Astrology — the Planets Within
This is the latest chapter from Part 2 of my unpublished book on Astrology. (For what has preceded please see this list.) Here I begin a new theme, the relationship between the planets and the inner world of the psyche. In the book I called this chapter ‘The Inner Planets’. Here I have called the article ‘The Planets Within’ so that potential readers won’t think I’m referring to the planets nearest to the sun.
Chapter 16: THE INNER PLANETS
I discovered in Part 1 these contrasting theories as to how Astrology might work:
1) as a consequence of the movements of outer planets,
2) as a reflection of the influences of inner factors, which might variously be called archetypes, gods/goddesses or planets.
Michael Harding’s book (the subject of the previous articles) is the most comprehensive and valiant defence of the first position of which I am aware. I have tried to show that the case is very poorly argued; he fails to address problematic areas, is in serious conflict with modern science without offering any explanation, and offers assertion and emotion to replace argument and evidence. This does not categorically mean that the first explanation is wrong; it is possible that someone else could make a better case. It does show, however, how hard it is to argue coherently and convincingly for the first theory. As we saw in chapter 2, those astrologers who assume it do not know how Astrology works, and struggle to find physical explanations.
A brief but excellent summary of the arguments between the two sides was made by the late Rudolf Tomaschek, who was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Munich¹. He identified four theories offered to explain Astrology:
1. The celestial bodies actually operate upon terrestrial events.
2. The celestial bodies precipitate events which are ripe for manifestation.
3. The celestial bodies synchronize with terrestrial events.
4. The celestial bodies symbolize organic cosmic forces which are qualitative functions of time and space.
The second theory is really a variation of the first², so I will consider only the other three. The body of opinion against number 1 is powerful. Tomaschek himself says that it “is the simplest and most obvious, yet in reality the least satisfactory explanation. It is the one which, because of our present materialistic outlook, has been accepted by many who think only superficially about the problem”. The scientist Michael Shallis develops the point thus: “Astrology is an acausal system, even though it contains the continuity of the causally connected motions of the planets. To search for its origins and power by looking at those causal parts, is of course a mistake and an ignorant mistake, and one that would be less easily made with other, more obviously random divinatory methods”³. On the same theme the astrologer Dane Rudhyar says: “The theory of planetary influences breaks utterly — when the term ‘influence’ is taken to mean the emanating of rays or waves which act physically or psychologically upon a particular individual” (his italics)⁴.
West and Toonder say: “(The causal and triggering hypotheses are) inadequate to account for the qualitative nature of the proven correlations. It is Saturn, not just any planet, aspecting the ascendants and midheavens of Gauquelin’s scientists… Radio disturbance is pronounced when planets line up in the traditional disharmonious aspects, but when they line up in the traditional harmonious aspects radio reception is particularly static-free [their italics]. Nothing material can account for these facts. To call it ‘heredity’ or to propose that Saturn ‘triggers’ a bent for science simply replaces one mystery with another. Theories 3 and 4 must be brought in”⁵.
They are suggesting that these two theories are not distinct, but need to be taken together. The case for synchronicity is explained thus by Tomaschek: “According to this view, the totality of events is regarded as an interwoven unity which operates and is operated upon as a whole, so that no single event can be regarded as the cause and another as the effect, but each is correlated with the other. In other words, simultaneous events correspond to one another. Accordingly the celestial bodies would have to be regarded as the hands of a single clock which indicate the total cosmic situation in which our Earth, with everything in it, is involved”.
Michael Shallis expresses the idea in its purest form: “The truth of the situation lies in the acausal correpondence between an apparently random moment in time, the time of any event, and the exact but relative positions of the planets at that time. There is no causal connection. The power of astrology as a divinatory system lies in its acausality… The random moment of birth, even the random pattern of tea leaves in a cup, has qualities and an interconnectedness with the rest of nature, because nothing is really random in the sense of being meaningless”⁶.
Here is Stephen Arroyo explaining theory 4: “…the symbolic approach, which considers the planets and signs to be symbols of cosmic processes and universal principles… The question of what these symbols refer to remains unanswered. Symbols are, after all, symbols for the very reason that they refer to living realities that are inexpressible (at least at the present time) in any other way. Perhaps this question can never be answered. Perhaps man can never express in words the transcendent realities of the cosmos. Still, we can make use of this symbolic language if we consider it to represent universal patterns, principles, and forces, however transcendent such factors may be”⁷.
To me Michael Shallis’s pure-synchronicity statement, in that it does not include any crossing of boundaries from one level to another, seems incomplete and needs Stephen Arroyo’s archetypal symbolism to fill it out, again suggesting the idea that theories 3 and 4 should be taken as two aspects of the underlying truth. Arroyo himself seems to agree for he immediately follows the above with this: “Nevertheless, the symbolic approach to astrology is only complete and useful if it is seen within the framework of a holistic approach to all of life”.
Dane Rudhyar makes the same point forcefully: “All progressions and directions are purely symbolical… But if such a statement means anything at all, it means that the solar system is assumed to be the symbol of the individual man; and that the cyclic motions of the celestial bodies around the Earth correspond to cyclic processes of the life-force in any living organisms on Earth. Obviously, there is no difference between saying ‘correspond to’ or ‘are symbols of’. If anyone sees a difference between these two phrases, it is a proof either that he has not understood the vital reality of symbols… or that he uses the term ‘correspondence’ without entering into the real meaning of such a term…”⁸.
