11 August 2011

Everything = Nothing

One of the complaints I have with modern astrology is the idea that if something is out there, then it MUST be astrologically significant. In the last two centuries, the discovery of the unseen planets Uranus, Neptune and (now "dwarf planet") Pluto haphazardly into the system of astrology has given modern astrologers tacit permission to include anything floating around the Sun in their astrology charts.

In the early part of the twentieth century, especially between the two world wars, systems of astrology were developed that even included hypothetical planets. These were added to the asteroids -- which began with the four first discovered, but now includes thousands -- as well as to the comet Chiron (discovered in 1977), the anticipated planet Vulcan (proven not to exist, but still included by some), other, newer hypothetical bodies (Lilith, aka the Black Moon), more mathematical points (East Point, Vertex, etc.), and so forth.

Now let me say that I don't believe that any of these real points (I'm not counting they hypotheticals here) have nothing to say at all about astrology. On some level, everything is connected. But much of it is coincidental, and the rest of it is less-than-significant. For example, whether the asteroid Eros is crossing my midheaven on the day I get married is not really all that useful in terms of predicting when I might get married, to whom, what kind of relationship the marriage will be, etc.

Traditional astrology grew out of hundreds and even thousands of years of observations. It may have included some hypotheticals at certain historical points, but those hypotheticals have since had a long opportunity to be proven true or false by observation and experience. This vast experience with the traditional 5 planets and the Sun and Moon (7 in all) allowed astrology to be built into a comprehensive system with an underlying philosophy which has been abandoned (mostly through ignorance) in modern times. This lack of cohesion and depth of understanding, not only of the philosophical underpinnings of astrology, but also of the richness in the 7 visible celestial bodies, has led modern astrologers to look elsewhere to find meaning in their charts. My contention has been, for many years, that if astrologers truly understood the ancient system, and had a deep knowledge and experience of the 7 traditional planets, they would not need to look elsewhere for more meaning.

Sue Ward has written a well-researched paper on Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, the modern planets. A free sample of it is available on her website, and the 80-page paper is available for a mere £5. In the paper she deals with many good issues, including the discoveries of these planets, the lack of astrological involvement in their naming, the political designs of the Theosophical Society in using these in astrology, and others. One of the conclusions she draws, which to me is the most significant, is that only planets, stars, etc., that cast light upon us physically, also cast light upon us spiritually. In other words (my words here), if you need a telescope to see it, it really doesn't have much (if any) effect on our daily lives. I recommend the paper to anyone who is serious about astrology. Even if one doesn't agree with all of her conclusions (I do), one should be aware of the historical development of these issues, and Ms Ward lays them out quite clearly.

The chart shown above is one that an astrologer posted online for a recent New Moon. This person posts a similar chart almost monthly. While a Traditional Astrology chart will typically include the seven classical planets, the North and South Lunar Nodes, and a few Parts or Lots, for a total of about 10 points, this chart (not counting Ascendant and Midheaven) includes 31 planets, hypothetical planets, or mathematical points. I have absolutely no idea how any astrologer makes any sort of sense of this glut of symbols. When everything in the sky is significant, then nothing is significant. If everything mean something, then nothing means anything.  This is what allows astrologers to say things like "energy is getting frantic, watch for it to hit the fan this weekend." And then they see some accident or disaster in the news and say "I told you so." However, I'll point out that #1 - these kinds of things happen all the time without specific predictions being made by these astrologers (how about a specific What, When and Where?) and #2 - they really didn't predict anything, since "it" can mean whatever one wants in retrospect.

If astrology is going to regain any semblance of respect among the general population, beyond their passing interest in their daily, newspaper horoscope, then it needs to be serious, precise, and accurate, not frivolous, ambiguous, and opportunist. Traditional astrological methods are one way of moving toward that goal.

24 July 2011

Venus Rules What???!!!

It's been too long since my last rant about the utter lack of philosophical underpinnings of modern astrology. So here goes.

I was reading an astrology blog today that points out that Venus is moving into the sign of Leo on Thursday of this coming week. It mentions parenthetically that Venus is the "ruler of love, art, beauty & finances." This is, of course, only partially accurate. Venus is the ruler of love, art, and beauty (along with music, dance, and many other things), but finance? Not so. So then why the reference?

First of all, let's talk for a moment about what astrological "rulership" is all about. 

There is what we call "natural rulership"; that is, Mars rules pointy things, the Moon rules liquids, etc. What we are saying here is that of all of the energies that inhabit pointy things, for example, the Mars energy is the strongest. Therefore, as Mars goes, so goes this pointy thing. We are working here from a world view where the spiritual world influences the material, and as such, its influence on Mars is reflected on things that are "ruled by" Mars.

Next we have "house rulership." In an astrology chart, each house represents an area of life, and planets in that house as well as the sign on the cusp of that house give the delineation of how that area of life will work out. The planet that rules that sign will ultimately also have a say in the matter. For example, traditionally, the first house of the chart (also known as the Ascendant or Rising Sign) represents the physical body, health, and happiness. If one is born with Leo rising, that means that the sign of Leo was straddling the eastern horizon at that moment and is therefore on the cusp of the first house. (By definition, the first house begins at the eastern horizon.) Now the Sun rules Leo, so the astrologer looks to see if there are any other planets on the horizon (in the first house) that may influence the body, health and happiness of the native, and then also interprets the influence of Leo on those issues; finally we evaluate the placement of the Sun in the chart in order to give a fuller picture of how these issues will ultimately work out for the person.

