Saturn’s Revenge

There are hidden capacities within each of us. Perhaps they are not so much hidden as unused, but so far as they are unused, unnoticed, unaddressed, they are much like superpowers manifesting for the first time when found, much like the origin story of nearly every mutant in the X-Men, much like how Superman’s powers didn’t quite show themselves until puberty. It had often been the case in comic books that superpowers either remained latent and were activated through a freak accident or were gifted to a given character. Think of Flash, Captain America, Green Lantern, Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer. Spider-man. The Inhumans. Consider, even, an untrained witch or wizard in Harry Potter like Harry before he got his letter. Often, super powers are learned and appear rather mundane. Consider Batman. Consider Iron Man. Half of Daredevil’s powers were “gifted,” the rest were the result of intense training.

And training. It is always the case that a hero doesn’t just have powers but trains to use them effectively. This is why the X-Men have the Danger Room, the Fantastic Four have their own methods, and Doctor Strange his own. Consider that Reed Richard’s technological prowess is far more valuable than his ability to stretch his body, that Spider-man often wins a fight not because of his ability to climb on walls but because he tends to crack jokes or merely jabber away, confusing his opponent. Reed and Plastic Man have the same super powers, but Plastic Man is a second-rate superhero at best while Reed sits at the very top of the list of the greatest super heroes ever to have existed such that none of his peers would question this for a second.

There are hidden capacities within each of us and they are always a part of us whether they are actively expressed or not.

I’m going to tell a little story. It will be rather personal.

September 17, 2015:
My partner was out of town as he frequently is during the school year. Before work, as I occasionally would, I decided to trim my hair and trim my beard by myself — over the summer I had kept my hair very short. Then the guard slipped. As simply and suddenly as that, a spot on my head held no hair at all. I panicked. I panicked hard. But I still managed to think fast. I had had my morning routine timed out just right so that I could make it to work on time. So was I still going to show up for work?

Obviously, I didn’t have the sorts of hairstyling talents to turn the mistake into something artsy and creative, so I did everything I could to make it look… like it wasn’t a huge mistake (It was a huge mistake). I cut all of my hair all of the way down, and for the first time in years, because I thought it would match the new look better, I shaved my face with a razor. Clean. Smooth. Thus it was that the only hair on my head was contained by my eyebrows. I was to myself nearly completely unrecognizable.

The panic didn’t go away, but I did make it to work, where I sort of tried to hide from everyone. Due to business it did turn out to be a short day for me, fortunately, and once released, I went straight home. I paced back and forth in the kitchen, wondering what I would do for lunch. I didn’t trust myself to do something as complicated as prepare any sort of meal for myself, as shaken and upset as I was — more upset than the circumstances called for. I threw a hat on and headed to the Mexican restaurant near home.

Only a block down the main road, I was faced with the general truth that if I can’t even make myself lunch out of severe anxiety, I should not then drive; I accidentally let up on the brake as cars passed in front of me. I nearly attempted what would have been a failed run through a red light. If my anxiety had been severe at the start, I don’t know what one would call my state then. I returned home and poured myself a gin and tonic and sat outside in the Sun, trying to figure out what to do, feeling like a failure, feeling like I had seriously damaged myself. Had I seriously damaged myself?

I could grill. It was a happy activity, a natural choice, or it would have been if I had been able to get the damned thing lit. I sat on the back step again, gin in hand, and then a few drops of rain, straight out of a perfectly clear blue sky, landed on my clean-shaven face. It was strange. Mostly it made me angry. Why was the Universe going out of its way to do something apparently impossible just to spite me?

Another gin and tonic and some YouTube videos. Random videos. I posted a comment on one of Mr. Nagel pertaining to philosophy of mind. I supposed I respected him, but he said something disingenuous, as I felt, so I called it out and stopped watching. Restless.

I then decided to take a walk all the way downtown, which is only about three miles. As I approached, I checked the time on my phone, and out of habit I checked my astrology app. My heart drops. Saturn was in the last degree of Scorpio, straddling the cusp of Sagittarius, its placement in my natal chart. By some definitions, this was the very beginning of my Saturn Return.

I had explained what this meant to my partner a few times, though it was always lost somewhere in translation. I had explained that Saturn’s return could be thought of as the time when Saturn returns to “speak” on the matters he had spoken on when the native had come into being as a separate entity in the world — the time of birth. The Saturn return is said to be a rough time. Challenging.

I had explained that Saturn’s return is the time either when things come to fruition or when Saturn lays the smack-down on you depending on the way in which you had fulfilled Saturn’s message at your birth, the message through which you were created. If the message had not been expressed through you, it would be expressed to you.

Do I turn around? Why would I turn around? I really felt I should turn around. But I didn’t. I didn’t. I instead just continued forward, and that was the beginning of the end. I felt that a part of this was entirely out of my hands, that I’d already set the chain of events in motion… but I’d heard the call to stop — if that’s what it was — at just the right time. The call to stop. Perhaps if I show restraint… if I show restraint…

Saturn respects restraint… My fifth house Saturn in trine aspect to Venus. In Aries.

I stopped suddenly at the restaurant in town. The one I had helped to open, but which had closed, then wouldn’t rehire me when they’d opened again. I was supposed to hold resentment against them, but just couldn’t do it (don’t worry, I got that covered now). I ordered a beer and the least unappetizing thing on the menu. The owner and one of his managers came to talk to me, to see how I had been doing. Small talk. I behaved as though I were far too happy to see them. I think I was obviously nearing drunk.

