THE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC
What Is Actually the Zodiac?
We could easily proceed with our study of the significance attributed to the signs of the zodiac, singly and in their traditional groupings; but to do so would be taking things for granted and shrinking, in fact, from facing serious problems concerning the zodiac and the place it occupies in any coherent and holistically logical system of astrological interpretation. Thus we must again return to foundations and try to fathom what are the facts really involved in the establishment of a zodiac.
The Ptolemaic zodiac has been already described as a belt of creative fire surrounding the Earth, and focalized upon the Earth mainly by the Sun and secondarily by the planets. The center of this belt of fire is the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun. The signs of the zodiac are identified with the constellations (at least in pre-Ptolemaic astrology) and as well with celestial hierarchies of Cosmic Builders. These hierarchies constitute collectively the Universal Mind, the operative creative energy of the macrocosm. The zodiac as a whole is a vast cosmic lens focalizing upon the earth the combined powers of the hierarchies, thereby making of the Earth as a whole, or of Man-in-the-whole, a microcosm.
As the Sun passes in turn in front of the twelve zodiacal constellations the operative processes of life on Earth are started and pushed to completion. Spring and Fall are logical starting points as, in the temperate zone, they mark definite changes of season, and alter the physiognomy of the Earth-surface through the season's effect upon vegetation. This obvious fact is made more precise by measuring the changes of location of sunrises and sunsets. The Sun sets at its southernmost point at the winter solstice; then "moves northward" (and also closer to the zenith) until it reaches its northernmost point at the summer solstice. Thus the solar year normally divides itself into two halves: "When the Sun moves northward" and "when the Sun moves southward." The first half is spiritual, the second material — in most occult mythological systems. The equinoctial points, on the other hand, being the time when the Sun seems to stand still, represent points of balance.
In these ancient systems the whole year is seen as a great symphony drama of integration under the supreme leadership of the Sun, and with secondary work being performed by the celestial soloists: the planets. It is a drama of collective integration, affecting the race as a whole, the planet as a whole. There is no real astrological individual integration. Individual integration is then reserved to secret initiation; and, in a sense, it is not individual "integration," but rather the assumption of an earth-body by a super-earthly entity — a Star. And so initiation is then related to star-cycles; as can be seen from studying what remains of the process of Egyptian initiation that took place in the pyramid, with telescopic orifices pointing at certain stars connected with the initiatory process.
There is then no astrology of the individual and no public knowledge of the fact of the axial rotation of the Earth. The definite public discovery of the Earth's rotation corresponds with the beginning of the age of individualism, the Renaissance — another "proof" of the correctness of our symbolism! The Pythagoreans in Greece knew about the Earth's rotation, but it was with them a more or less sacred and secret matter — just as was the process of individuation, then purely a matter of secret initiation.
Now, this fact of the public discovery of the Earth's rotation around the polar axis and of its revolution around the Sun upset completely the basis of astrological symbolism. At any rate, it brought about a cleavage between nascent astronomy and traditional astrology. What astrologers did not see, and even now have not yet seen fully, is that the sphericity of the Earth and the fact of its rotation introduced an utterly new sense of space, which necessitated a revaluation of the zodiac. In Ptolemaic astrology there was no fundamental difference between the revolving motion of the sphere of the fixed stars and of the various planetary heavens. But now that the Earth rotates around its axis, a dualism of motion is made obvious: the dualism of axial rotation, which, as we saw, gives birth to all individual factors, and of orbital revolution in which all planets partake.
In other words, the unity of the zodiac is broken up: that which was the symbol of the simple operation of life as it builds forms, bodies, and souls, becomes a complex system of motions with at least two basic types of meaning. And we must face that fact. We must either stick to a Ptolemaic world and say that we are dealing purely with a system of life-symbolism based on apparent motion and on the concrete data given by our senses, or else we must produce new evidences and new theories to explain the zodiac in an intellectual, scientific way. The difference between the Ptolemaic and the modern system is the difference between direct sense-perception and intellectual knowledge. Astrology must choose which it wishes to follow.
Our point of view is that if we adopt our modern astronomical outlook, we must cease to consider the Ptolemaic zodiac as the basic factor in astrology; and instead we have to emphasize the circle, or dial, of houses. For with the latter we are doing, in our new way, what the ancients did when they spoke of the zodiac as the symbol of the yearly drama of integration — collective and planetary.
As we wrote a moment ago, there was no conception of a real type of individual integration, except insofar as the secret process of initiation was concerned. Individual integration is what C. G. Jung calls "individuation." And what we ought to realize is that this process of individuation will in time take the place of the process of initiation. It is no longer the Sun that turns, focusing the stellar spaces of boundless life upon the collective Earth. But the Earth now turns, and this rotation has an individual significance for the individual man. It becomes, in a larger sense, the symbol of the process of individuation.
