Astrology As an Archetypal Language

Astrology as Archetypal Language
The Planets as Forces
By Antero Alli ©1999-2002

What is the meaning of Life? The answer to this age-old philosophical question may depend more on what we choose to believe, than any absolute out-there truth or Unified Field Theory attempting to explain the cosmos. Indeed, the meaning of life, and the life of meaning, may be relative to perspective -- where you stand and what you see from there.

If you care enough to define the terms of your life and are brave enough to act from that personal vision, your life will be transformed by the heat, light, and force imparted by the sources you are living for, the animating principles of existence itself: The archetypes.

Traditional astrology calls these forces planets, yet experience insists that archetypes are better grasped when the planets are made to symbolize human forces. I must confess that I have never accepted this Planets-as-Puppetmasters notion. The planets do not control our fates. Until we grow more accountable, we are controlled by the personal and collective forces of our own:

  • Ego structures: Sun

  • Habits and emotions: Moon

  • Thoughts: Mercury

  • Affinities: Venus

  • Drives: Mars

  • Beliefs: Jupiter

  • Limitations: Saturn and the more transpersonal forces of our

  • Innate autonomy: Uranus

  • Dream: Neptune and

  • Soul intent: Pluto

What I hope to encourage here is a deeper philosophical grasp of the archetypal forces for which astrology can act as a language.

Personal and Transpersonal Forces: Their Primary Intentions

After this simple semantic adjustment is made -- think forces, not planets -- astrology can be used to interact with two diverse but related realms of archetypal forces: Personal and transpersonal forces. What I mean by 'interact with' is not mere conceptualization but intuitive interaction with the living forces themselves. Archetypal forces are autonomous energies with lives and agendas of their own. Astrology, as I'm using it here, is a process for setting up communication lines with these energies -- spirits in the material world.

Our modern society has effectively trivialized and taken for granted these archetypes by masking their mystery with inane mundanity. Let us re-imagine our habit patterns (Moon) as sacred and the force of our theories (Mercury) as ideas about God. Try looking at your motives (Mars) as your reasons for living. To continue along this line of questioning, we must be willing to part the veils of societal conditioning to catch more glimpses of the essences of, not only astrological symbols, but the living truths these symbols refer to. We begin with the personal forces.

The personal forces are symbolized by Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn; the transpersonal forces include Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. The chief function of the personal forces are to act as ego-stabilizers serving the overall purpose of personality development and socialization. Each personal force refers to an attribute of what it takes to become a whole person. As each personal force is integrated into the weave of the developing personality -- sometimes, with much suffering, effort and struggle -- they combine to characterize and eventually crystallize as our fate: The person we become.

Perhaps, as futurist writer Robert Hand suggests, personality is a modern word for fate. Transpersonal forces give the personality a context beyond, yet also inclusive of, ego by the administration of outside shocks, that confront the ego with objective truths it can neither control nor change nor comprehend but must somehow acquiesce or surrender to. These include the shock of freedom (Uranus), the shock of unity (Neptune), and the shock of death (Pluto).

All these shocks trigger growth spurts and incite new possibilities where previous crystallization thwarted development. With each new shock, the personality enters a temporary disorientation period, a rapid growth cycle, wherein creative opportunities emerge for rearranging and realigning life as we know it with more truth and higher frequencies.

The Sun as A Dynamic Force of Self-Realization

Given the sun's cosmic status as our chief source of light and heat, the astrological Sun makes a royal symbol for how we personally generate light and heat in our own lives. Spiritually, the Sun represents the existing conditions of where and how we shine and radiate the being we are. This beingness requires absolutely no understanding to exist -- it simply is -- and is already expressed through the existing conditions of your spirituality.

What does it mean to self-realize? When the being within you is affirmed, its innate forces of heat and light radiate vital emanations of warmth and charisma to the world. When this being is negated -- by self-denial or negation from society -- its inner light dims down. If we persist in a state of self-negation, it can flicker out like a pilot light in a furnace. The dynamic force of self-realization gains momentum through any experiences affirming the being, accelerating the chances for being nobody but yourself; a heroic struggle in any society bent on selling you promises to become everything but. Over-emphasize this force, however, and risk suffering various maladies of hubris, arrogance, big-head-i-tis, and ego burnout.

The Moon as an Emotional Force of Habit

If the Sun represents the fiery self-realizing force of who you are becoming, the astrological Moon reflects the life you are already living. The Moon refers to your existing biological, instinctive needs for comfort, survival, and happiness -- the simple needs. Yet when denied, we create a life complicated with frustration, discontent, and depression. The Moon in your chart can tell you where (the house) and how (the sign) to most effectively enact your security habits when life's stranger, weirder episodes leave you feeling anxious: Habit patterns as sacred.

Some people eat to soothe their nerves or read a book or talk on the phone or have sex or watch television. Whatever gets you through the night, the Moon defines familiarity and this familiar sense is subjective: One person's safety is another's danger. Live too much for your Moon (for comfort) and your life grows insular and coccoon-like; there's a fine line between a rut and a groove. The Moon informs us of what we are attached to, as well as where and how we need to be attached. We humans are a clinging species and our natal Moon remains a soulful reminder of our personal weaknesses, shortcomings, and humanity -- how we are like everybody else. The Moon also refers to our most personal way of expressing ourselves in our moment-to-moment reactions to the immediate environment. Your Moon sign symbolizes your emotional style.

