Sabian Astrology™ Q&A Corner


Dr. Marc Edmund Jones
(Oct. 1, 1888 - March 5, 1980)

The purpose of this column is to provide answers to questions we receive regarding the Sabian system of astrology that was developed by Dr. Marc Edmund Jones and set forth in his many books. Our first Guest Astrologer was the late Delle Fowler Frech, a long-standing member of the Sabian Assembly and practicing Sabian astrologer. New questions will be selected from those we receive and will be answered by other Sabian astrologers. Please feel free to email us with your questions — general questions, please. We cannot answer personal questions about your own or others' charts.


Could you please say something about retrograde Mercury periods. Many people seem to be afraid of them and don't do anything they don't have to do in regard to communications, contracts and purchases when Mercury goes retrograde. That seems rather drastic and superstitious to me. I thought the "stars impelled rather than compelled." I find other times equally disruptive, so what is so unique about Mercury retrograde periods?


When Mercury retrogrades, the focus of the mind is turned inward. These are subjective periods so far as the mind is concerned and so all attention should be given to the retrospection, meditation and all inner workings of the mind. Because of this subjective focus of the mind, the outer, more superficial, taken-for-granted factors of our daily living, can go awry. They are apt to be given careless attention and so there is a kind of "absent mindedness" with the overt side of life that can lead to difficulty with all forms of communication and new efforts of all kinds.

Mercury retrograde periods are very misunderstood and badly used, as you are pointing out. For example, sitting down to clarify something (as when you discuss past experiences to point out the logic involved) is ideal for a retrograde Mercury period. Our thoughts get clarified as we go back and review things. This is a positive and productive use of a retrograde Mercury period.

Periods when Mercury is retrograde are ideal times to think through problems — to make plans and prepare for action. These are review periods. If you keep a journal, take time when Mercury is retrograde to review what you experienced and wrote about while Mercury was direct. You will find a lot of value and significance in doing your review while Mercury is retrograde.

Where Mercury retrograde becomes problematical is in respect to initiating new projects, particularly if the project involves a mechanical device or something that is subject to poor quality control or careless employees. These kinds of things and situations very often do present problems. Problems can also occur with communications. It is important to speak precisely and specifically when Mercury is retrograde.

There are exceptions, however, to this general approach. You want to take a look at the aspects the retrograde Mercury is making to your own natal chart. Generalities are always suspect and, in respect to a retrograde Mercury, this is very important. If the retrograde Mercury station is making a beneficial aspect to your natal chart, then there may be superficial upsets but they will work out to your advantage. Years ago, I bought a house under a retrograde Mercury. That's a biggie! But the retrograde Mercury station was trine my natal Venus. The minute I signed on the dotted line, a new law went into effect and it meant that more documentation was required before we could close — a big delay! This is typical of a retrograde Mercury.

But the trine to Venus worked. The builder came to me and asked if I would be willing to move in then and there, without the closing, rent free, as he preferred that to having the new house sit there empty for a couple of months. So, I was fine. I moved in and all was well. In fact, I came out ahead. This is a positive example of retrograde Mercury.

Personally, I use these periods with great discrimination. You just can't make a blanket statement about them. I would hesitate before buying new appliances under a retrograde Mercury unless there were mediating factors, such as the above trine to Venus. I do seem to have difficulties with deliveries and poor quality during these times, but that's as close as I'd come to a blanket statement. I wouldn't risk buying a computer for example — especially through mail order — unless there was something akin to the above-described trine to Venus.

I mail-ordered new and expensive filters for the apartment with this past retrograde Mercury station, but this coming direct station of Mercury (and I was in orb of that) is sextile my natal Uranus, the ruler of my sixth house, and I hoped the filters would help free me up from my allergies. They do seem to be doing just that. But this isn't simple. There is no cut-and-dried rule. You must consider everything that is going on with the natal chart — not merely the retrograde Mercury.

You also mentioned that you've experienced terrible glitches and delays when Mercury is direct. Of course, any time Saturn is being heavily afflicted by transit (for example) we are going to hit delays. Difficulties can arise from many causes — not just a retrograde Mercury. It can be confusion when there is an afflicted Neptune involved. In fact, retrograde Mercury periods, unless they are hitting one's chart adversely, can be simply trivial — only annoying, relative to what can be experienced under a hard transit aspect to Saturn or Neptune.

Make the most of the times when Mercury is retrograde. Use these periods to plan, review and go deeper into the areas you are striving to understand. These are also opportune times to study for tests. Mercury retrograde periods can be very positive and useful times. Use them to your best advantage


I am trying to get some further insight into how Dr. Jones meant the Emphasis in Self-Determination and Mode of Self-Integration to be used when interpreting a chart? I am developing a method of chart interpretation that relies on the Natural Disposition, Temperament Pattern, Emphasis in Self-Determination, Mode of Self-Integration and Focal Determinators to delineate an overall astrological perspective for my clients.


