A Federation of Australian Astrologer’s (FAA) talk by Adrienne Barkla
The transits of the outer, transpersonal planets of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus particularly in their hard aspects are major significators of intense events in the life. It is interesting that these outer planets are relatively new discoveries. They are not part of the Jyotish (Hindu) astrological mindset and I think it is also interesting that they relate so well to alchemical symbolism which is so much a part of the Western mysteries from which much of our present day psychology derives. These planets carry energies and when in contact with the natal chart – the blueprint or template of our potential life expression – the ‘note’ of the individuality if you like, synchronous experiences in line with the planet’s prescribed energies precipitate into the life. How these occurrences are experienced by the individual depend in part on planetary placements of the outer planets in the chart: by house; by sign;
by planetary aspect.
There is a school of thought that because these outer planets are so slow moving, for example Pluto with its 248 year cycle, their effects are only generational and they don’t have a personal resonance. Whilst we know that the Pluto in Leo generation to which I belong, is into the power of the individual, ‘the me generation’, that ‘Pluto in Cancer people’ experienced the trauma of the war years and so on, I think we mostly agree that the outer planets when aspecting the natal chart do indeed affect profound experiences – that is we resonate and we feel it.
For example, we know that if Pluto resides nataly in your seventh house you will experience plutonic effects through your relationships, if in your 10th house in your career and so on. We also know that if Pluto conjuncts your Sun you will either be influenced by plutonic experiences whenever you express your identity or you yourself will be a plutonic force in the world. We also know that it depends on a person’s psychological maturity, life experience or spiritual development as to how they will handle these challenging transits or progression events of the outer planets because ‘challenging’ is of course what these outer planets certainly are. By hard aspects I mean squares, oppositions and conjunctions (also inconjuncts and a lesser degree semisquare and sesiquadrates).
The triple wheel, which is the astrologer’s predictive map, is like a huge timing device or clock. The central wheel, the natal map, is like the hub at the centre around which everything revolves, the middle is the progressed wheel and the transit wheel on the outer rim. The centre – the dynamic potential – does not move, the progressed chart is subtle and moves very slowly, and the outer faster. The progressed details the subjective experiences, the internalised journey and the outer transit wheel the outer events or the precipating impulse.
Like a machine, the cogs turning and when they mesh and line up, things happen – events occur seemingly at random but there are many interconnections. I think of driving a car where the condition of the car is a given, its a Jaguar or a Holden or a four wheel drive in either good or bad condition. It has a potential for performance. You the driver move the gears into second, foot on the accelerator and take off, either forward or backward. The car is moving in a wider context there are other cars on the road, there are road rules to consider and so on. Whilst the experience of the driver is the key factor, there always are factors of uncertainty.
This begs the question of fate and self-determination. What do we believe in? Is God in the machine? Is there a Divine Plan or Will working out in our life? As an esoteric astrologer I tend to a bias in this direction, but humanistic astrologers will I am sure stress the opportunity for insight and self-awareness that are afforded as we move through the times of crisis that coincide with transits and progressions of the outer planets (I include Saturn here as well but the ‘outers’ have their place apart) in the ‘shifting of gears’. Make no mistake the ‘outers’ precipitate crisis.
Everyone who lives past their forties will experience the three classic ‘mid life crisis’ transits of the outer planets: Pluto square its natal position; Uranus opposition of natal Uranus and Neptune square its natal position. Everyone will experience Saturn at least twice round the chart, once at 28 and again by 56 and its many well recognised stations and their meanings. However, it is the transits and progressions of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus, the hard aspects in particular to the Sun, Moon Venus and then Mercury, Mars (all the personal planets) that move us to the core of our being. Pluto, Neptune and Uranus over the angles is invariably connected to crisis points, the significance of which is shown by the fact that we use these transits to rectify the chart!
Every astrologer has a cookbook style expectation of what these transits and progessions will bring to the client and Robert Hand’s book “Planets in Transit” is a good one and I recommend it to those of you who want a picture of what will most likely happen at these times. These reliable guides are clichéd but they work. But it is good to remind ourselves of the mystery of synchronicity, which we do not really understand, although we might philosophise and explore the meaning and that is what I want to focus on. Clients don’t tend to ask about the mystery, their concerns are more immediate and focused on outcomes or avoidance.
Predictive techniques work, this we know empirically. Why do they work? What is the mechanism and what is the legacy of an outer event? ‘Death of father’ which for me occured when Saturn conjuncted my Sun and IC – a classic transit response. Natal setting – Saturn opposite a Sun/Mercury conjunction. A whole range of issues, emotional, psychological identity and spiritual shifts are constellated. It has been my experience that generally the outer event and the deeper inner ‘event’ coincide. I am a Jungian and a great believer in synchronicity – the seeming random event brimming with cogeant meaning. It is important that we are able to guide the client through an examination of the context through the layering of the issues that can occur. In my case with Saturn on Sun – death of father, family issues, claiming self hood, releasing old emotional conditioning, grief, isolation, who am I?
We can view these meetings with Pluto, Neptune and Uranus through their transits and progressions to our chart as ‘meetings with Moira’ – the goddess who weaves our fate on a cosmic spindle. Some clients want the cookbook approach such as ‘when will I meet the tall dark stranger’ and how will I know he or she is the one? To the Greek mind ‘hubris’ was the great sin – to live outside our fated limits and hubris resulted always in our destruction. The limits of our fate can be seen in the birth chart. Liz Greene puts forward a very evocative argument on the merits of the falsity of telling our clients of how we can master or overcome these event potentials if we choose. She warns of the power of meeting Moira. It depends on our approach to life, that is, if we see the experience of a planet as an encounter with a deity, a numen (something of the spirit, something unaccountable by reason alone), as the ancients did. Then just alluding to planetary energies as drives or motivations is to underplay what are deeper, transpersonal archtypal experiences.
Meeting a planet in a sign and house is like entering a temple and meeting the manifestation of an unknown god. We may meet that deity as a concrete ‘outer’ experience, or via another person who is the mask through which the god’s face peeps; through the body; though an ideaology or intellectual vision; through creative work; as a compelling emotion. often several of these are experienced together, and it becomes difficult to see the unity between whaq is happening in life outside and what is happening within. nevertehles, the planet bridges the ‘abyss between ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ and in both worlds at once. to meet the personification of all that we have so far explored, distilled into the image of Moira, is to meet that which is compulsive and primordial. it is a confrontation with death and dismemberment, for Moira breaks the pride and will of the ego into little pieces. The Astrology of Fate p. 34.
We can’t change Moira so we must change.
We need the cookbook delineations but it is good to dip into the mythological and archetypal realm from time to time to remind us of what we are dealing with in order to avoid hubris, and then to consider the contextual environment of our client if we are really to do a service to him/her. I think we have a wonderful heritage in the west of a psychological approach to life in that most of us know about the unconscious, the persona and the super-conscious or transpersonal, and that we have composite parts to our psyche and a well developed cult of the individual, but it does break down under Pluto, Neptune and Uranus transits and progressions. It was Jung who said something like ‘my free will is that which allows me joyfully to do what my fate decrees – or what I must do’.
So what happens when we meet Pluto/Hades, ruler of the underworld? My keyword for Pluto is death. What do we tell a client who is coming up for a lengthy Plutonic transit, the eupherisimic ‘period of transformation’? Pluto takes into the underworld, the land of depths, he wears a helmet of invisibility so we can’t see him but he is everywhere. Brother to Zeus he is the dark but equally potent half of the god of the heavens, Jupiter the great benefic.
Originally the depths were ruled by the great mother whose children were Doom, Old Age Death, Sleep, Dreams, Nemesis, the Morai, the Gorgons Hekate goddess of fate…until patriarchy overcame them. Kali, the Hindu equivalent, wears shull necklaces and is more powerful than Shiva the Creator. The myth of Erishkagal and her sister Inanna tells of the descent down to the depths in which the bright sister is ‘stipped naked and bowed low’ which is how we feel under Pluto – the gradual lack of everything which defined our identity – no map, no landmarks, depression, hopelessness loss of will …
It was Pluto who pulls the maiden Persephone from her springtime home and her mother Demeter,’ raping’ her and making her his co-ruler in Hades. It was however, Persephone herself who plucked the death flower from the field that Pluto had set to lure her and she who ate the pomegranate seeds which bound her to the depths. We are unknowing collaborators in our fate and this cycle of light and dark, of death and life, is the basis of the Eluysinian-Orphic Mysteries of Ancient Greece and underpins our reality. Persephone bears Pluto’s child Dionysis, a ‘Christ like’ redeemer, who figures powerfully in myth and meets a terrible fate. Another profound reference regarding the journey to the underworld and the return back is found in Dante’s “Inferno”. Yes, a broader/deeper outlook on life, newfound resources, renewed vigour, a discovery that we are not as civilised as we thought is the result but we must pay for the insight just as we must pay the ferryman as we cross the river Styx.
Alchemy contains a wealth of rich archtypal symbolism and imagery which outpictures the journey to our depths.The Alchemists were called by Jung the first psychologists and he was the great western alchemist par excellance, integrating their mysterious acana into modern psychological terminology, in much the same way as astrologers do. The two arts share sympathetic ground.
