By the late John Addey,
President Emeritus of the Astrological Association.
It appears that all progress is from thesis, through antithesis to a new and higher synthesis, and this may be taken as a universal law of life. In nature this manifests as a more or less blind repetitive process, but in man, the exercise of intelligence and his capacity to turn voluntarily to the source of light and life, ensure that he can turn the circularity of nature into a spiral ascent. Nevertheless while he lives a natural life he cannot dispense with the processes of time.
In her researches into the spiral form, Joyce Collin-Smith shows how intimately it must be related to these developing life processes in time.
Since this is the very field in which astrology operates, there can be no doubt that she has given us a work which is full of parables for the perceptive student of that art and science.
Indeed, for the astrologer there are so many suggestive ideas to be found in the contemplation of the various laws and principles, myths, legends, traditions, customs and analogies relating to the spiral that this book must surely provide food for thought and prove a source of inspiration for years to come.
Illustrations by Sheila Radburn
Additional drawings: W.Dearden
The Spiral of Life and Astrology
Man is on a journey. He does not know where he comes from or where he may be going. But because journeys normally lead from point A to point B: and in the ultimate from point A to point Z, he is accustomed to thinking of himself as travelling along a more or less straight line through life. Perhaps if he aspires to the heights, he thinks he is climbing up a ladder--the ladder of creation leading at last to the godhead or the Absolute.
The idea of the Journey of Everyman, or Pilgrim's Progress, runs through the literature of many lands. In this theme a traveller struggles to overcome all manner of dangers and survive the hardships of his journey through the world.
Parallel with this master legend of mankind, lie a whole series of myths and fairy tales which suggest that the individual traveller must encounter the same kind of hazards again and again, until he learns to cope with their problems and master their possibilities.
Western legends and fairy tales belong to the Piscean age. In the main they present a traveller with dragons, giants or ferocious beasts, requiring courage in facing up to dangers and the will to conquer and to vanquish: attributes lacking in Pisceans generally. Indian, Chinese and pre-Columbian South American tales and legends, dating earlier, perhaps from the Arien age, more often describe enemies whose nature is concealed under a mask or false face: or problems requiring subtlety, patience and guile: characteristics that the headstrong and forthright Arien lacks.
The hero of Christian tradition springs from the concepts first written in the mediaeval 'Book of the Ordre of Chivalrie' or from Chaucer's 'verray parfit gentil knyght. ' He stems from ideas rooted in the tradition of knighthood; elaborated in the mediaeval Courts of Love where the idea of romantic love was born; the tradition upheld at the court of Charlemagne; reborn and shrouded in myth in the whole cycle of legends of the Holy Grail, the songs of Talliessin the prince-bard of the Welsh Triads and the stories recorded by Chrétien de Troyes, which were retold in the l5th century by Malory, nearly a thousand years after the tradition first began.
Essentially the Piscean hero is gentle, chivalrous, idealistic and kind and imbued with the idea of service to God and to his fellow men: Piscean attributes.
The Greek and Roman heroes were pre-Christian, pre-Piscean age, and like early Eastern archetypes, in the main they were strong, with primitive instincts of domination, cruelty and conquest of others by fire and sword. Renowned for fiery courage, they were typically Arien men, descended from powerful ruthless Arien gods.
Whether the hero is a Christian knight, seeking the Holy Grail or one of the Argonauts seeking the Golden Fleece, he is always journeying somewhere, and always encountering the enemies that belong to his own astrological Great Age. He is limited, in other words, to certain specific types of experience which belong to his own astrological type.
The Eternal Pilgrim
Yet if life were a straight journey back to the source of creation, it would seem that all men must, in the nature of things, eventually experience all the possibilities of human nature, as in the Western master legends of Pilgrim and Everyman. Why then does the traveller, Eastern or Western, prince or peasant, in the tales repeatedly find himself encountering the same hazards, repeatedly realise that he is almost in the same place as before? Clearly the archetypal heroes are limited to certain specific fields of human experience because they are incomplete versions of what a man would be if he had attained and mastered all the possibilities of mankind. Their journeys are not as straightforward as they seem.
The only way that a journey could go on while continually bringing the traveller to the same place, the same fields of experience, would be if he were travelling in a circle. But if he moved forever in a circle he would recognise the same obstacles, the same impediments with increasing dismay, and ultimately with a sense of hopelessness and doom.
Such a doctrine of despair offers nothing of the hope and expectation that runs throughout legends, and that seems to be man's birthright. It offers no explanation for the prize or goal that is always said to be attained when the traveller has mastered the difficulties of his own particular journey. It gives in fact no purpose to his efforts and his sufferings.
There must be some other explanation for the repetition of experience. Perhaps he does not travel in a straight line nor along the rim of an eternal wheel of life. Perhaps from year to year, from incarnation to incarnation, from Great Age to Great Age, man travels in a spiral.
A spiral would bring him continually back again to the same areas, while also enabling him to profit by increasing experience: to meet each repetition at a higher level, perhaps. A spiral alone seems to make sense of astrology and enables the chart to be used not as a doctrine of inevitability, but as a key to life.
Suppose one looks at any horoscope chart, not as a flat circle showing a cut and dried fate, nor as a complex and conflicting pattern of aspects that a man has to struggle with. Imagine instead that it is a spiral, and has depth, width and height.
The strongly Saturnian chart will bring repeated periods of frustration and restriction every time Saturn triggers off sensitive degree areas in the natal chart.
The sort of experiences encountered will tend to be those requiring endurance, perseverance, dogged determination. But because of the changing aspects in the chart, the obstacles will never be exactly the same. They will vary from the door with no key to the river with no bridge, of the fairy tales. The strongly Jupiterian chart will bring perhaps, repeated experiences of being over-optimistic and riding for a fall, the untamed horse that throws the rider off. The vigorously Martian chart will bring repeated encounters with sword and fire in a variety of different activities and enterprises. The hero will tend to take to arms where subtlety and gentleness would be more effective and more appropriate. As we know this to be true of the individual birth chart, so it must surely be true of nations, of civilisations, and of the Great Ages which are personified in the Archetypal heroes.
Dragons and Demons
The possibility that both men and nations could learn by experience to foresee the times when the next dragon or demon in a mask may appear upon the way is obvious to astrologers. Impediments to progress can certainly be foreseen. If the chart is such that Saturn when afflicted will cast the traveller down into the depths once, then it can do so again in a series of different versions, as it transits from conjunct sun to square sun to opposition sun and to the square again-as well as in affliction with other planets by transit or by progression. But by the time he has travelled from point A to point B to C and D, and found himself apparently back at A again, there is at least some chance that he will have got the measure of the cold and ancient god:
have begun to respect and pay court to him, and learn patience and a calm acceptance of adversity. Perhaps then the idea of spiralling up a little on the next circuit will begin to have reality? The traveller is no longer completely at the mercy of old Saturn, once he begins to see the nature and the possibilities of his chart.
Man has an 'I have been here before' instinct. He latches on to oriental ideas of reincarnation and the karma of past lives to account for his misfortunes.
The Christian church threw away the doctrine of the repetition of lives, in the third century, apparently out of fear that it could cause people to make little effort in this life because there would be plenty more to come in which to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Lord. But an understanding of the laws of repetition on possible different levels, makes good sense, not only of the theory of reincarnation, but also of legends, myths and fairy tales; and the long Way of Everyman or Pilgrim's Progress. Conscious evolution might perhaps begin with an understanding of the idea of spiralling lives, leading both upwards and downwards, through the whole of creation.
