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The Problem of

by Dane Rudhyar

First Published
American Astrology
October 1948 - January 1949

To be truly "sane" in a society whose basic moral and cultural values, whose standards of collective behavior, and whose general quality of thinking and feeling are steadily disintegrating is not merely to follow the line of least social resistance and be "normal," as most people then think of normality. Sanity, during such a period of history, consists rather in accepting deliberately the challenge inherent in the position of one who is in the world, but not of the world.
ADDED 31 July 2010.


The Problem of Sanity in the Modern World by Dane Rudhyar.

Part One
Static and Dynamic Sanity

One of the foremost problems faced by our American society is the frightening increase of mentally sick human beings who have to be sent to psychiatric wards and institutions, many of them for life; to say nothing of the growing number of acutely neurotic and mentally unbalanced persons who are still officially considered "sane," yet whose psychological abnormalities and vagaries induce still more conflicts and mental-emotional disturbances in their children and marriage partners. Checking the spread of such psychological conditions is one of the most urgent tasks of society at large, of the medical profession, and of governmental agencies entrusted with the health of the nation and its power of resistance against any kind of disintegration. And "checking" is not enough. The condition must be treated at its very deepest roots; and these extend very far indeed. They are to be found in every field of human activity — from home to office, from primary school to Congress, from college fraternities to army barracks — within the social, economic, political, moral and religious framework of our American brand of Western civilization.

The problem of insanity is a complex one. It deals primarily with the process by which a child gradually emerges from the "psychic" womb constituted by family, ancestral traditions and social-cultural background, becoming thus a relatively conscious and self-determined "individual," different from other persons in character, intelligence and general aptitudes. It deals with this individual's ability to make constructive and significant responses to the constant confrontations and challenges he experiences in his particular social and psychological environment. For this reason, two terms have to be considered whenever one discusses the problem of sanity and insanity: first, the nature of social-psychological environment and of the pressures and impacts it makes upon the would-be individual then, the power in any one person to meet successfully these pressures and impacts.

Basically, these two terms can be said to represent the general factors of environment and heredity. But while to the materialist and social determinist these factors have existence and value exclusively, or almost exclusively, at the physical and social-economic levels, to the person who believes in the primacy of "spiritual" elements and in the reality of cosmic, spiritual or "astral" influences, the term heredity should be said to include both biological and psycho-mental factors, and the term environment should similarly refer to more than the merely social, cultural and economic factors characterizing a particular community and nation.

Sanity Defined
However, whether or not a narrow or extended meaning is given to the terms heredity and environment, the fact remains that sanity can be defined as a state in which an individual makes constructive and significant use of the available powers of his heredity in order so to function in his environment that he keeps growing toward a condition of ever fuller maturity, while contributing elements of value to this environment. Such a definition expresses the dynamic aspect of sanity, in that it shows the "sane" individual not merely as a person passively adjusted to a society which carries him along, but as one who integrates significantly and transforms for effective and productive social and personal use his patrimony (biological, cultural, social and spiritual). Usually, however, a person is officially called "sane" who conforms to collectively accepted standards of biological, psychological and social behavior. The "sane" person is therefore the collectively adjusted person, the conformist.

This static and purely social approach to sanity is understandable enough and sufficient for practical use when the society-as-a-whole is in a condition of growth and productivity; when it contributes constructive elements of value to human evolution and adds creatively to the patrimony which every new generation inherits from the past of the race. But, if the society-as-a-whole is in a state of increasing disintegration (because, either it is effete and worn out, or it has met negatively and destructively a basic confrontation in its collective life and destiny) then, sanity for the individuals of this society has to be redefined, and insanity takes on a more complex character. As a result, the approach to insanity and to the cure of it must become differentiated, in order to deal significantly and constructively with at least two fundamental categories and biopsychological breakdowns of personality.

In one case, the individual fails to adjust himself to his environment and its social, cultural and moral chaos, because he cannot meet the problem of personal integration in the midst of disintegration; while in the other case, the individual simply becomes passively overwhelmed by this disintegration. It is not that he does not become socially adjusted, but rather that he becomes too completely adjusted to the trend of decay pervading his environment through and through.