I leave an entirely too generous tip for the server. And then I leave. With no plans. Just across the street is the more popular bar in town, and the only one where I’d had any positive experience at all.

Go in alone? I’m used to doing everything alone. That is, until two years ago. Moving in with your special someone takes much of the solitary out of your life by its very nature.

I went in alone. I had another drink. Just one. Then I decided to take a walk. So I walked through campus with the notion that I’d stop by the restaurant where I work, which was actually much too far to walk, anyway — stupid idea. And then it very suddenly begins to rain. Not just any rain. This was cold, pouring rain and it immediately completely soaked me. So I hid under the nearest overhang and waited. And waited. And then gave up and headed back to the bar. I didn’t have much option.

I had made my decision not to turn around and go home. And the Universe held me to it.

The decision had been made some time prior, but this was the moment the decline really began to happen. I ordered a few — several — more drinks and made a fool of myself. But at the time I was too drunk to notice or care. I’m glossing over them, but don’t under-estimate those five words: made a fool of myself. In a very different way, fueled by ethanol rather than razor blades, I was to myself unrecognizable.

Somehow aware enough to know I must not order another drink, I headed to a different bar (whether I did or not order another drink is another matter altogether as I can’t trust my memory beyond this point). Here, I have no idea why, I tried to climb the the wall surrounding the outer enclosure, the area where people went to smoke cigarettes. It was a weird crazy stupid drunk thing to do. Some guy stopped me. He was absolutely convinced that I was trying to kill myself and that I needed Jesus in my life. Thus, the next hour was spent in debate — the kind of debate I was all too ready for.

Damnit. I got this.  This is my thing. If I weren’t so far gone, I’d have this dumbass destroyed.

But I was so far gone. I did, however, manage to work him round in rather drunk circles before pointing out that the entire conversation was based on the false notion that I had been trying to kill myself in the first place. And then he went to get another drink and then I slipped away and headed home, very wobbly, very upset, and more acutely aware of my disfigured face and so many shortcomings. I did want to kill myself. The guy was right, though his evidence for it was all wrong.

I do a number of very drunk, rather shameful things on the way home, part of which involved lying in the grass by the side of the stream in the darkest shadows I could find, watching the stars spinning overhead as the ground wobbled and rolled beneath me. I was the very picture of pathetic, dirty drunkard.

I woke up the next morning not quite sure how I had gotten into bed, as miserable as I have ever felt. Too miserable to feel anything actively. I felt simply disgusting. Ashamed. Ashamed. Ashamed.

Shame.

I took a shower. Barely. It didn’t help. I dropped back into bed. Somehow, my laptop lay just there. It’s never there.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

Priya, I’m really thinking about killing myself…

Somehow, she got a hold of my partner, who got a hold of my mom, who got a hold of my brother. Priya, my partner, my brother. I was falling to pieces, apologizing for things no one understood, insisting that “I broke it.” “I broke it,” I said. “I broke it! It’s all broken, its all broken, I am a bad wrong thing…” I definitely wasn’t making sense to anyone. “I don’t want to leave you!” “I am a bad wrong thing. I’m so sorry!”

I was, as never before, speaking as though killing myself were truly an inevitability I had no control over and didn’t want. I certainly did not want to leave the person I loved most.

“I broke it.”

Somewhere along the way, the police were called to check on me. And then the ambulance was called. And after several hours of nurses and doctors screwing around in the hospital here in town (though I really had no idea where I was), I was taken to a mental hospital in a town not very far from here.

This is where I end the story.

A rather similar thing occurred six months prior, by which I mean that I went out by myself, drank entirely too much, made a fool of myself, and felt awful for a long while. Miserable, but not so much that I fell entirely to pieces and wound up in the hospital. It was a bit of a turning point, though.

Six months prior, Saturn was stationed, about to turn retrograde, five degrees from his placement at my nativity. Was that the official start of the Saturn Return? Or when Saturn first entered Sagittarius on December 24th 2014, the day my partner visited family — without me — and I was, without a car and having not been scheduled most of the week at work, essentially forced to spend several days completely alone during a family-oriented holiday?

Saturn returned to his position in my natal chart exactly on December 18, 2015.

After I left the hospital, I was driven. I had been given access to paints while I was there and for the first week after I’d gotten out I took to painting at least a little every day, sometimes a lot. And I did paint at least a little every day. The first day out of the hospital I also committed to NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — and to learning to write code. Until summer came around, when I finally chose to take a break, I wrote at least a little every day, maybe with an odd exception here or there, and each month had seen some new project.

Eighteen months later I am still driven. Some unstoppable force is pushing me forward, some undying fire ignited. I have been writing, yes, but much more than that. I have been reading — teaching, even. I have been working my way toward creating a name for myself as a local astrologer, something I never thought I could actually do. And now a trip to Mexico with an old friend and possibly a trip to New York City with my brother is in the works. I’ve been learning to make youtube-style videos all while working more and making much more money than I normally do.

By the Hellenic definition, I believe, my Saturn Return doesn’t end until Saturn enters Capricorn. It seems both the sign and actual angular proximity signify the Return. Does this period of motivation end in a few months? So many questions. Most importantly, however, I have direct personal experience of what Saturn is about. If you don’t demonstrate having learned your lesson, your “mission” the forces collectively referred to as Saturn will come down upon you, relentlessly forcing the mission upon you, at which point you are crushed or adapt, and once those forces are wielded in accordance to their purpose you can ride them like a wave, unyieldingly pressing forward with the power of a mountain glacier — steady in a way the explosive forces of Mars are not. Determined without the draining of energies that are the result of the emotional release, the energetic expression of intense passion.

