Astrology serves as a harmonious blend of scientific approach and contemplative, poetic creation of the meaning of things.
Published in: Osservatore Astrologico no 7, April 1987
Despite the doubts that some of my colleagues harbour about the integrity of certain assumptions in astrology, I have never shared their reservations. Nor do I subscribe to the view of those who dismiss these assumptions as lacking objective evidence. Although unsure about their validity, I attempt to divest myself of any preconceptions that might colour my judgment. The process, however, can sometimes be fraught with tension, as it can become a battleground in which one is expected to defeat opposing opinions rather than comprehend the underlying issues.
Allow me to illustrate my point with an example. One evening, my colleague John and I were discussing the predictive potential of a planetary transit. John, a well-versed astrologer, made a statement that allowed no exceptions. He said, “I have observed that the transits of slow planets, which should be indicative of significant events, do not always produce an obvious outcome.” To which I responded, “Dear John, transits operate at a subtle level, such as psychological or concealed if objective elements are not evident.” John disagreed, saying, “The symbolism of transits must have an impact on an individual’s destiny that is significant enough to validate its interpretation and facilitate a prediction that is as accurate and honest as possible. Just recently, Jupiter crossed my natal Sun, and nothing occurred! Clearly, the interpretative key possessed by the past astrologers has been lost.”
From an epistemological standpoint, John’s argument is correct in presenting objective facts. However, the complex and interrelated nature of microcosmic and macrocosmic relationships prompts us to consider the limitations of our understanding of the broader cosmic order. As such, seeking a more profound interpretation that transcends appearances becomes necessary, allowing us to uncover the true essence of things and thus reconcile apparent contradictions with their underlying meaning.
Plato designates those who hold a deep concern for knowledge (Sophia) as philosophers, with the assumption that the wise individual is the one who seeks enlightenment (phàos). In contrast, he labels filodoxoi as those who are content with the sensory appearance (Doxa) of things. This distinction marks the inception of a spiral process that, starting from the periphery, from the most disordered astrological information (which physicists would describe as a system with minimal entropy), culminates in the ontological definition, the metaphysical principle that underlies manifestation.
John is then a philosopher who actively interprets the truth behind appearances. He believes that truth is a luminous or conscious vision that contains the seeds of ideas that elevate us from earthly things. From his perspective, there is no substantial difference between the development of astrology within a scientific conception and a hermetic-esoteric approach at the basis of the search for the so-called golden way. Both directions are a production of the Platonic world of ideas, of the immutable essence of sensible forms, the basis of the only rule that allows us to define things as they are beyond the transience that events denote.
The scientific and esoteric aspects of astrology differ in their approach. In one case, the theory proceeds by habituation to countless repeated phenomena, gradually defining a sphere of experimentation within which laws and meanings oscillate. On the other, we determine the results through a series of central postulates (for example, the name in onomantic astrology), from which one and only one set of information emanates.
During the centuries following the Industrial Revolution, the worldly attitude was accentuated, especially by positivism, to the detriment of the metaphysical one. However, there is no doubt that astrology was able to capture a notable vital impulse from both.
The origin of human aspiration is deeply rooted in the cosmos, which represents an order that reigns supreme over everything else. The upright position of humans serves as a necessary reference point for transcending the chthonic forces and reaching out to the sky. Astrology, too, has a liberating function. It helps us transcend the imperfections and irregularities of subjective experiences, enabling us to shine in the world of pure forms. However, what does the dark side do when both Doxa and Sophia – appearance and wisdom – testify to the presence of the ordering light? What happens when the astrological interpretation fails to provide any visible meaning? This is where we enter the realm of chaos, where the magmatic disorder peculiar to the human condition prevails. Time, space, and sensory perception limitations lead us to experience a state where events are no longer predictable.
At this juncture, the astrologer becomes a poet, a manipulator of an objective reality, which he translates into celestial powers. Unlike the philosopher and the epistemologist, the poet astrologer does not attest to the fact but produces it, subjectivises it, and then objectifies it in the form of external reality. The mythos – word, tale – is said to be the instrument of the poiesis, the human imposition on the things of the cosmos. Poetry lives on a totality that includes every possible situation – it is creative chaos, the origin, and the opening, according to the Indo-European derivation of the term.
Total openness is an unconscious state that is chaotic and beyond the process of recognition. The logos represents a set of things that follow a defined vibratory sequence. The Pythagoreans interpreted the order of the logos in terms of both vibrational and musical harmony and numerical values. According to Philolaus, “All known things have numbers: without this, nothing would be possible to think, nor to know. ” The cosmic logos had the prerogative to “explant” the transient attributes of human beings, which were adapted to the divine plan, anticipating the liberation from the imperfections of matter. This inspiration towards light was a privilege of early Christian gnosis in the 1st century AD, but it had much more severe consequences in the formulations adopted by heterodox gnosis. In the process of separating Earth and Heaven, the man saw the opportunity to become the intentional architect of his destiny, no longer an unaware pawn of celestial movements and divine will. It was the separation of the Cosmos from God and man from the world. As a result, the original Unity became unattainable, and earthly matter became a source of anguish and loneliness because it lacked meaning.
Gnosis, the landing point of centuries of Hellenistic philosophy and a merger of Western speculation and Eastern wisdom, has significantly contributed to the dialectical exposition of the foundations of astrology. The Neoplatonism of Plotinus, a researcher of the Ineffable revisited in terms of faith by medieval patristics, was a significant turning point for Greek thought. It reached its zenith and shone on other forms of belief and speculation. In a remarkable passage from the Enneads, Plotinus personifies Nature and gives it a voice, saying: “The Being that is born is vision. My silent vision is a vision that arises in me natively, whence it is that the very act of my contemplating creates. “
The similarities between Neoplatonic gnosis and Eastern doctrines are numerous — the passage cited above bears remarkable affinities with certain aspects of Buddhist philosophy. According to Buddhist thought, nature is identified as the ability to manifest emptiness, i.e., the absence of the intrinsic existence of phenomena. In addition, vision is viewed as the individual’s energy, which ‘apparently’ is perceived as external or illusory, resulting in a separation between perceiver and perceived.
Thus, the debate between proponents of esoteric astrology and scientific methodology is reduced to a fundamental question of dualism, to an unbridgeable contrast between the lords of light and darkness. This is a genuinely challenging question if one remains within the framework of refusal or judgment. Esotericism in astrology seeks to eliminate doubt by rationalising the ontological process. However, in doing so, it affirms its opposite, diversity, since it “thinks” the Unity and thereby positions itself outside of it.
Proponents of the scientific method adhere to doxa, appearance, and praxis, the human intervention in the technique itself, extracting from it a principle that “mimics” its ontological consistency. While operating within a range from the certain to the probable, both methods lack the capacity to produce reality poetically. I will not delve into the actual predictive power of astrological divination; my intention is to comment on the conceptual process that has accompanied, if not originated from, the astrological Weltanschauung up to the present day.
The poetic intervention follows the path of theorìa, which entails a productive and non-separative vision between the observer and the phenomenon. Contemplative astrology is founded on hypostasis, that is self-knowledge, whereby the intrinsic experience becomes akin to a game or ornament of liberation. Thus, we can deduce that the purpose of astrological practice is, as for medicine, to be able to do without it.