C.G .Jung suggested that it is useless to present a philosophical idea or theory like this one unless one can also bring practical supporting evidence. Only by this means, he suggested, can one differentiate between the truth and mere fantasy. But if the theory of spiralling lives is based on reality, then it should be possible to find some proof that the spiral form of movement is basic to life and to all development.
According to Dr. J.Bell Pettigrew, who published a three volume work on 'Design in Nature' (Longmans Green, 19O8), there are three basic designs to be found in all natural lives: the radial, the dendritic and the spiral. Of these, the spiral struck him as being by far the most interesting.
Radial designs--that is, designs which move outward from a central point, are found at all levels; crystals, flowers, sea anemones, etc. A snowflake is a perfect example. Dendritic or branching designs like trees, or the vein system in animals and man, are also found at every level of natural life. Both these appear, however, to have limited possibilities of growth and development. By extending their arms they can grow bigger, that is all.
The spiral or helix alone appears to have possibilities of a different sort, for it can grow and develop in a number of different ways, moving upward or downward, round in a circle or doubling back on itself. It is not simply limited to getting bigger and bigger.
Sinews, tissues, blood and bones and all manner of natural formations in organic life and in the world about us, are, in fact spiral in form. Even within the trunk and branches of a tree, cells grow spirally, sap tends to course spirally. The trunk, when cut across, will show a radial design, and the tree when viewed from without, will show dendritic formation. But in its essence and its life force, it is in fact a spiral. The spiral appears to imply life, movement development and growth.
Wherever there is movement, spirals form. If one holds a burning cigarette, the slightest movement of hand or air sends the smoke into a spiral--not a straight column. Waters, winds and the very air itself move in curves, circles and spirals, as any weather chart or navigational map will show. Birds are known to mount up by using the spiralling shoulders of the wind.
Rivers meander across meadows forming loops. If there is no impediment to progress, they will always spiral along, for the entire volume of water sways from bank to bank in response to the moon's pull, revolving slowly in a spiral as it flows. Through this spiralling pull, deeper loops and eventual ox-bow lakes are formed. In the same spiral pull, the blood courses through the dendritic formation of our veins.
If we look beyond this earth, there is an appearance of the spiral in the heavens too, in the spiral nebulae, like giant catherine wheels. We only see the traces of their spiralling movement, just as with a catherine wheel the speed of revolution enables us to see traces of its spiralling fire pattern. The Milky Way itself is now thought to be an ever-moving, whirling spiral form.
If one begins to accept the idea that spiralling movement may be extremely interesting, a whole field of ideas about the nature of life and the nature of man begins to open up.
One sees that both actual and symbolical spiral movement exists everywhere, and that each makes sense when seen in the light of the other.
The Pythagorean Spiral
There are effectively five spiral forms to be seen throughout nature, and they appear at all levels from the life on the ocean floor to the life on the 'floor of heaven, thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.' There are also many complex derivatives and variations.
The Pythagorean spiral bears a relationship to the pentacle or five-pointed star. It can be drawn from the arms of a pentacle as shown. The measurement of an arm plus the measurement of a side of the inner pentagram, are used to make an enlarging square design typical of Roman culture. A curve drawn from point to point through this design makes a perfect spiral form. The relationship of the two measurements is as two to three: 2+3=5.
John Addey enlarges upon this numerical basis in his writings on the fifth harmonic of the astrological chart, the theory being that matter plus form equals life. Pam Bennett's definition of the 'quintile coil' takes the idea of the number five a step further, suggesting that all development may be dependent upon it. But in considering all spiral forms I am looking at a wider field and trying to sketch an adequate background to these astrological theories.
Nature also produces conical spirals, like sea shells , and many different forms of cylindrical spiral. The word spiral is by definition 'any geometric entity that winds about a central point or axis while also receding from it.'
The first known definition of the planar spiral curve comes from Archimedes in the Third century: 'In logarithmic spirals the tangents make a constant angle with the radii vectors drawn to the point of contact....'
In 'Earth Magic' Francis Hitching suggests megalithic lunar observatories show even earlier geometrical knowledge of this kind.
The DNA Molecule
At the basis of all organic life is the DNA molecule (Dyoxi-Ribo Nucleuic Acid), which is found in every cell, and contains the genetic information for the entire being, in each cell, like a matrix. It is a cylindrical spiral or helix containing the four proteins while the helix itself--a double helix--is sugar phosphate. The bases are adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine, and they are joined together as though down a staircase. In a single cell there may be a strip of DNA with as many as 2,000 steps.
The DNA seems to be the basis, but the spiral continues through all levels of the development of living organisms. Climbing plants, rooted in the soil, wind themselves upwards towards the heavens in spiral fashion. Within the stem there is a spiral formation of cells. The spiral appears to be nature's way of strengthening the walls of a tube without making it too rigid. Very much of any living organism is tubes: conducting vessels in higher plants, and the windpipe in higher animals for instance, as well as all venous systems. Mechanically, the spiral is the only way of getting something that is flexible and yet equally strong in every direction. Circles would give weak areas between and would tend to concertina. So movement and growth seem to indicate a spiral.
Clearly a spiral is a good way to climb, not only for plants, but for men too. Paths up mountains go spirally or zigzag. If one tried to go straight up the side of a mountain one would very possibly fall.
Even single cells can coil and make a spiral spring. They have the same recoil function as a mechanical spring, to shoot out seeds from the plant, for instance, by a change of pressure within. Many plants also have a spiral formation of petals, or of seeds in the pod.
But plants are rooted to one spot, and their possibilities of movement are very limited. At other levels there may be spiral lives that move more freely, able to perceive different worlds around them.
A World of Serpents
At the next lowest level are a group of organisms to which both botanists and zoologists lay claim. These are described in Lyall Watson's 'Supernature', when he is stressing the dependence of all life on this planet on the heat and light of the sun. 'Typical of the group is a little green teardrop called euglena gracilis, which lives in shallow freshwater pools.' When light falls upon it the organism starts to wave and then comes spiralling outwards into the light.
A little more advanced than euglena, is the family of bacteria known as spirillacae, which live in the soil or in warm-blooded animals. They can be S-shaped, wavelike or spirally coiled, and they elongate like a caterpillar during motion. At the next level still, there are free-living parasites called spirochaeteles, which elongate and contract, and superimpose secondary waves on the primary coil of the spiral.
The life cycle of all spiruroids - that is the higher forms of bacteria of a spiral type - involves an intermediate host. Some need two hosts: that is, they live in a bigger organism which is itself maintained within a bigger organism still.
Then comes a large range of invertebrate creatures which snake their way along the ground, or progress by elongating and contracting their bodies. Many sleep curled in a Pythagorean spiral. They do not need a host in the form of a bigger creature to live in. Their host is the earth itself. 'Upon thy belly thou shalt go,' said the Lord to the serpent in the Garden.
When one gets above the level of the invertebrates, something new seems to enter in. But the spiral form is not cast away, at the level of the higher animals and man. As already mentioned, it lives within him in the form of tubes, instead of him living within it.
Man has spirals in his ears, formed like a shell. His hair grows spirally from the crown, in a flat, horizontal spiral. The blood courses spirally through his veins. The thirty foot long, curled intestinal tract moves within his frame like the serpent and the whole world of reptiles and water creatures, expanding and contracting, moving the food he eats down through his digestive organs, extracting goodness from it all the way. Muscles, bones, sinews, tissue all show spiral forms under the microscope.
Man houses the spiral within him. But he also surely has a host and lives within that host. Man's host is not only the earth, in the sense of the soil on which he walks. He feeds himself from the products of that soil, and feeds the soil itself, theoretically, with the waste matter from his own body. But man's host in the true sense is surely the planetary system. Undoubtedly the spiral order of movement applies at this level too.
