A Brief History of the Full-Phase Aspects
Suggestion: First read the previous article "Full-Phase Aspects - An Introduction.
How did I find out about Phase Charts? Well, a good number of years ago I became increasingly dissatisfied with traditional aspect interpretation and for several reasons. For one, I found in the orient that there was more attention paid to the phase of the Moon and that the waxing phase was clearly delineated differently than the waning phases. They routinely do this and base their whole spiritual practice calendars around the fact of full-phase analysis, at least between the Sun and the Moon. Since I respect the Tibetan Buddhists and their history very much, this really gave me pause for thought. And I began to think it through.
Second, since I am the curator of a very large astrological library, I decided to thoroughly look through the library for references to full-phase aspects in the literature. This took, as you might imagine, some time to do.
What I found in the Western literature was: not much. There were a few pioneers in this area of research, but even they did not seem to follow their own conclusions. Those who did use full-phase aspects include Grant Lewi, whose book “Astrology for the Millions” is on my desert-island list of astrology books, perhaps even at the top of the list. L. Edward Johndro also routinely used the full-phase interpretations. Others also recommended these aspects, in particular Dane Rudhyar, but while he described them and pointed out their potential value, in a great many of his books he didn’t use them. I did speak to his former wife Leyla Rudhar and she affirmed that Rudhyar was an advocate of full-phase aspects, but again I did not see the follow-thru in actual use that I found in someone like Johndro. It may be that this view came late in Rudhyar’s life; I can’t say. What I can say is that astrologers with this view are few and far between in the literature.
Next, I turned my attention to the study of cycles, which of course have all these same phases we are discussing. All cycles are identical when it comes to evaluating synodic periods of two bodies, one faster than the other. I looked through the literature and even spoke with Richard Mogey (the former head of the “Foundation for the Study of Cycles”) and he admitted that there really was not much written about the phase structure of cycles although there is a huge amount of literature on the various cycles themselves.
And I found this to be the case. Although we could fill a small library with papers and books on various cycles and their lengths, you would be hard to find even one or two pages on what we are discussing here – the structure of the waxing and waning parts of cycles. I found this to be amazing indeed.
I then did what is always for me the hardest thing to do, which is to turn away from the books and turn inward to my own mind and begin to examine these ideas afresh on their merits. I also went through an enormous number of charts and began constructing various computer programs to help me in this research. And this approach proved to be more fruitful than what went before.
Of course, it was easy to see that most of what is written about aspect cycles and their meaning has just been handed down from generation to generation through history, with nothing significant added. This is not to suggest that what has been handed down has no value. Of course it does, but here I am speaking about expanding on what is traditional. On that note, I did see significant contributions from the Ebertin/Witte approach (Cosmbiology) and in that of John Addey (Harmonic Analysis). And these two newer approaches are, of course, related closely. Aside from this, there is not much in the literature.
I went over the concept of phase angles again and again until it was second nature and gradually forced myself to turn away and work through this material on my own, to just think it through. And what I found is worth relating here. While what follows may seem somewhat heretical, I assure you it is not. If you will take the time to study this concept on your own and to think it through by using worked examples such as your own chart, you will see a somewhat new approach to aspects emerge. Here are some of the main conclusions:
The Sixteen Major Aspects
We took a brief look at groups of aspects earlier on. Now let’s walk through the cycle from Conjunction to Conjunction, and say something more about each aspect. I will try to point out where I found information that is different from the traditional interpretations.
The Conjunction – 0-degrees
The Conjunction point seems to remain constant through all time and in all of the astrology I have studied, East and West. This is the starting point which, like the New Moon, is the most inward or collapsed point in the cycle. This is the beginning or starting point of the synodic cycle and all of the traditional concepts of insemination, seed impulse, resonant tone, etc. stand. This definition is quite traditional. I found nothing really new here. The Conjunction corresponds to the Midnight point, the 10th House, and the zodiac sign Capricorn – the most inward point possible, where everything ends and all things begin.
