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Astrology

Category: Mystic groups and systems

 

To place astrology in amongst the Mystic systems may seem completely peculiar to those whose only exposure to astrology is via magazine horoscopes, but it is – at its best – an extremely helpful mystic system, as it attempts to cover a number of areas that other mystic systems do not.

In its purest cleanest form, it requires deep understanding of a number of key concepts, as such it is not an easy area to get involved in.  In order to understand astrology in its mystic [as opposed to general or even recreational sense], one has to understand something of the meaning of :

  • The Great Work – the creation, evolution, maintenance and destruction of the universe and our solar system and the plan which orders the sequence of this work.  Within this concept we can also find the notions of increments of development and configurations
  • Destiny – the role a thing takes within the Great work.  Why we are here.  If a large overall task of some kind covers many lifetimes then this is called a challenge, but in each lifetime one has a set number of smaller tasks which contribute to the overall challenge; this is one’s destiny. 
  • Personality – the set of attributes or characteristics allocated on birth to help one achieve one’s destiny.  A large part of astrology centres on the idea of ‘Personality’.  As things as well as animals can be a part of the Great Work, the concept of ‘Personality’ has been extended to include every physical entity - person, business or animals.  For example the business of Cadburys – the chocolate maker – had at one time a very distinct ‘personality’ largely governed by its founders and their characteristics and beliefs.  Its ‘personality’ had a huge influence and determined how the business was run.

Objectives of [mystic] astrology

 

The aim of astrology within the mystic system context is to help people determine their Destiny by understanding their Personality.  From whence comes the expression Know thyself.

It is worth adding two essential points to this straightforward objective.

  • Free will - All men and women have free will.  Even knowing your Personality and Destiny, nothing forces anyone to make attempts to fulfil their destiny.  The person may decide they do not want to be on the spiritual path and may simply want to spend their entire life devoted to the “frivolous pursuit of pleasure, wealth and sensual delights” [not my words].  The main reason for wanting to fulfil one’s Destiny is that it means you will not get reincarnated on this ‘plane’ or planet again.  You will be somewhere, but it won’t be planet earth.
  • Timing – the pursuit of one’s Destiny does not exclude pleasure, wealth and sensual delights.  Sometimes these can be enjoyed before the serious pursuit starts, sometimes the pursuit of one’s Destiny even involves pleasure, wealth and sensual delights!

Archetypes – the Planets


 
The mask ........

Everyone’s Personality is a collection of Attributes and characteristics.  Each attribute consists of two contrasting aspects of the same property.  Thus ‘serious’ may be paired with ‘frivolous’. 

If we thus imagine various shelves of these attributes, then the Personality of everything is created by selecting the ones of most use to their role during this lifetime.  So they may be a ‘brave’, ‘tough’, ‘insensitive’, individual if their role demands conflict and battle; whereas if the person is, say, to be a nurse, she may be given ‘empathetic’, ‘kind, ‘sensitive’, as principal attributes.  The brave toughy is going to be a failure at being a nurse, but then the sensitive soul is going to be too timid to tackle the toughy’s role.  Horses for courses.

As one can see, even if we ignore the concept of Destiny, knowing your Personality might help a lot in deciding what you do as a job or career.  Square pegs can go in square holes and round ones in round holes.

All the attributes are grouped into the ‘Planets’. 

The Planets are not the physical planets. 

The physical planets were named after the Archetypes as a sort of convenient memory aid.  As the sky is always available at night, the planets physically were always there as a reminder. 

Carl Gustav Jung – Psychology and Alchemy
As we all know, science began with the stars and mankind discovered in them the dominants of the unconscious, …..  A complete projected theory of human character

 

Because everyone has different attributes from different shelves as it were, no one person is all ‘Venus’, or all ‘Mars’, there is a bit of a mix and match.

Triangles, set squares, planets, compasses, Star of David  - once
all part of one integrated symbol system

Astrologers initially grouped the characteristics into seven – matching the seven Intelligences that had already been determined.  But since more physical planets have been found, there has been a reassessment and some difficult to classify attributes have been allocated to these archetypes – the ‘Neptunian’ character, the ‘Uranus’  and the ‘Plutonian’ character for example.  Whether Pluto exists astronomically matters not a jot to a mystic system astrologer – the archetype still exists, although of course there is a great deal of debate on the archetypes themselves.

