Introduction to Esoteric Astrology
A talk by Adrienne Barkla for the Federation of Australian Astrologer’s (FAA) 2005
The term ‘Esoteric Astrology’ first appeared with the publication of Alice A. Bailey’s “Esoteric Astrology” in 1951.
One of the 24 or so ‘Blue Books’ it is part of a five volume series known as “A Treatise of the Seven Rays” which includes “Esoteric Psychology Vols I & II”, “Esoteric Healing”, and “The Rays and Initiations”. It is the basic textbook on esoteric astrology, although many books have since been authored on the subject since.
Like any branch of astrology it has emerged from a specific worldview carrying its own particular knowledge base, in this case The Ageless Wisdom Teachings tailored for the western mind, specifically the Trans-Himalayan Wisdom Teaching. The basic premise behind this worldview were set out by Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, in “The Secret Doctrine”, a mighty tome dealing with metaphysical topics such as Cosmogenesis, the origins of the universe, and Anthropogenesis, the origins of man. (An aside here: by man is meant manas from the Sanskrit, ‘the Thinker’, the Soul in incarnation refering to self consciousness, that which differentiates us from the animal kingdom – it is not a gender reference) The Blue Books come out of this same philosophical stream, but render the work more practical and applicable and are much more psychological in approach, although there are those who would argue the blue books are pretty impenetrable as well. Bailey considered the books to be pyschological key to the Secret Doctrine.
Esoteric Astrology is the science which deals with those conditioning and governing energies and forces which play through and upon the whole field of space and all that is found in that field. Eso Astro p 5.
The esoteric approach is ‘top down’ from the universal to the particular and calls for a reorientation of the usual perspective, which is specific and particular. Space is considered a vast living entity. Within that field (or ‘ring-pass-not’ as it is called, which is the limit of our conceptual imagination) is found seven solar systems, of which ours is one, within that solar system is found our planet Earth, and within Earth’s planetary field, is found Humanity and the kingdoms of Nature.
All Life is seen as an intricate play of energies. There is a Divine Order and pattern to manifestation and everything is interrelated and all forms are evolving on their own level. Beyond the solar systems is a Great Life that we cannot know, but everything in manifestation is governed by cyclic law. The Hermetic principle “As above, so below” underscores the approach and it was Paracelsis, the great alchemist, who said that “we are the stuff that stars are made of” coining the word astra coming from astare meaning ‘of the stars’.
It is this relationship between the Greater Life or Macrocosm and the Lesser Lives or Microcosm (us). Man is a little universe and the universe is a Grand Man, know one and you can know the other. This is an ancient maxim and has been described in all the scriptures and by philosophers down the ages hence the term ‘Ageless Wisdom’, this is just a re-presentation for the empirical scientific mindset, free from religious dogma. There are many experimental, theoretical areas outlined in the Blue Books, of considerable complexity, which esoteric astrologers pursue, but an esoteric astrologer needs to have at least a basic grasp of this metaphysical framework so some study is required.
Web of interrelated energies: It helps if you think of everything as chakras or ‘energy centres’. When I look up at the night sky and see the constellations there is a sense of looking up at the bodies of the Gods. Thanks to the New Age movement, most people these days know that substanding the physical body is a subtle energy body with seven major energy centres. Most would accept that we have a transpersonal identity or higher self, or soul in Christian parlance, that informs the body, so if we extend that idea to the Planetary Life that informs our Earth, the Earth can be seen as a body with seven centres which are the mineral kingdom as base chakra, the vegetable kingdom as the sacral centre, animal kingdom as solar plexus centre, humanity as throat chakra and so on… Similarly the physical planets are the bodies of Planetary Lives and are encoded in Greek mythology, with their Gods on Mount Olympus, Zeus, Saturn, Mercury and the rest of the pantheon. We interpret and use them as archetypes. Again, our solar system is informed by a still Greater Life, with planetary Lives for energy centres and so on… and similarly with the great constellations such as The Great Bear, Pleaides and Sirius of particular note.
Another fundamental factor before we get into more familiar territory and that is the Seven Rays. Streaming into our solar system, emanating from the seven stars of The Great Bear are seven major conditioning energies that qualify all manifested life – called the Seven Rays. They have beautiful, evocative names in the esoteric texts but there is no time to mention them here. The rays are transmitted into our solar system through the medium of three constellations and their ruling planets and impact our energy centres. All the centres are governed by one or other of the rays. Here is the idea of the intricate, interrelated web of energies. For example: Ray 1 of Will and Power comes through Aries, Leo and Capricorn; Ray 2 of Love Wisdom trough Gemini and Virgo; Ray 3 of Scientific Intelligence through Libra and so on and those familiar with astrology will see the correspondence with the sign’s expression.
There are also a set of esoteric planetary rulerships for each sign. There is an additional level of rulers as well called Hierarchical rulers but these are generally considered outside the scope of our experience and are only used for advanced people or Initiates.
There is also the Fivefold Human Constitution to consider comprising the physical/etheric body, our body of vitality, an emotional sentient body or astral field, a mind, and we aim to coordinate and integrate these three into a effectively functioning persona. There are three levels of mind; concrete, abstract and buddhic. The concrete and abstract mind are bridged by meditation practice. This develops the soul-infused personality, which is a persona identified with the highest principle of the Self. The aim is for humanity to achieve realisation on the buddhic level which is the plane of intuition or straight knowing. Planes of consciousness are a construct showing higher levels of awareness and so on.
Esoteric astrology is actually not intended to focus on the individual destiny per se, but rather with the fitting of individuals into a wider group (very Aquarian!) but in order to do that the energies that condition the human being are studied to determine the life purpose and to free us from limiting factors in order to be more useful and this is where Esoteric Psychology comes in.
