You have struggled eagerly and persistently to achieve something. You now have what you wanted. What will you do with it? What will you do with your success?
Perhaps you have failed; whatever you sought to gain or achieve is out of your reach, at least for the time being. You face loss or defeat. What will you do with your failure?
These positive and negative alternatives, in one form or another, sooner or later confront any human being. The individual living in society among other individuals must of necessity strive after some goal, whether trivial or of the utmost significance. He is compelled to seek participation in the activities of his society. The woman who bears children and hardly leaves the seclusion of home is participating in the continuation of her race and her nation; directly — or indirectly, through her influence over husband and children — she is an active part of society. She, like her husband and children, faces success and failure.
Will it be true of her and of them that "nothing fails like success?" Will they, perhaps, having met failure, find in themselves the power and the imagination to use this failure as a springboard for magnificent victories? They could also glide passively and hopelessly from failure to failure toward personal disintegration or social servitude. If theirs is the way of achievement, they may so soberly, wisely and imaginatively make use of success that they will reach greater accomplishments.
The key to an understanding of what is implied in these four alternatives is the small word "use." Failure can be used creatively as well as success — and often more easily. Success as well as failure must be used courageously, wisely and, above all, significantly and creatively if it is not to lead to inner or outer defeat.
It is relatively simple to win victories or to obtain academic degrees certifying your skill. It is often far more difficult to know what to do with your achievements: that is, how and where to put them to use. Any achievement which is not consciously used — or deliberately and intentionally placed in reserve for future use — tends to lose its value. It is the use which you make of victory and success, of failure and defeat which establishes your worth.
The mere fact of success or failure, of gain or loss tells only one side of the story. Achievement is but a pedestal; the real question is: What kind of statue or monument will you build upon it? It could be a monstrosity or a banal imitation; it could be a great work of art, a beautiful and inspiring sculpture stirring the imagination and feelings of your people. What will it be? You must choose and prove the worth of your choosing.
What many people do not realize, or do not want to think about, is that the choice is being made by them, even — if unbeknown to them, while they are striving for victory or achievement.
If it be true in your case that "nothing fails like success," it is because the way you have sought success — the methods you used and the spirit in which you used them — contained already in seed the inevitability of spiritual defeat after outer victory. Or else, because you became so blindly identified with the struggle, you could not be objective to success when it came. Success came and possessed you; you did not use success as a springboard for future success, as a tool for greater achievement — above all, as a gift to humanity.
Success or failure can be used imaginatively and creatively only if you have not become identified entirely and blindly with your struggle for achievement. The typical man of action in most cases does become identified with his activity. He is so completely involved in his activity that once his climbing efforts have made him reach the plateau of success he does not know what to do except race around excitedly across the plateau or build monuments to his own glory.
The struggle for attainment, once the plateau is reached, turns into a will to self-aggrandizement and, even more, self-perpetuation in fame or progeny. The ego becomes as involved in self-satisfaction ("Was I not wonderful?"; "Did I not save the situation?") as it was in mobilizing all its energies in the determined struggle for survival or attainment.
To achieve means literally "to come to a head" (from the Latin, caput — head). Achievements can indeed "turn your head." Success, like strong liquor, easily goes to your head. What does head actually mean in these colloquial statements?
Head means brain and the various nerve centers of consciousness whose operations build up, from infancy onward, what the psychologist now calls the ego. The ego is the achievement of human living at the level of physical organic existence and within the framework of one's family and community. Success normally builds a strong ego because it gives the person an at least relatively outstanding place and position in his community or group. The ego of a person and the position of this person with reference to his associates or his kin are definitely related — and both are to be referred, in astrological analysis, to the tenth house of the natal chart (calculated for the exact moment of birth), particularly to the zenith point.
The zenith is the point above your head. It is a projection (in terms of zodiacal longitude) of your head upon the sky. It is your transcendent head, your life achievement; it is your ego. If the spinal column symbolizes the "I" of a man, the head is the dot above the "I." It is the place where the consciousness of having achieved some kind of status (or position) as a individual among individuals is established.
The ego, however, can develop through negative as well as positive experiences. The experience of failure and defeat can lead, at least in many instances, to the formation of an exceedingly strong and stubborn ego. The process in that case is one of psychological compensation. The psychologist Adler has particularly studied and stressed such a type of process. In it a sense of inferiority (caused by physical incapacity, emotional insecurity or experiences of social discrimination and humiliation in early youth) becomes changed into, or masked by, an attitude of aggressive superiority. This compensatory attitude builds up the ego; but it is a negative build up which inevitably implies tensions, strain and often violence — to oneself as well as to others.
What follows then? Both the ego born of defeat and insecurity and the ego growing big with success and social-professional prestige have to operate in society; they must deal with groups of people in everyday life. They operate by using the energy which gave them strength and power. In the first case, that energy is essentially negative; it is an energy of protest, born of resentment, rebellion, perhaps of the will to revenge or destruction. In the second case, the success-born ego faces the society or the group that made this success possible with a proud expansiveness, perhaps benign and somewhat patronizing attitude.
Realm of the Eleventh House
In the first case, the ego seeks to use its tense rebellious strength to transform or destroy the conditions which brought about failure or loss to the personality — unless defeat was so thorough that the ego-building process could not operate and the person collapsed, froze in fear and self-pity or escaped into insanity or "false paradises" (drugs, religious fanaticism, amusement and sensation seeking, etc.).
In the second case, the success-born ego seeks to enjoy success; and success can best be enjoyed in the company of friends — or in lavish shows of generosity and display of wealth and power.
