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Concepts & Theory

Astrology for Children

Astrology for Children
Letter to a 6th Grader


By Glenn Perry

 

Astrology for childrenDear Doctor Perry, I am in sixth grade doing some research for my science fair project, which is on astrology for children. I want to know how horoscopes affect people’s lives. For example, if someone reads their horoscope in the morning, I want to know if they change their life in any way to fit their horoscope. What if they do? What if astrology affects how their life is going? What if some big detail in their life is a detail in their horoscope? Please, tell me what you can about this topic and e-mail me back as soon as possible!

Respectfully, Ali

Dear Ali, The first thing to understand is that Newspaper horoscopes are not real astrology. They’re more for entertainment than for guidance. In the field of astrology, there is disagreement about this. Some astrologers think that newspaper horoscopes are Okay because they introduce people to astrology. But others think they mislead the public into thinking that astrology is just superficial nonsense and that only gullible people believe in it.

The problem is that newspaper horoscopes imply that signs are people – that is, the whole of the person is reduced to just the Sun sign. For example, “You’re a Libra. Today is a good day for socializing.” This kind of advice is based on the idea that a person’s day can be predicted by seeing how all the other planets relate to the sign Libra on that day, but this is highly questionable. It’s like trying to determine the state of a person’s health by examining their kidney and nothing else. Just as the human body has many organs (heart, liver, lungs, etc.), so each of us has a unique personality comprised of many parts. These parts are symbolized by the planets. Since any planet can be in any sign, a person is much more than his or her Sun sign. How the planets interact as a whole is what makes up the personality.

Another thing to understand is that the planets do not really have any influence. Astrology is actually about studying correspondences between earthly events and planetary movements. Just as a clock can indicate the time but does not cause the time, so the arrangement of planets at birth — your actual horoscope — can indicate the quality of your character and fate without actually causing that character or fate. This gets into some pretty big questions that have spiritual implications, such as why a person is born at a particular time. I’m not going to address that here. You need to learn addition and subtraction before you can learn algebra, right?

One other thing: even though the birthchart can symbolize one’s character and fate, this doesn’t mean that character and fate are unchanging. The birthchart actually symbolizes how character and fate evolve together over time. Free will has a lot to do with this, because our choices influence how we evolve. One’s fate reflects that evolution. If you make good choices, then you gradually become a better, higher version of yourself; likewise, your fate becomes more fulfilling and positive. More good things happen than bad things.

Of course, everybody has difficulties at one time or another, such as loss, defeat, failure, or rejection. It’s how we respond to those experiences that makes the difference between a good life and a bad one. If you choose to learn and grow from adversity, then you will express your birthchart at a progressively higher level. I cannot look at a birthchart and tell what choices the person is going to make. I can only see the nature of the opportunities and challenges that are likely to arise. A good life and a bad life can be equally symbolized by the same birthchart. This is because the chart doesn’t determine the person; the person determines how he or she expresses the chart.

It’s a lot like going to school. Your curriculum tells you what courses you have to take and who your teachers are going to be. A whole group of students will take the same courses with the same teachers. This is like a group of people who are all born at approximately the same time on the same day; thus, they all have a similar horoscope. Some students will study hard and get good grades, while others will be lazy or cheat or fight with their teachers, and get poor grades. The courses and the teachers are the same for everyone, but some students will take advantage of their opportunity to learn, and others will not. Likewise, some people will choose to express their chart in a good way; that is, work hard and strive to do well, and others won’t. The amount of effort one makes makes the difference. Earth is like a big school.

Good luck with your science project!

~Glenn

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The Wisdom of Defenses

The Wisdom of Defenses

 

By Glenn Perry

 

Wisdom of defensesI have a client who has an aversion to new age teachings. Books like The Secret, which purport that we can all have a perfect life merely by thinking positive thoughts, send her up a wall. She regards such claims as Pollyanna fluff, a feel-good defense against the darker, meaner, more tragic side of life and a poor substitute for an authentic spiritual practice rooted in tradition. A healthy person, she argues, is able to face evil with courage, and can handle loss with grace. They do not resort to “spiritual bypass” as a means to avoid legitimate suffering.

She might be right. I’m reluctant to be an apologist for any teaching (even astrology), as all have their faults and failings. However, those doctrines that trigger our animosity are likely to be associated with some sort of wound or issue that goes beyond the teaching itself.  

den Besten, Jodi (2)

In this woman’s case, she has a Yod with Saturn sextiling Uranus and both planets quincunxing Jupiter in Aquarius. With Saturn in the 10th and Uranus in the 8th (but signifying the 4th), both Saturn and Uranus are parental indicators. To survive a harsh and unstable childhood with cold, abusive parents, she was compelled to rely upon her Aquarian Jupiter, the focal planet of her Yod, and the means by which she rose above the tragedy of her childhood by embracing age-old, universal truths embodied in Buddhism.

Her Jupiter in Aquarius was a bulwark of hope against a black tide of creeping despair. Under chronic pressure from circumstances symbolized by Saturn and Uranus, it hypertrophied into an overdeveloped but brilliant ally. Jupiter enabled her to find meaning in what were otherwise intolerable conditions. And it provided her with the overview and detachment that enabled her to see a purpose to her suffering, much like the Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, who wrote an objective account of his ordeal in a German concentration camp in his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

One could say that she resorted to Jupiter as a “spiritual bypass,” but I believe it would be more accurate to say that Jupiter served as a necessary defense against frightening childhood realities that threatened to overwhelm her. The point here is that Jupiter is associated with a childhood wound—albeit, as a defense against experiencing the full emotional impact of that wound. Accordingly, when she sees others resorting to a spiritual bypass to avoid pain, it stirs an awareness of her own emotional suffering that still, to this day, is partially bound and managed by her Jupiterian defense.

Her animosity toward spiritual short-cuts is an entirely understandable reaction. Intellectually she is fully cognizant of the necessity of facing emotional pain; yet, knowing this and doing it are two separate things. The resultant incongruity in her psyche creates cognitive dissonance, which she partially resolves by projecting onto “new agers” her own tendency to by-pass pain by jumping to a high-minded, philosophical perspective.

I suspect that most of us do something similar in an attempt to manage conflict. Any planet can be utilized as a defense against any other planet if that other planet is bound up with experiences that are painful or frightening. Like a bird furiously flapping its wings to escape the jaws of a leaping wolf, planetary functions shift into hyper mode—compensatory overfunctioning—to ward off experiences that threaten annihilation. The very chronicity of these defensive postures paradoxically allow for control and stability, thereby enabling a slower, dose by dose working through and integration of the painful, threatening experience.

I can provide another example from my own chart. My well-known opposition to reincarnational astrology is a reaction to the pretension of omniscience that resides at its core. I bristle at the unwillingness of its proponents to acknowledge the limitations of their knowledge in the face of an ineffable mystery—how karma is reflected in the horoscope. I associate such pretension with hubris and, ultimately, with deceit. Hubris, it seems to me, is a defense against dealing with real emotional pain—pain that originates in an unfathomable, bottomless void beyond our control and beyond the light of our intellectual formulations. We cannot avoid it by explaining it away with half-baked ideas, fantasy, and flights of the imagination.

That I grew up with an alcoholic mother who refused to admit her drunkenness (and pain), and a father and sister who refused to admit it, too, sensitized me to deceit and its companion, denial, in ways that make it difficult for me to respond with neutrality whenever I think I encounter it. I say think because I’m certain that on at least some occasions I confuse deceit/denial with fallacious reasoning, misguided idealism, or some other less virulent disposition.

On such occasions, my Moon opposition Mars is activated; old emotional pain (Moon Sag in the 8th) is triggered, to which I respond with Mars in Gemini anger—a guided missive at the heart of the offending ideas. Mars is my defense against experiences that stir lunar memories of deceit and denial.

But am I responding to an objective reality, or a subjective one?Am I merely projecting the deceit and denial of my family onto a family of practitioners—exponents of reincarnational astrology? Am I trying to get them to admit what my family could not?

In the immortal words of Steve Martin…Naaaah!

Just kidding, of course. Suffice to say my radar for deceit and denial has hypertrophied from childhood into a knee-jerk system of Martian self-defense; thus, I must exercise caution when assessing Mars’ signals. There’s no wisdom in shooting a sparrow that one mistakes for an enemy aircraft. In admitting this, I am not changing my opinion of reincarnational astrology. It is what it is. The fact that it appears large and menacing on my radar, however, says something about me, too.

One new age teaching, which I must admit has an intuitive appeal, is offered by Esther Hicks in the Abraham material. She says that the goal is not to avoid looking at the thing that upsets us; rather, we should strive to see it and feel good at the same time. This is a curious idea. It would seem to require that we stay grounded in our actual feelings, working to find a meaning that admits the truth of the perceived wrong while simultaneously placing it in a larger context that enables us to feel better about the thing perceived. Truth, in effect, is not a one-dimensional perception, but a layered phenomenon with lesser truths contained within greater.

The meanings that emerge from this exercise do not deny one’s pain, but make it bearable by placing it, slowly and painstakingly, into a more encompassing framework of compassion. As one’s thinking moves increasingly in a direction that feels good, emotions soften, the heart opens, and pain begins to evaporate. Growth toward an authentic, enduring happiness is a gradual process that requires effort and intention. In the interim, however, we need to honor the wisdom of our defenses.

* * * * *

Couple Compatibility in Synastry

Couple Compatibility in Synastry
Pretensions of Omniscience

 

By Glenn Perry

 

couple compatibility in synastryI recently read a post from a Vedic astrologer who was seeking couples’ birth data in order to conduct a study on couple compatibility in synastry.[1] I applaud good research in astrology. It contributes to our knowledge and helps to restore faith in our beleaguered system.

The gist of this astrologer’s hypothesis is that there is a “karmic connectivity” between couples that can be determined on the basis of “mutual sign linkage.” Allegedly, aspects between charts (synastry) connote specific kinds of karma from past lives. Sign parameters governing compatibility are “given” in Vedic texts, he says. “Favorable factors of synastry” are indicated by planets of one partner being placed “positively” in the chart of the other. The underlying assumption is that there are specific combinations of cross-chart aspects that enable astrologers to reach “concrete conclusions” about the fate of couples.

He goes on to state that “unfavorable factors in a particular union” will cause certain couples to come together merely to get rid of old debts from past lives, which is why “some unions end disastrously or simply linger on painfully.” In other words, these relationships go badly not because of psychological problems and limitations in the respective partners (which conceivably could be remedied), but because the couple has an old debt to work out from a previous incarnation that virtually guarantees things will go badly in this one. Allegedly, Vedic astrologers can discern these debts from horoscopes and thereby predict perpetual, irresolvable suffering for the doomed couple.

Pretentions of Omniscience
I am certainly open to the possibility that couples come together to work out karmic debts from past lives. I believe there is an overarching intelligence that orchestrates connections between lovers for the sake of facilitating their mutual evolution. However, I question whether any astrologer can know how this is depicted in the birthchart, much less what the outcome is likely to be. From my perspective, to claim such knowledge is a pretension of omniscience.

The Vedic astrologer went on to say that the foremost thing in advising individuals about their prospective relationships is to determine which of several suitors is destined to be the life partner. Next, the astrologer determines the future destiny of that partnership, “fortunate or unfortunate.” Of course, it is futile to match someone with the best possible person if “he/she is not destined for that.”

