Thomas Mann - astrology in the hands of the magus

Thomas Mann had shown interest in astrology. When he lived in Munich he met up at different times with his fellow writer, and astrologer, Oskar A.H. Schmitz to discuss, among other things, astrology. In his diary he wrote on March 5, 1920: “Rendevous with O. Schmitz in the Cafe Luitpold where we had dinner. First, we addressed astrological matters, my horoscope and that of Heinrich (his brother, C.C.) Then we discussed other matters, philosophy, medical issues and psychoanalysis.”

In many of his works one can find astrological allusions. In “Joseph and his Brothers”, for instance, Jaakob, the father, asks his son Joseph: “How come that your speech has so much wit, that it cascades in such lighthearted way over the cliffs of truth and finds its way into the heart that then starts to beat in rapture?” And Joseph answers: “... because it is of the nature of the messenger through and through”. This messenger being none other than  Hermes - Mercury, the messenger of the gods, the Babylonian Nabu, the Aegyptian Thot, known for his craftiness and cunning with words. And Joseph explains: “This is a god, light and swift, bringing about a good outcome and furthering exchange. This all Eliezer taught me, your wise servant, when he described to me the planetary cosmos and the relation among the stars and their power over the hour as to their aspect at that moment. And he calculated the hour of my birth at Charran in Mesopotamia when schamasch” - that was in Babylon the name of the sun - “was at the Midheaven in the sign of Gemini, and the sign of Virgo was just rising in the East.”  

What Joseph tells us here is none other than the birthchart of Thomas Mann himself.

Adrian Leverkühn, the composer in the novel ‘Dr. Faustus’ was born, as the author tells us early on, in the late spring 1885; in later chapters we get to know that his birthday is June 6: the birthday of Thomas Mann.

Thomas Mann, ‘Tagebücher 1918 - 1921’, 1997

Thomas Mann, ‘Joseph und seine Brüder’, 1928

Thomas Mann, ‘Dr. Faustus’, 1947

Lorenz Jäger, ‘ Die schöne Kunst, das Schicksal zu lesen’, 2009

Thomas Mann (right), 1875 - 1955, with his brother Heinrich

Thomas Mann (right), 1875 - 1955, with his brother Heinrich

Fernando Pessoa - poet and astrologer

Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language.

It is less known that Pessoa also had developed a strong interest in astrology. Plagued by self-doubt it helped him in his lifelong search for identity. From 1910 on he became a passionate practitioner and this interest stayed with him for the rest of his life. Planets and zodiac were for him celestial figurations to be interpreted. “What operates in us is a destiny”, he wrote, “which exists as a spiritual force on a higher plane and is cosmologically represented in the stars.”  

Over his lifetime Pessoa drew up more than 1,500 astrological charts and worked on a "System of Astrology" to be published under the heteronym Raphael Baldaya. Pessoa established the pricing of his astrological services from 500 to 5,000 reis and mused at times to become a professional astrologer should all else fail (just as the poet Ted Hughes would do later, pondering to practice astrology professionally to make ends meet).

Pessoa’s interlinking of his literary and symbolist life are still met with embarrassment by the the academe who also has difficulty to account for the fact that the two greatest Irish poets of the 20th century – Yeats and MacNeice – wrote serious astrology books. For the poets, the astrological charts respond to the poetry, and visa-versa, in a multifaceted and creative interchange.

Fernando Pessoa ( 1888 – 1935)

Fernando Pessoa ( 1888 – 1935)

Thoughts of a non-astrologer on astrology (II)

If we approach the structure of astrology without prejudice, we soon will become aware that we indeed encounter profound knowledge. We sense that our eyes are sharpened and that we recognize the astrological types. They are not measurable like geometric figures. But that is their quality. They have no value that can be measured by a cipher.

Without doubt there is a basic essence within each of us that rests deep below our personal peculiarities and that shows itself of one cloth in the traits of our body, mind and character. Knowledge that would put us in touch with this essence would be of great value for us.

When we take a look deep inside the individual we reach a primary ground made up of enmity and harmony. This gaze probes to account for the talents and the flaws of the individual which are interwoven like in a play of light and shadow. Taken just by themselves, strengths or weaknesses do not account for much but seen together they could act like lock and key.

