A.K. Reader: My Search for the Soul in Astrology

I have been going through stacks of old writings, retyping some of them for this blog and plan to collect them for future e-books. Now what interests me most, is how much I enjoy reading these old articles! In fact, I’m looking upon this whole endeavor, this cataloging of the sharings of my writing life, as a loving documentation of the long-term work of someone else! For this “younger Ann” is NOT who I am now! It’s very strange, to feel this way, much like a mother hen clucking to her chick to get under her wing. I feel both protective and proud. 

And what’s even more remarkable, is how different my feelings about this “younger self” now than, say, ten years ago, when I still noticed, and said to others, many times, that “My life has been completely fucked up — until five minutes ago”! I said this in all earnestness. Yet the remark never failed to elicit a sputtering, barking laugh. Why? Because others recognized this reflection on the self as their own? 

So back to now, when I notice a completely different point of view on that same younger self. No longer do I consider that younger Ann “fucked up;” I now recognize her as a deeply searching soul, sharing that search with others through her writing which, BTW, rarely made it out of my hands into publication. I just couldn’t be bothered stopping to submit my work to others! Really strange, when you think about it. For, on the one hand, I was writing to share my journey, and on the other, I wasn’t taking the time to actually find ways to share it! Or, I could say, I was writing to articulate my journey to myself. For that is really, what the entire endeavor has been about. I take up a thread, and then follow it, wherever it may lead. Because I never know. But my higher self — my “soul” — does know, apparently. And the process of articulation, and now, of recognizing that articulation from decades ago, is immensely satisfying.

So here’s to that younger Ann, that I actually did know her!

A.K. Circa 1990

And here’s a sharing that directly focuses on what I would now call this ensouled aspect of our interbeing.



by Ann Kreilkamp

Published in Welcome to Planet Earth

From the beginning of my practice as an astrologer, and for many years thereafter, I was careful to caution clients: “Astrology,” I would tell them, “can be used to identify characteristics of personality. It does not speak of the soul. Your soul itself remains mysterious, entirely private to you.”

I doubt any of my clients cared one way or another about the distinction between personality and soul, and astrology’s relation to them both. Fourteen years ago, “souls” were a bit like ghosts, pale pallid wispy things; they hung around churches and death beds and cemeteries; they were either sainted or damned.

The closest we got to thinking in terms of soul in our daily lives was when we acknowledge someone as “having soul.” These were exceptional beings, either lauded or isolated for being so. An example of the former is the “Mahatma” (meaning “great soul”) Gandhi; and of the latter, the philosopher and “tormented soul,” Ludwig Wittgenstein. And we spoke of certain aesthetic traditions, for example 19th century “romantic” music and poetry, and even much of modern jazz — as “soulful,” by which we meant, passionate, intensely feeling.

Black people, of course, as a race, were known as “soulful” — a quality which we white folks both patronized and secretly longed for. Blacks were soulful because they were more “earthy,” i.e., we assumed, not as intelligent.

So back then, the word “soul” was not included in our usual vocabulary, and my clients were no exception. Their concerns were secular. Would they meet the man of their dreams, and if so, when? Will they be able to sell their house and buy another one?

My disclaimer was helping me, however. It made me feel better about what I was doing. I was not playing God, not pretending to see into the deepest, most sacred reality of a person. Nobody had to worry about my motives. I was not the Devil, snatching souls.

On the other hand, my entire relationship with astrology was founded upon my own search for soul, for the soul within myself, my deeper nature. I was hungry, hungry for the spirit, for that realm of larger life which lay somehow within or behind or above our more daily concerns, infusing it with meaning.

So, on the one hand, I was telling clients that I couldn’t see the soul in the chart — at which point they would look at me blankly, uncomprehending, as if to ask, why am I saying that? — and on the other hand, had it not been for my own spiritual searching, I would never have been so fascinated by astrology, so determined, for some unknown reason, to learn to speak its language.

On a conscious level, I wanted to respect and preserve the essential privacy of each individual who came to me as a client, and yet, in my own life, I was unconsciously and continuously drawn to delve into my own secret depths.

