Nativity Charts and Free Will


With the “discovery” of the outer Planets and the movement into Modern Astrology, many traditional associations of the seven Traditional Planets were re-assigned to the Outer Planets.  For example, the genius of Mercury was attributed to Uranus and the idealism and spirituality of Jupiter was assigned to Neptune.  In Modern Astrology, the Outer Planets were assigned transcendent qualities, and astrologers started to believe that these planets were the “higher octave” of the Traditional Planets.  After some time, asteroids and other bodies were “discovered” and given meaning, and astrology got to the point where anything could mean anything.  Astrologers began to teach and believe that one could not truly predict anything because people had “Free Will.”

Many of us began our studies of Classical Astrology against this backdrop.  We discovered that Classical Astrology gave us tools that vastly improved the accuracy of readings and gave us rules to be able to give predictions with reasonable confidence.  Many of us still struggled with the problem of Free Will and what that meant in our ability to give accurate predictions.

I think that the difficulty lies in a Western misunderstanding of Free Will as the ability to do whatever one wants.  This is not the traditional concept of Free Will.  For the traditional concept, it is instructive to look at the symbolism of the cross, which is found in the glyph of all of the non-luminary planets.  The cross is the symbol of materiality, but contained within this symbol are the elements of Free Will.  The cross consists of a vertical line intersected by a horizontal line.  The horizontal line represents substance, or outward movement; the vertical line represents upward and downward movement.  Humans stand at the axis.

Classical Astrology is filled with rules and axioms.  When practicing horary and electional astrology, these rules and axioms are necessary, and to achieve accurate and helpful results for our clients, we do need to be rather strict about application of these rules and axioms in horary and electional work.  When it comes to Nativity readings, though, a strict reading of rules and axioms can create some difficulty.  As a reaction against the vagueness and ambiguity of Modern Astrology and some of the silliness of the New Age movement, I think that Classical Astrologers have tended to shy away from spiritual language and have focused heavily on the material.  Of course, accurate material predictions are quite helpful to our clients, and Classical Astrology has much to offer in terms of assisting us in giving good, practical advice.

On the other hand, I think that there is a rich spirituality in Classical Astrology as well, and we do not need to limit ourselves to strictly material matters.  Just as Modern Astrology stripped away material associations from the Traditional Planets and assigned them to the Outers, Modern Astrology also stripped away the spiritual and transcendent meanings of the Traditional Planets.  One example of this is Neptune.  Somehow, Modern Astrology assigned spiritual and transcendent language to Neptune.  The positive spiritual qualities that Modern Astrology assigned to Neptune are fully subsumed in the Traditional Planets.  Our Solar Hearts unite us with the Divine and with each other, sacrificial Love is shown in both the Lunar and Venusian principles.  Venus is also associated with the spiritual Way of Love.  Mercury is associated with Wisdom/Sophia and with the spiritual Way of Light.  Jupiter is associated with the spiritual Way of Good Works.   There is no need for us to cede the realm of spirituality to Modern Astrology, and Classical Astrology has a lot to offer to those seeking a spiritual path.

For me, the paradigm of the Symbol of the Cross has been extremely helpful in applying the rules and axioms of Classical Astrology to Nativity work.  The paradigm of the cross tells me that there are three main expressions of all astrological configurations in a chart.  The most common expression is the horizontal axis.  This is the material, outward expression, or what will happen naturally.  The horizontal axis represents matters such as vocation, money, social status, hobbies, education, et cetera.  Many of the rules and axioms in Classical Astrology will work well in predicting the horizontal axis.  Yet, humans are Axial Beings, and they can also express their charts upwardly and downwardly along the vertical axis.  Often, it is when a native’s choices on the horizontal axis are most limited that their choices along the vertical axis become most profound.

Queen_Victoria_(c_1839)As an example, a native may be on her deathbed and confined to a hospital.  Her choices on the horizontal axis are severely limited, and she is going to die very shortly.  Despite this, she still has profound choices on the vertical axis.  For instance, suppose she has a relative that she has been estranged from.  On her deathbed, she has many options.  One of the options would be to do nothing, to let herself die with the ruptured relationship as is.  Another option would be an upward choice.  She could write a letter to the estranged relative seeking and extending forgiveness.  Yet another option would be a downward choice.  She could write a vindictive Will to do lasting harm to this relative.  The choice the native makes under these circumstances has profound spiritual impact for herself, the relative, and perhaps the rest of her family.  While an astrologer may be able to predict the native’s likely actions, the choice always remains with the native.

Using this paradigm, I internally translate rules and axioms when I apply them to Nativities.  For example, when reading William Lilly’s description of the planets, I mentally translate “when well placed” to “upwardly expressed” and “when ill placed” to “downwardly expressed.”  I then use dignities and debilities to get a sense of how easy or difficult it will be for the native to express her chart in an upward manner and for the temptations to express her chart in a downward manner.  I also use the rules and axioms to predict the outward and natural tendencies.

