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THE EIGHTH STEP - A Dynamic Understanding
of Planetary Cycles and Aspects

The preceding step in the development of an attitude toward astrology and of a technique leading to a vital understanding of human life and personality dealt with the acquisition of a sense of form and accentuation. The term "form" however includes far more than I have been considering so far. What I discussed is primarily form in space, thus, form as a static element, as something which can be apprehended in a single act of perception — for instance, the form of a painting, of the decorative pattern of a rug. If we look at a modern astrological chart we can see at once its circular pattern, its twelve spokes, the symbols of the planets, the zodiacal indications, etc. And the point which I made was that the essential significance of a nativity (of the pattern of the sky at birth) can only be grasped when the astrologer is able to consider and interpret the chart as a structural and "organic" whole. First, the perception of the whole; then, the analytical study of the parts and of the details of the structure.
      Form, however, can be considered also as a dynamic factor, operating in time; that is, in terms of cyclic sequence. It is so considered, for instance, by trained musicians when they speak of the "sonata-form" or of the structural design of a Bach "fugue." A sonata and a fugue cannot be experienced through one single act of perception. You cannot hear them or even look at the scores and realize the structural meaning in the same way in which you look at a drawing. They spread out in time; it takes time for the musician to perceive the "form" of the sonata as he listens to it from beginning to end — even if he is able to read quickly the pages of the printed score.
      Likewise it takes time for the astrologer to go through the pages of ephemeris and to follow day by day, month by month, the zodiacal movements of the planets. The ephemeris reveals the principle of "form" in operation as well as a Beethoven sonata does. It does so because the motions of the Sun, the Moon and the planets are periodical or cyclic. And the constant combination of these cyclic motions — the ceaseless interweaving of the planets' paths in the sky — produce dynamic forms.
      This being understood, I will consider what is called a "square" aspect of Jupiter and Saturn — that is, the fact that their zodiacal longitudes are 90 degrees apart. The first point to deal with, however, is one that astrologers who talk about the significance of a square fail to consider. I said I am considering a square; but where am I considering it? In the birth-chart of an individual, or in the ephemeris?
      The reader may exclaim here: Is it not the same square in either case? It is the same square if we take Jupiter and Saturn out of the contexts in which we find them (the birth-chart or the ephemeris); if we separate them from everything else that surrounds them, and thus if we make of them purely abstract entities. But actually the square has two different meanings according to whether it is perceived in the birth-chart — a spatial and static structure — or in the ephemeris — a dynamic time structure. You look at a chart all at once. You read the ephemeris line by line, page by page. The chart represents a fixed event, which is unalterable — you (as a personal organism) are born only once and you will never get a new birth-chart. On the other hand, the ephemeris records a constantly unrolling sequence of events, and the "forms" it reveals are the results of the regular and cyclic way in which celestial bodies move.
      Thus a Jupiter-Saturn square analyzed in a birth-chart is a static, spatial factor; but the same square considered in the pages of an ephemeris is a dynamic, time factor. In the first case it belongs to something that is set once and for all; in the second case, it is a factor which will recur periodically throughout the ages. In the birth-chart the Jupiter-Saturn square is a part of the entire structure of the chart and must be understood as such; while in the ephemeris it is part of the cyclic interweavings of the two moving planets, Jupiter and Saturn, and must therefore be understood with reference to these planets' cyclic interweavings.
      To sum up: If a student asks me: "Mr. X has a square of Jupiter and Saturn in his birth-chart. What does it mean?" I shall answer: "I cannot answer your question unless I study the chart as a whole and the place which the Jupiter and Saturn relation occupies in it." But if the student asks: "What does the square of Jupiter in Leo 10° to Saturn in Scorpio 10° mean?" — then, I can answer directly; for here the question deals with the relationship between Jupiter and Saturn considered in one of its periodically repeated phases.

Planetary Aspects as Phases of Relationships
It is rather difficult for most people to think in terms of actually unfolding time and of relatedness. Through the centuries of a civilization stressing an intellectual approach to life, we have been used to thinking of separate and permanent entities located in very definite and distinct places in a static space. These entities might change completely in appearance; yet we have thought of them in the past as having an abstract integrity, an unalterable identity. Whether young, mature or senile —whether they are found relatively alone or deeply involved in relationship with other entities — they have been given distinct names and we have thought that they remain essentially what they were.
