Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday's "Why?" ~ Elements and Stuff

The building blocks of astrology: the elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and the modes or qualities: Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable, were bequeathed to Western astrology by the Greeks via their illustrious philosophers. The elements, by the way, equate to what modern physics has identified as the four states of matter - building blocks of the Universe: solid, liquid, gas and plasma.

Less serious modern-day wits have other ideas. Author Terry Pratchett has a character in one of his books stipulating that the universe depends for its operation on the balance of four forces which can be identified as "charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.” While comedian Dave Barry has it on good authority that "the four building blocks of the universe are fire, water, gravel and vinyl."

Jokes aside, without a basic understanding of how the elements relate to each other, it'd be impossible to "get" astrology. The four elements, each modified by one of the three modes/qualities are the the root of all interpretations.

The circle we use to depict the sky in astrology is split into 12 equal segments, each allocated to an element, modified by a mode (eg. Aries = Cardinal Fire, Taurus = Fixed Earth...) It's possible, with an understanding of each element and mode, to produce a basic interpretation of a chart using only these concepts, ignoring labels placed on signs by ancient astrologers.

The elements and modes progress around the zodiac circle, alternating in regular succession, forming wave-like patterns. If spread out in line the patterns looks like this ~ please excuse the awful diagram! F=Fire. E=Earth. W=Water. A=Air.....C=Cardinal. Fx=Fixed. M=Mutable. Wave above line =Elements. Wave below = Modes. To avoid more confusion I've ignored a third quality - Polarity (positive/negative or masculine/feminine), which would form another wave, alternating between signs, starting at Positive = Aries.

Why? Did those Greeks, long ago, grasp, intuit, or have access to some lost knowledge which led to this particular way of laying out the zodiac? More questions than answers - as usual!

The elements and modes are factors amid a plethora of astrological principles and methods, which remain completely reliable and consistent. They never let you down. As I see it, something somehow connected to these will, one day, explain (partially) why astrology works.

From a book "The Night Sky" by Richard Grossinger, I found a paragraph which may or may not have any relevance in this context, but it caught my eye as I searched for information.

In 1869, the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev discovered that the chemical properties of the elements (My note: this refers to the non-astrological elements)are periodic functions of their atomic weights, i.e. of the number of protons in their nuclei. When he arranged the then-known elements in a series, he found that there were familial resemblances among elements at regular numerical intervals. For instance, carbon, silicon and tin lie in a series for which the member between silicon and tin was then apparently missing. This was later found to be germanium. Fluourine, chlorine, bromine and iodine constitute another family. Then there's a group of lithium, sodium and potassium; another of nitrogen phosphorus, arsenic and antimony; and so on. Nature contains a hidden periodic function which is basic to form and order in the world. (My note: There are "families" in astrological elements too, at regular numerical intervals - the Fire family Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, the Air family Gemini, Libra, Aquarius etc.) All the other elements are based on the simplest one, hydrogen with its single proton, which is also - we were to find out - the fuel of the stars.

Mendeleev's periodic table, and the reality that lay behind it gave a new basis for understanding the history and evolution of matter. Mathematical relationships determined the seemingly limitless display of forms in nature, from plants and animals to stars and galaxies. It was hauntingly Pythagorean, as Heisenberg would remind us.

I'm not at all sure where that took me! I'm attracted by the echo of astrological elements and modes and the way they were arranged by ancient astrologers, who had no knowledge of periodic tables and suchlike - as far as we know. One place it did take me is to a confidence that astrology is more than mere superstition. It's something rooted in the very nature of the universe. It's rough and ready, imperfect and encumbered with a range of unnecessary accessories, but beneath it all there is a gem. I can't say it better than the wonderful Carl Sagan said it..."Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."


Wisewebwoman said...

Fascinating post, T.
I'm taken with the mathematics behind the theory. The orderliness of the planets, the calculations of the positions, etc. Like many, I think we have barely scratched the surface with our limited abilities. there is so much more, I have no doubt.

anthonynorth said...

Certainly astrology belongs to that group of concepts that reflect an unusual order in the universe. Just what that order is, well, as you know, I have my own views.
But I also know that all these concepts are important, for we can never know just when, and where, and from which discipline, a great breakthrough in knowledge will come.
It's just a shame that some of those other disciplines don't realise this, such as science, science, science, science ... oh! And science.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yes, so much more. We are seeing through a glass darkly, so darkly that we're probably seeing a few things that aren't even there - but such a lot that are.

Twilight said...

AN ~~~ Agreed, wholeheartedly.

We shall wait with bated breath for someone to have one of those Isaac Asimov moments.. "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'."

pedantus said...

I have sought to explain, for myself, that astrology is the artistic product of classical philosophy and psychology. I guess, nothing happens to get created without an all-too-human 'artist' projecting some symbolism ranging from most personal to most collective. I have looked for, and found, the indiviuated projections of 'astrology...a concept which strangely does not appeal to astrologers...:/ The notion that astrology is an artistic projection seem to clash with the 'scientific' longings of astrologists. However Art at least gives us objective evidence for the existence of something horoscope like imbedded in the individual psyche. For instance, we can 'measure the actual time of birth of a projecting 'artist' when only the the birth date is a given. Abstract self portraits are particularly useful. See this painting, "Self Regeneration":
now see how we can find conguency to indicate the non-random nature of token planets expressed in pictorial space versus astrological planets plotted in pictorial space: (as if pictorial space itself is the common bonding agent of unconscious artistic contents:
birth time 'measured' by observations of conguent patterning:

We can pick out Andy Goldsworthy's birth date when only the year is a given by transliterating his abstract projections. If one can 'see; that this picture:
is 'as if' the projection of Sun conjunct Uranus (and trine Saturn) then one can pickout his early leo birth date, like this:

These are actual cases of my having 'predicting' unknow birth time and unknow birth day...I have found we need only see a person's adequate and authentic creative expression to marvel at the unexpected art/chart congruency of an 'astrology' which is , apparently, way too personally revealing for most people's taste...:) If you want to be an astrological pariah, this is perfect the way to study it..:)

Too bad you don't have and email addy, that I can find, I would have emailed...:)


Twilight said...

Hello pedantus (Rog) - nice to "meet" you!

You've given me lots to investigate there, which I shall do this morning, and drop you an e-mail, then you'll have my addy, which I'm wary of posting because of spammers.

Just a general comment about art and astrology for now: I'm not at all surprised that someone with experience, insight, and perhaps a little psychic ability can pinpoint rising sign from an artist's paintings. I've come to realise that art is the biggest giveaway, astrologically, of any creative activity.

I don't see this as clashing with any scientific ideas re astrology though, Rog. But I haven't yet followed all the links you provide.
Will get back to you later.

Thanks for your interest. :-)