DIVIDING THE SKY
Part I of III
In the Western and Indian traditions, whether you are a Tropical or Sidereal astrologer, you still use twelve primary divisions, certain sets of subdivisions, polar pairs, corresponding planets, the significant aspects, and most basic, yet least understood of all, the same numerical structure which underlies the foundation of the Zodiac as we know it.
The questions of the origins of astrology, astronomy, mathematics, and subsequently a ‘Zodiac’ are deceptively complex. The principle elements of these ideas are made more complicated by the waxing & waning of cultural views, the rise & fall of civilizations, and the ever-changing framework of systems of knowledge. These systems are biased, subjective, and abstract – simply because they are alive. We are human and the “fault is in our Stars”. Certain combined knowledge systems can become a ‘language’ unto themselves; astrology is such a system, which in-turn makes accrediting the origin point of new knowledge virtually impossible. As parts of these contextual systems evolve independently, some of the original essence is obscured from the overall language. Eventually meaning, purposes and reasons are lost to antiquity and we must once again look back to the natural source for answers. I believe we have reached such a time…
KEEP READING BELOW
In the Beginning
Have you ever wondered…. how the current form of the Zodiac came to be? How, when and why we divided the sky into its many parts? Who actually divided it? What actually constitutes ‘a zodiac’ or “The Zodiac”? Or what ‘astrology’ even really is, for that matter? Why are symbols, number systems, geometry & mathematics so crucial to both the physical realities and to the spiritual realities? As you dig deeper into some of these fundamental questions of the zodialogical origins or the many philosophies of astrology, you quickly find that assumed concepts blurr, ideologies clash, and certainties about astrology become less certain.
Your personal theories or beliefs are called into question by others and if you are open-minded, also by yourself. The core of much of the discord about astrology can be ascribed to subtle differences in mindset and language, and that these are what may be keeping us from finding further common ground. Some of the rigid dogma around these questions may be holding us back as an actual cohesive discipline. Are we locked into tradition, habit or pattern, or are we open to change? Changes have come to astrology and there are more on the way. As astrologers, you are in denial of a core principle of astrology itself, if you are not open to change.
It seems that when considering astrology and the Zodiac in more detail, everyone has their own definitions and assumptions of what does or does not qualify as astrological. Additional identifiers or provisos are usually tagged on to terms, or assumptions are made which imply specific or narrow functions of astrology. This is primarily intended to limit the scope of what is actually a very broad debate and to preclude certain considerations from the discussion. In this article, I would like to discuss a few, more relatively recent astro-archaeological discoveries regarding the origins of astrology, refute a few general arguments and ideas within the astrological community which tend to imply that our current model of the historical development of astrology is definitive, and I will discuss parallel evidence that supports an expanded view of what ‘astrology’ actually entails.
In the Western and Indian traditions, whether you are a Tropical or Sidereal astrologer, you still use twelve primary divisions, certain sets of subdivisions, polar pairs, corresponding planets, the significant aspects, and most basic, yet least understood of all, the same numerical structure which underlies the foundation of the Zodiac as we know it. The outward symbols in astrology are actually representations for deeper symbolic combinations of mathematical functions used to describe the interacting divisions and angles of light – zodiacal light – without and within. These combinations are themselves the ‘letters’, ‘words’, and ‘syntax’ of a spiritually oriented alpha-numeric language, which describes the foundational “cosmological simplex” pattern of nature.
THE WORLD ZODIAC
In Eurasia, these concepts and components arose in archaic Central Asia, were refined in Vedic India, then integrated with Hellenistic Greek (and older Egyptian) symbolic natural philosophies & mythologies. These refinements allowed for the final assembly of ‘The Zodiac’ which we primarily utilize today and also lead to the establishment of the fundamental principles of horoscopic natal astrology. While in Central and South America, a similar evolution took place. Arising at varying points in each of the major cultural epochs, roughly as those on the opposite side of the globe had done. It did so with expected similarity in humanity’s evolutionary terms. Yet, how all of this occurred globally or regionally, or even within interrelated periods and disciplines within the same cultures, is a highly convoluted and prejudiced affair. Since much has been written on the Babylonian & Greek contributions to the zodiac & astrology, I will not elaborate too much on their behalf.
