Chapter XXI: My Theory of Astrology

Magick Without Tears

By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXI: My Theory of Astrology

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

A few well-chosen words about Astrology? Madam, I am only too happy to oblige: our aim is to serve. The customer is usually wrong; but statistics indicate that it doesn't pay to tell him so.

It seems a long while since I set up your Nativity, and read it, but it is very clear in my mind that you were astonished, as so many others have been, by the simplicity and correctness of my reading. It began, you remember, by your giving me the usual data when we dropped in for tea at the Anglers' Rest. I calculated the Ascendant on the spot, and remarked “Rubbish!” I looked at you again very carefully; and, after many grunts, observed, “More likely half-past ten—within an hour one way or the other.” You insisted; I insisted. Unwilling to make a Fracas in the Inn, we decided to put you to the trouble of writing to your mother to settle the dispute. Back came the answer: “within a few minutes of eleven. I remember because your father had hung on as long as he could—he had to take the morning service.”

This occurrence is very common in my experience; I have contradicted what sounded like ascertained fact and proved on enquiry to have been right; so, considering that the statistics I made many years ago showed me to have been right 109 times out of 120, I think two things are fairly near probation; firstly, I am not guessing—that doesn't matter much; but, secondly, which is of supreme importance, there is a definite connection between the personal appearance and manner of the native, and the Sign of the Zodiac which was rising when he first drew air into his lungs.

Let me add, to strengthen the argument, that on the few occasions where I have erred there has been a good astrological reason for it. E.g. I might plump for Pisces rising when it was actually Capricornus; but in that case Saturn would have been afflicted by being in Cancer, with bad aspects from Venus and the Moon, thus taking away all his rugged, male, laborious qualities, and in the Ascendant might have been Jupiter, suggesting many of the qualities of Pisces: and so forth.

Now let me start! You want me to explain the system—or no-system!—which I use. I do not “move in a mysterious way My wonders to perform;” for nothing could be simpler. For its origin I have to thank Abramelin the Mage, who empties the vials of his scorn upon the astrologers of his time with their meticulous calculations of “the hours of the planets” and so on. I think he goes too far when he says that a planet can have no influence at all, or very little, unless it is above the horizon; but he meant well, bless him! And, though he does not say so, I believe that I do my stuff in very much the same way as he did.

Modern astrologers multiply their charts until their desks remind me of a Bargain Basement in the rush hour! They compare and contrast until they are in bat-eyed bewilderment bemused; and when the answer turns out absolutely false, exclaim, what a shout: “By Ptolemy, I forgot to look at the last Luniation for Buda-Pesth!” But then they can always find something or other which will explain how they came to go wrong: naturally, when you have several hundred factors, helplessly bound and gagged, it would be just too bad if you couldn't pick out one to serve your turn—after the event! No, dear girl, it should be obvious to an unweaned brat: (a) they can't see the wood for the trees, (b) they are using Ruach on a proposition which demands Neschamah. Intellect is quite inadequate; the problem requires mother-wit, intuition, understanding.

Here is my system in a Number 000 Ampoule.

Put up the figure at birth: study it, make notes of the aspects and dignities, concentrate—and turn on the Magical Tap!

Occasionally, when I began, I set up the “progressed figure” to see how the patient was doing this week, but it never seemed to help enough to compensate for the distraction caused by the complication. What I do observe to examine the situation of to-day is Transits. These I have found very reliable; but even with these I usually ignore aspects of minor importance. Truth to tell, conjunctions mean very much more than the rest put together.

Talking of aspects, I think it ridiculous to allow vast “orbs” like 15— for Luna, and 12— for Sol. Astrologers go to extreme lengths to calculate the “solar revolution” figure not to a degree, not to a minute, but to a second: and that when they don't know the exact time of birth within half an hour or more! Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel! Then what does an hour or so matter anyhow, if you are going to allow an aspect, whether it is 2— or 10— off? This even with delicate aspects like the quintile or semi-sextile. What would you think of a doctor who had a special thermometer made to register -1/100 of a degree, and never took notice of the fact that the patient had just swallowed a cupful of scalding hot tea?

In my own work, I disallow a deviation of 5— or 6— from the exact aspect, unless there is some alien reason for thinking that it is actually operative. With the minor aspects, I dislike reckoning with them if they are even 3— away.

Nor do I see any sense in marking the odd minutes in the Ascendant, when one is not sure even of the decan.

That seems to be about all that is necessary for my “morning hate;” suppose we go on to the question of interpretation.

Thousands of books have been written on Astrology; nobody could possible read them all thoroughly, and he would be a great fool to try. But he may do little harm by going into them far enough to observe that hardly any half-dozen are agreed even on the foundations of their system, hardly any two upon the meaning of any given aspect, dignity, or position; there is not always agreement even upon what questions pertain to which houses.

There are a few completely quack systems, such as those which mix up the science with Toshosophical1) hypotheses; naturally you discard these. But even of generally acceptable forms of Astrology, such as Mundane and Horary, I tend to be distrustful. I ask, for instance, why, if Taurus rules Poland and Ireland, as is no doubt the case, the crash and massacres of 1939 e.v. and later in the one did not take place in the other. All the seaports of the world naturally come under one of the three watery signs; but we do not find that an affliction of Pisces, which hits Tunis, should do harm to all the other harbours similarly ruled.

This brings us to the first Big Jump in the steeplechase of the whole science. We hear of thousands of people being killed at the same time (within an hour or two, perhaps a minute or two) by earthquake, shipwreck, explosion, battle or other form of violence. Was the horoscope of every one of the victims marked with the probability of some such end? I have known very strange cases of coincidence, but not to that extent!

The answer, I believe, is manifold. It might be, for example, that Poland and Ireland are ruled by different degrees of Taurus; that there are major and minor figures, the former overruling the latter, so that the figure of the launching of the “Titanic” swallowed up the nativities of the victims of her wreck.

Something of this sort is really an obvious truth. Flood in China, famine in India, pestilence anywhere, evidently depend on maps of a scale far more enormous than the personal.

Then—on this point I feel reasonably sure—there may be one or more factors of which we know nothing at all, by which the basic possibilities of a figure are set to work. (Just as a car with engine running will not start until the clutch is put in.)

I will conclude by announcing a rather remarkable position.

  1. I see no objection at all to postulating that certain “rays,” or other means of transmitting some peculiar form or forms of energy, may reach us from the other parts of the solar system; for we can in fact point to perfectly analogous phenomena in the discoveries of the last hundred years or so.  But that is no more than a postulate.
  2. The objections to Astrology as such, indicated by what I have already pointed out, and several others, would suffice to place me among the most arrogant disbelievers in the whole study, were it not for what follows.
  3. The facts with regard to the Ascendant are so patent, so undeni- able, and so inexplicable without the postulate in (1), that I am utterly convinced of the fundamental truth of the basic principles of the science.

I said, “I will conclude”; and I meant it. For now that (or so I hope) you respect sufficiently my conviction that Astrology is a genuine science and not a messy mass of Old Wives' Tales, you will obviously demand instruction as to how to learn it, that you may verify my opinion in the light of your own experiments.

This will look much better if I put it in a separate letter.

'Till then—

Love is the law, love under will.



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By now this term has appeared several times, and it will be going by more than a few times ahead. Crowley disdained to apply “Theosophical” to the movement of Anne Besant, preferring to reserve the word for older systems. He coined the word “TOSHosophical” to replace “Theosophical” in these references – WEH.


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