In this video, I examine a subject that is at the very basis of the craft of astrology, and that is what one excepts as authoritative and persuasive. This goes to the heart of the differences among the various branches and types of Western Astrology.
One of the biggest challenges as a Filianist is that there is no living tradition to draw upon. As I have been thinking of this, it has occurred to me that this is also a challenge for Western astrologers who are trying to work in a more traditional manner. I would like to share some of my thoughts and ideas about this.
What is a Living Tradition?
Before I begin, it might help if I explained what I mean by a living tradition. A living tradition is one that has been passed down in an unbroken line from teacher to student from either a time that cannot be counted or from a genuine source of revealed knowledge. With respect to Filianism, such a living tradition no longer exists. We believe that there was a time that there was a feminine living tradition, but any line between teacher and student has long been broken.
There are remnants of the feminine tradition in the patriarchal traditions practiced today, and there is archeological evidence that there was a feminine tradition that existed in the past. While these things are to be valued and treasured, they are a poor substitute for having a true living tradition.
In Orthodox Filianism, this is dealt with by keeping to very simple devotional practices and by not allowing for priestesses or anything of that nature. This is in the Orthodox version only, however. Many independent Filianist groups do allow for priestesses.
The lack of a living tradition is also dealt with by being honest and humble in what we profess, exercising a great deal of caution. We use the remnants of the feminine tradition that can be found in various cultures today, in the East and in the West, and supplement this with some of our own materials and practices.
The problem of a lack of a living tradition is faced many who are not Filianists as well. In the West, Christianity was ruthless in rooting out “pagan” religions and traditions, so those who wish to explore these forms of wisdom and spirituality are in a similar position.
One of the other ways to deal with this problem is to try to reconstruct these traditions from the written and archeological evidence that we have available to us. An example of a reconstructed tradition is the modern Druid movement. It could also be said that the modern practice of Traditional/Classical Astrology is a reconstructed tradition.
Uncertainty of Interpretation
The difficulty with a reconstructed tradition is that there is very little certainty that one is interpreting the material that we have accurately. In many cases, we do not have written records. If we do have written records, they often must be translated. Furthermore, we have to deal with the problem of texts. The printing press was not invented in the West until the 15th Century, even though it was developed in China about 600 years earlier.
Before that texts had to be copied by hand. Of course, the scribes in those days were surely more accurate than someone completing such a task today would be. On the other hand, we are still dealing with uncertainty that increases the further the text is in time from when it was written.
The other big problem is that even when we have written materials and even when we have original texts, not everything was written down. Of course, some information was probably deemed too important to reduce to writing, but even more of an issue is that writing was a major project. Just as secret matters would not be written, neither would things that were common knowledge. It would be far too much of a waste of time and resources.
Adaptation to Modern Times
Even if we did have perfect information about broken or destroyed traditions in order to revive them, we would still have the problem of how to adapt them to modern times. I do not believe in evolutionist ideas about “progress,” nor do I think that we are more advanced than our forebears. However, we are not the same as them either. Our physical, mental, and spiritual capacities are greatly reduced. At the same time, we have more technology which artificially enhances our computational abilities.
Because of this, any revival of spiritual traditions, or any revival of traditional sciences such as astrology, needs to take into account our reduced abilities to understand and to implement its doctrines or teachings.
In a living tradition, this adaptation would have taken place over time, as spiritual leaders or masters of the craft would have made small adjustments from generation to generation. Every now and then, there would have been major changes as a leader emerged. In the present, we tend to think of these leaders as innovators. Within a true living tradition, however, these leaders are not innovating but are making large-scale changes to adapt a tradition to the present age.
This idea is reflected in the Christian tradition in the Gospel According to Matthew when Jesus says:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Matthew 5.17 New Revised Standard Edition
Without that organic adaptation over time, modern scholars and practitioners are in a very difficult position. This often leads to one of two extremes. On one extreme, scholars can decide to bend and shape the tradition to fit the modern world until it bears little resemblance to the original. On the other extreme, scholars can rigidly hold on to the letter of what was written to the point that it is unworkable in the modern world.
In Traditional/Classical Astrological circles, there are those who go to both extremes, and sometimes the same person will do both at the same time. For example, there are Traditional/Classical Astrologers who will insist that any technique or practice must be attested to by a traditional, pre-Enlightenment source, while at the same time also insist that astrology is purely mechanical, denying any spiritual or Divine powers that may be at work….a position that would have been considered absurd by pre-Enlightenment thinkers.
Now that we have looked at the problems with reviving broken traditions, what about modern revelations? There are many who have claimed to have received revelations about spiritual matters. In modern astrology, one of the most influential sources of alleged “received wisdom” comes from the Theosophical Society. One of the early leaders of this Society was Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to have received revelations from a brotherhood of Great Masters. On a smaller scale, the founder of one of the main branches of Evolutionary Astrology claims to have received some of the major tenets in a dream.
