INTRODUCTION TO THE GALACTIC LEVEL
Some five centuries ago, Copernicus and Galileo envisioned a solar system in which dark planets, compelled by gravitational power, revolved subserviently around a magnificent central Sun, the monarch of the sky. The entire system was thought to be composed of material bodies moving in empty space — solid matter in the case of the planets, matter in an incandescent state in the case of the Sun. It was ruled by rigid mechanical laws. This picture superseded the older geocentric view of the universe according to which the Earth was the center and a hierarchy of celestial spheres — lunar, solar, planetary, stellar, and divine — revolved around it.
The change from the older to the newer world-picture has been called the Copernican Revolution, though Galileo and Kepler greatly contributed to its formulation and diffusion, and later on Francis Bacon, Newton, and Descartes further developed its implications. The heliocentric system has been accepted everywhere. Interestingly, the classical society which emerged in Europe during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was modeled, unconsciously no doubt, upon the pattern of the heliocentric system: an autocratic king ruled with absolute power over a country which he theoretically owned and over a people subjected to his personal will; and he was surrounded by ministers, courtiers, and servants of various ranks reflecting his power.
A society and its culture are always based upon a set of assumptions which have a metaphysical and/or religious foundation and which find their expression in great symbols and myths. In the course of its development, an inquisitive and creative minority of thinkers from the educated ruling classes — which in turn control the feelings and religious beliefs of the masses — comes to question the validity of some of the basic concepts they had until then accepted as dogmas and paradigms. When this occurs, the revolution taking place in the minds of a small group of pioneers gradually induces and produces changes in the entire society. The way of life of the people and the official mentality imposed upon the educational system by a dominant intelligentsia are gradually transformed. Various influences are always at work when such revolutionary changes occur, some of which are produced by altered material and economic conditions, by new inventions, or by sudden changes in climate. But here we are concerned only with the mental-spiritual transformation which takes place when new concepts, new ways of interpreting old facts, or the discovery of new facts, profoundly and irrevocably impel and, in a sense, compel the leading minds of a culture to picture the universe and life around them in a radically new way.
What Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton achieved from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, Roentgen, Curie, Planck, and especially Einstein and his successors accomplished less than a century ago when, in a very real sense, they "dematerialized" for us the universe in which we had implicitly believed for some three centuries. A universe composed of solid globes of matter separated from each other by vast distances and held together by unchangeable laws of nature expressing an absolute causality principle has become, after Einstein, a universe of fields of energy (or force-fields) which only under certain conditions present to an observer the character of material solidity. The old "common sense" picture of the universe has almost entirely vanished in the rarefied air of group algebra, irrational numbers, and levels of infinity. More recently radio-telescopy has made us aware of incomprehensibly distant galaxies, quasars, black holes, and white holes. An expanding universe filled with all kinds of intangible vibrations and elusive particles, which might as well be antimatter as matter and operate in negative as well as positive time, is presented to our rather bewildered minds. Have we really accepted it? Can we accept it?
It took about two centuries for the Copernican Revolution to become officially assimilated, especially after Newton's concepts gave it more finality. As the number of scientists and the speed of sociocultural communication have immensely increased, the new picture of the universe — and an equally challenging change in the concepts long held concerning the nature and the innate potentialities of human beings — may become finalized and thoroughly authenticated before the close of this century; yet it is still being constantly altered and may still need to be redrawn on a radically new background. Perhaps it is still only partially valid. Should our present crisis of civilization lead to cataclysmic events, it may be that it will prove to have been only a transitional picture — destructive of old illusions, but not yet truly constructive because it has not yet found the essential key (or we might say, the basic new symbols) needed to bring significant order to an ever-increasing mass of as yet not truly correlated data which we consider to be facts.
But what are "facts"? The etymology of the word suggests to us that a fact is something "made" (factum). A fact is what our means of perception allow us, as human beings, to be aware of. We know that if we photograph a landscape with plates sensitive to infrared or ultraviolet light waves we obtain a picture widely different from that which our eyes see. We do not see the immensely distant nebulae whose vibrations our radio-telescopes detect — or in a fog, objects which our radar outlines for us. Are these facts? And if, they are, why should the nature spirits and the gods described by archaic men not be considered facts? Why should we not consider the visions of medieval mystics facts of their experience when we, as scientifically trained minds, believe nebulae billions of light-years away — or subatomic particles of which we at best see traces in sophisticated instruments — to be facts of our experience?
