Defining Traditional Astrology

The great lineage of Astrology which stretches back at least 2 millennia is now being reawakened. In this post I am are going to focus on the philosophical and some of the technical differences between so called traditional astrology and modern astrology.

Traditional: The passing of beliefs or customs from one generation to the next. Any long held method, practice. Of or pertaining to time-honored orthodox doctrines.

Orthodox: Adhering to what is commonly accepted

On some level all astrology is traditional, as all are handed down by a previous generation of astrologers. However it is important to remember that there was a major break in the transmission of astrological knowledge and wisdom which resulted by the 20th century, in the development of very different types of astrology, which have a much shorter and more recent history; the “tradition” of modern astrology only extends back at most a couple centuries.
Maybe a better term to describe what has come to be known as “traditional” astrology would be “classical” astrology.

Classical: Traditional in style or form, or based on methods developed over a long period of time. Of a kind that has been respected for a long time. Used to describe something that is attractive because it has a simple, traditional style. Belonging to or relating to the ancient Greek and Roman world, especially to its language, literature, art, etc.

Traditional astrology is Western horoscopic astrology as it was practice and written about from roughly the 2nd century BCE through to the end of the 17th century. This encompasses roughly 2000 years of tradition and includes the astrology practiced by Vettius Valens, Masha’Allah, Al Biruni, Bonatti, through to William Lilly.
Over those centuries astrology reflected the political, intellectual, religious and social shifts in society; as well as their prejudices. Techniques were added, dropped and refined, yet the core doctrines on which astrology was founded remained fundamentally unchanged. The astrologers of old understood the importance of their roots and proudly called upon the astrological greats that came before them. As Guido Bonatti stated in his Book of Astronomy; treatise II (13th Century):

I will therefore speak, following the footsteps of our venerable predecessors, on those things which will seem useful for this work, calling to mind their opinions – namely, Ptolemy, Hermes, Jafar, Ibn Qurra, al-Qabisi, al-Khayyat, al-Kindi, al-Andarzagar, Masha’allah, ad-Dawla, Jirjis (and others who have studied in this science), by adding those things which will seem useful to me, according to how God grants me grace in organizing them and restore to me my memory.”

Birth of Modern Astrology
The late 17th Century saw a seismic shift in our perspective and understanding of reality, man, his world and the Cosmos. This heralded the beginning of the “age of enlightenment” also known as the scientific age. The paradigm changed from a view that held the manifested world to be a result of a non-material, essentially divine reality in which consciousness or spirit was primary; to one in which the physical, material world was the primary reality.
The enlightenment saw the formerly accepted essentially divine nature of the Cosmos replaced by a mechanical/mathematical one. The accepted reality now became, of a rational Universe adhering to physical laws, albeit driven by the hand of God. There was a rejection of the inherent intelligence of the Cosmos; the planets and signs were stripped of their numinous intelligence.
The enlightenment’s focus on matter and the physical had two effects on astrology. The first was of disenchanting it by removing its access to the Divine realm. The second was to fragment and separate it into bits, leading to the proliferation of specialization.
Traditional or classical astrology can not be contained or exist within a sole physical universe, nor can it be defined by “scientific” empirical observation. Within this new paradigm astrology lost connection to its roots.

Modern astrology that focuses on character analysis and the development of the individual, had its genesis in the 19th century, after approximately two hundred year of decline. By the 20th century, many different schools of astrology had developed, based on various principles. Philosophically these are very different astrology, born out of a different paradigm to the tradition. Some of these new schools include:

The Hamburg School of Astrology, also known as Uranian astrology. Was founded in 1925 by Alfred Witte. Uses hypothetical transneptunian planets and midpoints.
Cosmobiology: Developed by Reinhold Ebertine, (1940) Took a more critical and scientific approach to astrology. It refined the use of midpoints, did away with houses and charts. Was critically biased against traditional astrology.
Evolutionary Astrology: A form of natal astrology based on the philosophic principle that human being evolve through many lifetimes. Pluto and the Lunar nodes in the birth chart are used as pivot point to understanding an individual position in their evolution.
Esoteric Astrology: Based on the work of Theosophist Alice Baily, and her ideas on the evolution of soul consciousness. It uses an entirely  different set of rulerships which is unique to esoteric astrology.
Humanistic or Psychological Astrology: A 20th century development, that was influenced by Jungian principles, mythology and archetype. It takes a non deterministic approach to the natal chart.

Modern astrology has given us some wonderful tools with which to describe the character and explore the psychology and personal evolution of an individual. This in itself is a reflection of our modern understanding of reality; with its emphasis on the individual, and how astrology impacts him and his world. To illustrate this, take for example the title of the first chapter in the 1989 edition of “Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology” (1974):  Astrology and its Place in the Universe of Man. The second paragraph reads:

“…Yet your physical body does not represent your true dimensions. It is the extent of your consciousness which determine your relative position in the scheme of the Universe. Your physical body is but an anchor of your total being and has as its base, the Earth. As such it is subject to all influences of this planet just as our globe is, in effect, directly regulated by any motion of the Sun and it, in turn, is integrally linked to the fate of the Galaxy. In his consciousness of himself, Man, like a infant, often forgets that he is part of a greater plan of creation.”

Contrast Alan Oken’s 20th century words with those of 13th century astrologer Guido Bonatti, who begins his great work, Book of Astronomy with these words:

“The Soul which is in man is quite noble. It gives essence and perfection to the body, and its foods are very noble, with respect to the foods of the body, since the soul is most noble with respect to the body. And the soul rejoices in intellectual gain, and that depends upon the knowledge of philosophy; and in that the soul rejoices, and is delighted…And there is nothing in which the soul gains so much as in astronomy or astrology.
For through this study, we know and understand creatures beyond passion; unalterable and immutable in another essence since they are the super-celestial bodies. And through these creatures we are able to draw near to an understanding of the Creator, and to know however much more the human mind is able to attain, and to perceive Him to be beyond passion and unalterable.”

The Differences Between Modern and Traditional Astrology
Broadly and philosophically speaking the difference between traditional and modern astrology can be summed up as such:

  • Traditional astrology emphasises the Creator or God, the Divine, the world of spirit and our relationship to it.
  • Traditional astrology recognises the inherent intelligence or “consciousness” of the Cosmos and Planets.
  • In traditional astrology mundane matters of everyday life and the body, were seen to be subservient to the superior bodies; the soul could negotiate with them.
  • The traditional natal chart is a picture of the individual’s fate, his environment and place in the world, only part of which is his mind.
  • Modern astrology emphasises the individual and how the Cosmos impacts or describes him and his processes.
  • Modern astrology focuses on the consciousness of the individual.
  • In Modern astrology everyday matters are seen to be reflected or mirrored in the Cosmos.
  • The modern natal chart is seen as a picture of the individuals mind or psyche.

Aside from Cosmobiology, which did away with the horoscope and replaced it with a 90 degree dial, modern astrological horoscope look the same as traditional charts. There are some differences:

  • The use of outer planets and asteroids: Traditionally, astrology only used seven planets: 2 lights and 5 wandering stars to be precise. Whenever the   planets are presented they are the ordered by distance and speed. Called the Chaldean order: Saturn, Jupiter,   Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon.  This puts the Sun in the center of the planets.
  • The use of minor aspects: Traditionally aspect had to divide the 12-fold zodiac equally and so only the Ptolemaic aspect were used   (opposition, square, trine, sextile and conjunction). Aspects did not have orbs; planets did. Some minor aspect were recognised, like the semi-sextile & the ‘inconjunct’, but these were not considered strong enough to have much effect.
  • The use of Vertex, black Moon Lilith and other astronomical points: Not used in traditional astrology, though there was a whole doctrine of Lots, also known as the Arabic Parts. Today only the Part of Fortune is used in modern astrology.
  • Secondary progressions/Solar Arc: Traditionally primary direction were used. This fell out of favor as the calculation became too difficult it was replaced by the much simpler day for a year progressions or Solar Arc.
  • Emphasis on transits – especially of the outer (modern) planets: Traditional astrology makes use of a variety of planetary period or time Lords,  yearly and monthly profection and Solar and Lunar returns.

There is more focus on the Signs of the Zodiac in modern astrology. Traditionally, the Zodiac Signs were understood very differently. William Lilly begins his chapter on the signs of the Zodiac by setting out the various ways they were divided: by quadrant or season; by elements (hot or cold and dry or moist);  by sect, diurnal or nocturnal (masculine or feminine); by modality (moveable, common or fixed); whether bestial, humane or feral, fertile or barren; mute or voiced. He then writes of the nature, description, and diseases signified by the twelve signs. On the nature of Aries (CA page 93):

“Aries is a masculine, diurnal sign, moveable cardinal, equinoctial; in nature fiery, hot and dry, choleric, bestial, luxurious, intemperate and violent: the diurnal house of Mars, of the fiery triplicity and of the East.”