We studied this process actually when we dealt with the three 28-year cycles of human life — measured along the dial of houses. Thus this dial of houses can be considered now as the basic factor, instead of the solar zodiac; as a pattern of integration or life-fulfillment. The individual can experience his own cycles of consciousness through such symbolical cycles of Earth-rotation: for he is now centered, at least potentially, in his own Pole Star — and is no longer — a creature of the Sun, with open solar plexus through which the formative energies of life pour.
The zodiac remains, of course, the pattern of collective development and universal life-functioning; but as we emphasize the psychological process of individuation, we must also emphasize the houses as a set of points of reference, i.e., as determining the basic cycles of selfhood. And yet the beauty of the symbolism is shown in this: That nothing actually is changed except the point of view. This will be made clear at once in the following way.
"The year is the day of the Lord." But who is the Lord, astrologically? It is the North Pole, the integrative end or head of the planetary "I am" (polar axis). And we all know that, theoretically at least, at the North Pole the year is divided into a 6-month day-time and a 6-month night-time! Truly the year of the North Pole is a "day"; and we find thus that here our dial of houses applies in a modified manner: 6 months, the Sun is below the horizon — 6 months, above the horizon: a planetary day — and night cycle, and thus the possibility for a dial of houses measuring the twelvefold process of consciousness during this "day" of the Lord!
This is most logical, if we realize that the solar year is originally a record of the changes of season. But these changes of season are due to the fact of the inclination of the Earth's axis; which is also the cause for the 6-month day-time, and 6-month night-time experienced (again relatively speaking) at the poles. This shows that what is a year cycle (collective) in relation to the temperate zones, is a day cycle (individual) in relation to the poles. We may interpret this by saying that what is the collective for cells within an entire organism, is individual in reference to this organism as a whole. Individual and collective are relative terms. Relative to what? To the point of view taken.
As the Bible and all occult books say, men are cells in the body of the Lord. Polar astrology deals with the planetary Individual (the "Lord"), and his cycle of individuation is the year. He functions solely through the polar axis, and the facts concerning this polar axis (inclination, gyration, etc.) are the bases for the symbolism of a planetary-polar astrology. The fact of axial inclination, coupled with that of revolution of the whole planet around the Sun, constitutes the basis for the polar "day" — just as the fact of rotation of the surface of the globe around its axis causes the "day" of us, men. . . cells of the planetary body.
However, being cells, we relate ourselves one to the other constantly — and it is this relation, this collective interchange, which is pictured symbolically in the zodiac. In this case we may consider the Earth as a huge body in which men-cells "move and have their being." If the zodiac is a picture of the motions and relations of these men-cells within the Earth-body, then it follows logically that the signs of the zodiac represent anatomical divisions of the Earth-body. However, it is not the material planet which is to be considered, but the planet as a field of relationships. This field is really created by the rotation of the Earth and the magnetic currents generated by the poles. It is also connected with the ionosphere (above the stratosphere), influenced by the ultra-violet rays of the Sun. In brief, the zodiac is what astrologers-scientists call the "magnetic field" of the Earth, what occultists call the "aura of the Earth," or the auric egg of the planetary Being.
Abstractly, it is the realm where all relationships between all living beings on Earth are interwoven. It is the great matrix of the collective, energized and stirred rhythmically by the solar radiations and presumably also by cosmic rays and the like. It is a magnetic field — but it can be pictured less scientifically as an envelope of fire or electricity within which the Earth rotates, but which itself remains constantly polarized in the same direction: toward the pole of the ecliptic.
This line of the poles of the ecliptic is the ideal axis of the Earth around which the actual axis gyrates in 25,868 years. The zodiac can thus be conceived as the ideal Earth, the archetypal body of the planetary Whole in which men live as cells and groups of cells.
It is probable that such a statement will seem to conflict with our previous ones indicating that the zodiac was the result of the orbital revolution of the Earth around the Sun and a background for the orbital movements of all planets. But we must also remember that we added: Always in relation to the Earth!
Remembering this, we can say that the zodiac is the solar system in relation to the Earth. One step further: It is the whole of the planetary-solar relationship projected upon the solar, or spiritual, envelope of the Earth. Or again: It is the zone around the Earth where the collective emanations of the Earth integrate with the collective emanations from Sun and planets. And it may very well be that this zone corresponds actually, in the regions surrounding the Earth, to the equatorial belt on the surface of the globe. As a matter of fact it does not matter from our standpoint what definition or formulation one adopts.
The zodiac, as Western astrology uses it, is both an idea and a fact. As an idea, it is an expression of the combined movements of and relationships between Sun, Moon, planets, and the Earth. It is an expression of collective being and of relationship between the parts or organs which together constitute an organic whole. It is the expression of organic wholeness. As everything has to be related to the observer on Earth, we may project this "expression" around the Earth and call it an "auric egg" or "ideal Earth," or whatever indicates the wholeness of life in dynamic operation. We may even project the zodiac idea on the Earth surface and so determine which locality belongs to which sign of the zodiac as Johndro and Counsil have done, each starting with a particular "world-basis" for the projection. In every case, what is being done is a charting of collective elements and of organic interchange.