Archaic man built complex religious systems and cosmologies to interpret his facts in such a manner as would best give him a sense of universal order. So did the medieval Catholic saints and so does our modern astronomer. Every culture builds the kind of world-picture that most effectively and convincingly produces for man's mind and for his deep feelings of being alive and creative the type of order to which the stage of human evolution which characterizes the culture can more meaningfully respond. That type of order is expressed in myths and symbols. Our present symbols are mathematical. Our myths are found in our Darwinian theory of evolution; in modern science's basic premise — unquestioned until most recently — that materiality and measurements are the only keys to an understanding of the world; and in our laboratory approach to psychology and medicine. Even the "self-evident" truths we have enthroned in national and international Bill of Rights (but which we actually do all we can to safely bypass or altogether ignore) constitute in the deepest sense of the word, a myth.
The implication of all this means simply that any society, any characteristic group of human beings, and in a restricted sense any individual person who is not merely an indistinct specimen of a particular racial, social, or economic type, perceives the universe as each one needs to see it. Man projects upon the outer world what he potentially is, yet does not yet know he is, in order to discover and actualize his innate potential of being. Man collectively "creates" the universe he needs, simply because he needs it in order to operate with optimum efficiency; and he does so whether he is an archaic shaman, a Sufi or Christian mystic, or a modern scientist in his laboratory or observatory.
When archaic man saw gods in the sky, it was because he needed gods to communicate with and enlist as helpers. If European classical man saw in the solar system a vast mechanism working according to quasi-ritualistic (i.e., unchanging) regulations — the laws of nature — it was because he needed an external and material sense of security to frame and bolster the development of his social individualism. When kings and emperors were overthrown, a sacrosanct Constitution took their place — or in religion, "The Book."
What man perceives in the universe, being a projection of his most characteristic need, is for this reason a symbol of what man is. It is a cosmified or deified image of himself; but it is more. As a symbol, it contains in a latent "occult" way the answer to basic human needs. It is an answer in impersonal terms — an answer formulated in a symbolic language, the deciphering of which is difficult. But the language of dreams and oracles also is and always has been hard to interpret.
What we are witnessing today is the gradual emergence of a picture of the universe which presents us with a special problem, for it demands the acceptance of a new dimension of reality. This "fourth dimension" can be defined by the elusive, yet revealing word: INTERPENETRATION. What is implied by it is that the universe and our total beings "interpenetrate." The era of isolated, irreducible, and quasi-absolute individualities, as well as of totally distinct and unrelated physical-material objects, is passing away. Everything not only connects with everything else; all there is interpenetrates everything. "Particularities" remain, in a space that is now seen as fullness rather than emptiness; but the basic reality is that space in which every particularity interpenetrates every other "in its neighborhood" — and neighborhood here may cover a vast field of interrelated activities.
Mankind as a whole, or even a sizeable minority of human beings representing an evolutionary vanguard, has as yet no direct experience of such a kind of universe. Organs of perception enabling us to apprehend in a completely convincing manner the type of ordering, relatedness, and processes of transformation evoked by the abstract mathematics of modern physics and astronomy are still lacking in "normal" human beings. The few sensitives or clairvoyants who can "see" or feel what most people cannot perceive are often not too reliable, partly because they operate against the pressure of the collective mentality of their culture; they lack a consistent frame of reference for their experiences. Mystical realizations, though generally pointing to a somewhat identical interpretation of a time-and-space-transcending Reality, have an absolutist and subjective character which makes them essentially uncommunicable. Communicability requires the possibility of formulating some principle of organization. The new experiences have to be referred to a new type of ordering, implying new modes of relationship between the elements of whatever "system" we are considering or participating in.
