Not long after I read my first astrology books — The Secret Language of Relationships by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers, The Rising Sign by Jeanne Avery, and the Idiot’s Guide to Astrology (a great book!) I discovered the Round Art, by A.T. Mann. It was about a year later, so late 1998.
The book was originally published in 1979 and was out of print. The woman who lent it to me for a few months had worked earlier in life in a publishing house (Bantam) and described herself as a “conservative libertarian.” More on that idea later.
When I returned it I didn’t get to read it again until 2003 when it went to its second or third printing. It made a huge impression on me for those four years in between.
The book is amazing. A.T. Mann originally trained as an architect and the level of detail in this book is just astounding. And the level of research done and originality taken, also astounding. The book is large, more than 8″x11″, and is 300 pages. It’s divided into 11 parts besides the symbol keys, preface, introduction, appendixes, bibliography, glossary.
The book is also amazing because it is highly conceptual and touches very broadly on a whole host of issues, many of them scientific. Here’s an excerpt from a random page, which includes a picture of the electromagnetic spectrum, organized on a scale of specific wavelengths:
“Every cycle can be broken down into its component smaller cycles. Nuclei and electrons have been broken down into even smaller particles and their intrinsic cyclic waves. The atom and its cycles combine to produce molecules which have their cycles. Every cycle in the universe is a component of larger cycles. Their continual interplay from the original primordial unity creates the diversity of the universe.
“Man’s reality is bound by two such cycles. The fastest cycle he can perceive is the velocity of light and the slowest is the lifetime of the universe. These extremes determine the extent of his perceptions and he is in the exact centre of them. Everything within the universe is bounded by perceptions of the cycles which are faster or slower. The extremes defining our reality are equivalent to the Heaven and the Hell of our universe. From any vantage point these limits apply, and if one reaches the extent of one’s perceptions, the extent of one’s universe, the very act of attainment merely creates a new set of boundaries. Unity is the only boundless reality.”
Somehow he is able to relate and develop this prose to the study of astrology. The brains required to get there compliments the beauty of the illustrations in the book.
I use this book more than anything else as reference in two places — first, the correspondence tables covering Aries, or 1st house, through Pisces, or 12th house, which takes up pages 138 through 161. This is particularly important for relocation astrology because of the fact that planets will change houses when one moves a significant enough distance. But this is important in the natal chart as well — I’d like to know what it is to have Saturn in Leo, or Jupiter in Taurus, etc.
Secondly, for the aspects between planets, taking up pages 176 through 187. These include the Ascendant and the Midheaven. Aspects to the Ascendant and the Midheaven change, appear, or disappear even through traveling relatively short distances.
A.T. Mann conceptualizes our lifetimes as logarithmic. The first ten months of life involve the creation of our body (through gestation), from there to 100 months of life involve the creation of our personality, and from there to 1000 months of life involve the creation of our soul. Gestation, childhood, and maturity.
Each of these three periods is perceived by us as being equal in length. Or, to put it another way, our perception of the speed of time is directly proportional to how long we’ve been alive. If we’re 10,000 days old (about 28 years old), time goes twice as fast as if we’re 5000 days old and half as fast as if we’re 20,000 days old. Because 1/10,000th of one’s life is a bigger piece than one 20,000th, etc.
This can come across as depressing to me at first, but I slowly accepted it. (The book in general came across as mind-blowing to me, despite the fierce disagreements I had with A.T. Mann’s philosophy, which is what I’m writing about today.)
“The ‘mechanical man’ who does not extend his reality beyond the life of the physical body remains within the lower three octaves (Mann explains the fourth octave, Transcendence, as what happens when we’ve successfully extended our reality.)
The most important cycles to me are the final three in the life cycle — Virgo covering about ages 13 through 23, Libra covering about ages 23 through 42, and Scorpio, which is the final ‘life cycle’ and is the fastest proceeding one, covering age 42 through age 76. These are the final three out of the four periods in the Maturity octave, leaving out Leo, which covers ages 7 through 13.
Each of these four periods is perceived by us as being the same length. If we ever heard a young child in a car being driven to a destination that’s 5 hours away, cry, “Are we there yet?” while the parent patiently both addresses the child and drives to the destination, that’s not only about maturity. It’s about the car ride taking an interminably long time for the child and a breeze for the parent.
For those of us who are older, the rapid speed of time, always getting faster, can be scary. I can’t imagine what it was like for my dad when he was in his 80’s.
But it is what A.T. Mann states as what this all means — what he speaks about as karmic debt and all the implications of that — that I take issue with. Keep reading as he discusses our ‘final two periods of life’ — Libra and Scorpio, and what it means if we haven’t paid our karmic debts.
