The Myth of Fatalism in Predictive Astrology

Mercurio Since my early years I argued that free will was a human illusion, so the most important factor that attracted my attention in Classical astrology was its predictive goal, which only confirmed my suspicions that human destiny was set since the beginning.

However my own astrological practice, study and maturity have led me to revise partially this concept. More and more I opened my mind to a new conceptualization taking into account  philosophical aspects which can apparently explain why not predictable events come to pass and others clearly predicted  simply do not happen.

Initially I attributed to the astrologer the error for such inconsistency.  I went so far as to elaborate complex theories to explain the fact. However, reviewing and studying the beginnings of astrology, the philosophical thinking of Plato and Aristotle conjunctly to other factors, important points came to light and it is possible that such facts, especially the human capacity to interact with destiny, represented the real answer. This article is not intended to be exhaustive in what concerns to imponderable factors and events that are beyond the careful delineation of the chart and  I´ll focus on the native´s enterprise as having the capacity to modify for better or worse the astrological chart.

I -Modern and Traditional Astrology

The focal point of modern psychological astrology is that the astrological chart  is said to describe the psyche of the native. Thus this line of thinking concludes that if a particular event occurs to a person he or she  will tend to react in a specific way that is characterized according to the configurations of the chart. What will happen to a certain person departing from the natal chart and in which period of the life certain event will take place is not possible to be described.

I do not know if all psychological astrologers think alike, but what is common to hear is that the chart describes the psychodynamics of the native, but one cannot tell whether a certain individual in particular, having a certain chart and therefore a particular psychodynamic, will respond to an event in one way or another, as this will depend on the level of awareness and “evolution”  of a particular native, and it cannot be seen on the chart. So, the conclusion is that prediction is impossible to be made. The only thing you can do is describe the psychodynamics of the soul. This can be good for people looking for a certain type of therapy or to understand their internal attributes in general terms.

At the opposite side is traditional astrology which gives a big emphasis to prediction of events. Because of this it is seen as a fatalistic doctrine opposing the modern astrology that values the free will. In other words, the first one is described as emphasizing the outside world , all that happens outside to the native,  and the second the inside world. In my view such a concept is an oversimplification, and it is false, since traditionally we start by characterizing the predicted external events to after being able to know the reaction of the subject to them. We can also start from the inside: the native´s acts can generate external events.

The question of the prediction of events, one of the important goals of traditional astrology needs to be examined carefully, in order to avoid it to be considered simplistically fatalistic, since the predictability of an event presupposes some kind of  predestination. Western astrology was born in the cradle of Hellenic civilization that has a very sophisticated concept of destiny. The Hellenistic astrologers believed that Hermamene, the fate as normally is understood, is inherent to the natal chart. This chart describes the conditions necessary in order to live one´s own destiny or in other words in order to fulfill one´s own bios.

Now, the natal chart is a necessary but not sufficient condition because we find people who have all sorts of favorable conditions in their charts and do not realize it or excel in their lives, while others, whose charts are far less promising, even not being able to go that far, some certainly go far beyond what is promised in the chart. This can be explained by the fact that the native took the right action, made the right choices at the right time.

In certain way we can say that the game between the Part of Fortune, or the Moon, linked to what happens to us externally, versus the Part of the Spirit, or the Sun, linked to our actions, can be the deciding factor to explain this kind of variation. If a native merely copes with what happens to him, he will be using his Part of the Spirit in a very limited way. Indeed, this Part is solar and its main description, as we see in Valens, is action. This intertwining role between the two Parts can make all the difference.

However, there are actions generated deliberately and not in response to an event or as a consequence of events that occurred and such deliberate actions can generate consequences.

So there is not a dividing wall between what is considered internal or external. The game between 1st- to deliberate and act and 2nd-suffering an event and react, are a much more complete model to practice astrology than the model of only to evaluate the native´s soul through the astrological configurations without taking into consideration the dimension of the external world,

Traditional astrology has techniques for assessing the magnitude of the Nativity, which may be repugnant to modern thought and to what is now said to be “politically correct,” since we are judging and comparing people through value judgments and not according their acts.

