Tag Archives: astrology

Homage to Lord Kalachakra!

I recently received my Tibetan horoscope from Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan medical and astrological institute based in Dharamsala, India, and set up by the Dalai Lama.

There were a lot of surprises in there. What principally surprised me was that the positions of the planets differed marginally from Indian sidereal astrology. This is the front page of the prognosis offered by Men-Tsee-Khang.

Homage to the Lord Kalachakra!

In contradistinction, here is the rashi chakra for the “seven planets” produced by the enormously wonderful Indian software, Jagganatha Horam.

Lagna 24 Libra 16; Sun 21 Scorpio 25; Moon 10 Gemini 28; Mars 28 Leo 31; Mercury 4 Sagittarius 24; Jupiter 9 Capricorn 20; Venus 6 Capricorn 04; Saturn 27 Leo 10.  These figures tally more or less with my own horoscope program, Astral Windows. Venus and Jupiter are in Capricorn, sidereally.

But not in the Dalai Lama’s mobs’ chart. There, Venus and Jupiter have ended up in Sagittarius, although the other positions are similar. I decided to ask the astrologer a question, to which she replied, quite promptly. She said that Tibetan astrology was, like Indian astrology, a sidereal system and quite occasionally discrepancies like this occurred.

This was not good enough for me. A colleague of mine, Professor Edward Henning, sent me his book a couple of years ago. Called Kaalachakra and the Tibetan Calendar (ISBN 978-0-9753734-9-1, New York 2007), this wonderful book points out the basic flaws in its calculations.

Indeed, Professor Henning was kind enough to explain the anomalies to me, in personal correspondence.  He told me that there was no equivalent to the ayanamsha in Tibetan astrology, and, indeed it is basically a tropical system, with the errors so great that it had somehow turned into a sidereal system – with anomalies as described above.

Of course, Hindu astrologers also have a kaalachakra system too, but it is kind of different and has various different ayanamshas. No one is quite clear what the starting point is. Some mention Spica at the end of sidereal Virgo, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn fixed on the star Regulus, while Varamihira, the “father” of Indic astrology based it on a star in Rohini which seems to have blanked out. And scholarship has shown that although Varahamihira’s astrology retains some Indian heritage, much of it seemed to based on astrologers attached to Alexander the Great’s invasion into the East. My own book on sidereal astrology – Tantrik Astrology – still appears to be extant.

Go figure!

Babylonians observed, so beat Victorians

WHETHER IT’S A RELIGIOUS or a scientific reason that makes people watch the skies does not, in the end, much matter.

The Babylonians, for example, produced 10s, perhaps 100s of thousands of clay tablets over the period the civilisation lasted. The British Museum picked up a huge amount of these in the Victorian era, and they are stored safely,  perhaps never to be translated. There can’t be many scholars these days that understand the wedges put into clay tablets.

Arthur Koestler, an avowed atheist in his  The Sleepwalkers, pointed out that magic and science were indistinguishable in those days. Very annoyingly, I can’t find my own Penguin edition  of The Sleepwalkers, because this house is filled with way too many books. So I’ll have to go on memory. Victorian astronomers were shocked to find that the ephemerides of the Babylonians on the clay tablets the Brits unearthed were way more accurate than their own about the planetary positions of the then known planets.

The Greeks called the Babylonians “Chaldeans”, mistakenly, and before we knew where we were we had epicycles and all sorts of ridiculous theories about why the planets went retrograde.  Observation is good.

Take for example these pix – made by our former sparring partner, ex-Rambus employee Richard Crisp. They record some facts in the universe. As the universe is bigger than us, trying to understand what any of it means is difficult even given our large roof brain. But they speak to all of us, don’t they?

They are here, here, here and here.  I have written software to compute the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the planets in the past, much aided by books such as the Textbook on Spherical Astronomy by W.M. Smart (he was), the Astronomical Almanac, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Practical Astronomy with your Calculator by Peter Duffet-Smith. Perturbations are extraordinary effects and the calculations required are mind boggling.  Let us not talk about Brownian movements. Computers have made such things so much easier. Φ