There has been a raging debate over house rulership for the past 25 years since astrologer/academics like Robert Schmidt, Robert Hand, Robert Zoller, Benjamin Dykes, Robert Holden, etc. have been re-translating the texts of the Hellenistic Greeks and Medieval Arabs since the early 1990’s. Actually the Brits have had this debate even longer since the late Olivia Barclay re-introduced Lilly in the 20th century. I remember going to a British AA conference in the summer 1994 and talking with some British astrologers that never used any planets beyond Saturn! And now so many astrologers have recently gone Vedic in their practices where they stop with Saturn.
All this has given rise to a renewed interest within our international astrological community in astrology’s foundations and origins. As we attempt to ferret out the answers to the long debate about the function of houses versus signs. I have been closely following their findings since 1995. Now our global community is beginning a new debate on how to merge modern and traditional views into a post-modern astrology. As Rob Hand stated in 2005: “So we need to strike a balance between the modernist’s attitude and the traditionalist’s attitude.” 1
Deborah Houlding clearly states this dilemma in her revised excellent book reviewing this debate in the 2006 edition of The Houses,Temples of the Sky. Robert Hand wrote the forward to the book and said:
“It may ultimately be true that modern astrology has to go its own way in sorting out the houses. But let us at least do so, if we must, knowing that we have exhausted the possibilities of the old traditions. With this book I believe that there is no excuse for ignoring the history of the tradition.” 2
Houlding’s book is a careful review of ancient and modern house meanings. She rejects the idea that there can be any association of sign rulership with the houses. She used the texts of Manilius, Firmicus, Al-Biruni, Lilly and Modern astrologers (she lumps all modern authors together) as comparisons of house meanings across time to show their consistency. Generally, during most of the 20th century, American astrologers followed the Aries house count of Aries ruling the first house, Taurus ruling the second house, Gemini to the third house, etc. until Pisces ruled the twelfth house. Houlding said in her Introduction:
“Since classical times houses have been one of the four essential components of astrology. Along with planets, signs and aspects, their 12-fold division of the celestial sphere forms a fundamental building block in astrological interpretation. Yet curiously, despite all the books that speak of the essential message of house meaning, very little existing contemporary literature to foster a true appreciation of that essence by illustrating where the meaning come from. The origin of their symbolism is poorly understood, and little effort has been made by modern astrologers to investigate and define their meaning… Within the contemporary theories of house meanings, there are presently only two that are given any real credibility. The first is a rather glib assumption that the houses are associated with, and take their meaning from, the signs of the zodiac… Traditional rulerships will fall by the wayside as they become inexplicable through the sign-originated theory… the signs were adapted and broadened out to incorporate the meaning of the houses, which correspond with their natural zodiacal order… The purpose of this book is to illustrate that none of the current theories on signs and psychological wheels can be regarded as historically correct, and that neither do they offer a full and reliable insight into the ‘fundamentals’ of house meanings which the astrologer relies upon in practical application.” 3
I agree with her conclusion that none of her references satisfy house rulership, but she left out other ancient non-textual references and the American 20th century astrologer, Carl Payne Tobey. The image below of the Goddess Nut, Mistress of the Sky whose image dates back to 200 AD has a strong, clear astrological message. This image is between the time of Manilius (10 AD) and Firmicus (4th century AD) which Houlding references. It is important to expand our astrological material beyond our fragmented, multi-translated, textual references. These other sources should be included in this new definition of post-modern astrology for the 21st century.
I became a student of astrology in my college days. I once asked Dr. Sim Pounds, D.C. for an interview back in 1969. I was writing a research paper and there just wasn’t much in astrology books available but I was allowed to do personal interviews. He was the President of the American Federation of Astrologers and by coincidence; he worked in my hometown of Tempe, Arizona. So I called him. He was too busy to give me the time but he suggested I call Carl Payne Tobey in Tucson, AZ. I did and the interview lasted all afternoon. I liked him so much he became my mentor in astrology.
Tobey had a completely different view on signs and houses from that of the majority of astrologers. He was part of a group of investigative New York City based astrologers in the 1930’s and 40’s that were trying to dissect astrology and understand its foundations. Sydney K. Bennett (aka Wynn) studied Sanskrit in order to read Indian texts. Grant Lewi was also part of this group. Tobey and Lewi were best friends. Others were Charles Jayne and Dane Rudhyar. They all socialized and published articles in the same magazines edited by Lewi. Lewi only used transits and he didn’t use the Aries house count, he dropped all house rulerships. He just called the houses ‘sectors’ in his book, Astrology for the Millions. 4 Tobey was the resident statistician of the group. He gathered thousands of birthdates and hand calculated the data to prove basic principals long before there was a Michel Gauquelin. Tobey loved mathematics and pursued his study of number theory and geometry as his own personal interest. He was always trying to figure out the puzzle of the underlying foundation of astrological design. He firmly believed that astrology was a branch of geometry applied to life on Earth.
Fast-forward to 1993 when I decided to search the world for the clues supporting what Tobey had found by means of his own deductions and his 40+ years of experience. I was looking for the clues to the Tobey house/sign count. I was looking for patterns and images. I had done enough background study that I knew I could recognize and understand the astrological messages inherent in Egyptian images, if I could only find them. There is a great saying by Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Tobey certainly had new eyes with Uranus on his Sagittarius Ascendant. He was never a follower. He walked his own path.
By luck and synchronicity, I found in the Louvre gift shop, a French magazine Archeologia, 8 with an astrological image, right there on the cover. The goddess of the sky Nut was painted on the inside lids of sarcophaguses so the dead could look up to the sky and see the realm of Nut’s rulership. 9 The astrological signs are divided left and right and start with the signs of Leo and Cancer. The luminaries of the Sun and Moon rule only one sign each. Then the signs with co-rulerships run down her body in the Hellenistic planetary order of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The division of the signs between Leo and Cancer is not arbitrary. Cancer/Moon on the right is lunar and represents the Egyptian New Year with the summer solstice. Leo/Sun on the left is Solar so the element of duality is shown with this division. There is a hidden message in this arrangement. The duality is representing the daily movement of the Earth’s rotation against the sky. This is the duality between the signs and houses represented by the division between Leo on the left and Cancer on the right.
Another way to present this is to say that as we stand on the Earth, the vault of heaven with the zodiac signs and planets move above us while Earth appears to be fixed. This daily motion shows the planets and signs rise from the eastern horizon and set in the west while the zodiacal houses stay fixed to the observer’s location on Earth. This image below shows this concept of the Earth God Geb prone on the Earth extending his penis as the fixed zenith pole with the revolving stars of the Sky Goddess Nut in eternal coitus with Geb. Joined together in eternal reproduction, they create Life on Earth as the union of fixed earth and rotating sky.
There is another level of meaning behind this image of Nut, Goddess of the Sky with the God Geb representing Earth in coitus together. This is the duality of rotating Heaven with a fixed Earth. They do a daily dance each day creating life on Earth. This division between Cancer and Leo is not arbitrary or coincidence. The duality of opposite motion splits the zodiac between Cancer and Leo. This structure is present in the meaning of the astrological signs and houses we use in astrology today.
The Egyptians placed great importance on the Sun being reborn every morning at sunrise and dying at sunset as the Goddess Nut swallowed the Sun. The Sun traveled down Nut’s body during the night to be reborn the next morning. Note that the Egyptians were obsessed with the horizon at the Ascendant (sunrise) and the Descendant (sunset). They were constantly tracking the distance between the Sun and the horizon.
We know the Egyptians carefully measured and tracked the astronomical movement of the Sun against the constellations. They maintained a soli-lunar calendar and a long Sothic calendar of 1,460 years for Sirius’ heliacal rising cycle, not to mention planetary cycles too. The Egyptians were the masters of astronomy in the ancient world. These images are all clues to astrology’s design.
Come to my lecture, The Great Debate on House Rulerships, on the 8th of November where we will examine the hidden patterns left by the Egyptians the creators of horoscopic astrology.
1. Hand, Robert, Towards a Post-Modern Astrology, Astrological Conference 2005 of the British Astrological Association in York, UK. 2005, http://www.astro.com/astrology/in_postmodern_e.htm
“So we need to strike a balance between the modernist’s attitude and the traditionalist’s attitude. By the way, I just want to make one thing clear: If I seem to be taking a slam at only certain members of the Jyotish/Vedic community in talking about astrological fundamentalism, believe me, I am not. There are also Lilly fundamentalists, Hellenistic fundamentalists, Arabic fundamentalists… You take any system, as long as it isn’t modern, and you will find somebody who believes in it as a fundamentalist, or – to use a term more fashionable in religious circles – a literalist, one who believes that the books are literally and completely true.
The modernist attitude believes that only the most recent work is any good, and the traditionalist attitude thinks that anything modern is hopelessly flawed and corrupt. Without qualification – these positions are both wrong. And if you disagree with me, fine. But that is my position, take it or leave it! (I have a Scorpio Moon).”
2. Houlding, Deborah, The Houses, Temples of the Sky, Wessex Astrologer, Bournemouth, England, 2006, Forward by Robert Hand.
3. Ibid, Introduction, p. x-xvii
4. Lewi, Grant, Astrology for the Millions, Llewellyn Publications, St.Paul, MN, 1969. P.26-27.
5. Houlding, p. 6
6. Lawlor, Robert, Sacred Geometry, Thames & Hudson Ltd., London 1982, p. 54-55
“The burial practices in the Pharaonic tradition were undertaken not merely to provide a receptacle for the physical body of the deceased, but also to make a place to retain the metaphysical knowledge which the person had mastered in his lifetime. The proportions of the seat of Petosiris as shown in his tomb reflect this intention.”
7. Ibid. p.72
8. Desroches-Noblecort, Christiane “Le Zodiaque de Pharaon”, Archelogia Numero 292, Juillet-Aout 1993, pages 21-45.
9. The sky-goddess Nuit, the mother both of Osiris, the god of death and resurrection, and Re, the sun-god (see Wells, 1992, 1993, 1994)… In Egyptian funerary texts, the coffin, tomb and sarcophagus of the pharaoh were themselves representations of the womb of the sky-goddess, within which his soul or spirit might begin the process of transformation and renewal. Such ideas surrounding the soul returning from whence it came, i.e. the womb of the cosmic mother, is echoed within various pre-dynastic burials, where the body of the deceased was laid to rest in a foetal position. see http://www.grahamhancock.com/forum/CollinsA2.php?p=1
Book Your Early Bird Seat Before 15 Sept!
The deadline for qualifying for the early bird rate of ZAR4500 for a full conference ticket expires on the 15th of September 2015.
Thereafter the cost of a full conference ticket will be ZAR5400.