Ptolemy has a chapter on the Rank of the Nativity and Medieval astrology also dealt extensively with this. In fact you cannot deny that there are charts with more potential than others and on which the biographers huddled for hundreds of years. Such charts must have something special. However, many people possessing such charts do not become as important as one would suppose, and this has to do with two facts, the internal factor which we have already quoted (lack of action) or because the directions are not conductive to business in the time of the action .

For example, in the power struggle between two prominent politicians if the timing of elections coincide with unfortunate primary directions or profections for one of them, this will give victory to the opposing party, no matter how correct was the attitude of the first one when making decisions. The time, therefore, is an external event of prime importance.

II- The Role of the Stoics in the Astrological Fatalism

Stoicism was a philosophical current developed after Plato and Aristotle´s death. The Academy was founded by Plato and after his death in 347 BC several successors occupied the master´s place. The philosophical ideas began to change since in one special moment the Stoic philosophy was adopted by the members. Such philosophical current was in vogue at the time of Valens.

Accordingly to the Stoics human destiny was fixed and freedom consisted in the wisdom to accept the events. The principle was immutable and irrevocable. The Stoics would today be considered within what is called the fatalistic determinism.

Many modern astrologers and even traditional ones believe that classical predictive astrology is based on the belief of an immutable fate, as taught in the Stoic philosophy. There are some reasons for this idea. We read in Valens that we should be a soldier of destiny and in Firmicus Maternus there is a great Stoic introduction when the author states that it is not fair that good people have a life of suffering and other wicked have a bright future, but there is nothing we can do, because it is fate.

However, apart from these authors who lived 300-400 years after the period of the founding of Hellenistic Astrology none of the initial sources of the 2nd or 1st century BC, such as Hermes, Nechepso, Petosiris, Serapio, Critodemus, Abraham, Orfeus, Anubio, none of them said anything about fate or free will. Would they have the same idea of Valens and Firmicus?

Anyway, the old astrologers had been educated in philosophical schools, be they Platonic, Pythagorean or Stoic, but by what is recorded historically we have no reason to believe that they were all stoic and believe in absolute determinism of the astrological chart, even doing predictions. Besides this, the founders of astrology never bothered to give the reason why astrology works. They simply provided astrological practice. So, we do not know if they believe that fate was more or less important than human enterprise.

Plotinus, an author of the third century AD, accepts that planets can be used for predictions, but that parents and education have an equally great power. Moreover, he points out that twins have different destinies, which may mean that environment is also important in the realization of a birth chart.

Indeed, one can hardly be a tyrant being born on a deserted island for more exalted that the magnitude of the chart can be. In this sense other theses were raised, some downright spiritual character, such as the choice made by the soul before incarnating, but such theories go beyond the intent of this article.

Katarché

Doing the right thing at the right time is a gift that some people have, as like a guardian angel blowing into the native ears what to do at a certain time, but others, the majority,  have not.

In ancient times to have the security to act on time and properly people sought guidance in the astrology or in divination. The astrological chart casted to the beginning, the inception of an event or certain activity in an attempt to seize the best time to act was called katarché. This type of astrological technique have been practiced since the beginning of Hellenistic astrology and based on its principles and probably influenced by Indian astrology, the Horary astrology was generated.

Now, if everything were considered as fate by the creators of astrology katharché or electional astrology would never have been conceived.

In conclusion, my direct experience in elective charts led me to believe with no doubt that acts that started at opportune moments, chosen according to a good celestial situation, have conducted to dramatically different results, much better than when those same actions are undertaken in not propitious times.

A simple case concerns a company that wanted to capture informatics specialists. When the announcement in the newspaper or on the internet arrived when the Moon (which participates as a significator in all matters), was in signs like Taurus and Cancer, the candidates for the position were people of best level, and if the Moon was in Cancer, a fertile sign, the number of them grew exponentially.

However nothing would happen if the employer would not had announced.

All this may seem quite simplistic for many, but indeed it represents a whole different vision of astrology and the human life.

