Does your natal chart look like your life? In other words, does its symbolism accurately reflect your lived experience? If so, what are the philosophical implications of such accuracy? Or perhaps your chart is so symbolically off base, you can’t help but think your birth data was misrecorded. Or maybe you’re just immune to astrological influence. And of course, there are grey zones between symbolic literalism (oxymoron intended) and complete randomity (yes, it’s a word). In this blog post, we’ll talk about the varying degrees of astrological determinism, and we’ll consider what it means to be in tune with the cosmos.
I’ve analyzed a lot of natal charts since I launched my website and went semi-pro back in October of 2020. And for quite some time before then, I had studied the charts of my family, friends, public figures and of course my own, which is most people’s primary reference chart when learning natal astrology. In my practice and research, I’ve noticed that some people’s lives are more clearly represented in their natal charts than others. I think any astrologer would agree that it’s a whole lot easier to navigate a chart when you can jump right in and find the native right away. When all the key themes are present and clearly symbolized by planets in signs and houses; when critical events are easily revealed by applying timing techniques such as transits and profections. In extreme cases (Jeffrey Dahmer’s nativity comes to mind), the symbolism is so literal that you couldn’t imagine the native having any life other than the one they’ve lived. After you’ve seen enough obvious astrological delineation to exceed the limits of coincidence, you start to accept a pretty high degree of cosmic determinism. You accept that the natal chart can say things about the native.
But it doesn’t always work out like that…
Sometimes, the basic features of the native’s biography and chronology are so buried in the chart that you have to apply every technique you know in order to excavate them. You turn the chart; you try looking at the planets as natural significators of people in the native’s life; you try using the Part of Fortune as the derived Ascendant to see if that gets the houses to make sense — something…anything — until things fall into place. Sessions like this are usually punctuated by the native saying “hmmm… that’s not resonating with me.” I’ve literally felt compelled to re-enter the birth data, thinking this can’t be the right chart. All sorts of thoughts begin to emerge: Is it me? Am I just cosmically out of tune today? Am I trying too hard? Maybe astrology is an imperfect system? Why can’t I interpret this damn chart? It can be frustrating.
These two scenarios lead us to one primary question: should the nativity symbolically depict the lived experience of the native? And this yields two secondary questions: a) what does it mean if it does? b) what does it mean if it doesn’t?
Let’s get the primary question out of the way: of course the chart should indicate the life of the native. Natal astrology is predicated on the notion that the relative positions of the planets in signs and houses, as well as their aspects to one another, have something to say about the native’s character and personality as well as events and phenomena in their life. What are we doing with natal astrology if we aren’t looking for indications relative to the life of the native? Even if you’re coming from the most abstract, psychological perspective, you still want the chart to bear some relation to the native’s lived experience. So, that’s an easy affirmative… but things get a little more interesting when we start to consider the implications.
What does it mean if the native’s life is clearly indicated by the symbolism of their natal chart? I suspect that these people are passively acting in accordance with their planetary placements and configurations. They are “going with the [cosmic] flow.” If one were to simply go on autopilot and dance to the everchanging rhythms of their life’s soundtrack, for better or worse, I suspect that the native’s life would look more like their nativity. Carrying the soundtrack analogy a little further, we might say that sequence and dynamics of their playlist probably looks a lot like their transits. Perhaps every 29 years or so there are a few slow, sad, Saturnine ballads in the set; every couple years, a set of military marches, etc. I guess this betrays a species of Stoic determinism — complete resignation to fate. It would be interesting to know is if this native is any happier than one going against the cosmic wind. If this were the case, they would almost certainly be expending less energy than one swimming up the cosmic stream.
So, what does it say about a native whose life looks nothing like their natal chart? If we consider this as the inverse operation of the above, then we can probably say that these natives are enacting their free will, for better or worse, as opposed to living the seemingly “elected” life of one whose life and chart look similar. One would think that these natives probably experience a lot of starts, stops and roadblocks in life, due to running against the cosmic wind. Perhaps their relationships tend to be dissonant affairs, e.g., they don’t partner up with the ruler of their 7th house, but the ruler of their 12th. These idiosyncratic natives are the ones who “missed their calling” – the ruler of their 10th house was in the 6th and they might have excelled in healthcare yet, inexplicably, they drive an Uber. This is not a value judgement however, as fortune, rather than fate, can now play a larger role. Fortune, being an external force, has crept into their lives and, thereby, the native is less driven by the microcosmic forces of fate, propelling them from within. As opposed to living in lockstep with their natal placements, the opportunities for change and variation become more accessible — paradigm shifts may occur. A challenging life is not necessarily a bad life — in fact, it could lead to the sort of innovations and revelations not possible in a hassle-free life. Pressure makes diamonds, as they say.
We’ve looked at the two extremes but the truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in between. It’s actually sort of rare to run into a hyper-literal chart — at least as rare as those dreadful consultations where nothing seems to match up. It would be nice to see more of the former, but I suspect there’s just as much to be learned from those nativities that won’t give up their secrets.
Jaime Paul Lamb is a consulting astrologer and tarotist. He is a member of the A.F.A., certified in Hellenistic Astrology from Chris Brennan, and is a current student of Medieval-Renaissance astrologer and magician, Christopher Warnock. For more information, please visit: jaimepaullamb.com