INITIATION & THE STARS
Issued as a FINAL 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).
Astrology was originally an occult or secret science, and so it will always remain in its profounder aspects until the dawning light of human progress reveals to all men what in the past was only understood by initiates; such understanding depending not only upon the communication of secrets but upon the power to see their significance when communicated. I have long stood out against secrecy concerning the data and philosophy of occultism, but have never advocated the broadcasting of the methods of its practical application of hygiene for a working knowledge of first aid and homely remedies are one thing, but operative surgery is another. The same analogy applies to occult science in its theory and practice.
It is exceedingly difficult in these days, when so much has been revealed, to know where to draw the line between what is advisable and what is not in indicating the practical application of the esoteric teaching. I have been very frank in the past, especially in my Mystical Qabalah, wherein I gave the real esoteric teaching in its fullness, believing that only those who were fit to do so would be able to avail themselves of it. This is perfectly true so far as unaided students are concerned; but this book has been made extensive use of in other schools, both in England and in America, not only without acknowledgement, but with the students sworn to secrecy. It has been reproduced verbatim on a duplicator and issued as a secret correspondence course in America at a hundred dollars, and in this country it has been used as the basis for an esoteric school with which I should not care to have my name associated. In consequence of these experiences I do not feel able to do more than indicate the practical possibilities of esoteric astrology, reserving the actual methods for more guarded communication to suitable persons who can be relied upon not to abuse them. Those who have occult knowledge or spiritual intuition will no doubt be able to glean much from these pages, and to their gleanings that are more than welcome; but I would point out that psychic work requires a trained mind and ritual work requires as trained team.
The natural, or uninitiated man is represented by the symbol of the five-pointed star, point upwards, upon which he is conceived as extended. The five-pointed star is also the symbol of the elements. This indicates that the natural man is a creature of the elements. As the planets and the zodiacal signs are classified under the elements, we have in this glyph a complete symbol of esoteric astrology provided the student knows the attribution of the rays, which he will do if he is an initiate, and which it is improbable he will do if he is not an initiate.
The symbol of the adept is the six-pointed star on which he is crucified, not extended. This is an important practical point in the handling of magnetic force. The six-pointed star is composed of two interlaced triangles, and the grade of the initiate is symbolised by the degree to which these triangles are superimposed, the upper triangle representing the individuality, and the lower one the personality. In the unillumined man, the triangles are represented as point to point, and the process of initiation in the Mysteries consists in preparing the personality to be a vehicle for the manifestation of the individuality. This is done by bringing the aim of the personal life into alignment with the aim of the higher self, and making the personality a miniature replica of the higher self. The personality is a projection into the planes of form of a small portion of the higher self for the purpose of evolutionary development through experience. The Divine Sparks, which are the nuclei of the spirits of men, do not issue simultaneously into manifestation from the Great Unmanifest, but are breathed forth in successive impulses of manifestation, so that some are older and some are younger; the elder, other things being equal, are the more evolved.
But things are not always equal, and during the long aeons of evolution some souls press ahead and some fall to the rear in the evolutionary process, and by the time the marching column of evolution has rounded the nadir, what might be termed the geological age of a soul does not always afford us much guidance as to its stage of development. The fact remains, however, that the Divine Sparks come into manifestation during different Ray Phases (see The Cosmic Doctrine) and are indelibly stamped with the type of that Ray, which will always remain the basic type of the individuality, though in the course of evolution they must learn the lessons and acquire the experience of all the Rays in turn in order to become fully evolved in their many-sided development. The fact that there are twelve Rays indicates that they will correlate with the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, but it is not possible to discern the fundamental Ray type of the higher self until a high grade of initiation is reached, and the revelation is not made in any temple built with hands. It is possible, however, to discern the Ray type of the personality in a given incarnation, and this is indicated by the Sign through which the Sun is passing at his birth.
Initiation into the Lesser Mysteries is of the nature of mass production, in which souls go through the curriculum in the same way that a car goes through the works on the assembly belt. Personal attention is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage because Temple working is team working and initiates at this stage of their training have to master a system and acquire the habit of team-working, get their spiritual and psychological corners rubbed off, and acquire an all round development; with this end in view, the square pegs have to take their turn in the round holes for a season. A specialised development is not to be undertaken too early because it will inevitably be a one-sided development. Consequently the mystic has to gain experience by working as an occultist, and the occultist, as a mystic; the pagan has to learn the significance of Esoteric Christianity, and the Christian gain experience of the Nature contacts.
When it comes to the Greater Mysteries, however, the position changes, and account has to be taken of the personal horoscope when initiating. The position of the Sun in the horoscope will indicate the line along which the spiritual development should take place, the natural line, and this must be taken in to account in planning the work of the Greater Mysteries. There is no such thing as mass production here; the Greater Mysteries are concerned with the cosmic forces, and every individual must approach them from his own standpoint. According to his astrological make-up, so will he react to the cosmic forces, and so will they react to him. It must not be thought by this that the workings of an adept are limited to his well-aspected factors; he must learn to work with all the cosmic factors in order to complete his training, but he will find it desirable to take into account the way in which the different factors are aspected in his horoscope if he is to work to the best advantage or avoid a rough passage through the badly aspected ones.
The Moon may be taken as representing the evolutionary past of the soul, and its relationship to one or another of the planets may give an indication of the nature of past initiations if the person concerned has been upon the Path in past lives. Each planet represents a psychological factor in the soul of man, and each factor was personalised by the ancients as a deity. “Once an initiate, always an initiate” – if a soul has once entered the Mysteries, it will come back to its Tradition in each successive life. The different Mystery Traditions represent different cults, and the cults represent different avatars of the same factor at different epochs. If the Moon in a horoscope is particularly well aspected to one of the planets, it may be assumed that the subject was an initiate of the particular cult personalised by the deity associated with that planet; we have thus a good starting-off place for the recovery of the memories of past incarnations, and the recovery of these memories is an important part of the work of the Greater Mysteries.
