By Kenan Branam

Ying Yang(For many years, I worked with Kenan Branam and we were soul companions, briefly married, but remained friends.  This article was written during that time and is an intelligent discussion of how Gestalt fits into Astrology. We often wrote off of each other and these could just have easily been my words. He died recently and this is my tribute to him.  Thank you Ken for all of your hard work and dedicated service to mankind.)

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

Shakespeare said something like that. He offered a paradigm of reality seeing life as a dramatic play in which we are all compelled to “read our lines” and meet our inevitable end. This fatalistic view of reality was not original to Shakespeare. History credits Greek Tragedy with an earlier version.

In more modern times, Constantin Stanislavski, Russian stage actor/director, and teacher developed a method of “being” not just acting that would foster individual spiritual growth. (Read more about it – The Transpersonal Actor) He had a more optimistic paradigm of reality. He prophesied that we, as individuals, could create our own lives through self expression, reaching deep into our psychic resources. Perhaps he understood Shakespeare’s other wisdom, “The play’s the thing, to catch the consciousness of the King.”

Stanislavski recognized that these resources were both personal and universal. Tapping into the same pool of intuition, Carl Jung charted these deep waters and named it the “collective unconscious”. His identification of “archetypes” became a “cast of characters ” or “roles” that each of us access unconsciously to play out our personal life scripts.

Fritz Perls, the Father of Gestalt Therapy, brought the “play” to group work and individual personal growth with the “hot seat” dialogue. He facilitated both the verbal scripts and the intuitive experience to guide the client toward greater self awareness and intentional integration.

How I learned Astrology

I had been practicing Gestalt in group and individual session for several years when I became curious about esoteric subjects like astrology and tarot. I had practiced dialogues with imaginary people (my father, mother, significant others), empty chairs and pillows, trees, animals, and of course, the “world” as I saw it. When I recognized astrology as archetypal, I included its symbols in my personal work. I would say, in a Gestalt session, “I am Mars!”, and then experienced the back flow of my declaration. Feelings of fear, anger, challenge, excitement, images of war and violence, even physical responses such as deeper breaths, flushed skin, spontaneous flexing of muscles in my arms and thighs, energy coalescing into images of ancient Roman warriors. “I am a Warrior!” I would say as I “owned” and accepted the warrior in myself (filtered through Carlos Castaneda’s “Warrior”.)

“I am Scorpio!” I felt a rush of sexual feelings and images with a sudden need to hide them from the group. Alas, I didn’t know it then, but I was beginning to tune into and integrate my Mars in the 10th house in Scorpio with the subtleties of its oppositions, conjunctions and square to Pluto…my T-Square, my ongoing process, my Gestalt.

With psychodrama, pillow talk dialogue, and time to meditate, I began to realize that Something powerful flowed through me on it’s way through animals and plants and planets. To me, Mars is not just a small red dot in the sky, an intellectual concept, nor just a thing…. it’s Me. I give “My Mars” more of it’s share of my life and value it as a unique part of myself… and part of the Universe at the same time. With this spiritual connection, I began to feel a little bit more at home in Universe.

With only street knowledge of astrological symbolism, I built a base of personal knowledge and experience that I later discovered corresponded to “key words and phrases” in the cookbooks of Astrology. Astrology has become a part of me. And I’m a part of Astrology!

“Astrology is not something to BELIEVE in… It’s something to KNOW about.”- Noel Tyl

The Gestalt Approach to Reading a Chart

Fritz Perls’ definition of the Gestalt process comes from objectively watching the natural way that living beings deal with life’s essential needs such as hunger, aggression, mating, etc. Simply speaking, we all follow a similar process of becoming aware of what we want or need, focusing on a method of satisfying the need, acting out the plan, and reaching completion and integration. We’re hungry, we find food, eat it, digest it, assimilate it, become satisfied and, hopefully, move on to the next gestalt. We move from general awareness to specific back to general … with some growth happening in the process. The process is cyclic and never ending just as we must continue to breath in and out to stay alive.

The Gestalt approach to Astrology, from the “reader’s” point of view, is about looking at the Natal Condition from a process perspective. Seasoned professional Astrologers have learned various ways to “see” a chart from a process point of view. As they say, “I get a picture of who the person is.” Then they work toward communicating their vision to the client with greater or lesser degree of success.

From the broadest perspective, everyone’s natal chart has a unique visual configuration that forms an harmonious circle. After all, the solar system is always in harmony, so it’s important that we, as Astrologers, recognize that harmony and the potential for integration inherent in every client’s chart.

