A 1910 symposium
Reprinted from Modern Astrology (New Series), 1911, 8, 140-151.
Abstract -- Around 1910, at a meeting of Alan Leo's Astrological Society in London, members read papers on the value of astrology that showed a "wonderful diversity" of viewpoint. In this article Leo presents eight selected papers under the labels of recluse, philosopher, student, scientist, palmist, wayfarer, practical man, and onlooker. By today's standards the papers are wordy (wordiness being the style of the day) and devoid of the scientific insights that came three-quarters of a century later. Nevertheless, compared to modern views, they show breadth, humanity, and freshness, possibly because astrology in those days was less embattled by scientific attacks. One might even ask if modern astrologers are worthy heirs of Alan Leo. On the other hand, these eight views can also be seen as a testimony to the power of hidden persuaders (see Artifacts in reasoning under Doing Scientific Research), which in those days were unknown and unsuspected. For the Recluse astrology enables people to make the best use of time, thus advancing their own development and that of society. For the Philosopher astrology shows the tides of fate just as astronomy shows the tides of oceans. Just as for a ship, to miss a tide is to miss an opportunity. Astrology is our compass in life. For the Student astrology provides insight beyond the ordinary senses, in the same way as the gauges on a steam engine provides insight into its remote workings. Faults are thus easily discovered and corrected. For the Scientist astrology provides a personal equation, a prism for separating the components of divine wisdom, a radiograph of our strengths and liabilities, a clue to knowing thyself. For the Palmist astrology seemed at first like fortune telling. Then its true nature became clear. It helps us understand ourselves and deal with difficulties in life perhaps more clearly than does palmistry. For the Wayfarer astrology is about spiritual well-being. It points to a higher life and liberates us from crass materialism. Its value will be determined by the kind of people who use it. Its study fosters tolerance and compassion, which are things the world needs and might secure if kings and rulers used astrology as a national guide. For the Practical Man it is too early to judge the value of astrology. It needs time to prove itself just as radium did, so it must be more widely practised to make its value more evident. Organisations such as the Astrological Society are ideal for this. For the Onlooker the value of astrology to the world is more than the collective gain of individuals. It provides a universal standard, a Metric System for anthropology and philosophy. Just as we take our Time from the stars, we can also take our Tune. Alan Leo concludes "Surely, it may be argued, a study which arouses the zealous espousal of those whose outlook on life is so various, must merit the attention of all thoughtful people?".
[The symposium begins with the following introduction and conclusion by the editor Alan Leo]
Some time since, at a meeting of the Astrological Society, the above subject was taken for discussion and papers were read or speeches made expressing the opinions of various members present. To the listener, the most striking feature of this evening's discussion was the wonderful diversity in point of view exhibited by the speakers, and the difference of the methods by which they sought to show the utility of Astrology.
This is illustrated in the following more or less haphazard selection from the papers which were read. The heading given to each paper is merely intended to be indicative of what seems the point of view of its author, who must not be supposed to have laid claim to the title -- or even challenged attention to it -- with which he is here furnished and for which the present writer is solely accountable.
Surely, it may be argued, a study which arouses the zealous espousal of those whose outlook on life is so various, must merit the attention of all thoughtful people?
Now the idea of making the best use of one's life would undoubtedly make a strong appeal to any member of the class I have just mentioned. This, of course, can be accomplished not only by the non-waste of, but by the most economical use of one's time. But this ambition, although a marked characteristic of Saturnian natives, is certainly not confined to them. Speaking broadly, this desire is universal and is to be found in a greater or lesser degree in all men.
Allowing this, I maintain there is yet to be found a study that will so effectually aid man in achieving this end as Astrology. For Astrology can define for every man his limitations, can give him sure and certain knowledge of the ways in which he is already developed, as well as point out the times that will best repay an expenditure of effort in any given direction.
Presuming veneration for Astrology to be universal, the science would confer in the first place an enormous benefit upon all those natural guardians of our children -- their parents. With the knowledge of his child's tendencies and distastes, every parent would have it in his power to train him in such a way that not only during the period of childhood but in manhood also his life could be of the highest utility.
No comment need be made upon the value of this knowledge to the individual himself. It would be a boon inestimable.
Having seen, then, how the native himself and those most intimately connected with him can receive the greatest possible benefit from Astrology, it follows as a matter of course that all with whom the native has any dealings must also be helped in the best way possible by him; and this not only by what I will call his negative influence -- that resulting from merely coming into his environment -- but very positively. For inasmuch as a man is making a good use of his life, using his time economically, so will he positively endeavour to make it possible for all men with whom he comes in contact to emulate him.
