Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Temperamental Ponderings

The more I think about astrology, read what astrologers and others have to say about it, the more I feel the urge to stand back, throw away the magnifying glass, and instead take a kind of x-ray view of it all, to study its bones. From that perspective one key factor emerges first, very clearly: the elements, and next the qualities and polarities - bones - building blocks of astrology.

It's good to purge the mind of detail, once in a while, and gaze on an outline sketch, which can, when well-drawn, sometimes tell as much as a finely detailed portrait.

Earth, Water, Fire, Air.
Cardinal, Mutable, Fixed.
Positive, Negative.

Those are the bones of astrology. It's best to keep in mind what these factors can draw for us, when their proportional emphasis, and accepted keywords, are considered for any exact date, time and location. It will be a description of the prevailing astrological atmosphere of that exact time. What will emerge will primarily be the chart of the birth of a moment in time. Astrologers, and astrology fans, believe that a human - and perhaps other creatures born in that exact moment - carry within their DNA, their molecules, a replication of the elements and qualities of that moment's atmosphere.
It was the Greek philosopher-mathematician Empedocles (c. 450 BCE) who first established the system of the four primary elements, fire, air, water and earth. Drawing on the work of his predecessors, his proposal was based very simply and rationally on observation of the qualities of the physical world, which fell into two pairs of opposites: wet and dry, hot and cold. Fire was considered to result from the combination of dry and hot, air was created from the hot and wet, water from the cold and wet, and earth from the cold and dry. Each of the four elements was also associated with one of the four seasons.
MORE AT astro.com HERE
From natal proportions of the astrological elements and rest of the nine factors listed above, in a person's birth chart, it'd be possible to produce an outline sketch of its owner's temperament, based on selections of keywords devised over many decades. I was about to type, just now, "sketch of of its owner's personality" when I remembered reading something to the effect that personality and temperament are not the same thing. The sketch would be, as well as a description of the prevailing astrological atmosphere, an outline of how that atmosphere could broadly manifest in human temperament.

In an excellent article by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum:
The Well-Tempered Astrologer - Using an Ancient System in Modern Astrology, the author explains:
Temperament is often confused with "personality” or “character.” How are these three different? First of all, temperament is innate whereas both character and personality can have external components. Personality, in fact, combines both internal and external factors,and some dictionaries define it as “behavior as a whole.” But the term “personality” (which didn’t even come into use until the end of the 19th century) uses the Latin word persona, which means “mask” — as in the masks worn by characters in a play — and thus implies the outward expression of a person. “Character” comes from the Greek word charaktēr, a stamp, something used to make an impression on wax or metal; today we take “character” to mean both the features that distinguish one form from another and a person’s moral nature. In modern connotation, character can be both internal and external, but the Greek definition implies something imposed from without (parental or societal) rather than from within.

Temperament, by contrast, falls on the “nature” rather than the “nurture” side of the spectrum. We are born with our temperaments, as any mother of more than one child can tell you. We may have overlays to our temperaments at various times in our lives,but temperament is our default position, what we naturally fall back on when faced with new situations. What you’re born with is what you keep.
That whole article is a "must read" !
There are also some excerpts from a book by the same author, (Temperament - Astrology's Forgotten Key) at Skyscript website.

Our four astrological elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water do link to the ancient theory of the four humors/humours or temperaments (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic) central to the articles mentioned above. The humours, and ways they were thought to manifest in human temperament, were used as an aid to medical diagnoses and treatment of ailments, long ago.

From Greek Medicine.net
Agents of Metabolism
The Four Humors are the metabolic agents of the Four Elements in the human body. The right balance and purity of them is essential to maintaining health. The Four Humors and the elements they serve are as follows:
Blood - AIR; Phlegm - WATER; Yellow Bile - FIRE; Black Bile - EARTH
All four of these humors, or vital fluids, are present in the bloodstream in varying quantities:
Blood, or the Sanguine humor, is the red, hemoglobin-rich portion.
Phlegm, or the Phlegmatic humor, is present as the clear plasma portion.
Yellow Bile, or the Choleric humor, is present as a slight residue or bilirubin, imparting a slight yellowish tint.
Black Bile, or the Melancholic humor, is present as a brownish grey sediment with platelets and clotting factors.

