Astronomically, the Sun is at the centre, or heart, of the solar system. Without the Sun, there would be no light or life and, indeed, no solar system. The Sun in the birth chart represents our centre of gravity and our centre of consciousness. When the Sun is shining, all is well with the world. Did anyone experience the total solar eclipse in Plymouth in 1999?
Audience: Yes, and it was a very bizarre thing. It was a gloomy day and cloudy, and as it gradually got darker I kept thinking, 'This is it,' and then it was suddenly night. Not the gradual fading of the light, like sunset, but sudden - the light just disappeared. It was very creepy. But I found the most significant thing was when the Sun appeared again after a few minutes - my heart just lifted up, and it was just a really good feeling being there.
Clare: That's very interesting, since you mentioned the lifting of your heart, and the Sun rules the heart.
Audience: Yes, it was definitely my heart.
Clare: There is also a spiritual component in what you say. We take the Sun for granted, and it is only when it dies that we appreciate how everything depends on it. With the return of the Sun, everything has meaning and purpose and everything is all right again. The wondrous light comes back. I gather that during a solar eclipse everything on the earth stops growing and literally starts to die, including us, so it is fortunate that they only last for about four minutes or so.
Audience: It was very quiet. The birds stopped singing.
Clare: Astrologically, the Sun describes the masculine principle, reliable, predictable, direct and focused, the source of our vitality and spiritual identity. Every day the Sun rises in the east, restoring light and confidence and clarity and the life force to the earth. Equally, the heat and dryness of this solar principle can burn and scorch and can be extremely dangerous, to the extent that we cannot even look at the Sun directly with the naked eye. The Sun describes what we already are in essence, but what will take the conscious striving of our life's journey to make whole and to integrate.
In Salomon Trismosin's alchemical text, Splendor solis (1582), the purified Cosmic Sun, rising from the darkness, conjoins with the Earth at the end of the alchemical work: "that which is above unites with that which is below", symbolising on a psychological level the integration of the whole personality.Arrogance, haughtiness, pride and narcissism, for example, are a few examples of the distortion of the solar principle, the archetype of nobility, honour, integrity and personal authority. As we work to develop the solar principle, which is ultimately our conscious connection to Spirit, we learn that the full expression of the Sun involves the integration of the shadow, since there can be no light without a shadow. The achievement of our unique identity, or solar 'individuality' therefore implies that we have become 'un-divided', we have recognised and integrated both the light and dark aspects of our solar nature. Naturally, this is very difficult to do and takes a lifetime's work.
There are two particularly appropriate Greek myths which describe the dangers of trying to harness the Sun's power too young. This is an act of hubris, an identification with the gods, and is always punished. One is the myth of Phaëton, son of the Sun-god Helios, who induced his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the Sun across the heavens for one day. The horses, feeling their reins held by an inexperienced hand, ran wildly out of their course and came close to the earth threatening to burn it. Zeus noticed the danger and destroyed Phaeton. The other is the myth of Icarus, son of Daedalus, who built wings from feathers and wax and, overwhelmed by the thrill of flying and not heeding his father's warning, flew too close to the Sun, whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.
Audience: But if the Sun is our core identity, how can it take a lifetime to find it?
Clare: This is an interesting question, considering that it is Sun-sign astrology which is so popular, so widely used and recognised. From a psychological point of view, the interpretation of the Sun in a birth chart is much more complex, partly because it has so many different levels of meaning and expression. I think the answer to your question is that our relationship to the Sun in our charts changes throughout our lives. It is not unusual, for example, for people to actively dislike their own Sun signs. This is a good indication that a more positive relationship can and must be forged, since the positive expression of the Sun in a chart implies a true connection to oneself and a deep level of self-acceptance. Because the Sun also describes our spiritual consciousness, it is a truly awesome and powerful astrological symbol which is far too great for us to realise when we are young. It therefore tends to be projected onto, or carried by, father or male carers or father-figures for the first half of our lives, until we have built a strong enough ego and are mature enough to express the full majesty of the solar principle for ourselves.
Audience: So it is essentially unconscious?
Clare: Exactly right, because we are not born fully conscious. The principle of consciousness begins by being unconscious.
Audience: It may take a lifetime to realise the Sun consciously, but surely we are all living out the characteristics of our Sun signs, aren't we? Otherwise we wouldn't recognise the Sun-sign descriptions so easily? For example, children seem to be very pure examples of their Sun signs, although I have noticed that they tend to lose this as they grow up. They lose that instinctive vibrancy as they learn to deal with the outside world.
Clare: Yes, as they get socialised, they stop being spontaneously themselves. As we grow up we are taught not to be selfish, to share our toys, to put others first. Once we are out of our babyhoods, we are taught that we are not the only special unique individuals in the world, but simply one of a group with which we are expected to conform. And so we adapt and adjust ourselves to the expectations of others. We begin the journey away from our central spiritual core and towards full involvement with the world, a journey which will, hopefully, lead us back to ourselves eventually, but this time consciously and in a more mature and integrated fashion. It is a long journey to the Sun.
My own view is that as we become socialised and develop an ego identity in order to function effectively in the world, we often take on the qualities of the sign opposite the Sun. In other words, we often manifest the polar opposite of what we really are in essence. This is worth thinking about for yourselves when we look at the meaning of the signs, but in my experience people often function as if their Sun's were in the opposite sign. This seems to be a natural part of the process of development. Eventually, our fully conscious identity seems to involve the integration of our own internal opposites, both the light and the dark sides of our solar nature. In my own work with clients, I find that it can be very helpful to focus on the conscious integration of the Sun's opposite sign and on the development of the planets which are traditionally in their detriment and fall in the Sun's sign. This helps me to see the solar principle in a wider context, as the fully integrated and mature centre of an individual's identity and indivisibility. We will look at this in more depth when we explore the expression of the Sun in each sign.
Audience: When do we become conscious?
Clare: Well, of course there are no guarantees. However, we can look at this in terms of Jung's concept of individuation. Jung believed that our lives fall naturally into two halves, with the first half involving the development of the ego, which is our sense of conscious identity, forged out of our responses to the environment into which we are born. We learn to function effectively in the world, we become socialised, develop personal skills and make relationships. During this time, various parts of our psyches remain unknown or undeveloped, as we adapt and adjust ourselves to the expectations of the outside world. The process of individuation, which is said to begin around the age of thirty-seven, involves the conscious integration of those aspects of our psyche which have, until then, remained undeveloped and unknown to us.
Audience: So the age of thirty-seven is the turning of the tide? Jung had a mental breakdown at that age, didn't he? He did most of his major work after that.
Clare: Yes, it was certainly the turning point in his life. We can look at this timing from an astrological point of view as well. It is not unusual for us to think we have got everything sorted by our mid thirties, but there are some extremely powerful transits which occur at the end of our thirties and beginning of our forties which present us with what feel like completely new challenges, the experience of which are often life changing.
Audience: My father was thirty-seven when he found out for the first time who his real father was.
Clare: This is a very concrete example of what we are talking about, since the Sun is the symbol of our identity, and when your father discovered his biological identity I imagine this gave him a completely new sense of himself.
Audience: Yes, he certainly changed quite radically, and took a new direction in life from that time.