New House Model: An Overview
James A Eshelman
In response to Zip’s invitation in an earlier issue of The Mutable Dilemma (Sag. 80), I’m taking this space to share the model I presently use for understanding houses. Throughout my time in astrology I’d never been satisfied with the raison d’etre of the house series. With all due respect to the “12 letter alphabet” approach so intelligently put forth in this journal, I felt a lack of a unifying perspective to tie together the multiple meanings and diverse concepts regularly related to each of the houses. Even more important to me, I felt the absence of a visible order in the SEQUENCE of this dozen mundane sectors, a sequential order satisfying both to logic and intuition.
The key point of this model is that THE SERIES OF HOUSES IS NECESSARILY A CLOCKWISE CYCLE.
Consider that astrology, as a window upon the rest of Nature, reflects NATURAL rhythms and cycles in human behavior. The series of signs is recognizably in the order Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. because this is the order in which we continually experience the sign qualities due to the passage of the Sun, Moon, and (with periodic back-and-forthing) all of the other planets through the signs. In other words, each time we finish the experience of “Aries-ness” we can rightly expect to move into a phase of “Taurus-ness.” Each year, the Sun and its inner-planet entourage reinforce this westward movement. Each month the Moon replicates it as well. The order of the signs is repeatedly reinstated in our consciousness, reinforced by a reiterated rhythm.
However, there is no comparable counter-clockwise pattern to the houses IN NATURE. Every day, each planet rises, ascends to the Midheaven, sets, anticulminates, and prepares to reascend. The rhythm of the houses is clockwise. Every day, each of us experiences the sequential flow of two luminaries, eight planets, and however many other significant astrological bodies exist, passing through the houses in the order 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1—a “countdown to selfhood.” If there is to be found in the houses an orderly, sequential pattern—as I believe exists—it will most likely be found in following the path through the houses described by the planets themselves every day, even every hour, of our lives.
THREE TYPES OF HOUSES
Once the pattern described below became apparent to me, logical analysis revealed certain characteristics about it, particularly about the nature of angularity, succedency and cadency. These make understanding the overall picture considerably easier.
Each ANGULAR HOUSE (1, 10, 7, 4) represents a CULMINATION or fulfillment of a principle which has been building throughout the preceding hemicycle. For instance, the 1st house represents the stage in a planet’s diurnal circling where it has been beneath the horizon, in the hemisphere of “selfness,” more than it will be at any other time in its daily cycle. It is therefore a maximization of selfness.
Every CADENT HOUSE (12, 9, 6, 3) is characterized by a REVERSAL OF CURRENT, and is correspondingly a “decision zone.” Readers familiar with the I CHING will have no trouble understanding the concept that once a principle has reached its maximum degree of manifestation in a given cycle, the current will NATURALLY and even NECESSARILY turn toward the opposite pole. Winter, and the withdrawal of heat, naturally and necessarily follow the point where summer’s INCREASE of heat has reached its peak. Or, to pick another example, when it has gotten as dark as it’s going to get, the only thing remaining is for it to get lighter. This reversal of current is an appropriate reaction to the extreme which has been reached in one direction.
Therefore, when selfhood has reached its greatest degree of manifestation in a given cycle (1st house), the move will naturally be toward others-ness, beginning with a stage of SELFLESSNESS represented by the 12th house. Or, as externalization reaches its peak (10th house), the next natural step in individual growth is to turn inward and develop the inner levels of being that have been somewhat neglected in the prior stage of reaching outward—i.e. the passage into the 9th and 8th.
Cadent houses, therefore, I view as representing this reversal of current—a transition, often accompanied by considerable tension, confusion or soul-searching, in which one is re-defining oneself, still HABITUATED to an old orientation yet moving toward the adoption of a new one. This may be a move from acute self-orientation to others-ness through selflessness (12th), from outward, upward-reaching achievement to inner values (9th), from a primarily others-oriented perspective to one of responsible self-sufficiency (6th), or from profound inward-turning to curious, exploratory movement into the outer world (3rd).
Finally, SUCCEEDENT HOUSES (11, 8, 5, 2) appear in a two-fold role. First, they are near approximations, just-unripe fulfillments, of the angular houses into which they will blend. The 11th, for instance, is the aspiration (“hopes and wishes”) preceding achievement (10th). Secondly, each of these houses is a bursting-forth into full involvement with the new orientation first encountered (and resisted) in the cadent house. Thus, after the peaking of selfhood in the 1st house, and the reaction against it in the self/nonself ordeal of the 12th, we see the first free, spontaneous flowing toward others-ness in the group-consciousness of the 11th.
This pattern repeats itself in each quadrant. There will be found, four times around the horoscope, a sequence wherein a principle reaches its strongest manifestation; is reacted against in a counter-balancing, re-deciding movement toward its opposite pole, often accompanied by some degree (great or small) of initial tension or resistance; and a final, free flowing with the new principle in the form of a spontaneous acceptance.
