Op-Ed: A Reflection on Disability in Astrology

I recently wrote an article for The Ascendant vol. 2, which is the journal for the Association for Young Astrologers.  It is now featured on their blog, and you can read the full piece by clicking here, or on the text below.

Even if astrology isn’t really your thing, I hope you will appreciate it from a social justice perspective, as I tried to start a new conversation in this area.

As a psychotherapist, I want to see disability destigmatized, to be recognized as a unique and valuable perspective in society, and for awareness to grow around the language that is used to describe it. As an astrologer, I want to see disability humanized and conceptualized as a multivalent archetype, not merely existing on a list of potential sour transits.

Using Tarot & Symbolic Imagery for Personal Growth

 

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Slow Holler Tarot

Aspiration, struggle, disappointment and triumph; fantastical beasts; figures of grace, authority, and wisdom.  These were the ingredients of many stories that held magic for me as a child and beyond.  Since I first encountered the tarot, I have been fascinated by the rich imagery that seems to point to something more.  When I began to study and use it, I thought that the wisdom was contained in the cards and their symbols, and that by memorizing and communicating their meanings (as interpreted by those with more experience than I) was the best way for them to be used.  I see it a bit differently now.

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Rider-Waite Tarot

I have started using them as a personal (nearly) daily practice, and offer them to my clients as a way to connect more deeply with themselves.  Here I’ll describe how images, and especially tarot, can be useful when approached in a contemplative manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing a Deck

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Next World Tarot

Tarot decks are specifically good for contemplation because they are designed to be evocative of the breadth and depth of human experience.  In other words, they are meant to be archetypal.  There are other non-tarot card decks that serve this purpose, and may offer variations on classic archetypes.  There is a plethora of decks available (there is even a Lisa Frank tarot now), so how do you pick one?  Decks range from cutesy to arcane and inscrutable.  Some modern decks attempt to be more culturally diverse and include images with queer, POC, and/or disability perspectives.

 

 

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Shadowscapes Tarot

I think the most important factor is finding a deck that calls to you.  Look for one with pictures that draw you in, sparking your imagination or evoking feelings of intrigue, beauty, and wonder.  Some decks have more intense imagery, and if you are a highly sensitive person, this may become heavy or tiring.  Pay attention to the feelings and sensations that come as you examine the cards.  I used to think a good deck should have a range of very “light” to very “dark” cards, but now I encourage using decks on the lighter side for people who want more optimism in their lives; so long as they inspire you to think, feel, and imagine.

 

 

 

 

Using the Cards

You don’t have to do elaborate spreads to get a lot of meaning.  A great way to start is to simply draw a card from your deck once a day.  You can look at whatever booklet or online descriptions may go with the card later, but first spend time to opening yourself to the card and taking it in with your senses.  This is what will make your reading of the card special and unique to you.  The image was carefully designed, and every detail meant to be translated.  Here are some things you may consider:

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Shadowscapes Tarot
  • What is happening in the image?
  • How does the card make you feel?  What emotions, thoughts, or somatic sensations do you notice?
  • What does the color palette and composition tell you?
  • Do parts of the image correspond to parts of you; any parts you would like to have more or less investment in?
  • Can you imagine yourself in the image?  Would be one of the characters, or would you interact with them?  What would you say or ask?  What might be their reply?
  • How does this information apply to your life right now?

 

Benefits from Contemplation

The most obvious and immediate result of using cards in this way is that it helps familiarize us with different aspects of ourselves, perhaps in ways we hadn’t considered before.  Can you see yourself in The Fool as well as The Emperor?  We have the potential for all within us, given the right circumstances.  The more we tell ourselves I am good and Others are bad, the more rigid and inflexible we become.

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Shadowscapes Tarot

Similarly, it’s easy to get attached to “good” and “bad” cards.  It’s normal to want to draw a good card for the day and take that as an auspicious omen.  When we draw a card we don’t like, we may not want to take it in, or think it may foreshadow bad luck or disappointment.  But if we are paying attention, we see the part we play in creating joy, peace, and unpleasantness in our lives, and what we look for around us.  We will also see that it is all temporary, that bad things follow the good, and the bad also passes to make room for something else.  We can approach life with more equanimity.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoth Tarot

Over time, the images will become a shorthand for our different parts of our psyche or states of being.  If we are drawing randomly, some cards will come more often than others, and other patterns emerge.  Maybe you draw more of the water element in general, but more fire during certain periods.  The patterns you find are actually reflections of you, your unconscious reverberating and echoing through and off of the symbols, in a way your conscious mind can apprehend.  Like astrology, it becomes a practice of reciprocal reflection—the symbols mirror you, and you mirror them in your reply—and the work becomes recognizing synchronicity, interpreting it, and deciding how to respond.

