Four Levels of Interpreting
Human Experience and Astrological Data - 5
The Planets' Meanings at the Sociocultural Level
In an astrology which deals with the needs and problems of a "person" belonging to and participating in a particular culture-whole, the ego is represented by Saturn and the Moon. Saturn symbolizes, in general, all forms of sociocultural restraint, taboos, and socio-political or ethical rules. All of these are archetypally represented by the Father-figure, the symbol of social authority.
It is true that at the biological level of interpretation, the Sun in a birth-chart represents the father, but only in the sense that the father's sperm is involved in the production of the physical organism. At the level of the personal development of a child, the father as a dominant figure in the home is represented by Saturn. At both levels, the mother is symbolized by the Moon. At the biological level, the Moon's function of adaptation to the needs of everyday living is at first almost entirely performed by the physical mother (or mother-surrogate) taking care of the needs of the child's body and of its developing nervous system and mind. The mother is also, at least in an archetypal sense, the intercessor between paternal authority (or the imperatives of society) and the biological instincts and desires of the child whose organism seeks to develop its various faculties without regard for what it finds in its immediate or social environment.
At the sociocultural level, the ego has two basic functions. The first is to provide some kind of security in the confusing, strange, and at times seemingly inimical world in which the child is living: this is the Saturnian aspect of the ego. The second and related function is to develop mechanisms of adjustment or adaptation able to increase comfort, produce a sense of well-being and happiness gradually assuming an increasingly psychological character (lunar function). Behind the ego, however, another factor is at work to which I shall refer in the next chapter when discussing the meaning of the ambiguous little word "self". This factor has at first a strictly organismic character. It refers to that mysterious power of life that makes a vast collection of cells and organs, a body — an organized, living whole, not only with a definite structure, but with a center to which sensations, feelings, thoughts, and all experiences are eventually referred.
At the strictly biological level, there is presumably no actual center to the consciousness. Animal and vegetable consciousness is diffused through the whole species and its myriad of specimens. It is not "self-consciousness" because it does not have a truly objective character. The strictly biological type of human consciousness is also totally involved in the activity of the body. But as human beings begin to develop at a sociocultural level, through the use of a language giving an objective character to their actions and reactions, and as the motives and purposes for their interpersonal relationships assume stable forms endowed with collective and mentally formulated values, the diffuse instinctual sense of organismic unity acquires the character of a focalized feeling of personal identity.
This identity is most definitely and almost ineradicably associated with the name the child was given by the parents. That name not only identifies the person at a social level; it becomes the nucleus around which a psychic sense of "being I", myself crystallizes. This feeling of "being I" is a psychic factor — in the sense in which I have defined the word psychism — because it is defined by the name in terms of the collective being of the tribe or community, its religion and culture; but it is also rooted in the primordial biological sense of organismic wholeness. Thus, it is both biological and sociocultural. The sociocultural aspect of this type of identity becomes further defined when the human being acquires a social profession — and being a housewife and/or mother is a social profession. This profession gives a still more precise character to what then becomes the person's social status. This social identity may then crystallize into what Carl Jung called the "persona".
At the sociocultural level of astrological interpretation, the biopsychic centralizing factor in the human being is represented by the Sun, which can thus be given a two-fold meaning: it still represents the vital principle that animates and sustains the biological organism and its drives (what is usually called the "vitality" of the person), but it also refers to a central factor which, in whatever capacity the person operates in his or her community, gives a basic though rather undefinable character to his or her capacity to operate in interpersonal and social, situations. This is what is meant by "personality", or charisma, when highly developed.
As the process of individualization begins, this power of personality undergoes a gradual transmutation. On the basis of an increasingly developed and differentiated mental function, what was at first merely social identity - a characteristic way of being oneself in terms of social activity — becomes an increasingly separate and autonomous individual "I". In our present individualistic society, a gradual transmutation of "personality" into "individuality" may start very early in a child's life, but what most people today call individuality is nothing but a personality based on an ego developed in response to, and therefore conditioned by, the pressures and impacts of a sociocultural environment. Personality always remains bound to the collective assumptions, traditions, and models of a culture. We can truly speak of individuality only when a person deliberately severs the myriads of psychic threads attaching him or her to a particular collectivity and culture, and emerges as an at least relatively independent, individual self.
Because in our society individuality has been given such an absolute value and prestige as a "goal" which everyone should attempt to reach, the power which the culture-whole constantly exerts over the would-be individual is often not recognized. The psychic center in the person has been glorified by repeating that "every man is a king"; but few truly realize that even the most ideal king — the most absolute monarch — is a product of the sociocultural level of existence. The king may, in principle, have absolute power over his subjects; he may theoretically "own" the land and the people of his kingdom. But the master is bound to his slaves, without whom he would not be a master.
In classical astrology the Sun was said to symbolize the king, the supreme authority. But the Sun's meaning in a chart is considered to be determined by the zodiacal sign in which it is located, and the zodiac is a collective factor. It symbolizes human nature. Seen at the sociocultural level, a birth-chart gives us a picture of a particular way in which human nature operates in a specific instance within a particular culture-whole. The zodiac is the foundation of the chart; it represents twelve fundamental and characteristic ways in which the potential of activity and consciousness inherent in a human being living within a society can or is most likely to be actualized. The actualizing power is said to reside in the planets. Each planet refers to a particular function of human nature; and the genius of astrology is that its claims that every functional activity in a human being can be referred to ten basic planetary categories can be shown to have substantial validity. Most astrologers, however, are not aware of how significant such an implicit claim really is.
