Is Your Chart Dignified?
The truth is that essential dignity tells you quite little about the “essential dignity” of a planet.
Let us examine the curious case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner. Their birth charts strikingly illustrate how misleading essential dignity can be, particularly when it comes to evaluating the “essential dignity” of a planet’s significations.
Behavior Worthy of Respect?
Sign-based dignity is often evaluated as the name would imply, as indicating whether a planet signifies something that is worthy of respect and admiration. For instance, whether a planet’s significations tend to be more stable and fortunate or unstable and unfortunate. Also, whether a planet is signifying people in admired or lofty positions or those with low status.
While this approach makes sense in theory, in practice it is often a poor indicator of “dignity”. Over-reliance on sign-based dignity, often to the exclusion of other more reliable indications, causes many traditional astrologers to strongly mis-read charts.
In another article, I explore in greater depth traditional astrology’s obsession with dignity pointing, almutens, and sign-based indications of fortune/misfortune. This obsession has done more to harm today’s practice of traditional astrology than anything else. First, let’s look at sign-based dignities failings in practice.
Astrology suffers from cherry-picking and reinterpreting factors in inconsistent ways. This is true of both traditional astrology and modern astrology. In traditional astrology, an astrologer may put most of their emphasis on sign-based dignity for evaluating the good or bad of a signification, but then when confronted with a chart where it doesn’t work, change gears just for that chart and look at a different factor such as sect or house position. In this way, chart factors are interpreted in an inconsistent fashion, in which one “finds the life” in the chart.
There is nothing inherently wrong with finding the life in the chart. When we know something is true, we want to understand how the chart signifies it, so we look for that information in the chart. However, charts are complex with many factors and often contradictory information. More importantly, when we look at a chart blind and have to interpret it, are we just doing so using prevailing assumptions (such as that sign-based dignity signifies dignity) or are we doing so from real experience?
The problem is that experience without critical thinking is simply a process of confirming assumptions in different ways on different charts. George Soros is very successful and his chart is full of sign-based dignity, therefore dignity indicates success, or so it goes. Astrologers seldom ask the hard questions that would enable them to think critically and say this factor is more important than this other factor for this type of signification, and then consistently rank them that way.
Question Received Wisdom with Negative Examples
It takes negative examples to determine whether an approach is really working. Let’s say we assume that by examining dignity we can determine “the dignity” associated with a factor (as in goodness or loftiness). Later, we run across some charts where that assumption leads us to the wrong conclusions. Then we need to adjust our practice and re-interpret sign-based dignity, even if it runs counter to our assumptions or sources. This is the “art” part of astrology and is necessary for improvement.
Clarify Mixed Indications with Extremes
Mixed indications similarly further our practice. Let’s say dignity is not successfully indicating what we thought it was indicating. Now we need to consider some other factors, such as sect and place position (dark place), as well as the influence of malefic planets. Perhaps we didn’t really consider these factors important before. Now we find we must incorporate them into our practice to fill the gaps. Our astrology improves again.
Let’s say we experiment with sect, place, and malefic planet influence. We find that these often do show hardship or harm associated with an indication. If sign-based dignity is a strong indicator of goodness or loftiness, especially when we are talking about a lot of positive dignity, then we would assume that it could mitigate against any extremes shown by these other indications. If it fails to indicate mitigation against extremes, both against negative extremes, and in the case of negative dignity, against positive extremes, then we must conclude that it either has to do with something other than ideas of “dignity” (i.e. has nothing to do with goodness or loftiness) or that it is an exceedingly weak indication of such as to be almost insignificant.
A Life Undignified
Dahmer was exemplary in how undignified the display of aggression, sexuality, depraved mentality, and fear was throughout his adult life. His first kill occurred in response to a male hitchhiker refusing to have sex with him. Later kills were of men and underage boys he lured into abusive sexual relations and then raped, dismembered, raped while dead, etc. He even ate flesh from many of his victims.
His life was a series of failures. He became an alcoholic in his teenage years and was an outcast with few friends. Discharged from the army due to poor performance, he did not associate with any lofty individuals, worked only menial jobs, and was frequently in trouble with the law. When captured after his killing spree, he was imprisoned, where a fellow inmate ended his miserable life.
