One of the first topical series on the blog pertained to delineating faith. I first laid out some general guidelines that were based solely on basic principles, rather than special techniques. The basic ground rules were laid out in the first post of the series, and then I returned to those and reviewed them a bit in the fifth post of the series. However, in ancient astrology, strong delineation of a topic requires special techniques, which involve going beyond basic house ruler and natural significator indications, and examining a variety of key indicators. Using these indicators we may attempt to refine our understanding of delineating the subject, and work backwards toward a better understanding of general principles.
Some Notes: The Law, the Sun, and the 3rd
Before returning to some of the past featured charts in the light of special techniques, I would like to briefly comment on the delineation of faith and its relationship to other topical delineations. It should be noted that faith, while having a large social component in many societies, can also be a rather personal matter. The house that most pertains to faith is the 9th, though the other major significations of the 9th involve travel and law. Obviously, faith is the more personal of these three topics, and so among these, faith additionally calls for a deeper involvement with personality delineation and the 1st house (the self). Another 9th house concern is what exactly is meant by “law”. Today we think of law, religion, and science as extremely different fields of endeavor, and, in the case of religion and science, even antagonistic. However, they are all very much linked within the 9th house, which as the house of law, may pertain to civil law, spiritual law, and natural law alike.
Consider also that the 9th house is the Joy of the Sun and the place was called “God” by ancient astrologers. Firmicus Maternus also asserted that it was the Sun that produces religious customs among people (Book I, Ch. 2, #2 of the Mathesis). This solar sense of illumination and profundity is also apparent in terms of the Lot called Spirit, which, of the lots of the seven planets, is the Lot of the Sun. Spirit is derived from projecting the arc from the non-sect light (darkness) to the sect light (light) and was considered by some to be relevant in delineation of faith. However, ancient astrology came into its own during an age when religion, power, and intellectual achievement were all considered quite solar and were more intimately linked than in many societies today.
Additionally, the 3rd house, that most prominently associated with shorter travels, siblings/kin, friends/neighbors, and counsel/messages, which is the Joy of the Moon, called “Goddess”, was also strongly linked with faith. A few of the astrologers who linked the 3rd with faith were Vettius Valens (2nd Century CE), Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), Rhetorius (7th Century CE), Sahl (9th Century CE), Abu Ma’shar (9th Century CE), Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat (9th Century CE), Umar al-Tabari (9th Century CE), Abu Bakr (9th Century CE), and al-Qabisi (10th Century CE). Umar al-Tabari, abu Bakr, and Abu ‘Ali all explicitly direct the practitioner to look at both the 9th and the 3rd, and their rulers, when delineating faith (see Persian Nativities Volumes I and II trans. Ben Dykes). Linking the 3rd with faith and religion was not as frequent in the Hellenistic period as in the following Persian period though. While nearly every Persian-Arabic astrologer linked the 3rd to faith and religion, only a handful of Hellenistic astrologers did. For instance, Paulus Alexandrinus (4th Century CE) gave an exposition of the meanings of all the houses (Ch. 24 of Introductory Matters) but associated only the 9th, and not the 3rd, with philosophers, gods, mystics, divination, astrologers, dreams, sacred rites, and other such things. Paulus did note that the 3rd partakes in signifying travel and life abroad due to being opposite the 9th (which is the primary house of such things). I find that the 3rd pertains to faith, particularly as concerns counseling others, but if indications between the 9th and 3rd conflict, I would lean more heavily on the 9th.
