Narcissism vs. Quietism: Can We Change the Narrative?
This year’s winner of the annual Catharine and Ernest Grant AFA Research Award is Branimira Maldeghem from Belgium. Members of the four main astrological organizations – AFA, NCGR, AFAN, and ISAR – were invited to apply for the grant, with each organization choosing its own winner. A committee made up of David Railey, Armand Diaz, and Courtney Roberts evaluated ISAR-member proposals. Branimira’s study was on the meaning of Sun square Neptune as reflected in the life and films of Jean-Luc Godard. Utilizing a hermeneutic methodology, Branimira first deconstructs the psychodynamics of Sun square Neptune, articulating how the inherent conflict between self-expression and self-transcendence may vacillate between ego-inflation (narcis- sism) and ego-negation (self-undoing). When integrated, however, it can manifest in what Branimira calls quietism, “self-transcendence by renunciation of self-will coupled with devotion to a spiritual ideal.” This latter possibility might be expressed through visionary and imagistic art forms, such as filmmaking. Branimi- ra brilliantly reveals how Sun-Neptune dynamics played out in the various challenges and preoccupations of Godard’s life, from childhood through adulthood, and especially through the profound, sometimes confusing, but often-transcendent nature of his films. ~ Glenn Perry
The research explores the archetypal relationship between Sun and Neptune, the underlying psychological dynamics as reflected in the square aspect between them, the psychological defences employed in resolving the conflict, and the multiplicity of outcomes consistent with the meaning and level of integration of the aspect.
It is premised that the conflict inherent in the Sun-square-Neptune psychological dynamics involves negative cogni- tions regarding the viability of free will and operates on a continuum between narcissism and quietism. The integra- tion of the aspect entails deeper understanding as to how individual intentionality can belong within the collective. It requires a conscious choice to redefine oneself by finding a “modus operandi” between one's personal will and what- ever transcends it – be it a visionary societal ideal or a higher spiritual power.
The astrological interpretation is based on the theoretical paradigm of AstroPsychology, according to which the horo- scope is best understood as symbolizing an unfolding story in which fate is altered by the development and unfold- ment of character.
This hypothesis is tested by employing a hermeneutic method as applied to content analysis and an in-depth study of biographies, artistic works, and interviews pertinent to the personal and artistic journey of the French filmmaker Jean- Luc Godard.
Godard offers an example of a “narrative” that longs to be seen and validated: “I’m a movie. I have a deep relation with my life, so I can share it with other people. I want to show horrible things, beautiful things, very smooth things, so people will know me…To be myself, I need to project myself outside [through films]. Then I am a part of myself and I can show it, and people can look inside of me.”
The conclusions attempt to answer the question: How can one rewrite his own “narrative” around the conflict inherent in the Sun-square-Neptune psychological dynamics?
This research explores the archetypal relationship between Sun and Neptune, the underlying psychological dynamics as reflected in the square aspect between them, the psychological defences employed in resolving the conflict [of the square], and the multiplicity of outcomes consistent with the level of integration of the aspect.
My hypothesis is that the expression of the psychological dynamics of the square between Sun and Neptune oper- ates on a continuum between narcissism and quietism. Narcissism, in brief, can be defined as ego-inflation and quietism as self-transcendence. The potential resolution of the psychological conflict inherent in this aspect lies in awareness that the negation of free will is rooted in self-defeating beliefs. The integrated expression of the aspect would entail deeper understanding of how individ- ual intentionality can operate within the collective will.
It would involve a conscious choice to redefine oneself by finding a “modus operandi” between personal will and whatever transcends it―be it a visionary societal ideal or a higher spiritual power. Through fantasy and imagina- tion, artistic works provide a safe outlet for re-enactment of traumatic past experiences in the hope of finding a different, more positive and self-affirming resolution thereof.
My hypothesis will be tested by an interpretation of the psychological dynamics of Sun-square-Neptune as reflected in the life experiences and artistic works of the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.