Besides the ten "classical" planet archetypes whose importance is recognized by all astrologers, there are several other archetypes, which are not all regarded as equally important by all astrologers. Chiron has been widely acknowledged. Some astrologers observe the greater asteroids, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta and include them in their interpretations. In addition to this, certain schools of astrology work with a series of so-called hypothetical planets, which cannot be related to any of the known physical bodies.  For example the moon’s nodes are those points where the paths of the moon and the earth cross, so nothing physical at all

First steps in astrology – by Liz Greene

Most astrologers see these points as being of karmic significance: The ascending or northern node is said to represent the spiritual development called for in this life, while the descending or southern node represents experience gathered during previous lives. Another point of view regards the northern node as a point of meeting, signifying important connections, while the south node indicates separation.

 

An Ottoman Calendar made for Sultan Abdulmecid I

 

This is not rocket science, and it is no accident that a number of mystic astrologers also have psychology degrees. 

Ultimately this is a form of psychology - a study of mind and behaviour. 

It is essentially an applied science which seeks to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles, researching specific cases and providing easy to remember classifications. 

Instead of having to say the vague, dreamy, dippy, nebulous, other worldly disorderly, disorganised, unmethodical, scatty, absent-minded, and untidy archetype – they can say the Neptunian archetype.

 

Dante – The Divine Comedy

 So reader, raise your eyes with me
To the high spheres, and straight to the part
Where one motion strikes upon the other

And there begin to brood upon the skill
Of that Performer who, in his own mind,
So loves it that He never takes His eyes off it.

See how from that point there branches off
The oblique circle which carries the planets
To satisfy the world which calls on them

And if their path had not been so deflected
So much of the sky's virtue would have been vain
And almost every power upon earth dead;

And if the departure from the straight line
Had been more or less than it is, much would be lacking
In the order of the world, below and above.

Stay reader, where you are seated now
And think over what is here adumbrated
If you want to find it pleasant and not wearisome

I have put it before you, now help yourself

 

Archetypes - The Signs of the Zodiac

 

Franz von Stuck, ceiling in the music room of Villa Stuck, Munich, 1898

The Great Work is a massive project.  Massive projects need plans and plans need stages – a Method

The Signs of the Zodiac are thus the stages in the Method – a method incidentally which is of equal use on earth as it is in evolution.

Again method and symbols came before any allocation to the physical constellations. 

The physical constellations are an aide memoire.

 

A Dictionary of Symbols – J E Cirlot
Mertens Stienon… distinguishes between the astronomical Zodiac – the constellations – and the intellectual Zodiac – symbols – affirming that it was the constellations that took their names from the symbols

A description of the stages is provided in the description for the Signs of the Zodiac, but key to understanding one’s Destiny is the added need to understand the extra dimension of knowing which part of the method you are working on [and when].

Aquarius

At various stages of your life you may be on different activities – a Virgo one moment and a Libra the next.

For example, you may be talkative, garrulous, expressive, desperate to communicate and help people [attributes – the Planets].  And as a consequence in terms of the archetypes of the Signs of the Zodiac and the Method, you will be a natural Gemini person. 

Maybe you are the sort of person who is critical, destructive, robust, always battering away at sacred cows, a bit hard hearted too [attributes – the Planets].  You may also find you are a Scorpio – a tester of new systems and new ideas, a natural and valuable person to have around to make sure the new ‘ship’ has been properly built before you set her afloat.

In essence, just like any earthly project, as one is given a type of job to do at some point in life, the attributes you have but in fact you saw no need for before, suddenly become absolutely essential to that task and that stage. 

The ‘Birth chart’

Padua, Milan

It matters little to this explanation how someone’s birth chart is calculated [and it is a source of much discussion and even argument amongst serious astrologers].  The key factor is that by a process which has been turned into a computer programme and can thus be run automatically, a birth chart can be produced for a person or thing.

But this birth chart shows all attributes [the Planetary archetypes] and all the stages on which one may work [signs of the Zodiac archetype] for the person’s entire life.  It is not some character blueprint.  This is why twins may have the same chart but be different.

Furthermore, the chart does not show the actual task only the type of task.  So for example you may have a Gemini style activity – education and marketing – but the chart does not tell you who you will be educating or what you will be educating them in.