Pertaining to the topic of the Sun and the 3rd, it is important to note that one of the most prominent skeptics in the world, James Randi, has the Sun in Leo in the 3rd house with Mercury and Venus. Firmicus Maternus gave separate aphorisms noting that the Sun in 3rd, Mercury in 3rd, Venus in 3rd, Sun and Mercury in 3rd, and so on, all give indications of religious life. Additionally, Mercury rules the Ascendant and is with the Sun, which should also make one religious. One the other hand, when leaning more heavily on the 9th, the relative prominences of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury, and how this all relates to the 1st and its ruler, we see “law” (the 9th) characterized by intellect (air) and doubt (Saturn), enthusiasm for expansive realms and ideas (Jupiter) weak (retreating and cadent) and embattled (12th with Mars), doubt and struggle as very loud themes in the life (Saturn strongly advancing), and a self-identification with intellect and rationalism (air rising, ruled by Mercury). Therefore, I advise that one leans more heavily on the 9th than the 3rd, and on Jupiter and Venus rather than the Sun to show a “propensity to believe”. Jupiter itself, like the 9th, is a natural significator of religion, law, and philosophy, so the influence and condition of Jupiter should not be ignored in delineating faith.
Interestingly, not all astrologers agreed that the Sun in 3rd should signify faith. According to Abu Bakr, “The Sun appearing in the 3rd house and in one of his own dignities, signifies [he will] totally lack faith” (On Nativities, Book II, Ch. 1.10, Dykes, 2010, p. 149). Abu Bakr also makes statements indicating that he doesn’t believe Jupiter in the 3rd to be indicative of true faith, as opposed to just the appearance of it. These assertions about the Sun and Jupiter in the 3rd are in direct contradiction to statements made by Maternus. This is a good time for me to repeat my admonition of “ancient astrologers didn’t all agree“. By contrast, Abu Bakr gave indications of religiousness and spiritual interests for such planets posited in the 9th. This may be an example of a view in which the 3rd is more indicative of superficial appearance of faith, being the house of counseling, communication, and gossip, while the 9th, its opposite, is more indicative of the heart of belief. I say this because Abu Bakr delineates Jupiter, as well as the Moon, as indicative of superficial appearance of faith, without much substance, when they are in the 3rd, even when they are in sect.
In my series, I have used Mercury primarily as a natural significator of rationalism. However, to many astrologers, including Ptolemy, Masha’allah, and Abu ‘Ali, Mercury was not only significant in terms of showing rationality, but also as one of the most important indicators of character, as it pertained to the intentional or rational mind. Just as we examined the nature of the 1st and its ruler for faith, Abu ‘Ali examined the planets ruling and regarding Mercury as having a particularly strong effect on the native’s faith (see Judgement of Nativities, Ch. 29 – I recommend the translation by Dykes in Persian Nativities Vol. I). Personally, I put more emphasis on the lord of the 1st than on Mercury in delineating character (and likewise in delineating inclination toward faith).
Lot of Faith and Lot of Spirit
Abu ‘Ali and Umar al-Tabari both made use of the Lot of Faith or Law, and its lord, in the delineation of faith. It is unclear exactly which lot they were speaking of. However, it is likely to have been the same lot mentioned later by Bonatti as the Lot of Religion, which is the arc from the Moon to Mercury by day, or Mercury to the Moon by night, projected from the Ascendant. Umar included the Lot of Faith and its lord in a complicated (and corny, in my opinion) victor technique to find one planet more relevant to faith, and then he assessed if that planet was in good condition or not to assess the condition of the native’s faith. Interestingly, Umar also advised that one look at the triplicity lords of the lot, and that the condition of these would show the variable condition of faith at different periods of the life (1st triplicity lord showing the first part of life, the 2nd showing the second part, and the 3rd triplicity ruler showing the last part). On the other hand, Abu ‘Ali looks at planets that are with the lot (i.e. in the same sign), which is a more standard approach to evaluating a lot than the strange victor techniques which became so popular in the middle ages.
