Over the last century there has been a gradual reintroduction of this more creative and experiential approach to Astrology, the catalysts for this have been many. The Astrologer Dane Rudyar initiated an alliance with depth psychology, holistic philosophy and esoteric knowledge. The psychologists, Carl Jung and Roberto Assagilio fostered a deeper relationship with the wisdom of the unconscious and the power of symbols, while Jacob’s Moreno’s psychodrama method offers practical ways of bringing the birthchart alive.
While there is a developing interest in the use of a more creative approach, much of modern Astrology remains purely a mental experience. The Astrology teacher or consultant talks, the student or client listens. This approach is a mainly a sedentary process centred on imparting information, which is at odds with what we know about how people learn, succinctly articulated by the famous dictum of Confucius;
Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I will understand
Astrology deserves an environment that mirrors it beauty and depth. To reduce its potentially transformative power to information relayed primarily by the spoken word is to deaden it. The danger is that clients and students come away from classes and consultations unmoved and untouched, mere passive recipients of information.
Experiential astrology insists that we experience the Astrological symbolism directly, as James Hillman says:
An image is bottomless
We need to dive into it
Let it seep into our skin
Experiential astrology asks the astrologer to move from the role of authoritative expert to ‘encouraging guide’ and ‘courageous fellow explorer’. It asks us to acknowledge that we are working with energies that are alive, mysterious and ever changing, and is a way of ensuring that we continue to develop, not limit the possibilities of planetary expression.
The time for this shift was ripe as Pluto made its way through Sagittarius. Pluto is an image of the dark feminine, of belly wisdom and of mystery and as it wove its way through Sagittarius, symbolising the intuitive, holistic and visual side of the brain, we had the potential to deepen our relationship with the Astrological symbols and change the way we use the astrological map. The Plutonic archetype is often left outside the door of the consultation room or Astrology class in favour of a more cerebral approach; we need to invite her back, by paying homage to the power and wisdom of the subjective human experience. This Astrological transit suggests it is time to find a new way to contact and work with the Astrological symbols, an approach that is able to convey the depth and mystery of this body of higher-knowledge in a way that is accessible to the lay- person.
As Barbara Schermer says in her book Astrology Alive “this new Astrology is the emergence of the very old, coming from a time when archetypal energies were readily available and deeply felt.”2
Experiential learning is concerned with valuing and utilizing the student’s subjective experience and encourages active participation as opposed to passive learning. Most models of experiential learning have three basic phases; a concrete experience, a reflective phase and a testing phase where the discoveries are applied to new situations. From these processes come insights and discoveries.
Exploring this elementally we could say: Concrete experiences involving the body and practical application to daily life appeal to our earthy selves; participating and creating suit the fiery self; reflecting and analysing draws on the air element; and processes whereby personal experience is explored belongs to the watery realm.
The chief characteristic of Experiential Astrology is its methods of discovery and learning. Experiential Astrology uses stories, myth, image, artistic expression, astrodrama, guided imagery and music as the mediums it employs. It seeks to bring the birthchart to life by vivifying the astrological symbols and offering students and clients a more direct experience of the planetary energies.
In the next posts I will discuss how various experiential processes can be applied to Astrology.
- Thomas Moore The Planets within Lindisfarne Press 1992 Foreword
- Barbara Schermer Astrology Alive The Crossing Press 1998 Page 4