A Philosophy of Astrology #3 ~ The Coherence

For thousands of years, astrologers worked with the Sun, the Moon and the planets that are visible with the naked eye, from Mercury to Saturn. A relatively small selection of stars, often the brighter ones, was also considered. Nowadays new asteroids, stars, black holes and so on are discovered automatically on a daily basis. These newly discovered celestial objects are also relevant for astrologers.

The relevance of new objects
Some new objects are more interesting than others, so what is it that makes a new object interesting? The pragmatic answer would be that astrologers can only work with an object if they find a clearly discernable, fairly stable and predictable pattern of actual physical and/or psychological expressions with a distinctive symbolic fingerprint. When we search for symbolic traces of new objects, some rocks are easy to spot while others remain obscure. There could be several reasons for this. Obviously, the overall potential impact of objects (measured in isolation as it were) can vary significantly. Fortunately, the planets provide a solid measure of astrological impact: classic planets have more impact than new kids on the block.

When we examine overall potential impact, it's important to consider both the physical and metaphysical properties of objects. Metaphysical properties may include the name, mythological themes or narratives and qualities related to the moment of discovery.

The Sun has a lot of physical impact. Just look at its mass, its central position in the Solar System and so on. The metaphysical impact of the Sun is also strong, as it deals with fundamentals of the individual life, like the will to be and to express oneself, and the sense of personal identity. But what about Pluto? This dwarf planet is overall remarkably potent but physically speaking it's very unimpressive compared to the Sun. In the case of Pluto a relatively weak physique is compensated by a symbolic range of expression that centers around big themes like death and rebirth, sex, the unconscious and instincts.

Using this kind of accounting, it shouldn't be surprising if new objects that are physically unimpressive have a relatively strong impact because of certain symbolic properties. Centaurs like Pholus (5145) and Nessus (7066) come to mind.

The symbolism of new objects
In part 2 of this series we noted that astrologers pay special attention to the place-and-time coordinates of new beginnings, like the birth of a child or the official registration of a new company. The exact moment a new celectial object is discovered is also relevant. Every object discovered since the Galilean revolution has a discovery chart, containing crucial information about its symbolic fingerprint. This kind of information was not available to astrologers before the 1600s. Asteroid astrologers use discovery charts to get a better grip on new asteroids. Furthermore, physical properties like material and orbital details can also be revealing, when seen as embodied metaphors.

If an asteroid is officially named by the IAU this can also give extra hints about the symbolic fingerprint, but some official names are more 'symbolically correct' than others. There seems to be no obvious pattern here. For example, Richard Tarnas has argued that Uranus should really be called Prometheus from the mythical point of view. On the other hand there's a strong tendency for names of dwarf planets and asteroids to be quite right, or even exactly right.

Rocks named after smart people
The majority of the thousands of asteroids named after award winning students and career scientists seem quite irrelevant for general astrological analysis. Asteroids named after both the first and last name of smart people, like Aaron Ammons (129100) and Aaron Burrows (22656) are likely to have very limited relevance. But asteroids named after only the last name of scientists with 'interesting' last names can be quite relevant. Beer (1896), Lie (26955) and Swindle (8690) come to mind. These suggestive, simple, down to earth asteroid names lack the narrational or mythical properties of names like Uranus. They usually behave like fairly autonomous signs (in the semiotic sense) that are very loosely coupled to qualities of their original name giver. In the case of Lie and Swindle, or less obviously Bida and Donald Duck, phonological, morphological, semantic and metaphorical properties of the name itself tend to be more relevant.

As the symbolic profile of a new object becomes more clear, it can be used to create richer and in some cases more accurate astrological interpretations. Dwarf planets and asteroids can also offer us a little more insight in the design of the great astrological clockwork, because of their systematic lack of respect for billiard balls causality.

The retroactive effect of new objects
To be clear, celestial objects don't need an official IAU name for them to be symbolically active. For example, the unnamed asteroid 15874 (1996 TL66) is associated with winning a large sum of money in a lottery. But the moment a new object receives an official name, astrologers will consider its possible meanings very seriously.

The recent avalanche of new named objects has given astrologers new insight into the workings of the astrological clockwork. There are all kinds of new phenomena to be studied, like for example significator-asteroids. It turns out that a person named Diana may have a special relationship with asteroid Diana (78) and a person named Anna may have a special relationship with asteroid Anna (265). Significator asteroids can make life easier for astrologers, since interpretation is relatively straightforward. The philosophical implications on the other hand are harder to digest.