This is made even more evident by the traditional projection of the zodiac upon the human body — or, which is less usual but better, the human "aura" or auric egg. Here we see a particular sign of the zodiac assigned to every part of the body. Indeed, the zodiac is then a pattern of organic interchange, a charting of the circuits of the life-force (Sun) as it energizes the various parts and organs of the integrated collectivity of cells — which we call a body. The zodiac is thus seen as the ideal pattern and the formative mould of every "body."
As a fact of practical astrological application the zodiac, as we now use it in the Western world, has to be considered as the "magnetic field" of the Earth, this being the only way to justify our astrological measurements from the point of view of a heliocentric scientific solar system. This is explained most lucidly in Alan Leo's Casting the Horoscope from which we shall quote the following:
"The zodiac that we use is really the Earth's Aura. It is a sphere or ovoid, the poles of which coincide with the poles of the Ecliptic and its middle or equatorial plane is the Ecliptic. . . . For some reason at present unexplained, this sphere is polarized in one direction; that is to say, it remains always in one position whatever the place of the Earth in its orbit, in this respect being comparable to the ordinary mariner's compass, the circular card of which always floats with its North Pole pointing in one direction. This sphere is divided into twelve parts like the sections of an orange, and it is these sections which constitute the "signs" of the zodiac. We are, however, chiefly concerned with its equatorial plane, for it is this which we measure in signs or degrees, and which determines the zodiacal position of a planet.
"Now it is clear that since this sphere or aura remains constantly 'floating' in one position while the Earth journeys round the sun, the sun's rays will successively pass through each one of the signs. If you place a lamp in the middle of a table, and walk once round the table, always facing one particular corner of the room, the rays of the light will have shone upon each part of the head in turn — the nose, left cheek, back of the head, right cheek, and so on. . .
"It need hardly be mentioned that this 'aura' does not turn round each day with the rotation of the earth on its axis, but that the Earth spins round within it, like the wheel in a gyroscope."
In other words, this "aura" represents the collectivity of the whole solar system in relation to the Earth. The Earth spins around within it, just as any individual moves within his own environment, which environment represents for the individual the collective, that is, the sum total of relationships this individual can experience. The zodiac is the collective environment of the Earth, and thus of mankind as a whole. All cosmic relationships in which the Earth can ever enter, all outside radiations which can ever penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, and thus the lungs and blood of every breathing organism on Earth — all must pass through the zodiac. In another sense, then, the zodiac is the placenta of the embryonic Earth-body. All the building energies which produce the growth of the embryo must pass through the placenta. The placenta is the formative zone, the zone in and from which the building energies and substances of the macrocosm vitalize the microcosm just as the mother's energies vitalize the embryo.
As the solar and planetary rays pass successively through each one of the zodiacal signs, the growing microcosm accordingly receives "nourishment" or stimulation — until eventually it reaches the state of perfect development. The Earth is not perfectly developed, neither is the human race. So year in, year out, the Earth, the human race and all other life-species on this globe receive more "cosmic substance," more "macrocosmic food" — the very substance of the Celestial Hierarchies, in occult symbolism; the celestial Bread and Waters of universal Life.
The reader who has thoroughly grasped the foregoing will then see readily that it does not in the least matter whether the Earth is said to revolve around the Sun, or the Sun around the Earth. What we deal with in astrology are three factors: the microcosm, the macrocosm and the relation between the two. This means, in other words, the particular, the universal, and the sum total of agencies by means of which the universal becomes focalized as a particular organic whole. The sum total of these agencies constitutes the zodiac. And as far as we men are concerned, the whole universe revolves around us, just as the mother's life revolves around the child. Egoism? Not at all; just common sense. Modern science in trying to be very impersonal and objective does not yet realize that, when all is said and done, it is impersonal and objective only insofar as individual human beings are concerned. All that science does is to give us a knowledge valid for all men on this Earth. Philosophically, nay, even practically speaking, scientific knowledge is utterly conditioned and limited by the Earth's boundaries. The Earth is like an embryo within the placenta. The embryo can only know directly what occurs to and around him, and this in terms of life within the womb. And so, the zodiac is actually what the theosophists call the "Ring-Pass-Not" of the Earth.
In scientific terminology the viewpoint and knowledge of all inhabitants of the Earth are absolutely limited to what occurs within the magnetic field of the Earth. They can know the outside only through disturbances in this magnetic field. We know, of Sun, planets and stars, only their effects upon the magnetic field of the Earth. We have absolutely no way of knowing whether the rays of the stars are not regularly deflected by the magnetic field of the Earth. All we can do is to measure accurately disturbances in this magnetic field or "Earth's aura." There is no philosophical and theoretical possibility of ever knowing directly what actually is beyond the boundaries of this field. We can know only "by inference." In other words, to use terms which the new school of idealists especially among English physicists has popularized, our knowledge is valid only in terms of the "intellectual framework" which we have adopted. This "framework," which is perhaps man's greatest objective creation, is relative to man. Modern science acknowledges the fact of its being "man-centered" — an interpretation of collectively experienced facts, collectively valid for mankind on Earth.
