Exaltation of Mars in Capricorn

Monique Pommier © 1997

Sustained effort is the seed of synthesis, the cause of achievement, and that which finally overcomes death   A. Bailey 

The spiral horn endures, for it is sovereign and adamantine and transmutes through the ages into many unknown compounds — Michael Green, On the history and truth of the Unicorn

 Mars is exalted in Capricorn, the sign of initiation, ruled hierarchically by Venus. Venus is associated with the unitive fire which transfigures the initiate atop the mountain of initiation and kindles in each mortal the “jewel of immortality.” On the mountaintop where “the star of the Initiator shines forth” [1] Venus summons the immortal in man to the sky of the fixed stars. In the fire of Venus, the long wandered inner sky is essentialized to its sun; the circling around the light is stilled to a “point of vivid light.” [2]

Venus heralds the revelation of the fixed star in man — of man as a fixed star in the sky of the immortals; it heralds the arising of a fixed light in the esoteric heavens of mankind – the light of the Initiate, also named precisely the “enlightened one” – self-generated, emittive and no longer reflective and mutable. A new light of tried universality and stilled quintessence initiates its sun life. This light begins to shine in the spiritual sphere which embraces the psychic life of humanity in the same way that the zodiac of the fixed stars embraces the wandering planets and defines or “fixes” their places in space for the earth observer.

 Exalted Mars — the unique horn.

Capricorn is the sign of the “horned-goat” that slowly and surely climbs the mount of the three worlds. Mars, the energy of vitality and the strength of daring, produces eventually the courageous climber, exalted by the formidable slopes and the relentless call for creative steps.

The fact that Venus (as spiritual ruler) and Mars (as exalted planet) find one of their highest potential of expression in the same sign (Capricorn) speaks to the particular opportunity   the spiritual horizon of Capricorn opens for the pair of opposites that the two planets represent in the three worlds — the opportunity to come together and operate synergistically in the human consciousness. The hierarchical revelation of one (VE) and the exaltation of the other (MA) at the same place – mountain top – of self awareness point to the transcending, fostered by Capricorn, of what affirmed them or maintained them as polarities — as the masculine and feminine or the yin and yang of experience, as the poles of combativeness and compromise, of distinctness and union.

In the event of radical unification of being (of self and other as one soul, of personal and universal as one Self) which is the experience of the first major initiation, the soul unit – an incipient sun or star unit – emits the will of the Venusian light (which in the personal psyche shone as the attractive light of acquiescence and receptivity) while the Martian nature is moved unequivocally by love — the motive of the soul and the exalted expression of the force of desire and action symbolized by Mars. So love (associated with Venus) is what moves exalted Mars; and a radiant will (associated with Mars) emanates from hierarchical Venus. The mystery of Capricorn brings about the unification of the ways, the synergy of the modes; it seals as one  the way of the forward (MA) and the way of the around (VE), the way of action and the way of attraction, the direct way and the adaptive way, the way of assertiveness and the way of acquiescence. Now the soul reigns, genderless because genderful. Its faculty of intuitive wisdom is indeed both active and receptive, attractive and penetrating. By eliciting or sealing the singular way of the dual, Capricorn initiates the way of the Unicorn.

The initiate is Self generating, because in him the “active” self and the “receptive” self have unified. Behind the Mars and Venus of the relating world of the psyche, it is the vaster dualities of consciousness, of lunar personality and solar Self, which have become one. When the mirror of duality begins to collapse, the pursuer (MA) realizes itself to be the pursued (VE). What elicits motion (from emotion to creative will) is realized to be an unknown attraction. That which motivates (MA) the will of gods and men is an attractive (VE) force. It is the pull which its essential Being exerts on the whole creation to realize and BE its Self, a pull which Capricorn, in being the “sign of the signature of God [3] and of the achievement of men, seals and heralds.

However, before the essence of fulfillment is recognized and the real Attractor responded to, before Venus loses all her garments and acquires in the psyche the most inconspicuous presence of the alchemical stone and the pure power to essentialize what it touches, the real pull is veiled under the many forms (VE) of  fulfillment pursued (MA). Mars pursues the forms, unaware that he is attracted  by the silent attribute of the Self – his Self as well – veiled in it. Venus attracts, unaware of her responsibility to drive the whole to its central nucleus of divine Life.

