My View on the Modern Planets (and Human Nature, Too)

Last night on social media was kinda interesting.  Not too long ago, one of my favorite traditional/Hellenic astrologers Chris Brennan whom I follow on Twitter retweeted the following:

To which I replied publicly that simplicity is the highest form of elegance, with this simple diagram I made for my geomancy book:

Even if I made this specific image, the diagram itself is a traditional one that’s been in use for hundreds of years in Europe and the Middle East as a teaching aide to demonstrate the balance and symmetry of how the planets are assigned to the twelve signs of the Zodiac: the luminaries go to the brightest times of the year (in the Northern hemisphere), then the planets are assigned in their usual solar system order outwards, such that dark Saturn is given to the signs Capricorn and Aquarius, the darkest times of the year (again, in the Northern hemisphere).  All this diagram shows is exactly what @dahlia_anara posted in a graphical format.  Growing up, it was a mystery as to why the planets were given to the signs, but then, this sort of diagram seems to have been all but forgotten in modern texts; had I known about it in my early baby-ccultist days, this would have made everything make a lot more sense a lot earlier on.

For some reason, my sharing this image turned kinda viral, and some people were even put at peace by just seeing it; while it’s nothing more than a teaching diagram, it does reflect an underlying balance of the astrological cosmos, so I can get it.  Of course, with it being shared and favorited by so many, it did spark a few discussions and conversations, one of which was about why Saturn is the planet that gets that last position and not, you know, any of the planets that have since been discovered in modern times past Saturn.  This, of course, touches on an important, lively, and active debate (which doesn’t always remain good-hearted) on the approaches of modern astrology versus traditional astrology, and of course, I know you know that when I have Thoughts and Opinions, I let them be known.

Before I continue, let me preface this with the following disclaimer: what follows is my own personal view of astrology and its symbols that reflect my own practice and understanding of the cosmos, as informed by my studies, experiences, and works in astrology, geomancy, and other subjects.  Because I recognize that my practice is not your practice, and that my views are not necessarily representative of universal truths, you’re still free to hold any well-reasoned, well-researched, informed, and sound opinion, research methods, or approaches to astrology you want.  Understood?  We good?  Good.

Simply put, I don’t think the use of the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) and asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Chiron, etc.) are necessary to the practice of astrology, and while they may have some use, they’re by no means of large importance to me for several reasons.  The most physics-based of these is that many of these objects move so slowly through the Zodiac that they’re not of incredible importance for individual persons.  While the Moon changes her signs every two or three days, and Saturn just over every two-ish years, the trans-Saturnians shift their degrees and signs so much more slowly that two people born in the same seven- or twenty-year period will have identical or similar locations.  For mundane astrology, this is potentially useful, because these slow-moving planets are more helpful in defining whole generations of people or zeitgeists rather than how individual people form in their own individual lives; once the zeitgeist established by the slow-moving planets is understood, one can inspect the relationships that the planets from Saturn on down with the slow-moving ones to see how one relates to such a zeitgeist.  In both a phyiscal and spiritual sense, the slow-moving trans-Saturnian planets occupy a place between the planets proper and the fixed stars; yes, they still shift like planets do, but slowly enough to be imperceptible on a reasonable timeframe, much like the light of the fixed stars.

Of course, this is all on top of a more fundamental astrological reason why I don’t find the use of these modern planets particularly helpful: astrology was already complete before the formal discovery of Uranus in the late 17th century ce.  In the seven thousand or more years that astrology has been practiced since the earliest foundations of Egypt and Sumer were laid, we’ve had more than a little time to see, plot, experiment, test, and record our observations and theories with the stars, and though refinement and elaboration, astrology became as complete an art of science (in the old sense of “knowing things”) as anything ever could.  The methods of astrology that have been passed on down to us are elegant, balanced, and established on numerological and divine harmonies that together form a complete, interlocking system.  The system already works, so as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Writing this post also reminds me of a similar post I wrote from the very earliest days on this blog, back from when I was still in college.  The points in there are basically the ones I’m raising in the present post, but there’s one bit I wanted to highlight as well:

We’ve had 6,000 years to build up our knowledge of the intra-Saturnians, while we’ve had just over 200 for Uranus, 150 for Neptune, and not even a full century for Pluto. Finding the full meanings for these planets will take a lot more time than we’ve given it, and finding appropriate uses for them will take even longer. I’m not arguing for a static and legalistic school of astrology, but I don’t think that astrologers have been doing the right thing for their art for the past two centuries. We should be using traditional astrology as a stronger foundation than we are, but instead we’re assigning meanings to the planets “because it feels right” or “because it’s intuitive”. What happened the last time you tried to prove an answer on a test, or a fact to a judge, with “because it feels right”?

