Astrology and the Archetypal Power
of Numbers , Part Two
Mathematicians and scientists routinely use numbers to measure the quantifiable parameters of the so-called objective world, never imagining that numbers could serve any other purpose. Yet some form of number was known to exist before mathematics or science, hinting at an a priori function more fundamental than these applications. This deeper sense of number was discussed by Carl Jung, who said (Synchronicity, 41-42):
I incline to the view that numbers were as much found as invented, and that in consequence, they possess a relative autonomy analogous to that of the archetypes. They would then have, in common with the latter, the quality of being pre-existent to consciousness, and hence, on occasion, of conditioning it rather than being conditioned by it . . . Accordingly, it would seem that natural numbers have an archetypal character.
This archetypal character of number was further illuminated by Richard Heath, author of Sacred Number and the Origins of Civilization, quoted in Part One of this two-volume series (3):
In the dark ages that followed the destruction of Atlantis . . . the numerical powers that the ancient culture understood as giving rise to all creation became symbolized as gods. The early historical period became filled with symbols, iconographies, and myths that were degenerate components of the numerical worldview. Numerical realities were characterized by association to corresponding objects and human characteristics. Scholars have identified storm gods, fertility gods, trickster gods, and so on, but not the system that lay behind them.
The system underlying the correlation of numbers with deities was known to Pythagoras, who reconstructed it through a herculean 40-year quest integrating Egyptian, Babylonian, Chaldean, Phoenician, Brahmanic, Hebrew, Greek, Zoroastrian, and Hyperborean (pre-Celtic British) mystery teachings, then passed it on through a succession of torch bearers, including Plato. Pythagoras’ teachings about number were written down by Neoplatonist teacher Iamblichus of Chalcis (circa 245 – circa 325 CE) in a book called The Theology of Arithmetic: On the Mystical, Mathematical and Cosmological Symbolism of the First Ten Numbers, translated into English by Robin Waterfield. This work is generally believed to be an accurate reflection of Pythagoras’ teachings (1) and, in turn, became the source for my musings about number in Part One. In Part One – the precursor to this book – I weave together a collage of ideas from Pythagorean number theory, mythology, spiritual psychology, and astrology with social commentary, history, politics, and personal experience to create a visceral sense of the single-digit counting numbers from Zero to Nine, discussing the significance of numbers as archetypal forces that contribute to the evolution of consciousness and our individual and collective psychology.
My approach to the symbolism of number departs from a strictly Pythagorean treatment in my inclusion of the number Zero (implicated in Pythagoras’ interest in Orphism, if not explicitly elaborated in his teachings). In addition, I correlate numbers with the chakra system of yogic philosophy as a frame of reference through which to understand them as a reflection of evolving consciousness. These ideas were developed in my previous book, Tracking the Soul With An Astrology of Consciousness and extended in Part One to encompass complex dynamics between chakras beyond the scope of the earlier book.
Tracing the Numerical Source of Astrological Symbolism
Pythagorean number theory – called arithmology (2) by those who practiced it – was not, strictly speaking, presented in an astrological context by Pythagoras and his followers. Instead, each number was associated with multiple deities from Greek mythology, as well as numerous secondary characters, and by correlation with the planetary references of astrology. Both mythology and astrology were part of a mythopoetic worldview prevalent during the time of Pythagoras, and his theories were inescapably marinated in this worldview. To speak of the gods at all – whether in reference to number or mythology or astrology – was to enter a world of participation mystique in which humans, gods, plants, animals, stones, clouds, rivers, mountains and planets all interacted and conversed on a daily basis.
It was in counterpoint to this mythopoetic worldview that science arose, first as a logical system developed largely by Plato and Aristotle in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, then gradually morphing into an empirical system over the course of two millennia. Today the mythopoetic worldview – and the capacity for participation mystique it requires – is considered to be a mere vestige of thought in so-called primitive peoples, an early stage of childhood development to be outgrown, or a largely unconscious mode of functioning in the fully developed adult. We have lost our ability to commune with gods and goddesses. Indeed, to suggest that such a thing is possible in a postmodern world where religion and science together have managed to squeeze every last vestige of mythopoetic soul out of our collective cultural mindset is to evoke the telltale raised eyebrow of judgment, if not outright ridicule and social ostracism.
