a turn around the Stars and a Mulberry Tree
Astronomy and Making Models
There are approximately 200 moons in our solar system. There are more small planets in our solar system than we can easily count. Even with the best telescopes ever made we still really don’t know how many planets there are in our neighborhood , though our current estimate is 200 in the Kuiper Belt alone, and perhaps as many as 10,000 planets beyond the Kuiper Belt. That sounds a little different than what you have heard in the past perhaps. More planets than we can count? Even in our own solar system?
The point here is not to set up a farce but to illustrate that though what follows may warp your perception about the solar system, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the first time that has happened–even about the solar system. Almost any notion or concept that is adequately considered has a degree of fuzziness and degrees of clarity and distinctness.
An Arbitrary beginning vs the Only Way to Do It
One thing I love about mathematics is that it is very much at ease with how arbitrary each of its theorems are. When you are given axioms to prove an argument, you can never prove that what you have assumed to be true and important is true in all cases. You may prove many things in Mathematics without needing to prove that where you started out is necessarily the only way to look at the problem. If Godel’s theorem is proof that all proofs and systems must necessarily start from an arbitrary origin point, and are essentially without a solid ground to stand on, then it is equally true that where you start out in any systematic way of working or looking at the world, is less a matter of the one true and only way to start and a lot more like an arbitrary point.
So even though I offer a set of 12 Celestial Bodies (not including Moons) as my own personal system, I do not in any way want to lead you to believe that they are the only ones to consider as your own Spheres of Life if you should choose any. Nor is it my intention to only regard these 12 as exclusively the ones to consider over others. Even so, my origin points are ones I offer for a decent point to begin to talk about Harmony & Discord and the way that it affects life in our world and Solar System.
Maps and the Limits of the Page
There is a strange difficulty in talking of the stars. If you were to try to map them out in a true to scale form, you couldn’t see a thing. In perception a light can be so bright that you see it shine even though on the printed page if it is true to size against the full breadth of the sky, it is so small as to be like a point with no dimension at all. So when you go to map the solar system, there is a necessary distortion of reality that must occur if only to make visible that which is otherwise without dimension or quality from our perspective on Earth.
So the question remains: How do you convey the timeless patterns and powers that exist around us? How do you map it out and share it like it’s a poster or a study card or an illustration in a book? Even if you ignore the vast differences in scale between the size of the sun (1.4 million km) and the distance between it and the closest planet nearby (60 million km), or Mercury as it is called, even if you ignore the scale of size and distance and simply put all the planets in a grid next to each other, you couldn’t convey their size differences, or their differences in mass or any other number of physical qualities unless the depiction is severely distorted for the purpose of putting them all on a single page map (even though it is still quite difficult in certain ways to clearly convey the full reality of the journey from planet to planet in any form of art we commonly know).
So you have a page and you have some time to talk about it. What do you say? And what do you have to put on the page first before you can ensure that you’ve set the stage adequately enough for something to be taught or clearly expressed?
In this case you can see some of the patterns and how this might relate to the solar system, especially in the first image which contains some of the glyphs for the planets. Though it looks nothing like our solar system in some regards, it really is quite an interesting and ingenious way to convey its structure.
The Tree of Life and some issues of what to include
In this book I will use the Tree of Life as a pattern that is a very important connective fabric that has been handed down through history in a very cohesive and unchanged form. “10 spheres and not 11. 10 spheres and not 9 or 12” for that matter — or so it is said in a similar fashion in the Sefer Yetzirah or the Book of Creation. As well as its number of spheres being relatively unchanged, there are the “Divine Names”, the name of the Sphere, a planet or a celestial body, an archangel and an order of angels connected to each Sphere have been fairly consistent in the history of its teaching. This is why it is a potentially difficult thing to submit edits to this pattern: out of respect for something built to last in unchanged form. So in some ways it is possibly a confusing thing to submit “edits” or additions to this pattern. Yet it is my hope that instead of muddying the waters of Perennial Wisdom and Kabbalistic practice, some of what follows will help to dispel some of the fog of intellectual obscurity which surrounds much of the lore and writing which is associated with Kabbalah.
