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A PROCESS-ORIENTED APPROACH TO ASTROLOGY

 

CHART INTERPRETATION, AND ASPECTS

Leyla Rael & Dane Rudhyar 

 

Astrology as it is taught and practiced today has by and large lost its sense of process. It deals primarily with traditionally established definitions and descriptions, keywords and categories. A birth-chart is drawn on paper, framed perhaps, and looked at as an objective thing, set once and for all with an essentially static character. Whatever changes occur over the span of a person's life are referred back to various, separately and statically defined factors in his or her horoscope.

 

Yet astrology is based on celestial motion, and the human experience of the sky is one of unceasing change. Every celestial entity is in a state of perpetual motion, and celestial motions are also regular and periodical. Astrology should therefore deal with the dynamism of existence. Because of the regularity of the changes it records and interprets, it should be considered a study of the processes of existence.

 

A process is nothing more nor less than an ordered sequence of changes. It starts at some more or less well-defined beginning, unfolds in time through a series of changes, steps or phases, eventually reaching some kind of conclusion on the basis of which a new process proceeds. The alternation of days and nights, the seasonal cycle of the year, the slow shifting of the Earth's polar axis in relation to the 'fixed' stars: all are processes deeply affecting human existence - which is itself a process operating individually in the chronological unfoldment of the human life-span (with all its implications of biological and psychological growth) and collectively in terms of long-range cultural and historical developments. Astrology merely broadens, conceptualizes, generalizes and codifies into principles applicable to human development, the experience of such processes as seasonal changes and the periodic change from light to dark, which are facts of common human experience. It also extends this concept of process to the periodic relationships between moving planets - indeed between everything in the sky and everything else.

 

Because this sense of process is essentially missing from astrological thinking today, the aim of this book is to reawaken in astrologers' minds the realization that astrology does indeed deal with constant and rhythmic, dynamic celestial motions rather than with merely static factors and categories. Therefore, when interpreting birth-charts and applying astrology to matters of human development and concern, a sense of process and of the structure of celestial cycles must underlie the astrologer's efforts.

 

It is true that astrologers study and interpret what are called progressions and transits. When such notions as dynamic process, ordered change and unfoldment in time are mentioned, most astrologers immediately think of these two techniques. Yet progressions and transits deal with time, motion and change only in an overt, obvious way. Even they, however, are not interpreted by most astrologers in terms of continuing processes, i.e., in terms of real, existential motions or changes - human or celestial - and thus not in terms of their fundamental, holistic nature and meaning.

 

Nevertheless, basic in astrological thinking and interpretation should be the feeling that every factor and technique used in astrology - zodiacal signs, houses, planets, aspects as well as progressions and transits - can only be fully understood in terms of whole processes of change. The application of the rhythms of celestial motion to corresponding developments in the lives of human beings can never be fully significant and revealing if the astrologer does not realize that human experience acquires its essential meaning when studied in terms of personal and collective unfoldment. Process is at the very root of human experience and development, because human life is primarily the working out of a complex set of relationships between the components of the total personality and between a person and all other persons or objects and events encountered as the life process which began at birth unfolds its potentialities.

 

To speak of relationship is also to speak of what in astrology are called aspects. This book is primarily about astrological aspects. It is also a book about chart interpretation. And it is also a book about life-interpretation, that is, how to use birth-charts and astrological thinking to see and understand the unfoldment of dynamic, purposeful processes in people's lives, or rather, how to see people's lives as the unfoldment of dynamic, purposeful processes - their processes, their dharma, destiny or truth-of-being. Dharma, however, does not refer merely to a state to be achieved, but to a process to be lived, step by step.

 

This process, which must be lived and acted out step by step over the span of a person's life, is nevertheless implied in the spatial organization of the birth-chart, in the aspects and aspect-patterns linking the planets - themselves representing dynamic centers or principles of activities and functions. Aspects in astrological charts should be understood as injunctions - instructions telling us how the activities or functions represented by two planets should be related to one another in order to fulfill what is needed at a particular phase of the whole cycle during which the two planets relate to one another in all possible ways. In other words, aspects tell us what to do with what is represented by two planets relating to one another in an especially significant way; the particular significance of the aspect or interplanetary relationship derives from the place this phase­relationship occupies in the two planets' overall cycle with one another.

 

Conversely, if we are experiencing in our life a certain situation which we can identify as being symbolized by two planets, the natal aspect or relationship between those two planets can help us understand why - for what productive purpose - we must deal with such circumstances. Implied also is the best way for us to meet them. Even if what we face is not immediately apparent in our birth-chart, if we understand the principles of process underlying aspects, we will be better able to understand situations as parts or phases of our lives as wholes, and we will be better able to deal with them (or realize how we might have dealt with them) in conscious, creative ways.

 

It is to be hoped that a practical, specific understanding of astrological aspects will become clear in concrete ways as we proceed with the more or less didactic material which will make up the bulk of this book. This book, which talks a great deal about process, is itself a process. It needs to unfold gradually in the reader's mind, step by step, as any ordered process of growth or development. How could a book about principles of process do otherwise than to itself unfold step by step, each step building upon the preceding ones? Please do read it that way.

 

But now, back to the matter at hand. We have made a rather serious allegation: Astrology has lost its sense of process. Perhaps we should first inquire as to how and why before suggesting how we believe it should be restored and reincorporated into astrological thinking to meet the needs of modern men and women.  

 

 

How Astrology Lost Its Sense of Process

 

When cycles in time became circles in space, astrologers became so involved with the circles that they forgot about the cycles of which the circles were merely representations or symbols.

 

Any experience of time is difficult to measure or to define accurately. Space (although philosophically just as 'abstract') is much easier to deal with in a practical or conceptual way, especially when one is dealing with a relatively small and manageable space such as one can 'trap' on a clay tablet or piece of paper - space that stands still and doesn't squirm around when one puts a ruler or compass to it in order to divide it up into even more manageable segments.

