These days just about every approach to any problem in any subject is trumpeted as being holistic. References to the whole person are parroted by all and sundry apparently without any real reflection on what that means.
At very least it should recognise the absolute indivisibility of mind and body, but the overwhelming evidence of society at large is of most people trying their damnedest to live entirely in their heads, leaving their body to be simply a cart to carry their ideas around in.
A recent study found that the average person sits for 14.5 hours per day, if we allow 7-8 hours for sleep, that doesn’t leave much time for moving around or even standing up.
Whilst Capricorn Research does not exclude the act of sitting from any awareness of mind / body unity, its a fair bet that the percentage of those 14.5 hours actually spent in contemplative meditation of this fact is extremely small.
The problem is we live in a world of spin, and everyone has to be seen to be holistically correct. The sad fact is that the more most of us claim to be holistic, the more we actually expose ourselves as being ignorant of what it actually means.
In some ways we could say that astrology is the only subject that can really be holistic in that it contains and describes the whole of human experience.
As individuals we are all born at a certain moment in time which contains the characteristics of that moment, not all of the possible moments. So we have our Sun in a particular sign and house with aspects to other planets in other places.
None of us have our Suns in all 12 signs so to what extent can any of us be considered to be whole ? We experience a part of the whole.
Astrology, more than any other discipline, shows us the extent to which we are parts of something greater and that we see things through our shaded vision based on our own charts. It gives us the opportunity to understand the various pulls of different planets either in our natal charts or by transit.
We can therefore choose to either attempt to integrate some of these energies into our being or not and simply rail against them.
But it would be much more appropriate if rather than claiming wholeness, we accepted that we were attempting to move consciously in a slightly more holistic direction, trying to make the most of our subjective, partial lot.
Of course some people’s charts are more conducive to seeing things in a more holistic way than others.
Capricorn Research is quite prepared to admit that having the Sun, Moon and Ascendant in the same sign does have certain advantages but it does not make it easy to understand the perspectives of other people. This is perhaps why I have been so strongly drawn to astrology over the years, because it helps fill in the vast gaps in my own personal understanding of things.
I am not looking to diminish the experience or understanding of people with stelliums in a certain sign or house, not least because they would inevitably go deeper into a certain kind of experience than anyone else, and this in itself can help them to a greater understanding of wholeness.
But it does seem that those with a wider spread of planets around the Zodiac particularly if they are strongly aspected to each other, may naturally have an easier more personal understanding of the diversity of the human condition.
People with more opposition aspects have a greater opportunity to integrate very different parts of themselves, provided of course they are able to cope with the challenges of such experience.
The most challenging aspect pattern of all in astrology has to be the Grand Cross. This has 4 planets all pulling in directions that would not only be seen as very different and challenging but even antagonistic to each other. It generally creates a tremendous pressure and often results in very stressful lives. But for those who can manage it, the pattern creates a wonderful opportunity to understand and to use so many different energies for the greater good.
One person who was up for this challenge is the founder of the science of Psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli.
Psychosynthesis is a spiritual and holistic approach to psychology that had developed from psychoanalysis. Assagioli was inspired by Freud’s idea of the repressed mind and Jung’s theories of the collective unconscious. He was trained in psychoanalysis but unsatisfied by what he regarded as its incompleteness as a whole.
Assagioli considered the theories formulated by Sigmund Freud to be limiting. He refused to accept Freud’s reductionism and neglect of the positive dimensions of the personality.
Assagioli felt that love, wisdom, creativity, and will, were all important components that should be included in psychoanalysis.
Consequently, psychosynthesis became the first approach, born of psychoanalysis that also included the artistic, altruistic and heroic potentials of the human being. In this sense Assagioli’s work was more in alignment with Jung.
Jung’s view was “If there is a ‘psychoanalysis’ there must also be a ‘psychosynthesis’ which creates future events according to the same laws.”
Assagioli has a Grand Cross which includes his Sun, Moon, Jupiter and Pluto. At the very core of this pattern is an extremely close ( with an orb of less than half a degree ) opposition between his Sun in Pisces and Moon in Virgo.