Springs and Levers
The spiral idea has inherent in it many possibilities that can lead towards the higher development and evolution of mankind.
Man is generally described as being higher than the other vertebrates by virtue of his understanding of the use of tools. We know that some animals use simple tools: a chimpanzee will pick a hollow stalk and use it to suck up termites, for example. But no animal lower than man can, I suppose, conceive the uses of the spiral.
The first recorded spiral tool seems to have been Archimedes screw. This was a cylindrical solid spiral used for raising water. It was inclined at an angle of 45 degrees, its base in the water, and when the handle was turned the screw revolved and the water was scooped into the bottom chamber and then up into the next one and so on. It seems to have been the first use of a material spiral form for practical purposes, and suggests the possibility of using a spiral as a lever to another level.
In due course man discovered that energy can be stored in a spiral: he invented the spring, which is by definition 'a machine element for storing energy as a function of displacement.' Nature had already invented the spring in the form of spiral cells that retract and elongate, of course.
One of the earliest and still most frequent man-made uses of the spiral spring is to supply the motive power for a mechanism. In clock springs, for instance, the spiral supplies and stores energy by applying force to deflect and deform the spring. Thus a spring is coiled tightly by force, and releases itself slowly as the clock runs down. The opposite applies to a spring which is stretched open by force and will compress itself when released, such as the springs which are hooked on to two objects to cause tension between them, like bedsprings to bear weight. In each case the principle is the same--that of energy stored, and released at will, to serve a practical purpose.
It would appear that this basic principle applies, in more or less complex fashion, to all the more complicated uses of spirals and coils since man discovered electricity. Namely, that of conveying power from one level to another by means of a coil or screw mechanism, or storing and releasing energy by way of a spiral coil. The inventive mind of man has learned to manipulate the spiral in ever subtler and finer and more difficult ways as he moves into higher levels of knowledge of rays and waves, in the realms of electronics. This, mankind does in a practical way, to make himself comfortable, to promote ease of living on this earth.
Mundane and Magical
But somewhere within man's consciousness, there lives some kind of knowledge of spirals of a more interesting, even magical kind. Perhaps that is why we use the expression 'spiralling up' or 'spiralling down' as common figures of speech, whether we are talking of current prices, or the level of our spirits as we contemplate the problems of the world. We speak of the spiral of life beginning in the spring. In many ways we think in terms of spirals.
Perhaps then, one could take as a basic premise that the spiral is both actual in material forms, and also symbolic of the whole concept of life itself.
The actual and the symbolic reflect one another in a mysterious way, just as the actual movements of the earth and the planets and the symbolic movements acknowledged in the progressions of the chart are accepted by astrologers as having equal validity. The mundane and the magical both exist in their own right, as part of the universal whole.
This knowledge of the spiral nature of creation seems to have been the birthright of many primitive people.
It is echoed in many myths, legends and magical practices which are found as legacies of earlier civilisations. But when one begins to look into these ancient beliefs and practices, one is immediately struck by a new factor: namely, the many traditions which suggest that there is a very great difference between a clockwise and an anti-clockwise spiral. This is nowhere more apparent than in the beliefs and customs that have to do with sea shells.
I remember searching a 'magic beach' in the Isle of Skye for the tiny white cowrie shells that are found among the coral if you look diligently. Local custom has it that anyone who knows the secret, may gather one for every month of the year ahead, and they will bring good fortune. But in truth they belong to the fairies, and there is a condition attached, as with all fairy gifts. They must be returned, a year to the day exactly, or they will turn against you!
The cowrie, lke the vast majority of gastropods--spiral shells--always spirals to the right, dextrally. There are very few gastropods that go in sinistral fashion. But one may find an occasional freak among such common shells as the whelk, that spirals the other way, contrary to the rest of the species. By tradition this would hold special power, either for good or evil, according to local superstition.
The Hindus thought those exceptions to be especially holy. The left-handed chank, for example, which is a native of the Indian Ocean, was treasured in the Hindu temples. Medicine was served in left-handed holy shells in India; and it was said that Vishnu the Preserver or Maintainer, the Second Person of the Hindu Trinity, carried a left-handed chank shell.
The Holy Shells
Why should shells be thought to be holy or magical?
They appear in myths and legends, in medicinal,
religious and magical rites from the beginning of history, always endowed with profound significance.
Long before Botticelli's Venus emerged from the sea in a scallop shell came the legend of Aphrodite rising from the waves in a shell. Mediaeval travellers to the shrine of St. James at Compostella in Spain wore the scallop shell emblem as a sign of pilgrimage:
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation....'
The scallop shells brought back from Compostella were used to heal the sick and were an emblem of regeneration and rebirth.
Shells played a central role in some of man's earliest religious experiences. This applied both to the bivalves and the univalves or gastropods, which seemed to be used each in their own place, in ancient ceremonies. The scallop is a bivalve--two halves like shallow dishes that close together. Bivalves are of course obvious containers. simple vessels, and were used for incense or perfumes, or for holy oils in the religious rituals of the Hindus.
The univalves or gastropods appeared to have a different significance. Their symbolism was sexual, in primitive societies. They represented the female, in the pre-Columbian civilisations of South America, for instance. But in early Christian days, the shell form, whether bivalve or univalve, signified purity of intent, resurrection, redemption on the day of judgment and forgiveness through pilgrimage. It appeared in art, in architecture, on altars, porticos, tapestries, painted, carved or embroidered in a variety of patterns and designs. To this day it is frequently used in the design of wedding dresses, a beautiful example being the one made for Princess Anne.
Yet it was always the spiral shells that were at the centre of magical practices and rites. From the tiny cowrie shells in Skye to the great Triton shells used as musical instruments, the huge conch shells that were sounded like a horn to bring men together, and the strange murex shells from which the dye known as 'royal purple' was extracted for the garments of kings, the gastropods or spiral shells have always been especially magical.
In Mexico it is said that Quetzelcoatl, the god-man of the Toltecs and Aztecs, was born full-grown from the shell of a gastropod. His temple at the ruined city of Teotihuacan is decorated with alternating univalve and bivalve shells, and he is said to have lived in a palace of shells. The early sculpture of the high priests of Central and South America frequently showed goddesses emerging from shells. The symbolism seemed to be concerned with sex, or regeneration or death, or vanity: the empty shell. Here too a difference between right-handed and left-handed spiralling shells is sometimes noted.
Rembrandt and other Dutch masters drew many shells. The Dutch were great collectors of shells in the days of empire, and for this reason many shells in Europe have names which come from the Dutch. Leonardo da Vinci, who undoubtedly recognised the importance of spirals, and designed a prototype of an auto-gyro, also recognised the functional perfection of the structure of spiral shells. He designed the spiral staircase at the Chateau du Blois in France after a univalve mollusc. Many painters have seen an esoteric significance in shell shapes.
When examining a spiral shell, it is necessary to look down upon it from the apex to see the clockwise spiral clearly. From the front, a normal shell will appear to spiral the other way. But the shell grows from the apex downward, developing its own spiral staircase or columella, as it grows. Due to torsion, the shell turns about this staircase, and the spiral continues to grow as long as the animal it contains continues to live its little life.
The Master Builders
In 'Five Hundred Million Years of Inspired Design' their study of sea shells, Hugh and Marguerite Stix write:
'One must experience admiring awe at the work of these strange sea creatures, master builders, whose architectural miracles embody the bases of a multitude of mathematically correct vaults, arches, staircases, porticos and niches.'
This modern assessment echoes Aristotle, who anciently described the chambered nautilus shell: 'Everyone of its air chambers is arranged in geometrically correct progressions, beginning with the young animals diminutive first shell, the chambers becoming larger and larger, always turning in the exact volute of its outer shell.'
