Purpose vs. Meaning

Posted on May 4, 2010
Posted by Jim Sher

How Astrology Can Be Helpful

One of the questions I am often asked by clients and students alike is – “Can astrology tell me what my purpose really is?” I looked at the astrologer advertisement section of the recent issue of ‘The Mountain Astrologer,’ and found that one of the common themes of these ads is that astrologers are openly saying that astrology can ‘tell you’ what your purpose is. Sometimes they will say ‘Soul-Purpose.’ The mere mentioning of this will be so hypnotic that the reader of this ad could feel very enticed by its potential promise and so might want a reading so that they can learn what their purpose really is. It is indeed, a truly important human need, is it not?

Why is it so important to us? Perhaps, the most basic reason is that most of us feel, at least at some point, lost in life. We want to know such things as what we should be doing, where will I find fame and fortune, will I be successful and then we believe or hope that astrology can answer these types of questions, so we go to astrologers for our answers. It is my view that this subject can be so fascinating that one can jump headlong into a search for answers without asking one very important question, which has two basic parts. They can be described as follows:

What are the actual assumptions of my question?

Will the answer being told to me by another person actually be sufficient or truly satisfying?

The Assumptions

It can be helpful to really look and discover what it is that one is seeking. What is the nature of the drive in us that seeks to discover our purpose? Where are we looking and how can we find it in that place? Can a person tell another person what their purpose really is? These are some of the questions that can be ignored in our sometimes frantic and vague search.

The thoughts I will express here are certainly not the last word on the matter, but hopefully it can give us a good starting point. What I have discovered when I’m with a friend or client who is asking this type of question is that they are experiencing an ’emptiness’ along with a great fear of that ’emptiness.’ There is a consideration that if that emptiness is filled, that one will feel better, and that the way to filling it, will come from knowing one’s purpose. But what is one seeking when they look for ‘purpose?’ Is it an answer that is focused on an external role, job or relationship that, once found, will hopefully take away the pain and doubt caused by this dreaded ’emptiness?’ It is my view that what we are really seeking is relief from a fundamental anxiety that all of us feel, simply because we exist. It is arising out of the fact that we are alive and we don’t know whether or not our life has any meaning. We are in real doubt about this and hope that if we find our purpose, we also will find our meaning.

But will we? If I tell someone that their purpose is to be a chef, CEO, spouse and/or parent, will that really help us? Sure, it can be helpful to learn of the role we can play in the world. I do not mean to trivialize this need. But will it give us the relief we are actually looking for in an existential sense? In fact, can any external factor give us this? Will money, success, fame, etc. give us the meaning we are seeking? I don’t think it will and my guess is that most of my readers don’t believe it either.

So, if astrology is to be of any real assistance to us in the deeper sense of which I am speaking, astrology needs to be capable of more than just advising us in external matters. For it to be helpful to us in our existential challenge, it must help us discover meaning. If it attempts to answer these important questions only by focusing on external factors, is it not limiting itself greatly and making itself irrelevant to the question of meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond the roles we play in life? And finally, if astrologers do this and only this, are we not contributing to the illusion and false hope that if we only know what we should be ‘doing’ in the external world, that we will suddenly become filled with a great sense of meaning and thereby cease to feel that quite genuine experience of ’emptiness’ and the fear we have of that?

Astrology at Its Best – A Tool for the Discovery of Meaning

So, yes, astrology can contribute to our discovery of our purpose in the external world, but that is not when astrology is at its best. What astrology is capable of being is a tool that opens us to having a different relationship with our life and with the world in general. This is what can help us and can even begin a process where we can deal directly with the issue of ’emptiness’ or lack of meaning we feel. How can astrology enter this area of life, an area usually reserved for religion, philosophy, psychology, etc.?

Actually, it is this factor that causes me to prefer teaching to consulting people only. Yes, an astrological consultation can be helpful as we navigate our way through our everyday life and confront the present problems we face. Astrology is indeed capable of assisting us in this. But when we begin to learn more about the world of astrology, something much bigger and more profound can occur. I asked several graduate students to tell me how the immersion in astrology affected them and all said that it changed their world. However, it changed them more on the inside than the outside. Their view of their life had become richer and their understanding of time and their relationship to it has transformed them. How can the study of astrology do this?

