View Full Version : The Meaning of Outer Planets

19-07-2003, 19:41
Yesterday I was reading an article in the Astrological Journal (of the Astrological Association of great Britain) which discussed the Chiron cycle and the likely experiences associated with it. Turning to the letters page, I came across a letter from the Editor of the Journal of Spiritual Astrology. His basic 'complaint' was that we have become too certain of the astrological meaning of the many Astronomical bodies that have been discovered.

He asks why we have taken the wounded healer view of Chiron, virtually to the exclusion of other possible meanings, when we only learned about this body some 26 years ago and for a large part of that time we did not know what sort of a body it was.

In the process he quotes Alan Leo, saying that the nature of Neptune is presently 'little understood' (written around 1900) and Isobel Hickey around 1970 making similar statements about Pluto. Yet the cookbooks are full of statements about what these planet mean (rather than 'may' mean).

I've also just finished reading John Frawley's The Real Astrology, wherein he questions the validity of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in Astrology, to say nothing of Chiron, the Asteroids and a variety of hypothetical planets.

So my question to everyone is - What do the outer planets signify if anything, and on what basis should we continue to use them?

If you wish to broaden this to include Chiron and any other body please feel free.

19-07-2003, 20:35
Interesting. We have just discovered (realitivly) these planets, why? because it took technology to 'see' them. We can see as far as Satrun by just looking up at the right time. We have known about them for ages. With that, then how can we give any validity to the meanings of Urn, Nep, or Plu? We don't 'know' these planets well at all. From a cookbook, the inner planets deal with ourselves, the outer, more of what can happen around us.
Going blind, what meaning/influence can we assume? Tech stuff for Uranus, since that's what it took to find it. What about Pluto? It is not always the last planet, with it's erratic orbit?
I wonder what sign the planets where in at the moment of discovery.....

19-07-2003, 21:06
I suppose, as a non-astrologer, my question is: Did astrology need then BEFORE they were discovered? I find that Uranus, Neptune and Pluto spend 7, 14 and 21 years in each sign, so presumably e.g. their aspects and influence changes on (almost) a "generational" basis? And we already know about the generation gap! Finally, there seems to be now 40(?) of these objects (I hadn't web-searched before!) so, as with Pluto and similar bodies, I just wonder when one would STOP incorporating them... ;)


19-07-2003, 21:58
Dane Rudhyar says that the solar system proper - the heliocosm - ends at Saturn. Saturn has always been the symbol of limitations and boundaries but also of the boundaries for the devlopment of individual consciousness and personality.

Rudhyar says s that ....The solar wind - direct emanations of solar particles - apparently does not reach further than Saturn but...just as the human body, which we normally see as bounded by the skin, actually reaches further through surrounding space through an electro magnetic aura, so the aura of the heliocosm reaches beyond Saturn. This aura is the realm where Uranus, Neptune and Pluto move in a remarkable three fold geometric pattern; and it is through these planets that, symbolically speaking, the power of the galaxy mainly operates.

How does the body of knowledge about meaning develop? I can accept that the Greeks and others tapped into the collective unconscious and that meaning, in the form of mythology, partly sprang from there. Intuitively I can accept the parallels between transformational change and the outer planetary cycles. Transformational change seems to be often a slow evolutionary process of awareness. This makes sense with the development of insight that has come with the growth of knowledge about the collective unconscious and psychic and intuitive awareness.

Astrology is not entirely scientific, right? I thought it had developed through a combination of objective observations and intuitive awareness. In non-western societies these ways of knowing are often taken for granted, accepted without question. We each make up our own minds about how far we want to go along this road of awareness. I have often looked at the interpretations given for some aspects of astrology and wondered where they came from. I hoped that by actually studying I would find out and I'm beginning to put some pictures together.

I am so sceptical of the infallibility of science per se that I'm willing to trust my intuitive and spiritual judgment for a while yet.

20-07-2003, 00:27
Some good points Moongold,

Astrology is not scientific in the modern meaning of the term - though there are many Astrologers who are trying to prove it is.

Mythology may play a role, but as Alexander Markin (Editor of The Journal of Spiritual Astrology) points out mythology is no substitute for proper research. He then asks the intriguinging question - what if Chiron had instead been called Donald Duck? What interpretation would have been placed on this body then?

This is not quite the silly question that it seems - there is, for example, an Asteroid called Frank Zappa. How would we deal with that Astrologically.

Personally I don't agree with Frawley - though I'm not completely sure of the rationale. Uranus I'm more comfortable with - it has a cycle of a human lifetime - around 84 years and I have seen some apparant evidence of its effects - most recently in the thread on Whats Happening to Scorpio.

