Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

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Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:27 am

An article by Garth Allen was reprinted in the early '70s as "Perspectives on Aspects." It is his best treatment (maybe the best treatment anyone has ever done) on the issue of aspect orbs. I incorporated this information into my model and, with minor tweaking, have found it invariably valuable. It framed my entire view on the subject, taking a simple principle ("closer is strong") and making it practical.

NOTE 3/2016: I've added the whole article here: http://solunars.net/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=4563

As part of the "closer is stronger" view, technically "an orb begins nowhere exactly and builds up to its peak power at the point of exact aspect." It's not a matter of whether an aspect "exists," but of its relative strength. This variability in aspect strength is not likely linear - a linear progression makes no sense when compared to the rest of nature's behavior, and it isn't what shows in astrological research. As Garth Allen wrote,
The one certainty that emerges from our present understanding, though, is that the power of an aspect tapers off from its peak in a curvilinear fashion until it becomes so weak at a fair distance from partile, as to be unappreciable."
DIGRESSION: I first anchored this basic understanding when reading Bradley's book on stock market forecasting. He proposed a view of aspects that he abandoned at the end of his life, but which I think is basically correct. The view is that aspect strength tapers according to a sine curve. On the theory that (for the major, classic aspects) the largest orb - the dividing line, for example, between when two planets are in trine and then are in square - has to be half-way between. Therefore, "zero aspectivity" would be 15° either side (the farthest you could go without moving into a different aspect). Setting the sine curve at its lowest value for a 15° orb, it just so happens (even though it's a curve, not linear) that the 50% point is exactly at 7.5°. I interpreted the 50% threshold as "more likely to manifest than not." - I therefore picked that as my outside orb for these aspects. (The sine curve also has some other interesting "threshold" qualities. For example, 99.5% effectiveness - what would found to 100% - falls almost exactly at the 1° orb point, which I find very interesting.) Because the gap between a conjunction and opposition and the nearest classic aspect is double the gap between a trine and square, or sextile and square, I realized this matched the observation that conjunctions and oppositions may have larger orbs. I empirically found that "ultimate drop off" (more likely to manifest than not) to be 10° for those aspects. - More on all of this later.
Garth Allen then gave the method he used for orbs - both for structuring a statistical study and for examining individual birth charts - preceeding it with some interesting results from his earlier statistical studies on aspects.

His observations:

The average chart contyains 5 or 6 major (i.e., 5 classical) asspectysd within 3°00'. He calls these "first-order aspects, or aspects of the first order, since they are undoubtedly the strongest." (An individual chart can vary widely from this "5 or 6" average.)

Aspects between 3°00' and 6°00' he called :second-order aspects." Those from 6°00' to 9°00' he called "third-order aspects." All of this was for convenience, and he acknowledged that, "There is no special reason for using these terms, these orders." They served him "in making sure that I pay first attention to the closest couplings before bothering about the wider ones." (This one sentence, btw, has been the core of my horoscope analysis practice for 40 years or so.)

The 3° divisions are somewhat arbitrary, but also conform to some things actually observed in the aggregate in the past. Repeatedly, he had found that when an aspect pair was statistically significant in some study, it was significant within roughly a 3° zone, give or take. (Notice that this doesn't prove what an orb shold be, only what orb shows factors strong enough to stand out in examination of a group rather than an individual.)

Among professional athletes, the statistical score peaked at 2°50'.
Among lifelong bachelors, they peaked at 3°35'.
The drop-off in significance beyond four degres is startlingly steep, and in the statistical studies of particular events there is invariably a glaring absence of cases past the four-degree boundary, justifying the general rule that "ifg it doesn't happen within three degrees, it ain't agonna happen!" In the collecive analysis of suicides, the margin was even narrower.
He adds a further consideration in passing, that, in examining an individual chart, one should consider the relative uniqueness of an aspect within one's community. All the aspects out through Mars-Pluto complete their cycle in 2.5 years or less. These, therefore, have the strongest importance of uniqueness. (Note how this makes Jupiter-outward and Saturn-outward aspects for a factor of your wider community.) Since I was studying astrology from the beginning of high school, I have always carried the "threshold test" of, "How much does this factor distinguish you from everyone else in your graduating class, or similar age range?"
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Practical applications

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:28 am

I adopted this basic plan, and began with the same boundaries. I soon adjusted the boundaries a bit, and will propose simpler names for the three groups. Within the above introduction, I always thought I was likely to be misunderstood if I used these terms, but I now plan to use them more routinely.

A suggest calling the three groups Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. In theory (to avoid a priori limitations), one could also have a Class 4 reaching to 12° and a Class 5 reaching to 15°. In practical astrology, that would be a total waste of time, but in research it is a valid tool.

Speaking only of the five Ptolemaic aspects, and incorporating the observation that the gap from a conjunction or opposition to the nearest adjacent aspect is wider. Therefore, these two aspects seem to need slightly larger orbs for the three classes. I've also tightend the Class 2 definitions for trines and sextiles, based on subjective experience of these aspects.

Partile aspects (orb less than 1°) are in a class of their own. Technically, they are part of Class 1, though I always distinguish them further.

Class 1
Conjunctions, oppositions: 0°00'-4°00'
Trines, sextiles, squares: 0°00'-3°00'
Practical characteristics: All aspects in this category are important (though the outer planets, especially the outer three, may not be personally relevant). One can "read" a chart effectively - the core parts at least - with these being the only aspects considered. (One exception: see notes on Class 2 below.) - Horoscopes I post on this site usually have aspect lines only for Class 1 aspects.
Synonyms: Anna-Kria King and I have long called these "notebook-close" or "notebook aspects," because we picked this as the orb threshold for listing people in our notebooks, on the theory that "mass effects" had been shown to exist within this range (and that's what we're looking for in the collation of names in a notebook).

Class 2
Conjunctions, oppositions: 4°00'-6°00'
Squares: 3°00'-6°00'
Trines, sextiles: 3°00'-5°00'
Practical characteristics: Unless you have an abundance of Class 1 aspects, any Class 2 luminary aspects are likely to be highly significant. Other Class 2 aspects are definitely part of the character, but their effect is significantly less than Class 1. I almost always ignore them in a "get the gist of the chart" pass, but couldn't justify ignoring them in a deep, thorough analysis of the horoscope. - They would gain greater importance if there are almost no Class 1 aspects in the chart.

Class 3
Conjunctions, oppositions: 7°00'-10°00'
Squares: 6°00'-7°30'
Trines, sextiles: 5°00'-7°30'
Practical characteristics: I nearly always ignore these as irrelevant. (Valid, in a very weak sense, but irrelevant.) The objective way of approaching them is to say that, if you still don't have enough information from Class 1 and 2 aspects, move on to incorporate Class 3 - but how often will this occur? (Basically, never!) -- Where they actually have some value is when you are examining a single planet in the horoscope, and want to take everything about that planet into consideration.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:28 am

SteveS wrote:
Jim Eshelman wrote:They served him "in making sure that I pay first attention to the closest couplings before bothering about the wider ones." (This one sentence, btw, has been the core of my horoscope analysis practice for 40 years or so.)
Exactly! And when partile aspects are present they dominate.
Partile aspects (orb less than 1°) are in a class of their own. Technically, they are part of Class 1, though I always distinguish them further.
I distinguish partile aspects as a special unique ‘voice’ in a chart. It was your teachings where you said ‘Partile aspects Reign Supreme’ that allowed my mind to pay special attention to partile aspects, which, when present, allowed much clarity for me in determining the ‘main theme’ of a scope. Partile aspects are indeed ‘in a class of their own’ and deserve special attention by the astrologer. IMO, one of the most consistent truths of astrology I have witness comes from your book ‘Interpreting Solar Returns’ where you state:
It is when angularity and aspect partility coincide that outstanding incidents are most likely to take place.
IMO, your above words belongs to an astrological 'law'. This ‘outstanding incident’ has never failed with my personal in-depth analysis of SSR’s with AA rated birth times.

