(The following article by Brigadier R.C. Firebrace appeared in the October, 1963 issue of the Sidereal astrology quarterly Spica (Vol. III, No. 1). It's a valuable picture the emerging interpretive sensibilities of the relatively young Sidereal astrology community. You will find many points of view that resemble those I've given, some points of view different from mind, and a number of great questions.)
NOTES ON THE INTERPRETATION OF NATIVITIES
by Brigadier R. C. Firebrace
Frankly speaking I would have preferred that someone else should write this article, as 'my own work has been more in the field of prediction than in that of interpreting nativities. . I hope, however, to get further contributions on this vital aspect of astrology. However accurate our maps, they are useless unless we can interpret them usefully.
Before we can begin to interpret any horoscope we must decide for ourselves what such a horoscope means. We must decide in our 'opinion what lies within the horoscope which can be detected by our skill. What are we looking for, and what do we expect to find?
Here there are many opinions, which I hope l be expressed in later articles, ranging from the view that everything, character, psychological make-up, and all the events of life, can be read from the birth map, to the view that the map shows only the psychology of the native, and thus shows how he reacts to events and life generally.
My own view is that the birth horoscope represents the psychology of the native, his character, but, on account of this fact, it can also foreshadow events arising from this character. For instance, a nativity with a conjunction of Mars-Uranus will, it is true, make for a high tensioned individual, but it is also likely at some point in the life to result in a Mars-Uranus event directly, due to the action .of the native. Such events I will call 'character events', as they arise directly from the character of the native. The possibility of such events lies in the nativity and can, therefore, be detected. From the philosophic angle it may well be that it is our task in life to control such character impulses and that, at least to some extent, we have the necessary free will to do so. Similarly, it is our task to make the best of those easier aspects which the planetary formations have given us.
There is another class of events – those impinging on us. from an outside source – which I do not think are shown in the nativity. The nativity will show our reaction to such events in anger, joy or sorrow, and it is therefore possible in some cases to think that the nativity does indeed show the event. For instance, a prominent Jupiter at any time will show our joy at a certain event, such as an inheritance, but does not of itself show the event. These events coming from the outside I will call, for want of better words, 'destiny events'.
I will not pretend that all events are so clear-cut as this, and there can well be interaction between these two broad classes. If I am hit, I may well hit back, but this is far more probable if my nativity shows the probability of such a response to external stimuli. These destiny events will be shown during life more by transit maps, such as Solar and Lunar Returns, than by progressions of the nativity, which will be used to show what I have called 'character events'. The reality may be far more complicated than I have here outlined. There is much in the working of the mind that we do not fully understand.
In reading a nativity it is important to establish in our own mind what are the most important features. A nativity is made up of zodiacal influences, planetary aspects and mundane positions. We have to determine the most prominent features of the map, as they will show out clearly in the life.
I consider that the planetary configurations are the main basis for interpretation but these are strongly accentuated by mundane position. The constellational position is the background shading to these planetary influences.
We shall not get far in our interpretation unless we forget the false doctrine that planets represent things. They do not represent any particular thing. They are ideas, qualities, cosmic symbolism, if you will, but they do not represent material objects. It is thus false to say that Jupiter represents lawyers in a map, or philosophers, or the liver. Jupiter is the idea, quality of expansion, preservation, and this idea has to be applied to the particular map we are studying. The same applies to the constellations. Look at our statistical study published in this number. Although there are more clergymen with Sun in Pisces, there are very many who had the Sun in every other constellation. How then can we attribute clergymen to any one sign when the evidence is all against such a theory.
Let us, therefore, in studying our map look first at mundane positions. Here, planets which are close to the mundane angles, the horizon and the meridian, will be of primary importance. The closer to these mundane angles the planet stands, the more potency it has to affect us in this mundane world. Here, I must try and explain what I personally understand by closeness. It is clear that planets either side of an angle are potent, a fact which makes me inclined to accept that the angles form the centre of houses, if houses there be, a point to which I will return later. However, we have here to consider the statistical findings of Gauquelin who from an examination of the professions in many thousands of maps has found that the appropriate planets were more often ·in houses backwards of the angles, in what is generally considered to be the 9th and 12th houses, with a somewhat smaller emphasis on the 3rd and 6th.· We cannot neglect Gauquelin's findings which were based on a thoroughly scientific statistical approach. Our minimum approach to this problem must, therefore, be that planets on either side of an angle have equal potency, leaving for further consideration whether planets backwards of angles have a greater potency. At the moment, however, I am not prepared to abandon as 'potent' those planets close to, but forward of, the angles. This would be contrary to my experience. When, however, we consider that planets backwards of the Ascendant have already risen whereas those forward or below are in the darkness, we can begin to understand the logic of Gauguelin's findings. So do not forget your ninth and, twelfth house planets, especially if they are close to the angles.
