Book Review: Can Astrology Help Us Spiritually?

I’m sure it’s fairly common to read a good book on astrology and feel that the author is reading your mind. Usually, though, you at least have to get to the first chapter. In Your Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide, Swami Kriyananda had me at the dedication.

I was browsing in a used-book store, not intending to buy anything, when I first saw this book. I picked it up and, with what felt like only natural curiosity, started to turn to the table of contents to look up “Gemini.” Instead, the first thing that caught my eye was Kriyananda’s statement dedicating the book to the reader “patient enough” to resist the temptation to “skip back and forth,” looking up specific signs.

Laughing at myself for having been caught red-handed, I simply purchased the book and took it home to read properly.

An emphasis on self-help

Many people think of astrology as simply describing the more-or-less fixed aspects of our personality: whatever “the stars” may have decreed for us. But as devotees, we know that a wise spiritual teacher can guide us in how to use our “pre-existing tendencies” to achieve further spiritual growth.

This is exactly what Swami Kriyananda has accomplished in this book. Your Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide gives excellent advice on what we can do, given who we are, to achieve the highest spiritual expression of each of our qualities. With all there is to learn and practice on the spiritual path, it’s very helpful to have someone with Swami Kriyananda’s insight to recommend what we might need to focus on.

No sign, Kriyananda emphasizes, is inherently more or less spiritual than any other. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and since we are all children of God, we will all eventually make our way back to Him. But the next step on that journey is different for each of us. This book gives us specific concepts, techniques, and practices to work with to make that next step in the most positive direction possible. 

“What’s your sign?”

The sun sign is the one most people know about, the subject of the classic question: “What’s your sign?” My own sun sign is Gemini, and Kriyananda very accurately zeroes in on many of the qualities that make us Geminis such a mentally-oriented lot. For each sun sign, however, he offers a clear perspective on how any given trait can be either positively or negatively directed.

For Geminis, for instance, he emphasizes the importance of mental detachment, which for a Gemini may make the difference between wit and wisdom, or between true understanding and mere cleverness. Similarly, a Gemini tendency towards worry, fickleness, and unreliability is really just an expression of the same qualities that can be positively developed into adaptability, creativity, and, as Kriyananda puts it, “great subtlety of thought.”

Kriyananda also discusses various yogic practices that are particularly applicable to each sign. For Sagittarius, as well as other fire element signs, he offers a fire meditation for burning away ego attachments. Addressing the discriminating, critical faculty of Virgos, he recommends the practice of neti neti — “not this, not that” — for delving into the deeper source of all desires and experiences. And for regulating the constant rising and falling of a Gemini’s restless mind, he recommends the practice of Kriya Yoga.

Your moon and rising signs

Though the book’s title refers specifically to sun signs, Kriyananda also briefly discusses the moon and rising signs. Unlike your sun sign, which is the “public facing” aspect of your personality, your moon sign describes your inner system of value and meaning — what makes things important to you. Your rising sign, on the other hand, concerns what Kriyananda calls your “basic quality of receptivity,” how you form initial reactions and impressions.

If you know your moon and rising signs (or other components of your horoscope), you can simply read the analyses of the appropriate sun signs with a view to applying them to specific aspects of your personality. For example, my moon and rising signs both happen to be Scorpio, which adds a significant shading to my Gemini characteristics.

The moon in Scorpio gives me a strong sense within myself of what is right and important, and a disinclination to try to conform to other standards. Contrary to the talkative extroversion of a Gemini, this Scorpio influence will often have me behaving in a more introverted way. My Scorpio rising sign reinforces this introverted tendency, directing my initial reactions in an inward direction, particularly in new or unfamiliar situations.

Knowing this about myself, I find a great deal of helpful practical advice in the Scorpio chapter, particularly about balancing aspects of my nature. Since a Gemini can be prone to living too much in the mind, the intensity and control of Scorpio can be a powerful aid to focusing my thoughts and turning them into actual accomplishments.

An interconnected whole

Kriyananda does an excellent job throughout the book of presenting the entire zodiac as an interconnected whole. He shows how the different signs can be related to each other by season, by planet, or by element (earth, air, fire, or water). This gives us a variety of perspectives from which to understand any quality.

Gemini, for example, is one of three Spring signs, and therefore has a connection with the two other Spring signs, Taurus and Aries. Each of these signs manifests the Spring-like energy of new beginnings and growth in a different way, and each is necessary for success in any venture. Tuning into this overall flow of energy helps me carry my ideas forward, beyond the purely mental stage. I am able to see the subsequent steps in the process not as foreign to my nature but as an actual extension of it. 

Universal characteristics

While working on this book, Kriyananda wrote a letter to an astrologer discussing some of his ideas.* In it, he described what he was doing as “universalizing each sign by addressing myself not only to Geminis, Leos, etc., but also to the Gemini, Leo, etc., in all of us.”  He writes that one of the “fascinating” things about the signs is “how they pin-point basic universal characteristics in man.”

Kriyananda’s observations are worth keeping in mind as we read this book. We all manifest the various qualities of each sign to some extent. Indeed, the very qualities that describe each of us as individuals are often the same ones that connect us as brothers and sisters in God.

Graham Waldon became a part of Ananda in 2009 and now lives in the Palo Alto community. Currently unemployed, he has spent much of the last year doing volunteer work, meditating, and devouring books by Swami Kriyananda and Paramhansa Yogananda.

* See In Divine Friendship, Crystal Clarity Publishers, page 253.

To order Your Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide by Swami Kriyananda click here

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