I have often heard it said that Kabbalah is too intellectual. The Tree of Life is thought of as a beautiful pattern, yet how to go about using it or working with it is very seldom related. The practices and lore have been heavily guarded secrets, and even to this day some of the central texts on Kabbalah written for and by practitioners or Kabbalists — you can only buy them if the publisher or provider deems you worthy to read it.
Even so, the Tree of Life pattern has been adopted by other cultures including my own, even though it is still a relatively small group of people who use it. So when I say that it was adopted into Western culture, meaning European and American, it really means that it was adopted and used by perhaps less than 2 percent of the population at any time. .
To all those who have taught and practiced and developed the alchemical wisdom of this tradition I am greatly indebted.
Time and Highly Composite Numbers
One of the strangest things about how we keep time is that it is really quite possible that there isn’t really much reason to split a year into 12 parts except that if you are keeping time and are going to be doing a lot of math and analysis it is nice to have the range of numbers fit into an easily workable form. 12, 24 and 60 are all highly composite numbers. This means that if you want your numbers to be easier to work with you choose one of the highly composite numbers as the base for your counting system. This is another very likely reason why 12 months are adopted to split the year, 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour or 60 seconds in a minute. And even if it wasn’t the original reason for its being adopted as our way of keeping time (likely it was the lunar and stellar cycles), it is a big reason why other cultures, including our own English speaking one, still use these standards in time keeping. It has little to do with cultural dominance these days, even if it was at some point in the past.
In other words, it isn’t some ultimate unfathomable truth beyond all doubt or criticism that drives our timekeeping practices–it is usefulness and expediency. It was especially important to ancient priesthoods and temples and universities who kept time and had the tools, resources, skills and knowledge to calculate the time accurately. Whether by water clocks or by stone constructions–finding the exact hour of the day was a very much more difficult thing to accomplish in ancient times. For the birth of a child or the time of death of a king, someone who had an intimate knowledge of astronomy and mathematics would have to be consulted. It is not strange at all to me to think that such individuals and groups would be trusted as we trust scientists and doctors today–albeit that some still do not trust science or astronomers and even think of them as quite the sinners for their heresy. I like to think that cultural realities are complex in all times and places, even if to an outsider they may look dull and uncomplicated.
From my perspective, Culture is perhaps the most highly controversial and dramatic word in the history of all words. In every language it is full of pride and venom. “Our culture is great–others are simply barbarians.” Every culture in history has fallen prey to this simple ugly statement. In terms of inquiry and knowledge there are very good reasons why such statements of cultural pride should never be a part of what we call science or wisdom. If we are to be stewards to the earth and to other species as we so gallantly proclaim in sacred texts and in our churches and temples–then perhaps it is time that we left behind our false pride as regards human knowledge and history, and especially as regards other species, times and places and their ability to cultivate and develop life — and therefore to have a Culture. Maybe it is worth considering that people pretend they are bigger than they are when they are feeling rather small. But since it is natural to feel small when you try to learn about any historical era or any culture that is foreign and strange according to your own habits and proclivities, it seems to me to be unfortunately the requirement for any useful inquiry into the past or of nature that we start off where cultural arrogance leaves the stage.
All life has Culture
Culture is useful as an umbrella term for biological production and processes, whether it is by a specific species or a group of them working together. In some ways the easiest way to define culture is as a human centered idea–as though culture only applies to human settlements and populations. The existence of spoken and written language is a sign of culture, though without such simple signs–where human culture is given rather identifiable markers in written language–we may be inclined to say that other species simply don’t have culture or language because they are not like ours and we have not treated other species in any way on equal footing as regards culture and the sharing that occurs if culture is to develop. This is why culture applies to all living things. What life produces is here considered always to be a product of culture–not only human culture exists but all life has culture. The difficulty as well as the great purpose locked inside the idea of Culture as it is now regarded, is that it will take a lot more schooling and trading and sharing with other Earth species to truly understand what Cultures exist here and what their Nature is. How do you know bees don’t write books or record experience or have complex social behaviors and communicate with nuance and humor? The answer is that we have been so unimaginative as regards other species and what Culture they might have that we nearly expect all species of beings to have hands and eyes and facial features just like us — and this case is not too far off from what images of Gods you may see.