If planets on angles are potent, it would follow that planets simultaneously on adjacent angles, such as, for example, a planet on the M.G. and another on the Asc., would form a most important combination which would show up in the life. They are, in effect, in a mundane square. This formation has been christened 'paranatellonta', or ‘paran' for short, which means 'acting together'. They will not necessarily be in zodiacal aspect but are in mundane aspect. An orb of some three degrees may be allowed for this aspect.
Although this last formation is dependent on mundane position, we have already wandered into the realm of aspects, and it is to these that we will now turn, but before doing so it is necessary to comment on the nature of aspects.
It has been customary in the past to regard certain aspects, notably the trine and sextile; as beneficial, and others, such as the square, semi-square and sesqui-quadrate, as malefic. Conjunctions and oppositions were taken to be benefic or malefic, in accordance with the nature of the planets composing them. I would apply this latter rule to all aspects and concern myself more with the nature of the planets than with the nature of the aspect. This as far as I know is the Hindu system. I would, therefore, regard Sun square Jupiter as largely a beneficial aspect, sharper in its action than a trine but, for that reason, more likely to produce marked effects. In the same way, I would not expect beneficial action from Moon trine Saturn, which will always have restricting effects, not so marked as the square but still by no means beneficial. I am aware that this view in the West is heresy but I think it is supported by a calm judgment of individual nativities. In Charles Carter's excellent book, "The Astrological Aspects", and considering the list of names he attaches to each aspect, I find difficulty in distinguishing between those who have squares and those with trines. Of one thing I have no doubt. In solar and lunar returns, Sun or Moon opposite Jupiter are potent aspects for good; indeed, far more potent than the trine. It seems likely that the same applies to nativities. On this point I hope others will write after a review of interpretation of nativities well known to them in the light of the above remarks.
As we think mundane aspects are more powerful than zodiacal, we will now refer to two aspects which, although zodiacal, can also be considered mundane – the conjunction and the opposition. These are the most powerful aspects which can be found in a nativity, outweighing in importance any other aspect. Indeed, the opinion has recently been expressed by Cyril Fagan that they are, together with the paran, the only aspects. At the present moment we are not prepared to go quite as far as this, but are in entire agreement that these two aspects are of the greatest importance and should be considered as extremely potent and of first importance in the consideration of a nativity.
As regards zodiacal aspects, such as the square, trine and sextile, we think these are important when they are to an angular planet, and they should be considered. The square is undoubtedly more potent than the trine, the effects of which may not be so easily observed. But when these aspects are to an 'angular planet, they should be considered. The sextile is definitely weaker than either the trine or square.
In a weaker category come the remaining aspects, semi-sextile quincunx, semi-square and sesqui-quadrate. If making aspect to an angular planet they may have some importance, but this should not be exaggerated.
We now come to aspects between planets neither of which is potent through angularity. These should be treated with caution, particularly when they are between slow moving planets when the aspect will be found in many thousands of maps and cannot be considered as personal to our nativity. For example, a square between Neptune and Pluto will be in operation· over many months and should normally be neglected. Between more rapidly moving planets they may have some importance but are considerably weakened by their lack of an angular contact.
We have arrived at this point without mentioning the zodiacal position of planets in the constellations. This is because we believe that it is of secondary importance except possibly for the Sun and Moon. The constellations form the background shading which will, it is true, modify the working of the planets, but the planetary symbolism will of itself always be manifest. Mars will always be Mars wherever it is placed "in the zodiac, but it will manifest more easily in constellations which are in accordance with its basic nature. The Sun shows the vitality, 'the power, and is a planet of action; the Moon is the planet of our feeling nature, our emotional life, of ebb and flow, and cannot be interpreted in any way as is the Sun. In reading other people's interpretations I sometimes find that this point has been missed and that Sun-like attributions are given to formations of the Moon.
