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When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment...

Sonnet 15

William Shakespeare




Do You Really Believe in Astrology?

What is Traditional Astrology?
What is Modern Astrology?
What are the differences between Traditional and Modern Astrology?
What is Astrological Magic?

Does Astrology Have Anything to Do With the Devil,
Demons or Evil Spirits?

What Does the Bible Say about Astrology?

Isn't Astrology Irrational and Unscientific?

How Rational and Logical is the Mechanistic Worldview?
Astrology and the Neoplatonic/Hermetic Worldview







Do You Really Believe in Astrology?

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When I was a child I discovered I could upset adults by asking them to explain their religious or spiritual beliefs. The fact that most people are incapable of this does not mean that religion or the spiritual realm are irrational, rather it is a symptom of the spiritual impoverishment of our age.
What most people understand by belief is credulity or irrational trust. With that definition in mind, I can say that I don't believe in astrology-in other words, I don't have an irrational or credulous faith in it. Having actually studied the subject, experimented with it and obtained consistently reliable results, I can affirm that Renaissance astrology works.
The real questions are, "Is there a spiritual realm?" and "Do spiritual beings exist?" If not, then all of astrology is clearly errant nonsense because then a spiritual science is simply impossible. However, this view also destroys all religion, all spirituality and leads to the despair and meaninglessness of materialism and existential thought.
If, on the other hand, in addition to the material there is also the spiritual, then astrology becomes possible. It must then be carefully examined and experimented with to determine its scope, practice and precision. This website has numerous examples of the use of astrology and the Articles and Examples Page is a good place to start as are the Chart of the Week Archives if you wish to see astrology in actual use.


What is Traditional Astrology?

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Traditional astrology is the the astrology practiced in Europe between 1200 and 1700 A.D. Astrology, which appears to have originated in Babylon and Chaldea, was highly popular in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. With the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D. much of the science of astrology was preserved in the advanced Islamic civilization of the Middle East.
When in the 13th century Europe began to recover from the Dark Ages considerable learning on a variety of philosophical and scientific subjects was translated from Arabic into Latin and made accessible to European scholars. Traditional astrology is therefore quite dependent on Arabic sources.
Traditional astrology consists of four main branches:
  • Natal astrology, which makes predictions based on the birth chart (usually) of a person,

  • Horary astrology, which makes predictions based on the chart of a specific question,

  • Electional astrology, which picks astrologically auspicious times to take action, and

  • Mundane astrology, which makes predictions over a long period of time or for cities, nations and regions. Mundane astrology was also used for weather prediction. Traditional astrology basically stopped being practiced, with a few notable exceptions, around 1700, as the mechanistic philosophy of the Enlightenment meant that astrology was out of fashion. In the 1980's through the efforts of astrologers like Robert Zoller and Olivia Barclay the practice of traditional astrology was revived. The vast majority of astrologers today, however, practice modern astrology.


    What is Modern Astrology?

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    Around 1900 there began to be increasing interest in astrology after two centuries of neglect. Astrologers like Evangeline Adams and Alan Leo began to revive astrology, but with much of technique of traditional astrology either lost or misunderstood. Modern astrology is overwhelmingly natal astrology and the main focus is on birth charts. Even questions having to do with countries are typically answered by looking at the birth chart of the country in question, rather than the techniques used in traditional astrology.
    Modern astrology is also very focused on psychology. The horoscope is seen as a guide to the psyche of the native and many of the theories of the great psychologist Carl Jung have used to aid the interpretation of birth charts.


    What are the Differences between Traditional and Modern Astrology?

