What Human Design Is (And Is Not)

In our time working as Human Design analysts and teachers, we’ve noticed some common misconceptions about the Human Design System coming from those curious about and new to the system. We wrote this article with the hope of addressing some of these misconceptions and perhaps more clearly elucidating what the Human Design System offers.

We start with what Human Design is not and then we will share our perspective on what it is.

What Human Design Is Not

Religion or Belief System

While there are some who hold the Human Design information dogmatically, it is not a set of rules to impose on yourself or anyone else. It is not a moral code nor a method of self-improvement to make us more palatable or successful according to societal standards. Rather it is a system that shows us how unique each of us are and what may be correct for one person may be very different for the next.

Human Design is not a cult, but individuals can attempt to use it in a cult-like way, where the practitioner uses it to put themselves in a position of authority over others. Human Design does not recognize any outer authority as superior or more significant than our own process and awareness including the knowledge of the system itself.

Often newcomers in Human Design will ask “can I do this?” or “Is this okay?” and the answer we give is usually something to the effect of, “I don’t know, it’s your life, follow your Strategy and Authority and see what happens”. Human Design is not about what we believe, but rather a way of seeing how things are. Everything in its right place and right time according to its nature.

It’s time and it’s not like you’ve got forever. You have this chance to be able to see what that really is. Not the not-self construct that got to this place. But what it means. And don’t bring your expectations. You have no idea what it’s going to look like and either do I. I remember when I first started introducing Human Design and I explained there is a seven-year deconditioning cycle, a cellular cycle. To get rid of the stuff, the bad stuff in the cellular system; it takes seven years to renew. And people would say to me, well, what is going to be like then? I don’t know. There are no cookie-cutters here. This is not about sameness. This is not some kind of crazy cult.

It’s about uniqueness. It’s about individuals. I don’t know where you’re going to go. It would be nice if you went, though. You can tell me later, like they did, what it looked like for them at that point. This is the magic. It’s you. It’s always going to be you.

– Ra Uru Hu

Personality Typing System

Human Design is not based on a questionnaire like Myers-Briggs or the popularized version of the Enneagram system. While these kinds of systems may have some merit, they are created from and engage with the realm of the mind. These systems along with the newer Law of Attraction-based programs seem heavily oriented to manifesting our desired material reality.

In contrast, Human Design is a comprehensive and deep body of knowledge that not only includes an individual’s unique auric and energetic imprint, but also stretches into areas such as cosmology, biology, anatomy, physics, and the maturation of our individual consciousness over the course of a life. “Type” in the context of Human Design refers to a mechanical absolute which can be seen through the individual BodyGraph. It would be more specific to say “auric type” as it is describing the pattern and signature of one’s bio-energetic field.

Type comes from a juxtaposition of the mind (Personality) and the body (Design) together and is not something we choose. An understanding of Type can help one return to a natural state of awareness by experimenting with the body’s unique process as a way of navigating in life.

Psychological Therapy

While Human Design can be deeply therapeutic, it is not psychological therapy in the conventional sense. A Foundation Reading, Cycles Reading, or Partnership session is more like analyzing and synthesizing a map in the context of one’s real-life experience.

The recognition a good reading provides can often be transformative and healing for the individual. Previous experiences are reframed through a lens of acceptance and no blame. There can be a release of emotions in accepting ourselves and seeing ourselves as we are. In the context of relationship dynamics, understanding our design as well as the design of others can help us to see why things were or are the way they are from a perspective of acceptance and no blame.

While talking about one’s feelings can often be supportive as a means of moving and releasing emotion, it often isn’t enough to change one’s circumstances. In the same way, just talking about one’s design no matter how many details you know, doesn’t necessarily change anything either. Human Design is really about shifting our awareness and learning to let the mind take a back seat to the intelligence of the body.

When it comes to changing one’s life circumstances and addressing the mind’s grip on life, the main tools we have are Strategy and Authority. We can’t go back and change history, but we can perhaps enter into new situations differently. We may also better see the correctness or incorrectness of our current relationships and situations. By bringing greater awareness into our experience, we have the possibility of seeing what, if anything, can be done about it.


Human Design is similar to astrology in that it creates a chart or “BodyGraph” based on the time, date, and place of birth. Both systems recognize that there is a relationship between the positions of the planets in the birth chart and the patterns, themes, and movement of our actual lives. Many of the interpretations of the characteristics of planets are in resonance or issue from the same principle. From there the Human Design System begins to depart from both traditional and modern systems of astrology. Here are a few notable differences:

Human Design uniquely recognizes the importance of our Design or form imprint (shown by the red activations in the chart). Without this unconscious imprint of the body, we only have half of the picture of the human experience. The house system used in most forms of astrology seemed to be created in an effort to describe how the energies of the planets operate on the mundane or earthly level of our experience. Many astrologers will look to the 1st house of the birth chart as representing the themes and characteristics of the body, where Human Design synthesizes two sets of calculations, one chart for the body and another for the mind.

