|Polarity in the Birth Chart|
Polarity emerges out of the original unity in what is called the 'primal schism', or the 'separation of the world parents'. The creation myths of almost every culture describe the first division out of the primordial ocean, or chaos, which creates by dividing itself, in the same way that a living cell divides and becomes two. Everything in time and space is governed by the opposites and swings between them. Opposites both repel and attract each other: they are fundamentally united because they share the same source, which is the original unity. Even our language reflects this split, with many words beginning with the prefix 'di-' describing the separation of something which has previously been whole, or one. For example: di-vide, di-scern, di-sect, di-stinguish, di-vorce, di-chotomy, and so on.
The 'problem of opposites' has always been a subject of fascination in many different fields of study, such as mysticism, philosophy, mathematics, science and psychology. The Gurdjieff scholar Maurice Nicoll observes: "Opposites are inseparable, and although one is against the other, you cannot have one without the other, any more than you can have a stick with only one end."  In other words, darkness implies light and light darkness. They are mutually destructive and yet neither can exist without the other. The law of opposites keeps everything in balance since, taken to extremes, they become one another. For example, taken to extremes, east becomes west, day becomes night, love becomes hate, attraction becomes repulsion.
In psychology, the law of opposites helps us to understand how people process information and function in the world. The psychotherapist Martin Buber described his experience of polarity as follows:
This same idea is found in psychosynthesis: "People identified with one pole may be rich in the quality of the opposite one but repress it, and consciously devalue it."
Polarity as the basis of psychological projection
The psychic mechanism of projection is one of the most important ideas in psychology and in psychological astrology. This means that whenever we identify consciously with one end of a polarity, the opposite end will become unconscious and be projected onto other people or onto the world, from where it will operate in a compensatory fashion. In other words, we will be constantly confronted by our unknown opposites, not realising that they belong to us. Whenever we are attracted toward a desired object, or repelled away from a hated object we are caught up in the drama of the opposites. As Jung observed, what we cannot accept about ourselves comes back to us as fate. Astrologically, this duality is found alternately in the twelve signs of the zodiac, six of which are positive, masculine or yang, and six of which are negative, feminine, or yin in their orientation. Each of the signs, therefore, reflects the fundamental polarities which exist within the manifest world and within the individual. This is also the core meaning of the astrological aspect of the opposition.
The positive or, in Chinese philosophy, yang principle describes motion from a centre outwards. A yang orientation is a driving energy, forceful, active, impulsive and dominant. It creates and destroys. The positive signs describe object-oriented, sociable people who are not afraid to jump into unknown situations. The negative or yin principle is subject-oriented, receptive, yielding, enclosing, withdrawing and inward-moving. The yin individual 'is characterised by a reflective nature which causes him always to think and consider before acting. His shyness and distrust of things induces hesitation, and so he always has difficulty in adapting to the external world.'  Jung recognised the inherent polarity within the human psyche as 'extraversion' and 'introversion', terms which are now so widely recognised that they become part of our ordinary vocabulary. As Whitmont observes, the introvert has object fear, instinctively pulling away from the external world. The extravert, on the other hand, has subject fear, undervaluing and mistrusting his inner world.
Now let's have a look at your own birth charts. It will be interesting and revealing to discover who are the extroverts here and who are the introverts.
Audience: How do you find out?
Clare: First, identify the seven planets: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and count how many fall in positive signs and how many fall in negative signs. For the purposes of this exercise, ignore the positions of the outer planets - Uranus, Neptune and Pluto - as well as the Moon's Node and Chiron, for two reasons. Firstly, although these points provide information about the collective and generational background into which we are born, they won't tell us anything about our own uniquely personal orientation. Secondly, they each describe a particular kind of challenge or struggle, and should not therefore be considered as plus points in terms of assessing polarity balance.
Have a look at our two example charts. You can see that David has four planets points in positive signs (Sun and Jupiter in Aries, Mars in Leo and Saturn in Aquarius) and three planets in negative signs (Mercury in Taurus, Moon in Capricorn and Venus in Pisces). Sally, on the other hand, has five planets in positive signs (Jupiter in Gemini, Saturn in Leo, Mercury, Sun and Venus in Aquarius) and only two in negative signs (Mars in Cancer, and Moon in Pisces). This tells us that David has a good balance between positive and negative, masculine and feminine. He has the potential to consciously integrate both poles within himself and the ability to move gracefully and rhythmically between opposites. Sally has a more outward-going, extravert nature, which means that she is naturally object-oriented, and will derive her meaning and sense of purpose from actively engaging with the outside world. The question is whether she is actually living this out in her life. Although her birth chart tells us one thing, her parental and social conditioning may have led her to suppress this aspect of her nature.
Audience: So although her chart is yang in nature she may not be living this out in her life?
Clare: That's right, and this is a good example of how astrology can help us to become more who we really are in essence. It is perfectly possible that Sally has received many messages in her life that she should hold back, be more 'feminine', sensitive and accommodating, and she may well have adapted herself to the expectations of others, which is something we all do to some extent. Once she learns that her birth chart shows a natural positive orientation, then she can start to give herself permission to become more who she is in essence, which can feel like a powerful release.
But the law of opposites is never that straightforward because, as Sally develops her natural yang orientation, the opposite end of the spectrum is likely to become unconscious and be projected onto other people or onto the world. This means that she will find herself in situations where she is required to reflect and withdraw and to put the needs of others first. From a conscious yang standpoint, this can be extremely frustrating, but it is simply an example of the way that psychic opposites both challenge and complete each other. So we could say that, as Sally develops her natural yang orientation, it is important that she doesn't lose touch with, or project onto others, her own much more sensitive Mars and Moon, which are in negative signs.
