Astrology and Psychology

Final Exam – History of Astrology – Verena Donath


Assess how much influence the major developments in psychological thought in the last 100 years may have had on the increased popularity and acceptance of astrology in the public domain

I chose this topic to demonstrate that modern astrology, which is embedded in psychological models, is experiencing a revival in our epoch that parallels the time of the early renaissance and that with the reformulation of astrological concepts along the lines of humanistic psychology a process started whose significance in reference to the history and continuity of astrology is enormous, although its impact upon future generations is barely recognizable in its entirety or to envisage in our days. These days are marked by a shift in paradigm as we are standing on the threshold of a new age and witness the re-emergence of philosophical principles from an ancient worldview into postmodern science amidst the increasing psychological chaos that is prevailing in our society as a consequence of causal determinism, the principle that underlies the mechanistic worldview and which depleted human beings of purpose and meaning, resulting among other things in a split of mind and body. This subsequently fostered the development of psychological studies.

In this essay, I will cover the meaning of the word psychology and its different approaches and schools as well as the importance of Carl Gustav Jung’s work in this field, which furthered the integration of astrology into psychology and vice versa. Furthermore, I intend to focus on the humanistic movement in psychology and astrology and to pay tribute to the foremost pioneer of humanistic and transpersonal astrology of our age – Dane Rudhyar, who is the source of my inspiration and dedication toward astrological pursuits and from whose legacy I derived my understanding and knowledge.

For this purpose I researched books on the topic of astrology and psychology in addition to several online dictionaries and websites that offer information on the topics of psychology and astrology as well as on C.G. Jung’s involvement with these subjects and Dane Rudhyar’s contributions from which I will quote throughout this essay in order to support my statements.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition the definition of the word psychology is:

“1. The science that deals with mental processes and behavior.

2. The emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual, group or activity.

3. Subtle tactical action or argument used to manipulate or influence another.

4. Philosophy the branch of metaphysics that studies the soul, the mind, and the         relationship of life and mind to the functions of the body.”

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary:

“1. The science of mind and behavior.

2.a: the mental or behavioral characteristics of an individual or group.

B: the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity

3. A treatise on psychology.”

Online Hyperdictionary:

“The science of mental life.”

Online Dictionary Origin Marketing Ltd. And W3 Dictionary:

“1.The science of the human soul; specifically the systematic or scientific knowledge of the powers and functions of the human soul, so far as they are known by consciousness; a treatise on the human soul.

2. The science of mental life.”

According to the MSN Encarta:

“Psychology, the scientific study of behavior and the mind. This definition contains three elements. The first is that psychology is a scientific enterprise that obtains knowledge through systematic and objective methods of observation and experimentation. Second is that psychologists study behavior, which refers to any action or reaction that can be measured or observed—such as the blink of an eye, an increase in heart rate, or the unruly violence that often erupts in a mob. Third is that psychologists study the mind, which refers to both conscious and unconscious mental states. These states cannot actually be seen, only inferred from observable behavior.”

“The term psychology comes from two Greek words: psyche, which means “soul,” and logos, “the study of.” These root words were first combined in the 16th century, at a time when the human soul, spirit, or mind was seen as distinct from the body.”

Brainy encyclopedia:

“It is the practice of studying, teaching or applying of the mind, thought and behavior and largely concerned with psychology of humans, although the behavior of animals is also studied; either as a subject in its own right (animal cognition), or more controversially, as a way of gaining an insight into human psychology by means of comparison (comparative psychology). Psychology is conducted both scientifically and non-scientifically. Mainstream psychology is based largely on positivism, using quantitative studies and the scientific method to test and disprove hypotheses, often in an experimental context. Psychology tends to be eclectic, drawing on scientific knowledge from other fields to help explain and understand behavior. However, not all psychological research methods are scientific, and some may involve qualitative or interpretive techniques more allied to the humanities. Mainstream psychology has a bias towards the scientific methods.”

From these quotations we can assume that psychology encompasses what is considered to be scientific methods of investigation and observation as well as other approaches in order to explore the relationship of mind, body and soul. Since antiquity has psychology been enmeshed within philosophy and has also been a branch of it; in a religious sense it has been used for the most part for the study of the soul. In many ways, astrology was the first form of psychology as it was pre-occupied with the fate of individual persons and their temperaments.

