Servants of Love

by: Gary P. Caton

With South Node in Libra and a 7th house stellium, I tend to feel the ultimate service an Astrologer can offer is not astrology. We must remember astrology is our tool, our language, our system. Our service is counseling, for which there most definitely are formulas. I feel the most valuable things we have to offer as counselors is what the Humanists call accurate empathy and unconditional positive regard. We must adopt a non-evaluative “there but for the grace of God go I” attitude toward our clients. This is done by mirroring back their feelings. This is accurate empathy. A good formula is as follows: So, when happened, you felt because… This gives us as Counselors insight into the subjective experience of our client. For the client it serves to bring feelings out into objective awareness. Also, this process lets us both know we are on the same page and begin to build trust. This is where unconditional positive regard comes in. We must let our clients know that we do not judge them. Only if they know we accept and respect them no matter what their behavior, will they be free not to deny thoughts/feelings. We may have to work at this as counselors. Any behavior is understandable once the underlying feelings and processes are revealed, particularly if the astrologer has learned a psychological formula or framework with which to make sense of them. This is why I feel strongly Astrologers should focus more on certification in counseling/psychology skills. If formal certification is not possible, the astrologer needs to develop at least a cursory knowledge of one or more psychological schools of thought. A theoretical orientation readily adaptable to Astrology is Humanism.

The Rise of Humanism

In the mid-twentieth century, a new movement arose in the social sciences. Psychologists grew tired of the pessimistic, pathos-centered, reductionist views of the Freudian and Behaviorist schools. Some desired a view more optimistic, holistic, and health oriented. From this sprang the Humanistic or person-centered approach.

Humanistic theory has as its basis some ideas of the Existentialist philosophers. Phenomenology means that there is no objective reality (abstract scientific/mechanistic RULES are not reality). The subjective reality of the individual is what’s important as we are constantly making choices that create our existence.[i] That’s right, WE create our existence -through the thoughts, words, and actions we choose. For the record, that sounds like free-will to me folks.

Now this is not all intellectualism. The existentialists recognized a certain element of fatalism in life –termed throwness.[ii] Jim Morrison refers to this in his haunting “Riders on the Storm… –into this world we’re thrown”. It’s like the old saying –you can choose you’re friends but you can’t choose you’re family (of origin).

This contradiction is important because it predicates the idea that individual responsibility (free-will) is our only tool for overcoming or enhancing this throwness. This responsibility includes the creation of meaning/purpose. If we are responsible in only a dutiful way, we will experience anxiety over leading a meaningless life –termed Angst. This anxiety is the result of living in “bad faith” –having shirked our duty to search ourselves and create meaningful personal experiences[iii]. This Angst is always there but is often pushed out of awareness until mid-life when the relaxation of our duties to others brings it crashing down upon us.

The Humanists bought wholesale into the idea of phenomenology –the person describes his/her own conscious experience best.[iv] This gave rise to the Humanist aphorism “start where the person is.” By simply listening in a non-evaluative way -without judging- we can reflect back the persons experience in an illuminating fashion. They can listen to themselves talk (Would you listen to yourself talk!).

Personal responsibility was expanded to include time competency –living in the here and now. This means we have power over our happiness. We can learn from the past, but it is not an anchor. WE CAN CHANGE. In fact, change is inevitable. The Humanists made sense of Angst by proposing the existence of an Actualizing Tendency – an inherent motivation to develop in a positive manner, to make actual our human potential[v].

Humanists, as the term implies, believe in people. People are seen as inherently creative. This creative force is Self-actualization. We become truly, and wholly ourselves. Self-Actualization occurs when the individual is fully functioning in three areas: Awareness, Time Competency, and Self-Trust.[vi] First comes Awareness. The individual is Self-aware –conscious and accepting of feelings and cognitions. Second, the individual is time-competent, living in the here and now. Happiness is not “over the rainbow”, “when I get my Degree” or in “the good old days”. Here and now –its your choice to be happy. Finally, the Individual trusts and believes in him/her Self. The individual listens to Self, knowing that unpleasant feelings cannot be ignored or put-away, but must be recognized as opportunities for increased awareness and growth.

