Posted: January 29th, 2016 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Buddhism | No Comments »
In the continued Buddhism conversation Kalagni and I are having, he responded to my question about what Vajrayana adds in value compared to the standard Theravada set of practices. I’m setting aside further questions on that post because I want to discuss something that I think isn’t talked about as much as it should be, especially in today’s climates of “mindfulness” brouhaha.
One of the questions that Buddhists are often asked is whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. It’s really neither, at least in the standard ways we talk about both of these things. In my actual lived experience of Buddhism, it’s actually a set of practices that lead to particular ways of viewing the world and certain experiences that eliminate our dissatisfaction. Yes, there can be religious elements, and there are certainly philosophical tenants (and disagreements!) between the schools. But Buddhism is no place for mental sophistry. It is the actual practice that is important.
Buddhism is, first and foremost, a set of practices designed to bring you to nibbana (nirvana), a state free from dissatisfaction. At least in its ultimate expression anyway. So, what are these practices?
What I want to talk about in this post is called the gradual training, anupubbasikkha. I believe this is called lamrim in Vajrayana. The practice of Buddhism is a gradual thing. It can happen over many lifetimes. It can happen over one lifetime. But it’s a process of slow improvement through the training until the desired state is reached.
“Desired state” is also key, because not everyone wants to become liberated, obviously. The Buddha had many classes of people ask for help for their particular stage of life. In my tradition, the monastics got most of the training but that doesn’t mean laypeople or even people outside the Buddhist fold were ignored. There are plenty of laypersons who also attained certain states that guaranteed liberation as well. It depended on the individual and how well they followed the practice instructions.
One of the classic similes of Dhamma (a word with many meanings) is the slow descent of land going into the ocean until the sudden drop at the edge of a continental shelf. So too, Dhamma practice descends gradually into the depths until the sudden fall into liberation. But you have to actually walk out into the ocean to experience it.
The things that Kalagni and I have been talking about so far fall under pariyatti, theory. But you can’t attain liberation simply by knowing theory. It is an experiential practice. The gradual training teaches you patipatti, how to put the theory into practice. With enough practice and enough theory to inform it, you reach pativedha, penetration, experientially realizing the truth of the theory.
The Gradual Training for Non-Buddhists
So where does one begin then with Buddhist training? It really depends on where you’re starting from and there are several different formulations. I’ll be discussing the Theravada viewpoint. For non-Buddhists who are curious but hadn’t devoted themselves to the Buddhist path, the training goes like this:
- Danger of sensual pleasure
- The Noble Truths
Each one of these is a post unto itself, but I’ll try to briefly cover them. Generosity is the grease that keeps the relationship between the monastic community, the Sangha, and the lay community smooth. The monastics are dependent upon the laypeople for everything just as the laypeople are dependent upon them for proper instruction. There are also reasons to give such as generating merit, which is a topic for another post. Generosity isn’t limited just to giving to monastics, but it is emphasized for reasons of merit. For most people, the act of giving feels very good so it’s not difficult to get this far.
The next step is virtue, which for laypeople means the practice of the five precepts. I’ll be doing a separate post on those too, but in brief they are agreements to take up the training rules of avoiding killing, taking what hasn’t been given, sexual misconduct, false speech, and the taking of intoxicants. Practicing these restraints is easy for most people, and for those that struggle it helps them start to become mindful of what is happening in their minds. Taking up the precepts for a time and seeing the change before and after brings a greater measure of happiness than generosity alone. There are also deeper levels of virtue and different formulations of additional precepts, but this suffices for now.
Next is heaven, which can be read as what can you do to help yourself get a good rebirth. Part of the Buddhist viewpoint is that rebirth is a fact of reality. A lot of Westerners get hung up at this point because of their scientism.
The Buddha was fully aware that some people had no interest in meditation, liberation, or any of the later practices. They just wanted to have a good life this time and get a good rebirth for the next life. Gaining a heavenly rebirth primarily has to do with continuing to generate merit and avoiding demerit by performing appropriate actions and refraining from negative ones. Many of the deeper levels of virtue touch upon the practices of behavior that are germane to this step.
If you want to dive in, the Brahmins of Sala sutta (MN 41) talks about why people get reborn into heaven or hell, and the ten courses of wholesome and unwholesome action, and how through following the wholesome and leaving behind the unwholesome you can attain many different levels of good rebirth.
Practices such as generating lovingkindness and so forth are also found at this stage. Thorough cultivation of the so-call brahmavihara states leads to rebirth in special heavenly realms beyond the standard ones.
Some people see that the mere pursuit of heaven isn’t really going to make them fully happy. For these individuals, the Buddha helps them to understand that, yes, their intuitions are correct, and teach about the drawbacks of sensual pleasures. It is at this point that another form of the gradual training could begin, the kind designed for those who want to reach nibbana. I’ll go over that below.
Through further practice and reflection, the trainee begins to practice renunciation to whatever extent they can. Often people who take up renunciation find that their lives become much simpler and happier. At this stage they may also decide to take up the pursuit of non-sensual pleasures, such as the bliss of meditative absorption (jhana).
It is only after this point that the four Noble Truths are taught. Here is the standard formulation of the first path in the suttas:
“Then the Blessed One gave the householder … progressive instruction, that is, talk on giving, talk on virtue, talk on the heavens; he explained the danger, degradation, and defilement in sensual pleasures and the blessing of renunciation. When he knew that the householder[‘s] … mind was ready, receptive, free from hindrances, elated, and confident, he expounded to him the teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path.”
The Gradual Training for Serious Practitioners
While all of the above steps are part of the path, it is at this stage that the monk’s path and the householder path starts to merge together. There are a number of formulations for this as well, as you can see by this complicated chart.
Instead of going through every detail of all the steps, I’m going to smash some of them together to make it easier to grasp.
- Going forth
- Preparatory practices
- Abandoning the hindrances
- Jhana practice
- Insight practice
- Weird stuff
Going forth, pabbajja, is becoming a monk. For a layperson, I would call it having enough confidence in the training that they’re willing to turn it up another notch and pursue liberation. Becoming a monk is NOT a necessary requirement to attain guarantee of liberation. It’s just an optimal environment for training, and only if the the Sangha is in good order.
Virtue, sila, is reframed in the suttas that talk about this type of gradual training in terms of the monastic rules, the patimokkha. For laypeople, much of the same areas of virtue practiced in the earlier path would be here. It would just be further refinements at this point.
Next are preparatory practices to further put the mind into a state suitable for meditation. The primary practices here are “guarding the sense doors”, “mindfulness and clear comprehension”, and contentment with little. These are very useful practices to scrub the mind throughout the day to prepare it for actual meditation. Moderation in eating and devotion to wakefulness are also recommended, though most monks living in a vihara (monastery) are already going to have these restricted. Most laypeople cannot practice these two other practices well unless on solo retreat due to social considerations.
With all that in place, the mind is primed for good meditation. Abandoning the hindrances is a process in meditation where the fundamental obstacles are learned to be eliminated. These are attraction, aversion, too much energy in the mind, too little energy in the mind, and doubt. They have more formal names, but I like these better.
When the meditator can suppress these enough, then jhana practice proper can begin. Why learn jhanas? I’ll use a metaphor that I’ve heard from my teacher’s jhana instructor. There’s a bodhisattva called Manjushri in the Tibetan tradition that carries a sword of wisdom that cuts through ignorance. Jhana practice is like sharpening that sword. The mental clarity you get when you emerge from a jhanic state is the best method for doing insight practice.
Some practice traditions eschew the jhanas entirely, but I feel this is a mistake and to go into the reasons would be a whole different post.
Insight practice, vipassana, is where you get into the deep meat of meditation. There’s lots of different methods. The goal is to see reality as it actually is, impermanent, unsatisfactory, and coreless, through the uninvolved observation of various mental and physical factors. Insight practice is the practice that actually liberates you. Everything else prior to this is foundation material so you can get a smooth insight practice.
Both jhana practice and insight practice can be done around the same time, or even before some of the other steps are in place. But it’s a lot like trying to throw a party in a dirty house.
As you practice jhana and vipassana to high levels, weird stuff can start to happen. This is where things like recollection of past lives, psychic powers, knowledge of the rebirth of deceased beings, and so forth come about. It doesn’t happen to everyone. Supposedly they can be cultivated but it requires high meditation skills that I don’t have. None of it seems to be necessary, though remembering past lives and seeing beings pass and re-arise according to their karma is brought up a lot so gaining these faculties may be necessary for full liberation.
Eventually, all the work put into the practice culminates in an experience of nibbana, the unconditioned state. I’ll set aside the question of what nibbana is for another time. For now, let’s say there’s an experience of enlightenment. Depending on the depth of that experience, the meditator will reach one of the levels of awakening. Each level is marked by an elimination or weakening of a set of ten fetters that bind us to the wheel of rebirth. If you manage to get this far, congrats! Assuming you met the absolute minimum level, you’ll be enlightened in 7 more lives and escape unsatisfactoriness completely after that.
This is Theravada Buddhist practice in a nutshell, at least according to the suttas. There are other supplementary practices, but this is the high-level overview of what you actually practice.
Posted: December 20th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Buddhism | 1 Comment »
I want to talk about dukkha, an incredibly important concept in Buddhist thought. Kalagni translates it as “suffering” in his latest post. I prefer the term “unsatisfactoriness”, but there is really no good English translation for the term dukkha. It literally breaks down into “bad space”. One of the meanings for kha is space, specifically the space inside of a wheel where an axle went. The prefix du- means bad. I’ve never ridden in an oxcart, but I have driven cars with bad wheel bearings/shocks/struts and it’s not fun at all.
And that’s pretty much what the first truth says. Life sucks. Our oxcart of samsara (“wandering”, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) was built on a Monday. It’s inherently unsatisfactory in all aspects, but to really understand why we need to fully unpack what dukkha means.
There is a fundamental problem with existence. Nobody is perfectly happy at all times. Even enlightened people still have unsatisfactoriness due to the nature of their bodies and from outside influences. The Buddha was slandered throughout his life. One of his chief disciples was stoned to death. He had to lay out rule after rule because his monks and nuns kept screwing up. Warring kings were always coming to him looking for advice. Even assassinations were made against him on multiple occasions.
Buddha defeating the Daughters of Mara
Yet throughout Buddhist history, practitioners of the teachings both lay and monastic have been able to secure happiness for themselves. Why are so many Buddhist monks and nuns of all different stripes seem so happy despite a preoccupation with the unsatisfactoriness of life? It’s because they’re willing to face dukkha and understand it, as well as practicing the other three truths.
But for many people just hearing about the reality that life sucks is an thought-stopper, something people reject emotionally and refuse to hear any arguments about. But this puts us in a dangerous situation. Wapole Rahula, a Buddhist scholar, explains it like this. You’re sick and you go to the doctor. One doctor tells you not to think about your problems and that everything will be okay. This is one extreme. Another doctor says your problem is way worse than it actually is and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the other extreme.
A good doctor would correctly diagnose the illness, figure out the cause, give a prognosis, and then give you a regimen to fix it. This is a direct correlation for the Four Noble Truths:
- Truth of Dukkha: Life sucks. (problem)
- Truth of the Origin of Dukkha: Craving is the origin (diagnosis)
- Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha: This problem is curable! The Buddha found a way to fix it. This is the part most non-Buddhists miss. (prognosis)
- Truth of the Path of Liberation from Dukkha: Here, follow the Noble Eightfold Path and you’ll eliminate the problem. (prescription)
Each of the Noble Truths has a task associated with it. The task for the first Noble Truth is understanding. We need to have an objective view on what is actually going on uncolored by our viewpoints, especially if we are to take the medicine of the fourth truth for best effect.
Divisions of Dukkha
Dead bodies aren’t much fun
Dukkha can be divided into three broad types. The first is actual dukkha, literally dukkha-dukkha. This is all the traditional forms of suffering that we associate with the term. Straight-up physical and mental suffering as experienced through the whole lifespan from birth to death. Basically, any experience that is painful in and of itself falls into this category.
These are the sorts of sufferings that are part and parcel of existing, and existences of all sorts, human, animal, and beyond are primarily preoccupied with getting away from this type of dukkha as far as possible. We try to arrange our lives and our minds in strategies rooted in aversion to what we perceive as pain, as well as strategies rooted in craving to get pleasure. But there is more to dukkha than just obvious pain.
