Whatever is born or done this moment of time has the qualities of this moment of time. - C.G. Jung
Time is the flowing Image of the Eternal ... and the planets are the instruments of Time. - Plato, The Timaeus
The Study of Time
Behind the light-hearted horoscopes of the popular press lies a hidden wisdom that can transform our understanding of ourselves and the nature of reality. For real astrology, from which this popular entertainment derives, is a language, science, art and craft that deals with the ever-changing qualities of time. Astrology studies the paradox that in each moment of space-time there is a point of access to the Eternal. It shows that each moment, such as of our own birth, is a seed containing a specific blueprint for the unfoldment of the infinite potential of one fact of the Great Jewel of Eternity.
Normally we take time for granted; we think of it as something neutral and simply a measure of duration. But in fact, according to the astrological and Platonic tradition, time is the great formative dimension of life. It is the dimension of time which, by means of the planetary cycles, dictates and unfolds into manifestation the changing patterns of Divine Ideas that shape our individual mind-set. It is the cycles of time, such as the daily shift from dark to light, and of the seasons, which govern the ebb and flow of daily life and at the same time the rise and fall of civilisations and the evolution of consciousness.
If this is your first astrology book, make a note of the time, date and place you obtained it. As you progress in your study of time, you will be amused and instructed by looking back at a map of this moment of space-time to see how it relates to your own birth chart, the unfoldment of your own consciousness of your infinite yet very specific potential.
A Noble Secret
It is deeply unfortunate that for much of the general public the word astrology instantly means the Lottery’s Mystic Meg and breathless mediums peering into crystal balls. As the great French surrealist poet, critic and philosopher André Breton (1896-1966) lamented:
I see astrology as a very great lady, most beautiful, and coming from such a great distance that she cannot fail to hold me under her spell. In the purely physical world, I see nothing that has assets to emulate hers. She seems to me, besides, to hold one of the noblest secrets of the world. What a shame then, that nowadays – at least for the common masses – a prostitute reigns in her place.
Since Breton wrote that, the media’s trivialisation of the ‘very great lady’ has become even more widespread. In consequence, no one who has not studied a book on real astrology could possibly understand why some of the very greatest minds and creative individuals down the centuries have preoccupied themselves with its study: from Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus and Proclus to St Thomas Aquinas, Kepler, Galileo, Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, W.B. Yeats and Jung and many, many more, the Royal Art and Science has proved to be a source of deep fascination, inspiration and guidance. And, despite the contemptuous guffaws of scientific orthodoxy, it still continues to enthral the minds of some of our finest contemporary thinkers, and to be used, behind the scenes, by some of the world’s leading figures. So what is astrology’s noble secret?
Astrology’s noble secret is rooted in the fact that she preserves an ancient understanding of the temporal cosmos as:
- the flowing image of the Eternal God Thought;
- a living, intelligent, purposeful entity in which part and whole dance together in resonance to the music of the spheres;
- a hierarchy of levels of order in which the higher levels order the lower and in which the apparent random activity here on Earth below can be seen to be orderly behaviour when viewed from the heavens above.
We explore the key principles of this understanding of the cosmos in the next chapter. But first we need to look briefly at some of the key steps in the history of the evolving consciousness of the relationship between above and below, between time and eternity.
A Brief History
Prior to Newton, most thinkers in Western universities, and in most Eastern cultures, believed that all life on Earth was regulated and controlled by the movements of the celestial bodies. This was not a superstitious belief but a position developed from reason and experience over 2,000 years, and one that is still maintained by thinking astrologers today. This does not contradict the laws of physics, which describe the material causes of things, because astrology is concerned with those metaphysical laws that describe the formal causes of things. Whilst some early astrologers certainly thought in terms of physical ‘influences’, the philosophers thought in terms of the cosmos as ‘a living body of ideas’. How did this world view develop?
