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Progressions in Astrology - II. Converse Progression and the New Moon Before Birth by Dane Rudhyar.


Converse Progressions
and the New Moon Before Birth

by Dane Rudhyar

First Published
Horoscope Magazine
September 1965

In this two-part article Rudhyar clearly explains the theory and practice of progressions in astrology.

Start with Part One, The Meaning and Use of Progressions in Astrology, then read Part Two, Converse Progressions and the New Moon Before Birth.
ADDED 14 November 2004.

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Progressions in Astrology - II. Converse Progression and the New Moon Before Birth by Dane Rudhyar.

Part Two
Converse Progessions
and the New Moon Before Birth

As I have shown in Part One, "The Meaning and Use of Astrological Progressions", the real and existential meaning of what astrologers call progressions (or, at times, secondary progressions) derives from the fact that the normal period of gestation of a human organism is nine months, while the cycle of the year lasts twelve months. The year in the ordinary type of geocentric astrology is a "solar" factor, and the Sun is the source of all the basic energies that circulate throughout the solar system and which make possible life on earth. A child is a living organism. This organism originates in the union of male and female genital cells within the mother's womb. The fecundated ovum multiplies itself through a process of successive division. Each resulting new cell — and there are many billions of them in the newborn child — carries at its core what has been called a "genetic code" which directs its particular function in the child's body.

Each human embryo as it develops within the womb is said to recapitulate very briefly the series of biological evolutionary developments of life forms in the "biosphere" — i.e., within the very narrow space extending above and below the planet's surface. Once the embryo has become truly "human," it can be assumed that in a less obvious and perhaps unrecognizable manner it passes through the stages which led human races to the level of a biological development characterizing present day humanity.

A human embryo is not "viable" until it reaches about the beginning of the seventh month of gestation. Then the embryo is completely "human," and there are many cases of premature births at such a time. If the prematurely born baby survives, it is thanks to extreme and in a sense artificial care — that is, he survives because human beings have developed collectively a culture and especially a science which enables them to complete what "life" (in the biological and planetary sense) has left incomplete and condemned to extinction.

If the embryo reaching its seventh month of gestation has become potentially "human", it normally takes three months more for it to complete the expected stages of a development which will make him potentially an "individual" — that is, a human organism ready to perform its role in a human society as a would-be individual person endowed with intelligence and with the capacity to make at least relatively free choices in answer to the challenges of his environment.

This capacity to operate among his fellow men as an individual person is only potential at birth; and I have shown how the development of this power which I define as intelligence is, as it were, "programmed" (or set in its basic pattern of operation) during the three months following birth. Three months represent about 90 or 91 days; in the astrological technique of the "progressions," each of these days is made to correspond to one year of the actual life of the individual. Progressions, thus, refer to the development of this "intelligence" which I have defined as the power enabling a person to act as a free and responsible individual as he faces the infinitely complex relationships, challenges, and opportunities of everyday life.

If this be true, what then could be said actually to happen to the human child-to-be during the three months preceding birth — the seventh, eighth, and ninth months of gestation? If we know the basic meaning of these three last months of intrauterine existence, can we deduce from this an applicable type of astrological knowledge?

Converse Progressions
The idea occurred to astrologers that one might find it significant to "progress backward" a birth-chart. Just as in the usual type of progressions one day after birth gives basic clues to the development of the individual person one year after his birth, so in "converse progressions," one day before birth is said to give valid indications to what will happen to the person also when one year old. The two procedures are symmetrical; and whether one moves ahead, let us say, ten days in the ephemeris or one moves backward ten days in the ephemeris, one obtains in both cases some basic information relating to the person's life when he is ten years old.

The people who use both methods unfortunately do not differentiate clearly — or at all — between the two types of information obtained, on the one hand, by direct progressions (based on the actual motions of the planets after birth) and, on the other, by "converse" progressions. Yet, obviously, if ordinary progressions are already symbolical in character, the converse progressions are even far more so. What could be actual in the correlation between the positions of planets ten days before you are born and what you will experience at the age of ten? If converse progressions "work" — and they often do — they work as symbols; but as symbols of what? If astrology has any logical foundation, these converse progressions obtained by reading the ephemeris backward from the birth moment cannot refer to the same type of conditions, experiences, or phases of personal development as the ordinary progressions based on the forward movement of the planets.

