Astrology and Astronomy; still joined at the hip after all these centuries.
by Rob Burlinson
Prior to the seventeenth century no distinction was made between Astrology and Astronomy. To look to the heavens would be to ascribe meaning and spiritual content to all one saw. Yet with the advent of the ‘Age of Reason’ these two disciplines were pulled apart, one to scientific respect, the other to ridicule.
However, it only takes a gentle peeling away of the surface of ‘Astronomy’ to reveal the ’Astrology’ beneath. The ancient Hermetic maxim ‘as above, so below’ states that everything that happens on one level of reality, is repeated on all others. To know Astronomy is to know Astrology too, you just have to look in the right places. Science may term them ‘coincidences’ but perhaps ‘coincidence’ is another way of saying ‘Divine order is everywhere one looks’.
All planets in our solar system revolve around a central powerhouse Sun, which provides warmth and light. Without it nothing else could survive. In a Birth Chart the position of the Sun is crucial and represents the ‘light that we shine’ in the world, our ego, life force, and our journey through life. We too exist at the centre of everything in our own head.
The Moon is as important as the Sun in a Birth Chart. ‘Coincidentally’, from our perspective on the Earth, the Moon is the same size as the Sun, being 400 times larger in diameter than the Moon but also 400 times further away (hence why we have eclipses). The Moon has been speculated to be vitally important for life on Earth to occur and provides our tidal flows. Those who work for emergency services, have claimed that at the full moon their nights can be more extreme, busier, and more dangerous. The Moon symbolises our unconscious, our habits and emotional responses, over which we can have little control. Mirroring this, one side of the Moon forever faces away from the Earth.
Mercury is named after the Roman messenger God, and is literally the fastest planet in our solar system, taking only 88 days to orbit the Sun. In Astrology, its meaning is to do with the way we think and process information (we think at enormous speeds and can ‘think’ ourselves at the other side of the galaxy in the blink of an eye). From our vantage point on Earth Mercury can only move within a 28 degree radius from the Sun and can either only be in the same sign as the Sun, or the one before or after. As Mercury is symbolic of how we think and the Sun is our ego, this makes sense; how we communicate is very closely linked to who we believe ourselves to be.
Venus in a chart represents what we find harmonious and beautiful, are attracted to and value. Venus also has the most harmonious orbit, creating a nearly perfect circle. One day on Venus is exactly two-thirds of a year on earth, which is a musical fifth. Venus and the Earth also do a dance in the sky over an eight year period, within which they connect five times and create a perfect five-flowered petal, known as ‘the pentagram of Venus’.
The inner planets, Mercury (thinking) and Venus (values), are conduits for the processes of our ego (the Sun) and unconscious (Moon) which require manifestation (the Earth) in order to take on physical expression of some kind. This occurs through Mars, the next planet further out from Earth, symbolising the energy we have available to us and which we can now project/assert ‘outwards’. The iron oxide on its surface gives Mars a reddish appearance in the sky, which is appropriate for a planet representing vitality and action.
Beyond Mars is the asteroid belt - creating a boundary. This boundary represents the movement from the last of the personal planets into a more impersonal and ‘social’ realm.
Jupiter and Saturn, the next two planets, act more like principles. Jupiter represents expansion, and limitless growth whereas Saturn represents restriction and limitations. We need to experience both energies in order to develop as human beings. Jupiter and Saturn are of similar massive size. Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, represents all that expands us, from faith, philosophy and belief systems to travel and higher learning. People with an overly emphasised Jupiter could become a little larger than life themselves. And, just like the great big gassy giant, some Jupiterian individuals may be prone to exaggeration and ‘full of hot air’.
Saturn symbolises the things we need to contain us and come up against in order to grow and is famous for its rings - the boundaries around it. Until the discovery of Uranus, Saturn also represented the edges of the known Solar System - the boundaries of our existence on Earth, and is the most distant planet that can be seen with the naked eye. It’s also the last planet that relates to our more earthly experience. Beyond Saturn, we shift into the transpersonal; planets operating from a more spiritual perspective - these no longer care about the life of our ego, but that of our soul.
Chiron, a minor planet/comet has an unusual orbit between Saturn and Uranus. This represents a bridge between our reality and the higher one of the transpersonal planets. Discovered in the 1970’s, (like Sugilite) it has links with the ‘New Age’ movement. Chiron symbolises a wound in us that will not heal, but through which we can heal/teach others. Its glyph is a letter K above a circle, named after the discoverer Charles T. Kowal. ‘Coincidentally’ this happens to look like a key. Perhaps Chiron is a spiritual key, gifted to humanity giving expanded awareness and ‘new’ healing paradigms, with which to transcend the boundaries of our known physical existence (Saturn) and manifest the higher dimensions of the spiritual (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) upon the Earth. The energy required to turn this key would be learning our lessons, and teaching others from the scars (knowledge) of our own wounds.
Uranus is the first of the transpersonal planets. If we have wandered off our souls path on Earth, Uranus can come along and ‘break through’ suddenly, in the form of dramatic external events, which, from a higher perspective are necessary for us to grow. Uranus typifies all that is unusual, out of the ordinary, different, revolutionary, and eccentric. It’s the only planet to rotate on its side and also to be named after a Greek God rather than a Roman one. Uranus shocks to break through polite conventions. It has a name that pronounced one way can be the butt of endless ‘rude’ jokes.
With Neptune we are reaching the boundaries of existence both physically and spiritually. Neptune represents the yearning to return back to the source and ‘merge’ again, hence where we have no boundaries, where there is illusion, confusion, something is hard to get hold of, or where we have to sacrifice something (the ego). Neptune is named after the Roman God of the Sea, a suitable metaphor for having no boundaries and bottomless depths, and is a mysterious oceanic deep blue. In typically will-o-the-wisp style, Neptune was actually first discovered in December of 1612 by Galileo. However, because he only noted it as a star and not a planet, he is not credited with its discovery and Neptune submerged again from view. Humanity had to wait until 1846, when it was ‘officially discovered’, in appropriately confusing fashion, by four different astronomers independently at the same time (only one of whom got the credit).
Pluto, the furthest ‘planet’ of our solar system, is named after the Roman God of the underworld and is symbolic of death and rebirth, the invisible process of soul growth, of unlimited power, as well as complete transformation. People with strong Plutos are often secretive and ‘hidden’. Pluto himself was said to own a helmet of invisibility. It was entirely apt therefore that after its discovery in 1930, Pluto was demoted in 2006 to the status of ‘dwarf planet‘ and became ‘invisible‘ again in our solar system. Better to be all powerful whilst hidden and obscured.
Until very recently Pluto has also been literally invisible to us due its distance and diminutive stature. The best photos revealed no more than a blurry inconsequential blob. It was only April 2015 when for the first time New Horizons began to send back remarkable high resolution pictures of Pluto. Perhaps a similar detailed mirror is going on at this time for humanity as a whole. Our race is going through a particularly bleak and dangerous time in its history; with the collective shadow coming very clearly to the fore. Possibly humanity is at the end of a cycle of some kind, and complete transformative rebirth is now required to get back in touch with the true essence (Pluto) of who we all really are. Fortunately, those first pictures of Pluto’s terrain showed it to have what appears to resemble a rather big heart.