HOW TO USE THE SABIAN SYMBOLS AS ORACLES
There are many ways in which a person seeking information or guidance can discover the Sabian symbol that will significantly meet his need. Perhaps the simplest method is to use an ordinary deck of cards.
It will be apparent at once that the deck contains twelve figure cards — that is, king, queen and jack in four suits. From this it logically follows that the four kings can represent the four cardinal signs of the astrological zodiac, the queens the fixed signs, and the jacks the mutable signs. As I see it. Hearts stands for the spring quarter, fountainhead of life-rhythms; Diamonds for the summer quarter, the squaring of life, the "Diamond Soul"; Spades, whose shape has a polar connection with the Hearts, for the fall quarter, the darkening of the life force, and the emergence of the the collective mind stressing the Night-power; Clubs for the winter quarter, their three-fold shape symbolizing the fulfillment of mind and all institutionalized power.
All one need do to find the relevant degree of the sign is use the number cards of three suits: Hearts can be used to correspond to the numbers 1 through 10. Diamonds to refer to numbers 11 through 20, and Clubs to numbers 21 through 30.
The simplest procedure is first, to hold face down in one hand (normally the left hand) the twelve figure cards, and to select one of the cards at random with the other hand. This gives the relevant zodiacal sign. Then the same procedure is repeated with the pack containing the thirty number cards to give the degree numbers. The two packs, of course, should be thoroughly shuffled. If, for instance, the jack of clubs is taken out of the pack of twelve figure cards, and the seven of clubs is selected from the pack of number cards, the zodiacal symbol for the degree Pisces 27 — or Phase 357 of the cycle — is the one to be read and interpreted.
Various procedures can be devised to help the inquirer to concentrate upon what he or she is doing. But simplicity makes involvement in ritualistic forms unnecessary. What is essential is: (1) that the problem should be clearly formulated in the inquirer's mind, and (2) that the intent of the inquiry should be sincere, and the gestures of card selection made in earnest. Any oracular procedure based on curiosity, or merely for fun, is doomed to failure — even though occasionally the intellectual curiosity may really hide a deep-seated need, and the oracular answer may prove startlingly revealing. A clear formulation of the problem is essential, for in this as in all kinds of problem-solving (including laboratory experiments in science), the formulation conditions the answer one gets. It has been said, "Ask and you shall receive," and we must be very careful of what we ask, for we must live with what is received. Moreover, we should never ask the same question repeatedly, even if the answer obtained seems irrelevant or a poor solution. In such cases the oracle often has very irritating ways of apparently mocking us or showing us our weakness.
There is another method, less concrete and very often less reliable, for obtaining a symbol which answers to a personal need for discovering the archetypal meaning of a complex or difficult situation. In a sense, this method is better suited to the mentality of individuals who are familiar with oracular procedures and have a deep faith in what can be called inner guidance. It may have definite drawbacks for people whose consciousness is not open to the validity of such practices, and it should therefore be used with care and common sense.
This method is simply to focus attention upon the problem whose meaning one seeks to understand better so as to be able to act wisely, while at the same time concentrating on whatever one feels to be the transcendent source of the desired guidance — whether it be God, one's higher Self, a more-than-human Being, or even "the unconscious." Then as the mind is kept still, one should ask that a number be revealed vividly to the consciousness. This number will be that of the phase of the cycle whose symbol constitutes the oracular answer to the clearly formulated question. If a number does not rise inside the mind almost at once, vividly and authoritatively, the issue should never be forced, and the card method of selection should be used.
Sometimes a number larger than 360 may come to mind. In such a case 360 should be subtracted from it until it is reduced to a figure below 360. But if this happens, the symbol most likely refers to a situation involving transcendent features which the questioner may not be ready as yet to understand, or to a trend which has not come yet to maturity.
In order to clarify all this, I shall mention one actual incident. Quite a few years ago, a man came to me because he was unable to understand the meaning of a personal tragedy which was bringing confusing changes to his life. The testimony of the astrological charts which he knew well did not seem very clear-cut or convincing to him. There were many ways of interpreting Uranian transits and "difficult" progressions. The man kept asking, "But what does it mean? How am I to take it?"
After a while I asked him to be quiet for a moment, and with his mind at rest, to see if a number would intrude into his consciousness. He looked astonished, hesitated for a moment, closed his eyes, then suddenly said, "Yes, I quite definitely feel something in my head saying 342. What does it mean?"
