Target States & Planetary Goals
With a Case Study of Donald Trump
By Glenn Perry
The sign position of a planet not only symbolizes its style of action, but also the nature of its behavioral goal. Donald Trump’s Mars Leo on the Ascendant provides a case in point. Not only does Trump assert in a dramatic, egocentric manner, he asserts his brand – his name, his image, and his pride – over and over again, as if his very life depended on it.
In AstroPsychology, signs and their ruling planets are conceptualized as sign-planet systems wherein sign-feelings trigger planetary actions. It follows that planets are the active agents of the signs they rule. Feelings constitute an affective signal that spurs a planet to action. The action undertaken is contingent upon the nature of the feeling that the situation evokes.
For example, when a woman feels attracted to a man at a social event, her Venus is activated via a Libran feeling of attraction. She may convey her amorous sentiments in any number of ways―by being forward (Aries), sensual (Taurus), knowledgeable (Gemini), caring (Cancer), and so forth. In other words, the quality of her Venusian action is dictated by Venus’ sign position. It’s her Venus style.
Style, however, is only one meaning of a planetary sign position. When people become aware of motives through corollary affects, they establish a behavioral goal that is designed to satisfy the motivating need and achieve a preferred state. Whereas the planet describes the action, such as to socialize (Venus), the sign position suggests not only the style of the action but also its objective—the behavioral goal.
If the woman has Venus in Capricorn, her social style may be serious and calculated; her behavioral goal may be to advance her career by networking with the rich and powerful. The man she is attracted to may be the CEO of a company where she hopes to be hired. If she succeeds in engaging him in conversation and makes a suitably positive impression, she has accomplished two things: (1) satisfied her Libran need for social relatedness by being serious and calculated, and (2) contributed to her Capricorn goal of raising her status. In short, Venus in Capricorn describes not merely the style but the object of her action.
To discern a planet’s style, we have merely to state the planetary action and ask the question how? If Venus socializes, how does Venus socialize? Its sign position answers the question. Venus in Aries socializes eagerly and enthusiastically; in Taurus, slowly and calmly; in Gemini by being chatty and knowledgeable. Conversely, in discerning a planet’s objective (behavioral goal), the sign position answers the question what? If Mar’s asserts, what does Mars assert? If Venus attracts, what does Venus attract? If Mercury learns, what does Mercury learn? The planetary sign position is the direct object of the planetary verb. A direct object receives the action of the verb and answers the question, “What is the [actor’s] objective?”
Sun: I express express what?
Moon: I care care about what?
Jupiter: I believe believe in what?
Let’s back up a moment. When individuals become aware of sign-motives through experiencing their corollary affects, they are compelled to satisfy the motive. Thus, every sign-motive activates its ruling planet. When feeling socially isolated (Libra), a person may be compelled to seek relatedness (Venus); if feeling curious (Gemini), she is stimulated to learn (Mercury); if ambitious (Capricorn), he is driven to pursue success (Saturn). In short, people establish general behavioral goals they expect will lead to the desired state of satisfaction, which we call the target state. It follows that behavioral goals are in the service of attaining specific emotional states. This motivational sequence can be described in three stages: affect, action, and goal.
Using Venus as an example, it would look like this:
Stage 1: Affect—a feeling of attraction that signals the Libran need for social relatedness.
Stage 2: Action—Venusian behaviors of engaging, considering, and accommodating to satisfy the Libran need.
Stage 3: Goal—establishment of a concrete goal that focuses the Venusian action in pursuit of the target state of fulfillment.
Every planet symbolizes a type of action. The Sun expresses, the Moon listens, Mercury learns, Mars asserts, Venus attracts, Jupiter expands, Saturn orders, Uranus awakens, Neptune dissolves, and Pluto transforms. In fact, each planet symbolizes a class of related actions, all of which are designed to satisfy the motivating need and achieve the target state. For example, Venus not only attracts, it engages, socializes, cooperates, compromises, and mediates.
Basic needs symbolized by signs are intrinsic to human beings. We all have the same twelve core needs. Aries, for example, signifies our need for survival, which motivates the planetary action to assert (Mars). Assertion is the action that is designed to satisfy the intrinsic need for survival. If the person succeeds in attaining his behavioral goal, then confirmation of his right to be is the intrinsic reward. In other words, if Martian action leads to a state of aliveness and a sense that one is a free, autonomous agent capable of effectively acting in one’s own self-interest, then Mars’ target state has been attained.