The Opposition – 180-degrees
On the other end of the cycle, the Opposition, my view did change somewhat. In the Western tradition (certainly in the literature I have access to) we easily fall into the habit of considering the Opposition as one of the “Hard” aspects, literally as “opposing” us in some way or another. In other words, when we discover the Oppositions in a chart, there is the same kind of little cringe similar to that we have when we find Squares.
Although Oppositions get somewhat better treatment than Squares in the literature, that treatment is not a whole lot better. Or to put it more plainly: there is some lip service to the effect that Oppositions are helpful, but when you get right down to most of the written interpretations, they are treated just like Squares and considered as ‘bad’ or unwanted aspects. This is all there in black and white for any of you to read. Check your books.
What I came to understand about the Opposition is more akin to the view that the Tibetan Buddhist hold when they look at the cycle of the Moon. In that tradition, it is the Opposition (i.e. the Full Moon) that is the most sacred. This is the time when Buddha was born, the time when he was enlightened, the time he passed away, and so on. There is no question that in the Eastern literature the Opposition is the fulcrum, the turning point or key point in the whole cycle. Of course, in any cycle or circle all points are required, but some are more prominent and the Opposition is the most prominent of all the degrees in the synodic cycle, at least in Asia.
This approach, plus a lot of looking at charts, eclipses, and plain old deep thought led me away from my habit of somehow not welcoming Oppositions and toward a different view of this aspect and that is:
It is only through Oppositions that life unfolds or manifests. The Opposition in every cycle is, like the fullness of the Moon, when the bloom or incarnation is most full. Thus the Opposition would correspond to the zodiac sign Cancer (in the tarot: The Chariot), to Noon Time when everything is manifest, and with the Fourth House, our physical home. This is the point of greatest manifestation or living – the experience itself.
Through my work with this aspect, the word “Experience” came to best signify what the Opposition is all about. If the Conjunction is the seed impulse, the Midnight point, the Tenth House, and the zodiac sign Capricorn, then the Opposition represents the living end of things, when we are most in-the-body or incarnate and just feeling it all, “Experiencing.”
Moreover, the opposition or 180-degree point in any synodic cycle follows the above interpretation and the Opposition is the main body or the experience itself, that is: the result of the seed and all the growth to that point. A cycle is born, grows to an Opposition, and then begins to physically or experientially decline and fade back to where it came from, hopefully garnering or providing some knowledge as a result, which knowledge becomes the seed for the next cycle that begins at the coming Conjunction, and so on.
The Waxing Hemisphere
It is the waxing or growing hemisphere that takes the tone or impulse (which is at first seminal but lacking physical form) and through its ringing resonance begins to build (successfully or unsuccessfully) a form perfectly designed to fit its message and results in the living end of life, the Opposition. Rudhyar’s book “The Lunation Cycle” echoes this view.
The Waning Hemisphere
And it is the waning or declining hemisphere that takes the experience achieved at the Opposition and follows it through its inevitable demise, extracting whatever is of value, while all the time assisting in the de-construction of the experience, and ending with the very essence or seed of that experience.
In this respect, both Eastern and Western astrology have a good handle on the waxing and waning hemispheres. I found little to add to the descriptions of these cyclic elements that have been handed down to us over the centuries. There is general agreement here.
The Square Aspects
With the Square aspect, I ran into my first real problems. The reputation of the Square or “Hard” aspect just did not jibe with what my research showed. Tradition finds the Square aspect difficult and to be avoided, certainly not welcomed in the chart. Sure, there is some lip service to how valuable Squares are, but all too often the same author slips into bad-mouthing squares further on when it comes to their interpretation. What did I find that differs from this?
I found that the “bad boy” reputation of the Square in reality more acurately belongs to the Semi-Square family, which I will get to a little later in this article. As for the Square aspect, it did not add up in my study to what the tradition suggests. Instead, Squares have come to signify what I call “Turning Points” in time, pivot points upon which some major opportunity for change hangs. And there are, of course, two square points and they are very different from one another.
The Waxing Square – 90-degree Aspect
The Waxing Square is similar to the Ascendant (or the sign Aries) in that it is here that the first signs of actual manifestation can be seen. Think of an idea or plan that has been put into play but has as yet not shown any sign of becoming real or visible in this world. At the Waxing Square point in any cycle, there is usually something tangible that appears and can be seen, something that will remain actual and visible much like when it snows there is a point where the ground will hold the snow and instead of vanishing and melting, it holds and accumulates. This is the turning point from inward to outward. That is how I view the Waxing Square, as a turning point, not a problem point.
