Transpersonal Theory & the Astrological Mandala: An Evolutionary Model by Gerry Goddard
Return to Contents

- 5 -

An Introduction to the Astrological Mandala


The Basic Wheel or Astrological Mandala: The Quadrature Structure:
The Hemispheres and Quadrants: The Twelve Principles: The Six Axes


The Basic Wheel or Astrological Mandala


For those who are not familiar with the astrological mandala, Fig 2 shows the two- dimensional chart circle, the multifaceted backdrop against which the ever-changing angular geometry of the planets unfolds. The diagram actually brings together the twelve-fold sections of two distinct circles: the houses and the zodiacal signs. The twelve sections of the zodiac have nothing directly to do with the constellations but are twelve equal sections marked off from the position of the Sun at the spring equinox which is called 0 degrees of Aries. (i.e. twelve equal sections of the ecliptic). The houses are twelve regions of space around the observer and relate the rotating zodiac to any particular position on the earth's surface at a particular time. When we place the twelve signs over the twelve houses aligning the Aries point with the Ascendant, the first house coincides with the first sign which is Aries, the second house coincides with the second sign Taurus and so on.

We only need to understand the essential meanings of the twelve sections of the map since each sign and corresponding house share a fundamental archetypal meaning.

Where the signs describe qualities, traits and types of energy, the houses describe general domains of life such as relationship, profession, creative self-expression. For example, the tenth sign Capricorn, typically suggests a hard working and serious dedication to mastery and worldly success, possessing a managerial competence and ability with systems. At the same time, the tenth house means the profession, the traditional father or rule-making parent, the public role, one's public calling or worldly contribution, management, authority, government, the state etc.

The Quadrature Structure


The orthogonal axes of the houses are called the horizon and the meridian. These same axes of the Zodiac refer to the equinoxes (the horizon) and the solstices (the meridian).

Combining these axes, the four angular points are:

A. Ascendant/Spring Equinox;

N. Nadir/Summer Solstice;

D. Descendant/Fall Equinox

M. Midheaven/Winter Solistice.

General meaning of the four angular points

Ascendant: action as individual self assertion.

Descendant: relational connection to particular or personal others.

Midheaven: orientation to the large public sphere and public self or role.

Nadir: private life and orientation to inner self and family role.

The archetypal mosaic is to be understood not only structurally but processively, not only geometrically but as a dynamic and complex process of change and development as the cycle unfolds from one principle to the next, the process repeating, sometimes at more mature levels, through successive cycles of emergence and unfolding.

But the concrete actualization of the archetypes -- as complex events and experiences -- occurs through the motions of the planets, the archetypally empowered looms which weave the tapestry of existence upon the Pythagorean framework. The most powerful planetary aspects or angles are the conjunction, the two squares (waxing and waning) and the opposition. These points archetypally correspond to the Ascendant, Nadir & Midheaven, and Descendant while the four phases of the planetary cycle correspond to the four quadrants formed by the Horizon and Meridian. In this work I am not concerned with the meanings and actions of the planets and their particular personal and historical manifestations; only the fundamental spatial/archetypal architecture of astrology in its theoretical underpinnings.

The Hemispheres and Quadrants

Astrological consensus has it that:

The lower hemispheric principles (1 to 6) pertain to the individual shaped by individual concerns and perspectives while the upper hemisipheric principles (7 to 12) pertain to society or to the individual's direct participation in society as shaped by social factors.

The first quadrant (1st, 2nd & 3rd principles) is most distinctly individual yet in an unselfconscious way.

The second quadrant (4th, 5th & 6th principles) signifies further individual development but in a more self conscious way that is becoming more concerned with the 'other' and social factors, but in relation to the concerns of self actualization (5th) and 'right living' (6th).

The third quadrant (7th, 8th & 9th principles) is immersed in direct relations with the 'other' and emotional needs and exchanges.

The fourth quadrant (10th, 11th, & 12th principles) signifies large public and community social concerns and activities: social rather than personal and intimate relationship.

The Twelve Principles

The following are definitions as normally understood describing modern individuals but apply also to developmental stages from infancy to adulthood.