In Alan Oken’s – Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology  the chapter on Aries is called: Aries – I Seek Myself  (page  57).  He begins with these words:

Aries symbolises the realization within oneself that one is different and apart from the rest of humanity. It is therefore the individualizing agent, the ego, the consciousness of self. Aries is the beginning, the first emanation of self-awareness coming from the realm of the collective.”

There follows eight more page describing  various aspects of Aries in different context and ending with positive and negative keyword concepts for Aries:

  •  Courageous and Bold
  • Fool hardy and a zealot
  • Inspirational to others
  • Egotistic show of bravado
  • Intuitive and perceptive
  • Oblivious to all thoughts but own
  • Always takes the initiative
  • Acts without forethought
  • Direct and decisive
  • Lacks of subtlety; opinionated
  • Like to lead others out of darkness
  • Uses other exclusively in self- interest

Modern astrology focuses on and makes more use of the Universal signification of the planets. Each planet has a function that every individual must contend with. Alan Oken again (page 211).

“Saturn allows for personal growth, but only through the fulfillment of one’s earthly obligations and responsibilities. Thus the position of Saturn in the natal horoscope reveals what obstacles one has to overcome in order to achieve success…It is the energy of this planet which tests one’s endurance. It brings the trials and stumbling blocks so that an individual can attain the strength and wisdom he needs in order to deal with life’s difficulties.”

Compare to William Lilly (CA page 58 -61)

Nature: He is a diurnal planet, cold and dry (being far removed from the heat of the Sun and moist vapours), melancholic, earthly, masculine, the greater infortune, author of solitariness, malevolent”

He then lists what Saturn signifies or rules: in manner and actions, corporature, quality in man, professions, sickness, savours, herbs, plants and trees, beasts, fishes, birds, places, minerals, stones, weather, winds, years, countries and finally angels.

Traditional astrology uses the universal meaning of a planet, but focuses on the specific signification of planet within a chart: The universal meaning of a planet was based on its nature (hot, cold, dry, moist), its place in the scheme of   the solar system. It specific signification depended on what it governed or signified in the chart.

Traditional astrology recognizes malefic and benefic planets: One of the most contentious ideas to many modern student. The benefic planets: Venus and Jupiter brought about growth and pleasures, while the function of the malefic planets: Saturn and Mars was to bring about destruction; in order to keep the cycle of life flowing.

Sect: diurnal or nocturnal chart: Day and night charts were delineated differently. Some planets were understood to be stronger by day, some by night. This divided the planets into two Sects, consisting of a luminary, a benefic and a malefic planet. The day sect was: Sun, Jupiter and Saturn; the night sect was Moon, Mars and Venus. Mercury joined the day sect when oriental to the Sun, the night when occidental to the Sun.

In traditional astrology the essential and accidental dignity of a planet is very important: The condition of a planet dictated how well it could function and do its job. Essential dignity was based on a   planet’s position in the zodiac and there were five: rulership, exaltation, triplicity, terms and face or decans.   The accidental condition of the planet was based on its relationship to the Sun and Earth included: house   position relative to the angles, aspect, speed and direction.

Bonatti quotes Al-Qabisi about Saturn:

“Saturn is a masculine, diurnal planet, and he works at intemperate coldness and dryness. He is significator of fathers and grandfathers and all ancestor who is signified by the 4th house, but this is more by accident than nature, for he naturally signifies the person or body of the native, on account that the first thing that happens to a man is the physical person through which being is given to him.”

Here, Bonatti gives us a hint of what has to be one of the biggest difference between Modern and Traditional astrology. The associations between house and sign meanings, mixed with rulership.

Firstly, modern astrologers assigned rulership to the three outer planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. This destroyed the symmetry of the ancient system and exposed the total misunderstanding about the meaning and function of rulership and dignity.
Secondly, the “astrological alphabet” was created; this was to de-rooted modern astrology from its tradition. The astrological alphabet connects the signs of the Zodiac and the terrestrial houses of the horoscope, as well as the planet ruling the signs. So the first house and the first sign, Aries became associated, and since Aries was ruled by Mars, the first house takes on Mars quality. The second house and the second sign, Taurus and Venus became associated…etc..
Once we get to Scorpio, Aquarius and Pisces, the outer planets were added to the mix: the 8th house and Scorpio, took on Pluto qualities, the 11th house and Aquarius, Uranus qualities and the 12th  house and Pisces, Neptune qualities.
With the astrological alphabet the lines between sign and house were blurred and the symbolic meanings of both became muddied. Having a planet in a house was like having it in the sign erroneously associated with that house.
While this “system” may appear logical on the surface, it is at odds with the centuries of tradition and the foundation of Western astrology. The astrological alphabet has created much confusion and separation between modern and traditional astrology.

Only in traditional medical astrology do we find a connection between houses, signs and ruling planet. The outer planets do no appear in the scheme. In traditional astrology the signs, were understood to be the celestial “houses” or domiciles of the planets; they had no relationship to the terrestrial houses of the horoscope.
The traditional scheme of rulership was based on a planet’s relationship with the Luminaries in particular the Sun; not on similar characteristics between the sign and a planet. It also informed the doctrine of aspect.

To conclude, the main difference between modern and traditional astrology is one of perception and philosophical understanding as to the nature of life. Modern astrology reflects the modern idea that fate can be overcome or transcended by our free will; the (natal) chart reflecting the individual and how best they can navigate life.

Traditional astrology is not focused on the individual or their will, but rather on the will of the Divine. The chart helps to understand our place in the overall (divine) order so that we may align with it. I will leave you with the words of William Lilly from his letter to the student (1647).  one of the last whose lineage is now being reawakened.

“My Friends, whoever thou art, that with so much ease shall receive the benefit of my hard studies, and doth intend to proceed in this heavenly knowledge of the stars, wherein the great and admirable works of the invisible and all-glorious God are so manifestly apparent… Consider and admire thy Creator and be thankful onto him, be thy humble, and let no natural knowledge, how profound and transcendent soever it be, elate they mind to neglect that divine Providence, by whose all-seeing order and appointment, all things heavenly and earthly, have their constant motion”


Published in: on December 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why Study Classical Astrology

When first faced with classical or traditional astrology[1] some astrologers steeped in the multifaceted mythical images of psychological and archetypal astrology are put off by what appears to be a dull, colourless and outmoded form of astrology. However, classical astrology is far from colourless or outmoded. It may take some effort to crack its archaic veneer, but once this is done the exquisite rationale, beauty and inherent wisdom upon which astrology is built is revealed.

Many astrologers especially those who have been doing astrology for a long time come to a point when they begin to feel the pull towards our inherited roots. Reading the old texts can be challenging and disheartening; the language appears stilted and the concepts are based on incomplete astronomical understanding may seem irrelevant to our modern worldview. It is necessary to approach these ancient texts from the perspective of the times in which they were composed. This requires at least a cursory knowledge of philosophical, scientific and cultural history.

Classical astrology demands a more rigorous approach to its study: techniques must be mastered, rules learnt and practice needs to be constant. It is all of these factors that often put the student off learning classical astrology. But the rewards for doing so are many.

It is impossible for a student to avoid the inevitable change that their astrological delineation will undergo once the door to the classical perception has been opened. This can engender a sort of “identity crisis”. In the same way that our growth from child to adolescent; or from single adult to committed parent can feel uncomfortable and even threatening, as we leave the familiar behind and enter territory we have not yet charted.

We are a product of our times, and we live in a time corrupted by the hubris of our technological prowess. It is often assumed that the current scientific, political, social and philosophical understandings we now hold, have evolved out the old beliefs of the past. Therefore, it is suggested, we now possess a better, more accurate and thorough knowledge. This is like the arrogant naivety of the young who think they are the first to notice the shortcomings of the status quo and discover the joy of rebellion.

To deny the relevance of classical astrology is to deny astrology itself. Coming to understand classical astrology makes us better astrologers, just as understanding history helps us to navigate the troubled times we seem to always be facing.

For those who want to take the plunge, go to

[1] By “Classical astrology” I mean Western astrology as it was practiced from circa 400 BCE to the mid-17th century CE.

Published in: on December 14, 2016 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Traditional and Modern astrology: a philosophical exploration (part 5 – Pythagoras)

Pythagoras and the Magic of Numbers

It is probably redundant to say that most everything in our Universe can be understood through numbers. Mathematics is truly the universal language, the secrets of which were first explored and brought to our consciousness by Pythagoras who lived from about 570 to 495 BCE. He was a philosopher, mathematician, mystic and scientist who established a philosophical school in Croton in Southern Italy. Plato was one of his students. Little is actually known about Pythagoras the man; however his ideas and teachings have been very influential. Pythagoras is famous for saying that “ALL is number”. While we may never know whether Pythagoras the man actually said this, we do know that he saw numbers as more than just a means of quantifying things; to the Pythagorians numbers were understood to have and to bestow qualities as well.

