The Twelfth House
We come to the last of the houses in this issue—and perhaps one of the most misunderstood. Research by the Gauquelins demonstrates clearly the importance of planets in the Ninth and Twelfth Houses: as keys to character and career in the highly successful. Yet any astrologer who has worked with clients can also cite examples of people whose twelfth house planets seemed totally obscured, dissolved, weakened, etc. One group of people appears to make the energy symbolized by a twelfth house planet their very cornerstone in life; everything revolves around it. Another group appears unable to manifest the energy symbolized by their twelfth house planets.
In a very real way, I think Letter 12 is one of our connections to the infinite. We seek cosmic consciousness, a sense of union with the whole. We may look to art, fantasy, “good works,” alcohol, other drugs, mystical experiences, or any number of avenues to reach that sense of centeredness, that ecstatic feeling of: “Everything is all right. It is perfect.” Zip Dobyns has encapsulated the major roles of seeking this feeling as artist, savior, and victim.
For some people, a sense of connection to the infinite is an incredible, inspiring experience. For others, it is terrifying. We can react in at least two extremes: (1) The universe is so huge and overwhelming, I am nothing. (2) I am infinite and I can do anything.
It seems twelfth house planets symbolize the energy that puts us in touch with the universe. Often the connection is on a less-than-fully- conscious level. We may feel something, intuitively recognize something is happening, without being clear about the exact details. We grope dimly toward ecstatic experiences. We feel SOMETHING, but may not be able to conceptualize or describe it.
It makes sense to me to regard the twelfth house, like the ninth, as a house of visualization. However, I see the twelfth as much less conscious than the ninth, with twelfth house content being more subject to repression. We seem to manifest twelfth house planets instinctively, often unconsciously—in both negative and positive directions. It’s like an automatic pilot, already built into the organism. Twelfth house planets, I think, represent ways of being that are usually automatic for us, practically built into the nervous system. The question is whether we express the energy negatively or positively.
The next step depends upon our faith. If we accept the immensity of Life as comforting, we can flow with a sense of meaning, a sense of union, that wordless experience of perfection. We have faith in a higher power, and feel comfortable relaxing after doing what we can. If the immensity of Life frightens us, (lacking faith in anything higher) we will retreat to “safer” arenas for our mystical connections. When the glory of God seems overwhelming, we may run to the less threatening fusion experiences of drugs, alcohol, fantasy, etc. If the terror is too intense, individuals may harshly repress their twelfth house planets in an attempt to avoid facing the Infinite.
Of course, with repression, we are merely run by the unconscious. Whatever we bury most deeply becomes most central in our lives, ruling from underground. Continued repression (pushing material more deeply into the unconscious, avoiding issues) can lead to physical illness, and the 6:12 axis seems to be a health axis. We find it prominent in helpers and healers, and also in the physically ill, emotionally distressed, etc. If not handled positively, the victim potential of Letter 12 can come through.
Thus, twelfth house planets may be a tremendous source of strength and power, symbolizing areas in which we feel a part of the Universe, hence limitless. Such planets may also be terribly blocked and repressed where we retreat from the immensity of the possible. In one of life’s typical ironies, the more we retreat, the more we are haunted, from within and without, by these planets. They BECOME our universe as it were.
Thus, we can choose to flow with the Universe, in touch with our own center. It is easy, effortless, automatic. We can resist the tide of the Cosmic Ocean and push it underground. We victimize ourselves, overwhelmed by the energy we have tried to bury. The more we deny an integral part of who we are, the more we face its negative ramifications. Or, we can try to victimize the world, so identified with the ultimate, that we forget our humanity and think we can do anything. If so, we eventually confront our own humanity and limits. There is a place, and a balance, for everything.
Let us look at Mars as an example. The Gauquelins found (ninth and twelfth house) Mars occurring far beyond chance levels among champion athletes, highly successful military men and surgeons. When we blend our own assertive action with the infinite, one potential is: I have the right and power to do exactly as I please. This may be physical power and energy with the athlete. It may be aggressive power in the military. It may be the self-confidence of a surgeon, to cut and destroy as a method of healing. Expressing one’s self feels “right” and centered. If the self-expression takes an artistic bent, it will often be grace in action, e.g. water ballet, fancy diving, gymnastics, dancing, etc.
