Lecture 48 — Introduction to Astrology

by The Compiler

Contents List:

The Heavenly Bodies
The "Physical" Planets
The Astrological "Planets"
The "Inner" Planets
The "Outer" Planets
The "New" Planets
The Zodiac
The "Music of the Spheres"
The Rôle of Humanity

Return to:

Index to Hermetic System Lectures
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

Whatever next?
The Holy Spirit
Consciousness, Laws, and Influences
Man's Place in the World
Lecture for Degree XXV
The Passion of the Western Mind
Cosmos and Psyche


I should not have embarked on this astrological voyage of discovery if I were not persuaded that practical benefits might be reaped from it both by myself and by other members of what I find myself beginning to think of as the "Ardue Community".

Following the example of Lyn Birkbeck in The Instant Astrologer, I can imagine such benefits arising in four categories, each category being summarised in a "Profile":

  1. a personality profile (or "horoscope") of myself or any other person as an individual human being, thus helping me to get to know myself and improve my understanding of other people;
  2. a timeline profile indicative of the conditions in which I may find myself during the course of my life, thus enabling me to prepare to cope with changes as they arise and to exercise better control over my reactions to them;
  3. a relationship profile indicative of personal characteristics which may affect my relationship with other specific individuals with whom I may consider entering into a special kind of interaction — whether in marriage, in business, in competition, or in any other significant way.
  4. a world profile indicative of tendencies in the environments of all, or significant subsets, of the human population of Earth arising from collective reactions to influences of which the vast majority are not conscious. Richard Tarnas' scholarly Cosmos and Psyche draws attention to many historical examples in cultural phenomena and the lives of individual human personalities.

The Heavenly Bodies

Please try always to bear in mind that the entire Universe is filled with The Holy Spirit and that all bodies detectable by our senses are complexes of spirit vibrations. Through the medium of the Holy Spirit, each body exercises its own characteristic influence on every other body in the Universe.

Referring to Consciousness, Laws, and Influences and paying particular attention to the sections beginning at The Ray of Creation, we see that the further heavenly bodies are from the top of the hierarchy, the more "laws" apply to them and, consequently, the more "mechanical" (or the less "lively") they are.

For instance, by comparison with the Earth, the Moon is practically "dead". Unlike the planets which "shine" by virtue of their own radiated light, we see the Moon only because it reflects light and, possibly, other forms of energy from other centres in the Universe as well as the Sun. When the Moon happens to come between the Earth and the Sun, it casts a shadow which we call a "solar eclipse". When the Earth casts its shadow on the Moon, we get a "lunar eclipse". From this we learn that the heavenly bodies not only radiate "energy" or "influences" to the Universe at large but can also at times come between sources of influence, temporarily blocking or partially obstructing their radiations in particular directions.

Although the Moon does not "shine", we know that as Earth's nearest neighbour of significant size, it exercises a pronounced gravitational effect which produces "tides" in large bodies of water. We should therefore be alert to the possibility that it may also affect flows of fluids on very small scales and may thus directly or indirectly affect organic metabolism or exert subtle archetypal influences on the collective unconscious of living creatures — including humans.

The Moon orbits the Earth. The planets orbit the Sun. In ascending order of their distance from the Sun, they are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto. A mnemonic I learnt at shool — "men very easily make jugs serve useful necessary purposes" — makes this order unforgettable.

The rotation of the Earth on its axis determines our days. The motion of the Moon around the Earth determines our lunar months. The combined motion of Earth and Moon around the Sun measures our years. It's all relative.

The Sun is 332,000 times as massive as the Earth but, as it consists only of hot gases, its density is only 0.225 that of the Earth. It rotates on its axis once every 26 days or so. Its mean distance from the Earth is 92.6 million miles, a distance we on Earth naturally refer to as 1 Astronomical Unit (AU).

The "Physical" Planets

The planets move around the Sun in roughly ellliptical orbits, the Sun's position being at one focus of each planetary ellipse. The paths of most of the planets are in very nearly the same plane which is usually referred to as the ecliptic.

Mercury is a small planet only a little larger than the Earth's Moon. Although its density is about the same as that of the Earth, it is only 0.055 as massive. It averages about 36 million miles (0.39 AU) from the Sun, which it orbits every 88 Earth days. Mercury rotates relatively slowly, so that its day is nearly 59 Earth days long. Its orbit is inclined at 7° to the ecliptic and its equatorial inclination to its orbit is 0°. (That of the Earth is 23.45°.) The temperature on the day side reaches about 427° Celsius; on the night side it falls to about -173° C.

