Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars

Ludwig van Beethoven was born at 03:40 am on December 16th, 1770 in Bonn. His horoscope has the Sun, Moon and Mercury in Sagittarius. Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius, is accentuated by conjunction with the Sun. This is apt considering that Beethoven developed the music of the Classical era so far beyond its existing parameters that many persons at the time could not comprehend what he was doing.

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: Ludwig van BeethovenBorn at the dark of the Moon, Beethoven was strongly influenced by the revolutionary movement in Europe. The position of Uranus in Taurus directly opposite his Scorpio Ascendant is descriptive of his love for ancient traditions combined with magnetic compulsion towards individual freedom and liberty. Beethoven openly despised the rigid class system of the time. Friends and patrons alike found him unconventional, uncompromising and ‘difficult’.

The disruptivBeethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: Natal Horoscopee placement of Uranus in the 7th house indicates misfortune in matters of love. The field of the 7th house embraces ‘all others’, including any marriage partners. Beethoven never married but fell passionately in love with a succession of unattainable women. That is to say, the women were unattainable by virtue of their higher social class or ‘position’.[1] In the case of his love for Antonie Brentano, the problem was that she was already married. In July 1812, the composer spent two days writing a now famous love letter that he never sent, and possibly never intended to send. It was addressed to “you, my Immortal Beloved”, and went on to include,

“My heart is full of so many things to say to you—ah—there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all. Cheer up—remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours.”

The unaspected Venus in Capricorn in the 3rd house of the chart indicates that Beethoven had an inclination towards falling in love with women that he taught the piano to. Women of ‘noble breeding’ were expected to play a little music as an ‘accomplishment’, so their husbands would not be bored by their company. While exalting the women to the heights (Saturn at Midheaven), Beethoven would remain isolated in the relationship for one reason or another, and so unable to form what was in those days called ‘an attachment’ with the object of his desire.

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: portrait of the young man (detail)Anecdotes and letters show the Uranian element to be very powerful with Beethoven. He supported the French Revolution until Napoleon declared himself Emperor. On hearing the news, Beethoven took the front page of the score for his 3rd Symphony, upon which he had written a dedication to Bonaparte, and tore it in half, separating his name from that of the self-proclaimed Emperor. When his brother once acquired some land and signed himself as “van Beethoven, land proprietor”, Beethoven replied, “van Beethoven, brain proprietor”. Beethoven famously said to the noble Prince Lichnowsky (a patron and admirer),

“What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”

Mars is the Lord of the Horoscope, as ruler of the Scorpio Ascendant. Mars, from his location in the 8th house, sends three formidable opposing rays against the Sun, Moon and Mercury in the 2nd house. As the 2nd house generally governs the physical body, it is impossible not to think of the crippling deafness that brought the maestro to the brink of suicide. Survival of that period was accomplished by a heroic effort of will. Only love of God, and the gift of music—that there was so much more music he had yet to give to the world—saved Beethoven from self-annihilation.

A further notable configuration in the natal horoscope is the Grand Trine formed between Neptune, Uranus and Pluto in the earth triplicity. The slow-moving outer planets are traditionally regarded as ‘impersonal’ factors in a horoscope, marking the character and experience of an entire generation. There are various placements, however, that can indicate the potentially subversive intrusion of supersensory phenomena.[2] Scientific orthodoxy will not accept the ‘supersensible’. Nonetheless thousands, perhaps millions of persons have experienced something that is only expressed in terms of spiritual philosophy, for example, ‘transfiguration’, when listening to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ludwig van Beethoven and Philosophy

Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817–1897) was the author of the first biography of Ludwig van Beethoven. The work is still regarded as a standard reference on the composer’s life. Ludwig was well versed in classical Greek literature as well as that of the German philosophers of his time. Of the German writers, the composer particularly revered Schiller and Goethe. At around the middle of his career, Beethoven wrote to a friend,

