Sunday, February 17, 2008

An Open Letter To Glenn Perry, Ph.D: Vedic Astrology 101 (Response To Perry's "Astro Fundamentalism" Essay)

An Open Letter To Glenn Perry, Ph.D: Vedic Astrology 101 (Response To Perry's "Astro Fundamentalism" Essay)

4:07 AM 02/17/2008 Sun

"I'll be your Huckleberry; that's just my game."
- Val Kilmer/Doc Holliday, "Tombstone"

Introduction
Hello, Dr. Perry, it's very nice to meet you. You don't know me, so please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mu'Min Mustafa Qadir Ali Bey, and I am a Western and Vedic astrologer from Philadelphia PA. I have more than 15 years experience in astrology, and with regard to the subject under consideration, Vedic astrology, a solid decade of experience, study and scholarship, beginning under my guru, Vishnu Sharma, Ph.D, himself a sixth generation jyotishi of Punjab, India. I have taught astrology at Temple University's Pan African Studies Community Education Program for five years, from 1998 to 2005. And, in addition to having written scores of articles and essays on a wide number of topics, I also am the founder of the University Of Astrology forum on MySpace. My blogsite can be reached at muminspeaks.blogspot.com.

I've been reading many of your writings now for sometime; I came to know of your current piece that I should like to respond, by way of my colleague Christopher Brennan, a Hellenistic astrology specialist and scholar. Recently you wrote a paper critical of "traditional astrology" which prompted Brennan's response, and from what it seems, it has caused quite a stir in the astrology community. Last week, after purusing Brennan's paper, I decided to toss in my two cents, which Brennan got word of. He hipped me to the fact that you apparently had some choice words for Vedic astrology, too. Hence, the reason for this open letter.

Areas Of Agreement
First off, let me praise you Dr. Perry, for doing one thing that in my view is absolutely essential for the astrology community, especially now at this stage of our development - inspire debate. And you do that by asking questions and writing critiques. Contrary to many of my peers, I have long felt that one of astrology's greatest weaknesses, is its inability or patent refusal to be critical of itself, to question itself from time to time. The lack of peer review, debate, inquiry, all call serious attention to our ability to refine, improve and/or weed out those ideas and methods that inhibit our Craft from moving forward. For example, your recent paper raising questions as to the efficacy (and ethics) of Evolutionary astrology I for one greatly enjoyed, as I too have had many such questions about its structure and practitioners for sometime now. It was well constructed and arguments clearly presented, with attendant citations and source material. All of this, while it may be painful to some and unpleasant to others, is a necessary process for any discipline to stay alive and relevant in our ever-changing times.

Second, let me also agree with you that our modern times and modes of living are something that I, as a diehard Vedic astrological purist, not only enjoy but defend, as worthy editions to Human history; my peers know me to be one of the biggest proponents of the Western values of Freedom of Choice, Association and Thought. Our times have greatly changed, and our astrology, no matter what kind we employ, must change with it, if only for the sake of relevancy. While I have deep and abiding respect for astrological tradition, I am not straitjacketed by it. Nor do I believe that one need be a Vedic spiritual aspirant (I am a Muslim), or an Indian, to reap the benefits of Vedic astrology. While I am undeniably of African origins (African American), I am also undeniably a product of the 20th century Western world, and I embrace and celebrate that - as a Vedic astrologer.

Points Of Contention
So, that brings me to the areas of disagreement between us, on the basis of your paper, Astro Fundamentalism. In it you level several pointed charges at us Vedheads: one, that we're little more than "fundies" in our approach to astrology, and by extension life itself, by asserting a "divine revelation" component, and eschewing any sense or obligation toward modernity or agency; two, that we're behind the times in our so doing, rigidly cramming people into little boxes via our interpretation of their horoscopes; and of course, three, all of this makes us much more "fate" and by extension, "fear" oriented. In fact, I think it's fair to say, after reading your piece, that your biggest problem with Vedic astrology is this latter point, that of siding too much with the fate side of the ledger in the neverending debate between Fate and Free Will. Because this question/issue has been beaten to death, I'll not go into that today. Instead, I should like to take up your other arguments against Vedic astrology.

