Saturday, October 02, 2010

Rudhyar in Retrospect 2: The Occult

Dane Rudhyar studied astrology briefly in the 1920s, with Alice Bailey among others, but didn't delve into the subject seriously until after marriage to his first wife, Malya Comfort (above), who introduced him to the seminal American astrologer Marc Edmond Jones (below), a fascinating character who conjured the 360 Sabian symbols with the medium Elsie Wheeler in 1925.

According to the Sabian symbols website, it was shortly after Jones had published the 1931 mimeographed version of the Sabian symbols that Rudhyar became interested in his work. Marc described their association as follows: "The Sabian Symbols happened to fascinate Dane Rudhyar and I gave him permission to present them in the frame of, in his way today of explaining it, his different or 'special social psychology and abstract philosophy' and in his abridgment they gave a redoubled indication of their validity. His Astrology of Personality and articles in the magazines at the time were very largely responsible for bringing my contribution out in the open or to first broad public notice. He however has never been a member of the Sabian Assembly or in any real sense a student of mine, but always has been his own man very completely, and this makes the current development all the more significant. In his new book that has just by several days come to my hand from his with a warm autograph, An Astrological Mandala: The Cycle of Transformations and Its 360 Symbolic Phases, he explains this later contribution of his on the dust jacket as "A reinterpretation of the Sabian symbols, presenting them as a contemporary American I CHING."

According to the Khaldea website bio of Rudhyar, astrology became the vessel where he could "demonstrate in a concrete and effective way the workings of cyclic and holistic patterns in the lives of individuals and nations — as a personalized application of his philosophical and psychological concepts...This enabled him to get in much closer touch with the reactions and aspirations of people who, intuitively if not clearly, could respond to his ideas." A crucial character was Paul Clancy, who started "American Astrology" magazine in 1932, which became nationally distributed on newsstands in 1934, "and its phenomenal growth began at once. Paul Clancy requested more and more articles, and Rudhyar began to write two or three long astrological articles monthly for the magazine, providing him, for the first time, with a regular and dependable income."

"Alice Bailey, after reading Rudhyar's 1934 articles, urged him to collect and amplify them in a book which her Lucis Publishing Company agreed to publish. And so was born in 1936 the now famous Astrology of Personality, which Paul Clancy greeted as 'the greatest forward step in astrology since the time of Ptolemy. It represents the birth of a new epoch.' So began Rudhyar's astrological career which astounded and shocked many of his older friends at a time when 'thinking people' generally regarded astrology as an archaic superstition. Forty years later, during the late-1960s, the situation greatly changed, and Rudhyar at long last came into his own."

According to a program note in the Other Minds' presentation of Rudhyar's music this week, "After 1929, the Great Depression, the pressure of personal circumstances, and developments in the musical world stopped Rudhyar's activities as a composer for many years. Although there were brief interludes of composing and performances (especially in New York in 1949-50), his time was devoted to lecturing, painting (between 1938 and 1949), and writing. He published several books of poetry, two novels, and volumes on esthetic and social criticism. Over twenty books written between 1935 and 1978 pioneered a psychospiritual reformation of astrology."

Finding Rudhyar's books at your local bookstore or library is just about impossible, since most are currently out of print and any books dealing with the occult tend to be stolen, according to librarians. The San Francisco Library Main Branch, for instance, owns quite a number of Rudhyar volumes but they are hidden behind a locked door at a page desk on the third floor (above) with Carl Jung and other esoteric writers.

The easiest opportunity to read Rudhyar is through the Khaldea website (click here) created by his fourth and final wife, Leyla R. Hill. She has posted a number of out-of-print volumes on the site along with a gallery of Rudhyar's paintings and essays.

Rudhyar's writing style ranges from the impenetrable and jargon-filled to the simplest and most graceful prose. His ideas about "mutants" who are here to help raise consciousness are fascinating, and his theories on historical cycles, especially our own, are aging well. When he was discovered in the late 1960s by hippies getting involved in astrology, he was more bemused than anything, warning them that psychedelic drugs were all well and good as an experience, but they were just a crack in the door and that creating a higher consciousness required quite a bit more application and work.

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