The historical evolution of the traditional correspondences between planets and metals and of planetary arrangements in ancient astronomy is reviewed. Then, a paradoxical correlation of these ancient believes with the ordering of elements based on the concept of atomic number, belonging to the modern scientific ‘‘paradigm’’, is discussed. The concept of synchronicity, ‘‘an acausal connecting principle’’ in C.G.Jung’s words, connecting events on the basis of their meaning, is considered as a working hypothesis for the understanding of this paradox.
In the first part of this work, it is described how the geocentric planetary arrangement adopted by Greek astronomy has reached its final form, which dominated from around the 2nd century BC till the Copernican revolution. This arrangement goes as follows:
Fixed Stars / Saturn / Jupiter / Mars / Sun / Venus / Mercury / Moon / Earth
The planetary week is shown to be the product of a convergence of three cultural traditions during the Hellenistic period: (i) Chaldean astrology, (ii) Egyptian Chronokrators (i.e. gods dominating specific time intervals) and (iii) Greek astronomy. The result is that the Chaldean planetary deities play the role of ‘‘spirits of hours’’ (and subsequently of entire days), combined with the order of planets as provided by Greek astronomy. The sequence of the days of the week is given by the following geometric construction described by the Roman historian Cassius Dio:
The seven planets are arranged in their traditional geocentric order on the seven vertices of a regular heptagon. Beginning from the Sun and tracing the star-shaped acute-angle regular heptagon the sequence of day-rulers of the planetary week is generated, as shown by Latin and sporadically Teutonic day names.
In the world-view of late antiquity and the Middle Ages, the concepts of affinity and correspondence were essential. Among the wide variety of such supposed relationships, one of the most venerable and long lasting was that between planets and metals, namely: Saturn ↔ lead (Pb, atomic number 82); Mercury ↔ mercury (Hg, 80); Sun ↔ gold (Au, 79); Jupiter ↔ tin (Sn, 50); Moon ↔ silver (Ag, 47); Venus ↔ copper (Cu, 29); Mars ↔ iron (Fe, 26). The first clear mention of connection between the seven planets and metals is found in Alexandrian writers, while the definitely accepted list of correspondences (the one mentioned above) appears firstly in a manuscript of a Byzantine alchemist of the 7th century. Chaucer (14th century), in ‘‘The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale’’ from his Canterbury Tales, describes this correspondence in the following lines:
The bodies sevene eek lo! hem heer anoon:
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we thrape,
Mars yren, Mercurie quik-silver we clepe,
Saturnus leed, and Jupiter is tin,
And Venus coper, by my fader kin!
Atomic theory is formulated in the late 18th century and in the early 20th century led to the association to each element of its atomic number, which represents the most characteristic quantification of elements’ physico-chemical identity. In the following figure the seven planets are arranged again in their traditional geocentric order on the seven vertices of a regular heptagon. If we connect these points following the order of increasing atomic number of the metals associated with the planets, we observe that a star-shaped obtuse-angle regular heptagon is formed.
As we have shown (see in the article’s full text for details), the probability to obtain this specific graph by pure chance is 1/360, while the probability to obtain any one of the three possible high-symmetry graphs which are the two aforementioned star-shaped and the one regular heptagons is 1/120, i.e. less than 1%.
As we have excluded the possibility for that to be a contemporary artefact or the result of ancient knowledge of unknown provenance, the mere coincidence is the only remaining explanation. However, the idea that ‘‘coincidences’’ involving events meaningfully connected in space and time occur more often than normally expected has a long history. In traditional civilizations, it was widely accepted that events are fundamentally interconnected because of ‘‘affinities’’ and ‘‘correspondences’’ rather than because of cause-and-effect relationships. The principle of causality has evolved, and in its present form dates only from the Scientific Revolution. In even the recent past, several investigators were driven to the hypothesis of the existence of other ways than causality for the meaningful interconnections of events. The Austrian zoologist Paul Kammerer formulated a ‘‘law of series’’, that similar events succeed one another (i.e., they are clustered in time) more often than expected, even where causal explanations for such a clustering are excluded. Later, Jung and Pauli introduced the principle of synchronicity to describe the tendency of events to coincide meaningfully in space and time.
The paradox of the planetary metals cannot be understood on the basis of causal relationships. It brings together physical factors—the geocentric angular speed of celestial bodies, physical properties of planets, physical and chemical properties of metals—with beliefs: myths related to gods of the ancient Middle East, astrological traditions of those civilizations, the geocentric concept itself. Only nowadays, with knowledge of atomic quantities, is the paradox evident. It is either meaningful and synchronistic, or it is sheer coincidence. Corroboration or refutation of this approach would depend on further research work on other anomalous events, for which the existence of a hidden causal origin is also highly unlikely.
This work has been initially published in the ‘‘Journal of Scientific Exploration’’. The link for the full-text article in the Journal’s site (volume 19, no 1) is:
You are also encouraged to contact the author for a personal copy.
Institute of Biology
for Physical Sciences ‘‘Demokritos’’ National Research Center