On the mount of Capricorn, the strength which is the power of the accomplished climber of worlds has lost the distinct features of the earlier polarities. Is it the strength of will? Is it the power of love? Is it the magnetic force [4] of Venus? Or is it that of the highly trained and exalted courage of Mars? The force of attraction of the soul and the force of resilience of the personality have circled around to a “point of vivid light”. Circling around the one mount of being, they have become the one force of true human Being. In the invisible light of hierarchical Venus, Mars ascends the mountain of becoming and ultimately wills the love that has moved him all along.

The Venusian mode of hollowing out and the Martian mode of penetrating through merge in the spiral of ascent. And they move as one in the spiraling horn of the Unicorn associated with Capricorn. We notice how the spiral presents in a three-dimensional perspective what a central (and two-dimensional) view would show as “the circling to a point of vivid light” mentioned before.

The two principles long paired as opposites join on the mount of initiation where they constellate the figure of the Unicorn. And indeed we do wonder: Is the spiraling horn earthly substance aspired from above (the Venusian perspective) or is it spirit projected from below (the martian perception)? The same dual perception plays upon the consciousness while watching the spiraling dance of the dervish, also a figure of exalted motion and transfiguring unity. Is the swirling dervish “spearing” into the spirit worlds as his right hand indicates, or is he magnetizing, “aimanting” the heavens down towards the earth along his left hand? He is both — a spear and a grail, a unicorn figure. The perfectly focused motion of Mars exalts him (and us) along the axis of Being and the graceful surrendering power of Venus attracts the white harmony of universality to the earth .

Much in the very lore of the Unicorn, and in what the medieval and renaissance imagination wove in it,  discreetly and intensely hints at this coming together of Venus and Mars. The legends may recount the hunt  for the unicorn, while the tapestries illustrate the theme of  “The lady  with the Unicorn”. To capture the elusive animal, the popular legends tell, the hunters need a virgin. They will leave her alone in the woods, knowing that this is the way to attract the unicorn out of its invisibility. The subtle creature defies the aggressive cleverness of Mars unless it be blended with the receptive simplicity of soul associated with the virgin. The hunter must learn how to captivate (VE) that which he was trying to capture (MA) by infusing the forces of pursuit with the grace of expectancy, the forces of the personality with the presence of the soul. He must lay his “weapons” around the attentiveness of the virgin. In other words, he must turn his personal forces into the “captivating”, magnetic power of the soul’s Presence. The personality (the hunter) in yielding to the soul (the virgin), allows spirit to “appear in” the consciousness. In other words, it allows the consciousness to become, however briefly at first, the space of the monadic being of the unicorn [5]— the spiraling horn of spirit, the realization of Identity in Being.

In the 15th century Codex Unicornis, a manuscript from an Italian Fraternity of the Unicorn, Magnalucius, the founder of the order, recounts his first “encounters” with the Unicorn:

“Shortly after daybreak, as is my habit, I walked in contemplation through the alder groves bordering our river. There I glimpsed a forest creature altogether white in color… Now this was the remarkable thing: I was balanced in a most inward state of devotion, yet this curious creature did not draw my attention outward, as is the irksome habit of intriguing objects. Instead, I stood awhile in a most pleasurable stillness of mind and spirit; for the beast seemed as much within me as without, among the alders”.

        In another passage, he describes being led by the Unicorn atop a high cliff:

The view was wide and vast, yet at the same time everything appeared small and precious, as if I could embrace them all. My heart overflowed with silent bliss at these wonders, of which not the least was this: The landscape I gazed on seemed to be myself.” [6]

In the unified consciousness, the division between inner and outer worlds – the polarization which objective consciousness introduces in Being and by which it occults Being – swirls into the one spiral horn of pure spirit Being. The entrance to the realm of the Unicorn is indicated to Magnalucius precisely as a subtle “between”, a fissure between objective and subjective, between light and dark, consciousness and pure Livingness, as well as between active eagerness (MA) and patient expectancy (VE): “Take thyself to the copse between the twin hills, Eugnostos instructed me, and wait until the hour when it is neither night nor day. There is thy entrance” [7]. The Unicorn “comes” – that is, one “becomes” the Unicorn – in the transcending of the dual perception of “space”.

