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Astrology Psychoanalyzed by Dane Rudhyar.


by Dane Rudhyar

First Published
Horoscope Magazine
December 1957

In this classic article from 1957, Rudhyar explores the psychological needs and drives which typically conditions one's approach to astrology and which motivates modern individuals to consult astrologers.
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Astrology Psychoanalyzed by Dane Rudhyar.

Anyone even slightly acquainted with psychoanalysis or the "analytical psychology" of Carl Jung knows that much is made, in these approaches to the understanding of human nature, of the Mother Image and Father Image. However, it is relatively rare to find a non-professional person who has a very clear idea of what these images actually and basically mean. Indeed, many psychologists with official degrees lack a vital grasp of these matters. Astrology can throw a great deal of light on this most important subject. Conversely, when one understands what these images signify in terms of a person's attitude toward everyday life, the psychological value and meaning of astrology itself and the reason for humanity's long-sustained and eager interest in it stand revealed in a new light.

The Mother Image

Psychologists use the term image in various ways and with different shades of meaning; so I am not speaking here for any particular school, even though my approach is fairly close to that of the Jungian School. To me, a psychological image is the form which some basic function in human nature takes in a particular person; and also, collectively speaking, in a particular society and culture. Thus, what I call the Mother Image is an expression of the fundamental function of adaptation to the pressure and challenges of everyday living in a particular environment.

Every living organism must adapt itself to its environment while it acts in such a way as to satisfy the basic needs of its organs. Everyone must eat some kind of sustaining food, evacuate waste materials, find means to maintain his body temperature through clothing (in most climates) and to protect himself within some kind of enclosure; sooner or later, he must satisfy the reproductive urge. We are is driven from within (by life itself, we might say) to satisfy such primary functional needs. Satisfaction produces a sense of well-being; frustration leads to discomfort, pain, deterioration.

Everyday living, in the most basic sense, is occupied with the business of gaining this organic well-being and of avoiding discomfort, pain and eventually death. This business is what I have called adaptation. While every human being has inherently the capacity for such an adaptation, the newborn baby does not have this capacity developed at birth so that it can operate adequately. He is indeed totally helpless and must depend entirely upon his mother to provide him with the satisfaction of his immediate needs.

As the baby gradually gains the conscious awareness of his organic needs and of the agency which satisfies them, an image of that agency begins to form in his brain-mind. Very likely, this image is at first hardly separate from the baby's sense of living. That which needs, has pain and is satisfied, that which provides the satisfaction are probably felt by the newborn as two parts of one whole. Gradually, however, the sense of distinction between the body that needs and the mother who attends to the need must grow sharper. A definite image of the mother as need-satisfier builds itself up in the baby's consciousness. Its character depends obviously upon the particular way in which the mother succeeds or fails in making life comfortable for the baby. The image is affected by the mother's (to the baby) incomprehensible changes of mood, her sudden disappearances, the way she responds to intrusions in the baby-mother relationship (i.e., her attitude toward other persons), and so forth.

The larger the family, the more other persons share with the mother the ability to make the baby satisfied and comfortable, the less the Mother Image tends to fill exclusively the field of the slowly developing consciousness of the baby. Yet, if the other persons are upsetting and unreliable or hurtful and the mother saves the situation repeatedly, then the Mother Image takes on the character of the savior or the intermediary between the baby and strange or frightening forces — people or animals, elements, dangers of all kinds.

As the child grows up, understands words and talks, remembers and expects repetitive acts, and is faced by at first unexplainable and seemingly arbitrary don'ts, the Mother Image becomes ever more definite. By that, I mean that the child acquires a more "clear-cut and mentally formulated sense of how his needs are being taken care of by the mother — or is left frustrated if the mother is not capable of making for him a successful adaptation.

Gradually, by imitation mainly, then explanation, the child normally learns to develop the capacity for adaptation which at first was totally vested in the mother. This can be a long process, and a painful one. The mother may overprotect the child; or she may be ineffectual, preoccupied and moody, too full of her ego and too busy with things and people. The child-to-mother relationship may be too binding or too early broken by a variety of factors (a new brother or sister, unjust punishment, anger, etc.) All of this affects the development of the child's and the adolescent's capacity for adaptation to everyday living and gives to the resulting Mother Image (in the youth's consciousness) a particular quality, form and emotional flavor.