 

 

 

 

Of course these are common benefits of any sustained contemplative practice, and they are easier said than done.  The tarot is simply one way to focus our attention and observe the archetypes in action.  If you have any questions or interest in using tarot, astrology, or any other method of self-reflection in a therapeutic way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Slow Holler Tarot

Wonder Woman Therapists: A Conversation with Kris Jacobsen

As fans of superheroes and archetypes, my friend and colleague Kris Jacobsen and I decided to sit down and have a chat about the new Wonder Woman movie.  She was good enough to take notes and put it on her blog.  We had fun just brainstorming about what we liked, what could have been better, and of course throwing in a little astrology.  We hope you enjoy it too.  Here’s a taste:

Mike: …Part of what makes her special is the way her story transcends that typical good vs evil duality; us vs them, good vs evil, where evil = other. If Wonder Woman has a main enemy then it’s violent conflict itself. I think she really is fighting for peace. 

Kris: To me it feels so pertinent for our times….on so many levels. Exposing this dualistic and over simplified point of view in gender, race, morality, politics…. I mean, that “us vs them” story has gotten a lot of play in the media lately with politics becoming so divisive.

Mike: I think last year was Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary… this movie is SO long overdue.

Read the whole of the transcript right here!

Adventures in Internalized Prejudice

My first article for Psyched Magazine!  It is a personal piece that I hope interests and resonates with others.

A few months ago, I went to a signing and Q&A at my local comic book store.  As soon as I entered the store I saw him, but I pretended that I didn’t.

He sat in a power wheelchair, and was talking with friends who stood around him.  Maybe he had cerebral palsy?  I felt uncomfortable knowing the store would have to think about making accommodations in their seating arrangement.  Who knows what other special needs he may have?

Read the full article here!

Me Before Who?: A Breakdown of the Latest Popular Disability Yarn, “Me Before You”

This post was inspired by a radio interview I gave on June 16, 2016 with Matt Savinar; you can listen to it here.

 

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When I first saw the book “Me Before You” at the bookstore, with Emilia Clarke (Lou) and Sam Claflin (Will) on the cover, my first thought was, Oh, a story with a disabled romantic lead. That’s intriguing.  Being a wheelchair user myself, I am always interested (and indeed, impacted) by the way disabled characters are portrayed.  My next thought was of all the ways Hollywood and popular media tend to tell the stories of disabled people and characters: generally objectifying, nonsexual, and used as a plot device to tell a tale of dehumanizing tragedy or super-human inspiration (sometimes both; much had been said and written about “inspiration porn”).  Not to mention the fact that these stories are almost never written or acted by disabled people.  (Speaking of actors, can I say the stakes were raised for me a bit when I saw Daenerys Targaryen, Tywin Lannister, Finnick Odair, Clara Oswald, and Neville Longbottom in the same movie?)  Given this very narrow representation, I was curious but skeptical about what this story (and especially its film adaptation) had to offer.  I soon caught wind of criticism and protest through social media, and found that besides the usual stereotypes I expected, there was an even more harmful and insidious message underlying the film.

One of the main arguments that author Jojo Moyes has made, in response to criticism, is that this is meant to be one example of one person’s story and decision, not representing a whole community or population.¹  But a story does not exist in a vacuum.  Disabled folks are underrepresented in popular media; that means that when there is representation, it has much more of an impact than you might otherwise expect.  And once you realize that the vast majority of the few disability narratives out there emphasize tragic elements and outcomes, you should see why people might have a problem with yet another being brought forth.

The problems start from the ground up.  Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay, was inspired by a news story she read of a young athlete who became paralyzed and decided to go to a clinic that performed assisted suicide.  Rather than speaking directly with any disabled people for her research, she instead found what she needed on internet forums and Youtube videos of folks who have shared parts of their daily lives on the internet.  Her most direct contact with disability was from extended family members with chronic illnesses.  When considering herself in such a situation as her character, Will Traynor, she imagines herself feeling like a burden and embittered.²  Obviously not a very positive or well-rounded position to tell a story from the point of view of a disabled person.

