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To Establish a Clear Procedure of Work

Having understood the nature and purpose of astrology (first step) and having accepted in advance the responsibility to the client which is inseparable from the wise use of whatever knowledge of the astrological symbols and techniques is to be gained (second step), the would-be astrologer is now ready to take the third step. He (or she) must learn how to establish a clear procedure of work, how to follow a thorough and reliable sequence of operations which will provide him with the necessary data upon which he can base his psychological interpretations. And first of all, the astrologer must grasp fully the real nature of the tools he is going to use; for every type of activity is always based on and conditioned by tools, natural or man-made. To act without giving the fullest possible consideration to these tools can only lead to practical inefficiency and mental confusion.

The Astrological Chart as a Symbolical Picture
The first procedure in astrology is always to "erect" or "cast" a chart. An astrological chart can be understood as a kind of chemical formula in which planets and the like represent the simple and basic "elements" which, in their varied combinations, are the subject-matter of the "chemistry" of personality. When thus understood, the chart should make plain to us how every individual, however complex and differentiated in his temperament and behavior, constitutes actually but a special way of combining factors common to all human beings. The astrological chart is however more than a formula, more than a "map." It is not something merely to be studied with a coldly analytical intellect. It is something to be felt.
      It should be felt as a living symbol of the whole universe seen from a particular place, at a particular time. It is the symbolical representation of one of the most basic human experiences; the experience of the sky, the experience of infinity and order. It is the "Signature" of the Creator, the "musical score" of the universal Harmony which, underneath all storms, all fears and all tumultuous victories, is peace and grandeur. The trained musician looks at the musical score, and he hears the tones, with all their moving quality. Likewise, for the trained astrologer, a birth-chart should "evoke" the living person; and indeed planets and signs of the zodiac should be seen as actors in a cosmic scene as significant as the religious scenes depicted in countless Crucifixions or Nativities which stir the emotions of the faithful and are symbolical food for the intuition of the wise. The astrological chart is a symbolical picture of a cosmic reality. It should speak to the imagination as much as to the intellect. It should become alive.

The Birth-Moment and its Meaning
Every astrological chart is a birth-chart. Astrology has been rightly called 'the science of all beginnings" (Marc Jones), because it is based primarily on the study of the seed-structure of the potentialities of life and of growth made manifest in the first moment of any cycle of organic activity. The seed is the meeting place of past and future; in it, a cycle comes to its end, and from it, a new cycle emerges. But astrology deals mainly with that aspect of the seed in which the structure of the future organism is revealed as a new and relatively unique set of life-potentialities.
      The moment in which the first cry occurs is the significant moment for the erection of a person's chart (horoscope) because it marks the beginning of relatively independent existence — and there can be no really new and original set of life-potentialities as long as there is not at least the rudiment of organic independence and expression. The first cry is the first act of integral organic expression, because it is the response — of the entire organism to the inrushing air. This inhaled air carries with it the "signature" of the entire past of the universe; but, as the newborn baby releases his first cry, he expresses his original response to the universe. He begins to create his future. This response should normally become increasingly individual — a new contribution to life — as the child grows and comes of age; as this occurs, what was at birth only a set of potentialities becomes gradually the concrete actuality of the individual's conscious behavior and character.
      The prenatal stage of organic life is only the summation of the past of the race in anticipation of the time when a present moment, which brings with it the power to begin life (viability), will open the way to the gradual revelation of the future. What we call life is this constant revelation of the future through a series of present situations: a revelation which begins with the first cry.
      I should add also that through the first inhalation the rhythm of the blood circulation changes, the blood now passing through and being oxidized within the lungs. Thus it is only then that the heart begins to function in the manner characteristic of a self-sufficient organic whole.

