Before I began to study astrology, for many years I was, and remain, interested in science. In particular, physics and subatomic physics (the study of the particle world that comprises atoms and matter) have always fascinated me. As the years have gone by, I have seen many correlations between the paradigms and theories of science and physics, and the more mystical world we deal in when we approach astrology. In this article, I will try to present some of these correlations. I wish to state from the outset, however, that I won’t attempt to “ultimately explain” these things.
That’s the part I’m still working on.
The Relationship of Numbers to Astrology
Pythagoras of Samos (560-480 BCE), is mostly remembered today for the “Pythagorean Theorem”, which relates the length of the sides of a right triangle (a2 + b2 = c2). This is taught in every Jr. High School geometry class. He is also remembered, though to a lesser extent, for his contributions to developments in the fields of mathematics in general, astronomy, and music theory. What isn’t generally remembered is that Pythagoras was a philosopher, and the founder of a religion based in great part upon the meanings of numbers – specifically, what today we call the whole numbers. Astrology borrows from this tradition in its assignment of meaning to the Aspects, as well as to the Triplicities and the Quadraplucities, and, thereby, the Signs and Houses themselves. It is in the Aspects, however, that the correlations can be seen most clearly. The Square Aspect is the whole circle divided by the number four (360° ÷ 4 = 90°). The Square therefore draws its fundamental meaning from the meaning of the number Four. The same is true of the remaining aspects. Those aspects which are most commonly used are even called “The Pythagorean Aspects”, and consist of the …
360° ÷ 1 = 360° or 0°
360° ÷ 2 = 180°
360° ÷ 3 = 120°
360° ÷ 4 = 90°
360° ÷ 6 = 60°
A better understanding of the Numbers upon which these Aspects are based can provide deeper insights into the meanings of the Aspects themselves, as well as the above mentioned numeric underpinnings of much of astrological symbolism.
The Meaning of Numbers
According to Pythagoras, each of the whole numbers had its own intrinsic meaning, just as we believe the Signs, Houses, etc. do today. For the purposes of this article, I will confine myself to the first four whole numbers. The following meanings are my own, based upon my own understanding of these numbers.
One – the ultimately unknowable number. Impossible for the conscious mind to actually conceptualize, since to do so immediately places one into the realm of Two. One may be represented graphically by a point.
Two – the duality necessary for conscious awareness of, and apprehension of, anything. Consciousness seems to operate in the realm of contrasts. Without good, there can be no awareness of bad. Without white, no black. One defines a thing, and is thereby able to become aware of and contemplate a thing by contrasting it with its opposite. When, for example, one defines a color, it is done with reference to its difference to all other colors one is aware of. This principle of contrast seems to be universally depended upon by consciousness, and no consciousness or awareness would seem to be possible without it. It is this principle which makes One ultimately unknowable, since one defines One in terms of the “Not One”, and immediately loses the ability to apprehend One on its own terms. Two may be represented graphically by a simple line segment, and represents the emergence of the principle of differentiation.
Three – the application of awareness by a third principle – i.e. that which is doing the contemplating. The simplest geometric solid one can create is the tetrahedron, and can be illustrated with the simple triangle. A triangle is a picture of one side of a tetrahedron, and can be called the “concept” of the tetrahedron. Three therefore becomes “Conceptualization”, or the ability to form concepts based upon ones awareness via duality. Ideas and creation in their rawest forms belong to the realm of Three. While the concept of a triangle may seem absurdly simplistic, it can also be seen as the beginnings of consciousness (the third element) attempting to apprehend its surroundings and, in addition, to create new surroundings by adding something new. A triangle is also the graphical representation of Three.
Four – to me, one of the most interesting numbers, simply because it’s so obviously seen (more on that in a minute). Four is the number of objective manifestation. If one wishes to create a solid model of the triangle concept, such a model MUST have Four sides. When the model is completed, what one ends up with is the tetrahedron. Four also represents the work necessary to create this model. For instance, a piece of material, say wood, must be acquired. A tool to shape this wood must also be acquired. Both of these activities require the expenditure of energy in their performance, and physics defines this as work. More work must be performed in order to carve the wood into the desired shape. All of this not only requires work, but also time and patience. Additionally, waste is introduced – wasted material cut away and discarded in producing the desired shape, wasted energy in acquiring the necessary ingredients (since nothing is 100% efficient). etc. We see here a preview into the Square Aspect. In short, the simplest geometric solid has Four sides, and so that which manifests in objective reality belongs to Four.
The Number Four and Physics
As I stated earlier, Four is the most obvious of the numbers, so this is where I will start. We live in what we think of as a “real” and “objective” world, and this is probably why Four can be seen so easily. As previously related, anything that manifests in the “objective world” belongs to Four. Here are some examples of Four as seen in our everyday world, and in the world of physics.
