In this chapter, I am assuming that the reader is already somewhat acquainted with the traditional meanings of the houses found in any elementary astrological textbook. The beginning student of astrology may not immediately grasp the full significance of this key-word system since he would not yet have the experience required to show the need for such an ordering pattern of the houses' principles. However, I urge any beginning student to keep this key-word system in mind as a basis for deeper understanding of the traditional concepts encountered during the course of his studies and while making his first attempts at chart interpretation.
Since this is a book centering primarily on the four elements as the living energies represented in any birth-chart, I should explain here that the correlations between the elements and specific types of houses in this chapter are purely symbolic. Since the houses, by definition, represent the fields of experience wherein the actual energies (or elemental attunements) of the signs and planets operate, the houses should not be seen in any way as a manifestation of the four elements. The primary energies of the chart are indicated always by the placement of the signs and planets. However, since there is a regular and valid correlation between the twelve signs and the twelve houses as two different but parallel sequences of developmental principles, I have herein — in traditional fashion — correlated Aries with the first house, Taurus with the second house, and so on. Nevertheless, the signs and houses should always be seen as distinct and separate factors in the astrological alphabet when one is engaged in interpreting charts.
In the course of teaching dozens of classes in all levels of astrology during the past few years, I have observed that more students have difficulty understanding the nature of the houses than any other aspect of astrological symbolism. Most of the students quickly gained a competent understanding of the signs and planets; but, as soon as the topic of the houses were brought up, I was confronted by numerous confused questions and puzzled expressions. Even those students who seemed to breeze through a class in the fundamentals often wrote back six months later to ask me if I could recommend a good book on the houses since they were meeting many obstacles in their attempt to comprehend this important segment of the astrological language.
It seems to me that the main problem in coming to grips with the meaning of the houses lies in the fact that most astrological texts make no attempt to explain the fundamental principle of each house and the essential inner meaning from which are derived all of the endless associations and ramifications allotted to that house. Most books emphasize the traditional meanings of the houses to the exclusion of the more subtle and more comprehensive principles involved. They do this because most astrologers are still concerned with the environment and the outer situation rather than with the inner experience of the individual. (Dane Rudhyar's recent book The Astrological Houses is a rare and welcome exception.) What is not stated by most authors is that the houses — and, indeed, the chart as a whole — always show the inner state and the personal experience much more clearly than the environmental circumstances. This is the reason that so many astrological predictions fail to come about, simply because they are based on the assumption that the chart shows "what is going to happen". The truth is that the chart inevitably shows "what one is going to experience." There is an important distinction between these two approaches to astrology, a distinction amply clarified in the works of Rudhyar and other person-centered astrologers.
To interpret a symbolic cosmic language like astrology through the use of our awkward and limited verbal language is a difficult task. This task is made utterly impossible if we assign rigid meanings to the houses; and, in doing so, we are setting up a situation in which we will often have to "stretch" our interpretations to fit the person's specific situation. Such a method of astrological practice merely adds to the justification for many people's supercilious attitude toward all astrological practitioners. As an example of what I mean, suppose a person has Saturn in his natal fifth house. This placement of Saturn can and does indicate a whole variety of attitudes and experience. Hence, what do we say to a person who has this factor in the birth-chart? Would it help the person to say that he will have "trouble with children?" Who, I might add, doesn't have some trouble with children? Such an interpretation is utterly meaningless. Would it be useful to say that the person won't be able to be as creative as he wants to be? This interpretation is also meaningless and, in fact, untrue; for some of the greatest artists and writers of our times have this placement of Saturn. Many other examples could be given to show how totally misleading astrological work can become if we fail to penetrate into the essential significance of particular chart factors. On the other hand, if we can sum up the core principle of, in this case, the fifth house as the field of experience wherein one "seeks security for one's own identity," we can then begin to get to the heart of what the person is experiencing, whether it manifests as dealings with a child, lover, creative work, gambling, or whatever. Once the key principle is identified, it is then a relatively easy matter to delineate and understand the specific ways it is being expressed.
It is this need to elucidate the essential psychological significance of the houses that has prompted me to construct the keyword system outlined in this chapter. Many of the words have been used before, by other writers, but in a different context. I have been working with this system for the past three years and am, at this point, satisfied that it does serve as an extremely useful method of not only interpreting the natal chart and the cycles of transits but also coming to a deeper understanding of the entire structure of astrology. Although some of the key-words may at first seem awkward or puzzling, I feel certain that those who take the time to delve into the system and use it consistently will be rewarded for their patience.
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