Here some may object, -- because they have considered my phrase "best use of one's life" to mean that which brings immediate and personal benefit, apart from the consideration of that which is due to others, -- and say that the most economical use of one's time would be (if Astrology be all that we claim it is) to use our knowledge of the science in gaining the best possible results for ourselves at the expense of others not similarly equipped. This however from the most utilitarian point of view would be anything but making an economical use of one's time. For each man who has made a profound study of the science has discovered that that which makes the Solar System a Universe, a cosmos and not a chaos, is not only the existence therein of law and order, of a series of developments which have been planned, -- the real knowledge of which plan it is the aim of Astrology to teach, -- but mainly that there is but One Life which binds and harmonises all those varying expressions or manifestations with which Astrology deals. Thus he has learned that as each man is only part of this One Great Life or Self, the best possible use of a given period of time will be to benefit not only one but many of these parts.
So we see that Astrology is valuable from the time point of view because it not only enables the individual to use his time economically but gives him the chance of aiding his brothers to do likewise, thus not only forwarding his own development but aiding in the evolution of the race.
Astrology thus essentially belongs to the man who is assuming control of his own destiny, who is seeking to navigate his own ship of fortune in contradistinction to those who are relying on the Pilot of Providence and are content by prayer and supplication to have their barques navigated for them. It essentially belongs to the man who is seeking to steer his own course by working in intelligent co-operation with Nature instead of by fumbling a confused way in ignorance of Her Laws, or impotently relinquishing the lead to Another. "Help nature and work on with her; and nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance. And she will open wide before thee the portals of her secret chambers, lay bare before thy gaze the treasures hidden in the very depths of her pure virgin bosom." (Voice of the Silence.)
To such, Astrology is as the compass to the mariner, the inestimable values of which priceless instrument do not in any wise outrival in measure or importance the value of Astrology to the world.
The primary use of Astrology to the world would therefore appear to me to be the enlightenment and insight it is undoubtedly capable of affording to the native of a horoscope, upon these fundamental and all-important questions. Without it he only has his ordinary sense perceptions, his reason and intuitions, all of which in the ordinary way are probably (in the majority of cases) very deceptive -- owing to the bias of personal colouring and the influence of the ever-present desire nature. He may get help by example or by advice from others, but all this is necessarily working more or less in the dark, and often proves to be a case of "the blind leading the blind" -- his conclusions being necessarily based chiefly upon effects and externals instead of causes and internal observations.
A very good analogy may be drawn from the evolution of the modern steam engine, which may now be said to have attained its maximum of efficiency or its nearest approach to the theoretically possible perfection. I think it is safe to say that this perfection could never have been attained without the aid supplied by the invention of the Indicator Diagram. This piece of mechanism was capable of producing on a roll of paper a diagram representing the exact condition, in action, of all the invisible causes inside the cylinder of the engine which enabled it to work -- it was in fact a picture of the very life forces and their condition as they flow through the body of the engine. All the faults in the engine were thus discovered and brought to light and their correction dealt with accordingly.
Now the horoscope of a person is just such an "Indicator Diagram" of his forces and his working mechanism (though possibly a good deal more besides), and with it the world may surely improve itself in the most direct way -- as it has already done with its steam engines -- by studying its "Indicator Diagram," or in other words the horoscope.
If we accept the view of the world taken by Mackenzie the value it will place upon Astrology, or even whether it places any value at all upon the teachings of our science, is a matter of but little importance. I purpose however to take the word "world" with a different signification -- that of "Man as a microcosm."
As Emerson says, "Build therefore your own world; as fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold in its great proportions." Now in proportion to the light thrown by Astrology on the path, so is its value to the world; and it is a personal equation how much of this light each individual is able to perceive on his way along the path.
The human mind when enlightened may be likened to a crystal cut in the form of a prism and polished, by which some of the varied components of the single ray of Divine Wisdom cast upon it are made visible in their separate beauty like the colours of the spectrum; and clearness of definition will depend upon the purity of the crystal and the fineness of the polish. In our present mode of manifestation it is given to few to see the pure white light, the majority must rest content to remain in the darkened room and see only the component colours cast in a band upon the screen. Is it not then the sacred duty of those advanced minds who are designed to act as it were as prisms for mankind ever to keep the material within them pure, and its surface polished, so that no distorted image of Eternal Truth may be presented through them whereby their less favoured fellow beings may be deceived?
