Astrological/Astronomical Insights

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The Essence

An introduction to my philosophical understanding of Astrology:

The Twinkling Star: A Hellenistic journey into the 21st Century!
Gregory Clare ©

We have been gazing upwards observing the heavens for many thousands of years in an attempt to find logic for our life on Earth. Astrology is a way to incorporate it all—the intangible and the tangible, the nonvisible and the visible. Amongst all the wonders of human development, the story of the sky remains the most fascinating.

Astrology is a symbolic language, which means we interpret and try to make sense of the symbolism and patterns made by celestial bodies. This language of the gods is rich and deep and has been studied for many thousands of years for the messages it contains.

The practical differences between the astrology of antiquity and today’s modern practice lie in the models we use to interpret what we see. From a modern viewpoint, astrology is a expression of archetypes, described as passive/subjective or active/objective. Growth comes through external experiences that cause us to examine our internal experience. From a Hermetic viewpoint, it is a rich allegorical story of symbolic expressions of the ancient gods.

To fully understand astrology and to use it in an everyday manner, we must first transcend time. In other words, we need to know as much as possible about the fundamental nature of the time period in which a horoscopic chart was first used.

The bombing of Baghdad during the first Gulf War drew attention to the possible destruction of ancient artefacts. The ensuing awareness spread across the globe and sparked an interest in all things ancient. This period coincided with the transit of Pluto through Scorpio.

As a result of this growing awareness, the 1990s witnessed a rush of “new” techniques which spread across the globe and infiltrated most astrological thought. From 2000 until 2006, the interest was mainly in understanding what were to modern astrologers new techniques and a new vocabulary, with little attention given to the underlying philosophy. In 2008, as Pluto moved into Capricorn, the focus shifted towards understanding what underpinned the source of Hellenistic astrology. We are now seeing the results of this study.

On 2 February 1993 at 08:05:09 hrs GMT, Greenwich, a conjunction of Uranus and Neptune occurred in the sign of Capricorn. Mercury also conjoined Saturn in Aquarius. This was a rare and rather unique moment, not only in human evolution, but in astrology as well. One only needs to cast this chart to understand its implications. This conjunction can be described as sudden enlightenment—ingenious spiritual experiences that for some may lead to fundamentalism, but for others could set in motion a realisation that is inspirational, spiritual and mystical.

The following is an extract from Project Hindsight’s mission statement.i
Now, the translation of astrological writings - or any ancient writings, for that matter - is far from being a routine or mechanical task. It is a perfect example of a "bootstrapping" operation, for you cannot translate something adequately without understanding it, and you cannot understand it until you translate it. This is why the task cannot be performed with a computer program. Although the translator needs to have a mastery of the language, this is far from a sufficient prerequisite. Ideally, translation should be done by someone who also has a genuine interest in the actual content of the text and respects the intelligence of its author. Otherwise, he will not be committed to following every clue, will not remain sensitive to every subtlety, and will not be relentless in ferreting out what the authors either took for granted or tried to hide. Unfortunately, the earlier translations of astrological writings do not reflect these standards.

Uranus-Neptune conjunctions occur at 171-172 year intervals. These conjunctions take 3,600 years to move through all 12 signs. The sequence moves forward by approximately 18 degrees each conjunction, but a peculiar aspect of this sequence is that they also repeat a conjunction in the same zodiacal sign roughly every two or three conjunctions. If the conjunction falls within the first 12 degrees of a sign, then it will repeat that sign. If it falls later than 12 degrees then it moves to the next sign.

This last occurrence took place in Capricorn in March 1821, coinciding with the release of the ancient allegorical story The Golden Fleece, a dramatic stage production by Austrian Franz Grillparzer. This period also saw the establishment of the Theosophical movement. The prior Capricorn conjunction sequence was way back in 1607 BC and 1779 BC, coinciding with the end of the Golden Age and the first Semitic ruler of Egypt, Userkare, which translates as "The Soul of Re is Powerful .“ii

By 1607 BC the Hyksosiii people had settled in Egypt. One of the greatest contributions of the Hyksos was the preservation of literary and scientific Egyptian documents. During the reign of Apophis, the fifth king of the Great Hyksos, scribes were commissioned to recopy Egyptian texts so they would not be lost.

These texts may hold some of the lost Hermetic keys. A link to these people has been found in sects like the Therapeutae, Sampsaean and Harridans, which were mentioned by Philo and Eusebius in the 1st century AD. This coincided with the supposed date of the Corpus Hermeticum which resurfaced in the 15th century with Marsilio Ficino's Latiniv translation in fourteen tracts, of which eight early printed editions appeared before 1500 and a further 22 by 1641.
The history of astronomy and astrology is tied to the evolution of humans and their development into so-called consciousness.

