Most people who have a cursory knowledge of astrology think of exaltation as the best position for a planet and debilitation as the worst. From this starting point, it would seem logical to figure that a horoscope with exalted planets is “better” than one with debilitated planets.
This isn’t necessarily accurate and, in fact, debilitated planets may do quite well in certain ways. For example, since the Sun is traditionally a planet of leadership, self-esteem and charisma, when debilitated in Libra it can’t function in its natural manner as easily and, thus, is likely to become more focused on fairness and working well with others – the “debilitation” isn’t a handicap as much as it is an adjustment away from the planet’s archetypal state of functioning.
However, even if the assumption that exaltation is the most desirable position for a planet and debilitation is the least desirable is taken as a rough starting point, meaningful analysis of these placements involves an important – and often forgotten – factor.
Exaltation points and debilitation points are exactly opposite one another in the zodiac and every planet aspects the position opposite itself. This means if, for example, Venus is in Virgo (its debilitation sign) in the 4th house of a horoscope, then Venus aspects its exaltation sign (Pisces) in the 10th house. Such a person might flourish in a Venusian career, since the 10th house, which represents career and status, receives Venus’s aspect onto its sign of exaltation. In fact, this example comes from the chart of a professional artist I know.
Remembering to look at the aspects from exalted or debilitated planets and not just the planets themselves is an easy way to add more specificity and depth to chart analysis. The symmetry involved with this concept also extends to placements other than exaltation and debilitation. Planets in their own signs are opposite their “detriment” (i.e. one step up from debilitation) and vice versa, while a planet’s “friendly” signs are opposite “enemy” signs and its neutral signs are opposite other neutral signs.
One of the great lessons of Eastern spiritual traditions is the concept of perpetual balance in the universe. To give a common example, this can be visually represented by the yin-yang symbol, which shows us that there is no light without darkness and no darkness without light.
In this same manner, exaltation and debilitation naturally incorporate each other’s energy at the most basic level.