A Consideration of Astrological Symbolism by Benjamin Rowe
From the author: This paper is a work-in-progress. In the course of writing
it,I have found myself, time after time "awash in correspondence." Nevertheless,
even in its current (admittedly sketchy and unbalanced) form, I feel it
has many points that will be of interest to those interested in the broader
magickal context within which our personal initiatory work is taking place.
While the general approach of the work is astrological in tone, the content
is intended for magicians.
In our Western culture and its ancestors in Europe, the Middle East, and
northern Africa, the precession of the equinoxes has consistently been
accompanied by shifts in the encompassing definition of humanity's relationship
to the universe at large, what we might call the world-view of the era.
This definition has had a profound impact on the direction of cultures
within its influence. The development of human thought becomes focused
into particular lines; other lines of thought are excluded from general
acceptance. A corresponding change is seen in the activities and social
structures adopted by the affected cultures.
Astrologers and magicians have generally assumed that the sign of the
vernal equinox alone defines an era's world-view. A closer examination
shows this assumption is inadequate; the other three signs in the same
zodiacal cross must be taken into consideration. Additionally, the planets
"ruling" and "exalted" in the signs have a significance equal to that
of the signs themselves.
The four signs of an era's zodiacal cross take on, for the culture as
a whole, something of the same function that is served by the four "angles"
or cardinal points in an individual's horoscope. Figure 1 shows the overall
correspondences between the two groups.
At first this arrangement might appear counter intuitive.
Astrologically, the equinoctial axis and the horoscope's ascendant-descend
axis both divide the sphere of the heavens into "light" and "dark" halves.
It would be reasonable to think that there would be an identity between
them in any set of correspondences. However, observations of historical
and current day events do not support the assumption. Instead, the sign
of the vernal equinox takes on the aspect of the midheaven angle.
For an individual, the midheaven is literally the point over their head
at the time of birth. It is the high point of an axis going from space
to the center of the earth directly through their body. The powers of
the larger cosmos enter into them along this axis. Their perception of
their goals in life, their image of what they can become in their perfection,
and the way in which they can unite themselves with the divine powers
of the universe are all indelibly colored by the sign on their midheaven.
Similarly, the culture's perception of its long-term goals, its potential
evolution, and its relationship to the universe at large is colored by
the vernal equinox sign for its era. The perceptions are identical except
for the scale on which they appear. Therefore the vernal equinox sign
is properly set in correspondence to the midheaven, and the positions
of the other three signs are adjusted accordingly.
The Immum Coeli or nadir is the point at the other end of the vertical
axis in the horoscope, the end at the core of the Earth. The Earth is
the foundation or base on which humans and all their creations stand,
and it blocks a large portion of the heavens from view at any position
on its surface. Correspondingly, the individual's perception of their
fundamental nature, of what they are at the roots of their being, is largely
determined by this angle. It also acts as a filter coloring the conscious
self's perception of things welling up from the preconscious levels of
being. A similar perception and filtering occurs on the cultural level.
The midheaven and nadir are polar opposites in a state of tension; both
in the individual and in a culture they define the differences between
heavenly and mundane, between light and dark, between objective and subjective
states, between what is concealed and what is arrayed openly. The ascendant
and descendant, on the other hand, both represent modes of transition
between the polar opposites, two main paths through which the poles relate
to each other.
In the individual horoscope, the ascendant or rising sign represents
the way in which the personal subjective consciousness faces the external
objective world. It is a window through which the self looks out into
the world, and through which it receives input from that world. It is
in a sense the face or mask the person projects to the world, the surface
image behind which the internal workings of the subjective self are hidden.
At the same time it is a filter, a figurative set of colored glasses through
which the person sees the world.
The descendant angle represents the individual's perception of the "other",
conceived of as something separate from, but complementary to, the self.
It defines what the individual perceives as the correct way for two or
more individual subjective selves to interact and balance their respective
needs and desires.
In the cultural "horoscope" the functions of the ascendant and descendant
are similar but more abstract. The intense personal nature of the ascendant
and the "otherness" of the descendant are weakened. Instead the two corresponding
signs of the cross are simply two complementary means by which the mundane
and divine poles are linked within the context of the society.
We can briefly illustrate this relationship between the signs of a zodiacal
cross and the horoscope angles by looking at the dominant cultural definitions
present in Western culture during the "Piscean" era. After that, we can
consider some of the ways in which the cross of the incoming "Aquarian"
era are manifesting now.