1 The Birth Chart: Your Contract with the Universe
Young blood doth not obey an old decree: We cannot cross the cause why we were born. —William Shakespeare
So you want to know who you are and why you're here? Well, aside from rubbing a lamp, I suggest you take a look at your birth chart. Not the customary "Oh, with my 9th house Jupiter, I should have been a talk-show host" look, but perhaps a more spiritual look, one that requires a higher level of consciousness. As I'm sure most people would agree, within each one of us there's a distinct and vital life force that embodies the very essence of who we are and radiates our uniqueness to the outside world. We think of it as our "will" and call it our "soul" because it's been the core of our individuality for as long as we can remember, or as most people would argue, even longer. So would I, because, like most people, I believe that the soul is the eternal part of us—the spirit within that is constantly struggling to succeed as a human being in this world because it's really striving to evolve to a higher place in the spiritual one. According to my research, you probably do as well. Then why not study the birth chart from a perspective that allows us to observe the circumstances that shaped this inner spirit and created us? If we truly are in search of self-enlightenment, what view could reveal more of our human potential in this lifetime than one that is elevated enough to encompass the evolution of our soul before it got around to being us? With hindsight being what it is, an ounce of yesterday must surely be worth a pound of tomorrows, especially when a good look at yesterday not only reveals where our spiritual journey began once upon another lifetime, but also provides us with an invaluable glimpse of how much further we still have to go to live happily ever after in this one. Insightful stuff.
Fortunately for us, it's all right there, celestially reflected in the natal sky. We only have to find it, which is why we'd be smart to look at the birth chart as something more than just a computerized illustration of what was happening in the heavens on the day that we were born. While that's exactly what it is, when we view it from a spiritual perspective it becomes something even more: a celestial documentation of our soul's commitment to the universe, the one that explains why we came into the world and what we promised to do once we got here—what we like to call our purpose.
Is it any wonder that astrologers put so much importance on the birth chart? It shouldn't be. This pie-shaped diagram is more than just a picture of what the heavens looked like at the exact moment and from the precise location of a person's birth — it's actually two. From a physical perspective, it's a mathematical graph of the cosmic influences that were in effect at the precise moment a person took his or her first human breath. From a spiritual perspective, it's a personal record of that point in time when the soul showed up to report for duty in this lifetime. Confused? Ancient astronomers who practiced astrology and astronomy as one absolute science weren't. They embraced both perspectives and called it a horoscope (a universal view of the birth hour). Apparently they knew, even then, that environmental influences would always determine much of who we are, which is the reason this cryptic diagram was the primary tool of their trade.
To their way of thinking, we came into being by design, not by accident. They believed that the birth chart conclusively identified the specific energies that were previously chosen by the soul for this lifetime. They didn't refer to the horoscope as an astrological blueprint of an individual's cosmic chromosomes, but that's exactly how they used it. In fact, these early scientists determined the birth chart to be a celestial chart of real human potential because, as far as they were concerned, it was more than just a map of the influences that were in effect at birth. They believed it was a picture of the climate that actually created birth, a universal snapshot of our very earliest environment. No, not the environment that spawned those pivotal experiences of separation anxiety, sibling rivalry, or even mommy dearest, but the one that existed long before that—the first one. Think of it. A universal clock is ticking forward in time until, ultimately, it strikes the astronomical instant that's critical to the fundamental development of you. Critical because when that instant occurs it's the one that actually triggers the process of birth itself. Yours. Why? Because the moment the cosmos moved into the celestial energies that were previously chosen by your soul for this lifetime, the cosmic formula for you was activated. Is it any wonder then that you were born at that particular twinkling in time and space? How could it be? Obviously, it was your time. Literally, universally, and, of course, karmically.
So what does that mean? First of all, it means that your arrival on this planet was actually a spiritual appointment disguised as a physical event. Second of all, and even more amazing, the exact moment of your birth was never really an accident because it was always, technically, an agenda—your soul's agenda. Furthermore, because that agenda was reflected in the sky when you came into the world, astrologers call it a horoscope (a universal view of the birth hour). When that horoscope is put on paper in diagram form, it becomes what everyone calls your birth chart (a mathematical map of your birth energies for this lifetime). When that birth chart is being used to determine your soul's earthly progress and your spiritual evolution, it becomes something even more significant, something I call your contractual agreement with the universe—complete with timetables, incentives, and, if studied closely enough, even a little karmic fine print (which most astrologers just refer to as Neptune).
Now, let's be clear. This is not meant to suggest that in karmic astrology your horoscope is all about predestiny. It's not. While the soul's challenges in this lifetime are often karmic in nature, they are not about fate. That would imply that the cards have been dealt, the universe is in control, and the outcome is certain. With personal choice as part of this contract and, unfortunately, at your disposal, the universe, like the outcome, is subject to change without notice. Your horoscope is, however, about specific planetary positions that were provided at birth to outline the chosen boundaries of your own personal plan of development. These powerful energies simply function as your astrological compass, guiding you to certain experiences, situations, and relationships by generating the best circumstances to acknowledge and develop them.
This contract was purposely designed to provide the necessary opportunities for your personal growth and spiritual advancement. This means that although happiness and success are on the guest list, if disappointment and setback don't crash the party occasionally, there's no conflict. No insight. No growth. Comforting, isn't it, to know that the universe is on the job, and, apparently, at the door? Well, it should be, because while the soul is big on spiritual evolution, the ego is not and often rejects these unpleasant growth challenges for more immediate or rewarding opportunities, like fame, fortune, and, sadly, happy hour.
