Reversing the Wheel

Two directions of travel through the signs

In esoteric astrology, the signs are ultimately seen as six pairs and—especially when connected by Gemini—as triangles expressing the second ray love-wisdom of this solar system’s Sun (see Gemini-GreatBear-Pleiades).

These pairs function differently for the two main groups of humanity (with many overlaps and edge cases), who:

  1. are learning unconsciously through passive experience and the path of incarnation
  2. have chosen to hasten development consciously by embarking upon the path of return

These two modes of experience—the involutionary and evolutionary paths—mean that the entire zodiac can be viewed as two directions of travel, although any one individual may switch from one to the other at different times. There is more information (under the decanates) on the reversal of the wheel.

Involutionary: Path of Incarnation

This is the path symbolised by the slow precession of the equinoxes backwards through the constellations (in contrast to the monthly signs) from Aries into Pisces, ending in Taurus. As the collective human experience we—as an entire species—are currently entering the constellation of Aquarius. This involutionary path leads the individual into repeated incarnations and the long lessons of earthly experience. Cancer is regarded as the gateway into this experience:

the focussed energy of Cancer… makes it a major magnetic or attractive focal point leading to the processes of incarnation. Through the door of Cancer streams the “magnetic magical light which guides the soul into the dark place of experience.” (EA 336-7)

This involutionary experience evokes the conventional meaning of the signs, but from an esoteric perspective, as we build on our experiences through immersion into matter. At its most material, this culminates in the following polarities:

  1. Aries-Libra —Unstable embryonic beginnings leading to the balancing of the lower psychic nature and its expression through form. Embryonic desire for expression consummates in the passion of satisfaction. Lower love controls.
  2. Taurus-Scorpio —Powerful focussed lower desire leads to death and defeat. The triumph of the selfish nature that eventuates in an awakening to satiety and death. The individual is a prisoner of desire and at the moment of consummation knows their prison.
  3. Gemini-Sagittarius —Fluid interplay and instability leads to personality focus and determination. One-pointed devotion to personality achievement dominates. The threefold lower nature, synthesised and directed, controls all activity.
  4. Cancer-Capricorn —The urge to incarnate leads to the densest immersion in form. The pull of form life and the processes of concretisation control. The individual arrives after many incarnations at a point of crystallisation.
  5. Leo-Aquarius —The quest for full expression, arriving finally at the point where the environment is used for purely individual ends, and the domination of others for entirely personal objectives. The isolated individual becomes the group ruler or dictator.
  6. Virgo-Pisces —Virgin matter attracts the soul and the divine “Mother” (matter) becomes more important than the “son” (the inner self). The life of the soul is hidden. (EA 337-8 minor edits)

Evolutionary: Path of Return

This path is symbolised by the annual traversal of the Sun in the familiar direction through the signs of the tropical zodiac from Aries to Pisces. It begins when we reverse the wheel i.e. when we step away from the slow involutionary path that follows the precession of the equinoxes and begin—in the old parlance—to rule our stars. We begin to accelerate the growth process and see opportunities for conscious development in the experiences we increasingly choose to encounter. While Cancer births us into the “sea of life”, Capricorn entices us to the “mountain top”:

the magical pull of Capricornian energy which upon the returning wheel (in contradistinction to the wheel of rebirth or the outgoing wheel) of expression and… discipleship draws the soul steadily away from form life and [unthinking] experience and constitutes that “radiant light which leads the soul in safety to the mountain top”. (EA 336-7)

This evolutionary experience brings in the true esoteric meaning of the signs as pairs, which is the ultimate goal of this path—to combine the opposites into the “blended six”—complementaries that function as a whole (see The Sign Opposite Sun as Monad). Note that the second half of the zodiac begins with the esoteric turning point in Libra, so these pairs now symbolise the path of return:

  1. Libra-Aries —The achieved equilibrium, at the point of rest, provides the mental impetus for soul control. Passion is transmuted into love and the initial desire of Aries becomes the full expression of love-wisdom. Desire to manifest becomes the aspiration to be.
  2. Scorpio-Taurus —The final victory of soul over form. Death and darkness demonstrate as life and light as the result of this energy relationship. The dark night of the soul becomes radiant sun.
  3. Sagittarius-Gemini —The result of this related pair of opposites is that there is one-pointed soul effort, spiritually directed activity and a demonstrated readiness for initiation. There is the waning of the power of form and the waxing of the life of the soul.
  4. Capricorn-Cancer —The initiate now chooses to incarnate and passes freely and at will through both doors. The pull of matter is superseded by the free choice of the soul. Form life becomes a conscious method of expression for service.
  5. Aquarius-Leo —Personality interests as an expression of the individual are submerged in the good of the whole. The selfish individual becomes the world server. Heights of noted service are then reached in both signs.
  6. Pisces-Virgo —The form reveals and releases the indwelling soul. The “Saviour of the world” appears and nurtures the hidden souls in Virgo. (EA 338-9 minor edits)

These two sets of pairs symbolise the esoteric signs at their most general. In everyday usage, individuals function at their own level and experience their own path in any sign and—later—pair of signs. However, the tension between the two is what we experience during the more challenging periods of personal/spiritual growth:

I would like here to add something more … about the wheel of life and its reversed motion which occurs at a particular stage of evolution. …the difficulty of the problem and the intensification of the life of conscious duality which marks the earlier stages of the Path of Discipleship, up to and immediately preceding the third initiation, is based upon the wheel of the zodiac contributing its influences to the life of the form nature in a normal manner; the myriads of lives which constitute the form are conditioned by the signs of the zodiac proceeding in its normal manner—clockwise, due to the precession of the equinoxes, whilst the life of the disciple, focussed in the soul consciousness, is governed (or should I remark, should be governed?) by the wheel, proceeding anti-clockwise [i.e. in the familiar direction]. Both motions are in potent opposition and, symbolically speaking, produce eventually that ‘tearing asunder’ which always precedes initiation and illumination and which is testified to by all the mystics and initiates. This is in reality that which produces the destruction of the veil of illusion… (EA 276)

Esoteric Astrology: 161-2, 337-9