(Astrology Explored) Casually, in a Facebook conversation, a friend mentioned that in Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” about the Earth adventures of a human born on Mars, there were instructions on how to calculate a natal chart for someone born on the planet Mars.
I had read the book so long ago, I didn’t remember. But then I ran across the entire uncut version of the book online. I was so happy to find an old favorite I read it all in two days.
In regards to astrology these were the first lines I found:
“Scientists indeed! Half guess work and half superstition. They ought to be locked up; they ought to be prohibited by law. Joseph, I’ve told you repeatedly the only true science is astrology.”
Well, that comforting for an astrologer to hear. But that was the opinion of just one minor character. Jubal Harshaw, one of the main characters, who kept four half-naked secretaries on staff, and calling “front” when he wanted something, ran down astrology in a later chapter. Jubal, just so you know, is the epitome of the educated man in this book being both a lawyer and a medical doctor.
As for our fictional astrologer, Madame Vessant, she describes her work thus:
“Of course not. Anyone possessing the necessary rigorous training, mathematical skill, and knowledge of the stars could calculate a horoscope, knowing nothing more than the exact hour and place of birth of the subject.”
Oops, our astrologer forgot a critical detail, the day of birth, which really, is the most critical detail of all. But not to worry, Heinlein in another passage, makes reference to the birth date, so he did know that part.
Madame Vessant goes on:
“You know that, dear. You could learn to do it yourself. . . if you weren’t so terribly busy. But remember: the stars incline but they do not compel. You enjoy free will. If I am to make the extremely detailed and difficult analysis necessary to advise you in a crisis, I must know in what sector to look. Are we most concerned with the influence of Venus? Or possibly with Mars? Or will the-“
Oh dear, again. The influence of Venus? The influence of Mars? What is this woman blithering about? Why is she asking her client what influence is predominant? Any good astrologer will draw up the chart and tell the client which ‘influence’ is predominant. But as we see, Madame Vessant is not a particularly good astrologer, despite her self assertions:
Alexandra Vessant differed from some other practicing astrologers in that she really did attempt to calculate the “influences” of the heavenly bodies, using a paper-backed book titled The Arcane Science of Judicial Astrology and Key to Solomon’s Stone which had been given to her by her late husband, Professor Simon Magus, the well known mentalist, stage hypnotist and illusionist, and student of the secret arts.
We are also told that her calculations could be a little “fuzzy” much like the math of her checkbook that fails to balance.
Oh dear, once more. Heinlein dismisses astrologers and their mathematical skills. Madame Vessant, in his passages, is singular as an astrologer in her trying to calculate the horoscope correctly by mathematics. It is irony she fails to do so. Additionally, the astrologer’s teacher was a well-known mentalist and illusionist. Hardly scientific at all!
Some two hours later Madame Alexandra Vessant pushed herself back from her work table and sighed. She had had her secretary cancel all appointments and she really had tried; several sheets of paper, covered with diagrams and figures, and a dog-eared nautical almanac were in front of her and testified to her efforts.
Now she had demanded of Agnes the exact hour, date, and place of birth of the Man from Mars, being fairly sure that the data could not be supplied.
But the information had been supplied, and most precisely, after a short delay, from the log of the Envoy.
But now, after two hours of painful arithmetic, although she had completed new findings for Mr. and Mrs. Douglas, she was no farther ahead with Smith than when she had started. The trouble was very simple-and insuperable. Smith had not been born on Earth. Her astrological bible did not include the idea of human beings born anywhere else; its anonymous author had lived and died before even the first rocket to the Moon. She had tried very hard to find a logical way out of the dilemma, on the assumption that all the principles were included in her manual and that what she must do was to find a way to correct for the lateral displacement. But she found herself lost in a mass of unfamiliar relationships; when it came right down to it she was not even sure whether or not the signs of the Zodiac were the same when seen from Mars and what could one possibly do without the signs of the Zodiac?
