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THE SECOND STEP - To Assume Personal Responsibility for the Use of One's Knowledge

Wisdom is useable and purposeful knowledge put to work in everyday living. There is a type of knowledge which, as it mainly offers a mass of unrelated data to be memorized, clutters up the individual's path toward wisdom. But there is another type of knowledge which is geared to a vital desire for wisdom, and which leads to an eventual realization of the wholeness and integrity of the individual person. This last type of knowledge is based on principles of order which are universally valid; their application illumines all matters being studied. It is knowledge which appeals to the individual thinker within every man, woman and child; which summons this thinker out of his sleep and laziness; which, once used regularly, makes a man a power in the universe: A power for good, if the individual sees himself as a conscious participant in the activities of a greater whole - be it called society, humanity, or God; a power for destruction, if the individual seeks only self-aggrandizement and finds no value in anything except his rugged individualism and isolationism.
      What I am seeking to present in this book is a graded, step-by-step approach to the study of astrology which leads to clear thinking and to the type of knowledge enabling the individual not only to live in the way of wisdom and psychological integration, but also to share constructively this knowledge with others. The first step in any valid course of study is quite obviously "to understand the nature and purpose of what one is about to study" — and the preceding chapter has been devoted to that step. What follows the second step in the acquisition of astrological wisdom — has not only a less obvious character, it actually is left in the distant background of the mind by most people who seek after knowledge, and knowledge only.
      A thorough consideration of this second step would actually lead us to a critical analysis of the very foundation of our modern civilization. This is naturally beyond the scope of this present study, yet a few basic points must be stated which are susceptible of general application in all fields of knowledge.

Knowledge Leads to Responsibility
We live in a period of civilization which has been characterized not only by a tremendous increase in human knowledge, but also by the inability displayed by the leaders of mankind to assume any responsibility whatsoever for that knowledge. Ways and means to control powerful natural energies have been devised by man during the last centuries and they have been made known to whomsoever had the intellectual capacity to memorize certain types of data and to follow attentively given recipes for the application of this public scientific knowledge. But the scientist and the inventor of techniques and machines feel in no way responsible for the use to which the knowledge they disseminate will be put. Nor do the leaders of the state assume any responsibility for what the people they guide or rule do with what is placed in the public's hands!
      Modern man is a person who uses indiscriminately the products of a knowledge of which he has no vital and human understanding, and the fundamental purpose and ultimate value of which he does not even question. Modern man is interested in technique first and last. How to use the tools of knowledge after an easy course of training; how to get quick results in terms of effective operation and application — this is all that counts for him. A man buys a car and drives it. He does not understand the nature of the energies and of the mechanical processes which make the car operate. He does not comprehend the relation of this car and its power to the universe, nor does he contemplate the relation of his driving it to society's welfare or even to his own ultimate good. He uses the products of human knowledge and skill, but he assumes no responsibility for that use, beside what the law says he must do in case he hurts somebody; and even that responsibility is shifted to an insurance company gambling with death.
      The astrologer often acts in a somewhat similar manner. He learns a technique. He learns how to read his tables, and how to interpret the symbols of his craft. With practice and attention, with some degree of innate perspicacity, and with not a little good luck, be may succeed in applying astrological rules and in using the intellectual tools at his disposal in an effective manner. He may predict ahead of time the death of a President, the outcome of a famous lawsuit or the occurrence of an earthquake; and if he does he is considered a "success" — nay more, a "great astrologer." People flock to him, asking for personal advice, throwing their hectic lives at him in eager anticipation for predictions, for good news, for anything to break the monotony and spiritual emptiness of most modern lives. Colloquially speaking, the astrologer "knows his stuff" — and he "dishes it out." He gives information, as he sees it in the charts. More information, as the client returns. Always more data, more knowledge. It may be real knowledge; the facts are there and he reads them correctly. One problem, however, may not enter his mind as he goes through the scheduled time allotted for the interview: What use will the client make of the information? The client has been given a 12-cylinder car; but perhaps he has only a 4-cylinder mind to handle it. The information was correct. Was the imparting of it wise?
      I defined wisdom as "useable and purposeful knowledge put to work in everyday living." I could have added that it is knowledge for which we assume personal responsibility. We assume personal responsibility for it the moment we refuse to separate knowledge in itself from the purpose of knowledge in terms of human values. To impart knowledge without caring to discover whether or not this knowledge is assimilatable by those to whom it is given, and whether — once assimilated — it will have a sporting chance to be conducive to personal or group integration is to fail to assume responsibility for that knowledge. It is to follow the way of the intellect, not the path of wisdom. It is to divorce analytical thinking from integral living, intellectuality from moral values, the brain from the heart.
      Our modern civilization and its total, devastating wars are the outcome of such a divorce. Science has run foul of humanity. It is said that knowledge is power; but power of itself has no meaning — just as speed of itself has no meaning. Power for what? Speed to reach what? Power becomes "human" only when its use and its purpose are consciously evaluated, and the responsibility for the results is assumed in clear understanding. This does not mean that the results deliberately sought need be constructive. There will always be individuals who will seek knowledge for ends which are destructive of the lives or possessions of others. But in such cases the issue is clear, as in a struggle between viruses and antibodies and the will to health and sanity in most cases wins. What is deadly is the confusion which comes from the irresponsible and vaguely well-meant use of knowledge, from the handling of tools and techniques by minds without moral maturity, without the basic understanding of human nature and of the cyclic development of that nature, without being aware of the fateful results which an information given carelessly, imprecisely or incompletely, and out of time can cause.
      I am concerned essentially here with the practice of astrology, whether it be self-practice or practice directed to the solution of other persons' problems, friends as well professional clients; but obviously, what I am stating applies in general as well to psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors — and also educators, community leaders or statesmen. A doctor, before receiving his degree, must take the Hippocratic oath. He is committed by tradition, by law, and by moral pressure to use his knowledge beneficently and in a spirit of self-sacrifice. Yet many are the physicians who fail to understand that the information they give to their patients has value only according to the patient's ability to face it constructively and assimilate it. They fail to realize what every psychiatrist and "spiritual guide" should realize, but often does not: viz. that the official possession of knowledge gives them authority. To have authority is more than to have knowledge. It is to be accepted as a man with knowledge — perhaps with wisdom. And this means a profound increase of responsibility.

