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Concepts & Theory

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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Archetypal Motivation

The Archetypal Origins of Motivation

By Glenn Perry


Last week we discussed how Maslow’s hierarchical system of needs conforms to the structure of the zodiac. Each sign signifies a basic human need, and these needs proceed hierarchically in accord with the sequence of the zodiac. As intrinsic motives, earlier sign-needs take precedence over later sign-needs in that they must be at least partially fulfilled before later needs will assert themselves. In this column, we’re going to take a more philosophical view and discuss the origins of consciousness and, thus, the root source of human motivations—what I call archetypal motivation.

Jerry Sandusky
Jerry Sandusky Mugshot

We will also take a brief look at the case of Jerry Sandusky, the infamous Penn State football coach and serial child molester recently convicted of 45 counts of sex crimes against young boys. Sandusky’s chart dramatically reveals what can happen when a basic human need is repressed and projected.

Motivation and the Universal Psyche
In my previous column, I noted how early theories of motivation were based solely on physiological drives. These original models were subsequently replaced by theories of intrinsic motivation that had no clear physiological basis. The question arises: if basic needs are not mere by-products of physiology, then where do they come from?

Jung’s (1960) concept of archetypes suggests an answer. Through study of religions, myths, and fairy tales of different cultures, Jung discovered that the contents of individual consciousness—dreams, fantasies, wishes, impulses, and thoughts—seemed rooted in a collective consciousness shared by all human beings. Deeper levels of the mind hinted at an objective psyche belonging to the entire human race rather than being solely the personal and subjective property of a particular individual. Jung’s term for this was the collective unconscious, or objective psyche, since it contained material that was not simply repressed but may never have surfaced into individual awareness.

Jung noted that when the structures of the collective unconscious do surface into awareness, they tend to clothe themselves in the images and symbols of one’s particular culture; yet, they conform to certain universal patterns that can be observed in all cultures. He called these patterns archetypes and thought them to be innate structures of human consciousness. In fact, Jung referred to the archetype as “the self-portrait of the instinct” because, as a primordial image, it was symbolic of fundamental human needs as manifest in patterns of emotional and mental behavior.

While Jung postulated that archetypes were structural elements of the psyche, this is a specifically psychological term for a concept that links human consciousness to a much broader and deeper consciousness. In Neoplatonic philosophy, universal consciousness is called Psyche. Plato alleged that the One Universal Mind manifested certain incorporeal forms called Ideas that are the models or archetypes of all things having substance.

Whereas Jungian archetypes are thought to be formal principles of the human psyche, Platonic archetypes are regarded as the essential principles of reality itself. These Forms or Ideas were said to have their eternal abode in monads – irreducible units of divine essence commonly referred to as “gods”. And the gods themselves resided in that which is their common source, monads within the one Supreme Monad.

Issuing forth from these divine Ideas and flowing downwards through the hierarchy of Being, a spiritual energy impregnated Nature with certain patterns on mental, biological and physical levels. The order and content of the world, therefore, depended upon an intelligible sphere replete with Ideas that, in varying combinations, gave form and substance to the myriad phenomena of life. The visible Universe was a huge organism ensouled by a divine Mind, out of which emerged certain formative principles that became the generative matrix for all natural phenomena.

By reducing the Platonic Form to a structur­al element of human consciousness, the Jungian archetype is, in effect, a sort of localization of a transcendent pattern that exists in Nature as a whole. The point is that an archetype cannot be reduced to merely some­thing within the psyche, for this is still a local concept. The archetype is without as well, an animating and formative pattern of Nature that binds individual souls to the cosmic soul.

The origin of human motivation, therefore, is not the body; nor can it be, strictly speaking, the mind. The origin of psychological motivation is the Universe itself. Neoplatonic philosophy regards archetypes as dynamic ordering principles that generate the structure of the Universe at all levels. Motives that animate human beings, therefore, also animate the Universe. Needs that impel human behavior have their parallels in animal instincts, patterns of plant growth, and may encompass the whole of life and possibly even beyond, into matter, too.

As the ultimate cause behind all movement in Nature, the one Universal Psyche was thought to be present as a creative pressure in all creatures, both animate and inanimate, as well as being the final goal toward which all life moved by natural inclination. Such movement was not impelled by intellectual resolution, or conscious design, but by the simple and inevitable impulse to release all available potentials.

Archetypal Motivation as Images of Sign-Needs
Recall that Jung considered the archetype to be an element of soul that manifested principally through image—a fairy tale animal, dream symbol, mythic character, religious icon, and everyday figures such as mother, father, or sibling. Conversely, Maslow (1968) alleged that instinctual needs such as survival, safety, belonging, and self-esteem are the motive springs of human consciousness.

In our astrological model, these terms are more or less equivalent. To paraphrase Jung, the archetype is the self-portrait of the need; it is an image, or symbol, of a human motive—what I am calling an archetypal motive. An Aries-Mars warrior, for example, symbolizes the universal human need for freedom and survival; one fights for the right to be, to exist. In Figure 1 below, I list a few examples of characters that symbolize corrolary sign-motives.

Some Archetypal Characters
Aries Warrior, pioneer, adventurer, competitor
Taurus Fertility goddess, settler, hedonist, couch potato
Gemini Messenger, student, scientist, dilettante
Cancer Mother, caretaker, homemaker, cook, hysteric
Leo Hero, performer, king, playmate, narcissist
Virgo Efficiency expert, craftsman, apprentice, critic
Libra Love goddess, diplomat, artist, social butterfly
Scorpio Healer, shaman, spy, detective, terrorist, demon
Sagittarius Teacher, preacher, demagogue, moralist
Capricorn Father, boss, executive, control freak, scrooge
Aquarius Trickster, activist, rebel, iconoclast, eccentric
Pisces Mystic, dreamer, savior, victim, cheat, addict

Figure 1: Signs as Archetypal Characters

While Jung never organized his system of archetypes into a precise model of clearly defined motivational correlates, it was clear that he regarded archetypes as motivating dynamisms, transindividual entities that were attributes of a Universal Psyche and the human psyche. Each archetype is an autonomous, dynamic nucleus of concentrated psychic energy – a god within – that is inherently intelligent and intentional. Archetypes, in effect, are the innate ideas of both psyche and cosmos; human beings are populated by Forms that shape our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

Capricorn, for instance, constitutes an instinct for hierarchy, order, and structure. Its inner promptings are not merely felt, but conceived and enacted; certain thoughts and behaviors are inherently Capricornian. As an inborn drive, however, Capricorn is also an extension of a dynamic principle that can be observed at every level of the Universe, from atoms arranging themselves into complex, hierarchical structures—molecules, cells, and organisms—to planets organizing into solar systems, solar systems into galaxies, and galaxies into galactic clusters ad infinitum. “Infinity yawns at both the top and bottom of the stratified hierarchies of existence,” writes Arthur Koestler (1978, p. 67).

What we are proposing here is that zodiacal signs and their respective ruling planets constitute a twelve-drive model that connects human motivation to core archetypal processes that are immanent at every level of Nature. Every psychological need is a derivative of a basic organizing principle in the Universe. As a symbol of a universal principle, an archetype cannot be precisely defined or reduced to a single image, for there can be more than one image for any motive just as there can be more than one word for a need.

