Three factors in the horoscope are of fundamental importance. Everything else modifies their significations but does not basically alter them.
The ASC represents the physical body of the native, including his nervous system. Thus, it indicates what we might call the "animal nature" of the individual. It is automatic and unthinking. It shows how an individual will act or react without any conscious direction from the mind.
As an analogy, consider the natural difference in behavior of a cat and a rabbit. If you throw something in front of a cat, it will pounce upon it. But if you throw the same thing in front of a rabbit, it will run away. This is instinctive behavior, and that is what the ASC indicates.
The Moon represents the conscious mind. It is independent of the ASC, and it is independent of the Sun.
The Sun represents a sort of internal standard of what seems to be right and what seems to be wrong. In a limited sense it represents the native's ethical standard; it is not a learned standard, but rather an innate one. It is independent of the Moon and independent of the ASC.
The primary astrological influence on each of these three factors is the zodiacal sign in which it is placed. Thus, there are 12 X 12 X 12 = 1,728 possible combinations. These are the basic personality types. But each sign is modified if it also contains one or more planets; hence, the actual number of possible variations of these 1,728 combinations is much greater.
Of the five possible combinations of the three signs, the most common is the one in which each of the three factors is in a different sign. There are 12 X 11 X 10 = 1,320 of these. This combination includes roughly three fourths of humanity. And these people represent a rather muddled mixture of the three factors. They think one way, they judge correctness in another way, and they instinctively act in a third way. They have internal mental conflicts, and they are sometimes dissatisfied with their actions for one of four reasons: (1) they did something instinctively that they did not want to do; (2) they did something that they did want to do, but they feel that they should not have wanted to do it; (3) they did something that they didn't really want to do, but they felt that it was the "right" thing to do; or, (4) they did something either because they wanted to do it or because they thought they ought to do it, but, they had to force themselves to do it because it went against their instinctive nature. Some of their excuses are: "I don't know why I did that." "I really shouldn't have done that, but I did it anyway." "It wasn't what I wanted to do, but I thought it was the right thing to do, so I did it." "I wanted to do it, although I didn't think it was right, but I did it as best I could." "I wanted to do it, and I thought it was the right thing to do, but I had to force myself to do it."
If the Moon and the Sun are in the same sign, but the ASC is in a different sign, then the individual's thoughts generally harmonize with his internal standard. Whatever he thinks is judged to be appropriate. There is no internal conflict in his thinking, although there may be difficulty in taking action, or his action may be altered somewhat from his intention -- "I did it, but I had to force myself." "I did it, but I didn't do it as well as I would have liked to do it." There are 12 X 11 = 132 of these types.
If the Moon and the ASC are in the same sign, but the Sun is in a different sign, then the individual's thoughts harmonize with his instinctive nature, but his internal standard may disapprove. Whatever he thinks, he may do without any physical conflict, but he may feel that his action is inappropriate -- "I did it just as I had in mind to do it, but I probably shouldn't have done it." There are 12 X 11 = 132 of these types.
If the Sun and the ASC are in the same sign, but the Moon is in a different sign, then the individual's thoughts do not harmonize with his internal standard and his instinctive nature. He may wish to do something and immediately think that it would be inappropriate to do it and that he would have difficulty doing it, but whatever he finally decides to do, he does without any physical conflict, and without any feeling of impropriety, but he may be intellectually dissatisfied with having done it. He may also feel at times that he is acting in a manner that is appropriate but that is different from the manner in which he would like to act. There are 12 X 11 = 132 of these types. One occupational example would be an actor who plays a particular role well, and is satisfied with his performance, but who does not think like the character he portrays
If all three factors -- ASC, Moon, and Sun -- are in the same sign, there is no internal conflict and no dissatisfaction with actions. Whatever the individual decides to do, he does (circumstances permitting), and he is satisfied with the intent, the appropriateness, and the quality of his action. There are only 12 of these types. They are the rare "triples."
The Moon and the Sun acting in combination determine the internal thinking and decision making process within an individual. The Moon has a thought; this is judged by the standard set by the Sun. It may be approved or disapproved. It may be retained or rejected. If the thought is retained and it requires physical action, then it must act through the ASC. The nature of the ASC affects the manifestation of the thought, although it can be deliberately overridden to some extent by the Moon. In other words, an individual may choose to do something that is contrary to the nature of his ASC. This is commonly called "forcing himself to do something." For example, a man with the Moon in Aries may decide to take some bold and physically hazardous action that his Pisces ASC instinctively shrinks from, but he may force himself to do it anyway (perhaps while shaking with fear).
A planet in the same sign with one of these three factors alters its action in accordance with the nature of the planet. For example, Mars in the ASC sign makes the individual bolder and more forceful in instinctive action than he would otherwise be. Mars in the Moon sign makes the individual bolder and more forceful in thought. He may think that forceful action is required (but he may not take such action). Mars in the Sun sign makes bold and forceful action seem appropriate.
If the ASC is stronger (by sign or by planetary influence) than the Moon or the Sun, then instinct predominates. The individual may take actions on the spur of the moment that he subsequently wishes he hadn't taken or that he thinks were inappropriate.
If the Moon is stronger than the ASC or the Sun, then thought predominates. The individual may think many things, but he may do not do them, either because they go against his instinctive nature or because they are judged to be inappropriate.
If the Sun is stronger than the ASC or the Moon, then the individual's internal standard predominates, and he may think or instinctively desire to do many things, but he restrains himself, or, if he does act, he acts more in accordance with his internal standard than with his instinctive nature or with his thoughts.
The ancients judged a person by his Moon sign, the moderns by his Sun sign, but some astrologers (notably, the Englishman, Vivian Robson) more by his ASC. Robson says if he had to give up all the astrological factors but one, he would keep the ASC. This means that he judged that people acted more in accordance with their instincts than with their thoughts or their internal standards of right and wrong.
In meeting a person for the first time, we are immediately impressed by his ASC, but after we get to know him, we may judge him according to his Moon sign or Sun sign (or the combination of the two). This is also the explanation of why we sometimes say later, "I like his looks, but I don't like his actions." Or, the other way around. As we mentioned above, most people are influenced by three signs, so we can understand that their outward appearance and mannerisms (ASC) may be at odds with their thoughts (Moon) or with their internal standards (Sun), which we can only come to know with acquaintance.
Other factors in the horoscope, such as aspects and house positions, are significant. But I have found that the basic personality is accurately described by the factors mentioned above.
[Published in the Journal of Research of the AFA 12 (Winter 2000)]
James Herschel Holden (Oct. 22, 1926 to Aug. 13, 2013) was the Research Director of the American Federation of Astrologers (AFA).
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