The 12 signs

The signs as polar pairs

In esoteric astrology it is necessary to assess the signs as members of one of the three crosses, and also as polar pairs that complement each other:

Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable

Life: points of crucial synthesis leading to breakthrough
Axis one: AriesLibra Equinoxes representing critical turning points of balance
Axis two: CancerCapricorn Solstices representing peak points of abundance
Consciousness: conflict or intensification leading to harmony
Axis one: TaurusScorpio Self-worth and shared worth: clearing emotional resistance to growth
Axis two: LeoAquarius Defining the self; locating that self within the group/society
Form: periods of change and re-orientation
Axis one: GeminiSagittarius Relation of the personal to the transpersonal self: personal integration
Axis two: VirgoPisces Love and nurturing of the self, strength to care for others

The Personal Points

Viewing at least the three personal points (Ascendant, Sun, Moon) as pairs of opposite signs, the complementaries indicate qualities that have either been integrated, or require integration, into the developing personality. Alice Bailey refers—crucially, considering the psychological nature of the process—to a fusion in consciousness where the “twelve opposites… become the blended six”, and through which we discover the “freedom of the two”:

For instance, the Leo subject… preserves the individuality, developed in Leo, as well as the universality of Aquarius [and] can function… as a fully self-identified individual, yet possess simultaneously a fully awakened universal awareness; the same thing can be said of balanced activity and consequent fusion in all the signs. (EA 348)

This is developed further in the idea presented in material from the Tibetan given to Alice Bailey in 1943 after the publication of Esoteric Astrology (see Stephen Pugh, Triple Sign Meditations) in which it is explained that the Sun’s complementary sign in a chart indicates the monadic influence—for more information see “The sign opposite the Sun as monad” under the Personal Points.

New planetary rulerships for developing consciousness

As shown in the main navigation diagram (top left), each sign is the vehicle for between one to three of the 7 Rays. However, the influence of each sign and the rays working through it is also accented at various states of evolution by three sets of planetary rulers:

These three rulerships correspond to the triple model followed throughout esoteric astrology—for instance, the three crosses of activity, intensification and synthesis or the material, emotional and mental facets of personality. Rather than ‘grades’ of development with neat ‘upward’ progress, we tend to cycle through these three, or dip in and out during peak or trough moments in life. Additionally, Hierarchical rulerships cover two areas:

The three decanates (or decans) in Esoteric Astrology

The decanates in Esoteric Astrology are not given consistently. They are sometimes reversed and other times given in the familiar direction. In conventional astrology they simply follow the rulerships of the signs in the elemental triad. They are consequently not always clear, and neither is the direction of travel (before or after the “reversal of the wheel”). Alice Bailey draws on Theosophical Astrologers Sepharial (Walter Gorn Old) and Alan Leo, and for some decanates gives fresh esoteric replacements. Further, information on the decanates of some signs differs from that given elsewhere for the same sign, whereas in other cases they’re stated clearly. Some decanate rulerships also coincide with esoteric rulerships, or hint at planets veiled by the Sun or Moon, while others are explained as substitutes for planets with a related influence, as the rulerships and descriptions given also carry related esoteric and hierarchical connections with the signs ruling the decans.

The information under each sign’s “decans” section is an attempt to bring some clarity to the esoteric meaning of the decanates, while adhering to the given esoteric decanates as well as adjusting for the “reversal of the wheel” where this is obviously required. Allocation of the decanates by Stephen Pugh is also included so that astrologers have as wide a range of esoteric information as is available.

  1. Humanity en-masse learns gradually through experience, traversing the decanates in reverse order, backwards through the zodiac (symbolised by the slow precession of the equinoxes), until the (confusingly-named) “reversal of the wheel” that heralds conscious development via progression through the signs in the familiar order. Individuals therefore work on their own progression within this broader cultural context, depending on the development of their own consciousness.
  2. While the precession of the equinoxes (as in the “Age of Aquarius”) affects humanity en-masse, the same backwards progression through their symbolic representatives, the signs, indicates how those primarily anchored on the Mutable Cross learn by (often repeated) experience, perhaps similar to the function of planets when retrograde.
  3. A critical mass of humanity has exhausted the lessons of the Mutable Cross and is beginning to mount the Fixed Cross, so humanity in general is therefore reversing the wheel together as part of its collective evolution.
  4. As in the rest of esoteric astrology, a decanate governed by the Sun or Moon can indicate one of the three veiled planets: Vulcan, Neptune, Uranus. Further, in passages about the decanates in Esoteric Astrology Venus, Mercury, the Moon, Jupiter and the Sun are often interchanged or overlap. This has to be assessed by the astrologer in individual cases; where there is ambiguity, no definitive allocation will apply to all cases, so other areas of a chart must be examined for suggestions.

The conflict to which all disciples are subjected can be traced to the fact that the form life of the disciple is influenced in one way by the wheel, and the consciousness aspect in another way or in the reverse direction. The disciple enters the sign under the influence of that decanate which is for him the first but which is the third for the ordinary man. (EA 283, also see EA 203)

There is an interesting observation (under Gemini, p 370) about how the two directions of travel through the signs can be confusing for an understanding of the decanates—the suggestion being that astrologers need to do some further thinking to adjust for the reversal of the wheel, the connections with esoteric rulerships, and the possible veiling or substitution of planets for some of the decanates given in Esoteric Astrology. These adjustments are outlined for each sign under the “decanates” tab.

Decanates and the triplicities

Each decanate can also represent the familiar triads that pervade esoteric astrology and originate in the basic principles of Life/spirit/monad, Consciousness/quality/soul and Form/appearance/personality:

The triplicity into which each sign is divided and which we call the decanates is of particular interest in… Capricorn. As is the case in all correspondence, this triplicity can be related to… spirit, soul and body. The central decanate is therefore of peculiar moment in our world period as it is concerned with the effect of the planetary influences, the solar rays and the energy of the constellations upon the soul or the consciousness aspect. This is the case whether we are considering… the ordinary wheel or… the reversed wheel. From the standpoint of astrological interpretation and in the case where the astrologer is not sure which way the wheel is turning [for an individual], it is the only decanate with its ruler of which [we] can be sure. (EA 172)

The above passage explains that the “central decanate” is concerned with the “consciousness aspect”, which implies that the other two may be allied with the remaining Life/will and Form/appearance aspects.

However, each sign of an element is also on one of the three crosses, which would need to be assessed alongside this statement about the central decanate. The elemental triads of the decanates may therefore be used to modify the general weighting of a chart by cross—the predominance of a cross by decanate offering a secondary emphasis to the conventional weighting of the crosses. For instance, a predominantly fixed-cross chart my have many mutable decanates, indicating that the overall fixed cross experience needs to be lived out in a “mutable way”. As an example: a chart with an Aries Sun at 12° (Leo decanate) would lend a Fixed cross accent to the Cardinal Sun; and a Capricorn ascendant of 22° (Virgo decanate) would bring a Mutable cross flavour to the Cardinal ascendant. As a secondary method, this needs to be weighted and balanced against the overall emphasis of the crosses in any individual chart.

Finally, “just as each sign is divided into three decanates which are ruled by specific planets, so the zodiac itself is a part of a still greater zodiac and is also divided into three parts … ruled by three constellations which are to this greater zodiac what the planets are to the decanates.” See the triangle Taurus-Scorpio-Pisces for more. (EA 204, 486)