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    By Astrologer Bob Makransky

    In every relationship there is a power equation: someone has more control than the other person. The power in a relationship at any given moment resides in the hands of that one of the partners who has the least stake in the continuance of the relationship. Typically, therefore, the power equation in a relationship will teeter-totter back and forth over time (and over different lifetimes) - now this person, now that one, being the one presently calling the shots.

    There's no astrological way of determining who is on first in a relationship at any given moment. What horoscopes do reveal, however, is how the individual partners wield the power when it teeters their way; and this is shown primarily by the planet Venus.

    Where Mercury is the planet of mind, Venus is the planet of desire. Desire is always couched in terms of power - the balance of power between an individual and his or her environment. To want is to cede power to whomever or whatever can satisfy that want.

    An individual's satisfaction is reckoned in terms of the value of what he or she possesses. In the first instance this means the body, its physical beauty or usefulness in work. Anything of measurable value is symbolized by Venus - it is the impulse to score points for the self.

    Where self-consciousness (mind, or Mercury) has no measure, self-worth always has a measure. The coin of meaning in the individual case can be Mommy's love, money, social success, sex, heaven; or it can be merely the sense of worth that comes from all the patient suffering undergone in a lifetime. But there must always be something to show for it all in the end - some little blue ribbon or other, some measure of control over the environment, some sense of personal power and effectiveness that translates into self-worth. Venus symbolizes both the native's manner of adapting himself or herself to the environment, and also the concomitant adaptation of the environment to the native - the measure of his or her satisfaction and success (worth).

    In contrast to Mercury (mind), Venus (desire) shows a person's dark or hidden side. People readily communicate what's on their minds, but it takes deeper intimacy before they reveal what they're really after. Too, most people know their own minds; and their minds are made up, or they can change their minds. However, they often don't really know what they want out of life; or how to go about getting it; or why it is that their efforts haven't been rewarded.

    Where mind is expressed as an attitude, desire is expressed as a yearning. It is more symbolic in nature than mind, and it reveals itself to awareness not so much in conscious thoughts as in the imagery of fantasies and dreams. For example, in our fantasy conversations, mind is the logical train of our argument, and desire is the longing for whatever response we hope to elicit from the imaginary interlocutor with whom we are conversing or interacting.1

    Thus, where mind is concerned with superficial order - rationalizing, filing, and sorting - desire is concerned with power - weighing, maneuvering, and manipulating. Where Mercury presents himself, Venus offers herself, but with the clear intent of subduing that which cannot be seduced. With Venus we're talking about people's strategies of control, manipulation, and avoidance of intimacy (loss of control).

    When Venus is oriental - that is to say, a morning star, when she rises before the Sun in the east - the desire nature is said to be possessive; and when Venus is occidental - when she is an evening star, setting after the Sun in the west - the desire nature is said to be dispassionate.

    Just as eager mind (oriental) exhibits the Gemini side of Mercury and certain mind (occidental) exhibits the Virgo side of Mercury, so too does possessive desire exhibit the Taurus side of Venus and dispassionate desire exhibit the Libra side of Venus.2

    Possessive desire seeks a sense of owning and being owned, and is primarily concerned with alliances and matters of community belonging. Dispassionate desire seeks a sense of personal privilege and prerogative, and is primarily concerned with preserving individual liberty against encroachment.

    The tenor of the times for the past several centuries has been a gradual shift away from possessiveness and towards dispassion - at least in the human economy. For example, the gradual shift from feudalism to democracy in political, social, religious, and cultural institutions throughout the world is a shift from a possessive to a dispassionate perspective on power relationships.

    The institution of marriage, which in its broad outlines has been fundamentally possessive in nature, has been undergoing severe dislocations of redefinition in the past century, and has not yet stabilized itself in a recognizable pattern, except that it is evidently becoming more dispassionate.

    This has entailed, for example, some diminution of emphasis in the popular mind on marriage for romantic love or pecuniary advantage (which are possessive ideals) and has given more emphasis to the idea of marriage as therapy or a creative collaboration between individuals (dispassionate ideals).

    This is not to reject or endorse either possessiveness or dispassion: the former is manipulative but warm and gay; the latter is just but cool and somber. However, that half of the population which is dispassionate (those born with Venus placed later in the zodiac than the Sun) are more in tune with the times, because the times seem to favor dispassion.