But does it really rule technology - the technology existed some hundred years or so before it was discovered, and the general means to its discovery, Bode's Law also existed before its discovery. It could well be argued that technology is essentially ruled by Mercury. Indeed prior to the discovery of Uranus, Mercury was the ruler of Astrology - and is linked in modern Tarot to the Magician.

But Neptune and Pluto - I've use the text book meanings but I have reservations. We haven't had a full Neptune cycle since its discovery - so how can we really know what it means. Pluto is of course an even 'worse' case.

Also because we didn't know about these planets 250 years ago does that mean that they had no effect before then?

In the article in TMA about the Mars perigee the author actually says that if we presume that planetary symbols don't exist in our collective consciousness until we've discovered them then ....the Sun - Mars - Uranus alignment has never ocurred before.

So are did these planets only gain importance because we know about them?

Baby Owl
20-07-2003, 03:34
This discussion reminds me of the question "If a tree falls in the forest when no one is around, does it make a noise?"

Baby Owl

20-07-2003, 05:50
Well you've virtually put your finger on it - except its more see than hear.

The argument Frawley uses against the outer planets runs a little on these lines. Planets 'work' through light. The Sun and the Moon are the two luminaries, but all the others receive and reflect light. Indeed the word 'aspect' comes from the Latin word to view or glance, which implies seeing.

If a planet cannot be seen then it cannot make an aspect, so it has no effect (though I believe but I'm not absolutely sure on this that Uranus can be seen under very favourable conditions and only then as a very dim object).

I might actually go along with this argument because it is highly logical. However, Frawley makes use of Arabian Parts, which are not objects at all, they are points in space which are only occupied by a planet by accident. Frawley believes, as do most Astrologers that these points can receive light but not reflect it. However the act of receiving light must have some effect here, otherwise why bother with the points. So if Arabian Parts can have some effect then why not Uranus and co. if they receive an aspect?

isthmus nekoi
20-07-2003, 06:11
Thanks for raising this, Minderwiz. It's always good to discuss the system itself, as well as its uses....

I've always wondered how much emphasis to put on the outer planets, and if I was unaware of them, if I'd simply attribute aspects of my personality to other planets. Sometimes I think that if we add too many bodies, it's too easy to look for a quick explanation there (must be Juno squaring sun!) instead of actually synthesizing the more basic, fundemental elements of the chart properly.

Since I've never looked at Chiron, I can't speak for it.... but I can say that I've seen the transiting outer 3 planets have an effect on other ppl's charts. So.... I'm not about to discount the outer planets.
However, we haven't had as long to observe them, so I agree that we don't know nearly as much about them as the closer planets. But from what we've seen (ie. Uranus in Aquarius = internet), I'm sure there are generalities that we can agree upon, even if things like rulership, exaltation etc are called into question. ie. No matter which sign/house Pluto rules, it is in no way a planet that tries to make nice.

One thing this questioning raises for me is this: to what extent does human consciousness shape/alter the gods, and to what extend do changes in the mind effect the outer environment?
Does human consciousness *discover* or does it *create*?
What if Neptune was named Pluto and Pluto was named Neptune?

20-07-2003, 07:21
The mythology side is quite intriguing really. The first seven planets were known in ancient times, there names being settled on perhaps 2500 years ago or more. Greek mythology was not independent - it evolved in an inter-play with Egyptian, Persian, and Babylonian beliefs. The ancients named the planets out of their own cultures. They also did not 'discover' a planet one day and name it the next. Clearly the names and concepts too, evolved over perhaps a thousand years and innumerable practical experiences of the planetary cycles. For the New planets we have three Uranus cycles, and not one cycle of the other two.

When Uranus was discovered by Herschel, he wanted to call it Georgium Sidus (George's Star) after his patron George III and and then named it after himself - indeed I have seen references in Astrology texts to Uranus as Herschel. He was persuaded to keep to the Greek Gods tradition and so he suggested Uranus.

The point I think, is are we simply drawing on our comparatively limited knowledge of mythology (we no longer live it) and give names without the proper consideration that the ancients gave.

Just to act as devil's advocate - one argument is that Planets reflect the times in which they were discovered. Hence the link of Uranus with revolutions (Amercian and French) but Neptune was discovered at the start of the most bloody period in western history - the Crimean War, The American Civil War, The first World War, and then the Second World War - The machine Gun rather than the idealist came with Neptune.

