The view is sometimes put that the more spiritually evolved we are the less influence astrology has over us. According to this view, spiritual masters transcend their charts. The thinking behind this view seems to be that a birth chart, with its inherent structural patterns and implied schedule of unfolding, is a limitation in some way. However, I believe, this thinking is based on a misconception. A birth chart is not a limitation any more than the banks of a river are a limitation to the river. Certainly they define it – a river without banks is not a river. Similarly, a birth chart defines our individuality. It can be considered a limitation only if our individuality is considered a limitation.
Evidently for enlightenment to occur this is indeed the case, for just as a river loses its individuality when it merges with the ocean, so must our individuality dissolve if we are to merge with the ocean of existence and awaken to the Self. The Self is eternal and infinite, and as such, was never born [and never dies.] It necessarily follows then that the Self has no birth chart. No birth chart, no question of transcending it.
But this ultimate experience of enlightenment, of the individual ego dissolving into the Self, does not invalidate the relationship between an individual and his chart. How so? Ramesh Balsekar, an Indian spiritual teacher based in the lineage of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj puts it like this: “After enlightenment or awakening, the body/mind organism continues to function, more or less as it did earlier. The body/mind organism will function according to its characteristics.” Those characteristics are indicated by the birth chart.
Spiritual masters are Self-realized beings who continue to function as individual personalities in the time and space bound world of consensus reality in which we all function. Although their ‘cosmic consciousness’ maybe one and the same, as individual personalities they are certainly very different and reflect their charts like everyone else, though clearly at a higher level of manifestation.
Take for example, the influential Indian Master, Osho, who is probably better known by his earlier designation of Bhagwan or Rajneesh. In character traits, life patterns and themes, he is almost a text-book Sagittarian. Consider his insistence on freedom, both in terms of personal action and as the highest value to be honoured in any kind of love relationship. For him, love without freedom is not love at all. Consider too his quest for enlightenment; insistence on living in truth and honesty; sense of humor and parallel attitude that seriousness is the worst sin; directness of expression; and propensity to engage in learned disputation and debate. His mastery of debate was such that when his opponent failed to show up for the final of the national debating championships, Osho argued both sides himself and the result was declared a draw. Finally, his penchant for telling stories, for exaggeration, for downplaying the importance of facts in favor of a higher truth; his love of higher learning which culminated in a professorship in philosophy; his insatiable appetite for books; and the fact that he is probably the most published person in history … these are all examples of Sagittarian traits and themes manifesting at the highest level.
I am struck by the prevalence of the sign Capricorn in the charts of Masters I have studied. Osho had five planets in Capricorn – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn; Gurdjieff the Sun and Moon; while Ramana Maharshi and Paramahansa Yogananda had their Sun in the sign. Jesus, too, is a Sun sign Capricorn if he really was born on December 25, though many astrologers, myself included, think it more likely that he was born in the sign of Pisces, under the influence of a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, that being the ‘star’ that the three wise men followed to Bethlehem. Other evolved Sun sign Capricorns include Kahil Gibran, Albert Schweizer, Martin Luther King, Stanislav Grof, Ken Keyes, Carlos Castaneda, Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and John Lilly [the latter two share the same birth date.]
The prevalence of Capricorn is not surprising perhaps when it is considered that spiritual life, as much, if not more than worldly life, requires dedication, discipline, commitment, focus, clarity and more often than not, plain hard work, qualities the sign Capricorn bestows in abundance. So Gurdjieff is archetypically Capricorn when he calls his spiritual work with his disciples ‘The Work’. Similarly, when he says “I love him who loves work” he is giving voice to the enduring sentiment of patriarchal authority heard through the ages. Another representative aphorism gives the pure taste of Capricorn: “There is only self-initiation, which is acquired by constant effort. It is impossible to give to a man anything that could become his own without effort on his part.”
Ramana Maharshi worked the whole time in the sense that he made himself constantly available to all comers as he humbly sat in a corner of his ashram silently radiating his spiritual power. Although his spiritual wealth was great, in a mundane sense his life style was extremely spartan, in the same way that some work-centered Capricorns in positions of worldly power live quite frugally, although they could afford to live in luxury if they so chose. Ramana’s daily routine included rising around 3:00 am to help prepare breakfast for his disciples and generally sharing in the communal work of the ashram.
On the other hand, Capricorn is also a sign noted for concern with status, standards and quality which accounts for Osho’s collection of Rolls Royces, impeccably tailored robes and acres of marble in his ashram buildings. As he said of himself: “I’m a simple man. I simply like the best of everything.” Despite all that, he lived quite simply in sparsely furnished personal quarters, albeit of pristine quality and cleanliness.
Gurdijeff, like Osho, is also a distinctive astrological blend of Capricorn and Sagittarius, for as well as Sun and Moon in Capricorn, he had Venus conjunct Jupiter in Sagittarius. The latter is the astrological significator of Gurdijeff’s generous hospitality and well known love of a drop of vodka. The dinner table was his temple of choice to transmit his higher teachings.
Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, the spiritual classic that has inspired many a western seeker’s quest for enlightenment, based himself in Los Angeles in the 1930’s and attracted many wealthy disciples of high social status who helped to spread his teaching and make him famous. In true Capricorn fashion he set up an organization to further his spiritual work, the Self Realization Fellowship, which is still going strong more than 50 years after his death.
Yogananda also has a lot of fire energy in his chart – Mars and Jupiter in Aries, Mercury conjunct Venus in Sagittarius, and Moon conjunct his Leo Ascendant. The element of fire mythologizes life, imbuing facts and events with symbolic meaning and dramatic significance, which accounts for his autobiography reading like a spiritual adventure story, replete with tales of miracles, destined meetings, and fateful turns of events. The Aries influence is reflected in the pioneering quality of his teaching mission, the Mercury conjunct Venus in the beauty and charm of his prose, and the Leo in the sheer romance and grandeur of his epic narrative.
On a more mundane level, his striking leonine mane of hair is a good example of how the Ascendant sign is often more determining of physical appearance than the Sun sign. The following testimonial from the back cover of the twelfth paperbound edition of his autobiography is redolent with Leonine imagery: “As I looked into his face, my eyes were almost dazzled by a radiance – a light of spirituality that literally shone from him. His infinite gentleness, his gracious kindness [the influence of the feminine Moon colouring his Ascendant, rather than the sign Leo itself] enveloped me like warm sunshine”
Another influential Indian spiritual master is Meher Baba, a Pisces Sun sign who is reflective of that sign with his emphasis on love as the surest path to Self or God realization, retreat into silence, and the touching of his feet as the devotional practice of his devotees. Although this is a traditional practice in India, with him it was the central ritual of his transmission. [Note also that Pisces rules the feet in the body.]
Pisces as the final sign completes the circle of the zodiac, which is a symbolic representation of the totality of life. The glyph for the Sun, N, maybe read as the outer circle of the zodiacal signs, symbolizing the multi-faceted human experience, encircling the ‘still point of the turning world’ or the Self at the center. The question then again arises, “what is the relationship of time-bound individual experience to the eternal non-dual Being of the Self or God, the core sustaining reality at the center of the multi-dimensional human experience?” Meher Baba provides a very Piscean inspirational ‘answer’:
“The sojourn of the soul is a thrilling divine romance in which the lover – who in the beginning is conscious of nothing but emptiness, frustration, superficiality, and the gnawing claims of bondage – gradually attains an increasingly fuller and freer expression of love. And ultimately the lover disappears and merges in the divine Beloved to realize the unity of the lover and the Beloved in the supreme and eternal fact of God as infinite Love.”
J.Krishnamurti, Gurdijeff, and Osho all have a dynamic aspect pattern in their charts emphasizing the planet Uranus. Reflecting its maverick status in the solar system of being the only planet that spins on its side, Uranus is associated with non-conformism, un-conventionality, radical individualism, independence, rebellion, revolution, brilliance, genius and the clear light of truth. Uranian individuals insist on living in freedom from family and social expectations and indeed from all externally imposed constraints. They take inspiration from Buddha’s famous words, “Be a light unto yourself.”
J.Krishnamurti was born with the Sun in Taurus opposed to Uranus in Scorpio, with both planets squaring his Aquarius Ascendant. His Uranian nature is reflected in the brilliance of his insight and in his rebellious refusal to take on the role of World Teacher, for which he was intensively groomed by the Theosophical Society. His best known quote displays the archetypical Uranian refusal to be part of any institutionalization of wisdom: “Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest, ritual, not through any philosophical knowledge or psychological technique.”
Gurdijeff had Mars in Scorpio opposite Pluto in Taurus, both square Uranus in Leo, making Uranus the focal planet of a so called T square aspect pattern. A ‘rascal guru’, many examples could be given of conventionally immoral escapades. However, like all evolved Uranians he answered only to the higher authority of his own inner law. Uranians too, are often outsiders, ‘strangers in a strange land’, so this description of Gurdijeff by his influential student J.G. Bennett struck me as most apt: “He made upon me the impression of an exile from another world, who must always be a stranger in any company.”
Osho had Moon conjunct Saturn in Capricorn opposite Pluto in Cancer, both square Uranus in Aries, again making Uranus the focal planet of a T square aspect pattern. Uranus also forms part of a Grand Fire Trine involving his Sagittarian Sun and Jupiter in Leo. This abundance of fire, combined with the dynamic tension channeled through the focal Uranus accounts for his provocative, larger than life personality, a personality that made it almost inevitable that he would so often be the centre of controversial attention. In his late book The Rebel, which to me represents the highest and most inspiring expression of what the planet Uranus symbolizes in astrology, Osho paints a picture of the authentic rebel as a spiritual being that is quite distinct from conventional ideas of the rebel as a social non-conformist or political revolutionary. A representative quote: “The new rebel is an enlightened being – he is fulfilled and deeply contented. He stands aloof and alone, with a clarity about everything. Truth is his religion, freedom is his path, and to be himself, utterly himself, is his goal”. And with this, rather than transcending, I would say he actualized the full potential of the powerful Uranian placement in his chart.
The birth chart then, is a universally valid blueprint of individuality. Anyone born in time and space, including spiritual masters, will reflect their birth charts as long as they are functioning in time and space.