Exegesis Volume 2 Issue #25

Exegesis Digest Sat, 10 May 1997


Date: Fri, 9 May 97 10:41 EDT
From: Mary Downing
Subject: Conception Charts

Human nature must certainly have changed over the millenia. How likely were the ancients -- really -- to record the "ambient" every time they copulated? Then we have the small matter of diurnal time notation and correct recording.

For that matter, how sure are we Ptolemy was correctly translated by someone who knew anything about his subject? How sure are we that the Tetrabiblios is, in fact, "all there"? I believe Hindsight et al found missing pieces.

This is one of those impossible topics. One might trace a given birth to a single previous copulation, but short of in vitro fertilization (where you're watching via microscope), you can't determine the time of conception -- which, if the ovulation hasn't occurred, could be up to two days after the act!

Given the state of medicine at the time, astrologers were likely consulted about timing "official" copulations to produce live heirs and surviving wives. You may be reading a commercial for that service. Sedonius aludes to such in his "Ceasars", and things hadn't improved by Ptolmey's time.

If someone thinks they can do such things (determine time of conception by rectification or other means), all well and good if it improves their interpretation skills. But they can't prove it. We can only accept their teachings as an act of faith.

--Mary Downing


Date: Fri, 9 May 1997 22:48:07 +0000
From: Francis G. Kostella
Subject: Ptolemy, Ptolemy, wherefore art thou, Ptolemy?

In response to V2 I22, May 6.

I put forth a proposition derived from "The Moment of Astrology" (and no one should mistake it as being Cornelius' argument, it is my derivation, he might well reject it): Since PTSB (Ptolemy's Theory of Seeds and Beginnings) does not apply to every instance of chart-making, and since PTSB otherwise does not gain astrology ANY advantage whatsoever, we should toss PTSB out of any theory of astrology.

Aphrodette North responds:

> Having delineated charts on many
> twins and a couple sets of triplets -
> I have to say that in a few of these
> cases - the time discrepancy proved
> very valuable!

Right! The point isn't that the time of birth is not important, but that you say "in a few of these cases" as opposed to something like, "in every case". In order to do that, and in order to find a difference in every case, you'll need to slice time up into divisions that you'd never ordinarily use for an ordinary chart. Or find some other explanation that you'd not normally use in a non-twin nativity. The issue here is that by accepting PTSB we are required to sometimes go to great lengths in order to make things fit that theory. I'm not saying that PTSB is utterly false, only that it doesn't cover the entire spectrum of charts, and since it doesn't do that, why should we constantly try to have all of our astrology fit IT? If you accept PTSB, then you are *required* to find a difference in the twin charts that fits PTSB.

For example, in order to justify horary astrology to PTSB, we need to posit "the birth of a question" like the birth of an individual. But when you contemplate the process and implications of the thinking leading up to the question, and how thoughts only sometimes spring to mind fully formed, other times vaguely felt and fuzzy.when exactly is the birth of a question? It is certainly NOT like the birth of a human baby! (how many mothers suddenly say "Oh, a baby! Let us do a chart.") What if it first emerges while I am unaware that it is a question? What if I toss the question over and over in my mind before naming it a horary question? Horary charts don't depend on that, they are either radical or not radical. I've never been able to prove to myself (nor encountered anyone else proving such a claim about) any tie between the radicality of a horary and the process of formation behind the question being asked. The point here is that PTSB just *might* be a special application that applies to some charts, but it is not that difficult to find other aspects of astrology where it doesn't seem to make sense. Given that, is it not reasonable to question our need for PTSB?

william.m.gordon responds:

> Question #1:
> I agree there are some problems,
> but what then would be the
> rationale for the birthchart?

Pure and utter human-imposed significance. Which may seem something of a let-down when one is used to hearing about "cosmic forces", but if you have ever been present at a birth I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue that it is not an especially significant event, no matter what your stance on astrology might be. Or your stance on birth, for the matter. We don't need to talk about seeds or germination, the first breath, conception, etc. Simply the human community surrounding the new person and imbuing the emergence of a new individual with significance. Indeed, it is not so different than an inception chart for any other entity, corporate or otherwise; one or more people stand to and recognize the significant moment. Where humans find meaning, *there* is meaning.

However, the critical point is not that we must provide an alternative to PTSB, but that the proposition is questioning the accepted rationale which we have inherited from Ptolemy (see the notes I sent in my last message). The fact is, we already behave in many ways that contradict PTSB, and if we stop paying lip service to something from which we are unable to built a coherent foundation, perhaps some newfound clarity will help make obvious what is really there.

> Observation #1:
> I have also wondered if there might
> not be charts of IMPORTANT moments
> in a person's life that are "astrologically
> relevant".  The only problem with this is
> that after a few of these charts, the
> symbolism begins to implode on itself.  For
> example, once you get three or four neptunes
> spread out over time...you're *bound* to
> have something squaring it most of the time.

Right, but we don't even have to (drop PTSB and then) generate multiple charts to have that problem, do we? I can generate a few dozen stressful Neptunes from a nativity for you with little problem, just give me minor-minor aspects, or harmonics, or midpoints, or.or you-name-it. The problem there is not one of a multiplicity of points (which already exist), but that the astrologer tries to make everything equally significant. Now, there might be a bit of confusion about this point, the proposition does not suggest that nativities be abandoned, or that birth charts are not significant. However, even if you reject the proposition, you may already be using charts for important moments in addition to the nativity.various returns come to mind, and synastry, and even transits, really. It is not as if this proposition introduces complexity where none now exists!

Again, horary is a great example of a way around the problem. Horaries are often limited to a few houses, planets, aspects, etc., everything else can be ignored. If Neptune is not at play, we do not introduce Neptune into the mix just because we have a Neptune. You answer the question and stop. The other great thing about horaries is that they come with strictures against judgment that tell you to be-ware. And sometimes horaries are impossible to decipher. When you cannot work with what you have you discard it and say "I cannot judge" and be content. To assume we can always judge is hubris. I think the answer is to pick the most appropriate chart FOR THE CONTEXT, and go with it, and be content with that.

Roger L. Satterlee responds:

> Whatever anyone calls the
> phenomenon, tropical natal
> charts seem to indicate that
> birthtime points to a seed-like
> pattern with lifelong persistence.

Indeed, when stated like that I find it hard to disagree, it agrees with much of my subjective experience. However, that doesn't mean that Ptolemy's concept is the "right" one.

> It would also appear that if a
> more traditional approach loses a
> certain mystifying novelty which
> stimulates the creativity of the
> astrologist bent on making 
> predictions, s/he will dream up an
> individual variation which allows
> the unconscious mind to coordinate
> its non-verbal perceptions and the
> more 'instinctive' comprehension
> of nuance--the oracular function
> I suppose.

Some people hold that the "individual variation" is already at play, and I think that your recent post here about archetypes does not posit, nor require, something like PTSB. I hardly think that any novelty will die out by rejecting PTSB, indeed, it introduces something even more mysterious to the mix (and gives astro-determinism the boot). Further, I see the move to reject PTSB as a strong impulse to invoke tradition, the oldest traditions. The oracular function indeed.

Life after accepting the proposition is no less rich than before, the Moon is still exalted in Taurus, transits still occur, everyone still complains about Saturn, and so forth. We simply stop trying to pound round pegs into square holes.

Finally, I might compare the "need" for PTSB to an addiction, we may like the situation, we may not be able to picture life without it, but that doesn't mean we should not quit it, nor that the future will be dark without it.

--fran (more later.)

PS. Yep, I'm the moderator, if you see me not moderating myself here, jump on me about it! OK? OK.


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