The Horoscope, the Baby and the Bathwater

by Philip Levine, M.A.


There are countless reasons for living; the stronger the reason, the stronger the life. The reason we have for living is no less significant than all material necessities such as food, shelter, and even air. Our lives depend on the depth, resilience and inner strength of our core belief about why life is worth pursuing. Though life is known for its own persistent continuity, everything in the Universe has its limit. If an anti-life mood grips us from whatever source and grows to the point where its strength exceeds that of our reason for living, life ends. How aware are we typically of the condition or even content of this precious necessity–our reason for living?

The more our individual reason is aligned with life’s purposes, the more we are filled with the strength of Life itself. And here life deserves a capital "L"–Life. Our purpose is to fulfill our dharma, our reason for being–two ways of saying the same thing. Fulfilling our dharma means fully individualizing in order to carry out our unique role within the greater whole. We are largely unconscious of our identity or function. Fundamental to our capacity to consciously realize our essential or authentic identity is an acceptance of the mysterious foundation of our individual and our collective nature. We suffer presently from our lack of appreciation for the mysterious in life.

Deep within each of us resides a drive instilled by evolutionary nature itself, rediscovered and renamed by Jung in our times as the necessity to individuate. What better reason for living than to find out who we really are? What could be of more importance to our well-being and that of our planet than to realize our true nature? The teaching of all ages has been to seek to discover or remember who each of us truly is.

The Horoscope (The "Baby")

Remember who you are. Right now. Drop all thoughts. Just breathe. Remember when you were born. Life dispensing another seed into the field of humanity. A time of grace, a miracle. In that moment, somehow, with no concepts, no words, no discrete segments of awareness, we know most fully who we really are. But our knowing has no objectivity, it is purely subjective because there is as yet no real separation between who we are and Life. With each increasingly objective layer of experience, we are likely to become more disconnected from this awareness of who we are.

So anything that directs our attention to the remembering of who we are serves the process of reconnecting us to the Life that brought us forth for its own purposes. Just as DNA research and microbiology in general are seeking the ultimate physical particle of Life, we must also seek our mental-spiritual core connection with our source.

And nothing that humanity has devised to this end is devoted more completely to just that seeking than the horoscope, the mathematically calculated chart of the positions of the heavenly bodies at the moment of birth. How long the horoscope has been with us! Whether in or out of favor, it has been humanity’s constant companion as far back as we remember. In quite a few civilizations (that’s civilizations, not states, cities, eras), the horoscope has received the ultimate trust from the people as the supreme guide to ensure the collective survival. Civilizations have differed in their approach to the horoscope both technically and interpretatively, but there has been agreement on its importance.

The Bath Water

Astrology has passed through a dark and obscure period since the Renaissance. The age of enlightenment could not bear the dark shadow of irrationality in any form. And astrology is irrational, one of its gifts. Use of the horoscope had degraded to fortune-telling and superstition. Even one of the most astrologically knowledgeable individuals of that time, Marcilio Ficino (note 1), attacked the astrology of his era (note 2). Reasons given for the significance of the horoscope foundered on scientific discoveries about the natural universe, as did religion. The "baby," the horoscope, was tossed out with the "bath water," the fantastic magical and superstitious foundations for belief in the horoscope.

We live in a collective that has not only continued to throw the baby out with the bath water, but to barricade the gates against any possibility of its return. An "academic apartheid" perpetuates the oppression of irrational (i.e., not governed by the rules of logic) subjects. This cultivates a sense of shame in those interested in the horoscope, the more so to the degree that conformity to collective norms matters. If there is any truth to the horoscope being a visual map leading us to remember who we are–any truth at all–then we should make every effort to set aside our prejudices and socially conditioned reactions. This allows us to proceed to examine in depth the hypothetical possibility that by studying our unique star-map we can find our true Self.