Venus is about the same size as the Earth and has similar mass and density. Its mean distance from the Sun is a little over 0.7 AU. Venus' axial spin is so slow that its "day" lasts about 243 Earth days whereas the length of its year is only 224.7 Earth days. Its equator is inclined to its orbit at 177° (i.e., it spins in almost the opposite sense from Mercury) and its orbit is inclined to the ecliptic at a little over 3°. Because of its long exposure to the Sun, the temperature on the "day" side can reach 462° C.

The Earth comes next in order from the Sun. Its rotation on its axis gives us our days; the time it takes to complete one orbit around the Sun measures our years. The temperature at the surface ranges between -88° and +58° C.

Mars is about half the diameter of the Earth and about the same density as the Earth. Its mean distance from the Sun is about 1.5 AU. The Martian day is 24.6 hours long and it takes about 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun. Its orbit is inclined at 1.8° to the ecliptic and its equator is inclined to the orbit at 25.19°. The surface temperature range on Mars is between -87° and -5° C.

Jupiter is the most massive planet in the Solar System. It has several moons which form a kind of miniature solar system. Jupiter is about 5.2 AU from the Sun. Its equatorial radius is over 11 times and its mass is more than 300 times those of the Earth — although, as it consists chiefly of gases such as hydrogen, helium, and methane, its density is only about a quarter that of Earth. Jupiter's day is about 9 hours 50 minutes long and its year lasts about 4,333 Earth days. Jupiter's orbit is inclined at about 1.3 degrees to the ecliptic and its equator is inclined at 3.12 degrees to its orbit.

Saturn is surrounded by thousands of complicated ringlets. Its mean distance from the Sun is about 9.52 AU. Its equatorial radius is over 6 times and its mass about 95 times those of Earth; its density is only 0.127 that of Earth. The Saturnine day lasts 10.656 hours and its year lasts 10,759 Earth days. Its orbit is inclined at about 2.5 degrees to the ecliptic, and its equator is inclined at nearly 27 degrees to its orbit.

Uranus is 19.19 AU from the Sun, which it orbits in about 30,685 days. Its equatorial radius is about 4 times, its mass about 14 times, and its density about one quarter those of the Earth. Uranus' equator is inclined at 97.86 degrees to its orbit which is inclined at 0.77 degrees to the ecliptic. The fact that Uranus is nearly "end on" to the Sun makes it difficult to calculate the length of its "day", but it takes about 30,685 Earth days to orbit the Sun.

Neptune, dark and cold, is the last of the large hydrogen and helium planets in the Solar System. It is about 30 AU from the Sun. Its volume is over 57 times, its mass 17 times, and its density about 0.32 those of the Earth. Neptune's day is a little over 16 hours and it orbits the Sun in 60,195 Earth days. Its orbit is inclined at 1.77 degrees to the ecliptic and its equator is inclined to its orbit at about 30 degrees.

Although Pluto, discovered in 1930, is no longer claimed by astronomers to be the sole outer planet in the Solar System, it nevertheless still retains its status for astrological purposes. It is over 39 AU from the Sun and its equatorial radius is only 715 miles. Pluto's orbit is inclined at 17 degrees to the ecliptic and its equator is inclined at nearly 120 degrees to its orbit.

Overall, we see that the bodies of the Solar System comprise a very large variety of sizes and structures, and that their combined spins and motions as they dance around each other add up to a virtually infinite range of cycles or vibrations constituting what we may reasonably think of as an astrological symphony.

The Astrological "Planets"

So far, we have been taking a detached Sun-centred "objective" view of the Solar System. However, as we live on Earth, our perspective must take cognizance of that fact. When astrologers view the sky from the Earth, the Earth becomes their "centre" and they treat both Sun and Moon as "planets".

The "Inner" Planets

The Moon reflects light. It is therefore thought to have the property of capturing and redirecting light and other influences from Sun, planets, stars and constellations, and thus help to energise organic life on Earth. Perhaps because its cycle has the same period as the menstrual cycle of the human female, the Moon has long been regarded as a symbol of fertility. Astrologically, the Moon is thought to influence emotions and moods. Persons in whose horoscopes the Moon is strongly aspected are thought to be sensitive and intuitive but may also be impressionable and easily influenced.

Mercury was the Roman name for the Greek Hermes, the messenger of the gods and himself god of the wind, oratory, trade, and physical sports. In Egypt, he was Thoth, otherwise known as Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-wise) from whom we have inherited Hermetica or Hermetic philosophy which is summarised "As above, so below", thus conveying the priceless intelligence that man is constructed on the same principles as the entire Universe. Mercury is thought to govern communication, learning, and thought.

