A leading astrological researcher, based in Hyderabad, India.
"I was born a human
In the family of a Brahman
Childhood aspirations were a plenty
To become a yeoman, a swordsman, a bowman
And I dreaded perchance becoming
A conman, a doorman or a barman
Youth had its own delusions and dreamt
Of being an airman, a seaman or a showman
A few talents raised visions of life as a craftsman
Middle age found me slotted in a niche
And rose up the ladder to be a helmsman
But was otherwise essentially a layman
At times to frighten children, a bogeyman
Then astrology called... and I realized that
I was just a point of consciousness and no man
And this insight made me a new man
Glimpsing a realm that was
Beyond god and mammon
Now some call me a madman
While others believe I am a shaman
Being neither, I am just me, a man".
This article forms part of an ongoing discussion about the roles of freedom and destiny in our lives, as expressed through our stars. Ram Ramakrishnan is an astrological researcher and computer programmer, who is currently working on a project to compute human destiny.
All of us, belonging to the fraternity of students of astrology, indulge in this pursuit for apparently different reasons. But the basic reason I guess, from every one of our viewpoints is to understand existence. Shorn of all mundane frills, all our reasons for doing so will come down to this, won't they?
I strongly believe that in dealing with astrology, one deals with everything under the Sun; not just our own, but the larger one around which our Sun is said to be in orbit (the twin star Sirius I remember having read), the still larger Sun around which Sirius itself is said to be in orbit and all the way down to the centre of the Milky Way Nebula around which all systems in the Nebula are said to be in orbit... and beyond. Coming down the scale we have social systems of all kinds, multitudes of life and supposedly non-life systems in nature and the atomic and subatomic systems. Among the many tools available for the pursuit of understanding life in its entirety, it has been our lot to use astrology for the purpose.
Perhaps existence at all levels is ordered and governed by the principles represented in our domain of comprehension by the Sun, Moon and the planets. Perhaps there are more such principles represented by other entities at higher planes of consciousness and existence that lie beyond our ken. In this context, it would be appropriate to reflect that all our astrological thoughts seem to have philosophical moorings.
It should be true of whichever system of Astrology it may be, oriental or occidental, but the occidental variety appears to have lost its link with its past. I do not know much about the latter system, but at least with the Indian system, the moorings are quite strong and firm. Holding on to these ropes, one can still walk back into the rarer spiritual realms that is not visible due to the obscurity caused by mundane matters.
The Number 360
As an example, a commentary on the Purushasuktam, a hymn from the Vedas, has this to say about the number 360. It says that a visible or material globe comes out of the invisible or spiritual globe in space through two stages. It comes out as number One Zero to form the numerical value 10. The visible globe is only one-fourth of the invisible globe in its essence. Thus the invisible globe gives the numerical value of four which multiplies by ten in each of its expansion into the mental and physical planes. Thus the physical phenomenon is expressed by the number 400 (4 x 10 x 10). One tenth of this separates from its total to yield the physical globe or the point in its beginning while the rest 360 constitutes the space around. This is the rationale of the 360 degrees around each point.
Now I do not comprehend very well the idea of the emergence of the physical world as a number One Zero, from the whole. Possibly the combination One Zero represents the states of IS and IS NOT. Nor can I visualise as to why only a tenth of the invisible globe separate to form the physical globe. The rest of the computation is however clear. I assume that the first part too should be true and hope that I would understand its purport somewhere along the way of my learning process.
The Essential Elements
The idea that equates the birth of a being (not a human alone, but all beings that can be identified by the concept 'to be'), its sex and its time of birth has a similar parallel. The Universe is said to be made up from and of the five primordial elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
During my younger days when I first came into contact with these ideas, it used to create a deep conflict within me. I would equate these 'elements' with the elements of the periodic table: 103 of them when I went to school and 116 now I guess, and wonder which was right. Today I feel more comfortable dealing with both, as I realise that these five elements aren't the same as the 116. It is more like the 116 (and many more ahead) are contained in the five. These five elements are more than mere matter. They perhaps identify the states or conditions of the spirit-matter conglomerate. They cause and are responsible for all the psychological and biological changes around us. They are said to rule over certain portions of time in a cyclic order beginning from sunrise each day and impart their characteristics, one of them being sex, to the being born during this time.
Vedic Thought and Reincarnation
Vedic thought has it that persons to whom we are indebted in this life are born as our children in subsequent lives. This is, however, hard to verify with the present stage of human understanding and insight. For the same reason, we cannot question its veracity either. The thought of reincarnation may not be supported by religious beliefs. But I have read about many instances about persons from all regions of the world who have had encounters with such thoughts/ visions/ psychic experiences that relate to reincarnation. I have a few astrologer friends from the West too who say that they remember many past lives.
Similarly, every astrological idea is seen as a reflection of a larger spiritual or philosophical idea. Students of theosophy may find these ideas quite familiar.
It is not my intention to take a parochial view about this and say that Vedic astrology is a more complete system. It is my firm belief that whatever we have inherited from the past or from wherever, belongs to all of us – to the East as well as the West, as we have all descended from the same source. (Even the various systems of astrology and astrological thought should have descended from the same source). For those to whom religious thought appeals, we are all the children of God. For others, we are all star children, as astronomer Carl Sagan said. I see religion as a ritualistic extension of philosophy, and both philosophy and science as the basis of existence expressed in different languages – the former in a non-mathematical language and the latter in the language of mathematics In my opinion again, seeming conflicts between religion, philosophy and science are only perceptive, illusory and not real.
Ram continues in part two to discuss how the meaning and destiny of our lives is related to the astrological positions in our birth charts.