Over time, with more experience as an astrologer, I began to consciously acknowledge that in some ways I was accessing, or at least, somehow sensing, the mysterious ways of the soul — in both myself and others. Not with any kind of certainty or proof. Rather, it was as if my eyes were being nudged in certain directions, in their seeing of that abstract map we call the “birthchart.” As if something were guiding me, something mysterious and uncanny — to emphasize one point over another, to link certain points together . . .

Sometimes my encounter with a chart would take on a dreamlike quality. All of a sudden I would find myself inside it, participating, somehow, in the mystery of its “life,” the dynamic force field that it represents. Then, just as suddenly, I would awaken, snap out of it. Like those times when I awaken at night, startled; the dream which alerted me is gone now, but for its traces. I am left with a longing, for whatever caused that strong feeling, the numinous charge, its radiance bursting forth like a shower of stars.

But what is it? How to reconstruct it? How to climb back to its source? How to give words to something without losing the very essence of that which has caught me so fully, so precipitously, this luminous herald of worlds beyond worlds.

So, over time, though I still warned my clients about the limits of my powers, I was now admitting to myself that the soul did sometimes seem to be speaking from within the birthchart. I would even say this out loud to a few select clients — those whom I intuitively recognized as being concerned with the state of their own souls.

I was beginning to recognize specifics of what was startling me in the dreamstate. The most obvious clues as to the realm of the soul seemed to be radiating from the relations between planets to the four “angles” of the chart. To those people who had planets on or near angles I would say that they “certainly seemed to know what they were doing when they came in this time around.”

I would then explain to them how I had arrived at this assessment. Since the angles are derived from the rotation of the earth, the degree on each angle changes approximately once every four minutes. To put a planet on an angle then, requires precision in timing of the moment of birth. Such precision, in turn, requires a deep familiarity with the way space and time work in our world. This familiarity, I assumed, would be a characteristic of what we call “old souls,” i.e., those who have had a lot of experience with the trauma of being incarnated into a body.

Like many contemporary astrologers, I also operated according to another assumption, one which was born full-blown within me from the moment I began to study the language. This was the idea that the larger the cycle of the planet, the deeper and, usually, more unconscious would be its effect on our lives. Given the materialistic and secularist bias of contemporary western culture then, the invisible, intangible aspect of self known as “soul” would most likely be located within the realm of the unconscious.

Soul, as that part of us which we don’t usually know about, but which nevertheless guides the direction of our lives, from below.

Soul, as that which shares, somehow, in the tonality of the long-cycled outer planets.

Soul and the outer planets resonating, ever-quickening with the pulse of new life, to inspire awe, reverence, a willing or unwilling submission to the specific trajectory upon which each of us is being hurtled.

Assuming the angles of the chart are those points in the zodiac where we are likely to bring aspects of ourselves to the surface, then, I assumed, those souls born with any of the longer-cycled planets on angles are more likely also to have chosen, prior to conception, to become consciously aware of soul, and therefore of the idea of destiny, during this one lifetime.

Along with planets, and especially, long-cycled planets on angles, I also began to appreciate more and more the almost mathematical or architectural elegance of certain birth patterns as a whole. I began to see and sense “old souls” operating within patterns, both simple and complex, which were particularly exacting, definitive, and clear.

I sensed such patterns as containing soul lessons and/or talents which are equally clear, and indicate an unusually focused intention on the part of the soul which chooses such a pattern.

The more difficult the pattern, I would tell the client, the more likely it is karmic in nature, i.e., brought over as unfinished business from other lives. Here, I noted especially the following: those patterns located in fixed signs; those patterns including both short and long-cycled planets and/or Saturn, the nodal axis; those patterns located in or reflecting somehow any of the three water houses of the chart. To me, these specific areas of chart analysis offered clues in understanding the lessons of the soul in this particular incarnation.

In all these ways, along with other astrologers, I was growing more and more comfortable with the idea that perhaps in some ways astrology does access soul.