“Libra governs partnership, communal relations, the public, obligations, sublimation, justice, business relationships, enemies and sociability.
“Working partnerships are usually the first stage of sublimation. As the complexities of the modern world multiply it becomes more and more difficult for any one individual to perform virtually any task. He is forced to seek other individuals who possess the qualities which he lacks. In a well-run business, every individual is a component of the whole, although theoretically there are certain tasks which he can perform and no one else can. This situation is reciprocal. It is necessary for each individual to sublimate himself to the whole operation, while not losing track of his individual position. The person who can understand the whole while performing this task has an advantage over those who only comprehend their personal requirements. This is analogous to life in general. As most businesses are structured on a “pyramid” system, the further up the pyramid the individual advances the more necessary a total picture is — but the more difficult it is to achieve. As we have seen earlier, the ultimate task of Libra time is to maintain individuality in collective situations, always differentiating between and combining the two.”
He moves on to Scorpio.
“If the individual in Scorpio has not extended his reality beyond the limitations of matter, suffering and punishment ensue at death. The weighing of souls by Osiris, the judge of the dead, symbolized such a process, and if the soul of the deceased was impure it was passed to adjacent monsters to be eaten.
“Scorpio governs the many methods of liberation and the equivalent dangers inherent in the failure to liberate before the end of life.
“During Scorpio the accumulation of actions which have not been “paid for” during life come back to the individual at last. Issues which have been suppressed or avoided for the entire lifetime are evoked in old age and take their toll.
“Unless steps are taken throughout life to resolve karmic debts — the resultant effects of the actions of a lifetime — the end of life will be quite difficult. For then the individual must balance himself at the time when he has the least energy and desire to do so. The individual must be conscious of the need to give his essence and body back to the universe just as he received them at the beginning of life.
“As Taurus governs one’s own possessions, energies and emotions, Scorpio governs the twilight of life when one is totally dependent on the energy, possessions, and emotions of others. The Biblical “as ye give so shall ye receive” is appropriate. Scorpio qualities indicate this principle of dependency: either acceptance or the frustration of non-acceptance…. The metaphysics of all early religions, primitive Christianity and even the Alchemists were geared to this impasse which affects everyone, but this has been neglected in the modern world in favour of its opposite pole, materialism. The infinite cannot be possessed.”
That — what I’ve excerpted from his stages in Libra and Scorpio — is most of the essence of what I read for the first time in late 1998. I had a visceral reaction to it when I first read it. I was 29 at the time, and because of emotional immaturity at the time there were many things in it that I didn’t accept that I accept now.
The problem I continue to have with it is that it remains highly hierarchical. In his vision — what he denotes as reality — those with the greatest talents or aptitudes or those who have found their way themselves and achieved their own success — are given the best treatment in life, and even in death. This is the end stage result of conservative libertarianism.
Someone who is disabled in some developmental way (as, incidentally, I am), or someone who is dysfunctional, or someone who makes a lot of mistakes, will not do very well in this kind of setup. Someone born in an unfortunate way, who has encountered some kind of abuse, are effectively “children of a lesser God.” This vision is anti-humanist. It is proscriptive, and it is immoral.
I want to live in a society and a world where the weakest are cared for and lifted up as close to the level of the strongest as is genuinely feasible. In the United States, where A.T. Mann was born and where I believe he still lives, we do not have anything close to that.
Those of you in Europe or elsewhere in the Western world, at least the parts of Europe where right-wing ideology has not taken over (as it has in, say, Hungary), might have reflected on the advantages that you have relative to us, and wondered how a dysfunctional society as ours could exist. As one example, I had an acquaintance from Canada (and who lived in Taiwan), who had a serious health problem that required hospital visits and treatment — each visit costing less than $10.
She commented aloud about how dysfunctional our system was here, metaphorically shaking her head. I asked her not to take anything for granted; how we are struggling to have something anywhere near what she was able to take for granted as her birthright.
The health care system is just one of many areas that we have an effectively cruel, and, yes, hierarchical, system in the United States. Our safety net barely exists. Our standard of living has dropped in the last forty years, with the most profoundly important goods, like higher education, rising in price far faster than inflation even as wages have stagnated or even dropped. Many people are working well over a 40 hour workweek just to survive. Many people — including many women — endure daily abuse just to have a roof over their head.
Astrologers have every responsibility, just like everyone else, to speak out against such a system in our country. What we should not have is a hierarchical system that not only accepts such things, but declares that they are the natural order of things. I recognize that The Round Art was published 41 years ago, and Mann’s attitude may well have changed, but it makes me very inclined to reject a major part of the Round Art (if not the whole thing), even as I find the book heroic, brainy, and essential.