THE LUNATION PROCESS IN ASTROLOGICAL GUIDANCE
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
Cycleand 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.
"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
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.
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
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
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
The Lunation Cycle