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Concepts & Theory

The Significance of Planetary Emotions

The Significance of
Planetary Emotions

By Glenn Perry

planetary emotionsA
t the heart of AstroPsychology is the simple assertion: needs motivate. But to account for motivation, a model of the psyche must deal with human feelings and emotions. Once a felt need begins to dominate awareness, that person is motivated to engage in behaviors that satisfy the need. People act out of anger, fear, curiosity, love, excitement, pride, shame, aesthetic pleasure, and so on. In this column, we will explore the significance of planetary emotions for an astrological theory of personality.

The relationship between planets and signs provides a key to understanding feelings. Planets are actors of the personality. Each planet signifies a particular type of action that is designed to fulfill specific needs. Yet, how do we know which planet and which action is appropriate to a given situation? What is it that tells us when to act and with what degree of intensity? Our answer is zodiacal signs. Each zodiacal sign can be correlated with a set of interrelated psychological needs and associated feelings. When needs are triggered by events, they are communicated via feelings to the appropriate planetary function, telling it what to do, when to do it, and how much of it should be done. Feelings, in short, provide a means for prioritizing needs. To take a simple example, Gemini correlates to the need for learning. If a person experiences interest in a particular topic, their curiosity activates the Mercury function of inquiry. Learning is the Gemini need, curiosity the feeling, and inquiry the Mercury action.

Emotions versus Feelings
Before proceeding further, it will be useful to distinguish emotions from feelings. Emotions can be described as complex, physiological reactions to the meaning of an object or event. They comprise the core responses that constitute our subjective experience and may derive from basic organizing principles in the Universe—archetypes—that are immanent in nature at all levels. It’s been established, for instance, that animals and even plants have emotional responses to events that are not appreciably different from human emotions.1 Proceeding from Aries through Pisces, each sign can be correlated with a group of related emotions. Taking one emotion from each sign-group, some examples would be: anger, calmness, curiosity, caring, happiness, worry, attraction, fear, hope, determination, detachment, and compassion. 

Feelings are the more general and secondary term, for they entail an evaluative response to emotional (and sensory) experience. A fish may feel slimy, and its sliminess may be further evaluated as strange, good, or bad, all which can be called ‘feelings’. But none of these are emotions. Conversely, a person may see a barracuda swimming toward him, and feel fear. The emotion is fear, and the feeling of his fear prompts him to avoid the barracuda. While a directly felt emotion is virtually indistinguishable from a feeling, it precedes feeling in the way that heat precedes the sensation of being burned. It would be fair to say, therefore, that all felt emotions are feelings, but not all feelings are emotions. Also, an emotion may or may not be felt. If a person gripped by fear allows it into full, conscious awareness, we can say he feels afraid. But if he defends against his fear, he may not feel it at all. Yet, it is still there, influencing his behavior at an unconscious level. His emotion of fear exists whether he feels it or not. For purposes of simplicity, I will use the words ’emotion’ and ‘feeling’ interchangeably in the remainder of this article.

Emotions and Suffering
The exact nature of emotional responses is a complex phenomenon that has spawned a considerable amount of research over the last 100 years, including entire books dedicated to the subject.My own view is that emotions are archetypal voices of sign-planet motivational systems. As such, they function as barometers of need satisfaction. From the ancient Greeks to the middle of the 18th century, what we now call emotions was commonly referred to as passions. Passion derives from the Latin, pati, which in turn is related to the Greek, pathos, meaning suffering. Also related to passion are such terms as passivity and patient. Emotions are experienced passively in the sense that they are beyond the individual’s control, as when a patient “succumbs” to illness. The term emotion comes from the Latin, e + movere, which originally meant to migrate or transfer from one place to another. It was also used to refer to states of agitation or perturbation, whether physical or psychological. Emotion thus emphasizes the often stormy or turbulent nature of our reactions, and their tendency to arouse and activate behavior.

At the root of these concepts is the notion that an individual who is experiencing emotion is undergoing or suffering some change, as opposed to initiating change.3 In other words, emotions are passively rather than actively experienced. Colloquially, the experience of passivity during emotion is expressed in many ways. We “fall” in love, are “paralyzed” by fear, “plagued” with doubt, “haunted” by guilt,” “torn” by jealousy, “carried away” with joy, “consumed” by envy, “seized” with remorse, and so forth. In archetypal psychology, one speaks of “daimon possession,” meaning the usurpation of the total personality by a split-off part. This way of speaking implies that emotions are something that happens to us, not something we do. It is as though emotions were alien forces that “overcome” and “possess” an individual.

Astrological texts tend to associate the Moon with feelings. However, this is simplistic and misleading, as every sign-planet system corresponds to its own range of feelings. Even an air sign like Aquarius is characterized by a certain kind of emotion—detached, remote, distant, tolerant, dispassionate, cold, and aloof. Such feelings are associated with Uranian functions of objective overview and holistic perspective. This serves to illustrate that every planetary action has its own emotional undercurrent, including behavior that we might normally consider unemotional. As a psychological function, the Moon is merely our capacity to contain and reflect upon needs/feelings conveyed by each sign-planet system.

In his book, Affects as Process, Jones declares that emotions, or “affects” (the two terms being synonymous), are best understood as presymbolic representatives and governors of motivational systems.4 An emotion is presymbolic because it is a way of knowing that does not depend upon the symbol systems we call language, and it is the experiential representative of a motive because it conveys information about our state of being and what we need at any given moment. In short, an affect is an analog of a psycho-physiological state. Just as sense organs within the brain monitor the body’s states and needs through feelings such as hunger, thirst, and temperature, so emotions provide a continuous readout of how the psyche is functioning. If a person’s freedom (Aries) is threatened, he feels anger; if his desire for learning (Gemini) is stimulated, he feels curious; if his need for self-esteem (Leo) is met, he feels proud. “Emotions are the experiential monitor of complex motivational systems,” says Jones. “By cross-comparing the affective intensity of feelings from competing systems, the organism has a simple, effective way of prioritizing information and thus reaching a decision, which, in turn, initiates a course of action.”It is in this regard that emotions are governors of motivational systems.