Many people have had the experience that what they were living through was actually, though in some undefinable manner, the consequence of antecedent causes — i.e., of events of long ago. One may interpret such a strange feeling by accepting the hypothesis of "reincarnation." This concept of reincarnation can be understood in several ways; but, in any case, we can well say that our present is at least partially conditioned by the past — by the past of our parents, by the ancestral traditions and prejudices which have been stamped upon our receptive mind in early childhood, and by the evolutionary past of mankind.

Most devout Christians believe that man is born with an innately perverted nature as a result of the "Original Sin" in Eden. Is not this an instance of the manner in which an immensely distant event can condition a man's psychic development? I have known personally several persons for whom the realization of the assumed fact that his or her nature had been inherently perverted by the sin of Adam and Eve brought out in adolescence or midlife a real psychological crisis — and, in one instance, a passionate conversion to Catholicism of the most rigid type. Of course, the whole Christian culture — especially during the Middle Ages, but also later on in the case of great minds like the French scientist-philosopher Pascal — has been conditioned by this poignant belief in what they considered to have been a fact of past history.

I knew a wonderful female painter whose life had been tragically overshadowed by a scandal in the life of a revered and famous grandfather she had hardly ever met. We are indeed affected most directly and internally by basic occurrences antedating our birth as an individual person. Carl Jung refers to this when he speaks of the great power of "Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious." The famous French philosopher of the early-19th century, Auguste Comte, made the statement that, "Humanity includes as effective presences many more of the dead than of the living."

The Weight of the Past
In the light of such observations, let us now consider what occurs during the last three months of the normal gestation period. The child-to-be prepares himself for a life as an individual person in direct relation — i.e., without a maternal intermediary — with other people and with the universe as a whole. This process has to operate, as it were, through the past of humanity, of his particular race, culture, and family. I might say that we reach a new condition of individual existence only by passing through and overcoming our ancestors — and especially our parents. Moreover, if we believe in the cyclic re-embodiment of a spiritual Principle (or "Soul"), then we will have to realize that we inherit the karma of those persons who were our predecessors, somewhat as a U.S. president inherits the consequences of the successes or failures of the preceding administrations.

If a man born in 1921 had to face a crisis in his life at the age of 20 after Pearl Harbor, was it not largely because a small group of senators defeated, even before he was born, Wilson's attempts at building a strong and effective League of Nations? So the young man engaged in the Pacific War and was maimed; his whole life was altered. Perhaps the event would show up astrologically as a "converse progression" for the 21st year of his life. There was nothing much he could do about it, most probably. It was truly "fate." He had to bear the collective karma of his nation — and possibly a more individual karma referring to the lives of past personalities of whom he was the spiritual heir. As I see it — and I cannot find any other logical and significant justification for "converse progressions" — going backward in the ephemeris from the day and hour of birth means to uncover ever deeper strata of the collective unconscious which has preconditioned our personality and its innate tendencies. It is like digging a deep well and bringing back to the light of consciousness the fossilized remains of a past antedating our birth. It reveals what we had to pierce through in our ascent toward a new potentiality of individual existence — i.e., toward the birth of our present personality. We had to do it within the dark unconsciousness of the prenatal state during the last 90 days (more or less) of the gestation process which ended with the victory of birth.

Freud and his disciples relished the idea of a "birth trauma"; but since the brilliant insights of the great pioneer, Dr. Moreno, founder of the Psychodrama techniques, repolarized the concept of birth some 30 years ago, we should realize that birth is a victory over the pressure of the ghosts of the human past. Our birth-chart reveals the pattern of this victory. But no victory is won only once and for all time. As we grow stronger, year after year, we also are faced by ever deeper layers of the past. Symbolically speaking, as the tree rises toward the sun, it also sends its tap root ever deeper down.

