Progressing or Regressing?
I’ve always been curious about the optimist who named Astrological Progressions “Progressions” when so often we seem to repeat patterns over and over again and to slide backwards in our growth rather than forging ahead!
Nonetheless, I cannot deny that most people I know sense an overall feeling of positive evolution, about which they are very certain and from the basis of which they draw courage to continue life’s wonderful experiment.
I found a very good analogy to express my thoughts about astrological progressions when I read George Lakoff’s and Mark Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1980). They referred to an Iranian friend of theirs who, in his early days in the U.S., was quite taken by the concept of “the solution to all our problems”. He was convinced that most of us thought about this phrase quite literally and he visualized a beaker containing the bubbling chemical solution that would solve all his problems.
What an apt visualization! Many of us remember vividly chemistry classes where containers (called beakers) of fluid simmered over miniature stoves called Bunsen burners. Often the chemical solution in the beaker would be allowed to evaporate completely, leaving a deposit of crystals on the bottom. This process is one form of precipitation. Normally, precipitation is caused by altering either the temperature of the solution in the beaker, or the pressure, or both. Another alternative was to introduce a new chemical to the solution called a catalyst which would also cause crystallization or precipitation to occur.
I like to think of the chemical solution (the fluid in the beaker) as the subconscious mind, which holds so many beliefs (the chemicals) about which we are consciously unaware. The precipitates are our problems and our joys. When we lower the temperature and pressure, (which represents the alteration of external events) - the normally accepted procedure - we modify and vary circumstances in our lives (or else they seem to be mysteriously altered for us), and we unwittingly and unexpectedly precipitate out a set of conditions which catch us unprepared. This is because we are not in contact with what is going on in our subconscious minds. (It is also possible to consciously ignore certain needs or disregard rules we have adopted; but we will not consider those cases here.) If we look at our astrology charts, we find that the progressed Ascendant is at 29 degrees of a sign, or that progressed Jupiter is conjunct one of the corners of our T- square and that transiting Saturn is opposed to our Midheaven.
Since we are clever, however, we look within in order to discover consciously what those beliefs, fears, anxieties, and self-limiting ideas are which form the fundamental origins (chemical components) of the problem. In other words, we introduce a catalyst called conscious effort in order to bring subconscious ideas to the surface. Then by affirmation, positive visualization, and action we can alter the composition of that gurgling chemical god until the troublesome bugaboos disappear once more...we ferret out the underlying causal beliefs and attitudes and change them. Of course, if we do not continue to utilize our conscious creative effort as a catalyst, those internal beliefs will surreptitiously crystallize out again, as external problems in our lives.
Often astrological progressions seem to be the forerunners, or the forewarners, that our subconscious self- limiting adjuncts might be getting restless. We get recurrent niggling feelings and thoughts about certain life situations or beliefs that we really would prefer or “should” do something about. It is as if the homogeneity (the equilibrium) of the solution is thrown off balance and potential precipitates or crystals are now suspended in the fluid rather than being an undetectable part of the molecular structure: the hidden volcanoes in our subconscious minds are preparing to blow.
When we become determined to control the conditions of our bubbling beaker, we heed those inner twinges. As astrologers, we notice and interpret correctly our astrological progressions, so that life becomes less a gambling game with loaded dice and more a workable experiment that can be taken step by step. If we experiment with only one or a limited number of conscious creative “catalysts” at a time, we can observe results as though we were scientists working in a laboratory (can you tell that I have lots of air in my chart?) and decide whether to habitualize or discard any particular consciously chosen course of action.
“But what about the all too real conditions of my life, my security - both physical and emotional - what is to become of them whilst I, the detached scientist, play in my laboratory?!” you may ask (perhaps with a hint of sarcasm in your voice). Rest assured, I am not suggesting that you abandon all the water and earth in your chart! Nor do I think that we can make miraculous changes overnight. But I am positive that creative visualization of the desired goal(s) will bring about the actualization of that goal, in time, (perhaps the movement of the progressed Sun into a new sign combined with a progressed new Moon in your chart will signal a time when you feel just right about making that inner change) and that the installment of tiny, hardly noticeable new behavioral habits and traits can slowly build an emerald in the bottom of your beaker (your subconscious ideas as reflected in your external life circumstances), instead of that sooty old carbonate you are so tired of seeing.
