A KEY TO ASTROLOGICAL SYMBOLISM
As we come to consider more specifically and practically the field of astrological symbolism, as we study the significance of its many elements, we shall find that the concepts presented in the preceding chapters will enable us to interpret in a consistent, logical and natural manner the sequence of astrological factors. Especially shall we find that the opposition between individual and collective is the most wonderful key to the vital and practical understanding of astrological elements, which are usually produced in pairs of opposite polarities. At first, astrology may appear as a thoroughly dualistic system, very much like the Chinese system of the Yi King. But it will be easy for us to point out that behind this obvious dualism there is always to be found a third term, integrating the opposites. And this is perhaps the most important point in this reformulation of astrology: That it consistently reveals a way to integration, a factor of individual significance which, if creatively used, can lead us to see the wholeness of any whole, the flash of creative light which alone can integrate the opposites, and thus make them significant.
Signatures and Significant Facts
"To make significant" is to visualize each and all situations or entities which one meets as signs of the workings of Spirit. In each of the smallest details of the world-pattern one may see at work the Wholeness of the whole; one may sense all the basic forces which are the warp and woof of the life-cycle, of any life-cycle. In any situation, in any organic entity, all these forces operate; just as every moment is the synthesis of all past moments and the source of all future moments. The whole is active everywhere.
But how to see this action? How to penetrate the "veil of illusion" which covers every separate entity and seems to make of it something unrelated to all the rest? How to get at the interior pattern, the particular arrangement of universal elements which is the "real" being? What is implied in this is the power to deal with situations or living entities as wholes; a power to which we have already referred. It is instinct at the unconscious level. It is intuition, or holistic perception, or "clair-seeing" (not ordinary clairvoyance!) at the conscious level. It is the power to see universal life-patterns at work in the functioning of particular organisms or processes.
In every man — for instance — individual, collective and creative operate, but of course in most varied proportions. An ordinary onlooker is attracted by the apparently unique outer result of the blend. He is unable to analyze the forces at work, to grasp the significance of their combination. The man is just Mr. So-and-So. The "seer" sees in this man a special focalization of a number of basic life-principles, and he is able to "place" every life-principle where it belongs, tracing back his ancestry by implications, grasping at once the sum total of the man's connections with the universal whole. He sees thus the significance of the man; and besides, he sees also the significance of the man's relation to him.
Instinct gives all this knowledge to the animal who acts accordingly — yet does not know why he acts. Everything for the animal carries a life-significance. It is the sign of some basic fact of life. These facts are few, yet where they are concerned the animal is "clair-seeing." Every feature of a situation or of a person is read as a "Signature" of the life which is focalized in and through it.
The medieval alchemists laid a great emphasis upon this theory of Signatures, following in that the old Chinese tradition — if not the universal tradition of archaic mankind. The form and features of plant, rock, tree, animal, face, etc., were considered as a Signature of the indwelling spirit. The alchemist was supposed to be an expert graphologist deciphering at once the Signature; from the Sign going straight to the life; from symbol, to reality.
The signature of a man is usually not legal unless it contains the individual first name, and the family (collective) name. It also contains usually some other characteristic or line which refers to the rhythm of the individual — that is, to the creative factor in him.
This, of course, is only an amusing symbol — many will say. Truly, but why "only" a symbol? It is by perceiving the value of such symbols that life is made significant. Every object and every situation becomes signs of the sum total of connections relating object and situation to the universal whole. The attention given by man to such an object at once focalizes in it the whole life-process. The drama of universal life is seen performed on that tiny stage, which thus becomes a microcosm — an image of the whole.
Again, it is the same thing that occurs in a truly instinctual action. The actor is not merely one puny little animal. It is the whole animal species, and behind it the whole planetary being, that acts. The whole of life is focalized in an instinctual performance: depth and depth of significance — but no consciousness to see it as significant. It is natural — but not significant, until man arrives on the stage and "sees" in it the Signature of eternal and universal principles.
As we shall see, time after time, an astrological birth-chart is a true Signature — and must be read as such. One must find in it the individual and the collective names — plus the sign of the creative. But now we have not yet come to the point of discussing chart-interpretation. There is, before we reach this point, another Signature to decipher: the Signature of the Earth-being.
The Earth is the Signature of that planetary Whole in which men "live and have their being" as mere cells of a vast body. All collective — or rather generic — values in man come from the Earth. It may be that the Earth is the body of a cosmic Spiritual entity, the Planetary Logos (as occultists call Him). But for all that we know and as far as we can ascertain facts, the Earth is to be considered as the vast matrix of Man-the-whole. Mankind spreads all over the globe. To understand the Earth is to understand mankind. As every single human being is a representative of mankind, then the first thing to do, before we can hope to understand a particular man in terms of universal connections and principles, is to understand the Earth. The Earth as a Signature. We must read every letter of the names and understand all the facts of the Earth. They must become significant to us. How the Earth moves, its positions, its speed, its connections with all that moves around it, its relation to the Sun whence it apparently came: All these things must become Signatures. Astrology is to be made of all these significant facts of the Earth. It cannot leave the Earth, for that would be leaving the realm of facts. And astrology deals only with facts — but facts that are seen as Signatures of the life of the Earth.