The ‘Great Work’, consists of two major phases: The Lesser Work (nigredo and solutio) and Greater Work (coagulatio and rubedo) the first two we can equate with Pluto and Neptune encounters. The first step was putrification culminating in the ‘nigredo’ or black stage, when the matter in the vessel had been reduced to the primordial state wherein the spark of its ‘life’ is driven out of it through vapour. This dead material was then reborn with its own vapour condensed into a liquid, saturated in it. Then the mixture would transmute into a white precipitate, the albedo stage, then a later process would result in a red elixir or powder, or the rubedo which led to the Philosopher’s Stone. This stage of nigredo or ‘the blackening’ was seen as the eclipse of mercurius senex, and was pictured as a dying figure exhaling the spirits and anima. The black raven is a nigredo symbol.
There is in our chemistry a certain noble substance, in the beginning thereof is wretchedness with vinegar, but in its ending joy with gladness. Therefore I have supposed that the same will happen to me, namely that I shall suffer great difficulty, grief, weariness at first, but in the end shall come to glimpse pleasenter and easier things. Michael Maier.
The essence of the nigredo is a blackening or putrefaction (also called ‘calcinato’, to burn or mortificatio to mortify) symbolising the death of the Old King or ego.
Images of Sol and Luna (Sun and Moon/ King and Queen) overcome by death after the coniunctio or union (coitus). Images of rotting, decomposing of the black sun over a lifeless land. Sol and Luna meet, unite and die. It is all about ‘facing the shadow’. Resistance and breakdown. The journey to the underworld. Death of illusion. A head-on ego shattering experience? Sound like a Pluto transit experience?
‘Solutio’ – the whitening is next. If you will not clean the impure body and make it white and give it back to its soul, you will have accomplished nothing in this magistery. Rosarium Philisophorum.
Also called ‘ablutio’ or washing, baptism with fire as well as water, and ‘albedo’ or white. This has to do with the soul, which is the deep part of us that is feeling, and spirit which is higher and reaches beyond our minds. The feminine as a transforming power. Passing from emotion to feeling. A sublimation or ‘rising up’. The purifying of the soul now released from the ego in the nigredo. This can be seen as Neptune by transit or progression.
This stage is often repesented in image by “The bath of the Philosophers” – the figure of a king in a bath of water being washed clean or rather dissolved! Images of a man drowning, the king at sea, in a bath or calling out for help, the pelican piercing its breast or the consciousness of the heart. Other images of purity are the unicorn, virgins, the lunar egg symbolising rebirth and the white rose, the white stone as the end of the Lesser Work. Once we are ‘white’ we can hold spiritual power, we are strong enough not to get wiped away or inflated. This is a challenge to purity and our resistance in relationship to that. Just like the end result of a purificatory Neptune illumination wherein we gain by loss, disillusionment or transcendence.
Speaking of these things to a client is never easy but they will invariably be sensing this already or have come to you in the midst of a crisis for advice. The Greeks also talk about the difference between fate and our ‘daimon’ or inner spirit that drives us to our fate. It is our creative spirit, our inner patterning and perhaps we can discern something of this spirit in the natal chart. I have found that the progressed chart speaks more about what is ready to precipitate on an inner level and the transit chart the trigger. Liz Greene gives a personal example: Prog. Mercury on Neptune and Jupiter on Uranus when she met her astrology teacher a seemingly simple event that changed her life. She was introduced to an exploration of the Neptunian world – an awakening by a teacher.
The key to predictive interpretation lies for me in seeing the pattern of the life that is unfolding. We could say that it is only the outer event that lies in the outer event zone – the deeper parts of us lie beyond in a continuum. Perhaps this is the continuum that the clairvoyent breaks into in his or her predictions. The astrolger is not a clairvoyant but we can synthesize the layers that we see in the triple wheel. We cannot say whether under Saturn conjunct Venus the client will marry or divorce but we can outline a pattern of potential. It is a subjective issue. Forever the stars incline but do not compel. (Esoteric Astrology). If the horoscope is the tool, the individual is the carrier, the Self is the creator.
The outer planets do seem to bring our fate to us. They strip away the veils and force us to acknowledge the hidden or denied aspects of ourselves. They take us beyond our usual ego boundaries, they do seem to activate the deeper underlying design and we must find a way to negotiate these periods.
To close: I am not suggesting you swamp the client with mythos but rather be open to the richness of astrological symbolism, to myth and to psychological insight – to think about your attitudes to fate and destiny and to be mindful of the totality of our Being – that there is both an underworld and a realm above and that there is that within us that drives us to experience both realms and to integrate it into our field of conscious awareness.
A Federation of Australian Astrologers (FAA) talk by Adrienne Barkla 5 May 2007 The word Alchemy, from which we get our word Chemistry, comes from Khem an ancient word for Egypt and points to its Egyptian roots. It is one of the classic Hermetic Arts. The goal of Alchemy was the mysterious Philosopher’s Stone, which would transmute all other metals to gold at a touch. It was the Elixir of Life, the universal medicine that would cure all ills and confer immortality. After 1650 came the rise of chemistry and science and the chemical aspects of alchemy passed to the chemists. Alchemy became spiritualised, it became philosophy, a “Science of Ourselves” and we became the vessel. This was called Hermetic Philosophy. Solve et Coagula: The fundamental principle of alchemy was that of the ‘first matter’, that god or the supernatural intelligence made the world out of a dark chaotic mass called prima materia, the primordial matter which contained in it the potential for all things (chaos theory, primordial ocean etc). The theory was that you could reduce a metal or other material and yourself psychologically and spiritually, back into the prima materia or ‘first state’ by stripping the characteristics from it or by separating it (separatio) – in effect ‘killing it’. Then you could restore it, bringing it back to life adding desirable qualities to it, until it became the ‘Stone’. This was the secret of ‘Solve et Coagula’ – to ‘Dissolve and Combine’. To ‘dissolve’ is to strip away, to ‘combine’ is to build up a new substance. Alchemists saw no distinction between the metallic life and human life, so to penetrate the secrets of metals was to understand human nature. Metals grew in the body of the earth as the human grows within the womb. They saw the ‘life’ in the metal encased in matter corresponding to the ‘divine spark’ of a human being imprisoned in the body. The main constituents in metals were sulphur and ercury with sulphur being the active, fiery male principle and mercury the passive, watery, female principle. As Mercury as quicksilver was a metal but a liquid, liquid but not wet, seeming to combine both male and feminine qualities, hence uniting opposites, it was seen as a hermaphrodite, ‘the masculine-feminine’. In fact it was likened to the first matter and called the Stone itself. It was called divine water, seed of the dragon, divine dew, seawater, moon water and other exotic names. This sulphur and mercury were not seen just as metals, but as the philosophical or ideal substances, of which the actual substances were approximations. The Stone was the union or perfect balance of the two, the mingling of fire and water or the resolution of opposites. We can see this as the yin/yang, the blending of male/female or anima/animus in our psyche. This union of opposites orconiunctio is the central idea of the alchemical procedure. We will discuss this later when we introduce the stages but coniunctio is the marriage or uniting of the opposites. There are several ‘key players’ one will meet and become familiar with in the study of the art. The Old King (or old state of consciousness) Sol (the sun, sulphur: the masculine principle) Luna (the moon: the feminine principle) Mercurius (Hermes, Mercury: the chief agent of the process and the hermaphrodite/bisexual/androgynous principle) Lady Alchymia (Anima Mercurii: the spirit of alchemy and its guiding presence and initiator) The alchemist him/herself (the artifex) The soror mystica or frater mysterium (the secret sister or brother: the companion in the Work, in Tantra the Tantrika, or the one who leads the artifex to bliss states, the ‘liberator’) The Alchemical Stages: Overall the process of the Magnum Opis or ‘Great Work’, consists of two major phases which are The Lesser Work (nigredo andsolutio) and Greater Work (coagulatio and rubedo) or the ‘spiritualisation of the body’ and then the ’embodiment of spirit’. First comes the mastery of the prima materia of “first matter” – the ‘raw stuff’ or ‘chaos’ in ourself and in our life. Second, as a result of going through the process, is the “creation of a body of light” or new life which is consciousness or “the gold”. The first step was putrification culminating in the ‘nigredo’ or black stage, when the matter in the vessel had been reduced to the primordial state with the spark of its ‘life’ driven out of it through vapour – it is killed in effect. This dead material was then reborn with its own vapour condensed into a liquid, saturated in it. Then the mixture would transmute into a white precipitate, the ‘solutio’ stage, then a later process would result in a red elixir or powder, or the ‘rubedo’ which led to the Stone. (You can see the allusions to what we now recognise as chemistry and its processes of evaporation, condensation and precipitation.) Coniunctio: In all these stages the coming together of Sol and Luna, the King and Queen, is central. In between all the stages is the coniunctio or “marriage”. It is this union of opposites that is the central idea of the alchemical procedure. The union always takes place in a vessel retort or grave a shared death and is pictured as sexual embrace equating to Buddhist tantric yoga practice which is sex with or without a consort. The product of their union is the homunculus or golden child (actually the stone itself – Mercurius). It is important to remember that we go through the process of unification or uniting a number of times before we can ‘make the stone’ and this is beautifully shown in the figure of the caduceus which Mercury carries. We must go over the stages again and again on all the levels. This relationship is expressed astrologically in the lunation cycle, first in the natal chart in the relation between sun and moon (the lunation phase) and then as it unfolds in the progressed lunation cycle, so this is where we look for alchemy in the chart. It is not the only reference to alchemical themes in astrology but it is the one we will look at today. As astrologers we are familiar with lunations and progressed lunations but I want to go back a step and talk about the process, or thoughts behind these cycles. Rudyar talks about two types of time in astrology. He calls them objective time, valid for everyone, and subjective duration, or individual time, experienced by individual entities which he sees as unconscious, psychic feeling, to do with organic wholeness. These two co-exist and he says at some stage cause an inner conflict between our desire to participate in (or be subservient to) collective and social patterns and the inner feeling that we are whole, unique and self sufficient. Astrology deals with both these dynamics working with objective time and its cycles but its true purpose “is the interpretation of meaning of these cycles with reference to the possibilities for growth in individuals” , not so much with fate but to emerge from the compelling structuring matrix of objective time into the creative freedom of subjective duration. That’s a big statement (bit 60’s!), but he’s not advocating personal freedom ante social responsibility here, far from it as he is an esotericist – he’s describing what Jung called the “individuation” process. This is where alchemy comes in as the transformations and stages undergone to find or create the