Graham Pemberton
14 min readOct 4, 2023

Towards a New Worldview — Astrology and the Perennial Philosophy

This article is part of my unpublished book on Astrology. (For what has preceded please see this list.) It is the beginning of part 3. In the first two parts I have tried to tried to establish a theory as to how Astrology might work. In this next part I discuss what I think are the implications if this is true.

For Medium, for reasons of length, I’ve separated chapter 19 into two articles. In the first one, I discuss the relationship between Astrology and the Perennial Philosophy. In the following article I’ll discuss the further implications.

chapter 19: TOWARDS A NEW WORLD-VIEW

In Part 2 I spent a long time criticising the ideas of Michael Harding (who was trying to establish a physical explanation for Astrology, based literally on the movements of the planets). I thought it necessary to do this because the spiritual implications of what I feel to be the truth underlying Astrology are so profound, that they cannot be wasted by trying to rationalize them out of existence. I would summarize them as follows:

a) Astrology suggests a hidden intelligence organising the Universe, perhaps implying that life and its evolution have purpose

b) in particular, it suggests some mysterious cosmic force at work in the formation of personality

c) it points to levels of existence beyond the material universe with which we are familiar.

It is perhaps not unreasonable to say, condensing these three statements into a single idea, that Astrology points to the existence of something like ‘God’ or, at the very least, to hidden spiritual energies/agencies. Therefore…

If Astrology is true, society seriously needs to change its world-view.

Two astrologers who agree are:

a) Robert Hand: “A true science of astrology… would transform not only the other sciences but the very basis of our culture’s attitude towards Man, God and Nature. If the fundamental assumptions of astrology at any level are validated then the metaphysical foundations of the sciences and of our culture are wrong! And it is the metaphysical assumptions of modern science and their broader cultural counterparts… that are threatening the world we live in”¹.

b) Dennis Elwell: “(Astrology) demonstrates that there is another way of looking at the universe, another angle from which everything takes on a different appearance. Down the centuries astrology has been a stubborn and sometimes tongue-tied witness to the existence of another dimension of reality”².

It is hard to assess the extent to which the philosophy of materialism (also known as physicalism) still dominates modern science and society. On the one hand, book after book that I open criticizes it, says that it is time to move on, exposes its errors. On the other hand, it does not feel as though the new ideas have had much impact upon our daily lives. Our society still seems to be dominated by materialism, and organised as if it were true, even though numerous individual citizens do not believe in it. A summary of its main ideas runs as follows:

The universe began with the Big Bang. Just before this first ‘moment’, all the matter in the universe as we now see it was condensed into a single point. The massive ‘explosion’ which followed had no known cause, it was a bizarre accident. Immediately afterwards particles were formed, which eventually became basic matter after the necessary period of cooling. Eventually stars and planets were formed. On our planet, and possibly on others, life emerged out of inorganic matter. Consciousness (awareness) eventually emerged in living organisms, and subsequently self-reflecting consciousness. Thus matter is seen as primary and consciousness is its bizarre by-product. As there is nothing but matter it must be responsible for evolution. Therefore extreme importance is attached to the role of the physical elements, genes and the DNA of which they are made. Newton’s laws of motion also figure prominently, even though Newton himself would not necessarily have agreed with many of the conclusions drawn. Pierre Laplace in the nineteenth century gave the philosophy its most extreme expression. Inspired by Newton he envisaged “every particle of matter as unswervingly locked in the embrace of strict mathematical laws of motion. These laws dictated the behaviour of even the smallest atom in the most minute detail. Laplace realized that if this were so then, given the state of the Universe at any one instant the entire cosmic future would be uniquely fixed, to infinite precision, by Newton’s laws”³.

According to this view therefore personality must also be a bizarre by-product of matter. “The brain is the seat of the personality” announced Richard Dawkins in the (anti-Astrology) article to which I referred in the introduction to Part 1. I also remember an occasion on Radio 4’s Start the Week programme, when eminent brain and consciousness researcher Professor Susan Greenfield, responding to a question from one of the other contributors about whether the brain was responsible for consciousness, said “it must be” with a strange nervous laugh, that I took to mean that she would find it embarrassing even to contemplate any other explanation.

Is materialism true?