Please peruse the program. It’s an astrology lover’s feast!
by Naomi C Bennett
It is well known that the Egyptians started their solar year at 0 Cancer. This was the time of the annual flooding of the Nile, the reappearance of Sirius, the star of Isis and the season to plant crops. They made the southern boundary of Egypt fall on the exact position of the Tropic of Cancer on the first Cataract of the Nile and then they extended the north boundary of Egypt exactly 7 degrees latitude because Mercury had the most extreme latitude of the visible planets. Mercury defined the width of the zodiac belt to be a total of 14 degrees and they associated Mercury as the God of Measurement. (1)
The sign of Cancer was very important to the Egyptians and they assigned the Moon as its ruler. The next sign of Leo was given to the Sun, then the assignment of Mercury to Virgo, Venus to Libra, and Mars to Scorpio, etc. This drove me crazy in my first studies back in the 1960’s. Why, why did they give the planetary order as Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, etc.? Any basic education given in elementary school shows us the solar system in the order of Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, etc. Were they stupid and didn’t know any better? It’s impossible for the Sun to be closer to the Earth than Venus or Mercury!
The Egyptians had studied the skies for more than 4,000 years. How could they get this so wrong? They were obsessed with the sky and creating Heaven on Earth. They knew the circumference of the Earth and that the Earth flatten at the poles! The Great Pyramid is aligned exactly to the cardinal directions. Only modern instruments can get as exact as the Egyptians did in the Age of Taurus! What is wrong with this picture?
In 1992 I began a quest to confirm astrological theories that I had been taught, find their actual basis and verify the proof. In the 1990s, I acquired over 200 publications seeking this documentation through interlibrary loans. I took multiple trips to Europe to look at Egyptian artifacts while searching for these clues. My search lead me to London to the British Museum, to Paris to the Louvre and to Egypt to Esna, Luxor, Dendera and Cairo. In the course of 20 years of research, some of my best discoveries were not found in astrological texts but in other fields like archeoastronomy, ancient mathematics and history. Luck, timing and synchronicity all played their part in piecing the puzzle together. Finally I think I now have enough verification to write about the first of these missing elements to help the advancement of astrology in this new century. Ancient co-rulerships were:
Cancer and Leo are the only signs solely assigned to a single luminary of the Moon and Sun respectively. Then the co-rulership signs go in order of Virgo- Gemini ruled by Mercury, Libra-Taurus ruled by Venus, Scorpio-Aries ruled by Mars, Sagittarius-Pisces ruled by Jupiter, and finally Capricorn-Aquarius ruled by Saturn.
The first big stroke of luck for my research came at the Louvre in 1993. In the bookstore was a copy of the magazine, Archeologia (2) with a picture of the Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut on the cover. She had the signs of the zodiac running down both sides of her body in the co-rulership order. It was from the Hellenistic Egyptian period of 200 AD. (3) There are at least three of these images documented in various museums. Inside the lid of the sarcophagus was the planetary order that I had been looking for. The order is very important. It starts with the two luminary signs of Leo and Cancer on opposite sides of her body. Leo and Cancer have single rulers and then the co-rulership signs extend down Nut’s body. Yet with the discoveries in the Western World by Kepler of planetary motion and Galileo’s re-discovery of the Sun as the center of the Solar System, why did this strange astrological order persist? The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Vezelay, France still displays the old planetary order but Christ in the center, rather than the Goddess Nut dividing the signs between Cancer and Leo.
The Ancient World believed in keeping knowledge secret so that rulers and priests could maintain power. Many truths and knowledge were recorded in picture form. You had to have enough learning to understand the messages left behind. Most of the mathematical and astronomical discoveries we attribute to the Hellenistic Greeks were already known in Egypt. They were the great geometric experts in the Ancient World. The Greeks gained their knowledge from what was left of the Egyptian priesthood. This is well documented by an expert in ancient measurements, Dr. Livio Stecchini. (4) The Egyptians already knew about precession, Pi, Phi, the Golden Mean, right triangles, the Fibonacci numbers and a form of calculus (later discovered by Newton). They did this with geometry and ratios, long before Arabic numbers or algebra (a form of mathematical notation) (5)
But much was lost with the conquests of Egypt. We only have pieces and hints of this knowledge through monuments, objects and fragments of texts that have been translated multiple times. The libraries at Heliopolis were destroyed. The rulers and priests were killed so that the conquerors could control the population. First there was the Persian Conquest of 525 BC and then Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in 330 BC. Nick Campion points out that there is a 600-year void of astrological writings after the Fall of Rome in 476 AD. Hellenistic Greek astrology was preserved by the Arabs and transmitted to Europe during the Arab occupation of southern Spain. This was the start of the Renaissance, the foundation of medieval astrology and our recovery of Hellenistic astrology.
As astrologers, we have forgotten to look at the astronomy side of this picture for the answers. All of our astrological structure is based on sacred geometry, astronomy and mathematics. The best minds in the Ancient World were astrologers until the Catholic Church and the Scientific Revolution (1750 to 1850 AD) suppressed astrology.
Naomi will discuss these discoveries in her lectures showing the underlying design behind planets to sign rulership at the Astrology Restored conference at Shamballah Cape Town on November 6, 2015.
- Stecchini, Livio Catullo,“Notes on the Relation of Ancient Measures to the Great Pyramid,” Appendix to Secrets of the Great Pyramid by Peter Tompkins, Harper and Row 1971, pages 294-5.
- “Le Zodiaque de Pharaon” by Christiane Desroches-Noblecort, Archeologia Numero 292, Juillet-Aout 1993, pages 21-45
- http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/article_index/f/the_family_of_soter.aspx The tomb of the Soter family of Archon of Thebes, discovered in 1820, contained fourteen mummies in rectangular wooden coffins. The coffins belonged to members of the family of Soter, Archon of Thebes. Several of the coffins were inscribed in Greek with Soter’s name and genealogy, which means that they can be dated precisely to the early second century AD. Theban Tomb 32 in the el-Khokha area on the west bank of the Nile.
- Stecchini, Livio Catullo ,“Notes on the Relation of Ancient Measures to the Great Pyramid,” Appendix to Secrets of the Great Pyramid by Peter Tompkins, Harper and Row 1971, pages 287-382.
For the sake of simplicity, it would be tempting to say that this article on astrology in the Renaissance begins with Petrarch (1304-1374) and ends with Shakespeare (1564- 1616). Petrarch, “the first man of the Renaissance,” was no fan of astrology and railed against its fatalistic leanings. “Leave free the paths of truth and life. . .these globes of fire cannot be guides for us. . .Illuminated by these rays, we have no need of these swindling astrologers and lying prophets who empty the coffers of their credulous followers of gold, who deafen their ears with nonsense, corrupt judgment with their errors, and disturb our present life and make people sad with false fears of the future.” By contrast, Shakespeare’s work some 250 years later gave the world the term “starcrossed lovers” and would have the murder of two young princes at the hands of an evil king attributed to a bad opposition aspect. This evidence in literature suggests a radical turnaround in public opinion of astrology, but what caused this?
It is important to note from the outset that the changes brought forth in the Renaissance had a myriad of manifestations. As Richard Tarnas points out in The Passion of the Western Mind, “the phenomenon of the Renaissance lay as much in the sheer diversity of its expressions as in their unprecedented quality.” The Renaissance did not just express itself through literature alone (or at the same time or place for that matter) but through art, theology, the burgeoning of scientia and the discovery of new lands on earth as likewise a new perspective on the heavens. Therefore, it will be asserted, it is particularly important that commentary on the learning climate prior to the Renaissance is investigated in order to establish a point of contrast.
When reflecting on the Renaissance and its glories in art, music and literature–and astrology–it is important to bear in mind that the remarkable changes of this era took place against the backdrop of the plague, war, religious strife, economic depression, the Inquisition and ecclesiastical conspiracies. Over this broad expanse, in this fascinating period of history, an attempt will be made to determine the renewed interest in and development of astrology during the Renaissance.
The Twin Stars: A Shift from Aristotle to Plato
The discovery and translation of ancient texts has been an instigator of major transitions in history, particularly the works of Plato and Aristotle. In his book, The Sleepwalkers, Arthur Koestler commented on the influence and popularity of these Greek thinkers. “Insofar as their influence on the future is concerned,” Koestler wrote, “Plato and Aristotle should rather be called twin stars with a single centre of gravity, which circle round each other and alternate in casting their light on the generations that succeed them.” Each would have his turn to enjoy being “in fashion” whilst the other went out of style. According to Koestler, Plato would reign supreme until the 12th century, then Aristotle’s work would be re-discovered and after two centuries, when the world’s thinkers tired of Aristotle’s rhetoric, Plato would re-emerge in a different guise. In the period up to the emergence of the Renaissance, it was Aristotle’s star that shone and though it may be difficult to believe given modern Christianity’s lack of approval for astrology, it was a scholastic theologian who united Aristotle, Church doctrine and astrology.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) seemed to have been at the right place at the right time with the right things to say. Arab scholarship and the eventual translation of Aristotle’s work into Medieval Latin meant a revival for Aristotelian thought during Aquinas‘ lifetime. These works of Aristotle became an important project for this Dominican monk, a pupil of Albert Magnus (1206-1280), himself an Aristotelian translator. Tarnas pointed out that “Aquinas converted Aristotle to Christianity and baptised him.” The rise of Aristotelian thought during Medieval times benefited astrology because of its view that “everything that happens in the sub-lunary world is caused and governed by the motions of the heavenly spheres.” Brahe’s discoveries invalidated the notion of a separate and distinct “sub-lunary world.” But there still remained the attunement of heavenly bodies to the earth and therefore having a greater influence to life on earth. Both astrology and alchemy used these same methods of Aristotelian logic, only they were not bound by academic pedantry nor completely subject to the dogma of the Church: classical astrology, often linked to medical studies and codified by Ptolemy, was taught in universities. Surely, it may have been thought, their influences would be greater.
Aquinas was confident and clear about the influences of the stars as they were perceived at this time: “The majority of men … are governed by their passions, which are dependent upon bodily appetites; in these the influence of the stars is clearly felt. Few indeed are the wise who are capable of resisting their animal instincts.” In other words, there was a direct correlation between what happened in heaven and what happened on earth. Aquinas added the important and memorable words:
“Astrologers, consequently, are able to foretell the truth in the majority of cases, especially when they undertake general predictions. In particular predictions, they do not attain certainty, for nothing prevents a man from resisting the dictates of his lower faculties. Wherefore the astrologers themselves are wont to say that ‘the wise man rules the stars’ forasmuch, namely, as he rules his own passions.”
Thus he sidesteps the quandry that would bother the humanists to come in the next century: the idea of free will.
Even with Aquinas’ support, this is not to say the Church was supportive of all facets of astrology: there were fairly clear limits. Medical astrology was acceptable, whereas enquiring too deeply into the future might be considered as treading on God’s toes. Aquinas, for the time being, had carefully reconciled astrology/astronomy and the Church giving the proviso of free will rather than absolute determinism.
