September 21/22 - October 23/24
Cardinal Air: Judgment
Objectively: Autumnal color. Light's last statement of beauty as it falls into dark.
Sun crosses the celestial equator moving south, submerging into a galaxy of stars. An individual integrates with the community. Personality socializes.
Subjectively: Sunset. The dominance of night begins, increasing at its fastest pace. In the gathering twilight one begins to discern other stars in a sky of consciousness once bedazzled by the sole solar brilliance of self. Character redefined by affinities and affiliation.
Libra: Balance. Proportion. Relationship. Justice. Beauty.
In Libra the psyche no longer centers on its own subjective consciousness or ego agenda. It now commits to a social role, though its exact responsibilities remain unclear. Libra must negotiate that with its counterparts.
Virgo refined personality to a state of relative perfection, on its own evolutionary level, through critical reason, work and service. This autonomous path of development has come to an end. Now it functions in concert with a group, as a team player. Ego no longer does its own thing. It must take into account the needs, wishes and demands of society. Libra makes explicit the axioms of collective conduct and norms of justice guiding individual development. It describes the public context of personal content.
This is not a given, but a give and take. Libra experiences a challenging exposure to 'the problem of other minds.'1 This involves adjustment to a separate reality. One no longer struggles with self, but with strangers. Their different values, worldviews, strategies generate shock and awe. One is turned on or switched off. Recognition, reaction and relationship take time to unfold. Libra seesaws, in a back and forth workout, through which an accommodation eventually takes shape.
We are all composed of the same energies, uniquely arranged in our various identities. To encounter the human condition formatted in a novel way (from your perspective) leads to curiosity, then exploration. Why does s/he think like that? What does it feel like to be him or her? An inherent empathy tries on their perspective. This may lead to growth. It also creates confusion: who am I? What do I really believe? Am I right, or is s/he?
This dichotomy can generate serious problems, even in the absence of overt hostility. Some people's state of being is simply alien or even detrimental, undermining self-confidence with doubt, negativity or irrelevant distraction. Some constitute an overt challenge, stimulating a more inclusive perspective, or forcing a defensive mobilization. One can be too open-minded and lose integrity by fascination with, devotion to or dependence on another. This often happens in the rapture of infatuation, projecting unconscious issues onto an objectified idol. Or true love can transcend ego in delighted discovery of a complementary reality.
Libra seeks to establish parity between inner experience and external appreciation. This usually resolves through cycles of adulation/rejection oscillating to a happy medium. Part of Libra's balancing act reconciles independence with interdependence. One must be faithful to the essential truth of a core self. Yet, 'No man is an island.'2
Life demands, and people want, interaction. Thus character is tested, revealed and refined. Most circumstances involve simultaneous cooperation and conflict; a variable mix of attraction and repulsion, love and hate. Think of sibling rivalry or the 'family romance.'3 Libra mediates such primal emotions to find their still point of equilibrium.
Almost everybody, of any sign, communes with the outside world. However, other signs bring something specific to the table: they relate to express self, assert will, get what they want, share what they have, serve who they adore. Libra brings only a sense of detached equanimity because it seeks to represent all parties and the entire community. It acts as a neutral arbitrator who interprets a social situation, translates between its members and brokers a mutually agreeable outcome.
More fundamentally Libra defines its own nature through such encounters. It becomes more, or less, than an ego so that it can find a common center of gravity and tilt it towards a desired orientation. It is what it needs to be in order to influence a group dynamic. This is not dishonesty - that requires alienation - but rather an ever adapting identification with a larger balance of forces. It can vacillate helplessly, going wherever the wind blows. Or trim its sails, navigating storms and currents, to arrive at a distant port the entire crew wants to reach.
Libra links Virgo and Scorpio; it embodies a continuum between these two extremes. Virgo heals imperfection, reintegrating a damaged part into the whole. Scorpio kills it, releasing its bound up energy. Libra slowly swings from rehabilitation to sanction. It begins with an emphasis on impartial composition of competing interests, an attempt at reconciliation. It ends with an accent on judgment, a final decision.
Libra describes a sense of justice that motivates behavior. For some, justice means to seek out and destroy rivals, real or imagined. For others it means to encourage and nurture everyone's highest potentials. For some justice is essentially punitive (except for personal transgressions). For others it is redemptive.
Planets in Libra describe an interpretation of the social contract. For some that means a war of all against all: 'Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.' For others it means 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' The specific ideals vary. In all cases it means an understanding of the rules. How one plays the game. What is the appropriate norm of behavior.
For most people this is ambiguous. It often involves a double standard, extending leniency to friends and family, severity to enemies and competitors. As the Libra function grows more sophisticated it develops a uniform code of justice. This honors fair play for all above the expediency of partisanship. Much of the Libran evolutionary struggle seeks to find and internalize this disinterested stance.