    The differences between the possessive and dispassionate Venus types show up most clearly in each one's expectations of marriage. Possessive types are interested in commitment to relationship as an end in itself, to which all else is subordinate; hence, they are less interested in the question of whether or not there is a sharing of philosophies, hobbies, interests, etc.

    Possessive types bring to marriage expectations of mutual self-sacrifice - especially by the other person; fidelity, and the expectation that marriage is above all else a task, which should entail a common purpose, as opposed to mere common interests. The wedding ring is a possessive invention: a pledge of undying constancy; a sign of ownership more humane than a brand.

    However, the "loyalty" on which these types pride themselves is not so much to the people themselves as to their images of them; and when the image runs out, they can turn on people with a cry of betrayal. Their warmth can turn in a trice to cold severity. Other people can sense this, which is why they tend to distrust the motives of possessive types in spite of how noble they believe themselves to be.

    Where the dispassionate natives are afraid of consciously acknowledging hurt, the possessive types use their hurt as a fuel to fire resentment. Their security lies in their pride, in their fidelity to their own images; thus, they anchor their emotional stability to the bedrock of their fantasies - to whether this or that illusion is being actualized in reality. They unabashedly relate to other people in terms of the service they might render or the use to which they might be put; although they are quite willing to serve others in turn. When all is said and done, they are at least willing to trust other people to some extent.

    Dispassionate types, on the other hand, bring to marriage expectations of mutual self-sufficiency, little diminution of individual choice for the sake of the relationship - i.e., the expectation that marriage is, above all else, a friendship and should entail nothing more than benevolent interest and good faith. Marriage is viewed as a pooling of common interests insofar as such interests can be shared, with only a generalized feeling of goodwill and well-wishing beyond this point. To these natives, there is a relationship only to the extent that there is a commonality of interests.

    The dispassionate types are friendly and democratic; they draw no distinctions between people, but are equally open, or closed, to strangers and spouse alike. When they are interested in someone, they can be genuinely solicitous and sympathetic listeners; but when they are not especially interested in someone they can be brusque to the point of rudeness. When they give their attention, they do so wholeheartedly: they stop everything they're doing to help. But most of the time they are too busy for people (unless other horoscope factors intervene – e.g., Aquarius emphasis). Their reactions to people are more a function of the mood they're in at the moment than what they expect to get from the people. They always maintain a reserve and privacy that they allow no one to breach. They prefer relationships with a minimum of clinging, self-adjustment, or inconvenience. Where people happen to meet, they meet; and where they don't, they go their separate ways.

    Within a relationship they feel a strong need for psychological elbow room, some way of distancing themselves through personal activity. They must have a life of their own. They will never permit any relationship to become the centerpiece of their existence, nor permit themselves to critically depend upon anyone if they can help it. The wedding ring is a dispassionate invention - something the woman can sell after the divorce.

    Dispassionate natives will not commit themselves emotionally to any situation or relationship over which they do not exercise decisive control, so they find it difficult to fully appreciate just how emotionally dependent on other people they actually are. They are impersonal and impassive, quite simply unwilling to allow themselves to be hurt. And when they are hurt, they make a conscious decision to slough it off, to ignore it, and then to turn their attention to their other affairs.

    Their security lies in maintaining an unobstructed exit, thus emulating the ostrich in strategy and effectiveness. They try to gloss over conflicts and to accentuate the positive. As a result they never really know what their true feelings are, since they refuse to acknowledge their emotional dependencies. They go out of their way to please, to placate, as long as no real sacrifice is required of them. They are quite capable of maintaining a pleasant front while nursing a deep resentment. But at least they are free of the vengeful "I told you so" mentality of the possessive types; they let bygones be bygones, and try to maintain a hopeful, positive, constructive attitude.

    Oriental Venus wants to possess and be possessed - to merge individual identities and surrender individual initiative in order to create something greater; whereas Occidental Venus prefers a free, easy, laissez faire relationship that serves merely as a springboard or a base of support from which to operate.

    To dispassionate types, the idea of commitment to a relationship as an end in itself seems quite foreign and bizarre, and these natives tend to view possessive types as clingy, overbearing, and a bring-down. Possessive natives, on the other hand, regard the idea of a community of interests as quite superficial, and these natives see dispassionate types as cold, aloof, and selfish.

    One might suppose, therefore, that marriage would be more likely to succeed between natives of the same type: both possessive or both dispassionate. In a "mixed" marriage the individual partners soon discover that they're not going to get what they want from each other, nor is the other person going to be satisfied with what they have to offer. The respective partners have contradictory expectations of marriage.

