Today I have part seven in a series in which I'm looking at the beliefs on ancient astrologers. In this talk, I'm taking a look at the topics of purification, austerities and ecstasy.
Hi everyone, this is Acyuta-bhava from Nightlight Astrology and today I am doing the seventh part of my series on the beliefs of ancient astrologers. In today's episode, we are going to take a look at the topics of purification, austerities, and techniques of ecstasy. So if you haven't already watched the earlier parts of this series, I do recommend watching them in order. You could watch this as a standalone, but I think it'll make more sense if you watch the series from the start and go through it. One by one. I started this series. I started the research that has gone into this series several years ago, as I was preparing to take initiation on the path of bhakti yoga. I wanted to know how my beliefs as a practitioner of bhakti is a student of bhakti squared with the most likely beliefs of ancient astrologers I say most likely, because we don't exactly know what they believed. We don't exactly know what founding school astrology came from, if it came from one at all, if it came from a particular thinker or a group of thinkers, we don't even know exactly when it emerged, we think sometime between the last 500 years BCE. So this research began because I was giving a talk at a conference and that will necessitate research. So I started doing research. I also like I said, I wanted to know for myself if the beliefs of ancient astrologers squared up with my practices as a student of yoga. So I was really excited to find that not only were they completely compatible with the practice of yoga, but they were actually compatible with a wide variety of different world religions and, and schools of thought, which is why I think astrology has lasted so long, it's very adaptable. It has been used by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, you have a lot of different schools of, of mysticism, and a lot of different religious and spiritual schools that are using astrology in the ancient world, and for the last 2000 years has been very adaptable. Still, there are some unifying beliefs and you might say underlying doctrines or teachings about the nature of reality, divinity, the soul, the cosmos, that seemed to have been pervasive in the ancient world at the time and around the place that astrology got started. So this series is dedicated to trying to sort of unpack those.
So today we're going to talk about purification, austerity and ecstasy. Remember that in some of the most recent episodes, we talked about cyclical time, but before that, we also talked about liberation and enlightenment, we talked about the fact in the series that astrology was a kind of spiritual practice. As a spiritual practice, we have to imagine that if liberation or enlightenment from the wheel of karma is a part of the value system for ancient astrologers, then there were most probably because there are in so many different traditions that believe in enlightenment or liberation from material bondage, that there would be practices that would be aimed at helping the soul to be liberated from ignorance or from the, you know, the illusions of the material world. So, what were those practices? What could they have looked like? So that's what we're going to talk about today, purification, austerities and techniques of ecstasy. So often people think that purification austerities, or techniques of ecstasy are only common in the east or in Eastern religions, whereas in the West, rational philosophy was more dominant, and this really couldn't be farther from the truth.
For example, in the Sofist, Plato writes, the people who purify the soul likewise, think the soul too won't get any advantage from any learning that's offered to it, until someone shames it by refuting. It removes the opinions that interfere with learning, and exhibits it purified, believing that it knows only those things that it does know and nothing more. So here's Plato, talking about the lifestyle of someone who is aimed at understanding reality, a contemplative, a philosopher, someone who in order to do this has to remain humble. This is the kind of person that may need purifying of different kinds of intellectual hubris. So he's mentioning purification and the need for humility. Here we also see the same process described in various yogic and Buddhist practices where the ego is successively humbled through negations of its assumptions and tell a state of purity or almost a lack of assumptions. Beginner's mind is achieved, you could say. This could be called a form of jnana yoga in the yogic tradition, or Buddhist bhavana meditation which is designed to remove cognitive delusions that are caused by dogs dogmatism doubt ignorance or cravings. Similarly, in the Republic, Plato's great treatise, Plato also describes the process of attaining knowledge of the higher forms in terms of love, and in terms of the achievement of a higher state of consciousness. "It is the nature of the real lover of learning to strive for what is not remaining with any of the things that are believed to be. But as he moves on, he never loses the edge of his eros, never falls back from it until he grasps the being of each nature itself. And having given birth to understanding and truth he knows, truly lives and is nourished."