It might be, but that would be a separate discussion. Its advocates certainly believe so. I think, however, that all reasonable people would agree with what West and Toonder say here: “Ultimately even the most unregenerate materialism is based upon value judgements, that is, upon unproven and unprovable assumptions — e.g., the assumption that life on earth is an accident, is no more logical and no less metaphysical than the assumption that it is not”⁴. Here they become more emotive, but I think the underlying idea is still valid: “Based upon indefensible premises, and physically undemonstrable, it is a bogus religion which, by applying the name of reason to what is in actuality mere negative belief, secures for itself the allegiance of timid souls who have never dared push their emotional experiences beyond a first bleak brush with adolescent nihilism… By simply denying that the infinite harmonies and the prodigious subtleties and wealth of form displayed by the sensible world are manifestations of Higher Consciousness, or any consciousness, the materialist feels safe. As long as he can dream up new descriptive words to apply to inexplicable phenomena (‘natural selection’, ‘selection pressure’, ‘mutation’, ‘survival value’, ‘genetic code’), as long as he can convince himself that these descriptions are explanations, he can attribute them to ‘coincidence’ ”⁵.

“Religion and Astrology are incompatible”, said a man down the pub, rub-a-dub-dub.

This is the first line of a song of mine. It refers to a real experience; I was sitting at a pub-table when I overheard a man at the next one saying these words. I did not engage him in conversation, so I do not know what he meant by them. All religion? His religion? What all religions have in common is a belief in the Divine. To my mind, if Astrology is true, it implies the Divine and is therefore totally compatible with religion, which believes, after all, that we are the creation of the Divine. Astrology would merely give us some insight into the processes.

It goes without saying that the scientific and psychological ideas I have been considering (in parts 1 and 2) are also diametrically opposed to materialism, and the mechanistic vision of the universe that it suggests. No one has stated it better than astronomer and physicist Sir James Jeans: “Today there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter’⁶. And this was in 1930!

In earlier chapters I outlined a world-view which would allow Astrology, and which can be expressed as follows:

1) Matter is in some sense conscious. The universe is an undivided whole, and is therefore a living organism, as are the various constituent parts…

2) ...but not literally, for matter does not exist in the way we think it does, more like patterns of energy, thoughts…

3) …in fact both consciousness and matter are shaped by the operation of the archetypes.

4) Space and time as we perceive them are illusions.

5) There is a hidden, transcendent centre of human personality (the Self), the God-image in man, the goal towards which the individuation process tends (following the ideas of Carl Jung).

6) This Self is a microcosm enfolding and replicating the macrocosm, clearly at a psychological/spiritual level, but possibly also materially. It exists outside spacetime, but breaks through into our consciousness in dreams, and synchronistic and other paranormal events. It can be inferred therefore that it is an intelligence permeating the universe through a network of hidden interconnections beyond our conscious awareness.

If all this is true then there is no reason why Astrology should not be valid.

This world-view perhaps sounds like mysticism but actually contains concepts derived only from quantum physics and (Jung’s) Analytical Psychology, that is to say science, or at least empirical observation (if you think Jung’s psychology is not science). (For convenience, from now on I shall refer to this composite world-view as QMAP.) Not all the astrologers whom I discussed in chapter 2 would agree with all these points, but as they admitted, they did not always know how Astrology works. QMAP provides a world-view which allows it, and therefore offers some possible theoretical background. It is very general, however, and does not provide any insight into the nature of the processes involved. In order to address that question I had to explore the mystical avenue suggested by Halevi etc., but this is only a slight extension of the above ideas. (The idea of an inner psychological universe is not that far removed, if at all, from the Jungian world of the archetypes. Compare this passage from Ira Progoff: “In the framework of Jung’s microcosmic/macrocosmic conception of the human psyche, to work with the materials of personality, which means to work within the human being, leads immediately beyond the person. This is so because, at its depth, the psyche of the individual contains reflections of the larger universe. These reflections are images symbolically representing aspects of the macrocosm. The images contained within the individual psyche are thus reflections of the universe in miniature”⁷.

