Aspects: an esoteric view

Incorporating aspects into esoteric astrology

Although it might be that aspects—like the houses—are specific to the personal or exoteric horoscope, not the esoteric chart; the three crosses (Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable), seven rays and a more universal and understanding of the triangles can inform the basis of an esoteric view of aspects. As with the houses, there are hints towards this throughout Esoteric Astrology.

Aspect diagram: conjunction
one: conjunction
Aspect diagram: quintiles
five: quintiles
Aspect diagram: septile
seven: septiles
Aspect diagram: decile
ten: deciles
Aspect diagram: opposition
two: opposition
Aspect diagram: square
four: square
Aspect diagram: octile
eight: octiles
Aspect diagram: hendecile
eleven: hendeciles
Aspect diagram: trine
three: trine
Aspect diagram: sextile
six: sextile
Aspect diagram: novile
nine: noviles
Aspect diagram: dodecile
twelve: dodeciles

Developing individuals are held to be influenced by esoteric rulers and their relationships by ray and sign, rather than the orthodox planets and the aspects between them, although there are several passages with aspect-like metaphors, for instance (from A Treatise on Cosmic Fire):

The Law of Sacrifice “is Vulcan and Neptune in opposition”. {TCF, p.597}

Note that this is not a direct reference to the astrological aspect of opposition, but such snippets offer suggestions for esoteric aspect interpretation.

History and geometrical basis

Dividing the 360° of a circle by each whole number up to twelve (or more in the practice of harmonics or for obscure aspects) creates the polygons that form angles for the astrological aspects. Typically, astrology utilises only a selection from the 12 resulting aspect groups—’groups’ because some polygons have more than one point (see diagram above).

Current naming and given meanings of aspects does not always indicate their polygonal and numerical origins (e.g. semisextile and quincunx are both formed by the 12-sided polygon; while the more obviously-named quintile and biquintile are from the 5-sided polygon), so their groupings really only become apparent by looking at the geometry.

Some astrological writers have already recognised that aspect groups belong to their originating polygons:

the circle can be divided by any number or its multiples and still offer relevant meaning. (…) The focal aspect plus its multiples are all members of one “family” or “series”. The multiples draw their primary meaning from the main division number that produced them, and thus all share a common theme. (…) Such aspect groupings may provide astrologers with many missing links in aspect analysis.
—Tierney, Bil, Dynamics of aspect analysis, CRCS Publications, California, 1983

The esoteric grouping of aspects into ‘families’

Grouping all the aspects into families enables the entire range to be simplified for use in the esoteric chart, since each individual occurrence of an aspect is absorbed into the broader focus of the ray to which it is related numerically:

Ray 1 will, synthesis
conjunctions (1), deciles (10: 1+0 = 1)
Ray 2 love-wisdom
oppositions (2), hendeciles (11: 1+1 = 2)
Ray 3 intelligent activity
trines (3) , noviles (9 = 3x3), dodeciles (12: 1+2 = 3)

Then as subsets of the three rays of aspect, the rays of attribute suggest:

Ray 4 harmony through conflict (under Ray 2)
squares (4), octiles (8 = 4x2)
Ray 5 mental refinement (under Ray 1)
quintiles (5)
Ray 6 idealism, devotion (under Ray 3)
sextiles (6 = 2x3)
Ray 7 order (under Ray 1)
septiles (7)

The three main groups

these 12 numerical families can thereby be resolved into 3 fundamental groups relating to the Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable crosses—symbolised by the numerical primacy of the numbers representing the rays 1, 2 and 3 into which each aspect family falls—thereby further simplifying the path through the otherwise bewildering forest of angles.

This is a good example of the real power of esoteric astrology. By matching the numerical primacy of the first three integers to the 3 crosses, complete groupings for every aspect are created under three ‘meta-families’.

The first three rays are held to be ‘rays of attribute’, meaning that they have fundamental qualities that are simply repeated with variations in the higher numbered ‘rays of aspect’ 4-7. Geometrically, point (1), line (2) and plane or triangle (3) form the entire basis of simple planar geometry. Mathematically, the digital root of every number higher than nine (found by adding digits until only a single number remains e.g. 28=2+8=10=1+0=1) can also be seen to have either one, two or three as a base; numbers with a digital root of 3, 6 and 9 are all divisible by 3 and share common patterns and qualities (6 and 10 are singly even as they can only be divided by 2 once); the numbers with an even digital root of 2, 4 and 8 share common properties and are divisible by 2, leaving numbers with an odd digital root of 1, 5 and 7, which—apart from 5 and 7 being primes—have what might be called singly odd properties (technically, 10 is singly even as it can only be divided by 2 once, but its digital root of 1 is odd). The complete aspect range from one to twelve can therefore be divided—like the zodiac—into three ‘meta-families’ of four aspect groups, each relating to one of the three crosses:

Cardinal cross
odd numbered aspects from polygons of 1, 5, 7 sides
plus 10 (digital root 1: 1+0)
Fixed cross
aspects from polygons of 2, 4, 8 sides (divisible by 2 but not 3)
plus 11 (digital root 2: 1+1)
Mutable cross
aspects from polygons of 3, 6, 9 sides (divisible by 3)
plus 12 (digital root 3: 1+2)

It’s important to note that higher-numbered aspects are practically meaningless if only between two points, which is one reason cor their omission in conventional astrological interpretation. However, by using narrow orbs to identify closed or symmetrical aspect patterns between 3 or more points, aspects that would be insignificant alone could provide valuable esoteric indicators when taken in aggregate. Closed aspect patterns that combine differing aspects are familiar in orthodox astrology from the finger of fate (30° sextile and two 150° quincunx aspects) and the finger of the world (90° square and two 145° sesquiquadrate aspects).

The ‘sub-families’ of aspects

When aspects are grouped in this way, a chart will reveal the distribution of aspects from the Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable group, including any patterns formed from three or more points interconnected by higher-numbered aspects. Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable may be emphasised, or there may be balance between two or all three. This overall aspect weighting can then be assessed alongside the weighting of each cross by planetary position and ray emphasis. In this way, interpretation of the complete family of astrological aspects is simplified by being brought under the overall esoteric framework.

As a visual aid to analysis, each of the three aspect groups can be drawn up on three separate chart ‘layers’ and/or in three colours (Cardinal-red, Fixed-blue, Mutable-green) so that they are easier to compare.

Since The higher numbered aspects may highlight more subjective and subtler traits, a further suggestive mapping could match the four aspect groups in each of the three primary aspect families with the mental, emotional and etheric/physical levels of the triple personality, with a fourth representing the intuition or transpersonal element (known as the ‘buddhic’ in Alice Bauiley’s writing):

Principle Cardinal Fixed Mutable
intuitional (air) deciles (10 = 1) hendeciles (11 = 2) dodeciles (12 = 3)
mental (fire) septiles (7) octiles (8) noviles (9)
astral (water) quintiles (5) squares (4) sextiles (6)
physical (earth) conjunctions (1) oppositions (2) trines (3)

Following the esoteric interpretation of the three crosses, combined with the various ‘bodies’ that make up an individual psyche, the ‘vertical’ groupings are suggested as follows:

the cardinal grouping
represents the principle of will,
stimulating synthesis and mental polarisation in each of the fields of experience from the intuitive self to material life.
the fixed grouping
represents the principle of love-wisdom
the emotional intensification often accompanied by inner conflict, experienced after the first flush of self-awareness has waned.
the mutable grouping
represents the principle of active intelligence
what we learn from lived experience and real-life circumstances, often repeated until the message is driven home.

Along the ‘horizontal’ axis, the suggested groupings appear as follows, from the most immediate to the subtler:

Conjunctions, oppositions and trines
literal objective personal life trends of the ‘lived through’ kind.
squares (4), quintiles (5) and sextiles (6)
experience at the personal emotional level.
septiles (7) octiles (8) and noviles (9)
mental polarisation or subjective synthesis.
deciles (10), hendeciles (11), and dodeciles (12)
experience with a subtler subjective impact.

Since the Mutable family of aspects affects the more immediate areas of the three worlds, perhaps the two dodeciles of the 30° semisextile and 150° quincunx are easier to pinpoint. Awareness of the subtler aspects may become apparent only after working through the more obvious aspect configurations, or if many dominate the horoscope. These four proposed layers under each of the three crosses indicate increasing subtlety towards the effects of higher-numbered aspects.

If this scheme does not resonate with your practice, the four elemental dimensions may be omitted altogether. Higher-numbered aspects in sufficient quantity or in significant patterns can still enhance the esoteric interpretation, but all within the framework of the primary three rays and the three crosses and their keywords:

Cardinal Fixed Mutable
life, synthesis, initiation consciousness, intensification, crisis form, change, experience
deciles 10 (1) hendeciles 11 (2) dodeciles 12=3
septiles 7 octiles 8 noviles 9
quintiles 5 squares 4 sextiles 6
conjunctions 1 oppositions 2 trines 3

Summary: the three crosses relate to the three main prinicples

The relation between the three crosses and three primary rays of aspect (rays 1, 2 and 3) is the crucial point. It underpins the esoteric connection between the various aspect families and their 3 overarching meta-family groups, and isolates the possible predominance of aspects under any particular group—e.g. a horoscope with a preponderance of oppositions, squares, octiles and (if calculated) hendeciles indicates a strong fixed-cross/love-wisdom orientation.