In one of his Talliesin lectures, Frank Loyd Wright remarked: 'It is the housing of a lower order of life, but it is a housing with exactly what we lack--inspired form. In this collection of houses of hundreds of small beings who themselves built these houses, we see a quality which we call invention. The beauty of their variations is never finished. Certainly Divinity is here in these shells, in that humble form of life.'
And in Japan there is still ritualistic contemplation of shells as a form of meditation. 'Shells should be displayed with a proper respect for their dignity and singularity,' the Japanese say. 'When you look on them you can see God.' But Warren Kenton says, in his book 'The Tree of Life' that ancient Hebrew teachings liken the world of shells to the world of devils--that is, a half world, a world of stultified growth, seemingly a world of no possibilities. This seems to link up with legends such as the tale of Fair Bragela in the Hall of Shells at Dunscaith Castle in the Isle of Skye. All her life was wasted leaning from a window looking for a lover who never came. She took no action, never moved or tried to improve her lot. She is to the Western Isles as Mariana of the Moated Grange was to Tennyson's England: 'He cometh not he cometh not she said. She said I am aweary aweary, I would that I were dead.' The Hall of Shells housed and imprisoned Fair Bragela as the sea shell houses and imprisons the living creature attached to it and dependent on it.
A House - or a Prison?
Perhaps then, he who lives in a shell lives as does the soul in the human body--housed, and imprisoned? But the possibility of becoming conscious of the nature of the continually growing spiral surely does exist, and in the consciousness lies the hope of change. Man can use the spiral staircase in a more profitable way, for at his best a man will 'aspire' to the heights. For this reason, surely, he built spires on churches and cathedrals, spires with spiral staircases in them like the columella of the shells. For this reason, simpler folk made corn dollies in a variety of complex spiral forms, to top the haystack, or to 'top out' a half-built house as soon as the roof timbers were complete. Many traditional corn dollies are most beautiful, varying from county to county. They were always spirals, and they brought the blessing of the gods, or kept the devil out of the hay or out of the house.
Like the shells, the spirals of corn dollies are traditionally dextral or clockwise spirals. The same is true of ancient spiral staircases, though not necessarily of modern ones, since builders nowadays have lost the ancient knowledge of the difference between the dextral and sinistral way of turning. But our forebears knew. They decorated graves and tombs, in Ireland and the Western Isles, with spirals and interlaced patterns from the earliest times, and the spirals at the tumulus of Newgrange in Ireland are long pre-Christian. It is clear there is a meaning in the direction of the turning in the designs.
An interesting sidelight on the spirals found on pre-historic monuments such as Newgrange, is found in Guy Underwood's 'Pattern of the Past,' (Abacus.) After watching water diviners at work, he became convinced that there is a principle of nature as yet unknown to science, and which is generated within the earth itself.
He believes it causes wave motion perpendicular to the earth's surface, and that it has great power and affects the nerve cells of animals. It appears to form spiral patterns. He believes it is controlled by mathematical laws involving principally the numbers three and seven. He calls the complex network of lines associated with this unknown 'earth force' geodetic lines, and differentiates between waterlines, tracklines and aquastats. Over the course of many years until his death in 1964, Underwood painstakingly researched and drew designs of the geodetic lines beneath and around Stonehenge and other ancient sites such as the White Horse at Uffington and the Cerne Abbas Giant, and his drawings show in every case a complexity of spirals, closing in over the principal 'power points': the altar stone at Stonehenge, the eye of the White Horse, (which is locally held to be a magic spot), etc. These lines were found by dowsing. The implication is that early man knew the sources of power from within the earth, and that the spiral drawings at Newgrange etc. are a reproduction of known geodetic lines. Temples and places of worship, including some of the early Christian churches and cathedrals, appear to have been placed strategically exactly in the centre of these apparent spiral formations originating within the earth itself.
A Sinister Way
In Skye and in the Western Isles until recent times the fishermen who rowed out in their coracles of stretched hides, on the morning tide, would not cast their nets at the fishing grounds until they had turned their vessel 'three times sunwise, to bring the blessings of the day on the fishing.' Sunwise and clockwise are of course the same thing, for the clock reflects the passage of the sun. The dextral spiral is formed, closing in over the place where the fishes lie.
There are an enormous number of customs and superstitions governing turning and moving--the way one must move, or the way things must be passed--which seem to have a deep connection with the idea of what is the correct order of things. Dances and movements in procession, whether in a church or in a ballroom, nearly always go clockwise. To go the other way is seen as wrong, or contrary to the accepted order. Only witches dance 'widdershins,' in a deliberately anti-clockwise dance. Only in secret and magical rites may sinistral turning be understood and accepted, so it seems. Only the priests and holymen--and witches--used left handed spiral shells.
For most of us the correct order of things upon this earth seems to be sunwise, or dextrally. Man is made uncomfortable by the left-handed spiral, for it seems to run contrary to nature. The majority of people are of course right-handed. Lefthanders like myself, are seen as oddities. All that goes contrary to the right is seen as sinister. This must surely have a very profound reason, possibly connected with the rotation of the earth, possibly deeper still. Some basic law accounts for the dextral turning of all normal shells, for the dextral spiralling of so many climbing plants, for the dextral spiral of the blood through our veins--out from the heart, back to the heart again.
When one thinks of moving up a dextral spiral from below, and coming down it again from above, one sees of course that it becomes a sinistral spiral as one descends. This may have a certain importance and significance in trying to understand the nature of the spiralling form of movement, and man's reaction to the direction of it. At a fairground one sees children on a helter-skelter. Look up it, and it seems to curve clockwise. But they come down anti-clockwise. They invariably scream as they come down, not from fear but from a kind of horrified excitement. I suggest that the fascination of the helter-skelter is a dual one. It goes down, and it goes down in a 'sinister way.' It frightens children, like the look of their own image in a mirror in a darkened room, or ghost stories, or shadowy things. To go in a sinister way, or to see things back to front, can be extremely frightening.
I have suggested there may be a profound reason for this. In 'The Ambidextrous Universe' by M.Gardner, we read this about the DNA molecule:
'We might expect to find both left-handed and right-handed protein helices in rear equal quantities throughout the body. This is in fact not so. All human protein, and the protein within all living things, is right-handed. Left-handed protein is simply not found on this planet. Helical DNA is an asyrnetric structure. Life appears to be an asyrnetric phenomena.' But Gardner does not note that the organic carbohydrates, sugar, glucose, etc., the sugars of which the helix itself is formed, move in a left-handed spiral. And sugars are the major source of energy.
A single spiral is always asyrnetric. Teilhard de Chardin has much to say about the asyrnetric structure of the molecule of living organisms, suggesting that all life and movement is dependent upon this perpetual imbalance, or instability of relationship. As Dr. Pettigrew suggested in 1908, the spiral form has greater possibilities than the balanced radial or branching form.
The Mirror Image
Now an asyrnetric structure makes an enantiomorph. That is, its mirror image is the same, but the other way round. Two hands are a good example of an enantiomorph, for you can place them palm to palm, fingers and thumbs touching, but they are not the same. Man has two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, but of course he is an enantiomorph. We look at our reflection in a mirror, but no man has ever seen himself as others see him.
It would seem possible that material life on this earth may be an enantiomorph of something else. This would account for all the myths and legends concerning looking into mirrors. St. Paul said 'Now we see as in a glass, darkly, but then face to face.' Why in a glass? Why not through a veil or a curtain? In a glass the image is the other way round. In Tennyson's poem, the legendary Lady of Shalott lived under a spell, condemned to look forever into a mirror and weave a tapestry of the things that were going on behind her, in the road to Camelot. But her patient acceptance was broken when desire arose for sir Lancelot, seen riding past along the river bank, and in a burst of energy or a moment of emotion she rose and looked directly from the window of her tower room. 'She threw the casement window wide. The mirror cracked from side to side.' She had broken the law of the accepted order of things in her world, and knew at once that she must die.
