Astrology balances the scientific attitude and the contemplative and poetic creation of the meaning of things.

Published in: Astrological Observer no 7, April 1987

Italian version

Curiously, I have never shared my colleagues’ doubts about the integrity of particular assumptions in astrology, nor the discouragement of those who get rid of them for lack of objective evidence. Despite having uncertainties, I try to free myself from the judgment that this procedure entails. The uncertainty becomes a sort of warpath, where one teaches to defeat the opinion of the enemy rather than to understand what is going on.

I want to give you an example of what I mean. One night my friend John and I talked about the predictive potential of a planetary transit. The friend, a profound lover of astrology at a certain point in our exchange of views, intersperses an authoritarian affirmation, which admits no exceptions: “For example”, he says, “I have noticed for sure that the transits of slow planets, which should also characterise notable events, do not always give an obvious answer”. “Dear John”, I replied, “transits act on a subtle level. I mean psychological or hidden if there are no objective elements to reveal it”. “I disagree”, he replies, “the symbolism of transits must produce effects on the individual’s destiny, such as to validate its meaning and allow a prediction as much as possible accurate and truthful. Just in these days, Jupiter passed over my natal Sun, and nothing happened! Evidently”, he concludes, “the interpretative key held by the astrologers of the past has been lost”.

From the epistemological point of view, regarding the pure and immutable expression of facts, John’s point of view is correct. On the other hand, the imprecise correspondence of the microcosm-macrocosm relationships leads us to reflect on the incompleteness of our perception regarding the cosmic order. Hence, the search for an interpretation transcending the appearance to get closer to the essence, finally resolving the contradiction between things and their hidden meaning.

Plato calls philosophers those who care for knowledge (Sophia), where it is understood that wise is the one who seeks the light (phàos). By contrast, he calls filodoxoi the ones who stop at the sensible appearances (Doxa) of things. This distinction involves initiating a spiral process that, from the periphery, from the maximum disorder of astrological information (physicists would define it as a system with minimum entropy), reaches the ontological definition, the metaphysical principle underlying the manifestation.

John is then a philosopher, an active exegete of the truth that lies behind appearances. Truth is light or conscious vision. As the Sun brightens otherwise obscure bodies, consciousness contains the seeds of ideas, of elevation from earthly things. From this point of view, we can argue that there is no substantial difference between the development of astrology within a scientific conception and a hermetic-esoteric approach, the basis of the research of 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 difference between the scientific and the esoteric in astrology is that in one case, the theory proceeds by habituation to numberless repeated phenomena, which gradually define a sphere of experimentation within which laws and meanings swing. On the other, we determine the results by a series of central postulates (for example, the name in onomantic astrology), from which one and one only set of information emanates. Although in the centuries following the industrial revolution, the mundane attitude has been accentuated, especially by positivism, to the disadvantage of the metaphysical one, there is no doubt that astrology has been able to grasp a notable vital impulse from both.

Now we come to the origin of human aspiration: the cosmos, the order that imposes itself above all. The standing station is, after all, a necessary reference to transcendence from chthonic forces through the approach to the sky. Moreover, astrology has a liberating function. It frees us from the imperfection and irregularity of subjective experience to allow us to shine in the light of day in the world of pure forms. But when both Doxa and Sophia, appearance and wisdom, one in a practical and the other in a dogmatic way, testify to the presence of ordering light, what does the dark side do? What of the deceptive dimension where the astrological interpretation does not make a visible meaning? Here we enter the realm of chaos, of the magmatic disorder peculiar to the human condition; the limitations of time, space, sensory perception lead us to experience a state where the event is no longer predictable.

At this point, the astrologer becomes a poet, a handler of an objective reality that he translates into heavenly powers. The astrologer as a poet, unlike the philosopher and the epistemologist, does not attest to the fact but produces it, subjective 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. The poetry lives of totality that includes every possible situation; it is creative chaos (origin, opening, following the Indo-European derivation of the term).

Total openness is unconscious, chaotic precisely, beyond any recognition process; the logos is the collection of things according to a defined vibratory sequence. The Pythagoreans, for their part, interpreted the order of the logos both in terms of vibrational and musical harmony, and in numerical terms, as Philolaus asserts: “All things that are known have numbers: without this, nothing would be possible to think, nor to know” [1] The cosmic logos had the prerogative of ‘explanting’ the transitory attributes from the human being adapted to the divine plan, anticipating the liberation from the imperfections of matter. This inspiration towards the light, prerogative in the first century AD of early Christian gnosis, had far more drastic consequences in the formulations adduced by heterodox gnosis. It saw in the separative process between the Earth and the Heaven a possibility for man to become an intentional producer of his destiny, no longer an unaware pawn of celestial motions and divine will. It was the separation of the Cosmos from God and man from the world. Therefore, the split occurred between the original Unity, which has become unknowable, and the earthly matter, a source of anguish and loneliness because meaningless.

As the landing point of centuries of Hellenistic philosophy and as a merging of elements between Western speculation and Eastern wisdom, Gnosis has left a deep groove in the dialectical exposition of the foundations of astrology. But it is with Plotinus’ Neoplatonism, researcher of that ineffable One revisited in terms of faith by medieval patristics, that Greek thought reaches its peaks and shines over other forms of creed and speculation. In a beautiful passage of the Enneads, Plotinus makes Nature speak, who says: “Being born is vision. My silent vision is a vision that arises to me natively, whence it is that the very act of my contemplating creates.” [2]

There are many similarities between Neoplatonic gnosis and oriental doctrines. Indeed, the above passage has extraordinary affinities with some aspects of Buddhist philosophy. For example, to Buddhists, nature is defined as the ability to manifest vacuity (in the meaning of the lack of inherent existence of phenomena), and vision is the individual’s energy which ‘apparently’ is assumed to be external or in an illusory separation of perceiver and perceived. So the discussion between the supporters of esoteric astrology and the proponents of a scientific methodology boils down to an eternal question of dualism, to a total contrast between the lords of light and darkness, a genuinely insuperable question if one remains in terms of refusal or judgment. Esotericism in astrology tries to remove doubt rationalising the ontological process. Still, in doing so, it affirms its opposite, diversity, as it ‘thinks’ the Unity and therefore places itself outside of it.

On the other hand, the proponents of the scientific method abide by the doxa, to semblance, and to praxis, human intervention on the technique itself, abstracting from it a principle that ‘mimics’ the ontological consistency. Although both methods circle in an area that goes from certain to probable, they do not possess the poetic production capacity of reality. I am not going to go into the actual forecasting capacity of the astrological divination. What I have intended to comment on so far was the conceptual process that has, if not originated, at least accompanied the astrological weltanschauung to this day.

The poetic intervention follows the path of theorìa, a productive, non-separative vision between observer and phenomenon. Contemplative astrology is based on hypostasis – self-knowledge – and therefore, the inherent experience becomes like a game or an adornment of liberation. Thus, we can say that the idea of astrological practice is, as for medicine, to be able to do without it.