Lesson Nine: Chart Imbalances
Until now we have been looking at what is in the chart, finding the emphasis and focus and the living energy. We have seen what happens when planets are brought together in a dynamic way by the aspects and by the aspect patterns, and we have looked at some of the stories that emerge. But what I want to do tonight is to turn everything on its head, and to look at what is missing from the chart, because that is important, too. In every birth chart there will be empty houses, and there may be whole areas of a chart which are empty, or elements or modes which are absent altogether or under-represented, or planets which make no aspects. We need to pay proper attention to anything which is absent or lacking in a chart, because it is likely to exert a powerful unconscious influence over us. If you would like to follow up this idea in more depth, then I would highly recommend Richard Idemon's book, The Magic Thread.1
Audience: I am not sure what you are saying here, because it sounds as if everything is equally important, whether or not it is in the chart.
Clare: That is a good point, and I will try to explain
what I mean. Let's start with what is actually there in the chart. No matter
how challenging our birth charts may be, they will feel familiar to us because
we have been inhabiting them all our lives. The birth chart defines our personal
experience of the world, and tends to be more or less under the control of
the ego, to the extent that it can be made conscious. For example, if we
have several personal planets in air, we are likely to have a well-developed
thinking function which we will use to navigate and make sense of the world.
As far as we are concerned, that is normal. And if we have several personal
planets in mutable signs, we will be naturally flexible and adaptable. And
if we have several aspects to our Mars, we will know very well how to assert
and defend ourselves. All of these ways of being feel normal to us. By contrast,
anything which is not in the chart will be outside our conscious or ego control.
But that does not mean that it doesn't exist. In fact, the way this seems
to work is that whatever we don't have inside, in our birth charts, somehow
has to be manifested out there in the world. In other words, every void or
imbalance within seeks to be filled or balanced in the outside world. This
is another example of the compensatory nature of the psyche.
However, there is a noticeable difference in expression, emphasis and intensity between what is within our charts and what lies outside, and we seem to have a particular blind spot about what is not in our birth charts, with the result that whatever is lacking functions autonomously, like a complex. And we do not have complexes - complexes have us. When a complex is activated, it takes us over, which is why we are prone to finding ourselves in the grip of anything which is not in our birth chart.
Audience: Can you say a bit more about complexes, Clare, so that we can understand how they function?
Clare: Yes, and I am taking a particularly psychological approach here, because I think it makes the subject of chart imbalances very clear and easy to understand. Complexes are powerful, compulsive, autonomous driving forces. However, because they exist outside ego consciousness, they are only experienced in projection, and are never really 'owned'. They are highly charged - affect-laden - and seem to have a life of their own, acting independently and often inappropriately or out of proportion to the objective reality of a situation. One of the easiest ways to recognise complexes is that they lack a sense of humour. I am sure you have all noticed how perfectly reasonable and relaxed people can suddenly become rigid and defensive and start speaking in an authoritative or strident voice which is not normal to them. Suddenly, in the place of the person you know, there is an inflexible, intolerant, rigid, fanatical individual who is completely certain that they are right. If that has happened to you, then no doubt you have unwittingly stepped on their complex. Does this make sense to you?
Audience: Yes, I can think of one or two examples already.
Clare: Just to take this one step further, singletons and missing functions constellate a variety of different psychological defence mechanisms, which is the ego's way of trying to keep control. We may well attempt to deny what we lack by using another function instead. For example, we may try to feel with our thinking, air function. Or we may try to achieve concrete results with our fire function. Alternatively, we may consciously devalue, neglect and criticise what we lack, and at the same time work hard to achieve it. This would mean that we both deny and over-compensate for what we lack at the same time. Another way of balancing ourselves is to enter into relationships with people who have plenty of what we lack. This is why it is so easy to fall into the habit of criticising our partners for expressing the qualities we lack, while at the same time being dependent upon them because they balance and complete us.
Audience: I have no earth in my chart, but I do have an angular Saturn and several planets in the earth houses. Does that compensate for my lack of earth?