Mirrors carved among the spirals and interlacing on Celtic gravestones are found throughout Ireland and the Hebrides, and this seems to be their meaning. They are symbols of another world in which things are the other way round. The idea that all in this world is Maya, or illusion, and that it is only a dim reflection of some greater reality is a familiar theme of many traditions. People who have had sudden 'revelations,' 'conversion' or mystical experiences, frequently describe a situation in which they find their ideas turned back to front, the new Truth seeming to be diametrically opposed to previously accepted 'truths.'
The movement along the spiral path of life seems to be reversed by 'conversion' and this is usually accompanied by great energy, happiness and a sense of purpose and drive that has never been known before.
I suggest tentatively that at such times a mar. may cease to be at the mercy of the strong pull of the right-handed spiral, and become a pilgrim on a path that leads from the material to the purely spiritual. He may tap, in fact the sources of that finer energy that springs from the eternal Source of all.
It is perhaps the strangeness of this half-knowledge of a two-way mirror, a two-way spiral, which man has inherited, that accounts for his feeling that right is synonymous with good, and that left is sinister. His fear may be simply fear of the unknown.
As long ago as 1908 Dr. Pettigrew was thinking of right-handed and left-handed spirals in connection with positive and negative charges of electricity, or in terms of male and female. This was of course long before the discovery of the helix of the DNA with its right-handed proteins and its left-handed spiralling of the sugar phosphate. Sugar is the supplier of energy for action and growth, while proteins perhaps build and maintain the status quo. Properly working together, they control our life. Divorced from each other, the first will lead to inertia, the second into realms of fiery extinction.
But the traffic of Jacob's Ladder is, by tradition, a two-way traffic, and paradoxically, 'the way up is the same as the way down.' The positive, dynamic, masculine principle may be thought of as the active, up-rising one, and the negative, passive, feminine role may be thought to lead towards inertia. And yet, in Japanese Shintoism, the two principles known as the Yin and the Yang, which are drawn as spirals, are shown to run the other way. The principle of Yang is masculine. It leads downwards towards density, or inwards to solid mass, for it is held by centripetal force. It is the Yin, the feminine principle which is centrifugal, leading outward, leading upward, from the denser to the finer states of matter. It is interesting now to remember that the gastropod shells are traditionally the sign of the feminine, and the left-handed ones are used in holy rites. The spiral of Yin and Yang, seen as an enantiomorph, is dealt with in a curious little book called 'The Looking Glass God' by M.Nahum Stiskin, which develops this line of thought, though not on astrological lines.
In pursuing this theme of actual and symbolical spirals, dextral and sinistral spiral movement and masculine and feminine roles it may appear that I have digressed far from the planets and their possible influence upon our lives. But I do not think it to be inappropriate to an understanding of the horoscope and its possible usage to consider the whole background of the spiral of life. Working with basic ideas on the nature of life and of man's place in the world one sees the origin of many customs and practices, and learns to trace man's limitations and his possibilities.
One goes upward into the light and downward into the dark, for that is the nature of things, since we are entirely dependent on the sun above.
For this reason heaven is seen as a place of light and hell is by tradition dark, downward, in the centre of the earth, in the world of minerals, of rocks and stones, of coal. And again, by the paradox that runs throughout all life, of the precious jewels which are minerals compressed to a hard clarity. Downward leads to a very slow march of life, and upward leads to the much faster frequencies of the sun's rays. All is interdependent, and the movement in each direction must continue as long as there is life to be maintained upon this earth. But man has always aspired towards the sun and watched the cosmic dance of the planets.
A Ritual Dance
Since the spiral implies movement it is not surprising to find it reflected in the dance. Traditional maypole dances undoubtedly symbolise the movements of the heavenly bodies, in the spiral weaving of coloured ribbons against the pole as the children skip and circle round one another, drawing ever closer to the centre.
As a small girl I remember taking part in it, and hugging my secret sense of its ancient and magical significance, for the hearts of children know about such things until the doors of perception begin to close in adolescent years.
But much more important and significant astrologically are the dances of the Whirling Dervishes, whose customs stem from the traditional Mukabaleh taught by Jellaludin Rumi, at Konya in Turkey centuries ago. These have been performed in London in recent years.
The long, ritual whirling, weaving dance represents the movements of the planets about the sun. The dancers, while turning on their own axes, also advance in a great circle, as the planets move along the path of the ecliptic. The spirals of the Dervish dances are simpler than the complex cosmic dances of the planets, but profound in meaning and in intention.
It is clear that if one traces the pattern in space made by Venus, for instance, one would find a simple spiral, for the turning of the planet on its own axis is at the same time carrying it in a greater revolution round the sun. Any planet, or the earth, will make a spiral pattern in space; and the sun itself appears to spiral its way upwards at the spring equinox. If all the patterns of the heavenly bodies could be seen together, superimposed upon each other over long periods of time, there would be a very complex and interesting series of helical epicycloid designs. They would look like particularly beautiful and complex spiral forms, such as may be drawn with a spirograph. It was apparently his deep interest in the profound significance of this idea, which caused the Rev. Sherrard Beaumont Burnaby, one of whose designs is reproduced in this book, to spend many years experimenting with his spiral-making instrument in the Hampstead Vicarage in Victorian days.
The spiral dance is used by the Dervishes to produce a state of ecstasy. Each dancer turns rapidly and ever more rapidly, until the long, heavily weighted Dervish garments fly out in a great white circle like the rings of Saturn seen through a telescope. The right hand is turned upwards towards the heavens and the left hand downward. In their whirling about the Grand Master, who makes his own greater revolution because he represents the sun, the Dervish dancers induce a sense of one-ness with all creation. Recognising the spiral, understanding it in a profound way, they whirl with closed or down turned eyes, their movements controlled, disciplined and as perfect as the volute of the shells, or as the orbits of the heavenly bodies. The Dervish dances as a form of meditation stem from very ancient sources of esoteric knowledge.
Watching the Mukabeleh, one sees that all the weaving and whirling of simple country dances must have stemmed originally from just such high ideas, stepped down to the language and usage of everyday, for holidays and feast days of simple communities and ordinary people who knew nothing of esoteric practices.
I have dealt with the material form and usage of the spiral, and discussed how the spiral symbolism seems to reach into realms of higher thought and ideas than material life on the earth. The one thing that seems to run throughout is the realisation that at all levels the spiral reflects a pattern both above and below. It appears to be what Rodney Collin calls a cosmic constant which may be verified at any level.
In his 'Theory of Celestial Influence' Rodney Collin describes the galaxy as being like a vast transformer, stepping up power on to seven higher levels. He illustrates his idea with a painting of a whirling, spiral form. He continues:
'Most mature nebulae including our Milky Way, have in fact the same basic pattern. They are apparently vast wheels of stars, each separated by an infinity of distance from the others yet each so immense that these stars by their very number appear to flow and stream like a gas or liquid under the influence of some great centrifugal force. This force imparts to them a spiral motion or form, as a whirlwind in a sandy place imparts a spiral motion to the column of dust it raises.
'The apparent forms of the heavenly worlds are very interesting and important, for they can tell us a great deal, not only about the structure of the universe, but also about man's perception; and thus about his relationships to those worlds and their relationships to each other.
'The relation between the celestial worlds of Earth, Solar System and Milky Way must by analogy be paralleled in the inferior worlds of electrons, molecules and cells. For this relation between inter-penetrating worlds is itself a cosmic constant, which may be verified, both above and below.
