Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Containing Infinity: Neptune conjunct Pluto in 1398

We study astrology to understand the universe in its infinite permutations, to contain the universe within our minds.  Much of what we call science is really engineering, or an endeavor to manipulate parts of the universe.  Astrology is not about changing reality, but about observing it in the context of time and space.  We measure time by the lights that travel through the day and night sky.

As we follow the lights of the sun, moon and other planets we see that their patterns of movement are as complex as multiple traffic clovers at 5:00 in the evening.  Many people believe Newton figured out the defining equation for gravity when an apple fell on his head, because the fallen fruit and his equation for gravity are all that’s left of him in school books; but outside of government issued textbooks there is a Newton who spent a lifetime studying the time tables saved by generations of people who saw the sky as an extension of earth.  I’m talking about real time, like when the noon sun makes a line perpendicular to the horizon, or the moon is 180 ° from the sun on a circle of 360 parts. 

Astrology has been a victim of its own success; natural philosophers came up with such a teachable system, that powerful people with the will to conquer and lacking the motivation to learn, could charge others with creating simple devices to imitate it.  Calendars were so simple, yet so like the real thing, that any civil servant could administer the ruling government’s schedule in far flung conquered lands.  No need to observe the heavens from one night to the next and consult tables of where the planets should be seen, just mark off blocks on a calendar every time the sun comes up, collect tribute from the vanquished on the 30th block and that was that.  Villagers learned that they didn’t need an astrologer to read the heavens, the blocks on the calendar told them when the ruling government allowed celebrations, and that’s when time started coming down to earth. 

I’m making it sound so imperialist, and it was, and people did fight back, as documented in the Adventures of Asterix and Obelix; but ultimately natural philosophers gave way not just to calendars, but paved roads, aqueducts, indoor plumbing, homogenized milk, electric lights and trash compactors.  So much technology has come between us and the real heavens.  Somewhere along the way we got this story of a Jew murdered by the Roman government that sits at the right hand of his old man in heaven.  It sounds bizarre, but the same people that repeat this strange story every Sunday help build the roads and the internet, making it virtually possible to be in more than one place at the same time; so why shouldn’t they believe that a political prisoner assassinated by the Romans can come back to life and float up to the sky like a helium balloon escaped from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

In 1398 (calendar time) the planet Neptune was lined up in the solar system with Pluto, in a meeting that we witness once every 493 years.  Each successive meeting occurs only 6 degrees further along in the zodiac from the previous rendezvous, so it takes 5 of these nearly five hundred year cycles before a meeting takes place in a new sign (30 degrees in a sign), and 60 cycles before their point of conjunction returns to the same segment of the zodiac.  The 1398 meeting took place at 4 degrees Gemini; the first meeting in 2,500 years to occur in a sign associated with abstract reasoning.  The two meetings in the millennium previous to 1398 took place in Taurus, a primitive earth sign associated with the formation of roots.

The 1398 Neptune/Pluto conjunction in Gemini marked our first major historic period in 2.5 millennia when we poked our leaves out of the soil and learned to use the light of the sun; for over 10 years Neptune and Pluto could have been seen together (with the aid of a powerful telescope) progressing from the end of Taurus to the beginning of Gemini in the Renaissance night sky.  Oh!  But wait a minute; they didn’t have telescopes that could see Pluto back in the 14th century, much less Neptune

Do two hands clapping from a distant planet make a sound?  Were Neptune and Pluto reflecting the sun’s light before humans invented telescopes to magnify it? 

What did happen when the modest gas giant caught up with the way out little rock?

“Wow, 493 years!  Damn it’s good to see you WeeMan.”

“You’re lookin good yourself, Little Cloud.”

 “That meeting with Uranus looked like a blast!” *

“Almost as wild as your meeting over in Aquarius with Saturn.  Yes, some very exciting works that won’t be read till the printing press, but the pipes are primed."

“We did have too much fun.  No one can best Saturn when he makes that turn at the Tropic of Capricorn, and by the time we met in Aquarius, well, you were there in the middle of the action though!”

“Oh yes; physics, geometry, they had a ball with the concept of infinity, went at it like fire and the wheel.  Excommunications all round, but the candle’s lit.  You know how things get rolling with Uranus in the neighborhood.  Yes, that was quite an eventful pair of conjunctions, and meeting Uranus half way to the tropic of cancer, I felt like Cinderella at the ball.  But I thought you would never get here!”

“Me neither.  I wonder how Mercury does this so often.”

“Not to mention earth’s moon, it makes me dizzy to think of so many conjunctions!”

“Lonely out here, but a lot less traffic…”

“Yup.  Easier to concentrate.”

“Looks like Saturn and Uranus are throwin some bolts over in Sagittarius.”

“Harvesting heretics.”

“How I have missed your black humor.” 

*In 1344 Uranus was conjunct Pluto in Aries while Saturn was finishing a conjunction with Neptune in Aquarius.