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Twelve Questions

About Astrology

we don't know the answers to, but must find out...

By John Townley, May 2013

Magazines and newspapers (digital or otherwise) these days are fond of making important lists, preferably ones involving significant and symbolic numbers: the three deadliest diseases lurking on the horizon, the seven most important events of the year, the top ten unanswered questions in modern science, the 100 most influential people on the planet, and so on. So, probing our knowledge (or, more important, lack of knowledge) of our own starry art, we thought we’d try for something similar: like, say, twelve aspects of astrology we need to explain, but can’t.
At first thought, it seemed that might include obscurities like why or whether harmonic charts work, which house system is better, or if mangliks (in Vedic astrology) really are cursed marriage partners.

But after a brief search for the truly unexplained techniques and assumptions that are in daily use, we discovered the most mysterious are some of the most basic pillars of astrology itself. It might seem that we draw our conclusions daily on a set of rules and assumptions which, when questioned at the simplest level, are either on shaky ground or have no grounded basis at all. Over the life of this website, we have tried to suggest some reasonable, consistent underpinning for some, but others still quite elude us. Here are our magic twelve (because we all like that number, though there are more): 

1. Signs. What are signs? We assume they are twelve equal divisions of Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but where does that start – at the point of the spring equinox, or at the beginning of a set of totally un-equal star constellations, themselves imaginary, and varying from one culture to another? And if you do use tropical signs, like most, aren’t they just divisions of the seasons? And if they are, why aren’t they reversed for people born in the Southern Hemisphere (Kiwi and Down-under astrologers swear they’re not)? Do planets whose axes aren't aligned with ours have different Zodiasx? Do planets without tilted axes have no Zodiac at all? And, speaking of lists, why twelve signs/divisions to begin with, why not ten, or seven, or something else substantial? We’ve interestingly and importantly addressed some of it here, but still no definitive conclusions, really…

2. Houses. Speaking of our magic twelve, what are houses, really? Certainly they are a twelve-fold division of Earth’s rotation, usually with basic agreement on the division of straight up and down (MC/IC) and the horizon (Asc/Des) but over a dozen different ways of generating what’s in-between. Let us count the ways:  Placidus, Koch, Campanus, Regiomantanus, Alcabitius, Krusinski, porphyry, neo-porphyry, equal, whole sign, meridian, and topocentric being just the most popular.  And why do they mean what they do? Is the fourth house about fundamentals and roots because it’s at the bottom, because of gravity? And why is the most open and beneficial house (the first) right next door to the most hidden and troublesome (twelfth) and just where do they shift and how? Gauquelin sectors suggest something totally different than traditional assignments (well inside the twelfth house), though there may be another reason for that

3. Planets. Planets are the meat and potatoes of astrology, but are they what’s actually in the sky, or just archetypal ideas associated with their mythology or their varying cycle periods? Do they directly affect us (and if so, is it gravitational, or magnetic, or spiritual, etc.) or do they just affect Earth and through it, us, with gravitational oscillation and overtones that are locked into Earth’s resonant system, and subsequently ours?? Is it about one-on-one effects or general synchronous movement in the environment above and below? What, of the many possibilities, is the physical basis of it all?

4. Aspects. Aspects, hard and soft, tell the story of chart dynamics. But aside from simple measured angles, what are they, and why do divisions based on two (opposition, square, semi-square, etc.) seem difficult and those based on three (trine, sextile) seem supportive? Is the basis as profoundly simple as gravitational Lagrange points? And how about the non-Ptolemaic aspects based on numbers not part of our mysteriously-favored twelvefold division, like quintiles, septiles, or other primes like eleven, thirteen, or seventeen…or perhaps non-whole-integers like phi, pi, or other constants? Are aspects more fundamentally numerological, about Platonic one-ness, two-ness, three-ness, and so on, or are they simply physical and gravitational/magnetic contacts, or both? And regardless, are aspects just ways of measuring something else, like overtone sets of fundamental very-long-period resonances and interference patterns whose upper partial cycles fall into our own life-length scale?