Even as a ray of sunlight may be refracted into many colours the comparative beauty of which is a matter of taste, so the ray of Wisdom coming to us through astrology manifests under different aspects, the relative utility of each being similarly a matter of opinion.
Many arguments might be brought forward in favour of the utility of natal, pre-natal, horary, and medical astrology, and the claims of that branch which is engaged in the investigation of the Physical Foundations of our science will not be without its supporters; but in the limited time at my disposal I feel I must endeavour to emphasise the utility, and I would almost say the indispensableness, of the teachings which have been so ably expounded in the Western World by our esteemed President and his gifted helpmate under the title of Esoteric Astrology.
To man in his present stage of evolution, chained like Ixion to the wheel, Esoteric Astrology gives a clue which may assist him to guess the riddle of the Sphinx, and it will surely aid him in following that portentous precept "Know thyself."
Those who have made some little progress along the path will appreciate the difficulty of expressing in terms of the physical glimpses of what lies beyond the veil, but I venture to suggest a simile: -- an amoeba is an example of primitive life, a mere living plasm, a tiny and apparently quite unorganised mass of protoplasm, which moves about and seizes particles of nutriment by protruding self-made tentacles called pseudopodia. I am not aware whether it has been observed that these tentacles can be protruded by the animalcule at every point on its surface, or only at definite places, but it is probable that only certain spots are designed for this purpose, while if this protoplasm is endowed with any sense of awareness, however rudimentary, of the external world, other parts of its surface will be adapted for receiving stimuli in the nature of sensations however vague. Now in the present stage of evolution, man is endowed with vehicles other than his physical body, but at present those intended to enable him to manifest on the higher planes of being are more or less rudimentary and await development, while any stimuli affecting them from these planes produce little more than merely faint adumbrations of reality; in fact any of the vehicles of the average man for manifestation on a higher plane will appear to the intelligent beings dwelling therein to be as rudimentary as that of the amoeba appears to us.
Now is it not possible that the horoscope gives us a picture -- a radiograph as it were, -- of our vehicles with all their pseudopods and sensitive points, which will show us in what directions we are best able to develop, and from whence dangers are most likely to assail us? If so, there is a great lesson to be learned from astrology, and "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
The other day a person said to me: "I was told I should die at 43, do you think I shall?" I said: "No, but you had a very serious illness then. But see, there is a small faint line which shows that you would recover." The answer was, "I am now some years past 43, but I did have a serious illness at that time."
You will be thinking: What has this to do with Astrology? But I think you will understand my point; if our own vibrations are not refined and pure then we may miss those small faint lines (or vibrations) and that may make a lot of difference, for we cannot tell when once such vibrations are set going what may be the final result.
We can easily see that a knowledge of anatomy and physiology has been useful, and therefore practical, in laying a sure and strong foundation upon which to build a system of hygienic science. So in like manner can the teachings of Astrology be utilised to form the foundations of a spiritual science.
As far as we can judge, what is it that the world needs? It seems to me that it still needs emancipating from its crass materialism, the thraldom of the senses, and leading to a point where it can catch glimpses of a life that is higher, fuller and richer than what it has hitherto known.
It is knowledge that is required -- Self-Knowledge. It has been said that "Knowledge is power" and that "Knowledge puts an end to pain." Where can this knowledge be obtained? There has been, and is now, plenty of knowledge of a kind, and many systems have been tried and found wanting -- Science, Politics, Religion, and so on. Science in the past has largely emphasised the material side of things; the so-called religious teaching has for the most part been mere emotionalism and divorced from real knowledge. What is wanted is a harmonious combination of knowledge and devotion.
A new spiritual wave is sweeping over humanity and is manifesting itself in various ways. I take it that the chief vehicle for its expression is modern Theosophy, and I feel with others that to fully complete it Astrology is required. The two are helpers or handmaids; strictly speaking they cannot be divorced. It is the spiritual and higher aspect of Astrology that I am pleading for and not merely the material side, for although of course we cannot do without that side, yet it has in the past been pursued to the neglect of the other.
