Subpersonalities and Planets
Note: Sub-Personalities and Psychosynthesis are concepts of Italian Psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli and it is important to keep in mind that this article is only an introduction to sub-personalities. It is also necessary both to read appropriate text books, and to learn from workshops at ‘Face to Face’. It is no good learning only the theory – experiential learning is essential.
We can use astrology and psychosynthesis as tools, not only for personal growth but also for the growth of humanity. Let us clarify what we mean by ‘growth‘ . When we come into this world we function largely unconsciously and do things by instinct. In the same way as a bird might instinctively know about migration within weeks of it being hatched, so we understand the need for food and nurturing for our survival.
We function instinctively and without conscious understanding (from the First Quadrant of our chart). The process of ‘growth’ takes us from this stage, through a gradual widening of our conscious awareness until we take control of our own lives, using Strong, Skilful and Good Will to implement consciously made decisions, and accepting responsibility for ourselves and our actions. At this stage we have the ability to tap into a higher Wisdom and Love and discover that there is also a Higher Will. If we are willing to transcend our own Personal Will we can allow the divine Will to direct our lives for the benefit of humanity.
In practical terms how does this process take place? And how do these trans-personal energies find a home in us?
The answer to the first question probably takes us back to the concept of the grain of sand in the oyster, the niggle that makes us search for a deeper meaning to our lives. The niggle that we can either respond to, or reject. If we respond to it then our search is likely to take us exploring in many different ‘alternative’ directions, and perhaps even into some kind of growth therapy, such as psychosynthesis.
Whatever path we take the intention is to develop self-awareness, to come to understand why we do certain things in the way that we do, why certain things don’t work in our lives, and what we have buried in our own lower unconscious (using up potentially creative energy to keep it hidden there). We are creating a fully conscious, autonomous, integrated and balanced personality – which is also open to the energy from the ‘Source of Everything’ and about which nothing can be known, but which we might refer to as Divine energy.!
The answer to the second question lies in another of Assagioli’s concepts – sub-personalities. Subpersonalities
are aspects of our self which have their own self-image, their own body posture and gestures, their own feelings, ways of behaving, words and phrases they use, habits and beliefs. This constellation of elements makes up in itself a kind of miniature personality, a sub-personality. Assagioli suggested that each of us is many sub-personalities all living under one skin.
At an inner, hidden, level some of these parts get on well with each other, some are in conflict. In the same way some of these parts relate well to those we meet in our outer, everyday lives whereas other parts are in conflict with the environment. So if we feel confused and stressed at times, with all our sub-personalities doing their own thing, it is not surprising.
Imagine trying to conduct an orchestra in which some of the instruments took no notice of you and played their own tune. Not a lot of fun for you or the audience! If we have ‘unaspected’ planets in our natal chart we can, perhaps, become aware of their effects!
Working with sub-personalities can be enlightening when we come to look at the many paradoxes encountered when we interpret a natal chart. But its important to remember that we have subpersonalities and that we are not our sub-personalities. Each one of us is in essence a centre of pure consciousness – not unlike the conductor of the orchestra.
When working with a birth chart it’s also important to remember that, when we are in our early stages of growth, it is more than likely that some of our sub-personalities are encouraged to grow at the expense of others, depending on the needs of those responsible for our early programming. It is usually possible to spot these distortions in the birth chart. Making a client aware can often be a first step to achieving a better balance. If we can spot them in the birth chart then the supposition must be that the child creates the distortions because of its subjective view of its environment.
For instance, why is it that a child with Saturn near the AC will grow up with a fear of taking a risk? If you discuss this with the adult he or she will usually remember that the parent who looked after them was over-protective when they were small – thus creating the fear. We are born with a birth chart and we die with the chart unchanged. But of course we do change and personal growth needs to be seen in the context of the growth of humanity. After all we are humanity!
