Saturday, May 12, 2012

A more recent perspective

In the past I have written about astrology as someone who has sometimes been a practitioner.  My perspective has changed over time but there are some common threads.

Overall I think most modern justifications of astrology are nonsense.  The outward motions of the planets do not cause changes in our lives through some influence like gravity or light.  Trying to find a justification of this sort is futile and people should give up.  It is like assuming that a that is about to strike 12 is causing one to be hungry, rather than that one's own internal body cycles are doing that, and that the clock is just an outward timekeeping device that gives us some indication of where we are in those cycles.  The stars themselves don't compel or impel.  Attempts to show otherwise will almost certainly never work.  Consider that the exerted gravity, light, etc. from other people around you is probably greater than these things exerted by distant planets.  Astrology is not a pseudoscience.  People on both sides should stop pretending it is.

At the same time many criticisms of astrology are aimed at these nonsense defences.  I remember one Sky and Telescope article suggesting that we could debunk astrology by suggesting that we might be able to make predictions by the placement of jets around busy airports, but debunking astrology by comparing it to a high-tech equivalent of augury strikes me as a very narrow rebuttal and certainly not one that would have been persuasive to Plato or Cicero (who took great pride in his auguries).

The reason here is that the ancient world saw astrology through a very different lens than we do today.  Different fundamental assumptions about the nature of the world were at play and these assumptions are beyond proof in both systems of thought and while there are commonalities perhaps based on fundamental thinking processes, the differences are significant.

In every culture in every time, the human body and the universe have been seen as metaphorically equivalent.  If the universe is a  machine, so is the body.  If the universe is a tree, so is the self.  If the universe is a set of concentric spheres, so is the self.  This fundamental, universal equivalent is important both in the acceptance of astrology in the ancient world and the rejection of it today.  We see the universe and the human body as both impersonal machines, while Plato saw both as concentric spheres, seven (the planets in the outer world) of difference and one (the fixed stars) of sameness.  It's fairly clear here also that what Plato intended to be an illustration of the human condition using astrology as a base was also at least one inspiration for Jung's idea of the collective unconscious (Jung makes repeated references to Plato's cosmology in his work, and this is virtually identical to Jung's idea of the a priori self along with the component which is universal based on being human).

Plato thus saw the human body and the universe as personal systems rather than impersonal ones, and here's the basis essentially for treating the motions of planets as indications of what is going on for the individual.  Much as a clock might indicate it is lunch time, planets might indicate cycles within the self.  This is similarly echoed by Paracelsus many centuries later.  If these are the case, then jets around airports, or flights of birds are just as  valid as astrology, and indeed flights of birds are a classic (and classical) method of divining prospects of success right along with astrology.

It is fundamentally impossible to prove whether the universe is personal or impersonal though the latter is a convenient assumption for the standpoint of modern science.  We assume this because we find it useful, not because we can know it to be true.  Moreover while deductive logic may be simple to formalize, inductive logic is not, and it is no less central to science and the like than deductive logic is.

Inductive logic arises, according to Heisenberg (see his book "Physics and Philosophy") and others, from the interplay of data and fundamental, unprovable assumptions.  While you can disprove astrology from an enlightenment frame of reference, you cannot disprove the ancient Greek frame of reference, nor can you disprove astrology from that frame of reference.  Astrology, augury, and a few other related disciplines necessarily follow from some frames of reference, namely those which see the outer world and the self as isomorphic (and hence see the body as fundamentally an aspect of the self).

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Astrological Destiny and Free Will

This subject has been a major source of conflict among astrologers for many centuries, and the typical answer is generally found wanting. The basic problem is that if Astrology has predictive value, then what is the role of free will? To this most astrologers answer that the stars impell (i.e. push) but do not compell (i.e. force). I think that this answer is quite incomplete because it creates an environment where the celestial bodies are forces among others. In reality, the celestial bodies are different.

Others, such as Dane Rudyar have argued that decisions are not the result of free will, but the process by which we make them is, and that the only true free will is the will to destiny. This presents a very disempowering view of the world where we are mechanistic in our beliefs and our actions, and in general, this seems to suppose that our concept of free will is largely relegated to menial tasks. It is also generally at odds with the general observation that we all grow and learn to use our talents in different ways.