There are evidently many kinds of facts. The astrologer, being originally a "seer," will be able to see clearly what facts have life significance, what facts are purely superficial. Moreover, astrology being only one of many possible systems of life-symbolism can operate only through a certain category of facts. These facts are first of all those which affect or are experienceable by human beings living on the surface of the globe. No fact is susceptible of being a Signature for man unless man can experience it and actually see it, directly or indirectly. For instance, Uranus and Neptune had no value as Signatures until men saw them. If there are planets besides those we know now, they have no meaning for us, as long as they are not facts to be experienced, whether with the naked eye or through a telescope. Nothing can be a symbol unless it has become the object of a significant experience.
This being understood, we shall begin to study the category of facts of the Earth-life which are the most significant to mankind. These facts — such as seasons, climates, etc. — are all the results of the various motions of the Earth. These motions will prove to be the material on which astrology draws for its symbolism. Each motion will be seen as the Signature of one of the most fundamental principles of life and being.
Motion: Subjective and Objective
We have repeatedly established the proposition that astrology is the algebra of life. What may as yet not have received enough attention is the fact that essentially life is cyclic motion. In preceding chapters we spoke of the trinity of time, space and light; and under the term "light" we included all energies which essentially constitute "life." Light and life are, philosophically as well as practically, synonymous. Underneath both we can perceive, by a further process of abstraction, the element of motion. Motion, space and time constitute an old metaphysical trinity, which is as fundamental as can ever be conceived. "Being" is the synthesis of all three. But what we call more particularly "life" is symbolized by the element of motion. In ancient symbolism, this motion that is Life was referred to as the "Great Breath," the in- and out-breathing of Brahma, the Creator. But in our present astrological symbolism we are dealing with another kind of dualism of motion.
All motions necessitate actually space and time. Yet, philosophically speaking, it is necessary to distinguish between two types of motion: Motion which does not involve displacement of the center of the being, and motion which does involve such a displacement. These two types are simple to recognize, when thus described, as we find them exemplified most obviously in the behavior of celestial bodies. Every planet rotates around its axis (first type) and circles around the sun (second type). These two types give us a new dualism of life-direction, and it fits in most logically with our dualism of individual and collective.
The first type of motion can be called "motion in time," or "subjective motion," as it does not create any change of location of the body as a whole. It is motion within the confines of the self; thus, by extension, interior or subjective motion. It symbolizes inner changes, and what Bergson calls real time or duration — the series of modifications of interior states of consciousness. It refers to subjective being, to the individual.
The second type of motion, on the other hand, is definitely "motion in space," or "objective motion," as it brings about change in location and displacement of the center of the being. It is visible, tangible motion through space. Space, as we saw in a previous chapter, is a framework for the interplay of relationships of parts within a whole. It is the substratum for all relationships, for all interchanges. Through motion in space, through actual displacement of one's own center, one relates oneself to others, one gains concrete, objective experiences of others, one also becomes aware of the reality of the larger collective whole of which one is but a part.
Thus we have exemplified in the main motions of celestial bodies our dualism of individual and collective. Our "algebra of life" will use these two types of motion as the very foundation for its symbolism. Axial rotation and orbital revolution will be the two pillars upon which the temple of astrological symbolism will rest — a temple of Doric simplicity, once it is understood in its balanced wholeness and in the logic of its construction. Astrology is a study in significant motion. It symbolically interprets the motions of celestial bodies and relates them to the movements of the life-force within all organisms and all cycles. These movements of the life-force are represented both by a series of states of consciousness and by a series of organic events; by what happens within the individual, and by occurrences having significance in terms of the collective.
The basis of this study in significant motion is of course the Earth; the Earth not so much as a material object, but rather as the symbol of Man, the interpreter and symbolizer. Astrology, as we present it, is necessarily "anthropocentric," that is, centered around Man. It is an effort made by Man to reduce the bewildering maze of life-appearances into complex series of ordered and cyclic motions. Astrology in its deeper aspect is that effort of Man to give to Nature, within as well as without, the meaning of order, of cosmos. All sciences, of course, work toward this goal. But astrology, which very likely antedates them all, pursues the goal in a broader and more structural way than any other method of thought, because it is not a mere science, tabulating facts; but is also a philosophy interpreting these facts in terms of ideas and an art applying the interpretations to individual cases.
Every type of creative interpretation must be centered around the interpreter. The individual is the foundation for all creative interpretation. In astrology everything consequently is referred to the point, in time and space, of the observer, or of the native. A birth-chart is the universe seen from the point, in time and space, of the birth-event. The native whose birth-chart is interpreted is seen at the center of his own universe. The fact of birth, its position in space and its moment in time, creates a universe around itself. Every factor of interpretation revolves around this birth-fact.
