Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! I have had repeated requests to say more about the 12 houses, and am planning a number of articles on the subject. Today I present the first part of a three part series on the houses (or temples as I call them) with parts 2 and 3 to follow in the coming months. I hope these will give learners at all stages something to think about. This month, temples 1-4 are under discussion.
The 1st Temple: Being, Identity, Embodiment, Beginnings.
Location: The area of the sky that lies directly below the eastern horizon, upon which all celestial objects arise. The Sun is here every day in the hours before dawn – dawn actually marks the climactic end of the Suns daily passage through the 1st temple, as its light begins breaking the surface of the world in the east, heralding a new day.
Discussion: Arguably this is the most important of the 12 temples because it is the front door to the chart and our primary way of influencing the Earth Zone (physical universe) and being influenced by it. This marks the point of entrance into life, the doorway into existence in the temporal sequential realm. From a hermetic standpoint at the moment of birth the individual physical, astral and mental body of the newborn emerges from the body of the mother still connected to her on the mental and astral planes. The mental body of the newborn separates from her with its first breath, and the astral body – which is the core transeiver of the substance of astral Light described by our astrology – remains connected to hers and does not begin to form its own discrete body until the umbilical cord is cut. This is the moment we should really be using as ‘birth’ from an astrological perspective, but emergence into the external material world is just as significant (astrology being a measurement of significance) and additionally the time between the two events is usually only a few seconds, and it would be extremely unusual for this amount of time to make a significant difference to the chart (although it might actually be up to as long as 20m before the cord is cut, in which case there is an issue).
The degree of the ascendant that rises in the east at the place and time of this event delineates the 1st temple. Another way of saying this is that at the moment in which we took our first breath and the cord was then cut there was a particular zodiac sign placed in the east, rising into the sky. With the east being magically associated with the breath of life and the dawn or creation of things, this sign is ‘in the air’ at that time, being born with us, and so we inhale its essential meaning with our very first gasp of oxygen, and all of its significance acts to ‘close up’ the hole that once connected us to our mothers astral, at which point we become seperate people. The brain chemistry is imprinted with the occult significance of that moment and place, but this is just a product of the deeper astral conditioning which occurs. The sign that is on the 1st temple and all the qualities connected with the 1st temple in our chart describe the atmosphere in the room at this moment in time and space, the qualities of the observers, the events, the location, the overall impression that was present and became bound to the first experience of physical life. Thus it is our earliest and most primary astrological influence. It represents an astra-mental doorway into the physical universe, the living now moment and our deeply sourced memory of that cord to our mother being cut. That’s why it is so sensitive – it marks the beginning of time and independent existence, the birth of our unique and independent being. It says “I AM!”, and so it harbors truly tremendous creative power.
Astrologically (in many houses systems at least) the 1st temple opens with the degree of the ascendant which is a particularly powerful degree in the zodiac being the degree at the eastern horizon at the place and time we are born, so the 1st temple or house is the temple to bodily life itself. Its degree marks the metaphorical ‘place’ in the Earth Zone through which, with the help of our parents, our spirit-soul infused and crystallised its essence into our material form with the intake of our first breath. It is in a sense like the navel in the physical body, but is more like a knot or twist that is posited in our astra-mental body, a locus of attention in their Elements and in space-time. Our face, bodily gait, mannerisms, primary method of expression, degree and form of interaction with the outer world, what we are willing to consciously admit or show to others, quality of self sustainability, our overall health (as it is known to us – not unknown conditions) and the projection of our total character are among the primary relevant analogies here.
More significantly, as the ascendant is the degree of the astrological zodiac rising on the eastern horizon at the moment you were born, the ascendant and to a degree the 1st temple are the symbolic ‘now’ moment in which you entered this world, the doorway through which you came into time, space and life, and this doorway is the framework or lens which you will always use in your perception of life and your expression of the total Self, the quality of ‘now’ moment in which your identity exists and is known to you (see this article by Leslie Polzer on the zodiac signs and the now moment). The ascendant and the 1st temple describe your experience of the now moment. This is a vital point to remember. As an angular temple (the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th, the ‘turning points’ of the sky) the 1st denotes action – these are places where the astrology is often obvious and is directly encountered as a highly active influence – and as part of the trinity of the temples of existence (1st, 5th & 9th) its essence is therefore well described as “Awareness of Existence in Action”. It is thus the Temple of Being or Life, and was anciently called the Temple of Mercury, the planet which joys here, signifying (to the ancient mind) its connection to our spirit taking temporal form (the joy of a planet is the temple it naturally flourishes in). Other descriptions for it are the helm of the chart, the hour marker or the place of ascension.