We therefore have to consider the implications of this joint theory, which leads us away from the outer planets and forces us to look inwards. What does it say about the universe that it incorporates such processes in its structure? In Part 1 I ended with Halevi’s assertion that astrological influences are the result of ‘movements’ of planets (or something corresponding to them) existing in the inner universe of the psyche. It is time now to consider what is meant by this.
In order to explore this question, I would like to begin by focussing on Jung’s statement that Astrology is projecting the psyche into the heavens. The word ‘projection’ is used in the world of psychotherapy to describe a situation in which a person inappropriately sees in the outside world something which, when properly understood, is seen to be an inner content. The most common example cited in the literature is when people are unable to accept certain aspects of their own personality, which they therefore repress, keeping them hidden from view (especially the shadow aspects discussed in chapter 8). When they see these personality traits in others, they become excessively and irrationally angry, not understanding that they are merely exteriorizing an inner conflict.
This is a form of self-deception, but the important points to note are that:
1) the ego does not choose to behave in this way, and projection is therefore an unconscious mechanism; the best that the ego can do is to notice the phenomenon and understand it afterwards. Projection therefore belongs in the same pigeon-hole as dreams and myths, things which happen to us, not things we have invented.
2) even though the phenomenon of projection may seem an inappropriate mechanism and should therefore be ‘withdrawn’, it is actually helpful in that it makes us aware of unconscious contents, thus paving the way for psychological growth. It does reveal the existence of an inner reality.
3) the outward form onto which the inner content is projected (often called the ‘hook’) corresponds to it in some sense, otherwise it would not be targeted in this way.
The obvious conclusion is that, if we are projecting our psychology onto the heavens, then there must be an inner content which corresponds to them. But what is the nature of that content? In the example just used of shadow aspects of personality there is no real problem. Almost anyone could accept that the personality traits of one person can be found hidden in another. What we are talking about here, however, is of a completely different order, namely the suggestion that the heavenly bodies correspond to the inner world of the psyche, including personality.
It seems to me that the best way of dealing with the extremely difficult issues which this idea brings up is to examine the writings of those people who firmly believe it, and then try to assess its validity. Since he introduced us to it, I will start with Halevi himself. (The late Z’ev Ben Shimon Halevi was a Kabbalist. His book The Anatomy of Fate⁹ was discussed in part 1.)
Central to his world-view is the idea of different levels of existence namely, in descending order, the worlds of Emanations, Creations, Formations, and Substance. (In the terminology I have been using these approximate to Spirit, Archetypes, Psyche, and Matter.) This is how he describes the World of Formations:
“The psyche is the modern name for what is also called the sidereal, astral, planetary, or subtle body. It is the subtle anatomy of a human being and corresponds to the subtle World of Formations which lies behind this Physical World, and which itself emerges out of the World of Creation. It is quite different from the other two upper Worlds in that it is said to be of a fluidic nature, that is, it shifts into and out of various forms. Its purpose is expressed in this watery quality in as much as its fluidity holds the ever-moving forms of Creation.
“The physical is dependent on the subtle World of Change and not the reverse as the sensually orientated believe. The movements within the Galaxy, the solar system and indeed upon the Earth are not self-generated… (The planets) are a result (his italics) not a cause and their situations when drawn into the horoscope chart merely indicate the juxtaposition of subtle or psychological conditions present at that time in relation to that place”¹⁰.
This thinking enables him to make the assertion, which seems to have eluded many astrologers, that I quoted earlier: “The World of Formation is called the planetary world because it is at this level that the subtle planetary principles operate. They do not work, as many people believe, from the physical motions and positions of the planetary bodies”. He elaborates: “These are merely the material foci in the fourth and lowest World of Existence. The essence of the planets is in fact subtle by nature and expresses the Sefirotic principles of the highest World at the third or astral level of materiality”.
Halevi’s conclusion is therefore that the essence of the planets is responsible for astrological influence. This takes place at the astral level, although the original source is even higher. Is he talking about the astral body of planets? If so, this merely returns us to the problem of how other planets — physical, astral or otherwise — could affect human personality? They do not seem to be inside us, for we would assume that the subtle body of a planet is associated with the material one in the same way that the spirit of a human interpenetrates the physical body (although we would not know how far any fields generated by them extend). Or is he talking about something else? What exactly is a ‘planetary principle’?
In order to shed more light on this question, I shall turn to the figure of Paracelsus (whose real name was Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim, 1493–1541). Lindsay River/Sally Gillespie say that “he introduced into astrology the idea of the interrelationship of the planets and human life (rather than control by the planets)”, and that he “expanded the ancient concept of ‘as above, so below’ to include the idea that each person is a ‘Sun and a Moon and a heaven filled with stars’ ”¹¹. Given other things I have read, I am not so sure as them of his originality on these points, but he is undoubtedly a highly significant figure in medieval Europe, a Swiss doctor who combined medicine and surgery with alchemy, astrology, and magic. It is interesting therefore to investigate his ideas about the inner world. Helpful sources are The Life and Doctrines of Paracelsus by Franz Hartmann¹², and Jung’s essay on Paracelsus in The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature¹³. (The references for my quotations are in these works; I shall not be mentioning the originals, since the texts are not readily available. When referring to Hartmann’s book, some quotes are Paracelsus’ own words, others are from the author’s commentary, as annotated. This is hopefully not a problem as the author is clearly in sympathy with the former’s ideas, and his commentary reflects them).
Paracelsus has absolutely no doubt about the reality of the astral level of matter…: “Each thing is a trinity having a body and a spirit held together by the soul” (Hartmann, p286), …and about planets having souls: “Astronomy deals with the physical aspect of planets and stars; astrology deals with the psychic influences which their souls exert upon each other and upon the Microcosm of man” (Hartmann p285).
