Humanistic Astrology

Humanistic Astrology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Humanistic astrology was created in the 1930s by Dane Rudhyar, who followed the lead of Marc Edmund Jones in reinterpreting traditional astrology in terms of modern psychology. Rudhyar combined the Theosophical approach to astrology that he had learned at the Krotona Institute with the insights of Carl Jung’s depth psychology, whose works he read during the summer of 1933.

By the 1940s, Rudhyar was trying to create an astrology based on a philosophy “freed not only from the materialistic biases of our Western tradition, but also from the glamour surrounding so much of what today passes for esoteric revelations and unprovable occult claims,” as noted in his book My Stand on Astrology. By this time, the letters he was receiving about his regular columns in American Astrology had alerted him to “the psychological danger involved in careless astrological statements about birth-charts. I therefore tried to stress the psychological responsibility of the practitioner, and to develop theoretically a consistent approach to those astrological factors which were more particularly related to the individuality and the potentiality of growth of the person whose chart was being studied. I increasingly emphasized the need to take a holistic approach to the birth-chart.” In this approach, Rudhyar reinterpreted factors in the birth chart that had traditionally been called malefic or evil as being instead weaknesses in personality structure; and these he saw, not as tragic flaws, but as opportunities for learning and growth.

Rudhyar went on to emphasize that “astrology is a symbolic language … attempting to formulate, by means of symbols based on the common experience of men facing the all-surrounding sky, an immensely complex structure of relationships between the universe and man.” He proposed, for example, that the signs of the zodiac refer not to the vastly distant constellations they were named for, but to 12 zones in Earth’s magnetic aura through which Earth turns every day.

Rudhyar stresses the concept that astrology should be “person-centered,” that the individual birth chart is intended as a guide for telling a person how best to actualize as fully as possible her or his birth potential. If the chart is to do this, then those elements in it that apply to mankind as a whole should not be emphasized; instead, those that reveal a person’s unique individuality should be stressed. Behind this lies the concept common to all modern astrology, psychology, and therapy: The individual personality is not fixed and unchangeable. It can be revised, rewritten, reprogrammed, restructured, and any means that gives the individual some insights into her or his internal patterns can be used for such work on oneself. Rudhyar’s belief—which goes back to his reading, as a youth, of Nietzsche—is that the goal of the fully actualized individual is to become totally free “from the Collective and from an unconscious, compulsive bondage to the values of one’s particular culture—values which a person takes for granted because they have been stamped during childhood upon his sensitive mind by the teachings and even more the example of his elders, and also by the ambience of his society” and to develop one’s own unique qualities as fully as possible.

Rudhyar says that the birth chart is “a set of instructions … showing you how in your particular case the ten basic energies of human nature should be used to the best advantage …. In modern astrology, these basic energies are represented by the ten planets (the Sun and the Moon included). Where these planets are located indicates where (by zodiacal signs and especially by houses) they can be used by you to produce the most valuable results.”

Rudhyar also believed that humanistic astrology needed to be founded on certain basic principles that would guide the astrologer in deciding how to interpret a chart and would function as a code of ethics in helping the astrologer decide what to tell a client, just as a therapist would choose not to state “facts” that would merely damage a patient’s perhaps already eroded self-esteem. The central principle is that every individual has a right “to stand, erect and open, at the center of the universe around him.”

Finally, Rudhyar says, “It is evident that many astrologers … mainly think of astrology in terms of conformism—if not to the goal of financial profit, at least to popular expectations and the wishes of their clients’ egos. I believe instead in an astrology of transformation …. I hope to awaken the sleeping god in every person. By sounding the ‘true name’ of an individual one may arouse to life the divine within him. Every person is a ‘celestial,’ if only he gains the strength and has the courage to stand by the truth of his being and to fulfill his place and function on this earth by following the ‘celestial set of instruction’ revealed by the sky.”

In From Humanistic to Transpersonal Psychology, Rudhyar expands on My Stand on Astrology to discuss astrology as a spiritual discipline whose highest goal is to assist the individual to manifest his or her own special relationship to divinity. From this viewpoint, he argues against the use of statistics and other research to provide a “scientific” basis for astrology, on the grounds that, were astrology to be socially sanctioned, licensed, and regulated, it would become a force for conformity, not for actualization of individual potentials. He thought that the situation would be as ridiculous as looking to the American Medical Association for spiritual guidance. Rudhyar specifically allied himself with the Eleusinian Mysteries against Aristotle, with the Gnostics against the fathers of the church, with the Albigensians against the pope and the king, with the alchemists against the chemists, and with the Romantics against the scientific materialism and bourgeois boredom and mediocrity of the Victorian Age. Consequently, his popularity with the young during the 1970s and 1980s is not at all difficult to understand.

—Aidan A. Kelly


Rudhyar, Dane. From Humanistic to Transpersonal Astrology. Palo Alto, CA: The Seed Center, 1975.
Rudhyar. My Stand on Astrology. Palo Alto, CA: The Seed Center, 1972.
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