by Robert Wilkinson
In all of Esoteric Philosophy we find a natural 3-fold division of energies in how humanity does things. Some are better at beginning things, some are better at stabilizing things, and some are better at transforming things via the interactions between those things and the world. Today we explore how these relate to our charts.
In the Vedas, the ancient Holy Books of India, it is said there are 3 gunas, or "tendencies." They are called Rajas, Tamas, and Sattvas, and manifest as modes or forces of operation. In astrology we call these Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable sign energies, where each plays its part in initiating, stabilizing, or distributing energy.
These gunas, seen from an astrological angle, represent the 3-fold process by which everything is expressed. We all have all the signs in our charts, so we are all familiar in one way or another with these three energies expressed through the elements of Fire (inspiration), Earth (practicality), Air (associations), and Water (feelings and experiential awareness).
Though we have all of these in our charts, because of our planetary positions, we are naturally inclined toward one or more of these functions. Knowing our particular astrological "formula" is key to understanding our strengths and how we naturally play life's choices and changes.
First, some basics. In the zodiac, there are 12 signs. We all have all the signs somewhere in our chart. Not only that, even when we don't have a planet in a sign, a sign is still active in the area shown by the house with that sign on the cusp, or edge, of that house.
The sign on a cusp shows us both how we approach the affairs of that house, as well as what lessons we're learning about those life affairs. When we don't have a planet in a house, the planet that rules the sign on the cusp is the primary significator of what and how we're relating to those life affairs.
Thus we always have at least two signs at work influencing how we do what we do in any life area; the sign on the cusp, and the sign of the planet that rules the sign on the cusp. The only exception is when the planet is in the sign it "rules" or its "home." Then the sign on the cusp is the sign the planet rules. This is a very powerful influence, and usually exerts an influence on other planets and houses as well through dispositorship.
Each of the twelve signs has an energetic quality of being an activator, consolidator, or distributor. One initiates, one stabilizes, one transforms. These Gunas are considered qualities of the Three-In-One "Godhead" that pervades our system. Sort of like "God the Father," "God the Mother," and "God the Creative Offspring." They infuse all types of behavior, activity, and processes.
In Astrology, the activating, initiating, Rajasic signs are known as Cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. These signs initiate activity, are self-reliant in their movement, and show how we approach the new in the material, emotional, mental, and inspirational levels of life. These signs are said to be "moveable" and thus can be destabilizing and disruptive even as they open new doors and directions through new focus.
The stabilizing, consolidating, Tamasic signs are known as Fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. These signs stabilize conditions, organizing any process into reliable self-perpetuating forms that are resistant to change. Though Tamasic energy is given a very bad rap in Hinduism, they are also the signs governing the 4 "Holy Creatures" of the ancient prophets, the Ox, Lion, Eagle, and Angel, and show the way to liberation for all disciples on a path to Truth.
The distributive, fragmenting, Sattvic signs are known as Mutable signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. These signs distribute the energies stabilized by the Fixed signs that will eventually be picked up by the Cardinal signs in new forms. Though Sattvic energy is considered most "spiritual" in Hinduism, they can also be deflective, dissolving, and unfocused. However, they do show the way to fracture old inert forms to achieve movement, and mark the end of old ways and methods.
By seeing which planets you have in which signs you can understand how that planet naturally expresses itself. A Sun in Gemini is illuminated by distribution, multiplicity, diversity, and fragmentation, as are Virgo, Sag, and Pisces, each in their own way. A Mars in Leo puts for effort in stable consistent ways, and can be annoyed by too much resistance. A Jupiter in Aries finds opportunity in new beginnings, and initiating some self-reliant pioneering expansion in whatever house it's in.
By knowing where the transits are working in your chart, you can see whether you're initiating, stabilizing, or fragmenting any given area of your life. This can help explain why we are letting go of some things while other parts are moving along smoothly and other things are emerging.
The trick is to see the whole picture so you cooperate with your natural process rather than resist it or fear it. A more thorough analysis of how things work in your specific chart can be discovered by studying the qualities of the signs and/or scheduling a session with a professional astrologer.
This is fairly basic knowledge, but crucial to understanding our place in the larger scheme of things, as well as knowing whether to begin something or not, hold on to something or now, or redistribute what has been so we can recombine the pieces in a new initiative to come. Sometimes we do have to "break up to unite," as our old friend the I Ching puts it. Other times we must leap empty handed into the void, knowing the pieces will be there when we arrive.
It all depends on us knowing what's up in general and what's up in our charts as shown by whether we're initiating, consolidating, or distributing in any area of our life. A small but important piece of our reality puzzle.
On a final note, the last time I gave you this material 3 years ago, friend of the site Sagars raised an interesting point I’ll address here. He offered that the term "traigunatitya", literally meaning "beyond the three gunas" or "transcending the three gunas" must have “a parallel paradigm in astrology as integrating the clustered/differentiated energies represented in the natal chart, fulfilling our soul potential and then transcending the natal chart with which we are born.”
This addresses the spiritual dimension of our charts. We can definitely transcend the instinctive mode of expression of our planets. Some of this comes as a result of the progression of those planets out of one sign and into the next one, but we also transcend those modes through higher awareness. Anyone who would become an Arhat or Paramahamsa must become adept at using all the energies at their disposal at any given point in life.
While we may have our inclinations about how to use and express the energies of our planets, we also are not bound to those forms. Our Eternal Self is always beyond the binding force of the material world, except as those binding forces show us Dharma as we live it within the Ring-Pass-Not. Even then, we may view all the modes of force as tools with which to express our Dharma and highest expression in that moment.
So from one point of view, we learn to be the expertise of our innate forms of expression while also learning to transcend the limitations of those forms of expression. By learning to use all the modes of expression on our path to Self-realization, we are able to use the appropriate type of energy to express the truth of what we’re there to BE and do in that moment.
I found a great quote from the great Sage Sri Aurobindo on the subject, which I’ll offer you here. It expresses what we all are learning as we grow from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, and from death to Immortality.
“Traigunatitya, transcendence of the Gunas, is the unperturbed spirit’s superiority to that flux of action of the modes of Nature which is in its constant character perturbed and unequal; if it has to enter into relations with the conflicting and unequal activities of Nature, if the free soul is to allow its nature any action at all, it must show its superiority by an impartial equality towards all activities, results or happenings.” - Sri Aurobindo
© Copyright 2007, 2014 Robert Wilkinson