The helm is a nice Mercurial word that aptly expresses the navigational power of this place. Objects here become so intrinsically a part of our being that we literally identify the self with them and their powers – our form of being becomes a living incarnation of their presence, thus we become a kind of planetary personification and navigate by that planets beacons. Think of the word ‘avatar’ here – a manifestation of a deity or spiritual being in bodily form on Earth. We are wearing a wardrobe that befits the planet and its beings are pleased with this, drawn to it – perhaps to our detriment. Such planets or stars are (often literally) ‘in our face’ throughout life and assume significance on a par with the Sun sign, especially if the planet (or star) is close to the ascendant. As old mythologies of personal human contact and union with the gods will attest, this is not always a good thing and it is never easy. Even Venus has her curse in the form of unwanted admirers, though some planets are more difficult for us mere mortals to be avatars of. Powerfully placed planets, like those in the 1st, can literally overpower and devour our own identities. This is not to say they must be tamed and made obedient as if they were unruly pets or demons, it is to say that you must be aware of a power within you which threatens to easily overpower your other motivations and character traits and that you must be consciously aware of that within your identity before you can master its amazingly positive potential.
Even when no planets are present in this area of the sky our relationship or connection to the sign of the ascendant and the Element it belongs to along with that signs planetary ruler (and the planets temporarily moving through the 1st temple as time passes) all become critical in terms of our overall vitality, our appearance, health and the way we project the energies of the entire horoscope directly onto the world at large, as well as how we view the external world and experience the now moment. This sign, Element and its planetary ruler become very dominant in our nature even when no other influences enforce it. They are the ones who open the doorway into physical life for our soul. The planet ruling the ascendant is the overall designer of our physical life, informed by our karma and by Divine Providence. It opens the double doors of the horizon, and the universe pours in.
For this reason this temple also has a direct relationship to our bodily wellbeing, our state of health. However, the analysis of health and the potential for illness in a chart is complex and involves many different considerations. The role of the 1st temple in health is in determining our conscious awareness of our well being, level of fortitude, our constitution and the conditions affecting our physical form which have a bearing on it such as our weight, bone structure, physique, etc. It also expresses our path to integrating the mental, astral and physical being into a consciously guided whole. The 1st temple provides us with vital powers with which to fight off disease and disturbance, so if there are strong planets here these can be used for self healing work, and sometimes also radiated to others through the aura, although this can be depletive and also result in transference of qualities we do not wish to transfer – we need a pure form of contact with that planet to conduct such healing safely.
In temple cycles we begin from the 1st temple because it has a direct connection to beginnings and the birth of things. When there are activations in the 1st temple key they result in not only changes to our identity but the new beginnings in life that naturally arise from such changes. Sometimes this happens in reverse, with changes in identity coming after major new life beginnings. We may try to figure out which causes what, but the truth is more that the true cause is an astral stimulus for a new beginning in life to take place, a new chapter to begin.
The trick with the 1st temple is to look within you seeking the connection you have with such influences (including the activators when they pass through here) and finding ways of bringing this awareness into the present moment of physical life. This increases the flow of you into life and thus the flow of life into you. You must work towards a place where these forces guide you in practical ways without leading to the self destructive pitfalls they can bring. This means you must raise your consciousness of them. For example, with Saturn you must introduce discipline but without becoming rigid, fearful, stern or inflexible, and you must try to embody the highest Saturnian virtues that you can. If you experience any of these negative things (being rigid, fearful, etc) disharmony in the health will be likely to follow, its a kind of indigestion as you are failing to absorb and process the raw essential meaning of the planet concerned and this leads to disruptions which attempt to clear the accumulated energy for you.
