Maritha Pottenger

One of our Mutable Dilemma subscribers has requested that we discuss the inner and outer forms of the six astrological polarities, so that will be the focus of this article.


The inner form calls for the integration of assertion and accommodation. People may feel torn between pleasing themselves and pleasing others, between saying yes and saying no. They may swing between a personal and an interpersonal focus, between concentrating on their own needs and drives versus tuning into the needs and drives of others. They are working on the balance between enlightened self-centeredness and empathy for others.

The outer form is often manifested by going in and out of relationships. Maintaining a long-term partnership may be a challenge. Individuals may swing from being totally alone (and then feeling lonely) to rushing into relationships (and then feeling trapped). Or, they may identify with one end of the freedom vs. closeness conflict, and project the other end (drawing in partners who overdo it). If we overidentify with closeness and project freedom, we attract partners who are married, unavailable, of a different sexual persuasion, self-centered, live far away, or are unwilling to commit. If we overidentify with freedom and project closeness, we attract partners who are clinging, possessive, dependent, whiny, emotionally needy, excessively family-focused or “smother mother” types. An alternative is to swing between “hot” and “cold” in relationships, wanting an association and then pulling away. Individuals may bounce between giving in too much to a partner and demanding relationships on their own terms. They may stay solitary, but feel lonely or stay in a relationship while feeling suffocated. Or, they may go from relationship to relationship—looking for a partner to provide the balance they have not yet achieved within.

Integration requires making a place for both ends. We need time to be alone and time to share with others. We need solitary moments as well as rewarding associations. Individuals who have an excessive emphasis on letter seven (Libra, seventh house, etc.) but who still want one committed, lasting relationship may be helped by having lots of other people who come and go (relationships starting and stopping, phasing in and out). This could be managed through work which involves others such as counseling, consulting, personnel work, labor negotiation, etc. While activities involving grace in action or beauty in motion (such as skiing, skating, gymnastics, dancing, etc.) may satisfy one side of the one-seven polarity, they may fail to deal with the basic issue of integrating personal rights with the rights of others. It is also possible to combine letters one and seven in more impersonal ways. The individual may fight for fairness, justice or balance (directing the assertion of Letter 1 toward Letter 7 goals).


The inner form of this polarity is the push/pull between self-indulgence and self-control. The person may be torn between physical, sensual appetites and the drive for mastery over the appetites. Feast versus famine experiences are possible around food (dieting vs. overeating), drink (binging and going on the wagon), smoking, or spending versus saving, etc. People may be stuck on a seesaw between self-indulgence and self-denial—or they can overdo either end (carrying careless hedonism and materialism to an extreme or living out an ascetic, hair-shirt regime of self-denial far past a healthy point. Another inner form of this polarity is tension between keeping things comfortable and pleasant versus confronting intense emotional issues, digging up garbage (including negative feelings) and eliminating negativity.

Outer forms can include swings in the monetary supply. Income may go up and down in an erratic, unpredictable way. The individual may be torn between personal earnings (being in charge of one’s own resources, relying on one’s own salary and assets) versus shared possessions and resources (income from a mate, contributions from or debts to others). The question of giving, receiving and sharing pleasures and possessions with a mate is likely to be in high focus. Some people find it easy to give, but difficult to receive. Others find it easy to receive, but difficult to give. And some have challenges around reaching a middle ground, a balanced point of being able to share the sensual and sexual world fairly with another. A negative option includes power struggles over material matters—turning sex and money into weapons and sensual or sexual sharing into a battleground. Attempts to control secretly through manipulation become common and power plays can permeate the intimate atmosphere. It is not uncommon for partners to project the inner struggle for self-mastery and each point the finger of blame at the other. So, for example, the wife nags the husband about his drinking and the husband criticizes the wife about her weight. One partner tells the other to have more self-control around smoking; the second tells the first to curtail spending. And so on. If each can reach an inner balance, then the outer balance becomes easier.