'On its own scale, a cell is a solid, three-dimensional organism, but to man it is an single immeasurable point. A single electron of a molecule of this cell would have a viewpoint similar to that of the astronomer on earth. Its cell would be travelling along an artery, as the sun along its tract in the Milky Way, and the cell might be expected to make many thousands of circuits of the great body within the course of its existence.
But to the electron, this would mean nothing, for in the whole of its duration of its spark of life, it would advance no measurable distance at all.'
He goes on to elaborate this theory by discussing the space-time concept. At all levels, the patterns are traces of what is, what has been, and in one sense what will be taking place, whether in the heavens or in the world of molecules.
As Flammerion said: 'Yesterday, today and tomorrow are manmade concepts. In the heavens it is always today.' Now in this sense it would appear that the spiral which runs throughout creation, and is clearly fundamental to it, is in itself an illusion, or may be so.
Nevertheless, as astrologers we can surely use this illusion of the spiral, and we should find at times that the actual and the symbolic appear to have a common basis in reality. As it is the fundamental pattern of movement, life and growth, we should surely be able to use it to good purpose in astrological work. If we live in a world of illusion, we must do what we can with our limited faculties and powers of perception of the nature of life and man.
The Chart as a Spiral
If spirals reflect the pattern of the heavens, obviously they must be observable and useable in a variety of ways in the horoscope chart, and astrologers should be able to use basic spiral symbolism in interpretation. Clearly there are many discernible spirals, from the simple cycles of the planets to the subtleties of the quintile coil. I would like to suggest that it is worth thinking in terms of spirals, rather than cycles, in interpreting the depths and subtleties of horoscopes. When you begin to think in this way, the possible usages of the spiral idea begin to develop according to the individual understanding. The idea that the progressions and transits of a chart will outline the 'journey' of the man whose natal make-up is seen in the birth chart, and that he can learn to master and overcome the hazards that are inherent in the birth map, may be profitable, and perhaps more helpful than counselling him to come to terms with his problems and limitations. But beyond this, one needs, I think, to learn to look into the possible depths and height of the spirals that one sees.
Many astrologers suggest that apart from considering the traditional 'significators' as Margaret Hone called them, in interpreting a chart, they also bridge gaps by flashes of insight and hunches, which lead beyond the simple astrological interpretation, into a greater understanding than a face value assessment would provide by itself. I suggest that what we do, in fact, whether consciously or not, is to look at the same indications, but look at them on successive levels, instead of as a static constant that a man will live with all his life.
One can see the chart as an advancing spiral in a variety of different ways. One interprets the possibilities of the evolution of that person as his consciousness and his understanding of himself grows and develops: the possibilities of the ascending spiral.
Many books on astrology speak of higher and lower types among the sun sign definition. Herbert Waite on Aquarius, for example: 'In the lower type we get the extreme egoist, false, scheming and selfish, using his mental gifts and inflexible will for ambition and personal aggrandisement. The higher type is faithful and humane, has much intuition, exalted ideals of life, etc.' Margaret Hone listed her key words under similar headings: 'Uranus: True meaning: Friendly, inventive, magnetic, original, progressive, strong-willed etc.
Overstress or misuse: Changeful, eccentric, perverse, rebellious, wilful etc.' Charles Carter also listed higher and lower types, and Ingrid Lind clarified interpretation in the same way.
Obviously it is improbable that the sun sign alone will be considered or the native be arbitrarily classified as a 'higher' or 'lower' type. One comes to one's tentative conclusions on this matter as a result of complex reasoning plus intuition. I am suggesting that what one is doing is looking into the spiral of that person's possibilities. It is a truism that no-one is wholly bad. Everyone has unrealised potentialities and possibilities, and the spiral surely indicates these. In interpreting for clients, personally I like to keep my expectations high. A brisk pigeonholing is obviously not enough, for man has an infinity of possibilities, and one needs to look up the spiral to see where each individual may be able to go, as he develops his own potential.
An Infinity of Possibilities
Capricorn need not be the sad, domestic goat, working round and round a stake in the ground, feeding on sparse grass. He can be the free, mountain goat that leaps from peak to peak. Libra need not say 'Of course I can't get up in the morning. Librans are always lazy.' He can come to terms with the alarm clock that others may not need.
In interpretation, one must obviously trim one's imagination to what is feasible. One could take, to clarify this thought, the birth chart of a simple man, wielding simple tools with which to till the soil, and consider how to interpret it. One could then re-interpret that chart as though for a man born at the same time in the same immediate locality in a household of highly educated, leisured people. This man will not need to spend his days tilling the soil, getting enough to eat for himself and his family. He will develop in other ways because time is his to use as he wishes.
Therefore a degree of refinement of interpretation is necessary. He may study and learn. He may fritter time away. The basic expectations cover a somewhat wider field of possibilities. At the level of more highly evolved men, who really control their own destinies, a much subtler interpretation still would be appropriate of course.
One may put up a horoscope for a pet dog, but one would not have the same expectations from the chart as from the chart of its owner. If musical ability is indicated it would be useless to suggest the dog is sent to college to try to master the violin. The most it will do is cock its ears and howl when its master plays. And yet obviously the chart is valid in itself, for a horoscope chart is simply a map of a moment of time, and is as valid for the child or for the puppies first seeing the light of day in the same house at the same time. Interpretation is a matter of what can reasonably be expected of the creature whose natal chart is being considered.
Cycles of Interpretation
There are a number of very basic, simple spirals that I have found practical and useful. These ideas that I put forward are no more than a tentative introduction to the study of cycles and spiral forms within the chart, of course, and any astrologer who interests himself in this idea will be conscious of many more.
1. The cycles of planets in transit, obviously occur a number of times. Uranus is naturally the slowest that has any bearing on a man's life cycle, since Neptune and Pluto do not move far enough in a life span to repeat their aspects. The square, the opposition, the square again, and the conjunction of Uranus transiting to the radical position of Uranus is about a life span. The major aspects tally roughly with the beginning of adult life, Uranus being square to its own natal position at the age of 21 or so. Then Uranus opposition the radical degree area at about the age of 42, which is the time when a man perhaps reaches the peak of his powers, and often also a time of disturbance and difficulty. Then the square for the second time at about 63, the end perhaps of the more positively creative and outgoing years and the approach to retirement. And finally the conjunction with the natal position at about 84.
One can see this as a simple circle - but the square does occur twice. The first time its effects are unknown to the native. He has no previous experience of it. The second square comes to a man who has lived a long time, and who has profited, or should have profited, by experience of life. He is therefore no longer so much at the mercy of his stars. 'The fool is ruled by his stars.
The wise man uses them.' He should be able to meet the difficulties, disruption and changes of the new square a little further up the spiral.
Now Saturn as we know makes these same contacts about twice, or two and a half times, in a life span. The square comes at the age of seven and a half years, the opposition at fifteen, the square again at twenty two and a half, the conjunction at thirty--and so on, round a second time and possibly even half of a third cycle before death claims him. The young man may be entirely 'ruled by his stars' the first time round, but by the second experience he may have learned a great deal. He should have begun to be aware of his own possibilities and his own limitations, and to use the aspects to his best advantage. By expecting the highest of one's self and of other people one can, I think, see how these recurring aspects may be taken on a higher level each time round.
While the outer planets are making their slow circles on the chart, Jupiter, moving much faster, is making repeated squares, oppositions and conjunctions with its own natal position every twelve years, so there is much more opportunity to get to recognise his influence.
Mars makes the same contacts about every two years: Venus and Mercury every year: the Moon every month.