Human Design also incorporates the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching in place of the Zodiac signs as the field in which the neutrino stream is being filtered or modulated through the planetary positions. The Zodiac signs are not used in Human Design analysis apart from a means of mapping the positions of the planets to one of the 64 hexagrams or gates in fixed positions in the Zodiac or Rave Mandala wheel.

Human Design is not predictive in the same way that many traditional astrological systems aim to be. Human Design doesn’t seek to tell us what is going to happen or what we’re going to get if we live our design apart from the Signature of our auric type. Experimenting with our design through Strategy and Authority is not the end of the story but rather a starting point that can open a doorway into the unknown.

Human Design and astrology as it is currently practiced represent two different systems based on the relationship between the positions of the planets at the time of birth and the unique themes, characteristics, and timing of our lives. Each system has value and its own way of orienting our experience in the context of our life.

A Magic Bullet

Some people come into Human Design looking for a magic bullet, a quick fix for solving their perceived problems. From the point of view put forth in the Human Design System, even this search is often fueled by the conditioned mind. Whether or not magic bullet solutions like this even exist, it’s safe to say that Human Design is rarely a quick fix for a lifetime of conditioned behavior.

Human Design holds that change happens through a deconditioning process and by realigning with our form awareness as means of navigating and making decisions. Deconditioning is a gradual and slow process that occurs as our awareness shifts and we stop doing things that are not correct and detrimental to our life force.

As such, a Human Design session is also not a crisis hotline to be used only in emergency situations, when stuck or having to make a big decision. Truly experimenting with Human Design requires that we take responsibility for ourselves and that we are able to manage basic aspects of material life. If someone can not make time to sit still for a two-hour session or pull together a couple of hundred dollars to invest in their own well-being, Human Design is not likely to be able to offer a lot.

I’ve been teaching Human Design a long time now. There’s so much there, and it’s all really great. It’s all really interesting. But still, it’s not because you’re bright and you’re open and you can take this information in and you can understand it. That isn’t going to change anything. The only thing that changes anything is when you live out your Strategy. It only really changes after you’ve lived out your Strategy for an entire biological cycle. You’re adults. You’ve been deeply conditioned from the moment that you came into the world. You still carry your conditioning. It is really a process to get rid of that.

– Ra Uru Hu

Substitute for Living Life

Many have expanded on the famous Socrates quote, “the unexamined life is not worth living” with “the unlived life is not worth examining.” Human Design suggests that both are necessary for a fulfilling life, living through the body’s awareness and developing our self-reflective consciousness. We learn to trust ourselves through experimenting with being our own authority in our lives.

The first thing to remember when working with any system or body of knowledge is that the ‘map is not the territory’, a phrase that was first coined by semanticist Alfred Korzybski, suggesting that a person or thing is separate from the judgments or perceptions that people place upon it. There is no amount of knowledge or information including that provided by Human Design that can substitute for real-life experience or the ability to function in the mundane world.

The Greek/Armenian mystic and teacher G. I. Gurdjieff put forth that people who are “strong” in life will also be “strong” in whatever path, method, or work they set themselves to. We see the same dynamic in those coming into Human Design. In other words, if you cannot manage your daily life and business in the mundane world, you will probably have trouble doing so in any mystical or spiritual teaching.

Get Rich Quick Scheme

Whether you are looking for a “career” in Human Design or a competitive advantage in your coaching practice, Human Design is not often an easy way to make a buck. While some people can and do find a way to pay the bills working with the Human Design System, most of those working with Human Design on a professional level have spent years if not decades in their own process and experiment. They’ve often spent more money on their Human Design education than they could easily make back over several years of doing sessions and teaching classes. So there has to be something else in it for them.

We live in a material world and there is certainly nothing wrong with being fairly paid for one’s time, energy, and awareness. However, it’s often mind-based conditioning that distorts and exaggerates security concerns, self-worth and identity issues, and attention-seeking. These kinds of fixations and coping strategies can breed a type of desperation that drives people to spend large amounts of money on homogenized marketing programs promising material success.

One may actually find some material success with these approaches but they may not bring value through other deeply meaningful currencies of life. Human Design knowledge suggests that living according to our nature brings a sense of fulfillment, well-being, and purpose. In the process, we may find that our material priorities shift and that we are able to take care of ourselves according to different standards; standards that we determine for ourselves according to what we truly love, value, and sense as truth.