As a symbol of transformation, for example, a Scorpio archetype might manifest as a shaman (one who transforms), a villain (one who needs to be transformed), or a monster (representing fear of transformation). Likewise, as a symbol of the need for change and liberation, Aquarian characters include tricksters, rebels, mad scientists, and eccentric oddballs. Obviously, we do not run into all of these archetypal characters in real life; monsters, thankfully, are confined to the landscapes of our dreams. The point is that every archetypal manifestation is a metaphor for a motive, and often depicts the degree to which that motive is integrated within the psyche.

The Perils of Non-Integration
For example, if the Scorpio archetype is dishonored so that the individual suffers an unreasonable and excessive fear of transformation, then that archetype is likely to manifest in a behavior or event that takes a monstrous form—murdering one’s spouse, molesting a child, becoming a victim of a violent crime, or other unpleasant manifestations that characterize an unintegrated Scorpio-Pluto.

A good example is the recently convicted pedophile and former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, who has Sun in close opposition to Pluto. As the ruler of Scorpio and thus symbolizing the function of transformation, Pluto is set off against the principle of will, or intentionality (the Sun). This suggests that Sandusky’s free-will and ego-identity is in conflict with his Pluto function.

If functioning properly, a Sun-Pluto opposition confers power rooted in a willingness to be transformed via relations with others; that is, to suffer the death and rebirth of the self. This requires a willingness to be vulnerable, which literally means “able to be wounded”. If however, the Sun has not integrated Pluto, then the aspect typically manifests in the form of something or someone that is threatening to the ego. The individual may defend against the threat via reaction formation; that is, behaving in ways that are opposite of how one actually feels. If a man feels powerless and vulnerable, he may act powerful by overpowering a vulnerable other. In other words, beat fate to the punch by doing to the other what is feared will be done to the self.

Archetypal MotivationVery often this entails an abuse of power in which the native feels compelled to violate and dominate a smaller, weaker person. In Sandusky’s case, it meant becoming a monster that lures unsuspecting boys to his liar and then anally rapes them. Such unconsciously motivated behavior seems to be saying: “Better you than me; I’m powerful and you’re not.” It is, in effect, compensatory to an inner feeling of impotence that might have its origins in an earlier repressed trauma of being overpowered. While the psychological basis for such behavior is complex and cannot be readily explained in a few simple paragraphs, suffice to say that Sandusky’s case illustrates what can happen in extremis when someone has not adequately integrated a fundamental human need.

In a subsequent column, we will examine motivation in the context of circular causality. From a synchronistic perspective, external events may actually be extensions of internal, motivating factors which, in turn, are linked to cosmic powers that are inherently intelligent and intentional.

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To study these ideas in the context of a comprehensive, astrological model, please see my books: An Introduction to AstroPsychology and Depth Analysis of the Natal Chart.

References Deci, E.L. (1980). Intrinsic motivation and personality. In E. Staub (Ed.) Personality: Basic aspects and current research (pp. 35-80). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Jung, C. (1960). The structure and dynamics of the psyche. Collected Works, Vol. 8, Bollingen Series 20. New York: Pantheon.

Koestler, A. (1978). Janus: A summing up. New York: Vintage Books.

Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand

Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. San Rafael, CA: AAP Press

Intrinsic Motivation and Astrological Signs

Intrinsic Motivation and Astrological Signs


By Glenn Perry


Zodiacal signs as intrinsic motivation
    The God, Mars

In the last installment of this series, we discussed the protean nature of astrological archetypes and why they correspond to angles that result from a division of a 360° circle/cycle into twelve equal parts. Signs of the zodiac are perhaps the most basic and fundamental form of astrological archetypes, the others being houses, aspects, and planets. In this column, we’ll explore how zodiacal signs symbolize intrinsic motivation; that is, the root motivational forces of the human psyche.

Any adequate theory of personality must of ne­cessity explain human motivation. Theories of moti­vation strive to account for the springs of human ac­tion, cataloging the intrapsychic forces that impel mental and bodily activity. A motive can be defined as an impulse, desire, or drive that incites a person to action. Deriving from the Latin movere, meaning, “to move,” motives move people; they account for the “why” of behavior; that is, its underlying impellents.

This is especially important for astrology, as our model has frequently been accused of being determi­nistic due to the belief that astrologers attribute causality to external forces such as stars and planets. However, if one accepts the premise that the root causes of behavior are ar­chetypal principles as reflected in signs and em­bodied in human beings, then astrology may be one of the few nondeterministic systems in the field of psychology today. One thing is certain: if astrol­ogy is to be given serious consideration as a viable personality theory, it must provide a credible account of human motivation.

Because needs/motives constitute the roots of human behavior, all things psychological can be understood in the context of the individual’s efficacy in meeting basic needs. Properly understood, horoscopes reveal how problematic behavior derives from intrapsychic conflicts, developmental failures, and pathogenic ideas, all of which impede the individual from behaving in a manner conducive to need-fulfillment. While these ideas will be explored more fully in subsequent columns, suffice to say here that one of astrology’s prime values is its capacity to articulate the complex structure of motives that underlie and impel human behavior. Before going further, let us examine how conventional psychology accounts for motivation.

Early theories of motivation viewed people mechanistically, assuming they were passive agents of various internal and external forces. The two dominant thrusts in motivation theory during the first half of the 20th century were behavioral drive theory and Freudian instinct theory. In drive theory, the motivating stimuli were thought to be external to the organism – the smell of food or the sight of a sexually attractive person – which stimulated a behavioral response rooted in a physiologically based internal association to the stimuli. Food, for example, tastes good and is necessary for survival. In Freudian instinct theory, the stimuli are internal to the person but again originated in biologically determined sexual and aggressive instincts that impel the person to action. Both of these theories were mechanistic in that (1) motivation was based solely on physiological drives, and (2) were caused by associations that existed between stimulus and response.

While behavioral drive theory and Freudian instinct theory contain some truth, they are limited conceptualizations of a complex and mysterious phenomenon. Recent theories of motivation have moved away from a strict reliance upon biologically based drives. Studies show that animals as well as humans are avid explorers and manipulators; they engage in purposeful, persistent, and non-random behaviors that appear motivated by a continuous need to actualize their innate potentials.

According to Deci’s (1980) theory of intrinsic motivation, the base cause of human behavior is a desire for personal growth leading to increased efficacy, competence, and self-determination. Because it is much broader in scope than traditional drive theory, intrinsic motivation provides the basis for a more comprehensive listing of psychologically based motives that have no clear physiological corrolary. To be intrinsically motivated is to have an innate need to be effective in satisfying a variety of different goals – for autonomy, security, learning, belonging, and so on.

Perhaps the leading pioneer in this area was Abraham Maslow (1968) who theorized that human beings are born with an essential nature that is analogous with physical structure. Maslow’s ideas are compatible with an astrological theory of motivation, as will be shown. Suffice to say here that psychological structure, according to Maslow, is composed of needs and capacities (functions). Basic needs are distinguished from meta needs and are arranged hierarchically according to strength and priority. The first and most pressing need is for survival, which he defined as the need for food, water, and continuance of life. The second is safety (security, order, protection), then social needs for belonging, acceptance, and love. The fourth need is for esteem, which derives from validation and confers a sense of status.

