The Solar System

In my last post, I examined the ecliptic, particularly the reason for its division into twelve segments and the beginnings of the meanings of those segments, which we call signs. Now we’re going to talk about the planets.

We’re going to go about this the same way we’ve been going about this.

First, I need to emphasize that we will get absolutely nowhere if we do not entertain the notion that we live in an ensouled universe, which is alive and wholly infused with meaning. Sit outside and listen to the wind and birds and the trees. Okay, that’s good enough. We’ll save the better portion of this for later.

Now assume that you’ve been watching the sky for centuries — you’re really, really old, apparently — watching the wanderers move from spring to summer to autumn to winter, continually, in ever-changing ways. These wanderers, it is apparent to you, as has been apparent since you first began to observe them, have minds and wills of their own, even as they follow regular patterns. The pattern isn’t quite so regular, you feel, if you consider the whole sky. And sometimes the points of light in the sky known as planets are brighter or darker for no apparent reason.

Eventually, someone hands you a telescope and you begin to see a different side to these wanderers, these planets. The Moon is now more clearly three-dimensional than ever. Craters and so many interesting things. And Jupiter has moons of his own! Saturn has his rings… and Uranus… and Neptune…

You pull the telescope away from your eyes. Uranus disappears beyond the veil of night, just on the other side of Saturn, as does Neptune.

Knowing that the Universe is ensouled and full of meaning, you’re inclined to ask yourself, “What is the meaning of this?” Up goes the telescope. Down goes the telescope. And what of the rest of it?

So you sit and think about it for a long time, feeling into all that you’ve learned since the object had been offered to you. The Universe hasn’t stopped speaking just because it doesn’t make sense quite like it used to, though, perhaps, you’re inclined to throw your hands in the air and walk away from the problem, anyway.

You see that the question isn’t about Uranus and Neptune specifically but about the Cosmos in general. The question is about the Solar System. It is also about the galaxy and everything else in the sky, but mostly it is about the Solar System.

The Solar System.

Earth and everything contained within it.
The Moon — good old Luna.
Mercury. Venus.
The Sun.
Mars. Jupiter. Saturn.

And a subtle shift.

The Sun.
Mercury. Venus. Earth. Mars.
Other stuff.
Jupiter. Saturn…
Jupiter. Saturn…

Jupiter. Saturn. Uranus. Neptune.
And a bunch of other stuff.

The Universe is still speaking to us even if we don’t understand it.

Astronomers now say that we have eight planets rather than nine and they say so for good reason. Imagine approaching the Solar System from far away and “above.” First you would see the Sun. Then you’d notice Jupiter, probably, and Saturn. Then Uranus and Neptune. That would be it for some time. Then you’d notice some little guys really close to the Sun: Venus. Earth. Mars. Mercury.

And that would be it for a while. The structure of the Solar System is thus clearly identified, the whole system as a single complex gravitational unit is seen, essentially complete.

Then, eventually, you’d notice other things.

A bunch of what is essentially dust on the scale of the Solar System and the other planets orbits between Mars and Jupiter and quite a lot more orbits beyond Neptune.

There is so much more to say about the system, but also very little. There are eleven points of interest: the gas giants, the rocky inner planets, and then the two dust clouds.

Merge this understanding with the view from the other side of the telescope. Uranus is not without meaning. Clearly. The fourth largest body in the Solar System, a major component of its whole form, is full of meaning from that first glance, namely incredulity and then shock at the overturning of a millenia-old understanding in which Saturn is the edge of the Solar System — but if you pull the telescope away from your eyes, it is, still, and will always be. See, this isn’t about our understanding of the Solar System, but about what it says for itself, which we are inherently incapable of understanding in full. What Uranus says is “I came out of hiding.” Uranus said that before it came out of hiding because the whole course of events — as above, so below — is a reflection of something yet larger. “We hide,” and “I came out of hiding,” are present there.

And so is the little world screaming for attention when it would otherwise have been ignored. Even as we attempt to do so, controversy bizarrely erupts and then shortly thereafter the whole world is taken again by this little ice ball’s need for attention — New Horizons passes by. Pluto won’t go away. Not now. Not yet. On a global scale. And as we understand the whole system now, it is the case that Pluto has always been here, his meaning always present, always compelling. Read Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas for more.