This second type of insanity begins in what at first appears "sane" from the point of view of the collective habits of a generation. Take, for instance, the contemporary American youngster who feeds his growth on radio murder stories, war excitement and utterly demoralizing and intellectually befuddling "quizzes" and prize-winning displays of collective madness, in homes where other "little egos" in a constant state of excitement and anarchy live under the harassed guidance of parents whose psyches are but too often filled with unresolved conflicts, psychological fears and social insecurity. As the child grows, precocious sexuality and drinking, the confused cramming of college years after the intellectual laxity of high school, the subtle pressure of commercial advertisements catering to the vanity of teenagers and fostering a twisted sense of self-importance, adds to his psychological confusion and egocentricity; and if the parents divorce or indulge in home-warfare, if the typical American mother-complex is especially emphasized, if the first love-affairs end badly, if the adolescent happens to have a keen sensibility and a deep love-nature, all the chances are that some degree of neurosis will definitely set in before the youth marries.

What the young man and woman, thus conditioned, bring to their joint home and social life may be "sane" enough from the point of view of today's average. Yet, this essentially chaotic psychological "normality" is constantly at the mercy of outward success or failure. It is not grounded in true collective sanity, and if the relationship of the individual to his family and to the social collectivity — i.e., to his environment deteriorates; if, for one of many possible reasons, he can no longer feel "normal" in terms of the demands of his environment, he will tend to follow one of two trends which, sooner or later, may lead him into one or the other of the above mentioned categories of insanity. He can give up interest in collective values and withdraw into the "Shadow" of individuality — a strictly private dream-world which he cannot share with anyone; or he can give up his individuality and let it dissolve into a passive yes-saying to the outer chaos of his society. Most of the officially called insane are asocial; but there are many people who are actually insane because they are too social, that is, entirely passive to disruptive influences in a society in which individualistic conflicts and violent egocentricity produce atomistic scatteredness, a species of legalized chaos, and spiritual purposelessness.

To these two negative "lines of least resistance" correspond two positive attitudes; one of them, however, is positively destructive. It is that of the predatory type of person who feeds deliberately upon the decay of society and becomes a power for destruction. We define this type usually in terms of business and trade. But it exists as well in all fields of collective activity, for anyone who caters to the depraved or hectic cravings of one class or another of the population, or who ruthlessly exploits others, or who fosters group-hatred and national prejudices for the sake of gaining wealth and power, is a predator. He is a catabolic agent, a virus of social destruction. We may call him sane, but this kind of sanity is worse than the passive insanity of the helpless schizophrenic lost in his private dream-world.

The other alternative is that exemplified by the individual who, rather than adjust himself too readily to a chaotic environment, succeeds in marshalling his deepest inherited strength and in reaching personal integration in spite of social conditions — and indeed in consciously accepted contrast to these conditions. Such an individual is, symbolically, like a seed in the midst of the autumnal decay of fallen leaves. He is in "the world" but not of it. He is a power of integration — at least a worker for future springtime integration! — in a society on its way to cyclic cultural disintegration.

How can this individual reach this condition? Essentially in one way only: by substituting to the chaotic patterns of behavior and the anarchic, inorganic values of his society, with a vaster frame of reference in relation to which the individual can give constructive meaning and spiritual (i.e., totally integrative and harmonic) purpose to his outer and inner experiences. This new and deliberately selected frame of reference becomes for this individual a sort of Noah's Ark within which he will find inner security and creative strength, because the very origin and character of this Ark implies active connection with a transcendent and cosmic Power, not only above all temporary social disintegration, but intent upon releasing and building up a new kind of order, new values and a new society through the agency of anyone willing to serve such a creative purpose.

Uranus and Neptune
In a society which is fundamentally integrated by a collective faith, a religious attitude to life and a common "style" of behavior, feeling and thinking, to be "creative" means essentially to give to this common foundation a characteristic, beautiful and technically perfect expression in cultural art-forms, objects or institutions. But in a society experiencing either a clearly obvious disintegration of its way of life and its basic values, or the fictitious and rigid kind of pseudo-integration which the historian Toynbee has described as the "universal empire" phase of civilization, to be truly "creative" is to set in motion within this society new forces which are aiming at the overcoming of its cultural ebb tide and at the establishment of new spiritual foundations.

The first kind of creative attitude refers to the type of functions which operate, astrologically speaking, under the leadership of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, symbols of all established and inherently static social-cultural and religious processes. The second kind of creative attitude refers, on the other hand, to the operation of the planets Uranus and Neptune. Jupiter and Saturn are the foundations upon which social normality, and the kind of sanity expressive of social normality, operate. Uranus and Neptune are representatives of those forces and spiritual agencies which toward the close of the cycle of a society or civilization, impel and guide individuals (and even nations) seeking to "overcome the world" (i.e., the taken for granted subservience to the old patterns of society, culture and religious worship) and to build the seed of a future civilization.

