Monday, May 15, 2006

The Workshop of the Gods
Lyn Birkbeck's Divine Astrology

“The unveiling of the company of heaven. Every man and woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.” —The Book of the Law

“As long as you see the stars as something over you, you lack the eye of a man of knowledge.” —Nietzsche

“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.” —Shakespeare

These three quotes might sum up the intent of Birkbeck’s book, as does the following, taken from the book itself:

“A central condition and dynamic of Divine Astrology is that it can only be practiced by surrendering your personal will to Divine Will, as expressed through the Sun, Moon and Planets. This in turn means that your personal will is aligned with Divine Will and your life and being is consequently ‘upgraded’ because they have been attuned to something that is, and always has been, working perfectly. The Sun, Moon and Planets have been doing what they do for a very long time without any hitches whatsoever.” (pg. 168-9)

It may seem like a contradiction to say that we need to surrender to the Will of the Stars in order for them to no longer rule over us. But this is only how it seems, and it is a paradox that Divine Astrology clears up time and again. Birkbeck stresses that the Sun and nine planets, though they can be experienced and accessed as deities or gods, are also something else, namely, Portals that lead to Infinity. As such Divine Astrology is not about supplication of the Planetary Powers but knowledge and conversation of them and, eventually, full identification with them. By surrendering our personal agendas to the Divine Plan, it is not that our will becomes enslaved to the Planetary powers, but that it becomes one with theirs, that all may be aligned and streamlined to the will of God. Nor is this a passive matter, as until now Religion has had it, since it first entails taking full responsibility for the mess that pursuing our personal desires (and flouting God’s Will) has got us into.

Birkbeck’s book only touches on this subject, but it is I think central to its thesis, or rather, to its purpose. Divine Astrology is a manual, make no mistake. It offers very little to the casual reader, yet it opens up a vast treasure trove to one prepared to put the book’s premise to the test. It is a book whose time has come.

In the past few centuries, Magikal revival notwithstanding, Astrology has fallen into misuse and the disrepute that inevitably results. To the vast majority, it is a five-minute pastime found at the back of magazines, of no more profound meaning or application than the comics section in the Sunday paper. To New Agers, it is a handy tool for dissecting people down to their Sun signs, Moons and Ascendants, a convenient shorthand, such as in “She’s so Scorpionic,” “It’s because he’s a Cancer,” or “I always get along with Virgos.” Professional astrologers (of whom there are many, not all them with a New Age bent) generally like to argue, or at least tell themselves, that Astrology is a Science. This is a view so out of whack with mainstream Science itself, however, that it only guarantees the continued marginalization of their profession. Nancy Reagan may have consulted an astrologer about her husband’s decisions as President of the USA; but such was generally taken as eccentric indulgence on the part of powerful people rather than proof that Astrology—and belief in such—plays a major role in shaping world events. The idea of social commentators, for example, referring to Astrology to help them understand (and possibly anticipate) an event such as 9/11 is as unthinkable as the idea of mainstream Science seriously investigating UFOs or alien abductions. There is a basic incompatibility, a mutual hostility, between the two fields of research.

Yet this was not always the case. As Lyn Birkbeck points out in his introduction, Astrology was once a central part of Science itself (and not only occult science). Newton’s discoveries about physics (which formed the basis of modern Science up to and including Einstein) were all founded, guided, and inspired by his belief in Astrology, that is, the power of the Planets and Stars to affect—or cause—physical phenomena on Earth. (Recent explorations of meteorologists, for example, have shown a causal connection between planetary movements and extreme weather phenomena such as earthquakes, floods, etc.)

Astrology is as much, or more, of an Art than it is a Science, however. Today, like an abandoned child, it is expected to fend for itself. Divorced from the larger disciplines of Science, Art, and Magik, Astrology is like a tree without roots, branches, or leaves. If the roots of Astrology are Science (cosmology), the branches Magik, and the leaves Art, then Divine Astrology is all about the fruit. Namely, Religion.

Divine Astrology often reads like a computer manual: long, convoluted sentences which the reader has to translate into his own terminology in order to get a visceral (as opposed to wholly intellectual) understanding of. At times, it is like a tree with neither branches nor leaves trying to bear fruit. Beyond doubt, Birkbeck attempts too much. But he cannot be criticized for this, since anything less than all would be selling his vision short.