Conversely, we have seen individuals with Mars in the Twelfth who seem incapable of the mildest self-assertion. They sit on their energy. They seem to feel anyone and anything in their universe has more right to act, to be, to do as one pleases, than they do. They are often ill and may under-go surgeries. They have disowned their Mars and their universe does it do them with surgeries or even violence from others. Their internalized aggression, often unconscious and self-directed creates illness and is a key factor, a cornerstone, in their life.
People who continue to block their self-expression may do so for a variety of reasons. Some identify being “spiritual” with the denial of nasty emotions, including anger and resentment. They may hold back on Martian self-expression, trying to be “spiritual.” (The most likely consequence is illness.) Some people get so lost in the Infinite, they have trouble being clear about their wants and needs. They have carried a fusion with the universe too far. (In extreme cases, society might label such people “psychotic:” out of touch with consensual reality.) Others have turned force or action or anger into an ultimate in their feelings: “If I ever really got angry, I’d destroy someone!” They hold back for fear of overwhelming others/the world, and instead overwhelm themselves with the repressed feelings. (Their fear is exacerbated by the fact that when they DO get angry or assert themselves, it often IS explosive, because they have held in so much, so long. So, they get more fearful of their destructive power and hold back and hold in even more.) The commonality seems to be an unrealistic view of Martian energy. Anger is expanded to destroy everything (in fantasy). Normal human emotions are viewed in an overpowering context.
Such blocked individuals can often benefit from identifying with a cause. They may become very willing to assert themselves—even fight—on behalf of a religious, spiritual, idealistic or other endeavor. They merge with the absolute, so their energy is expressed not for themselves, but for something larger and higher.
The main danger here would be fanaticism. If one identifies too totally with a cause, any violence which furthers the cause may be excused. If force and self-assertion are turned into a “god,” troubles will ensue. The doctor performs unnecessary surgeries. The athlete subsumes everything to winning. The military leader idealizes aggression. Etc.
Venus puts the accent on pleasure. Natives may pursue Neptunian pleasures: drinking, meditating, dreaming, pursuing artistic endeavors, healing and helping others, the emotional intensity of mystical, spiritual, or religious fervors, etc. They may over-indulge in any of these avenues, or reach a reasonable level of enjoyment. Beauty, comfort and security are likely to be longed for.
With a double emphasis on beauty, some kind of aesthetic expression is healthy. If beauty is idealized too much, natives may have difficulty facing their own or the world’s flaws and sordid side. They may avoid conflict, striving always for a “pleasant, comfortable” atmosphere.
Pleasure from the material world can put natives in touch with the Infinite. “What a wondrous world it is that gives us such sunsets, such sensations, such loveliness.” If we turn the material into “god,” however, eventually we must realize that the physical is NOT infinite. If physical security or comfort is idolized, natives may indeed worship Mammom, and constantly indulge themselves materially and financially. Laziness is possible. Such people face finally the consequences of their over-indulgence. Of course, physical excesses can also be an attempt, by some, to escape the emptiness of a life lacking faith, lacking centeredness.
Conversely, if the sense of union from beauty or pleasure overwhelms us, we may avoid our former indulgences, restrict some of our enjoyment, lest we be “lost” again in that ecstatic experience. We may settle for simple comfort. Security, stability, a sense of safety are sought. Natives yearn for placidity and unchangingness. People who lack faith in anything higher may be very anxious about losing their material security, or feeling there is “never enough!” Others struggle with feeling that enjoying the material world is somehow NOT spiritual!
Another alternative is idealizing love and/or a partner (Venus as ruler of Libra). Some will search forever for the “perfect love,” dreaming their lives away. Others will suffer painful disillusionment as they find the individual they idolized is human and fallible after all. Some will place their faith in love and be crushed when they feel they have lost it. Some will look to a partner to play “God,” or try to play “God,” themselves, creating savior/victim relationships between would-be equals.