The problem with modern revelations is very similar to the problem in reconstructing or reviving broken traditions. The issue of continuing revelation is a subject of great controversy within a number of religious denominations. Those religions that do accept continuing revelation usually have some means by which to test and evaluate them.
Without a living tradition, it would seem that evaluating such revelations would be extremely difficult. How do you know where the revelation is coming from without a tradition to use as a standard?
So What Can We Do?
From all of the problems that I have raised, it would seem that the situation is impossible. How can one know anything or be sure of anything, especially in the West? There are some who turn to Eastern forms of spirituality as a solution. Within astrology, the Vedic tradition is one of the few surviving astrological forms that still has a living tradition to draw upon. The problem with that is similar to the problems with reviving historical traditions, however. As a Westerner, is it really possible to understand the Vedic tradition and get it right, especially without a guru?
Despite the broken tradition and despite all of the problems, I do think that there is value in the Western system, particularly for Westerners. This is the reason that I am slowly working to develop what I am calling Essentialist Astrology.
On the other hand, I think it is important to be aware that we are dealing with a broken tradition. As such, it is necessary to proceed with caution and humility, and to be cognizant and honest about what we do not and can not know.
Currently, there are quite a number of different schools of thought within astrology. Currently, one of the more heated divisions is between Classical/Traditional Astrology and Modern Astrology. To those who do not understand astrology, these divisions can seem confusing. To be honest, these divisions can be confusing even to those who do understand and practice astrology. There are several concrete matters that arise with respect to the difference between these schools, such as whether and how the Outer Planets are used or not used; however, It can be a bit difficult to sort through the debates and discussions regarding these divisions.
I think that an understanding of the gunas of time can be instructive in shedding light on these matters. I have discussed the gunas is quite a bit of detail in a previous article, The Gunas and Societal Choices. As a review, Sattwic (Traditional) Societies are upwardly oriented societies, Rajastic (Normal) Societies are outwardly or materially oriented societies, and Tamasic (Inverted) Societies are neither upwardly or outwardly oriented, so they move downward. Western society began a movement into a Tamasic society in the mid-1960’s.
Interestingly enough, I think that it is likely that the Western practice of astrology began a movement into Tamas at around the Enlightenment, coinciding with the “discovery” of the Outer Planets. I also do not think it is a coincidence that Western society fell into Tamas a few centuries later. One could argue that it is not possible that changes in the craft of astrology could have such a profound effect upon society. That argument would hold if we were taking about just the craft of astrology; however, until the Enlightenment, the fields of cosmology, astronomy, and astrology were not divorced from each other as they are today. The “discovery” of the Outer Planets destroyed what remained of the knowledge of cosmology, severing the knowledge which is the basis for all traditional science. As astronomy and astrology are the sciences that are most directly connected to cosmology, it makes sense that they would be the first plunged into Tamas.
Our understanding of the cosmos very much informs everything in our lives. A very good explanation of this process is found in Chapter One of the Feminine Universe. I believe that the only reason that society as a whole did not fall into Tamas earlier when astrology did is that is people are quite resistant from being severed from their roots.
So, in a very real sense, what we know of as Modern Astrology is probably a bit of a misnomer. It is probably more accurate to think of Modern Astrology as post-Modern Astrology. What we know of as Traditional or Classical Astrology is closer to Modern Astrology, if we were to use this terminology.
To explain this, we need to go back the concept of the gunas with the symbolism of the cross. A Sattwic or a Traditional society is one that is upwardly focused. There is no separation between the Divine and the Mundane. In the history of astrology, it is noted that personal horoscopes were not cast until around the Chaldean period in the West. Conventional wisdom is that this was because there was not enough understanding of astrology to cast individual horoscopes, but I find that unlikely. I think it far more likely that there was no reason for people to have their personal horoscopes drawn in a Sattwic or Traditional Society. Their lives were ordered in an integrated society which was reflective of the Order of the Cosmos. Rulers derived their authority from the Divine, which was seen as the only true source of authority. This required rulers to be obedient to the Divine. One of the sources of information regarding the instruction of the Divine was through the movement of the heavenly bodies.
As there are really few, if any, true Traditional or Sattwic Societies left in the world today, with the possible exception of aboriginal tribes, we really can not be sure of how astrology was practiced. It is likely, though, that astrology was used by the Temples and rulers to determine festivals and omens and to align the societies they were responsible for with the Divine Order of the Cosmos. We really do not have access to astrology as it was practiced in a these societies.