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    Traditional astrology is a very complex and involved system that concentrates on making concrete and precise predictions of concrete events. Modern astrology uses the client's birth chart to assist in giving them psychological counseling. The main focus of modern astrology is inner events and psychological motivation, while traditional astrology is focused on outer events and concrete prediction. Therefore it cannot be said that traditional astrology is better than modern astrology. The real question is better for what?
    In addition to the fundamental question of focus there are also differences in technique between traditional and modern astrology. One of the most significant is the question of sign rulership and the modern planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Uranus was discovered in 1781, Neptune in 1848 and Pluto in 1930. These planets are not visible to the naked eye.
    One of the most important tools of traditional astrology is the system of Essential Dignities. This system assigns the rulership of various portions of the Zodiac to each of the seven traditional planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and The Moon. Most modern astrologers are familiar with the fact that planets rule the Signs of the Zodiac and some are even aware of Exaltations, but traditional astrology also uses the Triplicities, the Terms and the Faces as well as detriments and falls.
    Because knowledge of the complex and interconnected system of essential dignities had been lost and only sign rulership remained, it seemed reasonable to modern astrologers to assign the rulership of Scorpio to Pluto, Pisces to Neptune and Aquarius to Uranus. As workable as this may be in modern astrology, it cannot be used in traditional astrology because it disrupts the symmetry of the essential dignity system. Without the essential dignities, the traditional astrology cannot precisely gauge the strength and weakness of a planet and considerable information is lost. There are many other difference in technique between modern and traditional astrology.
    The key factor to keep in mind when choosing between modern and traditional astrology is what sort of information are you seeking? If you want more insight into your psyche and psychological state modern astrology is best. If you would like precise predictions of concrete events, traditional astrology is best.


    What is Astrological Magic?

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    The Renaissance philosophers and astrologers taught the entire Cosmos is one great Being, with everything in Existence tied together with chains of sympathy and correspondence. This explains how astrology works because we can watch the cycles of the Heavens which either cause or reflect events on Earth and thus make predictions.
    With Astrological Magic we can go one step further and use the chains of correspondence and spiritual connections of the Cosmos to cause effects. By using Electional astrology to pick appropriate times we then can construct Astrological talismans for a wide variety of effects including Love Talismans and Prosperity Talismans.
    By creating a talisman when a particular planet or other astrological factor (like the Fixed Stars or Mansions of the Moon) is strong, combining appropriate materials, burning candles and incense and doing an appropriate ritual, we can focus and capture the spiritual energy of the planet in a talisman.



    Does Astrology Have Anything to Do With the Devil,
    Demons or Evil Spirits?

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    There are two basic objections to astrology: first, that it works, but is inherently evil and second, it does not work because it is unscientific. With regard to the first objection and the question of the relationship between the Devil and astrology, to a certain extent the answer depends on your view of the Devil. If you believe that the Devil is active in the world, then astrology can expose his works, just as it shows the works of God. Renaissance philosophers and astrologers were Christians, and generally fairly orthodox in their views. They did not see astrology as dependent on the intervention of the Devil, demons or evil spirits for prediction of future events.
    Albertus Magnus, the great 13th century philosopher says,
      The second great wisdom...is the science of the judgements of the stars, which provides a link between natural philosophy and metaphysics. For if God...should wish to operate through the created things found in these four inferior elements, using the mute and deaf stars, as if they were instruments...what could be more desirable to a thinking man than to have a middle science which might teach us how this and that change in the mundane world is effected by changes in the celestial bodies? And if the inferior motion obeys the superior motion, is this not one of the primary proofs that there is only one God, glorious and sublime in heaven and on earth?

    The Speculum Astronomiae and its Enigmas, Paolo Zambelli (Kluwer, 1992) pp. 219-20.

    To a certain extent astrology has suffered from its associations with magic and other "occult" arts. Occult, in its original meaning which properly applies to astrology, means hidden. Certainly astrology deals with hidden forces, but to fear it on that basis makes no more sense than fear of electricity or X rays, similarly occult forces.

    Nevertheless, astrology can be used in conjunction with magic for purposes of timing magical rituals and even performing astrological magic. So while practicing astrology does not require contact with the Devil, it can certainly be used for the construction of magical talismans and in conjunction with the conjuration or invocation of demons and evil spirits, or angels, guardian angels, archangels and seraphim, for that matter.


    What Does the Bible Say About Astrology?