Mercury in the twelfth connects the mind to our search for the ultimate emotional experience. We may blend the rational and intuitive sides comfortably: a good combination for psychotherapy and a balanced life. People may communicate in Neptunian ways: soft-spoken, empathic, trying to take care of the other person’s feelings, beautiful language, vague language, poetic language, nebulous ideas, etc. Natives often have a very creative imagination and may be drawn to study and discuss religion, mysticism, beauty, etc.
Natives may over-value logic, rationality, detachment, and thinking “clearly” (i.e. linearly, from directly observable physical data, without emotion). They may be too detached and casual, even flippant. They may talk too much if communication is an ultimate ideal. They may value the shrewd, conniving mind with no concern for how their schemes hurt other people.
People who retreat to the house over the planet may exhibit fuzzy thinking or speech. Mystical/visionary studies may be indiscriminately pursued. Gullibility may be high. Unless the rational and intuitive are balanced comfortably, the native is likely to victimize him/herself, and/or the world with the way s/he uses his/her mind.
A sibling or collateral relative may act as a role model for the handling of twelfth house energies. S/he may be living Neptune well or poorly. S/he may be artistic, religious, spiritual or mystically inclined. S/he may be a helping/healing type, full of empathy and compassion for the down-trodden. S/he may be a victim—with drugs, alcohol, sleep, fantasy, etc. Whether a positive or negative role model, such as sibling (or relative) gives the native examples of possible ways to handle (or not to handle) the desire to connect with the Infinite.
When the Moon is in the twelfth, the search for the beautiful dream blends with nurturing. Some individuals exhibit high-level compassion and empathy. They consistently nurture others physically and emotionally. They may become martyrs by giving too much. Natives are often intuitive and sensitive to emotions. The Gauquelins found ninth and twelfth house Moons in writers.
Others meet the infinite through dependence, endlessly search for the “Cosmic Mother,” who will love them unconditionally, forever. If they expect that in a human context, they are doomed to disillusionment and disappointment.
The native’s own mother (or mother figure) role models this yearning for cosmic consciousness. She may do so positively as an artist or healer/ helper, or negatively as a victim (too “saintly,” ill, absent, alcoholic, etc.) Mother may act in such a way that developing faith is easier or more difficult for the child, but she is a role model for this emotional connection to the Universe. The child (and grown-up) may expect too much of mother, or mother may expect too much of him/her. The relationship with Mom will have a profound impact on the child’s ability to “let go and let God.” (Ideally, we want enough, but not TOO much faith. The Goddess never does it ALL.)
With the Sun, we return again to fire meeting water. As with Mars, this is not always a happy blend. Fire-water blends are highly emotional, and present a challenge for many people.
One potential is the ego expanded to the infinite: “I’m so great, the whole world should admire, applaud, etc.” Ego-centrism may be on a cosmic scale. Quite a few politicians have this placement, including Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, Hubert Humphrey, Henry Kissinger (?), and the author of this article. (So far I’ve only been a fantasy politician.)
Another potential is the people who lose their egos in the infinite. “The universe is so vast and frightening, I am but a tiny speck.” They may feel submerged in the immensity of it all. Again, in severe cases, we might find a “psychotic” label.
People who are into repressing their egos often have an exaggerated view of the power of pride. They may have a grandiose picture of their own power and impact: “If I allow my ego out, I’ll blow everyone away—or destroy my spirituality totally—or be completely self-centered.” (Etc.) At the heart is infinite arrogance in the assumption that our pride or self-expression, or playing “The Star” would be so overwhelming to others. (It is true that the Sun in the twelfth, like all 5:12 mixtures has a natural charisma, instinctive acting skills. But this can be overrated easily.)
There is a parallel to people who (consciously or unconsciously) hold back on their Mars for fear of overwhelming other people with anger, assertion, or just being themselves. In both Sun and Mars cases, people identify with the infinite, and then hold back for fear of the unlimited power they fear they possess.