As the Renaissance dawned, there can be little doubt that astrology had re-emerged despite being mocked almost simultaneously in three very different cultures. In addition to Petrarch’s comments, the Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) condemned astrology as “all guesswork and conjectures based upon the (assumed existence of) astral influence and a resulting conditioning of the air.” The Frenchman Nicholas Oresme, in 1370, wrote “Many princes and magnates, moved by hurtful curiosity, attempt with vain arts to seek out hidden things and to investigate the future.” For these men (including Petrarch), astrology placed the overwhelming temptation in front of man to discover his future. Having established astrology’s existence before the Renaissance, the question of how it grew in popularity despite being so soundly condemned remains.
A hint lies in a connection made between heaven and earth in a more metaphorical sense. Aquinas had pointed out that there existed a ‘principle of continuity’ (as it later came to be called) that connected the highest Beings to the lowest of life forms and further down to the realms of Lucifer, elements of the orthodox doctrines of the Catholic Church. This was associated with a shift from other worldly asceticism to seeing life as affirmative and hence worthy of study. We can see this new view reflected in Dante’s (1265-1321) La Divina Commedia with man at the centre of an Aristotelian universe, balanced between heaven and hell in a moral drama of Christianity. It should be noted that Aristotle’s–as well as Dante’s and Aquinas’– universe was geocentric, a premise which would, of course, eventually be disproved. Dante’s popular work demonstrates how the “common” man of the time saw astronomy and theology as inextricably conjoined–and, in a clear break in clerical tradition, it was written in a vernacular language even the most illiterate of that time might appreciate. Thus, what had been once only available to the upper classes or clergy had become available to the general public.
Tarnas pointed out that whilst Dante’s work culminated and summed up the Medieval era, Petrarch “looked forward to and impelled a future age, bringing a rebirth of culture, creativity, and human greatness.” Petrarch, according to Tarnas, was motivated by a new spirit yet inspired by the ancients to create a greater glory still with man himself as the centre of God’s creation. Petrarch’s ideal was a learned piety and he called for the recollection of Europe’s classical heritage through literature.
Even whilst the plague raged, the notion that life should be enjoyed rather than merely studied was evident in the work of Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron (1353). Boccaccio wrote about how life really was, rather than how the Church considered it ought to be lived. The uncertainty of daily survival created a general mood of morbidity, influencing people to “live for the moment”. It would seem not even Petrarch was immune to this new way of looking at life. In 1336, Petrarch climbed Mount Ventoux, which rises to more than six thousand feet, beyond Vaucluse for the sheer pleasure of it. He read St Augustine’s Confessions at the summit and reflected that his climb was merely an allegory of aspiration towards a better life. In his experience, we can perhaps understand why he was reluctant to accept being limited by a fate or destiny and to refuse to see himself “so inconsequential relative to God, the Church, or nature.”
During the years of the plague, as Europe turned its eyes to the authority on medicine at the time, the Members of the College of Physicians of Paris, delivered (in part) this reason for the Great Plague:
“Of the astral influence which was considered to have originated the “Great Mortality,” physicians and learned men were as completely convinced as of the fact of its reality. A grand conjunction of the three superior planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, in the sign of Aquarius, which took place, according to Guy de Chauliac, on the 24th of March, 1345, was generally received as its principal cause.”
Was Petrarch disappointed to apprehend that the plague which had claimed so many of those he loved was caused by a grand conjunction of planets in air signs?
By the 15th century, astrology had received a further boost in the form of Byzantine scholarship. In 1438, Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus attended the Council of Ferrara and the Council of Florence to discuss a union of the Greek and Roman churches. With him was the Plato scholar Plethon who generously offered to translate Plato’s texts to interested Florentines. This was a fabulous enhancement to the earlier work on translation done by Petrarch and his contemporaries since they were so impeded by their difficulties in translating Greek into Latin. Plethon (also known as George Gemistos) had “Long harboured an ambitious plan to restore to vitality the pagan religion which pertained before Justinian’s suppression of the cult and the Athenian Academy: in short he was, in everything but name, a ‘pagan’ philosopher.” As a total pagan, Plethon predicted the world would forget about Jesus and Mohammed and that absolute truth would flower through the universe!
Cosimo de’Medici, head of the influential Medici family of bankers (who built their business empire in the economic depression following the bubonic plague) was so impressed with this “new” knowledge that he opened a Platonic Academy in 1439 and selected the promising young Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) to manage it. Although a boy, Ficino displayed a precocious talent for translation and encouraged by the Medici family, he eventually translated a large number of ancient texts including those of Plato and Hermes Trismegistus. Campion points out that Greek manuscripts also found their way into the west following the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. Because he had established himself as an interpreter, many of these texts fell straight into the hands of Ficino.
Ficino not only interpreted these texts but he commented on and was clearly influenced by them. His own contributions included Three Books on Life (“De Triplici Vita“), which contained a work entitled On Obtaining Life from the Heavens (“De Vita Coelitus Comparanda”). Ficino was largely responsible for bringing back the Neoplatonic belief that the stars were divine. Reflections of this belief can be seen in the works of Michelangelo (1475-1564), Raphael (1483-1520), DaVinci (1452-1519), Botticelli (1445-1510) and others. There was a general shift in art during this time: prior artists had focused on recreating biblical images or symbols, whilst the artists of the Renaissance began to study the model of nature more closely and employ greater realism in their work by adding more colour and depth and by using linear perspective, (a mathematical technique). As Baigent so eloquently expressed the matter, Ficino’s influence on these painters caused them to “encapsulate the divine within their art such that each piece might become a pure crystal of divinity, a talisman able to change those who gazed upon it.” Thus Frances Yates describes Botticelli’s work and particularly, his masterpiece, the Birth of Venus, as a practical application of Ficino’s magic drawing down “the Venereal spirit from the star and to transmit it to the wearer or beholder of her lovely image.” It would be, Yates indicated, as if Venus herself was walking the earth again.
Under this re-emergence of neo-Platonism and a revival of pagan gods and goddesses, astrology had also found favour through the use of almanacs and its popularity in various European courts. Without almanacs, astrology may have continued to be available only to those who could afford to read and write (i.e. royalty) had it not been for one thing: the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1440. Until this time, printed material, limited to religious material copied onto parchment whose creation was taken as an act of worship (The Book of Kells for instance), was reproduced by hand and hence quite rare. For example, an inventory of library books at Cambridge University library 1424 showed the university only owned only 122 books—each of which had a value equal to a farm or vineyard. The printing press allowed the reproduction of both religious and secular texts. Astrological tables and almanacs were just one facet of the myriad of subjects which suddenly became available to eager new readers.
Thus, astrology with its allusions to pagan gods and goddesses reached the peak of its popularity. However, just as one would have thought astrology would be safe, came an unprecedented—and posthumous–attack in 1494, delivered by a student of Ficino, Pico Della Mirandola. Pico’s attack shook astrology to the core and is still quoted as being the most devastating attack on astrology in history. Cornelius characterised Pico’s attack as a “neo-Platonic interpretation of Magia, using the weapons of Aristotelian logic,” adding that,
At that point in our history the imaginative consciousness called magic and the craft of horoscope judgments parted company… After Pico, craft horoscopy never had a serious intellectual case.
There are some widespread misconceptions about this attack. It was certainly bad news for astrology in Italy. But for example in England, in the following century, Elizabeth I was openly consulting the magician John Dee (1527-1608) for astrological advice. Dee’s counterpart in France, Jean-Baptiste Morin (1583-1659) enjoyed, like Dee, a wide following in Europe. Secondly, the attack wasn’t aimed against astrology per se but against the sloppy practices of astrologers. Campion points out that Pico’s intention was more to reform astrology rather than destroy it.34 This astrological development, like any other reform, would eventually put the spotlight on many astrological practices, such as erroneous astronomical tables and a geocentric universe as well developments outside the Ptolemaic system, such as new house systems.
There can be no denial that astrology’s reputation had taken quite a hit with the prediction by Johann Stoeffler of a great flood during the great conjunction of planets in Pisces in February 1524, a month noted for its fair weather. Although the summer saw some notable rains, it was a far cry from the predicted great flood that over fifty astrologers had foreseen in the wake of Stoeffler’s prognastication. Even this, though, did little to eradicate the reputation of Nostradamus (1503-1566) whose quatrains were well known in his own lifetime.
Nicholas Copernicus’ (1473-1543) revolutionary idea of a sun-centred universe hardly made a splash when On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres was published in 1543. Koestler says that not only was Copernicus’ work difficult to read, it was an all time worst-seller. However, eventually this work would transform man’s view of the world from a Kosmos (in the Greek sense), where there existed a proportionality between man and the universe, to the post-Renaissance heliocentric world associated with the development of modern science. Astrology requires this scale between man and the universe in order to flourish. With Galileo’s best-selling book in 1609, Siderius Nuncius, the heliocentric world-view was catapulted into the public’s consciousness.
Some thirty-one years after the death of Copernicus, on November 11 1572, Tycho Brahe, stepping out of an alchemical laboratory to get his supper, noticed a bright new star near the constellation Cassiopeia. Of this event, Koestler says:
“The sensational importance of the event lay in the fact that it contradicted the basic doctrine–Aristotelian, Platonic and Christian–that all change, all generation and decay were confined to the immediate vicinity of the earth, the sub-lunary sphere; where as the distant eighth sphere in which all the fixed stars were located was immutable from the day of creation to eternity.”
Brahe’s researches had a feature hardly to be found in Aristotelian logic: precision. The logic of the time emphasised quality rather than quantitative measurement; Brahe was devoted to measurement, down to fractions of minutes of arc in his calculations, and didn’t tolerate the “near enough” attitude of planetary tables. Later, Brahe proved that the great comet of 1577 was no sub-lunary object (the Aristotelian thought of the time) but was ‘at least six times’ as far away in space as the Moon. That same year, Brahe, at his own urging, received the first clock with a minute hand from its inventor, Jost Burgi. Up until this point in history, accurate time keeping had been impossible.
A few years later, astrology suffered further from the Papal Bull of 1585 which effectively forbade judicial astrology and dictated the closure of all publications of serious astrology except for the simplest of leaflets (the very things Pico disputed). As a fairly traditional if not conservative discipline, astrology was not helped by a major paradigm shift in cosmology. When a cold and hungry Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) showed up at Brahe’s door in 1600, it was only a matter of time before the world would be convinced that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
If the “scientific” side of astrology was beginning to unravel, it hardly affected the Elizabethan audience’s affection for it. William Shakespeare made over one hundred allusions to astrology in his thirty-seven plays. In his time, planets and stars were personified, the heavenly spheres had eternal souls, and people feared upsetting the traditional order of things. “The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre observe degree, priority and place … but when the planets in evil mixtures to disorder wander, what plagues and what portents!” A further example of this can be seen in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as the magician Prospero (a character loosely based on Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, John Dee), is portrayed as causing a great storm and subsequent shipwreck, much to the dismay of his young daughter Miranda. It seems such an ironic yet sweet tribute to astrology that this play’s characters were used in the naming of the planet Uranus’ satellites when they were discovered in the mid 19th century. It could almost seem like an olive branch from astronomy to astrology.