In this quote Hartmann is in obvious agreement with Halevi. On the surface, it seems that Paracelsus makes contradictory statements regarding planetary influence, here, for example, that the human psyche is influenced by heavenly bodies: “…our astral bodies are in sympathy with the stars, and the stars are in sympathy with our astral bodies; but the same is the case with the astral bodies of all other objects…”. On other occasions, however, he seems to agree with Halevi that the heavenly bodies are not the source of the influences: “Primordial matter, forming the basis of the constitution of the human body, has absorbed influences from the stars, and they nourish the elementary (physical) body, and by means of these influences man’s soul is connected with and united to the souls of the stars”. We have to take care, however, not to misunderstand the terms. He says also that “all that the intellect can conceive of comes from the stars”. At this point Hartmann finds it necessary to remind us in a footnote that “By ‘stars’ (astra) Paracelsus does not refer to the physical bodies of the planets, but to principles existing in the Cosmos, and which are represented by the stars”.
What we are dealing with therefore is the idea of a complete inner universe:
“In every human being there is a special heaven, whole and unbroken” (Paracelsus quoted in Jung, footnote 13, p22).
“He who knows the sun and the moon has a sun and a moon in him, and he can tell how they look, even if his eyes are shut” (Paracelsus in Hartmann, footnote 12, p316).
Jung talks about Paracelsus’s doctrine of the ‘star in the body’ in these terms: “True to the conception of man as a microcosm, he located the ‘firmament’ in man’s body and called it the ‘astrum’ or ‘Sydus’. It was an endosomatic (i.e. within the body) heaven, whose constellations did not coincide with the astronomical heaven but originated with the individual’s nativity, the ‘ascendant’ or horoscope”.
“The firmament is not merely the cosmic heaven, but a body which is a part or content of the human body…. The firmamental body is the corporeal equivalent of the astrological heaven” (Jung, pp16 and 20).
Hartmann’s relating of the stars to “principles existing in the Cosmos” is beginning to sound like the archetypes, an idea which is immediately reinforced by these three statements:
“All knowledge comes from the stars (the Universal Mind). Men do not invent or produce ideas; the ideas exist, and men are able to grasp them”.
“The realm of stars and ideas is infinite”.
“The earth, the animal kingdom, and physical man are subject to the government of the stars”.
Paracelsus’s parenthesis equating the stars with the Universal Mind, then his placing of stars and ideas in the same realm, shows in the clearest possible terms that by ‘stars’ he means the archetypes. Thus the inner heaven with its stars and planets seems to be an image symbolizing the archetypal realm, Halevi’s World of Creations. From this point of view, Astrology is seen in a whole new light as an attempt to understand the inner sky, that is to say how the archetypes are operating in order to produce the specific blueprint for each individual. My original hypothesis that the archetypes are responsible for astrological influence thus becomes something of a tautology, since ‘archetypes’ and ‘astrological influence’ are now more or less synonymous.
Where, however, do the Gods and Goddesses fit into this scheme of things?
In order to throw some light on this question, I am going to turn to the works of some modern writers:
1) James Hillman, a post-Jungian analyst and founder of a trend which he calls Archetypal Psychology. He has written many books on these themes; here I shall be quoting from Re-Visioning Psychology¹⁴.
2) Luis Alvarado, an astrologer, Qabalist, and Counselor, author of Psychology, Astrology and Western Magic¹⁵.
3) Thomas Moore, one-time member of a Servite community, who is a psychotherapist, founder of the Institute for the Study of Imagination, and author of, amongst other titles, The Planets Within¹⁶, which is a study of the prominent Renaissance figure Marsilio Ficino.
As a development of my last point, I found some interesting passages in Alvarado’s book. He discusses the concept of subpersonalities, in relation to the thinking of astrologer Howard Sasportas, who describes them as “psychological satellites”, “going on to say that the planets and signs in the birth chart represent those different bits or parts of us”. He then relates this to the work of Jung who “originally called the subpersonalities within the unconscious splinter-psyches, and postulated the unconscious as a multiple consciousness. The multiple consciousness quality of the unconscious he later called the archetypes. Jung makes reference to the fiery sparks, the scintillae of the alchemists: ‘It strikes me as significant, particularly in regard to our hypothesis of a multiple consciousness and its phenomena, that the characteristic alchemical vision of sparks scintillating in the blackness of the arcane substance should, for Paracelsus, change into the spectacle of the “interior firmament” and its stars. He beholds the darksome psyche as a star-strewn night sky, whose planets and fixed constellations represent the archetypes in all their luminosity and numinosity’”¹⁷.
Similar references are as follows:
“In Ficinian imagination the psyche is pictured as a round of planets, all simultaneously contributing to the music of the soul”¹⁸ .
“Marie-Louise Von Franz (Carl Jung’s leading follower) describes this middle ground as a dimming of consciousness, ego moving to meet archetype at the fringe between day and night, the twilight zone where stars first become visible. This is the realm of the ego-Self, an imaginal place accessible through active imagination. Moving into the twilight zone of awareness, we can see the star-strewn sky within. We are attentive to the call of the Gods, the true meaning of the word vocation”¹⁹.
“We see in the Star (he is discussing the Tarot card of that name) two levels of conflict portrayed. The first in the realm of the stars, the multiple consciousness aspect of the collective unconscious, different Gods vying for dominance…”²⁰.
