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Crowley's Reasoning for THOTH Astrological Assignments


 Anonymous
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I need to know how or why Crowley made the astrological assignments he did in the THOTH deck. If he copied them from somewhere else that is fine, I just need to know where to look. It appears there is no rational explanation handy for anyone to examine his reasoning. I am assuming he applied them just because that was what had always been assigned via the Golden Dawn, but it would be useful for me to have literary reference to cite.

I have tried to dissuade my magickal partner from pursuing astrology at all, citing ample evidence for faulty assumptions and irrational conclusions in the world of astrology. We are still suspending judgement in the hopes of preventing the alienation of an entire sector of the metaphysical community. He insists on examining it further for the development of the assignments for our tarot project.

If Crowley has some rational basis for the way he is assigning houses and signs, that's fine, but I havn't found it in any of his work.

Any help is appreciated.

Naomi Ningishzidda


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 Anonymous
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Try reading some books by Crowley, like Astrology or the Book of Thoth. Crowley practiced Astrology of the Natal and Horary varieties, and even wrote a book about it, as mentioned.
The astrolgical signs assigned to the Tarot come from the Golden Dawn. In order to understand why a given card was attributed to a given Astrological sign look at the card, and then consider the meaning of the astrological sign attributed to it, eventually something should connect.


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 Anonymous
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Oh I almost forgot. The Golden Dawn attributions begin from 0 degrees Leo, rather than the more usual 0 degrees Aries. Hope that explains everything for you!


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 Anonymous
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As Aeternitas says, Crowley learned the attributions that he used and published from Samuel MacGregor Mathers' Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

That answers the "where from" part of your question.

I take it that your question refers to the 22 Trumps, the single 'Yetziratic attributions' of the 12 astrological signs and 7 planets (and the 5 elements) to each of them (eg. Mercury to Trump I, Scorpio to XIII, etc.). These are straightforward; for those less direct (eg. Pisces attributed to Trump XVIII The Moon) it is worth reading what he has to say about the association and meditating a bit on what possible qualities the symbols may have in common. Although I say the two lots of symbols (Trump icons and Astrological signs) are usually directly related, it is never as clear-cut and crispity crunchity as our inner Anglo-Saxon (where we have one - I don't) may like. Which is of course the whole point. Or part of it.

There are points at which the symbols (Sign, Trump, and the rest) blur and metamorphose into other phases and modes and angles, and this is, perhaps, due to the reflection which the system presents of a reality, one which is not particularly interested in satisfying the human ego's preference for rational symmetry as the highest priority. Hardly anything in Nature lines up perfectly the way our graphs and charts do, the map is not the territory. The Zodiac is a set of symbols, not a set of stars.

There is also the compound attribution given to the numbered cards of the minor arcana. These simply indicate that the 'quality' represented by, say, the 5 of Cups, is of the same sort of general idea as could also be expressed in astrological terms by saying Mars in Scorpio (or in Qabalistic terms, by saying Geburah of Heh); or 9 of Wands can be expressed as Moon in Sagittarius (or Yesod of Yod).

Astrology is worth studying especially if you think it is all crap, because of the relationship of the signs (and the qualities which they represent) to the seasons (as each sign occurs at a particular time, of which it is the heavenly - i.e. Astral - emblem); and because of the exercise one gets in the subtle manipulation of qualities via symbolic algebra of the same kind that we see in Qabala and the Tarot, which is also why the three 'systems' have been mapped out in a single complex glyph by Mathers' for his Rosicrucian Order the Golden Dawn, which is where Crowley learned them.

Just because a conclusion is 'irrational' does not invalidate it. I am always amazed that in 2011 we still have people using the word 'irrational' as a pejorative, particularly in this field. Instinct, intuition, inspiration, imagination, and indeed physical reality are utterly irrational and they make up a far greater sum of who and what we are and what the universe is - and how other beings are as well (animal, plant, mineral, Luminary, spirit) than does the ostensibly 'rational' .000000000001% that thinks it is the only game in town. Put the bastard in its place, and study Astrology.

Astrology, and considerations of Astrology, and of the symbols and of the Design of the various astrological traditions, is the source of a great deal of human science, culture and art, religion and magic. However you may personally deal with astrology, it remains as one of the most ancient and primary tools which people have used to synchronise with the macrocosm, to perceive/engineer synchronicity.