As men live on the whole surface of the Earth, and not merely at one spot on the globe, the Earth as a whole has to be considered the symbol of Man. The rhythms of the Earth motions will be used to symbolize the rhythms of the generic human being. On the other hand, an individual man is born at a particular point of the Earth surface; and therefore, while generic mankind is not affected by the axial rotation of the Earth, the individual selfhood of a particular man will be determined in function of this very axial rotation. In other words, there is no day or night (the results of axial rotation) for mankind as a whole, as it is always day for one half of mankind and night for the other half. But there is day and night for a particular man occupying a particular place on the surface of the globe. On the other hand, the relationship (aspects) of the Earth to the other planets of the system have exactly the same significance for collective Man and for any individual man, except that the position of the individual man on the globe's surface will focalize these aspects in a section of his own heavens either below or above the horizon, and more precisely in what astrology calls one of the "houses."
Thus all values which deal with the individual and his problems of consciousness as an individual will be referred symbolically to the axial rotation of the Earth and to the astrological factors created thereby, mainly the circle of houses and its two axes, vertical and horizontal. On the other hand, collective values which pertain to the behavior of man as a racial and generic being will be referred to the orbital yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun. It is this orbital revolution which constantly alters the relationship of the Earth to the Sun and to the planets. As the latter also revolve around the Sun, a complex pattern of planetary motions and of consequent relationships is produced. It is in order to be able to chart such a constantly changing pattern that the idea of the "zodiac" originated, or at least is to be used in an astrology reformulated at an abstract and symbolic level. The zodiac becomes thus a series of points of references which enables us to plot accurately the position of all planets and of the Sun in relation to the orbital motion of the Earth. It is this motion which creates the cycle of the year.
Day and Year — Individual and Collective
The collective meaning of the year-cycle will be more evident if we realize that because of the inclination of the Earth's axis (which is not perpendicular to the Earth's orbit) the angle of incidence of the Sunrays varies throughout the year, causing the change of seasons. Seasons and climates affect the collective being and consciousness of human races and groups. They affect the growth and development of bodies and of all physiological elements — which belong to the collective realm.
The year-cycle is truly of great importance in the development of the individual; but it is so mostly in terms of the physiological growth or decay of the earthly body, in terms of periodical modifications of the vital forces of the body. The vegetable and animal energies in man are subjected to it — especially the former, as the latter are even more strongly connected perhaps with the lunar tides. The Great Sympathetic nervous system dominated by the solar plexus is strongly influenced by this yearly rhythm, which also affects the inflow of the energies of the "collective unconscious" into the conscious.
It could be added that, as the Bible says, a day of the Lord is like unto a human year. This means that the Lord (the collective Race-spirit: Jehovah) finds his unit-cycle of individual selfhood in the year. For the collective consciousness of Man-the-whole the orbital revolution of the Earth around the Sun means a "day." The "day" is always the unit of selfhood. The self of collective Man operates through a basic unit: the orbital cycle. The self of an individual man operates through a basic unit: the axial rotation cycle.
The Great Polar Cycle
Besides these, there is another basic cycle: the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes. It should rather be called the "Great Polar Cycle." It is created by a peculiar gyrating motion of the Earth's axis, which can be compared to the motion of a schoolboy's top. This gyrating motion changes very slowly the direction of the polar axis, and consequently the points where the Earth's equator cuts the plane of the ecliptic (the apparent yearly path of the Sun). Thus on one hand the North Pole points successively to a series of stars, describing a complete circle in about 25,868 years; on the other, the vernal point (Spring Equinox) shifts backwards among the constellations (thus the term "precession of the equinoxes") along the circle of the ecliptic.
The important fact, however, is that the polar axis of the Earth points to one star after another. The Pole Star changes: now it is Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, but in 5,000 years it will be Alpha Cephei. According to astronomical-telluric facts, the North and South poles of the earth represent respectively the ingress and egress of cosmic magnetic energies. Interpreting this, esoteric tradition has always referred to the North Pole as the gates through which cosmic Power flowed into the Earth, and as the symbol of divine Consciousness. In this, very likely, a simile was established between the polar axis of the Earth and man's spine, which is the "rod of power" through which the energy of spirit operates within man. The North Pole corresponds then to the top of the head, to the mysterious center which, when fully functioning in perfected men, is surrounded with a sort of halo — not unlike the Northern Lights at their best.
To say that this "rod of power" of the Earth alters its direction is to say that the quality of cosmic power received by the Earth changes cyclically, following the gyrating motion of the Earth's axis. Now, the interesting point is that this gyration does not mean a displacement of the center of the Earth. It belongs thus to our first category of "motion in time" or "subjective motion." But the "subject" here involved is the Individual whose physical center is one with the center of the Earth, that is to say, the great planetary Whole already spoken of. The polar axis, symbolically at least, is the "I AM" of this great planetary Whole. As it moves about, it changes its relation to stars with which it appears to be connected. In other words, the very selfhood of the planetary Whole modifies itself, attunes itself to different cosmic tones. These changes of planetary selfhood constitute the reality of what we call "Piscean Age," "Aquarian Age," etc., by reference to the precession of the equinoxes — a secondary effect, not a cause.
