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The Horoscope Trap!

  Is your natal horoscope a picture of the real you, or a spiraling web you may want to escape?

Initial conditions + conditioning = character

By John Townley

What is the natal horoscope? All astrology is defined by what we believe to be the answer to that, but in fact most astrologers don’t really know – much less agree upon – what exactly that is, even if they think they do.

OK, everyone agrees it is a picture of the sky at the exact time of birth from the point of view of your birthplace. But in relation to who you are, what is it? Is it:

1. You, the essence of your innate self? [our thought: not]

2. A sudden imprint on your psyche like a duckling’s first sight of its mom? [our thought: not]

3. A date stamp caused by birth trauma? [our thought: not]

4. An astral parallel to DNA that shapes your development? [our thought: not, but similar]

5. The “contract of the soul with time and space” (John Addey’s definition)? [our thought: deceptively so]

6. Something else entirely? [our thought: for sure]

A major problem for most traditional explanations is that the horoscope describes both physical and mental aspects of the individual (meaning it’s not just an astral/soul phenomenon), and it even seems to affect events around the individual which that individual has no relationship with. Further, it seems to be connected with the horoscopes of most of the individual’s important contacts like family, friends, partners, even corporations and countries, making it far more than just an isolated individual signature, but environmentally-linked.

  Some say the horoscope is burned in by birth trauma, others that it's an imprint like a baby duck's fixation on its mom.

Most of the above proposed definitions, long popular among one or another set of astrologers, may be too small and too-linked to religious and even increasingly-dated scientific paradigms. To try to winnow them all and look for a better explanation, several things need to be established:

It's Not You

First, the horoscope is not you, because you predate it. You’re moving in the womb well before your birth and even respond to external signals and physical and chemical input that you subsequently inherit. Political pro-lifers may take some support in that, except they wish to control who determines entrance rights. There’s a mostly ready-to-go individual in there at least several months before the horoscope usually cuts in at a natural-term birth, already responding to the same lunar cycles, etc., with which the mother is in tune. So, the horoscope is something that gets added later.

Is it an imprint, connected with birth trauma? Not likely, as Caesarian births with little or no trauma have working horoscopes. Plus, many of the characteristics the horoscope displays are only manifested in brain matter that isn’t even present at birth, but develops later, from an interplay of DNA-driven genetics combined with external learning input, the so-called “nature and nurture”. 

Whatever your birth horoscope, you were cooking inside before it ever happened...

Astrally/spiritually speaking, the soul (as most would define it, something separate from the body) is already in there, or at least hanging around with its unique components intact, well before the horoscope happens, meaning the horoscope is in that context only an environmental modification.

Which may be precisely how we should think of it. In chaos theory, when a separate system (particularly a robust, self-organizing, recursive one such as a life form) comes into existence, its future is totally dependent upon its set of initial conditions. Even the slightest detail makes it developmentally totally different from any other (think, the butterfly effect). Since the moment of first breath (usually agreed on as the horoscope time) is when the individual becomes a separate system from the mother, the horoscope is in fact just a map of planetary initial conditions, utterly unique to the individual. Everything to come evolves from that point.

Building Character Over Time

That definition by itself might suffice both physically and spiritually (it would certainly fit Addey’s description), but there’s more. Once the system of initial conditions has begun, the individual then begins to experience a set of cycles in a unique order that helps shape both learning itself and also future expectations. All will experience the same repeat transits of planets to their own places (returns) which so well describe universal growth, but each will experience cross cycles (Saturn to Sun, Moon to Mars, etc.) at unique times in life that separately shape individual development, in fact building the character that will be later mistakenly believed as innate to the individual or the horoscope itself. Thus, a child with Saturn rising ahead of and conjunct the Sun or Moon will experience that enervating Saturn transit in the first year or so of life, putting a distinctly and often unhappy Saturnian stamp on experience and hence character, especially if that transit occurs right on top of the otherwise-invigorating first Mars return.  Conversely, if Jupiter is two signs before the Lights, that first Mars return will be extra exhilarating, boosting confidence across a lifetime with Jupiter's help. The same applies to every other cycle of and to every other planet, creating a unique matrix of timed growth into adulthood and beyond, the result and fulfillment of that original set of initial conditions. These inevitable devolpments are locked onto the set of initial conditions, the information about which is the horoscope itself.

The horoscope starts a long road of evolving scripts: yours. Knowing that, you can pick and choose, or alter the screenplay.

In this vision, the natal horoscope is a snapshot not unto itself alone but a picture of the opening of a lifetime of environmental experience that subsequently actually forms the character. It’s an event in nature whose effects come through subsequent unavoidable nurture. It is initial conditions which develop into conditioning which uniquely develops and defines each individual. It isn't you, but along with your physical DNA it depicts what you may become, the nature and order of what you will experience and thus the shape you will likely adopt and wrap around you. It's the unique lineup at the starting gate of the horserace that will be your life. Further, that initial pattern also presages likely future contacts with others, as it will be other individuals having similar experiences along common threads which the native will tend to run into, because they share the same cycles hitting similar degree areas in their horoscopes at the same times. Altogether, this point of view explains nearly everything – including seemingly unrelated contacts with others – except for the physical mechanism by which we experience these driving planetary cycles to begin with, an environmental step-down issue which we have dealt with elsewhere.

See and Choose: Yourself

This may seem simple and logical, but it is a radical departure from the traditional view of the horoscope as the essential person him/herself or at very least a lifelong imprint, stamp, or brand that is writ in an instant. It is, rather, simply an instant like any other that serves as a totally unique gateway to a predictable series of ongoing events which mold the character from that moment on. It also allows a freer way of looking at the horoscope, by allowing us to see just how much determinism is there, and how it causes character to accrue from the inside, over the years. Just as I and others have long noted that the composite chart only gains strength by transits over the years, well after a relationship begins, so the natal chart itself gets its strength and manifests its shape through continual reinforcement throughout life, in a fashion easy to follow if you know how to read it. And, if you know what’s being reinforced and when, you have a bit more control over channeling or even fighting that reinforcement.  The challenge is to unwind the tangled spiral of all the overlapping cycles that have woven those experience threads into a hard cocoon which subsequently passes for your character, but which may in fact be more like a prison for your soul.

Starting early, planetary cycles wind and reinforce a cocoon of experience and expectation that becomes your character.

Ultimately, the “you” that predated the onset of the initial horoscope's potentially-alterable “contract with time and space” is still the one in charge, but only if you can sort out what’s been piled on top of you since, your acquired cocoon of experience that has become your "character". And the key to that pile lies in the horoscope itself, the starting map of your journey, along with your daily decisions to either utilize or escape it, pilot it or abandon it -- once you know what you are dealing with. Put succinctly: if you know your beginning, then monitor its unfoldments -- first in retrospect, then subsequently day to day -- you can get a solid gold outcome. 

Or, to phrase it yet another way:


You are a tangle,

Every angle so designed as to withold
The princess bold who sleeps beneath your skin,
Awaiting rescue, long-forgotten deep within
A heart so oft too-freely bought and sold.
So we set out, lost and wounded fields to travel
Through travail of any cost thereto unravel
And unfold this tragic, torn and twisted skein
And weave till there no space remains between us
As of old,
Once more forgiven by the land we live in,
Wrapped in finely-riven cloth of gold.

Oh you who would this subtle journey take

Wind, water, fire, and field companions make!


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