Towards a Living Tradition


This is a purely editorial piece – my first and probably my last.  It’s meant to raise some issues I think need to be discussed in the astrological community. My remarks should not be construed as referring to any particular individual. It’s an open letter to the Astrological community and all interested readers.

The resurrection of several texts from the Hellenistic and Medieval periods, in particular, have contributed to a Renaissance in astrology. Many of these sources were unavailable for one reason or another until the last three decades. This is a wonderful time to be an astrologer.

Unfortunately, this new knowledge has helped to create an atmosphere of elitism,  expressed most strongly in those who know the least. We have cases of ‘famous’ teachers teaching predictive astrology who have never accurately predicted anything. When asked for the specifics of a given prediction they become vague and reluctant to connect it to a specific astrological event, sometimes even contradicting themselves in the process – granted that is the extreme.

Common English words are translated into Latin to add that special patina to an otherwise mostly empty vessel. Of course, the programs offered by these astrologers are very expensive, so the recipients of the diplomas, degrees and titles naturally become defensive if any of the techniques they learned are in any way held up to scrutiny or their brand name questioned. This is not conducive to astrology as a living tradition.

Try to imagine going for a reading with William Lilly or John Dee only to find certificates on their wall declaring them competent. It doesn’t work that way and it never did.  Mentorship is a necessary and wonderful thing, but the greatest astrologers we have even known didn’t have a brand name mentality and usually had many teachers. Putting letters after your name might be useful for lawyers and physicians, but has little or no meaning in astrological life. William Lilly consistently referred to himself as s student of astrology.  Of course, some students are more advanced and experienced than others, but students they remain.

The study necessary to be a great Traditional Astrologer is immense and takes decades. One doesn’t just take a course in Hermetic or Neo-Platonic philosophy and then claim to be a Classicist. .Obviously, you are not going to get a full understanding of Neo-Platonism without being thoroughly familiar with Plato.

If you embrace the Hermetic Philosophy you will need to know a great deal about the various forms of Hermes. You will need to have a full grasp of the cosmology that lies deep in the roots of Traditional astrology. In fact, it can never be separated, otherwise, you will never be anything more than a mechanic. Astrology without spirit and soul is nothing more than parroted dogma. It cannot ultimately work and it certainly cannot produce anything useful to the soul. There is a pervasive aversion to the idea of the soul, perhaps as much as to psychology.  Many Traditional astrologers have somehow got the idea that astrology is purely utilitarian. This is an enormous overreaction to the excesses of New Age astrology, which in fact has no coherent foundation at all. – as psychology perhaps, but not astrology.

In India, knowledge is often passed down from generation to generation. But this transmission, no matter in which culture it occurs, does not produce photocopies. Mimicry is anathema to any Art. What we need is emulation and a deep understanding that Astrology is a living Art. I have seen far too many so-called Traditional astrologers cling to dogma and find themselves superior, thus negating the ability to learn anything.

As for myself, I have studied for over forty years. I’ve been blessed by many, many great teachers. I had an extraordinary master of yoga as my teacher at the age of sixteen. I subsequently read the Upanishads, the Rig Veda and any Indian sacred texts I could find. Later on, I practised Tibetan Buddhism. The wisdom and beauty of these traditions astounded me, but what amazed me, even more, was how much they paralleled the western tradition. It’s been said that Buddhism is the closest thing to Gnosticism in the West, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. I sought my Western roots and found many marvellous things. We have all but forgotten our sacred roots. Through all this, astrology was never far away from my focus.

I spent a decade in Academia studying Greek and Roman Classics, Ancient History, and philosophy – particularly Hermetica and Platonica.  My Doctoral studies were on Marsilio Ficino and the School of Alexandria.  It was my great pleasure to go on and profess the summation of these studies I’ve found that none of this has conflicted in essence with my Druidic roots to which I feel a powerful bond. I make no special claims other than those required of any astrologer who has mastered the Art to the extent that I have. That doesn’t mean I never err. We all do.

Not everyone would have the opportunities I’ve had and my studies have taken me beyond what is required of a great astrologer. We can measure a great astrologer in any number of ways: first, he or she will enjoy a high degree of accuracy and a strong spirituality complete with humility. It’s not our doing that we have great teachers or extraordinary opportunities for the transference of wisdom.  Gratitude is an appropriate attitude, arrogance is not. He will be devoted to a lifetime of study.

Contact with our ancestors in one way or another is a great necessity. From them, we receive knowledge wisdom and inspiration. This is probably the greatest forgotten gift of  Modernity.

It’s not my intent to offend anyone and I recognize many wonderful teachers of the Art. These things needed to be said and I hope they stimulate some fruitful discussion in the astrological community

4 thoughts on “Towards a Living Tradition

  1. There is so much truth in what you say here . in fact some astrologers even refuse to discuss certain items : of course, when you feel you are a certain god, there is no need for discussion…
    Where is the humility of the ancients…

  2. The problem with these so called neo-traditionalists is probably the fact that they are convinced that astrology is a frozen anachronism and they seldom test what is written and what they take for granted. To take one example , few astrologers question the problem of the exaltations, ( Saturn in Libra, Sun on the 18 ° of Aries, Moon 3° Taurus etc…). The moon, for instance was indeed in exaltation 860 BC when , the first of Nissan , she rose together with the Pleiades ( 3° of Taurus in the fixed Babylonian zodiac) but, due to precession, today the moon rises in Aries at the beginning of the astrological year!!…Valid question : is the moon in Aries in her exaltation nowadays ??? So much to think about.

  3. I just found the second half of your posting earlier today before I had to leave for town.Thank you for this thoughtful response. I’ve always credited you with being my first and best teacher of Traditional astrology.

    Terms like “frozen anachronisms” are accurate. There is a number of ancient, medieval and classical astrologers I hold in the highest esteem. Their methods have not failed me. They have also helped me to recognize the genuine article

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