The second form of dukkha is the dukkha of changeability (viparinama-dukkha). It is the unsatisfactoriness of trying to hold on to things that you crave, as well as any frustration about not getting what you want. If the first type was the suffering that you get when you contact something unpleasant, this type is what happens when the pleasurable things you like change.
This is one of the dirty tricks that reality plays on us, and it’s a lot more subtle than you might think.
Everything is constantly changing. Everything. They arise for a little while, persist for a time, and then fade away. Most people can see this over the long term, such as people and animals living through their lifespans. With enough meditation you can see it happening on a constant scale. Eventually, you come to realize that if you attach yourself to anything in your environment, body, or mental landscape, one day it will change and you will hurt yourself in proportion to the amount of clinging you had for it.
There is a story in the Mahabharata, a Hindu epic, that points to this. To summarize, a god in a lake has held a prince’s wife and brothers hostage and threatens to kill the prince if he doesn’t answer some questions. One of these questions is “What is the greatest wonder?” The answer is “Day after day, countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever.”
Nearly everyone takes actions in their lives in the belief that it will make them better, and then believe that those changes will last forever. “If I can just get the right job, relationship, house, stuff, spell, god, political viewpoint, etc. etc. then I will be set for life and I can finally relax and everything will be o.k.”
And then the thing we want changes, as all things do, and it goes away. Or we die and we become separated from it and everything else we built up (except the results of our actions, but that’s another post.) Or some other concomitant factor involved with the complex of influences necessary to create the situation we’re craving changes and we can’t have it or don’t want it anymore.
Everything is impermanent. “All that is mine, dear and delightful, will change and vanish” is part of a set of reflections that the Buddha recommended all of his followers, lay and monastic, to reflect upon frequently both from the viewpoint of themselves and from the viewpoint of others.
And yet, impermanence is a glorious wonderful thing! It’s one of the best things about existence in fact. You may think I’m mad, but if everything didn’t change there would be no way that we could improve ourselves. What if we were born and our bodies stayed that way through our lifespan. Imagine a world full of infants! What if our brains never changed and we were stuck with those minds too. Nightmarish!
It’s not the impermanence that’s the problem. It’s the clinging. That’s why Buddhists are big on renunciation and simple living. When you start to let go of things, you really start to see a lot of your subjective experience of unsatisfactoriness lift. A fully-enlightened person would be completely free of clinging, and thus completely free of this kind of suffering, at least in the mind. Sure, their body would change and get old and all that, but can’t do much about that. Clinging for these things not to be would just generate more dukkha.
But wait, there’s more! There’s a third level of suffering underneath it all and it’s the most difficult to comprehend. It’s called sankhara-dukkha, the suffering of formations, or as I like to call it the suffering of conditionality.
This is an existential form of dukkha that arises as a reaction due to the basic qualities of existence. There are three qualities, marks of existence to use the technical term, that characterize our reality, and they correspond to the types of dukkha. The first quality is impermanence (anicca), which corresponds to the dukkha of changeability. The second quality is dukkha itself, which corresponds to the first type of dukkha above. The third is corelessness (anatta), and that’s what we’re going talk about now.
It may be easiest to understand as a subtle realization that we aren’t in control of what is going on. In Indian thought, two of the hallmarks of selfhood are permanence and the ability to control things. These are very attractive ideas. Stories all over the world talk about the pursuit of immortality. Control over our experiences in life has been a driving force in many human pursuits.
Yet everyone who has tried to lose weight knows they can’t just will themselves to their ideal weight. Nor can we sprout third arms, eyes, and other bodily features on command (or we’d have a lot of happy otherkin running around!) Nor do we have control over our minds, as anyone who has genuinely tried meditation can say. If we had selfhood over our minds, we’d have perfect control of our thoughts, right?
To lose weight, we need a lot of supporting conditions such as a body, proper food choices over a long-enough timespan, the ability to act on our desire to lose weight, good genetics, and many many others. Our volitional ability may influence things, but it’s just one factor in a host of others.
But get this. All of those sub-components are also made up of many supporting factors like the layers of an onion. And if you take away those supporting factors, the thing they were supporting will no longer exist. There’s no permanent “self” that hangs out when an object’s supporting factors fall away. There’s no real controller.
We can nudge it, sort of, by taking steps to introduce factors that support our ultimate goal. But it’s much like spinning plates. They can fall at any time and we can only keep them going for so long. This is the reason why skillful effort is one of the eight steps of the path. We have to apply enough effort build up the momentum of wholesomeness in our lives so we can achieve our goals.
Getting glimpses of this type of suffering can lead to feelings of existential angst, questions about the meaning of life, and so on. It can also lead to a deep understanding of our fundamental interdependence with reality.
An excellent dhamma talk that goes into the deeper implications of dukkha and its understanding is “Joy at Last to Know There is No Happiness in the World.” Remember, dukkha is all around us. We can continue to fight the system, or we can face it square in the eye and try to understand it.
Now to talk about Kalagni’s points:
* Re: “25 centuries of debate and peer review”. Yup.
* I’ve heard the argument that Mahayana and Vajrayana do build upon Theravada, but it reminds me of the simile of the simsapa leaves. What’s the value add, if I may use a crass biz-speak term, beyond gaining access to some really cool magic?
* “Death Match of the Kalpa”, I love that.
* Going back to Insight vs. Compassion, there’s a book by Ven. Analayo on Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation that I have yet to get around to. Will wind back around to this after I read it.
* I should point out that Kalagni has been practicing Buddhism for much longer than I have. I may just not have hit a point where insight practice arouses strong compassion. Strong insight meditation tends to bring up feelings of the absolute absurdity of the world and the way people live for me at this time.
* Agree with the point about needing to define worship. Several things to pick apart here. Totally in the camp of seeing them as potentials and exemplars and giving them reverence on that front.
* “They are you and you are them” Because of interdependence? Because they are a set of factors built up in the mind that coalesce into an internal spirit a la Farber’s ATEM working? Because they operate like a persona from the Persona series? (I art thou and thou art I. From the sea of thy soul I come to thee…)
* Let’s in fact drop the idea of worship and divide human interactions with these beings between acts of reverence and acts of engagement. An act of reverence does not ask for benefits from the entity. An act of engagement does. From the Theravada tradition, I would include in the reverence category things like recollecting the qualities of the Triple Gem, daily non-paritta chanting, and basic offerings. Acts of engagement would be paritta chants (a separate post, and not quite similar since they are asservations of truth), and cultural magical traditions wrapped up into Theravada like paritta threads, amulets, sant yak tattoos, and strange things like the Jinapanjara Gatha, which assigns different buddhas, arahats and suttas to surround the chanter as a protection like a zone rite.
* While benefits can accrue from doing acts of reverence, it’s not due to any external act of an entity but from the practitioner generating wholesome qualities through the act. Then again, there are quite a number of criminals in Theravada countries who use the sangha as a guilt avoidance system by trying to balance their evil deeds with good ones.
Posted: December 14th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
And now for something completely different than astrology.
Long-term readers of this blog know that I had a conversion experience to Buddhism that took me away from the magical path. I still throw a divination every now and then when the mood strikes me to go back to that and it’s been a resounding “not only no but HELL no, now shut up and leave the spirits alone” for several years running. Even when others do it for me I get the same result.
But I do have one Buddhist magician that I keep up with regularly, Kalagni over at Blue Flame Magick. He recently made an overview post on the three vehicles of Buddhism. Kalagni elucidates some of the main features of the three vehicles in his post, but each of these vehicles has numerous subsects. He’s a Vajrayana Buddhist and follows the (I believe) Kagyu school, and also practices other disciplines (for lack of a better term?) within that vehicle such as Chöd. I must admit I’m no expert in Vajrayana so I leave further explanations to him on that, but I wanted to compare and contrast my understanding of Buddhism to shed light on another perspective.
I’m an Early Buddhist or a Pre-sectarian Buddhist, which compares closest to Theravada but has some significant differences as well. To put it in a nutshell, an Early Buddhist is someone who tries to use scholarly techniques to find the earliest likely substrata of material that was taught by the historical Buddha, preferably those portions taught before Buddhism blew up into a bunch of different sects. The first documented split happened a century after the Buddha’s Parinibbana (final death), so we’re talking really early here.
If you’re familiar with Buddhist history, this may seem like a fool’s errand. The teachings were all originally oral, codified according to legend at the First Buddhist Council which took place a year after the Buddha’s Parinibbana. It was only after a crisis in the monastic tradition in Sri Lanka that this oral tradition was written down several centuries later.
When scholars began studying the earliest material they could get their hands on, scholars found that there was a remarkable amount of consistency across centuries of time and language in the suttas, something on the order of 90%. They also found that there are layers of linguistic strata that shows where additional material was added in, much like how English readers can know whether we’re reading 19th century English or 21st century English.
The suttas are extremely repetitive and rely on stock phrases. This is a common feature of oral traditions as an aid to memory. When there’s an abrupt change in tone, language, or content, it can show suttas or portions of suttas that were later insertions. Some of these later insertions were to defeat challenges to early Buddhist schools or to add mythology to the Buddha’s teachings that, while entertaining, are irrelevant to the Buddha’s actual message of unsatisfactoriness and how to get out of it. Through sifting through the layers of what remained consistent through time and language shifts, scholars believe we can get pretty dang close to as close as we can get to the Buddha’s actual teaching without inventing time travel and bringing along a voice recorder.
While the entire Pali Canon, the set of canonical teachings of the Theravada sect, is clearly the Theravada standard for what the Buddha taught, Theravada also has a vast commentarial tradition that in some case is elevated equal to (or even above) the actual suttas, as the texts in the Pali Canon are called. Since most of this commentarial material was written centuries after the Buddha’s Parinibbana, most of it is considered highly suspect by Early Buddhists. However, this doesn’t mean that the commentaries are useless. Just that they have to be cross-referenced with the suttas or be proven by direct experience.
While on the surface I’m closest to the Theravada school, I would be dangerously unorthodox. For instance, I consider the Abidhamma collection to be commentarial and throw it out completely. The Abidhamma texts were developed after the Buddha’s death as a sort of ontological checklist. There are also parts of the Vinaya and the suttas that are suspect. The Vinaya is mostly for monks, but scholarly study shows that while the actual rules between the early schools do have a lot of consistency, the origin stories for each of the monastic rules can differ quite a lot. There are also individual suttas and whole (minor) subsections of the suttas that I don’t consider to be canonical. On top of all that, there are many cultural practices in Theravada-majority countries that go completely against the teachings but are rolled up into their expressions of Buddhism.
That being said, I don’t just follow the suttas and ignore other teachers. The suttas can only go so far and the Dhamma is only one part of the Triple Gem. The suttas are the teaching but it takes a practitioner to bring them to life and explain them to the new generation. There are modern lay and monastic teachers whose teachings I study due to their consistency with the suttas, notably Ayya Khema and Leigh Brasington.
There are even some non-Theravada texts and post-canonical Theravada texts that I do like. Even though Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra was written roughly 1200 years after the Buddha’s Parinibbana, its descriptions of how to cultivate patience, heedfulness, and other Buddhist qualities are as excellent as anything found in the Suttas. Another text, the Questions of King Milinda, is a conversation between a Bactrian Greek king (Menander I Soter) and a bhikkhu (Nagasena) where many questions people ask up to this day are elucidated in ways that are still very close to the suttas (though not perfect.) This text is dated to roughly 400 years after the Buddha’s passing.
What a lot of this boils down to is that I do a lot of thinking about the dhamma and reading a lot of suttas. When I run into something that seems very out of place inside of the suttas, I check to see if it is mentioned in other locations. If I don’t understand it, or feel it’s a later insertion, I set it aside until my practice improves to such a point where I can come back and say that I have experience of whatever it is I set aside. Most of the time, I can just say that I’m Theravada if people want to get that specific with me and it suffices, or an Early Buddhist if I feel like explaining all the things I said above. My teacher prefers to say that he is “a follower of the Buddha’s teachings” and I can understand why too.
It also means that I’m very practice-oriented. To me Buddhist practice is just that, a practice. You’re meant to do stuff. If you’re not doing stuff, you’re not going to get what the Buddha is talking about.
