Dignity and Debility and How to be Practically Perfect in Every Way…

Any study or discipline which requires the consideration of a vast array of variables is bound to suffer from encroaching inelegance, and astrology suffers from this more than most disciplines; in the world of accepted science, perhaps meteorology is the closest facsimile that we can find for this situation. An astrologer, as much as the meteorologist is charged with the dire business of prediction, given faint praise when the outlook is mostly compatible with their prophecy, and damned into insignificance when they get it wrong, and when you consider that the spectrum of possible outcomes for weather are confined to a fairly narrow set of possibilities, precipitation, barometric pressure, humidity and temperature (thus wet or dry, windy or calm, hot or cold?) then the bleating denouncements of the “scientifically minded” begin to appear wholly ridiculous (which they are). Just because meteorology is often inexact nobody claims that we do not have weather. We understand though, and this crucially, that accurate measurement does not guarantee accurate insight, but it nevertheless maximises the potential for accuracy.

"Is Venus my best feature? Or my worst?"
“Is Venus my best feature? Or my worst?”

In my view, the main gift of astrological experience is what might be termed (in other industries) a soft-skill. It is a refined faculty of judgment which allows the expert to gauge what most matters in an individual astrology. In this sense, measurement is not about determining absolutes, but rather about determining priorities. In a system where there are a thousand variables, and each single one of these is itself subject to attenuation and moderation by other factors, well, it is simply not possible to make an exactitude. Vast networks of processors in subzero subterranean vaults grapple daily with the 6 intrinsic variables of weather and get it wrong. We are not, as astrologers, guilty of being unscientific, but those who claim as much are themselves; hypocrites by projection.

The ancients understood this much at least, although they did not have to face down such a vociferously narrow defile of consensus. For this purpose they made the system of essential dignities and debilities, and I have talked at some length about these important principles in recent weeks, but my most keen intention has been to espouse the understanding that we cannot measure an organic system with absolutes. The application of measurement is designed to assist us with gaining a generalised classification of typology within the nativity. When we look to essential dignity, we are given a numerical cue, one which suggests a certain intrinsic power or ease of expression of that particular point in the nativity. Traditional astrologers set great store by the system – and rightly so; it is useful – but they often overvalue its insights, most especially in light of the evolution of understandings that the ensuing centuries of work by incisively minded researchers and observers have gifted us.

The system of essential dignity is absolutely important, and there is also of course a broad system of accidental dignity scoring which can further refine and isolate priorities. Rather than exhaustively work through the system’s merits, I will today work through an example which will hopefully give us a three-tiered system of assessing priorities through measurement.

Fundamentally, we will use the following approach:

1) Scoring for essential dignity.
2) Scoring for accidental dignity.
3) Moderating priorities according to my own understanding of ease of expression.

Before we begin, and as far as I am aware, it is important to understand that your astrology software will happily spit out a score for essential dignity for any nativity you throw at it; but nothing will give you an accidental dignity score, and it will certainly not moderate those scores according to other, less deterministic factors. The irony of this is that the first, essential dignity, score is quite possibly likely to be utterly misleading when cited without reference to the subsequent considerations. Furthermore, you should bear in mind that while the system might seem initially complex, with time and experience you can quite happily make these calculations ‘on the hoof’ to a perfectly acceptable degree of exactitude.

Today I would like to use the example of Julie Andrews, because, as you will hopefully see, she makes an excellent test case. Here then is her astrology.

Julie Andrews: 1 Oct 1935 06:00 (BST -1:00) Walton on Thames, England
Julie Andrews: 1 Oct 1935 06:00 (BST -1:00) Walton on Thames, England

Typically then we might look at her astrology and our software will tell us that her essential dignity scores are as follows:

  • Sun: -3
  • Moon: 0
  • Mercury: -5
  • Venus: -9
  • Mars: +5
  • Jupiter: +5
  • Saturn: +1

According to essential dignity scoring then, Venus is the standout with Mercury being also weak, and Mars and Jupiter moderately strengthened. How does this scoring tally with our understanding of Julie Andrews’ life and success? This is important to understand because dignity scoring gives us an insight – according to traditionalists – into our potential for success. For my own part, I believe that this is somewhat simplistic, my own view I explained and explored in much greater detail in my article on Dignity and Debility and the Fine Art of Furniture Making.