“Aristotle wrote the first book on psychology as a separate topic from the rest of philosophy, which was called  ‘Para Psyche’ or ‘De Anima’ in Latin and contains the first mentions of many ideas that are basic to psychology today, such as the laws of association” (Dr. C. George Boeree, The History of Psychology).

Astrology was largely discredited following the scientific revolution because it was not intelligible within the mechanistic paradigm that constituted the worldview of this era. Psychology came to replace astrology as a scientific discipline that investigated human behavior. Though psychology sought to obtain independence from philosophy since the dawn of the scientific age, it was not before the close of the 19th century that it succeeded in the interest of its own development. At this time (1879) the first laboratory has been established by Wilhelm Wundt in order to conduct experiments and for the purpose of observation, thereby specifically focusing on general and basic questions concerning behavior and mental states. The new psychology adapted to the mechanistic paradigm and to the methods of the physical sciences, while holding the belief in causation and that physical principles explain all mental phenomena, separating it from the realms of philosophy and theology. Generally, modern scientific psychology has remained faithful to the prevailing rationalistic view that human beings are basically animals, their nature and character the effect of random, externally originating forces such as genes and social conditions and as such are victimized by circumstance, a viewpoint that incorporates deterministic assumptions based on mechanistic reasoning.

Meanwhile, Sigmund Freud had invented and applied a method of psychotherapy known as psychoanalysis; a movement that popularized the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior and which influenced 20th century psychology deeply as it revolutionized modern Western thinking. Freud’s understanding of the mind was largely based on interpretive methods and introspection, but was particularly focused on resolving mental stress and psychopathology. His cornerstone was in his concept of the unconscious as a repository of desire, unacceptable wishes and unpleasant memories and he tackled subjects such as sexuality and repression, which were largely considered taboo at this time and thus he provided a catalyst for them to be openly discussed in society.

Partly as a reaction to the subjective and introspective nature of the time and largely due to the creation and successful application of conditioning theories as scientific models of human behavior, gained behaviorism in popularity as a guiding psychological theory and became the dominant model for much of the early 20th century. This method proved later on as deficient, whereas developmental psychology evolved in parallel with theories of psychopathology and psychotherapy. Conclusively, psychology carved out a territory that had not been previously explored in the field of astrology and which referred to developmental growth as a result of changes in the personalities and in behavior.

Carl Gustav Jung was a pupil of Sigmund Freud, who was since his childhood exposed to both occult and orthodox religious issues. The impact of his openness to philosophy and theosophy as well as eastern and western religious practices and beliefs seemed to play a significant role in the development of his psychological theories and practices. Jung held reservations about some of Freud’s ideology and expressed concerns about Freud’s limited perspective, because of his inability to understand religious experience and its validity in regard to the human psyche. Despite this difference, both maintained a strong interest in dreams and their inherent value in uncovering the dynamics of the unconscious mind. Yet, Jung’s view of the unconscious was fundamental different than Freud’s, which led to the break of their relationship, whereby Jung termed his work analytical psychology, a concept that revolved around the process of inner development and the goal of obtaining psychic wholeness. He did not only use astrology as a psychological tool in his practice, but also spent years doing research into the psychological aspects of alchemical symbolism. His recognition of the vast potential of astrology assisted him by his definition of the Archetypes, which are the universal principles underlying and motivating all psychological life, individual and collective.

“The Archetype is a formal element, empty in itself, which is nothing more than a facultas praeformandi, an a priori possibility of the form in which the idea appears. It is not our ideas themselves that are inherited but merely their forms, which, in this respect, are the exact equivalents of the equally formally determined instincts. Nor can the Archetypes, any more than the instincts be shown to be present as such, until they are brought to concrete manifestation.” (C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious)

Astrology utilizes Archetypes as a language for understanding the basic psychological drives of human beings. The whole astrological world of ideas can be interpreted as a meaningfully ordered assembly of symbols, necessarily resting on an archetypal foundation of which the collective unconscious of humankind is composed and thus they can be rediscovered in everybody’s psyche after they have assumed definite forms.

