The 360 Degree Symbols

by Dane Rudhyar

(excerpts from American Astrology May 1954)

The interest in the 360 degrees of the Zodiac is a relatively recent development in astrology. This interest was stimulated last year by the appearance in book form of Marc Jones’ discussion of the “Sabian Symbols” which he and the late Miss Elsie Wheeler were able to produce some twenty-eight years ago. The symbols had been available in a mimeographed Course since 1931, and a slightly modified version had been included in my book, now out of print, The Astrology of Personality (1936). In a series of articles published a few years later in this magaine, I tried to show the reason for the attempt to symbolize by scenes or pictures each degree of the zodiac— or more generally, each degree of any circumference. I also pointed out the remarkable way in which the Sabian series of symbols is organized structurally; and I gave basic interpretations for some of the key-symbols of the series, relating them to one another by pointing to the hidden or occult patterning which can be seen when the essential features of the symbolic pictures or situations are significantly extracted. By printing in his latest book the very brief descriptions of the 360 symbols as received in 1925 during the original moments of “revelation” in San Diego, Marc Jones has helped to clarify some of the symbols. Yet, though the book provides explanations for the symbols, and also relates every degree to its opposite, these explanations naturally reflect the particular philosophy of the author and are definitely oriented in the direction of the modern official psychology. Other orientations are possible and should be of great value to people who look at life and human values differently. Also, much more is yet to be said concerning the structural interrelationship between the symbols. Above all, I believe that a vital understanding of the reason for the existence of these Degree-symbols and of how they should be used requires the type of approach to human experience briefly outlined in the preceding pages. A philosophy of life based on “meaning” rather than mere “facts” should be established; and one should be willing and able to realize that all individual experiences, varied as they may seem, can be referred to a definite number of “archetypes” forming a closed cyclic series.

The life events of an annual plant constitute a seasonal sequence of challenges to, and opportunities for organic growth along definable processes of life unfoldment from seed to seed. It is basically the same with the life of a human personality. All life processes are cyclic; and within the cycle there are, at any stage of human evolution, a finite number of fundamental “phases.” Each phase has its basic meaning. Each phase may refer to an infinite variety of personal occurrences; but the phase alone has essential meaning; not the factual occurrence. He who realizes this has already won a great spiritual victory. The more complex human life becomes, the greater the number of characteristic phases must inevitably be. In ancient China, the Sages who produced the series of symbols recorded in the Yi Ching, felt evidently that the cycle of human experience could be adequately structured in terms of 64 essential phases The cyclic series of symbols recorded in the Chinese classic contains therefore 64 scenes or pictures, each related to the simple life experiences characteristic of an agricultural society. Likewise in the highly symbolical game of chess, which refers to the basic conflicts of life and the struggle between opposite powers, the 32 pieces move over 64 squares, half white, half black. The Sabian Symbols series is similar to the series of the symbols of the Yi Ching. Only now man requires 360 symbols to give meaning to his life experiences by revealing the universal factors back, and at the core of, the Particular facts which confront and challenge him.

To answer these challenges of modern life with significant responses— significant, because of being appropriate “signs” of understanding and wisdom in the new conditions of human activity— this is what every individual aware of spiritual values and purpose must do, sooner or later. Astrology, when properly used, can help us all to give such significant responses.