Between the 18th and early 20th centuries, astrologers had ignored houses for so long that they nearly forgot what to do with them. In the mid-20th century, they began to attempt to reincorporate them into astrology charts, but in doing so, generated a lot of incorrect connections about rulership in the chart. A technique developed in the mid-to-late 20th century called the 12-letter alphabet, about which I have blogged, asserts that each of the houses is nearly equivalent to each of the astrological signs, and in order. In other words, the first sign of the zodiac, Aries, is equivalent to the first house of a chart. This is a modern invention that has no basis in tradition, and in fact confuses beyond measure the ability to gain any clarity from a chart. However, I bring it up again to point out what some of the consequences are from this bogus approach.

In the 12-letter alphabet (or "alphabet soup") approach, the second house, which corresponds to a person's money and movable wealth, also equals Taurus, the second sign, and therefore Venus, the planet that rules Taurus. Now all of a sudden, for the first time in two thousand years (indeed, the first time in history), Venus rules money. So what happened to the rulership of Jupiter over wealth and abundance (aka "money" to us) and the Sun over gold? These associations are completely ignored by, and mostly unknown to, modern astrologers. Yet it makes far more sense given the nature of these planets. 

In Rex Bills' The Rulership Book, he begins the forward, the very first sentence in the volume, with the following sentence: "The keystone of astrological interpretation is a thorough knowledge of rulerships, or correspondences." Yet Bills then goes on to list modern correspondences that are undocumented, and unsubstantiated by much of the astrological tradition. Lee Lehman's The Book of Rulerships, on the other hand, documents the rulerships and correspondences as given in nine of the most important astrological writers throughout history. Her introduction to the 
volume is a very good entré into understanding what rulership is all about.

Other common, incorrect (and unintended?) consequences of the alphabet soup approach are:

  • Since the third house represents short journeys, and the third sign of the zodiac is Gemini, ruled by Mercury, therefore Mercury rules travel. Now today, whenever Mercury goes retrograde, people freak out about travel. However, traditionally, there are very few references to Mercury in terms of travel. Travel is more about the Moon (which "travels" the entire zodiac in a month). What is of import today are the plans, arrangements, and negotiations around travel, as well as some of the mechanical pieces of the vehicle itself; these things are Mercurial. But the journey itself is not.
  • Since the fourth house is like the fourth sign, Cancer, which is the sign of the great Mother, and is ruled by the Moon, then the fourth house is about the mother. The 10th house (the 7th from the 4th), which is equivalent to the 10th sign of Capricorn (a cold, unyielding energy) is therefore about the father. Traditionally, the 4th house is the father (and land and things inherited through patrilineal lines) and the 10th is the mother. So modern astrology has completely reversed these.
  • The sixth house traditionally is about potential illness (among other things) and the first house is about the native's health. But in modern astrology, the 6th house is said to be health, and the 6th sign, Virgo, is equated with it. I have heard modern astrologers and astrology buffs tell every sun-sign Virgo that they encounter that they are "natural healers." Don't even get me started on how ridiculous this is. But this is how Virgo got to be (falsely) associated with healing. 
  • I recently saw a post that mentioned that Libra is the sign of Law. This is because the 7th house in a chart is the opponent in the law suit, and so the 7th house often represents issues of suing an opponent (or being sued). Guess what the 7th sign of the zodiac is... that's right, it's Libra. Law has always been correlated primarily to Jupiter. 

One of the major problems that I have with all of this is that when I notice in a post that there is something like this glaringly wrong, I tend to dismiss most of what the astrologer says from that point on; if their connections are all wrong, then how can their conclusions be correct, except by accident or serendipity? This is also one of the reasons that modern style astrologers no longer do predictions - because they can't. There are many reasons that modern astrology has gone almost completely psychological, but this is one of them. One need not "prove" astrological statements that are more about psychology and the way that someone experiences something internally, whereas putting oneself on the line and actually predicting what will happen in the external world is a lot more risky and demanding. But it only works if one is able to draw the right connections and establish the right relationships.

07 April 2011

Science and Scientism

Can Scientists Overreach? Yes, says theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser in an article of the same name on NPR.org. He summarizes (in an extremely brief manner) the work of Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gilead, in her book-length essay Absence of Mind

I bring this up because in a blog post I wrote in January titled When Modern Scientists Get Hold of Astrology, I concluded by asking Why would modern astrologers care much about what scientists say about astrology? My point was that most modern scientists are hostile to astrology, and any comments they make on the subject are uninformed (meaning that they haven't taken the time to study the subject) and are aimed at debunking it (which completely contradicts even their own methodology, but they won't admit that).

I received a lot of very hostile comments (which I did not allow to post on the blog) insisting that everything should be subject to science and the scientific method if it one claimed that it were "true." Now, I have always been clear on this: I am grateful for modern science and medicine. I am grateful to live in a society where diseases like polio and smallpox are virtually non-existent. I am grateful to be writing this post on a computer, rather than on a typewriter and then having to publish it in print version. I am also glad for simple scientific knowledge like the fact that my garden might need more or less nitrogen, etc., (and we can now measure this) for growing the types of vegetables that I want to grow. My very pointed complaint was about the hostile of interference of scientists in astrology. The argument, which I thought I made pretty clear, was that not everything in life can or should be subject to the scientific method. Well it seems as if at least one Pulitzer Prize winner agrees with me. 

