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of Psychological Complexes

by Dane Rudhyar

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Chapter Twelve
Mars in the Natal Chart

Mars is the first planet outside of the earth's orbit. This, plus its red glow and other associations of ideas, has made of it, in astrological symbolism, the focal point for all releases of energy and all renewal of activity originating in man's "earth being" that is, in the body and in the aspects of the personality which are conditioned by the energies and processes of life on earth. Mars is the symbol of muscular activity and, beyond it, of the many and varied desires or drives which compel or urge man to move, i.e. to change any static position of equilibrium he has reached.
      As spirit's essential characteristic is harmony and equilibrium, whenever spirit is seen to move from a less inclusive to a more inclusive condition of integration the operation of the Mars function must be the cause of this change. This means, in more concrete terms, that if a person is at ease with himself and the world within the framework of a particular attitude to life and to, society, some Martian impulse will have to operate if he is to grow into a wider viewpoint and a more inclusive condition of mental-spiritual balance a broader consciousness of life and of his own selfhood. This Martian impulse will necessarily produce at first unbalance, dissatisfaction, restlessness, and at last some outgoing type of activity. When a man desires to touch an object, because he is urged to include the feel of that object in his consciousness of the outer world, he has to move a muscle. The act of walking is the act of moving toward or away from an object, and this act consists in a series of falls and quick recoveries from falling. Mars causes the falls; Venus, the recoveries from falling. Every step a man takes in walking implies the operation of these two basic life powers.
      This is true of all forms of activity. To act is to become unbalanced. It is to fall from a condition of balance, of peace, of self-contained satisfaction or serenity. Such a Martian centrifugal (i.e. away from center) trend must be sooner or later followed by a Venusian centripetal (i.e. toward center) impulse, or else the individual experiences a complete fall, which only the resistance of the surroundings (the floor, the ground) ends, and may end with destructive results. This is true whether the Martian outward desire expresses itself in a physical act, or in a psychological emotion ("e-motion" meaning a "moving outward").
      Mars is thus the adversary of the status quo, of peace and rest and of all limited and particular kinds of equilibrium. Therefore he was understood in ancient mythologies not only as the god of war, but, wherever a religion appeared as a justification and deification of some established social order, as the adversary of spirit. Yet the Mars function of itself should not be considered as the original cause of the outgoing impulses of life. If a man desires strongly enough to touch any object so that he is impelled or compelled to tense some of his muscles and to move toward this object or psychological goal, it is because the object has acquired, at least for the moment, a value of some sort. Man desires only what he values at the time more than what he has; and the sense of value is a product of the Venusian function, either alone or (in most cases) in association with the Mercury function which refers to the memory, to the faculty of association of images, to concepts and all similar mental factors.
      Indeed, Mars should be considered normally as the servant of Venus and Mercury, in so far as Mars rules over the mechanics of action (muscles and will, etc.) which express and actualize outwardly the mental and emotional directives given respectively by Mercury and Venus, especially when these planets are found rising before the Sun (Mercury-Prometheus and Venus-Lucifer). Yet there are numerous cases in which desire and the impulsion to act outstrip the feeling of value, and perhaps run riot. Muscular tone or tension is so high that the muscles must move, regardless of what they move for. The secretion from the adrenal glands which controls the capacity of the muscles to operate may be so abundant that a man "itches to do something," and that anger an uncontrolled release of negative emotion flares forth, compelling usually destructive action. Likewise a nation may have built such a strong army or navy and given so much power to their General Staff that the latter presses constantly for war, whether or not the people feel the value or logic of any aggressive step and of the goals which such a step might secure.
      In other cases, the contrary is the norm. The power to move forth aggressively, and even to take relatively peaceful personal initiative in any situation, is very weak. The individual cannot drive himself to act, because of organic weariness and muscular lack of tone, or because of Mercurial mental conflicts and confusion, or the inability to see more value in one thing than in another (Venus function.) It is often difficult for the consulting psychologist to discover at once which is the primary cause and which the effect and this is where natal astrology (also progressions and transits) may be of great assistance to psychological analysis. The strength or weakness of Mars and the related characteristics of Venus and (less so) of Mercury may show at once where the focus of disturbance is to be found.
      When indications of strength or weakness in the Mars function refer only to the usual astrological evaluation of the position of Mars in this or that sign of the zodiac according to the traditional concepts of rulership, exaltation, debility or fall, no particularly stressful psychological problem can be deduced. A natal Mars in Libra or Taurus may be as normal and healthy, psychologically speaking, as one in Aries or Scorpio. Psychological difficulties are the results of either certain types of relationship to other planets, or retrogradation, or special emphasis due to position in natal Houses. And even then, one must always remember that psychological or physiological difficulties, when overcome, are the sources of strength and of new abilities.
      The classical example of a Mars function complex is the birth chart of Freud, founder of psychoanalysis (see chart below*). In it, everything stressful happens to Mars, yet Freud achieved great fame and was the fountainhead of a vast movement with endless repercussions in all cultural and social fields. The intense focalization upon the Mars function, under every kind of pressure and strain, gave Freud his creative power; and the chart stands as a typical symbol of Freudian "depth-psychology" and of the historical reaction against the frustrations and perversions which European society, and especially the Victorian era, had imposed upon this Mars function.