While a target state is the subjective goal of a planet, there is an implicit behavioral goal as well. A behavioral goal differs from a target state in that it has to do with an extrinsic reward or external outcome, the attainment of which leads to the target state. In the image on the right, the man’s intrinsic goal is survival; his behavioral goal is starting a fire. If he succeeds in starting the fire, he will attain his target state of survival with all its attendant feelings of boldness, strength, and vitality. In a word, he will be encouraged.
Whereas the intrinsic goal (target state) of a planet is symbolized by the sign that planet rules, the specific behavioral goal is symbolized by the sign the planet tenants. For example, an individual may decide to assert in an effort to protect his loved ones (Mars in Cancer), or perhaps in defense of astrology as a belief system (Mars in Sagittarius), or in order to dominate the competition (Mars in Capricorn). In each instance, he asserts his Aries right to be; yet, in each case Mars’ behavioral goal is different—to protect loved ones, defend astrology, or dominate the competition. Such goals are associated with, and linked to, his need for survival as an autonomous being.
Note how the extrinsic reward differs from the intrinsic one. The intrinsic goal (target state) of Mars is always the same: to survive, to feel alive, bold and free, which is symbolized by Aries. However, Mars’ sign position specifies the actual behavioral goal. With Mars in Cancer the extrinsic reward is that loved ones are protected, in Sagittarius that his belief in astrology is successfully defended, and in Capricorn that he dominates his competitors. These different outcomes serve to illustrate how the object of an action is described by the sign the planet occupies, whereas the sign the planet rules describes the motivation behind the goal.
Again, planetary signs constitute the last phase of a three-part motivational sequence. Phase one is awareness of the emotion that conveys a need, which is followed by the impulse to behave in a way that satisfies the need. The third phase is the establishment of a specific goal for the requisite action. This behavioral goal—the extrinsic reward—is qualified by the planetary sign position.
Imagine that an individual feels curious and so becomes aware of a need for information (Gemini). His Mercury function of learning is activated. But what is he curious about? What does he desire to learn? If Mercury is in Scorpio, he might be curious about sex, death, crime, or the machinations of power. He then acts with this object in mind by choosing to read about the life of serial killer Ted Bundy (left), for the topics of sex, death, crime, and power would be strongly in evidence. If reading Bundy’s biography satisfies his desire to learn, then the behavioral sequence will be terminated.
Note that Mercury’s sign position of Scorpio symbolizes the behavioral goal of the sequence: reading the Bundy biography to satisfy his craving for Scorpionic data. If the target state is not satisfied―that is, if he does not feel sufficiently informed, he will establish another behavioral goal for Mercury. There is high likelihood that whatever he chooses to study will accord with Mercury in Scorpio. Perhaps he’ll launch into an investigation of global terrorism or sex trafficking or corporate corruption—all Scorpionic topics.
The goal of a planetary action is not always related to its sign position. A person may have Mars in Gemini and fight to protect his loved ones, which has nothing to do with Gemini. In this case, the sign position merely describes the style of action that characterizes the planet. Mars in Gemini may assert to protect loved ones by giving the offending person a verbal tongue-lashing! While a planet’s behavior is not limited to goals symbolized by its sign position, the sign position will tend to establish a predominant theme or field of interest for that planet.
Trump Rising: Mars Leo on the Ascendant
Delineating both style and objective when considering planetary sign position allows for a fuller, more nuanced interpretation. Consider, for example, President Donald Trump’s Mars in Leo, which is especially prominent by virtue of being conjunct his Leo Ascendant. Mars on the Ascendant is like Mars on steroids, regardless of the sign occupied. Mars Leo on the Ascendant is like the Marvel Comics superhero, Iron Man―or, a circus performer shot out of a cannon. Fearless and entertaining, but so over the top it’s slightly ridiculous!
If we deconstruct the configuration, it becomes clear why this combination of factors is so outlandish, even if strangely effective. The Ascendant functions as a Mars point in the chart. It is like a launch pad with a rocket at the ready (the rising sign); so, having Mars actually on the Ascendant is a doubling down of Mars energy, a huge rocket with a large payload.