Stone is desricptive of this very process. It’s about the core self and later the true spiritual Being. Joseph Campbell talked about it too, that is the need to step out of the mass-vibration and take the “next step” in human evolution. We are constantly evolving. The lunation cycle is a cycle of relationship not cycle of position and refers to the realm of relatedness. The cycles of the phases of the moon is the archetype of all cycles of relationship. The key is to see that what the lunation cycle measures is not changes to the moon herself, but changes in the soli-lunar relationship. The phases of the moon tell us nothing about the moon herself or about the position of the moon in the sky, rather they refer only to the state of relationship between the sun and moon. Rudyar says that this is overlooked by students of astrology because most persons have difficulty in dealing with the factor of relationship in itself. It is a hobby horse of his butinteresting to consider. Similarly with aspects, seeing a square aspect as a situation in isolation rather than a “station” or part of a cycle of relatedness which stated with the conjunction is a much more dynamic and meaningful way to view planetary aspects. So, we think that something has happened to the moon or that the moon has changed whereas in actuality, the moon only reflects in her appearance to us, the change in relationship. This can be likened to relationship between a man and woman in that the relationship has a cycle of its own -it waxes, matures and wanes and rebuilds for a new cycle or disintegrates. It is the man’s nature not to be structurally affected by the relationship whereas it is in the woman’s nature to reflect in her organic structure the fruit of the man/woman relationship. Speaking of sex, in astrology that’s Mars and Venus representing the organs or psychic factors of the soli-lunar relationship. They are the instruments through which “life” operates. The sun and moon are the essence of life or the powers of life – rex and regina – king and queen. Its interesting too that the sun and moon look the same size in the sky but we know that is not the case in actuality. The quality of their lights is so different. It is the same in respect to our true inner nature, our spirit, our’ diamond soul’ as the Buddhists call it – is so much more brilliant and powerful than our personality or form nature. We cant touch the sun, we cant even look at it or our retina’s will burn. We haven’t yet a form to hold the light of our true spiritual nature. We are still trying to get our psyches to hang together! The light of the sun is dazzling – its warmth gives life to the earth. The moon’s light is cool with no light of its own, like a mirror it reflects the countenance of the sun. Likewise a woman when closely identified with a man reflects the spiritual-mental character – the “light’ of him who fecundates her body and psyche. She makes concrete the fecundant power of the man in her progeny. If she is developed she also gives substance to the spiritual-mental vision of the man – her “in-spiriter”. Now before anyone takes offence – we are not talking about an actual man and woman in relationship per se here!. Remember this is an inner marriage in its essence , the outer man-woman relationship is one level, and that’s still what marriage is – but in every individual man and woman is the archetypal sun and moon. Of course we still project this out onto our partners, fathers, mothers, children etc. and part of the individuation process is to take back those projections. The image of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary – religious concepts aside – this is God, Father, King in heaven fecundating the mother aspect – to birth the child, the saviour, the homunculus, the giver of eternal life, the elixir of immortality. So we can’t look at the sun but we can gaze at the moon, a symbol of the intellect as she transforms solar light into something to be analysed. Mind is that which stands between the sun within (the divine creative spirit) and our physical-instinctual nature. Neither mind or psyche can lead directly to our solar source, so it is we have progressive illumination, the gradual perception of self, phase after phase of reality. Night and day, sleep and activity. The moon mediates between sun (the solar force of spirit) and the earth. She is the anima, the link between the conscious ego and the wholeness of spirit. In esoteric astrology the natal sun is termed the “sun of possibilites” indicatiing “inherited karma, body and conditioned responses the form nature”. Both Sun and Moon are said to veil Vulcan (an esoteric planet), Neptune and Uranus depending on teh stage of individualtion of the native. Here ae refernces to the stages of alchemy described earlier. The lunation cycle starts at the conjunction of moon and sun (new moon), the moon increases in light fullness and distance from the sun during the waxing phase from conjunction to opposition, then drcreases during the waning period from opposition to conjunction. The opposition is the cresting of the soli-lunar wave, the conjunction the trough. In between is the cresent moon and the first and last quarters. The cresent phase is really “earth shine” not truly solar as it is solar light reflected by the earth on the moon. In the waning phase you get the balsamic moon, symbolising the letting go of the seed of the cycle about to end. The first quarter represents a crisis in action and the last quarter a crisis in consciousness. They each focus on the quality of change. The first quarter tends to force a confrontation, a moment of basic dissatisfaction with self and a challenge to the self in which we either grow positively to the full moon revelation or we can’t get free of past structures. A repudiation of the past and the building of new structures. The full moon brings a new vision, renewed purpose if met in a positive manner. We make what was released at the new moon into a concrete structure and carry the “tone” of the new moon into form. The second half of thecycle we must bring the relaesation into society in order to disseminate the seed and to make i tuseful to the the need of humanity as a whole. As the moon wanes we vanish into our progeny. The last quarter phase is a time of crucial disintegration, of breaking down the “tone” of the relationship. The energy is exhausted. Ideas have been embodied (hopefully!). Rudhyar gives the keynote of the first cycle as spontaneous and instinctual action; the keynote of the second half as conscious growth in meaning and immortal selfhood, where immorality means sharing meaning and value with others by way of adequate formulation. The same symbolism applies in the case of progressed lunations except it shows the unfolding of opportunity over the lifetime inthe form of the Progressed Lunar Cycle with its one year for one day terminology- that Idea of 90 days being 90 years of individual life expectancy, the “fourscore years and ten” of the bible. The new moon before birth is particularly significant. Rudhyar calls it the “key to the basic character of our inherent vitality – a very important factor in the stream of vital forces energizing our entire organism (biological and psychological). If both the new moon before birth and the natal sun are in the same sign the quality of the sign pervades the whole nature of the person but if the new moon before birth and the natal sun is in different signs a basic dualism should be strongly evidenced in the personality. The before birth chart tends to be deeply rooted in the past – the past being the ancestral, racial and cultural past of an individual, all that we found confronting at birth – or the past as karma of a reincarnating soul or spiritual entity. He suggests it is somewhat compulsive, surging unexpectedly out of our psychic depths. Two successive signs are polar opposites and for example he gives Taurus as natal sun with Aries new moon before sun – Aries is masculine and fiery and Taurus is feminine and earthy – giving a personality whose ancestral unconscious urges are stamped with Aries traits but whose conscious everyday living is marked with Taurus force. He’s suggesting that emotional compulsive release of Aries forces will be usually held in check by the Taurus-dominated will of the individual, so have both masculine and feminine traits and a bit more complex and unpredictable. He says that the house the new moon before birth sun falls in shows the way in which the unconscious urges often operate. If the moon before birth sun is falls in the preceding house, as opposed to the same house the person tends to operate in two definite fields of activity – he gives the case of Jung to illustrate the point. CASE STUDIES 1. Carl Jung, born 26 July 1875 – sun in 4th degree of Leo and moon in mid-Taurus. Born with moon waning and past the last quarter phase of the lunation cycle begun at the new moon of July 3rd on the 11th degree of Cancer. Jung’s natal sun is in the seventh but the 11th degree of Cancer in the 6th house. Different signs and different houses. A complex nature with a t-cross in fixed signs with chart ruler retrograde in Aquarius, intercepted in the first house, squaring Pluto and opposing Uranus. Very dynamic chart showing the trend of Jung’s focus of thinking along psychotherapeutic lines. The integration of strong oppositions and basic conflicts with Neptune in Taurus in the third, square to the sun indicating contacts with disturbed or psychically confused people. The natal sun in the seventh shows his role as therapist in his one-on-one contacts with people (and the seventh house esoterically refers to “the shadow”, and psychologically as projection) The new moon before birth sun falls in his seventh house shows his field of work in health service etc. The Cancer /Leo combination is fascinating as ruled by sun and moon, they reflect the interplay of sun and moon forces – the King and Queen – featured in all alchemical symbolism which was Jung’s main focus. In his new moon before birth char,t the sun is not involved in the T-cross of his natal chart. The main soli-lunar aspect is the upcoming with a retrograde Mercury – very introverted and appropriate. The conjunction with Jung’s natal Mercury in his 6th house echoes synchronicitiously the importance of Mercury in alchemy. His new moon chart Mars is retrograde and turned direct on the very day of Jung’s birth at 21 – 22 Sagittarius – a close opposition to Jung’s Venus – very significant in alchemical symbolism and his emotional approach to life. 2. Sri Aurobindo, Hindu political leader, yogi philosopher and poet, born 15 August 1872 sun at 22 Leo 23, Jupiter at 13Leo39 and ascendant at 12Leo20. New moon before birth on August 4th at 12Leo15 – at the natal ascendant point and just past the conjunction with Jupiter of Aug 4th at 11Leo 7. Sun, moon, Jupiter and ascendant is very powerful and in India Jupiter symbolises the great Guru (spiritual teacher). Theosophists speak of a mysterious personage (reputedly one of the masters) who was focussed in mountains of Southern India near Sri Aurobindo’s ashram for 40 odd years and known as “Master Jupiter”. The new moon before birth very close to a natal planet marks the planet as a “channel of destiny” for the life energies to be released through the personality. 3. In the case of Alice Bailey, the Theosophist who founded the Arcane School and wrote the Blue Books under inspiration with the Tibetan, (who wrote Esoteric Astrology) the natal sun was at 25Gemini30 with natal Venus 17 52. The lunation cycle began with the new moon on June 7th with new moon before birth at 17 Genini 31 – thus ancestral forces (or karmic soul-forces) were focussed through her Venus (soul ruler of Gemini) enabling her to stress successfully group values and hold a group together for many years of seekers working through intellectual concepts of universal ideas. Summary of what to look for in teh new moon before birth chart: 1. Look if Sun in same sign and house. 2. Look at inter-aspects, particularly aspected planet by Sun/Moon conjunction.3. Look at Sabian symbol. Rudyar says that the new moon before birth represents that which is in a person’s life compulsive, rooted in the past hence fateful – and the natal chart that which constitutes new life potential, inherent creativity. The new moon chart before birth – and all converse progressions and prenatal charts – refer to the conditioning of our nature to the areas where the past compels us to act out of old traditions (the “wave of life” which powers us into existience) – the natal chart on the first breath is about making free transforming creative decisions – and our real destiny is to “ride the wave”.