The closest descriptions found in ancient astrology that could approximate our idea of consciousness tend to arise in discussions of the significance of the Sun and particularly of the Lot of the Sun, called Spirit. The Sun is frequently described with phrases such as “light of the mind”, and the like. Spirit, the Lot of the Sun (arc from the non-sect light to the sect light, projected from the Ascendant), is similarly related to the mind. In Hellenistic astrology it was used for many things, from professional achievement to mental health. Maternus, speaking of the house Spirit fell in the natal chart said, “This house is called the substance of the mind.” (Mathesis, Book IV, Ch. 5, #2, Holden trans., 2011, p. 216) Abu Bakr included Spirit in his delineation of faith in a somewhat idiosyncratic fashion. Abu Bakr considered Spirit to show the outward appearance of one’s faith and its ruler to show the actual extent of the inward faith, such that one could appear faithful and be faithful (both strong and good), appear faithless but actually be faithful (lot weak but ruler strong), be a hypocrite who acts religious but has no faith (lot strong but ruler weak), and other combinations pertaining to mixes of strength and beneficence associated with the lot and its lord.
The Lot of Fortune, which is the Lot of the Moon, is more seldom used in connection with faith, but as another point that can have relevance for character its occurrence in the 9th and such was noted by some astrologers as indicating religious inclinations.
With all that said, while re-exploring charts there are 5 additional indicators I’d like to evaluate:
- Spirit shows appearance of upright religious conduct while its ruler shows the actual personal sanctity when out of sight – a sort of word vs. deed distinction. (Abu Bakr, Book II, Ch. 1.10)
- Mercury’s rulership and influential regards by planets is indicative of the nature of faith. (Abu ‘Ali, Ch. 29)
- The Lot of Faith and its lord participate in the delineation of faith on similar footing with the 9th and its lord, in that benefics in the places or with the lords and the lords in good condition (particular stress on the nature of the planet with or ruling the lot) are indicative of faith and wisdom, while the opposite shows the opposite. (Abu ‘Ali, Ch. 29)
- The quadruplicity of the 9th sign indicates the fixity of the beliefs, in that mutable sings show instability in faith, fixed signs show steadiness, and cardinal signs show doubt and frequent change of faith. The quadruplicity of the ruler adds to this to a lesser degree. (Abu ‘Ali, Ch. 29)
- Lord of the 9th oriental (i.e. preceding) the Sun shows more open profession of belief, while lord of the 9th occidential (i.e. following) the Sun shows concealing of belief. (Abu ‘Ali, Ch. 29)
Example 1: James Randi
I first examined Randi’s chart in this context in the initial post of the faith series. There I noted the identification with Mercury which both rules and regards the Ascendant, the blaring general strength of Saturn in the chart which is conjunct the Descendant (i.e. was setting at birth) and has the most authority over the 9th (Saturn is domicile lord of the 9th, second triplicity lord, and regards the 9th from the right side), and the afflicted state of Jupiter retreating in the 12th with Mars.
Looking at twelfth-parts, a topic I’ve explored in the last few posts (see here and here and here), we find the twelfth-part of the Ascendant in the 5th, Libra, the kingdom (i.e. exaltation) of Saturn, in Saturn’s bound, with its ruler, Venus, in the 3rd, Leo. Randi came to prominence as an entertainer, a stage magician. The 5th house pertains to performance and stage, while both Venus and Leo reinforce these notions of performance. We can gather some of this from the 3rd, of communications, being occupied by very prominent Sun, Venus, and Mercury in Leo, indicating the important role of communication in the life (signs of the Lights, Leo and Cancer, are strengthening to planets in them, as their rulers, the Lights, are naturally prominent – here, the Ascendant ruler, the Sun, and Venus all occupy the 3rd, so it is very prominent). The twelfth-part of Jupiter also falls onto Venus further signalling fortune through entertainment.
The twelfth-parts of the Sun and Moon fall in the 8th, Capricorn, one of the domiciles of Saturn, further stressing the influence of Saturn upon the life. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Randi outside of his current image of black-clad, spooky-looking, doubtful, foreboding old man. That the twelfth-part of Saturn fall into the place occupied by Jupiter, signals further affliction of Jupiter, further curbing the enthusiasm for stepping beyond the known. In fact, Randi, with his extremely strong Saturn, very afflicted Jupiter, and strong identification with Mercury, is a bit of an extreme case when it comes to resistance to out of bounds experiences.
