The 7th house: The Shadow Self
A long, long time ago, I read Madame Blavatsky; anything with a title that included the word “secret” attracted my attention in those days.
Therefore, I read The Secret Doctrine, which attempts to discuss pretty much the entire history of the world and explain the laws of nature. Although there have been many imitators since, Mme. Blavatsky was a pioneer of her time, and along with her compatriots, founded the Theosophical Society, dedicated to widening the parameters of philosophical thought in the 1880s and beyond. This included occult subjects like spiritualism and séances. However, their pursuits were based on much older principles:
Theosophy, literally “god-wisdom” (Greek: θεοσοφία theosophia), designated several bodies of ideas predating Blavatsky: The term appeared in Neoplatonism. Porphyry De Abstinentia mentioned “Greek and Chaldean theosophy”, Ἑλληνική, Χαλδαϊκὴ θεοσοφία. The adjective θεόσοφος “wise in divine things” was applied by Iamblichus (De mysteriis 7.1) to the gymnosophists (Γυμνοσοφισταί), i.e. the Indian yogis or sadhus. The term was used during the Renaissance to refer to the spiritually-oriented thought and works of a number of philosophers, including: Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Robert Fludd, and, especially, Jakob Böhme. The work of these early theosophists influenced the Enlightenment theologian Emanuel Swedenborg and philosopher Franz von Baader.
Blavatsky’s writings connecting esoteric spiritual knowledge with new science are said to be the progenitor of New Age thinking, but I think it’s really important to remember that what she was doing was mostly reintroducing ancient ideas. For example, Atlantis, one of Blavatsky’s “discoveries” (later unearthed yet again by psychic Edgar Cayce), was originally mentioned by Plato in Timaeus and Critias, and has long been one of those subjects that people love to resurrect and call ‘new,’ when it’s nothing of the sort.
However, the Theosophists did do one thing I like, which is to introduce to Western society the eastern philosophical principles of esoteric wisdom. The reason I approve of this is because it takes the focus off the material outcome of our lives, and puts it on a spiritual path, a much more worthwhile use of our time, in my opinion, because it gets us to think about things like our purpose and what life is for. In astrology, this becomes a study of our soul’s purpose as seen through the lens of the ascendent, mostly, and augmented by other facets of the chart.
When I posted on the ascendent, I talked about the potential of how our will is expressed, and what our life path might be. Now we’re in the opposite house, the 7th, traditionally the house of the marriage partner and all those who are obviously not you. But in esoteric astrology, the 7th house is still about you, since esoteric astrology focuses on your soul’s path, rather than the material (exoteric) realm; therefore, it is more concerned with energy than with material outcomes (cause rather than effect, if you will).
The divergent values existing between esoteric and exoteric astrology is part of what causes a lot of confusion in how charts are read, by the way, since esoteric astrology looks for underlying motives or reasons why things happen, while exoteric astrology is more interested in prediction and outcomes. Esoteric is about potential, exoteric is about finality. You immediately see the problem, since most astrology is a mishmash of esoteric, exoteric, traditional, and ‘new age’ lore.
One of the ways to look at this house and the messages it contains about integrating all that connects your soul with your self (or, your essence with your expression of that essence) is to see it as a reflection of that which you have not yet accepted is part of you, the unlived shadow dimension of yourself. Fortunately for the morality play that is the astrological chart, the values of esoteric astrology fit right in with psychology and its focus on our inner world, our raison d’être. It also mirrors, pun intended, the theories of Carl Jung, who, of course, worked with the notion of the shadow.
Who, or what, is this shadow? What parts of you are you not living out? How can you integrate your will, as personified by the energies of your 1st house potential, with your soul’s purpose? The shadow self, that which is mirrored back to you by everyone you attract and all that lies dormant in your personality, is a treasure box of unopened potential. The wonderful thing is that everything you can be has already been given to you; we’ve seen that in the 4th house, where the seeds of your potential were planted. In the 7th house, what we’re looking at now is you, in the mirror. What do you see when you look in that mirror? What is reflected back to you?
You’ll get a good idea of how you’re integrating your will with your life’s purpose if you experience yourself as being on the correct path toward a goal you believe in. Anything less will feel like you’re not where you want to be, which leads to feelings of being scattered and goal-less. The 1/7 axis, remember, are inception and reception points in the cosmological coordinates of the chart; they symbolise where and how you entered and what awaits you that you still have to discover about yourself. This is why the 7th house cusp traditionally represents everything that is ‘not you,’ since it symbolises all that you have to find out about yourself through others.
If Plato was right, and our bifurcated soul cries out for wholeness, then the theory that the 1/7 axis represents the constant struggle between our will and what our will draws to us makes sense. We are looking for our ‘other’, the parts that complete us, in the 7th house experience. Yet for esotericists and neo-Platonists, that ‘other’ lies within us; we were born with the knowledge of who we are, we just have to remember it. We are our other. We are complete unto ourselves, but we have to take responsibility for finding this other side of us, and sew it back on, like Peter Pan’s shadow. The difficulty stems from the fact that we go looking for this unintegrated shadowy material in other people; or, we disavow what we are because, as with C. G. Jung’s idea of the shadow, we don’t like certain aspects of ourselves very much.
In Tommy, the Who’s influential rock opera, the boy cannot see, speak, or hear, after a shock in childhood leaves him catatonic. The song, “Go to the Mirror, Boy,” reveals that Tommy has an inner silent reality, but cannot express it. Eventually his mother, frustrated by his inability to communicate, shatters the mirror, releasing him from years of silence and inner torment. The esoteric 7th house represents a fragment of the potential of this experience, a shard of this mirror. The danger of not listening to the messages you’re receiving from others and from your unlived self, is that reaching out from the inside and facing yourself in the mirror is crucial to a full expression of who you really are. Without this, the potential of the 1st house cannot be lived out, and that search in the mirror that asks “who am I, really?” will reveal only the shadow-self, not the integrated, fulfilled self.