Early Origins – Order Out of Chaos
The early history of astrology can be only a matter of conjecture. What we do know is that the very earliest records in most cultures and civilisations reveal an essentially astrological world-view. Around 7,500 BCE in Europe, reindeer antlers were being used to note the phases of the moon, whilst the development of writing in Mesopotamia around 3,500 BCE was initially primarily concerned with recording celestial phenomena and their significance. Likewise, all major ancient buildings, such as the Ziggurats of Mesopotamia, the Egyptian and Mayan Pyramids, and Neolithic circles like Stonehenge, seem to have been constructed to align society below with the heavens above.
As early humankind came to consciousness, what became apparent amongst the seeming arbitrariness of life was the regularity of the cycles of day and night, of the waxing and waning of the moon and the movements of the planets across the star-studded sky. It was seen that these regular and predictable cycles of heaven could be related to nature phenomena such as the recurring seasons, the flooding of rivers, outbreaks of disease and years of feast and famine. Likewise the birth of distinct types of people and different kinds of destiny were observed to correspond with particular patterns of the planets.
Astrology appears to have emerged independently in different cultures around the world. Whilst some of these astrologies certainly cross-fertilised one another, each seems to have had the same basic insight about the intimate relationship between above and below. Likewise the essential significance of the planets and stars is very similar in different traditions. Mars is always associated with fire, anger and war, whilst Venus is seen to be an essentially beneficent creature of beauty.
The earliest written records of astrology are found in Mesopotamia where celestial events such as eclipses and the conjunction of planets were observed to be omens of coming events. The discovery of the cycle of the seasons and the fact that different times were good for different kinds of activities may well have encouraged pastoral settlements. It certainly enhanced the efficiency of agriculture in Egypt as the rising of certain stars just before the Sun could be used to time the flooding of the Nile.
Astrology and the Bible
The Bible, which is replete with astrology, preserves the deep understanding of the importance of time. Thus at the outset, Genesis 1:14-15, we find God on the fourth day saying:
Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years....
Much later, in Ecclesiastes 3, we find the view summarised in the 16-line poem beginning:
To everything there is a season
And a time to every purpose under the heavens
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance...
The Three Wise Men
Astrology is central to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The Three Wise Men of the Bible who ‘followed the Star’ were of course astrologers, a translation now used in The New English Bible. The particular ‘star’ the Magi were following was almost certainly the dramatic conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces, the sign of the fishes. This occurred three times in 7 BCE, which is now agreed to have been the most likely year of Christ’s birth. Such a thrice-repeated conjunction was of especial significance to the ancient astrologers, and the symbolism of the fish is ubiquitous in early Christianity. Chris, the ‘fisher of men’, was known as ICTHUS (Jesus Christ, Son of God). To this day bishops wear a fish-tailed mitre. What is also clear from the Bible is that there have always been ‘false prophets’ who have used astrology for dubious purposes.
Understanding the Cosmic Order – The Greeks
Early astrology may have emerged in part from observation, but certainly it seems reasonable to conjecture that the basic insight of the correspondence of above and below will have derived from the intuitive inner illumination of priests and shamans who saw this reality within themselves. The Greeks, starting with Pythagoras (c. 600-540 BCE), who emphasised the importance of number as the basis of the world, began to put in place a systematic model of an astrological universe. This was first fully articulated by Plato in the Timaeus. This ideal, transcendent model, interwoven wit its rational, empirical, Aristotelian complement, was the basis of the prevailing world-view until the 17th century.
The history of the progress of this world-view would require another volume. A few of the important individuals and events are summarised below:
Some highlights of Astrological History
Pythagoras (c. 580 – c. 500 BCE) teaches that number is the creative basis of the cosmos and that each planet has its note, together producing the music of the spheres.
Empedocles (c. 490 – c. 430 BCE) Greek philosopher, proposes that all things, including human personality, are made up of the four elements Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
Hippocrates (c. 460 – 377 BCE) physician and astrologer, the ‘Father of medicine’, relates the four elements to the four humours as the basis of disease.
Plato (c. 427 – 347 BCE) elaborates the basis of astrology in the Timaeus; c. 387 BCE founds his philosophical Academy in Athens which lasts until 529 CE.
409 BCE - First known individual horoscope.
356 BCE - Alexander the Great’s mother instructed by the astrologer Nectanebus as to when to give birth to the future Emperor: 22 July 356 BCE c. 11pm in Mella, Macedonia.
