Astrological Polarities

Maritha Pottenger

Polarities are an important part of human experience. Many of us learn early concepts through contrasting polarities: hot/cold; soft/hard; close/far, etc. Experiencing extremes seems to solidify knowledge for us. Indeed, philosophy identified a whole process that involves polarities. An individual has an original concept (or position) called thesis. The individual then develops the exact opposite concept (or position) called antithesis. After experiencing both extremes, a middle ground position—synthesis—is achieved.

Lots of humans go through this same process in their lives. Often, we will swing from one extreme to another—like a seesaw, perhaps many times—until we achieve a moderate position in the middle. Astrology can help people to lessen these extremes by identifying major polarities and offering insight into how they can be integrated and blended. Carl Jung, one of our great psychotherapists, felt that balancing polarities was a major task of the forties (part of the mid-life crisis). With the added insight of astrology, we can do much of our balancing earlier than that!

The major polarities of astrology are six—representing oppositions across the zodiac: Aries/Libra; Taurus/Scorpio; Gemini/Sagittarius; Cancer/Capricorn; Leo/Aquarius; and Virgo/Pisces. Similar themes emerge for oppositions across the 1st/7th; 2nd/8th; 3rd/9th; 4th/10th; 5th/11th; and 6th/12th houses or for aspects between Mars/Venus; Venus/Pluto; Mercury/Jupiter; Moon/Saturn; Sun/Uranus; and Mercury/Neptune. Fortunately, these polar principles are natural allies. Each supplies something the other needs. Each pair has an inherent pull toward partnership, if we can simply make the blend.

Zip Dobyns makes the analogy of the opposition as similar to the opposable thumb and forefinger (one of the differences between humans and other primates). With our opposable thumb and forefinger, we can come—from opposite directions—to meet in the middle, accomplishing more together than either could separately! That, too, is the principle of the opposition in astrology.

Wherever an opposition falls in a horoscope, there is inherent restlessness. It is easy for the person to be chronically active in that area—flipping from one side to the other. Or, the individual may identify consciously with one end of the seesaw and project (disown and live out through someone else) the opposite end. One of the challenges of integration is to arrange for constructive action in that area of life—rather than disruptive activity.

The 1/7 (Venus/Mars; 1st house/7th house; Aries/Libra) polarity relates to self versus other on the most basic level. We are striving to balance personal will, desires, and needs with the desires, needs and will of another person. We are working on the integration of assertion and accommodation or freedom versus closeness. We may feel torn between being solitary, free to do our own thing — or being involved, perhaps too vulnerable to someone else. We may switch between giving in too much to a partner, or demanding that our relationships be on our own terms. We could identify with a need to be alone; project a need to share; and end up attracting people who are too other-directed. Or, we could identify with our desire for closeness; project our need for space; and fall in love with unavailable (married, living 1000 miles away, etc.) people. We may bounce from feeling lonely without someone, to feeling trapped when we’re with someone. We may go in and out of relationships (including marriages) or swing between anger and appeasement; between being direct and being diplomatic.

To integrate this combination, we need to satisfy both ends. As far as people are concerned, we need to create room to be an individual and feel our freedom is secure, but still maintain a close, caring connection with someone else. We might deliberately build a little space into our primary relationship by choosing someone who travels for their work (or traveling ourselves); having separate hobbies and interests; encouraging each other to have a “boys night out” and a “girls night out”, etc. Each partner must learn to understand the other’s need for some separate space—and not interpret it as a personal rejection.

We must learn to pick and choose our moments to be direct, forthright, assertive and open (Mars/Aries/1st house). With discrimination, we will know the times when circumstances call for tact, diplomacy, politeness, and “making nice” (Venus/Libra/7th house).

We may express balance and harmony (7) through fighting (1) for justice and fair play (7). Or, we may express grace in motion, beauty in action by moving our body (1) in an aesthetic, attractive (7) manner. We could get very personally involved (1) with beauty (7).

Since lots of activity between self and others is likely, it is advisable for the individual to choose a profession which has lots of people contact. If one is constantly meeting (and saying farewell to) people through one’s work, stability is easier to achieve in one primary relationship (such as marriage). People come and go all the time, but not in a disruptive way!

The 2/8 polarity (Venus/Pluto; 2nd house/8th house; Taurus/Scorpio) relates to issues of yours, mine, and ours. We are dealing, on the inner level, between self-indulgence and self-mastery. Our sensual, pleasure-loving side may vie with our desire to maintain control over our appetites. Feast versus famine swings are possible, whether around food, drink, smoking, sex, spending money, collecting possessions, etc. On the one hand, we want to “eat, drink, and be merry.” On the other hand, we want to feel in charge of our sensual nature.

