THE SOLAR SYSTEM
As the Sun's radiance both animates and illumines life on Earth, the Sun has long been a universal symbol of life energy, vitality and consciousness. As the unifying power center of the solar system it also symbolizes the focusing power of will and the conscious purpose directing will toward performing specific acts.
The types of activities solar power animates are represented by the Moon and the planets. The symbolic situation is similar to what happens when we try to harness physical solar energy for practical purposes on Earth. Solar energy pervades the biosphere, but we can't plug a toaster into a sunbeam. Unless solar energy is concentrated in a specific way, at a particular time and place, it is too diffuse and unfocused for practical use.
The power of the Sun similarly pervades the entire solar system. The Sun's magnetic field apparently emanates from its Northern Hemisphere and stretches out in every direction. The solar wind carries a stream of charged particles through interplanetary space, reaching to the orbit of Saturn (and perhaps Pluto). Somewhere on the fringes of interstellar space, the stream reverses itself and returns toward the Sun's Southern Hemisphere. The Moon and the planets (including the Earth) each represent one kind of concentration, specialization or adaptation of the solar tide, one focusing direction of purpose and will.
Where the face of the Earth is turned away from the light of the Sun, there the Moon shines, reminding us of solar purpose by brilliantly reflecting the Sun's light. The Moon moves about 12 or 13 times faster than the Sun; it travels through the zodiac once every 27 and 1/3 days. The Moon is thus the trigger mechanism of the solar system. It conjoins the Sun once each month in the Sun's zodiacal sign.
In their subsequent cycle together the Moon waxes and wanes. As it waxes, it symbolically carries out the unifying purpose of the Sun and conveys it to all the other planets, including the earth. As the Moon wanes, it symbolically gathers in the harvest of experience and stores it as memory, precedence, and tradition. As the Moon waxes and wanes it also regulates the tides on Earth, and as feelings are symbolized by water the Moon's motion represents the rhythmic ebb and flow of public moods.
The motions of the Moon around the Earth also carry it alternately inside the Earth's orbit toward the orbit of Venus, then outside the Earth's orbit toward the orbit of Mars. This is a symbol of regular flux between introversion and extroversion, between objective activity and subjective reflection. Thus the Moon represents our capacity to respond to life in a rhythmic way, to our day-to-day and hour-to-hour capacity to flow with, indeed to dance with, what life brings.
If we picture the orbits of the planets as concentric spheres around the Sun, the orbit of Mercury is the first sphere through which the out-surging solar power radiates as it spreads throughout the solar system. Mercury thus represents the first planetary adaptation or specialization of solar power. It refracts, as it were, the one, homogeneous solar stream into two facets or rays. Thus, out of the unitary solar purpose, duality is born.
For human beings on Earth, mind and consciousness arise and develop on the basis of just such a duality, for in order to be aware, 'I' must perceive an 'other' who (or which) is 'not I.' Mercury symbolizes this primordial perception of duality, and once it occurs the function of Mercury is forever to try to link the two at the mental level.
Mercury's realm is the sphere of perceptions and ideas, of words which symbolize experience and minds which try to integrate experience into a meaningful whole. Thus Mercury symbolizes gathering data and information, knowing, formulating at the verbal level, communicating, listening, and rational decision-making.
Fleet as the quicksilver intellect which it symbolizes, fickle as an easily changeable mind, Mercury's functional activities can be misapplied. Negative applications of what Mercury represents include equivocating, rationalizing, intellectual superficiality, blabbing on and on, and disorganized eclecticism.
Venus is the second sphere through which solar power passes on its way outward through the solar system. Yet from our point of view on earth, Venus is the first planet on the inside of our orbit going towards the sun. As such Venus represents the drive inward toward center, which meets the out-surging solar flow.
While Mercury represents meeting experience at the level of the mind, Venus refers to the inner value we give experience at the feeling-level. It is often said that Venus is the planet of love and attraction, but it can just as well be the planet of hate and repulsion, according to the inner value we give to certain experiences. Venus' loves and aversions draw us into some experiences, and pull us away from others. Those we enter into provide the substance for our inner growth and fulfillment.