Zeno (c. 342 – c. 270 BCE) Syrian Stoic philosopher, teaches the cyclic nature of the universe and the importance of understanding the birth chart to free oneself from fate.
Berossus (fl. 280 BCE) opens a school of astrology on Kos around 280 BCE.
Hipparchus (c. 190 – 120 BCE) Greek astronomer/astrologer, discovers the precession of the equinox, develops the rulerships of the parts of the body by the zodiac.
Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE) attributes seven planets to parts of head, soul and body and develops concepts of a seven-year rhythm in life.
Thessalos (fl. 50 CE) physician and astrologer, sets out rules for herb gathering.
Ptolemy (c. 100 – 180 CE) astrologer/astronomer writes his Tetrabiblos (c. 150 CE) summarizing most of the astrological knowledge of his age.
Plotinus (c. 205 –c. 270 CE) his Enneads, edited by the astrologer Porphry sets out the foundations for Neo-Platonism in which astrology can flourish.
Iamblichus (255 – 330 CE) incorporates the mystery teachings of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Chaldeans into Neo-Platonic thought.
Firmicus Maternus writes eight volume astrology text Mathesios libric c, 335 CE.
Paulus Alexandrinus c. 370 CE write an Introduction to Astrology.
Proclus (410 - 485 CE) philosopher and astrologer. His Theology of Plato elaborates on the role and significance of the planetary gods.
Simplicius (531 - 579 CE) writes Commentary on the Enchiridion of Epictetus and about the relationship of the soul to the body and astrology.
529 CE Closure of the Platonic Academy in Rome by Justinian after 1,000 years forces Neo-Platonists with their understanding of astrology into exile in Asia Minor.
625 - c. 700 CE The rise of Islam and spread of Islamic empire brings the Neo-Platonic and Jewish and Indian teachings back into the West.
770 – 773 CE Caliph al-Mansur has the Indian Siddhanda translated into Arabic, so beginning the Moslem astrological tradition.
Abu Ma’shar (787 – 886 CE) writes his Introduction to Astrology.
Al-Biruni (973 – 1048 CE) mystical astrologer.
Ibn Junus (died 1009 CE) produces the Hakemite Planetary Tables.
1010 – 1027 CE Liber Planetis et Mundi Climatibus – the first European astrological text.
Guido Bonati (1210 – 1300) court astrologer to Frederick II, develops mid-points.
Roger Bacon (1216 – 1294) sees the heavens as the organizing cause of all things.
Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) sets out the place of astrology in the scheme of things.
Petrarch (1304 – 1374) reawakens the world to the cultural riches of the Graeco-Roman culture.
1398 19th September, Chancellor of the Sorbonne in Paris attacks astrology.
Marsilio Ficino (1433 – 1499) in his De vita coelitus comparanda expounds on the value of astrology in daily life.
Regiomontanus, Johann Muller (1436 – 1461) astrologer and ‘Father of German Astronomy’ recovers and translates key Greek astronomical/astrological texts.
Pico della Mirandola (1463 – 1494) denounces the abuses of astrology.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) founder of heliocentric astronomy, an astrologer.
Paracelsus (1493 – 1541) doctor, philosopher and astrologer, teaches that medicine without astrology is pseudo-medicine.
Michel Nostradamus (1503 – 1566) physician and astrologer to Catherine de Medici.
Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) astronomer, sought to reform astrology.
Francis Bacon (1561 – 1656) philosopher and Lord Chancellor of England, advocates the use of astrology in medicine and weather-forecasting.
Galileo (1564 – 1642) astronomer and practising astrologer.
Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630) astronomer, and astrologer; discovers laws of planetary motion; works to demonstrate and reform astrology.
Dr John Dee (1527 – 1608) scholar, astrologer, spy and chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I – elects her coronation chart.
William Lilly (1602 – 1681) the first astrologer to write in English, forecasts the Great Fire of London.
Placidus de Titis (1603 – 1668) scholar, physician and astrologer.
Elias Ashmole (1617 – 1692) scholar and astrologer, founder of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) ends his days studying alchemy, a subject steeped in astrological method.
