Heliocentricity

I’ve found myself thinking off and on over the [insert your favourite lengthy time interval here] about calendars. I’ve been interested in various calendars at various times, for some value of “interested” which ranges from genuine curiosity to amusement. A few of the calendars that come to mind off-hand which I’ve found interesting include the history of the Gregorian, the Discordian calendar, (although not strictly a calendar rather than a system of coordinated metric time) the Swatch @Beat, various cultural/ritual Lunar calendars, the 13 Moon calendar, the French Revolutionary calendar, and, recently, the Thelemic calendar.

Believe me when I say that I’ve gone on many an Internet safari looking over various articles and also seeking a pocket watch which only displays the solar and lunar locations, at the minimal, or more recently offers the functions of a planetarium.

Among the various thoughts I’ve had recently is the increasing sense that the Gregorian calendar appears to me to be more heliocentric than the Thelemic calendar. The Thelemic calendar system is supposed to be more appropriate than the Gregorian for a heliocentric age as it is purported to escape the unscientific notion of geocentric arrangement in the heavens. Of course, the reality of scientifically appropriate and accurate relativism means that any point can be the apparent center around which things more or less orbit, even if Occam’s Razor does preference some answers over others, but to intentionally build a system which places that point of reference at a solar center requires a notation that reflects that viewpoint, not another; or else the message of the system undermines what it is meant to mean.

The indicators for the Thelemic calendar are the zodiacal house and degree in which the Sun appears and the house with the degree in which the Moon appears, both of which are notations of the apparent path of those bodies through the heavens as they move from the vantage point of the Earth. This notation represents the viewpoint that the Sun and Moon move, or at least tracks their apparent movement as if from a stationary Earth. Although this does use the only two celestial bodies for which retrograde motion isn’t an apparent issue, which is merely a mask that the model still presents this phenomena if other bodies are looked at in the very same way, it’s still from the perspective of those bodies moving as if around Earth. This calendar also has the further disadvantage of not necessarily being coordinated universal time, and instead can offer not only different calendar notations from different places on Earth, but is also ambiguously unclear about whether the notation is from one place on Earth. For example, one might use the Thelemic time server to read out time from a coordinated time or from the apparent notation where the observer is standing on Earth. Again, this is not only ambiguous but is conditional based on the apparent movement of the heavens as it appears from some point on earth. That’s pretty darned geocentric for a system adopted in order to represent a heliocentric intent.

A discussion of this notation as a way of “tracking of the sun and moon through the zodiac” can be found at Thelemapedia’s Calendar article. The specificity of the system clearly implies a mobile Sun and Moon from the viewpoint of the Earth and the observer.

The Gregorian calendar, however, is actually a bit more ambivalent. It could be said of the Gregorian calendar that the year marks the point at which the Sun returns to the same point in the sky as viewed from Earth, but could also be said to represent the Earth returning to the same point along its orbit around a stationary Sun. The advantage here is that whether from a stationary Earth or a stationary Sun, the notation is the same, and thus is flexibly useful across paradigms. Further, the notation is universally coordinated for users of the same calendar except for the minor caveat of the International Date Line. Thus, since the Gregorian calendar is, aside from a minor issue, more universally coordinated (not talking about the clock here, but the calendar) no matter where on Earth one is, and can be said to represent the journey of the Earth around a stationary Sun, it is definitely more heliocentric than the Thelemic calendar.

In other words, one of the useful things about the status quo Gregorian system is that it is amenable to various paradigms of thought on centricism. This flexibility of meaning, this ambivalence, is part of the system’s longevity. Any novel proposal must somehow overcome this utilitarian and somewhat universal appeal to have any hope of general adoption.

However, and here’s a comparative-benefit alternative affirmative case, there’s a way to create a more heliocentric calendar than either the Gregorian or Thelemic systems. Simply use instead the apparent house and degree of the Earth from the viewpoint of the Sun, instead of the apparent house and degree of the Sun from the viewpoint of the Earth. Essentially, this is diametrically opposite a position in the sky from the Thelemic notation of the Sun from a geocentric position. This is nicely metaphorical and poetical, since the one-hundred and eighty degree dichotomy neatly mirrors breaking from geocentric to heliocentric as well moving radically between Aeons.

(I’ll avoid the obvious preciousness of calling this alternative the Griogairian system. “Oops! … I did it again.”)

