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The Astrological Journal

The Rising Order of the Sun and the Inner Planets - Introduction to the Pattern of Ego Processing

by Raimo A. Nikula

In the beginning

Planets I have been in astrology for 35 years, sometimes less, sometimes more intensely. After decades of doing normal consultations, lecturing, teaching and writing articles, I had intimations that you could use almost anything in chart reading. Now and then I felt that there are plenty of new approaches open to chart interpretation. One of these open models includes the rising order of the inner planets.

Thinking of the rising order means that you have to consider the movements of the planets. During one year the Sun's relationship with Mercury and Venus changes many times. At one time of the year, Mercury might be the morning planet or evening planet, later Venus takes its place beautifying the late nights and then finally switching to be a morning star. And so the dance of Mercury and Venus around Sun goes on with relatively rigid lawful rhythm. It is more complicated by retrograde periods of Mercury and to a lesser extent Venus. Does the changing interplay between the Sun and inner planets mean something?

Miniature Ego

Sun being firmly placed to represent human ego, a focus of all conscious, deliberate life, we have to ask what happens to ego when Sun is surrounded in a certain way by the inner planets, Mercury and Venus. They are never far from Sun due their orbits between Earth and Sun. From our earthly point of view Mercury's maximum distance from Sun is only 48 degree and Venus' 78 degree. They are thus eternally tied to Sun. But the way they are tied to the Sun varies greatly.

Our ego needs support. There are primitive urges, will to live and to stay alive as decreed by Sun itself. Mercury and Venus are giving help by supplying something else our ego needs in order to develop a fully grown, healthy focus for our life's purpose. Taken as a triplicity, Sun, Mercury and Venus represent the essential being, a kind of miniature Man. There are only three main functions in this model: the central will (Sun) assisted by the intellectual, perceptive and critical function (Mercury) and the affectional function (Venus) which works through sensual, aesthetic pleasure.

You don't have to have great theories about chart interpretation. Just compare charts and people the charts represent, trying to understand what makes the people tick in a special way. That is enough. There is an emerging pattern of meaning, although - like always in astrology - you may not get everyone else to see the pattern... At the outset some ten years ago I started to see these meaningful coincidences in the way the Sun aligns with Mercury and Venus. To my mind Sun, Mercury and Venus together form the inner circle of any chart. They form the nucleus of the ego. I also call the inner planets "insiders" who are intimately dealing with the Solar boss.

Three functions

'Rising order' means simply that you have to notice which of these three comes first, second and third. In your mind, move the Ascendant over the Sun, Mercury and Venus or whatever the combination of three planets happens to be in your chart. Whatever is happening in the chart by transits, by progressions or by directions, the planets and AS-DC axis are moving anticlockwise and always cross the Sun and the inner planets in the same order. This is the built-in way that our ego receives life experiences.

The rising order of Sun, Mercury and Venus produces the following schema:

Planets orbiting around the Sun1. Rising first - a planet that represents original perception, reactions and attitudes towards life (in service of the ego). How we receive life experiences and transmit them to number two. What is becoming of us? I call this an "internalizing function". It initiates the growth process of the ego.

2. Rising second - a planet that solidifies impressions, experiences, feelings, and knowledge - the raw material that number one is "throwing in". A realistic, reality assessing principle in us. Who are we really as stabilised egos? This is the task of elaboration or "managing function". It is in the middle position, thus invigorating or building-up the ego. The middle position is the pivotal point.

3. Rising thirdly - a planet that needs more feeding in order to grow and become more integrated. It is a possible weak link in our psyche, a little out of touch of our principal focus of consciousness. It has a positive task too, for instance forming ideals and answering the question: "how we should be"? I see this as a function of "future direction". This is the rear-planet giving hints of weaknesses or vulnerabilities which must be brought to closer examination - not perhaps immediately but sometimes when we have more time and interest. Sometimes the result says "it's not going to happen".

To my mind at least, this is a very natural way to see the interplay of Sun and inner planets. Secondly, I suggest that in order to grasp the meaning of the system, we must have at least a rudimentary understanding of the Sun, Mercury and Venus.

The Sun is the building power of the Ego, the vital impulse to live and prosper. It gives the will to live and our unquestioned certainties what it is to be "me". The Sun is also a tyrant, a ruler and it has a "ruling touch" to reality. The Sun, the great male god, doesn't really need others.

