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As multiple waveforms meet they combine, peak, or partially or wholly cancel, depending on their phase, size, and direction. Know them, ride them. That's what the physical fundaments of astrology, and surfing -- and indeed life itself -- are all about.

By John Townley, June 2015

Something we have been talking about a lot recently is looking at our relationship with the planets as part of a matrix of physical wave resonances. Their cycle rates are on a much larger/slower scale than our daily affairs, but their upper-partial, higher resonant tones are right at the speed where we live, and they step down through the medium of the Earth in general and ultimately the specifics of our local environment.  If there is a consistent physical basis for astrology, this is likely a major part of it. 

Yearly, when we finishing pulling away and reach our maximum distance from any given planet, we then start to fall more freely toward it like the folks in Einstein’s elevator thought experiment. Then when we reach our nearest point our orbital trajectory begins to pull us away again, stretching against the other planet’s pull. Push, pull, push, pull in a regular pulse/wave that is the combination of our own orbital period and a portion of the second planet’s. All things equal, that more or less speeds us up on approach and slows us down as we retreat, depending on the size of the planet (in the case of Jupiter, actually perturbs our orbit), but to what extent experts disagree, as the math of mutual multiplanet gravitational influences is maddening. Regardless, something akin to a gravity wave (not a “gravitational wave”, that’s another, still-theoretical animal) is created in relation to every planet, and however small it may be, it’s the only gravitational “noise” going on outside of the dominant Sun, so like the tiny magnetic variations in our brains, it doesn’t take much to get noticed. In fact, stochastic resonance may actually emphasize it. And, in the case of the Moon, it’s really large and defined, to the extent that both Earth and Moon revolve around a separate barycenter that moves along about 1,000 miles beneath Earth’s surface, the swing point between Earth and Moon.

Here Earth has just "fallen free" toward its closest approach to powerful Jupiter, and is falling toward Saturn next. After that, the pull of Uranus and Mars dominate, finally Neptune. Then, all over again, stretch away, fall back, a continual wave pulse...

Although the term barycenter applies officially to one body orbiting another, not the relationships of multiple orbiting bodies to each other, still there is a gravitational swing point between any two, described by their proximity, which we have implied in our Retro Rhythms piece.  It’s the dance of the planets, and we all swing each other as partners, in varying degrees, in the process, with “barycenters” of gravity somewhere between us in space. In fact, such swings (noticed officially as perturbations) in early, more unstabilized star systems can throw a whole planet right out into interstellar space and perhaps an eternity of wandering the cosmos, sunless. When you swing your partner too hard, and lose your grip, you’re separated forever…

Regardless of the details, it is this set of waves that gradually change their direction and phase according to where each of the other planets are that make up what we call transits in the sky, moving through the tropical Zodiac, itself a resonant artifact of Earth’s tilt. So, each of the planets outside our orbit has a somewhat longer-than-our-year cycle determined by our mutual orbits, and the ones inside less than a year determined by the same relationship. Further, each has a cycle of its own in regard to our tropical axis (tropical signs) or the general sky background (sidereal signs), depending on your measuring stick, with which our cycle (and our joint cycles) go in and out of phase. It’s a phenomenon a little like a Leslie organ speaker, as we have pointed out before.

This basic diagram, describing earthbound gravity waves in water, air, and ground, could equally apply to planetary cycles, simply by substituting planetary mass for amplitude, cycle length for wavelength.

Daily, a similar thing happens on a smaller scale, with any spot on the surface of our own planet approaching and fleeing each of the other planets by the distance of Earth’s diameter a trifle over once a day. That’s the diurnal wave, and it describes its peaks and troughs when each planet is at the MC/IC (peaks) and Asc/Des (troughs), the same as the Moon and Sun do in creating the tides. The same travel that happens through the signs on the larger scale here occurs through the houses, as a small subset or upper partial of the larger, orbital movement.

And to get the old skeptics’ chimera out of the way, none of this directly applies to an individual, whose weight is too small and distant to get much gravitational effect. It’s about the planets’ relation to Earth, and only subsequently the stepped-down resonances which then may include individuals locally. Earth is locked into the larger scale, the game the big boys and girls play in orbit over the eons, and we are locked into the subsystems of those same rhythms, but at much higher/faster frequencies. It’s all about entrainment, just at different scales. Indeed, it may be that the internal resonances of Earth itself both generally and locally highly affect and focus, amplify, or block these waves and their subsets just as local geography affects the timing, height, and impact of the tides. Individually, we are at the tail end of these processes, not in a direct planet-to-individual relationship at all. However, the pattern of the point we step into them (the natal horoscope) stays with us as our immanent initial conditions, further molded and cemented by subsequent repeating cycles.