Looking at people as one looks at the signs of the zodiac shows them outside the social and moral sphere in their essential makeup. We gain a better judgement how the distinct talents join themselves into a whole and about their individual rank in the constellation.

If astrology would do just this: to sharpen one’s gaze for the essential uniqueness that each person is, that would already be much in a time that blurs, erases and cheapens that distinction. This is not so much a gain of truth but a gain in our creative faculties, as in the visual arts.

The astrological symbols are figures, nothing else but figures in a course on logic that wants to sharpen our mental capabilities. They only point at realities. But with ever accelerating intensity they unlock a latency deep in us. They lead us to buried caverns. Venturing there will not be without rewards.

 Ernst Jünger, 'An der Zeitmauer', 1959 (translation C.C.)                   

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), Portrait by Horst Janssen

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), Portrait by Horst Janssen

The hostility of 'Science' towards astrology

The hostility of ‘science' towards astrology highlights its own blind spot. They do not even bother to understand the subject, mistaking a hermeneutic topic (like linguistics) one to be judged by natural scientific methods. These are 'Non Overlapping Magisterial’ (i.e. different areas of inquiry) . - But it is hard for science not to overreach and play the role of ultimate arbiter. A case in point is the statement ‘Objections to Astrology’, published in 1975 and signed by 186 Leading Scientists (and 18 Nobel Prize Winners)). Both the astronomer Carl Sagan and the philosopher Paul Feyerabend took the scientists to task for their inapt attack on astrology. Being men of reason they felt driven to hold science to its own standards.

The Anti-Astrology Manifesto read, in part:

One would imagine, in this day of widespread enlightenment and education, that it would be unnecessary to debunk beliefs based on magic and superstition. Yet, acceptance of astrology pervades modern society. We are especially disturbed by the continued uncritical dissemination of astrological charts, forecasts, and horoscopes by the media and by otherwise reputable newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. This can only contribute to the growth of irrationalism and obscurantism. We believe that the time has come to challenge directly, and forcefully, the pretentious claims of astrological charlatans.It should be apparent that those individuals who continue to have faith in astrology do so in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary. (The whole text can be accessed at <>)

Carl Sagan declined to sign the manifesto, explaining:

“I struggled with [the manifesto’s] wording, and in the end found myself unable to sign, not because I thought astrology has any validity whatever, but because I felt . . . that the tone of the statement was authoritarian. It criticized astrology for having origins shrouded in superstition. But this is true as well for religion, chemistry, medicine and astronomy, to mention only four. The issue is not what faltering and rudimentary knowledge astrology came from, but what is its present validity. . . . Then there was speculation on the psychological motivations of those who believe in astrology. These motivations . . . might explain why astrology is not generally given the skeptical scrutiny it deserves, but is quite peripheral to whether it works. . . . The statement stressed that we can think of no mechanism by which astrology could work. This is certainly a relevant point but by itself it’s unconvincing. No mechanism was known for continental drift . . . when it was proposed by Alfred Wegener in the first quarter of the twentieth century to explain a range of puzzling data in geology and paleontology.” (Sagan 1976)

Feyerabend was even harsher:

“The learned gentlemen have strong convictions, they use their authority to spread these convictions (why 186 signatures if one has arguments?), they know a few phrases which sound like arguments, but they certainly do not know what they are talking about. . . . [The manifesto] shows the extent to which scientists are prepared to assert their authority even in areas in which they have no knowledge whatsoever. “ (Feyerabend 1978)

But, to be fair, it must be said that Feyeraband himself is critical of astrology and he concludes "... It is interesting to see how closely both parties approach each other in ignorance, conceit and the wish for easy power over minds."

Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), Austrian-born philosopher of science

Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), Austrian-born philosopher of science

Thoughts of a non-astrologer on astrology (I)

The astrological constellation is not like a game where the figures are still in starting positions. It is more akin to a card game: the cards were already mixed and the hands dealt. The game reached its high point. Perhaps important figures are missing, others are in a bad position. There is no arguing. Fate hands out the lot.

