There are ways that astrology is fundamentally an engagement with time through our relationships with both sky and earth. Or perhaps an engagement with space-time-mattering as entangled relational processes, to think with feminist quantum physicist Karen Barad—but that’s a much longer essay for another day. Astrology presents a particular nonlinear temporality, an understanding of time as comprising innumerable simultaneous cycles, rather than a linear understanding of time projected from one point to another, from past toward future. In turn, astrology offers an understanding of personhood as inherently relational and also as a process of becoming, which I discuss in much greater detail with Melissa LaFara on this episode of the Energetic Principles podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZHcch05jPQ
We can see this expressed in various forms of dynamic astrological timing techniques, from something as simple as observing the lunation cycle month by month, finding alignments with the Moon’s waxing and waning, when it becomes full and when it returns into darkness to become new again. And with the solar return—when the Sun returns to the place in the sky where it was when you were born, around your birthday—as a time each year when one cycle ends and another begins, a returning to somewhere we’ve been before, but in a way that is constellated with countless other cycles that are not the same as they were any other time when the Sun returned to that place. And other planetary returns, like the major markers of each Saturn return or Jupiter return, alongside the 12-year cycle of annual profections through the chart, and the approximately 30-year cycle of the secondary progressed lunation cycle, and the cycles of periods through the signs in a technique like zodiacal releasing. In all of these ways, astrology points us toward this nonlinearity of time, time as becoming through many cycles that align in particular ways moment by moment, day by day, year by year. No moment of life is identical to another that came before or after because these cycles unfold at variable lengths of time or speeds and processes—so while we are moving with all of these unfolding cycles at the same time, how they are configured with one another at any moment will be distinct, giving rise to an ongoing experience of both emergence and return, of having been here before and coming to this place for the very first time.
When we work with astrological time, we are often looking into the future to see what these different cycles and their alignments can describe about our lives to come, or we are examining the past in order to correlate our lived experiences with the cycles through which we have already lived. There is a clear sense that the moment in which we are living—the person we are in this moment, constituted through these intersecting dynamic relationships—is not the same as where or who we have been or where or who we will become. A friend of mine, Brian Forman, recently reminded me of the importance of attending to the present when doing astrological work, especially with clients. Being with the felt experience of this unique moment is a significant part of what astrology can offer to us. And also, Brian’s invocation of the present reminded me of a way that Alexis Pauline Gumbs has discussed nonlinear time in terms of presence, where “being present” does not exist in isolation but rather is a recognition of one’s place within the larger cycle: “… if I’m present, everyone is here. If I’m present, I have access to everyone and every moment that’s ever existed … it’s not linear in the sense that I cannot be separated from that love that has generated me. You know. I’m connected to that. And: that’s what has generated me and also what’s being generated.” Gumbs words recall Angela Davis’ suggestion that “we are the manifestation of the imagination of those who came before us.”
When we look into the future or the past and observe ourselves across cycles of astrological time, that awareness generates resources for us in the present. As Gumbs offers, we have access to everyone and every moment that’s ever existed—every person we have been and will yet become, living through every transit and progression and profection and other periods described by astrological techniques. Looking into the future, we might not yet know the details of the experiences through which we will live or how it will shape and change us. As Chani Nicholas has said, within the framework of astrology, we can look at the astrology down the road, but we never fully know the possibility of it in advance because we haven’t yet met ourselves in that time quality or that astrological moment. And yet we can see something of the archetypal shape of this other moment and self—these other moments and selves—across nonlinear time, and the awareness of that astrology generates something for us here and now. Perhaps we see a really supportive transit or progression, and knowing that is on the horizon offers us some relief or hope within whatever we are experiencing. We don’t yet live as that moment, we don’t yet have access to the resources it will offer, but our awareness of that moment generates different resources for the present right now. Or perhaps we see a period in our lives that looks challenging astrologically. Sometimes that creates fear or foreboding, dread or doom, but what if instead we came into that awareness with compassion and love for our future self, offering that compassion and love across nonlinear time so that when we come to that moment, we are already receiving care from our past self—the person you are now looking ahead to that challenging period and choosing to love the person you will be in that time that looks like it could be difficult.
The same can be true for looking back astrologically: as we look back to supportive transits or progressions or other auspicious periods through which we have lived, we can access the resources of those moments that we still carry with us as memory. And as we look back to times when we experienced challenging astrological periods, we can hold that past self with love, compassion, and care—which, in the nonlinearity of time, may be part of what supported our survival back then and there, your past self receiving the love and care of this self that you are now looking back. You are not the same person as who you will become or who you have been. Who you are now and how you are co-constituted within this astrological moment is distinct. And also: part of the gift of astrology is that we have access to an awareness of who we have been and the potential of who we can become, the qualities of time then and there, and that awareness offers us resources for this moment, this self that you now are.
And perhaps that’s part of why we practice astrology: not simply to predict the future or analyze the past, but to access the resources we generate as we become aware of past and future moments, past and future selves, all connected across and through countless cycles of nonlinear time.
 Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “A Breathing Chorus with Alexis Pauline Gumbs,” How to Survive the End of the World Podcast hosted by Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown, December 19, 2017, https://www.endoftheworldshow.org/blog/2017/12/19/a-breathing-chorus-with-alexis-pauline-gumbs.
 Angela Davis, “On Inequality,” https://youtu.be/-MzmifPGk94?t=1h1m27s.
 Chani Nicholas, “Taking Root Amongst the Stars with Chani Nicholas,’ How to Survive the End of the World Podcast hosted by Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown, April 2018: https://open.spotify.com/episode/378pzPIMhs2Ak8i8uERUnP?si=924843ac636a4185