The Hellenistic Doctrine of Aspect and Testimony

NOT whole sign aspects, but something far more interesting...

If as a modern astrologer you have ever wondered about whether there is a significant difference between applying and separating aspects and what that difference might be; if you have ever felt bewildered by the multitude of aspects employed in modern astrology; if you have been bothered about just what orbs to use; if you have wondered what the synodic cycle of one planet in relation to another is all about; or if you have been uncertain as to the principles underlying the delineation of aspects: then you might want to take a page from a Hellenistic astrologer's book and become acquainted with the original doctrine of planetary configuration, a doctrine that has lain hidden for nearly two thousand years.

As far as the best documentary evidence is concerned, the Hellenistic doctrine of planetary configuration may have first been presented—at least in a systematic fashion—in a lost book attributed to an astrologer named Antiochus. The remains of this book contain the only surviving definitions of a large number of concepts that are for the most part taken for granted by later astrologers. A proper understanding of this material will serve to correct the prevalent idea that the Hellenistic astrologers used only, or primarily, sign-based aspects.

After discussing the issue of the identity of this mysterious astrologer, Robert will first treat of the fundamental Hellenistic notion of a “figure” and what it means for planets to assume a figure. He will then proceed to a preliminary exposition of the basic concepts of testimony (a concept totally lost to the modern world) and figural conjunction (aspectual application), concourse (another concept lost to the modern world) and adherence (“bodily” conjunction), and their corresponding modes of separation described as flowing forth and slipping aside. This will be followed by a discussion of the concept of aversion (complete lack of configuration) and the conditions that serve to mitigate such aversion, or alternatively, intensify either a testimony relation or an aspect relation.

Next on the schedule will be a treatment of the relative positions of planets in a configuration with regard to left & right side, above & below, before & behind. Far from being mere conventions, these planetary positions are defined from the perspective of the planets themselves, not from our human perspective. On the basis of these distinctions, and after explaining the important conceptual difference between an ideal or perfect figure and an imperfect figure, Robert will articulate the various moments of the synodic cycle. In the course of doing so, he will draw out a number of important implications of the Hellenistic understanding of this cycle. One of them is that the diametrical opposition is just as unique as the synodic conjunction. Another is that the meaning of configurations forming and separating between synodic conjunction and diametrical opposition is very different from those forming and separating between the diametrical opposition and the synodic conjunction. Yet another is that configurations do not separate by simply undoing or reversing the process of application that led to their formation.

The first portion of the intensive will be rounded off by a discussion of enclosure (besiegment) and intervention, striking with a ray, the three modes of spear-bearing (missing in modern astrology), and the original definition of the Moon void of course (very different from the modern one).

Having secured the definitions of these concepts, Robert will devote a fair amount of attention to the eight Hellenistic conditions of maltreatment by malefics (“affliction”) and the corresponding conditions of bonification by benefics, collectively known as the figure-description of a planet. An understanding of the figure description of a planet is essential in the preliminary analysis of planetary condition. The relationship of the figure-description of a planet to its sect status will then be explored in some detail.

Along the way, Robert will draw out some of the metaphysical implications of the Hellenistic doctrine of planetary configuration: how for instance a notion of extension in three dimensions emerges from the relative circular motions of two planets in a plane; how the Hellenistic notion of separation from a configuration (described as “flowing forth”) may have suggested the metaphysical concept of emanation that emerged later in the Platonic school; an intriguing connection between the astrological doctrine of configurations and conjunctions that occur by transit and the Platonic treatment of recollection; the deeper significance of the numerical intervals posited in configuration doctrine; and an interpretation of the riddling statement of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus that the path upward and the path downward are one and the same.

In the second part of the intensive, Robert will lay out the principles underlying the Hellenistic delineation of planetary configurations. He will then conclude by exemplifying these principles with a number of natal charts.

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