John Frawley - The Nature of Time

Below is a marvelously written excerpt from John Frawley’s “The Real Astrology” on the nature of time, which I think is essential in understanding astrology and should find its place in this section.

The first conception which we must address is the nature of time itself, for it is time that is astrology’s basic concern, the material with which it works.

To the scientist, ten past three is just like any other time. Certain things may well happen then - the kettle may boil, the train may arrive, he might think of his mother – but there is no reason why these things could not just as well have happened at nine minutes past three, or twenty to four, or any other time. If we compare time to a landscape, the scientist looks out over a vast featureless land, no patches of fertile soil. Time is homogenous; no one moment has any qualities different from any other.

The astrologer sees time quite differently. To him each moment is different from its fellows, just as you and I are different from ours. The landscape of time that the astrologer sees from the window of his tower is just as varied as any physical landscape: it has its mountains and plains, its dry deserts and lush pastures. To him, whatever happens at ten to three is part of the particular quality of ten to three; If an apparently similar event happened at twenty to four – the kettle boiling, for instance – it would be subtly different.

The classic scientific experiment treats time as a stable constant. The experiment is something that, all other things being equal, can be repeated at any time without change in its result. This, the scientist would hold, shows that time is indeed a constant and the basic supposition of astrology is false. Leaving aside the fact – which th scientific literature itself confesses – that this claim is actually untrue, we can see that the scientific experiment, which is deliberately constructed ‘outside life’ as it were, is of so simple and gross nature that it will almost invariably bludgeon its way to the same conclusion. Dealing with life as it proceeds in all its subtlety and complexity, what may or may not be the result of an artificial experiment is irrelevant. It is notable that when science turns its attention to more subtle realms, such as particle physics, experiments become rather less well-behaved.

To the scientist, the words ‘ten past three’ tell all there is to be known about that particular moment; to the astrologer, the words ‘ten past three’ are nothing but a convenient label to assist identification, and no more describe the nature of that moment than the number on my door describes the nature of my house. What astrology does and that of which the whole craft of astrology consists – is to describe the actual individual nature of moments of time as they exist in particular places. The means by which astrology achieves this description is by referencing to the relative positions of the planets. This is what astrology is, and this is all that astrology is: a means of describing the individual nature of moments of time.

The moments which we choose to describe are those of significance in whichever context we are working. They might be the moment of birth, of a marriage, of the foundation of an empire, or of the asking of a question. Knowing the context and understanding the nature of the moment, the astrologer may, within strictly circumscribed limits, make an informed judgement as to what is likely to follow. There is nothing magical in this: once we accept that time varies in the same way as place, the possibility of prediction inevitably follows. If I understand the nature of a piece of ground and I know what seed a farmer is about to sow on it, I can make an informed prediction of what will grow there and how it will flourish; If I understand the nature of a piece of time and know the act that someone intends on making at that moment, I can make an informed prediction of what will follow and how successful that act is likely to be. Bearing in mind always that all things at all times are subject to the will of God, so no matter how inevitable my prediction might seem, whether based on astrology or horticulture, it can always fail.

This variable quality of time is part of our common-sense experience. I know that I can meet my friend today and we will spend an enjoyable hour, with neither of us wanting to part; I can meet the same friend in the same place and do the same things on another day, and we will both be watching the clock wondering if we can politely leave yet. The scientist would point to physical variables: I am wearing a different shirt, my friend has a toothache and a tax demand; the astrologer would claim that above and beyond these things the nature of our meeting is determined by the different quality of the time at which they take place. Or in the field of sport: Superstars United may have spent millions of pounds assembling a team of all the talents; they may be vastly superior in all areas to No-hopers Town; but sport would lose all interest if we did not know that on the odd occasion, for no apparent reason, No-hopers Town will bring their glorious opponents firmly down to earth. The astrologer would suggest that this is indicated by the nature of the moment at which the event happens.

The words of Ecclesiastes are familiar:

“To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Today, in a world which ignores the variable nature of time, this is taken to mean “everything has to be done at some time or another” But it means exactly what it says: there is a specific time to every purpose.

“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

We find elucidated in these verses the one essential principle of astrology: time differs in its nature. Understanding the nature of a moment gives us insight into that which happens in that moment, or the consequences of what has happened or of what will happen in that moment. That which is done in its time will prosper, that which is not will not, as surely as seed that is sown in fertile ground will grow and that which is sown in barren will fail. And acts that are not the work of man will happen when they will, just as “In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.”
Many are the modern sciences that devote close study to the variations in the nature of place; astrology is the traditional science that devotes close study to the variations in the nature of time.

These variations in the quality of time are difficult for us to appreciate, because we cannot see time: we only see its effects. We can easily see the nature of place, and so act appropriately: we do not sow our seed on a concrete waste. The only way by which we may see time is by observing things that change regularly with time, such as the position of the hands of a clock – or the places of the planets. The study of astrology is what enables us to understand these changes in time, and to shape our actions accordingly.