 

Time and especially time-measurements, which are all derived from celestial motions, are not as well-behaved and manageable as that. Everything in the heavens is in constant motion, moving in relation to everything else. Even the so-called 'fixed stars' are not actually fixed - they merely appear to remain in the same patterns with reference to one another. They also move, quite slowly but significantly, in relation to the vernal equinox point and the seasonal cycle between the Sun and the Earth. Moreover, although celestial motions map out many cycles-various orders of time, let us say, such as the year or the day - and others like the sidereal cycle of the Moon, the synodic cycle between the Sun and Moon - the sidereal cycles of the planets, synodic cycles between planets, etc. - none of these time-measurements can be precisely expressed in terms of any of the others. There is always some ungraceful, inelegant shortfall or leftover whenever we try to equate some number of one kind of celestial cycle with exactly another, longer cycle. For example, 365&1/4, rather than exactly 365 days make up a year. There is therefore always some time 'unaccounted for', as it were, and as smaller cycles go into but never exactly make up larger cycles, shortfall or leftover time piles up. It intrudes itself in a spiralic, unmanageable way. In order to make time less squirmy and more manageable, calendars - and astrology per se - were devised.  

 

Calendars actually 'trap' time in space to handle it more easily. They project time onto spaces which can then be more easily measured, divided up and meted out to appropriate activities than the time-experience when not projected onto a particular space. Clocks (especially the now old-fashioned kind with face and hands more than the new-fangled electronic, digital ones) are a similar, although later and more ambitious because mechanical, projection of time onto space.

 

Long before the kind of clocks and calendars we have now, astrology was born as a means to provide a spatial method of measuring time - an objective method. The creative, change - and growth - producing flow of time was referred by astrologers and early calendar makers to the ordered motions of celestial dots and discs of light. The first astrologies were the first calendars and vice versa, they spatialized time for appropriate tribal use just as later time was recorded and standardized for every person's individual use by means of clocks and calendars which are synchronized to celestial notions. To interpret and make time-experience concrete by space­patterns became the function of astrology, in the same way in which to interpret and make concrete the properties of numbers was the function of geometry - and even today geometrical models are made to make intricate algebraic functions more concretely intelligible.

 

A whole of time-experience - a complete cycle such as a year or a day, a lunar or planetary sidereal cycle or a synodic cycle between two celestial bodies - thus came to be projected into space, and it took the form of a circumference: the serpent swallowing its own tail of archaic symbolism, less exaltedly but more ubiquitously, the circle. The circle came to stand as the symbol for wholeness - wholeness in space as a projection of less-easily-defined and worked with wholeness in time. The advantage of working with a circle was that the circle could be visually grasped as a whole in one glance; a cycle unfolded at its own rate over time and could neither be experienced all at once nor speeded up or slowed down. Circles could also be divided into any number of segments or arcs. And while actual cycles - both natural cycles on Earth and celestial cycles - are also divided into phases, they are divided into more or less set numbers of phases.

 

In any cyclic experience there are particularly significant moments or turning points. These mark out the phases whereby cycles develop. It seems quite evident that the concepts of the signs of the zodiac, the houses of the horoscope and astrological aspects as divisions or segments of a whole circle originated in the recognition of such especially important moments when something always seemed to happen that would give a vital direction to the sequence of events developing throughout the complete cycle being considered. Quite obviously, the beginning of vegetation in the spring and the fall of leaves following the harvest stood out in the agricultural civilizations of Mesopotamia and other temperate regions as high-points in the basic seasonal cycle of the year. Likewise, sunrise, noon and sunset were selected as similarly basic moments in the full day-and-night cycle leading - together with a mysterious point opposite noon in the cycle of the day - to the basic quadrature of all astrological charts and concepts.

 

A similar and even more graphic or geometrical fourfold cyclic pattern was related to the phases of the Moon during the month. It seems quite plain to us that the observation and recording of lunar phases led to the rational and geometrical concepts of astrological aspects. The three basic aspects of archaic astrology are thus likely to have been the conjunctions (New Moon), opposition (Full Moon) and square (First and Last Quarters). These are aspects born of the experience of time, and, from what we know of archaic geometry even as late as Pythagoras, the figure of the square, which the four­fold time-experiences of day, year and synodic month all inferred when projected as space-patterns, must have been, together with the circle on which the square was projected, the basic measurements of space.

 

The astrological aspect called trine, however, does not seem to have come out of any primary sense of time-division. If we divide a circle into three arcs and inscribe the geometrical figure of a triangle in it by connecting the points defining the arcs, we would not be following a pattern suggested by the flow of natural processes in the biosphere. Neither can an essential threefoldness be inferred from observing any celestial cycles. If we think of dividing a cycle into three parts, we do so as a result of being able to separate the concept of a process from all our experiences of processes - our experiences of processes in nature displaying always an essentially two- or fourfold structure.

 

Herein lies the rub between circle and cycle, space-projection and time-experience, geometry and process. With the trine, the danger of astrology losing its sense of process arises. But so also comes into play the possibility of astrology becoming truly a key to understanding the mysteries of man and the universe!

 

When we speak about a trine, we are not specifically or exclusively referring to the astrological aspect we use today, but more generally to astrological notions of threefold linking not based on time-experience and process, but on space-projection, geometry and concept. In other words, when triangulation appears in astrological thinking, it means that a shift in emphasis has occurred. The change is from emphasis on experience to emphasis on abstraction from experience, from cycle to circle.

                                      

We see the same nexus being reached in terms of the zodiac, when the time-experience of the seasons became embodied, as it were, in a geometrical design. In nature, unfoldment is paramount and the process of change is step by step, although some steps may be seemingly large or sudden. When the seasons unfold in time, what is important is the relationship of each sign (or solar 'month') to the signs preceding and succeeding it - thus, the 30 aspect semi-sextile, which, as we will see in the next chapter, forms the foundation for a time-approach to astrological aspects. But neither the 30 aspect nor the relationship of each zodiacal sign to its two adjacent ones is or has been for a long time as significant in astrology as, say, the relationship of opposite signs, signs at the four arms of crosses or squares, or signs at the three points of equilateral triangles inscribed in the zodiacal circle.

