Management of Measurement Constructs

Elements Emphasized and De-emphasized

By Richard Swatton

I have invited England's Richard Swatton to present this month's column. Richard holds the diploma from Liz Greene's Centre for Psychological Astrology, and states that he "studied Tyl's works for seven years before that." He holds academic degrees in Music and Psychology, is a psychotherapist, symphonic composer, and jazz pianist. He is soon to see his first book Planetary cycles, Personal Choices published by Flare publications. He is a highly skilled Horary astrologer as well, and may reached at

Through the principle of astrological emphasis, we have an important analytical technique to help us understand the main motivational current within a horoscope. By "emphasis" I mean anything that stands out like the proverbial sore thumb, including de-emphasis!

The most common lines of approach to locating emphasis are:

1. Peregrination (similar to unaspected planets) - Hitler's Pluto-Neptune conjunction in Gemini, for example.

2. Singletons - John F. Kennedy's Uranus in 4th.

3. Planet/s on Angle/s - Orson Welles ("The Shadow") with Pluto-Saturn conjunct his Gemini Ascendant.

4. The most aspected planet (especially if related to the Aries Point; see Synthesis & Counseling in Astrology -Tyl).

5. The (Those) planet(s) in closest aspect (they tend to dominate within behavioral manifestation).

6. Lack of a major, dominating aspect.

7. Planetary groupings and hemispheric weight: stellia, multiple conjunctions, etc., especially those grouped around the Angles (see Synthesis and Principles and Practice in Astrology, vol. 4, and Rudhyars' Practice of Astrology, Ch. 5).

8. The balance of Elements.

Through the emphasis/de-emphasis dynamic, we find a "broad stroke of character analysis" or "a gulp of synthesis" that enables us to cognitively grasp a generalized framework or outline of personality as a whole. The details (aspects, House placements etc.,) can then be placed easily "into an ordering" to fill out the entire picture.

The Balance of Elements provides us a classical key to understanding temperamental bias (psychologically) and behavioral tendencies in general (physical and societal). In traditional astrology, the elements were understood as substances in the blood that caused certain types of illness and they predisposed people to become certain character types.

Earth (and a strong Saturn) was equated with black bile and led to the melancholic character: heavy, stern, foreboding, fearful, plodding, cold, pessimistic, dark, factual, rigid, slow; in modern terms a sensate type, a realist (sometimes a cynic), or stoic authoritarian.

Air was linked with the sanguine temperament: airy, breezy, vaporous, anxious, flighty, nervous; shaky, hyper-rational, speedy; in modern terms an ideational, thinking type.

Fire was linked with the choleric: fiery, hot tempered, headstrong, and bilious (leading to digestive troubles), loud, tendency to rush and risk things leading to accidents and falls, feverish. In modern terms, the intuitive (Jungian) fantasist or imaginative type.

Water was phlegm in the blood leading to the dreamy, wishy-washy type, easily led, infirm, lazy, moody, needy, sympathetic; a tendency to bloating and watery diseases - colds, nasal discharge, bronchitis. In modern terms, the hysterical or feeling type.

From these temperaments, the person's behavior and life-circumstances unfolded accordingly. The Earth type becomes a pragmatist, having a need for literalism and being in control. He can get depressed when the body lets him down (not a good patient). The Air (or schizoid) type tends to over-think and can easily become psychologically split from (or under-value) his personal feelings and body sensations - by over-rationalization.

The Fire type was always looking ahead and was future-oriented; an imaginative visionary. His preference is for the high of creativity rather than the practical side of life. He can be an eternal adolescent leading to a lack of maturity. (For further discussion of the Jungian typology, see Liz Greene's Relating and Arroyo's Four Elements. In this scheme, Greene sees Fire-Earth and Water-Air as opposing tendencies, a scheme which, in practice, does seem to work out in reality from a psychological point of view. (Astrological sign-oppositions Earth-Water, Fire-Air require a different order of interpretation).

The Water type was always living in the present and looking backward, dominated by security needs and emotional trauma.

I imagine the four types to be the crew of the star ship "Enterprise". Scotty, the engineer, runs the body of the ship and represents the Earth element. He is a realist; his behavior is determined by the facts and figures of pragmatic necessity. Air is the Vulcan, Spock (lacks feeling); he is cerebral, intellectual, hyper-rational and conceptual. He suggests ideas so that others can ponder them but often stands back whilst others make decisions.

Bones, the temperamental doctor, is emotional (lacks objectivity), forever getting into disagreements with Spock/Air (thinking/Air and feeling/Water types are often in conflict) and represents the Water element. He likes to say "what if so and so", like an hysteric whipping up fearful imaginings.

Kirk (an Aries in real life) is the Fire of intuition, going where the future possibilities take him. He is the risk taker and inspirational leader, always having affairs but never resting anywhere in particular. He is sometimes rational, sometime irrational, and prone to taking leaps of faith. He is seen to argue a lot with Scotty about the capacity of the ships' (the body's) limitations (typical of fire-earth dynamics between people).

In the horoscope, we look for a dynamic of either over or under emphasis. The strongest of the fours Elements in conscious behavior is counterbalanced by a motivational current (often stronger), stemming from the so-called weakest Element (especially if it is 'missing' - i.e. no planets in it).

For example, a client of mine has no Air accentuation and five planets in Water. On intuition, I asked her directly this question: "How many university degrees do you have now?" To her astonishment she said "five, how do you know that?" --I felt that her overcompensation (for the lack of Air accentuation) into the Air Element symbolized an intellectual over-compensation for a lack of societal acceptance.

De-emphasis of Air is very often experienced subjectively as the feeling of being stupid, which then births the overcompensation feelings of intellectual superiority and they override the need for emotional closeness (Strong water).

In parallel thinking, a lack of Water suggests a feeling of not being loveable; Fire not being creative enough; Earth, not being valued in terms of skill and general ability).

Another client with no Fire and five planets in Earth had overcompensated by trying to live out a fantasy of becoming a famous pop star or personality (Sagittarius Asc with Jupiter conjunct Sun in Capricorn in the 1st House - a king complex for sure). He had no practical order in his life or any reality-based plans. Eventually his psychological weakness/imbalance broke through as a delusional fantasy that he was being persecuted because he threatened others with the potential power he would gain when he became famous.

Another client with no Earth was so completely over-run with physical ailments that illness became her life-process. It identified her.

Another example: I was trying to reach a feeling response from a client with seven planets in Air and no Water. Lo and Behold!, he fell asleep during the consultation!! (a defense against feeling any conscious emotional rapport with me, even though he was indeed unconsciously giving me his complete trust by falling asleep!).

Summation So, in interpretative terms, the elemental emphasis can go one of two ways: either the main element is "leant on" and over-used, or the missing element comes to the foreground and unconsciously dominates. ---Greene sees this latter type as unusual and calls them "turnabout types," but in my opinion it is usually the rule. The missing element (just like a peregrine planet) almost invariably dominates and spills out uncontrollably into the personality. This is the natural way that the personality develops into what it was always supposed to be.

No one actually lacks any element; they are all in the horoscope, and we track them down by rulership networks. It is only the emphasis that is important. In establishing proportion, I count the planets in the signs giving "one point" to each and make a side-note of the MC and ASC.

The manifestation of the missing Element can be seen in characterological expression or in the medical profile, as much in neurosis as in creativity. It is not "wrong" or dysfunctional to have an imbalance; it is what you do with it that counts.

Next Update April 30, 2001


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