A therapist friend once pointed out to me how arrogant I was being by trying to always take care of other people’s feelings. Such a position allows me the illusion of authority and power. (“I know what other people are thinking and feeling, and how they will react!”) I can assume that others would be devastated if I said what I really felt and thought—a clear bit of arrogance and ego-centrism! Most people are stronger than they get credit for being. Assuming they might be destroyed by our ego or assertion is very grandiose.
Similarly, we ourselves are tougher than we may recognize. Our spirituality or lovingness or empathy (and other positive qualities) will not be destroyed by occasional ego-centrism or even “ego-mania.” A healthy self- pride is a PART of life—along with everything else: in balance!
The most ego-involved people are generally those who say they have “killed” their ego, or claim to have no ego. Watch out! They have merely forced their ego underground, and such people can be incredibly and ridiculously self-centered in their pre-occupation with seeming ego-less. They are generally very vulnerable to the opinions of others and constantly analyzing other people’s reactions. I’ve had amusing conversations with a few. One woman spent a LONG time explaining to me exactly why she had said such-and-such and NOT said such-and-such. She was terribly concerned about not being ego-oriented, and very worried about how the group might be reacting both to her statements and her lack of statements. Of course, the group had not really noticed, but she was totally wrapped up in her efforts to be as “ego-less” as possible!
With the Sun here, children are connected to the Neptunian dream. We may yearn for lovely, ideal kids. We may face our Neptunian side through children: positively (e.g. shared art, ideas, music, visions...) or negatively (e.g. playing savior/victim, running away, fooling ourselves, letting ourselves be fooled, etc.) One form of running away and playing victim includes avoiding the issue because we only want perfect children, to be raised perfectly, in an ideal world!
With Ceres in the twelfth, the mother (or mother figure) is again a (positive or negative) role model for our dealing with twelfth house issues (beauty, perfection, faith, escapism, etc.)
Ceres or Vesta also tie our work to our visionary side. We may seek the perfect, “beautiful dream” job in terms of hours, pay, colleagues, atmosphere, etc. We may desire to always do our work perfectly, with never a mistake. We may seek work that makes a more ideal world. Since this is a 6:12 blend, any of the healing professions, or the artist craftsperson are possible. If our search for the ultimate is frustrated, an escape into illness is likely. (Among other things, it gives us an excuse for not achieving our dreams: “I’m too sick to work!”)
Ceres will carry a concern for people with its ideals. Vesta can go more totally into work for its own sake. Indeed, the work ethic may be an article of faith, an ultimate emotional value to the individual. Being productive and efficient can be an ideal. When working, in a valued job the native tends to feel “right”—centered.
Pallas or Juno in the twelfth is another potential for artistic talent. Grace, charm, tact, beauty and pleasantness may be idolized. Equality and justice may be a gut-level emotional commitment. Harmony may be worshipped. If any are turned into a “god,” appropriate repercussions follow.
Similarly, the desire for relatedness is strong. Ideals are high for relationships. Natives may expect themselves, their partners and/or their relationships to always flow, be lovely, be ideal. People may search and never be satisfied. Some may “marry God” by going into the church. Some adopt rose-colored glasses and go from one self-deluding relationship to the next, each time hoping THIS one will be Prince or Princess Charming. Partners may play “god” games with each other, nominating themselves or the other to the pedestal, playing savior/victim, etc. When we have faith in a higher power, we do not need to put people on pedestals.
The connection to the infinite is made through beauty, harmony, justice, equalitarian, sharing interactions. Individuals feel centered and “in touch” during such activities.
Pluto in the twelfth may worship self-mastery and self-control. Probing the depth is an ideal. Going inward is a way to meet the infinite. The cosmos is sought in the foundations of the human psyche. Depth sharing, fusion, and non-verbal communication may be idolized. When faith in a higher power is lacking, power may be put on a pedestal—power over people, possessions, personal sensuality. Jealousy, possessiveness, manipulation may be presented in alluring disguises.