At this level, the Sun and the Moon are considered to be "planets", no longer the two "Lights" as they were at the biological level of interpretation. They nevertheless represent the most basic functions in human nature, because, in their original polarity, they symbolize the operation of the life-force, without which there could be no social and cultural activity, no consciousness, and no personality. The Sun represents the life-force as a unitary power, and the Moon distributes that power wherever the organism needs it.
In terms of the development of personality, the Sun symbolizes the desire to be an important and powerful unit in the community or nation — the will to achieve whatever is possible according to the life-circumstances and the culture. But at the social level, this solar will is still so conditioned by the images and ideals the particular culture has produced that one should not speak of an individualized will, if one uses language and ideas precisely. The individual factor is still mainly, if not totally, subservient to the collective way of life and its standardized goals — for instance, in the U.S. the goals of being liked by one's peers, of fitting in to a "team", of being successful, wealthy, etc. The Moon at this level also has to be interpreted as the feelings produced by special types of interpersonal relationships, whether at home, in school or in the world of business or the arts. These feelings, in our present-day American society (in a collective sense), are very different from those possible for persons that lived in old Europe, in China, or in a primitive African tribe. But today we are all so eager to be individuals and feel our own feelings or think our "own" thoughts, that we forget how dependent we still are upon collective ideals or even fashions — and there are fashions in feeling and thinking (even among Ph.D.'s and supposedly objective top scientists), as well as in clothing and entertainment.
The planets closest to the Earth — Venus and Mars — refer essentially to what is usually called the personal or emotional life. As I have so often pointed out, Venus does not refer only or even primarily to love and the arts. It refers to the sense of value. On the basis of our organismic temperament, our religious, ethical, and cultural training since birth — and our previous experiences once we have them stored in our memory — the Venusian function passes judgment on whatever changes take place in the field of our consciousness. Whether at the biological or the psychic levels, Venus gives a positive or negative value to what is confronting us or occurring within us: it is good for us or bad, beautiful or ugly, with pleasurable or painful implications. On the basis of this Venusian evaluation, Mars mobilizes biological, psychic-emotional, or even mental energy and releases this energy either to meet the new situation or to run away from it. The way this mobilization occurs is determined not only by the biological temperament of the organism, but by the character of the ego — that is, of the security-factor (Saturn) and the capacity for adaptation to everyday change (the Moon).
Jupiter performs a particularly significant role at the sociocultural level because it is essentially the symbol of "social" activity. For an activity to be "social", it must be based on the realization that in cooperation there is strength, and that only through interpersonal communication and communion of feelings and ideals can a human being actualize what is potential in human nature. Thus, Jupiter stands for good fellowship, and for all achievements that require collaboration on an organized scale and on the basis of the existence of a well-established sociocultural system — a culture-whole. The existence and maintenance of this culture-whole depends also on Venus, for it is the Venusian function that provides the great images, myths, and personal examples that are the "soul" — the magnetic power and binding psychism of the culture. Thus at the sociocultural level, Jupiter and Venus are considered the most "benefic" planets. They are benefic simply because they are responsible for what we consider most valuable and important at the level at which most people are still operating — and for no other reason.
The social function would lack a stable character and might run amok in an orgy of expansion if it were not balanced by a Saturnian sense of order and form. I have already spoken of Saturn as the drive for security, but there can be no personal security except where stable forms of order and organizational structures control the development of interpersonal, social or business relationships. A society needs laws and at least some kind of police force or collectively accepted authority, just as a human being needs a skeleton and plants need cellulose cell walls. Because there is, in most human beings, a centrifugal urge for self-assertion and often a deep restless feeling that change is essential for growth (a typically human characteristic which we will see associated with the symbol of Uranus) the Saturnian function is most often given a somber and binding character. Venus also, in a sense, binds; but its binding is in terms of values and apparently subjective psychological images which seem easily modifiable — though this is often an illusion. Saturn's binding has a very concrete, unyielding, often harsh character. So the planet is deemed to be "malefic", though without its capacity to form stable and defendable boundaries, there could be no personality and, at least on this Earth, no realization of identity and selfhood: there can only be center where there is circumference. Problems develop when the organism-as-a-whole at the biological level, and the person at the sociocultural level find themselves in an environment which is so inimical and dangerous that the security drive dominates most aspects of living — or when an internal situation, e.g., an ill body or a weak person torn by inner conflicts, requires a rigid type of control of self-discipline.
Mercury, close to the Sun, refers on the one hand (biological level) to the most basic operations of the solar vital energy — that is, to the capacity of the organismic power of integration to manifest through currents of electrical nerve-energy — and on the other hand to the mental processes which are generated and, to a large extent, controlled by the Jupiterian organizational and administrative processes giving form, direction, and purpose to the functional (and in some cases, dysfunctional or criminal), operations of the members of the society as they relate to one another (sociocultural level). Saturnian factors also act upon the Mercury-mind, compelling it to follow definite, "logical" and legalistic procedures — or at times to cleverly circumvent them, which is another way of being conditioned by them.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1980; by Dane Rudhyar
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