The question is what we can hope to gain from an interpretation. Is it important to know whether the game will be won or lost? Basically, in the end everyone is losing. The last move will not be ours. This mirrors the the thought of him who said it would be best not to be born.

Also the chess game does not end with a win or loss. It ends with the figures being removed from the board and put in a box. Not win or loss, something else remains - the memory of threads woven together, of a melody that resonates. It is not just Scipio that stays in our mind. It will always be Scipio and Hannibal. In eternity, one could not be without the other. It is not the last move that counts but the game in its entirety.

From a different angle life is akin to a game of solitaire where you cannot change the cards being dealt to you but which do allow certain combinations. The lone player tries to assort the lot and to further it if successful. A promising position can be ruined, an unpromising one can succeed with an unexpected turn.

Surely, that also can be seen as unalterable fate. The argument between freedom and fate pervades all levels. Neither win nor loss can be influenced by astrological insight. It can give diagnosis and prognosis but no advise. Someone living studiously according to his horoscope would be like a student sticking to a set outline. He always would stay a student. Mistakes belong to life like shadow to light. And beside, knowledge of the fateful hour does not undo the grip of fate. A thought that fascinated Schiller and Shakespeare. Caesar and Wallenstein were warned.

After all these reservations the question is what one can expect from an astrological reading at all. It may seem dispensable if it cannot change or better anything, questionable even if something unalterable is signaled. This leads to the question why there should be such a desire for it.

Like any desire it is an expression of discontent. It points to the quest for a complementary factor that is necessary so that the game becomes meaningful. This role is filled by the astrologer who, while not changing anything, can instill this confidence.

              Ernst Jünger, 'An der Zeitmauer', 1959 (translation C.C.)

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), German writer

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), German writer

A psychoanalyst's thoughts on astrology

Through the horoscope we get to know facets of the patient that would have eluded us had we only stuck with our analytic approach. We gain new distinctions that make us understand better the variety of ways life can be experienced. The importance to know our own horoscope should be obvious - it goes beyond of what we can get to know about ourselves in our training analysis. The comparison of our own chart with that of the client will make us aware of possible counter transferences that we otherwise would have overlooked and can give us a hint how we might misunderstand patients, burden them or frustrate them.

The engagement with our own horoscope is an ever new encounter with ourselves, comparable to the ‘unending analysis’ once the analytic process gets started. Thus the horoscope will give us one more way to gain an understanding of the client - not more and not less. The analyst, by foregoing this possibility, at the least misses out of an equally comprehensive and differentiated method for understanding the client.

Fritz Riemann, 'Lebenshilfe Astrologie', 1976 (trans. C.C.)

Fritz Riemann (1902-1979), at right, with Erich Fromm

Fritz Riemann (1902-1979), at right, with Erich Fromm

Of magic alliance - the Siren stage

Human existence should no longer be understood as the solitary individual confronted with an indeterminable openness nor as the mortal being suspended in nothingness. Being means to be in alliance with others. My existence includes the presence of something floating around me; its purpose is to let me be and support me. I am a floating being with whom geniuses form spaces... The genius does not seek, it has found; the angel does not knock on the door, it is in the room; the daimon does not ask to be announced, it already has the subject's ear!

But how, in this intimate setup, can the one be so sure that the other will hear ? On what ground does this communication rest that allows for such a smooth transfer of feelings? How can it be that for millions of messages I am a rock on which they clash without resonance, while certain voices unlock me and make me tremble as if I were their chosen mouthpiece...? In the Odyssey Homer depicts the primal scene of this kind of aural magic when Odysseus encounters the Sirens. What kind of music is it, what melody or rhythm, that gives the Sirens such power over the ears of mortal men?

Their secret is to render precisely those songs in which the passing sailors' ears yearn to immerse themselves. The Siren's art is to address and arouse the thymos of the listener. Seduction is the awakening of the source of that melody which is absolutely mine to sing. The Sirens’ song does not simply move the subject as if from without; it rather sounds as if the innermost sentiment of the person, which now rises up, was being expressed in perfection and for the first time. ... Thus seduced the sailors were unable to resist the call and perished.