The Psychological Effects of the Humors

The Four Humors are not just gross, physical substances. They also pervade the whole organism as subtle vapors, even affecting the mind, thoughts, and emotions. And so, the Four Humors also have psychological effects, making them capable of affecting both body and mind:
Blood promotes a feeling of joy, mirth, optimism, enthusiasm, affection and well-being. (Sanguine/Air)
Phlegm induces passivity, lethargy, subjectivity, devotion, emotionalism, sensitivity and sentimentality. (Phlegmatic/Water)
Yellow Bile provokes, excites and emboldens the passions. Being inflammatory, irritating and caustic, it provokes anger, irritability, boldness, ambition, envy, jealousy and courage.(Choleric/Fire)
Black Bile makes one pensive, melancholy and withdrawn. It encourages prudence, caution, realism, pragmatism and pessimism. (Melancholic/Earth)
The Four Humors tend to have negative effects on the mind and emotions only when they're excessive or aggravated. Otherwise, they can also strengthen positive aspects of character.

 Hat-tip HERE
So, when we apply keywords attributed to the 4 astrological elements, the related humour is represented too. What we come up with, as an outline sketch, using natal chart and astrological elements, is the prevailing astrological atmosphere with related innate temperament of a human subject. Innate temperament will not necessarily be exactly the same as the subject's personality, nor their character.

A couple more layers of shading for our outline sketch should be added: astrological qualities (Cardinal/Fixed/Mutable) and polarities (positive/negative), allocated thus:

(Thanks to Kepler College website for this helpful diagram.)

The following images are from a book of mine: Astrology, written and compiled by Louis MacNeice. The sketches are interesting, but I wouldn't bet on their close relationship to reality!

I can't get my own head around the last diagram. There's no additional information in the book, so maybe Mr MacNeice couldn't get his head around it either. Why does each sign have three (or 2) colours? One colour obviously relates to the humour connected to that sign, the other one or two must relate to the signs' traditional ruler(s)...there's this at Skyscript

and this from HERE

Ah well, at this point things have become a tad murky - maybe I've delved too deeply, or not deeply enough - I'm now stumbling around among those building blocks of astrology!


mike said...

The roots of astrology-astronomy extend back to humans' awareness of the sky and correlations to human activity. Those were the good ol' days of throwing nubiles into active volcanoes to appease the gods, the same gods that threw punishing bolts of electricity down to Earth, blood-letting as a cure-all for any disease, and bad air was the cause of such diseases.

Science and logic are always evolving to lend an understanding of ourselves, the environment, and the universe. Current astrology seems stuck in the pre-renaissance, flat world, geocentric perspective of centuries past, with the exception of adding outer planets and asteroids. It's important to note that astrology and astronomy were inseparable until the scientific acceptance of a heliocentric solar system, which then caused astrology to become the bastard child of astronomy.

Much of your pondering in today's post is interesting from an historical perspective, but requires a fresh assessment toward application to "modern" astrology. There may be modest truths in the older astrological concepts, just as there are modest truths in our previous scientific and medical knowledge, eg bad air is now understood to be microbes, poisonous gasses, and certain toxic compounds (ergot) such as heavy metals (mad as a hatter from mercury ingestion).

"It’s a unifying approach that will require a lot more inquiry to steady it in order to resolve the multiple questions of why astrology works that most astrologers today can't answer, but the theory is already there in principle, and it is up to the individual practitioner to lay a hand on it and fine-tune its practical applications."

James Higham said...

Is there such a thing as ancient and modern astrology, are they different and if so, why?

Twilight said...

mike ~ Erm - I think we might have passed each other at the junction of different roads on this one ? Are you saying the the elements and qualities are no longer significant? If so, astrology text books need to be dumped (some of them do need to be dumped anyway!)

While the terms used (eg. Water, Air, Fire, Earth) are from times long past, they are terms, or maybe code words, with astrological meaning that really goes beyond their everyday definitions. We kind of know what we're talking about and its not water, fire, earth or air, as such.

I still find value in the astrological elements theory -much more than in some other astrological doctrine. The humors I'm not sure about, but there is some correlation to the elements within them. Used alone, the humors don't strike me as useful astro accessories for 2015.

I understand your points though, mike. Astrology is certainly in need of a spring clean and an updating.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~ Well...that'd take a multiple page essay to explain, even if I were experienced enough to write it, which I'm not! :-)

Ancient/traditional astrology rests on very old texts and methods. It's a specialised art, not for the dabbler (me) and not easily learned without a good teacher.

Modern astrology has taken certain parts of traditional astrology, rendered them more easily understood and useful, and has built on them in a variety of ways.

Trad. astrology tends to be quite depressing I always think - tends to emphasis bad stuff. Ancient astrologers liked to keep their clients afraid, and coming back to 'em for more! Modern astrology has space for both positive and negative trends and outcomes.

mike (again) said...

Much of your essay correlated the historic notion of elements and directions as they apply to the humors. I don't follow humors and apparently you don't either, so I believe we agree.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Good! Humors are an interesting old sidelight, and worth noting as such, I guess.

I rather liked those sketches of "types" lol! I'll try to keep them in mind and come back to the pics if I ever see someone with one of those "looks" whose birth data is available.