Astrology by Hand Week 31

On the Reinterpretation of Traditional Astrology

Last week, I suggested that traditional astrology can easily be reinterpreted to fit modern needs without doing violence to its basic style. This week I want to begin showing how.

The first thing that we have to understand is that there is a fundamental difference between older and newer modes of thought when it comes to teaching a discipline. This is true whether it is astrology, a science or even a social science. In other words, this has nothing to do with astrology by itself. It is a difference of style between different times in history. And this difference is especially notable in fields that have a practical end in mind: in other words, crafts and techniques.

In some older sciences and all modern sciences and techniques, students are taught by means of first principles, also known as theory. Theory is applied to individual instances and practical applications. This is true even in modern astrology where students learn the general nature of planets, houses, signs, etc. before they learn how to apply these to the reading of a chart. For example, students are taught to ”understand” the nature of Mars, even to ”feel” it within themselves. And we do the same thing teaching the rest of astrology’s symbol system. Then students are encouraged to try to combine their understanding of the various symbols into symbol combinations. Often keywords are employed to epitomize the essence of the combination.

Keywords as Used in Modern Astrology

For example, let us say that Jupiter is ”fortunate” or ”expansive.” (Please do not get hung up on the keywords that I may use here as examples. There are many systems of keywords. The point is to watch the logic of the process.) And let us say that Mars represents ”action” and ”doing things.” Therefore, if we combine Jupiter and Mars, we can say that together they represent ”fortunate actions” or ”actions that result in expansion,” etc.

Later students may learn that certain types of Mars-Jupiter combinations are found at marriages and childbirths, especially the latter. But students do not first learn that Mars-Jupiter ”means” marriages, or childbirths. These are simply examples of the kinds of things that can represent the ”fortunate” or ”expansive action” of the combination, and not all marriages or births will fit that bill, only those that actually are ”fortunate” or ”expansive.” Again, we emphasize how the individual manifestation is an instance of a general effect.

In older systems of astrology, especially Greek and Hindu, the indications associated with various combinations are very specific and do not obviously reveal themselves as instances of general principles. Nor are the general principles ever stated in the texts. Here is an example from Hindu astrology.

”If Jupiter is in a Kendra from the Moon (”kendra” means in the same sign, fourth, seventh or tenth sign from the Moon), the native will build towns and villages.” (This is not an exact quote from any one source, but a general description.)

This combination, or yoga, as it is called, is found in a variety of traditional sources. And I think that most Western astrologers would have difficulty deriving the result described from any kind of keyword understanding of the Moon and Jupiter. And this is sometimes true in medieval astrology as well. Here is one from Schoener, and if you have this combination, please do not take offense. Keep in mind what I have been saying: Medieval methods may be useful; the delineations sometimes need work.

”Both infortunes (Mars and Saturn) in the Sixth House with Venus, the native’s wives will be women of ill-repute.”

Is this all these combinations can mean? What is the logic? Does the delineation reveal the essence of this combination?

Actually, in both of these sample interpretations, one can see some sort of possible logic, but again neither description is exactly the first thing that one would come up with by modern analysis. While I am not entirely equipped to describe the logic of the Moon-Jupiter combination in Hindu astrology, I will discuss the logic of Schoener’s aphorism next week. But, putting the logic aside for the moment, do these aphorisms demonstrate the essence of these combinations? Obviously they do not, except in very specific ways. We get no sense of the general meanings of either combination from these interpretations.

And we have to ask whether the conditions of these aphorisms are all that it would take to make such indications come true? Taking the second aphorism, is the native doomed to have such wives, assuming of course that the native (presumably male) does not want this? No, not even in medieval astrology. They also believed, like modern astrologers, that one had to find several indications in the chart of something, before it was likely to happen.

Next week I will take more of a look at Schoener’s combination so that we can see what it really means.



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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