I feel as though Saturn had doused me with terragen mists, unlocked my X gene… bitten me with a radioactive hummingbird. The result, the purpose, what it all means… we shall see.

A Six Month Cycle

Last Summer and Autumn, a bunch of one-year anniversaries happened. My niece turned one year old. I hit the one year mark for having quit smoking. I hit the one year mark for having quit drinking both alcohol and coffee. And I completed a year since a major… event.

And when I hit that one year mark for that event, I realized it was also a two year mark and a three year mark and a four year mark. It was also a one-and-a-half year mark. And a two-and-a half year mark. I seemed to have identified a six-month cycle in my life. I’ll explain. The trend isn’t perfect, of course, but it clearly exists. Every six months, something… significant happens.

Let’s start with September, 2015 and work our way back.

September, 2015, involved what was easily one of the most life-changing events of my life. I won’t tell the whole story, but on the night of the 17th, as Saturn ingressed into Sagittarius, I had a major psychological meltdown, or, perhaps, “depressive episode,” which ultimately placed me in the hospital for a week. I came out on meds, which, for the first time in my life, actually seemed to “work.” With one exception I still happen to be taking them.

Six months prior to that, on March 15th, I had had a smaller “depressive episode” which in hindsight was very much like a foreshadowing of the event I just mentioned.

Six months before that, in September of 2014, I helped to open a restaurant which closed down after three weeks. A week after that, I was hired at the place where I still work. For a number of reasons that aren’t easy to explain so simply, this was a highly transformative time. The best way that I can explain this period is that it was like a time in my life, a period of a few weeks culminating on the 13th of the month, in which I lived the life of someone else entirely, like I’d briefly stepped into a parallel dimension, then stepped back into a more familiar one. It was a time removed from the normal flow of history. I still think back to it as providing a template of sorts for certain parts of my life, for certain ways of being.

In March of 2014, on the 16th, on my birthday, in fact, having bought a plane ticket to fly out to Ohio to see my old friends, I started off on a three-and-a-half hour drive to the nearest city with a major airport. My car, however, was in very poor shape; it would frequently overheat. As I prepared to leave, a horrific scene from a book I once read came to mind. The scene involved the characters of the story using their magic to force their horses to run as quickly as they could, without regard for how tired they became. The horses kept running and running until eventually they literally wore themselves out and physically couldn’t be made to move any more. That’s exactly what happened with my car. I knew it would happen. I accepted it as the necessary sacrifice for my trip to Ohio, though of course I had hoped it wouldn’t actually happen. When my car ultimately gave up just outside of the city, I gathered my bags and started walking down the road and before long some guy, under the guise of a good Christian, gave me a ride into town and helped me find a cab to the airport. I gave him my key to the car, which he said he’d drive to his house and would return to me when I came back and gave him a call. I didn’t actually expect that to happen. I imagine that car was dismantled for parts and the guy made some money off of it. I knew all of this right away and understood it as the sacrifice necessary for the trip. I never was able to get a hold of him afterward. The trip on the whole was undoubtedly a major turning point in my life, and not only because of the loss of my car. In many ways I don’t care to explain, the entire trip was a major milestone in my life to which few other events can compare.

Six months before that: September 24, 2013. I lay awake all night convinced that aliens or something of the sort were controlling my mind through my phone. I then convinced myself that I needed to drive to Des Moines for the solution. Everything about the trip was completely insane, even somewhat uncharacteristically so. I won’t go into details, but the event stands as the emergence of something I have yet to fully come to terms with.

March 04, 2013. I was emerging from a roughly three month period of far greater “insanity” than the event of the following September just mentioned. I moved in with someone and lost, perhaps “sacrificed,” half of my belongings, some of them among my most precious. Quite a lot happened here, none of which is easy to explain. This may be the most significant period of change in this personal history.

September 16, 2012. Before the major meltdown of December, mentioned two posts ago, when things were looking unusually good for me, I took a trip to Kansas City to see someone I’d met online, and had met just once — six months prior. When I arrived, this person conveniently “forgot” that I was coming to visit, despite having talked about it the day before and for some time before that. It was crushing, to say the least. About this time, I had been working my way through sorting out various ideas. I was a year past a few small steps away from the militant Atheism I’d been committed to between 2010 and 2011. Much of the philosophical framework I’d been working with had crumbled and I was left with a major epistemological crisis just waiting to break. And that crushing blow broke me. It’s not easy to explain what happened exactly, but at this time I chose to take a leap of faith of sorts, whose content was inspired in part by these videos, but also by a long lost relationship and my long-departed aunt, among other things. Events tend to be the result of a combination of factors, not just one. This event is one that can compare or even surpass the trip to Ohio in personal significance in a similar way.

March 15, 2012, I took my first trip to Kansas City to meet that particular person I’d met online about a year before. Not only that, I did it as a leap of faith the day after my brother helped me buy a used car. So, much like what happened two years later, but kind of in reverse, I drove a vehicle a very long distance under the very real possibility that it wouldn’t make it either there or back. My new used vehicle did prove itself reliable; I didn’t have the faintest hint of a problem with it though no one would have guessed by looking at it, I’m sure. Once there, my friend and I had a lovely day together, which I will not attempt to describe. It does stand in my memory as one of the most important and one of the best days of my life.