The sign that rises, the ascendant, will show the basic qualities we use to engage and interact with the world and its expression in our body form and astral aura, but these qualities will be slightly modified in most cases by the sign position of the planetary ruler of the ascendant and any planets in this temple or aspecting the ascendant.
Concepts: How we are seen by others, what we will admit to in ourselves, our image (hair, clothes, ‘look’), our mask, our constitution, our vitality, our mannerisms, our self expression, our way of interacting with the outer world, our general window of perception on life, our experience of the now moment.
Ancient terms: hour marker, helm, place of ascension.
The 2nd Temple: Worth, Value, Resources, Gear
Location: The area of sky approximately midway between the eastern horizon and the ‘bottom of the sky’, the IC (see 4th temple).
Discussion: This temple lies further below the horizon than the 1st and following on from it, so it is completely below the horizon. It is therefore an invisible region of the sky connected with things that are earthly (of the ground) and relates to private (unseen and personal) experiences. The key emphasis of the 2nd temple is ‘Awareness of Physical Security’ and I call it the Temple of Acquisitions. It says ‘I HAVE’. We could also call it the temple of property, values, receiving, providence and, most fundamentally of all, self worth and self esteem. On the most basic level it is about what we have to call on in terms of resources, what we value and what we use, have access to and own and the relationship we have to our own innate self worth as a result of our experience with physical needs. If you cannot feed yourself then your self worth is also impoverished. It is thus also the temple that relates to all those issues we have about the resources and physical needs of our material existence. It governs our attachments to material and physical being, how comfortable we are with being in possession of the body and all that this means – its capacity for sensual fulfillment and satisfaction, the attitude to possession, our resources and resourcefulness, income and earnings, our acquisitive need for certain solid objects, material security, savings and money, our tangible need for sensual contact and the sense of values which underlies all these things – anything that our physical experience tells us we need (food, water, shelter) or want (that new gadget) to have and hold onto in order to be physically secure. Planets here are like physical attachments, they often manifest as objects we own, income or resources, but they always represent something we value. And this temple also governs our self worth, how valued we feel and why. No planet has its joy in this temple; it is equally supportive of all planets natures.
Magically, then, this temple has a connection with the subterranean world, literal and metaphorical, it’s a place where things are literally coming out of the ground. It’s a place where things are coming towards the 1st temple (our being and identity) by primary motion (daily rotation of the Earth which causes all planets to cycle in a clockwise direction through all 12 houses in 24 hours) and this gives it its association with possessions, property, land, wealth, and the connections to material objects we bring with us into this life, all of which are extracted from the land. They are all things that come to us from out of the ground and so wealth and property are described here. If we accept the doctrine of reincarnation then it is possible for treasured objects to remain in our hands for many generations – a family heirloom, for example, passed down to a young grandson from his grandfather, may have been passed down to that grandfather by that grandson when he was his grandfather, for example. Objects can stay in families or just in our own hands for generations, magnetized by the astral connection that people create with them.They may even be destroyed and reform as something different that expresses the same significance, essentially reincarnating, surviving with us because the ideas and feelings that they represent as objects remain strong and magnetically bound to our spirit. For example, a person who loves transportation may have a treasured horse in one life, a much loved carriage in the next, and a valued car in the present. What reincarnates along with us here is the idea or spirit of an object and the feelings that accompany its possession. Yet, none of these things ever really belong to us; they are their own, bound to us only by the value we have placed in them, and our recognition of this is the magic that transforms the experience we have in this temple. It invests meaning into the things we receive and teaches us our most valuable lesson with respect to the matters of this house: everything is alive.
