Analogical Reasoning in Astrology

The previous discussion of William Lilly and con-significators  got me thinking about how astrologers draw conclusions in their work.  Sometimes astrologers use logical deduction (Morinus is a great example) and sometimes they appeal to evidence or facts (Ebertin on midpoints), but more often than not astrologers reason from analogy (on the basis of the maxim, “As above, so below”).  The value of analogical thinking is that it can help us to “think outside the box” and come up with creative solutions which ordinary logic blocks us from seeing.

As we learned in high school geometry, logic is the most compelling form of argument.  Appealing to facts and evidence is the basis of the scientific method, but it is prone to the fallacy of equating correlation with causation.  Argument by analogy is probably the most creative form of reasoning but it not infrequently leads to questionable conclusions.  Analogies such as “as above, so below” simply state that a similarity exists but not that two separate things are identical in every respect.  As a result, analogies always break down somewhere; otherwise the two things would be identical.

We can summarize these ideas by stating that correlation is not causation and that similarity is not equivalence.

The dictionary defines “analogy” as “a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects.”

The prefix “ana-” comes from the Greek, meaning “up from” (generation, increase) and is the opposite of the prefix “cata-” meaning “down from” (degeneration, decrease).  Bodybuilders at the gym are very familiar with the difference between anabolic and catabolic steroids.  Ana-logical thinking takes off from a logical connection and goes above and beyond it, or “up from” what logic alone can reveal.

The noted Scottish philosopher David Hume (O.S. Apr 26, 1711 – Aug 25, 1776) demonstrated how the creationist argument by analogy can be used against itself.  Creationists argue that the universe is vastly complex yet runs like a finely crafted clock.  We all know that clocks are made by clock-makers, therefore by analogy the universe must have a Universe Maker, namely God.

Hume points out that individual clock-makers are really part of a large community of people who bring together the knowledge and raw materials with which to build a clock.  The clock maker merely executes the final step of putting it all together.  By analogy, God is one among many gods in a polytheistic universe.  The entity that creationists call “God” is simply the final god who assembles all the parts.  God could not do his job without the help and input of all the other gods of the pantheon.

In addition, we all know that imperfections and chaotic conditions exist in creation.  Clock makers make mistakes and sometimes do a lousy job.  Many clocks run fast or slow, for example. Therefore, by analogy the imperfections in nature demonstrate that the universe “is a botched creation of an inferior deity who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of the poor quality of the product.” (Baronett, Stan, 2008. Logic. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 321–325. )

Astrology abounds in such analogical thinking.  We say that the 10th house is the most public of the houses because the Sun shines most brightly at the Midheaven.  The 4th house is the darkest and most hidden part of the chart (where buried treasure is to be found in horary astrology) because the Sun is most obscure in the middle of the night below the horizon.

A favorite argument of classical astrology has to do with analogy by numerical order in a sequence.  Lilly used the term “con-significator” for signs and planets that bore this analogy to the numbering system of the houses.  By convention we number the signs Aries through Pisces from 1 to 12.  If we make the assumption that Aries is the 1st sign, we then drawn an analogy with the Sun’s course during the day and place Aries on the eastern horizon where the Sun happens to be at daybreak.  (In Hellenistic astrology, the sign Cancer was placed on the eastern horizon and Aries was placed on the Midheaven.  Our convention is to place Capricorn on the Midheaven of a “natural zodiac” chart.)

The Chaldeans numbered the visible planets from 1 to 7 based on their relative speeds and distances from the earth.  Saturn, the farthest and slowest planet, came first.  The Moon, the fastest and nearest to the earth, came in last at number 7.  After 7, the cycle from Saturn through the Moon repeats again in Chaldean order.  Thus, Saturn is con-significator of the 1st & 8th houses, Jupiter of the 2nd & 9th houses, Mars of the 3rd & 10th houses, Sun of the 4th & 11th houses, Venus of the 5th & 12th houses, Mercury of the 6th, and Moon of the 7th.  (If we include two full sequences of Chaldean planets, Mercury would have an analogical relationship to the 1st house and Aries, and the Moon to the 2nd house and Taurus.)   Saturn, Aries and the 1st house have in common their “first-ness” – the fact that they all come first in their respective sequence.  Despite the analogy between planets and houses due to their numbering, it appears that Lilly did not much use con-significators of houses in his work.