Of course, what truly brings a smile to my face is that the process of cultural learning always must needs begin in a kind of “monkey see, monkey do” — where we repeat and copy each other and the cultural harmonic is reinforced and strengthened.
Doctrine of Signatures and the Measured Properties of the Stars and Planets
A restatement of the Doctrine of Signatures
The observable qualities of a thing determines its connection to all other things.
A thing’s qualities become its signature.
Many of the principles and ideas associated with the planets and the stars have to do with traditional accounts and lore which surrounds the effects of the cycles and alignments as perceived from earth. One of the strategies that is key to this book is the re-aligment of astrological lore to match measured and measurable qualities of the planets and stars.
In the case of planets and nearer objects, people find it hard to believe that the planets have much effect on our daily lives and yet they would grant that weather has some effect, especially in extreme cases of natural disasters and great storms. Yet when it comes to esoteric and magical ideas the general populace is less convinced of the affects of the planets and the heavens here on earth. Materialistic science — or science which is based on the principle that only the physical world is the real world — has come to haunt our consciousness with a very hasty appraisal of all experience and what we will be willing to grant as a valid line of inquiry.
The strange part of this is that modern science is not possible when viewed from a strictly physical and materialist perspective. The effects of observation, intention, and imperceptible forces that function on a purely imagined or virtual plane of reality are the true governors of matter and its structure and changing form. Quantum mechanics is often cited as a field of study not achievable within materialist doctrine and practice. What this means is that since quantum mechanics is the science of the smallest scales and the elemental and elementary aspects of our cosmos, it is also a very important aspect of reality in the physical world we know. A computer nor any electronic device nor the sun itself would be possible save for the strange world of subtle energies and elemental imperceptible forces.
The Doctrine of Signatures is the idea that the internal structures, and also the structure of the shared qualities of the physical world say much of the nature and change of the physical world. In some sense this is true and observable as when an animal is observed to have the qualities of a dog and is also found to be a member of that species. However just because a plant looks like it has dog ears doesn’t mean that dogs can eat it or that their ears be restored to health by eating it. To be sure, the operative word that is missing in the above definition of the doctrine of signatures is that the “deeper” structures of the physical world govern its nature and action in the myriad forms we experience it in. As in music one melody may echo another, but still two melodies alike may yet be totally incompatible in the same composition together if they are in a different rhythm or key.
For the purpose of understanding and actively working with planetary forces and principles in our lives and thinking, the doctrine of signatures might be of some use in considering the idea of the deeper structure which connects all of our lives on earth is quite literally the solar system and what it is composed of and what tones and rhythms it makes as time flows on. As much as this is an exposition of standard scientific data with attention to the subtler aspects of what this data means, this is surely also a reappraisal of a way of looking at the world which is less centered on a nationalistic, one species centered, patriotic or provincial mode of thinking.
The thesis I will trace is one of Harmony and Discord. These as always govern our entire lives, all of culture and all of our perception.
From Eris to the Sun and back again. Discord to Harmony return.
Music — Harmony — Change
In terms of forces and the resonances of forces in all things, nothing could be better put forward as a governing metaphor and even as a factor which governs all action and change as would be Music. In the Solar system, the major planets are all in one key and most play only the same note in different octaves or registers. This is primarily a quality derived from distance from the sun and how much that body deviates from that average distance from the sun (in orbital eccentricity). Other factors such as composition or what its made of, mass or what it weighs, and size are more like the differences of character and phrasing but also lend something important to the tone, register and rhythm of the planet. Only two planets deviate from that one single note that all the planets play — Earth and Neptune, which exist at a perfect fifth. The Solar System is in some sense a power chord in terms of orbital distance.
In other ways, the Day length of each planet is the harmonic of perception, and a character of subharmonic and rhythmic embellishment might be said to occur in these qualities
All of the qualities measurable that we have are used to tease out some of the music that exists in the solar system and the galaxy. The operative idea is that this music is the dominant force in our neighborhood with which all things in it must make their music with in order to survive. It is close to the idea that wherever you are the particular music of that place and the particular rules of harmony that exist there determine the way of Harmony and Discord and how everything around can co-exist together is determined by Harmony, Discord and their myriad offspring.