    In the politics of relationship, the fact that the power in a relationship resides in the hands of the party who has the least stake usually gives the dispassionate party an edge in the normal course of things; but possessive types have a way of upsetting the apple cart when they feel they've been dispossessed. In yin-yang fashion, at the bottom of the dispassionate psyche there lurks an unrecognized possessiveness, a dependency usually unacknowledged until the relationship terminates (or threatens to terminate). And at the bottom of the possessive psyche there lies an unrecognized dispassion - a cold, brusque, utilitarian independence to which the native resorts when he or she is blocked.

    Marriage between two Venus oriental natives or between two Venus occidental natives is in some ways easier than a mixed marriage, because then the partners possess a like spirit of cooperation and can take the same assumptions about marriage for granted: they at least share the same basic map of marriage. However this is no guarantee of success because even in this case one usually finds the other partner reading the map upside down. Even though their basic expectations of marriage may be in accord, this does not mean that the common interests that bring two dispassionate natives together at the beginning will be enough to sustain them through the years; nor does it mean that the total union, which the two possessive natives seek will be harmonious in all its specific implications.

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    The universal struggle of marriage is the slow and excruciating acceptance of the fact that this person who stands before you doesn't fit the image that you had of them; nor will they satisfy the needs you hoped they would. A marriage between two natives of the same phase is as likely to underscore respective insecurities as it is to address respective needs. On the other hand, mixed marriages have greater potential for growth - if the initial divisiveness can be overcome - because each partner is challenged to defer to the other, to give up something of his or her self (which when all is said and done limits one's scope), to find happiness in a situation that he or she cannot fundamentally control. In other words, mixed marriages require and teach greater trust.

    If we are going to manipulate other people and exploit them for our own ends - and everyone is doing this all the time with everyone else (this is what the action of the planet Venus is all about) - there is no point in being shameless and pretending that we aren't doing this. We should try to be skillful in our machinations. This means appreciating other people and what they do for us (also the action of Venus), being able to see things from their point of view and not taking them for granted. We should be gentle and kind to them, instead of just grabbing what we want from them and then tossing them aside.

    Both possessiveness and dispassion can be strategies for avoidance of intimacy: possessiveness a strategy of control and dispassion a strategy of escape. Both can become strategies of self-protection, refusal to take responsibility for there being a relationship, and thus both can be wrong. The right strategy is to be willing to make a total commitment (as the possessive types do), while also maintaining one's own individuality (as the dispassionate types do).

    Control is avoidance of intimacy. The dispassionate types aim for control in a day-to-day sense, whereas the possessive types seek long-term control; thus dispassion and possessiveness can be viewed as natural divisions of labor in the economy of marriage. It's up to the dispassionate types to keep things on an even keel - to keep things light and in perspective; and it's up to the possessive types to keep things grounded and take a long-term view. Then the types can work in collaboration instead of competition.


    1. "Dreams'" contents are symbolic and thus have more than one meaning. The symbols point in different directions from those we apprehend with the conscious mind; and therefore they relate to something either unconscious or at least not entirely conscious." C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols [New York: Dell Publishing, 1972, page 80]. It's not that symbols have more than one meaning - a symbol has but one meaning, but different rational interpretations of it are possible. A symbol is how desire reveals itself to mind - symbols are to desire what thoughts are to mind: they mean what they mean, but the manifoldness arises when we try to analyze, to use mind / thought to try to encompass desire / feeling. Hunger is just hunger; but a fantasy or dream of eating is a symbol for the desire and thus has ramifications.

    2. See my book Thought Forms for a complete discussion of the Mercury cycle in the natal and progressed horoscopes. As is the case also with the eager/certain distinction at Mercury's conjunctions with the Sun, there is no hard cusp effect between possessiveness and dispassion at Venus's conjunctions with the Sun. On the contrary, the conjunctions exhibit an exaggerated form of the preceding quality: Venus superior conjunction Sun can be super-possessive and smothery; Venus inferior conjunction Sun (indeed, Venus retrograde, period) can be super-dispassionate and don't-touch-me. But this is another story for another day.

    Bob Makransky is a systems analyst, programmer, and professional astrologer. For the past 30 years he has lived on a farm in highland Guatemala where he is a Mayan priest and is head of the local blueberry growers association.

    Books by Bob Makransky at Amazon.

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