Soul Centered Astrology: A Key to Your Expanding Self, by Alan Oken
Ibis Press, 9780892541348, 410 pp., 1990, 2008
Oken, an astrologer and lecturer for many years, believes that humanity is transiting into a New Age, and that there are “certain dynamics of human psychology and relationship that current trends in astrological interpretation and counseling no longer satisfy.”1 As such, he puts forth to combine traditional astrology (or exoteric astrology in his language) with the teachings of the Theosophical Society, Alice Bailey, and the Ancient Wisdom Teachings.
The premise has me in mixed opinions. While I believe humanity is changing, and our cultural reality makes old systems sometimes less appropriate, I believe they should change and evolve with us. Oken, on the other hand, turns traditional astrology on its head, which is unfortunate, as in his belief system, astrology came to us from Atlantis2, and I hate to see such an ancient system overturned just for the Age of Aquarius.
What is presented in “esoteric astrology” is a completely new set of planet rulership. No longer does Fiery Mars rule Fiery Aries, but Mercury does, no longer does tactile Venus rule Taurus, but Vulcan does. Oken introduces two “new” planets into astrology, Vulcan, a planet proposed in the mid-1800s to explain anomalies with Mercury’s orbit (never substantiated) and the Earth. I found the inclusion of the Earth interesting, being found always in direct opposition of the Sun, representing the individual’s Dharma. Vulcan represents Will Power, and the drive to transcend material existence. My main issue with the use of Vulcan is not that it is not “real”, as astrology uses several imaginary points quite well, Pars Fortunae, Lilith, and the North/South Nodes, but that Oken does not know where Vulcan is, and suggests the astrologer use their intuition and rational abilities, to figure out where it is in someone’s chart, by seeing where in their life/personality there is a Vulcanic influence.3 Another issue with Vulcan, would be that much of his interpretation of this, and other aspects of esoteric astrology are taken from “an ancient and unpublished text” on astrology, which he continually cites as such.
Personally when re-evaluating my chart in regards to the esoteric astrology, I found it less revealing than interpretations based on exoteric astrology. Perhaps the esoteric astrological interpretations would make more sense to someone familiar with the system Oken is drawing from. While he did try to explain this system, which meant the first 160 pages dealt not with astrology, but Chakras, Rays, Planes and Soul models, it didn’t seem to help me make esoteric astrology a working system.
Despite those issues, I did enjoy seeing someone try a different take on astrology, even if only to show that it is hard and perhaps unnecessary to rework an entire system that has been living beside humanity for about as long as we’ve had culture to speak of. I like the model Oken proposed, of an astrology that reflects both the fate-driven material side of our lives, and the Will-based spiritual side of our lives, but I felt he overstretched his ideals in creating a new system, when I think his goal cries out more for a reworking of the method of interpretation, not a recreation.