For the minor indicator, one could use the Moon, assuming the realization that this is as the Moon travels about the mobile Earth, which makes some sense to me since it nicely echos the Collect language, “… so that we may in our particular orbit give out light and life to them that revolve about us …” [see], but using a lunar notation from the viewpoint of the Earth is by definition geocentric, even if it is the minor index of the notation, and thus counter to the intent of switching to a heliocentric model; and, a lunar position from the viewpoint of the Sun would just simply be unreasonably confusing, violating Occam’s Razor, and thus run counter to the intent of switching to a more rational, modern and scientific calendar.

One might decide instead to use for the minor index, say, the house and degree of fast moving Mercury’s apparent position from the viewpoint of the Sun. Mercury, the messenger, king of jesters and jester to kings, as it dances like a crazed piper close to the throne of the gravity well. (Mercury sure holds appeal for me because of that correspondence, if this were about advocating my own personal system. But, there may actually be something which will remain unexplored here about using personally or situationally relevant planetary influences to mark time.) Another possibility is to use Mars, since there’s some correspondence with Ra-Hoor-Khuit that is particularly sub-culturally relevant. But, the point remains that the major indicator should be the movement of the Earth around the apparently stationary Sun, or else the notation is simply not heliocentric, in spite of claims otherwise.

One could go further, and like the concentric rings of the Mayan calendar stone, develop a notation for larger periodic movements. The precession of the equinoxes may not be suitable, since it’s the apparent precession from the viewpoint of the Earth; but, could be used for its symbolic relation to the Aeons. Another option is to develop some indicator based on the travels of the Sun around the galactic core, but the gap between the cycle of the Earth around the Sun to the cycle of the Sun around the galactic core may simply be too wide to be useful. Perhaps one of the other planets as it moves around the Sun, or the periodicity of a particular comet, would be suitably longer in period while still being a notation from the viewpoint of the Sun. The most useful of these longer periodic movements would be ones that could be verified visually in some fashion through reasonable astronomical observation and some calculation, instead of something that would not be verifiable through some observational technique or only through calculations.

It seems to me the Thelemic calendar actually moves further away from a heliocentric notation, not toward it; and fails to provide a suitable universally coordinated notation, since it offers two plausible notations for date-time at each geographic location.

For example, depending whether I am using my timezone or not as my point of view, January 1, 2010 EV at 00:00:00 could appear as either (using no offset):

Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 13° Cancri : dies Veneris : Anno IVxvii æræ novæ

or (using an improbable, but funny, offset of -666 minutes, near the International Date Line):

Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 20° Cancri : dies Veneris : Anno IVxvii æræ novæ

Further, January 1, 2001 EV at 00:00:00 could appear as either (using no offset):

Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 18° Piscis : dies Lunæ : Anno IVviii æræ novæ

or (again using an improbable, but funny, offset of -666 minutes, near the International Date Line):

Sol in 11° Capricorni : Luna in 24° Piscis : dies Lunæ : Anno IVviii æræ novæ

While these examples only demonstrate differences by degree, other specific times on this planet will also have more dramatic differences in zodiac as well, but certainly minute and second. And, to be fair, the documentation of the Thelemic Time Server does make clear that the difference in degree based on location on Earth is negligible, natheless it does exist. And, since we’re talking about science, accuracy is a matter of sensitivity in measurement.

And, most importantly, notice that the canonical Thelemic notation offers no indication of what offset is being used, are approximately twice as long, and are more syntactically complex than the alternative status quo. Canonical date-time in Gregorian would generally offer some time zone indication, be shorter, and quicker to parse. It’s possible that the time and time zone would be also specified in conjunction to the Thelemic notation, but this would mean using neither canonical nor purely Thelemic notation.

These examples of Thelemic notation also mix diversely different symbol sets, since each have different bases. There’s base-10, base-12, base-26, and so on. There’s alphabetical and numeric and symbolic. This notation also mixes two languages which makes it either detached from the vernacular or else makes it pseudo-Latin. These two points alone suggest that the notation is unnecessarily complex and not well designed.

It may be worth noting here also that by being more granular than the smallest unit used by the Gregorian, a day, the Thelemic calendar is actually overlapping two different systems. The Thelemic calendar actually offers a granularity which requires two systems under the status quo, the Gregorian calendar and the system of time told by a clock. This might seem to be a useful simplification, but rather, and very often, the Thelemic calendar system is used in conjunction with times given by clock, thus it does not actually simplify over the symbiotic relationship between calendar and clock of the status quo since that relationship is maintained. Also, generally, the proponents of the Thelemic calendar do not rail against the clock, rather only against the calendar of the status quo; so, those proponents cannot be said to actually be proposing the simplification of dissolving the two into one … at least, um, in this case.