September, 2011. I don’t have an exact date, but there is a culmination around the 20th, I believe. This is really more of a time period than a single event. I had moved into a new place on my own and had begun a blog, which I used to articulate my beliefs at the time. More was going on at this time than just that, but what is interesting is that I kind of snapped in a way, which we can see is becoming a theme. It was an intense episode, though of a completely different character than the other times I “snapped”.

March, 2011. Everything in my life officially fell apart. This is when my mother drove to Ohio to bring me back to Iowa to stay with her until I could get back on my feet. I had since January 3rd lost a relationship, my job, my home, and on the 18th of March also failed to sign up for classes on time, which was something like the last straw, though how I wasn’t signed up nearly a month in advance as usual I still don’t know. And even my relationships with two of my best friends, whom I had been staying with, seemed to be rapidly crumbling. I had nothing. It was in every way as though the very city were forcibly ejecting me. And thus I left, torn, dejected, defeated.

I really can’t identify this trend much further back, mostly due to problems of memory, except for a major break in lifestyle and philosophy that occurred mid-September, 2009, and a bit of a violent end to a relationship and restarting my life on March 16, 2007.

What is most interesting about all of this, though, is that these times mark my birthdays and my half-birthdays. That is, the last portion of the Sun’s transit through Pisces and the last portion of his transit through Virgo, conjunct or opposite to my own natal Sun, Mercury cazimi. A conjunction or opposition to my Sun, of course, is also a square to my natal Mars and to my natal Uranus.

Before I go any further, I want to fill this out by going over other major life events that don’t fall into this pattern, to be sure we’re aren’t only counting the hits and not the misses.

June, 2008: ComFest, 2008 – major lifestyle change.
January, 2009: Met partner of two years.
August, 2009: Started school and moved in with partner.
January, 2011: End of two year relationship, start of events leading to leaving Ohio.
November, 2011: Met who would be my best friend immediately after.. an episode.
December, 2012: The world began to burn.
May, 2013: Met love of my life.
July, 2014: Moved to Missouri with love of my life.
November, 2015: NaNoWriMo

I would always say that the time around my birthday was usually difficult for me, but until going through it like this I didn’t understand how true that statement was.

What I notice is that every September or March brings with it either a “meltdown” or the opposite: a boost. There was nothing about March 2012 that constituted a crisis. It did, however, bring a bit of excess. The same is true for September of 2014, which involved the overshooting of a goal before turning back to it.

Of all of these dates, three involve a major, almost abrupt change in philosophical system: June, 2008, labelled ComFest, September, 2012, and December, 2012, which I’ve described as the burning of the world.

I’ll get back to this topic later. For now I want the trend to be clear. The timing also happens to coincide with this writing — tomorrow is my birthday. It just so happened also that my car’s battery died over the night — and its key won’t fit to unlock it in absence of the button, the Universe’s way of reminding me of the circumstances that led to the shift of four years ago; this very thing (plus one other contributing factor) is the reason I lost that truck.

This is clearly an astrological trend, thus a trend of meaning, like a story told in parts, as key phrases spoken by one side of the thirty-one year conversation that is my life. How had this manifested this past September and how will it manifest in this upcoming week?

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.

weekstar

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Outer Planet Cycles: Uranus and Pluto

In my last post on this subject I said I would explore in detail what it means that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump may be manifestations of the same essential underlying force. It would be more accurate to say that their roles are expressions of that force.

I’ve talked a bit about the Uranus Pluto square. Actually, I feel that I’ve talked a lot about it. But I’m going to do it again. Read Richard Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche for a yet more in-depth analysis. For each of the following dates, assume a cushion of three to four years both ways. There will be some variation as Pluto’s orbit is eccentric, so it moves sometimes faster, sometimes more slowly.

Uranus and Pluto came into conjunction at the end of Aries in 1850, the following waxing square between the two planets occurred in 1876 between Taurus and Leo, and the following opposition occurred in 1901 between Gemini and Sagittarius. 1933 brought us the waning square between the two planets between Cancer and Aries, 1965 gave us the next conjunction in Virgo, 2013 gave us the next waxing square, and the opposition will occur sometime around 2047. The next dates are approximately 2075, 2105, and 2130.

Notice that the period surrounding the conjunction of 1850 was not only the beginning of the modern use of petroleum, but also the build up to the Civil War in the United States, when all of the pieces were put in motion and tensions began to rise. 1876 gave us the Transcontinental Railroad, Crazy Horse, and the birth of Einstein (make of that what you will). 1901 introduced us to quantum theory. 1933 is the peak of the Great Depression and the rise of Hitler.

The years surrounding 1965 involved the civil rights movement and large-scale rejection of traditional ways of thinking, in particular about sex, religion, and social power structures — major culture wars. Also in this time period, under the influence of this aspect, we flew to the Moon. I frequently try to wrap my mind around what that means, but always fail. I’ve known about the fact all my life, but the thought of flying to the Moon and walking on its surface simply blows my mind. Always.

As food for thought, as a matter of curiosity, here is the chart for the Moon landing on the Moon.apollo-moonNotice that Uranus and Pluto are not conjunct. Rather, Uranus has separated from Pluto, then both were transited by Jupiter. All three are opposed by the Earth who forms a trine aspect to the Sun and Mercury on one side and Neptune and Mars on the other, assuming an orb of 5°. The signs and especially the houses may not be comparable to the the signs and houses we know. That is a question for another century, probably.