“Astrology is assured of recognition from psychology without further restrictions because astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.” (Commentary C.G. Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower)

More than anyone else, Jung showed that the primary life-motivating agents in the individual psyche and the overall psychological patterns in entire cultures are manifestations of “archetypal” factors in the human psyche. They are inherent in the psychological layer of life, which he calls the “collective unconscious” and are psychoid, shaping matter as well as mind. Like Plato’s Forms, an Archetype is both subjective and objective; and is evident in the innate ideas of human consciousness as well as in the fundamental processes of nature.

“The distinction between mind and body is an artificial dichotomy, a discrimination which is unquestionable based far more on the peculiarity of intellectual understanding than on the nature of things. In fact, so intimate is the intermingling of bodily and psychic traits that not only can we draw far-reaching inferences as to the constitution of the psyche from the constitution of the body, but we can also infer from psychic peculiarities the corresponding bodily characteristics.” (C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search for a Soul)

“It is characteristic of the Westerner that, for purpose of knowledge, he has split apart the physical and the spiritual sides of life; but these opposites lie together in the psyche, and psychology must recognize the fact. The ‘psychic’ is both physical and mental.” (C.G. Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower)

It was exactly this dual nature of the Archetype that enabled the astrological chart to bridge inner character with the outer events that reflected that character. Jung recognized that the unique and unparalleled ability of astrology to disclose correlations between planetary motion and human experience also made it an accurate way of timing life-crises. This observance contributed to the formulation of his theory of synchronicity.

He defined synchronicity as “the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state.” (C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An A-Causal Connecting Principle)

This theory of correspondences is at the very core of astrology and the famous axioms “as above, so below”, “as within so without”, which have survived through the centuries, are an expression of the interrelationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm. In addition, his notion of two attitude-types  – extrovert and introvert – is readily recognizable in astrology as the bi-polar division of the zodiac into yang and yin signs. Likewise, his four functional types – intuition, sensation, thinking and feeling – show affinities with the four elements of astrology (fire, earth, air and water).

In the 1930’s began Dane Rudhyar to reformulate astrology in terms of Jung’s analytical psychology. He especially focused on Jung’s idea that the psyche was a dynamic compound of opposing forces in equilibrium, and that the psyche was intrinsically motivated to evolve in the direction of psychic wholeness, a process Jung called individuation because he believed that the process of personality transformation was innate or teleological motivated toward the final goal of self-realization of the personality. Consequently, Dane Rudhyar started a whole new chapter in the history of astrology as he developed person-centered astrology.

The film-producer Steven North called Rudhyar “a 20th century Renaissance man”.

Anais Nin (about D.R.): “You are unique in your power to synthesize all elements and include all modern thought and new visions into astrology.”

Paul Clancy commented on “The Astrology of Personality” (bestseller by D.R.): “the greatest step forward in astrology since the time of Ptolemy.”

(All endorsements are from Rudhyar’s biography published by Michael R. Meyer)

Rudhyar has clearly and comprehensively expounded a holistic approach to astrology based on the philosophy of holism, the basic premise of which is that existence manifests at all levels in terms of wholes, i.e. organized fields of interdependent activities. For Rudhyar, astrology is man’s most complete language of the form, structure and rhythm of functional wholes. He has presented astrology in a thoughtful and sophisticated way that blends perfectly with the most hopeful insights of post-modern science, philosophy and psychology.

“Astrology when we look closely at what it is able to interpret and give meaning to, appears as a symbolic language in which the structure in space and time of larger wholes (like the solar system) is related to the structural development of lesser wholes (an individual person or humanity-as-a-whole). Astrology is indeed the practical application of a holistic philosophical approach to existence. According to this philosophy, every existential whole is contained within a greater whole, which in turn is a lesser whole contained within a still greater whole. An organized system of existential activities is therefore both the container of lesser wholes, and one of the contents of a greater system.” (Dane Rudhyar, The Practice of Astrology)

“Personality, in the largest sense, is the organic whole in which the physiological and the psycho-mental natures of man are progressively integrated. Therefore, it represents the wholeness of the human being as a microcosm; man as a whole solar system operating on the background of, and in constant relationship to the zodiac or the galaxy. Astrology….is an art of life interpretation and provides us with a technique for the development and fulfillment of ‘personality’. …The goal of astrology is the alchemy of personality. It is to transform chaos into cosmos; collective human nature into individual and creative personality.” (Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality)

Rudhyar emphasized the responsibility of the astrologer and counselor, terming him an astrotherapist, who conveys threshold-knowledge in form of psychosynthesis and who provides psychological guidance; hence the astrologer is considered a psychologist.