An interesting example of this is the chart of Queen Victoria.  She reigned during a pivotal period in the history of England.  Interestingly enough, she had many periods of solitude, including a period of almost ten years after the death of her husband.  During that time, her enemies gained power.  There was a three year period in which she neglected her official responsibilities and became a terror to her children.

Queen Victoria

Even a cursory reading of Queen Victoria’s chart would enable an astrologer to predict a tendency towards isolation, particularly under stress.  Three out of seven planets are deeply situated in her twelfth house, including Mercury, the ruler of her Ascendant, and the depositor of her Sun and Moon.  Using Egyptian terms, Mercury is dignified by term and face, so she is not peregrine; however, she is in the fixed sign of Taurus, so once she isolated herself, it would be difficult for her to come out of such a state.   Often when someone has a difficult planetary placement, I will look to the dispositor of the planet to see if the native can find help there.  Mercury’s dispositor is Venus, also in the 12th House, in detriment, with dignity only by face.  Venus is in worse shape than Mercury, so there is not much help there.  Venus is in turn deposited by Mars, who also in the 12th House, and Mars rules the 12th House.  Mars does have dignity, though, as the ruler of Aries.

If one traces the chain of disposition in this chart, the only planets that can not trace disposition to Mars are Jupiter and Saturn, who are in mutual reception.  They are also the only planets not in or near the 12th House.  By the rule of 5, Queen Victoria’s Sun and Moon are in her first house; however, they are physically located in her 12th.  Saturn rules her 10th House, her duty and her official responsibilities and Jupiter rules her 7th, her husband.  In this chart, Jupiter is the planet that is most favorably placed, being in the 10th House and dignified by triplicity and term.  It is quite predictable that Queen Victoria would respond to her husband’s death with self-imposed isolation, as her marriage was a place of relief from her heavy 12th House.

This chart provides a good illustration of the application of Free Will because Queen Victoria did take a downward path for a time after her husband’s death.  Once she started down this path, one would predict that it would be difficult to impossible for her to change course.  Yet, somehow she did change course.  She slowly resumed her duties and returned to public life.  It took a long time, but eventually, she did.

If I were the royal astrologer trying to help Queen Victoria, the planet I see that could provide assistance to the queen would be Mars.  While I would judge Jupiter as more favorable in her chart, being in the 10th House rather than the 12th, Jupiter really does not have the ability to impact Mercury the way that Mars does.  Jupiter is loosely square Mercury, but he is not connected through disposition to Mercury or the other 12th House planets.  Mars is in a better position to be directly helpful.

In this chart, Mars in Aries is situated in and ruling the 12th House.  The 12th House is tricky, being the House of Troubles.  Is there any way we can use the 12th House in a positive way to give Queen Victoria helpful advice?  Looking to the symbol of the cross, at that point in her life, Queen Victory was spiraling downward.  Even though an upward direction is the highest path, when one is on a downward spiral, one must first be brought to the horizontal, outward axis.  An upward 12th House path would most likely be a spiritual retreat.  In Queen Victoria’s case, this would add to the isolation, and she would likely fall further down the path of despair.

Queen Victoria on HorsebackSo, we are looking at a way to express the 12th House on a physical level in a helpful manner.  This is not an easy problem to solve.  The 12th House is the house least suited to positive outward expression, so it requires a bit of creativity on the part of the astrologer giving advice.  A creative astrologer might look to the traditional associations for the 12th House and remember that horses are associated with the 12th House.  In thinking about this, she might remember that horseback riding and caring for a horse involve physical exertion and exercise, which also make good use of Mars in Aries.

Interestingly enough, horseback riding is exactly what Queen Victoria’s physician did suggest.  Queen Victoria hired a groom, Mr. John Brown, to assist her in following this advice, and she did slowly work her way out of the downward spiral she had been in.  Mr. Brown seemed to have a bit of a Martial manner about him, so it is likely that this was quite helpful to Queen Victoria as well.

As you can see, the paradigm of Free Will and the cross does not change anything in terms of mechanics of delineation; however, this paradigm does give structure to draw upon when working with our clients in giving them helpful and practical advice.

13 comments on “Nativity Charts and Free Will

  1. Very fine work, Myriam. Your method and insights are really on the mark . I’m proud of you !

  2. cleliaromano says:

    Congratulations for the fine article, Mrs Myriam!
    The only thing I wonder is if the “vertical path” does not introduce judgments of values ​​difficult to get from an objective perspective. I mean, for example, why forgiveness is better than not forgive? Sometimes do not forgive some fact may be the correct thing to do mostly if the offense was deadly and unethical. It would represent the upward path that you mentioned in your fine article.
    Anyway your idea of ​​free will remains intact and your design of a cross which represents the duality of freedom versus destiny is very interesting:-)

    • Thank you for your kind words and for your comments and questions.

      Yes, this analysis *does* necessitate value judgments, and I do not think we need to shy away from them. Unlike modern thought, there is an inherent morality in Classical and Traditional thought. All of the astrologers that we study include value judgments in their delineations, sometimes rather harsh value judgments. I have to admit that I cringe at times when reading William Lilly. Whether or not we accept the value judgments of the astrologers we study, it is clear that there was an inherent sense of objective right and wrong.