According to Tarnas, the Renaissance, was “an emphatic emergence of a new consciousness–expansive, rebellious, energetic and creative, individualistic, ambitious and often unscrupulous, curious, self confident, committed to this life and this world, open-eyed and sceptical, inspired and inspirited. . .” Platonism as such was not astrological, but the revival of neo-Platonism in the Renaissance was the essential matrix for the great blossoming of astrology which then took place. It saw new discoveries of ancient texts and a discovery of the joy of living even amidst death caused by the Plague, as well as the opening up of the world through new shipping routes and inventions, such as the printing press. The Renaissance was a glorious eruption of antique pagan concepts into Europe. Embedded in all this was astrology and from this point, for the better or worse, astrology would have to pull itself up by its own bootstraps.
Fortune and Daimon
It is the nature of the astrological Twelfth House to be enigmatic. Throughout most of astrology’s history, the Twelfth has been called the house of sorrow, servitude and loss – sometimes it is said to be the house of one’s own self-undoing. And yet contemporary astrology regards the Twelfth as the most mystical of all houses, a place of deep spiritual realization, of transcendence – and thus in a certain respect the most positive house of all.
What shall we make of this? Were all of our astrological progenitors purely and simply “wrong” for 2,000 years, incapable of rendering proper judgment or interpreting a horoscope properly? Or are the moderns merely sugar-coating the pill? Were all the great astrologers of ages past just hopelessly in need of a positive thinking class at the local New Age center, or does the contemporary taste for maddeningly vague terms such as “transformation” and “transcendence” allow us all too easily to imagine whatever we please, cloaking a house of difficulty in all sorts of pleasant fantasies?
The ancient sources provide an important clue. In Hellenistic astrology, one of the earliest terms for the Twelfth House is “the place of the evil daimon.” i
This rather unnerving name for the Twelfth House does not stand alone; it is part of a paradigm. The Fifth House is “the place of good Fortune,” while its opposite, the Eleventh, is “the place of the good daimon.” The Sixth is the “place of bad Fortune,” while its opposite, the Twelfth, is the place of the bad daimon.
Fortune and the Daimon emerge as principal players in the most ancient horoscopic philosophy. Nor is their role limited to the four houses we have mentioned. We are all familiar with the Part of Fortune, but among modern astrologers, Dane Rudhyar was somewhat unique in stressing its mirror image and counterpart, the Part of Spirit.ii Rudhyar may well have known his Greek; in Hellenistic astrology, the Part of Spirit is called the Part of the Daimon.
The image of Fortune has not changed much over the centuries. We still know this goddess somewhat as the ancients knew her – the beautiful but fickle diva of luck. But the concept of the Daimon has become unfamiliar to us in modern times. If we are to understand the earliest meaning of the Twelfth House, we must first define the Daimon.
Let us not be uncomfortable with the resemblance to the word “demon.” In Latin, “daimon” is “genius,” signifying an indwelling potency common to all human beings. Christianity was unable to eradicate this annoyingly pagan concept from the popular imagination; it was too widespread throughout the ancient world. The Christian fathers did, however, soften its meaning by renaming it “the guardian spirit” or even “guardian angel.”
Plato tells us all about it in The Republic.iii When we are between lives, the gods assign us a guiding spirit or daimon. When we return into incarnation, the daimon will accompany us. It is with us always. Thus our daimon is our inner deity, an archetypal imprint with which we are born; it accompanies us throughout our lives.
The daimon’s job description is a simple one. She or he is responsible for guiding us along the path to our destiny – the unique, thoroughly individual purpose for which we have once again entered into human incarnation. No wonder early astrologers placed so much importance on the concept of the daimon, scattering it liberally throughout the horoscope! If astrology is destiny, the daimon ought to play a starring role.
But if there is but daimon for each of us, why split it between two houses, “good” in the Eleventh but “bad” in the Twelfth?
It would be extremely convenient if the daimon would always behave itself, ensconced like a like a nice, well-mannered child in the comfort of the Eleventh House, engaging in social activities that the current social consensus regards as moral, upstanding, and respectable.
Every now and then, it does precisely that. But not always.
Plato describes the daimon as a “fiery spirit.”iv This archetypal template is made of pure energy. It is neither intrinsically good nor bad; it is simply energy. It can impel us toward the heights of glory or inspiration. Alternatively, it may also impel us toward eccentric, unbalanced, or downright peculiar acts. The daimon doesn’t care about being socially acceptable or even (gasp!) politically correct. When the philosopher Socrates was on trial, it was his daimon that impelled him to speak out with brutal honesty rather than with soft and conciliatory words; in other words, it was his ultimate destiny and part of his life’s immortal purpose to be condemned to death and drink the hemlock; the daimon was only watching out for his destiny.
The daimon is concerned solely with guiding you to your purpose; it doesn’t particularly care if that purpose runs contrary to the mores of society. When you’re at your favorite Thai restaurant, eating tofu while discussing recent meditation classes with your friends, it’s the daimon who shouts: “What I really want is a hamburger!”
Most of us repress the impulsions and instincts which threaten our comfortable social interactions and relationships. We value our social networks and our friends, and all of these matters rest with a kind of self-satisfied ease in the Eleventh House, where the daimon behaves itself. When other, wilder, and less comfortable notions intrude upon our well-defined and well-ordered realities, we try to bury them as deep as we can.
And no place is deeper than the Twelfth House!
The problem is: We can’t keep things buried forever. We can call it a “bad daimon” and hide it in the misty oceanic depths of the Twelfth House, but the fact remains that the daimon is our archetypal template and represents the most valuable and unique parts of the self. If even a few of these unique elements of our being are repressed, some poor planet must surely bear the burden of that repression. Whether through our Mercury, Venus, Moon, or something else, the dark cloud of repression will fall upon us somewhere. And it is the business of that cranky daimon who dwells in the Twelfth House to make us feelingly, painfully aware of it.
When a planet becomes sufficiently frustrated, unable to express itself according to its true nature because we’re keeping it hidden, it will eventually stand up and complain. It will howl at us like a wolf in the night.
And this, of course, is when we have the opportunity to meet the gods.
When the Gods Go Mad
It is one of the premises of neo-Jungian or archetypal psychology that the ancient gods now reside upon the therapist’s couch. In other words, our inner deities or archetypes only become noticed by our ordinary day-to-day consciousness when they are out of balance and start behaving in peculiar ways. We don’t meet our inner deities while we are sitting comfortably n front of our newly acquired high definition TV. Our most powerful planets can remain remarkably silent while we are playing golf, only the cheerful but ultimately meaningless small talk of Moon and Mercury prevail while we are chattering away at a party and allowing our deeper stirrings to remain hidden. But let us deny our destiny, and anger that “evil” daimon of the Twelfth, and just watch how quickly the gods will appear! They may appear through obsession, through some mad pilgrimage, through the pangs of impossible love or the scatter-brained practice of tilting at windmills, but appear they shall. They are “acting out” in a state of wild caprice because we have ignored them for far too long.
But isn’t how the gods behave in myth as well? They seldom act with the bland mediocrity of a local politician at a fund-raising dinner. Instead, the gods raise storms, cast lightning bolts, pierce us with the arrows of passion, or impel us to acts of wild abandon. The gods are larger than life. And it is only when our own inner deities – the planets in horoscope – also behave in an outsized or larger-than-life manner that we truly become aware of their existence and their power.
When the gods act crazy, we can no longer ignore them. If the Twelfth is the house where our daimon behaves badly, then this is the place where we are most likely to confront our inner archetypes, our personal deities. This is where the gods cry out for healing. This is where they force us to acknowledge their extraordinary power in our lives. If our Twelfth House Venus or Twelfth House Mercury is the planet most likely to present us with challenges, it is also the planet most likely to bring us into direct experience of the gods within us. The Twelfth House is the place where our “guardian spirit” acts out in problematical ways.
The most obvious manifestation of this phenomenon, of course, is seen directly through planets that occupy the Twelfth House. But not everyone has planets in the Twelfth House. Sometimes our search for the archetypal source of our challenges, for the planet or inner deity out of sorts and out of balance, will lead us to other factors in a horoscope which may carry Twelfth House themes. And there are several of these.
Even if one is not an advocate of the astrological alphabet (and I am not), it must still be acknowledged that Neptune carries a great deal of Twelfth House symbolism. In fact, Plato explicitly tells us so, in his dialogue Phaedrus.v He says that there are four different types of “madness.” Interestingly enough, all four of them can be logically correlated with astrological planets. There is the madness of poets which comes from the Muses (Moon), the madness of prophets which comes from Apollo (Sun), and the madness of Eros (Venus) which Plato asserts is the “highest” form of madness, for only Eros draws the soul directly to the Divine. While most of us might see these “manias” as form of inspiration rather than madness, there is yet one aspect of madness which we would currently describe as psychological – that which embodies our family problems, emotional imbalance, anguish and addiction – is said by Plato to “come from Dionysus.” Liz Greenevi and others have clearly articulated the similarities between the planet Neptune and the archetype of Dionysus. Planets in a challenging relationship with Neptune carry the imprint of the “crazy gods.”
We do not ordinarily think of Saturn as a Twelfth House factor, but it should be remembered that Neptune was only discovered in the 1840s. Before that time, astrologers looked elsewhere for Twelfth House themes that lay outside the confines of the Twelfth itself. From the very beginnings of astrology until the late 19th century, Saturn was the natural significator of the Twelfth, the planet that “rejoices” in the Twelfth House in the sense that it is symbolically associated with the Twelfth House and its themes in a very powerful way. (This is still true in Vedic astrology.) Saturn problems often carry the same themes as Twelfth House problems.
And let us not forget house rulers, either – though “rulership” has taken a back seat in contemporary astrology. Suppose you have no planets in the Twelfth. Your rising sign is Cancer, and the ruler of the Twelfth is Gemini. Take a look at Mercury, at its position, its conjunctions, and its aspects. Chances are good you will find your crankiest planets “hanging out” with Mercury (or perhaps it is Mercury himself).
Battling the Red Knight
If the dark side of our daimon draws upon the energy of the Twelfth in order to make us aware of unassimilated archetypes, gods out of balance, and so on, then what are we to do about it? Can we bury these crazy deities in some cloud-hidden ashram (a Twelfth House location if ever there was one) and subject them to a discipline which will cause them to disappear? Can we give them a Xanax, put them on a Twelve-Step program, and encourage them to be more “well-rounded”?
Of course not. They’re the gods. They’re immortal, and they don’t just go away. In their analysis of the Grail legends,vii Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz draw attention to the relationship between Percival and the Red Knight. As Percival wanders on, searching for the Grail, he finds himself confronted, again and again, by a mysterious figure in red armor. The Red Knight challenges him to battle, and each time Percival conquers him and slays him. Much to his own amazement, however, in another magic forest in yet another chapter of the story, the Red Knight reappears – again and again and again. Again and again, Percival does battle and slays his mysterious antagonist, only to encounter him around the nest castle, lurking in the darkness which follows the next miracle. Finally, the Red Knight unmasks, revealing that he looks much like Percival himself. Percival embraces him and calls him “brother.” Then, and only then, can the conflict cease.
And thus it is with the planets who bother and bewilder us from the confines of the Twelfth House. James Hillman, in statements which became wildly unpopular among his psychological colleagues,viii went so far as to suggest that maybe we ought not to try and “cure” complexes which are clearly based upon the archetypes, our inner gods. If we try to get rid of them, we risk losing the fiery, creative, magical energy of our inner daimon, our archetypal purpose. If we turn aside from our wilder, more “daimonic” compulsions, bending and twisting ourselves like pretzels in hopes of fulfilling all the dictates of “good psychological health” (which change as swiftly and as frequently as the society which creates them), we may all too easily find our lives filled with pablum and placebo rather than authentic passion. The bland and complacent outlook of one entirely at peace with all of society’s mores may help to produce a perfectly good corporate drone; but such an outlook cannot induce the visions of poet, painter, or musician, and it cannot fill us with a sense of life as an adventure, a mystical quest for the Grail. In order to accomplish such magic, we need the help of those crazy gods who are impelled to action by the “dark” daimon who dwells in the Twelfth House, who refuses to submit to mediocrities, who rages at us in fine dramatic style until we accept and reverence all the various aspects or ourselves, no matter how scary they may be.
Now perhaps such Twelfth House words as “transcendence” or “transformation” cease to be the over-used, shopworn blandishments which they have all too often become in contemporary astrology. Now, perhaps, we may see that a word such as “transformation” may well describe our ability to act in the spirit of Percival, the Grail Knight, embracing those wild and unlovely parts of ourselves which we may not fully understand but which cry out for expression. Now, perhaps we may understand “transcendence” as our ability to “transcend” the mediocre path of ordinary life by dancing a wild, mad dance with our crazy inner gods who dwell in the confines of the Twelfth, thereby becoming the artists, inventors, or mystics we were always meant to be. Now, perhaps, we may understand why the Twelfth House is the most difficult of all houses, but also the most redemptive and the most mystical. This is where we meet the gods face to face.
Kenneth Johnson holds a B.A. in Comparative Religions from California State University, Fullerton. He obtained his Master of Arts in Eastern Studies (with an emphasis in Classical Sanskrit) from St. John’s College, Santa Fe. He is the author of numerous booksand magazine articles, including the well-known Mythic Astrology series (with Arielle Guttman), Mansionsof the Moon: The Lost Zodiac of the Goddess and Jaguar Wisdom: An Introduction to the Mayan Calendar. He divides his time between New Mexico and Guatemala, and can be reached at www.jaguarwisdom.org.
i See, particularly, Vettius Valens, The Anthology (trans. Robert Schmidt, Berkeley Springs, WV, Golden Hind Press, 1993-2001) passim, and Firmicus Maternus, Ancient Astrology: Theory and Practice (trans. Jean Rhys Bram, Park Ridge, NJ, Noyes Press, 1975), also passim.
ii Rudhyar, Dane, The Lunation Cycle (Berkeley and London, Shambala, 1971), pp. 85-91.
iii In Plato: The Collected Dialogues (trans. Paul Shorey, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, New York, Bollingen, 1963).
vi In The Astrology of Fate (York Beach, ME, Samuel Weiser, 1984), passim. This is only the first of many writings in which Greene makes this argument.
vii Jung, Emma, and Marie-Louise von Franz, The Grail Legend (New York, Putnam’s, 1970).
viii This outlook is inherent within most of Hillman’s work, but is perhaps most boldly stated in Re-Visioning Psychology (New York, Harper & Row, 1975) and The Soul’s Code (New York, Random House 1996).
Can we astrologers predict life changes? Those that are really »big«, those that lead to new, different life-styles and which we never forget? Changes like getting (or losing) a new partner, job, child, home…
It’s possible, of course. That’s what predictive astrology is all about! We can never be 100% sure that something WILL happen but if we use our best methods and techniques, we can be 90% sure – not just to predict but to help our clients get a better perspective of their years to come.
It’s always desirable that we »see« positive, constructive changes coming, of course. It’s never nice to see a bad, dissapointing period ahead. But we astrologers must be sincere and tell our clients of what »looms on the horizon« so that they can prepare. Be it good or bad, everything’s there in the »big plan«. We can never know whether we/our clients can/could change or reshape those »fates« shown in the »stars«; all we can do is to evaluate, as correctly as possible, the nature of the future planetary influences, and suggest the best ways to meet those energies and deal with them.
Astrologers use different techniques to predict those »crucial times«. My long years of researching and counselling have convinced me that the first and foremost technique for this purpose are the eclipses. The next (or complimentary) are secondary progressions, and the third are transits.
Sounds simple? It is, provided we know our techniques well. If we go about them carefully and properly, those techniques will not dissapoint us.
By means of a recent case from my practice – one of getting (and consequently losing) a new partner– I want to show how important it is to strictly follow the rules of interpretation.
We can’t put the carriage in front of the horse; it’s very important to proceed in the right order, so let’s repeat the order of the techniques:
- Solar and lunar eclipses
- Secondary progressions
Solar and lunar eclipses
- Find the nearest eclipses and mark their position in the natal chart. If you’re looking at the year ahead, mark the eclipses which have taken place during the last year, and those that will take place during the year ahead. (See paragraph 7 of this section for some additional instructions on the eclipse delineation.)Beside marking the eclipse degrees, mark the degrees of the lunar nodes and (less important but very helpful) the positions of the planets and angles. (As for the angles: locate the eclipse to where the client presently lives.) And – don’t forget the vertex/antivertex axis which acts as an additional ascendant/descendant axis. These points are too often overlooked.
- See if the eclipse degree is in an EXACT aspect to any of the client’s important places in the natal chart. Do not allow orbs over 2 degrees. Those don’t work. They can be helpful in locating the areas of future interest and action, but they don’t cause important changes. As for the aspects: don’t overlook semisquares and sesquisquares. Inconjuncts and semisextiles also work. All aspects work as long as they are exact. A one-degree orb with a sesquisquare, for example, acts much stronger than a trine with a 3 (or more) degree orb.
- Repeat the procedure with the client’s progressed chart – that is, see if any of the nearest eclipses are in an exact aspect to any of the progressed planets and points.
- Once you have determined the aspectual relationships, take a close look at the planet/point that the eclipse aspects: in what house is that planet, and what house/s does it rule? What are its natural and »accidental« meanings? (Like, Mars is the natural ruler of young men, drive, energy, competitiveness, and cuts, burns and accidents, for example. But if Mars rules the 10th house or is placed therein, it also rules the client’s job, career, ambitions and public image.) Next, how does that planet act in the natal chart? Find its aspects and calculate its essential and accidental strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to carefully evaluate the natal planet’s nature, because the eclipse connection will strongly express everything the natal planet stands for. It will actually »bring it to the light«. That planet will play a decidedly important role in the client’s life during the (approximaletly) next year of life, so it’s important to evaluate it properly. If the planet (or point) has no aspects, see its midpoint connections. A direct (and strong or clearly expressed) midpoint tells us more about how a planet works in the chart than a weak aspectual relationship. (For example, if natal Jupiter is on the midpoint of Saturn and Neptune, it suggests a degenerative action of some kind, while natal Jupiter on the midpoint of Sun and Venus would suggest a marriage, for example. Imagine what a huge difference in expression such an eclipsed Jupiter would have!)
- Examine the nature of the aspectual relationship: conjunctions and oppositions are the strongest, of course. They can bring success and progress, or losses, accidents and illness. It all depends on the natal placement of the planet (see above). Harmonious aspects tend to bring advancement and growth – in short, a positive expression. Disharmonious aspects with benefics can bring the same, only with the potential of »strong but short-lived« success or happiness. Disharmonious aspects with malefics tend to bring downfalls.
- Examine the nature of the eclipse which shows the strongest connection to the client’s natal or progressed chart. Is the eclipse »good« or »bad«? Space doesn’t permit for the full explanation and evaluation of the various natures of eclipses, but follow the simple »rule« of looking at the eclipse’s aspects to the planets and angles. Some eclipses have harmonious links with the benefics – those tend to cause constructive and positive changes – and vice versa, of course. Know also that total eclipses (solar and lunar) are stronger (usually much stronger) than partial ones, with the consequence of causing stronger or weaker changes. Know also that solar eclipses tend to »cause« new beginnings, while lunar eclipses are more productive of crises and endings. (This is not a rule, however, because solar eclipses can also cause endings, especially if linked to malefics by disharmonious aspects.)
Once you have evaluated the trend/s set by eclipses, it’s time to proceed to other techniques.
Before I had discovered the power of eclipses, secondary progressions were my main forecasting technique. They are very powerful indeed,but, as with eclipses, we need to be very careful with the evaluation of the nature and the timing of their expression.
A short (suggested) procedure of evaluating the progressed chart:
- Create graphic presentation of the progressed chart – in longitude AND declination. Don’t forget the progressed declinations – they tend to be even more powerful than progressions in longitude. The progressed aspects in declination are rarer, though, because with declinations, we only have parallels and contraparallels.
- See if there is an aspect formed between the natal and progessed, or the progressed to progressed planets and angles. Determine the nature of those connections and the approximate time of their fullest expression (14 days for the lunar aspects and 2-3 months for the inteplanetary aspects – but know that the slower planets have longer time orbs).
- Understand the importance of the progressed Moon sign. This will show how the native will react (instinctivelly and emotionally) to everything there is to happen during the examined time period.
Transits act as »activators« and »timers«. Every planetary transit is subordinate to the main (greater, larger) scheme set by the eclipses and progressions.
Pay special attention to the transits of the planet – and to the planet – which has been (or will be, in the near future) eclipsed. Very often, the »predicted« event takes place when such a planet crosses one of the chart’s angles. Astrology students tend to overlook the importance of the angles, but they are crucial! Planetary energies tend to be »hidden« until they cross one of the angles and thus become directly expressed on the physical level. So, keep this »rule« in mind when you time your forecast!
Know also that eclipse configurations are often activated by additional lunations (those taking place in the course of the following year), and by the transits of the lunar nodes, Sun and Mars.
TANIA or A TRAGIC LOVE STORY
Let’s call her Tania. She’s a bodybuilder and a fitness trainer, looking great for her age. Venus, conjunct her Gemini ascendant, makes her beautiful and youthful, and, combined with her trained muscles, makes for a fabulous appearance.
Tania had won a couple of Miss Fitness titles before she was invited to participate in the Big Brother show in 2010 – the year which made her famous. The solar eclipse of July 11, 2010 was in an exact conjunction with her natal Sun, so it’s no wonder that she happened to be chosen for »the job«. Unfortunately, Saturn in the eclipse chart was in na exact opposition to her natal retrograde Saturn on Scheat, the »cursed« star, and in square of her natal Mars, co-ruler of the 11th house of group undertakings, so she was the first to have to leave the house. Her role in the society had been, however, transformed by this performance, and she became regularly featured in press.
As a divorced mother of one, she had prided herself of »waiting for the Right One«. She publicly declared that she hadn’t had a boyfriend for the last five years. Looking at her Sun in conjunction with Jupiter, the 7th house ruler, and its trine to Neptune, this man would really have to be Prince Charming. Would she meet him, and when?
The answer lies in the eclipses, of course. My research has shown that there is no meaninful life change which had not been shown/foretold by an eclipse!
Tania met her Prince Charming in late August of 2012. He was young, rich and handsome. Their first contact (virtual, via facebook) took place on August 23. It was followed by a meeting on August 29 and by the first kiss on September 7. After that, all followed »naturally«. Her lover’s Mars was in an exact conjunction with her Sun and they shared some other strong synastry contacts, but, alas, the man had Moon in Gemini in the falling (phlegmatic) phase, suggesting a changeable and labile personality which resulted in a typically »unfortunate« trait of the Gemini Moon – Tania was not his »one and only«! As she discovered a year later, he had been cheating on her, practically throughout their affair, with his other lover being a married woman. When she found the definite proof of his infidelity on September 27, 2013, she decided to end her life. She tried to commit suicide on October 4th and fell into a coma, but was rescued on October 6th, and moved out of his place on October 10th.
In a typically Gemini fashion, she was diligently posting pictures of their ideal union (fun, travel, candle-lighted dinners etc.) on facebook throughout their romance, and when all was over, her friends and the media also learnt all the details about her dissapointment and the unfortunate suicide attempt.
FIG 1: Tania’s natal chart with most of the main planetary influences which shaped her life during the year of her love affair.
The planetary »scene«
The »scene« for what was to come was set by the total solar eclipse of May 20, 2012 (which was accompanied by the astronomical Venus transit – the fact which may have added to the complexity and large publicity of the case). The eclipse was in a semisquare to her natal Jupiter, the 7th ruler, in sextile to her progressed Mars (natural ruler of lovers) and in semisextile to her natal Mars – all exact to one degree. This way, her life became ready to welcome a new lover/partner.
I may add that the accompanying lunar eclipse of June 4, 2012, which stretched itself along the 14° Gemini/Saggitarius and had Venus at 16 Gemini and Mars at 16 Virgo, all tightly linked to her natal configuration of ascendant /Venus/Uranus/Pluto, definitely played an important role here, but I ommitted it from the picture so as not to make it too clustered. Besides, the lunar eclipse only shows her strong emotional conditioning which preceeded the onset of the affair but does not point to an actual start of a new relationship, at least not in a clear way that the solar eclipse does.
When she met him, her progressed ascendant was in a very tight sextile with her natal north node, while the progressed Moon was at 21 Capricorn – in a conjunction with her progressed descendant at 23 Capricorn. Why didn’t she meet him (approximately) two months later when the conjunction became exact? Well the reason seems to be that at 21 Capricorn the Moon was in an exact sextile to the nearest solar eclipse which took place a couple of months later at 21 Scorpio. This degree already loomed large at that time and her progressed Moon simply »picked it up«, so to say. Timing can be complicated, indeed, but once we get eclipses into play, it gets easier. (Plus, of course, angles are delicate because we can never be totally sure of the exactness of the recorded time of birth. This could also have played a role here, although it must be said that birth times in our country tend to be taken down accurately.)
Her progressed declination graph (FIG 2) shows that two very important aspects were formed in 2012: her progressed Sun made a parallel to her natal Moon, and progressed ascendant was in a parallel to her progressed Jupiter, her 7th house ruler. This heavenly meeting of the Sun and Moon, the ancient symbols of »husband and wife«, shows how very important this relationship was to her. (For the sake of clarity, I have created her life declination graph – without the Moon – for 75 years of life. The crossings are thus more discernable.)
FIG 2: Tania’s life declination graph
Transitting Jupiter, her 7th house ruler, came to be conjunct her ascendant in late summer/early fall of 2012 when their romance took off. It is fascinating, though, that it turned retrograde exactly upon her ascendant and in square of her natal Pluto/Uranus conjunction a little bit later – as if trying to say that what started at this time would end in disgrace – or in a tragical, surprising way. And this is what happened! Tania was never short of »proofs« that she was having the time of her life, but looking at that »disgraced« Jupiter, travelling through the »secret« 12th house (of scandal) and in its detriment, we can understand that the relationship involved »secrets to hide«.
Now, to the »downfall«.The annular solar eclipse of May 10, 2013 was in a very exact opposition of her natal Neptune. One could argue that Neptune is a »generation« planet, but then, again, it all depends on the exactness of the link. A 2 or 3 degree orb can surely not have the same effect as this very tight orb of exactly 1 minute of arc! (Eclipse 19 Taurus 31, Tania’s natal Neptune 19 Scorpio 30). Besides (and to make matters worse), her progressed node on October 1st 2013 was at exactly the same degree nad even (almost) minute: 19 Scorpio 32! This timing is just formidabble, don’t you agree?!
Neptune, when negatively aspected, is the planet of betrayal, loss, scandal, disappointment and disillusionment. No wonder that things developed as they did! Her discovery of his unfaithfullness was just a matter of time. It happened at the time when transitting nodes were exactly aligned with her vertex line, suggesting a »fateful« turning point in her relationship.
The final stage of her affair took place shortly before the partial lunar eclipse of October 18, 2013, at 25 Aries – the degree in an exact square of her progressed Jupiter at 24,5 Cancer, suggesting a (possible) break in her relationship. The fact that Jupiter is on cusp of her 3rd house of »communication«, explains why she chose, after she had awoken from coma, not to be silent but to disclose her whole story to her friends and the public (mass media).
But the strongest and most exact timing was provided by the activation of the eclipse (and Neptune) by the Mars transit. On September 27, 2013, when she discovered the ultimate proof of his lover’s infidelity, Mars (at 19 Leo) was in an exact square to the May 2013 eclipse – and to her Neptune and the progressed nodes, of course. This powerful activation momentarily broke her bonding – and drove her to her »grave«, suggested by the Mars position in her 4th natal house of ultimate endings.
Tania might have been dead today if the great benefic didn’t come to her rescue. In those late September and early October days, transitting Jupiter became exactly conjunct her natal Sun. As much as she wanted to end it all by dying, Jupiter and the Sun, strongly united, decided that she should live. And she does! On October 10th, the exact day of the conjunction, she (having returned from hospital) packed her bags and moved out of his place and back to her home. Relocation is another 7th house matter, and the symbolism is very strong again: Jupiter (ruler of the 7th – relocation) conjunct the Sun (ruler of the 4th – her home).
The following article is the (edited) transcript of a talk Robert Hand gave at the Astrological Conference 2005 of the British Astrological Association in York, UK, as posted on www.astro.com.
First of all I should define the term “post-modern”. Post-modernism as the term is usually used refers to a set of philosophical movements largely arising out of contemporary French philosophy featuring in particular the work of Jacques Derrida, post-structuralism and the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault.
This is not what I refer to, because something else has been going on in astrology. Astrology has never been part of the modern world and cannot have in the same way a post-modern period. I would actually suggest that astrology is ideally suited to be both pre-modern and post-modern in the French philosophical sense.
“Then, in the 18th century we had a very long break. Conventional historians refer to this as the Enlightenment. I prefer the term “Endarkenment,” based on what happened in astrology
– it almost died.”
But what I refer to instead is a very real historical phenomenon in astrology, which is this: we have astrology up until about 1700, which had certain consistent patterns, ideas and principles and which had a more or less a continuous tradition from something like – this date is extremely flexible – the fifth century B.C.E. Then, in the 18th century we had a very long break. Conventional historians refer to this as the Enlightenment. I prefer the term “Endarkenment,” based on what happened in astrology – it almost died. And then in the 19th century a revival began, which for most of the 19th century was a revival of a portion of the tradition that had nearly died in 1700.
But then with Alan Leo, and more recently people like Dane Rudhyar, and on another level people like the Hamburg School and Cosmobiology of Ebertin, a rather new kind of astrology began coming into existence, which it might be appropriate simply to call 20th century astrology, but I would like to call modern astrology. So what I am really going to be talking about is the question, what next?
The beginning of what I will call – for lack of a better term – post-modern astrology actually happened quite a few years ago now. Two people are largely responsible for this new beginning. They are in the United States: Robert Zoller, who began studying medieval astrology in the original Latin in the 1970’s, closely followed in this country [Great Britain] by the late Olivia Barclay, who began teaching her students horary directly from William Lilly’s text. In both cases what was being taught was a reborn pre-1700 or pre-modern astrology. They had tremendous impact. In the States this led to the movement of which I was a part – or am a part, but am no longer associated with the name – the project called Project Hindsight, of which I and Robert Zoller along with Robert Schmidt were founders. Subsequently Robert Zoller has gone his own way, and I have gone my own way, but the movement continues. There is also of course an extremely meaningful translation movement in Spain, and also one in Italy.
So the pre-1700, pre-modern type of astrology is coming back fairly rapidly. The influence these movements have had is not quite what you might expect. Yes, there are people – and I think I can say this without offering any insult – such as Robert Zoller, who are really trying to revive completely an intact pre-modern astrology, otherwise known as traditional astrology. However, since some people regard Alan Leo’s astrology as traditional astrology, pre-modern may be a clearer term for pre-1700 styles of astrology. My favorite image of Robert Zoller – and believe me, I don’t think he would object in my characterizing him this way – is that he would smile, sublimely rub his hands together and say: “The old ways are the good ways!”
Yet, what appears to be happening, and what I certainly align myself with, is not really a revival of traditional astrology. Rather it’s a healing of the break that occurred in the 18th century. We are not trying to do astrology exactly as it was done, rather we’re trying to recreate astrology as it would have been if it had never stopped being an active tradition. Understanding this point is very important, because it is often stated and believed that traditional astrology must not have been all that effective because it died out – almost. Surely, it is said by some, traditional astrology must have been terribly lacking, and therefore modern astrology represents an evolutionary improvement from it.