“Astrology provides the structure and psychology the contents” (Dane Rudhyar, An Astrological Study of Psychological Complexes)

“Rudhyar’s whole trend of thought is in the spirit of psychosynthesis.” (Robert Assagioli, Founder of Psychosynthesis, 1972)

By the 1960’s received Rudhyar’s project of reformulating astrology new impetus from the humanistic movement in psychology, which had emerged as a “Third Force” in the 1950’s and is distinctly different from the more mechanistic models as it “had arisen in response to the bleak pessimism inherent in the Freudian psychoanalytic view and the robot conception of human potential implied in behaviorism. Rather than portray the individual as caught in an interminable struggle between instinctual drives and the inhibiting influence of society (psychoanalysis), or fragment the person into a multitude of conditioned behaviors as seen from an external vantage point (behaviorism), humanists perceived the individual as a unified organism made up of autonomous drives and functions which could be differentiated from one another and integrated into a functional whole greater than the sum of its parts.” (Glenn Perry, The Birth of Psychology, Article)

The very comprehensiveness of humanistic psychology and its emphasis on holism and subjectivity distinguishes it from mainstream psychology. Humanistic psychology complements humanistic astrology – both emphasize self-actualization, the creative potential of the individual, self-determinism and meaningful development and both decried the inherent determinism of their respective traditional foundations. Among the leading humanistic psychologists were Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Rollo May, while the most famous humanistic astrologers that followed in Rudhyar’s footsteps have been Ziporah Dobyns, Stephen Arroyo and Richard Idemon.

These movements in psychology and astrology were accompanied by the counterculture of the 1960’s to 1970’s, which was defined by a radical political opposition to “the prevailing conservatism” and saw colorful experimental approaches to art, music and cinema together with uninhibited indulgence in sex and drugs as a symbol of freedom. As criticism of the established social order grew among the newly emergent youth class, new theories about culture and personal identity began to spread and traditional non-Western ideas – particularly with regard to religion, social organization and spiritual enlightenment – found great appeal.

“It was the realization that what was happening in astrology parallels or reflects in many ways what I saw occurring in our society, which led me in February-March 1969 to initiate the International Committee for Humanistic Astrology.” (Dane Rudhyar, From Humanistic to Transpersonal Astrology)

In the western world, man is increasingly alienated from himself and his culture. He is out of touch with his fundamental human roots. His traditions, religious customs and cultural values are breaking down or are even becoming discarded altogether. Materialistic science does not satisfy the deeper needs of man, his separation from nature and the universe, his lost contact with his psyche and inner life.

“One cannot escape from his own soul without mutilating his life and also condemning himself to illness in the physical realm and to a perfidious, stereotyped productivity in the intellectual.” (J. Rudin, Psychotherapy and Religion)

Today, many people are seeking a more unified and comprehensive view of life than is available in the over-specialized disciplines commonly taught in traditional colleges and universities and that cannot be provided by artificial and superficial stimuli. Myth serves as a vitalizing force, but Western culture has no longer any viable mythology to be sustained by. Astrology comprises within itself an entire mythological framework, which is one of the main reasons of its popularity in recent years. Its symbolical language deals essentially “with a quality of being” (Rudhyar). Thus, astrology can be used as a way of reuniting man with his innermost self, with nature and with the evolutionary process of the universe. The application of pure intellectual analysis to the understanding of the inner world of experience has not been able to prove or disprove anything about the ultimate philosophical or religious questions of life, which form the foundation of anyone’s psychological structure.