‘While drinking water one (should) think about its source.’
(yin shui si yuan 饮水思源)
The primary driver for the discussion seems to boil down to which people, lineage, heritage or belief system gets the most credit for the symbols and syntax we use today. Is it the Hellenistic, Indian, or the Babylonian civilizations who should receive the prize in absentia for crossing one or more, or possibly all of these cultural milestones? Or going back further still perhaps some other culture of antiquity? Is there a key development or insight we may have missed or failed to consider? Does the independent establishment of planetary observations and rituals of the ancient Equatorial Americas, or later Mayan and Incan astrology, or even possibly the various verbal star traditions of indigenous and aboriginal cultures from around the world count at all within the discourse of what may have actually lead civilizations to the codify collective human archetypes in parallel with the development of symbolic star mapping systems?
Lisa: “Remember Dad, the handle of the Big Dipper points to the North Star”
Homer: “Heh, heh. That’s nice Lisa, but we’re not in astronomy class. We’re in the woods”
A GORDIAN KNOT
Rather than summoning the essence of what our ancient forefathers were attempting to describe regarding the mathematical patterned structure of nature and its elemental source, we have primarily been concerned with crediting one culture as the source, which is inevitably is not possible. We forget that we are in continuous communion with source and the archetypal energies. This complex of energy and information is always seeking to be expressed. Just as the seed of a sunflower communes with earth and sunlight to activate and express its patterns, and then desires to reflect those patterns back into the natural world around, we too take on the imprint of the subtleties of starlight and strive to fulfill the patterns which desires to express from within us. Peeling back the words & looking beyond the skin of the symbols in order to grasp nature’s mathematics is really what the astrological sciences are about, what any science is truly about. In order for astrology to be understood and accepted again, we must look once more through the ancient eyes of the magi, and to how they perceived the natural world and our connection to it. Like the diminished wisdom of Phrygia, this Gordian Knot may require a mighty Alexandrian solution.
Shuxue - It’s not what you think it means
The word ‘mathematics’ once encompassed a whole lot more. Some academics still use the shortened plural form of the word – ‘maths’, short for the Greek – μάθημα mathema, meaning knowledge or study. For most people today, ‘mathematics’ is synonymous with arithmetic – ἀριθμός arithmos – numbers and their operations. Though interestingly enough, when you research the word ‘mathematics’ today you quickly find that it has “no generally accepted definition”. ‘Maths’ technically include fields of study which encompass quantity, structure, space & change; essentially these are the Quadrivium of the Seven Liberal Arts of antiquity. Circa the late 5th century in Rome, the writer Boethius defined mathematics as astronomy, arithmetic, geometry and music. In the mid 19th century China, there was no accepted term used solely for the concept of ‘crunching numbers’. The existing word shuxue 数学, was brought into use as the technical term describing the concept of ‘mathematics’ in the Western sense.
In traditional Chinese thinking however, the term shuxue referred to what we now call mathematics, natural philosophy, numerology, divination, astronomy, astrology, fengshui, and music. The mathematical aspect was regarded as the base rudiment or elementary function of shuxue. The writer Qin Jiushao in the mid 13th century classified two sides of the term, neisuan 内算 (esoteric mathematics) & waisuan 外算 (exoteric mathematics) – spiritual and physical math. So much of the quality of our language and important meanings of words have been forgotten in time and lost in translation. The purpose of math itself was not seen as separate from the development of astrology, in fact mathematics implied knowledge astrology. As a concept, modern astrology has somehow been distilled down to mean ‘natal chart interpretations derived from within the Greek zodiacal framework’, when instead it has always referred to the ‘the study of the words, wisdoms, and knowledge of the stars’ – and all which that implies. The cosmological endeavour began long before we had devised the astro-mathematical language and linguistic capacity to best describe it and pass it on.
So let's go back in time.....