The ideas attributed to Pythagoras gave rise to sacred geometry as well as musical theory. His assertion that numbers had qualities and could be experienced expanded the notion we have of mathematics to include an esoteric dimension which included the ability to bring about healing. The doctrine of aspects in traditional astrology is based on Pythagorean principles.

Pythagorean number theory

One or the Monad is not considered a true number; it is the principle of number. It signifies the creative potentiality of all things, for it is potentially any number. It is both mother and father and is the source of all other numbers. One, is like God for it preserved; multiplying by one always gives you the number you started with, it preserves that number. It is unity that has yet to be manifested as it remains potentially anything and everything.

Two or the Dyad is also not considered a true number; but rather a process that flows from the Monad. Two is the source of multiplicity and the principle of knowledge, for it creates the difference between the knower and the known. The Dyad is said to attract the Monad to it and from it generates the rest of the numbers; as such it is related to love.

Three is the first actual number. It is a figural number because three points creates the shape or figure of a triangle. Three signifies knowledge and consciousness, as the knower and the known can now be recognized from a third perspective, bringing about conscious understanding or consciousness of knowing. The trine is related to three, giving easy understanding or communication between the planets.

Four is the number that represents manifestation and solid physical foundation. It is of course related to the square. The circle, which has no beginning and no end is said to represent unity or God as yet not manifested, the square represents manifested unity. From an astrological perspective four can be associated with the foundational cardinal point of the chart; the angles ASC, IC, DES and MC. These represent the body/health, home/family, relationship/marriage and career/purpose which are the foundation of human life.

The multiplication of three and four gives us the number 12 and we have twelve zodiac sign. While the addition of three plus four gives us seven which corresponds to the seven visible planets.

Six is a perfect number for it contains one, two and three (1+2+3=6), it is both odd and even (2×3=6). It is the number associated with reconciliation and represents “ensoulment” of the body by the soul. The number six creates 2 triangle that fit together bringing the elements together or God and the manifested world together.

We can see evidence of the Pythagorean number theory is the traditional doctrine of aspect. The monad is like the conjunction, the Dyad is like the opposition, the number three relates to the trine, the number four represents the square and finally the number six relates to the sextile.

Twelve was seen as representing a version of the bodies/sphere in the Universe: the one eternal and unifying God (realm of the fixed stars), the 7 planets, the 4 sub-lunar elements(fire, air, water and earth), arranged from most orderly to the least, from most perfect to most corrupted.

According to the Pythagorean understanding there were 3 parts of the Soul: the Curious part, that seeks knowledge, the Ambitious part that seeks honours and the Covetous part that seeks profit or power. Each part of the soul needs to function properly and be harmonized with the other 2 parts. We can associate these parts of the soul with the 3 traditional outer planets; the Curious soul with Jupiter, the Ambitious soul with Mars and the Covetous soul with Saturn (as the empire builder).

Traditional and modern astrology: a philosophical exploration (part 4)

How does Greek Philosophy Relate to Astrology?

Horoscopic astrology developed alongside the ideas of classical Greek philosophy. It could be said that the observation of the sky and planetary motions inspired much philosophical musing. In the past there was little separation between science and philosophy, between religion and astrology or between mathematics and magic. The world was understood to be idealistic; that is that idea or mind came before matter, matter being a result of idea.

From this perspective spirit and matter were considered equally real and important. The interplay and mutual relationship between God and humans or the planets and the affairs of the earthly realm was a given. The axiom “as above so below” rang true in every sense of the words; what occurred here on Earth was naturally to be reflected in the movement of the cosmos. This was not perceived as magical, but rather as logical.

It is only when our focus began to shift from a spiritual perspective of life to a biological one that matter became the ultimate reality and soul a construct of the human mind. This shift had a profound effect on our world. Mechanical science and technology has changed life on this planet as well as our human consciousness. No longer are we part of a tribe, no longer do we accept the concept of a predetermined fate, no longer do we see the movement of the planet and stars as evidence of their soul or ours, and no longer do we accept magic as being natural. For the most part we now see ourselves as a collection of individuals jostling to be and to find our purpose; our bodies and the rest of the material world is a manifest proof of chemical reactions that adhere to the laws that govern the physical universe. We elevate logical and rational thought based on sensible evidence over and above magical thinking that is dismissed as flights of the imagination, not based in rational reality.

Astrology has reflected this change by becoming primarily focused on the individual and his inner processes of realization. The natal chart has been elevated to being a tool to help in the individuation of the native. Astrology’s recent focus on the psychology of the individual is an illustration of this shift.

The Roots of Traditional Astrology

To really understand traditional astrology we need to shift our focus from the modern paradigm and reset it on how the world and cosmos were understood around 2500 years ago, when horoscopic astrology first began to appear. One of the first problems we encounter is the modern notion of evolution and progress, which has ingrained itself so firmly into our psyche that it is difficult for us to accept that where we find ourselves is anything but a higher more evolved level than what came before. We need to perceive the past not through the prism of the present, nor through the romantic notion of a past golden age, but rather from the neutral position of a novice or student eager to learn.

We need to let go of our preconceived ideas about astrology and accept that there is much we can learn from the ancients. This can be a very uncomfortable process as cherished notions and ideas need to be relinquished or at least re-examined. At the same time, it is immensely freeing to open our minds to other possibilities. Our understanding of concepts such as: god, soul, evolution, knowledge and information are different to what they were in the past and it is important to appreciate these differences.

Much of the rational for astrology can be found in the philosophical ideas and principles of ancient Greek philosophers including Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle as well as the Stoic school. Having even a cursory understanding of these can be immensely informing to the astrologer.

part 5

Traditional and Modern astrology: a philosophical exploration (part 3 – the birth of modern astrology)

The industrial revolution (1750 – 1850) changed the lives of ordinary people and had a profound effect on society. The shift from an agriculturally based economy to a manufacturing one saw a decline in rural population and an increase in urban living. It also led to changes in the distribution of wealth and class distinction; as entrepreneurs were able to make fortunes in manufacturing which in turn created new jobs and led to the rise of a new middle class through the 18th and 19th century. As this middle class became more numerous, better educated and influential, they developed an interest in and fascination for occult subjects and mysticism evidenced by the founding in the mid-19th century of the theosophical society amongst others. It was through the mystery schools of the late 19th early 20th century that astrology began to reemerge from its years in the wilderness and find a new audience.

The astrology that returned was changed and coupled with the legal challenges that many of its practitioners faced, astrology came to reject event-oriented and predictive horoscopic analysis while focusing on natal astrology with an emphasis on character analysis and the psychological and spiritual development of the individual.

It was Alan Leo (1860 – 1917), an immensely successful and influential astrologer who through his work put astrology firmly on the road to the more individual focus and psychologically-oriented horoscope delineation of modern times. He is rightly known as “the father of modern astrology”.  Being a devout theosophist he also incorporated many of the concepts of karma and reincarnation into astrology. One of the principle things that modern astrology rejected outright was horary, which was seen by Alan Leo as being spiritually dangerous.

“Horary astrology, as practiced today, is the vilest rubbish imaginable, and not worthy of the name. Indeed, it is not astrology at all, but simply divination, for which purpose geomancy or card laying would answer just as well… It is the curse of the science and the ruin of the astrologer.”[1]

While it could be argued that so much of the techniques and knowledge of traditional astrology had been lost, making the practice of horary near impossible, the main issue was probably more philosophical and possibly legal.

By the early 20th century the world had changed to the point where the reasons for astrology’s initial decline were not even a distant memory, but rather a forgotten and irrelevant footnote in the history of science. It had been so long since astrology had figured in serious theological, philosophical or scientific discussion, that most would find it improbable that it ever had.

Without prediction, astrology was safe from legal persecution and accusations of fortune telling. Focusing on character analysis was a good way of deflecting any awkward need to justify astrology to an intellectual world steeped in a scientific perspective, which was firmly focused on material rationalism. Astrology could continue to amuse and entertain the masses without being any threat to serious thinkers of the day.