Yet because these gods and goddesses and the numbers that possibly inform them are a priori factors in the evolution of consciousness itself – if Jung, Richard Heath and the Pythagoreans are correct – they cannot be entirely eradicated from our experience, however deeply buried in the unconscious they might be. Indeed, when writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury and Orson Welles conjure their images of Mars as a hot, dry, warlike planet – despite the scientific evidence to the contrary – they are tapping into this mythopoetic worldview through a creative process ultimately not that different than that experienced by our Greek ancestors in earlier times, when Ares and the legions of Greek heroes eulogized in myth and drama walked among mere mortals. When I can make an association between the movement of planets through my birthchart, a poem about the heroic scaling of a wall, and a legion of loggers invading my forest home, I feel compelled to assume that this kind of correlation is available to anyone willing to make a space for it in their daily awareness.
Given my over-forty years of experience as an astrologer, whose craft has – through the development of an astropoetic approach – been moving in this direction, I cannot help but believe that a deeper awareness of the astronomical, mythological, and arithmological roots of the symbolism of astrology is the key to this kind of participation mystique. In Part One of this two-volume set, I explored the theory of arithmology itself, to the extent that it can be intuited through the extant teachings of Pythagoras. In Part Two, I will apply arithmological theory to the birthchart, showing how number reveals its underlying archetypal structure. Part Two will include practical application through numerous case studies of both individuals who embody the archetypal principles of various numbers, and of moments in time when our collective history reflected these same archetypal forces.
Although few astrologers would reference arithmological principles in describing how astrology works they are nonetheless inherent in the astrological language. When astrologers speak of the twelve signs, the twelve houses, the four elements, the three modalities, the two polarities – masculine and feminine – and so on, they are speaking about numbers in an implied arithmological sense. In addition, there are less obvious arithmological associations to be made when considering the duration of planetary cycles, the harmonic division of the whole circle that gives rise to aspects between planets, the overall shape and structure of the whole birthchart and the association of various planets with various deities through which various numbers are evoked. Less obvious arithmological associations are hidden in planetary patterns reflecting cross-chakra dynamics associated with specific numbers, as outlined in Part One. Part Two will make these underlying arithmological principles more explicit.
Some astrologers would argue that because the birthchart is derived through a rather complex series of mathematical computations, astrology is a quantitative science. Yet, because the raw mathematical data from which a birthchart is constructed is then subject to interpretation and exploration on a subjective, qualitative, symbolic level of understanding, the use to which number is put in astrological work is necessarily more arithmological in nature. While numbers in the mathematical sense produce the birthchart, an understanding of the symbolism of the birthchart is tacitly dependent upon an exploration of numbers in the arithmological sense.
Toward an Astropoetic Sense of Number
An arithmological sense of number is even more critical to the study of astropoetics, through which the birthchart becomes the window for observation of the soul’s journey, showing how that journey is rooted in an ongoing evolutionary process with collective and historical dimensions as well as the purely personal. If we can conceptualize the individual soul to be journeying toward reunion with an immanent Spirit, reflected in and paralleled by a more all-encompassing process of spiritual evolution – which is how it was essentially understood by the Pythagoreans – then an arithmological exploration of the birthchart can yield valuable clues about this journey: where and how Spirit is involved, which deities are the most appropriate guides, and how the individual journey is part of the unfolding of a larger pattern.
As we move through the numbers from Zero to Ten we observe a process by which Spirit enters ever more deeply into Matter, manifest as consciousness, available to humans and, in some way unknown or unrecognized by science, to all living things. As suggested in Part One, consciousness is hardwired into the living fabric of the manifest universe itself. This omnipresence of consciousness can be understood as Divine Intelligence, evidenced everywhere within the natural world as an ordering of reality according to principles that are at once pragmatic and archetypal. These ordering principles can be understood through a reference to number and through an observation of the patterns in which they appear. The patterns themselves manifest in a wide varieties of ways; some that can be observed and measured by science and others that must be intuited through the kind of metaphorical language that astrology provides.
