Astrology as illustrative and reflective, rather than causative
I love this quote from Chris Brennans new book on Hellenistic astrology:
“Despite the formulaic nature of astrological omens, the astrologers themselves did not necessarily think that there was a direct causal connection between celestial and earthly events. Instead, the celestial omens acted as signs or indications of the future that were sent by the gods, and not as causes of the events that they correlated with. The stars in particular were seen as a sort of ‘heavenly writing’ that was inscribed across the sky. Naturally, as Rochberg points out, ‘the notion of the stars as a heavenly script implies their capacity to be read and interpreted.’ Thus in the earliest Babylonian strata of astrological tradition, astrology was seen to be a type of language.”
This supports what I often say, that the planets do not cause things to happen, rather they merely reflect ones karma. The birth chart is an illustration of ones sanskaras for a given lifetime, and there are various techniques to look more closely at a specific timeframe within the lifetime... We are drawn to astrology to gain insight, understanding, and acceptance of the complexity of circumstances we find ourselves in and the attributes we came in with, as well as the inner and outer events and developments that unfold over time.
It appears that some ancient astrologers placed great value on endeavoring towards acceptance of life as it is and developing forbearance, equanimity, and contentment regardless of circumstances (as revealed by, not caused by one’s astrology). The Vettius Valens (c.175 CE) quote at the beginning of Chris’s book is incredible: “Those who engage in the prediction of the future and the truth, having acquired a soul that is free and not enslaved, do not think highly of fortune, and do not devote themselves to hope, nor are they afraid of death, but instead they live their lives undaunted by disturbance by training their souls to be confident, and neither rejoice excessively in the case of good, nor become depressed in the case of bad, but instead are content with whatever is present. Those who do not desire the impossible are capable of bearing that which is preordained through their own self-mastery; and being estranged from all pleasure or praise, they become established as soldiers of fate”
This strikes me as counter to the modern concept of “manifesting” one’s desires and dreams. I resonate with Valens and appreciate the realism and dignity of his words. I am still certainly a proponent of trying one’s best to improve one’s self or one’s lot whenever possible, as that may also be part of the path, but striving for equanimity and acceptance if or when certain things seem unchangeable is just as worthwhile.
“Newspaper reporters would regularly seek interviews with Meher Baba, and sometimes he would consent… ‘But what about astrology?’ the reporter asked. ‘Everything has something to do with spirituality. It depends on how it is worked out.’ “ (From LM, p. 2077)
The news about the historic first time ever flyby of Pluto is a few days old now but still interesting to me, and this is the first chance I’ve had to post anything. At the very moment of the flyby of Pluto by NASA’s fast moving spacecraft, New Horizons, which took almost ten years to get to Pluto — the Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Mars were all opposing Pluto. The opposition is an aspect of awareness of the Other. It is like looking across a round table at someone sitting exactly opposite you. Although they are furthest away from you, you are in a position to have the most clear, straight-on view of them compared to all the other seats around the table. So with the faster moving planets in this opposite position we got a much better look at Pluto, who is known to us in astrology as the hidden, mysterious, and powerful symbolic god of the underworld. On the day of the flyby the Sun and Moon were unified in Cancer opposing Pluto in Capricorn, representing a sort of spotlight bringing our undivided attention to Pluto. Additionally Mercury’s opposition represents communication with and about Pluto, and Mars represents decisive and probing action regarding Pluto. Wherever Pluto is currently transiting in your birth chart will give an idea of the area of life that is undergoing a slow but profound death and rebirth process (what we associate with Pluto). During the last couple of weeks with this four pointed opposition to Pluto — we had an opportunity for more awareness of what is being disintegrated and transformed within ourselves or our lives.
