The Modern View of Astrology & the Devaluation of Ancient Wisdom

by Lori Tompkins
27 July 2007

IN DUE COURSE OF TIME, our modern views of astrology will be recognized as comically dim-witted. There is the view of the majority of scientists and other ‘objective’ intellectuals who criticize astrology as superstition and fantasy; and there is view of certain religions that astrology is somehow evil and a perversion of Divine will. There is also the view of many yogis and ‘progressive’, ‘post-modern’ and ‘integral’ thinkers who cannot, for the life of them, imagine that astrology has anything to do with anything in terms of developing a more integral awareness of our lives on planet Earth. And, of course, there is the view of many more ‘progressive’ and ‘new age’ thinkers, the view that astrology is a valid system by which to understand an individual’s life patterns, destiny and interrelations.

The view of the astrology-positive contingency is valid, but what needs to be considered is that the majority of us in this contingency are less-than-mature in our understandings of the system. The bad reputation of astrology is not simply due to the immature consciousness of those who reject it, but also due to the immature consciousness of its practitioners and fans. The ‘catch-22' here is that if modern astrologers are offended by this assessment and think they are already mature enough in their knowledge and do not admit that a deeper understanding of the system is needed, then the critics will continue to be at least partially valid in their rejections of and disregard for astrological knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo – the forefather of Integral Yoga and harbinger of a Supramental transformation of consciousness on Earth – wrote to his wife, Miralini:

‘I have faith in astrology - ten years' experience confirmed. But also amongst a thousand, nine hundred know nothing about it. Few know but more make mistakes . . .’ [1]

Though Sri Aurobindo wrote that assessment 105 years ago, one would be hard pressed to argue that there are many alive today who adequately understand astrology as a system of higher knowledge or as a fully Integral Gnosis, indispensable in the process of knowing self and world, and indispensable for scientific explorers no less than for spiritual explores. There are few who adequately understand that astrology originated from an eternally-relevant consciousness wherein material reality and spiritual reality are eternally and practically yoked, wherein the individual and the cosmos are eternally and practically yoked in a unified movement throughout time. One of those ‘few’ is Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet. She writes:

‘The images of the zodiac recorded by sages who were able to transcend the human limitations of consciousness are so arranged as to be perpetually significant, especially because their arrangement is the very key to perpetual growth and unceasing renewal of being. So long as man has not achieved the direct identification with the Supreme, so long as he needs the aid of symbols along the way, the zodiac can be his guide.’ [2]

Error and Mis-information

If this origin of astrology were adequately understood by any significant contingency of modern or post-modern human beings, we would be living in a very different world, with a very different understanding of what is education. It would be much more clear, what is integral knowledge of Self, World, and Spirit, and what is a dying vestige of a fragmented academia or fragmented religious consciousness. The basics of astrological knowledge would be known and respected in every field of study (whether considered spiritual or scientific) and would be a catalyst for rapid leaps in human awareness and consequently in material creativity and possibility.

A dismissal of astrology would be considered an error something on par with the belief that the Earth is flat, i.e ridiculous, because such a dismissal is basically an ignorance of any real, measurable and practical connection between the cosmos and the individual, between the womb and the child, the environment and the outcome, spirit and matter. And that error, we would know, if we adequately understood the full capacities and extent of a unified consciousness, is truly ridiculous.

But as we know, the situation is quite different. The study of astrology is considered to be a ridiculous and fanciful pastime by most scientists and as irrelevant by most spiritual seekers and teachers. The ‘information’ or ‘education’ children are force-fed concerning astrology is a phenomenal display of dogma, equally perverse as any dogma foisted upon children by religious institutions. It seems NASA is the architect of much of this mis-education. The following quote is found on NASA’s website for kids, ‘The Space Place’:

‘. . . Astronomers and other scientists know that stars many light years away have no effect on the ordinary activities of humans on Earth. No one has shown that astrology can be used to predict the future or describe what people are like based only on their birth date. Still, like reading fantasy stories, many people enjoy reading their "astrological forecast" or "horoscope" in the newspaper every day.’ - ‘What’s Your Sign?’ [3]

