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Source: Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer, 1969) © World Wisdom, Inc.



I would like to call for some reservation concerning the astrological symbolism discussed in your recent article on the Symbolism of the Fish, by René Guénon, where the signs of Cancer and Capricorn were said to mark the extreme positions of the Sun's ascendent and descendent motion in the ecliptic. Cosmic symbolism is the last field in which one's data should be suspected of getting out of date, but unfortunately this is the exception which proves the rule. Owing to the precession of the equinoxes, the Sun at the end of each year always falls slightly short of the position it had reached the year before, and in the course of the past two thousand years, these small successive differences have added up almost to the extent of a whole zodiacal sign. In terms of observable facts, this means that on the 21st March at the present era, the Sun is actually just past the beginning of the sign of Pisces, and not at the beginning of the sign of Aries as it once was.

Consequently, whatever is referred to a sign in the (traditional) Zodiac must now be referred to the sign immediately before it in order, but if this is done in the present instance, none of the related considerations will still apply, as the signs of Gemini and Sagittarius call for quite different relationships. Now that the inherent meaning of each sign has been completely divulsed from its positional meaning in relation to the ecliptic, much traditional symbolism in this field must have only an historical interest. Modern astrology has sought to evade this issue by saying that the sign which the Sun is entering on 21st March is by definition the sign of Aries, no matter what it actually is, so that all the other signs exchange names accordingly. But anyone used to observing the unmistakable qualities of the real signs in the sky, however, will hardly be able to avoid the impression that modern astrology consists only in the manipulation of symbolic abstractions which attach to no concrete reality. The task of recasting the meanings of the Zodiac so as to accord with present-day cosmic conditions would call for a degree of wisdom and science far beyond anything possessed by Guénon himself, and is probably beyond the reach of Twentieth-Century mankind altogether.

At the present date, the Sun is rather more than half way through the sign of Taurus, and I will leave it to the reader to see if this news will serve to prevent an astrologer from awarding a "Gemini" horoscope to anyone born in the first three weeks of this month!

Coventry, 8.6.69


It is to be hoped that this interesting letter will receive a reply, although the questions raised in it have been asked and answered more than once during the last two thousand years. Needless to say, Guenon himself was fully aware of the facts mentioned by Mr. Bolton—Editor.