So the West sometimes gets pegged as this place of almost like, just heady rationalism compared to the east, which is mind body. That's actually not true. And I'll go on and show you more evidence for this. But here we have one of the arguably most influential philosophers in the history of the quote, unquote, West, it's not really it's Europe. But here's one of the most influential philosophers of the ancient West compared to the east anyway, saying that it is through purification of the mind through a kind of intellectual humility, through a striving after understanding of the highest things, through a practice of love and through a transformation of consciousness that one understands truly lives and is nourished. So this is a purification process that Plato is actually describing, that the spiritual seeker undergoes. And the republic Plato also talks about the lifestyle practices of the aspirant of such a student. "I suppose that someone who is healthy and moderate with himself goes to sleep only after having roused his rational part and feasted on fine arguments and speculations. And having attained clear self consciousness. Second, He neither starves nor feasts, his appetites, so that they will slumber not disturb his best part with either their pleasure or pain, but they'll leave it alone, you know that it is then that he best grasps the truth, and that the visions that appear in his dreams are least lawless." So, here we have a few things being said, one, that a moderate lifestyle is necessary, you have to learn how to restrain your appetites and your desires physically in terms of food, and you need to feed your mind on the the contemplation of the mind of God. So it's like a monastic type of lifestyle, although he's not going so far as to say that one should starve oneself or practice extreme asceticism. But he does end up saying also that when you do this, you also stand to receive better wisdom in your dreams, because your head will be less cluttered in processing, your lower urges as you sleep.
Finally, in the time is when Plato describes what the motion of the highest state of the philosophical consciousness looks like, the transformed consciousness of the of the spiritual seeker, he says, "So what is the nature of rational motion, it is impossible to look directly at, it's like looking at the Sun. That motion taking place in a single location necessarily, implies continuous revolution round a central point, just like wheels being turned on a labe. And this kind of motion bears the closest possible affinity and likeness to the cyclical movement of reason." Well, that description is very, very similar to the description of Samadhi that we find in the yoga sutras. Here in Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, he says, "yoga chitta vritti nirodha", which means Yoga is the stilling of the revolutions of the mind stuff. As Plato is saying, what is the nature of of what is the nature of the consciousness that has tapped into the mind of God that is, in a sense in communion with the highest forms, the true essence in inherent in things. He says that it's impossible to look directly at that, that it's like looking at the sun. "That motion taking place in a single location necessarily implies continuous revolution round a central point, just like wheels being turned on a lathe. And this kind of motion bears the closest possible affinity and likeness to the cyclical movement of reason" So he's describing almost a place that is still though moving in a continuous circle simultaneously. And this is very much how Yoga is described by Patanjali, that there becomes a kind of absorption in consciousness while the revolutions of the mind continue to turn. And, by the way, the word vrit from yoga chitta vritti nirodha, the word grit is closely related to the word rita or cosmic order again, but we're talking about a more generic word that implies the constant movement or cycling and flux of something. This is interesting because the word vrit is also Closely related etymologically to the idea of the revolutions of the sky, the actual revolutions of the stars and planets. So it is very likely that some of these mystics were looking at the sky, and all of its constant revolutions as again, a mirror, very obviously said in many places that this is the case as a mirror of the constant revolutions, and cycling's and fluctuations of the material world. In which case, the contemplative, the mystic, the monk, even the astrologer as a spiritual student, is one who is studying those things, because through the contemplation of those cycles, you start to see the eternal, which is like the still point in the centre within them, or in relation to them. And so Plato is describing the highest state of consciousness as one that finds a kind of eternal resting point within the centre. But because we're in bodies and with minds, it's not something that we can look directly at. There's a way in which the wheels will keep turning even as we find a connection to the eternal within it. And that's very similar to what is described as the process of Samadhi deepens in the yoga sutras. So there's some definitely some parallel stuff going on here. And this implies, again, that we're talking not just about philosophical, heady stuff in the West compared to mind body stuff in the East where we are really talking about techniques of ecstasy, meditative contemplative techniques that alter one's consciousness that purify one.