And that would be easier to do if in fact, you had actually read some of the classics of Vedic astrology you seem to take delight in dismissing, but then again by your own admission, you are a "historical chauvinist", a problem common, it seems, of those steeped in the conceits of the Postmodern Western world. The impression, as I come away from your piece, was that it was more like a semi-coherent harangue at worst, and the astrological equivalent of an ad hominem assault at best, with regards to Vedic astrology - far from a well-informed critique of the subject under examination. Neither bode well for such a highly qualified scholar such as yourself, doctor. But fear not. I'm in the mood to do a bit of teaching Vedic astrology, 101.

The Origins of Vedic Astrology
While it is true that many jyotishis (Vedic astrologers) believe that the classical texts that makeup the core of Jyotishical thought were derived via "divine revelation" the truth is that Vedic astrology's earliest beginnings can be traced back to the Hellenistic Greeks of Alexander's time. They brought the idea of casting individual horoscopes by placing the Ascendant on the Eastern horizon at the birth moment of a person, along with a few other key ideas and concepts. This fact is recounted several times in Jyotisha's ancient texts, among them the Yavanajataka and the Brihat Samhita, where the Greeks are mentioned by name and are credited with bringing these crucial insights to the ancient Indians ("Yavana" is a Sanskrit word for "Greek"). Although Indians had many other unique features of their system that we know of as Vedic astrology today, it is no doubt that their earliest beginnings are owed to the Greeks. These insights, Greek and native Indian, were combined into a number of important Vedic astrological classics; perhaps the most important is known as the Brihat Parsara Hora Shastra, said to be written by Parasara Muni, a Rishi, or Seer. Because definitive authorship of this work is not known, and because of the apparent addition of other later material, it has been speculated that a teakm of men have actually written this book, over a long period of time, adding to or taking from whatever they thought was relevant.

That said, it is true that there is a deeply profound spiritual or religious component that is fused with Jyotishical thought, but if one takes the time to do their homework it will be easy to see how Vedic astrology got its start and why it remains such a powerful tool not just in seeing what one's past and present is, but in helping the individual make the best choices to shape a better future - and that this is true one is a "true believer" or not. Like anything else, Vedic astrology got where it is today, a system of knowledge world reknown for its accuracy and precision, not by "divine revelation" but more from lots and lots of trial and error. But, since we're taking your point about "mythical figures" with regard to Jyotisha (among a great many other things), let's consider one man whom we know for a fact existed...

Varamihira: Crown Jewel Of The Nine Gems
In my UOA Summer Vedic Astrology Course, I wrote the following about the famed Indian scholar, astronomer and astrologer, Varamihira:
"Varamihira, who lived in the 6th century AD (505-587) and was born in Ujjain, was one of India's most famed astrologers and astronomers. He was known as one of the "Nine Gems" in the court of the famous king Chandragupta II, and was a contemporary of the great Kalidasa the dramatist and poet, often referred to as "India's Shakespeare". Varamihira wrote voluminously on all matters pertaining to astronomy and astrology, and his seven volumes are considered must-reading by all sincere jyotishis. Of particular note are his Brihat Samhita, an encyclopedia of mundane astrology, and his Brihat Jataka, which is a work focused on natal astrology. The latter book is considered an elaboration of the work of Parasara, and is so highly revered that it ranks perhaps second to it."