 

That the zodiac has come to be considered more of a circle than a cycle even though its very basis is time-experience should be obvious. Otherwise, how could we refer to something like 'Mars in Virgo'? In a very curious, Alice-in-Wonderland way from the time­experience point of view, such phrases make the same kind of sense as saying it is March, but my typewriter is in September. Astronomically, it is like saying something more to the effect of it is March, but Mars is where the Sun was last September and will be this coming September. But why should the particular section of the sky the Sun crosses in September carry September's qualities and somehow transfer them to or through Mars when the Sun is not there and it is in fact spring? We have always found it puzzling that astrologers have not considered the way the zodiac is used to be more mysterious, or at least have not generally asked deep and probing questions about it.

 

Such phrases as 'Mars in Virgo' and its attendant, above-mentioned conundrums make sense if we understand that as the human capacity for abstraction and conceptualization, and therefore astrology and the zodiac, developed, the cycle of the seasons was projected as a circle in space. This gave rise to the significance of the cardinal, fixed and mutable crosses, and the earth, air, fire and water triangles, which developed as significant symbols in their own right. However, as the 'time-ward' flow of zodiacal signs was 'interrupted' and, as it were, reshuffled by geometric inscription and linking, the signs became increasingly thought of as separate entities, eventually becoming in most people's minds little more than twelve boxes or categories into which fall a variety of characterizations and personality traits - these often having little if anything to do with natural processes such as the unfoldment of the seasons or the span of a human life, but gaining far more of what are attributed as their meanings from geometric, particularly triangular, linking with other signs. (1)

 

Of course, it will be asserted that from a sidereal point of view the zodiac arose as a frame of reference associated with the constellations, which provided reference areas for celestial motions in the heavens where nothing else stood relatively still long enough to be used as such a framework. This may be so - at least in part and in some areas of the world - but it would also appear that even before the constellations were 'fixed' as definite celestial entities, the process of heliacal and achronycal rising and setting of certain brilliant stars, along with seasonal changes, played a significant role in astronomical understanding. (2) Moreover, whether the zodiac is considered in its tropical or sidereal aspect, it is always divided into 360 degrees, even though the Sun appears to move a little over 365 times around the Earth before returning to Us starting point - be that the vernal equinox or a point in relation to fixed stars. The number 360 is thus a geometrical rationalization or conceptualization of the experience of change - i.e., of time.

 

In any case, an in-depth discussion of zodiacal development is beyond our intent here, Our main point at the moment is that whether one approaches the zodiac from a sidereal or seasonal point of view, the cycle/circle, experience/concept, time/space issues remain the same: what was for the earliest star-gazer/astrologers essentially the mystery of unfoldment of time and the experience of change and process became for later astrologer/geometers the fascinating possibilities of mathematically and intellectually manipulating a two-dimensional abstract diagram in space.

 

Why the fascination? Because Greek philosophers like Pythagoras and Plato believed geometry and mathematics held the keys to the mysteries of Man, God and the universe. To the evolving Western intellect, geometry and mathematics revealed a supersensible, 'perfect' or ideal pattern of order behind, but not actually in, what were considered the less-than-perfect manifestations of nature - human nature and the unruly periods of celestial motions included. Geometer/philosophers sought their world of archetypal perfection not in experience and existential reality, but in exact geometrical patterns and rational numerical sequences and ratios which could be handled by man's divine component, Reason, but which could never be encountered exactly in the real world of the senses. Plato, for example, encouraged young men destined for the responsibilities of public service to develop their minds by studying, among other things, astronomy. But he warned that they were not to trouble themselves too much about the actual heavenly bodies, but rather with the mathematics of motion of ideal heavenly bodies. (3)

 

It was not a very large step from the mathematics of the motions of ideal heavenly bodies to the mathematics of the geometry inferred from the motions of ideal heavenly bodies. Planetary rulerships ­ i.e., geometric, symmetrical schemata of relationships or 'affinities' between planets and zodiacal signs - fairly soon became more significant than the planets themselves or their motions, actual or ideal. (4) The zodiac, the perfect circle, first became more significant than the process it represented and the planets for which it served as a frame of reference, (5) then, the geometric relationships among its individual signs became more significant than the perfection, let alone the process, represented by the whole. (6)

 

Thus, in all fields of human endeavor, and not only in astrology, the chasm between the realm of static archetypes and the world of ever-changing phenomena, between intellect (in the Greek sense of the term) and experience widened. Experience - the realm of the senses and all natural processes - was consigned to a rung of the value-ladder quite below the rank of Reason, i.e., the realm of thought and rational processes. Nature had to be subdued by Reason, considered the ensouling principle of man, and human nature was at the head of the list. The body and its natural inclinations, character and destiny as 'written in the stars' had to be forged into a fitting receptacle for the divine soul, Reason.

 

Hence, the purpose of an individual's horoscope became to enable him to 'rule his stars.' The horoscope was a conventionalized map of the places of the real heavenly bodies at the time of birth. It therefore referred to the realm of nature, human nature, to the part of the human being which had to be controlled or subdued by his reason. But if the wise man was to rule his stars, i.e., his natural inclinations and destiny, he had to know what they were and how to do combat with them. Astrology developed as an increasingly complex descriptive typology, from which every person could ascertain his or her strengths and weaknesses, wielding the former as weapons in order to conquer the latter.