Thus the "day" is the unit-cycle of individual man, a denizen of the surface of this globe which must rotate to have all its points illumined daily by the noon-sun (save the polar regions). The "year" is the unit-cycle of collective Man, an aggregate of beings spread all around the surface of the globe. The "Great Polar Cycle" is the unit-cycle of the planetary Individual, whose center is one with the center of the Earth.(1)
With this last cycle we deal with what might be called the cosmically Creative. Every "Age," such as the Piscean Age, starts with a release of cosmic creative powers which become the collectivated materials which men will use for the building of civilizations. It is by considering this that we may better understand the two ways in which this gyration of the Earth's axis operates. Changing the Pole Star means changing the direction of the axis proper — which is one thing. Another thing is changing the zodiacal location of the equinoxes. The former refers to the polar axis — axis of spiritual integration; the latter refers to the equator — circle or belt of physiological vitalization. This dualism of polar axis and equator is a most important one, and will be studied presently.
These two factors are ordinarily not clearly separated, and this may account for much of the confusion concerning the beginning of the "Aquarian Age." It may be that the polar axis in its motion has already become connected with the "new star" (or whatever it may be!) which symbolizes the spiritual creative impulse of the new era. And yet the Sun may not have yet reached, by precessional movement of the Equinoxes, the constellation Aquarius which would refer to the physiological vitalization and manifestation of the creative impulse of the new era. In other words, while the spiritually creative impulse is already upon us, it may take a little more time before the vital forces building the outer structures of the new era operate fully.
For some peculiar reason (yet quite representative of the development of present-day mankind) we lay all the emphasis on the aspect of physiological manifestation — that which deals with the relation of the equator to the ecliptic — and we forget the spiritual creative aspect — that which deals with the motion of the polar axis. What we should study, and what the future occult astrology will study, is the circle described by the poles during the 25,868-year period — our "Great Polar Cycle."
Centers of Motion
In the foregoing we have dealt briefly with the three fundamental types of Earth-motion. One more important point must be made clear, which is that all cyclic motions (the only ones considered in life-symbolism) must gain their significance from the meaning attributed to the center of such motions. The daily rotation of the Earth has the polar axis of the Earth as its "center." The yearly revolution of the Earth is centered on the Sun.(2)
As for the gyrating motion of the Earth's axis, it is actually centered around the pole of the ecliptic; that is to say, the exact perpendicular to the plane of the earth's orbit — an abstraction, but a significant one.
The abstract line connecting the two poles of the Earth is the axis of rotation of our planet. This axis is thus to be considered as the "center" of the daily-rotation cycle. As already mentioned, this polar axis symbolizes the line of power of the planet, just as the human spine represents the line of power of the human being. This "power" is the power to be an individual self, an "I." The polar axis is the line of manifestation of the I AM of the planet considered as a cosmic being. Through this line flows the power to be an individual self. In a general sense, it refers to the cerebro-spinal nerve-system. Therefore the cyclic motion of the Earth's globe around this axis must refer to the cyclic development of the individual selfhood of all beings living on the Earth-surface, or within the Earth's globe, and susceptible of being "individuals."
This needs to be so because of the very principle of "holistic logic" — the logic of symbolism — which we discussed in our chapter "Astrology Faces Modern Thought."
In astrological symbolism this axial rotation of the Earth is charted by means of the circle or wheel of houses. The twelve houses are twelve phases of this daily motion of the Earth. As we said that such a motion should be considered as "subjective motion" or "motion in time," it follows that the circle of houses should be understood more specifically as the dial of a clock. This "dial of houses" refers thus more particularly to a sequential development — the development of man's individual selfhood throughout his life.
We must keep in mind that, philosophically speaking, what makes this daily rotation necessary is the fact of the Earth being a vast globe of solid and opaque substance. As men live on the surface of this globe, they find their awareness of the universe (and of life in general) restricted to a half of its wholeness. The solid Earth shuts from our eyes half of the world of being. This fact at once becomes interpreted symbolically as the need for normal physical man to experience alternately a period of manifestation and one of non- manifestation. In terms of daily living this means waking consciousness and sleep.
Because the Earth shuts out from man's self half of the universe, the Earth must rotate in order to bring to every creature living on its surface each day a whole vision of the world. Thus at the moment of birth the wheel of the horoscope will represent a projection of this basic fact of consciousness. The lower half of the wheel will refer to what is below the Earth surface, the upper half to what is above. The horizontal axis of the chart is then actually the horizon — dividing the world of the living into two realms — visible and invisible; and, by extension, objective and subjective, exterior and interior.
This horizontal line of the birth-chart represents thus the fact of a necessary division of consciousness into two realms, for any individual living on the Earth's surface. But there is something else to take in consideration. Individual selfhood and consciousness are dependent for their very existence upon life and light. It is true that the universe is filled with stars whose rays penetrate the Earth. But unless one of these stars had become a focalized center of life and light for the Earth — a Sun — there could be no individual selfhood or consciousness upon the Earth.
