The substance of this work was delivered as a lecture to the Astrological Lodge of London, Gloucester Place, London, England - Monday 7 April 1997
Medieval Astrology is the highest form that astrology has ever achieved. From the practical point of view, in its accuracy and reliability it surpasses even Vedic or Greek Astrology. However, Medieval Astrology does not deny the value of some of the more metaphysical forms of Astrology, which have been developed since the nineteenth century, nor does it invalidate Psychological Astrology.
From the psychological viewpoint Medieval Astrology is deficient. Psychological input is nil. It is not that it has bad psychology but simply that it has no psychology at all. It does have character analysis (as in the works of Bonatti) but this is piecemeal, rough and ready and without the depth of modern psychology. Psychology is a product of the nineteenth century & Psychological Astrology is largely a creation of the twentieth. As a result any astrology prior to nineteenth century is largely lacking in this regard.
Medieval Astrology lacks modern concepts. Besides psychology it does not incorporate the Theory of Evolution. Evolution was developed in the nineteenth century on the basis of scientific observation and theorising about that observation. Thus, the astrology of the nineteenth century emphasises both evolution theory and psychology.
The practising psychologist can take from Medieval Astrology something which Psychological Astrology omits: the ability to predict. Medieval Astrology is a predictive astrology: it should give you some idea of what is going to happen on the concrete, objective level, not on the psychological. The philosophical basis of Medieval Astrology was mainly Hermetic and Neoplatonic-Aristotelian. Modern Western Astrology's philosophical basis, if it can be said to have one, is found in a New Age interpretation of Idealist Philosophy grafted onto the structure of what used to be called "Scientific" Astrology. To this hybrid has been added an occasional idea from Oriental Philosophy, e.g. Karma and Reincarnation.
Medieval Astrology can offer something that contemporary astrology does not have. Whether this be Traditional Astrology or Psychological Astrology.
"Traditional" Astrology is a derivative of the astrological practices of Medieval Astrology. There should be reservations about calling it "traditional" as it is incomplete and only a shell of former tradition. "Traditional" Astrology lacks, for historical reasons, certain features of the Medieval Astrology. In particular, it lacks a method for showing the general context of a persons life. An overview into which fit astute predictions of particular events.
However, it can not be denied that many of the "traditional" practitioners make successful predictions. Many practitioners of "traditional astrology" are successful despite that their methods being incomplete, using only the tools that survive from the nineteenth century on. Despite this truncated, incomplete astrological method some are doing very good work. It seems that many of these "traditionalists" do well for two reasons (simplified):
- Experience: Some have been at it for a great deal of time and over an extended period of time (some up to 50 years) they developed a hands-on capability and a series of insights that they may or may not be able to replicate or give a clear account of.
- Repetition: After throwing every technique they know at the horoscope under examination, they find a pattern, i.e. that all the systems are saying the same thing. Then they will feel secure that they are on the right track and will say something that is probably correct.
My criticism of this approach is that despite the fact that it very often works, it is without consistent method and is frequently unreliable. The lack of method means that it cannot be readily taught to a student simply because there is a lack of method. Moreover, the scope of the modern interpretation of the science is ill defined. Often quite disparate techniques from unrelated systems are used.
The problem of a lack of a clear-cut, consistent method in contemporary "traditional" astrological delineation is paralleled by ambiguities arising from the way it is learned. I have met people who have been "studying" astrology for 20 years and still can't read a chart. One can even say that, in a sense, it can't be taught. The student is never sure that he is learning what the teacher knows. Unfortunately, it is usually the case that the student trying to learn from the teacher of such "traditional" astrology has to spend years attending to myriad case studies, every one unique, before he can absorb by a kind of osmosis the fruit of the teacher's experience. Too often such experience is stored in the teacher's memory as a collection of anecdotes which he or she calls upon by the application of a prodigious memory. If the teacher (or the student) ever manages to say the right thing at the right time in an actual reading, it is due to the subconscious storing of previous correct guesses - some call this intuition. What are needed are clearly expressed rules of judgment. Medieval Astrology emphasises method and offers rules for delineating and predicting. Its systematic presentation lends itself to computerisation. Its scope is defined. It can be learned in a couple of years on average.
