Esoteric Astrology Key Concepts

As well as offering powerful new techniques to astrologers, there are significant distinctions between contemporary astrology and esoteric astrology, including a few which may be challenging to accept at first glance. The most important are listed here. Some of Alice Bailey’s output expands greatly on material originally given out by H. P. Blavatsky to the Theosophical Society’s Esoteric Section.

A glossary of terms specific to esoteric astrology is in progress, as well as an explanation of outmoded language, updated from Alice Bailey’s works. A forthcoming book (in progress) will offer a detailed companion to the website—for a sample, please download the Introduction (PDF file).

Major Astrological Conceptual Shifts

The seven rays
a system based on the symbolic meanings of first seven numbers, with the first three symbolising fundamental properties. These primary three rays of aspect (1,2,3) and successive four rays of attribute (4,5,6,7) appear in esoteric philosophy as the seven rays.
Three tiers of planetary rulers for each sign
To reflect the layers of shifting meaning that signs have as we move through our development, there are three layers of planetary rulership; the first: the familiar traditional astrological rulers; the second: esoteric rulers that take over once our consciousness begins to expand; the third: hierarchical rulerships that represent the deeper esoteric symbology of each sign at a cosmic level and influence the broad evolution over time of humanity, as well as being available once our consciousness is whole, integrated and fully-aware. Depending on our state of being, this may be in short peak experiences when we are particularly focussed or have resolved some significant issue, or (gradually over time and honed though experience) permanently.

For further information see New planetary rulerships for developing consciousness.

Sun, Moon and Ascendant in new roles
In esoteric astrology, the Ascendant represents the ‘sun of possibility’; in other words, what we may become or—more precisely—what we most need to learn, and is an essential key to the esoteric horoscope. The Moon represents what we have been (for better or worse, our instinctual/inherited selves), while the Sun stands for our present personality and chosen life direction.
The “triangles”
These important esoteric relationships have specific meanings, and exist primarily between various combinations of signs, but can also involve planets, stars and rays. Information about them is scattered throughout Esoteric Astrology. A complete listing of triangles that involve each sign, planet, star and ray appears as a drop-down menu under their section. For more information read the introductory text about triangles.

Planets Veiled by the Sun and Moon

when the ruler of a sign is given as the Sun or the Moon I shall speak of one of the hidden planets (EA 99)

The Sun and Moon, veiling… Vulcan, Neptune or Uranus

Alice Bailey had access to Helena Blavatsky’s notes to the Esoteric Section (E.S.) of the Theosophical Society, where the following statement appears: “It should be remembered also that the Moon, like the Sun, is a substitute for a secret planet”. Here, as in other examples, Bailey expands greatly on many of the hints originally given out to the E.S. by Blavatsky.

So in horoscopes of those who have embarked on the path of inner development, the Sun and Moon as esoteric or Hierarchical rulers are regarded as “veiling” either Vulcan, Neptune or Uranus (see the Vulcan-Neptune-Uranus triangle). In Esoteric Astrology these are the rulerships of the Sun and Moon:

…study the “fluid area” where the planets, veiled by the Sun and Moon, come into play and decide (from… the chart [and knowledge] of the subject…) what is the point in evolution… and which of the three veiled planets is the ruler, [to obtain] intuitive understanding. (EA 510)

According to the nature of the individual, and the predominance of one of the three crosses “the intuition of the astrologer and of the esoteric student must be called out” in order to determine the veiled planet as—although their veiled esoteric and hierarchical rulerships are given, this remains a “fluid area”, where particular life experiences may be invoked by the influence of any of the three veiled planets.

It is only in the present cycle that the Sun and Moon “veil” certain planets and are the exoteric symbols for certain esoteric forces. As evolution proceeds, the planets will not be veiled. Their influences will not be so remote. At present the mechanism of the majority of the human family is not tuned to the reception of the rays from Vulcan, Uranus or Neptune whilst Pluto at present only evokes response from groups or from those… evolved rightly to respond. The three veiled planets—Vulcan, Uranus and Neptune are all sacred planets, embodying first, seventh and sixth ray energies. Vulcan is never an exoteric ruler and only comes into real activity … on the Path, whilst Uranus and Neptune are rulers of the eleventh and twelfth houses, and govern Aquarius and Pisces. The implications will be clear to you. (EA 509)

Each of these three represent a facet of the triple personality:

These three—which form a triangle of immense creative potency—determine or condition the physical, astral and mental natures, thus creating the personality, the ‘mother’ or matter principle symbolised by the mutable cross… (edited from EA 106-7)

Planets in Esoteric Astrology

The main esoteric concept is that each planet is an expression of one of the 7 rays, with some rays being expressed through two planets, one “sacred” and the other “non-sacred”. This informs the esoteric meaning of each planet. The following significant perspectives depart from the usual astrological view:

For more information, see the introductory section on planets.

