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The Discovery of the Outer Planets

by Jeff Jawer

First published in Astrology Now magazine, No.26, June-July 1979

New discoveries enter consciousness when the moment is ripe. This is true for both individual unfoldment and for collective experience. Until the latter part of the 18th century, our solar system was bound by the ancient model of the seven: the Sun, the Moon and the five planets. The inhabitants of earth viewed the sky as an unchanging family of these seven angels of light. The outermost of these was Saturn whose pale color and stately march through the heavens symbolized the limits of human experience. It was Saturn that was blamed for loss of life, and it was to Saturn that we looked to measure the end of all things. While the telescope was invented in 1608, it took almost two hundred years until the discovery of Uranus smashed the barriers of space and mind. The moment was ripe.

The discovery of Uranus, appropriately enough, was an accident. Sir William Herschel of England did not use his telescope to record the positions of familiar bodies, but found pleasure in searching the sky for new and unknown objects. It was on the evening of March 13, 1781 that his attention was caught by the new planet. At first he was unaware that he had discovered the solar system's newest member. He did know, however, that this disk-like body was not a star.

It was not long before astronomers realized the magnitude of his discovery. Sir William chose to call the new planet Georgium Sidus after King George III who granted him a stipend and honored him with a title for his work. Not unexpectedly, the name drew little favor from astronomers outside Britain. The German astronomer Johann Bode suggested the name Uranus after the sky god Urania.

Period of Revolution

Herschel's discovery did more than alter our concept of the solar system. It heralded a period of revolution in politics and science that led to the birth of the United States and democracy in France. The esotericist expects the events of daily life to synchronize with the advances of science. In the discovery of Uranus, we have a perfect example of the convergence of many ways, all leading to the same end: invention, revolution, and transcendence.

The year 1781 was the year of Cornwallis' surrender to the American forces and saw the publication of Emmanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, a breakthrough in philosophical thought. Only two years earlier the mechanization of spinning was completed with the invention of the spinning mule. 1782 brought James Watt's steam engine, 1785 the power driven loom, 1793 the cotton gin, and in 1796 the invention of lithography. This remarkable burst of creative energy was matched on the political front as well with the beginning of the French Revolution, close on the heels of the American experiment in democracy. Mesmer brought hypnotism to light in 1778. The old barriers were down at last. Thomas Jefferson, an Aries, perhaps expressed it best when he wrote in 1787, "I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

Uranus’ Discovery Chart

The exact moment of Herschel's discovery is unknown. However, a horoscope drawn for the evening of March 13,1781 works well to describe the birth of this momentous time in history. The chart is characterized by a mutable T-square between Uranus, the Sun, and a Mars-Saturn conjunction. The conjunction of Mars and Saturn is one of the most potent indicators of physical manifestation. Its placement in Sagittarius is particularly appropriate for the observation of distant objects through a telescope. The opposition to Uranus both describes what is manifesting as well as showing the concretization of the new, of invention and revolution. The Sun's position at the fulcrum serves to emphasize the significance of the event, although its placement in Pisces might describe the uncertainty of the meaning of the new object at that moment. The orbit of Uranus was very difficult to plot and disturbances to it (perturbations) led to the search for, and eventual the discovery of Neptune.

A minor aspect that is often overlooked is the quintile angle of seventy-two degrees. Quintiles serve as important significators of talent or perception. In the Uranus discovery chart Mercury is in a close quintile to Uranus. The creative genius of Herschel brings perception to a new discovery. The right of free speech might be seen here as well as in the trine from Jupiter to the Sun. This trine is also a clear indication of expansion, our awareness of a solar system expanded in size overnight.

The Moon's position in Scorpio is another factor that demands attention, particularly since it was also in that sign at the discovery of Neptune and Pluto. The image of the researcher scraping away another level of life's mystery comes easily to mind. The Moon's discomfort in this sign might be due to the necessity of transforming habits when old patterns are broken. A contraparallel of Uranus and Pluto restates this theme of forced changes in consciousness brought by the event. The square from Pluto to the Moon's Nodes may also serve to remind us of the power of Uranus' discovery to undermine longheld connections within groups. All of this was yet to be embraced, that is discovered, with Neptune and Pluto still unknown in 1781.

The use of midpoint pictures adds depth to any chart reading. The chart for the discovery of Uranus shows Pluto conjunct the Sun-Saturn midpoint. We could call this "transformation of conscious limits." The Sun at the midpoint of Mars-Uranus is described as, "A sudden adjustment to new circumstances and conditions in life, injury, accident, operation, birth," in Reinhold Ebertin's The Combination of Stellar Influences. The Sun at the midpoint of Saturn and Uranus is described in the same book as, "Physical exposure to severe tests of strength, the power of resistance, rebellion. Inflexibility. Separation." If the time used in our discovery chart is close to correct, we will also find that Sun-Uranus equals Moon-South Node. This is another powerful picture of deep changes in daily lifestyle, public interactions and consciousness.

