As a consulting astrologer of more than ten years, I have read a great number of astrological books. At a certain point in my career, I took an interest in the ancient philosophies of our craft. A voracious curiosity led me to texts written 2,000 years ago. Over the years of studying these old astrology books, my worldview has evolved greatly. I distinctly remember a time when I knew I had reached a plateau in learning. I wanted to truly comprehend traditional astrology texts, yet I felt blocked. It seemed that there was some concept or perspective I was missing.
In order to learn more about ancient Greek thought, I attended a History of Science convention in San Diego. Seeking to explore the philosophies of Plato, I picked a few talks on "teleology."(1) Throughout the weekend, I absorbed the teleological worldview. As the concepts of teleology soaked in, everything clicked. Several lightbulbs went on. Since the day I arrived home from that conference, I have been greatly inspired by integrating the teleological worldview into my astrological practice. In this article, I attempt to share this concept with the modern working astrologer. Let us start with a basic definition of teleology, as taken right from the dictionary:
1. the study of evidence of design in nature.
2. a doctrine explaining phenomena by final causes.
3. the natural process of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose.
— Merriam-Webster Dictionary online
We can notice right away that, as keen watchers of the planetary clock, tracking nature's design through celestial transitions, astrologers are teleologists. We are seeking to understand the larger "grand design" through the nature of the heavens. Now, let us look to the second definition — "a doctrine explaining phenomena by final causes." First, we must ask: What is a final cause? Again, let's start with the dictionary definition.
the purpose, end, aim, or goal of something.
— Merriam-Webster Dictionary online
The final cause of a creation could be described as its purpose, its function. Each person, animal, or thing can be described in terms of its final cause. Simply put, a creation can be understood in terms of life purpose. When something has reached its final cause, it has been molded into itself, its own end product. It has produced the fruits of its vine.
Let us dive further into teleology through its root word: telos. A telos could be defined as a creature, plant, or object that has fulfilled its unique, complete, and perfect form. A telos is the actual end product of the life. For instance, a perfectly ripe apple could be understood as having been pulled toward its final cause (purpose), which is to become an apple. When it has reached the acme of its existence, it will have manifested in its apple end product, or apple telos. Teleology, then, could be described as the study and explanation of things unfolding into their end product.
We can now move to the concept of "telos" as practicing astrologer Vettius Valens (c. 200 C.E.) used it 2,000 years ago. In the sixth book of his Anthology, Valens writes, "The Moon races throughout the stars, walking on the planets and flowing away from them. As she does so, she carries the winds, creating eclipses, shadows, and other phenomena. These moments sync up earth, sea, and heavens. The racings of the Moon, and her combination with the remaining stars, are the origin of every telos created."(2)
It is interesting to notice that nearly all ancient astrologers were working from a teleological worldview. Our predecessors heartily understood that the end product of a life (telos) is influenced by the "weathers" of the birth moment. Ancient astrologers were working under the assumption that the natal chart reflects potentials for temperament, expression, life purpose, vocation, etc., all contributing to the end product, or final cause. Our predecessors affectionately called the birth chart an apotelesmatograph — a graph of all matters pertaining to the full manifestation of the end product (telos) that shall come to pass.
Now, let us turn our attention to the details of the natal chart. From the teleological perspective, what is the natal chart and what does it indicate, exactly?
Imagine going to the store to buy a pack of seeds. Each seed pack is decorated with an image of what can be grown with the seeds inside. This is what the natal chart indicates: the potential fruits of the vine, the life purpose and heart of the creation.
Sun–Jupiter Plant: Loves to travel and be adored
Overheats easily, does well in the shade
As teleologists drawing up a chart, we can ask: What are the preordained potentials in this chart? What will grow here? What is the final cause, purpose, and end product of this life? We can examine physical potentials through astrophysiognomy. What will this body look like? Will it be earthy and dense, or muscular and sinewy? Will it develop into a chubby Italian cook, or a lithe Olympic athlete? Will the face be chiseled and square, or round and cherublike? Will the body be tall or short?
We can also look into potentials of temperament. What traits will mark the personality? Will the character be sweet or acerbic? Fiery or melancholic? Bitter or mild-mannered? Funny? What is the communication style? We can assess the potentials in terms of "life tasks." What might a dense, earthy person enjoy doing with their day? What occupation would suit a toned, muscular type? Would an acerbic, bitter person enjoy working as a security guard? Could this seed grow a baker? A police officer? A salesperson? There are a number of methods for extracting information about potentials and life task. Let us look to a few factors considered by past authors. What criteria did traditional astrologers use to assess potentials?
At times, we will want to look specifically into the limits of expression in the end product of a life. When examining prominence, we are asking questions such as: How notable will this life be? Will this person stand out? Do they have potential to be a "thoroughbred"? In matters of prominence, traditional astrologers analyzed the fortitude of the natal chart. Possibilities and limits become clear through tests of planetary strength. An assessment of a planet's essential dignity can illustrate the strength of its essence. If a planet is dignified, the potential to manifest increases. For instance, if Mars is found in one of its own signs, it will be strengthened. What traditional astrologers understood is that a strong Mars increases the potential for martial characteristics to manifest in the life end product — in the essence, personality, temperament, physical form, occupation, and more. If Mars is weak in a natal chart, the potential for martial expression is limited. From this viewpoint, a strong Venus will produce distinct Venusian traits; a weak Venus will produce few Venusian qualities. This is true of the remaining planets as well.
