The Intentional Map

Ramana Maharshi

“(Some people think that the) movements of planets in the heavens cannot influence the lives of men on earth. It would be rather a crude definition of astrology which said that they could; the real interpretation is more vast and more profound: that the entire universe is one tremendous harmony, that the same forces are at work in the macrocosm and the microcosm, the cosmos and the individual, that the tendencies in a man and the events in his life flow to the same rhythm as the planetary movements in the skies; that, although the intricacy of the arrangement would make a mathematician’s mind reel, no individual can be born except at the moment when the position of the heavens is such as to mirror his nature and destiny. It is a typical misunderstanding which led some people in camp to argue that a man’s character is not formed by the positions of the stars at his birth but by heredity. Actually, it is never said that the positions of the stars form a man’s character but that they indicate it; and heredity is one of the influences which they indicate. It often happens that several members of a family are born at about the same time of day or have birthdays at about the same date, and both of these are varieties of family likeness which would show in a horoscope, though, of course, by no means the only ones. “

-From My Life and Quest by Arthur Osborne

In my previous post I addressed the problem of meaning. In a necessarily brief but I hope important way, I suggested that the issue of meaning and purpose is critical to both the individual and to the collective if we wish to co-create a more harmonious world. I then posited that astrology is one the great gifts of symbolism that allows us to participate within a Cosmos that has presence, or meaning in and of itself and for us. In the quote above, Arthur Osborne, the great follower and interpreter of the teachings of the sage Ramana Maharshi, describes what I see as the essence of the role of Evolutionary Astrology. That is that it presents a method for interpreting the symbolism of the perfect cosmic accord between the mathematics of the movements of the planets at the precise moment in space and time of the birth of an individual consciousness and how that symbolic map of the sky is in resonance with the karma of the individual coming into being.

In some circles Astrology is ridiculed as the example par excellence of the naivety of the human being. In an otherwise excellent series of books (Madness Explained and Doctoring the Mind are the most accessible) by clinical psychologist Richard P Bentall, there are several references to Astrology as an example of the nature of delusional thinking, as if that is just a given! Yet here I’m discussing how it might possess a key to the secrets of one’s soul evolution – obviously a serious division in perspective! Now Bentall is a very clever and humane psychologist who raises a number of salient points about how we are trying to medicate ourselves out of a black hole on a vast collective scale. He also suggests actually listening to the lived experience of those struggling to cope in a major way (with reality or themselves) and even at one point doffs his cap to the idea of mindfulness meditation. However those points occur within an essentially agnostic stance metaphysically. Whereas Osborne and I operate from a more spiritually orientated approach to life, even if we do not claim to have full realization of what that implies.

There are those who conduct astrological studies and practice it in their lives and careers who do not have an intentionally spiritual orientation to life but I do not know how such people conceptually validate how Astrology works. Perhaps they do not bother and in a healthy act of pragmatism they have just realized that against all rational and statistical odds it just works, and that is that. Fair enough I say. However, Evolutionary Astrology makes claims to levels of understanding that some Astrologers do not. And that gets E. A. into some trouble. Some people have even aggressively attacked E. A. and its proponents because they see themselves as righteous crusaders against the so-called ‘false’ claims made by Evolutionary Astrology for its capacity to engage people on the level of the Soul its evolution over millennia through manifesting different identities. Again fair enough. If you believe that people are offering false teachings within an area of study that you consider important, then you are by all means entitled to raise that issue to the world. The question of aggression towards people and not ideas in that quest is an addition that this author finds unfortunate. The most important question here really though boils down to who is right?

In a classic manoeuvre of psychotherapists the world over I will say that both arguments are corrent. For within the frame of reference, the world-view that each are coming from is that everyone is trying to do their best. So we return once more to the problem of meaning that I began to address in my previous post. The question always circles back to what is the nature of reality?

When, as a sixteen year old, Ramana Maharshi was struck so hard by an insight that he fell to the ground and lay in the dirt for days (he would have starved to death if he had not been found by friends and disciples and taken into care), he manifested an intense response to some kind of experience that even as he began to recover saw him not actually speak for many years. What happened to Ramana Maharshi? Again this becomes the subject of our enquiry into the potential of meaning in the universe and then a question of individual integrity. To Ramana’s followers, he had an enlightenment experience in which he understood the non-dual nature of reality and ceased to exist as a personality in the conventional sense. To accept this version one has to believe two things – that enlightenment is even possible for a human being, and that Ramana Maharshi is an honest human being who actually did undergo this experience.

To the eyes of a psychiatrist say, living far from India and its culture of support for those who have chosen the path of spiritual liberation, it would be easy to categorise the experience of this youth’s experience as the early onset of psychosis. Whereas a medical doctor might look at something like temporal lobe epilepsy as the body-mind explanation for this occurrence. A psychologist may reason that in the fevered atmosphere of the culture and his personal search for enlightenment this young man had some kind of experience of reality that his ego failed to assimilate and as such he had a breakdown.

How will we ever determine the “real” meaning of such an event ? As Dr David Hawkins wrote in Truth Vs. Falsehood, mankind has no purely rational method for determining clearly between truth and falsehood and this is a source of untold suffering. An example would be the trend within the western intelligentsia of the last century to celebrate communism as a vehicle for a return to a more humane path for civilisation, while at the same time wilfully turning a blind eye to the reality of communism’s dark history in Stalin’s and Mao’s brutal regimes. Even the most brilliant are conditioned by what Hawkins calls their ‘positions’ – seemingly rationalised points of view that are actually merely ego positions or arbitrary fantasies of how things might be. Such ideals are juxtaposed fiercly against the actual reality of life, which in the above example was experienced as the suffering and deaths of millions of people (in Stalin’s Gulags or the Gang of Four’s agricultural policies responsible for the deaths of tens of millions in just a few short years). Yet to posit an actual reality out there (or in here) is already within the terms of the post-modern dilemma to present oneself as some kind of idealist! Even if one says that such a world exists, thinkers like Kant then stress how you can never know it in itself.

