According to Dane Rudhyar, “The Eastern Angle (left side of the chart) is called the Ascendant because it represents the sunrise point; it is the degree of the zodiac which rises in the East as a newborn takes his first breath. Its opposite is the Descendant, or sunset point….Because we are dealing here with a physical and organic factor, the Ascendant is understood to be the symbol of the body, or perhaps more accurately, of the individual rhythm of the physical organism. For Theosophist Alan Leo — the birth of a body was merely one of many episodes in the cyclic development of a spiritual Self (or “individuality”) which time after time incarnates into such material earthly organisms. Thus the Ascendant was said to refer only to the “suit of clothes” worn by the spiritual Self during one of its incarnations.” Due to this, the angle is elevated to the rank of being an extremely important degree on the horoscope. So much so, that it falls into the same league as the Sun and Moon. The Sun, Moon, and Ascendant are generally referred to by astrologers as the Big Three, and are thought to rule our general fortunes in life. Despite it holding significant importance, when astrology students want to study this angle, it is usually found that, while plenty of astrological material can be found on the Sun and Moon; the Ascendant would most likely only earn a few sentences at best. The Astrologer Howard Sasportas once commented that it took him about 15 years to begin to grasp the significance of the Ascendant. He writes that we must learn to use the traits of our ascending sign so that we can carve a path towards expressing our solar qualities. The Ascendant is described as holding the key to unlocking a greater destiny described by the Sun in our horoscope. In Dane Rudhyar’s The Three Faces of Your Horoscope (brilliant article), it explains in more depth the trinity of the birth chart, and specifically emphasizing how there always seems to be a magic triad throughout life.
The Ascendant has been treated superficially in the past, suggesting it only represents our apparent image. Older astrological textbooks, in particular, would refer to this part of the horoscope when interpreting the health, vitality, and physicality of an individual. The Ascendant is thought to be an unformed part of the personality, but it is also, conversely, a vital facet of the horoscope – one would stand naked in society without a mask. Most importantly, integrating those qualities symbolized on the Asc over a lifetime would provide the essential glue of the character, bringing everything together. The more consciousness we bring to the Ascendant, as we further embody its archetypal themes, those values become an important part of our own identity.
Modern astrologers have completely reversed direction and now place greater emphasis on the spiritual meaning of the Ascendant. It is, thus, a marker of the reason why one incarnates and where the soul penetrates into reality. It is also given the suggestiveness of being a ‘new personality’ and this fresh awareness of being carries within it the energy of sunrise, birth, and coming into being.
To him also the Ascendant, as the symbol of dawn and sunrise, will have a special meaning; he may think of it as the way in which spiritual-solar illumination reaches a particular earth-born human being…The Ascendant may symbolize for them the first moment of human existence; and, as astrology always primarily deals with “the beginning of things” and the starting point of cycles, they may feel that this astrological factor contains the key to the whole of life development of the individual — somewhat as the germinating seed contains in potentiality the entire form of the mature plant.
The Ascendant take us into some interesting terrains, from the most mundane interpretation of the physical carcass and energetic force to there being a deeply numinous reason behind the soul’s ascension onto this earth plane.