Dear astrologers in 2116 and beyond,
So many times you wish you could ask astrologers in the past about what they would have said about the present time. Every generation hopes the next will make greater discoveries and push our understanding further, but history shows us that astrology survives on the fringes, in stops and starts, in regular periods of innovation and synthesis.
I come from 2016, a time when humanity was on the brink of making discoveries that will make interplanetary travel and colonizing space a reality. It isn’t a question of if a person will be born on a planet other than Earth, it really is a question of when. Within at least 100 years, I think it is a realistic possibility. It isn’t a problem that astrologers in my time have to worry about, but I’m sure it will be for you. So here are some thoughts from an astrologer in 2016 on the question of what happens to astrology once people are no longer born on Earth.
I believe the answer to this question partly relies on the answer to a different question: What is our relationship to our environment, to the universe? My answer to this is that there appears to be a sympathy between the ‘out there’ and the ‘in here’, and I think that would be present no matter where you go. Developments in our understanding of the universe have both weirdly mirrored and heralded our own developments as a species. More simply put, ‘as above, so below’.
Consider our history. Our growing awareness of the ‘out there’ has correlated with the developments in the ‘down here’ and the ‘in here’. Early humanity’s progressing awareness of the cycles of the Sun, Moon and the planets from Mercury to Saturn gave us human civilizations which progressed from primal nomadic tribes (the Moon) to organized stratified hierarchical societies (Saturn), in the meantime developing language and writing (Mercury), social and community relations (Venus), divisions and wars (Mars), wisdom and customs (Jupiter).
Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Pysche lays out better than anyone the various ways in which our cosmic perspective undergirds and reverberates through many developments in human society across different fields: in politics, philosophy, science, art and music. He uses the example of the Copernican revolution to explain the advent of modernity. I’ve taken his thinking a few steps further.
The discovery of Uranus also coincided with a revolutionary time in human history on multiple fronts, in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, the founding of the United States of America and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In a way that it never had before, humanity had to contend with the light and dark forces of transcendental individualism and industrial/technological progress at any cost, right as Uranus made itself known.
A similar thing happened with Neptune. The discovery of Neptune happened the week the Communist Manifesto was published, in the midst of an unprecedented year of global protests for democratic reforms. If Uranus is freedom at any cost, Neptune is justice at any cost. In a way that it never had before, humanity had to contend with the light and dark forces of transcendental collectivism, in the form of movements for racial and sexual equality, but also as communism and nationalism.
The discovery of Pluto occurred at a time when fascism was rising in the world, and physicists were grappling with the fundamental forces of nature, discovering the awesome constructive/destructive power of splitting a single atom. This is just what happened when these planets were discovered. Imagine what will happen when we actually go to these places.
200,000 years ago, the first homo sapiens looked up in the night sky and saw the Moon. We’ve been looking up at it ever since. On July 20th 1969, the first human stepped onto the Moon, and once he was there, he could not help but look back at the Earth. The Moon has traditionally been associated with contrarian or passive principles, the yang to the yin of the Sun, the satellite of the satellite, the reflector of the Sun’s light, associated with our fragile physical selves, our mother, our home, our habits, instincts, emotions. The Moon itself was formed from Earth’s debris after a major collision, a kind of Eve created from Adam’s rib. After reflecting on us all this time, of course humanity would be compelled to finally join the Moon in its reflection on Earth once it finally arrived there.
In less than a year from that first giant leap for mankind, we celebrated our first Earth Day, kicking off the modern environmental movement. Within that year, the UN and NATO launched significant initiatives and declarations concerning environmental issues, driven by increased awareness of the science of global warming. Reaching the Moon has meant reflecting on ourselves as a planet, to overcome our base instincts and come together as a global community to preserve our physical home, to harness the power of the Sun for our energy just as the Moon reflects it. The more we establish ourselves on the Moon, the more I believe this will come more into focus on Earth.
It seems that our continuing exploration of our solar system and beyond will mirror and herald new developments for our species that are related to the topic of that planet. Each new planet reached or boundary crossed would be a paradigm shift in who we are or what we’ve become. Accordingly, our arrival on Mars may divide us over who gets to be on top, who will claim ownership of the new “New World”. Elon Musk basically admitted that the first people to reach Mars will likely die there, and that we should look at reaching Mars as more of a grand adventure than a place we safely return from, at least at first. If this is not a call for people embodying Mars-like traits of courage and risk-taking, I’m not sure what is.
From there we can extrapolate what the future of humanity might be like. To reach Jupiter would mean reaching a new understanding or wisdom, to become truly beneficient. Reaching Saturn would mean acknowledging our limits or experiencing a great tragedy. Reaching Uranus would mean overcoming natural limitations through technology (one thinks of transhumanism, tech-enhanced immortality). Reaching Neptune would mean contending with the nature of reality and virtual reality, and so on. We are ever more comfortable with the idea of intelligent life in other worlds, as we confirm the existence of thousands of alien planets when they eclipse their own stars. Beyond our solar system await new developments for our species beyond the imagination. I suppose once we have passed the boundaries of our solar system, having fully conquered and learned the lessons of the gods so to speak, we have become like gods ourselves.
But what does this mean practically, for the astrologer casting a natal chart for our first human born off the planet? One branch of astrology that will and should probably be used a lot more is heliocentric astrology. It doesn’t matter where someone is born, even if it’s between two planets – your heliocentric chart will be the same. The concept of signs and houses break down, but planetary cycles, aspects and transits would still be the same.
For example, if someone was born at a heliocentric Mars-Jupiter conjunction, you would still expect that person’s life to unfold according to the themes and repetitions of heliocentric Mars-Jupiter conjunctions. And really, the planets have always been the heart of astrology. The signs, the houses, the Lots, they’re all cultural constructs which can add layers of meaning and may be able to translate on another planet but are not fundamental.
Because of this, it’s much less certain what becomes of horoscopic astrology from the perspective of a different planet or moon. Do the planets retain the meanings they had on Earth or would their relative coincident cycles reveal different malefic or benefic tendencies on other planets? Horizonal and zodiacal considerations could make sense for births on solid planets and moons, but what becomes of rulerships? How many signs should there be? The constellations would not change too much from planet to planet, so some of the meanings of the fixed stars could be transported to another planet.
However, a big part of astrology is symbolic appearances. It’s why planetary retrograde periods are important despite being an optical illusion. There must be a degree to which the appearances of planets and other celestial phenomena from the perspective of other planets would be significant to the people witnessing them. The biggest challenge would be when someone is born en route to another planet or moon. Perhaps you could cast a chart for the position of a space station traveling between two planets, but it would be a bit chaotic. What would an Ascendant be in that case? This is why heliocentric astrology is probably the future of astrology.
For all the parts of astrology that would be complicated by interplanetary travel, there is also the opportunity to see what the astrological phenomenon really is. It goes beyond the minutiae of a perfectly rendered chart, it’s obviously part of a broader phenomenon where reality is something that isn’t just that which can be objectively measured and observed, but also includes our own personal recognition of symbolic significance without being divorced from reason. It’s this weird cosmic sympathy between the ‘out there’ and the ‘in here’ that will always be with us, playing off what something merely is to what something means. As above so below.
Good luck, future astrologers. Things really were simpler way back when, but I know you’ll figure it out! Think unto the problem, and probe the mysteries ever deeper.
Your friend from 2016,