Astrological Dignities from the Neophyte Knowledge Lecture Part 2.

In Part 1 of this series I gave a brief introduction to the dignities of the planets presented in the Neophyte Knowledge Lecture and a rationally as to the Domicile assignments of the planets. In this post I will discuss the Exaltations and Triplicities.

2. The Exaltations

Exaltations tend to follow Domiciles in importance. While an exaltation encompasses a whole sign, it is interesting to note that each one is strongest at a particular degree, e.g the Sun at 190 Aries. There is a general standardized series of exaltation degrees, however, not all sources agree exactly, but that is a topic for another post. For this we will just focus on the whole signs, see Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Exaltations

Planets in their exaltation are said to “be raised up” or “display more power”. The origin of these exaltations is not fully known however, it has been suggested they are inherited from previous Mesopotamian traditions. While the origins are obscure there are certain interesting correlations evident in the arrangement.

First, much like that shown with the Domiciles in the previous section, we can see rudimentary pairs of opposites.

The light and heat of the Sun is opposed to the cold darkness of Saturn.  Also, the Sun in Aries represents Winter turning into Spring while Saturn in Libra represents Summer turning into Autumn (Fall). It is well known that when the Sun enters Aries at the vernal equinox, the day start to get longer than the night as we approach the warm summer. Similarly, when the Sun enters Libra, the night gets longer then the day as we approach the cold winter.

At the Summer Solstice we have Jupiter in Cancer, representing life, abundance and vitality, while at the Winter Solstice we have Mars in Capricorn, representing death and decay. Finally, we can compare Venus and Mercury’s opposition much the same way we can with the Sephirothic Spheres in Qabalah with a balance of Desire and Intellectualism. The moon does not appear to have a diametrically opposing planet.

Another interesting correlation is regarding the Domiciles from Part 1 of this series. This requires a basic understanding of aspects which will be covered in another blog post. But for the moment assume that there are two main positive aspects, the Trine and the Sextile. The Trine is 1200 or 5 signs apart while the Sextile is 600 or three signs apart. Furthermore, the in Hellenistic Astrology, the planets are said to be separated into Diurnal (Sun, Jupiter and Saturn) and Nocturnal (Moon, Venus and Mars) planets. If you compare the Exaltations with the Domiciles from Part 1 of this series for the diurnal planets, you will notice the exalted signs are Trine to one of the planets houses. For example, Jupiter exalted in Cancer is Trine to Jupiter domiciled in Pisces.  Similarly, the Exaltations with the Domiciles for the nocturnal planets have a sextile aspect. For example, Mars exalted in Capricorn is Sextile with Mars domiciled in Scorpio. This is consistent across all planets. It may be an interesting exercise to do yourself!

3. The Triplicities

In the Neophyte Knowledge Lecture, one is given a very basic attribution of the Planets to the four Elemental Triplicities. This encompassed each Element being assigned 2 planets with Mars solely being assigned to the Element of Water. However, in much Occult literature, each Element is assigned one Diurnal planet and one Nocturnal planet, and the planet Venus is assigned to the Element of Water with Mars. Furthermore, A third cooperating planet is assigned to each Element. See Figure 2 for a summary of this.

Figure 2 The Planetary Triplicities

While the Neophyte does not need to memorize the whole table, it is necessary to study its origin to understand the Golden Dawn attribution. The Triplicities may have their origin in a Hellenistic teaching tool similar to that shown for the Domicile attribution in Part 1, called the “Planetary Joys”. But rather than being focused on the Zodiac signs, the Joys are based in the 12 Houses.

I mentioned House systems in the previous part of the series. While the topic of Houses is for another post, I will just provide a quick summary. While the Zodiac is dependent on the motion of the Earth around the Sun, the Houses is dependent on the motion of the Earth around its axis, otherwise called “diurnal motion”. While the Zodiac Signs represent certain energy the planets experience, the Houses represent the areas of lives these experiences manifest. Much like the Domiciles and Exaltations are the Zodiac signs where the planets are the strongest, the Planetary Joys are the Houses where the planets are the strongest and give significations to. For example, Venus has her Joy in the 5th House, which would explain why the 5th House is associated with pleasure. The origin of the Planetary Joys is a topic for another blog post when I deal directly with the origin of 12 Houses. See Figure 2 for a diagram of the Joys in the 12 Houses. Note that the 1st House, also called the Ascendant is the part of the sky on the eastern horizon and is always displayed at the eastern point of charts.

Figure 3. The Planetary Joys

According to the works of Aristotle, each element had a natural tendency to either travel up or down. This was the basis of his doctrine of “natural place”. In this schematic Fire rises the highest with Air right below. The Earth is at the lowest point with Water renting above. This gives rise to the following order from highest to lowest: Fire, Air, Water Earth. This ordering was adopted by many philosophical schools so as in Hermeticism. However, the student of the Golden Dawn system can spot the difference between this ordering and that of says the Grade structures.

At this point one may spot three things from Figure 3. a) If we place Fire at the highest part of the chart, we can see that it lines up with Fire planets from Figure 2, the Sun and Jupiter. b) Similarly, if we place Earth at the lowest part of the chart, we can see that it lines up perfectly with the Earth planets from Figure 2. c) The Air Triplicity can be attributed to the eastern side of the chart while the Water Triplicity can be attributed to the western side of the chart.

One may wonder why Air is to the east and Water is to the West. The rationale for this can be derived from the diurnal motion. In general, astrological charts, while planets follow an anti-clockwise motion relative to the planets, the 12 Houses tend to follow a clockwise motion. Imagine the wheel in Figure 3 turning clockwise. The eastern part of the chart is essentially moving up towards the horizon similar to how Air rises up below Fire from Aristotle’s theory. Similarly, the western part of the charts moves down toward the bottom of the chart like the water resting on the earth. This could be the rationale for the assignment of Mercury and Saturn to Air, and Mars to Water.

The next question might be, why the nocturnal, diurnal and cooperating planets? First, notice how except for Mercury, all diurnal planets are on the top of the chart while the nocturnal planets are below (referring back to the attribution mentioned in the Exaltations section above). Therefore, we can assign the top half as diurnal and the bottom as nocturnal.

For Diurnal elements (Fire and Air), the most diurnal planet is considered the diurnal ruler while the other is considered the nocturnal ruler. Hence, for Fire, the Sun is the Diurnal Ruler and Jupiter is the Nocturnal Ruler, and for Air, Saturn is the Diurnal Ruler and Mercury is the Nocturnal Ruler. The closest unused planet is considered the cooperating ruler. Hence Saturn for Fire and Jupiter for Air.

For the Nocturnal Elements (Earth and Water), the most Nocturnal Planet is Nocturnal Ruler and the other planet is the Diurnal Ruler. Hence for the Earth Element we have the Moon as the Nocturnal Ruler and Venus as the Diurnal Ruler.

One may now see why the Golden dawn attribution only has Mars for the Water Triplicity. However, other sources claim that since Venus is also a nocturnal planet and closest to Mars, it is the Diurnal Ruler of the Water Triplicity with the Moon being the cooperating Ruler.

This may seem like a lot of information to grasp at once by careful study and meditation will facilitate understanding. For more information on these organs, consult the work of Astrologers Chris Brennan or Demetra George. Similarly, the works of Hellenistic Astrologers such as Vettius Valens, Dorotheus of Sidon, Claudius Ptolemy, Firmicus Maternus etc. can give you first hand information

Published by Manu Forti's Astrology Blog

The blog of a Hellenistic Astrologer in Ireland. I have a PhD in Physics and have 4 cats :)

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