The presumption here is that the astrologer can assess whether someone is destined to be permanently unhappy in relationships, in which case the doomed lover is a lost cause and no amount of good advice will alter “the pattern of destiny.” Whereas some astrological factors assure that people are tied together for a “good and fortunate outcome,” other factors indicate that the couple ties the knot “just for exchanging pain.”

Frankly, I am troubled by this kind of astrology. I feel strongly that we need to exercise humility and caution when advising individuals about their relationships. The great seduction of astrology is that horoscopes indicate a probable fate in such areas as love and marriage. The very notion of an inborn fate naturally invites speculation as to causes. If one believes in reincarnation, which is taken for granted in Vedic astrology, then a logical conclusion is that one’s marital fate has been earned on the basis of past deeds in past lives.

Again, I have no problem with this general line of thinking. My concern is with the presumption that 1) karmic causes can be discerned from the chart of the prospective couple, and 2) karmic outcomes are foreseeable and irreversible. With regard to the latter point, one of the more destructive myths of traditional astrology is that the chart determines the person – or, in the case of couples, the synastry determines the outcome of the relationship. Implicit in astral-determinism is the notion that horoscopes presage an unalterable destiny that the individual/couple is powerless to avert.

A Three-Pronged Challenge
There are at least three problems with this perspective. First, it is presumptuous in the extreme to claim to know anything about past lives on the basis of the astrological chart, regardless of how logical one’s inferences might seem. Past lives are not observable; thus, using horoscopes to make statements about past-life causes and their present-life effects is equivalent to playing God. Astrologers may believe that planetary configurations have karmic implications, but this is different from claiming to know their origins and ultimate outcomes.

Second, any single configuration is invariably nested within the larger whole of the chart. Because the whole predominates over the part, the meaning of any one configuration is influenced by its relations with every other configuration. For example, Venus opposed Saturn in one chart can be ameliorated by making a sextile and trine to Jupiter; in another, it can be exacerbated by forming a T-square to Pluto. Accordingly, assigning fixed, concrete meanings to singular aspects is imprudent.

Third, there is no way of knowing the level of consciousness of a person merely by looking at their chart. As people grow, heal, and mature, they express their charts at progressively higher levels of self-actualization. Emergent properties of consciousness are a product of the relative integration of chart factors. Since integration occurs over time in response to effort and learning, individuals have the power to gradually alter how their charts are expressed.

All of this implies that there is an inescapable indeterminacy to chart outcomes. This is all the more true with couples wherein the level of interactional complexity between chart variables is even greater. Just as with individuals, it is impossible to know the couple’s level of awareness merely on the basis of their respective horoscopes.

As stated, I have no problem utilizing a past-life, karmic perspective in working with couples. In doing so, however, process must be distinguished from content. Consider, for example, a couple in which one partner’s Neptune opposes the other’s Venus. It may be that Neptune opposed Venus imposes certain limitations and requirements that stem from the past-life history of that couple. However, all we can know with certainty is that they will be jointly challenged to coordinate conflicting Venus/Neptune processes—twoness versus oneness, attachment versus letting go, possessiveness versus dissolution, and conflict resolution versus a pretense of perpetual bliss.

Distinctions between these behaviors can be subtle and require more space to articulate than is possible here. Suffice to say that the process of Neptune opposed Venus pertains to the intrapsychic field of the two partners. Whereas each planet signifies a different set of needs, drives, and values, the angle between them (opposition) connotes a co-created belief that predicts the relative likelihood of each planet fulfilling its needs in relation to the other. Ultimately, a relational strategy will emerge for negotiating the challenge.

Whereas process refers to the intrapsychic world, content refers to the external world of people, places, and things—in short, the event world. As always, content mirrors process, but content is unknowable until it becomes manifest. While there are a variety of possible scenarios that could result from this fundamental clash of archetypes, the point here is that the astrologer cannot know how the couple will negotiate the conflict and, therefore, what the outcome will be. How capable are they of managing the tension of opposites? Given the various options, what will they actually choose to do?

As astrologers, we can know the nature of the challenge they face; that is, the process, but we cannot know how successful they will be in meeting it. Content is, and must always remain, indeterminate until choices are made and the outcome is known. Even then, an outcome is never a singular event, but an event-pattern that is capable of evolving toward more satisfying results over time.

A Synastry Example: Neptune Opposition Venus
As an astrologer and marriage therapist for the past thirty years, I have seen firsthand how the same synastric aspect between couples can have radically different manifestations. For example, one couple I treated with a Neptune opposition Venus cross-aspect suffered lies and duplicity and multiple affairs, which is certainly consistent with one meaning of this aspect.

By the time they came to therapy, there were too many nails in the coffin. Divorce was almost inevitable. It was apparent they had colluded in avoiding the conflicts in their relationship from the beginning. Tensions only grew stronger over the years, eventually culminating in both partners having affairs. Not wanting to “hurt” or “disillusion” their partner with their mutual misgivings, they sought solace outside the relationship.

In this particular case, Neptune operated to cloud and deny the real differences between the two partners. As ruler of Libra, Venus’ function is to negotiate compromises, which requires communication, recognition of conflict, and acknowledgment of differences. If this is avoided in the service of what marital therapists called “pseudomutuality,” it can eventually lead to a deadening of feeling, lack of sexual excitement, and mutual withdrawal.

Pseudomutuality is an attempt to preserve relatedness and prevent separation (loss) by maintaining a façade of harmony. Partners pretend to want the same things, have identical feelings, and share the same values.[2] With pseudomutuality, real differences are obscured because they are perceived as a threat to the integrity of the relationship. Differentiation of identity is sacrificed for the sake of a fragile intimacy. Zest, spontaneity, humor, and originality are blotted out in favor of a predictable conformity within narrow parameters. Partners become enmeshed, indistinguishable from one another. “Twin flames,” “soul mates,” and other terms implying eternal and unbounded love are frequently utilized to reinforce the illusion of permanent togetherness and, by implication, the impossibility of separation.

Lack of differentiation and resultant enmeshment is precisely what can happen when Neptune gains the upper hand on Venus and subordinates it to an ideal of unity, bliss, and transcendence of duality. Conflict is denied because it does not conform to the Neptunian fantasy of infinite love and beauty. Venus, likewise, resists the Neptunian imperative for loss and dissolution by maintaining rigid compliance to the wishes and wants of the partner.[3] What results is a false intimacy, which, over time, weakens any authentic attraction that might have once existed.

This is exactly what my Venus-Neptune couple did throughout their marriage. An unconscious collusion to deny differences and avoid conflict gradually eroded their feelings for one another until, finally, their marriage was but an empty shell. It cannot be stated too strongly, however, that such an outcome is not a fait accompli. For the doomed couple had other choices. At a higher level of integration, Neptune opposed Venus can be a very different experience.

A second couple I treated with this same cross-aspect regarded their relationship as a spiritual path. Strongly influenced by the work of John Welwood, they saw their marriage, in part, as a vehicle for cultivating a deeper capacity for compassion, empathy, and forgiveness.[4] They accepted that occasional conflicts and disappointments were the inevitable consequence of being married, and they knew that the idealizing projections that initially elevated their romantic feelings to an unrealistic “high” would gradually dissolve away, bursting their fantasy of perpetual bliss and leaving disillusionment in its stead. Rather than avoid such an experience, they welcomed it, for it opened the door to a deeper, more authentic love rooted in the mutual recognition that they were both flawed, imperfect human beings.

This sort of agreement reflects a more mature, integrated version of Neptune opposed Venus. Rather than cloak their disappointments in a fog of deceit that masqueraded as ideal love, their disenchantment with one another became a catalyst for practicing self-disclosure, sacrificing rigid self-interest, expressing humility, confessing shortcomings, and offering forgiveness. In so doing, they grew over time to embody that more perfect union that Venus-Neptune at its best presages.

In both cases, there was an effort to elevate relationship to a higher plane. The first couple attempted this by denying their differences, avoiding conflict, and substituting fantasy for reality. The second couple achieved it by forgiving their differences, resolving conflict with compassion, and using their relationship as a stimulus to psychospiritual development. The first couple’s relationship dissolved in tragic divorce, whereas the second couple merely dissolved their defenses against loss and opened to the ecstatic pain of undefended love.

These two examples make the case that it is impossible to know how a synastric aspect is going to manifest without talking to the client(s). Invariably, there are lower and higher versions on a continuum of integration. The astrologer’s job, as I see it, is not to predict what will happen in a relationship, but to articulate the nature of the challenge, outline a range of potential outcomes, and support the couple in moving toward an optimal expression of the relevant variables.

Healthy Skepticism
After working with several thousand clients over the past three decades, it has been my experience that it is not possible to predict from horoscopes how individuals or couples will approach the challenges they invariably face. Accordingly, to presume on the basis of a birthchart whether a client will or will not marry, or whether they will ever be happily married, or how a specific relationship will turn out, or whom the client should marry, exemplifies hubris in the extreme.

I realize that predicting couple compatibility is a common practice in the east where arranged marriages are the norm. However, marriages can be arranged without the presumption that astrologers can predict compatibility. Even when couples consciously choose one another as we do in the west, we cannot predict long term compatibility merely on the basis of horoscopes, even if many of us presume we can. I have seen too many couples with soft aspects that fail, and others with a preponderance of hard aspects who succeed. One of the happiest marriages I ever witnessed was a couple with virtually no cross aspects.

My guiding principle in working with couples is that if two people are attracted to one another they should make their decision about commitment on the basis of what they know about the other person. Is this a person of good character? Is he or she responsible? I would never advise a client not to pursue a relationship on the basis of astrology, either natal or synastry. However, if my client told me that she just met a man with a criminal record who is currently dealing drugs, I don’t care what the synastry says, I would advise her to get clear about her values and reflect on the probable long term consequences of the relationship.

Vice versa, if a client wanted my opinion on a natal or synastry chart that was full of conflict, I would never suggest that she relinquish the relationship. Instead, I would discuss the challenges and opportunities of the union. My job as an astrologer is not to advise my clients on how to avoid difficulties, but how best to meet them.

Just as there is no way of knowing from a birthchart an individual’s capacity for actualizing the full potential of their hard aspects, there is no way of knowing a couple’s capacity for managing the tensions that will inevitably arise between them. Again, the person is not the chart, and the couple is not the synastry. Advising people to be or not to be in any specific relationship on the basis of astrology is unconscionable, in my opinion. Accordingly, I question the Vedic practice of speaking authoritatively on whom someone should marry; I am challenging the assertion that astrologers can reliably and consistently predict the outcome of a relationship.

The point here is that we need to balance our faith in astrology with a healthy skepticism. Not everything that is written is true, and this is especially so in astrology where shoddy scholarship is the norm.[5] Even a cursory review of the field exposes that much of the literature is contradictory. My own rule of thumb is that the older a claim the more it is suspect. As this principle holds true in virtually every other field of knowledge—medicine, geography, physics, biology, and so on—I find it troubling when astrologers enthusiastically and uncritically embrace knowledge claims from 2000 years ago and immediately begin applying them with clients. I have a word for this: astro-fundamentalism.

There is plenty of nonsense published in modern astrology, too. For example, there are endless books purporting which signs are compatible: Aries does not get along with Cancer; Cancers are not compatible with Capricorns, and so on. Of course, the problem here is that signs are not people. But whole horoscopes are not people, either. We may recognize that a real chart is a map of bewildering complexity; still, the map is not the territory. A horoscope is but a two dimensional approximation of a three dimensional, living, evolving, historical being that can only be truly known through discovery—in this case, discovering who the couple is at their present juncture by talking to them.