According to Maslow, lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs assert themselves. The need for security must be satisfied before the need for esteem will even be felt. While all needs are simultaneously present, an individual will regress to an earlier need whenever its satisfaction falls below a certain level. Accordingly, Maslow characterized this motivational substructure as deficiency based.

In contrast to basic needs, meta needs are not ordered hierarchically. While Maslow regarded them as instinctual, they do not operate on a motivational basis of deficiency like basic needs; rather, they are pursued for their own sake and are more transpersonal and growth oriented – the need for service, beauty, justice, goodness, order, unity, and so forth. Maslow alleged that basic needs are prepotent over meta needs, yet frustration of meta needs will just as readily lead to sickness.

According to Maslow, the sovereign human motive is the need for self-actualization. This is the drive to realize one’s full potential as a person. Capacities clamor to be used and needs press for fulfillment, but these are merely steps along the path to self-actualization. The gratification of one need opens consciousness to domination by another “higher” need. There is an inherent pressure to actualize all the subsystems of the psyche until one realizes a fullness of being; that is, a state of psychic unity or wholeness.

Likewise, Deci’s (1980) concept of intrinsic motivation holds that people are naturally drawn to situations that challenge their habitual patterns of thinking and behavior; they seek experiences (information) that are discrepant with their usual cognitive patterns, and then set about assimilating the new data in order to widen and deepen their psychic structure.

These theories of motivation are teleological because they propose that people are not shaped exclusively by environmental influences or genetic determinants; rather, people are goal-directed, striving, and purposeful in their actions. Maslow refers to needs as “impulse voices” that convey wants and stimulate actions appropriate for their fulfillment. The strength and impact of these voices is a measure of one’s authenticity. If the voices are drowned out by trauma, aversive conditioning, or repetitive frustration, a kind of mental illness results; the individual cannot behave in a manner that allows for continued growth and well being.

The sequence of signs in the zodiac fits in nicely with both Deci and Maslow’s theories of motivation. Zodiacal signs are clearly not physiologically based, even though there are certain physiological processes and organ systems to which they correlate. For example, Mars rules the adrenal glands; the Sun rules the heart, and so on. Also, zodiacal signs unfold in accordance with a precise hierarchical sequence, much in the manner of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

We can infer the underlying need of a sign from behavior that is characteristic of that sign. By observing various behavioral traits of a sign and applying inductive reasoning, one can discern where the behavior is leading to—the goal of the behavior—which is always satisfaction of some specific need. Consider, for example, the traits of Aries: assertive, direct, fearless, impatient, independent, combative, and so on. There is a logical consistency to these traits that suggests Aries behavior is oriented in a particular direction; that is, toward freedom of being. We can conclude, therefore, that Aries symbolizes the need for freedom, autonomy, or simply survival. Ultimately, there is nothing Arian that cannot be understood in the context of this need.

Likewise, if we consider the traits of Libra – engaging, charming, nice, cooperative, considerate, fair – we can reasonably assert that Libra represents the need for relationship. Again, there is nothing Libran that cannot be understood in the context of this need. Just as Maslow organized his system of needs hierarchically, so the signs of the zodiac are organized hierarchically as well. The difference is that the zodiac hierarchy includes Maslow’s basic needs and his meta needs, all of which unfold in a precise developmental sequence. Signs of the zodiac can also be correlated with developmental stages (a subject for another column), the implication being that earlier sign-needs take precedence over later ones. Aries, for example, represents the need for survival, Taurus for safety, Gemini for learning, Cancer for belonging, and Leo for self-esteem. Each of these needs correlates to a developmental epoch, within which the need of that sign is in its ascendancy.

In our zodiacal model, the sequence of the first five signs correlates exactly with Maslow’s hierarchy, with the exception of Gemini—the need for learning—which Maslow did not include (an oversight we will forgive him). In regard to his meta needs, we merely need to proceed from Virgo through Pisces: the need for service (Virgo), beauty (Libra), integrity (Scorpio), justice (Sagittarius), order (Capricorn), change (Aquarius), and unity (Pisces) completes the zodiacal hierarchy.

Of course, there are additional words that capture different nuances of each sign-need. Like an archetype, a sign’s motive cannot be reduced to any singular word; rather, it is more a category of need. The underlying need of each sign is like a diamond with different facets, each facet requiring a different word that is self-consistent with every other word describing the need of that sign. Capricorn, for instance, can be described as the need for perfection, order, structure, control, authority, and success – all of which have obvious correlations. Taken together, we can more easily grasp the drive that Capricorn symbolizes. Below is a graph that shows a few keywords associated with the basic needs that each sign symbolizes.

Motivational Need
Aries Survival, being, autonomy, freedom
Taurus Stability, security, pleasure, comfort
Gemini Learning, communication, information
Cancer Nurturance, caring, belonging, dependency
Leo Validation, approval, creativity, self-esteem
Virgo Efficiency, competence, service, utility
Libra Intimacy, relatedness, beauty, harmony
Scorpio Transformation, sexuality, power, integrity
Sagittarius Meaning, truth, expansion, justice, hope
Capricorn Structure, perfection, order, success
Aquarius Perspective, insight, change, awakening
Pisces Transcendence, unity, bliss, forgiveness

Figure 1: Signs as Basic Needs

To summarize, a complete analysis of the zodiac suggests that there are twelve fundamental, innate, inborn needs that correlate to the signs. These signs obey a precise, developmental sequence. Thus, astrology presents a hierarchically organized, twelve-stage, twelve-drive model of motivation. At the heart of the theory is the assertion that people act in the service of their needs. Problems result when for various psychological reasons people are impaired in their capacity to fulfill certain need-drives. How this is reflected in the astrological chart will be our subject for a future column.


Deci, E.L. (1980). Intrinsic motivation and personality. In E. Staub (Ed.) Personality: Basic aspects and current research (pp. 35-80). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. San Rafael, CA: AAP Press

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Archetypal Astrology: Protean Nature of Archetypes

Archetypal Astrology
And the Protean Nature of Astrological Archetypes

By Glenn Perry


Proteous Archetypal Astrology

Our topic today is archetypal astrology and the protean nature of astrological archetypes. Archetypal astrology is rooted in the Jungian concept of archetypes, which can can be defined as formative principles in Nature that also constitute the organizing principles of psyche.

It is the protean nature of astrological archetypes that gives astrology its enormous flexibility as a language. In Greek mythology, Proteus was a sea god who could change his shape at will. To be protean refers to something that can readily take on varied shapes, forms, or meanings. A protean entity, in other words, exhibits considerable diversity in its manifestations. As such, it is a multidimensional being.

Just so, a single astrological archetype is capable of depicting at least four inner dimensions (motive, affect, function, and target state), four outer dimensions (person, place, thing, and event), and a ninth dimension—behavior—that bridges the gap between inner and outer reality. Before proceeding further with this idea, let us consider where astrological archetypes originate.

The Meaning is the Angle
The first thing to realize about astrological archetypes is that they derive from angles—that is, numbers, or ratios. There are four variations: planet, sign, house, and aspect. All but planets are actual angles, which are phase relationships of whole cycles. However, since cycles are formed by planetary movements, a planet is the primary variable that allows for all the others. For without planetary cycles, there would be no phase relationships to measure.

