The Virility of Hybrid Systems

Nakshatra 3There is no pure system of astrology; every form of astrology in the world, or certainly those with which I am familiar, is the product of past phases of hybridization. Inbreeding may retain ‘purity’, but cross pollination produces vitality and resilience. I think we can see this in cultures, arts and sciences too.

For example, Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Astrology are very much eclectic blends of divergent ideas, beliefs, techniques and systems, and yet this is not apparently a compromising fact in terms of the quality of the resultant culture and methodologies. Tibetan saints, mystics and spiritual teachers are highly revered, for good reason. Their achievements are demonstrable and apparent.

Western and Vedic astrology are twins separated at birth, and having grown up in different households, and thus having acquired some differing habits and values, their reunification has not been without some awkward adjustments; but they have a lot to offer each other, and perhaps most importantly, it can’t be argued that they fundamentally belong apart, since they are children of the same mother. During the past two decades or so Vedic astrology has gradually permeated the astrological scene in the west, and this is becoming more and more conspicuous in recent years. In the process Vedic astrology has changed and transformed in necessary ways; at least the sort of Vedic astrology on offer in the west.

Although more and more people are hearing about Vedic astrology (or Jyotish as it is perhaps more properly known), and many are having readings with Vedic astrologers, it can’t be said that Vedic and western astrology have merged. The systems tend to be kept distinct, and understandably so, since each system has rules of its own that might not be automatically transferable to the other. That said, there is so much overlap between western and Vedic astrology that it’s tempting to consider how and where they can exchange ideas for mutual benefit. Actually, in practice, due to their basic similarity, it’s really more a case of principles that are implicit on one system being explicit in the other, and so it could be said that they can ‘give each other permission’ to take steps in unconventional directions.

The most basic difference on a technical level, between the two systems, is the fact that Jyotish uses a Sidereal Zodiac and Whole Sign Houses whereas western astrology employs the Tropical Zodiac and a number of House Systems that are generally more complicated (but perhaps not more effective) than the simple Whole Sign approach of Jyotish. Now, there are western astrologers, albeit something of a minority, who use a Sidereal Zodiac with otherwise western techniques (and House Systems), and there is also a growing number of western astrologers returning to more traditional Whole Sign Houses, although typically applied along with the Tropical Zodiac. My point is that neither the Sidereal Zodiac nor the Whole Sign House system are exclusively and essentially ‘Vedic’, and that using the Sidereal Zodiac and Whole Houses is not completely without precedent in western astrology. It’s just not a common approach.

Likewise the way Aspects are used in western astrology is not the way Aspects are normally approached in Jyotish, but here too the traditional western view (in which Sextiles and Trines are considered ‘good’, and Squares and Oppositions problematic) is not completely unprecedented in Jyotish, albeit not the usual mainstream application. I believe Jyotishis would benefit from and need not be unduly confused by looking more closely at some of modern western astrology’s methods of calculating and interpreting aspects, including minor aspects, such as the 45 degree multiples (not to speak of Quintiles and Septiles and the like), and then there’s Midpoints, and the outer planets, which some Vedic astrologers are already inserting into Houses, but not has House Lords…

There may be some exponents of both western and Vedic astrology who are less than approving of the idea of Western and Vedic astrology becoming integrated, but this naturally occurs when individuals, such as myself, almost unavoidably develop eclectic integrated methodologies as a result of using these systems side by side over a period of time. I have not personally tried to force any merging, but here and there, bit by bit, I have found the boundaries blurring, and I trust this process and believe it has the potential to lead eventually to the development of a more completely hybrid system.

Robert Hand once wrote something like, ‘you don’t know astrology till you know it in your gut‘. In other words, rules alone will not suffice; they’re merely a point of departure; a means to cultivate ‘astrological instinct’. Without this type of intuitive instinct the Tibetans could not have blended the old Bon religion with Buddhism to create a vibrant spiritual tradition that achieves its purpose. It does take some skill. The rules and conventions of a system are the foundation, but the ceiling is far higher; potentials remain untapped when we lack the courage and grace to make an art of a technique. Well digested traditional knowledge can give birth to vibrant new formulations of truth.

There’s a lot brewing at the moment in the world of astrology because not only have there been innovative new technical discoveries and progressive modern philosophical reconceptualizations of astrology, there’s also been a recovery of forgotten traditions and techniques on quite a significant scale in a short period of time. Eventually there will have to be a synthesis of the many new and old streams of thought currently still jostling for space, and there’s every likelihood that before too long this will give birth to a new and virile hybrid Astrology.

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