Thursday, April 21, 2016

OCCULTISM & THE STARS - by Dion Fortune



Issued as an early reminder of the Dion Fortune seminar at Glastonbury on 24th September 2016.

For programme and booking details see Company of Avalon website.

The following text is taken from  letters to students by Dion Fortune in 1942/3. Also published as part of ‘Principles of Hermetic Philosophy’ by Dion Fortune & Gareth Knight (Thoth Publications 1999).

It is no intention of mine to add to the extensive literature dealing with astrological interpretation but to examine the basis on which the whole elaborate superstructure rests. Astrological prediction has had some notable successes, but it has also had much more notable and frequent failures. Nevertheless, the fact that it has scored many successes beyond those attributable to the law of averages or of chance means that there is ‘something in it’; not, perhaps, as much in it as its more ardent exponents would have us believe, but not, at any rate, the absolute vacuum its denouncers declare. Therefore it is worthy of serious investigation by serious thinkers.

The only type of investigation of any value is that which deals with percentages of accuracy over a large number of cases. Such an investigation was conducted by a well known paper upon the predictions concerning national affairs, and especially the turn of the war, appearing week by week in the columns of its contemporaries, and the results were such as to discourage most comprehensively any serious attention to such methods of diagnosis as an alternative to common sense, or even guesswork. {The investigation was probably that featured in ‘Picture Post’ in September 1941, which drew up a table of spectacular failures in the accuracy of newspaper astrological predictions over the previous two years. However, the errors were, without exception, failures to forecast catastrophes. Whether or not the astrological columnists foresaw the worst or not, it needs to be remembered that the government  of the time was keenly anxious to preserve the morale of the civilian population. The astrological columns were regarded as a means whereby to keep the population optimistic. Indeed had they gone so far as to predict any disasters they would have been contravening Defence Regulations by spreading alarm and despondency. GK.}  

One astrologer, and one only, has been noted as scoring any high degree of reliability {probably  Edward Lyndoe, who I recall greatly impressed my mother – which was not easy! GK} and he, unlike his fellows, does not, curiously enough, give the astrological data on which his opinions are based; the irresistible conclusion being that his data is not astrological, but of a much less celestial nature, being derived from ‘information received’ and not from calculations based on the movements of the heavenly bodies.

On the other hand, there are few people who have not had in their own experience firsthand knowledge of personal predictions of remarkable accuracy and outstandingly good delineations of character made by purely astrological means. Equally, however, I have observed over a period of years the activities of an astrological friend who never successfully predicted anything, but could always demonstrate most convincingly why any given incident had happened after it had occurred, and the demonstrations were genuinely convincing. There in black and white in her textbooks were the statements, and there on the chart were the positions of the planets. Her trouble had been that the textbooks contained such a wide choice of factors among which as selection had to be made as to invalidate all accuracy until events themselves indicated which factor was effectual. Once that was ascertained, it was possible to work an astrological divination backwards in very evidential manner. This statement is not made in any spirit of irony, but in order to indicate that there is something in astrology if we only knew better how to extract it in a pure state.

It may be replied that the skill of the astrologer is the essential extractive, and that astrology is an art rather than a science. This proposition may in actual practice prove unanswerable, but it is not a very satisfactory position. If we are compelled to accept it, then astrology is in the same position as medicine in the days of Galen, of which Kipling aptly said: ‘Half of their remedies cured you dead; Most of their doctrines were quite untrue.’ Much of the early success of homeopathy was due to the fact that the smallness of the dose avoided drug-poisoning in an age accustomed to massive dosage, and the consequent drastic after effects. For the same reason the sceptics are justified in condemning the practice of astrology because of its disturbing and debilitating effect on great numbers of those who resort to it. Greater knowledge, however, may reveal the real significance and proper limitations of astrology, together with factors not as yet taken into the reckoning when casting horoscopes and which may be accountable for the uncertainty of the results.

Astrology labours under the added misfortune of being based in the first place upon a geocentric concept of the cosmos wherein the heavenly bodies circle around a fixed and flat earth, and in the second place by the fact that the constellations composing the Zodiacal Belt have in the course of ages gradually shifted their positions relative to the earth, so that they no longer occupy the positions assigned them in the astrological calculations. Nevertheless, the fact remains that accurate divinations can be made despite these seemingly insuperable obstacles. As Galileo said when forced to withdraw his statement concerning the movement of the earth around the sun, ‘Nevertheless, it moves.’ Our conclusion then must be there is something in astrology, but that the accepted theories of its basis are not wholly correct. Let us then see whether we can formulate a theory which will serve to explain the known facts and rule out the sources of error that render its operations so notoriously unreliable.