All of this means the 2nd temple is primarily focused on the karma we have generated through experiences with being in a material body, specifically with wealth and poverty and the relationship these conditions have to the measurement of self esteem. If a person has powerful supportive influences in this temple it does not automatically make them prosperous and rich, but it does make them resourceful and it helps them to value themselves. If the influences in this temple are challenging and overbearing, it is because we have important lessons to learn about self worth and possibly karmic limitations on how much we can earn, perhaps so that we become more resourceful and learn how not to measure our self worth from what we own or earn. What is important in this temple, then, is not whether it shows whether we are going to make lots of money or be driven to material ruin, but what it reveals about what we find to be valuable and how much we recognize this as a part of our own inner nature. If we can see through the attachment to an object and perceive the attachment to the value that we see in that object and examine the value instead, we can perceive a map of the mind and soul in everything that we have surrounded ourselves with, a material representation of all the things we value, the feelings and thoughts they represent, and it is this that our astrology is revealing in the 2nd temple. The objects themselves act to secure this value in a form we can hold, touch and tangibly appreciate. They are material anchors for the significance we have invested into their essential meaning. Thus there is a tangible craving for the things represented by our astrology here, craving both for certain things and for a way of getting them.
This sensual, tangible craving is the tricky but juicy part of the 2nd temple to investigate– our senses are by their nature designed to gorge themselves on sensory input, our eyes are designed to see, our tongues to taste, our lips to kiss and our hands to hold. Our whole attitude to being in a physical body with all that implies is at the heart of this temple and when we perceive that we are also looking at what we value about it and thus what we value about physical life. For example, you might like a certain flavour of ice cream more than any other. When you examine that flavour and think about it, you find it says all kinds of things about you – perhaps you like the fruitiness and liveliness of mango, or the creamy cool of coconut. This is the 2nd temple and the entire mechanism of commerce and marketing is built upon it. In fact, consumerism blinds us to the true significance behind all these likes and dislikes and keeps us trapped in an endless hunger for more, better or next. This is a primary trap within the 2nd temple as it stands today.
Concepts: Possessions, manner or standard of living, attachments, receiving, self esteem, physical security, survival needs, stability, savings, resourcefulness, earning and spending habits.
Ancient Terms: Subterranean place, Gate of Hades, shadowy place
The 3rd Temple: Siblings, Messages, Neighbourhoods, Whispers in the Wind
Location: The 3rd temple is an area that lies to one side of the nadir, next to the bottom of the sky, and so it is another buried place, hidden from view near the base of things.
Discussion: The 3rd temple is the Temple of Communication or Perception and of Thought Kinship (in the sense of ideas being siblings of one another via the law of attraction on the mental plane), and its key concept is ‘Mental Awareness Learning’, or mental and social integration with the local environment through private personal perceptions. This integration and learning takes place through areas of intellectual and social activity such as reading, writing, gossip, neighbouring and chatting, our earliest schooling and the mental behaviour we develop from any brothers and sisters, cousins or other ‘neighbourly’ family members. It also signifies short and accustomed journeys such as those in the car or train and those modes of transport or the non-exotic trips we make regularly. It is essentially all the fields of experience where we gather information from the local environment which shape the perceptions of our individual mental body, the integration of the different perspectives of the local mental realm as they manifest in the physical Earth nearby, in our neighbourhood. This is similar to the essential meaning of the planet Mercury but as a temple this place forms experience for us to encounter in the world rather than substance which we encounter within and around us, but there is an overlap between them. Broadly speaking, if Mercury is the way we think and its temple position is where we do our thinking and what we think about, then our 3rd temple is more descriptive of why we think what we do and the processing of localised information we undertake. If both Mercury and the 3rd temple are pumped with influences we will simply think far too much and encounter the problems that arise from this. Thoughts will be streaming, random and restless until we learn how to empty the mind completely, and then the disruptive effects cease and the sheer creativity can be expressed in an empowering way rather than a way which exhausts and scatters. Perhaps the easiest way to conceptualise what the 3rd temple expresses is to say that this part of our astrology is the running commentary in our head, the voice that we alone hear that is constantly reporting and chattering away about what it is currently witnessing, whereas Mercury is more about how we will pick it all apart later. I have seen this born out in people who have Mercury in the 3rd, because they have the quick witted kind of mind that is able to think and analyse on the fly.
