Taiko and Adaptation vs. Innovation

Last summer, I went to the Ginza Festival which is held every year in Chicago. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope to go again this year. During the festival, there were various performances based on traditional Japanese performing and martial arts, one of which was a taiko (drum) performance by the Midwest Buddhist Temple Taiko Group.

At the beginning, one of the artists gave an explanation of the art form. He talked about the tradition surrounding taiko, and if I remember correctly, about the history of taiko performing groups in the United States. He then explained that the next selection was changed from a traditional selection. At this point, I tensed a little. I expected him to talk about creative innovation and improving the selection. What he said next was far more impressive to me. He said that the selection was changed to adapt it to what the present performers were actually able to do well, as the traditional selection was too difficult for them.

TaikoThis struck me as the right attitude to take towards tradition, not just in performing arts, but in astrology. The traditional understanding of the passage of time is that it is unfolding from the center and perfection, and thus, is a process of decline. That is the true meaning of the term evolution.

While people have become more adept at living in and manipulating the material world through technological advancement, they decline physically, mentally, and spiritually. In astrology, we now have computers to calculate charts for us, but we have largely lost the ability to perform complex calculations by hand and our ability to memorize large amounts of material. I, for one, am not capable of memorizing thousands of aphorisms, let alone applying them in a meaningful way.

In addition to the normal and natural process of decline, in the West, there have been substantial breaks from the philosophical foundations of astrology. Of course, the Enlightenment was a recent break from tradition. Over two thousand years prior to this, however, the Abrahamic religions also broke from the older tradition, declaring all former forms of belief idolatry. I intend to discuss this more in later articles, but by that time, many of the former traditions had sharply declined and had not adapted well to the more limited spiritual and intellectual capacity of humans.  This had an heavy impact upon the astrology of the Medieval period and the Renaissance. Astrologers had to take care to frame their work so as not to be accused of idolatry and not to run afoul of the Church, particularly in the written records that they left behind. While we can not know this for certain, I would imagine that this made the work of our forebears seem much more mechanical and worldly than it actually was.

So, in the West, astrologers are contending with a tradition that has declined naturally over the ages and with two major breaks in this tradition. Project Hindsight and many Classical and Traditional Astrologers are working hard to retrieve and translate many of the older texts; however, texts alone can not recreate the knowledge that has been lost.

So, does that mean that all is lost and that we can not practice astrology? Absolutely not. There is still a lot that we can do. While the taiko drummers may have had to adapt their performance, it was still amazing and exciting!

So, what can we do? Like the taiko drummers, we can proceed carefully and with humility. I do not think that we can recreate the astrological practice of the past. Too much has been lost, and too much has changed in our world. While we have texts, in the West, at least, we do not have an unbroken line of knowledge that has been passed from teacher to student for thousands of years. On the other hand, we can acknowledge that our forebears were our superiors and avoid the temptation of trying to “improve” and “innovate” with new techniques.

I think that the best road to follow is the middle course of adapting our work to what we can do and to the realities of this day and age. We can also, as much as possible, weed out the “innovations” of the post-Enlightenment period.

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Original Forms/Archetypes

One of the fundamental concepts in the practice of astrology as a traditional sacred science is that of Original Form. The Japanese word for this concept is 元型, genkei, which is literally “original form/type.” This is the true and first meaning of the term, “archetype.”

The reason that I started with the phrase Original Form and the Japanese word is that when one says the word “archetype,” it is often immediately placed in the context of Jungian psychology. The concept of the Archetype is far deeper and older. Plato wrote about this concept, but he was explaining Traditional Wisdom that was already starting to become lost in his time. It has been said that astronomical “discoveries” such as the Earth’s orbit around the Sun have been a challenge for astrology; however, it is the Darwinian Pseudomythos of Evolution which has been far more devastating to astrology.

In the Apple Seed, I have previously discussed the Creation/Evolution debate in the context of Filianism and Feminine Essentialism. While this is important philosophically, it is crucial for astrology.

Egyptian catIt is not the Theory of Evolution itself that is devastating for astrology, but the Pseudomythos that has been built up around it, particularly in popular culture. There is nothing metaphysically untenable about more complicated forms coming from simpler forms.* An entire tree grows out of an acorn. What is metaphysically untenable, and unprovable, is that this came about by random “mutations” of which some survived and some did not. Even more untenable and unprovable is the extension of this Pseudomythos of random chaotic chance to the workings of the entire physical Universe.

Archetypes in the original and truest sense of the word are the Original Forms in the mind of the Creator. The Archetypes themselves are not manifest in the physical world, but everything in the physical world is a reflection of an Archetype. Cats are cats because they are reflections of the Cat Archetype, which originated in the mind of the Creator. While there are some Archetypes, such as the Princess or the Wheel, can come about through Axial Beings (“humans”), they originated with the Creator, who is far above physical manifestation.

Jungian psychological “archetypes” are said to come about through the “collective unconscious” of the human psyche, which does exist in Traditional metaphysical thought, but at a level below physical manifestation, not above. Jungian “archetypes” are limited to that which can be found in the human psyche and are derived from the Darwinian Pseudomythos. The Archetype of the Cat can not exist in the Jungian or Darwinian world.

This distinction is quite important. Everything depends upon it. Our astrological forebears can not be truly understood without a Traditional understanding of Archetypes, or 元型 “Genkei” Original Forms.