Best regards
N.


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Nomad
(@nomad)
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I've often wondered a couple of things about the Thoth deck astrology myself, specifically the court card correspondences.

Why are the cardinal signs attributed to the Queens, and the mutable signs to the Knights? And also, why does each card's 'influence' begin at the last decan of the astrological sign prior? For example, I'm a late-born Aquarian, but am assigned the Knight of Cups rather than the Prince of Swords.

Crowley doesn't seem to explain this at all in the book, other than to say

The reason for this is that in the realm of the Elements all things are mixed and confused; or, as the apologist might say, counter checked and counter-balanced.

I'd be very interested to hear any thoughts on this.


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 Anonymous
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meditate.


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 Anonymous
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Hello Nomad,

"Nomad" wrote:
I've often wondered a couple of things about the Thoth deck astrology myself, specifically the court card correspondences.

This comes from the Golden Dawn's attribution of the Tarot to their projection of the Tree of Life within a solid (Celestial) sphere. Hence the literal assignation of cards to areas of the "sky".

Why are the cardinal signs attributed to the Queens,

The Golden Dawn material (whose attributions - with one modification - Crowley published in his Tarot book) does not specify this particular example directly. However, there are general principles dealt with in the portion of teaching which might shed light on one way to look at it according to their doctrines, which were also Crowley's, to a large extent, where this stuff was concerned.

Just as the disparate forms and features woven by Mathers and Crowley into their Magick come from diverse and separate traditions, The Golden Dawn and Tantrika seem to have an odd lot in common in terms of certain underlying patterns, forms or modes of symbolic conception - if not practise or detail - prevalent and peculiar to both. So, regarding the Queens being Cardinal signs, think of Shakti as the power of change (i.e. the active aspect of Consciousness). Note that this accords with the nature of Heh and Briah, too, which the Queens also represent, with Binah as the capital of the Pillar of Severity, etc. This would support the basic Theosophical premise which inspired Crowley and other comparative-religionists of his day - that all these various traditions discussed similar, related or perhaps identical phenomoena, methods, results, the variety itself being a mere matter of detail.

and the mutable signs to the Knights?

My guess is that Mathers attributed the mutable signs to the knights to demonstrate the relationship between/identity of, Yod and Heh final.

This explanation isn't specifically stated anywhere that I can find, but this is how I think of it, based on my study of the G.D. stuff. The mutable signs, according to the G.D., were themselves said to represent the most "spiritual" aspect of the element, or the element "spiritualised" (whatever that might mean to you. This doctrine is also paraphrased slightly clumsily by Crowley on p.286 of the Book of Thoth). Therefore, the mutable signs are represented by the Princesses as the element of Earth (corresponding to the sephira Malkuth and world of Assiah). Now, the relevant core doctrine of the G.D. here, emphasised in the rest of their papers dealing with this subject, was that Kether, (1 Fire/Spirit, i.e. the Knight), was always present in Malkuth (10 Earth, the Daughter/Princess) and vice-versa, 'but after another manner'.

Think about it : who else could get the Mutable signs? The obvious candidates, the Princesses can't because they're off being the thrones of the Aces. The Princes have to be Vau (as Air) and therefore accord with the Fixed signs. The Queens as the first Heh are just starting to get the show on the road, so making them mutable or de-cadent doesn't reflect this. Make the Knights mutable and the doctrine of resurrection which was so central to the G.D. is quite elegantly expressed.

And also, why does each card's 'influence' begin at the last decan of the astrological sign prior? For example, I'm a late-born Aquarian, but am assigned the Knight of Cups rather than the Prince of Swords.

Contagion. This would be to symbolically acknowledge the proximity and therefore influence of Pisces on that side of Aquarius. The symbolic divisions are matters of convenience only. Each sign was itself thought of as having three stages or phases, or portions, the Decans (the "IAO formula" is pehaps also worth a mention at this point too). One Golden Dawn rant is:

"For example, in the case of Leo, the Dominion of Fortitude, the central 10 degrees will have most of this [i.e. Leonine - N.] nature. For the beginning ten degrees are tinged with the nature of Cancer, and the last ten degrees with the nature of Virgo, the nature of Leo however predominating the mixture." (Mathers, quoted in Regardie's book, p.601).