One aspect of justice is proportionality. The punishment should fit the crime, the reward be commensurate with the contribution. Libra searches for equity: how to calibrate the relative value of things. Taurus describes absolute value (in your eyes): I love chocolate and hate eggplant. Libra weighs various values in comparison: I will pay this for that.
Libra ranks internal priorities. And assigns their rate of exchange with partners and competitors. Thus it mediates the terms of intercourse on every level: sexual, emotional, mental, commercial and political.
Proportionality also informs our sense of beauty:
'Truth is beauty, beauty truth.
That's all ye know and all ye need to know.'4
Beauty may be physical or intellectual, artistic or spiritual, sensual or ethereal. Its form does not matter, its presence means everything. Beauty outwardly expresses life's inherent joy.
Each person has an innate sense of harmony. A feeling for how things should fit together: what is aesthetically pleasing and what is unseemly or just plain wrong. This canon of beauty is linked to a concept of justice: what should be rewarded, what should be rejected or punished.
Simply put Libra means the quest for right relationship. Nothing exists in isolation. All entities are interactive and codependent. Libra seeks to coordinate them through an appropriate balance of mercy along with the necessary severity of upholding standards. And to act justly as expressed in the Golden Rule:
'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'5
That also means reciprocity:
'As you sow so shall you reap.'6
Libra's highest expression resides in its basic sense of fairness, a common human decency underlying the trust essential for civilized life. Its lowest lies in taking sides through a biased criteria prejudicially favoring a partial truth over the whole. Its most characteristic failure creates paralyzed indecision, unable to choose between enticing alternatives.
Libra applies Virgo's sense of individual integrity to the collective. What is proper social conduct? How should contradictory interests be accommodated? What are the correct procedures for civil, legal and political affairs? Sagittarius defines the precepts of law. Libra portrays its application. 'Thou shalt not kill' is a Sagittarian injunction. The right of an accused murderer to due process, the precedents by which s/he is judged, are Libra's province.
Laws may or may not be just. They might be based on racial hierarchies or the paranoia of 'revolutionary justice' in stressed societies. They are often stated in absolute terms, which may not be relevant to the ambiguities of life. Libra portrays the feedback mechanism that correlates general ideals with actual experience.
For example, capitalism is based on an idea: that free competition in the marketplace is the best way to allocate goods and services. The Libra function modifies that idea to conform with human realities: monopolies should be prevented, workers' rights and environmental concerns honored, product safety and quality guaranteed. Libra recognizes that the complexities of the human condition require intelligent compromise.
Indeed, without the Libran balancing act, the remaining zodiacal qualities would be isolated in solipsistic splendor. Will (Aries), desire (Taurus) and mind (Gemini); subjectivity (Cancer), creativity (Leo) and integrity (Virgo); passion (Scorpio) and principle (Sagittarius); achievement (Capricorn), aspiration (Aquarius) and compassion (Pisces) would have no means of communication. Libra forms their common ground.
Ten out of twelve signs have a distinct character. Gemini has two. In contrast, Libra describes a process of adaptation, the basis of both biological evolution and social co-operation. Subjectively it harmonizes our various subpersonalities into a coherent unity; objectively it relates that identity to its environment.
Ironically, almost without qualities of its own, Libra creates a meeting place where all these energies intersect. It facilitates the bonding of autonomous elements into a more inclusive compound unity. Libra convenes the Congress, with its procedural rules, checks and balances, wherein the various factions mingle and merge. It adds these fractions up into a larger bottom line.
Libra functions as choice. Good decisions cannot be made in isolation. They depend on the corrective guidance of comparison. Among air signs Gemini provides an operating procedure for integrating information into one's own mind. Aquarius a way of transforming its significance. Libra generates a protocol for that mind's interaction with the world.
One is partially defined by differences with others. Gemini accentuates the contrast and its resulting debate. Aquarius abstracts a general synthesis out of dialog between thesis/antithesis. Libra describes a joint psychic space that unites various polarities; a consensus around which it and partners orbit.
Libra sees all sides of every issue. Its own issue is decision: how to choose. Where more passionate signs instantly take sides Libra attempts to reconcile the good elements in both positions. Thus it creates a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. Or less than any of them. ('A camel is a horse put together by a committee.') It can be motivated from anywhere along the spectrum from unscrupulous wheeling and dealing to the most judicious statesmanship. Libra exemplifies a political temperament that respects different interests and makes compromises that accommodate all of them.