Well, both orphic and Jain monks believed in celibacy, took vows of poverty and only wore white, in particular orphic. We know that the morphix were connected to astrology. And like the Jains, they believed in the practice of celibacy of retaining your sexual energy for the sake of purification of the mind and aiding in the process of what we could say as similarly, like Samadhi, a process of becoming in very close communion with something transcendent or transcendental, and they took vows of poverty, they sort of rejected worldly possessions they only wore white. There are of course many similar standards among many yogic and Buddhist lineages as well. There are also existed Okay, a little bit more intense self starvation and self immolation among the Jains, Socrates willingly took poison in the company of his disciples and friends. Doesn't have to be that extreme. But there are examples of course of extreme austerities austerities meaning that part of the purification path will mean a certain amount of renunciation for periods of time, have certain kinds of it's like, you know, when someone goes on a juice cleanse today to purify a little bit more intense than that, if you're self immolating, right, right, but or self starving. But this idea that one had to learn to restrain the senses and to renounce certain kinds of worldly attachments or addictions or vices was key to many different groups of mystics in the ancient world around the time that astrology was coming about, as was the idea that generally speaking, a transformation of consciousness and a purification of the mind and body, as one is approaching, the highest truth is necessary.
Now, the orphic 's were not only ascetic, and this is important, but they also sought an intoxication of enthusiasm, enthusiasm from the word entheos, the God within, a union with God, and they were closely related with the Dionysian mysteries. These likely involved music, dance, trance, possibly even entheogens like psychedelic plants, the hermetica 200 CE and beyond, though possibly much older, we know that the hermetic his philosophy has its roots in prior Egyptian Pythagorean earlier forms of mysticism, but the hermetica discusses song, poetry, meditation, and contemplation as methods of ecstasy, as well as practices of austerity, simplicity and lifestyle and renunciation of certain kinds of material things. Pythagoreans another very likely influence on the earliest astrologers have been called medical musicians. And Protagoras himself was said to be able to put both animals and humans into a calming trance, that's really interesting. The list goes on. Iamblichus who is a neo platanus neo platanus definitely practice astrology said of Pythagoras, and there are certain melodies, devices remedies against the passions of the soul, and also against despondency and lamentation, which Pythagoras invented as things that afford the greatest assistance in these maladies. And again, he employed other melodies against rage and anger and against every aberration of the soul. There's also another kind of modulation invented as a remedy against desire. So here you have, Iamblichus, Neoplatonist, that group practice astrology a little bit later into the Common Era. But recalling the sagaris, who used music as a way of treating different kinds of afflictions. And why do so? Because the desire is to keep a certain kind of consciousness. That's that's you could say elevated but it's the key it's the keep a pure or clean or holy space in the mind and body.
For Pythagoras, the seven Greek musical modes and and planets were connected to one another. He said Saturn moves in the Dorian mode and Jupiter in the Phrygian. In pedagogies, this is going all the way back to 700 BCE, he wrote you must plunge beneath your crowded thoughts and calmly contemplate the higher realities with pure focused attention. If you do this, a state of inspired serenity will remain with you throughout your life, shaping your character and benefiting you in so many ways. But if you direct your intention instead to the trivial things that most people obsess with the nonsense that dulls the mind, you'll acquire more objects which you will lose. That's a rough quote from Empedocles, I was paraphrasing at the end because I actually lost part of the source text. And by the way, if you want a copy of all the sources that I use, the very first video of the series has it listed. So Empedocles is talking about being plunging our mind into higher realities with pure and focused attention. Now the Neo platonists, Plotinus. Again practice astrology third century BC. He also wrote extensively about meditation and contemplative techniques alongside of astrology. In Greek mythology, according to the Greek geographer, Pausanias, the original three muses were said to be Melete, Mneme and Aoide. They refer to the discipline study and contemplation, memory, and song or voice. So these are discipline, study and contemplation, memory, remembering things, often oral traditions, you know, would have been very common in the ancient world, and song or voice. So the Muses were thought to be the inspiration of musicians, scientists, artists and writers alike. And there was a sense for in any of these professions that if you were going to get close to a godly like transmission of the truth that you also needed to live a life that was studied contemplative, that involved song, and and again, methods of purification, and possibly austerity, austerity, meaning again, just renouncing things that are not good for you.