The hackneyed phrase "Mom knows best" simply shows that if the youngster finds himself faced by special difficulties and conflicts in the satisfaction of his basic organic urges (and their emotional-intellectual by-products or overtones), he normally goes to his mother for advice as to how to gain pleasure or success and avoid pain or defeat and frustration. If the actual mother has failed him or has gone away, the child, still unable to use satisfactorily his capacity for adaptation, tends to transfer his dependence for advice to another woman. This woman becomes a substitute mother and the child projects upon her his Mother Image.

It does not need, however, to be another woman! For instance, the Mother Image is transferred to a church if the advice of the Church and its more or less impersonal officials is felt to provide all the answers to whatever baffling problems arise in everyday life. The Mother Image can also be transferred very effectively to . . . astrology! It is so transferred whenever a person will not take an important or even an unimportant step without consulting an astrologer, without looking at the "Ephemeris" or casting a "horary chart" for the problem.

Any such transference is by no means necessarily bad! If we had been traveling to Tibet some centuries ago, we should have greatly welcomed the guidance of a lama who could speak our language and was familiar with our customs so that we might adapt ourselves successfully to the ways of Tibet. At each step leading to completely unfamiliar conditions, anyone needs guidance of some sort of the adaptation is to be successful and relatively smooth. But such a guidance should be temporary only. Another kind of guidance is available to him when he learns to familiarize himself with the new conditions, the guidance of a "map." For a Mother-Image dependence can be substituted a reliance upon maps, upon principles of organization (physiological, social, cosmic), upon a sense of structure and a recognition of one's place in structures or processes of various types. This reliance is at first normally associated by the child with his relationship with his father.

The Moon and Saturn

In astrology, the Moon traditionally stands for the mother and Saturn for the father. The reason for this symbolism is clear. The Moon is our only satellite; as such, it constantly turns around us; likewise, the mother unceasingly attends to and surrounds the little baby. In the old geocentric astrology and in alchemy, what we now call the orbit of the Moon was named the sub-lunar sphere. This sphere was conceived almost like a cosmic womb, the life-giving placentum of our planet, Earth, often thought to be as yet in the embryonic state (the Earth is not a sacred planet, occultists say even now).

In modern astrological charts, the essential function of the Moon should be defined as that of adaptation to the business of everyday living; from that central character, all other secondary meanings follow. For instance, the type of mentality associated with the Moon in natal charts is the kind of mind which is utterly dedicated to the business of making a success and a pleasure of living in one's environment.

It is the mind that is cunning, opportunistic and has flexibility of opinions; the chameleon mind always ready to adjust, temporize and compromise for the sake of practical success. The Moon also represents the personal moods, the feelings, etc., for all these are more or less passive ways of fitting in, of responding to inner or outer situations as they unfold every day.

Saturn, on the other hand, was known until recently as the outermost planet; even today, with the added symbolism of its rings, it can still be considered as marking the real confines of the solar system as a limited and well-defined organic whole. The more distant planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) refer to the less tangible zone surrounding the well-defined body, to the aura, to those functions which relate the strictly physical organism to the larger cosmic whole — say, the galaxy.

Saturn represents not only the actual father, but also more generally whatever defines our permanent structure of being and our place within a larger scheme of existence. Physically, Saturn refers to the skeleton which establishes the basic form of our organism: intellectually, to logic; psychologically, to our ego with its set patterns of response to social impacts; and in general, to our potential "place" within any "greater whole." Indeed, in older societies, the status of the father established almost irrevocably the social "place" of his children, their caste, class, profession or potential mate. Even today, the father gives to the child his name, even if socially nothing more.

