Read an Excerpt
The Development of the Personality
SEMINARS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASTROLOGY VOLUME 1
By LIZ GREENE, Howard Sasportas
Samuel Weiser, Inc.Copyright © 1987 Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas
All rights reserved.
The Stages of Childhood
The childhood shows the man, As morning shows the day.
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
Your Inborn Images
In today's seminar we are going to explore what the chart reveals about our childhood experiences, traumas and adjustments and how these relate to our current lives. We are going to explore childhood and the past for a reason—in order to unclutter the present. It's no use just wallowing around in what you think your mother or your father did to you; but you can go back and examine your early experiences in order to understand the present better and move forward in your lives right now. We deal with the past when it's standing in the way of the future.
Right from the beginning, I want to draw a basic distinction between the way in which many schools of traditional psychology view childhood experiences and the way psychological astrology looks at early life events. Certain branches of traditional psychology uphold the idea that the child is born a blank slate upon which different things are subsequently written. This is called the tabula rasa theory—the notion that how other people treated you in early life gives rise to certain patterns or "scripts" which then determine your self-image and your expectations of what will happen to you later in life.
Let me explain this further. Around different experiences in childhood, certain decisions or attitudes are formed or made about ourselves or about life in general. These might be called "existential life-statements." For instance, if Mother isn't very adept at looking after you, then a pattern or expectation or statement about life is formed such as, "the world is not such a safe place to survive in," or, "those I need most will let me down." Or if Father storms out, disappears and abandons the family when you are three years old, it may give rise to a belief or expectation or statement about life, such as "men are unreliable," or, "I'm so bad I drive people away." Early experiences cut very deeply—you've heard me use the analogy before that if you take a young tree or sapling and make a small cut in its bark, when it grows into a mature tree, it will have a large cut in it.
What happens early in life forms a very deep impression on us. Very often these impressions are embedded in the unconscious; we don't even remember them. But we carry those expectations and beliefs around with us and we continue to perceive and organise experience according to them. In other words, how we see and evaluate the present is conditioned by what has happened in the past. Sometimes this is referred to as "psychic determinism." Any particular mental event or phenomenon is connected to chronologically preceding events. Even a fantasy about what happened in the past can determine how we interpret the present; it doesn't have to be something that actually happened. So, if you imagined that you drove Father away, when in actual fact he left for entirely different reasons, the earlier fantasy will still influence your later expectations. Later in life, we selectively perceive or pick out of any circumstance those things which support our assumptions and beliefs, and we fail to see what doesn't fit into these expectations. Someone once said that "life obliges our expectations." In short, our beliefs and expectations give rise to our experience of reality which in turn reinforces the original beliefs.
Now psychological astrology views all this slightly differently. Rather than just being born a blank slate and having things done to you which then lead you to form opinions about life and yourself, psychological astrology believes that you are already born with an innate predisposition which expects certain things to happen. It is not just the childhood conditioning which is of primary importance—it is your own inner nature as seen through placements in the birth chart which predisposes you to perceive experience in a certain way. Certain inborn archetypal expectations structure what you filter out of experience as a child. I'll explain this more precisely.
An archetype can be defined as a mental representation of an instinct. Because human beings have been around for so long, eons of time and the evolutionary processes have built up and structured into our psyches certain expectations which are passed down generation after generation—a kind of "cell wisdom." One of our built-in expectations is that there is going to be a mother, or to get even more basic, that there is going to be a nipple. Even in the womb we have an expectation of a nipple—it is carried in our cell memory. In our cell memory is also the expectation of a father, and the expectation of growth and death. All these images are there latent in us even before we have an actual experience of such things.
We are already born with an image of mother, an image of that archetype; and we are already born with an image of father, an image of birth, an image of growth, an image of death, etc. But different people have slightly different images of these archetypal phenomena. There are different varieties and brands of these images. For instance, the Moon has to do with mother and all of you have the Moon in your chart, so you all have an expectation of mother already there from birth, even before you actually encounter her. But the nature of your image of mother, the more exact kind of mother you are anticipating, is shown by your sign placement of the Moon and what sort of aspects are made to it. Similarly, you have right from the beginning, a sense that there will be a Father. Everyone has this—you all have the Sun in your charts and you can take the Sun to mean father. But the sign placement and aspects of the Sun will more exactly color and describe your own particular inborn image of what father is going to be like for you. Remember that perception is a function of expectation and that content is a function of context. What you are expecting to see will influence how you perceive what is actually there.