Then as we begin to notice groupings of the planets in quadrants: above and below or Eastern and Western. We assign meaning to these patterns representing the native’s propensity to certain psychological states such as introvert/extrovert or inner/outer. We might also identify karmic conditions that influence the native’s life mission and how it will likely be “acted out”.

Next we can focus on specific groups of planets in signs and house and what angles they make to each other. We can assign meaning to such patterns as Grand Squares, Mystic Rectangles, or “buckets”, etc.

At some point in our process of attention, we move from a broad perspective to a more analytical perspective, perhaps, to delineation. Finally, we return to “the big picture” through such techniques as Maritha Pottenger’s number system or Joan Negus’ “three times is the charm”. One might say we switch from right-brain to left-brain, from a Pisces to a Virgo perspective, or harmonize some personal opposition or square in our own chart. The process of awareness that we use to read the client’s chart is our own version of the gestalt process. It is HOW we deal with the world. It is how we ARE in the world.

When we, as Astrologers, look at another person’s natal chart from a gestalt perspective, we can sometimes relate to their primary processes of awareness and assume we can discriminate between our own propensities and our client’s.

The Experiential Gestalt Astrology Session

The Mandala work is a facilitated exercise performed by the Native (you) in a group or private session. It is an empowering opportunity for you as a client to participate and contribute.

A 12′ astrological natal chart is drawn on the floor. Spheres as symbols of the planets signs are placed on the grid corresponding to their positions in your natal chart. After you have had a few moments of sitting in the middle of the Mandala, having a physical experience of the colors, symbols, and their spatial relationships, you then begin a conversation with planets representing aspects of yourself: your present conflicts, dilemmas, “other” people in you life, even memories, dreams, and reflections.

Intellectual concepts and symbols are “fleshed out” with the drama of your life scripts, enabling meaning and purpose. Conflicting internal dialogues from opposing planets negotiate new contracts for more integrated behavior. Trine and sextile planets become consciously supportive. Unconscious planets join the team and show up with greater resources.

Everything that is important to you in your life is reflected in your natal chart and emphasized by current transiting planets. As you interact with your natal chart and the symbols of planets, signs, modalities, and elements, you develop an intuitive understanding of astrological energies and processes.

The Role of the Gestalt Astrology Facilitator

Being a Gestalt Facilitator is a way of relating to another person in a consulting or teaching role that requires quite different objectives and procedures than would an astrologer or psychoanalyst, for that matter. More emphasis is placed on empowering the “client” to experience his/her own processes and integrate new awareness’ into her/his life skills. The Gestalt Facilitator primarily acts as a “clear” mirror to reflect the client’s behavior back to their own awareness.

The Astrological Natal Chart is an objective mirror in the form of a visual symbol. While it is very focused and detailed, its archetypal principles provide unlimited depth of meaning. When we, as Astrologers, “read” a chart for a client, the benefits we offer are limited to our specific knowledge of astrology, our communication skills, the client’s ability or state of mind to listen, and the time/space limits of our session. With a gestalt approach, we can open the door, the natal chart, to greater possibilities of experience and understanding for the client. The potential of the client’s awareness is invited and, providing that the Facilitator is skillful and clear, even enhanced, allowing the client to leave a session with, not only greater knowledge but with greater self awareness of personal power.

Gestalt as a psychological approach is a cognitive modality that facilitates integration of body, emotions, mind, and spirit, enabling an experience of essential being, clarity, self-support, and personal empowerment. When applied to Astrology, the Gestalt experiential process provides an opportunity to transform the Ancient Wisdom of Astrology into a personal, existential experience of our Natal Integrity.

…and God divided the light from the darkness…The Gestalt Perspective

ShadowsAs we move toward change and complete our own personal ascension into the Soul and Spirit that we are, understanding the nature of the ‘work’ that must be done to make that leap,  we must come to terms with the unknowns, the ‘shadows’ that live in our personal unconscious.  These are parts of the self that are seen only briefly with full emotional output, as a projection toward others, judgments, emotional angst, incomplete parts of our own darkness, all of which reveals itself only in the periphery of our reflection toward self.  If these shadows are not seen for what they are, they move into a more global and collective shadow which is then manifested by larger areas of the population.  How many of you have watched the news, seen hate crimes, terrorists, destruction and wondered how this could happen?  It happens when we no longer are compassionate, spiritual beings, understanding the nature of things we repress and living them out response ably.

