Universal Astrology, an introduction

pyramidsUniversal Astrology is what the Hellenistic Astrologers called what we term “mundane astrology today. It was the art of studying the “big picture” that affected states and nations. Originally, it was the only form of astrology, because the only folks who could retain astrologers were the kings, queens and warlords (we do have to eat), and all they really were concerned about was establishing a dynasty or how they could hold on to their power.

Since very ancient times, various astrologers and philosophers began to divide up the world they knew into zones of specific planetary or zodiacal interest. Monuments like the Pyramids, Stonehenge and various others were oriented, however, directly on the stars – their antiquity predates the zodiac and its even divisions. They were used to predict eclipses, forecast weather and other things, but they were, first and foremost, calendars that were only inaccurate by fractional amounts.

Eventually, temples were sited and built into patterns that either were directly under certain stars, or formed a “grid” that connected them. Statues were erected under specific alignments, just as talismans were made; the philosophy was based on the idea that starlight is magic, and this was the way to anchor the celestial light on earth, so that the benefits received from them would last as long as the stars themselves.

As we became better at calculation, and defining accurate planetary and stellar alignments, much of the old craft was lost, due to the dominance of the church militant, and for other reasons – but the discovery of the outer planets and the possibilities of new coordinate systems has allowed us to add a whole new dimension to this art.

Today we can study long spans of history, and compute the planetary positions within very tight tolerances, even on cellphones. This is the primary focus of these posts; how astrology relates to place, the economy, history and the fate of the nations. Just to give a preview as to what is coming up over the next few months, here’s a list as to some of the subjects I’ll cover:

  • The Geodetic Map, or the earth grid
  • Astral Geography and Astral Maps
  • Seasonal charts, Eclipses and Grand Alignments
  • Universal Astrology, the economy and history
  • Universal Astrology and political systems
  • Universal Astrology and world leaders
  • Universal Astrology and the financial markets
  • Universal Astrology and war
  • Universal Astrology and natural disasters

Yep, those are my projects for the spring and summer, although I will be finishing up threads on resonance and other matters. I’m not putting these posts in the Novice Notes, because although the material is introductory, there will be plenty of food for thought in these posts even for practicing astrologers.

So watch for updates and enjoy, as we explore the ancient and modern world with astrology… Oh, and here’s the geodetic map, which I will refer to often in these posts.

Geodetic Map
This is the geodetic chart as proposed by Sepharial. Click for a full-screen view.

Novice Notes: What is a Horoscope?

Unless you’re a student of classical or medieval astrology, you probably have a very mistaken view of what the term “horoscope” means. This is due to the way it’s been abused by the people who invented so-called “Sun” signs.

A nice older image of the Zodiac that illustrates the “Tropics”

The word “Horoscope” is taken from the Greek word Horoskopos, which means Hour-Marker. In other words, the word originally meant the stars on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth. As astrologers moved away from a constellational system and towards a system based on the Tropics, the Zodiac was designed to match the extreme and mean points of the ecliptic, or the apparent path of the Sun. This path is clearly marked on every globe and calendar; in the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice, or first degree of Capricorn, is the place where the Sun reaches the southernmost point in the sky – the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. If you were on the tropic of Capricorn at the winter solstice, the Sun would be directly overhead. The opposite is true on the Tropic of Cancer, where the Sun will be at it’s northernmost position in the northern hemisphere. It’s also the summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and the Sun is in the first degree of Cancer.  Aries and Libra mark the two days when day and night are equal – the equinoxes – the days when the path of the Sun takes it across Earth’s equator. This path of the Sun is divided into twelve equal sections, which are the images that comprise the Zodiac.

Each of these images rise and set every day, carrying with them the Sun, Moon and the fixed and wandering stars that make up the heavens. The particular Zodion (image) calculated to be on the eastern horizon is called the “rising sign” (uh – because it is the sign that’s rising – really), or, anciently, the first place (house). The exact degree on the eastern horizon was called Horoskopos, or the hour-marker; today we call this point the Ascendant. Horoskopos is one of the key elements of Hellenistic (Alexandrian) astrology; it was used for delineating the health and character, as well as for predictive work; these techniques work just as well today as they did two thousand years ago.

So the next time you overhear someone say “I read my horoscope today” you’ll know full well they don’t have a clue as to what the word means, and may be tripping on connecting their self-image to the ideas of the folks who invented that ridiculous and insulting sign business. In India, they at least have made the distinction clear; their word for Horoskopos is Lagna, and you will never see a “Daily Lagna” article in one of their papers or journals. Honestly, my belief is that the tabloids of the day started calling it a Horoscope, because it sounded better than “daily BS about everybody born during this month in whatever year.” Anyway, at least you know now.

Astronomica: interpolation, forgery, forgotten limb on the tree – what is it?

Something just came back to my mind that I thought of a long time ago, and haven’t since. It’s the old book “Astronomica” by Marcus Manilius. I once suspected that it could have been a Medieval or early Renaissance forgery.