The Unicorn also takes one beyond the dual perception of time. When Magnalucius returns from his “long walk” with the Unicorn who had “stepped out of darkness when the unrisen sun was yet beneath the hills”, — … “the sun had still not risen” [8]. Later on, while gazing  at the mighty horn, he describes the same subtle stepping out of time: “The world seemed to open into a different kind of time. All haste was banished. The fleeting moment seemed to slow, encouraging the most lucid perception of every splendid detail.” [9]

In the highlands of the Unicorn, the formative but frustrating pursuit of time and limitation of space have released their rings around the consciousness. Psychologically, hunting (MA) and seducing (VE) are transcended. While the hunter gives his hunting over to the evocative space of the soul, the lady of the tapestries is a lady-with-lion. To engage the Unicorn, the soul must have “shared space” with the full readiness of personality power — the lion. While Mars has learnt to go round towards his goal in a more intuitive way, Venus has learnt to project her luminous space with vividness and power.

In Capricorn, ex-alted Mars is lifted-out of the limited “gender” of its perception and use by the dual consciousness. The spear “turns” into a grail, and the grail (of the contemplative consciousness) into the spear of spirit Being. Through their exaltation, we discover in each Venus and Mars a facet of the same “Jewel of Immortality”: If Pisces exalted in Venus the emerald Cup of the will to sacrifice (Pluto), Capricorn reveals in Mars the white Horn of intuitive synthesis and com-prehensive will (MA). Exalted love is pure will; exalted will, pure love.  The invisible spire of the Initiate is a penetrating (MA) receptiveness (VE), a magnetic spiritedness, able to in-spire people and circumstances— in other words to “turn” them to – if not into – the living edge of the three worlds represented on the banner of the Lady with the Unicorn by three crescent Moons.

The “signature of God”, which Capricorn represents, signs the synthesis of the polarities – ultimately the polarities of spirit and matter refracted here in the “relative” polarities of the Mars-Venus modes and genders.  Much leads to think that the mystery of this sign(ature) is related to the spiral. The Greek root of the word indicates the “divine” Source — speira, the germ of life — the spirit of it all.

Capricorn brings the cycle of Mars to step into its octave, from the initial launching of the One into the dual (Aries), to the joining and unifying of the two (horns of Aries) in the single spiration of the Unicorn (CAP). Mars ruled Aries exoterically. It is exalted in Capricorn. Capricorn is the sign in which the dualities of experience begin to be lived as one. In the fulfillment of each polarity through the other and as the “other” deploying itself in the mode of “the one”, Capricorn initiates the accomplishment of “human being”, the stance of Identity.

In the heights of Capricorn, the two modes of motion of the aspiring psyche literally “turn into” one. Mars, now experienced as a form of response in the psyche, which man’s partial perception simply sees as action, is at the same time recognized as the expression of one’s free will and the instrument of self-induced “coming to Be”. On the way to the Capricorn point of unifying light, it becomes a worthwhile shift in perception to conceive of Mars as such a force of responsiveness, and of Venus as the agent — the Attractor-Wisdom which draws and “hollows out” our existential density from the heights of timeless Reason. Mars fills up with actions and zeal the resultant a-spiration to the unknown cause which is ever, beyond the apparent objectives, the great “cause” of the triune spirit, the cause which inspires in the divided worlds the on-going pursuits and struggles for knowledge, love and power.


The exaltation of Mars in Capricorn — from response to responsibility

Leaving the unifying light of Venus, we now come down the mount of Capricorn to retrace the steps of Mars along the path of its exaltation and explore what this exaltation reveals about the planet.

What is it about Capricorn that exalts Mars? What does Capricorn disclose of the essence of Mars, of its true significance and purpose in the human experience?

It seems a paradox for the quick planet of fire to be exalted in the deliberate earth and solid rock of Capricorn, and for the drive to begin to be exalted in the sign of perseverance, duration and completion.

The fact that the planet of impulse and desire is exalted in the sign of achievement and actualization points to the steady intention hidden within the instinctuality of desire, and to the unconscious commitment which inspires the urge to act.  Beyond the short term focus and immediate impact of man’s “doings” (MA), Capricorn opens perspectives of long term goals and motives, unsuspected dimensions of positive accomplishments or of destructive consequences. However spontaneously effected “on the spur of the moment”, human actions and reactions land in the records (CAP) of our universe. Willingly or unwillingly, they generate inescapable consequences and constitute the basis, the “rock and earth” of the future conditions of human life.

The spiral horn endures, for it is sovereign and adamantine and transmutes through the ages into many unknown compounds.”