Quest for the Age of Aquarius

Precession-Courtesy University of British Columbia

Precession-Courtesy University of British Columbia

Astrological ages occur due to a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. One complete revolution of all twelve astrological signs is called a Great Year or Platonic Year. This takes about 25,920 years. Precession works in retrograde motion; so Pisces follows Aries, Aquarius follows Pisces which in turn is followed by Capricorn.

Would it were so simple : Nicholas deVore defines Astrological Ages in his Encylopedia of Astrology: “As anciently considered, a period of roughly 2150 years during which the point of the Spring Equinox recedes through one sign of the Zodiac of Constellations. Since the constellations have no precise boundaries, the points of beginning and ending are mere approximations.”

It should be noted that this concept has not been embraced universally by any means. Charles Carter wrote: “it is probable that there is no branch of Astrology upon which more nonsense has been poured forth than the doctrine of the precession of the equinoxes” (Campion 1999) Neil Spencer is of the opinion that the idea of astrological ages is “fuzzy”, “speculative” and [the] least defined area of astrological lore.[ (Spencer 2000) Others have simply given up on the whole idea.

Regarding the date marking the Age of Aquarius, there is no consensus among astrologers. Astronomers have no definitive date either. I’ve seen dates as early as the 15th Century and as late as the middle of the third millennium. Rudolph Steiner believed that the Age of Aquarius wouldn’t arrive until 3573.

David Williams claims that the Age of Aquarius arrived around 1844, with the harbinger of the Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad (1819–1850), who founded Bábism. You can see how many will stake a claim on the beginning of the age based on a singular event.

There are a number of reasons for this confusion: the constellations are not the same size. The Precession of the Equinox is not perfectly constant. There are dozens of other reasons as well.

I proceed with the tentative assumption that the Great Ages do exist and might be known, among other things, by considering the nature of the age in relation to the unique and agreed upon traits of the sign.

The passage of Regulus into Virgo, joining the other Royal Stars of Persia in mutable signs (2012) is highly significant; but I’d be reluctant to take that as the single defining event without substantial corroborative evidence.

Ultimately we have to ask ourselves what we mean by the Piscean or the Aquarian Age. How are they most likely to manifest? How are they to be recognized?

I recently read an article by an astrologer who claimed that Aquarius will get rid of greed, selfishness, war and all kinds of blights. But what is particularly Piscean about this list? Another wrote “The more dominant core values of the Piscean Age of money, power and control must go to make room for the Aquarian Age values of love, unity, brotherhood and integrity.” Where do these attributes come from? Is the mere idea of the Age of Aquarius enough for us to deny everything we know about the signs?

Verttius Valens was less than charitable in his assessment of the sign :

Aquarius is the celestial sign which is masculine, solid, anthropomorphic, somewhat damp, single. It is mute, quite cold, free, upward-trending, feminizing, unchanging, base, with few offspring, the cause of troubles arising from athletic training, carrying burdens, or work in hard materials, an artisan, public. Men born under this sign are malicious, haters of their own families, incorrigible, self-willed, deceitful, tricky, concealing everything, misanthropic, godless, accusers, betrayers of reputations and the truth, envious, petty, occasionally generous (because of flow of water), uncontrollable. As a whole this sign is wet. (Anthologies Bk. 1 p. 5)

To be fair, he isn’t all that kind to Pisces either :

It’s the celestial sign which is feminine, moist, quite wet, bicorporeal, with many offspring, ossy, scaley, sinewy, humpbacked, leprous, two-formed, mute, motile, with rough skin, in conflict with itself because one Fish is northern, the other southern. It is moist, downward-trending, servile, changeable, with many offspring, bicorporeal, sociable/lewd, with some limbs missing, the cause of wandering, varied.Men born under this sign are unsteady, unreliable, changing from bad fortune to good, sexy, theivish, shameless, prolific, popular (Anthologies Bk. 1 p. 6).

Personally I find both descriptions ludicrous in thier hyperbole, but in essence there is much to reflect upon, once you get past the “humpbacked, leprous” stuff. I know many will want to say that he didn’t really mean it that way, but the same wouldn’t afford the same courtesy of a contemporary writer. In any case, if he doesn’t mean what he says, then what does he mean?