The Birth-Chart and its Elements
While a birth-chart is a two-dimensional graphic representation of the universe as it actually is, this representation is nevertheless a highly selective one. It selects certain factors as "most significant" and leaves out many others — just as a chemical formula stresses a certain type of molecular relationship and ignores many other factors. Astrology selects from all available astronomical data those which fit with certain "frames of reference" — and ignores the others.*
      Astrology deals with moving celestial bodies — or more accurately, with the periodic motions of dots and discs of light in the sky. These motions can only be calculated and determined in space and in time when the changing positions of the celestial bodies are measured with reference to either the horizon and the day-period, or the equinoctial positions of the sun within the year cycle, or the relative values of the planets' periods. And these three main frames of reference are known in astrology as the wheel of the Houses, the signs of the zodiac, and the over-all pattern of the solar system (from which the meaning attributed to each planet is derived). Each of these three frames of reference has a very definite character and significance, and in their combination they produce the astrological chart — the one essential tool used in astrology.

The Horizon and the Meridian
The horizon is, generally speaking, the line of the apparent meeting of earth (or sea) and sky. By psychological extension it carries also the meaning of "'the bounds of observation or experience" (Funk and Wagnall’s Dictionary). The horizon is the foundation of astrology, because astrology deals with organic wholes, and every organic whole operates within bounds of some sort. Astrology can only deal effectively with specific instances and particular cases. It interprets limitations in terms of their contribution to the wholeness of an organism, or to a well defined situation confronting this organism. Astrology is "the science of an beginnings," because every particular case begins at a particular time, and the nature of the case is seen as symbolically determined or characterized by the creative potency of life on this globe at this particular time.
      The meridian is the vertical circle which has the polar axis of the earth as one of its diameters, and on which the Sun is to be found at noon. In this circle is also found the point overhead (the zenith). The line drawn from this point to the center of the earth is the line of gravity, or plumb-line. The horizon and the meridian are always at a 90' angle to each other. As they are prolonged through space they constitute two celestial planes which divide the entire universe into four quarters of equal size. Every celestial object is to be found in one or the other of these quarters.
      Projected on paper as two lines, horizontal and vertical, the horizon and meridian form the two main axes of the ordinary astrological chart. These axes constitute the "framework of personality" because all human experiences fall within the basic departments of life they outline. In usual practice each of these four departments of experience is divided into three equal 30' sections of space (but not of the zodiac); and thus the twelve houses of the chart are formed.

The Ecliptic
All celestial bodies appear to move in relation to the horizon, and the cyclic period of such a motion is the "sidereal day" of approximately 23 hours and 56 minutes — the period necessary to bring a particular star again over the same meridian. As we study the cyclic motions of celestial bodies with reference to the cross of horizon and meridian, we find however that they come under two basic categories each of which requires a special "frame of reference." The "fixed stars" move through the sidereal day-cycle without changing their mutual relationship in any appreciable manner. But the Sun, the Moon and the planets are in a ceaselessly altered condition of mutual relationship. The patterns they make on the sky change incessantly. It is in order to analyze these changing patterns that the zodiac was devised, as a circle of reference.
      The zodiac is the circle described throughout a year by the Sun in its apparent motion in the midst of the "fixed" stars. The Moon and the planets move in various directions and with varying speeds, but they never wander very far on either side of this solar path. It is therefore most convenient to describe their movements in reference to it.
      The equator on earth is the greatest circle of terrestrial latitude; but it is considered, besides, as a sort of global horizon for the human race as a whole. When indefinitely extended, the plane of the equator crosses the plane formed by the yearly path of the Sun around the sky. The lines formed by their intersection is the line of equinoxes. The equinoctial points are the two ends of that line. The point which refers to the positions of the Sun at the beginning of spring in Northern latitudes is taken as the starting point of the circle of longitude — thus as longitude O°, the "first point of Aries," the conventional beginning of the zodiac. The circle of longitude is then divided into 360 degrees, and twelve "signs" of 30 degrees each: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. These signs must not be confused with the constellations of the Greek era which bore, and still bear, the same names. At one time signs and constellations coincided, but now they no longer do, because of a constant drift of the constellations.
      The circle of longitude is also called ecliptic, because all ellipses occur when the moon is close to it at new moon or full moon. All planetary positions are described in the astrological ephemeris mainly with reference to the ecliptic — in terms of zodiacal longitude and also of celestial latitude (i.e. of their distance north or south from the ecliptic). The relationship between the horizon (at any particular time and place) and the circle of the Sun's yearly journey is also given in terms of the zodiacal longitude of the two ends of the horizon: Ascendant and Descendant. The same is true of the Meridian and of the "cusps" of the twelve houses of the astrological chart.
      In some types of astrological computations the positions of celestial bodies are measured with reference to the celestial equator (i.e. instead of the ecliptic), but this is not the most usual method. However "Parallels of declination" are found among the indications listed in most "ephemerides" and astrological magazines.

The Basic Procedure of Work
The primary data fused by the astrologer are taken from an ephemeris, also from "tables of Houses" calculated by astronomers — they are accurate and scientific facts. They are the raw materials which the astrologer will use in his interpretations. In the astrological technique prevailing today in America these data refer almost entirely to the longitudes (or zodiacal positions) of planets and cusps of houses — also of the Moon's nodes; thus to their distance from the equinoxes. The astrology in common use today is an equinoctial type of astrology. It is based on the periodical sequence of the seasons — a controlling factor in human life and human culture. What we call the zodiac is actually this cycle of seasons, projected upon the sky.
      Many European astrologers, recognizing the dominant meaning of this equinoctial factor, build their astrological charts around it. On the left side of the astrological wheel they place always Aries 0°, and every one of the twelve sections correspond to one zodiacal sign. The horizon and meridian at birth are indicated by dotted lines which find their place in these sections according to their longitude. In another type of approach recently popularized — "solar astrology" — the zodiacal degree of the Sun at birth is placed at the left of the wheel, and each section of the wheel contains thirty degrees of the zodiac. Thus, if the natal Sun was located on Cancer 12° the "solar cusps" of this solar birth-chart will be marked with the longitudes Cancer 12°, Leo 12°, Virgo 12°, etc.
      These procedures can be justified, yet the charts erected in these ways have the one great fault that they do not map out the universe as it actually appears at the time of birth from the locality of birth. They do not record symbolically an actual experienceable fact. The basic fact of birth is that one is born within a particular framework defined by the horizon and meridian. The true "natal horoscope" is a representation of the space around the newborn organism; and the true "natal wheel" is a two-dimensional projection of that space. Its twelve spokes (the cusps of the houses) cut that space at equal angular intervals — but the zodiacal contents of these 30° angles of space are usually not equal. What is to be determined first is then how many degrees of the zodiac are contained in each of these "angles of space" or houses. This is done by calculating the sidereal time of birth and finding out in the "table of houses" for the geographical latitude of birth the longitudes of the twelve cusps for that precise time.
      I cannot detail here the calculations to be made in order to determine the positions of the various elements of a birth-chart. These calculations, and the reasons for them, can be found explained in a great many text-books and manuals for beginners. I shall merely list the basic operations to be performed, and conclude with a few general observations the importance of which cannot be over-estimated.

1. Determine the geographical longitude and latitude of the birthplace.

2. Determine the "local mean time" of birth. This differs in most cases from the recorded clock time which is "standard time" or "Daylight Saving time" — and the difference depends upon the longitude of birth.

3. Determine the "sidereal time" of birth. This is done by using as a basis the "sidereal time for Greenwich at noon" recorded for each day in the ephemeris for the year of birth; then correcting it according to the exact moment of the "first cry" and the longitude of birth.

4. Using the "table of houses" for the latitude of birth, find out the zodiacal positions of the horizon and meridian and of all twelve house-cusps at the sidereal time of birth — and write these zodiacal positions exactly where they belong on the birth-chart; taking care to place accurately the "intercepted signs," if any.