Donald Trump, June 14, 1946, 10:54 am, Jamaica, New York
As ruler of fire sign Aries, Mars is impulsive, autonomous, and combative. This is readily apparent in Trump’s feisty, dynamic personality. To state the obvious, he is brash, brazen, aggressive, indomitable, and constantly on the move. Trump’s energy is legendary; he requires only four hours sleep per/night. Moreover, he is fiercely independent and has a reputation for micromanaging projects. A classic entrepreneur, Trump is self-reliant, autocratic, and instinctive, trusting his gut over the advice of experts. Ever the happy warrior, Donald pushes so hard he’s embattled on all sides, fighting even members of his own party. All of this is consistent with Mars on the Ascendant regardless of sign.
When we add fire sign Leo to the mix, the Donald comes into sharper focus. Mars in a fire sign on the Ascendant is going to be irrepressible, like a locomotive barreling down the tracks with its furnace burning full blast. Mars symbolizes a set of actions: to initiate, assert, declare, compete, and fight. Again, its sign position answers the question how? Mars Leo asserts confidently, competes dramatically, fights heroically!
It is easy to mistake Trump’s oversized persona as merely conveying Leo attributes, but this misses the point. Mars excites, emboldens, and renders aggressive precisely those Leo qualities that are so prominent in his makeup. Trump is not merely Leo rising, he’s Leo shot out of a cannon rising; he’s in-your-face turbocharged Leo; he’s Iron Man Leo. There’s no censor or forethought: it’s unselfconscious and automatic. When he asserts, and assert he must, it’s going to be flamboyant, entertaining, playful, charismatic, and hyperconfident. In short, Trump can’t help himself. It’s simply who he is.
Related to style, of course, is the objective of Trump’s Mars. What does Trump assert? Once again, Leo answers the question. To appreciate this, we have to grasp that everything Leonian is reducible to the need for validation, consolidation of ego-identity, and building of self-esteem. All Leonian behaviors are subservient to these ends. In effect, what Trump is asserting is his will, pride, and identity. Momentary goals may shift but underlying all is this essential quest: Trump is declaring Trump―that is, his identity as a person of merit. Drive around NY city and you will see Trump’s name emblazoned everywhere: Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel, Trump Plaza, Trump World Tower, the Trump Building, Trump Park Avenue, Trump Soho, Trump Golf Links, the list goes on. And that’s just New York.
The Mars/Ascendant archetype is associated with births, fresh starts and new beginnings. Within this category is the founding of companies, organizations, and other entities. Again, with Mars in Leo, Trump is giving birth to himself―that is, declaring his brand over and over. The number of things launched by Trump that bear his name is almost incalculable―Trump towers, hotels, casinos, resorts, golf courses, plazas, wineries, restaurants, magazines, books, television and radio shows, games, airlines, clothing lines, schools, and more. In most of these categories, it’s not just one but multiple. He has 17 golf courses, 9 Trump Towers, 6 entertainment resorts, 6 international hotels, 4 Trump Plazas, 4 books, and on and on.
If the Aries-Mars archetype is associated with sowing your seed, Trump has spread his seed all over the world, having become the most famous person on the planet and now, as president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world. To call him prolific would be an understatement. Words simply fail.
As the archetype associated with play, games, and sports, Leo is all about winning. To win is to get the girl, profit from the deal, outscore the competition, acquire the trophy, be the star and see your name in lights! There’s nothing wrong with this; in fact, we celebrate it. However, if winning is pursued too ardently, one suspects narcissism, as if the individual is overcompensating for some internal deficit.
Trump’s narcissism is so glaring one expects him to deflate at any moment. In pathological narcissism, confidence is compensatory. The person is puffed up as a defense against an inner emptiness and sense of worthlessness, like a big balloon with a happy face but nothing substantive on the inside. As soon as the false pride is punctured, the ruse falls apart and the narcissist self-destructs. This is how I always saw Trump, thin skinned, a buffoon, a big phony. For years, he was my poster child for narcissistic personality disorder. And then he became president. Ever since, he’s been character assassinated 24/7 in a relentless barrage of attacks by the left-wing media, ceaselessly denigrated and investigated by his political opponents, and according to the Mueller and Horowitz reports, falsely accused and undermined by the justice department in a conspiracy to destroy his presidency.1 And yet, if anything, he’s only grown stronger.
This has forced me to reevaluate my initial assessment. Is it possible that what we’re seeing is not narcissism in the conventional sense, but something narcissistic-like yet distinguishable from its pathological version by virtue of an overabundance of genuine confidence combined with an unbridled instinct to assert his worth? This would be consistent with Mars Leo on the Ascendant. And while his bombastic, self-aggrandizing style might not be pretty, it is not necessarily pathological either. Real narcissism is more than a set of obnoxious traits; it’s a personality organization defined as much by what is lacking on the inside as what is apparent on the outside. Trump is more like the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going, no matter how many times he gets hit. As president, he has proved extraordinarily resilient. And his lifetime of accomplishment speaks for itself, even if the volume is turned up annoyingly loud.
