Retrogression, which is basically an astronomical phenomenon, has remained an enigma in Predictive Astrology. How to judge a planet while it is in retrograde motion- this conundrum has puzzled Astrologers the world over and no concrete findings have emerged so far, so as to say that the final word on this subject has been said. While there is no dearth of theory so far as retrogression is concerned, there is complete lack of consensus, amongst Astrologers while interpreting retrogression in both natal as well as mundane charts. In this article we will try to remove the cobwebs, get a lucid view, grasp the nuances and understand how retrogression influences events in the lives of human beings ,which can be judged only from a study of their Natal charts.When we speak of retrogression, we need to exclude four planets from this discussion viz., Sun, Moon, Rahu and Ketu. One might raise this query why should we not include the nodes, Rahu and Ketu who are always retrograde? My answer would be : Retrogression is all about planets in clockwise motion exhibiting an apparent anti-clockwise movement. Rahu and Ketu are always in counter-clockwise motion and therefore cannot find a place in this discussion.
Thus, Retrogression is all about the Tara-grahas, Mercury,Venus,Mars,Jupiter and Saturn, even though Western Astrologers tend to include Uranus,Neptune and Pluto in this discussion. Further Western Astrologers tend to look upon Mercury and Venus as “inferior planets’’ since their orbits lie close to the sun, compared to Earth, while the rest are termed “Superior” planets. Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days, while Venus does so, every 225 days. . Mercury terms retrograde thrice in 13 odd months, while Venus is retrograde once in about 18 months. About 9% of time, Mars is retrograde, while Venus is retrograde 30 % of the time meaning about 110 days per year. Saturn is retrograde about 36% of the time or 135 days in a year.
To understand the retrogression principle, I will give a very simple example. When you overtake a car on a highway, there is a point at which both cars are exactly parallel to each other. While overtaking the car near you, you will get an illusory perception that the neighbouring car is moving backwards. This is what happens to the planets. If you see horoscopes, you will notice that one out of three people have retrograde Saturn. Very rarely you see charts with Mars or Venus in retrograde motion in natal charts. If we consider the universe, in totality, retrogression is a non-event. Every planet exhibits only clockwise motion. Only when viewed from the Earth, the planet seems to be retrograde.
We are all born in this earth and therefore retrogression affect us. The “Ego” is the main driving force in any Individual. It is the ego which is mainly affected by retrogression.
The “Ego” is a vast subject by itself and plays a significant role in Psychology, Metaphysics, Social behavior and Psycho-somatic diseases. Thus retrogression is highly relevant in the context of Medical Astrology, especially in the context of chronic diseases and psychological problems. For instance, when Mercury is retrograde there is enormous conflict between the Will and the Mind. This bestows tremendous endurance power to the native, especially the tenacity to complete long-range projects but at the same time can give rise to frustration and anxiety. There is also a belief that people tend to turn introvert due to the influence of retrograde planets.
Take the Sun-Jupiter conjunction and further assume Jupiter is retrograde in this example. Jupiter denotes exuberance, jovial behavior, expansion and benevolence. Sun denotes father. Then in this case the native will have a father who has none of these attributes. In some cases, the native may not live with his father due to a variety of reasons. Similarly, if the 5th house is occupied by retrograde Saturn, one may not be keen on having children and this later on in life, turns out to be a matter of anxiety or frustration. If the 3rd lord is retrograde one may experience failure and disappointment in intimate relationships and romance, while a retrograde 4th lord may not bestow immovable property or vehicles in the prime of life. Some authors such as Kalidasa in Uttarakalamrtam have taken the view that a retrograde planet is similar to an exalted planet. This may be true in the context of achievement but when the issue of timely delivery of expectations is considered, what one may expect to get is some sort of a pyrrhic victory.
Mars is a planet of action, aggression and is generally associated with revolutions, upheavals, riots, kidnappings, Volcanoes, earthquakes and mass killings. When Mars is retrograde in a natal chart, it frequently refers to suppression of energy or anger. Such people are rebellious in their personal lives and also strive to liberate the oppressed. Such people can also be “spiritual revolutionaries” who bring about great knowledge and wisdom within them and share it with the outside world. They can also become pioneers of a new spiritual movement or theological order. A classic example of this principle would be horoscope of Annie Besant, Freedom fighter and Spiritual colossus. On the flip side, retrograde Mars can also cause migraine attacks, headaches, hypertension and disorders related to bile and blood.
