Elements in Chart Comparison

The elements are the key to a full understanding of the art of synastry, commonly called "chart comparisons." In comparing any two charts, even more so than in work with individual charts, one must take into consideration the relative harmony of the positions of the planets according to the elements as well as analyzing the specific aspects between one person's planets and those of the other person. As mentioned earlier, the closest aspects indicate a more dynamic interchange of energy than is indicated by the elements alone, but a thorough analysis of the harmony of two people's planets according to the elements will enable the practiced astrologer to discover many important insights and subtle differentiations that the closest aspects themselves do not fully elucidate.

On the level of normal experience, any relationship may be viewed as an interaction of two energy fields. Although many refinements may be brought into play, the art of comparing charts is essentially an analysis of how the energies of two people exchange with one another. This is not to say that there is no deeper meaning behind this apparent play of energies, such as past life karma. But, as far as most astrologers are reliably able to perceive, this relative compatibility of energies is the fact at hand with which they have to deal. An analysis of the harmony of elements in a chart comparison reveals how and where the two people are able to feed each other's energy field, as well as how the two block each other's energy flow and therefore frustrate each other. When a blockage exists, there is an experience of either great frustration or severe depletion of energy, or sometimes both. When there is a mutual harmonious interchange of energy, there is an experience of satisfaction, vitalization, and completeness. Naturally, in most relationships, there will be both types of energy exchange; but the overall emphasis will usually predominate. The harmonious exchanges between two people will provide resources upon which both people may draw in order to provide the necessary energy required to deal with other areas of the relationship that are more problematical. If, however, there is a predominance of stressful and discordant energy exchange between two people, it is only a matter of time until one or both desire to end the relationship out of sheer exhaustion if nothing else.

I have been mentioning how people "feed" each other's energy fields, and — in order to clarify what I mean by this — let us refer here to a quotation from the book Born to Heal. The healer Mr. A, whom we mentioned earlier, emphasizes the element of the Sun sign as one of the most important features of any relationship being studied:

"There are compatible, neutral, and negative types of energy.

Compatible, or matching, energies together generate revitalizing energy for magnetic fuel."

Compatible energies are considered by Mr. A to be those of the same element but of different signs. The "negative" energies are the incompatible elements, such as water and fire. Their "combined action causes a depletion of the magnetic field at different levels, thereby losing its drawing power on human energy taken in by the lungs." Neutral energies are considered by Mr. A to be those of the same Sun sign who don't have other compatible energies to refuel them. They ordinarily do not refuel each other effectively, and they tend to blend and "act as one element." Hence, those with the Sun in the same sign who don't have other compatible, energizing attunements often find that a slow starvation of the nervous system can result. It is not necessarily that they are in conflict with each other, but simply that neither person is easily "fed" a slightly different and enlivening vibration of that same element. The combination of other "harmonious" elements such as air and fire, or water and earth, is considered to be less compatible than the different signs of the same element, but much more compatible than Mr. A's "negative" energies.

Mr. A goes on to say that our nervous system, through our magnetic field, is influenced by every person with whom we come in contact: "If one's own generation of energy is strong, these cross energies from others have little or no effect on our nerves. If we are weakened or depleted, however, reaction is likely." He also points out that a child will automatically gravitate tu the parent who feeds his magnetic field. If both parents' energies are discordant with his energy pattern, the result is often a child who is delicate and high-strung, his nature being a mystery to the parents. I have many time noticed this phenomenon in my practice. One example that come to mind is a girl whose parents are Cancer and Taurus Sun signs. She herself is a Leo with Moon in Aries. During her adolescence particularly, she was considered to be a problem child by her parents, and she was extremely nervous and insecure for someone with so much fiery energy. A great change took place in her within two years of her leaving home after high school, and — needless to say — she left home as soon as she could after graduation. Once on her own and no longer having to contend daily with the cross-currents of her parents' energies, she quickly developed the poise and confidence that one would normally associate with a person of her attunement. In other words, she was not the problem; the relationship between her and the parents was the problem. And what psychologist without the help of astrology could have figured out this dilemma?