Reversal of the Wheel

During the long process of learning by experience, Esoteric Astrology holds that individuals progress through the signs in the same direction as the slow (approx. 25,800 year) precession of the equinoxes through the zodiac in reverse order from Aries, backwards through Pisces, ending in Taurus (hence the “Aquarian Age” as the first point of Aries in the Tropical Zodiac moves towards Aquarius in the Sidereal Zodiac). This long, slow process is presumed to cover lifetimes:

the Crisis of Reorientation… may take a long time and constitute an interlude of many lives of struggle. (EA 61)

The more rapid and turbulent progress of conscious evolution brings about a reversal to the same direction as the familiar tropical (annual) zodiac. The moment of this momentous reversal is symbolised by the esoteric meaning of Libra. Alice Bailey states that this reversal is happening to humanity en masse:

…a great re-orientation upon the wheel of life has taken place… several million… have passed from Scorpio into Libra (symbolically speaking) and there have been “weighed in the balances” and have afterwards refocused their desire life towards spiritual aspiration and reinforced their determination to move forward and thus have returned into Scorpio upon the reversing wheel (EA 239)

This shift is also symbolised by ‘moving’ from the influences of the Mutable cross of form to the Fixed cross of consciousness; then eventually to the Cardinal cross of life which synthesises the entire process into a whole. “Mutable”—in this case for the general evolution of humanity—represents the long process of learning through experience; although in the complex reality of individual development our journey throughout the crosses is more fluid and dynamic, according to what we need at the time.

For more details also see Signs > Reversed Zodiac.

Signs and Constellations: Tropical and Sidereal zodiacs

An astrologer can use either the tropical or sidereal zodiac (or both). However, the process of awakening to conscious development or reversal of the wheel can be seen as a transfer away from the backwards shift through the sidereal zodiac—representing the gradual learning process of cultures and civilisations and their populations—towards the more rapid forward journey through the tropical zodiac in familiar order. The constellations of the sidereal zodiac are seen as the archetypes behind the signs of the tropical zodiac in a manner similar to each of the seven rays working through three of the sidereal constellations, and from there to the tropical signs:

In the understanding of the significance of the distinction between constellations as galaxies of stars, and signs as concentrated influences will come fresh light upon the science of astrology. This is fundamentally connected with the difference between the relation of a ray energy to the triangle of constellations and the human relation. (EA 621)

The distinction between the “greater and lesser” zodiacs is therefore explained by allocating the sidereal (stellar constellations) to the grand sweep of human evolution and the long-term inner journey of the collective human soul, and the tropical (annual) to the more rapid individual growth process or “spiritual development”. Horoscopes cast for personal use with the tropical zodiac signs therefore correspond to the representational presence of forces transmitted to them by the sidereal constellations, even though they may no longer align in space, a distinction clarified by this extract from Esoteric Astrology:

I am referring to the influences of the constellations as they are represented by the signs… owing to certain shifts… the Sun is not in the constellation to which a particular sign refers at any given moment (EA 410)

Distinctions and connections between the tropical and sidereal may reveal how the individual responds to the archetypes of the greater zodiac within their own developmental lifetime, or how their own evolution meshes—or not—with that of the rest of humanity. However, such comparisons are a little too in-depth and even confusing for personal use.

Aspects in Esoteric Astrology

Aspects are not mentioned directly in Alice Bailey’s book, although it is possible to extrapolate a system based on the three main geometrical groups and esoteric number symbolism, a process that greatly simplifies the many possible aspects into simpler esoteric groupings related to the rays and crosses. This is explained in detail in the aspects section, along with guidance on how to integrate aspects with esoteric astrology.