Inborn images and archetypes organize and structure what we experience. So, if you are born with Moon trine Jupiter then you have an inborn expectation of abundance and expansion coming through mother. Because this is what you expect to see, your perception will be selective; and you will tend to register more readily the times when she is being generous, expansive and Jupiterian, rather than other times when she may be cold and restricting. But, if you are born with Moon conjunct Saturn, then you already expect some difficulty or coldness around the mother and you are innately attuned to notice the times she fits that picture more than when she acts in other ways.
We will get into a fuller discussion of aspects later, but the point I wish to make now is the distinction between many branches of traditional psychology and psychological astrology. Traditional psychology often blames the parents for what they do to us; but psychological astrology says that we are partly responsible for how we experience our parents—because of our tendency to interpret the mother's and father's actions on the basis of inborn assumptions and beliefs about what we are likely to meet. What the parents are actually like will serve to drive these innate impressions in deeper or perhaps serve to mediate or mollify some of our basic expectations of them. If we expect a very bad mother and she turns out to be loving and an extremely safe container, some of our negative expectations may be toned down. If we are born with an inner image of a Terrible Mother, we will expect to find a terrible mother. So, if it turns out that our actual mother, for whatever reason, cannot cope with us, then that archetypal expectation is driven home deeper. It is given flesh and bone based on our actual experience of her.
For example, let's say that a boy child is born with Moon square Pluto. A possible inborn image of mother based on this aspect could be that she is potentially dangerous or life-threatening (the archetype of the Moon, mother, is connected to that of Pluto, a destructive force). Mother may not actually be all that much of a Plutonic type person, but the child is particularly sensitive to when she has those moods and phases, so notices this in her more. One day she gives him a particularly good feed and puts him down, expecting that he should be happy and content. But for some reason, his Moon square Pluto is activated that day (maybe a fast transit to it by the Moon or Venus) and even after his good feed and after he is gently put down into his cot, for no obvious reason, the negative image of mother is activated in his psyche. So he starts screaming and crying. Now, Mother has just fed him well—what has he got to cry about? If the mother reacts by shaking him and being frustrated and angry, then he thinks, "see, I knew all along she was a witch." In this way, the inborn negative image of mother is driven home deeper. If the mother doesn't react to his frustration in that manner, but picks him up, holds him and contains his screaming fit without responding negatively to it, the image of the bad mother he was born with is mediated and mollified. "Well, maybe she is not so bad after all." Perhaps it would be good for mothers to study the charts of their babies to derive a sense of what the child could be projecting onto them, and learn how to do a dance with these projections so they can attempt to help mollify the more negative ones.
To sum up: what we are talking about is what is known as the "nature versus nurture" conflict in psychology. Those who believe in the nurture side believe that it is how we are treated as children that determines who we are. Those who believe in the nature side believe that we are born with a certain nature which then determines how we experience life. Psychological astrology obviously has a bias towards the idea that we are born with a certain innate nature, that our archetypal conditioning pre-dates our childhood conditioning. It's undoubtedly a mixture of both, but psychological astrology would put inborn nature first and actual childhood conditioning second, because we have a tendency to perceive the events and people surrounding us in childhood through the spectacles of our own nature. If we are wearing blue glasses, life looks blue. If we are wearing red glasses, life looks red. Most importantly, it is the birthchart which depicts our archetypal conditioning and expectations.
ARCHETYPAL PATTERNS AS SHOWN IN THE BIRTHCHART
Let's do a little work with the chart. A very clear way to see the basic patterns and expectations you are born with is to take certain key aspects and placements in the chart and get a sense of what statements about life or archetypal expectations these might describe. This is what I want you to be thinking about throughout the day—that every aspect or placement in your chart describes some kind of pattern in you. These patterns give rise to statements, beliefs, or assumptions about yourself or about life. For instance, what do you think might be the belief or expectation of someone born with Moon square Saturn? What might this person's statement be about the archetype of mother, even before the mother is actually experienced?
Audience: Some sense of rejection or coldness.
Howard: Make that into a statement.
Audience: Mother is cold.
Howard: Okay, one statement might be "Mother is cold." What other statements can come from this aspect?
Audience: Mother is rigid and unloving or inadequate.
Howard: Yes, but what kind of statements might come up about a person's own emotions?
Audience: There might be a statement like, "I have trouble with my emotions."
