By Nicholas Campion | March 4, 2013
The question before us: “How do we approach questions of political astronomy in relation to the present time?” I use the term “political astronomy” as an alternative for mundane astrology for two reasons. One is that in the pre-modern period the terms astrology and astronomy were not distinguished. The other is that the use of planetary cycles in order to measure and predict political events discards almost the entire technical fabric of conventional horoscopic astrology, i.e., houses do not matter, and neither do zodiac signs, except as ways of measuring astronomical positions. We could also use the term favoured by Rick Tarnas — archetypal cosmology.
Modern mundane astrology is largely a practice without a theory. Yet a practice without theory has no means of either understanding or improving itself. Neither is there much systematic method in contemporary mundane astrology. To establish both it is necessary to refer to the past authorities in the discipline.
The practice of using planetary cycles to measure or predict political events finds its literary origin in a passage in Plato’s Timaeus, dating from the early fourth century BCE:
“Wherefore, as a consequence of this reasoning and design on the part of God, with a view to the generation of Time, the sun and moon and five other stars, which bear the appellation of “planets” [i.e., ‘wanderers’], came into existence for the determining and preserving of the numbers of Time. (Timaeus 38C).”
We shouldn’t pay too much attention to the word rendered here as “God,” for Plato’s creator is best understood as a remote, original Mind, or Consciousness, not as a personal, anthropomorphised Christian, Jewish or Islamic God. If we remove the religious inferences of the use of the word “God” from Plato’s theory of astronomical politics, the Timaeus sets out the following hypothesis:
1. All political events in the material world originate as intention.
2. All phenomena in the universe, including intentions, political events and physical actions change and move forward in time in a mathematically measurable sequence.
3. As all things in the universe are part of a single mathematically measurable order, planets and politics are part of the same order.
4. The mathematical sequence of changes in all things, including politics can be measured by the movements of the planets.
5. As the planets return periodically to the same position, so political change is also characterised by periodic repetition. Nowhere, however, does Plato suggest that the repetition is of exact detail; rather it is of general theme.
Such a system, following the normal description of Platonic cosmology, can be called Idealistic. Broadly, Plato’s system assumes a form of determinism in which, as the timing of future events can be predicted by projecting planetary positions into the future, it follows that the general nature of future political events already exists, even if only in a potential state. That future events have a kind of existence then suggests that there must be a predictable formula: “When planet ‘a’ is here, then ‘x’ can be expected”, or more complicated, “When planet ‘a’ is here and planet ‘b’ is there, then ‘y’ can be expected.” This is not unlike the formula understood from Babylonian political astronomy: “If ‘a’ occurs astronomically then ‘b’ may occur.” There is no suggestion of cause or influence, but of correlation.
However, Platonic determinism is moderated by the possibility of human action and free choice acquired via “virtue” and appropriate education. As Claudius Ptolemy wrote in his discussion of Egyptian medical astrology, “They [the astrologers] would never have devised certain means of averting of warding off…the universal and particular conditions that come or are present by reason of the ambient, if they had any idea that the future cannot be moved and changed” (Tetrabiblos 1.3). In Ptolemaic cosmology, then, the only point of prediction is to change the future, actually making sure that undesirable predictions are not fulfilled. In this sense, astrology cannot be tested by the success of its predictions, for their failure might be a more reliable indicator of effective engagement by astrologers in the political process. There is a spectrum of attitudes to management of the future, though, and as we shift more towards a Stoic perspective from a Platonic one, room for human action is restricted, the deterministic component becomes stronger, and there is more of an assumption that astrological forecasting can be detailed and exact.
The importance of human action was emphasised by the greatest early-modern theoretician of Platonic political astronomy, Johannes Kepler. He believed, following Ptolemy, that the point in prediction was to change the future. Once problems had been foreseen, he argued, they could be averted by military leadership: “A great safeguard for the army,” he wrote, “lies in their loyalty to and high regard for their commander; for every victory depends on a driving force of the spirit” (Thesis 72). In practical terms this meant that all predictions of future events had to be conditional on intermediate political action. In his Thesis 72, speaking of the future Mars-Saturn conjunction of 1602, Kepler wrote “If a strong peace grows firm in the meantime, clearly there is no danger from the heavens alone.” The key to stability in Keplerian political astronomy is therefore sensible political management: “It is preferable for peace and quiet to prevail” Kepler wrote, “and if sedition is feared, let meetings not be held in August and September , or let them be broken up, or better yet, let the causes exasperating people’s dispositions be taken quickly away, or by the introduction of some new deterrent, let their minds be changed” (Thesis 71). Kepler’s theory can be called Pragmatic on the grounds that it argues for a flexible political response to immediate problems.