The Sirens, painting by Marie Francois Fermin-Girard (1838-1921)

The Sirens, painting by Marie Francois Fermin-Girard (1838-1921)

This mythic story testifies to the reality of an archaic Siren stage. Hearing one’s very own motif the individual forms a pact with his own future and lives joyously towards its fulfillment, the intonation brings the subject closest to itself. - Abandon the noise of the world and immerse yourself in your own music, your first and last!  From the stricken ear, one is led to one's self. In the early memory a few magical rhythms accumulate and ring ahead of the individual like leitmotifs - as yet unplayed, yet always on the point of finally being performed. This is how I sound - thus I will be once I am myself. I am the frothing up, the sound block, the liberated figure, I am the beautiful and bold passage, I am the leap to the highest note; the world echoes with my sound when I show myself as I have been promised to myself.

Peter Sloterdijk, 'Sphären I', 1998 (trans. C.C., text abbreviated and condensed)

This thought mirrors the basic tenet of astrology: connect with your source, become who you are.

Peter Sloterdijk, *1947, German philosopher

Peter Sloterdijk, *1947, German philosopher

On astrology and superstitions

"The major superstitions are impressive. They are so old, so unkillable, and so few. If they are pure nonsense, why aren't there more of them? But they all keep on reviving with the perverse air of intuitions, never losing their central idea, no matter how richly they proliferate details. The worst thing against them is that they have no means of shedding their rubbish. Astrology is the most outlandishly draped, and the most disreputable. But what vitality!

To an outsider, astrology is an procession of puerile absurdities, a Babel of gibberish. It suffers by setting up as a science, and challenging the scientific eye. As it happens, statistics tend to support some of the general principles, but in a horoscope, cast according to any one of the systems, there are hundreds of factors to be reckoned with, each one interfering with all the others simultaneously, where only judgement of an intuitive sort is going to be able to move, let alone make sense. Some astrologers do make sense.

Whether the genuine astrology works as an esoteric science, like advanced mathematics, as astrologers claim, or as an intuitive art, like throwing the bones, it doesn't matter, as long as it works."

Ted Hughes, 'Winterpollen', 1994

Ted Hughes (1930-1998); English poet, Poet Laureate from 1984 to his death

Ted Hughes (1930-1998); English poet, Poet Laureate from 1984 to his death

Astrology - the art and skill of reading signs

Many may not ever have heard of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) but he might just be the most original and the most versatile intellect the US has so far produced. He was an innovative force in philosophy and mathematics, developed pragmatism as a method of research, but considered himself, first and foremost, a logician. He was the founder of semiotics, the science of signs and symbols, i.e. how meaning is created and communicated. It is his invention of the triadic sign system that will interest us here. Getting acquainted with this method we might get a better understanding how astrology works.

What is a sign? According to Peirce any thing or phenomenon may be considered a sign. It is something we notice, we can see it, hear, touch, smell or taste it. A sign always stands for something else (smoke>fire, siren>alarm, flag>country, yawning>boredom etc), something that stays invisible {‘object’). But there needs to be a mediator who brings sign and object into relation, who makes the connection. All and every experience we have can be traced back to this triad. We are generally just not aware of this intricacy.

This may be helpful to understand how astrology works. The signs astrologers observe are the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the seven planets of our Solar system as they appear to us seen from Earth. But we are not looking at the planets the way physicists and astronomers do. We perceive the planets as signs that stand in for something else, for an archetypal realm that in itself can never be accessed. The astrologer’s first task is to give sense of the signs he perceives and then to translate them then into experiences we encounter in our everyday life.

For instance, Mars appearing reddish to the eye and with its forceful zodiacal pace calls up the archetype of the Warrior which can be experienced in countless forms (willful, aggressive, expansive, dynamic). It can also be seen as the sign for the primordial force of cutting/separation/dissonance - in contrast to the corresponding primordial force of binding/union/cohesion as represented by Venus with her brilliant radiance, mild and soothing to behold, when we catch sight of her as the evening or morning star.

We have to keep in mind that a sign is only a sign when interpreted. For those who do not notice a sign nothing will come to mind. For astrology the planets in their constellation are seen as a system of signs to be interpreted. For others they are just a meaningless spectacle. Peirce was a pragmatist, and the ultimate test for any interpretation was that it proved itself: it had to work. And that is the test for astrology, too.

