Astrological Psychology: How Pseudoscience Can Help Us Learn More About Ourselves

By Hayley White

Reading time: 12 minutes

To many people, astrology is a joke. They see horoscopes in a newspaper or magazine as generalisations that could apply to anyone’s personality and lifepath. But surely something that has been relied on throughout centuries has some basis in science? Some insist that there is scientific evidence, but a vast majority are doubtful. So how on earth does a social science like psychology pair up with a pseudoscience like astrology?

John D Grove is a licenced clinical social worker who owns a private practice in Pennsylvania, providing psychotherapy for people with mental illness. He is also an astrological psychologist. John became interested in astrology about 55 years ago and, after finishing his psychology major in university, started studying birth charts. He took a number of courses in astrology over the years and has tried to blend his knowledge of psychology with the corresponding astrological concepts.

By Hayley White

Reading time: 12 minutes

To many people, astrology is a joke. They see horoscopes in a newspaper or magazine as generalisations that could apply to anyone’s personality and lifepath. But surely something that has been relied on throughout centuries has some basis in science? Some insist that there is scientific evidence, but a vast majority are doubtful. So how on earth does a social science like psychology pair up with a pseudoscience like astrology?

John D Grove is a licenced clinical social worker who owns a private practice in Pennsylvania, providing psychotherapy for people with mental illness. He is also an astrological psychologist. John became interested in astrology about 55 years ago and, after finishing his psychology major in university, started studying birth charts. He took a number of courses in astrology over the years and has tried to blend his knowledge of psychology with the corresponding astrological concepts.

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychoanalyst who found some solid potential for astrology and psychology as therapies that complement each other. He found that they could be accessed as tools to explore the deep depths of the human psyche. He made it very clear in many of his writings that he had a never-ending respect for astrology. Jung insisted that astrology had a lot to contribute to psychology and admitted that he often used it for his complex cases. In the simplest terms, Jungian theory is the analysis of astrology applied to psychological personality traits. These traits are the typical archetypes that you see with horoscopic astrology, for instance, whether the characteristics of an astrological sign are intro- or extroverted; whether that person thinks or acts first.

The main branch of astrological psychology that John and many others in his field subscribe to is the Jungian theory. As a Jungian, John follows concepts such as these and says they definitely show up in a person’s astrological chart.

John insists there is statistical data that proves astrology is valid and that there is plenty of reliable evidence available that aligns astrology with science. This can be a contentious belief, however, and one that is not shared by many scientific communities. One particular study seemingly disproves astrology by collecting a group of six astrologers and asking them to make personality predictions based on 23 individuals’ birth charts. The results were clear; the astrologers failed with the study reporting that the astrologers probably could have done just as well if they matched the birth information with the subjects randomly (McGrew & McFall, 1990).

Apart from the science against it, astrology is admittedly not something that can be unequivocally proven. It takes a lot of skill and intuition to be able to decode someone’s potential from their birth chart. On top of that, astrologers are likely to have different ways of reading and interpreting that birth chart.

“But I think astrology, the intuitive side of it, helps give meaning to life,” John tells me. “There are lessons to be learned in this lifetime that are reflected in the aspect patterns in our charts, in our horoscopes.”

A birth chart is usually displayed as a circle with each star sign placed evenly around the chart, like a clock. Within this layout, there are three types of patterns based on the positioning of the planets: linear; ambivalence triangle; and connected aspect pattern (or square). Linear patterns show people as very goal oriented and ambitious, like Mozart, who had linear patterns. People who show the ambivalence triangle pattern are very adaptable; they have an unconscious motivation to love communication and enjoy being around people. The square pattern means a person is craving stability and balance in their life.

“You can’t move a square. If you have a square block, you try to move it and it doesn’t move, but if you have a ball, it moves. The moveable triangles are more like that, they’re adaptable and they like change; the patterns of square people don’t like change as much,” John says.