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    Like many issues we are dealing with dueling quotes. In some passages astrology is condemned, e.g., Deuteronomy xviii, 10-11, "There shall not be found among you any one...that useth divination or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits or a wizard or a necromancer."
    On the other hand, Genesis 1:14 says, "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs; and for seasons and for days and years;"
    We also have the famous incident of the Three Magi, the Wise Men from the East, who saw the Star of Bethlehem, followed it knowing it foretold the birth of the Messiah, found Jesus and worshiped him. Matthew ii, 1-13.
    It is a mistake, I believe, to expect to be able to seek a definitive answer on this question by searching through the Bible as if it were the United States Code. As an attorney I can say that even the law does not function in this manner, all it gives are general principles and examples which must be thoughtfully applied to the unique situation at hand. This is even more true of Biblical interpretation. If what the Bible says matters to you, I would advise that you read it, meditate on it and decide for yourself. Here are two websites that give opposing views on this question: Astrology: Are You Star Struck? by Pastor Louie Marsh and Is Astrology from the Devil? by astrologer Carole Devine.


    Isn't Astrology Irrational and Unscientific?

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    Now we shift to the other objection, that astrology does not work and it is irrational and unscientific. In my writing and studies, I find myself often returning to the concept of world view or world picture. E.M.W. Tillyard defines it as, "...the most ordinary beliefs about the constitution of the world.." E.M.W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture (Vintage, undated) p. viii. World views are both conscious and unconscious, encompassing our basic philosophy as well as our unconscious beliefs and assumptions. What we see as objective reality is in actuality our own subjective model of reality. Thus when we change our world view, our reality changes. Nevertheless, this does not mean that all world views are equally valid. We can test different world views by comparing them with our actual experience to see if they are internally consistent.

    How Rational and Logical is the Mechanistic Worldview?



    Currently we are under the sway of the modern materialistic world view, which sees each effect as having an antecedent material cause. Let us analyze this world view more closely. First, it assumes that the material world is all that exists. Energy, whether in kinetic form or appearing as the electromagnetic spectrum, is merely another form of matter and vice versa: E=mc2.
    All effects come from an antecedent material or energetic cause and no effect can take place without some contact, be it physical or energetic, between the mover and the moved. Second, this world view assumes that the cause precedes the effect and that the mechanism that transmits the cause to the effect takes some, though possibly a very small, amount of time.
    If this world view is accepted, then astrology is indeed irrational and unscientific because it depends, at least partially, on non-material and non-energetic connections and causality. Yet how accurate is the mechanistic model when it rejects this type of connection and causality?

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    Recent discoveries in the area of quantum physics have shown that the mechanical world view does not always appear to operate on the sub-atomic level. The physicist Fritjof Capra notes,

      "In subatomic physics local variables are represented by connections between spatially separated events through signals-particles and networks of particles-that respect the usual laws of spatial separation. For example, no signal can be transmitted faster than the speed of light. But beyond these local connections other, nonlocal connections have recently emerged; connections that are instantaneous and cannot be predicted, at present, in a precise mathematical way...Whereas in classical physics the properties and behavior of the parts determine those of the whole, the situation is reversed in quantum physics: it is the whole that determines the behavior of the parts."

    Fritjof Capra, Tao of Physics (NY Bantam 2nd ed. 1983) p. 300.
    We might dismiss the existence of non-local connections in quantum physics as only relevant to the behavior of sub-atomic particles if it were not for the nagging problem of gravity. It is ironic that classical physics, the basis of the material world view, is often known as Newtonian physics. Sir Isaac Newton is generally portrayed as the greatest of scientists, a thinker in the modern mold, yet his absorbing interests in alchemy and theology are ignored or suppressed.
    In exploring the nature of gravity, Newton realized that it could not be caused by a material mechanism because of the lack of resistance or interference. When waves on the surface of a lake cross, they interact and affect each other, causing noticeable interference patterns. When waves reach the shallows they crest due to resistance from the ocean floor. This is also true of sound, magnetic and light waves; when these waves move from their source, if they encounter another wave or a material object resistance and interference results. This is not true of gravity which, like sub-atomic particles, exhibits action at a distance without any resistance or interference.

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    Betty Jo Dobbs, in her biography of Newton says,
      "In the matter of gravity, Newton recognized that no material, mechanical cause would serve and had been forced to make a break with corporeal causality. The evidence he had in hand denied the presence of corporeal ether. Yet gravity acted, and it seemed to act as if it penetrated to the very centers of bodies. Only spirit could penetrate in that way without constituting a frictional drag by acting on the surfaces or bodies and/or on the surfaces of their internal parts...The conceptualization of gravity as active principle, as subsumed by the literal omnipresence of God, as a spiritual force binding all together was to serve Newton for many years."

