Spirit and Fortune: What’s the Difference? – Part 3

Most sources tell how these Lots are calculated. Some explain further, how, for example, the Lot of Fortune was a potential candidate to be the hyleg in length of life calculations. There are a few sources where we can actually learn about how these two important Lots were delineated.[1]

Vettius Valens[2] is one of the few that takes great pains to describe these Lots. He quotes from an earlier text when discussing the Lot of Fortune,

For him who wishes to ascertain the matter of happiness more exactly, I will return to the Lot of Fortune, which is the most necessary and sovereign place, as the king[3] mysteriously explained beginning in the 12th book saying,

“. . . for those who are born in the day, it will next be necessary to count distinctly from the Sun to the Moon and back from the Hōroskopos to prescribe an equality, and for the resulting place to see whatever star it meets with [conjoins], and what or which are in relation to it [i.e. aspects it] – – the squares or triangles, all in all, as it was placed among the stars. For from this consciousness of places you can make a clear judgement beforehand of the circumstances of those who are brought forth.”

Petosiris also explained the matter similarly in the Boundaries’, though others have treated it differently, which we will also set out in the appropriate place along with other guidance for clarifying the argument concerning happiness. But for now we must discuss the method in question.[4]

For in the 13th book, after the prooemium and the disposition of the zōidia, the king attacks the Lot of Fortune from the Sun, the Moon, and the Hōroskopos, which he mostly works with and makes mention of throughout the whole book, and which he judges to be a supreme place. Concerning the Lot of Fortune, he has indeed presented the inversion and reversal as a riddle.[5]

It would appear from Valens comment, “which he mostly works with”, that this earlier sage worked primarily from the Lot of Fortune indicating something of its former importance. Very inaccurately, many today call these the Arabic Parts. They are not Arabic and in fact, pretty much all of the lots the Arabic Era astrologers used were from a much earlier period.[6] But especially the Lot of Fortune is very old in origin.

There are other sources such as Paulus Alexandrinus who wrote:

And fortune signifies everything that concerns the body, and what one does through the course of life. It becomes indicative of possessions, reputation and privilege.

Spirit happens to be lord of soul, temper, sense and every capability, and there are times when it cooperates in the reckoning about what one does.[7]

When we come to the Arabic Era, Abu Ma’shār writes extensively on the Lots in the 8th treatise of his “Greater Introduction”,

This lot [Fortune] is called the lot of well-being [happiness], and it signifies those same things that are signified by the luminaries. But the peculiar qualities that it signifies are those things that concerns the soul (nafs): its fortune and its vigour and what concerns the life and the body and wealth and the poverty, gold and silver, those things which are easy and those difficult, praise and reputation, on recognition and the authority which one is born to, the support, the reign, the power, the elevation and all things which are desirable. It signifies moreover that which is present and that which is absent; that which is manifest and that which is hidden . . . This lot is first above the other lots in the same way that the Sun prevails in splendour on all stars and it is the highest and noblest of the lots.

Bonatti, later in the 14th century, paraphrases Abu Ma’shār’s earlier work and writes in his “Liber Astronomiae”,

The extraction of the pars fortunae is extracted from the luminaries, which, as the ancients said, are of equal strength for good . . . And this part is preferred above all the other parts in the same way as the luminaries are preferred above all the other stars. Similarly, the Sun is more splendid than all the other stars and called the diurnal luminary because day occurs by his rising and is removed and made night by his setting. The Sun signifies the natural life and the other things, which have been discussed in the chapter on his signification, and the Moon is the luminary of the night and the benefic significatrix of bodies and of all things, just as was said elsewhere in her chapter . . .. This part signifies the life, the body, and also its souls, its strength, fortune, substance and profit, that is: wealth and poverty, gold and silver, heaviness or lightness of things bought in the marketplace, praise and good reputation, and honours and recognition, good and evil, present and future, hidden and manifest, and it has signification over everything.[8]

In order to clearly distinguish the differences and similarities between Fortune and Spirit, I would like to start by examining two quotes from Vettius Valens’ “Anthology”.

