An attempt to procure a view of astrology from which the doctrine of magical "influences," of "radiant energies, " and so on has been excluded. Such an attempt may be provisional, if you like. It is very important because it would purify the aura surrounding these investigations. And we necessarily come across such research if we inquire into the historical origins of the concepts of a scientific humanism. Nowhere more pervasively, perhaps, than in astrology. I have shown the intensity it conferred on the concept of melancholy. Something along these lines could be adduced for many other concepts.
The approach looks like this: We start with "similarity." We then try to obtain clarity about the fact that the resemblances we can perceive, for example, in people's faces, in buildings and plant forms, in certain cloud formations and skin diseases, are nothing more than tiny prospects from a cosmos of similarity. We can go beyond this and attempt to clarify for ourselves the fact that not only are these resemblances imported into things by virtue of chance comparisons on our part, but that all of them-like the resemblances between parents and children-are the effects of an active, mimetic force working expressly inside things. Furthermore, not only are the objects of this mimetic force innumerable, but the same thing may be said of subjects, of the mimetic centers that may be numerous within every being. On top of all this, it must be remembered that neither the mimetic centers nor their objects, the mimetic obj ects, can have remained unchanged through time, and that in the course of the centuries both the mimetic force and the mimetic mode of vision may have vanished from certain spheres, perhaps only to surface in others. For example, there can be no doubt that people in Antiquity had a much sharper mimetic sense for physiognomic resemblances than does modern man, who really only recognizes facial similarities, and no longer has much ability to recognize bodily similarities. We may further reflect that in Antiquity, physiognomy was based on animal resemblances.
If these considerations bring us close to astrology, the decisive factor is still lacking. As students of ancient traditions, we have to reckon with the possibility that manifest configurations, mimetic resemblances, may once have existed where today we are no longer in a position even to guess at them. For example, in the constellations of the stars. The horoscope must above all be understood as an originary totality that astrological interpretation merely subjects to analysis. The panorama of the heavenly bodies presents a characteristic unity, and the characters of the individual planets, for example, are recognized only through their function within the constellation. (The word "character" is provisional here. We should really say "essence." ) We must reckon with the fact that, in principle, events in the heavens could be imitated by people in former ages, whether as individuals or groups. Indeed, this imitation may be seen as the only authority that gave to astrology the character of experience. Modern man can be touched by a pale shadow of this on southern moonlit nights in which he feels, alive within himself, mimetic forces that he had thought long since dead, while nature, which possesses them all, transforms itself to resemble the moon. Nevertheless, these rare moments furnish no conception of the nascent promises that lay in constellations of the stars.
But if mimetic genius really was a life-determining force in Antiquity, then it is more or less unavoidable that the full possession of this gift, the most consummate expression of cosmic meaning, should be given to the newborn infant, who even today in the early years of his life will evidence the utmost mimetic genius by learning language.
This, then, is the complete prolegomenon of every rational astrology.
Benjamin, Walter, On Astrology (1932), Selected Writings, Volume 2, Part 2, 1931-1934, Edited by Michael W. Jennings and Translated by Rodney Livingstone, Cambridge (Massachusetts) and London (England), The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, pp.684-685.