On the gate of the most famous sanctuary known to ancient Greece, are words which, translated, mean: Know Thyself! This was the great request of a civilization for which self-knowledge, reason, order, proportion and beauty were supreme ideals. To know oneself is, if the knowing goes deep and far enough, to realize clearly and objectively, without illusion or confusion, what one is; but it should also be to realize, to the best of one's ability, what one is for. It is to sense, however dimly and uncertainly it may be at first, the purpose of one's existence.
I look at a chair; I can describe it and analyze all its parts and the way they fit with each other. I know then the structure of the chair; yet the purpose of the chair may escape me entirely. If I were a thinking bird able to describe a chair on a sun porch, still I would not know what the chair is for, even after perching on it and investigating it in a birdlike manner. If I have never seen or heard of an airplane, I can describe minutely a propeller which I find lying on the ground, yet never realize the purpose for which it was given its particular structure. The purpose of the object becomes clear to me only as I discover how this object relates itself to other objects within some larger construction — and particularly how it acts when it fits dynamically within the activity of an established group or community of related objects.
I can hold an acorn in the palm of my hand; but analyzing its form and what it is made of will not reveal to me its purpose unless I am aware of the relationship of this acorn to the oak tree on which it grew and to the whole species of trees to which it belongs, as a seed. The acorn's purpose can be defined satisfactorily only in terms of the oak species of trees; its function is to serve the purpose of the species; that is, to insure the species perpetuation and, if possible, expansion.
The purpose of the airplane propeller, likewise, is revealed when I see the plane ready for flight and the engine is started; then all that I have found out about the propeller's structure suddenly becomes invested with a purpose. What was before to me, having never heard of an airplane, a strangely shaped object is seen now as the performer of a significant function within the larger whole, which the entire plane is then revealed to be.
The purpose of an object or entity is, therefore, known only (1) when this object is seen related to other objects and (2) when it is seen in action within a complex process of activity in which other objects are also operating. The liver of a man is only a mass of strange red-brown substance until we know where it fits in the body of the man and how this liver functions within the complete process of metabolism (food digestion, etc.). Then the purpose of the liver is demonstrated.
The same thing applies to the individual person, though with some important differences. We may study a person and know what he is made of, as the expression goes; but this knowledge remains static, dead as it were, unless we see the man act in relation with other people and in relation to the group, the community or the nation of which he is an active member. Truly, the purpose of the one's existence is inherent or implied in what the person is (the structure and character of his body, mind and soul); but this purpose is revealed or demonstrated only as this person begins to operate as a functional unit with-in his community.
Know thyself — this is the logical first step. But this first step remains barren of real results unless a second request is obeyed: act out thyself in relation to other selves and within a larger hole of human activity (group, town, nation, humanity, as the case may be). In astrology, the first step refers to the first house of the natal chart (calculated for the exact moment of the first breath); while the second step is symbolized by the seventh house, the house opposite the first.
The Seventh House
The seventh house represents, therefore, essentially the field of experience in which the individual, by being able to act in relationship to other individuals and in terms of some larger process of human activity, reveals and demonstrates to himself as well as to others — the essential purpose of his or her existence.
This statement is fundamental; all other meanings attributed to the seventh house are derived from it are secondary and often superficial. But we have to examine carefully what the term relationship signifies here; we have to be equally careful not to forget that relationship in action is meant and, what is more, a relationship which is referred to the over-all activity of a larger whole or organized system. Relationship, in this basic seventh-house sense, is functional relationship; it is a more or less integrated part of some vast progress in which many individuals cooperate.
Cooperation, however, can have a destructive as well as a constructive meaning when understood in this general way. Thus, in astrology, the seventh house refers to divorce as well as to marriage, to war as well as to contracts of partnership, to effective hate as well as to productive love. In every organism, there are cell destroying processes (catabolic) as well as cell building activities (anabolic); both are functional and integral parts of the life process.
If nations, when faced by the historical and economic necessity to cooperate and to pool their resources in peace refuse to do so because they are bound to old patterns of nationalistic selfishness or greed, this refusal compels cooperation to turn negative and to become war. The blood of enemies mixes in the soil of battlefield because the blood of lovers could not mix in the joint progeny of two people bent on sharing and on building up a vaster human community.