Venus, retrograde gives problems in relationships, in the early years of life. They have an idealistic view of relationships, which is, by and large, unfulfilled in real life, tending to create conflicts in adulthood. This results in social insecurity and a life of inner turbulence. In the progressed horoscope, when Venus conjoins the Sun, the trend changes and one is blessed with a stable relationship which brings about fulfillment. The concept of “Secondary Progression” takes into account the “day for a year” method meaning one day is symbolic of one year. Let us assume Mercury is supposed to turn direct in 20 days. On that day when a person is born, Mercury turns direct in the progressed horoscope in the 20th year of the native and results are immediately seen pertaining to Mercury.
People with retrograde Jupiter in natal charts tend to become exponents of spirituality, not in the sense in which it is popularly understood but in an unconventional way. They are original in thoughts and interpretation but tend to mix up their own views with scriptures. People with retrograde Jupiter tend to create new religions or schools of thought, have artistic visions and lead humanity to a new level of realization. An example of Jupiter retrograde would be Bhagwan Rajneesh,who founded a cult based on his views, which were not without controversy. People with retrograde Jupiter tend to move out of their own families and their immediate inner circles, travel widely and establish their views on another culture or continent and become part of a global culture, either intellectually or through their travels.
The universe is always in a state of flux. The Old order changes, paving way for the New one. We have natural cycles, natural evolutions, change of seasons, change of rules, change of governments, change of cultures. As the adage goes, “The only thing permanent in this world is change”. The presence of a retrograde Saturn in the natal chart is a strong indicator of resistance to change and perpetration of status quo. Such people stay in the very same house in which they are born, refuse to change their jobs, stick on to their parental occupations, follow the same lifestyle day in and day out and one finds very little progress in them over a period of time. When it comes to culture or heritage, preservation is good but when it comes to technology or innovations, the sooner you let go off the past the better it is. This makes people with retrograde Saturn unsuitable for technology related jobs but they excel in subjects like History, Archaeology, Astrology and other occult sciences where the past holds the key to the treasure. They construct unnecessary walls and defensive barriers around them so that the “past” which they wholeheartedly protect is not challenged by evolutionary or natural cycles, which tend to break all barriers which arrest growth or progress. In such individuals there is an unconscious fear of losing grip and consequently tend to avoid unchartered territories, untried activities, new horizons and all forms of adventure. They tend to validate all their inner feelings existentially thereby leading a dogmatic life which drags on even after it has outlived its existence and value. They are very fussy about order and regularity that they regularly tend to overdo it. They are very poor at human resources management and frequently engage too many people to do simple jobs and often give rise to disguised unemployment. In intimate relationships, their tendency is to withdraw and go into a shell, leaving the partner confused or forced to go out of the relationship. Within the matrix of a marriage, they seek privacy and though outwardly appearing to be married, continue to live a life of asceticism.. However, since they are isolated from the system, they have great strength of character and can adhere to principles faithfully and their character does not fail them even in adverse situations or conditions. Example of retrograde Saturn is the chart of Marilyn Monroe.
The effects of retrogression are explained by Kalidasa in Uttarakalamrita (Chapter 1, Section2, Verse 6)
a) The effects of a retrograde planet are similar to that of a planet in exaltation,
b) If a planet is conjoined with a retrograde planet, then that planet gets “one-half of a rupa” as its strength (Rupa is measure of a planet’s strength)
c) A planet retrograde while in exaltation is equal to a debilitated planet.
d) A planet retrograde while in debilitation is equal to an exalted planet
e) A planet in conjunction with an exalted planet gets “one-half of a rupa”as its strength
f) A planet in conjunction with a debilitated planet gets “zero-benefits”
g) (i) A planet in conjunction with a malefic which also happens to be its friend gets “one half of a rupa.
(ii) So is the case of a planet which conjoins a benefic, which happens to be its enemy.
