Astrologers’ evaluation of Uranus and the asteroids in 1834
– October 7th, 2007
In the short-lived 19-issue weekly publication ‘The Horoscope’ (1834), edited by the first Zadkiel, Commander Richard Morrison, the year after he had the first edition of his ‘A Grammar of Astrology’ published (1833), and the year before his first edition of his oft-derided abridgement of Lilly’s ‘Christian Astrology’ went to print (1835), is to be found a most interesting discussion of the theoretical influence of Uranus, or rather Herschel, to use the parlance of the day, as well as the first four asteroids to have been discovered.
Since this material is all out of copyright by a margin of at least 89 years under US law, I see no reason not to directly cite the conversants in their own words. Please note that ‘asteriods’ is Morrison’s consistent spelling of ‘asteroids’ so I have used it to represent him faithfully:
P. 39: Objections to astrology, with answers thereto:
“2. If the Herschel planet have so much influence while it is at such an immense distance, why is not some – why is not much attention paid to the adjacent asteriods, Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and vesta?”
“Answer. – The asteriods are very small (the smallest is only 80 miles in diameter, and the largest only 1425 miles), whereas Herschel’s diameter is 35,000 miles. Yet, this alone would be no sufficient reason why they should have no influence; and we are of opinion that they may have some, but very trifling, power. We have seen one nativity wherein Juno was rising, but there did not seem to be any very remarkable effect; though, as the boy lost his father, when young, we should not think Juno fortunate. There can be no doubt that the wise Creator placed them in the heavens for some good end; though, from their great distance from the Earth, compared with their size, we do not think that they were intended to have any great effect upon us. The distance of Juno from the Earth is 157 millions of miles, which is far beyond the relative distance of Herschel, as regards their mutual size. Herschel’s diameter is 35,000 miles, his distance from the Earth, 1705 millions of miles, but Juno’s diameter is only 1425 miles, therefore, to be at a proportionate distance from the Earth, it should be only 69 millions of miles away; whereas, it is 157 millions of miles distant, or 88 millions of miles beyond its due distance. If the asteriods be observed when all four are in conjunction, probably some influence may then be detected.”
P. 61: Correspondence.
“To THE EDITOR.
“SIR, – I have been gratified by the early notice which you have taken of the difficulties which, as I stated to you, I have met with in my astrological investigations. Some of your observations on the subject have given me much satisfaction; but, you will permit me to remark, in perfect good feeling, that other explanations have not afforded me full conviction. The subject is really interesting, and I trust to your liberality for further assistance, or a frank avowal that, in the present state of the science, our knowledge will not enable us to surmount particular obstacles. I am persuaded that you will not care for the puny sneers of those who will “be forgotten as fools, or remembered as worse”. Every science has, and probably ever will have, its obscurities and desiderata; and, by freely pointing them out to the student, we stimulate genius in the career of discovery.
“The influence on the Earth of a heavenly body, is, in its physical action, in the direct proportion of the mass and the inverse square of the distance; and, reasoning by analogy, the same law may be assumed as the standard in estimating what may be denominated the astrological power.*
“In reference, then, to Herschel and the Asteroids, taking Vesta as an example of the latter, we find, by an easy calculation, that, in round numbers, the proportion is, by the above rule, nearly as 6 to 1; and as the astrologers of the present day assign so much influence to Herschel, I see no reason that they should entirely reject four planets, each of which appears to have about one-sixth of his power in respect to the Earth. ^
“The study of these planets may, at some future time, introduce more precision and certainty into astral judgments. It is to be hoped, therefore, that their nature will be soon investigated.
“Another difficulty, under which I have laboured, I shall put, as before, in the form of a question; – Why has not Herschel a house assigned to him in the Zodiac?