Mercury gives a principle by which we try to explain everything. To do that properly, we need mental associations, intellectual abilities, and learning processes. Mercury touch on reality is a "cold" one - it doesn't evaluate things, and has no preference for the pleasure or pain of things - they are just things that are either true or false, or interesting or boring. It is a planet of commerce and money exchange, as well.

Venus in this system is a kind of opposite to Mercury. It has a "warm touch" on reality, because it lives in the midst of human relations and is fed by emotions, affections and subconscious desires. Because of its involvement, it cannot stand apart from everything, as do Mercury (making observations, perceptions or processing mind-stuff) and the Sun (standing alone in its majestic aloofness). Venus builds up human culture by loving beauty and adoring pure form. Venus is the planet of peaceful cultural exchange, of aesthetic pleasure and comfort.

The idea of the scout

Rising Order ScoutTraditional astrologers are familiar with term 'scouting' (or 'oriental') as applied to planets, meaning simply that some planet is preceding the Sun. And the rising order is anticlockwise. Say you have Mars 13 degrees Virgo and the Sun is 22 degrees Virgo and no other planets between them; then Mars must be the Scout.

The word 'scout' refers mostly to military life. Scouts were used in army to make sure that the terrain was safe. Scouts were mostly people who were recruited from aboriginal people. They have sharp senses and intimate knowledge of their home terrain. The US army used Indians to scout hostile Indians during the expansion of the West. In the far North, Lappish people were said to have an infallible ability to find a special spot in the area of several hundred of square kilometres. And more remarkable feats are reported among the Australian aboriginal people. Scouting ability is somehow "inherited" among people who have lived for centuries in the same area. Instead of 'scout', we may also use the term 'pilot' referring to seamanship and the ability to guide vessels through narrow straits safely to harbour.

The scouting planet in our chart works similarly instinctively, locating the possible dangers and hazards and alerting those who come behind. But scouts also act positively, finding out the easiest and safest routes to travel; they find food supplies and water wells for others. The planetary scout performs the same function, and in most cases the scout is Mercury.

But we have to enlarge the scheme to contain also the third member. No matter which of Mercury or Venus is the Scout - or none of them - the alignment of the inner planets with the Sun remains important because Mercury and Venus with the Sun are a whole. The inner planets are often "agents" for the Sun, but not always. Mercury is the sharper kind of scout, but on the other hand, Venus is better at seeing the possibilities of avoiding conflicts and joining in social settings.

We are not talking here about the whole chart. This approach centres on the Sun. Mercury and Venus orbit around the Sun and in a way are subservient to it. Symbolically, the Sun is the power of ego, the king, the ruler, and the godhead. Mercury serves the Sun being its spokesperson and expressing its masters voice by writing or speaking or being in the position of scribe. The services of Venus are subtler, but Venus works through human interests - mainly through the need to be accepted and loved. If we love someone or something we are not "objective"; we have coloured glasses on.

At the outset we can naively discern Mercury as a symbol of "cold" things and Venus of "warm" things.The Sun is coloured greatly by the rising order of the inner planets and of course - with all the aspects it forms. Mercury is "cold" because it concentrates on thinking processes and intellectual things. Venus is "warm" or "magnetic" being a planet of love, affection, sex and feminine lebenslust.

Six combinations

We have three "planets" - or actually the Sun and two planets. Putting them all together, we have six versions of the Sun-Mercury-Venus combination:

First - Middle - Last

Sun-Mercury-Venus
Sun-Venus-Mercury
Mercury-Sun-Venus
Mercury-Venus-Sun
Venus-Mercury-Sun
Venus-Sun-Mercury