Whence the Lot of Fortune and the Spirit will have much power over the imposing and turning back of actions. For, the one [Fortune] shows matters concerning the body and handicrafts, the Spirit and its ruler, matters concerning the soul and the intellect, and actions through discourse and through giving and receiving. It will be necessary, then, to consider in what kind of zōidia [sign] the places [topical houses] and their rulers are, and to combine the natures of these zōidia for the determination of action and fortune, and for the kind of action.[9]

Actions,[10] then, are always taken especially from [the lot of] Spirit and its ruler. For there are some who have bodily actions such as working with their hands and bodily afflictions as a result of bearing burdens or exercise, and others [who have actions] from speech and knowledge and actualisations of the soul. Wherever more stars should incline,[11] whether to the lot [of Fortune] or to [the lot of] Spirit, [from] thence will be indicated the matter of action. It is necessary, then, to compare the actions and the general support, whether the nativity is notable or mediocre, or else happy or poor, or in dispute or irregular, so that the effects in the distributions should also become clear ahead of time.[12]

In the first citation, Valens tells us that both Fortune and Spirit are essential to, or have much power over, a person’s actions or “what they do” [the greater praxis]. He tells us that there are two essential distinctions:

1.) Fortune and its ruler signify matters concerning the body, bodily actions and “handicrafts” and the “qualities of the soul”. He further elucidates what he means in the second citation by emphasizing, “…such as working with their hands and bodily afflictions as a result of bearing burdens or exercise”. There is the direct connection between a person’s physical well-being and skills producing actions that are either fortunate or unfortunate.

2.) Spirit and its ruler signify matters concerning intellect and ‘actualisations’ of the soul (will). In the second citation, he further explains that Spirit produces actions originating in the intellect, speech, knowledge, and what he calls “actualisations of the soul”, what we call ‘the will’.

In order to clearly understand what is meant, since both the significance of Fortune and Spirit directly imposes or hinders actions, then, we perhaps need to examine a little closer what ideas the Greek word for action, praxis, is conveying. Praxis is an awkward word. Grabbing hold of it is difficult because it sounds so much like ‘practice’ and ‘practical’. All these words are of course related. In its most general sense, it did mean the actual experience of doing particular activities, which is the sense of the word used in the English translation.

It would appear that Valens, like the Stoics, Aristotle and Epicurus, accepted the principle laid down by Plato that all action is goal-directed, having a purpose or serving a purpose, and is undertaken in order to get something worth having for the agent or to avoid something it would be better not to have.

In its greater sense, praxis meant the process of doing things or of putting into effect and it included almost any activity which stood open to a free man of that time and it excluded from this wide frame only the manual labour connected with the work of the slave and to a certain degree, of course, also the theoretical activities of thinking, reflecting, and “gazing” or theoria.

Seen more precisely though, a further distinction between actions[13] was made by Aristotle in his Nicomacean Ethics, which has enormous bearing on our topic. In it, he makes a distinction which he calls praxis and poiesis. Poiesis represented a productive making, which means the artistic production and manufacture of goods and/or works, and the efficient management of concrete tasks. It was characterized by a type of technical (techno) knowledge, skill or ability (a.k.a. qualities of the soul). Praxis, on the other hand, referred to responsible, self-determined, ideal-guided action (doing), as is manifested for example in political or religious life. In this kind of action, praxis has qualities not necessarily found in poiesis.

Poietic actions always aim at a result, a product—the manufactured object—and its meaning and value are determined only to the doer by the outcome.

 Praxis actions, on the other hand, always carry their meaning and value in the act. They fulfill their purpose only when “something good and just” is done, something that is greater than the merit to the individual acting. The greater purpose is independent of whether or not the action actually also succeeds in reaching what was wanted through the doing.

For example, building a bridge represents poietic action whose value is determined only by its result: the built bridge over which one can cross a ravine. On the other hand, a gift donated to the needy out of compassionate, brotherly love is good, even if for some reason it never reaches those for whom it was intended.