The Rising Sign indicates the destiny of the subject in a particular incarnation, but destiny should be given the Eastern significance of Dharma and not the Western significance of Fate. That is to say, it represents the lessons to be learnt in that incarnation. They can be learnt quickly and well by the application of intelligence, or they can be learnt slowly and with many mistakes, even as can arithmetic. In any case, they have to be finished before adepthood can be attained. It is for this reason that initiation nearly always precipitates all outstanding karma and is followed by a series of crises in the life of the neophyte.
The whole superficial reading of a horoscope, the reading that is commonly given by the uninitiated astrologer, concerns the karma that has to be worked off, and the dharma, or experience that has been gained, before the subject is ready for adepthood. Consequently, such a reading only applies to the once-born, the passive objects of evolutionary processes; as soon as a soul comes on to the Path it is no longer so much driftwood in the stream of life, but is developing powers of self-propulsion and self-direction, and the interpretation of the horoscope, therefore, must undergo profound modification. The influences therein indicated are no longer determining factors but the instruments of the operation. It is well known that there is no braver or more dangerous adversary than the timid person who for once has brought his courage to the sticking-point; so the ill-aspected factor in the map of the once born may be the point of energy in the horoscope of the twice born. But as the process of initiation is one that goes on through a series of grades, it is not possible to lay down any definite rule for adjusting our calculations, and experience is the only indicator. Cumulative experience, however, can be a pretty accurate indicator.
It is the common practice of those who seek guidance from the stars to tell the astrologer nothing save their birth date and sex, and to be greatly impressed when they are told correctly things they already knew only too well. The quarrelsome person, who learns that his Mars is aspected in such a manner as to account for his quarrelsomeness is greatly gratified and goes on his contentious way rejoicing. His quarrelsomeness is adequately accounted for, there is nothing to be done about it, and he is comforted in the endurance of the painful consequences by the knowledge that the stars are responsible. “The woman tempted me, and I did eat,” said Adam, as if the Temptation and the Fall were synonymous terms.
This fatalistic attitude towards astrology should be discouraged by every device of publicity and admonition. We are not drifting logs on the sea of life, at the mercy of wind and tide, but ships with rudder and sails, and the only condition that could preclude all progress on our part is a dead calm; an adverse wind serves a well-designed ship almost as well as a favourable one, for by the skilful interaction of rudder and sails, use can be made of it in a series of tacks. The power to make use of an unfavourable wind is the criterion of design in boat-building; the better the lines of a boat, the closer she can lie to the wind.
So it is with the souls of men. Anyone above the status of the village idiot has some power of spiritual locomotion even under the most adverse aspects. If astrology is used as anything save an instrument of diagnosis, it is the most pernicious of human inventions. Having learned the conditions under which we must needs operate, our immediate task is to deal with them, not to lie down under them.
An initiated astrologer works on a map in the same manner as a psychoanalyst works on a dream – he uses it as an indicator of conditions beyond the immediate range of consciousness. For the full value to be obtained from a delineation, astrologer and subject should study it together, and the astrologer, if he is also something of a psychologist, as he has need to be if he is to fulfil the function he both could and should fulfil, will show the querist how his life history illustrates his reactions to his natal horoscope and the passing configurations of the heavens. The querist brings to the study his knowledge of his own history, the astrologer casts maps for the outstanding dates, and together they study the reactions of the soul to the influences of the stars until the pattern of the life begins to appear.
A diagnosis can then be made in psychological terms, the apparently random effects of chance and change being correlated with the underlying causes of subconscious motives and those in their turn explained in terms of astrological influences. Such an analysis, and subsequent correlation in terms of another science, are not a mere tying on of labels, but serve the same purpose as the Rosetta Stone on which the same record was engraved in Egyptian hieroglyphs, the hieratic writing, and Greek, thus enabling the riddle of Egyptian civilisation to be read; for Greek was a known language, and from the clues it supplied the hieroglyphs could be deciphered. Astrology and the psychology of the unconscious mind are equally interpretive if the same problem is stated in terms of each and then compared. Psychology shows what its significance may be in terms of the individual’s aims and tendencies, and astrology shows its significance in relation to the cosmic background of evolving life and God’s purpose for man. It is notorious that the power to heal, in fact, depending more than anything else on the personality of the psychotherapist and comparatively little on his system, save in so far as he is a thorough-going Freudian, in which case his power to minister to a mind diseased is small and his power to damage it still further considerable. So also is his power to earn money. A thorough-going Freudian is, fortunately, rare in this country.
It is not often that a sick soul possesses within itself the necessary energy for its own healing. In the days when I worked at a clinic for nervous disorders, it was very noticeable that the students benefitted enormously from a knowledge of psychology applied to their own problems, but the patients benefitted little. The students, being more or less normal and in good psychological health, were able to help themselves by making practical application of their knowledge; but the patients, being abnormal and sick souls, were at the mercy of the conditions that had wrecked them.
We need a technique which shall enable us to apply a counterbalance to the unbalanced elements in a horoscope and so bring them into equilibrium. To Saturn as gaoler must be opposed the energy of Mars as breaker of bonds or Jupiter as giver of good gifts. Having determined the nature of the problem wherein adjustments need to be made, the initiated astrologer “places it on the Tree”; observes to which Sephirah or Path it refers, and then determines what influences should be invoked in order to supply what is lacking or check what is over-active. This being correctly discerned, his knowledge as an initiate should then enable him to prescribe the appropriate rite, talisman and meditation to bring through the compensating force and redress the balance.