The last two italicized phrases show how, in this way of thinking, the divinities, as inhabitants of the inner universe, are associated with the archetypes. Alvarado does not even say “different planets vying for dominance in the realm of the stars”; he goes directly to the divine figures. This seems quite a bold step. We therefore need to understand what the relationship is between the Gods and the archetypes. If anyone knows about this topic, it should be James Hillman, who has spent most of his life studying them. He does not mince words, saying that the agenda for his Archetypal Psychology is “to restore the mythical perspective to depth psychology by recognizing the soul’s intrinsic affinity with, nay, love for, the Gods”²¹. He says this because he sees the Gods as the most accurate way of describing human psychology:
“Our psychology is, to begin with, polytheistic, less out of religious confession than out of psychological necessity. The many-sidedness of human nature, the variety of viewpoints even within a single individual, requires the broadest possible spectrum of basic structures. If a psychology wants to represent faithfully the soul’s actual diversity, then it may not beg the question from the beginning by insisting, with monotheistic prejudgment, upon unity of personality” (Pxx).
He sounds as though he is merely talking about the concept of sub-personalities. Do we really need to invoke Gods and Goddesses to explain the complexity of human nature?
What are Gods?
Are they ‘real’, by which I mean, are they autonomous beings, existing at a level higher than the material? Sometimes Hillman seems to say yes. As I noted in chapter 13, he believes that “we do not invent the persons of myth and religion; they…happen to us. The persons present themselves as existing prior to any effort of ours to personify. To mythic consciousness, the persons of the imagination are real” (p17 ). In this context he discusses Jung’s early work with word association tests, in which “he discovered complexes which were invested with feeling, intention, autonomy, and fragments of consciousness. They were independent entities because they behaved as such” (p20). To this extent then, the Gods at the very least have a psychological reality.
Sometimes, however, he seems to say no:
“(In religion) Gods are believed in… In archetypal psychology gods are imagined… (his italics). They are formulated ambiguously, as metaphors for modes of experience and as numinous borderline persons” (my italics) (p169).
“Because our polytheistic psychology is not making theological claims, because it is not approaching gods in a religious style, theology cannot repudiate psychological polytheism as heresy or false religion with false Gods” (p170).
This seems to be confirmed in that it is suggested that the Gods are a symbol for the fact of multiple consciousness: “Polytheistic psychology refers to the inherent dissociability of the psyche and the location of consciousness in multiple figures and centres” (p26, his italics).
He also quotes Jung expressing a similar idea: “If tendencies towards dissociation were not inherent in the human psyche, fragmentary psychic systems would never have been split off; in other words, neither spirits nor gods would have ever come into existence”.
What is the difference between Gods and archetypes?
If we attempt a definition of a ‘god’ in the Ancient Greek context, we will soon discover how hard it is to answer this question. They were said to live on Mount Olympus, but it is unlikely that this was meant literally. Hills and mountains are often associated with the presence of archetypal/spirit beings, for example Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Aboriginal tradition. Once you deny the physical existence of the gods, it is hard to know where to place them. It can only be at a psychological or spiritual level. If I see Apollo in a dream or vision, to dismiss this as being ‘merely psychological’ and having ‘no foundation in reality’ leads us into a tortuous vicious circle. People who say this are suggesting that the psyche is a product of the imagination, in effect a hallucination. I suggest that this is a serious error, in that the psyche is a separate level of reality. From this perspective what else can Apollo be but psychological? Are we seriously expecting him to walk in the room and shake my hand?
James Hillman, in similar vein, says: “But today that is precisely where we do discover the Gods — in the unconscious psyche — and because of this unconsciousness we are unable to distinguish Gods from archetypes, or archetypes from heroes and daemons. Therefore, our descriptions of the archetypes and the classical descriptions of the gods, heroes, and daemons have to be analogous. In both descriptions we run into the same style of question: Where are they located? Are they knowable?… How many are there, and do they form hierarchies and subclasses? Do they change or age or go through history? What sort of ‘body’ do they have? How soon a psychology of archetypes begins to sound like a mythology of Gods!” (p36).
One possible difference that can be pointed to is the fact that the archetypes are usually equated with single ideas. Jung’s Four Archetypes²², for example, discusses Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, and Trickster. Here Hillman expresses himself similarly: “Archetypal psychology envisions the fundamental ideas of the psyche to be expressions of persons — Hero, Nymph, Mother, Senex, Child, Trickster, Amazon, Puer and many other specific prototypes bearing the names and stories of the Gods” (p128). The Gods and Goddesses, specifically the Greek ones in whom Hillman is most interested, are, however, more complex personalities. (Whole books have been written about just one, for example Hermes and Pan.) He says: “By considering the personified archetypes as Gods, they become more than constitutional propensities and instinctual patterns of behaviour, more than ordering structures of the psyche, the ground of its images and vital organs of its functions. They become now recognizable as persons, each with styles of consciousness, or in Jung’s language, ‘typical modes of apprehension’ (CW 8 para280). They present themselves each as a guiding spirit with ethical positions, instinctual reactions, modes of thought and speech, and claims upon feeling’ (p35). ‘If we consider the Gods as expressing themselves each in a specific mode of being, each with symbolic attributes, landscapes, animals and plants, activities and moralities and psychopathologies, then part of the specific mode of being of each God is a style of reflection. A God is a manner of existence, an attitude toward existence, and a set of ideas” (p130).
In this formulation the Gods, in that they are configurations — recipes created out of archetypal ingredients — seem to be developments from these original ideas²³. This does not prevent Hillman from sometimes appearing to say that archetypes and Gods are equivalent. When he does this, sometimes the archetype sounds like a God:
“By setting up a universe which tends to hold everything we do, see, and say in the sway of its cosmos, an archetype is best comparable with a God” (Pxix).
