Traditional Medical Astrology
Medical Astrology is no longer a specialty that only a few astrologers can learn to use, as was the case for the last century. Presented here is a step-by-step approach to teaching the logic of this field, which traditionally was part of every natal astrologer’s work
Medical Astrology is no longer a specialty that only a few astrologers can learn to use, as was the case for the last century. Presented here is a step-by-step approach to teaching the logic of this field, which traditionally was part of every natal astrologer’s work. Included are natal, horary, and electional methods, as well as an extensive history of medical astrology and its uses. Dr. Lehman offers the traditional astrological methods for this system, also emphasizing that medical astrology was always an adjunct to medicine, not a complete system by itself. This book is designed for the intermediate student in astrology who wants to learn the basics of how this system works. Both theory and practice of these methods are taught.
Table of Contents:
A Word to the Modern Astrologer: Welcome!
Table of Figures and Charts
1. The History of Medicine and Astro-Medicine
2. Understanding Hippocratic and Galenic Medicine
3. The Body, Its Health, Temperament and Virtue as shown by the Natal Chart
4. The Body and Its Diseases as Shown by the Natal Chart
5. The Body and Its Longevity
6. Astrological Iatromancy
7. Prediction through Time: Crises and the Deelopment of Disease
8. Surgical Electional Astrology
9. Non-surgery Electional Astrology
10. Conclusion: When We no longer engage in Bloodletting
Appdenx A. Synopsis of Classical Concepts Necessary to Understand Medical Astrology
Appendix B. Glossary
Appendix C. Table of Essential Dignities
Appendix D. Multiples Systems of Computing Temperament Worksheets
Appendix E. Medical Rulerships from
Martial Art of Horary Astrology
The study of medical astrology is not especially sexy, and it isn't usually as fun as studying human behavior, whether of your family, or of the famous. It's a skill you want to have handy when you need it, but not before! Medical astrology shares this with medicine itself, a wonderful thing to have in your culture, even if you would like to spend most of your life without having to think about it. Unless you have the blessing of perfect health throughout your life, the odds are overwhelmingly large that at some point, you will put your attention on health and disease.
Our Western medical astrology took significant components from Mesopotamia, but its real cradle was the great Hellenistic society that produced the medicine of Hippocrates and Galen. The Hellenistic astrologers who came after Hippocrates found ways to merge Mesopotamian ideas with Greek craft and philosophy thus producing the synthesis that allowed astrology to be a respected handmaiden of medicine for the next millennium and a half.
What was created was not astrological medicine, in the sense of a new and different profession that was different from both astrology and medicine. Astrologers found ways to make astrology useful to physicians: by making it easier to predict the course of diseases, to make it easier to decide upon treatment protocols, and especially, to find the dangerous periods when a disease could either turn fatal, or bring forth a cure.
As such, the study and practice of medical astrology cannot be “practicing medicine without a license,” because there is no medicine to practice. Astrologers brought a toolkit to medicine, not an independent system.
However, in order to understand medical astrology, we have to thoroughly understand the medicine that developed within the culture that supported the synthesis between the two. And in understanding the medicine, we also have to understand its place within Hellenistic society: both as a process, and as a profession.
Hippocrates and his school not only created the basis of Western medicine for centuries afterward, they began to define the nature of the medical profession. Their goal, which they achieved, was to make medicine into a techne.
The achievement of Classical Greek physicians in making medicine into a techne, or art, was enormous for the social prestige of medicine. We need to review just how their society saw techne. The techne were the skilled arts: this word is the root to the English word technology. In Latin, the Greek word techne is ars.
While every Roman paterfamilias needed to know the basics of medicine so that he could apply this knowledge to his household, the profession of the physician was not one for the upper class. The learning of the upper class was philosophy – and what later became known as the liberal arts. Medicine, on the other hand, was seen as applied learning, which had more in common with architecture than with philosophy. The liberal arts taught how to think; the mechanical arts taught how to do.