The new discoveries of physics and astronomy provide us with extremely puzzling data, which are in turn constantly being modified by new observations. The scientist is so conscious of the need to formulate new general theories that the very moment a new fact is perceived challenging some aspect of the until then accepted picture of the universe, he tries to make it the basis of a new model. Yet he usually lacks the imagination or the courage to free himself completely of the old paradigms of his culture. First of all, he finds it hard to give up the typical Western concept of the basic materiality of the world. Under the pretext that solutions must be simple and should not require the introduction of any unnecessary factor, our theory-makers fail to recognize their inbred cultural bias. It is as simple to say that the universe is a system of organization characterized by "life" as to state that it is all "matter" and that what we call life is an epiphenomenon or secondary product of the chemistry of material processes. We directly experience life, both in us and in all our environment. Everything around us is born and dies — even, for example, the mountains when seen in terms of the long process of evolution of the planet as a whole. We are now aware that even stars are born, mature, and die. Nevertheless, their life span is so enormous compared to ours or even to the life span of a society, able to transfer from generation to generation the knowledge it acquires, that a process which in a solar system takes many years may correspond to what in a human being lasts only a few seconds. Thus, H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine states that the eleven-year, sunspot cycle corresponds to one single beat (systole and diastole) of the human heart.
The concept of hierarchy of "levels of organization" has recently been endorsed by prominent scientists. It has to be understood in terms of a "holistic" view of existence. This holistic approach, first presented by Jan Smuts and which I shall discuss in the following chapter, is now superseding or deeply modifying the "atomistic" world-view which, during the last four centuries, made separate and fundamentally isolated entities of everything — atoms, human beings, souls, societies, and events themselves. More and more, the relationship between these entities and their participation in a vaster whole — which in turn is a part of some still larger whole is seen to be the stuff out of which "reality" is made. The concept of "field" is increasingly being used (and there is a very fine magazine published by Julius Stulman, founder of the World Institute Council in New York, entitled "Fields Within Fields Within Fields").
I have discussed this matter in other books; but what should be added here is that this holistic approach which is potentially transforming our image of the universe was developed and is spreading at this historical moment because humanity needs it now. The concepts which emerged from ancient Greece, and after a period of obscuration, became the foundations of the classical European universe which America inherited, cannot in their present form assist us in the now imperative transformation of consciousness, and at a practical level, of our increasingly obsolete socio-cultural attitudes and beliefs. We need to rethink most of what the pseudo-enlightenment of the eighteenth century brought us, if we are to save from our Western tradition whatever can be constructively used in the new global situation we are now facing. In order to do this effectively at all levels, and not merely as a makeshift operation, we need a new and all-inclusive frame of reference for our new experiences. We can discover it in the holistic and hierarchical universe which we are coming to know. This kind of universe is being revealed to us because it is the mirror-image of what in us, though still at the stage of potentiality, is on its way to actualization. Man always discovers outside of himself what he is about to become. Unfortunately, the inertia of past cultural tradition and of a knowledge frozen in rigid theories, forbid him for a long time to see and accept what represents the next step in his development.
We should not forget that the new mentality which took form during the Renaissance and became set during the second half of the European seventeenth century was given its basic form by astronomers who were studying the sky. European man then applied the concept of the universe as a machine to his behavior, and found in a central, all-power-dispensing Sun the symbolic justification of the divine right of kings — Le Roi Soleil. Today, a new image of the universe should emerge from what modern science is only beginning to see at both ends of the scale of cosmic magnitudes — in the atom and in the galaxies. The nucleus of the atom mirrors to man the complex and ambiguous nature of his innermost self, while the vistas opening up as we probe the level of organization represented by spiral galaxies should indicate to us the possibility — and indeed the inevitability in a more or less close future — of a new type of organization of society, based on new modes of interpersonal and intergroup relationships. The problem nevertheless is, I repeat, how to interpret the recent revelations of astronomy and cosmology without allowing our minds to keep operating in terms of the old patterns of mechanism and materiality — patterns evoked by our inbred entity-making tendency and our egocentric and proud individualism.
It is here that, in its own special way, astrology offers us a symbolic picture of the process of expansion of consciousness and human behavior from the archaic tribal to the individualistic Euro-American stage — and beyond the latter, to that of a global civilization consciously and harmoniously integrated with all the infinitely varied yet interdependent activities taking place at many levels within the planetary organism of the Earth.
In the first part of my book The Astrological Houses: The Spectrum of Individual Experience (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1972), I pointed out that astrology began as a strictly "locality-centered" system of interpretation of the facts revealed by the observation of the "dome of the sky" — a celestial hemisphere rather than a sphere, as there was no way of observing what occurred below the flat earth-field bounded by the horizon. Ancient tribes traveled very little from the soil from which they drew their subsistence; they were attached to the land as an ovum is attached to the lining of the mother's womb. Their cultures were moulded by the climate and the character of the local environment and all it contained. Men of the Vitalistic Ages felt fundamentally one with nature; they had not developed a sense of separation from all that to them appeared to be diverse manifestations of the One Life filling the whole of space. But they were led by the contrasting experiences of their tropical environment and of the sky to conceive this One Life as bipolar in its manifestation: earth and sky.