“Kepler, to whose fertile intellect Astronomy is so much indebted, made many of his discoveries by following up a pre-conceived notion of harmony; and an intelligent friend of mine, who is imbued with the same spirit, insists that as there are twelve signs, so we might expect twelve planets. Singularly enough, in favour of his hypothesis, we have, including the newly discovered planets, already eleven. As far, therefore, as this reasoning extends, we may presume that another heavenly body, belonging to our system, is yet to be found; in which case, in harmony with the principles of equitable adjustment, each planet might have its own house, instead of the present seemingly confused arrangement, according to which two signs are, without any obvious pretext, given to single planets. #
“By calling the attention of your readers to subjects of research, you may render your interesting periodical subservient to discoveries which, while they extend the limits of human knowledge, may irradiate and more firmly establish your favourite science. I am, sir, your constant reader,
Footnotes by Morrison in response to the letter by A STUDENT:
” *: We do not agree with this doctrine, for Mars is smaller than the Earth, and we KNOW, by repeated experience, that his power is equal to that of Saturn, which is a thousand times larger than the Earth; the difference of their distance will not account for this.
” ^: We wish our correspondent would favour us with this calculation, and a farther explanation on this head.
” #: In a future number we will defend this ‘seemingly confused arrangement’.”
My own notes: ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose…’ as they say.
But seriously, I found the letter by ‘A STUDENT’ to be most interesting, underlining the fact that even as early as the 1830s a scientific understanding of astrology in accordance with the laws of physics was widely sought. I’ve come across debates of precisely this kind of nature within the past few years on an astrological discussion forum I used to manage. A STUDENT appears to me to have been extremely prophetic of some of the theoretical concerns of 20th and 21st century astrologers, including the problem of planetary domicile since the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, of which only Uranus had been discovered at the time of his letter, but his prediction of a further planetary discovery was timely in view of the fact that only 12 years later Neptune would be found.
And Morrison for his part expresses openness to the possibility that the asteroids (or asteriods as he insists on calling them) have some astrological influence, although he will not be drawn by A STUDENT into conceding any ground to the fanciful idea that the traditional system of dual planetary domicile should be disrupted!
Of course, nowhere in any of this discussion is to be found the slightest reference to mythology as a basis for reading the influence of the newly discovered ‘planets’. Study, study, study, all the way….
Equally significant to me on reading these extracts is that they clearly show that in 1834 the assignation to Herschel (Uranus) of its domicile in Aquarius, which had been put forward firmly by Varley in 1828 and implicitly by Smith (Raphael I) in 1825 (as far as I can recall from reading the earlier extensive strand at Skyscript about the rulerships of the outer planets, as researched by Kim, Deb and others), had not been accepted as common currency by astrologers, neither Morrison nor one of his most eager correspondents being of the opinion that Herschel had been assigned a house at all then even though the student in question felt that perhaps it should be assigned one!
So some time between 1834 and 1852, in which in Simmonite’s second edition of his ‘The Prognostic Astronomer or Horary Astrology’, first published in 1851, Uranus was unambivalently assigned its domicile in Aquarius as a given, there must have been a sea-change of astrological opinion. Either that, or Simmonite himself went against the grain, disregarding Zadkiel’s opinion, and following the earlier examples set by Smith and Varley. Some time I’ll have to dig out my first edition of Simmonite’s ‘The Celestial Philosopher’ which was a few years earlier than his ‘The Prognostic Astronomer’ I believe, from the late 1840s, and see if his opinion about Uranus being domiciled in Aquarius had already been set by then. If so, it still will leave some 13 years of uncertainty during which there were few if any astrological publications apart from almanacs and Ebn Shemaya (ie David Parkes)’s ‘The Star’ from 1839, which accords Saturn its domicile in both Capricorn and Aquarius as by the tradition, but adds as a footnote (p. 179 of the original edition; I don’t have the Ascella edition but if it was a facsimile this should be likewise):
“Herschell has the same fortitudes and debilities as Saturn”
which is neither the conventional opinion nor the modern one, but ultimately Parkes is still on the traditional side of the fence in granting Saturn dual rulership over Capricorn and Aquarius!