What You See Is What You Believe, What You Believe Is What You See — About Astrology and Worldview

Sitting in front of some tasty food in a Chinese restaurant downtown, my dear friend asks me the following question: “Has studying astrology changed the way you see the world?” There is, of course, a short answer to this question. But far more interesting is to ponder a while about the connection between astrology and worldview, which I will do in the light of the Emerald Tablet and the first two chapters of Genesis.

What shapes the mind

Many factors have an influence on what kind of worldview we hold. Our upbringing, the cultural environment we live in, religious teachings as well as any experience we make – all that shapes our view about what we think how and why the world is functioning. Looking from the perspective of a student of astrology, what kind of role does astrology play in all this?

Observation and conclusion

Astrology comes from Greek άστρον, astron (= star) and -λογία, -logia (= study of), meaning “study of the stars.” Astrologers in ancient times have been observing the movements and learning about the meanings of the planets and stars. Besides following and tracking the daily motion of the seven wandering stars, they noticed terrestrial events and occurrences. At some point, they made a remarkable discovery. Likewise those ancient astrologers, so have been astrologers up to this day describing their observations with the following statement found in the Emerald Tablet (lat. Tabula Smaragdina) attributed to Hermes Trismegistus: “As above, so below.”

There are several translations of the Emerald Tablet circulating as well as many commentaries on it. One can quite easily spend some time only researching the history of the tablet and its different editions. For the purpose of this article, I’ll concentrate mainly on the phrase mentioned above at the beginning of the Emerald Tablet. If you want to go further in studying the meaning of all passages of it, then I recommend you to follow the links at the end of this article; especially the pages about the Emerald Tablet on Adam McLean’s »Alchemy Web Site« are worth to have a look on (access here). For a quick display of some translations of the Emerald Tablet see at the webpage of the »Internet Sacred Text Archive« (access here).

One Latin translation of the passage the statement “As above, so below” is stemming from found in »De Alchemia« (Chrysogonus Polydorus, Nuremberg 1541) reads: “Quod est inferius, est sicut quod est superius. Et quod est superius, est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius.”. An English translation of that same passage from an Arabic text, found by Holmyard in 1923, attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan (8th century AD) reads: “That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one.” This is, in short, the foundation of astrological thinking. But what does it mean?

Heaven and Earth – mirroring each other

Simply speaking, astrology assumes a connection between celestial phenomena and life on Earth. Whether this connection is symbolically only or causal to some extend is another debate. The core idea is that on a mundane level, the stars reflect what happens on Earth and to a further extent the celestial bodies, as cast in a horoscope, mirror the individual itself and its life.

In my understanding, “As above, so below” is in its deepest roots an expression of everything interacting together as well as everything having its counterpart. In its literal sense, we are talking about the stars above and the Earth below. The sky tells a story, as some say. In the beginning of the development of astrology, astrology was mostly concerned with political and social matters – that what would affect the whole society in the near future. This branch of astrology, which is focused on interpreting the “signs of the heavens” to get an understanding about events on Earth, is the oldest one and is still very popular amongst astrologers interested in investigating the political and overall atmosphere in the world. Natal astrology, which is concerned with the life of the individual, was developed later.

The chemical preparation of Aurum Portabile, M. Geiger, 1652
The chemical preparation of Aurum Portabile, page from »Microcosmus Hypochondriacus sive de Melancholia Hypochondriaca Tractatus«, M. Geiger, 1652. Source: Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de santé (Paris), https://archive.org/details/BIUSante_84055.

“Let us make man”

Besides the literal interpretation of “As above, so below,” there is also a philosophical and spiritual one. As well as this phrase at the beginning of the Emerald Tablet can be understood as speaking of the visible connection between the stars and events on Earth, it also reveals some crucial insides about the essence of man.

As we can read in Genesis 1:26 (NKJV) Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness […]”. That means man is, to some extent, a reflection of God. In the second part of this verse, we can read as followed “[…] let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” As God reigns over the heavens, man was set to reign over Earth and life on it. Interestingly, in the beginning man was suppose to execute dominion over the animals but not over one another! Something to think about.

The miracles of one

The first part of our statement in the Emerald Tablet speaks about the mutual reflection of two things – the above and the below. As we have seen, this mirroring is shown between the stars and life on Earth, as well as God and the creation of man. The last part of the full statement refers to oneness. Now things get interesting. Here again, the full statement: “That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one.” The Jabir ibn Hayyan translation goes on: “As all things were from one.”

