THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE APPROACHES
TO INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCE
One basic fact dominates man's experience: whenever a new way of releasing power is made possible, implying a fundamental reorganization of either the human person or society in general, this possibility can be, and indeed is bound to be, actualized to some extent in both an essentially constructive and an inherently destructive manner. A generalization of this fact of human experience has to be the foundation of any cosmology or world-view, at least as far as our universe is concerned. It is a universe in which the principle of duality is to be observed everywhere. One can postulate beyond and/or through this dualistic universe a condition of essential unity, and the reflection of this unitarian state is found in the fact that all existence is perceived by us in terms of "wholes of existence," i.e. of units that are born, grow and decay. The very fact that there is birth, development of generic or individual potentialities, and eventual disintegration implies a dualistic process. It implies the interplay of two polarized forces, symbolized by Chinese philosophers in the dynamic interaction of Yin and Yang.
To live is to consume energy. There are two basic ways in which this consumption of energy can be said to take place: the purposeful use of power or the automatic operation of forces. In either case energy is consumed, but the meanings given to this consumption differ; that is, the type of consciousness arising from the living and experiencing of life is positive in the first instance and negative in the second.
The distinction between "powers" and "forces" should be clear when we consider even briefly the cosmological approach taken by traditional philosophies and the contrasting world-view implied in the average scientific mentality of the present, at least in the West. To the ancient philosopher as well as to his modern heirs, "the building of the universe" was the result of the purposeful and supremely intelligent (though not "conscious" in the human sense of the term) work of Creative Hierarchies of spiritual Beings, themselves the seed-products of previous cosmic evolutions or the direct Emanations of the creative God — Freemasonry's "Great Architect of the Universe." On the other hand, most modern scientists (with notable exceptions) regard the universe as the product of the interplay of "forces" which somehow exist of themselves and operate without reference to an intelligent or purposeful Source. The real scientist, it is true, refuses to commit himself in regard to metaphysical principles and a Cause of causes; nevertheless, the scientific training and the concentration upon analysis of material facts tend to build into modern men a belief in "forces" rather than in "powers"; human consciousness and personality tend to be seen as the end products of the long evolutionary interplay of these immutable and non-purposeful forces of nature.
To another type of human mind, however, consciousness and personality, culture and civilization, are the results of the constant use by human individuals of "powers" which are latent in every human being as well as expressed in the activities of the universe. Every human being is understood to be a microcosm in whom all the creative powers of the great universe (macrocosm) are to be found in a state of potentiality. Human evolution — whether it is that of the race at large, or of a particular individual — is thus interpreted as a process of unfoldment of creative powers and faculties. This process is directed from within and is purposeful, at least to the extent that given a number of seed-potentialities "in the beginning" of the cycle of human evolution, the end of that cycle should find these potentialities (or in individual cases, some of them) expressed in actuality. Such an expression culminates in a creative activity (or a karma), which in turn generates or conditions the beginning of a new cycle.
The philosopher who holds such views thinks of the universe as ruled by laws, but it is also the expression and incorporation of universal consciousness. The events presenting themselves to human experience not only display a sequential order which permits inferences as to what future events will be, but these events fit into the pattern of unfoldment of a cosmic whole and of a cyclic sequence, and as such they have meaning. Both the scientist and the philosopher believe in universal order and predictability; but in considering any group of events the scientist is satisfied if he discovers how they came about and how they will cause new events, while the philosopher asks the question: "What does it mean?"
To the scientist-astronomer, the zodiac is merely a way of tabulating and classifying sequences of celestial events and periodical changes. To the true philosopher-astrologer, the zodiac is a structural framework within which man can shape his unceasing search for more inclusive and vital meanings. Needless to say, in this book I am taking the point of view of the philosopher exclusively, for I am dealing with a series of symbolic pictures that are meant to arouse in the student a realization of the power of his own creative Spirit. The purpose of this work is to develop a profound understanding of the nature, character, sequence of unfoldment, and the overall scope and significance of those powers that are the mark of the spirit in man — those powers man must use as he faces his own experience and extracts from it meaning, direction and purpose. As man does this (as an individual or as a race, nation or group) he becomes truly "human"; that is, he lives up to the capacities inherent in the human kingdom, capacities which actually are as yet very little developed. He lives his life, instead of being lived by events. He uses powers, instead of being swayed by natural forces. He lives from the creative Spirit in him. And this is positive living, spiritual living.
