ASTROLOGY AND THE SYMBOLISM
OF THE BODY
by Liz Greene (Reprinted from Radionic Quarterly Sept. 1977)
The problem of the (apparent) duality of body and psyche is as much a problem for astrology as it is for the healing professions. The old medieval view of astrology in relation to the body is that different planets rule parts of the body Jupiter rules the liver, Mercury the breathing passages, etc. - as though the piece of rock orbiting through the sky "makes" the body behave in a certain way, "makes" illness happen if a planet is under affliction or what is traditionally called bad aspect. One can see the heavy imprint of morality, Piscean age morality, in all this too when one hears talk about use and abuse of energy, higher and lower manifestations, right and wrong use of planetary combinations, good and bad aspects. All of this implies, however subtly, that physical states are caused by mental states; and that the originating cause of body problems and constitution lie in spirit, or soul, or psyche, or whatever you want to call it.
Psychology is also faced with this problem, this dichotomy. Orthodox psychiatry, which springs from medicine, tends to view the psyche as a peculiar byproduct of the physical brain; all diseases of the mind originate causally from disturbance of the body even schizophrenia, which is said to be inherited, or caused by glandular secretions which resemble the construction of mescalin in nature. Psychosomatic medicine, on the other hand - and to an extent psychoanalysis - sees it in reverse: the body is the creation of the psyche, and all illnesses are in the final analysis functional. (Freud's work with hysteria, etc., is a good example of this.)
I think that most of us tend to align ourselves with one side or the other of this conundrum, secretly if not overtly. We place our emphasis either on psyche or body, spirit or matter and choose to place our concept of final causation on one end or the other, and treat accordingly.
Jung tried to present this dichotomy not on a causal basis (body influences mind, mind influences body), but on a synchronistic basis - the same basis from which he viewed astrology. To him, a psychic state is not subordinate to a physical state, nor a physical subordinate to a psychic. So a planetary configuration was not psychic first and physical second, or the reverse; but both were opposite faces of one underlying sense of meaning, one underlying reality which he called the archetypes. When any disturbance in life manifests or any pattern. any motion, any crisis, any important happening - it has both a physical and a psychic reflection, although one may at times be more observable than the other. They are reflections of the same principle; one is not subordinate to the other; lecure" is not effected by trying to isolate the cause in one or the other. Instead there is a portrayal of a central meaning reflecting through different channels, depending upon the different person, and if you can understand the language which is being spoken then you can at least begin to work with it creatively.
Seen from this viewpoint, illness is not necessarily dis-ease, as though the ideal state of perfection is the soul's natural inheritance and any disruption of its perfection signals some abuse of life. Rather, illness is the opposite face of health; all archetypes have two faces, and there is some intrinsic meaning being enacted through an illness or psychic or physical or both - which is necessary to the life of the psyche. It might perhaps be enacted in some other way; or it might not. But it fulfils its purpose, it is purposeful, when we recognise what is being symbolised, without assuming it is something wrong.
If this is a little confusing, I will try to give an example which might help clarify. Let us take a typical childhood configuration, asthma and eczema, which often go together. These are, traditionally, psychosomatic illnesses - that is, we do not know what causes them. Every explanation has been given. ranging from psychic attack (Guirdham) to inherited constitution. But if we pin these maladies down as a psychic state having repercussions in the body, or a physical state having repercussions in the psyche, we are off beam and do not do justice to what these patterns mean. We have to step back and see that a particular kind of psychic constitution will coincide with a particular kind of body constitution; that a psychic habit pattern will reflect a physical habit pattern; that a symbol is being enacted through this gasping for breath, this tearing of itching skin, which is both physical and psychic and describes a whole experience which the
child or adult is undergoing. How do we treat eczema? Psychosomatic medicine says it is all mind, ignore the body manifestations. Homeopathy offers potentised herbal remedies and creams - for what? To treat what? What is one doing when he scratches his own irritated skin? Can it be separated from the entire constitution of the person? Is it anger releasing itself? What is it symbolic of? If one dreamed a dream in which one was scratching eczema, we would not take it literally; we would take it symbolically. It is a rich symbol; it communicates all kinds of things. The skin is thin, it is easily irritated. It breaks out, erupts, but it is a controlled eruption - which occurs in the individual himself. What is an itch, as a symbol? When one chokes, is asthmatic, who cannot breathe? What is breathing anyway? It is both physical and psychic.