The Importance of Right Attitude
In my experience, the single most important factor in determining how an astrological challenge will be met is attitude. By attitude I mean the prevailing intention, feeling, and underlying beliefs that govern an individual’s behavior in specific contexts. Attitudes can be positive or negative, friendly or hostile, confident or fearful, allowing or resisting. Moreover, they can be different in different situations, and they are capable of evolving over time. Suffice to say that one cannot discern attitude from the astrological chart alone.

Some couples approach problems with the attitude that anger and conflict should be avoided at all cost. If one person’s Mars squares the other’s Moon, this type of attitude might result in “gunny sacking,” which means grievances are repressed only to appear later in a toxic emotional atmosphere between the couple. This can lead to passive aggression, sarcasm, covert hostility, and a host of other noxious behaviors.

However, if a couple believes that conflict is unavoidable and even healthy in a relationship, this same cross-aspect may symbolize an emotional aliveness between the couple that leads to greater clarity and enhanced sensitivity. Conflicts are approached with courage and with a willingness to be disappointed because the participants don’t harbor illusions that things will always be good between them. At higher levels of integration, angry feelings can be contained and transmuted into an assertion of vulnerability: “When you break our agreements,” one partner says, “I feel hurt; my trust is damaged.”

In the following scenario, a synastic conflict between freedom (Mars) and closeness (Moon) is openly acknowledged between two newlyweds who know nothing about astrology. The husband wants to do a weekend activity separate from his wife, which evokes feelings of rejection in her. The conflict is discussed, hurt feelings are tolerated, reassurances offered, and a compromise negotiated that allows for both needs to be met.

Husband: I’d like to go fishing with Bob (friend). We’ll probably be gone all day.

Wife: I thought we agreed to work in the yard today, and then have a cookout with my parents. I’m disappointed that you’re breaking our plans.

Husband: I’m sorry, honey, but I thought we were going to do that next week.

Wife: I must admit I’m feeling a bit neglected. I could be imagining this, but it seems like you’re less interested in spending time with me lately. We used to spend every weekend together.

Husband: To tell you the truth; it’s a conflict for me. I feel that since we bought the house, I’ve been neglecting my friends. Of course I want to be with you, but part of me feels restless and wants to spend some time doing guy-stuff that’s no fun for you. I realize I haven’t talked about this, so there’s no way you would know. [Lets this sink in].

Wife: (Sad) Well, I’m glad you told me, because I didn’t know you were feeling that way.

Husband: Please understand: this has nothing to do with my feelings for you. I love you just as much as I ever did, and I love spending time with you; I’m just trying to get a bit more balance in my life (smiles). How about tomorrow we spend the day doing stuff together? Let’s work in the yard and maybe afterwards have a cookout down by the lake, just the two of us?

Wife: Thanks for that. I feel better. I do understand that it’s important that we have some time apart. So yes, yard work and cookout sounds great – tomorrow (smiles back). What is significant in this exchange is that the couple found a way to manage their Mars-Moon conflict that actually enhanced their intimacy. The agreement to have time apart implies that neither partner need fear being engulfed by the other. Permission to be separate (Mars) makes it safer to be close (Moon); it also enhances feelings of appreciation, for the psyche rejoices when conflicting needs are mutually fulfilled. Also, trust is deepened when the couple realizes that one or the other can be angry without jeopardizing the relationship. Knowing that conflicts can be resolved without damage means they don’t have to repress their anger, hurt, or disappointment. This is liberating and enlivening. Of course, for such an exchange to take place both partners must have the right attitude—mutual trust, openness, and faith in one another’s capacity to tolerate negative feelings. As always, attitude is not discernable from the charts of the two participants. If client assessment reveals that a healthy attitude toward conflict is not, in fact, present, it can be taught and modeled by good astrological counseling. The first step is to describe the Mars-Moon conflict at a process level and then inquire how they are handling it. A process description does not assume any particular outcome, but rather articulates the nature of the conflict itself. For example, the astrologer might start by explaining…

Tom’s Mars is squaring Karen’s Moon. This suggests that Tom’s need for independence may sometimes clash with Karen’s wish for closeness. Obviously, both needs are important. Does this ever come up between you? And if so, how do you handle it?

More detail about the conflict could certainly be provided, but this cuts to the heart of the matter and serves the purpose of eliciting further information. If the couple is doing well, then validation is in order, with perhaps further description as to the significance of the challenge and its redeeming value. If they are doing poorly, encouragement is in order, with guidance on how to contain negative feelings, honor both sides of the issue, and move toward a compromise in which conflicting Mars-Moon needs can be equally fulfilled.

The astrologer might say:

It’s not uncommon for couples to equate separation (Mars) with rejection (Moon). In fact, however, the more you can honor and acknowledge each other’s need to be apart, the more closeness becomes possible, for then you won’t fear being smothered by one another. Moon without Mars can be emotionally sticky; Mars without Moon can be abrasive. When the two are working together, you have just the right balance—emotional support for one another’s need to be apart, and the courage to be emotionally vulnerable (close) when the situation calls for it.

Karen, next time you’re feeling neglected, talk about it with Tom, but in a way that does not imply he’s responsible. And Tom, try not to feel guilty about Karen’s feelings. Don’t assume it’s your fault; instead, try to empathize with her point of view while holding on to your own needs at the same time. Vice versa, Karen, try to empathize with Tom’s need for time apart while holding on to your need for closeness, too. These are not mutually exclusive needs; rather, they simply have to be expressed and understood on both sides.

The astrologer could go on to describe how negotiating a Mars-Moon conflict promotes differentiation, deepens intimacy, and increases feelings of aliveness and erotic attraction. If the couple is interested in doing further work, a marriage therapist could be recommended.

This approach to astrology models that hard aspects are actually conducive to marital satisfaction, for they provide the necessary spur to keep things moving on an upward trajectory of mutual growth. Nothing is more deadly to intimacy than stagnation. As with all living systems, the operative rule is grow or die. A Mars-Moon square stimulates the couple to develop a capacity for containment of archetypal tensions: autonomy and closeness, independence and dependence, strength and tenderness.

It is a common assumption in astrology that soft aspects between couples are conducive to marital harmony. This may be so, to some extent, but soft aspects are no assurance of marital bliss. Too much ease in a relationship can lead to passivity and pseudomutuality—lack of differentiation, superficiality, and enabling.[6] In such cases, eroticism evaporates rather quickly and soon the couple may find themselves zoning out in front of the TV, enjoying their gin and tonic more than their yin and yang. Hard aspects, on the other hand, can lead to spirited discussions, mutual growth in awareness, enhanced conflict resolution skills, and a resultant deepening of authentic intimacy. Again, the critical factor is attitude.

Conclusion
Astrologers are often called upon to answer questions pertaining to relationships. Presuming to know whether a relationship is likely to be “fortunate or unfortunate,” telling people who is their “best partner,” or claiming to know that a couple has come together “just for exchanging pain,” may make the astrologer feel supremely important, but it can be damaging to the client. With this kind of astrology, the most you can be is right. Whether or not you have helped your client is another matter entirely. Because astrology is a powerful and somewhat magical tool, it is terribly important that we do not become inflated with our presumed knowledge. As Will Rogers quipped, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble; it’s what we know that isn’t so.” In other words, it’s what we think we know that is not, in fact, true that is potentially destructive to clients. Humility, recognition of fallibility, and openness to uncertainty are among the most important qualities an astrologer can possess. Beyond that, I recommend that astrologers err on the side of hope and express faith that clients’ can manage and integrate their most challenging aspects. Given the demonstrable human capacity for change, such an attitude is not merely optimistic; it is realistic.

* * * * *

Notes

[1] I am respectfully withholding the name of the publication and the author as I do not wish to embarass either.

[2] Wynne, L.C., The epigenesis of relational systems: A model for understanding family development. Family Process 23: 297-318, 1984.

[3] Neptune often requires loss and dissolution as a precursor to the development of compassion, humility, and willingness to surrender to a higher power.

[4] John Welwood is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist whose books include the best selling Journey of the Heart (1991) and Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship (1996). He and his wife, Jennifer, lead workshops on conscious relationship and psychospiritual work across the country.

[5] This is not to impugn the intelligence of astrologers. Many are unquestionably brilliant. However, a consequence of our being banished from academia for the past 300 years has unavoidably led to a lowering of standards in the field. In the absence of standards, a lack of critical thinking and paucity of good research is the inevitable result.

[6] Enabling refers to behaviors wherein one partner is overly permissive or protective and therefore allows the other partner to continue practices that are destructive, e.g., laziness, gambling, excessive drinking, avoidance of responsibility, violence, and the like.

Personality, Astrology and Fate

Personality, Astrology and Fate

By Glenn Perry

 

What is the relationship between personality, astrology and fate? As a theory of personality, AstroPsychology presents a view of fate that connects the contour of external events to the internal patterns of psyche. As without, so within. Character and fate are flip sides of the same coin. 

The term ‘personality’ refers to the outer, surface manifestation of the self, those qualities and attributes of a person that are relatively consistent across situations. In that regard, personality is an emergent or summary product of all discrete responses and behaviors. This definition, however, ignores the psychodynamic underpinnings that constitute the roots of personality, the hidden motives and intrapsychic conflicts, defenses, and compromises from which all behavior springs.

Questing for Origins
My own personality compels me to investigate the deeper, less known or knowable dimensions of the psyche. From whence does personality arise? What are its true causes and origins? And how is it related to that numinous, mysterious document we call the horoscope?

At a deeper level of analysis, one could say that personality is a unique pattern of traits resulting from the organization of underlying variables. But what are these variables and how did they come to be so organized? It is one thing to say that personality is the dynamic organization within the individual that determines characteristic behavior and thought; it is another to ask what determines that organization and what are the components of which it is comprised.

From an astrological perspective, we can readily see the organization of personality in the horoscope. Motivating signs activate their ruling planets, which tenant their own signs, occupy houses, and are in mutual influence (aspect) with one another. The horoscope constitutes a dynamic, geometric organization of angular relations between planetary functions. As such, it defines the parameters of both personality and fate. The birthchart is, in effect, a symbolic portrait of one’s inner and outer life.

Ah, but there’s the rub: inner and outer. To claim that outer events are meaningfully related to inner dynamics constitutes a radical departure from contemporary psychology­—with the exception, perhaps, of Jung and to a lesser extent psychodynamic theorists who recognize the ubiquity of projective processes and the hypnotic, controlling effects they have upon recipients. Both, however, stop short of the astrological perspective, which maintains that subjective and objective realities are synchronous from birth. For astrologers, this truth is self-evident. One might wonder, however, by what vast, unfathomable Intelligence did such a horoscopic order arise—an order that not only gives birth to the mystery we call personality but which mirrors it every step of the way by fated circumstance?

Are we to believe such ongoing synchrony is simply an accident of no particular meaning or purpose? Or, alternatively, that a human life is merely the plaything of a supreme, inscrutable, but all-determining force, a cosmic puppeteer who through planetary strings controls our every thought, action, and experience?

My own view is that both of these positions are untenable. To presume that some blind, unintelligent, mechanistic force has accidentally orchestrated the subtle yet exquisite dance that occurs between psyche and environment—a dance that continues from birth to death—flies in the face of common sense. Likewise, it seems pointless in the extreme that free will could merely be an illusion and, by implication, life merely the robotic enactment of a pre-programmed fate unfolding across time for reasons that bear no relationship to one’s own choices.