It is for this reason that I started to use the term Classical Astrology rather than Traditional Astrology to refer to the type of astrology I practice. This is the astrology of a Rajastic or Normal Society. The purpose of this type of astrology to assist people in their outward or material existence. The outward or Rajastic uses of astrology are myriad, examples of which are deciding whether when to buy or sell a house, assisting physicians in healing, and determining the best time to plant crops. Even if the higher meaning and purposes were largely forgotten or unconscious, the practice was still rooted in the older Tradition. It is likely that this was the state of astrology until around the 1700’s in the West.
When astrology fell into a Tamasic state, it became cut off from both the older Traditional roots AND from the principles of tried and true practice as materially helpful craft. In some ways, it looked like a Traditional practice, with Psychological and “Spiritual” Astrology. This is often the case in a movement into Tamas. In the Feminine Universe, Miss Trent referred to this phenomenon as the Tamasic Dialectic. Tamasic forms often resemble Sattwic forms, but in an inverted or “diabolical” manner. There is movement away from the material horizontal axis of the cross; however, that movement is below the horizontal level rather than above it. The fascination with the Outer Planets is one example of this.
It is for this reason, that I see the present movement towards the study of Classical Astrology a very positive development in astrology. In the Feminine Universe, Miss Trent explained that it was not possible to return to a Traditional, Sattwic society directly from an Inverted, Tamasic one. For this reason, the antidote to the Tamasic poisons is a return to healthy material existence in a process termed re-racination, or returning to our roots. There are many articles in the diary section of this blog that are devoted to discussing personal efforts towards re-racination.
In a sense, this blog is devoted to the process of the re-recination of our understanding of the cosmos. This movement has already begun with the recovery and translation of older texts. Of course, we are unable to truly practice the craft as it was practiced, but these texts are artifacts that assist us in returning to a Rajastic practice from a Tamasic one. When reading and analyzing these texts and methodologies, I think it is also helpful to have an understanding of the Traditional and Essentialist principles from which these texts and methodologies are derived. It is a process of returning to our roots.
Exploring tradition from a feminine perspective can be quite a challenge because most of the material that has been handed down to us is highly patriarchal. This can lead to the belief that patriarchy and tradition go hand in hand.
While this belief is understandable, it is not entirely accurate. This is because, historically, patriarchy itself was a revolt against the early feminine tradition. I am assuming that anyone who has followed this weblog so far should understand that patriarchy and the masculine does not refer to biological males, nor does feminine refer to biological females. Masculine and feminine are metaphysical principles in and of themselves, but they are not completely separate from biological gender. Indeed, biological gender does find its roots in the metaphysical, as does everything else on the material plane. On the other hand, just as everything on the material plane is an imperfect reflection of Perfect Form, so biological gender is an imperfect reflection of the higher principles.
The Primordial Tradition is indeed feminine. We can find all over the world images of Dea, or the Feminine God, in Her various forms. It was not until the Age of Iron that we see the Divine reflected in Masculine form. At first, the Feminine God obtained Masculine Consorts, and in the West, there was a violent revolution in which the Masculine overtook and attempted to obliterate the Feminine. The Masculine also took over in the East; however, the Divine Feminine survived in such traditions as the Japanese tradition and the Indian traditions.
What was the world like prior to the Patriarchal Revolution? It is hard to know. Most of our historical, written records are from the Patriarchal period, and in the West, the Patriarchal Revolution was quite violent. The Judeo-Christian written tradition chronicles the stamping out of the worship of Asharah and the Queen of Heaven. Mundane archaeology has uncovered physical evidence to suggest that prior to around 500 B.C., Yahweh and Asharah were worshiped alongside each other as consorts. It seems that the Canaanite Baal was also a consort to Asharah. Interestingly enough traditions, such as Judaism, that can not be traced to a specific “founder” such as Jesus or Mohammed, tend to be the most fiercely Patriarchal. This makes a great deal of sense if one understands that there was a revolt against the Feminine Tradition, and the unfounded traditions were reacting in keeping with this revolt. Still one can see elements of the Primordial Feminine Tradition in Judaism, in such practices as the Mother of the House lighting the Shabbat candles and giving the Shabbat blessing.
The Masculine Principle on a metaphysical level is associated with Mars, or Sai Vikhë in the Filianist tradition. At its highest level, the Martial/Vikhelic Principle governs the Divine Conflict between Good and Evil, and is a protection against the Forces of Darkness. In its lower form, the Martial/Vikhelic Principle is associated with conflicts of all kinds. It is interesting that in cultures, such as Ancient Minos, which had a primarily Feminine spirituality, there does not appear to be evidence of weapons of war or a standing army. Ancient Minos seems to have been a rather gentle culture in comparison with many other Ancient cultures that we know of.