The idea that is being acknowledged by the assignation of the Court Card to the last portion of the previous sign as opposed to anywhere else is novelty (the new element symbolised by the new Court Card) being born within / transforming the decay of established form ('established form' being the established element of the Sign proposed by the first two Decans).

Crowley doesn't seem to explain this at all in the book, other than to say

The reason for this is that in the realm of the Elements all things are mixed and confused; or, as the apologist might say, counter checked and counter-balanced.

This is straight-laced G.D. doctrine. Or Tao. Or . . . reality, man! 🙂

Although Aleister Crowley was written, directed, and acted by himself, he was produced by MacGregor Mathers and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Without familiarity with their stuff, you won't have knowledge of where A.C. was coming from when he uses it in his work, which is everywhere.

I reckon Crowley is best approached (and appreciated) in the wider context of material which he used, and (cough) appropriated, and in some cases greatly expanded upon.

Best regards
N.


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 Anonymous
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It's worth noting as well that the whole celestial sphere's worth of card symbolism is simply Mathers' visualisation of the process by which influence is received from the Malkuth of Yetzirah to the Kether of Assiah and thence distributed in our heavens, from whence, according to the doctrines of renaissance-inspired Neoplatonic astral magic such as the G.D. professed, the world operates. Ultimately, though, “the action of the Spirit of Malkuth of Yetzirah transmitting to the Kether of Assiah will equal that of continued vibratory rays, acting from the centre to the circumference, and thus bringing into action the force from the 'Thread of the Unformulate' MEZLA” (Mathers, same document).

I.e. Heaven (the 'superior' world) is within. Etc.


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Los
 Los
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"Ningishzidda" wrote:
It appears there is no rational explanation handy for anyone to examine his reasoning.

You've already been pointed in the direction of the place where Crowley learned tarot attributions. To this, I can only add the caveat that looking for any ultimate "rational explanation" behind these attributions is somewhat of a waste of time. For example, what's the rational explanation for which Crowley's sources made these attributions? Either they got the attributions from previous sources or they just made them up. If they got the attributions from previous sources, what's the rational explanation for which their sources made these attributions? Etc.

And that's what it comes down to: if you go back far enough, all "attributions" were just made up by someone.

There's no reason you can't make up your own attributions. It's just that the systems that exist are so well-defined, well-developed, and useful that it doesn't make it practical to make up your own.

Noctifer:

Astrology is worth studying especially if you think it is all crap [...] because of the exercise one gets in the subtle manipulation of qualities via symbolic algebra of the same kind that we see in Qabala and the Tarot

Absolutely. It's not only great exercise for the mind, it elucidates many of Crowley's writings that rely on it.

Just because a conclusion is 'irrational' does not invalidate it.

It depends on what you mean by "irrational." If you mean, "reached without the proper application of reason," then you're obviously wrong. Since conclusions are constructs of the mind reached through an application of reason, conclusions reached without a proper application of reason *are* invalid, by definition.

If, however, you mean "pertaining to a subject that is not rational," then you're right. As you note, much of our experience and the universe is irrational. We can rationally study something like instinct or genetic mutation, which is irrational, and our rational conclusions about it aren't automatically invalidated just because the subject is not rational.

So you can make a rational study of an irrational superstition like astrology. But the actual claims of astrology itself -- i.e. "The positions of the stars really affect the personality" -- are false.


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Nomad
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meditate.

Thanks AEternitas. I have meditated on this, and gleaned some insight thereby, but am keen for some deeper understanding in the intellectual realm as well.

regarding the Queens being Cardinal signs, think of Shakti as the power of change (i.e. the active aspect of Consciousness). Note that this accords with the nature of Heh and Briah, too, which the Queens also represent, with Binah as the capital of the Pillar of Severity, etc.

Generally "change" would be the nature of Chokmah, and thus masculine, hence my query. Heh and Briah, being watery, are generally considered to reflect, rather than initate, the change brought about by Yod/Yetzirah.

I can see where you're going with your statement, and I'm not saying it's wrong, but it doesn't seem to account for the unusual atribution.

My guess is that Mathers attributed the mutable signs to the knights to demonstrate the relationship between/identity of, Yod and Heh final.

Did the identity definitely originate with Mathers? Interesting if it did... Can you point me towards any writings of Mathers on this topic?