On the outer level, we are working on the balance between personal finances, possessions and power versus joint finances, possessions, and power. When something is owned by us, we have the right to use it as we please. But when others enter the picture, we have to consider their desires and rights as well. With this polarity, we may feel torn between giving, receiving, and sharing the sensual/sexual/financial world with someone else. Some people have trouble giving; others have trouble receiving. Some may try to be totally independent financially; others expect too much from a mate. Challenges can arise around who calls the shots in terms of spending, saving, sexual pleasure, and material possessions. Ups and downs in the money supply are also quite common.

Another side of this polarity is tension between comfort versus confrontation or light versus dark. Venus (and 2nd house and Taurus) wants life to stay pleasant, comfortable, nice and easy. Pluto and the 8th house and Scorpio are determined to dig out the dirt, ferret out the secrets, face the dark side and slay the monsters of the psyche. So, the person may swing internally between pretending everything is pretty and obsessing over every little issue possible. Or, this can be played out in relationships with one partner playing the “Don’t show me any ugliness” role and the other playing the “You must face the dark side” role.

In order to integrate this polarity, the individual must own both sides. Sensuality is highly focused. Diversifying the channels will help. Don’t look for all pleasure through food, or all indulgence through sex. If the person can enjoy good, moderate drink, massage, hot tubs, good music, soft carpet and many other tactile gratifications, s/he is much less likely to overdo (or over inhibit) one particular form of pleasure. Skills for massage, acupressure, chiropractic, etc., are likely.

To keep balance in terms of finances, the person must become active in that area. Business and monetary talents are quite likely. If the person is involved in analyzing their financial position, moving money around for better investments and increased returns, changing banks for better rates, etc., there will be self-directed, wisely chosen (not disruptive) activity.

The 3/9 polarity (Mercury/Jupiter; 3rd house/9th house; Gemini/Sagittarius) depicts the tension between knowledge for its own sake (3) and knowledge for a higher purpose or sense of meaning (9). This can also symbolize the push/pull between the near-at-hand and the faraway; between early learning and later higher education; between the everyday and the ideal.

Much of the restlessness of this combination can be lived out through the mind. The individual might go back to school, take classes, or study at any time. Roles of teacher and student come naturally. People with this polarity emphasized can even become perpetual students—on a lifelong quest for knowledge. They may change schools and change majors regularly. Lots of travel (both near and far) is also possible. Multiple interests are likely and a professional dilettante is possible. Curiosity, wit and wonder are highlighted.

People may feel torn between a far-ranging, adventurous quest for the Truth versus staying in the vicinity, communicating with and relating to people right around them. A large, impressive vision may vie for attention with everyday details of relating to people, making one’s self understood. Ideals, ethics, and dreams give meaning to our lives, but mundane, ordinary details must be mastered as well.

Integration involves a compromise. We may use skills of information collection and dissemination. Verbal and writing talents are likely. Flexibility is highlighted. Wit and humor flow naturally. The individual may continue to travel a lot—at least mentally through books, studies, etc.—and often physically as well. The individual learns to identify, describe and comprehend his/her dream in order to bring it down to earth and share it with others.

The 4/10 polarity (Moon/Saturn; 4th house/10th house; Cancer/Capricorn) revolves around nurturing versus authority issues. On one level, this is tension between parental archetypes (Mom and Dad). Indeed, particularly when the oppositions involve the planets or houses, tensions are likely between the parents. In modern times, those separative aspects often mean an actual divorce and separation. Sometimes they just point to strong differences (polarization) between the parents—at least in the eyes of the child who owns the chart.

On another level, this polarity is the struggle between unconditional love (“I love you because you are. You don’t have to earn my love.”) and conditional love (“I love you when you behave the way I want you to. I love you when you perform properly.”). People may feel torn between compassion versus a bottom-line focus; between dependency and dominance; between nurturing support and protection versus firm, disciplined control. We may battle it out internally, or project one end and fight over these issues with a partner or loved one.

This polarity also represents a push/pull between time and energy devoted to home and family (4) versus time and energy devoted to a career and contribution to society (10). Until blended, the individual may go in and out of careers, or leave jobs for their family, or leave their family for vocational advancement, etc. (“Leave” is most often in terms of time, energy, and emotional focus although physical absence is also possible.)

As always, integration requires us to feed both sides. People need both a significant home life, a family, a sense of caring connection to others; a secure nest to which they can retreat; and a career or a sense of responsibility that they have contributed significantly to the world. Some people will combine the two by working out of their home, working with family members, working in a nurturing or caretaking capacity, or working with family or home-centered issues (e.g., real estate).