TL;DR. Basically, certain suttas from the Pali Canon are my manual for enlightenment, and I choose teachers based on their strictness to teaching from the suttas, rather than wetting it down for Western audiences or adding in additional techniques.
So, now with all that back story out of the way to explain my position I can actually get to Kalagni’s post. I totally get his feelings about people only knowing one form of Buddhism or being generally ignorant about it. It’s really not something I talk about much, unless someone shows curiosity toward it. Then I can talk ears off.
There are a few differences I learned in the story of the Buddha. For instance, I learned that he sat down at the tree, got enlightened over one night, and then spent those 49 days reflecting on his attainment to make sure he got it right. But in the grand scheme of the message little nitpicks like that don’t matter.
A bigger one is enlightenment, or awakening as I’d call it more technically. I’m not sure if Vajrayana has this, but there are four stages of awakening in the suttas. If you hit the first one you’re guaranteed to reach full awakening in at most seven more lives. Successive awakening levels cut further fetters holding you to rebirth and reduce the number of lives necessary to reach full awakening. There are stories in the suttas of laypersons reaching the first three levels of awakening, but none for the final one of arahatship. A commentarial tradition states that a layperson who did reach that level would have to ordain within a week after the attainment or die. I haven’t found a sutta to back this up, and really until I hit stream-entry (the first level) then there’s no reason to even worry about such a thing.
As far as the Mahayana vehicle goes, I have some concerns about it but I think that’s more due to unfamiliarity. Certainly later sutras that have stories about sravakas, basically Theravada monks, passing out after seeing a huge miracle so that the remaining awake ones can get special teachings doesn’t jive with me well, and I don’t get the huge emphasis on compassion. Compassion is necessary but it is insight that frees you. I don’t buy the argument that this attitude makes Theravada inherently selfish.
Yes, Theravada does talk about Bodisattvas. Rather, it talks about two specifically. One is the Buddha-to-come, and the other is the Buddha himself through his birth stories and his recollections of his pre-awakened life. Theravada commentarial stories (maybe some suttas too? Gotta read the long discourses again) talk about how these beings come about. Basically, while a Buddha is alive someone will publicly declare an aspiration to become a Buddha themselves in a distant future lifetime. The current living Buddha will confirm the aspiration and say they will become Buddha so-and-so in a future life and declare some of the features of their dispensation. Then the bodhisattva will go through MANY lives perfecting themselves until they reach full awakening on their own.
One place where Mahayana and Vajrayana definitely split from Theravada is the worship of Bodhisattvas and additional Buddhas, though reverence is given to past Buddhas. I’m not sure if there is bleedover of Buddha and Bodhisattva worship in Theravada countries near borders with Mahayana countries. Many Theravada countries do have additional gods and spirits they worship for worldly gains as a cultural accretion, but there’s not much in the suttas about interacting directly with beings from other realms of existences by and large, but there are a tiny few such as one on the benefits of ancestor worship and several protective suttas that directly involve supplications. Theravada folk-magic also abounds, though it is frowned upon greatly in the suttas.
I’m broadly familiar with Tantra from a Hindu point of view thanks to my studies in college, but Kalagni is right about the the differences between Theravada and Vajrayana being like the differences between Judaism and Islam. While we have talked theory in the past I know that a lot of the tech he knows is way beyond my pay grade to utilize.
There are some very Hindu ideas such as devotion to a guru-figure, the need to go through an abisheka (wang in Tibetan, “empowerment” in English) ceremony in order for practices to be effective, the need for extreme secrecy and special vows, and the joining of a lineage. The “between” (bardo) state gets very short shrift in the suttas (and is considered non-existent in traditional Theravada), but probably the most famous text in Vajrayana, the Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State or Bardo Thodol is about awakening during this stage.
There are techniques that encourage visualization in Theravada (e.g. contemplating the 32 parts of the body) but Vajrayana takes it to seemingly-ridiculous extremes (Just how DO you fit all the detail of a refuge tree into your head?! Is there a genetic component for visual learning among Tibetans?) Also there are MANY more magical practices. Just read the stories of Milarepa, Marpa, Naropa, and Tilopa. Or watch this video of the making of wealth vases: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaN0rBAUbuk. Incidentally, that idea of mantras traveling down a string is also used in protection chanting by some monks in the Theravada tradition.
There are several things that confuse me in Vajrayana, but to keep this post from going even further I think I’ll save those questions for another time.
Posted: October 25th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | 2 Comments »
In the last post we talked about fama, fame, the reputation that you can expect to receive during your life. The focus was on whether or not there will be fame. Through the strength of the planets you can tell roughly how famous the person will be, but Ptolemy has an interesting grading system that should also be taken into consideration. It’s called the Rank of Fame, and it also introduces a very old technique.
I used the word rank for good reason. Ptolemy’s rank of fame outlines a social hierarchy of persons from the meanest levels to the highest. There are six ranks in total, but he also states that there are innumerable gradations between the levels. You very rarely get the exact combinations he looks for.
The six ranks are as follows (as translated by Zoller):
4. Civil Leaders
But before we can go into the details of each level, I have to introduce the concept of the doryphory (shield-bearers).
Every famous person has a bevy of close followers. They could be bodyguards. They could be agents. They could be groupies, or whatever. These people assist in generating the person’s fame. Similarly, the Sun and the Moon, the King and the Queen of the chart, also work better when they have their attendants working with them.
The way that I was taught to look for doryphory is to look to see which planets are aspecting the Sun and the Moon. Those that aspect are members of the doryphory. Ideally, we would want the oriental planets (Saturn/Jupiter/Mars) aspecting the Sun and the oriental planets (Venus/Mercury) aspecting the Moon. If they aspect the wrong one they are still participating, but at a lower grade. You can also do an almuten calculation of the doryphory participants to get a clue about what the native will be famous for.
The Ranks in detail
You will rarely ever encounter a God-man. The indications are very precise. You need to see:
* Both luminaries in masculine (active) signs and at least one in an angle.
* A doryphory of all five planets, ideally with the orientals aspecting the Sun and the occidentals aspecting the Moon
* Ideally have the doryphory planets also angular (in the MC even moreso) and above the horizon.
The most important part is to have the luminaries in an active sign, at least one in an angle, and a doryphory of all five planets. The more ideal you can make it, the more godly the person will be. These are your Alexander the Great types, or your Messiahs.
The Chieftan/President level is described as:
* Sun in a masculine (active) sign, Moon in a feminine (reactive) sign
* Only one of them angular
* Still have a doryphory of all five planets as described above (including the ideals)
People in this level will have sovereignty and power over life and death.
The Governor level is described as:
* Assume the Luminaries are as in Chieftan/President
* The doryphory planets are not angular nor aspect the angles
* Not all five planets have to be there (though that is ideal)
The native will still enjoy eminence, but at limited dignity. Think a general, a state governor, a head priest, but will not be invested with sovereignty.
The Undistinguished level is described as:
* Neither luminary angular
* The doryphory are not angular nor aspect the angles
As it says on the tin, this is someone who doesn’t attain to rank.
The Base level is described as:
* Neither luminary angular nor in a masculine sign
* No benefics are part of the doryphory
Complete obscurity and adversity. The opposite of the God-man.
Again, I want to emphasize that there are innumerable shades between these levels, and that this is just a tool for determining social class. Most people are going to fall into the lower three ranks. It is also important to know that this is somewhat of a spiritual ranking. People at higher levels have a greater capacity to lead, but they may not gain access to the halls of power. When they do though, the outcome is very positive. Likewise, very low-level people can get their hands on the levers of power and muck everything up.
There is also cases where people aspire to get to a higher level, but are held back by forces beyond their control, and that is where we start to talk about slavery indications. Slavery may seem like a harsh word, but it is still around and I don’t just mean human trafficking. The person trapped in minimum-wage jobs unable to advance because it would threaten their home or families is just as much a slave. I know in my experience I’ve met many people who seem to have vast potential but cannot capitalize on it. Sometimes it is due to personal hangups, but other people seem to get steamrolled by life every time they get a little ahead.
Thus, we should look at those as well just to confirm that there is nothing holding the native back. My teacher draws from Firmicus Maternus to get the following six major indications of slave status:
1. Cadent luminaries, especially in 12th or 6th
2. Luminaries and benefics low in the figure
3. Malefics angular or succedent
4. Benefics cadent
5. Dispositors of luminaries cadent, in fall, in debility, or peregrine
6. Luminaries afflicted by the malefics.
If there are MORE THAN TWO of these that are complete, the native will struggle hard through their life. Partially complete ones do have a negative effect though. If they also have a high rank of fame, then they will aspire to a higher level of living but may or may not be able to accomplish it depending on other factors.
Let’s look again at David’s chart
Do we have the indications of slavery? The Sun is cadent in the 9th, but the Moon is angular. Both of them are elevated, so that indication is ignored. Both malefics have power, so that is one strong sign of slavery. The dispositor of the Moon isn’t debilitated by sign or cadent, but he is heavily afflicted by Mars and Venus. The dispositor of the Sun however is afflicted by fall. We also have Jupiter acting as a accidental malefic to both Moon and Sun. We have enough indications here to show that the native will not be able to escape their circumstances.
What about the rank of fame? We have the Sun in a feminine sign and the Moon in a masculine sign, so at least one of the luminaries is masculine, albeit not the ideal one. Moon is also angular. Jupiter attends both the Sun and Moon. Venus attends the Moon, which is good, but there are no others so it’s a small doryphory. Jupiter is angular. Both of the doryphory members are in bad shape.
I would put this into class 5, the Undistinguished. While there are indications for both ranks 4 and 6 here, I think they balance each other out. Therefore, the social class in which David operates are going to be the unknown lower classes of society, though not necessarily the criminal classes at the very bottom. He will also remain in this class for his life due to all the slavery indications.
Posted: October 16th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »
We just finished up with the important parts of the 1st house. I was going to launch right into the second but after working on that post a bit I think I need to pivot to another topic that isn’t very popular in today’s society, at least in America where I’m writing this from. That topic is how to delineate the social status of a native in a chart.
We don’t like to talk about status much in America, the land where “all men are created equal”, the land of Horatio Alger and “Land of Opportunity.” But it’s everywhere. If we look around us without the rose-colored glasses of American myth, we can see lots of inequality everywhere. Some people are very high and others are very low.
The social position you’re born into influences much of what happens in your life, including your financial status. If you have a great financial delineation, but your fame is poor, you’re going to get less overall than the guy with a high fame. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t change your fame (in either direction), but you need the fame before you can get the fortune.
Think of it this way. Many workers low on the totem pole may think they can do a better job running a company than their managers or upper managers. They may be completely right. But if they want to get into those positions that make more money then the signifiers of fame, of status, have to be there. Degrees, a certain social demeanor, the right connections, and other parts of the uniform of a higher status pave the way, and all of them things that may not be possible to achieve without enough money.
As I said in the beginning of this series, I see the natal chart as the hand you’re dealt with, the incoming kamma you’re bringing into this life. What you do with it is up to you, but there are always limits to what can be achieved. And, if the traditional astrologers are to be believed, you can find indications of these in the chart.
In fact, traditional astrologers have a bit of an obsession with social ranking. Through the medieval and renaissance eras anyway, finding your place on the hierarchy was extremely important, and there was little social mobility unless you took it by military conquest or married well. Only the very rare would be able to raise themselves up by their own efforts due to all the barriers in place.
Let’s start with what Lily has to say about finding status. From Christian Astrology Book 3 we get the following:
“First, Honour, Preferment, Dignity and Estimation is principly required from the Luminaries, wherein the Sun is most considerable; and from the Planets which within the mediety of their Orbes doe behold the Lights, especially the Sun.
Secondly, from the Lord of the Mid-heaven.
Thirdly, from the Planet or Planets constituted in the mid-heaven.
Fourthly, fixed regall Starres of the 1st or 2nd magnitude, posited neer the cusps of the 10th or 1st house.”
So we’re looking at the Sun, the Moon, the Lord of the 10th, any planets in the 10th, and any fixed stars of 1st or 2nd magnitude near the MC or ASC. I concur with this assessment for basic fame delineation.