These faster moving planets were acting as triggers, going over the degrees of the longer-term transit of Uranus square Pluto, which is correlated with a groundbreaking turning point for us individually and collectively, as well as now literally with new astronomical information about Pluto. Even though Pluto is small in size (though New Horizons found it to be larger than anticipated) and even though scientists are finding many other dwarf planets out there in space, I trust there is a reason why Pluto is unique and has been part of our consciousness for a long time. I am struck by the heart-shaped landmass shown in the new photos of Pluto and widely circulated and discussed in the media. Pluto is associated with doing the heavy and sometimes frightening psychological work of confronting one’s unconscious shadow parts. But this new mass awareness of Pluto’s heart, suggests that on a psycho-spiritual level, once we actually have the capacity to get a closer view of our own deeply hidden feelings and motives, for instance, as symbolized by this distant and invisible (to the naked eye) body in our solar system, we may also discover a more welcoming and loving part of ourselves that we never knew before.
An Eclectic Approach ~ Modern and Ancient Astrology
There are countless ways to practice astrology and within Western astrology alone there are a huge variety of systems, paradigms, and techniques from which to choose. Throughout the years of my own study and practice I have found that it serves me to remain open to all the different paradigms that I encounter, while also remaining focused and not overly diffused with too many different techniques at once. My biggest learning is always through direct observation, so when it comes to where I put my attention within the wide variety of approaches, my eclectic approach is based on personal experience of the usefulness and relevance of a particular concept or system.
When I began studying and practicing astrology, I was mostly exposed to Modern Astrology and Evolutionary Astrology. This is mainly what is out there nowadays, has many merits, and no doubt still forms the foundation of my understanding of astrology. As time went on, however, I began to encounter more Ancient or Traditional Astrology and I found these frameworks to be equally valuable. For instance, I certainly honor the modern practice of paying close attention to the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as well as Chiron), as I and many people and clients I know experience monumental internal or external events in our lives that correspond with the transits from these planets. The Uranus/Pluto square from 2012 to 2015 is a palpable example of this, being unfathomably intense for many especially those whose charts were directly lined up with the degrees of this life-changing, era-defining square (By the way, the last exact pass of this square is on March 16th, 2015).
On the other hand, I found that shifting to the Whole Sign house system (the oldest house system known); using the antiquated classification of planets in dignity, exaltation, detriment, or fall; and looking to the ancient rulers vs. the modern rulers, for example — are all undeniably useful to me when I analyze a chart. I didn’t necessarily want to adopt these older techniques, especially ones that appear on the surface to imply a value judgement, but when I investigated them I couldn’t help but notice their definite relevance. Through contemplation I realized that instead of seeing a planet that is in detriment or fall as a “bad” placement, for instance, the classification is rather a tool to acknowledge when an aspect of one’s self or one’s life (as symbolized by the planet) is experienced as inherently more challenging or uncomfortable than other planets that are more “favorably” placed. These challenges are of course not “bad,” just as squares and oppositions (aspects known to be associated with more challenges) are not “bad,” but a planet in detriment, for example, may represent a part of one’s life where one undergoes more suffering and requires more work or adjustment. I view this type of inner work or challenge as part of the divine intelligence within all of Reality, reflected perfectly in the birth chart, and for the purpose of learning and spiritual growth for the individual.
This is a good segue to the last example I will mention, regarding what I resonate with from Evolutionary Astrology. Evolutionary Astrology suggests that the birth chart is a reflection of what is needed for the soul for spiritual growth in this lifetime. My view is that the birth chart is a perfect illustration of one’s karma (the results of past impressions and actions) in this lifetime. The birth chart is literally a blueprint for how one is fulfilling one’s spiritual purpose and direction in this incarnation. Yet it is an illustration made up of symbols and full of moving parts, not a black and white, simplistic, or static depiction. Therefore it requires on-going exploration and can manifest in a multitude of ways, which will also invariably change over time as a person’s consciousness expands. I am always delighted to learn how people are living their charts. it is always more perfect then I could have imagined by looking at the chart alone.
Great quote from Nicholas de Vore�s Encyclopedia of Astrology
“In testimony wherof... Rev. John Butler, rector of Litchborough, felt himself called upon to exterminate Astrology in England. To do so effectively, he began to read “moderately” on the subject — with the result, in his own words: “ It begot in me a reverence for those grey hairs which as unjustly as ignorantly I had despised. . . I find that next to Theology, nothing leads me more near unto the sight of God than this sacred astrological study of the great works of Nature.”
