We have another two-parter for you! We are very pleased to present Dr. Glenn Perry’s piece, which reframes thoughts on the shared space between astrology and psychology. We will present the second part of this piece next week. Enjoy!
Calling Down the Heavens
AstroPsychology as Grounded Theory
by Glenn Perry
From the beginning, astrology has been grounded in data that correlates human experience to celestial movements. Once the basic postulates of astrology were established―meanings of signs, planets, houses, and aspects―practitioners were able to deduce probable outcomes from planetary positions. This is the basis for the predictive dimension of astrology, reasoning from the general to the specific. If a particular configuration occurs, we can deduce its meaning (outcome) from time-honored principles of interpretation. In doing so, however, there is a tendency to perpetuate a certain type and level of understanding―that is, to see what we have grown accustomed to seeing, to ask the same old questions and arrive at the same old answers.
For a theory to evolve, there must be a willingness to depart from deductive reasoning that presumes a particular outcome on the basis of established principles. Even when correct, a deductive approach to knowledge tends to perpetuate the very theory that generates its predictions. Conversely, an inductive approach to knowledge is rooted in whatever data can be gleaned from a topic. Rather than predict, the goal is simply to observe, but with new eyes and fresh questions that probe ever deeper into the phenomenon under study. An evolving theory should be open to new data from which a more comprehensive understanding can emerge. This is the essence of grounded theory as a research methodology.
Having Jupiter in Capricorn, I prefer my theoretical formulations about astrology to be as grounded as possible in tangible evidence. While my library has burgeoned to dangerous proportions―threatening to spill out into every room of the house―I must admit my thinking has been more influenced by client work than books. Of course, both are indispensable, but one advantage of working with clients in the slow, painstaking way that psychotherapy allows is that you get to see astrology up close in real time, like a botanist observing the unhurried, almost imperceptible movement of a flower unfolding its petals. After four decades of watching clients struggle, grow, and evolve, my understanding of astrology has changed.
Although I was a professional astrologer before becoming a psychotherapist, it always seemed to me that the two fields had much to offer one another. Both focus on human behavior; yet, astrology provides a language for disclosing connections between inner and outer realms of experience that goes far beyond anything psychology has to offer. At the same time, psychology offers new concepts and a methodological rigor that has broadened, deepened, and sharpened my understanding of astrological symbols. In short, I have tried to look at both fields with new eyes and fresh questions. The ongoing work of synthesis warrants a name, “AstroPsychology”. But what exactly does this mean?
A definition of AstroPsychology should start with a brief history of the term. Although astrology as generally practiced can be traced back to the first century B.C.E., its latest mutation―psychological astrology―occurred at the turn of the 20th century in response to three events. First, positivist science was at its peak and there was little tolerance for archaic systems like astrology that did not fit into the reigning mechanistic paradigm. Traditional, event-oriented astrology had come under increasing legal scrutiny, and astrologers actually risked arrest for making predictions. Focus on personality description was more acceptable, however, and so enabled astrologers to continue practicing with relative impunity.
Second, the theosophical movement that began during the latter half of the 19th century was in full swing and many of its leaders were astrologically literate, including Alice Bailey and Alan Leo. Because Theosophy addressed the spiritual, subjective realm of being—that is, psyche—Buddhist and Hindu ideas concerning karma, reincarnation, and growth of soul were incorporated into astrology.
And third, the new discipline of psychoanalysis was becoming increasingly popular during the opening decades of the 20th century. Given that astrology and psychoanalysis both sought to explain human behavior, astrologers were naturally drawn to the deeper, interior realm of psyche that Freud and his followers were beginning to articulate.
Together, these three factors launched a new kind of astrology that came to be known as psychological astrology. Its most noteworthy exponents were Alan Leo, Charles E. O. Carter, and Marc Edmond Jones. At the beginning of the movement, psychological astrology was little more than superficial descriptions of behavior, albeit in greater detail than typically occurred with traditional astrology. Toward the middle of the century, however, Dane Rudhyar began introducing Jungian and humanistic ideas into the field with an increasing emphasis upon the human capacity for growth and change.
By the 1970’s, the incomparable Richard Idemon began using the term “AstroPsychology” to differentiate his brand of Jungian oriented astrology from other practitioners. In Europe, the Swiss astrologer, Bruno Huber, also adopted the term, but with different meaning. Our work at the Academy of AstroPsychology can be seen as an evolution of Richard’s, though it has little in common with the Huber school.