Let’s try and put these distinctions in terms that are more current. The recording studio technicians’ actions are to make a recording that is in itself both worthy to sell and is a reflection of his personal aptitude and technical skills. This is poietic action. On the other hand is the musician who is creating the music, the actualisations of the qualities of his soul, intellect and communicative processes. The music carries its worth in its making and it is directed for the “good” and “pleasure” of others! This is praxis action.

In these distinctions, we also find the essential differences between the significations of the Lot of Fortune (poiesis) and the Lot of Spirit (praxis) and the actions (the greater praxis) imposed or hindered by them.

Valens appears to simply reiterate Aristotle’s distinctions in the second citation when he says, “Actions, then, are always taken especially from [the lot of] Spirit and its ruler”. This is as Aristotle distinguishes in Nicomacean Ethics;

Choice is the starting point of action: it is the source of motion but not the end for the sake of which we act [praxis] . . . The starting point of choice, however, is desire and reasoning directed toward some end. That is why there cannot be choice either without intelligence and thought or without some moral characteristic [hexis]; for good and bad action in human conduct is not possible without thought and character. Now thought alone moves nothing; only thought which is directed to some end and concerned with action can do so.[14]

In both types of action, choice is the starting point. But the inherent difference is that praxis includes such motivational distinctions as character, human conduct, social awareness and that the end of the action is for some good greater than the individual. With poiesis, choice and the motivation for choice do not require any particular conviction, moral or otherwise – only necessity and desire. Praxis on the other hand requires these other convictions to set it in motion. Following Aristotle, Valens saw this type action as the most important action!

The Greek philosophy proposed an interaction/transformation of “matter” to “form”.[15] The Sun was attributed to “sameness” [nous] and the Moon was “otherness”.  The Sun was archetypically seen as the perfect thought of Divine Intelligence while the moon was seen as the form that thought took which was something “other” than pure thought.  Quite simply, the Sun represented “spirit” and the Moon “physical manifestation”.  The cyclic change of seasons was considered one of the best examples of this.

The extraction of these Lots is from these individual parts, i.e. the Sun, the Moon and the Ascendant. The Sun was the author of life, the natural vitality or natural life, actualisations of the soul, eminence, reputation and honours. The Moon was more than just physical life, it was the soul incarnated in a physical body; the author of generation and corruption of all bodies (material form), and the Ascendant is the native’s physical body and qualities of the soul. When we consider then either the Lot of Fortune or Spirit, we are considering the native’s life and its well-being, his actions and how the qualities of the soul ultimately translated into such things as a native’s wealth and reputation and what one is endowed with in order to obtain those things.

The Part of Fortune is the Lot of the Moon and closely associated with the Moon and the physical manifestations. It was regarded as just what made a person not only happy but successful or unsuccessful, eminent or unknown, and was an indication of physical illnesses.

The Part of Spirit was associated to the Sun and therefore more interested in the “why” we do things, the action of doing, the moral convictions (or lack of them), will, character and the intellectual state as well as the related illnesses.

The Lot of Fortune then, originating in the Divine Will and executed through relational proportions of the planets, is a passive process setting parameters wherein the “source of motion” [choice] is influenced in regards to the physical and material actions of the native and what they can and cannot produce. It either “imposes or turns back” the realm of purely material actions. It will give significations for health, wealth, profession, eminence, reputation and all material things that profit the native physically and materially.

In like manner, the Lot of Spirit sets parameters influencing actions. These actions are vitally different carrying their significations and values in the act and fulfil their purpose only when something is done that is greater than the merit to the individual acting. Like the Lot of Fortune, Spirit will also give significations relevant to health, wealth, profession etc. –But with this difference; it will be useful in determining motivation distinctions such as character, human conduct, and social awareness telling us something of the actualisations[16] of the qualities of the natives’ soul, intellect and discourse!

Which is more Important – Fortune or Spirit?

It is clear that Valens considered the Lot of Spirit important for indicating actions that were “worthy of merit” by virtue of the action itself. These noble and ideal actions could bring reputation, honor and wealth to the native.

In practice, however, both the Lot of Fortune and Spirit were important, each giving a particular signification.

