Temperament Assessment: Which is the Right Way?

July 10, 2006 by  

Phlegmatic temperament - cold and moist.  Fishmonger's shop.

In light of Thomas’s quiz (see previous post), and my post on melancholy, the question came up: which is the right method for assessing temperament, anyway? Every traditional astrology has his or her pet method, none of which work 100% of the time. With people who are strongly tilted toward one or two temperaments, all of the methods will arrive at very similar if not identical conclusions. With individuals who are more balanced, and have only a slightly predominating humor or two, we will see a greater discrepancy with using various techniques.

Let us take the example of Paul Newman. I got interested in Newman’s horoscope while writing “Spiritual Direction in the Horoscope,” an article that will be published in the next issue of the Dutch traditional magazine Anima Astrologiae. Newman has a pretty balanced temperament, so the results will vary depending on the method we use.

Here is Newman’s horoscope:

Paul Newman's Horoscope - Temperament in the Horoscope

Here is the result we get if we use Dorian Greenbaum’s method (discussed in her book on temperament) which she has developed by her study of various traditional sources (all of whom, in turn, had their own methods!):

  • Ascendant sign element – Capricorn – Melancholic (2 points)
  • Ascendant ruler intrinsic quality – Saturn – Melancholic (1 point)
  • Ascendant almuten (defined as planet with most essential dignities in a given degree) intrinsic quality – Mars and Saturn are tied, so Choleric and Melancholic (1 point each) – we’ll pay attention to these if there is need for a tiebreaker.
  • Moon sign element – Pisces – Phlegmatic (2 points)
  • Moon ruler by sign – Jupiter in Capricorn – Melancholic (1 point)
  • Moon phase (using Lilly’s method here) – 1st Quarter – Sanguine (1 point)
  • Season of birth – Winter – Phlegmatic (2 points)

The grand total is: Melancholic (4.5), Choleric (.5), Phlegmatic (4), Sanguine (1 point). So according to Greenbaum’s method, we have a melancholic/phlegmatic, a hard-working, practical type with an emotional, self-protective tendency. This analysis gives us a very cold temperament, with some difficulty getting the heat going, both physically and emotionally.

Let’s use a different method to compare and contrast. John Frawley, in his Real Astrology Applied, goes through a temperamental analysis based closely on William Lilly’s method. Using the Frawley/Lilly method, Newman’s temperament would look something like this:

  • Ascending sign: Capricorn – Cold – Dry – (a slightly melancholic Ascendant)
    • Aspected by Mercury in Capricorn, oriental, Hot (Capricorn gives some Dry)
    • Aspected by Venus in Capricorn, oriental (slightly Hot and Moist)
    • Aspected by Saturn in Scorpio, oriental (and on the MC) (very Cold and Moist)
  • Lord of the Ascendant: Saturn in Scorpio, oriental: Cold – and Moist +
    • Aspected by Mercury in Capricorn, oriental (Hot and somewhat Dry)
    • Aspected by Venus in Capricorn, oriental (slightly Hot and Moist)
  • The Sun in a Winter Sign – Cold and Moist
  • The Moon in Pisces in 1st Quarter – Hot – and Moist +
  • The Lord of the Geniture – Mars in Aries, occidental – Hot (due to placement in Aries) and Dry + . Mars is the LoG, as it is the only strongly essentially dignified planet in the chart.

This gives us Cold-, Cold-, Cold, Hot-, Hot, Dry-, Dry+, Moist+, Moist, Moist+. Using Frawley’s method of combining the most frequent elements, we see that Newman is pretty well balanced, and gives us a slightly predominantly phlegmatic (cold and moist) temperament. So we still get a cold temperament, but one that is only a little cold, whereas Greenbaum’s method gives us a downright glacial temperament. We don’t know Paul Newman well enough to decide which is correct, but our guess is that the latter method describes him better. He is known for taking a relaxed approach to his career, and even his hugely successful charity food line, Newman’s Own ™, happened sort of by accident, as he tells it.

This is not to say that Greenbaum’s method is wrong – any solid method will succeed 85 or 90% of the time. However, nothing in our sublunary sphere is 100%, and astrology, or rather the astrologer, is the same. This is the point of traditional astrology – because we astrologers tend toward imperfection, we seek out methods that have passed to us from higher, more lasting spheres than our own.

To have your temperament analyzed with suggestions on how to better balance it, consider a professional astrological consultation with Nina Gryphon.