Establishing Measurement Essentials
-Anchoring the Computer Process
Astrology is portraiture. The horoscope is comprised of many colors; it is organized with particular spatial relationships; it is defined by different brush strokes; and it is then appreciated as a whole, to reflect a focus of creation.
The astrologer paints the portrait; the client corroborates the image. Astrologer and client communicate. The language between them transmits the portrait's lights and darks, its vivid sections and its vague ones, the major accents and underlying subtleties. The language must be accurate to begin with, flexible in application as the portrait develops, and memorable in imagery throughout.
With modern astrology, the computer is the astrologer's sine qua non assistant. The computer tells us all the details: the paints we mix, the accents we capture, and the composition we reflect from the horoscope. The computer output for the horoscope portrait must be carefully thought through in its inventory and calibration: how many measurements do we need and how are they justified? We must gain an efficiency and consistency in our work in order to be reliable, to reinforce a personal style, and to grasp that which is meaningful to the client's development, every time we do a horoscope. The measurements the computer gives us are tied to the extremely important considerations of aspect contact and orb.
When I entered astrology some forty years ago, I was uncomfortable with how polarized astrology was: everything was given a value judgment, either positive or negative, good or bad, "benefic" or "malefic"; so-called "afflictions" abounded. That was state-of-the-art portraiture; descriptive overviews confined within value extremes. Trines were welcome; squares were not.
But none of this correlated with behavioral reality! We creations do not seek the flaccid comforts of a tension-less environment. Tension is essentially important in our life: the roots of a plant push against rocks in the soil in order for the plant to reach the sun; muscles contract in order to grow in strength; frustrations are assimilated to become motivations; light defines the dark, each helps the other be. There is a spectrum between values not a polarization.
I worked hard to rid astrology of the "bad words." I offered the concept of "developmental tension," which contained no value judgment while grasping the concept of gradated tensions en route to fulfillment.
I showed all the aspects within the semicircle from conjunction to opposition and dramatize how all the aspect angles inscribed in the semicircle were squares (thanks to ancient geometer and philosopher Thales of Miletus!). Therefore, all aspects are squares, and each has a building-block function directed to overall development, to one degree or another. This took the onus off the 90-degree aspect in particular.
We cannot live without tension: there is tension between the beats of our heart; in the rests between sounds of music; among behavioral acts by human beings strung along a continuum of development. Whoever welcomes tension and uses it well does reach the sun. Astrology is a portrait of developmental stress management. Tension takes us somewhere.
We hear reference to "developmental tension" all the time now in astrology, and the old-style words, when they rarely appear, are like rocks breaking a mirror. Astrology has grown up with humanistic sensitivity in the Psychological Age, now over one hundred years old.
I now take this so far that, in the main, I concentrate most measuring upon the aspects of keenest tension: the square, the opposition and conjunction, the semisquare, and the quindecile, and I recommend you do that too. These are aspects that accompany development that often accompany conspicuous change...and that's what most of us want within the progress of life! [What works against this view is the human being's anxiety about transient insecurity; giving up the predictable reliability of the status quo while en route to a changed position...even if that status quo is steeped in uncomfortable values!] Trines and sextiles are stabilizers; they keep things as they are.
So within this mindset-that we are guided most strongly in our work by the stronger aspects-I recommend that you ask your computer to present you with these aspects: conjunction, semisquare, sextile, quintile (72°), square, trine, sesquiquadrate, quindecile (165°), and opposition among all planets (including the Sun and Moon) and the angles.
We can appreciate the measurement of orb two ways.
First, measurement of orb is an organizing tool among many numbers. It works to help the astrologer organize measurements. Arbitrarily and with some empirical back-up over perhaps three centuries-and not without a good dose of numerological nuance-orbs have been set quite liberally, focused most often upon 7 degrees, and ranging up to 14 degrees.