But that’s not what Moyes wanted to do anyway.  The book, which has launched an otherwise mediocre career, is written from everyone’s perspective but Will’s.  She says she “wanted his intentions to be one of the central tensions of the book.” ³  Undoubtedly she saw this as a clever twist to the common heteronormative romantic trope of the brooding unavailable male, lending a less common dimension of mystery.  The problem with this is that disabled people exist as a mystery enough as it is.  Here the mystery is bolstered by a process of exotification, medicalization, emphasis on fragility, and ultimately alienation from the other characters as well as the audience (basically all the usual assumptions and responses regarding disability).  There is a great deal of discussion about Will and his predicament, but not a lot of discussion with him; his sullen attitude is a convenient excuse to give him less of a voice.  Will’s nurse becomes the voice of authority on Will’s body, rather than Will himself.

And caring for Will’s body is a thankless job.  In this story, it is the last one anyone would consider, even though it doesn’t require any experience or skills.  Lou is treated terribly, and the only reason she stays is for the exorbitant compensation.  In fact it’s rather explicit that Lou’s role as a social companion is the most important of her duties: she is hired by Will’s mother to “cheer him up.”  Lou is naturally a giving type, and this goes into full effect when she learns of Will’s intention to end his life.  This where I think the relationship becomes a bit pathological.  Lou makes it her mission to “save” Will.  First she does this as a friend, and soon she increases her efforts by allowing romantic elements into the process.  She falls in love with the idea of being Will’s savior, and giving him a reason to live.  It was clear to me that when he denies her this, her failure to save him broke her heart more than losing the person she loved.  Her final plea for him to change his mind is, “I can make you happy.”  As if that ever could have been her responsibility.

I want to add that I don’t think attendant relationships need to always be strictly professional—I have witnessed much love and affection grow between attendants and their employers.  But when that happens, it comes from a sense of mutual respect.  And I believe this is the real reason Will and Lou’s relationship fails; she does not respect him enough to be responsible for his own happiness, and he does not respect her enough to choose who should be her own partner/companion.

Of course, the reason why Will can’t let Lou choose him is wrapped up in his own beliefs about disability, as well as masculinity.  Disability and emasculation are almost inextricable in this story.  Will’s father says that he needs to “feel like a man again,” in reference to Will and Lou’s “dates.”  Will himself sees their excursions as illusory, that they are pretending to be a couple enjoying themselves, putting on these roles until they inevitably return to his depressing reality.  Will tries to invest what it means to him to “be a man” in Lou (perhaps another reason why he ultimately rejects her as a romantic partner) by getting her to be more like how he saw himself, but cannot accept or complete this vicariousness as long as he is alive.  It’s his unwillingness to search beyond society’s narrow definitions of ability, masculinity, and productivity that saps his sense of worth as a human; to me, that is the true tragedy in this tale.

Similarly, sex is also referred to in a rather juvenile way.  Lou’s boyfriend first assumes there must be no way for Will to have sex—and when Lou responds that it could work if the woman were to be on top, the boyfriend insinuates that Lou herself would never enjoy this (Lou doesn’t deny it, and we are left to wonder).  It’s as if the writer had heard of another position besides missionary, but couldn’t quite imagine it being as effective or enjoyable.  Later, as Will explains why Lou would continue the pattern of limiting herself by being with him, he laments his inability to sexually ravage her (“the things I would do to you…” he muses woefully).  This is the most glaring example of this narrative being steeped in heteronormative ideals: the missionary position is the only way to have sex, penetrative or otherwise, and anything else is not worth imagining.  Again, the writer failed in her research, because let me tell you, disabled people can and do have great sex in ways that would make you blush if you could imagine them.

And what of the movie’s tagline, Live boldly. Live Well. Just Live. and hashtag #liveboldly?  #dieboldly would be just as appropriate if they were referring to Will—but it doesn’t really have a meaning in relation to him.  It becomes clear by the end of the movie that Will is not really the protagonist of this story at all: this is Lou’s story.  This is the story of Lou finding her place in life through Will’s death.  And as distasteful as the idea is of Will sacrificing his life for Lou’s (as I believe the title “Me Before You” is meant to be taken), it became much worse when I realized that Lou, the actual protagonist, is the “Me” in the title.  The tragedy is hers to overcome, not Will’s.  The underlying message is that the life of “Me,” the beautiful, “normal,” able-bodied person that the majority of the audience identifies with, is more important than “You,” the other, the depressed, maladjusted, burden on family and society.