The zodiac symbolizes the framework to which every astrological phenomenon must be referred. It is thus man-centered and Earth-centered. It is an abstraction and a symbol, just as the Holy City with its twelve gates — in the Biblical allegory — is an abstraction and a symbol. The zodiac is the Wall that separates all inhabitants of the Earth-surface from the universe. Symbolically, this Wall has twelve gates, twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve channels through which universal energies flow. We speak of the "wall" of an atom, but mean only the limits of a magnetic field; and we now shoot high-powered particles through this wall and so release from the atom's "Holy City" one or more photons.
Why do we speak of "gates" in a "wall"? Why not an open field? Perhaps because: 1) the boundaries of a magnetic field differentiate sharply enough the inner from the outer to appear as a solid wall — just as the surface of a table appears as solid as a wall, though it is nothing more than a magnetic field; 2) because energy, coming from outside in and going from inside out, can only either enter or exit in lumps called in modern physics "quanta." And it may be that the way these "quanta" behave can be accurately, yet of course symbolically, expressed by the concept of "gates" — which open and close rhythmically like the valves of the heart.
However this may be, the fact is that the zodiac which we use in modern astrology is to be considered as surrounding the Earth, but not a creation of the Earth's as a rotating globe. It is the expression of the relation Earth-to-universe, and more particularly Earth-to-Sun. This is made evident by the fact that this postulated or symbolical sphere around the Earth is orientated to the ecliptic and the pole of the ecliptic. It does not partake in the axial rotation of the Earth, or the inclination of the Earth's axis. It is thus in every way the same as the Ptolemaic zodiac — only seen through the spectacles of modern astronomy. It is the "celestial sphere" of the astronomers, but limited to the neighborhood of the Earth using the term "neighborhood" as in modern physics.
Many astrologers, however, often for the sake of simplicity, more often still because they do not consider attentively the logical foundations of the system they use, refer to the zodiac as if it were a vast sphere centered in the Sun and encompassing the entire solar system. Then, there are some who deliberately speak of it as the "magnetic field of the Sun." There is, of course, nothing wrong with this last idea; only it does not correspond either with the factual, practical reality or with the philosophical idea of the zodiac, as we apply the term "zodiac" today.
The simplest illustration of this is contained in the following fact: If the signs of the zodiac are a twelve-fold segmentation of the space around the Sun, and the Earth passes through one of these segments each month as it revolves around the Sun, then it remains during, let us say, April in the sign Libra (and the Sun appears thus to be in Aries). But if so, the Moon revolving close to the Earth remains in this sign Libra about as long as the Earth does, that is, a whole month! In other words, the whole fabric of astrology as we use it today falls very much to pieces. We have to think of an Earth zodiac through which the Moon moves (the lunar zodiac of the past perhaps?); we have to give up the idea of retrograde planets. In other words, we have to have an entirely new astrological frame of reference. The idea, however, is attractive to the scientific type of astrologer. From our standpoint, it does not fit in with the basic principles of astrological symbolism. For it involves the idea that we can legitimately imagine ourselves on the Sun and that we can interpret life and planetary relationships from there. To us this is not philosophically acceptable. As we said, we are dealing in astrology with the interpretation of facts of experience. Thus, as long as we experience in and through Earth-born and Earth-conditioned bodies, we cannot assume the imaginary viewpoint of a being with an actual Sun-born and Sun-conditioned body. We know actually nothing about the Sun, except as a center of radiations which affects us. We call this center "Sun." And symbolically and theoretically everything works as if the Sun were what we make it be. But we do not experience the Sun from the Sun's viewpoint. We experience it only from the Earth's viewpoint. And, as already said, astrology — or any type of life-interpretation — deals with experienced facts made significant.
We are not in this contradicting previous statements. We can well accept modern science's interpretation of the relative motions of Sun and planets, yet take the attitude just defined. The astronomical concept of the solar system is a system of interpretation of observed facts — a very convenient and intellectually wonderful one. But what count for us are the facts. On the basis of these facts, astronomy establishes a model of the solar system. On the basis of these same facts, astrology establishes a symbolism of life-interpretation. Both are equally logical. And if the former appears to work more accurately than the latter, it is probably because the latter deals with a realm of being which is more exact in terms of significance than in terms of events; a realm in which the "principle of indeterminacy" operates strongly.
The Meaning and Classification of the Signs of the Zodiac
In ancient astrology based on the Ptolemaic conception of the universe, the houses were static divisions of the space above and below the flat Earth. Not being an expression of planetary motion, they could not be an expression of Life. They dealt thus purely with outer circumstances, establishing set departments for the activities of Life. Therefore the basis of all classification of life-operations was the zodiac and the cyclic course of the Sun through its signs. The equinoxes and solstices served most naturally to effect a division of the zodiac into four great quarters corresponding to the seasons. This division is based precisely on the relation of the equatorial plane of the Earth to the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun. Where these two planes intersect, there are the equinoxes; where they are the farthest apart, the solstices. This gives us the four cardinal signs of the zodiac: Aries and Libra, at the equinoxes of spring and fall — Cancer and Capricorn, at the solstices of summer and winter.