Working with sub-personalities, and associating them with both the evolving personality and the birth chart, can perhaps help you to more clearly understand the process which is taking place. One which can be helpful to students is to relate the birth chart to a garden. If this is a new concept for you, then you are invited to pause for a moment in your reading and imagine that in front of you is a circular patch of ground. Also in your imagination you see a packet of seeds, and on the front of the packet is a picture of a glorious garden in full flower. If you look inside the seed packet you can see an assorted collection of 10 little black seeds. Now imagine that these seeds are sown “at random” around this circular patch of ground, and that at the same moment in time they germinate – and that 9 months later the first little leaves burst out into the light.
If these seeds had been sown in fertile soil and had been carefully nurtured during their gestation period they would likely be healthy seedlings when they broke the surface. But think how these seedlings would be if they had been sown in rocky ground, or hard clay, and so on, and that nobody had cared too much for them during those 9 months.
And be aware too, of the effect that further care and nurturing will have on these delicate little plants as they struggle for survival in their early weeks. Also consider the effect that their environment will have on them. And what about if the ‘gardeners’ decided they didn’t really like one or two of the seedlings and tried their best to hide them under some earth or perhaps a stone or two. Or just as damaging, if there was one particular seedling they liked above all others and they lavished all their care and attention on this one seedling, so that the others barely survived? If you think about it this is no different to what happens to each one of us. Of course, as astrologers, we have to become aware of this.
Astrologically we can enhance this analogy by attaching a basic drive to each of these seedlings. These are shown in capitals letters below, together with some of the positive qualities we relate to each drive:
SUN …………..WILL; Individuality; Self Identity; Self-Confidence; Decision Making;
MOON ………..EMOTIONAL RESPONSE; Spontaneous Inner Child; Compassionate; Sensitive;
MERCURY …..COMMUNICATION; Learning; Teaching; Questioning; Thinking; Analysing; Ideas;
VENUS ……….CONTACT; HARMONY; Creativity; Balance; Female libido: Beauty; Taste: Security;
MARS …………ACTION; Energy; Achieving; Skill; Courage; Strength; Purpose; Masculine Libido;
JUPITER ……..GROWTH – Psychological; Expansion; Judgement; Perception; Vision; Experience;
SATURN ……..SECURITY: Reliable; Responsible; Caution; Memory; Structure; Deep Learning;
URANUS …….CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE: Research; Discovery; Change;
NEPTUNE ……TRANSPERSONAL LOVE; Altruism; Inclusiveness;
PLUTO` ………TRANSPERSONAL WILL; Transformation; Higher purpose;
When we burst into life we don’t really have any sense of consciousness. We survive by instinct but from the very start we begin to develop consciousness – an understanding of what happens when we take a certain action. New sub-personalities are developing all the while as we learn new roles in life and as our consciousness widens and widens. In the garden analogy we can see this as new leaves developing on each little plant as it grows – and each of these leaves, or sub-personalities will relate back to the basic Drive which is within the seed.
- Mercury will begin life with that first little cry, then go on to learn to speak and will gradually expand in all forms of communication from writing, to reading, to teaching, to creating web sites, and becoming part of a global village network. The possibilities for Mercury, as with all our planets is potentially unlimited.
- Venus will go from the smiling and cooing stages and initial dependencies, through pleasure seeking and glamour, to achieving inner balance, developing a sense of altruism, and the appreciation of art, and beauty, and so on.
- Mars will go from the aggressive and selfish ‘Gi’me, Gi’me’ stages to assertiveness, skilful achievement and action, to courage and selfless heroism.
- Jupiter: From indulgence and excess through fun, wisdom and expansion of consciousness to Universal Wisdom
- Saturn: from fear, greed, paranoia, through caution, reliability and responsibility to mentor.
- Sun from being wilful and egocentric to self-confidence, independence and selflessness
- Moon from needy, moody and emotional insecurity to childlike spontaneity, compassion, caring, and empathy, etc.
That is necessarily very brief, but hopefully it gives an idea of the immense potential for growth which exists within the natal chart.
The transpersonal planets are not included here since these can be associated with the higher levels of Sun, Moon and Saturn – assuming we have managed to integrate our inner circuitry. So, for instance, when we learn to transcend our own Will and the need always to be in ‘control’ of our destiny, we can begin to experience the higher, liberating, transpersonal vibrations of Pluto – or the Will of God.