The astrology that emerged in the early 20th century was rooted in the mystery schools of the 19th century but informed by the new science of psychology and astronomical advances. This astrology incorporated the recently discovered planets, emphasized universal significance of the signs and planets and became firmly focused on natal and character analysis. By the 1980’s ancient myths, Jungian ideas, popular psychology and a sprinkling of “new-age” concepts were dominating astrological discourse, but astrology was still unacceptable in serious, academic circles.

part 4

[1]Alan Leo from Modern Astrology II/VII: 10 (1896) pp. 434-437 as quoted by Patrick Curry in A Confusion of Prophets Collin & Brown (1992) p. 165


Traditional and Modern Astrology: a philosophical exploration (part 1)

Once we enter the world of traditional astrology our view of life and the world changes. It is very difficult not to be influenced by the great astrologers that came before us. However, it is the incredible commonality between human experience of the past and our own that takes us by surprise. We live in a world that is imbued with the ideas that promote evolution and progress. Whilst everything on earth is born, grows, withers and dies in the endless cycle of life and death giving rise to the illusion of a forward movement of time, it is but that; an illusion.

Traditional astrology understands the importance of Saturn, not only as the ally of the astrologer but also as the significator of time. Saturn of old was also called the Lord of deception and it is possibly his rulership over time which earned him this moniker. As astrologers, we deal in time and are prone to get caught in its apparent but deceptive forward momentum. But looking back into the past, we recognize that we have not moved far. The cycles of life, of the planets and stars, mark our experiences, but time stands still in a forever present moment that is re-experienced over and over and over.

The theory that Darwin made famous; that every living creature adapts and evolves is so accepted that it is nigh near impossible to conceive of a past that is not somehow more backwards than our present day. Astrologers are far from immune to this notion and so they take up each “new” discovery in our skies as a sign that we, the collective, have evolved in our consciousness. This implies that in the past, the consciousness of the people was not as evolved and therefore was lower than that of people alive today.

Even a cursory knowledge of political, philosophical or even astrological history would disprove this notion. The wisdom of the past is awe inspiring when one makes friends with Saturn and takes the time and effort to explore it.

Traditional and Modern Astrology

The word traditional means to follow a tradition, which is defined as: “a) Passing of beliefs or customs from one generation to the next. b) Any long held method, practice…etc.…” [1]All forms of astrology practiced today fall into the definition of tradition, as all derive from the ideas and work of others who have come before.  The term “traditional astrology” has over the past 20 years or so, come to mean the astrology as it was practiced prior to the late 17th century, but this is not to say that modern astrology does not have its own tradition. However it is important to remember that there was a major break in the transmission of astrological knowledge which has resulted in the development of a very different type of astrology in the 20th century; this is the astrology we call modern.

Many modern ideas that have been incorporated into astrology are recent additions to a very ancient subject that have little connection to its past tradition. With the recent availability of modern translations of the older texts, we are experiencing a resurgence of interest in traditional astrology, which has reinvigorated the field but also highlighted some divisions within the rarefied world of astrology today.

Horoscopic astrology as it was practiced prior to 1700 encompasses roughly 2000 years of tradition:[2] and it includes the astrology as practiced by Vettius Valens, Ptolemy, Masha’Allah, Guido Bonatti through to William Lilly and his contemporaries. Over this time astrology was refined; certain techniques were developed, the application and emphasis on astrological doctrines shifted and changed to reflect the cultural, philosophical, religious and political developments of the times and location.

There are differences between the astrology that William Lilly practiced and that of Vettius Valens, however they are founded on the same basic fundamentals and are more similar than is the astrology of William Lilly to that practiced by the majority of 21st century western astrologers. The historical circumstances that led to this situation is one that needs to be understood if astrologers are to reconcile the rich legacy they have inherited to the art that they practice today.

Part 2

[1]Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, fourth edition (Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford 1989)

[2]There was a long tradition prior to circa 400 BCE of omen based astrology, but astrology that uses a horoscope or chart with a calculated Ascendant did not appear until about 400 BCE


Using traditional techniques is it possible to find “evil” in the natal chart?

EVIL  • adjective 1 deeply immoral and malevolent. 2 embodying or associated with the devil. 3 extremely unpleasant: an evil smell.  • noun 1 extreme wickedness and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force. 2 something harmful or undesirable.

In religion and ethics, evil refers to the “bad” aspects of the behaviour and reasoning of human being – those which are deliberately void of conscience, and show a wanton desire for destruction. The opposite of goodness, which itself refers to aspects which are life-affirming, peaceful, and constructive.

Can evil be seen in a chart? Do certain individuals choose to be evil or are they fated to be so? And do their charts reflect this? And are we fated to live out what is in our chart? These questions are all loaded and profoundly disturb many in our profession.

In this day, when even the ancient descriptions of planets as benefic and malefic elicits fundamental discomfort in contemporary astrologers, it is no longer regarded as correct to think in these terms.  The idea that a planet or person could be inherently bad goes against our accepted standard of judgment. Deviation from acceptable behavior is seen as an understandable reaction to the emotional and psychological experiences that have traumatized or otherwise wounded individuals.

Ironically as we move away from judging an individual as evil we continue to embrace the idea that evil exists in the world. As illustrated by our “war on terror” and our fear of the “terrorist threat”. The concept of evil has always been present but we have confused the doing of evil with being evil.

When our ancestors spoke of a planet bestowing malevolent or benefic influence in a horoscope, we tend to imagine this as being a very cut and dry affair: bad planet cause bad things, good planet, cause good thing. The reality is far richer and more subtle then it appears at first glance.

In the traditional cosmos the so called malevolent planets were Mars and Saturn. At their best both are a necessary and positive force in the chart, allowing us to take righteous action, be responsible and build strong foundations. It is only when they are afflicted that their influence becomes a negative or destructive one.

A planet is at its best when in dignity, in a strong placement and even better with strong reception. A debilitated planet has a really hard time expressing its true nature; they become an exaggerated version of themselves. Mars doesn’t just take action he kills all who stand in his way. Saturn doesn’t just take responsibility he becomes tyrannical. The other planets can also cause trouble when in a debilitated condition, but their affect is unlikely to be thought of as evil.

Whether fate is pre-destined or created by the native’s choices is a tricky one.  The modern paradigm places more emphasis on the free will and choice of the individual then was the case in the past. In previous generations the individual had their place within the social hierarchy and few had any choice about it. Even those at the top of this hierarchy had limited choices. Overseeing all, there was God.

Now we speak of the higher self rather then God. We have become uncomfortable with the concept of a Supreme Being overseeing us all, choosing for us, and allocating our fate. The concept of the “higher self” individualises us, if not in fact certainly in title and allows us the illusion of more power to choose.

Regardless of our modern belief in the power or importance of the individual, fate can not be denied; it is what is bestowed on us. We are born into a certain era or time, a particular body, gender, to a particular set of parents, within a family, culture and nation. We do not consciously choose this, we are given this. This is fate. Our free will to choose is confined to our given fate.

The essential nature of man is both corporeal and spiritual; the integration of the two brings us closer to our essential nature. We can choose to align ourselves with our essential nature or to oppose it. The chart reflects the difficulties an individual may encounter making that choice. The more dignified planets there are in our chart the easier the choice, because the more dignity a planet has the closer to its own essential nature it is.

Essential nature is by definition good. It signifies the most balanced state of being.  Essential nature is aligned with the divine or God, however we define that word. In nature a daisy will grow into the best daisy specimen possible within the environment it is given. It can not do otherwise or choose to grow into a rose. Because nothing in the natural world can stray from its essential nature, there is no evil there. A volcano may cause devastation, yet cruel as this may seem, it is nothing more then the restoration of balance. Nature has no will to choose.

But the human being has free will to choose and can turn away from his essential nature. He must come to know and accept who he is, what he has been given, understand his purpose in the scheme of things and fulfill it.  The further away from his essential nature he moves the more he encounters evil or in the words of our fore bearers; malevolence.

The principle thing that pushes man away from his essential good nature is his desires; desire that stem from his corporeal existence. His desire to possess more then what he has been given, to be more then he is and to fulfill a purpose not of his own.  In modern jargon these corresponds to the ego and remember that the ego is never satisfied.

The Lord of the Ascendant, Pilot of the Soul and Significator of the Quality of the Mind

Using traditional astrological methods we can see in the natal chart how easy or not it will be for an individual to stay aligned with his true nature and how strong the pull of his desires will be. By identifying three planets: the Lord of the Ascendant, the Pilot of the Soul and the significator of the Quality of the Mind, we have the information needed to judge how likely one is to move towards or away from his/her essential nature.

Using the table of essential dignities we can identify the overall ruler or almutent of a particular degree of the zodiac by adding up the amount of dignities the seven classical planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon) have at that degree.  We do not give the modern planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) rulership.

Giving the planet in rulership 5 points, in exaltation 4 points, in triplicity 3 points, in term 2 points and in face 1 point, we simply add up the points for each planet to find the one with the most essential dignity at a particular degree or degrees. It is important to note whether it is a day or night chart and use the appropriate triplicity ruler.

