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  Studies in Comparative Religion
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Correspondence

Source: Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 3, No. 4. (Autumn, 1969 ). © World Wisdom, Inc.
www.studiesincomparativereligion.com


ASTROLOGICAL SYMBOLISM

Sir,

Mr. Bolton obviously confuses zodiacal signs with zodiacal constellations. While it is true that signs and constellations do not coincide any more due to the precession of the equinoxes the signs remain unaffected by it. The argument is old and has always been put forward against Astrology. Ptolemy in his Syntax and Tetrabiblos (III, 11) had already drawn attention to the gradual divergence between the signs of the zodiac and the constellations; and in the third century Origen made out of this fact an argument against Astrology which he thought to be decisive. Such arguments can be found throughout the centuries: Apomasar, Junctinus and last but not least Boll-Betzold-Gundel in our times, have all put forward arguments based on this discrepency between zodiacal signs and constellations. The answer is not at all difficult if one returns to the original revealed Astrology. There was indeed a time when both signs and constellations coincided, about 2000 B.C., which might have been the time when Astrology was established in the form or "system" as it is known to us.

In order to understand the metaphysical meaning of the difference between signs and constellations one has to revert to the cosmological order as it was expressed in the well known Ptolemaic world picture wherein the planets and spheres are eternal prototypes (whereby it is the planetary rhythms and not the planets themselves that determine their spheres).

The centre of all is the Sun, the "heart of the world" (qalb al'alam) and beyond the spheres of the planets are to be found the heaven of the fixed stars (the constellations), beyond that the heaven without stars, and beyond that the two highest spheres of the divine Pedestal and the divine Throne. It is the heaven without stars which represents the end of space, the place of discontinuity between the formal and supraformal manifestation. Here the invisible becomes the transcendent. And it is in this heaven that the 12 signs of the zodiac are located. It is therefore here that the entrance to the formal world and the exit from it find their symbolical localization in the two signs Cancer and Capricorn, and it is to this symbolical or principial localization that Guénon's diverse articles dealing with this are related. ("Les Portes solstitiales", "Le Symbolisme du Zodiac chez les Pythagoriciens", "L'hiéroglyphe du Cancer" and others).

Let it be clearly understood that this heaven of the zodiacal signs is the place of the heavenly prototypes or archetypes, which remain eternally as they are, unaffected by what is below them (the constellations), while what is below is subject to change. The qualitative differentiation of the heavenly regions as expressed by the division of the zodiac has its origin in the four constant limits of the sola. cycle, the solstices and equinoxes. It is wrong to say that the vernal equinox has changed from the sign of Aries to the sign of Pisces because the signs are reckoned from the vernal equinoctial point. One has to say on the contrary that the constellation of Aries has turned towards the sign of Taurus or that the vernal equinox is no longer confronted by the constellation of Aries but by the constellation Pisces. All those changes might have their importance perhaps in changing what might be called the "influences of heaven", but the signs and their principial importance remain unaffected thereby.

That all such considerations are far removed from the arguments or the reasonings of most Astrologers—old and new—does not devaluate the eternal truths contained in the metaphysical considerations which are also found in those articles by Guénon just mentioned. It is these considerations which are alone valid and which give to Astrology quite a different perspective from what is commonly understood of this traditional art.

It might be added—because it belongs into the same order—that the fact that technically conditioned beings have set foot on the moon does not in the least devaluate the profound symbolism of the moon; the symbol must not however be confused with what it symbolises.

Germany, 2.8.69

DR. HANS BANDMANN.


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