Were women the dominant gender prior to the Patriarchal Revolution? Perhaps, perhaps not. Again, we have few if any written records to refer to. It is likely that women governed, because in Traditional cultures, societies tended to conform with their spirituality. There is certainly no reason to presuppose that men were suppressed or oppressed during these times. It is much more likely to presuppose that relations between women and men were rather harmonious, and that without the predominance of the Martial/Vikhelic Principle, there was little in the way of cruelty or oppression in general.
Why did the Patriarchal Revolution happen? Again, there is no way to know the specifics from a fact based perspective. Likely, it happened gradually over time. As I discussed previously, in the natural unfolding of the Ages. We are in the Age of Iron, which, aside from being the Age most consolidated in matter, is also the harshest and most violent Age. Iron is the metal of Mars/Sai Vikhë, so it stands to reason that the Age of Iron would be the most Martial/Vikhelic, and it would become more so as the Age progressed. It is possible that as the Age progressed, the Martial/Vikhelic nature of patriarchy seemed to offer better protection. It is likely that this was at least partially the impetus in the Hebrew tradition, with the pressure of the neighboring warlike states intent on conquest. The Roman period was a particularly Martial/Vikhelic period in the West, and many of our current customs and cultures derive from the Roman period. Indeed, Christianity, the dominant spiritual tradition of the West, has been transmitted to us through the Roman Empire.
As I stated earlier in this article, the Masculine and Feminine Principles are related to, but not synonymous with, biological males and females. As evidence of that, one can see in our current times that the Masculine Principle has all but completely overtaken the Feminine Principle, particularly in the West. Certainly, women have more “rights” than they ever had; however, these “rights” are bound up in the Masculine Principle. Femininity itself became more and more devalued as the Feminist Movement progressed. Lately, there seems to have been a resurgence of value given to the Feminine Principle; however, compared to sixty years ago, the Feminine Principle has been largely trampled.
One may ask what this has to do with a weblog devoted to philosophy, metaphysics, traditional science, and astrology? A lot more than one might think. To begin with, this weblog does not equate Tradition with patriarchy or the cruelties that have occurred during the Patriarchal Age. Quite the contrary. Patriarchy and the over-balanced Martial/Vikhelic influences that accompany it are seen as deviations from an earlier, gentler, and Feminine Tradition. Also, one may notice that I rarely, if ever, quote from Classical, Medieval, or Renaissance philosophers or astrologers in this weblog. I most certainly have studied many of these authors, and the astrology that I practice derives from the principles taught by these authors. On the other hand, almost all written material that is available to us is from after and is colored by the Patriarchal period.
Part of the work of this weblog is to dig a bit deeper and retrieve the ideas and the principles from the older Feminine Tradition. Many of these principles did and do survive even to this day. Indeed, Classical Astrology is one of the few disciplines in the Modern West where these principles have been preserved, albeit in a masculinized and patriarchal form. Classical Astrology is also one of the few disciplines that still functions as a true traditional science to a large extent, in that metaphysical principles are studied and applied to solve practical problems in the material world.
I am attempting to do the work of digging deeper, and replanting traditional metaphysics and practical astrology in its earlier Feminine Essentialist roots. I am also making a humble attempt at working out how traditional Patriarchal metaphysics and Classical Astrology fit within the older Feminine Tradition. Luckily, I am blessed with the able and kind assistance and teaching of friends and mentors.
One of the doctrines of Deanism and Filianism is the doctrine of our True and False Selves. I believe this doctrine is found in many religions; however, different religions have different terminology for the same concept.
The basic doctrine is that a person’s True Self is the part of her that is aligned with the Divine. Her ultimate True Self is actually One with the Divine, but on a mundane level, her True Self is her best self. Everyone has a True Self. Opposed to a person’s True Self is her False Self. Her False Self is aligned with the Dark and is opposed to the Light. Often one’s False Self acts in a subtle way, whispering thoughts of fear, ego, and selfishness. Our False Selves are always a twisted mirror of our True Selves. Within this thealogy, it is our True Selves that are real. We are our True Selves, not our False Selves.
Interestingly enough, a common theme in Japanese media shows this struggle between our True and our False Selves, and often the heroine must defeat her own False Self before she can continue to fight evil.
One of my personal stumbling blocks when studying Classical Astrology has been that many of our source teachers can be rather harsh and a bit negative, particularly about certain signs. Water signs, in particular, tend to get rather harsh treatment. As a Pisces Sun, with a Scorpio Moon and Ascendant, you can imagine that I am a bit sensitive about these things. Aside from my personal feelings, though, I have noticed that when one applies axioms and rules directly from Medieval or Classical authors, one gets a rather negative reading.