Sun-Mercury-Venus

Sun-Mercury-VenusFrom this rising order you can easily see what follows. This type of man or woman is at ease with himself or herself. He "knows" how the things get done and is driven by constant need for achievement. But he knows exactly how things are run - as he/she prefers them to be done. No other options! Or maybe he is forced by superiors or circumstances to control himself but it doesn't come easily. Opinionated, taking a strong stand for or against, he is a master of most situations. Pushing ahead, he puts himself first and he is not slow to take the initiative. He makes his way in any chosen field of activity. He or she has very little sentimental inclination, which makes him able to "see only the facts" or to run things that are straightforward enough. He is full of wants, will and forceful characteristics. Making best use of given capacities, he will make an excellent executive official, a governmental employee or entrepreneur. He is a natural boss with a highly boosted ego, feeling special or powerful. People behind him whisper: how selfish! "The Manager", "Master of the house". If there is a paraphrase describing the core feelings in every combination, Sun-Mercury-Venus might say, "Ok, let's get it done!" Or: "Move on!" Remember that when the Sun rises first, it is crucial to notice which planet is the scout. Stalin had this one and Mars in Scorpio was the scout and Cromwell had Uranus in Aries.

Examples: Richard III, Randolph W. Hearst, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, Tom Jones, Mick Jagger. Conquering prowess: Kublai Khan.

Sun-Venus-Mercury

Sun-Venus-MercuryA softer version than the first one, this type too knows how to run things, but compared to the previous one, he or she is more concerned how the possible results affects the people around. To prevent collisions he/she puts up a lot of effort and dedication. He likes to play the role of "benevolent leader" "loving master" or a "good father / mother" and "reliable breadwinner". When combined with a more affectionate nature of the whole chart, he or she might become a veritable seducer or winner of hearts. There is plenty of room for love and romance in this combination. Life often turns out best when there is a show going on in his life or a great love-story that brings out his best qualities. With an otherwise sober chart, this type dedicates his talents to something concrete and productive. At best, he is a great fund-riser or a political, humanitarian trailblazer. Not unexpectedly, there might something "Apollonian" in his archetypal make-up, lots of light and clarity in his/her mind! He likes to be seen and heard - to be somebody respected. He or she may have an inclination to show off. "The snob". Paraphrase: "See how it flows!" Here too, it is crucial to understand the role of the scout. For instance, Cosimo de Medici had this and Uranus was scouting.

Examples: Elisabeth I, John Ford, Bob Dylan, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey.

Both Sun-first combinations indicate obviously great executive prowess.

Mercury-Sun-Venus

Mercury-Sun-VenusI like to call this one "the Dictator". Of course it is a naive overstatement, but there is a grain of truth in it (see the list of world dictators at the end of the article). Think about Mercury as a scout feeding ego-Sun only with information and knowledge, with Venus, the human factor in us, possibly far behind the Sun. The combination gives full freedom to make independent decisions without asking anybody's advice. Sometimes, it hints at the possibility that the "warm" part of us is defeated, outscreened. Maybe it is not well integrated in our psyche. No sob stories for this type! Fully functional, able to act and react effectively, this type of person is suited to lead people, to go his own course without looking forward for consequences or possible hurt feelings. Therefore it is also possible that the relationships linger because they are not in focus at all or they are handled with apprehension or indifference, or commitments are postponed to "near future". The growing feelings of being cut off from the world and fellow beings may increase over the years. "The dictator" or "The self-sufficient man". Paraphrase I suggest here: "Leave it to me! Don't mess with me!"

Examples: Leonardo, Beethoven, Winston Churchill, George Bush jr., Sarah Palin, Josef Fritzl (the incestuous father of the Amstetten case in Austria).

Mercury-Venus-Sun

Mercury-Venus-SunThere are people who have a sensitive nose for new things, trends and changes in the cultural atmosphere. I believe this is the type living at the cutting edge of any sort of "modernity". At best, finely tuned to receive impressions, mental associations and information from the outer world, reacting chameleon-like to changing colours and attitudes when needed. Often there is a tendency to go with the times, a need to be up-to-date. At best, cultured, interested in arts and creative pursuits, but sometimes amateurish, powerless to change things and without sufficient stamina to change anything. As the order indicates, this can be a very mental combination. At worst, the roots are shallow and reality consists only of concepts or learned theories or maybe aesthetic ideals. In the worst case, living in thin air may end up in some estrangement from reality. This type is not usually the hard-working man in the street, but rather someone more delicate and classy. Sometimes it indicates quite a complex, if not perplexed, soul. "Trendsetter", "avant-gardist". Paraphrasing the basic attitude sounds like: "Have you seen today's literary supplement in Times? What do you think?"

Examples: Frederic Chopin, Sören Kierkegaard, C.G.Jung.

