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—crucially—as polar pairs that complement each other

Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable

Cardinal
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
Fixed
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
Mutable
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, and the signs as polar pairs in the involutionary and (reversed) evolutionary zodiacal wheels.

Signs by symbol

Seven of the symbols for the twelve signs of the zodiac are dual in their nature, and duality can be inferred from them (EA 56). Through their esoteric rulers, these dual signs relate to six sacred, and one of the non-sacred, planets:

This leaves the following (with their esoteric rulers):

Leo and Sagittarius (Sun and Earth) two signs which are simple figures [with] no significance of duality [that] embody the idea of isolated separation and one-pointed desire. (the lion’s tail and the arrow) (EA 56)

Virgo and Scorpio (Moon and Mars) with definite three-fold symbols, crucial to the human experience, indicating… the function of the triple form and the liberation of the [individual] imprisoned in the form, through the tests in Scorpio (EA 56) thereby proving the reality of that which Virgo has hidden, veiled and nurtured i.e. the triple personality concealing the soul.

Capricorn (and the remaining sacred planet Saturn) whose symbol conceals the mystery of the Crocodiles, or Makara. It is constructed in an inaccurate and definitely misleading manner and should be regarded as a mystery and therefore not to be defined (EA 57). See Capricorn for more details.

New planetary rulerships for developing consciousness

As shown in the main navigation diagram (the home page icon, 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 communicated to humanity at various states of evolution by three sets of planetary rulers:

Orthodox:
personality life: the familiar conventional rulers and the materiality of everyday experience as a trial-and-error learning process
Esoteric:
inner life: the conscious development of the self with and the often intense conflicts and tensions involved in working through and resolving issues
Hierarchical:
mental life: personality/soul integration and the unification of individual and collective evolution

The hierarchical rulerships also represent the influence of each sign over the slow collective evolution of humanity, as is evident in the gradual precession of the equinoxes (currently the transition from Pisces to Aquarius).

These three rulerships offer correspondences within 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 all three, or dip in and out during peak or trough moments in life.

Finally, to clarify the areas covered by Hierarchical rulerships:

The individual impact of these are explained thus:

It is only when [we are] upon the Cardinal Cross that the significance, purpose and potencies of the Creative Hierarchies become clear… and the “doors of entrance” into all of them stand wide open. (EA 163-4)

[once] an initiate, this range of vibrations is rapidly increased and [we become] receptive to those energies … tabulated under the term hierarchical [which reference] the twelve Creative Hierarchies. The forces of these Hierarchies (neither planetary nor systemic), then sweep into and through the initiate and awaken those major group responses which eventually [enable the] systemic consciousness [that makes us] a world server in Aquarius and a world saviour in Pisces. (EA 268)

The Creative Hierarchies are part of the cosmology of the Theosophy that informs esoteric astrology. As groups of beings/forces (depending on how you view them) they exist in esoteric astrology as deep, long-term influences on evolution. They have a rough interconnection with the Theosophical idea of the devas, and also with the mythology about the “gods, goddesses and deities” that exist within many cultures, in that they occupy a distinct line of evolution, as impersonal forces with their own agenda. In most cases they affect humanity only by providing vehicles of expression for human life or by creating circumstances that enable some shift or leap in evolution. Their function as hierarchical rulers in esoteric astrology is part of the wider awareness that dawns once the trials of personal conscious development expand into group consciousness, with realisations about how our ongoing development is irrevocably intertwined with the progress of all lives.

The three decanates (or decans) in Esoteric Astrology

In conventional astrology, decanate rulerships simply follow the signs of each elemental triad, but the information in Esoteric Astrology is inconsistent. For instance, the esoteric decanates don’t always follow the reversed wheel, so that reversal of travel through the signs isn’t always reflected. Exoteric decanates apply before, and esoteric decanates after, the “reversal of the wheel”. However, this doesn’t always mean that esoteric decanates are a simple reversal of the exoteric. Further, exoteric rulerships have evolved since the book was written, so this must also be taken into account.

Alice Bailey draws on Theosophical Astrologers Sepharial (Walter Gorn Old) and Alan Leo, but often provides different esoteric decanate rulers. Some information also differs from that given elsewhere for the same sign, whereas in other cases they’re stated clearly. Other decanate rulerships also hint at esoteric and hierarchical sign rulerships and connections, or at planets veiled by the Sun or Moon, while others are explained as substitutes for planets with a related influence.

The information under each sign’s “decans” section is therefore an attempt to bring some clarity to the esoteric decanates, while adhering to the given information in Esoteric Astrology, as well as adjusting for the “reversal of the wheel” where this is obviously required. Additionally, allocations by the decanates by Stephen Pugh are also included so that astrologers can decide from as wide a range of esoteric sources 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 through the constellations (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 in a similar manner to how planets function 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 [form life is influenced by the backwards (or “retrograde”) wheel, but consciousness is subject after “reversal” to the esoteric influence of signs in the familiar direction]. The disciple enters the sign under the influence of that decanate which is for [them] the first but which is the third for the ordinary [individual]. (EA 283, also see EA 203)

There is an interesting observation (under Gemini, EA 370) about how these 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. This is all covered for each sign under the “decans” 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, there are three signs in the zodiac itself that serve as its own decanates:

just as each sign is divided into three decanates… 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. (EA 204, 486)

See the triangle Taurus-Scorpio-Pisces for more.