Bailey (or the Tibetan Sage Djwhal Khul who actually penned the Blue Books with Bailey as his amenuensis) predicted that psychology would be the major science of the new century, and so it has become, with psychology now being introduced into years 11 and 12 of school. Our mainstream humanistic astrology having developed along psychological and archetypal lines, yields insights into the personal dynamic. Esoteric Astrology, embracing the Transpersonal, looks at the higher self or soul dynamic, yielding insights into how to integrate personal and spiritual directives. Its companion study, Esoteric Psychology, offers techniques which then help us deal with the inevitable crises that occur as we become more consciously aware. Psychosynthesis, with which you may be familiar, developed along these lines, as its instigator, Roberto Assagioli, was a member of the foundational Bailey group, and could be called the first mainstream Esoteric Psychologist.
One of the experimental areas astrologers have been working with are prenatal charts, as they give indicators as to the mental, emotional and physical natures of any entity (the physical chart is actually the natal chart). It is fascinating to set up all three in a tri-wheel and see the patterns of our various vehicles interrelated. It is also a means of determining (hypothetically of course – as the proof is always in the person) what ray to assign to the mind, astral and physical body, bit like a personality profile or energy formula. This is still experimental work.
So how is an esoteric reading different from an orthodox reading? An esoteric reading follows the regular format in most respects, but with an additional layering of the esoteric interpretation for signs, particularly the rising sign, for planets, and for the houses and like all good consultations, it should meet the client’s need at the time. Generally, unless a client asks for an esoteric reading, you study the charts from both angles and bring in the insights that arise as seems appropriate. I work therapeutically with clients and the esoteric approach is very useful.
The keynote of the signs: There are two mantric phrases, one for involuntary influences of the sign and one more aspiring. Using Aries as an example.
Keynotes are: From the angle of the form: Let form again be sought. Here the eager rushing forward and from the angle of the soul: I come forth from the plane of mind, I rule. Here the impulsive emotional Martian nature, the force of the ego in action, the fighting spirit, is reigned in and harnessed by the reasoning intelligent mind represented by the esoteric ruler, Mercury. In its highest note, Mercury is the intuitive mind, illuminating and guiding dynamic action. Ideas and concepts working out in the physical plane.
House interpretations: There are additional meanings for the houses too. Take Cancer and the rulership of the fourth house for example. You can see from this that the esoteric readings don’t preclude orthodox interpretations but rather give an extra range of interpretation. The esoteric mantram for Cancer is I build a lighted house and therein dwell. This ‘lighted house’ can be a physical body for an individual, a home for a family, an organisation for a business endeavour or an ashram for spiritual development. Cancer is much about birth on the broader scale too, birth into the human kingdom, into incarnation, into the human experience and it represents the movement from mass instinctual awareness, to the world of intellect, to the development of the intuition. Its polar opposite, Capricorn, represents the pinnacle of achievement of this experience, on the top of the mountain, when after many lives revelation comes and one steps into the spiritual realm. Those who know your bible, will recognise this as the Transfiguration experience and Capricorn is known as the Sign of Initiation.
These are broad matters and not may of us have Saint Teresa’s and Nelson Mandela’s coming in to our consulting rooms but an esoteric approach opens the dynamic up for those clients who are seeking the next step.
Also considered are: the Influence of the Three Crosses which are predominating at any one time (The mutable Cross representing the focus upon personality goals; The Fixed cross showing readjustment and struggle for liberation and the Cardinal Cross the period of liberation); the Rays which express through a particular sign; planets in exaltation, detriment and fall and decanate placements considered from the esoteric angle as well.
The Sun, Moon and Ascendant blend are extremely significant with the rising sign of real importance, as with the esoteric planetary rulers, it indicates soul purpose and points the way to the future, offering opportunity. The Sun sign with the exoteric planetary rulers, rules the personality and indicates inheritance and equipment and is a summation of that which has been, thus providing the background. The moon sign points to the past, with conditioned responses, and habituality. Read together these three give a snapshot of the individual. The goal is to rely on the moon, strengthen the sun and move towards the ascendant. Obviously, you would take particular note of transits and progressions to esoteric rulers of sun and ascendant, they should indicate significant life passages or challenges.
This very brief introduction cannot do justice to the study of Esoteric Astrology but I hope it stimulates you to further investigation and I will close with a few quotes from the Blue Books for inspiration.
If a true understanding of the seven ray types, of the constitution of man and of astrology, plus a right application of a synthetic psychology is of any use at all, it must demonstrate itself in the production of a correctly coordinated, wisely developed, highly intelligent and mentally directed human being. DINA III
When to this acceptance can be added a study of the seven major types, the science of psychology will be brought another step nearer its eventual usefulness as a major instrument in the technique of human perfecting. They will be greatly helped also by a study of astrology from the angle of energy contacts, of the lines of least resistance, and as one of the determining influences and characteristics of the type under consideration. I refer not here to the casting of a horoscope with the objective of discovering the future or of determining action. This aspect of astrological interpretation will become less and less useful as men achieve the power to control and to govern their stars and so direct their own lives. I refer to the recognition of the astrological types, of their characteristics and qualities and tendencies. Eso Psych II 414
Each changing personality sees a different ray force enter and each ray governs or transmits its forces through one or other of the seven centres; the Sun sign in each incarnation will be different, leading necessarily to a different rising sign and therefore to a complete new set of planetary influences. Thus the centres in the vital body come under varying pressures and stimulation. In one life, the stimulation applied may tend to vivify the solar plexus or to drive its energies upward into its higher point of transference, the heart centre. In another, it may be seen to be focussed in the throat centre, and by indirect activity affecting the sacral centre and- under the major Law of Attraction – producing a raising of the force to the higher creative focus. Eso Astro 513