A Hellenistic case for Evolutionary Astrology
© 2010 Curtis Manwaring
Most people will probably be startled to think that there could be a link between what Evolutionary astrologers teach and what is actually stated about the subject in some of the ancient astrological texts. Based upon the apparent focus of most of the ancient material (concrete events, dates, etc), the surprise is well justified, however a closer look at some of the cryptic / mythological statements will show that there is a spiritual side to astrology that even the ancients were aware of. Some of you probably know that I reached a spiritual crisis in 2006 that resulted from the Hellenistic techniques (particularly zodiacal releasing) in which the question came to me: "Am I nothing more than a bag of molecules compelled to be in a given place at a given time" because on Aug 14th, 2006 I reached the peak period and debut of Delphic Oracle and it was as if it was arranged for me (without my involvement) as if it was some college prank or I was on the set of the TV show "Punked" or "Candid Camera". I even thought that someone had looked at my chart to rig the 2006 PHASE conclave to start on that date because it just seemed like too much of a coincidence, yet I was confronted with too much evidence to the contrary that everyone was not just going to uproot their whole lives to make something "look true" in my chart. So because I didn't choose it on any obvious level I began to wonder if my life was being run by some outside force and whether I had any freedom of choice. The inner dialog in my head seemed disconnected from material reality and I knew that I was missing a significant portion of the larger picture. I set up an appointment to see Steven Forrest and it was a 10 month wait, but it turned out to be the most important reading of my life. As I found out later, the answer to the question of free will depends in part upon who you think you are and where you think the boundary to you versus "out there" is. The zodiacal releasing technique was spooky on an impersonal level, but it said nothing about who I was inside of all of these events and what it is that motivates me. From this perspective, the world appears to be a training ground in which some of the necessities of existence are managed for us until we can reach a level of consciousness to be able to manage for ourselves. Below, I will show how I think that a statement made by Rhetorius in the 6th century ties into this idea.
So, many of you know that one of the most important techniques used by evolutionary astrologers involves the nodal axis of the Moon. Rhetorius makes a statement later in the tradition (around the close of the 6th century) that gives the exaltation of the nodes as being north node for Gemini and south node for Sagittarius. Now in evolutionary astrology, the nodal axis represents the path of the soul where the south node shows what past baggage one is bringing along and the north node shows what qualities one needs to develop in the future. The south node can be thought of as that which should be passing away into the past and the north node indicates what is on the agenda for the future. To break down the meaning of the nodes you first have to understand the astronomical scenario that is involved. The north node is that point on the ecliptic (the Sun's path) where the Moon will cross and go north and become elevated above the Sun and the south node is where the Moon will cross the Sun's path and go below which elevates the principle of the Sun. These two points are the places of eclipse by the 2 lights of the cosmos. The lights have an elevated rank above the planets because they are the means of control of the sect (political parties) that set the agenda for the life of the native.  In Valens, he says that the Sun is "the light of the mind" and "organ of sense perception for the soul".  The Moon on the other hand has the job of taking all of the effluents from the other planets and passing them down to the earth in "physical form". As such it represents the physical body and that which is stored at the emotional level. The Moon represents what is taking place on the earth.
In Hellenistic astrology, the "Thema Mundi" represents the chart of the world. It is probably not an actual chart, but instead is a blueprint by which to understand the workings of the world and the Thema Mundi also teaches us how to read a chart if you look closely at the positions and where the old lore places things in this chart.  What is interesting is that the exaltation of the Nodes fall in the 12th and 6th houses respectively of the Thema Mundi. Now returning to the meaning of the astronomical scenario of the north node, this is showing that the Moon is in principle elevated in the 12th house, whereas the Selenic (lunar) principle is depressed in the 6th house. What this means is that the principle of incarnation in the physical world is elevated in the 12th, whereas you begin the process of leaving the physical realm in the 6th (sickness - Sagittarius) to rejoin in the spiritual where the Solar is elevated with the mind of Nous and realm of the etheric forms. Now what is interesting is that all of the places of exaltation for the 7 visible planets fall in places that are busy with respect to the world except Mercury: Saturn is Exalted in Libra (place of judgement) where the scales weigh the soul against a feather to see if it can pass onto the next incarnation or leave it, Jupiter is exalted in the place of life breath (Cancer / first house), Mars is exalted in the place of death (28 Capricorn - border between Capricorn and Aquarius 7th and 8th both have to do with death), Venus is exalted in the place of Oracles (9th) and Venus represents piety / cleanliness / godliness, Mercury is exalted in the Goddess (3rd) and the Sun and Moon are exalted in the 10th and 11th respectively. It is interesting to note that the exaltation of Venus rests upon what Schmidt calls the "pious degrees" in relation to the exaltation of the Sun and that the Moon is on the impious degrees but is fast enough to escape being burned or purged of impurities by the Sun.  The world it would seem in physical form is an imperfect place because it is faster than the Sun / the divine mind. The exception of Mercury is interesting because this is the planet that is said to guide the soul into the underworld (next to the 4th) so that it is not active in this world but "between the worlds". Hermes did not have his own throne...
What is probably not known by most is that the 4 cardinal directions, North, South, East and West are part of the "nautical metaphor" described by Robert Schmidt and that he has called these "angular triads". This is different than the division of the 4 angles into quadrants, but instead centers around each angle upon a quadrant that begins with the cadent signs. Schmidt has elaborated on a strange numbering sequence attributed to Hermes Trismegistus that involves the ages of man from birth to old age to death.  As these center on the 4 directions, and Schmidt has told me that the soul requires a minimum of 3 dimensions to manifest, it is not much of a stretch to say that the angular triads show a certain dimensionality of the soul and shows the mechanics of the shifts in consciousness as we change directions in our lives.