Both Mercury-first combinations are well suited to track down new scents and occurrences that need to be understood and interpreted.

Venus-Mercury-Sun

Venus-Mercury-SunMercury as a central planet indicates that to become fulfilled in his or her life, ego needs a lot of intellectual stuff and variations. Venus rises first and attaches importance to the human world, not only to the objective, natural world. I see this order symbolising a curious, inquisitive attitude with plenty of interests to enhance the mental potentials. To find out how the things are and how they affect our social life and the whole culture, you have to do research. You have be out there "in the field", collecting material, connecting yourself, having a variety of experiences. The Sun comes last in this order, hinting at possible problems in being sure of anything - including yourself and your self-image. It may be difficulties to come to conclusions, to be sure of anything. Thus the world-view may remain open and searching - perhaps tragically so. Everything depends … how near you sleep to me (Leonard Cohen). Naturally, human concern grows greatly, so we don't get this type to be a typical realist or naturalist, but interested rather in the things based on human relations. Thus, this all typically leads to cultural interests. This type often specialises and becomes an expert in his/her chosen field. A literary expression of thoughts fits well with his needs. Very seldom have I found that these people have something absolute to say (but keep in mind the overall picture), but they usually have a lot of propositions, cumulative wisdom and even intellectual schemes in their mind, to advance the human condition. And often they have a modest or humble attitude keeping them positioned below their own possibilities. "The researcher", "observer". Paraphrase: "Yes I know, but there are some new developments (information or news or results)...".

Examples: Paul McCartney, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Barack Obama.

Venus-Sun-Mercury

Venus-Sun-MercuryIf there is a rightful place for this type, be it among people in society doing useful work to meld people together. This is either a very superficial and given to beautiful appearances, or he/she may be a genuinely kind and loving man or woman. He has great taste, bordering on the flamboyant, and a style of his own whatever way he uses them. Sometimes he is after idealised truth or beauty no matter what comes. Preferably, he lives a eulogised life with plenty of social contacts, love affairs and material prosperity. Naively and openly attached to fellow men, he easily receives plenty of attention and appreciation. His liking to receive only 'yes' answers makes him vulnerable to flattery and dishonest social role-playing. His value-system might be surprisingly heavy or extremely conservative. But on the bright side, there is more to it than a beautiful setting. He or she may be exemplary, a man with a great ability to unite men for some noble cause. Sometimes living on a pedestal, he is elevated unnecessarily, losing contact with everyday reality. Representing something valuable or giving stability and glory or even grandeur to ideals and ideologies might befit him. "The leading figure ". Paraphrase: "Look me in the eye; you can trust me."

Examples: Roi Soleil Louis XIV, Tolstoi, Benjamin Disraeli, Oscar Wilde, Alan Leo, Edward VII, Alfred Hitchcock, John Lennon, Nelson Mandela.

Both Venus-first rising orders do their best to humanise the world in order to make it more pleasing and rewarding for sensual and aesthetic pleasure.

Extensions

Purely from statistical point of view there are among these six different planetary orders those that are common and those that are far less frequent. The most common variations are Venus-Sun-Mercury, Mercury-Sun-Venus, Sun-Mercury-Venus and Venus-Mercury-Sun. Each of these represents some 20-22% of charts. On the other hand we have two rare gems, namely Mercury-Venus-Sun and Sun-Venus-Mercury which both represent about 6-7% of all charts. These numbers have to be taken with a salt of grain. I have not checked these numbers against a great number of charts, just against two hundred or so.

SunAnd of course, this is only a small part of the whole. In my book (in Finnish) Astrologian sisäpiiri (The Inner Circle of Astrology, originally, literally translated, "A Kingly Court and its Subjects"), published 2004, I have presented a larger picture of the placement and order of Sun-Mercury-Venus trio. You can get far more insights and understanding by taking into consideration the division of the inner planets into signs. Are they all in one sign? Is Sun-Mercury in one sign and Venus in another sign? Are all three scattered, each in its own sign? A zodiacal sign is wholeness as such; it contains a certain quality in itself - for all inner planets, a Cancerian quality. If Sun-Mercury-Venus all are in the same sign, the quality of the sign that rules over them and unifies their expression. So it becomes either somewhat narcissistic project or a very fluent mental expression of person's potent talents. It might end up doing somewhat easy things routinely, for instance writing or talking before the public. Also making music or singing is sometimes well suited.

