The Examination of the Sharp and Loose Destiny and Progressed Planetary Stations
The Sharp or Loose Destiny aspects present in a natal chart, and planetary stations in secondary progressions, are among the powerful yet little-known techniques available in the practice of astrological analysis. An examination of the horoscope of Czech-born psychiatrist, Stanislav (Stan) Grof, will illustrate how his Sharp Destiny and progressed Uranus station provide penetrating insight into one of the most profound existential events of his lifetime.
During his residency, at Charles University in Prague, Grof assisted in experimentative LSD sessions with volunteer professionals as well as his own clinical patients. Ampules of LSD were sent from Sandoz laboratories in Switzerland to the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, and to research clinics worldwide, for the purpose of having psychologists, experience from the LSD, what chemist Albert Hofmann believed to replicate the states of mind suffered by psychiatric patients.
Upon graduation in 1956, Grof was able to experience his own LSD session where he discovered the unconscious to be a treasure-trove of personal and archetypal knowledge and a powerful ally for psychological and emotional healing. The event’s transformative effects diminished his regard for traditional precepts of psychiatry which he then replaced with a quest for a deeper understanding of what he calls “non-ordinary states of consciousness.” Grof’s immersion into the depths of mind through psychedelics and intense breathing techniques inspired him to formulate his theories on transpersonal psychology and to establish his therapeutic, drug-free Holotropic BreathworkTM practice.
Experimentation with LSD was legal until rebellious youths of 1960s America used the substance irresponsibly. Timothy Leary, the controversial Harvard University psychology professor, was among the revolutionaries who encouraged the wide use of the mind-expanding agent. During that time the misuse of LSD was the cause of many casualties on the way to its becoming the requisite sacrament for the more serious-minded nonconformist.
Chemist Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized LSD, wrote of his creation:
I was aware that LSD, a new active compound with such properties, would have to be of use in pharmacology, in neurology, and especially in psychiatry, and that it would attract the interest of concerned specialists. But at that time, I had no inkling that the new substance would also come to be used beyond medical science, as an inebriant in the drug scene. Since my self-experiment had revealed LSD in its terrifying, demonic aspect, the last thing I could have expected was that this substance could ever find application as anything approaching a pleasure drug.1
Aside from its use as a “pleasure drug” as Hofmann put it, LSD also had a nurturing effect on society in contrast with its labeling by the mainstream as a threat to the establishment. Through the provocative LSD experience, Americans were exposed to lifestyle alternatives that included communal living with greater accessibility to healthier foods and natural healing methods. More significantly, it ignited the pursuit of spiritual truths explained in Eastern philosophies and introduced the practice of yoga and meditation. LSD was the chemical agent that opened a channel for the energy/intelligence of the powerful planetary conjunction of Uranus with Pluto throughout a major portion of the 1960s.
Stan Grof “turned on and tuned in” but he did not completely “drop out” as did his American counterparts Timothy Leary, who popularized the slogan, and Richard Alpert, aka Baba Ram Dass, who wrote Be Here Now, which became the counterculture’s guidebook. Instead, in 1967, Grof was accepted at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and later became chief of psychiatric research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center where he continued investigating the virtues of LSD. In 1973, Grof met with one of the founders of Esalen Institute who then invited him to serve as scholar-in-residence at the institute in Big Sur, California. It was during his residency that he and his wife Christina developed their Holotropic Breathwork techniques.
Albert Hofmann visited Esalen Institute in 1984. Grof interviewed the notable chemist and expressed his gratitude in the following statement:
“Dr. Hofmann’s discovery of LSD and his work, in general, have had a profound impact on my own professional and personal life, for which I am immensely grateful. My first LSD session in 1956, when I was a beginning psychiatrist, was a critical landmark and turning point for me and since then, my life has never been the same. So, this interview gives me the opportunity to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Hofmann for the influence he has had on my life.2
On a Tim Ferris podcast interview,3 Grof candidly described the results of his first LSD session:
“I was one kind of person in the morning, another walked out of there in the evening. This was my first LSD session . . . I was physically open to the mystical world that I saw there. It was a much deeper understanding . . .”