An even more formidable obstacle to open-minded exploration of the horoscope is the language of its defenders. Astrological language, in its books and in its practice, continues to largely offend the sense of individuality. If social taboos put off the conformist, the trivial and fatalistic tone of most astrologers, even many of the "enlightened" ones, is sure to discourage the more independent thinker. "You will be...", "this is how you are...", "having this in the chart makes you..."–these are the words and this is the tone in which the deep and mysterious message of the horoscope is obscured.

Most people don’t like to hear that the authority and locus of control for their life are determined for them in superficial ways by a circular chart they neither understand nor can influence (note 3). Why can the majority of astrologers not hear themselves or reflect on what keeps this outmoded attitude of language intact? Why do astrologers themselves continue to foster the perception that astrology is about prediction? Prediction implies control; mystery gives up control. Mystery opens up the chart in a way that draws fantasy forth from its observer. And this fantasy can be very revealing: "I wonder if...", "maybe...", "could this mean...".

The Practice

In the past few decades, particularly since the 1960’s, astrology has ascended in popularity and interest, though not in respect. Astrologers have a major share of the responsibility for both of these trends. It is quite possible that the main reason for this lack of respect is not the fault of the astrologers, but simply an indication that the horoscope needs a contemporary approach, one that has yet to evolve as a practice.

Any practice grows from its roots in the past. For a period, it is fed by these roots. But at some point, the energy being distributed by the practice needs to shift, to evolve. Then the past and its roots become resistant and the energy is withdrawn from the present form of practice. Perhaps this has been just such a period for the practice of astrology.

The general trend for the last 30 years, since Uranus and Pluto were conjunct in Virgo in the 1960’s, has been toward self-empowerment ("Question Authority"). Pluto can represent the underworld, that which is hidden beneath our surface world. Coinciding with the birth of atomic power, depth psychology (through Jung, though with earlier roots), and the rise of the totalitarian dictatorships, the discovery of Pluto in 1930 proclaims the beginning of our collective encounter with what powers us.

We drop down a level closer to our rawness, "down" into what has come to be called the "unconscious." Pluto symbolizes raw energies–violence, compulsion, obsession, control, renewing (restoring life)–the release of power from the atom, from the unconscious complex made conscious, or the collective madness of Fascism, Stalinism, or Nazism, which released great energy in human beings for the commission of the Holocaust, or the many inhuman atrocities of World War II culminating in Nagasaki.

Astrological Uranus, better-named Prometheus (note 4), is the hero who steals the fire of the gods to better humanity’s lot. In an individualistic act of rebellion, the collective is served. So Prometheus is the collective urge to free itself from the past and its limitations, necessarily appearing in an individualistic style because individualism is the only contrast to collectivity. In 1781 when Uranus was discovered great changes were under way in our collective evolution, delivered by the American and French Revolutions, the Age of Enlightenment, and the inventions that gave life to the Industrial Revolution.

The emphasis since that time has been on the individual, particularly in the cultures which spawned these movements: the rights of the individual, the happiness and satisfaction of the individual, and the greater freedom of mobility for the individual, both geographically by cars, trains and planes, and socially by being free to pursue a variety of career opportunities. Particularly by contrasting this with life in the 1700’s and earlier it is easy to see the sudden rise of the "individual" since the discovery of Uranus.

One of the great revolutions birthed in the 60’s was the computer. Since the Uranus (Prometheus)-Pluto conjunction of the 60’s, computers have leaped from rare room-filling number crunchers owned by universities and corporations to home appliances. With the arrival of the personal computer (PC or Mac) the individual is on the verge of harvesting an immense number of rights and freedoms (though not guaranteed). The Internet gives access to information that was previously only for the computer elite (the universities, government and corporations). The pc and its software can empower the individual to do many tasks that previously either were drudgery or required expert help.

This trend toward self-empowerment that was signaled by the Uranus (Prometheus)-Pluto conjunction of the 60’s was also demonstrated on a steady but unpredictable basis by the anti-war and pro-peace "demonstrations" that were vehicles for the forced acceptance of a new idea. That new idea was that individuals have the right to dissent in actuality and not just in theory. The "generation gap" was really a novel emergence of a generation that knew that its highest commitment was to follow an inner path of truth rather than conventional needs for the sake of the collective.