That is exactly what Dr. Jones recommended doing, so I commend you on your efforts in this direction. I will tell you that it has worked for me most profitably, and my clients attest to the value of the system and the use that can be made of it. These various techniques are a kind of process with one thing adding to another so the image of the individual gradually becomes more and more clear and sharp as the astrologer goes from one technique to the next, always building on the previous insight. It's really quite mathematical as you add one thing to another to arrive at the sum total of the individual.

Once you have the Temperament Typing (the pattern) established, let's say that in our hypothetical example it is a Locomotive, then you know that this is a reformer-type personality who must use this quality to bring happiness and success into his life. This person is a driving force and needs to be actively involved in improving conditions, but he has to avoid the tendency to try to cure the world, rather than settling into what is practical at his hand, and take it step by step. When you add the Natural Disposition (in our example it is Common or Mutable by positive indication), then you have, in addition, the knowledge that this reformer is going to focus on the relationships involved. He is a humanist and needs to be in a position where his expertise can be directly related to the people themselves. All importantly, add to this the High Focus planet, its meaning and its position as the focus of all of this energy. (You didn't ask about this so I won't go into detail.)

Now you ask how to use the Self-Determination?

You first look to the Self-Ordering of the chart. In Essentials of Astrological Analysis by Dr. Marc Edmund Jones you will find the planetary aspects, via department, illustrated in detail. For those of you reading this, who are unfamiliar with the terms and techniques being used here, the departmental planetary aspects are all explained in this volume. I recommend that any astrologer become familiar with them.

In our example, the Self-Ordering is determined through a single departmental aspect. In this case it is a square between Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter and Saturn are the two planets that make up the Department of Motivation. So this highly-dynamic-reformer type, who is so involved with the humanitarian factors of life, is also shown to be unusually self-motivated and dependent upon his own inner and personal psychological drives. He's not so involved with the energy of life itself as he would be if his self-ordering was through the Department of Vitality (Sun/Moon). Neither is he caught up in the practical efficacy of the process as he would be if his self-ordering was through the Department of Efficiency (Mars/Venus). Nor is he as socially involved with the broader picture as he would be if the Department of Significance (Uranus/Neptune) was dominant. He is purely and simply involved with his own sense of things and how and what he is doing. At best he has a reason for being.

So, add this to the picture and you now have the intrinsic executive (identified by the Locomotive pattern), who is focused on the humanitarian issues of life (the Natural disposition) and works from an inner sense of drive and motivation that amounts to a real sense of purpose (the Self-Determination). But we still don't know exactly how to encourage this individual to integrate all these factors into a smoothly-flowing execution — and that will be revealed by the Mode of Self-Integration.

The Mode of Self-Integration shows how people integrate themselves into life and how they become a part of it.

Activity is just that — we are alive so we are involved, either as pure livingness, as we play the game of life (Conjunctive), or as we are occupied in analytically taking life apart (Disjunctive) as we are living it.

Circumstances involve us as the situation presents itself to us — and not until it does. We become involved as the time and place of life and situation impacts us personally (Personal) or as that impact allows us to sacrifice ourselves for the group (Impersonal.)

Function integrates us into life through our role in the scheme of things and its relevance. This is either overtly (Objective), such as when we have a certain position or title to guide us (we need a position in the world) or as we find within ourselves a reason for being involved (which is Subjective as described above).

In this case, the Mode of Self-Integration is Function (with a Subjective emphasis). This is so clear because it adds fuel to the information we already have. Function (Subjective) requires strict adherence to the reason for being that the individual has found, created or is looking for.

There must be a strict, constant and aware asking of the self, "Why am I doing this?" This individual must know on inner levels why he is involved in whatever the activity is, however trivial. It is only with this knowing that he can fully function, both effectively and dynamically. For this person to allow himself to become involved in activities that have no relation to his personal reason for being would be a disaster. It would diminish his capacities and effectiveness. He must create a reason for his being involved if there isn't a more personally-appropriate activity already available for him to get involved in. If he is involved in these activities because the social milieu of his career demands it, and his forte is not the social arena, then he can use the time to do research in this situation for his own purposes, which he can use at another time. He can question and query and find information for future use in his own personal aspiration. When the Mode of Self-Integration is Function (Subjective), there is always a way to make anything of value so long as a reason can be found for doing it. This individual is at his best only when a very personal, subjective reason for being involved is very clear in his own mind. It isn't necessary for it to be known outwardly or publicly.

Don't assume, though, that this makes him an introverted type. This isn't necessarily so. This individual may have much in his chart that makes him extroverted and yet this inner knowing is all-important if he is to function at his optimum capacity.

From here you would go to the Focal Determination for the more specific skills and such.

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