If I were to suggest that the karma of this young Maharshi ripened over lifetimes of his love for God and by his searching for the heart of reality, and suddenly culminated in a spontaneous moment of Grace – with his full enlightenment whilst still barely out of childhood – I would risk derision in most of the present cultural milieu. Yet this is exactly what I believe. I am not a follower of Ramana Maharshi in any overt sense, yet I look into his eyes and something inside me resonates with the knowledge that he knows (gnosis) and that he emanates love and light.

My 9th house Pluto in Virgo (29 degrees) rules my Scorpio mid-heaven, so part of my job both in terms of the personal evolution of my Soul (Pluto) and more simply because I am a teacher of Evolutionary Astrology (ruling M.C.) is to explain myself clearly, although the level from which I am basing this insight is wholly intuitive and is essentially beyond the powers of the mind to grasp (Pluto in the 9th house as intuition, the 3rd house polarity point as the need to explain and acknowledge that there are many paths to knowledge). This internal experience of mine is something of a genuine dilemma, and certainly an issue that was experienced when I was sixteen (and living at the peak of the Thatcher-Reagan cold war years) as a sense of alienation so intense that I had to seriously wrestle with why I would want to be alive at all.
We can see from these two teenagers (Maharshi and I) that one through his prior karma was in an advanced spiritual state even as a youth and that the other was undergoing a crisis of individuation. You cannot see that karma from the chart – that can only be intuited or understood through the reality of the individual whose chart one is studying. That is a critical point that many of the detractors of this method have failed to grasp. It is only when that reality is understood in the context of the person’s life that the symbolic form of the chart can be read as a map of what that Soul has undergone in the past and what they intend for their evolution from the present into the future.

Another thing I have found as a practicing Evolutionary Astrologer is that the level of meaning present in the Pluto placement and the nodes of the Moon –  information pertaining to the nature of the Soul’s desire/purpose and the kind of prior life selves it manifested in order to explore and respond to that desire/purpose – opens most clearly to me when I am invited by the person into the dynamic of the reading. I can of course read information to some degree even on a casual level, and through the charts of historical personages one can intuit much of their evolutionary concerns and explore their birth chart meaningfully if one is focused on them and their work. However the greatest moments of insight into the path of the Soul in the natal chart occurs for me when a person who has real concerns about their evolutionary journey requests my assistance. Then my intuition tends to open to the meaning inherent in the chart more than at any other time. It is as if this powerful and multidimensional map of the Soul, a pattern that one could never exhaust the possibilities of even in multiple readings, opens up to greater clarity and pertinence in response to the intention of the person who is asking for help and also in the therapists intention to serve the highest good of that person to the best of his/her abilities.

Such intention seems to be key to unveiling the intuitive dimensions of the chart. Such dimensions may be likened to the chart existing in three dimensions instead of two. In fact the intuitive is more like the fourth dimension, because the fluid nature of time is opened up just as much as space. Just as the stars in the night sky are actually shining hundreds or thousands of years ago, as the light takes so long to traverse the vast distances of space (some may have already burnt out as we still enjoy their shining), so too does the natal chart have a dimension that holds the reflected light of actions, emotions, thoughts and deep impulses from the Soul from, as it were, distant ages. These can still ‘shine’ for us now. That is possible. It does not mean it always happens, or that it always needs to happen.
Evolutionary Astrology is not obsessed with the past for its own sake, or some curious cosmic nostalgia. As Astrologers and Counselors we ought to be interested in the past to the extent that the past is still consciously and, crucially, unconsciously dominating the current life of the person who has come to us for guidance and help. In this way we are open to why things happen the way they do for a person and in entering their process on this level we have the capability of offering them an increased chance for empowered choice in their current life. This is the importance of the ‘problem of meaning’ as I have called it, and this is the focus of the intentional map, the natal chart, the symbolic treasure chest that holds our karmic inheritance and evolutionary potential. And the key to that chest lies in part in the intention of the consciousness that tries to open it.

The Buddhists have a saying: if you cannot do good then do no harm. This is a good maxim for natal chart readings. For in the event that the methods of Evolutionary Astrology (or indeed any other form of Astrology that is based on the capacity of the individual to mature and grow) fail to open great insight then let us trust that. Moments like this are natural – perhaps the window of opportunity was not right or that deeper level of information was simply not needed in that particular moment. There is no need for us to make anything up. In the present moment of a reading, our humanity, compassion and dedication to the higher Self of the being before us who is looking for answers or assistance is enough.

If however such methods, alongside compassionate intention do open a doorway to the deeper unconscious or to the prior life dynamics that have held this person back numerous times, then let us have the courage of our convictions and celebrate the power of the intentional map to show new vistas of potential for the individual. Afterwards they themselves then have the chance to digest the material – either accepting it or rejecting it. And if it resonates, they may more completely understand the nature of their past and the underlying concerns that were involved in why the past played out the way that it did. In one very real way anyone who practices Astrology from this foundation is an Evolutionary Astrologer in the making.

In further posts and writing I will make the case for a lineage of Astrology, in the west through the theosophist Dane Rudhyar and the work of Jeffrey Green, and through the Eastern spiritual vision of Astrology of Sri Yukteswar (which I will link to the ‘perennial philosophy’ or hermetic teachings through the ages), and for a particular approach that I have found to offer a most efficient method for accessing the key to this wonderful map of the birth chart which can unlock the deeper human potential accessible in principle by all of us.