In the Timeaus Plato mentions two veins, which physical anatomists can't find, which pass along the sides of the spinal column, which cross one another an unknown number of times, Indian philosophers, of course, describe the ida and pingala channels and nearly identical terms. In the Hindu doctrine of the Kundalini, the proper place for this soul power, energy is at the top of the brain and it can be lost through unnecessary or frivolous ejaculation. Both Plato and Kundalini philosophy also mentioned different centres, we might call chakras in the East where that energy can occupy, it's like a locus that it can move through as it passes up or down those channels. Plato also mentioned semen and the power of this vital force is contained in semen and can be drawn up to the brain and shouldn't be discharged, while Kundalini Yogi's say the same thing. The earliest evidence for the doctrine of Kundalini energy in India dates back to some of the earliest Upanishadas, . The Chendogya Upanishada says 101 are the arteries of the heart, one of them leads up to the crown of the head, going upward through that one one becomes immortal. So you have belief that there is energy flowing through the body and that one has to learn how to master it and and move it and that prayer, like renouncing things like frivolous or unnecessary sex, for example, or loss of sexual energy would be common. So there you have a form of purification, austerity, and why? because also you're trying to reach this sort of serene stage of consciousness and or you're constantly transforming into higher stages of consciousness. So you have again, purification ecstasy, austerity. The belief Plato espouses in the Timaeus, which is also the major texts on astrology from Plato, you might say leads to Sicilian and south Italian schools of medicine medicine which were connected with the pythagoreans and orphic communities in the same areas, they taught that semen comes from the brain and is of the same substance with the spinal marrow, by way of which it travels to the genital organ through spinal channels that Indians call sushumna and Greek called Greeks called the holy tube. So, again, the West, the Western world was not on such a different page from the eastern world when it comes to meditation, purification techniques of ecstasy raising or altering your consciousness, renouncing things for the sake of purification, etc.
So this was also taught explicitly by the Crotinese medical school to which Democedes had returned from the Persian quarter century previously. Croton was also the centre of the Pythagorean brotherhood and shared many views of the pythagoreans. Aristotle wondered who originally taught the doctrine. This is the doctrine of that holy tube. The doctrine can also be traced to Hippo of Samos, fifth century BC, who is also believed to be a Pythagorean so there are very likely cross pollinating practices and ideas in the world from the east to the west, you could say, Now Diogenes of Apolonia, a pre Socratic philosopher had the same view. Heraclitus seems to have taught a doctrine about the retention of semen and control of the vital energy. Aristotle mentions the doctrine. So you have music, dance, trance, entheogens meditation, you have a contemplative lifestyle that has to be lived in accordance with the most likely groups of people that were either the first astrologers or were the some of the most popular earliest astrologers. What can you say this is not a practice that's really supposed to happen in your life without accompanying spiritual disciplines. And I don't say that to you know, chastise anyone. What's the final takeaway, ancient astrologers most likely led a spiritual lifestyle, they were not just practising astrology in a vacuum for pure, idle speculation about the past, present or future, that they were doing this, as we've said, in previous episodes as a way of understanding or contemplating the soul, awakening the soul from its slumber in the material ignorance in material bondage, like a lower nature. They were doing this in order to perceive or understand higher truth. And although prognostication is a part of the practice of astrology, it most likely would have been understood by its practitioners who would have been maybe mystics or something like astral priests in a sense, it would have been understood alongside of these other aims and goals that would have been incorporated in that way. And we see this literally in the text of some of the ancient astrologers, which I'm going to read in the final episode of this series.