The term “consciousness”v in the Hermetic model is broken into three distinct natures. The first is just consciousness, with the association connected to the Moon. The second is self consciousness, which is a synthesis of the Moon and the Ascendant. The third is universal consciousness, the integration of the Moon, the Ascendant and the Sun.

The Hellenistic development emerged from the Semitic/Egyptian/Greek period when Alexander the Great, through his conquests, left the Greek language and culture as his legacy. The Greeks quickly absorbed the best of these disparate cultures, and from this merging of the Egyptian and Greek cultures arose the forerunner of horoscopic astrology. Horoscopic astrology encompassed a direct influence of Platonic philosophy and, to some extent, Aristotelian. It not only focused on prediction, but also had at its core a holistic philosophy. It was, for the most part, written and presented in an allegoric form. The Greeks, when they encountered the Egyptians, quickly learned that concealing the essence of this work was critical in order to preserve the integrity of its sacredness. This early work was indeed very spiritual and was designed to equip the neophyte with the tools for a complete life. As Gurdjieffvi implied, it was a war against sleep—a striving to obtain overwhelming consciousness!

The importance of the Egyptians cannot be stated strongly enough. The land of the pharaohs has contributed to the essence of astrology more than any other civilisation. While it is true that Babylonians and Greeks—along with the Indians—made equally grand contributions, it is without a doubt this combination of Egyptian theology, astronomy and astrology that set in place the road to horoscopic astrology.

It is this rich blend of cultural amalgamation that led to the advancement in human perception, the need to know. Firstly came the understanding of what brought about the seasons. It has been said that at the source of any great civilisation lies the ability to provide food and water to its people. The geography of Egypt gave it an advantage over other cultures. Where most were reliant on regular rain, in Egypt the Nile provided a secure source of water.

It is possible that the concept of the Hebrew God initiated in these lands, through their association with Moses and the Israelites. The Greek historian Herodotus recorded the written language of this culture as hieroglyphs, meaning sacred images or signs. Egypt was uniquely situated between two seas, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the east. This unique locality led to an enormous amount of trading with foreign cultures, as far east as India. With this came new and exciting developments in all fields of knowledge, from metals like copper to medicines and clothing.

The Egyptian obsession with light and darkness, day and night, formed the basis of their theology (or cosmological stories). Lying between 26 and 30 degrees of latitude meant that the stars from both the northern and southern hemispheres were visible. The Egyptians were astute enough to recognise the heliacal rise of the southern stars and the acronychal ascension of the planets in relation to the fixed stars.

While the Babyloniansvii were also engrossed in these same pursuits, it was the Egyptians who mastered the cyclical movements of the stars. It was their realisation that the Nile would flood not long after the heliacal appearance of the Dog Star Sothis, known today as Sirius. Sirius, when viewed from Egypt, is cyclic.

Sometime around 600 BC in Babylon and Egypt, astronomy and astrology were inseparable, part of a religious eternal entity. The legend of the goddess Isis and her brother Osiris was venerated. The immortal Ra-Atum, creator of the world, was fortified in Egyptian folklore. In Babylon, Marduk was the noble god, and Ea and Enlil were inscribed into the Parthenon at Nineveh forever.

However something different was happening in Greece. While King Agamemnon’s narrative played itself out, there was a consciousness shift in human intelligence (dianoia or logos). From Persia emerged Heraclitus and Parmenides, then onward to Greece and Italy, from where emerged Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras and Eudoxus. A pre-Socratic philosophy had begun to develop.viii

By 400 BC there was no stopping this galloping horse. The next four hundred years would see the wheels of time set in motion and the development of horoscopic astrology as we know it.
The conquest by Alexander saw Greeks and Persians flock to Egypt where the world’s knowledge would be focussed until the Roman invasion in 48–30 BC by Julius Caesar
This period saw the so-called schools of enlightenment become entrenched throughout most of the Greek, Persian, Roman and Egyptian world.

In Egypt, there was also a shift toward a refinement of its internal philosophical thinking. The secret, esoteric oral teaching passed down over the aeons, while still functioning throughout the Greek world, appeared to be ending, and the emphasis shifted to writing, particularly in Egypt.
The theological writings are represented chiefly by the 17 treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum, by extensive fragments in the Anthologion (Anthology) of Stobaeus and by a Latin translation of the Asclepius, preserved among the works of Apuleius.ix Although the setting of these is Egyptian, the philosophy is Greek. The Hermetic writings in fact present a fusion of Eastern religious elements and Platonic, Stoic and Neo-Pythagorean philosophies. It is unlikely, however, that there was any well-defined Hermetic community or church. What appears to be the first known written work from this group made its way into the now established Roman world sometime between 200 BC and 7 BC.

The philosophy behind these ideas incorporated a holistic approach to life. Music and numbers were seen as rhythms of one continuous echoing living being. This living oneness, which was for the most part seen as macrocosmic as well as microcosmic, allowed for interaction and communication. The scholars of the day began to question the makeup and workings of this living oneness. This oneness was made up of three components: the starry background of the eternal cosmos; the movable objects known as planets or wandering stars; and the earth and man’s place in it. They postulated that in fact there were four dimensions, the fourth being what we know today as the atmosphere.