These four signs were seen as the crucial times of the year, as periods of special activity of the life-force and of special release of power. It was clear, however, that the types of release that occurred during these four crucial periods were of different natures. At the equinoxes came the times of greatest momentum of life; at the solstices, of least momentum; just as if we watch the oscillations of a pendulum we see its motion being the fastest when it crosses the point of equilibrium, and the slowest when it reaches its end-positions.
For the ancients, the ecliptic appeared to oscillate southward and northward in relation to the Earth, completing a full oscillation every year. For us moderns, it is the poles of the Earth which perform the oscillating motion with regard to the Sun, turning themselves to and away from the Sun. When the North Pole places itself face to face with the Sun, this is summer in the northern hemisphere; when it hides its face from the Sun, it is winter. The same pendular oscillation, but seen either from the point of view of the equator-ecliptic relation, or from that of the pole-Sun relation.
The result, in both cases, is that the equinoctial signs of the zodiac, Aries and Libra, are signs of great positive momentum; whereas the solsticial signs, Cancer and Capricorn, are signs of negative momentum. On the other hand, at the solsticial points the polarities of life (the Yang and Yin of Chinese philosophy) are to be experienced respectively in their purest quality. The purest Yang (with the least admixture of Yin) is experienced by the Earth at the summer solstice; the purest Yin (with the least admixture of Yang) is experienced by the Earth at the winter solstice; while at the equinoxes the two polarities are equally blended.
Thus we have two sets of factors. At the equinoxes the momentum of life is greatest. At the solstices the qualities of the polarities of life are to be felt in the purest way. This gives us the meaning of the characterization of the four crucial periods of the year in terms of four "elements": Fire and Air, Water and Earth. Fire (Aries) and Air (Libra) are expressions of momentum; Water (Cancer) and Earth (Capricorn) are expressions of life qualities, or polarities. At the equinoxes we have extremes of motion and activity (either toward or away from the Sun, positive or negative in direction); at the solstices we find potentially extremes of realization (either of the Yang or the Yin polarities).
The terms Yang and Yin must, however, not confuse us. They really mean in this respect objective and subjective, outer and inner; thus, according to ancient customs they referred to man and woman. From Aries to Libra: this is the period of living objectively, the period when vegetation is manifest. It is the realm of leaf. From Libra to Aries: this is the period of living subjectively, the period when vegetation is latent, hidden below the crust of the earth. It is the realm of seed. Leaf and seed are two great symbols of outer and inner, of objectivity and subjectivity.
Aries represents, therefore, the extreme of momentum toward the leaf-condition, toward the extreme of realization in and through objective reality, which is Cancer — the plant fulfilled in the fruit: objective maturity.
Libra, on the other hand, represents the extreme of momentum toward the seed-condition, toward the extreme of realization in and through subjective reality, which is Capricorn — the birth of the Christ-consciousness within: subjective maturity.
Thus Fire (Aries) is motion toward objective manifestation: — the primordial desire for manifestation, the thirst for life in a body: Tanha — the will to live as a separate self — in Buddhistic philosophy. Fire is fulfilled in Water (Cancer): the urge-to-be is fulfilled in the sap of plants, the lymph and milk that sustain all animal life; the personal soul also.
Air (Libra) is motion toward subjective realization — the yearning for the God-within, the thirst for "Liberation" or for Nirvana. Liberation from what? From the bondage to the body and to separate selfhood. It is motion away from the physical sun and toward the beyond. Air is fulfilled in Earth (Capricorn): The longing for God is satisfied in the birth of the Christ-body within the spiritual Earth, the New Jerusalem.
In terms of our previous nomenclature — individual, collective and creative — we have the following diagram:
This might seem to conflict with what we said of the zodiac referring as a whole to the collective. But we must realize that individual and collective are purely relative terms. The body is "collective" to the individual self; yet it is a whole, therefore an individual organism. When we speak thus of "individual" with reference to the zodiac, we speak of these cosmic energies which are building the wholeness of any whole. Wholeness and individual selfhood are almost synonymous — the same fact looked at from two different points of view.
Fire is individual, because it is the animating principle of all individual selfhood. It is that which rises out of the Earth toward the Sun. It is the fire of germination that propels the nucleus of the seed Sunward, toward the God-that-is-everywhere.
Air is "collective," because it is that which brings every separate individual and body into the subtle communion of the breath. Air links the lungs and blood of every breathing entity. It is that which rises out of the Water toward the all-encompassing Space. It is the emanation of all bodies, the perfume of all lives. In and through it, all lives reach unity in the all-embracing seed that is the God-of-the-Mystery: SPACE.