Relationship, in the seventh house, is functional relationship. It is relationship acted out for a purpose which includes, and in a sense transcends, the purpose of individuals in the relationship. It is with reference to this larger purpose that the smaller individual purposes acquire their full and truly significant meaning. However, the individuals may not be aware and still less clearly conscious of this larger purpose. They may obey it instinctively, as in the mating activities; or they may struggle toward the fulfillment of it against emotional and mental resistances of all kinds, as in the case of establishing a religious community on a new basis or a federation of nations.
All experiences dealing with mating belong to the field of the seventh house, provided mating serves the purpose of life and of the animal or human species. In the vegetable or animal organism, this service of the individual organisms to the species to which they belong is entirely unconscious and compulsive. In humans, however, the mating instinct becomes more or less conscious and can be controlled (or frustrated in various ways). Then it becomes love. As a result, a new situation develops; what belonged entirely to the seventh house's field now has to be referred at times to other houses, particularly the fifth house.
Traditional astrology refers all love affairs and all emotional activities which fall into the category of self-expression, whereas the seventh house is the field of marriage and conjugal living. What differentiates the two categories of experience is whether or not the relationship between two individuals is functional. It can be functional in terms of either the propagation of the human species or the work of a social community (the production of social-cultural values). On the other hand, the purpose of the relationship can be that of providing emotional release, excitement or pleasure to two persons (or perhaps even only one of the two).
The typical love affair has no purpose except to allow a man and a woman to express themselves emotionally and physically. In some cases, children are not wanted — and the normal biological and reproductive function of the union is frustrated. If there is no deliberate frustration, then the love affair is a gamble or risk-taking adventure — in this, a characteristic fifth house experience.
Even if marriage does not fulfill or intend to fulfill the purpose of reproduction, the marriage partners are, nevertheless, recognized parts of their community; the lack of children may release other energies (intellectual, artistic, religious, educational, etc.) which fulfill definite functions in the cultural-social life of the community.
If a love affair stimulates — and is meant to stimulate — the cultural creative activity of the participants, it begins to operate as a seventh house function. The relationship is productive and functional in terms of society or of the human race. The fact that it may be only temporary is of relative unimportance, especially in our days of frequent divorce. More significant, but not always to be considered a decisive factor in the classification, is whether society officially recognizes and accepts the relationship, as it does in marriage. What is really crucial is whether or not the couple recognizes that their relationship, legalized or not, serves a purpose in a larger social, cultural or spiritual process.
This distinction had to be emphasized because it has a basic importance in all problems born of human relationships. Fifth house problems are problems in self-expression. You act out what you are as an individual; in so doing, you should seek not to harm other people — and yourself also! You release what you feel is your purpose or your way of doing things. You let go of your emotions; you should try to do so as an integrated, harmonious personality, rather than in hasty and violent reaction to some emotional irritant. But at this fifth-house level you are the actor, the star; the world seems to you to be your stage. Nevertheless, what you feel to be yourself may not be at all your true self!
How can you find out what is your true self and the real purpose of your existence? This can be done only by acting on the basis of a more or less permanent relationship to a particular person or group and for the deliberate fulfillment of a superpersonal, communal social or universal purpose. This means accepting the responsibility of performing, a function within the field of activity of a larger organism, a community. The community, maybe your family, social group, town, humanity as a whole; but it must be a community which you can know and experience fairly well. The function which you select should be one which you can understand and effectively discharge.
You may soon realize that you made a mistake. The function and the community which attracted you at first may prove alien to your deeper nature. Then, by contrast and through your experience of frustration and hostility, and finally by passing through a crisis of separation, divorce, repudiation, surrender and perhaps emptiness and isolation, you will come to discover what your true function is.
This discovery can be very gradual. Many attempts and many crises may be required before the essential potentialities of your own individual selfhood may become concretely actualized and clear to you, as well as to others. But however long and tedious (or tragic!) the process, it is only through such a process that what you are can be proven by the one irrefutable proof: the proof of work. "By your fruits, you shall be judged."
The creative characteristics of individual selfhood can become demonstrated in the test tube of human relationship only. No individual can be sure of his own life purpose, and he cannot truly convince any group of persons of the validity of his vocation or God-given destiny until he has met successfully the test of relationship — unless he has proven himself able to perform his function as a needed and significant phase (however humble) of the complex pattern of activity of some kind of community, be it a very small village or a great nation.
