Astrology Library home🔎

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

3. Uranus

Ouranos, Uranus or Heaven, is said to have been the father of Saturn, who, jealous lest another son should appear, annihilated him with his scythe. This legend is but an apologue of the nature of this planet, often called ‘Herschel’ after the man who rediscovered it.

This planet swims lonely in the awful abyss that separates Saturn from Neptune. If we have compared Neptune to the outpost, we may continue by saying that Uranus is the moat of the fortress, and its secret passages. And if we have called Neptune the Soul of the Sea, then Uranus is the essence of Volcanic Fire. There is no planet so strange, so sinister, so occult and mysterious or so contradictory.

For this is in the story of Uranus, the principle of heaven bereft of fatherhood by the jealousy of Time. It is a god who is no longer love, a god whose pleasure has become only cruelty, whose occupation but dark intrigue. It is intellect divorced from benevolence; it is the madness of a noble mind. The proper purpose is baffled, and the will turns to perversion.

But like all gods, Uranus in his happier days was incarnated upon earth under the name of Pan. And this Pan, suffering by sympathy, is not only the first god of music and science, but the Satyr god. He protects the husbandman, but also he delights in things abominable. He is cynical in the old sense of the word, and his comedy is hideous tragedy. Thus, while his brows are noble, they are horned, and from his thighs he is a goal.

It is in Pan rather than in his archetype that we recognise the doubtful ray of Uranus. We must think of his pursuit of Syrinx, of her mad night, and her transformation into a reed on which the god might play. We must think of the Panic fear which sometimes seizes man, and often multitudes. Then we shall understand.

This planet is the planet of genius, the planet of the secret magical power in man that lies (according to the Indian mythology) coiled at the base of the spine like a snake, ready to strike up and illuminate the whole, or downward to damnation.

Men, common men, are always stricken with the panic fear when genius blazes on them. Always they mistake it for madness until it justifies itself by its effects. And often indeed this never takes place. Unless genius be buttressed by a thousand virtues, it is truly madness. But why is this? Because genius is easily thwarted; it even tends to thwart itself. It is so absolute (by the purity of its truth and logic) that in a relative world, a world of compromises, there seems no place for it. Genius may break; it will not bend. So. it rushes forth, hits its mark standing, is diverted from that high aim into desperate courses. It enters the dark paths, pursues them to some dreadful goal.

Gilles de Rais, de Sade, Caesar Borgia were men of genius, just as truly as Michael Angelo and Isaac Newton. All genius desires the infinite, and the infinite is. one, not man~. Only the mediate steps are diverse. Darwin regretted his limitations as bitterly as did Alexander; and the love of Christ equally with the malice of Satan would destroy the world were each not thwarted by that world’s inertia.

The essence of genius is this occult, but overmastering lust of achievement in practical and material shape. If Neptune makes the saint or hermit, Uranus makes the magician, the man who calls forth from the unseen, not only its peace but its power. The dream of the Uranian is universal dominion by and for his Idea. This Idea may obsess him, blind him to all else, ruin him by narrowness. He rarely understands that Being must take form before it can be perceived, and he misses his opportunities. He does no l known how many veils must be thrown over the splendour of his Virgin before men can bear to gaze upon her without going mad.

All genius is equally ‘good’, but unless it be accompanied with utmost breadth of sanity, with moral strength as of a god. and above all with humour, it thickens, it ferments, it turns to deadly poison.

He that began by wishing to save men continues by secret murder. The man perhaps sees chastity as the salvation of the race, and instead of living and letting his light shine before men, becomes mad and assassinates some man whose influence he deplores. It is characteristic of the infatuation with an idea that all sense of proportion is lost. Even so a diplomatist plunges his country into war at the cost of millions, both of men and money, in order to gain an advantage of negligible worth; one remembers the comments of Hamlet on the expedition of Fortinbras. So also Uranus is the particular planet of all secret vices that tend to usurp the whole nature of a man. From religious fanaticism to indulgence in dangerous drugs the gamut runs; and because of the obsession of the one idea, the defiance or neglect of circumstance attending it, we find what we call fame or infamy as our bias determines. There is no good or evil absolute; to one man Caesar is a hero, to another a fiend; the Puritans destroyed cathedrals; others even today hate pictures and statues. One critic thought Shelley a devil specially incarnated to plague mankind, another calls him a beautiful hut ineffectual angel.

Any genius thwarted, ‘ as Uranus was thwarted, in the beneficient purpose of his life, turns either to horrible self-indulgences, or to revenge. ‘Maudite race!‘ exclaims the starving man of genius, whose great heart only willed to burn itself out on the altar of art that he might bring men Truth and Beauty from the gods. ‘I wish that mankind had but one head that I might top it at a blow’. The anarchist throws his bomb in the spirit of philanthropy. Unless all this is fully understood, it is useless to try to judge mankind for every man has this Uranus in him, strong or weak, subtle or gross, fortunate or unfortunate, and this is the Royal Snake of Egypt, the giver of life and death. If you will not allow him to create, he will devour. And your own snake has his own ambition; busy yourself with that and do no t waste time on criticising others.

The most important thing in the life of any man is to discover the secret purpose of his incarnation and to follow it with wariness as well as with passion. Astrology has no more useful function than this, to discover the inmost nature of a man and to bring it out into his consciousness, that he may fulfil it according to the law of light.

The Uranus in us is the Sacred Lance of the Legend; in the hands of the Holy King it built the Temple of the Grail; in those of Klingsor the Garden of Evil Enchantments. Genius may be fertile or sterile, radiant or self-consuming; the one is White Magic and the other Black. But the force is the same, and being thus double it is of the utmost importance to direct it aright. The purity of a strong noble Neptune is the greatest safeguard to this force ; and the Sign of the Cross in its fullest, holiest, most Pagan and most Christian sense is its warrant. For it is not only the Redeemer, but it must itself be redeemed.