 

While the horoscope was referred to nature, the interpretation of the horoscope was the province of the intellect. Since manifestations of nature are many and celestial factors describing them relatively few, the myriad relationships between factors in the horoscope became increasingly significant. The ruler of one sign in the house of another indicated one thing, which could be mitigated or tempered one way or another if something else, the ruler of such­and-so rose in conjunction with the ruler of still some other house or sign. This is not terribly different from what many astrological text­books today present as a more sophisticated psychological approach: "If planet x is in sign or house y, the native tends to be. . , . At times he may do such-and-so, creating this or that type of problem. He will be most happy (or successful) if he. . . rather than. . . . He should use extra caution when. . .and should try instead to cultivate. . ."

 

In terms of what we are developing here, we should first realize what a tremendous change this represents from the way in which ancient people reverenced the stars and planets and sought to attune themselves to the natural, seasonal processes and inevitable periodic changes over which they believed the heavenly discs and dots of light unquestionably held sway. To seek to attune oneself to natural processes is evidently quite different from trying to rule and bend them to one's will! And it matters only slightly whether the processes one interferes with are external, biospheric-natural ones or internal, psychological, human-natural ones.

 

We are beginning, quite uncomfortably, to realize where the 'conquer' mentality has led Western civilization, most obviously in terms of its particular brand of science and technology. And yet, humanity has evidently passed the point at which a more or less passive attunement to purely natural and biospheric rhythms is possible or even desirable. Can there not be a meeting ground between these two contrasting approaches to life? Can a sense of process and attunement rather than separation and manipulation be reincorporated, not only into astrology, but into human consciousness and actions as well?

 

What we must realize is, first, that the time/space, process/ geometry, attune/rule dualities in astrology are representative of a whole range of similar conflicts in practically all areas of human enquiry and endeavor. Whether we say that the horns of the dilemma are represented by the right and left sides of the brain, or whether we rely on feeling and experience or on our intellects, a holistic world-view vs. an atomistic one, really makes little difference. These are all different ways of depicting the same crossroads. For, second, we must recognize that all such dualities essentially reflect the fact that human consciousness has passed through the first two stages of a developmental process which must now pro­ceed to its third stage just as synthesis must follow thesis and antithesis. But synthesis, contrary to popular opinion, is not like running something willy-nilly through a Waring Blender; it is more than mere eclecticism. True synthesis is like the integration of Yin and Yang within the Chinese symbol Tai-Chi, the enfolding and en­compassing, dynamic Tao. It is a harmonization of opposites within a more inclusive vision.

 

Astrologically, such a synthesis means bringing together the essence and unique contributions of both the archaic/attunement approach and the classical/archetypal approach. We must restore to astrological thinking and understanding a sense of process and of reverence for the wholeness, integrity and elegant necessity of life­processes, while retaining astrology's sophisticated, abstracted symbology, conceptual tools and geometric schema bringing into play the qualitative and archetypal aspects of number and form. The approach resulting from this type of synthesis should of course encompass qualities of each earlier approach, but it should also far surpass both in psychological sophistication and philosophical inclusiveness. Because human consciousness was able to formulate and use the two earlier approaches, it developed the capacity for a broader perspective through the experience and the process - even though the experience and process consisted largely of, first, denying the significance of experience and process in relation to a supersensible ideal, geometric realm and developing the powers of abstraction, rationalization and conceptualization; then, turning those very powers back on the material world, asserting that only what was physical and could be grasped and manipulated by the intellect could be considered 'real'!

 

We believe that the process-oriented approach we are developing in this book has the possibility of going far toward stimulating the needed synthesis in astrology. The reader should recognize, however, how different it is, especially from the purely descriptive approach he or she may be used to encountering in most textbooks. The process- oriented approach we are envisioning is an approach not only to chart interpretation per se, but also, we repeat, an astrological approach to life interpretation. It is an approach in which the motions of celestial bodies become symbols of how processes operate and unfold everywhere, and an approach in which a person's life is seen and understood as the polyphonic unfoldment of a variety of processes, all aimed at fulfilling some necessary evolutionary step or function. Such an approach, like the approach of archaic or indigenous peoples, seeks attunement rather than forcible mastery. But it is not an approach advocating passivity or resignation. It is an approach promoting understanding and meaningful living, and a transformative willingness to pass through whatever life brings in order to grow and develop and actualize the potentialities inherent in one's birth. It is an approach which ultimately flows from - and toward - the realization that every life-process, whether in nature, human nature in general, or in a particular person's life, is a phase of a larger process, a step in the step-by-step unfoldment of something essentially necessary for personal, collective or cosmic evolution.

 

 

A Process-Oriented Approach to the Birth-Chart

 

From a process-oriented point of view, we can best understand the birth-chart - the map of the heavens drawn for the exact time and place of a person's first breath-if we picture it as a stop-motion snapshot of a moment in the flow of the life of the cosmos. It is, as it were, a slice of celestial space-time as seen from planet Earth. The whole past of celestial motion is behind and implied in the particular planetary, zodiacal, house and aspect pattern appearing at the moment of our birth. And implied in both its totality and each of its parts is dynamic momentum, that is, an inexorable continuation of motion toward a future unfoldment. A birth-chart is thus a celestial statement of where the universe 'is', and therefore what it needs next, at the moment of our birth.

 

This celestial situation symbolizes the existential, human one ­ or vice versa. In the history of the cosmos, or at least what we know of it, of our cosmos - the Earth, humanity, our society, family, etc. - certain things have been done, certain developmental and evolutionary steps have been taken; certain attitudes, values, institutions, patterns of behaving, thinking and feeling have been built, cycle upon cycle, process upon process, step by step. The newborn inherits, as it were, a world and a cosmos already in progress. Many things have been done, and they have been done well or badly. Some lines of development have produced beautiful accomplishments or valid and workable solutions to life's challenges. Other evolutionary attempts have failed partially or utterly, or left behind toxic by-products or decaying remains which must be neutralized or eliminated before the next constructive steps can be taken in a particular area. Some new developments may be just beginning and need to be nur­tured to maturity; innovation may be drastically needed in other areas.