Authority and Astrological Practice
The psychologist who has his official Ph. D. degree, or who has written widely praised books, has authority as a result of this more or less official recognition. As a result the patient who comes to him is ready to accept his diagnosis and his technical procedures as valid. In the astrologer's case there is no official guarantee of astrological skill available; on the contrary, official standards of value are all against astrology. The practice of astrology may even be against the law of state or city. Yet, the astrologer has authority as one who deals understandingly and effectively with the mysterious and the incomprehensible, or the occult.
      There is a part of every man's mind that is dissatisfied with things as they officially are, with the knowledge available to everyone. The search for a knowledge of realities and of energies beyond the known may be called escapism; yet it is also the deepest trait of human nature, "Threshold knowledge" — and all occultism is such a knowledge — has a fascination for man, probably because, as I once wrote, the "greatness of man is that he can always be greater." But in order to reach the "greater," man must step over a threshold. And in order to do that he must be guided — guided by someone who presents himself with the attributes of authority. Astrology is threshold knowledge. He who is able to use such a knowledge possesses the authority of the as-yet-incomprehensible. And this authority imposes upon the astrologer a heavy personal responsibility, whether or not he admits it, whether or not he cares to act accordingly.
      Astrology deals with symbols — or some may say with transcendent and cosmic forces. The psychotherapist, since Freud and Jung, works also with elements which appear quite transcendental and mysterious — with "dreams," with psychic "images" or "complexes." Yet the dreams are, after all, the client's own. But when the astrologer speaks of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, he deals with entities which are eminently mysterious and whose effective actions are beyond the pale of normal scrutiny. Thus, the person who becomes an astrologer's client must have faith, or at least the queer borderland feeling in which curiosity, skepticism and an avid eagerness to believe blend. As the astrologer talks of these remote entities, the planets, the ordinary client senses the power of mysterious Forces operating in his life. He is led to the realm of a "threshold knowledge"; he is led, in most cases, blindfolded and without any bearings. Yet he who leads him and pours into his mind and psyche starting information has, in most cases, very little sense of responsibility for what this information evokes in the client's consciousness.
      All knowledge engenders responsibility for him who shares or else who refuses to share it for fear of responsibility! But the imparting of "threshold knowledge," with its potent symbols and mysterious entities or forces, produces far more responsibility, for he who receives the knowledge must accept it on authority and on faith — as a young child is taught by his parents.

