The Aquarian Paradox in Astrology
© 1998 Curtis Manwaring
Few astrologers routinely question the meanings that we assign to certain planetary and other astrological symbols. While I have been aware of the relationship between Saturn/Uranus and Aquarius for some time, it is only recently that I have been absorbed into trying to sort out the paradoxical nature of the symbols associated with this place. I don't expect to be able to solve the riddle as to why the inconsistencies exist, but just to call attention to the problem. However, it is also the case that the more you analyze something, the more likely you are to take something out of context and make void the argument. This article is not a criticism of the way astrologers have been reading charts. I am not suggesting that what they have been doing is wrong and should be corrected because of these insights. I suggest instead that it would be useful for the reader to make the mental distinction between planetary rulership and affinity.
At first I thought that the inconsistency in significations were due to Raphael and Partridge's efforts to integrate a post-chaldean solar system into the zodiac during the period of the Enlightenment. Upon the discovery of Uranus, there was considerable confusion as to where this planet fit in with regards to rulership and a perfectly symmetrical system was modified. The logic was that as you move towards the more universal signs, assignment of rulership went to those planets more ponderous in motion. Thus, if Saturn ruled Capricorn, Uranus would rule the next sign and any planets discovered thereafter would go in zodiacal order. Later on this principle was ignored in the assignment of Pluto, in favor of the affinity argument that a planet ruling a sign should have roughly the same qualities as that sign. The problem is that this addition and inconsistency broke up a continuity that existed in the old system of rulerships without understanding the implications for how this might affect "first principles". We know that the "oikodektor", what the Greeks called the house steward, was the planet responsible for conducting the affairs of a given sign and that the other three major dignities had different functions, but little else. We have few insights as to why rulerships were originally assigned as they were and how modern improvisations may have contaminated the meanings of these signs. I do believe though that something more is going on here and Uranian driven interpretations of Aquarius do seem to "work"; but this begs the question why?
In older astrological texts, there are fewer meanings given to the signs. More frequently, modalities and elemental qualities provided the meaning. It appears that observation was the way meanings were acquired. For example, I recently read in Hephaistio's Apotelesmatics a brief definition for Aquarius on the ascendant which reads: "Aquarius makes the natives ample-bodied, full bearded, light (probably of complexion), at times also pot bellied, and those who have one leg longer than the other." These delineations have a decidedly concrete quality in comparison with a modern interpretation of Aquarius on the ascendant, which would be more psychologically based; for instance; "Aquarius rising indicates an individual sociable though at times cold and aloof, rigid in temperament, bright in outlook, humanitarian, conservative and politically correct." (my definition) Sometimes I see definitions like, "rebellious, eccentric, electric and magnetic personality", and I wonder how much Uranus played a role in the interpretation.
Lets examine some of the meanings of the sign Aquarius and how they conflict. Most basic to many astrological texts is the meaning "I know". Some have said that this meaning derives from it's being an air sign that is fixed. Gemini is similar in meaning; "I think", but being mutable cannot know for certain. Aquarius's ruling planet is Saturn, and science is often associated with this planet. For instance, the sci-fi channel has a Saturn logo on the lower right side of the screen. Yet traditional significations for Saturn include ignorance, the color black (for instance "not seeing the light"), the metal Lead and all leaden objects. It is interesting to note that ignorance is exactly what happens to an individual ingesting lead, and that lead is heavy, hence the ponderous movement of Saturn and the reason for it's signification of the elderly (though astronomers say its density is the least of any planet in the solar system such that it could float in one of our oceans). So how does Saturn conduct business for "knowing" Aquarius? Not very well I should think. And how is it that the Sun, an indicator of enlightenment and super-sentience, is debilitated in such a place? Perhaps Aquarius was not so knowing in ancient times, or said another way maybe this is a modern interpretation that came about because of the Enlightenment and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. On the other hand, if modern definitions are correct, this would suggest that affinity of a planet for a certain place is not necessarily a determinator of "oikodektorship". Another basic meaning of this sign is brotherhood or cooperation. This matches well with Saturn's status-quo, but Uranus is as rebellious and uncooperative as they come. Aquarians are sometimes said to lack personality, and at other times be very eccentric; the first agrees more with Saturn and the second, Uranus.
It is well known in the astrological community that the meaning of a planet is derived from the times in which it was discovered; that somehow the planet can only be recognized when the "collective consciousness" has been raised to a certain level. At the time of Uranus's discovery, two revolutions were underway, Franklin was experimenting with lightning, and Immanuel Kant published his "Critique of pure reason". Liberty, Fraternity and Equality were the buzzwords of the time. While liberty is Uranian, fraternity and equality are on the more Saturnian side of Aquarius which taken to an extreme represents political correctness. Franklin's lightning experiments heralded a new era in technology and the use of electricity. When Immanuel Kant was writing his "Critique of Pure Reason", Saturnian logic had reached it's upper limits and a breakthrough was needed to keep the arguments from falling of their own weight. At roughly the same time Uranus was discovered, there was the first dialog about entering the Age of Aquarius, and both periods are exceedingly long. It is hard to ignore connections that ring bells on a metaphysical level, though hard to understand logically. In any case, it is premature to be making assumptions, since we don't know whether signs have an inherently unchanging quality or not.