Later, in the Middle Ages, there would be the lists of the liberal arts (in which astrology found itself, under the rubric of astronomy) and the mechanical arts, where medicine found its place. Techne meant skilled, and often cunning, a craft with a set of operating rules. But what primarily distinguished the liberal from the mechanical arts was who learned them. While the notion of “liberal arts” as the arts of free men is appealing to our current democratic ideals, what this meant in practice in the ancient world is that the liberal arts were those of the aristocracy, the class to which both Plato and Aristotle belonged.
The philosophers of Greece either were from the aristocratic class – or depended on it for patronage or livelihood. The fact that the aristocracy considered their learning to be superior to techne, the learning of the trade class, is not an opinion we need to share. Within the development of Greek philosophy came the advancement of logical inquiry. The main developments of the techne of medicine had been empirical, based on careful observation, at least of the symptoms.
If the Greek philosophical idea of forms as ideals is held to be true, then what is discovered through philosophical inquiry can be considered timeless: what was determined by Plato or Aristotle then is as relevant today, as long as we discover no logical flaw in the argument, and as long as we still accept the premises. This, however, is not how techne works. Call it what you will: craft, engineering, empirical method – all these learned skills are affected by improvements in the craft. What was true yesterday may no longer be enough today. Architects get better at building buildings, based on experience, and on improvements in both applied mathematics, and in materials. Farmers get better at farming, through better plows, and breeding programs. Techne develops.
Astrology straddles both systems – leading to endless arguments about whether astrology is an art or science. The cosmology may be unchanging, but the view from earth changes constantly.
My approach to astrology has tended to be through techne, which is probably because, as a trained scientist, techne calls me. Viewing the subject as techne, my primary goal is to introduce the reader to many different approaches to astrological medicine. To the extent that none of these procedures could possibly stand in isolation from their places, times, or social contexts, I present a history of astrological medicine in Chapter 1, so that we can all stand within the tradition in the same place of understanding.
Beginning with chapter 2, I will be reviewing different historical techniques that have been used to understand medicine generally, and astro-medicine specifically. Because so much of traditional Western medicine can only be understood through its connections to the medicine developed by Hippocrates and his school, I have devoted chapter 2 to understanding this world view. And because this system has been discarded by modern science, it requires some effort to rearrange our thinking to understand how it worked. Without this understanding, any attempt to grasp astro-medicine which developed from it simply falls on its face. In Chapter 3, I begin to enumerate the various astro-medical techniques which can be applied to various facets of astrological medicine.
What emerges from this historical survey is the realization that no system of medicine is ever permanent. Thus, we would be crazy to assume that any historical period, including our own, has a monopoly on answers.
In the early 19th century, the former mesmerist Phineas T. Quimby publicized the idea that the number of diseases is increasing daily. He said that what seems to drive the disease process in many people is that they have arrived at an impasse in their lives. Something isn't working anymore, and the person's normal coping mechanisms are overloaded or ineffective. Banging up against the wall, the person gets sick. This is as good a definition of what used to be called spiritual disease as you are likely to find. And this is a theory that can have direct astrological application, because, what better system than astrology to find the temporal blocks through planetary transits and other means, which can help to conceptualize the blocks, and make them easier to understand, and thus to resolve?
When the disease is spiritual, this definition points out that the physical symptoms are far less important than the spiritual block that brought the person to disease in the first place. Thus, the different kind of symptoms may multiply, but the cause remains the same.
Insightful as this definition may be, few persons or groups other than the Christian Science Church would claim that these are the only diseases. Back to the Egyptians at least, people recognized spiritual diseases, but they also recognized more naturalistic causes. A number of the battle injuries in the Iliad may have been caused by a god or goddess, but the heroes themselves were quite capable of wounding each other as well! In ancient Babylon, a malicious ghost might cause your disease, but an herb might cure it.
