Astrology and the Gunas of Time

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.

Astrology in the SynagogueI 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.

Ancient Practice of AstrologyIt 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.

See also:

Traditional Astrology or Traditional Cosmology

The Outer Planets – A Theory

One of the big controversies in astrology is what planets should be included in reading charts.  In particular, what do we do with the planets that have been discovered since the 18th Century, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.  We have already established that these planets are not a part of the Traditional Model of the Cosmos.  One of the difficulties with Modern Astrology is that it abandoned the traditional model of the cosmos and traditional techniques in favor of new “discoveries.”

Traditional Astrology has been gaining ground in the past decade or so, which tries to retrieve and relearn techniques that have been long lost from Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance times.  Current practitioners of the craft of Traditional Astrology are not in agreement as to whether the modern planets should included in chart reading.  Some will argue that the modern planets have no meaning at all; others will argue that they DO have meaning, but that they should not be given rulerships or dignities in the signs of the zodiac.  In my own practice, I will have to say that it took me a while to formulate a theory regarding these planets.  For many years, I did not use then at all, and I hardly missed them.  Yet, when I included them in my readings, I did find that there was an added dimension to the chart by including them.  I did notice that they did not have the higher spiritual meanings ascribed to them by New Age astrologers.  Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were malefics, pure and simple.

It was only recently, after reading The Feminine Universe, by Miss Alice Lucy Trent that I began to understand a possible new approach to these planets.  The Feminine Universe described three poisons of the Modern Era.  These poisons are atomization, deracination, and deformation.  It is axiomatic and generally agreed by astrologers that give any meaning at all to the modern planets is that their meaning is informed by the social and political conditions taking place when they were “discovered,” and most would agree that they did not have any meaning whatsoever until after their discovery.  If this was the case, then any meaning ascribed to them would have to be unique to the modern world.  As I thought about the meanings ascribed to these planets and compared them with the description of the above mentioned poisons, they fit almost perfectly together.  Below are the definitions of these poisons, as described by The Feminine Universe.

Don't Tread on MeAtomization

This is the force that separates us from one another.  In societies before the Modern Era, people lived most of their lives in community and in family.  One’s identity in the world was based on one’s community and family connections.  People did not make major decisions on their own.  In Modern times, we are very much cut off from each other, even our own families.  People live alone.  We have complicated governmental programs and insurance to help us in cases of emergency, whereas, in the past, one might rely on one’s family and community to care for us.  In many ways, the United States and other democratic nations are founded on atomization, and it is glorified as “rugged individualism.”  Interestingly enough, the meaning ascribed to Uranus is that of individualism, that which makes us separate and different from one another.  Uranus was discovered in 1781, around the time of the American and French Revolutions.

Downtown Chicago

Deracination

Deracination is the force that cuts us off from our roots and from our traditions.  This poison affects us in many different ways, from the way we dress to our manners and our furniture.  We no longer understand or care about our traditions.  Our understanding of our place in the world and in our community becomes confused and unclear.  This very much fits with the meaning ascribed to Neptune, confusion and lack of definition or clarity.  Neptune was discovered in 1846.  Interestingly enough, the Theosophical Society, which had a huge role in separating traditional sciences, such as astrology, from their roots, was founded in 1875.  In the last half century, deracination has become quite rampant and is most noticeable in the deterioration of our clothing choices and our manners since the mid-1960’s in the West.

PlutoDeformation

The last, and probably most destructive of these three poisons is the poison of Deformation.  This poison is one of inversion, an intentional creation of dark and disturbing images.  One can hardly watch television or consume any modern media without encountering rampant deformation.  The meaning ascribed to Pluto is of death and destruction, a fitting meaning to a planet named with the name of the Lord of the Underworld.  Pluto was discovered in 1930, the time period in between the World Wars, and right before World War II.  It is about 30 years later that Western civilization began a rampant deterioration that the Feminine Universe describes as the Eclipse.  

Now, if the Traditional Planets represent the Higher Cosmological Spheres, it is not hard to extrapolate that the three Outer Planets represent Lower Spheres, or the Outer Darkness, referred to in the Christian tradition.  Interestingly enough, these planets may have very well been known about in Ancient times.  Certainly, Uranus was.  Our Ancient forebears knew enough not to intentionally invoke these planets, however.

In my own astrological practice, I have begun to look to these planets from the viewpoint of places where a Native is most vulnerable to the poisons of atomization, deracination and deformation.  In so doing, I have found that this reading has given me far greater accuracy than any other reading of these planets that I have ever tried.