Ocean tides rise and fall with the Moon around the globe, but they also cancel out entirely in nearly a dozen places called nodes (in red). This environmental molding principle could hold implications for diurnal cycles of the houses and locational astrology.

By looking at all planetary cycles as gravitational pressure/proximity waves that combine, cancel, and interact in a similar fashion to waves at other scales and spectra, it may be possible to use our knowledge of these other types of waves to increase our reliable knowledge and use of astrology. Where we once had simply seat-of-the-pants evidence from astrologers’ personal experience combined with abstract, often esoteric numbers-based theory, we may find we have the physical causes themselves at our fingertips in a manageable, measureable, and more predictable form. In known interactions such as interference patterns/nodes and their borders, standing waves, addition, suppression or cancellation, and overtone series, we may find rules that are not only similar to those in astrology, but are in fact the reason for those astrological tenets arising to begin with, being their actual physical cause.

Further, in this light, wave theory is useful because it opens up sets of metaphors from which to deduce possible meaning based other scales where the mechanics are known and can be compared. Suddenly we see our familiar life images of wind and wave, tides and weather, musical rhythms and visual patterns bringing greater clarity to our astrology, because they all mutually rely on the same principles, proportions, and motivating forces. And we begin to see astrology itself as another natural, environmental set of phenomena within which we live and of which we are an integral part.

The mutual comparison of multiple scales is really important to understand our place in all this. That's because we see some from the outside-in (where we are the larger entity, as in light and sound scales, smaller and faster than us) but others from the inside-out (where we are smaller and faster than the waves and riding them, like the ocean, weather, or the planets).

We are surrounded by, and indeed constructed of, waves -- mechanical, electromagnetic, gravitational, biological, social, informational -- but the mainly gravitational (and in some cases electromagnetic) wavecycles of the planets proceed at a slower, more entrainingly ineluctable pace than all the rest. Right-click on picture above for a formidable taste.

As we continue to pursue this direction, it will become ever more evident how useful this can be in explaining both why and where astrology does work, and also where it may be less visibly working when it seems not to be working. Three quick examples:

1. One wonders why more momentous things don’t happen at exactly the peak point of a terrible transiting grand cross, for instance. Well, that can be a still point of wave cancellation, so it shouldn’t produce much, although all hell should be breaking loose on either side of it, which does tend to be the case, subject to other general principles of aspect formation. It’s a tempting explanation for why the various, much-touted “harmonic convergences” and the like don’t seem to produce much.

2. When a series of lunations gets lined up with major points in a natal chart, the individual gets the expected crest-of-the-wave kicks one might expect, but the rest of the month, even with motivating aspects, may prove mysteriously uneventful or even in disarray – something one would expect from being in the trough of a major wave that dwarfs and overrides usually more-noticeable transits.

A more rarely-occurring giant planetary wave (as generated by an eclipse, or other large planetary resonance) may dwarf others around it, separating sets of events and even birth generations. In surfing/sailing, it's the legendary "seventh wave"...

3. In the larger life picture, the widespread belief that eclipses are very important (both in mundane and personal effects) and that the prenatal solar eclipse marks a six-month swath of somehow-related individuals, it would be well to look at them as unique waves. Although lunations are themselves wave peaks of the solunar cycle, eclipses are the especially stronger ones. In vernacular parlance, they are literally the extra-strong “seventh wave” that sailors and surfers speak of, and they set apart six months of lunations like a set of brackets. One is born into a family of contained sub-waves, bracketed by the prenatal and postnatal solar eclipses, and when born on or near an eclipse (esp. just before), one straddles two families (with demarcation by progression of or to the natal or eclipse charts). The use of the concepts of “karma” and fated connections often attributed to the eclipse-formatting lunar nodes may suggest that there is a larger-scale group selection involved, wherein the natal chart may show how and where the individual is synced-up with the group (the eclipse chart), by degree areas contacted (and thus the planetary note/phases being reinforced).

To quote the old Sesame Street song, "That's about the size, where you put your eyes, that's about the size of it!" Or maybe your ears...

These are just a few of the places that using the waveform analogy/identity in astrology can lead you.  Whether it's the intimate vibrations of a chamber ensemble or the huge, Earth-moving rhythms of the Sun and planets themselves, it's all a matter of relative scale and interaction, as we surf the overtone series of our resonant environment. The relationships and qualities of the planets and signs have evolved accordingly, and although we have been clever enough to notice and classify the surface patterns of some of that in our traditional textbooks, we have so far lacked the fundamental theory to consistently probe its depths and causes.  That will likely be the task of another generation of astrologers and environmental scientists who become more willing to speak each others' languages. But there's no time like the present to start mapping out some of that unexplored territory, and marking it for further investigation...

Your natal chart's initial configuration, held skillfully in balance with the developing waves around you, tells your whole story...

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