The Ascendant 1
Understanding the Ascendant
Down the years, I have had students who, rather sweetly, assume that like Athene, I sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus, and began giving chart readings. I absolutely did not. I experienced all the difficulties that they were experiencing in collecting up and interpreting the limitless information contained within a natal chart, and I had my blind spots. How to understand the Ascendant was one of them.
In part, this was due to the route I had taken into Astrology which was that of the fortune tellers not the psychologists. I wanted to understand how and why prediction was possible and have always been fascinated by time. In this kind of Astrology, the Ascendant is just one of four hyleg points affecting the health - and in the case of the Ascendant - the physical appearance of what will be termed ‘the native’.
When I did start reading the more psychologically orientated books, I found their treatment of the Ascendant took too much for granted. The Soul was not defined; it was presented as if we all know what the Soul is when, as I have discovered, very few do. The Soul is known to us as an experience; we do not know where it fits into the scheme of things. Nor was it explained why the place of interception of the Rational Horizon and the Ecliptic– this one point - should represent the Soul. To deal with this matter, I needed a lot more esoteric knowledge than I had when I began learning Astrology, and for as long as I didn’t really know what it was, I struggled to integrate the Ascendant meaningfully with the planetary pattern
Let me share what I have since learned.
The Soul and the Ascendant
A human life is the gift of the Spiritual Soul which does not incarnate. To Christians, this level of being is our ‘Father in Heaven’. From the Atmic plane, it sends down a thread of itself. This thread is the Sutratma of Eastern mysticism (a term which has found its way into esoteric Western thinking through Theosophical writings). It is the life force that makes possible incarnation in the Three Worlds.
To do this, the Sutratma passes through the Buddhic plane, the workrooms of that work eternally in progress, the Soul of Humanity – the Son of the Father. Here human incarnations are designed, and their blueprints prepared for units of awareness waiting to be refined and developed through re-incarnating. The Sutratma, the life-force, vitalizes a blueprint and sends it down to inhabit a physical vehicle waiting to be born in the three Worlds.
A natal chart enshrines the blueprint of its native and that blueprint is the focus of an esoteric Astrologer.
A natal chart is a stepped down version of the pattern in the Heavens at the time of birth, viewed from the latitude and longitude of the location of birth. It calibrates the space and energies within which we will live out our lives once we enter the Three Worlds with new physical vehicles and new personality forms. The blueprint attracts the circumstances and conditions into which we are born and our challenges and opportunities thereafter. In the stepped down natal chart, the Eastern point of interception of the Horizon and the Ecliptic, the meeting place of the path of the sun with the latitude and longitude of the place of birth becomes the Ascendant and is the place of entry of the Sutratma into our Crown centres. Undertaken in line with the blueprint, this process determines the time of birth and thereby, the rising degree.
Within the physical body of an incarnated being, the Sutratma energy continues its descent until it meets with the Pranic energy picked up from the body of our planet through our Spleen centres.
When the indwelling consciousness is concerned only with physical survival and gratification of desire, through the three lower centres or chakras which are open in all human beings, this energy combination keeps a person alive, procreating and developing as a personality.
We can picture this as energy flow down from the Crown to the cusp of H4 which represents the base chakra, through the sacral (H5), connects to the spleen in H6 and on to the Solar plexus (Descendant.)
When the higher chakras become more active and consciousness is expanding beyond physical survival, they draw up the energy, take it over the Descendant to the Heart centre, Throat centre, Brow centre and back to the Crown centre.
We can picture this as energy moving across the Descendant, up to the MC and then on to H12 which meets with the Ascendant, the Alpha-Omega point of the natal chart. This is the Path of Return which most serious Western spiritual aspirants are on. It is the Path of Evolution but with spiritual awareness now driving the process.