“As Jung refined his insight into these complex persons, the persons of our complexes, he discovered that their autonomy and intentionality derives from deeper figures of far wider significance. These are the archetypes, the persons(!!) to whom we ultimately owe our personality. In speaking of them, he says that ‘…it is not we who personify them; they have a personal nature from the very beginning’ ”(p22).
…and sometimes a God sounds like an archetype:
“Within and behind these ideas, making them so instinctually certain, so libidinally charged with excitement and endurance, so universally familiar, so few in number and repetitive in history, are the archetypes which form the structures of our consciousness with such force and such possession that we might, as we have in the past, call them Gods” (p129).
Alvarado also finds it difficult to make a definitive statement. Sometimes there is no difference…
“God-images are archetypes…” (Pxi).
…and sometimes the Gods are developments emerging from the archetypes:
“The Gods and Goddesses were both personalities in their own right and personifications of cosmic principles” (p5).
The issue is very confusing therefore, and points merely to the fact that archetypes and Gods are almost indistinguishable, and that attempts to separate them are likely to be time-consuming with no guarantee of success. I have presented a lot of material relevant to the question, and it is still not possible to make a definitive statement. (The astrologer Liz Greene seems to have given up trying: “Whatever you want to call them — gods or archetypal figures or characters in a play — there is a myth or story being told in the horoscope”²⁴). I do not think that pursuing it further will shed any more light. What I find more interesting is that Hillman is attempting to understand human psychology by understanding the Gods. In other words, he has aims identical to those of an astrologer. Yet in this book he does not mention Astrology once, preferring to follow the more standard Jungian route of dreams, and active imagination. If he is successful in his aims and practice, he is therefore achieving the purpose of Astrology without actually using it.
Hillman’s ideas nevertheless help us to understand how Astrology works according to this particular spiritual vision. The ‘influences’ have nothing to do with the physical planets. Personality is the end-product of a creative process which starts with the archetypes, one symbolic image for which are the mythological figures, and another is the inner heaven of Paracelsus and Ficino. Thomas Moore puts it thus: “I am suggesting that we read all of this astrology in terms of a sky within. The planets correspond, then, to deeply felt movements of the soul and not to either ego attitudes, that is, conscious values and positions, or to persona qualities… These planetary centres are deep in the psyche, generating many complexes, fantasies, and behaviours. The sky within truly seems as vast as the sky without, and the planets are just as massive, mysterious, and unearthly”²⁵.
What we have here is an understanding of Astrology far removed from that of the general public reading newspapers, and perhaps even of many astrologers. Not surprisingly therefore, these writers tend not to attach much importance to traditional astrology. Thus Paracelsus says: “No one needs to care for the course of Saturn: it neither shortens nor lengthens the life of anybody” (Hartman, p309). Hartmann comments: “Paracelsus was not…a professional astrologer. He did not calculate nativities, or make horoscopes, but he knew the higher aspect of astrology, by which the mutual relations of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm are known. He rejected the errors of popular astrology as he did those of other popular religions or scientific beliefs; and his system of astrology, if rightly understood, appears of a sublime character and full of the grandest conceptions” (p308). Moore says of Ficino: “This is no superstitious playing with birth charts and sun signs, though even these have a place in Ficino’s practice. More importantly, through an astrological consciousness we may recognize the polycentric nature of the psyche and become aware of the impact of even minor objects and events on the spiritual life of the soul. The planets, signs, houses, and aspects of technical astrology are only a means for imagining the multiple facets of the psyche. Applying Ficino’s insights to modern life, these technical aspects may or may not be used. One may turn to art, to dreams, to alchemy, to religion, or to psychology itself for paradigms of the soul and the imaginative discernment of spirits. The essential point is to make connections between everyday experience and the deeper life of the soul”²⁶.
Even though these ideas seem bizarre according to modern thinking, they at least have the advantage of being a self-consistent, coherent theory, and neatly dispose of all the objections that I was discussing in Part I. What do distance and a symbolic relationship between psyche and the planets matter when we are not even talking about the physical planets? Yet many traditional astrologers with years of experience and great integrity will protest that meaningful psychological information can be obtained, and much useful work can be done, by studying the movements of the physical planets as portrayed in the horoscope. If Ficino etc. are right, how can this be?
The first point that can be made is that, according to this alternative interpretation, the use of the actual planets would merely confirm the idea of the medieval thinkers that there is a mysterious correspondence between the inner and outer universes. Thus Moore says that “people for millennia have been looking into the night sky as into a mirror”, and talks about “the enigma of interrelated internal and external worlds…. For Ficino the external world is the way to the internal realm of the soul” (intro, and p34). Compare also these quotations from Paracelsus:
“The hand that made heaven and earth…(has) taken from above and enclosed within man’s skin everything that heaven contains. For that reason the external heaven is a guide to the heaven within…”
“(Man) must be apprehended through the Father and not from himself, because he is enclosed in the skin (and no one can see through this and the workings within him are not visible). For the external heaven and the heaven within him are one, but in two parts” (quoted in Jung, pp21 and22).