I am not trying to make a new point, or offer
anything highly original here. Paracelsus put this
whole thing beautifully in the 16th century:
If I have manna in my Constitution I can
attract manna from heaven. Saturn is not only in the
but also deep in the earth and in the ocean.
What is Venus but the artemisia that grows in
your garden? what is iron but Mars? That is to
say, Venus and artemisia are both products of the
same essence, and Mars and iron are both the man
ifestations of the same cause. what is the human
body but a constellation of the same powers that
formed the stars in the sky? He who knows what
iron is, knows the attributes of Mars. He who
knows Mars, knows the qualities of iron.
I feel that if one is to heal - body or mind or both
- one must see the complete symbolism being acted out,
both in the illness and in the psyche. This is why
several disciplines must be known, learned, for-no
person can be wholly treated by one thing alone - no
person is one thing alone. I have seen this too often
with people who psychological guidance and have
concomitant physical symptoms. A long time ago I had
opportunity to observe an extraordinary case: a woman
who had asthma, chronically, all her life. She was
heavily Taurean - Taurus is traditionally ruler of the
throat, but she did not have any of the traditional
Geminian association with lung or breathing diseases.
Her mother also had asthma. Her mother had told her
from childhood: "All the women in our family have
asthma." The asthma was a symbol - not only for this
woman - it was the symbol of the state of the women in that family. None of them could breathe. All of them choked, all of them gasped for breath. What does this say? Surely not one thing only; it is a complex pattern, coming from many sources. I never discussed this woman's asthma with her; I was concerned with her marriage problems, which were very much those of someone choking; not because anyone did anything to her, but because it was in her nature to deny herself breath and then enact a struggle. She had Venus in square to Saturn, an aspect I have seen many times with asthma - though not a traditional one. What does it mean? Venus - relationship, womanhood, affection, love; Saturn self-defence, fear, hurt, rejected child, etc. What is it that is struggling to breathe? We never talked about her asthma; we talked about her mother relationship, her relationship to her own femininity, her relationship to her husband, to her sexuality, all Venus things - and one day her asthma went away. I do not profess to have cured her; I had nothing to do with it. It was no longer necessary for her to enact her situation in that particular symbol, for her situation had changed. It was not a misuse of energy; it was a reflection of her life. Oddly enough, her mother's asthma vanished at the same time. I had never met the mother. This quite naturally gave me pause; what was going on here? This symbol of choked breathing had to do with more than one person. it was a family symbol; break one link, and the whole chain broke. I do not pretend to understand all the factors here. I treated her neither psychologically nor physically; I did not try to cure her. I only acted as sounding board while she gained greater clarity about what life she was living through all these symbols. Symbols do not have to be physical; sometimes they are, sometimes not.
I feel the contribution of astrology to the healer does not lie, therefore, in the appearance of bad aspects which say the liver is not good, the breathing bad, there is too much anger, etc. This is often not reliable. Sometimes Gemini is connected with breathing, but sometimes not; sometimes Cancer with the stomach, sometimes not; sometimes Virgo with digestion, skin, sometimes not. Signs do not only mean one organ in the body; they are energy patterns, archetypes, and many aspects of the body can express a similar symbolism. It is the psychicphysical construction of the person which is reflected in the chart - the symbol of the myth that the individual has opportunity to live out, the particular quest which is his own path. It is both psychic and physical. We talk about features symbolically - weak chins and stubborn jaws, artistic hands, predatory noses, fierce eyebrows, penetrating eyes, scholarly foreheads, ascetic builds, phlegmatic, choleric, etc. The body describes the psyche, and the psyche describes the body. A man looks like his chart; he is his chart. He looks like what he is, his body reflects himself, he reflects his body. There are intuitive temperaments, which are fiery and which have characteristic symbolic ways of expressing body; there are feeling temperaments, which are watery and which have also their own characteristic ways; there are thinking temperaments, which are airy; and sensation temperaments, which are earthy. And thinking itself, or feeling, or intuition, is a symbol of something we will never be able to articulate because it is not only physical, or psychic, but reflects some basic archetype the central meaning of which will forever elude us. How do you treat? Jung's advice was to listen. That is the best treatment. Listen to what the whole person is expressing, through his words, his body, his emotions, his illness. Perhaps he needs his illness, it is purposeful. it is never accidental. It allows something life which otherwise cannot live.