Modern non-psychological predictive astrology (i.e. "traditionalist") uses mainly secondary progressions and transits. Also, tertiary progressions and diurnals are used. Primary directions are less frequently used because they are highly mathematical and there is a debate as to how to do them properly.
The secondary progressions employ mainly the Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus (and to some degree Mars). The outer planets move too slowly to produce many relevant progressions. The end result is that a great number of events become clustered at certain times of life. Those periods being whenever there are a great number of aspects created by the diurnal motion of the above planets. This may be in the end, beginning, or middle of a persons life.
Medieval Astrology also used secondary progressions and transits. However, the modern practice of prediction places too much reliance upon secondary progressions and transits. As a result its success in prediction tends to be rather spotty, i.e. they do not give a month by month, year by year picture of the native's life. There are great periods of time between the events e.g. one event at the 13th birthday, another at the 25th birthday etc and there is no method to get a picture of the Life Story of the Native. Placing it in a wider context, giving it an overview or if you will connection. Clearly, the "traditional" school cannot anticipate the general course of the natives life. Medieval Astrology, on the other hand, has ways of breaking the life span into greater spans of time and then subdividing them so that the whole line of life is accounted for and the "Big Picture" is maintained.
A frequently noted problem with transits is that they do not always seem to have effect. This is a fact which haunts many modern astrologers. Medieval Astrology has an explanation for this. It can show whether a planet has a greater or lesser "punch." But it must be said that, due to the superiority of other predictive techniques used by Medieval Astrology, transits, while used, are not given the importance they are attributed by modern astrologers. As for Primary Directions, Alchabitius' Isagoge gives a clear and conceptually accessible account of Ptolemy's system of "Prorogations" which helps to better understand how to calculate Primary Directions.
A major difference between Medieval Astrology & Modern Astrology (predictive "traditional" & psychological) is that the modern astrologer, mainly due to the influence of psychological astrology views the entire horoscope as "myself" or as the native. Therefore, the First House represents me, the 2nd House my money, 3rd House my ideas about things, 7th my ideas about my partner, 10th House my profession, 9th my foreign journeys. Everything is mine.
This comes from a particular viewpoint that puts the person at the centre. The problem here is that if there is nothing but you in your life then there is no reason why you should expect that anything should have anything to do with anything but you.
The Medieval Astrological viewpoint limits the native to the 1st House and to the ruler of the 1st House and qualifies the native in terms of the planets aspecting the 1st House. All of the other Houses are circumstantial i.e. they stand around the native. The circumstances of my life are my money, siblings, family, children etc. Each of these circumstances has its own independent existence. Thus a planet in a house may not relate to the native in any fashion. Such a planet may relate to someone or something else. So, that you can use the rules of prediction to determine whether you are going to be affected by someone else or not. This discrimination of self and other is essential if one is to have any chance of determining who will be the recipient of any configuration affecting the natal figure.
For example: The Jupiter/Uranus conjunction in my 11th House (Feb 1997) fell on my natal Sun, Mars and Mercury. If it related just to me (the native) then you would expect inspiration or a foreign journey etc. But there was nothing. However, others were affected. In a number of organisations to which I belonged there were major and sudden changes in leadership. So the Jupiter/Uranus conjunction had an effect but not on me, not on the native. This also illustrates the importance of the house positions of the planets to determine an effect on a specific area of life rather than to view the houses as ideas that the native has about some area of life. The viewpoint in Medieval Astrology is not psychological but looks at the objective facts e.g. the changes may affect the native's social life but no direct impact on the native. The first distinction in prediction is to know who is who and what is what.
You can make predictions in Medieval Astrology because distinctions are made which are not made in Psychological Astrology. This is not a criticism. In Psychological Astrology it is wise not to make such distinctions. Psychological Astrology states that predictions cannot be made or speaking more honestly they admit, "we can not make predictions". But that is not to say, as I am the first to admit, that Psychological Astrology has not done a great deal of good to a great many people.
© 1997 2000 copyright Robert Zoller All Rights Reserved.