In some ways, it is a bit refreshing to move away from the over-positive readings one can get with Modern Astrology, but I will admit that the harshness of Medieval and Classical Astrology sometimes made me quite uncomfortable. I think that one of the difficulties may be a different philosophy. I think that Medieval and Renaissance Western philosophy tended to be quite harsh as well, with a belief that human nature was intrinsically bad. Modern New Age astrology tends to be a bit overly optimistic, assuming that everything about us is good.
I think that the doctrine of True and False Selves has been helpful for me in finding a balance between these two ways of looking at a chart. Everyone one has a True Self, and everyone has a False Self. Whether we operate out of our True Selves or our False Selves is a day by day, and sometimes even moment by moment decision on our parts. The doctrine of our True Selves is part and parcel with the doctrine of Free Will and the Cross, which is discussed here.
Nativity Charts are quite valuable in discerning the True Self and the False Self of a native. One can read a chart in its most positive light to see the person’s True Self and look at the chart in the most negative possible light to see her False Self. Sometimes the native will let her True Self shine through, sometimes her False Self will take over.
One can apply the doctrine of True and False Self to the zodiac signs. The zodiac signs are the 12 Archetypes of humankind. None of us reflect any of these Archetypes purely. We are all a mixture of these archetypes, and no two charts are exactly alike. Yet, in each of these Archetypes, we can see the operation of the doctrine of True and False Selves. We are often taught that the zodiac signs have positive and negative traits. The negative traits of each of the signs are always a twisting of the positive traits, just as the False Self is always a twisting of the True Self. With this thought, below I have made a humble attempt to show this doctrine in the 12 Archetypes or Signs.
Aries the Ram
True Aries: Strong, courageous, optimistic, friendly, decisive
False Aries: Impulsive, rude, brazen, foolhardy, selfish
Taurus the Bull
True Taurus: Patient, stable, kind, pleasant-mannered
False Taurus: Lazy, dull, stubborn, closed minded
Gemini the Twins
True Gemini: Open minded, friendly, curious, interested in almost anything
False Gemini: Flighty, indecisive, duplicitous, inconstant
Cancer the Crab
True Cancer: Nurturing, loving, attentive, caring
False Cancer: Clutching, unforgiving, mean
Leo the Lion
True Leo: Generous, fun loving, confident, charming
False Leo: Narcissistic, overbearing, attention seeking
Virgo the Virgin
True Virgo: Conscientious, detail-oriented, precise, intellectual
False Virgo: Hypercritical, unkind, paralyzed by perfectionism
Libra the Scales
True Libra: Diplomatic, pleasant, artistic, strong interpersonal skills
False Libra: Indecisive, manipulative, dishonest
Scorpio the Scorpion
The Martial Artist
True Scorpio: Passionate, determined, perceptive, loyal
False Scorpio: Possessive, jealous, stormy, vengeful
Sagittarius the Archer
True Sagittarius: Optimistic, philosophical, enthusiastic, generous, friendly
False Sagittarius: Pompous, over-confident, judgmental, ill-mannered
Capricorn the Goat
True Capricorn: Organized, efficient, practical, ambitious
False Capricorn: Overly ambitious, cold, unfeeling, miserly
Aquarius the Water Bearer
The Truth Teller
True Aquarius: Curious, intelligent, friendly, sociable
False Aquarius: Defiant, eccentric, immovable
Pisces the Fish
True Pisces: Gentle, kind, loving, compassionate, ethereal
False Pisces: Gullible, overly sensitive, escapist, prone to addictions
In the past three articles, we have explored the origins and roots of rationalism, the essential and metaphysical principles upon which astrology is based, and how astrological problems would be addressed under Essentialist (the traditional approach defended by Plato that was common to all civilizations and was first breached in Periclean Athens), Aristotelian, and nominalist philosophies. I also suggested that the Essentialist philosophy is soundest of these three philosophies. I also suggested that we approach astrology as a traditional science, rather than as a modern science. What does this mean?
A simple explanation of the difference between traditional science and modern science is that a traditional science accepts what has been handed down from tradition as true when that tradition is long standing and relatively uniform. Traditional science treats metaphysical principles as trustworthy and constant and treats information that we perceive with our senses as unreliable and fleeting. Modern science takes the opposite approach. In modern science, nothing is considered true or proven unless it can be observed with our senses (either directly or with technological enhancement) or can be derived from our sense data using rational analysis. Traditional science still uses sense data and rational analysis; however, information obtained from these sources is given a secondary status to information that has been passed down from solid tradition (you may recall that tradition is that which has been passed down to us from the beginning of time, see What is Tradition?)
