Mother and Father Complexes
and the Two Approaches to Astrology
Derived from Them
In order to develop these Saturn-Moon functions in himself, the new-born child, confronted with the necessities of independent existence in a totally unfamiliar and dangerous world, looks to his parents for an example and model. They become intermediaries between the world and his slowly unfolding inner psychomental powers; they channel the age-old experience of man into his own consciousness and nascent ego; and they protect him until the development of his Saturn-Moon functions is advanced enough for him to meet all normal life-experiences with average chances of success and on the basis of his more or less individualized self.
To be an intermediary and shock-absorber, an exemplar of effective human behavior, and a protector — these are the three essential roles of both the mother and the father in relation to their child. By fulfilling them satisfactorily they insure the normally successful development of the Saturn-Moon functions within the child's psyche, that is, of his individuality and adaptability to his inner and outer environment. Failing to do so for one reason or another, the parents unconsciously force the child's Saturn-Moon functions to grow under stress and strain or without the proper psychic sustainment. Improper functional balance is the result. The mother-image may be so insistent as to leave the father-image in the shadow, or vice versa. Either of these may remain undeveloped through lack of parental example, guidance and love — love meaning here an unconscious transfer of psychic energy-substance from the parent to the child, which calls forth a response stimulating the corresponding function in the child.
A zone of psychic emptiness (an atrophied function) compels in turn another function to overdevelop in an abnormal manner; and the disturbance means that, when the youth faces a life situation calling for the exercise of the undeveloped function, he feels himself inferior to the occasion and lacking in usable dynamic power. He has to meet the event with an unfocalized will, mind or ability to feel (thus, in an immature manner), or with a disabled organism. His tendency is then to come to the meeting with a negative and defeatist attitude, as a weak force facing an overwhelmingly strong power. He is so shocked or dismayed by his weakness that all he can see is a struggle between two uneven quantities or forces. He is unable to concentrate on a positive approach to the experience; that is, on the development of the quality of his own individuality through the experience, whether this experience results in what people call success, or in pain and inner retreat.
The popular idea of a mother-complex is that it expresses an exaggerated attachment to and dependence upon the mother. This is only partly true, for one can speak as well of mother-complex if a youth, having lacked a mother's love and guidance (whether the actual mother was around him or not), is forever seeking to fill in one way or another the inner emptiness which this lack produced. This occurs also if the youth, having been deeply hurt by and resentful against his mother is having a portion of his psyche blighted by the resulting shadow, unconscious though he be of actual bitterness.
If the child's and adolescent's need for a mother was largely unsatisfied, the tendency is for the youth to transfer the unfulfilled longing from the concrete mother who has proven inadequate to her task of feeding and stimulating his Moon function, to a transcendental image of motherhood. Such an image will seek embodiment or substantiation; every ideal and desire always does so. It can find it in a universal or collective factor, such as the soil of his native land, the sea, the Church, a faith-compelling and quasi-religious Party (like the Communist Party), or any social humanitarian Cause which enfolds psychically the youth as a transcendent "womb," as well as provides an inner sense of security, the emotional stimulation of compassionate relationship, and guidance of some sort (whether it be the dogma and the leaders of the faith, or the cosmic rhythm of seasons, that do the guiding).
Even faith in astrology can represent a transcendentalized mother-image, for the sky can be an unconscious substitute for the enfolding mother, and the cycles of the planets can be seen as a universal protective and guiding influence, which "mediates" between the chaos of earth-events and the ego frustrated in the development of its Moon function. Here, however, more than the mother function is implied, for as soon as the sense of universal order and cosmic Law is stimulated, the father function is also involved. Likewise, as Catholic apologists have often stressed the Church is the spiritual "Mother," but the Law of God and the Prophets (and the pontiff's authority which enhances the administration thereof) is a transcendent expression of the father image.
