Four Levels of Interpreting
Human Experience and Astrological Data - 3
The Biological Level of Interpretation
The need for air to breathe, food, some kind of physical exercise or "play", relative security from destruction by predators or natural forces (extreme cold or heat, storms, floods), and for the satisfaction of the sexual instinct guaranteeing the preservation of the species imperatively require satisfaction. Primitive men and Women pass most of every day trying to satisfy their hunger and insure at least a degree of security and comfort for themselves and their immediate family. Directly or indirectly, even modern men and women are often mainly, and in many instances almost exclusively, occupied with the satisfaction of these essential needs, albeit in quite a different way from their primitive ancestors. The rhythms and demands of biology are the foundations of human existence, activity and consciousness; yet in order human beings to operate at "higher" levels, these needs have to be brought under control or temporarily curtailed. When attempts to control them are made and even more, when their satisfaction is opposed for "higher" purposes called spiritual
(at whatever level of consciousness this ambiguous qualificative is interpreted) tensions, perhaps illness, and collective as well as personal problems are produced. Solutions to such types of problems have often to be found at a strictly biological level. Medical care, diet, a different occupation or way of life, physical exercise, and/or other strictly biological changes even if they require changes also at the family, social, or business levels may be imperative.
In human beings living in a modern, individualistic society, however, biological problems are very often (perhaps in most cases) by-products of tensions, frustrations, and ineffective activity at super-biological levels. An exclusively and strictly biological situation is rarely found. But in ancient types of tribal societies, astrology was never called upon to solve the problems of human beings as individuals. Even when larger kingdoms were formed and a horoscope was cast for the king, what was considered was the beginning of the king's reign - his accession to the throne, a matter affecting the whole kingdom rather than the birth-chart of the king as a person. Even if the king's character and what might be seen in his "destiny" were studied, if was only to the extent that these factors affected his reign and the nature of his rule.
I have discussed elsewhere(2
) in some detail the implications of the fact that the astrology of tribal societies was locality-centered. Astrology then dealt with the visible motions of Sun, Moon, stars, and planets from east to west in a sky strictly contained within the circle of the local horizon. The Earth was considered flat and the sky an immense and mysterious dome over the horizon-bounded soil in which the tribe was almost ineradicably rooted. The three basic repetitive sky-experiences of human beings were the alternation of days and nights, the cycle of seasonal changes, and the puzzling monthly changes in the shape of the Moon. The Sun was the Light of the Day; the Moon, the Light of the Night. These two "Lights" (only much later were the Sun and Moon spoken of as "planets" by astrologers) were the foundation of a strictly biological type of astrology.
The motions of the Lights could not only be related to experienced changes on the Earth's surface daily, monthly, and seasonal they could also be defined and eventually plotted out and measured by the way they seemed to affect the rising and setting of the most brilliant stars primarily what was called their "heliacal rising", and also their visible culmination at the zenith at "midnight".
In other words, seasonal changes were seen to be related to the relationship between the disappearance after sunset and reappearance before sunrise of certain brilliant stars, owing to their conjunctions with the Sun. This most likely led to the idea of a solar
zodiac, while the passage of the Moon during the night through distinctive patterns of stars defined a lunar
zodiac. It is probable that the lunar zodiac came first, at a time or in regions where matriarchy was the prevailing basis for tribal organization. The solar zodiac eventually became the dominant factor, together with the patriarchal type of society. Patriarchy presumably imposed itself as a system of organization when agriculture had to become individualized and regulated, and the growth of neighboring tribes made a struggle for more "living space" and warfare an apparent necessity of human life.
At the biological level of astrological interpretation, the Sun and the Moon respectively symbolize the principles of Fatherhood and Motherhood. In ancient astrology, the Sun-Moon and day-night polarities represented in the realm of the sky what the male-female polarity was on earth in all animal life. This was the age of "vitalistic" religions, fertility-cults, and worship of the male and female sexual organs (phallus and yoni) as symbols of the dualistic power of life. Even in the traditional European astrology, the Sun in a birth-chart was also supposed to represent the father, while the Moon referred to the mother.
