At a recent party, my friend and I were discussing astrology — what else? — when a stranger sidled up to us. Our new friend confessed that he didn’t know much about astrology — and wasn’t compelled to — because, as he put it, “Everyone hates my sign.” Since I’ve been on the internet in 2019, I knew this disclosure meant he was either a Scorpio or a Gemini.
It was the latter.
“I don’t hate your sign,” I told him, which is true. I don’t hate any sign (although I occasionally dislike what happens when a sign is poorly expressed through an individual personality). My view of astrology, and there are many, is that the signs and planets are shorthand for universal archetypes. Meaning, they’re inherited psychological structures, or energy patterns that are native to the human experience. (In other words, j’suis Gemini.) These archetypes are part of what pioneer of analytic psychology Carl Jung called the “collective unconscious.” Distinct from the contents of the individual unconscious mind — say, a repressed childhood memory that informs one’s conscious dislike of dogs — the patterns of the collective unconscious are ancestral, timeless, belonging to all of humankind. Mother, child, trickster, shadow. Plato referred to them as Forms, or transcendent first principles. They’re the reason disparate ancient cultures managed to produce the same stable of gods, which differed in name and in cultural context but not in ultimate meaning.
Astrology has also been described by many as the study of — not the science of — cycles. In his book The Lunation Cycle, Dane Rudhyar writes that:
Astrology can be defined as a technique for the study of life-cycles. Its main purpose (is to establish) the existence of regular patterns in the sequence of events constituting man’s inner and outer experience; then, to use the knowledge of these patterns in order to control or give meaning to these experiences…Indeed, the study of cycles — that is, of periodical activities in nature, human and otherwise—is the root of all significant knowledge, be it scientific or philosophical. And the study of cycles is a study of time.