Interpretating the Birth-Chart
at the Transpersonal Level - 5
Planetary Interactions: Aspects and Gestalt
Whether one thinks of a birth-chart as the blueprint of a "building" or as a mandala symbolizing the complex interplay of energies within an I-centered personality, it is a geometrical figure. It is conveniently as well as significantly divided into four sections by the cross of horizon and meridian. The planets — and any other celestial factors used in astrology — are located in these four sections, and if their positions are interrelated by lines, a geometric pattern (or gestalt
) becomes visible.
In order really to understand the implications of a birth-chart, it has to be perceived and interpreted as a whole. This is as true at the transpersonal level as at the person-centered level of interpretation. The only difference is the end-purpose of the interpretation. In my book, Person-Centered Astrology
) I have dealt at some length with what I called the "planetary gestalt" of the chart, that is, with the specific way planets are grouped, especially with regard to the horizon and meridian axes. I shall not repeat here what I have written in other books, but will only add that these planetary patterns, when they are quite clear-cut (which is not always the case), provide the astrologer with a basic frame of reference within which he or she can evaluate repeating patterns of activities and of events.
To illustrate what I mean by the difference between a person-centered and transpersonal interpretation of overall planetary pattern (gestalt
), let us take for example a pattern in which a grouping of planets in one hemisphere of the chart (or one of the four main quadrants) broadly opposes one planet, or two or three in close proximity. From the person-centered point of view, what is shown by such a type of formation is the need for establishing a stable balance between the two sets of planets — or if possible the integration of presumably conflicting tendencies into a "fulfilled" personality. From the transpersonal point of view, such a dualistic pattern is not something to overcome
, but rather something to be consciously used
. What is to be used for the process of transformation is the tension between the two groups of planets.
There may be tensions of another kind when an empty hemisphere (180°) contrasts with one containing all the planets; these may also be condensed within a smaller space. In such cases, the section where the planets are congregated symbolizes an "area" of the total personality to which, in this particular life, much attention (literally, "tension toward") should be directed. Life itself will presumably force
the person's attention to that area, but the real issue is whether this "attention" will be compulsive — as in the case of serious illness or of a repetitive pattern of frustrating or tragic interpersonal relationships — and leave the person as unaware as before of the inherent transformative purpose
of the events, or whether the individual will be able to meet these happenings as tools for the cutting and grinding of the coarse and dull stone of personality into a clear and translucent jewel.
This is why the often repeated statement that we must live in the "now" is only partially right and may blind its advocates to the higher possibilities of human existence. The now — the present moment — is only a transition between past and future. Most people live their lives in such away that the present is always, not only conditioned, but often entirely determined by the past — and this is unfortunate and rather meaningless. An individual on the transpersonal path should realize in what way a present occurrence is an effect
of the past, and at the same time, understand the purpose
of the event in generating power to move ahead
in the process of transformation. This does not
mean that one should make definite pictures of the future in one's mind — far from it. It means that a future-oriented energy should be released from any present happening (whatever it be, "good" or "bad", pleasurable or disturbing).
This of course runs counter to the modern gospel of enjoyment or "instant satisfaction" in terms of strictly personal feelings and moods and regardless of possible future consequences or by-products. But our modern age is mostly hedonistic, and the search for pleasure within a strictly personal and egocentric frame of reference negates the possibility of any real advance on the transpersonal way. This, however, is not to be considered a glorification of asceticism, for ascetic practices are often undertaken for a personal or strictly individual purpose disguised as "spirituality". What counts is not what is done or not done, but the spirit in which the action or refusal to act is performed.
I shall repeat here what during the last 50 years I have so often stated in articles, lectures, and books: there is no "good" or "bad" birth-chart — no chart is "better" than any other — no aspect between planets, and no planetary position in any zodiacal sign or natal house is in itself "fortunate" or "unfortunate" according to a common standard of value applicable to all human beings. Some charts apparently display a number of aspects which would indicate a relatively smooth, harmonious kind of relationship between the planets involved. These may actually represent obstacles to the process of transformation, because they may suggest an inertial kind of satisfaction with what is.
On the other hand, other charts may seem to portend what we would consider lasting difficulties, frustrations, and misfortunes from a biological or social point of view. But from the point of view of what the person was meant to accomplish — his or her dharma — these difficulties, tensions, and even apparent tragedies may be, and ought to be interpreted as, indispensable phases of the life-process. What takes the form of "discordant" relationships between planets has the potentiality of generating power; and if this power can be controlled, or even objectively understood and accepted for what it is, it can increase the momentum of the process of transformation. In transpersonal living, an individual should not be concerned with "success" and especially with what from the sociocultural point of view would be called a constructive achievement. It may be that as far as all appearances reveal, a person does not end his or her life in an at least relative state of serenity or "holiness," or as an agent for transindividual and "divine" purposes; nevertheless he or she may have neutralized a prolonged karma of failure — and thus a "dark" spot on the total planetary being, Humanity. For karma is not
, I repeat, merely an individual matter: every individual failure — and also every individual victory over the inertia of the past — affects the whole of mankind. And the life of an individual on the transpersonal way is totally involved in the evolution of humanity.
I might add here that when an individual decides to start a course of action, which according to his or her nature cannot be easy and pleasurable because the person is bound to face strong opposition (either within the body and psyche, or in the social collectivity in whose midst the actions are performed), the process should best be started under interplanetary aspects which suggest a strong release of power — for instance under a square or a conjunction involving dynamic planets. Power is released out of a state of tension: a loosely stretched violin string does not produce a resonant tone! But it is also obvious that if the string is too taut it could break.