Uranus-Pluto Square

This is what we’re dealing with now. Uranus in Ares is pulling away from Pluto in Capricorn. In 1933, Uranus was also in Ares drawing toward Pluto in Cancer, exactly opposite its position now.

Pluto reached perihelion in 1989, exactly between 1965 and 2013. This is also how Pluto was able to traverse roughly one half of the ecliptic in only 80 years, very similar to the speed at which Neptune does, and during most of that time forming a sextile aspect to Neptune. As such, Pluto and Neptune have been nearly inseparable for nearly the entire twentieth century and essentially amicably so. Inherent to the sextile aspect is the relationship of signs two each other by polarity. Two hexagons are present in the Zodiac, one yin and the other yang. The yin signs are the earth and water signs, the yang signs the air and fire signs.

The beginning of this current Uranus-Pluto square, in mid 2010, brought us the Arab Spring and all of the surrounding events. Here in the United States Occupy Wall Street popped up, and though it didn’t get anywhere it arguably set the stage and framed the national discussion, implanting in everyone’s mind that there was a problem with Wall Street, even if they didn’t quite understand it or disagreed. Similar events only emphasized the point in the global discussion, such as the European debt crisis. One major theme of the aspect was loud and clear from the very beginning.

As Uranus and Pluto move backward and forward due to retrograde motion, they have made exact square aspects seven times. The first exact square was in early July 2012, the last and final exactly a year ago in mid-March 2015. Uranus is pulling away, slowly but surely, in close aspect until June, and then as Uranus returns, again in November.

This phase, the phase after the conjunction and before the opposition, is called the waxing phase, like the phase of the Moon after new and before full. During this phase, the potential of the conjunction is released and, now that the aspect is on the whole separating, what has been created under its influence begins to manifest. This is the time when everything really begins to happen. As an example, consider how the conjunction of 1965 culminated in the Moon landing of 1969.

Our current situation echoes back to all of the prior quadrature aspects of the two planets, but it is most especially reflective of the previous two, first, for temporal proximity, second, because of placement. These few years Uranus has been in Aries while Pluto has been in Capricorn. Eighty-three years ago, Uranus was in Aries while Pluto was in Cancer. Capricorn and Cancer are the signs of the summer and the winter, Aries the sign of the spring. Most importantly, these are three of the four cardinal signs — two of the yin principle, the other one probably the most strongly yang of all signs.

Eighty-three years ago, Hitler was made chancellor and the build-up to the second world war began as the Great Depression was in full swing. We all know where that came from.

Today, we have a neo-Hitler character inciting hate and encouraging violence, racism, and claiming he’ll put up a wall in Mexico and make them pay for it, while at the same time the caliphate has sprung up in the Middle East. But we also at this time have a man who participated in the better part of the spirit of the 1965 conjunction speaking out against Wall Street, echoing not only the very start of this square aspect, but the cause of the worst part of the previous square aspect. I don’t think it’s the least bit controversial to say that were it not for that economic crash history would have played out very differently.

Notice that Hitler participated in the spirit of Pluto as it was passing through Cancer, the home of the Moon and exaltation of Jupiter. Pluto shone clearly, even in an exaggerated fashion through him. Pluto is also clearly present in Trump, but almost in a cartoonish manner. Parts of these traits are built into their birth charts but mostly they were the expressions of the spirit of the times. Trump is not an angry guy, not really. But notice how angry he likes to appear. His anger is exclusively manipulative, utilitarian. He had inherited money and has lived out most of his life as a self-important super-rich jackass. What does he have to be angry about? The same absolutely could not be said of Hitler, except the jackass part. He was a genuinely angry guy and that fueled him to do great and terrible things.

But what I want to point out is the interesting way this is expressed. Trump does not have a strong Saturn, but he seems to play out Pluto’s role in Capricorn, which is the home of Saturn and exaltation of Mars. This is not to say that he is reserved, but that his motivation to control, his grasping for power, is reserved, hiding behind the facade of incompetent loudmouth piece of trash. Hitler’s aim to control was clear, direct, openly visible, perhaps exaggerated, and eventually the obsessive focus of his every action. The Nazis had a plan and a vision for their glorious future, and Hitler had every desire to conquer and destroy in the name of that vision. What does Trump have? Apparently a dream of a wall and vague suggestions of getting rid of everyone who disagrees with him. He wants to copy Hitler, visibly, but the true nature of the underlying impulse hides behind a display of buffoonery. Whether this is an example of cleverness or not waits to be seen.

Notice also the rise of many ideas and ways of thinking that some have claimed to have arisen in the sixties and then died out, passing into obscurity. Many of these ideas are not in the same form, granted, and many are watered down, but some had sprouted then and are bearing fruit now. I am talking to you about astrology after all.

The most important part of all of this is that, given the aspect’s clear influence from both preceding alignments, we carry the potential of both time periods, which is inherent to the dynamic between Uranus and Pluto. The difference between us and the “failed” hippie movement is that we have been informed by them; they had no such help, no precedent, at least not on such a scale. The difference between us and the people crawling out of the Great Depression and preparing for perhaps the most world-changing war in human history is that we have been informed by them. They had no such help.