On the one hand, we benefit from organizational help in our work, but on the other hand, we do not want that organization to introduce more problems: untenable relationships between symbols, so many aspects cluttering our analytical insights, overlapping measurement considerations, etc. When we are talking about the degree relationship between two planets, we must remember that we are not measuring distance as much as we are measuring affinity. And this brings us to the second way of appreciating orb: as a span of consciousness.
There are people whose consciousness, for one reason or another, can/does reach out beyond conventional orb measurement and establish an affinity, a relationship between behavioral faculties (the planetary symbols). For example, Pablo Picasso [October 25, 1881 at 11:15 PM LMT in Malaga, Spain] has his Moon in Sagittarius 9 degrees away from square with his Uranus. That is a wide orb by conventional measurement; but Picasso was anything but a conventional personage. His consciousness did include the highly individualizing and self-intensifying square between Uranus and the Moon. His arch opinions about the world motivated enormous political commentary through his art; his mother was an extreme influence in his female-dominated upbringing. The shoe would fit. We would learn this from our client's reality; we would anticipate and then know this; we would incorporate that square for this special person...but to have such a wide orb for every portrait would simply clutter our work with a multiplicity of aspects, divergences, and tangents. The vast majority of people will not be reaching that far, so to speak, to link behavioral faculties within our symbolic procedures.
Because of the Picasso "fit," we are not saying that the guidelines of tighter, conventional orbs are wrong or impractical. It means that the portrait artist, the astrologer, must be aware of exceptions.
Another example: self-styled "King of All Media" Howard Stern [January 12, 1954 at 1:10 PM EST in New York City] has Mars 12 degrees away from opposition with his Moon, ruler of his communications 3rd. With Stern's full-time job being amplification and broadcasting of his persona, his emotionally excitable, disruptive, and hyperactive personality, this opposition is valid! We would simply see and sense that this shoe would fit, that those colors of Mars and the Moon would go together in the portrait. There is surely an affinity here between the two behavioral faculties.
The thesis I espouse with regard to orb is to keep the measurement of orb reasonably tight: the tighter the orb, the fewer the aspects shown in the aspect grid, the more reliable those aspects are. And we keep an eye out for the occasional special-case exception.
I recommend orbs of 7 degrees for the conjunction, opposition, and the square, for the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. I recommend 6 degrees orb for the trine; 4 for the sextile; 2.5 for the semisquare and the quintile; and 2 degrees for the quindecile. These values organize measurements extremely well. Any rare, outstanding exceptions can easily be noted visually during analysis. The aspect grid is kept uncluttered and readily helpful.
As will be developed strongly in chapter 2, "Humanizing the Data," we must recognize now, at the outset of our preparation for analysis and consultation, that our portrait, the horoscope, is not created to capture our subject in tightest detail. This is relating our client to the horoscope, actually confining the personality's development and bloom to what we know about astrology! Rather, the horoscope is created to relate to the life of our client, to reflect it; the horoscope is brought to life within the reality experience of the individual. The measurements and the colors of potential meanings are animated, verified, and given significance by the life reality being lived by the client.
Our techniques guide us to that reality information, and our measurements are given ultimate meaning by the client's life experience. Stockpiling myriad measurements in hopes of capturing some magical nuance is a manifestation of the astrologer's insecurity. How many measurements do we need to begin a meaningful discussion with our client? The stronger measurements are the strongest guidelines. And then the interpretive art begins.
Classically, a planet is peregrine when it makes no Ptolemaic aspect in the horoscope (conjunction sextile, square, trine, or opposition) and has no essential dignity (being in the sign it rules, in the sign of its exaltation, detriment, or fall). Etymologically, "peregrine" means "beyond the border"; we get our word "pilgrim" from the Latin pelegrinus or peregrines. The peregrine planet is not tied down by any sense of belonging; it is free and easy in its presence; it goes where it wants; it easily runs away with influence within the horoscope. It is like a dominating splotch of color that commands the eye, and its tone spills throughout the picture.