At the core of this philosophy was the essence of virtue. Pythagoreansx understood ratio, depth and proportion. This was about taking the concepts of balance and applying them proportionally throughout one’s life. The Egyptians depicted this in their hieroglyphics with Maat, the god of cosmic order, balance, truth, justice and law.

Reincarnation was another concept that the Pythagoreans were known to have contemplated. However, it is accurate to say that the early Egyptians were the first to have philosophised on the subject. The Indians also laid some claim to it, but this does not appear to be substantiated chronologically.

Another important figure in the advancement of astrology/astronomy was Meton, who lived in the 5th century. Meton is credited with the Metonic cycle, known as the Golden Number. This cycle of 19 years, which encompasses 234.994 lunar months, was the basis for the new Greek calendar. Like all ancient calendars, this was an ecclesiastical timekeeping device, a record of the lunar cycles.

Plato’s contribution to the development of horoscopic astrology is paramount. His thoughts and ideas set in motion the advancement of knowledge from his birth (428 BC) until 30 BC, which was not matched until the Renaissance. One of those interesting questions in the astrology world is whether Plato and his followers were indeed versed in astrology.

The same can be asked about the Pythagoreans. While it is true that we now have documental evidence to support that Plato and Pythagoras were versed in astrology, one must remember that according to that evidence, horoscopic astrology had not yet been articulated. But one must remember that these studies were conducted in secret to protect this knowledge and were rarely even spoken of. After learning from the Egyptians that this knowledge was sacrosanct, the Greeks followed this tradition.

In 384 BC, another great name was added to this intellectual group with the birth of Aristotle. Aristotle, known as the father of science, was taught by Plato and quickly expanded on the Platonic theories. He is credited with the creation of the Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt. This new centre of learning was boasted the most intellectual and sophisticated collection of information the ancient world had ever seen, comparable to today’s e-revolution. Archimedes, a master Greek mathematician, engineer, inventor, physicist and astronomer was reported to have studied at the Royal Library.

According to Robert Schmidt, it was in this period that what we now know as horoscopic astrology developed. This system consisted of 29.5 rules or laws and was also referred to as the Hermes System. The next era, the 2nd century BC, seems to be the time when horoscopic astrology made its mark From 200 BC onward, a fully functional astrological doctrine evolved. Exactly when is not known.

Another exceptionally important discovery to shed light upon the period between 200 BC and 48 BC is the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient Hebrew texts date from around 2nd century BC, and the Hebrews were said to be versed in astronomy/astrology. My comprehension of the allegorical language left by this culture indicates that they indeed had some very similar philosophical ideas to the Egyptians and Greeks. The manuscript found in Cave 1, Rule of the Communityxi (also called the Manual of Discipline; The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness; and the War Scroll) has undeniable links to Hermetic Theosophists. In fact, this may represent the origin of this order.

The astrological chart fragment that was found inferred that the spiritual makeup of a native was expressed as so many parts of light and so many of darkness.
I feel that it is this ancient language- from Plato to the Dead Sea Scrolls- that underpins the very nature of modern astrology. The essence of it is found in the struggle to overcome the continuous rebirth or to simply awaken every day. We need to continually reinforce ourselves on a regular basis in our striving towards self consciousness.

The three Buddhist principles of heart, mind and body constitute the essence of man. This is expressed in the depiction of what is commonly referred to as the Chaldean Order, known to the Hellenes as the Seven Zones.

As we look back now and reflect, it is not hard to see that indeed this was a remarkable time in the evolution of theory, opinion and practical knowledge. It was this extraordinary era that set the stage for the creation and construction of horoscopic astrology. Without these legendary thinkers, we may have never been privileged with this science of the gods!

iii "Hyksos." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.
iv "Ficino, Marsilio." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.
v Richard Maurice Bucke (18 March 1837 – 19 February 1902) was a prominent Canadian psychiatrist in the late 19th century.
vi Gurdjieff, G. I. (1933, 1971, 1988) The Herald of Coming Good;
All and Everything trilogy: (1950), Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, (1963) Meetings with Remarkable Men,(1974) Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am', (1973) Hartmann, Olga de. Views from the Real World gathered talks of G. I. Gurdjieff by his pupil.
vii In light of new evidence the Babylonians may have been the real masters.
Kolev. Rumen K. The Babylonian Astrolabe © 2013, by the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Helsinki.
viii Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.
ix "Apuleius, Lucius." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.
x To learn more of these philosophical teaching I recommend reading; The Golden Verses of The Pythagoreans, published by The Shine of Wisdom, reprinted (1980) Garden City Press Limited
xi "Dead Sea Scrolls." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010.