Study the linked words, no doubt, but look
Behind them to the action that they indicate;
And having found it, throw the words away
As chaff when you have sifted out the grain.
Study the (spiritual) sciences, master their inner meaning;
Then, having done so, discard the books.
This book does not attempt to sum up all possible meanings of the primary factors found in a birth chart. Nor does it purport to convey to the reader instant "knowledge" or sensational statements that will impress others. Astrology's greatest strengths are squandered by pandering to a public and media that craves a type of sensationalism that is not the proper product of this subtle and profound science. This book will encourage understanding in direct proportion to the reader's effort at concentration and deep reflection. It is a book for the practical interpretation of birth charts, supplying the practitioner, teacher, or student with interpretive guidelines that he or she can adapt, elaborate upon, and use to elicit further meaning in the context of the chart, person, and situation being considered.
The crucial word is guidelines. Guidelines are meant to be used in order to get somewhere, and—in the case of this book—to gain deeper understanding of particular charts and people and eventually of astrology itself. Those who use this book only passively will not derive its full value; but those who use the guidelines as springborads for personal reflection and—in a consultation—for a dialogue that centers on the deeper reality, feelings, and inner experience of the other person, will, I feel, find this book quite valuable. Using this book as a way to tune in, or help others tune in, to the deeper self, to the subtle feelings and rhythms and needs that are so often ignored, will enable the reader to develop a personal method of astrology that focuses on meaning and purpose in life. That sort of astrology is far more profound, useful, and accurate than the verbose descriptive material of most books and computer programs that merely glance over the surface, leaving the individual essentially unaffected and indifferent.
As mentioned previously, one must focus on inner experience in astrological work to achieve a high level of accuracy. I would especially caution the newer student not to assume that astrology will be capable of "explaining" everything, just because it is a type of cosmic science. This erroneous assumption is all too common among practicing astrologers and new students of astrology who are ablaze with enthusiasm. The belief that astrology has infinite applications and that its accuracy is invariably high in all these applications has many unfortunate effects, some of which I have explained in other books. One harmful result that is quite evident in recent years is that astrologers are tempted to fill in the apparent gaps by adding more and more factors to the birth chart, hoping, I assume, eventually to be able to "account for" or "explain" virtually every petty detail of life. This of course is a futile effort. Life is an infinitely varying dance of energy, and the mysteries of life, the Self, and the human Soul will always transcend all mental approaches and techniques. This is all the more reason why I refer to the essential building blocks of this volume merely as guidelines; they can be used only for guidance in seeking greater understanding of self and others. It cannot be claimed that these guidelines or any other chart interpretation materials are the "last word" or constitute "complete" interpretations. Nothing in human life is ever "complete"; everything is always changing and transforming.
As mentioned above, one should not assume that astrology will "explain" everything. One must turn to religion, philosophy, or mysticism for ultimate explanations. Astrology, although not as great an explainer as many would like to believe, is a great illuminator. It shines a light where before there was darkness and confusion. But astrology can illuminate only if the astrologer is capable of focusing that light! Otherwise, the light is scattered and thus diffuse and faint. The brilliant light of understanding that the remarkable symbols of this cosmic language can reflect can easily be distorted or lost if the person using astrology is not a clear, sharp lens. And that is the purpose of these guidelines—to help the individual to focus on the essential meanings and thus to be a clear lens for illuminating the complexities and dark corners of life and human nature.
In this book, I have assumed that the reader is familiar with the basic factors of traditional astrology at least to some extent. Therefore, I have not repeated what is readily available in dozens of other basic texts. I am also assuming that the reader has a birth chart and at least fundamentally knows how to ascertain the sign and house positions of the planets. For those who do not have such a chart, I recommend that they write the following company to order a "basic natal chart" for a cost of under $5: ACS, P. O. Box 16430, San Diego, CA 92116. It is essential that one send in the most accurate birth time available, as well as the birth date and place. Better still for absolute beginners would be to have a knowledgeable person explain to them the essential major components of their birth charts. In addition to reading as widely as possible in the literature of astrology,* I would also recommend
'Although perhaps the most important guideline regarding which books to read is that one should find writers who "speak your language," the reader would be well advised to read at least some works by such giants of astrology as Dane Rudhyar, Margaret Hone, and Charles Carter, as well as various works by the modern writers who specialize in astrological psychology in a modern language. The reader is encouraged to read the other books by Stephen Arroyo, which complement this work. Beginners are especially referred to his Astrology, Psychology & the Four Elements for more details on many of the basics of astrology as a language of energy and the rationale for this approach. There are so many astrological books that are worth studying, they cannot all be mentioned here. The reader should consult the "Suggested Readings" list in Arroyo's Astrology, Karma Sr Transformation. Astrology: The Divine Science by Marcia Moore & Mark Douglas is especially recommended. It is very difficult to find, so readers are advised to write CRCS Publications for information on obtaining copies. (See address on title page.)
that newer students begin to do as many charts as possible, talking with the other person in detail in a free-ranging dialogue, making frequent use of the guidelines in this book, and never hesitating to acknowledge frankly any confusion, ignorance, or lack of understanding. It is only through an honest trial-and-error experimentation with astrology with large numbers of people that the language of astrology completely comes alive. This kind of dialogue is a joint exploration of the issues that face the person, the person's deeper character and motivations, and what light astrology can throw on these subjects.