If a stern accountability (CAP) thus meets our actions, it is because it is inherent to that which moves us to act — the ability to respond (MA) to life situations with action, to forms with desire, to causes with zeal, to ideas with enthusiasm, to the unknown with courage. This ability to respond which is at the root of action is our responsibility.  Responsibility is the hidden root of Martian action. From response-ability to responsibility is the road of Mars revealed by Capricorn. We can hear how the long steady note of maturity (CAP) slowly takes hold of the genuine spontaneity or youthful impulsiveness of Mars and pervades it to a continuo, how it brings human action to a mastery and exalts its lasting effects.

  Whether the mountain of the goat be the local mount of personal ambitions, or the summit of the three worlds of personal experience, we can see how peaks of distant or not so distant consummations loom behind decisions to be made, local initiatives taken, anecdotal courage displayed.

The constant drive and activity which animate the human world via Mars, appear in this light as the surface motions, swirling and repetitive, or progressive and daring, of a vaster and deeper impulse: the journey of initiatory ascent (MA/CAP) which eventually leads the all to actualize its intimate desire — its core intent.

Within the initially selfish claims of Mars, within the caprices of urges and the tempest of reactions, the fire of passions and the fever of actions, universal law, of which Capricorn is a custodian, lives and waits silently. The time eventually comes when the necessary pressure can be applied and responded to, when a measure of responsibility is born within the responses; motivations are increasingly conscious, the capricious whims of urges or fears are overtaken by deeper motivations and slowly disinvested; the urgency of the desiring nature is taken hold of by the conscious will. The capriciousness of the young goat who leaps and plays away from the mountain path is instilled with Capricornian determination and reoriented to the task to be accomplished. All along, the purposeful resolve of the whole (CAP) seeks to find its concrete articulation within the personal actions (MA); the universal lawfulness of life slowly inspires and organizes the microcosmic vitality of Mars, infusing its motions with right motive, its activity with purposefulness, and inspiring its competitive forces and aspirations with intimations of the more essential victories at stake.

In the growing strength of its exaltation, Mars walks with the steady gait of consistent enthusiasm and  directed  passion in the steps of the world-goat, bending its arrow (MA) to the angle of the climb — adjusting it to the particular effort of the world-knee [10] up the mountain of human BEcoming. The conflicts and battles of the old soldier-fighter (MA) are exalted in the peace of essentialized motive and simplified focus. They are seen for what they are, whatever their apparent motivation may have been — lessons in the ways and weapons of spiritual conquest.

A sign of discipline and steady determination, of authority and mastership, Capricorn is the sign of empires conquered or heights achieved by virtue of such qualities. The Capricornian spirit of conquest brings to the fore the theme of the quest which animates the life of Mars — from the urge to move, the drive to act and the need to assert, express, compete, overcome which move the consciousness of the world, to the overall impulse to venture forth which animates the world-Adventure. It suggests that if Mars is indeed driven, it is driven by a fundamental quest and objective.

A conquering spirit animates the fire of Mars. Within that which prompts the body to move, exercise and develop stamina, lives the intent, Capricorn suggests, to overcome physical limitations and best fit the physical vehicle for its function in the adventure — to forge the armor of the knight. In that which is moved by emotional desire and the urge to pursue what is desired or attack what threatens, lives the astral horse of the quest, whose erratic urges and uncontrolled forces must be harnessed to singlefocused passion, zeal, diligence and tenacity. In that which incites the mind to inquire and quest-ion, burns the determination to conquer the unknown (CAP) which sharpens the searchlight of learning and science [11]— the sword of the human quest. In that which spurs the personality to insistently  express itself and “get on its horse” to affirm, convince, exhort, argue, lives the search of the horseman for the proper affirmation of his stance and the conquest of the horse-man himself by the true knight within. In the courage to act and take initiative, in the will to respond to the necessity of the time, lives the exalted drive, the transpersonal drive of the knighted self who rides the inner mounts of the world’s spiritual striving.

To consider the exaltation of Mars is to contemplate the human adventure as a slow exaltation of the instinctual impulses of animal man into the courage of a responsible human being, then the quiet activity of a “Master” (CAP) collaborating on the purpose of the time. Every gesture then (MA) bears in it the signature of God (CAP).

Capricorn suggests that the true desire for which all desires blindly grope is to partake in the great creative freedom of the one universal Desire called Law. The real passion (MA) is to contribute to the divine architecture (CAP). The veritable courage is courage for destiny: the strength to recognize the design of spirit in the desire within or in the forces of circumstances without, and to actualize the divine signature which tries to break through the blindness of personal motion, the apparent contrariness of events or the challenges of decisions. It is the courage to enter one’s true signature in the inner motion of evolution.