My astrological interpretation will be based on the theo- retical paradigm of AstroPsychology , as developed by Glenn Perry, PhD.
The horoscope is interpreted as an ever-evolving personal narrative around core psychological conflicts as reflected in the birth chart. Perry asserts: “Because every chart tells a story, we can utilize a narrative metaphor in explaining the principle of chart interpretation. Planets symbolise the story’s characters; signs represent their underlying motives; houses depict the various settings that provide a background for the story’s action; aspects signify the quality of relationships between characters; and disposi- tors and significators reveal the overall plot or story line of the chart. …[the] plot involves a pattern that ideally constitutes a path of evolutionary unfoldment...modifies awareness and leads toward a progressive development and integration of character.”(1) ...‘Perhaps the horoscope is best understood as symbolizing an unfolding story in which fate is altered by the development and unfoldment of the character’.(2)
In AstroPsychology, planetary characters are unique, complex, multi-dimensional beings. They operate within ‘fixed rules’ (chart variables) but employ ‘flexible strat- egies’ (free choices) in order to re-write their stories and re-define themselves.
My research employs a hermeneutic method as applied to content analysis and an in-depth study of biographies, artistic works, and interviews pertinent to the personal and artistic journey of Jean-Luc Godard.
My narrative approach to natal chart interpretation applies Perry’s developmental age method (DAM). The main premise of the DAM is that astrological archetypes also signify developmental stages of fixed duration within the human life cycle.
Perry suggests: “Each sign can be understood as a de- velopmental stage of specific quality and duration. And because houses are based on the same angular dynamics as the signs to which they correspond, they also represent the same 12-stage process. While the zodiac shows the genetic unfolding of consciousness, the houses reveal the native’s actual experience during particular periods. This occurs by virtue of planets signaling not only where but when that planetary process will be most acute.”(3)
A planet’s house position specifies the exact year and month during which the meaning of that configuration is acutely felt or expressed . Furthermore, there is a diachronistic relationship between planets in aspect with each other. This can be understood as a meaningful relationship between events from different stages that are expressions of the same planetary aspect. Earlier events are analogous to and preparatory for experiences occurring during the stage symbolized by the later planet. In the case of Godard, my analysis will focus on the planetary age of his Sun (5.4) and Neptune (72.6). Consideration will also be given to Jupiter (56.2) as dispositor of the Sun and Mars (64.4) as disposed by the Sun.
Developmental age ranges by Sign/House: (4)
|Aries/ 1st House||0-2|
|Taurus/ 2nd House||2-5|
|Gemini/ 3rd House||5-9|
|Cancer/ 4th House||9-14|
|Leo/ 5th House||`14-20|
|Virgo/ 6th House||20-27|
|Libra/ 7th House||27-35|
|Scorpio/ 8th House||35-44|
|Sagittarius/ 9th House||44-54|
|Capricorn/ 10th House||54-65|
|Aquarius/ 11th House||65-77|
|Pisces/ 12th House||77-90|
Calculated planetary ages for Godard:
|Sun||5||March, 1936 (1935-1937)|
|Jupiter||56||January, 1987 (1986-1988)|
|Mars||64||March, 1995 (1994-1996)|
|Neptune||73||May, 2003 (2002-2004)|
The orbs used for the interpretation of the aspects between planets are as follows:
The purpose of this research is to deepen understanding of the archetypal conflict inherent in the Sun-Neptune square by exploring its concrete manifestations. My conclusions will hopefully enrich astrology by providing an evidence-based, more nuanced understanding of the multiplicity of outcomes reflective of the aspect at different levels of integration. They could further reinforce the utility of qualitative research in natal chart interpretation, as its application can expand, interconnect, and transform our understanding of astrological phenomena.
While this research is intended to be sound―that is, coherent and comprehensive, it is also subject to cer- tain limitations linked to the fact that in the process of co-creating meaning, my interpretations are influenced to a certain extent by personal values and biases. Therehouse fore, I will refrain from claiming absolute validity of my conclusions. They are intended to be well-substantiated, evidence-based probability judgments.