Let us look at a hypothetical example. Let us suppose that you have a Mars/Neptune conjunction in Libra in the Ninth house five degrees from your Midheaven, and let us suppose that progressed Saturn has just landed on your natal Mars. Will you head for cover in the nearest monastery? (Neptune) - Have surgery on your ingrown toenail? (Mars for surgery and Neptune for the foot) - Get a promotion? (Mars, Saturn and the MC) - Get fired? (Ditto) - Sell your first water color, photograph, or set of architectural plans? (Saturn for success and Neptune in Libra for visual art) - Leave on a trip to visit Sai Baba in India? (Neptune and the Ninth house) - Move into a new house? (Since the Midheaven is activated as is the IC and the Fourth house) - Buy a new house? (Same) - Lose your mortgage? (Same) - Begin a morning exercise regime on the beach? (Mars and Ninth house for exercise and Neptune for the sea) - Register your independent company legally? (Saturn and the Midheaven in Libra) - Get married? (Same) - Get a divorce? (Also the same) - Kick out your roommate? (Libra for prolonged relationships, Saturn, Mars and the Ninth house for change in status) - Invite someone to live with you (Same) - Acquire a new pet? (Fourth house) - Try a new drug and land on another planet? (Neptune for drugs and the Ninth house for long distance travel) - Become an astronaut? (the Ninth house and Saturn and Mars) - Win a prolonged legal dispute? (Libra, Saturn & the Ninth house for courts) - Publish a book? (Ninth house) - Contract arthritis (Saturn), Migraines (Mars), Diabetes (Libra), have all your teeth removed and purchase pearly new ones (Saturn) - Break your thigh bone (Saturn and the Ninth), or all of the above? (Neptune) - Espouse a new religion (Neptune and the Ninth) - Form or join a philosophical discussion group (Ninth house and Libra) - Go back to school (Ninth house) - Commit murder or suicide (Mars, Saturn and Neptune) - Become an evangelist (Neptune, Saturn and the Ninth) - Become a professional comedian (Mars and the Ninth House) who always wears the white face of a clown (for Neptune’s sensitivity) ... We could go on and on!
The external conditions in your life that might reflect that particular configuration could be any of the above. So often we feel that such conditions are situations over which we have little or no control, or that we must approach these reprehensible enemies as defensive, determined, perhaps enraged warriors committed to changing the situation by sheer brute force, or at least, by relentless harassment. We think that the only control we have over that beaker representing our life problems is to physically raise or lower the temperature and/or pressure. We attack external reality or else we feel victimized by it. “He/she did this to me.” “If the recession had not hit so hard, this would never have happened!” “If I keep yelling at her every time she does it, she’s bound to stop.” “I’ll just take this money he left on the table, since he refuses to replace my book that he lost.” “Because I am a black woman earning a low salary, oppressed on three counts, I have to be viciously competitive in order to get ahead.” We feel that the power is outside of ourselves... We forget about the idea that is the magic of the catalyst: our inner beliefs are the “chemical components of the solution”, that is, the basis upon which our external reality is created, and it is fact that we can change them.
