The Art and Science of Astrology
Ancient Wisdom and Occult Truths concealed within Astrology
This is not a treatise on Astrology. Neither is it our intention to 'prove' the truth of Astrology to the sceptic, the scoffer and the merely curious. There are plenty of books and articles that accomplish this much better than we could, some of which we mention and review below.
Least of all do we wish to encourage those who imagine that Astrology is just another 'fortune-telling' tool. If that is the reason you are reading this article, you will be sadly disappointed! Our aim is firstly to draw our readers' attention to the Ancient Wisdom concealed within Astrology, and secondly, to provide the essential resources needed to take up the serious study of Astrology, for those who feel inspired to do so.
We have met quite a few 'occultists' who, whilst admitting they 'believe in' Astrology, say it is of little importance in occult studies. Nothing could be further from the Truth. REAL Astrology is of the greatest importance if we truly wish to master the complete edifice of Occult Science. Astrology can be a very useful tool in the hands of the true—and inspired—expert in unravelling many of the enigmas of Occult Science, it is next to useless in the hands of the tyro and the dabbler. One reason for this is that modern Astrology has been largely stripped of astronomy and its esoteric, or hidden meaning, together with the Ancient Wisdom which underpinned them both. We shall return to this later, when we discuss modern, or 'psychological' and 'humanistic' astrology.
Astrology was not called the 'Royal Art' in olden times without good reason. In those distant days it was recognised as an ART as well as a SCIENCE which encompassed a vast range of subjects, the full mastery of which was the work of a lifetime. We would add that REAL Astrology also requires an understanding of Astronomy. Indeed, they once formed ONE complete Science in Egypt and India, who in turn drew their knowledge from the Great Sages of Atlantis.
REAL Astrology is for the GIFTED; that is, if we sincerely wish to discover, understand and employ its TRUE potential, which has nothing whatsoever to do with what passes for it in the colourful 'horoscopes' published in the popular press and on the Internet. Like all true artists, the gifted astrologer is born, not made, though study, wide experience and hard work are also necessary for success. We say 'born' because the knowledge acquired in previous lives is never lost, but is retained in the memories of the Higher Self, though our temporary, earthly personality may remain partly, or even wholly unconscious of it, until some circumstance or catalyst brings it once more vividly to life. Thus are born the various child prodigies and innate genius' of which we hear so much; men and women gifted with an intuitive understanding and mastery of their particular art or science which amazes and baffles those who do not know the true Laws of evolution such as we discuss elsewhere on this website.
The past-life attainments of such gifted individuals generally advertise their presence in the form of an overmastering compulsion, or fascination with a specific subject, which given the right impetus and nourishment, will suddenly burst into flower, leaving lesser mortals gasping in astonishment at their creative genius and consummate virtuosity. Mozart is a classic example of this phenomenon which all will recognise; the poet Shelley is another. We could name many others, both known and unknown, who each in their various fields have demonstrated the fruits of the knowledge and wisdom they acquired in their previous lives. All such individuals are characterized by an intense enthusiasm for their chosen métier, for enthusiasm is nothing more nor less than the fire of inspiration, pouring into the Higher Self from the heavenly realms where dwell the archetypes of all the arts and sciences.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Astrology. A very great deal—as we will show. In 1911, a remarkable book was published entitled From Pioneer to Poet. The (then) unknown author was Isabelle M Pagan, who went on to become a truly gifted astrologer, writer and eminent theosophist. In her postscript to this little-known treatise on the twelve signs of the Zodiac, she writes:
"How (this book) came to be written at all is something of a puzzle—unless it is true, as certain clairvoyants have asserted, that in a previous incarnation in ancient Egypt, as a student and teacher of Astrology, I prepared myself for the task. Certainly, as far as actual astrological study goes, I have no preparation this time.
After a cursory glance at one or two manuals and a little talk with a sister who took it up as a summer hobby, I went straight into detailed examination of horoscopes, and within a very few weeks had made up my mind to try to classify the various types without delay. At first I worked literally day and night; sometimes awaking two of three times from sleep to write down another pair of precious analytical adjectives, or make a correction on the paper that lay beside me.
Yet, certain astrologers who worked at the subject for years, assured me, even in those first weeks, that my conclusions were correct. Gradually, as the subject unfolded itself before me, the delight and interest grew, threatening to crowd out all other interests until it arrived at the point when, instead of excluding, it embraced them all."