      While there is an objective sense of right and wrong in all Traditional and Classical studies (not just in astrology), there is flexibility in what actions and thoughts are right and wrong under different circumstances. My deathbed example was merely an illustration of my point. Whether forgiveness is always an upward choice can involve a philosophical discussion that goes well beyond the scope of this article or site; however, I agree that the upward choice may be different for different people and different circumstances.

      Our craft does give us the tools to help discern the upward choice, the outward choice, and the downward choice for individual natives. Going back to my deathbed example, if we were the astrologer advising the native, we would analyze her chart. If the native had Mars in Cancer or Taurus, we may talk about releasing the grudge she has been holding for decades. If the native had Mars in Libra, we may advise her to actually *tell* the relative what she was upset about. If the native had Mars in Aries, we may advise the native to apologize for the hasty and harsh words that she said. Of course, these are simplistic examples based on one planetary placement, but I think it is enough to illustrate the point.

  3. I very much enjoyed reading this article; very help- and insightfull! Thanks for sharing.

  4. […] Cross.  For more intrepid readers, you might want to read an article that I wrote for the ISCA, Nativity Charts and Free Will.  This article is a more technical astrological article about the application of the doctrine of […]

  5. Larxene says:

    Hello Ms. Myriam. May I know where you’ve read about the symbolism of the cross? Thanks.

    • Myriam Hildotter says:

      I was actually taught the symbolism by some very wise teachers of metaphysics, however, Mr. René Guénon wrote at great length about the Symbolism of the Cross. He wrote an entire book on the subject here:

      Mr. Guénon was a Traditionalist teacher of metaphysics, not an astrologer. In fact, he actually took a rather dim view of the modern practice of astrology, particularly as it was influenced by the Enlightenment. He wrote before the modern revival of traditional and classical astrology, though, when modern astrology was what was practiced in the West. Some of his criticism could be applied to even the practice of traditional and classical astrology, I think, though, in terms of being too much influenced by modern science.

      That being said, I do think that Mr. Guénon and other Traditionalist teachers of metaphysics were a bit overly grumpy on the subject, and I do still practice astrology, obviously.

      This means, though, that I had to adapt this teaching for use in applied astrology. With respect to the astrological side of this equation, it really does not change how I practice that much at all. This is how I have always viewed the practice to a certain extent. What this teaching *did* do was give me vocabulary and a paradigm for this work. Having a vocabulary and a working paradigm is quite helpful, particularly when trying to communicate with clients. Even if I don’t reference the cross symbolism specifically, just mentally having the paradigm is helpful. The actual astrology is the same that I have learned and practiced over many years.

      On the metaphysical side, I did discuss my adaptation of the symbol in great depth and detail with my teachers before I ever wrote about this, so that my adaptations to applied astrology preserved the soundness of the metaphysical principles involved.

  6. Raul says:

    Hi Myriam,

    Surely you remember, in “The Being and the Eviroment” (a chapter of The Great Triad) where Guénon explains that the astral influences must be understood esoterically as a summary of the various types of cosmic influences to which the individual is subject, but this determination is made by the being itself who dresses so to speak, with these influences, ie, it is an application of the symbolism of the cross in terms of the manifestation of the Spirit that is represented by the vertical line above the horizontal.
    That is, it is the being that determines their possibilities, and cosmic influences only are the means necessary to perform them.
    As Guénon says, the possibilities are totally of internal order, and what you read in a chart are only secondary causes that make the possible accrues necessary. Or in exoteric terms, God governs the world through second causes.
    That is why the pretense of free will can only come from the individual, strictly speaking, we can say that everything is done according to the plan of the Great Architect of the Worlds, and according to our knowledge or our ignorance, we can follow this plan without problems or attempt to resist, and this is our free will, anyway everything will be done as written.

    • Myriam Hildotter says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, and yes,on one level, what you say is absolutely correct.

      There is a joke about an Enlightened guru that may be helpful here. The guru taught that all of existence was an illusion. A bear came after the guru, and the guru ran away. The student asked the guru, “If the bear is illusion, why did you run away?” The guru responded, “Ah…but my running away was also illusion.”

      Yes, from the point of view of an Enlightened Being, all things (including Dark and Evil) are a part of the plan of the Great Architect, and all things will eventually return to the One. In this sense, Free Will is also a part of the Great Illusion, or Divine Play. Yet, if we were at that level of Enlightenment, we would not need astrology, or any other form of guidance or divination.

      From the level of manifestation, we do have Free Will, I think, and can choose to rise above or fall below the level we were created at, and these choices have consequences for our soul. Just as the joke illustrates, the bear and the running are at the same level. If the guru did not run, she may very well have gotten mauled by the bear, which from the level of manifestation would feel very “real.”

      • Raul says:

        Yes of course! and this is why in my last paragraph I’m saying “we can follow this plan without problems or attempt to resist, and this is our free will…” John Frawley says that astrology is one of the few things that still shows us our free will, ie the will to follow or not the divine plan.
        I love your answer. Thanks!

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