The polarity principle which took the form of the dynamic and balanced interaction of Yin and Yang in Chinese culture was also applied to the planets, literally the "wandering stars". Unlike the so-called "fixed stars" which remained in the same positions in relation to one another, the planets' motions were, at first sight, quite mysterious considering their peculiar forward and backward character. Yet these motions were sooner or later analyzed and shown to have a regular, cyclic character.
The planets were also paired: Mars and Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. The first pair was closely related to the Sun-Moon polarity, in the sense that Mars and Venus were believed to represent the more material or organic aspect of the universal life-process symbolized by the two Lights. Mars, the red planet, was related to the energetic, piercing activity of the male principle the impregnator, the peasant breaking the resistance of the soil with his plough so that seeds could be sown in the dark humus. Venus was considered the celestial agent active in all seed in man, the testicles, and in woman the ovaries. The Martian male, once a father, became the Sun; the Venusian female, once a mother, the Moon. The female rhythm of menstruation had long before been related to the cycle of the waxing and waning Light of the night.
The pairing of Jupiter and Saturn interpreted at the biological level is also quite obvious, astrologically speaking. Whatever lives has to expand and contract alternately. On the one hand, food has to be assimilated in order to produce growth and to maintain the basic rhythm of metabolism ingestion, assimilation, and evacuation of waste-products. On the other hand, any living organism has to have a specific
(i.e., belonging to its species) shape and structure giving stability to its internal operations. What Jupiter expands, Saturn stabilizes. The two principles are inseparable, just as inseparable as the Sun and Moon or the Yin and Yang principles though these pairs of symbols operate within different frames of reference.
The planet Mercury swiftly moving back and forth (three times a year) and never far from the Sun is, at the biological level, the capacity inherent in all living organisms to coordinate their various organic processes. It therefore symbolizes the three nervous systems of the human body: parasympathetic, sympathetic, and cerebrospinal.
Ancient astrology dealt with the two Lights as a strictly bipolar unit a twofoldness of vital power and five planets. The entire system was seen operating within the zodiacal whole, which represented that aspect of infinite Space (the whole Sky) having a definite and observable impact upon life on Earth. To have such an impact, however, zodiacal space had to be dynamized by the Lights and the planets. This is the basis of the now little-understood concept of "planetary rulership" according to which each planet "ruled" two zodiacal signs the two Lights, I repeat, being considered two aspects of one reality.
It probably took many centuries before the system was definitely built, but its meaning is very clear, and the principle of it was presumably established in the days of Chaldean astrology. What the system means is that there are six basic sub-levels in the operations of life in the human body; and Hindu philosopher-seers defined six differentiations of one cosmic power.(3
) The planets are listed in what later astronomers proved to be the correct order of distance from the Sun.
This system of rulership is self-contained and its symbolism perfectly consistent. It clearly shows that the solar system, when interpreted at the level of biology and also of culture, as we will soon see, ends with the orbit of Saturn which now seems to have been proved to be the limit of the power of solar emanation (the "solar wind"). At the biological and strictly cultural levels, the trans-Saturnian planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are not only not visible, but not even considered or postulated.
Nevertheless, while life in the Earth's biosphere operates according to relatively stable rhythms, thus in a state of "homeostasis", it is also subject to sudden shocks and, from the biosphere's point of view, unexpectable changes. Thus, any consistent and seemingly "closed" system of interpretation of life-cycles cannot account for all
that occurs. One must assume the existence of metabiological
forces and influences. This means that the power of zodiacal space can also be dynamized by factors other than Sun, Moon, and planets.
In the past, two kinds of factors were considered to transcend the regularity of planetary patterns. One type was represented by comets, eclipses, and all celestial phenomena which did not fit into the scheme of planetary motion and rulership. The other type referred to the assumed possibility of the larger stars themselves having an individualized influence if
the Sun, Moon, and to a lesser extent the planets were in exact conjunction with them. It is probable, however, that this kind of "fixed stars influence" should only be thought of at the sociocultural level of interpretation.
2. The Astrological Houses: The Spectrum of Individual Experience
(New York: Doubleday, 1972).
Cf. my book, Culture, Crisis and Creativity
(Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books, 1977).