Leyla Rael  &  Dane Rudhyar

In the traditional approach to chart-interpretation, each of the many factors in a horoscope is considered separately. The astrologer, having memorized a myriad of definitions and keywords (or stocked his or her library well with a variety of tabulated texts), applies these, one by one, to the positions of planets in houses and zodiacal signs, and to the aspects each planet — as 'ruler' of a definite category of things, characteristics or events — makes singly to other factors in the chart. Then he or she tries to synthesize them all — an often difficult task because so much data has been generated, and many of the definitions contradict one another.

Various more or less mechanical or mathematical procedures have been devised to solve this problem of synthesis. Some astrologers advocate set formulas for interpretation — for example. Sun sign first, then Ascendant, then the Moon. Others start by interpreting the Ascendant and first house, then work their way around the wheel of houses, including in their interpretation of each separate area of life the planets in the houses and the zodiacal signs on the cusps. Still others advocate beginning an interpretation from the house with Aries on its cusp and following the zodiac around from there. Variations on such themes are practically endless. More mathematically-minded practitioners have devised quantitative ways of ascertaining the relative importance and strengths of all the components of a chart.

Only very recently has a new approach to astrology and chart interpretation begun to emphasize the element of Gestalt — the over-all pattern of a horoscope. Such a point of view becomes increasingly significant and necessary when we look at a birth-chart in the spirit in which we presented it in Chapter I, as a message from the whole Sky (or universe or cosmos) to the growing, developing whole person.

This trend toward Gestalt in astrology has developed during the last fifty years, paralleling a similar approach in philosophy and psychology. The astrologer following it looks at the birth-chart as a whole and tries to grasp the meaning of the total pattern which planets, house cusps, aspects, etc. make. The first astrologer to deal with  overall horoscopic patterns was Marc Edmund Jones, who classified basic chart shapes into seven categories.* When one truly follows a Gestalt approach, however, pigeon-holing an overall planetary pattern into one of several categories is not enough. If the old approach of adding essentially separate and perhaps contradictory factors together is still followed, the Gestalt classification of any particular horoscope becomes one more piece of data to be somehow fitted together with a myriad of others. True Gestalt awareness means that the astrologer must look at the birth-chart as a whole first, and start the entire interpretation from there. It is an esthetical approach — that is to say, the astrologer must look at the chart as a lover of art would look at a beautiful painting, seeking to understand the integrity and the meaning of the whole without paying exclusive attention to its separate parts.* A truly Gestalt-based interpretation allows the 'meaning of the chart to flow from a sense of pattern or form, from the way a particular chart is structured, according to the principles underlying its unique make-up.

* Cf. his book The Guide to Horoscope Interpretation (McKay; 1941).

* The esthetical nature of such an approach was developed for, I believe, the first time in my book The Astrology of Personality l934-35).— DR

This is because only a birth-chart's Gestalt — its particular over-all pattern as a whole — is unique. No single factor in a birth-chart is unique, not even the exact degree on the Ascendant. Any one placement, position or aspect has happened before, and it will happen again in the relatively near or distant future. What is unique and integral about a birth-chart — as about the person for whom it stands as a symbol of seed-potentialities — is the total interrelatedness of all its components.

What is required to see and understand a birth-chart's unique Gestalt is a holistic ability we exercise daily, but because it is so much a part of our common experience we don't question it or realize its significance. When we meet a person, we do not meet a nose, two eyes, two arms, etc. Unless something is obviously missing or blatantly over-emphasized, we never think of running down a check-list to investigate all the basic 'parts.' Neither do we meet and interact with a set of character traits or psychological categories of behavior. We are not normally aware of any separateness of anatomical or personality 'parts' as distinct from the whole person. What characterizes an individual person is not a number of separate elements, but the structure and dynamic operation of interrelated physiological and psychological factors which in their togetherness constitute what we call his or her appearance, character or personality.

Nevertheless, within this pattern of wholeness, one or two factors among the many which impinge upon our senses and minds may stand out as being stronger than the others. The sheer strength of one factor considered separately is not what matters most. It is the way in which the strong factor is integrated into the operation of the total person. To the astrologer or psychologist, what should be most important is not merely the fact that one aspect of a person's nature is stronger than others. The concern should be the way in which the dominant factor is or can be integrated into the others and in turn is affected by them.

