Robert Todd Carroll
Astrotherapy uses astrology as a guide to the transformation of personality, to self-actualization and self-transcendence. Astrology is studied for its power to aid in psychological healing and growth.
According to defenders of astrotherapy, most critics of astrology misunderstand how human destiny is actually linked to the heavens. Patrick Levine, author of The Psychic Sourcebook: How to Choose and Use a Psychic (New York: Warner Books, 1988), claims that modern astrologers are more holistic than their ancient counterparts. The contemporary astrologer doesn't believe in anything so crude as direct causal connection between the heavenly bodies and a person's destiny. He or she believes in the interrelatedness of all things.
To back up his claim, Levine cites Linda Hill, whose credentials he establishes by noting that she has been "a New York astrological consultant of 14 years' [sic] experience." Says Ms. Hill, "I don't think anyone knows exactly why it works; it just works. Carl Jung used the term synchronicity. It's simply a synchronization....We are somehow synchronized to the celestial patterns that were present at our birth."
In short, astrotherapy uses astrology as a kind of projective personality test, useful for unleashing one's hidden creative powers, for delving into the subconscious mind to discover hidden beliefs, drives, truths, and perhaps even one's cosmic synchronicity!
Dane Rudhyar is seen as the father of astrotherapy. In the 1930s he applied Jungian psychological concepts to astrology. He liked Jung's notion that the psyche seeks psychic wholeness or "individuation," a process Rudyhar believed is evident in the horoscope.
Rudyhar's work is carried on today by Glen Perry, who boasts a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the Saybrook Institute in San Francisco, a regionally accredited (WASC) graduate school "dedicated to fostering the full expression of the human spirit and humanistic values in society." In astrotherapy, says Dr. Perry, "astrology is used to foster empathy for the client's internal world and existing symptoms, and promote positive personality growth and fulfillment." He thinks astrology is both a theory of personality and a diagnostic tool, yet he provides neither arguments nor evidence to support this notion. Here is an example of how astrotherapy uses astrology:
How Perry knows this is not made clear. Other claims, equally profound, do not require argument or evidence because they are vacuous: "the horoscope symbolizes the kind of adult that the individual may become." Still other claims are nearly unintelligible: "What the individual experiences as a problematic situation or relationship can be seen in the chart as an aspect of his or her own psyche. In this way, the horoscope indicates what functions have been denied and projected, and through what circumstances (houses) they will likely be encountered." "Simply put," says Perry, "the goal is to help the client realize the potentials that are symbolized by the horoscope." What systematic analysis and methodological tools he used to arrive at this notion are not mentioned, much less how one could go about verifying the specific symbolizations of any given horoscope. He does, however, seem to rely heavily upon questionable psychological concepts promoted by Jung and Freud.
Another astropsychologist, Brad Kochunas, makes it clear that one of the chief virtues of applying astrology to the inner life rather than to outward patterns of behavior, is that it takes astrology out of the realm of the scientific, where it has not fared too well when it has been thoroughly examined. Kochunas calls this concern with the psyche "the imaginal perspective" and says it
Here he proudly cites Barbara Sproul's Primal Myths (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979). At least Kochunas, unlike Perry, firmly locates astrotherapy in mythology and proudly proclaims it to be outside of the realm of science. His message seems to be very simple and straightforward: If you can find satisfied customers, you have a valid myth.
Max Heindel, on the other hand, extends astrotherapy to all forms of healing and calls it a science, declaring it to have two basic laws: "the Law of Compatability [sic]" and "the law of Systemic Receptibility." A brief quotation from Heindel's work will demonstrate to the astute reader why I will not bother to review these "laws."
We are not told from what ancient spirit these theories were channeled and we are left to guess at the origin of such thoughts. One will search in vain for anything resembling ordinary science in Heindel's writings. One will find, however, a belief in the music of the spheres.
What is one to make of the new astrology which seems to place itself outside of the realm of empirical testing and outside of a concern for empirical truth or falsity? This is seen as progress by the astropsychologists, but for those of us who prefer our delusions to be rooted in terra firma, astrotherapy is just one more in a long line of "crazy" therapies.
Dean, Geoffrey and Arthur Mather and Ivan W. Kelly, "Astrology," in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, ed. G. Stein (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996).
Kelly, I.W. (1997) "Modern Astrology: A Critique," Psychological Reports (1997), 81, 1035-1066.
Kelly, I.W. "Why Astrology Doesn't Work," Psychological Reports, 1998, 82, 527-546.
Robert Todd Carroll