Isra and Mi’raj in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh

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Celestial map, signs of the Zodiac and lunar mansions in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh, dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Murad III in 1583

First and foremost, I’m fascinated that a book on the natural world is prefaced with a painting of how that world is both sustained and came into being. The visual arts and astrology have long been inseparable.  The earliest star-lore was depicted visually in Sumer and far back into the Paleolithic period. The movements of the Heavens has always been of great importance and one picture really can be worth a thousand words when it comes to explaining Cosmologies.

Today, what we call history is not prefaced with a primary reference to the mystical creation. This makes these works most intriguing because they offer us a window into a mostly forgotten, but essential cosmologies. That is because we live in what we think is a linear, largely material reality. Other cultures, including the Turks, believed that time unfolded in spirals.

Most importantly, we no longer live with the concept of divine origin. Traditional Astrology is very much aware of this reality The image contains an enormous amount of information. Most fundamentally, we have circles within circles At the centre is the source. Next, the seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order. Beyond the orbit of Saturn have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

The theme and to some extent the style was probably inspired by an earlier work the Catalan Atlas by Cresques Abraham and his son Jehuda. It’s a fine work that predates Zubdat al Tawarikh by

Cosmographical diagram od Earth personified by an astronomer holding an astrolabe center of the Universe surrounded by concentric circles representing the four elements the seven planets the spheres and their personification - mid 14th C.

The Catalan Atlas. Cosmographical diagram od Earth personified by an astronomer holding an astrolabe at the center of the Universe surrounded by concentric circles representing the four elements the seven planets the spheres and their personification – mid 14th C.

two centuries. The Catalan Atlas is fairly accurate works of geography with astrological, cosmological plates such as the one below. There is a strikingly lovely page showing the signs and zodiacs as well  It will readily be seen that the Atlas lacks the lavish illustrations, the astrological detail and the strongly mystical representation of the natural world, including the heavens, working in harmony.

The seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order in a spiral. Beyond the orbit of Saturn, we have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

What makes this a particularly fine work, is that it includes the Decans in relation to Lunar Phases as well as the twenty-eight Lunar Mansions, with Angels guarding the Four Directions.

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding-gaz veterans from umelia in front of sultanmurat-iii-from-the-surname hmayun 16th century ce

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding-gaz veterans from umelia in front of sultanmurat-iii-from-the-surname hmayun 16th century ce

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding Gazi – Veterans from Rumelia – in front of Sultan Murat III from the Surname i hümayun 16th century CE

Although the style is very much Turkish and Islamic in style, it is entirely recognizable as what has become known as the Ptolemaic Universe, The relationship between this cosmology and the Night Journey of Muhammad will become clear.

Muhamad’s Night Journey is in Sura Al Nisra of the Quran and further embellished in the Hadiths It’s controversial these days. Many modern Muslims consider this to be a literal event that occurred at a particularly time and place.  – The Prophet rides on Buraq to Jerusalem where he ascends to meet the various Prophets from what is now known as the  Dome of the Rock.

Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

The mystical version has is that the Prophet rose through levels of consciousness. In either case, there is an ascent of Seven spheres, an essential theme that has repeated over and over again. In Ayat 11 we have the following exhortation “And We have made the night and day two signs, and We erased the sign of the night and made the sign of the day visible that you may seek bounty from your Lord and may know the number of years and the account [of time]. And everything We have set out in detail.”

This and other passages in the Quran support astrology as a guide to the wise. The usual context is in ‘to show the way’ which clearly refers to the use of stars in navigation but also implies other uses, such as choosing the correct time for an event,, medical diagnosis military matters and affairs of State.  If this were not the case, Islam would have had no cause to compose the type of artwork that we see here, or produce some of the finest astrologers in the Middle Ages and beyond.

The exhortations against astrology are most specifically related to attempting to know such things as the time of the last day and the resurrection. This is the prerogative of the Creator. Common fortune telling won’t find any more support in the Quran as it does in the Bible. Indeed, many sects of Christianity regard astrology as forbidden. In much of my work I have tried to show the massive difference in intent, method and applications of divination compared to the disreputable and unwise world of fortune telling.

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700 He was an avid astrologer.

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700 He was an avid astrologer.

Imagine for a moment that you visit your physician and she tells you that you have a serious illness and may not have long to live. That physician has just made a prognostication based on medical knowledge. This could be construed as prediction and in fact it is. When a skilled astrologer reads a chart it for many of the same reason a medical professional might be consulted. Questions about physical, spiritual and mental health can and are addressed by competent astrologers.  Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information

Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information  There is time to seed and a time to reap. One of the greatest uses of astrology are, as far as I’m concerned, is in the medical field. Knowing your humour, the strengths and weakness you have are all sound applications of  the Celestial Science. If you read scripture carefully, you will not find thes4e applications of astrology to be forbidden.