We have no doubt that Isabelle Pagan's training in ancient Egypt provided her with the innate knowledge to continue where she once left off. We have known, and do know, many talented men and women who have done the same and could relate some amazing stories of the astonishing achievements of these remarkable individuals, who either consciously, or semi-consciously, are able to draw on the knowledge they acquired in previous incarnations. In each case we see real inspiration at work, and the humility of the true artist who knows in their heart that all knowledge comes from God, to whom they tender thanks for the great gift received, for the benefit of those of us who are not so talented, but may become so in God's good time through our own efforts. This should silence all those 'dabblers' and half-hearted seekers after Occult 'secrets' who fondly imagine that Astrology is a subject they can master in an idle hour or two in the hope of predicting the future, finding a compatible partner or winning the lottery. That is, if they do not dismiss the whole thing as complete bunkum, which is still the prevailing scientific view. Sir Isaac Newton countered this blinkered attitude in his famous retort to the sceptical astronomer Edmund Halley (the discoverer of the comet that bears his name), when he said:
"I have studied the subject, sir, and you have NOT!"
The Antiquity of Astrology
Whether the origin of the Zodiac is Chaldean or Egyptian, Hindu, or Meso-American, or as some occultists have asserted, originated in Atlantis, it is impossible to deny its immense antiquity. "The Assyrians," says Iamblichus, "have not only preserved the memorials of seven and twenty myriads of years (270,000 years) as Hipparchus says they have, but likewise of the whole apocatastases and periods of the seven rulers of the world." (Proclus, in Timaeus).
The Sumerians studied and practised Astrology over 6000 years ago. In the Enuma Anu Enlil, a series of astrological treatises inscribed on some 68 tablets discovered in King Assurbanipal's library in the ancient city of Nineveh, we find no less than 7000 prognostications, of which the following is an example:
"If the Lion is black: the land will not be happy.
If the King is black: the director of the palace will die.
If the Raven's star is very red: the flax harvest will prosper.
If the Anzu bird's front star is very red: if it is winter, there will be frost: if it is Summer, there will be heat.
Venus is seen in the West, she is male.
Venus is seen in the East, she is female.
If the Bull of Heaven's stars are very bright: the offspring of cattle will thrive.
If the Field's stars scintillate: high water will come."
The 'Lion' is the well-known constellation of the same name, which when occulted (eclipsed) by the Moon, was considered an ill-omen. Many of the stellar bodies mentioned are difficult to identify with any certainty, but we think it likely that 'the Raven's star' is probably gamma Corvi, also called Gienah, the brightest star in the constellation Corvus, with a magnitude of 2.6. Although it is now considered to be a blue-white giant star it may well have appeared otherwise 6000 or more years ago. 'The Bull of Heaven' refers conspicuously to Taurus, and by its 'stars' the Sumerians may have meant the 'Seven Sisters' or Pleiades, a prominent open star cluster which can be seen with the naked eye. The stars of the 'Field' may have been the constellation Andromeda, whose brightest star is alpha Andromedae. 'Field' is not such a bad name for our galactic neighbour, which does indeed look like a stellar nursery, as we can see in the magnificent modern images of this beautiful object.
All this suggests that the Sumerians must have observed and catalogued the Heavens with great precision over an immense period of time. How did they do it without any telescopes or orbiting satellites to aid their researches? We have our suspicions . . . but they form no part of this article.
Simplicius (6th Century A.D.) writes that he had always heard that the Egyptians had kept astronomical observations and records for the last 630,000 years. This statement so frightened many 19th Century scholars, that one of them remarked that "if we read this number of years by the month which Euxodus said the Egyptians termed a year, that would still yield the length of two cycles of precession (or 51,736 years)." Diogenes Laertius carried back the astronomical calculations of the Egyptians to 48,863 years before Alexander the Great. Martianus Capella corroborates the same by telling posterity that the Egyptians had secretly studied astronomy for over 40,000 years, before they imparted their knowledge to the world.