Mercury as a Mental Force of Ideation

As much as our instinctive life refers to how we are all linked by biology, the mental force of our ideas effectively divide us as people. Rather than what we think, it is how we think that most separates us from each other and determines whether we are actually communicating or merely passing wind. Mercury articulates our thinking style: How we tend to figure things out, solve problems, and interpret experience.

When the Mercury force dominates a given chart, that person tends to generate more mental energy. Mercury isn't synonymous with intelligence as a whole but the symbol-making muscle for developing language, analysis, and logic. Intellectual geniuses, for instance, can also be emotional idiots, i.e., jerks. If you look at the mind as a very powerful lens, it is easy to see how the force and nature of your thinking influence perception and your translation of experiences -- you think therefore you are. Thoughts, in and of themselves, are autonomous, lighting from mind to mind, held down by the force of concentration. The word theos means "God" -- if all is God then, perhaps, all theories reflect ideas about God.

Venus as a Magnetic Force of Attraction

Just as the conceptual force emanates from the head center, so does Venus symbolize the heart center's existing forces of love. Though love itself cannot be defined as an idea, it is unmistakable as an experience. Awareness of love often begins with a basic affinity for almost anything -- be it a belief or an art form or another person or a favorite food -- and develops through the deepening of our likes, tastes, and aesthetics.

Astrological Venus also symbolizes the force of pleasure: What pleases us and where we find beauty. Without these values, we are left with a loveless life, a life barely worth living. The force of affinity expresses a measure of value and worth, that is, affinity for oneself expresses self-worth. The sign that Venus resides in conveys the romantic style of that for which we tend to feel affinity. The quality of love in your life is determined by what magnetizes your affinity, what you are attracted to, and what you attract to yourself, for whatever reasons. (Love can be blind -- who of us has not loved for all the wrong reasons?) Venus refers to how we are touched and moved towards intimacy. Though love exists everywhere, love is easy to overlook when ideals and expectations about what love should be create more affinity than the experience of love itself. Love is never what you think. Love is real only when you are aware of it as a living force of affinity, a presence, harmonizing you and the beloved, whatever and whomever that may be.

Mars as a Motivating Force of Will

The martial force, as symbolized by astrological Mars, acts out through the physical impulses of your most visceral will to act. Originating in the motor -- or gut -- center, the motivating force of will knows action as sacred. Mars symbolizes the existing conditions of the force of will in your life; what drives you to do whatever it is you can do. Action burns energy. You can only do what you have energy to do -- try doing something you don't have the energy for. The sign that Mars resides in conveys a motivational style (the conditions necessary for triggering action) and the thrill-criteria for what turns you on and raises your physical energy.

Spiritually, Mars symbolizes what you are living for: Your will to survive and your incentive to keep living. Psychologically, Mars refers to what you are willing to fight for based on the knowledge of what you want and the will to act on that desire. Lose touch with the motivating force of will and you are more subject to the ebb and flux of your habits, affinities, and ideas. The active force of will (Mars) naturally opposes the passive force of habit (Moon) until the will to act becomes a habit (actors must learn this habit to perform on cue). With too much Mars, our behavior turns irate, aggressive and combative; not enough Mars can come across as indecision, passivity and apathy.

Jupiter as an Uplifting Force of Belief

Any experience that genuinely expands consciousness -- such as travel to a foreign culture or doing something you've never done before -- can boost your confidence with a new perspective. This uplifting force of consciousness expansion is well symbolized by astrological Jupiter, especially when it involves taking risks and leaps of faith beyond what is known and familiar to extend our perspective. By growing more aware, we develop a sensitivity to what matters and what doesn't, what is worth caring for and what isn't. The more consciousness expands, the more conscience develops. Through our perceptions we come to a personal impression of truth -- our truth -- and form the beliefs to confirm these truths. Over time these beliefs crystallize into our assumptions, expectations, ideals, and dogmas about life in general.

If we can remain open-minded enough to fresh experiences -- those that do not conform to previous dogmas -- we can update our beliefs and learn new ways to keep learning. If and when our minds do shut down, we can suffer from the bigotry of fundamentalist thinking, the need to be right all the time. The force of belief is never the truth, but rather your truth. Natal Jupiter points to where and how your truth can be known.

Saturn as the Limiting Forces of Fear and Responsibility

Life's more expansive experiences can trigger forces of an equally constrictive nature when that abundance turns to excess and threatens your integrity. Eat, drink, and party too hardy and your health suffers. Awareness of real limitations on any level can be symbolized astrologically by Saturn, the limiting force of your actual fears and true responsibilities. Actual fear (not an imagined fear) is a survival signal alerting you to a life-threatening situation: You spent the rent and an eviction notice is served.