It's really only since the Enlightenment (18th century) that this idea of spiritual disease went underground. It never disappeared, though. In almost any other era, people themselves chose the mode of healing they wanted. They might go to a physician for a broken leg, get a love charm from an herbalist, and sleep in a temple of healing for their arthritis.
Lest the reader think that this was merely open season for charlatans, consider. In Hippocratic writings, there was a specific admonition to the physician to not accept patients with diseases that the physician knew he couldn't cure. There was even a list of the diseases that could not be cured within the school. Indian physicians of Ayurvedic medicine were under a similar admonition. And further, from Roman times until the 16th century, there was something called a Contract for a Cure. This was a legal contract entered into by an herbalist, barber-surgeon, or physician – with the patient, specifying exactly what the health care practitioner could do, the cost, and the treatment protocol that the patient must follow. The patient paid up front only for medicines, and if the cure didn't work, the health care practitioner was not paid. This was not just a theoretical possibility, but a standard practice. In Italy, there were even specific courts that dealt with complaints relating to these contracts, and we have records of these proceedings. Ask yourself how many physicians today would agree to such a contract before you call the practitioners of past eras fraudulent or ineffective!
The problem then, as now, is finding the right healer. The traditional wisdom is that you need to first understand whether a disease is physical, mental, or spiritual in order to know who to consult. Horary astrology developed techniques for addressing this specific question. We address this aspect of medical astrology in Chapter 6.
Most of astrology's long history of association with medicine has been through its utility in generally describing the temporal course of the disease, and through its system of planetary rulerships, provide clues for prescribing appropriate herbs, or even methodologies of treatment.
With one exception, astrology itself is not now, and never was a form of treatment. The one exception is called the remedial measures. In the West, this system was primarily amulets with an astrological association, such as an iron pendant inscribed with the planetary symbol for Mars (iron is ruled by Mars). The use of amulets to cure disease goes back to ancient Egypt at least, although there is no evidence that their early amulets were astrological in nature. For the most part, amulets became associated with magic, and became subject to the same societal aspersions as the rest of magic when the practice became associated with Christian satanic fears.
Within Indian Ayurveda and Vedic astrology (Jyotish), the remedial measures were developed into a powerful system for either attenuating difficult planetary influences, or encouraging the positive expression of planetary energies. In India, astrology is much more closely integrated into the traditional healing systems than is true in the West. To Westerner, the most familiar application of these methods is the use of gems ruled by the nine planets (Navagraha).
So apart from the remedial measures, astrology has always been an adjunct to medicine – not medicine itself. In the Middle Ages, astrology was taught as much through the medical schools and barber-surgeon apprenticeship, as through the liberal arts programs at universities. The reason was simple: if astrological methods could improve physicians' ability to determine how easily a disease could be cured, or which herbs could be helpful in treatment, the astrology was worth learning! Even historians of medical astrology (who have no belief in astrology themselves) have appreciated just how powerful a tool astrology was seen to be.
In the 21st century, the challenge for medical astrology is whether and how it can help us to make choices about our health care in a world where our medical systems are overloaded with patients. We are sadly in an era where personalized care of any sort, medical or otherwise, is increasingly difficult to get. Just as our healers have become swamped with cases, we also are experiencing a level of harmful exposure to chemicals that has never been encountered by our species. With the chemical industry fighting hard to keep public discussion of the dangers of chemicals to a minimum, those of us who have already reached our own conclusions on these matters find ourselves in uncharted territory. So the pressing question for us is: can medical astrology be adapted to examine these new circumstances?
In this book, I hope to demonstrate enough about the principles of traditional medical astrology to at least provide a blueprint to address these pressing modern problems. I believe we can chart our path best by learning as much as we can about all the pathways that have been explored, and by examining their strengths and weaknesses, not in a judgmental way, but in the mode of constructive criticism. Then we can hope to create helpful strategies for us to take responsibility for our health individually and globally for the future.