Astrology, Humanism and Self-Actualization

Enter the Astrologer. Unless the client has been given the reading as a gift or is in on a lark, chances are pretty good that they must have some negative feelings about something. This is not to say that giving the client the standard “Love, Health, Career” Earth triad reading is not useful –it most certainly is –if that is what the client really wants. Transits are usually considered to be appropriate for this event –oriented, predictive Astrology. The sense of timing can be very useful. For instance, if someone is having trouble in their job search and is temporarily disheartened, they might come to me asking, “when am I going to get a job?” I might look at any number of chart factors including (but not limited to) the rulers of the tenth and sixth houses and/or planets therein. Then I might look to see if there are currently any planets forming angles (transits) to these significators. Depending on the nature of the angles, and the nature of the relationship between the transiting planet and the nativity, I might say, “This or that day is good for interviews, avoid the other day, etc.” This quite often produces favorable results.

However, as a Humanistic Astrologer, I would be more concerned with the individual’s subjective experience. Therefore, on a deeper level, I would try to identify what I call the client’s “Season of Becoming.” The way to do this is to singularly reference each planet back to itself. By doing so, we have remained in the inner, subjective world of the individual (relating to the Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn within)–where the real work of Self-Actualization occurs. For instance, I might look at the Mars cycle first to see how this person is experiencing his/her assertive energies. Often I have seen Mars cycle transits (mars transits to itself) bring employment opportunities. This is a moment when one defines how he/she is going to expend his/her energies. Of course this would be especially true if Mars is strong in the chart by rulership/exaltation (house or sign), angularity, or aspect.

At the same time, I would also need to discern the larger, slower moving cycles of Saturn and Jupiter. If these two are both waning (past opposition -3rd & 4th qtr.) and/or in the 4th or 1st quadrant I might recommend staying the course (pursuing a similar position) for the time being but looking for a position that offers some transition potential down the line or is temporary in nature. This will free the individual to keep their options open and look for opportunities as the current cycles close. If either of these two were nearing a return, I would suggest the possibility of a new direction –a new position, training, or schooling building on the present condition. If both are waxing (1st & 2nd qtr.), I would suggest that the difficulty likely stems from a missed opportunity for growth, and that new directions need serious consideration. Of course all of this needs to be corroborated and qualified by interviewing the client and practicing reflective listening –what was happening at this or that time and how did you feel about it? In this way we help to explore potentials that the client may have missed, ignored, or under-analyzed.

Now I am not suggesting that these two approaches are mutually exclusive. The client might have a fairly well determined course in life and really only want some timing advice and reassurance. In this case transit work will be fine. However, they might seem to have a deeper question on their mind or be unable to fully engage in the session and/or the job-hunting process. The latter case could be indicated by one or more of the superior planets, Mars, Jupiter, and/or Saturn, nearing or emerging from their quarterly Seasons (conjunct, square, or opposite their natal positions). Finally, of course, we must remember that we can only lead to water…

The Impact of Retrogrades

Chances are that the client who has deeper concerns beyond the everyday –when will I get a job –is this person right for me type questions–will have at least one, if not a few, planets in retrograde motion in their chart. This is consistent with the symbology of the retrograde as representing a function that is pushed down into consciousness –subjectified to a degree that it does not function consistently on the objective, material plane.

Further, retrogression often brings with it issues of time competency. The retrograde planet appears to have turned backward in retreat, from a geocentric perspective. This planet and the functions it symbolizes are on their own, out of touch with the rest of the pantheon. Ever notice how your mind can start to drift when you’re by yourself? It is the same with retrogression. The planet moves back over a portion of the sky/psyche it has already crossed. This mulling over activity is normal and natural but it can become obsessive/compulsive (it is generally agreed that Pluto is the planet of obsession –interesting that he is retrograde most often).

Whenever we are mulling over events and/or feelings we are not really present in the moment. I’m not talking about the necessary measure twice –cut once kind of checking or even a lying in bed review of the day’s events, but a more brooding or at least ruminating pattern of behavior. This is very often what the retrogression causes one to deal with, for one is constantly looking forward to new direct motion or backward to before the cosmic vertigo took hold.