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
A talk by Adrienne Barkla at the Federation of Professional Astrologer’s (FPA) Forum 18 March 2004
To understand the esoteric significance of Easter we need to place Easter within a broader context. Easter falls at the full moon of Aries and esoterically considered is the first of a series of twelve Solar Fire or Full Moon Festivals that constitute the energetic year. There are three major spiritual Festivals which make up the high point in the annual cycle. These are the Festival of Easter at the full moon of Aries, the Festival of Wesak, at the Taurus full moon and the festival of Goodwill at the Gemini full moon. Through the steady meditative efforts of individuals and groups around the world these subjective energies are being anchored in the consciousness of humanity. They offer an approach to the Divine, to the Greater Life, to God – call it what you will.
The three major festivals establish the ‘divine aspect’s of Will (Ray I) – Aries, of Love/Wisdom – Taurus (Ray 2) and of Creative Intelligence – Gemini (Ray 3). The nine lesser Festivals celebrated at the other months, build in ‘attributes’ or divine qualities. All twelve energies are used to stimulate evolutionary growth in all the kingdoms of nature of which the Human kingdom is one.
We meditate as meditation opens a channel in consciousness through which energies can be invoked, received and directed outward. The energy is qualified by the full moon period, which is determined by the nature of the zodiacal constellation through which the sun, our solar centre, is travelling. When the moon is full to our vision, the energy path for communication is open, unimpeded and potent. These periods are like ‘holy days’, days of invocation, of united spiritual effort. Esoteric vision sees a time when these three festivals are kept throughout the world, forming the basis of a great spiritual unity leading to what is termed the Great Approach. In other words, if enough people = a critical mass if you like, focus at these key cycles of opportunity, the channels can be strengthened and we can be infused with that Greater Life which flows through the cosmos.
To explain, the esotericist views life as a great, intricate web of interconnected energies. As astrologers this is not difficult to understand, surely. The planets, constellations and solar systems are seen as greater entities on the scale of ‘consciousness’ if we can call it that – planetary gods, systemic gods and on out with every smaller system is seen as a life within that larger entity akin to the biblical expression “In Him we live and move and have our being”. Every level of Life seeks to grow, to become greater, so we open the channels to higher consciousness.
The Ageless Wisdom does not share the traditional view about Christ. Christians can be very limited in their ideas about Christ, (as can any group who holds to a doctrinal view) who of course does not belong only to Christianity but to all peoples and all religions. Rather Christ is a great Avatar or embodiment of the quality of Love/Wisdom who overshadowed that great identity who was Jesus. He is seen as having opened a channel in consciousness between the human sphere or kingdom and the sphere of Divinity or Hierarchy as it is called. The Bible speaks of ‘a great rent in the veil of the temple” referring to a rent in our ignorance, a shift in human consciousness. He showed the next evolutionary step ahead. Throughout the centuries, our minds have been directed to Jesus dying on the Cross and I am speaking of course in the Christian idiom. This is the message of Pisces, death sacrifice, suffering. We are to fix our minds on the living Christ, on life, on resurrection not on death. Livingness is the key to this Festival, livingness as a process of spiritualisation as opposed to death, the process of materialisation. Christ’s gift was the gift of resurrection as a great vision, penetrating into human consciousness, setting the fires of aspiration toward new values, towards victory over matter
When Christ rolled away the rock covering his tomb, he rolled away our imprisonment in the matter aspect by demonstrating the falsity of death,”leading us from death to immortality” as the saying goes. We are immortal spirits. Just as the chicken emerges from the egg, we move in and out of form-life. In many respects the moon represents the form life, the Great mother, the feminine and we are reorienting towards the Solar Life, the life of the Soul and the Life of the Spirit. We are both, but we need to know that. Just as Christ rose from the tomb so will humanity rise from the tomb of our degenerate civilisation – degenerate when seen in terms of the pollution of the earth, and in the light of our negative non-sharing ideologies of greed and separativeness, our dense materialism and our limited mental conceptualisations of Life. The Aquarian era into which we are slowly moving could be called the Age of Resurrection and the Piscean Age out of which we are coming slowly can be called the Age of Decision and we have had to decide between hated and love, between life and death, between forces of materialism and the higher forces, between matter and spirit. Christ’s message was a message of love and inclusiveness at the core, but moreover a message of “life more abundant” which is an esoteric term meaning the life lived from the perspective of the spirit or according to the Will of the Father with Father being synonomous with the Spirit aspect.
Aries Energy: We are told that Aries energy is the creator of those activities, conditions, and processes which lead to the manifestation of soul through the medium of form, and later of those higher creative undertakings which lead in due time to the manifestation of spirit through the soul.
The secret of Aries is the secret of beginnings, of cycles and of emerging opportunity. These quotes are from Esoteric Astrology by Alice Bailey.
The energy of Aries is fiery. It charges and stimulates the Spark of Life in every form, causing it to advance and progress. Resurrection is the progressive advancement of the Spark of consciousness and is that striving to move forward, that rushing onward. We recognise this as the Aries primal urge. It’s aggressive, a warrior sign, combatitive, seeks to conquer, moving to the new. In the esoteric interpretation this is the Inner Spark, the Inner Fire which seeks to fuse with a higher level of existence, forcing us forward. On a global scale it is the building of the New World Order.
Aries rules the head. The esoteric mantram for the sign is” I come forth from the plane of mind and I rule”. It has to do with metal forces. The Forces of Restoration are active at this time. These forces emanate from the Mind of God – they are connected with the intelligence principle in the divine nature. It’s as if the super-conscious principle of Existence has an idea, call it the Divine Plan, the entelechy of the system, whatever terminology but we are propelled forward, inspired, in accordance with that Divine idea. It is very creative. Someone in tune with their Inner Spark is creative, they inbreathe an idea, it takes hold, they express it out into the world. Aries is creative. It carries the “life which produces the birth of forms”. It stimulates the intelligence. It causes us to think, to plan and to take action.It produces neither good or bad results it simply brings about the awakening of our minds. The action taken depends on the quality of the mind of those who respond to the forces of restoration and will be conditioned by point in evolution, racial and national background, tradition and so on. This is true for the individual, the group, the society or nation. These forces are working through out the world, causing initial difficulties, strife, conflict that we associate with Martian energies, but they are bringing about a reorganisation of life at whatever and all levels.
The deepest response to these energies is of course to burn with the flame of higher realisation, where the vision of Inner realisation ignites the Inner Spark and we awaken to New Life. So in Aries the Idea is indrawn, in Taurus it is clothed in substance, given form and rendered magnetic and in Gemini it is distributed and given out. This is the sequence of the three Festivals and whilst true at every level, it refers in the highest sense to human awareness, to conscious evolution and is planetary in its scope.