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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:29 am

Zenith wrote:How would you incorporate the semi-square and sesqui-square into these scheme? I know they have tight orbs to begin with, so I suppose that the range of each "class" would be quite small.
I treat 0-1° (partile) as Class 1, 1-2° as Class 2, and no Class 3 (since the effect has degraded so by then).
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:29 am

SteveS wrote:Here are some words from Jim in his book ‘Interpreting Solar Returns’ pertaining to ‘Aspect Orbs’ which I think complements Jim’s previous statements in this thread.
One thing can be said with great certainty, which shines a beacon of clarity through the opinions and biases. This is: closer aspects are stronger than wider aspects. The extent of partility (exactness) determines priority. Therefore, if there are many close aspects, we have no need to use large ones. If close aspects are sparse, we are justified in taking the closest we can find, even if that means stretching our normal limits.

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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:30 am

DDonovanKinsolving wrote:
Jim Eshelman wrote:An article by Garth Allen was reprinted in the early '70s as "Perspectives on Aspects." It is his best treatment (maybe the best treatment anyone has ever done) on the issue of aspect orbs.
Being mathematically inclined, I was very attracted to this article as well. The formulas for aspects and mundane strength were horribly mangled, however, but close attention to Bradley's mention of their cycloidal shape made it clear that the "absolute value" operation was left out at key points.

I've gotten my computer back from the shop after two weeks, so I'm putting the system and files back together, otherwise I'd re-write the formulas in more computer-friendly format. I'll do that for certain at a later time.

Bradley himself sounded tentative about this scheme, seemingly offering it for consideration, not as settled fact. Think of it as a "model" in the way theoretical scientists use the word, a calculation against which to compare experimental results. Once Bradley's aspect formula is rescued from its misprint, it becomes a little easier to tweak the component terms if you want to include the octile/trioctile or leave out the 30-degree wave, or even play around with it more extensively.

Historically, this was indeed a "perspective," as its first part has its roots in an earlier article (I've msiplaced the date), but the latter part which includes the forrmulas must have been of more recent vintage.

-Derek

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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:30 am

Yes, the reprint added the last part - it wasn't in the original, and I really wasn't commenting on that part, just the original. (He had changed from thinking of aspects as sinusoidal to thinking of them as cycloidal. I think he was wrong.)
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:31 am

Freya wrote:
Jim Eshelman wrote:Class 2
Conjunctions, oppositions: 4°00'-6°00'
Squares: 3°00'-6°00'
Trines, sextiles: 3°00'-5°00'
Practical characteristics: Unless you have an abundance of Class 1 aspects, any Class 2 luminary aspects are likely to be highly significant.
Jim...in this category by luminary aspects do you mean only aspects between the sun and moon, or aspects involving at least ine of the luminaries, i.e. sun conjunct Saturn with a 6 degree orb? Thanks
In the above, I wasn't distinguishing luminary aspects from any others.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:32 am

jamescondor wrote:Are aspects stronger if they involve a planet in foreground?
They''re more expressive. That doesn't mean they're stronger.

A very, very powerful urge that is not expressed is still a very, very powerful psychological force. It just works out differently.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:32 am

dustinandrewjackson wrote:I probably should have read through this thread before looking at my chart and asking inane questions out of confusion. However, one thing I don't really get a sense of, is how this all partains to character in individual horoscopes: it seems far more mechanical than divination in practice. That's just the vibe that I get from it, anyway. I guess what I am trying to ask is; if you were to form an outline on the individual or event based on the structure their/its chart, how accurate would it be?
Well, first of all, mechanics is part of astrology. Simply tabulating aspects is quite mechanical. So is the process of identifying what planets are angular, etc.