Armed with the ideas we have acquired from Paracelsus, Ficino, Hillman and Alvarado, I am now going to enlist the help of Dennis Elwell, to try to deepen our understanding. He says: “Astrology is about learning to think in new categories. It embodies a system of categories that are as different from the ones to which we are habituated, as the warp is from the weft. In this system objects and events that at first sight appear to have nothing whatever to do with each other are shown to be intimately connected”²⁷. As an example he mentions the old astrological idea that there are correspondences between the planets and various metals, Saturn and lead, tin and Jupiter, and so on (p43). The categories extend wider; Saturn, for example, was also “associated with the skeleton, gravity, the ageing process, and many other things besides”. Elwell comments that by thinking in this way “the old astrologers made an audacious statement about the way reality was structured” (p47), and that “modern science looks on these ascriptions (of the planets to metals) as entirely fanciful, and based on vague similarities of appearance”.
He points out, however, that “it can be shown that the atomic numbers (which the ancients knew nothing about), and other properties of the metals, form sequences which are directly related to the orbital periods of the planets, a somewhat remarkable ‘coincidence’ ” (pp43–44). Also there is “evidence for some of the internal consistencies (that) has become available only recently, through the progress of science” (p48):
“Not so long ago the suggestion that there might be a connection between the bones and gravity…could have been dismissed without a second thought. That was before space medicine discovered that weightlessness causes the bones to dissolve… Earth medicine recently discovered that while immobility accelerates demineralisation of the bones, this can be corrected if the invalid can stand for three hours a day. Exercise while lying or sitting has no effect on osteoporosis, it is the musculature connected with gravity that is crucial in keeping the bones sound… Another modern finding is that lead, also included in Saturn’s category, has an affinity with the bones, and tends to be stored there. Moreover, (with regard to the ageing process) it turns out that old bones are a stronger magnet for lead than young bones. Whereas the concentration of lead in the soft tissues is relatively stable throughout life, post-mortem analysis has shown that the concentration in the bones increases with age. The link between gravity and lead is demonstrated by the fact that the relative buoyancy from immersion in water causes the metal to be excreted from the body” (p48–9, see the original for more details).
Thus the ideas of the old astrologers seem to be confirmed; things which appear dissimilar are connected. As Elwell says: “It follows that at some level of reality they must be facets of the same unity” (p47). In his eyes this unity is of course the planetary centre, Saturn in the example just discussed, which he chooses to call a holon, a term borrowed from Arthur Koestler. In Appendix 2 to part II I have argued that the term holon is, to all intents and purposes, equivalent to archetype. Now, having assimilated the ideas of Hillman, who describes a God as an independent personality, this point is even clearer. If we make an analogy with human personality, in my own case my favourite sports to watch are rugby and cricket, my favourite composers are Bach and Sibelius, my favourite drink is real ale, and my favourite holiday involves forests and streams. There is no ‘logical’ connection between any of these, and yet they are drawn together, and will tend to appear together because of the underlying, hidden factor of my personality. Perhaps the same principle applies to the Gods. There is no logic to relating bones, old age, lead and gravity to each other. They simply are part of the nature of Saturn, and cannot help being related, always showing up in combination with each other. (Elwell calls this ‘multicongruence’ — “the tendency for certain things and conditions to co-occur, because they belong together at a higher, unmanifest level” (p47).
Compare also Paracelsus: “ ‘Saturn’ is not only in the sky, but also deep in the earth and in the ocean. What is ‘Venus’ but the ‘Artemisia’ that grows in your garden? What is ‘iron’ but ‘Mars’? That is to say, Venus and Artemisia are both the products of the same essence, and Mars and iron are both the manifestations of the same cause” (in Hartmann, p288).
If the archetypes — the ‘planetary’ centres, the Gods — are truly psychoid, responsible for the creation of both psyche and matter, they are responsible for the formation of the planets. Thus the Divine Figures, the Inner Heaven of the psyche, and the physical planets are interrelated because they are all derived from the same source — a higher, unmanifest level; in Elwell’s language, the planet Jupiter is part of the Jupiter holon, and so on. He says:
“Neptune is no hobgoblin of your inner recesses but similar to a force of nature, operative as much outside you as inside”.
“(the ancients) identified the planets with their gods, with the planet taking on the attributes of the deity assigned to it” (pp217, 89).
An example of the latter would be the Chaldeans who believed that “planets were the bodies of gods according to whose dictates the universe was run” (as footnote 4, p20). If we take careful note that in this sentence the “dictates” belong to the gods and not to the planets, then this is not very far away, if at all, from Elwell’s idea I was just describing. I can hardly bring myself to say it, but perhaps, just perhaps, the ancient Chaldeans were right after all, although I suppose, in order not to appear too primitive, we would find some different terminology to express the idea in a modern way²⁸. (Footnote 28 has some further relevant quotes.)
This does not of itself prove that the physical planets are meaningfully interconnected in their manifested forms. However, in that the movements of the planets would be merely outward manifestations of the interplay of archetypal constellations (or Gods if you prefer), it is the perfectly reasonable hypothesis of Astrology that this is so.
Is this the true version of Astrology? As with all questions of this sort, it is hard to know where to begin in trying to answer them one way or the other. I have presented all the material necessary to illuminate the issue. It is therefore up to you to reflect on it and decide. In Chapter 2 I quoted Cordelia Mansall saying that most astrologers do not believe in the direct influence of the planets. If that is the case, then presumably they must think something like what I have just outlined.
My own observations are that this ‘mystical’ version, even though it is further removed from how the majority of people think:
1) makes sense. It is a complete and self-consistent theory, which takes into account all levels of the multi-dimensional universe. In any case, if we do not accept the causal influence of the planets, it is not obvious what meaningful intermediate position can be found. If we say that the position of the planets is either a synchronistic correspondence, or is symbolic, there has to be an inner reality either corresponded to or symbolized .