The ‘What’s Your Sign?’ web page is loaded with mis-leading statements and mis-information. Above all, the sight sadly fails to mention or explain that the Tropical Zodiac, is simply the measure of a Year, based on the scientifically-measurable Spring and Fall equinoxes and Winter and Summer solstices. One will ‘learn’ (incorrectly) on that page that it was the Babylonians who invented the concept of dividing the 12 equal parts, because of their need to make sense of the sky, and their own lives, even though they really knew there were 13 constellations. They just left one of the constellations out of their Zodiac wheel because that extra constellation didn’t fit neatly into their 12-slice pie. What ignorant, ‘pie-in-the-sky’ people these ancients must have been! [4]

There is no mention that the Babylonian’s 12-slice ‘pie-in-the-sky’ was based on ‘scientific’ knowledge of the Equinoxes and Solstices, which clearly divides the Earth’s journey around the Sun into four even parts. There is no mention that the division of the 360 degree ‘sky’ by 12 even months based on the four cardinal points of the Earth’s year was known to Vedic India millennia before it was known to the Babylonians, and certainly there is no mention on NASA’s ‘Play Space’ that this knowledge was considered by the ancient Vedic sages to be a key to understanding the highest laws of all things that move and breath on the Earth.

'One is the wheel; the bands are twelve;
three are the hubs – who can understand it?
Three hundred spokes and sixty in addition
have been hammered therein and firmly riveted…
Though manifested, it is yet hidden, secret,
its name is the Ancient, a mighty mode of being;
in Skambha is established this whole world;
therein is set fast all that moves and breathes.'

(Atharva Veda X, 8)

The author of the NASA propaganda makes a joke of a child who ‘thinks’ he is a Leo because he was born on August 4th. This poor child, according to NASA, is doubly duped. Firstly because the zodiacal constellations (also called the Sidereal or Niryana zodiac) actually constantly move backwards (due to the Precession of the Equinoxes) and there is a 23.5 degree or day difference between what people think is the sign of Leo (July 23-August 22) and when the constellation of Leo actually rises on the Eastern horizon (August 17 - September 16). And if that were not enough to ridicule the child’s statement that he is a Leo, we are further ‘educated’ that anyone who believes that there is a relationship between the cosmos and one’s individual life and destiny (whether Tropical or Sidereal) is engaging in fantasy.

Abandoning Time, Knowledge and Self

This propaganda sums up, in a comical nut shell, the tragedy of ignorance that informs our modern world’s understanding of astrology. The Tropical (or Sayana) Zodiac is not considered a real or meaningful measure of the year both by Western society at large and by so-called ‘Vedic’ astrologers. The post-Vedic astrologers and spiritual pundits have for some time abandoned measuring the calendar or the year based on the four fixed and measurable equinoxes and solstices, and moved in favor of using and celebrating the more visible (and therefore considered more scientific) back-sliding of the constellations. [5] The Tropical Zodiac was label by science as an illusion, as an imaginary circle (because one cannot see it directly by looking at the position of the stars), and post-Vedic astrologers, followed this sad trend of thought.

Now it is the case that Indian pundits claim such a large variety of calendars and sacred celebrations (based on their best ‘scientific’ assessment of the ever-moving sidereal zodiac), that it would now seem ignorant to admit any real truth, meaning or purpose in astrological calculations. It is difficult for modern educated and intuitive people to miss the obvious problem here: Why such a proliferation of calendars? How can they all be right?

What makes this particular trend of thought and fragmentation sad, as most might wonder, is that it was only possible due to a loss of awareness of a real and practical connection between the Earth’s lived experience of, and cyclical journey through, the four seasons and the lived experience (cyclical journey) of all individuals born from and unto the Earth and into time. This trend of thought was only possible because knowledge of an all-unifying consciousness that imprints itself on every level of existence, in every detail of Earthly life and form, in synchronicity and harmony with the absolutely non-arbitrary seasons of the Earth, was lost. It is akin to the loss of a real and meaningful connection between Mother and Child; but even more tragic of course, because here we see an entire civilization has lost its awareness of and consciousness connection with its ‘Mother’.