Sigmund Freud

In Freud's birth chart Mars retrograde on Libra 4 is placed at the Nadir of the chart, the only planet below the natal horizon. It is in opposition to a 10th house Jupiter, in sesquiquadrate aspect (135) to Uranus and the Sun in mid-Taurus, and in square to Saturn. It is in trine to the Moon, the only trine in the chart but the Moon is in semi-square to Venus in Aries, and the Sun in semi-square to Saturn and to Jupiter, the square of which it bisects. Mars is also in 150 aspect (quincunx) to Pluto on the 11th house cusp.
      From the standpoint of traditional astrology Mars retrograde in Libra would be estimated "weak" and, considering all the "bad" aspects it makes, very destructive in a somber and deeply insidious manner. To say this, however, would not explain Freud and his individual genius. I once wrote that Freud's birth chart is a surgeon's knife piercing relentlessly and cleaning out the abscesses and tumors in man's deep subconscious, letting loose the poisons produced by man's social shams and repressions built up through the Piscean Age (Neptune and Jupiter are in Pisces). This is the chart of a scavenger of the psyche. It could have been that of a criminal or of an incurable psychotic, except that the focusing of Mars energy is so spectacular as to suggest the possibility of all this power being used in a remarkable manner. It was used by Freud, strictly speaking, in a "destructive" manner; but it was destruction at the service of a potential greater health. Freud was the greatest of all "muckrakers" of the turn of the century; he exposed, not society's sores and economic abuses, but the evil in man's social attitude (Libra) an evil generated basically by man's relationship to his parents (Mars is in the fourth house), or rather by the intellectual and social products of such a relationship when inadequate, thwarted or discordant.
      The T-cross linking Jupiter, Saturn and Mars is characteristic of the tensions created by social values and traditions, and poisoning the very sources of the emotional-sexual life. Freud, as a Jew, suffered numerous abuses and ostracism of a sort. His father (Saturn at the 12th house cusp) was presumably to him the symbol of society's condemnation, while his mother (Moon trine Mars) must have been stressfully loved. We should note also that Mars and Venus are "in mutual reception;" i.e. Mars rules the sign in which Venus is placed (Aries), and Venus the sign in which Mars is placed (Libra). This gives a peculiar strength to the emotional nature, and no doubt helped Freud to overcome and to use his complexes. The power to use them is suggested by the revolutionary, but inspirational, Sun-Uranus conjunction, and particularly by the quintile of Jupiter and the Moon, ruler of the chart. The sextiles of Neptune to Sun-Uranus, and of Venus to Saturn, gave Freud also the power to significantly organize unusual psychological materials.
      For Marc Jones the planetary gestalt of the chart belongs to the Bucket Type, already mentioned. To me, it is a characteristic example of a Wedge (or Funnel) pattern, Mars being the cutting edge of the wedge, or the opening through which the power of the concentration, in spring zodiacal signs, of planets within the broad square of Neptune (Pisces 20) and Saturn (conjunct the star Betelgeuze on Gemini 28) is released with dramatic intensity through an autumnal Mars.