 

At all times, a host of cycles of development, terrestrial and celestial, is in process - and the next steps need to be taken in all of them. The birth-chart shows us that each one of us is the potential taker of some next step(s). It shows us not only that each of us is a potential taker of some step, it shows us how - by handling what types of energies and by meeting and passing through what types of challenges in what areas of life - we can endeavor to answer the need we were born to fulfill. What is implied as a 'next step' by the myriad of cycles frozen and focused into a birth-chart - each planet­to-planet relationship, each relation of planet to sign, planet to house, sign to house, etc. - has to be made actual, to be fulfilled in the world by a person born at that particular time and place. Past karma demands that this be so; the future, yet unborn but 'present' in seed, yearns for it as a foundation. If we believe that life is indeed ordered and meaningful, we can also trust that we will be 'given' to experience whatever situations we need, either through, or in spite of which we can best fulfill our function.

 

This may seem somewhat abstract, but we can perhaps make it more concrete by saying that, at least astrologically and archetypally, we can follow many developmental processes as they unfold by relating them to the phases - i.e., aspects - of symbolically appropriate celestial or planetary cycles: for example, long, universalizing cycles of the development of culture and civilization to the nearly 500-year-Iong Pluto/Neptune cycle; cycles of sociocultural formation and transformation to the Uranus/Saturn cycle; local political and social patterns to Jupiter and Saturn, and so on. From such a point of view, we can actually watch our birth-charts taking form over time, the natal positions and aspects 'clicking in', as it were, one after another, step by step.

 

Similarly, if we are process-oriented students of history, psychology and sociology, we can see the kinds of situations we face in our lives having been formed over time and through individual and collective cycles of development during the decades and years before our birth. We can actually see that the kinds of problems we face in life become possible through such a process. It may seem rather strange to speak of problems almost as if they were privileges, but in a sense - an evolutionary, process-oriented sense - this is indeed the case. Problems occur when traditions crystallize and become ineffective, when the pressures of past karma necessitate unprecedented solutions to equally unprecedented 'messes', or when new potentialities engendered by positive steps forward in human development require bold and enlightened innovation in order to be actualized.

 

From such a point of view, we should realize that as our birth­charts were once the 'transits' of a day in the life of the cosmos, so, too, are our lives phases in the process of human development. What we often fail to realize when we deal with what we call our personal problems is that they are actually particular or individual focalizations of the developmental challenges of our times. Changing values in interpersonal relationship, in social institutions such as marriage and the family, in the roles of men and women - problems with our children, their education, involvement with peer-group activities, drugs, TV or fashion - economic difficulties brought about by job-loss or the obsolescence of skills built over a life-time - situations of psycho-spiritual crisis or conflict encountered in an eager search for 'new realities,' modes of consciousness or levels of being: all these and more are reflections and personal manifestations of much larger patterns operating within our society and humanity as a whole at this time in history and evolution.

 

To say this, however, is not to minimize or take away from the gravity or importance of individuals' problems. Rather, it is to put the kinds of challenges facing each of us today into a proper, workable and process-oriented perspective. On the one hand, we can endeavor to understand our birth-charts and lives from the point of view of a purely individual psychology, exploring and primarily trying to deal with the personal-psychological causes of our problems. We can even personally relate to the past antecedents of our lives in a historical way, seeing what we presently face as a continuation of a past having produced and passed on an impersonal type of karma (residua) and dharma (potentialities). Or we can consider our connectedness to the past in a reincarnational way - that is, in terms of having been associated in some way with actual personalities who lived and acted and participated in the past, creating and passing on a more personal kind of karma or need for a 'next step'. Reincarnation can, of course, also be thought of by postulating 'being' or 'having' a divine or immortal soul or monad which, having incarnated here or elsewhere in the past, returns to finish certain unfinished business or take the next step in some ongoing process of development. The variations on such themes are practically endless.

 

On the other hand, it may be equally important to also recognize the reality of our interconnectedness with a larger whole, with collective processes of development and unfoldment, to recognize the fact that we as individuals with particular birth-charts face certain situations or problems in our relationships, families, jobs, psyches or checkbooks because the development of humanity as a whole, and particularly of the society of which we are a part, has reached a stage at which new approaches to the principles of human consciousness and activity underlying the forms of such situations are needed. In other words, certain kinds of problems, capabilities or challenges are indicated in individuals' lives and birth-charts because they represent - both for the individuals and the collectivity - the means whereby all can take the next steps in their respective, but interconnected evolutionary processes.

 

Even this, we realize, may sound rather abstract and far­removed from the experience and usual thinking of many people, astrologers and astrology students. But it is a conclusion to which a truly process- oriented approach to astrology inexorably points. Anyone who thinks he or she or his or her life is independent of larger processes of development, or not structured by the principles of cyclic unfoldment is not thinking realistically - or astrologically. For if we encounter a situation in someone's life which we can identify as having something to do with, say, Neptune in Libra or Venus square Saturn in their birth-chart, we would not avow that either of these are purely personal indications. While they may manifest in the personal life of an individual, they are nevertheless symbols of universal human functions and phases of development which must be lived through and actualized. . . for a purpose.

 

We perhaps more readily see and acknowledge this when we look at the birth-charts and lives of certain 'larger-than-life' personalities or public figures. Some of us do indeed wind up performing large, public roles in shaping values, disseminating information, inspiring great movements, etc. But we should first of all recognize that the function of such 'greatness' is not dependent only upon indications in birth-charts. Many people are born with similar planetary placements and aspects, and many people born with so-called 'promising' charts never seem to actualize much in the way of positive results in their lives at any level. On the other hand, just as important as the more obvious contributions of persons who gain some degree of renown or notoriety is the growth and development that is called for in each of our lives. Not only what we do, but also the quality of consciousness and spirit in which we do it, perpetuates itself and continues to evolve, refine or break down basic patterns of human behavior over millennia, whether we operate at the level of personal psychology or in terms of larger social or cultural patterns. Such a transmission is focused into the 'seed harvest' of our lives ­ which can refer to our children (biological level), life-work (socio­cultural level) and/or our contributions or 'input' to the one Mind of Humanity. As the occult saying goes, "No work is ever lost."