Consider the meaning of the last 90 degrees of a 360 degree cycle. This is the phase relationship of Capricorn, the 10th house, and the closing square, all of which are variations of the closing 90° angle and thus have a similarity of meaning. Saturn, of course, is the planet whose significance corresponds to that phase. Again, astrological archetypes are essentially angles formed by division of a whole cycle by 12; the meaning is the angle. And for every phase relationship, there is a planet that has a parallel meaning.1

Angles as Astrologial Archetypes













Opening Semi-sextile





Opening Sextile





Opening Square





Opening Trine





Opening Quincunx







150° (210°)



Closing Quincunx


120° (240°)



Closing Trine


90° (270°)



Closing Square


60° (300°)



Closing Sextile


30° (330°)



Closing Semi-sextile


Figure 1: Planets, signs, and even houses are often referred to as archetypes, but the unifying factor is actually the corresponding angle. Note in the left hand column that all angles after 180° are closing angles; thus, even though the angle of the first and second squares are both 90°, the closing square begins at a later phase of the cycle (at 270° ), which is never-the-less 90° from 0° Aries.

We recognize that certain signs, houses, and aspects share a commonality of meaning. This is the basis of rulerships in astrology. For example, Libra, the 7th house, and the opposition all are described in similar ways. While each of these variables is different from its counterparts, they all share a familial relationship by virtue of a common principle: their mutual angle of 180 degrees. Libra is 180 degrees from the beginning of the zodiac at 0 degrees Aries; the 7th house is 180 degrees from the Ascendant (which inaugurates the 1st house); and two planets in opposition are at the 180 degree phase of their synodic cycle, which commenced when they were conjunct. Once again, we see how the angle is the archetype.

Sign-Planet Systems
Now, let us return to the idea that astrological archetypes can be described in terms of nine dimensions. The first dimension is sign motivation, and the second is planetary function. Rulerships in astrology are based on the recognition that signs and their affiliated planets are closely related in meaning. Accordingly, I like to think of signs and planets as sign-planet systems: the Aries-Mars system, the Libra-Venus system, the Capricorn-Saturn system, and so on. Psychologically, signs and their ruling planets are as inseparable as a rocket and its fuel tank. The sign is the motivating principle, and the planet is the action principle. Aries, for example, symbolizes the motivating need for autonomy and survival that stimulates Mars to perform the requisite actions to satisfy the Aries motive. Planetary functions represent our capacity to act in the service of motivating needs. In effect, a planetary function is the normal, proper, or characteristic action of that archetype.2

Every planetary function has its own range of actions, but how does a person know when to act in a manner appropriate to a time and place? Motivation for action is conveyed by feelings (affects), which is our third dimension of astrological archetypes. Each sign symbolizes a range of feelings that fall along a continuum of affective intensity. Aries, for example, ranges from a state of mild restlessness to consuming fury. The stronger the feeling, the more motivated the person to perform the necessary action—take a walk, or storm the bastille!

How does a person know when to terminate a particular behavior? If an action fulfills its motivating need, a state is attained that conveys fulfillment of that motive. This is the fourth dimension of astrological archetypes—the target state. For Aries-Mars, this state might be a sense of aliveness, freedom, and joy. Once attained, the Aries-motivation recedes into the background only to be succeeded by a new need that assumes dominance.

Note that a motivating feeling is subtly different from a target state. A feeling pushes from behind and operates on the basis of deficiency, motivating the person to take action. A state, on the other hand, is like a teleological cause that beckons from the future. It signifies an emotional ideal, a condition of fulfillment, that for the sake of which the action occurs. Every sign-planet system has its own target state, which can be defined with a few simple key words—freedom, comfort, knowledge, belonging, self-esteem, competence, power, faith, control, insight, or transcendence—to list a few. Between motivation and target state lie a range of emotions that depict varying degrees of satisfaction of the relevant archetype. Again, fulfillment operates on a continuum, from chronically unfulfilled (neurosis) to optimal fulfillment that is readily attained. A planet’s capacity to satisfy its motivating need is a measure of that planet’s functionality (or dsyfunctionality).

Content Mirrors Process
Generally speaking, the language of astrology can be divided into two broad areas: process and content. Process constitutes the psychodynamics of the birthchart and has to do with the underlying motives, beliefs, goals, and choices that characterize a person’s inner life. Because process can be defined as a series of operations conducive toward a goal, it is dynamic; it is the active movement of consciousness as it progresses from motive to action to target state. Content, on the other hand, is the outcome of psychological functioning. It shows up in a person’s lived experience—relations with people, places, and things. Whereas process is psychological functioning, content is the consequence of psychological functioning, an epiphenomenal by-product of psychic life. In effect, content is a vehicle for process. Content provides the actual experiences that allow individuals to fulfill psychological needs and grow in their capacity for yet greater fulfillment.

Note again that process has four inner dimensions: motive, function, emotion, and target state. For example, Capricorn is the need/motive for success, and Saturn is the function of achievement. As an emotion, Capricorn may signify a fear of failure that stimulates Saturnian actions of planning, organizing, and persevering. Saturn also symbolizes the target state (a feeling of success) that signals fulfillment of the originating motive.

Likewise, content has four outer dimensions: person, place, thing, and event. For example, Saturn can signify an authority figure (person), an executive office (place), a calendar (thing), and a delay (event). If an individual striving for a promotion is given a deadline by his boss to complete a project, this event becomes a vehicle to fulfill his need for success as well as to stimulate growth in his capacity for yet greater success.

Behavior is the ninth dimension and has qualities of both process and content, for behavior is the connecting link between inner and outer experience. Any behavior, by definition, involves some sort of interaction with an outside environment. Whereas Saturn signifies the functions of organization, structure, and control, a person’s capacity to express those functions varies considerably. Capacity is a measure of how integrated that planet is in the overall psychic economy. If a person is in conflict with his Saturnian impulses, then his behavior in this area may be comparatively dysfunctional: disorganized, impractical, or undisciplined in situations that call for a Saturnian response. Needless to say, the results of his behavior are likely to reflect his dysfunction.

Since the same astrological variable can symbolize any of nine dimensions, a key idea is that content mirrors process; intrapsychic dynamics are reflected in the nature and quality of one’s outer experiences. Jung’s theory of synchronicity is central to astrology because it provides an explanatory mechanism for how inner and outer experiences are related via circular causality. Internal processes generate outer conditions, which, in turn, influence internal processes; hence, a system learns by processing the consequences of its own actions. Synchronicity rests on Jung’s concept of the archetype, which he described as having psychoid properties. That is, an archetype can manifest simultaneously as both an intrapsychic factor and an environmental condition.

The systems concept of feedback explains how circular causality may act as a spur to consciousness evolution. Feedback is the effect of a system’s output that is reintroduced to the system as information about that output. Synchronistic events constitute feedback in that they reflect the psyche’s current state of integration, while also serving as a catalyst to its further development. Content not only mirrors process, it provides a vehicle for its evolution over time. As consciousness evolves via accommodation to its environmental correlates, new experiences are created in an ongoing, iterative cycle.

This brief (and highly condensed) tour of the complex symbolism of sign-planet systems underscores that astrological archetypes are multidimensional. Their protean nature allows us to see how the intrapsychic realm of drive, function, and target state manifest in the event world as relations with people, places, and things. A single astrological archetype has multiple significations revealing how inner and outer worlds are connected. This is precisely what makes astrology so versatile and adaptable as a psychological language.