Water is the "creative" manifestation of the urge to be a separate individual. Earth is the "creative" manifestation of the urge to reach a stage of absolute spiritual solidarity. Solidarity is to the spirit what solidity is to matter. In both cases it means Earth. Within the scope of the life of a particular man, solidarity has to be established between all organic and magnetic life-centers before the Christ-body takes form — a symbol or sign of this perfect solidarity.
The reader may be puzzled by the manner in which we make the opposition individual-collective coincide with the equinoxes, whereas we found the opposition Yang-Yin coinciding with the solstices. The contradiction is more apparent than real. The Chinese duality of principles or polarities referred to concrete facts, whereas we are dealing, when speaking of individual and collective, with principles of motion, or let us say, with trends of consciousness. In other words, we place ourselves at an abstract level, which, obviously, changes our focalization. Practically speaking, there is very little difference. Cancer traditionally rules the "home" and Capricorn, the "public life" or "profession" — truly the sphere of individual creativeness and that of collective creativeness.
Much confusion occurs in the application of astrological symbolism because the various points of view of interpretation are not clearly enough differentiated. When the ordinary textbook lists all the things Cancer is supposed to represent, it is, in fact, piling up a mass of "meanings" which are the results of several types of interpretation. Cancer means one thing from one point of view, another thing from another point of view. This fact justifies our present attitude which aims at a clarification and classification of meanings. One may try to interpret the signs of the zodiac from several points of view, each giving a particular set of meanings; but, unless one realizes the way each set is produced and the logic of its production, much confusion is bound to ensue.
So far, we have dealt with the most general and archetypal foundation of zodiacal interpretation, considering the four basic moments of the cycle of the year. It is evident that further differentiation is advisable, in fact necessary, and there are two essential ways in which this can be done. The four-fold structure of "cardinal" signs (Aries-Libra; Cancer-Capricorn) gives us four sections of 90 degrees each. Each section can be divided into two subsections of 45 degrees each; or into three sub-sections of 30 degrees each. The latter procedure is the usual one; but it loses much of its meaning when it is not correlated with the former, which, unfortunately, is very little understood.
The four-fold division of the zodiac which we have studied so far gives us four basic types of cosmic substance: Fire-Air; Water-Earth. This is the most fundamental zodiacal differentiation inasmuch as the zodiac as a whole symbolizes, as already said, the building of a microcosm. Substance is the most fundamental thing in any building. But "energy" and "form" are just as important. Therefore we shall see that the zodiac is, most logically, susceptible of two other types of differentiation, referring respectively to energy and form.
Energy is not very different from substance. It is substance activated and released, as modern physics has shown most definitely. Thus we can expect the principle of "energy-differentiation" to be similar to that of "substance-differentiation." Both are based on the principle of polar dualism; of action and reaction. The energy-zodiac will thus be eight-fold, while the substance-zodiac is fourfold.
According to T. O. McGrath (Timing Business Activity and the Sun, p. 12):
"It is known that all bodies such as the sun and its satellites are charged bodies and are surrounded by a magnetic field; that in any magnetic body having two poles (the sun and its satellites are such bodies), the magnetic currents circulate from the north to the south pole, become neutral at each 90 degrees, and reach a maximum intensity at each 45 degrees."
If such is the case, it is evident that the points of maximum release of energy are to be found mid-way between equinoxes and solstices. These points are thus on the following degrees of the circle: 45°, 135°, 225° and 315°; or in terms of the usual zodiacal nomenclature: Taurus 15°; Leo 15°; Scorpio 15°; Aquarius 15°. These points are not unknown to some occultists. They correspond to what has been called: the Four Gates of Avataric Descent. As an "Avatar" in ancient terminology is in fact a release of cosmic energy, the meaning of the phrase is quite evident. These Four Gates are symbolized by the four symbolic creatures: the Bull, the Lion, the Eagle and the Angel. Each of them depicts a particular type of dynamic release, a particular type or Ray of Power — and of power releasing "initiation."
The Bull and the Lion represent individuating power, power rooted in the planet, i.e., in concrete selfhood. On the other hand, the Eagle and the Angel symbolize collectivating power; power that expands the individual into the collective and the universal. We might add that the Bull is power toward the formation of the individual being, while the Lion is power emanating from the individual being. The Eagle is power toward the formation of the universal being, while the Angel is power emanating from the universal being.
In the cycle of the year the four "avataric" points occur approximately on May 6; August 8; November 8; February 5. At these times the energies or realizations which were gathered in at equinoxes and solstices are released and made effective. It might interest the numerologist to consider the fact that the figures in the number of each of these eight points of the circle add up to the digit 9: (45, 90, 135, etc.). Baha'u'llah, the great Persian prophet, whom many consider as the Avatar of the new Aquarian Age, was born on November 12, very close to the Eagle-point — a very fitting time for one who preached the gospel of a "universal religion," and in general of an all-inclusive planetary synthesis. He took the number 9 as the symbol of his message.
