On the Two Sects in Hellenistic Astrology

© 2009 Curtis Manwaring

Just as there are two sects in the heavens, one linked to the Solar sect and one linked to the Lunar sect, there are also two sects here on earth; each seeking control of the direction that Hellenistic astrology is going to take. The seeds of this began years ago, when the majority view of western astrology (mostly psychological astrology) which resists the urge to do concrete prediction, sought to use astrology as a tool to enhance individual free will which was largely the result of the work of Dane Rudhyar. Over the span of a generation or so, this left a sizable minority of those interested in the subject feeling dissatisfied which gradually led to a movement to begin translating older astrological texts to try to repair the perceived deficiencies in modern astrology. The most recent surge in the retrieval of these sources started piecemeal for about a decade by such authors as James Holden and Robert Zoller and began to pick up steam and eventually culminated with the formation of Project Hindsight (which was the largest and the most active in the mid 90's), Ceillo e Terra and a few others.

At the current time, the form of this division seems to be one where one group seeks to reconstruct the ideal (or first principles) of astrological interpretation, whereas the other sect prefers a literalist (or fundamentalist) point of view in a strict adherence to what the texts appear to say on the surface. Now, since the inception of Project Hindsight (PH from now on) the work began as a series of preliminary translations which at the time, this was well documented as such because as Robert Schmidt said, until the material has been reviewed completely, it would not be wise to settle in on any particular translation conventions. Among the reasons for this is that there were many puzzling phrases in the texts in which the meaning was not completely understood, such as "zoidion", and "epimarturiea". Schmidt said that he stoped translating around 1998 because he had "gotten a whiff" of what appeared to be a system of thought buried in some of the texts. He has since named this the "System of Hermes" in honor of one of the named mysterious sources that many of the surviving texts make mention of. The group that prefers strict adherence to the text is taking the old PH translations as gospel and says that Schmidt is saying far more than what can be retrieved from the texts alone. This is indeed ironic because back in those days PH was being accused of being antiquarian and some were complaining at the time that the material was too old and didn't have relevance and that PH wants to "drag us back into the stone age".

Oddly enough, this schism seems similar to the nature of Plato's argument describing the nature of the Monad and the Dyad, or Eidos and Hule (Form vs Matter). In the translation effort, the principle of the Dyad (the counterfeit light of the nocturnal sect) made its appearance first because the focus of the early translations was for the most part on retrieving unknown techniques in an attempt to understand them in the same way that the original authors intended them to be understood, and this was done purposely trying to avoid imposing our own eidei (forms) because of the potential danger of obscuring the original intended forms.

In 1975, my first text was given to me by my mother (How to Chart Your Own Horoscope by Ursula Lewis - 1972 edition). That first text was the most interesting one that I had until I found William Lilly's Christian Astrology back in the late 80's. I found the traditional methods to be the most satisfying in terms of finding concrete events, but comparitively lacking in the area of spiritual understanding in relation to psychological and evolutionary astrology. But because I was already familiar with the psychological approach, the area where I most wanted to grow in was the traditional. I don't think that there is a real division in the different approaches that makes one approach correct and all of the others wrong. If one looks there is material that is similar to all of the different approaches. What I find interesting is that there is material in the Hellenistic area that backs up what evolutionary astrologers have been saying for a long time (Rhetorius on the exaltation of the nodes for example).

Historically, omen based astrology (astrology of short observations with short predictions) preceeded what later became horoscopic astrology where a whole natal chart was constructed to describe a persons life. It is as if the sum of the observations that came before led to someone having an insight about how it all fit together. Once again the details came first and then the vision of how it fits together.

There has been an explosion of new techniques and new "astrologies" over the past couple of decades and the majority of these techniques have been developed in isolation from each other without regard to what the effects would be theoretically in the other branches of astrology. For reasons that I explained in my Theory of Geocosmic Coincidence, all of these work to a greater or lesser degree in mapping the events in human existence because our existence is not random, but follows a complex pattern. As long as there is consistency and also consistency in the rules of interpretation, there will usually be some sort of correlation that one might be able to point to to say that something "works". This should not be surprising at all, just as it is not surprising that at 2 am in a given location most people are sleeping.