The Aries Myth: Diomedes, son of Mars, possessed a large number of brood mares, running wild and devastating the countryside, living on human flesh, creating terror. The were breeding great numbers of war horses and couldn’t be caught. Eurystheus ordered Hercules to capture them. He took his friend Abderis with him and together they rounded them up. Jubilant, Hercules gave them to Abderis to hold while he went to tell the King. Abderis couldn’t hold them and was trampled to death. Hercules finally managed to recapture the mares, but grieved for the loss of his friend. So the first labour was a partial failure.
Aries is the sign of commencement, the out-going power that begins the cycle, the urge to create. Hercules rushes in full of bravado and initiative and spiritual impulse. The mares represent the destructive nature of an unbridled mind, the powerfull feminine side of the mental nature which gives birth to ideas and concepts, but which let loose on the world without the guidance of mental control lead to ill-judged actions, wrongly spoken words and disaster. He gives control of the wild horses to Abderis, who symbolises the lower personal self, but it takes Hercules as the soul or higher nature and Abderis as personality working together to hold the horses.
The exoteric planetary ruler is Mars and Hercules takes his stand as the warrior,the pioneering spirit characteristic of the sign. The brood mares symbolise the creativity of thought, whether human or universal. You could say that the universe began in the mind of the Cosmic Thinker. The soul is referred to as the Thinker. The word ‘man’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘manas’ to think.
The esoteric ruler is Mercury, Messenger of the Gods as bridge between that which is below and that which is above – representing all levels of the mind, not so much the concrete levels of mind but more the reasoning, abstract side. At the highest levels, it is the intuition, straight knowledge or ‘pure reason’. We are being exhorted to think, to control our thoughts.
Mercury as “Messenger of the Gods” refers here in the highest reference to every sage, prophet, avatar and Christ especially.
In closing, as Saraydarian says in “Symphony of The Zodiac” – Our responsibility at this time is to raise, to resurrect the fires of our physical-etheric nature, our emotional and mental fires, and holding them together, fuse them with the Flame of Spirit within us.This will be our own resurrection; to reorient the forces flowing toward the satisfaction of our lower self to an intelligently planned act of sacrifice and service, a goal-filled life, and the Plan and Purpose of God. If we do this from the time of the Aries full moon until the Taurus full moon, which is the highest point of condensation of the energies, then we will see the reality of resurrection within our own nature.
University of Seven Rays Conference Presentation by Adrienne Barkla (Adelaide 1997) Published in “The Conference Papers’
Hercules is among the most celebrated heroes of Greek mythology. Hercules is his Roman name, the Greeks knew him as Herakles. His is a interesting story. Accounts differ, but he is generally known to have exhibited great strength and performed many amazing feats. He was semi divine having Zeus as his immortal Father and Alcemene, his earthly Mother (wife of Amphitryon). He was instructed by Zeus to submit himself for twelve years to the will of Eurystheus, the King of Argos, and told that if he fulfilled this duty, he would be translated to the Gods and become an immortal. It was at the bidding of Eurystheus that he performed the tasks known as the Twelve Labours. Of interest to us as astrologers, is that he performed each of them in one of the zodiacal signs. Classical writers have interpreted the myth of Hercules as representing the course of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac.
This paper is based on the astrological interpretation in “The Labours of Hercules”. An Astrological Interpretation by Alice A. Bailey, and this takes us into the realm of Esoteric Astrology. The basic text is “Esoteric Astrology” also by Bailey. If you are interested in this area, I also recommend Alan Oken “Soul Centred Astrology”.
What is esoteric astrology? As astrologers we are used to viewing the human being in an interactive world of energies operating under cyclic law. The chart maps the individual pattern. Fundamentally, our job is to help the client become aware of the dynamic interaction between impacting energies and the individual tendances, how to work with life opportunities and deal with the more difficult learning curves or life crises, to become more adept, more self-aware. Simply put, the esotericist embraces the transpersonal, viewing life in the context of an evolving consciousness. Life then becomes a spiritual journey. The premise is that we are essentially Divinity incarnated in form. There comes a point in the life where a Spiritual Path is consciously entered upon. The focus is then on the ‘dual life’ of the Personality, which is itself a triplicity of the physical, emotional and mental life, and the Soul. The effort is to blend these two and somewhat different astrological interpretations and modalities are used to facilitate this process. An individual leading a spiritual life is called an ‘aspirant’ or ‘disciple’, hence the term Path of Discipleship or ‘The Way’. There are as many different paths as there are branches of astrology, but each have experiences in common and recognisable stages along the way. Just as the individual gradually unfolds the higher understanding through life experience, so does Humanity, as the collective, the ‘World Disciple’ become more enlightened. We can trace this development through the Precessional Ages, in two and a half thousand year cycles, just as we can trace aspects of generational changes through a study of Pluto’s cycles through the signs. For example we are moving out of the Piscean era into Aquarius and we can see world thought changing.
Lets begin with a quote from the preface to the Labours, called “The Zodiac”.
The Presiding One looked forth upon the sons of men, who are the Sons of God. He saw their light and where they stood upon the Way which leads back to the Heart of God. The Way sweeps in a circle through twelve great Gates, and, cycle after cycle, the Gates are opened and the Gates are shut. The Sons of God, who are the sons of men, march on. Dim is the light at first. Selfish the trend of human aspiration, and dark the deeds resultant. Slowly humankind learns and, in learning, passes between the pillar of the Gates time and time again …
From out the mass of men, one stood forth in ancient days and caught the presiding Elder’s watching eye…Who is that soul upon the Way of life, whose light can now be dimly seen?… Watch o’er his steps and, when he has an understanding heart, an eager mind and skilful hand, bring him to me.
Again the centuries passed. The great wheel turned and, in turning, carried all the sons of men, who were the Sons of God, upon their way… The watching Teacher saw a man emerge… mount the fixed Cross, demanding deeds to do, service to render unto God and man, and willingness to travel the Way… Obey the Teacher on the Way. Prepare for the last tests. Pass through each Gate and in the sphere which they reveal and guard, perform the labour which befits their sphere. Learn thus the lesson and begin with love to serve the men and women of earth. (Labours of Hercules pp. 1-2)
Hercules, a “Son of God and a Son of Man” represents the Soul in form. As he progresses round the wheel, he expresses the characteristics of each sign, achieves some fresh knowledge of himself, knowledge that enables the demonstration of the power of the sign and the gift that sign confers. In each, he surmounts his natural tendances, and becomes master of his destiny. Forever the stars incline, but do not control.
‘The twelve great Gates’ are the zodiacal signs and ‘The Crosses’ referred to are the Mutable, Fixed and Cardinal Crosses, made up of the four signs of each mode and representing stages in consciousness.
The Mutable Cross is a cross of flux and change, of adaptation to the environment and circumstance, it represents the development of the Personality life – the cross of Humanity.
The Fixed Cross (pictured as the Bull/Taurus, Eagle/Scorpio, Lion/Leo and Man/Aquarius) is the cross of the Disciple and comes into play when the life responds to spiritual impulse, become sensitive to larger issues and deeper concerns. ‘Mounting the fixed cross’ refers to the reorientation to the soul life, the taking on of a spiritual discipline. This is the period of testing as to our determination, and the period covering the Labours. This is the cross that Hercules symbolically mounts.
The Cardinal Cross is the cross of the Spirit or the Initiate, a highly evolved state of consciousness. The three crosses represent the three aspects: Body, Soul, Spirit or Appearance, Consciousness and Life.
Esoteric Rulerships: There is an esoteric ruler for each sign. The esoteric ruler is like a higher note for the sign, and becomes effective in the life when the soul quality begins to be expressed. For example the Aries traditional ruler is Mars, is esoterically ruled by Mercury. So, if you had an Aries Sun, Moon or Ascendant, you would give added weight to Mercury placement in the chart, any transits to it and in particular to any relationships between the rulers.
Mantrams: Also each sign has mantrams associated with it, one expressive of the form-life and one from the angle of the soul.
The Labours: Hercules as ‘the candidate’ stands before the Teacher who asks his name. Herakles, meaning ‘Heras glory.’ Hera stands for Psyche or soul, which he is yet to reveal. What is the soul? he asks his Teacher, who replies ‘this you will discover as you do your task’. He is asked his parentage. ‘My father is divine I know him not, but I know I am his son. My mother I know well she made me what I am.’ He adds that he is a twin, he has another self. So, here he states the underlying theme of apparent dualism that is the human condition, our strength and our dilemma – how to reconcile the spiritual and the earthly, the immortal and mortal brothers, Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus, Cain and Abel… the seemingly eternal dualism represented by the bound fishes of Pisces.
Hercules is learned in all the arts and sciences, skilled and proficient in the ways of the world – a high grade personality. He confesses that he has slain all his past teachers, he stands free and self determining. He boasts of his feats and wears the skin of the lion he slew at eighteen. The Teacher warns ‘Again in Leo, you will meet the lion. Again in Gemini, the teachers whom you slew will cross your path. Again in Scorpio, will you wrestle with desire’, for he has yet to prove himself.