"Celestial nature" for them was the positive, creative aspect of Life expressing itself in a number of great spiritual hierarchies of divine Intelligences. Some of these operated directly through the Sun which, as it moved across the sky, focused the power of the twelve great zodiacal constellations. Other constellations gave more transcendent or spectacular (and usually highly disturbing) meanings to the space surrounding a few particularly bright stars.
For these men of archaic time, celestial nature was the active fecundative polarity; earth nature the passive and reflective pole. The two were one in essence, and therefore men could communicate with the celestial beings. These communications occurred in a variety of ways — in visions; in great dreams, shared by at least two tribesmen to prove their validity; in omens and oracles. Astrology was, then, the language of the celestial gods — a mysterious language that had to be carefully interpreted, as dreams and oracular pronouncements also have to be. It was a language used by the gods to provide us with "information."
We can liken the information given to us by astrological charts to that which the DNA molecules give to the cell. We interpret this information in chemical terms because our mind has to interpret results in such a materialistic manner if we are to understand the life-processes within the cell. But evidently the astrological and the chemical languages are different, because they are derived from different ways of approaching the universe. Yet to say that all the life-processes we observe are the results of material chemical operations implies the acceptance of undemonstrable postulates just as does the attribution of these life-processes to divine Intelligences. It is obviously difficult for the matter-oriented mind to see the possibility of planets being the visible manifestations of gods conveying to human beings the type of messages and organizational information which astrologers believe a person's birth chart contains. The difficulty arises primarily because most modern minds see everything separate from everything else — and particularly cannot conceive of any "real" connection between planetary motions far removed from the earth-surface and the destiny and behavior or temperament of human beings, each of whom is also believed to be a basically separate and autonomous individual. For the archaic consciousness there was no separation between the sky and the earth; they constituted the two polarities of an existence which resulted from their unceasing and rhythmic interaction — an interaction which the Chinese philosopher symbolized by the interplay of two cosmic forces, Yin and Yang.
It was only when human beings became increasingly individualized — especially through city living, which fostered ego-ambition and thirst for power — that a new concept superseded that of the unqualified interdependence between the two aspects of universal Life — sky and earth, gods and men. This was the concept of a basic structural analogy between the universe and individual man. The former was thought of as the macrocosm; the latter as the microcosm. They "corresponded" to one another, each developing parallel to the other; the macrocosm was seen as positive, and the microcosm receptive. Such a structural parallelism linking not too clearly two entirely different sets of events and characteristic behavior patterns has been given a modernized and restricted form by the psychologist Carl Jung under the obscure name of "synchronicity."
This Hermetic principle of correspondence, "as Above, so Below," probably developed in Hellenized Egypt, but it may have earlier roots. It formed the basis for a relatively new kind of astrological language, transmitted to Christian Europe mainly through the intermediary of Ptolemy in Alexandria, and also of some astrologers of the slowly disintegrating Roman Empire. When the Copernican Revolution occurred, leading to the classical heliocentric picture of the universe, a profound change took place in man's conscious outlook. What many people fail to realize is that this heliocentric transformation led to, and in a sense implied — though its founders probably did not realize this — not only a mechanistic, but a materialistic approach to all forms of existence. The important fact was not that the Earth became a globe revolving around the Sun instead of being the center of the universe, but rather that the relationship between every part of this classical universe had become interpreted in terms of the push and pull between material masses, represented as isolated entities in empty space. The universe had become atomized, because Western mankind had reached a stage in human evolution requiring a powerful accentuation of whatsoever would justify and provide a logical as well as universal background for individualism — or we might say, for an "ultra-individualistic" approach to existence, whether at the personal or the social level.