I imagine that many readers will be unfamiliar with the types of ideas that Halevi presents, which seem bizarre to most peoples’ way of thinking. Starting from a mystical viewpoint, however, Halevi expresses an identical world view to QMAP. Thus the world-view which Astrology requires is shared by science and mysticism. The convergence of these two apparently conflicting areas of thought has been described before in Fritjof Capra’s best-seller Tao of Physics, and in the less well-known Mysticism and the New Physics by Michael Talbot. As far as I am aware, however, this thinking has not been extensively applied to Astrology, which after all is one manifestation of mystical philosophy⁸.

How valid is this world view?

During my investigation I had cause to refer to Hinduism to help my argument. Of the six points listed, I have already shown that the Vedanta — the philosophy underlying Hinduism — is in accord with numbers 4, 5 and the first part of number 6. I also noted that physicist David Bohm’s concept of the Holomovement sounds very much like Brahman, the ‘undivided whole’ of point 1. It would perhaps not be surprising, therefore, to discover that the other points are also an integral part of this philosophy:

1) “matter is in some sense alive”. Christopher Isherwood, the editor of an anthology called Vedanta for the Western World , in his introduction imagines a typical Vedantist and puts these words into his mouth: “The ego-sense, which is the basis of individuality, will continue to work its way upward, through inanimate matter, through plant-life, through the lower animals, into human form and consciousness…”⁹.

2) it is well known in the West that Hinduism asserts that the universe which is perceived by our senses is only an appearance. Here is Fritjof Capra explaining the Vedantist position: “Maya, therefore, does not mean that the world is an illusion, as is often wrongly stated. The illusion merely lies in our point of view, if we think that the shapes and structures, things and events, around us are realities of nature, instead of realizing that they are concepts of our measuring and categorizing minds. Maya is the illusion of taking these concepts for reality, of confusing the map with the territory”¹⁰. The same idea is expressed more rhetorically thus by Shankaracharya: “This objective universe is absolutely unreal. So too is ego, the life span of which, as seen, is but a wink… Stop identifying yourself, therefore, with this lump of flesh, the gross body, and with ego, the subtle body, which are both imagined by the mind… Destroying this egoism, your enemy, with the mighty sword of Realization, enjoy freely and directly the bliss of your own true empire, which is the majesty of the Self that is the All in all”¹¹.

3) Gerald Heard, in an essay entitled Vedanta as the Scientific Approach to Religion, states: “The Vedanta has a world-view…which does not contradict the findings of science. The statement that the physical world is a construction of the human mind from a substratum, a basic unity which our animal senses break up into a manifold, is a statement which modern physics can support. The hypothesis that consciousness is Sui Generis and this particular temporal experience is an event in a series which extends beyond it in both directions, is an hypothesis which research into consciousness tends to establish”¹². He mentions “modern physics” and “research into consciousness”, thus quantum mechanics and (probably) Analytical Psychology. This does in fact sound remarkably like a joint statement that could have been made by Pauli and Jung. I think that it is fair to state therefore that QMAP, which allows and suggests Astrology, is completely consistent with the Vedanta, a highly significant religion, still flourishing, and the oldest of the major ones still surviving¹³.

What I find even more significant, however, is that the Vedanta, according to Isherwood, is “in its simplest form… a statement of the Philosophia Perennis, the least common denominator of all religious belief”¹⁴. In English this term becomes ‘the Perennial Philosophy’. It was coined by Leibniz, but made famous by Aldous Huxley in his book of that name¹⁵. (Huxley confirms the importance of Hinduism in this regard when he describes the Bhagavad-Gita, the most important Vedantic text, as “one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made”, and “perhaps the most systematic scriptural statement of the Perennial Philosophy”.) The term obviously refers to a set of ideas which have recurred consistently throughout human history. They can be summarized as follows:

1) There is a divine Ground of Being, which is hidden behind the world of matter and mind, and which brings them into being.

2) In addition to the ego humans possess a hidden, eternal Self, which enfolds the divine Ground.

3) Human beings can achieve union with the divine consciousness, and the purpose of their lives is to strive to do this.

It is intriguing to note that, although Astrology is not specifically mentioned, the whole of the Perennial Philosophy is concerned with a cosmic, transcendent Self, and its relationship to individual consciousness, which is exactly the subject matter of Astrology. It is therefore fair to say that astrological issues are at its heart.

Major examples of religions and philosophies which express or are very close to the Perennial Philosophy can be listed as follows:

1) In the East: Vedanta (Hinduism), Taoism, Buddhism and Jainism (although in these there may be some debate about the terms “God” and “Self”).