Also, still playing devil's advocate, which seems more to have the characteristics of the internet, Mercury or Uranus? LOL

isthmus nekoi
20-07-2003, 08:31
WW2 strikes me as having a few Neptunian qualities - this was the 1st war where civilians were really attacked. Also, the motives behind the actions of WW2 are still taught in secondary school, or portrayed in pop culture as heavily inflected w/ideology. Although w/Neptune, I'd imagine a greater religion inflection, given its relationship to Jupiter as ruler of Pisces. Having said that... the ensuing polarization b/w capitalism and communism seemed to hold extreme religious energy.

I did a little search and an interesting thing that popped up was that Neptune was discovered as early as Galileo, but not recognized as a planet. The info comes from a UK school, not sure about its cred.

I find post WW2 very Scorpio; from the Cold War to film noire. Also note the rise of mass consumer culture exported from the US, and the rise of '(nuclear) family values' - Scorp being the opposite of Taurus. It'd be interesting to know if Pluto was discovered around this time, but it was earlier around the beginning of WW2 wasn't it?

And as for internet... Tricky ^_^. I'd say it began as more Uranian - there was a strong antiestablishment element to the internet when it first came out, and conceptions of the net were heavily tied to cyberpunk. But now it seems much more in line w/Mercury. Online shopping, e-mail, these are daily habitual things that hardly challenge the status quo. Sometimes, despite all the advances in software and hardware, I miss the old days of the internet.... Yes, I'm being nostalgic about the net :)

20-07-2003, 09:22
The Uranian Astrologers use 8 trans-Pluto "planets" -- hypothetical, discovered by observation and trail and error. Witte started this development, Ebertin extended it somewhat, and now there are many independent "Uranian" schools. These were formulated and defined in meaning and by ephemeris position during and between the two World Wars of the 19th century. Many would say that this is ridiculous BUT they appear valid in practice and can add a great deal to a chart reading. Recently a new body was sighted and has a position near the hypothetical Cupido (first of the trans-Pluto planets; Cupido, Hades, Zeus, Kronos, Apollon, Admeios, Vulcanus and Poseidon). \
*** As for pre-discovery resonance of people's charts with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto there have been quite a few published although I no longer have that in my files.
*** Do points in space have significance. Well, mid-point practice and theory -- as initiated by Bonitio (?) in Italy (1500's) -- can be said to be points in space -- BUT THEY WORK. I can accept that they commonly used interpretations for Uranus, Neptune and/or Pluto could be different. Edgar Cayce turns Saturns "imposed limitations" around to be "areas where you choose not to grow." Donald Bradley (a Sidereal astrologer and contemporary of Cyril Fagan) links Neptune to "large crowds" and "unclear situations" rather than theater, media, deception and illusion. Fagan has often shown Pluto to be associated with "irrevocable change" and Ebertin with "intense power applied." This is a great discussion. Dave.

20-07-2003, 10:07
Uranus was discovered in 1783, Neptune in 1846 and Pluto in 1930. Chiron was discovered in 1977. I think it was Rudhyar who made the connecting link between the inner solar system and the outer solar system through Saturn and defined the outer planets’ role in influencing individual behaviour.

These planets are placed in house positions in charts, they are aspected by inner planets and they have a relationship with the Sun. They represent things beyond the boundaries of individual consciousness and their incorporation in individual charts and awareness opens up the infinite bounds of possibility to everyone. I think we should be excited about the fact that we are in an evolving system of knowledge and we have more tools and more awareness and general curiosity now to explore the possibilities. Actually……I take the last part of that statement back. The ancients lived this more than we do; they just didn’t have the tools we are fortunate to possess.

Some people like Erin Sullivan align the growth the social concept of individuality with the incremental discovery of the outer planets and speculate that we are actually in the formative stages of awareness of the meaning of individual and collective consciousness. We just don’t know yet. Thus the boundless potential for discovery in astrology really excites me. This is my Sagittarian soul, mixed with a little bit of Pisces imagination kicking in here.

It would be a wonderful research task for someone to go back and look at significant events and social movements to see where they fit in the astrological scheme of history and meaning. This could give us much more coherent data to support our ideas and discoveries. For example Erin Sullivan recounts the story of Marie Curie who was born in 1867 with the Sun in stationary retrograde trine to Uranus in her chart. We knew about Uranus and Neptune then. Neptune, which rules chemistry, was aspected by her natal sun, calling her to an unknown destiny. We did not know about Pluto then, however. As it so happens, Marie Curie with her 8th House Sun in Scorpio opposite to Pluto unveiled the future death weapon of the atomic bomb through her discovery of radium in 1906.

There are many interpretations of history – when things began and what they actually mean – so these discussions are always going to be polemic, but oh, what fun! Just the few things we've discussed already in this thread about the internet and its discovery are arguable in terms of history and meaning. Certainly my understanding of the social and political historyof the 20th century varies a little from yours, Isthmus, but that is part of the excitement of this discussion.