Ideally, Venus represents harmony, for if we are attuned with our inner being, we naturally attract what will help develop and fulfill us. This meshing of a need with what will answer it is the true harmony Venus symbolizes. Venus can thus be a symbol of all harmonious relationships, of beauty, and of our need to give and receive appreciation.
But when the Venus function becomes deviated by insecurity, it can negatively refer to self-indulgence, narcissism, inappropriate emotional frivolity and unrealistic demands for love or luxury.
After the sphere of Venus, outward bound solar power passes through the sphere of the Earth. Here it develops as the life energy (prana or chi) which animates the biosphere and its material organizations. The Earth is a pivotal planet in our view of the solar system, for we see and interpret the solar system from earth.
Our picture of the solar system is thus an earthly picture, made possible by our particular position and function in the solar system. The Earth is presumably the only place in our solar system where organic life as we know it develops, where a certain type of material organization is animated by spirit and develops a certain type of consciousness. As life in human beings develops a sense of self, this sense of self has to express itself through action.
This action is what Mars symbolizes. It thus represents the mobilization of energy, the capacity to do and to assert oneself. Mars has often been considered a negative symbol in astrology, but the capacities Mars represents are in themselves neither constructive nor destructive. Much depends on the value the Venus function gives to experience, whether Mars is activated in reactionary 'fight or flight,' or if it operates positively to carry out the directives of a centralizing will.
Nevertheless, where Mars' capacity to do is activated, so too may develop a tendency to force issues and overdo, especially when doing compensates for insecurity or frustration. In such cases, the negative aspects of Mars may operate as recklessness, argumentativeness, vindictiveness, or even open hostility.
After passing through the sphere of Mars, the outward tide of solar power passes through the sphere of the asteroids. This is not the sphere of one revolving planet, but of a swarm of tiny, almost unrelated chunks of matter. Some say the asteroids are debris from what was previously a planet, which met with a sufficiently dire internal or external disaster to blow it to smithereens. In the symbolism of the solar system, the asteroid belt represents the kind of non-integration that results if the impulsiveness and individualistic aggression of Mars run rampant and unchecked.
The function of Jupiter is to integrate according to spiritual principles whatever is or has become scattered and unrelated. Jupiter operates most positively when it organizes the actions and accomplishments of individuals into a meaningful, self-sustaining whole. Thus, in cooperation with the many, one flourishes. Although the keyword usually associated with Jupiter is expansion, Jupiter fundamentally symbolizes social participation. We can call this expansion if by expansion we mean the acceptance of individual efforts by the community. This is the kind of social success Jupiter can represent.
On the other hand, individuals can expand their activities into society according to the 'law of the fish:' big fish eat little fish. This is the negative type of expansion Jupiter can represent when social participation operates as a compensation for personal insecurity. Then Jupiter's sense of fellowship may turn into unrestrained ambition for recognition at all costs, and visionary projects may be compromised by expediency.
With Saturn we reach the limits of the solar system proper, and Saturn has traditionally been associated with limitation, frustration and delays. These, however, are all by-products of Saturn's concern for the rightness of things, for seeing that all is in order according to cosmic laws and truth. Under Saturn, it is better to be delayed and right than early and misguided.
As it follows the sphere of Jupiter's social participation, Saturn's is the realm of social responsibility. It represents the process of maturation according to which individuals participate in society not only by receiving the benefits thereof, but by contributing practically and substantially to the life of the community. This requires the performance of necessary, relevant work, no matter how mundane or routine it may seem.
Saturn thus represents the process of finding our place in society and fulfilling our responsibilities there. This requires self-discipline and a realistic sense of givens, limitations and, above all, priorities. Saturn represents the necessity and capacity to tie up loose ends, to be logical and forthright. When we deal with Saturn we necessarily deal with authority — with both our capacity to wield authority and teach others, and with our capacity to learn from others (especially our elders) who have the authority of longer experience than we.