This is not the case. Traditional astrology died out for reasons that are much better described as socio-political than scientific. If you want an example of what I mean I refer you to Patrick Curry’s excellent work Prophecy and Power, where he describes the process of astrology’s near death in Britain. But I assure you, that process was not limited to Britain. So, we are not doing traditional astrology, we are healing the break that occurred in the 18th century.
First of all: What is traditional astrology? Unfortunally, about the only general characterization I can make is that of defining it as astrology pre-1700. In this respect it is like most of the rest of History. I think if you do a quick calculation you will realize that most history happened before 1700 – billions and billions of years in fact. But, other than that it’s difficult to characterize. And we have to ask, “which traditional astrology?” Hellenistic/classical? Jyotish? Jyotish is a term I vastly prefer to vedic, first of all because it is the actual Indian term, and secondly because (I know I am going to get some arguments about this later) there is not all that much horoscopic astrology in the Vedas. Are we talking about Arabic astrology, or – as I prefer to call it – Persian-Arabic astrology, because it’s actually much more Persian than it is Arabic? Are we talking about Latin language medieval astrology, which is basically the same as Persian-Arabic? Or are we talking about early modern astrology – and I don’t mean Alan Leo? Early modern astrology actually consists of persons like Placidus, Morinus, Kepler, all of whom looked at the traditional astrology as they received it, and believed that reform was needed.
“We have not fully digested traditional astrologies – to use the proper term – we have not mastered the techniques.”
So which one are we talking about? I have bad news: all of them! We have not fully digested traditional astrologies – to use the proper term – we have not mastered the techniques. For example, the predictive techniques of hellenistic astrology, and even some of the predictive techniques of medieval astrology are still not widely used or experimented with. They may turn out to be not too useful; they may also turn out to be a major break-through. I do not really know, but until we have actually systematically examined them we don’t know.
Astrology in the 20th century
But this infusion of elements from the various traditions into the modern astrological tradition represents the essence of the change from modern to post-modern astrology. Some of us have been calling this traditional astrology neo-traditional, but that is really putting the emphasis in the wrong place. It is in the ordinary language sense of the term a post-modern astrology.
Okay! What do we do with the 20th century? This is where I will demonstrate conclusively that I am not a traditionalist: we keep it! We keep its best features. The single most important advance in 20th century astrology was the recognition that astrology actually could be used as a tool for human potential and self-actualization. There may be some of this in Jyotish, but there certainly is not any of it in Hellenistic, Arabic or Latin medieval. All three of those traditions were completely oriented towards dealing with everyday, mundane situations. But Dane Rudhyar in particular introduced a radically new way of thinking about astrology. Closely related to his astrology is the idea of psychological astrology. I do not share the contempt that many traditionalists feel for psychological astrology. I think it is extraordinarily important. My only criticism of it is that in the hands of some of it’s less competent practitioners it has been an extremely mushy sort of astrology where anything can be made to mean anything, depending on the emotional frame of mind of the client and the astrologer. The language of 20th century astrology as a language tends to be imprecise, vague, inarticulate and unclear. But the goals of 20th century astrology are absolutely commendable.
Why did the tradition – at least the branches of it I have mentioned – not deal with the issue of self-actualization. They did have the tools if they had had the philosophical reasons for doing it. The reason is very simple: In both the Islamic world and the Christian world there was something else that governed that process, namely religion, from which astrology was largely disconnected. Both Islamic and Christian astrologers had to constantly explain why astrology did not interfere with religion, did not impinge on the same issues, nor did it contradict religion; therefore it was okay. There is in fact in Western astrology an underground tradition of mitigation much as there is in Indian astrology, but it has always been an underground tradition. It is called magic. But we have had to pretend that we, as astrologers, are not connected to it in order to survive in what has been until recently a Christian world – or Islamic.
“Twentieth century astrology should be kept in so far as it works, makes sense and is clear enough to tell if it is working.”
So, 20th century astrology we keep, in so far as it speaks to the needs of modern humanity. Every astrology deals with the culture in which it lives, and if it doesn’t it’s irrelevant. Twentieth century astrology should be kept in so far as it works, makes sense and is clear enough to tell if it is working. To illustrate what I mean by “clear enough” (or rather not clear enough) here is a style of prediction (admittedly an absurd one) that illustrates the problem: “In the next year, events will happen.” Now you may laugh, but I have heard astrological predictions made that were just about that “clear.”
I also think there are some other tools from 20th century astrology that are well worth keeping, such as the use of mid-points, the 90-degree dial, and there are a number of schools that have contributed extremely valuable ideas too numerous to mention. Twentieth century astrology is not to be thrown out, but here is what it does need:
First of all, the question often arises: is traditional astrology – in any form – better than modern astrology? And of course the traditionalists immediately say: “Why, of course!” They say that it is more effective. This is probably true, but not for the reasons you may think. Hindu astrology, arabic astrology and medieval astrology, and for that matter hellenistic astrology, all have a much more elaborate language than 20th century astrology. Simply put: these languages, as languages, are more articulate; these early astrologies can say things clearly, and insofar as they can say things clearly you can tell whether what they say is true or not.
“One of the strangely backhanded compliments I used to
pay to the Cosmobiology of the Ebertin system was that I liked it because it is one of the few systems of astrology where I
could tell when it was not working.”
One of the strangely backhanded compliments I used to pay to the Cosmobiology of the Ebertin system was that I liked it because it is one of the few systems of astrology where I could tell when it was not working. I am going to make what some may think a rather outrageous statement which has been contradicted by others a number of times during this Conference: I have not ever cast a chart that was wrong that worked better than the one that was right. I am not saying it cannot happen, but it has never happened to me. And the reason is that I have always placed great stress on the articulation of the astrological language, so that I could tell if the statement I was making was right or wrong. I remember a lecture by Geoffrey Dean in which he was lecturing on a chart that was supposed to be the chart of Petula Clark, – Geoffrey does not remember this incident but I do – with a very close conjunction of Mars and Neptune. Geoffrey spouted modernistic astrological garbage about the unselfish, altruistic nature of this person and so on. I said to myself, “This is crazy, this chart can’t possibly be right.” And then after he had the entire audience convinced, he announced that it was the chart of Charles Manson. By way of a side-note, the astro-carto-graphic map of Charles Manson had the line of that Mars-Neptune-conjunction passing through the deserts just to the east of Los Angeles. So when he finally admitted that it was Charles Manson I said to myself, “I knew it couldn’t be Petula Clark!” They were born a year apart on the same date. So that is why he was able to suck everybody in. But the problem was that he was taking advantage of the inarticulate nature of much modern 20th century astrological language. This must change! The object of self-actualization, psychological exploration, or even enlightenment, through astrology is a perfectly noble goal, a noble task. But it must be done in a clear language, or it will of no use at all, except as entertainment, which I suppose some will believe is perfectly fine.
Modern astrology has had one really tragic flaw in addition to its inarticulate language: its complete lack of a philosophical foundation rooted in any coherent philosophical or spiritual tradition of the world, except in the case of Jyotish. Jyotish does have a coherent philosophical and spiritual background derived from the religions of India. For those of you that are not aware of it, Western astrology (by which I really mean Middle Eastern astrology, we just happen to be practising the Western branch of it) also has a firm foundation in philosophy derived from persons with names such as Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plotinus and has roots in other philosophies that we cannot attribute to any actual person, such as the philosophies of Hermes. We have to go back to these philosophies (as I will hope to demonstrate in part tomorrow) because all modern Western philosophy – with the possible and likely exception of phenomenology – is born out of an idea-set that occurs after the West made a fork on the road of philosophy which rendered astrology inherently impossible.
“Modern astrology has had one really tragic
flaw in addition to its inarticulate language: its complete lack of aphilosophical foundation rooted in any coherent philosophical or spiritual tradition of the world.”
So we have to go back to the philosophies in which astrology is not inherently impossible, reestablish the roots, modernize our understanding of those philosophies, and bring them forward into the 20th century or 21st century. We have a brilliant example of this in the work of late John Addey whose astrology was rooted firmly in Neoplatonism but pointed toward a radical new kind of astrology. But we do not want to use 19th century mystical “philosophies” such as those of Mme. Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and so forth, in part because they are not in fact foundational philosophies. What they taught was a modernized and obscured form of Neoplatonism. I am not saying their works are of no value, but for philosophy let us go back to the real thing.
Alfred North Whitehead may also be a philosopher who has something to say to us, but until I can get him to say something to me that I truly understand – those of you that have tried to read Whitehead will know what I mean – I cannot tell what he may have to offer.
Astrology lacks a theoretical foundation
The reason for having proper philosophical foundations is that it actually leads to the creation of, in some form, what scientists keep telling us astrology lacks: a theoretical foundation. Now you have to understand that a theoretical foundation does not necessarily need to be correct at the outset. It needs to be correctable. Astrological theory, even based on a reconnection with ancient philosophy, will not be a theory that science will recognize as theory, but it will in fact function as a scientific theory. It just will not function according to the scientific paradigm – any scientific paradigm, at least any paradigm constituted according to the larger meta-paradigm of modern science.
And let me explain why: The contemporary scientific paradigm, with exception of a few areas of quantum physics, largely ignores the role of consciousness in the Universe. Putting it in its boldest form: Life and consciousness, according to the prevailing version of the modern scientific paradigm are epiphenomena of the laws of inanimate nature. An epiphenomenon is a superficial, second level prenomenon, not central to the whole system. In other words, we are trivial and unimportant, the world is essentially meaningless, and it is just grinding off to a stupid, meaningless, pointless end.
Of course, you have to ask the question: “Meaningless” to whom? You can’t have meaninglessness until there is somebody to whom something is meaningless. Unfortunately, when the 19th century threw God out of science, they made the whole meaningful/meaningless issue undefineable, irrelevant and academic. We are, according to one modern “scientific” writer, like bacteria living on a dust particle in a sneeze. That was someone’s description of life in the Big Bang. We are said to live on a planet that goes around a minor star in a minor galaxy in an infinitely huge Universe. To whom are we minor? If there is no aliveness in the Universe, to whom are we unimportant, and since when was sheer magnitude the criterion of excellence? Billions and billions of stars, the late Carl Sagan used to say, as if putting zeroes after a one made things more significant and more meaningful.
“In my humble opinion astrology makes no sense unless we postulate that life, mind and consciousness are central to the functioning of the Universe, and precede, in some
meaningfull way, matter and energy, or at least are coeval
with, that is to say, coeternal with them.”