The First Principle

The First House denotes our instinctual survival drive, self assertion, basic competition, strong intention, the capacity to act decisively, our 'immediacy-in-the-world', basic self confidence, our 'courage to be', individual needs and drives as distinct from relational concerns.

The sign Aries includes such qualities as spontaneous self assertion, dynamic thrust, unrestrained aliveness, action orientation, need for excitement and adventure. Aries is quick to defense or attack, forever aimed toward the new, the new goal, the new challenge, the new fascination. Easily letting go of past resentments, emotions arise and pass, anger comes and goes. The archetypal quality is that of a forceful vector, a pioneer, or a warrior or hunter throwing a spear or javelin. There is a short attention span. More negatively, Aries lacks sensitive attunement to nuances of environment or needs of others. It can be impulsive, competitive, pushy, brutally frank, uncooperative, uncaring, precipitous, unrooted.

The Second Principle

The Second House denotes 'mine' as distinct from someone else's. Here are issues of money, productivity, possessions and the management and enjoyment of stuff. Here is one's basic groundedness in body and nature, the pleasure principle and valuations based on attraction/repulsion.

The sign Taurus is characterized by a connection to the good earth and the rhythms of nature, delayed satisfaction, a sustained long-term survival urge and capacity, deep satisfactions and enjoyments of simple pleasures. It symbolizes the farmer, firmly established, tilling the soil, and cooperating with nature to store grain for the winter, for future security. Characteristics include a 'this-worldliness' rather than an 'other-worldliness', a quality of permanence, stability, determination, persistance, constancy. While generally easy going and non-aggressive, more negatively Taurus can be stubborn, entrenched, overly literalist with a limited perspective. Sometimes there is an overattachment to 'stuff' and an inability to accept change.

The Third Principle

The Third House concerns the development of language, oral and written, the acquisition of knowledge, the capacity for conceptual reasoning, the dualities of logic, and the ability to make intelligent connections and communicate ideas. It is also traditionally the domain of siblings and near travels.

The sign Gemini is highly verbal characterized by mental and/or manual dexterity. There is a fascination with patterns and connections, particularly with ideas and words but also designs. Gemini is driven by a strong need to verbally communicate. Things must 'make rational sense' rather than trusting instincts and feelings. There is excitement at discovering the new and making all sorts of connections and patternings on mental, physical, or social planes. More negatively, Gemini is noncommittal and difficult to pin down, avoids confrontation and can be out-of-touch with feelings. There may be too much thinking, tending to living in one’s head. Surface complexity may go with a lack of depth.

The Fourth Principle

The Fourth house is the domain of the home, the private sphere, the depths of the inner self, and traditionally, the mother.

The sign Cancer, ruled by the Moon, is the sign of home, family, mother, children, roots, emotional security and belonging. A highly sensitive, caring, loving and nurturing energy, Cancer seeks safe spaces where one can warmly express oneself and enjoy intimate connectedness to special others. There is a sense of nostalgia and strong sentiments, a need for a continuity with the past, a need to know where one belongs. Cancer can be run by moods and feelings that ebb and flow like the tides in an intuitive and imaginal realm that lies beneath the more rational and controlled surface of things. This intensely personal water sign is in touch with the deepest instinctual level of life and needs to trust its hunches and intuitions, its felt sense of any situation, its subtle attunement to the feelings and emotions of others that hide behind their words. Cancerians must first and foremost feel at home within themselves, to open and trust the inner ebb and flow of feelings and responses, the intuitive and immediate gut level perception of things. From that foundational self trust, they can then reach out beyond their subjectivity and all-too-human limited perspective to warmly appreciate and participate in the larger world. Negatively, Cancer can be rather touchy, cautious and self protective sometimes with a tendency to become too emotionally attached or not allow the other enough space or independence.

The Fifth Principle

The Fifth house signifies self expression and self actualization, the initial movement onto the public stage driven by individual aspiration. Denotes life as play, as performance, as romance, as giving birth to one’s creative potential.

