We have discussed the origins of rationalist thought, and the 7 Divine Principles and the 12 Archetypes. So, what does this all mean, and why does this matter to astrology as an applied science?
Let us go back to the disagreement between Plato and Aristotle on the issue of Perfect Form, and the later introduction of nominalism. If you recall, Plato taught that Perfect Forms exist at the level of the Divine. This teaching was not unique to Plato, and this is one of the basic precepts of essentialism. Aristotle taught that all Perfect Forms must manifest in the material world, and any Perfect Form that does not manifest in the material world does not exist. The later philosophy of nominalism teaches that only the manifest world exists. Why do these differences matter?
In astrology, the Perfect Forms would be the Divine Principles and the 12 Archetypes. According to Plato, and prior Traditional teachings, while the physical manifestation of these Forms derive from the Perfect Form, they are not necessarily perfect representations of these forms. Also, Perfect Forms may exist without ever becoming manifest in physical form. According to Aristotelian thought, all Perfect Forms must be manifest in physical form. Nominalist thought would not acknowledge any Forms beyond manifest forms.
While nominalist thought would state that the cosmos is the manifest universe, in the Traditional Model of the Cosmos, the manifest universe is the sublunary plane, and only the sublunary plane. Plato and Aristotle would agree that the Traditional Model of the Cosmos is true and that the Solar System is a microcosm of the full cosmos. Under this Model, the stars and planets that we can see are a visual model of the larger cosmos that we can not see. The disagreement between the philosophers is over the question of whether what we can see is an exact replica of the cosmos we can not see. According to Platonic thought, it does not have to be. If what is seen in the physical sky does not match the Model of the Cosmos, it is interesting, but it does not change the metaphysical principles involved. According to Aristotelian thought, if what is seen in the physical sky does not match our teachings regarding the Model of the Cosmos, this calls into question these teachings.
One may ask, if we accept the axiom, “As above, so below,” does this not mean that it is Aristotelian thought that must be true? Should not what we see on the material plane match the metaphysical principles we can not see? Not necessarily. There is another axiom we can use to explain discrepancies between the physical and the metaphysical: “Earth moves, but Heaven is still.” If one understands this axiom, one can see that it is not possible for a Perfect Form to manifest on the physical level. Perfect Forms only exist at the level of the Highest Heaven. Even at the level of the Sphere of the Fixed Stars, manifestation becomes imperfect. This is why there can be evil fixed stars, such as Algol. By the time we get to the level of the sublunary plane, forms become quite imperfect. Forms we can see are reflections of the Perfect Form, but just as the reflection of the Moon does not look exactly like the physical Moon in the sky, the reflections of Perfect Forms do not look exactly like the Perfect Forms in the Highest Heaven. Combining the axiom, “As above, so below,” with the axiom, “Earth moves, Heaven is still,” one can see how Platonic and Traditional Essentialist thought would be the soundest philosophy and doctrine.
Again, why does this matter? Let us apply the three different philosophies to the 2 crises in astrology, the “discovery” of a heliocentric solar system, and the “discovery” of the Outer Planets.
The “discovery” of a heliocentric solar system is only a difficulty if one adheres to nominalism. According to both Platonic and Aristotelian thought, an observation that the physical Sun is the center of the physical solar system is consistent with the metaphysical principle of the Solar Heart being central, see Mummies and Luminaries. The manifest solar system exists in the sublunary plane, so an observation that the physical Sun is central to the physical solar system does not challenge the Traditional Model of the Cosmos in any way, and in fact, this observation supports generally accepted metaphysical teachings. The only way that the “discovery” of a heliocentric solar system can challenge the Traditional Model of the Cosmos is if one believes that this model is describing the physical, manifest universe.
The “discovery” of the Outer Planets is a bit more complicated. If one adheres to nonimalism, then the discovery of the Outer Planets becomes of utmost importance. According to this philosophy, it is the physical planets themselves that impact us, so any new planets that are discovered must be incorporated into practice. In fact, we may even need to include bodies such as asteroids, comets, and the moons of other planets into our practice. If we decide to include some, but not all bodies, we must have a good reason for doing so. The burden of proof is on the exclusion of these planets under this analysis.
The “discovery” of the Outer Planets is even more problematic for Aristotelian thought. According to this philosophy, the physical universe must be a replica of the metaphysical cosmos. The “discovery” of extra planets is inconsistent with the doctrines of the 7 Divine Principles and the Traditional Model of the Cosmos. This creates a huge crisis. Do the 3 extra planets mean that there are 3 extra spheres to the cosmos? Are there 3 more Divine Principles? If the physical solar system must be an exact replica of the full cosmos, this would seem to be the case. The “discovery” of extra planets calls into question past metaphysical teachings, and if these teachings are to be preserved, there must be an explanation. History has born this out. The “discovery” of the heliocentric model of the solar system did not disrupt the practice of astrology; the “discovery” of the Outer Planets did.
The “discovery” of the Outer Planets is not a problem for Platonic and Traditional Essentialist thought. Under this philosophy, one does not expect the physical universe to be the exact replica of the entire cosmos. The physical universe reflects the entire cosmos, but there can be and probably are, variations. The fact that there are more physical planets than are accounted for in the Traditional Model of the Cosmos or in the 7 Divine Principles does not change anything. The traditional teachings are preserved. The system that has been passed down for millennia does not need to be revised or changed. The Outer Planets can not represent Divine Principles, because tradition teaches us that there are Seven Divine Principles and the Archetypes that these Principles rule. We treat the tradition that has been passed down to us as sacrosanct.
Under Platonic and Essentialist philosophy, the movements of the Outer Planets may have meaning for us. This does not disrupt tradition. In astrology, there are other points that are traditionally recognized as meaningful that are not equated with Divine Principles. Some examples are the Lunar Nodes and Arabic Parts. On the other hand, the Outer Planets do not have to have meaning just because they exist, have physical properties similar to the Traditional Planets, and can now be perceived with instruments. The burden of proof is placed on assigning them meaning, rather than on not assigning them meaning.
On the other hand, under Platonic thought, even if the Outer Planets have meaning, they can not rule signs, and they do not represent extra cosmological spheres. There are Seven Divine Principles, not nine or ten, and their relationship to the Archetypes is a matter of well established tradition. Assigning rulerships to the Outer Planets disrupts the system in a way that attributing meaning to them does not.
As you can see, returning to Platonic and Traditional Essentialist thought frees us to observe the physical universe and to adjust our practice accordingly. At the same time, it also anchors us and gives us boundaries for these observations and adjustments.
I intended this to be the final article in these series, but this explanation ended up being longer than I expected. Part IV of this series will explore the role of research and observation and its relationship to traditional teachings.
Astrology as a Traditional Science, Part IV: Research and Observation