There’s another thing that makes me question whether Trump is truly narcissistic. He is a contradiction. On the one hand, the Donald seems inordinately concerned about his image and popularity; on the other, he is fiercely independent and uncensored, often saying things that are politically incorrect and sure to offend. In actual narcissism, the ego-identity (Sun) is inflated and overcompensating for an internal deficit that makes the narcissist secretly afraid that he’s insignificant, unimportant, and expendable. Mars Leo on the Ascendant mimics the outward appearance of narcissism by energizing, strengthening, and rendering more aggressive the Leo penchant for self-promotion; yet, the expression is not compensatory. It’s Leo bursting forth like a geyser under pressure, a fount of pure creativity. Internally, the goods are there.
This Trump doesn’t care what anyone thinks; he’s going to be his authentic self and do what he thinks is right no matter how unpopular. And he’s going to keep doing it. When challenged, he’ll launch a spirited defense, counterpunching with a vengeance. But that’s Mars Leo, the indomitable King defending his honor. Trump himself says it best: “The only thing I’m a little bit weak on is my personality but who the hell cares.”2
We need to keep in mind that Mars behavior is always in the service of fulfilling its motivating needs for autonomy, freedom, and survival. The sign position of Mars symbolizes its style of action and behavioral goal, but both are for the sake of affirming one’s right to be. Trump’s Mars provides a case in point. He asserts in a dramatic, egocentric manner, and he continuously asserts his brand – his name, image, and pride – as if his very life depended on it. And for him, perhaps it does. That is the beauty of astrology. It enhances our empathy and allows us to walk in another man’s shoes.
Trump is a loose cannon, to be sure. He declares himself great, over and over, and now has hitched himself to America’s wagon as the hero of his own movement to make America great. However unorthodox, he appears to be succeeding―booming economy, stock market hitting all-time record highs, unemployment at a 50-year low, record job growth, reduced taxes, rising wages and increased savings. But this should not be surprising. That’s what Trump has done his entire life. With Mars Leo sextile his Sun (will) and trine his Moon (homeland), he is compelled to be great and make America great, too, whether we like it or not.
At a campaign rally in Billings Montana in 2016, Trump promised the crowd, “We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go, ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else.’ And I’m going to say, ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep winning, winning, winning. We’re going to make America great again.’”3
This single statement encapsulates the style and objective of Mars Leo on the Ascendant. How does Mars assert? Like a circus showman rallying the crowd. Playful, exuberant. Prepare to be amazed! What does Mars assert? That Trump (and us, too) will win and keep on winning―that is, if we can stand it.
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1 There are a plethora of articles and books on this topic, but one of the best is by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, 2018: The Plot to Destroy Trump: How the Deep State Fabricated the Russian Dossier to Subvert the President. See also The Russia Hoax by Gregg Jarrett; Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump by Jerome Corsi; Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump by Dan Bongino; The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hanson; and Unfreedom of the Press by Mark Levin.
2 Johnson, Jenna and DelReal, Jose. “25 quotes capturing Donald Trump’s final pitch to South Carolina,” The Washington Post, February 19, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/02/19/25-quotes-capturing-donald-trumps-final-pitch-to-south-carolina/
3 Lutey, Tom. “Trump: ‘We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning’,” Billings Gazette, May 26, 2016. https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/trump-we-re-going-to-win-so-much-you-re/article_2f346f38-37e7-5711-ae07-d1fd000f4c38.html
I have always wanted to believe that Trump has narcissistic personality disorder. It just seemed so obvious. But like you, (minus the training) it occurred to me that if he were covering up feelings of inadequacy, then that, along with the Mars/Leo conjunct the Ascendant, should also be seen in his chart. Can’t find any feelings of inadequacy anywhere, in his behavior or his chart.
For that reason I have to reluctantly agree with you here! Perhaps the lesson in this Presidency isn’t for Trump but rather for each of us, and our varied reactions to him. Maybe sometimes you need a buffoon, impervious to your attempts to take him down, to drive home a subtler point for the rest of us. No way of knowing what’s in it for Trump (spiritually), but that’s not my job; my job is to understand what’s in it for me.