A New Personality Theory
While most of psychological astrology could be characterized as a mish-mash of humanistic and Jungian ideas, it never developed into a systematic, full blown personality theory. Different authors made noteworthy contributions; yet, no single contribution reached the level of a personality theory in the tradition of a formal, psychological model. According to Hall and Lindzey’s classic tome, Theories of Personality, any adequate theory of personality should accomplish the following minimal objectives:
-It must be comprehensive, or integrative, in that it deals with the total, functioning person.
-It must account for what motivates the human being.
-It must contain a set of empirical definitions concerning the various parts of the personality, thus permitting observation.
-It must consist of a network of assumptions about behavior that are systematically related in accordance with certain rules.
-It must be useful in that it is capable of generating predictions about behavior that are testable and verifiable, thus expanding knowledge.
Again, astrologers have made little if any attempt to meet the foregoing objectives in an explicit, systematic way. Yet anyone familiar with astrology knows that it implicitly meets all these requirements. Astrology is comprehensive in that it is concerned with all the parts and processes that make up the human psyche. The signs of the zodiac symbolize the basic drives that motivate human conduct, and their planetary rulers constitute parts of psychic structure that can be empirically defined, thus permitting observation. Rules of chart interpretation—chart synthesis—represent a network of assumptions about behavior that are systematically related. Finally, astrology is useful in that it is capable of generating predictions that are verifiable, thus promoting research and expanding knowledge.
For these reasons, a primary objective at the Academy of AstroPsychology has been to develop astrology into a comprehensive model of the psyche—an astrological theory of personality, if you will—that explicitly meets all of Hall and Lindzey’s criteria. As a meta-model, AstroPsychology cannot be defined in terms of any particular theory, but rather synthesizes a variety of ideas from different perspectives, including psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, Jungian/archetypal, object relations, humanistic, transpersonal, and general systems theory. It also utilizes information derived from developmental psychology and various spiritual traditions that emphasize the evolution of soul within an overarching, reincarnational framework. Rules for chart synthesis are explicitly formulated that allow for precision of meaning at a psychodynamic level while also allowing that astrological archetypes can manifest outwardly in a variety of ways. Particular stress is placed on the birthchart as symbolizing a developmental process that is expressed and experienced differently over time.
While ancient astrology roughly described how human behavior correlated to planetary positions, these descriptions were limited to surface features of the personality. In contrast, AstroPsychology plumbs the depths of soul and does so in terms that did not even exist prior to the 20th century. Basic needs, psychological functions, affect states, intrapsychic conflict, internal dialogues, unconscious complexes, defense mechanisms, pathogenic beliefs, personality disorders, developmental stages, and the gradual but inexorable movement toward self-actualization are all explained with the framework of AstroPsychology. Students do not need any background in psychology to understand these concepts, for they are seamlessly interwoven with astrology. In sum, this is what distinguishes AstroPsychology from psychological astrology in general: its broad, inclusive structure, emphasis on development, systematic precision, depth of focus, and spiritual import.
Perhaps the single most defining attribute of AstroPsychology is its focus on integrating the birth chart and, thus, supporting the human potential for growth and change. Integration can be defined as the process of developing, differentiating, and coordinating personality components into a functional unity. Emphasis on integration is grounded in research that suggests the very purpose of human life—if not all life—is to evolve into more complex states until individuals recognize their at-one-ment with source. As the philosopher Manly Hall put it, “Man can think of his own life either as the fulfillment of himself, or as the gradual completion of a greater existence of which he is a part and with which he is indissolvably associated.”
 Hall, C., & Lindzey, G. (1978). Theories of personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons
 Hall, M.P. (1954). The essential nature of consciousness. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society
Glenn Perry, Ph.D., is an astrologer and licensed psychotherapist in Connecticut, USA. In addition to private practice, Dr. Perry is director of the Academy of AstroPsychology, an online school that offers certificate and diploma programs in psychological astrology. Glenn has written eight books, including An Introduction to AstroPsychology, and serves as a Board member and qualitative research advisor for ISAR. He lectures internationally on the application of astrology to the fields of counseling and psychotherapy and teaches courses at the Nodoor Academy in Beijing, China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.aaperry.com