The Circle of Athla
This is what Manilius called “the circle of Lots” which has nothing to do with the system of Lots used by the Greeks, or the way that the Lot of Fortune is used in astrology.

First of all, it claims to have been written around 14 AD. It seems that there would have been some mention of the troubles of the Roman Empire around then; in classical times, astrologers were all fanatics about annotating important events astrologically. Plus, there is a good deal of linguistic awkwardness in the author’s attempt to grasp the didactic style of poetry that is used throughout most of the text. I learned from another prominent astrologer that this might be because it was written by a later author who was trying to sound like a classical writer, and was doing a better job of imitating Lucretius than writing something original.

Secondly, the astrology described in Astronomica is quite different from the work by the Hellenistic -Era writers. I thought that maybe it was about a school of thought that fell by the wayside between the time of Manilius and the explosion of astrological writing and study based in Alexandria. But, work had been going on there since 200 BC; it would have been impossible for someone in the time of Manilius who studied the subject to apparently know nothing of the underlying principles that have been consistently reliable and in use from ancient Chaldean writing to ultra-modern Astro-Cartography.

None of the Hellenistic writers even mention Manilius, which seems extremely odd, because they would have relished a book that rendered their science into verse. They knew Aratus and others. If there was a different philosophical basis for the work, they would have wanted to learn it. At one time I believed that a good deal of Firmicus Maternus’ work was copied from Astronomica without giving credit to Manilius, but now I think it might be the other way around.

Almost everyone knows of Thrysallus, astrologer to Tiberius of whom we have only the very brief “Tablet toHeracles“, but to complete a 5-book poem that teaches astronomy and astrology in verse and not be mentioned by the librarians and intellectuals of the time? Hmmm… Clearly “early editions of the work have disappeared” but a few begin to pop up hundreds of years later? Hmmm… The plain refusal to cite sources for some of the information, and star tables that don’t match those of earlier Babylonians or Ptolemy, who came later? The missing and unknown constellations? The almost total absence of the planets, the cornerstone of astrology?

I have no great love for Ptolemy, who re-wrote the principles of astrology to suit his particular philosophical beliefs. We have no evidence that he ever cast or analyzed a chart – there’s no proof that he looked at the stars. Nevertheless, his existence is provable through historical records, while the same is not true for Manilius. For the latter we have only rumors. Ever wonder why astrologers, even after Scaliger’s edition (which Houseman praised), did not pick up and exploit some of the methods and techniques unique to Astronomica?

From Wikipedia:

The author of Astronomica is neither quoted nor mentioned by any ancient writer. Even his name is uncertain, but it was probably Marcus Manilius; in the earlier books the author is anonymous, the later give Manilius, Manlius, Mallius.

I really don’t know, and don’t have the time to delve into the subject any further. Please check out Goold’s comments about the constellations – there were things that were known and written about since at least 200 BC that Manilius either left out or just didn’t know. There was a lot of forgery or “interpolation” going on in the Medieval era and the early Renaissance…

None of this means that I reject the book. I really enjoy this unique approach to zodiac/constellation – based astrology, even if it is unworkable in practice. There are aspects of it that are very neat, like the co-rising constellations which have provided many a good birthchart reference. The system, however, feels like a pine branch growing out of an oak (it’s that different!), and very difficult to rebuild in the modern idiom, unlike the Hellenistic, Babylonian and even the “Vedic” methods. Maybe because the Astronomica didn’t grow from the same philosophical roots.

To quote Goold once again:

In this section appear two constellations unknown to the Greek Sphaera: at 5. 311 there rises Haedus (:the Kid”) with Libra and at 5. 409 Fides (“the Lute”) with Capricorn. Now occasionally we find the Latin poets the singular Haedus used for Haedi, the Kids held in the Carioteer’s left hand; and so heinous are Manilius’ violations of astronomical accuracy in this book that it is no lack of charity to hold him guilty of a grievous confusion here, notwithstanding his mention of the Kids in 5. 102 (rising there, as they should, with Aries).

Well, that’s my undecided opinion. I wish there were a way to prove it real, or false. It would make that book so much more fun.

Solar Returns

The Solar Return is one of the most useful charts in astrology. It’s also one of the oldest and most consistently used spin-offs of natal astrology that has ever been designed; it has earned a well-deserved reputation for making accurate predictions. The chart covers the period from one birthday to the next, and almost never fails to be “on the money” as far as establishing the themes and signals for the period in which its in effect. Over my years of practice, I’ve researched and used every variety that I could find, and have become something of an expert on them. But I want to discuss the many different methods of doing Solar Returns, and maybe resolve some schools’ prejudices against others’ methods.

