from The Theosophist January 1969
Astrology and the Theosophical Society
The popularity of astrology is easy to explain. It gives us an excuse to talk about ourselves and to dissect the characters of our acquaintances! It also carries the glamor that is associated with fortune-telling. Its appeal is heightened by the fact that since most people are too busy or too lazy to learn how it works, it remains a mystery solemnly expounded by the few. Actually astrology is not hard to learn and understand. The mathematical knowledge required for setting up a horoscope is hardly more than most of us had acquired by the time we were ten years old.
A little study and experience ought to enable us to see that the more meretricious and foolish appeal that astrology exerts is not grounded or justified in the more serious pursuit of the subject. The validity of astrology depends upon a unity of all existence and upon the mirroring of macrocosm in microcosm. By collating what we read upon the great clock face of the heavens with the little clock face of the individual life, we can learn something about both. But we shall not be able to tell fortunes in the way so many people would like them told.
It is true that astrologers speak of "good" and "bad" aspects between planets and try to judge what these may foretell by considering the "houses" of the horoscope that are involved. The aspects are the distances in degrees of longitude separating planets from one another as seen from the earth. The twelve houses in a horoscope are like a small private and personal zodiac, corresponding with the great zodiac in the sky and indicating the departments of the individual's life. But thought the pattern of planetary aspects is often clearly discernible in a person's life, its effect upon his "fate" depends on how deeply and intelligently he is living. What, for a shallow person, is a difficulty and an affliction, is a creative opportunity for the person who lives life from deeper inside. Moreover it is probably true of all of us that we live more shallowly in some aspects of our lives than in others. Anyway, many people who have had very "bad" horoscopes have lived creative and successful lives, though not without difficulties; and many others who have had "good" horoscopes have sunk into obscurity and misfortune.
Knowing a person well, one might sometimes guess how a particular aspect may turn out for him. Commercial astrologers normally assume that their clients are shallow people and give readings accordingly. Sometimes a horoscope may provide a starting point for somebody who has some psychic capacity for precognition. But as a scientific device for ascertaining exactly what is going to happen, astrology may be rejected.
As an illustration of how an astrologer might go to work on a particular problem, it may be of interest to take a look at the Theosophical Society in the light of astrology. For those unlearned in astrology this may indicate some of the possibilities and limitations of the subject. For the learned it may serve as a new look at ground they already know. The horoscope of the Society has often been published; but for those who want to set up the actual diagram, the following are the full details.
The Society was "born at 8p.m (20.00) on 17the November, 1875, at New York, lat. 40 43' N., long 74 W. By Greenwich time, which is used in many publications, this was 00.56 a.m . on 18th November. The houses fell as follows: Asc., 15 53' Cancer ; 2, 5 Leo; 3, 28 Leo; 10, 26 Pisces; 11, 2
Taurus; 12, 12 Gemini. The luminaries and planets were positioned as follows: Sun, 25 16' Scorpio, decl. 19S5; Moon, 29 27' Cancer , decl. 24N45; Mercury, 6 15' Scorpio retrograding, decl. 11S17; Venus, 9 28' Sagittarius , decl .22S6; Mars, 17 7'Aquarius, decl. 17S25; Jupiter, 14 58' Scorpio, decl. 15S25; Saturn, 19 53' Aquarius, decl. 16S9; Uranus, 20 0' Leo, decl. 15N30; Neptune, 1 3' Taurus, decl. 10N9; Pluto 22 30' Taurus, decl 4N17. The Dragon's Head or Moon's node was at 5 43' Aries and the Part of Fortune at 20 24' Pisces. [See 1001 Notable Nativities by Alan Leo. No 244].
If this were the horoscope of a person, it would portray a powerful and disturbing character, dominated by great interior tension a and destined for great trials and difficulties. It would seem scarcely possible to have more "bad" aspects than are here indicated.
For those unacquainted with astrology, it may be said that traditionally the "bad" aspects between planets are those which divide the circle by two, four or eight (opposition 180 , square 90 semi-square 45 ); and the "good" aspects are those which divide the circle by three, six or twelve (trine 120 , sextile 60 , semi-sextile 30 ). A conjunction (two planets very close together in longitude) or parallel (planets with the same declination) will be good or bad according to whether the planets blend well or ill by their own nature.
On the horoscope of the Theosophical Society there are ten squares and three oppositions. The predominant feature is a "grand cross" involving the Sun, which is square to Uranus, square to Mars and Saturn and in opposition to Pluto. In addition there is a "T-square" consisting of the Moon which is square to Mercury and to Neptune which are in opposition to one another.
On the other hand there is a "grand trine" formed by the Sun, Moon and midheavens, each of these being tine to the other two. Pluto is also sextile to the midheavens and Jupiter trine to the ascendant.
