Sect in Classical Astrology

What I want to focus on here is the doctrine of sect as it appears in classical astrology. This is a powerful yet simple doctrine that was more or less lost to us during the medieval period, and has only been revived through recent translation projects.

“Sect” is a translation of the Greek word hairesis (αἵρεσις), which was used to refer to competing factions within political and religious institutions in the classical world. Members of different heretical groups in the early Christian church, for instance, were said to be part of a different hairesis. The doctrine of sect states that the classical planets themselves can be divided into two separate “sects” or “factions:” a diurnal or daytime sect and a nocturnal or nighttime sect.

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To the diurnal sect belong the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, and to the nocturnal sect belong the moon, venus, and mars. Mercury can switch sect – when Mercury rises before the sun and is a morning star, he is part of the daytime sect; when he rises after the sun and is an evening start, he is part of the nighttime sect.

Just like political parties, only one of these two sects can be in power at a time, and whichever one is in power has more authority and opportunity to act within the native’s life. Naturally, the diurnal sect is in power in daytime when the sun is above the horizon, and the nocturnal sect is said to be at nighttime when the sun is below the horizon. When the diurnal sect is in power in a chart, astrologers will call it a “daytime chart;” when the nocturnal sect is in power, a “nighttime chart.”

It is very simple to find out whether your chart is ruled by the daytime sect or the nighttime sect. If the sun is located in the lower half of the natal chart in houses 2 through 6, yours is a nighttime chart, and if it is in houses 12 through 8, it is a daytime chart. If the sun is in either the 1st house or the 7th house in your chart, then you need to see whether it is above or below the ascendant/descendent axis. Think of this axis as the horizon – if it is above the axis, you have a daytime chart, and it is a nighttime chart otherwise.

Assessing Planetary Influence

There are two ways in which this doctrine has an effect. The primary way in which this technique can be applied is to assess the planets according to how benefic their influence will be. Just like our current political system, the planets that are out of sect are said to be less powerful and have less of a voice than the planets which are in sect.

Functionally, this means that the planets which are in sect receive a sort of “boost” of positivity: benefic planets in sect are more benefic, and malefic planets are less malefic. We say in astrology that those planets which are in secret have an elevated level of dignity, and are thus more inclined to act and manifest in ways that will benefit the native. Conversely, the benefic planets that are out of sect become less benefic, and the malefic planets out of sect become more malefic. Each of these planets becomes less dignified.

That is the primary way in which we can use sect in our chart interpretations: identifying one set of planets as stronger and more benefic than the other. The subsidiary functionality of this doctrine comes from the fact that this bifurcation adds a gradation to the planets and puts them on the scale.

You will notice that the division of the sects is fairly symmetrical:

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Besides Mercury, each of the two sects contains

  • 1 luminary (sun or moon)

  • 1 benefic planet

  • 1 malefic planet

By incorporating the doctrine of sect, we can see which benefic planet will be more benefic, which malefic planet will be less malefic.

And this in turn yields two possible ways of ranking the effects of the benefic and malefic planets, depending on whether the chart in question is a daytime chart or a nighttime chart.

Daytime Chart

  1. Jupiter

  2. Venus

  3. Saturn

  4. Mars

Nighttime Chart

  1. Venus

  2. Jupiter

  3. Mars

  4. Saturn

Thus for every chart we have a planet that we can look at which we be very benefic, and a planet that will be very malefic. For astrologers trying to find the most salient points in the chart, the doctrine of sect has the potential to be quite helpful insofar as it quickly identifies the most helpful planet and the least helpful planet.

Let’s look at some examples to see how this shapes up concretely in people’s charts.

Example 1 – Steve Wozniack

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Steve Wozniack’s chart is an excellent example of just how powerful and helpful the benefic of the sect in favor can be under the right circumstances. Since this is a daytime chart, Jupiter is the benefic planet of the sect in favor and it is currently in a sign of its own rulership (Pisces) and in an angular house (7th), which is the most powerful type of house in classical astrology.

Steve Wozniack co-founded Apple with his business partner Steve Jobs. The placement of Jupiter in the seventh house which rules business partners and close relationships in his chart provided him with a tremendous business, worldwide recognition, and ample amounts of capital – all things ruled by Jupiter – through one of his closest friends.

Jupiter also is applying a trine to Venus, which rules his second house. This reinforces the theme of there being a very positive, constructive relationship between his wealth and income on the one hand and his close personal relationships on the other. The scale at which this relationship manifested itself is evidenced by rulership in which each of the planets finds itself – Jupiter is in his own domicile in Pisces, and Venus is the daytime ruler of Water signs such as Cancer, where she finds herself currently.

Example 2 – Earnest Hemingway

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Much of the nature of Earnest Hemingway’s life can be made clear by looking at his natal chart. The ruler of his 9th house of higher education, writing, and travel and of his 2nd house of finances is in the exact same position as Steve Wozniack’s – in her own triplicity in the 11th. Earnest Hemingway made his money through writing, and his writings were greatly informed by the travels he made in Spain and Cuba. This is given added strength and grace from Jupiter’s (the benefic of sect) trine from the third.

But we can also see some of the difficulties. Mars is the malefic contrary to the sect and rules Hemingway’s 8th house of death. It is placed in his 1st house which rules the self in general and the body more particularly. After protracted struggles with alcoholism and depression, Earnest Hemingway tragically took his own life in a very martial way on July 2, 1961. It is worth noting that on that day, mars was transiting his first house and opposed to the moon, which is another significator of the body.

Conclusion

The doctrine of sect is clearly very powerful and relatively simple to use. It has also only been recently discovered – astrologers have only begun to adopt it again in the last 25 years or so. It will be exciting to see just how far the technique can be taken as we continuing implementing it and experimenting with it.

I have covered the essentials about this method: we’ve looked at the mechanics behind, the ways to use it, and some examples. There are some derivative aspects of the sect doctrine called “rejoicing conditions” that I will cover in the next entry. These were used sparingly by the Greeks and didn’t come into full swing until the innovations of the Arabs.

I encourage you to look at your own chart now and see what you can find! Make sure to pay special attention to the benefic in sect and the malefic out of sect. After that, take notice of the houses and signs they occupy, the houses they rule, and the aspects they make to other planets.