Although the Sun's element is the primary fuel of the individual, the elements of the Moon and Ascendant are inevitably highly energized in any person. And, as has been explained at length, the elements of the other personal planets and particularly of the Sun's and Ascendant's "rulers" must be taken into consideration in any chart comparison. Everyone is attuned to some extent with all the elements, but the most dynamic and conscious attunement is indicated by the major factors in the birth-chart just mentioned. Particularly the elements of the Sun-Moon polarity are highly energized, and the individual therefore will be most harmonious and responsive with another person who shares some of that same attunement. Although there are many cases of a marriage, for example, wherein the man's Sun and Moon elements are incompatible with the woman's Sun and Moon elements, the vast majority of those marriages either don't last long or endure in spite of one or both people's constant frustration. I am not proposing that every type of relationship necessarily has to have a harmonious relationship between each person's Sun and Moon elements (for, as stated above, there are other factors to consider), but I am emphasizing that the most harmonious and all-encompassing compatibility is impossible without some similar smooth interchange of energy. This is so because the harmony between the Sun, for example, and another person's Sun or Moon is indicative of the purest expression and most immediate blending of the two peoples' vital energies.

The relative importance of such an aspect depends, of course, on the type of relationship being analyzed, the degree of intimacy involved, the closeness of the association, and the amount of time the two spend in each other's company. A distant business relationship would not test the compatibility so deeply as a relationship involving marriage partners or parent and child. The harmony between Suns and Moons is indicative of a mutual identification with the other, an immediate awareness of the two people's oneness. There is in such cases a blending of identity, a mutual vitalization, and a natural encouragement of each person's essential self-expression. This type of rapport, in other words, is indicative of one of the highest forms of love, a type of mutual acceptance and responsiveness that is far more lasting and more deeply satisfying than relationships based purely upon harmonious Venus-Venus, Venus-Mars, Venus-Sun, or Venus-Moon aspects.

As an example of what I'm emphasizing here, let us examine the case of a married couple. The woman has Sun in Leo and Moon in Aries, Venus in Virgo, Mars in Taurus, and Cancer Rising. (This is a different woman than the Leo with Aries Moon mentioned earlier in this chapter.) Her ex-husband has Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Virgo, Mars in Gemini, Venus in Sagittarius, and Cancer rising. Since this is not a book devoted primarly to chart comparisons, I am not going to analyze all aspects of the comparison. But I do want to point out a few critical factors to elucidate the importance of the elements in comparisons. Both people have Cancer rising, and both have shared raising two children for twelve years. The emphasis on home and family has naturally been an important focus of energy for each of them, and indeed this similar orientation helped them to keep the marriage going as long as they did (twelve years). Both people are therefore ruled by the Moon, but their Moons are in incompatible elements. Neither of their Suns or Moons is in harmony with the other's Sun or Moon. The woman's chief element is fire, and the man's is earth. They live in different worlds; they function in totally different and inharmonious ways; different things are important to them; what is real to one is not at all important to the other. Neither the woman's Venus nor Mars is harmonious with the man's Venus and Mars, and — as she admitted — she had totally ceased to respond to her husband sexually years ago.

Now what brought these people together, astrologically speaking? What ever made them feel that they were compatible, that they could indeed make each other happy? The woman's Venus in Virgo is closely conjunct his Moon and trine his Sun. Her Mars is trine his Sun and Moon. Hence, his essential Sun-Moon energy activated her romantic, sexual, and love energies at first meeting. His earthiness is quite compatible with her own earthiness and particularly with her attraction to earthy men on a physical level (Mars in Taurus). But his earthiness is not compatible with her essential fiery nature! Likewise, his Venus in Sagittarius is trine her Sun and Moon, and his Mars is sextile each light. Again, her essential Sun-Moon vitality activated his emotional and sexual energies. Her fiery energy is very compatible with his fire sign Venus (attraction to fiery women) and harmonious with his air sign Mars. But, as an essentially earthy type of person, he may get a kick out of her fire, but he can't really tune in on her way of being. In the course of doing chart comparisons for many married people or lovers, this seems to be the most common of all factors contributing to a slow dissolution of the relationship: whereas the people like each other in many ways and indeed are often very emotionally and sexually stimulated by each other, one or both people slowly realize that they simply can't be themselves fully in the relationship, that — not matter how hard they work at it — they cannot share their innermost self with the other