“The science of Astrology is unique, and there is no science to be compared with it in one respect, that is, that all those persons who are the most ignorant of it appear to have some kind of intuition that tells them that it is utterly false or wicked, but those persons who have studied the subject always speak of it as a heavenly science or truth itself, and there is no other science that I know of that is like it in that particular.” ~Luke Broughton, The Elements of Astrology, 1898 Read more...
Some interesting info about Luke Broughton:
“Luke Broughton was an influential American astrologer although he was English by birth. He came from a family of well-known astrologers and his paternal grandfather was a disciple of Nicholas Culpeper. He was the first astrologer in America to use horoscopes of famous Americans to teach and illustrate astrology.
Broughton was born in Leeds, England in 1828. He began studying astrology in his teens. It is thought that Broughton came to America in 1854 when he was 26. He settled in Philadelphia where he studied natural medicine and graduated from Eclectic Medical College. He practiced homeopathic medicine for most of his career
In 1860, Broughton revived his brother Mark’s periodical, Broughton’s Monthly Planet Reader and Astrological Journal. He continued to publish this Journal until 1869. After anti-astrology laws were passed in Philadelphia, Broughton moved his medical office to New York City in 1863, which then became his home for the rest of his life. In 1866, he started to teach astrology emphasizing astrological medicine.
As astrology grew more controversial, Broughton defended astrology and also attempted to protect it from incompetent astrologers. In addition, he became a leading teacher of astrology in America and he appeared as a witness in court on the behalf of astrology.” ~from solstice point.com
“My reasons for ‘believing’ in astrology are extremely simple. I have studied it, I have put together facts of people’s lives with known planetary influences, and I have observed, in thousands of cases, correspondences… The endurance of astrology is one of the surest indexes of the value man places on himself and his destiny. Its roots are planted five thousand years ago, in the lore of Isreal; and its branches include every race that has a history. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Assyrians, Caldeans, Persians, Indians, all had their astrology… From esoteric and private uses, it evolved, till today we have it for what it is: a science dealing with inner, and ultimate, cause behind human conduct… It is rapidly wearing away the stigma attached to fortune-telling, and emerging in the psychology-minded twentieth century as an essential cog in the machinery of man’s understanding of himself.” ~Grant Lewi
The Sabian Symbols are 360 symbolic vignettes each corresponding to a degree of the zodiac. Many astrologers use them in chart interpretation to get a richer sense of meaning for any important planet or point in a chart, such as the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant. For instance, when I was born, the Sun was at 5º41’ Leo. The corresponding Sabian for my Sun is:
Leo 6*: A sweet old-fashioned belle, and a pert and attractive modern flapper, stand in mutual envy of each other.
From the time I was a child and my mother told me this was the symbol for my Sun, it always resonated deeply. As I got older and came to understand my chart as a whole, I began to see how not only did it capture the essence of my core (the Sun), but interestingly it also captured other prominent themes in my chart, such as my Libra Ascendent (balancing opposites, seeing the other side of the story, and a focus on aesthetics etc), my Sun conjunct Saturn (Saturn represents tradition, and therefore is “old-fashioned”) and my Sun/Saturn square Uranus (Uranus represents breaking free from old structures, and therefore fits “a modern flapper.” In some mystical way, the specific Sabian symbol for the degree of my Leo Sun acts as a holon** for my whole chart. Not everyone resonates as obviously and spontaneously with their Sabians; sometimes it takes some contemplation to penetrate into the meaning of the symbol. Read more...
To look up the Sabian Symbols relevant for your chart, click here.
I happen to use this longer, more poetic version of the Sabians, because they seem to hold more meaning for me, personally. But there is a concise version that is more well known. In that version the equivalent of my Sun is:
Leo 6: An old fashioned ‘consevative’ woman is confronted by an up-to-date girl.
I dont feel this version captures my essence as well, but some feel the concise version is the more original version. To look up the Sabian Symbols in this version, click here.