      This "classical" type of mental understanding of life and men has been gradually changing in the present century. And the pressure of that change is compelling astrologers to reorient and reinterpret their own essential ideas and symbols. Astrological textbooks tend to speak of Jupiter and Saturn — and of all the other factors they use — as if they were set entities meaning always the same thing whenever found. Likewise squares, trines, oppositions are taught to have a generally unchanging significance: indeed both planets and aspects have been divided for ages into two categories: "bad" ones and "good" ones — benefics and malefics.
      To do so, obviously simplifies things a great deal. It produces in front of us a very clear-cut, black and white universe in which good and evil fight ceaselessly for control over separate entities which are individually saved or lost, glorified or destroyed. Contemporary thinking, however, challenges this "old time" philosophy of life and its atomistic individualism. The universe is now seen as an interconnected and interdependent whole — an organism of cosmic scope. And the basic reality of this universe is not the separate entity going to its salvation or its doom, but instead the total inter-relatedness of all the parts composing the cosmic whole.
      This means, in terms of astrology, that the interrelatedness of all the celestial bodies within the solar system (and in general in the whole sky) is what essentially counts, and that any one of these bodies can, under special conditions of relationship, mean practically anything — in particular, it can have a significance exactly opposed to its traditionally accepted one. Likewise the finest human individual can, under the stress of special types of relationship, turn highly destructive in his actions. This has been stated by saying that everything tends to become its opposite. It is, however, an oversimplified statement; for the point is not that an "entity" becomes the opposite of what it is, but rather that a "relationship" tends to reverse its polarity — for instance, love turns into hate, sensual passion turns into mystical devotion, etc.
      It is on the basis of such an understanding of life and universal relatedness that the new astrology is reformulating the concept of planetary aspect. It sees the above-mentioned square of Jupiter to Saturn not as a thing-in-itself, but rather as a phase of the cyclic relationship of Jupiter to Saturn. The fact that the two planets are 90-degrees apart does not say enough to be considered completely significant. What is significant is that a particular cycle of relationship between Jupiter and Saturn has reached a particular phase in its development.
      As I have shown in my book The Lunation Cycle, the meaning of a "waxing square" and that of a "waning square" are different; that is, if Jupiter (the faster moving planet) is in Leo 10°, and Saturn in Scorpio 10°, the square they form is a waning square (similar to a "last quarter" square in the cycle of the Moon to Sun relationship, the lunation cycle); but if the slower Saturn is in Leo 10° and Jupiter is in Scorpio 10°, then their square is a waxing (or first quarter) square. In other words, a cycle of relationship between Jupiter and Saturn begins with their conjunction and climaxes in their opposition. Any phase of this cycle — that is, any aspect which Jupiter and Saturn form during the period from one conjunction to the next must be understood within the frame of reference of the entire cycle. Eventually, in a more inclusive study, it would have to be understood also within the still larger frame of reference of the vast cycle of planetary interrelationship involving all the components of the solar system.
      It is evident that this gives to the astrological theory a more complex character than that displayed in most current textbooks. Likewise Einstein's physics is far more complex than Newton's. If we wish to deal with physical events obvious to our senses Newton's laws work very satisfactorily; and the classical astrology which dealt with set meanings for set planetary positions and aspects (and with innumerable aphorisms to be memorized) also worked well in relation to the type of society in which seventeenth century persons were living. But we have today a far different world confronting us, a world of atomic energy and of vast metropoles, of cartels and global interchanges, with social and personal relationships so complex and so fluid that great quantities of individuals are caught in social difficulties and in psychological conditions with which old techniques cannot deal effectively. For this kind of a world we need a new astrology, as much as physicists needed a new algebra and a new physics to control atomic transformations and disintegrations — even though the classical concepts of physics and astrology are still most useful where standard situations and problems are concerned.

Good and Bad Aspects
Typical among the traditional concepts of astrology which need to be reinterpreted or revised today is the idea that aspects such as squares and oppositions are "bad," while trines and sextiles are "good." Such a belief is obviously meaningless in the type of astrology I am discussing in this book; for squares are as much normal and necessary phases in the cyclic relationship between two moving planets as are trines or sextiles. Evil — as normally understood by the average person — ceases to have meaning if it can be shown that it is as normal and necessary as good.
      We say that the disease, cancer, is an evil; and the statement is valid because cancer is neither normal nor necessary. But if we say that the breakdown into chemical substances of the food we eat is an evil process because it destroys the carrot or the calf liver into an amorphous pulp, or if we say that the replacement of worn out cells in our body by new ones is "bad" — such assertions have no valid meaning. Every phase of normal organic living, every function and process which is part of natural, healthy living — physiologically or psychologically — is to be welcomed. It is neither good nor bad. It simply is — a necessary component of the activities of life or of personality. There is in every organism a dynamic balance between anabolic (or form building) and catabolic (or form liquidating) processes; but to call the former good and the latter bad makes no sense at all. The exaggerated and unchecked development of either type is destructive of normal organic life, of the health of body and soul.