Audience: I have a count of four positive and three negative signs.
Clare: Most of us will have a relatively equal balance of planets in the positive and negative signs. This tells us that, on this level at least, there is nothing that needs to be particularly noted when we are preparing to interpret a chart. There is a potential balance between the opposite orientations.
Has anyone found a marked emphasis? Who is significantly 'yin' in orientation? This will be the case if you have at least two more points in negative signs than in positive signs. So there are four of you who are significantly yin. Now that you have discovered this, it could well be quite a relief. This gives you permission to be more introverted, to pay attention to your own inner world, to stay at home and read a book, listen to music, write your journal or watch a film, rather than force yourself to go out to a party or feel guilty because you are not involved in any political or social causes.
Audience [male]: I have five planets in negative signs and two in positive signs. I have never really thought of myself as an introvert.
Clare: Well, perhaps this is something to think about. It can be enormously validating to discover our true personal orientation and even such a simple discovery as this, right at the beginning of our astrological studies, can give us permission to become more 'who we are in essence', rather than to try and distort ourselves into being what others, or what society expects us to be.
Audience [female]: In my chart Mars is the only planet in a positive sign, and I think that's what people see - my Mars. But actually I am very 'yin' by nature.
Clare: This sounds like a good example of projection. Your natural orientation is private and introverted, but it seems that you meet your own Mars in projection, in the form of other people or in your dealings with the outside world, such as in your career and in other outer challenges. My suggestion is that it would be worth getting to know your Mars a bit better, so that it can serve you, help you achieve your goals and to assert and defend yourself if necessary, rather than simply meeting it 'out there'.
Audience: So people who are mostly introverted attract extraverts, and people who are mostly extraverted attract introverts? What you don't have inside, you attract from the outside world?
Clare: Exactly. What we have in our birth charts is already ours - we live with it all the time, we know it and it belongs to us. We don't need to attract any more of it from the outside world because we have enough of our own. Another way of saying this is that the polarity which is lacking or absent in our birth charts is unknown to our conscious minds or is missing from our social adaptation, and is therefore projected onto others who express that particular polarity strongly. This is why opposites both attract and repel us in equal measure.
Audience [female]: I have six planets in yang signs.
Clare: So this means that you naturally draw your meaning and energy from the outside world, from your activities and achievements in the world, and from your involvement with the community at large.
Audience: That's true, but I always find myself being challenged, which makes me very uncomfortable because I don't like to be seen as the dominant female in a room. I get very angry with myself, because I don't like being seen to be aggressive - it makes me feel like a man. And I have difficulty finding a man who is strong enough for me.
Clare: It is interesting that you have used the words 'challenge', 'dominant', 'aggressive', 'angry' and 'strong' - which are all very yang words, describing a competitive, masculine orientation. It is not uncommon for women with predominantly yang charts to feel uncomfortable about being too powerful, or to be concerned about finding a partner who is strong enough for them. Your capacity to function effectively in the world and to stand up for yourself is not in doubt. Your major underlying concern, however, seems to be driven by the opposite yin pole, because it is about finding a partner who will complete you, reflect you and support you. It may be that you will feel more balanced, completed and whole in a relationship with a man who is predominantly yin, and therefore not in competition with you. Do you see what I mean?
Audience: Well, it is certainly true that most of my friends are yin, and it is extraordinary how I always seem to attract these kinds of people. I can be just sitting on a bus and suddenly the person next to me is telling me their life story. And then I find myself trying to fix other people's problems. For example, if someone comes along and sobs, 'Someone has just died!' or 'I've lost my house!' then I want to fix it, and I know that this is a very masculine characteristic. What really annoys me is that they just want to wallow in it, so why are they telling me? And then I feel bad because I seem to be unkind. The other thing is that I am the eldest child in my family and my mother is very yin - flaky and frail. But actually she is a great deal stronger in reality. I have noticed that yin people often seem frail but are actually much stronger than yang people.
Clare: Yes, I think that is because, although yang people are generally very strong in the world, they haven't necessarily developed the inner resources to fall back on. Yin people, on the other hand, have a deep inner reservoir to draw from when necessary. In a crisis the yin people get very strong.
Audience: That's right. We have fallen apart but they are able to cope.
Audience: I am struggling a bit with these ideas, because if you are saying that yin attracts yang and yang attracts yin, then it seems that you are also saying that everything means everything, in which case it all becomes meaningless.
Clare: I can understand exactly what you are saying, and it is an important point. Although these differences are very powerful, they are also subtle because they define fundamentally different orientations which nevertheless complement and complete each other. It can take a while for this to fall into place, particularly if both psychological ideas and astrology are new to us. However, as our astrological knowledge develops, we meet this same idea again and again until it begins to make sense. I could have taken a different approach and presented this to you in a much simpler way. I could be describing an extravert as someone with a predominance of planets in positive signs, and an introvert as someone with a predominance of planets in negative signs. This would be much easier to grasp, but it is not the whole story and nor is it a true reflection of our experience. So I am trying to introduce you to the psychological complexity of it right at the beginning.
Astrology is the only model I have come across which sufficiently reflects the subtle complexities of the human condition, and there are times when we all have to suspend disbelief as we pick it all to pieces, until we can begin to see the whole picture, at which point we can start putting it all back together again. I don't know the answer except to say that it is worth persevering and to question all the time. Your observation is very important and I suggest that you hang on to the scepticism.
Audience: Oh, no, I won't hang on. I need to be more open-minded.
Copyright ©2005 by Clare Martin.
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