MEDITATIONS ON THE TWELFTH HOUSE
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Thinking realistically about the House of delusions
I often find it somewhat comical regarding the differing interpretations of the twelfth house between Western and Vedic astrologers. The contemporary Western astrologer will often engage in a discourse that seeks to mitigate the negative and challenging effects of this house, and instead reference its spiritual implications and possibility to induce a more advanced structure of psychic integration; perhaps even referring to planets located there in a natal chart as “A Gift.”
Whereas on the far contrary, the Vedic astrologer will typically use one word to describe the twelfth house influence: “Evil.”
This bifurcated interpretation indicates something deeper than simply divergent astrological approaches, it rather discloses something about the ideology of contemporary Western liberalism and its paradoxical aversion to suffering. That is to say, in our contemporary Western culture, on one hand we are inundated with psychological and popular literature regarding trauma, the reality of emotional pain and suffering, and a whole array of techniques and therapies to alleviate such pain. But yet, on the other hand, even amidst our incredible cultural fluency regarding something like trauma, we still don't want to accept its reality and fundamental inscription into the fabric of day to day life.
In other words, the straightforward interpretation of the twelfth house often rendered by Vedic astrologers — “Evil” — is in a way more sophisticated than the various attempts to psychologize or alleviate the very real problems that twelfth house planets can generate in a chart. What I am trying to say is that the twelfth house, although important to conceptualize and philosophically grasp regarding its function within the overall schema of the house system, is simply a difficult placement, and there is no way around it: we can only accept and try to understand what it's role is.
The twelfth house represents, at its most reductive, Isolation. This is why, under its rulership, the twelfth house traditionally has domain over social institutions that specifically deal with those individuals whom have been excluded by the preexisting social order, either through their own volition or not: jails, institutions, long term hospital care facilities, monasteries, etc. The twelfth house takes rulership over social processes and formations that are specially designed to deal with those not in the social order. This is the basic paradox of something like a jail that many of us don't often consider, a formal social enclosure charged to deal with the most unsocial around us: this touches upon the basic paradox that we find at the heart of the twelfth house.
When we analyze a specific house, its basic structure and function, we must always see it in the context of an entire System. An astrological house has no meaning whatsoever on its own, its meaning is entirely dependent on its placement within an overarching Set or Code, in this case the entirety of the House System itself.
So, to understand the twelfth house, we must first grasp the meaning of the house that directly preceded it (and the entire System as a whole for that matter). And we must do that for the fact that each house is simply a modification of the house that preceded it and the ground by which the subsequent house will develop.
The eleventh house is often referred to as the house "of gains." It is a house that generates power, social prestige, and some kind of cultural or symbolic elevation for the planets that are placed within it. But it is more philosophically precise that that: the eleventh house is the house that generates the conditions in which the individual is able to achieve equality to the social whole without being overwhelmed by it. The eleventh house creates the conditions in which the individual becomes easily integrated into the surrounding sociocultural or political structure, it permits the individual "to gain" in their social experience in a natural or "lucky" way.
But this all changes in the twelfth house. And what changes is not the individual or the planets that are placed there. What changes is the relational quality between the individual and the social system that they are immersed in.
In the eleventh house we find a highly fortunate synchronicity between the individual and the surrounding social architecture. Here, the individual becomes elevated to the same level of social operation. And this is why the eleventh house is often associated with positions of prestige and power: CEO's, politicians, celebreties, professional athletes, etc. People who easily operate upon the cultural field, people who effortlessly seem to impact their social surroundings; such people are engaging in a manner that come under the influence of the eleventh house.
And what changes in the twelfth house is not simply the fact that the individual is no longer able to easily synchronize and exert influence upon surrounding cultural processes, but now he is overwhelmed and alienated by the very social system he was once part of.
The transition from the eleventh to the twelfth house is thus a shift in perspective by which the individual experiences his or her surrounding sociopolitical or sociocultural space: from integration to alienation.
But it is not simply alienation from intersubjective relationships, work, or the forces of cultural production. Rather, with the twelfth house, the alienation can be experienced as an extreme form of an isolation from even the fundamental structures — ecological, biological, physical — of the world itself.
And this brings us back to the characterization of the twelfth house as being "Evil." And indeed, from a certain perspective, the perspective of an average person simply trying to live their everyday life, that is without question a fair assessment. It is "Evil" precisely because the twelfth house forecloses that very possibility; our capacity to integrate with the surrounding social system is effectively rendered null in the twelfth house.
The social machinery overwhelms us, the sense of raidcal Otherness creates an environment of intense psycho-spiritual alienation, and we feel the need to either escape from society or to attack it.
But the twelfth house is not an end in itself. In the same way the modus operandi of the eleventh house mutates into the twelfth, the discourse of the twelfth eventually passes over into the first: the tranistion from twelfth to the first is the point where the individual emerges anew from the social whole; a new beginning of subjectivity.
The twelfth house is the final house in the structure of the house system itself. It is the point in which the abstractions of the social whole begin to decompose and fragmentize, thus overwhelming and confusing the individual in the process. The twelfth house is the house of "delusions" and "illusions" precisely for this reason. We are disoriented here, we are overwhelmed, and we are confused by the radical Otherness of the world and symbolic system that we reside in.