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Last time, we covered the overall notion of the planets as aspects of the individual, the specifics of which are readable in the natal chart, as well as how this generally applies with the two luminaries, the Sun and Moon. Let’s move on to the wanderers.

Mars represents sattvam, or what we in the West call character. Mars gives us the courage to to properly express our individuality and to live our values; in addition to the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter, he also helps to determine what those values are. Some assume that a strong Mars person would be a bully or a violent sort, when in fact a person with a strong, well-placed Mars is far less likely to use unnecessary force or want to cause suffering because they possess the courage and discipline to find a more constructive way to handle the situation. A strong Mars has a correspondingly strong desire to express goodness; if a powerful Mars is afflicted, however, this impulse can become twisted by frustration, causing eruptions of temper in the face of a world incapable of abiding by the deepest dharmic values.

Mercury represents “the consciousness spoken”. In broad terms, we can call this a person’s know-how, as Mercury brings skill to a person. But in terms of the individual’s personality, Mercury is specifically their capacity to speak and make themselves understood. Mythologically, Mercury is the son of the Moon. As such, he expresses what is in the mind (manas). How effectively he does this is determined by his strength, while how gentle or cruel he is in his communication style depends on which planets join or aspect him. It may seem strange to think of talking as an aspect of the personality rather than just an action the individual can take, but consider how little we tend to consciously choose when and how we speak. It is a patterned and conditioned element just as is our character or our vitality. While we can, if circumstances and patterns permit, choose to become more aware of how and when we communicate, this is as much a case of having to change who we are as is reexamining our morality. We may think about being firm or gentle with someone, but in practice do we communicate what and how we think we should? Causality as often goes the other direction: what and how we communicate changes the contents of our mind. Psychological tools like affirmations and yogic tools like mantra are ways of deliberately taking advantage of this feedback: control your speech and you control your mind.

Jupiter represents “joy-giving knowledge”, which is to say inner knowledge. This is the root of spiritual knowledge, but even those who are not particularly spiritual can be in possession of it with a healthy Jupiter. All happiness is internal and has an internal source, though people experience it in and through external objects and experiences. Someone with a well-developed inner knowledge will find happiness in a myriad of experiences, while someone with a poor knowing capacity will only find a brief glimmer of joy in attaining even their most treasured of goals. Another way of looking at Jupiter’s joy-giving knowledge is as a sense of meaning. Mars gives purpose, a sense of outward direction, but Jupiter provides the sense that there is something more to life than “stuff”. Someone with a bad Jupiter may still accomplish a lot, but they will not receive any lasting happiness from it or see it as having more than utilitarian function.

Venus provides vīrya. While there are deeper metaphysics to it, at the personal level this is simply vitality: the energy and passion necessary to pursue any goal. Depending on Venus’s placement, a strong and healthy Venus gives one physical strength, the ability to recover from illness, heal injuries, and handle stress. Many astrologers look to Mars for a person’s athleticism, for example, but Venus is by far more important. An athlete must have the ability to recover from injuries quickly and to work through illness. A good Mars can make such a person competitive in a healthy manner, but it requires a good Venus to be successful in it and to be able to bounce back for more.

Saturn provides sorrow. This may not sound like a good thing, but put it in the same family as Venus and Mars: Mars allows one to be disciplined, Venus provides energy, while Saturn allows us to survive loss. Saturn also represents our awareness of lack, an inversion of Jupiter’s role. For as important as it is to find happiness within, Saturn lets us keep going through a loss of that with which we identified our happiness and, just as importantly, makes us aware of the realities of disease, death, and everything else which must inevitably come of life but which we often try to keep at arms’ length. While all of the planets are important in one way or another in our spirituality, Jupiter and Saturn tell us a lot about our motives in spirituality. Jupiter tells of the intuitions which lead us inward for greater things, while Saturn shows us the gaps in our experience which spiritual practice can fill.

I’ve run out of space this time, so next time we’ll look at an astrological method of employing this perspective on the planets in your own efforts at self-knowledge. Having a good reading of your own natal chart will be a significant aid in this process, but the technique I’ll be sharing can be used by anyone willing to put in the work of honest introspection.