Here are some of their edited and shortened synopses, some of which have to be in my words rather than theirs:

  1. When I realized (not just cognited) that my life revealed by my birth chart was linked to already existing archetypes, I felt that I was connected to Life itself and to time as well, i.e. past, present and future. I found that this feeling of deep and profound connection was reducing my sense of alienation and emptiness that had been my constant companion.
  2. The more I studied my transits, the more I felt that at certain moments, I really was free to make choices that could send me in a much better direction than where I had been. I just needed to be more conscious of my programming or patterns, which astrology helped me to see, so that I could choose to operate in a different way. I didn’t see astrology as forcing me to do things or controlling me, but as a tool for discovering my patterns which were controlling me and as way to greater freedoms.
  3. The more deeply I got into the planets, signs, houses and aspects, the more I understood better ways to deal with my life. I had no idea there were so many levels to life. The more I understood, the more I felt free and could see that life is not meaningless.
  4. It’s all about learning. That’s what life really is. I can go through life unaware of what I’m doing and never really learn from life or go through it with awareness and find that each day is an amazing opportunity to discover new things and grow.
  5. When I had learned the astrology basics, I began to look at both good and bad events in my past. I looked at transits, progressions, solar arcs, etc. I was shocked to see that what was happening to me in my life, all the events which I believed were just random events, turned out to be cycles of unfolding and not random at all. Events which I thought were disconnected from one another, turned out to be completely connected. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I was so immersed and focused on the crisis that I couldn’t see it in a broader perspective. With time and perspective, this changed and a deeper pattern was revealed so that I began to feel that I was evolving rather than just revolving like being on a merry-go-round. Life had meaning, after all.

Astrology Reveals Life as a Process

When we see, even in a small way, that life is not a random, meaningless set of events, our way of Being-in-the-World changes and life becomes a much richer, meaningful set of opportunities from which we can learn and grow. Each day becomes full of meaning and discovery.

I’m certainly not suggesting that astrology is the only way, the only path to this, but it is one way. And when it is used in this way, it becomes one tool of transformation where we no longer feel that life is meaningless and empty. This is why I used astrology as a therapist and now use it as a teacher. When practiced in the ways that I’ve described, astrology can be a very powerful way of assisting us to move to higher levels of consciousness and even evolution.

This subject of this newsletter article has been motivated by the crisis of a close friend of mine. May it help this person as well as many of my readers. As always, I encourage you to respond to this article and express how it affected you.

Astrology Paradigm shift Philosophy of Astrology
Jim Sher

Jim brings over 35 years of experience as a therapist and transformational counselor to his practice of astrology, metaphysics, meditation and philosophy. He operates as a teacher and counselor and specializes in the use of discourse as a part of his teaching approach.

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7 responses to “Purpose vs. Meaning”

  1. debra.bentzen@sympatico.ca' Debra says:

    Astrology has been a hobby of mine for many years which has included both Western and Vedic. I see Astrology as a tool to know myself better, to see what qualities I was born with and to take a closer look at where the potentials lie. Also by understanding the difficult challenges of people and events in my chart, I can make more conscious choices in my responses and actions. “There is a season for everything”

  2. j.lorraine@juno.com' Janey says:

    Thank you, Jim for a very interesting and informative article.

    What a relief to finally read a piece that doesn’t contain cheerleading for Obama!

  3. lspeacebestill@gmail.com' Linda Samuel says:

    We are living in extraordinary times, and I believe the underlying influence of the great shift of the ages is causing many more of us to want to answer to the question of purpose. Karen Bishop’s book – Remembering Your Soul Purpose – has a section in it for calculating your purpose based on your numerology. As I read the descriptions for my calculated Destiny, Expression, Soul Urge and Life Purpose numbers, I could immediately see that it confirmed the understanding I have gained from studying my natal chart, and expanded on it.

    The numbers were based on the date (not time) of birth, the letters in my full name at birth, and the vowels in my full name at birth. The forth number was based on the sum of two of the other calculated numbers). I have calculated the numbers and made the same comparison with the astrological charts of my children, friends, etc. and the same correlation was always there.

    Fascinating. It seems that the person who gave us our birth name somehow knew what we came to do/be in this incarnation, on a soul level. Anyone who has had a baby, or has had a close involvement in the birth of one, can tell you that the baby usually decides when he or she will arrive. They often force time adjustments in the increased number of scheduled births in America – causing life-threatening situations for themselves or their mothers that either speed up or delay their caesarean births.

    BTW – The book is interactive and the chapters leading up to the one showing how to calculate your numbers has you write down stuff from your childhood through adulthood that makes you realize that your soul has always known what you are here for this time around.

    The synchronicity of the universe is staggering.

  4. ibrooke@lacera.com' Indee Brooke says:

    I’m going to use mix of analogies to describe my experience and observations of astrology and how a person can use it in life.