It is usual, as well as noting aspects, to analyze the signs in which the planets are placed. The signs of the zodiac are classified according to three "qualities" - cardinal, fixed and mutable. These are virtually the same as our old friends rajas, tamas, and sattva. With the exception of the Moon in a cardinal sign and Venus in a mutable sign, all the planets of this horoscope are in fixed signs. This makes the Society very conservative in some respects and inclined to work in terms of fixed positions. Perhaps it causes some members too easily to think of life as if it were an animated diagram. It also gives immense powers of stubborn endurance. Those squares and oppositions from fixed signs serve the Society like an infrastructure of reinforced concrete, a core of steel. The Theosophical Society is here to stay.
Then the signs are also classified according to the "elements" of earth, air, fire, and water. Two of the Society's planets are in each of these but four in watery signs, indicating some bias towards response at a mainly emotional level. The Sun, Jupiter and Mercury are in Scorpio, the fiercest and most fixed and retentive of the watery signs. It is typical that some members of the Society are to be found still fighting its controversial battles of the last century! Analysis of house positions also confirms a strongly emotional bias in the Society, with eight heavenly bodies in succedent houses, the other two being in angular houses. The shocks involved in those many bad aspects tend to be experienced at a predominantly emotional level.
It may be interesting and perhaps entertaining to take a glance at some of the houses. The first house, the house of our public image, contains the Moon in Cancer. If the Society were a person, this would suggest a small individual with a protruding stomach, a pale face and a turned-up nose! The second house, usually concerned with property, is tenanted by a heavily afflicted Uranus, the planet of sudden events. No genius here for retaining and administering property.
When a house has no planets in it, we look at the position and aspects of the planet which "rules": the zodiacal sign that is in the house. In this connection the fourth house is interesting. The planet Venus, ruler of the sign Libra, which is in that house, is the one planet on the T.S. horoscope which makes no adverse aspects. The fourth house is that of mother and home and the end of life. How could the Society survive without its wonderful lady members?
The fifth house is concerned with children and created things. Naturally this is the most tenanted of all. We have been very creative - in terms of the Sun by giving to the world a certain pervasive illumination, in terms of Mercury by giving forth books, lectures, concepts and intellectual stimulus, in terms of Venus by creating cultural, educational and artistic movements.
The seventh house, that of marriage and partnership, untenanted by any planet, is half in Capricorn and half in Aquarius and hence very austere and celibate. The Society will not "marry" with other movements, though it would seem from the tenth and eleventh houses that they may, to their advantage and to its advantage, walk beside it as companions.
The eighth house, the house of death, is formidably tenanted by a heavily afflicted conjunction of Saturn and Mars, two irreconcilables, Mars the irresistible force and Saturn the immovable object. The ninth house is that of the future and of far-ranging speculation and philosophy. There we have the special point known as the Part of Fortune, marking this as the house of some of our most successful endeavors.
The midheavens, in trine with the Sun and Moon, sextile to Pluto and quite close to the Part of Fortune and with the Dragon's Head in the tenth house, gives the Society a status of great importance in the world, which time will enhance as our huge potential is made increasingly evident.
The eleventh house, that of companions, tenanted by Pluto, and with Neptune on its cusp, indicates that we shall tend to forgather with mystics, psychics and intuitive people - or perhaps with drunks, dope addicts and "queers"!
The twelfth house is that of imprisonment and undoing. The sign on the cusp of the house is Gemini, ruled by Mercury. So it is worth noting that our worst experience of imprisonment and undoing is likely to come from the argumentative lower mind to which members have indeed all too often been in thrall.
An interesting feature of an institutional horoscope is the way in which the horoscopes of individuals are linked to it. Many members of the Theosophical Society will find that if they collate their own horoscopes with that of the Society, the result shows quite correctly and sometimes illuminatingly the nature of their association with the Society. This is clear in the case of our founders and leaders. Madame Blavatsky's Sun is in conjunction with the Society's Uranus, her Jupiter and Uranus in conjunction with its Mars. Her Saturn, Mars and Mercury are in the Society's third house, the house of the lower mind, where her writings have stimulated much activity. Indeed it is to our loss that we are content to deal with her writings so much at that level.
It is pleasant and appropriate to find that both Madame Blavatsky and Mrs. Besant have several planets or luminaries in the Society's fourth house. To each the Society was a home and a mother and each was something of a mother to it. An outstanding feature of Mrs. Besant's horoscope is Mars in Taurus in the Society' s eleventh house, linked up strongly with the grand cross so fundamental in the Society's horoscope. Her martial and outward-turned energies directed into political and social movements, characteristic of the eleventh house, were immensely creative in the Society but also made tensions and difficulties.
Bishop Leadbeater's horoscope in relation to that of the Society is very striking. With his moon in exact conjunction with the Society's midheavens and trine to its Sun and Moon and with his Saturn, Venus, Mercury, Neptune and Sun all in the Society's ninth house, his relationship with the Society is shown as particularly creative in terms of the higher mind, long-range speculation and the future. More than any other leading figure, he seems to be concerned with the Society's future. Also of interest is that Krishnamurti has four of his radical planets in the Society's twelfth house, the house of undoing.