From about 1700, astrology began to fade from the map of mainstream knowledge, eclipsed by the excitement of discoveries in the material sciences which became the focus of intellectual exploration. The serious study of astrology survived amongst individual students and practitioners rather than in academia, though there were individual intellectuals who publicly espoused it. His was especially the case in Germany where the great German poet, writer, scientist and polymath Goethe (1749-1832) studied astrology and opened his autobiography with details of his birth chart which he considered a good description of his basic nature. The philosopher August Wilhelm Schegel (1767-1854) taught that ‘astronomy will have to become astrology again’, and the last university professor of astrology in Europe, Johann Wilhelm Pfaff (1774-1835), called for its recognition as a legitimate science in his The Rationale of Astrology. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the philosopher, moved from a hostile position in his early work to a more sympathetic view in his On Age Difference. In the USA Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), the philosopher with Neo-Platonic leanings, was sympathetic to astrology, describing it as ‘astronomy brought down to earth and applied to the affairs of man’.
When the study of astrology faded, it was still part of mainstream thought; but when it began to re-emerge as a subject for popular study in the late 19th century, it was as a result of the efforts of relatively few maverick individuals working from outside the boundaries of orthodox study. Throughout the 20th century it has gradually developed and progressed into its present highly sophisticated form as the result of the work of a series of dedicated individuals and organisations. Some of the highlights of this story are shown below.
The Renaissance of Astrology
Richard Garnett (1835-1906), Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum, advocates the use of astrology.
1880 A.J. Pearce (1840-1923) edits Urania and other journals. His The Textbook of Astrology takes a pragmatic and experimental approach to its development.
Walter Gorn Old/Sepharial (1864-1929) writes any books on astrology.
1888 Paul Choisnard/Flambert (1867-1920) starts statistical research in astrology.
1890 Alan Leo/William Frederick Allen (1860-1917) and F.W. Lacey found the monthly Modern Astrology (1890-1943). Leo goes on to publish a series of books with strong theosophical slant covering most known areas of astrology.
1915 13 July, 7.15 p.m., Alan and Bessie Leo found The Astrological Lodge of the Theosophical Society, the ‘mother’ of British astrology.
1926 The first issue of the Lodge’s Astrology Quarterly edited by Charles Carter (1887-1968), philosopher and experimentalist who wrote widely on astrology.
1928 The first Cosmobiology Yearbook published in Germany. Alfred Witte in Hamburg publishes his Regel für Planetenbilder (Rules for Planetary Pictures).
1930 31 August, Sunday Express publishes R.H Naylor’s article on Princess Margaret’s birth – the start of astrology in the popular press; soon starts world-wide.
1936 Dane Rudhyar’s The Astrology of Personality starts psychological astrology.
1939 Karl Ernst Krafft – Traite d’Astro-biologie; American Federation of Astrologers founded (May).
1940 Reinhold Ebertin in Germany publishes the first edition of Kombination der Gestirmeinflusse (Combination of Stellar Influences).
1948, 7 June, 7.58 p.m., The Faculty of Astrological Studies founded to provide a systematic education for astrologers – world-wide via correspondence courses.
1955 – Michel Gauquelin publishes L’lnfluence des Astres demonstrating statistically that planetary positions at birth are related to future eminence in different professions.
1958, 21 June, 8.22 p.m., The Astrological Association founded by John Addey (1920-82), Brigadier General R.C. Firebrace and Joan Rodgers; Rudolf Tomaschek (1895-1966), Professor of theoretical physics at Munich, Chair of Cosmobiological Academy Aalen, publishes Observations on the Basic Problem of Astrology.
1959 The Astrological Journal of the Astrological Association first published.
1970 In London The Urania Trust, Educational Charity, created by John Addey et al.
1973 The Mayo School of Astrology founded by Jeff Mayo.
1974 in the USA, Neil F. Michelsen founds Astro-Computing Services and Dr Gregg Howe founds Astro-Numeric Services for astrologers.