Ironically, whenever we give up a little growth for a lot of gratification, it just seems to propel us into the even less desirable throes of super heartache, mega failure, or jumbo loss. Divine punishment? Well, as much as that would give us great comfort and take us off the human hook, no. It's just a universal reminder that we really can't change old habits if we're just not doing anything to address them. Unfortunately, sometimes they are very old, and we ignore them even more. The cosmos, however, is undaunted and continuously gives each and every one of us chance after chance to address them until it is forced to resort to that angst-ridden whack across the egotistical head that always brings us to our emotional knees—the one that we never saw coming because we were so busy fighting those extraordinary obstacles and insurmountable difficulties that always seem to be almost purposely thrown into our willful paths just when we were too busy focusing on ourselves to notice. Where were the signs? After all, aren't we only human? Regrettably, yes, which is why our spiritual advancement tends to take us a while—often lifetimes. Evidently, the cosmos has the ability to knock us off the wrong track, but thanks to the ever-popular free will option in our contracts, not off our egos. Because of that, we continue to deny responsibility for anything that even resembles failure in our lives, preferring instead to exercise our universal birthright of assigning blame or just indulging in self-pity. After all, it's what allows us to continue that highly productive human pastime of jamming round pegs into square holes.
So much for universal guidance—but still, we'd be wise to remember that the universe, with all its infinite power, is not only unlimited in its ability to supply us with the opportunities for growth we have chosen, but is also surprisingly effective at surprising us whenever it does. This is what separates the wiser soul from the not-sowiser soul; the ill-fated spirit that haplessly roams this planet from the more fortunate one that happily thrives on it. These scheduled growth opportunities are nothing less than our karmic forks in the road, and how we handle them determines our earthly fate as well as our spiritual destiny, because they are what force us to make those conscious human decisions that impact our unconscious immortal souls. These are the moments in our lives when we choose to either accept responsibility for the adversity in our lives or just sit back and curse the powers that be; to comply with the terms of our cosmic contract and evolve to the next level or, for those of us with hard hats and even harder heads, to just dig in our stubborn human heels and stay firmly put in self-serving nowhere—you know, our opportunities to improve our eternal lives or to just improve today's cash flow. Ultimately, we have choices, and, unfortunately, we tend to make them.
So then, wouldn't it make sense to find out where we tend to encounter these karmic crossroads in life? Or, more accurately, where you should start looking for them in your own life? You're about to find out, beginning at the top and starting with your own personal copy of your soul's contract with the universe: your birth chart.
Because you're always the star of your own horoscope (no matter what type of astrology you're practicing), the Sun is your personal marker and always represents you in one way or another in every type of birth chart. Thus, in karmic astrology (which is really just astrology for the soul), the Sun is your spiritual marker and represents you before you actually became you in this life. All forms of astrology, including spiritual astrology, recognize the inner natal planets like Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter as the personal planets that reflect your own chosen game plan for today. In karmic astrology the outer natal planets—in particular Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto—are actually your soul's planets. They represent the things that you did, or didn't do, yesterday—the things your soul promised to rectify and accomplish this time around.
Therefore, these outer planets are the ones that we focus on in this book. These are the energies that become your karmic crossroads in this life today because, long before you got here, they were your soul's lofty promises to the cosmos yesterday, the ones you should be keeping now. That is why studying the birth chart from this higher perspective makes keeping these promises a lot easier to do. After all, it provides the only earthly seat in the universal house where you can actually see them, and that's important because, when you can see them, your soul gets a conscious opportunity to remember them. That is not just a therapeutic experience for your soul, but an enlightening one for you as well, because it's how you finally get around to discovering that your natal Sun is more than just the somebody you could become today, it's the brilliant powerhouse you proved to be yesterday; or that your natal Saturn is not just an old karmic lesson waiting to be learned, it's a real grown-up ladder to success that's waiting to be climbed; that your natal Neptune doesn't just reflect your soul's unpaid emotional debt to the cosmos, it also reveals your best earthly method for paying it; that your natal Pluto is not just the overwhelming force that controlled you in the past, but it's also the promise you made to become more powerful in this lifetime because of it (hopefully without nuclear weapons). Finally, it's from this very exclusive astrological vantage point that you also get an opportunity to explore your soul's secret playground and favorite universal "junk drawer," the 12th house. This is where your soul likes to bury the unbearable past and everything it wants you to forget just so that you can wallow happily in denial by never remembering to deal with the pain. Even if you don't have any planets in this house, it's a powerful influence in your birth chart, so note the sign on the cusp, open your eyes, and buckle up—it's bound to be a bumpy ride.
The ride is worth it, because therapy usually is. As a universal map of your soul's personal plan of development you only have to study your horoscope from this slightly higher viewpoint and somewhat broader mindset to reveal a brand-new understanding of the most important person in your life: you. that's because there's really no better definition of enlightenment than coming to the realization that your so-called destiny is just a matter of showing up for the very experiences that you signed up for. Hard to believe? Of course it is. Who in their right mind would ever agree to the manipulative partnerships and destructive power struggles spawned by a Pluto in the 7th house? Or worse, volunteer to have the physical challenges and childhood inadequacies of Saturn in the first? No one. That's why the soul was left in charge of spiritual growth. It's also why the soul is, indeed, accountable for making sure that you get it in this life—but it's not just the soul. In fact, it's from this very elevated perspective that the cosmos has no choice but to hold you accountable as well. There are no universal passes on this one because, spiritually speaking, you actually signed on the dotted line yourself and physically acknowledged your very own horoscope as being your soul's one and only contractual agreement with the universe for this lifetime. How? You officially agreed to its terms and conditions with the one individual action that is as powerful as it is binding: your birth.
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