Essential Dignity Analysis
If these significators have rulership, exaltation, or are in mutual reception of these essential dignities, the native gains “Honours, Offices of publick trust, great Commands, exceeding favour, and good esteem amongst great Persons.” In short, they have fama, fame, a good report. Note well again that Lily is describing the optimum result.
If they are only in triplicity, term, or face, they produce mediocrity or indifference. In short, the great average mass of humanity that doesn’t gain major fame or major infamy.
If they are in peregrine, detriment, or fall though, without mutual reception, then the dignity will be very small or non-existent.
Accidental Dignity Analysis
Nothing really suprising. If the signifcators are in angles, they give “ample Preferment.” If succedent,”moderate Esteem, or little Honour or Dignity.” However, if they are in the 8th or cadent houses, “very little Honour or Reputation, but doe rather argue a meane and obscure condition of life, or person of no quality… that the Native shall attaine no Estimation in this world.”
Lily would have us look to see if the following six stars are within five degrees forward or backward near any of the significators, and especially the ASC or MC:
Oculus Taurus (Aldebaran): 9 Gemini
Spica Virgo (Spica): 24 Virgo
Hercules (Pollux): 23 Cancer
Lusida Lancis (Zuben Elgenubi): 15 Scorpio
Cor Leonis (Regulus): 29 Leo
Cor Scorpii (Antares): 9 Saggitarius
The numbers in Lily’s book are now incorrect due to the precession of the equinoxes. The position of the fixed stars all move at 50.2 arc-seconds a year. This is a tiny amount, but it builds up over time. The above are rough approximates. Considering Lily gives five degrees on either side it should be good enough.
Planets in the 10th
As usual. Fortunate planets promise great preferment and dignity. Malevolent ones deny. Meane (all the rest) show moderation. What we would love to see is the Lord of the 1st in the 10th, or the Lord of 10th in the 1st. This brings honor and reputation, or at least good estimation if born of low-status parents.
Fame and an important point from Lily
Remember that all fama, fame, is is a good opinion about you. Certain positions of society have honor because they are what they are. No matter what our opinion of a president is, Americans still by and large respect the office that it represents. But when a person of low status does act in a noble manner deserving of fame, people take note of that.
I’ll let the man speak for himself, but clean up and simplify the English a bit.
“We have many Aphorisms which Antiquity gave us concerning judgments about the 10th house, and I shall deliver a few. However, do not delude yourself by delivering a positive judgment on a single Aphorism. For a beggar’s child may have a Nativity equal with a Kings, but then they are not both the Sons of Kings.
When this happens, the King will gain extraordinary honor because of the influence. The beggar, having the same signification, will fall to some course of live not so sordid as begging. A Kingly beggar might have unusually bountiful alms from good people. A Kingly beggar may perform some honorable exploit. A Kingly beggar has more than ordinary respect amongst his fellow-beggars for some neat piece of serves he has performed for the group.
So that herein the one has honor according to his capacity (the king), and the other such same as with a comparison (beggar). And in truth I hold the state of the poor and vulgar Clown far above that of any King or Prince, being almost of the learned Buchanan’s opinion, that few Kings go to Heaven.”
So when we are talking about fame and dignity, we have to keep in mind where the native started. There is only so much capacity each human has for advancement based on their external circumstances. Therefore, unless you’re delineating for a known blue-blood, it is best to say they have the capacity to attain certain levels of fame and status.
Special Rules of The Luminaries
* Sun and Moon in exaltation and free from Mars and Saturn argues the native obtaining a Kingdom, if he is capable thereof.
* Take the Sun in a diurnal chart or the Moon in a nocturnal one. If it is in the 10th in exaltation and the lord of the 10th is in the 10th or the 1st, the king will prefer this child, if the native is a child of the king. If he is not the child of a king, he shall have authority in kind, according to his birth, like unto a king.
* Take the Sun or Moon as above. If it is with the degree of the mid-heaven and surrounded by benevolent aspects of other planets, the native will have great command. But if aspects are absent, or there are no other planets near the cusp of the 10th, the native will find great favor with superiors but will not have administrative authority of the affairs of the kingdom, but may obtain administration of public affairs.
* If the Luminary is in an angle that has no other planets, the native will live in a manner as their father or ancestors did.
* If the luminaries are cadent, as well as the planets, the native will be wretched, live among vulgar persons, and live in small towns.
* Those who have neither of the Luminaries in an angle or a masculine sign, or don’t have benevolent planets with them, will be abject people of no quality.
* If the planet(s) that rule the places of the Sun, the Moon, and the Ascendant are oriental and well-fortified, the native shall raise himself to a high condition.
Lily also gives some complicated aphorisms for charts that you know belong to a king. I think we can ignore those.
More solar aphorisms
The following also promise fame and status, but not as great as the better combinations above.
* Sun, Jupiter, and Moon all Trine, ideally partile
* Sun in the 10th in Saggitarius, Jupiter in Leo or Aries with Venus or a regal Fixed Star and very well fortified.
* Sun in Cancer, Moon in Scorpio, Jupiter in Scorpio or Pisces also gives perferment, though not as good as above.
* Sun in a fire sign near the 10th in aspect with the Moon gives dignity.
* Jupiter, Venus, Moon conjunction, best in the 10th or 1st house.
* North Node and Jupiter, or NN and Moon, in a fire sign, Pisces, or Cancer, conjoined within 1 degree and on the cusp of the 10th, great Dignity.
* (A strange one.) Someone born just at noon on the Vernal Equinox shall prove a great person
More Lunar Aphorisms
* Moon in a nocturnal geniture in the Asc, in a sign she has dignity in, and opposing the Sun imports great increase of honor and preferment, and exaltation of them over their bretheren.
* Moon in 1st in opposition to Sun in the 7th, in square to Jupiter in the 4th, gives Wealth and Authoirty by Magistrates and Embassies.
* Moon in the Asc, Sun in partile conjuction with Venus, gives preference in Churches.
* Moon in Taurus in the 1st, Sun in Leo, gives great honors.
* If the Moon is with Cor Leonis, Jupiter in the 10th trine to Mars and Strong, and the Sun in the North Node, it prefers the man though he be the son of a clown.
* Moon with Jupiter in Cancer, in the 1st house or 10th, gives good fortune with people in high places. The native will be trusted.
* Moon with many aspects or joined with one of the big fixed stars proves eminent men.
* If you have an unfortunate nativity for honor, but you have the Moon conjoined with a fixed star, you’ll will suddenly come into great power unexpectedly and cast down as suddenly.
* Jupiter in the 10th in a diurnal geniture brings employment in public affairs. If Saturn or Mars afflicts, it will be lost after it is gained.
* Sun in the 10th in Aries, Sagittarius, or Pisces, makes rulers.
* Lord of the 10th applying to Lord of the 1st, both oriental and in their exaltations, brings forth a great person.
* Mars in the 10th in a nocturnal, in a masculine sign, his own or a house of Jupuiter, makes dangerous persons, often deceived. Yet they attain to power and create terrifying men.
* Saturn in the 10th never lets honor last long, but casts him down when it is least expected.
* Mars as lord of the first, if he is on the MC, the native will have power, but will be cruel and use it frequently.
* If the lord of the Asc is trined or sextiled by the Sun, or shall be oriental and near the sun, or else joined to the planet that is the Lord of the Midheaven, the native will be beloved by powerful people.
* If the lord of the Asc apply to a planet in exaltation, and is also in an angle, the native by his own virtue (ability) exalt himself. If it is in a succedent house, less so.
* Lord of the 1st in the 1st shall arise to esteem or honor by their own virtue.
Lily also adds some additional fixed star aphorisms, but this should be enough to work with right now.
So far we are not looking at the kind of fame, but whether or not there will be fame period. First, we identify our significators. The Sun is in Taurus in the 9th. The Moon is in Gemini in the 10th. Mercury is the ruler of the 10th and is very close to the MC. Neither the ASC or the MC are near any of the fixed stars we looked at earlier, and there are no additional planets in the 10th.
We know from previous study that all of David’s planets are at least peregrine except for Mercury. Here may be a saving grace in his chart. Jupiter does aspect both luminaries, and Mars does aspect Mercury as well. Technically there is a very weak reception of Mars from Mercury because Mercury is in the face of Mars. But since we’re only looking at whether or not there will be fame, we will look into the specifics of these later.
What we have here is a mixed indication. Both luminaries are peregrine. One is cadent and the other angular. This would mean little fame. What saves David’s fame is Mercury. He is both the ruler of the 1st and the 10th in the 10th, which gives preferment no matter what. However, Mercury is a mean planet and also takes on the quality of whoever is near. That Mars opposition and the sextile from a fallen Venus shades this chart over into infamy as we’ll see later, but on the whole there will be some fame. Given Mercury’s rulership of the 1st and 10th, the native will be known for being themselves.
None of Lily’s aphorisms apply to this chart.
In short, the native will be known, at least in small way, by their own recognizance and actions stemming from Mars and Venus. Also by nature of Mercury’s involvement there will be an intelligence aspect, though given the afflictions on Mercury that knowledge for intelligence may be less wholesome than at first blush.
Posted: October 9th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
The next thing we’ll be looking at is wit and capacity. This isn’t a measure of raw intelligence, but more about the ability to use the capacities we have. We’ve probably all met smart people who can’t seem to get their acts together, and vice versa.
The delineation of this comes down to the positions of Mercury and the Moon, especially Mercury. Mercury is the significator of our rational minds. The Moon is the significator of our sensible minds. The first thing Lily has us look for is how these two planets are related and which may be more powerful.
The idea situation is to have both planets be in good condition and in mutual reception by a good aspect. An “excellent and strong” wit arises because of this. If they are in bad condition, or have a square or opposition to each other, or have no aspect at all, then the native has a “doltish” capacity or wit. And if the significations are mixed, you get varying amounts of wit.
Don’t panic if you don’t have an aspect between the Moon and Mercury! Quite often these books will give a list of the best case and worst case scenarios. So we would only worry if the Moon and Mercury had terrible conditions and didn’t aspect.
This may seem terribly vague, but it’s part of the art to learn how to judge these things. Fortunately, Lily goes on to add more indications. First, how can you know whether someone is more rational or more emotional? See the strengths of the planets. Is one stronger? That’s one indication. Also look at the signs they’re in, thus:
Which Side is Stronger?
Is Mercury in Cancer, Leo, or Virgo? These are signs that are said to be “long ascension”, that is the star pattern they’re based on takes a long time to rise above the horizon, and also “commanding.”
Is the Moon in Capricorn, Aquarius, or Pisces? These are signs that are both “short ascension” and “obeying.”
If this is so, then the rational mind will be much stronger than the emotional, and vice versa if they were switched. Of course, this has to be weighed as well like all other astrological judgments.
The Quality of the Wit
Lily next gives a long list of wit descriptions. When you see something that’s a cookbook like this, it’s a sign for the student to grasp the principles behind why these entries are so and then use them in other combinations. So let’s do a little of that.
First, if Mercury and Moon are conjunct in a sign, it declares an ingenious person, and the same with a sextile or a trine. The sextile is actually stronger than the trine in this case.
So it seems that the closer the rational and emotional minds can work together, the better we’re able to use our wits to act in the world.
However, if there is a square of these, and both are in angles, it shows stubborn and turbulent wits. Also, if either are in detriment, it argues “seditious wits, blockish, hair-brained councils, destructive, and impudent.”
So a square would show conflicts between our passionate side and our rational side. And if both are in angles, this would show a lot of turbulence because both planets would have their full strength. For the detriments, think about how Mercury and the Moon’s detriment signs would affect the qualities of these two planets. How would they contribute to those qualities? What if only one were so?
Another extreme case: Mercury in Taurus, he being retrograde or combust. Or in Capricorn in the 12th, with partile aspects to unfortunate planets (Saturn and Mars), make simple and rude wits even if the Moon aspects them, because these signs are very terrestrial.
So here we have Mercury in greatly weakened state in an earthy sign. Obviously Virgo, the other earth sign, would be great for Mercury since he has rulership and exaltation there. We have a nice list of the four major afflictions (retrograde, combust, aspect from an evil planet, cadency). We could boil this down to say “Mercury afflicted in Taurus or Capricorn makes someone simple and rude.”
