Towards a Living Tradition

arithThis 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 that is 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 refered to himself as s student of astrology.  Of course, some students are more advanced and experienced than others, but students they remain.

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 roots 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 professs the sumjmation 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. That doesn’t mean I never err. We all do.

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

The Astrological Mysticism of Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn Arabi

 Ibn Arabi Portrait - Muhammad Ibn Arabi

Astrology is a mystical art. As far as Occidental, Arabian, Persian and to a large extent Indian astrology is concerned, its basis is the Syncretic Neo-Platonic and Hermetic Philosophy as it flourished in Alexandria. Of course, these different but compatible philosophies had far more ancient roots. It is also true that astrology differed in its expression, depending on the culture in which it was practised. But the differences are for the most part quite superficial. At the core of all these strains is the Hermetic dictum: As above, So below. This isn’t just a saying or something that is true some of the time. It is Divine Spark and a Living truth. This is but a brief introduction to the underlying spiritual principles, from the point of view of a Sufi master.

I wonder if anyone understood this better than Ibn Arabi. You won’t just find his Mystical Astrology in the books he wrote on the subject. His worldview was saturated in and consumed by the expression of mysticism – a cosmos where all was inextricably connected. I recommend his book Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom for deeper insight.

Ibn ʿArabī was an Arab Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher, nicknamed “Son of Plato.” He is also one of the best know Astrologers of the Islamic Golden Age. Born: July 28, 1165, Murcia – Died: November 10, 1240 in Damascus. One of his greatest gifts is what I will call meta – astrology, and articulation of the manifestation of the divine through astrology.

At about the age of fifteen. he had an extraordinary mystical unveiling or “opening.”  This is mentioned in his famous account of his meeting with Averroes. The experience changed him and only after this original divine “attraction did he begin his Sufi practices. Ibn ‘Arabi also studied the traditional sciences, as did virtually all astrologers.

His full name, of great importance in the Islamic tradition, consisting of most titles and references to his lineage is Muhyī al-dīn Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muhammad bin ‘Alī bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin ‘Abd Allāh bin al-‘Arabī al-Tā’ī al-Hātimī al-Andalusī

The title Muhyī al-dīn appears in early manuscripts written during the lifetime of Ibn ‘Arabī, and would seem to have been not simply an honorific title but a conscious appeal to the common Muslim view that in every century of Islam there would appear

someone who would “renew” the religion (mujaddid). AbūHāmid al-Ghazzālī had been generally accepted as the “reviver of religion” in the sixth century of the Hijra, and another great renewer was expected for the

seventh. Ibn ‘Arabī himself was certainly very aware of al-Ghazzālī’s legacy, and named several of his works in imitation of his great predecessor.[4] While there is no evidence that he openly portrayed himself with such a title, he equally did nothing to prevent its ascription to him during his lifetime. (by Stephen Hirtenstein -Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, Vol. 41, 2007.)

Titus Burkhardt writes in his Introduction to The Mystical Astrology of Iban Arabi :

Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi englobes in a certain fashion the essential reality of heliocentricism in his cosmological edifice : like Ptolemy and like those all th rough the Middle Ages he assigns to the sun, which he compares to th e ‘Pole’ (qutb) and to the heart of the world’ (qalb al-‘alam), a central  p0sition on in the hierarchy of th e celestial spheres, and this by assigning equal numbe rs of superior skies and inferior skies to the sky of the sun; he amplifies nevertheless the system of Ptolemy by yet again underlining the

symmetry of the spheres with respect to the sun : according to his cosmological system, which he probably holds from the Andalusian Sufi Ibn Masarrah, the sun is not only in the centre of the six known planets -Mars (al-mirik.h ), Jupiter (al-mushtari) and Saturn (az-zuhal) being further away from the Earth (al-ardh) than the Sun (ash-shams), and Venus (az­

zuhrah), Mercury (al-utarid) and the Moon (al-qamar) being closer -but beyond the sky of Saturn is situated the vault of the sky of th e fi xed stars (falak al-kawakib), th at of the sky with­out stars (al-falak al-atlas), and the two supreme spheres of the ‘Divine Pedestal’ (al-kursi) and of th e ‘Divine Throne’ (al­’arsh), concentric spheres to which symetrically correspond the four sub-lunar spheres of ether (al-athir), of air (al-hawa), of water (al-ma) and of earth (aJ-ardh ). Thus is apportioned seven


degrees to either side of the sphere of the sun, the Divine (Throne) symbolizing the synthesis of all the cosmos, and the centre of the earth being thereof both the inferior conclusion and the center of fixation (Burkhardt p. 12).