Venus was the Roman name for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who personified sexuality, fertility, and prosperity. In astrology, therefore, the planet is said to govern values and relationships in general.

Sun: As in physics, so in astrology: from the point of view of people on Earth, the Sun is the most important of the celestial bodies. It is said to determine a person's basic temperament and be the source of his or her "inner light".

The "Outer" Planets

Mars is the first planet whose orbit is "outside" that of the Earth. Mars was the Roman god of war. He therefore personifies aggression, strong will, and hostile violence. On the positive side, the "Martian" may exemplify realism, truthfulness, moral courage, and steadfastness.

Jupiter, the father of the Roman gods, was also god of thunder and lightning and, presumably, of fertilising rain. In astrology, the planet is associated with optimism, abundance, and growth.

Saturn was the Roman name for Cronos, the Greek god of agriculture. "Saturnalia" was the Harvest Festival. To be successful, agriculture requires hard work, discipline, and attention to detail. It is also often solitary, so "Saturnine" people are often considered morose and unsociable.

The "New" Planets

Uranus (Ouranos), son and husband of Gaea, the Earth, is the starlit sky. He was the father of the race of Titans. Discovered only in 1781, the planet was unknown to the Romans. It may therefore have been named inappropriately from an astrological point of view.

Richard Tarnas suggests that the archetypal qualities associated with Uranus closely match the characteristics of Prometheus, the Titan about whom there is a tradition that he was the creator of mankind. All the following quotations are from Cosmos and Psyche.

Tarnas says (page 93: "...the planet Uranus is empirically associated with the principle of change, rebellion, freedom, liberation, reform and revolution, and the unexpected breakup of structures; with sudden surprises, revelations and awakenings, lightning-like flashes of insight, the acceleration of thoughts and events; with births and new beginnings of all kinds; and with intellectual brilliance, cultural innovation, technological invention, experiment, creativity, and originality. In addition to the occurrence of sudden breakthroughs and liberating events, Uranus transits are linked to unpredictable and disruptive changes; hence the planet is often referred to as the "cosmic trickster". Another set of themes associated with Uranus is a concern with the celestial and the cosmic, with astronomy and astrology, with science and esoteric knowledge, and with space travel and aviation. With respect to personal character, Uranus is regarded as signifying the rebel and the innovator, the awakener, the individualist, the dissident, the eccentric, the restless and wayward. These various qualities are considered to be so pronounced in persons born with a prominent Uranus and expressed so conspicuously in a person's life during Uranus transits that there seems to have been no significant disagreement among astrological authorities for at least the past century that these characteristics reflect the archetypal nature of the planet Uranus."

Neptune was the Roman name for Poseidon, brother of Zeus and god of the sea. Tarnas says (page 96) that the planet is "associated with the transcendent, spiritual, ideal, symbolic, and imaginative dimensions of life; with the subtle, formless, intangible, and invisible; with the unitive, timeless, immaterial, and infinite; with all that which transcends the limited lateral temporal and material world of concretely empirical reality: myth and religion, art and inspiration, ideals and aspirations, images and reflections, symbols and metaphors, dreams and visions, mysticism, religious devotion, universal compassion. It is associated with the impulse to surrender separative existence and egoic control, to dissolve boundaries and structures in favour of underlying unities and undifferentiated wholes, merging that which was separate, healing and wholeness; the dissolution of ego boundaries and reality structures, states of psychological fusion and intimations of intrauterine existence, melted ecstasy, mystical union, and primary narcissism; with tendencies towards illusion and delusion, deception and self-deception, escapism, intoxication, psychosis, perceptual and cognitive distortions, conflation and confusion, projection, fantasy; with the bedazzlement of consciousness, whether by gods, archetypes, beliefs, dreams, ideals or ideologies; with enhantment, in both positive and negative senses."

We might say that Neptune is reminiscent of "the Spirit of God that moved upon the face of the waters".