To reduce everything to science and its methods impoverishes humanity. We need cultural diversity and that includes the culture of religion.
What makes some scientists so sure of their science? The practice of science, after all, relies precisely on uncertainties; a theory only works until its limits are exposed. In fact, this is a good thing, since new theories sprout from the cracks of old ones.
For science to advance it needs to fail. The truths of today will not be the truths of tomorrow.
(Marilynne Robinson as summarized by Marcelo Gleiser)
Gleiser quotes directly Robinson's criticism of renowned atheist and scientism cheerleader Richard Dawkins from an article she wrote for Harper's Magazine:
So bad science is still science in more or less the same sense that bad religion is still religion. That both of them can do damage on a huge scale is clear. The prestige of both is a great part of the problem, and in the modern period the credibility of anything called science is enormous. As the history of eugenics proves, science at the highest levels is no reliable corrective to the influence of cultural prejudice but is in fact profoundly vulnerable to it.
The philosophical pinnings of Traditional astrology are Neo-platonic. It posits that first comes Soul, which gives rise to Consciousness, which in turn gives rise to Matter. This allows for the belief that non-physical causes can ultimately have an effect upon the physical world. The modern world view is that if enough matter is brought together, it may give rise to consciousness. And it pretty much stops there. Notice that these are diametrically opposing points of view, which is why it makes evaluating one of these world views in terms of the other very difficult.

Note that the Traditional (pre-Enlightenment) world view does not deny any of modern science's evaluation of material things on their own terms. That is, allowing science and the scientific method to measure the physical effects upon physical objects is not incompatible with a more Traditional/Magical/Spiritual world view. However, it also allows for the interaction of the physical world with the non-physical world, and for the idea that we don't really know everything that there is to know about how even the physical world works. 

To re-quote Robinson "For science to advance it needs to fail. The truths of today will not be the truths of tomorrow."

02 April 2011

Woops! I Had An Accident(al Benefic)

As Chris Warnock pointed out in a comment on my previous blog post, modern astrology tends to deny the existence of malefics and even of evil itself. (Note: which is interesting, since most of the keywords that they use for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto tend to be negative, yet the refuse to refer to these as malefic energies.) So when things like Mercury retrograde or Void of Course Moon happen, the modern habit is to round up everything evil, bad, or inconvenient that is happening and scapegoat that one factor. (Remember, the idea with scapegoating was to take one symbolic [innocent] goat and cast upon it ALL the sins of the nation.) Just do a web search for Uranus in Aries, and you will see all sorts of non-specific, dire predictions about what this means. (Most of these are actually what I call post-dictions, that is, looking backwards and casting blame on one factor which is convenient, though usually inconsequential in reality. Reference the multitude of astrologers who point to Uranus in Aries and connect it to the earthquake in Japan. This is despite the fact that Uranus was still in Pisces, and the fact that this entrance into Aries was not something peculiar to Japan - it happened for everyone).

This brings me to something that traditional astrology dealt with all the time, which is wholly ignored in modern astrology. What makes a Benefic or Malefic? First, let's look at the words. Bene-fic is from the Latin bene (good) and facere (to do/make). So Benefics are do-gooders. Likewise, Malefics (male + facere) are evil-doers. Traditionally, the Benefic planets are Jupiter, Venus, Moon (when waxing) and in certain situations, the Sun; the Malefics are Saturn, Mars, Moon (when waning) and in certain situations, the Sun. However, one of the things that traditional astrologers universally agreed on is that Benefics can become Malefics accidentally, and that Malefics can become Benefics accidentally. What does "accidentally" mean in this context? Classical astrology distinguishes between Essential dignity, which has to do with the relationship between a planet and the sign that it's in, and Accidental dignity (also known as Accidental Fortitudes), which is a broad category that covers a number of areas, such as: what house a planet is in, what aspects a planet makes to other planets, etc.

A planet like Jupiter, for example, is essentially dignified in signs like Sagittarius and Pisces (he is the sign ruler of these two signs) and Cancer (where he is exalted). He's also somewhat dignified in all of the Fire signs, especially if the chart is a nocturnal one (i.e., the Sun is below the horizon) and in certain degrees of certain signs. What this means is that Jupiter can freely be himself in these signs and work without interference in the way that he prefers to work. One of the meanings of Jupiter that has come down to modern astrology is "expansion" (in fact, it may be the only meaning for Jupiter that many modern astrologers are even familiar with). This is due to Jupiter's qualities of being warm and moist, which conditions are perfect for growth (think of what conditions you want for your garden to grow). What happens when this expansion goes unchecked? The growth never stops. If a fat, happy Jupiter is sitting on one's Ascendant (physical body), that might not be such a good thing for the person (over-weight issues, water retention, etc). Or what happens when that super-growth Jupiter is in Cancer, and in the sixth house or twelfth house, which are connected to illnesses? This is often (not always) the signature of someone who may have a predisposition to the disease cancer (which is basically an overgrowth of dangerous cells).* In this case Jupiter is clearly an Accidental Malefic.

Another example from current events is that of my girlfriend. Her natal chart has Mercury retrograde exactly conjunct the Midheaven/MC (career/fame/boss area of the chart, which also increases the strength of any planet near it) in Virgo. Professionally, Mercury conjunct the MC would indicate someone who is a teacher, writer, accountant, etc. Mercury is very highly dignified in Virgo. But here it's retrograde. This would be an accidental malefic. Professionally, she is a language teacher, but also somewhat of a social-phobe. The Mercury retrograde here also represents a slew of bosses and superiors who are lousy at communication, which causes problems. My girlfriend also is a writer of fiction, and has founded a small press within the last year (all Mercury activities). She detests dealing with the public aspects of owning a press, but there is nothing that makes her happier than writing in the basement, all alone where no one but the cats visit. 