Negative aspects of Saturn include self-righteousness when in authority, and reactive depression when we must unwillingly yield to the authority of others. Saturn rewards labor dutifully performed with a sense of inner certitude, but responds with stinginess to work done resentfully or inadequately.
With the sphere of Uranus we leave the solar system proper and enter a zone of transition between the solar system and the galaxy. Saturn's traditionalism and conventionality can be seen as a kind of protective shell around the solar system. As long as we live within its boundaries we are relatively safe to develop our personal and social potentials. But some aspect of us and of the universe we live in is also represented by Uranus, which beckons us to go beyond the relative safety of well-worn paths, to turn our circular ruts into never closing spirals.
When Saturn's responsibilities are (or are in the process of being) fulfilled, opportunities for innovation, originality and transformation may appear. These may come in the form of crises, for Uranus is often associated (at least in astrologers' minds) with sudden disasters and accidents (although many people, astrologers included, would say that there are no accidents).
If merely calling a crisis an opportunity doesn't help at first, we can endeavor to make it so, at least after the fact, by opening ourselves to the changes it brings, by allowing the changes to deepen and broaden our range of understanding and responses to life. The main problem with meeting crises is that we tend to do so with the intent of returning everything to 'normal' as soon as we can.
A Uranian crisis has been truly worthwhile only when we don't return to normal afterwards, but are somehow permanently ennobled and transformed by the experience. When we cannot cooperate positively with what Uranus represents, anarchy, rebellion for no constructive purpose, or irresponsibility may result.
Neptune's is the second sphere or step in the process of going beyond Saturn. While Uranus may represent an opportunity to go beyond convention, Neptune refers to the almost bewildering array of new possibilities we encounter once we have. The new circumstances Neptune symbolizes are those of a realm of universality, where all forces, things and acts are interrelated and interconnected.
Neptune's is thus the sphere where what to us is non-ordinary consciousness operates, a realm of psychic phenomena or of 'altered states.' These may be spontaneous, sought after by years of preparation, or merely drug-induced. In contrast to daily reality, the realm of Neptune may seem either unreal and illusionary or 'realer than real.' This is the source of Neptune's association with confusion and deception. Of course one may be confused when experiencing an utterly new and unfamiliar realm in which things may not be what they seem. . .
But the real danger with Neptune is self-deception, of seeing and believing what we desperately want to be so, rather than accepting as valid — at least for ourselves and for the time being — whatever our deepest feelings and intuition honestly know.
Neptune operates most positively when we allow the experiences it brings to de-condition our minds and habitual responses from taking things for granted. Then, in a new light, we may intuit a more compelling, transcendent set of truths, and experience ourselves more fully as manifestations of universal love.
Pluto is the last planet in our solar system going outward from the sun, but it is also the first on the way in from interstellar space. Pluto thus reminds us that the last phase of any process is also the beginning of a new cycle, that death is a portal to rebirth, and that we reach farthest beyond ourselves when we go deepest within. With Pluto all things tend to turn into their opposites when carried far enough. Pluto is thus said to represent extreme, pendulum-like swings.
Pluto represents all that is paradoxical; it is said both to breed secrecy and intrigue, and to force hidden matters out into the open. With Pluto, we must never be satisfied with surface appearances, but must probe deeply to the heart of things. Thus Pluto may symbolize especially cogent and penetrating insights and persuasive communications. Negatively, intimate communications may be tainted by coercion, or the truth may be purposely obscured. Festering repressed feelings may be at the root of such negative Plutonian drives.
Yet true to its paradoxical nature, Pluto also represents catharsis and purity - catharsis as the result of a death/rebirth regeneration, purity as the expression of being what one essentially is. As our sun is also a galactic star, the message of Pluto is that we needn't go anywhere to find a source of light. It is within us.
The Shambhala Astrological Calendar 1982 was written by Leyla Raël and designed by Antony Milner, with the assistance of Ricia Doren, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Sandra Maitri, and the inspiration of Dane Rudhyar.
Used with the kind permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill.