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A New Approach to the Zodiac.


Part Two
The Three Zodiacs and Their Interaction
by Dane Rudhyar

First Published
Horoscope Magazine
June 1962

In this series of two articles, unseen for almost fifty years, Rudhyar takes a fresh look at the Zodiac, with special emphasis on the Four Elements and the Three Modes.
ADDED 31 December 2007.

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A New Approach to the Zodiac.

Part Two

The Three Zodiacs and Their Interactions

The main ideas formulated in the first part of this study are as follows:

(1) The primordial and basic character of the zodiac is that of the seasonal cycle of the year, a cycle which refers to facts deeply affecting all existence and the actual experiences of all people. It was originally measured by the periodic changes in the settings of the Sun. The idea of using "constellations" as a means to map out more precisely and geometrically the movement of the Sun in the sky came, most likely, only as the great cultures of the past reached their intellectualistic and "classical" stage under the leadership of colleges of priests, mathematicians or astrologers working for the State.

(2) The zodiac refers to a fourfold process or rhythm of existence. Its four basic phases are symbolized by the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. Seen from the point of view of man's biological and natural existence, these phases correspond to the spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons, the beginnings of which we identify in the northern hemisphere as Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn (the names having to be reversed in the southern hemisphere if there is any logic in astrology).

(3) However, a human being is a complex being able to function at three levels of activity by focusing its attention and consciousness upon each of them, in turn or simultaneously. One can, therefore, speak of three zodiacs, each starting at the time of the year most conducive to the type of activity with which it correlates.

The element fire represents always the start of the fourfold process at each of the three levels. These refer to life, personality and mentality.

(4) These three processes constantly interact, and each of the phases of one process is anticipated or reflected by intermediary phases in the other processes. Existence is indeed one vast, complex process. Every human being participates in it according to the particular possibilities represented by his or her birth-chart and according to the timing and place of his or her activities at this or that level of existence.

Four Elements — Three Levels

"Life" is the root foundation of all existence; without a physical biological organism — a body — a human being cannot exist as an entity able to experience and, through experience, to raise his powers of attention and his desire to act to "higher" (i.e., more conscious) levels. We can analyze a body, dissect it and give names to all its parts; but this anatomical knowledge is quite meaningless unless we make it subservient to a comprehension of the immensely complex processes which go on, in total interdependence, within this physical organism.

It is quite erroneous, I believe, to think that astrology deals with anatomical structures. It deals primarily with processes, secondarily with zones of the body in which these processes operate. When astrologers say that certain parts of the body are "ruled" by certain zodiacal signs, they should have clearly in mind that these parts are selected mainly because of the fact that certain life processes either originate in or are more specifically focused in those parts. But the processes are not limited to these parts or organs; they affect as well, directly or indirectly, all other parts — and related functions at the two other levels of human activity.

What we call the element fire can perhaps best be represented in terms of normal human experiences as rhythm. We have spoken of it as the "animating principle"; but this is just what rhythm actually means. "In the beginning" is rhythm. The medieval alchemists who (following a very old tradition) spoke of God as "Fire" saw in fire a symbol of this great rhythm of destruction and rebirth, also dramatized in the story of the phoenix — the story of cyclic activity.

Aries is the symbol of "life" in its condition of fire; it is ever-renascent life, at the rhythm of which the materials left over at the destruction of the old cycle reorganize themselves. This rhythm is the "will of God," the creative power which ever makes things new. At the level of "personality," the element fire, as the sign Leo, is likewise the starting point of the psychic process which introduces a new kind of rhythm, the rhythm of "individuality," the "I am-this particular person, with exclusive use of this name and these prerogatives." At the level of the collective "mentality" of a group, culture or nation, Sagittarius, as fire, introduces the rhythm of great ideas which can move men and transform the course of history.

The element water is perhaps most simply represented by the process of assimilation. It reduces everything to a single — therefore, limited and concentrated — purpose, within a well-defined field of existence. In the "life" process, Cancer, water, relates to digestive activities and metabolism in general. The assimilation of available materials generates energy ready for use. At the level of "personality," water operates as Scorpio; at its most fundamental sense, the Scorpio activity seeks the assimilation of varied personality experiences through an intense feeling of "at-one-ment" with other persons — a feeling which not only sexual union, but as well various kinds of ritualistic group activities can best produce. At the level of the collective "mentality" of a society, the element water operates as Pisces, which represents at that level the memory and tradition of a group of people, the collectively conscious — and the building and defense of group values which result from the assimilation of group experiences.

The element air operates at the level of "life" at and after the fall equinox. What was rhythm, tone, driving energy at the spring equinox is now oriented toward the preservation of the typical character of the life organism in specific forms — indeed, in "seed forms." The keynote here is essentialization. What is essential is preserved in a condensed form, as a seed — or, in general, as whatever will insure one type or another of "immortality." At the level of "personality," the element air manifests as Aquarius. This refers to the effort in every individualized person to give a form to what is most essential in his or her experience. That becomes his or her great hope — i.e., the image of his existence as an individual which seeks to affect the consciousness of other individuals.

At the level of "mentality," the element air manifests as Gemini, for it is through the codification and precise intellectual formulation of its collective values and its tradition that a culture can both spread and preserve for future ages the quintessence of its experiences as a people.

With the element earth, we come to the principle of consolidation. "Earth," in this symbolical sense, is not an expression of materiality and heaviness; it is rather the manifestation of solidity and solidarity — thus, cohesiveness or even coherency. It produces the sense of belonging together and naturally also the kind of character which has the ability to make use of the power generated by this state of cohesion — thus, the executive, the politician, the statesman.