Why people are so drawn to the irrational is something that has always puzzled me. I want to be, if I can, as sure of the world, the real world, around me, as is possible. Now you can only attain that to a certain degree, but I want the greatest degree of control. I don’t … I’ve never involved myself in narcotics of any kind. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. Because that can easily just fuzz the edges of my rationality, fuzz the edges of my reasoning powers, and I want to be as aware as I possibly can. That means giving up a lot of fantasies that may be comforting in some ways but I’m willing to give that up to live in an actually real world – as close as I can get to it. – James Randi (click link for source)
As mentioned previously, Randi’s chart gives us a clear indication that heavy doses of solar energy in the 3rd are not sufficient to make one religious, and perhaps even indicate total lack of faith as suggested by Abu Bakr.
Spirit. Spirit in Randi’s chart is in the 9th, ruled by Saturn, the out of sect malefic, in the bound of Mars. It gets a lot of attention, being squared by Mars and Jupiter in the 12th, and opposed by the Sun, Mercury, and Venus in the 3rd. Abu Bakr suggested either that the lord of Spirit in the 9th, or the lord of Spirit being the lord of the 9th, is indicative of good faith (if the lord is received which it is not). In this case the lord of Spirit is the lord of the 9th, so we might suppose that faith is suggested if that is what Abu Bakr meant. It is too premature to evaluate, and that the ruler is Saturn, the out of sect malefic, and is not received, makes it difficult to judge if this type of use of the Lot of Spirit is worthwhile anyway.
In any case, if Spirit shows outward profession of faith, then we would expect a combination of very strongly restrictive doubt and skepticism (Saturn ruling and out of sect), a spirit of pursuit of truth and intellectualism (the 9th and air), and aggressiveness associated with secret plans of undoing (Mars ruling the bound in the 12th of hidden enemies with Jupiter). This is the case. In terms of the Mars and the 12th sense of launching secret offensives against others based on belief, Randi has been doing so since his early twenties, taking on jobs as fake astrologer, psychic, and so forth to spoof and attack supernatural beliefs even while getting his career as a magician together and before coming into public prominence.
Certainly, Spirit is not in such great condition that we would suppose outward profession of sanctity. We were already getting much of the Saturnine sense from the 9th and Jupiter, but Spirit may still be of value particularly as it occupies a specific bound, showing the 12th house Mars influence. Examining the ruler is very similar to examining Spirit itself in the chart, as Spirit and the 9th were so heavily informed by their ruler Saturn. I would judge that Saturn is in a little bit better shape than the 9th though, because directly Saturn is in a domicile of Jupiter, bound of Venus, trine the Sun and Moon, and overcome by the sect benefic Venus by trine. Perhaps from this we might judge that Randi’s bark is bigger than his bite, and that on a more personal level he does have a reverence from some greater unknowns. Hard to tell for sure though, because that faith would be characterized by Saturn, and Saturn knows fear and doubt best.
Mercury. It was Abu ‘Ali that advised we look at Mercury, paying particular attention to the planet or planets Mercury is most strongly connected to, such as planets with Mercury, ruling Mercury, or that Mercury applies to in aspect. Mercury is with the Sun in the Sun’s domicile while in phasis (i.e. making an appearance), so we expect a strong solar influence. Mercury is also in Jupiter’s bound and applying a square to Jupiter with Jupiter in the superior position, so we expect a strong Jupiterian influence. Both Jupiterian and Solar influences on Mercury are indicative of religious and faithful people to Abu ‘Ali, so I’m not overly impressed with this technique, as our more general techniques yielded a much more accurate analysis.
