Renaissance Man of the 20th Century
"If you want to know what astrology really stands for –
if you want an 'experience' – read Dane Rudhyar".
Henry Miller 1
Writing about Dane Rudhyar and his influence on my astrological journey began immediately to evoke a 'retrospective'. Jupiter, the 'Great Benefic' and ruler of Rudhyar's Sagittarius Ascendant, has recently entered its exaltation in Cancer, the sign of memory, feeling, imagination and awareness of the cyclic nature of life. The current seven-planet Grand Trine in water makes it seem fitting to begin this tribute by asking the reader's forbearance as I reminisce, recalling some 'Rudhyar moments' …
A poignant sense of mystery washes over me as I begin to revisit the past, remembering the book 'The Pulse of Life', given to me as a 20th birthday present. Where is it now, I wonder? Who has it? 2 My second copy3, bought in London in 1971, is now battered and dog-eared from being carried with me ever since – across oceans, through clouds, on the road, in rucksacks, suitcases, jacket pockets, posted home, lent out, retrieved, studied, loved, wept over. Yes, wept over. The first section I had opened, naturally, was about Gemini, my Sun-sign:
'The individual filled with the energy of the Day-force tends to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the personal experience. There is so much that is felt, touched, dimly sensed. The world is so full of flowers, the fire of self flames forth in such intricate designs of living that some definite order must be evolved at any cost if the budding personality is not to be shattered by the very vividness of the 'extension of being'.4
These words, so resonant and strangely familiar, had a profound effect on me, confirming the power of the astrological language … to articulate with respect the delicate mysteries of what it is to be human, and in so doing to transform our experience. I had been 'star-struck', and in that very moment dedicated myself to learning astrology, and to following wherever it would lead me. The vocation that had presented itself eleven years earlier clicked into place, and the 'Wheel of Fortune' had turned.
In 1971, having re-located to England, I lived in a community focalised by the Sufi teacher Fazal Inayat Khan, then the director of Servire Publications, one of the first publishers to take Rudhyar's work seriously. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered this connection, unknown to me beforehand! The Wheel of Fortune had turned again, bringing easy access to most of Rudhyar's published works. Later, Fazal introduced me to him personally at his California home; in autumn 1975 I also attended a seminar given by Rudhyar at the New York Astrology Centre. I vividly remember his exasperated response to a question asked by an eager student. He rolled his eyes, clapped his hands to his head and said, in true Sun in Aries fashion, 'I've been trying the explain that for forty years! Why don't you read my books?' As you can imagine, jaws fell and eyes widened! My next visit to New York was in 2012, offering a seminar as the guest of NCGR. I began the day by mentioning the 1975 seminar and asked if, by chance, anyone in the room had been there. You guessed it – somebody had! Another 'moment', another turn of the Wheel.
But enough reminiscence … let's look at Rudhyar's life, work and horoscope.5
Rudhyar was born Daniel Chennevière, in Paris in 1895. At the age of 13, he had one kidney surgically removed, so was declared unfit for active military service during the 1914-18 war. Libra rules the kidneys, and in Rudhyar's horoscope we see a prominent Chiron in Libra in the 9th house, conjunct the MC; the South Node was conjunct natal Chiron by Solar Arc Direction in the year of his surgery.6 In spite of this affliction, resulting in life-long health challenges also suggested by the triple conjunction of Pluto, Mars and Neptune in the 6th house, he lived to the age of 90, having offered his ideas and creative expression as a healing influence to a world in turmoil. Rudhyar was also something of a musical prodigy, and by the age of seventeen was already composing original work. His father had died the year before: Mars rules Rudhyar's Aries Sun, Venus and IC, all signifying 'the father', and by Solar Arc Direction, Mars was then conjunct his Jupiter, often present in the signification of death. Natal Mars is closely conjunct Neptune, signifying his musicality. A composition of his premiered in New York, the first ever performance of 'dissonant polytonal' music (Mars-Neptune), given the very week that America entered WWI. Rudhyar's musical influences and associates were numerous and illustrious.
After travelling to the USA in 1917, and while experiencing considerable hardship, Rudhyar spent much time reading in the public library of New York. Alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Blavatsky's writings and Eastern philosophy all imbued him with ideas that would later flower in his own astrological work. He had already rejected his ancestral name, and with it his allegiance to the 'Old World' which he saw as epitomising the degenerating 'autumn phase' of Western Civilisation. Here too is the signature of Chiron in Libra in the 9th house, opposite Sun widely conjunct the IC – interest in ideas from 'foreign' cultures, migration, rejection of 'birth-right', taking on a new nationality and a mythic identity. He saw himself as a 'Seed Man'; he sought and found fertile ground in which to thrive, attracting sponsorship from a number of eminent people. The name 'Rudhyar' derives from 'Rudra', the Hindu storm god associated with Mars.
