Like the vast field of astrology, books written about our celestial art range from the simple to the complex. We see many books that merely repackage what’s already been said to those that advance the field by adding new knowledge. Certainly we have enough Sun Sign books to meet everyone’s needs. For those intrepid astrologers who have new perspectives to share, the target audience tends to be small, so publication becomes an iffy proposition. Many of these adventurous perspectives never catch on, and the book gets filed away, never making a profit. Yet when new ideas resonate, when the astrological community sits up and notices, a potential classic has arrived.
The Tenth Planet by Henry Seltzer is bound to be an instant classic because it masterfully introduces Eris, one of a handful of planets recently sighted outside Pluto’s orbit. Although Eris is slightly larger than Pluto, astronomers were conflicted about adding this distant object to the list of acknowledged planets. The ensuing debate led to the re-classification of Pluto as a “dwarf planet” which is also how Eris is officially designated. Yet the operative word here is “planet”; Eris is a planet, and as such deserves to be treated with the same respect that astrologers give Pluto. Eris was named in 2006, yet very little has been written about it until now.
Seltzer presents Eris as a journey of discovery as he chronicles the meaning of the astrological Eris by investigating the lives of well-known cultural pioneers who have Eris prominently placed in their natal horoscopes. In this way, Eris speaks to us through the words and activities of these historical figures. After fleshing out the archetypal Eris, The Tenth Planet concludes with a cookbook-styled reference section, which delineates Eris in the twelve houses and in aspect to the traditional planets and Chiron. The author begins his explanation of Eris with some technical background information. Eris was discovered by the famous planet hunter Mike Brown, and initially referred to as Xena, the warrior princess from the popular TV show. The sense that this new planet was a feminine warrior type stayed with the official naming in 2006: Eris is the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord. By studying the mythology of Eris, we get our first glimpse into the archetypal essence of this new planet.
Eris takes some 556 years to orbit the Sun. It’s currently in Aries and near its aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun. It’s in Aries longer than any other sign (120 years), which undoubtedly emphasizes its aggressive nature. The author’s preliminary estimation of Eris is that it promotes a “militant feminism that does not shrink from violence.” A corollary to this assessment is that Eris takes a stand for what she believes, and this significance is born out in the author’s look at Eris in the charts of 20th century feminists. Angela Davis, Jane Fonda, Angelina Jolie, Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Uma Thurman, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Susan B. Anthony all have Eris prominently placed. Their horoscopes and brief biographies are presented in early chapters of The Tenth Planet, along with how Eris explains their life stories. When Eris-Saturn aspects dominate, issues of justice rise to the top. Where Eris-Mercury aspects prevail, writing invariably takes center stage. Actors who portray feminine warriors tend to have Eris-Neptune aspects. Eris-Sun individuals can be rebellious and radical when young and/or unevolved. But with maturity, “they become a strong force for advancing what they see as necessary and good, both in terms of social ideals and for what has become regarded by them as their soul purpose.” And through this process, society as a whole makes evolutionary advances. And what does Eris do in men’s charts? In a similar way, men are motivated to take revolutionary stances, to embark on a life path that lies beyond the current paradigms and consensus reality. Albert Einstein was born with Eris conjunct his Midheaven, and his career was characterized by his revolutionary thinking outside the box. Transiting Eris conjoined his Sun from 1899 to 1909, the very years that he formulated his breakthrough theories.
Seltzer then explores the Eris archetype in the charts of three important literary figures: Herman Melville, D.H. Lawrence, and William Blake. In these authors’ masterpieces, Eris speaks to us directly through the characters and plots. In Melville’s Moby Dick, we see Eris as an expression of monumental fixity of purpose, and destruction as a symbolic retribution for the wiping out of an entire species of whales. Melville wrote this epic when transiting Eris and Neptune (high seas) were conjunct and opposing his Mercury (writing). By this phase of the author’s investigation of Eris, the archetype’s meaning has shifted from a feminine warrior to a spiritual warrior. Chapters 7 through 10 explore the philosophical and psychological meaning of Eris. The charts and stories of intellectuals with prominent Eris placements help us understand what this new planet means. An entire chapter is devoted to Carl Jung, who as the patron saint of modern astrology, is the ideal spokesperson for the Eris archetype. Revolutionary thinkers who made their mark on pop culture are also included, like Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Allen Ginsburg, and Norman Mailer. Robert Anton Wilson, famous for writing about the Illuminati, has Eris placed high in his chart and aspecting all the personal planets, including the Sun and Moon. Wilson is also well-known for founding the Discordia movement, which has the slogan “Hail Eris!”
What makes The Tenth Planet a classic is the author’s story-telling, his groundbreaking research, and the psycho-spiritual depth as he explains how Eris functions in the horoscope. His style may be considered akin to that of Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche, although thankfully briefer and more concise. Several times Seltzer refers to Tarnas, and we sense an intellectual fraternity that leads the astrological community beyond entertainment and into the recognition that our universe is enchanted. And what is Eris saying in your horoscope?
