Returning to Basics

The Underpinnings of the Practice of Shamanic Astrology

~ By Beau Taylor

Lately I’ve been going ‘back to basics’, turning my attention to the writings of some of the early pioneers in humanistic astrology in order to more deeply inform my personal astrological foundation.

As a clinical therapist, my roots are in both depth psychology and systems theory. I view human beings and the context within which we live as an interconnected, interpenetrating system of wholes. Nothing is separate.

The survival and optimal functioning of one organism is dependent upon and interrelated with the experience and outcome all other organisms in our known universe. As one human being, I contribute to this cosmic dance: I have an impact but I can never ‘stand apart’ from the dance to be fully objective about it, nor can I responsibly claim to be an expert source of  knowledge about how it works or how it will unfold. I am part of it: a whole within the Whole.

How does this knowing interface with the study and practice of astrology? What I find, as I continually revisit my assumptions and tendencies, is that there is no firm place to rest in how to hold all of this together. How can I ‘know what I’m doing’ in working with natal charts and at the same time, not stand apart as some kind of expert that sees another and their life circumstances with more objectivity or ‘insider knowledge’ than they appear to have access to? To create this illusion is a power trip (and an ego trip) and it is both misleading and potentially harmful to another.

Astrology is often misunderstood and even purported by some to be a ‘predictive science’. My own exploration of this terrain thus far has been one of gently teasing apart many twisting threads. Meaning, I can feel my Saturnian urge to want to find definitions and explanations that will wrap around each other sufficiently enough to ‘hold water’, knowledge that I can solidify into a core of understanding that will permit me feel more secure in what I have to offer to others.

Thankfully, this attempt will not gel! While I continue to endeavour to learn more, I realize at the same time that at best I am setting myself up to be nudged, or pointed – again and again – toward a path and a process that is unnameable, unexplainable, and ultimately unfathomable.

I’m finding that what seems to be most helpful to me is to regularly connect myself with sources that evoke and ignite this kind of ‘pointing to’, or way-showing. As I read or listen to these wise and penetrating resources I find myself being ever reshaped. The very container out of which I am living, breathing, thinking, and feeling is altered. As best as I can describe it, the place within that I am operating from is being continuously sculpted and re-sculpted.

This place is permeable, intuitive, curious, empathic, responsive, receptive, and constantly listening. When I am intentionally in this place as I tune in with another individual in the context of Shamanic Astrology, I am allowing myself to be continuously shaped and reshaped in each unfolding moment of our exchange. Wholes within wholes, together we are at the effect of Great Mystery and this particular time and place in the path of humankind. Whatever happens, happens. I prepare as best as I’m able for a session, then show up fully, with responsibility and humility, from ‘that place’ which is never static.

Some ideas to point the Way

What follows are a few quoted excerpts from the beginning of Dane Rudhyar’s The Practice of Astrology, published back in 1968. May they be helpful in shaping and reshaping you, whether you are giving or receiving within the realm of Shamanic Astrology!

  • Astrology does not attempt to tell in a scientific manner how things happen, either in the sky or in human beings…it does not describe phenomena or events; nor does it seek to grasp the chain of causes and effects in any of the matters it touches. Astrology…has no concern whatsoever with whether a conjunction of planets causes some things to happen to a person or a nation; it only indicates the possibility or probability of a certain type of events occurring in a certain place at a certain time.
  • Astrology is a study of an observable parallelism between the timing of events in the universe and in the individual consciousness. It is a study of time-pieces; for every planet, and the Sun and Moon, are in astrology time-pieces which enable us to find the state of development in time (the point of maturity) of the various organic activities and functions within all living organisms.
  • The basic purpose of astrology is to bring order to the apparent chaos of man’s* experience, and thus help the individual or the group to achieve a greater degree of integration, health and sanity. It is to build a more conscious approach to human life and a deeper understanding of the structural characteristics and of the cyclic behaviour of all organisms. Thus its importance; for it is man’s prerogative and spiritual obligation to tread the “conscious Way”.
  • However, astrology offers no shortcut to integration, because the integration of any organic whole is a gradual process depending, on one hand, upon the very intensity of the feeling of “order”, and of the realization of “center”, in the many parts of this whole – and on the other hand, upon the readiness of the spiritual Principle linked with this organism-in-the-making to dynamize and illumine the organism’s effort toward complete and harmonic organization. Moreover, every factor which is to be seen in an astrological chart can contribute either to personal integration or to disintegration. What the birth-chart does is to present in a special manner the data which the psychologist and the physician use in their therapies.
  • The manner of this presentation, however, throws an entirely new light upon the component parts, functions, drives and potentialities of the individual personality. By the use of this new light, a person who understands well its value and the way of handling it is able to become more fully objective to himself. He is able to chart the course of his organic development, to plot the curve of his life-powers, and to see himself reduced to essentials. Underneath the confusion of his everyday experience, he comes to discern a pattern or order. All his conflicting tendencies reveal themselves as complementary components of his integral personality. He sees himself whole, in structure and function.
  • What he sees, however, is not a graphic image or portrait. He sees only a symbol. The birth-chart is only a symbol: the “name” of the total person. But by learning to spell this “name”, the individual may find – if he be wise! – how best to strive, in his own way, toward actual and everyday-demonstrated integration. The astrologer-psychologist can only point the way to him. The individual alone can utter the “name”, symbol of integral selfhood. He utters it only by living significantly and fully what he is, within the larger framework of society and humanity.
  • No astrological meaning or judgment is ever fully expressed which does not take in consideration the whole human being. To say that two planets will be conjunct at a certain time is astronomical. To add that the life of a man born at a certain time and place will experience a crisis, the date of which can be ascertained – is an astrological statement. In this statement the starting point is “the life of a man”. Any prediction which does not take this whole entity “the life of a man” as a foundation or frame of reference is at best incomplete. It is, in most cases, misleading; in some cases, actually destructive. It has value only as it is shown in its relation to the whole individual person, and to what it contributes to this person’s development, at one level or another.
  • Dane Rudhyar in 1947