This deepening of awareness was given tremendous impetus by the entrance of Pluto into Scorpio in 1984. At this point the cultural climate as a whole began to shift. The word “soul” moved out of organized religion into the vernacular. We started using it in conversation, without blushing. We even started including the word “soul” in the titles of books.

As we began to speak of soul, so did we begin to understand and communicate one dominant theme of these Scorpionic times: the process of integrating soul with personality, whereby we learn to live as “embodied souls.”

To merge soul with body is to begin to transform the center of gravity within, so that the source of desire, intention, and action changes from the solar plexus to the heart. Our desire, nay our very instincts change: we move from greed to the gift, from taking more and more from both ourselves and others, to freely and spontaneously giving to both self and others from the ever-flowing river within.

Naturally, during these extraordinary Scorpionic years, more and more clients have been coming with whom I can relate easily on a personal level, as they too, are concerned with the state of their souls, and are seeking, however, inchoately, a level of interpretation in astrology which is deeper, more attuned to what is sacred within themselves.

These clients are, from the outset, more interested in understanding the nature of their own destiny than they are in whether or not they will make a lot of money tomorrow. There is now, for example, little resistance to my speaking of the Midheaven of the chart as their “calling” rather than merely as “career.”

I have always taken care to assure my clients, especially those about to undertake or who are smack in the middle of some transformational process, that “astrology describes your unique individual nature — and its timed evolutionary process of unfoldment.” Then, to those who are afraid, I lean close to them, look directly in their eyes, and say: “If you follow your nature, nature will take care of you.”

Fourteen years ago, that was a strange thing to say. Even now, I can only barely begin to appreciate the uncanny rearrangement of outer reality which instantly begins to reflect our surrender to inner change, the inexpressible mystery of how nature does support us when we do begin to follow our natures.

Yes, in these days of Paul Simon’s “miracles and wonder,” Joseph Campbell’s phrase “follow your bliss” rolls easily off the tongue.

While I am amazed and grateful for this mutation in the world wind, I am also concerned by what I notice as our usual tendency to bring something forth from the realm of mystery and in that process, subtly or not so subtly, co-opt it, make it ordinary.

I appreciate more, now, why some theologians thought the only way we could speak of God was through what God was not, the so-called “via negativa.” To think we can capture soul, locate it, specify it to any particular planet or dimension or technique or algorithm — whether we attempt to do this (quasi-) scientifically or astrologically — is, I feel, to begin the process of once again, losing contact with soul altogether.

Our scientific left-brained need to specify that which is essentially mysterious and ineffable is thoroughly ingrained. Indeed, a few years ago, when I began to set up and study heliocentric charts, I found myself doing precisely that.

The helio chart, I wanted to say, is the chart from the point of view of the soul. This is to distinguish it from the regular, or geocentric chart which identifies the personality.

Even as I made this nice, neat, clear distinction, I grew uneasy. How could anything, even a chart so pure and abstract as the helio, be equivalent to the mystery of soul? I soon found myself hedging, trying to find ways of talking about helio which both appreciated its resonance with soul and yet did not pretend to capture it, pin it down like a butterfly.

No matter how deeply I enter into the more rarified realms of astrology, no matter how many clues I now seem to sense as to the mystery of soul and its nature, they are still just that, clues. Hints. Traces. Mere shadows. Whatever is soul, it is larger and more inclusive than any of my attempts to map it.

I cannot swallow the universe. I can only take little sips at a time. As I assimilate each sip I grow, and am able to take in a little bit more the next time — which again, once assimilated, helps me grow. The universe itself, even the universe of soul, is infinite, as are any of my attempts to discover its limits. The further I probe into its inner/outer reaches, the further it recedes into the remote distance.

Now I speak of helio as that abstract energy system which gives us clues as to the soul’s condition ontologically prior to birth on earth. I assume that both helio and geocentric charts describe, from their own distinct points of view, aspects of the current stage of evolution of awareness of self as a hologram of the whole.

For me, I am most fascinated in the relationship itself between the helio and the geo charts. To view them together is to initiate a dynamic within myself which changes the way I am able to see either one separately. On the other hand, to view either one alone, is to take a lop-sided approach. Let me explain.