What sort of “chemicals” or beliefs might have come into play with progressed Saturn setting off our Mars/Neptune Midheaven conjunction in Libra in the Ninth house? The psychological attitudes involved are those of letters one, twelve, ten, seven, and nine in Zip’s astrological alphabet. The issues then are those of: personal identity, will, initiative, and freedom (Mars); a longing for unity and wholeness, for love and sensitivity, for nature and beautiful art, expressed via faith, escapism, victimization, art, or compassion (Neptune); the concept of law, ...public and social esteem,...ambition and the desire for power,...duty, responsibility,...and all the negative emotions such as fear, and guilt, that we do not measure up, or that we abuse power, and break the law (Midheaven and Saturn); a need for communication, cooperation, harmony, playful or deadly competition, prolonged relationships (Libra); and a yearning for intellectual growth and expansion, faith and values, travel and education, going beyond previous limitations (Ninth house). Hence, we may be facing inner conflict about work (Saturn and the Midheaven-Letter 10) versus freedom (Mars-Letter 1 and the Ninth) to pursue a Neptunian goal such as art, sailing, and Nature hikes, or to have the liberty to be totally spiritual (Neptune-Letter 12 and the Ninth) without having to burden ourselves with the physical world (Saturn and the Midheaven-10) at all. On the other hand, our Mars-Letter 1 in a fire house may be unbearably frustrated with the patient slow discipline of the spiritual master we have chosen, (Neptune-12 and the Ninth) and undermine our efforts so effectively that we find ourselves following a path of blatant hedonism (the Ninth and Neptune-12 and Mars-1). So much Libra (7) might indicate a new found agility at walking the sword’s edge which harmony and balance imply, so that our conceptualizations and communications are crystal clear; or we may be struggling hard after repeated losses in any of life’s arenas where “dog eats dog” is the accepted (and our accepted) morale bluster and booster (Saturn- Letter 10). The conflict could be about our desire for a relationship (Libra-7) prohibited by our fears (Saturn-10) about our independence (Mars-1 and the Ninth). We could be divided in our faith in ourselves (Neptune-12, the Ninth, and Mars-1) - confident in one area and low in self-esteem in another - for example, confident that we have a lot to offer as a photographer, but feeling all thumbs about the promotional end (Libra-7 and Neptune-12 and Saturn- 10 and Mars-1 for the artistic drive and ability, versus the Ninth and Saturn-10 and Neptune-12 for the qualms about selling - also Libra-7 here for the communication end). The issues revolve around many of the possible challenges encompassed in cardinality - one (Mars), seven (Libra), and ten (Midheaven and Saturn), and mutability (Nine and Twelve, i.e. Neptune). Also involved are Fire (Mars and the Ninth), Air (Libra), Water (Neptune), and Earth (Midheaven and Saturn), vying for action (Fire), communication and extensive thought (Air), and emotional and physical security (Water and Earth). These basic beliefs or “chemicals” must be consciously or intuitively known before we can choose a catalyst that will prove to be effective. But what if they are not?
As astrologers/psychologists, we do know that many of these opposing needs and ideas are floating around somewhere in those beakers that are our subconscious minds, and that sooner or later they will pop out to demand fulfillment. We cannot possibly deal with them all at once (picture a chart with progressions setting off everything in it!) and so we choose to settle on one or two issues at a time, and to play out a variety of little dramas that all successfully portray these hidden values and beliefs in some way. Sometimes we do not even need to externalize completely how these ideas will manifest: We get twinges and niggles in our thought patterns and feelings that tell us that belief “A” is messing us up again, or that idea “B” is finally working!
Progressions give us a way of focusing in on those hidden potential crystallates. By examining our charts, we can look for themes being set off by progressed planets which come within one degree of aspecting our natal planets or angles, or other progressed planets or angles. Then we can determine which letters of the astrological alphabet are involved, which of the elements come into play (Fire, Earth, Air and Water), which of the qualities are being dramatized (Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable) and which types of interactions are in focus (Personal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal). These classifications will all be very helpful in zeroing in on pertinent beliefs and ideas which we are choosing now to examine. We may be making that choice either partially or totally at the subconscious level; but our charts reveal all. By looking to see which letter of the alphabet (or element, quality, etc.) is recurrent in our analysis, we can quickly determine which set of possible beliefs to examine, delete, transmute, or augment in order to provide a conscious creative catalyst for the situation. Relying solely on external temperature and pressure changes (i.e. external events) tends to crystallize out those sooty carbonates and salty halides. When we consciously and creatively begin to experiment with belief “A” and idea “B”, we modify them slightly or a lot until they stop messing us up and/or succeed optimally! Voila: rubies and diamonds at the bottom of the beaker!