In this book, I will examine the ways in which number underlies the construction of the birthchart – both in general and specifically within a particular chart – so that we can better understand how Spirit, or the gods and goddesses of the mythopoetic worldview, enter into our experience. At the same time, we will gain insight into how the exercise of consciousness in harmony with the patterns in a birthchart can contribute to the alignment of an individual life or an entire civilization with the natural law that embodies Divine Intelligence. The archetypal principles underlying number in general that were explored and illustrated in Part One will be mapped more specifically to various dimensions of the birthchart.
It is recommended that the reader of this book acquaint herself with Part One before proceeding; it is here that the rich metaphorical language of number is presented in its own right, separate from any astrological application. It is impossible to duplicate that here without rewriting the previous book. However, realizing that some readers will discover this book first, I present the numbers here in brief outline by way of introductory review.
The Number Realms
In Part One, I speak of each number as being the archetypal principle at work within a Realm ascribed to it, in order to make the point that the presence of the numbers – like the presence of Spirit, or the One, to which they refer – is protean and multidimensional. The Pythagoreans considered the numbers (and by extension the Number Realms they occupy) not as sequential, but as co-existing in space and time, reflecting various dimensions of the One simultaneously at play within our individual and collective experience. With this perspective in mind, the numbers can be understood in their archetypal dimension as follows:
In the Realm of Zero we encounter the Abyss, the dark night of the soul. The collective human tragedies – the wars, the genocides, the pandemics, the natural disasters, the man-made environmental catastrophes, and the other cataclysmic events – generally known to us, even in this secular age, as ’acts of God‘ are all portals to the Realm of Zero. In The Seven Gates of Soul I describe these tragedies, both personal and collective - in which life as we knew it is no longer possible - as tremendous openings to soul. In these moments, the larger questions that frame any life – “Who am I? Why am I here? What is my place and my purpose in the larger scheme of things?” – all come to the fore. The necessity for addressing these questions and, on a more pragmatic level, for dealing with the aftermath of our plunge into the Abyss is a call to consciousness, to rise to the occasion and dive more deeply into ourselves to access resources, talents and strengths we did not know we had before we needed them.
In accessing these internal resources, we enter the Realm of One: the realm of the gods and goddesses that populate world mythologies and, on some level, the more unconscious archetypal reaches of our own psyches. We often project our creative power into these deities, whom we hope will save us from or guide us out of the Abyss. In the end, however, it is up to each of us to take responsibility for becoming godlike in our ability to channel Divine Intelligence in service to the greater good of the Whole of which we are part, to participate more intentionally in the evolution of all Life into greater and more accessible levels of consciousness, compassion and wisdom. From the perspective of the Realm of One, each of us is here to embody Spirit as consciously as possible; and our trial-and-error attempt to do this is the essence of our soul’s journey.
Since the soul’s journey necessarily takes place within a manifest world in which this is seemingly separate from that – a world populated less obviously by the One than by the Many, we must – in the Realm of Two – come to terms with the duality inherent within the embodied world. Here we encounter all the opposites – light and dark, male and female, hot and cold, self and other – and must enter into relationship with everything we think we are not. In Jungian terms, the Realm of Two is where we engage the shadow – all those places within ourselves that are wounded, rejected, judged unworthy, denied or neglected – in order to reclaim our essential Wholeness, or the Unity of the One. Collectively, the Realm of Two is where we must come to terms with the apparent existence of evil and our fears of the Other in all its many forms and guises.
Because the Pythagorean mindset included a profound mistrust of the Feminine – which persists today, despite over 150 years of overtly feminist politics – coming to terms with and integrating the Feminine is also a major focus of the Realm of Two. Often, this task is complicated – for women as well as men – by cultural conditioning that unconsciously assigns the Feminine to the shadow, engendering the widespread mythological and historical association of the Feminine with forces of evil.
