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Christian Astrology Decoded


Sue Ward

Christian Astrology is a beautiful book, both in appearance and in its language. Our astrological practice is enhanced by the meaning that is so eloquently conveyed through its antique dialogue. And yet, it has caused many a sigh of despair and exasperation. It is easy to understand why the JustUs & Associates' plain-print version is so popular, but even this cannot address some of the problems raised by Lilly's use of English.

It does not stop there though, he will use technical language that we nearly understand (but not quite) and explains much later in the book. This is why a complete transliteration into modern English would be so difficult (who knows this book well enough to be able to give a definitive translation?). One such case is his use of the word 'receive'. We all know what this means, don't we? I thought I did until a student presented me with the following passage (page 458) and asked for an explanation:

If you find the Lord of the eleventh in an angle received, judge the thing shall come to passe as he would wish. If you find the Receiver of the disposition of the Moon in a common Signe, judge he shall have but a part of the thing hoped for: If the same Receiver be in a movable Signe, he shall onely have the name, or a probability of having thereof, or else very little of it: but if the same Receiver be in a fixed Signe, he shall have the thing whole and compleat: but if the Receiver of the Moon be infortunate, the matter shall receive damage or hurt, after he hath the same, or is in possession thereof. If you find the Receiver of the Moon received, he shall likewise obtaine the same, and more than he looked for: if you find the Lord of the ascendant received, he shall obtaine whatsoever he hoped for: this must be understood in things feasible and possible.

Having read this section, many questions started buzzing round in my head about 'received', 'disposit', 'disposition', and 'reception'. What exactly does he mean when he uses these words?

Received: he uses this in two ways and it is left to the reader to decide which one he means. The first can be in terms of essential dignity, that is, to receive a planet in a dignity. When talking about collection of light, he says: ...and they receive him in some of their essentiall dignities; He says this means: ...that a Person somewhat interested in both parties...shall performe, effect and conclude the thing which otherwayes could not be perfected: (page 126). This person, or collector of light, is 'somewhat interested' in these others through dispositing the significators in one dignity or another. This suggests a familiarity and through receiving both significators 'welcomes' them.

It was put to me by my student, that receiving in this sense was like a party host waiting to receive his guests, so I think that 'welcome' is a good substitute. Indeed, in view of the way that this word is often used it is quite a revelation. We generally think about receiving and dispositing as being the same thing, but while it operates in the same way, I suspect there is a different connotation, but more of this later.

So, to be received is to be found in another planet's position of dignity, this latter planet being the receiver or welcomer. It does not mean the same as 'reception', which requires a two way relationship as in mutual and mixed reception, as he says on page 171, and as I explain below.

He also uses 'receive' regarding aspects, too, and this is what he means in our first passage from page 458. A little earlier in the book, on page 446, the puzzle is solved (what a pity I didn't work through the book backwards!):

If the Lord of the ascendant and the tenth commit their disposition to any Planet by any aspect, with or with no Reception, whether the Receiver be a Fortune or Infortune (so that he be not Retrograde, Combust or Cadent, or goe out of that Signe wherein he is before the conjunction of the Lord of the first and tenth with him) and if the Moon be joyned to the Lord of the first or tenth, the querent shall achieve the preferment expected.

In my words: if the ascendant or 10th rulers cast any aspect to any planet, with or without receptions, whether or not the receiver of that aspect be a malefic or benefic, the querent will get the preferment; as long as, that is, the planet receiving the aspect is not retrograde, combust or cadent. Also, that aspect should perfect within the current sign. For the desired outcome to take effect, the Moon should aspect the ascendant or 10th rulers.

I think that he uses 'disposition' as he does 'virtue' or 'influence', although it could be that there are variations of aspecting implied in his use of different words. For the time being we can assume that he means the characteristics of the planet. He explains this on page 182,

We understand a Planet to be ill disposed, when Peregrine, Retrograde, Combust, Cadent from the Ascendant or house of the thing demanded , so that he beholds not the house or at least the Lord of the house, in this nature the aspect to the house is better than to the Lord thereof; so that any planet in his Fall or Detriment, may properly be called Destroyer or Obstructor, or Planet impediting.

So, if a planet is in none of these conditions it can be said to be well disposed. He explains further on page 447: ...and see if the more ponderous Planet of the two, that is the receiver of the Disposition..., so it is clear that the receiving planet needs to be the slower, or the aspected planet. The planet which is committing its disposition is that which is faster and therefore doing the aspecting.

This type of receiving needs a great deal more thought than I have given it to date before a full account can be given of its astrological significance. Although it is quite obvious that some thought is required to account for his use of this technique. Receiving in this way does not always need to be in relation to significators: he often says that it can be with any planet. It seems to me to be concerning relationships or opportunities, after all 'contacts' do not happen only in the horary chart, we all hope to have contacts when we want something.

One further point; it is not clear whether committing disposition is a forward moving event or relationship and thus, application. He uses the word 'aspect' in seemingly the same contexts as he does the other terms. I generally assume that when he uses the word aspect, he means application, so perhaps committing disposition can be either applying OR separating. But this needs more than just one mind working on it, let me know if you have any thoughts on the matter, or anything else raised in this article. (By the way, 'received of' means 'received by'.)

What is the difference, then, between receiving by dignity and dispositing? When Lilly uses the word 'disposit' he usually means to disposit by sign, when he refers to any other dignity he uses the word 'receive'. An exception is found on page 387, but he does make it very clear what he means: ...the Moon did dispose of Saturn in her Exaltation, and of Jupiter in her house,... Dispositing and disposition are not linked and are completely different in meaning as I have explained. He might also use 'the lord of...' in this respect, too and it is a clearer phrase.

Moving on to the word 'reception' I found this much easier to understand because when he does not use this word he makes it clear what he means. Unless he specifies otherwise, to be in reception with another planet means to be in mutual or mixed reception with it. This view has support in Christian Astrology, page 312 for example:

The Significatrix of the woman in her owne Essentiall Dignities, or in trine to the Sun or Jupiter with any Reception, or the Moon and the Significatrix in trine or sextile, in Reception out of any mutuall Dignities,...

Another example is on page 237:

If there be reception between the Lord of the fift and seventh, and any amicable aspect, your Messenger was well received and entertained by him to whom he went, yea though the application be by square or opposition, yet he was well received; but the party sought after, framed some excuse, or framed some matter in his owne defence, concerning the thing sent unto him for.

This not only shows the ambiguity of his use of this word it is also a good example of how to interpret reception. In this case I would not dismiss the use of mixed receptions since they would furnish the same end result and would depend on the status of the parties in each others' eyes, plus the quality of the welcome the messenger received.

On page 387 he says:

...but finding Reception betwixt Jupiter and the Moon, [the Moon is in Sagittarius and Jupiter is in Cancer, so the reception is mutual] and betwixt the Sun and Moon, she in his Triplicity, Sun in her house;

So, reception can be mutual or mixed. I found many, many examples of his use of these various terms, some more enlightening than others and it is possible to find some of them in his chart judgements which makes things easier still. It was a fascinating study for me and goes to show that you never stop learning, particularly where Lilly is concerned. Hardly surprising that so many otherwise well informed astrologers, make serious mistakes when dealing with this work. Make sure that you are not one of them.

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22 February 1996
Copyright Sue Ward 1995

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