The meaning of the first part of the Emerald Tablets statement in question can only be understood through the last part of it and vice versa. Only through oneness we can understand and grasp duality and oneness can be understood only through duality, i.e., without dualism, we would not know of any oneness. Duality comes with a sense of belonging, two things belong together – day and night, male and female, light and darkness, heaven and Earth. The section mentioned above in Genesis continues with verse 27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” This verse refers to the creation of man, who was one in the beginning (Adam), but two in oneness – male and female. Adam, the first man, was “formed of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Eve, the second human, was not created separately, but from Adam – the first one.

The whole verse 7 of Genesis 2 reads “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (NKJV). God put the breath of life only once into man at the creation of Adam. In Adam, every essence of man was united. When creating Eve, God only took and separated what already had been created. There was no need for breathing the breath of life into Eve because she was not made of dust, but of Adam who already was a living being.

Up to Eve’s appearance, Adam was alone (all-one). God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18, NKJV). The scripture goes on with telling us, that God brought all animals before Adam “to see what he would call them” (verse 19). In verse 20, we find the statement, “But for Adam, there was not found a helper comparable to him.” After that, we read, that God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam during which He took one of his ribs, closed it’s place with flesh and made the rib into a woman (verses 21 and 22). God brought the woman before Adam. His response can be found in verse 23: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (hebr. ishshah) because she was taken out of Man (hebr. ish).” Adam’s words express what he saw in the woman – a reflection of himself. That is the reason why no “helper comparable to him” was found amongst the animals because they were not made out of him.

Finally, it lies in nature, that what once was one and got separated, will once be united again. As Genesis 2:24 states: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Further, we read in Genesis 3:19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

The Creation of Eve
Excerpt from The Creation of the World, unknown, probably 1170s, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The whole creation is indeed a reflection of God ins some sense. That is why the Bible tells us that God reveals himself through Nature. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NKJV). Adam was living surrounded by the reflection of God, so to speak. He saw that everything was created in duality. The Sun lightens the day, and the Moon reflects the Sun’s light in the night. Every male animal had its female counterpart. But Adam was still all-one.

The Bible states that there was no help comparable to Adam found amongst the animals. There are many interpretations to this passage, mainly focusing on the relationship between man and woman. I think this part reveals some fundamental truth about humankind in general. Man needs “a helper” – a reflection of his own kind, through which he can “see himself.” We need one another to see who we are, to find ourselves. This is why spending time, changing thoughts, and ideas with others is so helpful on our path to self-knowledge. And in this process of reflecting each other, we get a sense of the oneness we are.

Oneness vs. the ONE

Now, oneness in the sense of being one is different from the ONE, who I believe is God the Creator himself. Genesis 2 tells us that man was created from dust – which is the creation. Man was created in the image of God, but not out of God (like Eve was created out of Adam). Man was made as a reflection of God – man is not God, the ONE,  himself.

The translations of sentence three of the Emerald Tablet give different interpretations. In some translations, you could think all is one and the ONE itself. Other seem to make a distinction between the “one thing” and “the ONE” – everything coming from one thing through the ONE. Kriegsmann (1657) translates the passage in question from the Phoenician as followed: “Und gleich wie alles auß einem durch deß einigen Schöpffers Wort entstanden: Also werden auch alle Ding nunmehr auß diesem einzigen ding durch anordnung der Natur gebohren.” In English (trans. by myself): “And likewise everything is brought forth from one through the word of the only Creator: Thus all things will be birthed from this one thing through the arrangement of Nature.”

Emerald Tablet 3 German Kriegsmann
Emerald Tablet sentence 3, translation in German from the Phoenician, W. C. Kriegsmann, 1657. Excerpt from Hermetis Trismegisti Phoenicum Aegyptiorum Sed et aliarum Gentium Monarchae Conditoris … sive Tabula Smaragdina, Leipzig, SLUB Dresden, http://digital.slub-dresden.de/id277141982 (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

It has been my belief that the creation is one, but that the Creator is the ONE, who is unvisible but can be understood through the visible creation, i.e., its reflection. The creation carries a spark inside it through which it came alive. The Creator is the source of this spark.