During 1920, with transiting Chiron in the 3rd house, conjunct his Sun and opposite natal Chiron, Rudhyar's article 'Inertia and the Mystery of Evil' was published in 'The Theosophist'. Soon after, he began studying astrology, later meeting Alice Bailey to whom in 1936 he dedicated his magnum opus, 'The Astrology of Personality'.7 Astrologer Eric Francis owns a copy of this book with a hand-written inscription on the frontispiece: 'For Alice Bailey-- this book is sent, in deep friendship and in the hope that it will fill the Purpose which called it forth into being.'8
Publishing, studying the mysteries, learning astrology, meeting a teacher and fellow philosopher all relate to the 9th house, home of Rudhyar's Chiron and South Node.
Rudhyar met astrologer Marc Edmund Jones whose group was known as the 'Sabian Assembly'. In 1931, Jones published work on the 'Sabian Symbols' a set of 360 symbols for the degrees of the zodiac. This material was shared with Rudhyar, who later went on to write his own interpretations of the symbols in the book 'Astrological Mandala'. During the years that followed, Rudhyar immersed himself in the philosophical works of Carl Jung, Henri Bergson, Roberto Assagioli whom he befriended, and Jan Smuts, who first articulated the notion of 'holism' which dove-tailed with Rudhyar's early understanding of the cyclic nature of life and time. In 1933, Rudhyar's astrological work came to the attention of Paul Clancy, whose magazine 'The American Astrologer' was a seminal influence in bringing astrology to the attention of a wider public. Soon Rudhyar was writing two or three long articles monthly, the beginning of an outpouring of material as inspirational as it was prolific. In the late 1930s, Rudhyar's career as an artist also blossomed.
After several previous marriages, Rudhyar's was married to Leyla Raёl in March 1977. During his final years, Progressed Sun would conjunct natal Jupiter in the 7th house, a fitting signature for the final magnificent expression and consolidation of his astrological legacy, supported by a loving wife. He died peacefully on 13.9.1985, accompanied by three planetary stations, with transiting Jupiter completing a grand trine with his Pluto and MC. The very Heavens paid their respects to one who had so elegantly voiced their meaning, for the benefit of us all:
Uranus Opp Chiron Tr-Tr 17 Aug 1985 13°Sg58' R 13°Ge58' D
Jupiter Tri Pluto Tr-Na 21 Aug 1985 09°Aq56' R 09°Ge56' D
Uranus D 23 Aug 1985 13°Sg57' D
Jupiter Tri MC Tr-Na 4 Sep 1985 8°Aq25' R 08°Li25' D
Neptune D 12 Sep 1985 00°Cp50' D
Chiron R 21 Sep 1985 14°Ge39' R
Rudhyar's physical beauty and giftedness, charisma and intelligence meant he never lacked companionship. With Jupiter in the 7th house and Libra on the MC, his many personal friends and contacts included people distinguished in the arts, theatre, cinema, poetry, music, dance, literature, philosophy, and, of course, astrology: as a 'Renaissance Man' Rudhyar achieved considerable success himself in many of these fields. The popularity of his astrological work gained momentum from the 1960s onwards and continues to flower through the Rudhyar Archives, a treasure-trove of material curated by Michael Meyer.9
Dane Rudhyar will remain for posterity the greatest astrologer of the 20th Century, whose broad-ranging, deeply poetic and synthesising vision influenced millions of people.
.... "for after all, the deepest core of life is poetry and symbolism."10
First published in the November 2013 edition of the printed Journal of Astrological Association of Great Britain, a special editon on the theme of 'Inspirations'. Click here for the AA website.
Grateful thanks to Leyla Raёl Hill for supplying the photograph of Rudhyar which heads this article.
2. This original 1943 edition may still be found for sale.
3. Shambala Publications, Inc., Berkeley, CA, 1970.
4. Available online at the Rudhyar Archives, www.khaldea.com. For audio recordings, click HERE.
5. Rudhyar's own rectification - http://www.astro.com/astro-databank/Rudhyar,_Dane
6. November 1908, Mean Node.
7. Lucis Pub. Co., NY, 1936.
8. Thanks to Eric Francis for sharing this. See his website at www.planetwaves.com
9. See n4, above.
10. "New Mansions for New Men", Servire, Wassenaar, 1971, p. 100.