Using this method we can identify the Lord of the Ascendant as the planet that has the most dignity at the ASC degree, in other words the almutent of the ASC. Often this is the planet ruling the ASC but not always. As the ruler of our ASC this planet is most concerned with our corporeal life which is often the driving force in our life. In modern jargon we could say it signifies our ego.

The Pilot of the Soul, is the planet in the chart with the most essential dignity overall. As well this planet must be placed in a position of strength, in other words a strong house, from which they can act.  Ideally it would also be free of accidental debility such as retrograde or combustion. All angular houses were considered strong with the 1st and the 10th seen as the strongest, the 4th and 7th less so, followed by the 5th and 11th houses, then the 9th, 3rd, 2nd houses finally the 8th, 6th and 12th as the houses of death, illness and self undoing respectively, were seen as the most unfortunate places from which action could not be initiated.

So, a planet in rulership, say Sun in Leo, but placed in the 12th house would not be as ideal as a planet with only triplicity but in the 10th house, like Saturn in Gemini. The Sun is imprisoned and can not act from the 12th house no matter how strongly dignified he is, whereas Saturn with less essential dignity has more opportunity to act because he is in a position of power.

Ideally, the Pilot of the Soul is the planet in charge; this is the planet that could set us back on the right path if we get sidetracked. This is the planet most closely aligned to our spiritual life, most connected with the Divine source. This is the planet we should endeavor to engage and make friends with, for it is most likely to raise us above our corporeal fate.

Finally we find the significator of the quality of the mind by finding the planet with the most essential dignity at the degree of the Moon, Mercury and ASC.  Quality of the mind does not refer to intelligence or being clever, but rather as to how the mind is used.  It relates to conscience and the moral nature of the native. This planet represents how well their corporeal and spiritual aspects communicate and integrate. In other words, do they use their minds for good or evil?

The same planet may fulfill two or more functions, at other times more then one planet may qualify as significator. To understand this better let us look at some charts.



The chart of Adolf Hitler has been studied by just about every astrologer since 1933, redundant as it may seem this chart is still a great example to use. We know that this native’s life was responsible for events that could be described as evil. It is generally agreed that being responsible for the death of so many millions is horrific.  But was he inherently bad? Was the road to evil imposed or chosen by him? Could he have made different choices?

Looking at Hitler’s chart we find that the Lordof the Ascendant is Saturn 13 Leo in the 10th house, because it has both exaltation and triplicity dignity over the ASC degree of at 21 Libra giving him a score of 7 points to Venus 5 point for rulership, Mars 2 point for term and Jupiter sole point for face.

Using the same method for the degrees of the Moon 6 Capricorn and Mercury 25 Aries, as well as ASC we find the significator of quality of his mind turns out to be Mars 16 Aries with 13 points, closely followed by Saturn 13 Leo with 12 points.  These two planets would function very much as a team especially as they are aspecting each other by square as well as by a very tight, almost to the minute antiscia* conjunction. This antiscia allows these two planets to function far more cooperatively then their stressful square aspect would indicate.

*Antiscia – From the Greek, meaning “opposite shadow”. A degree and its antiscia are equidistant from the summer-winter solstice axis (Cancer/Capricorn). Planets related by antiscia have the force of a conjunction.  Contra-antiscia (the opposition to the antiscia degree) has the force of an opposition.

Finally we must find the Pilot of the Soul. In this chart the search is difficult because Mars, Saturn and Moon are all in detriment, Sun and Mercury are peregrin which means they have no essential dignity whatsoever and Jupiter though he has face dignity is in his fall. Of the seven classical planets only Venus in Taurus has any dignity and she is retrograde, conjunct Mars as well as being very close to the 8th house cusp. Yet by default she wins the position of Pilot of the Soul. This would have been the ideal planet for Hitler to follow…But did he?

So we have:

Lord of the Ascendant                                  Saturn in Leo in the 10th house

Quality of the Mind Significator               Mars in Taurus in the 7th house with Saturn in Leo

Pilot of the Soul                                              Venus in Taurus in the 7th conjunct Mars

Lord of the Ascendant, Saturn in the 10th house, is debilitated in his sign of detriment, in other words far from his (Saturn’s) essential best nature. Saturn was seen as the great malefic by the ancients. Debilitated malefics function in extremes, their nature is amplified and exaggerated. This planet could bring great misfortune in ones life unless he was on his best behavior. At his best Saturn is patient, responsible, disciplined and holds a position of authority.

But in this chart he is not at his best, he is at his worst and yet he is positioned in the 10th house to act and act strongly. So he will act in a strongly malefic manner. Remember that as Lord of the Ascendant, Saturn represents Hitler’s corporeal desires and in the 10th he wants it be the boss, in Leo, he probably wants to be king. Saturn’s dispositor (and MC ruler), Sun is peregrin, he has no strength to give Saturn. Saturn receives Moon and Jupiter in Capricorn conjunct the south node. Moon in Capricorn is in detriment and would feel insecure. Jupiter is equally debilitated in his fall, though he has a bit of face dignity this is more to do with fear then an actual strength*.  Both being with the south node only adds to their debility. All this would give Saturn more justification to take control and not let go (Leo fixed).

* “The Faces supply some intriguing leads about those areas where the individual has fear or problems. The point is that most people don’t like fear and would rather cloak fear with hatred”.  From Lee Lehman “Essential Dignities” page 136

The significator of the quality of the mind is Mars working closely with Saturn. Here we find Mars equally debilitated in detriment squaring his ally Saturn.  One of the main meanings of the quality of the mind is conscience, knowing that an action is right or wrong because we are conscious of more then just our individual (ego) desires or needs.  We have already seen Mars’s connection with Saturn, but there is also a mutual reception by exaltation with the Moon. Both of these planets in detriment are receiving each other into their exaltation. They are exalting their detriment so to speak, not very reassuring.

Mars was also receiving Mercury into his rulership. Mercury being peregrine was easily enlisted to do Mars (and Saturn’s) bidding. Hitler was a great orator who was able to stir the emotions of the masses and lead them into war. (As an aside, Germany is said to be ruled by Mars and Aries. Hitler became Germany’s mouth piece.)

We find that Hitler’s quality mind was not going to tame or soften his Saturn’s drive for power and authority. On the contrary the two would work in tandem together and both bring with them the insecurity of the Moon and fear of Jupiter.

So far we have a dire situation, but was it absolutely necessary for Hitler to become what he became? The pilot of his soul may have helped him steer a different path. As Venus in Taurus we see fertility and creativity, but it is retrograde and conjunct Mars. The good nature of Venus is over shadowed by the strong malefic energy working together and feeding off the long term fears and insecurities (Moon, Jupiter conjunct South Node) that are present. The two malefics used the veneer of Venus to camouflage their indent, presenting a more benign face of Hitler to the world.

Remember that Hitler’s first aim in life was to be an artist and then an architect. Unfortunately he was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art in 1907 and 1908 and didn’t have the educational qualifications to apply for study of architecture. We can only speculate how history may have turned out differently if he had been accepted by the Academy. So his Pilot of the Soul was not given a chance to take the drivers seat. Does this mean that Hitler was inherently bad or evil? I do not think so, but I would say that the odds were stacked up against him. He needed to overcome an awful lot to turn his life towards goodness.

Astrology is about time and we can not look at Hitler’s life or chart without regards to his time. Hitler’s fate was that of Germany’s. Looking at the chart of the man I would conclude that this was a man who was essential weak with little choice then to be carried by the forces of the times in which he lived.

Picking two events that seemed to have been pivotal in Hitler’s life; one mundane and one personal and, we may trace the growing dominance of Mars & Saturn’s influence in Hitler’s life.

Weimer Republic

In 1918 on November 9th the Weimer Republic came into being, shortly followed by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This perceived public humiliation of the German nation coincided with the period of Hitler’s Saturn return and marked a turning point in his life. This event planted the seed of his nationalistic and racial fervor that germinated into the Nazi Party and lead the world down the road to holocaust.

On that day the Sun 16 Scorpio was directly opposite Hitler’s Mars, Venus 16 Taurus and in contra-antiscia to his Saturn 13 Leo. The event chart’s North Node was at 13 Sagittarius, conjunct its MC and was on the antiscia degree of Hitler’s South Node 15 Capricorn, whilst The event charts Jupiter 15 Cancer was transiting Hitler’s own North Node at 15 cancer and his Moon 6 Capricorn was being opposed by the destructive and at that point unknown Pluto 6 Cancer. On a more personal front his progressed Moon 8 Aquarius was moving to oppose his Saturn 13 Leo.