A similar truth is found when we consider a man or woman living in a community. Modern psychology has given up the romantic notion that an individual can be understood in a kind of splendid isolation regardless of where the person comes from or lives. A person can only be understood in relation to his or her environment and times — i.e., in relation to family, social group, culture and the complex pressures of the period. The entire constellation of these factors at one's birth and throughout life, together with the meaning one gives to them and therefore the way in which one responds to them, is what makes up the significance, integrity and uniqueness of one's life.

All of the above applies equally to factors in a horoscope. When we approach a chart, we should not (at least not at first) be solely aware of a Mars, a Venus, a fifth house, etc. as separate, definitely defined entities. Neither should we be aware primarily of a square, an opposition, or even a T-square or a particular kind of rectangle. We should rather perceive first the whole constellation — a pattern which is always greater than the sum of its parts. The nature of the whole and the relationships of all its parts, not only to one another but to the whole itself, is what gives to the parts their specific qualities and meanings. Only within the whole is each part related to all other parts. Only in total interrelatedness with one another and with the whole do all the parts, specific relationships and groups of relationships between them acquire their full significance.

Such alchemical transformations of meanings are multiplied many-fold in the total interrelatedness of a horoscope's overall pattern. Any planet, placement or aspect is thus one factor within a group of factors, the birth-chart's whole pattern — i.e., the state reached by the solar system as a whole at the time of a person's birth. Every planet operates, whether or not it forms exact aspects with any other planet. (Indeed the very fact that a planet makes no aspect whatsoever — a rare occurrence if we use the full spectrum of arithmetical and geometrical aspects as well as proper orbs and a sense of process — is an important factor to consider in itself.) Every aspect also operates in some way. But its specific operation, which of its many possible meanings is called into play in a particular chart (and at a particular time in a person's life), how the actualization of its potentialities can be involved in the actualization of all other possibilities in the chart and vice versa: all this depends Upon the way a particular aspect is woven into the overall pattern of the chart and upon the operation of every other aspect.

It is not easy, initially, to see birth-charts as wholes in which all component parts are at once meaningfully related to one another and to the whole. It requires a rather special faculty which operates among artists contemplating a work of art and responding to what it radiates as a whole, and in some scientists and mathematicians who, confronted with or contemplating a complex pattern, are able to 'feel' what kind of solution to a problem will be found. Then they carefully work out a detailed demonstration, step by step, arriving at approximately the same result they had anticipated.

What is it that allows a scientist or mathematician to 'feel' an elegant solution before its logical deduction? What enables a person to achieve mental synthesis without prior intellectual analysis?

On the one hand, practice and training geared toward the perception of definite structural patterns within complex wholes. On the other hand, one cannot detect, let alone resonate to the meaning of "definite structural patterns" unless one thoroughly understands the principles according to which such patterns are built and acquire meaning. We are speaking here of acquiring what in Chapter I we called "back of the neck knowledge" — knowledge which is so much a part of the knower that the person forgets about knowing it. It is effective knowledge because it is unself-conscious and therefore always spontaneously and appropriately available when 'tickled' in the right way.

Such knowledge becomes in practice, intuition. It does not develop from mere memorization or intellectual self-programming, al though these are steps or phases in the process of activating and developing the intuitive faculty. Active intuition requires as a foundation a deeply felt understanding (literally, to stand under) of principles. As basic principles are truly understood, they form a new foundation (what one stands on) for one's thinking, future studies and application of what one has learned. The principles one learns thus help to organize the mind and thinking of the learner. When one truly learns basic principles and builds what they signify into one's consciousness and being, the learning — both in terms of its content and the process of learning itself — transforms the learner. To the degree that the principles one learns are 'cosmic' or universal in scope, to the same degree will the mind be structured along universal lines. To the degree universal principles organize one's mind and thinking, to the same degree will one be able to perceive what is universal and whole in every particularity — be it, an astrological chart, a person's life-story and destiny, or an algebraic equation.