This is so because, if one is not attuned strongly to a certain element, it is virtually impossible to participate fully in that realm of being and that quality of consciousness. Two such people will therefore find themselves increasingly distant from each other, as the two grow, evolve, and individualize in their different ways. The more they grow in awareness of their essential individuality, the more they will become resigned to the fact that they will never be able to share at the level of depth that they might want. The degree of dissatisfaction depends of course upon each person's expectations in the relationship, how dependent on the relationship each is for self-fulfillment, and what degree of personal intensity is sought through the involvement. A very impersonal Capricorn, for example, may be satisfied with a marriage (simply because its basic structure is secure and comfortable) that would be ultimately frustrating for a Libra.

It seems to me that one of the reasons for the Western world's increasing divorce statistics is that more and more people are becoming aware of their individuality and more and more insistent on expressing it. This trend has simply been speeded up by the transit of Uranus through Libra. The pace of life, the breakdown of traditional values, the rootlessness of most American families have all contributed to this pattern; but there is a positive side to this social trend which is often ignored: more people are focusing upon the importance of a conscious and fulfilling relationship with others than in previous decades. The new and increasing emphasis upon personal liberty and individuality has naturally manifested in some extreme ways since people always tend to go to extremes when they break away from traditions or restrictive life-styles. However, once this new freedom (greatly heightened as the age of Aquarius comes into full play) is accepted and integrated with spiritual values, it is my feeling that the upheavals now being experienced in relationship structures will calm down. In fact, Pluto transiting through Libra might well put the finishing touches on the revolution that Uranus activated, and we might find before too many years that the entire structure of marriage and close relationships has been reborn at a new and more conscious level.

In doing chart comparisons, it should be noted with particular emphasis that one should not take the astrological data as an absolutely determining indication of the "misery" or "happiness" to be experienced in a certain relationship. The proper use of astrological information is to further the depth of understanding in order that individuals may live more consciously, not to pro vide excuses for the evasion of responsibilities or to foster illusions of ultimate bliss. The level of awareness of the two people involved is always the most important factor, and the way they choose to deal with what may be conflicting tendencies or personality patterns is predictable only to the degree that the people function unconsciously. If the individuals are highly aware people and/or have certain spiritual or ethical ideals that they both are trying to incorporate into their lives, they may be able to deal constructively with obstacles that would destroy a relationship between less aware people.

People are often attracted to others who are attuned to an element that they themselves lack. A number of writers on the subject of chart comparisons have stated that such a situation is ideal since the people "complement" one another, each providing something that the other needs. This is one of the many astrological statements that sounds great on paper but often doesn't work in practice. It is a fact that we are often intrigued by and attracted to others who exemplify qualities or abilities that we aren't endowed with. However, my experience indicates that it is only rarely that we can deal with such a person intimately over a long period of time with any degree of contentment. This type of relationship is more likely to be satisfactory if it is seen as a fairly short-term growth-oriented arrangement rather than as a long term contract in marriage or business. Some writers have even gone so far as to assert that the ideal relationship exemplifies a perfect balance of the elements between the two people, with one providing, for example, the fire and earth while the other's attunement is water and air. Again, this sounds better in theory than it works in experience, for two such people will often be so different that the gap between their consciousness and experience will grow wider with every year. They usually find that they are increasingly unable to participate in each other's worlds.

There are naturally exceptions to most rules, and the practicing astrologer will occasionally come across a relationship that seems to be successful even though the two people are not attuned to each other very strongly by the elements. But in these cases, there is inevitably some powerful contact between the two charts that has motivated both people to work it out. For, although the elemental attunement is of major importance in comparisons, the specific aspects between charts must be considered systematically and in great detail in any thorough examination of a specific relationship. Some of the chart comparison methods proposed in various articles and books are quite radical over-simplifications of this highly complex art, and the astrologer who relies upon such half-way methods cannot hope to understand relationships in any depth. I am not emphasizing the elements' importance to the exclusion of the more traditional methods of analyzing inter-chart aspects, but I am simply trying to elucidate the deeper foundations of what is happening in any relationship on the energy level. For instance, although close aspects in a chart comparison will always indicate a specific type of energy flow or blockage, two people who are harmoniously attuned according to the elements have a much better chance of constructively meeting the challenges of their stressful aspects.

Even if we are involved in a relationship with someone whose dominant element is one that we lack, we can learn a great deal from that person. When we have grown aware of our own incapacities and needs for future growth, we can at the very least more fully appreciate the qualities of such people and admire them for their ability to express themselves in a realm that is foreign to us. This may require a certain detachment in the relationship, but it by no means always indicates that the relationship is devoid of fulfillment and deep satisfaction.

From the foregoing, we can conclude that having the Sun, for example, in the same sign (or even in the same element) as another person's Moon is an important and harmonious contact between any two people regardless of whether there exists a close aspect between the two lights. Likewise, although Mars-Venus trines are traditionally considered to be particularly harmonious aspects for love and sexuality, having Mars in a trine to another's Venus is not indicative of particular compatibility if the planets are in incompatible elements. For a penetrating and accurate interpretation of specific aspects in chart comparisons, I urge the reader to study Lois H. Sargent's How to Handle Your Human Relations (published by American Federation of Astrologers).

Since most of the principles involved in comparing the interaction and combination of elements have already been dealt with in this book, there is not need to repeat them here. (Chapter 10 contains some material on how people of each element tend to react toward those of different attunement.) It would be useful, however, in order to get a feeling of how these energies combine, for the reader to visualize the physical manifestations of the elements as they interact with each other. What does water do when it meets earth? What does air do when it meets water? What is the interaction between these elements? Once one has assimilated the essential nature of an element, it is relatively a simple matter to understand its interaction with the others. Not only does such a visualization contribute to a deeper understanding of the psychological dynamics involved, but it is also useful for gaining insight into how people effect each other's health simply by their being together.

It is quite common in practice to come across cases in which a man and woman, although they might like each other a great deal, find that they are consistently devitalized by spending too much time together. In other cases, the interaction of two people's energy fields is so intensely vitalizing that one or both people find that they can't tolerate that level of intensity. It is as if they were being over-amped electrically, thus short-circuiting their nervous systems and blowing fuses repeatedly. Both types of relationships can only be understood in terms of the elements. For example, if a Cancer lives with a Gemini, the Cancer might feel "dried out," evaporated, lifeless. The Gemini may feel smothered, have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, and may even develop breathing difficulties. It is as if the Gemini were trying to live "under water" and the Cancer were trying to live stranded up in the air. Both people's energy fields could become quite devitalized, and they may be surprised at how relieved and how energized they feel when they move apart.

In the other type of case, assume that a Sagittarius with Moon in Leo was living with a Gemini with Moon in Aquarius. Now this could be a positive and harmonious relationship if both people could stand the level of intensity. The rest of the comparison would tell that. But, since each person's Sun and Moon is opposite the other's (and many oppositions, rather than being frustrating or blocking in chart comparisons, indicate tremendous stimulation of energy flow), the level of intensity might be so great that neither person can operate effectively when within range of the other person's magnetic power. They would feel drawn together (absolutely polarized along the Sun and Moon wavelengths), but they may also feel the need to pull apart in order to maintain their own energy integrity and functional capacity.

Many living-together situations are improved and the health of one or both people takes an upturn if the two people sleep in different bedrooms. This is an especially useful change to make if the two are of radically different attunement. It is not a very romantic thing to do, but it is beneficial in many relationships. The reason for this is that, if two people are sleeping in the same room (and especially if they are in the same bed), their energy fields are constantly interacting throughout the night, either vitalizing each other or depleting the other's energy reservoir. Merging one's energy with another's for eight consecutive hours has a dramatically powerful influence on each person's state of health, for good or ill; and it seems rather foolish to persist in such a habit simply for the sake of satisfying romantic images in the mind if the effect of it is the dissipation of one's vitality. I personally know many people who have complained of the devitalizing effects of sleeping with their partner and whose energy picked up markedly when they slept in different rooms. On the other hand, I have also known cases where the people vitalize each other so much during the night that they each need no more than six hours sleep and are always in splendid health.