Varamihira was one of many Indian mathematicians who worked with numbers and theory in ways that Westerners only discovered relatively recently. For example, Aryabhatta is revered worldwide for his mastery of mathematics and astronomy, and proved the irrationality of Pi centuries before it was "discovered" in Europe! And even the most casual perusal of Vedic astrological/astronomical texts reveals a highly sophisticated degree of technical mastery and precision - so when you make the charge that clocks and the like were "recent" inventions, speak for yourself and all other "historical chauvinists", doctor - the Indians were keeping very good time for a very long time, before the Europeans ever even gave any serious thought to it.
Indeed, in India today there survives some of the world's most ancient - and accurate - tools for measuring the movement of the planets, often to within one minute of arc, or less! Ujjain, Varamihira's birthplace, contains one such instrument, the Jantar Mantar, and there are several spread out accross India. And they were constructed before the time of Lilly or Kepler or Placidus, around the times when clocks, printing presses, and ephemerides and tables cames on the scene in Europe. The ancient Indians were way ahead of the curve - the proof of this survives to this very day, seen and visited by scores of tourists every year. You might want to take a trip there to see them for yourself, doctor.

In fact, precision is a watchword for the Vedic astrologer, and jyotishis look to Varamihira for inspiration in this regard; so serious was he about making the proper calculations, that he said that it was a cardinal sin NOT to be accurate in this regard! And, as a result, he was and continues to be revered for his track record of verifiable predictions, something most of today's most technologically saavy and psychologically cosmopolitan postmodern Western astrologer would be wary to tackle. But if you think "Aha! I told y'all Vedic astrology is fatalistic!", don't get it twisted doctor. Here's what Varamihira says the qualifications of an astrologer should be, again, taken from my Vedic Astrology Summer Seminar:

"In the Brihat Samhita Varamihira gives credit to the Greeks who gave India its horoscopic astrological roots, and also gives his recommendations for those who are qualified to learn Jyotish: "He must be pure, skillful, bold, eloquent, possessed of a ready wit, a knower of time and place, filled with equanimity, not timid in assembly, victorious in debate with other astrologers, expert, free from vices, well-versed in palliative, preventative magic and bathing rituals, ever engaged in worshipping deities, vows and penances, possessed of great and unusual power as a result of his achievements, and capable of answering questions and prescribing remedies".

Question for you, doctor - if Vedic astrology is so "fatalistic", if it's so "fundamentalist", then why would a 4th century astrologer say that "prescribing remedies" be among the chief qualifications of an astrologer who operates on the basis of texts that are "divinely inspired"? Or, why are the last dozen or so chapters of the Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra devoted entirely to "remedial measures" if one's Fate is predetermined? Why is Vedic astrology known as much FOR its remedial measures, like the use of astrologically pertinent gemstones and metals, recitation of mantras and acts of charity and so on, as much as it is for its predictive accuracy, if, again, as you say, Vedic astrology is "fate oriented"? Wassup wit dat, Doc? Hmm?

Why is it that, in the Prasna Marga, a later classical work by an un-named Brahmin Priest from South India, he clearly states that should there be no agreement between the bride and groom astrologically (Vedic astrological synastry), but if the groom loves the wife, he still should marry her? Does that sound like a fatalistic approach to you, doctor? Or does that sound like the very essence of Free Will?

And, let's go back to Varamihira's "qualifications for the astrologer" statement above. Sounds a lot like a course in ethics, don't it? And this was, how long, before Psychology came along, doctor? Afterall, Psychology as a discipline isn't even a century old yet; there is much to be known, and has its own share of flaws and problems (as does its offshoot, Psycholoical astrology, but that's another open letter for another day). And please, don't get me wrong here - in no way am I saying that psychology cannot be useful, only saying that your appraisal of Vedic astrology is woefully ignorant, with all due respect, and reflects very poorly on you, given your credentials and standing within the community. As the Dalai Lama said so very well, one should know the rules well before they set out to break them.

