Astrology is the study of cycles, whether chronologically through time and space, developmentally in our respective and collective spheres of experience, or in the cycles and Path(s) of our Souls in their evolution for the advancement of Self and All. These first two areas are covered by the general study of exoteric, or traditional astrology which we can also call personality-based astrology. This type of astrology addresses the wants of the ego as in "When will I win/inherit a million dollars?" "When will I meet the love of my life?", etc., whereas the latter part addressing Soul is the area for Esoteric or Soul-centered astrology. This is the type of astrology that answers, "what is my Purpose?" and, "why am I here?" as well as giving one the understanding of one's place within the greater collective.
Over the last generation it’s become fashionable for astrologers to add a spiritual or “evolutionary” dimension to their work, noting past karma and the direction of a soul’s progress through lifetimes. Simultaneously, modern astrologers have emphasized the Lunar Nodes to add psychological issues over one lifetime or spiritual issues over many lifetimes.
I myself am not new to these trends. My first astrological training in the mid-1980’s consisted of a steady diet of Dane Rudhyar and the use of the Lunar Nodes for psychological problems and possibilities. And, as a practicing Buddhist for most of my adult life, I am not put off by ideas of multiple lifetimes.
As with any trend (astrological or not), we should always ask questions before adoption. Astrologers, being human, often absorb assumptions from their “tribe” without examining them. However, in order to understand our astrology, our Universe, and ourselves we need to think critically about the assumptions we make.
“Spiritual” astrology is not a new invention; our astrological heritage includes a rich spiritual legacy which spans many decades. In the past three years, I have focused on the spiritual cosmology of Dante’s Divine Comedy and begun teaching a series of courses on the history of soul and astrology. During this time I have become increasingly impatient that many in the modern spiritual approach gloss over the richness and depth that only comes through a deeper exploration and questioning.
So I’d like to propose a series of questions astrologers should ask themselves when approaching a chart. My intention is to raise questions for newer astrology students and their clients about the nature of the sacred dimension – soul, spirit, karma and other related concepts.
The conception of the soul in Hindu belief is really relevant in connection with God, or Brahman (otherwise known as the reality—the state in which all reality exists). The two principle beliefs are that we are connected to Brahman and have always been connected to Brahman, but simply have forgotten, either because of ignorance or desire, of our divine nature. This is called Advaita Vedanta, and is, as we saw above, practiced by Shaivites and Saktis.
The motivation for the soul’s departure is open to speculation, but some theorize that the soul leaves to experience something in a more limited existence, under the illusion (Maya) that this will make them happy. When the soul attains a body, this triggers other desires because it is in a body. Eventually, over many, many lifetimes, the person gets tired of seeing the same things over and over again and starts wanting to return to Brahman. Either through many (millions) of lifetime or through advanced yogic practices, one ultimately returns to Brahman.