In subsequent installments of this column, we’ll explore some further entailments of this idea, especially with regard to how a process interpretation of an astrological configuration differs markedly from its corollary content. We will also examine how planetary aspects signify complex psychodynamic processes – conflicts, defenses, and compromise formations – that are built upon the foundation of sign-planet systems.


1 For a more detailed explanation of this concept, see my related column, “Archetypes as Geometric Forms“.

2 For more information on this way of thinking about astrological archetypes, please see An Introduction to AstroPsychology.

Planetary Dynamics and Sign Motivation

Planetary Dynamics and
Sign Motivation

By Glenn Perry


sign motivation
Nancy Grace

Student: Last night’s discussion was really interesting. Thanks! When you asked what type of philosophy Saturn in the 9th might represent, my instinct was that it would be “Realism,” since Saturn is about concrete, sometimes harsh, cold reality. Saturn might be a realistic philosophy. Just wondering your thoughts about that. 

Glenn: I think your instincts are correct. My poster child for Saturn in the 9th is the tough-as-nails, former prosecutor Nancy Grace, who never lost a case. I don’t have Grace’s birth time so am uncertain if she has Saturn in the 9th, but she does have Saturn in Sagittarius, which works in a similar way. Also, she has Jupiter in Scorpio, which befits her focus on criminal law. Grace currently works as a legal commentator and hosts her own cable news show.

Remember, a planet’s behavioral choices are always in the service of the sign it rules. That is why it is so important to know the motivating sign-need behind a planet’s action. Motivation influences awareness through the agency of attention. It determines what that planetary function attends to—thus, what is noticed and what is ignored. And because experience tends to follow attention, a planet’s motivation will also influence how events are shaped synchronistically.

A planet’s motivating sign-need determines the meaning one attributes to house phenomena and ultimately how one decides to act within that environment. If Saturn’s motivation is structure, control and success in tangible terms (Capricorn), then its position in the 9th would incline it to value philosophical doctrines that are grounded, realistic, and can be used for practical ends. With regard to civil law, Saturn would probably take a hardline position; any rise in crime will be perceived as a consequence of excessive leniency or tolerance, the solution to which is tougher laws and more stringent consequences. Of course, if Saturn is in conflict with other planets via hard aspects, it might be projected onto legal, political, or ideological authorities that one rejects because of their Saturnian tenor. 

Motivation shapes attention in accord with the governing need. With Saturn in the 9th, one is motivated to find evidence that confirms Saturnian presuppositions about the nature of truth, religion, philosophy, justice, and other 9th house phenomena. This might incline one to anticipate that the dispensing of justice will be harsh. Experiences that conform to one’s expectations will be noticed more than those that do not—or, when events go against expectation, one is apt to be alarmed and will redouble one’s efforts as an advocate for Saturnian justice.

If there are sufficient soft aspects to Saturn, indicating a lack of conflict, then one might be attracted to tough prosecutors, like Nancy Grace. With regard to international relations, the person might be an exponent of political realism—a view that prioritizes national interest and security over ideology and moral concerns.

Further information can be derived from Saturn’s sign position. Saturn in Scorpio in the 9th might be attracted to economic (Scorpio) theories (9th) that are innately conservative and that recognize the principle of limited resources. Note that economics entails measurable phenomena that can be evaluated according to standards, which Saturn likes. Saturn in Aquarius in the 9th might be attracted to conservative political theories like libertarianism that stress the importance of freedom from government interference. Statistics that demonstrate how a free press and free market makes a culture more prosperous and its citizenry more content would be utilized, again, because anything that is measurable according to a standard is intrinsically valued by Saturn.

Of course, this is just scratching the surface because Saturn in the 9th would also shape one’s approach to higher education, religion, ethics, and even marketing/advertising. Unless you know a planet’s motivation, you are apt to miss the forest for the trees. The multiplicity of outcomes that flow from a planet’s sign and house position all derive from the underlying motivation of that planet. As always, the goal is to find the archetypal singularity within the phenomenological diversity.

Bottom line: Knowing a planet’s motivation can simplify and focus your assessment of how that planet functions in a given sign and house.

Students interested in this approach to interpretation might wish to purchase my book, An Introduction to AstroPsychology.

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Butterfly Lovers and Venus-Neptune Aspects

Butterfly Lovers
And Other Venus-Neptune Tales of Woe

By Glenn Perry


Venus-Neptune aspectsThe title of my article is inspired by The Butterfly Lovers, a Chinese legend and tragic love story that illustrates Venus-Neptune dynamics. Zhu, a beautiful and intelligent young woman, earnestly desires an education. Traditions of the time forbid females from going to school, however, so Zhu convinces her father to allow her to attend classes in disguise as a young man. While at school, she develops an unusually close bond with a classmate, Liang, who does not realize that Zhu is a female. They study together for three years and Zhu gradually falls in love with Liang.

One day, Zhu receives a letter from her father, asking her to return home as soon as possible. Zhu has no choice but to pack her belongings and bid Liang farewell. However, in her heart, she has already confessed her love for Liang and is determined to be with him for all eternity. Liang accompanies his “sworn brother” for 18 miles to see her off. During the journey, Zhu hints to Liang that she is actually a woman, but Liang does not catch on and hasn’t the slightest suspicion that his companion is a woman in disguise. Zhu finally comes up with an idea and tells Liang that she will act as a matchmaker for him and her “sister”. She intends to reveal her true identity to him when he visits her home for the proposed meeting. Liang and Zhu reluctantly part ways.

Months later when Liang is able to visit Zhu, he discovers that she is actually a woman. They are passionate about each other and make a vow of “till death do us part”. Their joy is short-lived, however, as unbeknownst to the two lovers, Zhu’s parents have arranged for her to marry a man from a rich family. Upon hearing the news, Liang is heartbroken. His health gradually deteriorates until he becomes critically ill and dies.

On the day of her marriage, the forlorn Zhu is sailing on a ship to meet her betrothed, but mysterious whirlwinds prevent the wedding procession from escorting the bride beyond Liang’s grave, which lies along the journey by sea. The winds blow her ship to shore. Upon learning that it is Liang’s grave, Zhu leaves the procession to pay her respects. She collapses in despair at the gravesite and begs for the grave to open. Suddenly, it opens with a clap of thunder. Without hesitation, Zhu throws herself into the grave to join Liang. Their spirits turn into a pair of beautiful butterflies and emerge from the grave. They fly together as a pair and are never to be separated again.

Venus-Neptune Aspects
The author of this tragic and beautiful tale is unknown, but surely he had a Venus-Neptune aspect. All the elements are present: illusion, longing, idealization, bliss, disillusionment, surrender, loss, tragedy, sacrifice and reunion. As we shall see, these plot elements are recurrent in the relationship histories of individuals with hard Venus-Neptune contacts.

In terms of plot structure, The Butterfly Lovers begins with an illusion—that of Zhu’s true identity—accompanied by an unfulfilled longing for eternal love with Liang. Zhu expresses an ideal love that transcends sexuality, for in her disguise as a boy she experiences an intimacy with Liang that is utterly pristine and pure. Following their initial separation, the promise of reunion pulls the lovers forward, culminating in Zhu’s disclosure that she is a woman, thus dissolving the boundary that prevents the couple from declaring their love. Alas, their fleeting glimpse of love’s bliss is followed by disillusionment, for fate intervenes in the form of an arranged marriage that requires compliance with conventions rooted in concerns for status and security. Liang and Zhu’s attachment must be relinquished, forsaken, surrendered. This sets the stage for the ultimate sacrifice. Unable to accept the loss of his true love, Liang withers away and dies. Soon after, Zhu willingly sacrifices her life to be reunited with Liang in eternal love.

