by Hand Week 27
my columns over the last several months I have made a number of references
to “traditional astrology.” Exactly what does that mean, and how is “traditional
astrology” different from “modern astrology?” Well, first of all we have
to understand that traditional astrology is not just one kind of astrology
any more than modern astrology is. In modern astrology, we have what we
could broadly call mainstream Anglo-American astrology, and also more
individualized systems such as the Huber School, Uranian astrology, sidereal
astrology, cosmobiology, etc.
among traditional forms of astrology we have jyotish or Hindu astrology,
the various systems of Greek astrology and medieval Arabic and Latin astrology.
What I personally have been studying and working with is Greek and medieval
astrology. However, there has also been a very strong upsurge of interest
in Hindu astrology in about this same time period in which there has been
the revival of interest in traditional Western and Middle Eastern astrology.
the purposes of this column, I am going to define traditional Western
astrology separately from Hindu astrology (even though it is also a traditional
astrology). Traditional Western astrology is the astrology practiced in
the Middle East and West prior to 1700. This definition is very commonly
Do We Want to Look Back?
there something wrong with the modern forms of astrology that causes us
to have all of this interest in older forms? Well, of course nothing is
perfect, and in astrology we have all been looking for ways to do astrology
more effectively. And there is the element of curiousity. I personally
like looking backward to see how things have been done in other times
and epochs regardless of whether or not older methods might be applicable
to modern times.
students of traditional Western astrology, as well as those who have taken
up jyotish, are often heard to complain that modern forms of astrology
are “too vague,” that is, they lack definition and seem unable to make
clear statements about anything. This is in part due to our efforts to
escape from the limitations of the event-oriented, or “fortune-telling”
model. But I also suspect that it is a problem of some individual practitioners
who do not want to be held responsible for making predictions that do
not come true. After all, the more vague a statement is, the harder it
is to tell whether or not it is true.
Traditional Astrology Clearer?
whether it is an intrinsic flaw in modern astrology that it seems to be
unable to make clear statements, or whether it is simply a common problem
that practitioners have may be beside the point. Many people are attracted
to jyotish and traditional Western astrology because they perceive them
as being able to make more precise statements—to be clearer. In part,
this is because in their original forms both jyotish and traditional Western
astrology are much more oriented to predicting events and external circumstances
of a native’s life. Such predictions have the virtue of being clearly
true or false. Here are a couple of examples from Johannes Schoener’s
Three Books on the Judgment of Nativities, a text from the
Sun in a praiseworthy place and the lords of the Sun’s triplicity in
evil places, say that at the time of the nativity of the child the father
would be well and fortunate, but afterward he would come to poverty.
Mercury is under the rays in an angle in the aspect of infortunes, the native
will be robbed or imprisoned.”
are straightforward statements. They are either true or false, and it
will be clear at some point in a native’s life which way they are. They
do not leave much “wiggle room.”
of modern astrology who believe that astrology should be about understanding
human potential and growth will find many of the very precise statements
of older astrologies quite horrifying, not only for their specific content,
but also for the way in which they seem to circumscribe human life. Most
of us value our freedom to develop in a manner of our own choosing, and
statements like the ones above imply that (if they are correct) we do
not have much freedom. One can argue (I believe rightly) that the lesser
precision of the statements of modern astrologers is due in part to the
fact that we believe that there is always more than one possible outcome
to an indication and that we have the freedom to modify our responses.
we have to ask the question: are people attracted to traditional forms
of astrology because they have some kind of bogus precision? Possibly
this is true for some, but I do not think that this is the whole story
by any means.
week I will discuss how we got here and what it means for modern versus
further reading on the history of astrology, here is a book you may find
History of Horoscopic Astrology by James H. Holden, AFA, ISBN