In the Realm of Two, we must make a basic choice – implicated in our attempts to deal with the Feminine, the shadow, and the conundrum of evil – that governs our experience in all the other Realms. We must either choose the path of equality – in which all opposites are given their rightful place within the whole – or the path of inequality – in which one side of a polarity is favored and the other repressed or rejected. The path of equality leads to cooperation, integration, co-creative synergy, peace and harmony. The path of inequality leads to conflict, war, genocide, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, disintegration and ultimately back into the Abyss from which we had hoped to escape in the Realm of One.
In the Realm of Three, we gain perspective about where we are in the Realm of Two with regard to any given polarity. With this perspective it is possible to understand how a consistent preference for the hot end of the hot-cold spectrum, for example, can lead to conditions of excess heat: everything from dry skin, ulcers and sunburn to heated discussions with others, constant conflict with spouses and business partners, to anger that rages out of control. With perspective comes the possibility of choice, and of beginning to intentionally incorporate those experiences foreign to our nature – in this case, experiences at the cold end of the spectrum – into our repertoire.
Within the Realm of Three, we learn to mediate the opposites through three primary strategies (discussed in depth in Part One, but summarized here). Wherever we have been treading the path of inequality, it becomes possible within the Realm of Three to reach toward conflict resolution. At a slightly less conscious level of possibility we may experience counter-flow, in which the polarity not chosen – for example, the cold end of the hot-cold spectrum – begins to create a counterbalance to the preferred end, which is now evidenced as excess. Wherever we have chosen a path of equality, the Realm of Three is where co-creative synergy that is more than the sum of its parts emerges as a force for change.
In the Realm of Four, we gradually master the physical plane and learn to navigate more skillfully within it. Four is associated by Pythagoras, and in popular thought, with the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (3); and with the four directions: North, East, South, and West.
Within the Realm of Four we understand our preferences ‘elementally’: that is to say, in terms of the psychological correlates metaphorically related to the physical substances. The elements, understood in this way, can be intentionally accessed to bring balance to situations of chaos or disorder or, on a path of inequality, to intensify the imbalance. If, for example, you have a natural preference for the hot end of the hot-cold spectrum, you can choose to either ’turn up the heat‘ or to ’chill out,’ with both choices being a reflection of your relationship to the element of fire. By learning to work more consciously and intentionally with fire (and all the elements) within the Realm of Four, we gain gradual mastery over the limitations of the embodied experience of the soul. We also bring the sacred gift of consciousness into embodiment in a more focused, more specific, and more deliberate way.
Similarly, in the Realm of Four, we learn to navigate with reference to the four directions which, like the elements, have both literal and metaphorical implications. The literal dimension of the directions should be fairly obvious to anyone who knows how to read an ordinary terrestrial map. The metaphorical implications are spelled out most clearly in the Native American concept of the Medicine Wheel (discussed in some detail in Part One). Here, suffice it to say that navigation in the Medicine Wheel requires us to assess in which direction we are instinctively leaning and in which direction we are being called by Life to move, then to work mindfully to reconcile the two. As we do that we gain a stronger and more flexible sense of direction in the Realm of Four to complement our mastery of elements. The directional sense of the Realm of Four is also, of course, laid out in the birthchart in relation to its angles, as well as in other ways that will become more obvious as we proceed.
In the Realm of Five, we begin to see how consciousness itself is hardwired into the manifest world as Divine Intelligence, evidenced by and accessed through an awareness of natural order. Divorced from its fundamentalist religious roots, it is possible to see the concept of intelligent design as a more overtly spiritual manifestation of physicist David Bohm’s idea of implicate order, which is evidenced everywhere in the patterning of nature and the similarities between patterns: the tributaries of a river, the veins in a hand, and the xylem and phloem of a leaf, to name just one example. Astrology can also be understood as a language of intelligent design, or of implicate order, in which the same patterns mean different things when placed into the living context of a specific aspect of the explicate order. The way in which these patterns arrange themselves is both a reflection of intelligent design and of natural order.