 

This is perhaps a good opportunity to mention why we will present examples of well-known contemporary and historical figures in connection with, especially, the less well-understood and used aspects we will be exploring. We present them because they fulfill two requirements of being good examples: (1) their charts contain the particular aspect or configuration we are discussing, and (2) the lives of these persons seem to have fulfilled or exemplified in some way the taking of the step represented by the particular aspect. This is not to say that a particular aspect indicates that such-and-so will manifest in a person's life or that it 'makes' a person or his or her life a certain way. No aspect or configuration presents a guarantee or a 'given' ­ for as we will see, even trines need to be actualized through a process of development and do not 'magically' manifest by themselves. It is to say that the particular example-chart and person and life-exemplifies for us the meeting of a challenge and the taking of some 'next step,' i.e., the at least partial fulfillment of the need the aspect symbolized.

 

Such examples notwithstanding, the questions still remain: When we are not dealing with persons whose lives have, at least to some extent, already been lived out and made manifest on a public level, how do we go about understanding what is represented by aspects in a client's (or in our own) chart? How do we know what particular 'need' or 'next step' in development is necessary and possible for that person to fulfill or take over the course of his or her life? Our answer: By familiarizing ourselves with the principles of planetary meanings, cyclic unfoldment and aspect formation, we allow the essential truths expressed through the principles to permeate, en­lighten and transform our thinking. By so doing, we greatly expand our capacity to give meaning to life via astrological symbolism - for we evoke and develop intuition.

 

 

Why Principles?

 

In a complex and dynamic universe in which countless variables constantly interact, no one could possibly memorize enough definitions of particular situations to 'cover' everything he or she might encounter. Thinking in terms of broad, inclusive but flexible principles is the most effective, and ultimately the wisest 'way to go' . But for some people, principles are like scotch whiskey: a taste for them is not inherent and has to be acquired. Especially today, astrological principles are often stated quickly, then shunted aside in favor of more particular, memorizable statements or paragraphs neatly tabulated in textbooks attempting to provide a compendium of definitions for all possible combinations of factors under scrutiny.

 

It is, however, impossible to tabulate all possible combinations of astrological factors if we take into account more than two of them at a time. We can consider factor a in relation to twelve others, as when we deal with planets in signs, or planets in houses, or signs on cusps of houses. (The situation merely becomes more complicated if we take intercepted signs and signs spread over two houses into account.) We can easily tabulate planet x in six aspect-relations to each of the other planets. We can even turn this around and make all the various pairings via six relationships mutual. But we would certainly need a lot of paper and pencils to account for all the possible three­fold combinations of ten planets and six aspects - such as Venus square Mars, with Venus also square Saturn (and Mars therefore opposition Saturn); Venus square Mars, with Venus also square Jupiter (and Mars therefore in opposition to Jupiter). . . Venus square Mars, with Venus also sextile Saturn (and therefore Mars quincunx Saturn); Venus square Mars, with Venus sextile Jupiter (and Mars therefore quincunx Jupiter), etc.

 

Even if we managed to tabulate each of such manifold combinations of three planets and six-aspects with a computer, how would we deal with the definitions? Each two- or threefold combination would still find itself in the company and context of several other two- and threefold combinations, and we would not be very much better off than when we started, when separate definitions of twofold combinations were 'added' to one another. As many astrology students have discovered, this procedure provides a less-than­brilliant or even satisfactory overall interpretation - what is usually (and wrongly) called 'synthesis'. Actually, each combination of factors not only adds itself to the others, but changes them by its very presence. It is as true in astrology as elsewhere that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts - and even greater than the sum of relationships between all its parts. The interpretation of a birth-chart must proceed from an intuitive grasp of the whole - and intuition is developed by understanding and using principles to the point that they transform the thinking of the one who thinks in terms of them.

 

What we have mainly considered so far in terms of tabulating complex, interrelated factors is just the astrological side of the matter. What about the human side? Human psychology being what it is, one can never account for and define in advance all possible constellations of factors interweaving in the life of a person. Even if by some stretch of the imagination it were possible to tabulate all possible horoscopic combinations of astrological configurations, one could never account for the variety of human beings having similar enough charts; nor could one account for the actual level of functioning at which persons live out what is symbolized in their birth­charts. Because of differences in race, culture, religion, class, circumstances of birth, etc., people differ widely as to the level at which they operate.* No reference book - astrological or psychological - could ever pinpoint what should be explored as significant and meaningful in a particular person's life or chart at a particular time. The only way an astrologer can rise to every occasion presented by a client's life and birth-chart at a particular time in the client's life is by becoming thoroughly versed in principles- astrological, psychological and philosophical principles giving a broad, inclusive and flexible overview of the entire human and astrological situation at hand.  

 

*Cf. Beyond Individualism: The Psychology of Transformation by Dane Rudhyar (Quest Books, Wheaton, Illinois: 1979) for a complete discussion of the psychology of levels of functioning.  

 

It is often feared that principles, especially those associated with astrology, are too 'abstract.' But abstraction is not unreality, and the term should not scare anyone willing to exercise his or her power of thought. To 'abstract' means literally 'to draw out of.' To abstract principles from experience means to penetrate the opacity of particularity and to perceive the workings of the universal in and through the existential, no matter how distorted or dense the material reality may be. It is to see the archetypal behind and in every actual manifestation, and in some cases, to infer the latter from the former. This is the true function of the humanistic, process-oriented astrologer vis-a-vis his or her client's chart and life.