What you say regards my second question, Noctifer, is pretty much my thinking on it as well. That said though, it seems a little odd to me that if the influence of Pisces really is strongest from the last decan of Aquarius through to the second decan of Pisces, then why aren't those three decans considered to be the region of Pisces in the first place? 😮


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 Anonymous
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Just to correct a few assumptions, I am Native American (Lakota, Tulalip) not Anglo-Saxon. I also have access to Crowley's entire library and didn't find a straightforward explanation and assumed this site was host to the majority of experts.

Thanks for the confirmation. We've decided to junk the entire astrological portion derived from Western astrology as it appears to be too full of logical fallacies to be of any use. When you are dealing with energies that can reduce the human construct to ash in less than a millisecond there is no room for frivolous flights of fancy in the system any more than there is room for such in the construction of a spaceship.

You've already been pointed in the direction of the place where Crowley learned tarot attributions. To this, I can only add the caveat that looking for any ultimate "rational explanation" behind these attributions is somewhat of a waste of time. For example, what's the rational explanation for which Crowley's sources made these attributions? Either they got the attributions from previous sources or they just made them up. If they got the attributions from previous sources, what's the rational explanation for which their sources made these attributions? Etc.

And that's what it comes down to: if you go back far enough, all "attributions" were just made up by someone.

There's no reason you can't make up your own attributions. It's just that the systems that exist are so well-defined, well-developed, and useful that it doesn't make it practical to make up your own.

You make a very good point and one that has continued to bother me in regards to the astrological system. However I disagree with you that things just "get made up". There are theories and there are proofs. m1thr0s at the Abrahadabra Institute has discovered a logical construct for astrology that, unlike Western Astrology, is not pulled straight out of someone else's asshole, and can also be proven logically (via the proximity principal and binary hexagrammology). It can be used in both single and binary star systems with reasonably few complications and follows a simple mathematical logic based on cycles of light and dark. It is too awkward to apply to the book of tarot as it is unclear yet how to make it work. But it is logical and is worth noting.

Anyways here's a card from the deck, and a simple model of the light to dark system:


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 Anonymous
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"Nomad" wrote:
"Noctifer" wrote:
regarding the Queens being Cardinal signs, think of Shakti as the power of change (i.e. the active aspect of Consciousness). Note that this accords with the nature of Heh and Briah, too, which the Queens also represent, with Binah as the capital of the Pillar of Severity, etc.

Generally "change" would be the nature of Chokmah, and thus masculine, hence my query.

I sort of see what you mean, but to me it's not as simple as that. The Tree of Life and the way in which it is understood by the Golden Dawn and by Crowley (if we study 777) contains infinite reflection and complementary "transvestism" (for want of a better word!) of the symbols as they percolate downwards (or upwards). The ways the symbols work in this stuff (the original teachings weren't given to any below 5=6 in the original Golden Dawn) isn't as cut-and-dried as something like a single meaning for each. You could say that Chokmah is 'feminine' because it receives the influence from Kether, for example. What is said depends on what you mean. Personally, I tend to think most often of Geburah when I think of "change" in terms of the Crowley/Golden Dawn tree of life, especially with the Tarot, particularly in light of 777. Chokhmah is above the abyss, where something like "change" might perhaps be understood to have an abstract, a-temporal meaning (paradoxically, too, as the below may show).

The specific type of "change" being initiated by the Cardinal Signs is the introduction (or BIRTH ) of an Elemental triplicity into physical manifestation.

But that doesn't answer you question about why the Queens' dominions cover two-thirds of the Cardinal Signs, which are otherwise supposed to represent the initial phase of the element (a quality normally indicated by Knights as Yod); and why conversely the Knights' dominions cover two-thirds of each Mutable sign, which represent qualities normally deemed appropriate to the Princesses. One explanation for the latter is in my previous post (i.e. why the Knights dominions might cover 2/3 of the Mutable signs).

But look - Mathers says, of the Queens:

"Whoever wrote Book T, probably Mathers," wrote:
THE FOUR QUEENS
Are seated upon Thrones, representing the Forces of Heh of the Name in each suit, the Mother, and bringer forth of material Force, a Force which develops, and realises the Force of the King [i.e. the Knight].