Ironic then that at this juncture, Julie’s Venus score is really rather bad, especially when you consider that it was undoubtedly her Venusian qualities which led her to fame (consider a 4 octave voice, alleged perfect pitch and her very perfectly Virgoan appearance and demeanour).

If we consider Venus in more detail then she is (traditionally) peregrine, which scores -5. This should not be confused with peregrine through lack of aspect, but it is part of the same paradigm; traditionally, peregrine is used to denote a body with no essential dignity. It becomes peregrine therefore because it cannot easily express its quality. The key insight then is that without aspect a body has less media through which to project itself; it is a further debility (and I really cannot begin to emphasise just how important this is).

So, peregrination is just a sense of absolute and outright debility. Consider Forrest Gump. The child with calipers develops such strength in his legs that he eventually is able to outrun anyone and everyone! That’s peregrination! That’s the exalting power of debility!

Now, if we consider also that Venus here is in the sign of her fall (another -4 then), she really has so little support that she is in all sorts of distress. Let us consider the second stage of measurement; that of accidental dignity/debility.

  • 12th House: -5
  • Direct: +4
  • Slow: -2
  • Oriental: -2
  • Not combust or under beams: +5
  • Opp. Saturn*: -2
  • Sq. Mars*: -1

(* the ancients considered only partile hard aspects to the malefics to affect scoring but there is an easily observable attenuation at work in these cases and I always allow for any contact up to 4 degrees of partile and subtract a point per degree accordingly).

These factors give Julie’s Venus a score at stage 2 of our process of -12. If we apply this same methodology to the remainder of her nativity, then we have a cumulative essential and accidental dignity score set of:

  • Sun: 0
  • Moon: +8
  • Mercury: +7
  • Venus: -12
  • Mars: +15
  • Jupiter: +15
  • Saturn: -3

The picture already becomes considerably more compelling. The debility of Venus is now seriously challenged by the power of Mars and Jupiter. Now we need to consider some of the soft factors, most of which are either commonly understood by modern astrologers, or are the result of my own experience over many years of consideration.

One of the most glaring differences (and hence difficulties) between traditional and modern astrology is that the former does not particularly acknowledge the influence of the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Chiron). These undoubtedly influence the personal planets however, but not in a way that is easy to account for. In broad terms the reality is compelling: whenever a personal planet is contacted by an outer, it is required to assimilate a measure of impersonal energy; that is to say that it can no longer be satisfied with personal, earthly or straightforward fixes; it must incorporate an element of the divine (even in easy aspect). To ignore this reality is patently ludicrous, but even aside from these, there are other factors which moderate these ‘scores’.

Sun first then. He has no hard major contacts, but is in semisquare to Jupiter and this at only 4 minutes of arc is the closest aspect in the chart. This moderates by -2 in my view, simply because the aspect is so very tight and innate. Otherwise Sun is unaffected.

Moon is more intriguing. Traditional scoring will not account for a mutual reception with Pluto (a feature for this generation with Moon in Scorpio, consider also Elizabeth Taylor) and this lends enormous emotional power and a truly magnetic feminine. This accounts for a further +5 (certainly it cancels out the fallen position of Moon here). We also find the halfsum Mo=Sa/Pl, which is difficult enough to merit a further -2. Pallas is in utterly partile sextile with Moon also: this cannot be underestimated (and undoubtedly accounts for her typically fresh, near-boyish haircuts) and this ought to cancel out the previous halfsum consideration.

Mercury has to be an intriguing consideration, but consider that he rules the Ascendant (thus the self-expression, and most especially the voice) and there has to be a story here. First, he is squared to his modern ruler, which lends tension and power to his expressions but perhaps ought to be considered a debilitating factor, I make no modification however, because of the mutual reception with Moon and Pluto, which means that (by MR) Mercury is ruled by Pluto in his sign and can be seen by him: rather like a courtier who is in the king’s sight, he might struggle under the scrutiny but he will not vanish into obscurity. As an intriguing aside, Mercury is here closely conjunct Eurydice, muse of Orpheus, who had such a sweet voice that it made the Gods weep! Inevitably there is a great deal of power available to Mercury in this condition. Most importantly, Mercury began with an essential dignity score of -5 and this was vastly improved to +7 by inclusion of accidental dignities!