The fate of his nation evidenced by this charts MC, Sun and North Node triggered the worst of Hitler’s horoscope promises: deeply malevolent Saturn and Mars in positions of extreme power, fed by the insecurity of his foundations (Moon, Jupiter and South Node).

Another incident that was very pivotal in the development of Hitler’s persona was the death by gun shot to the heart of his niece, Geli Raubal on Sept 19th 1931. Rumoured to have been his mistress, Geli and Hitler had an unusual relationship which in many ways played out the symbolic configuration of his Mars conjunct Venus in Taurus in the 7th house square Saturn. Hitler, twenty years her senior, found happiness with Geli, her presence subdued and relaxed him and yet he was totally controlling and fanatically jealous of her. There were questions as to whether Hitler was in any way involved in her death. The rumours and innuendos were never proved, but her death was to have a profound effect on Hitler.  He became suicidal and never regained the public joy he had exhibited in Geli’s presence.

On the day of this event we see Saturn was 16 degrees Capricorn trining Hitler’s natal Mars, Venus and conjunct his South Node while transiting Jupiter at 13 degrees Leo was right on his Saturn. Mars, ruler of his 7th house was transiting his 1st house, at 1 degree Scorpio applying to square his MC (5 Leo) and oppose his natal Mars, Venus conjunction. His progressed Moon sextiled his Mars, Venus and was conjunct his North Node and on its way to conjunct his MC on the day he took the control of the newly formed Third Reich (January 30, 1933).

Again we see both Hitler’s highly malefic planets; Saturn and Mars being triggered by this event. It is said that after Geli’s death Hitler threw himself ever more into his public life. Having enough influence to ensure that his involvement surrounding the suspicious circumstances of her death never came to light, must have been further evidence of his invincibility.  The ambition of his Lord of the Ascendant, Saturn coupled with the ruthless and destructive Mars, devoid of the balancing force of Venus (possibly symbolized by Geli herself, her death being the final death of Hitler’s Venus) allowed the evil that was festering below the surface to be given full expression.

We can not judge a chart in a vacuum. Hitler’ fate was linked to the circumstances of his era, culture, nation and birth. Hitler did not act alone in perpetrating the evil that was the Third Reich. Yet as the figure head for this movement he became the focal point of its manifestation. Was Hitler an evil man? The answer is that he was a weak man who through fateful circumstances yielded a huge amount of worldly power (symbolized by his celestially weak planets in terrestrially strong placement). What could have been done with this power need not have been so destructive, but it takes a strong individual to resist the allure of the ego.

In the words of the 13th century Saint Thomas Aquinas “The stars may incline, but do not compel.”  Yet even Thomas Aquinas conceded that only when a man’s soul was in communion with God was his will freed from the bondage of his corporal nature – with his physical body and its appetites, needs and desires. The stars may only incline, but your spirit needs to be in touch with a higher power to resist their inclination. Clearly this was not the case with the individual Adolf Hitler.

Bibliography and References:

J Lee Lehman, Ph.D. “Essential Dignities” Whitford Press 1989 page 136

Benson Bobrick “The Fated Sky: Astrology in History” Simon & Schuster 2005

Thomas Moore “The Planets Within, the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino” Lindisfarne Books 1982

Ian Kershaw “Hitler: 1936-45 Nemesis” Penguin Books 2000

Frawley, John “The Real Astrology” Apprentice Books 2000

Frawley, John “The Real Astrology Applied” Apprentice Books 2002

Holden, James H. “Abu’Ali Al-Khayyat The Judgement of Nativities” AFA 1988


Adolf Hitler: April 20 1889 NS, 6:30 pm (-0:52:08) Braunau am Inn, Austria (48N15 013E02) Rating AA

Germany Weimar Republic: November 9, 1918 1:30 PM CET Berlin, Germany from Nick Campion “The Book of World Horoscopes”

Geli Raubal’s death: Sept 19, 1931 CET -1:00 Munich, Germany. Date from public records, no time, chart set for 12:00 pm

Published in: on October 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  

The Wrong Chart

Every astrologer has done this at some point in their career; given a really good reading to someone and then realized that the chart was wrong! It happened to me just the other day and I could of course blame Mercury for being combust and having turned retrograde (on my Uranus none the less), but maybe I should just admit that I was just careless. Now it wasn’t the birth data that I got wrong, but the consultation chart.

I have been using consultation charts for a long time now. I always set the chart for the time that the appointment is made. I have found that coupled with: solar return, profections, progressions and naturally the birth chart itself, the consultation chart is a mine-full of information.

So last week I set the consultation chart for a regular client; I knew about the issues and situation she had been dealing with in recent times.  Looking at the consultation chart I could see many connections between it and my client’s natal and solar return charts; including its IC and her solar return ASC being on the same degree and its ASC being my clients profected ASC for the year. I expect to see these types of connection between consultation charts and my client’s charts; this confirms the validity of the consultation chart to me.

In blissful ignorance I continued analyzing the chart. Scorpio was rising; its ruler Mars was in the 12th house in Libra, between Saturn and the Moon. Mars was in a separating trine with Jupiter, sextile with Mercury and moving towards a trine with Venus. Both Venus and Jupiter were in Gemini and the 8th house. In fact Mars was in a partile trine to the cusp of the 8th.

I knew that my client’s mother had died some 18 month earlier and that there were issues with her brothers relating to the inheritance, her assets and property. Mars being with Saturn Lord 3 (her brothers) and the Moon Lord 10 (her mother) and the emphasis on the 8th house, particularly as Jupiter was by profection, Lord of the year and exactly transiting  her natal IC, I concluded that the whole situation surrounding her brothers and her mother’s estate was foremost on her mind and that she was finding it difficult; having problems taking action or making a stand on the issue  as her significator, Mars was in detriment in the 12th house.

Sure enough that first thing out of my clients mouth when she arrived was about her trip back home and the dilemma she was having feeling caught between her brothers; whichever way she went would alienate one or the other, yet she felt that both were looking to her to resolve the situation. In  fact  she really didn’t want to deal or even think about the whole issue, but knew that she could not continue to ignore it.

The situation like all family disputes is complex and her brothers relationship is intense (Pluto is in the 3rd house). The appointment went very well as we explored many options related to her ability to figure out which approach to take. When she left I felt that it had been a very insightful and productive session, and then I looked at the consultation chart; it was not only the wrong date, but also the wrong time!

How could I do this? Yet the chart “worked” in guiding us to the core of her issue, through which she found a possible course of action for her to follow. This was to take a more “spiritual” approach which is suggested in the chart by the partile sextile between the Moon (ruler of the 9th) and the Sun in its own sign in the 10th.


Going back and setting the chart for the correct time, I could not see the situation nearly as clearly, though it could probably be extrapolated.  There are few connections between this “right” chart and my clients natal and/or solar return charts. Had I looked at this chart I would not  have been drawn to conclude that she was dealing with her family’s inheritance issues. However Mercury’s aspect to Jupiter and the 9th house cusp, as well as his conjunction to the Sun does point to my client’s conclusion of taking a more spiritual approach to her situation.

I am left with a sense of awe at the mystery of astrology! How can such specific information be drawn from a seemingly random chart?  There is obviously some force at work which is beyond our control and that “knows” best.

“Where are my glasses?” Beware of Saturn in the 7th house.

Barbara Waters wrote in 1973 “Horary Astrology and the Judgement of Events” (page 14):  “Saturn in the 7th house, the astrologer’s judgement is clouded…the reason for his blindness hardly matters because his judgement is clouded and cannot be objective.”

This chart has  Saturn in the 7th house and I, the astrologer got it wrong.  I even jokingly told the querent after giving my erroneous judgement that: “since Saturn is in the 7th house I am probably wrong”.  On that point I was right. Looking back at the chart the answer seems obvious, however at the time “my judgement was clouded”.

“Where are my glasses?” (21 Jan 2012, 12:52 PM, Melbourne Australia)

The querent had a trade table at an astrological conference. While setting up she had misplaced her glasses which were a new pair of designer prescription glasses. I was speaking with the querent, a friend and fellow astrologer, joking around as one does at a conference surrounded by colleagues and associates. When she told me of her lost glasses I offered to find them with a horary.

Only having the querent’s computer at hand I set the chart, but when I first saw it, I was shocked to find a chart filled with a million aspect lines and various asteroids and other points. To me the chart looked a confusing mess and I said: “I can’t see anything!”… I asked to change the settings and finally “saw” a chart as I am use to; clean and simple with few lines.

She, the querent is signified by the ASC and its ruler Mars in Virgo (working at a marketing table at a conference), the glasses are signified by the  2nd house ruler, Venus in Pisces, exalted (being designer glasses), but this placement also indicated that they are not in a totally foreign place, but rather a place where they are being “honoured”. There were a number of indications that the glasses would be found: the Moon in Capricorn is making a trine to Jupiter a planet in the first house, both luminaries are above the horizon.