Bringing Vedic Astrology Into The 20th Century: BV Raman & Hart Defouw
We can go round and round purusing the ancient Jyotisha texts and giving folks bleary eyes, so let's move on into the present. Although there have been a number of folk who have brought Jyotisha forward into the modern era, two names in particular are especially pertinent to our discussion - Bangalore Venkanta Raman, and Hart Defouw. Vedic astrology readers will be very familiar with these names, as they have been responsible, either directly or indirectly, for bringing new people, especially in the West, into the fold of Vedic astrology. I myself have cut my Jyotishical teeth on the works of these fine gentleman, and I strongly urge anyone reading this to avail themselves of anything they have written, and would especially urge you doctor, to do same.

Raman is a legend. The grandson of a prominent astrologer in Southern India, Raman had more than six decades' worth of experience and a field of scholarship that to this day remains unrivaled. He wrote more than two dozen books, was the publisher of the world's longest running (and first!) astrological publication, and was the first and to my knowledge, only astrologer to address the General Assembly at the United Nations. Simply put, to his peers, he was known as The Wizard.

Defouw is perhaps the best known Vedic astrologer of Western origins. His Light on Life is considered to be the best comprehensive, introductory text on Jyotisha both here and among many in India. He has a waiting list of clients, so I've been told, that's months, if not years long, is widely sought after as a lecturer and presenter at conferences, and his classes are well attended. On top of this, he has been doing Vedic astrology as long as I've been alive, coming up on four decades.

Neither of these men ever use the word "fate" in their writings. Raman is careful to note, in his autobiography for instance, that his grandfather always warned him that astrology was not an absolute but rather a matter of tendencies; Raman himself would come to agree with his grandfather's view, and, in the same text, he is seen advising clients to take up particular remedies, even recommending surgery for the wife of a man who was suffering mental problems. The surgery was successful. Defouw, while speaking of karma and the like, also is careful to note in another text, an anothology on Eastern astrology for Western astrologers, that clients could be referred to PSYCHOLOGISTS for further help if the chart indicated that (in a chapter called The Humanism of Vedic Astrology). In fact, and this is in response to your comments about evolution and progress and how the Universe works, Defouw clearly states, on page 307 of his Light on Life, that "Change is all that is permanent in our world". This is the first line in Chapter Eleven, which is devoted to the timing systems of Dasas and Gocharas (Transits). Again, question for you, doctor - do the statements these men are making, sound "fatalistic" to you? Heh!

Keepin' It Real: Vedic Astrology In Action
In my recent piece on the back and forth between you and Brennan, I suggested that Brennan and other Hellenists could do a much better job of promoting Hellenistic astrology if they actually DID it more instead of merely talking about it. What's good for the goose, is good for the jyotishi too, so in this final section I thought to give you and everyone else reading along a little "live fire" demo of just how Vedic astrology works.

And here, I have to say that I took note of the ONE chart example you cite in your paper, doctor, an example of a private client. Now, this I have problems with, for precisely the same reasons you cite in your critique of Evolutionary astrology - that your sole chart example, because its a private client, cannot be confirmed or denied. We simply are to take your word for it that what happened, happened. I find this to be deeply problematic, if your goal is to show us all the deep flaws inherent in Vedic astrology, and as well, the strengths of postmodern Western psychological astrology. So, I thought I'd focus on the charts of well known people whose data is easily accessible.

First up, Martin Luther King, Jr., since his birthday and national holiday was last month, and because this month is Black History Month (birthdata for all charts to follow at the end of this letter). In his Vedic chart, we can clearly see two major areas of concern for him - his potential for marital strife, and his strong potential for encountering violence. In both cases, Mars is the culprit, ruling the Aries Ascendant (head), and placed in Taurus and in the 2nd house. This combination not only creates what is known as Kuja Dosha for a male birth, but also resides in what we Vedheads call a Maraka, or Killer, house, and aspects the 8th house of longevity. Mars conjunct Rahu, the Moon's North Node, gave him tremendous, legendary status among the public (amogn other things), as well as a very strong sexual drive, which led to his numerous extramarital affairs, which the FBI used in an effort to discredit him (Rahu again). Dr. King was assassinated on April 4 1968 in Memphis TN, by a sniper's bullet to the face, just as he began his Mars Dasa.