Obviously I am simplifying the situation to a great degree, for the chart is developing and changing all the time and many other things will also be happening in it. Since all this is going on together and a great deal more besides, the pattern is very, very subtle and complex in its meaning and its apparent effect on a man's life. For instance Uranus will also be repeating its aspects to the Sun, Moon, Mercury etc. as well as to its own radical position. I am producing a very simple, skeleton pattern for the sake of clarity and to outline the points I am trying to make.
Living within the Shell
Let us take a simple spiral by considering Saturn's transit for example. Traditionally, Saturn restricts and frustrates the young, acting as a malefic. It rules old age, and becomes a benefic to the aged, who experience its stabilizing and tranquillising effects rather than its limitations and restrictions. Its limiting effects are acceptable to the old, because they have lost the desire to start revolutions or make a mark on the world in a big way.
But the seven and a half year old child may experience for the first time, discipline, rules, orders that must be obeyed, and may well bawl with rage and exasperation under the experiences brought by his first Saturn square. The fifteen year old boy may find his personal aims at home or at school are continually thwarted. He may feel hedged in by authority, and may be tempted to double up his fists and sock someone under the impact of The first Saturn opposition. The twenty two and a half year old could be discovering that he can't bend the world his way, that the 'establishment' is well entrenched, and be so conscious of his lack of freedom that he bursts out in violent demonstrations against the accepted order of things, making himself and everyone else extremely unhappy in the process of living through his second Saturn square.
At the first conjunction, the young man of thirty will already have learned a great deal. He may have begun to understand that life is a kind of strait jacket, and that the art of living lies in coming to terms with the strait jacket: learning to live within the volute of one's own shell, without becoming a prisoner. Not like Bragela in the Hall of Shells, idle, full of grievances and resentment against life; but an adult, well-adjusted man or woman of dignity, good humour and self-control.
The next opposition comes at forty five, and the middle-aged man is more likely to use the power of the spoken word, than his fists, when he encounters setbacks, disappointments and lack of reward for his labours at this time. He will tolerate the situation with a better grace, if he is growing in self-knowledge. Because he is now on the 'second time round' he should be on a higher level of his spiral. At the third repetition of experience of Saturn in opposition he will be an old man, and may be able to sit tranquilly under the cold influence, accepting and knowing much about the world and about his own relationship with life.
The art of using the chart must surely lie in learning to meet each repetition courageously, seeing it as a spiral, not a circle--though it is an ever-changing and very complex development that often defeats recognition and understanding at the actual time however bravely a man may tread the pilgrim path. At times there will only be brief flashes of the light of understanding along the dark and difficult stretches of the journey, and undoubtedly the same mistakes and errors of judgment will be made more than once in any normal life span. Each man's chart is his 'shell,' and he is limited to the possibilities of that 'shell' within his mortal days of this life.
Clockwise or Anti-clockwise
2. Sinistral and dextral cycles. Another idea that I take into consideration is that the chart consists of sinistral and dextral cycles of movement. The signs rise clockwise and the planets move through the signs in apparent anti-clockwise motion (except when retrograde), and although this is symbolic, it also reflects the actual movements of the planets against the starry heavens. The signs are generally taken as indicating the 12 psychological types, and the planets as the life principles which govern them. The psychological types have some bearing on the idea of the dextral spiral of life; and the life principles seem to spring, by the same reasoning, from the sinistral spiral. The life principles or archetypal impulses find expression through the signs which are co-related to the earth/sun interaction. 'The.....12 areas of the ecliptic..... correspond to characteristics of pre-determined types, and the correspondence could be one of synchronization on a time-space basis of similar principles which both the Earth-Sun magnetic fields and human life are subject to,' says Jeff Mayo in 'Teach Yourself Astrology.' Elaborating, he refers to the 12 psychological types, (the signs), 12 basic attitudes, (the planets), 12 basic ways of human expression, (the houses of the chart).
The houses of course remain 'static,' like the spokes of a wheel, the 1st house always being in the same place on the chart, while the dextral and sinistral movements of the signs and the planets continue against the background of the 'wheel.'
The possibilities of man's evolution would seem to lie as the philosopher Gurdjieff indicated, in a man's change of attitude towards the circumstances that he will encounter. He may mount up upon this spiral by a conscious understanding of the planetary cycles, the interplay of planetary relationships, against the pre-determined influence of the signs. Whatever he does will find expression through the activities shown in the houses. He may see himself as using finer and finer kinds of energy drawn from the delicate, changeable sinistral spiral, to enable him to live in harmony with the forces of the dextral spiral that seek for ever to maintain the status quo.
3. Cycles of human activity. The 12 basic ways of human expression are seen in the traditional division of the chart into the 12 houses. Although the popular Ebertin system, which deals mainly with the structural elements of the chart, and the growing study of Harmonics and the significance of degree areas, would seem to have superseded the old house division systems to some extent, there is no doubt that the traditional meanings of the houses can be used with complete validity as an aid to understanding any horoscope chart. From 1st to l2th, they take the embryonic personality of the native out from the home into full development within the world at large, through all the possible fields of human activity.
One may think of them in the form of an outward sweeping spiral, a Pythagorean type spiral, from 1st to l2th. And there are ways of developing the spiral of human expression through the houses on to higher levels of activity and endeavour. Let us take them imaginatively like this.
At the lowest level of experience:
1st house: the person. A simple, small echo of 'me.'
2nd house: the things belonging to me expressed as a simple cry of 'I exist, therefore I want my comfort, my food, my cradle of safety.'
3rd house: my parents, my close family, people belonging to that small 'me.'
4th house: the circle begins to widen slightly as the embryonic creature looks a little further and views 'my home, the surroundings in which I live.'
5th house: the first beginning of 'I exist, so I can do something.' Here is creativity at its simplest level, playing with toys, building with bricks.
6th house: here am 'I' imposing my will on others in a primitive attempt to make them serve me, to get my way and to command. And here the development of the body and the state of physical health can be seen.
8th house: traditionally the house of death, this may be in the first instance the place of 'death' by sloughing off, of first impressions and desires and attitudes, like the young stags in velvet that shed their first antlers in readiness for full maturity. It could be the beginning of giving to, and collecting from, the world at a more adult level.
9th house: the sweep of the spiral will get wider yet, for the 9th brings movement out into the world, travel, communications with others and growing maturity of judgement.
10th house: traditionally the career is established here, adult responsibilities begin to be borne, contacts are made with others well away from childhood home and parents. The placing of the midheaven will show where the roots are thrust down and the tree of the individual life will come to flower and bear fruit.
11th house: the house of friendship, social contact, action in the world at large and not just bounded by the circles of the family, home or day to day life, will bring the spiral to its widest sweep.
12th house: here ends one cycle, and here begins another, for the sum of all experience obtained so far will be stored in the heart and mind and spirit of the man and in the hidden depths of his own unconscious.
Here the distilled essence of his first experiences will be gathered, to set the newborn being on its second cycle of the spiral upwards.
Let us imagine a second journey round, in which the eternal pilgrim begins at a somewhat higher level of consciousness and understanding:
1st house: the personality, and now it is dignified, confident, strong and fearless.
2nd house: the close possessions become the 'luggage' that has to be taken through life: not necessarily burdensome, but basic necessities.
3rd house: the close and known relationships may well have changed from 'my mother' who brings 'my food' to a sense of family relationships between all peoples on this earth, and the innate brotherhood of man.
4th house: home is seen, but not as a little house in a certain road or town. For the evolving man, 'home' is the world in which he finds himself, and his spiral widens to embrace its greater expanse.
5th house: here comes procreation, sex and art; a conscious giving back to life of all its gifts to man.
6th house: the idea of service to others and to the world begins to be understood. The state of balance of the physical body can be seen.