An Alternative View
At the heart of AstroPsychology is an implicit theory of causality that is radically opposed to the determinism of both psychological and (some) astrological models. It does not as­sume that personality is a by-product of externally originating factors such as genetics or environment (nature or nurture), nor that psycho­logical problems are by-products of an un­healthy culture, traumatic experi­ences, or faulty child rearing. It also does not assume that planetary placements at the moment of birth are the determinants of personality and fate.

While every astrologer knows that personality is reflected in the birthchart, this is not the same thing as claiming that planetary configurations determine personality. Correlations are not causes. For example, there seems to be incontrovertible evidence that genetics play a role in shaping personality. Childhood experiences, too, are thought to impact development and subsequent behavior. Again, however, it does not necessarily follow that nature and nurture are primary determinants. A reincarnational perspective holds that both genetic inheritance and childhood experiences are derivatives of a higher dimensional reality—a soul that incarnates into an appropriately chosen body, organizes its genome for particular ends, and once born attracts an ongoing sequence of synchronistic events and conditions, all for the sake of specific learning experiences.

Because personality and environ­ment constitute a matched pair that is symbolized by the chart from the first breath, astrology suggests that character and destiny are co-fated and thus co-evolve. In other words, the primary contributors to the development of the individual—genetic inheritance (nature) and early formative experiences (nurture)—may be the two-pronged manifestation of a pre-existent, incarnating consciousness reflected by the organization of the horoscope as a whole.

Every human birth is nested in a hierarchy of conditions that appear to be interdependent. First, there is the cosmic order at the time and place of birth; second there is a genetic inheritance that impacts both physiology and psychology, and third there is the quality of the family and social environment, which have their own effects. From an astrological perspective, all of these factors appear to be interconnected and reflective of one another. Even physical appearance—something we assume is wholly genetic—is never-the-less consistent with the nature of the horoscope. Every zodiacal sign has physical characteristics that make it distinguishable from every other sign, thus providing an astrological overlay to hereditary influences. There is something in the body that transcends genetics, shaping the genome by an invisible hand that reflects the order of the birthchart.

The longer I study astrology and witness the indisputable and nearly miraculous correlations between physical, psychological, and experiential factors, the more it seems absurd that such a confluence could have occurred by chance. As Liz Greene points out, what we call Fate is indissolubly bound up with justice and law rather than a random predetermin­ing force that dic­tates a person’s every action and experience.1

Fate was called Moira by the Greeks and evolved from a vision of an orderly, interconnected cosmos. As the guard­ian of justice, Moira was simply natural law raised to the status of a deity. She embodied the principle that be­cause humans are part of Nature they cannot violate nature’s laws without suffer­ing the consequences; i.e., a person cannot repudi­ate an arche­type or express an ar­chetype to excess without exact­ing a penalty designed to correct the transgression.

In this regard, fate is a cause and effect principle analogous to the eastern doc­trine of karma. It is not simply a blessing or punish­ment conspired by the gods, but a corrective process in the service of a transcen­dent purpose. And this purpose is that human beings evolve toward a fuller realiza­tion of the divine order that they natu­rally embody.

By combining the doctrine of karma with the the­ory of astrology we can account for the fated quality of a person’s life and character. Although the chart may be a seed-plan or blueprint of destiny, in the end we are talking about a self-created destiny. The infinite wisdom of the cosmos decrees that a person is born when the planets are ar­ranged in a pattern that reflects the fate which that individual has earned on the basis of past actions in past lives. Subsequent experienc­es with one’s culture and caretakers derive from a pre-existent psychic structure. The environ­ment then, beginning with the body, is not so much a primary as a secondary cause of behavior; it is a mirror reflecting the soul’s already existing internal order.

From the perspective of contemporary psychology, this is a radical notion that challenges conventional assumptions about the etiology of pathology. It implies that the environment confirms, but does not origi­nate, the child’s prima­ry anxieties and inner conflicts. Again, one cannot dispute envi­ronmental deficits and their effects. What needs to be considered, however, is the individual’s accountabil­ity. In this view, the experienced environment consti­tutes karmic feedback to activate, correct, and refine a person’s innate character, however long and painful this process may be.

With regard to parent-child dynamics, the original view was that influence flowed one way, from parent to child. A mother’s shortcomings compromised the quality of her care and could negatively impact the child’s development. More recent studies, however, suggest that the child has as much effect on the parent as the parent has on the child; thus, the parent-child relationship is circular and recipro­cal. Children are active participants in determining the quality of care they receive.2 Jung’s doctrine of synchronicity extends this idea across the whole life span, suggesting that the repetitive nature of certain experiences is meaningfully related to attitudes, beliefs, and intentions chronically held.3

A similar situation exists at a biological level. Early genetic theory held that the genome was a closed system, impervious to influence except via random mutations caused by externally originating, capricious circumstances such as radiation or chemical assault. Over the last fifty years, however, evidence has been rapidly accumulating that the genome is adaptive and can be altered by learning and acting, which turns certain genes on or off, thus shaping anatomy and resultant physical capacity. And because learning can be intentional, it follows that the human genome is responsive to free will.4 The upshot is that consciousness is primary and may be the pre-eminent cause of derivative processes that range from the type of events we attract to purposeful genetic changes that impact biological functioning.

If Character is Destiny, then focus on Character
AstroPsychology emphasizes character over fate for a simple reason: human beings have more control over character than fate; thus, character deserves the greater emphasis. While outer and inner reflect one another in a process of ongoing, reciprocal influence, real change starts on the inside. Only by raising awareness, resolving internal conflicts, cultivating positive values, and making good choices can repetitive patterns of outer experience be appreciably changed. As the Roman philosopher Cicero stated long ago, “We don’t see things are they are; we see things as we are.”

Astrology and fate

Early childhood conditions signify the first and thus prototypical event pattern that reflects psychic structure. Cognitive behavioral psychology holds that what is most important about events is not the event itself, but how we react to it; experience and experiencer constitute an interactive system. Of course, this does not mean that the environment is merely the effect of how we perceive it. The constructivist position that we construct a reality on the basis of our meaning attributions is only relatively valid. It is valid in the sense that how a person interprets events is going to shape his subsequent experience; his interpretations will influence his feelings and behavior, and these, in turn, will influence responses from others.

In this sense, each person does construct a reality that conforms to his or her subjective world. That subjective world, however, initially derives from a pattern of experience starting in infancy. It is this original, objective reality that suggests an inherited karmic fate earned on the basis of past actions in past lives.

Emotionally significant childhood experiences – the prototypical event pattern – become internalized and subsequently flesh out the innate contours of a pre-existent character. Formative experiences are formative precisely because they are metabolized to become part of psychic structure. Organization of the self includes mental habits, defenses, beliefs, expectations, and representations of self and other, all of which begin in childhood yet are prefigured by the horoscope before any actual learning takes place.

Again, this formulation is consistent with Jung’s theory of synchronicity and his definition of archetypes as having a psychoid factor, meaning they shape matter as well as mind. A basic tenet of Jungian psychology (and AstroPsychology) is that archetypes are non-local; they do not reside solely within the psyche as structural elements, but rather are inherent in nature as a whole. Archetypes are immanent and thus infinitely diffused throughout nature. It is precisely this non-local, psychoid quality of planetary archetypes that mediate a meaningful connection between inner, psychic factors and outer, objective events.

Heraclitus’ famous dictum, “character is destiny,” implied that subjective character and objective fate were two sides of the same coin. However, unless this maxim is framed in a context that includes reincarnation, we are forced into a deterministic model: the assumption that planetary forces, or a capricious creator, or random chance (genetic and social) is the ultimate determinant of character and destiny. I reject determinism unequivocally, not merely because it is profoundly disempowering, but because the primacy of consciousness as causal reality is increasingly supported by testimony at every level of human knowledge, from spiritual to scientific.

We are creatures of fate, yet have the power to choose. This is the classic paradox in which astrology and all human life is embedded. As a paradox, it can only be resolved at a higher level that postulates an eternal, evolving consciousness that incarnates as character and destiny, fate and free will. Ultimately, the horoscope can be interpreted as a learning process that symbolizes the subjective world, the objective world, and the dynamic feedback relations between the two.

If we have the capacity to learn from self-created experiences, then evolution is built into the very structure of the horoscope. The two alternative views—experience as entirely random, or fate as completely fixed—both equally deny the possibility of a divine purpose in human affairs; the first because it suggests the Universe is indifferent to human learning and the second because growth is pointless if it cannot empower individuals to better their circumstances.

If there is one thing that modern psychology has established beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s that people can and do change. We so take this for granted in the 21st century that it is easy to forget that the astrology of our forbears was largely based on the presumption that people cannot change; thus, all was foretold by the stars. This is a pernicious belief that must be dispelled.

The view here is that fate can be massaged in the direction of more satisfying outcomes to the extent that the individual learns from feedback processes that are set in motion by his own choices. The exact degree to which fate can be altered must remain speculative. Still, this is an infinitely more hopeful vision than those twin pillars of despair—endlessly random experience or irrevocably fixed outcomes. Perhaps the greatest contribution of psychological astrology is the idea that character is fate, and if we can alter our character, we can mutate our fate.

* * * * *

Notes and References

1 Greene, Liz (1984). The astrology of fate. York Beach, MI: Samuel Weiser.

2 See, for example, Stern, Daniel (2000), The Interpersonal World of the Infant. New York: Basic Books. Also, Gopnik et. al., (1999). The Scientist in the Crib, New York: William Morrow. Information about children’s impact on parenting was evident as early as the 1970’s. See Segal, J. & Yahres, H. (1978). “Bringing Up Mother,” Psychology Today, November, 1978, p. 93.

3 Jung, C. (1955). Synchronicity: An acausal connect­ing principle. In C. Jung & W. Pauli, The Interpre­tation of nature and psyche (pp. 1-146). New York: Pantheon.

4 See, for example, Koestler, Arthur (1978), Janus: A summing up. New York: Vintage Books. Also, Dodge, Norman (2007). The Brain that Changes Itself. London: Penguin Books. Another good resource is Litvak, S., & Senzee, A.W. (1986). Toward a new brain: Evolution and the human mind. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Toward an Astrological Theory of Personality

Toward an Astrological
Theory of Personality

By Glenn Perry


Astrological theory of personalityW
hen I attended graduate school in the 1980’s, one of my favorite courses was Personality Theory. With my Moon Sagittarius in the 8th, I was naturally drawn to broad, overarching theories that pertained to family therapy and childhood wounds. However, my dream then, as now, was to develop astrology into a radical, new theory of personality—that is, an astrological theory of personality.

Our main text for the course was Hall and Lindsay’s classic tome, Theories of Personality.1 According to the authors, any adequate theory of personality must accomplish the following minimal objectives:

  1. It must be comprehensive, or integrative, in that it deals with the total, functioning person.

  2. It must account for what motivates the human being.

  3. It must contain a set of empirical definitions concerning the various parts of the personality, thus permitting observation.

  4. It must consist of a network of assumptions about behavior that are systematically related in accordance with certain rules.

  5. It must be useful in that it is capable of generating predictions about behavior that are testable and verifiable, thus expanding knowledge.

It was immediately apparent that astrology met all these requirements. Astrology is comprehensive in that it is concerned with all the parts and processes that make up the human psyche. The signs of the zodiac symbolize the basic drives that motivate human conduct, and their planetary rulers constitute parts of psychic structure that are empirically defined, thus permitting observation. Rules of chart interpretation—chart synthesis—represent a network of assumptions about behavior that are systematically related. Finally, astrology is useful in that it is capable of generating predictions that are verifiable, thus promoting research and expanding knowledge.

