Image by Mote Oo Education. Background by ZhSol from Pixabay.

Many organisms, including humans, undergo developmental changes before reaching adulthood, and these appear to occur in discrete stages on the physical, emotional, and mental dimensions. People who work with children generally organize these periods in terms of age or by simply describing milestones to be achieved by a certain age.

A common scheme has the following labels: infancy or baby (up to two years old), toddler (one and a half to three years old), preschooler (three to six years), middle childhood (six to twelve) and adolescence (eleven to eighteen). More precise stages, or sequences, in human development have been named by a number of developmental theorists, and a review of this literature points to a consensus of about four main stages. At each of these stages what may be entrainment attractors build templates that are used to manage the self and navigate the social environment.

In spite of the fact that each theorist has focused on a specific aspect of development, such as psycho-sexual, cognitive, and the like, a comparison of the major schools of thought on this subject, including those of Freud, Erikson, Piaget, Steiner, Wilbur, Leary/Wilson, and others, shows a more or less standard pattern of stages that could be summarized as follows:



These four distinct stages, or sequences, given here with approximate ages, are based on the generalized observations of several note-worthy psychologists. There is both supportive and unsupportive evidence for the existence of these stages, so they must be taken as hypotheses, not fact.

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In contrast to the apparent rigidity of these stage theories, the tendency today among those working with children is to allow for individual variations; stages are seen as highly flexible and overlapping. This is a tolerant and practical approach and may have benefits in calming parents’ expectations. But leaving this contemporary perspective aside, I’ve argued in a number of publications that these developmental periods coincide in a remarkable way with the symbolism of the inner planets in astrology, the planets that are traditionally associated with the most personal of human traits and characteristics (Scofield 1987; 2000).

Correlation with Development Stages and Planetary Cycles 

There are also correlations between these stages and planetary cycles. Using the positions of the planets at birth as starting points, the completion of these planets’ cycles when they are coincident with the solar return or its opposite are good matches with the ages of these four developmental stages.

Developmental psychology (and ethology) has shown that there are periods of imprint vulnerability when external experiences have extra power to shape the growing self. These are the critical or sensitive periods that occur during the appropriate developmental stages, periods when exploration of new territory (consistent with sequential maturing capabilities) is occurring.

Going back to the list above and comparing it to the traditional descriptions of the planets, it is obvious to anyone knowledgeable of astrology that these four stages of development correspond very closely to the symbolism of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Venus, in that order. Based on this observation I proposed a model called the developmental planetary imprint hypothesis (DPI), which links stages with planets.

The Developmental Planetary Imprint Hypothesis (DPI)

The DPI hypothesis hasn’t been of much interest to astrologers who, for the most part, regard it as an inadequate explanation when considering the full scope of astrology. Given that only five points in the astrological palette are used in this model, as it is presented here, it does leave unexplained the roles of the other planets and points commonly in use (I have addressed this issue in my writing (Scofield 2001)). I think the hypothesis is worth considering, that explaining all of astrology in one stroke is asking a lot, and it may be more productive, initially that is, to tackle it in parts.

Birth initiates the Moon (lunar) stage of attachment, which extends to roughly age two. During this time instinctive responses, cognitive qualities that operate rapidly and emotionally, are being shaped (System 1 in Daniel Kahneman’s model as described in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow) (Kahneman 2011).

It turns out that at the second solar return the Moon will be located roughly 90 degrees from its birth position. Also, at the second birthday, Mars will be very close to its birth position, having completed roughly one cycle since birth. These two events, possibly received by the endocrine system as signals embedded in the geomagnetic field, could be what shuts down, or at least mutes, the bio-survival sensitive period of the Moon and opens up the autonomous ranking-territorial window of Mars.

At the fourth birthday, Mars is again near its birth position and the Moon is found roughly 180 degrees from its birth position. This may mark the ending of the Mars stage, but it also suggests that stages may overlap to some extent and that some imprinting of the Moon stage has continued.