“We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow. And if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together.” Carl Jung: CW:11, p. 12

The old beliefs, the old lies, the old rigidity reeks havoc on our bodies. By taking inventory on these bodily manifestations, we might be able to build a new and more open body for our soul’s infusion into self. We come to this planet through an intense energy of light vibration and as we incarnate and get closer to the earth, the magnetic field gets dense; the thought forms manifest. Lo and behold! we land on this earth in physical form, taking on, within our bodies all the beliefs and grounded interactions that are on this planet; all the paradigms, the belief systems, the families, the personalities, the governmental and cultural structures, the place which houses our bodies…we take all of it into our body ..and then we begin processing this persona in this life. Our body holds all of what we are and what we are to become, and reveals itself by our own relationship to it. This body awareness is essential in understanding the nature of things we need to change as we enter the Gateways of 2012.

We are always in a state of learning, feeling, sensing, intuiting, that which our body is telling us. What is your body telling you? In our work with others, therapeutically, we develop dialogues within the body, which, eventually will be exemplified on this site, but until then, let’s look at the psychological processes by which we learn more about our shadows as they are reflected in our bodies, the buried periphery in our personal unconscious.

We are going to go over some general meanings regarding body armor and body shadow energy. The SHADOW is that part of you which is reflected in your relationships, projections, high energy involvements, and seems to always slip past your energy boundaries into your body when not processed. The body creates the actual MIRROR of your body as a temple of worship so that you have to pay attention and maintain some vigilant disciplines about the care and nurturing of your own body. After we go through these general meanings of character armor, much of which we learned through the study of Wilhelm Reich, Fritz Perls, and Alexander Lowen, but mostly just through my psychic intuition, and a alchemical approach to all of the leading psychologies, we will see how relevant this is to the changes that need to be made at a personal and highly intimate level. We manifest in our bodies the following symptoms so that we can learn how to deal with this dense planet and get past the process in order to become more aware and conscious, as well as ‘response able’ to our authenticity.

The head is the part of us that is caught up in logos, thinking, intellect, analyzing and many of us operate totally from our heads trying to make sense of all that comes to us and from us. Even as I am writing this, my head is using up all its oxygenation and I am not focusing on breathing into my head to prevent headaches…too much energy focused in one area for any length of time, will create stagnation in that area, due to no oxygen. Headaches and more head injuries create a need to get out of our minds and into our bodies..

The speech mechanisms in the throat and all around the chest area can create such blocks as laryngitis, polyps, our children who have speech defects because we have not learned to communicate our truths. Yes, even our children manifest our ‘denial of body’. Sometimes the lessons have to be given with a 2 X 4 over the head in the form of our progeny.

Our hearts get blocked, big time, due to our inability to love self, others, without limitation, judgment, and willingness to receive love and nurturance. Many people think that it is a matter of action of loving. I see it as a shutting down to receiving love unconditionally. Our inability to receive touch, care, love….all of this shuts the heart down to a screeching halt. This is reflected in pains on the left side of the body as well as the lack of circulation and mobility at that level.

Our stomachs are loaded with the unexpressed anger; the abandonment of the mother or the unavailability of the mother/nurturance. There is lactose intolerance, because we were fed with attachment and with the toxicity of the mother’s attachment or abandoning, both creating the same polarity. The over mothering is just as abandoning of the child as the mother who leaves her child on the doorstep of the ‘other’.

Our pelvises and sexual chakras are the seat of kundalini, and shock us into action through frustration, through charisma, through magnetic chemistry between us and others. The planet is going through major shifts of sexual energy and how we use it. This energy is pristine and we put thoughts/feelings/emotional dramas on this energy so that we can source our more intense selves. We refuse to own our male/female in an authentic manner. We don’t want to look in the face of our husbands, wives, and lovers, and say… He/She is ME ..we are  having a sexual relationship with ourselves,  so we manifest all kinds of problems in our genitalia.

We have mentioned a few of the areas that hold our shadows, parts of self that we project on others ‘to hold’ until such time as we can hold the energy as self, consciously and fully, becoming healthy physically so that we can live longer more fulfilled lives.

Becoming fully conscious of our shadows requires other disciplines that are necessary so that we don’t bury ourselves in our own conscious self. Jung once warned:

 “If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. He lives in the “House of the Gathering.” Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” Carl Jung, CW11: p. 140.