Not all astrologers are occultists, but it is in the occult doctrines that we find certain useful clues to the real nature of the celestial influences. Examining astrology in the light of these, we find that many discrepancies are explained and the missing factors indicated.

Esoteric tradition declares that different phases of evolution took place on the different planets, and we may not unreasonably conclude that the kind of development that took place on a planet determined its ‘temperament’. Into the question of ‘temperament’ or aura of planets and the phases of cosmic evolution I cannot enter in detail in these pages, but must presume a  knowledge of them on the part of my readers, or failing that, refer them to recognised authorities such as Mme. Blavatsky’s ‘Secret Doctrine’ or the many popular derivatives based thereon. Some information will also be found in my ‘Mystical Qabalah’. Students of the subject are agreed upon its broad principles, and I do not feel obliged to re-argue them before proceeding to the discussion of the matter in hand. Such re-argument could not be satisfactory unless conducted at considerable length, and would involve the introduction of too much matter irrelevant to our topic to make it a practical proposition. Unless, therefore, the reader is prepared to concede my esoteric propositions, the consideration cannot be pursued, so I shall only write for those who can. The rest must either seek the evidence where it is set out at length or abandon the quest for truth in my company.

Esoteric philosophy also declares that every organism has an aura or field of psycho-magnetic emanations surrounding it. It will be noted that I use the term organism, not living creature, for to the esotericist all existence is life in one form or another and there is no such thing as inanimate matter. On this basis, then, it may be concluded that the heavenly bodies have auras of varying characters, and that the study of their nature, changes and radius is not without either interest or practical value.

Let us consider first of all the solar system as a whole. It is believed to have condensed out of a solar nebula that occupied vastly more space than is contained within even the orbit of the outermost planet, but that the nearest fixed star is at so great a distance from our sun that even the vast extent of their mutual nebulae when they were at the nebulous stage of their evolution did not interfere with each other. Most probably matter in a nebulous condition was at one period of evolutionary time spread evenly through space, and the nebulae, and the stars and constellations into which they subsequently condensed, arose through the condensation of this tenuous, amorphous pre-matter around different centres of attraction. The why and how of this process concerns astronomy rather than astrology, so we will not pursue its investigation, as it cannot aid our understanding save as a background lending perspective. Nevertheless it is useful to assume that the line of demarcation between our solar system and its next door neighbour in the vast fields of space is the cosmic watershed, as it were, along which the airy particles of pre-matter divided, some going one way and some another as the process of attraction and condensation began to make itself felt among them.

We have no data as to whether magnetic or psychic influences from one stellar system cross the gulf to another, but as their light comes to us, it is not unreasonable to conclude that other influences may do so, even though unobserved and unrecorded by us. Such influences, in order to pass unobserved by modern science must either be so subtle as to be negligible for all practical purposes, or so closely correlated with other phenomena as to have been confused with them. The distinction is an academic one, therefore, so far as the bearing of astrology on human life is concerned, and we may safely leave the matter unargued in our present investigation, it is one of the background factors which we may from time to time need to refer to in order to gain perspective or use as markers in the cosmic scheme.

For practical purposes, then, let us take the solar system as an interacting unit consisting of the Sun and its planets, and so far as earth life is concerned, with special reference to our satellite the Moon. Astrology, as an empirical science of practical experience, declares that the  planets influence each other by virtue of their temperaments and according to their positions relative to each other in their circuits, and that their influence, thus modified and permuted, affects our earth. We shall probably express the position with greater accuracy and relevancy if we take this influence to be psychic rather than physical and regard it as exerted by the aura of the planets rather than by their light-rays, for the cloudy sky is not taken into account in casting a horoscope, though it has to be taken into account in reckoning the ultra violet rays that reach us from the sun. Let us assume, then, that the Earth has an aura, and the planets have auras, and that these interpenetrate each other, and the sum total of the auric influences at a given spot in the solar system determine the psychic atmosphere of that spot. Some emanations would reinforce each other, some would modify each other, and some would neutralise each other. Consequently for beings living on the surface of the earth the calculations of such influences would naturally be geocentric, and the heliocentric nature of the solar system would not need to be taken into account, thus disposing of one great objection to the unscientific nature of astrology.