One should add that this type of positive living can be demonstrated as well by the materialistic scientist as by the philosopher who believes in universal creative intelligence. Indeed on the surface modern Western man displays a far more "positive" approach to everyday living than does archaic man, or the followers of Zen and similar philosophies who believes in "letting" things happen. This is superficially a more passive attitude; yet we must go beneath surface orientations if we want to reach the vital creative meaning of human behavior. The modern individual imbued with scientific and materialistic concepts may make a most positive and purposeful use of natural forces; but so does any man who handles machines, tanks, explosives. Count Keyserling once referred to modern man as characterized by the "chauffeur type." Today we would speak of the technologist or the technocrat. However, the man who deliberately uses machines and the forces operating them acts fundamentally in a way not too different from the powerful warrior of old who dominated his surroundings by sheer force and an instinct for quick and sound decisions in battle.
Let me take an extreme example from the recent past: Nazi Germany nearly succeeded in dominating mankind by using natural "forces" (physical and psychological) with great positiveness; however, Nazism failed to use the creative powers of the Spirit within Man. It achieved spectacular successes for a while through the ruthless use of technology, but it was defeated, not only by superior forces but by the very power of human evolution. The Roman empire some sixteen centuries ago suffered much the same fate, in spite of excellent administrators and its masses of slaves. And the Vietnam war should have shown us how "superior forces" can be successfully met by the power of the collective human will when focused by an unyielding desire for self-determination and autonomy, a desire based on the deeper realities represented by the phase in human evolution which mankind has reached.
Because by the very logic of planetary evolution a phase of global organization and integration of mankind is now ahead of us, what is today loosely called "imperialism" has become obsolete — just as dinosaurs became obsolete. The Nazi or Fascist type of technocracy — and I must add the Pentagon type — constitute a throwback to a period of the vast cycle of human evolution which is now definitely past. This behavior has therefore lost its positive spiritual meaning. It represents the negative actualization of the new set of human potentialities which has been released during the last centuries of our Western civilization. It is based on the use of "superior force" in an attempt to overwhelm any manifestation of the deep-seated, planet-wide urge for human — personal and social — transformation.
He who lives from the creative Spirit in him lives not only in a determined, active and positive manner; he lives in terms of the need of the particular, present moment in the cycle of his individual evolution, and in the cycle of collective human evolution as well. He acts within the framework of an evolutionary whole, each moment of which has a particular meaning in terms of the timely use of particular powers. Timeliness and the accurate focalization of action upon the point of space which fits this action are essential factors in significant living. Essential also is adequacy in terms of the overall cyclic purpose of the life of the one who acts.
The modern engineer, it is true, also considers these three factors — timeliness, spatial accuracy and fitness to purpose — but he considers them in relation to his machines rather than in relation to his life as a creative participant in the organic wholeness of humanity and, ultimately, of the universe. Thus many of his machines turn destructive. They do so because they are produced and put to use by a society that chooses to be forceful, rather than purposeful; that, by seeking above all to control the automatic operation of forces, has come to consider human beings merely as products of such an automatic operation of meaningless and purposeless forces of nature.
To be force-full is not to be purpose-full. Modern society today functions for no really significant purpose except perhaps that of generating more material comfort and abundance for an ever-increasing mass of human bodies, thus making our planet increasingly uninhabitable. Modem society demonstrates in the main a negative type of consciousness, because any consciousness without a universal frame of reference within which action can be seen in its timeliness, spatial accuracy and fitness to cyclic purpose is a negative type of consciousness. It is consciousness devoid of creative significance and therefore spiritually empty, however great the intellectual and engineering capacities stemming from it.
If one understands what I have just said, it should be clear that any symbol can be interpreted in a positive and a negative manner. The symbol is the key to the adjustment between the individual act, problem or situation and a universal frame of reference — relative as this universality may be. In this present study, which is derived from a symbolization of the 360 degrees of the zodiacal cycle, the constantly changing annual relationship of the Earth to its basic source of energy, the Sun, provides us with the basic frame of reference. It is a frame of reference for the release of energy within the total field of activity of the Earth-as-a-whole, and more particularly the biosphere. The adjustment to such a year-long release of solar energy can take place on the basis of either the "purposeful use of power" or the "automatic operation of forces" — depending upon the positive or negative character of the consciousness confronted with the need for adjustment.
In most cases, obviously the adjustment will be made by the individual person without any deliberate reference to symbolism. Yet, in actual fact, a subconscious reference to collective "images" is always present; that is to say, the individual will act in a personal situation by unconsciously identifying himself with the "image" of what a father, a husband, a faithful citizen, a devoted son, etcetera, is supposed to do according to some kind of a social or religious tradition; or he will act by associating the new situation with previously experienced ones which hurt or exalted him (i.e. according to a "complex"). In any case, the present behavior will be conditioned by the mental-emotional memories of the individual or his race and family — such memories having crystallized into an "image" or symbol.