Role of the Seventh House
If we look at the matter astrologically, we should see, however, that the performance by an individual of his or her social-cultural function takes place in the field of the tenth house: the field of professional activity, of public prestige and achievement. It is in the tenth house that the purpose of the individual's existence in relationship to his family, his society, his civilization is truly and actually fulfilled; but this fulfillment depends upon what has happened in the seventh-house field of experience.
The seventh house is the foundation; it is the testing ground. To solve the basic seventh-house problems, to emerge victorious from the tests, the loves and conflicts of relationship, to orient oneself successfully toward the goal of conscious, effective and needed participation in the work of the world: these are the steppingstones to the consummation of one's individual selfhood and one's true vocation.
The key to the solution of the problem which human relationship poses is participation. Relationships should be entered into and fulfilled as a foundation for a wholehearted, profound and vital sense of participation in some kind of community. A human relationship is great in proportion as it produces, bears fruit, the effective, significant and creative participation of the partners in the work of the world, at one level or another. A relationship between two or more individuals which produces no worthwhile participation of these individuals — or, at least, of one or more among them — in the activities of the community or the growth of civilization is an essentially meaningless relationship.
Ask yourself, therefore, as you enter into some new partnership of any kind: Am I — are we — willing and ready to aim this partnership toward the achievement of a more sound, intense and productive (or transforming) contribution to our society? If you are not willing, or if you are afraid, to face this question, then the relationship will tend to be barren. It may provide you and the other (or others) with temporary satisfaction or excitement; but it will most likely lead to an increasing number of problems or to an unproductive self-enjoyment in each other, devoid of any feeling of responsibility and leading to a slow form of spiritual crystallization or regression.
The moralist and the psychologist stress greatly the idea that you must not be selfish in any partnership; you should give of yourself to the other, love and understand him. This is right, of course; but it is just as essential to see to it that the relationship itself be not selfish and isolationistic. The character of the relationship; as a social entity, counts as much, as the love of the partners for each other. The husband and wife are responsible for what their marriage will be and what it will produce and create. It is not only a question of sharing between two persons, but of the participation of the couple, as a unit, in the activities of their community. What will they both bring to the world as a result of their relationship? This is the problem. Here again astrology can help us to orient ourselves more effectively and harmoniously to this problem.
This orientation is suggested to you by the character of the seventh house of your natal chart, by the zodiacal sign on its cusp, the planet ruling this sign and any planet which is located in the seventh house.
The first thing to realize here is that the zodiacal sign at the cusp of the seventh house — at the descendant — is always the opposite of the sign at the cusp of the first house or ascendant. When, therefore, we describe the meaning of the rising sign (ascendant), our description must include characteristics of individual temperament which would fit the fact that the opposite sign is at the descendant.
One could take every one of the twelve possible combinations of zodiacal ascendants and descendants and characterize them in an attempt to correlate the indications produced by the presence of opposite zodiacal signs at both ends of the natal horizon. The point which I have sought to stress here, however, is that these two ends of the horizontal axis of the natal chart operate inevitably in relation to each other and that the problems indicated by the nature of the ascendant can never be really solved except by taking into consideration the nature of the descendant.
Selfhood and relationships are the two poles of one single fact; we are born on the surface of the Earth teeming with other lives. Birth demands of us that we come to know ourselves, what we are. But it calls upon us also to seek to discover the why of our existence; this discovery can never come to us fully except through human relationships. It may mean the experience of love or that of enmity and hatred; nearly always, it must mean both, in varying degrees. But be it love or hatred, association or war, there must be relationship.
Yet relationship cannot be an end in itself; socialization cannot be an absolute ideal for human beings — no more than individuality and spiritual isolation can be goals endowed with an absolute value. Reality, growth, evolution, spiritual peace and divine harmony can only be found in the dynamic interplay of the self (seeking to discover its highest and purest truth of being) and of the experience of relationship — through which the self can demonstrate the validity and reality of this truth of self.
The most godlike individual is, therefore, he who loves most, he whose field of relationship includes the most, he whose experience of relationship is the most vivid and the most productive.