Form differentiation: Energy operates on a polar rhythm of action and reaction; thus any type of energy-differentiation is based on theoretically equal divisions and sub-divisions: 2 - 4 - 8. In ancient symbology 8 is the number of the Sun; 888, the number of the Christ, the triune Sun. The number 9 thus represents Him who wields the 8-fold power. But how is one to wield power, unless one has a form-of-power — an engine — in which to hold and from which to release power at will? We cannot go fully into a discussion of the meaning of the term "form-of-power."(1) Suffice it to say that there can be no controlled and rhythmical release of energy unless there is some sort of "engine" through which this release is effected. All engines are "forms-of-power;" that is, forms which control the generation, concentration and distribution of power.
Three operations always: generation, concentration and distribution. Therefore the basic number of all forms-of-power (and we probably could say of all types of engineering) is 3. The engineer uses push and pull. Push and pull are two things; but "uses" involves a third principle. Action and reaction: such is the pure energy-rhythm. But a third term is necessary: interaction, if the energy is to build an organic body. A body is not a pipe through which tides of energy have their ebb and flow. It assimilates substance. It holds energy. It transforms power. It uses ebb and flow to step up the level or potential of the energy. And this is "organic living" — which always involves three basic faculties: self-maintenance, self-reproduction, self-realization.
We could go on almost indefinitely enumerating trinities of principles in all realms of being and becoming. But here, with the zodiac and with all "equatorial" elements, we deal mainly with power — with the power that builds and regenerates organisms or bodies. And the most satisfactory formulation of the trinity of elements which enters in this building operation is the one already mentioned: generation, concentration and distribution.
We saw that at the four crucial points of the year's cycle there was a generation of power. The results of this generation are four basic types of "substances": Fire-Air, Water-Earth. Through these four "substances" or cosmic elements power will operate according to the triple rhythm above mentioned. This will give us the following scheme of operation:
At the spring equinox: Fire-power is generated Aries — then concentrated Taurus — lastly distributed Gemini.
At the summer solstice: Water-power is generated Cancer — then concentrated Leo — lastly distributed Virgo.
At the fall equinox: Air-power is generated Libra — then concentrated Scorpio — lastly distributed Sagittarius.
At the winter solstice: Earth-power is generated Capricorn — then concentrated Aquarius — lastly distributed Pisces.
Zodiacal signs of generation of power are called: Cardinal signs.
Zodiacal signs of concentration of power are called: Fixed signs.
Zodiacal signs of distribution of power are called: Mutable signs.
They can be referred respectively to spirit, soul and mind — all three operating within the total "body," or "auric egg': the microcosm. This microcosm can also be called, using the term in its most inclusive significance: personality. Personality, or perhaps, better still, the Living Person, is the synthesis of spirit, soul and mind operating within a body (or bodies, if one accepts the occult concept of several distinct vehicles for spiritual, animic and mental energies centered around the visible physical structure).
Spirit — or Life — generates. Soul concentrates. Mind distributes. Personality manifests — or hides! The work of life-development for every human being is to reveal in the operation of personality the generations of spirit, the concentrations of soul and the distributions of mind.
In order to make the symbolical picture complete we have only to relate the four-fold and the three-fold classification. We shall then try to understand how:
Fire-Power (Aries) concentrates through Earth (Taurus), is distributed through Air (Gemini).
Water-Power (Cancer) concentrates through Fire (Leo), is distributed through Earth (Virgo).
Air-Power (Libra) concentrates through Water (Scorpio), is distributed through Fire (Sagittarius).
Earth-Power (Capricorn) concentrates through Air (Aquarius), is distributed through Water (Pisces).
This may seem rather involved and disconcerting; and so we may try another way of stating the zodiacal "formula:"
Spirit-Fire (Aries) is generative Fire: Electric Fire.
Soul-Fire (Leo) is concentrative Fire: Solar Fire.
Mind-Fire (Sagittarius) is distributive Fire: Fire by friction.
This means that:
When Fire generates it is operating in terms of spirit. When Fire concentrates it is operating in terms of soul. When Fire distributes it is operating in terms of mind.
In other words:
Generative Fire is the starting-point of individual selfhood (Aries).
Concentrative Fire refers to the creative release of self, by means of which the soul knows itself whole and god-like (Leo).
Distributive Fire is that fire which blends, synthesizes and universalizes all elements and energies prior to the Christ-birth — the birth of the universal being (Sagittarius).(2)
The same procedure will bring out more clearly the significance of the other elements:
Generative Water (Cancer) operates in terms of spirit. It is the power that gives birth to concrete selfhood, that creates a concrete basis of operation — a home — for the individual self.
Concentrative Water (Scorpio) operates in terms of soul. It concentrates and sustains the collectivating urge of spirit-Air (Libra), the impulse toward "re-birth in Christ."
Distributive Water (Pisces) operates in terms of mind. It effects the synthesis of energies that were brought to creative focalization in Capricorn, and vitalized in Aquarius.
Generative Air (Libra) operates in terms of spirit. It is the power that gathers and communalizes the emanations of individuals.
