Currently, there are quite a number of different schools of thought within astrology. Currently, one of the more heated divisions is between Classical/Traditional Astrology and Modern Astrology. To those who do not understand astrology, these divisions can seem confusing. To be honest, these divisions can be confusing even to those who do understand and practice astrology. There are several concrete matters that arise with respect to the difference between these schools, such as whether and how the Outer Planets are used or not used; however, It can be a bit difficult to sort through the debates and discussions regarding these divisions.
I think that an understanding of the gunas of time can be instructive in shedding light on these matters. I have discussed the gunas is quite a bit of detail in a previous article, The Gunas and Societal Choices. As a review, Sattwic (Traditional) Societies are upwardly oriented societies, Rajastic (Normal) Societies are outwardly or materially oriented societies, and Tamasic (Inverted) Societies are neither upwardly or outwardly oriented, so they move downward. Western society began a movement into a Tamasic society in the mid-1960’s.
Interestingly enough, I think that it is likely that the Western practice of astrology began a movement into Tamas at around the Enlightenment, coinciding with the “discovery” of the Outer Planets. I also do not think it is a coincidence that Western society fell into Tamas a few centuries later. One could argue that it is not possible that changes in the craft of astrology could have such a profound effect upon society. That argument would hold if we were taking about just the craft of astrology; however, until the Enlightenment, the fields of cosmology, astronomy, and astrology were not divorced from each other as they are today. The “discovery” of the Outer Planets destroyed what remained of the knowledge of cosmology, severing the knowledge which is the basis for all traditional science. As astronomy and astrology are the sciences that are most directly connected to cosmology, it makes sense that they would be the first plunged into Tamas.
Our understanding of the cosmos very much informs everything in our lives. A very good explanation of this process is found in Chapter One of the Feminine Universe. I believe that the only reason that society as a whole did not fall into Tamas earlier when astrology did is that is people are quite resistant from being severed from their roots.
So, in a very real sense, what we know of as Modern Astrology is probably a bit of a misnomer. It is probably more accurate to think of Modern Astrology as post-Modern Astrology. What we know of as Traditional or Classical Astrology is closer to Modern Astrology, if we were to use this terminology.
To explain this, we need to go back the concept of the gunas with the symbolism of the cross. A Sattwic or a Traditional society is one that is upwardly focused. There is no separation between the Divine and the Mundane. In the history of astrology, it is noted that personal horoscopes were not cast until around the Chaldean period in the West. Conventional wisdom is that this was because there was not enough understanding of astrology to cast individual horoscopes, but I find that unlikely. I think it far more likely that there was no reason for people to have their personal horoscopes drawn in a Sattwic or Traditional Society. Their lives were ordered in an integrated society which was reflective of the Order of the Cosmos. Rulers derived their authority from the Divine, which was seen as the only true source of authority. This required rulers to be obedient to the Divine. One of the sources of information regarding the instruction of the Divine was through the movement of the heavenly bodies.
As there are really few, if any, true Traditional or Sattwic Societies left in the world today, with the possible exception of aboriginal tribes, we really can not be sure of how astrology was practiced. It is likely, though, that astrology was used by the Temples and rulers to determine festivals and omens and to align the societies they were responsible for with the Divine Order of the Cosmos. We really do not have access to astrology as it was practiced in a these societies.
It is for this reason that I started to use the term Classical Astrology rather than Traditional Astrology to refer to the type of astrology I practice. This is the astrology of a Rajastic or Normal Society. The purpose of this type of astrology to assist people in their outward or material existence. The outward or Rajastic uses of astrology are myriad, examples of which are deciding whether when to buy or sell a house, assisting physicians in healing, and determining the best time to plant crops. Even if the higher meaning and purposes were largely forgotten or unconscious, the practice was still rooted in the older Tradition. It is likely that this was the state of astrology until around the 1700’s in the West.
When astrology fell into a Tamasic state, it became cut off from both the older Traditional roots AND from the principles of tried and true practice as materially helpful craft. In some ways, it looked like a Traditional practice, with Psychological and “Spiritual” Astrology. This is often the case in a movement into Tamas. In the Feminine Universe, Miss Trent referred to this phenomenon as the Tamasic Dialectic. Tamasic forms often resemble Sattwic forms, but in an inverted or “diabolical” manner. There is movement away from the material horizontal axis of the cross; however, that movement is below the horizontal level rather than above it. The fascination with the Outer Planets is one example of this.
It is for this reason, that I see the present movement towards the study of Classical Astrology a very positive development in astrology. In the Feminine Universe, Miss Trent explained that it was not possible to return to a Traditional, Sattwic society directly from an Inverted, Tamasic one. For this reason, the antidote to the Tamasic poisons is a return to healthy material existence in a process termed re-racination, or returning to our roots. As some of my readers may know, I am one of the writers for another blog, The Temple of the Home, which is devoted to discussion regarding our personal efforts towards re-racination.
In a sense, this blog is devoted to the process of the re-recination of our understanding of the cosmos. This movement has already begun with the recovery and translation of older texts. Of course, we are unable to truly practice the craft as it was practiced, but these texts are artifacts that assist us in returning to a Rajastic practice from a Tamasic one. When reading and analyzing these texts and methodologies, I think it is also helpful to have an understanding of the Traditional and Essentialist principles from which these texts and methodologies are derived. It is a process of returning to our roots.