Thus it should be clear that while the horizon and the horizontal line in the chart are expressions of the dualism of consciousness, there must be a point which will refer to the fact of the focalization of life and light through the Sun; for life and light are the necessary sustainment of consciousness. This point is obviously the noon-point. If the Earth rotates around its axis it is not only (from the anthropocentric point of view) so that every day man can be aware of the whole of the universe; but also so that he may be energized, every noon, by the direct inflow of solar life and light. As the Earth rotates, noon comes to every point of the globe, which is thus vitalized and illumined.
From this point of view one might say that what is involved in the fact of axial rotation is the impossibility for any whole to have all its parts energized at once by the life-force. Therefore there is need for succession or time. An illustration might make this more concrete. It takes time for the blood to circulate throughout the body, vitalizing all physiological functions and their organs. Such an analogy between the cycle of blood-circulation and the axial rotation of the Earth is not to be taken too literally; yet it has great significance. For just as it is by means of the blood circulation that the life-force is distributed to all parts of the whole organism, so it is by means of the axial rotation that the life-force emanating from the Sun (symbol of the "heart") is distributed every day over the whole Earth.
We shall, later on, grasp the full significance of this word "distributed," but just now we wish merely to establish the basic meaning of the two axes of the circle of houses: the horizontal, representing the dualism of consciousness (subjective and objective, self and the others) — and the vertical, whose apex stands for the noon-point, the point of solar sustainment; also the point where the particular individual finds himself in the fullest possible connection with the vitalizing forces of universal being symbolized by the Sun.
At the horizon man sees himself as a purely particular being; but as he relates himself to the Sun, he absorbs life and becomes a partaker in universal being. The horizon (and especially the Eastern horizon: the Ascendant of the birth-chart) defines, limits, particularizes. The meridian or zenith (the Mid-Heaven of the birth-chart) vitalizes, collectivizes, universalizes.
This leads us to the study of the second motion of the Earth, its yearly revolution around the Sun. This motion is what gives birth to what is called the zodiac. As every cyclic motion takes on the significance of the center around which it occurs, it will be seen that the zodiac has the same fundamental meaning as the Sun — just as the circle of houses has the same fundamental meaning as the polar axis of the Earth. The significance of the Sun can be formulated in different ways, according to the level of interpretation. It is to be based, however, on these essential facts: It is the source of life and light for man; it is the father-mother of the solar system as a whole, the center of which it occupies.
On the first ground, the Sun represents the life-force. It is the vitalizing, integrating power which makes man whole, on every plane of being; which fructifies everything and brings every living organism to a point of creative fulfillment. On the second ground, the Sun represents the force that holds the entire solar system together. All interplanetary relationships are thus made organic and significant in terms of the Sun; just as, in another way, the mutual relations between brothers and sisters are essentially significant in terms of their common origin — the mother and father. We might say also that as the complex pattern of inter-relationship linking all the glands and organs of the body is made significant in terms of the bloodstream — so the complex pattern of planetary relationships is made significant in terms of the circulation of the solar force, or by reference to the Sun, center of the system and lord of gravitation.
The zodiac gives us therefore first of all a picture of the cyclic unfoldment of the life-force, both in nature and in man; then it also provides us with a background for the development of the complex pattern of interplanetary or intra-systemic relationships. In the first instance it represents the ebb and flow of the universal life-force throughout the year cycle. In the second instance it constitutes a system of co-ordinates which enables us to formulate at every moment the configuration of all the elements of the solar system . . . but always, of course, from the point of view of the interpreter, of man on this Earth — a point the capital importance of which will be revealed in the next chapter.
In early times, as we saw in our first chapter, the zodiac was simply a kind of agricultural calendar solemnly drawn by Initiate-Priests by order of the King or Emperor, charting the changes in the season. The apparent movement of the Sun was tabulated by checking it up on the permanent pattern of reference provided by the constellations. As the quality and intensity of the solar rays changed throughout the year, and it seemed that these changes corresponded with the successive conjunctions of the Sun with stars and groups of stars, the imaginative astrologers probably came to believe that the stars did something to the Sun which made it alter the quality and intensity of its rays. Thus when the Sun "entered" a constellation of the zodiac, its energies took on something of the nature of the constellation. The Sun came to be seen as a lens through which the mysterious power of constellations became focalized. Twelve great types of cosmic energies were thus described, and the solar life-force partook of the characteristics of each of these successively, month after month.
To the modern mind, however, it is clear that the solar force itself does not change because of the "influence" of constellations which in themselves are mere visual configurations linking stars whose distances and characteristics are often so varied as to preclude any possibility of there being a group-significance to the constellation as such. The zodiac is merely a symbolic device to define and measure the cyclic unfoldment of the life-force as it streams from Sun to Earth throughout the cycle of orbital revolution. What it helps to chart is the cyclic modifications of the relation Sun-to-Earth (that is, particular-to-universal; individual-to-collective). The significance of the zodiac is the significance of orbital motion. As already said, orbital motion in the solar system represents that type of motion which requires displacement of center; objective motion, motion which involves change of relationship in space. It is the motion of parts within an organic whole. Every whole is composed of parts which move in relation to each other and, in the most perfect systems (such as solar systems and atoms), in orbits around a common center.