The Sabian series of picture symbols (or any similarly valid series, ancient or modern) intends to help the individual make such images conscious, and to establish them within a universal frame of reference. The ability to do this is latent in every human being, but it needs to be trained and developed, and the deeper purpose of the series of symbols is to stimulate it by actual and consistent use. What is at stake here is the development of the power to relate every particular activity to a universal meaning and every individual consciousness to its spiritual source in the universal Mind. This source is fundamentally to be understood as the moment in cyclic Time, the place in spheroidal Space, and the purpose in the Harmony of the Whole (or "God") that the individual occupies and fulfills.
If this power of symbolic relatedness between the acts of the individual self and the rhythm of the universal Whole is used positively, every situation of the individual's life becomes an opportunity for growth and for the creative expression of the Spirit within man. If it is used negatively, then — as Marc Jones writes in the Introduction to "Symbolical Astrology" — "all things are engaged in what to him is a very real conspiracy against him; while his satisfactions are elements of destruction, transformed by his own symbolizing of them in desirable factors."
In his book The Sabian Symbols in Astrology, as well as in his earlier mimeographed course. Marc Jones offers positive and negative interpretations of each of the 360 degree symbols of the zodiac. Partly because I feel that such either-or polarized interpretations can be quite confusing at the psychological level, and partly because I have been trying here to go beyond a strict relationship between this set of symbols and the zodiac so that they can be referred to any basic cycle of actualization of new potentialities of existence and human unfoldment, I have omitted such clear-cut positive-negative characterizations. I find some of Marc Jones's interpretations very significant, others much less so or hardly even justifiable; and they are completely different in two versions that have been made public. In The Astrology of Personality, as I had to condense the material in "Symbolical Astrology," I only introduced the positive-negative characterizations in a few instances and in a shortened form.
As I see it, the interpretation of the symbols should be based on two sets of factors: (1) An objective analysis of the most significant features in the symbolic image, and (2) the relationship of the symbol to other symbols within the framework of the entire cyclic process. We find the same situation as we deal with any cyclic set of symbols or images from which meaning is to be derived. This is particularly true of images characterizing the twelve signs of the zodiac — which have little apparent resemblance to the group of stars they were supposed to represent when constellations and signs coincided, presumably toward the close of the Greek period (around 100 B.C.).
In the same way, if we consider the ten original Rorschach cards used in clinical psychology, it seems most evident that the cards constitute a definite sequence beginning with simple shapes and ending with a complex picture in which several colors add to the meaning. The appearance of color in one of these cards at a characteristic stage of the sequence should be significant to anyone who thinks at all holistically and in terms of structured process. Yet I am told that the people to whom this test has been given, including Carl Jung, have not been aware of the significance of there being ten cards in a clearly — even if perhaps unconsciously — structured series. Thus, I feel constrained to repeat that no experience can be understood in its total meaning unless it is related to the whole process in which it occurs, at the very place and the very moment that conditions and reveals its function. No isolated occurrence has any basic meaning of itself. It only acquires meaning as it is related to the larger whole or process of which it is a part. The relating may be entirely unconscious, yet it is the foundation of the meaning.
Moreover, it is not the function which should be considered positive or negative; no action of itself is positive or negative, good or evil. It is the response of the individual-as-a-whole to the performance of the function when the time has come for it to be performed, and in the particular environment in which it has to be performed, which determines the positive or negative enemies in hand-to-hand combat, but we send to the electric chair the person who has been crazed by frustrations and social conditioning and has killed policemen who tried to beat him after he perhaps stole food from a store. The function of the acids and enzymes of the digestive tract breaking down food into chemicals is as positive as that of brain cells transforming sense input into a beautiful painting or an inspiring concept.
No doubt one can define in principle at an abstract or archetypal level the basic positive and negative meanings of a symbol or of an interpersonal confrontation. But the very suggestion of a negatively polarized archetype introduces into the situation a negative undertone of meaning which can easily influence an over-susceptible person. This person may appreciate the positive meaning; but if he feels unable or is reluctant to embody such a meaning in his own response, he is likely to read the negative meaning in a mood that conditions him to accept it as what "fate" has in store for him, or as the evident result of his being a failure or a weak person.
No symbol should be considered inherently negative. Even if the image or scene presented seems full of negative implications, these should be considered as a form of teaching and thus perhaps as the via negativa which leads man to spiritual heights by forcing him to experience a violent revulsion from the depths of human misery and even degradation. Nothing in astrology indicates "This is so as a fact" or "This will occur." Astrology shows us the best — because natural — way of facing any situation in terms of our own individual nature. There are easier as well as much harder ways, considering what man is today and how he has been conditioned by Western society and a materialized Christianity; but the "culture-of-making-things-too-easy" (as Keyserling wrote) leads men to a loss of inner vitality, character and mental acuity.