The Gods knowing the hard road ahead bring him gifts. Minerva, a robe – symbol of vocation; Vulcan, a golden breastplate, to ‘guard the heart’ – symbol of spiritual energy; Neptune, two horses – symbolic of the mastery of needed sensitivity without being carried away by thought or emotion; Mercury, a sword – symbol of the mind, of mental analysis and discrimination; and the Sun god, Apollo – a bow of light, giving one pointed goal fitness, the ‘flame of illumination’. So well equipped he stands ready, but Hercules goes to the forest and fashions a wooden club, ‘This is mine, I’ve made it myself’ and with this crude weapon, he passes through the first gate.
Aries: The capture of the Man-Eating Mares: Diomedes, son of Mars, possessed a large number of brood mares, running wild and devastating the countryside, living on human flesh, creating terror. The were breeding great numbers of war horses and couldn’t be caught. Eurystheus ordered Hercules to capture them. He took his friend Abderis with him and together they rounded them up. Jubilant, Hercules gave them to Abderis to hold while he went to tell the King. Abderis couldn’t hold them and was trampled to death. Hercules finally managed to recapture the mares, but grieved for the loss of his friend. So the first labour was a partial failure.
Aries is the sign of commencement, the out-going power that begins the cycle, the urge to create. Hercules rushes in full of bravado and initiative and spiritual impulse. The mares represent the destructive nature of an unbridled mind, the powerfull feminine side of the mental nature which gives birth to ideas and concepts, but which let loose on the world without the guidance of mental control lead to ill-judged actions, wrongly spoken words and disaster. He gives control of the wild horses to Abderis, who symbolises the lower personal self, but it takes Hercules as the soul or higher nature and Abderis as personality working together to hold the horses.
The exoteric ruler is Mars and Hercules takes his stand as the warrior, the pioneering spirit characteristic of the sign. Aries rules the head. It is a potent mental sign. Everything originates from thought. You could say that the universe began in the mind of the Cosmic Thinker. The soul is referred to as the Thinker. The word ‘man’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘manas’ to think.
The esoteric ruler is Mercury and here we see the tarot card of The Magician assigned to Mercury. As Messenger of the Gods he bridges that which is below and that which is above – representing all levels of the mind, not so much the concrete levels of mind but more the reasoning, abstract side. At the highest levels, it is the intuition, straight knowledge or ‘pure reason’. Before him stand the symbols of the elements over which he has mastery with hand raised aloft he draws down illumination from the higher nature.
The Mantram: And the Word said: Let from again be sought or I come forth from the plane of mind, I rule. Chastened, Hercules proceeds to the second gate.
Taurus: The Capture of the Cretan Bull: A thought impulse must be clothed with desire in order to manifest. This second labour deals with the potency of desire.
King Minos of Crete kept a sacred bull on the island of Crete. Hercules was set the task of capturing the bull and returning it to the mainland. He travelled to Crete and searched the island, at last cornering the bull. He mounted on its back and rode it across the waters back to the mainland to the city of the Cyclops, one-eyed giants. The Seven Sisters of The Pleiades sang around him as he rode. He delivered the bull into the care of the three ruling cyclops Brontes, meaning thunder, Steropes, lightening and Arges, meaning whirling activity. This threesome represent the three aspects – body, soul & spirit. This theme is repeated throughout.
The key to Taurus is the right understanding of the Law of Attraction, the magnetic pull of desire. It is attraction that draws male and female together, attraction that draws the spirit to incarnate in form. Taurus’ ruler Venus symbolises both earthly and heavenly love, spiritual aspiration and fleshly desire. She is love, and the creator of beauty, harmony and unity. When the allure of form, the ‘thraldom of matter’ is too strong, we are enslaved to ‘Maya’ or the great illusion. This raises the issue of sexual desire, which works in the extremes of celibacy and sex magic. In myth riding an animal signifies its mastery. Hercules returns the bull of desire to the Temple.
The Mantram: Let struggle be undismayed or I see and when the Eye is opened, all is light.
Let the soul ride the form, controlling and mastering it. Through right use of the form, right understanding of purpose and right use of spiritual energy, the soul will act as controlling factor and the body be full of light’. (Labours of Hercules p.52) Vulcan is the esoteric ruler, the blacksmith of the Heavens, who fashions forms for the use of the soul. He represents the quality of persistent will and is a great refining force. Vulcan is an undiscovered planet existing on etheric levels found within 8 degrees either side of the Sun position in the chart. There is an ephemeris available.
The single eye is a reference to the Ajna centre, the organ of spiritual perception and inner sight. In the myth we are told that Hercules found his way across the water guided by the light streaming from the forehead of the bull. Although the cyclops are usually presented in movie epics as primitive stupid creatures, they were in fact the initiates of ancient times, the single eye signifying their evolutionary status. They signify higher consciousness, in delivering the bull to their care Hercules symbolises transmuted desire. Taurus is closely associated with the Ajna centre as is Venus. The magnificent fixed star Aldebaran, the ‘eye of the bull’ is found in the Pleiades in Taurus. And Alcyone, the star around which our sun revolves.
Gemini: Gathering the Golden Apples of the Hesperides: The third task was to seek out the golden apples of the Hesperides which grew on the tree of wisdom. All seekers of spiritual knowledge desired them. Hercules is told only that the apples are guarded by three beautiful maidens and a dragon of a thousand heads. He was also told that he faced five tests on the way which would teach him much, but which he would probably fail to recognise.
Hercules headed northward but was unable to find the tree. He questioned everyone he met, wandered far, often returning to the gate discouraged. The Teacher sent Nereus (representing the guidance of the soul) who appeared to Hercules in varying forms, offering hints, a word of wisdom, but Hercules didn’t recognise him and so failed the first test. Turning south, he met the serpent Antaeus who opposed him at every turn. They wrestled, but Hercules couldn’t overpower him until he lifted him into the air. Vanquished, the serpent warned that he will come again at the eighth gate (Scorpio) – again they would wrestle. Second test passed. Continuing to the west, he met Busiris, the arch-deceiver, son of the waters and kin to Poseidon, who deludes through apparent wisdom – the ‘I am the teacher, only my truth is right’ mentality. Hercules stayed with Busiris, and eventually his beloved teacher bound him to an altar for a year. Whilst lying bound, Hercules recalled Nereus’ words ‘Truth lies within yourself, evoke the strength within’ and he struggled free, binding his false teacher in his place, and left him there to learn. Wiser for his year bound, he continued the search. Third great test is passed. Nereus had not failed.
He next met Prometheus chained upon a rock, in agony, vultures picking at his liver. He freed him, and tended him until he recovered and with much time lost went again on his way. Fourth test passed. For the first time, the Teacher spoke to Hercules ‘There has been no delay…Learn to serve is the rule which hastens success’. He hears a rumour, and turning to the mountains in the east, at last he glimpsed the tree. Jubilant, he rushes forward, but is confronted with Atlas, burdened under the weight of the world he carried upon his shoulders. Filled with compassion, he forgot his search and lifted Atlas’s load, taking it upon himself. Suddenly the load was gone, Hercules was free and Atlas handed him the golden apples. Search over. The three maidens appeared (Aegle, the setting sun representing the physical life; Erytheia, the soul life; Hespiris, the evening star representing mind) giving him three more apples. Hercules handed back the apples for those who follow.
Hercules arrives at wisdom and obtains the apples. Nereus is a symbol for the higher self, whose subtle hints, intuitive flashes are not easily registered at first. Hercules did not know enough to stay with him. Antaeus is the serpent of astral glamour and of lower psychism. Busiris, the false teacher to whom Hercules yielded his will and mind. Prometheus’ release symbolised Hercules’ own release from the ‘vultures of desire’ that had tormented him and freed him to serve.
Gemini is a sign of the intellect with Mercury, the interpreter, as ruler. It is a sign of communication, interchange and education. The duality of the sign is shown by the higher teacher Nereus and the psychic teacher Busiris, between which we must learn to discriminate. There is a plethora of spiritual approaches available to the earnest seeker today. The spiritual aspirant seeks knowledge but it must be transmuted into wisdom. Venus is the esoteric ruler is the loving mind, filled with the light of the soul. What lurks in the heart of the philanthropist, self interest or desire for good, perhaps a little of both? Spiritual ambition can be very selfish. The truly wise are useful, they serve.
Mantram: Let instability do its work or I recognise my other self and in the waning of that other self I grow and glow.
Cancer: The Capture of the Doe or Hind: The capture of the elusive doe symbolises the transmutation of intellect into intuition, that higher form of knowing that characterises the spiritual aware. This labour teaches the distinction between the three states of consciousness – instinct, intellect and intuition.
Hercules looks through the gate to the temple of the Sun God Apollo and sees the doe standing on a hill nearby.He must capture it and return it to the safety of the temple. The doe was sacred to Artemis, the moon, who rules the form, and she claimed it as hers. This relates to the instinctual responses we share with the animal kingdom. Diana, the Huntress, daughter of the sun, also claimed the doe. She represents the intellect, which man as the seeker hunts. It took Hercules a year (symbolically a lifetime) and much persistence to catch the doe and the two goddess claimants foiled and deceived him at every turn. During the capture he wounded the doe with an arrow and carried it in his arms to the temple whereon he too tried to claim it his own. The doe was rightfully Apollo’s who recognised it as the spiritual intuition.