Individuals must learn to balance unconditional love (when children are very young) with conditional (when they are older and need structure, limits, and to learn respect for others and consequences of actions). People can learn when to call upon their sensitive, compassionate, protective side and when to call upon their hard-nosed, practical, result-oriented, no-nonsense side! An optimal blend allows an individual to focus both functionally and emotionally on getting tasks done.

The 5/11 polarity (Sun/Uranus; 5th/11th house; Leo/Aquarius) revolves around resolving issues of head versus heart. Passions may vie with intellectual detachment. People can feel torn between love relationships and friendships; between children and humanitarian causes; between emotional expression and intellectual exploration; between being special (a “star”) and being equal to others. If not resolved, individuals can delay long-term love relationships and having children—because they are not sure they are ready (consciously or unconsciously) to give up their freedom!

People might swing between “hot” and “cold” in their relationships—or attract partners who play out one end while they do the opposite. Individuals may fall in love with unavailable people (if they project the Uranian side) or keep on getting involved with exaggerative, histrionic types (if they project the Sun side).

Positively integrated, this combination is very exciting. People are often dynamic, highly original and creative, progressive, and inventive. This is an excellent polarity for teaching and has natural skills at entertaining. Often individuals will turn friends into lovers (falling in love with someone’s mind first) and turn lovers into friends (staying friends even after the romantic relationship is over). Individuals can take pride (5) in their tolerance, openness, and support of equal opportunity (11). They may put much passion, drama, and verve (5) into campaigning for equality, justice, and the future (11). They can be friends (11) with their children (5), encouraging independence, equality, and mutual acceptance.

The 6/12 polarity (Mercury/Neptune; 6th house/12th house; Virgo/Pisces) is one form of a real versus ideal conflict. Polar issues include the tension between nitty-gritty details and the urge to merge with All There Is; perspiration, hard work, linear thinking versus inspiration, imagination and intuitive perception. People may swing from being overly critical to rose-colored glasses whereby others take advantage.

Savior/victim games can be enacted. People may succumb to the escape offered by drugs, alcohol, psychosis, excessive TV or daydreaming, etc. Some individuals swing between rescuing a family member from an addiction, to overdoing their own substance abuse. Or, the helper goes too far and swings into martyr and victim.

When integration is achieved, dreams are brought to earth and made real. One common role is the artist or craftsperson, who is bringing more beauty into the world. Another option is the healer—a compassionate individual who feels the Oneness of life and is doing his/her best to improve other people’s lives. This could be through medicine, psychotherapy, volunteer work, or lots of other avenues. The shared theme is a desire to make the world better or more beautiful, to help fulfill people’s lives. The result is a realistic dreamer, a practical mystic who has a vision and also has the practicality to do the hard work and take the necessary steps to achieve that vision.

Even though astrology officially has just these six polarities, there are actually many more! Any astrological combination (planet/planet; planet/sign; planet/house; and sign/house) has issues around which an individual could polarize. The job of the astrologer is to identify those issues, and to offer constructive alternatives to the client. We don’t need to figure out exactly what the client will do. Rather, we should give them some ideas and options, in order to spur further creative choices from them!

To demonstrate, let’s look at one last example. This would be a 4/9 combination (which could come as a Moon/Jupiter aspect; a 4th/9th house contact; or a Cancer/Sagittarius connection). In such cases, the internal push/pull is between roots, security, home, family, nurturing, “mother stuff” and adventure, exploration, the open road, freedom, confidence, and expansion. The person may swing between overconfidence and retreating into a shell. The individual might polarize between security and risk-taking (or play out opposite ends with a partner in a relationship). Another possibility is feeling trapped and fenced in when at home, but feeling homesick and emotionally bereft when traveling. Some people will experience their world view (beliefs, values, religion, spiritual quests) as separating them from their home (and/or parent figures).

Some forms of integration include: a home (4) on the road (9) [trailer, for example]; a home (4) in a foreign country (9); a home (4) full of books, intellectual discussions or people from other lands and cultures (9); a large (9) home (4) with a sense of space and freedom (9). The individual may nurture (4) freedom (9) and feed (4) philosophical exploration (9). The person may identify times to be protective, guarded, pulled in and cautious (4), as well as times to go “whole hog,” confidently reaching for the brass ring, seeking the best and the highest (9). Nurturing (4) principles could be idealized (9)—perhaps even too much. One could care for others (4) with great enthusiasm and humor (9). One could support ethics and principles (9) which stress protection, family, and support (4).

The more clearly we identify the issues, the better off our clients will be. The more options and choices we can help them to see, the more control and power they have to make their lives better. And that is my end goal as an astrologer.

Copyright © 1993 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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