*The “evidence” for this is not so iron-clad as the Modern “scientific world view” would have us believe; however, the debate is so heated in our current culture that I really wish to avoid the mare’s nest that a discussion of the “evidence” would bring, particularly surrounding “transitional forms,” as it is unnecessary for the premise of this article.
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The Sacred Mountain and the Jealous God

Every Sacred Mountain is THE Sacred Mountain.

Mount FujiThis is an important principle in Traditionalist philosophy. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, but how could it be otherwise? The Sacred Mountain is the place where Heaven and Earth meet. Whether one climbs Mount Sinai or Mount Fuji, one has climbed The Sacred Mountain. There is no need to climb a different Sacred Mountain, and if one did, it would be climbing The Sacred Mountain again, only in a different location. How could it be possible to climb the wrong Sacred Mountain? The idea seems almost absurd from this perspective.

One of the difficulties with the Abrahamic Traditions is the notion of a “Jealous God.” The “Jealous God” is a religious aberration and is not really found anywhere else. Now, for the serious devotee of any religion, it is important to see her religion as The Only Truth, which on one level is absolutely correct. In Abrahamic Traditions, however, this belief has become exclusionary, denying the Truth of other religions. Just because one’s religion is The Only Truth does not mean that other religions are not also True; and indeed The Only Truth as well.

Every Sacred Mountain is THE Sacred Mountain.

While I am not here to tell anyone how to conduct their religious affairs, the pervading belief in a Jealous God creates a difficulty and barrier to replanting astrology in the soil of Sacred Traditional Science. Once one begins to discuss her religion, a dispute is likely to begin. Many astrology groups and forums ban the discussion of religion for this reason. Yet, this does not create neutrality; it creates conditions by which one can only talk about astrology in a lifeless, mechanical way. This is a belief system in and of itself, which tends to be promoted by default.

What is worse is that often other matters substitute for the Jealous God. The Jealous God can be an astrological school of thought, a historical Great Astrologer, or even a specific astrological technique. When people jump to the defense of their Jealous God, in whatever form the Jealous God takes, discussion and communication become impossible.

On this site, I hope to explore ways to talk about the deeper, sacred aspects of astrology in a way that people from various religions, as well those who are not religious, will find useful and meaningful, but what I say may be challenging to many. While I have no wish to offend anyone, it is also important to speak clearly and directly.

One thing to remember is that astrology has survived, even into Modern times. It has survived, even in the West. Many of our tools have been lost. Many of the tools that remain have survived only in broken and battered form. In recent decades, many tools of the past have been recovered, and many more are in the process of being recovered. Still, in many cases, we do not yet know how to use them. Yet, by some miracle, we still have the ability to hear the Music of the Spheres. We may not hear it as clearly as we would like to, but we can still hear it. How can one not be humble and grateful? How can one not be in awe of such magnificence, grander and more beautiful than any human music?

The Music of the Spheres does not need our defense. We need only to listen and let the harmony flow through us. This is our calling as astrologers, and to me, is quite a humbling task. Carrying out that task to the best of our ability seems to me much more important than any of our differences.

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What Are Those Lights in the Sky?

When we look up at the sky, what do we see?

This question is fundamental to astrology, but it is also fundamental to….everything. How we see the stars is how we see ourselves.

I ask your indulgence as I share a clip from the Disney movie, The Lion King. This clip shows more clearly than any explanation the situation astrologers find themselves in.

For those not familiar with The Lion King, it is very loosely based on Hamlet, although, as it is a Disney movie, and not Shakespeare, it has a happy ending. At the point in the movie from which this clip is shown, Prince Simba’s uncle has murdered his father and has usurped the throne. After the murder, the Evil Uncle convinces Prince Simba, who was only a small cub at the time, that his father’s death was his fault. Racked with guilt, Prince Simba runs away and is saved by Timon and Pumbaa, who are the other characters in the clip. This clip takes place after Prince Simba has lived for a time with Timon and Pumbaa and has grown into an adult lion.

Like Prince Simba, astrologers are in exile. We are heirs to the legacy of Ancient Lore and Tradition, yet, we have been driven out of our kingdom by the usurper known as the Enlightenment. We are living in a world with the New Age movement on one side, who like Timon, confidently make up stories that have no basis in either physical fact or Sacred Tradition. On the other side, we have the Modern Darwinist majority, who like Pumbaa, tells us that the stars are simply “balls of gas millions of miles away,” with no life or consciousness, their movements devoid of meaning.

I think that most, if not all, astrologers, know deep in their Hearts that neither Timon or Pumbaa are right, even if we mock alongside our companions. Many of us have dedicated a significant portion of our time and our lives to the study of astrology, with little compensation in the form of respect or money. We would not do this if we truly believed that the stars were fireflies or merely lifeless balls of gas, millions of miles away. Yet, like Prince Simba, we can not help but be influenced by the voices of those around us, and we blame ourselves or other astrologers for our exile.

While Shakespeare wrote great literature, I have to say that I prefer the Disney version of the story. I believe in happy endings. Without spoiling the story for those who may not have seen it, I do think that astrologers can reclaim the great inheritance that we have been left by our forebears. I believe that a renewed understanding of the principles of Traditional Sacred Science is the key.

See also:

Traditional Astrology or Traditional Cosmology

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