Astrological Corollaries
Again, we can think of this astrologically by relating each sign-planet motivational system to a specific range of affects. Consider, for example, the Leo-Sun system. We know that a sign’s need can be inferred from behavior that is characteristic of that sign. All Leo traits can be understood in the context of the need for validation, self-esteem, and approval. If these needs are met, the individual attains the target state of Leo-Sun, which is pride and confidence. In pursuit of this state, however, he may momentarily experience a whole range of Leonian affects on a continuum from positive to negative: confident, happy, buoyant, playful, worthy, willful, stubborn, defensive, disdainful, unworthy, self-doubting, unconfident, humiliated, or ashamed. Such feelings inform him as to how far or close he is to the solar target state of pride/confidence.

Planets, or course, have relations with one another, which can give rise to mixed feelings that are prioritized in accord with whatever need/feeling is strongest and most immediate. An example might be a young man with Mars square Moon who experiences a simultaneous desire for freedom (Aries) and closeness (Cancer). As one motivational system is competing with the other, the intensity of competing affects allow for a quick means of prioritizing information and determining choice. If our young man recently spent a considerable amount of time alone pursuing independent interests, it is likely that his Cancer-Moon motivational system will emerge into awareness with greater affective intensity, thus motivating him to seek closeness. However, if he just enjoyed an intimate weekend with his girlfriend at home, his Aries-Mars motivational system is likely to become dominant and he will feel an urge to separate.

The connection between emotions and motives is illustrated by the etymologic history of the terms. Both words are derivatives of the Latin movere and its past participle motivere. In effect, emotions are subjective experiences that “move” us to action. Psychologist Abraham Maslow referred to needs as “impulse-voices.” If sufficiently attuned to these archetypal voices, one can “hear” what they want. Asked to account for his sudden separation from his girlfriend, the young man might say, “Something was telling me to leave; I had to get away.” Further reflection might reveal that he felt restless. Very often when there is too much or too prolonged closeness an individual will begin to feel irritated with his or her partner, often provoking a fight. In retrospect, one can see that the feeling of irritation and subsequent fight was operating in the service of a need to separate.

Again, affects are prime motivators of behavior. “Cross-sectionally, affects provide the principle means of identifying moment-to-moment shifts in motivational dominance” writes Lichtenberg.In other words, emotions provide the affective signal indicating what motivational system is operative. If planets could talk, each would have a characteristic imperative; each would have has its own distinct internal voice.

Aries-Mars:  “Just do it! Go for it! It’s your right.”

Taurus-Venus:  “If it feels good, enjoy it. Pleasure yourself. Mellow out.”

Gemini-Mercury: “That’s interesting; define and classify it. Put on your thinking cap.”

Cancer-Moon:  “Listen, turn inward; what are you feeling now?”

Leo-Sun:  “Let it shine, baby. Express yourself!”

Virgo-Mercury:  “Be careful, there’s a problem here. Figure it out.”

Libra-Venus:  “Turn on the charm and engage. Consider, compromise, and cooperate.”

Scorpio-Pluto:  “Face your fear and take it to the limit. It’s do or die. Get down and dirty.”

Sagittarius-Jupiter:  “Keep the faith, baby. God is good. Just do the right thing.”

Capricorn-Saturn:  “Bear down and focus. Concentrate. Control yourself.”

Aquarius-Uranus:  “Expect the unexpected. Stay open and detached.”

Pisces-Neptune:  “Let go and let God. Surrender. Trust the Universe.”

The above examples illustrate how we experience planets as a form of self-talk. These are our inner voices, the archetypal imperatives that tell us what to do through specific emotional signals that are converted into symbolic language. For example, we might feel angry (Mars) and then say to ourselves, “I’ve got to fight; he can’t do that to me!” If we feel attracted (Venus), we might think: “Be nice; let them know you are interested.” Each planetary state has its own agenda and behavioral imperative.

As analogs of psycho-physiological states, affects are experienced through a range of intensity. This intensity gradient can be described by pairs of words that represent opposite extremes of emotion along a continuum. In our astrological model, there is a different affective range for each planet. Mars is joy-rage; the Sun is pride-shame; Neptune is bliss-grief, and so on.Experienced changes in intensity are the analogic representation of complex sensing systems that allow us to make quantitative distinctions, such as how angry is the person (Mars), how determined (Saturn), or how proud (Sun). Intensity variations in affects provide the means for prioritizing needs: the loudest, most intense affect is the one that gains our attention and thus activates the behavioral sequences of that sign-planet system.

Conflict & Integration Involving Aspects
Planetary emotions also differ qualitatively along a continuum of affective states. This qualitative range illustrates various degrees of integration of sign-planet motivational systems. A well-integrated, fully functional planet will more often be experienced in terms of positive affects, whereas a repressed, weak planetary function will more often be experienced in terms of negative affects. If, for example, an individual has difficulty with the Capricorn-Saturn motive, he is more likely to experience the negative end of Saturn’s emotional continuum—despair, pessimism, and inferiority. However, if he overcomes this tendency and works to strengthen his Saturn function, he is more likely to experience its positive states—a feeling of control, success, and superior status.

As indicated by the Mars-Moon example, a person may experience conflicting emotions and voices as evidenced by hard aspects between planets. In such instances, both planets are activated simultaneously, each with its own feelings, motivational imperative, and impulse to action; yet, planetary impulses are operating at cross-purposes. This is what is meant by ‘intrapsychic conflict’. A whole range of intrapsychic and thus emotional conflicts can be symbolized in the birthchart. Hard aspects tend to signify blockages and intensifications of motivational energy, resulting in the under- or overfunctioning of planetary functions.