This region, which lies below the horizon and thus out of sight like our thoughts, is traditionally the place of the joy of the Moon and the temple of written and verbal communication, thus of letters and messages and of learning through the application of endless speculation and observation, opinion and reason, curiosity, gossip, the latest scandal or juicy tattle, short or regular trips, experiences with siblings and people in the neighbourhoods we inhabit. Today we can add text messages, emails, tweets and other more modern forms of fast, disposable communication. It may seem strange to us that Mercury is not the planet that joys here. The Moons joy in this region can be traced back to its role as messenger of astrological effects – as a satellite (sister) of the Earth the Moon is the transceiver between Earth and the rest of the solar system and this function is given free and joyous expression by the 3rd temple. Just as Luna collects, shapes and transmits the influence of the planets, touching each in every possible way every month, so too does our mental awareness collect, shape and transmit the intelligences of the mental plane around us.
Another reason that the Moon joys in the 3rd temple is that very long ago the 3rd temple seems to have signified the influence of the private practice of religion and spirituality and (often but not always) the influence of a High Priestess and female wisdom in the community and the practise of lunar magic, thus it perhaps came to be known as the temple of the Moon Goddess for this reason. In other words it was about domestic and agricultural applications of spiritual wisdom, and so connected with midwifery and planting seeds. This also implies a connection to weather forecasting and the more traditional arts of divination that involve reading messages from clouds or birds in the sky. or the behaviour of wind. Its opposite, the 9th, is traditionally called the temple of the Sun God, the temple of solar worship. We can infer that this means that the 3rd temple can show our private spiritual and religious practices and the internal attitude we have to learning about the spiritual realms. The 3rd and 9th temples represent, for example, the complementary difference between book learning (3rd) and instruction by a guru or mentor at a temple (9th). Here in the 3rd there is also our long lost connection with nature spirits – the Tuatha de Danaan and the ‘little folk’, enshrined in the hearsay of folklore, to whom the Moon is as vital to life as the Sun is to us. In my experience it is by working with the 3rd temple that relations with these beings can be resumed, which means that you have to reopen the dialog with them which we closed ourselves off from (causing no small amount of offense, I might add).
The 3rd temple therefore polarises with the 9th temple (I will discuss polarity in the context of astrology in more detail in the discussion of the 7th temple). Where in the 3rd we learn information, opinion and facts, in the 9th we can place them in a broader context and hypothesize what they mean. Furthermore, because the 3rd temple influences our communicative mentality the forces in this region have an influence on the way we express our thinking, how we talk and speak and on the process of learning through communications (like our manner on telephones); and finally, since the nature of the mental plane itself is that like notions will attract one another, the 3rd temple brings us into contact with reflective images of our thoughts in the form of neighbours, and with a variety of different but sibling, twinned perspectives, – brother, sister (siblings are especially of the 3rd temple), next door neighbour, guy who bangs on the floor upstairs, book or magazine article, hidden faerie of the backyard who keeps unpegging your laundry – all of which are an emblematic representation reflecting our own conceptual thinking patterns back to us and allowing us to integrate them. But that doesn’t mean they are not alive and exist independently of us! Each of the mentally and socially focused temples – the 3rd, 7th and 11th – operate by this law of attraction on the mental plane but in different respects. The 7th focuses on our partners and face to face encounters; the 11th on our allies or groups with common ideals, our cohorts; the 3rd, virtually everyone else we encounter, even if we only hear their voices on the end of a phone line or receive regular spam email from them, but it specifically focuses on those we would call ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’, regardless of blood ties.
In sum then, the 3rd temple is not only about the mysteries of why and how we communicate, the experience of schooling and early education and of siblings, but also of the mysteries of the mind, the magic of mental attraction whereby ideas which are like one another are drawn closer together, and the individuals task of finding a unique way to communicate their uniqueness to other minds. So it is the temple of sisterhood and brotherhood, the place where our activity on the mental plane is reflected in sibling relationships, the temple of communication where we discover our own power of mental transmission. The sign and Elemental and planetary qualities shaping life and expressing themselves through this region of the sky describe the activity and quality of our perception and our internal chatter, our ability to learn intellectually and interact socially at a local level and to grasp the connections between related notions.
Concepts: News, messages, book learning, study, regular or localised travel, siblings, neighbourhoods, covens, sacred places and nature spirits, means of conveyance of the mental body (mental wandering).
Ancient Terms: Place of the Goddess, Place of Brothers
The 4th Temple: Memory, Lineage, Domain and Anchoring
Location: The region of the sky directly below the observers position where objects are turning towards the horizon to rise again.
