Astro Journal

The Myth of Astrology

Myths reveal the meaning of deep structures in the human mind. In this extract from his book Culture, Crisis and Creativity, Dane Rudhyar explores how we can find a more meaningful place for ourselves in the cosmos using astrology:

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“As I have conceived and presented it astrology should be considered a powerful myth, perhaps one of the most powerful New Age myths. Indeed the very concept of a New Age, the Aquarian Age, has an astrological basis. It is a myth because it is, at least potentially, a consistent, well-organized and all-inclusive answer to personal human needs, collective as well as individual. These needs today must be met. A sense of organic wholeness and significant relatedness must be re-established in minds deprived of the support of now repudiated classical frames of reference and deeply confused by a multitude of possible alternatives, while these minds search for transcendence and hope for rebirth in a new social and cultural world that would be attuned to the superpersonal rhythms of the cosmos.

The keyword here is attuned. The most dynamic and restless members of today’s youth, and many of their elders, poignantly feel “out of tune.” Their entire society appears to them a discordant magma of wrong notes. By shrieking their out-of-tuneness louder than anyone else, they dare an essentially inert middle class, drugged by the gloss of suburban comfort and slick materialism, to face the horrendous possibility that their agitated and empty living is actually a magnified medieval “dance of death.” In the past, the mythical violinist-leader of the dance was a skeleton; now, as more and more people begin to believe, it is the Pentagon and CIA, and their counterparts in other nations, that play the nuclear tune, while big business beats the drum.

This apocalyptic vision seems increasingly to take on the massive character of reality. The jungles of the biosphere, where small tribes of men once eked out a difficult death-haunted existence, have become equally dangerous megalopolis of cement and asphalt scarring the once beautiful earth. Death or rape may still wait at the corner; neurosis is as endemic as malaria in tropical swamps. Primitive man looked to the starry sky and studied the movements of the Moon and the Sun because there, in the “Above,” they could see the magic of order at work. The sky was indeed magical, a revelation of transcendent divine harmony to which man and his society could attune their cultural endeavors as well as their agriculture, because man essentially belonged to that Above. Was it not his task and responsibility to make of the earthly “Below” a reflected image of the celestial Order? So indeed thought the old Chinese philosophers and emperors, and the Hindu seers, raising their consciousness to a point not only of response but of identification with the Above.

Astrology then was the supreme Myth of Order and Being. Primitive men needed that celestial answer to their earth-bound insecurity, their fears of the unknown, their yearning to commune with whatever they visualized as anticipations of a future godlike state of humanness. We need just as poignantly today an answer to our modern insecurity, our fears of personal disintegration under the pressures of city-life, of business passion for power, and of the menace of nuclear war or ecological disaster. Where can we find such an answer? Only a new myth can provide it for us, a myth relating our seemingly incoherent and tragically out-of-tune social and psychological movements to an all-encompassing and universally acceptable frame of reference whose vastness can absorb conflicts and redeem them into harmony.

How could such a “redemption” be possible? It can be possible only if the collective consciousness of Western people realizes the crucial need for a change of frame of reference. As Count Keyserling (the great German philosopher and culture-interpreter) once said: No basic conflict can be solved; it can only be transcended. By reaching a position in consciousness above the opposites, we may realize that both polarities are valid; both have something essential to contribute; both are essential participants in the counterpoint of life, not to be rejected but to be understood and, through understanding, harmonized.

The myth of the sky should give form to the as yet mostly inchoate and insecure feelings that, essentially, harmony prevails in the universe, once that universe is perceived and understood in its totality. We are blind to it because our perceptions are only partial and biased by emotional reactions, and particularly by our fears. Yet everything is related to everything else in a polyphony of interdependent and interpenetrating activities. If we lose this sense of relatedness — which is also love — everything falls apart within us, and our world collapses into meaninglessness. We must regain that sense of relatedness. We may achieve this through astrology, but it is not the only way.

Astrology can be, and has been at least tentatively, reformulated as a myth that could inspire and, here and there, has already inspired distraught human individuals to see within the magic mirror of their birth-charts the revelation of their truth-of-being, their dharma. If truly understood as a power of transpersonal revelation of order within — a mandala of archetypal selfhood and destiny — it is not a religion. It does not “bind back” to an external source to be worshipped. Yet it can reveal the outline of the process of growth gradually evolving on the foundation of the persistent and never-silent AUM-tone of individual selfhood, sustaining all that we are and can potentially become. It is guidance, not subjection; companionship with our greater celestial Self, not worship of an absolute Other, called God.

In my recent book The Sun is also a Star (Dutton and Co., N. Y. 1975) I spoke of “the Galactic Dimension of Astrology.” We are in the Galaxy. We have not to go elsewhere to reach our galactic form or fulfill our galactic destiny. Galactic space pervades and illumines every cell of our body, every circuit of our thinking brain. If we are willing and ready to abandon our subjection to the dictates of an autocratic Sun, ruling over our personalities with the compulsive power of biological drives and psychic emotions; if we are willing to surrender our dependence upon the ego-Sun and see ourselves as one small star in the immense choir of galactic centers of radiant light, then our voice may rise above the apparent discords of interplanetary relationships, symbols of our social and personal limitations. Our life may then become a mythopoetic expression of trust in the harmony of the universe and of “that” out of which universes are born, then die and are reborn. In this realization our problems may fade into peace. We may learn who we are, where we stand, and how best we can fulfill our role in the cosmos.

This is evidently not what, for most people, astrology means today, or has meant in Western cultures since Athens, Alexandria, Rome, and classical Europe. But it is what it can mean to individuals who take seriously — and intelligently attempt to formulate by their actions — the real, yet so rarely understood significance and purpose of our recently emerging counterculture.”

Culture, Crisis and Creativity by Dane Rudhyar (1977), courtesy of Mind Fire. Read the whole book here

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