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Acquiring a Sense of Form and Accentuation

In the first stage of this study I defined the term, structure, as the result of the workings of the principle of organization within any organic whole. I spoke of the "web of relationships" established within the boundaries of this whole and determining the place which every part occupies in relation to every other part. Form, in the general and abstract sense of the word, has almost the same meaning as structure; but it applies more specifically to the result of the perception by an individual of the wholeness of the whole. A picture and a body "have form" as we see them in their entirety. Form can thus be considered as the outer manifestation of internal structure. The sense of form is the ability to see objects and bodies as structured wholes, to see them as balanced and proportioned entities spread out in space.
      The sense of form is found in its highest and most significant aspect in the artist — painter, sculptor, architect. To him space is in itself a womb of significant forms. Every object in space has meaning in terms of its relationship to every other object. Every time he opens his eyes, the world that the artist perceives is an organic and significant aggregation of forms. These forms interpenetrate, in as much as they react upon each other within the range of the field of vision. Not only colors, lights and shades cast reflections from object to object, but even the structural masses of these objects cannot be considered as isolated or separate.
      As some European painters were able to discover some sixty years ago, if a man is seen sitting on a sofa, the man and the sofa interact and interpenetrate — that is to say, the forms of the two react upon each other as they are perceived together as a composite whole. Even more so, bits of colors in a painting acquire special characteristics and esthetic meaning according to their relative placing within the space of the canvas. A red dash in a green landscape stands out with exaggerated intensity; it focuses inevitably the attention of the eye; and painters, like Corot, make constant use of such color juxtapositions to express drama, or simply to emphasize structural values, distortions, etc.
      In recent years this principle of form-awareness has become the subject of a very keen and detailed type of psychological observation. The German school of Gestalt psychology is based on the study of the factor of form in human perceptions. Gestalt means form, structure or spatial organization.
      To the psychologist devoted to this type of psychological approach the sense of form appears as one of the most basic elements in human perception, and as an equally characteristic factor in the development of individual personality. Individuals can be classified according to their typical response to associational patterns of dots, lines, spaces, and objects. The phenomena of optical illusions, featured recently in op art are applications of this inquiry into the nature of our sense of form. They simply emphasize what occurs to some extent every time we open our eyes and see objects in space.

