Tag Archives: Health

The 6th house: I live to serve you, master

In a wonderful movie you really should see if you haven’t already, Gosford Park (2001), set in 1934 England, a manor house is populated by both the uppercrust of British society and its staff of servants. Gosford Park is, on the surface, a murder mystery, but it is much more than that: it’s a social commentary on the values and mores of its time. Servants who worked in manor houses of that era were interviewed by the director, Robert Altman, so that he could tell the actors exactly where one placed the fish fork (above the plate) and how much space is correct between each place setting.

If you think that’s all there is to being a good servant, though, you’re wrong. Being a servant is as much a psychospiritual attitude as it is a skill set. A truly effective servant must be able, in the words of Helen Mirren‘s character, Mrs. Wilson, the chief housemaid, to anticipate the needs of the people she serves. “Do you know what makes me so good at my job?” she asks of a visiting under-housemaid. “I know when they will be tired, and the beds are turned down. I know when they will be hungry, and the meals are prepared. I am the perfect servant. I have no life.”

The key phrase you’ve latched on to, no doubt, is where I’m going with this: “I have no life.” This means the perfect servant is invisible. She has no needs of her own that interfere with fulfilling the needs of those she serves. To all intents and purposes, she doesn’t exist in her own right; she exists to serve others, which gives her her role and function in society (a role, it must be said, provides, or provided, many servants with a deep sense of fulfillment; more on that later).

I think you can see a fundamental problem with this set-up. In postmodern society, after two major world wars and severe economic repressions and depressions, England’s values and socioeconomic needs were forced to change. Society in England became somewhat more egalitarian. However, the reality of servants lingers in many countries today, especially in economically depressed areas that maintain strict hierarchies, where there are the haves and the have nots, and servants are cheap and the individual, with all our pernickety beliefs in fairness, and being treated as equals, are not taken into consideration because they don’t have to be.

Without getting into a long sociopolitical diatribe about human trafficking and slavery, (although I would like to remind you briefly that those are real concerns), now it would be better if I skip off them and talk about something much less difficult to solve, which is the spiritual essence of the 6th house. This house is where I’d look if I were asked for an opinion on the chart of someone dealing with inhumane abuse, just like I’d look to the 6th if I were dealing with a more subtle sadomasochistic relationship between a master and her servant or slave.

Let’s look at what it takes to be a servant. For many, it’s considered a degrading self-destructive act, wherein you lose your individuality while you take care of the needs of the other, selflessly. However, for many who willingly give up their egoic self to another’s needs, the desire to humbly submit to the will of another is compelling. Why is that, you ask? Well, it’s a valid and important question. It can be extremely hard for regular people, with forceful wills, to understand why anyone would be willing to kneel (literally or metaphorically) at the feet of another, yet this is the nature of the 6th house: for the individual to begin to understand that it does not exist on its own, it exists within a world of people who have equally forceful egos. At some point, says the nature of this house, we must all give in, give way, give up our “self” to become more than we are.

Ah. But how to do that? For it isn’t easy giving up your will to the needs of others. I’ve tried it. It’s a hard row to plow, although there is much to be learned from this as a spiritual path.

You begin by serving someone else’s needs, willingly and gracefully. This requires an awful lot of maturity, I’ve found. If the 6th house experience reminds us of anything, it is that there’s a reason why service to another requires acceptance of a spiritual path, a willingness and ability to give up your own needs and ego. In relationship to strengths we garner from the opposite house, in this case, the 12th, we are more or less able to give to another based on what we can bring to relationships. What are you able to give up to make a relationship healthier? This equation can be found in the 12th in relationship to the 6th.

One of the primary reasons the idea of the houses works for me is that there is duality inherent in each house combination. The shadow of the 6th is the 12th. It complements, supports, and at times, undermines, the 6th house experience. Look to the 12th to understand why you want to give up something to another, or why you’re willing to work like a dog in a job you hate; or why you get emotionally ill to the point of physical sickness if you’re mistreated. The concept of taking care of yourself in all ways belongs to the 6/12 axis, because your physical health is affected by that which you cannot necessarily see: your emotional health. Everything you cannot see that is eating away at you is symbolised by your 12th house, and how you manifest everything you can’t see is symbolised by your 6th.

Take these houses seriously; they represent forces that control your everyday life in ways that the West has become more and more aware of over time, but still does not appreciate to the extent we should. The overall theme, then, of the 6/12 axis is one of sacrifice: what are you willing and able to give up to take care of yourself and others? Look first to the 12th if you want to know why you feel the way you do, but look to the 6th to see how your need to subsume self to the other manifests. In both cases, the urge is subconscious, but the 6th will at least allow you to see your behavior in a way the 12th cannot.

The 6th is the house where we begin to accept others into our worldview. How we navigate our relationship to the outside world begins with what of ourselves we’re willing to give. Ask yourself, how giving am I, what do I have to give that I didn’t necessarily know about, and then look to the 6/12 axis to see how that will manifest for you. Your chart is an indicator of what you’re capable of; the houses are one way of looking at the entire complicated notion of ‘self.’ The 6/12 axis asks us to determine how much of what we’ve learned so far, from the 12th to the 5th houses, that we can now give away. This is where serving someone else comes from: internal and material resources we know we can spare and offer to others. Emerging from the 1st through the 5th houses with something to offer is crucial to this ability to give it all away.

We often spoof the servant-master relationship because we’re so uncomfortable with its inherent inequalities