Concentrative Air (Aquarius) operates in terms of soul. It gives vitality and momentum to the spiritual Earth (Capricorn). It is the breath of the collective soul.
Distributive Air (Gemini) operates in terms of mind. It exteriorizes and interprets the individual impulsion of Aries, once focalized and substantiated in Taurus.
Generative Earth (Capricorn) operates in terms of spirit. It is the power of incarnation, the power to assume a body — from the point of view of the involving spirit.
Concentrative Earth (Taurus) operates in terms of soul. It gives substance and depth to the Aries impulses.
Distributive Earth (Virgo) operates in terms of mind. It spreads the creative release of self of Leo through space, where it is seen as a mass of polar energies (The Virgin of Light). Discrimination is aroused in the mind as the problem of dealing with polarities, with light and shade, arises.
From this, we can see how each cosmic element is susceptible of assuming three distinct functions, somewhat as a man can act, feel and think at the same time: 1) as a father to his son; 2) as a husband to his wife; 3) as a comrade and co-worker with his associates and friends, thus (roughly speaking) generating, concentrating and distributing the energies of his own being.
The Zodiac as the Cycle of the Planetary Individual
So far we have considered zodiacal signs mostly from the point of view of their being a series of cosmic energies projected as it were by the Macrocosm (the Twelve Hierarchies) upon the microcosm; in other words as a series of formative operations, or phases of the building of this microcosm. This is the equatorial-collective viewpoint. But we can also think of the zodiac as the cycle of houses of the planetary Individual Who "dwells at the North Pole," and for Whom a year is as a day, with six months of sunlight (Aries to Libra) and six months of darkness (Libra to Aries), at least theoretically speaking. From such a standpoint the zodiac becomes interpreted in terms of consciousness rather than in terms of energy.
Such a consciousness-interpretation is most valuable, as it brings the signs of the zodiac in relation to the houses, and thus an interpenetration of meanings is shown which helps one to understand much of the confused traditional statements as to the significance of both houses and signs. Besides, a sort of algebraic formula is thus evolved which can easily be shown to be the substructure underneath all dramatic and mythological interpretations of the zodiac known to students of astrology and occultism. The most remarkable of these interpretations is undoubtedly the one detailed in Sampson's book The Zodiac. Alice Bailey gave another traditional interpretation when relating, in a series of lectures, the story of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Hercules is the Sun, and his Twelve Labors are the twelve cosmic operations of the zodiac seen from a regenerative, rather than a formative, standpoint.
In ordinary astrological works the zodiacal signs are presented as the basic factors of significance, and the houses model their meanings after them. But from our standpoint we find in the twelve-fold pattern of the dial of houses a basic formula of individual unfoldment; and it is this pattern — a purely abstract one — which establishes the most universal series of meanings. It is of course purely a numerological pattern dealing with the significance of the numbers from 1 to 12 inclusive; but the numbers are made significant by being projected, as it were, geometrically. This projection is the wheel or dial of houses. Aries becomes thus significant because of being an equatorial-organic projection of No. 1; Taurus, of No. 2, etc., up to Pisces, as No. 12. The axis 1-6 represents the dualism of self and not-self, of "I and Thou." The axis 4-12 represents the dualism of experience: subjective experience and objective experience — or of private and public behavior. We hope that the following table will make the matter clear. It should be studied in connection with the table of meanings of houses in Chapter 6. Modern astrological textbooks, such as those written by Alan Leo, C. E. O. Carter,(3) A. G. Libra, Parker, etc., are full of valuable added references to the meaning of the signs of the zodiac, singly and in groups. As Carter writes:
"The task of interpreting the zodiacal script has been attempted by many writers, each approaching the work from his own standpoint. It is far from my desire even tacitly to differ from their conclusions or to seek to supersede anything written before. The contents of the Circle of Zodiacal Wisdom are inexhaustible, and present all-various aspects of the integrality of Truth." The Zodiac and the Soul, p. 14.
The last sentence of this quotation gives us the clue to much that could be developed at length; especially the term "contents." The zodiac represents, we said, the element of "substance." But substance means also contents. The zodiac gives us a knowledge of the life-contents of every living entity. The houses tell us the manner in which these contents are distributed in a form of selfhood and destiny. The Planets are focal points for and symbols of all life-activities. The Degrees give us a clue to the inherent creative significance of all activities and all focalizations.
This point bas been discussed in our book, Art as Release of Power (1929).
2. We shall not attempt here to explain more in detail what these three Fires represent; but in H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine and in Alice Bailey's A Treatise on Cosmic Fire much is said concerning these three Fires that operate in and through all living organisms. It will be relatively easy to work out the correspondences if one is endowed with the type of mind necessary for such a performance. If not, the accepted astrological formulation can be used or the formulation which we shall introduce presently and in which the signs of the zodiac are interpreted in terms of the pattern of houses previously studied.
3. Read especially, in The Zodiac and the Soul, the chapter "The Signs and Planets as Cosmic Ideals."
The Astrology of Personality