How can this be? Can we not trust what we can observe with our senses? This proposition is a difficult one for Westerners, I think. We are taught to question everything and that “seeing is believing.” Under a traditionalist approach, however, we understand that the only part of the cosmos that we can perceive with our senses is the sublunary sphere; all of the higher planes are beyond our senses. What we know of the higher planes is that which has been passed down to us from tradition. There is a certain arrogance to modern scientific reliance on our own observation and rational analysis, assuming that we know better than our forebears did. The modern attitude can be likened to that of a teenager ignoring the advice and wisdom of her parents. Traditional science presumes that our forebears knew more and understood more than we did, so we trust tradition over our current sense data.
Does this mean that current research and our sense data are to be ignored by traditional science? Not at all. First of all, in the West, our tradition has been broken, particularly in the traditional science of astrology. There are many fine astrologers and researchers who are busy at work translating and analyzing texts from the past 2,000 years, but this is a poor substitute for an unbroken line of tradition passed down from teacher to student over millennia. Because of this, we do not have a uniform or consistent tradition to guide us. There are some principles and techniques that are uniform, such as the traditional planetary rulerships of the signs. There are other principles and techniques that are confusing at best and chaotic at worse, such as the various House systems.
In cases where tradition is unclear or confusing, we do need to use research and observation to sift through inconsistencies. In a modern scientific approach, one would sift through these inconsistencies using a purely empirical approach. We would conduct research to see what “worked.” Research and observation to determine what techniques “work” is perfectly acceptable in a traditional science as well, particularly when the there is inconsistency and apparent disharmony in the tradition available to us. On the other hand, in a traditional science, one would first analyze metaphysical foundations for the different techniques, if such information was available. If it is clear that the metaphysical basis behind a technique is unsound, it should be discarded, whether or not it appears to “work.”
Furthermore, even if we had a solid, unbroken tradition, we would still need research and observation. This is because of the doctrine of the unfolding of the ages. For a detailed description of this doctrine, I will refer the reader to this article; however, the summary of this doctrine is that Axial Beings become more and more consolidated in matter as the greater cycle progresses. At present, we are in the Age of Iron, and we are highly consolidated in matter. While the metaphysical principles remain consistent and true, the application of these principles changes and becomes less pure. A technique that may have worked in the past may not work in the same way as this material age continues to unfold. A concrete example of this concept is the prediction of fertility using techniques that have been passed down from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In this day and age, we have reproductive technology to assist with such matters, so the techniques that “worked” in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to predict whether an individual would have children may not work now, or more likely, may work, but in a different way.
This approach to research and observation is not the same as the modern approach. When we undertake this research, we are not attempting to innovate, nor do we have any notion that we will “discover” something unknown to our forebears. What we are doing is acknowledging the unfolding of the ages and that the sublunary plane is the world of flux and change. The principles remain the same, but the application of these principles changes over time. This is where the Essentialist understanding of metaphysics provides more flexibility than the Aristotelian understanding does. The Essentialist understanding of metaphysics is that the material reflects the metaphysical; it does not necessarily mimic the metaphysical. Our theories and hypotheses must be derived from sound metaphysics and tradition; however, a reasonable amount of variance is allowed and even expected. We can adapt our methods and techniques to be more accurate in a different age without challenging or upsetting the underlying principles.
It may seem like this discussion has led us back to the methods that many astrologers already use in their practice and in application. In a sense, that is absolutely correct. Adopting an Essentialist philosophy does not necessarily change what we do on a practical level. What does change is how we think about what we do, and how we analyze and explain our craft. One of the areas of discomfort and disharmony for and between Traditional/Classical Astrologers concerns how strictly we adhere to the lessons of astrologers of the past, and whatever approach we take, it is a source of criticism from modern astrologers. This makes for some rather uncomfortable conversations in our attempts to explain whether and how we can adhere to tradition in a world that is very different from the world in which our predecessors lived. As I have also demonstrated, there are flaws in the Aristotelian approach, and these flaws require mental gymnastics to explain and reconcile when we are confronted by the findings of modern science.
While the modern criticisms of Aristotelian philosophy have merit, the modern answer to these criticisms does not. The error in the Aristotelian approach is not a lack of understanding of modern scientific principles; the error is in the departure from tradition. Essentialist philosophy provides us with flexibility and gives us the guidance we need to adapt and adjust our practice to a changing world. This philosophy expects and can accommodate variations between our tradition and our sense data in a way that Aristotelian philosophy cannot. Essentialist philosophy also sets the parameters for adjustments to our practice. The first parameter is that our adaptions derive from our tradition and do not disrupt tradition. The second parameter is that we only adapt when it is necessary to obtain accurate readings in a more material and consolidated time, and these adaptations are vigorously tested. We adapt and adjust, we do not innovate.