Compromise can mean shady sellout. Or farsighted vision adjusting the partial validities of competing truths. For example, the American Constitution embodies compromise in its enduring yet flexible statement of governing principles.7 It originally defined a slave as three-fifths of a person, yet created the democracy that would set them free. It was designed to protect property and so promoted opportunity. It recognized that open process is more important than specific outcome and so guided an agrarian frontier society to become a space age superpower.
Libra's artful bargaining and ability to negotiate allows otherwise separated egos to work together. Thus they can achieve a corporate identity and accomplish greater goals than any could on their own. It enables civilization. We are largely, but not entirely, herd animals. Libra's urge to belong amplifies individual potential through social involvement. Or degrades autonomous agency into the willing cog of a soulless machine.
Libra writes the tribal accord, formal or informal, that orients conscience within a group consensus. Its collective force field powerfully shapes any single aura embedded in it. Its norms inform our most intimate behavior. Character is often defined in terms of collaboration with, or resistance to, community standards. This can be complex and multidimensional: for example, the gentle soul or good citizen who cooperates with bad laws often enables evil more than the pushy egotist who just does his thing. Libra's tendency to sweet compliance constitutes its most dangerous quality.
Libra is not only judicious but also artistic. It does not just weigh competing perceptions, it actively reimagines them in a new synthesis. Libra describes one's participation in and contribution to a shared representation of reality. And the values expressed through it.
Art demonstrates the changing symmetry of cultural forces in symbolic forms. Artists define tribal consciousness through their creations. Who remembers the partisan issues of Shakespeare's day, or the public events of Mozart's? Yet their timeless revelations of beauty are always relevant. And will enhance the human spirit forever.
Art also has a political dimension. It invokes the deepest levels of appreciation for a reigning paradigm. Or evokes a new order: 'When the mode of music changes the walls of the city shake.'8
On a more personal level Libra outlines a general perception of the outside world: an overall evaluation of human nature, specific expectations of people, their motives and likely behavior. How one responds to them. It describes the nature and quality of chemistry with significant others, especially the marriage partner.
The seventh house, Libra's subjective correlate, and any planets in it, describes close encounters between I and Thou. Relationships, whether amicable or adversarial. Convergence or confrontation. A meeting of hearts and minds, changing both for better or worse.
The house cusp that the sign of Libra occupies portrays an attitude towards associates. Thus Libra on the cusp of the third tends to intellectualize transactions, while the tenth connects on the basis of rank or authority, etc. The position and aspects of Libra's ruling planet, Venus, provide insight into the values brought to, and results derived from, social communion.
Libra coordinates ego with environment. It portrays the ecology of relationship. Does one play the role of predator or prey? Manipulate the group for personal gain, or sacrifice self interest for a greater good? The Libra energy zone applies a value system defined by Venus to social participation.
Interestingly, in mundane astrology dealing with national charts and public issues,9 Libra and the seventh house have to do with diplomacy, foreign partners/adversaries and, most especially, war. War makes the most intimate contact between nations. Us and Them. Libra is often mistaken as a sign of love and peace. It can be that, in part. But it also searches for harmony through conflict. Libra, and the seventh house, describe who, how and why we fight. As well as love.
Eventually, in all close encounters the two parties merge, erotically, genetically, psychologically or politically. The outcome differs from the inputs. Rapport fuses into merger. Libra's process tips over into Scorpio's passion.
Libra acts as a dynamic rather than an identity. It lacks content so that it can mediate contact. Libra is the judge who sits silently in the courtroom as defense and prosecution have at it, while witnesses speak and jurors decide. Yet a judge umpires the trial, ensuring fairness and passing sentence.
1. Alfred North Whitehead, English philosopher, 1861-1947
2. 'Devotions upon emergent occasions,' John Donne, English poet, 1572-1631
3. This involves the Oedipus complex, describing an ambiguous sexual attraction between mother and son, along with a corresponding Electra complex between father and daughter. These names are of characters depicted by the Athenian playwright Sophocles, 497- 405 BC.
The same issues also arise in the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol), which describes a male soul as drawn into incarnation by lust for his mother and aversion to his father generated by the heat of their sexual intercourse. (Vice versa for a female.) The Bardo Thodol was written during the 8th century AD.
4. 'Ode to a Grecian Urn,' John Keats, English poet, 1795-1821
5. Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31
6. Galatians 6:7
7. The USA national horoscope, with Sagittarius rising, has Saturn exalted in Libra on the Midheaven, its natural place of rule at the top of the chart. See 'Mundane Astrology.'
8. Paraphrased from 'The Republic,' (book four), Plato, Athenian philosopher, 424-347 BC.
9. Nations, and other organizations such as corporations, churches and nonprofits, have birth charts based on a founding event, such as the American Declaration of Independence. See 'Mundane Astrology.'