If a person has Sun square Saturn, for example, the solar function can be temporarily blocked by the Saturnian injunction to favor work over play. When emotions signal it’s time to enjoy oneself and socialize with friends, they are ignored with the result that Leonian needs build up within the psyche. When finally released, the person may overdo attempts to gain approval and validation, as if having to compensate for inner feelings of low self-esteem. It can operate the other way, too. Favoring play over work, emotions that signal its time get serious and productive are avoided (procrastination). Unmet Capricorn needs build up in the psyche and when finally released the person may overwork to compensate for feelings of failure and inadequacy. Sometimes, an outer condition arises that synchronistically reflects the inner conflict. With Sun-Saturn, the person’s rejection of his Saturnian impulses may manifest externally as a domineering boss with unrealistic demands. Of course, integrated versions of Sun square Saturn are also possible.

In a future column, we will explore how the relationship of emotion to motivation can be described in terms of calibration and psychodynamics, and how these, in turn, are depicted in the astrological chart. For a full explication of this model, please see An Introduction to AstroPsychology and Depth Analysis of the Natal Chart. Meanwhile, stay tuned!

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1 Watson, L. (1973).  Supernature.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

2 See, for example, Averill, J.R. (1980). The emotions. In E. Staub (Ed.) Personality: Basic aspects and current research (pp. 133-199). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Also, Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.

3 Averill, Ibid

4 Jones, J. (1995). Affects as process. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.

5  Ibid., p. 45

6 Lichtenberg, J. (1989) Psychoanalysis and motivation. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, p. 260

7  For graphs and tables of planetary emotional states, see Chapter 4 of Depth Analysis of the Natal Chart.

Planets Symbolize Psychological Functions

Planets Symbolize Functions

By Glenn Perry


Planets symbolize functions Early humans experienced planetary archetypes as messages from gods originating outside of their own minds. Today we recognize archetypes as the core feelings, needs, and values that constitute our inner life. A core tenet of AstroPsychology is that planets symbolize psychological functions that are oriented toward satisfying the needs of the signs they rule. Signs are motives; planets are their active agents.

Another way of saying this is that a planet symbolizes a single psychological faculty, which can be defined as an inherent power to perform multiple functions. Planetary functions are the normal, proper, or characteristic actions of that planet; thus, for example, Mars symbolizes the functions of asserting, starting, fighting, competing, and surviving.
Again, planetary functions are motivated by the need(s) of the sign that planet rules. This implies that motivation and function are as inseparable as a rocket and its fuel tank. In fact, each sign-planet pairing can be regarded as a system. When we talk about the body, we refer to specific systems such as the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, and the endocrine system. Likewise, there are psychological systems as well. Aries-Mars rules the competitive/assertion system, Taurus-Venus the security/stability system, and Capricorn-Saturn the control/mastery system.
A sign-planet is a motivational system because it entails an interaction between two components of the psyche: sign and planet. As needs, signs motivate their ruling planets to perform specific functions, and these functions involve appropriate actions that serve the underlying motive.
Abraham Maslow (1968) proposed that human beings are born with an essential nature that is analogous with physical structure. Just so in astrology, psychological functions are analogous to their biological corollaries. The functions of digestion and elimination, for example, are paralleled by corresponding psychological processes ruled by Virgo-Mercury and Scorpio-Pluto.
Whereas the Virgo-Mercury system governs the intestines, gastrointestinal system, and overall food metabolism, it also governs psychological process of analyzing and utilizing information in the service of competence. Just as we digest food, so we digest information, breaking it down into useful parts and assimilating it into our cognitive structure. In other words, Virgo is about the metabolizing of information—a clear corollary to the process of digestion on a biological level.
Likewise, biological and psychological processes of elimination are ruled by Scorpio-Pluto. On a biological level, Scorpio-Pluto governs the sexual/generative organs, which include the bladder, prostate gland, testicles, colon, and rectum. Note that these organ systems are involved in processes of ejection and elimination; ovulation and menstruation in the female and ejaculation in the male. We purge and eliminate on a psychological level, too, as when we experience catharsis and abreaction, purging toxic emotions or eliminating destructive mental habits. In addition, Scorpio-Pluto rules sexuality and tends to be penetrating, erotic, and regenerative by its very nature. 
These two examples—Virgo-Mercury and Scorpio-Pluto—illustrate how biological and corollary psychological functions are ruled by the same sign-planet system. In effect, a sign-planet system is analogous to a biological organ in that it symbolizes a type of action that is in the service of a psychological need, or motive. Just as the need of a sign can be inferred from behaviors that characterize that sign, so a planet’s functions can be inferred from actions that characterize its nature.
This is simply a matter of inductive reasoning. By observing characteristic actions of a planet, one can discern where the actions are leading to—in short, the purpose of the behavior. An action is any behavior that is goal-directed, or done for a reason. If one observes that Neptune is implicated in spiritual strivings, compassion for suffering, redemptive love, charity, psi abilities, fantasy, and dreams, then the faculty of Neptune would have to account for all actions classified as Neptunian.
If we call Neptune the Transcendent Faculty, this may suffice, for spiritual strivings are in the service of transcending the separate self-sense and uniting with a higher consciousness. Concern for the less fortunate, charity, and redemptive love require one to transcend self-interest and act to relieve the suffering of others. Psi abilities involve cognitive capacities that transcend rational intellect and sensory experience, while fantasy and dreams involve the perception of ideals and possibilities that transcend everyday, material reality. While no single word does justice to the diverse forms this archetypal process takes, Transcendent Faculty is as good a term as any. It may be that the best name for a planetary faculty is simply the planet itself—in this case, the faculty of Neptune.
Any characteristic action of a planet can be converted from a verb into a noun, which gives us a name for that function. Recall that planetary functions are the normal, proper, or characteristic actions of that planet. For example, Neptune symbolizes the verbs to imagine, to empathize, and to intuit. By converting these verbs into nouns we get three functions of Neptune: imagination, empathy, and intuition. Each term captures one facet of a complex, psychological faculty. Of course, there are other functions of Neptune beyond these three.
Again, functions are always in the service of needs. For every need represented by a sign, there is a planetary function devoted to the fulfillment of that need. Signs and planets form verb-noun pairs, as it were, the planet being the active agent (verb) of the sign-need (noun) over which it rules.
Saturn, for instance, is the planet that rules Capricorn. The need of Capricorn can be described as the drive for perfection in material form—or, put simply, the need for order, structure and control. Saturn, as the verb form and active agent of Capricorn, fulfills its needs by ordering, structuring, and controlling within the behavioral environment. Hence, Saturn represents the functions of order, structure, and control. In this regard, every planet symbolizes a particular kind of activity. Planets are actors and each one acts in a different way.
In an actual chart, Saturn would be in a parti­cular sign. Let us say, for instance, that Saturn is in Gemini. Thus, we have the syntax of an astrological sentence: the need of Capricorn (noun) is fulfilled by Saturn (verb) in a Gemini manner (adverb). In short, the need for order is fulfilled by achieving intellectually. Saturn in Gemini represents the drive for perfection through the ordering of mental constructs.
If Saturn is highlighted in the natal chart by, for example, being conjunct the Ascendant, we might have an individual with an obsessive need to structure language into a logical system. Perhaps he might write a book on linguistics or devise a theory of syntax. The Gemini sign placement merely suggests how Saturn fulfills its Capricorn-need and what some possible outcomes might be.
The point here is that needs symbolized by signs provide the motivation that triggers functions represented by planets. How and whether those functions satisfy their motivating needs is indicated by a host of additional factors including the planet’s sign and house position and its aspects to other planets. The degree to which a planet can satisfy its sign-need is a measure of that planet’s functionality (or dysfunctionality).
This is a topic that will be explained more fully in subsequent columns. In our next installment, we will explore how sign-needs are experienced as emotions that trigger behaviors calculated to achieve specific ends.
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Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.
Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. Haddam Neck, CT: AAP Press.