Integration includes a strong physical, sensual focus. People may enjoy massage, hot tubs, acupressure, chiropractic manipulation, etc. They may enjoy the earthy contact of gardening, or rewarding tactile sensations of pottery, sculpture, fabrics or other artistic creativity. The more diverse channels people have for indulging the physical appetites, the less they are likely to go overboard in indulging one specific channel. When people want to cut back in one area (e.g., food), it is vital to substitute other satisfying, physically gratifying pleasures. (Make love more often. Buy lovely things if money is available. Take up an artistic hobby. And so on.) Some couples choose the approach of “his, hers and ours” in regard to finances and possessions. They find compromise in terms of joint resources easier if each person has some money of his/her own. By integrating the push/pull between keeping things pleasant and comfortable, smiling and easy (Venus) versus probing deeply to get at intense emotional issues and confronting negativity (Pluto), people can more easily resolve potential power struggles. They learn to balance the ruthless investigation of Pluto with the kindness and gentleness of Venus. They can unflinchingly face significant emotional issues, while still being loving and affectionate with one another.

If financial fluctuations are likely, it may be helpful to become knowledgeable about financial fields. If people work with money professionally—moving it around, investing it, etc.—then the restless, in-and-out qualities can be focused on their working capital rather than their personal resources. Paper trading, or constant openness to improving your financial situation can keep you active with your financial assets and make it more likely that shifts are in your favor. But it is also wise to keep debts within reasonable limits.


The inner form of this polarity is the tension between near and far. We may vacillate between a focus on the vicinity—neighbors, relatives, issues of the everyday world right around us—and the far horizons—travel, adventures, mind-expanding activities and philosophical quests for ultimate answers. The casual, flippant, lighthearted flexibility of Letter 3 contrasts with the absolutist, Final Truth of Letter 9. We may feel torn between collecting any kind of information and knowledge versus seeking wisdom and a sense of universal meaning, a broad perspective on life.

Since these are mental letters, the outer form may simply manifest as carrying the mental activity into action as the perpetual student, teacher, preacher, writer, lawyer, and/or traveler. Individuals may change schools (moving, dropping in and out of school), change majors or take up (and drop) courses of study on a moment’s notice. Travel often appeals—both in the vicinity (Letter 3) and long-distance (Letter 9) to foreign countries and cultures. The role of student comes naturally—open to information from any source, but teaching and preaching to others can also be very easy. Any kind of collection of information and dissemination of knowledge is accentuated. A quick wit is likely, with a keen sense of fun and a restless, variety-seeking spirit.

An alternate and more external form of letters three and nine would involve the relationship connotations of these parts of life. Letter three includes people around us such as siblings, cousins, neighbors. Letter nine includes their spouses (related to us by marriage) and also our grandchildren as the fifth house from the fifth hence the children of our children.

Integration requires a life full of intellectual stimulation that does justice to both the people and information in our immediate vicinity and to our basic belief-system which determines our long-range values and goals. Reading, learning and sharing understanding with others is vital. Communication skills are probable. A facility with languages (even to the point of mimicry and picking up accents) is possible. The individual must decide where in his/her life to be a jack (jill)-of-all-trades—curious about everything, picking up topics and dropping them just as rapidly, moving on from subject to subject. And, other parts of life must be devoted to the pursuit of philosophy, religion, science, mysticism, spiritual quests or any form of seeking the meaning of life and answers as to why we are here and where we are going with Life.


The inner form of this polarity is the tension between dependency and dominance, between tender emotional support and bottom-line pragmatism. We may feel torn between a nurturing, protective, helpful role versus a disciplinarian, firm, rule-oriented role. We may be unsure whether an emotional focus (reassurance, support) or a functional focus (“just the facts, Ma’am”) would be most appropriate. We may feel torn between devoting time and energy to our home and family versus putting time and energy into a career and success in the outer world.

The outer form of this polarity can manifest as tension between parental figures. There may be actual separations between our parents (death, divorce, etc.). There may simply be polarizing issues lived out by Mom and Dad. One’s parents may vacillate between conditional (“I love you when you perform appropriately.”) and unconditional love (“I love you because you are.”). They may overdo either end—being harsh, judgmental, demanding responsibilities and work from too early an age (excessive conditional) or doing everything for us, being overprotective, encouraging us to remain dependent (too much unconditional).

Another outer form is shuttling back and forth between work in the outer world and a domestic focus. We may spend years wrapped up in the family and then turn into a workaholic in the outer world. We may build a significant career and then chuck it all to have a family. We may simply feel constant tension in regards to time for both work and loved ones. We may feel we must choose between career achievements and the domestic realm—that there is not room for both. We may give up one for the other. We may simply make a lot of changes in both the work (job changes, shifts in career, etc.) and in the home (redoing, moving, traveling, entertaining, etc.).

