PSYCHOLOGY & THE STARS
Issued as an antepenultimate 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).
We will take it, then, that in competent hands, astrology can diagnose the psychic atmosphere of any given spot on the earth’s surface at any given moment, past, present or future. Let us next enquire in what manner such conditions can affect mundane affairs, and human destiny in particular. Dane Rudhyar, the well-known American writer on astrology, whose work I esteem very highly, explains the interaction of macrocosm and microcosm on the same lines as the early psychologists tried to explain the inter-relations of mind and body by the hypothesis of psychological parallelism, an explanation which speedily gave way in the face of greater knowledge of physiology.
Parallelism has been compared to two clocks which strike the hours at the same time because the hands are moving at the same pace, but they are only moving at the same pace because they are set to keep time with a third factor – the chronometer at Greenwich. To apply this hypothesis to astrology we must postulate a third and absolute system to which both man and the cosmos are attuned. But if we do this, the law of logic known as Occham’s Razor descends on us and cuts short our argument – we are not justified in postulating something to exist in order to explain something else unless its existence is absolutely necessary, such as is the case concerning the ether of physics.
We might possibly say that man and the solar system keep time with God, and we are probably right in so doing, but we must then define and explain God, and in the absence of any such definition and explanation we are no further forward. Moreover we are rash in deciding that any two things so intimately related as man and the solar system are without influence upon each other, and the scientific maxim that hypotheses should not be needlessly multiplied further gives us pause in this direction. So altogether we are on sounder ground, and faced with a simpler problem, if we decide that the universe in which he lives has an effect upon man than if we decide that the relationship is simply that of two sets of symbols saying the same thing in different languages. To change the geocentric into the heliocentric theory of astrology may be impossible if we consider the matter from the exoteric point of view.
According to esoteric philosophy, there are several planes of existence, each of which developed during a phase of evolution which might be likened to a wave rushing up the beach at the head of the rising tide. Each such phase of evolution, it is held, took place on a different planet of the solar system, and in consequence each planet has a psychic atmosphere which is characterised by the type of evolution which developed there. Each such phase of evolution gave rise to substance of a particular type – spirit-substance, thought-stuff, the astral light – according to the terminology used. The substance of each planetary phase of evolution spreads through the solar system, interpenetrating the substance of every other planetary evolution in the same way as the water particles and soot particles float in the air in a London fog, their particular concentration at a particular spot determining whether we have a white fog or one of the old-fashioned ‘pea-soup’ variety.
Out of the subtle substances thus spread through space every living entity builds up the subtler aspects of its organisation in the same way that the physical body is built up out of the mineral substances of the Earth. Each such type of substance has emanated from a particular planet, and continues to centre about that planet, partaking of its nature and responding to its conditions. Such modicum of the general substance as is organised into the organism of any entity likewise responds to the influence of the planet that emanated it. Consequently if Mars enters an active phase, the Martian element in those exposed to its influence is energised unless there are other factors present which inhibit it; and in proportion to the amount of the Martian factor in our makeup will be the amount of influence it exerts on our state as a whole. We can therefore conceive the planetary influences working along the lines of the sympathetic induction of vibration, even as a note struck on a piano will set the corresponding string on any other stringed instrument vibrating, but will not activate any other string, nor will it activate a string against which the damper is pressing at the moment.
The complex psychic atmosphere of a given place at a given moment will call out sympathetic vibrations in the complex human soul, or in any organism or unit that has a psychic side to it, using that term in its broadest aspect. According to esoteric philosophy, there is nothing in existence that has not got a psychic side to it, though there are many things that have not got a physical form, for all existence begins on the subtle planes and therefore has a psychic or soul side, but not all existence progresses as far as the physical plane, and therefore may not have a physical side – or, equally, having progressed so far, has begun to return on the evolutionary arc that leads it back to spirit again, and has sloughed off its material sheath. We may take it, however, that every human being has all the aspects of manifestation represented in him, and that many things not suspected of having souls, such as the earth itself, or a nation, may not be so ill equipped in that aspect as the orthodoxly materialistic believe.