And I will set down this [division], which is a potent one … from the Lot of Fortune and Spirit, which signify the Sun and the Moon. For the Moon, being cosmically fate and body and breath (since it is near the earth and sends its effluence to us) produces something of like kind as it is the lady of our body. The Sun, being cosmically mind and spirit through its own activity and pleasant nature, since it arouses the souls of men in undertakings, is established as a cause of action and motion.[17]

The Lot of Fortune, which is the lot of the Moon and derived from the Moon, signifies material well-being because of actions (poiesis) influencing material fortune. It signified in what ways a man’s material destiny was apportioned. That is to say, it is to a great extent about what happens to someone because of their “passions”, in the original sense of the word. But the Lot of Spirit, being relative to the Sun, signifies ones actions (praxis) and what one does based on some motivation originating in ones will and ‘moral’ character, which is the polar counterpart to passions. Valens then explains in which way these two should be differentiated,

When, then, we seek times for bodily matters, such as crises or weaknesses or bloodshed, falls, injuries, sufferings and whatever appertains to the body, for strength, enjoyment, pleasure, beauty, and loveliness, then it is necessary to project zodiacally from the Lot of Fortune… If we are inquiring about action or reputation, then we will make the beginning of the releasing zodiacally from the Lot of Spirit…[18]

This consideration of the Lot of Fortune as pertaining to the ‘physical’ or material manifestations surrounding an individual is why it was used as a potential ‘hyleg’ in length of life calculations. It is also, why it was considered to have the same “power” as the Ascendant! We further see the distinctions between the Lots of Fortune and Spirit in Valens general delineations of the Profections of these Lots.

The Lot of Fortune giving or taking over in prospering places, with benefics present or testifying, indicates good fortune and advancement, actions and reputation and setting matters aright and the fulfillment of expectations, and benefits arising from deaths. But when it is declining [being profected to a cadent sign] or witnessed by malefics, it makes actions and reputation less and transitory, or it makes whatever the natives might accomplish be with impediments and dangers and judgments and insults.[19]

In this delineation, we can see the clear emphasis on the purely material actions that benefit the native in the form of wealth, reputation, health and general good fortune. There is nothing idealistic or noble in these actions since their benefice or malfeasance is to the native in doing them.

Spirit giving or taking over in prospering places, with benefics present, produces resolutions [decisions and will] pertaining to what is on one’s mind, discerning and easily effected reckonings, helpful counsels of friends, alliances with superiors, gifts and reputation; and it produces those who are successful in regard to attacks, and those who are puffed up in intellect, having very many beliefs. But, when it falls amiss or is witnessed by malefics, it introduces suspense and mental tortures, insensibilities and contrary purposes; it produces those who consider their own errors to be successes and those who bring charges against others, and those who miss the mark in most things. Whence such persons loose heart at times and contrive something dangerous for themselves by themselves and they are regarded as mad and come into a state of mental distraction.[20]

We see different actions at work in this delineation, that is those actions that have worth because the actions are worthy in themselves e.g. taking decisions and counselling a friend. There are vital differences between Fortune and Spirit, and while both produce actions in the greater sense of the word action, i.e. the actual experience of doing particular activities, each signifies its own particular and specific type of action.

In the post Hellenic and Arabic Era, we can also read this differentiation. Abu Ma’shār called the Lot of Fortune the most important Lot and in his opinion,

This lot is first above the other lots in the same way that the Sun prevails in splendor on all stars and it is the highest and noblest of the lots.[21]

His opinion, reflecting the ancients’ opinion also, was obviously that the material well-being, reputation and honours of a native were the most important. Material good, reputation, and honours are no doubt the criteria for how the world in general judges “well-being” and “happiness”.  As it applies to any particular human, it is the most relevant and as I pointed out in the previous chapter, it is essential to understanding the essence of how Divine Will apportions and binds together the circumstances of a man’s life making it unique.

Bonatti in paraphrasing Abu Ma’shār’s treatise on the Lots writes,

After the Part of Fortune, which exceeds the other parts in strength and fortune, the part of things to come or pars futurorum, which is called the pars solis,[22] ought to be spoken of.