For the scientist or mathematician, the principles of scientific methodology, number, logic and mathematical operations form the foundation of operative intuition. Over the course of his training, they become so ingrained in him, so much a part of his being and consciousness that he 'forgets' he knows them. He does not need to consult a textbook of possible solutions or try to solve a problem by a process of eliminating operations which will not work. Instead, he thinks in terms of all the principles and operations he has ever learned — or rather, they act through him; his thinking is structured by them. All the years of his education and experience are present and focused in him as he contemplates a problem.

In order to fully activate intuition, so too must a would-be astrologer become thoroughly and unself-consciously familiar with the 'tools of the trade' — i.e., planets, houses, aspects, signs, progressions, transits, etc. But this familiarity must not be willy-nilly, without structure or form. Each basic tool must be understood in a consistent, coherent way according to what it symbolizes at its own level. This means that the astrologer must also understand the principles of cycle, process, number and symbolism according to which basic astrological tools acquire meaning. In this sense, learning astrology is actually a process of learning a variety of consistent, even compelling and exciting 'stories' — the story of the planets, the story of the houses, the story of the signs, etc.

In this book, we have told, consistently and interestingly, we hope, the story of astrological aspects. The stories of other astrological factors are told in other books, and an annotated reading list is supplied in Appendix II. The homework of the would-be astrologer, before he or she ever faces a horoscope and a client, is to learn and think through these various astrological 'stories.' There is no 'how to' apply them directly to birth-charts and achieve the kind of mental synthesis which does not follow purely intellectual analysis. There are no short-cut techniques of fitting keywords into sentences that can substitute for an astrologer's active intuition. One can proceed, however, through a structured process of learning and assimilating astrological and psychological principles, and on the basis of such a process one can activate and develop intuition.

For example, there are many ways to approach and consider the zodiac. One can begin the 'story' of the signs starting from the vernal equinox and the sign Aries, or with Capricorn and the winter solstice. One can take the signs in successive pairs (zyzygies), or in terms of a threefold dialectic moving from a cardinal, to a fixed, to a mutable sign. Similarly, one can tell the 'story' of the houses beginning at the Nadir or at the Ascendant. Houses can also be given meaning in terms of the way we usually number them, counter-clockwise, or in terms of the Sun's passage through the sky during the day — clockwise. The planets, too, can be considered and given meaning in a number of ways — heliocentrically, geocentrically, in various pairings, etc. Like the signs in relation to the zodiac, and the houses in relation to the complete diurnal circle, planets also acquire meaning only in the context of the whole solar system. They represent dynamic centers of activities and functions, and each planet reveals a different facet of its nature when considered in relation to each other planet. A different sort of picture emerges each time one tells a 'story' from a different point of view; and each 'story' is valid at its own level if one is careful to be consistent and flexible in one's interpretation. Each 'story' of a whole symbol thus reveals its parts in a new light.

While telling and retelling these astrological 'stories,' it is not important to be able to apply them directly to particular birth-charts. The process of learning astrology in this story-telling spirit should be approached as an adventure — to borrow a phrase, an "adventure in consciousness." Its purpose is to allow the universal principles behind astrological symbols to permeate and restructure the student's mind and thinking. Granted, such a process takes a relatively long time, several years at least. But in a culture in which the training of a physician requires almost twelve years beyond standard elementary and secondary schooling, and of a psychologist nearly seven, why should we expect the training of an astrologer to be appreciably shorter?

In addition to being well-versed in all the nuances of astrology per se, the astro-psychologist has also to deal with human nature in all its aspects and manifestations — individual and collective, structural, developmental, relational, cultural, historical, etc. Any counselor must be objective to—and be able to state for potential clients — his or her general philosophy of life and approach to psychology.

A counselor must have an understanding of the deeper social and cultural issues behind the types of problems clients face, arid a sense of what is necessary, practical and possible in human development among contemporaries. These disciplines too, like astrological symbols, can be treated as 'stories' to be told, retold from a variety of points of view, and thought about in depth. 