"Form" in Astrology
As man is born at a point of the earth's surface, he finds himself surrounded not only by earthly objects but by the infinity of celestial bodies moving in space. The birth-chart is a two-dimensional projection of the universe — and particularly of our solar system and its planets — as seen from the place of birth at the time of the first breath . . . or rather, as it would be seen if we could see through the solid globe of the earth! What this birth-chart features is the Sun, the Moon and the planets. They are objects arranged in space (the space of the sky itself, and the space defined by the circle of yearly motion of the Sun, viz. the zodiac). At night, some of these planets can be seen above the horizon, others are invisible. But by looking at the astrological chart we can visualize their positions all around us. If one of these celestial bodies is alone above the horizon, and all the rest below, anybody's sense of form should be developed enough to become aware of this peculiar balancing of objects. The object which finds itself alone is singled out by the eyes, and the attention is as focused upon it as when a red dot appears in a completely green landscape.
      There is a focusing of attention, however, only as long as the chart is considered as a whole — or let us say, as a picture or scene. Until recently such a way of looking at a chart was practically unknown among astrologers. It is true that "aspects" between planets were studied — and these are the expressions of space-relationship between celestial objects. But these angular patterns were studied one by one. Earlier still, the use of a square-shaped astrological chart made it very difficult to "see" the chart as a whole, as an image of the actual universe. Each planet stood as a unit, and its nature remained always the same — it being merely modified by the place it occupied in the zodiacal and house spaces, and by the "rays" of other planets according to their "aspects" to it. Indeed there was little sense in erecting a chart at all; a simple listing of planetary positions and aspects told all that was to be known.
      The definite use of the circular chart, however, led logically to the realization that the element of form or gestalt was essential in astrology. Astrologers began to talk of the "planetary pattern" as a whole and to give meaning to it independently of which planet was in aspect to which. It was Marc Edmund Jones' perhaps most important contribution to astrology to build upon this principle of form, first, by stressing the concept of "balance in weight" and "singleton" influence — then, later, by classifying charts according to the over-all shape produced by the disposition of the planets in the circle of houses, and secondarily in the zodiac.*
      One may or may not consider as essential Marc Jones' classification of over-all planetary patterns into seven basic patterns; one may or may not consider the names given to these seven types significant. The fact remains that a principle of astrological evaluation and meaning has been stated and developed with logical consistency and this is eminently significant. Indeed this fact can no longer be ignored by anyone who is attuned to the fundamentals of twentieth century thinking. The sense, of astrological form is with us to stay; and its practical use is indispensable to the full attainment of "astrological wisdom." All that can really be discussed is its relative importance among the other and more traditional tools used by the astrologer in its interpretations.
      The problem can be stated as follows: Is it better to teach the child to read by making him recognize at first the shape of syllables or words, or by the old method of laboriously spellng letter after letter? Is sense (or significance) to be taught as the result of an addition of separate, abstract and in themselves meaningless elements (letters) - or, in the new way, through a quick perception of a few typical but complex patterns which in themselves have associative meaning? The little bird learns to fly by being made to visualize a scene enacted by its parents. All instinctual guidance is guidance through imitative performance; all biological development is by whole-steps — by quanta of behavior, one might say.
      There is no real growth in life-efficiency except by facing at any time a situation as a whole with the whole of one's ability to survive; likewise there is no real growth in human understanding and in wisdom except the growing individual is made to meet the challenge of total and particular situations, situations which are unique and significant in their uniqueness. What the modern mind is forced to deal with today are situations, facts of living immediacy and urgency, wholes of behavior, complete symbols of a total personality, rather than lists of characteristics, sum-totals of catalogued traits and nicely defined virtues or faults, and the pasting together of abstract judgments in the conventionalized shape of a human personality!
      Jupiter-in-Leo, Sun-in-the-third-house, Mars-square-Saturn mean nothing final in themselves. They are at best the raw materials from which vital meanings can be moulded by the perceptive effort and the visualizing "intuitive" skill of the astrologer. The letters L, 0, V, E spelt one after the other mean nothing as separate letters; it is their association and the order of their sequence which release significance. No astrological chart, likewise, makes sense until it is a living whole in the consciousness of the astrologer until its "form" has become in-spirited with meaning. And the meaning resides in the whole, not in the separate parts.

