Monday, October 23rd 2017

James Hillman’s The Soul’s Code meets astrology

An astrologer finds validation in James Hillman’s thesis that your inner evolution is coded from birth. An astrological metaphor: your star sign

soulscode-book-coverGUEST COLUMN: ALAN ANNAND — As a working astrologer, I find that the members of my profession are often cast in the role of oddballs, out on the fringe of society’s “healing arts” professions.

Unconsciously or not, this has given some of us a collective insecurity complex, such that we’re frequently found clinging to the hem of the Establishment’s skirts, pleading for recognition like some little kid in need of a hug.

Little wonder that, when the least evidence of our legitimacy comes to light, we embrace it with all the fervor of a re-born Christian who hears the Messiah is coming to town.

The last time this happened was in the 70s, when the research of French statisticians Michel and Francoise Gauquelin turned up “significant” evidence that the angular positions of planets had a bearing on professions. Since then, however, we’ve wandered in the wilderness with little more than faith to keep us going.

Enter James Hillman and The Soul’s Code

Today there is, if not a Messiah, at least a kindred voice on the scene, in the person of James Hillman (pictured below) Jungian psychologist, scholar, and author of twenty-plus books, one of which should be required reading for all astrologers.

james-hillmanThe Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling was first published in 1996, and has since been reprinted in a trade paperback version. On the copyright page, its catalogue headings are listed as: (1) Individuality, (2) Individuality in children, (3) Fate and fatalism, and (4) Gifted persons.

Hillman’s central thesis, illustrated by several fine biographical sketches, is that “remarkable” people, ranging from serial killers to renowned artists, are essentially born, not made.

This flies in the face of conventional psychological wisdom which says that early childhood conditioning is the greatest determinant of what a person will make of themselves years down the road.

Neither nature nor nurture forms us

water-babyTo the contrary, Hillman asserts that it is “neither nature nor nurture” (neither genetics nor environment) that dictates the outcome of a life. Rather, it is an innate quality possessed by each person, the spark of individuality that, like a master code for a person’s life, sets the menu from which he or she can choose to pursue their destiny.

Hillman favors the Greek term daimon as a substitute for the complementary notions of “guardian angel”, spirit, or soul, all of which imply an over-arching intelligence that provides a road map for the life. This is the “soul’s code”.

Thanks to the daimon, the adult’s true fate is already known to the child, and it is this knowledge that guides the child unerringly, despite all the obstacles imposed by parental and societal norms, in the inevitable direction of its fate.

The Acorn Theory

Hillman calls this his “acorn theory”, which proposes that each life is animated by a particular image that calls it to its destiny.

Plant an acorn in a corn field, it produces an oak, not a corn stalk. Let mother encourage or discourage, it makes no matter, the little child-soul knows where it’s going and will have its way in time. The daimon is in the driver’s seat.

gold-and-blue-astrologyReaders with an appreciation for astrology might well wonder whether the “soul’s code”, this animating image conferred by fate, could be an academic euphemism for the astrological birth chart.

Although Hillman never gives his readers an explicit nod in this direction, his occasional references to astrology encourage us to believe that he is familiar with its basic principles and practices.

He is perhaps even sympathetic when he says, “There is in each of us a longing to see beyond what our usual sight tells us. A revelation of the invisible in an intelligible form leads us to the astrologer.”

Alan Annand is an astrologer with 28 years experience, professionally trained and certified in both western and Vedic (Hindu) astrology. He is also a palmist and the author of five novels, as well as several articles on astrology which you can read on his website.

Alan’s last column for Soul’s Code was: And you thought you only had one type of karma.

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5 Comments on “James Hillman’s The Soul’s Code meets astrology”

  1. Very interesting. I only wish it were a bit more specific.

  2. I believe the personality is encoded and determined at birth and can be read by the astrology chart. But it is also influenced by soul age and by the environment. That is, how we express the personality imprint we were given (the astrology chart) depends on how old a soul we are, our past life experiences, and current ones, which condition us to some extent to express it a certain way.

    I have a twin brother, and we have nearly identical charts but are opposites in what we have pursued in life--he, material goals and me, spiritual ones. But each of us chose that personality pattern because we can learn from it and grow.

    In other words, it fits each of our soul's purposes, which can be quite different for two souls of a very different soul age, as is likely the case with my brother and me.

    I wrote an astrology book called Symbols of the Soul that touches on this subject of how soul age influences the expression of the chart, which was published by Llewellyn in 2000 but is out of print now (but still available used on Amazon). I could go on and on about this very deep subject--and often have!

    Lots of Love,

    Gina Lake

  3. My own experience, both personally and as a spiritual counselor with clients, is that "Fate" plays a role but the individual has to choose to follow the promptings of the soul. Where Annand says:

    "Thanks to the daimon, the adult’s true fate is already known to the child, and it is this knowledge that guides the child unerringly, despite all the obstacles imposed by parental and societal norms, in the inevitable direction of its fate."

    I believe that our lives are a constant dialogue between the "set-up" of Fate, which includes the situations into which we are born, and our conscious awareness of a deeper wisdom that we can either follow or ignore which can guide us to fulfill a transcendent purpose. It's not as mechanistic as this discription seems to imply. James Hollis, in his series of monographs on Jungian psychology in practical experience (for example "Creating a Life" and "Swamplands of the Soul") and also Thomas Moore in "Care of the Soul" both describe this dialogue. As Moore says: "Our childhoods are merely the raw materials out of which we build a life." I would add to "childhoods" this "daimon" or pre-birth disposition, that also gives us direction but leaves it up to us, the individual, to play it out with creativity. So, how we turn out is to a large degree how we are willing to work with what we've been given. What makes a person "great" is their willingness to live fully in this creative dialogue, not merely for their own happiness, but for the larger project of the evolution of life.

    David Rickey

  4. I have studied various forms of astrology for years but am by no means an expert. These opinions are just that, from a lifetime of experience... the natal chart is a diagram of the portal through which we incarnated, including 'setups' that make our chosen lessons (karma, if you like looking at things that way) easier for us to find.

    We come in with encoded talents, gifts, abilities, lessons, challenges and adventures to have. The natal diagram (I now prefer transits and precessions) shows us where we began, what our setups were (helpful and challenging) and offer us a blueprint, not of who we are, but of the layers and depths of that we can become.

    My favorite perusings are the Soul-Centred Astrology of Mark Borax, Elias Lonsdale, Dane Rudhyar, Jan Spiller, Alan Oken and others. There are so many true soul-delving professionals 'out there' that it always seems such a shame, such a trivializing of a truly helpful art, to cast these dedicated individuals as 'out there' or 'fringe' participants in life.

    What could be more central to the well-being of us all than deeper levels of understanding of how our souls have chosen to be present in our world?

    Thank you ALL... astrologers, recipients of their wisdom, and those who question and scoff... for bringing the tapestry of life - to life!

    And to James Hillman, a special thanks. It is a great book!
    May every blessing find you!

  5. I know this is an older post - but I just found it, coincidentally, when I was searching for information on James Hillman for my recent newsletter which was about soul callings.

    I'm a writer and karmic astrologer who sees the astrological chart as a soul blueprint. Simply, karmic astrology focuses on karma and life purpose rather than prediction.

    To the very good book suggestions in these comments, I might also add Linda Brady's 'Discovering Your Soul Mission', Martin Schulman's 'Karmic Astrology and the Nodes of the Moon' (not for the faint of heart), and my own novel Moondance available on my site if you like a fun, fast read.

    If you have an interest in soul's purpose as it relates to love, check out

    Thank you for a very thoughtful article! I enjoyed reading it.


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