2) contradicts nothing in quantum physics, and in fact fits neatly with its findings, in that it suggests that the material universe is the creation of consciousness, a view shared and stressed by Hinduism and Buddhism. Halevi’s system is also reminiscent of David Bohm’s theory of the Implicate Order, with its various levels of enfoldment. It would also offer explanations for the problems Paul Davies was encountering (as discussed in an earlier chapter) in trying to understand the embryo’s development, and the stability of the rings of Saturn. The astral level (and others) might be exactly that which provides the stability which holds objects together. We may see teleology in embryos precisely because they exist as ideas at other levels of reality²⁹. (Footnote 29 has some further relevant quotes.)
3) has the further advantage, as I noted above, of doing away with all the original objections; the problems of distance, of the interaction between psyche and matter, and the symbolic nature of this relationship become completely irrelevant, since everything is internal. For the same reason it puts into a different light various other objections that sceptical opponents of Astrology take delight in making, thinking that they have scored a famous victory, for example the problems of the precession of the equinoxes, and the fact that Indian Astrology uses a different system³⁰. (Footnote 30 contains quite a long discussion.)
I began this chapter with a discussion of Jung’s idea that Astrology is projecting our psychology onto the heavens. Rather than treat this as some kind of insult to Astrology, as Michael Harding does (as discussed in previous chapters), we can now see that it fits perfectly with the quantum world-view, according to which the heavens themselves are a projection of the inner world. No material planets exist in which Astrology can have a reality independent of consciousness, so that if Astrology is true, it must be derived from inner contents. Thus Dennis Elwell says that “the patterns formed by the wheeling heavens are a sort of ‘exploded diagram’ of what is simultaneously happening in human consciousness’³¹. (Compare Alan Vaughan: “The web of time through which dreams and events seem to be interrelated in underlying patterns makes me suspect that, in some ways, life is a dream. By that I mean that the elements of real-life situations also can be analyzed and broken down into symbols in the same way as dreams… In some odd ways, the events even behave like dreams”³².) Elwell also describes as “superstition… the assumption that the heavens actively cause things, rather than merely indicate their appearance” (p170), which implies that events in the material universe are foreshadowed somewhere else, namely in the psyche and beyond that the archetypes³³.
We can perhaps compare the pattern in the heavens to the tracks left by animals in snow or in mud. (Compare Dane Rudhyar: “Each motion [of a planet] will be seen as the Signature of one of the most fundamental principles of life and being”³⁴.) It would be ludicrous to suggest that the footprints caused the animal to pass by that place at that time; the ‘cause’ of the footprints was rather the desire in the consciousness of the animal to arrive at a certain place by this route. Perhaps it would be even closer to compare it to a particle leaving its trace on the screen in a quantum experiment. According to physicists, the particle, far from being the cause of anything, may only exist because they have decided to perform the experiment. It is thus consciousness which is the determining factor. Therefore it is meaningful to study the planets’ movements, not as a means of understanding how they influence us, rather as a means of understanding what the cosmos (the Divine) has in store for us. (That would be the more standard line. Elwell also thinks that the study of horoscopes reveals a kind of cosmic commentary on human affairs.)
The implications seem extraordinary:
“Outer circumstances are to be prized because they are often diagnostic of interior states. We are all of a piece with what happens to us. It is our inner self we find symbolically spread out around us in the world of objective experience. The astrologer cannot confine his concept of psychology to what goes on inside the skull, nor limit it to the person’s own behaviour, because it is our own self-elements that approach us in the events and other people we encounter” (p114).
“A configuration in the horoscope (may) appear in terms of personality, in terms of events, or (more usually) both. Sometimes it seems as if a planetary stress has not touched the ‘character’ of the person at all, but has become exteriorised as difficulties in the outer life…” (p142).
What was that about looking at the outside world as into a mirror?
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- Part of his article is reproduced as Appendix 3 in A New Study of Astrology by John Addey (Urania Trust, 1996), and the ideas are discussed by West and Toonder in The Case for Astrology (Macdonald & Co.. 1970, p214 et seq).
2. In order to write this book I have read a lot about Astrology. I have not come across one astrologer who subscribes to the second position. It is in fact a theory devised by a scientist Frank Brown, who was Professor of Biology at Northwestern University, and refers solely to physical effects. (See The Case for Astrology, as footnote 1 p170, or The Truth about Astrology by Michel Gauquelin [Basil Blackwell, 1983] p100, for a brief discussion of his work. His original report on his findings was published in Science, 4/12/59.)
Brown did his research in response to arguments about the mechanisms behind theory 1; his idea therefore has little to do with the type of astrology that I have been discussing, part of my definition of which would be that its true subject matter is personality, the psyche, and evolution, its true nature symbolism and that it involves communication between different dimensions of reality.
It all depends whether or not you believe that physical effects count as Astrology. Life on earth is affected by the rest of the cosmos far more than we would imagine. Tomaschek says: “The truth of such correlations can be demonstrated by statistical methods: that is, the correlations between the positions and aspects of the planets and angles with terrestrial events. Their factual character is beyond doubt”. Gauquelin in his early days believed that this was the only true astrology. Tomaschek says that the domain of Astrology is “the correlation of astronomical facts with terrestrial events, be they of a physical, chemical, physiological or psychological nature”. I have no problem with that, and am willing to call what I have just described physical astrology; it is in fact important evidence suggesting that the universe is an interconnected whole. If we allow this, however, it is important to remember to keep the physical and psychological levels separate, and not to apply arguments about one inappropriately to the other. Yet on the whole I would prefer not to call this Astrology, agreeing with Dennis Elwell when he says: ‘In no sense can the moon’s pull on the tides, its influence on marine creatures — nor for that matter sunburn — be described as astrological’ (The Cosmic Loom, Urania Trust, 1999, p5).