Discussion: This region is the nadir or bottom of the horoscope, the underbelly of the chart, and I call it the Temple of Memory because it is the cargo hold of our history. Like the 1st temple cusp of the temple of being, known also as the ascendant or rising sign, this is one of the angles of the horoscope, a primary temple of power (the power being referred to here is in terms of ability to impact the physical dimension):
• Being (1st temple)
• Memory (4th temple)
• Partnership (7th temple)
• Destiny (10th temple)
This reflects the quadrapolar magnet in the realm of experiences as it is principally through these four sensitive degrees of the Earth Zone that the essential meaning of astrological influences held by planets and signs is transmitted and made physically manifest as experience in each person’s life. Essentially, regardless of which Elements control them, these 4 temples are the places of output where astrological influences have their greatest effects. So, as a place of power, its degree is one of the four most sensitive degrees in the Earth Zone. It is called the Imum Coeli, or IC – Latin for “bottom of the sky”. It is the place where the planets are at the lowest point in the sky beneath the Earth, the realm of the midnight Sun, but are approaching the point at which they will begin to arise again towards the eastern horizon. In mythic language, it is the place where the gods come to rest before they begin their journey back to the world of people. This is the realm of the ancestors, whose bones our present world stands upon and whose dust is in the air. It is a place to tread quietly, softly and with reverence.
This is a deep region which has an effect on the early shaping of the astral body, ingraining it with habits formed (at least on the surface) from parental mimicry or rebellion when we are young children – our relationship to our guardians is the mundane basis upon which the characterisation of the personal astral body proceeds. Regardless of which Element controls it, the essential quality of the 4th temple is “Astral Awareness in Action”. It is the realm of emotional or astral memory and habitual programmed response patterns, our fundamental connection to the history of our own soul. This is largely an area over which we have no conscious control; if an impulse passes through the astral and we have a strong memory and feeling inculcated into us by our past which matches that quality (or kicks against it) then there is always reciprocation, an automatic conditioned response which arises from this root. The fundamentals of this conditioning are inherited mainly from the soul’s inherent memory of its past and its childhood upbringing, and as time passes we experience it as a process whereby our adult persona forms from out of this nascent embryonic state, often meeting with realities through unfolding degrees of maturity, or repression. However, as we grow older this temple also begins to resonate will all past issues which we have not resolved, and so it can factor in ‘history is repeating’ experiences.
For example, first, we dream of and play at being an astronaut and exploring all the planets in the solar system as children; this is our 4th temple materia. As we grow, and wizen to the realities involved, we probably don’t get to become an astronaut but we might get to become an astrologer instead, perhaps a meteorologist, maybe simply a cashier in a late night store. We might even forget entirely that we ever dreamed of being an astronaut, but it is still there, and its astral impression inevitably informs where we are coming from. Whenever we look up at the stars we will stir this early memory, and we will get a whimsical feeling of something we cannot quite place. Any movie about space will stir this inner child. If we look deep enough, then, we see it is still there, and this awareness can then change the persistence and substance of the conditioning simply by unearthing it.
This is a temple of memories, then, but more specifically, the persistence of memory as astral conditioning. Its challenge is to unearth the deeper, buried significance behind our habitual behaviour. In unearthing the root of our habitual behaviour, we find an even deeper level of memories and astral influences stirring below the surface, pulsing with life – an underworld of behaviour patterns layered upon deeper or older behaviour patterns. It is these most deeply rooted factors of the personality which are within the realm of the 4th temple, which appropriately lies at the base of every horoscope. In other words, this temple is like an archaeological dig, a site that can be continually excavated to unearth a deep wealth of self knowledge, and the main sites of initial exploration are our earliest memories of childhood and our parents and the feelings which grow from them, but it inevitably leads beyond the grave to the experiences of other lifetimes, lost worlds and the domain of our ancestral DNA. We find the fossils of creatures we never even knew existed, but they are there and we are a product of them.