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: the composer“Since that summer in Karlsbad I read Goethe every day, that is, when I read at all. He has killed Klopstock for me. You are surprised? And now you laugh? Ah ha! It is because I have read Klopstock. I carried him about with me for years while walking and also at other times. Well, I did not always understand him, of course. He leaps about so much and he begins at too lofty an elevation. Always Maestoso, D-flat major! Isn’t it so? But he is great and uplifts the soul nevertheless. When I could not understand him I could sort of guess. If only he did not always want to die! That will come quickly enough. Well, at any rate, what he writes always sounds well. But Goethe—he is alive, and he wants us all to live with him. That is why he can be set to music. There is no one who lends himself to musical setting as well as he.”[3]

‘Maestoso’ is a musical term, meaning, ‘majestic, dignified’, usually quite slow in tempo. To Beethoven, the key of D-flat major, with many black notes if played on the piano, would have epitomised a mood of depression or despair.

Thayer reports that in 1823, the Englishman Edward Schulz wrote of his visit to Beethoven. He had found in him a friend of ancient Greek literature such as the works of Homer, particularly his Odyssey. Beethoven preferred Plutarch above all classical writers; from there he developed an admiration for ancient Egypt. In Isis and Osiris, which was written as a letter to Clea, a priestess of Isis, Plutarch writes,

“All good things, my dear Clea, a sensible men must ask from the gods; and especially do we pray that from those mighty gods we may, in our quest, gain a knowledge of themselves, so far as such a thing is attainable by men. For we believe that there is nothing more important for man to receive, or more ennobling for God of His grace to grant, than the truth. … Therefore the effort to arrive at the Truth, and especially the truth about the gods, is a longing for the divine. For the search for truth requires for its study and investigation the consideration of sacred subjects, and it is a work more hallowed than any form of holy living or temple service; and, not least of all, it is well-pleasing to that goddess whom you worship, a goddess exceptionally wise and a lover of wisdom, to whom, as her name at least seems to indicate, knowledge and understanding are in the highest degree appropriate.”


Notes

1. A musician, even a composer and performer of exceptional ability, was no different from a merchant in the social order. A woman of the nobility, or otherwise of high standing, could not enter into a liaison with a person of inferior rank without risking her reputation and inheritance. Indeed, she could risk more than that. If unsupported she could not gain employment even as a menial servant. The embankment of London, for example, was densely populated in those days with completely destitute women from all social classes.

2. The book Hermetic Astrology has a chapter devoted to ‘Outer Gateways’  formed when outer planets make a personal impact on the native. These are sometimes associated with supersensory phenomena. Some dictionaries do not include the word, ‘supersensory’, as it is not acceptable to conventional science. The Oxford dictionary gives, ‘transcending the senses; that is above or beyond what is perceptible by the senses’. It would be more accurately described, ‘beyond what is perceptible to the ordinary human senses’. Some persons, and many species of animal and bird, have extraordinary senses. The word was coined by the 19th century psychical researcher, Edmund Gurney.

3. Beethoven, by Thayer, pp. 802.

© Oliver St. John 2019

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Art of Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

The Tarot trump for the 25th path of Sagittarius, the Intelligence of Probation, is Art XIV, depicting the Holy Guardian Angel performing a work of transmutation on the soul. The full title of the trump is The Daughter of the Reconcilers: the Bringer-forth of Life.

Art of Sagittarius: Thoth Tarot Atu Art XIVThis trump was traditionally titled Temperance. It depicted an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. In the Tarot of Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris, the card has been retitled Art. It is the art of alchemy that is portrayed here. The trump corresponds to Sagittarius, the mutable fire sign of the Zodiac.

The signs of the Zodiac are best understood as pairs; Gemini is opposite and complementary to Sagittarius the Archer or Centaur. In the Tarot trump for Gemini, the Lovers, pairs of opposites are shown: black and white, silver and gold, good and evil, male and female. The red and white tinctures of alchemy are symbolised by a lion and an eagle. In the trump for Sagittarius all these opposites have exchanged places; the red lion has become white, the white eagle has become red. The Holy Guardian Angel, clothed in green and wearing light and dark masks, pours fire and water into a golden cauldron. In the cauldron she mixes drops of blood from the paw of the lion and tears from the mouth of the eagle.