Astrology and Fear
The personal responsibility of the astrologer to his clients, his friends or hearers reveals itself conclusively as one deals with the source of practically all negative psychological factors: fear. Fear is bom of lack of understanding, but even more of a feeling of inadequacy. One fears any confrontation to the facing of which one feels unequal, or for which one believes oneself (rightly or wrongly) to be unprepared. Man is constantly faced by the possibility of becoming greater than he is; and most of the time he shrinks from taking the steps ahead, because he lacks self-confidence and feels inferior to the task or the opportunity — or because he is too attached to his last success and his established happiness. In either case, fear manifests. For, if a man refuses to move ahead because he is happy where he is, it is essentially that he fears the loss of his present happiness or his inability to gain anything as satisfactory.
      Yet man senses at certain times the need for change — even in areas in which he rebels most desperately against change. First, the imminence of a crisis disturbs him; then, the actual pressure of the growing life within begins to matter his old psychological, mental or physiological structures, his beliefs and his habits — and he becomes frightened. It is then that a man or woman seeks a psychologist, a spiritual guide, or an astrologer. In some cases, there is no immediate or individually conscious sense of crisis or fear, yet all humanity is caught in a condition of collective crisis. It is because of this that men are seeking more than ever to comprehend any type of "threshold knowledge," occultism, astrology anything which might lead to a really new sense of living, a new understanding. Yet what they bring to these types of knowledge is, above all, their fear; then, their need for personal guidance.
      Does the ordinary astrologer recognize this fact? Not clearly, if at all. He sees the obvious: the man's and woman's curiosity, their yearning to hear someone talk about themselves, the desire to know "what is going to happen." But all these things are masks over the dim countenance of fear. Change is impending; change has come; change is ploughing deep the contented soil of yesterdays. Change is pain. Men question the stars because they are in chaos, in darkness, in a bewildering fog. Astrology must answer for men the question of the existence of order. The known order of the earth and of human society is shattered. Souls that are dark and anguished turn to the stars — others turn to God and I — his supposed representatives among men.
      This is not making an unnecessarily dark picture. It is dealing with psychological facts. The persons who come with serious intent to an astrologer for advice are people who are insecure, thus potentially afraid. They want the security which a new knowledge might give them, and they want guidance. The astrologer who answers their questions fails them essentially if he or she is unprepared or unwilling to assume personal responsibility for the information and the advice given. He fails them tragically if, instead of helping the client to overcome his semi-conscious fears, he accentuates and gives a mysterious power to these fears by giving them a justification against which there can be no recourse. "Saturn is squaring your Sun. Watch out!" The person came disturbed, confused and sensing difficulties ahead; he leaves the astrologer's office with a crystallized expectation of tragedy. "Saturn" is about to hurt him; his wife may die, or his kidney may need an operation. Saturn. What is there one can do about Saturn, or to Saturn? Nothing apparently. Fear has taken shape and name. The anticipation of disaster torments the mind. It is worse still for being only half-known, elusive, mysterious. Every worried look in the wife may be the beginning of her end; every pain in the back may herald the unopposable advance of the dark Power, Saturn, remote in the unreachable sky.
      It will not help the situation to say the "influence" of Saturn is of the nature of electromagnetic waves; or that it can be expressed in a statistical average. It may be much worse to know one's husband has 75% chances of dying or becoming insane, than to know he will die or become insane. Uncertainty breeds devastating fear far more than the confrontation with the inevitable. And let us not say "forewarned, forearmed!" It does not apply where Mars, Saturn, squares, oppositions are presented as objective, evil entities which are actually and concretely doing something to men. It does not apply where there is fear. The astrologer's client is told he may meet within an accident affecting his head on Sunday. Cautiously he stays in bed — and the cord supporting a heavy painting on the wall alongside of which his coach rests breaks; he is badly hurt. Or else he walks in the street looking everywhere for a brick to fall, and being thus strained, he misses seeing a hole in the pavement and falls headlong. These are actual cases. Yes, the prediction worked. The astrologer has been successful. A surgical operation might also may be successful — only the patient died.
      What does this all mean? That the human element was left out the power of fear. Will the astrologer only crystallize and focalize fear by his forecasts; will he extend the scope of his client's confusion and sense of disorder — or will be able to give to him who, consciously or subconsciously, yearns for guidance into a new realm of order the faith that this new realm exists and can be reached? Will astrology prove an escape into worse confusion, or a technique of integration? It can never be the latter unless the astrologer is fully aware of his personal responsibility with all necessary means for discharging it. Which means that the astrologer must be a philosopher and a psychologist — a man of wisdom.