What Human Design Is

An Experiment

Human Design is a beautiful and logical system. You can test and verify its validity for yourself through personal experience, living, and experimenting with it day by day. The system offers Strategy and Authority as practical tools to approach decisions as yourself through a process of surrendering to one’s form. It brings the possibility of “passenger” or “witness” consciousness where we have awareness of ourselves as we are engaging with and moving through the world.

Experimenting with Human Design can bring a sense of differentiation from normalized culture as we begin to reference our own internal intelligence over what popular culture and family conditioning dictates. Instead of moving with the herd, consuming and chasing the same things and experiences as everyone else, Generators can find great satisfaction using their power and energy doing what they love.

Projectors can find recognition and success through relationships beyond homogenized definitions of material status and gain. Manifestors can find peace in living a life of independence and minimal resistance in the world. Reflectors can be surprised by life and its uniqueness, embracing change and flowing with the program without being lost in it.

In the same way, Generators can move through life with less frustration. Projectors can see beyond their bitterness. A Manifestor’s anger can be fresh and a means of repelling those who would resist them. Reflectors can come to know disappointment as a part of life and find that it doesn’t impact them.

No Choice

It is the great duality of all of this. It is choiceless. It’s deeply choiceless. As a matter of fact, whether they’re going to do this or that, or get to this or that, in fact, that is what it is. However, we are in a movie and it’s a maia movie. In the maia movie, it looks like we have all these choices. We have to play out the game.

– Ra Uru Hu

Human Design suggests that our trajectory in life is set in motion before birth and that we live in a “no choice universe.” This is often a tough pill to swallow for most of us who attempt to maintain control over our lives. Some might argue that we make all kinds of choices every day. But do these kinds of daily “choices” matter in the context of our larger life story?

We could say that it is only in the undefined centers in the BodyGraph where we have the illusion of choice. When it comes to our definition showing where our energy and awareness are fixed, there is actually very little choice. We may see how we attempt to control others’ reactions to us by performing to their expectations, preferences, and opinions. If we reveal ourselves in an honest way, without contorting ourselves or performing, we actually find that others respond and react to us according to their design.

If you really examine your own life, you will likely find that there are countless things you can’t control. We have all been through experiences and found that certain aspects could not be avoided no matter how much we tried to control the outcomes. We may have lost someone we love or realized we no longer love our partner in the same way as before. We may find that we can no longer continue certain jobs or behaviors, or that a health crisis forces us to rearrange our priorities. We may find ourselves in a position of unwanted or unexpected leadership that we can not deny, or feel an almost fated sense of needing to pursue an experience that will upset or disappoint someone close to us.

Can we control how we feel internally, what we fear, what our minds think about, what turns us on and off, and who and what we are attracted to? These kinds of punctuated experiences remind us of how helpless we all are. And yet acceptance of this helplessness can liberate us from our futile and obsessive efforts to deny or avoid the inevitable, and open up a greater sense of compassion for our fellow humans as we see they are in the same predicament.

Deconstruction Project

To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.

— Lao Tzu

Human Design, like any powerful method of awakening, is in large part a deconstruction project. From the point of view of the Human Design System, awakening is a process of differentiation and living out our unique design. This often involves letting go of what we thought we knew or wanted in favor of what actually serves us and the natural purpose we can fulfill. It may require going through some loss, pain, difficulty, or unexpected change as we stop trying to be what we are not.

We stop investing energy into relationships that aren’t balanced or supportive for us. We let go of the unhealthy situations we are holding onto from a conditioned sense of security. We learn when enough is enough and we stop trying to prove ourselves by making commitments that we simply don’t have the energy for. We may have to confront the truth of our experience and stop avoiding uncomfortable situations by playing nice.

Human Design can be something like a shamanic pill that can dramatically alter the course and experiences of one’s life. This letting go can bring an experience of spaciousness and relaxation into our lives, while also allowing for new experiences, relationships, and forms to enter. We may also find that things we used to be able to tolerate become intolerable in ways we can’t control.

The process can be something like an elimination diet at the beginning. If we’re trying to get to the bottom of a food allergy, we start removing foods that we suspect that we may be sensitive to. It takes time and patience while our system resets and comes back into a greater sense of alignment and health. We can slowly reintroduce certain foods or in this case people, things, and experiences through working with Strategy and Authority as a guide to what is healthy and correct for us.

What I like is that Human Design gives you a road map, gives you a manual. It points out to every little thing along the way. And each aspect of that can bring great value into your own process. It’s here to nurture the individual, to nurture uniqueness. It is in the end what knowledge is about. It’s about being able to benefit the other, to be able to serve.

