The four elements of astrology (fire, earth, air, and water) are the basic building blocks of all material structures and organic wholes. Each element represents a basic kind of energy and consciousness that operates within each of us. Just as modern physics has shown that energy is matter, these four elements interweave and combine to form all matter. When the spark of life leaves a human body at death, the four elements all dissociate and return to their primal state. It is only life itself, manifesting in an organized, living whole, that holds together the four elements. All four are in every person, although each person is consciously more attuned to some types of energy than others. Each of the four elements manifests in three vibrational modalities: cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Hence, when we combine the four elements with the three modalities, we have twelve primary patterns of energy which are called the zodiacal signs.
The zodiacal signs have also been called "energy fields," archetypal patterns, universal formative principles, etc. (See Chapter 4.) These are all names for the same reality. These universal formative principles are the living realities which astrology symbolizes, and they are identical with Jung's "archetypes." What Jung says about the archetype can also be applied to the fundamental nature of the zodiacal energy patterns: . . it seems to me probable that the real nature of the archetype is not capable of being made conscious, that it is transcendent." If indeed the true nature of the energy patterns represented by the zodiacal signs is transcendent and unknowable, the most I can do to give a hint of the sort of energy patterns mentioned here is to tell you to look at your own hand. The same energies which built the unique patterns seen in the palm and on the fingertips continue to vitalize and to sustain not only the body, but also the psyche. One might ask: What indeed is the "psyche"? It can't be seen; yet it is. We experience the impact of psychic forces day in and day out. The psyche is, therefore, as real as any material object even though we cannot see or touch or smell or taste it.
If we can accept the reality of psychic forces, we can surely accept the reality of the unseen builders of all life, material and psychic. These unseen builders are the primal energy patterns or formative principles of the universe. Jung calls them the archetypes because they have been active in molding all life on this planet since the beginning of time. Astrologers call them the zodiacal signs and are mainly concerned with them in relation to the way they manifest in human beings as personality types. All of the keywords, qualities, and endless lists of characteristics commonly found in astrological textbooks grow from these essential roots: the twelve primary energy patterns commonly called the signs of the zodiac. An understanding of what is meant by these primary energy patterns is necessary for an in-depth approach to any kind of astrology, but in the case of Medical and Psychological Astrology, it is especially important that this essential, archetypal meaning be discovered and coherently formulated.
One way of understanding the various energy patterns represented by the zodiacal signs is to analyze them in terms of their modalities. The cardinal signs represent centrifugal radiating energy and correlate with the principle of action in a definite direction. The "positive" cardinal signs, Aries and Libra, are concerned with action in the present, based upon future considerations. The "negative" cardinal signs, Cancer and Capricorn, are more concerned with the past. (Witness, for example, Cancer's love of the home and antiques and Capricorn's concern with tradition and history.)
The fixed signs represent centripetal energy; that is, energy radiating inward toward a center. These signs are associated with the principle of inertia in their mundane manifestations, but they are also known for great powers of concentration and perseverance when the energy is used for creative activity or spiritual development. Of the three quadruplicities, the fixed signs are most centered in the here and now. The connection of the fixed signs with esoteric doctrines of rebirth and spiritual development arises from the great concentration of energy in these signs, which energy is radiating constantly within the person and is at least to some extent under his control. Hence, people born with the Sun in a fixed sign intuitively sense the depth and power of the life-giving spirit within them; and so these signs have been known as the "gates of the avatar" and as the key symbols of the major initiations of the soul because the concentrated energy also brings these people the potential for concentrated consciousness.
The mutable signs are correlated with the principle of harmony and may be conceived as spiralic patterns of energy. Pisces and Virgo symbolize spirals of energy directed downward; thus, these signs are connected with the past in some way: Pisces with past "karma" and Virgo with the past crises in the development of the personality. Gemini and Sagittarius symbolize spirals of energy directed upward; and these signs are future-oriented, giving rise to the prophetic tendencies of Sagittarians and the endless speculations of Gemini.
The element of any particular sign shows the specific type of consciousness and method of most immediate perception to which the individual is attuned. Air signs are correlated with the mind's sensation, perception, and expression, especially related to geometrical thought forms. Fire signs express the warming, radiating, energizing life principle which can manifest as enthusiasm and love or as ego. Water signs symbolize the cooling, healing, soothing principle of sensitivity and feeling response. Earth signs reveal an attunement with the world of physical forms and a practical ability to utilize the material world. The nature and function of these elements will be described in great detail in later chapters.
The zodiac was considered by the ancients to be the "Soul of Nature." If we see the zodiacal signs as the primary, archetypal energy patterns of the universe, we can then understand why the ancients gave such prominence to them. Conceiving of the zodiac in this way also finds support in the psychic readings of the clairvoyant Edgar Cayce, who stated, "Life is sustained in this cycle of vibration" (reading #900-448). Could the zodiac be referred to as a cycle of vibration? I think so. Cayce also mentions, "Every individual entity is on certain vibrations" (#1861-12). All of this should explain what we call the zodiacal signs. Now what about the planets?
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