These may seem immense periods of time to us, but the fact of the matter is that there is no corner of the globe, nor any period in history, when we do not find Astrology and Astronomy (once ONE Science, as we noted earlier) studied and practised by the great and the good. The Dogon people of Mali, in West Africa, have preserved the astronomical knowledge of their ancestors, who knew of the existence of the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, and the spiral structure of the Milky Way. More remarkably still, they knew that Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, has a white dwarf companion; an object which can only be detected with the most powerful modern telescopes. Again, we ask, how did they know this without the aid of modern, scientific instruments? Was it perhaps a memory inherited from Atlantis where all the sciences were cultivated to a far higher degree than today, notwithstanding our much-vaunted claims of 'scientific progress'? Or did the Dogon obtain their knowledge from some wandering group of Chaldean or Egyptian astrologers? No one can say and your guess is as good as ours, provided such guesses, or speculations, are founded on facts and not the fantasies of psychics and conspiracy theorists!
As long ago as the 4th century B.C., Hippocrates famously remarked that: "a physician without a knowledge of Astrology has no right to call himself a physician." There is much truth in this, and modern medicine, whether conventional or alternative, could benefit its patients very much more were it to take account of the astrological lore known and practised by the Wise Ones of the past. Recently, a study carried out by Rhode Island Hospital, in the U.S.A., revealed that patients undergoing surgery when the Moon was waning resulted in a lower death rate. This would not have been news to Hippocrates, who, like the ancient Egyptian physicians before him, would never have dreamed of drawing blood from the body when the Moon was waxing, or allowed their patients to be exposed to the light of the Full Moon. How little we have learned since those far-off days and how much we have forgotten! You can read more about modern medicine and health from the perspective of occult science elsewhere on our website.
Free-will versus Fate in Astrology
Despite Dante's oft-quoted axiom: "Astra inclinant, non necessitant" (The stars incline, but do not determine), the average seeker, and we may say the average occultist too, frequently regard Astrology as though it were an infallible fortune-telling device. When they discover that this is not the case, they often give up their astrological studies and turn to less challenging methods of divination, such as the Tarot, or even a cracked cup of insipid tea-leaves, leaving the dilemma of fate versus free-will well alone! Perhaps that is just as well, for this is a conundrum that has exercised the minds of some of the world's greatest philosophers, without any of them ever having come to a satisfactory conclusion. Let us see if we can do better by using a simple analogy anyone should be able to follow.
Let us imagine that two children are being taken on a sea cruise by their parents, one to the principal sights of the Mediterranean, and the other to see St Petersburg and the 'Northern Lights', or Aurora Borealis. Neither child has any say as to where he is going, but once on board ship he has complete freedom as to whether he will sunbathe, read, play on deck, go ashore on excursions, or mope in his cabin. It is no use for the child on the southern cruise to hope for a view of the Winter Palace or the Norwegian fjords, or for the child on the Northern trip to expect to see the Acropolis or the Pyramids. In the same way it is of no use for a person with Saturn in the 2nd house badly afflicted to hope for vast wealth; it isn't going to happen, no matter how many lottery tickets he or she may buy. But they will have other opportunities, denied to the wealthy, which can bring them just as much, if not greater personal fulfillment and happiness.
In short, although we are stuck with the cards 'fate' deals out to us as indicated by the tendencies in our horoscope, we have the God-given free-will to make the worst or best of them. It is entirely up to us whether we stay in our cabin and sulk or open the door and make something of ourselves and our opportunities.
But there is more to the question of free-will versus fate than the resolution of a seeming dichotomy. For it shows the possibilities, latent in most people, of actively cooperating with the Divine Will and Purpose. This is hinted at in the well-known astrological aphorism that 'the wise man rules his stars; the fool obeys them.' In The Secret Doctrine we may read:
"Yes; our destiny is written in the stars! Only the closer the union between the mortal reflection man and his celestial prototype (lower and Higher Self in our terminology), the less dangerous the external conditions and subsequent reincarnations. This is not superstition, least of all is it Fatalism.
The latter implies a blind course of some still blinder power, and man is a free agent during his stay on earth. He cannot escape his ruling Destiny, but this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice (Higher Self in our terminology), or too often by the evil genius of the embodied entity called man (the lower self in our terminology). Both these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail."
In the degree that we do cooperate with the Divine Will and Purpose (by a closer union with our Higher Self), so will the difficulties and restrictions imposed upon us by Destiny (or 'fate'—the same thing), be seen in their proper proportion and right relationships, allowing us to use them to make progress on the path to the Light, rather than being used by them. In this way, as Blavatsky says, 'external conditions' lose much of their power over us. This is wisdom of the right sort and by means of it we learn to 'rule our stars', rather than sitting down ineptly by the wayside of life like the vast majority of human beings, bewailing our 'bad stars'. We discuss the questions of prediction, free-will and predestination in greater depth in our article on Fate versus free-will.