The credibility of astrology as a personality theory hinges on whether there is sufficient evidence to confirm predictions of behavior symbolized by planetary configurations. If predictions regarding the expression of astro-variables consistently match up with empirical data, then the theory is confirmed. A simple example should suffice to illustrate this.

Saturn on the Ascendant
If a person has Saturn on the Ascendant, our theory would predict that the function symbolized by Saturn would be a salient, leading feature of personality. Saturn would describe that person’s instinctive manner of asserting and surviving in the world. This prediction is based on related assumptions that…

  1. The Ascendant is a conspicuous, observable element of personality that pertains to assertion, survival, and self-interest.

  2. Planets conjunct the Ascendant will be prominent in behaviors relevant to these concerns, e.g., action oriented activities (competition, fighting, war), and new experiences (fresh starts, novelty, adventure).

  3. The behavioral style of Ascendant planets will be implicit in the subject’s instinctive way of interfacing with the world (first impressions, persona).

Saturn can be defined as the function of organization and achievement. It is associated with disciplined, responsible behavior geared toward satisfying Capricornian needs for structure and success. Since Saturn has an empirical definition, this permits us to test the validity of our assumptions. A behavioral prediction that involves Saturn on the Ascendant might be the following:

The subject is instinctively and noticeably Saturnian—organized, disciplined, controlled, serious, and ambitious. A strong need for structure, order, and achievement is readily apparent. There might be a melancholy streak and a tendency to view life realistically rather than idealistically. Issues of survival and freedom are approached with determination and a sense of heavy responsibility. New beginnings are undertaken methodically with an eye for long term success. Whatever this person begins will tend to have substance and longevity. A new organization may be founded.

To test this formulation, the behavior and experience of people with Saturn on the Ascendant would need to be assessed. A researcher might also determine whether and how Saturn’s expression is colored by its sign position.

If a researcher can demonstrate that test subjects do, in fact, appear to be instinctively disciplined, realistic, serious, cautious, and responsible; and that they behave this way specifically in relation to 1st house concerns; and that Saturnian behavior is qualified by its sign position, then our hypothesis is confirmed. Further nuances can be discerned by examining additional parts of the horoscope that relate to Saturn—its aspects, dispositor, and the like. Validation of our hypothesis lends support to astrology as a theory of personality.

Five Case Examples
One of the advantages of contemporary astrology is that there is a wealth of available data for researching hypotheses. A quick search of my chart records reveals that Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Sean Connery, Eugene O’Neill, and Joseph Stalin all have Saturn on the Ascendant. By definition, these individuals are likely to be ambitious, organized, and disciplined or they would never have attained the heights of accomplishment for which they are renowned. However, the devil is in the details. Astrology predicts that the style and substance of their achievements will be related to Saturn’s position by sign and house—in this case, the 1st house. While it is not necessary to discuss all the relevant accomplishments of each individual, there should be at least one defining event or theme in each person’s life that encapsulates the configuration.

Jimmy Carter, who has Saturn in Scorpio, was the 39th president of the United States. His presidency was largely defined by a failure to effectively manage the Iran Hostage crisis of 1979-80. Here we see how the Saturnian verb to manage is operating in the Scorpionic domain of crisis and in a first house context of war/survival. With the lives of 52 US diplomats at stake, Carter not only failed to negotiate their release over a period of 444 days, but presided over a botched rescue attempt that resulted in the crash of two aircraft and the deaths of eight American military men.

The entire incident could be interpreted as a metaphor of Carter’s cutbacks in defense spending and the resultant weakening of the military during his administration. Saturn, which is associated with contraction (downsizing), was expressed in relation to 1st house matters of assertion/war.

This, however, does not tell the whole story of Carter’s relation to the military. His horoscope reveals that the planet of aggression—Mars—is opposing Neptune in the 10th, suggesting that Carter’s instinct for survival is compromised by Neptunian ideals of compassion, forgiveness, and surrender. Moreover, these Neptunian proclivities are specifically operating in the context of career and authority (10th house), thus weakening his ability as commander in chief.

In effect, Mars opposition Neptune is a contributory factor to why Carter’s 1st house Saturn leaned toward cautuion (Saturn) with regard to war/aggression (1st house). While this particular expression is consistent with Saturn’s placement in the 1st, it is not its only option. As we shall see with Margaret Thatcher, Saturn in the 1st can take a rather aggressive turn if supported by other factors.

With Saturn in Scorpio in the 1st, it is noteworthy that Carter’s administration was marked by continuous crises, most notably in the area of economics. We know that the sign of Scorpio is associated with themes of crisis and upheaval. It also rules economics. Carter had to bear responsibility for double-digit inflation, record high interest rates, soaring unemployment, and creeping economic growth (stagflation). Other crises included 1) an energy (1st house) crisis caused by reduced oil supplies and rising gas prices; 2) a crisis of confidence in government caused by the Vietnam War and Watergate; and 3) the Iran Hostage Crisis.

Carter’s Saturn in Scorpio in the 1st, along with his Mars-Neptune opposition on the 4th/10th house axis, seems entirely consistent with a general weakening of the United States both economically and militarily during his administration. There was a pervasive sense of resentment, malaise, and disillusionment toward government. As always, the chart of a nation’s leader both presages and reflects the tenor of the times.

On the other hand, the same configurations (Mars-Neptune) that compromised Carter’s abilities as a military leader served him as a peace negotiator and human rights advocate. He stated in his inaugural address that his main goal as president was completely banishing nuclear weaponry from the face of the Earth. Accordingly, he worked laboriously (Saturn) on reducing the number of weapons of mass destruction (Scorpio) jointly held by the United States and Russia. Following the Yom Kippur (Israel-Egypt) war, Carter was able to broker a peace agreement between the two arch enemies at the 1978 Camp David Accords, perhaps his most important accomplishment as President.

Saturn in the 1st longevity is certainly evident in Carter’s career. In 1982, following his presidency, he and wife founded The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization that works to advance human rights, conduct peace negotiations, promote democracy, and eradicate disease throughout the world. After 45 years of public service, and having the distinction of being the second-oldest living former U.S. President (three months younger than George H. W. Bush), Carter continues to be an indefatigable, leading voice in international politics. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Like Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher also had Saturn in Scorpio on the Ascendant. However, her Saturn is trine Pluto and sextile Jupiter, making a much more formidable and less conflicted package than Carter’s Saturn in Scorpio with Mars opposing Neptune. Leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, she is the only woman to hold either post. Re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1987, Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister was the longest continuous period in office since Lord Salisbury in the early 19th century. Again, longevity of success is consistent with Saturn conjunct the Ascendant.

Like Carter, Thatcher entered office with a mandate to reverse the UK’s economic crisis (Scorpio) and implement a new (1st house) monetary strategy. Her political philosophy and economic policies, ultimately known as ‘Thatcherism’, were classically Scorpionic—eliminate government waste, reduce government intervention, support free markets, and stimulate investment. In effect, Thatcherism entailed working within Scorpio’s domain of economics in the service of 1st house concerns—freedom (free markets) and individual initiative (entrepreneurialism).

Indomitable and strong willed, she took a hard line against trade unions (they had a strangle hold on business), survived an assassination attempt, and defiantly opposed the Soviet Union, all of which paralleled developments in the United States under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Her tough talking rhetoric against communist aggression in Afghanistan earned her the nickname “Iron Lady” by the soviet press.

Sean Connery has Saturn in Capricorn and is renowned for his professionalism as an actor. The former Scottish bodybuilder and footballer began his film career at age 24 and still going—a 54 year career of extraordinary longevity. A genuine movie star, Connery has received several Lifetime Achievement Awards, won an Oscar in 1987, and was awarded Knighthood of the British Empire in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to Film Drama.

He first found fame in 1962 as the suave, sophisticated British agent, James Bond, with his cool demeanor, lack of sentimentality, and license to kill. Connery, of course, was the first Bond and primary agent of the British Secret Service (1st house, Saturn war organization). He was always at his best when playing tough, no-nonsense characters, again a hallmark of Saturn—the hard core realist of the planetary pantheon.

Saturn in its own sign of Capricorn conveys a heightened sense of gravitas. Accordingly, Connery generally plays dignified figures of great authority. He was king in four different films—Daniel in The Man Who Would Be King, King Agamemnon in Time Bandits, King Richard the Lionhearted in Robin Hood, and King Arthur in First Knight. Each king, it might be added, was also a warrior and adventurer—classic first house roles.

The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill, had Saturn in Leo—the sign of the theatrical arts—close to the Ascendant but in the 12th house of imagination. Again, longevity is a prominent theme. O’Neill’s first play was written in 1913 and although O’Neill died in 1953, several of his plays were published and performed posthumously. Long Day’s Journey into Night, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, wasn’t performed until 1957. And his last play, More Stately Mansions, wasn’t performed until 1967. All in all, O’Neill wrote over 50 plays spanning a career of 40 years.

Significantly, he was the first to introduce into American drama the techniques of realism—natural settings, ordinary speech, raw emotion, inner turmoil, and the view that life is shaped and controlled by the environment. Realism, of course, is a primary theme of Saturn.

O’Neill’s plays usually involved grim, distressed characters that struggled to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slid into disillusionment and despair (Saturn in 12th). Nearly all his plays involved some degree of personal pessimism. O’Neill himself suffered from periodic depression, and one of his autobiographical plays, The Iceman Cometh, dramatizes his view that life is grim and that people exaggerate their own self-importance merely to survive. Needless to say, all of this evidences Saturn in Leo close to the Ascendant.

Joseph Stalin had Saturn in Pisces on the Ascendant squaring a Sun/Venus in Sagittarius conjunction in the 10th. Stalin was communist party leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953—another reign of unusual longevity. ‘Stalin’, which means “Man of Steel,” was actually his adopted name, an interesting analogue to Thatcher’s moniker, “Iron Lady”.

Ruthless and ambitious, Stalin seized control of the Soviet Union after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924 by destroying the reputation of his rival, Leon Trotsky, via surreptitious (Piscean) means. First, Stalin concocted highly publicized lies about Trotsky; next, he expelled him from the country, and finally had him assassinated.

Trotsky was but one of literally millions of “enemies” that Stalin pursued with the relentless determination characteristic of Saturn on the Ascendant. Of course, Saturn’s expression was qualified by its primary aspects to other planets. Not only was it squaring his Sun, which can be an oppressive combination if the Sun manages to identify with and direct Saturn’s ruthlessness, but it was also sextiling Pluto.

All who opposed his Piscean dream of an ideal society were eliminated via systematic purges that spanned two decades. The very term ‘Stalinism’ is synonymous with totalitarianism, which includes extensive use of propaganda to establish a personality cult around the tyrannical regime of an absolute dictator. Stalin fought real and imagined opponents mainly through the secret police (KGB), who suppressed resistance by means of espionage, mass deportations, forced labor, political assassinations, and subversion of foreign governments.

Saturn in Pisces could be translated to mean, “I achieve success through furtive, deceptive means, including espionage, subversion, and causing my enemies to disappear.” The very term, “political prisoner,” conveys Saturn in Pisces.

As a type of control, we might call it control by victimization, mass repression, and denial. In addition, the Piscean province of image, glamour, and idealization was applied to political ends, most specifically in the cult of personality that surrounded Stalin. Utilizing photography, film, sound recording, and other Piscean techniques of commercial advertising, Stalin carefully constructed and asserted a public image that symbolized a supernatural, transcendent ideal. Like a god of infinite reach and power, pictures of a loving and fatherly Stalin were everywhere. Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s eventual successor, denounced Stalin’s tactics in his famous “Secret Speech” to the 1956 20th Party Congress.

Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person. . . .One of the most characteristic examples of Stalin’s self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his Short Biography, which was published in 1948. This book is an expression of the most dissolute flattery, an example of making a man into a godhead, of transforming him into an infallible sage, “the greatest leader,” “sublime strategist of all times and nations.” Finally no other words could be found with which to lift Stalin up to the heavens. We need not give here examples of the loathsome adulation filling this book. All we need to add is that they all were approved and edited by Stalin personally and some of them were added in his own handwriting to the draft text of the book.2

Communism itself is a Piscean political ideology, the origins and evolution of which can be traced to the three Saturn-Neptune conjunctions of the 20th century.3 Pisces, of course, is the impulse to sacrifice self-interest for the greater good; thus, Piscean behaviors are invariably in the service of unity and wholeness—in this case, the communist ideal of a classless society presided over by a single party.

Saturn in Pisces 1st house themes are especially evident in Stalin’s massive project of collectivization—government organization of land and labor into large-scale collective farms for the purpose of increasing food output for collective survival. By the early 1930s, over 90% of agricultural land was “collectivized” as farmers sacrificed private ownership and entered collective farms with their land, livestock, and other assets. Unfortunately, the immediate effect was to drastically reduce grain output and almost halve livestock, thus producing major famines in 1932 and 1933 (Piscean tragedy).4

The fact that Stalin’s 10th house Sun-Venus conjunction forms a closing square to his Saturn in Pisces on the Ascendant merely reinforces the intensity of his Saturnian nature. Not only does the Sun and Venus square Saturn, but they are in Saturn’s house (10th), and the closing square is itself a Capricorn/Saturn angle; thus, the theme is thrice repeated.5 Hyper-Saturn in the 1st is evident in Stalin’s overweening ambition, the totalitarian control he sought to achieve (one man rule), and the Piscean style of his approach—secret police, mass oppression, and propaganda (lies) to establish a cult of personality. Pisces is also implicit in the long term objective of his political machinations, i.e., the construction of an ideal society in which the individual is required to sacrifice for the collective good.

Summary of Case Studies
While the five cases cited do not constitute a formal research project, they provide examples of how such a research project might be conducted. In each example cited—Carter, Thatcher, Connery, O’Neill, and Stalin—there is substantial evidence of personality attributes symbolized by Saturn in the 1st house. Not only was each person inordinately ambitious and successful, but each was noteworthy for something new—Carter for founding The Carter Center, Thatcher for being the first female prime minister in Britain’s history, Connery for being the first James Bond, O’Neill for being the first playwright to introduce techniques of realism into American drama, and Stalin for being a founding member of the Communist party and for being its first, full-fledged dictator.

Moreover, what each person began was marked by extraordinary longevity—another hallmark of Saturn conjunct the Ascendant. Carter’s career has spanned 45 years of public service and he is still an active player in international politics. Thatcher was re-elected as prime minister for an unprecedented third term and her tenure was one of the longest continuous periods in office in British history. Connery’s career has been ongoing for over 50 years and he has the distinction of being perhaps the oldest living male sex symbol. Eugene O’Neill’s success as a playwright spanned 40 years with several of his plays performed for the first time after his death. Finally, Stalin was communist party leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953—the longest period in office of any Soviet head of state.

Additional 1st house themes involved aggression and survival. Carter tackled threats to the survival of human life on multiple fronts—an economy in turmoil, the arms race, an energy crisis, conflict with Iran, global epidemics, and so on. Likewise, Thatcher dealt with communist aggression in Afghanistan, the Falklands War, an economy in crisis, and an assassination attempt on her own life. Themes of adventure, war, aggression, violence, and survival are prevalent in virtually all of Connery’s films. O’Neill’s plays portray people hanging on through grim and despairing circumstances by pursuing compensatory goals of heightened self-importance (Saturn in Leo). And Stalin’s entire life was one long, continuous fight for political survival—a goal he achieved via the relentless, systematic extermination of his enemies.

Saturn’s qualities were most precisely expressed in the style and domain of its sign position. Carter and Thatcher’s careers centered about managing economic crises and myriad other threats (Scorpio); Connery’s filmography is populated with characters of cool authority and gravitas (Capricorn); O’Neill’s grim and realistic plays were by definition theatrical and dealt with compensatory egotism (Leo); finally, Stalin ruthlessly sought to build an ideal communal society through surreptitious means, self-idealization, and requirement for individual sacrifice (Pisces).

Toward an Astrological Theory of Personality
These examples show how astrology represents a theory complete with motivational drives (signs), psychological functions with empirical definitions (planets), systematically related assumptions (rules of synthesis), and a capacity for generating predictions that are empirically verifiable. Predictions not only deal with observable behavior, but also with discernable life themes.

Recall that Hall and Lindsey asserted that a personality theory must be comprehensive in that it deals with the total, functioning person. Accordingly, an astrological theory of personality must look at charts as whole systems. It is a central tenet of astrology that the complexity of a life cannot be reduced to any single planetary configuration, since the whole always takes precedence over the parts. Even so, these five examples of Saturn on the Ascendant give some indication of astrology’s capacity to identify salient personality attributes and life themes on the basis of a single planet’s sign and house position.

When we consider that every planet, sign, and house is implicated in the personality, we can begin to glimpse how multidimensional and integrative a theory astrology is. So far as I can discern, no behavioral phenomenon of demonstrated significance falls outside the theoretical framework of astrology.

Astrology is also the only system in which there are external referents—signs and planets—for pieces of psychic structure. These external referents are visible, predictable, and capable of complexity (interrelationship) beyond any theory of human behavior devised by psychologists. While astrology is simple in its derivation of planetary archetypes, it is complex in its ability to derive individual process from these archetypes. Each piece of psychic structure has concrete meaning yet is infinitely variable in combination, e.g., Saturn in Scorpio is different than Saturn in Leo.

Because astrology has many shades of meaning, it is easily compatible with other personality theories, almost all of which can be subsumed into astrological language. For example, Freud’s tripartite division of the mind into id, ego, and superego is roughly paralleled in astrology by the relations between Mars (id), the Sun (ego), and Saturn (superego). Yet, the many parts of astrology—12 signs, 12 houses, 12 aspects, and 10 planets—make it a vastly subtler and more sophisticated model for depicting the structure and dynamics of the psyche.

Another way that astrology differs from conventional personality theories is that is has no founder. Astrology was not invented, created, or developed by any individual, as is the case with other personality theories. Invariably, a personality theory bears the stamp of its creator; that is, a theory is a self-portrait of its founder. We see this clearly, for example, in Freud’s chart, which perfectly symbolizes the Oedipus complex that Freud universalized for every human being.

This same principle holds true for the founders of other personality theories. Each theory, with the exception of astrology, starts off as a projection of one person’s individual viewpoint and subsequently attracts adherents who resonate with that viewpoint. In every instance, the peculiarities of the theory can be traced back to the conflicts, issues, and cognitive styles that are reflected in the horoscope of the founder.

Astrology, on the other hand, provides a more objective framework since it does not originate with any one individual and has existed in every culture in one form or another since the dawn of civilization. In this sense, astrology is a meta-theory of personality that is capable of subsuming and coordinating conventional theories under its overarching umbrella.

Notes:

[1]Hall, C., and Lindzey, G. (1978). Theories of personality. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

[2] See “Cult of Personality”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_cult#cite_note-1

[3] For a fuller discussion of this, see Perry, G. (1997),”The Hermeneutic Method: Neptune conjunct Saturn in ’89,” in Stealing fire from the gods. AAP Press. Communism began with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 when Neptune conjuncted Saturn in Leo, reached a new beginning in 1953 with the death of Stalin as Neptune conjuncted Saturn in Libra, and nearly collapsed completely in 1989 when Saturn and Neptune were conjunct in Capricorn. This last conjunction heralded the dissolution of the Soviet Union and launched the “velvet revolution” in Eastern Europe when communist east bloc countries converted to democracy.

[4]Communism provides endless fodder for the old adage, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

[5] Stalin’s birth time is disputed. AstroDatabank ranks it as DD (conflicting/unverified), but it is consistent with the overall tenor of his life.

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AstroMyopia: Missing the Forest for the Tree

AstroMyopia
Missing the Forest for the Tree

 
By Glenn Perry

 

AstromyopiaHaving ventured into a deep wood of beauteous complexity, with a great variety of ecologically inter-dependent phenomena, I discovered an astrological colleague hugging a particular species of tree while shrieking with delight, “Eureka! I’ve found it! The final, ultimate, irreducible essence of forest!” You’ll forgive my metaphor, but it serves to illustrate what I call “Astromyopia” —a visual defect in which the complex whole of the horoscope is collapsed into one or more parts.

Astromyopia is the astrological equivalent of nearsightedness. Unable to reason from the part to the whole, the astrologer simply stays glued upon the part while proclaiming it to be, “The most important factor in the chart!” This all-important factor might be the lunar nodes, Chiron, Pluto, black Moon Lilith, or some other esoteric object whose significance is exaggerated out of all proportion to the rest of the horoscope.

A person suffering from Astromyopia might look at the chart of former president George Bush and exclaim, “Look! Bush has South Node in Sagittarius. No wonder he was a war-mongering, colonialist demagogue who wanted to take over the world!” If one points out that Bush also has Sun in Cancer in the 12th disposited by his Moon which is conjunct Jupiter in Libra in the 3rd both of which are squaring his Sun while also trining Uranus in the 11th, our astromyopic friend might stare blankly and mumble something like, “Oh, yea, that, too.” Whoops. Unpacking that complicated configuration is, well, hard.

Another variant of Astromyopia entails shifting one’s attention from part to part within a single category of phenomena such as Sabian symbols, asteroids, or fixed stars. In this case, the astrologer focuses upon one piece at a time with no way of linking them together into more complex meanings. “Ohmigod! The Sabian symbol for Hillary Clinton’s Sun at 3 degrees Scorpio is: A house-raising party in a small village enlists the neighbors’ cooperation. Surely this explains the topic of her book, It Takes A Village!” Next, the Sabian symbol for her Ascendant is cited, then for her Moon, then her M.C., then…well, you get the picture. Each Sabian symbol, asteroid, or fixed star is looked at as an irreducible whole of meaning in isolation from every other part of the chart.

This kind of thinking makes astrology deceptively easy. The practitioner does not have to actually delineate the chart by combining parts into more complex wholes, for meanings are ready-made and spoon-fed. The sheer amount of Sabian symbols (360), asteroids (6000 and still counting), and fixed stars (numberless), virtually guarantees there will be something that appears to account for the salient features of the native’s life. Unfortunately, this approach also trivializes the object of our study—the human being.

To be sure, many practitioners specialize in particular areas of astrology while also recognizing the central importance of the chart as a synergistic whole. Lynda Hill is an expert on Sabian symbols. Bernadette Brady is an aficionado of fixed stars, Grazia Mirti knows all about black Moon Lilith, Melanie Reinhardt emphasizes Chiron, and Michael Lutin is an authority on the nodes. These are all stellar astrologers who, in addition to their areas of specialized expertise, also recognize the importance of interpreting the chart synergistically. The issue here is not whether singular factors in the chart have significance, but the extent to which focus on them can be an anxiety-reducing substitute for the more difficult task of chart delineation. As a style of interpretation, Astromyopia may simply be a way of managing the inevitable anxiety that accompanies looking at the chart as a whole. Let’s face it. Astrology is hard. If you don’t have a talent for abstract, symbolic thinking and a capacity for synergizing vast amounts of data into coherent, intelligible wholes, you might want to consider a less demanding field.