3. On Time, Burnett Books, 1982, p185
4. The Astrology of Personality, Servire/Wassenaar, 1963, p435
5. as footnote 1, p214
6. as footnote 2, p186
7. Astrology, Psychology, and the Four Elements, CRCS, 1975, pp38–39
8. as footnote 4, p435
9. Penguin, 1995
10. This quotation is actually a compression of three passages, found on pages 33, 42, and 70 in the original, as footnote 9.
11. The Knot of Time, Women’s Press Ltd., 1987, pp36 and 7
12. John W. Lovell, 1891
13. Princeton UP, 1971
14. HarperPerennial, 1992
15. Llewellyn, 1991
16. Lindisfarne Press, 1990
17. as footnote 15, pp80–82. The Jung quote is from CW8 para 392.
18. as footnote 16, p189
19. as footnote 15, p120
20. ibid. p145
21. as footnote 14, Pxi
22. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972
23. Luis Alvarado manages to express this idea in quantum language. He talks about a general field theory, “a field being defined as an aggregate cluster of forces experienced as gods, demons, angels, and elementals” (as footnote 15, p37).
24. New Insights in Modern Astrology (with Stephen Arroyo), 1991, CRCS, p17
25. as footnote 16, p126
26. ibid. p50
27. The Cosmic Loom, Urania Trust, 1999, p42
1) Elwell: “For astrology to work at all, the planets must be more than they appear to be, and all the phenomena astrology borrows from its respectable sister must be more than astronomers suspect” (p73).
2) Charles Carter: “The planets with which the astrologer deals are not, in point of fact, the physical orbs which we see, but rather they are great categories of existence… The physical planet is, so to speak, the focusing-point and the symbol of its category” (booklet Some Objections to Astrology Stated and Answered, 1936, quoted in Elwell, p42).
3) Noel Cobb: “The Gods are embodied, astronomically, in the planets… Ficino’s psychology is one which would imagine the divinity within each thing, the God in each event” (as footnote 16, Foreword).
The non-astrologer Hillman also uses exactly this language to express himself: “Order, purity, defensiveness, and economy — and anality — belong together as Freud implied. And, archetypal psychology has since added, the entire character complex, as well as its mode of thought, belong to the psychic premises of the senex archetype, or Saturn” (as footnote 14, p131).
a) Stephen Arroyo: “By definition, (these ‘universal principles’) border on the transcendent since they give rise to all manifestations and observable patterns in the material universe. Many scientists have come to believe that there is an invisible organizing pattern within living things, a sort of psychological pattern which guides and determines the form that energy will assume” (as footnote 7, p29).
b) John Addey: “…the lives of the cosmos are vehicles of Eternal Ideas; that what is spread out in time and space has a unitive subsistence beyond time and space”.
“The things, events and conditions of time and space have their formal causes outside time and space; the processes of efficient causation which we behold taking place in the phenomenal world are mere mechanisms whereby formal causes are implemented” (A New Study of Astrology, Urania Trust, 1996, pp178,180).
Later he elaborates, talking about the difficulty “…of understanding the properties and characteristics of spirit. This is the key, for it is the dynamic and connective characteristics of spirit which enable wholes to express themselves in and through parts, and to organize and maintain the activities of their parts; and these properties are communicated by spirit even to the vital and formative principles of existences in gross matter. It is as if spirit retained a footing in even the least and lowest of material existences’ (p202). There then follows a discussion (p203 et seq.) of the issues Davies raises.
30. The bare facts underlying these two objections are as follows:
a) The precession of the equinoxes is a term referring to a “purely astronomical phenomenon”, namely that “the earth gradually changes its position relative to the zodiac so that roughly every 2,160 years a different ‘sign’ rises at the time of the spring equinox” (West/Toonder, as footnote 1, p47).
b) Thus “there are in effect two zodiacs, .. the ‘tropical’ which is tied to the vernal point, and the ‘sidereal’ which is tied to the stars. The first is favoured by astrologers in the West, the latter by astrologers in the East” (Astrology, Science or Superstition, H.J. Eysenck/D.K.B. Nias, Maurice Temple, 1982, p33).
Critics of a scientific disposition can therefore gleefully make objections like this: “In Ptolemy’s time the two zodiacs coincided, but due to precession they are now nearly one sign out of step. However the meanings have not changed, and signs of the same name still have the same meaning in both zodiacs. This means that almost opposite meanings can be given to the same piece of sky… These are particularly telling objections because they mean essentially that if Western astrologers are right in making any particular interpretation, Eastern astrologers are wrong, and vice versa. Yet both sides claim to be extremely successful!” (ibid. p33). On the face of it this is very compelling argument. To counter it, the first thing that can be said is that astrologers all the way back to the ancient Egyptians have known about precession, and can make allowances for it in their calculations. More importantly, however, if Astrology is really about archetypal, not planetary, influences combined with intuition (and perhaps other paranormal factors), such objections clearly lose much of their force.
31. as footnote 27, p38.
32. Patterns of Prophecy, Turnstone, 1974, p134
33. As further evidence of this idea Elwell says: “There is broad agreement among astrologers that an eclipse can make itself felt some days before it actually occurs… The possibility of events anticipating something which has not yet happened in the sky is found elsewhere in astrology…” (p73).
34. as footnote 4, p175