Regarding the different versions of the Sabian Symbols, here is an excerpt from Diane Applebaum:
“The story of how the Sabian Symbols came about will be found in the second chapter of Part One in Dane Rudhyars ‘An Astrological Mandala.’ Briefly put, on a day in 1925 Marc Edmund Jones and a well-known psychic, Elsie Wheeler, sat in a quiet area of a San Diego Park, yet a spot not far from the bustling world. He had a stack of 360 index cards, each with a degree of the zodiac written on it. Jones would shuffle the pile, and then, as he drew an index card, without either of them seeing which degree was written on it, Wheeler communicated a scene that came before her minds eye. In connection with each card, Jones ‘made a brief pen notation of what she said.’
[One version of the Sabians is the concise wording that Jones jotted down on the notecards and another is a more expanded version that Jones later wrote.]
Although Jones felt moved to repudiate this later version, it is also said that early on he doubted the validity of the Sabians in general. Nevertheless, a circle of astrologers around him began working with the vignettes and found them uncannily accurate and informing. Which version is the most ‘credible I leave up to the reader to choose. In my experience the different versions work for different people. In connection with this, my mind always goes to the point in the story of events in the park that day in which Jones is said to have felt that one of the symbols that Wheeler had seen internally was incorrect. He asked Wheeler, who he apparently felt was channeling a representative of the ancient Mesopotamian brotherhood with whom this ancient system of symbols had abided, to inquire about the accuracy of this symbol. After making the inquiry Wheeler conveyed to Jones that the Brother’s answer was to the effect that it was up to Jones to discover.
I believe that this detail in the series of events indicates a significant aspect of the event that took place at that momentous point in time, and should not be discounted as an irrelevant detail or of no account. The meaning or meanings of this occurrence are not something minor or inconsequential to be cast aside as simply inscrutable or without implication to the subsequent unfolding of the phenomenon of the Sabians coming forth to be formulated. It is my opinion that that question and answer indicated the next phase after the park event — of bringing the conception to birth. The uncertainty that was expressed by Jones and the question he put forth are part of the profound and esoteric living dynamics of the advent of these symbols in their reappearance, now in the modern day world. As they unfold in this ‘incarnation,’ the symbols are ‘stamped’ with this seed-developmental phase, much as a natal chart illustrates dynamics that become stamped upon the incarnating soul at the moment of its first breath in this life, and the unfolding shown by the progressions.
It may be noted that it was Jones who wrote down the particular words on the note cards, the brief descriptions. I wonder what all Wheeler said in connection with each card. And even if the case may be that she spoke only those few words which he wrote on each card, the Brother may have implied that Jones had a designated destined role to play in the rich and more descriptive formulation and presentation of the Symbols to the modern day world.
Each version has adherents and resonates with intuitive knowing and insight. Each may serve as a tool that has the potential to spark inspired and accurate imagination in different people. The version I work with is the longer more descriptive formulations which Jones circulated not in book form but in manuscript form. They are titled Lecture-Lessons, and, according to the dates at the tops of the pages, were issued between May 18, 1931 and November 9, 1931.”
*Always round up to the next degree when working with the symbols. Dane Rudhyar’s explanation: “if the symbol is referred to the position of a planet in an astrological chart, Cancer 5º begins at 4º 1” (four degrees and one second or minute) and ends with Cancer 4º59’59”; just as the first year (year number 1) of a life begins at birth and ends with the first birthday. We are dealing with a process, and ‘Phase One’ starts the very moment the process begins.”
**A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part (Wikipedia).
“The Star of David, still used as a sacred symbol by Jews worldwide, is based on the horoscope of King David, who was said to have been born with two fortunate grand trines, which interlocked to create a six pointed star. To intimidate his enemies and imply he was unbeatable, it was engraved on his armor. It must have worked, because he seems to have won all his fights and become a powerful monarch. Read more...
In modern times we still see the grand trine as a favorable pattern in the horoscope because it links all the qualities of a particular quadruplicity together - all the earth signs, or all the fire signs - in 120 degree relationships, thus providing the individual with talents in particular areas.
However, we also realize that while the grand trine implies a talent, it is a lazy aspect and the individual with such a pattern may not do a great deal with it unless a large spur is applied to the backside in some manner...