One of the best ways for an astrologer to sharpen technical skills and develop holistic vision is to read biographies. A horoscope, timed or solar if necessary, the whole life of progressions and major transits can be drawn up for study along with a particular person's biography or memoirs. More than any other technique, studies of whole lives can provide the kind or insight on which a deep and intuitive understanding of human nature develops.* Such understanding is crucial for an astrologer, because it is one thing to be able to deduce problems or diagnose psychological difficulties from a horoscope; it is quite another to have the kind of deep understanding of human functioning necessary truly to counsel a client, to help give most constructive meaning possible to life-circumstances, and to understand the best, most 'growthful' and dharmic way to face and deal with whatever problems or difficulties the client meets in life. 

* The serious student is urged to study the lives of persons whose birth-charts we have used as examples throughout this book. Only within such a context can the full impact of what we have pointed out be seen, for it has been with such studies as a background that we have written. While a full presentation of our examples' broadest implications has been beyond the scope of this book, the student who follows up our presentation with his or her own researches will be amply rewarded. Not only what we have written, but also what we have only been able to hint at will become clearer. When on the basis of such in-depth preparation, an astrologer contemplates a birth-chart, focused in the practitioner's very being is a fully assimilated synthesis of astrological and, in the broadest sense of the term, psychological principles, and the mental structures built during the process of learning about them. Having become thoroughly familiar with all the basic astrological tools, the astrologer is able to notice everything in a chart all at once. The act of contemplating the birth-chart becomes a single gesture in which the astrologer embraces the entire horoscope with his or her eyes and total mental being — and not merely with an intellect laden with memorized, disparate definitions and keywords.

Since the various 'stories' behind basic astrological tools have also become second nature to the astrologer, they can begin to retell themselves in terms of their particular interrelatedness in the horoscope. The astrologer who thoroughly knows, for example, the 'Mars story,' the 'Saturn story,' etc., instantly knows what these two symbolic centers of activities would have to do with one another when in a particular aspect. Since the astrologer also knows all the 'aspect stories,' he or she also knows what squares have to do with oppositions or trines, how what is required to ach aspect interrelates with what is required by all the others. The practitioner approaches the chart as a unique whole first, allowing the total Gestalt — the principles on which it is based — to tell him or her what is most basic in the chart, and therefore where and how to begin an interpretation. The chart interprets itself, so to speak, through the astrologer who has learned to think in its own language — astrologese — and who thereby allows the chart to reveal what in it, as a unique whole, is significant.

Then, when the astrologer sits with a client, the same kind of single-gesture, open-ended mental embrace can also apply to the client's life-pattern. It too is a 'story,' a process unfolding step by step throughout the client's life. Astrologers should become as adept as psychologists and social workers in eliciting from clients a brief, but basic history covering the salient facts of the client's background. With this as preparation, what had previously been chart interpretation on the part of the astrologer alone can become with a client's active co-operation a truly deep and meaningful life interpretation. By applying the symbolic indications of the birth-chart, progressions and major transits to the facts of the client's history and life-pattern, the perceptive and intuitive astrologer can allow the light of meaning to shine through the opacity of particular events in the client's life. These become more than mere happenstance or the result of a cause-and-effect progression — whether this would be considered purely in terms of the outward momentum of events or the inner mechanics of psychological patterns.

What astrological symbols should do to the events of a client's life is to reveal their deepest significance — that is, to show how and for what purpose events have occurred as particular manifestations of phases in the client's process of overall development. This occurs when the practitioner is able to superimpose universal principles of process on the facts of the client's life, when the astrologer is able to recognize that a sequence of events in a client's life is typical of what happens in a certain astrological 'story.' On such a basis, the astrologer can extrapolate from the events not only what the next phase in the process is likely to entail, but also the events' meaning: what they were and are meant to accomplish in the client's life.

On the basis of a client's history, an experienced and intuitive psychotherapist can often predict with what seems uncanny accuracy future developments in the client's life. This is because the therapist has seen and understood so many complete human 'stories' that he or she can anticipate how a particular variation will probably progress. It is necessary to say 'probably,' however, because the psychologist sees primarily only the mechanics — the psychological 'how' — operating behind sequences of events and circumstances. While the psychologist sees a good deal of what is 'normal' and expectable in terms of human reaction, he or she has no way of seeing an overall picture of what is possible for a particular person in terms of conscious response or dharma. The psychologist, unlike the astrologer, has no birth-chart from which to intuitively deduce the potentialities inherent in a client's birth. The psychologist therefore has no way of knowing what the client's problems or life-circumstances are for, i.e., what they are meant to actualize in the process of the client's overall development.