The mate relationship (sharing the physical, sensual world) is a focus for Neptunian ideals. We may search for the ideal mate and/or the ideal relationship. We may delude ourselves. We may play savior/victim games around money, possessions, sensuality and sexuality. We may retreat totally, trying to escape into a sense of self-mastery and control. The trick is to handle the union with another human being, while seeking union with the cosmos, without expecting one or the other to BE that ultimate, to feel that cosmic consciousness BECAUSE OF the mate. Allowing the godhead in each of us in terms of acceptance, without demanding the “god” of perfectionistic expectations is a tricky balance to reach in close, sharing relationships.
Jupiter in the twelfth may idealize faith, confidence and extroversion. The quest for the Truth (as defined by the native) is paramount. Depending on sign placements, aspects, etc., people may turn almost anything into a “god,” and pursue it ruthlessly. If “X” is perfection, who can get enough of it? So people seek more and bigger “X.” The Gauquelins found a rising Jupiter among actors, politicians, and Nazi leaders. Grandiosity and exaggeration may be on a cosmic scale. Faith may be magnified and woe betide the individual and society if that faith is misplaced!
Individuals with Saturn in the twelfth may put their emotional trust in power, responsibility, security, predictability. They may be ambitious seekers of power over the physical universe (or at least the ability to PREDICT its laws), as in the scientists the Gauquelins studied. They may idolize responsibility, control, thrift, caution, predictability, etc. They may make the work ethic an ultimate value.
These people may seek artistic careers, healing/helping careers, or play the role of professional victim. They may seek to structure and organize their dreams, fantasies, and visions. They may also seek the ideal career, and/or to do their work perfectly.
If Saturn is put on a pedestal, they may believe in a materialistic, physical-causality universe, and follow that path till the end, suffering the anxieties and pain of living in a “meaningless” universe. If the Neptunian energy of the twelfth house puts a strong stamp on Saturn, they may find reality and security in a mystical or religious or spiritual framework. It is likely to be highly structured, perhaps even dogmatic.
Father (or father figure) is a role model for one’s handling of the beautiful dream. He may be ill, missing, alcoholic, etc (a victim). He may be artistic. He may be into healing and saving people. He may be a saint, a sinner, a martyr. Individuals may expect too much of father, or father may expect too much of them. How the native reacts to that early confrontation of the infinite through father will shape the native’s faith, acceptance, and security.
Uranus in the twelfth may idealize humanitarian principles, individualism, uniqueness or revolution. Astrology may become a religion. Humanity (the “common man/woman”) may be put on a pedestal. Groups, friends, causes may be worshipped. Constant change and flux may be felt as ideal.
Natives may turn friends into “god” and fall into savior/victim relationships (or pick friends who expect them to play “god”.) Causes, rebellion, progressive movements may be a vehicle for connecting with the infinite. Absolute freedom may be preached. Anarchy may be viewed as an ideal. Art may be shared with friends, or a medium for revolution, rebellion, etc.
Intuitive flashes are likely, but may be brilliant or off-the-wall, depending on the rest of the chart, and how the person handles their talent. Skill at brainstorming is likely. Artistic expression may be unusual or avant-garde.
When Neptune is at home, the yearning for cosmic consciousness goes into familiar Neptunian channels. Individuals may seek to fuse with the universe through music, art, religious, mystical experiences. They may pursue a beautiful dream in fantasy, by sleeping, by escapist literature, through drugs of all kinds. They may retreat into illness or become saints. Some will pursue their utopian ideals as healers and helpers. Some become con-artists when the Universe fails to provide their heart’s desire like manna from heaven.
Each will seek a “cosmic experience” in his/her own manner. Each will yearn toward that inner wisdom, that sense of centeredness: “Everything is all right. Everything is JUST right. It’s perfect.” On some level, it’s already perfect. We are already there, and have only to become aware of that, accept it. Faith can be placed in any number of (positive and negative) Neptunian alternatives. Some will be terrified by the immensity of it all. Some will develop the absolute faith in the Universe and will truly KNOW on a gut, experiential level: “Everything IS all right!”