Pluto, the planet, was discovered in 1930. Tarnas says (pages 98-100): "Observations of potential correlations with Pluto by astrologers in the subsequent decades suggested that the qualities associated with the new planet in fact bore a striking relevance to the mythic character of Pluto, the Greek Hades, and also to the figure of Dionysus, with whom Hades-Pluto was closely associated by the Greeks. (Both Heraclitus and Euripedes identified Dionysus and Hades as one and the same deity.) Closely analogous to Freud's concept of the primordial id, 'the broiling cauldron of the instincts', and to Darwin's understanding of an ever-evolving nature and the biological struggle for existence, the archetype associated with the planet Pluto is also linked to Nietzsche's Dionysian principle and the will to power and to Schopenhauer's blind striving universal will, all these embodying the powerful forces of nature and emerging from nature's chthonic depths, within and without, the intense, fiery, elemental underworld....

"To summarise the consensus of contemporary astrologers, Pluto is associated with the principle of elemental power, depth, and intensity; with that which compels, empowers, and intensifies whatever it touches, sometimes to overwhelming and catastrophic extremes; with the primordial instincts, libidinal and aggressive, destructive and regenerative, volcanic and cathartic, eliminative, transformative, ever-evolving; with the biological processes of birth, sex, and death, the cycle of death and rebirth; with upheaval, breakdown, decay and fertilisation, violent purgatorial discharge of pent-up energies, purifying fire; situations of life-and-death extremes, power struggles, all that is titanic, potent and massive. Pluto represents the underworld and underground in all senses: elemental, geological, instinctual, political, social, sexual, urban, criminal, mythological, demonic. It is the dark, mysterious, taboo, and often terrifying reality that lurks beneath the surface of things; beneath the ego, social conventions, and the veneer of civilization; beneath the surface of the Earth, that is periodically unleashed with destructive and transformative force. Pluto impels, burns, consumes, transfigures, resurrects. In mythic and religious terms, it is associated with all myths of descent and transformation, and wth all deities of destruction and regeneration, death and rebirth: Dionysus, Hades and Persephone, Pan, Medusa, Lilith, Innana, Isis and Osiris, the volcano goddess Pele, Quetzalcoatl, the Serpent power, Kundalini, Shiva, Kali, Shakti.

"With respect to Pluto's discovery, the synchronistic phenomena in the decades immediately surrounding 1930, and more generally in the twentieth century, include the splitting of the atom and the unleashing of nuclear power; the titanic technological empowerment of modern industrial civilization and military force; the rise of fascism and other mass movements; the widespread cultural influence of revolutionary theory and psychoanalysis with their focus on the biological instincts; increased sexual and erotic expression in social mores and the arts; intensification of instinctually driven mass violence and catastrophic historical developments, evident in the world wars, the holocaust, and the threat of nuclear annihilation and ecological devastation. Here also can be mentioned the intensified politicization and power struggles characteristic of twentieth-century life, the development of powerful forms of depth-psychological transformation and catharsis, and the scientific recognition of the entire cosmos as a vast evolutionary phenomenon from the primordial fireball [of dubious authenticity! (See The Holy Spirit) — Ed.] to the still-evolving present."


Tarnas adds (page 100): "In retrospect, the discoveries of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto appear to have coincided with the emergence of three fundamental archetypes into collective human experience in a newly constellated form, visible in major historical events and cultural trends of the eighteenth century (Uranus), the nineteenth (Neptune), and the twentieth (Pluto). The centuries of their discoveries in each case appear to have brought forth in the evolution of human consciousness the rapid development and radical heightening of a distinctive set of qualities and impulses that were also systematically observable in precise natal and transit correlations involving these specific planets for individuals and eras throughout history. Although the astrological tradition developed on the basis of the seven ancient celestial bodies and their inherited meanings, much of the evidence we will be examining involves alignments of these three outer planets whose corresponding archetypal principles appear to be particularly relevant for illuminating the deeper transpersonal and collective patterns of human experience.

"The discoveries in the past several years of small planet-like objects in the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto, probably the remnants of a very early stage in the evolution of the solar system, are too recent for adequate assessments to have been made concerning possible empirical correlations or their potential significance. Appearing at the beginning of a new millennium, with their unusual orbits and ambiguous astronomical status, they serve well to remind both astronomers and astrologers of the still-expanding horizon of our knowledge of our own solar system."

The Zodiac

As seen from the Earth which rotates on its axis once every 24 hours, the Sun, Moon, and planets ("wandering stars") appear to move against a background of fixed stars and constellations in a "belt" of sky extending about 9° on either side of the Earth's orbit. The patterns formed by the stars in this belt were likened by the ancients to animals, and so the belt became known as the Zodiac (from the Greek zodiakos — of the animals).

As the Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun appears to move round the Earth, so that in one year it completes a circuit of the Zodiac. The Vernal Equinox, the moment when the Sun crosses the equator on its "return" from southern latitudes on or about the 21st of March, is taken as the beginning of the astrological year.