The Sign Leo is motivated by the need to express oneself strongly and significantly within the social situation, to exceed the mediocre, to command respect and receive acknowledgment for special gifts, achievements and creations. Life is meaningful and one is worthy only if one can find excellence at some pursuit through which one can make a recognized difference, find something and/or someone worthy of full love and devotion. In introverted Leos, the same primal need for social acceptance and respect may carriy with it the fear of social ridicule or failure which constrains one from spontaneously expressing oneself. Leo is the insistent call for us to develop a strong sense of individuality, self determination, strength of character, confidence and belief in ourselves—the courage to stand up and be who we are, fully empowered and empowering. Traditionally, the sign has been associated with pride, arrogance, bossiness, expectation of privilege, specialness and a naturally aristocratic air along with a self conscious need to perform and display, to be at the centre of things or in command.

The Sixth principle

The Sixth House signifies the domain of dedicated work, service, craftsmanship, self improvement, attention to detail, critical analysis, and dealing mindfully with health concerns and mind-body integration.

The sign Virgo is commonly characterized in terms of its noble intentions and actions involving self awareness, self knowledge, self criticism, self improvement, a degree of humility, serving others as well as oneself, dedication to the performance of a task for its own sake, conscientious, meticulous, organized—serving an apprenticeship to life. No longer motivated by the primary Leo need for acknowledgment, in the Virgo stage we encounter the social feedback we receive in response to our self expression.

At best, Virgo concerns the development of a discriminating awareness rather than a critical judgementalism, a natural humility rather than neurotic self effacement, a skillful and dedicated craftsmanship and practical competence, an astute self awareness and, without setting impossible standards of perfectionism, a dedication to improving and perfecting one's way of living. Negatively there is an obsession with details and order, fussiness, pickiness, too much self criticism or judgmentalism toward others and a general lack of intuitive and expressive spontaneity.

The Seventh Principle

The Seventh House signifies the primary relationship to the other, especially intimate relations and partnership/marriage.

The Sign Libra displays an indomitable determination directed into the social sphere. There is a strong will behind the grace and diplomacy, an insistence on order, fairness, harmony and balance. When Libra perceives an imbalance, a person arguing too forcefully for one side of the picture, or a group tilted to left or right, Libra will take the others side in order to bring things back to the centre, to re-establish balance.

Libran types typically resonate to the beautiful, the peaceful, the harmonious, the gracious, the balanced, fair and just. The beautiful picture is the point of it all! For Libra, it is not what "I" want or what "I" think that counts, it is what we can think together, what we want to do together, what is fair for both of us, what is the true median or balance between my wants and thoughts and yours. Negatively, Librans will sometimes deny the shadows, vacillate and wobble astride the fence, or accommodate and compromise themselves out of the existence for the sake of preserving the picture. They would avoid conflict, competition, confrontation, the vulgar, the selfish, and all the shadows, the not so "nice" features of life.

The Eighth Principle

The Eighth House is traditionally associated with themes of sexuality, death and rebirth, deep transformation, that which is taboo, life's underbelly, and the ‘occult’.

The Sign Scorpio is commonly described as intense, mysterious and inscrutable with a calm almost placid surface concealing complex and unfathomable depths. The challenge and the opportunity of this dimension concerns how we best relate to the realm of human passion and urges, the instinctual and the primitive which connects us all (even as we imagine ourselves to be distinct individuals) impelling us together in love and war, for better and for worse. The darkness and negativity traditionally associated with all things Scorpionic is not so much in the dimension itself but in how we approach and experience it—whether with fear, suspicion, repression, a need for control, or with the courage to face the darkness, to heroically fight the inner battles, like Theseus with the intelligent aid of Ariadne and her thread, boldly to enter the labyrinth and slay the Minotaur. There can be no change until the individual owns the inner Scorpionic depths—the very source of one's life, vitality, creativity and dynamic aliveness which, as William Blake described it, had become imprisoned within humanity's "mind-forged manacles". When we try to figure out these depths and control them with words, knowledge, science and pure reason, we fail. Rather, we need to plunge into the depths and bring up into the light those "monsters" which dwell in the darkness which is ours. Scorpio reminds us that the way to "truth" is a courageous and intelligent inward journey into the labyrinths of the Underworld and thence to the light.