      Here, we have actually a paradox, for the spring signs of the zodiac refer to the spontaneous flow of the desire for life and of the procreative urge the libido of Freudian psychotherapy. Mars normally is the channel for, and indeed the substance of this libido. But Mars in Freud's chart, is not in a spring sign; we find it instead at the fall equinox, and what is more, retrograde, i.e. moving "against the grain" of the solilunar life forces. The vital energies of Freud are at high tide in a condition of springtime release; but that which makes the release possible viz. Mars is oriented, most stressfully, in a direction which opposes release! Obviously the inner conflicts in the founder of psychoanalysis must have been acute. If an inner explosion were to be avoided there had to be a release. What kind of a release? The only possible one was one that would shatter the very social conventions and sense of values associated with Mars' zodiacal sign, Libra. Freud had to be an iconoclast, a breaker of idols. His terrific Martian energy had to alter the Martian thrust of the male libido so as to transform it into the surgeon's knife. This is the way such a strong complex can be used and made to serve a social purpose. Destructiveness has to be oriented toward reform, and thus be made a servant of life and God.
      In some cases, such a natal chart might well suggest some severe physiological handicap. But the Sun is "hyleg" (i.e. symbol of health and stability) in Taurus; and a Mars retrograde is often an indication of stubborn vitality. It certainly does not mean, of itself alone, a "weak" body; though it may reveal at times some abnormal condition in Mars-ruled functions.
      Though a planet retrograde indicates theoretically a function whose activity is directed against the natural flow of life energies, the term "against" does not mean necessarily in a state of enmity. When, in a musical motet, two voices move in counterpoint, one going up in the scale while the other moves by descending steps, this does not mean that the two fight against each other, but instead that the two motions are complementary. Thus by a process of "opposition," each supplements the other.
      Another example: If two men starting from London want to study the earth's globe along the circle of London's latitude, it will be quicker for them to move in opposite directions, one to the east, the other to the west. As they meet at the antipodes of their starting point, they will have covered between them the entire circumference of the globe. As they exchange the results of their experiences, they both reach a "global" viewpoint. On a globe, opposite directions converge.
      Retrograde planets go in a direction opposed to that of the Sun and the Moon, but by so doing they can accomplish what has not been previously accomplished through direct motion. They are able to repair the sins of omission and commission performed during the periods of direct motion. If they move against the grain of the life forces it is so as to solve the problems left behind the ever onward moving flow of evolution and of time. It is to repair the damage done by life experiences, when these experiences were frustrated by complexes or thwarted by social shams and prejudices.
      To live means to face constant challenges of adjustment to new conditions; challenges which are caused either by inner growth and expansion, or by changes in the surroundings. Man, individually and collectively, rarely meets such challenges so well as to leave nothing unsolved. Toxins and heavy memories accumulate in the depths of the personality as the by-products of even normally successful activity. Thus in many instances it is necessary to clean the instruments and tools required for action after the action is performed. It may also be essential for a man to retrace his steps, to try again what was done badly, to go over the past in order to understand better what did actually happen. To learn from life means to assimilate fully the harvest of experience, and to reject nothing in fear or confusion. What is so rejected falls into the pit of the subconscious, there to fester and decay.
      The retrograde period of the planets are times for us to go over the past, to clean our minds and souls of waste materials, and to repair whatever harm has been done to them and perhaps to adopt a new way of using power, a new technique.