As in early child-life the mother hides within her loving care, and at the same time reveals, the authority of the paternal principle of Law, so the universal Great Mother-in the bosom of whom mystics and men yearning for "cosmic consciousness" seek to lose their unfulfilled or surfeited sense of form and individuality (Saturn function)-hides and reveals the Will of God. Whoever rhapsodizes about fulfilling either his or her destiny, or God's Plan, demonstrates a transformation of his father-image into a cosmic Law (symbolized by the cycles of celestial bodies) or a Saturnian Law-giver, Jehovah-God. And whoever extols the "communion of the Saints" or a "religion of humanity" reveals a collectivization and extension of his mother-image, behind which can be seen the outline of a universalized Father principle.
Indeed the Great Mother and the Universal Father can take a vast variety of forms at several levels. It would be a grave mistake to say that these many forms are "merely" expressions of mother and father-complexes — in the sense in which we are using here the term, complex. The universalization and transcendentalization of the mother and father functions are not only valuable, but essentially necessary processes in the over-all evolution of man's inner powers and consciousness.
The biological must be raised to the mental-spiritual, in order to meet the descent of creative spirit which is a universal "ideo-dynamic" factor. We may think of this "raising" as an ascent from one octave to the next — and some astrologers are fond of using this concept of octave, which means level, when discussing the characteristics of the planets. We may refer it to the yogic ideal, in India, of the raising of Kundalini from the root of the spine (Saturn center) to the head (the transcendent Moon center which becomes a chalice to receive the spiritual downpour of divine consciousness via the Thousand-Petalled center representing "astrally" the myriads of convolutions of the brain). But, under any of a multitude of names and images, the same reality is meant.
What differs is the relative degree of emphasis placed upon the Father- and the Mother-principles — and, as well, on the "ascent"' and the "descent." In India, the Mother-principle has been emphasized, in practice if not always in theory; and the process of ascent of this personal to the universal has been studied in all its aspects. In the West, on the other hand, with the Jewish and pre-Jewish tradition to which Christianity has become an heir, the Father-principle is greatly stressed, and so is the process of descent of the spirit (Prophethood in the Old Testament, the Pentecost in the New). Jehovah is a Saturn-God, and Jesus referred constantly to his Father in Heaven.
Exoteric Buddhism (as publicly known) and the Tantric systems in India are polarized by a basic approach to the Great Mother, whether considered as Nirvana or as universal Power. Gautama the Buddha, it is true, taught to the few, and exemplified in his life, severance from the typical Mother-pattern of India. Moved by total compassion for all sentient entities, he gave up the Nirvana-state, giving thus to compassion the character of a supreme Law in which the Father-principle (Law) and the Mother-principle (Love) find themselves synthesized. Yet what his followers made of his teachings has remained pervaded with the transcendental Mother-image, even in spite of the rationalistic technique and the ascetic ideals emphasized.
The universalization of the Mother-image is the typical product of the vitalistic stage of human philosophy, a stage in which "life" is the object of worship, and all forms of fecundity and all expressions of the life-force are venerated. The vitalistic approach to life and the various cults of fertility derived from it flourished in, and consciously or not, still form the basis of all agricultural civilizations stressing the ideal of cultivation and multiplication of the seed. It is in such civilizations-ancient Chaldea, China, North India, Egypt, and America — that astrology was developed, at least as far as we can trace its origins. Indeed, the whole zodiac (the equatorial "Belt") is a universal matrix; the 12 Zodiacal Hierarchies ("Souls" of the 12 signs) represent the differentiated formative powers of life, operating in every organism. And the astrological universe is an organism; even "events" are considered in horary astrology as organic wholes being born, developing and disintegrating. The whole of astrology is an attempt to universalize the Mother function in man and to rationalize it by seeing through it the Father-principle (order and intelligence) at work as a dynamic creative impulse or pattern.
