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Horary Astrology And Staying In Your Spiritual Life

Image: Charlotte Joko Beck, whose uniquely practical approach to Zen supports much of my thinking about horary astrology

You have an important trip in two days and have torn apart your home in search of your passport. At the end of your rope, you contact a horary astrologer, who, after some back and forth, suggests that you look wherever you enter your home, at ground level or maybe even underneath things. Lo and behold, the passport is sitting toward the bottom of a stack of books and papers that has been sitting on the floor by your front door for the last six months. 

That’s a typical horary story. You ask a specific question, you get a specific answer that’s often actionable or verifiable. When done with discernment and precision, it can be shockingly accurate. For this reason, horary has become the most useful astrological tool I have in my kit. A natal chart reading can help you know yourself, and predictive astrology can isolate the themes that will come up in your life and tell you how those things are going to subjectively feel, but much of this is done in the symbolic register, and requires a certain amount of creativity to engage. Horary is different. It can help you prepare for plane travel over the holidays; make a business decision; verify a hunch about someone; or know how the weather will impact a big party. It is often a far more effective way to pick the best time to do something important than electional astrology, simply because it’s asking the question directly. Similarly, asking a horary question about a relationship that is causing you stress is often a more effective way to address your stress than poring over someone else’s chart trying to figure out why they are treating you this way, which, of course, I have definitely done myself, so, no judgment. 

The core of horary astrology is concision, precision, and the way it’s about the question, not you. As a serious student of horary, what I had to give up is finding the meaning in the chart through a collaborative storytelling project that feels very true, in the way art and scripture are true. Symbolically true. In contrast, a horary question like “where’s my passport” has one answer that is literally true. To see it, I can’t rely on channeling or co-creating interesting stories. There are rich, tough lessons in this about how I use astrology, and about how it works as a spiritual technology. Horary challenges a lot of my own marketing and outreach work, because it is not concerned with self-identifiers like Sun Moon and Rising signs. It has no breathless pronouncements about how today will be that I can share on social media. It is not interested in manifesting or intention setting with the rhythms of the Moon, or singing any Orphic hymns. It’s not for gazing into your computer and seeing yourself or your tribe reflected back at you. 

Rather, horary astrology is just sitting there with its sleeves rolled up and its boots on, ready to give you concrete information about your actual life, where meaning is never made by an astrological proclamation that you are this or that, or that today is so special. Rather, meaning is made in your daily life through what you do, what you practice, and what you pay attention to. Your actions and your focus create your karma, or if you’re not Buddhist-leaning, you could call this all of the causes and effects that began creating your life’s circumstances before you were born, and continue to do so today. And it’s saying that these banal life circumstances, or your karma, are of real spiritual importance. 

Another way to say this is that it’s awesome, literally, that the Universe knows where your passport is. But it’s hard to talk about that kind of everyday awe with the reverence it merits. It’s far easier to talk about spirituality in terms that take us out of our lives. In fact, I would go so far as to say that humans love to use spirituality to evade responsibility for their lives and relationships here on earth. Spiritual bypass takes so many forms! Religious fundamentalists; New Agers who can’t relate to anything that’s not in a high enough octave or vibration or whatever; Zen assholes who use absolute truth to deny structural oppression; that friend you have who is definitely hiding from life on a yoga mat; the martial artist using budo to reinscribe a history of abuse; the astrologer you follow on social media who seems to use astrology to control every aspect of their lives… part of living a spiritual life is facing your own capacity for spiritual bypass. About a third of the spiritual bypassers I just described above are me at various moments along my own journey! We all occasionally collapse into using spirituality to make ourselves less connected, less loving, and less present in our lives. 

That’s why horary’s focus on the things you are worried about right now matters. It brings you back to earth. It matters because mature spiritual expression is about staying in your life, and enacting the love that you receive from god (or the recognition of your buddha-nature, or whatever you call the divine) in the world. You can live a life of practice and have all kinds of enlightenment experiences. They matter very little until you put them to work in your life. The mature spiritual practitioner chooses, over and over again, not to try to escape or rise above or blow away their suffering, but to stay with it, and relate to it more lovingly, so they can help others. Here’s a personal example. I came from a very angry family, and suffered significant abuse. Now that I am parenting a toddler, my spiritual work is choosing, over and over again, not to treat my daughter the way I was treated. Does a whole life devoted to spiritual practice help me do this? Yes! But the rubbery tire of my soul meets the road when it’s time to go to preschool and my daughter refuses to put on pants. 

Horary astrology participates in our lives here, in the dozens-to-hundreds of moments that crop up each day in which our faith, attention, effort, or other resources are challenged, and it does so in a way that urges us to stay in our lives, and see a very different kind of awe. There is the potential for awe in the haze of doubt and confusion about how someone feels about us that grabs all of us from time to time. There is the potential for awe in the feeling that a job interview went so well that you just need to know if they felt the same way. There is the potential for awe in recognizing that you don’t have the money to guess at a real estate or business deal, and need to ask god. There is even awe when we are at a physical impasse–when we can’t leave the country without the passport. Perhaps the most profound horary awe I have experienced was during a challenging trip from my far-from-airports home in western New York to a somewhat remote island in Brazil. The chart clearly said that it would work out with ease, despite significant difficulties. At every dramatic moment when it looked like the whole trip would fall apart, I looked for the opportunity to make it work, and it always came. We arrived seven hours ahead of schedule, and I have never felt closer to god. 

Whatever the question that has you feeling obsessed or stuck or itchy is, the thing to remember about horary astrology is that it is holding you in it and through it, not casting you out of your experience into a separate spiritual realm. This basic orientation toward the everyday is affirming so many things about spiritual life and practice that I will definitely keep writing these articles. But the first thing I want to focus on is what good modeling it is for us as practitioners. Horary astrology is like prayer. It keeps you squarely, I would say maturely, grounded in handling the circumstances of your life by providing literal guidance. Horary astrology won't tell you what you want to hear but it will help you take responsibility, make good decisions, adapt plans, and move on when your heart is stuck. And when things work out the way the astrologer said they would, you open yourself to a very different experience of awe than you get from a horoscope that tracks, or a really good natal chart reading. In both of those experiences, you’re looking ultimately at yourself, especially in this larger culture that is obsessively individualistic. And if there is one thing to tap into about horary astrology, it’s the way that it turns that focus around. Life isn’t about you! Rather, you are about living. Your actions, limitations, troubles, and even worries are where the divine is waiting to hold and guide you. 

Your burning questions have answers! Click below to ask a horary question.

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