Archetypes are universal organizing principles inherent in nature. They are an animating and formative pattern of energy that connects individual souls to the cosmic soul.(5)
For the purpose of this research, astrological archetypes are interpreted as 12 phases of a 360-degree cycle, thus angles, associated with different principles of life and having different meanings: beginnings (Aries), creativity (Leo), endings (Pisces), and so forth.(6) Each phase (sign) derives its meaning from its angular relationship with the beginning of the cycle, zero degrees Aries. Different astrological variables of sign, house, and aspect are all features of a single astrological archetype, as they share a kinship of meaning due to their correspondence to the same angle. A planet is the archetype in its action mode, a sign is its motivational mode, a house is its contextual mode, and an aspect is its relational mode. For example, the first 120 degrees from Aries is the phase relationship of Leo, 5th house, and the opening trine, all of which share similar meanings as variations of the opening 120-degree angle.
Astrological archetypes are corollary to both process (subjective psychological phenomena) and content (objective environmental phenomena). They are multidimensional in that each astrological variable can symbolize a psychological function, a state of mind or attitude, and a behavioural trait, and at the same time an external character, place, thing, or event. They are polyvalent as they combine with other variables (signs, houses, and aspects), which modify their expression in various ways. They operate on a continuum of integration ranging from less to more functional expressions and are indeterminate in concrete outcome since their manifestation evolves over time.(7)
The Sun is associated with our creative self-expression. It is our core that wants to shine and illuminate, to be seen and recognized for who one really is, to be acclaimed for one’s creations and applauded for one’s performance.
As a psychological faculty, it represents our Ego/Self.
Our ego is the capacity to will, identify, and create, which establishes boundaries that differentiate self from environment. We consciously identify with what falls within our ego boundaries and remain unconscious as to what remains beyond. By shifting these boundaries in accord with conscious self-awareness, we construct our personal identity or self-concept.
Whoever we decide we are, we need to be recognized as special and unique by the “audience” of our social environment. For this to happen, our ego “as the conscious, self-aware portion of the personality”(8) defends identity from being overwhelmed by the collective dimensions of the psyche. Our journey of “becoming” needs to feel safe. Therefore, our ego suppresses and keeps out of awareness threatening thoughts, feelings, and impulses.
The system of ideas constituting our personal identity or self-concept is to some extent an arbitrary construct, a personal myth, attributing to us a certain role, and demanding that we wear a given mask. Perry defines it as “a strategy designed to assure approval and avoid disapproval” developed through relationships with significant others (parents), being a “necessary trance’’ for the first half of life and dominating one’s consciousness, once established, unless challenged.(9)
Constructed self-images replace the true leader of the personality―the Self―which Jung defined as an expres- sion of psychic wholeness that transcends but includes the ego.(10) The Self is “the center and the circumference of the psyche”, which includes both conscious and unconscious content, while the ego-self system functions as an organized pride system protecting the person from defeat and embarrassment.
For the Sun to become a true leader of the personality; that is, an actualized “Self”, the ego must constantly evolve by identifying with, balancing, and integrating all its psychological drives. Astrologically, this is reflected in “integrating the polarized sign-pairs of the zodiac and their respective ruling planets into unified whole”(11). The process of dissolving the polarity of, for example, independence versus engagement (Aries-Libra) into a unique blend of independence “and” engagement creates new, higher-level abilities. It elevates us to the status of conscious creators of our personal narratives.
Neptune is associated with the ideal for transcendence and infinite love and beauty. It signifies the part of us that longs to belong to an all-inclusive whole wherein personal identity does not matter and all divisions and conflict is reconciled.