Ibn Arabi’s mysticism is in most respects universal, but with regard to the Moon, for example, his beliefs coincided with Islamic esotericism. The Moon plays a particular visual role in Islamic culture. Most Islamic countries have the Moon as part of their flag, Islam itself, however, is under the governance of Venus as all Arab and Persian astrologers have made clear.

I would like to focus on this Lunar material because of course it directly relates to the Lunar Mansions. For Ibn Arabi, the Moon receives all influences which she then collects to transmit to Earth.  Adam is considered Lunar Man and Enoch as Solar Man – The first is the Primordial and individual man and the latter the Divine Man. The full extent of this system requires considerable study and certainly more than I am able to do here. Still, these simple but profound things are important to keep in mind.

Ibn Arabi compares the “‘unique man ‘, which receives the revelation (tajaili) of the Divine Essence (dhat); this heart changes form continually according to the different ‘essential truths’ (haqc1 iq) which leave successively therein their imprint” (Burkhardt 34).He has a masterful understanding of the archetypes and employs them in a mystical astrologer that is also accurate. We are after all referring to Divine Essence.

The qualities of the Divine Names are of necessity innumerable because this Essence cannot be the “subject” of a science because that would imply distinction, in a similar sense as the infinite cannot be grasped by a finite mind.

” the Master makes the 28 mansions of the Moon correspond to as many Divine Names. On the other hand, these, which all have an active or creative character, have as complements or as direct objects the same number of cosmic degrees, so that their connection forms a second analogous cycle. The series of these cosmic degrees produced by the series of the Divine Names go from the first manifestation of the In­tellect down to the creation of man. ” (Burkhardt 37.) Ibn Arabi ‘s is a living breathing and divine creation.

Returning to the Moon, Ibn Arabi explains that it is this Lunar mediation that relates to what he calls the “transformation of the Primordial Sound” that is the vehicle of spiritual revelation, in articulated language. Islamic mysticism creates a correspondence between the  28 Mansions of the Moon and Twenty Eight letters or sounds of the sacred language.

It is not like people think,’ – says Muhyid din Ibn ‘Arabi, – ‘that the mansions of the Moon represent the models of the letters; it is the 28 sounds which determine the  lunar mansions.” These sounds represent in fact the micro­ cosmic and human expression of the essential determinations of the Divine Breath, which is itself the prime motivation of cosmic cycles. The Master counts the 28 sounds of the Arabic alphabet from the first lunar mansion, which follows the Spring Equinox, in the successive order of their phonetic exteriorisation, beginning with the hiatus (al-hamzah), and going on through the guttural consonants to the labials passing through the palatals and the dentals. If one takes into account the fact that the initial hiatus is not properly speaking a so und, but only a transitory instant between silence and locution, the series of sounds attributed to the lunar mansions begins with the haand ends with the waw, these two letters composing the Divine Name huwa, ‘ He’, symbol of the Essence one and identical to Itself.  (Burkhardt p.35)document-image8

In this brief but admittedly dense introduction to Ibn Arabi’s metaphysics and astrological mysticism, we can find deep insight into the entire astrological tradition, most specifically Arabian, but really of all true forms of the art. I hope it encourages readers to delve further into this fascinating and rich material. I would be very happy to discuss it with you. I might follow-up with an article on a specific element of Ibn Arabi’s astrology in the near future


John Dee – Arch-Conjuror

John Dee

John Dee

John Dee (1527 – 1608) was a British alchemist, geographer, mathematician, navigator, astrologer and a double-agent for Queen Elizabeth I . He was a precocious child, educated in mathematics, philosophy and the occult. He also enjoyed the patronage of Sir Philip Sydney and Lord Dudley. He was an associate of Sir Francis Bacon, who may also have played the role of spy on occasion.

Elizabeth used an insignia  for private communiques between her Court and John Dee. It was the first occasion of 007 being associated with British spies. 007The 007 was the insignia number that Elizabeth was to use for private communiques between her Court and Dee.

He studied at Cambridge and on the European mainland, where he traveled widely. He brought back many astrological instruments and gained the reputation of a sorcerer. Dee studied astrology with the celebrated Jerome Cardan from 1552.  His combined skills allowed him to give sound advice to those seeking routes to the New World and the Far East.

He helped write the first English edition of Euclid. He was student of the Neo Platonic philosophy of Marsilio Ficino and drew no distinction between mathematics, geometry and  his investigations of the Hermetic Philosophy and Angel Magick..

John Dee - The Great Siglium

John Dee – The Great Siglium

He spent almost half his life attempting to commune with angels, to learn the universal language of creation, in the hope that he might bring about the pre-apocalyptic unity of humanity. He amassed one of the largest libraries in England. His occult work, mostly published, has had an enormous influence on the Western Magical Tradition.