If we remember the requirements for full functioning, the first is awareness –if we are aware of and consciously choosing this looking forward/backward it is less of a problem. This is particularly true with the outer, Trans-personal planets. These represent Meta-physical processes –the spiritual realm. Spirituality is often enhanced by introverted reflection. In fact, for most, this is a somewhat necessary state in order to connect with these energies. Spiritual states are often defined by a sense of time distortion. It is no coincidence that the outer planets are retrograde nearly half the time. In this sense, time competence is not as crucial with Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto issues.

Psychologist George Kelly theorized that a person’s psychological processes are channeled by the way in which he/she anticipates events.[vii] He believed we constantly use mental constructs as templates (like symbols) to anticipate events. Anxiety occurs when we can’t predict future events. We then adjust our constructs with new information. This is a constant process (like transits/progressions). Kelly should have been an Astrologer!

With retrogression, however, the inherent subjective nature of the processes symbolized by the planet causes the templates to be inaccurate as they mirror an inner, subjective reality and not necessarily the outer, objective reality we need to be able to anticipate/predict. Further, these templates can become impermeable[viii] -that is unable to consider new information –because of a fixation on inner, subjective realms.

Obviously, this situation would produce chronic anxiety that might lead to depression. The inability to predict and therefore control events would have a ripple effect that could serve to paralyze the Self developmentally. If we are unsure what will happen –we are unlikely to act at all. In all probability, the unpredictability is focused in an area of life symbolized by the sign and house placement of the retrograde planet.


The key here is to offer accurate empathy –listening without judging. By reflecting back the person’s feelings in a safe non-evaluative manner they can begin to get an objective view of their own subjective reality. When this happens, the “stuck” place in the psyche becomes freed and can begin to consider new information/points of view. The combination of awareness (of being in a “stuck”, maladaptive pattern), time competency (the pattern is with particular issues –not always or never), and trust in self (to be aware of the need for new information/point of view and listen for it/act on it), is hard to complete at first but can become just as innate as the previous pattern. This is why experience with adversity is said to build character. To be able to realize one’s plan is not working, yet have faith in the ability to recognize and use new information as it becomes available is to be “cool under fire”. This is a quality of any fully functioning, Self-Actualized individual.

As we counsel clients who have entered into a long-term relationship with us, we would do well to remember their developmental phase and the primary struggle it entails. We may find that we have to peel the proverbial onion with them, going back to free up energy from previous stages before we can fully embrace the current cycle. In this way, Saturn’s sickle does not cut so harshly if we have grown enough branches with Jupiter to need pruning.

Just as we need a theoretical orientation in order to deal with clients’ feelings, if we are doing multiple sessions with a client we will have need for a framework to understand them developmentally. The Humanists definitely saw life as a process. Abraham Maslow saw this process as occurring in a series of steps or stages.[ix] Fulfilling more complex needs and attaining higher consciousness at each level, the self- actualized individual reaches “peak experiences” where his/her understanding of self and relationship to the universe are wholly realized, infusing life with meaning and inspiration. To anyone who has studied Maslow’s hierarchy[x] of needs, it should come as no surprise that inter-personal needs –belongingness and esteem –fall in between our basic physical and safety needs and our higher self-actualization needs.[xi] As a good friend of mine puts it, “God speaks to us through each other.” This is how the astrologer becomes a “servant of Love.”

Human Development and Planetary Cycles

I tend to depart somewhat from the Humanist school in terms of development, only because I see other theories that more fully agree with the astrological framework. I tend to agree with models such as that put forth by Bruce Scofield[xii], which tie human development to the planetary cycles –what I call “seasons of becoming.” The psychologist that most closely relates to this type of progression was the Neo-Freudian Erik Erikson.[xiii]

At birth, the human personality is Lunar – reflective, dependant, and need-based. The infant is unaware of anything but its own needs and inability to satisfy them. In Astrology, the Moon symbolizes needs and as a satellite –dependency. We experience thirteen Lunar returns before any other planet makes its return. Thus the first year is symbolized by the Moon. The moon also symbolizes emotional security in Astrology. Similarly, Erikson saw the first year as critical to developing a sense of either basic Trust versus Mistrust.[xiv] Conjunctions or hard angles to the Moon from malefics (for our purposes here Mars, Saturn and all outer planets) can suggest developmental difficulty at this stage. However, it is going to take long-term sessions for the astrologer-client relationship to begin to explore this level of awareness.