There are a number of other theoretical positions relating to the assessment of planetary motions. One is that the slower moving the planet, the more significant are the political events with which it correlates. Another is that the Sun is the most important of the astrological planets. Both these propositions are generally assumed in the literature.
This brings us to the Eurozone crisis. Opinions on the future of the Eurozone have been polarised for the last three years, since 2009. The deterministic prediction holds that the inexorable logic of the debt crisis requires a break-up of the Eurozone. This might be either total, or it might be partial and if partial, perhaps just the north European members might remain as members. The deterministic position is partly economic and predicated on the notion that current debt levels cannot be sustained, and can only be solved if individual countries are allowed to revert to the former currencies and devalue. From this follows a secondary, political, determinism, in which the assumption is that the democratic response to current debt-reducing austerity measures must be the ejection of pro-austerity governments, a consequent worsening of the debt crisis and hence the triumph of economic determinism and inevitable economic collapse. The alternative, on which European politicians have been working, is to reach a solution in which political stability is maintained and economic reforms and austerity measures implemented in the hope that the debt crisis will eventually be brought under control. It is this policy that the economic determinists challenge. As the crisis has unfolded, especially as the Greek crisis has ebbed and flowed, so each side has been dominant in turn, at least in the British press with which I am most familiar. Each competing vision is connected to a metaphysics of time. The economic determinists implicitly assume that the collapse of the Eurozone, being inevitable, already has a kind of reality. They may not state this explicitly, but it is implicit in their model.
What we might call the “astrological mentality” of Plato, Ptolemy and Kepler, differs substantially from the non-astrological. Perhaps better terms for the two would be the Idealist mentality, following Plato, and its opposite, the Materialist. The Idealist mentality assumes a level of mathematical determinism in political events and, relying on planetary cycles as a measuring system, and therefore argues that it can look ahead indefinitely in order to identify critical periods, especially turning points which appear to be unpredictable in conventional systems. Astrological method, through its assumption of cyclical repetition can, it claims, predict upturns and downturns, which are otherwise unexpected. The Materialist mentality predicts by projecting current conditions forward; such projections are usually based on current trends coupled with the most recent event. Thus growth projections are constantly being upgraded and downgraded: “The Eurozone will grow by x% in the third quarter of this year and y% in 2014.” However, the weakness in this conventional, Materialist, model is that it cannot cope with the unexpected — as soon as current conditions change, all future projections must alter. Conventional forecasting methods are therefore inherently flawed. The basic assumption, that current trends can be projected into an indefinite future, even when there is an understanding of a business cycle, is unsustainable. The Idealist model’s claim to predictability may consist, at the very least, of the forecast that identifiable future periods can be defined as critical. The consequence is the occurrence of events which appear to happen by chance and which may throw the Materialist prediction completely of course.
This is not the whole picture, though, and there is a school of deterministic economic forecasting which depends on the analysis of business cycles which have mathematical or organic existence and in which potential future economic up and downturns are already fixed in time. Ideologically such practices rest on the same assumptions as do cyclical astrological forecasting, only without using planetary positions as measuring tools.
When we consider the Eurozone crisis, then, the Idealist position must be that there can be no solution until the separation of the current most important of the planetary alignments, the slow-moving Uranus-Pluto square. In addition, the hypothesis is that future critical moments in the Eurozone drama can be predicted. The Idealist hypothesis is that there should be more such moments of crisis in the Eurozone over the remainder of the period in which the square is in orb – that is, until early 2015.
The theory inherited and adapted from Plato up to the twentieth century holds that critical events should coincide with “hard” zodiacal aspects of 0º, 90º and 180º. A method then follows in which aspects with orbs of 1º and no more than 2º are mapped in order to indicate stress points. Granted, although the manner in which critical moments are identified is not systematised, and the rationale needs to be more coherent, the method is essentially this:
1. The aspect should be exact or as close to exact as possible.
2. Other superior planets should be in aspect.
3. New and Full Moons, especially eclipses, should also aspect the dominant aspect.
4. Aspects to mundane horoscopes for significant moments, including national charts, should be considered.
The other hypothesis we have to state, without it being too obvious, and in spite of the complex timing measures of conventional horoscopic astrology, the manifestation of an event should correlate in time with the astronomical pattern. There are plenty of anecdotal accounts of correlations between astronomical movements and political events, but little in the way of systematic study has ever been attempted. In this case let’s just assume that we are interested in conjunctions, squares and oppositions from other superior planets to Uranus and Pluto. The situation in 2013 and 2014 is therefore as follows:
March: Mars in Aries conjuncts Uranus on 22nd March and squares Pluto on 27th March.
