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  EDITOR'S CHOICE ARTICLES Feb 1999: Special Scorpio Issue  

The Challenge of Scorpio: Anger, Power and Transformation
by Ray Grasse and Linda Puffer

"Still Waters Run Deep"

Within the twelve signs of the zodiac, some signs have been considered more desirable than others and too often Scorpio has borne the brunt of some of the most negative associations. One reason for this might be that many of the realities within Scorpio's domain are associated with deep-seated, powerful psychic energies - so powerful, in fact, that the potential for destructive expression is equal to that of its more constructive expressions. Said another way, the same intensity that redeems Scorpio can just as often be its undoing.

Twentieth-century astrology has helped to re-vision our attitudes toward the signs and their representative energies. It is particularly helpful to view these energies in terms of polarities that exist not only within our psyches but as universal principles operating at all times and in all manners of manifestation. Every sign has its positive and negative aspects, all dependent on whether one expresses those energies with conscious awareness. Unconscious expression leaves room for more negative consequences. If we accept that the psyche of every individual contains all the signs and their corresponding polarities, we quickly realize that, regardless of whether we have a planet overtly "marking the spot" for us, everyone has Scorpionic energy. That is, we all must come to terms with the challenges inherent in Scorpio, particularly as expressed through anger and its shadow, resentment.

Scorpio within the Chakra System
(click here to see table)

One way to better understand the varied expressions of Scorpio is through a consideration of the esoteric nature of Scorpio suggested by the yogic philosophy of the chakras. (A more detailed introduction to this subject was presented in Ray Grasse's article: "Astrology and the Chakras: Toward a Sacred Psychology of the Horoscope," TMA, April 1996.) The chakras have sometimes been described as an archetypal hierarchy of psycho-spiritual potentials, ranging from the more earthy concerns of the root chakra at the base of the spine to the more spiritualized concerns of the energy centers within the head (see diagram below). A vital clue to understanding the chakras is the insight that each chakra has three distinct modes of expression: to the one side, masculine (externalized); to the other side, feminine (internalized); and within the center of each chakra, neutral (balanced). In the diagram, the neutral mode is indicated by the planet in the center, while the masculine and feminine states are indicated by the zodiacal signs on either side of each central channel.

The third chakra within this symbolic ladder is called, in the Sanskrit, Manipura, and is associated with the element of fire and the planet Mars. The struggles of will, forcefulness, and power are experienced most intensely at this level. This chakra represents the level of the "inner warrior," who must achieve balance of the fiery energies to truly experience spiritual mastery of the psyche's powers. This level also relates to the development of ego awareness, and thus it is here that we clarify personal boundaries and forge our own unique definition of self versus other. (Note that within the houses of the horoscope, it is the Aries house, the Ascendant, that we most closely associate with the defined ego-self.) This chakra has its defensive side as well, for with the awakening sense of me comes the fear of other - and the consequent realization that me can be destroyed. With eros comes thanatos: with life comes the awareness of death. Martian energy is therefore crucial, both for the awakening of awareness and the activation of self-protection through assertiveness, i.e., establishing walls or boundaries. This would also include the excessive aggressiveness associated with unhealthy territoriality.

Feminine Fire/Masculine Fire

The deeper significance of both Scorpio and Aries is thus closely linked to the psychological meaning of the third chakra and the fiery energies of awakened ego-consciousness that accompany this level. Off to one side of this chakra is Aries, its externalization of Martian energy represented by assertiveness, aggression, and drive, as well as more explosive, direct anger. It is a visible kind of energy that is projected outward in a manner that might be symbolized by a spear or sword.

On the other side of this chakra is Scorpio, representing a more internalized expression of the Mars energy. Whereas the Aries side concerns the directing of force outward into the world, the Scorpio side reflects a more compressed, concentric channeling of energies that can be envisioned as the spiraling power of a whirlpool or vortex pulling energy inward. For some esotericists, the subtle contrast between the Arian and Scorpionic expression of Martian energy is aptly symbolized by the male and female genitalia: the male genitalia thrusting outward and the female energy drawing inward. For this reason, Scorpio may be thought of as the "feminine Mars," in contrast to the more "masculine Mars" symbolized by Aries.