Let us take another example: Scorpio. This is said to rule the genitals. Typical illnesses are: constipation, disturbance of the reproductive organs, abcesses and boils, inflammations, poisons accumulated in the body. One can say all this about the Scorpio psyche: constipation of emotion, disturbance of the masculinefeminine balance, accumulation of poisons in the psyche. One can never know whether it will express as an illness, a body trait, a psychic trait. If he realises that he is emotionally constipated, it may not cure his body. If he takes laxatives, it may not cure his psyche. There is something in taking the whole symbol. one must ask what purpose this serves. Not what can I do to cure it, but what does it mean? What am I living out? Why do I need it? One can often get an image, a picture, of an illness like this - what does it look like? It is both physical and emotional. It can change, transmute; then both body and psyche work together, and both change. Macrobiotics aims at adjusting the yin-yang relationship in the body, through diet. Analytical psychology aims at adjusting the yinyang relationship in the psyche, through increase of consciousness. Either end is successful, either end works, but you must know which one is appro
priate for the individual, because one may not be for another. This is of course what we always talk about, the holistic view. How many of us really have it? A holistic view, about astrology-psychology-healing, this wonderful concept of the "whole" man, how many of us truly understand it? or is it, yes, the whole man: that is a body which has a psyche tailing along after it, or a psyche which happens to be stuck in a body.
I have a feeling that the healing process has to do with the wholeness of the healer. The technique is incidental, it is one language, like saying: "Chair" and waving your arms around and forgetting that there is a French word for chair, a German word, a Spanish word, that none of them do justice to the essence of the psycho-physical reality chair, which is both an object and a concept, a feeling of comfort and a sea of possibilities.
One sees what one sees best oneself (Jung again). This applies to the healer. If one sees through the intuitive lens, one sees the psyche's symbols and the body as after effect. If one is looking through sensation's lens, one sees substance, the mystery of substance, and the psyche is a reflection. The feeling type sees emotional states, the thinking type the workings of the structured mind. None and all are right, all are onesided. Jung again - treating each case as if one knew nothing, had no techniques, no system, no beginnings. Just listen. The chart, which is an invaluable tool, is also not a statement about body, illnesses, fate. It is a seed - a plant, a flower, a mature tree, another seed pod. One must also listen to the chart, because it might not even be a human being's
If anybody wishes to learn astrology, as an asset to the healing art, I would say to them it is invaluable as is familiarity with psychological principles, with conscious and unconscious - but beware of being literal. I do not feel anything in this field of human suffering is literal; it is fact and also a symbol, the body itself is a symbol, the psyche is a symbol; one must be prepared not to know. And curing is pretty presumptuous, since illness may not require cure; it may be a valid statement of a life experience; it may be necessary and purposeful. The blind man may not see, but neither did Homer, Tiresias, Wotan, Oedipus; they were blind because they looked inward, they offered up outward sight to see within. Wotan with one eye, outward
and in. Do we have the right to attempt cure before we understand what this symbol means? Or is not the task to bring consciousness of the meaning to the person, so that he can see this living symbol working its way out in his life, so that he can decide himself what it is, why he needs it, whether or not another needs to replace it? The healer must also know dreams, the language of the unconscious, fantasies, family background, racial and collective inheritance. There are reflections of race in body as well as in psyche; we are collective too. If a man is cut off from his instinctual roots, his body may remind him of the stock from which he has sprung. Not all Arians get headaches, Capricorns bad knees. Why do we have sickle-celled anaemia in blacks, not in Caucasians? Of what is this a symbol?
There is no point to be made in what I have said; no axe to grind. I merely ask that we see things differently, because there is too much curing going on and very little listening, very little understanding of the symbolism of illness. We are still coloured by the Piscean age's ethic of perfection. Man must be perfect; all light and no dark. So illness, like the devil, runs rampant and must be stamped out. I have a feeling we need illness just as we need health. It is an expression of the dark face of the archetype which is always double - like man, like God, like life.
The following are just a few of the questions that Liz Greene answered after her talk.
Q. Have you any comments to make about psychic interference and possession? If a person is susceptible to this kind of thing does it show in their astrological chart?