But why is he just a little body in the Kuiper belt? Well, apparently so he can pop out of hiding so we can attempt to thrust him out of our awareness, futilely. As much as we must pay attention to what these matters are, we must pay attention to what they are doing. We do not act separately from the rest of the system. As above, so below, right?

Okay. More practical matters. What about Aquarius and Pisces and Scorpio? Who rules them? Pull the telescope away and look at the sky as it presents itself to you. These three signs “belong to” Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, respectively, as they always have. This absolutely must be so for many reasons but the biggest reason is that the sky taught us about itself, keeping Uranus and Neptune and Pluto and the rest a secret for so many centuries. Until now, as we drew away from the message of the sky for failure to understand it as we once had. And thus, at once, the message was overturned, yet remained unchanged, and emphasized, as the sky continues to call, as it does more than ever, “Look at me.”

And we do and we mostly fail to understand. And that failure fuels an obsession.

The planets traverse the ecliptic, each in its own way, at its own distance. The two luminaries dominate the day and the night, the Sun being responsible for the existence of the day in the first place. We might be inclined to think of each planet as a thing acting separately from the rest of the chart and that we could just add or subtract elements to understand them in isolation, but I believe that is a mistake. The planets are all part of the same sky, and the message of the sky is not found in a single planet but displayed across the entirety of the sky itself.

All this time I have been talking about the tropical zodiac, and while I won’t endorse the sidereal zodiac, because I think that is born of confusion, I believe the stars probably shouldn’t be ignored. The signs were named after constellations and while those constellations are not the signs, the bulk of our early understanding comes from the time before they slipped away from each other. I suspect much of what we think about the signs is better attributed to the constellations we learned them through. It seems to me that the stars are often overlooked and understandably so — there are so many of them. I am not, however, suggesting a second zodiac superimposed on the first, as the notion of the Age of Aquarius seems to suggest — which, by the way, wouldn’t begin for another hundred years or so — but the constellations as the stars themselves had been seen as significant by the ancients and even sidereal astrology such as Vedic astrology, as I understand it, holds the seasons as important. I think there’s some room to grow there.

The entirety of the sky itself.

We could talk about Mercury on his own in the same way we could examine a single word on a page and understand what that word means. But that understanding means little to nothing if we don’t attempt to understand the sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, series, genre, author, language, etc. As we gain a view for the context — the whole paragraph and the entire book — we gain a greater understanding. But that is not to say that the word taken on its own is inherently unintelligible, though you very well may wind up more than a little mistaken without the proper context for it.

The meanings of the planets are drawn from observation, but not in the scientific empirical sense. No one looked up at Jupiter, presented the hypothesis that Jupiter is a symbol for kings, and went about devising complex experiments to support this. First, it didn’t happen. We do have plenty of records. Second, can you imagine how… literally impossible that would be?

In astrology, we are in the business of meaning. Astrology is inherently subjective in nature. Rather, it deals with the intermingling of “objective” and “subjective” things — much more on this later. What someone did do is examine the night sky, and have a feeling about this big bright star. There was something special about it. Jupiter sometimes appears to be larger even than Venus and nearly as bright. The differences are Jupiter’s slow, steady motion and Venus’s apparent dependence upon the Sun’s position — her inferiority to the Sun — among other things.

What astrologers have done since before history is look into the sky and listen. To ask, “What does it mean?” and “What is it saying?” These answers were then found by direct observation, and an interpretation of the planets’ relationships to each other by way of speed, brightness, color, and other things, such as the planet’s prominence at a very important time, which was then passed down through tradition, and whose origins are likely lost. A huge component of ancient astrological practice was the Chaldean order of the planets, which happens to inform the order of the days of the week.


This is based on the planet’s speed, starting with the Moon and ending with Saturn, or sometimes the other way around. Further, the planets are divided into sects, by gender, as inferior or superior in relation to the Sun, and so on. The planets find their ways into rulerships of signs, exaltations, triplicities, and they find associations with the twelve houses, each specifically delighting in one referred to as its “planetary joy”.