The Ninth Principle

The Ninth House traditionally denotes religion, ethics, law, philosophy, higher education and distant travels.

The Sign Sagittarius is commonly described as freedom-loving, enthusiastic, irrepressible, outgoing and expressively exuberant or, on the more introverted side, thoughtful and philosophical, a seeker after life's greater meanings. Sagittarius spreads its arms to embrace multitudes and articulate its inspiring and enriching visions of our higher human social and cultural possibilities. Sagittarius beholds the grand view, surveying the landscape from its exalted perspective to teach and inspire or sometimes to preach and pontificate. Reason, inspiration, truth and vision awaken us to our higher nature. Sagittarius is motivated from a bred-in-the-bone optimism and creative vitality against the cynics, nihilists and sceptics by the faith that there indeed is a truth, a better and higher way of being and doing! In the cosmopolitan, universalizing Sagittarius we move beyond the personal and relational level of blood, instinct, clan and tribe. Yet the darker face of such outflowing and upwardly reaching fiery confidence and extravagance is sometimes arrogance, fanaticism, righteousness and proselytism, manifesting historically as the imperialist expansion to convert the infidel, to unite and universalize all local diversities in the name of higher 'Truth.'

The Tenth Principle

The Tenth House denotes the institution, the governmental system, the state, the profession, ones public achievement and authority, the ruling parent or ‘father’.

The sign Capricorn: For this matter-of-fact serious, conscientious, ambitious and achievement oriented person, 'reality' is the objective, demonstrable, and sensible, securely established by common consensus. Basic security is founded on the orderly functioning of human society while expert authority is valued over subjective experience or personal needs for self expression or individual freedom. Although patiently and persistently seeking control, this unflappable, self controlled and strong willed sign is primarily driven neither by a need for accolades nor a desire to have power over others. It is the healthier or higher Capricornian instinct to work within the structures, understanding the need for social stability and continuity underlying civilization, to operate with complete integrity and serious public responsibility, disciplined mastery and hard-won 'know how', to effectively manage in order to bring out the greater potential of our institutions. Capricorn's need for institutional control may express, in a more negative sense, an excessively conservative, traditionalist, hide-bound and authoritarian nature. Shows of personality are downplayed along with any desire to share personal feelings which are generally kept under control and are never as important as the task at hand.

The eleventh principle

The Eleventh House traditionally denotes friends, groups, and clubs. These social groupings are significant in that they are rationally-formed complex associations of generally like-minded and autonomous individuals which cuts across the family, clan and tribal modes of social connection.

The sign Aquarius: Aquarians are individualists, but unlike 'rugged individualists' who thrive in a competitive, Darwinian world, they declare the dignity and freedom of all in equal co-responsible partnership and friendship. Their individualism is profoundly tied into the democratic and participatory life of the group and community. Sociable, friendly, yet airily cool and rather idealistic, Aquarius is moved to get out and participate in the community and to inject something of his or her progressive, democratic, highly individualistic or even idiosyncratic approach and ideas into the dynamics of the group. To be empowered, Aquarians have to creatively participate in the group while expressing their unique individuality—not an easy feat but certainly possible. Cool, rational and objective, Aquarius is motivated by ideas, ideals, principles, social visions and a strong sense of justice. Aquarius is not satisfied with the status quo since everything is much less evolved than it could and should be! Yet as much as the Aquarian is reasonable, friendly and socially concerned, s/he may also be something of a misfit or eccentric. So despite their group orientation they may have difficulty with the more personal level since they are somewhat unaccepting of their own all-too-human nature. Aquarians tend to be too much in their heads, too ideological, a bit out of touch with their gut level feelings, needs and emotional reactions.

The twelfth principle

The twelfth house: traditionally signifies places or institutions of confinement and aloneness, selfless service and sacrifice, self undermining, escapism, secret enemies, mystical surrender to the transcendent, the deep unconscious, health of society in general.