    Astrology does not predict “events” but only phases in a person’s development. Every individual person develops along lines which are first of all “generic” – that is, which results from the simple fact that he is a human being, member of the genus, homo sapiens, at a particular time of mankind’s evolution. These lines of development determine the general pattern of the life-span of every man. Likewise every man has basic bio-psychological characteristics which determine his generic structure. On this theme, human nature, races and individuals produce variations of many kinds. A man is first human, then white-skinned, then American, then a Californian of English-French ancestry, then a Methodist, a Democrat, etc. – and lastly he is an individual born at a certain time and on a particular spot.

  • Free will is the measure of a man’s capacity to be and act as an individual. Fate is the measure of his dependence upon collective and generic standards as determining structures.
  • Astrology deals first with human nature in a generic sense; as it does so, it can be fairly certain that the known order of normal phases of human development will be approximately experienced by the client in as much as he is a human being; and this gives the astrologer a basis of prediction. Yet no astrologer should stop there. He should seek to define and understand the “individual equation” in his client – which means, the way the client does, and can be expected to react to the basic turning points of his life as an individual. This can only be done by considering the birth-chart and its time-development as a whole. The individual is the whole-man, the integral person. And no one can determine in advance the actions and reactions of an integral person who has become truly individualized; for such a person has become free, within the limits of his generic structures. Astrology can define the limits, but it can only suggest the freedom. Every moment of the life of an individual is a composite of both these factors.
  • Astrology is threshold knowledge. He who is able to use such a knowledge possesses the authority of the as-yet-incomprehensible. And this authority imposes upon the astrologer a heavy personal responsibility, whether or not he admits it, whether or not he cares to act accordingly…All knowledge engenders responsibility for him who shares or else who refuses to share it for fear of responsibility! But the imparting of “threshold knowledge”, with its potent symbols and mysterious entities of forces, produces far more responsibility, for he who receives the knowledge must accept it on authority and on faith – as a young child is taught by his parents.
  • The astrologer who casts a chart and attempts to solve the problems of his client is using power, power born of the knowledge of the structural pattern of nature as it unfolds through cyclic time. What he does is to relate the client’s individual being to his evolving structure of nature – human and universal nature; and relationship always releases power, the power to build or the power to destroy.
  • The astrologer who walks the path of wisdom assesses very highly his responsibility to his client, and is willing to meet it to the best of his ability and his opportunity.

Notes from this writer: This is not to say that all of Dane Rudhyar’s material is synonymous with Shamanic Astrology. If you have any questions or comments about the above content, or other writings by Rudhyar, and how they compare with the tenets of Shamanic Astrology please send them to us at SAMS and we’ll be glad to ask the Founders to respond. 

*Rudhyar was a creature of his time; in the 1960’s his writing employed the standard use of man/men/mankind to represent all living human beings. In the early 1970’s, shortly after this book was published, his writing shifted to reflect equality of the genders in his use of binary pronouns. Which, if he were a creature of today’s culture, would invite an even further shift into non-binary pronouns.

If you are looking to find and purchase some of the earlier (out of print) writings of Rudhyar, try AbeBooks online. I’ve found them to be a good and inexpensive source for used copies in reasonable shape.

Beau (Barbara) Taylor is a Shamanic Astrologer and Member of the SAMS Executive Council

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