Astrological Prejudice

Astrological Prejudice

By Glenn Perry


Astrological PrejudiceRecently there was a discussion on Facebook that illustrated what I call astrological prejudice. A professional astrologer got the ball rolling by posting the following: 

“Simple question about Venus in Leo: How do you counsel these people? How do you get them to pay attention to anyone else? (Okay, this is a personal issue. My brother has Venus in Leo. Any random thoughts are appreciated).”

I was struck by this question and the conversation that followed because it seemed to endorse a subtle form of discrimination. Many of us know people who report how an astrologer looked at their chart and made some negative comment accompanied by a sneer or look of consternation, as if that person were cursed, afflicted, or simply bad. Apart from the underlying arrogance in assuming that one can know a person merely from his or her birthchart, I think such responses betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how astrology works. 

In the question above, for instance, there is reference to ‘these people’ followed by a negative stereotype: “How do you get them to pay attention to anyone else?” (Implying they are all self-centered). Most of us will recognize that there is no “these people” with regard to a planetary sign position. The very phrase implies there is some consistency that applies to everyone who has Venus in Leo. As with any other planetary sign position, it is an ingredient within a complex mix in which everything affects everything else (in addition to extra-astrological factors such as age, maturity, culture, and so on, all of which make their own contribution). So, to reduce a person to a planetary configuration and expect to explain some negative aspect of his behavior on that basis alone is a prejudice in the same way that making sweeping statements about blacks, or Hispanics, or any other minority is a prejudice. The comment this astrologer posted on Facebook could easily be construed as:

“I dislike people with Venus in Leo. They’re so narcissistic! My brother had Venus in Leo and all he could talk about was himself.”

To be fair, a certain amount of generalization is unavoidable if we are going to create intelligible meanings about planetary sign positions. Yet, it is important to differentiate statements about a planetary configuration from statements about a person. With astrology we can describe components of the personality but we cannot reduce the person to the component any more than you can reduce a casserole to a particular ingredient. It follows that we should not make statements about whole people on the basis of particular parts; rather, we should make statements about parts, and then seek to discern how the parts fit together to make the person.

It takes some discipline to restrict one’s statements to parts, but it is a good habit to cultivate. For example, I can say, “Venus in Leo seeks intimacy by being showy and playful” without assuming that someone with Venus in Leo will necessarily behave this way. For there are other possibilities, too, as well as additional chart factors that will complicate the picture. If, for example, Venus in Leo is in the 12th square Saturn and opposing Neptune, these factors are likely to mitigate the native’s tendency to be showy and playful in relationships. Saturn might incline the person to feel anxious about his attractiveness and social skills. And the Neptune/12th house factor suggests that relationship needs could be repressed or sacrificed in any number of ways. 

Of course, Venus’ position in Leo is still going to operate, but it will be so intermixed with these additional chart factors that knowing exactly how the Leo component will show itself is largely guesswork until the astrologer gets to know the person. Given Venus’ house position and aspects, perhaps the native works as an art therapist with individuals who are institutionalized for mental illness. In that context, he helps them develop confidence in their Venusian social skills by finding ways for his patients to collaborate on a joint art project, like a group painting. Here we see how the Leonian need for self-esteem and creative self-expression finds an outlet within that specialized setting. In effect, he facilitates fulfillment of Leo needs in his patients (12th house) through art (Venus). But this is a far cry from claiming our art therapist is self-absorbed. 

In his personal life, he may worry whether he is sufficiently attractive to find a mate. If he is socially awkward and anxious, we might not be surprised if he focuses too much on the egoic needs of a narcissistic co-worker who is using him to cheat on her husband (he rationalizes that he is saving her from a bad marriage). The possibilities are endless. In short, real people are too complex to be slotted into simplistic categories based upon a single planetary sign position.

I imagine that the astrologer who originally posted his Facebook question knows what I am saying in theory. Most of us have heard the old saw that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. However, the way we use the language does not always reflect that. Differentiating statements about planetary configurations from statements about people is a subtle distinction, to be sure. Too often we pay lip service to the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but then make statements about a part of the chart that suggests a greater degree of certainty vis-a-vis a behavioral or event outcome than is actually warranted. 