In both these cases, certain types of experiences are met. Whether they be born of negative or of positive situations, they refer in astrology to the field of the eleventh house. Astrology textbooks speak of this eleventh house as that of friends and hopes and wishes, but this is a very inadequate and superficial characterization. Nevertheless, it can be understood in its true and complete significance if one has grasped the meaning of the statements in the foregoing paragraphs.
The term friends symbolizes whatever type of relationships a man enters into as a result of his social and professional status or position which includes, naturally, the relationships based upon the fact that one belongs to a certain family, group, class or religion. The term covers membership in clubs, associations, political parties and to all group activities with which one identifies oneself as a member of a particular culture. The eleventh house is the field of culture, for culture is the result of group achievement and steady social interchanges; it is the flower of the plant of organized and collective human endeavor.
But the eleventh house is also the field of all those experiences which an individual has when, dissatisfied with or rebellious against his culture, he takes the attitude of a reformer or a revolutionist. It is the field in which he gives expression to his resentment, his hostility toward his society — and also to his "divine discontent" which urges him to sacrifice his own position, security and happiness as a crusader for progress and justice.
In the eleventh house we do not see merely hopes and wishes (such unconvincing and non-dynamic, noncreative terms), but even more, a man's ideals, his passion for collective improvement, his burning zeal for reform, his faith in humanity and in humanities future. In this house the path begins which may lead to rebirth or to the martyr's death, to social immortality as a Promethean spirit and a civilizer or to the personal collapse of the premature and reckless revolutionist who — not being psychologically strong and certain enough — may end in the hospital or the insane asylum.
The martyrdom, the jail, the asylum are met in the twelfth-house field, but also in this house the socially accepted and socially adjusted person, through the friends he has served and loved, reaches his social reward. The realm of public institutions (twelfth house) does not contain only hospitals and jails; we find in it also academies, Nobel Prizes, political "plums" and all kinds of social honors in recompense for past service — and old age pensions, insurance benefits, etc.
Just as in the fifth house a person can display and make use of the power which accrues to him if he manages wisely the wealth of energy of his physical body and the innate abilities of his inherited nature (second house), so in the eleventh house the individual can spend the profits of his business and the wealth which accrues from his partnerships (eighth house). The fifth and eleventh houses are opposites; so are the second and eighth.
But if partnerships have been pervaded by a negative quality by greed or hatred the eleventh-house experiences are those of social isolation and friendlessness. One's hopes turn sour, and one's ideals become bent deathward; there is bitterness, despondency and the road to loneliness, which ends in the tragic twelfth house.
Yet there can be a higher positiveness beneath the surface of a seeming negative state! There are men who refuse to enter into the cheap and meaningless relationship of the people around them (seventh house); who refuse to conform where conforming means hypocrisy and slavery to senseless destructive or decadent patterns of social behavior (eighth house); who challenge the laws of custom and tradition in their search for a nobler wisdom and a greater vision (ninth house); who dare to bring down from the star at the zenith of their individual selfhood a new light and a new power, even though they must do it alone and without sustainment from family and community (tenth house).
These are the reformers, the great dreamers whose dreams become human tomorrows, the seers who have the courage to act out their vision. Through them humanity expresses its hopes and wishes for a nobler future, its ever-dynamic, ever-creative "divine discontent" with that which is set, static, traditional and rigid.
The farther one goes from the beginning of a cycle, the more complex the pressures and influences which bear on new fields of experience. In the first three houses, the issues are direct and clear; astrological indications can be interpreted imply the planet ruling the zodiacal sign at the cusp of the house, the house in which this planet is located and the planets (if any) found in the house being studied.
But when one comes to consider the last houses of the natal wheel, one should realize that these are always influenced by their opposites and by whatever experiences have been encountered in the process of personal and soul unfoldment. Therefore, the problem of interpretation becomes far more complex and difficult.
We saw in a previous article that if one seeks to understand and solve problems connected with the tenth house, especially at the level of professional or public activity, one must take into consideration not merely this tenth house, but the three preceding angular houses (which begin at the ascendant, the nadir and the descendant). Likewise, a thorough study of eleventh-house problems requires, as a background, a full grasp of conditions affecting all other succedent houses (second, fifth and eighth), as well as the tenth house.
In the succedent houses, the individual always meets his greatest tests. In the angular houses (first, fourth, seventh and tenth), the individual comes to experience himself, his status (private and public) and other selves; but in the succedent houses (second, fifth, eighth and eleventh), the individual must decide how to use these experiences and the energies which the experiences have made available to him (energies born, of selfhood, of integrated personality, of human partnership, of professional activity). It is this decision and the way in which he manages to carry it out which test the individual. They prove his worth.
The eleventh house is the field of experience in which the final tests are met. For Jesus it meant the tragic night before the crucifixion. He had challenged death — the most rigid tradition and custom of mankind! He had now to prove that he had the strength to accept a gruesome way of dying, so as to be able to experience himself as a victorious challenger in the resurrection. These experiences of Jesus are symbolic of similar and lesser encounters which every person must meet who dares to challenge the heavy weight of the past and the bondage to tyrannic powers produced by the failures — and also the successes — of his race and society.
Success and the products of success can indeed become tyrannical. Wealth can enslave. "Productivity at all cost" may cost the individual, and the nation, spiritual integrity and freedom. Victory may lead to a false sense of security. No astrological birth-chart can ever tell with certainty what type of response an individual will make to the tests of the eleventh house; I repeat, no natal chart can tell what will happen. The birth-chart shows, nevertheless, what way the person should best orient himself or herself when confronted with the tests. The birth-chart is the universe's solution to your problems. However, the cosmic language is highly symbolic and hard to decipher. This is so, however, simply because that in you which is to do the deciphering is not your intellect or even your rational mind, but your intuition.