Indeed, the butterfly is the perfect metaphor for Venus-Neptune. While conspicuously beautiful and transcendent in its capacity for flight, it is never-the-less a fragile, ephemeral creature, doomed to die within the year of its birth. Just so, Venus-Neptune love entails a requirement to die in order to experience unitive consciousness with a divine ideal—infinite love and beauty—embodied in the person of the beloved.

To fully appreciate the difficulty of integrating Venus-Neptune aspects, it is necessary to understand the fundamental drives that these two planets represent. As the ruler of Pisces, Neptune signifies a spiritual impulse for transcendence and reunion with the source of all that is. This longing tugs unendingly on the soul, for in the absence of God-realization all pleasures and attainments ultimately prove empty. According to many spiritual traditions, the final goal of life is to awaken to the illusion of separateness from the whole and willingly surrender one’s separate-self sense, i.e., the ego, in order to merge in ecstatic bliss with God. To assist in this process, Neptune—the spiritual face of the divine—conspires to bring about experiences of defeat, disillusionment, and loss, for in the wake of such experiences one is inclined to develop the requisite attitudes that facilitate one’s evolution as a spiritual being, such as humility, surrender, and compassion, to name a few.

In conflict with this picture are Venusian needs that impose their own requirements. These include the Taurean drive for stable attachments to things and people that provide for a sense of security, pleasure, and comfort. Also included are Libran needs for beauty, intimacy and companionship, which may especially conflict with the Piscean imperative for oneness with all life. Fulfillment of Libran needs requires recognition of differentness—a prerequisite for any stable relationship. But how can one aspire to fairness, resolve conflicts, and collaborate toward considered agreements under the Neptunian imperative for obliteration of difference in euphoric oneness? This is the fundamental dilemma implicit in the quincunx between Libra and Pisces, which is brought to the fore in any hard aspect between Venus and Neptune.

When planets aspect one other, each acts upon and infuses the other with its essence. Neptune elevates and spiritualizes Venus, making it function in a more idealized way and imbuing it with a sense of the transcendent, infinite, and eternal. Venus, in turn, sensualizes Neptune and brings it down to the earthly realm of bodily pleasures and instills in it a desire for intimacy and commitment. Myths and fairy tales of mere humans aspiring to mate with gods and goddesses are surely Venus-Neptune tales. Yet, because Neptune is ultimately a disembodied ideal—an imagined perfection insubstantial and ephemeral by its very nature—such unions have a tendency to dissolve into nothingness, bringing loss, tragedy, and heartbreak in their wake. Venus-Neptune is not all negative, however, for at higher levels of integration the two archetypes are able to combine in ways that are relatively stable and mutually enriching. In any single life there is apt to be more than one expression, with positive outcomes intermingled with negative. Over time it is certainly possible to evolve one’s expression of the aspect in a more fulfilling direction. We will consider these shortly, but first let us examine its more virulent forms.

Every end is implicit in its beginning. Early manifestations of Venus-Neptune are often characterized by porous boundaries with regard to the body and relationships. A Venus-Neptune child may experience unwanted and inappropriate touching that evokes feelings of guilt, and which may later be denied through lying and/or repression of the experience itself. Lack of clear boundaries may also characterize the parental marriage. The child observes affairs, deceptions, and abandonments with all their messy entanglements and consequences, including grief, guilt, and loss. In some instances, the child may be appropriated by one parent as a cover for an affair, as when a father takes his son with him for an outing but spends most of it in bed with his mistress, then requires the son to lie about it to his mother. This not only makes the son an accomplice in the crime, it provides a model for relationships. I have seen mothers appropriate their sons and daughters for similar ends.

Neptune rules processes of dissolution. Accordingly, marital dissolution is a common outcome if Neptune forms a hard aspect to Venus. This can result in the Venus-Neptune child being left behind with a lonely, depressed parent who appropriates the child as her primary relationship and source of love. The child is deprived of a healthy role model due to the disintegration of his parent’s marriage, while also being burdened with responsibility for one parent’s emotional well-being. Sometimes he will be caught in the middle between mother and father, which strain his relationships with both parents and put him in a catch-22: if he’s too close with mother, it hurts father; if he’s too close with father, it hurts mother. Inescapable, irrational guilt stems from the perception that loving and receiving love is unavoidably a cause of suffering to someone, one way or the other.

A variant on the bad marriage theme is when the parents do not divorce, but the child is appropriated by one parent as a substitute spouse. This poses twin dangers: fear of being engulfed by the needy parent, and guilt for causing distress to the alienated parent. The guilt and fears that such relationships evoke establish the pattern that later must be worked out in adult relationships.

It could be argued that at the heart of hard Venus-Neptune contacts is a sense of unconscious guilt indissolubly associated with human attachments. While there may be a basis for this guilt in actual childhood experiences, as detailed above, there is also likely to be a certain amount of existential guilt associated with relationships in general. By existential guilt I mean the guilt that comes from simply being human. The reason for this is Neptune’s spiritual imperative and prime directive: sacrifice for the sake of unitive consciousness. To be human is to be separated from God. All Neptunian experience is teleological in that it occurs for the sake of reunion with God. As this requires renunciation of attachments in the service of spiritual oneness, it follows that any actual attachment to a human being is an obstacle to this higher calling. Relinquishment of the attachment not only atones for the imagined crime of loving a god-substitute, but also creates that ineluctable mixture of grief, anguish, and remorse that softens and readies the soul, as it were, for God.

Evidence for unconscious guilt can be discerned in the pervasive tendency of people with these aspects to subvert their needs for intimacy by marrying someone who is dissolute, deceptive, or otherwise undeserving of trust. Again, Neptune is about dissolution of boundaries; thus, the marriage may have been entered into prematurely without the necessary Libran conversations and contractual agreements that allow the participants to really know one another. Lack of truly intimate, revealing conversation is symptomatic of a lack of boundaries; that is, enmeshment. The Venus-Neptune person simply imagines that everything is perfect, that “we are one.” Partners may be idealized beyond all proportion to their actual merit. Neptunian imagination becomes a substitute for actually doing the Venusian work to determine who is really there. By the time it is discovered that the partner has a history of indolence, criminality, substance abuse, bi-sexuality, sexual addiction, pedophilia, or other acts of marital betrayal, it is too late.

If the Venus-Neptune person is in a stable and healthy marriage, he or she may subvert the relationship by finding themselves irresistibly drawn to someone else—often a person that exemplifies a more ideal type of love, or a love just out of reach, or someone unattainable for reasons that appear tragic and fated. This may lead to an affair or simply remain an unfulfilled longing. It is not a ‘choice’ in the conventional sense of the term, but more like a compulsion to sacrifice the love one has in order to pursue a greater love that one cannot have.