And why can’t Will see a place for himself in the world?  Why can he only see his circumstance as an unacceptable misfortune?  I found myself frustrated and asking these questions of him (as if the film was evoking that ableist meme, The only disability in life is a bad attitude, as it simultaneously showed there is only one attitude to take).  Perhaps the answer is that when we look for stories about disability, we find ones like this.  If Ms. Moyes truly cared for the population she chose to represent, she might have tried telling a story that lifts us up, rather than using disability as a plot device to depict another tiresome disability tragedy.

 

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Astrological Insights (Extra Credit)

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(Premiere time is approximate)

Let’s take a look at how this film embodies the archetypes of the times.

This film premieres during the Uranus-Pluto square (active between 2007-2020, 10° orb), a time of social (and sexual) uncovering and revolution.  Disability justice has come more into the foreground of public discussion in the past few years, more often addressing sexuality, and this movie provides more grist for the mill with its popularity and ensuing criticism and protest.

Also occurring on the premiere date is the Sun-Venus conjunction completing a Grand Cross by forming up with the ongoing Jupiter-Neptune-Saturn T-square—a lot of tension between the archetypes involved.  Saturn and Neptune combinations often have a tragic disillusionment about them, inviting dilemmas of ideals and reality; Jupiter lends optimism, exuberance, and celebration, not sweating the details; Sun and Venus add a pleasing exterior, a focus on relationships, and identification with relating and compromising.  These elements come through very clearly in the content and creation of this film: the tragedy of ending a life not worth living (Saturn-Neptune); discovering the value of a relationship through its demise (Venus-Saturn); giving hope and meaning to loved ones left behind, celebrating martyrdom, and eliciting feelings of inspiration (Venus-Jupiter-Neptune); not realizing the negative impact this story could have on others (Venus-Jupiter); wrapped in the guise of a romantic comedy, serving the egos of the creators (Sun-Venus).

Also of note is Mars retrograde opposite the Moon and Mercury.  Mars is the planet of action, passion, and conflict. The retrograde period offers a disruption in its expression, offering reevaluation and recalibration.  Disability is a great Mars retrograde theme, because it causes us to consider they way we do the things we otherwise take for granted.  Mars is also present in the way that the romance and references to sex do not go the usual route, nor flow with any sort of ease or satisfaction.  This hindrance can be attributed to Moon/Mercury: the ideas and communication surrounding nurturance and dependence.

References:
¹https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/06/03/me-before-you-has-a-disabled-main-character-but-activists-are-angry-heres-why/
²https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/it-s-an-impossible-conundrum-jojo-moyes-on-the-right-to-die-1.2657691
³http://www.penguin.com/read/book-clubs/me-before-you/9780143109464

Astrology and Psychotherapy, Part 2: Individual Acceptance and Growth

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“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 

In Part 1 of this article we explored the fundamental mechanics of astrology, and implications for global healing. Now we will see how astrology may be used individually, for self-reflection, healing, and growth.

Archetypes comprise the language of the psyche. They are the language of the unconscious mind, dreams, and the collective unconscious. Therefore, astrology speaks directly to a deep part of us, and the only translation that needs to occur is for the benefit of the conscious, rational mind; in other words, making sense of the symbols. The necessity of interpretation, far from implying a false or meaningless system, allows for individualization of meaning. The paradoxical nature of the archetypes requires it; all profound truths operate this way. This also encourages movement from objective, concrete, either/or thinking toward a greater capacity for subjective, abstract, ambivalent (or multivalent) conceptualization. The uncertainties of life become less anxiety-provoking, because certainty becomes both more elusive and less necessary.