Astrology in the Bible
The profound aspects of true Astrology were well-known in so-called Biblical times, as all may discover who read and know their Old Testament, though such knowledge was carefully hidden under the cloak of arcane symbolism, allegory and mythology. It is for this reason that the true and full significance of the secrets of the Royal Art can only be grasped by truly gifted Astrologers who have made a life-long study of the subject—as we made clear earlier. Nevertheless, even those of us who are not this kind of astrological Adept, can gain a very much deeper understanding of the subject through studying the many obvious, and many more, not-so-obvious, references to Astrology in the Bible.
The Old Testament is full of allusions to the twelve zodiacal signs, and the whole scheme is built upon it—heroes, personages, and events. Thus in the dream of Joseph, who saw eleven 'stars' bowing to the twelfth, which was his 'star,' the zodiac is meant. The twelve sons of Jacob are again a clear reference to the same, each of whose characteristics can be traced to the qualities of the corresponding sign. Reuben is declared to be as 'unstable as water' (the Vulgate has it, to be 'rushing like water,') which corresponds to Aquarius, the water-carrier. The strong fraternal association of Simeon and Levi corresponds to Gemini; Judah, 'the strong Lion' of his tribe, 'the lion's whelp', to Leo; Zabulon, who 'shall dwell at the haven of the sea', to Pisces; Issachar to Taurus, because he is 'a strong ass couching down,' etc., and therefore associated with the stables. Dan, who is described as 'a serpent, an adder in the path that biteth,' etc., is a conspicuous depiction of the dual sign Virgo-Scorpio. Naphtali, who is 'a hind (a deer) let loose' corresponds to Capricorn; Benjamin to Cancer, for he is 'ravenous'; Asher, whose 'bread shall be fat' to Libra; Joseph to Sagittarius, because 'his bow abode in strength.' It is interesting in this connection that to fill the gap of the twelfth sign, Virgo, which became separated from Scorpio when Libra was added, we find Dina, the only daughter of Jacob. (See Genesis: 94.) Tradition also shows the alleged tribes carrying the 12 signs on their banners. In addition to these examples, the Bible is full of cosmological and astronomical symbols and allegories which will repay careful study.
Modern, or psychological Astrology
As promised earlier, we will now examine modern Astrology and the speculative psychological theories which have grown up around it. These theories now dominate almost all astrological thinking and practice. In ridding Astrology of the poisonous weeds of superstition, fatalism and superficiality which had grown up around it since the last of the great Mystery Schools of Greece closed more than 2,000 years ago, modern Astrology has done much good. Unfortunately, in their well-meaning pruning, modern astrologers have also stripped Astrology of much of its esoteric, or hidden meaning.
Not that we entirely blame them for this, for the seven sacred keys to the Ancient Wisdom concealed within Astrology had become all but lost by the end of the 19th century. The few that were still known, such as symbolism, allegory and numerology had become so misrepresented and misunderstood that it is not surprising that most modern astrologers were either unaware of their existence, or ignored them. The writings of the few occultists who DID know these keys, such as H. P. Blavatsky, were rarely consulted, for fear that the stigma attached to their overtly 'occult' doctrines would undermine the efforts being made to rehabilitate Astrology as a 'respectable' subject in the popular and scientific mind.
Consequently, astrologers turned to the emerging science of psychology which at least had some scientific sanction and perceived validity, and began incorporating psychological concepts into their thinking to fill in the missing pieces. Following the lead of Freud and Jung, the American astrologer, Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985), pioneered the field of humanistic and psychological astrology. Together with the work of Marc Edmund Jones, Stephen Arroyo and others, this triggered a resurrection of astrology in the late 1960's and 70's. Today, almost all astrologers follow the psychoanalytical and psychotherapeutic models established by Rudhyar, which owe more to behavioural science, secular humanism and sociology than the laws and principles of Occult Science upon which Astrology was originally founded.
