The Progressed Station and the Mythic Quest
In many ways, progressions are the ultimate 'life-reading', because only the inner planets progress enough to form new aspects, yet these occur over an extended time period similar to the outer planet transits. So we can look at the long-term unfolding of elemental personal processes we are all very much in touch with. Progressions track basically the three months of transits after your birth. By equating a day for a year and watching the unfolding angles and ingresses one can basically give a blow-by blow description of the life-path year-by-year.
Thus, if we correlate the Daily cycle with the Lunar cycle's phases and the Solar cycle's seasons we can begin to see how the fundamental symbol of Astrology, the primal Cycle, operates at all levels. The darkest time of the year is the Winter Solstice, which correlates with the New Moon and Midnight. Dawn, being the triumph of light over darkness can be seen to correlate with Spring & first quarter, Noon- Summer & full moon, Dusk- Autumn & third quarter. The three cycles quite nicely follow one another 'day, month, and year being divisible into four quarters by naturally ocurring empirical processes of darkness and light. A day equals a year because symbolically they are the same Cycle!
The Station is where the planet appears to slow and hover before turning backward or forward. This transition has huge implications psychologically. The retrograde station symbolizes the turning inward of an objective function for the purpose of seeking new creative energy 'much like the waning crescent. The direct station symbolizes the re-emergence of the function from subjective reflection and an inherent creative growth potential 'much like the waxing crescent. If we are born near one of these stations we are born during a time of seeking, and we will bear the burden of the Quest at some time in our lives.
Now this is where Astrology gets dangerously close to being deterministic 'fate oriented. However, I will point out that when I say the person will bear the burden of the Quest 'it is up to them how to bear it. They may race off in Quixotic fashion or simply dangle the dream of a quest in front of them all their lives as a reason to keep rising each morning 'or anything in between. Many religions see this Quest or Pilgrimage as the duty of every person at some point within their lifetime. Joseph Campbell called this heroic burden 'the call to adventure' and many times this is symbolized in astrology by the progressed planetary station.
In particular, progressed Mercury is unique in that the entire cycle may be experienced 'by progression 'within one individual lifetime. Mercury retrograde lasts about twenty days 'twenty years by progression. So it is possible to be born with mercury direct and then, by progression, experience the retrograde and eventually the turn to direct motion again. This suggests, at the least, two major turning points in the life's affairs demarcating three distinct periods of development. Obviously, these people's lives will differ significantly from the average life unfoldment.
Because of its orbital speed, Mercury appears retrograde three times a year for about twenty days, as it rotates to the same side of the Sun as the Earth. This is called the inferior conjunction, as Mercury passes in front of the Sun geocentrically. This begins the waxing phase 'also known as the Promethean phase. Eventually, Mercury gains enough distance on the Earth that we no longer sense this backwardness. After the direct station, Mercury speeds off toward the superior conjunction, passing behind the Sun. This is the full phase of the cycle and thus marks the beginning of the waning, or Epimethean, Mercury.
Prometheus embodies the trickster persona of Mercury. He is famous for the theft of fire, which he bestowed on man, and even managed to filch from Zeus himself! After the inferior conjunction, Mercury continues to slide back in the sky, gaining in western elongation from the Sun and rising in the east as the morning star. As herald of the dawn, Promethean Mercury seeks risk and adventure. As a waxing cycle, it is a time of gathering (forethought) and direct action, risk, and adventure.
The life of Muhammad Ali, three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, is the perfect illustration of the enactment of these symbols. Ali was born January 17, 1942. We do not even need a birth time in order to talk about progressions. If we look in the ephemeris, we can see that Ali was born near a Mercury station. In fact, he was also born near Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus stations. Talk about bearing the burden of the Quest! Mercury stationed direct February 22 at around 12 degrees Aquarius. Since Mercury entered the 12th degree on Jan. 17, Ali was born right as Mercury entered the shadow of the retrograde. Hence, we can expect that he will experience major reversals in his life, and probably three distinct periods of development 'each with its own issues. Of course, in hindsight we know this to be true, but it is what we would expect from the symbolism 'especially considering more than half the planets (5 of 8) will experience progressed stations within this persons lifetime!
Ali began boxing at age 12, when Jupiter reached its return. Interestingly this was also exactly halfway between progressed Saturn's station direct at age 6 and progressed Jupiter's station direct at 18 'when he won his Olympic Gold Medal in the 1960 Rome games (progressed Uranus had stationed direct a year earlier). By this time progressed Mercury was already retrograde, but it would be another seven years before the first phase of Ali's development would be reversed. In the meantime he became Heavywieght Champion of the World in 1965 'at the progressed inferior conjunction (progressed Sun conjunct progressed Mercury).