Clare: Your reaction is not uncommon, but it could be
interpreted as a denial or defence mechanism, an example of the ego trying
to defend itself, since it is an attempt to give yourself some earth. The
same thing might be said, for example, of a chart with no water but with
an angular Neptune, or many aspects to Neptune or planets in the water houses.
The point here is that neither your angular Saturn nor its ruler will be
in an earth sign. The same thing is true of your planets in the earth houses
- they will not be in earth signs, and neither will the planetary rulers
of the earth houses, so I am sorry to say that we cannot manufacture an earth
function for ourselves if none of the planets are there.
But the main point I want to make is that our greatest gifts can come from the imbalances in our charts. The energy that clusters around a complex can be immensely creative, for the very reason that it lies outside the control of the ego. It is important to remember that obsession and compulsiveness are not necessarily negative. After all, if we were all perfectly balanced, it is unlikely any of us would bother to get out of bed, let alone work obsessively on a scientific discovery, climb Mount Everest, write a symphony or a book, or paint a great painting. It is through what is lacking in our birth charts that we may make our greatest contribution to the world.
Here is a crib sheet which may help you to identify quickly how the various imbalances in a chart might function.
Rough Guide to Interpreting Chart Imbalances
What is Absent or Singular in the Birth Chart
ASC/DESC axis (self/partner)
Marked emphasis either above or below the horizon will lead to a fascination/obsession to explore the opposite hemisphere.
MC/IC axis (public life/private life)
Marked emphasis either east or west of the Meridian will lead to a fascination/obsession to explore the opposite hemisphere.
House/Sign Emphasis:Lack of planets in first four houses/signs:
Intense involvement with all that is personal & subjective
Lack of planets in second four houses/signs:
Intense involvement with social life and relationships
Lack of planets in last four houses/signs:
Intense involvement with collective or public life
Modalities:Lack of planets in cardinal signs:
Tendency for sudden action, impulsiveness, leadership
Lack of planets in fixed signs:
Tendency towards resistance, rigidity, perseverance
Lack of planets in mutable signs:
Tendency towards confusion, drifting, deviating from purpose
Elements:Lack of planets in earth signs:
Powerful emphasis on/obsession with body, sexuality, food, money, e.g. the businessman, naturalist, body-builder
Lack of planets in air signs:
Powerful emphasis on/obsession with education, learning, writing, communicating, e.g. the writer, philosopher, actor
Lack of planets in water signs:
Powerful emphasis on/obsession with feelings, relationships, e.g. the musician, psychotherapist
Lack of planets in fire signs:
Powerful emphasis on/obsession with meaning, faith, adventure, risk-taking, e.g. the entrepreneur, the explorer, the preacher
Unaspected planets and singletons:
Driving motivation, autonomous, compulsive expression of the archetypal qualities of the planet concerned
Audience: What happens if you only have one angle and one planet in an element? Is that still an imbalance?
Clare: Yes, there will still be a sense of deficiency that seeks to be balanced. However, in a case like this, there is usually an element of awareness of the imbalance - it is more accessible. When someone has a total lack, it will be immediately obvious to everyone else, but the person with the total lack can be oblivious of the fact.
Audience: What about the outer planets, Chiron, and the Nodes?
Clare: Well, the same thing applies. In charts where only an outer planet, Chiron, or one of the Nodes is in an element, the individual will be expressing the collective charge of that planet or point in its purest, most autonomous and archetypal expression. The particular individual expression of this influence will be experienced in the house in which it occurs.
Audience: I'd really like to get this counting thing straight. I know you only use the seven traditional planets, but do you also count the angles?
Clare: No, because the angles are not planets. For example, if you have Sagittarius rising, then, although your Ascendant is in fire, it is the element of the ruling planet which we will be looking for. I think it is unfortunate that computer programs always include the outer planets in the mode and element count, because this encourages us to think of them in the same way as the seven traditional planets, whereas they belong to another order altogether, to a different dimension. I think we need to count again and to take them out, but that is only my view, and you are welcome to make up your own minds about this.
Audience: What happens if you have two planets in an element?
Clare: That is fairly average, and wouldn't register as a lack. Let's have a look at the element imbalances to see how they work.