I’ve heard astrology referred to as “speculative science” and while I’m not going to say this is wrong, and I’m not going to say it’s right, I am going to say that astrology is not science as we know it, as we have known it these past three centuries or so. If the Moon were much smaller and much closer, like Mars’ Phobos and Deimos, it would still likely have just as much significance, astrologically speaking, as it does now. If Saturn happened to be Jupiter’s size, in Uranus’ place and somehow had higher albedo or something such that it was often brighter than Jupiter, it would still have significance. Come up with your hypothetical because I’m tired of doing it. Astrology as we know it does not and can not care about absolute size, absolute distance, mass, or any such thing as we know it through science as currently conceived. Astrology is the business of understanding the sky’s meaning, and while interpreting the meaning of the volcanoes on the moon Io technically falls into this category… it really isn’t the astrologer’s business.

Why? It’s because when asked, “What does the sky tell us tonight?” the astrologer doesn’t look to Io’s volcanoes, though they are technically in the sky, and because the astrologer knows that what matters most in the sky, what is happening, what is moving, where the action is, is the Solar System itself, as a thing composed of planets, moons, a star, with a definite structure, and because the astrologer has been listening to what the sky has been saying and knows where to look for insight.

Next time I’ll delve deeper into a few things mentioned here or develop a framework for them if that seems necessary. Thanks for visiting.


The Ecliptic

We’ve considered the number three and the fact that it is the smallest number necessary to form a two dimensional object. We’ve also discussed how two is the smallest number necessary for existence in general. Now let’s look at this.SevenCircles

As you can see, what we have here are seven circles. One is in the center, and six surround it. All six circles touch the center circle and both circles neighboring it perfectly. That all seven circles are exactly the same size shows that this property is inherent to the circle of itself. We could, of course, surround any circle with any greater number of circles so long as we chose the right sizes, but this is true for any combination of shapes. What we see in this figure, thus, is a property of shape alone, with no regard for size.

Try this out for yourself if you care to. Find seven pennies and lay them out so they touch each other. Then maybe try to do it with six pennies or with eight. Just notice it. I think it’s fascinating beyond words, as simple and obvious as it seems. The longer you think of it, the less obvious any of it becomes.

So, by this extremely simple observation, it seems that both numbers seven and six are built into the very fabric of reality in a deep way, in exactly the same sort of way that the number two is; there can be no yang without yin, no thing without not-that-thing.



Above is another representation of seven circles and the implied hexagon. It is called the seed of life. In a way, to my view, this makes the significance of the seven circles more apparent and more clearly felt. All six outer circles connect in the center of the seventh central circle, which connects with the centers of each of the six surrounding circles. If you give this a moment’s thought you’ll see why this fact very obviously is the case, and, as before, the longer you look, the less obvious it becomes.


This is the extension of the Seed of Life, the Flower of Life. An extra layer of circles and then an implied infinite amount of further layers are added. A figure of nineteen circles is here encircled and seven of those circles are highlighted to demonstrate how both of the preceding figures of seven circles fit in here. If you give this a moment’s thought you’ll see why this fact very obviously is the case.

In each of the above images we see some part of the significance of the number six. In this last image we see the number six primarily in two different ways. We see the six circles and the six rays within each of the circles, but we also see form between the circles. We see the shapes engage not only with the points of the hexagon here implied but with the centers of each of its edges. Yin and yang. In many other ways the number twelve arises from this figure in the same fashion.

My purpose here, of course, is an exploration of the nature of astrology. So far I have pointed out that the numbers used in astrology are not in any way arbitrary, in particular the number twelve. Why we care about the number twelve should be obvious.


This is a diagram representing the ecliptic. It is the wide grey line stated to be angled 23.44° from the celestial equator, which is a projection of the equator upon the sky. Don’t get confused by all of these circles; they are all projections upon the sky, so there is no distance beyond them. The ring of the ecliptic and the celestial equator have no size. We could say that they can be thought to extend forever outward. If all of the major planets out to Neptune were depicted here they would be located on or very near the plane of the ecliptic.

The ecliptic, you can see, intersects with the celestial equator at the points marked Aries and Libra. The northernmost point on the ecliptic is marked Cancer and the southernmost point is marked Capricorn. On the summer solstice the Sun is 23.44° north of the celestial equator, directly above the Tropic of Cancer. The same is true in reverse for the Tropic of Capricorn. At the equinoxes, the Sun is directly above the Earth’s equator.