It is noteworthy that many cultures speak of a distant Golden Age, set far beyond the mists of time. Many predict a Golden Age in the future, often with no date to mark the ingress. In most cases, humanity has to make the right choices in order for it to occur.

Such is not the case with the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius ” It’s portrayed as a more or less painless transition to Utopia. Can it be that all will be be sweetness and light because Saturn rules the Age ? The influence of a very popular but astrologically ignorant song,cannot be ignored!

The Moon is in the 7th House for two hours every day. Jupiter and Mars alignments occur often (See this calculation for 1900 -2500) It is not a rare event at all. In a lifetime of 80 years there would be 36 Jupiter / Mars conjunctions. Such is the power of popular culture if the timing is right: ‘ Perhaps this is a case of life imitating art; but it’s complete fiction. Perhaps its little more than a case of successful marketing.

Again It seems the only way we have of determining when the New Age begins or ends is by studying what happens and how people react to it. The 20th Century has often been referred to as the age of alienation and existential angst.

The 20th century was when sea power was replaced by air power. Revolutions were rife, toppling the Czar and the Emperor of China, both replaced by dictatorial Communism. Feudal Japan overwhelmed by the country best known for its cult of rugged individualism. The two world wars seem far more Aquarian than Piscean.

The acceleration of technology is unprecedented and few doubt its Aquarian nature. Is chemical warfare a Pisces thing or an Aquarian one? What about nuclear bombs?

Can anyone seriously deny that globalisation has a lot more to do with Saturnine Aquarius than Jupiterian Pisces, particularly when we consider the Aquarius / Leo axis.?

Most writers on the Age of Aquarius are very upbeat. The jargon is usually similar. Picses bad. Aquarius good. No more oppression. Love will guide the stars and so on.

I find myself agreeing with most of what Robert Zoller has said nn the subject. Please excuse the lengthy quote; but we don’t know how long webpages will be maintained and Zoller speaks with considerable authority. You can read the whole article @ http://www.lunatica.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/SAA/Documents/Zoller/Archandpredabridged-2.htm

During the Piscean Age, the benefic Jupiter ruled the angles. Jupiter ruled both Pisces on the 1st and Sagittarius on the 10th, and thus, while there was confusion of hierarchical religious institutions and political institutions and while this inevitably led to hypocrisy, the Age was nevertheless one in which truth and philosophy mattered to men. The Piscean Age will, as this Aquarian Age unfolds, be seen as a halcyon period of semi-respite from the essentially malefic and spiritually destructive nature of life. In the Aquarian Age, the malefics once again rule the angles and with them returns the natural severity of worldly life.

The Novus Ordo Saeculorum, the New Order of the Ages, will rule through the power of life and death (Scorpio, which is on the 10th), through behaviour modification, cloning, genetic engineering, mind control and the occult. Might makes right in this New Age. If the preceding Age produced metaphysical materialists, who duped the people through the opiate of religion, the New Age will produce materialist metaphysicians who will make the preceding political power elites look like inept apprentices.

In the Age of Aquarius, religion will be humanistic love of fairness and justice. While feeding the people with Libran platitudes, the Scorpionic rulers will work tirelessly toward the realization of their goal – absolute power over others, as Leo is seen in position on the 7th house. The will of the people will be towards freedom of expression (Aquarius), and they will be encouraged to do their own thing so that they keep their minds off what their rulers do.

Most of what Zoller mentions has already materialized. These trends have all accelerated enormously since 2000. The New Age is synonymous with the New World Order in many respects. The marketing of greed and unprecedented ecological destruction is somehow “serving our best interests.” So are genetically modified foods. The World Bank masquerades as as benevolent force in developing countries. Invariably the nations cannot repay the debt and the bank takes control of the resources. Theses are all globalist endeavours resulting in personal profits. Technology is touted as the saviour while a third of the world goes hungry.