      It is true that the progressive increase of catabolic activities with age leads eventually to death; but it is highly questionable whether saying that natural death is bad has any valid meaning. Certainly, from the point of view of mankind as a whole, the death of human beings is a condition necessary for evolutionary growth, considering the psycho-mental level at which the average human consciousness functions today. The character of an individual and the limits of his possible development are usually well set in his twenties or thirties. If it remained set for centuries it would indeed be a tragedy for humanity!
      The death process represents for mankind as a whole what the catabolic process of periodical clearing up of obsolete cells means for a healthy organism. It has been said that all the cells of our body are renewed every seven years. Likewise an entire wave of individuals lasts a theoretical period of about seventy years. The catabolic replacement of one generation by another is neither good nor bad; it is the law of collective human development and growth. And if we think in terms of an absolute kind of spiritual individualism, the coming into and the coming out of the body (birth and death) are merely normal and necessary phases of the cyclic development of the reincarnating spirit.
      The qualifications of good and bad have no meaning wherever they are applied to any such phases of a cyclic process; and, from a transcendent and universalistic point of view, any event can be seen as a necessary phase of some larger process. A pneumonia may be called bad because it is not a normal phase of our body's life; wars and political purges are bad because they are not normal phases of the social life of a particular community. Nevertheless, considered within the larger frame of reference of a spiritual soul's progress (incarnation after incarnation) or of humanity as a whole, these destructive events may appear as necessary and beneficent as the forceful ejection from the body of substances which cannot be assimilated. It is only if we isolate the social or personal cathartic event from the total history of nations or individuals — and the square, semi-square or opposition aspects from the cycles of relationship of the planets — that these events and aspects, considered in themselves, look evil or unfortunate.
      Such a procedure destroys the very integrity and meaning of the life-process. Life and personality are characterized by their capacity for constant adjustment to new internal needs and new external situations. To say that the square and opposition are bad aspects is to deny this possibility of readjustment, because readjustment necessitates always moments of rapid action (changing of gears) when a new situation or a new possibility is met "squarely," and moments of pause (opposition) when the consciousness finds itself able to evaluate objectively and dispassionately the purpose and meaning of action. Under square phases of relationship there may be much grinding of gears, and uncoordinated haste or spasmodic fear generated between the two poles of the relationship; but, to state the possibility of such negative results is not to describe the essential meaning of the square, it is to show how an inexperienced individual spirit or an immature social group may mishandle the special type of opportunity for growth represented by the square.
      Impartiality compels me to admit that, as most individuals and nations are as yet immature and awkward engineers of their destiny, the square does produce in most cases negative results. But can I berate the gears of an excellent Chrysler car, just because a poor driver makes them grind their teeth at each change of gears? And can one say that stopping to look at a map in order to check on one's direction is bad just because a confused driver may stop in the middle of a turn in the road and, absorbed in reading the map, find himself hit by oncoming cars?
      From this discussion it follows that any planetary aspect can be regarded in two ways. From the point of view of time, it is a phase of the cycle of relationship between two moving planets, and a thorough grasp of its significance requires that it be considered in its relation to the entire cycle — and particularly to the beginning of the cycle, the conjunction of the two planets. Thus, astrologers have often considered as basically important the zodiacal location of the new moon preceding birth — thereby referring the soli-lunar relationship at birth (i.e. the aspect between the natal Sun and Moon) to the beginning of the lunation cycle of which it was a phase.
      On the other hand, from the point of view of space, an aspect between two planets is merely one angle of the total planetary pattern displayed by the sky at birth. And just as the shape of the nose acquires esthetic meaning mostly in what it contributes to the particular character of a beautiful face — even though, as a nose, it has in itself some general significance — likewise the aspect cannot be truly and significantly understood or interpreted unless it is seen as contributing to the picture which the chart as a whole presents.
      In the first instance, the distinction between good and bad aspects makes no sense because both are necessary and normal phases of the process of life and growth — phases gradually and periodically merging into one another. In the second instance, such an opposition should be considered as analogical to that between whites and blacks in a photograph, between lights and shades in a Rembrandt painting. Would there be any meaning in saying that the blacks are evil and the whites good? Form is the result of the juxtaposition and interaction of both. And without form there can be no significant relationship and no meaning.

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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