Viewed together, the helio perspective offers a larger, more inclusive way of appreciating the geo chart. In my imagination, as I stand upon the sun and look to earth, things, so to speak, fall into place in a different way. From the helio perspective I suddenly feel, with a jolt to the gut, how the house system of the geo chart grounds me into earth time reality. I feel the gravity of the geo chart, its density, its heaviness. How slowly things move. How easy it is to get stuck. How matter is the flesh of desire, its adhesions binding me, blinding me, to the sun above, to the starry night sky.

One would think I would be glad to be detached, if only for this one imaginary moment, from earth life. But I am not. Life in the flesh warms me. I feel safe. Ensconced in the delicious nourishing comfort of earth’s enveloping womb, I enjoy the sensuous intimacy of connection — to other beings of flesh and blood, to earth’s fire and wind and rock and soul and water . . .

Yet as I stand upon the sun reflecting upon earth life, I see it whole. I experience the decided growth in compassion which accompanies the conscious recognition of the power of attachment in both my own and others’ lives.

I live upon earth in reality, and I stand upon sun in my imagination, looking back to earth. On earth, I allow myself to fully feel the inevitable pain which accompanies loss, the haunted yearning of desire. Standing upon the sun, I can begin to forgive myself and others for what we do to one another when we know not what we do.

From the helio perspective alone, the geo chart looks like a certain distortion or even contamination of the helio, its pure energy system torqued, or skewed in a manner to reflect entry into matter.

But when the helio perspective is combined with a full and felt appreciation of geocentric life, then I can appreciate the geo chart as a crucible, the place where we are learning the lesson of compassion.

From the geo perspective alone, helio looks like an abstract energy system with no reference to real life experience —so abstract, indeed, that up until very recently just glancing at a helio chart made me feel dizzy, spacey, disoriented.

Yet having once stood upon the sun, we can live and breathe more easily here. We don’t get so wrapped up in our difficulties as before. We have a knowledge now of why it is so difficult to learn, why we keep falling back, and yet how our destiny is always, ultimately, to move forward, to become aware of our unity with all of creation.

I move back and forth, from one perspective to the other. Now I am growing heavy, sinking down into my body, my body into earth. I contract to a dense point, a black hole, full of pain. I allow the pain in, I surrender. The hole begins to open, wide; I begin to stretch and flex, my energy becoming lighter, easier, cells expanding with space: spirit quickens, begins to move within and through them. I radiate this love. I fly out to the sun, and beyond, to the stars, the wheeling galaxies.

Each perspective, when taken alone, feels myopic, prejudicial, split off from that which would balance it, make it whole. As I meditate upon the relations between the two perspectives I feel a new perspective generating which includes and transcends them both. Dare I say it? I begin the process of healing the painful split between body and spirit, between heaven and earth, in myself.

As I continue to feel my way into the relations between these two types of charts, I am especially fascinated by the specific differences. As if, somehow, in the pregnant fullness of the mysterious space between them lies the key to the nature of soul. As if the soul, in choosing both a particular abstract energy pattern and its parallel refraction into matter, is trying to tell us its story, the story of its life between and among the worlds.

I think it is no accident that helio charts are now finding their way into some astrologers’ files. Given the need of our time for soul embodiment, to include helio charts in our interpretation of people’s lives and longing is to further symbolize, through the astrological language, this pressing need of our times.


About Ann Kreilkamp

PhD Philosophy, 1972. Rogue philosopher ever since.
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2 Responses to A.K. Reader: My Search for the Soul in Astrology

  1. Janice Berndt says:

    I am so glad you are sharing your “old” writings! You are an incredible writer. Not only do I learn a lot, but I thrill to the way you put words together.

    • Ann Kreilkamp says:

      Janice! You’ve no idea how much your affirmation helps me in my process as I slog through all these rmarkable old writings that are as new to me (the me of now) as they are to you! It’s as if we who continue to evolve shed skin after skin after skin . . .

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