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The 7th house: The Shadow Self

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me…

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 wrote about 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.

Here’s a fuzzy but musically-adequate version of “Tommy,” performed live by The Who. I was going to show you Ann-Margret’s movie-moment, when she smashes the mirror in frustration, but her singing is just so wrong I couldn’t inflict it on myself or you. 

4 thoughts on “The 7th house: The Shadow Self

  1. Allison, I really hate the internet but I really want to thank you for sharing all of this information that you do. I admire your intelligence and I really wish that I could study with you! You have a great structure that I really can follow. I recently discovered Blavatsky this year. I also read a book called the steps to self mastery by S.R. Parchment (1932). My seventh house has Neptune in it. I may be beginning to see something unfolding here. You really provide some valuable insight into Astrology for me! Please don’t think I am a nut!! I could write forever, but I will stop here! Love, “Old Cap.”

    • I don’t think you’re a nut, don’t worry. :-) Anyone who is sincerely seeking the way for themselves is good to talk to. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions.
      My email is listed on the side here.

  2. Hi Alison, thank you so much for your article. It is useful for me because i have the Sun, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury in Capricorn in the 7th house, yet i have been single all my life, celibate for 15 years, and never a business partner in sight. Long a go an astrologist told me that the 7th house represents the light body or energetic twin / the double or the higher self and the the 7th to 12 th houses are talking about our spiritual path, while the first 6 talk about our physical expression of the spiritual. That helped me a lot. We need to be in union with our spirit before we can have meaningful spiritual relationships with other people. Well, clearly i need a lot of time to work my way through the challenges there, but at least i do not consider myself a failure, as i could have done, had it not been for the esoteric interpretation of astrological info. Please continue to question and probe, you do it very inteliigently. Take care, Marie

    • Hi, Marie, and thank you for reading. I’d want to see the location of your Nodal axis, as well as aspects to your 7th house, particularly Saturn. It does seem to me that we would benefit from adding other pieces of information to the chart to assess issues you’ve raised, such as the asteroid Pallas Athene, which offers a different and more expanded view of the feminine, which is more autonomous and independent, especially in comparison to the traditional ideas we have inherited about the Moon and Venus.

      I object to the fact that we really only have one concept of the feminine, reiterated time and again, through Venus, and Ceres, the nurturer; the Moon, with its association with inconstancy and mystery; Neptune is often considered an amorphous, sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine, planet, with dichotomous, shifting roles. Saturn, of course, is “always” male/masculine and “always” limiting, and so we therefore when many people see Saturn in their 7th house, they believe that there can be no relationship for them, when in fact, maybe your life is about other issues, and/or other abilities are in the process of being developed. I just think these things happen when the time is right, and even when we rail against it, the time is only going to be right when you’re really ready. Readiness is not something you can insist on, you can only keep working towards it. I know I’m not published the way I want to be, and I have to just keep working at it. Maybe I will be, maybe I won’t be; I don’t know yet, but I’ll never stop writing. I just have to send more stuff out. :-) Same principle.

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