I previously referred to the lower half of the horoscope as the hemisphere of selfness. This does NOT mean that I consider a majority of planets in this hemisphere to mean the individual is primarily self-oriented. Often it means just the opposite! What I do mean is that every planet passing through houses 6 through 1 (clockwise) is in the act of discovering what selfness is all about and, gradually, step-by-step, moving TOWARD selfness FROM othersness.
Similarly, every planet above the horizon is somewhere in the process of moving FROM selfness TOWARD othersness, the exactly opposite pattern. This does not mean that someone born with every planet above the horizon, clustered primarily in the 8th and 12th houses, will be a basically social type. It only means that, from the initial resistance to the idea that “My ego isn’t the only thing in the world” of house 12, to the potentially total absorption in a sense of bonded pairing in the 7th, the planet is discovering what the experience of “Thou” is all about, and coming increasingly into alignment with that experience.
Similarly, planets on the left side of a horoscope are all ASCENDING, or moving upward and outward, while those on the right side are all DESCENDING, or moving inward.
With this simultaneously compressed and lengthy introduction completed, let’s make a brief stop in each of the houses. I suggest you use the basic concepts given as a study guide, considering whether the points YOU find most characteristic of each house are simply, elegantly contained in the basic idea I list for that house. I believe that any shortcomings in what follows are in my ability to articulate abstractions, not in the model itself.
In the beginning was the Word.
We have to begin somewhere, so why not at the bottom of the chart, the instant of midnight, traditionally attributed to “the beginning and end of the matter?” As a planet, in its normal diurnal movement, departs the 4th cusp, where matters are “closest to home” both psychologically and environmentally, it begins its ascent toward the Midheaven, a movement outward into the world. In these first steps it is, however, habitually attuned to the private, to what is close to its roots, so its first discovery is within a tiny perimeter of close relatives, neighbors, etc. just outside of its nest.
We’ll return to the 3rd house later, after passing through the entire cycle that leads to it.
A planet in the 2nd house has been in the hemicycle of selfness longer than any planet except one in the 1st. It therefore represents a high degree of selfness, yet not full self-identification. I refer to the 2nd as the house of the PROXY-SELF, i.e., of things (including concepts) ALMOST IDENTIFIED WITH SELF, which one attaches to oneself but doesn’t perfectly identify with. “Selfish,” certainly a 2nd house word by tradition, simply means “approximating the self.”
After the first, timid moves toward the outer world in the 3rd house, the 2nd represents a free-flowing surge toward encountering the outer world. This requires the ability to manipulate its various facets. Yet still being close to the bottom of the chart, this is primarily in terms of privateness, so resources are viewed as MINE.
A very simple principle. Having passed through the lower hemisphere, planets here are most acutely identified with the concept of SELF. As the midpoint in the hemicycle of externalization, this purest selfness is to be externalized; i.e., it represents a concept of self specifically intended to be put forth toward others.
Having come to identify thoroughly with selfness, a planet is now cast across the horizon into the realm of othersness. Being habituated to selfness, it faces a reversing of current. This may be called SELF-SACRIFICE or, more accurately, SELFNESS-SACRIFICE. Initially there’s a resistance to this selflessness which, in healthy development, passes. Thus, in this house a planet confronts the realization that it cannot successfully operate in terms of selfish interests.
Planets in the 1st house are acutely identified with “I”. Therefore, the 12th represents a DIS-IDENTIFICATION with a planetary principle. Since every factor in the chart is a facet of oneself, this dis-identification usually means a shifting of the principle to an unconscious level of operation.
Bursting from its contained selfness below the horizon, the planetary principle here merges into the expanses of infinite openness where it begins to identify with the collective, with the all, universalizing its manifestation.
The traditional assignment of “secret enemies” actually means “secret others,” just as the 7th house is traditionally that of “open friends” and “open enemies.” The contrast here reveals what I believe to be the true significance of those two key phrases: In the 12th house, “others-ness” is just being discovered, and is therefore an issue by virtue of its not being understood. The entire concept of “other” is foreign in this stage of intra-psychic adjustment. In contrast, by the time the planet has passed to the 7th house, “other” is as understood as it will be in the current cycle. Others, that is, are “known.”
After resistance to othersness in the 12th, a ready FLOWING WITH OTHERSNESS appears in the 11th. Yet, being near the eastern edge of the horoscope, there is still a strong habituation to selfness which remains a potent factor. Thus, here we find GROUP CONSCIOUSNESS, but with a marked sense of INDIVIDUALITY WITHIN THE GROUP. Being nearly to the 10th—the second most upreaching house of the horoscope—the 11th indicates REACHING TOWARD ACHIEVEMENT, or the aspiration which precedes attainment.