Given the limits of space, I have to say this briefly. All three in one sign means cohesion, a unifying process. The mind is generally speaking synthetical. By contrast, each inner planet in its own sign means three different qualitative expressions, so that each of them fights the others. The mindset becomes more analytical and possibly ridden with conflicts and possibilities which may be out of reach due to lack of inner conviction. Who is this famous I? Are we many?

It is crucial to understand that any other planet found in the middle of the Sun-Mercury-Venus circle determines the overall meaning and purpose of the ego-centred psyche. This is obvious. I have taken Sun-Mercury-Venus - the inner planets - as a symbol of the rudimentary "I". The Sun gives the power, the vital impulse to become "me" and Mercury and Venus give their support to that process. When there is a fourth planetary member "inside the insiders", it thoroughly alters the concept of the ego-structure. More emphasised, several outer planets cutting in between inner planets, gives a feeling that the basic ego and its servants are replaced. This might bring an exceptional way to manage one's own life. The rule of the thumb says that if there are outer planets invading the inner circle, the interpretative power of the inner planets' alignment is not so great. When things get complicated, the clear cut meaning evaporates easily. It works best when we have a pure case and no intruders in the holy space of Sun, Mercury and Venus.

Divided by the signs

The possibilities to enlarge the interpretation system don't stop there. The next step is to start pairing the inner planets and the Sun. Sun-Mercury or Sun-Venus in the same sign - in conjunction or not - and Mercury-Venus together and the Sun in another sign. What does it mean? Basically the Sun is the ruler, the powerhouse, it subdues all planets that come under its majestic influence. Mercury conjunct Sun, and in lesser intensity, the Sun and either inner planet in the same sign, means that the Sun's power overwhelms the lesser body. Sun-Mercury means an active mindset, perhaps governed by the desire to know or see the "personal truth", no matter how articulately it is expressed, it is a powerful statement. Sun-Venus often gives an impression that after all, this person's life purpose is to find eternal love and companionship and become a popular person whom everyone likes. If it doesn't happen easily, there are ways to get the message through. Love is a carrying force. These are clear-cut knowledgeable and lovable types.

VenusBut the Sun and Venus in the same sign may mean that Mercury is not sharing their sign, being either in the preceding sign or in the following sign. This is a more telling case. If Mercury rises in the preceding sign, the overall personality reveals its hunger for nice and easy things which are achieved by being very knowledgeable and acutely scanning the social environment to get a grasp of something of current interest to make an impression on others or talk them off their feet. If Venus rises in a sign preceding, for instance, a Sun-Mercury conjunction, it hides well the calculating nature of the person and seeks to promote him or her by offering a finely tuned likeable image.

There are other interesting points, moreover. One absolutely compelling theme is the distances of the inner planets. Maximum Venus or maximum Mercury either ahead of the Sun or behind it, tells another story, but essentially relates to the varieties between the Sun and its subjects.

During your lifetime, your own combination of three planets in natal chart may change by progression. The combination can even change several times in a lifetime. These are the times when your ego needs new focus, new attitudes, possibly requiring you to adopt fresh alternatives to continue your development.

Let no one think that this way to approach chart reading can supersede the usual interpretative techniques. If there is a strong conjunction of Sun and Pluto, it remains a compelling factor in the chart no matter what the planetary order is. Be warned: there is no astrological technique or way of interpretation that covers all and everything.

On dictatorship

As an example how we can approach certain distinctive behavioural groups with this system, let's see charts of some famous and infamous dictators. As noted before Mercury-Sun-Venus is the combination that can produce hard-headed individuals who are the least concerned with pleasing other people. On the contrary, they can develop to become very independent - if not isolated. They also have the ability to cut off their feelings when necessary. If Venus is found far behind the Sun as an evening star, the case becomes even clearer.