1976 John Addey’s Harmonics in Astrology; Liz Greene’s Saturn.
1977 In the USA, astrology software for home computer from Michael Erlewine (1941- ) and Robert Hand (1943- ), Geoff Dean’s Recent Advances in Natal Astrology.
1981 Astrology ceases to be illegal in Britain with the Repeal of the Vagrancy Act.
1983 In Zürich, Bruno and Louise Huber found the Astro Psychological Institute, API (8 June); in London, Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas (1948-1993) found The Centre for Psychological Astrology – CPA (12 June); and Geoffrey Cornelius and Maggie Hyde the Company of Astrologers (14 November).
1985 Jim Lewis develops Astro*Carto*Graphy; first international Astrological Research Conference in London under the auspices of Professor H.J. Eysenck (1916-97).
1988 The Urania Trust creates the Astrology Study Centre in London and publishes first issue of the international Yearbook on Astrology.
1990 In the USA, Project Hindsight launched by Robert Hand and Robert Schwarz to recover the ancient origins of astrology by the translated early Greek, Latin and Arabic text.
1996 The Tenacious Mars Effect by Ertel and Irving confirms Gauquelin’s findings.
1997 Cosmos and Culture – journal for study of astrology in world culture launched.
1998 CPA launches Apollon – journal for psychological astrology.
The Work of the Gauquelins
No history of 20th-century astrology would be complete without mention of the remarkable work of the French psychologist and statistician Dr Michel Gauquelin (1928-91) and his demographer wife Françoise (1929- ). Between them they gathered many tens of thousands of birth certificates of famous individuals from all over Europe. Birth certificates on the continent include the time of birth. Using this information, the Gauquelins were able to demonstrate statistically that eminent professionals tended to be born when particular planets were:
- close to the eastern or western horizon or
- close to the upper meridian, their highest point in the sky or
- close to the lower meridian, the lowest point.
For example, future champion athletes, eminent military men and entrepreneurs tend to be born when Mars, god of the warrior, is so placed. By contrast, the Gauquelins found that future eminent scientists tend to be born when Saturn, bestower of the saturnine cautious, methodical, intellectual temperament, is prominent. Future actors and politicians tend to be born when self-important, jovial Jupiter is in these positions. Future politicians are also found to be born with an angular Moon, as are future writers and journalists.
Despite attempts by several committees of sceptics to disprove these results, often using dubious methods, the observations have replicated again and again with fresh samples of data. An impartial survey of all the evidence by Suitbert Ertel, Professor of Psychology of GÅ‘ttingen University in Germany, has concluded in The Tenacious Mars Effect that it is time that sceptics embraced the reality of these results and accepted the challenge they present in the prevailing world-view. Hans Eysenck, (1967-97), Professor of Psychology at London University and a strict experimentalist, came to the same conclusion.
Emerging From Isolation
Astrology during the 20th century has been gradually emerging from 200 years of isolation. It is still not accepted by most academics, and encyclopaedias still omit it from the map of 20th century knowledge, or include it with scornful asides. Faced with the upsurge of interest in astrology, sociologists try to explain it as a superstitious reaction to the nihilism of the 20th century. Meanwhile, astrologers have simply got on with their work and have developed the study in exciting and philosophically challenging new areas. During the century, there has been a growing number of intellectuals who have slipped through the ring fence of academic scorn and now experiment with astrology.
The great Irish poet, dramatist and philosopher W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) studied and used astrology daily throughout must of his adult life. C.G. Jung (1875-1961), the great Swiss psychologist, was a pioneer in this area and wrote to Sigmund Freud:
My evenings are taken up very largely with astrology. I make horoscopic calculations in order to find a clue to the core of psychological truth.
Likewise, in Austria, Oscar Adler, the medical doctor and musician brother of the great psychologist Alfred Adler, was a pioneer of modern astrology, and wrote a four-volume work, An Astrologer’s Testament. Also in Austria, the philosopher and painter Thomas ring (1892-1983) wrote and lectured widely on astrology throughout his life. In Germany between the wars, the traveller and philosopher Count Herman Keyserling (1922- ), Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vienna, and a humanistic psychologist, lectures and teaches regularly throughout Europe on astrology.