Cain –  Prometheus – the Unicorn

In the background of these considerations on the exaltation of Mars in Capricorn, three personages emerge from the mythic depths of the human psyche: Cain, Prometheus and the Unicorn.

Cain, who kills his brother in a fit of jealous anger (MA) later becomes a “builder of city” (CAP). The first murderer, according to the biblical account, initiates a lineage of builders. His descendant, Hiram-Abiff, will be the architect of the Temple of Solomon. In the force of anger, as well as in opposition, conflict, adversity, lies the seed of the creative force which can build worlds.

Prometheus, who stole fire (MA) from the gods, is freed by Hercules in the Capricornian labor. By the strength and courage of his own mastered fire or Martian energy, Hercules initiates Prometheus to the creative and constructive use of the fire which long devoured him.

The penetrating stillness of the Unicorn (CAP) supersedes the forcefulness of the Ram (MA). The red ardors of Mars in the three worlds are transcended in its white erectedness in spiritual being. All the projections of the desiring nature have gathered as one will — the single spiral horn of spiritual activity. Desires have been focalized and unified, as the inscription indicates on the tent of the lady with the Unicorn:“To my only desire”. All are exalted in the one a-spiration  of the psyche (“the lady”) to spirit, as the inconspicuous gathering of the animals around her central presence suggests. All impulses are realized to be one essential impulse, impatience one deliberate haste, all conflicts one determination.

These three mythic figures stage the evolving life of Mars in the human psyche. Through the steps in the expression by man of Martian fire, we gather the story of the independent creative will which makes of the human being a free actor and a decisive force in the worlds.

When Prometheus brought to man the fire he had stolen from the gods, the wrath of Zeus chained him to Mount Caucasus with iron shackles (Mars rules iron and blood). A vulture would gnaw at his liver and blood trickle from the wound. There is in this the image of man enslaved by Mars, shackled on the mount of Becoming (Mount Caucasus is another “mountain of Qaf”) by the iron power of his instincts, eaten up in his life-forces by his appetites, devoured by wants and passions, divided against himself and wasting his blood in reckless impulsiveness or anxious haste. The early ignorant appropriation of the fire of free will is depicted in the suffering of Prometheus. The wrath of the gods echoes the separative claims of ignited matter — the experience that “I” can do, want, desire, implement independently of others, independently of the whole. The same wrath had seized the biblical god when Adam and Eve stole the serpent fire, which chained mankind to the suffering of the “binding worlds of form”. The vulture is the lower self and lower  Mars in man which “like a pointed needle wants to engrave itself everywhere.” [12]

Mars exalted — the well-tempered builder.

The journey of Mars in the human consciousness parallels the evolution of the desiring self from Cain’s violence to Hiram-Abiff’s masterful accomplishment, from the vulture’s selfish peckings and bitings to Prometheus’s courageous and creative initiative, from the ram’s passion to the Unicorn’s spiritual will. The process which brings the revelation and demonstration in man of the exalted function of Mars is a slow and arduous one. Saturn’s rulership of Capricorn is suggestive of the frustration and hard work which paves the path of Mars and tutors the lower fiery nature to its sublime expression in the Unicorn.

For long, conflictedness is the reality of Mars, whether the pressure of the iron shackles exacerbates the personal will or whether it paralyses it with guilt. Through the method of limitation and “cooling”, the hot fiery matter of the desiring animal nature is slowly tamed and tempered.  Crimes and unbounded wishfulness, violations and invasions discover the boundaries of the law (tribal, international or universal, social or karmic). All actions and passions elicit the natural return or the cosmic “retaliation” of wholeness which acquaints man with the forces he uses and doesn’t know.

Slowly a road is seen.  Cain, the son of fire, matures and tills the resistant soil. Mars walks with Saturn. Man becomes a “Compagnon du Devoir”[13], a Companion of the Duty (SA), or a companion of the “Must” — of what must be. He chooses his tasks and faces his trials, itinerating from one test to the next on his journey of apprenticeship. In the same way that the companion walked from one master-mason to the next, or that Hercules was summoned to his next labor by the voice of his teacher, so is the Mars hero in every individual presented with the opportunities to build up his mastership of life. His recognition of “opportunities” is directly related to the degree of absorption by Mars of the Saturn principle, in other words its degree of maturity.  As the labor proceeds, the craft is learned, the inner forces [14] mastered and shaped to a skill. Intelligent direction and disciplining of his force prepares the craftsman — man the creator.