Saturn means structure and where anything fits in a structure — thus, the thing's place in a map or a definite, rhythmic schedule and process. Because of this, all astrology is actually based upon the Saturn function, for what the natal chart does is simply to establish your place in the space-time unfoldment of the solar system. It shows where you fit and your fitness for whatever happens to you. But it does not tell you what to do! It does not guide you, except by showing you a map of what is possible according to the structure of things at the place and the time you live.

From Mother Image to Father Image

These last sentences have a very basic importance for anyone concerned with psychology and astrology. They imply the existence of two essential approaches to the practical use of astrology: the Mother Image type and the Father Image type.

If you go to an astrologer (or to your Ephemeris) expecting an answer to "What should I do?" this means simply rushing to a supernal mother for factual guidance in the belief that "Mom knows best." I repeat that this is not bad, for if you were invited to visit the Dalai Lama or the Pope, you should have excellent reasons for asking guidance as to exactly how to behave. Similarly, if you are confronted with an unfamiliar problem involving a choice of alternatives, the nature and end results of which you have to your knowledge no way of ascertaining by yourself — then astrological guidance of a concrete type may be most valuable.

However, such an external guidance can be valuable only if it is understood to be temporary. By its very nature, you must grow out of it or you will remain in a state of dependence upon a Mother Image — thus, forever a child. The true mother will, however, lead her child to the father, for what the father (theoretically, at least!) has to offer is a knowledge of structural principles, of laws and regulations. Mom may exclaim to the inquiring teen-ager: "Oh, don't do that!"; but the true father will unfold a map (symbolically speaking, of course) to the child and show him where the action would lead, what laws he might be breaking, how it might affect his character and destiny and how, if he insists on performing, it might affect his character, and how to find a way out.

A true father will never give a definite solution to the half-grown-up child who has gained something of the power to understand the structure and place of at least many things. He shows the way, the essential place of things, the quality of living expected if certain results are to be obtained. He leaves the child free to accept or reject. His one function is to throw light, to be clear, honest, true — on the basis of whatever he has himself learned and applied.

Of course, that is not the common picture our American society has of a father — witness our "comics!" Nor is it even the picture of the autocratic and rigid father of past eras, or even of the puritanical tradition. When either of these two pictures prevails, then the child tends to develop a negative Father Image. If the father is of the caricatured modern American variety (type of the "comics"), the child is easily caught in the web of "Mom-ism." If the father is the autocratic type, the youth develops a rebellion against all authority — i.e., against any structural pattern where he would fit, against fitting anywhere.

There are approaches to astrology which correspond to these negative Father Images. In the first case, the astrologer is constantly bossed by his supposed intuition or hunches — also perhaps inventing new systems as escapes from a real structural grasp of cycles and planetary patterns. In the second case, the astrologer is rigidly a believer in Fate, making for his clients or himself pictures of fateful happenings, of inevitable illnesses and tragedies or of wonderful happenings in the future — money, love, and so on.

On the other hand, I see the positive Father Image approach to astrology as being based on a thorough grasp of cyclic patterns and their complex interrelationships. It deals with the structure of processes, with the form or gestalt of the chart as a whole, with planets as correlated functions in the whole solar system. It studies the fittingness of everything. It places events and opportunities in maps of structural destiny. But it does not predict precise events as such — only crises and turning points. It shows what is possible within the framework of your space-time individuality — which is as well your destiny, for the real you and the particular destiny defined by your space-time data of birth are one and the same.

When you want to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco, or New York to Chicago, there are many possible ways to travel. Yet there is only one map. But the map does not force you to take any particular road — unless you have to make an important appointment at a certain time, and this seems to limit your choice to the quickest way. Still, what is the quickest way? You might get drowsy on the freeway and have an accident — or find some less frequented road the faster possibility, even if by mileage longer.

Structure does not compel. It defines. It is there to be used, not as a tyrant to enslave you. True fatherhood is clarity of form, illumination. It does not bind; it shows the way as it is. It does not offer you any particular dogma to believe- in worshipfully; it induces in you the fire that will provide for you light on the way — any way.