GROF’S TRANSFORMATION IN ASTROLOGICAL TERMS
Grof’s description of his unexpected and radical life-path transition is associated with two significant astrological factors. They are the Sharp Destiny present in his natal chart and the station of Uranus in his secondary progressions. The “hard” and “easy” major aspects between Jupiter and Saturn categorize a native as either endowed with a Sharp or Loose Destiny.4
The Sharp Destiny
When Jupiter and Saturn are in challenging conjunction, square, or opposition aspect, the life direction is defined as fateful or “Sharp.” Experience is guided by a narrowed course with strict adherence to discriminating conscience and a lean toward intense self-scrutiny. (If the indicators form the easier sextile, trine, or are not in major aspect, the destiny is “Loose” and suggests a minimal concern over moral considerations of right and wrong.)
In The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, renowned astrologer Dr. Marc Edmund Jones formulates the contrasting ways consciousness manages its personal conduct. In metaphysical terms, he explains the difference between the two forms of psychological outlook:
The fundamental distinction is between the life with its course rather well determined at birth or before, and the one where there is little preset in its development.5
In Grof’s birth chart, the relationship between Jupiter and Saturn is the opposition of the two and classifies the native’s conscious functioning in accordance with a Sharp Destiny. This is self-awareness in its most alert capacity with Jupiter the indicator of unrestricted, enthusiastic outreach poised in direct balance or conflict with Saturn and its tendency for deliberate control of attitude and behavior. Jones speaks of the opposition as foretelling self-development and heightened awareness, often occurring as a result of polarized circumstantial factors:
Jupiter and Saturn in opposition aspect indicate an ordering of life’s fundamental motives through which the native is usually compelled to dramatize himself continually in the presence of his fellows, at least if he wishes to participate with them in any course of everyday experience. This necessity often tends to throw a given lifetime into two entirely separate periods, with the latter revealing greater depth and continuity of realization, as perhaps an unsuspected consequence of the mirroring it has given itself through some more superficial role-playing in the former. There may be either a prodigal expenditure of the self’s resources, with their ultimate recapture in a refinement of soul, or a moral vacillation that accentuates every weakness of character, and so encourages a surrender to a final and hopeless ineptitude.6
Grof was and is clearly subject to dramatic and periodic change through the Sharp Destiny’s influence in his chart. His formative years were spent with ambitions for a career in film animation which took an abrupt turn when introduced to Freud’s work in psychoanalysis. Grof, however, eventually rejected psychology’s conventional approach, thanks to his encounter with the transformative attributes of LSD.
The Jupiter-Saturn opposition encourages metamorphosis when transiting planets conjunct either end of the aspect’s poles or when progressions make any “hard” contacts with it. A thorough probe into the dates of activation throughout Grof’s lifespan is beyond the scope of this brief study, however, an astrologer’s independent search of the dynamic aspects7 to the opposition could further validate the influence of the Sharp Destiny in the native’s life.
Progressed Uranus Station
Thorough chart analysis usually includes spotting current transits of the outer, slow-moving planets that activate natal potentials dramatically and over long periods of time. However, sole attention on real-time planetary movements is not sufficient for the comprehensive identification of the forces at play at precise times of significant events. This was the case in Grof’s life and chart at the time of his exposure to the powers of LSD. In mid-November 1956, the transits of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto failed to make either a conjunction or opposition aspect to any planet in Grof’s natal horoscope. Transits Saturn and Neptune were in square to natal placements during this crucial time, however, squares reveal a more remote or subjective struggle rather than direct aspect connections by conjunctions and oppositions when identifying the connections of celestial forces with empirical reality.
The often-neglected secondary progressions are of paramount importance when seeking to identify astrological indicators of consequential shift. They are powerful corresponding activators in the life process, and it is during the years when progressed planets reverse their direction that great modifications in experience are to be expected. When planets pause in their course to turn from retrograde to direct or vice versa, existential circumstances will mirror the progressed planet’s reversal in direction, producing what Jones defines as a time set apart for “a critical regrasp of experience:” 8
The phenomenon in progressions always identifies a subtle or psychological shift in the fundamental course of life, such as requires a critical regrasp of experience and often proves to be an adjustment over an appreciable span of time whether marked by some single sharp event of easy identification or by a complex syndrome of changes of less obvious interrelation.
