Astrology by Hand Week 30

What We Forgot

Last week, I discussed the growth of astrology in the twentieth century and how we got to where we are. I mentioned three phases of this revival: 1) the spiritual-religious-philosophical, 2) the growth of new methods and uses for astrology and 3) the revival of the study of older forms of astrology. These are given in the approximate order in which they happened. But I would like to suggest that phase three should have been the first phase. Then the spiritual-religious-philosophical revival and the evolution of the new systems might have happened with knowledge of at least the practice of the older forms of astrology. Of all of these twentieth century new schools of thought, only the sidereal school of Fagan and Allan made any attempt to do research into ancient astrology, although not in a systematic way.

The result of this is that modern astrology has evolved quite ignorant of its traditions. As the traditions have been rediscovered, some tension has built up between modernists and traditionalists. The modernists argue, incorrectly, that astrology ”evolved” to where it is now and represents ”progress” over the traditions. The traditionalists argue, incorrectly as well, that all of the innovation of modern astrology is out of accord with tradition and, therefore, bogus.

I think that the reader can see that if phase three had happened before phases one and two, we would have less of a problem. Of course, some might argue that an earlier recovery of the traditions would have stifled innovation in the twentieth century. But being as closely involved with the recovery of the traditions as I have been, I have to say that I have experienced no such stifling. Traditional material easily points to new and modern understandings. But I will admit that there are some traditionalists who favor a very ”retro” view of the way astrology should be.

The main point is simple. Intelligent innovation based on a thorough technical and philosophical understanding of the traditions would make astrology evolve more like a science, gradually getting better at what it is supposed to do. Innovation based on ignorance of tradition simply creates change without progress. And holding on to the past for dear life would leave astrology exactly where it was in 1700, isolated, intellectually cut off and increasingly irrelevant, despite whatever actual merit it might possess. I hope I have made my position clear.

Modernists’ Problems with Traditional Astrology

The most common complaint about traditional Western astrology is that it is very negative and gloomy. The two passages that I picked from Schoener in week 27 illustrate that point. One forecasts poverty for the native’s father; the other forecasts imprisonment. And if one looks at the general nature of the predictions assigned to various combinations, there do seem to be more bad ones than good. However, it is also true that there are some very good ones. Here is another one from Schoener:

"With the Sun in a diurnal geniture (daytime birth) in his own exaltation, and the Moon in a nocturnal geniture (night birth) in her own exaltation, in the Ascendant, or Midheaven…this designates a kingship for the native."

This is not the kind of indication that one would expect to find in a modern text. In fact, while many astrologers seem to have some idea of what would constitute the birth chart of important persons, there are not very many modern texts (in fact none come to mind) that even deal with this kind of thing. Both the good and the gloomy forecasts are all different from the sort of thing that we would expect to find in an astrology book.

Why are the old books like this? Well, why are modern books the way they are? It’s simple. Astrologers, like all others who provide a service, try to provide something of value to the client. In both cases, this is reflected in the texts of the times. Modern clients are often of a new age bent and so those interests are the ones that we try to serve. It is when a modern client actually wants information about wealth or poverty, success or failure and things of this sort, that most modern astrologers are more at a loss. We don’t have the tools. (By the way, I believe we do much better with relationship astrology than our forebears. They lived in a world of arranged marriages where happiness between the people in the couple was not a major priority.) The clients of typical astrologers in olden days were nobility, or at least very wealthy people. The first clearly documented example we have of an astrologer for the general public is William Lilly in the seventeenth century.

The main point of all of this is simple. I believe that traditional astrology focused on the things that it did because of the clientele. It was not a function of its basic nature. Can traditional astrology fulfill modern needs with its methods? Absolutely! I will begin to show how next week.



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.

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