If we agree this, and of course we cannot continue the argument if we do not, we must then ask ourselves how different men come by such widely varying proportions of the different elements in their composition, and why we are not all made from the same mixture.
This can only be explained logically if the doctrine of reincarnation be accepted, failing which we have to fall back on the doctrine of special creation in the psychological sphere, a doctrine which in the biological one died with Darwin. We might therefore do well to relegate the doctrine of special creation to the same limbo of historical curiosities as the doctrine of psycho-physical parallelism, both having been revealed as groundless in the light of greater knowledge.
According to the doctrine of reincarnation, the immortal spirit of man progresses throughout an evolution by means of alternating periods of objective life on the physical plane and subjective life on the inner planes. In the course of such age-long evolution, different experiences cause greater and greater cumulative divergence of individuals from each other though they remain basically true to the original type; the longer they have been evolving, and the richer the experience of which they have partaken, the greater the divergation, till at last we get beings that are so far removed from the simple uniformity of the primal type that they are said to be individualised. This implies that instead of reacting in the manner common to the basic stock from which they derived, they will deal with circumstances in a way peculiar to themselves, being conditioned by past experience not shared by others. Their reactions are thus original and singular, and though if we know a person’s nature we shall be able to predict accurately what he will do in a given set of circumstances, what he will do throws no light on what another individualised person will do in similar circumstances. The way William Penn dealt with the Indians in founding Pennsylvania gives us no guide to what Himmler will do in pacifying the Poles.
If we know the record of a person from his youth upwards, we can generally make a pretty good guess at his behaviour in all ordinary circumstances, or so we think when we ask for ‘references’. These ‘references’ are based on experience of what he is, but they do not tell us how he came to be what he is. That is a question to which no one save the esotericists have hitherto given any kind of an answer, biologists and genealogists having failed lamentably. Mendel has told us something of the simply biological factors in the simple organisms, but nothing at all of the infinite variety which marks the more highly evolved specimens of humankind.
It is a man’s experiences and reactions to experiences in past incarnations that make him what he is in his present incarnation, each life adding its quota of differentiation and acquired faculty. Man is what he is by virtue of having been what he was. He learns by experience in the course of the evolution of the soul, just as in a single life he can hardly fail to profit to some extent at least by the vicissitudes that life brings to him. ‘A burnt child dreads fire,’ and ‘Once bit, twice shy,’ are folk wisdom enshrining this truth, and though most proverbs have their opposites, and ‘All is not gold that glitters,’ is balanced by ‘Fine feathers make fine bird,’ I know of no proverb that denies the educational value of experience, and it is universally held that only a fool fails to profit by it and that the man who cannot so profit is sub-standard. It was said in derogation of the Bourbons that they learnt nothing and forgot nothing.
The essence of life experience is absorbed by the immortal spirit from each incarnation just as essential nutriment is absorbed by the body from food; thus is the immortal spirit built up from formless unity into organised consciousness. This organised and differentiated immortal self forms the basis on which the personality of each incarnation is built up, and accounts for all innate or congenital traits. The experiences undergone in a given incarnation develop, repress or modify these innate characteristics, and the innate characteristics with which our past evolution has furnished us determine the manner of our reaction to the experiences that come our way. In view of the predetermining basic temperament and the apparently random nature of earthly affairs, we may well ask what scope there is for free will and whether by any planning, however wise, man can alter his fate? We may even ask whether he has any fate to alter, or is but the football of circumstances?
There are but two sciences which offer an answer to these questions, psychology and astrology, but each gives only half an answer. Psychology deals with the personality’s reactions to experience; astrology deals with the nature of experience to which is will be required to react. Despite the desire of their more fanatical exponents to prove them to be self-contained systems giving a complete answer to all the problems of life, the disinterested unlooker, while obliged in honesty to concede certain of their claims, cannot be unaware of their respective limits. Any unprejudiced person can see, however, that the two systems actually complement and complete each other, and it is only ignorance and fanaticism that keep them apart. If it were possible to bring them together and make them complementary to each other, a big step forward in human knowledge would be taken.