I understand that this series of articles may be a bit challenging. The ideas that have been presented have been the result of a long dialogue and struggle that I have had in adapting my practice to an Essentialist understanding of the cosmos. This struggle was reminiscent of the struggle I had several years ago when I was converted to Classical Astrology from Modern Astrology. Like that struggle, this one was difficult and painful, but the end result was well worth the struggle. For me, it has given me a new and richer understanding of our craft, and on a practical level, I believe it has allowed me to give more accurate and helpful readings to others.
One of the places where we can find Universal Truth is in fairy tales.
Yes, fairy tales…the timeless stories we tell our children, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast. Fairy tales have been criticized in modern Western culture as being unrealistic or naïve and have been decried by feminists as for their portrayal of women as weak and helpless, needing protection and saving from a man. These criticisms really show how hard it is for the modern Western mind to get beyond literalistic thinking – reading fairy tales as if they were modern novels about individuals.
This literalism is actually quite an insidious inoculation from being able to really understand the true meaning of fairy tales or to get any real good out of them. So, the first step in being able to understand fairy tales and derive real metaphysical truth from these tales is to understand that they are not literal stories. They speak to Truth (with a capital T), not to factual truths. They are in the category of Mythology and Folklore, not stories of actual human beings.
So, we have just said fairy tales are not literal, factual truths, nor stories of actual human beings. So, what are fairy tales then?
Fairy tales are timeless stories of the human condition and our separation and reunion with the Divine. All separation from the Divine and from each other is only a temporary state, and that the only permanent state is that of reunion and Unity. Fairy tales all have common features. While fairy tales can be enjoyed and are instructive without an understanding of the meaning of these features, an understanding is helpful to reverse the rationalist conditioning that many of us have been exposed to from earliest childhood.
One of the features of fairy tales is that they are told to children and that they appeal to children in a magical way. The appeal to children is so powerful, that even in our heavily rationalist, materialistic culture, they have survived. While in response to Western rationalist, feminist thought, Disney has changed its telling of these timeless stories, particularly with respect to the roles and characteristics of the female characters, the older and more traditional movies, such as Cinderella and Snow White, are just as popular as they have ever been. Little girls are entranced by Disney princesses so much that they are effective marketing tools.
The sad thing is that the appeal to children is seen as a way to compartmentalize these stories as not being serious or relevant to adults or the Modern World. Yet, to the more traditional Essentialist mind, children are supposed to be told stories of Universal Truth. In the Sutra of The Way of Simplicity, it is written:
For the truth is such that a child may understand it, yet the sage, if she have not simplicity and love, may struggle with it for all of her life and have nothing.
What is your truth, if it cannot be shared with a child?
For in the eyes of Eternity, how little is the space between and infant and the wisest of the world?
These stories are not to be abandoned by adults. Yes, one will and should understand these stories differently as one matures, and indeed maturity requires one to be able to see Truth in a deeper way. On the other hand, as an Essentialist, one places special importance and value on stories that are told to children as those that speak to Universal Truth.
Once Upon A Time
Another feature of a true fairy tale is that the setting is “once upon a time.” This is the marker that this is a story outside time and space. This should also be the first clue that these stories are not to be read literally. These speak to Truth that goes beyond time and space, and therefore beyond our literal human lives.
Commonly in fairy tales, Princesses and Princes are the main characters. This is another marker that these stories deal with matters beyond materiality and are not to be taken literally. These stories speak to ideals and to archetypes, symbolized by royalty.
These stories also speak to the interaction between the metaphysical passive (the Princess) and active (Prince Charming), in eastern terminology, yin and yang. In Eastern and Traditional thought, the passive state is the highest state, and the active state serves the passive. So, to an Essentialist, even thinking of these stories as any type of statement on the roles of actual gendered individuals is ridiculously literalistic. The interaction between the Princess and Prince Charming shows the interplay between the passive and the active states of being, with the passive generally representing the higher state. “Earth moves but Heaven is still”.
Another common feature of fairy tales is the involvement of evil. While as an Essentialist, on one level everything in existence is part of the Divine, on another level, inherent in manifestation is the struggle between good and evil.
This is a paradox, but one that is necessary to accept. Evil is as much of a part of manifestation as good and always seeks to destroy good. This is seen in that there is usually some form of “curse” that is placed on the protagonist. Interestingly, the types of curses upon the Princesses and the Princes are quite different. Princesses are trapped in drudgery and materiality (“Cinderella”) or completely asleep (“Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White”). Princes are turned into monsters or lower beings (“Beauty and the Beast” and “The Frog and the Princess”).
True Love and Transformation
In fairy tales, the curse is always lifted or the Princess is freed or rescued. It is love that lifts the curse. Love is seen to have a magical transforming power. Indeed, it is only love that can defeat the evil antagonist. This is the feature that is most criticized by modern society, as setting unrealistic expectations of marriage and being harmful to women. Yet, to an Essentialist, this is the Ultimate Truth. Love is transforming and healing. This transforming love is not romantic human love, it is Divine, Godly Love, which is the only thing that can transform and heal.
