Malvin Artley - Astrology Bridging East and West

What follows is both an introductory article on Chinese fate calculation, and also an example from the tutorial section of The Imperial Astrologer. The text is my own, the program is Esotech’s.

©Malvin Artley and Esoteric Technologies

“What’s your animal sign?”
 When we hear the words “Chinese astrology” we automatically think of the animal that describes the Chinese year in which a person is born. We think with amusement that we might be a Rat, a Dog, a Pig, a Horse or even a Dragon. However, there is much more to Chinese astrology than the twelve animal signs one finds on the place mats in Chinese restaurants. Chinese astrology is actually an ancient, august system of divination that has evolved quite independently from the rest of the world and is, in fact, the sister system to the astrology we know in the West, giving us the missing pages of a long-sought chapter on the mysteries of astrological art and practice.

Description: C:\Users\Owner\Desktop\Malvin\12 Animals Chengdu.jpg Our first exposure to Chinese Astrology is usually only a look at the Year animal. But, this is  only 1/8 of the birth data from which the Chinese astrologer would work. When we give a Western astrologer our birth details—date of birth, time of day and place of birth—we get a natal horoscope derived from that, which is simply a map of the planetary positions at the moment of our birth. From the Chinese astrologer (a good one, that is), besides getting the natal chart, we get quite a bit more than that. We are given what are known as The Four Pillars (Year, Month, Day and Hour)—the foundation of their Fate Calculation systems—the possibility of at least one hundred derived “stars” in addition to the planets, the further subdivision of the zodiacal wheel into 28 lunar mansions with all those resultant meanings and the inclusion in the analysis of many other cycles--planetary and otherwise—of which Western astrology knows little or nothing.

 For instance, most of us know about the animal associated with a person’s year of birth. But, there are “animals” associated with the month, day and hour, as well as one of Five Chinese Elements associated with each one and twenty-eight extra animals, each associated with a day of the month. The learned Chinese astrologer would smile quietly to him/herself at the blissful ignorance of the restaurant patrons so delighted with their new animal labels. The depth of analysis a good Chinese Astrologer would give to the Four Pillars goes far beyond the Year Pillar, where the animal for the year is found. In fact, the Year Pillar does not really describe the person. Instead, it describes social contacts, ancestors and extended family. It is the Day Pillar that describes the self.

 Much of Chinese astrology in the public domain is actually what is known as Ming Shu - Fate Calculation - which does not use the actual planetary positions at all. The reason for this goes back to ancient China where astrology was reserved for the Imperial Court and for people of real importance within the state. Possession of star charts by commoners was a crime punishable by death. This was because the Emperor was considered as the representative of Heaven on Earth, so someone outside the Imperial court to be in possession of star charts would present a danger to the state as they would essentially be in possession of state secrets and in a position to usurp the power of the throne–if they knew what to do with the information. Fate calculation was used in the court as well, but its secrets were so subtle and the veiling of the true cycles and meanings so complete that safety in the hands of the public was assured. The motions of the stars are obvious. The operation of more esoteric cycles is not apparent to the average person.

 There are many different methods of Ming Shu, some quite simple and others very complex, such as the Tzu Wei (Purple Palace) system. The latter, though complex, is not the be-all and end-all of Ming Shu, however. There are some methods that are amazingly exact, but these are generally kept from public view and, due to the nature of the calculations involved, are prohibitively expensive for the incomes of most Chinese.

 It may be of interest to note that schooled Chinese astrologers do not use the animals at all in their delineations. Instead, they use the Branch, which the animals represent. A Branch is simply a notation of a portion of the greater cycle. It is always a division of the cycle by twelve. As an equivalent, we could say that Aries would be the first Branch in Western astrology. These Branch numbers have no numerical values. They are simply labels. Animals are a convenient tool for memorizing the intrinsic meaning of each Branch and there is some parallel between the zodiacal signs (Aries=1) as phases of the Western Zodiac and the Chinese Branches, although the 1st Month Branch (Rat) corresponds loosely with Aquarius, not Aries. Seeming inconsistencies aside, the animal symbolism in Chinese astrology is actually an esoteric blind for a much more profound meaning and mechanism.

As an aside, there is a method of Ming Shu which can actually give one their birth weight, among other things. It is called San Shi Xiang Fa—Three Worlds Physiognomy Rules—is reasonably accurate and it is based upon the Four Pillars. Each Pillar is assigned a weight, the  Description: summation of which yields the person’s weight at birth. This system is well known in China and it appears in many dictionaries there. There is another form of Ming Shu called “Plum Flower I Ching”, which relates astrology to the I Ching, or Book of Changes. This is one of the more accurate systems of Fate Calculation, but it is virtually unknown in the West. Yet another one is called “Iron/Wood” Ming Shu—having as its basis a plethora of calculations all done on a slide rule (the “Iron/Wood”), which also yields remarkable results.

 The question arises as to how this all works if not based on planetary cycles, this being one of the more obscure parts of Chinese astrology. All these methods of Ming Shu and the Four Pillars themselves are, in fact, based upon real planetary cycles, even though there is no correspondence with the actual orbital positions of the planets. Just as everyone has their own physical cycles, such as respiration, heartbeat, sleep, etc, so we also have cycles associated with our psyches. Just as we breathe in and out ceaselessly through life so, too, does the psyche.

To use a simple analogy, there are periods when we are outwardly focussed and times when we withdraw inwards, and these have their own cycles and timing. As surely as we do this, so do the Great Planetary Lives as well. The esotericist will recognize these periods of in-breathing and out-breathing of the psyches of the planets as “Ray cycles”. “Ray” is a term used by esotericists to describe what might be called the psychic ebb and flow of a planetary Life, or Lord. Ray cycles are indeed bona fide planetary cycles, and they condition the psyche of humanity, the lower kingdoms and all other kingdoms in nature throughout the solar system. To show how this might work, consider the following:

Description: many centuries the Chinese have used a cycle of nine years in their Feng Shui calculations to determine a person’s orientation within the environment. This yields what is known as the Nine Star Ki numbers for a person. They list this cycle as the lesser cycle of Saturn, their Earth Planet. Saturn, as we know in the West, governs a person’s placement within the greater scheme of things, astrologically defining the boundaries within which we must work. For the most part, this is a subjective matter governing our place upon the earthly sphere through the power of our thinking. This number nine is also recognizable as a subdivision of one of the Ray cycles elucidated in the Alice Bailey material.

Although this particular cycle of nine does not figure prominently in Chinese astrological calculations, there is another one that does—the number five, which is a lesser subdivision of the Ray cycle for Jupiter. As it turns out, the entire Five-element, twelve Branch hexagesimal cycle (cycle of sixty) is governed by Jupiter, the Branches being governed by its twelve-year orbital cycle, and the cycle of the Five Elements (Stem cycle) being governed by its Ray cycle. Jupiter is said to be the Year Planet, or that planet whose orbit maps out the course of the Great Year. There are similar Ray cycles embedded throughout Chinese astrology, but all we are doing here is indicating that these fate cycles are not simply fanciful, but have evolved through many generations of careful observation and study, for which the ancient Chinese were renowned.

  • The picture of the 12 animals is a photo taken by the author at the Lao Tzu Temple in Chengdu, China