However, we have recently identified a pattern in her writing practice. She said to me the other day that all of a sudden, the writing blocks that she has been experiencing since early January have fallen away, and she is pumping out the pages non-stop. That prompted me to look back over the course of the last year, and it is clear that whenever Mercury goes retrograde, her creative juices start flowing, and she retreats to the basement and produces volumes of fiction. Note that this does not mean that the outward activities become any easier; for example, the bosses' communication gets worse, the job of publicizing the press get more difficult, etc. But the activity that she enjoys most in life, writing alone, is most enjoyable and most productive during this time when modern astrologers are crying that the sky is falling, and would counsel specifically against this sort of activity.

In this case, Mercury is an accidental malefic and benefic, depending on which of the Mercury-ruled activities we examine. Once again, where the modern take on this is very monolithic and completely without nuance, the perspective of Traditional Astrology allows for subtleties and levels of interpretation unheard of in any of the modern texts. 

* Please note that this is only one possible example of what might happen with this placement. No one astrological placement will indicate any particular kind of disease; there are many complex factors involved, not least among them genetics (which is connected to fate), diet and personal health choices (free will), and upbringing (a combination of fate/free will). All health issues -- physically, mentally, emotionally and astrologically -- are complex ones that require in-depth analysis before any determinations can be made.

31 March 2011

Here We Go Again

Here we are, at the beginning of another Mercury retrograde cycle. As everyone starts to blame poor Mercury for everything that could possibly go wrong for the next 3.5 weeks, I thought I'd take a closer look to see what traditional sources say about Mercury retrograde periods. I looked specifically at Guido Bonatti (Liber Astronomiae, 12th century, Dykes transl.) and William Ramesey (Astrologia Restaurata, 17th century), since each of these works is about - Ramesey in whole, Bonatti in part - Mundane Astrology, i.e. astrology about events happening in the world (rather than Natal Astrology, which is based on birth charts). Bonatti also has a complete section on Natal Astrology, as does William Lilly, a contemporary of Ramesey, so I looked in those sections as well. While these authors clearly are not exhaustive, their texts are (esp. Bonatti and Lilly) encyclopedic, and stand as summaries of the Art at two distinct points in history, 500 years apart.

After spending most of the afternoon scouring these texts, and working through indices, where available, I can report that these classical authors had absolutely nothing to say about what happens for the 24 days that Mercury goes retrograde each of three times per year. That's right. Nothing. Certainly, they have a lot to say about interpreting how a retrograde Mercury in a chart will affect the outcome of whatever that chart is about. But they don't seem to make any attempt at classifying or qualifying a moving period of time under this influence. It seems that until very recently in the history of astrology, no one was really interested in interpreting the meanings of astrological phenomena outside the context of an actual chart. The chart in question often covered a period of time (e.g. the Aries ingress chart was often used to predict world/mundane events for the coming year);  but that chart was then moved through time on a symbolic level as well as watching how the planets continued to move. But these planetary movements were always related back to that chart for the purposes of the interpretation at hand. Nowhere do they seem to have said anything like "when Mercury goes retrograde, the world tends to go wonky."
(If anyone knows of any classical sources that address this issue I would appreciate the reference in order to do more research.)

Does this mean that Mercury retrograde has no effects? I don't think so; I have witnessed some of them myself. But I think that far too many negative events are attributed to Mercury than he deserves. As a matter of fact, far too many things are attributed to Mercury than should be.

Some speculation, based on classical tradition
First, let's consider that even some classical authors thought that a retrograde Mercury could be improved by being connected to the benefic planets in a chart (Jupiter, Venus, sometimes Moon). And if we look at this particular Mercury retro, we see that Mercury is in Aries, where he is middling in terms of dignity (that is, he's neither well dignified nor ill-dignified). Until April 13 (EDT) Mercury is heading right at a well-dignified Jupiter in Aries. The Moon makes a few contacts along the way as well. But Jupiter is a benefic, and does well in the fire signs. This would seem to indicate that the negative affects of Mercury will be much lessened until at least the 13th. However, one must also consider that during much of this period, Mercury is combust - conjunct the Sun. Classically this is a great debility, not because it makes Mercury do "bad" things, but rather because the Sun burns up any power that Mercury may have. So while Mercury itself may be fairly ineffective during this time, it may be helped a bit by Jupiter.
For the next (and final) 10 days of the retrograde, Mercury is in opposition to Saturn (a malefic) in Libra. Again, this will be interrupted off-and-on by aspects from the Moon. But these last 10 days look as if they will be the worst part of the retrograde due to the Saturn influence.
Of course, as the title of this section implies, this is speculation on my part, but based on what is written in the classical authors on this subject, rather than a mere exercise in free-association of ideas.

Mercury Rulership
I have seen recently some pretty fantastic (as in "fantasy-based") lists of what Mercury rules, with no citations. Lee Lehman, in her Book of Rulerships, scoured nine major classical astrological authors, from Ptolemy through the 17th century, and compiled lists of what rules what based upon their texts. Using her book, here is a partial list of what Mercury rules or is associated with:
Accountants, Affairs, Arithmeticians, Astrology, Attorneys, Bankers, Bargains, Birds, Business(men), Buyers, Cheating, Clerks, Coins, Commerce, Contracts, Counterfeits, Curiosity, Dexterity, Divination, Educated People, Fairs (flea markets, bazaars), Hurricanes, Imagination, Intellect, Journeys, Logic, Mathematics, Memory, Negotiations, Poetry, Printers (the people), Rationality, Reason, Schools, Scribes, Secretaries, Servants (non-contractor employees today), Speech, Teachers, Tradesmen, Writing.
We could extend this list logically to modern areas that are developments and newer versions of older things. For example, Printers refers to the people but by extension to modern printing machines (since Mercury also rules inventions and writing). Given Mercury's rulership of Writing, Logic, Inventions (etc.), computers are clearly a Mercury-ruled area.

(Note that "Communications" is not an area that is listed among the nine classical authors that Lehman surveys, yet somehow this is the first thing that we often think of when we think of Mercury retrograde. A few authors gave rulership of Messengers to Mercury, but not universally; others gave it to the Moon, and "Messages" was given to the Moon, or to the 3rd or 5th houses in a chart [depending on what kind of message it is]. This points out the modern astrological tendency to invent rulerships without grounding them in the Tradition.)

Now while the classical authors don't delineate Mercury retrograde specifically (other than to delineate Mercury debilitated by any means), Bonatti (and others) refer to retrogrades in terms of  complications, distresses, defects, destruction, disagreement, loss, lack, reversals, etc. So a logical conclusion might be that there would be setbacks of these types in these Mercury-ruled areas. But not automatically; the "right" (wrong?) connections must be made.

So I'll repeat what has at times almost seemed a mantra: calm down, people. You will survive this retrograde as you have survived all the ones before it. Leave yourself some extra time and be a little extra careful, and you'll be fine. And when this retrograde is over, and life still isn't perfect, I hope that we all realize that we've been making Mercury our scapegoat/whipping-boy for far too long; there are other things going on in the sky, and they're worth some attention too.

21 March 2011

Alphabet Soup

One of my ongoing complaints is the lack of clarity in Modern Astrology. Nowhere is this more manifest in the technique that is referred to as the 12-letter alphabet. This is a thoroughly modern concept which was first introduced in 1973 in Finding the Person in the Horoscope by Zipporah Dobyns, who is widely credited with having invented it. (Note that Dobyns held a Ph.D. in psychology, and like most modern astrologers, focused on astrology as psychology, not as a predictive art.) This seems to have been an attempt to simplify astrological associations so that it would be easier for beginning students to learn (which is a problem in and of itself; after all, it's not an "easy" subject, it shouldn't be "easy" to learn).

The idea is that the first sign of the zodiac, Aries, is like the first house in the chart, and they are both like the planet that rules Aries, Mars. So Aries=1st House=Mars. I'm not sure where to begin with how wrong this is historically, and how this confuses and conflates based upon near-complete misunderstandings of a number of concepts. First of all, the planet are not the signs of the zodiac. Planets were/are considered divine energies that resonate/associate with all things sub-lunary (on Earth); the physical planets themselves are "merely" a physical resonation/representation of the divine energy of that particular planetary deity/angel/etc. So it's not the rock that we call "Mars" that "causes" martial things on Earth; it's the energy behind it that resonates to the planet and all things on Earth that we associate with Mars (aggression, war, drought, assertiveness, red, iron, etc.). The Signs have relationships with the planets. Each planet is essentially in charge of the affairs of one or more signs, or portions of signs. This relationship is complex, and we determine the details of it in the essential dignities' scheme. Aside from each planet ruling one or two signs, each of the the planets is considered to be exalted in one of the signs; each one has a special relationship with the triplicites (e.g., the fiery triplicity is all of the fire signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius). And so forth. Dobyns cavalierly discarded Exaltations based not upon an understanding of the principle of Exaltation, but rather based upon her own inadequate interpretations of how each planet acts in its sign of exaltation.

While it's true that each sign of the zodiac moderates or filters the energy of the planet, the sign rulerships and exaltations were not originally assigned based upon any particular planet being like any particular sign. There are similar energies between some of them, but a planet is the ruler of a sign because it is the most appropriate planet to dispose of the affairs of that sign. So Mars rules Aries, not specifically because Mars is like Aries (though it is, in fact, somewhat similar); but rather because Mars is the planet that takes care of the affairs of Aries in a chart, regardless of whether Mars happens to be in Aries at the moment.

Houses are indicators of different areas of life. For example, if a chart has Mars in the first house, then Mars will directly influence the physical body, the health and happiness of the native. If Mars is in the second house, he will directly influence the native's money and movable wealth, but will not influence health and happiness, unless he is otherwise linked to the first house. This ability to discern and distinguish that one thing is not another is critical in delineating a chart, and especially in attempting prediction based upon it. And getting the connections and relationships correct is paramount.

Yet somehow, the idea quickly developed that there is a "natural" chart. That is, that the first house has an "underlying" Aries energy always, regardless of what sign actually appears on the first house cusp in any particular chart. Let's see how this would work.
Imagine that Gemini is rising (and therefore on the cusp of the first house), and that Mercury, its ruler, is in the third house in Leo. The Sun, which rules Leo, is in the eighth house in Capricorn.
So in this chart the:
1st house = Gemini = Aries (as the underlying, "natural" energy of that house) = Mars (as the ruler of Aries) = Mercury (ruler of Gemini) = 3rd house (where Mercury happens to be in this chart) = Leo (on the cusp of 3rd) = Sun (ruler of Leo) = Capricorn (where the Sun is in this chart) = 8th house (Capricorn is on the cusp) = Saturn (ruler of Capricorn) etc...
Without even starting to delineate the meanings of these planets, signs, and houses, one can see how bloody confusing it all is. When one gets to the point where anything in the chart is equal to nearly everything else in the chart, it's impossible to extract any real meaning from it. This has also led to the fallacious re-assigning of certain house meanings. For example, traditionally, the fourth house is associated with the Father of the native. However, since Cancer is the fourth sign of the zodiac, and is feminine and associated with mothering or nurturing, modern astrologers have simply switched the meaning. After 1900 years of tradition, with no empirical or observational bases upon which to do so. Other changes that are a result of this in the last few decades are the negative associations of the 8th and 12th houses, being associated with Scorpio and Pisces, respectively. Virgo, the 6th sign, is now somehow about "healing" and "service," since the 6th house is associated with potential illness and servants. Venus is now supposedly connected to money, since she rules Taurus, which is the second sign, and the second house is about money (the traditional ruler of money is Jupiter and the 2nd house). There are other mis-associations, but the reader should have the idea by now that the current state of modern interpretation is at best confused. This is one of the reasons (but only one) why we find that modern astrologers don't even attempt to predict; the bottom line is that if one's associations and relationships are all wrong, it will be impossible to achieve clarity and any sort of real-world accuracy.

Dr. Dobyns uses the term "alphabet soup" in her own book, however, detractors of this method have turned it back onto the technique in the attempt to show that when everything equals everything, then the result is really nothing.

26 February 2011

You Say You Want a Revolution...

... and Many Happy Returns
We've all heard the expression: "Happy Birthday, and Many Happy Returns!" But did you know that this is an astrological expression?
"Happy Returns" refers to Solar Returns. The Solar Return was formerly known as a "Revolution." Not the violent, government-overthrowing type, but in the original sense of "revolve," which means "to return". A revolution is a return to beginnings.
The yearly revolution, or Solar Return, is a chart cast for the moment that a person (or country's) Sun returns to the the exact place in the Zodiac as when that person or country was born. This happens either on one's birthday, or within a day on either side of it. (Remember that there are 365 days in the year, and only 360 degrees in the Zodiac, and a day is actually slightly longer than 24 hours. This is connected to the same reasons for having to insert a leap day every four years into the calendar. So the Solar Return can vary slightly too.)

Casting the Chart
With the development of computer software, Solar Return charts have become much easier to cast. It's important to be as exact as possible, so that the Sun is at the same degree, minute, and second of arc as in the birth chart. Because this return of the Sun can happen at any time of the day, the Solar Return chart can look very different than the birth chart. The only thing that is guaranteed to be the same is the zodiacal placement of the Sun. All of  the other planets will likely be in different places; and the houses of the chart will be quite different if the time of day is different than the birth chart. The houses in any chart indicate the areas of life that the planetary energies will be active in. So this can provide quite a variety of different meanings over the years, since the house placements will change in the Solar Return from year to year. Of course, the information in the Solar Return chart can never override or negate what is in the birth chart; however, it can push different areas of life farther away or closer toward the meanings shown in the birth chart. Think of it as a spectrum, with a bit of elasticity: year to year, certain areas of life can pull away from what the natal chart says, but the "elastic" will never allow that area to get too far away from the meanings in the natal chart. So the Solar Return chart, like any subsidiary chart, must be read within the context of the natal chart.

For many years, there has been a debate about where to cast the location of the Solar Return chart. There are three possibilities: the location of the original birth chart, the location where the person is on the day of the Return, and the location where the person spends most of their time that year. Personally, I think that the third option is probably the best. There are some who will actually travel quite a distance so that at the moment of the Solar Return that year, a different sign will be rising in that location than at their home location, and therefore, all of the subsequent houses of the chart will be different, and in theory, affect different areas of life. And there are some who cast the chart for the location where the person was born, on the theory that all charts have to be read in the context of the natal chart, and therefore at that location. However, it makes the most sense to me to cast the chart for the person's current home, that is, where they are spending most of their time. It doesn't seem logical to me that if a person travels a great distance and is there for only a few days, that this chart should have such a powerful affect on their lives. And it is, after all, a temporary chart. So I cast the Solar Return chart for where the person currently lives (assuming that they will spend most of the year close to that location) and have had good success predicting details for my clients based on it.

So the next time that someone wishes you "Many Happy Returns," you'll know exactly what they're wishing for you, even if they don't!

17 January 2011

Responses to the Science/Astrology dialogue

After my last blog post, I received a number of comments, most of which I published. Some were simple attacks on astrology, quite full of invective, and not really worth passing on. The purpose of this blog is not to defend astrology, but to present and elucidate elements of astrology that were developed before the Enlightenment. In doing so, I hope to show how they are superior in most ways to what passes for modern, psychological astrology. When commenters address specific items that actually appear in the blog posts, I'm happy to engage, at least in a limited way, in a conversation about those facts, even if we disagree (as long as everyone is respectful).

One particular commenter made a few extended comments, so rather than try to jam them all into a comments box, I've decided to publish them, along with my responses, as a new post. The following comments are from Eric.

[Eric] It looks like there is a word limit, and I'm a little too long - so I am breaking this into two parts:

Part I: 
Thanks for not moderating me out of existence (on another -completely unrelated- board, I was moderated out of existence for a question that didn't even deny their basic ideas, but those were right-wing politics people...)
Again, when commenters, even those who disagree, are 1. respectful, and 2. discuss the actual content of the posts and other comments, I'm happy to engage in the conversation.
[Eric] So - you say that, "scientists who are making the claim to which I refer in the blog post have made no investigation of astrology at all, yet are seeking to influence it", but I think you are mistaken - scientists in general have no interest in 'influencing' the practice of astrology.

I believe that scientists DO have an interest in influencing astrology - that is, to influence it right out of existence.
[Eric] The article seemed more interested in pointing out the inconsistency of current astrological practice with astronomical facts about the actual locations of the sun, planets, etc. in the sky. Thus pointing out that (modern, at least) astrology has no basis in any kind of fact.
I disagree that this "finding" points out that astrology (modern or otherwise) has no basis in fact. Astrology has always been a symbolic system, though based on a few specific astronomical realities. The fact that tropical astrology is based on is the alignment of the Earth and the Sun at the Spring Equinox. From there, much of it is symbolic, and always has been.

[Eric] I respond to some more of your comments below (yours are prefixed with your initials and in quotes).

[CL] "In order to predict well, one must approach astrology from a world view that allows for it."

[Eric] So - if I do not accept astrology in advance, you cannot make any predictions for me? Why should my belief in astrology affect *your* predictions? Or am I misunderstanding you.
I think that you are misunderstanding. I am not referring to the potential client's belief. I'm referring to the practice of the astrologer. Astrology is based on a neo-platonic principle that Spirit gives rise to Consciousness, which gives rise to Matter. The modern scientific world view is nearly the opposite: that Matter gives rise to Consciousness. The neo-platonic philosophy allows for the reality that material occurrences may be caused by non-material (spiritual or consciousness) causes. The modern scientific view rejects that possibility. If an astrologer also rejects that possibility, then he or she may do fine as a psychological astrologer (modern type), but will ultimately fail at any type of prediction.

[Eric] It seems that belief shouldn't play a role - it either works or it doesn't. I don't need to believe in the scientific method to use the physics equations derived via the scientific method to predict physical behavior. It works whether I believe in it or not.
Right. And I have seen astrology work well, when done correctly, according to the traditional rules that predate its modern marriage with psychology.

[CL]"The deeper issue is that not everything in life is or should be subject to the "scientific method". True, if one is going to predict, one should have a certain level of accuracy and consistency (though it seems that we allow well-paid meteorologists to be consistently wrong with no major consequences)."

[Eric] Why not? Why should some knowledge be accepted 'because you say so', and other knowledge be susceptible to testing? How do you tell the difference between one type of knowledge and the other? Again - the process of the scientific method is used to separate out what is true from what isn't. Why should any truths not be subject to that level of scrutiny?
Well, there are all sorts of things that are not subject to scientific scrutiny that many people accept as true. The existence of some deity, values such as loyalty and love, emotions, and so forth. There is the sociological maxim that What is perceived as real has real consequences. So something that may not even be "real" in a material sense may in fact affect material reality. This is not something that is testable in terms of the scientific method.
My point here is that just because we can't always point to the mechanism by which something physical occurs and say "aha! there it is!", that doesn't mean that it isn't real or true.

Let us also separate 'weathermen' from 'meteorologists'. In general, I find the NOAA weather website to be very accurate, especially over short periods of time. Modern mathematical theory explains the impossibility of predicting the weather with any accuracy more than a few days into the future (although large-scale trends may be fairly accurately predicted up to about 18 months in advance). Within the limits of measurement and predictive models, weather prediction falls well within the error it should have from the mathematical models used.
And I know astrologers who specialize in weather prediction who can get pretty accurate years in advance, since we can cast the charts well in advance.

But each of these is a specific kind of astrology too: natal, weather, mundane, horary questions, and so forth, and not all astrologers do all these kinds of astrology. Modern psychological astrologers who try to do predictive astrology without having studied it as such are sort of like modern psychotherapists trying to do calculus without any special preparation.

(Note: to date, I have not received Part II that was indicated; so it's lack of appearance is not due to my not posting it.)

13 January 2011

When Modern Scientists Get Hold of Astrology

I just read a short article on how your zodiac sign may have changed because scientists at a planetarium in Minnesota have "recalculate[d] the dates that correspond to each sign to accommodate millennia of subtle shifts in the Earth's axis." What they are referring to here is the Precession of the Equinoxes. Let me explain.

Where does the Zodiac Begin?
Since the beginning of horoscopic astrology in the Middle East, the beginning of the zodiac was considered 0 degrees Aries. There are two definitions of "0 degrees Aries." One is that it pinpoints the Alpha star (first brightest) in the constellation of Aries. The other is that it assigns 0 Aries to wherever the Sun is on the day of the northern Spring Equinox; this also means that the Sun enters Cancer at the Summer Solstice, Libra at the Fall Equinox, and Capricorn at the Winter Solstice. When astrology was developed about 2,000 years ago, these two points coincided. That is, at the northern Spring Equinox, the Sun happened to be right about at the Alpha star in the constellation of Aries. However, the Sun moves against the background of the stars at the rate of about 1 degree every 72 years, and it does so backwards against what we consider the normal order of the zodiac constellations. So a few hundred years after astrology was developed, the Sun would have been in the late degrees of Pisces on the day of the Spring Equinox. And it will continue to appear in that sign at the Equinox for a couple thousand years. This is what we call our current age the Age of Pisces. At some point in the next few hundred years, the Sun will be against the background of the constellation of Aquarius at the Spring Equinox, which will begin the Age of Aquarius (no, it has not yet begun, sorry to all you Age of Aquarius enthusiasts out there).