Applying the knowledge of the above angular triad sequence, my theory on the nodal axis is this... that if the zodiac circle represents a process of incarnation and since the soul is said to pass through each of the planetary spheres in Chaldean order starting with Saturn and therefore passing through the waters of forgetfulness (also 12th house), next passing through Jupiter and having impressed upon it a quality of soul and the beginning of substance, etc... then finally passing into the sublunary sphere into incarnation... in order to break the circle of incarnation, you have to do so at the point opposite where the 2 lights (representing life) join (Cancer|Leo) which is Capricorn|Aquarius (and death - which is why these are the 7th and 8th houses in the Thema Mundi). To choose to remain on the circle of incarnation is to choose Saturn for Aquarius (which leads to Jupiter for Pisces and Mars for Aries back inside again) and the symmetry in existence is maintained, but to choose to escape it is represented by Uranus.
The Capricorn/Cancer axis represents the bounded physical form of the world that marks the boundary between the visible and invisible. With it we see that the solar half of the zodiac (Leo - Capricorn) is mostly below the horizon and therefore represents the invisible (spirit), whereas the visible is the lunar half from Cancer to Aquarius (the physical). We get just the hints of something existing elsewhere at the boundaries where Cancer is both above and below the horizon and so is Capricorn.
I pointed this out to Robert Schmidt some time ago, linking the odd ordering of the zodiac (what Schmidt calls the "angular triads" as stated by Hermes Trismegistus which center on the 4 directions for the soul which is N, S, E, W) to the process of birth and death and it became clear to me the reason why the nodes are exalted there: because this is the path of souls into and out of the world (which may be why the cadent places are called "metacosmios" meaning "between worlds"). The 6th house is where the south node is more important where the Moon (physical body) recedes south and decays after an eclipse to the elevated solar spirit and we know that illness (6th) leads to death (7th and 8th). The Apostle Paul said that whenever the flesh is weak (joy of Mars - 6th - thorn in the flesh), then I am strong in the Lord (Holy Spirit), but when I am strong in the flesh, therefore I am made weak (of spirit)...
Some people take these statements literally in the Bible, but taken another way...
Book of Mark 8:17-18:
Jesus said to them, "...it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (mysteries of the stars? ), but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Much of astrological text was written in the same way, below the surface with hidden meanings. This kind of writing was rampant during that era.
I believe that the eclipsing degrees (lunar nodes), showing where the lights converge, indicate a power struggle between the 2 sects of light and dark, good and evil, etc... The idea of sect as a political faction was brought out by Robert Schmidt several years ago so this is not so great of a stretch of the imagination. Valens says that the conjunction and quadratures to these are bad for starting anything new and I believe that this is because with the eclipse, there is a change in power and agenda and the situation is generally unstable until the changeover is completed. But at the nodes, the Moon either crosses the ecliptic going north or going south, and means (my guess) which sect wins or has the upper hand in the struggle. There is a general sense that when the Moon eclipses the Sun, the Moon has more power (the King falls and the people rejoice), whereas a lunar eclipse might be bad for the people. Both seem to be bad for the status quo (the Red Sox broke their long standing Bambino curse during the hour of the lunar eclipse of Oct 2004). Alternatively, when the Moon crosses the ecliptic and goes north, that would seem to elevate the principle of the material or physical whereas the Moon going south would de-emphasize the physical and bring focus to the spiritual... in other words when the flesh is strong, the spirit is weak (Saturn joys in the 12th house) and the 12th is a place of mental anguish due to being too attached to the body whereas the 6th is where the Moon is weak (joy of Mars and physical ailments) which could cause you to become close to the spiritual realm. In the Myth of Er (Plato's Republic), souls were gathered at the waters of Lethe (which means concealment or forgetfulness) and they passed through the waters of forgetfulness (Saturn/12th house which represents agnoia and signifies forgetting) so that they could endure another incarnation that falls short of the glory of God. The idea here is that souls do not want to come to earth, so they choose to forget their past to make life here more tolerable, and are sent here with a choice of what life to take on, and from there the fates work...
Stated another way, the eclipsing degrees show what is entering the world and what is passing away from the world with the north node being the point of entrance and the south node being the exit (and from what I said above, you now know the metaphysical reason why). But I had another insight once... there is an interesting story in the Bible that says that when He sent them out into the world (Jesus... and others), He sent them out two by two so that if one falls, the other can pick him up. Gemini (12th house of the Thema Mundi) might be the archetypal equivalent of Adam and Eve, that one should not go alone into the world without help, but with knowledge comes sin (undoing what was done with the waters of forgetfulness), and an odd preoccupation with apples in classrooms and teachers... Maybe this is where we get the idea that each of us in this world has a "soul mate" from the double bodied sign Gemini... I suspect that many of the stories we have known from youth derive from this chart and the lore surrounding it, the Bible being a case in point.
1. Robert Schmidt's ideas about sect being like the interaction between politically opposed parties are based upon his translation of the word "hairesis" in the hellenistic astrological texts.
2. The Anthology, by Vettius Valens. Book I. pg 2. Translated by Robert Schmidt © 1997. Published by The Golden Hind Press.
3. This is what Schmidt says you should do with the Thema Mundi.
4. Schmidt says that the impious degrees are in front of the Sun and the pious degrees are behind the Sun in the order of the signs because the degrees behind the Sun have already burned away "impurities".
5. Schmidt told me about this sequencing back in the summer of 2007 at his house in Cumberland.
6. The question in parentheses is mine.