I explained briefly the value and purpose of the Sabian symbols, and we read the description of the symbol for Phase 342, or Pisces 12°. It is the second symbol in the five-degree sequence which begins with Pisces 11°. In this sequence, a person is making some sort of claim for a new spiritual-mental status.
If the reader refers to pages 274 through 278 he will find the symbols for this five-degree sequence, which begins with a picture of "Men traveling a narrow path, seeking illumination." The symbol for Phase 342 reads: In the sanctuary of an occult Brotherhood, newly initiated members are being examined and their character tested. This was the oracular pronouncement which reached my client's mind through the intermediary of the Sabian symbols. If he had been conversant with this symbolic language my presence as an interpreter would not have been necessary; yet the presence of an interpreter who has gained the special ability to see through and concretize the oracular statement can be of great value, just as a psychologist can be of immense importance to a person seeking to uncover all the implications of an evidently significant yet unusual dream.
The implication of the symbol referring to Phase 342 was that something had happened to this man which brought him in touch, at a deeper level of his being, with a totally new and demanding situation, probably involving a new type of relationship. He was being "tested" to reveal his reaction to this situation. Who or what it was that made the testing matters little. The words "sanctuary of an occult Brotherhood" need not be taken literally — as a general principle, no oracular statement or dream should be taken literally, even though in some instances it indeed may appear to apply in a most precise sense to a situation. The symbol nevertheless suggested that my client was entering a new phase of his inner development, though in some cases it could also refer to coming into new responsibilities at a strictly social or business level.
My client had asked what the meaning of a tragedy he had experienced was. The symbol answerer by pointing out that the tragedy itself could be considered a test of character — a test made necessary because he had already taken a definite step in his individual development, even though he might not be aware of this in his everyday consciousness. He had been seeking "illumination" (Phase 341) - He had "entered the Path," spiritually speaking. Now he was being tested — by life, God or "the Master" — to prove his worth, i.e. his "qualifications."
I repeat that the term "initiated" in the symbolic statement was not necessarily to be understood in a strictly occult sense. Initiation simply means entrance into a new field of activity, a field in which one is to act in the company of beings who have already mastered the requirements of that field, at least to some extent. A new kind of cooperation is therefore implied, and the group of which one has become a part demands a probationary period of testing. This is true at any level at which groups of men operate in an organized manner.
This was what the oracle told my client; if he were open to the "revelation" his entire approach to the tragedy he had experienced would be changed. Instead of feeling beaten down by an inscrutable fate and meaningless events, he would realize that these events indicated his having taken a major step in his life, a step necessary for further growth, as the grinding of the coarse material surrounding a diamond is necessary in order to allow the pure stone to reveal its
What, Whereto, How and Why
In part three I discussed the structural relationships between Sabian symbols that reveal how the entire set constitutes an organized and integral whole. In the chapter "The Cross and the Star" I showed that a basic — though sometimes not easily perceptible — pattern of meaning can be established between symbols opposed to each other and forming a perfect cross. The simplest manifestation of this type of structural patterning can be seen when relating the symbols referring to the four cardinal points of the year cycle, the solstitial and equinoctial points. I stated that when confronted with any important event and basic change, four questions should always arise in the mind: What is the nature and meaning of the event? To what is it leading (i.e., What is its potential outcome?) How can I best handle the situation? and What is the ultimate purpose of this entire process of development?
In an astrological chart these four questions can be related to the four Angles: Ascendant (WHAT), Descendant (WHERETO), Nadir (HOW), Mid Heaven or Zenith (WHY). We will see in the next chapter that such an analytical approach in a great many cases can be significantly applied to a birth chart, the more validly perhaps the more the person is consciously in touch with the realm of archetypal meanings — even though one certainly cannot make this a general rule.
In the case of the person who drew to his mind the symbol related to the number 342, this symbol was to be taken as the WHAT of the situation. The oracle told what the situation meant in the total life span of the inquirer. But any such answer in turn poses many questions. The first is, "If this is so, then where will this lead me? What kind of result can I expect, or at least work for?"
The answer to the WHERETO of the situation is theoretically to be found in the symbol for the phase of the cycle in opposition to the first symbol. Astrologically speaking, if Pisces 12° is the basic symbol referring to the inquiry, then Virgo 12° will give the symbol answering the WHERETO question. This symbol is: After the wedding, the groom snatches the veil away from his bride. I have interpreted it as indicating penetrating beyond the "veil" of natural appearances to the essential reality of existence.