Further, it’s worth noting that the Thelemic date system is computationally obfuscated when compared to common numerical representations of the Gregorian date system in the same way that the Roman numeral system is computationally obfuscated when compared to the Arabic numeral system, as there is no canonically correct way to note a Thelemic date in purely numerical notation [see]. Whereas, for example, even the 13 Moon calendar has a computationally useful canonical notation, such as representing December 20, 2012 as:

12.19.19.17.19

which is computationally convenient. That’s not to say that the Thelemic notation is impossible, as is clearly demonstrated by the reverse lookup facility of the Thelemic Time Server [see]; but, rather that it’s more obfuscated and thus has less comparative utility because it does not offer a clear and canonical numerical notation.

For example, a decimal notation for the Thelemic calendar could be something like:

ANO::CC:DD:MM:SS::CC:DD:MM:SS

where the order is from greater to lesser, with year first followed by the major index and then minor index (which, by the way, is also disordered in the current Thelemic notation as major, minor and then followed by the greatest index of year). The first CDMS is the constellation, degree, minute and second of the major index, and the second is the second; and finally the digital representation of the Thelemic years since The Equinox of the Gods in 1904. This notation could be used in a less granular way, say by dropping minutes and seconds, like representing January 1, 2001 EV at 00:00:00 (using no offset) as:

96::10:10::12:18

(which means Sun in 10° Capricorn and Moon in 18° Pisces in the year 96). Additionally, for even more granularity, the seconds could include decimal fractions.

“96::10:10::12:18” is significantly simpler, of greater utility, and more concise than “Sol in 10° Capricorni : Luna in 18° Piscis : dies Lunæ : Anno IVviii æræ novæ”. This decimal notation is also less obfuscated and still simpler and of greater utility than the more abbreviated Thelemic notation which uses mixed symbol sets of alphabet and zodiac. Obvious proof of this is that this decimal notation could appear on a simple LED digital clock and be understood.

Therefore, it seems to me a reasonable conclusion that a more properly heliocentric time notation than either the Thelemic or Gregorian calendars offer would be to use the universally coordinated, and unambiguous, position of the Earth relative to the Sun instead of the apparent position of the Sun relative to the Earth.

I also feel it worth reflecting on the fact that in general novel time and calendar systems have to my eyes failed because they are more complex, and thus more unwieldy, or less precise, and thus less useful, than the status quo system of notation and calculation. For example, the Swatch @Beat was actually less granular than the standard second, though it was universally coordinated and metric; and that lack of granularity actually was one reason, but certainly not the only, why it did not develop a wider following. (Another relevant criticism of the Swatch @Beat was that while it was universally coordinated, it used as the mean the location of Swatch HQ in Biel, CH. Using an UTC based on Boleskine in a Thelemic system would also be subject to this same criticism.) In this case, the Thelemic calendar appear to fail, as demonstrated above, to improve on the Gregorian calendar system in both of these areas: ease and precision. It fails ease because of the difficulty of conversion and use in daily activities for general application. It fails in precision because it requires much more notation to mark precise date-time, and even if a more precise degree is noted with both minutes and seconds the notation is still of ambiguous offset.

Obviously a ritual or religious calendar has less necessary need to oblige the users with general ease and unambiguous precision than a civic or secular calendar; but offering both is something that will aid in the cross-over of a primarily religious calendar into common use for civic and secular purposes.

But, even aside from these issues, the Thelemic calendar fails to actually deliver on the intent of being more suitable to a heliocentric worldview because it is actually quite geocentric in notation. The claim that the Thelemic calendar notation is more heliocentric that the Gregorian is simply false, and there is a demonstrably better notation in which it is possible to be more heliocentric than the Thelemic calendar. Though this alternative I’ve explored does not answer the issues of ease or precision either, my alternative suggestion succeeds as a comparative benefit because it more fully meets the intent toward heliocentricity.

A true and obvious advance in ease and precision is needed from any novel proposal in order to have the chance for civic and secular adoption, and the current Thelemic calendar system and notation does not meet that test of modern utility and applicability no matter how laudable as a poetic, symbolically-rich, religiously significant or qualitative system it may be. This and it’s utility to sub-cultural identity formation by simply being different actually seem counter-productive to adoption in the mainstream of the core meaning of heliocentricity.

Conclusions

Not only does the current Thelemic calendar and notation system fail to best the Gregorian for utility and adoption, but it also fails to be the best way to present a heliocentric model and paradigm when compared to either the Gregorian or an alternative. In fact, the Thelemic system is not only geocentric but also opaquely observer-location dependent; which would fit with the Aeon of the Child if it were indicated, but would be even less convenient or universally coordinated.

