Alfred Adler

Zip Dobyns

The general public is probably familiar with more of the basic concepts of Alfred Adler than any other single personality theorist in the history of psychology at the same time that they may never have heard of him. He could be considered the first of the modern division of psychology that is loosely grouped under the term “Humanistic.” He pointed out the importance of goals in determining action when Freud placed all power in the past. He emphasized the positive potentials in humans, their positive regard for each other and innate desire to cooperate, in contrast to Freud’s certainty that there could be only war between the individual and the society. He recognized that it was not the physical appendage of males that was envied by females, but the power they wielded in the world in his conceptualization of the feminine protest. The basic issue of power was central in his early work, which offered the concept of the inferiority complex and noted the role of sibling rivalry. Later, with increasing philosophical maturity, Adler moved more toward the modern concept of self-actualization and self-transcendence, as life goals, rather than simple power desired by the helpless child in a world of powerful adults.

We can see the “fit” of these concepts to Adler’s natal chart. The fixed cross with planets in Aquarius and Taurus and angles in Leo and Scorpio shows us the potential for a power struggle in life, intensified because of the stellium in the fourth and the seventh houses. Letter 4 can be either baby or mother, but at the start of life, we are certainly the baby, quite aware of our dependency needs and quite uncomfortable with them, with Sun (on the IC), Mars, and Aquarius in the picture. The struggle against dependency is also repeated by the Aries Moon and Uranus in Cancer in the 9th house. Such combinations are normally described as a struggle between freedom and closeness since this is their pervasive form in our present culture. In Adler’s day, (and still to some extent in many today) they may also be understood as the conflict between independence (with the power required to manifest it) and dependence as a state of powerlessness.

The feeling that the power is in the hands of others is further shown in the chart by the placement of the two rulers of Adler’s first house, Pluto and Jupiter, in the 7th house. Such placements are the potential for paranoia in a truly insecure person. They may literally give their own power to others and become helpless “doormats.” They may try to get the supposed threatening other first, like Hitler and Charles Manson. They may retreat from closeness to avoid possible hurt. But with a strongly occupied 4th house, there is too much need for closeness to remain isolated. With the idealism of Sagittarius and Pisces and the 9th house, one cannot go the Hitler route. With a strong sense of independence from Sagittarius and Aquarius and Aries, one is not disposed to be doormat. So the conflict must be faced and integrated, and in his own search for the reasons for his own discomfort, Adler found answers that have helped many others since his time.

Note the potential prominence of the Sun exactly on an angle (in this case the IC) while Vesta also conjunct the IC and the Sun further supports the tremendous commitment to his work. I am continually astonished at the number of famous and successful people who have a prominent Vesta. Ceres conjunct his Ascendant ruler, Pluto, further emphasizes the central place of work in his life as a key to his identity, as does Aries in the 6th house. But he is also identified with interpersonal relationships with Mars in the 4th house, and Pluto and Jupiter in the 7th house. His need for a loving, ideal marriage is emphasized by both Jupiter in the 7th house and by Venus conjunct Juno in Pisces. A mind with great breadth is suggested by Mercury in Aquarius in the 3rd house and by Uranus in the 9th house. The Aquarian emphasis fits Adler’s initiation of group psychotherapy, while Pallas (so often associated with an involvement in social causes and counseling) in the 5th house and Neptune, ruler of the 5th house in the 6th house, fit his extensive work with children. He believed deeply in democracy, and sought to reach segments of society that could not afford the high prices demanded by the Freudians.

We can see the likelihood of his work being mental, involving society, and being in advance of his times when we note that Mars, ruling the 6th house, and Sun and Mercury, ruling the 10th house, are all in Aquarius, along with Vesta as a natural key to work. Saturn in Sagittarius further emphasizes the urge toward intellectual or spiritual work, and its trine to the Aries Moon and more widely to Neptune in the 6th house show the probable success of his efforts. Fire signs in earth houses, especially when added to Aquarius, show a need to be original, creative, and independent in the work, with variety and intellectual challenge as part of the job. The Moon in the 6th house is a potential professional “mother” of some sort, as is the placement of Mars (ruler of the 6th) in the 4th house and Sun (ruler of the 10th) on the IC. Neptune in the 6th house like Saturn in Sagittarius is the potential professional savior.

In addition to Adler’s fire trines which speak of his creativity, especially when added to the Sun-Mars conjunction and the Sun square to Jupiter (aspects between planets of the same element adding to the emphasis of the element in the nature), Adler also has some water trines for empathy, sensitivity, and compassion. It is interesting that he and Freud were contemporaries in Vienna, and locked horns there in their very different views of basic human nature. Both men had Scorpio rising, an appropriate sign for depth psychology, with its passion for self-knowledge and self-mastery. But Adler has the dwad of Capricorn rising, and he was eminently practical in his approach to human problems—so much so that his main impact on modern psychotherapy has been on social workers who must deal with the practical issues of clients who need to learn how to budget money, buy nourishing food, hunt jobs, etc. In contrast, Freud has the Pisces dwad of Scorpio rising, another key to his urge toward mysticism which he fought and could only express in his own myth of the universal Oedipal complex and death instinct vying with the sex urge. A book I read recently, written by a former psychoanalyst, threw additional light on Freud’s deification of sex. The author commented that Freud was a virgin to the age of about 30, during a long engagement while he was studying for his profession, and that he became impotent in his early 40s. No wonder he was obsessed with sex.

Adler obviously struggled with his feelings of powerlessness; his need for independence; his capacity to care; and his broad humanitarian instincts. He knew that humans could feel positive about others, because he did, but he also knew that a sense of inner power was an important growth goal, because he fought to attain it. His lunar nodes across Cancer-Capricorn add their statement of the need to integrate dependency vs. dominance, while their positions in the 3rd-9th houses speak of the perpetual student, the natural teacher, the writer, lecturer, and traveler, all of which formed the structure of his life. In time that south node of the Moon progressed back to conjunct a group of planetary south nodes, including S. Saturn, S. Vesta, S. Mercury, and S. Venus. If we take the south nodes to indicate first a lesson, and then something we must give to the world, Adler did what he came to do. He learned to integrate his personal will (Aries) with the limits of his will (Capricorn); to integrate the broad view of the 3rd house with the focused thorough work of the 6th house; to integrate what is good and necessary from the past (responsibility, self-discipline, productivity) with the freedom to be an individual and to grow always toward something new and more than the past. His chart and his teachings are a beautiful illustration of the dilemmas we conceptualize in astrology, and his life is a demonstration that they can be integrated so that the different parts of life become complementary rather than in perpetual conflict as Freud saw them. In the end, we can only speak from our own experience. Freud remained stuck in the struggle between personal and inter-personal. Adler was able to accept the reality of the transpersonal and to envision the integration of all these inner voices. He is still a way-shower for many.

Copyright © 1979 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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