Saturday, October 27, 2012

Think like a Classical Astrologer!

Copyright 2012 J. Lee Lehman

It happens all the time. Every time an astrologer interprets a chart, a creative process must occur, linking astrological symbolism to the person, question, or event under study and interpretation. However, the context in which this creation occurs can be very different from astrologer to astrologer.

As more astrologers have begun to explore classical (also called traditional) astrology, it is sometimes not entirely clear how it is necessary to change one's thought processes. Here, I want to give just a brief explanation of how this works.

Many students of astrology have experienced what we might call the "blank slate" state - you've studied all those various books, but upon encountering a new chart, you freeze: now, what do I do? This in fact is one of the major dividing lines in astrological education: between the people who have broken through this barrier and those who have not. Until you do, the only recourse is to attempt to use cookbooks to provide enough of a story to fill in the words that somehow don't otherwise trip easily off the tongue.

But how that barrier is breached is incredibly important, because it reveals the type of astrology that can then come forth.
  • If one approaches astrology through myth, then the way to move through to interpretation is to carefully consider the Native's situation, and to find the myths that apply the story for the person's situation. Then it remains to tell the story, and to adapt it to the conditions at hand.
  • If one wants a psychological approach, one listens carefully to the client to understand the psychological matrix of the client's circumstances,  and from these, one uses the astrological symbols to guide the psychological process and exploration.
  • If one takes a classical approach, then the first stage of the delineation is to ascertain the historical precedents for the situation, so that one has a guide to the means of interpreting the astrology of the moment, and what it portends.
In a sense, these three methods share an approach: the first stage of the process is obtaining the general map of the terrain, so that the interpretive process may begin. It's useless to look for Chicago, Illinois on a map of Europe. The first stage of the process always sets the general parameters for the search for appropriate knowledge, tools, and information.

To give an example, what rules writing and publishing?

Modern astrology is an overarching term for the astrological methodology that has developed since the 17th century, and primarily in the 20th century and beyond. Lacking one cohesive lineage, the modern practitioner has no one simple path to answer this question. The astrologer may appeal to an authority, such as a published book of rulerships, or to a listing of items rules in a cookbook. Or as likely, the astrologer may simple try to "logic" the answer. But how does one do that? Often, one tries to come up with an analogous item: so one can think about writing involving words, solitary activity, but publishing brings it out into the world, etc. In this way of thinking, there may be no right or wrong answer, but if this question has come up because of a horary, the result of this process may produce a right or a wrong prediction.

In classical, the process is different. The first step is: what has anybody said about this in the past? It was to facilitate these questions that I originally published The Book of Rulerships, which lists what a number of previous classical authors have said. While this work, being some twenty years old, did not encompass the many works of classical astrology which have been translated since, it is a good starting place. I have also published a supplement to it on my website. Here, we discover the following:

Item Ruler Reference
Writers 12 AB-276
Writings ME LI-139
Writings ME D2-025
Writings GE KB-016

For example, al-Biruni (the abbreviation AB) said that writers are ruled by the 12th house. Perhaps this refers to the solitary activity of writing. That number after the abbreviation gives the page number in the cited reference. So Lilly (LI) says that writings are ruled by Mercury on page 139 of Christian Astrology. Kirby and Bishop (Bishop, John, and Richard Kirby. The Marrow of Astrology the Second Part. Wherein Is Contained, a Table of Houses, Calculated for the Latitude of London: With Tables of Semidiurnal and Seminocturnal Arches. Also Tables of Twilight and Mundane Aspects; and the Whole Doctrine of Nativities, Laid Down in Twenty Genitures, According to the True Intent and Meaning of Ptolomy, Wherein Is Discovered the Errors of Argol, Regiomontanus, and Others. The Like Never before Done in English. By John Bishop, Student in Astrology and Chimistry. microform. printed for Joseph Streater near Paul's-Wharf in Thames-street and are to be sold by the booksellers in London, London, 1687.) give Mercury as ruling writing.

Once one has these classical precedents in hand, then one has to decide which of them to use, or if a rethink of the concept is necessary in light of modern technological or societal changes.

In fact, the issue of rethink is always present in astrology, whether ancient or modern. Consider gay marriage! It simply didn't exist as a possibility when any of these sources were written, including the 20th century rulership references!

The primary difference in thinking classically is knowing to start with what astrologers have known in the past. This gives a firmer grounding to making any decision about adapting the precedents, instead of simply using them. This may require extra works, and a couple extra steps, but laziness is no excuse for sloppiness.