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Dorian  Gieseler Greenbaum
Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum

What is Temperament?
Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
The Choleric Temperament
Example Chart: George W. Bush
Notes & References
About the Author

Excerpts from Temperament: Astrology's Forgotten Key, by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum

Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum's recent publication, Temperament: Astrology's Forgotten Key, has been the recipient of very favourable reviews. As well as presenting a good introduction to the history of the technique, Dorian presents her own method for establishing the correct temperament type. She has kindly allowed Skyscript to publish a selection of extracts from her text which conclude with a review of the Choleric temperament exemplified through the birth chart of George Bush. Of course, these extracts can only offer a taster of what is covered in the complete book, which is available from all good astrology book stores and can be purchased online from the website of the publisher: The Wessex Astrologer.


It is human nature to want to put things into categories, whether they be as broad as animal, vegetable and mineral or as narrow as Delicious versus Macintosh apples. We are no different in our urge to categorize human beings in every way possible. Jung says it is because we want to "bring order into the chaos"[1] and he may very well be right. We have been classifying humans physically, mentally and psychologically for thousands of years. One kind of classification, temperament, has been used by scientists, doctors, philosophers and astrologers for over 2000 years. What is the relationship between temperament and astrology? What is temperament, and how did the theories about it evolve? What is the history of temperament in western civilization? How has it been used in modern times? How can we use it to better understand ourselves today? All these questions will be explored in the following pages.

The first part of this book will be devoted to a definition of temperament, discussion of the four qualities and the elements, and a look at the theory and history of temperament in the west. The second part will describe a study I did correlating Rudolf Steiner's theories of temperament in Waldorf education to the astrological birthchart. The third part will provide some ideas for using temperament in modern astrological practice, along with examples. All three parts will be useful in giving a complete picture of the nature of the relationship between temperament and astrology.

What is Temperament? (pp.1-2)

It might be easier to define temperament by what it is not. In the first place, it is not the same as personality, although personality can incorporate parts of someone's temperament in its expression. Personality is shaped by both internal and external factors, whereas temperament is entirely innate. Temperament is not character, though in some ways the two concepts have a commonality. Character can refer to the distinctive features or qualities that distinguish one form from another, and so is innate like temperament; but it also refers, at least in modern English connotation, to the moral nature of a person. The original Greek meaning of the word charakter is "stamp", as in something used to make an impression in wax or metal. So character is an impression on the person which, in that connotation, implies something from without (parental or societal) rather than within.

Temperament, by contrast, is inherent. We are born with our temperaments, and while there may be overlays of one temperamental style or another during our lives, what we get is what we keep. A card-carrying phlegmatic does not suddenly become a raging choleric. Any mother of more than one child can see temperamental differences in her offspring almost from the moment of birth, qualities which only become more pronounced as her children age. Such differences have even been the subject of books on child development.[2] So temperament really has to do with a person's nature or disposition. As a primary phlegmatic, I can admire the innate social skills of my daughter the sanguine. I might acquire some of those social skills through my interactions with the outside world, but I have to learn them; they are not a part of my nature. Our inborn temperament is also what we fall back on when faced with a new situation: are we the take-charge, choleric type who rushes in to meet every new experience with gusto? Or the quiet melancholic, who hangs back and analyzes and would rather die than be the life of the party? Are we sanguine, looking to make new friends and social contacts, or phlegmatic and just want to be left alone?

That I can even use these words today and know that many people will know what I mean is a testimony to the enduring ideas behind temperament theory. Even though we now tend to think of choleric as angry, melancholic as depressed, sanguine as happy-go-lucky and phlegmatic as lethargic, these words are still very much in our vocabulary.

If we go back into the past, we can discover the origins behind our modern use of these temperamental words. The word temperament comes from the Latin temperamentum, which means "mixture." But a mixture of what? A "temperament," according to the Greeks who evolved the theory, is a mixture of qualities that combine to form elements in physics and humors in medicine. There are four qualities: hot, cold, wet and dry. There are also four elements: fire, earth, air and water; and four humors - choler or yellow bile, melancholer or black bile, blood and phlegm. The Greeks looked for a state of equilibrium or balance among these four elements and humors: such a person was said to be well-mixed, or well-tempered. (Such a phrase even comes into modern English when we speak of someone with a "good temper." ) It was important to know a person's temperament so that imbalances could be treated.