Here’s another case: Mercury in Aquarius, no afflictions, in a good house, swift, oriental, and with the North Node, gives a wit capable of learning anything; and usually men so indued, find out admirable inventions.
So here’s significations of an inventive mind. Mercury in Aquarius makes sense because Saturn rules secret and unknown things. Mercury will want to find out secrets. The long list of qualifications are the “slot machine” of good stuff, and so you’d adjust your judgement depending on how many you had. Lily goes on to say that generally good wits are produced when “most of the Planets” are in airy signs. I would say look he’s just referring to Moon and Mercury.
An obvious one. “Mercury in either of his own houses shows a sharp understanding.”This makes sense.
Another one “Mercury received of the Moon by house or Exaltation” gives a wonderful Fancy (imagination.) We talked briefly about mutual reception above, but reception can go one way too. So if Mercury is in Cancer or Taurus and the Moon makes a good aspect to him, then it shows a good imagination. I would imagine in the opposite case that it would show good intuition (Moon in Virgo or Gemini, with a good aspect by Mercury.)
Here’s another principle. “Mercury in Aries with reception by Mars, gives a piercing wit.” Here we have Mercury in a house of Mars and receiving reception, generally a good thing. The wit would have a piercing quality to it, maybe like Dawkins or something. The same sorts of things would apply to the other planets.
One for the Moon. If she is with the nodes, it shows an active spirits, prompt to any science, and is best so when she is increasing in light and not far from full. I get the last part, but why “shows active spirits, prompt to Science” eludes me for the reasoning. I’d have to find a chart with this and figure it out.
More Rules for Mercury, Good Stuff Version
Lily goes on to give more general rules, some of them obscure, but good for seeing how different qualities would manifest. I’ve cleaned up the language in some of these.
“If he is below the horizon and in no aspect with a planet, it frames the mind for arts. If he is above the horizon, it frames the mind for oratory.” Planets below the horizon are harder to see, and most arts are done privately in the home. A planet above the horizon wants to get noticed.
“If he’s swift, he renders men inconstant but quick of apprehension. They often change their opinions but will give good reason for doing so. If he is slow or retrograde, it argues for stuttering or people without their own ideas (no conceptions).” Speed of the planet affects the speed of the mind.
“If he is combust, or under the sun’s beams, he incites the wit to meddle with impertinent matters, or mere niceties.” The matters involved would depend on the Sun’s sign and house. In general, these two conditions cause the planet to become ineffective. Think of Mercury as being blinded by the Sun’s light. It can’t focus enough to delve beyond the superficial.
“If he is oriental, he freely expresses opinion, but if occidental he dissembles, but see Mercury’s ruler to see if this expression is for good or ill.” Oriental planets tend to show areas where we are free to act. They don’t have to follow behind the king.
“If unafflicted by Mars, of good quality, in an air sign (esp. Aquarius), and with one of the nodes, it makes him acute and witty, and able to speak many languages.” A bit of a repeat from another one above, but here again we have the principle of Mercury in an air sign makes him smart in accordance with the sign’s nature.
(There is another indication at this point in the text, but there are too many lacunae)
“If Mercury is on the Ascendant in an airy sign, and swift, it prenotes a good memory and understanding, but the person will be mutable.” Again, more principles. Mercury likes airy signs for wit, and swiftness will speed it up but cause more change in the mind.
Mercury with Saturn makes the wit wary and the man constant and preserving.
Mercury with Jupiter makes the wit more honest, learned, and upright.
Mercury with Mars more confident and presumptuous.
Mercury with Sun ambitious, arrogant, and proud.
Mercury with Venus more eloquent and lovesome (a fun word).
Mercury with the Moon more unstable.
Saturn helps the memory, Jupiter introduces honesty and humanity, etc.
This is assuming the planets are in good condition/aspect/etc! But this is a great little rubric for seeing how the other planets affect one planet.
More Rules for Mercury, Bad Stuff Version
“Mercury Peregrine, Cadent, Combust, Slow, Afflicted by the Infortunes (esp. Mars), causes a corrupt wit and a doltish understanding. The more Mercury is afflicted, the greater the misfortune to the wit and fantasy.” A classic list of bad conditions, and a clear note that the more you have, the worse it gets.
“Mercury separated from the moon and no aspect declares a weak capacity.” We ran into this above. The emotional and rational sides don’t work together properly.
“Mercury under the sun’s beams, and also retrograde, causes slow actions and dull wit.” Here we see how a compounding of afflictions causes more problems. USB alone caused superficial wits and actions, but add retrograde and it dulls it further.
“Mercury in watery signs without an aspect from the fortunes shows an Idiot, and if those signs Saturn afflicts him, the native will have a speech impediment.” This has to do with the elemental qualities of Mercury. Mercury in general is hot and dry. We read how in earthy signs (cold and dry), Mercury caused simple and rude wits. In cold and wet signs, he doesn’t operate well at all, especially Pisces his detriment. Mercury cannot express himself well at all in these conditions. The addition of Saturn would cause so much affliction that the native’s speech becomes affected. Lily states later that Phlegmatic (water) signs are “enemies to study”, and likewise we could say that people who are overly Phlegmatic won’t do well in school due to slowness.
“Mercury square or opposite Mars declares an untoward Wit, evil and malicious.” In the list of mixtures above we said that Mars causes confidences and presumputousness, but if the aspect is bad then it could cause an evil mind, and all the more so if they were afflicted (see above).
Finally he gives a bit of something about temperament. People with singular temperaments don’t study well. Too much melancholy declares “very asses”. Sanguine people don’t retain what they learned. Too much choleric shows someone who hates to study. But a combination of qualities does show good study habits. A sanguine-melancholic man makes the best student. A choleric-melancholic man creates excellent inventions.
Is it time for an example yet? I think so. Here’s David’s chart again.
Mercury is very strong in Gemini, and elevated, but has an opposition from Mars. The Moon is in the same sign, peregrine. They are not close enough for a conjunction. Both are in an air sign. There is no reception.
Mercury is in his own sign, so there is a sharp understanding. He is at his highest point, so he will be completely unafraid to express his mind through speech, but there will be dissembling too (occidental).
Mercury receives aspects from Mars and Venus, but both are afflicted, especially Venus. The opposition shows an untoward wit. How? Sagittarius is ruling Mars and Jupiter is very afflicted in Virgo in the first. Even an afflicted Jupiter will help tone down Mars a bit. Also, Mercury receives Mars (albeit with a very very weak face reception.) Thus, I can’t say it’s truly evil or malicious, but definitely quite rude.
This is a self-righetous wit, very egotistical. But the worst is probably Venus even with a sextile. His wit and expression will frequently lean toward the lewd and obscene. Indeed, he is one of the most openly obscene men I’ve known. Nevertheless, it would be far worse if this were a square or an opposition.
Posted: October 2nd, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »
If you thought the preceding was difficult, hold on to your butts.
The next thing to look for in the 1st house is the significator of manners. This is the planet or planets that most forcefully imprint themselves onto the native’s personality. For you sun sign astrology lovers, this is the equivalent in traditional astrology according to Lily.
In one sense, it is much like the standard delineation of the 1st house, and if you have followed the general principles there you’ll have a pretty good sense of how the native is going to act during their lifetime. However, not everyone keeps the same personality, the same “manners”, over the course of their lives. People sometimes change, and quite dramatically. The lord of manners can shift over time.
But first, we have to bring up a pet peeve of mine.
Signs vs. Houses, or why I Hate Sloppy Terms
The technique that Lily uses is derived from Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. The problem with using this text is that the definitions of signs and houses changed dramatically in the long period between Ptolemy and Lily, or even Ptolemy and Bonatti.
In Ptolemy’s time, the houses and the signs were pretty much the same thing. If you had Virgo rising, then all of Virgo was your first house. This is whole-sign astrology. A whole bevy of techniques developed based on this system. Then some smart Greek figured out how to calculate the exact point, the horoscopus, that was rising at the time of birth, giving us ascendant degrees.
From that, people developed different quadrant house systems that divided up the sky into different sized houses. New techniques were developed based on these new houses. The houses and the signs became split. But everyone still loved Ptolemy’s work and used his terms, and this lead to sloppy writing. The words sign and house can be used with great imprecision. This leads many astrologers to tear their hair out trying to figure out which do they mean.
With Ptolemy it’s easy. He’s a whole-sign guy. But if a later astrologer uses his techinques and doesn’t make it clear that they’re using a whole-sign method with a quadrant house method, then things go weird fast. This Lord of Manners technique is one that is derived from Ptolemy’s methods, but Lily has an odd way of expanding on it. As he says in Christian Astrology:
“First, if any planet do occupy the Sign ascending, or which is intercepted, he shall be principal Significator of Manners.”
Sign ascending is very clear. It is the sign that the ascendant degree is in. But the only way that a sign can be intercepted is if it is swallowed up inside of a quadrant house. So, does Lily mean:
* The actual sign, and hang it all of 27 degrees of it are shoved into the 12th?
* Just the first house, and any sign that may be in there?
* Both of the above?
* Just the rising sign, but only the bit of it that is in the first?
Here is my opinion. I think whole-sign techniques should be used with whole-sign houses. I’d ditch the interception thing entirely. However, I would weigh planets near the ascendant point at a heavier weight than ones further away. My chart has a good example of this. My rising sign is Virgo 27 degrees. Saturn is at 25 degrees Virgo, just peeking over the horizon. Jupiter is at 14 degrees Virgo, into the 12th. Mars and Moon are in Libra in the first.
I would count Jupiter as a planet to consider, but not as strong as I would Saturn because he is so close. While I would count Mars and Moon in the general delineation of the 1st house, for the purposes of the Lord of Manners technique I would ignore them. The further away the planets are from the Asc degree, the weaker the influence. Those out of sign would be right out.
Finding the Lord of Manners
First, look in the entire sign of the first house (even the bits in the 12th) Are there any planets in it?
Yes, one planet: That’s the Lord of Manners, along with the almuten of the degree that planet is in. Congratulations, unless it is the Moon or the Sun. Unless these are very powerful then they will not be the Lords of Manners. See if there is another candidate. This applies to all the entries below. So does the almuten thing.
Yes, lots of planets!: Congrats, they’re all going to take a turn at being a part of your personality! The most powerful and closest to the ascendant degree shall be the most durable. The others not so much. Put an emphasis on planets within 3 degrees of the Asc degree.
No, my poor ascendant is empty!: Look to the Moon or Mercury. See which planets have a conjunction to one of them. Find the most powerful by dignity. Go with that one.
But that planet conjuncts both of them!/I have equally powerful planets on both!: See the entry “Yes, lots of planets!” above. There will be discrepancy in manners, but those signified by the most powerful planet shall remain the longest.
Boo, I suck! My Ascendant is empty and there are no cojunctions to the Moon or Mercury!: Find the Lord of the Ascendant and his dispositor (the ruler of the sign that planet is in). If the two planets have an aspect, then the Lord of the Ascendant is the Lord of Manners.
I still suck! They don’t aspect!: Find the planet(s) that have a partile aspect (1-3 degrees) to the Moon or Mercury. Take the most powerful as the lord. If there many that are close, again, see “Yes, lots of planets!” entry above.
Still no love, what now?: Fine, then it is whomever has the most essential dignities in the places of Mercury and the Moon.
Let’s take David’s chart again:
Here we have Jupiter in the 1st, no other planets (South Node isn’t a Planet.) Therefore, Jupiter is the Lord of Manners in this chart, with Mercury as a sub-ruler. Thankfully, this is a simple example.
What about my chart example above? Jupiter and Saturn are in the 1st house. Jupiter in Virgo is debilitated. Saturn is peregrine, but is extremely close to the Asc. I would say that Saturn would be the primary Lord of Manners, with Jupiter participating and a veneer of Mercury over the whole thing (as dispositor).
Basics of Interpretation
How will the Lord of Manners function in a general sense? That depends:
My planet is benevolent, or in aspect with a benevolent planet, and strong: Laudable and complete manners according to the nature.
My planet is malevolent, or in aspect with a malevolent planet, and weak: Evil and corrupt manners according to the nature.
My planet is benevolent, or in aspect with a benevolent planet, but weak: Externally, good and wholesome manners, but inwardly they are obscure, muddy or very simple.
