Recent discussions have raised the issue of how planetary characteristics in astrology fit into some sort of rational organization. Like others, I believe this represents a puzzle.
As I was writing Environmental Cosmology, I began to think of the planets differently. Planets do not directly influence us. Instead, planets have astrological properties, which we use. So the question we need to ask is, how are the astrological properties of planets discovered and what makes each planet different?
Skeptics have pointed out that planetary effects in astrology do not diminish with distance (like gravity does). They suggests that near planets should be "stronger" and far planets should be "weaker" or have no effect at all. This skeptic view assumes that the planets all exert a physical influence that is always the same, only stronger or weaker (like gravity). But in astrology the different planets have different effects. They do not operate like gravity, which is always the same effect. We can postulate that distance and speed might account for the different astrological properties. So in effect, this astrological postulation might actually take distance into account as a factor of astrological "properties," strange as that might seem.
The planets are astrologically different from each other because they have different astronomical and physical properties. They move at different speeds, so they might associate with different biological rhythms, and by extension, social rhythms. If the planets all moved at the same speed in the same cycle, then maybe they would all have the same single astrological property, but they don't move that way. To discover the astrological properties of the planets, we need to measure effects, and for this we use the astrological frames of reference: the signs, houses, and aspects, which are all based upon natural, environmental symmetries.
At this time, the best understanding I have for why the planets are astrologically different is that they have different rhythms that associate (by cosmic symmetry, or fractal symmetry, diachronic synchronicity, etc. whatever) with biological rhythms, and their astrological properties have been indirectly inferred by their observed effects.
Although ideas have been floated concerning an "octave" effect, in which the more distant planets are higher octaves of the near planets, there isn't much in this to consider in terms of pattern. Finding a pattern for planetary effects is a mystery that would be nice to resolve, but this shouldn't stop or hinder our understanding of the planets through brute observation, which is the way much of science is done anyway. Astrology just has to use indirect methods of observation.