This is where the Promethean phase begins 'at the inferior conjunction. Ali met Malcolm X. He converted to Islam, and was given a new name to replace his 'slave name' (Cassius Clay). It was also at about this time that he threw his Olympic Gold Medal into a river, after an incident of racial discrimination. In 1967 (with progressed Sun square Saturn), Ali defied the government by refusing to go to war, and was stripped of his title and thrown in jail (do you think Prometheus could identify'). His religious beliefs required him to take a stance as a conscientious objector. The first of three periods of development was over.
Three years later, having passed Saturn's test (Ali was now 28 and experiencing Saturn's return), Ali returned to boxing -his conviction for violating the Selective Service Act overturned. In 1971, Ali suffered his first professional defeat to Joe Frazier 'who he would eventually meet three times. This was the Dark Night for Ali. The Progressed New Moon (progressed Sun conjunct progressed Moon) was square Uranus. 1974 brought the progressed Moon to the vernal point (0 degrees Aries) and several harmonious angles. Ali avenged his loss to Frazier and defeated George Foreman for his second throning as champion. In 1978, with progressed Moon, Mars, and Saturn conjoined in stellium, Ali lost the title to Leon Spinks. He won the title back in a rematch, to become the only three-time heavyweight champion. In 1979, shortly after progressed Mercury station direct and at the final progressed direct station of his life 'Venus, Ali retired. The beginning of his third phase of development was equally as rocky as the second was. In 1982, with progressed Mars nearing Uranus, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The disease made him tremble, slowed his movement, and made it hard to talk, yet he would carry the Olympic torch a full twenty years later. Ali is very active in charity work and his commitment to Islam to this day 'carrying the Promethean torch as well. In 2002, with the progressed Sun nearing the vernal point, there was a blockbuster Hollywood movie out about his life 'a heroic saga that continues to unfold.
Wow! That's at least 15 correlations- of major life events with progressed planetary events. It is interesting to note that Mars is the only planet immune from retrograde meanderings both in the birth and progressed charts. It seems fitting that this man would pursue athletics, especially if we note that Mars is the focal point of a t-square with the Sun and Pluto. While Mercur and the Grand trine to the Sun enabled Ali to "float like a butterfly" -the t-square gave him his sting. I'm sure Ken Norton, whose jaw Ali broke, will tell you the sting was more like a sledge hammer than a bee! Unfortunately, the long-term effects of this wholesale pursuit of Mars during the progressed Mercury retrograde was the eventual limiting of both functions.
Another example of this phenomenon is Bruce Springsteen. His is a PRIME example of progressed stations and "the call to adventure". He was born under Gemini rising with Mercury as the sole retrograde (kind of the opposite of Ali's multiple retrograde chart). At 18, Mercury made the progressed station direct at the same age Bruce bought his first guitar! Recently, progressed Uranus is nearing a station for Bruce. It is interesting that the 9-11 disaster helped to re-vitalize his career as he produced a profound album of music that spoke to the collective emotions of a country in shock. Who better to do this than an individual who has spent his whole life in the introspective space of a personal planet retrograde as the ruler of his chart? I hope to add some interesting lyrical quotes to give an idea of the subjective nature of this phenomenon.
To understand the retrograde psychologically, it is important to remember it is a purely subjective phenomenon. Psychologist George Kelly theorized that a persons psychological processes are channeled by the way in which he/she anticipates events. Kelly believed we constantly use mental constructs as templates (like symbols) to anticipate events. Anxiety occurs when we can't predict future events. We then adjust our constructs with new information. This is a constant process (like transits!). Kelly should have been an Astrologer!
With retrogression, however, the inherent subjective nature of the processes symbolized by the planet causes the templates to be inaccurate as they mirror an inner, subjective reality and not necessarily the outer, objective reality we need to be able to predict. Further, these templates can become impermeable -that is unable to consider new information 'because of a fixation on inner, subjective realms.
Obviously, this fixation would produce chronic anxiety that might lead to depression. The inability to predict and therefore control events would have a ripple effect that could serve to paralyze the Self developmentally. If we are unsure what will happen 'we are unlikely to act at all. Now, obviously this is a worse case scenario, but you can begin to see the forces that are being grappled with. A beautiful quote to illustrate this comes from Springsteen's Tunnel of Love album.
'I'm just a lonely pilgrim, though I walk this world in wealth. I wanna know if it's you I don't trust, cause I damn sure don't trust myself.'