I take pains to let clients (and students) know that any statement I make about a part of the chart is just that: it’s about the part, not about them. Since the human brain is only capable of synthesizing three or four variables at a time, and since those variables individually and collectively can manifest in a multiplicity of ways, and since people are free to grow and change within the parameters their chart allows, the idea that we should be able to tell people who they are and what’s going to happen to them borders on the preposterous. How my clients express the full complexity of their charts is not something I can know from the chart alone. All of this underscores that being a good astrologer requires a certain tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, without which we are apt to presume things about clients that are at best simplistic, at worse untrue. 

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The Zodiac as Archetype of the Self

The Zodiac as
Archetype of the Self

By Glenn Perry


zodiac as archetype of the SelfIn a previous column we discussed Jung’s assertion that certain events occur as a consequence of an archetypal need being activated within the field of the psyche. By ‘archetypal need’, I mean any need that falls within the purview of a zodiacal sign. Needs for learning and communication, for example, are related to Gemini. Every zodiacal sign constitutes a grouping of self-consistent needs, which can be inferred from behavioral traits and themes that are characteristic of that sign.

Synchronistic experiences reflect the activated needs while also providing a vehicle for their potential satisfaction. In this regard, events are both symbolic and purposeful in that they seem to motivate the individual toward the development of certain universal values. One can decipher in the synchronistic event (as in dreams) an apparent evolutionary tendency of the unconscious. In effect, astrological archetypes symbolize both internal and external motivational factors; they impel behavior, manifest as events, and thereby motivate new behavior in a feedback cycle that assures the individual will continue to evolve by experiencing the consequences of his or her own internal states.
The phenomenon of synchronicity points to an intelligence in nature that actively searches for solutions to obstacles that block the continued unfoldment of life. This transformational process has a teleological quality and is consistent with perennial models that purport life is animated by transcen­dent Forms, or archetypes, which serve as formative patterns and universal ideals for processes occurring on lower levels. In an effort to conform to these patterns and to actualize the ideals they embody, creatures spontaneously organize themselves into states of increasing unity and integrity. This, in turn, is consistent with the perennial claim that living systems are drawn forward by the memory of a higher state of being from which they are descended, and to which they are destined to return.
While the zodiac describes a hierarchical sequencing of archetypal motivations, it is psyche as a whole that describes the master motive—wholeness or unity. This has been variously referred to as self-actualization (Maslow, 1968) or individuation (Jung, 1953), both of which imply that the psyche has a tendency to grow toward the fullest possible actualization of human potential. This tendency to develop in the direction of a stable unity is the central defining feature of Jung’s psychology. It was this conviction that underlay his assertion that the sovereign motive of human beings was individuation, Jung’s term for the intrinsic tendency of the psyche to evolve in the direction of psychic wholeness—that is, to be an indivisible whole. Both Maslow and Jung were proponents of a teleological theory of motivation that postulated some sort of unitive consciousness as the ultimate and final cause of behavior.
Just as Maslow postulated the drive for self-actualization, and Jung the path of individuation, there is an overarching motive implicit in the organization of the zodiac. As an integrated totality, the zodiac symbolizes the potential for wholeness. In effect, the zodiac symbolizes the archetype of the Self, which Jung defined as both the center and the circumference of the psyche. This definition echoes the German mystic Meister Eckhart’s description of God as a circle whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere. As the unity archetype and the organizing principle of the personality, the Self not only signifies the union of opposites within the psyche, but is also a God-image that symbolizes a wholeness toward which the psyche strives.
Here we see an obvious parallel to the zodiac, which has a center—symbolizing the individual—and a circumference symbolizing the 12-fold division of the collective psyche. According to Jung, the archetype of the Self incorporates within its paradoxical unity all the opposites embodied in the various archetypes. Likewise, the zodiac is composed of six archetypal pairs of opposites­—Aries/Libra, Taurus/Scorpio, Gemini/Sagittarius, Cancer/Capricorn, Leo/Aquarius, and Virgo/Pisces—which, once integrated, enables the individual to find a new center, a point of balance that allows for harmony both within and without.
Just as the archetype of the Self is depicted as a process of centering or as a process involving the union of opposites, so the zodiac symbolizes a process of integrating these polarized sign-needs into a unified whole. The Self emerges as the central archetype from the union of all other archetypes; as such, it constitutes a higher order category of archetype. The zodiac, too, constitutes a higher order category than the signs that compose it.
The emerging central archetype is often depicted in images of the mandala. In its simplest form, the mandala is a quadrated circle combining the elements of a circle with a center plus a square, a cross, or some other expression of fourfoldness. As such, the mandala symbolizes the Self, the archetype of totality. The zodiac also has a four-fold structure due to the sequence of Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable that repeats itself four times round the zodiac. Thus the zodiac is a quadrated circle combining the elements of a circle with a center plus a square.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of mandalas are characterized by the circle and the quaternity (see Figure 1). The circle and the square depict the inner and the outer aspects of life. The watery, fluid inner realm is round and signifies a state of flow, while the earthly world of substance is square and correlates to groundedness, or stability.