The heliocentric theory introduced many complications into the astrological picture. The shift from a "locality-centered" to a "globe-centered" study of the motions of celestial bodies led to a great deal of ambiguity concerning the nature of the zodiac and the astrological Houses. More important still, the new image of the universe as a machine essentially altered the meaning of the information astrology could provide. The mechanisticized sky, having become a vast cosmic clock, could only tell human beings the time — the time when events could be expected to occur — and, in terms of an imprecise Doctrine of Correspondence, where they would take place within the microcosm, the individual person. Classical astrology no longer dealt with "life" — and the Sun and the Moon which in earlier centuries had become the two sources of bipolar life-processes soon became, for the modern astrologer, mere members of the planetary group. The individual person was considered exterior to his birth chart — the individual soul being also exterior to earth-nature. A man was "wise" to the extent to which he "ruled his stars."
The break between individual man and the universe became more total in the nineteenth century. Man became drunk with pride in the progress for which he was solely responsible, and with the power placed in his hands by his analytical and inventive, but matter-bound intellect. It was only after the conjunction of Neptune and Pluto in 1891-92 — five hundred years after a similar conjunction had marked the early beginning of Humanism and of the pre-Renaissance period — that the discovery of radioactivity; the theories of Planck and Einstein; the use of larger telescopes, then of radio telescopes, led to an almost totally different picture of the universe. The implications of such a picture have not yet been realized, except perhaps by a very few philosopher-scientists, just as the long-term effects of the Copernican Revolution were not understood until a century or two later.
Today, having created the instruments which made a new image of the universe possible, man has reached a stage at which he is in dire need of integrating the capacities which he has recently developed with the complementary faculties which he had to downgrade (and even reject) in order to concentrate on building his new powers of analysis, interpretation, and generalization. The direct results of the technology that enabled man to build instruments increasing a thousand-fold his perceptive capability, is compelling him to challenge the exclusive validity of the intellectual and social approach that made the creation of such instruments possible. The technology is an outstanding success, but the next generation might die from its relentless application unless it reconsiders and thoroughly revises the premises on which our Western civilization based its classical image of the universe and of man's relationship to this universe. The recent scientific discoveries have not yet actually erased this image from the collective consciousness of most people, including the great majority of political and religious leaders and educators.
This does not mean that we should return to an archaic and naively "vitalistic" picture of the universe; and, in astrology, to a locality-centered type of interpretation of the sky filled with hierarchies of gods. It does mean nevertheless that the breach between man and the universe has to be healed — for it was truly a "dis-ease," intended as it may have been to rouse man to a feverish pitch and force him to overcome the inertia of the old tribal forms of social existence. Communication must be reestablished between the universe and man.
This can only happen when man feels himself a functional part of the universe and no longer a stranger in it; when man's experience of, first, life — then, consciousness, and intelligence is understood to be not merely a chance accident in a meaningless universe in which material masses speed aimlessly at inconceivable speeds, but a basic constituent of the cosmos. In this cosmos matter, life, mind, and a supermental substance-energy which we vaguely call spirit, are to be considered and (eventually) directly experienced as different "levels of organization" of reality. This multilevel reality pervades the whole of space and is active throughout infinite duration. It operates cyclically, because it is dual or bipolar in nature, and what we call and experience as existence results from the unceasing interplay of two cosmic forces — an interplay that produces a rhythmic sequence of cosmic manifestations in limited space-time fields of activity — which periodically return to a metacosmic state of infinite potentiality.
The essential metaphysical features of such a world-picture are not new, but the picture as a whole has to be radically reformulated, so that it may better answer the needs of a humanity having developed a new type of mind and of interpersonal relationship.
A new formulation implies new symbols, or more accurately a new level of symbolization; and it assuredly is not easy to reach a higher because more inclusive level of conceptualization and symbolization. Nevertheless, it should be done and the elements already are available, being provided by the new discoveries in nuclear physics and galactic astronomy. The problem, I repeat, is how to use these new elements without reducing them to conceptual patterns belonging to the intellectualistic and mechanistic level of classical astronomy. It is a problem of interpretation — interpretation on the basis of a new dimension of consciousness, giving a new character to all the basic realities of human existence. The word I have already used, interpenetration, seems to be the best available to define this character.
From the point of view of an astrology free from the ghost of even the most sophisticated and "scientific" type of fortune-telling, this new four-dimensional approach to existence and human consciousness can best be symbolized by referring to the Galaxy — just as the classical European type of approach could significantly be referred to the Copernican and Newtonian picture of the solar system. Thus I am speaking of a "galactic dimension of astrology." It can also introduce us to a "galactic" concept of society and humanity, according to which our spiral Galaxy symbolizes the slowly emerging "Universal Community of Man."
The Sun is Also a Star