Most theories of psychology acknowledge that the psyche is not a monolithic entity, that it is comprised of different parts. There have been many names for them, from Freud’s id, ego, and superego, to Humanistic-Existential Psychology’s subpersonalities, or simply parts, to neurobiology’s model of the triune brain. Whatever the model, each part seems to have different needs and motives—and they often don’t agree. The ego problematically tries to compromise and synthesize to provide a coherent and unified façade (what we generally consider to be our self or identity), but upon inspection, it is merely another piece of the larger whole that has its own agenda. Astrology gives another systematic definition for the basic composition of the psyche. Each planet reflecting a part of us, our Selves reflected in the cosmos. Mars, our passion, our desire to get ahead, the way we proceed and/or push away; Saturn, the voice of caution, maturity, and practicality; the Sun, our ego that wants to illuminate, to be recognized, and create. The birthchart shows our starting point, our baseline, our soul in broad strokes. As we come to see these symbols as parts of ourselves, and work out how we individually embody them, we come to know ourselves. And, as with all true understanding, this awareness leads to compassion. Compassion for a soul that could exist no other way, yet has great freedom and potential.

One of the main functions of depth psychotherapy is to make the unconscious more conscious. The more we become aware of the myriad parts and processes that exist within us, the less we are at odds with ourselves. Since each planetary principle has light and shadow manifestations, we can recognize the shadow and choose a lighter path, within the same archetype—another choice still syntonic with our nature. We may initially set a course from shadow to light, from undue suffering to self-esteem, creativity, and empathy; but we also recognize how connected light and dark are, and that our happiness comes not from avoiding and rejecting the shadow. Our true power and purpose comes from accepting the parts we deemed unacceptable and understanding their roles and potentials with equanimity.

Astrology also expands our awareness beyond ourselves. We see ourselves reflected in the cosmos. The rhythms of our lives are plotted out within the inexorable movement of nature. Transience is a constant, we do not need to worry about the current state of things becoming permanent. This serves to build trust in the larger cosmic scheme, and lessens the pressure and anxiety of sole responsibility for the outcome of our lives. At the same time that our lives can be thematically predicted, we have a wide breadth of freedom in which to engage with those themes: selfishly and/or compassionately; famously, infamously, or privately; with curiosity or disinterest. This gives us a way to engage with the tension between actively determining our own course and accepting our current circumstances.

As we know from psychology, the parts of ourselves that we disown and repress we are bound to encounter in others and the world; this is the phenomenon of projection. With astrology, we can understand the timing of when we may have to deal with particular themes. We may not be able to predict concrete occurrences (though some astrologers would disagree), but we can say what periods of life will be ripe for solidifying plans, contemplating hopes and dreams, practicing diligence, or reinventing one’s identity, just to name a few examples. From there we have a chance to consciously do the work that’s asked of us and lessen the chance of being caught unaware by our circumstances.

In this way astrology can be a contemplative practice. Like other mindful and/or spiritual practices, the goal with astrology is to reduce our resistance to the flow of life. It’s not to get rid of pain, or escape and find a life of bliss—but as we make room to witness the unfolding of our lives, suffering is inevitably reduced and a more peaceful sense of security grows.

But don’t take my word for it… I encourage you to get to know these symbols for yourself, and see what parts they play in your life. If you work with an astrologer, let them help you discover your chart, and be wary of dogmatic interpretations. Your chart is a reflection of you—if you don’t recognize yourself, you need a different translator.

Astrology and Psychotherapy, Part 1: Fundamentals and Cosmic Empathy

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“We are born at a given moment in a given place and like vintage years of wine we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything else.” — C. G. Jung

Simply put, astrology is the study of the relationships of the objects in our solar system, relative to our viewpoint on Earth. Each object symbolizes a particular concept, or archetype, and the angles between them in the sky indicate when and how they are interacting. The sky itself is divided into twelve equal parts, providing the backdrop of this celestial drama.

Our universe is dominated by cycles, and has always been the basis for our measurement of time—from the movement of the Sun and Moon measuring days, months, and seasons to the vibrations of crystals and atoms counting out milli- and nanoseconds. The movement of the planets measure greater stretches of time; we live on an arm of a clock that tracks periods of time relevant to human life (our solar system being embedded in the even grander mechanism of the Milky Way). Every moment in history can be described by the position of the planets, and they are literally a sign of the times. You may have noticed that periods of time have a certain feeling or energy to them; these energies seem to change with the motions of the planets. However, the planets do not cause the zeitgeist any more than a clock causes time to occur. It is a correlative relationship. Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas gives a comprehensive study of the planetary cycles throughout history, both in simultaneous themes across the globe and in repetitive patterns across ages.