Of these two, Scorpio's power is at least equal to what is expressed outwardly by Aries, but with compression it may become even more forceful. One need only think of the way that pressing down on a metallic spring increases its power to understand how dynamic the forces of compression truly are. Indeed, the coiled symbol astrologers use to depict Scorpio itself calls to mind something of this compressive, spring-like process. It is this very aspect of Scorpio, as the internally compressed and directed Mars force, that makes it so powerful and, for many, so potentially problematic.

At its most constructive, Scorpio possesses the discipline and investigative single-mindedness to explore the inner planes and manipulate the inner forces that it understands so well. Esoterically, Scorpio is the zodiacal principle associated with the magical will (especially when Leo accompanies Scorpio in the horoscope). It is the energy of mystics, occultism, and magic. Those with strong Scorpios have an incredible will and can move mountains when they put their mind - or, more precisely, emotions - to the task. In some older astrology texts one finds the seemingly odd notion that among the various symbols associated with Scorpio in ancient times was the camel. This was because of its ability to travel across the deserts (the desert of life) for long stretches of time sustained solely by the water contained within it - a pithy illustration of the principle of "fixed water" and the great tenacity and drive that accompany Scorpio's ability to contain emotional energy.

Scorpio's capacity for penetrating beneath surface appearances is what gives it the detective-like ability to investigate any mystery, unlock any truth. Leaving no stone unturned, Scorpionic probing can pierce to the heart of any matter and unveil that which has been concealed - whether this be a metaphysical enigma, a buried archeological treasure, or a politician's dirty laundry!

At its most destructive, however, this same compressed Martian energy can turn back on itself in a destructive way. Thus we have the symbol of the scorpion stinging itself with its own tail, making it the only zodiacal animal that can actually kill itself. Here, the Martian force festers, becomes infected, and picks at its own wounds so compulsively that they never heal.(1) Nor is it simply anger that becomes problematic with the Scorpionic process; any emotion or thought, when compressed or repressed, assumes added power at a subterranean level that can sooner or later erupt into consciousness. Those of us who have played the game of trying not to think of something - be it a white elephant, a monkey, or any other nonsensical item - know only too well the power of repression and compression. The mere fact of holding in too much - whether it be childhood-based traumas, sexual energy, or any carefully concealed fact about one's life- can take a serious toll on one's mental or physical well-being. As one popular saying expresses it: "You are only as healthy as the secrets you keep."

This is the great tightrope of Scorpio: if one works with these powerful energies in a healthy way, they can be utilized to bring about personal transformation and rebirth, or confer remarkable powers of healing. Conversely, if one is unable to use them in a healthy and positive way, they can be most destructive, not only to themselves but to everyone around them. Scorpios and Scorpionic energy can be either distorted, manifesting as the scorpion, or spiritualized to become the eagle, where those potentially lethal energies are utilized in a devotional manner toward self-actualization and the appropriate expression of great power.

Resentment - the Scorpion's Poisonous Sting

At their most turbulent, both Aries and Scorpio relate to the experience of anger, but in precisely opposite ways. Take sex, for example. Whereas Aries charges outward like the ram to conquer the object of its desire, Scorpio's approach is a more feminine and inwardly directed one, seductively alluring the other toward it as if using (as one Scorpio friend of ours imaginatively put it) a "tractor beam." This recalls the old romantic saw: "He chased her and chased her - until she finally caught him!" The "he" here is the proverbial Aries, thrusting forward, while the "she" is akin to the seductive Scorpio, drawing the other toward it in its wake.

Yet, of all the emotions they deal with, it is the struggle with anger that most often characterizes Scorpios' own accounts of their recurring life challenges. One way of better understanding this problem is to consider the idea that every sign has its own addictions or "drug of choice," and that spiritual growth has much to do with controlling, transmuting, or entirely breaking with those particular patterns of behavior (addictions or compulsions) and learning to master the energies of that sign. For example, the "addiction" of heavily Geminian charts will tend to be ideas, or compulsive communication; for Taurus, material security; for Capricorn, status or over-achievement; and so on as we go through each sign and come up with an example to fit this model.