The ideas about temperament evolved from ideas about the nature of the world, and the original building blocks of the world. The Greek philosophers and physicists (the word "nature" is phusis, in Greek) of the second half of the first millennium BCE developed the theories out of which temperament arose, using the qualities and the elements. It will be useful now to take a look at what the qualities and elements are, what they represent and how they act.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Developing a Useful Temperament Assessment Formula (pp.74-5)

As we have seen in our journey through the history of temperament, many astrologers developed complex methods for discovering it from the birthchart. Some of these methods were seen in the Waldorf Study to be more successful than others, but they still involved many steps and coordination of dozens of factors. Even then, the formula did not always 'work.' Probably the most well-known example of this is illustrated in Christian Astrology. On pages 532-534 (Chapter 106), Lilly gives specific instructions for finding the temperament; yet immediately after doing so, he hedges his bets:

"You must deale warily in the collection of the testimonies of the four Humours, of Heat, Humedity, Cold and Drinesse…" [3]

The reason for the hedge becomes clear when we see Lilly's "practicall" example on page 742 - by his formula, the man is sanguine/choleric [4] - yet Lilly adds:

"I cannot perceive any superabundance in any of the four Humours;[5] so much as may be discerned in the Native is, that he is Sanguine, Melancholly Sanguine, by reason Sun, Mercury, Venus and Moon are in ayëry Signes. Melancholy, because Saturn Lord of the ascendant is naturally so, and is also posited in a Signe concurring with his own naturall disposition." [6]

Then, on page 746, he continues his description with "Our Native absolutely is a melancholy person (per se) grave, austere, of a firm resolution, solitary, laborious, taciturne, nothing loquacious &c." So Lilly, in fact, knows that the man is a primary melancholic, secondary sanguine, but his method for determining temperament does not pick it up; so he is forced to rationalize his direct observations of the man by emphasizing the inner planets in air signs, and the sign of the Ascendant and its ruler, Saturn, being in a cold and dry sign, Taurus.

If even the great William Lilly crashes on the rocks of temperament assessment, is there any hope for us? I must answer (like a true phlegmatic) with a cautious "yes." We have seen in the Waldorf Study that certain factors showed promise in calculating a temperament in accord with the teacher's assessment. In particular, the ASC sign, Moon sign and season of birth often indicated a correct primary or secondary temperament. I have now worked with this material for three years, looking at example charts and trying to come up with a formula that gives fairly consistent good results. (My colleague Garry Phillipson has been of invaluable help in working on this problem with me. I could not have arrived at this stage in my research without his helpful comments and suggestions.)

The following sections cover the usual criteria for temperament analysis. I will discuss each of them in turn, highlighting which ones I think might be more useful in developing a streamlined formula for temperament assessment, and why I believe they are philosophically or theoretically valid as components of such a formula. Choosing only a specific set of factors does not mean that I think the others should be discarded permanently - but the specific ones I have chosen do appear to work reasonably well for giving a general fundamental temperament assessment, which can then be the foundation of more intensive analyses in terms of manners or personality, aspirations, and all the other things that make astrology such a rich discipline for mining human potential and actuality.

The Choleric Temperament (pp. 91-94)

Key Words: will, inexhaustible, optimistic, aggressive, assertive, take-charge, impatient, hates details
Favorite Book: Machiavelli, The Prince
Favorite Songs: "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"
"I Can Do Anything (Better than You Can)"
Favorite Music: Wagner, "Ride of the Valkyries"

  • Demands much and gives much
  • Easy to see the world as black & white, as absolutes
  • Puts best foot forward, and can't understand those who don't
  • If I'm not noticed, I'm nothing
  • Activity, more activity - hard to sit still
  • Truly can't understand that their arrogant behavior might be off-putting
  • Believes in hierarchy, with them at the top
  • My opinion is the only one that matters
  • President of the Student Council
  • Noblesse oblige
  • Happiest when running a project
  • Can-do attitude
  • Quick on the uptake
  • High expectations
  • Life is a series of challenges to be overcome - triumphantly!
  • Q: Why did you climb the mountain? A: Because it's there

Cholerics get along with: sanguines (who say: happy to help with your project; it sounds like fun!)
phlegmatics (easily dominated)
Cholerics can't stand: other cholerics (competition!)
melancholics (too negative)

Example Chart: George W. Bush

George Bush

Points assigned S C M P
Birth Season (2) - 2 - -
Asc Sign (2) - 2 - -
Asc Ruler (1) - 1 - -
Asc Almuten (1) - 1 - -
Moon Sign (2) 2 - - -
Moon Phase (1) - 1 - -
Sign of Moon Ruler (1) - 1 - -
Totals: 2 8 0 0