Thus we arrive at the modern age, when the rather uncomfortable marriage between psychology and Astrology has hugely increased the popularity of the latter. The result of this is that many inexpert practitioners have become attracted to Astrology, pedaling a wishy-washy, pseudo-science, riddled with New Age psycho-babble where anything can be made to mean anything, depending on the expectations of the client and the beliefs of the astrologer. Now labelled 'post-modern' and 'the new paradigm' this melting pot of recycled psychotherapy, behavioural science and Jungian mysticism is woefully imprecise, vague, inarticulate and superficial, and tells us nothing about the true nature of man and the Universe.
In short, today psychology has replaced Astrology, or perhaps 'displaced' would be more accurate. What little is left of the Royal Art is like a walking corpse from whom the Spirit of Truth has long since fled. This may come as a shock to those of our readers who are practising astrologers, as well as to those who fondly imagine that modern Astrology is in every way a more exact and 'respectable' science than it was when Ptolemy compiled his famous Tetrabiblos, or four books on the practise and philosophy of astrology in the 2nd century A.D.
The great deficiency of psychological Astrology is that it can only describe some of the characteristics, behaviour and conditions of the lower self or earthly personality. It has no fixed vocabulary for the higher principles of man, and although it speculates endlessly about them using such vague terms as 'animus', 'superego', 'conscious' and 'unconscious', it can never arrive at a consistent and true conception of what body, mind, soul and spirit really are, for it remains ignorant of the occult constitution of Man.
Without this knowledge, it is next to impossible to identify which tendencies in a horoscope correspond with which particular principle—or component—of our being, and interpret them accordingly. Moreover, without an understanding of the seven sacred keys mentioned earlier, plus the knowledge of how to employ them, the modern astrologer is left groping in the dark. This is one reason (there are many others) why so many astrological 'predictions' fail.
None of this is to say that there is nothing of value for the student of Occult Science in modern Astrology. Astrologers such as Dane Rudhyar, Robert Hand, Stephen Arroyo and John Addey have done much good work and we do not slight their achievements in the least. The problem is that even the best modern astrologers do not go far enough, nor could they if they wished, for they lack the knowledge of the Ancient Wisdom without which REAL Astrology must remain a closed book.
REAL Astrology is a branch of Occult Science
Those who study REAL Astrology with a fair and open mind will quickly discover that it is one of the most important and least understood branches of Occult Science. Without it, much of the meaning concealed in such enigmatical texts as the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, in the Bible narratives, and in the sacred writings of the past, remains inaccessible.
In her inspired treatise on the twelve signs of the zodiac, From Pioneer to Poet, mentioned above, Isabelle Pagan writes: "From the time when the 'Three wise men of the East' and long before their day, Astrology has been held in honour by its students in every quarter of the globe." This is true. Among those who examined the esoteric side of Astrology may be counted the philosophers Francis Bacon, Immanuel Kant and Leibniz. Sir Isaac Newton, Kepler and many other scientists, both past and present have also studied the Royal Art.
The English mathematician, John Napier (1550-1617) invented logarithms while exploring new methods of astrological research. Dante makes frequent references to his own horoscope in his Divine Comedy wherein he classifies the planetary types. Shakespeare, in his plays, makes more than a hundred allusions to astrology, such as we find in King Lear:
"This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star."
(King Lear, Act 1, scene 2, v115-129.)
A more accurate and scathing condemnation of the credulous tendency to lay the blame for our faults and 'bad luck' upon the 'stars' would be hard to find! Nor have things changed very much since Shakespeare's times. Today we still find people complaining that the reason they can't make up their minds is because they are a 'Libra', or they never have any money because they have a 'badly aspected Saturn in their second house.' Shakespeare hints at the higher and deeper side of Astrology in the following quotation from The Merchant of Venice:
"Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."
(Merchant of Venice, Act 4, scene1, v55-60.)
It is only by rising above our 'muddy vesture of decay'—the physical body and its misleading senses—through meditation, inspiration and intuitive, as opposed to merely intellectual thinking, that we can catch the smallest glimmer of the great Occult Truths of Astrology; truths which are forever concealed from the sceptic, the scoffer and the merely curious. Those who are prepared to seek and learn these Truths, will find that Astrology can be used in many ways to resolve numerous questions at all levels; and if used in a SENSIBLE manner it can guide us through many intricate occult mazes and many of life's challenges . . . except that, as we explained at the outset of this article, it can't be used for 'fortune telling'!!
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article added 20 April 2014. Updated 27 January 2022.