The half (demi-) solar return at 3.5, the solar return at either the sixth or seventh birthdays (these vary, but which one may say something about learning progress), and the solar return at the thirteenth birthday (in all cases) occur when Mercury is locked into phase with its birth position, these being times when learning is accelerating and lifetime interests may be imprinted. (Mercury’s type of cognition can be correlated with Kahneman’s System 2 thinking.)

At the eighth birthday Venus returns to its birth position precisely, and the sensitive period for socio-sexual matters may be switched on. The same double return (Sun to Sun, Venus to Venus) occurs at the sixteenth birthday, which may mark the decline of socio-sexual imprinting; the period between age eight and sixteen is the period when mating patterns become established.

At the eighteenth birthday both Sun and Moon return to their birth positions within a few hours, this being the wellknown Metonic cycle, and it may possibly be a signal for completion of the developmental process for humans (at this stage in evolution). By this time cognitive development and the personal and social identity will (in most cases) have become established, and the individual is then ready to navigate the world, though this will vary from culture to culture.

Do planetary signals trigger hormonal processes?

What I’m suggesting with this hypothetical model is that during these periods of planetary resonance with the Sun, centered on specific birthdays (photoperiod being information that is recognized and used by many organisms), it is possible that the coincident reception of a planetary signal triggers hormonal processes that initiate periods of change, growth, and imprint vulnerability. These signals may also be involved with physical developments as well, but here I am focusing on personal and social development.

Once a developmental stage is opened, sensitivity to certain kinds of imprints may be greatly increased and, through a kind of entrainment, these can be used to build the structures or frameworks of the psyche on which the evolving personality is built. This astro-developmental model, if it actually works, is like the four developmental stages proposed by psychologists, a generalization or ideal pattern that not all individuals will follow. If it does work, and there is only anecdotal evidence for it, it may be an artifact from earlier times, possibly before civilization, when populations were smaller and people were more directly exposed to the cosmic environment.

Planetary returns coincident with the solar return on the birthday vary in distance (measured in degrees of celestial longitude) from the Sun by a small amount. How precise these phase correlations turn out to be for a particular individual may say something about their development and account for variations among individuals. For example, if at the second solar return the Moon is widely square its birth position, off by 15 degrees, but at the fourth solar return it forms a very close opposition with its birth position, say within 2 degrees, this could suggest a longer period of development in regard to the establishment of attachments and security needs, but also a quicker ending. A longer period of attachment may be a good thing, or not, depending on the circumstances of life during this time.

Once the basic self and identity is established and shaped by imprints, perhaps by the eighteenth birthday when both Sun and Moon return at the same time, planetary positions in the future passing over these specific planetary positions at birth (called transits) may no longer leave imprints. But, the imprints taken during development may then function as organized nervous system templates. When these templates are activated by transiting planets, a person may find themselves drawn toward situations that replicate in some ways the events that took place during the periods of imprint vulnerability.

From this perspective, layers of accumulated experiences timed by planetary recurrences become the basic framework of the psychic self that is constructed by adulthood. The events of adult life continually challenge the strength and value of these fundamental imprints. This may be the basis of at least some interpretations and predictions made for individuals by practicing astrologers.

Fundamental  Imprint Vulnerabilities

Some of the above ideas should be briefly expanded on here. Imprints are defined as when sensory information gleaned from an external event/stimulus is embedded or internalized somehow in the developing organism’s nervous system as a memory. Exactly how these neural networks are laid down at these times and exactly where in the brain or body memories are located is not well understood.

In the DPI model, specific imprint vulnerabilities (critical or sensitive periods) are likely to be activated at solar returns (birthdays) that occur simultaneously with planet returns. This photoperiod information (light) and the aspect (phase) between the Sun and a planet may activate parts of the brain to accept imprints.

In a sense this could be action at a distance through some as yet unknown media, similar to Kepler’s ideas on resonance and how an organism “hears” the planets. Or it could be that the sensory system of the organism is picking up fluctuations in the magnetic field generated by planetary gravitational fields, or registering solar activity that is also modulated by the gravity of the planets.