It’s easy to get confused about that last part. When I say that the Sun is above the equator or above either of the tropics I mean that if you were to point at the Sun in the sky at those latitudes at those times you would be pointing straight up, directly away from the center of the Earth. On the next day, to point straight up at the Sun in the way, you would have to move slightly north or slightly south. If you do not live between tropics — within the angle of the ecliptic, as determined by the tilt of the Earth — then the Sun will never be directly overhead like that. So that it is very clear, I’ll repeat: the angle of the ecliptic is the tilt of the Earth relative to the plane of its orbit about the Sun, which it shares to greater or lesser degrees with all of the major planets. If the Earth were not tilted, there would be no seasons and the ecliptic would identical to the equator.


Let’s take the further division of the ecliptic into twelve for granted for the moment. Take a look at this next diagram, which depicts the ecliptic as a wave. We can imagine this as a map of the surface of the Earth between 30° north latitude and 30° south latitude. The very peak there is the Tropic of Cancer and the corresponding trough there is the Tropic of Capricorn. Those are the points of the two solstices. The two equinoxes, where the wave intersects with the equator, are marked Aries and Libra. The line is the path the Sun traces upon the surface of the Earth. That doesn’t make sense at first, I know. This curve is the path traced by an imaginary line passing through the centers of the Sun and the Earth over the course of a year.

The Sun has a unique latitude and direction at every moment throughout the year. Each point of latitude is met twice throughout the year in opposite directions except for the extremes — the points of the solstices in June and December.

Now, notice what is happening in each thirty-degree portion of this wave. We’ll start in the center there at the point of the equinox at Aries. Moving left, the path rises from momentary equilibrium. The second vertical line there is the start of Taurus, which continues the rise. Taurus is unique for being the only section which rises in the northern hemisphere and does not touch any of the equinox or solstice points. Gemini follows, continuing to rise, eventually to reach to the very peak, the extreme of June. The start of Cancer is the highest point and from there we can only fall. Following Cancer is Leo, which parallels Taurus. Virgo then falls and brings us back to the center.

This characterizes the whole of the cycle: rise/fall from center, rise/fall, rise/fall to extreme, fall/rise from extreme, fall/rise, fall/rise to center.

Since I intend to be rigorous about this, I’ll point out again that we have constructed this out of seven components of two types:



North/upper extreme relative to equator as viewed from the northern hemisphere
West/the intersection of the ecliptic and equator after the upper extreme
South/lower extreme relative to the equator
East/the intersection of the ecliptic and equator after the lower extreme

You might have heard ad nauseum that the signs of the zodiac can be divided into four elements and three modalities. Well, this is it. Leo, they say, is a fixed fire sign. What they are saying there is that Leo is the 30° region of the ecliptic between the summer solstice point and the autumn equinox point, touching neither (assuming that the points lie at the very beginnings of these 30° regions).

The cardinal signs are always the beginning. They are the expression of the geometric point and corresponding season upon reaching maturity: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn.

The fixed signs are in the middle, wholly separated from any point of change or transition, which is what these geometric points corresponding to the solstices and equinoxes are. They are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.

The mutable signs are at the ends of the seasons and bring about the attainment of transition: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.

How about those elements? I don’t mean to disregard them entirely, but I think we should keep in mind that they are relics of a view of the world we no longer hold, not even astrologers, in which the world is made up of four elements — fire, earth, air, water. But there’s a reason we had these ideas so long ago and a reason these ideas were applied to the zodiac in such a way. However, you will rarely hear an astrologer mention today that Mars is a malefic for being so hot and so dry.

Given the notion of the four elements as the substance of the material world, how can we relate them to the wanderers’ journeys across the sky that is the ecliptic? Notice that the center of summer is assigned the fire element and also the start of spring and end of autumn. No winter sign is attributed the fire element. We could talk about this at length, but all I want to point out is that a means of understanding the world managed to be applied to the zodiac to good results. While it is obviously not the only consideration, the elements are a way of relating the geometry of the sky to our understanding of the nature and substance of existence and that came about naturally through the number four. This is key.

So this is the last task of the post. Go outside tonight or the next time it is clear enough, find two wanderers, preferably three, at this time of year most likely Jupiter and the Moon, Mercury, Saturn, or Mars, and trace the arc they clearly create. Take note of where the Sun is setting in the sky. Do this once a month or more. Simply take note of it all. You’ll learn more that way than through a silly blog like this.