A Nobel Peace prize was given to a killer of children via that most Aquarian of weapons, the killer drone and, to quote Zoller, “rule through the power of life and death (Scorpio, which is on the 10th)”. There are few things more impersonal than unmanned stealth weapons controlled by a secret agency from across the world. They are so *impersonal* that they kill ten times as many men, women and children as the intended target. None of this seems piscean to me I don’t see peace and understanding heading the list at this point, but our survival will depend on it.

We are in an age of religious wars. Neither secularism nor fundamentalism will budge. The world is on fire with this conflict, with no easy end in sight. They’re ultimately incompatible and it’s easy to see this as a final conflict between the ages of Pisces and Aquarius.

Alternatively, one might argue that the religious element in not much more than a pretext for the complete control of people and global resources by the greatest plutocracy the world has even seen. This brings us back to the Leo / Aquarian axis once again.

Ultimately we have to look at the thorny question of cusps. I’m not big on them myself. But even if you were to apply even a very modest orb, it’s fair to say the age probably started around the beginning of the 20 th Century.

I don’t entirely concur with Zoller’s dystopian vision for the Age of Aquarius; but his observations have enormous merit. I believe our technology and globalization are a double edged sword. Just as the invention of the crossbow meant that a peasant could unhorse a knight, powerful computers and other technologies make it harder for tyrants to hide and easier for us to communicate with each other, albeit in a far less intimate manner.

Some afterthoughts

————————

In 1927 the British philosopher Bertrand Russell delivered as a lecture and then published Why I Am Not a Christian. It was shocking at the time and no doubt still shocks many people. It was supposed to. However it’s listed in the New York Public Library’s list of the most influential books of the 20th century. It isn’t just atheism. It’s a militant atheism. Richard Dawkins et al have become very aggressive, even confrontational, referring to religion, or anything else that’s non quantifiable material as a particularly pernicous virus or mental illness. Anything not material, such as prayer or any form of divination is forbidden.

As noted the Russian and Chinese revolutions were also militantly atheist. This spread though much of the world. It’s really very Aquarian A fixed air sign ruled by Saturn wail expect and desire uniformity of thought and the individual ultimately sacrificed for the collective. This is the essence of globalism. Secularism has become a religion itself: we are asked to accept on blind faith that which is often patently absurd.
Having considered all these things as relating to Saturn, I think a good estimate for the beginning of the Age of Aquarius would be around 1901 and not later than 1918. That is a Superior Conjunction (of Jupiter and Saturn) in Capricorn late 1901. 1918 is another date to consider.

I have no desire to spread negativity. It’s the opposite. By recognizing what we’ re facing we have some choices. If we remain in the illusion that all is sweetness and light, as much of the New Age Movement ironically claims, we are most likely to get blindsidedman-head-in-sand

Part of the confusion, in fact almost all of it, lies with the false connection of Aquarius with Uranus. It’s touted as the revolutionary planet. If we seriously consider the attributes of Uranus, we find a blend of qualities that previously belonged primarily to Mars and Mercury but this has been almost completely ignored. Many of the attributes that actually belong to Aquarius have been pushed aside and something altogether different put in its place and given the same name.

P. James Clark

Towards a Living Tradition

arithI wrote the following open letter to the astrological community not so long ago. It explains in many ways how ISCA came to be.

This is a purely editorial piece – my first and probably my last. It’s meant to raise some issues I think need to be discussed in the astrological community. My remarks should not be construed as referring to any particular individual. It’s an open letter to the astrological community and all interested readers.

The resurrection of several texts from the Hellenistic and medieval period in particular have contributed to a renaissance in astrology. Many of these sources were unavailable for one reason or another until the last three decades. This is a wonderful time to be an astrologer.

Unfortunately this new knowledge has helped to create an atmosphere of elitism, expressed most strongly in those who know the least.

We have cases of ‘famous’ teachers teaching predictive astrology who have never accurately predicted anything. When asked for the specifics of a given prediction they become vague and reluctant to connect it to a specific astrological event, sometimes even contradicting themselves in the process – granted such cases are the extreme.