The Zodiac is divided into twelve equal segments, each of 30°. The Sun therefore visits each "Sign" of the Zodiac in turn, beginning with Aries (the ram) and continuing through Taurus (the bull), Gemini (the twins), Cancer (the crab), Leo (the lion), Virgo (the maiden), Libra (the scales, the only inorganic Sign in the list), Scorpio (the scorpion), Sagittarius (the archer), Capricorn (the goat), Aquarius (the water-pourer), and Pisces (the fish).

Anyone who is born anywhere in the world at a time when the Sun is passing through a particular Sign is supposed to display the characteristics associated with that Sign or, in terms of Jungian psychology, to be unconsciously responsive to the archetype associated with the Sign.

The "Music of the Spheres"

Speaking for myself, I find it very difficult to sustain a mental picture of the myriad motions of the heavenly bodies or to imagine what subliminal effects their radiations may be having on my behaviour. Yet I clearly remember when, turned thirteen, I left home for the first time to spend thirteen long weeks in a boarding school, I felt very homesick for the first few days. At that time, I quite illogically found emotional comfort from reflecting that the Moon I was looking at was the same Moon as could be seen by my parents, younger brother, and the friends of my childhood. The same feeling was experienced even more acutely at the beginning of the second term, but it wore off more quickly the second time and I was never homesick again.

The ancients relied heavily on analogy to convey ideas and feelings that were not susceptible to logical verbal or scientific explanation. One such analogy, about which so-called "educated" people are inclined to be rather sniffy (perhaps because they take everything literally), is the "Music of the Spheres". I personally find it very helpful and expand it into a sort of 'son et lumiere' occurring in a large circular theatre with the Signs of the Zodiac pictured on its walls. The Moon circles around me holding an echoing mirror reflecting light and other radiations which I think of collectively as "sound". All the other planets carry lights, that of the Sun naturally being much brighter than the others. Each of the heavenly bodies except the Moon is singing its own characteristic song. The songs of the Earth on which I am sitting and that of the Sun are, of course, the loudest for my senses, but the songs of the other planets may be detectable if I pay attention and, if I succeed in attuning with them even subconsciously, may enrich my psyche with a variety of symphonic harmonies as they continually dance around the Zodiac, always exchanging positions and always moving nearer to or further away from each other and from me.

I can thus more easily attach significance to a personal horoscope which is a chart of the positions of the of the Sun and planets against the background of the Zodiac at the time and place of birth.

The Rôle of Humanity

In the section headed Radiation in chapter 7 of Book 23 in the Ardue Library, Professor Kapp explains why the intensity of any influence received from a body is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the body and the receiver.

In Vibrations — The Rationale of Mysticism, it was pointed out in the section headed The Rôle of the Brain that man's physical senses are not only relatively feeble but also highly selective, so that even when using artificial aids, we can never hope to observe directly more than a very limited portion of an unimaginably vast Universe.

However, referring to Man's Place in the World, and noting the section headed Organic Life on Earth, we can appreciate that the relative physical insignificance of the individual human being on a Universal scale is counterbalanced by the effect on Planet Earth of very large numbers of living organisms among which man is pre-eminent by virtue of his mentality. In The Phenomenon of Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin draws attention to the importance for the Earth of man's role and the responsibility it entails.

We cannot deny that the collective activity of countless organisms in the lifetime of the Earth has up to the present had an incalculable transformative effect on the planet. However, we are now at a point where the rate of transformation under the collective influence of a dominant and exploding human population psychologically disposed to greed and hedonism is becomimg uncontrollable and threatens to ruin the beautiful Earth which is our collective home. Is it inevitable that only a drastic cull of human beings can avert a rapid return to prehistoric conditions?

I am optimistically disposed to hope that as Dr Jung hints in Lectures 44. 45, and 46, a sufficiently large minority of human individuals may rise to a level of conscious attunement with the archetypal psyche of the Universe that will enable them by united effort and through the influence of The Holy Spirit persuade the sleeping majority to awaken and mend their ways in time to avert catastrophe.

We need all the help we can get. Therefore we cannot afford to overlook the art of astrology through which wise men and women down the ages have offered guidance to their less conscious brothers and sisters. Professional astrologers have written many books on the subject and the student is advised to select an elementary one to start with and go on to more learned ones if so inclined. My personal favourite for "starters" is Jungian Birth Charts by Arthur Dione, published by The Aquarian Press, ISBN 0-85030-642-6.