Fortunately, few people have grand trines with so little impetus. Most charts with grand trines show one or more of the three key positions receive a square or opposition. The hard aspects of square and opposition are exactly the spurs that work best with the grand trine: problems that come along regularly enough to keep the lazy aspect engaged and using its talent.”
To read the rest of this article about different aspect patterns in a chart, click here
In honor of the Sun’s passage through the sign of Sagittarius ♐ — the archetype of expanding one’s understanding of philosophical and spiritual truths — here is an excerpt from an interesting article entitled “Kabbalah and Astrology” by Rabbi Max Weiman...
What is the Jewish view of astrology?
The Bible takes a strong negative stand on Astrology. Yet, Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish mystical tradition, has sources that are based on astrological principles. Read more...
Some historians say Astrology and Astronomy were originally one discipline. Therefore, it may be that the earliest sages were well versed in both. What made it imperative for Jewish sages to delve into this study were the biblical commandments to celebrate the New Moon, and to chart the Jewish holidays in the proper season. Each month of the Hebrew calendar is one lunar cycle. The holidays are related to the seasons, so the sages had to adjust the calendar because the lunar year is shorter than the solar year. Therefore, the Jewish calendar is neither purely lunar, nor solar. It is a mixture.
In Genesis 1:14 it says, “God said, ‘There shall be lights in the heavenly sky to divide between day and night. They shall serve as omens and define festivals, days and years.” Early commentaries say that “omens” refers to how the stars and planets affect out lives. Therefore, based on the necessity for fixing the Hebrew calendar, and an understanding that stars and planets affect events it is clear that early wise men had an astrological outlook.
A mystical text called “The Chapters of Rabbi Eliezar” that was authored before the common era by a well known Jewish sage, actually outlines the hourly influences of the seven celestial bodies: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Each planet rules a different hour of the day. Each planet rules a day of the week. We still have remnants of this belief in the English names of the days of the week. The Sun rules Sunday. The Moon rules Monday. Saturn rules Saturday.
The Talmud, the Jewish legal compendium, was written over centuries and codified in approximately 500 CE. It mentions of a number of astrological ideas. In one spot it links the influences of the planets to a persons personality. Gaining insight into ones personality has been valued throughout Jewish literature in non-mystical and Kabbalistic thought. The Talmud cautions us, though, not to assume a particular trait can define us precisely. For example, someone born under the influence of Mars will be drawn to bloodshed. Its up to the person, however, to channel that inclination into being a surgeon or butcher, as opposed to becoming a murderer.
The main text of Kabbalistic Astrology is “The Book of Creation” attributed to Abraham (from the Bible). This book outlines the influence not only of the stars but also the constellations familiar to Western Astrology. [In early times, the Jews lived among the people that the historians call the founders of Astrology — the Chaldeans, and later the Babylonians. We may never know whom learned more from whom.] It lists these influences and other correspondences to each of the 12 months of the Hebrew calendar.
For example, Tishrei, the first month of the calendar year, is linked to:
1) the constellation known as Libra 2) the element -Wind 3) the letter of the Hebrew alphabet called Lamed (similar to the English “L”) 4) the gender Male 5) the planet Venus 6) the human function of Marital Relations 7) the quality of Fixation 8) the biblical tribe of Ephraim 9) and the part of the body - Bile.
Through studying the meaning behind the various aspects associated with a particular month, you can define the spiritual potential for you in each time period. The Kabbalists looked to Astrology more to get a general feeling for what a month can offer spiritually rather than to predict what will happen on any given day. They used this knowledge for personal growth.
To predict daily or hourly events would violate a biblical prohibition: “Do not act on the basis of auspicious times” (Leviticus 19:26). Predicting events too precisely leads one away from the understanding that God is involved with every molecule of existence and can alter events at will. This danger appears to be the basis of all biblical injunctions against Astrology. In order for us to have a close ongoing personal relationship with God, we need to keep the perspective that He is involved with every aspect of life. Even though He designed the heavens to have a complex system of influence, He did not set it up and walk away.
The Kabbalists use their understanding of the heavenly influences to see the spiritual potential in each time period, as opposed to predicting the future. They seek the hidden opportunities for elevation, always striving for a closer relationship with God.