Thus, the usual type of counselor can only operate on the equivalent of the old astrological dictum "Character is destiny," and its therapeutic correlate, "Change character, change destiny" — or on a more modern, but essentially little-changed restatement of these: "We create our own reality." From the point of view of a truly process-oriented astrology, both of these statements are only partially true. It is obvious that a person with a chip on his shoulder creates his own reality by inviting angry or defensive others to knock it off. His 'character' does indeed to a great extent shape his 'destiny' and a picture that he lives in an explosive, unstable world from which he must further insulate himself. But even such a person did not create the society and the family into which he was born and to whose pressures he was forced to react.

The fact is that all of us are born into situations conditioned by circumstances long antedating our birth. We react to their pressures mostly unconsciously through our youth and formative years, primarily in terms of our innate temperaments and in ways that are mirror complements of the pressures themselves. Having no control over the form the pressures take, we essentially have no control over our complementary reactions to them: we are like molten metal assuming the negative shape of the positive, pre-cast mold into which it is poured.

As vessels formed to certain aesthetic dimensions and utilitarian shapes depending upon the function they are ultimately meant to perform, we can only assume that there is an underlying purpose for the shape of the particular mold into which we are 'poured.' Yet the process of creating a 'negative' to a mold's 'positive' is only one step in the process of sculpting a vessel. It is analogous in human development to the period of youth and adolescent rebellion, when a person reacts against the pressures of family and society. If the process continues in its usual way, another 'pouring' will be made, and eventually a vessel resembling its initial parent mold will be produced. This is essentially what happens to people, particularly in their late 20's and 30's, if the basic tone of their life has been primarily a reaction against the pressures of their youth. Such a person first reacts to the pressures, then reacts against the reaction, ultimately becoming like what he first reacted against,

On the other hand, after the rebellion of adolescence — which today often extends up through the mid-20's or later — a person has the possibility of becoming objective both to the nature of the pressures against which he or she is reacting, and to the reactions themselves. It then becomes possible for the person to give meaning to the pressures and reactions — primarily by seeing them as phases of larger processes. According to the meaning given them, the person becomes able not merely to react, but to respond deliberately to the circumstances of life — which by then have already been set up and have acquired, if not a life of their own, at least a momentum in a general direction.

Did the person create the reality of these life-circumstances among and because of which he or she 'awakens'? Before even attempting to answer this question, we should realize that the attempt should not be taken lightly. This is a question which has, in one form or another and sometimes literally, bedevilled human beings since time immemorial. Its simplicity is deceptive, for interwoven into such a query are all the great and deep issues facing mankind throughout the ages: What is the nature and purpose of human existence? Of the universe itself? The writers of the Book of Job phrased it: Why does evil manifest in the life of a seemingly righteous man?

Most fundamentally, the answer we give to the question "Do we create our own reality?" depends upon the meaning we give to the word 'I.' If by 'I' we mean our experience of being I, myself — Paul or Jane,' we actually refer to the ego (which literally means merely 'I') — that is, to the outcome of a process begun with the birth of a human organism at a particular time and place. The organism has an innate temperament and genetic make-up — variations on the general theme of being human and parallel at the biological level to the social and cultural inheritance a person 'comes into' at birth — and the organism as a whole reacts in characteristic ways to the pressures of its early environment. These reactions are referred, first, to a diffuse sense of organic wholeness, and later to the centralizing ego, itself structured\round the name the child is called and learns to identify itself by.

When we answer the question "What is I' " in such a way, we must answer our original question about creating our own reality in the negative. For how can an 'I' whose process of becoming focused and concrete begins at birth have shaped or be responsible for what antedated its birth and later impinged upon its nascent senses and consciousness, enabling it to become, not only what it is, but conscious of itself? Such an 'I' creates its own reality only in a limited and purely personal way, according to how it reacts to the pressures of its environment. It reacts in good measure according to the body's innate temperament, but how could an 1' developing out of the experiences of a particular organism with a certain temperament have 'created' the organism's temperament?