Venus we have already covered in some detail, and there is a difficult consideration to be found in this placing within the scoring system. The 12th house is never very comfortable for earthly matters, but we have to take this factor on board with a very careful understanding of the Zeitgeist which cannot remotely support the same motivations and insights today as they did in the time of Ptolemy. Global superstardom was never a particular option for the ancients (excepting perhaps an Alexander or a Caesar), so it would have been exceptionally difficult to incorporate a Neptunian impetus and still be ‘materially’ successful in days of old. A spiritual, artistic or shamanic role might have sufficed but it is a different measure of ‘success’ that we need to consider in that context. Nowadays, Neptune rules cinema (for example), and so Venus in the 12th does find an outlet that capitalises – at least potentially – on the normally materially dissolving propensities of the Sea-King. The 12th house is also the house of Venus’ exaltation, so we might moderate favourably the ancient rule in this light. On the other hand, Venus is beset by difficulty through her being configured in an intriguing tee-square to Mars. A Venus-Mars square alone ought to be something of a disaster in any case since it is especially distressing for her best expression. This though has been accounted for somewhat through the ancient conditions and so I shall not modify it further.

Mars is rescued by his mutual reception with Jupiter and a number of accidentally dignifying factors but this cannot detract from his otherwise profoundly uncomfortable placement. As the focus of a very difficult tee-square being powered by a lack of parental love and affection (in the form of Venus-Saturn) all of that angst is released through energetic communication: Mars in Sagittarius is a lover of fresh air and horseplay and in the third, communication is key; one is forcibly reminded of someone twirling energetically through the fields and singing rather unreservedly…

Mars is also squared to Neptune and this is invariably a difficult energy, and I would subtract a point or two for this alone, the two forces are so utterly antagonistic that it cannot be easily assuaged and reconciled. Note too that this aspect more than any other is sexually ambiguous and creates a very tricky gender and sexual orientation confusion or bias. I find this especially intriguing in light of the fact that Julie Andrews is such a celebrated gay icon. Neptune is in his house as well remember.

Jupiter is intriguing because the only major aspect he makes within a tight orb is to Pluto, he is almost for this reason aspectually peregrine, I rarely find that Pluto is a happy medium through which to incorporate an energy, so too with any of the outer planets, but especially so with Hades. The semisquare to Sun also lessens his impetus and this ought to be a minor consideration.

Saturn is for the most part correct in my view, although a retrograde Saturn is usually among the most compelling of retrogradations and this cannot be underestimated.

Thus, the story is complete. I would set the final scores thus:

  • Sun: -2
  • Moon: +13
  • Mercury: +7
  • Venus: -10
  • Mars: +10
  • Jupiter: +12
  • Saturn: -4

So, when all is said and done: how account for her great and iconic success; after all, at one time, Julie Andrews could lay claim to being the lead in the longest running Broadway musical of all time, the highest grossing Hollywood movie of all time and the biggest selling album of all time.

I believe that the timing is interesting, with Mary Poppins being released in 1963 and The Sound of Music in 1964, and these being the primary motivating productions for her subsequent stardom, I see that Venus by Solar Arc Direction transits the Saturn – Uranus midpoint by opposition on December 16th 1963; but more incisive even than this is that this midpoint placed Venus in quincunx to Sa/Ur, effectively forming a Yod by Solar Arc to Venus at 4° Libra, thus rising in the first in her domicile. This would be an incredible drive and impetus to express her difficult and profoundly debilitated Venusian quality.

But, when all is said and done, what do we learn through our scoring? It is not the strongest planets which have determined her path in life although inevitably they have assisted and supported, but rather the weakest, Venus, which has been the prime mover of her life.

It is ever the way, peregrination, debility, struggle, these are the restraints which temper and forge the soul and ultimately exalt and emancipate, if they do not grind to nothingness in the attempt. Within our greatest weaknesses lie our most staggering potentials.

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