While Divine Love is not romantic human love, the interplay between the Transforming Love manifested by the Princes and that manifested by the Princesses is interesting in and of itself. The Princes show their love through actions, i.e., fighting the Evil Queen, searching for the girl who fits the slipper. The Princesses show their love through wisdom and awareness, i.e. seeing the beauty within the beast, kissing the frog. The Princess is often the divine Spirit who recognizes the lost soul in its earthly disguise.
Happily Ever After
As fairy tales begin with “Once Upon a Time,” they end with the protagonist “living happily ever after.” In a sense, this is the resolution of the paradox of the curse and Evil Queen. Good ultimately triumphs over evil. While evil is inherent in manifestation, the only Truth is the Divine.
We can never be permanently separated from the Divine. There is only one resolution. The evil must be overcome, the curse must be lifted, the Prince and Princess must come together, and they must “live happily ever after.” That is also the only resolution in the separation inherent in manifestation. We must return to the timeless state of union with the Divine.
Often in this blog, there is reference to the term Tradition. This begs the question, what is meant by the word Tradition? What tradition are we speaking of? Are not there many different traditions all over the world?
To answer this, we must differentiate between Tradition and traditions. There is only one Tradition. Tradition is what has been passed down to us from the One Source through our foremothers from the beginning of time. All earthly traditions are imperfect reflections of the One Tradition. Tradition is where we learn about Universal Truth. Our modern day religions, folk tradition, fairy tales, and stories we tell our children, like the ones about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, are examples of traditions. These stories have changed over time and many of the deep meanings have been lost, but one can still learn about Universal Truth from these stories and traditions.
One such a tradition is the Swedish tradition surrounding St. Lucia Day. On St. Lucia Day, the oldest daughter is supposed to lead her siblings in a parade wearing a white robe with a crimson sash and a wreath of candles on her head. She serves their parents coffee and pastries. There is a traditional pastry served on that day called Lussekatter. Below is a picture of these pastries:
If one researches this tradition, one will learn of the story of St. Lucia, a Christian martyr, who is stated to have brought prisoners food in the catacombs. Her sainthood was evidenced by the miracle of food appearing during a famine in Sweden. Yet, the symbols of this tradition speak to much older stories. It is celebrated on December 13, which was the date of the Winter Solstice under the older Julian calendar. The tradition is filled with symbols related to mid-Winter celebrations from long before the Christian or any other current tradition. The oldest daughter with light on her head coincides with Light from Heaven coming to us from the Northern Gate, bring sustenance, Light and warmth. As an aside, this is also why Santa Claus comes from the North Pole. Even the pastries are symbols of Light!
One could ask, well, which tradition is True…the Christian story of St. Lucia or the older symbolism of Light and the Winter Solstice? While questions like this are common in modern Western thinking, this really represents a false dichotomy. One can honor the tradition and learn from the tradition whether one sees it as a celebration of the Christian saint or the Winter Solstice. Both teach us about God’s sustenance and Light being brought to us during the darkest time. The Christian story of the saint does not supplant the older story; it puts it in a new context. The story is the same.
Another question one can ask is whether it is worthwhile to continue a tradition if the story is forgotten and all that is left is the form. Many modern thinkers say that these traditions should be discarded as if they no longer have meaning. Some will even discard traditions just *because* they are old, and of course, we know better than to have these superstitions in modern times. To a traditional thinker, this is hubris and arrogance. Modern minds are less wise and are further from an understanding of Truth than the minds of our ancestresses. This is axiomatic in Traditional thought throughout the world. We should assume that the traditions that have been passed to us are good and true. If we discard the tradition, we lose that which has been passed down to us, and this is sadder and more destructive than the loss of written records from the past. Even if we do not understand the tradition, the remnants of the tradition can still lead us (or our descendants to have access to Truth, even in a fragmented form. If the tradition is gone, there is nothing to learn from.
Does that mean that we should not examine these traditions? Of course we should examine our traditions. For one thing, learning the reason for the traditions can teach us much of metaphysical truth. Are there times that we will find that some of our traditions are based on false teachings or error? Yes, of course. On the other hand, we should start with the presumption a tradition is correct, and it is the burden of proof, so to speak, upon the one discarding the tradition rather than on the one arguing to keep the tradition. Do people sometimes use tradition in ways that are harmful, misguided, or just plain wrong? Yes, of course, just as they can use science or anything else in such ways. Does that mean the tradition should be discarded? Absolutely not. Erroneous application of tradition does not invalidate a tradition, although the error can and should be corrected, if possible.