If we examine the interaction between Uranus and asteroid Hannibal (2152), named after the famous Carthaginian warrior, we find that in 218 BC during the winter solstice, they were in a significant conjunction. Significant as in: the moment when Rome got its first taste of the actual Hannibal and his army in the 2nd Punic War. The Roman army lost some 30.000 men in the Battle of the Trebia. Their largest defeat since the war against the Gauls 125 years earlier. Of course, asteroid Hannibal was discovered and officially named long after the battle took place. Isn't that strange?

Going back to 218 BC is stretching it. We don't have many accurate sources of places-and-times, and most calculations of orbits aren't good enough to even look at the Middle Ages. So a detailed analysis of the Punic War isn't an option. But we can definitely take a look at more recent data. Why not analyze one of Carl Jung's dreams?

The death of Siegfried
Chapter VII of Carl Jung's famous Red Book is titled 'Murder of the Hero'. The symbolic murder takes place in one of Jung's dreams. The date is December 18, 1913. The victim is Siegfried, a mythical hero who in the dream represents Jung's ego. The death of Siegfried is a key moment in Jung's personal mythology. In Jung's birth chart transiting asteroid Siegfried (15147) is crossing Jung's natal Mars around this time. That's a direct symbolic hit. Asteroid Siegfried was discovered on the 11th of March 2000 and named after Ray Siegfried, chairman of the board of the aerospace NORDAM Group.  

Losing one's head
Asteroid Red Queen (17518, December 18th 1992) is often prominently placed in charts of people who lose their head, as in decapitation or irrational behavior and loss of self-control. For example, an important aspect in Queen Consort Marie Antoinette's birth chart is her Sun-Venus-Red Queen conjunction.

On January 3rd 1889 the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suffered an epic mental collapse. In Nietzsche's birth chart Red Queen is conjunct Mercury (0°08). Asteroid Nietzsche (7014) is also active in his chart, trining (120 degree angle) asteroids Sisiphus (endless task, persistence, refusal to admit or accept defeat, 0°31) and Aeternitas (eternal fame, 0°38), and squaring (90 degree angle) Atropos (death, transformation 0°52). Asteroid Nietzsche was discovered on April 4th, 1989. Here are some of Friedrich Nietzsche's transits on January 3rd 1889:

Red Queen trine Mars (0°39)
Pluto trine Red Queen (0°34)
Nietzsche sextile Saturn (0°47)
Nietzsche trine Karma (0°56)
Nietzsche square Icarus (0°57)
Atropos square Nietzsche (0°47)
Pandora trine Nietzsche (0°57)

Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi) is seen in videos of extremist group ISIL that show the beheading of captives. Jihadi John was born on August 17th 1988 in Kuwait. Red Queen is conjunct Venus in his birth chart, suggesting that in some sense he was into decapitation.

What's going on?
We could evaluate more anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon but the point i'm making isn't about numbers. Also, more anecdotal evidence piles up every time an astrologer analyzes the role of new objects in charts of events that took place before, say, 1900.

The point is that this symbolically retroactive property of official names can be thought of as a symptom of the overall physical/metaphysical coherence that's proposed or implied by the basic astrological hypothesis as discussed in the previous post.

Some astrologers might prefer to frame a discussion about this retroactive phenomenon in terms of time, causality, free will and determinism, teleology, synchronicity or ~ very popular nowadays ~ a conspiracy. That's fine. Personally i'm reminded of the can of worms that was opened by theoretical physicists John Barrow and Frank J. Tipler when they wrote The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. The legacy of this book shows how cosmologists grapple with unexpected 'signs' of an almost intentional seeming, and therefore very suspicious integral cosmic coherence conducive to biological life and consciousness. Of course Mr. Tipler messed up pretty badly when he also wrote a deeply confused rationalization of literal interpretations of the Christian Bible in his sadly hilarious book The Physics of Christianity. So yeah, there's that as well. Physicists and metaphors...

The astronomical/astrological name game, that has somehow produced lots of symbolically accurate, retroactive, IAU approved object names in the last two centuries (and probably keeps producing new ones) can be thought of as a symbolic, semiotic, linguistic, or at any rate a more purely metaphysical variation on the anthropic theme as discussed by theoretical physicists and cosmologists.

Many astrologers are not surprised when they find out about this seamless integration of the new kids on the block in the old visual map of the sky. After all, astrological thought is essentially holistic.

Next time we'll focus on the subjectivity of astrological interpretation.