Lot of Faith. First, it should be noted that the Lot of Faith is right at the beginning of a sign and a birth time error of only about 2 minutes could put the lot in the preceding sign. This could make a huge difference, as with the current time the lot is in the 10th in the sign of Jupiter and bound of Venus, while if birth was about 2 minutes earlier it would be in the 9th in the sign of Saturn and bound of Saturn – very big difference! Assuming that the lot is at 0 Pisces, it is ruled by Jupiter, however Jupiter is out of sect, in a bad place (the 12th), and with a malefic, so it is not very indicative of faith. Also, Abu ‘Ali seemed to highlight planets with or aspecting the lot, and here Saturn dominates (i..e superior square) the lot, and Mars is in a scrutinizing (i.e. within 3 degrees) square to the lot, so we might consider this lot extremely afflicted by malefics, showing a destruction of faith.
Quadruplicity of 9th. The 9th sign is Aquarius, a fixed sign, so we might expect that Randi is not the type to question his own beliefs or radically change them much. This seems consistent with the fact that Randi has been involved in spoofing astrology, psychism, and all things supernatural since his early twenties. The ruler of the 9th is in Sagittarius, a mutable sign, which might show instability in belief and possibly a tendency toward syncretism (input from many sources combined into a new whole). In this case, I think the influence of mutability is on the idea of fallibility and establishing what is more true over time through interactive analysis and communication of results (mutability pertains to back-and-forth and social phenomena), such as in scientific approaches to establishing truth which are inherently unstable and assembling rather than tending to be fixed or dramatically changing on the whole.
Orientality of 9th Lord. Saturn is occidental the Sun in Randi’s chart, so we would expect more of a concealing of belief, keeping beliefs private. This certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, as Randi is a very prominent and vocal proponent of his skepticism. Perhaps this is overridden by the fact that Saturn is so strongly advancing right on the horizon in the chart. I associate general strength factors like advancing with the volume of a planet in the chart and would consider this a blaring loud Saturn. In any case the oriental/occidental distinction seems insufficient on its own to establish how ready one is to profess one’s beliefs.
Long-Winded Conclusion to Long-Winded Post
I’ve thrown quite a lot of material at the reader in this post, and it is organized in a somewhat chaotic fashion, for which I apologize. While our general method of reading faith in the astrological chart has proved very valuable, there is room to go deeper. As we go deeper we take on more factors and self-deception becomes easier though, so we must lay it on the table and be self-critical. These additional factors are more complicated than they seem at first encounter.
Saying that the 3rd participates in faith is easy, but judging the exact nature of its participation is difficult. I would suggest that the 3rd pertains more to general communication and association, such that the manner of communicating beliefs and ideas must come through the 3rd, while the actual nature of one’s beliefs and ideas is more tied with the 9th (note: besides being consistent with main house meanings this is also consistent with the traditional dichotomy in which the Sun signifies more abstract phenomena and the Moon signifies more concrete phenomena). Similarly, while the Sun pertains to illumination, truth, clarity, honors, and recognition, it is difficult to assess exactly how much the Sun indicates faith in a chart. Perhaps this will become clearer as we work through more charts. Usage of the Lots of Faith and Spirit may similarly provide deeper insights, or simply pose as distractions in such delineations. While Mercury is a significator of personality and intention, it doesn’t seem to be very indicative of inclination toward faith, though we’ll continue exploring the possibility. Use of quadruplicity of signs for degree of stability (fixed) vs. changeability (cardinal) vs. mixture/duality/instability (mutable) is common in the analysis of topics. We’ll continue to at least explore the quadruplicity of the 9th and its ruler as suggested by Abu ‘Ali.
All of this and primarily just to distinguish the very faithful from the very doubtful, and the very genuine from the very superficial? Apparently not. With all these factors there is room enough for a very nuanced view of one’s beliefs that goes well beyond whether they’ll defend any old dumb thing propounded by the propagation or will take up authority as knowing the ultimate reality of the universe as a giant illusion staged by physical reproduction machines. Faith is one small topic among many. Obviously, as astrologers, we have our work cut out for us. To those who need all the answers now, so that they can go out and compete with psychics, this may be disparaging. However, I think the techniques are extremely promising, and by remaining humble and working with them the 21st century may be the century in which the art of astrology reaches a depth of accuracy never before attained.