After I met Marc Edmund Jones in Los Angeles in 1930, he was generous enough to mail me copies of the mimeographed courses on astrology he was then sending to the members of the Sabian Assembly which he had founded.* "Symbolical Astrology" was written in 1931, and it listed and interpreted symbols for each degree of the zodiac. I became very much interested in these symbols which, for various reasons that I will presently state, I found far superior to previously published sets of degree symbols; and when urged by my friend Alice Bailey, I decided to write my book The Astrology of Personality (summer 1934 to spring 1936) I asked Marc Jones for permission to include in it a condensed version of the symbols and their interpretations. This permission was readily granted.
*In order to answer questions which have occasionally been asked of me, may I state that I never have been a member of the Sabian Assembly, nor have I enrolled in any of Marc Jones's classes.
While I saw the original index cards on which brief descriptions of the symbols were written as received in 1925 through the intermediary of Elsie Wheeler — under circumstances which I shall describe in Chapter 2 — I had not sufficiently studied and meditated upon these original descriptions to realize how different they were from what was written in the mimeographed course, which came some six years later. Thus I was content to follow the statements and interpretations of the course. I had, however, to condense them; and I introduced here and there remarks which had reference to depth psychology, for in 1933 I had become deeply interested in Carl Jung's writing. I had first studied astrology in 1920, but at that time I was mainly occupied with musical composition and the study of Hindu philosophy and theosophy. It took the combination of Marc Jones's approach and of Jung's psychology, and of various personal changes and opportunities, to make me realize the possibility of using astrology as a practical application of a cosmic, holistic and cyclic philosophy of existence.
As I came more and more to use the 360 Sabian symbols I grew dissatisfied with many of their formulations and interpretations, even though I was ever more amazed by the inner structure of the entire series, especially considering the totally aleatory manner in which the symbols were obtained. As a result I started to write a long series of articles, entitled The Wheel of Significance, which were published serially in American Astrology magazine between October 1944 and December 1945.
In 1953 Marc Jones published his book The Sabian Symbols in Astrology, in which he used the brief original descriptions of the symbols obtained in 1925 in San Diego. He added to these descriptions completely new and different interpretations which were conditioned by his special social psychology and abstract philosophy, and which pointed to a relationship between opposite zodiacal degrees. And in 1954 and 1955 American Astrology printed four articles I had written presenting some new ideas about the symbols and particularly about the possibility of making them serve a purpose similar to that which people today seek to satisfy through the use of the symbols of the I Ching.
I shall discuss the validity and the limits of such a use of the Sabian symbols in the last chapter of this book. Part Two, the largest section of this volume, is consecrated to a reformulation and complete reinterpretation of the entire series of symbols, considered as a cyclic and structured series which formalizes and reveals the archetypal meaning of 360 basic phases of human experience. Part One introduces the whole subject and discusses the meaning of symbols when used in such a cyclic frame of reference and in relation to a structured process of growth in consciousness. Part Three discusses in greater detail the different ways in which this factor of structured unfoldment can be analyzed and the quite extraordinary results which can be produced by such an analysis.
The book ends with considerations of the use to which this series of Sabian symbols can be put for what might be called, somewhat inaccurately, the purpose of "divination." The study of what is involved in divinatory practices in itself could take up an entire volume, especially as it challenges Western man's concept of time. Here I can only touch upon a few basic points and present a simple way in which the Sabian symbols can be used to answer basic questions which baffle the ordinary conscious mind.
In Marc Jones's version of the symbolic series, particularly in the book published in 1953* the fact that each symbol refers to one degree of th6 zodiac has been emphasized. It should be clear, however, that the concept of symbolization of a cyclic series of basic individual experiences within the context of our modern society is not to be limited to the study of the meaning of zodiacal degrees. The concept includes, but also transcends, astrology.
While this text is most likely to be used mainly by people interested in astrology and desirous of discovering, as it were, a "new dimension" of astrological interpretation, its validity reaches beyond such a use. The symbols can be applied to any cycle of experience that can be conveniently divided into 360 phases. For instance, it could be used to interpret the cycle of precession of the equinoxes, if one were absolutely sure when this cycle began. It can be used with reference to the cycle of daily motion of the Mid Heaven and Ascendant. Nevertheless, the cycle of the year — the tropical zodiac — is the most natural field for its application.
It is hardly necessary to add that this book leaves many things unsaid concerning both the theory of symbolic series and the interpretation of each of the 360 symbols. But to extend the size of the volume Would have been impractical and would defeat the essential purpose of my writing. I can only hope that in these pages the attentive reader and user of the symbols will find, distilled into significant statements and consciousness-expanding vistas, much of the harvest of a long and complex life span of experience in many fields of creative and philosophical activity — a life concerned with significance and understanding.
This is not a book for cursory reading, no more than is Richard Wilhelm's translation of the texts and commentaries of the I Ching. The material in it is to be used, to serve as a catalyst to deepen thinking about individual experiences and their essential meaning. It is a book about MEANING. And a life without meaning is hardly worth living. The worth of an individual indeed depends upon the meaning and the structural, archetypal character with which he endows all his acts, and as well his feelings and his thoughts.
An Astrological Mandala