Astrology by Hand Week 22
Last week I introduced the Sepher Yetzirah, which has been described by Aryeh Kaplan (The Sefer Yetzirah, Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, 1990, where Sepher is spelled Sefer) as an extremely old text of astrology. A passage in this work presents a system of dimensions that is a bit mind-blowing given the date of this work. Here is the passage in question:
”A depth of beginning/ A depth of end/
A depth of good/ A depth of evil/
A depth of above/ A depth of below/
A depth of east/ A depth of west/
A depth of north/ A depth of south.” [Kaplan, p. 44]
The dimensions here are presented as pairs of opposite directions. The first of these, beginning-end, is obviously time. Above-below, east-west and north-south are the three dimensions of ordinary space. Taken together, these four constitute the four dimensions of the Einstein time-space continuum. Not bad for an ancient work! But what is the second pair listed in the passage, good-evil? How do we think of this as a dimension?
The Fifth Dimension According to the Sepher Yetzirah
Kaplan says that in the Kabbalah ”This dimension is called Soul.” He also mentions the traditional phrase, ”The beginning is wisdom.” Therefore, the end is ignorance and evil. It becomes clear that this is a dimension of consciousness, toward wisdom or perfect consciousness, or toward ignorance and complete unconsciousness.
So we have a five dimensional system that we would describe in modern terms as the three spatial dimensions, length, width and height, a temporal dimension and one of consciousness. This gives us a continuum of four dimensions in which we can also move in consciousness. This means that multiple four-dimensional universes can coexist in time and space but be completely separate in consciousness.
Worlds Within Worlds
We actually have this very thing in traditional mystical literature: worlds that differ in consciousness, but are in the same time and space. I believe that this idea makes possible an explanation of astrology and also points the way to a transcendent science in which astrology, magic and divination can live side-by-side with quantum mechanics, physics, chemistry, etc. This is the necessary change in the scientific viewpoint that I have been talking about.
This teaching of interpenetrating worlds is most developed in Neoplatonism and Kabbalah. Simplifying their teachings a bit, we have four such worlds tabulated as follows:
The Realm of Divinity—The One
The Realm of Intelligence—Nous
The Realm of Soul—Psyche
The Realm of Matter—Cosmos or Nature
The One, the realm of pure divinity, is supposed to produce a second realm, whose function is to contemplate the One. This is the realm of intelligence, or Nous. In Nous, among other things, there comes into being the subject-object split that enables awareness. In other words, consciousness as we know it comes into being.
Notice two things: first of all, consciousness has come into existence prior to matter. This is the opposite of the materialist viewpoint. Second, the archetypes in consciousness do not come up from a lower level, a collective unconscious, but come down from the very highest level of being.
The Realm of Life and Soul
Now we come to the level that may be the most important for astrology. Nous contemplates the One, and the two of them, as a system, begin movement and life, or soul. While motion is made possible in Nous, it is manifested in the realm of Soul. And Soul also precedes matter. What comes into being is the World Soul, which is, according to tradition, the source of all magical and occult effects.
All individual things that will come into being in the material world are prefigured in Soul. Not just every category, but every individual thing that will manifest in the physical world. Therefore, the planets in the material Cosmos are pre-figured by planets in Soul.
Finally, at Last, the Material Realm
The three realms, the One, Nous and Soul interact and produce a body. This is the physical universe, Cosmos. Everything in this world is predetermined not by mechanical cause and effect, but by movement in the higher worlds. The indeterminacy that modern physicists see in many systems of the physical world is due to the fact that the cause-and-effect relationship is not within the physical world, but is between the physical world and the higher worlds. There is little or no freedom in the Cosmos. Freedom exists only in the higher worlds.
But there is good news! According to ancient philosophy, human beings and all other sentient life forms exist not only in the Cosmos, but in Soul and Nous as well. We even share in the oneness of the One. We are free to the degree, and only to the degree, that we live consciously in the higher worlds. The more we move in the dimension of consciousness toward wisdom (”The beginning is wisdom”), the more freedom we have.
Astrology works because of several things:
1) The planets of our solar system are physical entities. Therefore, their motions are almost completely predictable. This makes them reliable indicators of movements in higher realms of which they are the result.
2) But nothing in the physical world (Cosmos) is entirely or only of this world. Everything participates in varying degrees in the higher worlds. Even the planetary motions have some degree of indeterminacy. Could this be a kind of freedom? But in any case, all entities in the physical world can manifest qualities or properties that come from their participation in the realms of Soul and Nous. This again is the origin of the occult properties of natural magic.
3) Soul prefigures all things in the Cosmos. Therefore, there are ”planets” of a kind in soul.
4) Because the planets in the realm of Soul are the result of planetary forms in Nous, and we also participate in Nous, the planetary forms in Nous produce parallel movements in us that are also parallel the motions of the physical planets. And the ”movements” of the planets in our consciousness (Nous) and Soul manifest with the freedom that is present in Nous and Soul and not at the restricted level apparent in the movements of the physical planets. The physical planets do not cause anything within us. Rather the effects apparent within us and the movements of the planets are both results of the same causes within higher realms.
We will develop this more in the next weeks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Hand, author of Planets in Transit and other works, is now involved in the translation and publication of texts regarding ancient and medieval astrology through ARHAT Media Inc.