Your question in the last sentence is exactly on target, the kind of question we always should be asking about our methods. Here is what I think is the main point:

Astrology becomes a meaningless hodge-podge of "you can prove anything" facts unless there is a sequence to how we assimilate individual facts about people. If you take everything that can be said about a person, throw it into one soup pot, and hand it over, then one does not end up distinguishing one person from another very much. It's not enough just to accumulate a series of facts about a person: We need to be able to say which facts are more important, more dominant, more pervasive than other facts.

So (among other things), we need to be able to say which aspects are more important than others - which ones are stronger in the character - which ones to incorporate into our core understanding of a person before we toss in all the other facts. This process of identifying core, fundamental characteristics of a person (distinctive from all the other things that might incidentally be true about them, too) is almost the whole of astrological delineation of character.

With that in mind... the above methodology is pure gold!
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:33 am

SteveS wrote:Jim wrote:
Astrology becomes a meaningless hodge-podge of "you can prove anything" facts unless there is a sequence to how we assimilate individual facts about people.
Would you say your best life effort for perfecting this “sequence” was with your book ‘Interpreting Solar Returns’, which also can basically be applied to Natal Chart interpretation?

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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:33 am

SteveS wrote:Jim wrote:
Astrology becomes a meaningless hodge-podge of "you can prove anything" facts unless there is a sequence to how we assimilate individual facts about people.
Would you say your best life effort for perfecting this “sequence” was with your book ‘Interpreting Solar Returns’, which also can basically be applied to Natal Chart interpretation?
Actually, I'd say it's the tabulation above. That's what I routinely use - every single natal chart I examine. Interpreting Solar Returns has a lot that's applicable to natal charts also, and got a lot of broad architecture articulated, but it barely begins to go into the distinctive thinking of natal chart analysis.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:34 am

SteveS wrote:Jim wrote:
…but it (ISR) barely begins to go into the distinctive thinking of natal chart analysis.

Have you ever produced any writings of your “distinctive thinking” for natal chart analysis, other than on this forum?
Not in an organized way. If I live long enough, I'll write that book one of these days... but there are other, grater priorities, so I've known for quite a while that I may go to my grave having never done this.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:34 am

Freya wrote:Jim, if sometimes you find the time to write about the difference between interpreting solar returns and analysing the natal chart I am sure may would benefit from your teaching....
As a tight, concentrated article, that would be pretty long. For proper treatment, it's roughly a thousand page book that I may or may not ever get around to writing.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:35 am

Freya wrote:are there any books that cover this, in a relatively accurate way, so that we can learn from? I wish this knowledge is not lost, as it happened for all those articles about sidereal astrology in AA magazine...
None that cover it well IMHO. As Steve said, the basic principles are there in my book, Interpreting Solar Returns but (as I said) they aren't sorted out.

I don't want to digress on this thread. (I need to exercise much tighter "thread discipline" on this site, because things wander all over the place and the site is no longer useful as a single reference source - and using it as a reference source is IMHO its most important purpose.) This thread should be kept for discussing specifically the aspect orb model outlined in its first two posts.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:36 am

dustinandrewjackson wrote:...one thing I don't really get a sense of, is how this all partains to character in individual horoscopes: it seems far more mechanical than divination in practice.
I should have said one other thing (when answering this earlier this morning): Astrology isn't divination. Astrology IS mechanical. It's the science (and the art of applying that science) of the mechanics of the universe as they reflect and/or impinge upon human experience.

Let me give an example of how to apply these aspect categories in practice. What follows isn't the whole picture of the sample horoscope - just how the structure of aspects would be analyzed (which, admittedly, is the greater part of what one does in preparing to analyze a natal horoscope).

