THE ELEVENTH STEP - The Study of Progressions
I have stressed throughout this book
the fact that astrology is essentially a study of life-cycles, that is, a study of the structural order which can be detected in the time-sequence of events in the lives of individuals and nations. The concepts of cycles, of cyclic recurrence of phenomena and of periodical phases in the growth of living organisms would not have taken form in the human mind unless often recurring sequences of phenomena had been noticed. To notice such sequence, however, is one thing: to be able so to measure them as to be able to determine the precise pattern of their recurrence is another thing. All such time-measurements involve the use of clocks exactly as space-measurements require a measuring rod, a yardstick.
Until the last few years the basic clock in all
types of time measurement has been the sky. The hands of that clock were originally the Sun and the Moon. Later on, when greater precision was required, the passage of stars at the zenith served as the basic measure of time. In any case, time was measured by the cyclic motion of some celestial body, as space was measured in reference to the dimensions of our globe; a common basis for all human experience was taken as the standard of measurement. Astrology is valid because the cycles it takes as measuring rods for the many and varied processes of life-development are matters of common human experience
. It is valid in the deepest sense because these cycles have thus become imprinted in the ancestral, collective unconscious of mankind. They are root-factors in the mind of man.
What are these cycles? The day, the year, the lunation month and in far broader and more recent way, the cycle of precession of equinoxes, that is, the cycle of the changing relationship between the timing of the seasons and the place of the Sun among the stars.
The day-cycle is the most basic period as it refers to the alternation of light (or activity) and of darkness (or rest). It was determined by the rising and setting of the sun. The year-cycle deals with seasonal changes, and it was measured by the change in position of the setting (or rising) sun, south and north of a middle position which was called west (or east). Zodiacal calculations came at a later date; what served originally to measure the year cycle was, almost without doubt, this south-north oscillation of the setting-points of the sun at the western horizon. As for the lunar month, it was a cycle defined by the phases of the moon; thus by the interval between two new moons (or at first probably, between two full moons more easily observable facts of experience).
In the preceding chapter I have stressed the basic opposition there is between the birth-chart as a permanent factor and the constantly changing pattern of the solar system during the years of a person's life. I said that it should be interpreted as the opposition between the permanent individual selfhood of this person and ever changing Nature, between the basic personal identity and the many forces which seek ever to challenge its integrity. We should, however, not overlook the fact that a man's identity is only an archetype, an abstract plan, a constant
to which that which perpetually changes should be referred if there is to be consciousness and integrated development of personality.
There is an old saying to the effect that "a temple is not built in one day." The building of the temple is a process; and while we might say that this process depends upon two main factors, the blueprints and the sum-total of the activities of the builders (subject to various pressures, moods and conflicting opinions or desires for self-expression), yet a third factor must also be considered. Without the architect's blueprints as a constant frame of reference the activities of the builders would have neither cohesion, plan, nor purpose; but without a schedule of operations
and the overseeing activity of a manager or contractor, the building process would not work out smoothly or efficiently.
A man is not born with an already made personality. Personality develops and includes essentially three factors:
) An individual pattern (blueprints) which establishes the basic arrangement and purpose of the particular human organism being born.
) The interplay between, on the one hand, this permanent structure of selfhood and, on the other, the energies of human nature, the pressure of social-cultural traditions and needs, the impact of climate and earth-conditions, etc.
) A managing intelligence which seeks to make the second factor serve constantly the purpose of the first; to turn the challenges
of changing nature into opportunities
for personal growth.
The part played by this managing intelligence is an integrative one. The contractor-manager is he who sees to it that the blueprints become a concrete building - through the work of the builders, through the proper cooperation of social-political agencies, through an adequate flow of materials, through all the constant adjustments required during the building process (i.e. during the life-long development of personality). Adjustments require contracts, compacts, covenants, consultations, coordination, correlation; and all these things are in the domain of intelligence.
Intelligence is the capacity to make workable and efficient adjustment to the inner as well as the outer environment. Intelligence integrates human, social experience so that it may be of use and meaning to the self, the "I." It manages (with the assistance Of the will) the activities of the person. The deeper intelligence makes its adjustments by means of constant references to the original blueprints and purpose of the developing personality while the superficial, opportunistic intelligence works in the very midst of natural forces and social pressures, seeking temporary solutions, soothing hurt feelings, dealing in compromises and diplomatic give-and-take.
What the astrologer generally calls "progressions" deals essentially with the operation of these two types of intelligence. It can be said provided one does not take the point too literally that the progressions
as a whole reveal the means whereby the transits
and the birth-chart
can be integrated; or, perhaps more accurately, the workings of those agencies in the individual which seek constantly to incorporate the results of experience (transits) into the framework of the self (birth-chart). These agencies "belong" fundamentally to the self; they serve or rather, should serve the purpose of which the self is a manifestation. They carry out if all goes well the will of the self at every step in the progressive development of the personality.