This, immediately after the Part of Fortune exceeds and is more worthy than all the other parts, although some astrologers seem to care little about it, but it does not seem consistent to me since it is reputed by the wise to be extremely useful for this work…

The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality [esse] of these, and faith, prophecy, religion and the culture of God and secrets, cogitation, intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat and cold… and so these two parts [Fortune and Spirit] work above all others both for good and for evil. And their significations are similar to the significations of the luminaries.[23]

It is very important that we take time to consider carefully what Bonatti (and ultimately Abu Ma’shār) is saying in this quotation. First off, he recognizes the importance of this Lot saying that “This, [the Lot of Spirit] immediately after the Part of Fortune exceeds and is more worthy than all the other parts”. It is so important he considered it inconsistent of some astrologers to not consider its signification and worth. The difference in opinion as to which of these two lots is most important is not really an issue in my opinion. Both Valens and the later medieval astrologers recognized that both were extremely important. Their differences in preference as to which was most significant lies predominantly in the delineation of their operations and Aristotle’s philosophy in his Nicomacean Ethics that says that true actions are those that are praxis and not just poiesis. Outside of Valens’ single statement saying that, “Actions, then, are always taken especially from [the lot of] Spirit and its ruler”, there is nothing to indicate that he recognized any preferential differences other than both lots’ inherent essential differences.

Secondly, and this is very important, Bonatti states, “The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality [esse] of these.” This is something that most modern astrologers do not realize, that the Lot of Spirit signified, like the Lot of Fortune, the well-being of the soul and body. To demonstrate just how consistent this was with the practice of Vettius Valens, consider this quote from Valens,

Often, then, when the Lot of Fortune or its lord falls amiss, the Lot of Spirit divides both bodily matters and those that pertain to action. Similarly also, Fortune will divide both [bodily matters and actions] when the Lot of Spirit or its lord falls amiss.[24]

If the Lot of Fortune or its lord “fell amiss” in the nativity, then the Lot of Spirit would give signification for the same things that Fortune would have if it had not fallen amiss. What Valens is giving us in this quote is a qualifier that justifies the Lot of Spirits importance! To understand this qualifier, we must understand what he meant by “falls amiss”.

To fall amiss was a general term used to describe certain accidental conditions of the planetary ruler(s) of a sign, house or Lot. A planet that fell in a “foreign” sign where it had no essential dignity, i.e. peregrine, was said to have fallen amiss. A planet falling in an evil house, e.g. the 6th, 12th or 8th was said to have fallen amiss. In this particular case, as we’ll see a little later, when Valens says the ruler falls amiss, he is also referring to a planetary ruler that falls inconjunct (what he also calls aversion) or cadent the sign the Lot falls in, or its own domicile. This was a standard Hellenistic concept that if a planet that could not see[25] its domicile then it could not properly administrate the affairs of the house signified by the sign.

Thirdly, it is also important to see that Bonatti, in his quote, recognizes the primary difference between the Lot of Spirit and the Lot of Fortune, i.e. “faith, prophecy, religion and the culture of God and secrets, cogitation,[26] intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat and cold”. This list contains the actions and source (motivation) of Aristotle’s praxis actions, namely, “there cannot be choice … without some moral characteristic [hexis]; for good and bad action in human conduct is not possible without thought and character. Now thought alone moves nothing; only thought which is directed to some end and concerned with action can do so.” This thought and moral character (or lack of it) is found in religion and secular religion, faith, and moral philosophy, ones intentions, courtesy and liberality and character! These are all qualities that describe moral intent and motivation, things indicated by the Lot of Spirit rather than fortune!

The reason the Lot of Fortune was sought first and foremost is because its signification was above all concerned with the physical and material well-being and happiness of the native! If the Part of Fortune was in good condition, the relationship between the native and their physical world was supportive and enabled them to live well. If the Part of Fortune was in poor condition, the native had a harder time living in relationship with the world that supports them. The same can also be said about the relationships of the Part of Fortune and health. The ancients, being pragmatic realists, knew happiness was not just a “state of mind”. The reason both are important is because if one or the other should be inoperative for some reason, e.g. the Lot or its lord(s) falling amiss, then the other would be sought for both indications.