5. Determine the "Greenwich mean time" of birth, noting carefully whether the ephemeris used gives the planet's positions for noon or for midnight.

6. Calculate the zodiacal positions of the Sun, the Moon, the planets, the Moon Nodes for this Greenwich mean time of birth, on the basis of the positions recorded in the ephemeris. The use of logarithms simplifies these calculations if real accuracy is desired. Special attention should be made to the case of planets having a retrograde motion.

7. Calculate the position of the "Part of Fortune."

Such are the seven primary steps needed to establish the basic data which constitute the birth-chart. The following steps deal with the organization of these data in terms of "interpretative awareness."

A. Outline by appropriate graphic means (for instance with the use of colored pencils) the pattern of "aspects" made by the planets, and ascertain the basic significance of their over-all configuration.

B. Determine the "balance in weight" of the planets and their relative power, individually or in groups, in terms of "dignities" and house "rulerships." Seek to discover any special type of emphasis, basic pull or center of gravity which could serve as a valid means to focalize the interpretation and to indicate the main "level" at which the individual naturally functions.

C. Consider one by one the houses of the chart and their planetary and zodiacal contents, relating each to the particular department of life it symbolizes. Seek to get the "feel" of each planet's activity at the particular place where it is found.

D. Calculate the "progressed positions" of the planets for the time of the study, and record them on the chart outside of the natal wheel (with ink or pencil of different color). Calculate the positions of the planets for the time of the study, and write them down on the chart, outside of the circle of "progressions" — thus as "transits." These two types of calculations are valuable even in the first stage of chart-interpretation for they bring the problem of interpretation up to an immediate focus of attention. In other words, the fact that the chart is being studied at a particular time throws light upon the purpose of the study — and upon the type of assistance needed by the client (and it may not be the type he or she "thinks" is needed! )

E. With all these data as clearly defined as possible seek to contact in utmost sympathy and understanding the total being of whatever is being represented by the chart — whether it be a living person, or a particular situation. Face the chart as an artist faces a painting, in positive and keenly aware openness to it, with the eager determination to evoke the significance of it — and to help the client to reach a fuller state of conscious integration. Face the chart with full acceptation of personal responsibility — and indeed in an attitude of "prayer," asking for inner guidance and the bestowal of wise understanding.

With these five phases of interpretation — to which others should be added as special problems arise and the life of the client has to be studied in detail — we have reached astrological factors which will have to be studied in future chapters. I have listed these phases, nevertheless, in order to establish a preliminary scaffolding (or framework) within which the process of astrological interpretation may operate with a maximum of stability and completeness.
      What must be stressed here is the need for clarity and artistry both in actually writing down a chart on paper, and in approaching the problems of interpretation. Every astrologer can devise whatever means seem best to him of making easy the reading of several types of factors in the chart. The symbols, the numbers of degrees, the general disposition of the wheel should be standardized — each astrologer establishing his own standards if necessary. The birth-chart must present itself as a symbol, a living symbol from which the reality of a living person can be evoked. The practice of astrology is an art — and it is also essentially a therapy. Every wise astrologer knows himself to be, whether be likes it or not, an astrotherapist.

* The complete structure of a cycle (for instance, a man's life) from beginning to end is a frame of reference for all moments and all events within the cycle. A house is a frame of reference for estimating the function, meaning, size and value of all the rooms in it. Every factor in human experience can only have meaning if it referred to the larger "structure" of the complete being of the person and of humanity. Thus what counts most in evaluating or judging the actions of an individual are not the intricate details of the events, but instead the realization of the way they fit in the framework of the social, ethical, religious and personal consciousness which is his own and his fellow man's. Even killing may be valued as either an infamous or a glorious action, depending on the occasion, place and time — thus according to the social "frame of reference" used in estimating the meaning and motivation of the act.

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1969 by Dane Rudhyar
and Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
All Rights Reserved.

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