In order to show how the statements made in the preceding paragraph can be applied to definite cases, I shall take what is perhaps the most "negative" symbol in the Sabian series: the symbol for Cancer 5°.* In his book The Sabian Symbols in Astrology Marc Jones states the symbol as follows: An automobile wrecked by a train. Then in order to remove some of the negativity from the picture, he interprets it as follows:
*l should make it clear here that, if the symbol is referred to the position of a planet in an astrological chart. Cancer 5° begins at 4°1' (four degrees and one second or minute) and ends with Cancer 4°59'59"; just as the first year (year number 1) of a life begins at birth and ends with the first birthday. We are dealing with a process, and "Phase One" starts the very moment the process begins.
This is a symbol of the irresistible power of completion inherent in the very make-up of man's world whenever a sequence of events once is set in motion, as is evident continually on the objective side of things. Implicit in the reverse symbolism is the concept of control, or the assurance that it is not necessary to continue any given action to the point of self-cancellation. The ultimate obligation of the individual is to himself and not to the narrow and momentary direction of circumstances. The keyword is DISPERSION. When positive, the degree is a special genius for a creative reorganization of all experiences, and when negative, an insensitive recklessness.
I cannot help feeling that this interpretation is not based strictly on an analysis of the elements in the picture, but centers on the emotional implications of the word "wrecked." I do not know, of course, how Miss Wheeler described the image she "saw," but let us analyze it carefully. There is practically no way an automobile can be wrecked by a train except when the road on which the automobile is driven crosses a railroad track. We must therefore consider three factors involved in the image: the automobile, the train and the crossing of their paths.
An automobile is a private means of transportation; a train a public one. Obviously therefore the symbol relates in a certain way — a tragic or destructive way — the private or individual and the public or collective spheres in a technologically developed society. These two spheres or realms of activity usually exist more or less parallel with each other; a person may give his allegiance to, or at least prefer to operate in, one or the other realm. But there are times when these realms "cross"; that is to say, their directions become roughly perpendicular, and a moment of potential tension arises. They work at cross-purposes. When this happens, the symbol tells us that there is a potential of destruction involved for the person who does not stop to consider the possible results of his "rugged individualism." Society should make it impossible or very difficult for the individual to be so careless; but even though society may build safe-guards or red-light signals, the individual may senselessly or carelessly ignore them. Then the automobile may be wrecked. This does not necessarily imply that the driver is killed — he could jump out at the last moment — yet his consciousness, i.e. what his ego rides in, his set of values and his approach to life, may experience a more or less total breakdown.
As I see it, this is what the symbolic image presents; it presents it not as a fact, but as a "message," a teaching or warning. If a person has one of his planets on that fifth degree of Cancer he is warned that if he insists on allowing the function or psychological drive represented by that planet to operate carelessly or recklessly in a strictly individualistic manner at times when his own and society's purposes cross, then he will presumably experience a crucial defeat, and this function or drive is likely to be invalidated, perhaps beyond repair.
There is nothing inherently negative or frightening about this symbol in itself; it is simply a warning. I do not see why it should mean an "irresistible power of completion inherent in the very make-up of man's world," etcetera. It simply tells us that if at a certain time the ways of the individual and those of society are at cross-purposes, it is to be expected that society will win — or, colloquially speaking, "crime does not pay."
But we must go a step further and see how and where the symbol fits into the process to which the entire set of symbols belongs. If the reader refers to the seventh scene of the ritual drama of the year (cf. pp. 110-20) he will see that his Cancer 5° symbol constitutes the fifth stage of a five-fold sequence which began with Cancer 1°, i.e. the degree of the summer solstice. The symbol for this Cancer 1° is said to refer to a phase of activity implying "A radical change in the allegiance exteriorized in a symbolical act: a point of no return."
Thus we have in the last symbol of this pentarhythmic sequence a warning of what the first symbol might lead to — i.e. of how at critical times society might react to the "radical change of allegiance." If the symbols had been visualized today we might have had the image of a policeman beating a youthful protester during an antiwar demonstration! If we consider carefully the sequence of the first five degree symbols of the sign Cancer, we can see the possibilities which the "radical change of allegiance" opens up in terms of action. The entire sequence has to be considered and understood; and much more still should be considered, for the whole seventh scene refers to "Decision." For instance, this seventh scene in Act Two of the entire ritual can be related to the corresponding nineteenth scene of Act Four, whose Keyword is "Crystallization."
The whole series of 360 phases is structured in a manner quite clear to anyone able to consider it in the light of a holistic, if not eonic, consciousness. We are dealing here with a significant process of gradual and purposeful transformation. The symbols enable us to get a new perspective on the interrelated phases of this vast process of existence, the keynote of which is indeed transformation.
After becoming acquainted with each of the symbols we can return to the study of their interrelationship and to the two basic ways they can be used.
An Astrological Mandala