The Progressed Station and the Mythic Quest.

When I began teaching astrology I found I had to re-learn it as well. I hadseen progressions work so many times that I never really cared why they worked.They just worked. However many of my students could not make that leap of faithand insisted on knowing "why?" It wasn't until I sat down toconstruct an ordered curriculum that I found the answer. I wanted to start atthe beginning. I knew this was not signs or planets but cycles. I came torealize the rather obvious fact that all the primary cycles of astrology had todo with the primal alternations of Light and Dark. Thus, if we correlate theDaily cycle with the Lunar cycle's phases and the Solar cycle's seasons we canbegin to see how the fundamental symbol of Astrology, the primal Cycle,operates at all levels. 

The darkest time of the year is the Winter Solstice,which correlates with the New Moon and Midnight. Dawn, being the triumph oflight over darkness can be seen to correlate with Spring & first quarter,Noon- Summer & full moon, Dusk- Autumn & third quarter. The threecycles quite nicely follow one another -day, month, and year being divisibleinto four quarters by naturally occurring empirical processes of darkness andlight. A day equals a year because symbolically they are the same Cycle!

Now, it is important to remember that the retrograde phenomenon is also a cyclicphenomenon. When any of the superior planets (planets outside earth's orbit-mars outward) appear to be in retrograde motion, it is because the fastermoving Earth has caught up with, and is passing them (kind of the reverse ofsitting at a traffic light and feeling backward movement when the car next toyou takes off). In other words, the Earth has moved to the same side of thesolar system -on the same side of the Sun. From a geocentric perspective, thisis represented by the retrograde planet falling on the opposite side of thechart from the Sun. This physic retrograde phenomenon appears roughly from theSun's opening trine through the opposition and closing trine to the planet - tobe retrograde is to be caught between the trines, so to speak.

Thus, any superior planet forming a trine with the Sun in the nativity isnear a Station. The Station is where the planet appears to slow and hoverbefore turning backward or forward. This transition has huge implicationspsychologically. The retrograde station symbolizes the turning inward of anobjective function for the purpose of seeking new creative energy -much likethe waning crescent. The direct station symbolizes the re-emergence of thefunction from subjective reflection and an inherent creative growth potential-much like the waxing crescent. If we are born near one of these stations weare born during a time of seeking, and we will bear the burden of the Quest atsome time in our lives.

Now this is where Astrology gets dangerously close to being deterministic-fate oriented. However, I will point out that when I say the person will bearthe burden of the Quest -it is up to them how to bear it. They may race off inQuixotic fashion or simply dangle the dream of a quest in front of them alltheir lives as a reason to keep rising each morning -or anything in between.Many religions see this Quest or Pilgrimage as the duty of every person at somepoint within their lifetime. Joseph Campbell called this heroic burden"the call to adventure" and many times this is symbolized inastrology by the progressed planetary station.

In particular, progressed Mercury is unique in that the entire cycle may beexperienced -by progression -within one individual lifetime. Mercury retrogradelasts about twenty days -twenty years by progression. So it is possible to beborn with mercury direct and then, by progression, experience the retrogradeand eventually the turn to direct motion again. This suggests, at the least,two major turning points in the life's affairs demarcating three distinctperiods of development. Obviously, these people's lives will differsignificantly from the average life enfoldment.

Eventually, Mercury gains enough distance on the Earth that we no longersense this backwardness. After the direct station, Mercury speeds off towardthe superior conjunction, passing behind the Sun. This is the full phase of thecycle and thus marks the beginning of the waning, or Epimethius, Mercury.

Example: Muhammad Ali

The life of Muhammad Ali, three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, isthe perfect illustration of the enactment of these symbols. Ali was bornJanuary 17, 1942. We do not even need a birth time in order to talk aboutprogressions. If we look in the ephemeris, we can see that Ali was born near aMercury station. In fact, he was also born near Venus, Jupiter, Saturn andUranus stations. Talk about bearing the burden of the Quest! Mercury stationeddirect February 22 at around 12 degrees Aquarius. Since Mercury entered the12th degree on Jan. 17, Ali was born right as Mercury entered the shadow of theretrograde. 

Hence, we can expect that he will experience major reversals in hislife, and probably three distinct periods of development -each with its ownissues. Of course, in hindsight we know this to be true, but it is what wewould expect from the symbolism -especially considering more than half theplanets (5 of 8) will experience progressed stations within this personlifetime!

Ali began boxing at age 12, when Jupiter reached its return. Interestinglythis was also exactly halfway between progressed Saturn's station direct at age6 and progressed Jupiter's station direct at 18 -when he won his Olympic GoldMedal in the 1960 Rome games (progressed Uranus had stationed direct a yearearlier). By this time progressed Mercury was already retrograde, but it wouldbe another seven years before the first phase of Ali's development would bereversed. In the meantime he became Heavy weight Champion of the World in 1965-at the progressed inferior conjunction (progressed Sun conjunct progressedMercury). 

As Mercury passes in front of the Sun geocentrically, this begins the waxingphase -also known as the Promethean phase. Ali met Malcolm X. He converted toIslam, and was given a new name to replace his "slave name" (CassiusClay). It was also at about this time that he threw his Olympic Gold Medal intoa river, after an incident of racial discrimination. In 1967 (with progressedSun square Saturn), Ali defied the government by refusing to go to war, and wasstripped of his title and thrown in jail (do you think Prometheus couldidentify?). His religious beliefs required him to take a stance as aconscientious objector. The first of three periods of development was over.

Three years later, having passed Saturn's test (Ali was now 28 -Saturn'sreturn), Ali returned to boxing -his conviction for violating the SelectiveService Act overturned. In 1971, Ali suffered his first professional defeat toJoe Frazier -who he would eventually meet three times. This was the Dark Nightfor Ali. The Progressed New Moon (progressed Sun conjunct progressed Moon) wassquare Uranus. 1974 brought the progressed Moon to the vernal point (0 degreesAries) and several harmonious angles. Ali avenged his loss to Frazier anddefeated George Foreman for his second thronging as champion.

In 1978, withprogressed Moon, Mars, and Saturn conjoined in stallion, Ali lost the title toLeon Spinks. He won the title back in a rematch, to become the only three-timeheavyweight champion. In 1979, shortly after progressed Mercury station directand at the final progressed direct station of his life -Venus, Ali retired. Thebeginning of his third phase of development was equally as rocky as the secondwas. In 1982, with progressed Mars nearing Uranus, Ali was diagnosed withParkinson's disease. The disease made him tremble, slowed his movement, andmade it hard to talk, yet he would carry the Olympic torch a full twenty yearslater. Ali is very active in charity work and his commitment to Islam to thisday -carrying the Promethean torch as well. In 2002, with the progressed Sunnearing the vernal point, there was a blockbuster Hollywoodmovie out about his life -a heroic saga that continues to unfold.

Example: Bruce Springsteen

Another example of this phenomenon is Bruce Springsteen. His is a PRIMEexample of progressed stations and "the call to adventure". He wasborn under Gemini rising with Mercury as the sole retrograde (kind of theopposite of Ali's multiple retrograde chart) . At 18, Mercury made the progressedstation direct at the same age Bruce bought his first guitar! Recently,progressed Uranus is nearing a station for Bruce. It is interesting that the9-11 disaster helped to re-vitalize his career as he produced a profound albumof music that spoke to the collective emotions of a country in shock. Whobetter to do this than an individual who has spent his whole life in theintrospective space of a personal planet retrograde as the ruler of his chart? 

To understand the retrograde psychologically, it is important to remember itis a purely subjective phenomenon. Psychologist George Kelly theorized that personpsychological processes are channeled by the way in which he/she anticipatesevents. Kelly believed we constantly use mental constructs as templates (likesymbols) to anticipate events. Anxiety occurs when we can't predict futureevents. We then adjust our constructs with new information. This is a constantprocess (like transits!). Kelly should have been an Astrologer!

With retrogression, however, the inherent subjective nature of the processessymbolized by the planet causes the templates to be inaccurate as they mirroran inner, subjective reality and not necessarily the outer, objective realitywe need to be able to predict. Further, these templates can become impermeable-that is unable to consider new information -because of a fixation on inner,subjective realms.

Obviously, this fixation would produce chronic anxiety that might lead todepression. The inability to predict and therefore control events would have aripple effect that could serve to paralyze the Self developmentally. If we areunsure what will happen -we are unlikely to act at all. Now, obviously this isa worse case scenario, but you can begin to see the forces that are beinggrappled with. A beautiful quote to illustrate this comes from Springsteen'sTunnel of Love album.

"I'm just a lonely pilgrim, though I walk this world in wealth. I wannaknow if it's you I don't trust, cause I damn sure don't trust myself." 

With the planet near a station, I believe this can further take the person"out of the moment" because they are intuitively looking forward tothe predictability of direct motion! This is why I call it the"burden" of the quest. As Springsteen put it, with every gift therecomes a curse. While the individual born near a station may have the gifts ofdepth and foresight, it comes at the cost of the ability to be always fullypresent in the moment. Again, I am reminded of the Tunnel of Love album, andwhat is to me the ultimate tribute to a Gemini rising with Mercury retrograde-the song "Brilliant Disguise". He sings to his lover…

"I want read your mind to know just what I've got in this new thingI've found. So tell me what I see, when I look in your eyes. Is that you baby,or just a brilliant disguise." 

Actually, the entire album has a very Gemini/Mercury retrograde flavor. Onthe cover is Bruce in a black suit, standing in front of a vintage convertible.On the back, he is in white. The duality is succinctly delivered in the song"Two Faces" and "Cautious Man" where Bruce explores hisshadow. 

"On the one hand Billy'd tattoed the word LOVE and on the left hand wasthe word FEAR. And in which hand he held his fate it was never clear." 

Obviously, Ali and Springsteen are extreme examples, but if a client isexperiencing a planetary station by progression you can bet this will colorevery facet of their experience for at least a year. Sensitivity to their needfor integrating the mythic Quest in perhaps an all too ordinary life will becalled for. Depending on whether the station is retrograde or direct, they willneed encouragement to either take a sabbatical or run off on a lark. In eithercase you can assure them that their life will be infinitely more rich andsatisfying for having taken the risk and answering "the call toadventure." Fame and fortune may not await, but the Self does, and isperhaps the only true treasure we need find.

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