In my humble opinion (which means: “arrogant statement follows”) astrology makes no sense unless we postulate that life, mind and consciousness are central to the functioning of the Universe, and precede, in some meaningfull way, matter and energy, or at least are coeval with, that is to say, coeternal with them. Something is talking to us, and things that talk must be alive and conscious. The idea that life and consciousness are epiphenomenal is the exact reverse of the astrological world view. This is why we are heretics. And by all means, let us remain so!
But I think many astrologers do not draw out the logical implications of what they do. They are astrologers when they are in the counselling room, and they are 21st-century-ordinary-every-day-mechanist-materialists when they do anything else – I find that this true less and less as time goes on, which is most gratifying. But we have to recognize, yes indeed, that astrology, and the metaphysics of science – also known as scientism – are indeed incompatible. Thank God!
Now another aspect of the new kind of astrology: I totally, absolutely and overwhelmingly reject any form of astro-fundamentalism. We can leave that for certain insane fanatics in the Jewish, Islamic and Christian religious comunities. There is no ancient astrology that must be completely recovered because it, alone, is completely, absolutely and positively true for all time. We recover them to the best of our ability, so we can learn from them, but they are not necessarily “truer” than what we do. Our ancestors were human beings, just like us. Do I think that astrology came as the result of a divine revelation in the biblical sense? Maybe in some other sense yes, but not in that narrow biblical sense. It was not revealed whole, entire, perfect and complete to anyone at any time. It may be complete and perfect eventually, but only because we have done the work of uncovering the revelation. But it is probably never going to happen quite that way. I just do not want to exclude the possibility.
Balancing modernist and traditionalist attitudes
So we need to strike a balance between the modernist’s attitude and the traditionalist’s attitude. By the way, I just want to make one thing clear: If I seem to be taking a slam at the only at certain members of the Jyotish/Vedic community in talking about astrological fundamentalism, believe me, I am not. There are also Lilly fundamentalists, Hellenistic fundamentalists, Arabic fundamentalists… You take any system, as long as it isn’t modern, and you will find somebody who believes in it as a fundamentalist, or – to use a term more fashionable in religious circles – a literalist, one who believes that the books are literally and completely true.
The modernist attitude believes that only the most recent work is any good, and the traditionalist attitude thinks that anything modern is hopelessly flawed and corrupt. Without qualification – these positions are both wrong. And if you disagree with me, fine. But that is my position, take it or leave it! (I have a Scorpio Moon).
Post-modern astrology must recognize that astrology is a learned art. Not a learned art with one syllable, but a learned art, with ‘learned’ in two-syllables. And while we invite the enthusiast and the amateur to participate, it also has to be recognized the amateur astrologer will have a role similar to amateur scientists – far from irrelevant, but working in a limited way. Astrology is no more entertainment than psychology. Which is to say that both can create entertaining diversions, but that is neither their purpose nor their value.
To that end, as I am sure many are quite aware, there has begun a movement towards the creation of academic institutions within astrology. One of these is Kepler College. It teaches within a genuine liberal arts program that happens to be – this is the unofficial motto of the school – filtered “through the lens of astrology,” but it is a liberal arts degree nonetheless. What do I teach there? I teach ancient history, medieval history and Latin. But of course, the Latin is not all Cicero. We read John of Seville in the course, and people like him. (We do not read Manilius, because nobody can read Manilius.) Here in Britain there is of course the Bath Spa curriculum, the Southampton program, the University of Canterbury program, and there are probably others that I am not aware of.
But this is a thrilling development, because we have got to the point where the next level of astrology must be carried on in environments similar to that of universities, where there are conferences held among professionals in the field, who report work that is very important, but which is too technical or esoteric (in the original meaning of the word) for a general astrological conference. For example, we have the varied styles of medieval primary directions, their origin, significance, application and so forth, definitely a subject of interest only to specialists.
Just to give you one idea of something I have noticed, I am convinced that Masha Allah or the work attributed to him is of two people, because there are two different kinds of astrology going on, but I have not figured out how to rigorously document this yet. This is not the sort of topic that I think would draw a very large crowd at even an AA conference, and the AA conferences are a good deal more sophisticated than many other conferences.
“The “Astrology and Your Pet” aspect of astrology has been going on for quite a long time, and I do not suggest that it should cease.”
The alternative? At Astrolabe, the company that I used to work with, we had a cartoon on the wall which showed a rather generously endowed, portly woman standing behind a lectern with a very stern and severe expression on her face, saying: “We will not rest until astrology has found it’s proper place in Academia”, and on the wall behind her is a sign that says: “Next Week: Astrology and Your Pet”.
Now, there is nothing wrong with that, but these are two different aspects of astrology. The “Astrology and Your Pet” aspect of astrology has been going on for quite a long time, and I do not suggest that it should cease. I am now in my fourth year of graduate school, so I am beginning to get a sense of what goes on in Academia that is good and useful to the further evolution of astrology. For the most part we do not yet have that, but we are getting it. So this academization, if I can make a word, the making of astrology more academic, is an extremely important step.
At this point I have to make a very important statement about this process. We are not trying to make astrology respectable. We are trying to force astrology to get its internal act together. That is not the same thing. We will not convince academics that we belong in academia because we say so; it is not even clear that we will ever be integrated with academia. It does not matter. It is for ourselves, not for our respectability, but for the efficacy of our art. We will be more effective if we do these things. We need international libraries of astrology texts, either in book form or online. We need to find all those old astrological journals rotting away on our shelves, scan them and make them available to researchers.
“We are not trying to make astrology respectable. We are
trying to force astrology to get its internal act together.
That is not the same thing.”
I do not know how many of you are aware of this, but on the internet there is something called “Early English Books Online”. Every book printed in England before 1700 that has survived is in that data base. You can read them or download them, as you choose. We need that exact same thing in astrology. We need all these journals, all the old texts, everything to be accessible to researchers. At the moment a great deal of astrology is on the verge to disappearing for all time. We need modern researchers documenting what happened in the 20th century, who said what, what they meant, explicating their ideas, talking about their lives, we need to preserve all of this. Ironically, the most endangered single part of the history of astrology is the history of 20th century astrology. It is right on the verge of being forgotten already. So this is why this increasing movement toward academia is required, not so that we can be respectable, but for our own use.
Here is the key point: we will have succeeded in creating post-modern astrology to the degree that our astrology is completely continuous, historically, with all the astrologies of the past. It does not mean we use all their techniques, does not mean we use all their elements, but that we can at some point refer to our tradition as a completely restored and continuous tradition. Post-modern astrology will not simply be going back to William Lilly, or to Bonatti, or to Vettius Valens, Vahara Mihira, or any one you can chose. But they will be in there, their works will be known, evaluated and employed where appropriate. And appropriateness will be determined in terms of our modern needs – excuse me – post-modern needs.
Now I could make a long list of things I think might like to change technically-speaking in astrology, but I have to agree with Geoffrey Cornelius in his talk yesterday that improved technique in the way it is usually understood is not what we are trying to do here. In chemistry, for example, if you use the wrong technique in analysing an unknown substance, you will not find out what the substance is. Technique in chemistry is an absolutely necessary set of procedures designed to achieve a particular result. But technique in astrology is actually the articulation of language not merely a set or proper procedures.
Let me give you a concrete example. If you pick up any traditional astrology book that is at all influenced by Ptolemy, you will find that it poses a collection of questions to be answered. Is the nativity viable? That is to say, is the entity born in this nativity going to live? What is the wealth and rank of the parents? What about brothers and sisters? What about money, career, children? All of these constitute a standard set of what I refer to as the Ptolemaic questions.
These Ptolemaic questions use very definite techniques for answering the questions. But the issue here is not whether these techniques are “correct,” the issue is whether these techniques are clearly articulated. Some of these questions we will not choose to ask, for example, we will probably continue not to say too much about the nature and manner of one’s death. We might, however, become a bit more articulate about saying: these are the areas of our life you will have to watch out for, that are dangerous and maybe in these times you will have to watch out for them. But I have demonstrated to my satisfaction one thing about this and similar things in astrology. They are, to use the philosophical term, contingent. The moment of your death has not yet been written unless it is to occur very soon due to circumstances that are not any longer changeable. All of us could have a number of times in which we might die. But in the ancient world things that can be prevented now could not be prevented then. So we will look times that may be dangerous, not times of death, or whatever. But the issue here is, what do we do to answer a question, and is an answer to the question clear enough so that we can tell if it is right or wrong?
Fate versus free will
There is the wonderful problem of fate versus free will. I actually have arrived at an answer to this, which I will briefly outline. I found the answer in one of the Stobaeus fragments of the Corpus Hermeticum, in which Hermes is talking to his disciple Tat, as the name is usually transliterated. Tat asks: “Tell me again about fate, providence and necessity”. And Hermes after much intermediate material ends up with the statement along the lines of, “Fate concerns the body, necessity concerns that part of the mind that works only with the body, and providence is concerned with the mind that is fully conscious.”
What they made clear in this statement is there is no one such thing as fate. There is a fate that is due to our being material beings of a certain species. No matter how hard you try, no amount of free will will ever convert you to a dog or a cat in this life time. You cannot fly without a plane – unless (perhaps) you are a certain kind of meditator – you cannot walk through walls without a door, you cannot see through walls without a window, you are limited by natural law. That is the fundamental meaning of fate in ancient Greek philosophy. It is physical law.
Then there is the really big part of fate; there is the fate due to ignorance, called necessity. We get ourselves caught up in situations where we simply cannot conceive of an alternative, because we have all these considerations about what must be so and what must not be so, and we are determined by the consequences of past decisions and current stupidities. That is most of what our fate consists of. It has nothing to do with the planets!
“Post-modern astrology will not be a fatalistic fortune-telling astrology, it will be an astrology of enlightenment,
self-realization, self-actualization and consciousness,
that just happens to include all of the rest of astrology.”
And then finally there is the other fate that is absolutely irrevocable, called providence. You have no choice but to be who you are. Your choice is to be who you are at the highest possible level or not. And I would go so far as to say that who you really are preexists who you are at the present moment, and it is pulling you forward to itself, and that pull is inevitable. Your getting all the way there, becoming a fully realized being, is not inevitable. Circumstances, accidents and of course the ever-present stupidity, or unconsciousness – whatever you want to call it – will all in varying degrees prevent us from getting to that perfect self-realization. But it is not written in the stars whether we will, or will not, ever be fully realized. What is written in the stars is how to do it – if we could but read the chart from that point of view.
This is one of the things the 20th century has taught us, but the 20th century has been a little weak on how to do it. Whereas, I have found techniques in Greek and Medieval astrology that actually suggest how it can be done, how it can be read in the chart. Post-modern astrology will not be a fatalistic fortune-telling astrology, it will be an astrology of enlightenment, self-realization, self-actualization and consciousness, that just happens to include all of the rest of astrology.
We evaluate, we judge, and we integrate. That is what I see coming.
Thank you very much.
Copyright by Robert Hand 2006