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

The Master Key to Astrology

It has often been a source of bewilderment to the student that with such small variations in heaven, they should be so large on earth. Everybody has just as many signs and planets as everybody else; yet one man is a nobody – in fact most men are little more – and another is more than half divine. No study of aspects as such can explain the fact. They work more or less when they are far from being exact; and on the theory of probabilities it would seem as if at least a third of the human race should be of noble calibre. As a fact, hardly one man in ten thousand leaves even a transient mark on his generation. How is this? The problem has always baffled astrologers and encouraged their critics. In fact, till now no astrologer has fairly faced it. If we do so now, it is because we have solved the problem and place the key in the hands of humanity.

What is the difference between an amoeba and an elephant? The cells of which an elephant is composed are one and all not very dissimilar to the amoeba. The difference is that one is varied and organised, an harmonious republic; the other remains single.

What is the difference, to go higher in the scale of evolution, between a monkey and a man? The answer is similar. It is not so much the size and weight of the brains that differ; some men with small brains have been the intellectual superiors of men with large brains. But if we take the brain of an ape and that of a man from their envelopes, a radical difference becomes immediately patent. The convolutions in the ape are few and simple; in the man they are many and complex.

There lies the great secret: the men who mould the destinies of humanity are the most evolved and therefore the most highly complex types. They are not men who have small interests here, and small functions there; they have built up every factor in their being into a single composite pattern. Often the manifestation of the complex will be widely divergent, on the surface; hut this is only another symptom of the complexity. All this is explained by astrology.

A glance at the horoscopes of the greatest men of whom we have record shows that generally speaking the planets form exact or very close aspects and also – this is the important point – that all or very nearly all, the planets are interwoven. Sometimes we sec two or three complexes in a nativity; perhaps even four; and these have no close relation with each other. Such horoscopes are those of commonplace people. It is as if they had several strands in their nature which had not been properly interwoven. As a result there are times when one is at work in its own feeble way; then it is forgotten, and another comes into operation. This lack of continuity is fatal to the performance of any constructive work. If such a person should acquire fame, it is the result of some action suddenly conceived and executed, or of an accident.

A few examples of great horoscopes will make these points certain:

Shakespeare, to begin with, has all nine planets in a single complex. Five of them are in aspect with 3 degrees, only one is more than 10 degrees from the very furthest.

Dante maybe said to have two complexes, one of five planets, all within 6 degrees; another of four all 9 degrees; and one complex is only 9 degrees from the other.

Michael Angelo has six planets within 6 degrees, with a seventh only 4 degrees, and an e eighth only 3 degrees away. Petrarch has six planets within 6 1/2 degrees, and the other three within 10 degrees.

Sir Richard Burton has five planets within 5 degrees, and the other four within 7 degrees.

Bismarck has seven planets within 10 degrees, the other two within 4 degrees.

Edison has six within 11 degrees, the others within 8 degrees.

Shelley has five within 8 degrees, three within 2 1/2 degrees, and the other only 6 degrees from a conjunction with one of the larger complex.

Zola has all nine with 11 degrees; Copernicus eight within the same limit.

Goethe has two distinct complexes, one of six planets within 13 degrees, the other three within 7 degrees.

Napoleon has six within 10 degrees, three within 5 1/2 degrees and three within 7 degrees.

Balzac has four within 9 degrees, five within to degrees, and the two complexes are related within 7 degrees.

Wagner has five within 5 degrees, three within 6 degrees and the last only 5 degrees away.

Baudelaire has five within 10 degrees and the other four within 10 degrees also; the one complex is but 7 degrees from the other.

Pasteur has six planets within 6 1/2 degrees, two within 3 degrees and the Moon which stands aloof is by far the least important of the host of heaven.

Swinburne has six planets within 5 degrees, the rest within 11 1/4 degrees.

If we had chosen to include minor aspects, such as 45 degrees and 135 degrees, or the quincunx and quintile, an even stronger case could have been made out, but it is undesirable to introduce too much subtlety into an argument of this sort; we prefer to base it only upon obvious and patent facts.

In the investigation of any nativity, it is quite useless to content oneself, as is too frequently done, with the consideration of planets in pairs. These will give details of the native, it is true; but it is the complex which decides on what scale these details are to be interpreted. Zola had Saturn trine to Mercury, which made him great in construction. But had not this aspect been merely part of a mighty complex, it would have made him a good merchant, a lawyer, or something comparatively common.

Shelley’s conjunction of Mars and Jupiter is very differently effective to that aspect in J. Pierpoint Morgan! Why? Because they form parts of complexes of quite opposite natures. The mere fact that one is in Leo and the other in Libra would not account for the difference. And here it is that we must emphasise the necessity of looking not only for the complex, but for the key to it. Two men might have identical aspects, and yet be utterly different just because in one case the Lord of the Ascendant was Mars and in the other Venus. It is not always easy to divine the secret pivot on which a complex swings. The Lord of the Ascendant is usually the cardinal point but if there be several planets or even one very strong planet rising, he may be overwhelmed by them or it and his place in heaven, as it were, usurped. And it is of the utmost importance that his fundamental planet be detected with accuracy; for it makes all the difference in the world whether we regard the other planets as modifying Saturn or modifying Jupiter. If the native be a Saturnian at heart the trine of Jupiter will favor his selfish plans; if a Jupiterian, the trine of Saturn will restrict and balance his enthusiasms. The conjunction of Sol and Venus which made Shelley so glorious an incarnation of Light and Beauty would hardly have acted in that way had Scorpio, not Sagittarius, been in his Ascendant. It is the Lord, Jupiter. culminating in conjunction with Mars and Neptune, that determine the disposition and the superiority of Sol in Leo to Venus that made effective the manifestation of that disposition in the heart through art; had those planets been influenced by Pisces, for example, it would have shown itself in some soft shadowy way.

Enough has been said for a preliminary account of this matter. In the course of these papers we shall pile Pelion upon Ossa, and Ossa upon Olympus in demonstration of this secret of the Astrological Complex.