    Betty Jo Dobbs, Janus Face of Genius (Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990) pp. 206-7.

    Not only does gravity act at a distance, but its action is instantaneous. It is interesting to see a contemporary physicist struggle with this fact, but insist on rejecting the evidence of science because it violates the mechanical world view:

      "The most amazing thing I was taught as a graduate student of celestial mechanics at Yale in the 1960s was that all gravitational interactions between bodies in all dynamical systems had to be taken as instantaneous. This seemed unacceptable on two counts. In the first place, it seemed to be a form of "action at a distance". Perhaps no one has so elegantly expressed the objection to such a concept better than Sir Isaac Newton: "That one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of any thing else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to the other, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it." (See Hoffman, 1983.) But mediation requires propagation, and finite bodies should be incapable of propagate at infinite speeds since that would require infinite energy. So instantaneous gravity seemed to have an element of magic to it."

    Tom Van Flandern, The Speed of Gravity - What the Experiments Say, http://ldolphin.org/vanFlandern/gravityspeed.html

    What is interesting about Newton's statement, quoted above, is that while he insisted on a mechanism for gravity, the medium Newton eventually posited was a spiritual ether pervading the Universe. Dobbs says,

      "...the last aether itself is a strange hybrid. Since it is not a dense aether acting mechanically by impact, Newton could hardly have hoped that it would satisfy the mechanical philosophers who objected to his reintroduction of occult principles."

    Janus Face of Genius, p. 228.

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    There are two classic tests of the truth of statements and systems: (1) Is it internally consistent?; (2) Does it correspond to observable phenomena? I submit that the mechanistic world view fails on both counts. Gravity, basis of the mechanical philosophy, is clearly non-mechanistic, both as a matter of theory because of the principle of conservation of momentum and practically, as its ability to act at a distance instantanously is both clearly observable and unexplained by science.

    Astrology and the Neoplatonic/Hermetic Worldview

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    Having examined the mechanistic worldview we now to turn to the Neoplatonic and Hermetic worldviews, which support astrology and are closely connected. We begin with Plotinus, the great 3rd century Neoplatonic philosopher and his Ennead II, treatise 3, "On Whether the Stars are Causes".
    At the outset it should be made clear that Plotinus does hold that astrology is effective at divination and predicting the future, "But if these planets give signs of things to come-as we maintain that many other things do-what might the cause be?" Ennead II, 3, trans. Armstrong (Loeb, 1966) p. 69. The modern editors of the Loeb Enneads seem to find this support of astrology inconvenient and ignore it; the introductory note to this treatise states, "...there is an excellent short account of the basic absurdities of this pseudo-science in [citation omitted]." Ennead II, 3, p. 57. This is an excellent example of the distorting effect of worldview.

    Let's watch this thought process at work syllogistically:

    • Premise One: Plotinus was a great philosopher.
    • Premise Two: Astrology is ridiculous because it violates reality, i.e. the mechanistic world view.
    • Logically, a great philosopher could not violate reality, thus we conclude that Plotinus exposed the fallacies of astrology in Ennead II, 3.
    Perfectly logical given the starting premises, but absolutely opposed to the facts.
    In fact, what Plotinus argues about astrology is that while the stars can foretell the future, they are not the actual causes of the effects they predict. Plotinus argues, for example, that if the stars do not have souls then how do they cause their myriad of effects with merely physical causation and if they do have souls why would they do injury to us? Plotinus argues that because of the sympathy and interconnection of the Cosmos that the stars, and other forms of divination, can predict the future,

      There would be no signifying if particular things did not happen according to some order. Let us suppose that the stars are like characters always being written on the heavens or written once for all and moving as they perform their task, a different one: and let us assume that their significance results from this, just as because of the one principle in a single living being, by studying one member we can learn something about a different one. For instance we can come to conclusions about someone's character and also about the dangers that beset him and the precautions to be taken by looking at his eyes or some other part of his body. Yes they are members and so are we; so we can learn about one from the other. All things are full of signs, and it is a wise man who can learn about one thing from another...Then what is this single linked order? If there is one, our auguries from birds and other living creatures, by which we predict particular events are reasonable. All thing must be joined to one another; not only must there be in each individual part what is called a single united breath of life, but before them all and still more, in the All. One principle must make the universe a single complex living creature...

