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The Zodiac: Earth's song in the sky...

By John Townley, August 2013

Signs are the most obvious thing about astrology, or at least, Sun signs are. Yet, around the world and across history there is so much disagreement on:

* What they really are – equal divisions of the tropical year, or varying areas covered by ecliptic constellation?

* Where they start – at the vernal equinox, or the beginning of some star group, or someplace else entirely (like the galactic center)?

* How big they are – exactly thirty degrees apiece or varying, depending on the constellations?

* Whether they move – either by precession, or some other formula, or not at all?

*Where they are based – are they projections of the Earth upward, or the sky downward, or something else?

*How defined they are – are “cusps” really sharp lines of demarcation, or just sort of open borders like the EU?

You can see the history and debate regarding all that delved into in some detail in our previous article on Signs and Seasons, but we think we’ve settled it all on a physical basis that doesn’t require discussion, because it’s based on physical form rather than philosophical or psychological speculation. But, to get there, it takes a brief continuing journey into our thoughts on the planets as an example of a particular scale of repeating cycles or rhythms (or even tones or colors, depending on the speed of repetition). 

If, indeed, the planets in their repetitions and the alternating and distance-varying force they exert on us (Earth) and each other while doing it (gravity) behave similarly to all the rest of the larger and smaller scales of the universe, the why and wherefore of signs is easily extracted generally and applied specifically from what’s already known elsewhere. And that would resolve at least one of the twelve unanswered questions about astrology.

Earth's "circular" orbit moving through space is actually a pirouetting spiral of gravitational pressure.

Earth’s orbit as it proceeds through the signs (making it appear that the Sun does) seems like a slow and lazy affair, not a sound generator like the buzzing of bees or the warbling of birds. But really, it’s all a matter of scale. All a sound generator does is alternate air pressure back and forth in a cyclical motion, but it does so at a speed that we hear with our ears as a sound, with a higher or lower pitch, depending on its frequency. If you slow a sound down continuously until you can’t hear it even in the deep bass register (the lowest we can hear is 20 cycles per second) and keep slowing it down, until it’s about one or two cycles per second, it becomes a beat, a rhythm that you expect a drum section to play, maybe a march or a waltz. 

Keep on slowing that down and eventually get to a few cycles a day, or a month, and finally to one cycle per year, and that’s us, Earth! Except the alternating pressure change that this creates isn’t in the medium of air – there isn’t any in outer space – it’s gravitational, pushing and pulling on every other body in the solar system at the Earth’s own frequency, our own little note, which if you transposed it up into sound it would be a C, maybe just a trifle sharp. That’s true of all the planets as you can see in more detail here.

A spiral seen from outside is a sine wave (l.). A sound wave subdivides into the same harmonic divisions as a horoscope (r.)

Indeed, this gravitational pushing and pulling is very strong from planets like Jupiter, which literally shakes the Earth (and others similarly) off its otherwise-regular orbit by 150,000 kilometers. If there is a physical basis for astrology, here it is…an eons-long tidal effect like the Moon’s, with pulses coming from every planet to every other. More on that here. Planets are, at their own long, slow scale, frequency generators with real physical effects on others around them, all producing their own tones in a warbling gravitational chorus.

But if we’re looking at an operation so analogous to sound, it’s worth looking at how sound producers work. Whether it’s a string, a horn, a bell, or a drum, no natural (non-electronic) instrument produces a single, pure tone. They produce a sound that is predominantly one tone with other secondary and tertiary related ones, called harmonics. Thus, a primary tone of C will have other softer overtones of G, E, Bb, and more, its harmonic overtone series. These are mathematical proportions of the size of the primary note-maker itself, in fractions of 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, and 1/7. If that’s already beginning to sound like the astrological divisions of a chart, in houses, signs and aspects, here’s a step further. 

If the tone generator isn’t a single vibrating line (like a string, horn, or Fludd’s monochord), but is circular, like a drum head or a cymbal, those harmonics divide very precisely along the divisions of the circle by 2, 3, 4, and so on, edge to edge, with minimal or no overlap. See the first ten overtones of the drum illustration. In fact, if you just turned a string or horn into a circle, its harmonic points would yield pretty much the same thing.

A vibrating circle's harmonics (as a drum head, above) may more than mimic the divisions of the Zodiac.

So, if Earth’s circular orbit is ringing (and being rung) like a bell, its natural set of harmonics likely will line up by alternation (hemispheres), combined (double) triplicities, and quadrants (double quadruplicities), each set to its own harmonic, and suddenly, the signs (or sign-inclusive segments) have appeared, perfectly formed and aligned, with their traditional differentiations into triplicities and quadruplicities inside them, as if by magic! And that’s just the first eight harmonics. Following sets further subdivide the circle in to even smaller segments. 

But where in the sky does this natural set start? At some distant star that marks the beginning of an imaginary constellation? Not likely. Much more likely it is at the natural polar lineups where the axis of the Earth points toward and then away from the Sun at solstice, when the daily sum/difference of Earth's rotational and revolutionary speed is at its greatest – or when it is at its least at equinox – natural pivot points for changing resonance. So here you appear to have the tropical Zodiac, self-generated by the natural harmonic divisions of the Earth’s own primary frequency. All natural, all physical, and not dependent on anyone’s opinion except the solar system’s itself.

Well, one can’t exactly put a Q.E.D. after that, because maybe things vibrating gravitationally on that scale don’t work quite the same way they do at the scale of sound or a marching beat vibrating in air. More investigation is required, though the fact that something similar happens gravitationally with Lagrange points suggests that this is on exactly the right track. And, the similarity of how resonances line up in electromagnetic waves compared with sound waves, particularly as we emotionally interpret them, gives one further cause to think this may be part of an ultimately simple description and explanation of much of traditional astrological structure. It’s not quite something you can take to the theory bank yet, either, without further demonstration. It does, however, resolve all of the major questions about signs listed at the top of this article, everything, in a single, self-consistent description.

It would appear that the Zodiac signs aren't external, in the distant sky, but simply the echoes of Earth itself.

And indeed, there are those, particularly in the wake of Hans Kayser, that think everything, large and small, is made up of nothing but harmonics, especially regarding planetary orbits, as did (to an extent) Fludd and Pythagoras. Could be. Could be that in this view the Earth, and the other planets, begin to look suspiciously like a combination of a particle and a waveform, a la quantum physics on the super-tiny scale, especially if you stood as far back from the solar system as we do from an atom. 

And, of course, it all works so much more elegantly if you frame it in 3D time, where there is neither particle or wave, but the requisite combined shapes formed by space and time. But more on that, another time…and space…watch these pages…

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