    The patterns of the planets and stars at the moment of our birth is the finger of God indicating the energies we chose to work with in this life. Our birth chart provides a blueprint for how the electrical wiring for the house of our spirit is laid out: how do the energies flow most easily, where are the connections and non-connections? One can choose whether to turn on the light in this room or that. It’s helpful to know which room has a gift in it. To use a different analogy, the natal chart is like a geological survey giving a detailed description of the land on which you live. Using the chart helps you build your life according to its strengths and weaknesses and, if you choose, to work to convert weakness into strength.

    Paying attention to the transits is like listening to the weather report. You can plan your actions better if you know when it’s going to rain or shine. Cycles are a gift from God to help us grow in self-mastery – huh, missed it last time, here it comes again – thank you! Paramahansa Yogananda said when his stars were ill-aspected that did indeed make things difficult but that nothing is more powerful than the human will.

    In the Bible, chapter 38 of Job, there are wonderful references to the stars telling that they have meaning in our lives: of the creation of heaven and earth, “when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” [verse 7] Here are the questions: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades…? [verse 31] … Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? [verse 33] Finally, to me, the verse: “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?” [verse 37] encourages us to use our reason and apply it to everything we can find in earth and heaven (certainly astrology) in order to seek out information helpful to living fully and well and with purpose. Astrology helps us trim the sails of our journey in life.

  5. isabelleflaherty@gmail.com' Isabelle Flaherty says:

    Your piece was very insightful I thought. How true it is that we often seek answers from outside ourselves which is really just a different way of acting as if we are not fully responsible for our own actions. My recent learning has been about that. I have persistently found, for example, that when I find a person to be particularly annoying or irritating, it is because that person is acting in a way that I sometimes act but don’t like to see that behavior in myself. Sometimes it takes me a while to puzzle out the connection but it is invariably there. I complained to my sister that she never considers the consequences of her actions and just expects someone else to fix it for her. It was so exasperating to me. Then I realized (Eureka moment!) that I should examine where I was also not paying attention to the consequences of my actions (ouch, I could soon see many ways that I really did not want to acknowledge). So what does all this have to do with astrology you ask? Well what you spoke about and comments addressed what astrology meant resonate with me as well. But I think of it more simplistically: when I would visit my wonderful astrologer, Leor Warner, now sadly deceased, I would come away feeling: “dang I’m lucky to be me”. So that it was astrology does for me. It helps me realize that though we can be similar to one another, there is a unique combination of things that we are and astrology can help me see that. Our intrinsic combinations of characteristics, thereby, don’t seem judgmentally good or bad, they just “are”–something to be worked with, learn from and accept as potentially secretly wonderful. Astrology makes me more forgiving of myself and more joyful about certain positives that ironically helps me work more on those pesky negatives (what did I just say, what negatives?) Anyway, thanks for your insights they were helpful. As I used to say to my sister (ever searching for answers and I do love her) “there are no answers”– we are just supposed to (among other things) live our lives as best we can with clarity, reflection and a willingness to be open to grow and learn (keeping gratitude and acceptance in the forefront) and we then make a life that is worth living and astrology helps that.

  6. I really enjoyed your article, you express much of what I’ve experienced with Astrology as well. I have always felt that having access to one’s birthchart was like having access to a very personal road map. If you want to find a street in your city without a map or guide of some sort, you could just round in circles for days, stopping at every street corner to ask for directions, getting more and more lost and directionless at every turn. With a map you can see where you’re going, it’s still up to you how fast you drive your car, and which route to take. You still have a choice, and in fact its now an informed choice, which is much more powerful than blindly guessing.

    I am very lucky and can’t imagine my life without astrology. I grew up with it, as my Dutch grandmother, a psychiatrist in the early part of the twentieth century, studied with Carl Jung, and brought astrology into her practice in Holland. We all had our charts as children, and my folks talked about them in the same way that most people talk about their health, the weather and their feelings. As a child I always had the feeling that there was a bigger picture to which I intrinsically belonged, even though socially I felt so different from other children my age. (we travelled a lot, and I was always having to learn new languages and customs, a great education as well!).

    I believe astrology gives us a sense of ourselves, it is a lucid analytical language like almost no other I know of which describes our psyche and the evolutionary processes it goes through in each life time. And it is entirely up to the individual to what depth one wants to take it, which means there is something in it for everyone. I’ve often thought how wonderful it would be if it could be part of school curriculums, I think it would help us understand ourselves and each other better, and make for more tolerance and Peace in the world.

  7. dschuch@deborahschuch.com' Deborah says:

    Astrology was the most important tool in my finding a great deal of peace with my life. I could say that my life has not been perfect; there has been a lot emotional and physical pain. But through astology I learned about my patterns of behavior and about the choices that I have. I now feel very empowered and am able to act, to make decisions based on self-knowledge, rather than to react and act rashly and emotionally. I’m free of being a victim and am now a more fully functioning human being.

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