There was a comment left by one of my readers remarking on the fact that phenomena such as eclipses and comets are invariably seen as negative events or even evil ones. There is a reason for this, and for good or bad, it is something with which every traditional astrologer needs to make their peace. The topic could easily fill many volumes (and does) but it can also be told quite simply for our immediate purposes. This article is likely to pose as many questions as it answers, but I have tried to show various avenues of inquiry for further research.
Since Eve ate apples, the stars have been far less friendly. John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost provides us with more than one passage about how the stars were turned, but the followed encapsulates it all very well. The post lapsarian cosmology comes into being immediately after the apple incident:
While the Creator, calling forth by name
His mighty Angels, gave them several charge,
As sorted best with present things. The Sun
Had first his precept so to move, so shine,
As might affect the Earth with cold and heat
Scarce tolerable, and from the north to call
Decrepit winter, from the south to bring
Solstitial summer’s heat. To the blanc Moon
Her office they prescribed; to the other five
Their planetary motions and aspects,
In sextile, square, and trine, and opposite,
Of noxious efficacy, and when to join
In synod unbenign; and taught the fixed
Their influence malignant when to shower—
Which of them, rising with the Sun or falling,
Should prove tempestuous. To the winds they set
Their corners, when with bluster to confound
Sea, air, and shore; the thunder when to roll
With terror through the dark aerial hall.
(From Paradise Lost Book 10.).
The Fall changed all of creation, not just humanity Since Adam and Eve were forced out of Paradise, an angel with a flaming sword guards the East and the Tree of Life This of course mirrors the new celestial restrictions. Adam and Eve. cannot return to the Garden – they must move forward into the world. The stars can still guide them in more ways than one, but there are now, as it were, flaming swords protecting access to the Empyrean.
After the Fall, humanity is in the Sublunary Sphere and the seven spheres are bounded by the greater malefic. It is no coincidence that Saturn is associated with obstacles and limitations. Beyond Saturn are the Fixed Stars. He will not allow an easy passage. Existence in the Sublunary sphere is subject to corruption, generation and delusions of all kinds The sphere is comprised of the four classical elements.
Buddhists would refer to this state of consciousness as Avidyā, symbolized by a person who is blind or wearing a blindfold. It is ignore – ance in its true senseIn this state, we are unaware of our true nature. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where the cave dwellers believe the shadow play before them to be the real thing and in fact all there is. The one who unchains himself to turn toward the light of the Sun, outside of the cave. Essentially, you will remain in a state of illusion until you cast off the mind forged manacles.
There are many traditions that seek to win the Celestial Garden, such as Cabala, Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism and of course the Christian and Jewish faiths themselves, At the risk of over simplifying, these paths all strive for enlightenment and the Buddha tells us that the Enlightened don’t need astrology because they are no longer subject to cause and effect. All major religions and a good many philosophies subscribe to the belief, either stated or employed. Plato’s Doctrine of the Forms is very illuminating and will perhaps make a good starting point in understanding the traditional cosmology.
Islam rejects the notion of a Fall in the sense of original sin, but a Celestial Garden is the reward of the pious amd Adam and Eve lived in the Garden if Eden; the departure from the other Abrahamic religions in that Islam inteprets Adam as a prophet.
Stars play more than one role in Islam. Allah is referred to as “He Who is the Lord of Sirius, “(Qur’an, 53: 49) while the Kaaba is oriented with Canopus and has a meteorite that is the stuff of pilgrimage. Modern Muslims tend to think that the reading of stars is shirk (attributing a partner to God,) by considering that the planets and luminaries compel us to act. Essentially the same complaint was made by many Christians and for the same reason.
The history of Islam and its impact on traditional Western astrology is immense and the art is supported by the Qu’ran according to Muslims with whom I have spoken. There are two surahs that come to mind, but there are many more: “It is He Who maketh the stars (as beacons) for you, that ye may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea: We detail Our signs for people who know. (Surah Al-Anam, 97) ” This can be read to mean guidance of many types, including astrological.
The second is this one : “He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise. (Surah An-Nahl, 12)” It is important to note that not only did Islamic scholars serve as conduits of Greek thought, including Hellenistic, but Middle Eastern traditions as well, such as Pre-Islamic Arabian and Persian, Almost all the star names we use are either Arabic or Persian. It is almost certain that Islamic astrologers were also exposed to Indian astrology. Our astrological roots are very deep, various and rich.
Furthermore, in all of these traditions there is a strong sense of having lost, or not yet attained, Paradise. Spiritual progress requires work ever since the Fall however one sees that and to whatever metaphorical degree of understanding. The core trope is ubiquitous.
Finally the Yusuf Ali translation of 67:5 in the Qu’ran. we read: “And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.” The evil ones are usually referred to as Jinn or “shaytans” in the plural. The former can be good or evil and are spirits of smokeless fire. They are invisible unless they chose to be and live thousands of years. The “missiles” are commonly regarded as meteorites or comets, but also associated with the stars themselves who serve as guides and guardians.
Whether we look to Platonic myth of the Creation and Fall, the Mythos of the ‘people of the Book,’ and all major religions and most minor ones as well, there is the same theme: Creation in an ideal state which (ironically) cannot be sustained, a ‘fall from grace’ which includes all of creation and the promise of something far better than Eden. But it is conditional. Even the stars protect the inner sanctum, as it were, as well as the corresponding celestial realms – the microcosm and the macrocosm.
We could well argue that the mythos described is not literally true at all – perhaps even childish – but it has endured cross culturally for thousands of years. This may say something about the human mind or the nature of reality. Perhaps they are the same thing. After all, cosmologies are a way to make things make sense and they remain more or less intact even before our experiences reinforce them,
Of all the Fixed Stars used in astrology, only a handful promise good fortune. Among these are Spica, Canopus and others, but discernment is required to fully realize the benefits. It also makes a great deal of difference whether the star is ascending, culminating, setting and other considerations.
The Royal Stars of Persia, the guardians of the directions, are all powerful, but their great benefits can only be realized by meeting certain conditions. If these are not met, they can become harbingers of very bad tidings indeed. If one is going to enjoy the blessings of Regulus, for example, one must avoid revenge or any of the lower impulses. One’s character must be equal to the task of nobility.
The Royal Stars each have an angel assigned to them as protectors of the directions . Regulus is associated with the healing Archangel Raphael, the watcher of the North. Fomalhaut, is identified with the Archangel Gabriel, the watcher of the South. Aldebaran is assigned the Archangel Michael, the watcher of the East.; to Antares, the Archangel Oriel, the watcher of the West.
This is merely an expansion or extrapolation of the archetypal myth of creation, its fall and the goal of realization after traversing the spheres. Just like the conditional nature of the Royal Stars, the ascent causes the malefics to lose their power thus elevating us to a higher version of the Garden.
The simple point, easily missed, is that we cannot profitably ignore the cosmology that informs astrology. It is not crucial to understand it literally at all.
The stars can be guides to us, but we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal. The Neo Pythagorean schema below provides a heightened knowledge of the spheres insofar as it offers ways in which we can actively participate in the harmonies of the spheres.
The Music of the Spheres. Shown in this engraving from Renaissance Italy are Apollo, the Muses, the planetary spheres and musical ratios.