All of this is perfectly sound psychology, as long as the father and mother functions are well balanced in relation to each other. Complexes occur only when one of the two overwhelms the other, and when, as a result, the individual finds himself inferior in the exercise of the underdeveloped and frustrated function; and this gives us a new slant on ascertaining the degree of psychological wholesomeness in an individual's approach to, and use of astrology.
Where astrological practice emphasizes the force-character of planets considered as entities actually releasing good or evil "influences," there we find behind it both a dominant mother-image and a negative "force-against-force" attitude to life. Whoever uses astrology in that way betrays a psychological mother complex — that is, an unconscious and at least partly irrational dependence upon a Great Mother. The individual stresses "fate," and shows an underdeveloped sense of individuality and "form" — a frustrated or weak father-image and Saturn function.
The mother function, I repeat, is essentially the capacity to adjust one's bio-psychic organism to circumstances and life situations. The individual with a mother-complex based on over-attachment to his actual mother shows himself dependent upon his mother for his day-by-day adjustments to the demands of his environment. His mother either has to tell him what to do, or, in a subtler way, she controls by her example and psychic influence his responses to life-experiences, particularly where women and the use of his creative powers are concerned.
If, however, the mother-image being weak and the individual's function of adaptation (Moon function) having been starved or frustrated by an ineffectual or absent physical mother, the individual has transferred his yearning for mother-guidance and mother-example to a universalistic level and become a devotee of astrology, what happens is that now he depends upon astrology (to him the great universal Mother-principle in celestial operation) for the very same type of guidance which a youth over-attached to his physical mother demands from her. This type of maternal guidance is both specific (i.e. dealing with particular concrete problems of adjustment to outer and inner surroundings) and charged with feeling contents. Quite frequently it is irrational, because it is emotionally biased and determined by personal reactions to personalities who either are good or bad, liked or disliked "at first sight" (the so-called "woman's intuition").
In astrology, this kind of "motherly" guidance manifests as the popular attitude according to which astrology is called upon to solve concrete problems, to pass emotional judgment on situations or people, to determine good or bad periods for doing things, etc. In other words, astrology is called upon to replace the individual's inner capacity for valid and successful adaptation to new life-situations. This means nothing short of psychological dependence upon a mysteriously all-wise celestialized Mother who has a safe, protective and adequate advice to take care of every practical need. To feel the need for such a concrete and habitual guidance is the sign of a transferred mother-complex — however slight it be.
This does not mean, let me say at once, that astrology cannot be legitimately called upon by normal, psychologically positive and mature persons to solve some of their personal problems! The task of solving problems posed by life-situations can be met, however, in several ways, astrologically as well as psychologically speaking. The person should use both his mother-powers (Moon function) and his father-powers (Saturn function); that is, he should use a balanced combination of his power of adaptation to life and his capacity to be an individual person, formed and steady.
To approach one's birth chart from the father function point of view means to see it as a "structural whole," as the symbol of one's total individual selfhood. It is a "holistic," integral, qualitative approach. On the other hand, to stress the dynamic "influence" of personalized celestial entities (planets and the like) as these play one by one upon one's unsteady and easily affected organs, feelings and moods, is to approach astrology as a child seeks his mother. The child depends upon his mother's specific and concrete guidance because he is inherently weak and his individual ego is as yet unsteady and immature. He is a weak force facing frighteningly powerful life-energies or utterly confusing life-situations. He must seek guidance and ways of circumventing what he dares not face. This is a negative approach, which, while it is inevitable in actual childhood, leads to the formation of a mother-complex when prolonged past the formative years of adolescence.
To meet astrology in a positive, mature and truly individualized manner is to seek from it:
1. A more complete knowledge of the "structural law" (Saturn) of one's individual selfhood;
2. A fuller grasp of inter-functional relationship;
3. A means to focus more precisely one's conscious attention
upon any particularly difficult problem or situation, thus enabling one to analyze more objectively and accurately the nature of all the factors it embraces, with reference to both society and one's own individuality.
