I certainly love my central heating and enjoy having air conditioning in the hot Midwestern summer, but I realize that in insulating ourselves from the natural world that we have lost our natural connection.
My wife had a horse that she took care of growing up and she described to me how much she noticed the arrival of Spring because she didn't have to walk several miles in the snow, ice or sleet to get to the pasture. But ensconced inside, driving everywhere, we almost miss the change of seasons and the natural cycles around us.
One area that comes up repeatedly has to do with planetary hours. See More information on planetary hours. Now planetary hours follow the original reckoning of day and night, where day begins at Sunrise and night begins at Sunset. Obviously this is the most natural and fits all of our associations with light during the day and darkness during the night. What this means, if you are not on the Equator, is that days are shorter in the Winter and longer in the Summer and vice versa for nights. Similarly planetary hours since there are 12 in the day and 12 at night, are shorter or longer than 60 minutes depending on the location and time of year.
This was problematic for timekeeping and while it is possible to create clocks that run on these natural hours, in the Middle Ages the use of standardized days and hours of 60 minutes began. They used astronomical timekeeping, so when the Sun is on the cusp of the 10th house in most house systems, the Midheaven, this is 12 pm or noon and when the Sun is on the 4th house, in most house systems the imum coeli "bottom of the sky" this is midnight, and this was chosen as the beginning of the day. It does seem odd to start the day in the middle of the night, but this is why.
What is surprising are the number of people that are learning to work with the planetary hours and e-mail asking, "What is Sunrise?" At first I thought that they were confusing dawn, which is when you first start to see light before the Sun rises and the point at which you can actually see the Sun on the horizon, ie Sunrise. And indeed there are lots of nuances and differences in dawn and Sunrise. But as I probed further what I realized was that there are people that honestly don’t know what Sunrise is.
But living inside, with jobs, timekeeping with clocks and with artificial light why would you need to worry about Sunrise? You could tell day from night, but that's all you really need to know.
Carl Jung in his autobiographical "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" describes his trip to Africa. Far outside the outposts of industrial civilization, he writes,
"The sunrise in these latitudes was a phenomenon that overwhelmed me anew every day…I formed the habit of taking my camp stool and sitting under an umbrella acacia just before dawn…At first, the contrasts between light and darkness would be very sharp. Then objects would assume contour and emerge into the light which seemed to fill the valley with a compact brightness. The horizon became radiantly white…Everything turned to flaming crystal… At such moments I felt as if I were inside a temple. It was the most sacred hour of the day."
Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
It is an almost commonplace cliché that our technology has isolated us, but still what a contract between Jung's experience of Sunrise in nature and "what is Sunrise?"
Technology has given us the illusion that we can ignore natural cycles, that we can bend them to our will. We can have strawberries in February and ski in August. Climate change and the other results of mass environmental destruction is Nature's riposte to this hubris.
Ultimately astrology is a sacred art insofar as we use it to align ourselves with the underlying spiritual cycles that it reveals. Sunrise = birth = Spring = creation for example. Who we are and what our purpose is, are all revealed in our natal charts. Astrology has the potential to bring us into spiritual alignment. While spiritual alignment brings both wise guidance and reveals meaning.