A Treatise on Astrology, Liber 536 by Aleister Crowley, 1917

The General Significance of the Planets, Signs and Houses

The Planets

In the sections of this book in which each planet is described, will be found an essay upon its nature, but in order that the reader may gain some preliminary acquaintance with the subject, we shall here give a summary. Those who are familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, will be able to gain a very considerable knowledge of this subject by merely contemplating the attributes of the Gods whose names are given to the respective planets, and there is, on the whole, no better method of studying the subject, for it is not by accident that those names were given, but after a careful consideration of the astrological influences. In early times the sea was not navigable in the sense which we now use the word. The voyage of Odysseus from one end of the Mediterranean to the other was considered worthy of celebration in the greatest poem which antiquity has transmitted to us. To the Ancients the sea was an unknown and terrible monster. It was filled with every kind of fabulous and appalling being, and there was something peculiarly frightful about it. It was the personification of the unknown, and the great river Oceanus which girdled the whole earth was bounded only by the gloomy shores of Hades. On the other hand, the dwellers upon the coast of Greece and Italy, many of them living in islands, were perfectly familiar with the sea in its playful moods, and a number of gracious legends are equally associated with the name of Neptune. Then again, they were well aware how a sudden storm will transform the ‘measureless laughter of the loud resounding sea’s into the shriek of an insatiable fury, pitiless and murderous. These qualities are resumed and embodied in the astrological conception of the planet Neptune. Uranus or Heaven was the Father of the Gods. To the Ancients, the Gods represented a terrible and incalculable force. The Gods were incommensurables. It was impossible to foretell what they would do at any given moment. They could raise up or throw down careless of tears or prayers. The whole of pagan literature is saturated with this conception. They were too exalted for men to understand – they were passionless and immutable, and yet they could descend upon the earth and mix in the affairs of men. The ‘blameless Ethiop’ entertained Jupiter and called him friend, exactly as did Abraham in the Biblical story. But it was imprudent to look upon their faces – at any moment they might be setting traps for the unwary. They might seduce him through pride, or fill him with ungovernable desires which would lead to his destruction. It is true that all benefits of humanity came from the Gods. It was the Gods who instructed mankind in every art and science, but they would also act in the most unexpected and diabolical ways. If these ideas be rightly apprehended, the reader will know a great deal about the nature of the planet Herschel or Uranus.

The eldest born son of Uranus was Saturn. Saturn is, in the first place, the patron of agriculture, and also the God of generation. The age of Saturn was the ‘golden age’. At that time virtue thrived – men were industrious, simple, austere and yet happy, but Saturn also represented time, and it was said of him that he devoured his own children. For this reason, he was associated with the phenomenon commonly known as death. In the collapse of ancient civilisation, when life was no longer understood in its right relation to existence, when the worship of Attis, Adonis, Osiris and other mutilated or murdered Gods became general, Saturn became confused with the Jewish Shaitan. Time, life, and all the conditions of existence were regarded as evil, as the result of malevolence. ‘Other-worldliness’ had destroyed the simple acceptation of the facts of life which characterised paganism. The later conception of Saturn is, therefore, principally that of heaviness, weariness and age, of ill-will to men, and of peace upon earth, only the peace of the grave. Meditation upon these remarks should give a fairly good general idea of what the astrologer means by the influence of the planet Saturn.

It has been said above that Saturn devours his own children, but on the occasion when the child Jupiter was born, its mother deceived Saturn by giving him a black stone instead of the infant, and thus the life of the child was saved. He grew up, dethroned his father and made himself king of the Gods. The ancient conception of Saturn having already deteriorated into that of the oldster, the man past his prime, whose powers are failing, yet who ruled his household with severe discipline, often amounting to tyranny, Jupiter took his place in the respect and affection of mankind, as the type of mankind at its prime, the prosperous, portly, kindly, fatherly man. His power was indeed terrible, but he exercised it, on the whole, with wisdom and beneficence. The Hebrew conception of Jehovah is not very different from the Roman conception of Jupiter, but the latter God has not those qualities of vengeance which scripture attributes to the former. Jupiter occasionally punished some particularly outrageous case of blasphemy or some attempts to usurp his power, but he was pre-eminently the father of his people. His authority and dignity were enormous. One could not easily approach him, but on the other hand, he was rarely angry and even when not invoked, was looking down from heaven to see whether he could not do anything for the good of his children. This slight sketch will give a fairly accurate general idea of the influence which astrologers attribute to the planet Jupiter.

Mars was the God of war among the Romans, and it is surely unnecessary to discuss the nature of war in this year of our Lord, 1915. Mars is the soldier, brave, energetic, stern, violent, fierce, brutal, resourceful, though not perhaps particularly intelligent. He is quick to anger – with him it is a word and a blow. He seeks ‘the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.’ It is these qualities which are summarised in the astrologer’s idea of the influence of the planet Mars.

