Leyla Rael


From the point of view of the humanistic astrologer an approach pioneered and developed by Dane Rudhyar over the past forty years the birth-chart is a kind of blueprint (or 'seed pattern'), a symbolic representation of the potentialities inherent in a person's birth: what he or she is born for. During the course of a person's life, he or she actualizes at least some of these potentialities by progressing through natural processes of biological growth and psycho-spiritual development as he or she meets the various life-situations and challenges inherent in aging and maturing and, in general, living in the world at a particular time in history as a member of a particular culture, nation, class, family, etc.

On the one hand, the process whereby people grow to maturity and develop their potential as human beings is generic, that is, we all pass through the same developmental sequence: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age and, eventually, death. On the other hand, because each person's life-potentials are unique, he or she has also to pass through an individual process of actualization. Thus, woven into the fabric and rhythm of the generic schedule of life-development is also an individual program for self-actualization.

Common sense and elementary psychology dictate that a thoughtful astrologer would not approach a consultation with a client of middle age in the same spirit as he or she would interpret the chart of a teenager. At least in theory, we recognize the generic time schedule according to which we all operate to a greater or lesser degree. In counseling, we must take into account the fact that each of the chronological life-periods has its own place and function in the whole life-pattern, and that it therefore has its own specific needs for guidance, insight and appropriate action on the part of the client.

Equally as important for the astrologer to consider is the individual schedule for actualization also ticking away within each of us. On the one hand, the astrologer will need to work with (rather than against) the client's own process and rhythm of development if he or she is to be an effective guide or counselor. On the other hand, one of the primary tasks of the humanistic astrologer is to enable the client to see his or her life as a whole, as a meaningful process of development extending from birth to death, proceeding through an ordered series of phases, each of which occupies a particular place and serves a function with the whole life-pattern. The astrologer tries to provide this insight so that the client can more clearly understand the purpose and significance of his or her current life-phase, and so that by working in consonance with his or her own schedule for development he or she can discover and carry out the most appropriate course of action.

In order to accomplish all this, the astrologer has to answer some basic questions: How can I perceive the individual rhythm underlying my client's life? How can I understand the whole of his or her life-pattern and the meaning and significance of each phase of it? How can I assess 'where' my client is in his or her own process of development?

To help us answer these questions, I propose that we explore the astrological technique of secondary progressions, particularly the progressed lunation cycle, and most especially the formulation Dane Rudhyar has given to these basic matters in his books The Lunation Cycle and The Astrology of America's Destiny.*

*The Lunation Cycle (Shambhala Publications, Boulder: 1947, 1967). The Astrology of America's Destiny (Random House, New York: 1974). Perhaps Rudhyar's clearest, most useful and concise presentation of secondary progressions is contained in this book, and it is from pages 116 through 119 that the following quotation is taken. This quotation bears several readings, close study, and should be deeply understood before reading on.


Secondary Progressions

"In so-called secondary progressions, what takes place in the sky each day after the birth of a person gives us an archetypal or symbolic picture of the conditions which develop during one year of that person's actual living.  Astrologers often say that this equivalence between a year and a day is based on the fact that the two basic frames of reference used in astrology are the year and the day that is, the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, and the daily rotation of the Earth around its polar axis. Thus a special relationship is said to exist between these two kinds of motions. It is a symbolic relationship, for there is no logical reason for establishing a causal relationship between the day following the birth moment and the first year of life. Yet symbolic though it may be, the equivalence of day and year in astrological practice can be demonstrated to be valid.

"It has occurred to me, however, that the length of the gestation period in the human species nine months may provide a significant clue to the problem of the validity of the secondary progressions. If the Sun in astrology represents the life-principle, and each month of solar motion releases a specific seasonal kind of life-energy, it seems logical to me to expect that the complete formation of man who is thought to be a microcosmic condensation of the forces active in the macrocosm, or at least in the solar system should take a whole year. As the embryonic development in the womb takes nine months, it would be natural to assume that the extra three months needed to complete the solar cycle would refer to the also embryonic unfoldment of a psychic organism. . .