To state it most simply, this is the culmination of 10th house-ness! Fill in that blank with your articulation. I think of it as a flowering of one’s personal outreach from innermost self, peaking in one’s fullest expression of WHO ONE IS in the world. “Identity” and “authority” are my two preferred keywords for the Meridian (4th/10th axis).
Having culminated in externalization in the 10th, we now experience a reversal of current. Emphasis on externalized, manifest form must give way to something inner, which is THE VALUE AND MEANING BEHIND THE FORM. In the 9th house we confront the ambivalence of being drawn anew to descend within ourselves, while still habituated to the established outer structure previously established.
What results is the beginnings of wisdom, yet framed totally in ESTABLISHED STRUCTURES, CODES, PATTERNS AND DESIGNS (law, established religions and philosophy, etc.). This is the initial step toward that deeper, freer self-probing which appears in the 8th.
Next to the 7th (literally), this is the most others-oriented house, planets here having spent almost as much time in the upper hemisphere as they will in the current cycle. It therefore represents near-identification with others, thus those things nearly (but not quite) considered part of others: their possessions and other resources, including (and perhaps especially) their psychological resources. Generally, therefore, anything which is attributed to, or attached to, or equated with others.
Following a resistance to internalization in the 9th, we encounter a FLOW TOWARD INTERNALIZATION in the 8th, toward wishing to take charge of the inner world. Inner matters are deeply important here. The search for values and meaning in the 9th is now stripped of old codifications and structure, i.e., of EXOTERIC dogma, so that it becomes more ESOTERICALLY or EXISTENTIALLY meaningful.
I’ve rarely found the 8th house to refer to one’s own death, incidentally. It’s often involved when ANOTHER dies. It seems active in one’s own long-term terminal illness, but not in abrupt death. I consider it, therefore, more to represent a CONFRONTATION WITH THANATOS (or any other dramatic life-issue), than one’s actual passing. CONCEPTS about death and other vital issues are reflected here.
This combination of inward-turned self-searching with others-orientation often results in projection and unconscious encountering of one’s own deeply important issues by actively seeking out others to enact them.
Another simple principle (as all angular houses are), to be elaborated by each reader as (s)he wishes. This is the house where “othersness” is maximized, a planet having been as long above the horizon here as it will be in the present cycle.
Having come to identify thoroughly with othersness, a planet is now drawn across the horizon into the realm of self, facing a reversal of current. In this house, a planet confronts the realization that it cannot successfully continue to rely on others but must develop individual responsibility and capability. It therefore represents a crisis or decision-point of SELF-RELIANCE.
Since energies here are habituated to othersness, and haven’t entirely disconnected from othersness, the efforts put forth still often seem to be “for them;” hence the idea of SERVICE. A key theme of this house when emphasized is the need to squarely confront the worthwhileness and value of oneself FOR ONE’S OWN SAKE, rather than just for others. One is required to forego thinking of others for awhile and return (recycle) attention to oneself for one’s own distinctive survival. The inter-connectedness of health themes with this scarcely require mentioning.
Often relationship difficulties show with an emphasis on the 6th house if one is ambivalent on self/other issues. The natural, appropriate tendency is toward pulling oneself away from others-ness, sacrificing relationship (only so far as is genuinely necessary, it is hoped), and giving more priority to oneself.
The essence of the 5th house is aliveness, freedom, and a spontaneous flowing with selfness. This follows the initial ambivalence about self vs. other experienced in the 6th. Yet, being still near the western edge of the horoscope, the 5th retains some quality of othersness.
Therefore, we find expression of selfness in a particularly unbridled form. Yet this self-expression naturally occurs in the context of others, even of relating, thus generating all of the 5th house ideas of romance, playmates, need for acknowledgement, etc.
Creativity succeeds rote performance (6th). To me, most ideas of children emerge indirectly from matters already outlined here; but there is a further point which makes creativity and procreativity significant issues of the 5th. We’re approaching the end of a cycle in the 4th house, the return to the point-consciousness (IC) from which we first emerged; and, there appears to be in Nature a declaration that A TRANSMISSION OF ACQUIRED EXPERIENCE, or the communication in some form of what one has accumulated (genetically, artistically, etc.), is an essential step before the closing of a cycle.
Being the sector of maximum in-turning, this is a deeply personal zone. It is a culmination of DESCENT INTO ONESELF, diving toward the most intimately PRIVATE core of identity. All the multiple layers of early environmental formative factors come into play and are re-encountered as one re-descends toward one’s psychic origins, and need not be re-articulated here.
THIRD HOUSE: Reprise
In meditation, one discovers that, following the quiet, poised contact with that Point of Innermost Being, there is characteristically an instant when that Point becomes a seed, a re-initialization; and there follows an often prolific flow of cognition. This cognition, immediately succeeding the IC, completes our basic themes of the 3rd house.