Orbital motion is thus the rhythmical motion of relationship; whereas axial rotation represents the cycle of self-unfolding. The development of relationship requires displacement of center. But the unfolding of individual selfhood per se requires a process of, let us say, meditation or introspection. We compared, a while ago, the axial rotation of the earth to the cycle of blood-circulation. The circulation of blood does not involve displacement in space of the human organism as a whole. But all the activities of a man as he goes through his life in his hometown involve displacement in space, because they refer to the working out of his relations to his fellowmen. These relationships cause him to move about, to go to his office, his club, his parents' home, etc.; and all these displacements could be plotted out on the more or less permanent background of the city's streets and buildings.
Likewise, the Earth's revolution around the Sun can be said to be motivated by the need to work out varying relationships between Earth and Sun, and Earth and other planets. Such a revolution can be plotted out on the more or less permanent background of the fixed stars, mapped out as constellations (city-blocks and streets of the universe!). When an astrologer says that the Sun is in Aries, he means that the relationship Sun-Earth can be located in reference to certain points of the skies. This location gives the relationship more or less accurately known characteristics; as, for instance, the fact that two business men meet in their office defines their contact in terms of business transactions, whereas if the contact occurred in a ballroom it would have another significance.
Stars are thus points of reference enabling the astrologer to plot out the curve of the changing Sun-Earth relationship, and of all planetary relationships. In the case of the Sun-Earth relationship the seasons might serve to define the phases of the relationship; but the position of the Sun with regard to the stars is a much more accurate way of determination — provided the phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes is taken into account. This phenomenon shows that not only do men move about within the city, but the city itself alters its topography — for instance, a residential district becomes a business center, slums give way to mansions, or vice versa.
This illustration is obviously far from perfect; yet if it is not taken too literally it brings out something of the relative values of the three types of Earth-motion which we have studied. It remains, however, in order to complete this part of our work, for us to indicate the nature and significance of the "center" of the gyrating motion of the Earth's axis — the cause of the "Great Polar Cycle," or cycle of the precession of the equinoxes.
All that it will be necessary to say is that the Earth's axis gyrates around the ideal axis of the Earth: the line of the poles of the ecliptic — that is, a perpendicular to the plane of the Earth's orbit. The axes of the planets are inclined on the plane of their orbit, and they must all gyrate more or less as the Earth's axes do. When we deal with planetary axes we deal with something which is of opposite polarity to the Sun. The Sun is the collective center of the system. It relates all planets together. And the Sun's power is felt especially at the equator. The plane of the equator is the plane of the Sun's greatest action, the plane therefore along which the integrating forces of the Sun penetrate the Earth. It represents the maximum intensity of the collective energies of life. In man it refers to the Great Sympathetic nerve system dominated by the solar plexus, the center of racial instincts, and largely of the emotions.
On the other hand, the polar axis represents the most individual energies of the planetary life. Thus equatorial plane and polar axis symbolize opposites. It may be that the significant reason why the equatorial plane of the Earth does not coincide with the plane of the Earth's orbit (ecliptic) is in order that the collective power of the Sun may not be over-focalized and over-strong. But as a result of this, the polar axis is no longer perpendicular to the plane of the orbit, and therefore (in a philosophical sense) it must gyrate. It must direct itself successively to various stars; and it may be that by so doing the individualizing cosmic forces connected with the polar axis are strengthened and better able to balance the collective pull of the Sun.(3)
The pull of the Sun is to the Earth as the pull of the blood, consciousness and of the race-self to the individual attempting to function as an individual. It is like the mother-love which binds, and which often thwarts the unfoldment of the individual factors in the children. Thus, perhaps, the Earth is orientating its axis of individualization to stars, as the youthful individual to teachers beyond the circle of his family and home. Then, as there is no longer the unique dominating pull of the mother, there come in succession various teachers and inspirers who, each in his turn, awaken a particular quality or phase of individual selfhood. And this may be the meaning, in terms of the unfoldment of Man-the-Whole, of the "Great Polar Cycle." The polar gyration does not involve displacement of the center of the Earth. It is thus a subjective motion, but "subjective" in a planetary sense.
Before leaving this fascinating phase of astrology, we wish, however, to discuss briefly the problem of the division of this Polar Cycle. Here we have a complete cycle of motion of the Earth's axis, and the question arises: Shall we think of it as divided into twelve sections, as if it were a sort of "polar (i.e., spiritual creative) zodiac?" In all probability it ought not to be so divided. More likely, it should be divided into seven or seventy sections. The concrete reason for such a segmentation is that there is a natural division of the path of the poles, due to what is called "nutation." Nutation is a small and periodic swinging or vibration of the Earth's poles north and south, as they travel around the poles of the ecliptic. It is due to the periodical changes of position of the Moon, slightly altering the direction of the Moon's attraction upon the equatorial protuberance of the Earth. These periodical changes correspond to those of the Moon's nodes, which complete a cycle in an average of 18.6 years. Thus there are close to 1400 polar oscillations due to nutation within each Great Polar Cycle. The circle of polar motion is not a simple curve, but a wavy one. There being on an average close to 1400 such waves, this fact may help us to establish a natural segmentation of the circle of polar motion.