Mandala as symbol of the Self
Figure 1: A Mandala Image

In the image above, note how the circle is contained within an encompassing square; another square is contained within the encompassing circle, and within that square is another circle, ad infinitum. Again, the circle of the zodiac also contains a fourfold structure, as determined by its four cardinal points that symbolize the beginning dates of the four seasons: Aries (Spring), Cancer (Summer), Libra (Fall), and Capricorn (Winter). Just as mandalas depict the inner and outer aspects of life, so each sign of the zodiac symbolizes an intrapsychic factor and a corresponding outer condition. These outer conditions serve as points of attachment, like ground stakes attached to tent lines that keep the tent centered in one place. Analogously, human beings become attached to people, places, and things, which ground their existence and provide the necessary stresses and strains to fuel an inner process of centering, or integration.
In alchemy, mandalas represent the synthesis of the four elements to produce the quinta essentia, the “Incorruptible One,” which represents the union of opposites necessary for the Mysterium Coniunctionis, or “inner marriage”. Jung considers the mandala image the preeminent symbol for the Self, the archetype of wholeness. Again, the zodiac can also be viewed as a four-fold whole, with its four elements of fire, earth, air, and water—all opposites—that must be brought into balance by finding a center.
Mandalas are ubiquitous across cultures and seem to represent a basic unifying principle that lies at the root of the psyche. Whether we call it the drive for self-actualization, the path of individuation, or depict it in the mandala of the zodiac, the message is the same: wholeness is the ultimate and final motive of the psyche to which all actual experience is subservient.
Because mandala images appear spontaneously in dreams and in certain states of conflict, Jung theorized that they represent an integrative factor. This idea receives support from Buddhism where mandalas function as ritual instruments that assist meditation and concentration. Likewise, the horoscope, by objectifying the psyche through zodiac symbols, provides insight into the nature of consciousness and the meaning of experience. Integration is supported by study of the horoscope because it provides an image of the psyche as a potentially unified (indivisible) whole. Reflection and meditation upon such an image can promote the process of individuation.
Jung (1960) describes how centering brings about a shift of power from the ego to the Self, thus enabling the individual to more readily surrender to a higher power that works through him. Because the Self, of which the mandala is a symbol, is the archetype of unity and totality, it is, therefore, the God within. The individual, in seeking Self-realization and unity, becomes the means through which “God seeks his goal.” By fulfilling his or her own highest potential, the individual is also fulfilling God’s will. This is why Jung felt that the individuation process was ultimately a spiritual journey.
All of this is implicit in the structure of the zodiac, which is a symbol both of microcosm and macrocosm, human and divine, part and whole. The prime dictum of astrology is, “as above, so below;” cosmos and psyche are mirror images of one another. Jung noted that the “quaternity of the One,” his mandala symbol for the Self, is likewise the schema for all images of God. Thus the innermost divine essence of man is characterized by mandala images that can just as well express a God-image, the atman that is Brahman. An astrological chart is an image of Deity—the Universe as a whole—unfolding within the consciousness of an individual human being.
Again, as symbols of the Self, mandalas seem to represent an integrating factor. Jung noted that when consciousness is confused, mandalas might emerge via dreams or fantasies as compensatory attempts at self-healing by imposing an ordered structure. When people are disoriented because of severe psychological conflict, the circular pattern of the mandala compensates the disorder of the psychic state—namely, through the construction of a central point to which everything is related. This can be interpreted as an attempt at self-healing on the part of Nature. The psyche instinctively produces a mandala image, which operates teleologically as a lure or a reminder of a potential wholeness yet to be realized.
Just so, the zodiac symbolizes a concentric arrangement of contradictory but reconcilable elements. It is precisely when people feel confused and conflicted that they often seek an astrologer. Like a mandala, the horoscope symbolizes the potential for integrating what appear to be irreconcilable parts into an ordered whole with a new center. For many people, the goal of a good reading is insight and integration, for the horoscope enables one to see that a disordered psychic state and corollary external conflict has a meaning that, once understood, can bring order out of chaos. Seeking a chart consultation may serve the same purpose as a spontaneous mandala image; it is the psyche’s attempt at self-healing. Perhaps the astrologer is employed by the client’s Self and used as an agent of that Higher Will. In this sense, every astrologer and every reading is potentially in the service of an evolutionary imperative that issues forth from a transcendent power—the God within and without.
In next month’s column, we’ll explore how planets are agents of wholeness, psychological functions that strive not only to satisfy their relevant needs, but also to combine with one another in ways that bring about ever increasing psychic unity.


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Jung, C.G., (1953). Psychology and Alchemy. Collected Works, Vol. 12, Bollingen Series 20.  New York: Pantheon.
Jung, C.G., (1960). The structure and dynamics of the psyche.  Collected Works, Vol. 8, Bollingen Series 20.  New York: Pantheon.
Maslow, A. (1968).  Toward a psychology of being.  Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

The Concept of Integration

The Concept of Integration

By Glenn Perry

the concept of integration

Student: I often hear the terms ‘individuation’ and ‘integration’ used interchangeably. How can you define the concept of integration? And what is the difference between integration and individuation?

Glenn: These are excellent questions. First, let me discuss the concept of integration because it leads to individuation. Psychologically we can define integration as the process of developing and coordinating personality elements into balanced units, leading ultimately to a balanced whole. To the extent that one achieves integration, intrapsychic and interpersonal conflict is reduced. Astrologically, the concept of integration is most pertinent to planetary aspects. It involves 1) fuller development and differentiation in conscious awareness of planetary components; and 2) their subsequent coordination and balancing within the self.

Successful integration yields new, higher level abilities—emergent properties—that result from a successful blending of planetary energies. If integrated, a hard aspect between Mars and Venus no longer connotes a conflict between needs for autonomy and intimacy, but rather a vibrant approach to love graced with rapscallion charm, yet which also allows for assertion, negotiation of differences, and resolution of conflicts as they arise.

Planetary aspects can vary in expression along a continuum of possibilities, with integrated expressions at one end, and disintegrated expressions at the other. Individuals evolve along this continuum of potentiality, unfolding higher possibilities over time. Since the astrologer cannot know how an aspect is manifesting until s/he talks to the client, it is imperative that astrologers take the time to know their clients and to provide interpretations that express an appropriate range of meanings.

The English poet Coleridge said that a work of art is rich in proportion to the variety of interdependent parts which it holds in a unity. We can apply this to the psyche as well. As Yogi Berra put it, “It’s Okay to have butterflies, just make them fly in formation!”

