The Sky without Stars (1)

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

There are two other qualitative dimensions that are important to the web and weave of astrological symbolism. These are space and number. Titus Burckhardt says quite simply, “Astrological symbolism resides in ‘points of junction’ of the fundamental conditions of the sensible world, and especially in the junctions of time, space and number.” (p. 17) We will look at these junctions in a later essay. Prerequisite to understanding the junctions we need to realize that the signs of the zodiac, symbols of astrological space, are not identical with the zodiacal constellations. This is very important as it shows the fundamental difference between tropical and sidereal astrology. It also helps clarify why it is tropical astrology that established itself in monotheistic arabic and western astrology.

Ibn ‘Arabi speaks of the sky without stars or the sky of the twelve towers. It is here, in this planetary sphere, that the twelve signs are found, whereas the zodiacal constellations are found in the sphere below, the sky of fixed stars.

The imagery of the tower is valuable in understanding the signs. Remember the sky of the twelve towers is ’empty’. What is a tower? We can say it is a constructed elevation, not a natural formation, whose purpose is to provide an overview of a whole region. It is visible from afar and usually dominates the landscape it is in. If you approach a tower you are only able to see your immediate surroundings. If you enter a tower your vision is considerably more limited, particularily when you climb a spiral staircase to the top. Only when you reach the top do you have a complete overview, in all directions. You see a whole region, the only limitation is the horizon, which marks the border of your vision.

The sky without stars is at the limits of the sensible world. From the standpoint of the sensible world the towers, or signs of the zodiac are subtle, but in a certain sense well defined elevations into or toward the sphere of the Divine Pedestal. From the standpoint of the sphere of the Divine Pedestal they are indefinite vessels into which the suprasensible pours itself into the sensible world, a first subtle manifestation. We have seen that all of the planetary spheres are an image of Adam. As all parts exist in the whole at every level, we have in the twelve towers or signs of the zodiac the ‘place’ of the archetypes of man, who as Adam contains in his spirit, soul and physical form the whole of creation.

In the vault of the sky without stars we have indefinite expansion (this is not a contradiction to the above), the ultimate periphery. In the centre of each human being this indefinite expansion finds its definite contraction. Each human being is thus a focus for all of the archetypes in the sky without stars. The microcosm embodies the macrocosm.

2 thoughts on “The Sky without Stars (1)

  1. Excellent post. As you’ve observed, the Sufi Master, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, expounds a theoretical explanation of the tropical system of the Zodiac, placing the Towers of the Zodiac in the Sphere of the Starless Sky, above that of the Sphere of the Fixed Stars, and below the Sphere of the Divine Pedestal and the Sphere of the Divine Throne. Effectively he, therefore, gives the equinoxes precedence over the precession of the stars, and ties the First Point of Aries to the Vernal Equinox, which is seen as closer to the first movers than the ‘fixed’ stars.

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