The imprisoning outer law has become the organizing principle of the fire within. True strength is built and toughened through the tempering process of Saturn. Impulses and drives are instilled with self-restraint; action is increasingly conceived in the context of larger-than-self purposes and informed with long-term perspectives and broad concerns. A larger picture begins to permeate the small decisions. Awareness of implications in time impregnates the choices made. A new economy thus characterizes the activity, and the vulture ceases its “wasting of blood”. Saturn seeks to instill the spiritual law of economy, based on the intelligence of a more comprehensive vision. Such an economy will not spare the inconsiderate claims of the small self, but sharpen and deepen the choices with ethical considerations for the quality and durability of the work.

The outcome of this educating process in which Mars is ceaselessly tried and treated with the slow cooling processes of Saturn is that “stolen” fire is translated into human strength and a power of intelligent initiative.

As the seriousness (CAP) of every deed (MA) and the far-reaching impact of decisions or initiatives is increasingly realized, the individual becomes more of a collaborator in the world evolution. He acts with the earth and mankind in mind, and shapes his world in creative resonance with universal principles.

Symbolically, the exalting challenge of Mars in Capricorn is to quicken to a new birth and ascent the still and frozen sun of the winter solstice. In a similar way, the warrior in man is both tempered and exalted by the many arresting forces of reality or practicality, the resistance of physicality and the pressures of time. These adversities contribute to the development of inner courage and steady resoluteness.

With the powerful eloquence which is that of concrete forms and facts, different parts of the physical body (our most perfected vehicle) illumine different planetary functions. The well-tempered character of mature Mars, for instance, is perfectly illustrated by the constancy of the blood temperature, which calmly and vitally vehiculates, between the fevers of  defense or inflammations and the cold of lifelessness, the life of a self.

In the consciousness, this well-tempered force expresses itself in the mature strength which frees Prometheus and his creative fire within the human— the “Herculean” strength which burns through the passions of which it is made, precisely because it knows them intimately; the courage which takes hold of their pecking or “thrashing around” to subject or redirect them to his creative aims. When he descends to hell in order to liberate Prometheus in the Capricorn labor, Hercules has first to master Cerberus, the three-headed dog. His dispassionate conquest is the success of mastered desires, tamed passions, domesticated “doghood”.

When the piercing bark of physical urges, emotional impulses, mental opinionatedness – the three-headed dog within – subside under the impersonal strength of solar man, the road to an exalted expression of Mars is open. The true freedom of independent creation, which Prometheus meant to bring, is liberated. Prometheus is released. The collaboration in the selfless building of worlds becomes “the only desire” of Unicorned man.

The later life of Moses offers a pictorial illustration of the destiny of a unified-“Unicorned” man. The exaltation of Mars in Capricorn becomes alive when the fiery leader, the Martian ram who against all odds freed and guided a whole people on its unique spiritual adventure, ascends the mount Sinai — in other words when he touches the summit of his inner mountain and becomes a spiraling horn of pure being. The zeal and inspiration (MA) that animated his life up to that point became a force of divine organization (CAP) and building of a human community. He came down the mountain with the tables of the law (SA) destined to regulate and structure the life of his people and begin shaping and constructing it into a world-temple — a lawful world, framed with a divine intelligence of rapports and order. In a symbolic actualization of what he was working to achieve with the commandments (MA) in the social fabric of human comportment, Moses also built the Tent of God– the Ark of the covenant – according to detailed divine instructions.

The forces of the human nature which Mars epitomizes, must become such an Ark — a fine and steady structure of balanced forces apt to harbor and maintain a space for the soul’s presence in the daily consciousness.

Exalted Mars is the builder and architect of a divinely ordered world. Each human being is such a more or less discreet builder of worlds, more or less wise with decisions and gestures, more or less inspired with visions and plans, more or less endowed with the strength to cut and carry the stones.

Hiram-Abiff, the exalted descendant, one might say, of Cain, is a historical example of an accomplished master-mason (MA/ CAP). He was hired by Solomon to build the great temple. A descendant of Tubal-Cain, he was, the bible tells, “the ancestor of all copper and iron smiths”. The legend [15] describes how his intimate knowledge of fire allowed him to succeed in his masterpiece: the “casting of the Brazen Sea”. Such casting (CAP) of fiery metal (the molten sea of hot Mars), offers an exact metaphor for the mastery which is that of exalted Mars — the casting to a divine form of the physical, emotional and mental fires of human nature.