Grof’s personal LSD experience on November 13, 1956, was sandwiched between prior developing circumstances, where he monitored others taking LSD, and the years thereafter of continuing research on the effects and benefits of the psychotropic substance. Both the long-term, subtle development and the abrupt realization Jones points to in his Scope of Astrological Prediction were active in Grof’s case.
To determine the timing of a planetary station, one counts each day after birth as equal to each year of life. Counting from July 1st in the 1931 ephemeris shows Uranus stationing to turn retrograde twenty-five days after Grof’s birth. The station of Uranus synchronizing with his first LSD session accounts for the major transition of his lifetime at age twenty-five.
The seemingly random progressed stations associated with a particular several years in the lifespan mark the rare occasions when a major disruption of normal activity is likely to occur. Grof’s Uranus stationed in progressions to turn retrograde on August 20, 1955, at 19 Aries 23, offering him a new paradigm to contemplate. This date closely corresponds with Grof’s initial steps on the experimentative path he was to take and to which he became thoroughly dedicated. The Uranian impulse incites exploration of unknown realms and dimensions, and when positive, becomes the Hero’s Journey. For Grof, it was the revelation of the bountiful assets available at the deeper levels of consciousness that beckoned him. Progressed Uranus turning to go retrograde led him inward to take up the task as an iconoclast in his chosen field, and shaped him into a spiritual leader in the mid-twentieth century’s New Age movement.
Without forewarning, a native can become alarmed by the mental and emotional pressure of stealth-like stationary progressions, with the stress likely to cause an unproductive resistance to the demands of mandatory turning tides. However, when a station is known to be imminent or when a future date is foreseen, the native can prepare in anticipation of yet undisclosed opportunities for reassessment and reestablishment of circumstances. Although taken by surprise, Grof was able to quickly identify the advantages LSD had to offer when challenging, yet auspicious events, synchronized with his progressed Uranus station.
An interesting feature in the planetary patterning of Grof’s natal chart is the relationship between the numerous opposition aspects and natal Uranus as they create a purposeful conduit in the form of a T-Cross. The name of the Cross is derived from the configuration’s resemblance to the letter T, with the horizontal line representing the planets in opposition aspect and the perpendicular pointing to Uranus at a 90-degrees to the planets in the signs of Cancer and Capricorn. Grof mentions his T-Cross in several interviews but it is far more complex than simply the ultra-tight Pluto-Saturn opposition he occasionally references. With a total of six oppositions in the chart, including the Sun with its wide orb of 17 degrees, it is considered a preponderance9 of the opposition aspect as it establishes the ultra-powerful foundation of the Cross.
The T-Cross is a Focal Determinator10 in Jones’ parlance with the squaring Uranus assigned the position of Point Focus. The squaring Uranus becomes the focal point of a continuous release of self-expression spurred on by the tension of the axis oppositions. With seven of the possible ten planets forming the foundation of the Cross, the arrangement can be considered the chart’s signature aspect. The Sharp Destiny coupled with the Point Focus Uranus coalesced to represent the genius of the chart and man who stepped out of the norm most profoundly in 1956 when progressed Uranus performed its station.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A LEGACY
Challenges often arise when one crosses the boundaries of accepted protocols as Grof did in the field of psychology. His own Holotropic Breathwork program could suffer criticism as well, similar to what he outlines in a 2009 interview appearing in The Sun.11 Grof includes the following remarks in answer to the question, “What were the results of that initial LSD study?”:
” . . . at the cradle of all the major religions have been personal mystical experiences of their founders and prophets. When the religions become organized, they tend to lose the connection with their spiritual source and become concerned with politics, money, power, and possessions. . . “
Replacing the word religion with the word movement puts Holotropic Breathwork in a category much like any controversial organization. This exposes Grof’s work to misinterpretation by his peers in the field of psychology and leaves him vulnerable to misunderstanding even among his own representatives and facilitators of the breathwork system. Conflicts over workshop objectives and methods also present difficulties when facilitators’ personal beliefs filter into what should otherwise be a standard and well-regulated program. For a clear understanding of Grof’s intent, one needs only to hear and to read his own words.
