Geocentric, Heliocentric or Just Eccentric?

Exploring Titus Burckhardt’s “Mystical Astrology According to Ibn ‘Arabi” continued:

Most modern critics of astrology no longer argue that astrology is fatalistic and therefore incompatible with Divine Providence. Instead the discussion revolves around astrology being incompatible with modern science. If you look up the word “astrology” in an encyclopaedia you will more often than not be told that astrology is a pseudo- science and can only claim a place in the history of human error. It is a historical curiosity, belonging to a time when misguided humanity believed the earth to be flat and the centre of the universe. Astrology lost its credibility once the Copernican system was established in the scientific community. From the critics standpoint and out of popular scientific understanding this is correct. But then the intellectual tools used cannot possibly help form a judgement. It is like using a toothbrush to hoe a garden with. The same applies for those advocates of astrology who theorise about gravitational grids, or planetary rays, or who compile statistical analyses. The perfect popular scientist is one-eyed and colour-blind. His only criteria for objectivity are measure, number and weight. The tools that he uses to understand reality can’t possibly comprehend an understanding of reality that takes Appearance seriously.

Titus Burckhardt sums it up this way:

“The discovery of the heliocentric system, which corresponds to a development both possible and homogenous but very particular to the empirical knowledge of the sensible world, obviously could not prove anything against the central cognition of the human being in the cosmos, only, the possibility of conceiving the planetary world as if one were contemplating it from a non-human position…” (p. 10)

He also quotes a passage from Frithjof Schuon’s ‘Fatalité et Progrès’:

“It is ‘legitimate’ for man to admit that the earth is flat, because empirically it is; on the other hand it is completely useless to know that it is round since this knowledge adds nothing to the symbolism of appearances, but destroys it uselessly and replaces it by another which could never express the same reality, all the while posing the inconvenience of being contrary to immediate and general human experience.”

What might be confusing is that the cosmology underlying astrology, and we will see this in Ibn ‘Arabi’s approach, is both helio- and geocentric. At this point we can safely say that an important key is understanding the nature of Appearance.

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3 thoughts on “Geocentric, Heliocentric or Just Eccentric?

  1. Good stuff. Have linked you to my blog, where I covered some overlapping ground of late. There is also the point that saying the earth ‘really’ goes round the Sun is contrary to experience: motion is, after all, relative. It is a modern disease that we should give greater credence to an abstraction viz that the earth goes round the Sun, than to our actual experience, which is the other way round.

  2. Dear Dharmaruci,
    The nature of appearance, which was once a very important philosophical topic is of course something that “abstract objectivity” avoids. It would rather not be where it is. For astrology and other traditional knowledge such as alchemy the image and its experience is very important.
    best wishes,
    Thomas

    PS I have also added your weblog to my bloglist. Yes blogs are a very valuable medium. You don’t have to write a book, find a publisher, etc. to present what you think about astrology (or whatever!) to an interested thinking public. You can’t sit across the table but if you are sitting on the other side of the world it is the next best thing. Cheers. 🙂

  3. Nice post, all theory just evaporates when we talk about our own experience.
    The facts get blown away by it, so to speak!

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