Many older societies had a dual concept of fate which allowed for free will in large part. The twin Hindu concepts of Karma and Dharma for example create a paradigm where part of fate is the result of past decisions and part is what is given to one. This is similar to the Germanic concepts of Orlog (Primal Law) and Urdh (What has turned), except that Urdh is a bit less personal than Karma and represents the general weight of the past. In this view, astrology can only provide insight into a part of one's fate, that primal law which is written for each of our lives. It cannot tell us how we will choose to act and hence what we will accomplish in life, that these things are up to us. So what is the role of this aspect of fate?

Astrology reached its height in complexity at a time when it was largely practiced by Arab and later European Neoplatonists. The cosmology which was used by these people was borrowed from Jewish interpretations of the Neoplatonic concept of Godhead. This model allowed for four emenationist levels in the development of any action. At the first level (the World of Nearness), each concept exists but as a ray extending out from Godhead. The next level (World of Creation) provides a form of a form of a concept and is the first level where the concept is distinct from anything else. The third level (World of Formation) sees some additional fleshing out and differentiation, and finally in the World of Action, the concept becomes actionable. As one moves a concept back towards The World of Nearness, it becomes more abstract but more flexible while as one moves the concept towards The World of Action, it becomes more concrete and defined.

In this model, Astrology charts describe the reality in the World of Creation. They are extremely abstract, and rather than impelling one to act a certain way or have certain circumstances in one's life, they merely describe in these abstract terms the life a person will lead. Yet due to that abstraction, the individual has a great deal of freedom regarding how any given part of the chart will manifest. While fighting the chart may well be futile, channeling certain tendencies out in productive ways is not.

A second point worth making here is that we are capable of creating some change in every level of reality in the 4-world model. As Paracelsus pointed out, anything that the planets can do, so can we accomplish. This can be done through occult ritual, through meditation, or through the discipline of conscious living. In the end, we are never condemned to be cursed by the afflictions shown in our natal charts.

There may be some points in our lives which are truly inescapable. For example, we all die and if we are lucky to live long enough, will all experience the loss of our parents. There are many other points that are easily escapable (so-and-so might get a traffic ticket next Wednesday, for example). Most of the big events in our lives exist somewhere in the middle.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Look at the Concept of Reception

Since the Renaissance, the emphasis on reception has declined greatly. Yet this is another technique that can help explain quite a number of odditities in charts.

For example, I have a friend who, before I drew up her chart, I assumed that she had a Leo sun sign, when in fact she had a Scorpio sun sign. However, due to mutual reception with Mars in Leo, she has many Leo-type qualities.

Since many astrologers (myself included) consider the majority of planets to be malific (these are Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto), reception provides a strong counterbalance which allows for such pessimism to be largely abated.

Harsh Aspects Explained

Ptolomy describes a system where alternate signs are masculine and feminine. He then states that the aspects (in this case limited to Conjunction, Sextile, Square, Trine, and Opposition) derive their characteristics either from intrinsic properties or from those involving the genders of their signs. Hence oppositions are considered harsh because they indicate the planets pulling the individual in two different directions while conjunctions are considered harmonious due to the fact that they usually occur in the same sign.

Trines and sextiles occur usually within same-gendered signs and so Ptolomy likened their influence to that of friends. Squares usually occur in opposite-gendered signs, so Ptolomy considered this to be a harsher aspect-- one can consider these more sexual and less friendly.

Reception Defined

Planets are generally said to rule certain places in the sky. The rulerships can be of the sign, of the triplicity, of the decan (10 degree divisions within the sign), or the Terms (5-day divisions). Also in some signs, the planets are stronger and are said to be exalted. In general, I consider sign rulership receptions to be strongest, then exhaltations, then rulerships of decan, term, or triplicity (in that order). Care must be taken to separate the concept of essential dignity-- that is rulership of a part of the ecliptic with accidental dignity which is defined as rulership of houses. House rulerships do not afford any receptive benefit.

Even a malific planet such as Mars or Saturn which is in its own house is said to act positively due to the requirements of rulership.

So, suppose we have Saturn in Taurus in a square with the Sun in Aquarius. In general, this would be considered a difficult aspect, as the Sun is in its detriment and is afflicted by a harsh aspect from Saturn, the most malific planet known to the ancients. Yet here something interesting happens. Since Saturn rules the sun sign, then it is in a position of ruling the sun, and so the interaction is a benevolant one. The level of protection afforded to both would be much greater if Saturn were in Leo, so each planet ruled the other.