In contrast to a synergistic approach, Astromyopia is reductionistic. Wholes are reduced to parts, which are then assigned unrealistic and exaggerated importance as determinant factors in a person’s life and character. Of course, the most flagrant example of Astromyopia is Sun-sign astrology. The complexity of the individual is collapsed into a single sign. He or she is an Aries, or a Taurus, or a Gemini. On this basis, all manner of advice is given about relationship compatibility, vocational aptitudes, personality traits, health matters, and so on. Yet, we all know that signs are not people; they are parts of people.

Sun sign astrology is the equivalent of a medical practice that focuses exclusively on the condition of one organ, such as the liver, as if nothing else is relevant to a patient’s health. Can you imagine going to your doctor for a general check-up and he dryly prognosticates, “Well, you’re a Liver, and Livers are good at waste-product removal and bile secretion, which is why you’ll never be a big hit with opposite sex, but you’d make a terrific sanitation engineer.”

Sigh.

I don’t mean to pick on Sun-sign astrology. It has its place. The point is that Sun-sign astrology is merely one example of Astromyopia. We could just as easily be talking about the lunar nodes, Chiron, or any other favored element that astrologer’s look at with tunnel vision.

To be fair, Astromyopia is probably unavoidable at early stages of one’s development as an astrologer. Before learning to combine parts into more complex units of emergent meaning, there is a tendency to assume that salient features of a person’s character are products of singular factors. Yet, this interpretive myopia is not limited to neophyte astrologers. It persists in many of us for the simple reason that learning to interpret a chart as a complex, interdependent whole is extremely difficult.

The essential feature of any horoscope is the dynamic relations between its parts. Planets in sign, house, and aspect symbolize the myriad drives, functions, conflicts, and defenses that combine to produce that emergent quality called personality. This property is not contained in any single part of the chart—it is not the Ascendant, Sun, or Moon sign—but emerges out of the way the chart is organized, lived, and integrated as a whole.

In my opinion, this principle applies to any chart meaning of real significance. Nothing of importance is contained in a singular factor, but rather emerges from the interaction of two or more chart components. This interactive, integrative process is what makes us individual. It is also what makes individuals only relatively predictable.

After thirty years in the field, I am increasingly aware that human behavior is largely indeterminate—that is, not determined in advance by external (planetary) factors. It is our freedom to choose and our capacity for integrating parts into functional wholes that ultimately determines who we are. Accordingly, the more parts of a horoscope that an astrologer can combine into a comprehensive, multi-layered story, the closer s/he comes to understanding the real person. Reading a chart is like putting together the pieces of a large and complicated puzzle. Astrology is hard even while it is fun and aesthetically satisfying.

One way that misguided astrologers attempt to manage the anxiety of complexity is to keep adding more singular factors to the horoscope. This is like adding extra pieces to a puzzle without actually putting the pieces together. If there is something about a person that can’t be explained through the astromyopic approach, simply include more stuff—more asteroids, more fixed stars, more midpoints, imaginary planets, Arabic parts, centaurs, antiscia, and on and on. Of course, if you put in everything, you end up with a big black blob of nothing, for there will be no space left to differentiate one factor from another let alone integrate them.

The obverse (traditional) approach, yet equally myopic, is to reduce the chart to fewer and fewer components—get rid of the outer planets, Chiron, nodes, asteroids, and anything else that clutters up the chart—then tie the few remaining parts together via fixed rules that eliminate any possible ambiguity. Again, this approach assures that you don’t have to do much thinking for yourself; the simplicity and precision of the model does it for you. I call this AstroFundamentalism. Is the ruler of your 7th house in your 6th house? That’s easy; you’re going to marry a servant. Is the ruler of your 7th house Mars? After you marry your servant, he’s going to kill you. Is Mars in Pisces? His method of attack will be poison. Simple. Clear. Wrong (probably).

Anyone who does astrology long enough will realize that this kind of rule-bound, formulaic thinking reduces the chart (and the person) to a singular manifestation, as if there can be only one expression for the chart. This is an example of what the eminent philosopher Alfred North Whitehead termed “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness,” which is confusing a concrete thing (event) with the abstract category of meaning that it exemplifies. In other words, an astrological configuration is not so much an outcome as a process that can manifest in a multiplicity of events depending upon how it is situated in the chart as a whole and, more importantly, the degree to which it is integrated.

The fallacy of misplaced concreteness occurs every time we settle on a single outcome as the meaning of an astrological configuration. If the significator of your 7th house is Mars in Pisces in the 6th, you may indeed marry an angry servant who poisons you, but this is only one of many possibilities (thankfully!). The actor Denzel Washington has this configuration. According to his biography, he’s been married to the same woman for over thirty years, they have four children, and he has yet to be poisoned. By all reports, she remains an ardent helpmate and source of encouragement and inspiration for his work—which is another meaning of Mars in Pisces in the 6th.

Precise rules that predict concrete singular outcomes may allay our anxiety as astrologers, but they don’t make us good astrologers. The cognitive narrowing and shrinkage of meaning that typified the interpretive methods of ancient astrologers was understandable in light of their relative ignorance of the inner, psychological dimension of human beings. Certainty of prediction had a high premium in a dangerous world that seemed to offer few choices.

Yet, with traditional, event-oriented astrology, the most you can be is right. To actually be helpful, we have to have a tolerance for ambiguity and for what the poet John Keats called “negative capability”. This is the capacity for being in uncertainty without feeling undue pressure to arrive at a premature, intellectual resolution. If one has negative capability, mystery and doubt are honored as necessary parts of the consultation. Space is given for meanings to emerge organically out of the depths of interaction with the client. Rather than anxiously reaching for a specific, concrete interpretation, the astrologer accepts that planetary archetypes can interact, combine, and express themselves in myriad creative ways while still remaining true to their essential nature. This view holds that human behavior is archetypally predictable, but concretely indeterminate.

Of course, this does not mean that we should abandon precise, clearly formulated rules of interpretation. What it means is that we should not arbitrarily narrow the range of meaning that those rules allow. In subsequent columns, we’ll discuss how a clear understanding of the grammatical structure and syntax of the astrological language can allay the anxiety that accompanies recognition of a horoscope’s inherent complexity and indeterminacy.

In the meantime,

To be your best,
let go of that tree.

Embrace the forest
In all its mystery!

* * * * *

Evolutionary Astrology: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Evolutionary Astrology
Separating the Wheat From the Chaff


By Glenn Perry

 

Evolutionary astrologyRecently I read a brief summary of the Evolutionary Astrology Conference held this past April. It was mentioned that Jeff Green, the primary exponent of Evolutionary Astrology, teaches that any planet squaring the Moon’s nodes means you “skipped lessons” related to that planet in past lifetimes. Of course, this is but one of innumerable claims made about the past life significance of the lunar nodes.

I always find myself wondering, what is the logic that relates the Moon’s nodes to past lives? Is it because the Moon symbolizes the past in general and thus by extension past lives? As a hypothesis, this is somewhat plausible, but the usual explanation behind such claims is that people report a vague sense that the south node is an “inborn” tendency, whereas the north node (sign, house, aspects) is something we evolve toward. This may be so, but to jump from that observation to the claim that the south node symbolizes past life behavior and experience is a momentous leap of logic.

Indeed, the only evidence that the south node refers to a past life is a vague, subjective sense of having “come in” with that trait. Yet, since past life behaviors and experiences are unobservable, there is no factual evidence to substantiate this opinion. It is also very difficult to justify why one trait, such as the south node’s sign/house position, is any more inherited from the past than traits that derive from other factors in the chart.

One could argue that the Sun’s sign/house position symbolizes traits that are equally, if not more, instinctive and inborn. In fact, virtually the whole chart is “inborn” in the sense that the traits it symbolizes are evident from the first breath. How does one differentiate the instinctive feel of the south node from the instinctive feel of any other part of the chart? With my Mars in Gemini, I have an instinctive urge to do battle with information that I find questionable. Is this instinct inherited from a past life? And if so, why should privileged status be given the south node as the primary indicator of past lives?

Certainly it’s fun to speculate about ways the chart might symbolize past lives and karma. Astrologers have been doing it for more than a century. I would argue that reincarnation is a useful perspective from which to approach chart interpretation. No one should be discouraged from speculative thinking in this area. However, it is important to differentiate speculation from established theory. Sound astrological theory is based on actual empirical evidence. For example, we can observe the experience and behavior of people with Saturn in the 7th and then hypothesize about the meaning of this planetary position. Such a hypothesis is grounded in observation and can lead to further research to substantiate the hypothesis.

Conversely, past life interpretations are not based on observable evidence and cannot be substantiated with further research unless one stretches the meaning of “evidence” to include (1) subjective reports that the interpretation “feels helpful”, (2) apparent past life memories from hypnotic regression, or (3) alleged psychically derived insights. While this type of evidence should not be dismissed out of hand, one would have to admit that it’s a very different and less reliable type of evidence than observable behavior and events that can be consensually validated.

It may be that at least some “truths” in astrology are based on convention rather than evidence. Conventions are simply inventions, or opinions, which have become communally reinforced over time. For example, in the 19th century the “science” of phrenology was invented by Franz Joseph Gall, who counted 27 different bumps on the skull and identified each one with a particular mental trait, faculty, or aptitude of the mind. Phrenology was widely utilized at the time and touted as being able to improve the education of children, the reformation of criminals and the treatments of the insane. Many people accepted this claim uncritically, and the more phrenology was practiced, the more it was communally reinforced and passed on to subsequent generations of believers. Unfortunately, none of the claims held up under actual testing, and it was soon relegated to the dust heap of discarded ideas.

At least in the case of phrenology, the theory was falsifiable; that is, capable of being disconfirmed via actual evidence (or lack thereof). Such is not the case with reincarnational astrology since no one can observe a person’s past lives. Yet, claims are regularly made about the past life significance of various chart factors: “Venus squaring the lunar nodes means you skipped learning how to love.” In the absence of even the possibility of disconfirmatory evidence, it is much easier for these ideas to become conventions that are communally reinforced over time.

Anyone can claim to know what a planetary position means in terms of past lives. However, unless such claims are falsifiable, then perhaps we should think twice before believing them and spreading such ideas to subsequent generations of astrologers. As Aristotle wrote two millennia ago, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I’m actually a firm believer in reincarnation, and have been studying it since my teens. In a 1990 book, Dr. Christopher Brache, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University, critically evaluated the evidence for and against reincarnation: He reports:

Each year the case gets stronger. My personal opinion is that researchers have amassed sufficient evidence for reincarnation that if we are not already past the stage of reasonably “proving” rebirth, we soon will be. Put more cautiously, we might say that at this point sufficient data have been collected and assessed to move rebirth from a low probability to a middle- or high- probability thesis. (p. 27)

Most of the evidence to which Brache refers consists of past life memories of children that are confirmed by surviving relatives of the prior personality. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson (1974, 1997) has collected compelling accounts of children’s memories of past lives. Rigorous, scientific research to substantiate these memories, which includes interviews with family and friends from the prior life, has been undergoing for over thirty years.

Apparently it’s not unusual for someone to be reborn only a few years after his or her death. In such cases, it’s possible for researchers to interview people who actually knew the previous personality. Surviving siblings and even spouses from the former incarnation are often able to confirm the child’s memories. However, to my knowledge, there has been no attempt to correlate research data with the astrological charts of these unusual children. Until and unless that occurs, the question of how the birthchart reflects karma from previous incarnations must remain unanswered, at least in any definitive sense.