What is now lacking in the traditional camp is a theoretical conception of how the world works, nor does it give an explanation as to what kind of world we live in. As in other branches of astrology, there is a proliferation of techniques as well and most of these new techniques or variations on technique are the result of some sort of ambiguity in the reading of the original texts and some are the result of greater precision in modern software. Most of the ancient authors assumed a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the reader.

In the field of Physics there has been a long standing goal to reduce the complexity of equations into a single theory or equation that can explain every physical phenomena. For some reason it was understood by most scientists that this is an important indicator of "truth", that you have stumbled upon something real when you are able to reduce an observation to a single explanation. There should be no reason to resort to the "wave" hypothesis in some cases and then have to resort to the "particle" hypothesis for the other. It should be reducable to a single explanation if you really understand. The question is why is it that astrologers as a whole are not concerned with finding a cause or a single theory of astrology?

To understand the ambivilance that most astrologers have towards finding a "single theory of everything", it helps to understand the history of astrology. There has been a long period under which this subject has been in great disrepute, scoffed at and not taken seriously by scholars. Those in the academic community who decided to study the texts (that are now part of the CCAG) relieved themselves of academic scrutiny by disparaging the work that they were studying. There were historical reasons for recovering the work and they weren't interested in seeing whether the astrological methods worked or not. This is the attitude that is prevalent through most of our recent academic history. There were other reasons in the past as to why astrology was considered a "questionable subject" to be studying (objections by the Church for example). What this means is that astrology largely fell into the hands of those who either didn't have a problem with disrepute or were disreputable themselves. It fell in with the underbelly of the world and became the trade of charlatans, tricksters and those who are not taken seriously by establishment. It became a joke. This is the karma that all of us who take this subject seriously will have to face.

In my most recent trip to the west coast of the USA, it was painfully obvious that most who I talked to did not even believe that astrology had a real "cause", but is more a matter of pattern mapping. Just pick a technique and make it work. If you don't believe that there is a cause at work in astrology, then you aren't going to look for a hypothesis for why things work in the way they do. The question is this: why bother looking to the stars to see what is happening in our lives upon this earth?

After you have been working with the method of Zodiacal Releasing for a while, you will begin to question what is really at work in the choices you think you made with your life and what your life really consists of. For example, John Travolta, peaks in 1977 (Saturday Night Fever and Grease) and again in 1994 (Pulp Fiction). Hitler peaks in 1930 the day before the Nazi party wins 108 seats. Einstein peaks during the Eddington Eclipse Expedition which made him a world icon. If the chart has any eminence in it, then like clockwork, it will be obvious when they reach their peak achievements (10th from fortune period). Nothing else in astrology works quite this well and one has to ask the question, why? It makes no sense to assert that there was "no system" of astrology because results like these scream of a universal order and primary or first principles. Somebody back then understood something of a deeper metaphysical order than do astrologers of today. Valens even explicitly said so; that even by his time astrology had fallen into disrepute, but that once it was held in great esteem and that the ancients were proudly confident in it:

"This theory is now dishonored and banished ... But once it possessed a name which was looked upon with envy, when those before us were proudly confident in this and were made blessed [by it]." [1]

There are many in the traditional field who assert that there was no "System of Hermes". I really don't care what it is called. The issue is that they are saying that there was not a system and that we should not try to read into the texts more than what is said. This is to say that there was no theoretical foundation upon which one could have an insight that could cause one to use the stars to see one's destiny. If that be the case, why study this subject at all? If one just takes the texts at face value without thinking about the meaning, then what you have is a collection of writings of various opinions often at odds and because of text corruption, copyist errors, etc, these are often in contradiction to themselves and will not make good sense. There are multiple problems with the texts and one needs to be aware that not all of the texts that survived are equally canonical. You can't just take a statistical mean and get an average opinion of technique as if everybody's opinion from that era is of equal value. It is not. Also, because well over 90% of everything that has ever been written has been lost, we can't say from the remaining texts alone what the "tradition" was in this way. You have to look to the common threads that pointed to reputable sources. If all of the texts from that era quoted a given source, then you know it was of great value because the authors were using these to bolster their own writing and reputation.

