The Astrological Journal

Are there any Questions?

by Joyce Collin-Smith

There is a legend, in the Arthurian cycle, which speaks of Sir Gawain the Green Knight and the Question Unasked. Twice this knight of the Round Table was permitted to see the Holy Grail. Each time he failed to take the opportunity to ask a question about it. The maidens bore it away from him. Only Sir Percival the pure knight, and Sir Galahad who was young and innocent, ever "achieved the Grail". Sir Gawain went off again on his adventures.

What was the question that he should have asked? The mystery of the legend, is that we are not told. Pondering on it, lovers of the tales of King Arthur and the Legends of the Sangreal, may conclude that it is the question that lies at the heart of all questions about the nature of life and the quest for God. Each must voice it in his own way. When a man knows what his question is, he has made a great step forward on the path of self-knowledge.

Most Eastern Masters instruct by verbal question and answer method. By insisting that a pupil formulates and asks his own questions, the Master forces him to take an active role, instead of the passive role of the student who merely listens to a lecture. The mental effort of formulating the right question can be formidable.

At the basis of this method of teaching lies a curious paradox. If the student pours out endless, facile questions as they come into his mind, he will learn nothing from the answers. If his level of attention is so low that he asks nothing, he will also learn nothing. If he makes the effort to formulate and reformulate the deepest questions of his heart and mind, until they come down to one basic, urgent, simple question, he will find his own answer. The answer is inherent in the question.

In Etruscan Places, D. H. Lawrence wrote: "An act of pure attention, if you are capable of it, will bring its own answer."

In this idea, lies the whole secret of asking questions, whether of a holy man whose knowledge is much greater than one's own, or of any man whose words are worth listening to. Even the Boy Jesus was found in the Temple with the Elders, "Hearing them and asking them questions." We all need to ask questions.

But the ultimate question is the one that one must ask one's self, at all stages of progress through life, in order that one's aim may be always the highest, one's heart pure in intent. An object of attention used in order to bring the consciousness into that state of purity of purpose, can be valuable. Whether it is a Cross or an Icon, a crystal, or a mantra, a symbol or the repetition of a Name, the ultimate purpose is to bring a man into that state of attention in which question and answer merge into absolute knowledge and understanding.

It seems reasonable to feel that the Horoscope chart can be used legitimately in such a way as this. The questions that one asks one's self in one's deep attention to the infinity of possibilities in the chart, narrow down deeply and simply until the essence of its possibilities is distilled into a drop of pure truth - and from that pure essence one's interpretation of the chart begins to build and have purpose and reality.

But purity of intention seems essential to this task. Personal ambition, vanity and self-aggrandisement can have no part in it. One's own Horoscope is one's mirror or one's crystal. The Horoscope of another is as precious as a jewel, and must be meditated on delicately and even reverently, if we are to be worthy of our calling as astrologers. Only then will it yield up its true riches to the questioner. It must not be used as a cheapjack method of fortune telling, but as an object of divination, in the true sense of that word - that is, seeking knowledge emanating from the Divine. D. H. Lawrence has the truth of it:

"The science of augury was no exact science. But it was as exact as our sciences of psychology or political economy. And the augers were as clever as our politicians, who also must practise divination, if ever they are to do anything worth the name. There is no other way when you are dealing with life. And if you live by the cosmos, you look in the cosmos for your clue. If you are rational, you think things over. If you live by a personal god, you pray to him. But it all amounts to the same thing in the end. Prayer, or thought, or studying the stars, or watching the flight of birds, or studying the entrails of the sacrifice, it is all the same process, ultimately: of divination. All it depends on is the amount of true, sincere, religious concentration you can bring to bear on your object. An act of pure attention, if you are capable of it, will bring its own answer. And you choose that object to concentrate upon which will best focus your consciousness. Every real discovery made, every serious and significant decision ever reached, was reached and made by divination. The soul stirs, and makes an act of pure attention, and that is a discovery. . .

Whatever object will bring the consciousness into a state of pure attention, in a time of perplexity, will also give back an answer to the perplexity. But it is truly a question of divination. As soon as there is any pretence of infallibility, and pure scientific calculation, the whole thing becomes a fraud and a jugglery. But the same is true not only of augury and astrology, but also of prayer and of pure reason, and even of the great laws and principles of sciences. . . Every great discovery or decision comes by an act of divination. Facts are fitted round afterwards. But all attempt at divination, even prayer and research itself, lapses into jugglery when the heart loses its purity."

On the door of the Temple of the Oracle at Delphi, were written the words:


Every clairvoyant, astrological counsellor or "reader" could do with those words kept before him on the desk at which he sits to work as a constant reminder!