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Revised May 19, 2015

Astrology and the Search for Meaning

Don't Worry, Be Happy
Yep! Ask the average person what they want out of life - and they'll tell you that they'd just like to find a little happiness. At least, I know that's been my personal, private, little fantasy. A little happiness… quite a concept, isn't it? A little happiness…

Heck! If you're an American, then you know that the very Constitution of our Cancerian Sun nation promises to mother and nurture her citizens with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Nevertheless, finding and then living in a continual state of happiness is an illusory (albeit wonderful) fantasy. As a result of attempting to live out this fantasy, we often end up spending large portions of our lives in the attempt of reducing our pain and inducing our pleasure.

Unfortunately, archetypal psychologist, James Hillman, author of the bestselling book, The Soul Code, aptly reminds us that the very last thing our soul seems to be intent on is happiness. Our soul is looking for a sense of wholeness and meaning.

What Do you Think This Is? A Holiday Inn?
Yep! The all too obvious "reality gap" - between hope and experience - remains a hounding, howling opponent to our peaceful fantasies of "a little happiness." The archetypal father sign of Capricorn (in oppositional tension to the nurturing sign of Cancer) serves as a stark reminder of: "Whoever told you that life is fair?"… "You've got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, buddy!"… and "What do you think this is? A Holiday Inn?"

Jungian author, James Hollis, in Swamplands of the Soul:

"An old saying has it that religion is for those who are afraid of going to hell; spirituality is for those who have already been there… The thought, motive, and practice of Jungian psychology is that there is no sunlit meadow, no restful bower of easy sleep.

There are swamplands of the soul where nature, our nature, intends that we live a good part of the journey, and from whence many of the most meaningful moments of our lives will derive.

It is in the swamplands where soul is fashioned and forged, where we encounter, not only, the gravitas of life - but its purpose, its dignity, and its deepest meaning."

At The Core of Life and Meaning
Fortunately, finding "meaning" through our experiences in the "swamplands" does not - by any means - imply that we will or should remain in those swamplands or be left helplessly at the bottom of an abyss of pain.

“That’s the first function of mythology: not merely a reconciliation of consciousness with the preconditions of its own existence, but reconciliation with gratitude, with love, with recognition of the sweetness. Through the bitterness and pain, the primary experience at the core of life is a sweet, wonderful thing.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways To Bliss, page 4

That, too, was Carl G. Jung's fervent belief... that at the core of life one could find purpose and meaning - and that finding purpose and meaning made all things bearable.

"In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order... we are caught and entangled in aimless experience... It is a moment of collapse... Only when all crutches and props are broken, and no cover from the rear offers even the slightest hope of security, does it become possible for us to experience an archetype that up till then had lain hidden... this is the archetype of meaning..." The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious; Carl G. Jung CW 9 Part 1, p. 32

The Task of Wholeness
The ancient Christian philosopher Irenaeus once wrote: "the glory of God is a life fully lived." Irenaeus had been inspired by the familiar New Testament passage from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus of Nazareth had stated: "You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect."

Unfortunately, English translations of this passage - making use of the word "perfect" - are more than a wee bit misleading. The original Greek word used was teleios, meaning "brought to completion." Therefore, the better translation is: "You must therefore be complete just as your heavenly father is complete." Thus, as Irenaeus wrote, "the glory of God is a life fully lived."

In actuality - Jesus, Irenaeus, and then much later CG Jung were all echoing the much older (as early as 1400 BC) admonition "Gnothi se auton" ("know thyself") inscribed on the Oracle of Delphi temple in ancient Greece. "Know thyself." The task involved in "knowing thyself," being "complete," or "wholeness" is that of more consciously (and fully) living out all the potentials - the good, the bad, and the ugly - contained in who you are as an individual.

Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Astrology
Astrology is an ancient tool that, in concert with Jungian depth psychology, can support each of us in purposes of self-discovery, soul growth, and being "brought to completion."

It's common knowledge that when challenged by an especially perplexing case in therapy, the esteemed Swiss psychiatrist CG Jung would arrange to have the patient's birth chart cast in order to gain more insight into the individual.

Astrology's unique "map of the soul" provides each one of us with a symbolic map of our unique inborn potentials and then aids us in clarifying how these potentials will seek to systemically unfold over the course of our lifetime.

In fact, the "living out" of one's birth chart is the psychological goal and/or task of this lifetime... In Jungian psychological terms, this task is called the process of "individuation" or the natural internal movement toward "wholeness."

Psyche
Psyche (from which psych-ology derives its name) is the Greek word for soul. Ironically, much of modern psychology refuses to dirty its hands with notions of "soul" and/or "meaning." The goal of modern psychology is often that of reprogramming and/or medicating maladaptive behaviors, emotions, and/or thoughts.

Behavioral treatments and therapies unquestionably have their rightful, vital, and essential place. However, in the treatment of deep emotional and spiritual soul wounds... one can only hope that the masking and controlling of pain, in order to support a person successfully function in day to day life, is only the first step and not the ultimate goal of emotional health, healing, and well being.

Jungian depth psychology and archetypal astrology provide a much needed alternative perspective based on the premise that the purpose of life is not that of finding the ever-elusive fantasy of "happiness" or even of finding a "happy medium" between pain and pleasure. The purpose of life is that of finding "meaning" and finding "soul."

"I see in retrospect that my parents were a little like Jungian therapists, without the training:

If someone said to Carl Jung, 'Carl, something wonderful has happened,' he’d say, “That’s too bad, but if we stick together may we can get you through this. If the person said, 'Something terrible has happened,' Jung would reply, 'Ah, let’s open a bottle of wine. Something good will come of this.'

That was also the basic message from my mother…

My mother gave me a very simple message. Like Carl Jung, when something disappointing would happen, she would say, 'It was meant to be. God is redirecting you, something good will come of this.'

That may not seem profound, but when you think about it, you realized that nothing can ever go wrong in your life."
Bernie Siegel, A Guide to Life, Love and Health

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