When the fire of desire is cast into the laws of the soul, “the son of God may create“[16]. The world becomes the great temple in which the blacksmith of God – man – wields the forces and fires of the three worlds, knowing how his subtle actions and motioning of thoughts are causes which ever reorganize the conditions of the universe and contribute with lasting magic  to the incessant building of the future: “The slightest thing we do, Rudolph Steiner pointed out, will affect the smallest atom of the next planet … what man prints as form deriving from his soul on the matter of this earth-round is eternal, it will not pass away.  Even though the matter thus given form outwardly decays .. what the human spirit has given shape to, in matter, will remain present as a continuing force”. [17]

The Exaltation in a Chart

The exaltation of Mars in an individual chart suggests a range of possibilities depending on the stage of the “apprentice’s” journey.

As long as Saturn (which is both the exoteric and esoteric ruler of Capricorn) is experienced as limiting shackles, it may exacerbate the lust for power and control. It may crystallize the need for competitive struggles, the drive to climb the social ladder and feed the vulture of personal ambitions with material success and mundane power. Or it may be that drives and desires are suppressed and maintained under excessive control and conformity. In both cases, the personality is exalted.

As the Saturnian process becomes partially internalized, the individual becomes “well-tempered” and demonstrates strength of character. He has built in much resistance to the heat and cold of aroused aspirations and chilling failures, and he walks steadily, sober to heated enthusiasms, strong to the waves of discouragement, able to sustain high pressure in positions of responsibility. No waste of reactions in his way to proceed, address a confrontation, place an assertion.

There is something quite remarkable about the quality of his actions—well-informed, carefully organized and directed to achieve the practical ends envisioned. They are distinguished by their thoroughness, a strong sense of responsibility for the choices made and their consequences, or the object constructed and its durability, a respect for the material used, its impact on society, man, or nature. Choices are based on a concern for quality, solidity, reliability. He is a hard-worker and takes pride in the excellence of his work.

For the disciple, a direct impact in the physical world will be an essential aspect of the spiritual discipline. He may be an excellent carpenter, mason, technician or scientist etc..  or a gifted builder, manager or organizer of human groups, able to bring spiritual lawfulness down into social structures, and to enter into laws and policies the right blend of societal constraints and creative impulses.

 The example of Nancy Kerrigan, who won the bronze medal for ice-skating at the winter Olympics is illustrative of the dedicated, disciplined athlete which exalted Mars can symbolize. The Mars and Capricorn associations (of bronze, ice, winter) bring an interesting emphasis on the presence of the exaltation behind her life event. In her chart, Mars is the most elevated planet ruling her Aries ascendant.

Another example of exalted Mars is David Livingstone, a missionary and explorer of Central Africa, born with Mars in Capricorn ruling his Scorpio ascendant. He was noted for his “superhuman tenacity and endurance.. his indestructible strength of will.” He is also said to have “displayed marked ruthlessness when it came to sacrificing colleagues and family for the furtherance of his own ambitions.”[18]

The case of Louis Pasteur exemplifies in an interesting way the exaltation of Mars. The stellium of Capricorn energies in his chart (SU, ME, VE, MA, UR NE) adds to the emphasis on Mars as their exalted dispositor. Pasteur has been described as a man “utterly intent upon his purposes“, committed to his passion – science – hardworking and overworking himself all his life in “the temple of the future”, as he named “the laboratories”.

After putting an end to the commonly held belief in “spontaneous generation” (MA) with a demonstration of physical causes behind any emergence of life (he discovered the existence of the micro-organisms), he developed “preventative wars” (MA), one could say, destined to master (CAP) the unruly invasions and destructions of human lives by these microscopic lives: he devised the “tempering” method of vaccination which, by inoculating (MA) an attenuated (SA) dose of the adverse forces, elicits healthy resistance  and builds long-term immunity (MA/CAP). This is a process analogous to the treatment used in the mineral kingdom for the hardening of metals (for instance precisely cast iron). He also devised a process of purification by heat, used now all over the world to prevent fermentation and by destroying certain micro-organisms in food, help maintain their integrity (CAP). Many of the themes encountered earlier appear here, projected out in the world of nature.

 The Capricorn House

As the area of life where Mars is invisibly exalted, the house occupied by Capricorn in a chart is where forbearance and fortitude are developed as a result of the efforts exerted to sustain a particular mountain climb. This is where parental, societal or karmic law may oppress and teach, repress and strengthen, limit and temper; where deep motivation waits to be owned and freed to selflessly dare and soundly build.