For the sample, let's use the chart of the newly born Prince of Cambridge. His horoscope can be found here:
http://solunars.net/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=3132#p11851

Using the above-stated categories of aspects (sorted by orb), and limiting ourselves (for ease of discussion) to the five Ptolemaic aspects, here is the breakdown:

CLASS 1. Sun-180-Moon. Mercury-90-Uranus, Mercury-180-Pluto, Mars-0-Jupiter (9'), Mars-120-Saturn, Mars-120-Neptune, Mars-180-Pluto, Jupiter-120-Saturn (59'), Jupiter-120-Neptune, Jupiter-180-Pluto, Saturn-120-Neptune (7'), Uranus-90-Pluto

CLASS 2. Sun-90-Saturn, Venus-60-Saturn, Venus-180-Neptune, Saturn-60-Pluto, Neptune-60-Pluto

CLASS 3. Moon-90-Saturn, Mercury-0-Mars, Mercury-0-Jupiter, Venus-60-Mars, Venus-60-Jupiter, Jupiter-90-Uranus


That's the mechanical breakdown, something I recommend you do (in writing) before starting to work on any chart (if you're doing a serious breakdown on the chart).

In looking at the chart overall (and this list in particular), it's clear that the Mars-Jupiter conjunction, anchoring a Grand Trine with Saturn and Neptune, is the main structure; and that this ties into other nearby aspect structures. One doesn't want to lose the forest for the trees by forgetting the big picture; but the detailed analysis works with the trees, not so much the forest.

So, to begin...we look at ONLY Class 1 aspects, and we look at them as if they are the only aspects in the chart. And, of these, the first priority goes to those for which I have listed actual orbs, the partile (less than 1° orb) aspects. In this chart, the partile aspects are:

Mars-0-Jupiter (9')
Jupiter-120-Saturn (59')
Saturn-120-Neptune (7')

We probably would start by looking at the Mars-Jupiter conjunction - getting that this is a real Mars-Jupiter kind of guy! (Lives life like a white water "gusto" beer commercial.) The other two partile aspects are of outer planets and less eye-catching, but we shouldn't ignore them altogether. At risk of being too simplistic, they do touch on tradition and politics vs. depression and morbidity. We get a passing impression of an afflicted Jupiter (yes, Jupiter is closely aspected by all three malefics), and this sets certain patterns and idea chains going in the brain... but we withhold judgment until incorporating the other Class 1 aspects.

The Class 1 aspects altogether are: Sun-180-Moon, Mercury-90-Uranus, Mercury-180-Pluto, Mars-0-Jupiter, Mars-120-Saturn, Mars-120-Neptune, Mars-180-Pluto, Jupiter-120-Saturn, Jupiter-120-Neptune, Jupiter-180-Pluto, Saturn-120-Neptune, Uranus-90-Pluto. That's a lot! We would be quite justified in interpreting the chart just on the basis of these alone, adding only the Class 2 Sun-Saturn square. (NOTE: That's not an example of "luminaries getting a wider orb." We're using the same orbs. Rather, it's a matter of recognizing that luminary aspects are more important to the core of who a person is.)

So one would set out interpreting the chart from this perspective. You should be able to get a substantially complete character analysis from ONLY these aspects (especially given how numerous they are), the luminary signs, and angular planets. Notice that these 13 aspects boil down to:
Sun opposite Moon and square Saturn [but not Moon square Saturn]
(Mars-Jupiter)-Saturn-Neptune Grand Trine
Mercury-Uranus-Pluto T-square
Mars-180-Pluto & Jupiter-180-Pluto to partially tie those last two grand structures together.

In the highly unlike chance that one would not have enough information on the individual by this point, one would then undertake to examine the other Class 2 aspects as a group. These are a couple of important Venus aspects and some outer planet links: Venus-60-Saturn, Venus-180-Neptune, Saturn-60-Pluto, Neptune-60-Pluto. If one went this far, one might include the Class 3 Moon-90-Saturn, just to give luminary aspects a "bump up one notch" because of their centricity to the character.