- There are Four directions on the compass – North, South, East, and West.
- There are Four states of matter – Solid, Liquid, Gas, and Plasma (these correlate nicely with Earth, Water, Air, and Fire)
- There are Four Forces responsible for running the entire universe – Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong Nuclear Force, and the Weak Nuclear Force.
- There are Four dimensions in our space-time continuum – Length, Width, Height, and Time.
- There are, according to C.G. Jung, Four psychological functions – Intuition, Sensation, Feeling, and Thinking.
- There are Four amino acids that make up the base pairs for all DNA as we know it – adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. These Four amino acids are the nitrogenous bases of DNA, and are arranged like the rungs of a ladder along the sugar-phosphate backbone in a particular order (the DNA sequence), encoding all genetic instructions for every known organism. Without this particular example of Four, life, and therefore consciousness, as we know it would be impossible.
- All life as we know it is based upon the carbon atom. Carbon is capable of forming molecular bonds at Four sites. In other words, carbon can bond with Four other atoms to form a molecule. This is because carbon has Four electrons in its valence shell (the outermost shell of an atom which electrons can occupy, which defines an element’s ability to react chemically with other atoms). Since this shell can hole up to eight electrons, carbon also has Four “empty spots” in its valence shell, which allows it to bond with Four other atoms. Interestingly, carbon has Two electrons in its inner shell, for a total of Six electrons. These Six electrons are balanced by Six protons in the nucleus, for a total of Twelve (there’s that number again) particles in the atom. Carbon is so inextricably bound up with life that the entire branch of chemistry known as “organic chemistry” which studies the chemistry of living organisms is almost entirely the study of carbon compounds.
- Base Pairs in the DNA Molecule
The Structure of the Simple Carbon Atom
As can be seen, the number Four seems to be inextricably linked to our manifested universe. No other number shows up with such regularity when dealing with “that which manifests.” I have listed seven separate occurrences (there are probably more).
For a simple exercise, let’s assume that we have a 7-digit number, such as 1,111,111. Each of these digits has a possible value of 1 through 9 (zero, in this case, has no meaning, and will be omitted).
The chance of all seven digits having a value of Four, resulting in the number 4,444,444, is 1 in 4,782,969.
The Number Three and Concepts
Three can be seen most readily in the religious concept of Trinity. This deals not with something that objectively exists as a solid form in our “objective” world, but, rather, with the world of ideas and creation. After all, didn’t “God create the world?” And isn’t God considered to be “the Creator of all things?” While I have no explanation readily available, I find it very interesting that we have chosen to subdivide our “Creator” into Three parts, or into Trinity.
Three can also be seen to operate in drawing and painting. Here, one transfers one’s concept of manifest reality to a Three-dimensional world of canvas or paper, colored by one’s own ideas and concepts of this reality, and rendered using one’s own creativity (it must be said here that, while a painting or drawing is usually considered to be a Two-dimensional rendition, this leaves out the critical dimension of “time”, since all that exists must exist within time – even ideas).
The Number Two and Duality
As was stated before, we all possess awareness in a realm of contrasts. Good/bad, black/white, light/dark, hot/cold, love/hate, pleasure/pain, pretty/ugly – the list could be extended ad-infinitum. The point is that nothing can be perceived except by contrast. A perfectly white object in a perfectly white room could not be seen if there were no contrasting shadows to define its shape. God could not be perceived without Lucifer to form a basis of comparison. Jupiter’s qualities of expansion couldn’t exist without Saturn’s opposite qualities of constriction and limitation. In “Oh God, Book 2,” George Burns, as God, said, “The problem is that I’ve never been able to figure out how to make a thing with only one side.”
Numbers and the Standard Model
As was previously illustrated, the number seemingly most closely associated with physics is Four, probably because physics deals exclusively with “that which manifests.” Or does it?
The Holy Grail of physics is the Standard Model, a theory which seeks to define matter, energy, and forces in their simplest irreducible forms. This theory, as it currently stands, consists of a table of fundamental subatomic particles which make up all atoms and matter that exists, and the force-carrying particles that bind them together into more complex forms and allow them to interact in specific ways.
The Standard Model
Today’s Standard Model consists of Three generations of particles. The Lepton family consists of Six particles, the electron, muon, and tau particles, along with a neutrino associated with each. The Quark family also consists of Six particles, top, bottom, up, down, strange and charm. These Two families of particles are bound together and interact with each other via the Force-carrying family of Four particles, the photon, gluon, W, and Z.
