The Birth of Modernity & the Age of Aquarius


On the last day of the 2020 Jaipur Literature Festival in India in January 2020, I was electrified – not by electricity, but by Professor Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard University.  Basically, he was explaining how the 15th century swerved from Medievalism towards Modernity during the Renaissance.  As with so many other historians, Greenblatt clearly indicated that Modernity arrived in its embryonic form in the 15th century driving the sharp edge of a wedge into medievalism and spearheading the thrust of modernity into an unsuspecting world. In over 500 years, astrologers have not grasped this fact, mainly because astrologers are not experts on history, and history is a far cry from horoscopic astrology – the only field of expertise for astrologers at large.

Greenblatt was not telling me anything new about the arrival of modernity in the 15th century, as my research led me to the solid conviction in 1987 that the Age of Aquarius arrived in the 15th century through rectification of the sub-ages that exist within the astrological ages (12 sub-ages per age).  Secondly, Aquarius is the sign of modernity aligned to rationality – unlike belief-orientated medievalism associated with the previous Age of Pisces.  How can Aquarius modernity arrive before the Aquarian age?[i]

The reason why I was electrified was that Greenblatt explained a very significant and crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle that introduced modern thought to the west in the 15th century.  It is truly an amazing tale, so amazing to Greenblatt, that he has published his findings in his book “The Swerve” in 2011.  The book is not only a compelling inside look at the arrival of the modern intellectual approach to the world but also it is history in narrative form and therefore neither dry and boring – as is the case with so many texts or dissertations on history.  His book is a pleasure to read.

Poggio Bracciolini

The abbreviated tale of “The Swerve” goes like this.  In the early 15th century, Poggio Bracciolini, the former secretary to the most discredited pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, found himself unemployed when the living Pope was actually deposed but uncharacteristically, not burnt at the stake – which was popular at the time. The unfortunate Pope had bad timing as there was the Great Schism in the Roman Catholic Church with another two competing popes – three in total with the additional two Popes representing the interests of France and Spain.  To solve this major internal schism, a council was formed, and after some deflective tactics, such as burning some ‘heretics’ at the stake, the Pope drew the short straw, and he was cast out as a sinful heretic of the worse kind and even charged with murdering the previous pope by poisoning, which seems highly likely – but nevertheless, after a few years in prison, was eventually released and made a Cardinal.  This all occurred in the Pisces sub-age (1253 – 1433) of the Pisces age (732 BC – 1433 AD), and whenever Pisces attains such peaks as this due to resonance, (Pisces) Europe tends to split, and the Pisces Catholic church, as the major European institution of the time, followed suit.

Following this most extraordinary event for the Roman Catholic Church, Poggio Bracciolini, the former principal secretary to the deposed Pope, and now unemployed and with time on his hands, went in search of ancient texts that were a popular pastime amongst a group of highly educated Italian Humanists.  The most well-known Humanist was Petrarch – who lived a century earlier, and is accredited with the rediscovery of some letters of the Ancient Roman writer Cicero.  The Humanists devoted themselves to the rediscovery of the former intellectual authors of Ancient Rome mainly through finding old texts, copying them and making them available – instead of rotting away in monasteries around Europe which was the status quo of old texts for centuries up to this time.

Poggio Bracciolini may have been a secretary to a pope, but he was not a priest, he was an openly highly dedicated Humanist and his first love was rediscovering the glory of Ancient Rome – specifically their intellectual achievements.  In 1417 he happened to stumble upon a monastery in Germany, and found to his delight a very old manuscript of a poem by Lucretius “On the Nature of Things” – originally written in the time of Julius Caesar.

Now Lucretius was a student of Epicureanism.  I must admit that I had briefly come across the rudiments of Epicurean philosophy in my research on the astrological ages, but the picture that was painted to me was that Epicurus promoted a hedonistic lifestyle of wanton debauchery.  This turned out to be malicious press by his opponents – mainly the Roman Catholic Church in later centuries who had a frenzied hatred of the philosophy of Epicurus due to his modern secular approach to life.

Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school. Roman copy after a lost Hellenistic original

What Lucretius was actually promoting in poetic form was the principles of modernity espoused by Epicurus – as there are very few extant texts direct from Epicurus.  Lucretius stated that the universe and everything in it was made of extremely small particles (atoms), and that though the gods may exist, there was no connection of any sort whatsoever between humans and these gods, and that people should stop wasting their time placating gods that were not listening to them anyway but instead, people should look for beauty, pleasure and contentment in this life – because this is it – there is no afterlife!  He promoted the concept of rudimentary evolution, rationality and basically a common-sense approach to life – but he was not a hedonist (this was just the normal slander from the Catholic Church in later centuries).  He promoted the law of nature over miracles and superstition.  He was definitely ahead of his time, and we still have not caught up with him today as our contemporary modernism remains rudimentary and highly unevolved.

Epicurus (341–270 BC) was born relatively early in the Pisces age (732 BC –1433 AD) and appropriately lived in the Sagittarius sub-age (370 – 189 BC) and Sagittarius always promotes philosophers and ‘the wise ones’.  He derived much of his physics and cosmology from the earlier philosopher Democritus (c. 460–c. 370 BC).  Every age commences with a sub-age of the following age as a kind of preview to the future world.  The Pisces age commenced with an Aquarius sub-age and overflow (732BC – 551BC – 370 BC) – and this is the sub-age in the Age of Pisces that provided a preview to our Age of Aquarius.  This is why elementary democracy appeared in Greece as a preview of our Aquarian age.  So while Epicurus was not directly associated with Aquarius, his main influences were from this Aquarius sub-age and overflow where he drew his philosophical inspiration for modernity.

When Poggio Bracciolini found the manuscript in the German monastery, he was obviously also electrified, and arranged for the manuscript to be copied by hand – the only ‘printing’ available at the time.  This accidentally set into motion a key intellectual development of modernity.  Because the Latin prose In Lucretius’ poem was so ‘perfect’ it was adopted by schools in Italy for their students learning Latin.  For decades, students religiously studied Lucretius’ poem without the ‘authorities’ realizing that this poem was the most blasphemous heretical writing virtually in existence – and was previously a major focus by the early Roman Catholic Church in stamping out all vestiges of the heretical and blasphemous Epicurean philosophy.  However after many centuries, the Church inadvertently took their eye off the ball and opened Pandora’s box and by the time they woke up, it was too late.  The word had got out – modernity had arrived with a bang sending religious superstition to the back of the class.

With the invention of the printing press only a few decades after the start of the Age of Aquarius in 1433, books were no longer being copied by hand.  For example, the last time it is believed that the German manuscript of Lucretius’ poem was copied was in the 800’s and therefore the manuscript discovered in the 15th century was about 600 years old – a long time between ‘editions’ one at a time.  The introduction of the mass production of books made extremely rare manuscripts available to many, and in a way, was an early example of the globalization of knowledge – also strongly associated with Aquarius

As the cover of “The Swerve” states:

“These ideas fueled the Renaissance, inspiring Botticelli, shaping the thoughts of Montaigne, Darwin and Einstein”.

The introduction of ancient Roman ‘nonsensical’ ideas ended up being a major ingredient of our contemporary world.  Greenblatt believes that the embrace of beauty and pleasure that Epicurean philosophy promotes was not restricted to the artistic extravaganza of the Renaissance, but also infused dress, liturgy, etiquette, decorations, Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific endeavors, Galileo’s astronomy and so on – but the initial apex was in painting, sculpture, music, architecture and literature including Shakespeare.[ii]

“Something happened in the Renaissance, something that surged up against the constraints that centuries had constructed around curiosity, desire, individuality…”

There was a distinct cultural shift forward around the beginning of the Age of Aquarius in the 15th century, and it is also astrologically synchronous that the creation of the new intellectual culture associated with the Age of Aquarius was merged with a (Pisces) poem introducing Aquarian ideals at the cusp of the ages of Pisces and Aquarius.  It does not get any better than this!  Though the relative worth of Lucretius’ poem in forming Aquarian-modernity can be debated, it did “make a difference” in the story of the arrival of modernity.   The story of the discovering and diffusion of Lucretius’ poem is “the story of how the world swerved in a new direction.”[iii]