If single, the story is similar. A person may fall in love with someone who is married, lives far away, is already betrothed, is of their own gender, or is simply disinterested. The English novelist, Somerset Maugham, who has the square, once confessed: “I have most loved people who cared little or nothing for me and when people have loved me I have been embarrassed… In order not to hurt their feelings, I have often acted a passion I did not feel.”1 Maugham also said, “The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.” These statements reflect a common pattern in Venus-Neptune contacts: that of falling in love with someone who is not even aware that they are the object of one’s passion—a friend, a teacher, someone else’s spouse, or a public figure such as a movie star. A yet creepier variant involves taking it to the next level—imagining that the beloved has reciprocal feelings even though nothing of the sort was ever actually communicated or even suggested. This can lead to bizarre outcomes: sending unwelcome letters and gifts, stalking, accusations of being misled, and other ways of setting oneself up to feel abandoned, disillusioned, and bereft.

If Venus square Neptune were a drink, it would be a highly intoxicating, addictive potion of divine love mixed up with human love. To drink this tonic is to be entranced, bewitched, and carried away by feelings of attraction that are irresistible and often hopeless. These include impossible relationships between married/single, teacher/student, therapist/client, doctor/patient, and old/young, among others. It is precisely the longing for what one cannot have that implicates the divine in such relationships, for God is likewise an unattainable ideal that cannot be physically possessed. By projecting the face of God onto the person of the beloved, she is imbued with a quality of the transcendent, like a muse that inspires but is herself unattainable. On those occasions that the loved object is momentarily acquired, there is a high probability that he or she will soon be lost. This may entail the actual loss of a lover through sickness or death, or simply be due to the inevitable disillusionment one feels when the idealized love object reveals his or her all too human flaws and failings.

I once had a client with Venus in Pisces at the Nadir opposed to Neptune on the M.C. For the first two years of his life he lived with his unmarried mother who had birthed him after being impregnated by a wealthy and powerful man with whom she had been having an affair. She was under the illusion that this man would eventually leave his wife and marry her. Two years later when he admitted that he had no such intention, she abandoned her baby and was never seen or heard from again. The father took the traumatized toddler into his own family, confessed his infidelity to his wife, and together they raised the child as their own, never letting him know that he had been abandoned by his biological mother. When my client was 21 and joined the military, he saw his birth certificate for the first time and discovered his true origins. This opened the floodgates of the repressed memory of his lost mother and he responded by getting drunk, a state he remained in for five years.

Upon recovering from his alcoholic stupor, he embarked on a pattern of passionately pursuing women that were unavailable. Unconsciously, he was compelled to find his lost mother. This led to a string of marriages that always ended the same way: he would find some new goddess that beckoned from the beyond—the lost love object whom he must have. By fifty he had settled into a somewhat stable relationship with a woman on whom he was financially dependent, like a little boy with his mother. When under these circumstances he met his latest twin flame, he could not marry her because it meant losing his source of security. In effect, he was caught between staying with his mother—his security blanket—or pursuing his mother in the form of an idealized love object that might again disappear. When, in fact, she did end the affair (like his own mother, she became disillusioned with the affair), he was inconsolable and began to stalk her, which forced her to obtain a restraining order from the police.2

In this case, a number of Venus-Neptune themes are represented—an early abandonment, idealizations of women followed by disillusionments, devaluations, new affairs, loss, guilt, and grief. This reflects the larger point that an aspect of this sort is not merely a set of behavioral traits; it is a pattern of experience that extends from the crib to the grave. The dissolution of his attachment to his mother during the Taurean stage of 18 months to 4 years established a pattern that he was compelled to repeat throughout his adult life: continuously abandoning current relationships to pursue idealized lovers that symbolized his lost mother. The affairs, deceptions, and disillusionments that constituted the pattern were merely the surface features of a deeper story that had its roots in an original abandonment that he was trying to reverse.

Another way the aspect can play itself out is through victim-savior relationships. In this version, Neptune expresses itself in the complementary roles of victim and savior, while Venus unites them in an intimate relationship. The victim evokes feelings of compassion from the savior, who must sacrifice his own relationship needs in the act of administering selfless care to the victim. While some victims are legitimate, as in a spouse who develops cancer, others are casualties of their own undoing, as through drug and alcohol addiction. In the case of the latter, the misery of the pairing is a folie-a-deux, for the savior is also an enabler who helps to maintain the problem by his participation in it. Should his self-inflicted victim/partner recover, she is not likely to feel gratitude but resentment, for his strength and virtue has been purchased at the expense of her guilt and weakness. This usually leads to ill-treating the rescuer through some act of betrayal or abandonment; hence, the savior becomes the victim. The roles are interchangeable.

An excellent example of this is portrayed in Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge. The protagonist, Larry Darrell, has embraced eastern mysticism and the life of an ascetic. He falls in love with a fallen woman, Sophie, who seeks to bury the pain of her previous losses by escaping into alcohol, opium, and promiscuity. Larry tries to save her and ends up marrying her, but she soon slips back into alcoholism, abandons Larry, and ends up dead in a Paris slum. Maugham, as stated, had Venus square Neptune, which he sublimated into other works of fiction as well, like Rain, Of Human Bondage, and The Painted Veil, all of which express similar Venus-Neptune themes.

A somewhat higher version of this same dynamic can be found in the lives of celibates who consciously and deliberately sacrifice their personal love needs in the service of a spiritual calling. Venusian needs for attachment are sublimated into acts of selfless love for casualties of war, illness, or any other condition that causes suffering. Perhaps the best example is Florence Nightingale, who had the opposition. A celebrated English nurse, Nightingale believed that God had called her to be in His service; thus, like a nun who takes a vow of chastity so that she can give all her love to God and through God to all people, she remained celibate for life.

Nightingale is credited with laying the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of the first secular nursing school in the world. She came to prominence during the Crimean War (1853-1856) where she tended to wounded soldiers and was dubbed “The Lady with the Lamp” after her habit of making rounds at night. Allegedly, Nightingale developed some rather intense attachments to her patients. The psychological syndrome known as the “Florence Nightingale Effect” was named for her and is used to describe a situation where a caregiver, typically a doctor or nurse, falls in love with a vulnerable patient in his or her care.

Other Venus-Neptune celibates may forego human relationships altogether and sublimate their relational needs into the love of a more abstract entity, like mathematics. Isaac Newton, who had the square, never married or even dated so far as historians can discern, but his “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” published in 1687 is considered one of the most important scientific books ever written. As the agent of Libra, Venus rules mathematics. An equation by definition is a statement of equality involving two or more variables considered to have the same value. Newton also developed a theory of color, another Venus topic. He showed that a prism can decompose white light into the many colors of the visible spectrum, which in sum are equal to the whole. The Neptunian dimension of the aspect is implicit in Newton’s focus on the Universe as a whole system, or light in its entirety, the mysteries of which he succeeded in decoding by virtue of abstract mathematical formulas (Venus). The celebrated English poet Alexander Pope was so moved by Newton’s accomplishments that he wrote the famous epitaph:

Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said “Let Newton be” and all was light.

A similar expression of celibacy can be found in the lives of Venus-Neptune individuals who transcend human attachments via devotional love of a spiritual entity that symbolizes the Venus archetype itself. The recently deceased Pope, John Paul II, who has the square, was reportedly so in love with the Madonna—the Virgin Mary—that he was pictured in a Catholic periodical praying before a full-cover image of Mary accompanied by the words, “The most Marian Pope in history has entrusted his pontificate—and his life—to the Virgin Mother of God.” After recovering from an assassination attempt, John Paul II claimed it was Mary who actually saved him from the assassin’s bullet. This puts a new twist on victim-savior dynamics. To signify his devotion, he chose the Episcopal motto Totus Tuus, meaning “Totally Yours”.