The retrograde periods of Mars are particularly important because Mars is the power to act and to move forth into the world, away from our center; and many of the most crucial troubles or evils in society and in the personal lives of men come as the results of misuse of this Martian power of desire and initiative. These retrograde periods, however, are different from those of the "inner" planets, Venus and Mercury, inasmuch as at the center of them Mars is in opposition to the Sun, and not (as in the case of Venus and Mercury) in conjunction with the Sun. This is a most significant fact, psychologically speaking. In terms of the inner life of mind and feeling (Mercury and Venus, respectively) the solution of man's need and the power to repair his sins of omission or commission is to be found in a new approach to a conjunction with the solar center of life and selfhood. But, where the power of desire and of outward motion are concerned, what is needed to repair the mistakes and solve the problems caused by subjective involvements in outer objects or persons is objectivity and perspective. And these are the results of a planet's opposition to the Sun, such as is typically demonstrated by the full Moon.
      In other words, if anything has gone wrong with the Mars function or if it has failed to operate at all, the time to readjust it and to solve the problems it has led to is when Mars is in opposition to the Sun; for then (astrologically speaking at least) Mars is fully illumined by the Sun and the meaning of all it represents can be seen with the utmost objectivity. As I said above, this Mars-Sun opposition is the center of the retrograde period of Mars, and it is the key to the meaning of the entire period. In Freud's case birth occurred toward the close of such a Mars retrograde period, and the opposition of Mars to the Sun had taken place more than one month before (April 2) on Aries 13, close to the April New Moon on Aries 16(April 5) a solar eclipse, at the time of which Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Neptune were conjunct in Pisces in square to Saturn.
      It can be said that the first half of the retrograde period of Mars up to the opposition of the Sun is a preparation to this climactic point. It is mostly after the opposition has occurred that whatever has been gained or realized then can be made to serve a progressive purpose even though it was seemingly at first a destructive (or rather cathartic) process. Depth psychology is a psychology of ego catharsis; it seeks to cleanse and purify the psyche or inner life of the individual from the waste products of a discordant and hectic or frustrated and deviated type of personal activity.
      The psychological approach featured in the writings of Adler stands in polar opposition to the approach of Freud. It is most interesting therefore to find that in Adler's chart Mars is direct and in conjunction with the Sun, while, around this conjunction, Mercury and Venus are seen both retrograde. Adler's main problem had to do with his inner life of thinking and feeling, with his sense of value. On the other hand, he relied upon an impetuous and self-glorifying Mars (conjunct to the ninth house Sun in Aquarius). His "inferiority complex" was based on a sense of frustrated values: he felt inferior, and reacted against it by a "superiority complex," ego bravado, and a philosophy of forced optimism and self-assurance. In Freud, on the other hand, the main problem was due to frustrated desires. He did not feel basically inferior, but rather thwarted by society and traditions. He was a rebel, whose violent revolt was turned into valuable channels as a cathartic, cleansing force.
      In studying the meaning of Mars retrograde in a natal chart, or of an entire Mars retrograde period in relation to transits and to world events, significant indications can be obtained from the important aspects especially conjunctions which Mars may make while being retrograde. These aspects show, quite clearly in most cases, the type of energies which can be used in the process of reorientation of the Mars function. The planets forming aspects are those which will, or should contribute the most to this process or at least they indicate what has to be done in order to achieve the purification and repolarization of the Mars function.
      Mars had formed trines and oppositions with Mercury and Venus, while being retrograde before Freud's birth, but otherwise had made no conjunction with any other planet. The one spectacular feature of the period was Mars' opposition to the solar eclipse above mentioned, which therefore stands as a key to the process of Martian reorientation at the time. It occurred before Freud's birth, and hence we may consider it as a reference to his ancestral or spiritual past, that is, as a "karmic" or residual factor in his deep unconscious and that of his race and culture.
      Mars is retrograde during less than a tenth of the time elapsed between two of its successive conjunctions with the Sun (about every 25 months). Thus approximately, in every ten persons one is born with Mars retrograde. Obviously therefore too much cannot be deduced from such a position; yet it is infrequent enough to establish very definite characteristics in so far as the emotional life and the quality of the ability to express one's self are concerned.
      The "1001 Nativities" gives many cases of Mars retrograde, and at least one of them is that of a criminal, another that of a Pope (Pius V) totally different personalities obviously. Yet in all of them the psychologist could no doubt have found some complex, some basic frustration of the life force, which would have been the key to the unusual character of their emotional, and perhaps biological, temperament.

*Editor's Note: There is a good deal of controversy regarding the time of Freud's birth.

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1966 and 1976 by Dane Rudhyar
All Rights Reserved.

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