Kyudo and Astrology

Ignore the target, master the process

Kyudo is the ancient Japanese martial art of Archery. It’s not about hitting the target, in fact, the main tenet of the practice is to do the process correctly and ignore the target. In other words, the focus is entirely on the holding and drawing of the bow, the breath, the stance and the other precise steps that lead up to the release of the arrow. According to the masters of the art, it’s the correctness of the practice, not the aim that enables the arrow to hit the target.

There are probably a million quotes that repeat the theme that life is a journey, not a destination. Too many of us are rushing to one destination after another, instead of enjoying the journey, where true happiness is to be found. A person who is an expert at their craft is always someone who enjoys practicing it, whether they are programmers, musicians, cabinetmakers, chefs or astrologers. Even in the world of business, having one lucky break is not the same thing as being successful, any more than darning a sock makes one a tailor.

In Kyudo, the archer takes three sequential shots. If they do everything perfectly, all three arrows will land in the same small area of the target. Rather than focusing on aim, the focus is on the preparation and release; the target is only a passing thought. The principle is that if the motions are done in exactly the same way each time, each arrow should go to the same place every time. To the Japanese, mastery is not about doing something well once, mastery is about doing something well every time you do it. You may have seen pictures of the masters looking away before releasing the arrow, knowing the process has been done properly.

If I am given a question that requires analysis by Horary astrology, I have learned not to worry about getting the wrong answer. I have learned to follow exact steps for preparing the answer; I take the planet in charge of the Ascendant or the Moon (under certain circumstances dictated by the nature of the client and question) and study it’s relationship to the significator of the question, then see if there are other chart conditions that are of immediate relevance to the questions (lots, fixed stars, etc.) and pronounce the judgment of the stars. What the chart is saying is all that matters. That’s all there is to it. The craft is specific and has its own set of internal rules that work very well, until you allow yourself to believe that you have a better answer than the one described before you. When the practitioner follows the steps properly, the chart speaks loudly and clearly. When the practitioner is trying to force an outcome, that outcome is a matter of luck. They used to call this interrogating the stars. No one ever called the craft interrogating the practitioner.

As in Kyudo, there is a process to walking through the chart, so when I release its judgement, I am letting the arrow fly. I do not have to have faith in the planets, or believe that everything is predestined, or engage in a dialog about synchronicity or the transactional theory of quantum mechanics. The Horary art (IMHO) is about letting all of that go, and doing the process carefully enough to “check in with myself” to make sure I’m sticking with the protocol. If I do it right, I get it right. An since I realized this, I almost always do.

Astrological time; clock time

The planetary heptagram

I’ve stated before that astrology studies changes in the quality of time. Originally, day and night were measured by the rising and setting of the Sun, a distinct and observable phenomenon. The hours of the day were understood to reflect the qualities of the 7 planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, in a consistent procession, according to the day. The days were also named after the planets, and although in English the deities of the Norsemen were used, in the Latin-speaking countries, the days were named after the gods of Rome. As an example, Wednesday = Woden’s (Odin’s) day in English; in French it is called Mecredi, after Mercury. If you look at the heptagram (7 pointed star) on the left, you will see that following the planetary symbols in a clockwise manner will give you the planetary progression known as the “Chaldean Order”, which is the same as the progression of planetary hours. If you follow the lines of the star, it will indicate the order of the days of the week; the Sun (at the top) = Sunday, followed by Monday (the Moon’s day) and so on through Saturday (Saturn’s day).

Astral time also works differently, in that the hours are unequal, being measured by the length of day and night. Elaborate clocks were built to measure time this way for a long time. Although the mechanical technology of the Medieval era was not quite equal to that of the ancient Antikythera, the church in Europe kept many rituals on the basis of Astrological time, including the festival of Easter. That is why Easter Sunday varies from year to year – it is defined as the Sunday following the first Full Moon after the spring equinox; it was one of the most important calculations of the middle ages.

There is nothing wrong with clock time, it is a virtual mechanism that is convenient for business purposes, in fact, that’s why it was invented: to get a full hour’s work out of people in the short days of winter (sometime in the late Renaissance or shortly thereafter). Most people think that Daylight Savings time was invented for the convenience of farmers, others say it was developed by New York’s industrialists in order to extend the working hours of their employees by taking advantage of the additional natural light provided by the longer days of summer. In truth, it was invented by wealthy golfers from New Zealand in order to extend their playtime.

But clock time divorces itself from the ancient concept that there is meaning to time; like the paving of roads and the building of modern cities and places of work, it has served to gradually separate people from their ability to experience changes in nature. Clock time is handy, but it is devoid of meaning, something that is painfully absent from modern life.

Astral time is based on cycles in the heavens; not just those of the Sun and Earth, but of the planets as well. These cycles may last anywhere from a few minutes to thousands of years. Astral time also varies by place – not necessarily in the same way our even time zones do; in fact, almost all of our calculations are based on converting astrological time into the strict counting of clock time in the local time zone.

Clock time is convenient for mercantile interests, while Astral Time encourages and enhances connection with the self, others and the natural world, which is a part of awareness and growth. In fact, there are methods by which one can attune their internal rhythms to the rhythms of the stars, which will be discussed in several upcoming posts on the subject of Astral Time.