In the Realm of Five, it becomes possible to embody Divine Intelligence in the alignment of a life or a civilization according to principles of natural order. We do this as we learn to act as though we were part of the natural order, instead of as a dominating influence within it. Our exercise of consciousness in the Realm of Five is a matter of deliberately seeking a humbler, but ultimately more vital place within the natural order as intentional apprentices to its wisdom.
In the Realm of Six, we apply Divine Intelligence specifically to the core issues and primal wounds that keep us separate from each other, from the rest of the web of Life, and from the Creative Force, the Spirit, or the One. In the Realm of Six we heal all the internal schisms within ourselves that predispose us to walk a path of inequality on a slippery slope that ends in the Abyss. To the extent that we live out of harmony with the natural order, we must correct these misalignments in the Realm of Six by learning from our mistakes. Unlike the other Realms where the tasks are fairly universal to the human species, in the Realm of Six, the work at hand becomes quite individualized, and is referenced to the individual birthchart, the astrological patterns that define it, and the intrachakra dynamics that are implicated in the patterns.
In the Realm of Seven, as these inner schisms are healed, we evolve the capacity to respond to Life with complex creativity. Complex creativity is a term coined by former University of Chicago psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to denote the inner state of those who are considered geniuses in our society. These people, according to Csikszentmihalyi are those who are able to function with equal facility at one or the other extreme of any polarity, or at any place along the spectrum that is appropriate to the task at hand. Thus, to return to our earlier hot and cold example, the complex soul in the Realm of Seven could be extremely hot in one moment and extremely cool in the next, depending on what the given situation required.
I witnessed this kind of complexity in one of my teachers, Swami Muktananda, who could move from blistering, razor-sharp anger directed with laser-like precision to calm detachment and cool reserve in the blink of an eye. Such people are unfathomable from the perspective afforded by ordinary measures of personality, for they can be anything at any time. Within the model of evolution in consciousness presented by the numbers, complex creativity in the Realm of Seven means that one has the broadest possible range of resources at one’s disposal, and is thus in prime position to address any issue, difficulty, or obstacle that might arise with maximum flexibility and spontaneous creativity.
In the Realm of Eight, the evolving soul begins to harvest and express the hard-won wisdom that comes through both the deep internal work of healing required in the Realm of Six and the exercise of complex creativity in the Realm of Seven. To the extent that the soul has taken its life lessons seriously and been able to access Divine Intelligence to better align itself with natural order, its life will become an expression of balance and dynamic harmony in the Realm of Eight. To the extent that the soul has refused its life lessons and insisted on willful ignorance of natural order, in the Realm of Eight it will begin to experience the breakdown of the fabric of its life under the forces of entropy, mortality and decay endemic to life in a material world.
The sum total of all our individual and collective choices in all the other Realms begins to gel in the Realm of Nine; these are experienced together as our Fate. Whatever has not been met with intention, conscious effort, and choice in harmony with Divine Intelligence and natural order becomes fated in the Realm of Nine, where there is little that we can do about it any longer. Nine is also the point at which the numbers begin to recycle themselves (through addition of single integers); so metaphorically, we can see the possibility of entering into another round, through death and rebirth, reincarnation, or just a second chance of some kind. Usually, however, within the Realm of Nine there is a price to pay for the choices we have made – or refused to make – that comes due as relatively unchangeable consequences.
Finally, in the Realm of Ten, we begin the cycle again at a higher turn of the eternal spiral, where – assuming we have met the challenges of the other Realms – there is now no difference between the Creator and Her Creation, the One and the Many, Heaven and Earth. In the Realm of Ten is the promise of a fully realized and fully conscious world in which all sentient beings work together to embody Divine Intelligence and create a civilization and a culture based on natural order. This golden promise is by no means a given, and where we do not successfully meet the challenges of the other Realms, or to the extent that we do not, we may instead find ourselves more permanently entrenched within an Abyss with no easy or obvious exit strategy. In the end it is up to each of us individually and all of us together, to determine what the outcome of this grand experiment called Life – at least human life – on Earth will be.