Ancient astrologers most likely lead a spiritual lifestyle, and they most likely practised astrology along side of other spiritual practices aimed at the liberation of the soul. astrology itself may also have been understood as a form of intellectual spiritual practice, like an intellectual yoga. But what does that mean in terms of what the spiritual purpose of astrology might have been when it came to reading charts? That's a big question. My speculation on this is that, again, if you are coming to an astrologer, it is because you respect that you're not in control of everything, that the will of the gods have something to say about your destiny, and learning what that is, will help you to embody virtue, acceptance, it will help you prepare to meet your destiny, from the space of being an eternal soul. And that living life from the soul rather than being attached to the ups and downs of fortune is actually what astrology was about. And again, we'll see this in some of the texts I'll bring up in the very last episode. For me, what this really affirmed in me was this feeling that I've never been interested in astrology as a kind of self obsessed masturbatory thing where it's just, well, I'm just interested in me, I want to know all about me, I want to know what's going to happen. I want to know when good things are gonna happen. I really don't, you know, want bad things to happen. Or, you know, just endless, you know, ridiculous memes. And you know, some of that's funny, I'm not like a curmudgeon. But yeah, just this kind of pop, or purely self obsessed. So insofar as astrology is participating in that kind of vibe, I really think it's off track with what astrology was and where it comes from spiritually speaking. That doesn't mean that there was just one school, just one practice. I don't think we need to go back, you know, 2000 plus years ago and become, you know, ascetic renounced monks or something. But as someone who has a daily spiritual practice as part of my life as an initiated monk in the bhakti yoga tradition, I can tell you that my practices as an astrologer, are not nearly as good if my mind and body aren't clean, I'm not getting enough sleep, if I'm not eating right, if I'm not exercising, if I'm not practising my mantra meditation everyday if I'm not in prayer, from not reading sacred scriptures. To be really good at astrology, this is just my personal experience, one has to go from it being something that perpetuates the kind of idle gossip and speculation on fleeting things in the world, including our own inner life, which is just as fleeting as a river, that we have to go from that to a deeper space of finding the soul or the self within, even if we're just inching toward it. As we're practising astrology, we need some help, we need some accompanying practices. This was probably easily my biggest takeaway from this study. But we have a few more episodes to go. I highly recommend, by the way, that if you are a student of astrology, consider 10 minutes of meditation a day, consider 10 minutes of mantra meditation, if you go to my website, you'll find a bhakti, private Bhakti channel, you can get a free password and access all my Bhakti talks. And I have about probably about an hour long talk on how to use mantra meditation. So if you're looking for something like that, check it out. Think about it. Plato is saying that there's a way in which, though we're we were focused on a sort of central eternality, like the sun, this higher truth and divinity, the soul, that we are always moving around it while we're in a body. And that is very much like the Buddhist practices of circumambulation that you'll that you'll often find. I used to go to a Buddhist temple out in Potomac in Maryland, and there'd be people circumambulating a Buddhist shrine. Similarly, in bhakti, we go we you know, the mala mantra meditation, you go in a big circle around the beads and then you go back, and then you go back the other way. And circumambulation is a big thing. We need, like the tides coming in and out, washing down the rocks over time, we need practices that are repetitive, that create rhythm in our lives. And that help us to find that centre point within the fluctuations. And in a way mantra meditation is the microcosm of that goal. And so having something like that in your life every day, even a mindful walk time with a journal, whatever, you know, time in prayer, there's another great book by Eknath Easwaran, called passage meditation, or passage prayer or something like that. Great book on how to incorporate a daily prayer practice in your life, love that book. So I highly recommend it. Because if you're doing that, and you're taking care of your diet, your body, your mind. And you're having a spiritual life every day, astrology will open up two to three times more vividly and more clearly, you'll become a better reader. And this this practice of astrology will take part in a spiritual revolution in your life. So I'm very you know, you guys who watch my channel know, this is something I'm very passionate about teaching. So, alright, well, we are going to talk in our next episode about secular humanism versus spiritual, spiritual lifestyle in the ancient world. Sometimes people think, Well, everyone in the ancient world was spiritual. No, there was some of the same exact struggles in the ancient world, that there are today between groups of people who have very different opinions about whether anything spiritual was real or not. And we're going to talk about some other things too, like you know, the hiddenness, or secretiveness of astrology in the ancient world versus the need to evangelise or share or teach certain things. We're talking about vegetarianism non violence. And we will also talk a little bit about diffusion, how we how and where teachings came from. So a few more things to go in this series. I hope you guys are enjoying it. And I hope you guys have a great day to day. All right. Take it easy, everyone. Bye.