In addition to the planets, however, the influence of the Zodiac is taken into account by astrology. The Zodiac consists of the circle of constellations surrounding the solar system, and in considering the influences attributed to the twelve segments into which it is divided, we should ask ourselves whether these influences are due to emanations proceeding from the constellations which give their names to the twelve segments, or whether the emanations really proceed from the Sun and create bands of psychic atmosphere in the earth’s orbit. In the days when the geocentric theory was held, it was taken for granted that the influences emanated from the constellations in question, but although I am not prepared to be dogmatic on this point, it appears to me that some of the difficulties presented by the translation of a geocentric philosophy of astrology into the heliocentric one demanded by modern astronomical knowledge are solved if we look upon the constellations of the Zodiac as markers in the heavens against whose background we see the sun as we circle round it, rather as sources of influence. Neither theory affects the practical work of judging horoscopes, but the theory of solar as opposed to stellar emanations enable us to construct a philosophy of astrology that does no violence to astronomy.

Finally there remains the factor of the houses of the heavens to be considered. Viewed from the heliocentric standpoint, these are not segments of the sky at all, but represent the angle of incidence of the various influences upon any given spot on the earth’s surface. This presents no difficulty if considered from the point of view of esoteric philosophy, for according to its doctrines, the Earth, like all other beings, possesses an aura which consists of several layers, it also has a magnetic core, and if the analogy of the auras of other beings is any guide to us, there will be centres of specialised activity in that core. Influences reaching a particular spot on the Earth’s surface will then have passed through a grater or less depth of aura according to the angle at which they enter it. If they come from low down on the horizon, they will pass through much more of the Earth’s aura, and enter each layer at a different angle from that which will prevail if they fall directly upon the earth’s surface from the mid-heaven. We well know the difference in appearance between the red sun of dawn or dusk and the golden sun of midday, the difference being solely due to the depth of atmosphere through which its rays travel. Moreover, the emanations of planets that are below the horizon will also have to pass through the dense body of the earth. There is no intrinsic difficulty in conceiving this, in view of what we know of X-rays and radium. We can quite conceive, however, that certain emanations would fail to penetrate, and that it is probable that it is only the more subtle that would get through. The view of some astrologers that planets below the horizon act on the subconscious levels of the mind would bear out this hypothesis.

To sum up, I suggest that we conclude from these considerations that a horoscope map should enable us to diagnose the conditions prevailing in the psychic atmosphere of the earth at any given moment. The factors to be taken into consideration are:

1. The natures of the various planets, which they developed during the phase of evolution which took place in their respective spheres, and which extends throughout their auras, creating a psychic atmosphere therein.

2. The effect of the interpenetrating auras of the different planets at different aspects, each modifying the influence exerted by the others, so that the psychic condition of the spot consists of a blend of planetary influences, modifying each other.

3. The effect upon each planet of its position in its orbit, due to the psychic atmosphere of that section of the cosmos, whether that atmosphere be derived from the influences of zodiacal constellations or of emanations from the Sun.

4. The effect of the Earth’s mass and aura on the emanations reaching any given point on its surface.

If these four sets of factors are calculated mathematically, and weighed up in the light of observed experience, which is what astrological tradition really is – for it is an empirical science like medicine, consisting of practical observations resting upon a very imperfectly ascertained basis of theory – it should be possible first to analyse the psychic atmosphere into its component parts, which is a purely mathematical operation, and then to synthesise the resulting deductions into a diagnosis or judgement. The latter operation is the real difficulty, for the factors are so numerous and so subtle that it might well be held beyond the power of the human mind to assess them with comprehensiveness and accuracy. In this matter, however, the subconscious mind comes to our aid, just as it does in learning to read, and there comes a point when we cease to spell out letter by letter, and recognise words as a whole. So it is with the experienced astrologer – he interprets the significance of aspects as a whole, and though no doubt he could analyse his deductions into their component parts and give reasons for them if required to do so, he does not interpret a horoscope in that laborious manner, any more than he spells out the columns of his morning paper letter by letter.

Another factor also comes into the reading of horoscopes, a factor beyond the rational and empirical. Each chart forms a glyph or composite symbol; symbols speak to the ultra-conscious levels of our minds as well as to the intellectual level. By means of subconscious and super-conscious mentation, the significance of the chart can be interpreted and findings beyond the range of consciousness used to supplement the work of the rational mind. It is probable that the best astrologers work in this way. Needless to say, intuitive readings are no substitute for exact knowledge, but without such extended interpretations exact knowledge is a barren affair. Who could appreciate poetry if he had to spell it out letter by letter?


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