In faster moving times, more intensely developing life-experiences, for me, the absence of Ptolemaic aspect is enough to qualify a planet as being peregrine. There is no doubt about this in my work over years and years. It is an extremely reliable working guideline seen in a flash in the aspect grid, and the cumbersome evaluations of dignities, etc. are avoided. Modern times need the symbolism of peregrination, the intensive resource of particular behaviors, not an academic distillation and delay for the sake of over-refined purist measurement achievement.
Naturally, how we ask our computer to help us organize measurements-the concept of orb-is extremely important in the determination of peregrination (being unaspected in Ptolemaic terms, as I use the concept). The orb allowances recommended on page 4 have, in my experience, been extremely successful in showing peregrine planets dramatically and reliably.
As an example: highly controversial broadcaster Howard Stern has Jupiter in Gemini. Jupiter makes no Ptolemaic aspect in his horoscope portrait, yet it is semisquare with the Moon, ruler of his communications 3rd.
Case Example: Howard Stern
Jupiter in Gemini suggests reward needs that involve social acceptance for one's views; an insatiable appetite for new ideas, a perpetual motion whirlwind searching for intriguing tidbits of information. The mind easily becomes inflated with edgy self-awareness and may stimulate continuous nervous activity. Being talkative and agitated, trying to place everything into some scheme of significance...these are dramatic manifestations of Jupiter in Gemini, and we feel this strongly in Stern's persona; he exhibits this behavior as a badge attesting to his self-importance, i.e., the "King of all Media."
There is no doubt that Jupiter in Gemini "runs away" with the portrait, with Stern's horoscope. It is peregrine-even though Jupiter in Gemini is "in its detriment." And the semisquare (non-Ptolemaic aspect) with the Moon simply pipes the Jupiterian trumpets developmentally into the core of his being, and through the Moon into the communica3rd, ruled by the Moon. With Jupiter ruling the public 7th, how Stern communicates to the public and the rewards he wants out of the process are vividly clear.
The Lunar Nodal Axis
We know that the Nodal axis describes the two opposing points on the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun) where the Moon crosses in its orbit around the Earth. These two orbital paths incline to each other at a plane of a little over 5 degrees. The axis proceeds irregularly from day to day because of a "wobble" reflecting the gyroscopic relationship of the Sun and the Moon. The so-called "true node" takes this tiny wobble into account; therefore, there are periods of direct motion and retrograde motion when using the true node. The "mean node" position, on the other hand, averages the wobble out and is always retrograde.
In Stern's horoscope shown on page 6, the nodal axis shows the mean node at 24 Cap07. Stern's true node is 24 Capricorn 00 and is retrograde. That 07' of arc is totally insignificant, and even the retrogradation means nothing as any kind of supplement or divergence within our portrait. The point for our analysis of Howard Stern's horoscope is that the Sun and node are in conjunction (and Neptune is square the axis), suggesting a very, very strong maternal influence, echoed by the fact that the Sun rules Stern's 4th.
Although this wobble-the difference between the true and the mean Node positions-can approach 1.50°, I do not consider it at all. I work with the mean node exclusively.
Case Example: Franz Kafka. This is the horoscope of Franz Kafka, one of the leading writers of his fin-de siècle era. Kafka suffered an enormous identity anxiety, lifelong depression, haunted by self-deprecating images communicated in bizarre metaphors. Kafka commented, "My talent for portraying my dreamlike inner life has thrust all other matters into the background; my life has dwindled dreadfully, nor will it cease to dwindle." He observed that he represented all "the negative elements," referring to his life predicament as a German Jew in Czechoslovakia within horrid class and religious struggles and a dreadful family situation. He felt estrangement in all forms.
The suppression Kafka absorbed in his reality and in his mind was focused on a tyrannical father who had no understanding for him whatsoever. Additionally, Kafka felt that his mother also failed completely to understand him. He had no sense of love whatsoever in his family life, and the family was hated in its society; they were religious, political, and economic scapegoats.