In almost all situations, one would not even take a look at the Class 3 aspects.
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Re: Garth Allen's perspectives on aspect orbs

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue May 09, 2017 12:37 am

Continuing with the example of the Prince:

In doing a thorough workup, after reading the chart as a whole (as discussed immediate above), it is often valuable to break down the planets, one-by-one, to see how each is affected overall. With experience, one tends to do this unconsciously. Nonetheless, it's useful to do it systematically. For the sample chart, the breakdown would look like this:

SUN. In Cancer, background. In close opposition to the Moon (triggering the Cancer-Capricorn polarity) and more moderate square to Saturn.

MOON. In Capricorn (her detriment), middleground. In close opposition to the Sun (triggering the Cancer-Capricorn polarity) and otherwise unaspected except for a very wide square to Saturn (which, however, rules the Moon-sign and is a reinforcement of Capricorn traits).

MERCURY. Middleground, at home in his own sign, Gemini. Primarily characterized by a close T-square with Uranus and Pluto. (The very wide [Class 3] conjunctions to Mars-Jupiter aren't worth considering, given the strength of other characterizing factors.)

VENUS. Barely within orb of square the Ascendant (and, thus, the only planet in the chart that counts as "angular"). Moderate-orbed opposition to Neptune and sextile to Saturn. Very weak ties to Mars and Jupiter (probably will be felt by Venus, given no Class 1 aspects; but far lesser than the Saturn-Neptune aspects). She is in Leo. -- Notice that this is a Venus closely afflicted by two malefics (and more distantly afflicted by the third). This is one more indication that this will not be a happy child and, as an adolescent (and on into adulthood) will have trouble finding Venus happiness. He will be liked - charming, handsome, etc. from the Venus angularity - but probably will never really have the chance to develop a deep Venus expression in honest, connecting personal relationships (beyond a rare-and-close few friends). With the Leo placement, it is not hard to guess which areas and conditions of life will provide these constraints!

MARS. Middleground, in Gemini. The conjunction with Jupiter is the pivotal aspect of the whole horoscope. Mars is also in very close trines to Saturn and Neptune and opposition to Pluto. (These have to be broken down and analyzed together.) The very wide conjunction to Mercury reinforces the Gemini traits, and the distant sextile to Venus probably is of little consequence in the face of the rest.

JUPITER. Middleground, in the sign of his detriment, and heavily afflicted. Jupiter has very close aspects to Mars, Saturn, and Neptune, plus a close opposition to Pluto. - I've indicated that I don't think this prince will ever sit on the throne of England (or, if so, not for long) because he atypically has no foreground Jupiter. Looking at his Jupiter per se, I'm willing to go further: He likely will do significant damage to the institute of the British monarchy. This may be only that he abdicates. It is quite conceivable, with this chart, that he even will be the Windsor to systematically dismantle the institution of the monarchy. He will have no love for it, no comfort in it, and it will afflict him emotionally in ways that actually should be characterized as abuse and hardship. (I suspect a passive, rather than active, involvement. The chart isn't all that ambitious or socially minded, though it is distinctly anti-royal.)

Another way to say this: Mars opposite Pluto and Jupiter opposite Pluto are the aspects that give dynamic, vital expression to the otherwise locked in, rigid, almost paralyzed "closed loop" Grand Trine; so any dynamic, energetic outreach and action in the world will be through Mars-Jupiter, Mars-Pluto, and Jupiter-Pluto.

SATURN. Background, exalted, and aspected by both luminaries: one of the most important planets. Its closest aspect (the closest in the chart) is a trine to Neptune. (Altogether it has very close trines to Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune.) More moderately, she is sextile Pluto.

URANUS. Middleground. Close T-square with Mercury and Pluto. (A bare whisper of a distant square to Jupiter.)

NEPTUNE. Middleground. Closely wrapped up in the Grand Trine with Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Moderate opposition to Venus (probably the most interesting Neptune involvement in the chart). Ignore the sextile to Pluto.

PLUTO. Middleground. Primarily involved in the T-square with Uranus and Mercury. Next involved in the opposition to Mars-Jupiter.
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