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Above, we what is essentially the sane theme found in the previous paintings, but with a a slight twist. This Persian Sufi painting describes the Night Journey of the Prophet. This work is far more complex than first meets the eye. The painting has deteriorated, but we can still see the planets, represented anthropomorphically. The Sun and Moon are represented as disks. occupying the first and fourth sphere, as per the Chaldea order. We can also see the constellations, but they are projected in such as a way that we have the illusion of looking through the spheres. Remember that this is illustrating Muhammad’s mystical Night Journey.

Returning to the Quranic position on astrology, let’s examine a few more quotations. There is a Sura in the Quran known as Buruj, an Arabic word meaning ‘Constellation’ or ‘Zodiac sign’. Surah Buruj is the 85th Surah in the Quran. The starting of the Surah is : “I swear by the sky where there are buruj…” (i.e Allah swears by th sky where are  zodiac signs.)

“I have created buruj  [Zodiac signs] in the sky and decorated them for viewers and I have also protected them from evils…” (Surah Hizr 16)

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

“How great he is, who has created buruj in the sky and placed the Sun and shining Moon over there…” (Surah Furkan 61 )

In Arabic Astrology, we find that the sign Leo is named ‘Asad Buruj’. ‘Asad’ means a lion thus the Arabic name of Leo, which is represented by a lion, is ‘Asad Buruj’. Similarly, Libra is named, ‘Meejan Buruj’. The Arabic word ‘Meejan’ means a balance.

The emphasis on the creation of constellations, given the context we have, does nothing to indicate that a study of the same is somehow haram.

Finally, we can take a brief survey of some of Islam’s most esteemed astrologer. Most are surprised to find that the poet Omar Khayyam of Khorasan was an accomplished astrologer(1019-1135)  He was so accurate in his predictions that he even understood about his own death. This isn’t exactly the same as knowing the time of his death but points to a deep understanding of the art.  Many will be familiar with Sahl Ibn Bishr, Al Kindi, Ibn Arabi, Al Biruni and others.

However, I think the crown should go to Ibn Sina (980-1037) He was brilliant Muslim scientist who developed Alchemy. He was also very much devoted to astronomy and astrology, but other than his prolific philosophical works his contributions to medicine are immeasurable. His massive pharmacopeia is still in use among medical astrologers and natural healers.

This may seem trivial to some, but we have a great deal at stake worldwide. Literalist Fundamentalism is not compatible with peace and has the effect of numbing the mind. The golden age of Islam did not flourish because of  a stricter adherence to Shariah, as is commonly thought by contemporary Muslims, but because it was a period of openness, serious study of Classical antiquity and a willingness to work with people of divergent faiths and ethnicities.

Aversion or the “Inconjunct”: Dignities, Strengths, and Weaknesses – a closer look

One has to practice the classical concepts to understand their significance in real terms. Aversion is not a “corruption” of the planet. It is rather a weakness. We must examine the distinctions; what is the difference between “weakness” and “misfortune and corruption”? One thing I have noticed in my studies and practice is that the ancients made clear distinctions between the quantity of the signification produced and its quality. These terms would seem somewhat self-evident; however, it is common to find these terms erroneously mixed. In the simplest terms, quality tells us what kind and quantity tells us how much. Abu Ma’shār for example in his Introduction to Astrology makes this distinction between quality and quantity.

The fourth chapter, on the good fortune of the planets, their power, their weakness and their misfortune . . .

Here the astrologer is outlining two distinct categories of evaluation. One is the fortunes and misfortunes. This is his qualitative judgement of what kind. The other is of the power and weakness of the planets, which is a quantitative judgment of how much.

Let me try to explain this in another way. Electricity has a remarkably accurate analogy to astrology. The principles of electricity involve different factors that produce an effect. Voltage (V) is like the essential dignity of a planet. It describes the quality. There are several type quality batteries. You have 24V, 12V, 9V, etc. where the voltage describes the quality. Then you have current or amperes (A) that directly influence the output or effect. This is analogous of a planets phase to the Sun, or if it is in the chart sect or not etc. The effect of that battery [or planet] is its ability to use its full potential, i.e. seen as the light from a light bulb that is attached [effect or Watts]. A 12V battery with a current of 65 amperes (a typical car battery) will produce 780 Watts (voltage x amperes = watts). That is its effect. Likewise a planet in its domicile (the 12V battery), oriental of the Sun (if a superior planet), and in sect (the optimal 65A current) produces an optimal effect (Watts) that we determine from the essential nature and determination of the planet.

The normal car is the “domain” of that battery, designed specifically for that environment and its demands. If I take that same 12V, 65A battery and place it into a different environment like a diesel truck, it may produce enough to perform once but the strain placed by the higher demands of the environment will immediately corrupt and ruin the battery. A diesel truck may require a 24V 85A (2040 W) battery for example. This is similar to a planet posited in a sign where it is peregrine, or in a sign that happens to be its detriment or fall.