Birkbeck’s vision is to “upgrade” Astrology. This he endeavors by first returning to its roots, Science (cosmology); then by introducing us to its branches, Magik (ritual); and finally by adding some all-new foliage, via his own Art. All this is done with the end of leading the reader to venture into the garden of astrological delights, there to gather his or her own fruit, by using the astrological symbols and correspondences (the archetypes or “gods” of the Sun and the nine planets) as a means of “cosmic reconnection.” This is the objective of Birkbeck’s book, nothing less than the Opus Magnus of the ancients: soul transmutation.

By definition an archetype has no visible existence, possessing neither form nor substance but pertaining to the abstract realm of the Imaginal. “Thou canst not look up the face of God and live,” etc, etc. This is not because Gods have no material reality, but rather that they are vastly more than just material beings. Just so, archetypes affect us on many levels beyond the merely physical.

Planets are archetpyes, and as such, their various visible, tangible forms are like Masks of the Gods, the Gods’ means to interface with human consciounsess, forms assumed in order to partake in the cosmic theater of organic life. Behind these Masks lie the archetypal energy of the Divine which Birkbeck’s book aims for us to tap into. Hence the physical Planets are “Portals” opening onto the immaterial realm of consciousness of the corresponding planet.

The cards which Birkbeck as provided to accompany his Divine Astrology text are the means by which (via visual meditation upon them) the aspirant’s consciousness may be aligned with the energy of a given Planet, and so tune into the consciousness behind it. And the designs (a mix of photographic material with computer generated imagery) are, to varying degrees of sucess, profound in their simplicity and beauty. It is here (more than the book’s prose, which is as dry as it is insightful) that Birkbeck’s Art is most fully in evidence. More than simple images, the celestial mandalas possess a vibrancy and resonance that is music to the eyes. Gazing at them is by turns calming and empowering in equal measure. If it’s easy to imagine oneself in the presence of a celestial body, that’s because, by the ministry of Birkbeck’s holographic magic, such is precisely the case.

Divine Astrology provides the Portals, a summary of each planet’s main attributes (its intent or function within the evolutionary design), the ceremonies by which to align our will with this intent, and the basic planetary correspondences of color, plants, incense, minerals, and so forth: everything, in short, the aspiring magician needs to get right with the Universe.

As archetypes, the book insists, the Planets have a corresponding existence in our own psyches as well as within our bodies. They inform and resonate with the very cells and molecules that make up our total being. The Sun and the nine planets, then, represent a macrocosmic map of our own (as yet undiscovered) Souls, and only by tapping these cosmic keys without, by tuning our bodies hearts, and minds to their particular frequency, can we fulfill our cosmic potential as celestial bodies ourselves.

For each of the Planets, the book offers a clear description of both the positive virtues said Planet provides, and the negative qualities which a distorted connection are likely to manifest as. Hence the rituals entail both a reconnecting to the divine and a means to focus on and correct our everyday failings as ordinary human beings. As above, so below.

What this amounts to in more “scientific” (and even biological) terms is a kind of auto-initiation, a conscious process of reprogramming by which our nervous system (that is, the vessel for our individual consciousness) is rewired to the Earth, Planets, Sun and Cosmos. In the process, the astro-initiate (star trooper) is obliged to flush out or disengage from any and all negative imprints, habits, and attachments that block, distort or inhibit his or her celestial nature. It is here that Divine Astrology lays down its trump card. For the book aims not merely to upgrade Astrology, transforming it into a magikal sequence made up of ceremonials and rites, but to simultaneously lay bare the mechanics of occult ritual, revealing it as the means for rewiring the DNA through the use of coded (symbolic) information and auto-suggestion, i.e., prayer and invocation. Though Birkbeck’s book only scratches the surface of its own promise and potential, one scratch is enough. It provides a glimpse into the Workshop of Gods.


Fishyhead said...

That’s quite the endorsement. I’ve long wanted to grasp Astrology, but I have never been able to get, as you say, a visceral understanding of the discipline. I suspect Birkbeck’s book will fly right over my dreamy, Piscean head with it’s long, convoluted sentences. Instructional literature written for computers and astrology all seem to function on the basis that the readers already know what they‘re talking about. I’d rather remain ignorant of the heavens than resent them for their complexity, or rather the complexity ascribed to them.

Nalyd Bey said...

I may tackle Astrology yet once I unplug from the Oneiric Interface. That book sounds like something I would definitely get something out of. Great review.