5. The horoscope itself.
We look at the horoscope as the whole story of something (us, an event, a question), but what is it really – a set of initial conditions that evolves a la chaos theory, the moment of the soul’s entry (in the case of sentient beings), an epigenetic imprint induced by birth trauma, or an exterior key to a behavioral trap of repeating cycles? How is it related to the self, or the soul, if there is such a thing?

6. Returns. Everybody does solar return charts (and, occasionally lunar returns), like they meant something. You can, and probably should, travel for a good one. But why would the moment of a return, solar or lunar or whatever, mean anything? If it’s  a rebirth, then a rebirth of what? And if a simple return works, why not an opposition return (solar low), or a Sun/Moon midpoint return? Some astrologers do actually use both, and more…

7. Relocation. Most astrologers are ready to admit, if only from personal experience, that things change when you relocate someplace else on Earth. And it seems to correspond with simply re-casting your chart there -- and an astrocartography map can give you clues where to look. But why should that happen? It doesn’t change your birth chart. Is it about a diurnal cycle locked-in from birth simply time-shifted?

8. Synastry
and relationships. It’s second nature for any astrologer to look at two charts with a Sun/Moon overlap and presume a naturally strong relationship or even marriage. But why should that be so, why more than just two glyphs on the same piece of paper? Do transiting planets naturally shepherd people sharing like degree areas together, or by harmonics/overtone similarities, or what? Are your degrees like the keys you play in, so you slip into them naturally together, playing better with people with familiar key signatures? Are these perhaps in some way the shared threads in the loom of fate?

9. Progressions. Everybody uses progressions, usually the day-for-a-year secondary kind, but this may be the most mysterious technique of all. Are these planetary motions of the first three months of life, correspondent events of which surface spot-on years later, a peculiar kind of infant imprinting with delayed detonation? Or are they some sort of fractal resonance with the subsequent big picture? Or are they part of a direct, physical 4-6D architecture that stretches, tangentially, across an already-formed universe?

10. Scale.
We all know what each planet is supposed to mean in our lives. But some of their cycles we don’t live to see repeat or even finish (the outer planets) and hence we assign them to the bigger social or evolutionary picture. So does meaning change with scale – is there a different astrology symbolism for countries than humans, because they live longer, or we live shorter? Does, for instance, Jupiter = Sun on a 12x scale for nations, and are there other shifts/equivalencies according to native longevity? Basically, is mundane the same or very different than human-scale natal astrology? And how about the other, shorter-life direction? Dogs and cats don’t get to see even Jupiter and Saturn repeat, so are they the equivalent of outer planets for our pets?

11. Horary.
Oppositely, is the fine, diurnal scale of horary another world, or just a scale shift? Because you can rectify with it, what does that tell you about how tightly you may be locked into the warp/woof of the weave of fate? And does a horary actually have a life of itself, or is it just a momentary example of our locking into our repeating degree areas as we proceed with our thoughts and actions?

12. Other time and space scales. When you drop to microscales where the shortest diurnal cycle is an eternity, or up to macroscales where hundreds Pluto cycles are the equivalent of a momentary musical tone, are there common design elements to work with? Are they simply octaves or overtones (or undertones) of the ones we know (regular planetary/diurnal), and how directly are they connected (as they seem to be, especially at upper and lower ends of each scale set, dark vs. light, fast vs. slow, friendly vs. threatening) or self-similar? Do the principles of astrology work out at the macro-cosmic level, or down at the quantum level? Not that it really means anything to us personally, since we’re stuck in our own meso-scale, but are we dealing with universal principles here, or just local-time, seat-of-the-pants engineering that may be totally different elsewhere? Speculation on that here and here

Well, that’s twelve — because we astrologers like twelve –  unexplained tenets of astrology, but there are more, though these cover virtually all of the basics we take for granted and stand upon in daily practice. Turns out, we’re on really soft ground most of the time, repeating meanings learned by rote from others who learned them by rote from others who…and so on down through history. Did anyone back there actually have their feet on the ground enough to make these proclamations solid to begin with? Can we find our way back, or down, or in enough to someday say we do? That’s a tall order, but if there is to be any real future in astrology, that’s what’s on the menu…

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