Degree Systems

The discovery charts of the outer planets should work like any other natal charts. Examination of the basic aspects and midpoints seem to bear this out. A further examination centering on the specific discovery degree has proved fruitful in several ways. Reference to several books on degree systems do a fairly good job characterizing the essence of the planet. To begin, Uranus was discovered in the third decan of Gemini. This is the Aquarian decanate, quite appropriate for the planet now said to rule that sign. Reference to the 21/2 degree system called the dwadashamsas (or dwads) shows the position of Uranus in Pisces in one system and Capricorn in another. Beginning each sign with the first dwad of that sign yields Pisces; beginning each sign with Aries gives us Capricorn. While a skilled symbolist can find meaning here, I find it not obvious enough to make the effort. Perhaps your intuition will tell you that something is intrinsically correct about one of these dwad positions.

The La Volasfera book of degree symbols describes the twenty-fifth degree of Gemini as, "An old book lying open upon a table, and beside it a burning lamp." The interpretation centers on the idea of a studious mind, mental powers. Kozminsky calls this degree, "A hand issuing from the heavens holding a great scroll on which is a shining pentagram." We again have a symbol of literacy or intelligence. John Sandbach calls this degree, "the gardener of ideas." Jeryl Keane calls it studious, " ... a person much given to serious study, usually of a scientific turn of mind." The Sabian Symbol for this degree is, "Frost-covered trees against winter skies." Rudhyar describes this as, "the revelation of archetypal form and essential rhythm of existence." Rhythm is often associated with Uranus. Certainly all these references to thought are appropriate to that which some consider the higher octave of Mercury discovered through Uranus.

The physical characteristics of Uranus also support the astrological interpretation. Uranus rotates on its side, making it the most eccentric of planets. Its orbit, however, is relatively circular. Perhaps we have here an ideal expression of individualism. Its atmosphere is considered very clear due to methane gas. Sunlight penetrates deeply into it before being reflected.

Herschel is credited with discovering Uranus' moon Umbriel on April 17, 1801. The transiting Moon was in Gemini then, perhaps conjunct Uranus' discovery degree. Lassell's discovery of two more moons of Uranus on October 24, 1851 occurred when transiting Venus and Jupiter contacted the lunar nodes of the original discovery chart. Then, on March 10, 1977 rings were discovered around Uranus. The Sun at 20 degrees Pisces conjunct the Uranus discovery Sun. The Moon at 29 Scorpio joined the discovery Jupiter. The chart for the discovery of the rings shows a close parallel between Uranus and Mars. Perhaps, the most interesting feature of that chart is the close conjunction of Uranus at 11 degrees thirty-one minutes Scorpio to the Moon-North Node midpoint at 11 degrees fifty-two minutes. Ebertin calls this combination, "Sudden experiences with others, suddenly entering into a union or alliance." The surprising discovery of rings around Uranus certainly fits this description well.

Chart Projections

If the discovery degree of Uranus holds special significance we should find it meaningful when related event charts. From August 26-28, 1883 the island of Krakatoa in the Dutch Indies was an inferno of violence. Two-thirds of the island was destroyed in a great volcanic explosion, perhaps the largest the world has known, that left an estimated 36,000 dead and produced giant sea waves as far away as Cape Horn. Transiting Uranus was at 22 degrees of Virgo, square its discovery point. Transiting Mercury at 25 degrees Virgo was also squaring this point. A close square between transiting Sun and Pluto was another factor in the event.

On July 23, 1967 racial violence exploded in Detroit, New York City, Rochester, N.Y., Birmingham, Alabama, and New Britain, Connecticut. Uranus again was transiting square its discovery point from 22 degrees Virgo. A total eclipse of the Sun on June 17, 1909 occurred at 26 degrees of Gemini. This eclipse was conjunct transiting Pluto at the time and conjuncted the discovery degree of Uranus. The year 1909 was the year that explorers first reached the North Pole. On June 19, 1936 another total solar eclipse contacted the Uranus discovery point. The eclipse also squared transiting Saturn. 1936 was the year Germany occupied Poland, Italy invaded Ethiopia, the year when the Spanish Civil War began.

The discovery degree of Uranus has been found to be primarily important in three categories of individuals. The first is writers, particularly those who achieve wide recognition during their lifetimes. The second is political reformers, and the third is astrologers. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born with Mercury at 24 degrees Gemini. Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle both had Jupiter at 26 Gemini and Aldous Huxley had his Jupiter at 25 Gemini, the discovery degree of Uranus.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had his Mars at 27 Gemini, Eleanor Roosevelt had her Saturn at 24. Adlai Stevenson had his Neptune at 24. Marx and Engels were improperly radicals than liberals, although both groups might be characterized as uranian. Marx's Neptune was at 25 Sagittarius opposing the discovery degree of Uranus, and his Pluto was square from 26 Pisces. Engels had his Venus at 25 Libra, the midpoint between the discovery degrees of Uranus and Neptune.

The discovery degree is found in the charts of many famous astrologers. Dane Rudhyar had Jupiter at 28 Gemini (and his Moon at 24 Aquarius conjuncts Neptune’s discovery degree.) Cyril Fagan had Mercury at 23 Gemini (tropical). Paul Clancy had Neptune and Mercury at 21 Gemini. Rupert Gleadow had Pluto at 24 Gemini and Alice Bailey had her Sun at 26 Gemini. Noel Tyl's nodal axis is 23 Gemini/Sagittarius, semisquare his Uranus and sextile his Moon. Careful observation of this degree in natal charts and in transits will prove valuable for future study.




Go to Part 2, Discovery of Neptune

Go to Part 3, Discovery of Pluto Return to top of page

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