As we grow older, our "intelligence" (as I have defined the term) should develop and enable us to meet — or, shall I say, to "redeem" — ever deeper layers of our ancient ancestral past. The life movement of personal growth to which all progressions refer is, therefore, operating at the same time in two opposite directions — the direction represented by the actual motions of the planets during the days after our birth (the usual progressions) and the other complementary and regressive motion toward the past represented by the converse progressions.

I believe it is wise to consider only the most important of the converse progressions — particularly perhaps the times at which planets, especially Mercury, may change the direction of their motion (i.e., from direct to retrograde, or vice versa), the times at which New and Full Moons occurred during these three months preceding birth. The last New Moon preceding birth is particularly significant; but before I speak of it, let me state that, as with direct progressions, one can consider "progressed-to-progressed" aspects (the New Moon before birth is the most important of those) and also "progressed-to-natal" aspects. In the latter case, one relates the position of a planet some days before birth to the position of another planet in the birth-chart. If one looks for events, progressed-to-natal aspects are the more likely indications of actual occurrences; but, usually, they should be backed by other normal progressions and/or transits to refer to actual occurrences.

The main point, when dealing with converse progressions, is that events which they may indicate are far more "fated" than those which the ordinary forward-in-time type of progressions represent. Every astrological technique referring to a motion backward in the zodiac implies the element of fate; by "fate," I mean that power which compels us to deal with some "unfinished business," something done inadequately or wrongly, or something left undone — thus, what theologians call sins of omission as well as of commission.

This general principle applies even to the retrograde periods of planets, especially of the planets close to the earth — Mars, Venus, and Mercury. During such retrograde periods, we are, as it were, given the opportunity of reconsidering the value and meaning of what we have done, felt, and thought in the past; and this means, positively speaking, the opportunity of becoming stronger, more careful, and wiser as we meet our future challenges. Of course, very often we do not use such an opportunity constructively; and, when the planet "turns direct" at the end of its retrograde period, we precipitately return to our old habits, often with even worse results.

This is clearly seen where Mars is concerned. After this planet ends its retrograde period and turns direct once more, warlike or explosive actions very often occur. As I am writing these words — in late April, 1965 — Mars has just become direct and the war atmosphere in the world is getting stronger, even explosive in Vietnam and the Caribbean. Under a "fortunate" trine aspect of the Sun to Mars, a strong earthquake rocked Seattle — a release of telluric forces. The end of it is not in sight on this last day of April.

The New Moon before Birth
At New Moon, symbolically speaking, the power of the Sun fecundates the feminine and receptive Moon. The Moon is closely related to the biosphere of our planet — that is, to the surface of the earth where living entities are born, grow, and decay. It is the "Great Mother" of all that lives on our planet. Each New Moon represents a new life impulse; and this impulse or surge of life energies has a particular quality or rhythm somewhat different from other life impulses. Its character is symbolized by the degree and sign of the zodiac on which the New Moon occurs.

Unless a person is born precisely at the moment of a New Moon, he took his first breath a certain number of days after a New Moon — that is, he was born within a "lunation cycle," the duration of which is about 30 days. He may have been born while the Moon appeared in the sky as a thin crescent, near a Full Moon, or some time between the last Quarter and the next New Moon. The angular aspect between the Moon and the Sun in his birth-chart determines the phase of the soli-lunar relationship at which he was born — what I have called the luntion birthday — provided one differentiates waxing from waning aspects (for instance, a First Quarter from a Last Quarter aspect, both phases constituting square aspects of the Moon to the Sun).