At one year, a developmental barrage begins to take place. The personality becomes self-aware as an individual identity. Attempts at communication and locomotion begin. One’s need to relate to other individuals in greeting/farewell and play begins to form. Not surprisingly, this correlates to the return of the Sun, Mercury, and Venus to their natal positions after one year. The Sun symbolizes the autonomous Self in astrology. Mercury rules language and locomotion. Venus symbolizes the need to relate. Similarly Erikson saw the period between the first and second years as crucial to forming a sense of Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt.[xv] Conjunctions or hard angles to the Sun, Mercury, or Venus from malefics and/or retrogression (by the planet or a planet it is in angle to) can signify developmental difficulty at this stage. Of course, self-esteem issues are going to take long-term sessions to address as well.

At two years, Mars –the ancient god of war-returns. No wonder they call it the terrible two’s! At this point the personality is consumed with self-reliance, the right to say NO! -and energetic expression. In Astrology, Mars symbolizes energy, action, and assertiveness. Similarly, Erikson saw this stage as a time to develop a sense of Initiative versus Guilt.[xvi] Conjunctions or hard angles to Mars from malefics and/or retrogression can signify developmental difficulty at this stage.

Of course, there is a continuum on which these functions develop. Normal healthy initiative can become over-functioning aggression. However those who fail to develop initiative, ambition, and purpose are left with feelings of guilt and resignation. This is why it is extremely important to show patience as a parent and let a developmental phase play out somewhat as “just a phase” and not be too eager to suppress behaviors before it is time –that is until the next phase calls for new development. These phases do build upon one another. It is necessary to have a sense of trust in order to relate, and it is necessary to be able to relate in order to develop healthy initiative, and so on.[xvii]

Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus Cycles

Now the next planetary return does not occur until Jupiter completes a twelve year cycle. Does this mean that Astrology assumes no development takes place between two and twelve, or that development is “latent” -a la Freud? Hardly! In order to continue our examination of development, we must remember that each cycle can be divided quarterly. Thus Jupiter’s twelve year cycle can be seen to take place in four, three-year quarters, with the return (New) and opposition (Full) phases taking on special significance.

So the period between three and six years of age can be seen to correlate to the waxing toward full functioning of the Jupiter principle. In Astrology, Jupiter is the expansion principle. Whereas Mars represents only a call to action, Jupiter represents the achievement of that action’s goal. Larger than all other planetary bodies combined, radiating its own energy, and holding many moons, Jupiter symbolizes systems –language systems, school systems, and knowledge systems or theories. Thus these years can be seen to be the beginnings of socialization –fitting in to the social system. Interestingly enough, it is at five or six years that children enter the public school system and begin to develop objective self-awareness. Similarly, the early school days were seen by Erikson as necessary to experience feelings of success and competence. In contrast, if these experiences are limited either by authority figures or circumstance, the resulting failures can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Erikson called this Industry versus Inferiority.[xviii] Conjunctions or hard angles to Jupiter from malefics and/or retrogression can signify developmental difficulty at this stage.

Jupiter’s return at twelve years roughly coincides with the onset of puberty. This is a time of great expansion as the physical body develops secondary sexual characteristics and the hormones run wild. This necessitates an expanded world-view, including the opposite sex and a desire for intimacy. But the process unfolds in fits and starts because of the overlapping and overlaying of contrary developmental principles, and it is not until the second Jupiter return at 24 that we are truly able to develop lasting intimacy.

The next planetary body, Saturn, orbits to return in about 29 years. Saturn’s quarterly cycles occur roughly every seven years. Saturn is the symbolic opposite of Jupiter. Saturn is the contraction principle. Saturn makes concrete Jupiter’s expansions. Saturn’s rings remind that one victory does not make a war. Real success depends on repeated, sustained efforts. Saturn’s rings also symbolize limits and authority figures who impose limits on over-expanded, out-of –bounds energies. The period between seven and fourteen can be seen to correlate to the waxing toward full functioning of the Saturn principle. It is at fourteen that children enter High School and are assumed to be capable of the self-discipline required to become an active member (albeit supervised) of the community.