The link between Gemini and Sagittarius is the Arrow of Will. A stream of light, guided by an arrow, rises upwards from the cauldron until it reaches the heart of the Angel; from there, the light branches into a rainbow that falls over her shoulders like a cape. Whereas the card for Gemini depicted a mystic marriage, the card called Art symbolises the consummation of that mystical union. The spiritual idea as expressed by Crowley in the Book of Thoth (pp. 103) is that an incomplete element is spiritualised only through the assimilation of its equal and opposite. The means of accomplishment is written in gold lettering upon a large orb, shining like the Sun behind the Angel: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum. ‘Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.’ Alchemists described the stone of the wise or universal medicine variously as a stone, a powder or a tincture. It may be divided into silver and gold or red and white, but its essence is always the same.

That which is Below is like unto that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the Miracle of the One Essence.[1]

Sagittarius and the Flaming Sword

The 25th path of Samekh connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon. The title of the path (Sepher Yetzirah) is the Intelligence of Probation or Trial. It is only by test, experiment, trial and experience that the harmony and beauty of Tiphereth can become permanently fixed in Yesod, the Foundation in the natural soul or body for the Ruach, the intelligent mind. The operation of the Great Work can only proceed if the aspirant practices detachment, indifference to phenomena, and refuses to identify their self with the actions of the personality and the events that seem to be taking place around. The ‘indifference’ is not to be thought of as lack of attention; in fact, the level of observation is intensified through the meditation practice. The magical power of the 25th path is the Power of Transmutations.

The deity we invoke when the Sun enters Sagittarius is the Egyptian Nephthys, sister of Isis. Nephthys is the principle of dematerialisation (waning moon) and dissolution of the ego or ‘body of the king’—a process that must begin no sooner than a foot is placed on the path. For that reason, in traditional mysticism the Intelligence of Probation is often likened to a Dark Night of the Soul. The 25th path crosses the veil called Paroketh.

Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

Most, if not all religions, have sensibly avoided trying to define ‘God’. As soon as the Absolute is explained in dualistic terms, ambiguous limitations are imposed. No less the Holy Guardian Angel, a term long used in the Western Mystery Tradition. The Holy Guardian Angel is the Messenger or Communicant of the divine Absolute. As with God, it is wise to limit ourselves to negative terms—what the Holy Guardian Angel is not. Scriptures and magical grimoires use allegory to convey truth that cannot be put into words. Promises of unlimited treasure, of worldly and supernatural powers, have lured many fools while at the same time providing evidence for the sceptic that it is all superstitious nonsense.

There are some deities that closely fulfil the divine messenger role of the Holy Guardian Angel, of which a few are: Dionysus, Jesus, Krishna and Horus. These names are perhaps religious and cultural modifications of one type, a god that is able to appear (or incarnate) in human form.

The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel is assigned to Malkuth, yet the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is the exclusive task of an Adeptus Minor. It is impossible not to use mystical allegory: the ‘bride’ or soul in Malkuth, the daughter or princess of the Kingdom, must be wedded to the ‘prince’ or Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth. Experiencing the solar centre of the Hermetic Tree does not involve ordinary clairvoyance or magical powers, so-called. The ‘Heart Girt with a Serpent’ is a metaphor for the impersonal cosmic principle fully realised as the sole source of personal existence. It is that which the ancient Egyptians called ‘Intelligence of the Heart’. This cannot be arrived at through a process of reason or argument unless the sword of reason is turned against itself.

Where belief begins, knowledge ends. Faith and belief are quite different words in the language of mysticism. Faith in the spiritual sense has more to do with acceptance of the path than adherence to dogma or fixation on some particular class of vision. The Gnostics ascertained that faith (pistis) is necessary to open the heart so that knowledge (gnosis), if it should come, will find a place to dwell. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 58, the cosmic principle Nuit informs her disciple that,

I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.