Howard: Right. What else is the Moon? The Moon has to do with getting one's needs fulfilled, so what kind of statement is there about having one's basic needs met?
Audience: My basic needs don't get met.
Howard: Yes, this is often the experience of those with Moon square Saturn—some difficulty in having their emotional and even physical needs satisfied. Okay, forget the Moon for now. What if you have Venus square Saturn? Venus is the archetype that has to do with union, with the image of the beloved. What kind of statement might come from that aspect?
Audience: I will be rejected in relationship.
Howard: Something like that, or even something more basic like, "in relationship (Venus) I am going to meet trouble (Saturn)." But don't forget that Saturn also implies hard work. So on another level, there may be a belief or expectation that, "I'm going to have to work hard at making a relationship." What if you have Venus trine Jupiter? What kind of life statement or assumption about relationship might you have with that aspect?
Audience: My beloved is going to be expansive and open me up.
Howard: Yes, and even something like, "I have so much to give in relationship." The archetype of union (Venus) is brought together in some way with the archetype of expansion (Jupiter). These are the kinds of expectations people with this aspect are born with. It exists even before they have a relationship, before they date anyone. This is their image of what they are going to experience through Venus. If that is what they are expecting to meet, that is what they will notice, look for, or help set up, consciously or unconsciously.
Obviously life is more complicated than this. Someone may have Venus both square Saturn and trine Jupiter, as well as Moon conjunct Uranus. What I want you to do today is to look at your chart and reflect on what some of the statements you have about life might be which fit with the aspects and placements in your chart. We'll be examining childhood experiences, because in childhood we can often see these patterns and life-statements operating the most clearly. They come sharply into focus in childhood. We are born with skeletal expectations—a framework of what we will experience—and then our actual experiences as children add layers to these expectations, giving them flesh and substance.
Different archetypes are brought out at different stages of life. For instance, at birth the part of the chart which is foreground is the ascendant. So, issues around your ascendant will be brought up at the birth experience. For the first two years of life the main drive is survival and getting your needs fulfilled; and the principle in the chart which is most important then is the Moon. Therefore, your innate patterning around the Moon will be fleshed out between birth and two years old. Archetypes come through drives and drives come through foreground issues. Between the ages of two and four, the drive is to assert yourself, to be more autonomous: you start to walk, learn to talk, you want to assert your individuality more and flex your muscles. At this time the foreground issue is greater autonomy. The archetypes that are coming through this issue are those of power, self-assertion, self-control, mastery of environment and potency. The main planets activated in connection to these principles are the Sun and Mars. So between two and four issues around the Sun and Mars will be more clearly brought to focus in your life. After four, when we become more aware of mother and father as a unit, issues around relationship come out and the archetype of Venus comes to the fore. Your patterns around Venus can be seen during that Oedipal phase.
Working With Patterns
Our purpose today is not just discovering our patterns but also to begin to do something about working with them if we wish to do so, or if we are not happy with them. And even if it is impossible to change or radically alter some of these patterns, we can at least work on changing our attitudes towards them. I want to talk about patterns in general. There is a poem by an American poetess, Amy Lowell, called Patterns and the last line always stuck in my head when I read it in high school: right at the end she says, "Christ, what are patterns for?"
I don't believe that the deeper Self sends you difficult patterns or lots of squares and oppositions just to torture you —I don't think the Self is that wicked. Nonetheless, we are born with certain archetypal beliefs and expectations which we have to work with. Maybe it's related to heredity and genetics—that we inherit unresolved issues or conflicts from our ancestors; that what they have gone through or contended with is passed down to us through some sort of "psychogene," just as physical characteristics are passed down to us. Genes are passed down from generation to generation and we not only inherit physical traits, but we also inherit psychological issues or unfinished emotional business. Maybe an ancestor, or set of ancestors, had trouble with the right use of assertion and power and you are born with Mars conjunct Saturn square Pluto. You inherit something of their unworked-through problems with assertion and it is up to you to redeem this in some way. Or you might inherit a dilemma between one set of traits from certain ancestors and another set of traits from other ancestors. Let's say that certain of your ancestors were Jupiterian swashbuckling pirates while others were Saturnian local magistrates. You might then be born with Jupiter square Saturn. One part of you wants to be free and expansive (Jupiter) and another part is pulled toward conventionality and settling down (Saturn).
Excerpted from The Development of the Personality by LIZ GREENE, Howard Sasportas. Copyright © 1987 Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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