But a lot of new things are happening now for which we have no precedence. I don’t need examples to convince you of that.

I had considered closing with a summary of what it means that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump may be manifestations of the same essential underlying force, but it didn’t feel right. I think I’ll let you use your imaginations instead.

Number

 

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Take a long look at this image. In this image is contained the beauty of the number twelve and the reason the number twelve had throughout history been considered a mystical number.

Notice first the three squares about the outside of the figure, each rotated so their points are evenly spaced. Just within those squares are four triangles, each rotated so their points are evenly spaced, aligned with the directions of the points of the squares. Nothing is left out, and every point is met with another between the two rings. But more. Notice, for example, the yellow square. Each of its four points is met with a point of each of the four triangles.

It’s beautiful, right? But you can do it with any composite number. Why twelve?

To start, the prime factorization of twelve is [2, 2, 3]. Alternatively, you could say twelve is two squared times three, which is 4 x 3. Contained within twelve are the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12. What I am most interested in, though, are the numbers right in the middle there: 3 and 4.

The fewest points necessary to make a two-dimensional figure is three: the triangle. The number three has been widely recognized as significant throughout history and throughout the world. Look into any culture and you’re likely to find three things with a significant role mythologically, cosmogonically, cosmologically, theologically, ontologically, what-have-you. The number three is universally given a place of importance. In Christianity we find the Holy Trinity. The Taoists have the Three Pure Ones. The Hindus have the three primary gunas. The Greeks mentioned the three Fates. Matter on Earth naturally comes in the forms solid, liquid, and gas. Atoms are comprised of protons, electrons, and neutrons, each proton and neutron composed of three quarks, which come in three generations. There are indigenous languages which don’t get past three; essentially, they count, “One, two, many.” And let us not forget the significance of beginning, middle, and end. The list goes on and on.

fxryjqoWe also have this. Perhaps you recognize it.

One more than three is the square: Four. Also, two. Four is two twice, and the significance of the number two is unmistakable. If anything is to exist at all, the number two is implied. This is the ancient notion of yin and yang.

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If a thing is to be, there must be both that thing and not-that-thing. If there existed only a zero-dimensional object — a point — the number two would be implied as the point would not exist as a point if it had no space to surround it; if there were nothing that was not the point there would be no point at all. Two is fundamental to existence, and very clearly so.

Notice also that the fewest points necessary for a three-dimensional object to exist is four: a tetrahedron. We might get to that later. We probably won’t. The reason we probably won’t get to that later is that we are not dealing with three dimensions, not directly, at least. While we live in a three dimensional world, our direct visual experience of it is always two dimensional. More specifically, when you look up at the sky, what you see is the apparent inside of a sphere, which is two-dimensional, its apparent motions projections of the motion of the Earth, whose surface is the two-dimensional surface of a sphere. Astrology is not concerned about the planets of themselves, not really. It is, rather, concerned about our relationship to the planets. After all these years, this is why astrology is still geocentric. Astrology is, in principle, a matter of learning about the sky by looking at it as it presents itself to us. The most ancient astrologers, who did not apply complex mathematical calculations to these observations, were very likely most in tune with this — but do not interpret this as though I am saying that the mathematical calculations were a mistake! They most certainly were not. Nor am I saying that we as astrologers should not be concerned about the planets of themselves at all. I am, rather, saying that astrology as an art is a study of particular types of relationships.

As we know, the Earth is tilted about 23.5°. As the Earth orbits the Sun, or perhaps as the Sun transits the sky, it is sometimes — during the summer — further north and sometimes — during the winter — further south in such a way that it forms a ring at an angle of 23.5° to the angle of the apparent rotation of the stars about the northern star, Polaris. This ring we call the ecliptic. It is defined by the Sun, and the Moon and the rest of the planets follow along the path with minor deviations. There’s a lot to say about this, but for now I’m still talking about number.

I’ll point out here that we’re dealing with one, two, and three dimensional objects at once. I hope you can see how and I hope it helps you to visualize. Given the rotation of the Earth, all by itself, any observer has four significant points: North, East, South, and West — the cardinal directions. Given the angle of the ecliptic, the tilt of the Earth, the cardinal directions also imply Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. These are the cardinal points not of the Earth but of the Ecliptic — the Zodiac.

The number four is inherent to the tilt of a ring relative to another ring.

At first glance we have the solstice points and the equinox points: Cancer and Capricorn, Aries and Libra. Now, there are a number of ways to make this next step. Possibly the least elegant method, but the simplest, is simply to consider each quadrant with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Thus we have twelve divisions of the ecliptic. I’m  not going to stop here. This explanation clearly isn’t satisfactory.

The ancient Phoenicians used a base twelve number system. Actually, they wound up with a base sixty number system when they combined it with a base five system. This is still apparent in the way we measure time. Phoenicia was a major center of trade in its time, and some part of its influence probably stretched far and wide with high regard. This is likely the real reason that the Zodiac consists of twelve signs, but not just because of the influence of a base-twelve system necessary for trade. The base twelve system itself came about simply out of the realization that twelve is a small highly composite number. Fifteen might have been chosen instead, but at the cost of the number two, and twenty might have been chosen, but with the cost of losing the number three and taking an unwieldy size.

One step further. We’ll get there.

