Our guest author this month is well-respected Mark Jones, a writer, teacher, astrologer and someone who ruminates about deeper issues around the use of astrology. His details are at the end including his classes and book lists. Note: Italics and bold fonts are added by the editor.
“Love, reason, and productive activity are one’s own psychic forces that arise and grow only to the extent that they are practiced; they cannot be consumed, bought, or possessed like objects of having, but can only be practiced, exercised, ventured upon, performed. In contradistinction to objects of having – which are expended when they are used up – love, reason, and productive activity grow and increase when they are shared and used.” Rainer Funk from the introduction to The Art of Being by Erich Fromm.
Fromm draws the distinction between 2 modes of existence: having and being. He clearly, as the book title suggests, favours the latter. Why? He reverses the ancient religious idea that one can be free even whilst in chains by saying one can also be a slave without any chains. The need to possess is one such invisible manacle that he saw distorting the contemporary world. The need to possess is a substitute for being.
We accumulate and collect things as a distraction from internal deficiencies. He argues that such a need, to consume something to fulfil the inner hole, leads to the “great sham.” This “sham” is the fiction of selling political or economic expansion, or of spiritual technologies, as salvation narratives to obscure an existential issue. Whilst he recognises that some do this cynically, he is aware that many are well intentioned. Furthermore he points to that place in all of us that is far from beyond reproach:
“There is, in fact, little reason for personal attacks, since these merchants of salvation only satisfy a widespread demand. How could it be different? People are confused and unsure, they seek answers to guide them to joy, tranquillity, self-knowledge, salvation – but they also demand that it be easy to learn, that it require little or no effort, and results be quickly obtained.” Erich Fromm.
This leads us directly to the, ‘to be or not to have’ question of Astrology. “People are confused and unsure, they seek answers to guide them” – they seek Astrologers to offer them guidance; figures who consciously or unconsciously represent the possibility of “joy, tranquillity, self-knowledge, salvation.” This, for Fromm, is the problem of having (which constellates directly its antithesis; not having, or the fear of not having). To have Astrology is to own it as your guidance system, is to rely on it or its interpreters for your life path. Serious stuff…. and potentially very dangerous!
To have Astrology is to externalize the existential questions. Someone can look at your chart and tell you something which might allow you to step forward, without having to face those insecurities keeping you awake at night, without having to do all that hard-work on yourself. Sometimes people seek out Astrologers because they cannot handle working on themselves and they want someone else to point their way. The possession fantasy where the chart is somehow “their own” legitimizes their absconding from their own existential responsibility.
It was as a busy city Therapist I learned some people only come to therapy to silence the part of them which feels bad about what they are doing; in order for them to carry on doing what they essentially “want to,” leaving the bad feeling in my office. I said to one drug addict lawyer who prosecuted drug addicts in court for a living, “You can keep coming here each evening and paying me to tell me how things have stayed the same since we met but let’s not pretend you are working on anything.” I would love to say that kick-started a revolution but he kept going a few more times in denial until he did not come any more.
Fromm does not deny we need models. Far from it: “Read the masters of living” he cries, “learn to understand the true meaning of their words.” Examples of these masters: the Buddha and Meister Eckhart. In fact he quotes Eckhart, “How can anyone live without being instructed in the art of living and dying?” Great point – note the obvious – he doesn’t say visit an Astrologer to find the answer.
This does not mean some of those people will not be genuinely helped by an Astrologer. How often, and with what calibre of interaction and with what degree of honesty about shouldering their own burden in life, would be very hard to ascertain, but I am certain would be deeply sobering if we were party to that level of information.
An Astrology of ‘being’ would not need to have the answer for the person’s life questions. It would not point to a salvation outside of the person’s own being and the resources emerging from that being. The chart would be a portal to that being.
Obviously the title of this piece borrows from Hamlet; a play of such extraordinary visionary intensity it has prompted near endless interpretation. One could read the study notes and say Hamlet is about a self-obsessed young man crippled by indecision on whether to act on information about his father’s murder, and that indecision grows into a moral crisis which destroys the court of Denmark, as well as Hamlet himself. This hardly explains why the Jungian Robert Johnson wrote a book in which he described Hamlet as the work capturing the dilemma of consciousness in the modern era. The plot synopsis does not do justice to the poetry;
” I have of late–but
wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
you seem to say so. ”
A speech that finds its power in a profound reversal: Ostensibly it is about the loss of joy, but this loss is conveyed with such intense beauty and regard that Hamlet transcends his own pain even as he describes it.
I say to you a natal chart is a great speech from Shakespeare, it is an embodiment of the lucid beauty of a lyric poem, it is a cantata from the liquid math mind of Bach. It cannot be reduced to a mere possession. It cannot be owned by you or your interpreting Astrologer. It is a window to your being. It can only be lived. It can only be lived by you. This is its precious truth. This is a world beyond the “great sham”. This is the art of being.
Mark Jones—an astrologer, Psychosynthesis therapist, and hypnotherapist based in South Wales—works with clients and students worldwide and is a regular speaker and workshop leader in North America and Europe.
Mark offers readings and ongoing mentoring work after a reading in order to encourage people to embrace their true potential.
Mark’s first book, Healing the Soul: Pluto, Uranus, and the Lunar Nodes, explores the basis of his astrological approach. His second, The Soul Speaks: The Therapeutic Power of Astrology, explores the transformative power of the natal chart reading and the astrologer’s role in that transformation.
In addition, Mark has co-authored Dialogues with Frank Clifford and contributed chapters to Astrology: the New Generation, Transpersonal Astrology, and Insights into Evolutionary Astrology and written for Mountain Astrologer magazine. He contributed to our 2017 Feature, Scorpio Moon Asks.