Of course, this has not stopped astrologers from writing books and computer generated reports that claim to be able to tell people about their past lives. There are a variety of competing theories with regard to how past lives might be symbolized in the birthchart. In evaluating the credibility of these theories, one first needs to differentiate the general principle from specific instances. In other words, the philosophical belief that karma from past lives is implicit in the chart is not the same thing as the practice of making pronouncements about past lives.

It’s certainly acceptable to interpret a horoscope from a past lives perspective. The operative presumption is that the incarnated soul has committed itself to certain lessons or tasks, and these are reflected in the birthchart. Chart interpretations are thus situated in a reincarnational framework; that is, one that presumes that the arrangement of planetary factors has been lawfully determined in accord with accrued karma from past lives.

Again, however, this interpretative stance is different from making statements about what actually occurred in a past life. While past-life interpretations may have explanatory value, it is important to differentiate their speculative nature from the more general philosophical position that a reincarnational perspective entails. One can hold this position without making statements about past lives.

Although it may not be possible to derive information about actual past lives from the horoscope, acceptance of reincarnation has important implications for how one approaches interpretation. If a client’s trials and travails are orchestrated by a transcendent intelligence that works through astrology, then life experience is neither random nor determined by an impersonal, clockwork mechanism. Rather, experience is purposeful in accord with a growth principle that is inherent in the cosmos.

Difficult astrological configurations may constitute specific lesson assignments that are implicit in the kinds of experiences that synchronistically (karmically) flow from these configurations. As within, so without, we are always meeting ourselves in the circumstances and people we attract. Painful or frustrating experiences challenge us to grow in specific ways, and it is precisely because these challenges are pre-figured in the birth chart that we can understand them as karmic.

How can we interpret such configurations in a manner that supports the client’s evolution as a spiritual being? For me, this question is infinitely more interesting than what a person might have been or done in a past life. For a more detailed treatment of this topic, please see my related article on reincarnational astrology.

* * * * *

References

Bache, C. (1990). Lifecycles: Reincarnation and the web of life. New York: Paragon House

Stevenson, I. (1974). Twenty cases suggestive of reincarnation. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Stevenson, I. (1997). Where reincarnation and biology intersect. Westport, CT: Praeger Publications

Astrological Archetypes as Geometric Forms

Astrological Archetypes

As Geometric Forms


By Glenn Perry

 

astrological archetypes as geometric formsAll meaning is an angle. This enigmatic statement is reputed to have originated in ancient Egypt and may well find its most precise expression in the geometric structure of the zodiac. In effect, we can understand astrological archetypes as geometric forms. Before exploring this idea further, I’d first like to establish what I mean by “astrological archetype”, for, as we shall see, astrological archetypes are inextricably bound up with angles.

The concept of archetype is at the foundation of our astrological language. Generally speaking, an archetype can be defined as an image that is an original model after which similar things are patterned. A related meaning is an ideal example of a type. For example, the god Venus in Greek mythology embodies an ideal of beauty, which in more attenuated forms can be found in various things and people—a beautiful dancer, painting, song, or sunset. Each is “full” of the archetype of beauty.

Philosophically speaking, archetypes can be likened to what Plato described as Forms or Ideas that exist as pre-patterned impulses in the mind of The Good—the ultimate state of reality. These Forms were thought to be alive and purposeful, yet existed in realms too subtle to be detected by the senses. Since they could only be known through their effects, the various qualities of the phenomenal world were thought to be derived from these Forms. Beauty, for instance, could never be encountered in itself, but only as a property of some concrete thing that is beautiful. Where objects were ephemeral, qualities endured; the qualities evident in tangible objects being but fragile attenuations of the more intense and stable condition these Forms enjoyed on their own plane.1

According to Carl Jung, an archetype is a universal thought form that structures and animates the collective unconscious, which is that layer of the psyche that we share with all humans. These collective dynamisms manifest as primordial images and themes that can be found everywhere at all times: in myths, fairy tales, religious motifs, dreams, and everyday life. While an archetype clothes itself in imagery that is familiar to the time and place in which it occurs, its meaning is the same across cultures. As universal thought forms, archetypes are the organizing principles of reality itself.

Psychologically speaking, archetypes are not only part of the objective psyche—the larger consciousness in which our lives are embedded—they also constitute the root motives of the human psyche. Jung referred to the archetype as “the self-portrait of the instinct,” by which he meant that archetypes, as primordial images, symbolize structural elements of human consciousness. Basic patterns of mental and emotional behavior are thought to be derivatives of archetypes.

Archetypes not only organize the psyche within, they also connect us to the world outside. As a non-local, formative field, an archetype can appear in the environment as an event, person, or situation that is synchronistically related to the experiencer. Reduced to their essence, archetypes are best described as universal organizing principles inherent in nature. Just as vapor exists in an invisible state before it condenses into cloud, falls to Earth as rain, and further cooled turns to ice, so the energy of an archetype exists independent of its phenomena. It may manifest in humans as need, become known through behavior, and culminate in event; yet, in principle, it precedes all these things. An archetype is like an invisible pattern of energy to which the shape and behavior of matter visibly conforms.

Astrological Archetypes As Geometric Forms
All of the above is a pretty good way to think about astrological archetypes, too, except that in astrology an archetype can be differentiated into various related parts. Terms such as sign, planet, house, and aspect are all facets of a single astrological archetype. A sign is the archetype in its motivational mode, a planet is its action mode, a house is its contextual mode, and an aspect is its relational mode. For example, Libra is the need for beauty, Venus is the action to beautify, the 7th house is a context within which beauty is a primary theme, and the opposition is a dialogue between two planets that requires beautifying—that is, reconciliation of opposites into a harmonious whole.

Note that all but planets derive their meaning from angles. The meaning of Libra is derived from its position in the zodiac as a 30-degree segment of the ecliptic starting at the autumnal equinox, which is 180 degrees opposite the vernal equinox. Whereas the vernal equinox marks the first day of Spring and thus the beginning of the zodiac, the autumnal equinox marks the start of autumn when days are nights are again equal, or balanced.

The 7th house, likewise, signifies a 2-hour period during the earth’s 360 degree axial rotation that ends at sunset (the completion of the day) — or, 180 degrees opposite sunrise (the start of the day). If sunrise can be thought of as marking the beginning of the earth’s 360 degree rotation at a particular locale, then sunset marks its half-way point. Here again the 180 angle is the operative principle.

An opposition denotes a phase in the synodic cycle of two planets when they reach a point that is 180 degrees opposite one another. This point in time is the polar opposite of the beginning of their cycle, when the two planets were conjunct. As such, it signifies a quality of relationship that is similar in meaning to Libra and the 7th house.Again, all these meanings—sign, house, and aspect—are based on the same 180-degree angle, which is a phase within a more encompassing 360-degree cycle. As such, it is a geometric form, or Platonic Form, as the case may be. Perhaps the primary exemplar of this archetype is the zodiacal sign of Libra, for it most clearly illustrates how astronomical angles correlate to astrological meanings. Just as days and nights are “equal” at the autumnal equinox, which Libra inaugurates, so the principle of equality is the foundation of fairness, harmony, and beauty, which are Libra’s predominant themes. Here we see an exact astronomical correlation with an archetypal principle.

As stated previously, an archetype is an image that is an original model after which similar things are patterned. The astronomical angles we call signs are, in fact, original models that provide a pattern for related phenomena. A 180-degree angle, for example, forms the basis for all similar phenomena that embody a pattern of balance and relatedness. This pattern can be found in persons, things, places, and events that give expression to the principle of harmony. A diplomat, a contract, an art gallery, and a marriage all exemplify in different ways the 180-degree angle we call Libra. Here again we see how an astrological angle, or geometric form, is quite literally an archetype.

Although different manifestations of the 180-degree archetype are referred to by different astrological terms—sign, house, and aspect—each term is similar in meaning. Again, Libra can be thought of as the need for harmony; the 7th house is a context within which harmony is the prime concern; and the opposition signifies a relationship that requires a harmonizing of separate but related functions (planets). As the ruler of Libra, Venus is the actional mode of the 180-degree archetype, for it signifies the act of harmonizing. In this regard, planets embody the action dimension of archetypal principles.

From the foregoing, we can see that astrological archetypes are actually geometric forms that result from the division of a whole cycle by 12. The 12-fold division of the Earth’s annual revolution about the Sun, the 12-fold division of the earth’s diurnal rotation on its axis, or the 12-fold division of the synodic cycle between two planets, all yield the same twelve meanings, or archetypes. This equivalence repeats itself with every sign, house, and aspect; all derive their meaning from the nature of the angle to which they correspond. Again, all meaning is an angle.

In summary, astrological archetypes are phases of a 360-degree cycle, thus angles. Each phase of the cycle is associated with a different principle of life—beginnings (Aries), foundations (Cancer), complements (Libra), crises (Scorpio), culminations (Capricorn), endings (Pisces), and so on. For this reason, each sign derives its core meaning from its angular relationship with the beginning of the cycle, zero degrees Aries. It is fascinating to ponder how these astronomical angles, created by the cycles of the planets, have been incorporated into the human psyche as patterns of emotional and mental behavior. As organizing principles of reality, astrological archetypes are objective and subjective, outer and inner, the very nature of nature itself.

Why The Sidereal Zodiac Is Probably Wrong
As every astrologer knows, there are two different zodiacs currently in practice—the tropical zodiac based on the seasons, and the sidereal zodiac based on the constellations that once formed a backdrop to the seasons. It is worth noting that only the tropical zodiac is rooted in the annual cycle of the Earth about the Sun, which is what gives us our seasons. The mechanics of this involve two intersecting planes—one derived from the equatorial plane of the Sun (the ecliptic), and the other from the equatorial plane of the Earth (the celestial equator), which is tilted at an angle of 23 degrees to the ecliptic. These two planes intersect at the Vernal Equinox (zero degrees Aries) and the Autumnal Equinox (zero degrees Libra).

Astrological archetypes as geometric forms

While much could be said about the intersection of these two planes, the crucial factor is that the tropical zodiac comprises a series of angles formed from the ever changing relationship of Earth and Sun. Were it not for this annual cycle, no actual angles could form to produce astrological signs. The angles themselves—that is, the signs—are inseparably related to the orbital motion of the Earth about the Sun. Astrological meanings, therefore, are products of movements that produce angles—or, to repeat our axiom, all meaning is an angle.

The importance of this cannot be overstated when one considers that the constellations of the sidereal zodiac are not based on cycles or angles. Unlike the tropical zodiac, the sidereal zodiac is an arbitrary grouping of twelve star clusters that have no relation to astronomical angles formed from planetary movements. The constellations of the sidereal zodiac are not fashioned from the orbital motion of the Earth about the Sun. In fact, they are completely unmoored from planetary movements, planes, and cycles. Not only are the divisions that separate them completely arbitrary (the actual constellations are of varying sizes), there are no inherent angles in the sidereal zodiac other than those that can be artificially drawn between the constellations.

The sidereal zodiac is thus unique in that the alleged meanings of its constellations are utterly unrelated to geometric angles, which, as we have seen, form the basis for astrological archetypes in their various forms—sign, house, and aspect. This alone, in my opinion, constitutes a powerful argument against the validity of the sidereal zodiac.

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Notes

Smith, Huston. (1982). Forgotten Truth: The primordial condition. New York: Harper & Row.

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