What we see, therefore, is that if the inquirer succeeds in passing through the testing process, and thus is accepted as a full-fledged participant in the type of group-relationship operating at the new and normally higher field of activity, he Will develop the mental ability to tear away the "veil of Isis" and to come in contact with hidden realities. He may be able to deal forcefully and creatively with occult energies. Or if the inquirer operates only at the social or business level, he should be able to reach some "inner sanctum" of power and wealth.
I said if the inquirer succeeds in passing the tests. The next question inevitably follows: "HOW can I best act in order to succeed?" For an answer to this question we turn to the symbol for Gemini 12°, because this degree is 90 degrees ahead of Pisces 12°. In a "solar" chart, in which each House contains thirty degrees, if the Ascendant Pisces 12*, the Nadir point (lmum Coeli or cusp of the fourth House) is Gemini 12°, which means phase 72 of the cycle (342 plus 90 equals 432, which reduces to 72 when 360 is subtracted.)
The symbol is formulated thus: "A Negro girl fights for her independence in the city." The keynote is: "Liberation from the ghosts of the past."
This symbolic scene is elucidated by the preceding one, which refers to newly opened lands offering the pioneer new opportunities for experience. The man who has "entered the Path" leading to a new field of relationship and new powers is indeed a pioneer. But the tragedy of all pioneering ventures is that the pioneers too often bring to the new land or any new opportunity "the ghosts" of their past — their old habits and prejudices, their fears and insecurities. Pioneers along any new lines of social or group activity have to fight not only against whoever occupies established positions in the social environment, but against their own past. They often have to overcome a basic uncertainty and lack of faith in their own ability to succeed. The symbol therefore tells the inquirer that he must stand for what he knows is right against all opposition. And here we can note that according to occult traditions the testing of the aspirant to a new status includes the materialization of illusory shapes of frightening appearances and a sort of condensed precipitation of the candidate's basic weakness now confronting him and barring his way. He needs courage and a keen grasp of what is happening. He must claim what is his due. He must "liquidate" the past by strong, persistent and wise action.
The fourth question that calls for an oracular answer is, "WHY all this? What is the ultimate goal that I am to reach, the essential purpose of the struggle?" The answer is to be found in the symbol for Sagittarius 12°, which is the point opposite Gemini 12°, and thus completes the "cross" begun at Pisces 12°, the original symbol selected by the inquirer.
The symbol for Sagittarius 12° reads: "A flag turns into an eagle; the eagle into a chanticleer saluting the dawn." This peculiar symbol is susceptible of various interpretations, but in reference to the situation occupying our attention the most important meaning seems to be that the purpose of the events which had so disturbed the inquirer was to impel him to transform his ideals from the abstract (the flag) to the spiritually concrete (the eagle). His ideals had to become alive and able to withstand the intensity of a "solar" illumination at the highest level reachable by Earth-nature (the high-soaring eagle), so he could act as a herald of the New Day (the crowing chanticleer announcing the rising of the sun).
This was what was implied in the oracular appearance of the number 342 in the man's quieted consciousness. The four symbols which formed a cross-like constellation of meanings quite clearly gave the crisis which so confused him a positive, creative value. The test he was experiencing was real and dangerous, but it was a test, and if he could summon the courage and strength to face it and to overcome his karmic handicaps and the obstacles placed in his path, the results would be immensely valuable and would make him one of the pioneering spirits of the coming Age.
In short, what the oracle said in answer to my client's question was something like this: "You personal crisis means that you are being tested as a result of a deep interior phase of growth of which you may not have been aware. Provided you firmly and persistently demand your freedom from past conditioning, you can be given a new revelation of the power of life, a new sense of your own worth as a creative person. But do not just think of what you will be able to reach as being an abstract ideal. Do not either merely look at it or experience it ecstatically in high flights of imagination. Act it out among your people. Let your vision be known. Become a heralding agent of the creative Power of the universe."
It should be clear from this example that the oracular pronouncement did not refer to any particular future event. The inquirer was seeking meaning, not fortune-telling. He might have asked whether or not he should sign a contract with a new firm, or marry someone with whom he had fallen in love. But any inquirer wise in the ways of the oracles would never ask; "Should I do this or that?" The only sensible way of phrasing a question to an oracle is; "What would be the meaning, or the results, of such an action?" What the oracle can tell the questioner refers essentially to the quality of the results of the action; it has to do with the relationship between the performer, the performance and the results of this performance. And we shall now see how this character of all oracular pronouncements applies to an interpretation of each of the basic factors in a birth chart; how one can use the symbols of the degrees on which the ten "planets" and the four Angles are located in order to reach a new dimension of astrological interpretation — the dimension of qualitative meaning.
An Astrological Mandala