The sign Pisces: A natural connection to the oceanic dimension of life renders Pisces a sensitive, responsive, compassionate and sympathetic soul inextricably interconnected with other souls and their deepest emotional and spiritual needs, acting as a sensitive medium reflecting the subtle emotional undercurrents of others. Rather than a distinct individual intent on realizing his or her own agendas, Pisces lacks the usual protective boundaries which define the difference between you and me. While often psychically attuned, Pisces needs to learn how to define its own edges in order to discover who one is as a unique individual, what it is one needs to be doing rather than just reflecting others, to avoid being overwhelmed or drained by the emotional force and impact of the other. Poetic, imaginative and often musical by temperament, Pisces needs to learn how to become an open channel for the creative forces flowing back and forth connecting the hearts and minds of those in communion with one another. Selfless service, compassion, empathy and caring are indeed virtues, but only from a place of individual strength. To get to that strength, sometimes Pisces has to give up its deeper than personal entanglement with others, to serve itself in a self-renewing, remote and mystical solitude. From here, it can contact the inner depths of creativity where it may find a profound self actualization and self expression which can then pour forth into the world, reflecting the world's pain back to itself, creating art as a great mirror of the human drama which can help bring people to consciousness.

The Six Axes

As I describe in the book, each of the signs is intimately related to its 180 degree opposite—the complementary sides of the same coin of meaning. These are not different from the above meanings: they bring together the above as complementary axes which are the basic structures referred to in this book. In reading the book, you will not need to keep all these principles and polarities in mind at all times. Each stage of the developmental model is being matched to the progression of these six main axes. So, for example, the the primal stages of development leading up to the mental-ego engage only three axes—the 1st/7th, the 2nd/8th, and the 3rd/9th axes which will become more familar as we go.

Stage-Level I

1st/7th (Aries/Libra)—the autonomy/relationship issue at an immediate actional and concretely instinctual and bodily level. (This theme, as the horizon, also underlies and carries through the whole of the first hemisphere.) The pushes and pulls between the demands and needs of relationship (the seventh) and the drive and need for free self determination and autonomy (the first). The first (Aries) does not compromise, but the seventh (Libra) may compromise too much. The first is focussed, out of touch with the needs of the 'other', while the seventh may be overly dependent on sharing and acting in cooperation with the 'other'. The integration of these is the ideal of a healthful balance but difficult to attain for the ordinary ego and mainstream society. They tend to describe typical and traditional gender relations and roles.

2nd/8th (Taurus/Scorpio)—the deeper issues of body, all that is 'mine' as distinct from your's or as distinct from what we share, how we mingle our resources, both as possessions and as the emotions and states which make up our selves. 2nd/8th is the more substantial level beyond the 1st/7th issue— the immediate concrete and the power and energy of organic and instinctual connectedness as in sex, the economic and substantive substance as in marriage, tribal/instinctual connectedness, international trade. Also issues of survival and death. Common sense world vs mysterious unconscious.

3rd/9th (Gemini/Sagittarius)—individual and socio-cultural mind. Immediate concepts, analysis, logic, words, the details of the pattern (3rd) as distinct from synthesis, vision, the large perspective, cultural and collective mind, meanings and understanding beyond the knowledge of the third principle. Free play of intellect through immediacy vs enframing within the larger system through speculation or inspiration (metaphysical, religious).

Together, the above three axes constitute the relation of Quadrants 1 and 3.

Stage-Level II

4th/10th (Cancer/Capricorn)—private world/public world issue; home and profession, deep interiority and public-professional role, parental conditioning mother/father. Subjectivity vs objectivity. Personal reality vs consensus reality. Feeling/intuition vs proven practical know-how.

5th/11th (Leo/Aquarius)—self-expression and self actualization versus social interactivity and group-community responsibilities and constraints. All-important autonomous self vs all important democratic group. The heroic vs the ordinary. The great individual vs the cooperative group as the driver of civilization.

6th/12th (Virgo/Pisces)—critical and technological capacity for control and improvement vs the greater collective forces beyond our control. Healthful personal integration and self improvement vs the health-giving role in society in reponse to collective sickness and social need.

Continue to Chapter 6