[1] See Appendix 1 – “Quotes and Commentary from the Historical Record”

[2] Born 125 C.E. died ca 175 C.E. A contemporary of Ptolemy he wrote a massive compendium consisting of 12 treatises on Greek Astrology. It is probably the largest Greek astrological text still extant from this period. He offers over 135 astrological charts and delineations that he says he himself made.

[3] This “king” is believed to be Nechepso, the Egyptian pharaoh who presumably wrote an important astrological textbook along with Petosiris between 200 – 400 B.C.E

[4] Section 3 of Book 2 – – “The Anthology” – – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt and published by The Golden Hind Press 1994 (Project Hindsight)

[5] Section 11 of Book 3 – – “The Anthology” – – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt and published by The Golden Hind Press 1994 (Project Hindsight)

[6] There are some lots that are very special exceptions. Those were primarily dealing with mundane astrology, the rise and fall of religions and dynasties and their prophets and kings. Those appear to be of either a Persian or a Babylonian origin and extracted specifically for mundane considerations. Al Bīrūnī considered that some astrologers took extracting Lots too extreme.

[7] Chapter 23 – “Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus” – translated by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum, M.A. – published by ARHAT

[8] Mathematici de Astronomia Tractus X universum quod judiciariam rationem nativitatum or simply Bonatti on the Arabic Parts as translated by Robert Zoller © 2000 New Library Limited.

[9] Book II, section 20 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1994

[10] Praxis – ‘what one does’

[11] Prosneuō – This is a criterion for determining whether the Lot of Fortune or the Lot of Spirit should be used for ‘activities’. The astronomical term ‘incline’ means to approach, in other words to apply to [aspectually or by conjunction].

[12] Book IV, section 7 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1996

[13] What I will refer to as the greater praxis

[14] EN 1139a31-36

[15] What we call individuation today! Excerpt from Robert Hand in his article, “On Matter and Form in Astrology” – 2006

[16] ac•tu•al•ize -ized¿, -izingvt.

1          to make actual or real; realize in action

2          to make realistic

ac¿tu•al•i•za¿tionn.

Webster’s New World Dictionary ©1995 Zane Publishing, Inc.   ©1994, 1991, 1988 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

[17] Book IV, section 4 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1996

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid – section 25

[20] Ibid

[21] Book VIII – “The Great Introduction” – by Abu Ma’shār

[22] These are two of the Latinised words used to call the Lot of Spirit.

[23] This is from the 2nd part of Bonatti’s treatment of the Revolutions of the Year of the World in his astrological compendium Liber Astronomiae. The Latin title is Mathematici de Astronomia Tractus X universum quod judiciariam rationem nativitatum or simply Bonatti on the Arabic Parts as translated by Robert Zoller © 2000 New Library Limited. This particular treatise is a paraphrase by Bonatti of Abu Ma’shār’s Book VIII in his “The Great Introduction”.

[24] Book IV, section 4 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1996

[25] This is within the Greek conception of aspects where the planets did not have aspects but had them because the signs had them!

[26] I.e. serious or deep thoughts and meditations

4 comments on “Spirit and Fortune: What’s the Difference? – Part 3

  1. Steven, this is absolutely brilliant and far exceeds any other attempt to explain the PF and PS that I’ve ever come across. Congratulations. this is a significant contribution to the understanding of traditional astrology.

    • Steven Birchfield A.M.A. says:

      Thank you Peter…. I have been holding on to this for some time debating publishing it lol. I have to post it again as I just noticed a couple footnotes are missing one especially important as it is a brief quote from Robert Hand. Will re-publish tonight.

  2. Pablo Ianiszewski says:

    BRAVO STEVEN!

  3. Steven, I don’t think you mentioned it in the article, but did Valens or anyone else have anything to say regarding either Part in aversion to its ruler?

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