a psychological theory that grants primary psychological reality to the call of fate.”11
The psychologist has a model—or an amalgam of models—she or he uses: to explore the client’s current family history and presenting problems; to assess the degree of dissonance between the conscious and unconscious minds, the outer and inner selves; to determine emotional and behavioral manifestations of that dissonance; and to help establish goals for change that will facilitate the client leading whatever she or he comes to believe would be a more congruent life.
The astrologer has a schematic of the Cosmic Name, the thumbprint, the daimon, the mysterious place, the true voice in us that aches to answer if only someone would genuinely ask: “Who are you? What are you here to do? What complexities have you brought with you? How can I help you?” and then listen down through the layers rather than laying a template over them—if only someone would, as Neruda said, “sit on the rim of the well of darkness and fish for fallen light with patience.”13
When we consider [root: “with the stars”] the potential for a new, evocative, and intricate communion between the two disciplines and stay ever mindful of their shadow dimensions—what Richard Idemon termed “the subtle seduction of the power trip”12—we have an entirely different vantage point from which to support the client’s soulful differentiation from consensus reality. Right there in the chart wheel, the cosmic contract, is an evolutionary trajectory, an evolving and unrepeatable intention; everything in that wheel is sitting across from us incarnated in human form.
Our sacred task, replete with humility lessons, involves: helping the client forge a collaborative relationship between the visible and the invisible; bringing elements of grace and meaning to the puzzle and perturbations of this human’s destiny; compassionately confronting the psychological blocks that stand in the way of both earthly progress and spiritual evolution; and, one pilgrim to another, extending a hand across Time with reverence for the miracle of it all.
- Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel prize-winning Professor of Chemistry, Florida State University, in conversation with Diane Roberts on Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR, 12/10/06.
- Marion Woodman, The Crown of Age: The Rewards of Conscious Aging. CO: Sounds True, 2004, Disc 2.
- Plotinus, Enneads, bk. II, iii, 7. Stephen MacKenna, trans. Burdett, NY: Larsen Publications, 1992.
- Edinger, E. F. Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy. LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, 1985, p. 1.
- Cited in “An Interview With Hanna Levenson, PhD: Time Limited Dynamic Psychotherapy, Countertransference, Self-disclosure and More,” by Randall C. Wyatt, PhD and Victor Yalom, PhD.http://www.psychotherapy.net/products/interviews/detail.php?id=296
- Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, 7th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, ψuxη, p. 903; αστρον, p. 126; λογος, pp. 476-7; θεραπεια, θεραπευω, p. 362.
- Ventura said this in a reading he gave at Book Soup in Hollywood in the early 1990s, and it struck me so profoundly I’ve never forgotten it.
- Λεξιλγιον της Αρχαιας Ελληνικης Γλωσσης, Εκδοσεις Νικοδημυς [publisher], p. 130. (The dictionary is very old and has no date of publication; it was given to me by a Greek woman I met in Corinth in 1986.)
- Ram Dass said this in a talk I attended in 1978 in New York City at a theatre on 14th Street—again, the image has stayed with me.
- Friar, K. The Spiritual Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis. Minneapolis, MN: The North Central Publishing Company, 1979, pp. 24-5.
- Hillman, J. The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. NY: Random House, 1996, p. 8, p.5.
- Private conversation, Los Angeles, 1974.
- Neruda, P. “If Each Day Falls,” from The Sea and the Bells. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2002.
Hadley Fitzgerald, MA, MFT, has been an astrologer for 40+ years and a licensed psychotherapist for 30+ of those. She authored the Psychological Astrology section of Under One Sky by Rafael Nasser, ed. by Jodie Forrest. The question: “What does your soul–your daimon–want of you, want with you?” is at the heart of her training and her work. Hadley has degrees from UCLA and Phillips Graduate Institute and has a private therapeutic and astrological consulting practice in Sherman Oaks, California, near Los Angeles. She can be reached at 818-783-3891 or www.HadleyFitzgerald.com.
This article was first published in the Winter 2007 edition of Geocosmic Journal, a publication of The National Council for Geocosmic Research.
Copyright 2007 Hadley Fitzgerald