Such questions can be and often are answered by including in the concept of 'I' the notion of a transcendent soul which chooses for reasons of learning lessons' or 'soul evolution' its future temperament, birth-environment, parents, time and place of birth — and therefore the horoscope under which it was born. If we define 'I' in such a way, we can indeed answer our original question about creating our own reality in the affirmative. But to so identify 'I' as or with, such a soul seems to us a basic semantic, metaphysical and psychological fallacy. Certainly, the concept of 'soul' is to the 'I' who thinks about it merely that: a concept not grounded in experience or observation. Moreover, it is a concept formulated long before the person's birth. It is part of the cultural inheritance he or she 'comes into' at birth, part of what shapes his reactions to life. Nevertheless, there may be something like a soul in some way associated with the particular person who claims it.* But saying that the person is a soul, when what the person experiences as himself or herself and can to some extent control, is what should best be called the ego, makes little sense and is ultimately confusing. If something transcendent to what we normally identify as 'I, myself' has at least a significant part in shaping our reality, we should acknowledge it for what it is — which is actually rather mysterious, complex, and probably our personalization of greater forces and processes operating in the universe. We have previously referred to these as karma and dharma, as the residua of past actions and the necessity of compensating for or furthering what they have produced.

*Cf. The Planetarization of Consciousness, by Dane Rudhyar (ASI Publishers, New York: 1977), Chapter 7: "Soul-Field, Mind and Reincarnation."

Thus the alternative we feel we must pose to the popular dictum "We create our own reality" is that we respond to the reality with which we are confronted. Collectively, and over many generations, human beings as a species operating in a variety of cultures have created more or less common reality. Within that collective context we do not create our personal reality any more than a seed creates the rain and warm sunshine to which it responds by germinating or remaining quiescent in the spring. We are responsible for our responses to the life-circumstances into which we awaken as would-be individuals and adults. Yet, in all humility and not in evasive pride, we must also acknowledge the greater collective and universal forces and processes having shaped these circumstances focused into our particular lives and personalities.

From a process-oriented point of view, our birth-charts reveal the highest of our potentialities — that is, the 'story' in seed of what we may face in order to take what kind of evolutionary, i.e., karmic and dharmic 'next steps.' Whether we created our reality matters only if we desire forcibly to change it. If, on the other hand, we desire to fulfill its highest possibilities, we must illumine it with meaning.

We are prepared to do so astrologically when we have done our astrological, psychological and philosophical 'homework'; when we are able to approach a birth-chart as a unique whole and allow our interpretation of it to unfold according to the way the chart itself is structured, according to the principles underlying its particular make-up; when we are able to pierce the opacity of a client's life-pattern and allow it to become translucent to the light of its own meaning, to the glow of the life-pattern's own special purpose and process, which shines through what could previously only be perceived as events or psychological patterns.

In conclusion - and perhaps as a new beginning for some readers - all of the preceding takes on a more definite and inspiring meaning if we consider what an astrology student thinks a study of astrology is for. If he or she aspires to learn astrology in order quickly to delineate birth-charts, to collect fees and impress clients by stating a few more or less spectacular possibilities or events, the process-oriented approach we have presented here may not be what is wanted. The would-be astrologer who is ready and willing to devote some years of his or her life to preparation and study may not want to do so unless the student feels that such work will be able to give real help to clients, and also give a new dimension to the astrologer's own mind. What is to be most deeply and meaningfully gained by dedicating at least part of one's life to the study of astrology is a profound expansion and deepening of one's consciousness, and of the way in which one meets life and all its crises and opportunities.

C. G. Jung said that any analysis which does not transform both the analyst and and the analyst is not wholly successful; the purpose of astrology is not merely to counsel others. It is also, al important, to enable the astrologer to better understand his or her own life-process, to see it as a phase in the larger, universal process of which it is a meaningful, dynamic expression.


Astrological Aspects