Interestingly, Greenblatt states that the swerve to the new world order was neither dramatic nor associated with heroic gestures and with “no signs in heaven or on earth”.[iv]  We now know that he was wrong, as this swerve was portended by the arrival of the Age of Aquarius in the same century with the constellation of Aquarius the heliacal rising constellation at the Vernal Equinox (around 21st March each year). [See An Age Old Mistake That Still Haunts Astrologers ]

You can imagine how I was bristling with excitement upon hearing this stunning insight into the arrival of modernity combined with my understanding of the Age of Aquarius, and I was so impressed, I broke my rule about only purchasing eBooks when on the road, and rushed out at the end of the session to buy his book so that he could sign it for me.  I was virtually at the end of the line and finally when I handed him the book for signing, I said “funny as it may seem, but I am the only astrologer in the world that has published a book claiming that the Age of Aquarius arrived in the 15th century”.  Almost without a beat, he immediately notated my copy with “This is the Dawning!” upon which I said – “that is the name of my book!”


An interesting secondary theme in Greenblatt’s talk at the Jaipur Literary Festival was his amazement of strange synchronicities at work.  For example, he stated that at the age of 19, he stumbled across a copy of Lucretius’ poem and purchased it – which was not a normal text read by 19-year-olds.  From this seemingly random event early in his life, a major focus later in his life has been on the background research of the rediscovery of the same poem.

Secondly, Greenblatt stressed the unlikely succession of events that found Poggio unemployed with time on his hands and temporarily north of the Alps allowing him to indulge in a bit of book hunting in crusty old out-of-the-way monasteries. The number of coincidences required for this to have occurred is similar to a plane crash!

Strange synchronicities seem to abound in history, and I have also had the same experience with the astrological ages.  The only reason why I can understand that I have been the only astrologer to actually discover the key to the astrological ages after thousands of years of confusion, is due to some very strange coincidences that occurred early in my study of astrology.

When I first became interested in astrology in 1971 I was unaware that any astrological associations or clubs existed, and so I learned exclusively from books and practice. My first experience with more than one other astrologer did not occur until the early 1980s at a Federation of Australian Astrologers (FAA) conference at the University of New South Wales.  My second experience was not until around 1990 when I moved to Brisbane and I joined the local astrology association (Queensland Federation of Australian Astrologers) and started attending most monthly meetings. Therefore, for around the first 20 years of my time as an astrologer, I only once encountered other astrologers at one FAA conference (except for a short Vedic astrology course I completed in the mid-1980s).

Unknowingly, this meant that I was not influenced by the opinions of other astrologers, and so when I became interested in the astrological ages in 1987, I did not follow the party line that the world was currently on the cusp of the Pisces and Aquarius ages, but I started with a blank sheet of paper as something told me not to trust the astrological consensus.

However, even more strangely, in 1973 I read about the 12-fold division of signs which was given the Hindu term dwadasamsa (often abbreviated to “dwad” or “duad”) though it appears they were first developed in Ancient Greece.  I already knew about decanates (the division of each sign into three equal parts of 10 degrees each), and dwads are essentially an extension of the decanate process (with each sign divided in a specific way into 12 parts of 2 ½ degrees each). Under the dwad system, the first sub-period of each sign is the same as the sign, and then followed by the other signs in normal order.  This means that the first dwad of Aquarius is Aquarius, followed by Pisces, Aries and so on until ending with Capricorn.

Because I did not associate with astrologers, I assumed dwads were a standard feature of ‘normal’ astrology, and I was so attracted to dwads, that once my study of astrology extended to learning secondary progressions, I employed dwads for the progressed Sun and progressed ascendant, as due to secondary progressions, the progressed Sun spends 10 year passing through a decan, and 2 ½ years passing through a dwad. A similar thing occurs to the progressed ascendant, and I was often able to use the progressed ascendant position in dwads as a means of rectifying a horoscope when the birth time was inaccurate (which applies to around 80% of all given birth times anyway).  This is how I learnt to rectify an uncertain time of birth such as anyone stating they were born exactly on the hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, etc which is extremely unlikely.