May: Uranus squares Pluto on the 20th- 21st.
July: Mars in Cancer opposes Pluto on the 27th-28th.
August: Mars in Cancer squares Uranus on the 1st; Jupiter in Cancer opposes Pluto on the 6th, and squares Uranus on the 21st.
November: Uranus squares Pluto on the 1st.
December: Mars in Libra opposes Uranus on the 25th and squares Pluto on the 31st.
February: Jupiter in Cancer opposes Pluto on the 1st and squares Uranus on the 26th.
April: Jupiter in Cancer opposes Pluto and squares Uranus on the 19th-20th; Uranus squares Pluto on the 21st; Mars in Libra opposes Uranus and squares Pluto on the 23rd – 24th.
June: Mars in Libra squares Pluto on the 14th and opposes Uranus on the 25th.
November: Mars in Capricorn conjunct Pluto on the 10th and square Uranus on the 13th.
March: Mars in Aries is conjunct Uranus and square Pluto on the 11th and Uranus and Pluto are conjunct on the 17th.
On this basis, what is a more powerful indication? A Mars aspect to an exact Uranus Pluto square, as in April 2014? Or does Jupiter add required significance? In this case, July-August is the maximum pressure indication in 2013. In 2014 late April and early May are the maximum points.
The two most important mundane moments are those for the European Economic Community, out of which the European developed the Euro. (1) Given that the Sun on both days was at 10º Capricorn, and the proposition that outer-planet transits assume greater significance when they aspect positions in major mundane horoscopes, Uranus begins to move significantly out of orb in April 2014, followed by Pluto in November and December 2014. The final Uranus-Pluto square in March 2015 may be significant in itself, but not through its aspect to the dates for the foundations of the EU and Euro. (see charts below)
In Platonic terms, then, July-August 2013 and April-May 2014 are moments at which the Ideal realm is in a state of maximum tension, sufficient to indicate an event such as a break-up of the Eurozone. The difficulty with prediction is uncertainty, and the Platonic model builds this into its thinking. If we are Stoic Determinists we might look at July-August 2013 and April-May 2014 and clearly predict for both or either: “The Eurozone will break up.” However, if we are Keplerian Pragmatists, our forecasts must be conditional on intermediate political action; successful political leadership means that a break-up of the Eurozone at the specified times is not inevitable, but less likely. The Keplerian forecast must therefore be framed conditionally: “If the Eurozone is to break up, and measures to save it are unsuccessful, the most likely periods are July-August 2013 and April-May 2014.” A Keplerian would add advice such as, for example, “The European Bank must increase liquidity,” or, “Agreements on further financial integration should be finalised before July 2014.” In each case the prediction is not made on the basis of astrological assessment alone, but in line with a theory about astrology. Also, in each case, the political outcome tells us, within its own terms, about the claims of a more Stoic versus a primarily Platonic version of political astrology.
(1) The European Union (formerly known as the European Economic Community, EEC): January 1,1958, 00.01 CET, Brussels; and the Euro: January 1, 1999, 00.01 CET, Brussels. Source: The Book of World Horoscopes, Nicholas Campion, Wessex Astrologer Ltd, third printing 1999.
Bio: Nicholas Campion is Senior Lecturer in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, and Director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK. He is course director of the University’s distance-learning MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. His many books include Mundane Astrology (Aquarian Press, 1984), The Book of World Horoscopes (Aquarian Press, 1987), the two-volume History of Western Astrology (Continuum, 2008/9), Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions (New York University Press, 2012) and Astrology, Prophecy and the New Age (Ashgate, 2012). Edited volumes include Cosmologies (Sophia Centre Press, 2010) and, with Liz Greene, Astrologies (Sophia Centre Press, 2011). He is editor of Culture and Cosmos. His main interest is in how astrological knowledge is constructed and represented, and in competing truth-claims between different schools of thought in astrology, in any time-period and every culture.