The late Dr James S. Williamsen (1941-88), a brilliant American mathematician resident at King’s College Cambridge and the Oxford Computing Laboratory, summed up the nub of the matter. When asked why, as a penetrating student of artificial intelligence, he would stoop to study astrology, Williamsen replied: If we truly want to create artificial intelligence then we must first understand the operations of the Mind which created our minds. From my studies it seems clear that astrology holds a key to understanding and mapping the workings of what from earliest times was known as the Divine Intelligence.
Such views on the implications of astrology are not only to be heard from questing scientists, Professor Dr L. Cunibert Mohlburg of the Vatican Institute of Archaeology forecast in his book Candi’s Letter to Tschu that: If we look ahead it is already possible to say that Astrology seems destined to lead all other branches of knowledge out of the blind alley of unspiritual rationalism and materialism ... and effect the reconciliation that Science so ardently desires with Belief.
At the present time, a leading contemporary philosopher Dr Richard Tarnas, author of the much-acclaimed history of Western thought, Passion of the Western Mind, has said he believes that:
Psychology textbooks of the future will look upon modern psychologists working without the aid of astrology as being like medieval astronomers working without the aid of a telescope.
Objections to Astrology
How Could Astrology Possibly Work?
Whether you are a true believer, an open-minded enquirer, or a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic, astrology presents us with a problem. How could it possibly work? What possible connection can there be between the positions of the planets at the time of birth and our character and destiny, or between planetary movements and the movements of the stock market, or major political changes?
Astrology certainly runs contrary to the approach of science of the past 300 years and more. Scientific success has bred arrogance, and media pundits with only the dimmest understanding of the history of ideas will speak derogatorily of astrology as a throwback to superstitious un-reason. In fact, of all subjects astrology still addresses the inherent reasonableness of life, as we shall see in the next chapter.
Different newspapers give different forecasts from the same information. All too true. Most newspaper columns are light-hearted fun and pour out ‘thoughts of the day’ without too much reference to the cosmic climate. Even the best and most conscientious of newspaper astrologers is faced with trying to reduce a cosmic ocean of information into a single sip. This is sound-bites gone mad, and horoscope columns imply that they contain far greater personal information that they could ever supply. That said, a particular period of time will, on average, be more stressful or advantageous for certain signs. Prevailing surges in energy or tense patterns will tend to be picked up by some types rather than others. But for any particular individual, the ‘signals’ are likely to be swamped out by more personal factors.
The Gravity of the Midwife
Scientific critics of astrology say that it is absurd to believe that the planets can have any effect of our character or destiny since the gravitational mass of the midwife in attendance at birth is far greater than any possible pull of the planets. This, like many arguments put forward by physical critics of astrology, assumes that astrology is measuring material causes. In fact, as we shall see in the next chapter, it is clear that astrology measures the unfoldment of formal cause in the cosmos.
For example, the disillusionment with Communism and the impulse for political change which swept through Europe in 1989 as Jupiter opposed a tightening Saturn-Neptune conjunction had no physical gravity. The intellectual gravitas of these compelling ideas was more compelling than any number of secret police or border guards. The ‘ideas of the time’ swept all before them far more effectively than any hurricane or tidal wave. For astrologers, the cosmic configurations of that time ‘birthed’ a decisive new reality for the world.
Precession of the Equinoxes
The signs of the zodiac used by astrologers in the West are no longer the same as the constellations in the sky of the same name. This is perfectly true and all astrologers are aware of this fact. The Western tropical zodiac is measured from what astronomy calls the First Point of Aries, the point where the Sun crosses the Equator and follows the seasonal cycle. It measures unfolding life in relation to our Earth. The Fixed Zodiac of the Constellations measures out a larger more cosmic cycle of reference. Whilst this book focuses on the tropical zodiac, both frames of reference have their place in a larger astrology. An analogy might be that someone might be a sun Leo in terms of their local political scene, a king: a big fish in a small pond. But when they graduate to national politics they get measured against another scale and may be a Sun Cancer, and a much less self-assured creature, a crab in a much vaster ocean.