In his Introduction to the Tetrabiblos, neo-Platonic philosopher Porphyry of Tyre describes essential dignity from a teleological perspective. He includes several indications that the "proposed outcomes of a planet will come to pass."(4) Here are a few standard checks of planetary strength noted in his list:
Strong and Sunny Telos: Sunny disposition, shining quality, expressive and fiery temperament
Once we have gained a clear picture of potentials, as well as the limits of expression, we can turn to a creature's unfolding. Traditional astrologers proposed that the natal chart unfolds along with the heavens. Specifically, they suggest that we are pulled to growth by heartfelt longings, incited by planetary transits. The growth process, from a teleological astrologer's worldview, is rather simple.
Step One: Enjoy a new heartfelt longing, incited by a planetary transit.
Step Two: Grasp outward toward the heartfelt longing. Be pulled further outward into growth.
Step Three: Bear beautiful and bountiful fruits.
From the lens of the traditional astrologer, it is a person's choice to practice and train for the special life task. Porphyry says, "It will be necessary to cultivate excellence and craftsmanship, so that a soul might flourish in its works. Various treasures are waiting to be manifested by any man or woman. There are certain habits we might engage to exercise and train the body for its specialized skill set. If we are to train for our unique purpose, the task for which we have been made, we will experience fruitfulness and fertility."(5)
Having taken in these ideas from our ancestors, we may want to integrate the teleological worldview into our work. We can support clients by illuminating their various potentials. We can enhance meaning by discussing the fruits of the vine, taking an interest in the life's work. We can propose that each of us has come here for a special life task — granted by our very own spirit, breathed into us during gestation and birth. Whether the life purpose is to be a magician or a housewife, we can support clients as they are growing. We can convey that each moment brings us closer to who we have been designed to become, celebrating during fruitful weathers and encouraging through the droughts. We can aid clients in understanding how best to express the outside influences, working toward temperance and grace through various twists and turns of growth. As catalysts to hearty evolution, we can provide encouragement year after year, offering advice, referrals, book recommendations, and remedies — all meant to extract and cultivate that which has been set in motion to manifest naturally.
Some Notes on the
Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100–175 C.E.) was a scholar and author. He wrote two very important books on the history of astrology. Ptolemy's first astronomical work was called the Almagest. Here, he lays out the mathematical concepts of the heavens. His second important and relevant work is entitled the Tetrabiblos.(6) In this four-book collection, Ptolemy delves into everything astrological.
Vettius Valens (120–175 C.E.), unlike Ptolemy, was not a scholar. He was a working astrologer, a man who devoted his entire life to interpreting charts. In his extensive nine-book collection called the Anthology, Valens writes on many topics about the natal chart. He discusses conception charts and hand calculations of the wandering stars, and provides a thorough description of the planets, signs, house regions, and much more. Valens focused much of his work on the topics of productivity, happiness, and prominence.
Porphyry of Tyre (234–305 C.E.) was a neo-Platonic philosopher. Approximately 60 works were attributed to him, on subjects ranging from religion to philosophy to musical theory to astrology. In his Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy, Porphyry flushes out astrological terminology and concepts, clarifying murky concepts from Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos.
References and Notes:
1. Teleology permeates much of Plato's writings. Students who would like to learn more can begin with Plato's works on "creation," Timaeus and The Republic.
2. Vettius Valens of Antioch, Anthology, Books 1–9, trans. Andrea L. Gehrz.
3. Planetary Sect is a classical technique used to group charts into day or night births, depending on whether the Sun is above or below the horizon, respectively. The planets were also given classifications. The Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn were thought to be diurnal influences, inspiring outward expressions of success through productivity. The Moon, Venus, and Mars were classified as nocturnal, inciting inner expressions of success, such as love and emotional happiness. Mercury was thought to be common to both classes.
4. Porphyry of Tyre, An Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy, trans. Andrea L. Gehrz, p. 61.
5. Porphyry of Tyre, On the Manner in Which Souls Enter into Bodies During Creation, or Ensoulment, trans. Andrea L. Gehrz.
6. Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, trans. Andrea L. Gehrz.
Plant in the shade and Sun-Jupiter-Trine: art work by Andrea L. Gehrz
All other images: CC0 Public Domain, by pixabay.com
First published in: The Mountain Astrologer, Jun/Jul 2007
Andrea L. Gehrz is an astrological teacher based in Portland, Oregon. She teaches locally at the Portland School of Astrology, and nationally through phone apprenticeships. As an educator, Andrea is also passionate about crafting unique, affordable astrological textbooks for serious students and practitioners of astrology. She works at this daily through her production role at the Moira Press. Contact her at http://moirapress.org; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2015 Andrea L. Gehrz - published by The Mountain Astrologer
24-May-2018, 16:05 UT/GMT
|Explanations of the symbols|
|Chart of the moment|