(An older, more theoretical, version can be seen as a blog in ‘On my mind’)

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)  philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist

inside out/outside in - the holy mystery on display


Müsset im Naturbetrachten immer eins wie alles achten:

Nichts ist drinnen, nichts ist draußen;

Denn was innen, das ist außen.

So ergreifet ohne Säumnis

Heilig öffentlich Geheimnis.

Freuet euch des wahren Scheins,

Euch des ernsten Spieles:

Kein Lebendiges ist ein Eins,

Immer ist‘s ein Vieles.


You must, when contemplating nature,

See each thing in its entirety:

Nothing’s inside, nothing outside;

It’s inside out and outside in.

Thus grasp, with no delay

The holy mystery always on display.

The true appearence celebrate,

Take pleasure in the serious play;

No living thing is separate,

It’s a manifold always.

J.W.Goethe, Epirrhema, 1819 (trans. C.C.)


Sleeps a song in things abounding

Look how the floor of heaven

Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:

There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st

But in his motion like an angel sings,

Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;

Such harmony is in immortal souls;

But whilst this muddy vesture of decay

Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.


Sieh, wie die Himmelsflur

ist eingelegt mit Scheiben lichten Goldes!

Auch nicht der kleinste Kreis, den du da siehst

der nicht im Schwunge wie ein Engel singt

zum Chor der hellgeaugten Cherubim.

So voller Harmonie sind ewige Geister.

Nur wir, weil dies hinfällige Kleid von Staub

ihn grob umhüllt, wir können sie nicht hören.

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1

William Shakespeare, 1564- 1616

William Shakespeare, 1564- 1616

Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen,
Die da träumen fort und fort.
Und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
Triffst du nur das Zauberwort.

Sleeps a song in things abounding
that keep dreaming to be heard:
Earth'es tunes will start resounding
if you find the magic word.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, Wünschelrute, 1835

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

Max Jacob - poet, jester, astrologer

Max Jacob (1876-1944) was a French painter, poet and writer and became the leader of the avant-garde scene in Paris in the early years of the 20th century. He was a close friend of Picasso in those years, they were roommates and shared a studio. He also practiced astrology, cast charts for friends and acquaintances, intrigued by the richness he found there to portray a character.

In his study ‘Flim Flam’, 1920, he tried to give a new twist to the challenge of creating a ‘portrait’ of a person, basically just seen as a detailed character sketch: he let his protagonists introduce and reveal themselves with their own words and mannerisms. Jacob based his method on astrology and the ancient theory of the four elements. He organized the letters of his correspondents according to their birth dates and recorded their distinctive vocabulary. He was convinced that the words used would reveal both astral sign and element: water is gliding, earth weighty , fire brilliant, air gentle. He perfected this technique with his own comments, seeing himself as a ‘field observer’ of human behavior. (Shaw’s professor Higgins comes to mind.)

The characters of his protagonists were not constructed by the author but came to life by display of their idiosyncratic manners and expressions. Jacob created a magical kaleidoscope of human follies by combining astrological distinctions with his passion for words and language and his curiosity in all forms of human affairs. He was a humorist, preferring the playful mode, the ironic gaze, and embraced the role of jester and magician. His book ‘Mirror of Astrology’ is another example of his whimsical approach.

Max Jacob (1876-1944)

Max Jacob (1876-1944)

Andre Breton on astrology (II)

Q: What connections did the surrealists have with astrology?

AB: Sporadic unfortunately, and it varied with each individual. Astrology, like poetry, demands not only that you commit yourself to it entirely but also requires specific signs of a predestined nature. For my part, I learnt the basics of astrology around 1927. After that, I was able to benefit a little from Pierre Mabille's extensive knowledge of the subject and he introduced me to Fludd, which allowed me to go beyond the deadly mediocrity of most of modern texts. The surrealists generally took a lively interest in astrology, seeing it from a poetic perspective, without going very deeply into it.

Q: If we can talk of astrology as being considered as a lyrical game, would you go as far as describing astrology as the tool of an architecture of universal relationships?

