Having recently been introduced to the work of Sufi master, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi (1165-1240), I read an interpretation of his treatise, The Orbits of the Stars—written in eleven days, in 1298, two years before he left Andalusia, where he was born, headed East to Mecca and, after travelling widely, eventually settled in Damascus.
Mystical Astrology According to Ibn ‘Arabi by the Swiss metaphysician and scholar of oriental languages, Titus Burckhardt (1908-84) was originally published in French in 1950. The second English edition, introduced by Keith Critchlow with illustrations from a 16th century Persian manuscript, The Shape of the Stars, was published by Fons Vitae in 2001.
While reading this small volume, I became convinced that Bruno and Louise Huber would have studied and discussed the original text in the 1950s, as they immersed themselves in intellectual and spiritual exploration prior to launching Astrological Psychology the following decade. In his introduction, Critchlow writes, “Burckhardt has distilled the essential symbolism underlying spiritual astrology” (p. 6), which distinguishes itself from astrology of elections, predictions, horary, and the popular superstitions and planetary magic found in Picatrix—translated from Arabic into Latin and Spanish around 1256. By contrast, the Sufis view the orbits of the planets as an intermediary expression of the macrocosm through which to learn more about themselves, experience worldly passions (Sufis did not take oaths of celibacy, nor did they live in monasteries), understand the meaning of their journey, and become increasingly attuned to and aligned with the underlying purpose of their Creator. Their overall perspective sounds familiar to 21st century astrological psychologists and psychological astrologers. What is amazing is to realize that this was how Sufis of the medieval era interpreted their reciprocal relationship with the cosmos.
As Burckhardt explains, “astrological symbolism resides… in the junctions of time, space, and number” (p. 17), to which I add colour, in the context of astrological psychology, and draw attention to the second English edition of the Huber classic, Aspect Pattern Astrology, published this year with charts drawn up to show the elemental colours of the signs as well as cardinal red, fixed blue, and mutable green aspects. The Hubers’ text banishes trite keyword descriptions and awakens us to four-dimensional aspect interpretation: physical/material/reactive; emotional/conflictive/painful; intellectual/thinking/freeing; and transformational/evolving/spiritual (pp. 48-59).
Regarding time, space and number, Ibn ‘Arabi invariably wrote down the dates of dreams and visions that prompted his output, knowing these were auspicious moments when a message from a higher power prompted him to share his knowledge through a particular medium. Of special importance to his astrology are the twenty-eight lunar mansions representing a symbolic summary of the real rhythms of the universe, the twelve towers of the zodiac projected onto the sky as planetary stations through which the seven traditional planets travel, the four angles of the square denoting the worldly elements and the three points of the spiritual trigon referencing the motivating qualities of cardinal-mobile, fixed-spiritual, and mutable-synthesizing signs. Planetary polarities signify opposition, triangles—especially the equilateral triangle—express perfect synthesis, squares denote contrast and sextiles affinity. In the tradition of Plato and Ptolemy, the cosmos symbolizes the perfect harmony that imperfect humanity aspires to emulate and thus excludes intermediary aspects like the semi-sextile and quincunx, which are fundamental to the all-important learning triangles innovated by Huber. Nevertheless, the nomadic Sufi understood that life is ever-changing, and that knowledge comes to us in many different guises, each worthy of evaluating at every level. His guiding spirit was the mysterious prophet and green man, Khidr, chosen by C. G. Jung in Four Archetypes to illustrate rebirth and the process of transformation, symbolizing a higher wisdom that transcends rationalization and continues to speak to us today.