|Determining the Constitutional Type, part I|
My system of medical astrology depends on one's ability to determine basic constitutional type in reference to the balance of the elements as expressed both physiologically and through the personality.
According to Ayurveda, we are each of us born with a fundamental constitutional type, called prakriti, that from the moment of our first breath is constantly modified by the play of external factors on our own uniqueness.
While Ayurveda only defines three basic types and then the combinations that arise when the elements are mixed, astrology starts with four types . . . and, of course, the combinations. In theory, someone could be 25% fire, 25% earth, 25% air, and 25% water. If this were the case, the individual would presumably be perfectly balanced and 100% asymptomatic. This is, at least, one theory.
In actuality, of course, almost no one is this neatly organized, and life introduces the constant challenge of interacting with exogenous factors such as people and places, food and weather, and the eternal cycles of both the seasons and planets.
At some point, astrological software that functions somewhat like a sophisticated astrodyne program will become available to enable people to calculate the exact constitutional type at birth as well as the modifications based on progressions and transits and such nonastrological matters as climate and environment, diet and life style, relationships, job, spiritual practices, and other factors.
The Constitutional Type
Over the centuries, there have been many efforts to classify people by types. Ancient Western physicians described four types: the phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric, and sanguine. Though there is some disagreement among sources, my opinion is that these correspond to the earth, water, fire, and air types. Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, William H. Sheldon, and others have contributed richly to our understanding of types; but, as astrologers, it makes sense to use a system that is in every respect astrological. Therefore, archaic as it may seem to those not familiar with our frame of reference, we will be most comfortable with a typology based on the four element system.
Though the words "fire, earth, air, and water" sound nonmedical, the elements have, since Greek times, been regarded as the constituents of the body.
Fire is inseparable from the digestive system. It has always been understood to be the element of transformation. The chemicals secreted by the digestive system enable us to transform food into vital nutrients and to separate out waste materials. Fire is acidic, catabolic, and, of course, hot. Most acute conditions are characterized by fire so when there is toxic fire in the body, people will generate fevers to throw off the harmful agents. Where there is less fire, people will not have acute reactions to pathogenic organisms; they will therefore tend to develop chronic conditions. An absence of a history of high fevers, colds, influenza, etc. may not really be a sign of health, only an indication of weak defense responses to microorganisms.
As might be expected, the Earth element is related to the minerals used to build the structure of the body. The most abundant mineral is calcium, but the earth element is the main constituent of all the minerals, including the subtle but important trace minerals. A large part of what we ingest but do not assimilate is also ruled by the earth element, including everything from bone spurs and stones to waste products that will be eliminated.
Since it is fire that separates the vital from the disposable, the fire and earth elements have a curious relationship that is sometimes competitive and sometimes shadowy and unrecognized. Though this occurs physically as well as psychologically, it is often easier to observe in the psyche than in the body. Fire is courageous and risk taking; and earth is cautious. Fire types also often make great sacrifices for their ideals whereas earth types are survivors.
The elements correlate both to bodily systems and functions. Fire is visionary so its force is used to move towards the future. To keep burning, fire consumes raw materials. The fire generates progressive energies, but what is not burned is thrown off as useless, useless to fire. Those who are not fiery, especially Earth, experiences Fire as predatory and consuming. Earth is charged with maintenance of security and hence tends to conserve and preserve. It is resistant to change and does not necessarily value progress. We might say that if "modern" is just a word, Fire tends to interpret the word in a positive way whereas Earth may experience Fire as destructive and modern as garrish or ugly. Antique may mean beautiful to Earth and "old" and in need of repair to Earth.
The discord between these two elements is seen not just in the psyche, but in the endocrine system and hence in the entire body. The need for safety causes the adrenals to react every time life seems imperiled. The adrenals secrete very powerful hormones that enable us to flee from danger or hold our ground against the difficulties facing us. These hormones are anti-inflammatory. They hence impair digestion. So, if the adrenals are hyperactive for a long time, a person's body may change. Initially, the kidneys will quiver as the adrenals work overtime and the person will therefore pass more water and become thinner; but as the kidneys tire, that same individual will begin retaining water and exhibit signs of puffiness and edema.
Change and Resistance
Natally, we look first at the Moon to determine basic constitutional type. For all intents and purposes, a fiery Moon augurs for a fiery constitution whereas an earthy Moon suggests more staying power, stamina, and groundedness. However, a Capricorn Moon opposed by Pluto is extremely prejudiced against Pluto. Such people usually have a history conforming rather closely to the adrenal burn-out just described. They have energy in their adrenals so they work them hard as children to defend themselves in the hostile circumstances of their environment. They feel powerless in the face of the grown up Plutonian individuals in their early lives, but they struggle until they are quite exhausted. So, such persons are earthy, but they have a tendency to wear themselves out whereas Moon conjunct Pluto types have incredible stamina and an ability to prevail over their adversaries. Their beliefs about themselves are that they are powerful. Their adrenals are strong, their bodies are strong and have lots of reserve energy, but they are often inflexible and toxic. Moreover, they have a tendency not just towards psychological resistance and blockage but also towards physical congestion due to the low fire in their bodies.
Both types just described have low fire. People who panic easily and people who resist outside influence both work their adrenals hard and therefore suffer from low or suppressed fire.
When the Moon is afflicted by Mars, people will also have a prejudice against fire which tends towards its suppression or repression (as opposed to annihilation). If someone is afraid of controversy, of being demeaned in front of someone else, of assertion and risk, fire will be squelched. It gets buried in the liver as repressed anger, resentment, indignation, etc. In such cases, the liver will tend to be hot. Blood will then be thicker and more toxic. Women will see clots in their menstrual flow; men could be walking around with time bombs in their arteries which could lead to aneurisms and strokes, but they have fewer ways of detecting such dangers.
Victims and Victors
Repressed or unexpressed fire is as dangerous as expressed fire except that it makes a victim or martyr of the individual instead of a victor. In a simple portrait like this, we see the astrological proof of the contention that stressful aspects are really "bad" in some way. On a very deep level, these are Cosmic energies operating at variance to natural law, and they have to be adjusted to create personal and divine harmony.
Therapists recognize this; they also know that a repression is more toxic and more dangerous than either a deficiency or expression. Metaphysicians recognize yet more law at work: all energy begins its evolutionary journey magnetically. It collects mass to itself and builds up inner strength before moving to the next stage which is radiatory or expressive. As energy moves outwards, it interacts with other energies. Clumsy contacts can be quite painful and frictional. You can look at this physically or psychologically. If someone skates too fast, loses control, falls and skins his or her knee, the injury is acute and painful. Conflicts with other people can be equally abrasive and frightening. If as a child one lost every major confrontation, it is quite natural that one will lose the nerve to persist in asserting one's own interests as the actions have been overwhelmed by others. There are many consequences to such damming back of fire. If one is not fiery, self esteem will suffer enormously, and it will therefore be difficult later on in life to individuate and become self determinate. If one is fiery, self esteem will be less affected; but rage can build up to volcanic dimensions and cause ill-conceived self destructive behavior which is oftentimes attended later by blood clots and strokes.
Copyright by Dr. Ingrid Naiman 1991, 2001, 2003
A free test to determine your balance of the elements is available on astroheal.net. Please note that the interpretations of the percentages and composite types are not available with the preliminary test version, but you will be able to determine your type.
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2007 and 2014