The other night, a friend, who is also an astrologer, made a comment that stuck with me. It wasn’t some deep, profound prediction. It was just her observation that “astrology is a symbolic language.”
Astrology is not a language that makes sense to me – yet. I am reading and learning more about it. The Enneagram makes more sense, simply because the descriptions of Nines hit home in a way that my zodiac sign never has. But just because I can’t see it – yet – doesn’t mean it isn’t real. A poem can have layers of depth and meaning, even if the reader just shrugs and tosses it aside. One day, the same reader might open the book again, or hear the poem read aloud, and suddenly get it. Not with their thinking mind, but with their heart, or their gut. There are many ways of knowing.
Part of the problem, as any astrologer will tell you, is that the pop culture version of astrology seen in daily horoscopes is just a tiny part of the picture. A person’s sun sign doesn’t dictate everything about them – there is a whole chart of ascending planets and houses and I don’t know what all else to consider.
Our culture doesn’t really respect symbolic language. We seem to want to take everything symbolic, ethereal or ineffable and turn it into a rule. Something solid, predictable and orderly. A one-line promise of how our day will go: love, money, etc. Just the highlights. And when this dumbed-down version is wrong, we dismiss the whole thing. I see this in the Enneagram stuff I see online, and it makes me sad, particularly when it comes to the heart.
The heart is a symbol of love, sure. In the Enneagram, it is also a symbol of emotion in general. Humans are emotional creatures. We need to understand that reality, and respect it. But instead, I hear and see “rational” arguments as to why the heart is important – it has a bigger magnetic field than a brain! And the gut has so many nerve endings, it has to be important, too!
Have you tried living without a heart, or a body for that matter? Obviously, the brain is not the only thing that matters. Rationalizations like these drive me insane. In the head, which is my dominant way of perceiving the world (even though I’m a 9, a body/gut type). Did you know, Aquarius is an air sign? That somehow makes sense to me. Air represents intellect. And I know from experience that relying too heavily on my intellect doesn’t turn out well.
I need the input from my heart and gut, even if those are just symbols for parts of reality. We are not going to become a more loving and embodied species if we keep insisting everything – even symbols for emotions and instincts – measure up against the “important” qualities of the brain.
This year, I’m going to look more deeply into astrology, and Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda, and poetry – at everything that looks at the relationship between things as a dynamic process. This includes the Enneagram (and yoga!) but not in the pop culture version of it, where there is a simple formula for each type to follow, or in the case of yoga, one handstand to rule the world.
Nothing is that simple. There’s just messy life, and it is full of symbols and messages, whether you appreciate them, ignore them, or misunderstand them entirely. Why not have fun with the mysterious web of if all, instead of trying to reduce it down into something that “makes sense?” That’s my plan, at least. I’ll let you know when I have anything worthwhile to share from my zodiac/Enneagram studies. After all, a symbolic language is only useful if it is shared.