"Three months equal ninety to ninety-two days, and if we consider the period of ninety years as the normal maximum length of a human life .  .  . then the ninety days after birth would represent the time during which progressions are effective in terms of the life of a human being, the time for the release of all the kinds of solar energy needed for the full development of man's psychic and mental capacities. What happens in the solar system during the ninety days after birth would therefore present us with an archetypal blueprint for the growth of the individual's consciousness or, if we use the term in its broadest and most precise sense, his intelligence. Intelligence in man is essentially the faculty which allows him to consciously adapt to his biological, social and psychic environment in such a way that he can obtain optimum conditions for his growth and fulfillment." *ltalics mine for emphasis. LR

We have thus to think of secondary progressions as indications of a general process of evolution through which a person passes, through which his or her consciousness, destiny and capacity for action develop and evolve. More than referring to a series of events, progressions represent a schedule, an ordered pattern of growth or actualization. They do not tell us what will happen, but how and according to what schedule a person can develop and actualize his or her potentialities. By associating actual life-events with secondary progressions and interpreting these events in the light of the progressions, we can come to understand the meaning of what has happened to a person, the role and function various events or phases of life were meant to play in his or her overall development.

In order to do this in a clear, cohesive way, we must perceive an essential rhythm within and according to which the secondary progressions, and thus the individual's development, operate. On the one hand, in the normal life of a human being, the Sun by progression will pass through at least two, possibly three signs of the zodiac, depending upon the length of life and the degree of the Sun in its sign at birth. In terms of complete cycles by progression, only the progressed Moon will make a complete circuit around the zodiac or birth-chart which it does every 27 to 28 years, making two, three or three-plus such revolutions in a lifetime. The divisions of a life produced by the sign changes of the progressed Sun and the cycle completions of the progressed Moon are undoubtedly very valuable ways of dividing the life into periods or phases.

However, neither the movement of the progressed Sun alone nor the cycle of the progressed Moon alone is the most fundamental unit in progressions. When taken singly each of these factors refer only to one aspect of an essentially bi-polar process: the Sun refers to the power which makes life and growth possible. More psychologically, it represents the potentiality of selfhood, of referring experience and consciousness to an individualized center. The Sun is not, however, the self, but the power of self seeking actualization through the functions and activities symbolized by the Moon and planets. From the point of view of life on Earth, it is the Moon which primarily reflects and distributes the power of the Sun, thus enabling organisms in the biosphere to gradually assimilate and respond to the solar power, to build organic structures (social institutions, ways of behaving, modes of consciousness, etc.) capable of containing, channeling and concretizing the solar potentialities. In other words, the Sun refers to the potentiality for growth and individualization, but without the distributing, concretizing, regulatory function represented by the Moon, the Sun's power could not be used and assimilated by organisms on Earth. Conversely, the Moon can act as a necessary intermediary agent, making solar power available on Earth, but she herself is not the source of it.

The most fundamental unit in progressions is therefore the cycle which integrates the motions of both the progressed Sun and progressed Moon: the lunation cycle or, more properly, the soli-lunar cycle the period defined by two successive New Moons (conjunctions between the progressed Sun and progressed Moon, or, the successive New Moons in the days and months following birth).  


The Soli-Lunar Cycle, its Structure and Symbolic Meaning

A lunation cycle establishes a period of approximately 30 days (30 years in progressed time) during which the relationship between the Sun and the Moon passes through a cycle of changes (aspects) and the Moon undergoes a series of transformations which we witness as the phases of the Moon. Diagram A illustrates the basic structure and names of the phases.

Diagram B illustrates the fact that these phases are not a result of the motion of the Moon alone, but of the changing relationship between the Sun and Moon as seen from the Earth. The Earth is a very important factor to consider in relation to the lunation cycle because it is the observer's position, at the center of his or her birth-chart; it symbolizes the need of that person for a new cycle of growth and development during which he or she will have the opportunity of taking the next steps in his or her evolution.  