Dee married three times and was the father of eight children. He is best know today as the astrologer and long-term advisor to Elizabeth I about almost anything to do with statecraft. Dee died in late 1608 or early 1609, Mortlake, England.

John Dee - Magical Equipment

John Dee – Magical Equipment

Here is Dee’s chart using Porphyry houses: for July 13, 1527, 4:02 PM in: Mortlake (London) – United Kingdom.johndeechart

This gives us a chart for the Day of Saturn and Hour of Mars

The first thing to notice is that it’s 1° from a Full Moon on the Cancer – Capricorn Axis, but the Moon has already left Capricorn for Aquarius. From an astrological point of view we can’t treat this as any Full Moon because the signs are not in Opposition. Technically we call this  Waxing Gibbous, perfecting in it’s last degree. This contributes to a strong will and deep sense of purpose

Using Porphyry houses,  Pisces and Virgo are Intercepted. This could be misleading because Venus deposited by Mercury is in Cancer and in her Fall in Virgo in the Ninth House. The Ninth House is disposited by the Sun.NPG 520,Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban,by; after John Vanderbank; Unknown artist

The Almuten is a tie between Jupiter and Saturn, but I’m taking  Jupiter to hold that position in this case.. Mars is the Lord of the Geniture due to an abundance of Accidental Dignity.

Mercury in Cancer is free from the Beams and Direct. He is with an Exalted Jupiter, Lord of the Ascendant. Jupiter is unafflicted and conjunct the very powerful Fixed Star, Canopus, the Celestial Navigator. Canopus is of the Nature of Saturn and Jupiter and perfect for those involved in the Celestial Arts and Sciences.

The Ascendant at 3°57 Sagittarius is Conjunct Antares, one of the four Royal Stars of Persia. This is also a very powerful star of the Nature of Mars and Jupiter. Unfortunately, Mars is in his domicile, but in the twelfth House of hidden enemies.  In fact his enemies are stronger that he is. ws

This is where the chart starts

to fall apart. Jupiter and  Mercury are in the house of open enemies, the MC is disposited by Venus in her Fall and there is no support from the Eleventh House. We know he was highly considered and taken care of very well by the Queen and Court, but this charts doesn’t show that. We have a man who had eight children, but his Fifth House is in an infertile house and home to Saturn, disposited by a barren Venus in her Fall..

The Sun in the Eighth can certainly be interpreted as a  spy with  powerful occult interests, but much of the chart doesn’t describe what we know about Dee.

Sir Philip Sydney

Sir Philip Sydney

If we look at the chart using Whole Signs, many things become a lot clearer. The Eighth House now have Sun, Jupiter and Mercury. Considering the House is Disposited by the Moon in Saturnine Aquarius and Jupiter with Canopus, this looks a lot more like te chart of an alchemist and occultist. It is also ideal for a spy.

The previous open enemies of the Seventh House are replaced with the Par Fortuna. We still have a dignified Mars in the House of hidden enemies. He is in the Arabic Lunar Mansion of The Sting, as well as the Ascendant.

John Dee’s “Angelorum Bonorum” of Enochian angel names

John Dee’s “Angelorum Bonorum” of Enochian angel names

Saturn however moved from the Fifth to the Sixth House. This tips the balance on the subject of Children. The House is still Dispoisted by Mars but with Saturn and his Dispositor out of the picture this is much more conducive. The Sun of Course is applying to a Trine with the Ascendent, but as with the Lunar – Solar Axis, the aspect is out of Sign. The Trine is actually separating from Mars, which bodes well. Mercury is applying. The Almuten is now slightly weighted towards Saturn. To me it’s a better fit for what we know about John Dee..UnknownChild1

Finally we consider the planetary Parts as set out by Al Biruni. the Part of Venus sits just inside the Cusp of the First. Mercury is another six degrees into the House. The Ascendant is very strong and well disposed. With no major contradictions to this in the chart, we would expect a long and fairly healthy life. It gives a commanding presence.

Regarding support for the Eleventh House, perhaps we can can consider it’s Dispositor, Venus in Virgo as the Virgin Queen. This is the same in both charts.

The reader can decide for themselves which system yields the most accurate results. I prefer the Whole Sign because irt explains three very important issues in the chart – the degree and extent of occult interest and talent, to some extent his status as spy and the fact that he had eight children. I don’t see the4se in the first chart. I’m always happy to hear connstructive feedback.

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

machiavelli-1-sizedMy intent in this short piece is to read Machiavel’s radix chart using Whole Signs only. To that extent it is part experimental. I also want to know what we can about a man regarded as a monster – his very name synonymous with evil – a title I do not think he deserves.