    Ennead II, 3. p. 70-1.

    We might characterize this worldview, which certainly supports astrology, as being on the more "passive" end of the spectrum. The stars do not cause the effects, but as part of the Cosmos, they are intimately connected with events taking place on Earth and can be used to predict them.

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    A more "active" worldview is held by the famous Renaissance figure Marisilio Ficino. Ficino was president of the Florentine Platonic Academy, commentator and translator of Plato, Plotinus, numerous Neoplatonic works and at the urging of Cosimo de Medici, the Corpus Hermeticum. For Ficino, the heir to the Neoplatonic and, especially the Hermetic traditions, the sympathy and interconnection of all of reality was also paramount. "Most important, the cosmos is itself an animal more unified than any other animal, the most perfect animal..." Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, trans. Kaske & Clarke (MRTS 1989) p. 251. While Ficino does not deny the influence of material connections or the efficacy of what might be termed the "placebo effect", his vision of the sympathy of all reality further embraces the spiritual interlinking of all things in the Universe. Thus the connections seen by Ficino are not just symbolic and material, but also spiritual.
    Just as man has a soul, so the Universe has the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World, "...she is equally connected with everything, even with those things at a distance from one another, because they are not at a distance from her." Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, p. 243. For Ficino, these connections meant that the stars were causes, and with the Anima Mundi, served as links in the Great Chain of Being,

      I have said elsewhere that down from every single star (so to speak Platonically) there hangs its own series of things down to the lowest...Under the celestial Serpent or the entire constellation of the Serpent-bearer, they place Saturn and sometimes Jupiter, afterwards daemons who often take on serpent's form, in addition men of this kind, serpents (the animals), the snake-weed, the stone draconite which originates in the head of a dragon, and the stone commonly called serpentine...By a similar system they think a chain of beings descends by levels from any star of the firmament through any planet under its dominion. If, therefore, as I said, you combine at the right time all the Solar things through any level of that order, i.e., men of Solar nature or something belonging to such a man, likewise animals, plants, metals, gems and whatever pertains to these, you will drink in unconditionally the power of the Sun and to some extent the natural powers of the Solar daemons.

    Ficino, Three Books on Life, p. 311.

    Thus while there were basically two views regarding astrology, both depended on the sympathy and interconnection of the Cosmos and both accepted the efficacy of astrological prediction. Their disagreement centered around causality. The passive view is in many ways more suited to the astrologer. He reads the patterns of the horoscope and predicts what will happen. The astrological magician or mage, on the other hand, seeks to cause effects, and thus ascribes to the more active worldview. Nevertheless, this views are really not so distinct. Plotinus acknowledges the efficacy of theurgia, i.e. divine magic,

      I think, therefore, that those ancient sages, who sought to secure the presence of divine beings by the erection of shrines and statues, showed insight into the nature of the All; they perceived that, though this Soul is everywhere tractable, its presence will be secured all the more readily when an appropriate receptacle is elaborated, a place especially capable of receiving some portion or phase of it, something reproducing it, or representing it and serving like a mirror to catch an image of it.

    Ennead IV, 3. trans. McKenna ( Penguin, 1991) p. 264. There is really little difference between this passage and the later writings of Ficino on magic.
    In my view the Neoplatonic/Hermetic worldview does not really contradict the mechanistic worldview, except insofar as the mechanistic worldview denies the reality of spirit and the sympathy and spiritual interconnection of all things. Mechanistic causality most certainly exists and science has done an amazing job of describing and understanding it, while modern technology has produced marvels by applying mechanistic causality. Unlike the modern dichotomy of religion and science, the Neoplatonic/Hermetic view provides a way to integrate and understand both the realm of matter/energy and the realm of spirit, which are, in fact, never separate and eternally integrated and connected.



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