What are the Planets, and Why?
Planets are the active principles of astrology. Knowledge of what the planets represent is fundamental clearly understanding every other component of astrology – so learn carefully and well!
If you look up at the sky, it’s clear to see that the planets are “the active principles.” Go ahead and look up at night. You will see hundreds or thousands of points of light. Look night after night, very carefully, and you will notice that all of the points always form the same patterns relative to each other – almost all of them! There are a handful that move around with their own free will. They are the active stars, the “planets.”
As astronomy goes through various changes in modern times it might discover or declare various objects to be or not to be “planets.” That does not concern authentic astrology. Astrology is about the observable heavens. It is a science of foretelling the destiny of human beings, based on observing the sky with the natural human eye.
Thus astrological “planets” are the lights we see in the sky which are active – they move around. There are seven that are obvious, starting with the Sun and Moon. Next there is the dim but very swift light, Mercury; the bright and beautiful diamond-like light, Venus; the reddish and very unpredictable light, Mars; the slow but bright and pleasing light, Jupiter; and the dim, cold, crawling light, Saturn.
In addition to these main planets there are many “sub-planets” that are like satellites revolving around these seven. Most of these are beyond the scope of what we need to learn to get a working grasp of astrology, but there are two from this group that are elevated to a very high status, almost the same as the seven major planets, because unlike the others, they have a very dramatic and powerful visible effect of their own. These two are Rahu and Ketu – and their effect is to eclipse the Sun and Moon.
So altogether there are nine important planets crucial to the function of classical, authentic astrology: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu.
Before learning about each planet separately, I want you to clearly understand how each functions as a part of a unified whole.
Mandala of Planets
Envision a circle with the Sun at the top, flowing in a counter-clockwise manner. Rahu is on the left side of the circle, Ketu is on the right, and they are the forces keeping the energy of the circuit flowing. Visualize three planets evenly spaced going down the left side of the circle, and the remaining three evenly spaced on the going up the right.
Starting from the Sun, Rahu takes us counter-clockwise to the Moon, then to Mercury, and finally to Venus. At that point Ketu takes us to the right side of the circuit and we come first to Mars, then Jupiter, and finally Saturn. This is the mandala (visual aid) to bear in your mind at all times as a symbol which will come to encapsulate everything you will learn about the planets.
All the planets revolve around the Sun. This is literally true in modern astronomy and in ancient astrology too, at least symbolically, because the Sun is the focal point of meaning for all the other planets.
The Sun represents the soul – the light within us that allows us to be alive, conscious and aware of existing. Every other planet is a stage of the soul’s transformation on its journey into and out of this temporary material world – the kingdom of destiny, fate, and karma. The Moon, Mercury and Venus (“inner planets” in modern terms) are stages of our consciousness evolving outward and downward towards the phenomenal world. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (“outer planets”) are stages of our consciousness evolving inward and upward towards its original pristine nature.
Seven Transforations of Sunlight
The Sun is light – consciousness. The first transformation of sunlight is the Moon, which is the light of the Sun reflecting into the night. The Moon is the mind – which reflects spiritual consciousness onto material things and thereby acquires desires and emotions.
Next, the Moon transforms into Mercury – intelligence – because the mind needs to be able to interact with the world that it desires and has feelings for. Mercury thus evolves from the sunlight and becomes our intellect, the faculty by which we can communicate and exchange.
Mercury then evolves into Venus – the senses – because the capacity to interact with this world requires actual tools of perception and action: “senses.” This marks the apogee of outward evolution from the soul’s brilliant light of consciousness towards the dark night of temporary objects.
Thereafter begins the return journey. First Mars evolves as our first attempt to deal with the inevitable problems that arise from attempting to enjoy the limited resources of temporary objects. Mars is the sunlight evolving the energy and strength to rise above in such a competitive environment.
Next, Mars transforms into Jupiter – moral guidance – because ambition and strength becomes terrible without it. Jupiter then evolves into Saturn – reality’s limitations – because positive moral encouragement eventually must face the fact that the material world is not inherently a positive residence for the soul.
Paradoxically, by enforcing unbendable limitations and restrictions like misery, time and death, Saturn delivers the sunlight back to its original, blissful condition – completing the circuit of evolution.
Rahu and Ketu are the forces of transformation itself. Rahu facilitates the outward transformations orchestrated by the inner planets. Ketu empowers the outer planets to make their transformations to the soul.
The Nine-Planet Sutra
We must now begin to dive into the vast, spreading branches of meaning contained within each planet. But first I want to give you a verbal tool to go along with the visual diagram, as an aid to helping you remember and get deep context on the meanings of each planet.
A sūtra is a word or a few short words into which great volumes of meaning have been compressed. I will give you a sutra that will act like a filing cabinet in which to store and easily retrieve all the detailed knowledge you are about to learn about the planets.
The Sun: the soul.
The Moon: the mind.
Mercury is intellect.
Venus: the senses.
Mars is energy.
Rahu & Ketu are transformation, external and internal.
– Vic DiCara