Here are identified the three levels of consciousness represented by the sensitive sign Cancer. Instinct is the mode of consciousness of the form, of the cell life, of nuturance and emotional response. Intellect relates us to the world of human ideas and research. These capacities must be developed or ‘carried into the Temple’ and the intuition awakened which brings us into touch with the world of spiritual realities. Returning to the gate Hercules is instructed to look back and he sees the doe once again upon the hill outside the temple for ‘again and again humanity must recapture these realities’. When we develop the awareness that we are human beings in relationship with other human beings, we begin to be intuitive, not psychic. The traditional ruler is the Moon representative of our instinctual nature, mother and form. The esoteric ruler is Neptune, representing sensitivity, rapport, the intuition, spiritual love and Oneness with all.
Mantram: Let isolation be the rule and yet the crowd exists or I build a lighted house and therein dwell. What house are we building? What forms have we created for the soul? Forms can be organisations and institutions – do they serve the common good?
Leo: The Killing of the Nemean Lion: This fifth labour is the best known. Eurystheus sends Hercules to slay the Nemean lion which was devastating the countryside. He chased it in ever decreasing circles and cornered it in a cave. On discovering the cave had two openings, he blocked one and entering in via the other, in the darkness of the cave he strangled it with his bare hands.
The sign of Leo has much to do with Identification. Leo in some respects stands for the self aware individual. The Nemean lion is the co-ordinated, dominant personality. Hercules was such an individual, remembering that he already symbolically wore a lion’s skin. Such a highly evolved personality uses the mind, has controlled emotions, is self confident and assured, individualistic and can be somewhat difficult and even ‘devastating’ to those in his or her environment. The spiritual aspirant must ‘slay what he or she has created’ in order to reidentify with the Higher Self. An ancient Sanskrit prayer, the Gayatri, speaks of the ‘unveiling of the true face of the Sun, hidden behind a golden disc’, referring to Sun’s symbolic triplicity – the physical sun, the Heart of the Sun and the Spiritual Sun, or the planes of consciousness we contact as we become more inclusive. Leo is ruled by the Sun both traditionally and esoterically, but the reference is to the deeper levels of reality.
Symbolically significant inner events are frequently linked to the cave or the mountain. We speak of ‘the cave of the heart’ for example. There is also a ‘cave in the head’ to which this reference is thought to allude to, a bony structure which surrounds the pituitary gland, which has two lobes signified by the two openings. The pituitary has to do with the functioning, developed personality. This takes us to the study of the chakras or force centres in the body and is a fascinating line of research. So Hercules wrestled with the lesser lion of Personality and emerged from the cave identified with the broader Life.
Mantram: Let other forms exist, I rule. Individual personality identification, or I am That and That am I. Identification with the Whole
Summary of the First 5 Signs: These five labours can be considered as the completion of the first stage of the Journey . The next stage sees its consummation in the tenth sign of Capricorn. What has been gained? In Aries – a measure of thought control. In Taurus – some power to transmute desire. In Gemini – the apples of wisdom were gathered and the distinction between knowledge and wisdom learned. In Cancer – the need to transmute instinct and intellect into wisdom is realised.
Virgo: Seizing the Girdle of Hippolyte: This second stage also begins with a partial failure. In this, the sixth labour, Hercules is sent to collect the girdle of Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons and of all women. The girdle a gift from Venus, was a symbol of ‘unity achieved through struggle’, and a symbol of motherhood. Unknown to our hero, Hippolyte had been informed of Hercules’ task and had deliberated with her female warriors as to whether to surrender the girdle or not. Hercules arrived and with no regard for her words, fought with her, and in his efforts toseize the girdle held in her outstretched hands as a gift, he killed her.’Why slay that which is needed, close and dear? Why kill the one you love, he giver of good gifts…Why kill the mother of the sacred Child? Again you have not understood. Redeem this moment, e’er again you seek my face’ rebukes the Teacher. On the way home, despairing, Hercules saves the maiden Hesione from a sea monster balancing the previous death. The sixth labour over.
We need the human form, the Mother aspect through which we experience, in order to develop higher consciousness, termed the Christ consciousness. Hence Virgo, is the sign which esoterically considered veils the hidden spiritual reality. Lilith or Isis, Eve and Mary, all Mothers of the World, are associated with this sign. It was Isis who said ‘No mortal man hath ever me unveiled’. (Coincidentally, Isis was instructed in the mysteries by Mercury, traditional ruler of the sign). Implicit in the Labour of Virgo is the truth that ‘the body should be attuned to the soul and bring its beauty into manifestation, (and) redeem it’. Too often the response to the body has been either to flagellate or ignore it, rather than treat it as the vehicle for the indwelling soul, or as Buddhist philosophy calls it ‘this precious hunan rebirth’. Implicit in this confrontation inherent in this lesson is the ancient battle between the sexes still being waged in the human family.
Mercury, traditional ruler, represents the discriminative mind, and the mediator between matter and spirit. The Moon which rules form, veils Vulcan as esoteric ruler and as in Taurus, is the refiner of the form, bringing confirmation to higher purpose, perhaps the higher reflection of Virgo’s preoccupation with perfection.
Mantram: Let matter reign or I am the Mother and the Child. I, God, I , matter am.
Libra: Capture of the Erymanthian Boar. Passage through the seventh Gate offers a further lesson in balance and judgement, this time performed well and with humour. It was a test of friendship and of courage. Hercules had been instructed to seek a boar and had been given was told to use Apollo’s bow. Afraid of possibly killing again he left it behind, taking only his club. On the way he met two friends Pholos (bodily strength) and Cherion (good thoughts) both centaurs who enjoined him to share a cask of wine. Unknown to Hercules the wine belonged to all the centaurs who drawn by the noisy carousing, responded in anger. A fight broke out during which Hercules accidentally slew his friends. Eventually he trapped the boar in a snare high in the mountains, wrestled with and mastered it and forced it down the mountain held by its two hind legs like a wheelbarrow causing much laughter from all he met on the way.
The capture of the boar symbolises self mastery. The lesson of Libra is the attaining of equilibrium by the balancing of the opposites. This is a rather paradoxical labour, in the midst of conviviality, there is catastrophe and the well meaning Hercules again causes death. However he does not kill the boar, but demonstrates a rather incongruous solution to the task. Laughter is a very effective way of dissipating glamour and he makes the ferocious boar an object of ridicule. Bailey describes this scene as the’ soul directing the ungainly body’. Venus rules this sign giving the desire for balance and longing for harmony, for a non-confrontational approach, the need for relationship and the desire for meditation that characterises Libra. Responding however to the vibration of Uranus, the esoteric ruler, gives the ability to break with the old order and instigate the new. This is a revolution done from within, the Libran re-makes him/herself first in order to re-make the world. The exoteric ruler of Libra’s opposite sign Aries is Mars which is atoned with Venus, male and female – will and love. In many ways, Libra is an abstruse sign, as the man or woman is neither soul or body due to the state of achieved balance. We cannot control the desire nature by physical strength (Pholos) and thought (Cherion) alone. Hercules had to ‘take the boar up the mountain’ to do so, for it is symbolically on the mountain top or in our highest nature that revelation comes.
Mantram: Let choice be made or I choose the way which leads between the two great lines of force. Poised and balanced between the pairs of opposites at the point of equilibrium.
Scorpio: Destroying the Lernaean Hydra. The eighth Gate, where Hercules must again defeat the serpent. Hercules was dispatched to destroy the monstrous Hydra, a loathsome nine-headed beast of that lay in the swamps of Lerna in a stinking bog. One head was immortal, but when one head was cut off, two would grow. Hercules was counselled ‘We rise by kneeling, we conquer by surrendering’. He had to shoot a flaming arrow into the creatures lair to make it come out. Attacking the monster only made it grow stronger. Remembering his instruction ‘we rise by kneeling’, throwing away his club, he grasped the Hydra and lifted it into the air (as he had done before in Gemini) and kneeling held it aloft in the light where its strength slowly failed. He cut off the nine heads, the immortal one appeared and was buried under a rock.
The monster represented all the accumulated evils, mistakes, and failures of his long past. This is the classic shadow experience so akin to Pluto as Scorpio’s ruler. Pluto rules the underworld and inherent in this labour is a symbolic death experience often associated with this sign.He had to pierce the creatures lair with light to bring up out the hidden the unconscious and hidden debris into the light of day- into the air symbolic of the mind and expose them to the light of wisdom and the higher dimension. It takes humility to admit that these dark energies lie within us.
Bailey ascribes each of the nine heads to the problems that must be overcome in the achievement of self mastery. The first three are the appetites associated with sex, comfort and money; the passions of fear, hatred and desire for power; the vices of the unilluminated mind: pride, separateness and cruelty. These energies must be transmuted and redirected. Humanity, as the World Disciple, is ruled by Scorpio and it is these energies that we are seeking collectively to deal with. This Labour, dealing with the ‘enemies of one’s own household’ is that which humanity is undergoing. We only need look at the evening news. The immortal head symbolises that every difficulty overcome, no matter how gross and protracted, becomes a ‘jewel of value’, demonstrating that all transmuted dross becomes gold. Here the work in Taurus, Scorpio’s polar opposite, is completed, and the mire is cleared away, the disciple stands free from illusion.