Neptune reflects our imagination, our capacity for dreams, fantasy and idealism. It inspires us with visions and spiritual ideals of how to reach this state of “unity” with life and God. However, these ideals turn into mere illusions when we try to transcend existing differences by simply denying them. The resulting utopian state where “fantasy [is substituted] for reality…by superimposing the ideal over the real”(12) can lead to disillusionment, leaving us deceived, filled with guilt, and victimized.
The malleability of Neptune poses risks of deception, but it also offers the gift of psychic attunement to the collective unconscious, the compass of our intuition that we could let navigate us.
Neptune has the overwhelming power to dissolve and loosen the boundaries we build around us. When unable to tolerate this “threat”, we feel confused and helpless. We either collapse into chaos or try to defend against it by denying, escaping, and retreating to a safe imaginary place. We tend to procrastinate and abdicate responsibility. We become submissive and defer to others. We put on a mask to disguise ourselves in hopes of becoming “unseen.” In other words, we self-sabotage and undo ourselves.
When, on the contrary, we are ready to follow the Neptunian calling to accept our sometimes-painful reality, we must utilize our capacity for empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. Such capacities allow us to relieve our suffering and learn lessons of sacrifice, humility, and dependence on a higher power.
Neptune whispers to us that we can aspire to be someone else. It infuses us with inspiration to go beyond our con- structed selves. It offers us the gift of having an inspired existence, experiencing the divine by “letting go and letting God.”
Planetary aspects reflect the way planets communicate with, penetrate and transfuse each other. Aspects may operate as cognitions (“personal myths”) that underlay our internal talk and synchronistically construct the world of outer experience. In this sense, aspects reflect our ability to bridge our self- and world-concepts and provide us with sense of identity and life purpose.
The square is considered to be a hard, yin aspect of inhibition and restraint. Archetypally, it entails a conflict between conscious (yang) and unconscious (yin). Perry (13) argues that the psychodynamics of the square implies reciprocal influence and mutual resistance between the involved planets. They operate at cross-purposes and challenge each other’s values and right of expression. Usually, the slower-moving planet tends to impose its agenda on the faster-moving one. The latter, feeling in- hibited, would attempt to resist the pressure and to defend itself while struggling to accommodate the necessary demands of the slower moving planet. The dynamics of the square can be subjectively experienced as a state of doubt, fear, and frustration in relation to the planetary functions involved. It could transpire in self- and world-concepts based on an unconscious grim belief, operating as an intra-psychic blockage that may manifest externally as situations of impasse.
Psychological defenses employed to cope with anxieties inherent in the square are: repression, projection, devaluation, acting out, and passive aggression. They create a psychic imbalance due to the hypertrophication (overdevelopment) of the planetary function that is consciously expressed (overcompensation) and the hypofunctioning of the other that is repressed and projected (“shadow” creation).
Here I would like to elaborate on the quality and meaning of the opening square. According to Perry,(14) an aspect derives its meaning from the nature of the sign that constitutes the angle in the natural zodiac. An opening square corresponds to the first 90 degrees in the natural zodiac and therefore bears a Cancerian meaning. Accordingly, any square occurring when a faster planet forms the first 90 degree angle with a slower planet during their synodic cycle (as in the case of Godard’s Sun square Neptune), is defined as an “opening” square. It would therefore exhibit Cancerian meanings and qualities, pose Cancerian challenges and require Canrcerian solutions.
The opening square may engender fear that if the planetary functions are expressed wrongly, we will be unloved and rejected. When the two planetary functions are not appropriately contained, we could be dominated by emotions, become reactive, and inappropriately display anger and insensitivity. We could experience periodic upheavals that cause distress, subsequent rejection, and hurt feelings.(15)
At the same time, the opening square functions in the manner of “initiation cuts.”(16) Through experiences involving the planets forming the opening square, we are initiated into the world of feelings. There we may feel tender, protective, and caring. Integration of this aspect requires constant review of our course of action, reflection on our personal history, containment of the two conflicting planetary functions, and integration of the repressed psychic material.