Based on this thinking, I have a few concluding suggestions that might be adopted to improve the Thelemic calendar and notation system. One or more of the following could be adopted:

  • Change the major index to the heliocentric model by rather noting which constellation the Earth is in from the viewpoint of the Sun, which would be canonically and clearly heliocentric.
  • Change the minor index to the heliocentric model of noting which constellation some other body, Mercury or Mars, is in orbit around and from the viewpoint of the Sun. It would be nice for this minor index to offer at least as much, if not more, granularity than a clock in order to allow the simplification of resolving both calendar and clock into a single system, but if one continues to use a clock in symbiosis then that is not as necessary a feature, and perhaps even undesirable to have overlap.
  • Consider adding an even longer index, such as the Great Year or more to the point some index which represents the motion of the Sun around the galactic core, which adds that the Sun also moves, not around the Earth, but around another larger center.
  • Create a standard decimal notation which uses only numerals in base-10 with only the minimally necessary punctuation for clarity, such as ANO::CC:DD:MM:SS::CC:DD:MM:SS or optionally ANO::CC:DD::CC:DD when less granularity is needed. Even if the larger issue of the model isn’t made more heliocentric, the utility of a simple decimal notation added to the status quo for both humans and machines would be an improvement.
  • If an actual heliocentric model and notation is not adopted, at the least the existing system could be standardized on an universally coordinated viewpoint, from Boleskine for example. This would mean that there would be no ambiguity about parallax from one location on Earth to another. Otherwise, some method of indicating offset should be included in the current Thelemic notation.
  • Beyond all of the above, knowing that a nano-century is PI seconds long, means to me that the Gregorian system is cool and interesting. Some detractors of the Gregorian system (especially the 13 Moon people who are constantly crying that “it makes no sense!”) tend to miss how interesting it actually is and might consider being more friendly and knowledgeable about the historicity and story of it.
  • In general, detractors of the Gregorian system (especially the 13 Moon people) seem to not know much about other more or less modern attempts to change calendaring systems. Becoming more familiar with those other attempts might offer insights into why they weren’t effective that can be used to further reflect on the calendar change they support, and offer ways to modify their proposal to be more likely adopted.

Update 21jan2010 @ 2:44pm:

Clay F. suggests to me that the paradigm for the Thelemic system is egocentric not heliocentric, which is a possible paradigmatic meaning of the system.

However, while the Thelemic system is inherently observer-dependent, it fails to note even the possible use of the offset of the observer, if used at all, and thus does not clearly specify an egocentric over geocentric paradigm. Thus, if it is meant to be egocentric, it also fails at that. To succeed it should include at least the offset, but might fully specify the location on Earth by latitude and longitude and maybe something about which individual it is that is making the observation, such as a short biographical statement or motto. But, a truly egocentric model would include epicycles, and other subjective notions. Even Earth would be tumbling about underneath Ego like a spirograph. Oh, so very post-modern in a neo-romantic way. But, then it continues to fail utility and convenience, and is still and moreso certainly not likely to be widely adopted.

He also pointed out that another issue I didn’t mention with the minor lunar index is that it is not unique to a particular date, and that without more accurate notation, a particular solar and lunar set of degree can reoccur for times separated by a lunar month. His suggestion to resolve this specific fault is to drop the lunar index but include the planetary day in the notation, such as “sol in 1° aq., dies jovis”.

He also pointed out as an oddity that the Thelemic system is using the tropical not sidereal zodiac.

Update 25jan2010 @ 9:54am:

Stephen C. suggests an interesting possible paradigmatic shift for the Thelemic system which didn’t really occur to me, and that is to see the system as not to really focused on the observer location but on Sun as being in the center on a line between Earth and the sign.

This is sort of seeing the relationship as being like a teeter-toter, with Sun as a pivot, or fulcrum. Instead of Sun constantly cock-blocking the current constellation, like a cat always trying to sit between you and the TV, Earth and the current degree along the zodiac chase each other around Sun, like Enterprise and Reliant around Regula I in The Wrath of Khan. There’s something about this that seems interestingly reminiscent of the notion of an alternate Earth in the opposite orbit from Earth prime, hanging out in L3, like divine brothers, sons of Sun, battling over solar inheritance. There’s also something to this that seems appropriate to the switch from LVX to NOX, with a persistent shadow of sorts marking time as a celestial-scale sundial.

However, I think if this were the paradigm one wanted to suggest, then the notation might better reflect that by iconographically representing this relationship. It also doesn’t address the other issues about which I made suggestions.

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