My planet is malevolent, and is strong: Good, pretty conditions, but ever mixed with poison, or with the remains of some crabbed condition or another.
My planet is Mercury: Ahh, ever-changeable Mercury. Look to see who he is conjoined with. The benevolence or malevolence of that planet will turn him toward that, or whichever one is the most fortified or dignified. If he is conjoined to the North Node, then he is Jupiterian (I would also add Venusian). If he is conjoined to the South Node, the he is both Saturnian and Martian. If there are no conjunctions, he assumes the nature of whichever planet is his almuten.
What about if the Moon is aspecting?: The Moon’s general purpose for manners is to reveal them. Some people display a strong personality early in life, or never seem to develop one. If the Moon aspects and is increasing in light, the manners will manifest earlier. If the Moon is waning or combust or under the sun’s beams, then the manners are delayed. However, you should also add in the Moon’s dispositor into your analysis if there is a lunar aspect to the Lord of Manners. Lily also notes that if the planet is maximum latitude (not longitude!) either north or south, she “declares a variety of manners”, but he goes into no further detail.
And what about the Sun’s aspect?: The Sun adds gravity, grace, pleasantness, or decency if good. But if weak, the opposite of these. Again, add the Sun’s dispositor into your analysis if this aspect applies!
Going back to the example, we see that Jupiter is very debilitated. He is retrograde and in detriment. He is conjunct the South Node, a malevolent point. He also receives a tight trine from the Sun and a square from the Moon. The Sun is very weak, and ruled by Venus. The Moon is also weak, but less so, and is ruled by Mercury.
We also have to add in Jupiter’s almuten of Mercury, which is dignified and strong by rulership and placement, but is receiving an opposition from Mars.
But What Do the Planets Mean?!
Remember that the planets give a broad spectrum of results that are filtered by the signs. You must remember when you read the following lists that they will be altered and shaded by the sign that the planet is in. Think about how a cardinal/fixed/mutable planet would act. How would the elements color that planet’s powers? You will also want to think about the houses they are involved with as well as well as the planets aspecting them. This is a very tricky art!
Nevertheless, we do need a place to start, and so here is Lily’s list of planetary manners (with some updated language):
Saturn in good condition: Grave persons, with a certain austerity, advised, thinks about profound matters, taciturn, solitary, laborous, patient, preserves his wealth, sparing and thrifty, studious for their own profit, zealous, mistrustful.
Saturn in poor condition: Men of abject spirits, ill-favored, having a low conceit of themselves (puts themselves down), repiners, negligent, timerous (fearful), lovers of solitude, suspicious, backbiting, slanderous, superstitious, deceitful, malignant, unsophisticated.
Jupiter in good condition: Honest, religious, just, liberal (free to act), magnanimous, acts like an eminent person (a govenours), performing high matters, sober, grave with a kind of moderation, prudent, living virtuously and orderly.
Jupiter in poor condition: Lovers of themselves, open-hearted innocent, manners much like in the Good condition, but obscure and imperfect, a scornful, disdainful mind, proud, superstitious, fearful, dissembling, possessing a vain candor, negligent, prodigal.
Mars in good condition: Generous men, valiant, full of courage, ireful, fierce and violent, skilled with their hands, open and possessing temerity in their speech, not fearing bodily danger, apt for government (I would assume military too), boasters, revengeful, impatient of servitude, or of receiving injures or affronts.
Mars in poor condition: Cruel men, quarrelsome and tyrranical, rash and head-strong, bloody minded, unshameful, braggers, impious, unjust, shedders of blood, impudent in provoking but fearful when it comes to action, thieves, authors of dissentions, tumults, sedition, etc.
Venus in good condition: Pleasant, cheerful, and fair conditioned people, like to look good in appearance, good, bountiful, merciful, prone to delights, prefer to be clean, takes pleasure in sports and pastimes, subtle, elegant, poetic.
Venus in poor condition: Fearful persons, given to women (I would assume the preferred sex, not just women), men of no spirits, sluggards, “great Wooers of Ladies or women”, lustful, not respecting their credit or esteem, zealous in “women’s matters”, infamous, etc.
Mercury in good condition: Men of admirable sharp fancies, extremely studious and capable of learning. Guileful or wily, wise, divining well, gives good advice, acts in all things with agility and dexterity. Poets, geometricians, mathematicians, astrologers, eloquent, learning any art, of good carriage or deportment.
Mercury in poor condition: Unconstant people, malicious, turbulent, envious, perfidious, liars, especially if Mercury is with the South node, or in square or opposition to Moon and Mars, and in Air signs, deceitful, inventive of destructive plots and machinations, infamous, meddling with everyone and in every manner, asses, dolts, pratling dotars, stammering coxcombs, good for nothings, etc.
When interpreting, the main significator of manners will be the primary color. The rest provide details. Lily provides some good examples thus:
“If Saturn be Significator of Manners and Jupiter be joyned with him by body or aspect, Jupiter then qualifies the nature of Saturn, and therefore you must not judge the Manners Saturnine, but to participate much of Jupiter; and the native shall be a very prudent, wise man, quiet, a man of great council and judgement, learned, etc. This is understood when Jupiter is pretty strong.”
“If with Saturn the gentle Planet Venus is commixed, and he well fortified, he demonstrates a man little given to women, not ambitious, or delighting in pleasurable things or persons, delighted to be in the company of aged men, austere, envious, stiff in his own opinion, desirous to know the mysteries of nature, wary, suspicious in women’s matters. If he be evilly posited with Venus, it notes an obscene companion, meddling or coveting to do so with many women, Kinswoman or other, one of no deliberation, a mere profane person.”
Lily also tosses out that the worst manners are when the infortunes are joined with one another, or with Mercury in the 7th, 8th, and 9th houses. He also says to refer to Potanus, de rebus Coelestibus, lib 6. for more information about how the planets mix together. I don’t know of an English translation, but we may go back to Bonatti to get more insight about the Lord of Manners in the next post (after I re-read that section).
The Example Explained
So let’s look at Jupiter’s nature. We know he is weak so we can start with Jupiter’s list there:
Lovers of themselves, open-hearted innocent, manners much like in the Good condition, but obscure and imperfect, a scornful, disdainful mind, proud, superstitious, fearful, dissembling, possessing a vain candor, negligent, prodigal.
Mercury is coloring this debilitated Jupiter by dispositor and he is in good condition. It would be even better if he were aspecting Jupiter but that is not the case. The mental side of this is emphasized. We can say that he has a scornful, proud, and disdainful mind, and is very egotistical, and has the vain candor.
Jupiter rules the 4th and 7th houses, so his manners appear the best when it involves his home, his family, and his partners. He wants to govern these, but his control over them is obscure and imperfect, and this weighs heavily on him. When things don’t go his way, he can be at turns violent or sullen. He will not want to have his way questioned, but he doesn’t go out of his way to be a tyrant either.
The close Sun trine in Venus also adds a lustiness and crudity to the character. Indeed, the native is fond of sexual jokes and making his partners feel a little uncomfortable. However, I have never known him to cheat on a woman.
He is, in short, a crude, vain, and boastful man but with an inner core of goodness, the proverbial “heart of gold” we talk about in seedy characters. Indeed, my friendship with him has gotten me out of some rough situations due to his reputation of defending those he found worthy of his trust. I am still always welcome to his home and his food even though it has been years since we’ve talked. Once he gives his word he does not take it back.
The native also does have an inquisitive mind. He took like a fish to water when I taught him about neopaganism (and quickly formed a strong liking around 90’s McWicca more’s the pity) and has gone back to school when he could to get his associate’s degree. He’s proud of his large library, and there is a curious mix of the Venus and Mercury sides in his great love of role playing games. In fact, we met over jigsaw puzzles.
Note that the choleric temperament we talked about in the last post shines through brightly.
Next post, discovering the wit of a person!
Posted: September 25th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Our writers believed that the human body, and all other physical matter, was made up of the four elements in various proportions. Likewise, these elements had a corresponding effect upon our emotional states. These add up to a general temperament in body and soul. Lily states that there are great varieties in temperament because of the varying temperaments of our parents and the influences of the stars. However, there are four main temperaments:
Sanguine: hot and moist (Air)
Qualities: Cheerful, liberal, faithful, affable, peace-makers, open hearted, modest, religious.
Phlegmatic: cold and moist (Water)
Qualities: Cowardly, submissive (Lily uses uxorious), mutable, not capable of keeping secrets, dull, sluggards, lazy.
Choleric: hot and dry (Fire)
Qualities: Angry, quarrelsome, revengeful, ambitious, importunate, imperious, hardy, rash, involving themselves in unnecessary troubles, seditious, often ingenious, easily changing opinions.
Melancholic: cold and dry (Earth)
Qualities: Slow in resolutions, fradulent, keeping counsel close to themselves, prudent, severe, covetous, suspicious, sorrowful, fearful, forward, holds grudges, inexorable, ambitious, loving no man’s esteem but their own.
It should be noted that these are the extremes, but these are basic colors we all have. The more out of balance we are in one way or another, the more that these qualities will show up, especially if a planet that is strongly one temperament is the Lord of the Geniture, as we shall see.
It also may seem like the only good temperament to be is Sanguine, but it was thought that a too-Sanguine person would be too soft-hearted to handle the world.
This hot/cold/moist/dry division points to finer divisions of the elements. Thus, you can say that Fire and Air share a component in their heat. Each of the planets and signs have different amounts of these finer divisions. By calculating these proportions, you get a graph of which divisions are stronger and, thus, which temperament(s) an individual falls into.
The calculation of temperament can get very tricky, but like most things in traditional astrology if you take it a step at a time with the right procedure you’ll get an answer. Let’s begin.
First, we need the planets and signs that are most involved in influencing temperament. According to Lily, these are:
1. The Ascendant sign and the Lord thereof
2. The Planets or Nodes in the 1st house, and those that aspect the Ascendant.
3. The Moon and Planets aspecting her.
4. The quarter of the year the Sun is in.
5. The Lord of the Geniture (see last post)
Let’s take up the chart from last post, since I’ve already calculated the Lord of the Geniture (Mercury):
So we would be looking at:
Mercury as Ascendant Ruler
Virgo as Ascendant
Jupiter in the 1st
South Node in the 1st
Mars aspects Asc
Mercury aspects Asc
Jupiter aspects Moon
Venus aspects Moon
Sun in the 1st quarter of the year
Mercury as Lord of the Geniture
But how much hot/dry/cold/wet do these add? Let’s take a look at Lily’s charts on the matter. The primary chart for the planet gives different proportions depending on whether the planet is oriental or occidental in the chart.
||Hot and Moist
||Hot and Dry
||Hot and Moist
||Cold and Moist
|Conjunction to 1st Quarter
||Hot and Moist
|1st Quarter to Full
||Hot and Dry
|Full to 3rd Quarter
||Cold and Dry
|3rd Quarter to New
||Cold and Moist
|Sun in this Season
||Hot and Moist
||Hot and Dry
||Cold and Dry
||Cold and Moist
||Hot and Dry
||Hot and Moist
||Cold and Moist
||Cold and Dry
Lily also gives several additional rules:
If the Lord of the Geniture is singular (no strong planets aspecting it closely), it counts for 3x.
If the Moon is in the Ascendant, count her 2x.
If Saturn or Mars aspect the Moon or Ascendant with a malevolent aspect (square, opposition, close conjunction while weak), then they will cast their qualities over the native despite the testimony of others.
In this chart, Mars is aspecting the Asc with a square, so there will be an obvious cholerick side to the man. Mars is also aspecting the Lord of the Geniture, so I wouldn’t count the 3x bonus.
Adding all the qualities up, we get the following:
|Occidental Mercury as Ascendant Ruler
|Virgo as Ascendant (Earth)
|Occidental Jupiter in the 1st
|Occidental South Node in the 1st
|Oriental Mars aspects Asc
|Mercury aspects Asc
|The Moon in 1st Quarter
|Jupiter aspects Moon
|Oriental Venus aspects Moon
|Sun in the 1st quarter of the year
|Mercury as Lord of the Geniture
Now we look to see what opposes what. Hot opposes Cold. Moist opposes Dry. There is slight heat and slight dryness. This lends itself to a mildly Choleric personality. There is a good amount of balance. However, Mars is heavily involved and bumps up the choler.