As below, so above

The invisible world, God and the spiritual beings, is affecting life on Earth. Likewise, do we have an impact on the unseen world. Unvisible and visible interact together. That is why prayer is a powerful tool. That our prayers are heard and that angels have some serious business to do is shown, for example, in chapter 10 of the book of Daniel.

Verses 4-6, 10-14, and 20-21:

“Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. […]”

“Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.  And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come. […]”

“Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince.” (NKJV)

Regarding astrology, “the below affecting the above” can also point to the influence one’s worldview has when interpreting an astrological chart. We all have our beliefs and ideas which play a significant role in translating astrological symbolism. Becoming aware of personal viewpoints relating to life and its numerous questions is one crucial task when studying astrology.

In short

My short answer to the question of my friend, if studying astrology has changed the way I see the world is: No, it has not. I experienced an awakening 15 years before my path led me into astrology. I’ve found that everything I’ve been learning through the years about life, myself and humanity, in general, can be expressed and understood through astrological symbolism. Indeed, astrology as sort of a universal language provides tools to get an even broader and deeper understanding about the experience of life; and in astrology, I see a reflection of my faith.

Now, what do you see?

*******

Sources and further reading:

More about my thoughts on astrology and faith you can read in my article In Faith and in Fate — A Believers View on Astrology.

All Bible passages are from the New King James Version. Source: Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/.

Anyextee. The Emerald Tablets of Thoth VS. Emerald Tablet – A Definitive Guide. https://adeptinitiates.com/emerald-tablets-thoth-emerald-tablet-definitive-guide/. Accessed: 12.8.2019.

Carl Jung Depth Psychology Site. Carl Jung on the “Tabula Smaragdina.” Lecture VII, 20th December 1940. https://carljungdepthpsychologysite.blog/2019/02/22/carl-jung-on-the-tabula-smaragdina/#.XUvqFXtS-Uk. Accessed: 10.8.2019.

Internet Sacred Text Archive. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes. http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm. Accessed: 10.8.2019.

Jung, C. G., Psychology and Alchemy, 2nd revised edition, trans. R.F.C. Hull, The Collected Works of C. J. Jung, Volume 12, Routledge & Kegan, London, 1980.

Kriegsmann, W. C., Hermetis Trismegisti Phoenicum Aegyptiorum Sed et aliarum Gentium Monarchae Conditoris … sive Tabula Smaragdina, 1657, Leipzig. SLUB Dresden, http://digital.slub-dresden.de/id277141982.

McLean, A., Alchemy Web Site. Various Pieces on the Emerald Tablet. http://www.alchemywebsite.com/emerherm.html.

Ruska, J., Tabula Smaragdina – Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der hermetischen Literatur. Carl Winter’s Universitätbuchhandlung, Heidelberg, 1926. http://juliusruska.digilibrary.de/q137/q137.html.

Sedivy, J. R., The Emerald Tablet. https://jrsedivy.com/the-emerald-tablet/. Accessed: 12.8.2019.

Toraeke, C. d., A Commentary on the Emerald Tablet. http://www.alchemywebsite.com/emertabl.html. Accessed: 14.8.2019.

Twilit Grotto: Archives of Western Esoterica. Writings of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535). http://www.esotericarchives.com/agrippa/index.html. Accessed 11.8.2019.

Van den Dungen, W., Tabula Smaragdina – the Emerald Table. http://www.sofiatopia.org/equiaeon/emerald.htm. Accessed 13.8.2019.

Wheeler, Ken L., Tabula Smaragdina, The “Emerald Tablet” of Hermes. 2017. https://www.flickr.com/photos/134746128@N05/32676769405/in/dateposted/.

Wikipedia, Emerald Tablet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald_Tablet. Accessed: 10.8.2019.

Zuber, Mike A., Between Alchemy and Pietism – Wilhelm Christoph Kriegsmann’s Philological Quest for Ancient Wisdom, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/7017993/Between_Alchemy_and_Pietism_Wilhelm_Christoph_Kriegsmanns_Philological_Quest_for_Ancient_Wisdom.

 

Featured Image: Scenographia systematis Copernicani – CBT 5869621, 1708, public domain, source: Wikimedia Commons.

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Sindy

»Observing life with a critical mind, living it with a heart full of hope and understanding it through the symbolic language of astrology.«

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