Bear in mind that these planets are only very recently discovered and, while we can tap into our millennia’s experience of astrology to more quickly divine and refine the significations of these outer planets or asteroids, what we do know about them pales in comparison to what we know of the older symbols we’ve been using from the start.  Again, from my older post:

However, even until the early 20thcentury astrologers had not reached a consensus; Alan Leo wrote in 1909 that “Uranus has been given no sign by astrologers, though Aquarius has often been suggested”. As for Raphael, there is evidence to believe that he may have been writing just to get published: he wasn’t a good astrologer by anybody’s measure, and was more of a magician selling charms than an astrologer. He often didn’t provide reasoning or logic for his claims, and what he argues against is often borne out instead in practice (like the use of terms).

So, even over a century after Uranus’ firm discovery that it was a planet, astrologers still hadn’t figured out what to do with it in its entirety.  Trying to incorporate new symbols into an ancient system is difficult and time-consuming, especially for the first few introductions when the process of incorporation is still poorly understood, but at the same time, it bears remembering that the occult community wanted to keep up-to-date and “scientific” by bringing in whatever theories and discoveries they could from modern science to make their own arts seem more respectable and well-grounded.  Trying to bring in Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, the asteroids, and everything else modern science says exists into the art of astrology was an attempt at doing just that, but they ended up shattering some of the symmetries and balances that kept the system in check and functional in the process.

Plus, like I said before, astrology was already a complete system long before what we know as “modern astrology” came onto the scene.  Consider: while modern astrologers often give Uranus the ownership of electricity, computers, astrology, and change, all these things already had ownerships in the old system: Mercury ruled all sciences and arts of the mind, including astrology and alchemy, as well as devices and means of communication, like computers; Mars would have ruled over power generally, and Jupiter (through his mythological connections with thunderbolt-throwing Zeus) would have been a natural fit for electricity generally, with Mercury (again) for circuitry and wiring; the Moon rules over changes in general, along with the flighty nature of Mercury.  To shuffle these things from the old planets to the new doesn’t really do much except introduce duplication into the system generally; at best, we can use the outer planets for very specific needs, like specifically giving Neptune to the seas and to seafaring specifically even if these would have been naturally ruled over by the Moon and Mercury, but at worst, this serves to bring confusion into the system of correspondences and obscures the logic of why certain planets have domains over the things they do.

This points to my last, and most fundamental, complaint about modern astrology, and especially the viewpoints of many who use it (badly).  Many often say that, as humanity has continued in its existence, we have undergone processes of spiritual evolution, and so need more and newer planets to reflect that, being such progressed, evolved beings now than we were.  The only evidence I can see that agrees with that is the development of what John Michael Greer calls the “civic religion of progress”, which is a very modern, very peculiar cultural notion that humanity can only change in one way: onwards, upwards, and strictly for the better, that all change is inherently better than what we had before.  As JMG points out, consider smartphones: they may get more complex and support more functionalities, but they get more costly and damaging to make, often more fragile, with more restrictions and burdens on them than what we had in the past.  This isn’t progress, even if it is change.  I look around at the world generally, and I see that a lot has changed: we have more and more accessible and cheaply-made clothing, more cars and means to move, more weapons and more explosive or damaging types of them, more means of communication, and so forth, but underlying all that?  I see the same humans underneath it all that have been around since the first human could be recognized as such.

Yes, we have developed elegant, complex, and abstract philosophies, governments, civilizations, technologies, but these are all window decorations to the real humans who, after all these countless myriads of years, still need to breathe, eat, sleep, shit, fuck, love, fight, kill, speak, learn, wonder, wander, live, and die.  I read ancient Greek, Chinese, and Mesoamerican philosophers, historians, and graffiti artists who bicker and complain about the same damn things that we bicker and complain about nowadays on the Internet about our fellow man.  The names and places we know, the media and languages we use, the projectiles we use to kill and hunt, the clothes we wear and rip and mend may have all changed over the years, but our underlying understanding of the human condition and what it means to experience humanity has been relatively unchanged the world over.  In short, humanity has remained more-or-less unchanged since we first came around, changing on the whole neither for the better nor worse.  That’s why, even in our modern and “evolved” time, we still turn time and again to the help and wisdom of our ancestors and to traditional, indigenous, and truly ancestral systems of knowledge, because not only have all those who have gone before us experienced everything we do now, they also had more time to process, understand, and correlate everything, and have since joined all the others who have done just that.