The Imageless Way

This lighting of the way cannot be linked directly with Saturn; yet, in an indirect sense, it is so linked by the principle of complementary opposites. Saturn and the Sun are complementary opposites because one inevitably arouses the activity of the other if the activity of the first is essential, thorough and true. The Sun is in a state of constant outflow of radiations; but without the structural power of Saturn, this would actually mean at best a random state of explosiveness. It is only because there is a polar interplay between the Sun and Saturn that there is a rhythmic to-and-fro tide of solar energy — which we know as the sun-spot cycle. From center to circumference, from circumference back to center, Saturn times the solar tides.

The great message of Christianity has been: "The Father is within you." Destiny is individuality. If you trust father Saturn implicitly, you become Sun. If you have absolutely no fear "of destiny, all that is possible in terms of that destiny can indeed take place — at the proper time, in the right place. To be like the Sun is to be your own potential, in full process of gradual actualization.

Then there is no more mother image or Father Image. The two ancestral symbols of the past — Moon and Saturn — are absorbed within a solar present. You are what it is necessary for you to be at any moment, without fear of the future or regret of the past. This is a very difficult state for us to attain! Yet it is difficult not because it means we must do some spectacular act, but on the contrary because it requires that we become free from effort, from tense activity and precise expectation. What is needed is that we surrender our dependence upon any image, whether it be Father or Mother Image.

What does this do to our attitude toward astrology? Simply this: we see astrology as a means to an end, as a highly valuable technique to develop certain capacities in us — just as the examples of, and our relationship to, our mother and father (or their later substitutes) are actually but the means of developing our own capacity of adaptation to life and our own sense of fitting into a superior order establishing our place of destiny and our fundamental individuality. Each generation renders that service to the coming ones.

Yet what each generation receives from its parents is only a sort of training. It should never produce a sense of bondage or an identification. Likewise, what astrology can do for us is to train both our capacity for feeling out the best way of responding to the new challenges and problems of ever-new situations, and our ability to perceive cosmic order and the structural unfoldment of all natural processes, even where life seems most chaotic.

A mother image approach to astrology may develop our sense of expediency and of give-and-take in the timing of our activities so that we do not simply force our self-will crudely upon any circumstance and irrelevant environment. We may learn through it to accept guidance for our egocentric and restless impulses. Yet, if this guidance means dependence, we are thereby condemned to a kind of perpetual childhood. astrological guidance of that maternal sort serves its real purpose when we realize we no longer need it — and prefer our own mistakes to uncertain advice. An old proverb says: "When the Son leaves the Mother, he becomes the Father." When we are willing not to ask "Mom," even if she should know best, then we can enter the realm of the father knowledge, the knowledge of cycles, of form, of harmony through apparent disorder and conflicts — the knowledge of what we are inasmuch as, there and then, we stand. Our true father is he who can lead us to, or give us the foundations of, that knowledge. He may not be our father hi a biological-social sense. He may be our "guru" or Initiator. But this father-exemplar and teacher, once one has reached a certain level of maturity, provides essentially the training — and perhaps the illumination. It is ours to do the walking on the path that has been lighted up and to imprint our own realization of order upon whatever we touch and impregnate. We must become fathers in our own right; and what is pulsing within us is not actually, If we are true and free, the father as a being — but the power of the fatherhood!

You may look at your birth-chart and say: This is what I am — my seed possibilities — what I should make actual, concrete fact. But the essential purpose of the study of your chart is to be able to forget the chart while retaining the realization that you are, in fact, a solar system ordered in an individual manner! The Father Image approach to astrology should train you and discipline your mind so that your awareness of being an individual person may be transferred from the level of a merely Saturnian ego to that of a self that is, analogically, the entire field of a solar system powered by a flaming Sun. If astrology does that, it has been a good and true substitute father.

In the end, however, it is what is beyond the training and the precedents that really counts. It is the great symphony which the composer creates out of the dynamic truth and rhythm of his original nature without any concern over the rules he once studied. It is the great painting which makes people gasp startled — yet they may perhaps "see." henceforth, in a different manner. It is the life which is lived, not by moral rules or social laws or astrological progressions, but by the inherent, conscious power of the creative self that freely sees this entire life, from birth to death, as one great statement, one creative word, one world-transforming destiny.

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