    Progressions represent a schedule, an ordered pattern of growth or actualization.  

Thus, the New Moon symbolizes the potential answer to this need. It is a coming together of the Sun and Moon in which a 'ray' of solar potentiality, a new impulse for growth, symbolically passes from the Sun to the Moon. During the first half of the cycle, as the Moon waxes and moves away from the Sun, she symbolically 'carries out' the solar impulse, enabling it to become concretely manifest in the world. The particular forms the impulse takes may be forms of behavior, patterns of thinking or feeling, interpersonal relationships, actual things such as works of art or literary productions, social institutions, particular life endeavors such as a job or project, etc.

Diagram A - Phase Mandala


Antony Milner

The new cycle, however, does not usually start out with a "bang." Rather, it emerges gradually through a period of infancy, so to speak, because what it seeks to develop is not yet an actual fact, but only a potentiality which must be focused and nurtured to fruition over the course of the cycle. Moreover, the beginning of a new cycle is always surrounded by the 'ghosts' the unfinished business, toxic remains or by-products of the past; these must be overcome, neutralized or integrated into the newly developing cycle early on if it is to proceed to a healthy culmination at Full Moon.  

Diagram B.


The first phases of the cycle (from New Moon to First Quarter) therefore consist of an effort to overcome the pressure and inertia of the past, and in so doing, gradually to discover the limits and special purpose of the particular cycle. At the midpoint of this first quarter of the cycle, the Crescent Moon appears, often in a strikingly symbolic way: around the brightly lit, thin crescent can be seen the dim outline the promise, as it were of the Full Moon (fulfillment) to come. The Crescent Moon thus symbolizes the urge to mobilize toward that fulfillment; and as the crescent (literally, "the growing one") increases in size, the momentum of the cycle increases.  

At the First Quarter, that momentum is tested. By the time of the First Quarter Moon, the cycle needs definitely to be established in its new direction. At this time in the soli-lunar relationship, the Moon crosses the orbit of the Earth moving toward the outside (the Mars side) of it. The First Quarter Moon is thus a symbol of emergence, of growing independence and confidence in the new life-direction taken. Dane Rudhyar has thus called the First Quarter Moon a "crisis in action." Both its crossing toward the outside of the Earth's orbit and its shape (a straight-edged scythe cutting its way across the night sky) are symbols of cleavage, of a definite severance from the past. If the new direction in life is to grow and prosper, old forms of behaving, thinking, feeling, etc. must be repudiated.      

The Gibbous phase follows the actional crisis. Whatever decisions have been made must now be lived with; the new impulse should by now be definitely established as a life-direction which must be intensely pursued, stabilized and adjusted.    

The Full Moon (the soli-lunar opposition) represents the culmination of the cycle. The Moon has carried the impulse of the Sun as far as it can go. The particular forms built during the first half of the cycle have reached their apex of outer development. The Moon now begins to move back toward the Sun, bearing with her the harvest of her form-building activity characterizing the First (waxing) hemicycle. Whatever for better or worse, success or failure has been produced during the course of the cycle thus far is seen in the stark light shed by the Full Moon; it brings illumination, clear, objective realization.

This act of 'seeing' represents the end of the purely spontaneous growth characterizing the first hemicycle, but it also marks the beginning of another process: on the one hand, a process of assimilating the experiences of the first half of the cycle, of developing conscious understanding reaped as a harvest. On the other hand, the forms built during the first hemicycle have (ideally) satisfied the individual need for which they were produced. If that individual need was representative of a general human situation or life-problem, the forms built to satisfy it can be evolved and refined, universalized and made applicable to a larger social or cultural scheme.