Llittle [is] recorded of the youth of Machiavelli, the Florence of those days is so well known that the early environment of this representative citizen may be easily imagined. Florence has been described as a city with two opposite currents of life, one directed by the fervent and austere Savonarola, the other by the splendour loving Lorenzo. Savonarola’s influence upon the young Machiavelli must have been slight, for although at one time he wielded immense power over the fortunes of Florence, he only furnished Machiavelli with a subject of a gibe in “The Prince,” where he is cited as an example of an unarmed prophet who came to a bad end. Whereas the magnificence of the Medicean rule during the life of Lorenzo appeared to have impressed Machiavelli strongly, for he frequently recurs to it in his writings, and it is to Lorenzo’s grandson that he dedicates “The Prince.” (Bickers & Sala -Gutenburg)

Lucretia_Borgia_PinturicchioLucrecia as St. Catherine of Alexandria in a fresco by Pinturicchio, in the Sala dei Santi the Borgia apartments in the Vatican c. 1494.

Lucretia_Borgia_PinturicchioLucrecia as St. Catherine of Alexandria in a fresco by Pinturicchio, in the Sala dei Santi the Borgia apartments in the Vatican c. 1494.

At the age of twenty five  until  forty three, he served The Republic of Florence in a variety of ways, but most importantly as an advisor. This was during the Borgia Papacy and depravity, by almost anyone’s standards, was a way of Life  The Papacy itself had been gained through deception, murder and manipulation.

Anyone slightly suspect or otherwise inconvenient to the holders of power was in real danger of being murdered by the Papal family itself,  usually by poison and often by Lucretia who developed new, more effective means of delivering poison to her victims.

The notorious but beautiful Lucretia was painted as various saints as well as being the model for the Annunciation and several portraits from the life of Jesus, such as the flight into to Egypt.

The painting on the right shows but one example. Her brother, Cesare Borgia had himself painted as Christ. apparently without any sense of irony, in spite of his incest, fratricide, multiple murders and a myriad of other acts that can still manage to shock to this day. He was a Cardinal of the Church and used his position for the advancement of the family.. Machiavelli didn’t have to make much up.

Machiavelli was about twenty-five years of age when he became part of all this intrigue. He was to deal with this as a pragmatist, at least publicly.There are however reasons to suppose he still had some conscience. I wouldn’t call him a sociopath but he was enormously helpful to those who were.machiavelli

Appropriately, the radix is for the Day of Mars and the Hour of Venus.

The first thing that strikes me in looking at this chart is the applying Trine of Moon in Aquarius to Mercury in Gemini in the Sixth House of Servants. The combination of the Moon and Mercury make for a very fine mind and keen intellect.

The Part of Mercury is also in Gemini. Mercury has plenty of dignity and is free to act. He is conjunct Rigel, an important Fixed Star that adds to his brilliance.

Receptions are minor except Mercury and Node by both Exaltation- Triplicity and Exaltation Term.

Mercury takes his place as Lord of the Geniture, but Mars is the Almuten of the Chart.

I have not read his biography, but Mars in a weak sign n the Third House would show conflict with siblings. But closer to our own interests is that Mars and Mercury are in an applying square.

In Whole Sign Venus is Angular and in her detriment, in an applying Square to Jupiter in his Exaltation and she is rising parallel with Betelgeuse, a very powerful star being of the nature of Mars and Mercury. The Mars Mercury theme is all over the chart.

With Jupiter in Exaltation as ruler of the Ninth House, the mind is elevated to higher thoughts and the Part of Fortune is there to bless it.

However he has to please very powerful people. As if to remind us of that, we find the Part of Mars not only in the Seventh House but in the same Decanate as Jupitermap

There was a Total Lunar Eclipse prior to his Nativity at 17 °10 Leo. This falls in partile conjunction with the Part of Venus in the Eighth House.

Saturn in Taurus in the Fifth House is not a strong Saturn. However, he disposits the Ascendant. Machiavelli’s Humour is strongly Melancholic with a bit or Sanguine and Choleric in the mix.

To put this in but a few words, I see a man of great intelligence, of singular gravity and utterly pragmatic to the point of abandoning all humane considerations if need be.  The Prince still shocks people to this day, and yet when it pointed out that their own government does no less they cannot deny it. The Prince is a guide for a Prince to take and hold power in any way possible, regardless of considerations of ethics or compassion. Power is power.

Pope Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VI

His immediate patrons would have seen no more than a mirror held up to them if they were honest. But Italy itself was in enormous and seemingly eternal crisis, broken into often warring states.Power of any kind might bring some harmony. However, he was a cautious critic even of the Borgias. Even in these cases though, the grounds for his criticism tended to be practical. They were actions that didn’t serve the stability of the State or the Power of the Prince.