We must now leave, to some extent, the classic mythology, for the Sun in the mind of the astrologer has a wider, deeper, truer conception than that which the Romans gave to Apollo. It was one of the secret doctrines of paganism that the Sun was the source, not only of light, but of life, and if we are to understand the force which the astrologer attributes to the Sun, we must endeavor to follow out this arcane mystery. The Sun is by far the most important of the planets, for he represents the life of the man himself. He is the axle of the wheel; the other qualities are secondary. It is true that, like Apollo, he gives swift life and swifter death, and also that such essential ornaments of life as art and love are intimately connected with him, but in the Roman system, Apollo was not the greatest of the Gods. One could not say that without him nothing could subsist, and this is, of course, true of the Sun. The religions of Syria and Egypt, which were principally solar, permeated classical beliefs and grad gradually affected the conception of Apollo. There is a certain later identification of him with the suffering God of Christianity, Freemasonry and similar cults. It must not be understood that we wish to diminish the importance of the other planets. The point which we wish to emphasise is this, that if the Sun be afflicted, no amount of benefit from the other planets will make up for that deprivation. The whole subject of the Sun, is however, so vast and so important, that it is really impossible to summarise in a few words, what the astrologer implies by the force of the father of our system.

The astrological conception of Venus leads us back to classical ground once more. Venus was born of the ocean in its smiling mood. She was born in an oyster shell , which connects her with the symbolism of the worship of the reproductive powers of nature. She is, therefore, connected with Neptune in his most smiling mood and with her father Jupiter. Venus is an idealised conception of woman, without any base admixture. She is love, grace, beauty, tenderness and enthusiasm. She inspires art, and wherever she goes it is with dancing and music. Moreover, and this is very important from our present point of view, she yields, moreover, she tempts strength. The consideration of these points will enable the student to gain a clear conception of the astrological idea of the influence exercised by the planet Venus.

The God Mercury has several forms. In the first instance. he is a playful, mischievous, prankish boy. He is the enfant terrible of the Gods. It was the custom of patriarchal peoples to use the boys of the tribe to take messages, as the men could not be spared from the more important works of the household. It is, therefore, natural that Mercury should be the messenger of the Gods. In later developments and amplifications of these ideas, we see Mercury bringing forth the fruit of which they are the seed. He is the master of science and knowledge and the inventor of music, though not so much the executant as Apollo. But the childish knavery persists, in that subtlety, acuteness and wisdom, so that Mercury became also the patron of all kinds of thieves and rogues. Furthermore, especially in his Egyptian form, Tahuti or Thoth, he invented the art of writing and became a patron of letters which again connects him with the idea of a messenger. The astrologer, therefore, considers the planet Mercury as pre-eminently influencing the intellect, with all its splendour, trickeries and basenesses.

One of the favorite epithets of the Moon Goddess among the Romans was Trivia, she of the three ways, because she had three forms. She is woman, both as mother and as child; this dual capacity completing that conception of womanhood of which Venus is described above as only one part. There is, however, a certain sinister aspect of the life of a woman to understand which we must go back once more to a consideration of the life of primitive people. In the early communities, a woman who was past childbearing was past her usefulness; whatever might have been her service to the community, they were forgotten. She sank into contempt and hatred, which she naturally reciprocated by using the sublimation of the arts which she had learned in dealing with men in order to annoy them. Even today in India, as well as in some other communities which it is unnecessary to particularise, the old women are looked upon with fear and detestation. It is supposed that she spends the whole of her time in making mischief. Among superstitious peoples, she would, therefore, obviously acquire the reputation of being a witch. The waning moon was, therefore, taken as the symbol of every kind of devilry. She is Hecate, the Queen of the Stryges. A good modern picture of this idea is given in Macbeth. The third aspect of the Moon is that suggested by the facts of nature, her swift motion through the heavens and her changeful appearance endow her with the qualities of fickleness and instability. This is connected with the waywardness and inattention which we notice in young children. There are, therefore, these main points to be considered. First, she represents the life of woman herself in exactly the same way as the Sun represents the life of Man. Secondly, she represents woman in her aspect as mother as opposed to that of wife, and she also represents the child in the earliest ages, before the mind, which is Mercury, is fully developed and the little creature is not much more than a bundle of appetite, moods and emotions. Thirdly, she represents in woman very much what Saturn does in man, but this only when she is waning and afflicted. Consideration of these points will enable the student to understand fairly well what the astrologer means by the influence of our satellite.

There are two other points to mark in a horoscope to which we have not previously referred. Some astrologers nowadays neglect them, saying that the influence attributed to them by the older searchers of the stars has now been explained fey are the Nodes of the Moon, which are the points at which she crosses the ecliptic. They are called in astrology Caput-Draconis and Cauda-Draconis, the head and tail of the dragon. The influence of the head of the dragon combines in a peculiarly sudden and violent manner the effects of the Sun, and Jupiter, and it is therefore favorable for beginning any great operations. It is particularly helpful to the study of the loftiest, purest kind of occult science and it lends great force to the student of such matters. The tail of the dragon, which is always exactly opposite to it in the heavens, has a precisely opposite influence. It is very good for ending a matter, but implies sudden losses just as the head of the dragon indicates sudden gains. It is invaluable to the student of the more physical and practical types of occultism. Neither the head nor tail of the dragon forms aspects with the planets. Their only importance in their position in the horoscope.