Uranus and Neptune refer, in this sense, to the seeding processes within a particular society; they draw out of the plant all that which is willing and ready to become the seed, to leave (physically or mentally) the parent-organism during the Fall, and to become scattered abroad with but one purpose: the creation of a new society. In the vegetable world, most seeds repeat exactly the type of life-patterns they inherited from their parent-organism; yet there occur also at times, "mutations," structural and functional changes of one kind or another. In the human kingdom, however, the possibility of, and creative urge toward, mutations of a vast transforming power and scope are always present. Without them, there can be no really "human" sanity; because, for man, to rest satisfied with the "status quo" is to be less than human. The essential greatness of man is that he can always be greater.

What differentiates mainly a leaf from a seed? A leaf can operate functionally only in terms of its attachment to a particular plant. It "belongs" to that plant exclusively. A seed, on the contrary, operates only in terms of its detachment from the particular plant on which it grew. It belongs to the whole vegetable species — not to any one plant. To change from the level of leafhood to that of seedhood is to overcome the narrow frame of reference of a particular plant, rooted in a particular spot, and to begin to operate in the vaster and (relatively) universalistic frame of reference of a whole species, whose habitat is, if not the entire earth, at least a large section of its surface. The first frame of reference comes under Jupiter-Saturn; the second under Uranus-Neptune. Today there can be dynamic, creative sanity for man only as man overcomes the pull of a disintegrating Jupiter-Saturn foundation, and reaches through the activity of the Uranus and Neptune functions to level of organic, psychological and a new mental being.

Positive and Negative Changes
Alas! to turn one's back against the social normality of a Jupiterian and Saturnian world — both psychologically and socially — does not insure this higher kind of dynamic sanity. Indeed, in many, many instances the adventurer on the quest for the creative New gives up the even relative stability of the accepted Old only to lose his way in the unfamiliar realms in which every creative attempt meets crucial and bewildering challenges, both external (from an aroused or indifferent society) and internal (from the ancient collective Images of the unconscious — Jupiter — and from the insecure or vacillating ego — Saturn). The Path to higher sanity is strewn with the remains of those who failed in the attempt to reach their goal, because they let the negative aspects of the transforming Uranian and Neptunian functions control the process of metamorphosis.

As the social-cultural Jupiter-Saturn frame of reference comes to be found obsolete and stifling, the individual struggling to emerge from its bondage finds himself, gradually or suddenly, "out of gear." He has severed attachments to family and tribal, cultural and religious values, only to discover himself without a source of sustaining power. He has won "freedom" — the freedom to go nowhere, because he has lost the power necessary to drive anywhere. Or, if his society is indeed on the road to the abyss, his state of being "free" (i.e., out of gear) makes him tumble ahead even faster than his society: unless he has strong brakes, and the presence of mind (i.e., sanity) to use them quickly.

The illusory sense of being free from external-social and internal-personal patterns of traditional behavior, feeling and thinking tends, however, to blind the "liberated" individual from the need to use brakes, or so to maneuver the wheel and engine of personality as to reverse their motion. Motion must be reversed — and, here, we find the profound meaning and significance of retrograde planets, especially in so far as the progressed planets are concerned. What this means actually is that he who has felt the inner urge (and indeed the spiritual compulsion!) to break through the Saturnian ring of bondage to security-patterns and the Jupiterian rituals of social involvement must return to source.

What source is there to which this daring and dissatisfied individual can return? The one source from which all separate and separative cultures and societies have become differentiated: Man. Cultures, traditions, religious organizations, ideologies, states and parties, separate men, in as much as they normally stress differences between groups or races. But at the foundation of everything human, there is a vast reservoir of common human experiences, of innately human truths, of collectively and generically valid principles of organic behavior. We have called this foundation "man's common humanity." It is well, in its transcendent spiritual aspect, "man's common divinity." It is God's Idea and Purpose for man. It is the Archetype: Man. It is the Seedhood of humanity. And it is the "greater frame of reference" to which the individual, who has left behind the narrow walls and ideologies of the Jupiter-Saturn functions, must orient himself if he is to be sane, in the higher, dynamic and creative, sense of the term, sanity.

Uranus and Neptune symbolize those processes of reorientation which can lead the individual to this higher sanity. The path of re-orientation is, however, a dangerous one for any man and woman who enters it with resentment against family or society, with gnawing complexes and fears, with unsteady mind and over-proud or aggressive ego. Astrology may help the traveler on this path by timing and placing the operations of Uranus and Neptune; by clarifying the issues involved and erecting sign posts on the way.

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