Astrology, in my opinion, stands or falls with Theosophy. And in what way, it may be asked, can Astrology help Theosophy? In Theosophy we have the gist of the Teachings of Spiritual Science, the principles that govern the Real Man, and the Spiritual Universe and the Laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. Theosophy teaches that the Egos in manifestation are at different stages of evolution or at different spiritual levels; and hence if the teachings of Theosophy are to be of any real practical value they need to be adapted to the varying stages of evolution of the Egos who are to be taught. Now I think that in Astrology we may be able to find the clue to this and so adapt spiritual sustenance to the particular needs of the individual.
If Astrology is to be of real use in the world we, as a Society, should always seek to place it on as high a platform as we can, seek to ennoble it and purify it. We are the astrological pioneers. We are trying to bring it before the world. Its value, too, as regards its service to the world will be determined by the kind of people into whose hands it falls. It would, no doubt, be beneficial to the world at large if scientific men, governments and rulers espoused it. For we read that amongst the early races of the world the kings who were deputed to rule over them were Initiates and probably were real astrologers; and so at the present day why should not kings and rulers who preside over the destinies of nations have the counsel of astrologers as of old? The study of the true Astrology fosters tolerance, sympathy and forbearance with the faults and weaknesses of others with whom we may be connected, and no doubt this tolerant feeling might be secured between nations and countries if kings and rulers were to utilise Astrology as a national guide.
The Practical Man
The value of a new invention or discovery, like that of a newly born child or a freshly-struck deposit of gold, is a problematical quantity which can only be estimated after time and experience have shown its true worth. As long as the invention remains a mere laboratory or lecture-table experiment, as in the case of the electric telegraph, its value may appear to be nil; but once brought out into the field of action, it soon proves its worth. At first it may even excite ridicule, as did Galvani's experiments with the frog's legs: he was dubbed "the frogs' dancing-master" for his pains; but the man who is confident in the truth of the science he upholds cares little for the ridicule of the unthinking. Few things have been more derided than Astrology, unless it be Spiritualism, yet the despised table-rappings have led to the formation of two powerful societies, the S.P.R. and the T.S., both of which now substantially confirm the truth of the main contentions of Spiritualism, and have secured for their pronouncements a respectful hearing before the whole world.
If we would prove to mankind the value of a new idea, we must in the first place develop its capacities. This can only be done by giving it a chance to show its value -- by putting it to the test of use and leaving it free to develop and reveal its powers. Radium might have remained a laboratory curiosity, but that it was observed that it had an effect on the skin and tissues; each succeeding application of its qualities revealed its value more plainly, until scientific men could form an estimate of its worth. So with Astrology: the first thing to be done to estimate its value is to bring it into practical and general application, and then its true position as an instrument of human progress will be made more and more manifest.
It is true that I have been comparing Astrology with new discoveries; whereas in reality it is of unknown antiquity. So is the idea of constructing a flying machine; but in practical matters we often have to admit that the real discoverer of a new aid to human progress is the man who harnesses it, puts it to work, and develops its practical value. Has the practical value of Astrology in human affairs ever yet been brought out, tested, and demonstrated? For individuals, this has often been done; but the very fact that this question is now being discussed is sufficient to prove that its full value to the world is still in question -- not perhaps in our minds so much as in the opinion of the world at large. If we can demonstrate its value to the world in any one respect, we shall no doubt find other values, which will reveal themselves as it comes more into use -- values which perhaps we ourselves do not altogether foresee.
And how are we to bring out its value to the world? I have referred to the work of two societies in placing before the world the value of two distinct yet connected ideas: the finer faculties of the human soul and its survival of bodily death. I feel assured that there is no more effectual way of vindicating before the world the claims of Astrology than by the efforts of an organisation like the Astrological Society, which not only gives to Astrology a standing among the subjects of scientific knowledge and investigation, but can contribute powerfully to bring it forward as a matter for general acceptance, by systematically setting to work to demonstrate its value, not only to individuals, but to the world at large.
Students who have approached the ancient myths know that Astrology is the master-key to unlock them all. Like a solved cryptogram the foolish-seeming sentences suddenly become luminous with meaning when the clue is found. Just such a clue lies behind the seeming-foolish trivialities and tragi-comedies of everyday life, and Astrology provides it.
At present, humanity is like an orchestra each instrument of which plays its best perhaps, but without being in tune with the rest. The difference in pitch may be trifling, but it is cacophonous in the aggregate. Astrology furnishes the diapason normal to which if all those warring sounds were tuned, sweet music might at once ensue. This is a dream of the future, perchance; but as we even now take our Time from the stars, why should we not eventually take our Tune also?