The Waning Square – 270-degree Aspect
The Waning Square is just the opposite and in that regard is similar to the Descendant (or the sign Libra). This is the point where the outer manifestation (whatever it is) that reached fullness at the Opposition no longer has control physically, but gives up and declines very rapidly from this point in the cycle onward. This is a turning point from outward, to inward. Everything from this point forward in inner directed and inner controlled. Instead of something arising into view as in the Waxing Square, here there is an active deconstruction, a taking apart of what is, and a looking and going inward – taking and learning what we can from a situation. That is a very brief discussion of Squares.
The Sextiles and Trines
With the Sextile and Trine aspects, our Western tradition pretty much has it right and I don’t have too much to add. These aspects have been termed “Good” or beneficial and tend to be as welcomed as the Square aspect is shunned.
I term these aspects (the two Sextiles and two Trines) as “energy points,” as aspects where energetic material is somehow pumped into the system and the increased activity from this sudden influx of energy creates or changes the situation by expanding the space surrounding it. Think of it as that the increased energy creates an aura, creates room or space surrounding the situation that allows work to be done more quickly or done at all. When Sextile/Trine energy is available, there is room for work and the expanded space lets whatever is already in motion move forward and progress, for good or ill. The Buddhist say that the Buddha’s presence turns the wheel of the dharma. Not to be irreverent, but here I am suggesting that the energy of Sextiles and Trines creates an aura or atmosphere in which work happens, things are freed up, and situations take the course they were directed to take, be that constructive or not.
Further, there are some major interpretive differences between the four energy points, the Waxing Sextile or Trine and the Waning Sextile or Trine. There is room here to go over them very briefly, but these differences are important to consider.
The Waxing Sextile – 60-degree Aspect
The Waxing Sextile or 60-degree point is where the cycle picks up momentum as it rises toward the 90-degree of Square point of first manifestation. It is this energy point that provides the room or space (breadth) to stomach whatever obstacles remain to actualizing the experience, and like the Twelfth House and Pisces, it is here that the strength of patience and forbearance is available to accept whatever has to be accepted in order for things to move forward to manifestation.
The Waxing Trine – 120-degree Aspect
The Waxing Trine or 120-dgree point is the real building-block point of the cycle, where the increased energy allows great progress in manifestation to take place, and whatever physical construct is happening to take form and quickly at that. This is a power point for manifestation, after which something very definitely exists and has been done, at the Opposition.
The Waning Trine – 240-degree Aspect
The Waning Trine or 240-degree aspect represents another energy opportunity, but here we are on the waning side of the cycle, so we are not investing energy in building things, but just the reverse, using energy for deconstructing – taking things apart, but carefully. Something has to be “made” of the experience, but here we are speaking of what can be understood or drawn out-from the experience at the Opposition. We are beginning to draw some conclusions here, although very preliminary ones. This corresponds to the Sixth House and Virgo, so we are definitely ”leaving the body” of the experience, and at the same time trying to salvage and preserve all that we can. We can see and understand that the experience will discorporate, and we begin to not fight that thought, but to cooperate in the salvage operation.
The Waning Sextile – 300-degree Aspect
The energy of the Waning Sextile or 300-degrees aspect, like the Eighth House and the zodiac sign Scorpio is all about clearly separating the wheat from the chaff, actively criticizing and removing that which must be removed and leaving that which stands up to this test and deserves to remain. There is no question about the future of the body of the experience, which is going downhill fast. Instead, all eyes are upon preserving what we can from that experience – the seed essence.
I hope you can see that these four energy points, the two Sextiles and the two Trines are very different from one another in interpretation and that these differences in interpretation add a great deal to our working knowledge of the aspects meaning.