 

In order to be able to truly work with principles - or rather to have archetypal principles work in us and operate through our thinking - we must become so thoroughly acquainted with them that we 'forget' about knowing them. Whatever we have to labor over in a (colloquially speaking) self-conscious way - like trying to fit keywords into cumbersome sentences, which often turn out to be grammatically perfect but don't really say anything - we really don't know well enough. It hasn't become part of us yet, and it therefore cannot work in and through us. True knowledge - which can come through the use and direct understanding of astrological symbols (as well as through a variety of other means, of course) - is always at the back of the mind, quietly and unobtrusively structuring the thinking, never in the forefront cluttering the conscious mind with a lot of memorized, half-assimilated definitions or confusing and inconsistent intellectual associations.

 

The back of the mind in terms of thinking is very much like the back of the neck in human anatomy, for neither are areas of which we are normally conscious. Nevertheless, they are both exceedingly sensitive. We may be unaware of the back of our neck for a long time if nothing particularly stimulates it. But when something comes along and tickles it or stings it, we know about it immediately, and we react spontaneously - and appropriately, depending on the state of our expectations and inner fantasy at the time, on what is doing the stimulating and the quality of it.

 

So too should basic astrological principles be so well assimilated that they are 'stored' at the 'back of the neck'. When a particular client and chart with no matter how complex a configuration or situation comes along and stimulates that area, we will react spontaneously and appropriately, intuitively grasping in one whole mental gesture the meaning of the situation confronting us.

 

This may come as a new idea for many students laboring to 'put it all together,' although it no doubt comes as no surprise to seasoned, experienced hands used to the spontaneous working of what we would rather call 'active intuition' than synthesis. Regardless of the term one uses, the way in which one becomes able to respond at that level should be explored from several angles and is perhaps prematurely discussed here; we'll return to the matter in the last chapter of this book. For the moment, a general idea of where working with principles could lead serves as a foundation for discussing significant principles underlying astrological aspects and configurations from a process-oriented point of view.

 

 

What Principles?

 

The principles we have to work with regarding aspects in astrology are neither many nor complex. Most are based on commonly experienced phenomena such as the changing of the seasons and the phases of the Moon, or on everyday sorts of arithmetic procedures such as simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Most of all, what we have to try to do is to approach the situation consistently, trying to follow to its conclusion one line of reasoning and development at a time, all the while staying in touch with and building upon the foundation provided by the basic facts of celestial motions.

 

Very simply stated, certain principles structure all cycles. A basic twofoldness is evident in all natural processes, whether we speak of the alternation of light and dark in the day/night cycle, the waxing and waning of the Moon in the lunation cycle, the 'waxing' and 'waning' of warmth and cold, fertility and barrenness, the relative lengths of days and nights in the cycle of the seasonal year. It really doesn't matter which phenomena we look at, for evident underlying all of them is a basic distinction between the two halves of cyclic process. The two hemicycles of a cycle refer to two realms of activity, two directions of energy-flow, each of which predominates during one half of a cyclic process.

 

Whether we think of spring, summer, fall and winter-sunrise, noon, sunset and midnight - or New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter - doesn't matter either, for a basic quadrature or fourfold structure is also apparent within two-foldness in natural cycles. Because the two halves of a cycle refer to different realms or levels of activity, the 'moments' or turning points marking the cycle's quarters - one at the middle of each hemicycle - will be distinctly different in polarity and direction from one another. While each marks the midpoint of a hemicycle, that is, the moment at which the activity or direction predominating during the hemicycle reaches its maximum intensity, very broadly speaking, one marks the end of the beginning of the total cycle, and the other marks the beginning of the end.

 

In order to transfer these generalizations about cycles to the particular situation of astrological aspects, we must first get in touch, and stay in touch, with the facts of planetary relationship: as seen from the Earth, two planets come together in the sky, separate and conjoin again. The lunation cycle - the cycle between the Sun and Moon producing for observers on Earth the spectacle of the phases of the Moon - is the prototype or model for all cycles of aspects, which are phase-relationships between moving celestial bodies. For not only are the successive stages of the soli-lunar relationship defined by the increasing and decreasing distances between the Sun and Moon; added significance is given to each stage of the soli-lunar relationship if we interpret the shape of the Moon as a symbol of what the relationship implies at each phase.

 

No matter how we divide up the cycle of relationships, what names or numbers we give its various phases or aspects, the basic facts of celestial motions and planetary interrelationships remain the same. There is no complication or confusion regarding them. Controversy and confusion arise only when astrologers try to explain and agree upon just what angular values constitute bona fide aspects and what they specifically mean, especially when they occur between particular planets.

 

Practically all astrologers agree on the use of at least the so­called Ptolemaic aspects, the conjunction, sextile, trine, square and opposition (although few realize that Ptolemy was not actually referring to angular relationships between planets when he named them, but rather to relations among signs of the zodiac). Some astrologers go along with the Ptolemaic approach that the conjunction is 'neutral', depending upon whether 'malefic' of 'benefic' planets are involved, the trine and sex tile invariably 'good' or 'favorable,' and the square and opposition just as emphatically and universally 'evil' or 'unfortunate' - or, in more modern parlance, at least stressful or uncomfortably tense. Other astrologers, ourselves included, do not agree that an aspect must be either good, bad or indifferent. From our point of view, an aspect, any aspect, is what it is - a necessary phase of a process, building upon the phase having gone before, forming a foundation for the phases to come after. No phase integral and necessary to an organic process can be good or bad in an ethical, moral or even a general sense.