However, this is usually not easy to confront; there is fear associated with this region, as the ancients gave it an association with death and the grave. The old cliché from horror films “don’t go into the cellar” aptly expresses this fear in modern terms. Yet if we do not go down into the cellar, the Thing in the basement will eventually come up the stairs for us or cause all hell to break loose down there…so we are forced to go down and find the heart of the mystery. We have to excavate the foundation of this temple to uncover all its bones so that we can see what we are resting our whole lives upon. This is somewhat like the 8th, but with an important difference – in the 8th, if the situation is ignored then what is hidden will ultimately arise from the deeps, uncontrolled, ravenous and starved of light, while in the 4th it will remain buried, rooting us in a blockage, and perhaps lead to a slow rot that eventually collapses the foundation of the house that is our life. And it is also somewhat like the 12th, but where the 12th leaves us with no other course but to accept the results of the past and chalk up any failures to experience, the 4th as an angular temple empowers us to do something with what we inherit from it. So, it says, your parents hit you when you were a kid? That sucks. What will you do about that now? Are you going to let that continue to hurt you, long after it is history?
A large part of the initial part of this excavating is in coming to terms with our relationship to our parents and any experiences in our life with them that may have shaped us in a certain way. Traditionally this place is often called the place of the father, but this is clearly a product of the misogynistic way in which boys and girls were given different value by society. Some astrologers divide our mother and father between the 4th and the 10th temples, but they have differing philosophies and ideas about why and which parent belongs to which temple. In my experience the 10th temple does have a connection to our parents but it is much stronger and far more direct in the 4th, and it has always worked well for me to just consider both parents as being represented by the 4th, but especially the parent we bonded with or the one we had the most domestic time with.
Whatever the specifics, whether they are biological parents, adoptive parents, guardian angels or secret aunts, the 4th resonates with their early conditioning of our character. This includes their total absence because we are talking about the emotional needs of a child to be protected and nurtured here. Because this is a place of power the symbolism can be very literal in some cases. For instance, from my own father I learned about mortality because he died a week before I turned 13. I learned from him the fragility of life, how it can change in an instant and never be the same, and for many years the intensity of these impressions overwhelmed all other memories of him. Later, however, I was able to look back and uncover many memories and impressions that were made before he left, which lay beneath the emotive power of the memories surrounding his death. I could then remember the times he played with me and taught me how joyful and wondrous life was, without the pain of losing him overwhelming my emotions. I could remember him planting daffodil bulbs with me when I was 3 years old, showing me how deep they needed to be and which way they needed to be inserted, getting my hands and nails into the cold soil with glee, and then watching them grow day by day in the back of our garden with even more. So he gave me a very early appreciation of nature which has stayed with me ever since, but until I came to remember this gift it remained buried within me, underneath the disturbing memories of his death. I have Taurus on the cusp of the 4th temple, and Taurus is the sign of nature and planting. I also have Saturn on the cusp of this temple – the planet of separation, maturation and death. The consequences of his death – Saturn – had occluded my vision of the (Taurus themed) memory – I only knew it as ‘planting flowers makes me feel strangely sad’. It took a long time and lots of patient and continued effort (Saturn) but eventually I excavated those lost memories. So it is with every memory, not just those which make powerful impressions on our astral body. They are all infinitely deep. Our astral body is in effect the sum total of all our personal impressions of and reactions to personal events. ALL of them. When you think about that, its mind bogglingly complicated.
When we genuflect on this it becomes quickly apparent that our parents also carried such conditioning and theirs too, and so on in a line we cannot trace back to its origins, for it stretches into complete obscurity, back beyond the recorded memories of even our most distant ancestors. Vast tapestries of connected memory palaces then reveal themselves, half hidden in the shade at all times but often anchored in place by family lines that can be traced and tell its tales. So our parents or more specifically our relationship to our early guardians and protectors and our progenitors are fundamental properties of this region of space, which lies below where we are born, in the direction of our ancestral bones in the ground. Yet even underneath this layer there are more, for the causes of our childhood experiences are not just the way our parents treat us but the way theirs treated them, and so on back, and we may then see the workings of karma in the 4th temple, because in large part its content must arise from the choices we have made in other lives, sometimes as our own ancestors. This is what is truly buried here – the complex foundation or memory of previous being, a staggering trove of treasures with which we have emerged into this world through having clothed ourselves in it pre-natally. Most people will only see their mother, father or guardians from childhood reflected here. Only the deepest introspection can lay a path to the deeper pre-natal memories, but they and the process of uncovering them are encoded here in astrological script. The other astrally focused temples – the 8th and 12th – are also founded in their own way on karmic circumstances arising from the past, but neither have the direct relevance and impact of the 4th as a place of power. It must also be made clear that all planets and all of astrology are rooted in past life memories and experiences, and that karma is therefore present in every part of the chart, however the 4th temple is especially concerned with the past and so with these matters and furthermore with the specific human experience of recovering memories of them. The Tail of the Dragon is another very significant point in this regard, as are the influences of Saturn.