Fourteen is twice 7, and occultists refer repeatedly to 7 Rays or phases of cosmic manifestation; also to 7 Races, sub-races, family-races — and similar planetary cycles. It seems logical to propose, then, a division of the Great Polar Cycle into 7 periods (and perhaps 70 sub-periods) to serve as a background for such septenary cycles, which refer to the creative differentiation of planetary and generic types or qualities.
We would thus divide the Great Polar Cycle into 7 periods of close to 3700 years each. Each of these periods would cover 200 nutations and 200 complete cycles of the Moon's nodes. There is also, however, another alternative, which is hinted at in H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, and which refers to the Kabbala. In The Book of Concealed Mysteries (Siphra Dizenioutha), which is the foundation of the Kabbala, we read the following (section V):
"31. The tree which is mitigated resideth within. In its branches the birds (souls and angels) lodge and build their nests. Beneath it those animals which have power (human personalities) seek the shade.
"32. This is the tree that hath two paths for the same end. And it hath around seven columns (or palaces), and the four splendours whirl around it on their four sides.
"33. The serpent which rusheth forth with 370 leaps. 'He leapeth upon the mountains and rusheth swiftly over the hills' like as it is written (in the Bible). He holdeth his tail in his mouth between his teeth. He is pierced through on each side."
Blavatsky comments upon the last stanza by saying that:
"When mention is made of the cosmic 'serpent which runs with 370 leaps' it means the cyclic periods of the great Tropical Year of 25,868 years divided in the Esoteric calculation into 370 periods or cycles, as one solar year is divided in 365 days." The Secret Doctrine, II, p. 531 (third edition)
The "tree" referred to above is the axis of the earth — at least according to one level of interpretation; its branches are currents of planetary magnetism which, we might say, constitutes as a whole the "vital body" or "aura" of the planet. The "7 columns or palaces" would refer to the seven mansions of the Pole, i.e., seven divisions of the great polar cycle of gyration. The "four splendours" might refer to the four most brilliant stars on the cyclic path (Polaris and Wega; Alpha Cephei and Alpha Draconis). The North Pole pointed and will point to these stars respectively about 2700 B.C. (Alpha Draconis), 2100 A.D. (Polaris), 7500 A.D. (Alpha Cephei), 13,OOO A.D. (Wega).
As for the "serpent," it refers to the great planetary life-wave, the ascending and descending energy which passes through the "planetary spine," the planetary "I am": the earth-axis. It might be called the "planetary kundalini." It is hard to say if the Kabbala means to convey the idea that the total cycle of the polar motion (which would naturally control the serpentine kundalini motion) is to be divided into 370 periods of about 70 years each (as Blavatsky suggests), or that each of the 7 "columns or palaces" is to be divided into 370 periods of 10 years each. Various possibilities of division come to mind, but somehow the numbers 7 (or 70) and 370 (or 3700) appear to be the basic ones.
The important point remains, however, that the path of the pole, because of the secondary movement of nutation, is actually a serpentine path ~ circling around with "its tail in its mouth" (or nearly so, as the pole never returns exactly to the same spot of the celestial sphere, so complex the motion actually is). It would seem logical, then, to have an exact number of the smaller curves at least in each great division of the whole cycle, which would give, as a result, either 7 great eras, each divided into 370 ten-year periods; or better still 70 and 700 sub-periods of respectively 370 and 37 years each. This division into 7, 70 and 700 periods may be the planetary key to the "mystery of the 777 incarnations" to which Blavatsky refers; also Alice Bailey in A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. (4)
There remains, however, the great problem of how to select a beginning for the Great Polar Cycle. Two possibilities seem particularly attractive to us. The first is to begin the cycle as the polar axis of the Earth comes exactly to point to the present Pole Star, Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, which should take place between 2000 and 2100 A.D. The second is to begin the cycle as the polar axis points as close as possible to the great star Wega in the constellation Lyra.
The first solution is recommended on two grounds: 1) Polaris is probably the most brilliant star exactly on the circle described by the prolongation of the Earth's axis; 2) We believe that ideas always come to be accepted about the time when a crucial point in the working out of that to which the idea refers is occurring. In other words, the imminence of an occurrence calls for an adequate interpretation thereof.
The second solution is attractive inasmuch as Wega has always been considered as a star of special significance, and may possibly be close to the point to which the solar system as a whole is moving.
