The idea for this post was triggered by a very fine essay from the Seven Stars Astrology blog – it is titled, The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner.
That essay begins with this sentence and opening paragraph.
‘The truth is that essential dignity tells you quite little about the “essential dignity” of a planet.
In a subsequent post (available here), I will explore in greater depth the obsession with dignity pointing, almutens, and sign-based indications of fortune/misfortune, which has done more to harm today’s practice of traditional astrology than anything else.’
To make his point, he uses two charts – that of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which has four planets with major dignity, and the billionaire media tycoon Ted Turner, that has no major dignity but several planets in debility.
I teach a class at Kepler College on using the traditional system of planetary dignities to evaluate the condition and action of the planets in a chart, and I spend a lot of time and emphasis on the essential dignities. I use every one of the indications he mentions – dignity pointing, almutens and so on – and I find them very useful. However, as he points out, if I am going to use those indicators, I need to be able to make sense of those charts.
My position is this – essential dignity is useful, but it was never intended to be used in isolation. It is part of a larger system of conditions for weighing up a chart that include what are called essential and accidental dignities, and all of them together are very useful for weighing up the condition and action of planets.
I use a weighted point system for evaluating planets, based on William Lilly’s system of dignities and debilities – in my class I nickname it, William Lilly’s Cheate Sheete. I am convinced that is largely useful as a training tool, a set of training wheels, teaching an astrologer the important indicators to scan for in the chart.
If you are going to work with the system of dignities, you need to be able to make sense of Jeffrey Dahmer’s chart. That is what we will do here.