The numbers, taken in their entirety, are a conceptual tool for understanding how consciousness has developed, how it can best be applied to any situation, and how any life is amenable to a deepening of Divine Intelligence in service to natural order. When the numbers are mapped to the birthchart – the subject of this book – it also becomes possible to see what our life requires of us, from the soul’s perspective, and how each of us might contribute to the wellbeing and the evolution of the Whole.
Everywhere the number Four is implicated, for example, there is likely to be some form of elemental alchemy at work and a quest for direction; everywhere the number Six appears, the hard soul work of integration and healing of core issues becomes the mechanism of choice by which the individual soul moves toward its destination in Spirit. Everywhere the number Three is emphasized, that soul is likely configured to bring a certain perspective to the Whole that expands our collective options in mediation of the opposites. Everywhere the number Five appears, the soul behind the chart is predisposed toward heightened awareness of the omnipresence of Divine Intelligence throughout the embodied world, a deeper capacity for a life of participation mystique or, conversely, toward a misuse of intelligence in willful violation of natural order that is capable of doing lasting damage.
As with anything astrological, there is never any guarantee that a given pattern will manifest according to its most constructive possibilities. That depends on the choices that are made in relation to the pattern and the consciousness through which it is lived. Thus, as we talk about numbers within the birthchart, we will necessarily refer back to the model of consciousness rooted in yogic philosophy as presented in Tracking the Soul, showing how the chakras are implicated in each number Realm. While Part One showed this with regard to the numbers in general, Part Two will show more specifically how the chakras inform the number Realms within the context of astrological symbolism and the specific lives that reflect and embody that symbolism.
Like the chakras discussed in Tracking the Soul, the arithmological scheme we are exploring in this volume of The Astropoetic Series provides a spiritual context in which everything that happens can be referenced to the unfoldment of a larger evolutionary plan and shows how the soul can potentially participate in this plan. The chakra signatures in each birthchart describe the level of consciousness through which an individual soul lives the embodied life. The comparable arithmological signatures describe the ways in which larger cosmological patterns of evolution influence individual behavior and how individuals, in turn, potentially impact the collective through their conscious and creative participation in these larger cosmological patterns. When combined – as I will demonstrate in this book – a simultaneous consideration of chakra signatures and arithmological signatures within the same chart will provide a more complete understanding of how the individual soul embodies Spirit within the world and plays its part in the evolution of the anima mundi – the Soul of the World.
(1) Although Iamblichus was essential in preserving what we now know about the Pythagorean perspective on the power of number, his work was often a compilation of sources to whom he did not always give credit. According to Robin Waterfield, “Whole sections are taken from the Theology of Arithmetic of the famous and influential mathematician and philosopher Nicomachus of Gerasa, and from the On the Decad of Iamblichus’ teacher, Anatolius, Bishop of Laodicea. These two sources, which occupy the majority of our treatise, are linked by text whose origin is at best conjectural, but some of which could very well be lecture notes – perhaps even from lectures delivered by Iamblichus” (23). Elsewhere, Waterfield calls this seminal work but the “tip of an iceberg” (30), suggesting that taken as a whole, this compilation of ideas is far more provocative than definitive of a vast tradition that unfortunately has mostly been lost.
(2) Arithmology considers the metaphorical implications of the mathematical properties of number in the same way that alchemy considers the metaphorical dimensions of chemistry or astrology of astronomy. As Waterfield points out (26):
It should be noted that while the Pythagorean attempt to give meaning to peculiar properties of number is unfashionably mystical, such peculiar properties have not been explained or explained away by modern mathematicians. They exist, and one either ignores them and gets on with doing mathematics, or gives them significance, which is what arithmologists do.
(3) Aristotle logically derived the four elements in turn through various combinations of Four Basic Qualities: Dry, Wet, Hot and Cold. Air = Hot + Wet; Fire = Hot + Dry; Earth = Dry + Cold; Water = Cold + Wet. These distinctions are implicit in the astrological language, although in practice, referenced more explicitly by classical and medical astrologers than by contemporary psychological astrologers. See de Generatione et Corruptione (On Coming To Be and Passing Away) for a fuller explication of Aristotle’s thought regarding the subtleties of the number Four.
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