Chapter 5

The Causes of the Influential Configurations, and of their Degrees in Number and Order

by Johannes Kepler Icon

Part 1

The word “configuration” is used for the angle between two rays, each descending from its planet, the angle at which the rays meet here at the Earth (which is deemed to be a point); or, which comes to the same thing, it is used for the arc of the great circle drawn on the zodiac, the arc which is the measure of the said angle; or the arc which the 2 planets seem to mark out by the interposition of their bodies and, so to speak, cut off for us dwellers on Earth.

Ptolemy, in his Tetrabiblos, Almagest, and Harmony, calls “Appearances” what the Arabs translated as Aspects, as if a countenance were the same as a visage or face.

Our Teutonic idiom does the same, as it generally names a face “das Angesicht,” “aspect,” and the countenances of characters who are impersonated, placed in front of the face, “Gesichter,” which the Italians call “mascaras” [masks].

However, the word “regards” is also found [in Greek], which not only do we, following the Arabs, translate as “aspects,” but also good authors generally call “looks” in Latin, and the signs “onlookers.”

But in this sense the word is less appropriate for the planets than for the signs or twelfth parts of the zodiac; for as they have length, with their inner side they can be turned towards each other to a greater or less extent.

For contiguous signs cannot look at each other, seeing that their faces are not turned towards each other, but are nearly turned in the same direction as each other.

Second, note that at the same time as two planets make an angle at the Earth they also make other angles at different places in the world; but never the same size as on the arc of a circle passing through the bodies of themselves and the Earth, or rotated about a line which joins their bodies, as if about an axis.

Outside these places their radiations meet at angles which are far different, whether they are also harmonic, or incongruent, as they generally are throughout the rest of the world.

Note chiefly that no angle is set up at either one of the planetary bodies. For two rays are required for an angle; but every ray is outside a body, and none is actually in the body. That must be noted because the formation of an angle at the Earth is followed by an effect on the Earth also.

From it at the time of the aspects the material of rains and of other occurrences in the sky is exhaled. Hence we can argue of the seat of the cause which sets in motion occurrences in the sky that it is not in either one planet or the other, nor in any empty place in the world, but in the Earth itself

Third, it was not superfluous to mention that the Earth functions as a point. For the result of that is that although there are innumerable animate beings on the Earth, and an infinity of rays from any planet to them and other points on the Earth, yet the angle between the rays coming from a pair of planets at the same time is sensibly the same at all points of the Earth, whether at the center, on the surface, or in the caverns of the mountains. Although all those aspects are infinite in number, they are taken as a single aspect, seeing that they are all sensibly equal to each other.

Part 2 Definition

A configuration is said to be influential when the rays of a pair of planets make an angle such that it is apt to stimulate sublunary Nature, and the inferior faculties of animate beings to be more active, each about its own activities, at the time of the configuration.

Influence is attributed to a configuration, which formally is an entity of the reason, but not immediate influence on the thing itself, as if rains and the like fell from the actual heaven, that is to say from the planets which are in the configuration, which is the foolish persuasion of the common herd, but mediate and objective. For just as objects move the senses, sound the hearing and not the eyes, and color the vision and not the hearing, similarly in this case also, a certain quality of this relation, which is called a configuration, moves not the bodily senses, but a spiritual faculty, capable of reason by instinct without contemplation.

Therefore, the configuration brings that about not by its own force but by the force of the soul, which is said to be passive although in actual fact it rather acts itself on itself.

After that the sublunary soul or Nature, thus moved or stimulated by the aspect, and reminded of itself, stirs itself up to draw out from the bowels of the Earth the material for every kind of weather. If there were not in the Earth the soul which we call sublunary Nature, the planets of themselves could have no effect on the Earth either on their own account or by means of a convenient aspect.

For it is absurd, and like a joke or a flight of poetic fancy, to suppose that from the coming together harmonically of a pair of rays, as if from the coupling of a man and a woman, a vapor is conceived as the material for wind or rain, as if indeed, as the seed is of the substance of the parents, so the moisture and other things which are exhaled from the Earth are of the substance either of harmony, which is a relation, or of an angle, which is a qualitative quantity, or even of light itself, which is a quality and by no means a substance. In fact in the same way as we say that nothing can comefrom nothing, so also, naturally, nothing material can be drawn from something immaterial. See further Chapter 8

Axiom 1

The arc of the zodiac circle, which is cut off by the side of a figure or of a star"*’ which is congruent and knowable, measures the angle of an influential configuration.

Axiom 2

The angle of a figure or star which is knowable and congruent is the gauge of the angle of an influential configuration. The whole business rests on the two axioms; and the reason why I have made them two is that there are two probable means by which souls and sublunary Natures can come to knowledge of the configurations which exist at a given time.

For they either perceive the figure of which a side cuts off an arc of the zodiac circle as the measure of the configuration or of the angle of the rays, or the figure of which the actual angle of the configuration is an element. What the distinction is between the figures, and what on the other hand the affinity is, is evident to the eye from these diagrams, which follow each other in order from this point. For the pairs of diagrams are “matched^first, a diameter with itself, whether it bisects its circle, being drawn through its center, or touches it, when the two rays make as their angle two right angles, or rather no angle, being arranged in a single straight line.

The same must be supposed of the conjunction of planets, either superior, cf, or inferior, P, which is improperly called a configuration.

For if two planets were at the same point on the zodiac, then there is no angle at the center, on the circumference an infinite number. and the sides of the figure are points: that is to say, the circle is like a figure with an infinite number of angles.

This configuration had no need of visual representation.

Second, the square is also “matched” with itself, because the angle which two of its sides form at the circumference is equal to the angle at the center subtended by one side.

After that the triangle is “matched” with the hexagon, the pentagon with the ten-angled star, the octagon with the eight-angled star, the decagon with the 5-angled star, and the dodecagon with the twelve-angled star, in such a way that if all the angles of one member of a team are drawn at the circumference, its side subtends one angle, located at the center, of the other member.

Now the centers of all the circles surest the Earth, as if it were placed in the middle, and the circles them selves represent either the zodiac, as pictured from the Earth, or whatever other circle, subordinate to the zodiac, is pictured in order to measure the angles. Such circles are potentially the actual souls which are moved by the aspects, that is circles abstracted as it were from actual quantity and constrained within the restrictions of a point which has qualities and is capable of having directions.

However, I have placed two radiant stars outside this circle, one higher than the other, to convey by a visual representation that it makes no difference to the configuration at the Earth whether the planet is high or low in the heaven, and one can be many times higher than another while the configuration at the Earth remains the same.^*^

Furthermore, it came about not by accident but on purpose that in the first axiom the word “congruent” comes first, in the second the word “knowable.”

For both figures share the responsibility for some aspect’s being influential, the one which is drawn at the circumference as well as the one of which one angle is formed by the rays at the center, both of them on account of knowability as well as on account of congruence; yet they are not equally responsible.

All that demands a somewhat more extensive explanation; and there is a single reason why it is so prickly — so that the number of aspects can be reduced by philosophical arguments, or at least can he differentiated into definite degrees. For if I had been willing to include four additional aspects along with the usual eight, this discussion could have done without several, so to speak, propositions which follow, seeing that they are taken up only with comparison.^^

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