Spiritually evolved as a species my sedentary ass; individuals can certainly get to the point of spiritual development where they undergo such fundamental changes, but by that point, they’re no longer human and no longer bound to this mortal coil of humanity (cf. Buddha, Christ, spirit guides, orisha, etc.).  Plus, consider that, biologically speaking, sea sponges are just as evolved as humans are; trying to claim that humans as a whole are now “spiritually evolved” in a way we weren’t before is just forcing the notion of progress onto humanity simply because time has elapsed, ignoring what it is we are, what it is we do, and where it is we live.  But, yanno, if all you do is sit in a classroom all day without paying attention to the teacher or doing the classwork, you’re not going to get better grades by virtue of just sitting at your desk longer than anyone else.  It takes Work to get better, and not everyone does that Work, much less our entire species, and much less than that in an automatic process.

In that light, it makes even more sense how complete the system of astrology really is without having to bring in the modern planets and points in the sky.  If humanity hasn’t appreciably changed, as I claim and see that it hasn’t, then why should we need to change the models and systems of our realities to reflect some misguided sense of progress and evolution that hasn’t happened?  Astrologers have gotten along fine and have gotten accurate results in prediction and understanding people for thousands of years without incorporating them, so I see no reason to change the system, break its balances, and introduce needless confusion into the mix.  There’s plenty that can be innovated, discovered, or invented in the systems of traditional astrology without having to make it “modern”, just as how geomancy can be extended in its techniques and skills and understanding without bringing in new figures or elements into the mix.

Now.  All that said, do I think the modern planets and asteroids have no use at all?  No, I don’t.  I don’t think they’re necessary to practice astrology or magic, since everything they could represent is already represented by the main seven planets, but they can offer insights and specific details that can be helpful.  When I look at a horoscope, I treat the outer planets and the asteroids like I do fixed stars: I give them a very tight orb, and I don’t consider aspects unless they’re exact or approaching an exact degree.  When I interpret them, I first use the main seven planets to get an idea of what the chart as a whole is about, then I look at the outer planets and asteroids (when they matter!) to get a deeper idea of what the seven main planets are talking about.  I don’t look at an aspect between, say, Mars and Neptune and go off about this relationship willy-nilly; I first look at how Mars, Venus, and the Moon act, and see what such a relationship between Mars and Neptune clarifies amongst all that to see what specifically is meant.  That, I feel, is a more responsible way of using the modern planets, but again, the only benefit it affords is a specific insight to a specific detail to other factors already present and more clearly visible in the horoscope.  Helpful?  At times, sure.  Necessary?  By no means.

And, of course, don’t forget that “more evolved” or “newer” doesn’t necessarily mean “better”, and that the more things change, the more too do things stay the same.  Just as Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Search Term Shoot Back, August 2015

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of August 2015.

“how do we summon spirit astaroth to appear physically” — Carefully.  Summoning a spirit, whether to physical manifestation or just to spiritual presence, is no joke, and takes a lot of practice, study, and dedication.  Summoning a spirit to physical manifestation is even less of a joke and something that, as I see it, is nearly never necessary.  It’s all well and good if you can pull it off, but I see it as a kind of bragging right if you can do it; it requires strict fasting, serious self-empowerment, a good relationship with the spirit, intent focus on the ritual, and a huge expense of energy that…honestly, most people can’t afford and have no need to spend.  If you can do it, great!  If not, don’t worry.  So long as you can bring them in enough contact so you can communicate and perceive them, you’re doing what you need to do.  Anything more is cool.

“big cork anal prison” — Nope.

“runes that look like sigils” — I’m not sure what your idea of “sigil” means here.  To me, a sigil is a symbol that refers to some concept, word, name, entity, or intent that has been graphically encoded through a mechanical means, such as through a qamea sigil or a sigil wheel or simple combination of letters.  Seals, on the other hand, are symbols that refer to some concept, word, etc. that are obtained or revealed directly from a spirit, and are not generated through any conscious process.  Many people use the terms interchangeably, though I find the distinction helpful in my work.  So, sigils can take many forms, but runes are more or less fixed with a few variations based on era and geographic origin.  Perhaps you mean the system of bindrunes, a ligature (or, I suppose, letter-combination sigil) of two or more runes?

“crystal ball uses” — Crystal balls have many uses, and some of their more common uses are seen everywhere in our culture.  However, I’d like to go over some of the more arcane uses that only the most dedicated crystal users might consider applying crystal balls for, as it’s not always apparent how to do so.  Paperweight.  Decoration in a fountain.  Regift for a new age friend.  Drain stopper.  Candle snuffer.  Meat tenderizer.  Foot/back massager.  Game piece.  Cosplay costume component.  Laser light scatterer.  Blunt trauma weapon.  Anal bead/ben-wa ball.  Body modification implant.  Dough spreader.

“oil lamps less soot” — I wrote a post on how to use oil lamps for great effect in home and ritual, but a few points probably need restating for clarity.  There are several ways you can use an oil lamp with less soot: trim the wick before using it so that all the worst charred parts of it are removed, keep the wick low enough so that you have a big enough flame without it trying to use too much fuel at once, use a clean and pure wick made of natural cellulose or linen with no chemical additives, use clean and pure oil with few chemical (natural or artificial) additives.  Mineral oil tends to be good, but that’s because it tends to be pretty neutral in most respects, as well; olive oil would produce some soot due to its natural compounds, but the higher grade the oil, the better quality flame you’ll get.