2) In the Middle East: the various schools of Gnosticism, the Kabbalah, Sufism, the Hermetic tradition centred around Alexandria.

3) In the West: a) an ancient Greek tradition including Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plato, Pythagoras. This was followed by Neo-Platonism, e.g. Plotinus, Proclus.

b) during the Middle Ages: the Italian Renaissance, Alchemy, and individual Christian Mystics.

c) Recently: Theosophy and Anthroposophy, and numerous individual philosophers and artists.

I hope you will have noticed that QMAP is also completely consistent with, dare I say is an expression of, the Perennial Philosophy, which means in effect that Analytical Psychology is a further manifestation of it, and quantum physics in no way contradicts it. (The latter, for obvious reasons, has nothing to say about humans’ ability to unite with divine consciousness.) So, far from being the object of derision and contempt that it was in the first chapter, Astrology actually turns out to be completely consistent with the latest developments in science and psychology, and a spiritual tradition that has persisted for at least 3,000 years — probably much longer — amongst widely differing cultures, often in the face of extreme hostility and persecution. (Compare Liz Greene: “From Plato’s time through the Neoplatonists of the early Christian era and the Renaissance to Robert Fludd and William Lilly in the seventeenth century, and again from the ‘rediscovery’ of astrology at the beginning of this century to the followers of Blavatsky, Steiner and Bailey today, astrology and the ‘perennial philosophy’ have travelled hand in hand”¹⁶.)

In the next article I’ll continue chapter 19 by discussing the implications of the above.

==========================================================

I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, and politics. All of those articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here). My most recent articles, however, are only on Medium; for those please check out my lists.

=======================================================

Footnotes:

1. in The Future of Astrology, A. T. Mann (editor), Unwin Hyman, 1987, p26

2. The Cosmic Loom, Urania Trust, 1999, p4

3. The Matter Myth, Paul Davies and John Gribbin, Viking, 1991, p25

4. The Case for Astrology, Macdonald & Co., 1970, p142

5. ibid. pp227–8

6. The Mysterious Universe, CUP, 1930, my copy 1947, p137

7. Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny, Julian Press, 1973, p78

8. Of the astrologers whose work I know, the one who makes most references to quantum physics is Dennis Elwell. Physicists sympathetic to Astrology are:

1) Will Keepin, who is believed to be the “first physicist to go public about his ‘conversion’ to astrology” (The Mountain Astrologer, Feb/March 1997).

2) Michael Shallis, whose book On Time is sympathetic to divination, Astrology, the I Ching, etc.

3) Fred Alan Wolf, who does not discuss Astrology as such, but says in The Spiritual Universe that his “model of the soul based on quantum physics, follows the work of Plato, Pythagoras, Kepler and Pauli” (p249). If that is true he must surely have some sympathies towards it.

9. Unwin, 1963. p20

10. The Tao of Physics, Fontana, 1976, p94

11. from Vivekachudamani, quoted by Joseph Campbell in Myths to Live By, Souvenir Press, 1972, p70

12. in Vedanta for the Western World, edited by Christopher Isherwood, Unwin, 1963, p55

13. There is, of course, a whole system of Vedic Astrology. Astrology flourishes in India, and is in no way considered incompatible with religion. Louis MacNiece says: “In India it may not be true that (as some Indians allege) most of the more conservative members of the cabinet regularly consult astrologers; but it is certain that below cabinet level astrology permeates every sphere of life. Indian astrologers tend to work with collections of allegedly ancient ready-made horoscopes (known as nadi granthams) written on palm leaves. To the Western way of thinking this may smack of common fortune telling, but many Europeans have returned from India much impressed by what these palm leaves have told them about themselves” (Astrology, Aldus, 1964, p10).

14. as footnote 12, p9

15. The Perennial Philosophy, Chatto & Windus, 1946

16. The Astrology of Fate, Mandala, 1985, p122

Cosmic Program

Quadrivium Magicae

Armand Diaz

Geoff Ward

Anders Bolling

Janice LaBonte

Wes Hansen

Kimberly Meeks-Johnson

John Ege

Bruce McGraw

Marcus aka Gregory Maidman

Timothy James Lambert

Jack Preston King

Graham Pemberton

I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com