Mantram: Let Maya flourish and let deception rule or Warrior am I and from the battle I emerge triumphant. Mars as esoteric ruler, the triumphant warrior.
Sagittarius: Killing the Stymphalian Birds. Hercules now stood at the ninth Gate and the task ahead was to find the marsh of Stymphalus and rid it of the birds that dwelled there wreaking havoc. He searched and at length came to the marsh and saw the huge screeching birds. They were hideous, large and fierce with iron beaks sharpened like swords, feathers like steel shafts and talons to match. When they rose they blocked out the sun. Hercules sought for a way to route them. He took two cymbals that sounded with a screeching unearthly sound, blocked his ears and waited til twilight when the birds were still. The dissonant clang and din of the cymbals disturbed the birds who rose wildly, confused and in disarray. They flew off, never to return. Silence returned.
In Aries, Hercules realises the need to control his thoughts. The lesson of Sagittarius is restraint of speech through control of thought. Sagittarius has been called ‘the sign of silence’.. In the ancient mysteries, candidates for admittance would be required to keep silent until they understood right speech. The three birds that caused most harm were; cruel gossip, talk of self and casting of pearls before swine. The aspirant on the path is beginning to be powerful, when they aim, they ‘they hit their mark’, their thoughts and consequently their words have a more potent effect and so, as aspirants, we must practice harmlessness for ‘ to him who is harmless, all enmity ceases’. It is sobering to realise how many critical thoughts, self-pitying thoughts, gossip, words that should not be spoken come from us in the course of a day.
Sagittarius, the centaur, half human, half animal or half human and half divine is symbolised as the white horse – a symbol of divinity. It is a sign of one-pointedness and’ we see truth when we can use the arrows of thought rightly’ (Labours of Hercules p. 164). Sagittarius is the ‘spirit of truth’, and the sign of the truth seeker exemplified by Jupiter its ruler. It is the first of the universal signs, and is called the ‘lesser gate’ that leads to the Capricorn, the mountaintop where the arrow is aimed. Its esoteric ruler is the Earth itself and the earth point in a chart, found directly opposite the sun sign, indicates the physical location of a person’s Path, and the place of service for the disciple is indicated by sign and house placement.
Mantram: Let food be sought or I see the goal, I reach that goal and then I see another. The one-pointed aspirant, the archer on the horse, going straight to the goal.
Capricorn: The Slaying of Cerberus, Guardian of Hades. The Teacher touched Hercules’ forehead and he saw a vision of Prometheus chained and bound and suffering as before. Unable to die as he was immortal, he suffered thus as punishment for bringing fire to Humankind. This heavenly fire was the fire of mind, giving humankind the gift of self awareness. Hercules task was to give him release. Down into the underworld he descended, crossing the river Styx. He comes before Hades who permits him to release Prometheus if he can conquer Cerebus, the three headed dog, who guards the path, with his bare hands. Fulfilling this task, he sets the sufferer free from his bonds and returns to the land of the living.
Capricorn is the tenth Gate and the sign of the Initiate. In Capricorn is the mountaintop experience undergone. In a way this is the culmination of the Path of discipleship. Cerebus’ three heads symbolise the three aspects of body, emotion and mind over which Hercules has now proved mastery. At the foot of the mountain the goat of materialism seeks gain and the realisation of worldly ambition. On the journey up the mountain of initiation, are experienced the hard lessons of all the signs learned and tests and trials undergone. At the summit, the goat of Capricorn is transformed into the unicorn of God.
An initiate is simply ‘one who no longer identifies with the form side, but is identified with the spirit’. The two great gates of the zodiac are Cancer, the door into human life and Capricorn, the door into the spiritual kingdom. Through that door Hercules passed. No longer is he focused ‘in the mind, or desires or physical body, but in the soul, that aspect of ourselves which is free from form’.
Mantram: Let ambition rule and let the door stand wide or Lost am I in light supernal, yet on that light I turn my back. All the previous signs have been to do with Hercules’ own liberation. He moves into the impersonal and universal signs where the focus is on service to humanity. Here Hercules deals with world work, and the concept of group consciousness.
Aquarius: Cleansing the Augean Stables. ‘Eleven times the wheel has turned, and now you stand before another Gate For long you have pursued the light which flickered first uncertainly, then waxed to a steady beacon, and now shines for you like a blazing sun. Turn now your back upon the brightness; reverse your steps; go back to those for whom the light is but a transient point, and help them make it grow.’ (Labours of Hercules p.180)
For years King Augeus’ stables had not been cleaned cattle dung from his stablesand the stink and fetid mess was a blight on the land. No crops would grow in thedespoiled earth. Unable to believe that hercules would clean his stables for no reward the King was distrustful of him. He promised a tenth of the herd to Hercules if he could clean the stables in one day, if he failed his life would belong to the King. Hercules completed the seeminglyimpossible task by diverting the waters of the nearby rivers, Alpheus and the Peneus form their natural courses and causing them to flow through the stables. the rushing waters soon washed away the accumulated filth of ages. Augeus was convinced it was a trick and banished Hercules.
As an initiate Hercules is pledged to unselfish service, group work and self sacrifice. These are not to be interpreted in the usual way, but esoterically. Imagine a group of selfless workers, ‘so united on spiritual levels that the intuitional rapport between the minds of the members is perfect?’ Thats not yet, and if it seems far fetched, consider the internet culture, a precursor perhaps on the more material level. We are moving into the Aquarian Age. Symbolically, Humanity as a whole is Augeus’ cattle and the stables have not been cleaned for many years. Aquarian qualities of non-separateness, love, understanding, intelligence, freedom from authority, draw out the best in us. We are called on to break down the barriers of separateness as Hercules did and let the â€œwaters of light and loveâ€ flow through human consciousness from the Waterbearer’s upturned pot. As this transitional age progresses we can see this happening on the world stage. In this most human of signs, the Initiate returns from the mount of Initiation to serve the world and Jupiter as esoteric ruler, representing the fusion of heart and mind, pours his unifying beneficence.
Mantram: Let desire in form be the rule or Water of Life am I, poured forth for thirsty men.
Pisces: The Capture of the Red Cattle of Geryon. The Server in Aquarius becomes the Saviour in Pisces. There are several versions of the myth of the final labour in which Hercules drives the Geryon’s cattle which are unlawfully held, across land and water to the sacred city. Geryon is a monster with the body of three men merged into one. His cattle are guarded by a shepherd Eurytion and his two headed dog, Orthrus.
Whilst meditating in the Temple of Helius the god of fire, whose aid he had been told to invoke, a golden chalice fell down at Hercules’ feet. Knowing this object would help him cross the seas, Hercules set out for Erythea. He subdues the dog guarding the herd, and spares the shepherd who begs for his life. Returning with the cattle Geryon comes against him. With one shot of his arrow Hercules manages to pierce all three of his bodies killing him at once. He drove the cattle towards the sacred city with difficulty as they kept straying and sailed them all back over the sea in the golden cup, returning them to Athena, goddess of Wisdom. Hercules work was now over.
‘Welcome, O son of Go who is also a son of man,’ he greeted the returning warrior. The jewel of immortality is yours. By these twelve labours have you overcome the human, and put on the divine. Home have you come, no more to leave. Upon the starry firmament your name shall be inscribed, a symbol to the struggling sons of men of their immortal destiny. The human labours ended, your cosmic tasks begin.'(Labours of H. p. 197)
Humanity is Geryon the three bodied monster (body, emotions, mind). The cattle are human desires, guarded by the shepherd, the mind which Hercules wisely spared. Thedog representing the material and psychic aspects were killed symbolically derived of power. The cup was the Holy Grail up into which the shepherd and the cattle were raised. All Saviours lift humanity. They appear through all the ages and by their living example set a higher pattern to follow, sounding the note that indicates the next step forward in consciousness.
Mantram: Go forth in matter or I leave my Father’s home and turning back I save.
Summation: There is much in the Labours that cannot be expressed in a brief summation of the stories. For each sign there are certain fixed stars associated which add considerable richness to the symbolism. A deeper study reveals a synthetic picture of the experiences undergone by the aspirant progressing through Aries to Pisces – a journey that leads step by step to self-knowledge. I am reminded of the Delphic injunction ‘Know thyself’. I close with two quotes from Bailey’s work on the Labours which I have quoted throughout, which affirm the power of astrological energies operating upon the evolution of our consciousness.
‘In this context, the Zodiac is the Path or Way. As we study this path… we are brought face to face with the concept of a steady and unceasing progression around this vast belt of constellations. The idea of eternal recurrence and of constant activity, bringing with it, we hope and believe, a constant development, gives a grasp of the magnitude of the One Life and a vision of an ever-emerging plan and purpose, which embodies the intelligent working out of God’s thought.’
The second idea, which found such a strong response in the human mind that it constitutes the science of astrology and forms its basic premiseis that each of these signs , through which the sun and earth appear to pass, are embodiments of energies which have a potent effect upon all forms of life on our planet, and upon the world of ideas’. (Labours p. 218)
Just a brief point. Because you have a sun, moon or ascendant in a particular sign, it is not an indication that the associated Labour is necessarily potent in your life. It is dependant on other and more subtle factors. Best to consult a good astrologer!