MercuryThere are quite a few obvious hits. But let's not forget that astrology is a system in which every bit of interpretation might be overturned or modified by other information. Glancing through the appendix list, you might rightly ask, what about Stalin, shouldn't he be among the great Mercury-Sun-Venus dictators? The only answer to questions like this is to look at the whole chart. Stalin has the Sun-Venus-Mercury combination and even a Sun-Venus conjunction, but Mars is opposite to Pluto and the Sun squares Saturn. He was a great womaniser (Sun-Venus) and even a budding poet in his youth, but these were only peripheral features of his character which he later developed.

See also Clinton's whole chart, with Venus-Mars-Neptune rising. He is greatly softened by Neptune. Check also war heroes such as Horatio Nelson, with Venus-Sun-Mercury but with Mars rising in Scorpio. The same goes with Cardinal Richelieu. Neither of them was exactly a lapdog. Exposed Serbian ex-leader and war criminal Radovan Caradzic is another example of Venus-Sun-Mercury. Looks nice enough, but Venus rising first is conjunct Mars and both are in square to Pluto. He was tragically unable to accept people of other religious and ethnic backgrounds.

There are other examples reminding us that without a glance at whole charts we are not going to reach correct conclusions. Uganda's infamous leader Idi Amin was born with a hearty combination of Venus-Sun-Mercury, Venus being quite free from afflictions. But Sun in opposition to Pluto is exactly accurate, and that tells the whole story of this madman. General Francisco Franco had Venus-Sun-Mercury in his chart too, and like Amin he had Sun opposing Pluto - and also Neptune. Moreover his Venus was conjoined with Uranus. The loving capacity was not functioning at the ordinary level.

Manuel Noriega was also a tyrant, and ruled by violent means. He had Venus-Sun-Mercury, but in his case the planetary intruders are quite revealing. The whole order around his Sun in all complexity is Venus-Saturn-Node-Sun-Mars-Mercury. Anybody can practise his interpretative skills to extract meaning from this all! But of course this doesn't indicate a benevolent ruler: Saturn easily cools Venus down, so that his human understanding is always tinted with selfish motivation, and aggressive Mars heats up the Mercurial function.

Appendix:
Dictators, tyrants and leaders of violent movements who have the Mercury-Sun-Venus combination
Prophet Muhammed (12. day rabi-moon, the Year of the Elephant 570= 2.5.570, according to a traditional source): a religious prophet and leader of islamic expansion.
Augustus: dictator of Rome
Caesar: dictator of Rome
Nero: dictator of Rome
Ivan the Terrible: Russian Madman and Tsar, literally lived his life with his hands in blood
Simon Bolivar: one time official dictator of Peru
Hitler: dictator of the Third Reich (remember Mars which conjuncts Venus)
Castro: dictator of Cuba (now, at last, he has given up power)
Mao-Tse-Tung: idolized chairman of China
Josip Broz Tito: former dictator of Yugoslavia
Luis Somoza Debayle: president and practically dictator of Nicaragua
Mobutu Sese Seko: dictator of Zaire
Pol Pot: dictator and leader of the Red Khmers of Cambodia
Rafael Trujillo: the Dominican dictator
August Pinochet: bloody military dictator of Chile
Nicolai Caeusescu: the questionable "genius of Carpathian Mountains" - ex-dictator of Rumania. His wife Elena had Sun-Mercury-Venus, which is the second best indicator of a rather direct and sometimes patronising attitude towards fellowmen.
Robert Mugabe: infamous Zimbabwean dictator

Some Mercury-Sun-Venus would-be dictators, heavy-handed rulers and leaders:

Albrecht Wallenstein
Georges Jacques Danton
George Washington
William Pitt jr.
Otto von Bismarck
Theodore Roosevelt
Winston Churchill
Dwight Eisenhower
Ludwig Erhardt
John Kennedy
Chou Enlai
Eva Peron
Richard Nixon
George Bush sr.
Ronald Reagan

Bill Clinton (with planets cutting into the Inner Circle between Mercury and Venus)
Jörg Haider

Image sources:
All graphics containing Sun-Mercury-Venus symbols: provided by the author
Planets, planets orbiting, Sun, Venus, Mercury: public domain, by pixabay.com

First published in: The Astrological Journal, Jul/Aug 2010

Author:

Raimo Nikula is a former chairman of the Finnish Astrological Association. This article is a short introduction to the subject of rising orders from his original Finnish book which was published in 2004.


© Raimo A. Nikula - first published by The Astrological Journal / The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2010

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