At the moment of the first breath, we might say, God impresses upon the human organism His purpose and plan for this particular organism; this is the birth-chart. But in order that the integrity of this pattern (selfhood) be not rapidly shattered by the impact of human experience (transits), God keeps on an active watch over the nascent child. He actually leaves with the child, as an integrator and comforter, the Holy Spirit (the Hebrew Shekinah
) which is the "spirit of understanding," or intelligence.
The position of the Sun, at the time of the first breath, is the "Son of God" the center of a man's selfhood. The development of this "divine seed" has taken normally nine months. Three months more, and the entire zodiacal cycle of the Sun will be completed. This three-months-after-birth Sun is the "progressed Sun." It is the progressive manifestation or revelation of God's Holy Spirit in man. It is divine Intelligence operating within the individual person as an integrative power: as the power to assimilate (without being overwhelmed or deviated by their impacts) the experiences of life in nature and in society.
The "progressed Sun" is indeed a progressive revelation of intelligence; and the integration of the personality is a process the very core of which is this gradual development of intelligence. The progressed Sun is intelligence and integration at work in the life of the growing personality. The span of this life is theoretically measured by the cycle of Uranus (84 years) or from another point of view by one degree of precessional motion of the equinoxes (70 to 72 years). The motion of the Sun after birth up to the time when it reaches the zodiacal point at which it was at the time of conception
takes normally about three months, or 90 days. During these 90 days after birth God's creative power operates directly by projecting the seeds of intelligence
, by releasing the powers of the Holy Spirit within the potential personality.
Each day after birth is a release of such potentialities of integrative intelligence. What is released each day, generally speaking, will serve to meet the problems of experience-assimilation each year. These powers or faculties of the Holy Spirit within man constitute the continuing outflow of divine creativeness alter birth
. This outflow ceases when the solar cycle which began at conception is completed. Then, man has everything he needs WITHIN HIMSELF as potential, as divine seed. All he has to do is TO USE IT.
If one thoroughly grasps the meaning of these statements one should find no basic difficulty in relating to one another the three basic factors used in modern astrology birth-chart, transits and progressions. Nor should one be puzzled by the seemingly arbitrary concept of "one day after birth in the ephemeris corresponding to one year of actual living" or by the abstract idea of the equivalence of the basic cycles of motion studied by astrology. This abstract equivalence of day and year that is, of the periods of axial rotation and orbital revolution of the earth is a logical concept; yet it involves a number of practical difficulties and, above all, it fails to give a vital and spiritual meaning to the "progressions". No one can significantly understand or use this factor of progressions if he considers it as a measuring rod for concrete events
. Whether there are events or not to fit "progressed aspects" is not what matters. Progressions, as applied to the unfoldment of the human person year after year, refer to the gradual demonstration and actualization of those powers of understanding and of intelligent adjustment to life which were the "trail" of God's essential creation of the individual self of man at the time of the first breath.
The architect establishes the blueprints. Then he summons a contractor; he discusses with him an orderly schedule for the many successive building operations then, the contractor is given the money (power-energy) necessary to proceed. The progressed Sun is the contractor, the guide, the overseer. His work is completed by that of the progressed Moon, who is the dispenser of the spiritual energy required to meet the challenges of life-experiences. The progressed Sun is intelligence in action; the progressed Moon, effective energy parcelled out to sustain the application of this active and integrative intelligence. Neither of them represent directly events; but the potentiality of intelligent adjustments to events
. Obviously, without events there can be no adjustment to events. Thus the motions of the progressed Sun and Moon generally correlate with events
. They do not indicate
events as such, but only the release or actualization of the individual's ability to meet successfully the challenge of experience.
The Technique of Progressions
The calculation of progressions offers no great difficulty and is explained in many astrological text-books. If a person is born January 1, 1900 at noon Greenwich Time, the progressed Sun and Moon (and the progressed planets) for January 1, 1901 will have the zodiacal positions indicated in the ephemeris for noon, January, 1900. The motion of the progressed Sun during the first year of life covers thus about 1Ί1'; the progressed Moon, about 14Ί34' (from Capricorn 9Ί37' to 24Ί13'). During the second year of the person's life the progressed Sun and Moon will proceed to their ephemeris positions for January 3, 1900; during the third year, to those for January 4, etc. The progressed positions for any month of these years can be calculated by a simple proportioning of the zodiacal distance covered by the Sun, Moon and planets as they move from one noon ephemeris position to the next.
The progressed positions are usually recorded within an outer circle of the birth-chart. As the birth-chart remains the same, the progressed Sun, Moon and planets can be watched advancing year after year through
the natal houses and the signs of the zodiac. This advance can be interpreted in two basic ways:
) As the progressed Sun, Moon and planets move from house to house, and sign to sign, new conditions arise and are interpreted according to the astrological nature of houses and signs. The symbols of the degrees can also be used as significant indications, particularly in the case of the progressed Sun.
) The progressed celestial bodies, as they move on, come to form aspects to the natal (or "radical") planets in the permanent birth-chart. They form aspects also between each other, aspects which differ from those the natal planets made to one another. Both types of progressed aspects can be considered significant and can be interpreted.