 Mars in a Chart

Regarding Mars itself in the chart,  our considerations on the exaltation in Capricorn suggest new layers of individual exploration, based on the sign in which Mars is placed in the chart:

What image of fulfillment is driving your efforts? What sense of completion arouses your motivation? What do you plan to achieve and how are you determined to achieve it?  What is your particular method of work? What is the special strength you aim at developing? What does the sign of Mars suggest as to your specific method to progress in strengthening your will? Describe your armor; your horse; your sword; the knighted Mars awaiting in your soul.

An understanding of Mars’s exoteric and esoteric dispositors (that is, the respective rulers of the sign in which Mars is placed) is helpful to guide Mars’ walk up the mountain of its own conquest.

The study of the exoteric dispositor clarifies such questions as: What is the specific impetuosity or reactivity of early Mars which needs to be disciplined and trained?  How does “blood” tend to be wasted? What are the tests of limitation and strengthening likely to be related to?

From the perspective of the esoteric dispositor:

  • What is the particular strength you must identify and develop to fulfill your appointed task and offer your true contribution?
  • What is your only desire and how will you take responsibility for it, live it and so approach the stance of a Unicorn?
  • What is your spiritual quest and how do you live the question which most deeply motivates your life journey?  What is your craft and work in the world-temple?
  • What is the signature that you, as a soul and as “a god”, mean to impress upon the spiritual future by infusing the instrument of your Mars nature (symbolized by the exoteric dispositor) with the white blood of the kind of courage and dedication indicated by the esoteric dispositor?

To briefly exemplify this interplay of exoteric and esoteric rulerships, we may look at Henry Kissinger: his Mars rising in Gemini points to Mercury and Venus as exoteric and esoteric dispositors. His well-trained intellect (ME) increasingly served his diplomatic efforts to build warmer relations (VE) between America, China and Russia .. “probably his most durable achievement.” [19]

Another example is Keir Hardie (Mars in Scorpio conjunct the Midheaven), the founding father of the Labor party: “In the eyes of working class people, he was a hero, a Promethean figure… who could express their needs and aspirations”. One biographer wrote: “The energy and spiritual force that might have been expended in sport or religion, or dissipated in excesses (a Mars of wasted blood would be the exoteric dispositor of Mars in Scorpio) were expended, when he discovered his life’s purpose, in furthering that purpose. When he saw clearly what life called on him to do, he went at it with every fiber of his being, and continued unflinchingly throughout his life” (higher Mars is the esoteric dispositor). [20]

The Fall of Mars in Cancer

It is easy to sense how the planet of outward thrust may be said to “fall” in the sign of inward nesting, how the urge to emit and the drive to climb and conquer may feel thwarted and imprisoned when wrapped in the sensitivity and receptivity of Cancer; how the straight pursuit of Mars is weakened, at least initially, when it must bend and round itself into a protective stance, respond and react rather than strike directly, take care instead of cut through, unravel old matters instead of move forward, be held back by “home” issues (personal past, family, country) instead of on-the-way. The cross purposes of the two qualities of energy certainly account for the lack of assertiveness, the toned down expression of self and the indirect motion to the goal said to be characteristic of the placement.

Yet, once the confusing ambivalence of orientation is clarified (Mars directed outward and to the future, Cancer inward and to the past), the same process is seen at work; only the avenue is different, and the path less visible. This is a path where the need for training and discipline is in regard to the pull of the instinctual needs and sensitivities more than the aggressive push of a Mars in Aries for instance; where strengthening of will comes through the purification of the natural sensitivity; where the right move is freed by the “firing” of the self-protective habitual response.

On the higher turn of the spiral, Mars collaborates with its esoteric dispositor Neptune. Both planets convey the sixth ray, imbuing the individual with strong dedication to the spiritual Duty of incarnation (CA) and with the profound desire to forget him/herself—to indeed “fall” into the surrounding conditions and surrender to the conditioning forms, as a necessary step to foster the healing and restoration to harmony (NE) of these forms (MO).

If Mars falls or the hero “disappears” in Cancer, it is because his soul project has been to enter the “crowd” and come in full touch with the realities of nature (human, animal or physical) so as to engage his entire circum-stances (Cancer is an energy that  “surrounds”), the whole in which he is an agent, through a redemptive “initiating” process. The fall is again the necessary midnight to the fullness of the exaltation, and the sacrifice of Prometheus the promise of the Initiate.

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