True responsibility involves the effort to manifest your survival priorities. This means working to build and maintain the reality structures of your life and this process differs for each person. When Saturn's limiting force is ignored or denied, a potentially immobilizing condition arises. One's sense of reality becomes buffered by compensatory phobias (perceived threats) and considerations (false duty) and then, frozen by the frustrations of unmet needs and unrealized dreams. Saturn symbolizes a reality check and the the integrity to check your own reality, to be your own anchor.

In any astrology chart, Saturn can pinpoint a critical grow-up-or-freeze-up zone, defining the necessary issues for maturating the personality. Saturn means business. When Saturn over-emphasizes, spontaneity and creativity are stifled and crushed. Too much Saturn spoils the party but not enough Saturn can spoil your entire life. By learning to respond to your real fears, you develop the response-ability to turn those fears into commitments.

Uranus as a Liberating Force of Innate Autonomy

The transpersonal force of Uranus administers a shock of freedom in sudden, unpredictable ways. Freedom, as referred to here, is an innate property of being human. We are born free but over many years of societal conditioning lose touch with how free we already are and sleepwalk through life in a trance of spiritual amnesia. When awakened, Uranus acts as a liberating force disrupting habit patterns and learned behaviors that oppress the awareness of this innate human autonomy. Uranus also symbolizes the rebellious, independence streak fiercer in some than others. When this freedom-fighting force dominates other forces, it can alienate us with too much independence and excommunication from family, friends, and community. This electrical force of Uranus also sparks the brilliance of genius and the annoyance of eccentricity, as well as the startling stubbornness for doing things totally in your own way with zero compromise; my way or the highway. The liberating force of Uranus can rattle your cage and shock you awake.

Neptune as a Dreaming Force of Dissolution

Like the steady crash of waves on the rocky seashore, the transpersonal force of Neptune administers a shock of unity through gradual erosion. Unity, as the term is used here, infers an indivisibility in all things; the notion that all existence is unified by virtue of all things existing, unity at the level of existence itself. Astrological Neptune also represents the invisible, pervasive force of our dreams.

From our highest expectations, ideals, and aspirations, to the night dreams where our dreambody dreams itself awake, Neptune symbolizes the spectrum of sublime immateriality: Of inspiration and madness, poetry and insanity, music and static. In context to life in the material world, Neptune refers to those areas subject to our greatest disappointments and disillusionments, as well as our most profound epiphanies and enlightenments. In relation to ego personality, this transpersonal force acts as solvent -- an acid bath -- dissolving such self-imposed, arbitrary divisions as 'us' and 'them,' 'me' and 'you,' 'good' and 'evil,' to expose the underlying unity of existence. Neptune is the great leveler. Neptune also represents spiritual the need for ego sacrifice and intimacy with the formless substance of Void, the potential energy behind and within everything that exists. Our capacity for imagination and inspiration seem to encourage harmonious interaction with Neptune.

Pluto as a Transformative Force of Soul Intent

The transpersonal force of Pluto administers a shock of death by any exposure to the many forms of natural decay and renewal. Death is always more shocking in materialistic, death-ignorant societies where the organic processes of decay are made taboo; money loses value when death is in the room. Astrological Pluto symbolizes soul intent, your reason for being (for more insight, read Jeffrey Wolf Green's, Pluto: The Soul's Evolution Through Relationships). From a soul level, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings needing specific human experiences to further soul-embodiment as humans.

This arduous humanization process is made intensely transformative by a major obsession, or fixation (symbolized by natal Pluto). Look at obsession as the concentrative power affording full intuitive contact with life energies. Real life comes at us in a series of deep plutonic shocks, and even the most sheltered of existences must endure its own degenerative stagnation. When confronting the shock of death -- in whatever form -- the traumatized ego often responds by fixating itself on an obsession in an attempt to restabilize itself. Obsessions are often symptoms of undigested shock. Natal Pluto refers to specific obsessions and points of fixation, as well as where your greatest transformations can occur.

Why the Forces Will Not Go Away

These personal and transpersonal forces, as symbolized by the astrological planets, express the existing conditions and tendencies of energies actively influencing our daily lives. To the extent we are aware of their effects and interact with them is a matter of personal choice, effort, and the struggle to remain conscious of their imminent realities. Whether it is the force of habit or will or belief or the force of our dreams, there is no escaping their presence. Nothing can make them go away. No amount of self-denial, intoxication, or mental negation can truly control or extinguish the archetypes.

They are autonomous forces with lives of their own that seem to act out their own agendas or intentions. At best, astrology can be used as a language to track and understand these intentions and perhaps provide a code for interacting with the archetypes themselves. With enough practice and humility (always remember, we are not the archetypes -- we are nobody but ourselves), we can open the door to participate with them by aligning our consciousness with the forces that be. When diligent self-observation accompanies the study of astrology, this language avails itself as a true communications medium through which all manner of messages can be received, stored, and transmitted.

Antero Alli is the author of "ASTROLOGIK: The Oracular Art of Astrology," Angel Tech: A Modern Shaman's Guide to Reality Selection, The Vertical Oracle -- whose images grace this Web site -- and other books. He has been in astrological practice since 1980. For information on his books and services, see his Web site. Write him at: Antero Alli, P.O. Box 7518 Berkeley, CA 94707; or e-mail him: