by Hand Week 29
in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
all, happy new year to you all, and happy new millenium. Yes, I am a stickler
for the math and insist that since there was no year zero in the usual
calendar, the year 2000 was the last year of the twentieth century.
Back to the
past. Astrology had not completely died out in the eighteenth century.
The main representatives of the art in England were the Sibley brothers,
one of whom, Ebenezer Sibley, published a large textbook of astrology
in the late 1700s. This was the first book since Partridge’s time that
covered astrology to any degree of completeness. It is a fairly traditional
book, but reflects many of the “reforms” made by Partridge and suffers
from serious cultural crisis.
an eighteenth-century man, apparently well-educated, trying to fit astrology
into the world-view of Copernicus and Newton. So his text contains an
off mixture of medieval and modern reasoning. Sibley was also the first
to cast a chart, sort of, for the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which
he published in his book.
has been severely criticized by later astrologers for its inadequacies,
but I am not sure that anyone could have done much better at the time.
The Sibleys were nearly alone in England and I am not sure whether there
was anyone at all on the continent publishing astrological material. There
were certainly none out in the open. I have seen one French manuscript
dating from the eighteenth century. It was never published.
Revival: Three Phases
In the early
nineteenth century the “revival” began. I use quotation marks because
it is customary to regard what happened in the early nineteenth century
as a revival. For myself, I regard the nineteenth century more as a period
of “survival” than of “revival.” There were few improvements and little
effort to go beyond Partridge.
century was the period of the real revival. It is not until then that
three things began to happen that constituted a revival. First, astrology
began to make adaptations to modern times and to find some kind of spiritual
and philosophical voice for itself. This began with the combination of
theosophy and astrology by Alan Leo and others in the early twentieth
began to evolve again, not merely to preserve some small fragments of
the past. This happened most powerfully in Germany and France in the 20s
and 30s with the Hamburg School, cosmobiology and some very excellent
early scientific work in France. This continued after World War II in
Britain and the U.S. The modern siderealist movement of Cyril Fagan and
Garth Allan began in this period. In the U.S., Dane Rudhyar and Marc Edmund
Jones founded humanistic astrology with its emphasis on astrology as a
tool for the development of human potential.
phase of the revival is actually the one that can be most obviously associated
with the term “revival.” The first two phases were part of a revival of
astrology’s vitality. The third phase, which has been happening since
the 80s, is the revival of the study of the authentic tradition as it
was before 1700 without Partridge’s “nozzle.” This is the very thing that
we have been talking about in the last couple of weeks.
We Got Here
is the point of all of this. Astrology did not evolve to the point where
it is now as a science evolves. It did not grow through the testing and
trial of new ideas with the discarding of old ideas that were found wanting.
Astrology “devolved” until the twentieth century. That is, it lost content
due to historical accidents and ignorance.
of its intellectual foundations in the late Renaissance meant that the
training of astrologers deteriorated. The study of astrology had once
included people like Cardan, a leading mathematical pioneer of this day
(mid-sixteenth century), Kepler (who definitely believed in astrology’s
validity and simply wanted to reform it), Napier, the inventor of logarithms
and so forth. After that, however, there were no well-educated and highly-trained
astrologers until the twentieth century. Thanks in part to the new age
and its thirst for all things alternative, the last part of the twentieth
century has been the first time since the sixteenth century that first
class and well-educated minds have gotten into astrology even though astrology
is still considered a fringe activity!
time, one could get a first class education from the remaining practicing
astrologers and some very comprehensive texts written in Latin. In modern
times, few astrologers (few persons in any field for that matter) can
read Latin and, far fewer, Greek. So until the recent spate of translations,
we have not even had access to our own tradition.
I shall continue this a bit further and take up the issue of the relationship
between traditional and modern astrology.