The Stars in the Constellations are often Not Part of the Same Star System
Astrology is not dependent on the constellations being all of a piece. No-one looking at the constellations and asked to make pictures would see the animals and images that they are supposed to represent. It is clear that the ancients gave the names in order to summarise and symbolise their experience of planets moving through that part of the sky. The signs of the zodiac, whether tropical or fixed, tell a story of unfolding ideas which follows a particular sequence. In fact, there is also a branch of astrology which studies the significance of specific Fixed Stars. Again, the meaning of the individual stars is based on observation and is in no way dependent upon it being part of a particular constellation.
Heliocentric rather than Geocentric
Since Copernicus it has been known that the Earth moves around the Sun and not vice versa. It is argued that astrology is Earth-centred and seems to assume that the planets move around the Earth. Astrologers are well aware of the distinction. In practice we live on the Earth and not the Sun, and in terms of the unfolding of planetary ideas for humankind it is therefore the Earth-centred view that is most relevant. There is, however, much to be learned from heliocentric astrology, which is a whole area of astrology in its own right. Most objections to astrology come from individuals who can think only in terms of physical, material causes. Anyone who has worked in astrology for any length of time knows that astrology has to do with an algebra of meaning and consciousness rather than purely of matter.
Physical Theories about Astrology
All that said, there are still some astrologers who can only feel comfortable with material causes. And there is a range of theories that have been elaborated to explain how astrology might work. The analogy of the Moon an ocean tides is often invoked. The human body is over 90 per cent water. Do the planets have minute tidal effects within our bodies?
Related to this theory is Dr Percy Seymour’s eloquent resonance theory, which points out that resonance can give wave forms power out of all proportion to their inherent energy. Classic examples of this are the singer who can break a glass at a distance by signing the glass’s ‘note’ so that it vibrates itself to pieces. Likewise an army marching over a bridge has to break step so as not to set the bridge vibrating to its own natural frequency and make it fall apart. In this model, the planets in their movements are setting up wave forms with which the child resonates and ‘tunes in’, thereby establishing certain types of behaviour.
Endocrinologist Dr Frank MacGillion has put forward endocrine secretions from the pineal gland as a possible mechanism, pointing out numerous studies which highlight the importance of the state of the day-night cycle at the time of birth and its effects on melatonin secretions. Dr Michel Gauquelin, the French psychologist and statistician, whose work is cited above, postulated a genetic predisposition, whereby a baby with a martial genetic make-up would e tuned to Mars orbit.
Such theories may perhaps explain certain very limited astrological phenomena. However elegant some of these theories are, though, they simply cannot explain how it is that a chart set for the moment of the formation of a company can provide detailed information about its likely company style, its development and the kind of people that it will attract to it.
In the next chapter w look at the central philosophical principles upon which astrology is traditionally based. Even if you are someone who would prefer a neat physical cause-and-effect model, you will find that if you engage with these ideas they will provide a framework within which to think about astrology.
The Ancients Said it All
The philosophy of the astrological world-view, which assumes an intimate, meaningful connection between the above and the below, has never been more eloquently expressed than by the writings attributed to the wise Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus. In this passage, the relationship of the Cosmic Principles to their Source is being explained to Hermes by the great Pymander: (from The Divine Pymander of Hermes Trismegistus, ed. The Shrine of Wisdom, 1970.)
Hermes Trismegistus: Many men have affirmed many and diverse things concerning things concerning the Cosmos and God, but I have not learned Truth; therefore, O Lord, make plain these things to me.
Pymander: Hear, then, my Son, how these things are of God and the Cosmos.
- God; Eternity; the Cosmos; Time; Generation.
- God maketh Eternity;
Eternity maketh the Cosmos;
The Cosmos maketh Time;
Time maketh Generation.
- The Substance, or Essence, as it were, of God, is the Good, the Beautiful, Blessedness, and Wisdom;
of Eternity, is Identity and Sameness
of the Cosmos, is Order;
of Time, is Change;
of Generation, is Life and Death.
