Liberal or conservative, we are all snowflakes. We’re snowflakes in that no two people are the same, yet we´re all pushed into the same mandala shape, we´ve all fallen out of heaven, and, we will all melt soon.
All of us the same and each one unique. These truths keep depth psychology and astrology swirling in the blizzard. They speak of collective tensions that call for creative responses from each unique individual.
In the 1960’s, Fritz Riemann, a German psychologist, identified four impulses and four fears that push and pull every human being. More recently, astrologer and artist Alexander von Schlieffen has painted Riemann´s ideas onto the quadrants of the astrological chart. His mission is to help us play creatively with those fears and forces.
Though Alexander fully credits Riemann as an inspiration, he does not make Riemann´s ideas explicit in his astrology courses on the Jung Platform. Briefly exploring Riemann here can help us appreciate the unspoken framework behind Alexander’s psychological view of the quadrants. Riemann’s work is also very valuable on its own. Both men show us how we develop our freedom and creativity in response to anxiety.
Riemann linked his four human impulses and their consequent fears to four natural laws. First, our earth revolves around the sun, and second, the earth rotates on its own axis. We are also subject to gravity and centrifugal force, the third and fourth laws that bind us.
Now it gets interesting. Riemann finds precise analogies of these laws in individual depth psychology.
From the Earth rotating on its axis, Riemann´s spin is that we all feel the imperative to become a unique individual, different from those around us. If we achieve this, it creates the anxiety of becoming isolated and lonely. Alexander assigns the urge to become a unique person to the first quadrant of the mundane or natural chart. (The mundane chart is universal, it has unchanging assignations of houses to zodiac signs. The individual birth chart is variable, any zodiac sign and planet can appear in any house or quadrant.)
The first quadrant is driven by the fire of Aries and the element of water is not present. While Riemann focuses on the anxiety of isolation that comes from achieving autonomy, Alexander focuses in the first quadrant on the fear of not being able to achieve that autonomy. When water planets or signs are present in the first quadrant of a birth chart that person will have more trouble finding their unique shape. This creates tension.
And this is where we can get creative.
Alexander says, yes, the mundane (universal) zodiac excludes water from the first quadrant so each person can first develop their own biological body before they connect with others. Still, he goes on to say, there is no reason to think it’s a bad thing when water planets or water signs are brought into the first quadrant in an individual birth chart. True, it’s a complication, a tension. And that, it turns out, can be the grit that grows the pearl in the oyster.
Alexander assures us: “ ..we are in the process of evolution, and we need these afflictions. The complication of having an element in a quadrant where it doesn’t belong helps us develop our discernment and creativity. ..water in the first quadrant can also be wonderful because it can make you a very sensitive personality. We have an unexpected talent that is the result of a weakness.”
Alexander’s comments on the excluded element entering any quadrant apply as well to Riemann’s four anxieties; they’re uncomfortable, but if handled with care they can be the fuel for our evolution.
So much for the first of Riemann’s imperatives, reflected in the first quadrant, to be an autonomous body. Only a few words can be spent here on the remaining three urges and fears in Riemann’s scheme. If any readers are so moved, it might be a fun challenge to correlate Riemann’s next three imperatives with the remaining three quadrants of the mundane chart.
Riemann’s second human imperative, related to the Earth revolving around the sun, is that we should “trustingly open ourselves to the world, to life, to others.” (“Anxiety”, Fritz Riemann 2009, Reinhardt, p. 12) This requires commitment to an Other. It also generates anxiety about losing our ego and becoming dependent.
The third imperative, related to gravity, is that we should strive for permanence, that we plan for the future as if we’ll always be here. When we strive for security, anxiety about mortality and change arises.
The fourth imperative is related to the centrifugal force, an “ever running outwards.” (Ibid, p.160) This imperative says we should always be ready to evolve, to take up the new and detach from the old. When we follow this urge, we become fearful of habit, necessity and limitations.
In short, we must defend our boundaries while knowing how to surrender ourselves. We must face both the anxiety of self-loss and of self-becoming. A further tension is that we must strive for permanence at the same time we have to flow with change and transience. This means we’ll have to handle both fear of change and fear of limitation.
These sets of opposing imperatives and fears, common to us all, leaves us stretched out on a cross of horizontal and vertical tensions. The beauty of it, as Riemann, Alexander and others wise in the art of living have said, is that we can use these strings pulled tight to make our snowflake mandala utterly unique. It’s approaching the tension resourcefully that creates the jewel of you, and only you.
Master Astrologist Alexander von Schlieffen offers a series of courses on Astrology here on Jung Platform. He has a free introduction class: The Joy of Astrology. Then there is a fantastic beginners class Astrology for Beginners, followed by A Deeper Look at Astrology. Once you have completed both or either one of these, you can start with the in-depth series: Advanced Astrology Part 1 and Part 2. Come and get inspired to move to the music of the stars!
Janet is a member of the course development team. She’s been involved with the work of Carl Jung for 40 years and has a Master’s degree in Psychology and Analytic Psychotherapy from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona in affiliation with the Institut de Psicología Analítica C.G. Jung. She also has experience with a wide range of depth psychology modalities, including gestalt therapy, integral, humanistic and transpersonal approaches.More Posts by Janet Martha