A basic tenet of astrology is that anything that comes into being carries the energetic signature of that moment. Your birth chart shows the planets as they were at the moment you came into the world—a cosmic time stamp—and you express those energies through your personality, your thoughts and actions. But if the position and movements of the planets are predetermined, then aren’t our lives already plotted out in advance, and aren’t we doomed to constantly fall victim to the forces of fate? This is the traditional view of astrology, and one reason why popular horoscope columns get a bad rap. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that our interpretations have a singular, fixed meaning.

Archetypes are actually very dynamic. The Moon for example, represents the internal world of emotion and intuition, nurturing, irrationality, and The Mother, to name a few. When the Moon archetype is activated in a person, any or all of these themes can be present and manifesting in a myriad of ways, while still operating within the lunar archetype. When we consider that this is happening with each planet, and their periodic interactions, we begin to see a complexity on par with the lives that we live.

This multivalent nature of archetypes is why two people can have different subjective experiences of the same objective event, or why two people born at the same time can have different personalities and life courses (while being archetypally identical). And besides the multiplicity of manifestation within an archetype, its multidimensional nature means that it can occur on any level of perception: personal (thoughts and feelings), social (interpersonal encounters and interactions), or global (large scale events). Nevertheless, even though each person’s experience and reaction to the energies of any given time may be unique, they will be recognizable and congruent with the archetypes involved.

The modern understanding of astrology rests on the theories of synchronicity and archetypes, both extensively studied and formulated by psychologist Carl Jung. Synchronicity is the phenomenon of meaningful coincidence. Often it is an objective/external event coinciding with a subjective/internal state of being. It is up to the individual to recognize, interpret, and assign significance to the synchronicity (however, this is not merely an intrapsychic projective phenomenon, as we will see). Archetypes, as we have been discussing, are the fundamental forms of consciousness; the perennial themes of philosophy, psychology, and art. If there is something that impassions or moves us, it has an archetypal nature. They permeate and transcend human culture. Though we often think of archetypes as the immutable forms that define humanity, they are truly universal themes. They are interwoven with the natural world. Birth, death, struggle, cooperation, growth…these are not human constructs, but we are in a unique position to observe and embody them.

In Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas describes the modern worldview. During the “Age of Enlightenment,” Western thought moved further away from the aboriginal view of being embedded in a sentient universe, with intelligent spirit(s) permeating all of nature. Instead, we began to become more conscious of our ability to determine our own destiny and to predict and harness nature to our own purpose. Consequently, more and more meaning and subjectivity was attributed to the human mind, with less significance and purpose to the natural world, increasingly objectifying it. Humanity has launched itself forward with leaps in areas such as science, art, and philosophy. But we find ourselves increasingly isolated in a random, mechanistic, and meaningless universe. A “disenchanted cosmos,” as Tarnas puts it.

If we are to recognize the universe as an intelligence with which we can interact, as Tarnas suggests, then we can consider archetypes as the language of the cosmos, and synchronicity as the mode of communication. Astrology is an incredibly rich study and practice of this kind of conversation. Each planet represents an archetypal character, and their positions relative to the Earth and to each other weaves a complex outline of an unmistakably human drama. Again, these dynamics are reflected to varying degrees at every level of our lives: from our individual moods, impulses, and actions, to the people and situations we encounter, to the collective social and political currents we are immersed in.

If we perceive the language of archetypes, and the communication of synchronicity, then we will likely also perceive an intelligent Source. We may call this God, anima mundi, the fertile void, or nothing at all, but a cosmic consciousness seems to persist nonetheless. As we interact with synchronicity, observing the rippling consequences that our interpretations have, coincidence becomes opportunity, and dialogue is born. We begin to see the nature of this consciousness we are interacting with.

Empathy is a process that allows an individual to recognize the subjectivity of another. Our own perspective diminishes enough to let in another. We understand how they feel in their circumstance, and why. And compassion develops because we recognize a part of ourselves in that other (or is it a part of them in us?), despite the apparent dissimilarities. We recognize that others are not merely objects existing in our reality, but that we are interdependent subjects in a shared reality. Empathy develops through the sharing of experience, emotion, and vulnerability. It is risky because this kind of interaction threatens to dispel currently (and perhaps dearly) held beliefs, but it is also a natural phenomenon within personal and social development. It is the only process that can overcome the fear and prejudice running rampant through our global community.