If we place on that 12V battery resistance in the form of lights or a heater, that resistance (or impediment) is measured in ohms (Ώ). The introduction of a new factor changes the total effect. If the light produces a resistance of 3 ohms then the total effect is now calculated Voltage/Ohms x Amperes = Watts (effect). In our example then the voltage, 12V, is divided by the resistance, 3 ohms, and multiplied by the amperes = 12V/3Ώ x 65A = 4 x 65 = 260 W. You can see the significant reduction compared to the original potential of 780 watts. This is how various factors impede a planet, i.e. joined to a malefic. This is resistance.

None of these extra factors changes the essential dignity of the battery. It is always a 12V battery. Changing either the current or resistance, however, will change the effect. If the current [amperes] is reduced or increased, the effect will be either stronger or weaker not its dignity. If we increase the resistance [ohms], it also reduces the effect because its quality is directly affected. Neither current nor resistance is the same as voltage! These are three individual and distinct variables!

Now as long as that battery is full (like a car battery is charged by the regulator and generator of a car), then its effect is constant, meaning that it can produce 100% of its effect at all times (like an angular planet). If that battery should have an under specified alternator or generator with perhaps dirty brushes it does not keep the batter properly charged, its effect is less constant and somewhat weaker (like a succedent planet). If the alternator/generator is defective and producing far below the specific requirement then the battery eventually will empty itself of charge and it may not even start the car consistently or barely cause the motor to turn over (like falling cadent). This measurement has nothing to do with essential dignity because the battery is still a 12V battery, but rather it is a measure of how much of the quality (12V) is available to be transmitted and how constant. Just as a battery that is flat can be “jumped”, so can the planets. If I series connect another fully charged 12V battery to the flat battery then that flat battery will produce consistently enough to be useful. This is much like what happens if you have a cadent planet that is aspected by its ruler or a benefic from a trine aspect in an angle!

What I am trying to illustrate is that many things that are often called essential dignities, are not in themselves essential dignity. Current (amperes) and resistance (ohms) is not the same thing as the quality of the source (voltage or its essential dignity). It is all three of them together that determine an outcome or effect (Watts) and the effect is not the same as dignity! The judgement of the planets is a science and cannot effectively be boiled down to a simple table because these factors are each the function of a variable. While Voltage (quality) and Amperes (quantity) both affect the outcome (Watts), the relationship of quantity has a very special role.

If you consider the equation for the outcome, we find that the misfortunes and corruptions directly affect the quality and not simply by ‘subtraction’ – it divides. It does not affect the means or quantity! These are some very real variables that have a specific result.

Now all of this is a very simplified analogy since there are many variables that determine both quality and quantity. In the case of aversion, it affects the rulers’ ability to produce an effect for the particular domicile it falls in aversion to! It is not a ‘joy’ in the sense the ancients used but it is a condition that has a direct effect on the domicile and the resultant house it rules!

Now a practical demonstration of this consideration is found in the

chart of ex-tennis star Jimmy Connors.

Jimmy Connors September 2, 1952 10:30 AM CDT East Saint Louis, Illinois, USA 38° N 37' 28" – 90° W 09' 03" 27° Libra 28’ rises

Jimmy Connors
September 2, 1952
10:30 AM CDT
East Saint Louis, Illinois, USA
38° N 37′ 28″ – 90° W 09′ 03″
27° Libra 28’ rises

The Sun in the 11th is a strong position for the Sun in this diurnal chart! It does indicate reputation and success. However, that reputation and success is marred by separation, controversy and exile (this is what Paulus tells us a planet in aversion to its domicile signifies). Moreover, Lilly following the ancients tells us that a planet falling cadent of its domicile, so that it does not behold it, is indicative that the planet is “ill-disposed” to signify those matters.

Based on that signification, I would have to say that while this native receives reputation and success in his profession, there is some aspect of that which brings him into controversy and even exile by his peers and professional associates. The Sun, ruler of the 10th, is in the 11th in aversion to Mercury ruler of the 11th in the 10th! At some point in this natives’ profession he is perhaps in exile to his professional peers because of controversy.

What I found when I read a couple online biographies was this:

Connors was denied a shot at the Grand Slam because he was banned from the French Open that year after signing to play in World Team Tennis. Because the Association of Tennis Pros (which Connors refused to join) and the French officials opposed WTT, the entries of WTT players were refused.

These significations are not some intangible potential, but actually signify real people, things and events! It is also interesting to see that this ban and exile came during his Mercury Firdar when Saturn (exalted ruler of the 12th and 1st) was the participating distributer!

So to say that just because a planet falls in aversion to one domicile but not the other is not an impediment is quite untrue! As I said before the consequences concern the house to which it is in aversion and if that house is normally a profitable house to the native, it can often have some dire consequences to the outcome!

Steven Birchfield A.M.A.