It is also important to note that, in order to use this book most effectively, one should open-mindedly consider the accuracy of all the interpretive phrases, whether they may seem positive or negative. [The function of the astrological practitioner, after all, is not to flatter the client with endless complimentary statements!] Those readers who have studied many different astrology texts will have noticed that many astrological writers fall into the trap of making "either/or" statements. It is easier to think and write that way than to deal with the complexities and nuances of life, and it is a temptation that is hard to resist as a writer attempts to organize astrological data into accessible categories. I have fallen into this trap more than once in my own writings. If life were only that simple, practicing and understanding astrology would also be much simpler.
In fact, however, positive and negative often manifest together in life, alternating or weaving together in the fabric of each individual personality in such a unique way that we have great difficulty in trying to unwind all the strands to facilitate simple analysis. It is realistic to assume that most people have a broad combination of "positive" and "negative" traits, tendencies, and motives. And, in many ways, what may seem a "negative" trait to one person may be quite an admirable quality to another. One person may despise the impatience and abrasiveness of an Aries, for example, while another person may deeply appreciate the action-oriented personality and honest bluntness of the Aries. In other words, in spite of the impression given by the pat interpretations of so many "cookbooks," astrology is not an either/or sort of study, founded on simple black and white judgments. It is a subtle science of energy that encompasses an infinite variety of shadings and combinations. Unlike typical "theories of personality" in orthodox psychology, it includes innumerable nuances of personality, character, and creative potential. As psychologist Dr. Ralph Metzner has written,
As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I have been interested in another aspect of this baffling and fascinating subject. We have here a psychological typology and diagnostic assessment device far exceeding in complexity and sophistication of analysis any existing system. . . . the framework of analysis—the three interlocking symbolic alphabets of zodiac "signs," "houses," and "planetary aspects"—is probably better adapted to the complex varieties of human natures than existing systems of types, traits, motives, needs, factors, or scales.
(Astrology: Potential Science &■ Intuitive Art from The Journal of Astrological Studies, 1970)
The newer student of astrology often becomes bewildered by the vast number of interpretive options that even a basic birth chart presents. Such questions as "What do I focus on?" and "What do I emphasize within the limited time period of a consultation?" are important and must be answered. And yet, the literature of astrology provides little guidance in this area* and only scattered answers to such questions. I have attempted to provide some clarification to these issues in a number of my books, and in this volume have decided to make the structure of the book itself reflect the relative importance of the various factors that constitute a basic birth chart.
Perhaps most important is the emphasis placed in this book on the four elements as the basic energies analyzed by astrology and on the element and sign placements of the "personal" planets. The outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) have not been emphasized except where they have a powerful impact on the individual, e.g., their aspects to the personal planets and their house placements. I have seen far too many beginning
*Tracy Marks' The Art of Chart Interpretation is one of the few books that emphasizes how to discriminate between the most important chart factors and those that are secondary. (Available from the publisher of this book.)
students overemphasizing a sign position of Uranus, for example, or even more often an aspect between two of the outer planets, not knowing that everyone born for a number of years shares that same configuration because of the slow movement of the outer planets. Hence, there can be little individual impact of that factor, except insofar as it aligns with the "personal planets" or Ascendant. So, when defining precise guidelines to utilizing and understanding the essentials of the birth chart, there is no reason even to include such details. Anyone using astrology should invariably focus on the five personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars), as well as the Ascendant point, and then on anything that colors or modifies those primary factors.
If, for example, Neptune conjuncts the Ascendant or its opposite point, the Descendant, then Neptune becomes an important factor in the personality and the energy field, not because of its sign position—but because of how it ties in to the primary focal points and structures of the chart. If, for another example, Uranus or Pluto closely aspects the Sun, that person would then have a strongly Uranian or Plutonian attunement and consciousness, not because of the sign positions of those distant planets, but because of the intensity of vibration set up by the closeness of the angle between the Sun and the outer planet.