Integration requires room for both. One option is to work out of the home, to work with family members, or to work in fields which are home or nurturance-related (e.g., real estate, home decorating, housekeeping, caretaking, food, shelter, clothing, etc.). With our own family members (and other people), we can blend caring and competence, combining the compassion and support of Letter 4 with the practical achievements of Letter 10. We can work for the sake of people and soften essential structures, rules and limits with human understanding and warmth. This combination tends to accentuate preservation, security (physical and emotional), protection and stability. It is a primary parental archetype, emphasizing both the traditional mothering qualities and the traditional fathering qualities. By expressing both we can provide unconditional support when children are young and conditional love (teaching rules, limits and consequences of one’s actions) as they grow older. We can be caring yet firm, emotional yet pragmatic, successful in the outer world and in the sanctuary of our homes.


The inner form of this polarity is the push/pull between passion and intellect, between love and detachment, between freedom and closeness, between superiority and equality. As with the Letter 1/7 polarity, we may identify with either end (projecting the other) or swing from one extreme to the other before finding a middle ground. We may feel torn between our spontaneous, expressive, passionate side and our detached, objective, logical side. Our head may vie with our heart. We may be unsure how much to be the star (front and center, being admired, special and “better than” others) and how much to be one of the group, on equal terms with everyone else.

The outer form can include delays in long-term love relationships or having children. Our freedom/closeness conflict may manifest as uncertainty as to whether we wish to have children or not. (Or, if we project one end, we may attract partners who are ambivalent about having children.) We may feel torn between devoting time and energy to loved ones and children (5th house) versus friends, causes and humanity at large (11th house). We may play out roles of the hysteric (excessive Letter 5) and Mr. Spock (excessive Letter 11) in love relationships. We may swing between passionate attachment and cool separations as we deal with freedom versus closeness impulses.

Integration can include turning friends into lovers and lovers into friends. We may “fall in love” with people after being friends first, with a strong intellectual connection. We may stay friends with people we love, even after the romance is over. We may treat our children as equals—friends and peers—rather than playing a strong authority role. We may become involved with other people’s children (including children of partners) through teaching (common with this polarity) or other avenues. When we are ambivalent about having children, becoming involved with someone else who has children allows us the parental experience with some of the freedom which is important to us. This polarity accentuates inventiveness, creativity, progressiveness, excitement, thrills and the reach for the future. It can be quite entertaining and sociable.


The inner form of this polarity is the tension between the Ideal and the Physically Real in life. We may swing between rose-colored glasses, fantasies, imaginative yearning and dreaming of Infinite Love and Beauty versus concentrating on precise, nitty-gritty details of physical functioning. We may feel torn between inspiration and perspiration (the visualization and the hard work to make it real). We may swing between a global, holistic viewpoint and a discriminating, linear, piecemeal approach. We might experience “divine discontent” since no matter what we do, the outer world manifestation does not measure up to the inner world vision. Or, we can identify with one end and attract others (especially in regard to work or spiritual/escapist activities) who overdo the opposite. One could play out the Space Cadet while the other dons the role of Constant Critic. We may vacillate between the physical and the spiritual, the practical and the sublime.

The outer form can include many changes of job. The individual may job-hop, each time hoping that the NEXT situation will have the ideal hours, the perfect pay, wonderful colleagues, etc. Or, the individual may get fired when frustrations build up but security needs prevent one from just quitting the job so the need to get out of it is projected into action by the boss. An alternate manifestation is the professional victim—someone who makes a “career” (consciously or unconsciously) out of being ill (physically or emotionally) or escapes from life through chronic fantasy, TV, drugs, etc.

Integration involves doing something practical and grounded to make one’s dreams a reality. This is a common polarity among professional artists (who manifest visions through their art and inspire others with their material examples of a transcendent image) and among healers and helpers of all kinds (psychotherapists, doctors, nurses, astrologers, physiotherapists, nutrition counselors, etc.). Such people put hard work and effort into making the world more beautiful or more ideal (closer to a utopian vision).

Copyright © 1991 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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