Though the above verse is self-explanatory, I would still like to offer my views, thereby providing food for thought. Retrogression is like a “trend reversal”. This is why, when an exalted planet gets retrograde, it gives the results of a debilitated planet, while a debilitated retrograde planet behaves like one in exaltation. A planet moving towards exaltation is an “Arohana” planet or one which is capable of giving maximum benefic results. Naturally an exalted planet which is moving towards its “peak exaltation point” is a full-fledged benefic. When such a planet retrogrades, it starts moving towards its debilitation point and becomes an “Avarohana” planet. Any planet, when retrograde is supposed to be strong. For this I will supply you the imagery of a catapult which is used to shoot objects. The more you pull the band, the farther the object is going to go. A planet in retrogression gains momentum but what is the momentum all about? The energy to move forward. Though, this may be illusory, from the relative stand point of Earth, a retrograde planet has great momentum to surge forward.
Some scholars opine that the view that an exalted planet while becoming retrograde loses its power of exaltation tantamount to saying that one planet cannot be endowed with two strengths simultaneously. Assuming that a chief minister is appointed as governor of another state-he has to choose one out of the two posts; but he cannot hold them simultaneously. Likewise, a retrograde planet has a status of its own; while in exaltation, it cannot claim a dual status, one as an exalted planet and another as a retrograde planet. The logical explanation which solves this puzzle is that a retrograde planet while in exaltation ceases to enjoy its exalted status and behaves like a retrograde planet. The, opinion of Kalidasa is an extreme one wherein he states that an exalted planet while retrograde loses both these positions and is reduced to the status of a debilitated planet. My surmise is that Kalidasa’s view partakes the doctrine of Uchchabanga wherein we say that two exalted planets while in opposition give room for cancellation of exaltation. In Lord Rama’s chart five planets are in exaltation, out of which Sun’s exaltation got cancelled resulting in Dasaratha’s demise and Mars’ exaltation got cancelled resulting in separation from his consort, Sita. Kalidasa’s hypothesis is that when an exalted planet is retrograde, the force of exaltation is cancelled which means the planet is as good as debilitated.
A horoscope gains strength when two retrograde planets are in conjunction, especially when they happen to own or occupy quadrants. It bestows name, fame and comforts. The horoscope of Barack Obama is a classic example of this dictum.
In general, Saturn or Mars retrograde is indicative of good results. A retrograde planet in transit yields good results if it aspects a retrograde planet in the natal chart. Similarly, good results are seen when the retrograde planet in transit passes over a retrograde planet in the natal chart. Basically these rules originate from an important principle namely, the innate potential of planets in natal chart gets activated while receiving an impetus from planets in transit.A retrograde planet in 6,8 or 12 is practically useless. It is also said that when Saturn is retrograde in the natal chart, it yields good strength even in Sade-Sathi provided it is retrograde in transit.Retrograde planets have high chestabala (directional force) and therefore make a significant impact, for good or for bad. There is an opinion amongst a school of astrologers, that retrograde planets tend to slow down or delay the onset of results.
Combustion does not affect a retrograde planet in the sense that just like a debilitated planet, it overcomes the weaknesses attributable to combustion by virtue of retrogression. The horoscope of Amitabh Bachchan explains this point.With these words we will look at the charts of a few celebrities to illustrate the rules we have discussed so far.
The chart of Annie Besant is an illustration of how retrograde planets can significantly impact the outcome of events in a natal chart. From birth till 1880, Besant had the major periods of Jupiter and Saturn-retrograde. From July 1904 till April 1924, she encountered the period of Venus- another retrograde planet. Though she lived till becoming an Octogenarian, more than 50 years in her life were influenced by the major periods of retrograde planets. Though married at the age of 20, her marriage lasted only for about 6 years, terminated by a legal separation in 1873. As discussed, retrograde Saturn is an irritant in married life. Retrograde Jupiter made Besant an original thinker and fighter for noble causes and at once she was a Theosophist, Women’s right activist, Writer, Orator, exponent of Occult Chemistry and supporter of Indian Home Rule. In the major period of retrograde Venus, she stumbled upon Jiddu Krishnamurthi, whom she prophesized would become a “World Teacher” and also joined hands with Bal GangadharTilak to launch the All India Home rule league, a vehicle to take India towards Independence. Thanks to the 3 retrograde planets in her chart, Besant lived an eventful life, though marred by lot of setbacks, typical of retrograde planets. Jupiter contributed to her spiritual success, while Venus and Saturn, despite giving philosophical leanings also led to failure in married life and setbacks in other areas of life.