Mutual vs. Nonmutual Reception

The first example above was one of non-mutual reception-- i.e. Saturn rules the Sun but the Sun does not rule Saturn. In these cases, the protective nature of reception only extends to the interaction between the two celestial bodies. Also note here that Saturn would be afflicted by the square with the Sun even though the Sun is not afflicted.

If Saturn were in Leo, however, something else occurs. Here the Sun and Saturn rule eachother and they are able to provide assistance to eachother. Mutual reception is not limited to the aspects and can abate all other forms of malice. In essence, in this case, if Saturn were in Leo and the Sun were in Aquarius, the chart could also be read as if Saturn and the Sun switched places and the most beneficial aspects of each reading could be taken. Think of this as a sort of network effect. Mutual reception is therefore limited to a single combination of two planets.

Non-Mutual Reception in a Natal or Synastry Chart

Non-mutual reception abates any malice or affliction resulting from the aspect on the receiving planet. Note that in more complex configurations, this may not be sufficient to truly make a hard configuration easier to deal with. For example, in my chart, I have a T-Square involving the Moon and Pluto in Libra, Venus in Aries, and Mars in Cancer. Nonmutual reception includes Venus receiving Mars, Mars receiving the Moon, and the Moon receiving Venus. Therefore Venus is somewhat unaflicted except by the opposition with both the Moon and Pluto. Mars is mostly afflicted by the square with Venus, and the Moon is aflicted by its conjunction with Pluto (in the 8th house, so Pluto is accidently dignified) and its opposition with Venus. However the configuration is far less stressful than it would be if there was no reception.

Non-Mutual Reception in a Horary Chart

Because horary astrology is far more exacting regarding how the planets are used, Non-mutual reception is generally very positive provided that both planets involved are normally used in the horary process. For example, if one asks about borrowing money and the ascendant is in Taurus and the 8th house cusp is in Capricorn, one would first look to the interaction between Venus and Saturn. Saturn is an unfortunate planet, and if it is, say, approaching a square square Venus in this chart, we would read it badly. But if this is the case where Venus is in a sign ruled by Saturn, then we can read the impending square as a positive sign.

Mutual Reception in a Natal or Synastry Chart

Mutual reception is far more powerful than non-mutual reception. In this case, the celestial bodies actually take on characteristics as if they were in the places of their rulerships. So if you have mutual reception involving the Sun, the individual will have some Leo sun-sign characteristics.

In general, mutual reception abates all malice on either planet involved. This means malific stars have far less influence on planets in mutual reception than they might have otherwise.

In synastry charts, this can indicate a very powerful transformative impact between two people. For example, if one has Saturn in Leo and is working (or in love) with an Aquarius sun-sign type, for the purposes of the joint projects, each person will make the other more complete and stronger (more disciplined, yet more relaxed, etc). Especially when the luminaries are involved, this can be extraordinary.

Mutual Reception in a Horary Chart

Because mutual reception conditions the very planet itself and not the interaction between planets, mutual reception can be considered even of it only involves one of the significator planets. It is considered extremely positive and will likely help to build a case for possible beneficial outcome of the matter in question.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A look at astrology and homosexuality

It is expected that this post may be somewhat controversial. Many of the methods in this post may be seen by some as outdated and I will explain why I think that the older methods are still relevant today.

I have done a large number of charts for young adults including a number of gays and lesbians. One of the questions that many such people have is "is this something that I am going to outgrow? Or is this just the way I am?" This is a difficult situation for these people as they often feel pressure from family and society to just "be normal." Yet this is a question that most modern astrologers avoid answering because it goes away from the concept of free will under the influence of the stars. Deep-seated personality traits are somewhat taboo by the crowd that believes that the stars impell rather than describe in abstract terms.

The Ancient Methods

Ptolomy suggests that predictions of sexuality in general is derived from looking at Venus, Mars, and Mercury. In this analysis, Venus represents the femine, Mars represents the masculine, and Mercury represents their integration. Serious affliction to any of these planets can cause people to have trouble with love and sex in general, and the specific nature of the affliction may or may not indicate homosexuality.

Some may wonder why I see homosexuality as indicated by affliction on the planets. After all, we live in a society where homosexuality has lost much of its earlier stigma. However, the fact remains that most gays and lesbians I have talked to feel that things are harder for them solely on the basis of their sexuality. So affliction here is not intended to be a moral judgement, but rather a statement of hardship in general. Many such gays and lesbians have said to me how much they either wish or used to wish that they could "be normal." So this article is designed to help astrologers council gays and lesbians about their love lives and help answer the troubling questions that they may raise.