Sub-personalities are formed when we want something, so when the new born baby wants to survive, (a very basic instinct) he knows he wants feeding and lets out a yell to attract attention. Since the baby is probably desperate and angry he’s also likely to be generating sub-personalities relating to the Mars Drive for Action. He or she will perhaps learn that a smile brings more harmonious results so will learn to smile and so generate a Venus or Moon sub-personality. And so on. The baby, and the birth chart spring in to life. At that stage the process is all quite instinctive and without much conscious awareness. As we grow older more and more sub-personalities are created, and each will be related to the basic drive associated with the seed, or the planet.
We mentioned that sub-personalities come into being because we ‘want’ something, but beneath that want is always a need. We can never really satisfy a want but we can satisfy the need if we can discover what this is. For instance if someone has a craving for chocolate this is a ‘want’ which can only be partly satisfied by going on eating more chocolate
However if they discover that the need beneath the want is really ‘Security’, or even ‘Love’, then it is possible that they can find ways of changing the pattern of their life which is undermining their Security or inhibiting them from experiencing Love. Then their craving for chocolate will begin to diminish.
Working with sub-personalities can bring about tremendous leaps of self-understanding – and we all have many, many of them.
We like to give sub-personalities a name as we need to find ways to make them as real as possible. Acceptance and Understanding are two essential elements of the process of working with subpersonalities so that they can transform into creative parts of the personality. Sub-personalities want to grow and transform and become a creative part of our adult life. Many are stuck in the past at the time they were created – most of us have damaged child sub-personalities which can hold us back in all kinds of ways.
TRANSPERSONAL QUALITIES AT THE CORE
What is important to remember about a sub-personality is that at its core lies a trans-personal quality which wants to manifest in our life – but this cannot happen until we have worked on each subpersonality and found a way, or ways, of transforming the negative aspects of this part of ourselves and integrating the positive. This is part of our own personal evolution, part of the process of allowing our own ‘garden’ to become as beautiful and fulfilled as the picture on the front of that seed packet. We can move beyond our normal sense of fears and insecurities and achieve a sense of ‘wholeness’ from within.
What has this got to do with the evolution of humanity? Well, as we mentioned before, we are humanity so if astrology can help us to become more consciously aware, and develop a more balanced and integrated personality, then we not only achieve a greater sense of joy in our own life but we can help humanity to do the same. Since the beginning of human time the evolution of mankind has gone hand in hand with the expansion of our individual consciousness – both in scientific and humanistic terms.
Our awareness of ourselves in our relationships with one another, with the planet and with our place in the Universe has gone through many changes, but always it has been expanding. We have been growing out of the collective lower unconscious towards the collective super-conscious, but a question we might ask ourselves now is whether, in the same way as we can experience a block in our individual development, humanity has encountered a collective block and, if so, are we willing to work through it?
The blocks which exist in the world to-day centre largely around intransigent attitudes towards such things as race, colour, religion, money, intellectual beliefs – even astrological beliefs, security, social class, territory, and so on. Only by breaking these down can we hope to create the same ‘wholeness’ in the human race which tools such as astrological psychology aim to create in the individual. And these collective blocks exist, of course, within ourselves as individuals, so we have the power to free ourselves from them if we become sufficiently consciously aware, and if we have the Will to make the necessary changes.
Whilst we can see a mirror of the way in which humanity is developing in our own development as individuals – macrocosm and microcosm – and thus can more easily understand what is needed to create positive changes in the world, it is essential to keep in mind that we cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves and in the process bring about changes around us.
Having said that we can facilitate the potential for change for our clients but only they can choose to make any change. Making significant changes in life inevitably involves taking risks. As long as we resist change we almost certainly remain ‘blind’, unconsciously responding to external stimuli and thus being vulnerable to control by others, either directly or indirectly.
One of the significant aims of any growth psychology is to bring about a spiritual awareness and an understanding of the divine within each of us, through which we can find self-realisation and our own path to God.
Growth psychologies, of which astrological psychology and psychosynthesis are but two, do not seek to impose this on us as a new belief system, instead they use experiential techniques which allow this understanding to develop from within, and through personal experience.
See also: Subpersonalities: The Planetary Shadow