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Waite's Compendium of Natal Astrology

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  • Pierre Gringoire
    In reading through what was available in the way of introductory guides to traditional astrology, one more book I came across one book is worth mentioning,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2004
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                  In reading through what was available in the way of introductory guides to traditional astrology, one more book I came across one book is worth mentioning, although not for obvious reasons.

                  "Waite's Compendium of Natal Astrology" was revised and republished three times during the course of the Twentieth Century.  Herbert Waite intended his original (1917) "Compendium of Natal Astrology" to be a pocket-sized reference book, and first set about putting it together for his own use.  His intention was that the book should contain the basic information needed to cast a horoscope and was essentially a cut down version of the ephemeris and tables for the Placidus house system.  When he came to publish it, this was expanded to include some basic instructions for interpreting the horoscope.

                  Waite's original book however suffered from a number of flaws.  His sole inclusion of the Placidus table of houses was based merely on the fact that they were the only tables provided by Raphael's ephemeris at that time.  The need to provide the tables for the alternative house systems gave rise to a second version of the Compendium, this time edited by Colin Evans and Brian Gardner and republished in 1953.  The "New" version also attempted to simplify the mathematics involved in casting the horoscope and to enlarge the period covered by the ephemeris (beyond 1916 to 1960).  The continued usefulness of this 'pocket book' of astrology gave rise to a third, "Revised" version that appeared in 1990 (edited by Alan Candlish) and included a further, enlarged ephemeris.

                  Because it had been Waite's intention to provide no more than a brief outline of the essentials, the original Compendium amounted to little more than a condensed summary of the way astrology was taught at that time.  The two later versions sought in one way or another to improve on this.  The first revision drew attention to the alternative systems of houses but kept most of the remaining content the same.  The second revision tried to modernize the content.

                  What makes any of this worth mentioning is that three versions of the same book (1917, 1953, and 1990), provides an indication of the treatment of traditional astrology during the course of the Twentieth Century.  Changes to the book say much about the changing attitudes of that century and are reflected in the way they leave their imprint on the content of the book.

                  For example, the 1953 Evans and Gardner version tells us that:

                  "THE SUN denotes the fundamental ego, the real spiritual character, according to its position in the zodiac and the houses, and its aspects"

                  The 1990 Alan Candlish version removes this entirely and replaces it with:

                  "SUN: The source of all light, warmth and thus life in our solar system.  It consists of a globe of gas with a density 1.4 times that of water, 1.4 km in diameter, a solar day that varies from 26 days at its equator to 37 days at its poles, burning at a temperature of 5,800 degrees on the surface.  It is over 1.3 million times larger than the Earth, by volume, and has its own orbit around the galactic centre lasting 250 million years."

                  In spite of the obvious materialism of the above passage, I think it is unlikely that Alan Candlish regards himself as a materialist.  He is also probably unaware that by replacing the earlier content with concepts of this nature, he is not improving  'traditional' astrology, but rather degrading it.  This is what is most remarkable about the book: it is a record of the way distortions occur, and of the way they occur.  Such distortions are rarely done consciously, and are rarely intended as distortions.  More often they are done with the intention of 'improving' the content: that is, bringing it into line with current thinking.  What we understand by an 'improvement' is conditioned by the values and attitudes of the age we live in.  Perhaps more importantly, the above gives some indication of the way traditional astrology has been shaped and modified, not just in the current era and culture, but also by the other cultures that it has passed through.

                  It is broadly acknowledged that what is called 'traditional' astrology had its origins in the ancient Egyptian and Chaldean cultures.  After being taken up by the Greeks, it worked its way through Arabic culture before passing into European hands.  Each of these cultures left its mark on the development of astrology.  For example, the horoscope carries within it the idea that the future is in some way determined.  It is in no respects a disparagement of the Muslim religion or culture to state that Islam is fatalistic; fatalism ("Inshallah" or "As God wills") is an outlook fitting to the Arab people.  It is highly likely that the treatment of this aspect of traditional astrology was greatly modified by Islamic fatalism.  It is difficult to see how it could be otherwise.

                  The passage of traditional astrology through 'Christian' culture would also have affected its content, although in an altogether different direction.  The idea of individual karma, for example, is only implied in traditional astrology.  Because reincarnation played an important role in both the ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures, it follows that the horoscope would have been regarded as an expression of karma.  At some point in its later development such inferences were either sublimated or erased.  For example, Fred Gettings writes (under the heading 'Karma', in his "Dictionary of Astrology"):

                  "In applications to astrology it is increasingly used in esoteric circles...Some emphasis is placed on karma in Astrosophy, subsequent to the work of Steiner."

                  If Mr. Gettings makes this sound as though it is a novel development, he is simply reporting a fact.  The point is that the European alternative to fatalism can be found in the concept of 'destiny', whereby the future is determined not merely by a higher authority, but is also subject to input from the individual.  It is through the idea of karma that the difference between fatalism and destiny becomes most apparent.

                  In the current age of materialism, free will is regarded as little more than an outdated and sentimental notion (see, for example, B. F. Skinner's "Beyond Freedom and Dignity").  In this light, it is hardly surprising that Mr. Candlish would have found the notion of the sun as representing the "fundamental ego" to be a concept somewhat irrelevant in the modern era.

                  It could be said that the question of free will, and the need to bring this aspect back into its proper place in the modern world conception, stands at the heart of the difference between Astronomy, Astrology and Astrosophy.

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