How a retrograde Jupiter can influence the mind of a person is evidenced by the chart of Osho (Bhagwan Rajneesh), who started his career as a professor in Jabalpur University and later on became a world renowned celebrity largely influenced by the teachings of Sigmund Freud, Gurdieff, Nietzche, D H Lawrence and Wilhelm Reich. According to Osho, every Man is a Buddha, having the capacity of enlightenment; the mind can only think of joy but does not have the capacity to experience joy. So, meditation is the process to awaken and get rid of beliefs and expectations. Basically the ideology of Rajneesh has its roots in Advaita, the core philosophy of Hindu teachings. However, Osho’s norms of public behavior contradicted his status as an enlightened individual and therefore his ideology did not find widespread acceptance. After his passing away, an epitaph was written on his grave :“Osho-Never born, Never died, only visited this planet earth between Dec 11, 1931 – Jan 11,1990.
With a retrograde Saturn, marriage is not a bed of roses; rather it is a bed of thorns. Marilyn Monroe had three marriages, all of which ended in divorce. Marilyn Monroe had a retrograde Saturn as lord of 7 exalted in 4 and as propounded by Kalidasa, a retrograde planet while getting exalted behaves like a debilitated planet. James Dougherty was her first husband, subsequently, followed by Di Baggio and Arthur Miller in a supreme ironic procession of marriages, none of which gave an iota of happiness, either to her or her husbands. thereby evidencing the dictum of Bhartrhari in Sringara Satakam.“There are physicians and medicines to save a person from the bite of a cobra; but there are no physicians or drugs to save a person bitten by the glance of a damsel”(Ibid, verse 54). Marilyn Monroe passed away on August 5,1962,purportedly due to an overdose of amphetamines and barbiturates, thus ending a life ,sadly marked by isolation, separation, dejection and rejection.
A horoscope gains strength by the conjunction of two retrograde planets ,which is proved by the chart of Barack Obama, wherein we find Jupiter and Saturn, both retrograde in Lagna, not only producing a powerful yoga but also incorporating a powerful Maha Purusha Yoga, viz., Sasa yoga. That both Jupiter and Saturn are equally productive of Raja yoga is indicated by the fact that Jupiter in its dasa made him president of USA, while Saturn in its Dasa saw Obama getting re-elected for a second term.Another key point to be noted is that, this chart is an excellent illustration of Kalidasa’s dictum that a retrograde planet behaves like an exalted planet, while in debilitation. Finally, the union of Jupiter and Saturn is also the originator of a Neechabhanga Raja Yoga, while operating from the Ascendant.
What happens when a planet is exalted, retrograde and combusted all at the same time ? The answer could be found in the birth chart of Amitabh Bachchan, who has Mercury retrograde in Virgo in close proximity to the Sun. The Dasa of Mercury operated between 1990 and 2006. Though at the beginning of Mercury Amitabh hit a downward curve, the benevolence of retrograde Mercury got established, reflected in his comeback in tinsel career from 1996 onwards and his performance as a host in KBC (Kaun Banega Crorepati), won him national acclaim besides pecuniary benefits. Two points are clearly explained through Amitabh Bachchan’s Chart.
1. A combusted planet, still yields good results when retrograde.
2. Retrogression, may interfere with exaltation but does not cancel all its good effects. The view taken by Kalidasa is an extreme view which requires moderation.
Retrograde planets, in general, turn the clock back on progression of events. “Expect the Unexpected” – is the adage that rules over retrograde planets. In this universe we tend to reinvent ourselves, relive the past, repeat life events, revisit our experiences and finally reincarnate,though absence of reincarnation is the monopoly of enlightened souls. Retrograde planets force us to reclaim events lying in the ocean beds of our subconscious minds, bring them to surface,heal the wounds and act as powerful engines pushing us in the direction of self realisation. This then, seems to be the function of retrograde planets. Jars of Karma, remain hidden within us and their lids are opened by the influences of retrograde planets. Retrograde planets are Astrological Wild Cards. Unless the impulse of negative Karma is negated or annihilated, retrograde planets would continue to haunt us with shock treatment,whenever they happen to operate. Karma annihilated is Karma erased for which we must remain eternally indebted to the retrograde planets for taking us, one more step, beyond the karmic barrier, in the eternal quest for self-realization.