We don’t know the future and we don’t know our actual roles until we get them.  Nor in general do we know what part we have played.  But no one should ever say ‘my life has been wasted’, because in between the frivolity and pleasure seeking, you may actually have done something that appears insignificant, but is actually truly key.  The butterfly wings that cause a tornado of positive change.

Zodiac and the caducei on the Bolsward Pulpit in Friesland

We are kept in the dark deliberately, only the mystic ever understands a slightly wider picture and even then, they too are not given the whole truth.  This is because people have a habit of interfering – sometimes with good intentions – but messing things up. 

But knowing what you are and best at, knowing you have a purpose, knowing that in many respects no attributes, however apparently useless or annoying, are that, is itself extremely helpful, because you can build on those traits in your career and in addition you can also be more accepting of yourself, at peace with who you are.  

And as life throws things at you apparently randomly, you might start to see a pattern which might be better construed as ‘training’.

The key in all things is to go with the flow, to accept the chances and understand the setbacks. 

Astrology with its archetypes and birth chart can thus be used to prepare for life. 

Emily Dickinson
And the Earth they tell me
On its Axis turned
Wonderful rotation
But by twelve performed

 

The history of astrology as a whole

Mystic astrology is just one strand in the wider astrological belief system.  In the same way that yoga is the mystic branch of Hinduism, mystic astrology is a part of astrology as a whole.   

There are three main branches of astrology today, namely Western astrology, Indian or Jyotish astrology and Chinese or East Asian astrology.  The objectives in each branch are the same, however, they differ in the way time is divided and named.

Western astrology

 

The study of Western astrology and the belief in it, as part of astronomy, can be traced back to ancient Babylonia, and indeed to the earliest phases of Babylonian history, in the third millennium B.C.  The earliest extant Babylonian astrology text is the Enuma Anu Enlil dating back to 1600 B.C.

Astrology coupled with astronomy came to Greece about the middle of the 4th century B.C. and reached Rome before the advent of the Christian era.  With the introduction of Greek culture into Egypt, both astronomy and astrology were actively practised in the region of the Nile.

Astrology was further developed by the Arabs from the 7th to the 13th century.

Astrology became embodied in the Kabbalistic lore of Jews and Christians and through these and other channels came to be the substance of the astrology of the Middle Ages from the 5th to the 16th century.  Both Church prelates and Protestant princes used the services of astrologers. During the Middle Ages astrologers were called mathematici. The term mathematicus was used to denote a person proficient in astrology, astronomy, and mathematics. Inasmuch as some practice of medicine was based to some extent on astrology, physicians learned some mathematics and astrology.

Astronomy began to diverge from astrology after a period of gradual separation during the Renaissance [14th to the 17th century ].  By the 18th century, astronomy had become a separate discipline concentrating on the scientific study of astronomical objects without regard to the astrological correlations with events or other phenomena.

Jyotish astrology

 

Astrology is one of the six auxiliary disciplines of Vedic religion and is found in the Mundaka Upanishad dating it to Mauryan times [322-185 BCE]. The Vedanga Jyotisha which also dates to the Mauryan period, has rules for tracking the motions of the sun and the moon.

The interaction of Indian and Hellenistic cultures in the Indo-Greek period also contributed to astrological advancement. The oldest astrological treatise in Sanskrit is the Yavanajataka ("Sayings of the Greeks"), a versification by Sphujidhvaja in 269/270 CE of a now lost translation of a Greek treatise by Yavanesvara during the 2nd century CE under the patronage of the Western Satrap Saka king Rudradaman I.

The first named authors writing treatises on astronomy are from the 5th century CE, the date when the classical period of Indian astronomy can be said to begin. Besides the theories of Aryabhata in the Aryabhatiya and the lost Arya-siddhānta, there is the Pancha-Siddhāntika of Varahamihira.

Chinese or East Asian astrology

 

Astrology is believed to have originated in China about the 3rd millennium BC. Astrology was always traditionally regarded very highly in China, and indeed Confucius is said to have treated astrology with respect saying: "Heaven sends down its good or evil symbols and wise men act accordingly".