Now these little buggers really are a handful and, as mentioned earlier, actually deserve the reputation that the Square aspects have received down through history. Again, there are four of them, the Waxing Semi-Square or 45-degree angle, the Waxing Sesqui-Quadrate or 135-degree angle, the Waning Sesqui-Quadrate or 225-degree angle, and the Waning Semi-Square or 315-degree angle.
It is interesting to note that in the Tibetan astrology, these four 45-degree points on the circle are known as the “Tomb Signs.” These Semi-Square aspects do seem to actually represent real challenges or obstacles along the aspect cycle and I have done enough exploration to confirm this, at least for myself. Yet, like any of the other mirror-aspects, each one presents a slightly different problem and each one has a slightly different approach that is recommended for working with them, as follows:
The Waxing Semi-Square 45-degree Aspect
The Waxing Semi-Square generally brings one or more obstacles to the fore, stalling or at least slowing down whatever plan or impulse is in the process of working its way toward manifestation. They can very much present a challenge and it is important to know how to meet this challenge.
There is a time to push against an obstacle and a time to know when to back off and let the obstacle pass in its own time. The 45-degree aspects represents the former, that is: It is generally suggested to challenge the challenge, so to speak, and to gently push on through whatever obstacle threatens to stall out the momentum. So, we confront the Waxing Semi-Square and gently move on through. We don’t give up or back off.
The Waxing Sesqui-Quadrate or 135-degree Aspect
The 135-degree or Waxing Sesqui-Quadrate is another story. It is not advised to push forward at this aspect, but rather it is best to back off, and to cease and desist. I will explain why. This aspect follows the energetic Waxing Trine point and marks the end of that energy and construction and the beginning of the final finishing of whatever the project represents. The push is over at the Trine and the obstacle or challenge appearing here should not itself be challenged. It is more like a highway sign that says “Road Curves Ahead.” At the Opposition the straight line we have been following curves and starts to cycle or return. The 135-degree aspect is that warning. We should not push at this point, but instead allow it to remain as it is, taking it as a sign that our big push is over for this cycle and instead turn to finishing up whatever we have put in motion thus far.
The Waning Sesqui-Quadrate or 225-dgree Aspect
The 225-degree or Waning Sesqui-Quadrate resembles that first 45-degree Waxing Semi-Square in that here we can push or challenge it, and benefit from that move. The Waning Sesqui-Quadrate represents, physically the end of whatever experience of vehicle manifested at the Opposition. This aspect is the point of official breakdown of the experience, after which it is all downhill physically, and our thoughts had best be in retrieving and salvaging whatever we can from the experience. Obstacles or challenges that appear here are natural and it is best to push on through and actively confront and remove them. But there has been a complete flip at this point, from pushing outward and building, to pushing inward and beginning to take things apart. The experience of the Opposition is starting to break up.
The Waning Semi-Square or 315-degree Aspect
The 315-degree or Waning Semi-Square is the last aspect in this series and represents a challenge in understanding or assimilating, figuring out what it all means – this entire experience to date. This particular aspect does not respond well to confrontation or challenge, that is: pushing or opposing it not recommended. Instead, what is recommended is to relax and be very passive, as in: letting this blockage pass on its own accord. The need here is for flexibility and accommodation. This is key.
The Semi-Sextile and Inconjunct Series
I must admit that I find this series of aspects somewhat puzzling and don’t feel confident that I properly understand them as well as I believe I do the other aspects we have discussed. It may be for one of you to finish this piece of research and clarify their nature. With that said, let me share what I have learned.
I sometimes call these the “Transition Aspect,” but it sounds too much like the “Turning Point Aspects” of the Conjunction, Squares, and Opposition, so I call these four aspects the “Four Pauses.” What I really mean to say by this is that these aspects almost represent lulls or vacancies in time. Perhaps “Time Out” aspects would be a better term, for things at these points are in flux, but not in high energy or high-profile flux. These are aspects for the time before and the time after larger aspect events. That is about the best I can put this concept into words. These aspects are pauses where we allow ourselves to adjust our attitude and assume a new attitude. These can be confusing times, because we are neither here nor there, but somewhere in-between.