Therefore, in line with the importance of the personal planets, the largest section of this book gives numerous guidelines for understanding those planets' sign positions, as well as the sign positions of Saturn and Jupiter. In order to keep the focus on the energy approach to astrology, simple guidelines for the elements of the signs and for the element positions of the planets are also provided. With this material on the elements and the planets-in-signs guidelines alone, one could do quite amazing astrological work, with impressive accuracy.
Next in importance is the Ascendant, but instead of simply listing keywords similar to those of the Sun in the signs so that each rising sign could be described, I decided to address a common point of perplexity for newer students of astrology: distinguishing between a sign's manifestation as a Sun sign and how it appears when it is rising. Far more could be said to dif ferentiate between each pair (for example, between Taurus Ascendant and Taurus Sun), but in a book of concise guidelines, it seems enough to acknowledge the difference and to point toward some obvious contrasts I have observed over the years.
In the section on houses, I decided to focus on the wholistic principles from which all specific house interpretations can be derived and on numerous guideline phrases designed so the practitioner can "plug in" the specifics of a given chart and then use the resulting combination as a springboard for personal reflection or dialogue. In other words, in the section on houses I want to encourage students to think for themselves and to explore the myriad possibilities of inner and outer life that a particular planet/house combination can symbolize.
In the aspects section, the emphasis is placed on the planets in specific angular relationships, rather than on what the exact angle is. The habit in traditional astrology of grouping all squares together, all trines together, etc., contributes to perpetuating the erroneous notion that all squares are "bad" or "difficult," that all trines are "good" or "easy," and so on. This habit persists, often as an undercurrent, in the thinking even of those who consciously claim to have outgrown that limiting old way of seeing aspects. Of far more importance, however, are the planets involved in an aspect, how well they blend together and function in the signs occupied, and how a particular aspect is integrated into the structure of the chart as a whole.
As further guidance for those who ask "What do I focus on?", I should also repeat the advice I have given many students: Even if you feel that you understand only a small part of a chart, follow what you do understand and it will lead you into the structure and major themes of the rest of the chart. And don't worry about doing a ' 'complete chart interpretation,'' for it is impossible. Instead of getting lost in the endless details of a chart, it is better to focus on what is important in the person's nature and life and on what kind of person he or she is. Since the birth chart is fully realized only in the living human being, a ' 'complete chart interpretation' ' is achieved only insofar as the fabric and intricacies of the individual's whole life and personality are revealed, better understood, and more fully accepted.
Finally, astrology can only be taught up to a certain point. It is of course important that one learn the best type of astrological science available in order to do precise and helpful work, but after fundamentals, philosophy, and reliable interpretive principles are learned, it is then the astrologer that matters more than the astrology. The application of the science is an art and requires the subtlety of an artist. The question thus becomes: What kind of an artist are you? Are you a clear lens through which the cosmic factors can be clearly reflected and focused? One's own personal development, beliefs, ideals, and sensitivity are therefore crucial in determining how effective and beneficial any individual's astrological art becomes.
It is still true that the specific kind of astrological theory you embrace is important (contrary to what some "open-minded" astrologers believe). As Einstein said, "It is theory that decides what we can observe." Defining one's astrological philosophy and fundamental theory and approach is therefore imperative to achieve a clear perspective and solid grounding in astrological work.
But the level of personal development you have achieved is at least as important, in the way it enables you to understand life and human beings. After all, the intellect can only function within the scope allowed by the person's level of consciousness (or level of soul development, one might say). It is therefore to one's inner life and inner development that one must ultimately look, not only as the only way toward a refined understanding and effective use of astrology, but as the only way toward an evolving way of being.
Key Concepts & Definitions
A key to the understanding of all astrology is within the reach of anyone who truly understands the meaning of the following definitions:
The ELEMENTS are the energy substance of experience.
The SIGNS are the primary energy patterns and indicate specific qualities of experience.
The PLANETS regulate energy flow and represent the dimensions of experience.
The HOUSES represent the fields of experience wherein specific energies will be most easily expressed and most directly encountered.
The ASPECTS reveal the dynamism and intensity of experience as well as how the energies within the individual interact.
These five factors comprise a comprehensive cosmic psychology, and it is the art of combining them that results in the language of energy called astrology.
These factors are combined in the following way: A particular dimension of experience (indicated by a certain planet) will invariably be colored by the quality of the sign wherein it is placed in the individual's chart. This combination results in a specific urge toward self-expression and a particular need for fulfillment being defined. The individual will confront that dimension of life most immediately in the field of experience indicated by the planet's house position. And, although the urge to express or to fulfill that dimension of experience will be present in anyone having a certain planet-sign combination, the specific aspects to that planet reveal how easily and harmoniously the person can express that urge or fulfill that need.
The above cartoonreprintedcourtesy of the Los Angeles Herald, Copyright 1988
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