“how should fiery wall of protection oil be applied to home” — Different traditions and practices will tell you different things, and even within a tradition, you may have different ways to apply oil for different oils.  For me, I apply Fiery Wall of Protection oil in a small cross on every threshold or lintel in the house: everywhere there’s a gate, doorway, or windowsill that leads to another room or to the outside, I put the oil towards the top and center of that threshold.  If I’m going all out, I’ll also anoint all doorknobs, latches, air vents, drains, and the like just to cover every possible means of ingress or egress from the house.  Alternatively, you could use a five-spot pattern (a dab on each corner and once in the middle) on every window and door, or anoint four large iron spikes (railroad spikes are perfect) and nail them into the ground at the four corners of your house.  The possibilities are endless!

“working with seals of iupiter in virgo” — Assuming you’re working with the Pentacles of Jupiter from the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 18), I’d go with the consecration instructions given for each pentacle.  Mind you, Jupiter is weak in Virgo (detriment), as he’s opposite his domicile sign of Pisces, so Jupiter isn’t particularly happy about being there.  However, if the pentacle was well-made at a time good for it (day and hour of Jupiter at a minimum), then I’d think it’d be good to use whenever with little change in effect otherwise.  Thus, I wouldn’t want to make anything particularly under the planet Jupiter while he’s in Virgo, unless I really needed his specific influence where no other planet or means of obtaining something could work; in other words, unless it’s an emergency that only Jupiter and nothing else can fix, I’ll probably look elsewhere for help.  The same goes for any Jupiterian working.  Mind you, Jupiter spends just under a year, give or take a few weeks, in each sign.

“how do you spell your name in angelic script?” — First, note that nearly all forms of “angelic script” tend to be different 1-to-1 ciphers (or “fonts”) of Hebrew script; Celestial Hebrew, Malachim, Passing the River, and Paracelsus’ Magi script all follow this trend.  Thus, although these might be considered alphabets, they follow the same rules and have the same number of letters as Hebrew does.  To that end, you’d want to first learn how to spell your name in Hebrew, then use your preferred angelic script.  The big exception to this is Enochian, which was transmitted to John Dee and, although it claims to be an original proto-Hebrew Adamic language, follows the same rules as English spelling and grammar of his day.  However, Enochiana, although technically angelic, tends to be in a whole different field than the rest of the angelic stuff, and may not correspond semantically to other types of angelic work.

“ancient human giant cocks” — As I like to say, there’s nothing new under the sun; I claim that humanity has been pretty much the same today since the dawn of civilization or the dawn of language, if not the dawn of humanity itself some 60,000 years ago.  Sure, we have newer things to play with, complicated systems we’ve engineered, and a variety of abstract philosophies to lose ourselves in, but we’re still fundamentally the same.  This goes for penis size, too; I can’t seem to find any information on historical penis size, but I assume they’re more or less the same size today as they were for ancient humans.  If anything, penis sizes are probably, on average, larger today than they were in earlier eras; several cultures of the past considered smaller penises to be ideal, as they’d cause less vaginal/anal stretching and, thus, less tearing in sensitive tissue, which would lead to fewer rates of infection; similarly, huge cocks were something reserved for the gods, and even then, only in a sense of comical debauchery or intimidation (cf. guardposts with an ithyphallic Pan).  As we’ve gotten better about hygienic practices, internal tearing due to getting on a huge dick hasn’t been as much a concern, so there’s a little more bias now towards going for guys with bigger cocks, and if that’s genetic, then there’s a slight evolutionary trend for more well-endowed guys.

“how to conjure smaller angels” — Use a smaller triangle.

“what do occultists think of the kybalion” — Different occultists will give you different opinions.  Some occultists love it for its own virtue, some love it because it’s a “gateway text” that gets people into heavier and more interesting forms of occultism.  I personally detest the thing and would rather see all copies of it used for toilet paper.  It’s not Hermetic, despite what it claims, as its points and “axioms” are distinctly modern, and instead have its origins in the 19th century New Thought movement.  All of its major points and cosmological theories are either derived from modern New Thought stuff, or are only tangentially and convolutedly connected to actual Hermetic teachings.  I honestly find it to be a waste of paper and ink, and as its usually one of the first texts newbies encounter in the occult (for one unfortunate reason or another), it can lead to some really messed up ideas that ill-prepare them for serious education in Hermeticism.

“how to bless my pentacle in santeria” — Oh, honey.  You are doing everything so wrong.  You don’t; further, you don’t even, do you?  Because I can’t.