8.10.2004

Numbers

I doubt that anybody in their right mind is going to believe that there are only twelve personality types, one for each sign of the Zodiac. It is ridiculous, given the huge variety of people out there. But the concept of a personality being governed by one of 12 signs is a bare fragment of natal astrology. I mean, it's not even the tip of the iceberg...it's an ice shaving.

This seems to be one of the more damaging misconceptions about astrology. Simplifying a person's nature by throwing them into a broad category is not very helpful (and it's kind of insulting besides). But the main Sun Sign people think of when they think of their sign is only one of over 20 major aspects that an astrologer will look at.

Despite the common reference to "star signs," the only star typically used in Western (aka Tropical) astrology is the sun itself. Besides the sun, every planet out to Pluto except for Earth is taken into account, as well as the Earth's moon. As for Earth itself, it is divided into 12 Houses based on the eastern horizon and adjusted for latitude and longitude, and each of those act as additional insights into different character aspects. Many astrologers use other planetary factors as well, but these are the ones that are used most of the time. So, total them up and you've got 22 places to put any one of the 12 signs.

But that's only going from "ice shaving" to "ice cube."

(Side Note: Because each sign is actually a 30 degree segment of a 360 degree circle, astrologers with a true taste for refinement - also known as "an obsession with detail" - can go as far as looking at individual degrees. So , that would mean 22 parts of the personality with up to 360 distinctions that can be made in any one of them. To keep it simple, though, I'll stick to the twelve signs rather than the degrees.)

Each of those 22 places may or may not have a different sign, but they are all working together in a constant rhythm. Looking at any of those 22 signs without looking at how it relates to each of the others means you are perceiving human nature in isolated chunks: like noting that something is "gray" or "rough" or "hard" but not recognizing it as a rock. Although not all of those personality aspects are actively in use at any given moment (and fewer still are conscious thought processes), each works with the others, and all of them together act as one mind reacting to whatever is happening in the unique environment around an individual.

Every possible combination creates a different psychology. That means the 1-in-12 chance grows exponentially, because the each of the other 22 aspects also have the same chance of being in any given sign or at a specific degree. And each of those combinations interact with one another in a unique manner.

So how many potential kinds of personalities might be found with astrology? Here's a hint: it's not twelve.

The first time I ran the math on this, it seemed like the number was actually too large. I thought I had done something wrong (math was never my strong suit). But it was verified for me recently. The possible number of combinations is 12 to 22nd power, or 12 times 12 times 12 times 12 (and keep on multiplying, 18 more times).

So the next time you see a horoscope column, you might consider that this is the conservative estimate of how many entries there could be: 552,061,438,912,436,417,593,344.

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