At first glance, we might think that happiness and joy are the same thing. Both make us feel good, both are qualities that we seek. In fact, embedded in the United States Constitution is the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.
In reality, though, I would argue that the two are quite different both in quality and in their effect on our human lives. Happiness is a feeling, an emotion – a sense of pleasure and contentment. Happiness comes to us when we feel that life is worth living; that the circumstances in our lives have manifested in a way to generate a feeling that life is good. The astrological correlation for this sensation is Jupiter – the Greater Benefic, the planet that helps to activate these good feelings of abundance and confidence and which often brings about actual good luck and good fortune. Venus, the Lesser Benefic, is also involved in good feelings in its role as the seeker of pleasure, love and beauty.
Though a dictionary might say that joy is a synonym for happiness, they have a different quality. Where happiness is based upon life circumstances and events that are good rather than bad, joy is an inner experience that springs from the heart and the soul. Happiness comes and goes depending on our circumstance; joy arises from the soul when we feel completely aligned in our sense of Self.
Joy is defined in dictionaries as being synonymous with exultation, jubilation, exhilaration, elation, euphoria, bliss, rapture – sensations that activate a higher perspective than mere happiness and require a turning away from attachment to the things that come and go. To me, this is represented by the full and complete activation of the Sun sign.
Sun signs have been overemphasized in popular astrology, but they tend to be underemphasized in modern astrology. By this I mean that in popular astrology so-called “horoscopes” it is assumed that from your Sun sign all kinds of things can be predicted when this is simply not true – the whole chart must be considered. But as we modern astrologers minimize the role of the Sun sign in order to consider the chart as a whole, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the Sun represents the Self in its present incarnation. The Sun prescribes the activities that will bring the individual the most joy and sense of purpose during the lifetime. This is also true for the fifth house which is associated with the Sun, the ruler of that house in the individual chart, and planets that live in the fifth house.
Joy emanates from the heart, and the physical heart is ruled by the Sun. (The emotional heart is associated by the Moon which symbolizes the emotions which come and go rather than the ineffable joy that comes from knowing who we truly are.) Creativity and self-expression are also ruled by the Sun, and it is often through the process of creating that we find that inner joy which goes beyond circumstance. When the heart is closed it is difficult for joy to blossom, but a practice of gratitude opens the heart and nurtures the bloom of inner joy.
When we have fully embodied the personal quest told by the story of the astrological Sun, that inner sense of joy will permeate everything we do. Happiness will still come and go, but the joy inherent in the inner awakening of the Self will be strong and certain.