So, regardless of where your imagination goes, if you’re thinking about the way in which we are constructed, in the end we live this life, this illusion, this maia. This is what it’s about. Oh, I hope that I can help you put your head through the sky every once in a while to be able to see what’s there underneath. But I live in the world, just like you. This is where we belong. And we’re here to live it in the correctness of what’s possible for us. That’s the point — Strategy and Authority.

– Ra Uru Hu

A Road Map

Human Design provides a way of understanding what it actually means to live uniquely as ourselves. It is a body of knowledge that respects our individuality and that we are an ever-evolving species. It can help us know and love what we are, recognize others as they are, and let go of shame, blame, and the torturous experience of taking everything so personally with so much seriousness and righteousness.

Human Design shows what is fixed and reliable in us and what is conditional and subject to influence. Definition shown by the defined channels and centers gives us a major signpost describing the themes, characteristics, and frequencies that are fixed and reliable in our experience. Openness as seen through the undefined centers, channels, and gates is another point of reference, showing where our experience is conditional or circumstantial relative to influences from others and our environment.

Much of the knowledge in Human Design and the characteristics of our individual design are signposts and references for our experiment in living according to our true nature. Our definition shows us what we are and how we are designed to move through life. Our openness is where we can watch our interactions with the world around us, meeting the influences and conditioning through our Strategy and Inner Authority. The substructure of our design including the characteristics described by Line, Color, and Tone provide signposts for further refinement and specificity.

It’s very clear to me that Human Design, at its mundane level, is here to be a part of the maia. It is the mechanics of the maia. It’s helping align beings to what will reduce pressure in their lives and make their lives easier and something more comfortable to live with. But at a deeper level, it’s very difficult. It’s one of those deep, deep ironic situations for somebody like me and I don’t shy away from saying it, but what to do? On one side I teach that there is a way to get to being correct. And on the other side it’s all choiceless anyway. Those who get to the correctness, this is the line of geometry that was laid out.

– Ra Uru Hu

Mechanics of the Maia

The Human Design System describes the shared reality construct that we all participate in. It is often referred to as the Science of Differentiation showing the unique nature of the individual through the imprint of the birth chart. Human Design touches on just about all aspects of the human experience and provides a manual for understanding how the body and consciousness work. While the explanation of how things work can be endlessly fascinating for our minds, it can also be a trap if the mind becomes distracted by the details in lieu of actually living one’s design. Just like with a car, memorizing and explaining the operator’s manual to others is not a substitute for actually learning to drive the car well.

Ra Uru Hu, the originator of the system, often said that “knowledge is not power” which can easily be seen in the mechanics of the Human Design BodyGraph. Minds love to compete to prove who has memorized the most information. The not-self mind wants more knowledge, more information, more of what someone else has when in reality it’s often about less. We see this pattern in people coming into Human Design and immediately wanting to get into the substructure of their design asking about Tone and Base and how they can use that knowledge. We also see it in people who present themselves as Human Design “Readers” and teachers promoting certain details of the design such as Variable (“The Arrows”) as being more important than a solid understanding and personal exploration of Type, Strategy, and Authority.

There is tremendous depth and richness at the surface level in Human Design. Much of what is discussed socially about the substructure of the design can actually be seen through basic concepts in Human Design, such as aura, definition, and openness. However, these topics are often not as sexy nor sell as well as talking about Variable, Cognition, or one’s Dream Rave. As mentioned before, most of what we see in the substructure serves as signposts rather than anything we can “use” for our own gain and benefit.

A Surrender Into Ourselves

When true self-remembering comes, one does not want to alter oneself, or others; one somehow rises above their weaknesses and one’s own. There can be no blame anywhere. One swallows what is, and becomes free.

– Rodney Collin

Many people embark on religious and spiritual paths thinking that they are going to get what they want if they wake up. Many come into Human Design with a similar mindset. And yet, the inside joke seems to be that you get the life that you have. As Ra Uru Hu used to say, “stupid before enlightenment, stupid after enlightenment”. What actually seems to happen is that awakening just makes the ride easier with less internal resistance and unnecessary suffering. We stop acting against ourselves. We can relax into what we are and what this life has in store for us without fighting or sabotaging ourselves.

It’s interesting how many people seem to think they know what their lives are about (for better or worse) without having really lived out the potential of one’s auric type and design. The deconditioning process often involves waking up from false versions of ourselves and waking up to what our inner awareness reveals. To align with nature is to become radically honest about what is true, to recognize that we each have a part to play in the totality, and to accept our own natural limitations so that they can reveal their purpose. The potential in this choicelessness is to not only accept but come to love our part in the play of life.

A core Human Design motto is “Love Yourself”. All the information found in this rich and complex system can return us to this simple possibility. To love and respect ourselves as and where we are and let life unfold through us. We may then see that this love can extend to a recognition and acceptance of others as well.

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