Nicholas Culpeper (18 Oct 1616 – 10 Jan 1654) — an English  herbalist, physician and astrologer — appears to have used con-significators of the houses more extensively in his practice of medical astrology, using decumbiture charts.  Culpeper lists the associations between planets and houses in Chapter 9 of his Judgement of Diseases (1651):

  • The Sun delighteth in the 4th, 9th & 11th houses.
  • The Moon rejoyceth in the 3rd and 7th houses.
  • Saturn rejoyceth in the Ascendant, 8th & 12th houses.
  • Jupiter rejoyceth in the 2nd, 9th and 11th houses.
  • Mars rejoyceth in the 3rd, 6th & 10th.
  • Venus rejoyceth in the 5th & 12th houses.
  • Mercury rejoyceth in the Ascendant & 6th.

Compare Culpeper’s associations to the Chaldean order of planets matched to the houses:

  1. Saturn (1st house is also the joy of Merucry)
  2. Jupiter
  3. Mars (3rd house is also the joy of the Moon, which travels so quickly around the zodiac)
  4. Sun
  5. Venus (5th house is also the joy of Venus, which rules romance)
  6. Mercury (6th house is also the joy of Mars, which rules fevers)
  7. Moon
  8. Saturn
  9. Jupiter (9th house is also the joy of the Sun, which travels across the sky from one end of the earth to another)
  10. Mars
  11. Sun (11th house is also the joy of Jupiter who grants our wishes)
  12. Venus (also the joy of Saturn, which rules misery)

The idea of analogical correspondence was extended by ancient astrologers to include the human form.  The body can be divided into 12 regions from head to foot.  If we start with the head, by analogy we get the 1st house ~ Aries ~ Saturn ~ the head, and so on until we reach the 12th house ~ Pisces ~ Venus ~ the feet.   The “logic” is that because a body part falls in the same sequence as a sign or house, it must be signified by that sign or house.  Scorpio, for example, falls at the level of the anus and genitals, which explains why Scorpios can sometimes be such sexy assholes, analogically speaking that is.  A drawing by Michael of Rhodes (1534) illustrates this concept well:

Zodiacal correspondences of the human body (based on reasoning from analogy)

by Michael of Rhodes, 1534

The following historical engraving Utriusque Cosmi Historia by Robert Fludd, 1618, makes the same point:

Utriusque Cosmi Historia, by Robert Fludd, engraving 1618

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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6 Responses to Analogical Reasoning in Astrology

  1. james says:

    “..analogies always break down somewhere..”
    that is a good idea to consider when examining many of these arbitrary systems.. how relevant are these ”classical systems”? using your example, the chaldeans numbered the planets from slowest to fastest and gave them an association with the the houses similarly numbered starting at aries.. following along with these examples, why did they start at aries instead of cancer? why did they start with the slowest planet first, instead of the fastest planet first? just how relevant are many of these arbitrary systems that many who are new to astrology automatically adopt?

    perhaps some would like to consider divination, as opposed to logic? geoffery cornelius has a fun article on this titled ‘is astrology divination and does it matter?’ which some might enjoy reading.

  2. James, thanks for the comment. I am a fan of Cornelius and have long held the view of astrology as a form of divination. My first book on horary, writen in the late 1980s and published in 1991, was entitled Horary Astrology – The History and Practice of Astro-Divination. Let me quote from Cornelius’s article which you reference:

    ” A much more radical move is needed: to recognize that the very structure of what we do in interpreting horoscopes depends not upon the influence of the heavens upon the seed, nor upon some objective “time-quality” stamped out by the heavens, not even by synchronistic co-occurrence in objective time. It depends on the significant presentation of the symbol to consciousness.[5] The moment doesn’t determine significance for us – we assign significance to the moment. Then we see that astrology is about chaotic and irrational signs and omens of things that are unplanned and can’t be predicted – if and when a sign occurs, we read it. There is no technique to make signs and omens occur, but there is a ritual we make to invite the gods and spirits, and create the space wherein their sign may occur – the sacred space of the horoscope. Then we just see what comes up. The time of astrology is no longer Aristotelian objective time. It is the time assigned, given by the intentionality of consciousness, and that which shows in response comes by grace or providence or chance.”

    [5] Geoffrey Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology, London, Penguin Arkana, 1994, p. 41.

  3. offshore company says:

    “The theoretical foundation for most magical practices is a belief in correspondences, or hidden relationships among entities within the universe— especially between human beings and the external world…The theory of correspondences affirms the power of thought to confer reality on products of the imagination, particularly when these thoughts are expressed through significant symbols.” 1997 Encarta Encyclopedia.

  4. Thanks for all the hard work you’re doing on this subject. It’s not always easy to find intelligent discourse on the subject of astrology! I’d like to post a link on my site to your blog, if that’s all right with you?

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