It's no surprise that George W. Bush has a choleric temperament. In fact, he could be the poster boy for cholerics. Born to a life of privilege, he coasted in his youth (perhaps the influence of his sanguine Libra Moon), but his true choleric colors blazed forth when he became governor of Texas. With his lack of attention to details, and with a noblesse oblige that is more like ignorance of obligation, Bush was surprised to discover in 1999 that Texas was near the top in the Agriculture Department's annual statistics on hunger. When he ran for President in 2000, he was perhaps still seen as an amiable drifter whose 'compassionate conservatism' would improve the country; his sanguine Moon masked the choleric's burning ambition and steadfastness of purpose. After 9/11, of course, Americans were hoping for a strong leader, which Bush seemed to be, and his responses in the early days after the attack seemed to be just what the country needed.

Yet the choleric temperament can be prone to excess. Bush's chart is excessively hot (in addition to the 8 points of choler he has, giving 8 points of hot, he also has more hot in the Libra Moon) and the extreme circumstances brought this heat to the fore. For cholerics especially, it is easy to see the world as black and white, and a can-do attitude combined with activity (without thinking necessarily about the consequences of that activity) is embraced as the solution to any problem. A willingness to fight for what he believes in coupled with a reluctance to change his positions with changing events has probably contributed to the less successful outcomes of his policies in Iraq.

What others would call faults, the choleric must ignore or trumpet as virtues: Bush's difficulty in putting an articulate sentence together is touted as being in touch with the sensibilities of the common folk (though his life has been lived in anything but the common circumstances of most people). It's hard for the choleric to admit he's wrong; Bush cannot recall ever making a mistake since becoming President. Hyperarrogance marks the excessive choleric; Bush is sure he is making the world safe for democracy even though many have the opposite opinion.

When one reads the temperament descriptions of John Gadbury, they seem almost like comic exaggerations. Yet with George W. Bush, extreme circumstances seem to have brought out an extreme manifestation of his already extremely choleric temperament:

"The cholerique person is imperious, tyrannical, full of revenge, quarrelsome, apt to anger, importunate, hardy, rash, involving himself in many unnecessary troubles and vexations; a seditious Fellow, yet in many things ingenious and wittily apprehensive; but a very Proteus in his Opinion…of a rugged, surly and tyrannical disposition." [7]

This is what one sees in a temperament taken to negative excess. With the choleric, at least, it's not a pretty sight.

Other Cholerics:
Cherie Blair, Martha Stewart, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Ingrid Bergman, Luciano Pavarotti, Johannes Brahms, Michael Milken, Lena Horne, Barbra Streisand, Martina Navratilova, Donald Trump.

Notes & References:

  1] C.G. Jung, trans. Baynes, Psychological Types, Collected Works Volume 6 (Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 531.
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  2] Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development (New York: Dell Publishing Co., revised edition, 1989) is one of those who talks about the temperamental styles of infants, though he doesn't use that word.
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  3] William Lilly, op. cit., p. 534.
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  4] Note that the table which adds up the testimonies is missing the qualities for the Moon in Gemini (probably a printer's error); adding them in will give a score of 8 hot, 7 moist, 6 cold, 7 dry.
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  5] Which is true if one goes by the table.
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  6] William Lilly, op. cit., pp. 743-4.
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  7] John Gadbury, Doctrine of Nativities (1658; Ballantrae Reprint, no date), Chapter XII, secs. 5 & 7, pp. 94, 97.
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Dorian Gieseler GreenbaumDorian Gieseler Greenbaum graduated from Douglass College, Rutgers University, with general honors and honors in Classics. Her M.A. is from Columbia University in history (Egyptology). She taught Classical Languages (including Egyptian, Ancient Greek and Latin) at a Waldorf School for six years. Her astrological training was from Joseph and Jill-laurie Crane, and Robert Hand. She has been seeing clients and teaching astrology since 1992, and has taught at The Astrology Institute since 1994.

In 1997,Dorian was asked by Robert Hand to translate the Introduction of Paulus Alexandrinus for ARHAT, along with the Scholia to that work, and the commentary on it by Olympiodorus. In 2001 Dorian became a Certified Astrologer through the National Council for Geocosmic Research. Her book on temperament developed out of the research paper she produced for that certification: "Temperament and Astrology in Theory, History and Practice".

Dorian is currently pursuing a PhD at the Warburg Institute in London and may be contacted by email:

Temperament: Astrology's Forgotten Key is published by The Wessex Astrologer and available from their site.

© Dorian Greenbaum, 2005; published by The Wessex Astrologer, 2005.

Visit Dorian's website: CLASSICAL ASTROLOGY