The significant fact, however, is that the arc covered by the North Pole's motion between Wega and Polaris is about four times 510 43', that is to say, it is the space between 4 points of a seven-pointed star — representing a time-interval of about 14,800 years (4 X 3700). We might write down the following dates and correspondences, not as a definitive computation but as a suggestion for further study:
1. Polaris — Pole Star — 23,800 B.C.
2. Cepheus — polar constellation — 20,100 B.C.
3. Alpha Cygni — Pole Star — 16,4OO B.C.
4. Wega — Pole Star — 12,700 B.C.
5. Hercules — polar constellation — 9,000 B.C.
6. Draco — polar constellation — 5,300 B.C.
7. Draco — polar constellation — 1,600 B.C.
then again Polaris — Pole Star — 2,100 A.D.
One should never forget, however, that these dates are at the most approximate, and that other polar motions (such as the cycle of variations in the inclination of the earth's axis) introduce rhythmical alterations. It may also be that after a couple of thousand years of scientific and precise observations we may discover factors at present unexpected. If, for instance, an electron appears to jump from orbit to orbit as it circles around the atom's nucleus, according to the quantum law, why could a planet not have sudden changes of orbit, sudden variations of rhythm which might obey laws as yet undiscovered? H. P. Blavatsky refers to that in one of her letters addressed to Sinnett, when she remarks that the lengths of the Patriarchs' lives in the Bible were symbolical of the lengths of the year as they changed over vast periods of time. The Earth, according to this, would move regularly closer to the Sun, and thus the length of the year would decrease. This may explain the enormous periods given to the history of the planet in Brahminical records.
However, the important point, symbolically and philosophically, is for us to think of this polar motion as the essential manifestation of the creative factor in astrology — just as we think of axial rotation as an expression of the individual factor, and of orbital revolution as an expression of the collective factor. But by the term "creative" we refer here to a cosmic creativeness, to the cyclic outpouring of archetypes and primordial ideas which mark the beginning of all new planetary cycles. Later on we shall see that there is another astrological factor which also stands for the "creative" but in a more personal sense. This factor is the "Degree of the zodiac" — the product of a combination and integration of axial rotation (individual) and orbital revolution (collective).
The creative is always the result of a synthesis and integration of elements. Thus the gyration of the Earth-axis is the synthesis of various factors which involve on one hand the gravitational pull of Sun and Moon upon the Earth's equatorial belt (gravitation being the force responsible for orbital revolution and thus related to the collective), and on the other the axial rotation of the Earth.
(Cf. footnote, page 147.)
1. The following is a clear scientific statement of the causes of precession (and of polar gyration):
"This peculiar behavior of the earth's equator (precession) is due to the gravitation of sun and moon upon the bulging equatorial belt or zone of the earth, combined with the centrifugal force at the earth's equator. As equator stands at an inclination to ecliptic, this attraction tends, on the whole, to pull its protuberant ring toward the plane of the ecliptic itself. But the earth's turning on its axis prevents this, and the resultant effect is a very slow motion of precession at right angles to the direction of the attracting force, similar to that exemplified by attaching a small weight to the exterior ring of a gyroscope. Three causes contribute to produce precession: if the earth were a perfect sphere, or if its equator were in the same plane with its path round the sun (and with the lunar orbit), or if the earth had no rotation on its axis, there would be no precession." A New Astronomy by David P. Todd.
2. The orbit of the earth is elliptical. Thus the sun is only one of the two foci of the ellipse. One might attribute a symbolical meaning to the other focus, even though no physical entity is found there. But this would be too abstract for our present consideration.
3. The angle formed by the plane of the Earth's equator and the plane of the ecliptic is not constant. It varies within about 2 & 1/2 degrees limits, and the cycle of the variations appears to encompass approximately 40,000 years. This, of course, means also a change in the inclination of the Earth's axis; which also modifies the circle traced by the gyration of said axis. There are still other cyclic motions of the Earth and cyclic changes in the Earth's orbit. The eccentricity and the position of the lines of apsides of the latter are susceptible of cyclic variations of respectively about 250,000 and 21,000 years. All these slow motions refer to the planetary Being as a whole and to the progressive development of Man as a life-kingdom.
4. In a curious and well-known book, A Dweller on Two Planets, written supposedly under the dictation of an invisible entity called Phylos, the Tibetan (around 1886), a diagram is reproduced (p. 382) purporting to be a symbolic picture in the "Holy Place" where one comes face to face with the living Christ (the perfected I AM). This would be symbolically the "North Pole," the "Undying Land" of each human being. The figure represents a broad circle on which appear 7 seven-pointed stars, while on each side of this circle are seen a row of smaller stars describing a path representing or at least suggesting the nutated path of the North Pole. Cutting the circle diametrically is a rod of power whose inclination is almost exactly the inclination of the pole on the ecliptic. Four great symbols (an Eye, a Star, a Leaf and a Book) are seen inside of the circle. On the two pages of the open book 10 key words are given (Order, Justice, Truth, Mercy, Wisdom-Beauty, Love, Fraternity, Power, Use). The whole picture is typically Kabbalistic and most suggestive.
The Astrology of Personality