John also tells me that there are three main ego planets that he works with: the sun, the moon, and Saturn. The sun represents our thinking and ‘will ego need’, or the need for independence and to be our own boss. The moon represents our inner child, who reaches out for love and acceptance from parent figures and in relationships. We carry these inner child drives throughout our entire lives, reflected in our moon position and its aspects in our birth chart. Saturn represents our need for safety and security. So, these three elements of the Solar System represent different ego drives and are the focal point for much of John’s work.

Alongside planets and patterns in a person’s chart, John also applies another psychological aspect called theMaslow pyramid, or the Maslow hierarchy of needs. The pyramid has five levels: the base level represents psychological needs, followed by safety needs above that; then love; belonging; esteem; and, finally, at the top of the pyramid;, self-actualisation or achieving one’s full potential.

“Those levels are where we focus on the ego needs. Our Saturn, the moon, and the sun in a person’s chart tell us how well developed each level is. I focus on giving more strength to those areas, reinforcing those areas, giving tasks and homework to clients that allow them to develop those undeveloped ego strengths – because I use a strength-based approach. I don’t just tell people what’s wrong, I direct them to developing what is not balanced in their personalities,” he explains.

“Maybe a person is really interested in being secure but they’re afraid to go out and meet people – they have a strong Saturn but their ability to be independent, their will, their sun, is not so strong. So, I try to help them compensate for that lack of balance by giving them homework that brings out these needs for them to develop. And then I also have the cycle of development in life. What I do is help people where they’re at in that developmental cycle and suggest what tasks they need to do.”

It is very obvious at this point that John does not deal with the usual predictive form of astrology. Rather, he uses astrology coupled with complex psychological concepts, and it does not stop there. John further explains that he also incorporates important psychological tasks set within each age bracket, from birth to death, that we all need to accomplish over time. For example, from 5 to 6 years old, children will be leaving the nest of the parents, going to school, and into a peer group for the first time. Then, between the ages of 18 and 20, you’re going to be looking at leaving home. If some of those life stages are unlikely to be completed before the next incremental level of development, John is concerned.

“If a child is born to a mother who is addicted to heroin and in their earliest stages of development their needs for security and trust are not met, that trust issue will be there throughout their whole life cycle. They’ll have problems trusting people, they’ll be a little paranoid, they’ll be unable to form ties based on trust – which is what all human relationships are based on. So, you can see how the thread of that problem being unresolved continues.”

One of the biggest things that makes astrological psychology difficult to accept is the idea that predetermined events in a person’s life are reflected in their chart. John is a firm believer in reincarnation and reckons that we come to this life with the purpose of growing, evolving, and taking control of ourselves. He believes that our past lives are reflected in our charts and that our destinies are predetermined within astrology. Not only that, but he says that our past lives can be used in this lifetime to help us expand as spiritual and human beings.

“There are indications that you have potential for growth and development in certain areas. That comes from the position of what’s called ‘the nodes of the moon’. Now, that’s not predictive in the sense that you look at a certain time and say now is a time to act, but you can see the areas that show the greatest promise for growth and development, based on your strengths and your destiny,” he explains to me, using the following example:

“Depending on the house of that north node, you’ll find out what environment is best suited for your personal growth and development. If it’s in the seventh house, it’s partnerships; if it’s in the first house, it’s developing an assertive personality. If it’s in the tenth house, it’s being independent minded and following your will. If it’s in the fourth house, that’s the house of the family, it’s developing your relationships within the bosom of the family and close collective ties. So there is definitely a destiny, and it is usually determined by the position of the north node in someone’s chart,” he tells me.

Seeing John lay out these psychological concepts and use them within astrology blows my mind. People have been looking to astrology for spiritual and psychological guidance for millennia. But it was not until psychologists like Carl Jung really fleshed out the idea that psychology and astrology could be used together that the systems really started to take place. In our current world, where many people dispute the validity of astrology, there are astrological psychologists like John, using their craft to dig deeper into the human psyche – and breaking astrology stereotypes while they are at it.

 

Source: A scientific inquiry into the validity of astrology. Journal of Scientific Exploration

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