Marc Edmund Jones and New Age Astrology in America
OVERVIEW OF PAPER
This paper examines the foundation of an astrology of spiritual development and psychological growth in the United States of America and examines the key role played by Marc Edmund Jones (1888-1980). Jones used arguments based on the history of astrology, strongly influenced by theosophical theories, to justify his "reform "of astrology.
The American Theosophist, Presbyterian minister, writer, occult philosopher, and astrologer Marc Edmund Jones (1888-1980) laboured in the astrological field for over sixty years endeavouring to promote his vision of a rational, reformulated, philosophically consistent and metaphysically sound astrology. Though his solution to what he saw as problems besetting the astrology of his day was not psychological, his reliance upon philosophical and doctrinal guidelines derived from Idealist philosophy and the theosophy of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky ensured that his efforts would establish a foundation on which a psychological astrology could be based. This, in fact, occurred during Jones's lifetime and is seen in the astrological teachings of Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) and other contemporary astrologers, whose debt to Marc Edmund Jones is extensive, whether or not it is consciously recognised.
Jones's revision of astrology was radical; so much so, in fact, that it can be legitimately said that he created a new astrology erected upon new philosophical bases. For Jones, astrology was not an end in itself but rather a prophetic tool or 'scientific' ancillary subordinated to the grander and spiritually far more important work of spiritual development, itself understood as the fullest realisation of the potential latent in the innermost being of the individual society, and even in the totality of 'Universal Mind'.
Seen in this light, in Jones's opinion, astrology is not about prediction but rather about the process of temporal manifestation of the potentials latent in Mind (Universal or particular) in any given time and place. Notwithstanding Jones's professed opposition to prediction, he was a practising horary astrologer, casting horoscopes to answer precise questions, and made predictions from the natal horoscope rather more frequently than his written works would seem to imply according to those who knew him personally. Jones's vision of astrology and his biases against prediction became pervasive in the American popular astrology of the 1960's onwards and thoroughly penetrated the literature and doctrines of contemporary American astrology.
American Astrology Prior to Jones
Discussion is made of the influence of Luke D. Broughton (1828-1899) which extended via students such as William H. Chaney (1821-1903), Catherine Thompson (1858-1934) and John Hazelrigg (1860-1941), founder of the American Society of Astrologians, and students of theirs, including Evangeline Adams (1868-1932) and others. Many of the founders of the American Federation of Astrologers, such as Elizabeth Aldrich and Robert DeLuce followed the parameters laid down by Broughton, in most cases with little, if any, modification. Jones regarded this kind of astrology as degenerate fortune telling and set out to reform it.
Jones's Critique of Contemporary Astrology
Discussion is made of his first real contact with a competent astrologer in November 1913. Her interpretation of his chart led to his own astrological researches, and his investigation of horary astrology in the winter of 1913-1914. He was also to frequent, without ever actually joining, Max Heindel's Rosicrucian Organisation at Oceanside, California.
From the very start of his astrological career in 1916, when he published his first booklet on the subject, Jones found much to criticise in contemporary astrology.
'Intuitive astrology', he states 'can be very admirable as long as it is recognised for what it is, or a fascinating interpretative art. It is...a proper use of the mind's power of synthesis by a careful selection of significant pertinencies in the horoscope and recognising possible correspondences to them in human affairs'. However, he concludes, 'This is an upside down way of mastering astrology. To learn the nature of all likely experience for all different kinds of people is beyond accomplishment'.
Blavatskyan Theosophy and Astrology
Given that Jones was hostile to predictive astrology from at least 1915-16, only two to three years after beginning its study, it is possible that his attitude was shaped by his earlier contact with theosophy. This is discussed in detail.
Jones' s History of Astrology
When Jones began his reformulation of astrology, no comprehensive nor reliable history of astrology existed. This forced him to make several attempts at writing short historical surveys of astrology in order to justify his polemic. He gives his last and most comprehensive treatment of the history of astrology in his 1978 Fundamentals of Number Significance in which he complains that until recently it had not been possible to write such a history due to paucity of reference materials. Discussion is made of this coupled with an examination of his earlier attempts as historian, in particular in the 1940's.
Jones' New Astrology
Notwithstanding the fact that Jones thought he was restoring astrology to its pristine Sabian state, he was engaged in the act of invention. The ancient world knew of no such astrology as Jones formulated and he was actually responsible for laying the foundation for psychological astrology, and for creating non-predictive/non-fatalistic astrology, an astrology which no longer recognises the medieval distinctions between benefic and malefic indications, and in which astrology the 'possibilities' or 'potentialities' an individual may develop or confront in his or her 'evolution'.
Jones's revision of astrology opened the door to the 'humanistic' psychological astrology of Dane Rudhyar, first set out in 1936 in his The Astrology of Personality, and may be viewed as the foundation stone of New Age astrology. Without the Idealist foundation to astrology provided by Jones, it is unlikely that Rudhyar would ever have succeeded in grafting psychology and his own version of metaphysics on to existing astrology. Such success as Jones had was due, in my opinion, to his personal charisma, his contagious dedication to a optimistic spirituality and his reportedly humanitarian behaviour. In short, Jones's personal charm, dedication, eloquence and intellectual acumen seduced the astrological community for over 60 years. Such success as he had in converting astrologers to his views was, in my opinion, a demonstration of the rhetorical power of his personal prestige rather than to the cogency of his arguments.