AB: Not being a geometrician, even less so in the ancient sense of the term, I'm not qualified to talk about that. What I've always valued enormously in astrology is not so much the lyrical game to which it lends itself, as the multi-layered logical game which is a necessary part of it and on which it is founded. Quite apart from the very subtle means of evaluation that astrology uses and its predictive abilities, I consider its capacity for stretching and exercising the mind to be second to none. To unravel a destiny, beginning with the planetary placements, their aspects, their signs and houses, depending on the position of the Ascendant and Midheaven - this requires more than enough mental dexterity to silence any attempts at ridicule and, compared with this sophistication, conventional logical reasoning comes out looking like child's play.

Q: Would you say that astrology could be seen as the golden language of analogy, in the way that counterpoint and harmony are to music?

AB: I have to be excused to some extent, as I lack the musical vocabulary. I would say though, that astrology is the 'golden language' of analogy in that it has created a vast resource of corresponding references between man and nature. I can think of no other system with as great an aspiration to harmony (in the sense that Fourier used that word).

Q: If we take the thorny question of quality in astrology, what do you think about the responsibility involved in being an astrologer?

AB: I consider that responsibility to be enormous, and I also think that the 'International Centre of Astrology' should, as a matter of urgency, warn the public against the venal enterprises and the shameful exploitation of people's credulity which are bringing it into disrepute (newspaper horoscopes etc).

Q: Do you see any common ground between the belief in free will and that of a future that can be predicted?

AB: This brings us back I think, to the case of Jerome Cardan,18 who allowed himself to die of hunger at the age of 75, so that the prediction of his horoscope would be fulfilled, and the truth of astrology would be vindicated. I don't think anything needs to be added to what Grillot de Givry said about this.

Those on the side of free will claim that the death was accomplished through the means of free will; but their opponents maintain that the fatal event was nonetheless predetermined and that it was written in the book of fate that he was to die of hunger whatever might be the reason for this kind of death.

This interview was originally published in the French magazine ‘L' Astrologue’  No 4, 1968

Andre Breton, 1941

Andre Breton, 1941

Andre Breton on astrology (I)

André Breton (1896-1966) was a French writer and poet and is best known as one of the founders and leaders of the Surrealist movement and a leading exponent of Dadaism, a pioneer in the early- twentieth century anti-rationalist movements in art.

While Surrealism’s debt to psychoanalysis is widely acknowledged, its debt to Western esoteric tradition has been often hinted at but rarely studied. In the essentially conservative world of art-criticism such interests were often considered odd. The interest of other early twentieth-century artists specifically in Theosophy (Wasilly Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Hilma af Klint) and astrology (Gustav Holst and W.B. Yeats) were noted but rather played down.

Andre Breton’s lifelong fascination with astrology is virtually unknown. An interview with Breton on astrology conducted by Jean Carteret and Roger Knare in 1954 gives us a clearer picture.

                                             The interview (part I)

Q: Do you see any value in astrology?

AB: I see astrology as a lady, statuesque, utterly beautiful, and from such a distant realm that she cannot fail to enthral me. In purely physical terms, her attire alone is incomparable. But beyond the realm of the visible, astrology seems to me to contain one of the highest secrets in the world. It's a pity that today - at least in the popular understanding - it's a prostitute who sits on the throne in her place.

Q: Do you think the study of astrology can develop in man a greater awareness of self and of the world?

AB: Definitely. I'd even say that through astrology, two areas of knowledge can be united - knowledge of self and knowledge of the world.

Q: Is astrology solely a man-made creation or is it a formulation of the universe, experienced by man?

AB: Because it is exactly that - a brilliant formulation of relationships between man and the universe, this doesn't create a problem for me. Apart from foolish vanity on his part, man really ought to know that he does not 'create', that he is simply permitted to reveal a little of what is hidden (and to refrain from covering up again as much or more of what has already been revealed) and to free the latent energies within nature. Whether a person devotes themselves to the discovery of Neptune or to that of penicillin, both seem to me to be fulfilling their part in the process of unveiling what is hidden.

Q: Could astrology be considered as an objective way of developing man's poetic sensibilities?