This linking of the zodiac to our seasons on Earth has become known as Tropical astrology, or using the Tropical Zodiac. As the Earth goes around the Sun each year at its 23.5 degree angle, the Sun appears to move between the Tropic of Cancer at the northern Summer Solstice, south to the Tropic of Capricorn at the northern Winter Solstice. At the Equinoxes, the Sun appears to be right over the Equator. ("Tropical" comes from the Greek and refers to the "turning" as in the turning of the Sun at the Solstices. Oxford English Dictionary Online)

The linking of the zodiac to the star at Alpha Aries has become known as the Sidereal Zodiac (siderum = star, Latin) and has continued to be used pretty much only in India among Hindu (Vedic) astrologers. Some in the West also now practice Hindu astrology for a variety of reasons, usually stemming from a false idea that Hindu astrology includes predictive and spiritual elements not found in the West. While it is true that these elements are not found in modern Western astrology, it is not true at all that they are not still there; one need dig only a bit below the modern superficial/psychological use of astrology to find them.

So the Tropical and the Sidereal Zodiacs have existed side-by-side for nearly 2,000 years. One thing is very important to note here: both zodiacs use a stylized system of 30 degrees per sign. That is, the Tropical zodiac starts 0 Aries on the Spring Equinox, and just counts 30 degrees per sign going forward from there. The Sideral zodiac starts 0 Aries whenever the Sun aligns with that star every year and also just counts 30 degrees per sign from there. In other words, the Sidereal zodiac makes no attempt to align ALL of the signs of the zodiac with ALL of the constellations that were used to originally form it. There are Sidereal astrologers out there today who claim that Sidereal astrology is "truer" or "more scientific" than Tropical astrology because it aligns with the stars or constellations; but clearly they don't recognize, or won't admit, that the Sidereal zodiac aligns only with ONE star. The constellations aren't all 30 degrees of neat packaging, so the Sidereal zodiac is just as stylized (and no more "scientific" or "true") than the Tropical zodiac.

Modern Inventions
Now this article lists the dates of the zodiac "as the ancient Babylonians intended it." The hubris of modern science! Their own list includes the now-famous (and totally modern invention) of the "13th sign" Ophiuchus, with an asterisk noting that it was "Discarded by the Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs per year." (See my blog post on this.) So on the one hand, they admit right here that they are changing what the Babylonians actually DID, while claiming that they know what the Babylonians "intended." They claim to be "restoring" the "original Babylonian zodiac." Sounds like modern scientist messing around with something that they completely and willfully misunderstand.

If you notice the list of dates on these "signs", you will see that they are not approximately 30 days each. This is because these scientists are not using the Tropical OR the Sidereal zodiac here. They are using a modern invention called the "Constellational Zodiac." See Chris Warnock's excellent page on the three zodiacs for more detail. For now, let me point out that the Constellational zodiac attempts to take all of the constellations that go into making up the zodiacal signs, inserts Ophiuchus, and then sort of stretches the length of each of these "signs" proportionally to fit the size that each constellation occupies in the sky. There are a few major problems with that. The first is that many of these constellations overlap; this is one of the things that has led to confusion about when the Age of Pisces will end and the Age of Aquarius will begin. In a hundred years or so, on the day of the northern Spring Equinox, the Sun will actually be standing in the overlap of these two signs, so there will be a cross over period for many decades before the Sun stands solely in the constellation of Aquarius at the equinox. This is because Aquarius, while standing next to Pisces, also dips in below it for a few degrees (or one could say that Pisces swims above Aquarius). The other problem with this is that with all of the signs being different sizes, it is impossible to DO anything with them. The whole point of astrology is that it represents Plato's Ideal or perfection. One way of looking at it is measuring the difference between where we really are and where our perfected self is. It is in this space that we learn about ourselves, our world, our spirituality, etc.; and it is in this space that astrology does what it was intended to do - narrate the past, present and future (predict). This is impossible to do with an odd-shaped, ill-formed, lop-sided zodiac.

Final Comments
1. Scientists should stay the hell out of astrology. And if you want to know what I REALLY think: scientists should stay the hell out of astrology!
Many modern astrologers have misunderstood traditional astrology because either they did not have the resources to investigate it (which was true for a while in general), or simply because they did not care to (which is often the case now). How much LESS will modern scientists understand classical astrology (e.g. what the Babylonians "intended") than modern astrologers? All they can do is complicate matters.
2. Why would astrologers even CARE what modern science has to say about astrology? Modern science is almost universally hostile to astrology; and modern scientists who do have some sympathy for our Art usually are trying to "help" by proving astrology on scientific grounds. Being a Spiritual Science, if you will, astrology will never be proven correct, true, or valid to the satisfaction of the modern academy, which is still held captive by the materialist/atheist world view. I'm not suggesting that astrologers ignore everything that modern scientists say about astrology (or any other field), but why would we give it such weight? Is their goal to work with us? In most cases, their goal is to debunk astrology completely. Do you think that these scientists who "corrected" the zodiac dates actually consulted with an astrologer? Of course not! If they had, they might have realized how absolutely ridiculous their "corrections" are.