A third key element to my discovery of the astrological ages was the outcome of a short course in Vedic astrology in the mid-1980s, as this gave me hands-on knowledge of not only dealing with two zodiacs, the western tropical zodiac aligned to the seasons, and the sidereal Hindu zodiac aligned to the zodiacal constellations, but it also a theoretical understanding on why astrological ages existed in the first place due to the intrinsic difference between these two styles of zodiac.

So when I had an epiphany about the Age of Aquarius one winters day a few years later in 1987, I was relatively immune to the consensus on the astrological ages amongst the astrological community due to my lack of contact.  Therefore, I automatically referred to my old dwads as the most appropriate way to subdivide the astrological ages into meaningful sub-periods and use dwads as the method of rectification similar to how I used them in horoscopic astrology as I already knew that dwads “worked”.

About half the astrological researchers into the astrological ages also employ sub-periods of the ages.  For example, a chapter in Charles Carter’s “An Introduction to Political Astrology” first published in 1951, outlined his approach to sub-periods of the astrological ages.  Nearly all researchers of the astrological ages who employ sub-periods, such as Charles Carter, adopt a sub-period structure where the first sub-period of any sign is Aries, followed by Taurus, Gemini and so on until Pisces.  And to add insult to injury, they nearly all have these sub-periods going forward in time even though the ages pass through each sign in reverse zodiacal order.  So the Age of Pisces commences with Aries, followed by Taurus and so on, as does the Age of Aquarius and every other age.  This consensus among most astrologers is directly opposite the truth.  The sub-periods also go in the reverse direction, and each age is not divided Aries to Pisces but by the dwad system (applied geometrically).

For example, because the last dwad in Aquarius is Capricorn, this is the first dwad encountered in the Age of Aquarius, followed by Sagittarius, Scorpio, Libra and so end – finishing with the Aquarius dwad (or subage). I mentally worked all this out over about 20 minutes in my initial epiphany in 1987, and 6 weeks later, I discovered the dwads that existed at the end of the Pisces age and beginning of the Age of Aquarius.   [For further details see The Rectification of the Aquarian Age ] However, if I had coexisted with other astrologers, and had not learned about dwads early in my practice of astrology, plus applied dwads for rectification purposes, it is doubtful I could ever have made such a discovery.  Despite Epicurus’ modern, secular and rational approach to life, there is still magic!  And this magic continued with my unlikely attendance at the 2020 Jaipur Literary Festival the same year that Professor Greenblatt gave his talk on the arrival of Modernity in the world.  Sometimes everything feels so orchestrated!

I was very impressed with the Jaipur Literary Festival, and extremely pleased to have the privilege of attending Professor Greenblatt’s talk – a similar version is also available on YouTube for anyone wanting first-hand insight into the arrival of Modernity and the Age of Aquarius in the 15th century “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” Stephen Greenblatt, The University of Kansas

Illustrations

Poggio Bracciolini – Alfred Gudeman, Imagines philologorum, Leipzig und Berlin, B.G. Teubner, 1911, https://archive.org/details/imaginesphilolog00gudeuoft

Portrait of Epicurus –  Unknown artist – Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)

Citations and References

[i] A semblance of Aquarius can arrive prior to the Age of Aquarius because ages have sub-periods based on decans (thirds) and twelfths (dwadasamsa) and so in the age before the Age of Aquarius, the Pisces age, has one sub-age (1/12th) ruled by Aquarius, and another two air sub-ages with their respective Aquarius sub-age decans.  Furthermore, due to the retrograde nature of the precessional ages and their sub-periods, every age commences with the sub-age of the following age.  The Age of Pisces (732BC – 1433AD) commenced with its Aquarius sub-age and overflow (732BC – 551BC – 370 BC).  It was during this timeframe that embryonic elements of the Age of Aquarius such as Athenian democracy, Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurius associated with the Axial Age that preempted our ‘modern’ Age of Science commencing in earnest in the 16th century.

[ii] “The Swerve”, pp 8 -9

[iii] Ibid p 11

[iv] Ibid p 12

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