My friend and colleague Wonder Bright posted a post on her site yesterday where she dove into the contradictions related to astrology’s 12th house. The sort of diving a lot of 12th house Sun people do. An inquiry that’s easy to understand, given astrology’s grab bag of 12th house horrors.
As defined by classical astrology, the 12th house of the birth chart is a cluster of fallen positions, people and milieus. And modern interpretations are no better, creating what I call a ‘death-by-euphemism’ blanketing; where New Agers and their notions of transformation and the collective unconscious (huh?) have defanged the 12th house to the point of parody.
Traditional astrology explains that because the 12th house makes no proper Ptolemaic aspect to the ascendant, the 12th house and its activities go ‘unseen’. This same idea applies to the 2nd, 6th and the 8th house too. Over time, the life events and conditions associated with each of those houses can become problematic. In other words: If I am not consciously aware and actively involved with the circumstances involved with each of those houses I will, most likely, fuck things up.
Jesus, there’s nothing like an individual’s relationship to money (2nd and 8th houses) and the consequences related to finances, to drive said person to the brink of addiction or crime; which, of course will land them in the 12th house, that of prisoners and jailers and drunkards and debtors (and a bunch of other Charles Dickens‘-like characters), where he or she will abide and live like a slave (a classic 6th house theme.)
So all of this seems valid to me because the ascendant is the particular lens through which I view reality and reality views me. If certain of my activities and affairs fall beyond my eye of awareness (my ascendant), well, most likely there will be blood. And sweat. And certainly tears.
Personally, and maybe because I have Leo rising and Leo doesn’t like to think of anything related to the self as being artificial, I have never jibed with the Jungian confluence of the first house with the persona, the mask that one wears to present himself to the world.
Mmmmm. No, sorry. My Leo nature is the real deal.
Tho I think it was a Jungian, UK astrologer Liz Greene who once described the ascendant as being similar to a kind of school or university that one is sent to, to better learn and integrate the various qualities of that sign and how to successfully express those qualities in life.
In other words there is work (a 1st house application of self) involved with the ascendant, a deliberate focus and coming to terms with. Now that I can relate to. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I understood the intricacies of my rising sign and how, when expressed consciously, I sensed more of my totality of being, my unique mark and mark-making as a human being. All of that relates to the ascendant as a kind of gathering and filtering point for the totality of the horoscope.
From a Gurdjieffian perspective the entire chart can be viewed as a mask. If an individual is not living from a place of presence — his or her essential expression of Being — then all of the planetary positions, including the Sun, would be shaded or dimmed — operating at a level of sham.
If I am bereft of presence — my “I am-ness” — all that’s left to tether me to my chart is the Moon. That is to say, my lunar nature with its instinctual scratching and clamoring; and memories cobbled together to create a glop of identity. A ‘me’ that’s actually an ‘it.’
As Gurdjieff often explained, a soul is not one’s birthright. A soul must be forged. To modernize this notion you could push it through the Jungian lens and say: One must individuate to consciously connect with one’s unique qualities and expression. All of which implies a movement from the lunar to the solar.
If my life is simply an expression of acquired traits and reactions, emotional states that I’ve absorbed from my mother and father, my teachers and the culture in general, then my life is, indeed, not my own. I’m a fake. My horoscope then becomes a promise of what could have been.
But what of the 12th house? If the 2nd, 6th and 8th houses of the chart denote the potential for disconnect, what exactly is the 12th cut off from?
Are there clues in that list of keywords: self-undoing, ruin, imprisonment, exile and suicide. And what about the places you will go? Monasteries, hospitals, nut houses and nunneries. Oh, and there are critters, like elephants, clomping around here too. Imagine a nun riding an elephant. (No, don’t.)
A hero of mine, traditional astrologer John Frawley has also added masturbation to this peculiar set of mutations, and, well, as I told Wonder in my reply to her post, that was when I balked. Not that I never masturbate (TMI), but that the 12th house would have jurisdiction over a normal sexual pastime is wonky to me. I think (hope) what Frawley alluded to was the Judeo-Christian guilt that taints ‘the act,’ so, yes, why the hell not toss onanism into the 12th house’s bucket of tears. Everything else sad is in there.
Switch the scene for a moment.
It was a sunny day in Seattle when another colleague, Heather Roan Robbins was visiting. We’d had coffee and I was driving her back to her daughter’s, when I broached the 12th house theme. She also has a 12th house Sun, and I was curious to hear her take on the dreaded zone.
Heather is one of those inventive astrologers who teach using a ‘full-bodied’ system, meaning every part of the student’s being is involved: The head, the heart and the body. She will often have her students theatrically enact the force of a particular planet, or the style of particular sign; or she will position two students across from one another in the room, with an: “OK, so you’re Venus in Pisces and he’s Jupiter in Virgo — what does this opposition feel like and how does it show up?”
Regarding the 12th house, she explained to me that she’d learned the most about all of the horoscope’s houses by considering and feeling out the time of day or night that each house is associated with.
And the 12th is linked to that that magic hour of the morning (between 6am and 8am) when the Sun’s radiance is soft and the light incrementally establishing, stirring to spread — having moved away from the midnight’s darkness.