AB: As long as astrologers actually go out there and scrutinise the night sky, let themselves be soaked through by the celestial emanations and then bring this brightness back to the darkness of human existence then yes, all the poetic abilities will play their part. Since the appearance of ephemerides - so practical and - even better, don't you think, within everyone's reach - I think the poetic qualities will undoubtedly play their part.

(to be continued)

Andre Breton (1896-1966)

Andre Breton (1896-1966)

Henry Miller and his Astrologer

Anais Nin introduced Henry Miller in the mid thirties to Conrad Moricand, a bohemian Swiss astrologer, who also happened to live in Paris. A friendship soon developed. Moricand not only cast his chart and interpreted it for him but also gradually introduced Miller into the world of astrological symbolism, be it at his studio or over a meal in some restaurant. Miller was practically in awe of Moricand’s knowledge and had a profound appreciation for him as a person. He wrote in a letter to Moricand from July 15, 1938: “The evenings I have spent with you are the richest moments of all this part of my life here in Paris. I say all this without the least desire to flatter you. It is merely an expression of the great debt I owe you and which I am pleased to acknowledge and affirm.” At another time he wrote: “For me astrology was just another language to learn, another keyboard to manipulate.  It’s only the poetic aspect of anything which really interests me. … A chart, when properly read, should enable one to understand the overall pattern of one’s life.

There are obvious touches of astrological symbolism in his writing of the period -Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, the names of which already proclaim their astrological alliance.

In 1947 Miller invited Moricand who was penniless at the time to live with him in Big Sur for the rest of his life, and Moricand arrived at the end of the year. That arrangement quickly turned out to be a disaster, and Moricand eventually returned to Europe.

Miller wrote about this episode, which would be published in 1956 as A Devil in Paradise, and a year later as the third part of Big Sur, called “Paradise lost”.


Later Miller would have this to say abbot astrology:

Astrology does not explain the laws of the universe, and also does not tell us why the universe exists. What astrology does, simply said, is the following: it shows us that there is a relation between macro-cosmos and micro-cosmos, i.e., that there exists a rhythm in the universe, and that the life of man partakes in that rhythm. For centuries men have studied and observed the nature of this rhythm. … The fact remains that the oldest and greatest civilisations that we know have used it as the foundation for thought and action. That astrology deteriorated to a form of fortune-telling is a totally different story.

Henry Miller, in his foreword to 'Henry Miller and his world of Urania', 1960

Henry Miller, (1891-1980)

Henry Miller, (1891-1980)

The astrologer Conrad Moricand

Astrology claims that - as chemistry does for matter - the human being can be reduced to a certain amount of ‘basic units’. The classification is arbitrary, like any classification. But could there be practical evidence? I do believe there is claim for that.

Astrology teaches that there is harmony, analogy, sympathy and antipathy between the different zodiac signs as there is between the individuals being born under their ‘influence’. The horoscope is the geometrical projection of the celestial configuration at the birth for a specific date and a specific place. Every individual is represented therein through the polarity of the seven planets plus Sun and Moon, being interpreted as psychological factors.

The great astrological synthesis is like a mysterious keyboard with the help of which our ‘instinctive rhythms’ are able to discover a world of ‘analogies’. These analogies, taken from the most different realms of life, allow us, before any description of a type, to point out the resonances that a person might experience. Our endeavour is, with the help of a misunderstood language, to create clues and indications in the sensuous realm and thereby enrich our interpretation.

Conrad Moricand, foreword to ‘Mirror of Astrology’ by Max Jacob, 1949

The Swiss astrologer Conrad Moricand, 1887-1954, drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, 1916

The Swiss astrologer Conrad Moricand, 1887-1954, drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, 1916

George Spencer-Brown - letter to his fiancee

… I cannot change your archetype, my beloved. Nobody can do that. It is manifest and will in its own way determine your life. It is manifest and if you allow yourself to be guarded by it, you will be in heaven. And if you resist, in hell. Not sometime in the future. In this life. That is the law. I did not make it.