There are many reasons why it is not plausable to say that there was not a period when the thinking on the subject gained a systematic status and the greatest proof of this is in the study of the Thema Mundi. That the planets of the diurnal sect all find their joys above the horizon and the planets of the nocturnal sect find their joys below is an interesting start; that the domiciles of the planets are perfectly symmetrical to the Solar and Lunar sides of the zodiac, that the exaltations are all in places that are connected to the ascendant, but the coincidences mount to the point that there can be no doubt. Within the nautical metaphor which Schmidt explains, a picture is drawn in the texts which leads you to understand the principles of working with a chart: the ascendant is called "the helm" (oiax in Greek), the midheaven is called "praxis" which is the force that drives the ship (the mast that sticks up with a sail attached). Valens talks about when the domicile lord of the ascendant (helm) falls amiss (a place not connected to the ascendant) then you have "ektrope" which literally means shipwreck. We can see why when we understand that the planet that is supposed to pay attention to the helm (oikodektor) is not at his post, then the ship may drift where you don't want it to go. Before Valens makes mention of the 4 elements, there is mention of the 4 winds and that these are from the 4 cardinal directions and that the planets that are of the same trigon (same wind or element) show the eminence of a chart. Schmidt says that the sect light "summons the wind" and that the trigon lords of the sect light "manage the wind". The wind will either take you far in life (when the trigon lords are in angles) or you will not have any wind in your sail to get anywhere (or somewhere in between). Valens explicitly says that if subsequent time lord periods are of opposite winds that this is malefic. Why would he say this? If you understand the metaphor, and you are sailing your "ship of life", a wind suddenly coming from the opposite direction threatens to topple the boat and undermine the support (buoyancy) you have built up to that point. Also, an insight I had in the desert when digging a hole in the ground, I noticed that what is in the depression in the ground tends to escape the wind. This is the literal meaning of the place opposite it's "hupsoma", that a planet in what medieval astrology is called its "fall" may not be able to pick up wind as easily and might not be a good manager of the "wind". Exaltations have also been used for eminence considerations and there is something called the "lot of exaltation" which is used for this purpose according to Valens. Is it just a coincidence that the places of exaltation in the Thema Mundi all have a connection to the helm (that allows management of the wind)? And then there's a section in Antiochus about the Master and Lord of the nativity (Oikodespotes and Kubernetes) which the latter means "governor" or steersman which is the same as captain (of the ship). Of course most of this is not explicitly stated in this way, but are we supposed to ignore the picture drawn in our minds and say that this picture is nothing but a figment of Schmidt's imagination? I think not. There are far too many coincidences here.

There are also the 7 hermetic lots which as stated if we take the lot of fortune, the algorithm is stated that one should take the arc from the Moon to the Sun and pass an equal number of portions from the ascendant, and where it falls out, there is the lot of fortune, but by night the reverse is said to be the case. The way that this is stated shows a thinking process and logical reasoning. As Schmidt has said before it is not plausable to say that they discovered this "sensitive point" and then stumbled upon "aha! that's the arc between the Sun and Moon applied to the ascendant". Backforming an explanation in this way is obviously bogus. The theoretical principle came first, then the application. The problem is that they didn't say what the principle was in most cases and we have an explanation as to why because Valens says that many of these older authors wrote in a "mystical manner". This is to say that they were hiding what they knew and didn't state what things meant on the surface and Valens reports that it drove him nuts.

Many of you know that I have been a student of Schmidt's for many years. What I can tell you is that since the very beginning of my interest in astrology, I was convinced that there was a universal truth and systematic "togetherness" to this subject that has long since been lost. In part, this was one of the reasons I named this site "The Lost Horoscope X-Files". I believe that Robert Schmidt has come the closest to recovering the philosophical foundation upon which the most reputable sources of this subject was based.


1. The Anthology, by Vettius Valens. Book VI. pg 62. Translated by Robert Schmidt © 1997. Published by The Golden Hind Press.

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