What goes on in an organism at the quantum level is a field of study in itself, called quantum biology, that includes magnetoreception in the sensory system. Regardless of a precisely known agent of causation, once a developmental stage is triggered, the actual events and circumstances that are experienced in the external world during a period of imprint vulnerability shapes the framework of a newly established neural/memory network and serves as a structure for identity.

Earth Triggers (Planetary Transits)

Let’s suppose the events that correlate with early triggers (e.g., transits) to the natal astrological chart leave imprints on the developing neurological circuits. This may explain how a transit in later life works: The transit activates the imprinted memories that are then used to select information from the present (including surrogate actors reminiscent of past significant others, as well as other circumstances) and assemble that information into a pattern that can be comprehended and acted on. In this recapitulation can be seen a mechanism of sorts: a response to planetary positioning that activates imprint memories that then generate thoughts and release specific hormones. Such a process would be a quick way to solve problems, and if it had good survival value in the distant past it would have been retained. The activation of an imprint circuit then leads to choices, made mostly unconsciously, and to an observer it may appear to be destiny at work. It all sounds fatalistic, and it may have been so in the distant past, but today the process may be less precise and allow for plenty of wiggle room.

Once the self-identity system of a person is up and running (at the Metonic return around age eighteen), and the personal and social environment is being successfully navigated, then the system (person) may become self-conscious and thus begin the long, hard work of growing and cultivating personal awareness and exercising true free will. Self-knowledge and consciousness-raising could then be seen as a kind of unraveling of past imprints in the subconscious that are moved into the conscious mind to be redigested. But to be perfectly clear, this is just a speculative hypothesis with only observational anecdotal evidence derived from a limited number of cases.

Does Astrology Have a Biological Basis?

In summary, I’m suggesting that at least a part of astrology may have a biological basis, one shared with other life forms. Life has evolved in an environment of photo, tidal, and magnetic signals, and life has used these as structures and grids to run biological processes and also to build a self. The self is a composite of behaviors that functions like a system and, like all self-organizing systems operating far from equilibrium, it is sensitive to very subtle influences.

The development of individual identity in humans may then be a byproduct of events and social interactions during childhood, which were internalized during periods of imprint vulnerability on a schedule clocked by photoperiod and phase information that was transmitted via electromagnetic signals that were modulated by the Sun, Moon, and planets. The results of this multi-link causal chain make for a variety of individual types shaped by the astronomical and social environment possible, and in the context of evolution by natural selection, this serves to better adapt the species to its environment over time.

While all of this may sound mechanistic, it is certainly not a variation of the behaviorist blank slate view, which is. This is a hypothetical organicist model of the internalization of the periodicities of the temporal environment and its use by the organism to function in the world in its own unique way.

This model is likely not limited to humans. It’s possible that other primates (and other organisms) with different developmental periods may utilize correlations between planet cycles and photoperiod in similar ways, and as evolution brings changes over long periods of time, these timings would shift or be used differently. The DPI model is a perspective on personal identity development that describes in modern terms possible interconnections between the macrocosm and microcosm. The science is, of course, in the details, but if it turns out that there is something to this model, it should add to knowledge that life internalizes the sky.

©2023 Bruce Scofield - all rights reserved.
Adapted with permission of the publisher,
InnerTraditions Intl

 Article Source:

The Nature of Astrology: History, Philosophy, and the Science of Self-Organizing Systems
by Bruce Scofield.

book cover: The Nature of Astrology by Bruce Scofield.While astrology is now mostly viewed as subjective fortune-telling, Bruce Scofield argues that astrology is not only a practice but also a science, specifically a form of systems science--a set of techniques for mapping and analyzing self-organizing systems.

Presenting a broad look at how the cosmic environment shapes nature, the author shows how the practice and natural science of astrology can expand its applications in modern society in such varied fields as medicine, history, and sociology.

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About The Author

photo of Bruce ScofieldBruce Scofield holds a doctorate in geosciences from the University of Massachusetts, a master’s degree in social sciences from Montclair University, and a degree in history from Rutgers University. Currently an instructor for Kepler College and president of the Professional Astrologers Alliance, he is the author of 14 books. Bruce (b. 7/21/1948) began studying astrology in 1967 and has earned a living as an astrological consultant since 1980.

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