If there is one of something, you can see so immediately. You wouldn’t mistake a single thing for several of them and wouldn’t even need to count it. It is clearly and unmistakably one. Now, if there are two things, you likely have exactly the same experience. You don’t even need to count or do any sort of math to see that there are two things when presented with two things, and the same is true for the number three. When we get to the number four, we might have to look a bit longer, but the result is the same. We can see immediately the quantity four.

At about five, everything starts to change. Immediately, you probably start to view five as 2 + 3. Try it now. Imagine a pentagon in your mind. Just five points. There’s a good chance that you’re imagining three things, and then two more, or two things, two things, and one more, unless you’ve spent a lot of time trying to visualize pentagons. At six, we can still glance at a thing and know it’s six, but we do so with more difficulty and most likely by seeing two sets of three. Seven brings us to about our limit: three and four. We likely have to see three and four or possibly three, three, and one; possibly three, two, and two.

Notice what happens at eight. At eight you’re forced to see four and four, probably, and possibly two, two, two, and two. You might be less likely to view eight as five and three because you’re probably already seeing five as three and two, which would force the image to be two, three, and three. This doesn’t sound more difficult than recognizing seven when explained this way, but try it yourself as I just did. Pull out a handful of coins or whatever you have on hand and try to figure out different quantities without counting.

This is called subitizing and it is essentially an arational appreciation of mathematics built into our perceptual capacities. We can subitize up to three very easily, and nearly as easily we can subitize the number four. Five through seven are more difficult, and the difficulty then increases at an increasing rate from there. Though I have pointed out that we might tend to recognize the number five as two and three, it is entirely possible to view it simply as five. A psychologist might run an experiment in which a subject would be required to state the number of dots that had flashed on a screen. There would be no time to mentally split the dots into groups; you just have to see the quantity for what it is. Children and very small babies, even as young as six months old, have the ability to subitize. As I’ve been showing, subitization comes in at least two forms: the subitizing one can do up to the number three, which infants can do, and more complex sorts which involve essentially subitizing twice, which is probably what a person does beyond the number four and almost certainly what the person does as we venture very far from that.

I have two purposes for explaining this. The first is to point out that every factor of the number twelve is within the subitizing range, even to include six, and, as such, the number twelve is readily subitized in a slightly more complex fashion. This is less true for a number such as fifteen simply because the number five is not as readily subitized, and, again, we lose our two for a five — conceptually, perceptually, not a fair trade.

The second reason for doing this is to get you to see, to feel, the qualities of the numbers. Just focus on the numbers up to four for now. Focus on each in turn and feel what the arational apprehension of each number is like. The number three has a distinct personality, I find, as do the numbers two and four and five and six and seven. And especially the number one.

There is a qualitative aspect to quantity. This is what I would like you to recognize, and regarding the understanding of the essence of astrology, the fact is crucial: there is a qualitative aspect to number.

My next post will be a more in-depth look into the twelve divisions of the ecliptic and more insight into why all of this matters.

Origin of Astrology

When trying to define a thing, it’s generally easier to point at all the things it is not than to state what it is. But the question remains. What is astrology?

I prefer to approach this question first by considering astrology’s history, in particular its origins. Astrology as we know it was inherited from the Persians by the Greeks, though the Greeks would say they got it from Egypt. Both statements are probably true. But that’s not where astrology began. Astrology stretches back beyond the origins of writing, thus before history.

Astrology is a practice we have inherited from prehistory. Let your imagination run wild on that one.

Seriously. Imagine how this practice came to be. I expect that it is, in some form, more ancient even than language. The highly intelligent apes our pre-linguistic ancestors were would have been fully capable of looking up at the sky and noticing that a few of the stars changed position over time. Venus’ motion especially would have been difficult to miss.

Imagine that, as an ancient pre-human species, as some sort of reflective intelligence who spontaneously emerged from the world, more or less a clean slate from our perspective, you are standing on a hilltop, as the awe-inspiring brilliance of the night sky emerges from behind a veil of blue while the Sun finishes setting in all its many colors. At some point in this process a very bright star catches your attention and you stare at it for a long time, wondering what it is, and marveling at its beauty. It is bright, yes, and beautiful, for sure, but much more than that. It is much more than just that. You can feel it. You know it.

Pause. Keep in mind that you are an ancient human being in this scenario, a highly intelligent pre-literate, possibly pre-linguistic primate. You view the world in a way entirely unlike the way we do now. You don’t have language, or perhaps very little, yet you are a social, empathic creature capable of understanding, even if in a crude sense, that other minds exist. Your siblings had other minds, the birds have other minds, the lions have other minds, and so does the river, and so do the clouds, the trees, and the rocks.

Clearly, over time, you see that the very bright star has a distinct mind of its own, moving as it does against the backdrop of the other stars, who all retain a definite position relative to each other. It is perfectly natural for you to see this behavior of the wanderer and not only attribute mind to it, but also motives and desires. Where is it moving to? Where is it going, and why?

Then you find four more stars who do this exact same thing, each with a distinct personality, as determined by its brightness, color, speed and so on. After looking up at the night sky with nothing else to do except maybe sleep, for months and years on end, this will be nearly impossible for any reflectively aware intelligence to miss.

These wandering stars, you automatically see, have a place within the community of spirits, whom you recognize permeate all things.

For many, many thousands of years this is all there is to it. Humans lived out their lives as hunters and gathers (or whatever), aware of the presence of the Sun, the Moon, the many stars, and the five wanderers in the sky, who move about and watch over them, perhaps benevolently, perhaps not, but certainly, unmistakably there.