The question of the Ascendant is difficult. It should be equated with 'body' if the Sun is Spirit and the Moon Soul, as esoteric astrologers claim. It certainly has connection with the physical body and probably indicates physical characteristics generally. These will, however, be strongly modified by rising planets, and, in my experience, by the Sun and Moon. I am inclined to the belief that a closely rising planet will show physically more than the constellation on the Ascending degree. It is a moot point whether the ascending constellation has influence on character. Most astrologers would have little doubt that it does, and I am not prepared at the present moment of time to contradict them. I think that it has some influence on character as it seems possible that bodily characteristics can influence the life in some way. So let us invent the classification of 'body character' to add to our delineation of the Sun and Moon and the other planets. Eminent sidereal astrologers entirely disagree with this view and they may be right. In any case, sidereal astrologers attach far less importance to the asc. than they do to the Sun and Moon.
We come to the vexed question of houses. I wish I could entirely avoid this question, as it is not one on which I am clear. I have known astrologers who do not use houses at all, and on the whole I belong to this category. I am yet to be convinced that they have any meaning or at least the meanings traditionally assigned to them. If we neglect houses, we do cut down our possibility of detailed interpretation even though under a fifth-house planet you have such a wide choice as having a baby or a stock exchange gamble. I must leave it to my readers to settle whether they have found that house placings have any significance. I am unable to offer any definite advice on this subject. Before astrologers settle on this point they will have to consider which house system to use. I understand that there are at least fifty possibilities. Here I will only say that the most logical to me are Campanus, Dr Walter Koch’s Birthplace cusps, and the topocentric system of Nelson Page. It is interesting to note that the topocentric cusps, although calculated on a far sounder basis, are very close to the values of Placidean cusps. This may explain the continual popularity of Placidus even when most astrologers are uncertain of the basis of his calculations. I hope that future writers on interpretation will deal with houses, as I am incapable of doing so with any conviction.
Myself, I consider the use of house rulers for the interpretation of a nativity as unscientific and impracticable. This is a horary technique which has been applied to nativities. Whatever theoretical justification it may have -and I do not admit that it has this -it is impossible to use in practice. It can be useful in 'backwards' astrology, to support something already known to the astrologer, but with an unknown native it simply cannot be used with any certainty of accuracy. It is possible, even in moderate latitudes, to have the same sign or constellation on no less than three' cusps. For example, Sagittarius may be on the cusps of l0th, 11th and 12th houses: Are we to suppose that Jupiter rules the affairs of these three houses and that these three houses are always connected in interpretation? This is manifestly absurd and simply does not happen· in real life. The situation is even worse if it is Taurus that is on three cusps. Here the ruler, Venus, also rules any Libra house. We will then get at least four houses involved in any interpretation of a Venus aspect. This, as Euclid once said, is absurd. The situation is even worse when astrologers also introduce rulers of progressed houses, and confusion becomes even more confounded.
It is possible that the planet associated with the constellation on the Asc. (and, if so, why not that of the M.C.?) has some added importance, being brought into prominence through its connection with an important point of the map. I have found some maps improved by the change of Asc. ruler. On this point I will reserve judgement.
It is time to try and sum up my own views on the interpretation of nativities:–
1. A nativity is, in the main, the psychological make-up of the native. From this make-up, events will flow due to this character. It also shows the reactions of the native to outside events.
2. Interpretation should be based on the doctrine of prominence. Prominence is given by:–
i. Planets on angles. This includes planets on either side of an angle. We may extend this rather widely to include planets in cadent houses.
ii. Planets in close aspect to the above.
iii. Planets in close conjunction with, or opposition to, each other.
iv. Planets in mundane square, i.e. on successive angles, are particularly potent.
3. Planets represent a cosmic symbolism, a quality, and not any particular thing.
4. Interpretation by means of rulers of houses is a fallacy.
5. Dignities may be considered as increasing the prominence of a planet.
6. The general pattern of the map should be considered. A strong map will be closely aspected, a weak map will have weak links between the planets.
7. A planet or. planets without links are important. They show difficulties in linking up in life in accordance with the nature of the planet. They may show a dual nature.
8. The constellation behind the Sun and Moon and the more rapid planets, Mercury, Venus and Mars, should be considered as a background. If you are working in the sidereal, do not use tropical interpretation for this. The constellation background behind the slower planets is of less importance.
These rules apply to the interpretation-of-nativities and not to the interpretation of solar or lunar returns Which have their own rules which will be dealt with, in due course.
I do not expect that what I have said will be accepted by all. I am accordingly inviting certain distinguished astrologers to contribute their view to this series and hope very much that I
issues of with me.
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