Of course, our nationality is also a major theme of our early conditioning – a person born and raised in India will have a very different experience than one born in Brazil, for example, and while it does not show which culture we belong to, the 4th temple does show the connection we have to that native culture, our experience of being part of it, in much the same way as it shows our experience of being part of a family. This too is a very powerful factor in our lives overall and can be a major pattern in our incarnation cycle. We get karma with nations and tribes and families of all kinds. The ancient texts also attribute this place with the events that occur following ones death, when we are in the grave ourselves and observe events from the astral, but this has fallen out of use in modern astrology as our cultures have moved away from celebrating life in death towards a more fearful and taboo attitude to burial. In other words I suggest that our cultures move towards a less enlightened view of death (trying to forget it as soon as possible, and discarding most of the cultural rituals that honour our ancestors) has eroded our knowledge of this part of the 4th temples meaning, it is a part of the temple abandoned and in poor condition. This is partly why the meanings of astrological temples vary slightly from culture to culture and time to time – they are translated by human culture. The temples step down the vast cosmic play of forces (displayed by planets and signs and aspects) into temporal and spatial experience – consequently, we shape them as they shape us. Meditation on this matter considering that the temples are formed from the daily rotation of the Earth (primary motion) unfolds many deep mysteries on the nature of time, space and the mechanism by which astrological effects are produced. These revelations are not easy to put into words.
So in summation the 4th is the influence of the past, especially childhood and the guardians of childhood, the connection we have to our native culture and our buried memories of past lives which have a direct but often ‘underground’ bearing on the current one. Furthermore, since it is sourced in these foundational experiences the 4th temple is connected with establishing a base, hence, with our homes and our private life behind closed doors as adults, and with the basis or basics of anything. In a temple cycle, whatever was begun and born by the 1st temple lays a foundation – finds a home – in the 4th. In this way astrology draws a direct parallel between the place we call our own home, the influence of our parents in childhood, and the deep patterns of our incarnation history. Its challenge is to uncover the buried significance to our habits and early life experiences as a child. It shows us an ideal kind of home for our inner nature, one that will support and nurture us, the kind of quality we should invite into our homes in order for them to be healthy environments for us to live, and if we have an emphasis in this area of life (by the birth chart or through the 26 keys), we will spend our time laying down all kinds of platforms upon which future structures or even empires can be built. It can in adult life show our role as parents, based on our experience with our own parents – another example of how karmic influences shape family down generations, but our role as a parent shows up more directly in the 5th temple. Finally, from a hermetic perspective, and as the ancient texts state, this temple describes the qualities of the astral realm inhabited by the soul prior to and following its incarnation, the astral foundation of being which occurs before physical incarnation in the womb and its immediate resting place after death. In this temple we can investigate some of the reasons for our current incarnation, as it can reveal what they were and more significantly why they have a bearing now. We can see what we are founding this existence upon, the bottom line upon which it all rests. Without a strong anchor here, any chart will be cast adrift on the seas of change that life will inevitably bring, and there will be little we can call a haven from the storm. The sign opening this temple and its ruling planet as well as any planets found within this temple will be extremely sensitive to all these issues.
Concepts: Privacy, domestic life, family and parents, childhood, background, roots, basis, landed property, memories, influence of the past, end of life, way we may be remembered after death.
Ancient Terms: Underground Place, Bottom of the Heavens, Lake or Heart of Duat.