Chris Lorenz – Dell Horoscope
We live in a time when many new solar system bodies are being discovered and named. Most go unnoticed but, occasionally, there is a discovery that the entire world learns about. Such was the case with Eris, briefly the tenth planet of our solar system. Nicknamed Xena by her discoverer, Mike Brown, Eris’ discovery resulted in the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgrading Pluto to the newly formed category of Dwarf Planet, which also includes Eris and Ceres. This caused heated arguments, not only among the astronomers themselves, but also Astrologers and the general public. Her final name of Eris, Goddess of Strife and Discord could not have been more appropriate!
The best-known myth of Eris describes this strife and discord well and tells how She was not invited to Peleus’ and Thetis’ wedding, because it was believed that She would cause trouble. Hera, Aphrodite and Athena had been invited and, so, when Eris arrived and rolled in a golden apple inscribed “For the Fairest One” (or “For the Most Beautiful One”, sources vary), each of the three Goddesses claimed the apple. Paris was chosen by Zeus to award the golden apple, which he gave to Aphrodite as She promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. In this myth we see that the trouble that Eris brings is never a simple argument that is easily settled, but always escalates and causes far greater problems, in this case the destruction of Troy.
In his opening chapter, Seltzer discusses the inspiration for his initial research on Eris and briefly describes her position as Goddess of Strife and Discord and as the sister of the God of War, Ares. He then moves to looking at charts that demonstrate Eris’ importance in the charts of, in his words, “activists, feminists and revolutionaries”. These descriptions are concise and well written and show Seltzer’s ability to focus on key points. Later, we are treated to a more detailed discussion of specific charts that demonstrate Eris’ importance in describing the deeper unconscious issues that underpin the drive to fight for one’s beliefs. The selected charts show people whose lives have been shaped by the power of Eris into meaningful, if not easy, lives and reflect the struggle that results from having such a powerful archetype prominent in one’s chart.
There is a “cookbook” section that gives astrologers new to Eris examples of how She will influence one’s life by house position and aspect. While the cookbook approach has fallen out of favour over the years, I found this section very useful when developing my ability to fully interpret Eris. When first discovered there was emphasis on Eris’ association with strife and discord, however, as with all new bodies, the more you work with Her, the subtler and more nuanced the interpretation becomes. This section does an excellent job of giving us this wider interpretation. I recommend using some of your favourite charts, interpreting the position of Eris and Her aspects and then referring to Seltzer’s interpretation. In each case I found a greater depth than I had previously realised.
My favourite section of the book is Appendix D – Historical Survey. With an orbital period of 558 years, Eris’ movement is perhaps more suited to Mundane Astrology and, in this section, Seltzer describes the mundane implications of the cycles of Eris with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. This represents initial work but gives examples of the impact of these cycles, with discussion of some of the conjunctions, squares and oppositions that have occurred starting in the mid-1300s.
The Uranus-Eris cycle describes, in Seltzer’s words, “the cry for freedom inherent in the Uranus archetype, and the no-holds-barred struggle to achieve that typifies the Eris archetype”. Seltzer shows how scientific and religious revolutions and freedom have been highlighted by this cycle, for example Luther wrote his 95 Theses of Protest close to the Uranus/Eris conjunction of 1515-1516. Scientist, Charles Darwin was invited to join the second voyage of the HMS Beagle at the time of the 1830s Uranus/Eris conjunction and then published On the Origin of Species around the time of the first square.
The Neptune-Eris cycle is involved in the development of new media that come into being in a “pioneering outburst of entrepreneurial spirit”. An example of this is the printing of the Gutenberg Bible at the Neptune/Eris opposition of the mid-1400s; as ground breaking in its day as any of the developments in digital media that are occurring now.
Pluto-Eris is raw power, always violent, and very focused. We see the Spanish Inquisition at the Pluto/Eris opposition of 1481-1494. Seltzer also notes that Eris in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) chart is conjunct Pluto in the chart for Islam itself. This is one of many occasions in this book where Seltzer highlights areas that are ripe for further research. In Mundane Astrology Eris seems to say “I am right, let’s get it done” with violence often ensuing if others stand their ground.
Eris is such a powerful archetype that we will learn more of Her importance in Astrology over the years. This book is an important first step in our journey to learn about this gloriously powerful Goddess. Even Astrologers who do not usually use the more modern bodies will find much information and insight in this Dwarf Planet.
I would like to thank the FAA for the opportunity to review this fascinating book.
Vivien began her studies in astrology in 1978. She holds the Diploma of Astrology from the FAA and a Bachelor of Social Science (Hons) in psychology from Charles Sturt University, and is currently planning to undertake the Advanced Diploma of the FAA.
Vivien now concentrates on research, with particular interests in the integration of the newly discovered solar system bodies into Astrology and in Evolutionary Astrology.
Vivien can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org