Review: Integral Astrology, by Armand Diaz, Integral Transformation, LLC., 2012. www.integralastrology.net
Armand Diaz’ book, Integral Astrology, has the stated purpose of helping astrologers gain a better understanding of what astrology is now, what it has been, and where it might be going in the future. He does this by tracing its early origins to where it begins to join forces with the new streams of contemporary thought that have emerged in the last century.
Astrology has been around for millennia, and over the centuries has acquired a methodology that most people are familiar with, even if only through the sun-sign horoscopes found in magazines. If this planet is in this sign of the zodiac, then one might expect a certain type of behavior, or a certain event would be likely to happen. In the early days there was no difference between astronomy, the observation of the movements of stars and planets, and astrology, which expressed what those movements might mean. The regularity of planetary movement was established over long periods of observation, and this regularity led to the consideration of astrology as a tool that could be used for prediction. In the middle ages, though, with the invention of the telescope, the planets became visible as physical objects, and they began to lose their aura as mediators between Heaven and Earth. Further developments in science led to a materialistic worldview whereas nothing that could not be seen, studied, and proved was considered to have any validity, and astrology was assigned to the dustbins of superstition and ignorance. For some, it still belongs there today, but for others it has great value now and has done so throughout this entire period of materialist emphasis. Astrology is unique in its ability to capture and express the essence and meaning of so many aspects of reality – individual personalities, relationships, or global events.
In the mid-20th century, new paradigms, or ways of viewing reality, began to emerge. Quantum physics, which studied the behavior of molecular and atomic particles which are invisible to the naked eye, established that the behavior of matter at this level was very different from what was true at the visible level. Therefore, reality could no longer be defined only by what it was possible to see. Transpersonal psychology, chaos theory, and other disciplines with porous boundaries emerged, and continued to challenge the materialistic worldview. Eventually a new discipline, integral theory, came into being to bring these different streams of thought into harmony, showing what they all have in common. One of the key elements of Integral Astrology is in its presentation of an overview of some of the individual theories that together make up integral theory, and to show how this expansion of knowledge can affect astrology, as it incorporates many of the new viewpoints into its theory and practice.
The aspect of integral theory that is covered most extensively in the book is the evolution of consciousness, because it has the most relevance for astrology. Evolution in this context can refer to cultures or civilizations, or to individuals. Many evolutionary models are divided into the categories of preconventional, conventional, and postconventional – with “convention” having the meaning of “a: usage or custom especially in social matters, or b: a rule of conduct or behavior” (Merriam-Webster).
One of the most interesting of these models, and one that gets a lot of coverage in the book, is the Spiral Dynamics theory proposed in the 1990s. It uses colors to trace the development of consciousness from Beige, the bottom-rung preconventional level, to Turquoise, considered the most evolved postconventional level to date. The preconventional individual (young child) or culture (early prehistoric society) does not have rules of behavior. They are purely self- and survival-oriented and will do whatever is necessary to meet their needs. On the conventional level the individual or culture has been taught, or has developed, rules of behavior and customs, and adhering to them is essential; there are parental or cultural sanctions against deviance. At the postconventional level the individual has internalized societal conventions but begins to move beyond them; the postconventional society, or elements of it, moves beyond its current customs. What is postconventional today becomes conventional tomorrow, so that individuals and societies, and the consciousness that drives them, is always evolving.
These categories are a new way of thinking because even as late as the early 20th century, human development was believed to end once the individual had physically become an adult. The conventional norm was marriage, children, work if you were a man, taking care of the house if you were a woman – and that was conventional for most of the Western world. There were few cultural norms that could be described as post-conventional – until the middle of the 20th century, when things began to change.
Astrology tended to develop along the same lines: preconventional, conventional, postconventional. Preconventional astrology was about individual fate, and considered various celestial events (such as comets or eclipses) to be omens, which could be favorable or unfavorable. Conventional astrology works through organized systems, combining lists of planets with characteristics according to sign, location in a chart, and relationship with other planets. These systems include Jyotish, which originated in India, the tropical astrology of the West, and many variations of these well explained in the book. The most recent ones, such as evolutionary astrology, started the transition into a postconventional or more spiritually oriented astrology. But Diaz makes the point that in astrology, as with Spiral Dynamics and some of the other integral theories, the earlier levels do not disappear but are integrated into the current levels.
Integral Astrology is a fairly short book, but it is well-written and nutrient-dense. It should interest any astrologer, whether student or practitioner, who wants a broader understanding of the new cultural contexts that astrology is now operating in, and who is also looking for something deeper than “conventional wisdom” that can be used in interpretation, whether for self or clients.
Reviewed by Elaine Kolp
Elaine Kolp, a former New Orleanian, is a bookkeeper with the National Storytelling Network in Johnson City, Tennessee.