The most popular though not the only method of attempting to tell a fortune from a horoscope is to see it as a progressively changing pattern and to regard the changes that come in the first day as indicating the characteristics and developments of the first year, and so on. In the case of the Society it is possible to see the progressed position and aspects which occurred at various important junctures in its history.
One factor that changes by progression is the ascendant, representing the face which the Society displays to the world. At its foundation the ascendant was in the sign Cancer, sensitive, inward-turned, persistent. About 1895 the sign of the ascendant came to be Leo, a sign of outward-turned activity, splendor and panache. The Leo phase continued throughout the rest of Mrs Besant's career as a leader in the Society.
By 1936, however, the sign Virgo became the sign of the ascendant, a sign of the analytical and often niggling lower mind. Virgo, the Virgin, is like a very attractive but sometimes dogmatic senior schoolgirl. She can put you right about nearly anything, but she does not understand some of the deeper experiences of life. Passion and sorrow are as yet unknown to her. This period has therefore seen a good deal of negative criticism and somewhat sterile taking of things to pieces. By about 1972 the Society will have its progressed ascendant in Libra, a sign of balance, when there should be much healing integration of opposites and the whole function of the Society ought to be understood in a new way.
To trace out the numerous progressed aspects of the Society's past would be impossible here; but it may be interesting to notice that the most generously splendid period of the Society' history must have been in the middle 1920's. Adverse aspects from Uranus to Saturn and from Mars to Uranus were passing away and, by 1923, progression brought the ascendant to an exact conjunction with radical Uranus. Mars had just progressed through a conjunction with the Part of Fortune. For some years Jupiter, the "great benefice, " had been forming a parallel of declination with radical Mars, and Saturn was in parallel with radical Jupiter. In 1924 the progressed Sun made a sextile to radical Jupiter, and progressed Jupiter made a conjunction with radical Sun. Progressed Venus made a trine to its own radical position and a parallel of declination to the radical Sun. Progressed Mercury had been making a parallel to radical Moon and in 1925 progressed Moon made a parallel to radical Mercury.
These numerous coinciding favorable aspects, nearly all involving fifth-house planets, made an almost perfect setting for the birth of something of immense importance, the coming of a tremendous "gift from on high". Mrs. Besant and others certainly believed and declared that such a gift did indeed come. It would be out of place to debate this here, but the astrological background does give strong support to Mrs. Besant in this, and there is nothing to suggest any major factor of illusion at that time.
In recent times the Society has experienced some very debilitating progressed aspects. Thus 1958 saw the progressed Sun in conjunction with radical Saturn, and in 1967 in conjunction with progressed Saturn. This following by the Sun of the path of the Society with burdens from the past, property problems and the effects of old age. In 1964, too, the progressed Sun was square to its own radical position, diminishing or wasting vitality.
However, the future is more encouraging. About 1988 the progressed midheavens will reach a conjunction with the radical ascendant, a position which, of course, rarely happens within a human lifetime. The progressed Sun will make a conjunction with the radical midheavens about 1995. On its way thither it will make a series of trines to the various bodies that are in the Society's fifth house, including, in 1994, its own radical position.
In 1975 the progressed Sun, in conjunction with progressed Mars, will be trine to radical Mercury, and Mars will be approaching a trine to radical Moon; but there does not seem to be an indication of anything as exceptional at that time as some have expected or prophesied. Jupiter in that year will transit the Society's midheavens and tenth house, suggesting a good deal of favorable publicity in connection with the centenary.
The transits of planets over sensitive points on the Society's radical chart do seem to trigger off events. To give just one example, in 1960 some concern was expressed by astrologically minded members at the fact that Uranus was then shortly due to make a transit of its own radical position on the Society's chart. In mid-July, 1960, as Uranus moved up to that position, it formed an exact square to Mars. The planet of suddenness was thus in bad aspect to the planet of violence and transiting the radical position. On that very day Mrs. Josephine Ransom, the Society's newly elected Vice President, was struck down in London street accident, receiving injuries from which she later died.
These rather scattered observations may be a stimulus to others better qualified than the writer to consider the Theosophical Society in the light of astrology. And to others this article may perhaps provide a brief introduction to the way in which astrologers conventionally approach the interpretation of a horoscope.
It is important to realize, however, that astrology is not a substitute for living or a protection against misfortune. It serves us best when we take it lightly as one more expression of the wonder and unity of life and not as material for a self-centred calculation of what life may bring us. Life is a good friend to those who go out to meet it unarmed; but it is not always so kind to those who wear an armour of prudential paper calculations. One could tell some sad little stories to illustrate this. It is not our business to make the future of the Theosophical Society a story of that kind; so let us move on without illusions to greet the great unknown.
More Hugh Shearman