Now we see the tragic results of an under educated astrologer (and the undereducated, in this material, writer). Not only does she fail to calculate the horoscope of the ‘Man from Mars,’ by ‘lateral displacement,’ she fails to understand why she or any other astrologer, cannot, as yet, calculate for a Mars birth.
The answer is quite simple. We do not have a Table of Houses, by any of the half dozen methods available to calculate such a thing.
What is a Table of Houses?
Astrology Weekly tells us:
Tables showing the degrees of the Signs which occupy the cusps of the several Houses in different latitudes for every degree of Right Ascension, or for every 4 minutes of Sidereal Time. Generally available are those by Dalton (1913), Raphael (1920) and Hugh Rice (1935).
The ascendant and the midheaven are the two primary angles that are used to calculate the cusps of the houses, with various methods to slice up the four primary angles and then the rest and all of that from the vantage of planet earth. There are various methods to do this, all of them causing, except to mathematicians, great stabbing pains in the eye. So astrologers are grateful for Tables of Houses. But if you don’t have one for Mars, you don’t have a snowball’s chance of constructing anything but an equal house, sunrise chart. Now that’s possible. And had our fictional astrologer been trained, she would know that and wouldn’t have strained two hours to do something that was impossible anyway.
What is an Equal House, Sunrise Chart?
Quite simply it puts the degree of the Sun on the ascendant, and all the cusps of the houses are that same degree. This makes it possible to sling the other planets in houses according to where they sit in the zodiac at the moment of the ‘Man from Mars’ birth.
To be fair, many astrologers are not comfortable using such a chart because ‘it’s not precise’.
But what about our fictional astrologer’s concern?
“. . . when it came right down to it she was not even sure whether or not the signs of the Zodiac were the same when seen from Mars and what could one possibly do without the signs of the Zodiac.”
Again, sheer ignorance on the part of the fictional astrologer. The zodiac is the path of the sun through the heavens, and Mars, like Earth, is the sun’s passenger. The zodiac is the same Mars, Earth, and for all planets in our solar system. In thinking about this, I just don’t see a reason, if you are calculating a sunrise, equal house chart not to use the tropical zodiac as we do now from earth’s vantage point. But if any other astrologer wants to weigh on this, please do.
There are other ways to calculate a ‘Man From Mars’ chart in the absence of a Table of Houses. Heliocentric, from the vantage point of the sun, is one way or Vedic, both systems using a Natural House system. The Natural House system starts at zero degrees Aries on the ascendant going around the chart using the zodiac signs in order. Of course, you would need to read from these systems, and the techniques using them are different from Western astrology, but possible.
The Fictional Astrologer’s Results
She was just finishing as Agnes Douglas called again. “Allie? Haven’t you finished yet?”
“Just completed,” Madame Vesant answered with brisk self-confidence. “You realize, of course, that young Smith’s horoscope presented an unusual and very difficult problem in the Science. Born, as he was, on another planet, every aspect and attitude had to be recalculated. The influence of the Sun is lessened; the influence of Diana is missing almost completely. Jupiter is thrown into a novel, perhaps I should say ‘unique,’ aspect, as I am sure you will see. This required computation of-”
Well, now we see she’s just making things up. Aspects don’t need to be recalculated, period. Aspects are the angle (number of degrees) between planets. The influence of the Sun would not be lessened, and of course Diana would be missing, since we don’t use Diana at all, unless as an asteroid. And poor Jupiter? Really?
So unfortunately, in this literary classic, astrology is treated poorly, its precepts all but ignored and its practitioners portrayed as con men or con women. Its the kind of prejudice that astrologers face daily. It is sad really. Especially since there really isn’t a horoscope cast for the ‘Man from Mars.’ I’d like to see it.
Excerpts from Stranger in a Strange Land used under the Fair Use provision of copyright law for commentary on a written work.
Low Resolution image used under Fair Use provision of copyright law.