In the Twelfth House (H12) an extraction process takes place which separate out the consciousness that serves the purposes of developing Soul from that which is building personality. (This is what is going on in the profound and often traumatic closing phase of the cycle of the Progressing Moon which brings more people to see Astrologers than any other event in a life because we feel unable to make life ‘work’.) Then, when the progressing Moon moves into H1 the whole process starts again as the personality reconnects and re-engages convincingly with physical existence in the Three Worlds. (For more detail about this see Lesson 5 of A Short Course in Natal Chart Interpretation and Making a Journey of the Lifetime.)
The formation of the Human Soul within the incarnated personality is connected to this process and has been the focus of Western Spiritual endeavours since Christianity. The Son has replaced the Father. This is not so in other major religions traditions.
The Human Soul is formed within the Mental body of the personality, and is the reflection of the Spiritual Soul on its own plane and the means of communicating with it. Although I have not been able to explore this matter as thoroughly as I would like, I am putting forward the idea that in a natal chart when the Human Soul has formed has occurred, the sign on the cups of the H5 and H9 will be of the same element (or the same element present as an intercepted sign in Houses 5 or 9) as the sign on the Ascendant which represents the Spiritual Soul.
We can picture this as a triad connecting the Ascendant, cusp of H5 and cusp of H9. This indicates (cusp of H5) that the Sacral centre is under control and there is now energy available for forms of creation other than procreation; that the Heart centre is now opening (cusp of H9), and aspiration and not simply desire is influencing choice.
When the Human Soul is in formation, after death the consciousness developed becomes a unit of consciousness within the Soul of Humanity on the Buddhic plane, awaiting its next opportunity in incarnation.
The Rising Sign
The sign on the Ascendant describes how we present ourselves to the world. It is the energy we put out as we establish and manage ourselves in the Three Worlds. The Rising Sign indicates the quality of the energy and consciousness with which we are equipped to do this task. Our physical build and appearance will be conditioned by it, but not exclusively: the Moon and key planets will also contribute.
The qualities of the sign and their expression will be encouraged by the family into which we are born and developed in us by the family. Thus trained, putting out this energy is something which we do unconsciously to make our way in the world, from the third year of life onwards, but we may eventually use with greater awareness and recognize the kind of situations in which we can make headway.
Upbringing and conditioning encourage the expression of the Rising Sign but neither is causal: the Ascendant sign is an intrinsic part of the design of a life – esotericisms says that it selects the parents - and it will have a radical effect upon the way an individual interprets the world and uses capacity and creativity. (It is interesting to me how rarely siblings share the same Ascendant sign, indicating that different Ascendant signs pick up different qualities in the parenting package and family constellation.) Throughout our lives, it remains the symbol of our connection to our Father in Heaven, and through the house position of the Ruling Planet identifies an area of life which will be of special importance to us.
Provided they are based on the Tropical Zodiac, for a given time, all house systems will put the same sign and degree on the Ascendant.
Each sign encompasses three decanates, and in all signs the first decanate (0-10 degrees) is focused upon with making its mark on the world by determinedly expressing the energy of the sign. For this kind of individual, the aim is to achievement.
The focus of the second decanate (10-19 degrees) is relationship and interaction with others. For this kind of person, the aim is to establish meaningful personal relationships, and this encourages a more thoughtful and considered use of the energy of the Ascendant.
The focus of the third decanate (20-29 degrees is integrating individuality with a larger picture and finding a creative contribution to make to it. Then, putting out the Ascendant energy is done consciously with the aim of contribution.
Provided there is certainty about the time of birth, the stellar influence coming through the rising degree will disclose much about the way an individual will conduct himself and his life and with what he will meet. The Sabian Symbols has been a popular title for decades, and I have a great deal of respect for an even older book: Carelli’s ‘360 Degrees of the Zodiac’.
There is more information about the Ascendant in Lesson 3 of the Short Course in Natal Chart interpretation.
In the next article in this series, we will look at the Fire Signs on the Ascendant.
DKF-k / April 2022