Some confusion may arise as to the difference between ‘individuation’ and ‘integration’. The concept of individuation, or self-actualization (Maslow’s term), always refers to the psyche as a whole and not to any particular part or conflict within the psyche. Whereas ‘integration’ can refer to a particular configuration, such as the integration of Mars opposed Venus, we would not say ‘the individuation of Mars opposed Venus’.

Individuation implies integration, but it refers to a holistic process encompassing the entire psyche, not any particular part or aspect; thus, Jung refers to ‘the journey of individuation’ as that of becoming an indivisible whole over the course of one’s life. The term ‘integration’, on the other hand, can refer both to the strengthening and coordination of particular components and to a process of integrating the chart as a whole. If used in this later sense, of course, the meaning of integration is virtually identical to individuation.

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Transiting Neptune on the I.C.

Transiting Neptune on the I.C.

by Glenn Perry

Student: I live in Florida. Can you give me some keywords for transiting Neptune on the I.C ? I’m worried that my home is going to collapse into a sinkhole!

Glenn: Well, that’s one possibility! Anytime Neptune makes contact with a sensitive point in the chart, that area plays ‘host’ to a Neptunian process. Affairs associated with the 4th will provide a vehicle for the further development of Neptunian potentials. This might mean needing to cultivate an attitude of ‘let go and let God’ in relation to home or family. For example, you might need to surrender, relinquish an attachment, or allow something to end. Neptune is also about compassion, empathy, and forgiveness, so your capacity to express these qualities is likely to develop through a cluster of experiences that center around 4th house themes.

Something might occur that pertains to an idealization of family or one’s ancestral past. Neptune can be visionary, so perhaps you’ll develop a deeper, more empathic understanding of what your ancestors suffered; or how the entire planet—mother earth, Gaia—is a living Being and our true home in a wider, spiritual sense; or how we are all one extended human family that transcends racial and national boundaries. Concerns for saving the earth, the green movement, and related concerns might come to the fore, especially given that Aquarius is concerned with movements and causes.

As for outcomes, anything other than a ‘wait and see’ attitude is just guesswork, for a transit can manifest in any number of ways: spiritualization of the home through feng shui, living temporarily at a spiritual retreat, camping in a state park and communing with nature, loss or sacrifice of home as occurred during Hurricane Sandy, concern for the homeless, family dissolution, loss or tragedy involving a family member, living or working in an institution that cares for victims, flooding in the home, moving to a home on the sea, saving a home in disrepair, watching extended reruns of “Gilligan’s Island”, and on and on!

Note that these ‘outcomes’ do not take into consideration Neptune’s sign position or the aspects it might form to natal planets. Whatever actually occurs will invariably reflect a higher level of complexity that we can readily grasp. All of this underscores that astrology is an indeterminate system.

In my opinion, the best use of a transit is to adopt the proper outlook signified by that planet. Strive to apply that mind-set in an optimal sense to whatever the events are that actually unfold. Guessing or anticipating what these events might be is somewhat of a fool’s errand, even though many clients expect us to provide them with advice and warnings. Focusing on what could or might happen is merely self-inflicted scare mongering. Just stay open, concentrate on the present, and go with the flow—especially when Neptune is involved! No one thing will happen, and whatever does will more perfectly express the configuration than any astrologer could possibly guess.

Also, work with the transit to make it what you want. The transit is not merely happening to you; you’re happening to it, too. Cultivate the appropriate attitude that pertains to Neptune: visionary idealism, faith in a higher power, surrender, compassion, forgiveness, resiliency, non-attachment, and a sense of flow, especially as such attitudes are required in relation to 4th house experiences. Cooperate with events as they unfold. For whatever does happen, its purpose is to serve as a catalyst for the further development and integration of your Neptunian potentials.

Above all, trust the Universe. It knows better what we need than we do.

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Planetary Goals and Target States

Planetary Goals and Target States

By Glenn Perry

Planetary goals and target statesStudent: Are planetary goals and target states one and the same thing?

Glenn: Actually, there’s an important difference. A planetary target state refers to an affect (feeling) that is attained when the person satisfies the motivating need of that planet. Since the motivation of a planet is always symbolized by the sign(s) that planet rules, target states are the same regardless of what sign the planet happens to occupy. A planetary goal, on the other hand, refers to a specific outcome connected to the sign and house the planet tenants.

For example, regardless of Saturn’s sign and house position, the target state still pertains to the sign-need symbolized by Capricorn—the need for order, structure, success, and the like. If Saturn is functional, then the person will satisfy these Capricorn needs as they arise. However, Saturn’s sign and house position will show how and where Saturn fulfills its Capricorn-need. To the degree the Capricorn-need is fulfilled, the native feels ‘together’, ‘on top of it’, ‘in control’, ‘organized’, ‘successful’, and so on, at which point that need will recede into the background to be replaced by the next dominant need.
As indicated with Saturn, there are a variety of ways to describe fulfillment of a drive, but the emotional experience of fulfillment is essentially the same for everyone. With Capricorn-Saturn, for example, we all know how it feels to succeed at something. In other words, either we attain the target state or we don’t. What varies is 1) how easily we can fulfill it—our skills vis-à-vis that planet; 2) the degree to which it dominates our awareness—the frequency and intensity of the drive; and 3) its overall importance in our psychic economy—to what extent we value that planetary domain. These three factors vary from person to person depending upon a host of astrological and extra-astrological reasons, not the least of which is the planet’s sign, house, and aspects.
Unlike a target state, a planetary goal always refers to the sign and house that is tenanted. While goals are flexible and can entail a multiplicity of strategies and outcomes, they are always a vehicle for fulfilling the target state. Saturn in Libra in the 8th may succeed in building a program for resolving financial disputes between corporate entities; yet, this achievement also provides the means for attaining the Capricorn-Saturn target state of success. Again, the goal itself is described by the sign and house the planet occupies, whereas the motivation behind the goal, as well as the target state, is described by the sign the planet rules.
Grammatically speaking, the occupied sign is a complement to the planetary verb. A complement always completes the meaning of the verb by answering the question, “What?” If Jupiter believes (has faith), then what does Jupiter believe (have faith) in? The occupied sign and house answers the question because it is the object of Jupiter’s faith. Jupiter has to believe in something. It has a goal, in effect, to satisfy its Sagittarian need for faith by believing in a particular doctrine or set of values. If Jupiter is in Capricorn, the object of Jupiter’s faith might be the system, or tradition, or simply order, control, discipline, or any other abstract value of Capricorn. If it’s in the 11th house, the native might join with others of like mind to promote a conservative religious movement that emphasizes self-control and a strict moral code.
Again, if Jupiter achieves its goal, then it also fulfills its target state. How readily a planet can achieve its goal and fulfill its target state is a measure of that planet’s functionality. Imagine, for instance, that Jupiter in Capricorn in the 11th is square Saturn in Libra in the 8th. The conservative religious movement that the native has joined turns out to have serious fiscal problems and begins to compromise its principles in order to attract rich supporters. These donors want an even stricter church that exerts absolute control over its members, especially with regards marriage, divorce, and other social issues.
Seeing this, the native is plagued with doubt as to the integrity of his church. His faith has been crushed by the oppressive control of its leaders and their materialistic values. So he leaves the church and soon becomes disillusioned with religion altogether. In effect, his Jupiter is dysfunctional, for it is inundated with a surfeit of Capricorn-Saturn energies that he has yet to integrate in a balanced, functional way. This is just one scenario among many that might result from the configuration in question, but it serves to illustrate how the functionality of a planet is a measure of how readily it attains its target state.