Astrology’s symbolical language is closer to the quality of human experience than the usual language of psychologists, which is more a set of attitudes toward the person than a precise and useful theory of personality and human growth, whereas astrology provides objective predictable correlates for the structure and dynamics of the psyche and at the same time indicates the directions for self-actualization. In our period of social as well as psychological crisis, astrology can and indeed must fulfill a significant function. A basic revaluation of the meaning and purpose of astrology has been inevitable and so has been a renewed emphasis on the individual person.

The next step in this development is a transpersonal psychology and astrology, a model that incorporates spiritual notions and would constitute the “Fourth Force” of psychology, following psychotherapy, behaviorism and humanistic psychology and focusing on the transformational dimension of the birth-chart. Whereas the humanistic approach deals with horizontal relationships and concentrates on the convergence of factors shown by the birth-chart as a formula for personality integration and fulfillment, the transpersonal approach involves vertical relationships and concentrates on the dynamic process of transformation implied in the birth-chart and its future movement (progressions).


Since the 1960’s has astrology experienced a re-emergence into Western society and gained renewed popularity among the ordinary and the intellectual alike. Its cultural rebirth was initiated by the humanistic movement in both areas, astrology and psychology, which focuses on the individual, his potential for creativity and self-realization and which allows for man’s uniqueness and individual tone of being. Responding to the most urgent needs of distraught and for growth- and purpose seeking human beings in our time the new Astro-psychology represents a unique tool for a holistic approach to life and is based on a unitive and all-encompassing philosophy of wholeness, which reanimates the universe and reconnects the human being with his natural and cosmic environment and which parallels the time and development of the early renaissance that was invigorated by the humanistic movement of this epoch and outlined the spiritual goal for humanity. At that time, astrology took roots in a Christian culture and was able to permeate all aspects of social and religious life based on the growing conviction that astrology was part of the cosmic order. Nowadays, astrology is taking roots in a technological culture and has once more proved its adaptability to the spirit of the age as it has become a unique technique in form of psychosynthesis for understanding human personalities and their potential for growth and fulfillment.

Founded upon a holistic philosophy that illustrates the interconnectedness of the whole universe and everything contained within it, we easily recognize the basic principles of the Hermetic philosophy and of Neo-Platonism, which has been called by Ficino a “perennial philosophy”. This exalted philosophy was complemented by Humanism, which centered on the revaluation of man and is indicative of the same process at work today in humanistic astrology and psychology – the process of individuation and self-actualization – and taken a step further toward self-transformation, a Platonic ideal. The occult sciences of these times are replaced by modern quantum-physics and other non-linear dynamical sciences of complexity. In the same sense as the invention of the printing press was essential to the spread of knowledge in the renaissance, has the computer made world-wide communication possible and has also become a highly useful tool for astrologers because of its precise and fast calculations, memorable storage capacity and informative resource and database. By comparing our modern times with the era of the early renaissance we readily see the same trend operating which led during the renaissance to the height of astrology’s influence and its important role in society and culture. Therefore, we seem to be standing at a crucial point in the history of astrology and on our evolutionary path. The shift in paradigm we are experiencing requires a new commitment to the search for truth and understanding. Science as a whole has to respond to the changes and to acknowledge the value of astrology within this context. The fact that astrology provides us with unique formulations and combinations of general, archetypal qualities gives it its eminent place as the ideal psychological tool and makes it uniquely suited to deal with the entire psycho-physical being of humans as a true science of life. The unity, health and integration of the individual are the starting point for the health and viability of his society.

“Astrology always represented the primordial search of human beings for measurable order and basic meaning of their existence and the search is never ended. The future of astrology depends on its capacity to balance and complement scientific technological thinking by upholding a holistic search for ever more universalistic pattern of order revealing an ever deeper and inclusive realization of the meaning and rhythm of existence in an ever-widening world of human experience.” (Dane Rudhyar)



Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality, Aurora Press, 1936

Stephen Arroyo, Astrology, Psychology and the Four Elements, CRCS, 1975

Karen Hamaker-Zondag, Psychological Astrology, Weiser, 1990


Sites about the history of psychology

Sites containing online dictionaries and encyclopedias

2 thoughts on “Astrology and Psychology

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s