Think about it: People don’t run around yaking and tossing their bodies about like bumper cars at 6 o’clock in the morning, as they do, say, at noon when the fervor of the day is buzzing, convincing us that full sunlight is the realm that defines our collective world.
Heather’s notion touched a chord in me, and triggered a long reevaluation and appreciation of the 12th house and what that early morning light conveys, the very stage that it sets and illuminates.
Student Solita Solano recorded in one of her diaries that Gurdjieff explained: “…morning Sun is best for us, the only time of day when the rays contain certain properties necessary for our understanding.”
And as I explained in the comment to Wonder’s post:
“Coming from a man I respect, when it comes to the difficult work of awakening, I put stock in Gurdjieff’s declaration — and those ‘properties’.”
I continued, from my experience, “dawn — like dusk — is a period in the day’s cycle that is akin to sacred time.” And I’ve found this to be true: There’s a palpable stillness to the early light’s aura, a quiet that is both fragile and vibrant with potential. And this is how a Sun in the 12th might expresses itself in the world.
My father (an Aries) says that when I was born, he left the hospital and headed back to the family house, driving with his car’s top down, yelling out his excitement and honking his horn throughout the neighborhood, announcing to anyone who could hear him that early, that he now had a son.
As the Sun is our father in our horoscope, I was able to surmise from my dad’s behavior another unusual quality related to a Sun in the 12th, one that might explain more about the house’s problem-making potential. That being an “out of synch” condition that often marks a 12th house Sun.
The 12th houser is asleep when others are awake, or she is going full throttle when everyone else is in bed. Or she sees and then announces insights that others miss or deliberately want to ignore. It’s as if that bardo, that netherworld zone of the dawn, translates into a kind of exemption from the grind that the wheel of time traps day-timers in: Up at 8, lunch at noon, back home, dinner, TV, to bed and then do it all over tomorrow.
And my father certainly personified this peculiar ‘out of synch-ness’. He was everything but a normal father — he struggled with alcoholism, was wild about Immanuel Kant, so Kantian ethics colored every event in our household, to the point where my brothers and I, every Sunday, would have to choose between staying home with my agnostic father — to watch football (freedom being the closest one can come to experiencing God) — or go to church (which my father considered foolish, being something ‘for the pious masses’) with my Catholic step-mom. (Loathing football, I went to church).
But my father also worked tirelessly on trying to make the world a better place. After a full day of engineering for the Edison company, he would come home and devote hours to a project that he remained committed to most of his life: Inventing the world’s first artificial heart that would use the body’s own electrical signals to galvanize the device’s pump. Again, another 12th house Sun theme in action: Working behind closed doors on a project that might help all of humanity.
But that’s a story about a father.
What of an individual with the Sun in the 12th?
As Wonder points out in her second post on this theme, one wants to study where Leo falls in his or her chart (and I would add, also where Cancer falls, as I feel the Sun co-rules that sign along with the Moon — [I know, I know -- don't go there, you can read about it in my new book]) to have a clue as to what the Sun in the 12th must relinquish, sacrifice or suffer loss through.
Something else Wonder suggested: Having Leo on the ascendant is an antidote to the disconnect between the ascendant and the 12th house. The ruler of the 1st in the 12th gave those two resonance, a way to actually link up. And perhaps this is true, and explains why I might be able to suss out specific details, or offer specifics about the Sun in the 12th that are blurry, or have gone missing, for someone where Leo falls elsewhere on the wheel. Maybe.
But regardless of where Leo (or Cancer) lands on the chart, one condition I’ve seen repeatedly with all 12th house Suns is the ability to almost effortlessly self-destruct. Or, sensing their proclivity for ‘self-undoing,’ there is an ease in committing to a process of inner work as an antidote: Therapy, 12-Step, counseling, meditation, contemplation or prayer (which explains all the monastic themes associated with the 12th). Interestingly all of these generate self-awareness and supply, perhaps, that missing sense of ‘is-ness’ that the disconnect from the ascendant generates.
For many 12th housers this is a welcome relief, to engage with a spiritual practice or to undergo therapy. Once that commitment has been engaged; it allows that quirky ‘off the beaten path’ part of their nature a structure to work within, to be enthused about.
Of course our culture still casts a wary eye on someone who would voluntarily choose to explore his or her psyche in protracted detail. It’s almost un-American. “Why don’t you just take a pill?” And the 12th houser responds, “Christ, don’t get me started talking about pills…” Or booze or pot or…
Also on the 12th house Sun menu: Long stretches of solitude … quiet, study and the joy of doing nothing (one of my favorite pastimes, which of course is the devil’s workshop!) The later offering another clue as to why older cultures associated the 12th house with weirdness; if someone was spending so much time alone — and enjoying it — something unseemly must be afoot. She must be masturbating!
But enough about my 12th house, how did you like this post?
I mean — ha! — please share something of your Sun in the 12th house. Help unravel the question of what falls out of sight for the 12th house Sun soul. Where is Leo in your chart and do the affairs of that house take you down the rabbit hole of traditional 12th house themes?
We’d like to know. There can never be enough data gathered on the 12th house, for like its nascent morning light, as soon as one facet of illumination flares, another bit of radiation lifts off and disappears into the blaring glare of the noonday Sun.