 The 60 year cycle combining the five elements with the twelve animal signs of the zodiac has been documented in China since at least the time of the Shang (Shing or Yin) dynasty (ca 1766BC - CA 1050BC).

One of the most famous astrologers in China was Tsou Yen who lived in around 300 BC, and who wrote: "When some new dynasty is going to arise, heaven exhibits auspicious signs for the people". Astrology in China also became combined with the Chinese form of geomancy known as Feng shui.

Other examples

The Mayans of Central America and the Aztecs also developed their own form of astrology coupled with astronomy.  The sites of the Mayan civilisation often feature extremely complex astronomical observatories, an example being those at Chichen Itza.

The calenders of Pre-Columbian MesoAmerica are based upon a system which had been in common use throughout the region, dating back to at least the 6th century BCE.  The earliest calendars were employed by peoples such as the Zapotecs and Olmecs, and later by such peoples as the Maya , Mixtec and Aztecs. Although the Mesoamerican calendar did not originate with the Maya, their subsequent extensions and refinements to it were the most sophisticated. Along with those of the Aztecs, the Maya calendars are the best-documented and most completely understood.

Other cultures and civilizations around the world also developed their own astrological systems independently.  Our own Stonehenge has been cited as an example of an ancient astronomical observatory used for astrology.

The loss of the Mystic system

There appears to be some evidence that at one time, astrology was mystic astrology.  The astrology that is in place today is thus not the astrology described in the history above.  One explanation as to why this is the case can be found in Henry Corbin’s thorough analysis:

History of Islamic Philosophy - Henry Corbin

The mention of Bactria and the Bactrians, brings to mind the act of the Barmecides which was responsible for the rise of Iranianism at the 'Abbasid court, and for the leading position which the Iranian family of that name attained in the affairs of the Caliphate (752-804). The name of their ancestor, the Barmak, designated the hereditary dignity of the office of high priest in the Buddhist temple of Nawbihar (Sanskrit nova vihara, 'nine monasteries') at Baudi, described by later legend as a Temple of Fire. Everything that Baudi, 'mother of cities', had absorbed over the centuries from the various cultures — Greek, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Nestorian Christian — went on in it; it was destroyed, but rebuilt in 726 by the Barmak.

In short, mathematics and astronomy, astrology and alchemy, medicine and mineralogy, and, together with these sciences, an entire pseudepigraphic literature, were centred in the towns which lined the great road to the East, the road taken of old by Alexander. …………………….. 
From the middle of the eighth century, astronomers and astrologers, doctors and alchemists, set out from these towns towards the new seat of spiritual life created by Islam. There is an explanation for this phenomenon. All these sciences — alchemy, astrology — were part and parcel of a complete system that the orthodox Christianity of the Great Church sought out only in order to destroy.
Conditions in the East differed from those in the Roman Empire, Eastern or Western. As one approached the East, the influence of the Great Church grew progressively less (whence the reception accorded to the Nestorians). What was then at stake was the fate of an entire culture, designated by Spengler as a 'magical culture'…….

 Al-Biruni was attached to the Mahmud of Ghaznah’s entourage and accompanied him in his conquest of India. Afterwards he returned to Ghaznah, where he dedicated the rest of his life to study. He died in 448/1048.  Mahmud's bloody invasion of India had one compensation, if one may so put it, in the fact that it was there that the scholar in his entourage collected the material for his masterpiece.  Al-Biruni's great book on India is unrivalled in the Islam of that time. Written at first hand, it remained the source of all that was written later on the religions and philosophies of India. In it, the author testifies to the harmony that he perceives to exist between Platonic-Pythagorean philosophy, Indian wisdom, and certain Sufi concepts in Islam.

Overall

Zodiac signs in The Hunterian Psalter

Mystic astrology is now just one strand in the wider astrological belief system. 

But at one time it appears to have been the only strand and was integrated into the system apparent on this site which we have attempted to reconstruct, with its symbols, concepts and practises.   

There are a very significant number of astrologers who work outside this mystic purpose.  They obtain horoscopes for people and tend to serve those who are not on the spiritual path.  A trawl through the Internet at the moment is unlikely to yield any of the information provided above.

It may be worth adding that just as religion has thousands of theologians for any one mystic or true spiritual traveller, there are very very few mystic astrologers these days.  If you find one - nurture them.

Observations

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