Ancient astrologers placed enormous emphasis on dignity and debility in the nativity. Any proficient astrologer will be well aware of the classical assignments, but fundamentally the theory of essential dignity suggests that planets are considered to be more ideal in some signs than in others. Of course, this mode of thinking is relativistic and leans ultimately toward determinism, it becomes entirely too easy to consider one given placement as being “better” than another, and traditionalists in astrology to this day consider dignity and debility to be profoundly relevant.
Of course, to some extent this is true, but it fails to account for reality. It is true that when it comes to expressing Solar energy that ideal is most easily expressed through the signs Leo and Aries and least easily through Aquarius and Libra, however, if the world were populated solely by Sun in Leo types I think it would be be less enjoyable to live in than it is currently. If everyone had Mars in Aries then certainly there would be much more assertion and forthright self-expression, but the qualitative experience of life collectively would be impoverished by it, because nobody would have to struggle to make themselves heard and no ingenious, creative or lateral solutions would ever be found to the problem of getting one’s views across.
But it is true that those with a glut of essential dignity in their nativity seem to fare better in life when compared with those whose nativities are characterised by essential debility. It is profoundly misleading however, to maintain that dignity is in any way better than debility. Dignity is very often a double edged sword. To use an analogy, it is rather like the difference between buying a table and buying a bag of tools and some wood to make a table. The individual whose astrology is characterised by dignity has bought the table. They get to go home, plonk the new item of furniture in the middle of the kitchen and start enjoying the benefits right away. There’s no problem with that of course, and indeed it’s expedient, easy and uncomplicated. The debilitated type however has to get busy. He has to carry all this stuff home, and start to fashion the furniture himself out of the rather more crude raw materials. He might have little experience or skill with making tables too, or with using the tools, and it could even transpire that his table is a disaster: it wobbles or worse, it breaks! Then he has to try again to make a functional table. As you can perhaps see, there are certainly disadvantages to being debilitated, but also, there is the potential of a great benefit too. Now most people, mindful only of creating something functional, will devote the bare minimum of effort to constructing their table, but innate in the necessity to make this item of furniture is the potential to discovering craftsmanship. This person could – if they are determined and focused and committed – discover a means to turn the disadvantage of not being able to buy a “ready-made” table to their ultimate advantage and become a master table maker!
Now it is true – and this analogy bears further extrapolation – that there is no guarantee that the would-be table craftsman might not be able to create a better table than the one that can be bought from the showroom, but even if his home-made table is not more beautiful, sturdier or in any way more desirable than the shop-bought model, the fact is the committed craftsman understands something about table-making that the mere shopper does not. Certainly – and crucially – his table is not better, it may indeed be worse, but his understanding of that table is undoubtedly better.
Thus the individual with Sun in Leo might be much more impressive somehow than his counterpart with Sun in Aquarius, but the chances are, because of that very difference in facility, the Aquarian might well have a better understanding of the mechanics of the solar principle as a result, assuming that he has focused himself upon that process of attaining craftsmanship.
Now in the vast majority of cases, the classical principle bears out. Dignity confers advantage and very often those whose nativities are marked by especial compatibility between planet and sign do usually seem to do “better”. Life simply appears to run more smoothly and benefit is often accrued more easily and it is as simple as that. In the converse situation the home-made tables are turned for the most part, and a measure of struggle seems to enter into the equation.
It is my decided view that debility does not always denote a lost-cause of expression in that arena of life-activity. The individual with Mars in Libra is not doomed to be walked over and ignored, providing they are focused upon the craftsmanship of assertion and standing firm. It will not be easy for them, and it might take many years to attain any great skill with Martian qualities: but every sign contains the seed of its polarity. Libra understands Aries innately, but it is focused on the far end of the spectrum, albeit – and crucially – the focus is maintained within a common spectrum. Libra has more sense of Aries than any other sign in the zodiac, and vice versa. If you have Mars in Libra then you have a more innate grasp of how to assert in an Arien manner than any sign other than Aries itself, but you have to consciously aim for mastery, for craftsmanship. If you simply go with the flow then your natural tendency will be to avoid conflict, to opt for diplomacy and to avoid the fight altogether in an attempt to maintain the ideal of harmony. On the other hand, understanding that harmony for all is best preserved when everyone’s rights are respected – including one’s own – there is a definite logic to learning to stand up for oneself even if in the short-term there is some risk of upset or distress in pursuing this objective.
As an example, consider Isabel Hickey whose astrology evinced an astonishing array of dignified placements: Sun in Leo, Moon in Cancer, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Libra, Mars in Scorpio, Jupiter in Pisces and Saturn in Aquarius! Her essential dignity score is off the charts! Contrast this with Stephen Arroyo who with Sun in Libra, Venus in Scorpio and Saturn in Leo has much less ease at his disposal. Which of these two was/is the better astrologer? Having read almost everything each of these luminaries in the field has penned there is no question in my view which holds the greatest insight and ability. Arroyo is a bona fide genius whereas Hickey, although marked by the quaint and undemanding astrological zeitgeist of her age, is merely competent. Indeed, Hickey for me is quite typical of the essentially dignified type. She undoubtedly had ability, but somehow it appeared to have propelled her much further than you would have expected were the yardstick for success ability alone. And whilst such considerations might appear – superficially at least – to be churlish, there is no question that it is a principle which so often bears out in my own experience that it simply cannot be ignored.
As far as practicalities are concerned it is undeniable that dignity and debility are significant in the process of interpretation. As a generalisation it is entirely fair to conclude that a nativity characterised by a general condition of dignity will render the life-experience easier because any planet in a compatible sign works more effectively without any requirement for mastery. With Saturn in Capricorn you are simply taken more seriously than the individual with Saturn in Cancer weherein all other factors are equal, but there is a great danger here in making an assumption because you might be dealing with a craftsman who through a long process of struggle has learned the underlying principles of responsibility and gravitas and is able to work with them consciously.
What this does push to the fore though is the realisation that the reversal of debility requires experience and mindfulness and it is therefore unlikely to manifest in youth. In this astrologer’s view it bears comparison to the principle that all aspects are squares: and certainly with age it might become evident that the dignified chart devolves through a lack of necessity to develop inherent mastery (or craftsmanship) while the debilitated native has instead been forced – if they have not been laid low by the struggle of early life – to attain a great skill or facility with their limited starting resources which ultimately catapults them above and beyond the benighted realms promised them by the mechanical accumulation of mere scores.