If, however, the cycle represents a purely personal development, the forms built have by the time of the Full Moon outlived their usefulness. In building them, certain talents and capacities have been activated, and these are what are to be evolved, not the forms which merely evoked them. Thus, the second half of the cycle can also refer to a process of the disintegration and decay of obsolete forms, and this process proceeds in counterpoint to the growth of understanding: as outmoded forms decay, they reveal to the growing consciousness their inner creative meaning.    

The Disseminating phase follows the Full Moon. This soli-lunar sesqui-quadrate can be seen as phase six of the entire cycle and/or phase one of the hemicycle beginning at Full Moon. Like the waxing sesquiquadrate (Gibbous Moon), the Disseminating phase can entail a struggle, but it is now a struggle to understand, to let go of mere forms and begin to see what is underlying them. A wider social participation should begin under this phase; what has been learned in the first hemicycle can begin to be shared with others and be made useful within the context of a growing vision.  

At the last Quarter Moon, the Moon once again moves back within the orbit of the Earth (toward the Venus side). Having sought her independence at the First Quarter, the Moon now returns bearing results which must be assimilated and understood. The Moon is again a straight-edged quarter, but the crisis (cleavage) is now at the level of ideals and ideology, of consciousness rather than action: whatever does not harmonize with the growing consciousness and understanding must be repudiated. Dedication to an ideal often sparks this crisis; old assumptions must be at least questioned, perhaps transcended.       

The last phase of the cycle is marked by the inverted Crescent, the Balsamic Moon. It occurs during the final tenth of the entire cycle, a transition or seed phase between the cycle now ending and the next yet to begin. During this closing phase, the results of the entire cycle are essentialized, concentrated to become the foundation for the future cycle toward which the consciousness expectantly, perhaps self-sacrificially, now turns.


Applying the Progressed Lunation Cycle

Hardly anyone is born exactly at the moment of a New Moon. Therefore, the vast majority of us are born into a cycle already in progress, the sustaining release of potential of which (the New Moon) occurred before our birth. The phase of the lunation at which a person is born keys him or her in to a particular rhythm of soli-lunar progressions which weaves the patterns of his or her individual schedule for self-actualization. We can see and understand this schedule by mapping out as a whole the progressed lunation phases* as they occur over the course of a person's life. By applying the meaning of the phases the role each plays in the development of the whole cycle to the particular life-conditions or events they coincide with, we can come to understand what those life-conditions or events mean in the overall unfoldment of the person's life.

*Reminder: Progressed lunation phases are the aspects between the progressed Sun and progressed Moon.

When I outlined the basic structure of the lunation cycle and the meaning of its phases, I tried to do so in as broad yet revealing terms as I could. This is because all kinds of happenings can be associated with the different phases; no particular events 'go with' particular phases. Rather, whatever happens at a particular phase in a person's life plays the same role in the development of that person's life as the phase of the cycle does in the overall lunation. Therefore, the structure of the cycle and the meanings of the phases should be well-studied so that the principles underlying them are clearly grasped. If one understands the principles behind the development of the cycle well enough, he or she will also be able to see the same principles of unfoldment operating throughout a person's life in the form of events and other developments.            

Students are urged to seriously study this aspect of astrological symbolism by casting the charts and life soli-lunar progressions for well-known persons, reading their biographies or memoirs, and correlating the major developments of their lives with the progressed lunation phases. The goal of the student should not be to merely correlate events with the dates of progressed phase changes. Rather, a picture of the person's life as an ordered process of unfoldment and actualization should emerge. In order to facilitate such a deep understanding, one can lay out the soli-lunar progressions on a diagram such as Diagram A* using the blank wedge-shaped spaces for recording life-data.  

*A. L. Milner. Lunation Phase Mandalas designed by Antony Milner for just this purpose  

In such a way, we can come to understand the rhythm and schedule of a particular person's life development. At any time we can understand 'where' he or she is in that process, and/or the meaning, role or function a particular event or condition is meant to have in that development.


The Lunation Cycle