The truth is that astrology as a practice has lagged behind the evolution forced upon other practitioners, particularly in the field of medicine. The power of medical knowledge has been flowing into the hands of the individual and the patient has more rights and more authority. Authority is more appropriately shared now. But astrological practitioners have kept all the authority for themselves.

The typical client comes to the astrologer and the horoscope with vague wonder or specific questions. The astrologer peers at the horoscope and tells the client what the astrologer thinks the client should know about the horoscope. That was the practice of medicine in the old days, before patients started wanting all the information so they could participate in their medical decisions. The doctor examined, the doctor diagnosed, and the doctor prescribed.

If the energy, the sacred energy of the horoscope and its magical capacity to reveal the true nature of the Self to each person, wants a new form of practice, then let us quickly move on from this outdated authoritarian tradition. Let astrologers, the ones whom others turn to for discernment of emerging trends, have the humility to see that this time it has been many others (notably such "conservative" populations as computer scientists and physicians) who are showing us the way.

Liberating the Horoscope

The time has come when every individual should have their own horoscope, to look at and to study, to see for themselves what it reveals instead of relying solely on an authority figure for interpretation. What a spur to the empowerment of the individual, to see one’s unique individuality portrayed so poetically and in countless layers that unfold new self-revelations as one penetrates them. The true role of the astrologer is now the astrological empowerment of the individual by giving them their chart, giving them the tools to begin to grasp it and the encouragement and support to use those tools.

The time for astrological interpretation from others is not past. But the client should be coming to the astrologer for another opinion, for a difference of viewpoint or a new slant on the horoscope that supplements their own. The client should leave a consultation with greater capacity to understand their own horoscope.

Let us leave the arguments about the validity of astrology to those who enjoy them. The only way to see what astrology can do is to see what astrology can do. Every astrological practitioner already knows the joys, mystery and wonder of studying one’s horoscope. It is that joy and wonder that needs to be passed to others, not just "information." The horoscope has power. If it is what it claims to be, it has the power to prove itself to anyone open to considering it.

Some believe the horoscope should be accepted as a tool of insight in the practice of psychotherapy. Perhaps it can, but this vision is still too narrow and still promotes an authoritarian astrology. There should be no shame anymore in finding one’s horoscope of interest. Everyone is interested in finding out more about who they really are. Not to do so is like discovering one is an orphan and having no interest in seeking the identities of one’s biological parents. Studying one’s horoscope does not have to mean one is superstitious, an "occultist," a "mystic," or any other derogatory label. It simply means one is using any means possible to seek for one’s true identity, one’s authentic Self, and with that, one’s reason for being alive.

Anyone seeking Self-knowledge, knowledge of the Self, to know and remember who one really is, if that really matters, has only to start studying their horoscope. This seeking is a hunger that lies at the heart of most of the millions of people who seek some kind of mysterious and strange connection with their daily horoscope in the newspaper. They yearn for the uncanny feeling of elation when a horoscope "hits," when it strikes one as accurate. This feeling and this hunger are motivated by the sacred desire to know who one is.

Can we scrape away the layers of lacquer, rust and decay that obscure this magical circle? Can we rediscover with fresh eyes this key to the Self beneath the accumulation of prejudice, authority, tradition, and superstition? If you are on the path of Self-discovery and you have not looked into your own horoscope, then it may be time to ask yourself why.


  1. Moore, Thomas. The Planets Within. Lindisfarne Press, 1990. (return to text)
  2. Cornelius, Geoffrey. The Moment of Astrology. Penguin Books, 1994. (return to text)
  3. Greene, Liz. The Astrology of Fate. Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1984. (return to text)
  4. Tarnas, Richard. Prometheus: The Awakener. Spring Publications, 1995. (return to text)

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1995 Philip Levine