The point with which we have to deal here is, however, simply that because a person is born inside of a lunation cycle and because the New Moon beginning this cycle stamped, as it were, the entire cycle with its astrological character, this New Moon before his birth is of great significance for the person; it indicates in some manner the particular nature and quality of the basic life force vitalizing his entire organism. Every human being could be said to drink of the stream of life of which the New Moon before his birth was the source. The quality of this "water" circulating through and sustaining his body (and, as well, his psyche) has much to do with the nature of this human being's growth, especially during the formative years of his life. It is, therefore, quite valuable indeed for anyone to study the pattern of the solar system at the time of his New Moon before birth and to relate it to the birth-chart. It is particularly important to see whether the New Moon before birth occurred in the same sign as your natal Sun or in the preceding one.

In the case of the famous astrologer Evangeline Adams (February 8, 1868), birth occurred just past Full Moon, with the Sun at 1907' Aquarius. The New Moon before her birth took place on January 24 at 408' Aquarius, in conjunction with Mercury and in close sextile to Saturn in Sagittarius and in her natal ninth house. This New Moon before birth refers to the background of this eminent woman and to the excellent mental capacities she inherited, either from her ancestors or from a "previous existence." It represents the root forces at work in her personality. The emphasis on Aquarius was very strong in her life and character. Abraham Lincoln also had his natal Sun in Aquarius, on the 24th degree; but as his natal Moon was close behind at 27 Capricorn — making of him what I called a "Balsamic Moon Type," his New Moon before birth occurred at 2535' Capricorn, just past a conjunction with Mercury. This might suggest that in some past, "he" had already been concerned with political issues.

The well-known writer and indefatigable critic of social evils, Upton Sinclair, was born with the Sun at 2727' Virgo and four more planets in Virgo. His natal Moon was in Cancer; but his New Moon before birth occurred at 447' Virgo, past a conjunction with Uranus and going toward a conjunction with Mars and Mercury. The natal Virgo emphasis was, thus, completely sustained by his past.

In my case, while my natal Sun is at 2 Aries and my natal Moon on the 25th degree of Aquarius, my New Moon before birth occurred at 551' Pisces, very close to a retrograde Mercury and in sextile to Saturn retrograde. It occurred, according to the converse progressions technique, when I was about 26, at a most important turning point in my life — among other things, just at the time I began to study astrology in Hollywood. The conjunction of converse Mercury and converse Sun had occurred a year or so before, when I reached California. Conjunctions of the progressed Mercury and Sun are always important (whether "direct" or "converse"), for at those times Mercury changes from being morning star to being evening star, or vice versa. My 26th and 27th years established the foundations for the development of my mature mind; until then, I had been only gradually emerging from the background of my European culture and my French ancestors.

As a lunation cycle lasts about 30 days, a "progressed lunation cycle" lasts 30 years. Going backward in the ephemeris, I find that the preceding New Moon occurred at 543' Aquarius, square an opposition of Saturn to Mars. This second New Moon before birth corresponded to age 56, another significant turning point in the midst of serious financial problems. It fell in the second house of my natal chart. The exact square of converse Sun to converse Saturn had occurred less than two years before and had begun the process which took a more decisive turn at the converse New Moon. Not too much occurred in terms of direct progressions at the time, but some transits were rather strenuous. As it turned out, the life process then had a strong karmic significance, in an at least a superficially negative sense.

On the other hand, the first New Moon before my birth occurred at a time when my normally progressed Sun was making the best possible aspects of my lifespan: a sextile to natal Venus, a trine to natal Jupiter, a trine to progressed Mars conjunct my natal Jupiter. The progressed Moon was vitalizing the entire configuration from Aquarius. Karma was then operating in the most positive sense of the term — as the fruition of "past" service and spiritual endeavors.

I need hardly add, in closing, that this converse progressions technique should be used with great care and with wise understanding. Its results have to be carefully balanced with the other type of progressions and with the transits. A man's individual existence is a very complex process. The achievements-yet-to-be attract, as well as the past pulls, us to what had been. The present is the ever-shifting balance sheet. The tree as it grows reaches both upward with its trunk and downward with its roots — a great symbol of the life of an individual in whom faith and aspiration ever blend with fearlessness and the quiet will to fulfill human destiny.

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill.
Copyright © 1965 by Dane Rudhyar.
All Rights Reserved.

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