In the teen years, Erikson saw the struggle between Identity versus Role confusion.[xix] Young people seek to find out who they are by joining groups, trying different jobs, friends etc. If they have maneuvered the previous stages successfully, chances are that they will eventually settle into a role they feel comfortable with. If not, the resulting role confusion can be incredibly disruptive during the opening square of Uranus at 21 with the restless and often reckless energies that are unleashed. Worse, it could threaten the eventual ability to develop genuine intimacy in early adulthood.

Erikson saw early adulthood as a process of Intimacy versus Isolation.[xx] A failure to develop intimacy can retard emotional growth and personal satisfaction. This is the basic struggle for all people as they move through the second Jupiter and first Saturn returns at 24 and 29. Thus we can define these cycles as Seasons of Becoming –becoming a fully functioning human being. Conjunctions or hard angles to Jupiter or Saturn from malefics and/or retrogression can signify developmental difficulty at this stage.

The third Jupiter return at 36 often finds the individual again growing. There may be new family members –children or grand-children-as well as new influence in the world of affairs. People, especially children, may respect and seek one’s opinion. Erikson saw this stage as one of Generativity versus Stagnation.[xxi] We develop a concern for the next generation and find our lives enriched by our influence and interactions with them. If we ignore or redirect these inner promptings we may stagnate and suffer boredom or depression. This is where the individual responsibility to search for meaning is most crucial. If we do not find it, the resulting “bad faith” and angst can be very disruptive at mid-life. Conjunctions or hard angles to Jupiter from malefics and/or retrogression can signify developmental difficulty at this stage.

This is followed shortly by the mid-point of Uranus’ 84 year cycle. At roughly 42 years Uranus is opposite its natal place or in its Full phase. Uranus in Astrology is associated with freedom, because it is beyond the confines of the ancient planets that could be seen with the naked eye –and thus represents freedom from the known. In individuals that have developed a sense of generativity, this may result in works of genius where something extraordinary is passed on. This liberating urge can be destructive in stagnating individuals living in “bad faith” who experience the mid-life crisis as a “second adolescence” when their children have left the home, or may perhaps result in a second career more in tune with their inner promptings.

The second Saturn return of 58-60 coincides with the fifth Jupiter return. We find our lives winding down and ready for the retirement years. We reap the rewards of any disciplined savings we may have accumulated, and have time for reflection. Our life course is pretty well determined, and if we are lucky we can be content. Erikson saw this stage as one of Integrity versus Despair.[xxii] If we have successfully completed most of the stages and can look back on our lives with satisfaction then we will have a sense of Integrity. If we missed the mark too widely and failed to make amends we may experience despair at not being able to find satisfaction with our life’s course. Conjunctions or hard angles to Jupiter or Saturn from malefics and/or retrogression can signify developmental difficulty at this stage.

After approximately seven Jupiter cycles, and three Saturn cycles, if we have continued physical vitality along with psychological integrity -we have lived to see our final cycle –the Uranus return at 84 years. Uranus represents true Enlightenment and Self-Actualization –the sense that the whole of one’s life is more than the sum of its parts –and that somehow it has all been well worth it. There is an obvious twinkle in the eye of anyone who has achieved this state and we would do well to seek their counsel.

Copyright 2005 Gary P. Caton. Visit the Gary P. Caton website.

Licensed under Creative Commons Copyright.

[i] Neukrug, Ed (2000). Theory, Practice, and Trends in Human Services. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

[ii] Burger, Jerry (2000). Personality. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Neukrug, Ed (2000). Theory, Practice, and Trends in Human Services. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Burger, Jerry (2000). Personality. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

[vii] Kelly, George (1955). The Psychology of Personal Constructs. New York: Norton.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Maslow, Abraham (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Astrologer and Psychologist Glenn Perry describes the first four signs as “personal”, the second four “interpersonal”, and the final four “transpersonal” and relates their needs to Maslow’s hierarchy. See Glenn Perry, An Introduction to Astro-Psychology. 1998, The Association for Astrological Psychology: San Rafael, Ca.

[xii] Bruce Scofield, “Planetary Circuits: An Astro-Biological Model of Human Development” The Mountain Astrologer Issue # 101 Feb/Mar 2002.

[xiii] See for instance Erikson, Erik (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd ed.) New York: Norton -or Erikson, Erik (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

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