When you consider that both the Book T and the explanation of the Tree of Life in a Sphere were together supposed to show the process of manifestation, i.e. the descent of spirit from Malkuth of Yetzirah to the Kether of Assiah, the significance of the Mother - that is, the Queens - as bearers of the initial impulse (shown by their dominions covering the initial two thirds of the Cardinal Signs) makes perfect sense.

Also, for the record, according to Crowley's Chinese notions, Chokhmah considered as the number 2 or as " . . " is an even number and therefore Yin/female in comparison to 1 or . Yang and the other odd numbers. (Mathers wasn't consciously into Chinese metaphysic to my knowledge - although Crowley was, albeit many decades later - not that I'm suggesting Mathers intended Binah as the Queens to be "masculine", anything but).

But at the end of the day, I don't see the problem with having a Queen cover the first two thirds of each Cardinal sign, because I don't regard women (or Briah/Heh) as categorically "passive". They give birth to new things, which is what the Cardinal signs symbolise.

Heh and Briah, being watery, are generally considered to reflect, rather than initate, the change brought about by Yod/Yetzirah.

Yes, I do see what you mean about Briah being "watery" - but see below.

[ However. What is this "Yod/Yetzirah" you mention? If we're discussing the Worlds of Qabala, then in the G.D. / Crowley system, Yod is Atziluth, not Yetzirah, which is Vau. I presume this is a typo and you meant Atziluth 😀 ]

Briah as the recipient of Atziluth shows, as you say, a "watery" or "mediumistic" quality. Sure.

The Book of Thoth is, we are told, Egyptian. Water as an element is an agent of change (life, erosion, flux, tides etc.). Where the Egyptian Tarot is concerned, the inundation of the Nile was of the primal importance to the mundane and the magical life of Egypt. Above all, it marked the passage of Time, as did that other fundamentally important periodic feminine flowing which designates fertility, i.e., the potential for Motherhood (the "first Heh" type or mature female, i.e. Queens).

I personally understand the symbol of the element that we call Water to be suggesting something largely temporal. What does Time do? It flows: Time, as sequence, means change. "Water" is the symbol of flowing; Time, which, considering Kronos/Saturn's (i.e. Time's) place at Binah, makes perfect sense in terms of the Queens being considered as the origin, or source, of the change which 'descends' into the phenomenal world below the Abyss via the Supernal Triad. It is from Binah, the Mother, that the phenomenal world (beneath Her) proceeds (and that emerges out of the Abyss) - - - just as it is from the void of Ain that the Tree emanates in the first place.

But Water also represented Space, as well as Time - and these two dimensions are the apparent "medium" (matrix - i.e. mother) through which the physical world (Assiah) manifests, in which it takes place.

I can see where you're going with your statement, and I'm not saying it's wrong, but it doesn't seem to account for the unusual atribution.

It was just a thought. This part of Mathers' teaching, the documents concerned, are simultaneously surprising in both good and bad ways - one of the latter is the sketchy or unfinished nature of some parts of it. However, I don't know of any direct or explicit explanation to your question from Mather's (or other original G.D. ) writings. Very happy to be corrected on this though if someone else does.

My guess is that Mathers attributed the mutable signs to the knights to demonstrate the relationship between/identity of, Yod and Heh final.

As I suggested above? yes, perhaps this is so. So we're left with the Queens and Cardinal signs together, because the Princes must be Fixed Signs in GD (as Tiphareth/Vau).

The other thing to think about is the fact that the Golden Dawn's symbols and their symbolic grammar was something which was taught with a specific agenda in mind. All the symbols, formulae and their layerings are intended to demonstrate or illustrate certain doctrines and these are often explicated in Mathers' typical Victorian manner. This section of his teaching, the Inner Order stuff, is often regarded as "unfinished" by much better informed people than me. Mathers certainly never completed fleshing out the 5=6 curriculum with all its sub-grades ( "Zelator Adeptus Minor" , "Theoricus Adeptus Minor", etc. ), and this Tarot teaching (with the Celestial dominions in the Sphere of Malkuth of Assiah), extensive and often wonderful though it is, is likewise "unfinished", being part of the curriculum for one of those sub-grades.

Did the identity definitely originate with Mathers? Interesting if it did... Can you point me towards any writings of Mathers on this topic?