In The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo discussed the loss of the ancient wisdom of the Vedic sages, who were conscious of the indivisibility of the Earth’s yearly journey around the Sun in twelve months with the laws of truth-consciousness and evolution in matter in cycles of time. In The Human Cycle he wrote of the not-surprising phenomenon by which the wisdom of the ancient sages has been rejected by ‘rational man and rational society . . . because it was too high a truth for the comprehension of the reason and for the powers of the normal limited human will too bold and immense, too infinite an effort.’ [6]

That systematic rational devaluation of ancient wisdom has not been limited in anyway to the purely scientific and academic world. It has also naturally affected those concerned with the ‘mystery of the divine’ or universal truth. Popular integral theorist, and creator of the Kosmological Consciousness audio series, Ken Wilber has ‘severely chastised’ astrology as a ‘regressive’ and ‘flatland [trend] in spiritual studies.’ [7] The following quote is from an episode in his book Boomeritis:

"The good news is . . . astrology can no longer be viewed as universally binding on all people, since a belief in its universal truth would be to deny a plurality of authentic ultimates. Astrology used to be viewed as an abstract schema universally applicable to all people, but we now realize that the very attempt to do astrology is driven by a type of hidden Enlightenment power drive that attempts to subsume all people under a universal absolute Truth that crushes all freedom and attempts to deny the Mystery of the Divine by categorizing it due to a deep fear of chaotic, spontaneous, divine Mystery. Since there is only a plurality of authentic ultimates, astrology still works, but apparently only for those who believe it, which is nice." [8]

Well this ‘good news’, that astrology can no longer be viewed as a universally binding absolute truth, will certainly be satisfying to the rational, intellectual person who has absolutely no connection to the Earth’s soul and also to those who prefer to see no Divine aspect or potential in Earthly existence. But thankfully this news will not much affect the existence and patterns of growth and evolution of every single thing (soul) that is born on Earth; because whether Earth-bound-beings are conscious of it or not, they are absolutely bound (while on Earth) to the four seasons of the Earth’s year marked off by the equinoxes and solstices, and to the cycles of the moon, and to the larger cycles within the macrocosm that is our solar system. The microcosm’s (Individual’s) ignorance of how the macrocosm ( Cosmos) is intimately linked with its own being, does not change the universally binding absolute truth that the Cosmos is intimately connected with itself on all layers of its existence, material and non-material.

A seed in nature is going to sprout and bloom in synchronicity and harmony with the seasons and cycles of sun and the moon and the larger cosmos whether or not it is aware of its own self and its mechanisms of growth and whether or not it is aware of the larger Earthly and cosmic womb that makes its life possible. A human being is also going to grow and develop in synchronicity and harmony with the seasons and cycles of sun and the moon and the larger cosmos regardless of his or her limited awareness of the purpose of Self and the mechanics by which the Self grows in time, and regardless his or her limited awareness of the larger Earthly and cosmic womb that makes its life and growth possible.

So, not to worry, just as the Earth continues its 360 degree journey around the sun regardless of what we belief and what we don’t believe, the soul continues its Earthly adventure intimately intertwined with the seasons and months of the Tropical Zodiac, and does not even blink when acclaimed scientific institutions, established religions, or revered spiritual ‘masters’ put out however many centuries worth of propaganda to the effect of, ‘Astrology is an unreal, unscientific bunch of baloney that some irrational people seem to enjoy.’

Considering the Real Purpose and Usefulness of Astrology

The real purpose and usefulness of astrology is to expand (and to eventually accomplish) one’s real knowledge or gnosis of time and space and of the real connection between the Individual Self, the Cosmic Self, and the Transcendent (non-material or unseen) Self. According to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, such expansion of knowledge is completely undermined if the Tropical Zodiac, based on the four corners of the equinoxes and solstices, is not known to be the blueprint or foundation of the study of Self and World. [9]

The true purpose and usefulness of a sacred calendar for the Earth and its inhabitants (i.e. the Zodiac) can be compared to the purpose of a sacred temple, which is to expresses the experience of the sacred in material existence. Its dimensions are meant to express the ‘hidden’ Absolute in visible form and thereby to assist the pilgrim or observer to see and experience the Divine in Earthly existence.

If this is possible, and it is according to seers throughout the ages and seers alive today, then why is the ‘Zero Point’ or beginning of the sacred calendar, relative to the constellations far far away from Earth, which slip backwards in time. Why is the determination of this important point relative to the many conflicting assessments of pundits and astrologers. Why is what is suppose to be absolute, appear as absolutely random? Why do post-Vedic astrologers and much of the human population make such a point of de-valuing the Tropical Zodiac, which is a non-random, absolutely fixed calendar based on the Earth’s equinoxes and solstices? Why is the Tropical Zodiac NOT known to be a precious, sacred and real structure – a living expression of a hidden divinity, useful to humans in their quest for knowledge of Self, knowledge of Cosmos, and knowledge of the Divine. Can we not conceive that such a structure exists intrinsically in the fabric of our own year?