The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel may come about through subtle changes of consciousness over a long period of time, or it may come as a shattering realisation—or a series of such explosive revelations. There is no architectural blueprint that can be applied to all. The attainment of this primary goal of magick will not confer omniscience—neither does any magical grade or degree—and unless discipline and vigilance is continued, there is still a risk of falling from the path. What does this mean, ‘falling from the path’? The ‘Black Brother’ is a term that can apply equally to the magician or mystic that has lost heart, or the devotee of material sciences that seeks to suppress spiritual knowledge through dogmatic denial of its existence. Either way, the person becomes shut up in their ego, and all energy is utilised towards reinforcing the delusion. In his book Nightside of Eden, Kenneth Grant likened this to obsession by the Qliphoth of the 12th path of the Hermetic Tree, the path of Tarot Atu I, The Magus.[2] All the force of the will is concentrated on the ego, and is utilised for the reinforcement of personal identity. On the other hand, the Queen of Space rewards the aspirant that stays the path, as declared in Liber, I: 53:

This shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart and my tongue, unto whom I send this kiss.

It is said that all paths end in Mystery. Surviving the ordeals of initiation defines the path in a way that only the individual can truly understand. When the knowledge is firmly embedded in the heart through prolonged meditation, aspiration and vigilance, and is carried through into the daily life and work, then Nuit’s ‘kiss’ may at last confer the gift of certainty to her chosen one.


Notes

1. From the ancient Egyptian Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.
2. Kenneth Grant, Nightside of Eden, Part Two, Chapter 2 [Starfire Publishing].

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2018

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Scorpio Lord of Death and Resurrection

The Tarot trump for Scorpio is Death XIII, which is placed on the 24th path of Nun on the Hermetic Tree of Life. The esoteric title of the key is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The dual nature of Scorpio is depicted in the design of the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot card: A skeletal figure is wielding a scythe. With the sweep of the scythe, bubbles appear in which new forms are created.

Scorpio: Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot Atu Death XIII

In nature, life and death are two sides of one coin. ‘Death’ is therefore shown here as a dancing figure, destroying form and structure while simultaneously recreating it. The card is therefore a symbol of transformation and regeneration, apt for the months of October and November in the northern hemisphere. In terms of magical alchemy, the figure sums up the chemical changes called putrefaction. It is said that the base metal iron can only be changed into gold during the month when the Sun traverses Scorpio. In astrology the fixed water sign Scorpio is ruled by fiery Mars, the energy that breaks down form into its elements so that new life can be created. Iron is the Hermetic correspondence of Mars, while gold is that of the Sun.

Scorpio has three symbols: the Scorpion, Eagle and Snake. The Hebrew letter nun, ascribed to the path of Scorpio, superseded the much older letter nahash—‘a serpent’—for in later times the serpent became identified with evil. While the Scorpion symbolises the voluntary submission to inevitable change, the undulations of the Snake symbolise the dual dance of life and death. The Eagle is said to be the higher form of Scorpio. It has always represented ascendancy over matter or material form. Putrefaction gives off gas or vapour, and this has its parallel in occultism with spirituous non-material substances that are nonetheless tangible to clairvoyance. Ectoplasm or etheric matter is known to act as a medium between the physical world and more tenuous planes of existence.

The head of the Eagle is used as a symbol for alchemical distillation—it therefore represents the sublimation of gross matter. Scorpio is the 8th house or area of influence in astrology. The 8th house governs matters of sex, death and legacies. It therefore sums up all of our memory and experience; at the same time the very nature of Scorpio urges us towards change and transformation.

Scorpio: Imaginative Intelligence

The 24th path of the Hermetic Tree of Life is The Child of the Great Transformers: the Lord of the Gate of Death. The 24th path of Nun connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Netzach, the sphere of Venus. The 24th path is called the Intelligence of Resemblance or Imaginative Intelligence. The root of the Hebrew word for ‘resemblance’ or ‘imagination’ (DMINVI) means ‘blood’. It is the self-replicating formula of all created beings personified by the ancient Egyptian dwarf god Besz. The Imaginative Intelligence works from the centre of the self in Tiphereth towards the desire plane of Netzach. Thereby, new modes of expression, vehicles for the self, are brought forth. When ascending the Tree, such vehicles are transcended and broken down—thus the full title of the Tarot trump, Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The activity of the 24th path comes through the power of projecting mental images. When one attempts to fulfil desire on its own plane, the occult emphasis is placed on the action or ‘doing’ aspect of the human will. Unwitting obsession is all too frequently the result. The magical power of the 24th path is that of Necromancy.[1]


Notes

1. Abridged from the entry for the 24th path of Scorpio, The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2013, revised 2018

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