20-07-2003, 19:03
I have no problems with sensitive points, I have experimented with the Arabian Parts and I do think they work - also they have a significant history of usage - they were almost certainly used by the Greeks and re-introduced into Europe by the Arabs.

My point was really that you cannot on the one hand say that things work by light and dismiss the outer planets as being non-visible therefore irrelevant, and on the other use non visible points - one of my main criticisms of Frawley.

I am sure that the outer planets play an Astrological role, but my certainty of what it is tends to fall off somewhat with distance. Saturn is Jupiter's father the outermost visible body. It is reasonable (though not necessarily correct) to name a trans Saturn body as Uranus - Saturn's father. The mythology of Uranus, though is not highly developed but I am sure that this planet is something that we should incorporate and 'experiment' with.

At the Pluto end it seems a fair amount more uncertain. Pluto's astronomical nature has been revised since its discovery, it is questionable whether it is a true planet and a satellite, Charon, has been identified (as late as 1978). It seems we need to be far more careful of what role Pluto should play. I tended to take the standard modern approach and still do. But it seems to me that Pluto is more important to Mundane Astrology - nations and empires rather than to individuals, whose lifespan is about a quarter of Pluto's cycle. Pluto may well be transformational but it is a long, slow and subtle process.

I'm not sure whether its Frawley or Lee Lehman, but one of them has an analysis of the Curie Natal chart that gives a different interpretation and shows how it fits her life. The point being not so much that it disproves Pluto's role but that we have made the Curie chart fit Pluto. An argument along the lines that: She helped discover radioactivity, Pluto represents radioactivity, therefore her natal chart must be Plutonian and this is the only way we can look at her life.

Moongold is dead right when she points out that we have many interpretations of history and one problem is that we may try to make history fit the (supposed) nature of the planet. Another is that the 'history' is Western History - how does Uranus and company 'fit' Chinese or Indian or African history? and does it matter if they do not?

Dave makes some good points about the Trans-Pluto hypothetical planets. Just because they are hypothetical at the moment should we ignore them or dismiss them? All three outer planets were at one point or another hypothetical. perturbations in orbits of known planets and Bode's Law predicted their existence. Why should Pluto be the Limit? Indeed we already acknowledge the existence of Kuyper(?) belt objects.

I think the general point is that we should be a little thoughtful of our interpretations here, not that we should dispense with bodies which do seem to have a real potential.

20-07-2003, 21:26
Originally posted by Minderwiz
I'm not sure whether its Frawley or Lee Lehman, but one of them has an analysis of the Curie Natal chart that gives a different interpretation and shows how it fits her life. The point being not so much that it disproves Pluto's role but that we have made the Curie chart fit Pluto. An argument along the lines that: She helped discover radioactivity, Pluto represents radioactivity, therefore her natal chart must be Plutonian and this is the only way we can look at her life.

Hi Minderwiz,

The interpretational material about Madame Curie came from Retrograde Planets by Erin Sullivan, and I actually found a copy of her chart in Healing Pluto Problems by Donna Cunningham.

The reality of the aspects is in the natal chart, but it's what you make of them that counts. Sullivan cited Curie's chart in a discussion about the very issue this thread is concerned with, and Cunningham used Curie to illustrate a point about Pluto as Hermit, Scholar and Teacher.

It would be interesting to see some legitimate, evidence based research around planetary movements and critical world events, and individual historical data. It will always be interpretational but then we CAN make up our own minds. Your point about *who, when and why* attributed radium to Pluto is well made, however.

I read some of the characteristics attributed to various signs, aspects and so on and often wonder "Where does that come from?" and the resolve to learn and read a lot more. There is undoubtedly a lot of nonsense around,

The points that you, and Isthmus, often make about keeping things simple and learning the basics thoroughly is really important advice which I carry with me into each new pathway in astrology. You cannot go too wrong this way.

It is still really exciting to see how this art or discipline will develop from here on, in :). I'd love to see more research of the kind we've talked about tonight.

21-07-2003, 01:04
Yes I very much agree the issue is to keep things simple. I'm also in full agreement with your point about research and attempts to show some clear linkages between the Outer planets and world events, because I think that is the area that evidence will come.

The problem with Pluto is a rather fundamental one - its cycle is 242 years, just over 4 cycles per millennia, Compare that to Jupiters approximate 6- 7 cycles per life or Saturn's approx 3 per life. What's more for much of our knowledge of Pluto's existence it's been either in the same sign or adjacent sign to Neptune. Difficult to disentangle but I would not have thought impossible.