That was the beginning of astrology in my mind. It emerged simply, naturally, seamlessly, from an animistic view of nature which was capable of seeing the planets in the sky.

Eventually, people started to use their numbers, and eventually, as like Pythagoras and his cult, really, really came to appreciate them. Appreciation of number, even their worship, we could say, has continued throughout history, perhaps peaking today when collections of equations have essentially taken up the role of deity in the dominant culture and are asserted to be more real than anything else.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but the merging of this appreciation of mathematics with ancient Babylonian myth grew into the astrology we know today — not modern psychological astrology, but the kind we actually inherited from our ancestors.

From the moment of its conception, astrology was held as obviously true, in some fashion. The most serious-minded skeptics of astrology throughout history, for example, Plotinus, generally did not criticize astrology as a whole but particular conceptions of it. Plotinus didn’t disregard astrology in the Enneads, but seemed to ask astrologers — philosophers — to think about their art more seriously, in particular, he challenged two notions: that the planets had a physical influence, and, on the other side of the spectrum, that the planets were incarnated gods. Even as the Christians came around, they couldn’t reject astrology, and this is strongly evidenced by all of the astrological references in the Bible. The church usually didn’t care for astrology, but the primary reason was that it threatened to usurp some of its control over the belief systems of its followers. Even Martin Luther had difficulties as people would distrust him for not having a proper birth time to provide.

Later, as the Copernican revolution sank into the collective psyche, the church’s near-complete hold upon the whole of western consciousness loosened and the Enlightenment took form, famously beginning with the statement cogito ergo sum, astrology began to fall out of favor, eventually to be fiercely opposed. Assumptions regarding how the world operated, and more importantly ideas about how and whether things can be known pulled the ground out from beneath astrology and cast it into the bin of “superstition.”

Superstition, by the way, is a meaningless word. The closest thing it has to a definition is, “Things I don’t believe and insist you don’t believe also.” This isn’t so obvious given that the dictionary has words in the place where a definition goes and that we expect dictionary definitions to be useful, but historically speaking a culture calls a superstition anything it doesn’t like of another culture. Consider Pliny, for example, the encyclopedist of the first century who hated the Magi of Persia passionately, and all things he called “magic,” yet who very clearly accepted as authentic quite a lot that we today would label as magic, such as the method of curing a headache by way of tying a plant that had grown on the head of a statue around your neck with a red string. To Pliny, the Magi were superstitious, to us, Pliny was superstitious, to others yet to come, we will be seen as superstitious for all of our hand-washing and probably  our fixations on our phones in the apparent implicit belief that they must be checked every fifteen seconds or something important might be lost.

But it might well be true. Any given thing labelled “superstitious” may well be true. Seriously, try Pliny’s headache trick, just for fun. Maybe it works. And maybe our phones are helpful, but hand washing is just a bunch of woo. Or vice versa. I don’t know.

Astrology was tossed into the bin of superstition for a number of reasons, and they’re all good reasons within the context of the given belief system — Enlightenment sensibilities — but astrology itself was never actually disproved. It was, rather, merely attacked mercilessly and wrestled into submission, eventually to be ignored and all but forgotten.

Western astrology practically died some time in the 19th century. When it began a small revival at the turn of the 20th century, it underwent a major transformation largely brought about by Alan Leo, father of Sun signs and modern psychological astrology. According to skyscript’s biography of the man, “He gradually discarded almost the entire list of zodiacal attributes, which had accumulated from the first to seventeenth centuries. He ignored physical characteristics to focus on inner character.”

Virtually no one who has learned astrology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has not been influenced by Alan Leo. The astrological tradition accumulated over those centuries had by his time mostly been lost in the first place. Modern astrology continued throughout the twentieth century, receiving special attention in the 1960’s, largely divorced from its origins. What remained of the tradition was mutated and repurposed. And so was the state of affairs until Robert Hand came along and in 1993, with Robert Schmidt, Ellen Black, and Robert Zoller (why are they all Robert?), began work on Project Hindsight.

By way of Rob Hand we are in a new phase of the astrological tradition in which people trained in the starved and corrupted astrology of Alan Leo are incorporating ancient techniques, associations, and insights, and yet others are learning astrology from the start directly from the ancient masters.

A lot of questions arise from this situation, and while I have so far had nothing nice to say about modern astrology I do not dismiss it out of hand, first because it does happen to exist, and second because the near-death and later reinvention of astrology brought us just a step closer to the position of that prehistoric man on the hill trying to figure everything out for the first time, while still living in the present. Granted, a good deal that has come of modern astrology is nonsense, as any decent modern astrologer can tell you of other modern astrologers, but modern astrology is primarily responsible for easing out the meanings of the outer planets — modern astrology is Uranian, Neptunian, and Plutonian. Modern astrology is, historically speaking, fresh, current. It is fuzzy-headed, high-minded (sometimes falsely), idealistic, escapist, and stubborn as all Hell. Eris came along with the revival of the old ways as the two smash together.

I’ll be clear. Attempting to revive the tradition by translating ancient books and learning the methods of the old masters through them probably will not of itself be fruitful. A tradition is a living thing passed on from human to human. No book can contain it without a human translator. Had that tradition not died out, it would have evolved with the rest of human thought. But it didn’t, couldn’t, do that, which leaves us to wonder what astrology should look like in the 21st century, informed by millennia-old manuscripts of nearly wholly alien worlds and modes of thought.