Astrology from first principles.

For many people Astrology seems like nothing more than mumbo-jumbo, a primitive superstition entirely different from the modern scientific view of life. Whereas science explains phenomena from first principles, building up from the simple to the complex, Astrology seems like a huge mass of unrelated data, based on nothing more than the supposed “authority” of ancient astrologers and their modern disciples. Whereas science is continually seeking the few common factors underlying different events, in order to predict the unknown from the known, Astrology seems to be continuously seeking more factors, becoming every year more complicated!

My articles approach Astrology from a scientific viewpoint, seeking the simple, common factors underlying the visible complexity. I’ll begin with the twelve signs of the zodiac, which are familiar to everyone even if they have no further knowledge of Astrology. All the qualities of the signs can be perfectly defined using just two sets of factors, as I shall now explain.

The first factor is the sign’s “Element”. There are four elements, namely Fire, Air, Water and Earth, with three signs in each element. These elements are abstract qualities, but the ancient philosophers wisely named them after substances familiar to us all. By recalling the qualities of each substance, we can imaginatively understand the qualities of the Element named after it. The ancient philosophers, unlike their modern counterparts, knew that imagination was as valuable as intellect.

FIRE is the liveliest element, spreading of its own accord if it isn’t carefully controlled. It seems to have a life of its own! We have all stared into the fire, seeing pictures, faces, animals, changing constantly. Fire is the lightest and warmest element, and the hardest to contain. The fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
Fire represents the spirit- the liveliest part of us, which distinguishes the living from the dead. The spirit aspires “upwards” to the spiritual world, perceiveing through intuition, and is empowered by belief. It can travel anywhere, instantly, taking any shape. Every change must first be made inwardly in our imagination, before being realised outwardly.

AIR is the next liveliest element. Air is light, but unlike fire it flows downwards as well as upwards. Air is cooler than fire, but not so cold as water, with which we cool ourselves when the air is too hot. Air is more transparent than water, and harder to contain. The air signs are Libra, Aquarius, and Gemini.
Air represents our intellect and thinking. We can imagine anything, but our rational thinking is constrained by time and logic. It depends on causes and effects, the cause always preceding the effect. Rational thought is calmer and cooler than imagination.

WATER is still heavier than air, cooler and easier to contain. We can hold water even in an uncovered vessel. Water flows only downwards, unlike Air which flows in any direction, and fire which only reaches upwards. We can see through water, but only for a certain distance. The depths of the sea are as dark as night! The Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
Water represents the emotional side of the personality. Just as we can’t see so easily through water, so too we cannot see into our emotions as easily as we see into our thoughts. We often don’t know why we feel the way we do- and understanding other peoples’ feelings is even harder! Emotions are more sluggish than thoughts. We can wallow in a “black mood” for hours, whereas focusing so long on one thought takes great effort.

EARTH is the heaviest element, and the least lively. We can pile it on the ground, and it will stay where we have piled it. We can even shape it, without any means of containment. Earth is cold, and we can’t see through it at all. The Earth signs are Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo.
Earth represents the physical side of the personality. Our body affects our feelings, thinking, even our imagination. It is the least changeable part of us. Changes to the body happen slowly. In my hypnotherapy practice, I find that all changes must happen first at the imaginative level, before “soaking down” into the thinking and emotion, and finally the physical body.

The second factor that distinguishes the signs is the balance between Power and Adaptability. The signs are divided into three groups according to their power and adaptability. The more power, the less adaptability, just as a small motorboat is more easily turned than an oil tanker.

FIXED SIGNS have more power than adaptability. People born with the sun and moon or several planets in fixed signs find it easier to press on in the same direction, overcoming all obstacles, but less easy to change course when their previous ideas or feelings are no longer useful. The fixed signs are Leo, Aquarius, Scorpio, and Taurus.

CARDINAL SIGNS have a balance of power and adaptability. People with many cardinal signs in their birth charts are the best-suited for beginning anything, because this requires not only power to push forward in the new direction, but also the adaptability to deal with the previous situation. Only God can create anything from nothing, writing on a blank page. As humans we must always deal with what has gone before us. The Cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.

MUTABLE SIGNS have more adaptability than power. They’re not so good at instigating new developments, but they’re well-suited to a time of change when clinging to established ways is not helpful. They are more responsive and sensitive than the cardinal or fixed signs. The Mutable signs are Sagittarius, Pisces, Gemini, and Virgo.

We can now put these two factors together, and understand how they define the signs. Each sign is perfectly defined by its element and its balance of power and adaptability.

ARIES is the cardinal fire sign. Everything begins at the fiery, spiritual, imaginative level, and cardinal signs are the best beginners in each element, so Aries is above all suited to beginning anything. He is proactive, assertive, competitive, and impatient. Constant change is his comfort zone!

TAURUS is the fixed earth sign. Earth is the slowest, heaviest element, and fixed signs are the least adaptive. So Taurus is above all solid, stubborn, resisting change.

GEMINI is the mutable air sign. Being airy, he’s a thinker, and being mutable he’s the most responsive to other peoples’ thoughts. He loves conversation with a variety of different people, but he lacks the power to pursue any one thought to its logical conclusions. He can therefore hold two contradictory opinions on a superficial level, and depending on who he’s with.

CANCER is the cardinal water sign. Her balanced emotions, without the fierce power of Scorpio or the vulnerable sensitivity of Pisces, make her best suited to a caring role, such as parenting. She won’t be hurt be children’s thoughtless comments and complaints, nor enraged by their misbehaviour.

LEO is the fixed fire sign. The power of fire is measured in belief, so this most powerful fire sign is above all a believer, supremely confident and therefore comfortable in public view.

VIRGO is the mutable earth sign. Practical and down-to-earth, her adaptability makes her supremely sensitive to the physical and material needs of others. She is attentive to detail, and therefore cautiously aware of all potential dangers.

LIBRA is the cardinal air sign. He is the most balanced thinker, lacking the easily-influenced superficiality of Gemini and the dogmatism of Aquarius. He can think very rationally, seeing the truth in opposing arguments, and trying to reconcile them. He abhors extremes of emotion.

SCORPIO is the fixed water sign. With her powerful and inflexible emotions, she is above all passionate. A fiercely loyal friend and lover, she feels the withdrawal of love as an outrageous betrayal! She can be secretive, knowing that more shallow characters may fear her intensity.

SAGITTARIUS is the mutable fire sign. Fire is the most freely moving element, so this adaptable fiery sign desires freedom above all. He can leap effortlessly to intuitive knowledge, and play happily with different beliefs. He is therefore a philosopher rather than a dogmatist.

CAPRICORN is the cardinal earth sign. He is adapted to make new beginnings on the earth level, where all is slow and heavy. He has the greatest power of endurance, grinding away without prospects of immediate reward. He is above all serious, self-disciplined and effortful.

AQUARIUS is the fixed air sign. His ideas are powerful but inflexible, and he can appear cold and excessively detached from humanity, willing to experiment with other peoples’ feelings.

PISCES is the mutable water sign. She is responsive to other peoples’ feelings, swept away by their moods, empathic but emotionally vulnerable. For self-protection she may tell herself that other peoples’ suffering is unreal, but she must isolate herself from others in order to achieve this.

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Author's Bio: 

Pete Luce is a hypnotherapist and counsellor in Plymouth, Devon, UK. He has worked in hypnotherapy and counselling since 1994. He has studied Astrology for many years, seeking to understand the fundamental principles underlying human character. He opposes all dogmatism and received opinions, preferring to test all ideas against his wide-ranging experience of human life.