Common English words are translated into Latin to add that special patina to an otherwise mostly empty vessel. Of course, the programs offered by these astrologers are very expensive, so the recipients of the diplomas, degrees and titles naturally become defensive if any of the techniques they learned are in any way held up to scrutiny or their brand name questioned. This is not conducive to astrology as a living tradition.

Try to imagine going for a reading with William Lilly or John Dee only to find certificates on their wall declaring them competent . It doesn’t work that way and it never did. Mentorship is a necessary and wonderful thing, but the greatest astrologers we have even known didn’t have a brand name mentality and usually had many teachers.

Putting letters after your name might be useful for lawyers and physicians, but has little or no meaning in astrological life. William Lilly consistently refereed to himself as s student of astrology. Of course, some students are more advanced and experienced than others, but students they remain. Let us not also forget that the form of astrology based on Lilly is now referred to as the “real astrology.” Yet we can well argue that Lilly had already broken with the very Tradition he is supposed to embody in more ways than one. Simple observations of differences in methodology from one master to the next , no matter how subtle, should alert us to the fact that the tradition is not monolithic

The study necessary to be a great traditional Astrologer is immense and takes decades. One doesn’t just take a course in Hermetic or Neo Platonic philosophy and then claim to be a Classicist. .Obviously you are not going to get a full understanding of Neo Platonism without being thoroughly familiar with Plato.

If you embrace the Hermetic Philosophy you will need to know a great deal about the various forms of Hermes. You will need to have a full grasp of the cosmology that lies deep in the roots of Traditional astrology. In fact it can never be separated, otherwise you will never be anything more than a mechanic. Astrology without spirit and soul is nothing more than parroted dogma. It cannot ultimately work and it certainly cannot produce anything useful to the soul. There is a pervasive aversion to the idea of soul, perhaps as much as of psychology.

Many Traditional astrologers have somehow got the idea that astrology is purely utilitarian. This is an enormous overreaction to the excesses of New Age astrology, which in fact has no coherent foundation at all. – as psychology perhaps, but not astrology.

In India, the knowledge is often passed down from generation to generation. But this transmission, no matter in which culture it occurs, does not produce photocopies. Mimicry is anathema to any Art. What we need is emulation and a deep understanding that Astrology is a living Art. I have seen far too many so called traditional astrologers cling to dogma and find themselves superior, thus negating the ability to learn anything.

As for myself, I have studied for over forty years. I’ve been blessed by many, many great teachers. I had an extraordinary master of yoga as my teacher at the age of sixteen. I subsequently read the Upanishads, the Rig Veda and any Indian sacred texts I could find. Later on, I practiced Tibetan Buddhism.

The wisdom and beauty of these traditions astounded me, but what amazed me even more was how much they paralleled the western tradition. It’s been said that Buddhism is the closest thing to Gnosticism in the West, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. I sought my Western ancestry and found many marvelous things. We have all but forgotten our sacred roots. Through all this, astrology was never far away from my focus.

I spent a decade in Academia studying Greek and Roman Classics, Ancient History, philosophy – particularly Hermetica and Platonica. My Doctoral studies were on Marsilo Ficino and the School of Alexandria. It was my great pleasure to go on and profess the summation of these studies I’ve found that none of this has conflicted in essence with my Druidic roots to which I feel a powerful bond. I make no special claims other than those required of any astrologer who has mastered the Art to the extent that I have. .

Not everyone would have the opportunities I’ve had and my studies have taken me beyond what is required of a great astrologer. We can measure a great astrologer in any number of way : first he or she will enjoy a high degree of accuracy and a strong spirituality complete with humility . It’s not our doing that we have great teachers or extraordinary opportunities for transference of wisdom. Gratitude is an appropriate attitude, arrogance is not. He will be devoted to a lifetime of study.

Contact with our ancestors in one way or another is a great necessity. From them we receive knowledge wisdom and inspiration. This is probably the greatest forgotten gift of modernity.

It’s not my intent to offend anyone and I recognize many wonderful teachers of the Art. These things needed to be said and I hope they stimulate some fruitful discussion in the astrological community

P. James Clark

[This site is under construction. If you require information or have questions regarding  ISCA, please contact classicalastrologer@gmail.com]