Have you ever asked yourself: What am I here for? What am I supposed to be in this life?
If you have, you have begun to live in a new way. You have begun to tap, even if only slightly, the power of your true self. You are on your way to becoming what you are meant to be. It is a long way, a difficult one. One proceeds along this way very gradually, hesitantly; there are usually many setbacks. But it is the only way really worthwhile, really "exciting." It alone gives significance to life — your life.
It is my deep belief that the function of astrology is to help men and women, who have begun to ask questions concerning the purpose and meaning of their own lives, to find answers to these questions. Astrology has, little of real value to offer to people who did not ask such questions. Astrology, for them, is a parlor game or a means to satisfy a more or less idle curiosity as to "what is coming next", "what is going to happen". This is all right as far as it goes; but the real function and value of astrology begin only when people ask of astrology rather than "what is going to happen to me", the far more important questions: How can I find out what I really am? How can I solve the problem which I am bringing to everything that happens to me?
Every individual brings to all the problems of his life the greatest problem of all: himself. We may learn from our parents, teachers, priests or scientists how to meet intelligently this or that particular situation and problem, how to behave according to official and traditional rules of conduct in our family, society, business, clubs. We may learn these rules well and yet make a dismal failure — or a completely meaningless average "success" of the major opportunities and the decisive crises of our lives.
Why is this? It is because, while we may have learned to solve all sorts of external and social problems, we have never given much attention, or any attention at all, to the one fundamental problem of all: to find out the real purpose and meaning of our life. We have learned how to meet people and to talk to people in this or that standard situation — at home, in business, in places of amusement. We have not considered it at all important to learn how to meet ourselves every morning as we awaken and how to talk to ourselves when some new situation brings out in its a kind of response which seems to conflict with and disturb our cherished idea of ourselves. Did we ask then: What am I, really? Why do I act, feel or react differently from other people, from the way one is supposed to act or react? Am I so different essentially? Am I unique? If so, why am I unique? What is the purpose oŁ my being different — the real reason for my feeling isolated, lonely?
We often ask these questions — but in a rather vague way, shrugging our shoulders and quickly forgetting the matter because there seems to be no way of getting a convincing answer from anybody. In some cases, the shock of seeing ourselves reacting to life situations in ways which are not according to the usual standards is such that we keep worrying about it. We come to think that there is something wrong about ourselves, that we are abnormal, neurotic or "plain bad" — and we develop an oppressive sense of guilt or inferiority.
We let these negative feelings develop perhaps; before long, we find ourselves in a sad predicament. Then all the things that happen to us in everyday life seem to go wrong, even if they started out with great promise of success, happiness or achievement. Perhaps we feel so upset that we decide to learn a new technique, to change our residence, our circle of acquaintances, our profession. Yet things still keep going wrong, possibly from bad to worse. What is the matter? Will we get "better luck" if we ask of astrologers what will be the result of this or that new move or plan of ours so that we may act "at the right time" and bet on the right horse, so to speak?
We may avoid some serious mistakes or catastrophes with such help; but this help, in most cases, is aid in solving external problems only. Nothing will really work out well as long as the one problem behind all other problems is not solved, at least to some extent: Why am I different from others? What am I really? It is essential that each individual today should find significant, convincing answers to these questions, answers which will transform him, which will change his attitude toward his real self and the basic purpose of his existence here on earth, now in our present society.
The first thing is to be willing and ready to ask these questions, to realize that it is important to ask them. The next problem is: Who will provide the convincing answers?
Jesus, in the Gospels, said: Ask and ye shall receive. Many a great spiritual teacher has told us that when the pupil is ready, the master comes. It has been stated also that the whole of life can be our "teacher", that every friend or associate we have, our loved ones and also our enemies can give us the answer to this great problem of the "why" of our existence. In other words, we can see ourselves in their eyes, in their responses to us — whenever we really want to "see" ourselves as we are. We can understand our "differences", and perhaps our relative "uniqueness" of character and destiny, if we are objective enough to find in the reactions of friends or foes mirrors that reveal to us, directly or by contrast, our different and unique self.
However, it is very difficult to be sufficiently objective for this. We need — or we usually think we need — a "key" in order to interpret what we see pictured as ourselves in and through others' reactions. Moreover, even if we understand how we differ from others — perhaps a very frustrating, confusing or bewildering difference — this is not enough. We must somehow know why we stand out from the norm, why we are unusual — perhaps to the point of neurosis. What is the sense of it all? If there should be no sense, no purpose, then, the only thing to do would be to become normal, average or at least comfortably "adjusted", whatever the cost to our pride, our hopes, our youthful ideals of unique accomplishment.