The study of progressions fails, however, to reveal the most vital conclusions that can be reached through this branch of astrology if a definite distinction is not made between the solar, the lunar and the planets' progressions; and moreover if all of them are not seen integrated within the cycle of the "progressed lunation."
Essentially, all progressions which are based on the symbolical equivalence of day and year are solar; simply because these two cycles are solar cycles. Progressions are symbols of the continuation of the revelation of light, which is birth. The impact of the "first breath" spreads through the entire organism, impresses itself, as it were, in concentric waves upon every cell. The birth-chart is the imprint; but the effect of the act of impression (or spiritual impregnation) takes time to manifest. Light (and air) penetrate slowly through all the layers of human nature. This "light" is solar and lunar. Solar light, in this sense, is intelligence in action; lunar light is energy released for organic purpose. The latter derives from the former which it distributes
In the usual technique of progressions, the planets operate only as modifying agents. Only the planets close to the earth Mercury, Venus and Mars progress fast enough to be of real significance as progressed factors. Jupiter and Saturn can progress only a few degrees during a life-time, and unless their after-birth motions bring them to an exact aspect of great importance to a vital point of the birth-chart, their progressed positions can be ignored. Jupiter and Saturn refer essentially to social factors to the individual's relationship to the larger whole of which he experiences himself a part. They act thus mainly through outside pressures and as transiting factors. The aspects made by the progressed Jupiter or Saturn are subjective indications of a change of social or religious attitude which should be interpreted in connection with the transits of these same planets.
All progressions are essentially subjective, even though they correlate closely with objective events. The lunar progressions are those which refer the most closely, as a rule, to such objective life-happenings; but they denote an activated potentiality of individual response along a certain line
, rather than actual events. The position of the progressed Moon month after month in terms of natal house and zodiacal sign indicates the most vital focus of a person's attention at the time
. Obviously things will happen in the basement of the house being built, if the building-schedule calls for builders at work there. The schedule says nothing about possible accidents occurring there at the time; it reveals only a possibility of accidents in a particular location, if
any mistake is made. The progressions refer to the schedule, not to the mistakes.
The most significant and consistent way of dealing with the progressions of the planets is to study them within the framework of what I have called "the progressed lunation cycle".* This is the cycle between two conjunctions of the progressed Sun and the progressed Moon (i.e. two progressed New Moons), and it encompasses nearly 30 years approximately the same period as the cycle of Saturn's transits. This progressed lunation cycle is the cycle of personality-development, and it includes in their proper relationship the solar and lunar factors.
The progressed planets fit into the framework of this 30-year cycle. They modify the flow of solar intelligence and lunar energy for use. All personal adjustments to life are made on the basis of intelligence and of useable organic-psychic energy. Both are always "at hand"; but the "hands" may not grasp adequately what is before them they may tighten up in fear or over-eagerness they may hold, only to let go in confusion of what they held. The emotional factors which largely control these reactions are symbolized by the progressions of Mars and Venus, in so far as these modify the basic flow of solar-lunar potential.
The progressed Mercury refers mostly to the mental factors, to memory. If the progressed Moon indicates the focus of an individual's attention upon one field of experience or another, Mercury has much to do with the focusing apparatus
. Particularly important are the years of life which correspond to a change in the direction of Mercury's motion (from direct to retrograde, or vice versa
); but this change acquires its full meaning only if referred to the pattern of the whole progressed lunation cycle.
This pattern is determined by the house, sign and degree on which the progressed New Moon and Full Moon occur, and by the aspects which the progressed Sun and Moon make during the cycle with the natal planets and secondarily, with the progressed planets. The aspects of the progressed Sun with the natal planets, and its passage from house to house and sign to sign, are the most basic factors together with the crossing by the progressed Moon of the four angles of the birth-chart, especially the Ascendant.
Other methods of progressions have been devised; also what are called "primary directions" dealing with the motion of the horizon and meridian after the exact moment of birth. There is no doubt that anyone who is thoroughly familiar with any one of these systems and who focuses his attention constantly upon its type of results can achieve a degree of success in making forecasts and establishing "proofs" of its validity. This is because we live in a world defined by man's mind and man's perceptions, a world which answers our quest for order, because it is basically a projection of the order within our own human nature. Wherever we look we see only what we, as "humans," potentially are. Thus religions say that God made man in His image another way of saying that there is a basic identity of character between the universe as we experience it
(let us not forget! ) and our generic nature.
For this reason, we live in a symbolic world. For this reason, it can be said truly that man creates his own destiny, and calls upon himself the events or experiences he needs for his development. We build our house; the plan and schedule of the building direct our steps. If we are wise, we move according to plan and schedule. We avoid strikes and accidents. The unwise always want to work on the fireplace, when it is time to dig the cesspool! The astrology of progressions deals with the world which is ours, because it is the continuation of what we are. Its greatest validity is that it may help us to live consistent lives
, in terms of solar intelligence, through the proper and timely use of the energy which is ours by birthright.
Cf. my book The Lunation Cycle: A key to the Understanding of Personality.