At the level of "life," the earth factor refers to that stage in the seasonal cycle when all that has proven essential reaches a wintry stage of final condensation and also clarification (Capricorn). Basic issues appear clearly when all non-essentials have been absorbed in autumnal decay or frozen by winter's cold. Then also is revealed what is the fundamental need of the new cycle. The answer to that need manifests through a cosmic type of polarization. A "mutation" may appear within the seed; God may incarnate to alter man's response to the energies of life.

At the level of "personality," the earth element is expressed in Taurus. In that sign, we may see the consolidation of personality in a spiritual brotherhood or in a creative group effort through which human evolution is accelerated. Taurus is consecrated in Asia to the Buddha, founder of the first universal brotherhood of individuals of all races, creeds and castes. Taurus, the month of May, shows the sap raised from the roots into the flower, a consecrated place for the symbolical "marriage of heaven and earth"; and a consecrated brotherhood is the "flower" of a race.

At the level of the collective "mentality," earth is Virgo; and Virgo is symbolically the pathway from the Sphinx (half lion and half Virgin) to the Pyramid as a place of initiation (Libra). Along this path of trials and tests, the Gemini formulations and the intellect's processes are assayed; and what emerges victorious is utterly solid, logical, impervious to criticism.

The Secondary Interactions (the Modes)

According to the traditional practice of astrology in the West, the twelve zodiacal signs are divided not only in terms of the four elements which we have reinterpreted above, but also in terms of three categories: cardinal, fixed and mutable signs. These categories refer to the fourfold sequence of the basic phases of the three zodiacs just discussed. That is to say, the life zodiac is basically structured by cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn); the personality zodiac, by fixed signs (Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius, Taurus); the mentality zodiac, by mutable signs (Sagittarius, Pisces, Gemini, Virgo).

What we call "life" is primarily activity; it is a constant straightforward release of energy scattering itself with immense prodigality — and this is usually the character attributed to cardinal signs. On the other hand, "personality" is based on what we might call a circular motion. To say "I" is figuratively to surround the field of one's psychosomatic existence with a circle. "I" exists only within such a circle which fixes the identity of the contents inside of the circumference. As to what we called "collective mentality," this has the essential characteristic of expanding through lives and changes — i.e., through successive fashions or styles of thinking-feeling, a spiral motion. The mutable signs of the zodiac structure such a zodiac.

A zodiac, however, is not reduced to its four fundamental phases. These represent the dynamic framework, not the total process. Each of the three zodiacs contributes to the other two (theoretically) in a infinitely complex series of interactions. We usually speak only of twelve signs; but each sign contains three decanates, and many other modes of subdivisions are possible. If the twelvefold division is basic, it is because it integrates the fourfold structures of the three zodiacs and, thus, establishes the foundation of man's total existential situation in its simplest form.

One may state this differently by saying that each sign is potentially a field of human activity at three levels. Take, for instance, the sign Gemini. It represents most significantly the third primary phase of the "mentality zodiac" which begins with Sagittarius — that is to say, it represents in this zodiac what Libra signifies in the seasonal cycle of the year (i.e., the life zodiac). In Gemini, thus, the human mind essentializes its experiences and its discoveries, releasing these little seeds of mentality which we call intellectual concepts.

If we place ourselves in the life zodiac at the end of spring (what we call May-June in the northern hemisphere), the Sun is then passing through the sign Gemini, which every student of astrology knows to be related to the development of the intellectual faculties, the linking of sensations and memory pictures into concrete ideas. But this process of intellectual development in the human organism (via the brain and the nervous system's myriads of connecting links) is based upon the collective mentality of the society in which this human organism is born and educated. Indeed, one may well think that there is in fact only one human mind to which individual persons resonate according to their personal means of communication (one might say, their organic "radio"). Individuals not only resonate to this evolving all-human mentality; they also contribute to its evolution to the degree in which they are able to operate in terms of the "mentality-zodiac" field of activity.

The sign Gemini has its place also in the personality zodiac. There it follows Taurus, which is the fourth primary phase of that zodiac. In Taurus, personality reaches its culmination — that is. it reaches it at the level of the "I-am" consciousness. This culmination is also its transfiguration. Man, the individual person, becomes fully awake — thus, literally, a "buddha" (which means, the Awake, the Illumined). As it becomes fully awake, the limitations and the ignorance of the ego are cast aside and the reality of the true self is revealed — the one self of humanity.

This great experience of transfiguration and illumination seeks expression and communication. This supreme flowering of an individual (and we know what the symbol of the flower means to Buddhism, particularly in Zen) includes the potentiality of spiritual seeds which are protected and integrated by the hard shell of a "doctrine." The sign Gemini, thus, represents the doctrine in which is prolonged and through which is communicated the great experience. This doctrine leads to the establishment, in Cancer, of its "home" in the hearts of living human beings to whom it brings stability and security — to the extent to which they have "assimilated" it.

Seen from the point of view of the mentality zodiac, the sign Cancer waters, as it were, the Gemini seed of mind and the sign Leo warms their growth, before the fourth primary phase of this mentality zodiac begins with Virgo, in which every mental growth is tested and from which it emerges as an irreducible factor in the evolution of the one mind of humanity.

Space does not permit a fuller development of the ideas presented in this far-too-condensed study; but what has been said may suffice to stimulate the reader and make him seek to gain the experience (or the "feel") of the zodiac as a complex process operating at three levels and of every sign of the zodiac as a vast vortex of forces and potentialities. The most important thing for the modern astrologer is not to predict events — predictions which at best can be only part of the time accurate and which can do serious psychological harm. It is to understand what is "behind" events, the character of the forces at play at any time and the meaning of the results of their cyclic interactions.

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