Modern psychologists and psychiatrists often consider "adjustment" as the goal of their treatments; in many extreme cases, there is probably nothing else to aim at because the mental and neuro-psychological situation has become set beyond the possibility of creative or transforming change. Nevertheless, every crisis (mental or physiological) is the indication of an opportunity for change and self-discovery.
There are illnesses and crises essentially because people who experience them have long refused to ask questions as to the character and purpose of their true self. They dodge asking these embarrassing questions. Then the problems that they themselves pose to anything confronting them become more acute, more difficult to solve; they become more involved in their failures or "bad luck", more resentful of having "all these things happen to me!" This piles up and ends in a violent crisis.
All crises, I repeat, are opportunities; but few individuals, while the crises last, can understand them as such! Who can open their eyes? Who can help them to meet their true self and to grasp the meaning and purpose of their "differences", their peculiar responses to life situations, their hopes and ideas which so few can share?
Astrology offers such help, but only if used by an astrologer who is both a keen student of human nature or psychology and a person with spiritual vision and compassionate understanding. These are rare qualifications, but they are evidently needed, at least in some degree, because of the very character of the help required. What is required is, indeed, spiritual help and always more or less some kind of healing of mind and soul. It is the kind of help which a religious man might be expected to give to help an individual to become transformed by a new revelation of the character and purpose of his unique self and true individuality.
How can astrology help men and women to gain such a revelation? It cannot be done by considering any one factor in the birth-chart of these individuals to the exclusion of other factors, for all the planets, cusps, nodes, parts, progressions and transits must somehow concur in the over-all answer to the one problem of problems. Nevertheless, there is in a birth-chart, calculated for the exact time and place of the first breath, a sector upon which one should focus one's attention in the solution of this problem. This part of the chart is the first house and the exact rising degree, the ascendant.
Meaning of the Ascendant
The ascendant is the east point of the horizon in any ordinary astrological chart. Because the Sun rises in the east, it is at the ascendant at dawn. The ascendant symbolizes, thus, the dawn point, the beginning of every new life cycle. It is in astrology the point at which a new impulse to live takes external and concrete form on earth. It is, therefore, at this point that this impulse is to be found in its original pure character, before it becomes colored or modified by the struggle to exteriorize itself definitely in the midst of earth conditions and often against the resistance of the past, which always seeks to tone down every new creative impulse.
If a person seeks to discover the nature of the basic type of energy which he can use, and should use, as he goes on living and acting, then he should look for the answer to his question to the Sun in his birth-chart. But energy is one thing; what we do with it, or what we should do with it, is another thing. It is valuable to know that one has the power to lead others, that one has great emotional vitality or a keen mentality or that one has a tendency to haste or anger; but what is far more important today, in our age of easily acquired psychological knowledge, is to know what we should use these powers for. It is to solve the many problems which constantly arise today as to what to do with what we have.
The solutions to these problems must be found in the natal houses of the chart and in the positions of the planets, nodes, and so on in these houses. The houses of which I now speak are not the so-called "solar houses" which refer only to the distances between planets — and the Sun; they are actual divisions of the space in which a person lives and acts, here on earth. This "living space" is determined astrologically by the natal horizon and meridian; these cannot be calculated unless one knows the moment of the first breath. I say the first breath, for this is the first moment of independent existence as an "I am", as a self which must gradually find by himself (even if with the help of others) his own solutions to the problems of his existence.
In the branch of astrology called "Horary Astrology", the ascendant of the horary chart is said to signify "the individuality of the matter in question." It establishes the problem being asked, as the individual asking it sees it and is able to formulate it.
It should be clear that birth into the world, as an individual having independent existence, is the origin of all subsequent problems! There is, thus, no question more fundamental than the questions: How am I to solve the problem of my existence as an independent and unique "I"? Why do I exist at all? It is to the ascendant and to the entire first house (and its contents) that we must look first for basic answers to these questions.
Everything that differentiates you from other persons has its source, astrologically speaking, at your true natal ascendant. There you find stated your uniqueness of being, the problem essential to the fact of being an individual ego, different from other egos; there also is the solution of this basic problem! Astrology actually shows us the solutions rather than the problems. Your birth-chart is "God's formula" for the solution of your problems; it is the Great Healer's prescription. By studying the solution, we can see what the problem is; but any positive use of astrology stresses solutions far more than problems. That is what you want to know, after all! You want to realize the real nature of your problems only insofar as this realization will lead to the knowledge of how they can be solved.