I cannot change your archetype but can only unveil it, as others with their own agenda will try to conceal it from you. I cannot change your archetype but I can give it life. I can take care of it, nourish it and accommodate it so that what you are now - in contrast what you will be - will appear impoverished. And you, my beloved, would do the same for me. Not out of a sense of duty but because that is what you are made of. What greater conviction than this can any human being have?

Please notice that I do not try to tell you what your archetype is; nobody can do that. You are always the queen of your own domain. It is up to you to to serve your archetype or to betray it, do as you like.

It is true that love allows us all to enforce that what we really are, and to overthrow the limitations and restrictions of our education and upbringing. Either your strength becomes real now or you will never achieve greatness. You cannot fool the world. Nobody can do that. If you decide for less than you really are the world will disparage you.

All creative people experience difficulty with their family. A family never accommodates the fact that one of their members might be outside their reach. I love my family but I never follow their advice.

Can you see that this letter is not an imposition? I only say what you taught me to say. I only do what you taught me to do. I only love what you taught me to love.

George Spencer-Brown, ‘Only two can play this game’, 1971 (excerpt)

George Spencer-Brown (1923-2016), mathematician, consulting engineer, psychologist, consulting psychotherapist, author, and poet.  He also held world records as a glider pilot, taught at the universities of London, Cambridge and Oxford, where he was successor of Einstein. Perhaps most famously he was the author of a book of mathematical logic and metaphysics entitled  ‘Laws of Form ’, first published in 1969, praised by Bertrand Russel (“ Not since Euclid’s  ‘ Elements’ have we seen anything like it. ”). He defended  astrology against its detractors.

George Spencer-Brown (1923-2016), mathematician, consulting engineer, psychologist, consulting psychotherapist, author, and poet.

He also held world records as a glider pilot, taught at the universities of London, Cambridge and Oxford, where he was successor of Einstein. Perhaps most famously he was the author of a book of mathematical logic and metaphysics entitled ‘Laws of Form’, first published in 1969, praised by Bertrand Russel (“Not since Euclid’sElements’ have we seen anything like it.”). He defended astrology against its detractors.

"Your beginning..." Hölderlin

Wie du anfängst, wirst du bleiben,

soviel auch wirket die Not

und die Zucht, das meiste nämlich

vermag die Geburt

und der Lichtstrahl, der

dem Neugeborenen begegnet.

Your beginning will always stay with you

even as hardship and necessity do make

their mark, for most power

lies in birth

and in the light that

meets the newborn.

Friedrich Hölderlin, excerpt from “Der Rhein”, 1808 (trans. C.C.)

Friedrich Hölderlin, 1770-1843

Friedrich Hölderlin, 1770-1843

Astrology and psychoanalysis (II)

I have listened, systematically, over many years, to astrological textbook and field descriptions of personality and compared their structure to the structure of psychoanalytical oriented descriptions.

What emerged first was that the overt differences of content were much smaller than the discrepancies between the astrological and the psychoanalytical concepts and theories on which the descriptions were based. Much of the astrological information was enriching, not opposing, the psychoanalytic pictures.

- Hai Halevi, Ph.D., psychoanalyst, in his book "Astrology & Psychoanalysis, A transformation towards synthesis", 1987


Astrology and Pychoanalysis (I)

"Being psychoanalysts the astrological thinking should not be alien to us. The basic concept of psychoanalysis and astrology is the idea of very early conditioning that is unconscious and that will be acted out in later life. Psychoanalysis looks at the conditioning in early life whereas astrology looks at the even earlier cosmic conditioning. Both suggest that the development of personality is based on early conditioning and both have a similar aim: making what is unconscious conscious.

We "only" have to assume that there is beside the personal and the collectiveunconscious still a deeper layer to our psyche - the cosmic unconscious. It would mirror our being part of the cosmic order, its rhythms and laws, and contain our conditioning by them as can be seen in the horoscope. Thus the horoscope gives us one more access to the understanding of the psyche.

Sceptics will think that I may project onto my client what I then might find confirmed. But in facing this dilemma psychoanalysis and astrology are also similar - the analyst as well might be projecting a foregone conclusion onto his client."

 - Fritz Riemann, excerpts from an address given at the '4. International Forum for Psychoanalysis', New York, 1972