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Astrological Twins, Integration of the Horoscope

Astrological Twins
And Integration of the Horoscope

By Glenn Perry


Astrological twinsStudent: In the case of a boy and a girl who are fraternal twins, they have the same birth chart and only a small difference in their Ascendant and Moon position. They were raised together with their parents; yet, they behave very differently. Are differences between astrological twins due to their relative integration of the horoscope?

Glenn: It’s very common to observe personality differences between twins, both fraternal and identical. Of course gender is an obvious factor, but I suspect it’s not the prime source of differences. There are a number of opinions about this. An astro-reductionist position is that even minute differences in the Ascendant and Moon sign position will account for differences of personality. This kind of deterministic thinking is characteristic of traditional and Vedic astrology. However, I don’t believe it’s the correct answer.

First, there’s an innate impulse to differentiate and polarize that would compel each twin to try and establish a separate sense of self vis-à-vis the other. Thus, each twin will tend to express the chart differently, with one identifying more with some parts and projecting others, and the other doing just the opposite. So, you have the phenomenon of a single chart being divided up and expressed in two different ways.

Second, I believe the chart does not make the person; rather, the person (soul) makes the chart. If you believe in reincarnation, it follows that incarnating souls inhabit charts (moments in time) in the same way that a class of incoming freshmen may all have the same curriculum. Different students will do better or worse depending upon their effort, native abilities, and so forth. Likewise, different souls can be born at the same time and have the same chart, but because they are distinct souls with unique karmic histories, they can express the same chart at varying levels of realization. Bottom line: the chart does not determine the expression of the person; the person determines the expression of the chart.

This, of course, does not mean that different expressions of the same chart prevent us from being able to use charts to understand the person, but it does remind us that there are many ways of expressing the same chart; thus, astrology is not a fixed, determinate system.

Student: So, regardless of whether people are twins, different people born at the same time and place can be radically different?

Glenn: Perhaps not radically different, but significantly. One of the most important and underappreciated truths in astrology is that a birthchart is not a fixed, objective statement about the character of a person, even though it can describe character structure. There’s a subtle difference between character and character structure. Character structure is implicit in the birthchart and shows how the psyche is organized, but not its degree of integration. Character itself emerges from the degree of integration of the psyche, which tends to evolve over time. This is why character is closely associated with integrity; the greater the degree of integrity, the more sound the character.

To the extent one has integrity, he or she is relatively undivided, an indivisible whole, or what Jung described as being individuated. This is an important Jungian concept. If a person is whole; that is, not divided against himself as a consequence of unresolved intrapsychic conflict, then he’s more able to ‘keep his word’ and be consistent in his adherence to personal standards; in other words, a person of good character and therefore trustworthy.

At higher degrees of integration, chart components tend to produce behavioral and event outcomes that are more desirable. Any variable in the chart can be expressed in a lower or higher manner. For example, Mars can be bravery but it can also be selfish aggression. How Mars is expressed is contingent upon its degree of integration with other chart components. If it is split off and operates unconsciously, it is not likely to be expressed in a balanced, functional manner because it cannot benefit from other planetary functions that enable it to be effectively utilized in the service of the whole person.

Returning to the question about why different people born with the same chart can be so different, I often use the metaphor of a sheet of music that has to be interpreted and played by a musician. In this metaphor, the sheet of music represents the birthchart. The musician’s talent in interpreting the music is not inherent in the musical score itself. Different musicians required to play the same score are likely to play it with varying degrees of talent. Some will botch the job completely; others will produce a sound somewhere on a continuum between moderately bad and moderately good; and still others will produce a sound that is beautiful and uplifting. 

We might also imagine that the very purpose of having that sheet of music is to challenge the performer to stretch and grow in ways that are specifically required by the nature of the score. Over time with continued repetition and practice, he or she is able to perform that music with greater proficiency. 

Likewise, an astrological chart has to be interpreted and played by the soul, but it is not itself the soul. Soul is to the chart as a musician is to a musical score. The level of ‘talent’ (integration) that the soul brings to the chart is not inherent in the chart itself. Accordingly, different people with the same chart are apt to express it quite differently and will realize the full potential of the chart to varying degrees. From this perspective, astrology is an indeterminate system that must allow for a certain degree of uncertainty as to outcome, while also recognizing that outcomes can change as the person matures, integrates, and evolves.

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