The Waxing Semi-Sextile or 30-degree Aspect
The Waxing Semi-Sextile or 30-degree aspect follows the impulse or Conjunction point and precedes the first challenge or 45-degree aspects. It appears to be a time of coming together or forming, putting whatever idea is emerging from the tone or impulse of the Conjunction into some kind of formulated plan. A plan forms. This aspect corresponds to Aquarius in signs and the Eleventh House, so the concept of some general plan makes sense. We are waiting for a plan to form, just as after a New Moon, there are a few days until we can let go of an older approach and get used to taking up a new approach – a pause.
The Waxing Inconjunct or 150-degree Aspect
The Waxing Inconjunct (sometimes called the Quincunx) or 150-degree aspect follows the push of the Waxing Trine and the challenge or slowdown of the Waxing Sesqui-Quadrate, so I tend to refer to this aspect as the “Finishing Aspect,” an aspect that completes or puts the finishing touch on the experience that will soon culminate at the Opposition. It corresponds to the sign Gemini and the Third House, and this would mark the point (at the Opposition) where the arteries end and the veins begin. This aspect does not have the drama of the aspect that precedes or that follows it, so it is some kind of lull in the action department, which is not to say there is nothing happening here, for there is. The finishing touch is being added, whatever that might me. It is not a time of push, but more of glide.
The Waning Inconjunct or 210-degree Aspect
The Waning Inconjunct (sometimes called the Quincunx) or 210 degree aspect follows the experience of the Opposition and precedes the challenge of the Waning Sesqui-Quadrate aspect. Again, this is a quieter aspect, a lull in whatever is taking place. I like to think of this aspect as the one in which the awakening or awareness of what took place at the Opposition begins to dawn. When we are in the middle of an experience and living it, we have not yet had time to reflect on it because it has not stopped happening enough to allow reflection.
The Waning Inconjuct is when the first glimmer of awareness occurs that tells us we have been through something, but is not strong enough yet for us to really grasp the enormity of whatever that might be. Keep in mind that this aspect corresponds to the zodiac sign Leo and to the Fifth house, so suggesting that ownership or awareness of the experience may be dawning would fit right into this. Again, I welcome comments and suggestions particularly on this last series of aspects.
The Waning Semi-Sextile or 330-degree Aspect
Here we have the last aspect in the series, kind of finishing things up, drawing conclusions to the whole cycle, and reducing whatever has been salvaged from the experience back at the Opposition to its seed essence. In correspondences, this would be the zodiac sign Sagittarius, the Ninth House of religion, from the Latin ‘religare’, to bind, thus the things that last or endure. This is what has endured and what will become the seed-essence for the new impulse or tone to come at the Conjunction.
The Complete Aspect Cycle
Well, there you have it, a brief analysis of the major aspects as they occur around the circle or cycle and end up at a new Conjunction, a new beginning. The seed essence of the previous cycle, whatever we can agree happens in the course of a cycle, is the result of the whole experience at the Opposition. This seed or essence, whatever remains from everything that went before, helps to create the tone or impulse at the Conjunction, the start of a new cycle. And on it goes, literally forever.
Here we are examining the aspects that form between two bodies in a synodic cycle, but the general form of any cycle, and the phases involved, are identical. Whether it is the cycle of our breath, a heartbeat, or the seeming endless cycle of our Sun around the Center of the Galaxy, the phases remain essentially the same. There is an in-breath and an out-breath, a rising to a fullness and a collapsing to a seed point. In fact, it is something to consider that anything that does not cycle, anything that does not return, we would have no knowledge of.
It is only by the endless return of things, of cycles, the endless positing and re-positing, what we call “endurance” that we know anything at all. That which has no return, we not only never see again, but we have never seen it at all in the first place. It “is” not for us.
I have studied these cycles in all their phases because they tell the story of our lives and in that sense are very sacred to us. It is enlightening to learn more about each phase in the cycle. Here we are looking at the synodic cycle of two bodies, but we are surrounded by only cycles on every side. As mentioned above: that which does not cycle does not appear to us and we do not know it.
For those interested in these techniques in greater detail, please see my book "Full-Phase Aspects," available on Amazon.com.
Last edited by Michael Erlewine
on Tue Feb 03, 2009 3:34 am, edited 3 times in total.