A. I am an earth sign and I am inclined to be sceptical not about possession or about psychic entities, but about the tendency to imagine that everything that goes wrong in the psyche is caused by invasion from the outside. There are states of split consciousness which behave exactly like possession but the thing which is doing the possessing is a component of oneself. It is the most common thing in the world, in fact we all experience it. All you have to do is remember a time when you became so emotional that you felt as though something had taken you over and words came out of your mouth which you never would ordinarily, in your right mind, you have said. You were possessed by something
in yourself that had been unconscious. Men are constantly possessed by the unconscious woman in them, and Women are constantly possessed by the unconscious man. All you need to do is to listen to the feminine moody side of man coming out, or the self-opiniated argumentative side of a woman. It is a kind of possession. If it is a very serious split one can hear voices and see visions, and what is called "project" the phenomenon outside.
None of that negates the fact that there are also perhaps entities outside, but I think it is very, very difficult to know which is which, and I suspect that if there is something coming from an entity outside it cannot get in unless there is also a corresponding one within yourself which is opening the door to it. So in the end if you work on the thing which is split off in yourself it is the best approach, since there is no way of knowing if it is outside or inside of yourself. You experience it as a psychic reality, but whose psyche is it that you are experiencing? I have found this to be a problem with people who want to be particularly good; and I have seen it quite a lot in spiritual movements where there is a really genuine, sincere aspiration to be selfless and to be Christlike, and to fulfil the spirit of love and selfsacrifice. There is a driving need to be this way and the dark side of the personality gets completely dissociated. Such people then feel under attack from negative occult groups trying to pull them down, trying to stamp out the existence of a positive group. Whether or not there are Black Lodges 1 have no idea, but I am convinced that if one creates that kind of split in one's nature it opens the door to this kind of thing. If you can keep the shadow in your own line of vision then no outside shadow is going to be able to be let in through this secret turning of the key. Projection is one of the commonest psychological phenomena in the world. It does not even have to be the dark side. Anything that one cannot face in oneself can project in this way, and when people feel themselves under psychic attack from outside, before trying to work out who it is that does not like them, I would suggest looking within themselves for whatever it is they are unable to face.
Q. Would you say that the true symbol behind the
suffering or illness experienced by each individual is
in reality his karma? That he is underqoinq what he
has elected to experience in this particular incarnation?
A. You could put it that way and I completely agree
with you, but I am avoiding the word karma, because
it is charged. It is used quite frequently in the way
that someone once referred to as the "ding-dong" theory
which seems to me a very nice term. It implies that if
you were good in your last life you will be rewarded in
this, and vice versa. I somehow feel that the Universe
is not quite so simple. Blavatsky says that karma is
substance. It is simply the essence of which you were
made and you attract those experiences which reflect
your own essence.
It is not so much cause and effect as synchronous: the outside and the inside mesh with each other. This is Paracelsus again - if I have Mars in my own nature I will attract Mars from the outside. That to me is karma in a way that I would understand it. whether it is because of what one did in the past I would question, or whether it is simply what is. necessary for one's development now. Sometimes I think we carry things that are not only to do with us. I think there are people who are sacrifices. I sometimes feel that a lot of the mental illness we suffer from now is not only because one individual suddenly freaks out and becomes schizophrenic or manic depressive, but rather that all of us are. It erupts through just a handful which makes it possible for the rest of us to pretend to be sane. There is a collective pressure building up and it pops up in individuals. Artists are traditionally sacrifices of this kind, they carry the value of the group. They are obsessed by vision. It is not their personal vision, they carry it for their generation and make a sacrifice of their lives. What have they done for the rest of us? We do not really ever know.
It is this group aspect of karma that I think we do not fully understand- I think the phenomenon of Germany is an excellent example. One can look at the Germany of World War II and say: "Oh those awful Nazis; they were evil and destructive and Hitler was a horrifying and destructive man." What we do not look at is the fact that for two thousand years the whole of western culture created Germany. We created Hitler: the collective psyche of the West, through constant pressure of values that man could not possibly have lived up to, created this vast split off piece of the psyche, which in turn erupted to possess - a collective possession in this case. But the responsibility does not lie with Germany, it lies with the whole of western culture. That if you like, is racial karma. It is our own coming back to meet us.