The effect on an individual's health of being in close proximity with another has been underestimated and usually ignored by the medical and psychological professions. But the fact remains that, in the presence of another who has a particularly strong energy field, we are affected more than we may realize, even if the other person isn't in the same room but is merely living in the same house. A friend of mine whose Sun is in Pisces and whose ascendant is Scorpio (both very sensitive water signs!) was once assigned to share an office with a Scorpio Sun man. Any student of astrology knows that the magnetic field of a Scorpio person is usually of overpowering strength and that such a person's presence cannot be ignored. My friend found that he could not get any work done so long as the Scorpio was in the room. He finally arranged to work evenings and weekends when he would be the only person in the office. This type of experience cannot be "explained away" as paranoia, over-sensitivity, or projection as many psychologists would attempt to do. It is an experience based on a real interaction of two people's energy fields, the level of activity at the basis of all psychological and physical manifestations.

In order to be truly healthy (the words "healthy" and "heal" derive from an Old English word meaning whole), one must be nourished at all levels. One must feed all four elements or bodies: the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. Any aspect of one's nature that is not sufficiently fed soon begins to atrophy. Just as a hungry person soon gets desperate and will do almost anything for food, so any aspect of man's fourfold nature begins to rebel and to demand feeding and attention if it is being neglected. A well-balanced life is one in which the individual pays due attention to all his primary needs; and the attunement represented in the birth-chart reveals how one is imbalanced, what needs are being neglected (lack of an element), what dimensions of life are being over-emphasized (too much of one element), and what aspects of the nature are in need of refinement or transformation (particularly the stressfully aspected planets in a certain element).

I do not mean to give the impression that an unthinking insistence upon fulfilling every urge is the answer to all problems and the key to good health. The degree of refinement of our energy nourishment is important. As one grows in consciousness, one is able to be satisfied with a more refined and subtle type of feeding. Through experience, one can learn to tune in on his essential energy requirements and to satisfy them in simple and direct ways with full awareness of what he is doing and why. For example, everyone needs some quantity of material nourishment, but most people eat much more than they need, much poorer quality food than the body requires for proper nutrition, and they often eat in such a state of hurry and excitement that the food is not properly assimilated. Paying some attention to the body's real nutritional requirements and to how the process of digestion and assimilation operates can enable one to sustain the physical body healthfully on a simple, pure, and economical diet.

Likewise, everyone needs some emotional input on a regular basis. But how are these emotional needs really satisfied? The more refined and concentrated the emotional experience is, the more deeply nourishing it is for the inner being. Simply allowing the emotional needs to dictate our behavior compulsively is a sure way to waste energy, to disrupt one's life-structure, and ultimately to experience emotional starvation. Modern civilization is structured in such a way that it ensures a complete starvation of man's most essential needs, and that constant state of energy deprivation is no doubt a primary cause of the desperate and hysterical behavior we so often witness. In urban civilization, if one fully participates in the cultural patterns of life-style, work, and dietary habits, he finds himself utterly without physical, emotional, mental and spiritual substance to maintain himself in a state of wholeness. The times today dictate that each person take responsibility for his own needs, and a knowledge of the four elements and their functions is a personal education in the operative principles of life's essential forces.

NOTE: More detailed explanations of other factors to be considered in chart comparisons can be found in the following works by the author: Chapter 7 ("Karma & Relationships") in Astrology, Karma & Transformation; the first two parts of Relationships & Life Cycles; and the author's forthcoming book, Person-to-Person Astrology: Cosmic Factors in Love, Sex & Compatibility (due to be published in 1980). This latter book presents a more detailed analysis of the use of the elements in chart comparisons, as well as many other factors involved in doing thorough work in understanding relationships.

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