Classical Astrology

As Soul descends through the planetary spheres on its way to incarnation it is bathed in the sleep of forgetfulness. As it awakens, fully inhabiting its new vehicle for experience, the body, it has forgotten from where it came. Time in now its new reality: nothing existed before and nothing will be after.

So where did we come from? And what are we made of? These are the questions that great minds have grappled with for eons. To seek understanding of classical astrology is to engage in these quests in order to gain wisdom.

Beginning my astrological study all those years ago I was motivated by the desire to know my fate. But what I found in contemporary astrology was not so much an understanding of my place in the scheme of things as a very concise view into my psyche. As interesting as this was for a short while, I sensed that there was mote. Then I discovered classical astrology (astrology as practiced up until 1700).

I learnt that the astrology that had been around for thousands of years bears little resemblances to its modern namesake. The foundation of classical astrology is the Hermetic wisdom inherent in the saying “As above, so below” and the acceptance that all emanates from a Divine genesis. The cosmos do not effect or cause events on earth but rather the cosmos and earthlyl realms reflect each other, for ultimately we are all part of the same Divine expression. In classical astrology it is our relationship with the Divine that is of utmost importance rather then the relationship with our parents and peers.

The biggest criticism hurled at classical astrology is that it is events based, overly focused on prediction and that it lacks the multi-coloured shades of our modern understanding into the process of growth and evolution. But contrary to this popular belief, to be immersed into the astrology of old is to discover the rich essence of Spirit in our life.

Story of the three realms

As understood by our forefathers reality is divided into three realms. The highest realm is the realm of the Divine, the realm of first principles. In this world everything is constant; there are no cycles, no decay, no corruption and no form. This is the world of essence, purity and unchanging nature. In this world nothing dies, nothing is born, nothing is created and yet all of creation emanates from there.

The lower realm is the one we are most familiar with, it is the world we live in. It is the realm of matter, corruption, decay and cycles. It is the world of constant change, creativity, beauty and infinite variety, as well as the realm of certain death. Nothing is constant and everything will change, end and begin again. This is the realm of Earth.

The middle realm is that of the twilight, the in-between world we may enter into during our dreaming, spiritual disciplines and meditations. This is the realm that shaman travel in their healing quests. In classical astrology this was understood as the planetary realm, or the realm of the planetary spheres, through which the souls descended on their way to incarnation. The final sphere and the one closes to the earth plane was that of the Moon, known to be both entirely of the material and of the spiritual.

The Descend of the Soul

From the classical period it was understood that souls choose their life and then fall into matter in order to live out the chosen life. Plato (450 BCE) tells a story in the Myth of Err about souls waiting to be born. An angel, messenger of the Divine comes along with a number of lives from which the souls impetuously grab one, with little regards for the consequence of their choice.

Taking their chosen life to the three Fates, they would wait while the Fates checked the spindle of life around which the stars, sun, moon and planets spun and make sure that everything lined up to allow the life chosen to unfold and end as it should. Only when everything lined up properly was the soul thrown down into incarnation to live out their chosen life. Falling into incarnation the soul had to pass through the seven planetary gates or spheres. At each gate they would take on qualities and gifts both good and bad that would help shape their temperamental nature.

The soul’s descent through the planetary spheres begins with Saturn the most distant of the visible planets where they take on structure and authority. Here the soul also takes on grief, the grief of being restricted by the matter and time, the physical reality they so readily jumped into.

At the gates of Jupiter the soul gains the desire to rule, to give and receive honour as well as the impulse for wealth and the power to act. Envy is the down side of Jupiter’s gifts. Mars gives the soul bold spirit as well as impulsive and reckless daring. Here the soul also acquires discernment and is given the ability to cut through the dross, but with these new found gifts also comes the propensity for aggression and cruelty.

In the sphere of the Sun the soul acquires vision and the sense of perception. With these gifts comes pride and in the extreme, arrogance. Venus the next planetary sphere through which the soul passes, offers the gift of love and the impulse for passion. Beauty, luxury and the arts are also gifts of Venus, as is her negative expression, lust.

Mercury gives the soul the analytical faculty of the mind and language with which to communicate. But he also gives them the ability for evil plotting, a yearning for money and greed. The final sphere is that of the Moon, which imparts to the soul its body and the ability to change and grow. This is where the soul acquires hunger and its pains. Gluttony is one of the Moons not so pleasant offerings.

This journey down through the planetary spheres is most profound for it begins with Saturn ruler of Capricorn which is the point of the winter/summer solstice and ends with the Moon ruler of the summer/winter solstices. Astrologically the Moon is a symbol of the infant and so it should that the soul is born into this plane of existence as an infant.

On the way out of this life the soul again passes through the planetary spheres in the reverse order, but this time it releases the qualities and gifts back to each planet, finally giving up structure, authority and grief at the gates of Saturn. Astrologically Saturn is the symbol of the old man and death, a fitting end to the incarnated life.

The beauty of classical astrology goes far beyond the psychological analysis of the individual into the understanding of the soul and its relationship with the earth plane. Through the placement of the planets in our chart we can come to understand the gifts we took from the planetary sphere and the lessons they provide us with. Classical astrology is an art that connects us with our philosophical and spiritual roots and allows us a glimpse at our place within the Divine plan.

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