The Sun-Leo drive for validation and appreciation is reflected in the principles of intentionality, identification, and creativity. The Neptune-Pisces drive for transcendence is reflected in the principles of spiritual unity, sacrifice, and redemption.
The Sun wills so that we can be “rulers” of our destiny, constructs our identity so that we can become authentic “heroes”, and creates to actualize our divine, God-given talents. Neptune strives for all-inclusive, indiscriminate “oneness” with life and God by blurring boundaries, dissolving, and renunciating attachments.
Whereas the Sun is concerned with free will and attach- ment to preferred outcomes, Neptune reminds us that these are just illusions and that nothing is permanent. Whereas the Sun believes that control over our decisions is all that matters, Neptune evokes feelings of surrender and trust in a higher power. Whereas the Sun requires us to differentiate and distinguish ourselves, Neptune whispers that we must go beyond individual needs and identity in order to transcend individual selfhood and partake in collective consciousness.
The square involves a conflict between the different agendas of Sun and Neptune: between ego (separateness) and Higher Self (transcendent wholeness), between selfwill (attachment) and God’s will (letting go and letting God), and between validation (ego/pride) and forgiveness (atonement/salvation). This intrapsychic conflict is rooted in the perception that the involved planetary functions are mutually exclusive. In the case of the opening square, the conflict can be premised as: “Will I be lovable (□) if I wish to be special (Sun) at the expense of the collective or contrary to the Divine will (Neptune)? Will I be rejected (□) if I identify solely with my immediate ego interests (Sun) instead of acting on behalf of a larger whole (Neptune)? Will I be accepted (□) if my free will (Sun) disregards the interest of the collective or leads to someone else’s suffering (Neptune)?”
The resolution of the conflict and thus the integration of the aspect require differentiation and integration of both archetypes and their balancing within the psyche. Perry asserts that aspects are expressed on a continuum from disintegrated to integrated states. This continuum can be conceptualized in terms of five levels: neurotic, low functioning, conventional, high functioning, and self-actualized.(17) Individuals evolve over time along this continuum wherein each higher level transcends but includes the lower, adds new possibilities of expression, more freedom, a broader range of behavior and experience, increased functionality, and greater satisfaction.
Based on this premise, my hypothesis is that expression of the Sun-Neptune square operates on a continuum between narcissism (neurotic) and quietism (self-transcendence).
When the Neptunian imperative threatens the solar “target state” of pride and confidence, the native may experience over-modulated solar states of deflation and low self-esteem. He may feel invisible and discounted, confused and disillusioned, paralyzed and unable to take a stance, and wracked by irrational guilt. All of this may culminate in acts of self-undoing.
To defend against Neptunian collapse into nothingness, the native may split the solar archetype into “all good” (internalized) and “all bad” (repressed and projected) qualities. Resultant pathogenic bi-polar beliefs range from self-aggrandizement (overvaluation) to self-abnegation (devaluation) and can manifest as an unstable sense of self.
If the person feels worthless inside, he may overcom- pensate by appropriating Neptunian idealism for solar purposes. He may construct a compensatory “fantasy” self that displays under-modulated solar states of hubris and grandiosity―in other words, narcissism.
For the purposes of this research, narcissism is under- stood as a continuum of egocentric traits at different levels of intensity . Narcissistic traits may produce a grandiose sense of self-importance, fantasies of boundless success, a sense of being special and unique, a need for excessive admiration, an exaggerated sense of enti- tlement, arrogance, lack of empathy for others, feelings of superiority, omnipotence, envy and contempt, and a tendency to be interpersonally exploitive. When Neptune predominates, the individual may manifest inverted narcissism. Holding back to avoid envy, he unconsciously assumes responsibility for the suffering of others, attracts experiences of tragedy and loss, and becomes the victim of people exhibiting narcissistic traits. He may appear to be shy, but is nonetheless secretly grandiose.
