One of the weird and wonderful things about the world of astrology is the fact that there are many different systems for practicing it, but it is not a simple matter of one system being the only correct one.
Different systems seem to work.
I have an earlier post called, Multi-Map Reality, where I described looking a a single chart with two different house systems, and discovering that not only did they both work, but each brought out an important facet of the person’s life that I knew to be true.
They did not contradict; the complemented, and I needed both as part of a larger picture.
It was like a switch from one eye to two eye vision, where now there was a quality of depth.
I heard a good example of multiple systems working during a workshop on horary astrology taught by Deb Houlding that I was very fortunate to attend. Deb is British and uses the system of William Lilly, which has Regiomontanus houses, and the dignity system derived from Ptolemy.
She told of an incident where she was analyzing a horary chart, and in the audience was Rob Hand, who had the same chart drawn up, but with Whole Sign houses, and a different set of minor dignities. Even though the two of them had different systems, they came up with the same answer or judgement of the chart.
There was another instance of that in the traditional astrology study group I am part of here in Minneapolis. The fine traditional astrologer Estelle Daniels did a presentation on horary to our group, and her example charts were all originally done with the Koch house system and using Lilly’s system of dignities. Near the end of the presentation we took one of the examples and re-cast it with Whole Sign houses and a different set of minor dignities. House rulership changed, the main significators changed, but the analysis ended up with the same final result.
How can that be?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. What would need to be true of the world for this experience to make sense?
Examining that issue, thinking through some of the questions it raises, will be one of the main recurring themes of this journal.
John Michael Greer has a very fine blog on the topics of Druidry, Magic and Occult Philosophy called, The Well of Galabes. In a post this year he called Conjuring in the House of Mirrors he discusses a concept from the book, Guide to the Perplexed, by E F Schumacher, about different kinds of questions.
Science deals with convergent questions, meaning they have one single answer – let go of a stone you are holding in your hand and it predictably drops to the ground, in a way that can be measured.
However, there is another class called divergent questions, where a single starting question can have multiple usable answers, depending on the perspective of the person asking it. For instance, the question, what is the best place in town to have dinner tonight?, will have different answers depending on the person asking, their tastes, what they had for lunch, what their budget was like, and so on.
Greer makes this very important observation:
Divergent problems are by and large problems of value, while convergent problems are problems of fact. Put another way, convergent questions ask about the properties of perceiving objects, while divergent questions relate to the properties of perceiving subjects. Thus the convergent problem asks, “what is the world?” The divergent problem asks, “what should I do about it?”
Questions of value. Questions related to the perceiving subject. Questions of best course of action.
In other words, the kinds of questions that are asked in astrology.
Or rather, some of the questions.
I want to take that word, Value, and unpack it a bit further here and consider that as Significance, or possibly Meaning. That is definitely related to the perceiving subject, but not simply as value.
Two of the examples I mentioned earlier are on horary astrology, which is predictive; it is referring to events that can be verified as true or false.
There is not a simple one to one factual correspondence between the planets, signs etc of astrology and specific outer events or things. The language of astrology deals with symbols, and symbols are multivalent, you can never exhaust their meaning.
Mars can signify a soldier, but that does not mean Mars equals soldier. Mars can also signify fire, a sword, a hot-tempered man, tobacco, a skin rash, hot curry, surgery, ruler of Aries and Scorpio, and so on.
What does Mars signify? That depends partially, but not completely, on the perception of the astrologer who is asking that question, the specific question they are asking, and what system of astrology they practice.
Different astrologers talking about Mars will come up with an overlapping consensus on what Mars signifies. The details of the meaning, how it is fleshed out, will very much depend on the astrologer, but in most cases astrologers can agree you have something that is recognizably Mars-like with all of them.
So, it is not quite true that each astrologer has their own meaning of Mars and that it is arbitrary. But, neither is it true that all astrologers have the same meaning of Mars. It is somewhere between shared and individual meaning.
Mainstream modern astrology largely asks psychological questions; horary astrologers ask questions of facts or events; evolutionary astrologers are asking about life purpose, or karma, or past lives; then there are weather astrologers, stock market astrologers…
Are all those ways of doing astrology – I won’t say, True – but are they valid and useful, and meaningful, each in their own way? Yes, no question about it.
Can they complement each other? I think yes.
Are they all practicing the same astrology; are they all referring to the same system? Is there this something called Astrology that all of them are pointing to, all of them are an expression of?
That is a complex question, and one we will be examining further in later posts in this journal.