I believe that astrology is one way that we can cultivate empathy for the universe we live in. Our world is desperate for a new perspective. The Earth and its non-human inhabitants cannot afford to continue to be objectified, commodified, and disregarded. We must imbue the things we dehumanize with inherent value, purpose, and wisdom, learning from the things we thought to dismiss. In this way we can re-enchant the cosmos, and find ourselves embedded in a universe more beautiful and sustaining than we otherwise could have imagined.

In Part 2 of this article we will explore the therapeutic implications of astrology for personal healing and growth.

Similar in Our Difference: A Call for Inter-Community Solidarity

tumblr_m6tyam08c21qj12f3 I recently attended the Queer Astrology Conference in San Francisco. It was a lovely space for astrologers of all flavors to convene, learn, and have lively discussion. I was struck by the comfort and acceptance I felt there, because that is not something I experience often in groups of people, let alone a group of strangers. I had the distinct sense that I belonged there, that these are my people. And yet I have never identified as queer.

In his lecture “Mars and the Politics of Difference,” Barry Perlman identified Mars as a symbol of individual separation and change, fighting against the convention and status quo of society, which is Saturn’s domain. He argued that when there is a group that is trying to struggle against the larger social structure, eventually that group would take on a Saturnine quality, and someone within would take on the Martian role and proclaim that the group was not addressing all the issues that this individual cared about. He saw this as problematic within the queer movement because it is subversive by nature, and many of its members desire social change in many arenas. Everyone will have their pet cause that is not getting attention. In short, you can’t please all of the queer folks all of the time.

This got me thinking: what is my pet cause? It would have to be civil rights and resisting ableism; it’s what affects me most personally and one of the things that activates my Mars. But I don’t like the idea that it is something that doesn’t fly under anyone else’s banner. I’m not saying Barry was arguing against intersectionality; I think everyone in that room would agree that all the “-isms” have far-reaching effects beyond the populations they nominally oppress. But I want to go a step further. I want to say that ableism intersects with every other dimension of identity. It is an intrinsic force that affects you and your community, no matter who you are.

People talk about access in social justice circles as an abstract concept; for me it is literal. When I see a set of stairs leading to the entrance of a building, it might as well be a sign saying We don’t want your kind here. Because of this concretization of a basic human right, we cannot talk about any kind of access without talking about ableism. We cannot speak of equality without speaking of disablement. Ableism is a fundamental system of exclusion that intersects race, gender, sexuality, class, or any other identity you can think of. It reifies the notion of normalcy that has our culture in a stranglehold. And anyone can become disabled, physically, psychologically, socially; naturally or accidentally, temporarily or permanently, at any time, regardless of any other privilege or status they may hold in society.

Christopher Renstrom eloquently spoke on “The Problem of the Gay Signature: Unearthing the Queer Archetype in Astrological History and Culture.” One of the planets that has been particularly associated with queerness is Uranus. Uranus is the social rebel, the one who brings unashamed individuality in the face of convention; it’s the cowlick that refuses to be combed down. Uranus rejects that Saturnine notion of normalcy. Uranus has a better vision for the future. The link to the queer movement is clear; and I think the link to the disability movement is just as clearly Uranian.

Filax & Taylor (2014) describe the similar connotations given to both female bodies and disabled bodies, which then extend to assumptions about mental capacity and psychology. I would argue that this prejudice extends to the queer body as well (while not minimizing the sexism that places extra burden on the female queer body). They go on to expand the definition of disability, invoking the social model: disability is not a physiological characteristic, but more of a social reaction to someone who is identified as disabled. Society creates disability by not providing equal access. This definition would include a lot of folks beyond those conventionally thought of as disabled.

I think queer folks are disabled by mainstream society. I think disabled folks are socially queer (the term neurodivergent exemplifies this).  Societal beliefs and attitudes are the common denominator here.  We are the freak show of the mainstream (don’t even get me started on American Horror Story). We receive the projection of their shadow, the fear of the disruption of their “normal” lives; the fear of difference, isolation, dependency, subversion, loss of control. We actually hold a lot of power when you think about it.

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I have felt a growing affinity with the queer community for many years. Some of my strongest allies have been queer. I think there is a certain shared experience of our place in society. We both know what it’s like to be judged and excluded simply for existing as we are. Expected to explain and justify our existence, why we look or act the way we do.

We certainly don’t have to explain anything, but we can share with those who are willing to listen. Let’s let our Uranian freak flags fly! There is a better way, and we’re living it by supporting each other.