Thus, the zodiacal sign on the ascendant and (if you can be sure of its accuracy) the degree of this sign are the first things to study. This means that there are twelve most characteristic ways in which you can assert positively your "difference" from others. However, in defining the meaning of the twelve possible rising signs of the zodiac, one must adopt a somewhat different approach than when thinking of these zodiacal signs with reference to the positions of the natal Sun or planets. Again, let me stress the fact that planets deal with energy — with the different kinds of energy needed to be active as a living person.
The Ascendant (and all the houses in general) refer not to the nature of your energies as much as to the way you are using them and gaining experience by so doing. A natal house is a "field of experience"; as you experience life, you come gradually to know yourself. You know yourself through the twelve primary kinds of experience represented by the natal houses. In the first house, you should experience yourself as an ego, a relatively unique and different kind of self.
The Rising and Ruling Planet
Mars in the first house emphasizes the need for strong action as a means to experience one's true self. A planet in the first house indicates the type of energy which it is best to use in discovering and exteriorizing your individual self. The only point to remember, however, is that a rising planet may also show a tendency to overuse such an energy, to use it at the exclusion of all others. If this is done, it leads to an over-strong kind of ego and to capitalizing too much upon what makes you different from others.
For instance, if you have one planet rising in your natal first house, use it for all it is worth to you, but do not overuse it. Do not become altogether identified, as an ego, with it. If there are two or more planets rising, the problem is how not to become "split" in trying to become identified in your personal character partly with one and partly with the other. A problem of personal integration is shown for you to solve. It is easier, of course, if the two planets push you, as it were, in the same direction; but a man with Saturn and Neptune in the first house must watch lest he become pulled apart by opposite trends in his ego life.
If there is no planet in the First House, the whole emphasis is thrown upon the ascendant; we must consider not only the characteristics of the rising sign but also those of the planet which "rules" this sign — what the planet is, where it is placed in the birth-chart, how it is aspected by other planets and what position it occupies structurally within the entire "planetary pattern" (for instance, if it is a "singleton").
The planet "ruling" the sign at the ascendant is always theoretically the "ruling planet" of the chart; however, if a particularly emphasized planet is in the first house, this first-house planet becomes, as it were, an all-important "prime minister" to the theoretical "ruler". The ruler holds the realm of the ego together; the prime minister does the most effective external work!
In closing this brief study, I should say that, from the point of view presented here, the idea that the Sun symbolizes the real permanent "individuality" of a person and the ascendant his impermanent, fleeting "personality" does not apply, at least as usually understood.
The ascendant changes its position rapidly, and thus affected by the geographical latitude of birth. It refers to a particular person, in a particular situation, and to everything that makes that person more "particular", more formed and precise in what he is. As I see it, spirit works through particular persons and situations, through what is unique and new in them. The one task of a truly spiritual life is for a particular person to accomplish the particular task for which he was born, at a precise time and location on earth.
To be "spiritual" is to be able to bring to a clear and distinct focus the spirit, within and through oneself as an individual. The God-within is to be exteriorized, demonstrated, made actual. Every newborn has to do it, eventually and gradually. Every newborn has one particular function or task to perform, for which he was born. This is the focus of his "individuality", here and now — that which seeks to make him a spirit-oriented, creative, truly individual human being.
The Sun is not this individuality, but it is the power needed and made available to the individual in order that this individual may be able to fulfill his unique function. The Sun and planets represent power and the energy necessary for action; the power within the potential individuality — a newborn. The power is there for this newborn to become his true self, his unique self; but he does not have to use it! He can refuse to use it. He refuse to assume the responsibility of being an individual. He can follow "the easy way out" — the way of the average man, the man who is not distinct from others, whose true self does not stand out — a much easier way, indeed!
No astrologer can say positively and without fail whether a man will take this easy way; the decision rests mostly upon the person himself. Here is his sacred freedom. If he chooses to refuse to be an individual — in myriad of small decisions that total up to a big choice — then the indications found by studying the ascendant of his birth-chart will usually not work well or they will work in a negative manner. No one can tell if they will work.
The more they work, and in a positive or definite manner, the more the person will experience himself and probably will demonstrate himself to others (barring some very hard seventh-house obstruction) as an individual.
The danger of being too much of an individual lies in the tendency in many persons to stress "differences", whereas what should be emphasized is "distinctness". What matters is not of itself to be different from others, for this can lead to a sense of separation, isolation and complete ego-centricity. What counts, spiritually, is to be distinctly, precisely, in a clearly focused manner, what one essentially is. It is to be one's true self.