Denying one’s need for human attachment by aligning with the Neptunian impulse for transcendence is certainly one way of avoiding the pain of loss, for one can never lose what one never had—in the Pope’s case, the love of a woman that exists entirely in his imagination. Elsewhere I have argued that the Pope’s devotion to Mary was compensatory to early traumatic losses of his mother, brother, and father.3

Curiously, a similar history afflicted the American singer and actress, Madonna, who watched her mother slowly waste away with breast cancer when she was five years old. Like the Pope, Madonna also has Neptune squaring Venus. She compensated for the traumatic loss of her mother—a personal attachment—by pursuing a transpersonal love with no attachments—the mass adulation that comes with celebrity. However, unlike the Pope who chose celibacy and an imaginary relationship with a spiritual icon, Madonna chose celebrity and transitional relationships with an endless series of lovers, both male and female.4

Madonna has been accused of making a mockery of the religious import of her name by virtue of the sensual and sexual excesses for which she is infamous, going so far as masturbating with a crucifix on stage in Rome. It is no small irony that John Paul II subsequently had Madonna—the very name of his beloved—permanently banned from performing in Italy. Yet, these two figures are strangely connected by the planetary aspect they share. Despite their diametrically opposed expression of the aspect, each strategy may be in the service of the same end: defense against pain of loss. The pope could never lose the love of a woman who existed entirely on a spiritual plane; Madonna could never lose the love of objects that existed merely as interchangeable parts.

Another way the aspect can be expressed is by working out the conflict through artistic expression. I have already mentioned Somerset Maugham, but there are innumerable other artists and writers who combine Venusian pleasure, beauty and intimacy with Neptunian themes of transcendence and eternal love. Of particular note is the 19th century English writer, E. Rider Haggard, who had Venus in the 12th square Neptune on the M.C.; thus, he not only had the square, but also had Venus in Neptune’s house (the 12th). In 1886, Haggard wrote She, a classic of imaginative literature and one of the best-selling books of all time. She is the ultimate example of merging divine and human love into one object—Ayesha, an immortal Egyptian priestess of such extraordinary charms that she enchants any man who beholds her.

As the story unfolds, we discover that Ayesha is transcendently beautiful, a veritable goddess that promises eternal love if her chosen lover is willing to sacrifice all prior attachments. The main protagonist, Vincey, a 19th century explorer, falls under her spell and is invited to bathe with Ayesha in the “pillar of fire,” which will grant him immortality, too. Vincey learns that Ayesha has lived for over two millennia awaiting the reincarnation of her lover whom she accidentally killed in a fit of jealous rage two thousand years ago. She recognizes Vincey as her reincarnated lover and assures him that the pillar of fire will enable them to be together for all eternity. To allay his fears, Ayesha steps into the Spirit of Life—the pillar of fire—but with this second immersion she reverts to her true age and dissolves away in the blue fire.

The Venus-Neptune theme of the story is so explicit that it hardly needs further interpretation. One point is worth noting, however. Venus-Neptune is frequently experienced as a love that is fated, eternal, and transcendent, as when the individual proclaims his or her beloved as being from a past life, a twin flame, a soul mate, and so forth. Neptune is projected onto the partner so that the entire relationship feels mystical and supernatural. Human beings, however, are not gods and goddesses, so the usual progression of such relationships is from magic to tragic, as when Ayesha dissolved away into the Spirit of Life—an apt metaphor for disillusionment.

With regard to love goddesses, some iconic performers literally embody the archetype, like Pamela Anderson, Bo Derek of “10” fame, Jane Fonda in her “Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy” role, Josephine Bakker the erotic dancer, Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”, and the tragic Dorothy Stratton, all of whom had Venus-Neptune squares (except Derek who has the conjunction).

Other ways of sublimating the aspect into artistic expression involve transcendent imagery. Painters like Sulamith Wulfing, who had the square, depict ethereal, enigmatic figures such as angels, fairies, and nature spirits. Likewise, the French impressionist painter, Paul Gaugin, who also has the square, emphasized symbolism, spirituality, natives living in a tropical paradise, and other visions that sprung wholly from his imagination.

Perhaps the most perfect expression of a hard Venus-Neptune aspect occurs when both archetypes are fully differentiated, developed, and integrated in a manner that allows each to enhance the other. In such cases, neither archetype is expressed at the other’s expense. Venus is not used as a defense against the pain of loss, and Neptune is not employed as a barrier against a fear of personal attachments. Rather, they join in a manner that allows the individual to have a deep, intimate partnership while also allowing for the disillusionment that inevitably follows discovery of one another’s imperfections. In effect, loss is contained within the relationship, which is consecrated to a spiritual ideal and becomes a vehicle for developing compassion, empathy, and forgiveness.

Very often the partners will collaborate in some sort of Neptunian project, either charitable, spiritual, or artistic. In this way, Neptune finds an outlet that actually stregthens the relationship rather than undermining it. The couple might meditate together, paint, share an interest in poetry or music, or cooperate in the allieviation of suffering. With regard to the latter, Someset Maugham’s The Painted Veil, which in 2006 was released as a film starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, provides a good example of a couple that undergo a painful, spiritual journey, which ends quite beautifully in their joint efforts to save a small Chinese village from a cholera outbreak.

One of my favorite examples of an integrated Venus-Neptune square is Doctor Joyce Brothers, the iconic American psychologist who became famous for doing an advice show and syndicated newspaper column on relationships. She married a physician who specialized in internal medicine and was renowned for his charitable work. They remained happily married for forty years until he died of cancer in 1989. Her 1992 book, Widowed, was inspired by the loss of her husband and offered practical advice for widows and widowers, helping them to cope with their grief and move on with their lives.

Her other books, too, dealt with the unavoidable tensions, disappointments, and transitions that love and marriage entails. Brothers’ 1988 book, The Successful Woman: How You Can Have a Career, a Husband, and Family—and Not Feel Guilty about It, instructed woman how to balance marital sacrifices with career aspirations. More importantly, it dealt with the Neptunian theme of how unconscious guilt can sabotage otherwise good relationships, which is certainly testimony to her integrated Venus-Neptune square.

In the good doctor’s life, we see how Venus and Neptune can combine in a marriage that revolves around both partners dedicating themselves to the relief of suffering. Her husband did it as an internist that focused on diseases of the body, and she did it as a psychologist who focused on love’s hardships and travails, including the inevitable death of one’s spouse. Brothers’ life demonstrates how marital happiness and disappointment, bliss and anguish, attachment and loss, are not mutually exclusive affairs, but can be transmuted at a higher level into a love that truly is eternal. Doctor Joyce Brothers is 83 and still working. I suspect that when her time comes she will not mournfully throw herself into the grave of her deceased husband and rise with him as butterfly twins. She is way beyond that.

* * * * *


1 Meyers, Jeffrey (2005). Somerset Maugham: A Life. New York: Vintage Books., p. 232.

2 Not surprisingly, she also had a Venus-Neptune square.

3 See, “Pope John Paul II and the Culture of Death,” at:

4 See, for example, Morton, A. (2001). Madonna. New York: Saint Martin’s Press.

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