The Individual Level of Interpretation - 2
The basic purpose of a mandala,
especially in Asia, is to evoke, through powerful symbols, various aspects or stages of the process of consciousness integration and centralization. By meditating on a mandala, which in most cases has a basic fourfold structure, the individual-in-the-making is at least theoretically helped to actualize in a correct and meaningful manner the innate potential of his or her particular nature. On this Earth plane, the number 4 is a basic key to the process of concretization of what at first is only an ideal or potentiality. In Carl Jung's psychology, the mandala-concept is stressed because according to this great Swiss psychologist the field of consciousness has a center, and consciousness operates in four characteristic ways which he called "psychological functions": sensation, feeling, intuition, and thinking.(2
An astrological birth-chart can be regarded as a mandala if it is understood to be a symbolic two-dimensional representation of a centralized field, not only of consciousness, but of purposeful activity. This field — the field of space surrounding the newborn — is primarily divided into four areas by the horizon and the meridian lines forming a perfect cross. The four points at which the cross meets the circumference of the field are called the Angles. On the horizontal line, they are the Ascendant (or eastern point), and the Descendant (or western point), and on the vertical line of the meridian, the Nadir (or Immum Coeli) and the Zenith (or Mid-Heaven). These four angles represent the four characteristic types of activity which participate in the building and development of a conscious and stable center within the whole human being. They are the "roots" of the individualized consciousness.
Through these roots the l-center can draw sustenance and power from the world of biological experiences and the realm of sociocultural cooperative activity and interpersonal relationships. It can also receive what may become actual Illumination from the eastern angle, the Ascendant; for it is at this symbolic point of sunrise that the "I" can most effectively discover its purpose — or rather the purpose of the birth of a living organism that served as the biological foundation for the rise of a particular form of consciousness to the level of a stable and operative individuality.
This biological foundation is symbolized in the birth-chart by the Nadir or I.C. At the sociocultural level, whatever guarantees a relative degree of permanence and psychic security (particularly the home and the land of birth) is represented by this angle. It is where an individual can find the particular quality of his or her rootedness in the culture which formed his or her concrete personality.
The western angle (the Descendant) refers to the power that, in the process of individualization, the consciousness draws from the relationships which both the physical organism (the body) and the socializing person constantly enter into in everyday living. No human being is born or lives in a vacuum. Living is relating — whether the relationship is given the positive meaning of steady and fruitful partnership in personal love and social cooperation or the negative meaning of enmity. Consciousness grows out of relatedness. Through the experience of close relationship (whether positive or negative), the I-center becomes more clearly able to define the quality of its being and the scope of its constructive activities.
The fourth angle is the Zenith (or in terms of zodiacal longitude the Mid-Heaven), and it symbolizes the power the individualized consciousness draws from participation in any larger organized system in which it plays a definite role. At the sociocultural level, this angle refers to professional activity, but more generally to whatever brings the I-center in touch with a broader, more encompassing system of being.
Every organized system of activity and consciousness, while it is a whole having component parts, is also a part within a greater whole. The universe is a hierarchy of wholes, and consciousness inheres in every whole. But there are levels upon levels of wholeness. In every whole there is a point (or rather an area of potential activity) at which the lesser whole can Contact and receive some influence, power, or "blessing" from the next greater whole. This point is symbolized in astrology by the Zenith. For the person who is striving to become individualized and to reach fulfillment as an individual, the next greater whole in whose being he or she can actually
participate may only be his or her community, nation, or culture. It should eventually be Humanity-as-a-whole-and by Humanity I mean far more than a chaotic collection of human beings spread around the globe; I mean a vast planetary Being that is also in the process of unfolding its immense potential of activity and consciousness.
While at the Nadir an individualized human being is still able to find a power of sustainment in the energies of the biological functions and in the cultural tradition, at the Zenith the individualized being should eventually open himself or herself to the descent
of a "transindividual" power and to the revelation of the place and function he or she potentially
occupies within the vaster whole of Humanity. What could only be "intuitively" sensed as the uniqueness and strictly individual purpose of life at the Ascendant (the symbolic sunrise point) can in principle be clearly seen and concretely applied at the Zenith (the symbolic noon point). At the Zenith, when the individual is ready to take this radical step, he or she may be "reborn" as a full-fledged and, in a real sense, consecrated
individual, able, egolessly and consciously to act as an agent of Humanity. Such an individual can then be empowered by Humanity (then perceived as a spiritual organism of unanimous consciousness — a Pleroma of transindividual beings), to actually perform what he or she was born for
, his or her dharma
. The astrological symbol
of this empowerment, and of the Source of the power made available to the individual for the welfare of the whole, is a star in the vast system of organization we call the Milky Way, the galaxy within which the solar system and all it contains constitutes but a small unit.(3
In every human being, the potentiality of eventually becoming related to such a "star" is inherent; but it is only a potential, a very distant one in most instances. In order to actualize this potentiality, a human being has, step by step, to raise the level of his or her consciousness from the biological to the sociocultural, then to the individual level — and not merely his or her consciousness, but also the quality and character of his or her activity. The process leading from the biological to the sociocultural level can be called the process of enculturation
; from the cultural to the individual, it is the process of individualization
. The path that leads beyond the individual is the transpersonal
Path; and I shall devote the next chapter to it. I shall try to suggest how to approach a type of astrological interpretation meeting the most significant needs of individuals seeking to tread that path of radical transformation, or even only to orient themselves toward the distant goal that the concept of the transpersonal path may evoke in them once they have become dissatisfied with both the patterns of our society and the narrow, so often blind and aimless pseudo-individualism of "doing my own thing".
Cf. Carl Jung, Psychological Types
. See also my book. The Astrology of Personality
, "The Dial of Houses", p. 210ff, where I relate these Jungian categories to the Angels of the birth-chart. Return
The Zenith and Mid-Heaven (and Nadir and Immum Coeli) technically and astronomically are related to two different frames of reference. Zenith and Nadir refer respectively to two points of the sky, the former directly overhead, and the latter its exact opposite. If a person stands upright on the surface of the globe, the prolongation of his or her spinal column would be, above, one of the trillions of stars in the visible sky, and below, first, the Earth's center, then a point at the antipodes, then an invisible star above the other side of the Earth. The meaning of the Nadir and of the symbolic fourth House it begins is to be deduced, first, from the concept of the soil on which the person stands, then the Earth-center (the center of the planetary whole), then the realization that any existent is polarized by Its opposite-objectivity (the visible sky) by subjectivity (the invisible inner center), light by darkness, etc.
In traditional astrology the terms Zenith and Mid-Heaven are usually used interchangeably. The Mid-Heaven is, however, astronomically a point in the zodiacal circle. It is still the point above, but classical astrology uses the zodiac as the foundation of all essential astrological meaning -- although parallels of declination are also used which do not refer to the zodiac. When I have spoken of the star above the head, it is of course the star at the actual
zenith. The Mid-Heaven is the symbolical
zenith in any system based on the zodiac.
For a full discussion of stars, see my book The Sun Is Also A Star (The Galactic Dimension of Astrology)
, especially Chapter 9., "The Challenge of Galacticity in Humanistic Astrology," p. 173ff. Return
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