On the other side of the continuum is the alternative strategy of quietism: self-transcendence by renunciation of self-will coupled with devotion to a spiritual ideal. In its broadest sense, quietism refers to any spiritual practice that seeks to negate human will in order to achieve ecstatic enlightenment(18). It implies intentional self-annihilation and absorption of soul into the Divine for the sake of spiritual growth and unity with the Divine.(19) Quietism reflects the ultimate Neptunian ideal of spiritual union through “letting go and letting God.” It demands to bring “the soul to a true annihilation of itself [that] must be in a man’s own judgment, in his will. [The] happy soul…, because God lives [therein], is changed, spiritualized, transformed, and deified.”(20)
On the continuum between narcissism and quietism, our answer to the question on how to adjust the individual will (Sun) to the interests of a larger all-inclusive whole (Neptune) can lead to a multiplicity of outcomes contingent upon level of integration of the aspect. These answers, for example, might demonstrate whether one suffers writer’s block or has a burst of inspiration to rewrite the Sun-Neptune chapter of his or her life story.
At lower levels of integration, the individual craves inspiration: he may be deceived, dispossessed, and abandoned, a hopeless victim; he could be imprisoned, addicted, and enslaved. At higher levels of integration, he inspires self-transcendence through selfless service to humanity for the sake of an ideal: He is a political visionary, savior, or martyr interested in the cause and relief of suffering. He may channel divine wisdom by exhibiting boundless faith, dream the ideal and pursue the dream, in which case he is a mystic philosopher, spiritual leader, depth psychologist, or astrologer. He may also be a divinely inspired artist who gives creative expression to Neptunian themes through imagistic art forms such as painting, photography, poetry, music, dance, and cinema.
To be continue...
 AstroPsychology is a meta-model that synthesizes a variety of ideas from different perspectives, including psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural, Jungian/archetypal, object relations, humanistic, transpersonal, and general systems theory. Furthermore, it employs information derived from developmental psychology and different spiritual traditions that stress the evolution of soul within an overarching, reincarnational framework.
 In this research I apply a margin of one year before or after the exact planetary age.
 According to G. Perry (2013), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as solar pathology implies a rigid focus on solar needs, an extreme and excessive manifestation of narcissistic traits as a defense against perceived threats to the solar archetype, resulting in distress and impairment.
1 Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, p.310-311
2 Perry, G. (2005). What is AstroPsychology?
3 Perry, G. (2015). The Developmental Age Method. Unpublished manuscript as per Grant, J. (2016). Using the Developmental Age Method to Interpret Significant Experiences in the Lives of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. ISAR International Astrologer, Vol 45 # 1, p.25
4 Perry, G. (2015). The Developmental Age Method. Unpublished manuscript as per Grant, J. (2016). Using the Developmental Age Method to Interpret Significant Experiences in the Lives of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. ISAR International Astrologer, Vol 45 # 1, p.26
5 Perry, G. (2012). The Archetypal Origins of Motivation.
7 Perry, G. (2005). Astrological Archetypes as Geometrical Forms & Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, p.7&14
8 Perry, G. (2012). From Royalty to Revolution. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, chapter II, p.41
9 Perry, G. (2012). From Royalty to Revolution. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, chapter II, p.44
10 Perry, G. (2012). From Royalty to Revolution. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, chapter II, p.44
11 Perry, G. (2012). From Royalty to Revolution. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, chapter II, p.57
12 Perry, G. (2016). Saturn square Neptune and the Danger of False Narratives.
13 Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, p.288
14 Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, p.289
15 Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, p.288-290
16 Perry, G. (2012). An Introduction to AstroPsychology. East Hampton, CT: APA Press, p.289
17 Perry, G. (2006). Stealing Fire from the Gods. East Hamp- ton, CT: APA Press, p.101-102
18 Kowalski, D. Quietism – The Passive Christian Life.
19 Wikipedia. Quietism (Christian philosophy).
20 De Molinos, M. (1685). Spiritual Guide. Venice, part II, chapter XIX
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11. Kowalski, D. Quietism – The Passive Christian Life.
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