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.

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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.

7Circles-01

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.

haeuser_aequatorsystem1_e

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.

eclipt1

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:

Beginning
Middle
End

and

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.

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Author: cazimi3

Amateur philosopher, long-time monster trainer, and aspiring mad scientist turned starving artist.

5 thoughts on “The Ecliptic”

  1. On the monad and dyad:

    “By self-fertilization Aiôn gives birth to, or divides into, two Gods, the First Polarity. These Gods, whom we may call Kronos and Rhea, govern the primary dualities, including Male/Female, Father/Mother, and Unity/Multiplicity. Among these dualities, Kronos and Rhea rule the Light and the Dark, and by Their cyclic alternation create Time as we know it. Kronos is the Abiding, but Rhea is the Proceeding, who by Her Power to Change causes Kronos to become Khronos (Time).”

    “Kronos is the supreme simplicity of the One Mind as Rhea is the supreme simplicity of Primordial Matter (the Universal Foundation of all Existence). Therefore they are both called Bythos (Abyss), for They are both impenetrably deep and obscure; but They are also both inaccessibly high, and therefore called in ancient Greek Bathos, which (like Latin Altus) means “high” as well as “deep.” That is, the Greatest Height unites with the Greatest Depth, for They are One. Proclus calls Them “dissimilarly alike.”

    Kronos and Rhea marry, a re-union of the Opposites, and become the Father and Mother of the Gods. Since Kronos represents the Monad (the principle of Unity) and Rhea represents the Indefinite Dyad (the principle of Plurality), the union of the two engenders a Plurality of Divine Unities (Henads): the Gods. Thus They create the Empyrean Realm, the world of the Olympian Gods.”

    And on the triad of beginnings, middles and ends:

    “One of the important triads, which defines the structure of Emanation at all levels of Being between One and Matter, is: Abiding (Monê) – Proceeding (Proödos) – Reverting (Epistrophê). It explains how an Essence can emanate into more substantial forms, and yet retain its identity. The Essence, or unchanging nature, of a thing is Abiding or Remaining; it is the Male Pole. Yet it has the Power or Potential (Dynamis) to relate to other things, to move by a continuous flux toward greater “participation,” that is, toward more substantial embodiment, the direction of greater Multiplicity; this is the Female Pole. However, this flowing forth would cause it to lose its definition, so it Reverts or “Re-turns” (turns back) toward its origin so that it can mirror its Essence. The result is an Activity or Actualization (Energeia) of the Potential emanating from the Essence; the Offspring constitutes the third Pole. Thus emanation is revealed to be a cyclic relationship. Notice that in terms of Process, Change (II) is the Mean between the Beginning (I) and the End (III), but that in terms of Character, the Result or Mixture (III) is the Mean between the Extremes or Opposites (I and II).”

    https://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/I.html

    This text is too clearly written to link to from my main blog but since you seem to echo Pythagorean ideas very often, it’s probably going to be of some use to you. The original elemental philosophy isn’t as simple as it has been passed on and it really refers to a metaphysical structure of nature than a purely material one (meaning that the modern idea that its simply proto-science is either very naive or intentionally misleading). Empedocles, Parmenides and Heraclitus had more of a synthetic view in mind, combining the world soul, the divine essence and the material dimension rather than just one of these three sides of reality, like the vast majority of the ones who followed.

    I’m a bit curious though because it doesn’t seem as if you’re just reverse-engineering traces of Pythagorianism that can still be found hidden in astrology. Didn’t you mention Proclus at some point? I wonder if you’ve ever had some type of epiphany, in the ancient sense of the word and whether you’re at liberty to disclose what it was about.

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    1. I don’t think I mentioned Proclus. I did mention Plotinus once and maybe Iamblichos. I’ll admit right now that I haven’t studied any of them in depth, though I’ve read bits and pieces of them and skimmed through some of their works when directed to them in the course of my other studies, which I’ve not been so great about lately.

      Thank you for overlooking my typos. What I’m writing about here are only my ideas, my understanding. I won’t claim to have had an epiphany. I have had lots of sudden insights and I’ve been in lots of mental spaces that I never realized most people never — apparently — ever go. But no angel come down to speak. Voices and words and meanings hidden within and woven through all of the sounds of my environment (with certain psychoactive substances in effect within me)? Yes. And other things (with or without psychoactive substances). Small things, maybe.

      Thank you for the link.

      Oh, and I know well that the idea of the four elements wasn’t just a silly proto-science. It get that it was much more than that. I’m not dismissing it in that way.

      And thank you for reading.

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      1. Right, I think I remember you quoting the Enneads at some point now that you mention it. I’m a bit all over today due to the Martian transit over my natal Saturn. No fun. Might also be why I didn’t notice any typos, not that I’d ever mention them.

        What you described does count as an epiphany, but not the ones that people would built monuments over, i.e. an actual visitation of a deity. The ones you describe are more of the philosophical kind, which Empedocles more or less alludes to as divine inspiration, a theme I’ve been stumbling on a lot in other ancient authors and random modern people during a period I’ve been having some pretty intense ones myself, latest during the first three months of this year. The other elements of this common theme is that these refer to inspirational states that are very much like artistic inspiration, that they’re far easier to express abstractly through poetry or at least free verse and that they act as pointers, being not entirely clear and requiring pure intellect to decipher later. I’ve been trying to decide if it was a general phenomenon and whether it can be linked to a specific planetary transit but I don’t have enough data to tell either way.

        I don’t know if I’m fully into the rationalist approach to seeing physical attributes and drawing spiritual conclusions from them because to me, the planets are the unstable reflection of the mountains and trees on the surface of a lake, their various imperfections are only natural since they’re only a stage of the emanation and already less than the ideal even though they’re in superlunar space. However, I’d like to point out that orbital eccentricity and orbital inclination might be somehow significant. Venus has a nearly circular orbit, an anomaly of perfection among the other planets and the pattern created by the midpoint of Earth and Venus in orbit is very interesting although misleading because in reality it’s an extended 3-d lattice-like helix extending in space and not a 2-d pentagram.

        Pluto on the other hand is the most eccentric of the bunch, with only Mercury coming second. But while Mercury is almost exactly on top of the ecliptic, Pluto is way out. It’s one of the reasons why I find Pluto to be so disharmonic but no matter. It could very well mean nothing at all. It did get me thinking on orbits a few months ago though and I intuitively linked orbital eccentricity with the Pythagorian concept of the anti-chthon, the shadow Earth orbiting the Sun exactly opposite Earth proper. I took it a bit further and started to think about the second focus of the elliptical orbit of the Earth around the Sun. But the anti-Sun is theosophist nonsense anyway.

        I don’t expect these observations to make much sense but I don’t think I’m going to chase them further any time soon anyway so I might as well spread them around a bit and see if anything happens.

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