This positive approach is based upon a mature and independent capacity for form-analysis; upon the conscious knowledge of cycles and cyclic structures; upon an objective and positively focused interpretation of symbols and of all the basic qualities and functions inherent in the state of individual existence. It is possible only when the Saturn function is adequately developed, in close and harmonic association with the Moon function.
If the Moon function is overstrong, the objective structural grasp of the situation, as pictured by the astrological chart or charts, dissolves into a sense of confusion and of dependence upon guidance born of the fear of forces which seem overwhelming. If, on the other hand, the Saturn function has developed at the expense of the Moon function, the theoretical and technical power of objective analysis (Saturn) so dominates the faculty of immediate adaptation to concrete life situations (Moon) that the astrologer becomes lost in theories and formulas about self and universe, cycles and abstract patterns . . . and fails to see the practical solution required to meet more successfully the immediate personal need. He therefore finds his approach to astrology vitiated or crystallized by a father-complex. He is overanxious to discover perfect order, an all-encompassing universal or divine Plan, and his "place of destiny" in a rationally structured world of pure concepts and cosmic qualities, because he senses in himself disorder, confusion, or vast irrational tides of a life too strong to be mentally grasped. He seeks clarity and form at all cost, and refuses to meet immediate concrete problems (Moon function) unless he rationally understand them and sees definitely his place in relation to them (Saturn function). In other words, the Father-principle is not normally developed in his psyche, having not been fed and stimulated adequately by a physical father. He therefore seeks everywhere for a transcendent Father — be it God or a cosmic Law.
If his actual father has been overpowerful and tyrannical, the individual may have another kind of father-complex; he will tremble before authority and feel unable to call his individuality his own. He will see in his birth chart a rigid, unevolving pattern holding his every feeling and act as in a vise. He will face life with dogmas, situations with set rules, love with ethical precepts. In him, the source of spiritual creativeness will have become utterly dry.
A whole book could be written on describing the various ways in which mother- and father-complexes can and do manifest in the lives of individuals; and modern psychological textbooks are full of examples which anyone practicing astrology with the view of proffering psychological assistance should carefully study. I can only stress here a few essential points. What the astrologer seeking for indications of complexes in the chart of an individual must never forget is that any complex is produced by the abnormal development of one of the basic functions in the bio-psychic organism of personality. But "abnormal development" may mean over- or under-development; it means, above all, unbalanced growth of the function.
Astrology, by pairing planets according to polarity, gives us an excellent way of evaluating this factor of unbalance. Wherever one of two polar planets — such as Saturn and the Moon — appears far stronger than the other by position in sign and house, or through the aspects it makes within the whole planetary pattern of the birth chart, a tendency toward a complex, affecting the basic function represented by the two planets, can be expected. The "tendency" only, let me emphasize. This tendency may not show forth actually until progressions and transits bring it out, whether in youth or old age. Indeed, it may not manifest as a definite and strongly inhibiting complex if other functions can absorb the strain and stress caused by the unbalance.
As Jung and Adler have pointed out constantly, a complex can act as a lens focusing psychic energy in a definite (though usually too rigidly set) direction, and thus lead to outstanding personal achievements. These may be great creative and spiritual achievements, provided it is the spirit that uses and acts through the complex, and not the complex which, as a "partial personality" split from the total individual being, uses the twisted energy of life to project its disequilibrated and fragmentary consciousness upon the outside world. In the first case we may have a great religious leader, law-giver, empire-builder, artistic or scientific genius, whose creativeness the Freudian psychologists love perversely to analyze away as the "mere" product of complexes. In the second case, we have the individual with unsocial, negatively stimulating, anarchistic or criminal tendencies. The former embodies a mutation in the evolution of mankind; the latter is a catabolic or degenerative force which ultimately destroys itself as well as what it touches.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1966 and 1976 by Dane Rudhyar
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