We can see the potential of such suppression in this horoscope portrait ever so clearly through the Neptune square to the Ascendant [any strong natal aspect, arc, or transit contact between Neptune and an angle may guide us to considerations of suppression and Ego wipe-out to one degree or another]. This aspect is beyond the regular orb discipline we are using, but Kafka is an exceptional case indeed, and the Neptune dimension screams out of the portrait; it is easily recognized in Kafka's reality and incorporated into analysis.
Going further, we see Mars quindecile (obsession) with the nodal axis: Kafka's estrangement from his father, the focus of his hate (Mars ruling the 10th; and note that Neptune conjoins Mars); and also his problematic obsession with his mother (the nodal axis), which theorists cite as the base for Kafka's angel-whore complex within his loathing for things sexual.
So much has been awakened here by just two measurements brought to life in their occurrence within Kafka's reality.
Lean but circumspect aspect measurement leads us to reliably incisive analysis.
The developmental pressure within astrological portraiture is to bring more and more symbols together into more and more telling units. It can be discussed that, in the end, all planets are in aspect to all other planets, that there is a primal force to cohesion within the personality and that we work to portray that. It is more practical to say that the more we know about the parts, the clearer focus we have upon the whole. Midpoint synthesis helps us recognize that pressure; midpoint synthesis brings behaviors together helpfully.
X=Y/Z says that planet X is conjunct, square, or opposed the midpoint of planets Y and Z (when using a 900 sort). Please note that the slash "/" connotes midpoint and should be used only in that reference.
To obtain a midpoint table of a particular horoscope that will be most productive, we want to work again only with the strong aspects (the fourth harmonic). We ask our computer to give us what is most commonly called a "900 midpoint sort," displaying all midpoint locations in relation to natal planets and points within the 4th harmonic. All midpoint pictures within a 20 orb can be relevant, excluding pictures with the same planet or point positioned on both sides of the equals sign.
. Again, our objective is not to note all contact pictures; instead, we want the strongest pictures; they will add important substance to our analysis and to our conversation with the client. These pictures are obvious to the eye.
AP=Saturn/Pluto-The Aries Point (AP) suggests that there are some skeletons in Stern's closet [Saturn/Pluto, things tough to live with], usually from early home life development that could be problematic, but, with the Aries Point involved, we can expect that he has openly come to grips with the situation-the problems have been brought out to the light-and converted it all into externalized energies for ambition. Finding out what the situation was would be helpful in anchoring understanding of strong behaviors in adult life.
Astrologer Don McBroom has written a masterful work on midpoints. One of his inspired innovations is to translate the equals sign within any midpoint picture with the words "is accomplished through"!
For example, Stern has Uranus=Jupiter/Pluto (together, very often an index of affluence) we read this as individuality (career status, since Uranus rules Stern's Midheaven) is accomplished through public (Jupiter rules the 7th) power presence (Pluto), acclaim from the public. In other words, this is a picture that pushes for influence, and very often suggest the strong motivation to make much money.
Stern shows Mc=Uranus/Pluto (this pair always shows rebelliousness for change): professional status is accomplished through rebellious activity (individuation bucking the social power structure). In other words, an obvious synthesis of behaviors is a dedication to and talent for changing the big picture.
Additionally, we see the strong picture Jupiter=Mars/Uranus: reward is accomplished through making things happen in an individualistic way, probably through cantankerous or rebellious activity.
Although there is no midpoint picture here in Stern's horoscope involving the Sun/Moon in the fourth harmonic, it is to be noted firmly that that Sun/Moon midpoint is of highest importance and sensitivity in the horoscope. A planet configured strongly (i.e., fourth harmonic) with Sun/Moon can easily dominate the portrait. This midpoint must be noted appropriately for every horoscope; it will be vitally telling in relation to arcs and transit development as well.