Second chart - Benazir Bhutto. The first woman to ever head an Islamic country (the second was Tansu Ciller, of Turkey), Bhutto was assassinated on Dec 27 2007, in a suicide attack by Al-Qaeda after a political rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The Sun (political leaders) is conjunct Mars in the 7th house, and from there it aspects the 2nd, where Rahu is placed. These houses are known as Marakas, or Killer houses. At the time of her death, Bhutto was in Rahu Dasa, Sun subperiod. Stop. As we see in the case of MLK above, Rahu is involved. Among other things Rahu represents, are assassins and terrorists.

Third chart - Brittney Spears. She's been in the news recently for her mental health issues, and a quick look at her Vedic chart tells us why. Her Moon is in the 5th house whom some jyotishis associate with the Mind, and the Moon itself is one of the Mental Planets of Jyotisha (the other being Mercury). In fact, both her Mental Planets are heavily compromised by the "Malefics" - Mercury is combust by the Sun and aspected by Mars, while the Moon sits on the Ketu arm of the Nodal axis in the 5th. This combination goes under the name Matibrahamana Yoga, where the Mental Planets are damaged and suggests that the native is more prone than others to face some degree of mental health problems. Moreover, she was born in Kala Sarpa Yoga, a combination where all of the planets are caught between the Nodes of the Moon, Rahu and Ketu, and these points hold special meaning in Vedic astrology. They are called "Shadowy Planets, and represent the fears and phobias of the native in one way or another. Spears' climb to fame took place in 1999, just as Rahu Dasa was taking off, and at present she is in Rahu-Mercury, which last until Jul 2009. Rahu in particular can represent great fame and/or wealth and material goods for the native, but it can also represent the kind of mental health stress that Spears is undergoing at present. A keen Vedic astrologer, like in the cases above, could have seen all this beforehand, informed the client, and suggested strategies and "prescribed remedies" - in this case, psychological therapy - so that the client could better lead a more freer, productive, positive life. In the cases of King and Bhutto above, the keen, modern Vedic astrologer could have advised them both to beef up security at those times, and for King in particular, to advise on remedies to cool his sexual passions. Knowing the lay of the land is key, however, for no remedy or therapy is helpful if you don't know what to treat, correct, doctor? Vedic astrology helps us do just that, by zeroing in like a laser beam on the problem areas of the chart, putting that with the life being lived by the native, and then working to find real, practical solutions - not "fatalistic" or "fundamentalist" pronouncements or statements.

Conclusion
As Malcolm X himself said so well many years ago, history is best qualified to reward all research. It is no accident that Vedic astrology has persisted and survived so very long, Doctor Perry. Its permanence is a testament of its veracity and utility in helping people deal with and overcome real problems in our world, past, present and on into the future. It is my hope that this open letter will serve to shed a bit of light on one of the world's oldest - and yes, still very much relevant - astrological systems of knowledge known to man. Far from being the rigid, dogmatic, oldhat astrology you ignorantly attempt to make it out to be, Vedic astrology is in truth, one of the most profound systems of knowledge around. I invite you to see for yourself, doctor, even if it isn't for you. Learning something new is always a good thing.

Don't you agree?

Salaam,
Mu'Min M. Bey

MLK Jan 15 1929 11.21AM CST Atlanta GA Lahiri 7 Ari 43 CliffordBenazir Bhutto Jun 21 1953 7.59PM Karachi Pakistan Lahiri 15 Sag 52 StarIQ.comBrittney Spears Dec 2 1981 1.30AM Mahon MS Lahiri 9 Vir 47 Rodden

*Perry's essay, "Astro Fundamentalism can be found at http://www.aaperry.com/index.asp?pgid=51

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