But the only thing I saw was that there was no aspect between, Venus and Mars or the Moon and Venus (or Mars). I also saw the peregrine Mercury was on the MC, and I concluded that someone had found them, picked them up and walked off with them.  Not a thief so much as an opportunist.

I could not get beyond the fact that the Moon would first hit Pluto before he could complete his sextile to Venus; which I interpreted as a prohibition.  (This chart adds to my growing understanding that the outer planets do not function in the same manner as the seven classical planets do).

The fact that the Moon was in a partile trine with Jupiter in the ASC and had just separated from a sextile with Saturn (after which it ingressed into a new sign) shows that the glasses were probably in the possession of someone in authority, as Jupiter rules the 9th (the conference was being held at a University) and Saturn rules the MC (also both Jupiter and Saturn tend to suggest a person with authority). The glasses were found at the front desk of the conference and the querent was reunited with them a couple days later.

As for the astrologer, she learnt a valuable lesson; never try to read a chart without giving it due reverence.

Alchemy and Astrology

The connection between astrology and alchemy has its genesis in the fifth and forth century BC, in the philosophies of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the metallurgical skills of the ancient Egyptians. The meaning and structure of alchemy were summarised in the “Emerald Tablet” and presented as a revelation to Hermes Trismegistus the supposed author of “the Corpus Hermeticum”.

In recent times our understanding of astrology and alchemy has become so distorted that they have lost all true meaning and purpose. Our empirical understanding of reality has made alchemy appear at best as philosophical musing, at worst as little more than superstition.

Astrology and alchemy are in essence looking at the same thing functioning on different levels or different realms. To put it simply astrology deals with the celestial realm and alchemy with the sub-terrestrial realm of the same thing; the movement and manifestation of spirit.

Spirit is the essence of all life and binds the whole of creation together. It permeates all matter and form giving it substance and vitality. Spirit or essential form is akin to the vertical threads of life, the horizontal threads being the substantial or material. Soul is both essential and material, it is both spirit and body, it embodies the rich tapestry woven when the essential spirit and material come together to create life. The purpose of soul is to reflect spirit. The purpose of alchemy and astrology is to purify and align the soul/body in order that spirit can be wholly reflected through its embodiment in matter.

What is Alchemy?

The word alchemy evokes many images including that of the crazed medieval chemist, stooped over arcane manuscripts, trying to unlock the secrets of nature in order to make gold out of base metals or create the so called “philosophers stone” propounded to bestow eternal life. Some have excused alchemy as a philosophical endeavour, defining the alchemist as a philosopher and those who engaged in the transmutation of metals or the search for eternal life as misguided fools.  In the 20th century psychologist led by Carl Jung used the image and symbolism of alchemy and ascribed it to the psychotherapeutic process of personal evolution and analytic practice.

Modern psychological astrologers have embraced this Jungian understanding of alchemy and use the natal astrological chart as a symbolic guide to self-growth. While this works well in gaining an understanding of an individual’s process of individuation and knowing themselves it is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of alchemy. Alchemy is not about the individual or his process. Neither is alchemy naïve chemistry, as some would define it.

Alchemy is the endeavour of purifying soul in order to reflect spirit truthfully, in the sub-terrestrial world the result is gold.

The true aim of alchemy is to go beyond the “I” for it is the “I” as a thought concept or ego consciousness that is the barrier preventing consciousness from being flooded by the light of pure spirit. In the alchemical view of reality consciousness exist in one form or another in all things including the metals and the planets.

The Roots of Alchemy

The problem in trying to come to an understanding of alchemy is that it has always been an esoteric or occult science. Alchemy was known as the “royal art” it was not meant for everyone. A person had to gain the wisdom needed before being privy to the secrets of the alchemists. The true purpose and truth of alchemy is hidden in the symbolism of the alchemical language. This symbolism has a great similarity with astrological symbolism.

In the same way that the physical process of trying to make gold was fraught with danger from accidental poisoning or explosions, alchemical knowledge was considered dangerous to those who were not ready or properly prepared. Philosophically alchemy threatened the dominant monotheist religions and so needed to remain hidden. This may account for much of the old texts being written in secret language, illustrated symbols, paradoxes and riddles.


Much of the astrological, alchemical and philosophical wisdom of old comes to us from “The Corpus Hermeticum”, a work attributed to Hermes Trismegistus a mythical wise man also said to be the Egyptian God Thoth. The Corpus Hermiticum is said to record all human knowledge up to that point. It is in this work that we first encounter the precept of: “What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that below.” This sets out the basic principle on which alchemy is founded and this same dictum goes to the heart of astrology and magic the world over.

Alchemy aims to create purity in order for spirit to be reflected and manifested in this earthly realm. In the same way that light has no direction or substance until it encounters an object that can reflect back, giving light form, colour and direction, spirit needs to be reflected by soul, which exist in all matter. But when soul/matter is impure, like a dirty mirror that can only partially reflect light, it distorts the reflection of spirit. Spirit can only truly express itself through pure soul. The purer the receptacle or body of the soul the more able it is to reflect the light of spirit.

The alchemical process begins and ends with the Materia Prima. It is both the origin and the fruit of the work. The Materia Prima is found everywhere in creation, it is the primary substance of the world and the basic substance of the soul. It contains all things and is contained in all things. In order to purify the Materia Prima, it must be broken down and opposites must unite, creating liquid fire, the embodied spirit, the volatile stable or air like earth.

The moment soul (be it human, metal or other) achieves purity and becomes a clear receptive mirror of spirit, the revelation of the creative spirit takes place. Purity can not take place until the creative spirit reveals itself, which can not happen until purity is achieved. This paradox is the true meaning of the sacred marriage alluded to in alchemical writings. The King and Queen come together, pure being meets pure spirit. This is the marriage of Sun and Moon; spirit and soul, sulphur and quicksilver, the primary ingredients of alchemy.

Sulphur and Quicksilver


Two of the principle ingredients of alchemy are sulphur and quicksilver.

  • Sulphur, is the original masculine power, it is hot and dry and is symbolised by the Sun. It is the dynamic aspect of the solar or masculine cause.
  • Quicksilver is the original feminine power that is cold and moist and is symbolised by Moon. It is the productive power of “materia”, the dynamic aspect of the lunar or feminine cause.

Together quicksilver and sulphur embody the two phases of nature: dissolution and coagulation. On some level dissolution can relate to the active, vertical thread (or pole) of essence or spirit, of which alchemical sulphur corresponds. Coagulation relates to the horizontal passive thread (or pole) of substance to which quicksilver corresponds. These two may seem as opposite but they are in fact mutually complimentary.

Sulphur corresponds to the “Divine command” by which the world became out of chaos and quicksilver represents “Universal nature” the passive counterpart of the former that allows itself to be used and moulded. The first property (hot and cold) of both is the active masculine, the second property (dry and moist) is the passive feminine. Between them sulphur and quicksilver, by their qualities can expand (hot), contract (cold), coagulate (dry), and dissolve (moist) in a variety of combinations.

Corruption of matter happens when the properties of each mutually penetrate each other: so when the dry (coagulation) of sulphur joins with the cold (contraction) of quicksilver complete rigidity of soul and body occurs. In human life this is expressed as the torpor of old age, avarice and a total loss of the original receptivity and vitality, both spiritual and sensual. The other way with the moist (dissolution) of quicksilver penetrates the heat (expansion) of sulphur we get unbridled passion and a volatility of power. Often these unbalanced states are found together, one begetting the other.

Creative equilibrium can only happen when the expansive power of sulphur and contracting power of quicksilver hold the balance while at the same time the masculine coagulation and feminine dissolving capacity come into a fruitful union. This marries the two threads (poles) of being (essence and substance) and is symbolised by the intersecting triangles of the Seal of Solomon.

This state of absolute equilibrium between the passive and the active, the realisation of the centre of the earthly state is the ultimate goal of alchemy. Only in this state can matter, body or soul reflect back its true unadulterated spiritual essence. The evidence of reaching this state will manifest on all levels of existence including the mineral. So gold will be made, physical life will be prolonged and psyche will be freed of its desires. The dross will be removed through transmutation to allow the revelation of the light of spirit in matter.

Astrological symbols and alchemy

Throughout alchemical texts are found astrological references and symbols. It is evident by this that both are related and an understanding of one would help to understand the other. Both traditions come from the same source that at its heart understood the world to be interconnected and united, imbued with conscious intelligence that manifested in various forms.

Astrology interprets the meaning of the planets and zodiac, alchemy interprets the meaning of the elements and metals. The planets are embodied intelligence; the metals are intelligent bodies. While the metals were generated in the womb of the earth they are essentially under the influence of the seven planets.