It is quite possible for most things to be balanced, and a native will not swing widely one way or another. In these cases, other indicators that I’ll go into with later posts will show the general cast of the mind.
It may be cheating, but I know this native well and I can firmly say that he has been choleric all the years I’ve known him. He has lost many jobs due to quarreling and rushes in where fools and angels both fear to tread. He is intelligent, as discussed back in the last post, but his knack for getting into trouble or bulling his way into things has made him a very bitter man. The last I saw him, he was deep into conspiracy theories and buying heavy artillery and ammo. That being said, there have been times he has been the other temperaments as well, especially when he is around me.
Now, not all of this is due to the temperament. Think of temperament as like the background mood of the mind. In the next post, we’ll be talking about the Lord of Manners. This will add much more detail to this general temperament.
And what about myself, if you’re curious? The Lord of my Geniture is Venus. I am choleric (Hot 6, Cold 1, Moist 3, Dry 7), and I have Mars conjoining my Moon and Saturn conjoining my Ascendant. My Saturn is much stronger than my Mars, so the reserved and suppressive nature of Saturn pushes a lot of anger inward. This tends me toward depression. In those times when that is released though, watch out! I can be quite forceful in presenting an opinion.
Posted: September 18th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »
I know I started working on the 7th, but I really think we should take a look at the 1st house instead in our journey of delineation. It is, after all, the first house. It is you. It’s the closest house to describing who you are personally.
Christopher Cattan, a geomancer, defined the first house thus in brief:
“The first house is commonly called the the Horoscope, or the Angle of the Orient, and his ascendant signifieth all the beginnings of life, and all works.”
And in more detail thus (many of these are for horaries):
“1. In what disposition is the person, the intent of his will, and the place of his abiding or dwelling
2. The beginning of things which he will take in hand and execute, and the longness and shortness of his life, and the quality of his heart.
3. Anything that he beareth hidden upon him, and the alteration of his hearts desire.
4. The making, Physiognomy, and proportion of his body, to know if he be or shall be made well or ill, and whether he is well, or hard, or ill-favored
5. The nativity of the person, whether he shall be well or sickly, strong or weak.
6. The beginning of all enterprises.
7. The joy and sadness of the person
8. All things related to the head (medical, paraphrased)”
Remember that you should always start by doing a general delineation of the 1st before moving to specific techniques. This will give an overall view of the person and their ability to live. Let’s take a chart:
Let’s start with the general technique first. We have Virgo rising. Jupiter is in Virgo, which means he is in detriment. He is also conjunct with the South Node, which greatly weakens benefics. And on top of that, he’s retrograde. Already this bodes very poor for the general life. Jupiter wants to bring out blessings and wealth, but they’re slow, tortured, and never quite as much as the native would like.
Jupiter is also receiving two very tight aspects from the Sun (a trine) and the Moon (a square). Jupiter is in neither of their dignities, so there is no reception to him. Before we pick apart Jupiter’s aspects, let’s go through the rest of the list.
The ruler of the Ascendant is Mercury. He is in his rulership and is the most elevated (closest to the 10th house cusp) planet in the chart. While he is in the 9th, he isn’t far enough away from the cusp for me to consider him to be cadent. However, he is afflicted because of an opposition to Mars and he is retrograde. There is also a Mercury sextile. All but one of the aspects in this chart are very tight, so none can be ignored.
The significator of the house is Jupiter, but we’d rather not take him if at all possible.
The almuten of the house is Mercury as well, although Venus is also very strong here. Some people don’t like to calculate both Mercury’s rulership and exaltation in Virgo for point counting. If we didn’t count the exaltation, then Venus would be the almuten. I still add it personally, but considering Venus’ participation with the house ruler I wouldn’t completely ignore her either. Venus is also sorely afflicted by being in detriment.
There isn’t an Arabic part that I choose to use for the 1st.
All in all, we’re not looking very good! We have two main planets trying to bring about the native’s 1st house, Jupiter and Mercury. Jupiter is going to try to bring about good, long-lasting benefits, but they will all turn out crooked. Why? Often circumstances from the outside (reactive sign), though because this is the first house he is still the participant.
In his outward action, he wants to appear very smart, but he will be often wrong (retrograde mercury). Not only that, but he will want to fight hard to preserve his viewpoint. Woe be the person who tries to force an argument (opposition to Mars)! Not only that, but his pride will get in the way. However, he is not unintelligent. Mercury is still essentially strong. His thought just doesn’t flow in the right directions.
What of the Sun and Moon? The Moon is peregrine and ruled by Mercury. His emotions take on a mecurial, 10th house vibe. He wants to use his brain to provide for others. However, he may try to give too much for his own good, or in the wrong ways. The Sun is peregrine in Taurus, ruled by Venus, and cadent. Venus is in Aries, which is a really bad placement, especially as it still squeaks in the 7th. Venus in Aries makes people very lusty, and with Mars being powerful and retrograde, and projecting this power through the sun, open lust will be common.
So far we have an intelligent, horny, blowhard that can’t get ahead in life for trying. Let’s turn to some of the special techniques.
I’m not fond of the word soul, but it’s the best word they had for the entire interior life of a person.
First, we need a bit of soul theory. According to Aristotle, the soul was divided into three parts: the vegetable, the sensible, and the rational. The vegetable part we share with, well, vegetables. It handled stuff like reproduction, digestion, and other very basic bodily functions. The sensible part we share with animals. It consists of our sensory inputs, our imagination, our desire drives, and our anger drives. The rational part consists of our will, our reason, and our judgement.
Much of Bonatti’s understanding of the 1st house comes from Ptolemy, and the trouble with Ptolemy is that he was not an astrologer. He was an encyclopedist of techniques from all over his travels. He is useful for some things, but Bonatti’s torturous re-capitulation of that part of the Tetractys is clear as mud to me. A few things can be discerned though:
Mercury is seen as the significator of the rational soul. Moon is the significator of the sensible and vegetable souls.
Bonatti would have us look at six distinct parts of the chart to get a general sense of personality.
1. The essential dignity of Mercury and the luminary in questions (he uses Moon throughout this part of the text)
2. The signs they are in
3. The Lords of those signs
4. The conjunction of the planets (all the aspects, notably by whole-sign since we’re using a Greek source)
5. The individual signification of all the planets participating
6. The angles (houses 1, 10, 4, and 7) and their lords, all of which play a big part in any chart.
We’ve done a lot of this work already in the general process above, other than the angles. Most charts are going to have the signs of the angles all be of the same mode, and this has particular effects to wit (all citations from Dyke’s translation):
Cardinal (or moveable in Bonatti’s parlance): “Indeed if they were in movable signs, they will make the man stay gladly in cities, and associating with others (on account of the mobility of those signs); they make [the soul] loving matters of communities and guilds [or societies]; likewise striving for praise; and they make it a ponderer of divine things; and it will be of a praiseworthy character [or talent], and ready to move itself toward those things which it ought; an investigator into matters; and liberal and of a good opinion toward practically everyone indifferently; and caring for (and noticeable in) the judgments of the stars.”
Fixed: “For if they (namely the significators and the angles) were in fixed signs, they make these accidents or these qualities come into the soul: wherefore they make it benevolent, upright, legal, not deceitful, not lightly changing, stable, many troubles, sustaining many labors; and many efforts, able to understand and talented, true and rigid; and bringing about what it wills; very free [or pure] from malices; and defending itself well from pleasures. [The soul will be] a collector of things which it sees or hears, and of words (both of vile and valuable things), letting go of nothing or very little of them, committing [them] to memory; jealous in useful matters, and especially in the sciences, for it does not want to be outdone by others in them; a lover of honor and of things concerning which praise is acquired; and to a good extent contentious in lawful matters; passing beyond the talents of other souls, changing [only] with great difficulty from proposal to proposal.”
Mutable (or common): “If however the Ascendant and the aforesaid significators were in common signs, on account of their multiformity and mutation they will make the soul multiform, slow and reluctant to act, difficult to be understood appropriately, easily loving, and lightly leaving love behind; unstable, cunning, wanting now this, now that, persevering in few things well; and it will be expert at gaining the knowledge of music; easily repenting for things both good and bad; however it will be of a manifest intellect.”
These broad descriptors would be further shaded by the other factors already noted above. Given the strong Mercurial vibe noted above, the mutable angles, and the main planets in question in mutable signs, much of the mutable paragraph will apply. Smart, but difficult to understand, unstable, cunning, and rarely persevering in actions.
The Lord of the Geniture
I must admit that I learned with Bonatti and Zoller’s courses and I have little experience with Lily’s special methods. However, Lily is far easier to understand and communicate to others. If there was a natal course based on his work back when I was first learning this stuff I think it would have gone a lot smoother. Bonatti is great for digging into weird details, but it is torture to pull out his methods into something resembling coherency, especially for much of the 1st house stuff. So we’ll turn to Lily for some additional shading.
The Lord of the Geniture is Lily’s term for the planet that rules the birth by basically finding the planet with the most dignities and the least debilities. This planet will cast its shadow of the whole chart. There is a separate calculation for a similar thing called the almutem figuris, or the victor of the chart, but it uses a different calculation. I use that more for spiritual delineation later.
Lily has a much broader definition of accidental dignity than I’ve discussed so far. Therefore, here is his chart of dignities in full from Christian Astrology Book 1:
|In Mutual Reception
|In Mutual Reception by Exaltation
The only thing new here is mutual reception. Mutual reception by rulership would be when two planets are in each other’s ruling signs. Mutual reception by exaltation would be when two planets are in each other’s exaltations. The same can be done for the other essential dignities too, but Lily only makes note of the two strongest and so that is what I recommend. However, I would also add that for reception to occur there must be an aspect between the planets! Mere sign placement is not enough for true mutual reception.
Lily also adds a heavy negative total to peregrine. I think for the purposes of determining a planet’s strength this is true, but in actual delineation it is the condition of the sign ruler that really determines how good or bad it is.
Now on to accidental debility, which is a much larger chart:
|In the 10th or 1st house
||In the 12th house
|In the 7th or 4th or 11th house
||In the 8th or 6th house
|In the 2nd or 5th
|In the 9th
|In the 3rd
|Direct (☉ and ☽ don't get this)
|Swift in motion
||Slow in motion
|♄ or ♃ or ♂ Oriental
||♄ or ♃ or ♂ Occidental
|♀ and ☿ Occidental
||♀ and ☿ Oriental
|☽ increasing or occidental
||☽ decreasing in light
||Under the beams
|Partil Conj. with ♃ and ♀
||Partil Conj. with ♄ and ♂
|Partil Conj. with N. Node
||Partil Conj. with S. Node
|Partil Trine with ♃ and ♀
||Beseiged of ♄ and ♂
|Partil Sextile with ♃ and ♀
||Partil Opp. with ♄ and ♂
|Conj. with Cor Leonis
||Partil Square with ♄ and ♂
|Conj. with Spica
||Conj. with Caput Algol
In the first part, you can see that planets greater or lesser amounts of extra power for being in important houses. Angular ones have the most power, some of the cadent ones are less bad than others (though cadency is still an affliction!)
Direct and retrograde are opposite of each other. If the planet were in 1st or 2nd station, the pause points between going retrograde or direct, these wouldn’t apply. The moon and sun are always direct, so they don’t get that benefit.
Swift and Slow in motion means is the planet going significantly faster or slower than its average speed. Another chart:
Oriental and Occidental mean would the rise before or after the sun respectively. Many of the texts say that it is better to have the “superior” planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Sun, to rise before the Sun, and the “inferior” planets, Venus, Mercury, Moon, to rise after.
Remember that the moon increases in light as she moves away from the Sun. At opposition she is full, then decreases. Interestingly, Lily says that an occidental sun still has benefit even if waning, but this doesn’t quite make sense. Would have to play with it.
Cazimi, Combustion, and Under the Beams has to do with how close a planet is to the Sun. Combustion happens when a planet is within 8 degrees 30 minutes of the sun. Lily also says both planets need to be in the same sign. If a planet is between 8 degrees 30 minutes and 17 degrees, it is under the beams. Cazimi is a rare condition where a planet is within 17 minutes (minutes!) of the center of the Sun, and that adds a huge amount of power to the planet.