What I find most interesting about this is the fact that, when we move into the realm of the fundamental basics of existence, we seem to be moving from the realm of Four into the realm of Two and Three. Both the Lepton family and the Quark family consist of Six particles, or 3 x 2. Both families together constitute 3 x 2 x 2, or 12 particles. Each of these 12 (interesting number, isn’t it? – the zodiac is a twelve-fold division of the whole circle), particles also has an anti-particle, though this isn’t seen much in normal existence outside of the laboratory. Nevertheless, if these anti-particles are taken into consideration, then things become even more interesting, since 3 x 2 then becomes 3 x 2 x 2, for a total of 12 particles in each family, and a total of 2 x 12 particles that make up all matter as we know it.
Is it possible that, as we approach the fundamental basis of existence, we are coming up against the Original Concept created by the Mind of the Creator itself? Three, after all, has been shown to represent Conceptualization, and it’s possible that even the Supreme Whatever-It-Is requires duality in order to be and to become aware.
While things now seem to be based solidly in Two and Three, one can nevertheless consider 2 x 2 to represent Four. Additionally, there are the Four force-carrying particles responsible for allowing and governing the interactions of the remaining 12, so again we see Four as necessary for any concrete manifestation as we generally conceive it. Four, when seen as 2 x 2, may represent the ultimate awareness of dualness within duality, or a way for duality to become aware of fundamental duality itself.
Numbers and the Aspects
I would hope by now that the reader has been enabled to see where some of our interpretations of the Aspects come from. The Conjunction, which is the whole circle divided by One, binds any planets in this configuration into an indivisible unit. No separation of these planets is possible, since activating one activates all others contained within this aspect, nor is it possible to be individually aware of how any planet within a Conjunction operates or contributes to the aspect. Since no duality is present within the Conjunction, no awareness of its separate components is possible. This being said, it is possible to bring the combined planetary energy to awareness, particularly if it forms one end of an Opposition or Square. In any case, planets in a Conjunction will always operate as a Unit, tied together beyond any untying or differentiation. The resulting activity will be a combination of the qualities and strengths of each planet involved in this aspect.
The Opposition, based upon the number Two, has “awareness” as one of its main keywords. The need to become aware of both sides of the planetary issue in question, to become consciousness of the seeming conflict of the planets in Opposition, is critical to its resolution. Only by seeing the planetary relationship as “heads and tails of the same coin”, as complementary opposites, and by striking a balance between them can one hope to use this aspect constructively. One must be aware of the contrast, yet appreciate that it is this very contrast which allows awareness of each planet’s qualities and potential contributions to achieving some kind of productive balance between the two. The average person will identify with one side and project the other onto those he/she meets. This is the psyche’s way of trying to force us into awareness and ownership of BOTH sides – the first step towards balance leading to constructive use.
Trines are usually considered creative, but lazy. One gets in a rut and “sits on one’s trines,” unwilling to do the work necessary to actualize their vision (that would take them into the Square). Many astrology texts will talk about the Trine’s lack of motivation as its biggest downfall. The late Richard Idemon referred to the Trine as “the greased pole,” so easy to slide down but so difficult to climb back up. To work with a Trine, one must realize that one has a gift for conceiving of a productive relationship between the two planets sharing the aspect. This gift, however, won’t produce on its own above and beyond the realm of ideas and concepts. While it may be comfortable to “sit on the trine,” it will require work to actualize the potential embodied in this configuration. If a Square touches one of the planets involved, this may supply the required impetus. If not, one must create one’s own Square to actualize the concepts provided by the Trine.
Squares are notorious for creating action born of friction. As illustrated by the number Four, Squares represent the need to actualize, and this requires work, energy, and patience. It takes time to perform a task well. Unfortunately, the Square doesn’t innately possess the virtue of patience, so the task gets done in a half-finished, haphazard fashion, leading inevitably to further frustration. Any two planets involved in a Square need to actualize their relationship, to produce something lasting in the real world. This isn’t helped by the irritation produced by the Square. However, if one takes into consideration that the innate quality of this relationship is both to provide a mechanism for actualization, as well as to govern this mechanism through restriction of the path it can follow, then one may be enabled to stop “pushing the river” and allow things to proceed along their normal course, enduring the delays and frustrations and performing the work necessary, with confidence in the power of Four to ultimately arrive at it’s foregone destination – the actualization in Four-dimensional reality of an original idea. All matter has restrictions on the path it is allowed to take, and the interactions it is allowed to engage in, and the “powers that be” are, in this case, the Four Force-carrying Particles – symbols of universal immutable law which governs all things and allows all things to exist, coexist, and interact.
About the author:
Dwight Ennis has studied astrology for more than 20 years. He was one of the founding members of the South Bay Astrological Society, and was its first President, serving two terms. His primary astrological focus is on the blending of astrological symbolism with Jungian Depth Psychology.