The sacred metals of gold and silver are the earthly reflections of Sun and Moon and thus also reflect all other realities of spirit and soul that are related to this heavenly pair. Gold, the supposed aim of alchemist is regarded as the purest of metals; it is free of the impurities of other base metals and is the mineral reflection or subterranean manifestation of spirit. Silver the other sacred metal whose reflective quality acts as a mirror has the ability to reflect spirit. All other planets had a corresponding metal with which they shared their symbol.

Saturn              =         Lead

Jupiter              =         Tin

Mars                =         Iron

Sun                  =         Gold

Mercury           =         Quicksilver (Mercury)

Venus              =         Copper

Moon               =         Silver

The hierarchy of the planets descends from Saturn, analogous to intelligence or intellect, through to the Moon which is analogous to the vital spirit that rules the involuntary and instinctive activities of the body. The hierarchy of corresponding metals are ascending from lead the densest and most chaotic of metals to Silver, the embodiment of pure unformed receptivity. In both Gold/Sun occupies the central position, which is the ultimate and true goal of the alchemist.

The seven signs of the planets/metals express the entire cosmic hierarchy which is the result of the polarisation of existence into an active or masculine pole symbolised by the Sun and a passive or feminine pole, symbolised by the Moon.

  • The Sun is symbolised by the circle and reflects the active principle of being, the pure act of essence. This is the planetary symbol of the King. Gold the metal associated with the Sun represents pure spirit embodied in mineral form.
  • The Moon is symbolised by the crescent or semi-circle and reflects the passive principle of becoming, constant change. This is the planetary symbol of the Queen. Silver is associated with the Moon and represents the metal whose purity is like the purified soul able to reflect spirit in all its glory.
  • Physical matter or earth is symbolised by the cross of the elements (or of matter), the vertical pole of active essence (fire and air) and the horizontal arm of passive substance (water and earth). The wheel of heaven is made up of the cross of matter and the circle of the active principle. This is the symbol for earth or the angular cross of the horoscope. The physical realm of the sublunary world, where form is corrupted is the setting for the desired alchemical transmutation.

Spirit/Sun acts on soul/Moon and changes it, as seen in the changing of the Moon’s form and the constant unchanging form of the Sun. becoming is therefore passive, while the pure essence of being is active and remains unchanging.

The Work of Alchemy

Though Spiritual alchemy was not necessarily involved in metallurgic work, there is a supposition that originally the inward and the outward work went hand in hand.

The purpose of alchemy is not to transcend matter, but rather to manifest spirit in matter. The way to do this is to free the soul or body from its impressions and passions, returning it to its original state, which is pure receptivity. The Materia Prima, primary substance of the world and the basis of soul, contains all things and is found in all things.

There are 3 stages and a lesser and higher level to the work of the alchemist.

  • First is the blackening. Black is associated with downward movement, into matter away from the luminous origin
  • Second is the whitening or bleaching. White is associated with upward movement, aspiration towards the origin/light.
  • Finally is the reddening. Red or Royal Purple is associated with a tendency towards expansion on the plane manifestation.

The lesser work, has the Moon/silver as its end point, precedes the greater work whose ultimate aim is Sun/gold. The two-fold (lesser & greater) and three-fold (black, white & red) stages do not conflict. They occur in a seven-fold division based on the reign of the planets and properties of metals.

Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon are related to the first three stages of the lesser work. This is the phase whose end point is the Moon and Silver. Saturn and Jupiter are symbolised by a glyph compromising the cross of matter and the crescent of the Moon. The first three stages are purely lunar signs.

The first three stages of the greater work is related to Venus, Mars and the Sun whose glyph compromises the cross of matter and the circle of spirit. The original glyph for Mars was a circle with a cross on top, rather then the arrow now used. The last 3 stages have purely solar signs.

Mercury, whose associated metal is quicksilver, the principle initiator of the alchemical process, is symbolised by the cross under the circle under the crescent. It is the only astrological glyph to contain all three symbols. Only Mercury is androgynous and contains both lunar and solar signs.  Mercury, quicksilver comes before all the others. It is not a stage in the alchemical process, but rather the key to the whole work.

The order of the lesser and greater works is in opposite direction to the other. For every active aspect there is a corresponding passive aspect.

  • Saturn represents the passive abasement or extinction of ego-bound consciousness.
  • Mars represents the active descent into unconscious passion
  • Jupiter represents the passive development of soul’s receptivity
  • Venus is the active rising of the inward sun or spirit
  • The Moon and Sun represents the two poles in their pure state.
  • Mercury bears both essences within itself and is the key of the alchemical process.

The first stage of the lesser work, the blackening:

The first, black stage of the lesser work comes under Saturn, whose metal is the densest and most chaotic of all metals: lead. This is the mortification and putrefaction stage. Symbolised by the Raven or skull. At this stage consciousness must be withdrawn from the senses and turned inwards. Saturn’s glyph is the cross of matter over the lunar crescent of soul. The Soul is submerged in matter (the cross) and hidden from the light.

The second stage of the lesser work, the bleaching

The second, whitening stage of the lesser work is dominated by Jupiter associated with the metal tin. Now the crescent, the soul has risen out of matter and is on the horizontal arm of the cross. It has risen above and out of the earth. Jupiter or tin its corresponding metal, represents the first step in the loosening of the soul from the elemental pairs of opposites.

The third stage of the lesser work, the reddening

The reddening stage of the lesser work brings us to the Moon or silver. Here the crescent stands alone free from matter, independent of the cross of elements. Here the potentiality of the soul has been purified from the initial chaos of death (Saturn) and has now fully developed and united in a state of pure receptivity. The white mirror-like metal of silver manifesting this purity, a state also symbolised by the “blessed virgin mother”, the Moon.

In the lesser work the energy as represented by the crescent moves upwards in an ascending movement until the Moon stands alone. These first three stages correspond to the “spiritualisation of the body” the last three stages correspond to the “embodiment of spirit” and represent a downward movement and descent back into matter.

The first stage of the greater work, the blackening:

Venus dominates the first stage of the greater work. Here the form giving power of the active essence of spirit imprints anew to the cross of the elements. At this stage the volatile power of Quicksilver prevails over the solid bodies, later the fixative power of sulphur will prevail over volatile Quicksilver and crystallise a new soul-body form.

The colouring power of Sulphur does become visible in Copper (Venus’s metal) yet the new creation is not perfected, it is still unstable and coarse, because it is still attached to the opposing forces contained in the cross of the four elements.

The second stage of the greater work, the whitening:

Mars dominates the second stage of the greater work. Saturn and Mars are opposite each other, seen in their glyph where the cross sits atop dominating the crescent of the soul or the sphere of spirit. Both represent an extinction of sorts, while Saturn symbolises the chaotic condition of death, Mars is an active and directed descent of spirit into the lowest levels of human consciousness.

Here the body is completely penetrated by the incombustible Sulphur. In Iron the fixative and colouring power of Sulphur, though present, can not manifest its lustre. The spirit is wholly submerged in the body, this is the threshold of the final completion; the transformation of body into spirit-become-form.

The final stage of the greater work, the reddening:

The completion of the greater work is expressed by the Sun. The centre point that was missing at the start in the circle, representing what was only potentially present is now manifest. This stage is the reddening, which expands spirit into matter, reflecting the completion through the colour royal purple-red.

In the greater work the energy as represented by the circle moves downwards until the Sun stands alone. The Sun is analogous to the soul transmuted and illuminated by spirit, representing the perfect union of spirit, soul and body, it is the centre point of equilibrium sought by the alchemists.

The alchemical work that transmutes metals into gold, light incarnated, has its parallel in the inward alchemy of prayer. The soul initially becomes congealed on turning away from the outward world, and then dissolves as a result of inner warmth, and finally after having been a volatile changing stream of impressions, becomes a motionless crystal filled with light.

Ultimately the process of alchemy changes the life of the alchemist in the same way that astrology will forever change the way an astrologer will view life. There is far more to both then initially meets the eye. The more one puts into both the more depth and wisdom is unearthed.

This article also appears on the C.I.A. site and was published in the FAA journal in 2008


Burckhardt, Titus: “Alchemy, the Science of the Soul” published by Fons Vitae, 1997 (originally published 1960)

Burckhardt, Titus: “Mystical Astrology According to Ibn’Arabi” published by Fons Vitae, 2001 (originally publishd in 1950 in French, first English translation 1977)

Zoller, Robert: “The Arabic Parts in Astrology: a Lost Key to Prediction” published by Inner Tradition International, 1980

Editors of Time-Life Books: “Secrets of the Alchemists”, published 1990