As far as I am aware, the Golden Dawn's "Book T" and the paper dealing with the Tree of Life in a Sphere were both composed entirely by Mathers (Fr. S.R.M.D.), and the attributions of those zones of the Zodiac to the Court Cards was -although I may be incorrect on this point - entirely his invention. It was likely to have been in use by at least 1892, when the first Inner Order GD (original) members were initiated. He may have got it from an earlier source but it's news to me if so.

What you say regards my second question, Noctifer, is pretty much my thinking on it as well. That said though, it seems a little odd to me that if the influence of Pisces really is strongest from the last decan of Aquarius through to the second decan of Pisces, then why aren't those three decans considered to be the region of Pisces in the first place? 😮

What? no. It is not stated that the influence of Pisces is strongest in that region, --that's just the place assigned to the symbol of the card in question, where its dominion begins. The card - not the Zodiac sign, which has its own, separate, zone.

Example: Your place, (Sun-sign) in late Aquarius near Pisces being assigned the Knight of Cups might be taken to indicate that this part of Aquarius - modified by the proximity of Pisces - is to be thought of as expressing in some way the nature of that card along with the first two-thirds of Pisces. These three ten-degree zones - the last of Aquarius and first of Pisces, all have that particular "Knight of Cups" property in common, in a way which, for example, the first two decans of Aquarius do not share (despite still being part of Aquarius); these first two decans of Aquarius having more in common with a different card whose properties it shares with the last decan of Capricorn, in this case, the Prince of Swords.

It's all relative!

Cheers
N.


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Shiva
(@shiva)
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Crowley also recommended that people stay away from astrology unless they were strongly attracted to it.


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 Anonymous
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"Shiva" wrote:
Crowley also recommended that people stay away from astrology unless they were strongly attracted to it.

93!

Did he now? Where did he say that?
Not that I disagree, in this case... I've seen astrology lead certain people into a lot of confusion or obsession; though you can really say that about most abstract metaphysical systems.

93
Swami Anand Nisarg


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 Anonymous
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"Swamiji" wrote:
"Shiva" wrote:
Crowley also recommended that people stay away from astrology unless they were strongly attracted to it.

93!

Did he now? Where did he say that?
Not that I disagree, in this case... I've seen astrology lead certain people into a lot of confusion or obsession; though you can really say that about most abstract metaphysical systems.

93
Swami Anand Nisarg

In Magick in Theory in Practice, chapter XVIII, he writes:

"This science [astrology] had better be discarded unless the student chances to feel strongly drawn toward it. It is used by the MASTER THERION Himself with fairly satisfactory results, but only in special cases, in a strictly limited sphere, and with particular precautions. Even so, He feels great diffidence in basing His conduct on the result so obtained."


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 Anonymous
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93

That's very interesting! I did not recall that, but that is essentially what I have felt (and shared with others) on the subject.

93
Swami Anand Nisarg


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Nomad
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Noctifer - thank you for your very considered reply, there's some real food for thought in there. I can now see some areas where my thinking on this was too rigid. A little bit of LVX has dawned for me 🙂

(And yes - Yod/Atziluth, not Yod/Yetzirah. Indeed a typo!)

It is not stated that the influence of Pisces is strongest in that region, --that's just the place assigned to the symbol of the card in question, where its dominion begins. The card - not the Zodiac sign, which has its own, separate, zone.

An especially good point. Cheers.


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 Anonymous
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My pleasure.


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 Anonymous
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Topic starter  
"Shiva" wrote:
Crowley also recommended that people stay away from astrology unless they were strongly attracted to it.

Haha! I'm not enjoying it all, it makes me very cranky....we've been vascillating on this issue for almost a year now and at this minute astrology is back on the table and the damned light-dark hexagram system was reworked, and I can't look at it. Thankfully I don't actually have to work on it either - if the astrology is put in it can be a notation when the layouts are worked (which I am not doing)

It's hard to ignore astrology these days with all of the scientific research coming out based on light-dark reactions in fetuses. Classical astrology is so popular I have to agree with my colleage we would be isolating a lot of people who are quite fond of astrology, and I myself can't deny I'm a Gemini.

Excellent post Noctifer, I really enjoyed reading that. 😆


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 Anonymous
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whether or not one practices natal or horary astrology or feels drawn to it or what not, for the purposes of tarot and ceremonial magick, the essential symbols and system of astrology should be firmly grasped.


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