For Scorpio it can be argued that the drug of choice is resentment, the more destructive side of anger that has been repressed. Resentment feeds on itself in much the same way that heroin addicts must feed their addiction. We've all known those individuals who repeatedly put themselves in situations they can feel angry about, e.g., work or romance, because of the perverse (irrational and likely unconscious) "pleasure" they then derive from bathing in the toxic juices of resentment that they've created for their "fix." While one can argue that anger has its constructive side, resentment is much more insidious and therefore more damaging; one would be hard-pressed to describe any rationale for resentment being "good" - ever. The English poet William Blake expressed something of this problem in his poem, "A Poison Tree":(2)

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

To be sure, not all Scorpios indulge in this behavior, any more than all Geminis gossip or all Aries engage in fistfights! Yet such extreme examples can sometimes serve as useful reminders of the subtler challenges facing those who encounter these energies. In fact, because we each contain all the signs and planets within us, we are all subject to the challenges - and strengths - of Scorpio. Depending on where Scorpionic energy is tucked into our charts/psyches, we all will deal with this issue in varying degrees of intensity or extremity, depending upon how well-aspected or afflicted Mars and Pluto are, and how obscure or obvious the house and sign placements are.

A case in point concerns one of this article's authors, who has Scorpio on the cusp of the 12th house, with no planets in that sign. During the writing of this article the author realized that a concurrent Pluto square to a stellium of personal planets was forcing an unexpected confrontation with long-buried anger and resentment hitherto considered resolved or even non-existent. The synchronicity of this could not have been more timely nor less profound, and the author has definitely begun to work with Scorpio from a new (and humbled) perspective.

Transforming Anger and Resentment

How, then, does one begin to lift the energies to their highest potentials, to transform the scorpion into the eagle? Perhaps the most fundamental psychological step involves a deeper understanding of what truly lies behind the more defensive manifestations of this energy. At their most irrational, both Aries and Scorpio center around the psychological factors of insecurity and fear. One fears or resents those who awaken one's own insecurities. As pointed out, with the awakening of self-awareness at the third chakra also comes vulnerability and defensiveness. Anger is a normal reaction when one's boundaries have been transgressed. What happens with that anger - how it is expressed and ultimately processed - leads to our consideration of three possible ways to work with the more troublesome energies of Scorpio.

The first of these methods is that of forgiveness. If resentment represents Scorpio's primary Achilles' Heel, then the key lesson of this sign may be about letting go, of loosening the grip of long-nurtured hurts on one's soul. Forgiveness can mean many different things, and for most of us it may very well be an unexamined concept first instilled through religious tenets or strictly defined by our families and cultures of origin. On an occult level, however, forgiveness is often described as the powerful neutralizing of negative force fields within the chakric system, a literal clearing away of parasitical thought forms that weigh on the subtle body like barnacles on the hull of a ship. With this in mind, it is useful to consider several different ways of working with forgiveness, although these are not the only ways.

First, forgiveness can be a way to deal with anger through visualizations and guided imagery that help us to let go of the heaviness that comes with anger held onto far past the point of its "shelf life." In The Egyptian Book of the Dead, there is the moment when the soul reaches the underworld and must face the judgment of Thoth who determines what its final disposition will be in the afterlife. This determination is made by weighing the heart against a feather on a balancing scale. If the heart is "too heavy" the soul cannot proceed; whatever is being held onto within that heart is an impediment to any further evolution of that soul. If the heart is lighter than the feather, it is a heart without sin and worthy of redemption. In terms of one's own experience, one might reflect on all those individuals who have ever been a source of resentment, or even hatred, throughout one's life. Then one might spend time in meditation pouring forgiveness and compassion toward each of these personalities until one feels the emotional "charge" associated with each of these figures gradually lessen in intensity. (An especially helpful forgiveness exercise can be found in Stephen Levine's excellent book, Guided Meditations and Visualizations.) (3)

Yet some would argue that forgiveness, in and of itself, may not necessarily uproot the source of deep-seated angers or resentments. This brings us to the second of our methods for transforming the shadow energies of Scorpio. This approach centers around the view that transformation truly comes about only as a result of a deeper experiential understanding, or "unlocking," of those turbulent emotions at their energetic roots. The intent is to investigate the emotional problem in an honest and open manner, probing into the true source of the feelings underlying the psychological states. In so doing, we defuse their obsessive or addictive qualities. This is not about analyzing an emotion. Rather, one allows oneself to truly experience the "felt" sense of one's anger and resentment at their core while remaining the conscious witness. Though this process can be undertaken with the guidance of an experienced therapist, it is also possible to engage in this investigation by oneself. Perhaps the most powerful method along this line is the widely-acclaimed "focusing" technique pioneered by Eugene Gendlin, which distills many of the most effective elements of classic therapeutic methods into a simple, step-by-step approach. (For those interested in learning more about this uncanny therapeutic approach, the best book is still Gendlin's own work on the subject, which is entitled, appropriately enough, Focusing.) (4)