- The Operation, Energy, or Activity of God, is in Nous and Soul;
of Eternity, is in Permanence and Immortality;
of the Cosmos, is in Integration and Re-integration;
of Time, is in Augmentation and Diminution;
of Generation, is in Qualities.
- Therefore, Eternity is in God;
The Cosmos is in Eternity;
Time is in the Cosmos;
Generation is in Time.
- Eternity abides with God;
The Cosmos is moved in Eternity;
Time is accomplished (ie has its limit) in the Cosmos;
Generation takes place in Time.
- Therefore, the Source and Foundation of All is God, but the Essence of Substance is Eternity; and the Matter is the Cosmos.
- The Power of God is Eternity; the Work of Eternity is the Cosmos, which is unmanifest and also ever being made manifest by Eternity.
- Therefore the Cosmos shall never be destroyed, nor the things in it perish, for Eternity is indestructible, and the Cosmos is contained and encompassed by Eternity.
A Contemporary Synthesis
At the end of the 20th century, the re-emergence of astrology challenges the Western mind once again to find a framework of thought that can resolve the tension that has existed since the Greeks – between Platonic idealism with its emphasis on consciousness and Aristotelian empiricism with its emphasis on matter. For, of all studies, astrology demands a philosophy and framework of thought that embraces both physics and meta-physics, the temporal and the eternal, the manifest and the unmanifest, the observed and the intuited, the material and the formal. The phenomena of astrology demand a model of the universe that it inclusive of quantity and qualities, matter and consciousness. Hermes Trismegistus’s perspective, above, with its emphasis on the relation of the temporal to the eternal, offers such a resolution in principle. The problem, then, is to translate these insights into a form and language that is intelligible to contemporary thought.
One contemporary thinker who has embraced this challenge is Will Keepin, a nuclear physicist, whose mother and father were both nuclear physicists, who is also a practising astrologer. Keepin has been obliged by the reality of his astrological experience to engage with the resolution of these world-views. He finds a meeting place in the work of the late David Bohm, a student of Einstein, who was until recently Professor of Theoretical Physics at London University. In his book Wholeness an the Implicate Order, Bohm pictures the universe as having both an implicate, eternal, ‘enfolded’ order which is unfolded in the explicate order of space-time. Bohm sees each moment of space-ti9me a both an explicit manifestation of a particular part of that implicate order and a point of access and linkage to that Wholeness. This evokes the holographic image of reality that we see reflected in the relationship between cells in a body as a whole. In an interview in The Mountain Astrologer, February/March 1997, Keepin sums up the implication of Bohm’s work and his own thinking as follows:
Any natural science from physics to biology to astrology is basically an enterprise of pattern recognition, which utilises a naturally existing order to discern replicable truths. So astrology is a science of the order in meaning, and the correlation between the subtle order and the Cartesian order in the physical motion of the planets.
For each point in space-time there is a unique astrological chart. I see the astrological chart as a kind of cosmic indexing of the unfolding cosmos. In this grand evolutionary process, each point in the emergent space-time is characterised by a unique astrological chart. It is almost as if the chart is an index for the creative process of cosmic evolution. And when one is born with a particular chart, one becomes an ambassador of sorts to the rest of the cosmos, representing a unique moment in the cosmic space-time to the rest of the cosmos as it continues to fold.
Each one of us is expressing a particular aspect of the mystery and bringing it into fluid relationship with the rest of the unfolding mystery. Now in terms of astrology and the implicate order, I see the implicate order as a vast realm of meaning and purpose and all of the invisible and intangibles, including, at its deepest levels, the creative process of love itself.
The implicate order is essentially the whole of the unmanifest realm, and the laws that operate in that domain. Astrology is an attempt to map out some of the elementary workings in that domain, and it works by utilising the non-Cartesian order and non-material laws that govern that domain.
When Keepin’s perspective is put together with the insights of the great British astrologer, philosopher and mystic John Addey, who also draws on Bohm, as in A New Science of Astrology, a picture begins to emerge of astrology as a systematic algebra of life and consciousness which is entirely compatible with the new physics, it also has the power to reveal to physics and was familiar to the ancients but which has been all too long neglected and denied. This is the dimension of cosmic meaning, purpose and intention.