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November 2017 Update: Some (maybe most) of my thoughts on this topic have shifted as I work with Pre- and Perinatal Psychology (PPN) and birth process work. Seeing how working with preverbal material is so unconscious until we have an extremely safe, slow, gentle, compassionate, appropriate, held container, I would definitely equate 12th house energy with the birth process – literally and figuratively. I am going to write a new blog post about it shortly. Nov 2017. I wrote this present post 8 years ago, before I met my PPN teachers. You should read my new upcoming post to clarify how we can liberate our shadow energy which initially shows up in the 12th house. We are not stuck, the 12th house is not always a guaranteed fatalistic doom and gloom zone. It is interesting seeing my progression through learning and healing wisdom.
According to traditional astrologers, there is a feeling of gloom and doom about the 12th house, no matter how you package it. However, I would argue that this is only partially accurate, and with a dedicated spiritual practice, this dim forecast may be quite transcend-able. It truly depends on a person’s frequency and how willing / flexible they are to work with their shadow material. In ancient, Hellenistic astrology, the 12th house was known as the “Evil Daemon” and planets tenanting it received significant debilitation. Only the cold, dry, stern, efficient disciplinarian of Saturn “enjoyed” being in that house. This shows that there has been a stigma associated with the 12th house for thousands of years.
The 12th house is associated with Neptune and Pisces, and as such, it has had such billing as the house of imprisonment – being imprisoned by our addictive or escapist tendencies, imprisoned by our worries and fears (usually irrational), working against ourselves, being stuck in confusing, deluded patterns, etc. It can be a house of deceptive energy, deceiving ourselves as well as others. However, it has some positive traits, or “ways out” of its confining boundaries. Planets in the 12th house can add heightened sensitivity to the native – physical, emotional, psychic, etc: it can certainly add increased intuition and dream guidance. And it generally rings true that service is a good remedy to challenging configurations within the 12th – service to the community, or working within institutions such as hospitals, prisons, schools, mental institutions, etc. The 12th house also tends to increase our powers of imagination and creativity. And ultimately, the 12th house is where we discover the true source of power – humble conduct and wise universal understanding and compassion for all beings.
[Revision 5/1/21 – As I revise and review all these older posts, I am thinking about my good friend who took his life back in 2015. And the reason is, not just because an unexpected suicide can be complex grief requiring years to heal, that he had three planets in his 12th house. I would need to go back and look at the aspects those planets are making, and really get into the subtleties and nuance of the chart. For instance, I remember him having the Sun and Saturn there, and one other planet. Was something squaring that Sun or Saturn? How close to the Ascendant was Saturn?
He also had what many of his friends would say is undiagnosed schizophrenia. He was channelling his guides, he was extremely intuitive and I loved our philosophical conversations which were enhanced by his psychic abilities. But toward the end, apparently his “guides” started telling him that it would be better to end his life here, and that he would be reborn in a higher state. And from a Buddhist perspective, this is an affliction and certainly not healthy.
Therefore, I am now thinking (in 2021), that the 12th house is very delicate terrain. Yes, there may be ways to working with this activation, these deep currents of escapism and imprisonment. But sometimes being on medication might be the best thing for us. So working with people we trust, doctors we trust, getting second opinions, etc might be a good way of supplementing our 12th house journey.]
I would argue however, that without being born with incredible positive karma, and without having some form of diligent service or if we do not maintain some form of daily / weekly spiritual practice, the 12th house’s deep, dark secrets and reserves of confusing energy can certainly be a cause for concern. Personally, I see the 12th house as being that which is most hidden – you could say it is the Akashic Records – the “Divine book” that stores all of our thoughts, words and deeds throughout all of our lives. It is the deep wells of karmic unconscious energy, waiting for the causes and conditions to come about to manifest.
In Buddhism, one of the predominant theories is that we take a human incarnation in a world that is fraught with confusion and ignorance. This confusion leads us to become attached to pleasure and averse to painful or challenging experiences (and people). That is how we develop close friends and loved ones as well as hatred toward enemies. As we go through life with this underlying confusion, we are never fully satisfied – in fact we generally want what we don’t have and once we acquire the object of our desire, we become dissatisfied with it. So ignorance is the root cause of this suffering or dissatisfaction, and the attachment and aversion that arise from ignorance also create suffering and further dissatisfaction.
Our mind becomes separated from the knowledge and realization that we are completely interdependent with the rest of the world – if someone else suffers, we also suffer (whether immediately or down the road). If someone (close to us) is happy, then we generally benefit (again – it might be an immediate gratification or a trickle down effect). It is this fundamental confusion – that we are completely independent, separate entities that gives rise to conduct which maintains these cycles of dissatisfaction and suffering. For instance, we continually grasp at the concept of an independent self, and we cycle through the patterns of defending this “self,” over and over again. If we fully understand that we are intertwined with everyone else on the planet and we orient toward true compassion for others, then we can be content with the way things are. We can think on a larger scale – aspiring and acting for others’ benefit will actually increase our well-being – whether in a “I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine” sort of manner or due to the positive karma and merit created by doing virtuous deeds. When we aspire to and act for the benefit of others, out of loving-kindness, wisdom and compassion, without a personal agenda, this is known as Bodhicitta – the mind that desires complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
However, most of this world has confusion, along with the resulting grasping and frustration of not having what we want. It is this underlying confusion that is built into the 12th house in the astrology chart. If we keep in mind that the Natal Chart is merely a template of our ego-structure, and if we start to transcend the ego using a qualified spiritual path (a path that leads to a more open, lovingly-kind heart), then we start to transcend the challenges which an afflicted 12th house might represent. But, due to the fact that most of us, myself included, are not there yet, we suffer from constant dissatisfaction and confusion. We are never completely happy and content – any temporary happiness or pleasure we encounter is always conditionally based.
It is this confusion and grasping for situations which we think will bring us happiness – pleasure, fame, gain and praise – that cause us to be stuck in this cycle – for eons and eons. When we our frequency is very dense (when we have not cultivated Bodhicitta) and we are bouncing from situation to situation, reacting and posturing for our own benefit, that is when the 12th house jumps up and nips us in the bud. The 12th house speaks of every frequency along these lines – do we work for the benefit of others and serve our community, or do we constantly blame others for the “problems” we encounter? Do we understand that any happiness or suffering we encounter is actually our karma manifesting – whether positive or negative? Are we completely honest with ourselves? Do we know about some of our hidden inner agendas? Have we done some work to make our blind spots more conscious? Do we practice generosity and patience simply to benefit others – sincerely, unstained by personal gain?
I will continue this thread in the next post, and give more concrete examples from my clients and personal experiences.