A third approach for dealing with the anger and resentment of Scorpio is that of "transmutation." Here, the emphasis shifts to taking the essential energies of the Scorpio experience and channeling them into alternative and more constructive modes of expression. On a more mundane level, for instance, some astrologers find it helpful to suggest to clients with an abundance of Scorpio energies (natally or by transit) the usefulness of finding outlets for such energies through some form of vigorous exercise, lest those energies bottle up and pose greater problems. On a more mystical level, some have used rituals or visualizations for transmuting these same energies into higher, more spiritualized states of awareness.

A case in point: One young Scorpio of our acquaintance described a mini-enlightenment he once had during a nearly overwhelming bout of resentment. Having lain in bed for hours one night, seething over a spiteful comment directed at him by his girlfriend, he finally decided to try using a powerful meditative visualization learned while studying Tibetan Buddhism the previous year. In essence, this involved channeling his intense feelings into a focused meditation on a particular "wrathful" deity, which served to redirect those feelings without suppressing them. After several minutes he suddenly found himself awakening to a profound realization of the inherent sacredness and luminosity of all phenomena - even those very angry emotions he was beset by. In other words, the intensity of his troubling emotions provided the very fuel necessary to reach "escape velocity" into a more transcendental perspective on his condition. Needless to say, techniques of this sort are best undertaken under the supervision of an experienced meditation instructor, rather than strictly on one's own.

Ultimately, the core of any effort to harmonize the powerful energies of Scorpio lies in the compassionate acceptance of one's own emotional nature. From a healing perspective, forgiveness is about integration. We cannot integrate what remains unconscious. Furthermore, when there is polarization, we need to find a way to hold both positives and negatives consciously until we recognize what it is we need to integrate in order to heal, to become whole. When we can bring conscious awareness to what is being obscured or distorted by anger, we contact the essential authentic self's feelings of fear, hurt, and vulnerability that have previously not been acknowledged. With this acknowledgment - witnessing - arises the possibility of releasing those feelings, of transforming anger and resentment.

The enlightenment and self-growth that are revealed when one seeks to generate self-acceptance rather than self-rejection are some of the most profoundly soul-making gifts of Scorpio. When we reject another, we are rejecting our own self. The fruits of Scorpio grow from the deepest sources rooted in the psyche. What we nurture those fruits upon, be it unexpressed bitterness and secret resentment, or sincere openness and compassion for ourselves and others, determines the way in which we meet the challenge of Scorpio to not succumb to the fruit of the poison tree.

References and Notes

1. Occasionally one sees instances where this process of Scorpionic "tailspinning" plummets the individual so deeply that it gives rise to its exact opposite, with what might be called the "Phoenix effect." Here, the individual hits rock bottom only to rebound from the ashes totally transformed, in a way that other signs may not experience as a result of being more even-keeled in temperament. Despite its admitted efficacy, most of us would no doubt opt for more judicious and incremental methods of personal growth.

2. William Blake, Blake: Complete Writings, edited by Geoffrey Keynes, London, England: Oxford University Press, 1966, 1969, p. 218.

3. Stephen Levine, Guided Meditations, Explorations and Healings, Anchor Pub., 1991 (ISBN 0385417373).

4. Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing, New York: Bantam Books Inc., 1981. See also this author's more recent book on the same subject (it may be a revised edition): Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential, New York: Guilford Publications, 1996.

© 1999 Ray Grasse and Linda Puffer - all rights reserved

Ray Grasse is Associate Editor of TMA and author of The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of Our Lives. He is currently completing a book on the symbolism and dynamics of the Aquarian Age. He has been a practicing astrologer for 25 years and can be contacted at (321) 783-2757.

Linda Puffer is a poet and a professional massage therapist particularly interested in the mind-body connections between emotions and the transformative healing powers of conscious awareness. She may be contacted by writing TMA.


© 2007 The Mountain Astrologer. All rights reserved.