This Full Moon opposition is right on the Midheaven / Nadir axis of his chart giving it extra power. It is the most fundamental of all oppositions. The Sun is highest in the sky and the Moon is right at the base, the day / night principle at its simplest. The base of the chart is the depths and foundations of the personality, the top of it is what the person can achieve out there in the world. This Full Moon gives him a powerful insight into opposites of human nature.
Assagioli’s Moon in Virgo in the 4th shows his background in psychoanalysis and depth psychology, but this on its own was not complete for him.
Assagioli talked about the differences between Freudian psychoanalysis and Psychosynthesis.
” We pay far more attention to the higher unconscious and to the development of the transpersonal self. In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. That means Psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behavior modification but it insists that the needs for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs.”
Thus speaks the Sun in Pisces at the Midheaven.
Psychosynthesis was frequently referred to as ” height psychology ”
In fact Assagioli was both his Sun and Moon. He did not deny psychoanalysis, in fact he considered it as an essential starting point, a base from which to work.
Assagioli’s Grand Cross also contained Jupiter in Sagittarius in the 6th house, a perfect symbol of an optimistic outlook in terms of human growth, particularly in areas of personal health. This Jupiter was opposite to Pluto in the 12th house, which pointed to the deep and profound personal transformation that was at the centre of psychosynthesis.
Psychosynthesis suggests a model of the human psyche which had three levels of the unconscious.
The Lower Unconscious contains the personal psychological past in the form of repressed complexes, long-forgotten memories.This is realm that contains experiences of shame, fear, pain, despair, and rage associated with primal wounding suffered in life.
The Middle Unconscious contains things that support normal conscious functioning. It includes the capacity to form patterns of skills, behaviors, feelings, attitudes, and abilities like learning to walk and talk, acquiring languages, mastering a trade or profession, and developing social roles.
The Higher Unconscious is the realm of aesthetic experience and creative inspiration. This contains our higher potentialities which seek to express themselves, but which for some reason we often repel and repress.
Contact with our higher unconscious can be seen in moments of peak experience when we sense a deeper meaning in life, a profound serenity and peace and a unity between ourself and the cosmos.
The only problem for most of us is that this Higher Unconscious remains largely so and is only brought to our awareness occasionally by an extremely unusual combination of external stimuli.
Psychosynthesis shows that for true evolution these things need to become conscious. This requires a thorough knowledge and control of one’s personality, the realisation of one’s true self as a unifying centre and the reconstruction of the personality around this centre.
To achieve this goal many different techniques can be used among them dialogue, Gestalt, dream work, guided imagery, affirmations, meditation, sand tray, art therapy, journaling, drama therapy, and body work, cognitive-behavioral techniques, object relations, self psychology, and family systems approaches.
Besides his Grand Cross, Roberto Assagioli had a T square between Venus, Saturn and Mars. Venus was in Aquarius in the 8th house, again showing a remarkably clear way of dealing with depth experience. Venus is opposite Saturn which indicates hardship and perhaps also social isolation. This opposition focuses onto an apex Mars in Scorpio in the 5th, which shows the result to be tremendous energy for personal transformation.
Unlike many people who talk about personal growth, Roberto Assagioli had been through a powerful personal experience of it.
In 1938, he was arrested and imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government, due to his Jewish heritage, and his humanistic writing. He was placed in solitary confinement for over a month.
Assagioli accredited much of his inspiration for Psychosynthesis to his month-long incarceration in solitary confinement in 1938. He used his time in prison to exercise his mental will, by meditating while in prison. He concluded that he was able to change his punishment into an opportunity to investigate his inner-Self.
Capricorn Research has long been interested in the turning points in a person’s life and the role that Pluto plays. Indeed this whole website is a testimony to such pivotal experiences.
It has been noted that where there are two major planetary patterns in a person’s chart and one contains Pluto, the big turning point in their life will come when Pluto transits to a point in the second pattern.
As Pluto is a major player in Assagioli’s Grand Cross, the watershed would occur when it transited his T Square. This only happened once in his lifetime, during 1938 when Pluto was conjunct Saturn ( in solitary confinement ) and square to the apex Mars in Scorpio ( powerful personal transformation ).
It is because of the work of people like Roberto Assagioli that holism is so much part of the day to day language of 21st century. But if we were to ask the man himself, its likely that he would want people to work diligently towards it, rather than just bandy the word about meaninglessly.