The Problem of Accentuation
Almost inseparable from the concept of form is that of "accent." Whenever a number of organic factors are related within the boundaries of an organism, there is at any time some one factor (or group of factors) which, in one way or another, has a dominant or leading function. It is accentuated. And this accentuation, in any healthy organism, is only temporary. It shifts from one factor to another, from one organic function to another; and the shifting is in most cases, or should be, periodical. If we consider the cycle of vegetation throughout the year we can see readily how, month after month, there is a shift in the function which receives, as it were, the spotlight in the plant's development. At one time, life seems focused in the rootlet or germ; at another, the development of leaves seems to draw most of the plant's energies; still at another period flowers and fruits carry the burden of significance, the temporary life-emphasis or accent.
      Likewise after a hearty dinner the metabolic activities of the digestive system are the accentuated functions in the total human organism; and if, at such times, the individual with a full stomach indulges in heavy mental work, an organic conflict between two types of functions arises. One accent wars against the other thought against metabolism, and vice versa. Normal and natural health requires that there be only one accentuated function in the bio-psychological organism of the personality at any time. Thus, the concept of a permutation of functional accents arises; which simply means that each function, in turn and periodically, is to receive the life-accent.
      This is expressed in astrology, first of all, in the factors of zodiacal or house position. If the Sun is in Cancer, we can deduce that the organic functions represented by Cancer (metabolism, assimilation, home-making, ego-building) are shown to receive at the time the solar accent. This does not mean that the other eleven basic or zodiacal functions are not active. It merely indicates that the attention of the self is focused upon the Cancerian function. Other functions are at the same time particularly energized by the other planets. Jupiter in Leo will show that social consciousness (Jupiter) seeks to release its energy mainly through the imaginative and creative Leo function and its corresponding organs — biological or psychological.
      Every sign of the zodiac or every house in which a planet is located receives thereby an accent. It is emphasized in the life of the personality. And these accents are constantly and cyclically changing, as the planets, Sun and Moon revolve through our skies. Yet these are, in a sense, lesser accents. Stronger accents are established, according to astrological tradition, when the moving celestial bodies are found in one or two particular zodiacal signs. And these strong accents refer to what is technically called "rulership" or "exaltation." Each planet is said to "rule" one or two signs of the zodiac, and to be "exalted" in another; however, much confusion surrounds such a subject, the study of which would require too much space. By means of technical procedures of this type the astrologer is able to ascertain the relative "strength" of every planet in a chart - thus the degree to which some basic functions of the total personality are accentuated, or, in the opposite signs, weak in their operations.
      Such a type of accentuation, however, is not an emphasis in consciousness as much as one in potential activity. The Sun in Leo is very "strong," yet a person born with the Sun in Leo may not reveal any corresponding solar accent. The astrologer will say that the Sun may be "weak" by house position — some houses supposedly representing weaker zones of function — even while it is "strong" because of being located in its sign of rulership, Leo. However, the attribution of characteristics of weakness or strength to houses is very questionable. It makes sense only if one takes for granted that external activity is the criterium; for there are hidden or introverted factors in the human person which acquire an extraordinary focal significance, and which rule the life by the very absence of their natural activities. They are accentuated, not by what they do, but by the void they create in a person's consciousness. There are accents in emptiness, as well as in fullness in critical change (for instance, the sixth house) as well as in positive self-assertion (first or tenth house).
      More than this, the real problem of life-accent depends not upon where any planet is, but rather upon the type of relationship it has to the remainder of the planets. The red dot in the green landscape is a tiny little spot of color; but how it draws the attention, how it focuses the dramatic meaning of the entire painting! It is an accent which gives a new kind of intensity to all that is not itself. It makes the picture far more green than if it had not been there.
      A "singleton" planet in a chart has much the same value. This single planet accentuates the function it represents in the consciousness of the individual - and perhaps, as a result, in his contribution to life - to such an extent that the individual cannot let go of it. Indeed this accentuation or focusing of attention has very often a compulsive character. Everything else is affected by it.
      Characteristic is the case of Freud, founder of the psycho-analytical method, in whose chart Mars retrograde stands alone at the nadir in Libra, with all other planets above the horizon, from Pisces to Cancer (Cancer being the rising sign). According to his one-time disciple, Carl Jung, Freud's approach to psychology reveals a typical extrovert temperament - which is represented by the fact that most planets are bunched around the zenith, especially in the three spring signs, etc. Yet in Freud's field of consciousness, driving him to his great achievements, we find Mars retrograde cutting like a scalpel into the innermost roots of his inner life, cutting away the decaying psychic materials produced by social repressions. His whole life was devoted to, and his name became the symbol of this introverted Martian soul-surgery — of that which is most intimately personal, and hidden even to the ego itself.
      Here, then, Mars is an intensely accentuated factor in terms of the "form" of the entire chart; yet, according to its zodiacal position and its retrograde character, it might appear (if considered as a separate factor) a very weak and ineffective Mars. The astrologer who fails to exercise his "sense of form" will miss in his interpretation of Freud's chart that element which controls, by implication, the behavior of everything else in the nativity. Freud's life and fame showed forth an extraordinary one-pointedness and a ruthless challenge to the most established psychological traditions. Nothing can reveal in their proper value these outstanding features except the over-all pattern of the chart and the Mars accent. The structural relationship between Mars and the nine other planets, bunched within a square of Neptune and Jupiter to Saturn, is the key to the meaning of Freud's destiny.
      Such a type of approach when properly understood and applied, gives a new and very vital quality to the interpretation of astrological charts. It should be clear that this approach is based on the fundamental principle that the whole is prior to the parts in terms of essential, spiritual meaning. This principle actually differentiates wisdom from knowledge, the spiritual faculties of understanding from the intellect, the astrology of the twentieth century from that of the nineteenth.

* Another type of astrological technique which features in a somewhat different way the sense of form and the configurational or even pictorial approach to the study of the birth-chart is the so-called "Uranian System" developed by Alfred Witte and his Hamburg School in Germany. A good deal of attention has been given to it of late in America and a number of points which it brings out are undoubtedly of great significance, especially the "mid-points."

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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