A partil (partill, partile) aspect is traditionally defined as when the planets are less than a degree apart. However, in other works Lily spreads this to 3 degrees and I think that is fair considering he does the same in the example nativity he delineates in Christian Astrology. So, consider a partile aspect to be anything closer than 3 degrees apart.
What about that funny “beseiged” entry? This is a rare case when a planet is sandwiched between Saturn and Mars. If the planet is conjoined with one of them and could move to the other and have no other planet intervene with an aspect, then the planet is beseiged.
The last few entries regard whether or not the planet is conjunct to certain very strong fixed stars. Lily suggests a 5 degree window for these, certainly for Caput Algol.
So, to find the lord of the geniture, you’d calculate all the dignities and debilities for all the planets and see who had the highest total. If there is a tie, the one that is closer to the midheaven is the winner. However, there is an important caveat which I’ll get to after the example. Let’s go through Dave’s chart:
10th house +5
Slow in motion -2
Increasing in light 2
Total = 0
10th house +5
Total = 10
(Note, I consider that a planet needs to pass 5 deg beyond the cusp before the mode of the house changes. This is a fudge factor to account for many things)
In Detriment -5
8th house -4
Total = -12
8th house -4
Conj. Caput Algol -6
Total = -17
4th house 4
Total = -4
1st house 5
Total = -7
8th house -4
Total = -5
Clearly the winner is Mercury. Mercury is also extremely elevated in the chart, conjunct the MC, further adding to his benefit.
Lily has this to say about what the Lord of the Geniture represents: “…the whole actions of the Native will more or lesse pertake of the nature of that Planet and so his Conditions, Complexion, Temperament, and Manners shall be much regulated unto the properties assigned that Planet… yet doubtlesse if any other Planet be very neer so strong as him whom we formerly mentioned, he shall much participate, and a kind of mixture must be framed according to the several fortitudes each Planet hath, together with the aspects good or evill of the other Planets intervening…”
Put another way, and I have to thank Tom Callanan for this description, the Lord of the Geniture is the planet that:
* Has the most power AND
* Can act on that power
The most powerful planet in the chart may not be the planet most able to act on that power. Essential dignity shows the inherent power, but essential dignity is the ability of that planet to use that power out in the world. Both are important. And so, even with this point calculation, you have to take into account how the planet fits into the chart as a whole.
You can do this with my chart, which I won’t share, but I’ll give you the gist. The only planets with very high dignity using this method are the Sun and Venus. The Sun is far more powerful that Venus, but he is cadent in the 12th and the aspects he receives are heavily debilitated. Venus is may be less powerful, but she is far more powerful than the rest of the planets, elevated in the chart, and in the 10th.
The Sun may be more powerful, but he really can’t act as forcefully as Venus can in comparison. This leads to a very important point. Do not be a slave to these methods! Use them at first and study the personalities of many charts. See where the exceptions lie and you can begin formulating principles. Astrology is an art as well as a science.
To keep this post from becoming even MORE long-winded, I shall stop here. Next week, elemental temperament. Take your chart and figure out your Lord of the Geniture before next time to make the process easier.
Posted: September 11th, 2015 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »
Due to a request, I’m going to take a few posts to dive into how marriage and love relationships are delineated in traditional astrology, as I understand it. First, we need to get an orientation about what this means.
People then as now have been very interested about their future partners in many different domains. What they’ll look like, how much money will they earn, are they interested in sex, are they interested in children, and so on. Traditional astrology can answer these questions, but you may not like the answers. First, because most marriages do not turn out in the ideal that is presented by modern Western culture. Second, because the source texts come at marriage from an extremely traditional point of view both from a marriage viewpoint and a sexuality viewpoint. Anything outside of a heterosexual marriage where the male is dominant is seen as a bad thing.
I see this more as a flaw in the mores of the time than in the system itself. Often I’ve found when I see some harsh dictation of fate in a text that I can follow the astrological logic back to see the reasoning. Understanding the why behind the reasoning of our forebearers in this art is the key to further astrological development. I just have to unspin the reasoning from the harsh language.
So as we go through this series, remember this please.
My primary sources that I’ll be using for this series are William Lily and Guido Bonatti. Lily is a very late traditional astrologer that sticks to the most important points. Bonatti goes whole-hog into everything he can find, and is quite opinionated to boot. I’ll be paraphrasing them both, since this is not a middle ages English class. My focus for this post is going to be on Lily.
Will I get married or not?
Before we can even get to describing what a marriage is like, we need to see if marriage is even portended in a chart. By marriage, I mean a long-term relationship that is formally recognized. It is important to remember that the standard delineation procedure I gave out is rarely overridden by any special technique you may find. Always start with the general procedure before moving to specifics. However, just so we get the technique out of the way we’re going to look at it first.
Lily says there are three main things to look for to determine the answer to this question. First, the planets in the 7th. Second, the 7th house lord. Third, the general significators of marriage. For male charts, these are Venus and the Moon. For female charts, these are Mars and the Sun.
We want to see what the condition is of all of these points. Lily likes to lean on the significators a bit more than the 7th house, so let’s start there. Let me pull up a chart again:
Here we have the chart of Gene Kelly. First, let’s identify our players.
Venus: In Virgo, dignified by all three minor dignities (triplicity, term, face), but also in fall. Very interesting. This reminds me of the lines from the TMBG song Road Movie to Berlin:
We were once so close to heaven
Peter came out and gave us medals
Declaring us the nicest of the damned.
Venus also has a wide square to Jupiter and a very tight trine to the Moon. Conjuncted to the Asc.
This Venus also gives me a chance to talk about the 5 degree rule. There’s a bit of a fudge factor when it comes to determining cardinal/succedent/cadent. The planet needs to clear five degrees above the cusp line for it to be firmly in the next house. Venus is only 2 degrees above the horizon. Therefore, I would call Venus cardinal and primarily working in the 1st house, though a smidge in the 12th.
Moon: In Capricorn, and thus in detriment. No other dignity. Moon is waning so she is malefic. She is trine the Asc and to Venus. Note that she is succedent. She has not been carried over the line into the 4th.
7th house planets: None. The north node is there, but this does not matter for this.
7th house ruler: Jupiter, cadent in the 3rd but in Rulership and in term. A planet in rulership but cadent is like a strong individual undergoing an illness. He is also opposite Saturn, a very bad sign. Jupiter is also the Almuten of the 7th.
Now right away from the general procedure we can see that it isn’t looking good for a long-term marriage. The ruler of the 7th is strong, but afflicted and opposite Saturn, the planet of solitude. Saturn is in triplicity, but also cadent. I would judge just from this that a long-term marriage is not in the works, or if there is that it won’t last long. However, the desire for 7th house experiences is there due to the strength of the planet. Remember though that the 7th house also represents other things like business partners, open enemies, and the like. More analysis would be necessary to see how this desire is channeled.
Let’s continue with the procedure. It’s generally best to see if there something is denied before seeing if it is present. So what are signs of no marriage? First, we want to see if the Moon and Venus are cadent or in the 8th, or are in barren signs.
Now a note on barren signs. Signs have a lot of other descriptors besides the ones I gave you a few weeks ago. The main barren signs are Gemini, Leo, and Virgo. Much of this reasoning has to do with their actual images. Gemini is an image of two brothers, so there is no chance of generating a child. Virgo is the virgin, so obviously no children. Lions rarely give birth and only one or two at a time.
Thus, having Moon or Venus in these signs would mean that the libido and urge for children is low. We see that Venus is in Virgo, so that is one indicator. Lily seems to weigh Venus (and conversely Mars) much more than the Moon (or the Sun), so this is another strong sign of no marriage.
Why look for cadency? That would suppress the natural powers of these planets. We also look at Jupiter, who is in a prolific sign but cadent and very afflicted. The most prolific signs are Cancer, Libra, Sagittarius, and Pisces.
We also have a special condition to look for that shows someone who doesn’t want marriage at all. If Venus is conjoined to a strong Saturn and has no support from a benefic AND the moon is in a barren sign, a cadent house, or is very afflicted, then not only will there be no marriage, but no desire for marriage will be present.
Now we do have this, in a strange way. Saturn is elevated in this chart, it is at the top of the sky. Lily considers this, at least for this combination, to be the same as conjoining Venus and the Moon if Venus and Moon receive no good support. As both are afflicted, we can continue to examine things. Saturn isn’t particularly strong thanks to cadency, but Venus doesn’t have support from a benefic and the moon is very afflicted. I’ve found if you’re most of the way there in these combinations, some of it is going to peek through.
But what about the flip side of this? Will the native want to have an unmarried non-chaste life? Lily has this to say:
Venus aspected to Saturn and Mars, all weak or peregrine, plus no good aspects from the Sun or Moon.
Lily also gives a few considerations for the moon that are signs of the single life:
Moon in Scorpio square Saturn in Leo/Taurus (though other factors are necessary to completely deny marriage)
Moon Combust and in square or opposition to Saturn in Capricorn, Aquarius, Libra
So what would I say to this native? I would say that the native’s marriages are going to be very unhappy. Why do I say marriage will happen despite all the negative indications above? Because of Jupiter. Jupiter is very strong in Sagittarius. He will be trying his best to make a marriage happen that will come from 3rd house (students, co-workers, neighbors) and 7th house locations. Venus’ strength despite her fall and Jupiter’s essential strength will want to make the marriages work, but it won’t hold together.
Gene Kelly in fact had three marriages. He was an actor and dancer. His first marriage was to Betsy Blair, a dancer, which ended after 15 years suddenly by her on charges of “mental cruelty”. His second marriage was to a choreographer named Jeanne Coyne for 13 years until her death. His last marriage lasted six years until he died. According to a memoir written by Blair, it was reported to her by one of Gene’s children that the the third wife ‘threw him away – as if he were garbage to be incinerated and thrown away. There aren’t even any ashes’.
Now why would he end up having three marriages despite all these negative indications? We go back to our general interpretation! The good or bad of a house is signified by the ruler. Jupiter despite cadency is very strong in rulership. Jupiter would want to make the grandest of marriages, deep, sustaining, and satisfying. The marriages all lasted for a long time, relatively, but they all did end on very bad notes. Jeanne Coyne died at 50 of leukemia. Blair accused him of mental cruelty. His last marriage was spent mostly in bad health and his body was tossed out.
This is a great lesson. Always look at the general before going to the specific!
What would we look for in a chart for yes? We would want to see the above planets to be strong and in the prolific signs. We would like to see the moon in happy houses like the 5th, 1st, 11th, or 10th. We would judge marriage if a benevolent planet is in the 7th despite a bad house ruler (planets in houses are stronger than rulers remember). Also if the lord of the 1st is applying to the lord of the 7th and there is mutual reception, then marriage will play a major role in the native’s life. I will save what applying/separating and mutual reception are for another post.
Let’s go for another, this time a female.
Let’s start with the general interpretation this time. We have three planets in the 7th: Moon, Sun, and Mars. Cancer is the ruler. Almuten is Venus and Moon. House significator is also the Moon since she is in the house.
Moon: In Cancer, in rulership and face, angular, very strong. Square with Jupiter, sextile with Saturn, sextile with Venus.
Sun: In Leo, in rulership and triplicity, also angular, very strong but afflicted due to very tight conjunction with Mars. No other aspects.
Mars: Peregrine, angular, VERY combust with sun. No other aspects
Venus: In fall, cadent, very tight trine with Saturn, sextile with moon.
Placement is always stronger than rulership, but the ruler is in the sign so we must look at Moon first. The Moon is definitely going to bring about a nurturing marriage. None of the aspects are afflictive, so we can just stop here and say marriage is going to happen. We do have signs that there will be problems with it though, but to keep from blowing out this post too much wider let’s stick with the original question of getting married or not.
Turning now to the special technique, we’ll be looking at the planets in the house, the ruler, and the special significators of females: Mars and Sun. Mars and Sun are in a barren sign, but the Moon is in a very fecund sign and is the ruler and is in the house. Since the Moon is running the show I would say that marriage is desired and it will happen. Venus may be very afflictive and will definitely have an effect on the marriages, but it is not enough to kill the marriages off.
I know this native personally and know she has been in two marriages.