A Chart Overflowing with Essential Dignity
He just so happened to have been born with a whopping 4 planets in domicile (Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn; i.e. the planets of aggression, sexuality, mentality, and fear). The planets in domicile include the ruler of the Ascendant (Venus) and the almuten of the Ascendant (Saturn). To most traditional astrologers using a dignity pointing system, Dahmer had an extremely dignified Venus (+8), an extremely dignified Mercury (+8), a very dignified Mars (+5), and a very dignified Saturn (+5). The Sun and Moon were peregrine and only Jupiter was negatively dignified. In other words, there is an unusually high amount of planetary dignity in Dahmer’s chart.
For those unfamiliar with Ted Turner, he is a billionaire philanthropist and media tycoon. He inherited his father’s billboard business at age 24 and developed a huge media empire, including CNN. At his worst, he has been known to put his foot in his mouth.
A Detrimental Chart
Poor Ted has 3 planets in detriment, another 1 in fall. Not a single planet in his chart has two forms of minor dignity or one form of major dignity. Turner’s chart is a virtual vacuum of essential dignity.
Dignity and Character
Hellenistic: Ruler of the Ascendant and Mercury
The condition of the ruler of the Ascendant and that of Mercury are typically used as strong indicators of the character and moral disposition (c.f. Masha’alah: On Nativities (Sec. 5); Abu’Ali Al-Khayyat: The Judgment of Nativities (Ch. 5); Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos (Book 3, Ch. 13). Ptolemy also looked at Mercury for the mind/reason (i.e. conscious mind) and the Moon for the senses/irrationality (i.e. subconscious mind).
Medieval: Ruler of the Ascendant or a Generally Prominent Planet
For later astrologers like Bonatti (c.f. Treatise 9, Part 3) the ruler of the Ascendant is typically the most important signifier in this matter. The most common alternative is to look at the strongest planets in the chart for this information, particularly planets in the 1st, 10th, or one of the other angles or “stakes” of the chart (c.f. Abu Bakr: On Nativities (Book 2)).
If essential dignity is the most important factor, or even one of the major factors, in consideration of the good/bad quality of planetary significations, then Dahmer should be of stellar character and moral disposition. Consider that the ruler of the Ascendant is highly dignified in domicile, the exalted ruler of the Ascendant is highly dignified in domicile, Mercury is highly dignified in domicile, and the most angular planet, Mars, is also highly dignified in domicile.
One could argue that other factors might mitigate. However, if dignity is a significant factor, then dignity itself would mitigate against any extremes indicated by those other factors How could those other factors, typically considered minor relative to dignity, significantly diminish Dahmer’s moral greatness, let alone completely subvert it?
Get out of the Dignity Trap
If you’re learning, or even more importantly, if you’re practicing traditional astrology, then you owe it to yourself and your clients to get out of the essential dignity trap. Investigate those factors more important to making a planet fortunate or unfortunate in the western tradition.
Look First at Other Strength Factors
Personally, I am against the contrived weighted dignity pointing system accepted as scripture by most traditional astrologers. I find dignity to be a “STRENGTH” consideration of medium to low level importance. It must be considered relative to advancing/retreating, stationing, phasis/combustion/cazimi, place, and regard by lights.
Ignore Dignity as a Beneficence Indicator
I find sign-based dignity to be insignificant in consideration of planetary beneficence/maleficence (and “dignity” in the dictionary sense). In Hellenistic astrological texts, there is a stress on the fundamental nature of the planet, sect, place, and the influence of other planets for analyzing good/bad quality. Sign-based rejoicing conditions are discussed but are less consistently stressed than sect, place, and planetary influence.
I’d rather have a malefic in fall, in sect, in a good place any day over a malefic in exaltation, out of sect, in a bad place. I actually have a malefic that is exalted but out of sect and in a bad place in my own natal chart. Activations of that exalted planet haven’t been so fun.
In honing the art of astrology, strong minimal pairs we can at least disprove the effectiveness of certain approaches. This minimal pair provides some of the strongest evidence against the use of dignity for analyzing “dignity”.
Sign-based dignity does not confer or impede significant fortune or positivity in natal charts (nor in other charts). If it did then Dahmer would have lived a life surrounded by admirable and lofty circumstances, while Ted Turner saw lows of depravity. The sooner astrologers downgrade essential dignity to a lesser consideration, the sooner they will move away from mere confirmation-bias and toward the art of astrology.
Note: This article was significantly edited and revised in August of 2018. For more analysis of these two charts see the character analysis article and the analysis with twelfth-parts. A deeper exploration of dignity can be found in this article on dignity scoring. For alternative techniques for assessing strength and beneficence please see the series of lessons.