7th house: the understanding of duality leading to partnerships, and a yearning towards eventual unity and one-ness.
8th house: this is the house of death, and here the small self-seeking 'I' may meet its final challenge and be laid to rest as a bigger man is born.
9th house: Communion rather than communication.
10th house: Understanding and acceptance of the life's work.
11th house: the beginning of love of one's neighbour in the real sense of the words '...and thy neighbour as thyself.'
l2th house: the distilled essence of a man of greater wisdom and understanding prepares here for a further step on the spiral way. But let it not be forgotten that the l2th house, considered at any level, is by tradition the 'house of self-undoing.' It may not be a guaranteed passport to a better world!
The Tightening Coil
The spiral also links well with harmonic concepts in astrology, and John Addey visualizes a 'tightening coil' as distinct from the widening spiral of the outward movement through the houses that I have described.
He speaks of the application of successive harmonics to the successive years of life, the harmonics growing gradually shorter and shorter as life advances, suggesting the tightening coil of a movement towards the centre.
'Another link with harmonics is the way in which each harmonic is now seen to represent one complete turn of the whorl--in relation to one aspect of psychological unfoldment, each planet and each harmonic revealing a different life process which must be repeated in principle again and again, major processes recurring in a longer time cycle and minor processes in a shorter one.
'Of great interest are the basic patterns of unfoldment for the different planets. Thus in very general terms Saturn seems to begin each turn of the whorl with a phase of poverty or deprivation of some kind and through shouldering some sort of responsibility gradually achieves objective fullness--of wealth, status, knowledge, love or power--until it is able to step up to a higher sphere of service or activity.
'Jupiter on the other hand appears to start its cycle with a phase of manifest abundance and confidence but then to be forced to realise the relative worthlessness of its supposed wealth and so to move through a phase of humility and divine discontent which in turn leads to real inner growth and so to a new self-awareness and confidence.
'Mars and Venus similarly show opposite movements.
Mars characteristically sets out with an excess of forcefulness, ardour and activity; these must give place at first to a good humoured liveliness, then to a phase of tranquillity and introspection from which a growing inner strength leads at last to truly effective and balanced action. Contrariwise, the first impulse of Venus is to yield and to compromise and she must gradually learn true adaptability and finally the courage by which justice and harmony can alone be maintained.
'In each of these, and other planetary processes, one sees a circular movement which returns however, not to its identical starting point but to the same phase of experience which can then be encountered with greater insight and understanding garnered from the past.'
The idea behind Rodney Collin's Four Worlds and the point at which they all meet, seems to be a profound reflection on growth and experience on many levels of existence simultaneously. A man may live on more than one level, or may slip back into a small, self-seeking version of himself in spite of intermittent understanding of his own nature, or revelations about the world and life. But in interpreting, one can always look for the highest that can be seen, consider higher and higher meanings of the houses and of the planetary groupings, as they reflect increasingly the balance and the interplay of sinistral and dextral forces of creation.
One will interpret the directions of the chart in light of these basic theories.
Man cannot contract out of the spiral by sinking into the inertia of the downward pull, or by taking off into realms of fire and light. He can only be aware of the significance of the spiral, and like all creatures, from tiny euglena gracilis in the pond to the builders of the great cathedral spires, look upwards to the sun and to the heights.
The Evolving Universe
All these ideas pre-suppose an evolving universe. They reflect and develop thoughts that stemmed from my brother-in-law Rodney Collin, and from his teacher P.D.Ouspensky, who was very interested in the repetition of lives. Ouspensky used the spiral idea in this connection himself.
According to the Fourth Way system of Gurdjieff, which Ouspensky followed, a man is born, lives his life, dies, and recurs again in the same form, and has to face the same circumstances until he has grown to a level of understanding where he will face other and better circumstances. This is not quite the same as the theory of reincarnation, although it might be an aspect of reincarnation. It is certainly a direct reflection of the myths and legends of the traveller, and the astrological types which limit the possibilities in any one incarnation. Certainly the Karma of other lives is not ruled out.
Ouspensky suggested that the spiral of evolution might be very slow, until there was a grasp of the idea of living consciously. Only then could one begin to 'pull out the spiral' and advance more rapidly to other and higher levels of being. Many teachings suggest that a man cannot change events or circumstances, but by changing his attitude he may come to face other and more favourable circumstances. If then he incarnates again, the hazards that he meets will be appropriate to another level. This is deeply connected with my own thoughts about looking into the depths of the chart, and into the upward spiral--but being conscious too that there can be a downward spiral, into unconsciousness and loss of the light of the Sun.
As with individuals so with nations, civilisations, and the Great Ages of time. Each bear the stamp of the heavens at certain periods, and the archetypal heroes are, like the common man, reflections of the forces of creation.
In all moving spirals there is a vortex, and in the vortex the speed of movement is much greater than at the outer edges. This can be seen in the spiralling movement of water and air in cyclones, whirlpools, and even the water that goes down the bath plug hole. Unlike organic growth, such short-lived phenomena do not move dextrally all over the world, but go the other way round in the southern hemisphere, seeming to respond solely to the gravitational pull of that part of the earth's surface where they are happening. See 'Sensitive Chaos,' Theodor Schwenk, Rudolf Steiner publishing house.
In the vortex of a whirlpool a drowning man will, it is said, see all the events of his life pass before him in quick succession, but in the reverse order, running from today back into childhood memories. The accepted order of things turns inside out, and like the mirror image or enantiomorph, the drowning man will see in an instant of revelation, what he is in his relationship to life. The shadow will become reality. In a state of cosmic consciousness a man will also supposedly see himself in this way, and know himself for what he is. Therefore the idea of the possible speed of the vortex of the spiral seems to be an important one, and may be considered when assessing the possibilities of the chart.
A change in the measurement of time, an apparent speeding up of experience, and the ability to understand long trains of events as though they were happening simultaneously, is something that many people experience occasionally in times of heightened consciousness.
Agony or ecstasy may cause it. Drugs may induce it, though probably with dangerous and undesired long-term side effects. Meditation and prayer may be other means to it, if sustained long enough.
But the astrologer already holds the key, for he can survey the whole life span with the aid of the ephemeris, assess and weigh up his own possibilities, run his eye from aspect to aspect as the planets transit through the heavens, and open many doors or understanding, moving consciously within the vortex of the spiral.
To look at one's own chart with the idea of consciously using the spiral, instead of being imprisoned by it like Bragela in the Hall of Shells is I think the beginning of wisdom. To look at the charts of others with the idea of seeing the highest, not the lowest, the finest, not the basest, and speaking to that highest if counselling them, might be the beginning of loving thy neighbour as thyself.
Paradoxically the acceptance and the use of the spiral seems to lead to the way out to new experience, just as when one gets to the centre of a maze one may find there is a quick way out that one knew nothing of before. The spirals of mazes also had an esoteric usage once.
The acceptance of the spiral is like the sea creature accepting his shell, not as a burden but as an integral part of himself. With it, he turns freely in the waters, rests easily upon the rocks. Seemingly at the mercy of the great tides, he is in fact using them to his advantage, for they bring him to the best places for him to be.
The secret seems to be to move lightly along the spiral of life's experiences. Then one may perhaps begin to get the advantages of the spiral movement of creation and it may begin to appear as an open-ended spiral or helix: not the stultified conical spiral of the world of shells.
The idea of non-attachment to, or non-imprisonment within the shell of one's own life circumstances is expressed by William Blake:
Does the wingéd life destroy.
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.'
Perhaps words like these lead towards an understanding of the place of astrology in studying the spiral of life in all its manifestations on this earth.
Originally published by the Astrological Association.