It seems not. It seems to remain the case that this real purpose of astrology, is ‘too infinite an effort’ for the modern or post-modern man or woman to comprehend, and the masses are left to read and educate themselves based on the authoritative mis-understandings of scientific institutions, religions, integral theorists, and the mass media, or based on the authoritative mis-understandings of post-Vedic astrologers who have long-abandoned a connection between the Earth’s equinoxes and the solstices and the Zodiacal or sacred year.

Recently Wall Street Journal writer Jeffery Trachtenberg asked the popular journalist Christopher Hitchens what readers might have learned from his 2007 book God is not Great. The response was a somber and classic rejection of any possibility that the design of the cosmos has anything to do with the design of the individual.

‘. . . your life is probably better led after you've outgrown the idea that the universe has a plan for you . . . . The cosmos isn't designed with you in mind. You might as well just consult an astrological chart.’ [10]

To be fair to all the modern (or ‘post-modern’) critics of astrology, the practice of astrology has for some time been only a shadow of its Self and the majority of modern astrologists have not proven themselves much capable of tapping into or expressing the eternally relevant and integral Gnosis which is astrology’s origin, essence and basis, traceable back at least to Vedic India.

But one wonders, when will it seem obviously and disastrously ignorant (un-scientific, unconscious, anti-divine, un-integral, anti-life and irrational) to deny the connection between the macrocosm of the solar system and the microcosm of an individual life? When it will seem obviously and disastrously ignorant to deny the connection between Earth’s life cycle around the Sun (i.e. the year), and the life cycles of all Earthlings? How long will it be until ‘rational man and rational society’ stop ridiculing and rejecting an ancient knowledge which they are too dense to comprehend?

For now we have to be content that even a small majority of people know the idiocy of the statement ‘I don’t believe in astrology’. One might as well say, ‘I don’t believe in the Year’, or ‘I don’t believe in the Day’ or ‘I don’t believe in the Earth’, or ‘I don’t believe in Time’, or ‘I don’t believe in life cycles’; or ‘I don’t believe that the spherical, circular and geometric patterns in matter and nature have anything at all to do with the spherical, circular and geometric structures and movements of the Cosmos’ ; or ‘I don’t believe that cycles of Time have anything to do with physical structure, or the evolution of life and consciousness’; or ‘I don’t believe there are perceptible or measurable laws by which the individual self and the collective self develop in time’; or ‘matter has no soul’, or ‘the soul is incapable of fully expressing itself and establishing itself permanently in matter, on Earth’.

There are many of us who, for whatever rational, scientific or even spiritual reasons, do perpetuate such limited or negative views of consciousness and of life on Earth. But, it is worth considering, if we wish to progress as a race and as a civilization, that such a negative view and poor assessment of our selves, our world and whatever set this Play in motion, will have to be left far, far behind. It is worth at least wondering what the Vedic seers meant when they wrote:

‘In the lap of the Mother the soul sees.’ – Rig Veda


Endnotes:

[1] Sri Aurobindo archives.

[2] Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, The Gnostic Circle, Chapter 16, ‘The Gnostic Development of the Individual’, Aeon Books, 1975.

[3] NASA's Space Place, 'What's Your Sign'.

[4] The expression ‘Pie-in-the-Sky’ is equivalent to ‘utterly impractical’. One cannot help wondering if the root of this expression is linked to the negation of the practice of dividing the ecliptic path of the Earth into 12 even sections. Or is it just a coincidence?

[5] Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, The New Way Blog

[6] Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, p. 170, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1950.

[7] Ken Wilber, Ken Wilber Online.

[8] Ken Wilber, Boomeritis, Shambhala, 2002, Sidebar F.

[9] Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, Movement of the Restoration of Vedic Wisdom.

[10] Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Wall Street Journal, ‘Hitchen’s Book Debunking The Deity Is Surprise Hit’ June 22, 2007; p. B1. http

Lori Tompkins ©2007

 

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