Princess Diana's Last Tropical Solar Return
Princess Diana’s Last Tropical Solar Return: click for a larger image

Different versions of the Solar Return are constructed the same way; the various methods of doing so exist only because of limitations due to early mathematics. Avraham Ibn Ezra and the Tajika astrologers of India have a simple method that uses arithmetic, and gets nearly identical results to the calculations done with spherical trigonometry by computers.

The controversies about Solar Return methodology come from differing astrological philosophies. For instance, some believe that the Solar Return should be cast for the birthplace rather than at the place where one happens to be located; some believe that the chart is useless unless it is corrected for precession, while others have thousands of cases which prove that the unprecessed chart works perfectly.

What I am going to do in this series of posts is to discuss the different Solar Return methods, and describe how they work. Through doing so, I hope to demonstrate the difference between good astrological thinking and biased dogmatism that lacks a sound basis.

This post is an introduction to a series on Solar Returns – the subject is too vast to cover in one article. So with that, I ask that readers stay tuned and watch for further articles in this category, which will be coming soon. The different topics I plan to cover are as follows:

  • Ancient concepts of the Solar Return
  • The Varshaphal, or the Annual Horoscope of India
  • The Traditional/Medieval Solar Return
  • Morin’s opinions
  • Modern Sidereal Solar Returns
  • Tropical Solar Returns
  • Timing events in the Solar Return

I hope to get to all these topics before the spring is underway, but there are plenty of other facets of astrology I hope to cover in the meantime. Keep a close watch on this site; there are exciting times ahead!



Joriki is a Zen term sometimes defined as concentration, but there’s a lot more to it. The character is composed of Jo – stillness or balance, and Riki – power, strength. One Zen master describes this in terms of the practice of sitting meditation by noting that when the posture is correct, the autonomic nervous system comes into balance, and concentration, or one pointedness, naturally arises. In the context of sitting meditation, this one pointedness is power, or strength. It should be mentioned here that concentration has nothing to do with furrowing the brows or trying to figure something out. It means finding one’s center in the present moment. This is where the effort lies – in letting go of the imbalances in the postures, or current state of body and mind.

It is said that Ki (Qi in Chinese – the life force) becomes upset, erratic and scattered when an individual behaves in an uncoordinated, unfocused and directionless way, and that the reverse is also true. Self-defeating behaviors are therefore evidence of a disturbed spirit. The main focus of Qigong, the core practice of many traditional arts, including meditation, is to unify the body, mind and Ki so that the entire behavior becomes focused and capable of opening for Joriki to arise.

The mind becomes a prisoner to its experience the moment it attaches itself to the idea that the self is something separate from the world. Most of the time, we do not know that we are attached to this very subtle thought, because we are so busy identifying with the differences between things and between various components of the self, and using these differences as the focus of our minds. This not only cuts off the mind from the flow of Ki, sending the Ki flow outward into the sense objects, but creates a space between the life force and the mind that is fertile soil for fear. When Joriki arises as a result of inner balance and unity, the mind becomes gradually less capable of believing that there is a separation between the self and its experience.

An iron sphere floating in a pool of mercury

The energy normally wasted through the rift created by the misdirection of mind can then be re-tasked to more important duties, such as holding to the center of awareness or maintaining clarity. This effort to unify thought and awareness results in connecting with Joriki; once it begins to manifest, its influence steadily grows, eventually becoming a self-perpetuating and sustaining force in life.

Joriki also dissolves other illusions, such as the belief that you are what you own, or that your life is dependent on the good wishes of others. These ideas are major sources of fear in modern humanity, the first being more prominent in technologically dependent nations, the latter in countries where many have nothing to eat.

Cultivating Joriki frees you from slavery to irrational beliefs and unproductive desires; this is what the Heart Sutra describes by saying “No obscuration of mind – no obscuration, therefore no fear”. This word obscuration can easily be read as pollution, because it means the type of psychic pollution that clouds us with concern for things that do not really matter, blinding us to those that do.

Thich Nhat Hanh

This power of the mind reshapes our behavior so that we are able to take immediate and appropriate action even in the most surprising circumstances. This is because the Ki that is normally scattered about becomes concentrated, coherent and readily available. There is no longer the need to stop and “pull yourself together” or “collect your wits”.

Joriki is mobilized through practice, but if practice is broken, or becomes routine and mechanical, Joriki will gradually disappear. This is because it is a fire that is fed by purpose. This is also why the ancients urged seekers to develop some form of regular focused activity. Engaging in such a practice can allow the mind to ‘get a taste’ of Joriki. It is produced when one is totally centered in the performance of almost any activity. Learning true focus in daily activities will bring Joriki into the life, where it can effortlessly structure and reinforce a lifestyle based on ever increasing unity of purpose, sincerity and integrity.

Joriki, once cultivated, will erase all self-doubt and drive a constant experience of power, spontaneity and freedom in one’s everyday life. The teachings of Japanese Mysticism, and Zen especially, have a great deal to teach those of us who practice astrology, and this is a subject that I will be revisiting often on this blog.