With the planet near a station, I believe this can further take the person 'out of the moment' because they are intuitively looking forward to the predictability of direct motion! This is why I call it the 'burden' of the quest. As Springsteen put it, with every gift there comes a curse. While the individual born near a station may have the gifts of depth and foresight, it comes at the cost of the ability to be always fully present in the moment. Again, I am reminded of the Tunnel of Love album, and what is to me the ultimate tribute to a Gemini rising with Mercury retrograde 'the song 'Brilliant Disguise'. He sings to his lover'
'I wanna read your mind to know just what I've got in this new thing I've found. So tell me what I see, when I look in your eyes. Is that you baby, or just a brilliant disguise.'
Actually, the entire album has a very Gemini/Mercury retrograde flavor. On the cover is Bruce in a black suit, standing in front of a vintage convertible. On the back, he is in white. The duality is succinctly delivered in the song 'Two Faces' and 'Cautious Man' where Bruce explores his shadow.
'On the one hand Billy'd tattoed the word LOVE and on the left hand was the word FEAR. And in which hand he held his fate it was never clear.'
I believe this is Springsteen's most personal work, and it is interesting to hear him speak of being a young boy and trying to 'Walk like a Man'. This is (10 yrs. old) about the time of the progressed inferior conjunction of Mercury with the Sun. Can you imagine a kid trying to be Prometheus? In the same song he speaks of his Mother dragging him to church whenever she would hear the wedding bells. Can you imagine how it must feel to have such a hard time with relationships when your Mother idolized them? Prometheus didn't have much time for courting, he was too busy 'trying in vain to breathe the fire we were born in' ('Backstreets').
Sounds of Silence: the Progressed Mercury Station
I have asserted that the progressed station is an extremely important juncture in the life of an individual. It symbolizes the Quest, the Pilgrimage, or the “call to adventure”[i] of the mythic Hero. I believe this energy can be translated to Mundane charts as well. Rudhyar believed that each person's birth represents a potential answer to a need of the greater whole--the tribe or nation, humanity-as-a-whole, planet Earth.[ii] So, if the individual is called to take up the “burden of the Quest” then he/she is bearing this Heroic burden for the collective and their journey is one we should learn from –particularly if there are similar mundane indicators
Another profound example of this process is Paul Simon, author of the famous song "The Sound of Silence." - “In restless dreams I walked alone” -As you might expect, Simon was born and wrote these famous words both near a Mercury station –a time of the Quest. Simon was born on
The profound lyrics to the song took a little while to write. Simon wanted to capture the intense emotional trauma of the American people after the assassination of JFK. The opening lines: “Hello Darkness, my old friend” can be read both figuratively and literally. The death of such a vigorous and visionary leader had left a hole in the American psyche similar to the existential vacuum created by WWII. It is also of note that Simon’s actual songwriting technique echoes the symbolism of the station under which he was born. “The retrograde station symbolizes the turning inward of an objective function for the purpose of seeking new creative energy –much like the waning crescent Moon.”[iv] “The Dark Moon becomes an introspective time: a quiet time of spiritual seeking, of finding those darker places within that need light …this is why the crescent Moon has taken on such an occult significance. These are times when we are either emerging from or descending into this place of spiritual realization.”[v] The literal darkness Simon was referring to was the facsimile of the ancient cave which he would retreat to for artistic creativity. “I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I'd turn on the faucet so that water would run - I like that sound, it's very soothing to me - and I'd play. In the dark.”[vi]
Curiously, without a strange twist of fate the World may never have heard these lines or of Simon and Garfunkel for that matter. The duo’s first release containing an acoustic version of “The Sound of Silence” flopped (“and my words like silent raindrops fell”). The two broke up and Simon left for
If a client is experiencing a planetary station by progression you can bet this will color every facet of their experience for at least a year. Sensitivity to their need for integrating the mythic Quest in perhaps an all too ordinary life will be called for. Depending on whether the station is retrograde or direct, they will need encouragement to either take a sabbatical or run off on a lark. In either case you can assure them that their life will be infinitely more rich and satisfying for having taken the risk and answering 'the call to adventure.' Fame and fortune may not await, but the Self does, and is perhaps the only true treasure we need find.
[i] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces,
Erin Sullivan, Retrograde Planets, 2nd edition, York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser Inc., 2000, p. 9.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, New York, NY: MJF Books, 1949, p.49.
Erin Sullivan, Retrograde Planets, 2nd edition, York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser Inc., 2000, p.58-59
Lois Rodden, (2002). www.astrodatabank.com/NM/AliMuhammad.htm
Lois Rodden, (2002). www.astrodatabank.com
Bruce Springsteen, The Rising, New York, NY: Columbia Records, 2002.
George Kelly, The Psychology of Personal Constructs. New York,NY: Norton. (1955).
Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love, New York, NY: Columbia Records, CBS Inc., 1987.
Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run, New York, NY: Columbia Records CBS Inc., 1975.
Page last modified on 13-Dec-2007
Back to top