I checked up on the Curie reading - I attributed a Frawley type approach to the reading. In fact it was Lee Lehman and she takes a different view to Frawley on the outer planets. She is quite willing to use them in interpretation and indeed accept some rulership by what she calls Type II or natural rulership. So she does seem quite willing to allow Pluto rulership over Radioactivity but not over Scorpio. Curie has a stellium in Scorpio but she (Lehman) tries to show that more can be extracted from the chart using Mars as the ruler of Scorpio and simply treating Pluto as a natural ruler of radioactivity.

There clearly are significant differences even amongst Traditional Astrologers over what role the Outer Planets play.

One of the problems is that we live in an age where the accepted world view incorporates the psycological views of Jung as an almost unquestionable fact. This leads to a view that Astrology can only make sense in Jungian terms - and indeed that Tarot can only make sense in Jungian terms.

Old concepts like Hot and Dry, Cold and Wet or the four humours are treated as being totatl rubbish and clearly wrong, so Astrology needs to be reinvented in a twentieth century world view. Yet the signs did not originate out of Archetypes or psychology - they originated out of an elemental approach to nature. They also primarily played two roles - seasonal markers and secondly, qualifiers to planetary energy. If you look at Lilly's account of the sign of Scorpio he says

'A cold watery nocturnal phlegmatic feminine sign of the watery trimplicity, fixed and north, the house and joy of Mars. Feminine it doth represent subtle deceitful men'

The rest of his description is concerned with diseases of Scorpio, Places it rules, Kingdoms it rules and a physical description of Scorpio man.

There is nothing resembling the modern depth of psychology indeed the neares to psychology in his definition is 'subtle and deceitful' and terms like 'phlegmatic', and 'nocturnal' are no longer used by modern Astrologers. Its almost like there is a major break or fracture between us and our view of signs and the view of signs in the heyday of Astrology. I'm not attempting to say that one is right and the other wrong - I'm in no way qualified to know, but that we assume much because of the culture we live in and exclude much because it comes from cultures we don't undertand.

That being said Lilly's definition has the advantage of being simple, at least in the terms of his time. LOL

21-07-2003, 10:07
Sometimes the practice of working with a lot of charts leads to OBSERVATIONS that can be shared with others. They in turn add to the first observer's body of knowledge. Sometimes this get catagorized and more widely shared.
PLUTO: Pluto at the Ascendant of a chart often denotes one with an essence of intensity, deep or more-closely spaced eyes, high forehead, narrow face. I have a grand-daughter with Pluto on the Ascendant -- she fit Alan Leo's observations from a century ago exactly. NEPTUNE: At the Ascendant, this planet seems to convey dreamyness or constant use of ones imagination about things tangental to their current enviornment, tallness, a hazy look to their hair, a quick smile. I have a friend who fits this description from my notebook (made many years ago) -- he has the habit of falling asleep in the middle of a business meeting or social gathering.
*** Certain physical qualities have long been observed relative to a planet at one's ascendant. This is one of the time-honored ways of exploring interpretive meanings for planets. There is no doubt that the outer planets have their own impact on many of us. They also play strong roles in Mundane Astrology where they better fit the roles abscribed to them as "social" or inter-generational planets. I would also caution anyone about dismissing any of them because of size or distance from us. A close friend runs TreehouseMountain.com and has made a deep study of asteroids. She publishes books on them and provides a monthly on-line dialog covering many of the hundreds she is familiar with. I've seen her work and its impressive. Dave.

21-07-2003, 18:47

Some very good points - we might not be able to see or experience a Pluto cycle or a Neptune cycle but as you point out we can and do experience charts with Pluto spread through the Houses, including the Ascendant. So as you say, we can observe where in the mundane area of life an effect may be felt and then observe to see if it does indeed manifest. The same of course can be said for the asteroids and Chiron type objects. You quite rightly point out that the observations can be shared (and possibly checked).

Although I have played the devil's advocate in some posts, I do belive that the outer planets have an effect - For Neptune and Pluto this importance is more likely to be at the level of mundane Astrology but that is certainly not to say that they make no contribution to Natal work.

I've tended to put forward Frawley's arguments because it came as rather a shock to me that a present day Astrologer could dismiss the outer planets as of no validity and I wanted to see how others responded to the view.

I must admit that I think it would be difficult to shift Frawley from his position, even by appeals to observation because we are not dealing with single factors where the we are comparing like with like but the complexity of a chart where even the same planet may be in different circumstances. He seems to work from what he would see as first principles and, seeing he does not appear to accept any principles with the outer planets, any argument with him over their effects, would become sterile.