The series of astrological aspects which refer particularly to the release of power through tension are the squares and semi-squares, and the conjunctions in which at least one dynamic and potentially transformative planet is involved. Mars at the biological and emotional levels, and Uranus at the transpersonal level, are the most change-producing planets.
An opposition between two planets evokes the existence of a basic need for objectively
seeing the meaning of the relationship between the biopsychic functions these planets symbolize; and this involves a clear and conscious differentiation between the purposes of these functions in the total personality. For example, at Full Moon the Sun and Moon are in opposition. This enables us to see the relation between these two "Lights" - the Light of Day (activity directed by the conscious mind and the ego or the I-center's will) and the Light of Night (activity which, in a natural state of life, refers to interpersonal relationships in the home or at public places, procreation perhaps, and the dream state in which the feelings and experiences of the day may be given either chaotic or symbolic forms).
An opposition aspect is the apex of a cycle defined by the successive conjunctions of two planets. In the case of the 30-day lunation cycle, the cycle begins at New Moon, reaches its apex at Full Moon, and ends as the waning Crescent (or rather "decrescent") disappears from the sky. This lunation cycle is the prototype of all cycles of relationship between two planets moving at different speeds, and I have dealt with it at great length in my book The Lunation Cycle
The Part of Fortune is the moving index of this cyclically evolving soli-lunar relationship. It is quite important in a transpersonal interpretation because at that level the location of the Part of Fortune in relation to the Angles of the birth-chart (its house position) symbolizes the concrete form which the relationship between the I-center and the soul may take, as the individual enters the path of transformation. For example, the Part of Fortune's conjunction with Saturn in the natal chart evokes karmic delays and psychic or social difficulties on the transpersonal way, difficulties often colored by the character of the zodiacal sign in which it is located. Such delays or difficulties, while they may retard the transpersonal process in time, can nevertheless bring greater depth to the relationship between the I-center and the soul. On the other hand, the Part of Fortune's conjunction with Jupiter in the birth-chart may facilitate the process of transformation through contacts with an authoritative personage. But Jupiter's social character can also unfocus the transpersonal search by bringing it back to the level of social success and wealth-seeking.
Every geometrically measured angular aspect between two moving planets is actually a phase — frozen and out of context, as it were — of a cyclic process extending from one conjunction of two planets to the next. Therefore, the interpretation of the aspect should in many cases take into consideration the sign and degree of the zodiac and the natal house in which the conjunction of the two planets occurred in the past. Moreover, I have insisted for many years upon the fact that an aspect occurring between the conjunction and opposition of a cycle of relationship between two planets has a meaning basically different from the one it would have found between the opposition and the next conjunction. In other words, a First Quarter of the cycle of soli-lunar relationships means in principle something very different from a Last Quarter phase. This can be seen concretely in the sky, because the two Quarter Moons, though having the same shape, face opposite directions; and the same phenomenon can be seen through a telescope With regard to the phases of Venus and other planets. Geometrically
and in a static sense, the two square aspects within one cycle are identical, but dynamically
they have opposite polarities.
In many instances, this difference in polarity can be given a valuable transpersonal meaning, for a truly transpersonal interpretation is concerned with dynamic processes rather than with static, abstract forms; and by considering the polarity of a planetary aspect, the astrologer may have a significant clue as to the level at which the energy generated by the relationship can most usefully operate. A "waxing" aspect deals more specifically with physical, emotional and personal activity, while a "waning" aspect refers particularly to mental and sociocultural processes — and I use the terms waxing and waning symbolically, in the way they apply to the phases of the Moon which, I repeat, are actually phases in the relationship
between the Moon and the Sun.
Such an interpretation is particularly significant when one is considering the relationship between two planets which can be considered a bipolar pair — thus Sun and Moon, Mars and Venus, Jupiter and Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn, Sun and Saturn, Moon and Saturn, Saturn and Uranus, Jupiter and Neptune, Mars and Pluto, Uranus and Pluto — and, in terms of the development of culture-wholes and nations, Neptune and Pluto. In the last-mentioned case, a waxing sextile — such as the one we are presently experiencing — is profoundly different from a waning sextile (the one near the end of the last Neptune-Pluto cycle having occurred about 1841-43). The present waxing
sextile of Neptune and Pluto remains effective ("in orb") for nearly 90 years, while the last waning sextile lasted only a couple of years.(7
Cf. the chapter entitled "First Steps In the Study of Birth-Charts." Return
6. The Lunation Cycle
was first published by the McKay firm (1946) under the erroneous title "The Moon: The Parts and Fortunes of Life" when Marc Jones was the editor in charge of astrological and occult publications. After this department was unexpectedly closed, the book, considerably expanded, was published by Servire Publications in Holland (1967), and is now in paperback by Aurora Press. The Part of Fortune and its complements are also studied in this book.
There is also a large chapter concerning aspects in my already-mentioned book, Person-Centered Astrology
, "Form in Astrological Time and Space" (Santa Fe: Aurora Press). Return
Cf. my books Astrological Timing: The Transition to the New Age
, Chapter 3, "Cycles of Relationship,"
and The Sun is Also a Star: The Galactic Dimension of Astrology
, Chapter 6, "The Interpenetrating Cycles of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto." Return