In general, I have found homosexuality indicated when there is an affliction of one of the gender planets (i.e. Mars or Venus) combined with an affliction of Mercury. For purposes of this analysis, I consider Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto to be among the malifics, and when these planets are involved, homosexuality may be more strongly indicated.

However care must be taken not to overstep the case. One cannot consider planets either in mutual reception with others to be afflicted, nor can one consider those afflicted by planets in mutual reception to be truly afflicted.

What to look for in a Natal Chart

As noted above, one would generally look at the luminaries, Mercury, Venus, and Mars, note afflictions and the nature of the afflictions, and see if the case is made for homosexuality to be prominent in the natal chart. Common types of afflictions include:
  1. Harsh aspects with a number of malific planets.
  2. Beseiged (i.e. last aspect completed is with a malific, and the next aspect to be completed is with a malific).
  3. Paran with a malific star (such as Algol)
  4. Mercury/Uranus conjunctions depending on other factors, Mars/Pluto conjunctions depending on other factors, and Venus/Neptune conjunctions. These are because these are octave interactions and can indicate like resonating with like.
  5. Isolation. For example, if Venus exists without other Ptolomeic aspects to other planets or luminaries in a man's chart, one would assume that this man has difficulty connecting with women. If Mercury is afflicted and Mars is conjunct Uranus or Pluto, one might begin to argue for natal-chart based homosexuality.
  6. Weak essential dignity
Finally one should be careful in this analysis. It is possible for psychological needs to be indicated in a chart that are later satisfied by the hardships inflicted by being homosexual. Progressions can trigger these.

If there are strong predispositional indications in the natal chart, then one can still offer counselling with regard to the love life, but one of course needs to take the approach that this individual is going to be at his/her best when with someone of the same sex.

What to look for in the Progressed Chart

Even if planets are protected by mutual reception in the natal chart, they can move out of that protection in progression. For example, suppose you have Pluto in Libra but Venus in Scorpio. Pluto and Venus are both protected in the natal chart by mutual reception but if Venus progresses into Sagittarius and into a conjunction with Neptune, this may (depending on other factors) indicate a homosexual relationship, especially in a woman's chart, especially if it occurs in a house such as the seventh associated with relationships. While the aspect is active but applying this may indicate a desire for such a relationship, and while it is separating, it may indicate a period of getting over that relationship.

The next point to note is that this is just the beginning of the analysis. The next stage is to go back to the natal chart and look to see what sort of hardships are being satisfied by the homosexuality. This can include rising and culmination parans between the luminaries, mercury, venus, or mars, and malific stars, etc. If there is no other indication of homosexuality in the chart other than a tangental hardship and a progression, then the individual is free to decide what he/she really wants from a love life and astrological counselling can be effective in helping make sure that this is channeled in directions which are ultimately in line with the direction that the person may feel that he/she needs to take. Some of these people may find that they remain gay or bisexual. Others may become straight and channel these needs for hardship in other directions.

In the end, this sort of analysis makes some people uncomfortable. I usually don't look into it unless asked by someone whose chart I am doing or unless the general indications are so strong one way or another that they are worth mentioning.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


This is a different sort of blog. I have been into astrology for over a decade, but am still a serious student of the art. This is not a typical astrology blog however. Although I am an astrologer, I see quite a bit of the approach that most modern astrologers take as silly at best. In short, I don't think that the planetary body of Mars, for example, influences us in any scientific way. Instead, like all forms of divination, the outward symbols (in this case the lights in the sky that move along paths close to the ecliptic) are stand-ins for forces that exist within ourselves. This is the viewpoint propounded by some of the earlier astrologers such as Paracelsus in his essay "Hermetic Astronomy."

In essence one cause has two manifestations. One of these manifestations is the position of the planets in the sky and the other manifestation is the position of forces represented by the planets as symbols within ourselves and hence within our lives.

The approach that the modernists take (that the planets have an objective impact in our lives) becomes problematic for a number of reasons. Are we really to believe that the Part of Cucumbers and Melons, which is not a planetary body but a calculated point based on planetary bodies, has an impact on cucumber and melon plants? Of course not. Astrology is a meta-languistic divination system, not a science in the way that, say, physics is.