Despite all possible obstacles, it cannot be denied, that Grof has developed a valuable program for those who wish to immerse their conscious mind into the deeper states of being that bring to light the motivations and traumas that often stand in the way of the sincere seeker.
A Transit of Import
Transit Pluto stations within a degree of Grof’s natal Moon on April 30, 2022, at 28 Capricorn 36. Pluto’s penetrating influence suggests that Grof’s legacy may then firmly take hold, especially with a conscious effort on his part, or by those in his organization, to manifest the message of his Moon’s Sabian symbol, A secret business conference.12 Following the suggestions of the symbol’s definition may be the key to a successful and long-lasting legacy:
CAPRICORN 30 A secret business conference This is a symbol of the momentary background in human relations as essentially the product of current activities and attitudes, and of a determination to capitalize on any given situation through effective allegiances among the principal personalities involved. The emphasis here is on man’s desire for an inner circle of associates through whom he may exercise a real control over immediate eventualities, and on his realization that in this fashion he may monopolize the resources of his fellows. The keyword is OPPORTUNITY. When positive, the degree is a gift for clever planning and successful administration in every area of life, and when negative, rampant selfishness and rank exploitation of others.
The Moon facilitates an emotional and nurturing connection with others in give-and-take fashion. World history identifies numerous spiritual leaders tasked with the duty to remind humanity of the wisdom accessible to them from within. Each points the way with a vital message for the advancement of current and future generations. Whether Transpersonal Psychology and the more somatic practice of Holotropic Breathwork stand the test of time is yet to be known.
The Jupiter-Saturn Sharp Destiny and the progressed station of Point Focus Uranus are the two main indicators that empowered the shifts in life direction of consciousness-explorer Stan Grof. They are representative of astrology’s bountiful symbolic and archetypal counterparts to the planetary energies that served to establish an innovative path for the native, and that brought self-realization within reach of both himself and all those blessed by his social contribution.
Regarding horoscope analysis, each astrologer has their preferred approach to which they are dedicated, however, the revealing techniques described above can easily fit into any astrologer’s toolbox. The motivational characteristics defined by the Sharp and Loose Destiny technique and the timing of great change throughout the lifespan shown by progressed stations are invaluable when seeking a comprehensive understanding of a native’s life potentials.
Notes and References
- LSD My Problem Child: Reflection on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism and Science by Albert Hofmann
- Interview at Esalen Institute of Albert Hofmann by Stan Grof 1984, https://maps.org/news-letters/v11n2/11222gro.html
- 18:51 on the Ferris podcast interview, Grof states that his first LSD experience was on Nov. 13, 1956. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mdYUmvTeig&t=1157s
- Essentials of Astrological Analysis by Marc Edmund Jones, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood WA, 1970, Definition: Sharp and Loose Destiny, pp. 342-343
- Essentials of Astrological Analysis by Marc Edmund Jones, Difference between the Sharp and Loose Destiny, p. 343
- Sharp Destiny, opposition aspect between Jupiter and Saturn, pp. 124-125
- Dynamic Aspects are the moving transit and progressed aspects
- Scope of Astrological Prediction, by Marc Edmund Jones, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood WA, 1969, Challenge by Progressed Station, p. 49
- Essentials of Astrological Analysis by Marc Edmund Jones, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood WA, 1970, preponderance by opposition p. 266
- Essentials of Astrological Analysis, Chapter on Focal Determinators, p. 192, for T Cross p. 193
- The Sun interview, 2009, https://wintercreativestudio.com/across-the-universe/
- Sabian Symbols in Astrology, by Marc Edmund Jones, Sabian Publishing Society, Stanwood WA