Astrology and Fortune-telling
I wrote that any prediction which does not take the whole life of a person as a foundation or frame of reference is incomplete, and often psychologically destructive. The prediction has value only as it contributes to the person's development and essential welfare. Without the recognition of this standard of value the practice of astrology — just as the practice of medicine and psychotherapy — can hardly be justified in a moral or spiritual sense. But in saying this I do not single out the giving of astrological information, freely or with remuneration; for it applies to the imparting of any knowledge which refers to the human person.
      The matter of "fortune-telling" is only one instance of a much more generalized problem. Fortune-telling is an unorganized attempt at haphazard prediction on the basis of isolated and incomplete data. Its purpose is at best to satisfy the apparent curiosity of the client; at its worst, to pander to his insecurity and his fears for the sake of profit. Even in honest hands and where no monetary transaction is involved, the dangers of fortune-telling are that it is based on the wrong type of psychology, that it singles out for consideration standard matters most likely to impress people's curiosity or vanity, and that it does not seek to contribute to the health or psychological wholeness of the client. Fortune-telling tends to encourage dependence upon external advice and escapism, above all dependence upon external events which are presented as unrelated to the integral life and being of the client. Because the fortune-teller assumes no responsibility for the client's psychological reactions to what is being said — except possibly in the obvious matter of indications of death — he or she also tends to destroy the client's own sense of personal responsibility.
      I have said that events do not happen to us, we happen to them. An individual person walks — or drifts along collectively determined social paths — toward the future. He meets the vast pageant of universal action and reaction. He meets the world; the world does not bother to go and meet him. If a brick falls upon the man's head as he walks along a street, it is the man's responsibility. He walked into the field of the brick's fall. He happened to the brick, because he is a conscious individual and the brick only a piece of universal nature. Man happens to nature. He uses the forces of nature; his, the responsibility for the results. Nature is unconcerned. It merely acts and reacts. It has powers; nay, it is power. As one wise man once wrote: "All the powers of nature are there. Take them" . . . but if you take them, the results are your responsibility. And if you do not take them, when the time for your own spiritual maturity has come, that also is your responsibility.
      The astrologer who casts a chart and attempts to solve the problems of his client is using power, power born of the knowledge of the structural pattern of nature as it unfolds through cyclic time. What he does is to relate the client's individual being to his evolving structure of nature — human and universal nature; and relationship always releases power, the power to build or the power to destroy. If the astrologer thinks he merely gives bits of information and then is through with the whole thing, he is greatly mistaken. He has established a relationship. He has placed his client in a new kind of contact or "rapport" with the universe. He has started something vital flowing. To stop there means unfinished business. All human tragedies, all apparent accidents, all conflicts are the results of "unfinished business." The astrologer who walks the path of wisdom assesses very highly his responsibility to his client, and is willing to meet it to the best of his ability and his opportunity. For this reason, he knows how to be silent. Nevertheless, to remain silent when words and knowledge may heal and make whole — that, too, may mean "unfinished business." There is for man no escape from personal responsibility.

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1969 by Dane Rudhyar
and Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
All Rights Reserved.

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