 

While some astrologers advocate only the use of the five above­named 'major' aspects, others also use the quincunx or inconjunct (150 aspect now increasing in popularity after having been omitted from most textbooks in this and the last centuries, as it was considered by the earliest writers not as an aspect per se but as a 'non­relationship'), (7) and its companion-aspect, the semi-sextile (30). Some astrologers also use semi-squares and sesquiquadrates, 45 and 135 aspects sometimes referred to as 'minor' aspects along with a series based on the quintile (72) which was apparently advocated or renewed by Kepler. Some astrologers have considered the quintile to be as 'favorable' as a trine; others have considered it, along with such aspects as the septile (51&3/7) and novile (40), too 'esoteric' or 'specialized' to be of general value. Some astrologers deny the validity of these and other so-called minor aspects altogether. At the small end of the angular value spectrum, the term 'micro-aspects' has recently been coined to refer to arcs smaller than 7&1/2 degrees which have been found to be significant through harmonic analysis.

 

If the reader is still with us after such a litany - which for brevity's sake includes only technical, not interpretive disagreements - we'll ask the obvious question: How did such confusion and general disagreement come about, and what can be done to alleviate it? The crux of the matter, we believe, is not merely deciding what angular values are significant and what they mean. It is rather whether one believes that there is only one valid procedure for generating astrological aspects, or whether there are several, each procedure of generation referring to a different way of interpreting he flow of process at different levels.

 

A basic example of how the existing confusion arose can be shown against the lunation cycle. Like all cycles, it naturally divides itself into two hemicycles during which the Moon waxes and wanes. The hemicycles are further divided into two quarters each by the straight-edged shape of the Quarter Moons cutting across the night­sky. The fact that at the First Quarter the Moon crosses the orbit of the Earth going outward (away from the Sun), and at Last Quarter returns within it (toward the Sun), gives added symbolic significance to the quadrature of the cycle, as do the absence of the light of the Moon at New Moon and the fullness of the Moon-disc at the cycle's culmination.

 

On the one hand, however, the appearance and disappearance )f the Crescent and 'De-crescent' Moons can be taken, along with two other 'matching' points inferred between First Quarter and Full Moon and Full Moon and Last Quarter, to mark four other turning points in the cycle. These, when superimposed upon the basic quadrature of lunation phases, map out a basic eightfold structure. On the other hand, if one realizes that the Moon is approximately 30 or the space of one zodiacal sign away from the Sun during the Crescent phases, one may infer a basic twelvefold structure behind the lunation cycle. In fact, this - together with the realization that the seasonal year could be approximately equated with twelve lunations or months of about 30 days each, and the fact that the 30 arc between the New Moon and Crescent was the span of just about one of these lunations - is probably how twelvefoldness came to dominate astrology entirely. But does that make a twelvefold schema of the lunation cycle any more valid or intrinsically 'correct' than an eight­fold division of it?

 

The twelvefold structure when applied to interplanetary relationships generates the astrological aspects conjunction (0), semi­sextile (30), sextile (60), square (90), trine (1200),quincunx (150), opposition (180). The eightfold approach generates the semi-square (45) and sesquiquadrate (135), but does not include the semi-sextile and sextile, the trine and quincunx. If one can divide the cycle by 8 or by 12, why not by any other number? Number 3 generates angular values of 120, the trine also generated by the twelvefold approach. But what about a number like 5, which generates angular values not coinciding with any natural divisions of the cycle? We could, of course, generate all the angular values we'd care to, then superimpose the resulting schema on one another, keeping the aspects which are common to all or most and discounting the rest. If we did so, we would wind up back where we started, with the five Ptolemaic aspects, conjunction, sex tile and trine, square and opposition - and no doubt also with the definite good/bad, favorable/unfavorable interpretation of them, because in the process of multiple divisions and superimpositions, we would have lost all sense of process and unfoldment over time. . . which is exactly what happened.

 

It seems to us, and is the track we will be following in this book, that each schema of generating aspects and each number-principle forming its foundation has its own validity at its own level. In relation to the process generating it, every aspect has its own meaning. But no matter how many arcs we divide a circle of aspects into, we must always refer them back and understand them in relation to the cycle or process whereby the relationship of two planets to one another develops over time through space. Each phase of a cycle, no matter how many phases the cycle is divided into, has its own place and function in the overall process of whatever is developing through the cycle. And every angular value, while not necessarily marking a definite turning point or aspect in a developmental process, is nevertheless part of a phase, which in turn is part of the total cycle. Moreover, in actual practice there are indeed horoscopes whose overall planetary pattern or predominating configuration stresses eightfoldness, or fivefoldness, squares, rectangles or triangles of various kinds. Each must be read and understood in terms of its own dynamic, in terms of the principles underlying its own structure. It must be assessed in terms of its own integrity, not in terms of a more or less rigid formula of interpretation imposed on it by the interpreter.

 

Thus, only a deep, essentially intuitive understanding of the principles of cyclic unfoldment, number and form - in that order ­ will do. We have to start by trying to gain a thorough understanding of the way interplanetary cycles unfold over time, how a series of aspects operates, one after another. Then we can try to fathom the meaning of the numerical principles underlying the further divisions of cycles into various phases and apply these principles to actual configurations of aspects in birth-charts. In all cases, we have to try to understand the dynamic direction of aspects, what they imply in birth-charts as a challenge or directive to live one's own process, to become able to take some necessary 'next step.'  

 

1. Cf. Manilius Astronomica, tr. G. P. Goold (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1977) pp. xxxviii ff, text pp. 270 ff. Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, tr. J.M. Ashmand (Health Research 1969 reprint of the 1917 English Edition). Chapters XVI, XVIII. XXI, pp. 36 fr.  

 

2. Rupert Gleadow, The Origin of the Zodiac (New York: 1969) pp. 176-7.

 

3. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: 1945). p. 131. 

 

4. Manilius, op. cit., pp. xiv ff, text pp. 433-452.

Ptolemy, op. cit., Ch. XX-XXV, pp. 41-53.

 

5. Manilius, op. cit., p. xcviii

 

6. Manilius, loc. cit., (1)

Ptolemy, loc. cit., (1)

 

7. Ptolemy, op. cit., Ch. XIX, p. 40.

 

 

 

Astrological Aspects

 

 

 

Mindfire