At your Stations!

The heaven of the fixed stars, which is contained in the sphere of the ‘towers’ of the zodiac, is called the heaven of the ‘stations’ (manâzil), because the movements of the planets project themselves upon it. The seven planets, which represent the cosmic intermediaries between the immutable world of the archetypes and the earthly centre, actualise, by their combined rhythms and the reciprocal positions which ensue, the spatial relations virtually contained in the indefinite sphere of the skylimit, the sphere being no other than the totality of the directions of the space and hence the image of the universe.

from: Titus Burckhardt, “Mystical Astrology according to Ibn ‘Arabi” p.26

One volume of Astrology concentrated in two sentences. Titus Burckhardt’s booklet weighs heavier than many an astrological tome. But what is he saying? Let us go through each sentence phrase by phrase.

The heaven of the fixed stars…

Seems straightforward but note he says ‘heaven’ and not ‘sphere’. He speaks of a ‘sphere’ later, so the question here is, are they identical or is there a subtle difference? If they are identical then each of the planetary spheres is a ‘heaven’ and it is here that we have to ask ourselves what we mean when we use the word ‘heaven’. If we explore the etymology then we know that when we speak ‘heaven’ we speak of a covering, a canopy, a ceiling. Titus Burckhardt is speaking of the canopy of the fixed stars in an imaginative sense. When we look up at the starry sky we experience it not as empty and infinite but as a spherical ‘cloak’ covered with stars and these, in relation to each other, are fixed in place like jewels set in a piece of cloth – with the exception of the planets.

…which are contained in the sphere of the “towers” of the zodiac…

The constellations are are not the zodiac. The zodiac is invisible. Each sign is a ‘tower’. The boundry we have discussed before. The border of the sky canopy and the ‘towers’ opens to the mundus imaginalis, the world of imagination, which has its own ‘dimension’.

…is called the heaven of the ‘stations’ (manâzil) because the movements of the planets project themselves upon it.

The stations are in a sense activated by the planets. Note that the stations and the zodiac are not identical, we are speaking roughly of the constellations although major fixed stars such as Aldebaran can also define a ‘station’.

…the seven planets …actualise, by their combined rhythms and the reciprocal positions which ensue, the spatial relations virtually contained in the indefinite sphere of the sky-limit…

The movement of the planets is projected onto not only the sphere of the fixed stars but also onto the sphere of the zodiac and the border that both the fixed stars and the zodiac share – the world of imagry/imagination.

…the indefinite sphere of the sky-limit, the sphere being no other than the totality of the directions of space and hence the image of the universe.

It is not emptiness that is activated — it would be empty if there were no movement— but the fullness of the universe, as image.

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