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THE SIXTH HOUSE

Dane Rudhyar

The sixth house is a cadent house it is the last of the three houses which have their symbolic origin in the Nadir, that is, in the lowest end of the vertical axis of a birth chart, the meridian line. The cadent houses are the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth, but there is a basic difference between the sixth and twelfth houses which end respectively in the Descendant and the Ascendant the western and eastern points of the natal horizon and the third and ninth houses which end respectively with the Nadir and Zenith.

The horizon is an unmistakable fact of experience. It separates what is above from what is below the Earth's surface. No division can be more concrete. The vertical line of the meridian, however, is not so easily perceptible. The eastern and western halves of the sky and of the whole chart are not separated by any obvious partition. One moves easily from the third house to the fourth, but the transition from the sixth to the seventh, and from the twelfth to the first houses is sharp. It indeed implies a crisis of perception, a "revolution in consciousness." The sixth house refers to a period of personal readjustment; the twelfth to a period of social and existential repolarization. Yet the sixth house type of experience leads naturally to the seventh, and as a man experiences in the twelfth house the closing phase of a cycle of experience he is also sowing, whether he knows it or not, the seeds which will produce and condition the beginning of a new cycle in the first house.

Why should there be experiences of sixth house readjustment and what does such a readjustment imply? This question can he answered by considering the fact that the sixth house follows the fifth house of self-expression and emotional or creative activity. A time comes in every man's life when he is forced to realize that what he does, feels, or thinks does not come up to the ideal of behavior, personal achievement, and success which he has set for himself. Even the most self-satisfied individual is aware of some lack; his self-satisfaction is very often a screen behind which he hides an unacknowledged sense of inferiority, uncertainty, or dread of failure. If there were such a thing as a completely self-satisfied person, life would someday prove to him that his body or his mind, his emotions or his nerves were not able to meet some emergency or challenge. Illness, pain, inner doubts, and conflicts are characteristic proofs of at least relative defeat or inadequacy.

But who can succeed completely in the exteriorization and actualization of the potentialities inherent in his personality? Once the creative work is completed, the composer, writer, or artist is often painfully aware that he could have produced a greater work. The lover comes to the point when love ebbs away or brusquely terminates, and the poignant feeling may arise: "Why was I not able to keep this love relationship radiant, fulfilling? What did I do or say that disturbed or killed the feeling of communion?" And the parent or educator who encounters the rebelliousness and perhaps scorn or enmity of the child he had wanted to educate cannot help but wonder that he did wrong, or if the ideal he projected upon the child was really of any value. Thus, an experience of failure arises as self-expression and creative efforts meet reversals and the mind and soul feel empty and defeated by life indeed, to some degree at least, self-defeated.

The real problem in such circumstances is what the individual does with his experience of failure and the results of at least relative defeat. How does he respond to the realization that he lacks strength, endurance, adaptability, technical skill or wisdom, refinement, and the ability genuinely to love? How does he meet the realization of the necessity for self-improvement? How should he meet it so as to ensure the best possible results?

A man's true inner worth is often revealed when he has to face experiences of inadequacy, lack, frustration, or defeat. When he is equal to the ordinary needs of the day and able to meet with fair poise what life and society or his family demand of him, we see only his abilities at work. When these fail or are not equal to their task, when his body falls ill or his mind loses its normal stability, then we see the person himself. But we actually come to know this person's real self not so much by what he achieves as by the way he approaches the emergency, by the quality of his response to lack and defeat.

If a person with great reserves of vitality falls ill and makes a spectacular recovery, if a nation confronted with war or disaster throws itself successfully into a program of enormous production, this does not necessarily reveal the greatness of the individual's inner self or of the soul of the people. What counts spiritually is the quality of the effort and what this effort creates in the person or the nation. It is the aftermath of victory that tests the spiritual quality of the victory. It is what victory does to the mind and soul of the victorious.

Crises are opportunities for growth as well as challenges, but there is growth and growth! A man can grow bigger and fatter, more wealthy and more self-important. Does that make him better able to meet the next crisis? Does it make him come closer to fulfillment of his true and essential purpose in life? If it does not, then it is only a false kind of growth. To grow is to become, actually and effectively, what you are potentially, as a spiritual being, at the threshold of your birth. It is to achieve the essential purpose of your life as a whole God's purpose for you, as  the  religiously inclined person would Say.

The essential question, then, is: How can I best orient myself to an oncoming crisis? If it comes unannounced  (such as sudden illness, an accident or death), what is the most basic power, function, or drive that I should call into play to meet the emergency and, what is more, to meet it so that I grow spiritually from the effort?  

Most people, obviously, do not stop to ask these questions or to find the answers; it is well that they do not, at least at first, because it is good for a young person to test himself, to know his  limitations by actual failure. This builds character and a realization of "self." But when they grow older and realize that there is something quite wrong about the way they have approached their crises and dealt with their illnesses or sense of inferiority, then the time has come for finding out more about themselves and their innate ability to meet these crises. Reorientation has proven to be necessary. New techniques, perhaps, must be learned and, what is more fundamental, a new approach to the use of the skills one already possesses.

This is where the idea of discipleship comes in. One may learn the tricks of the trade from written instructions or from an impersonal statement. One may memorize a set of responses to a critical situation for instance, what to do in a traffic jam when driving a car. This is technical knowledge; today in America we worship this kind of knowledge. But a technically skillful driver may through impatience, emotional recklessness, or over-fatigue and nervous tension still cause a serious accident. The technique may be there, adequate to meet the impending crisis, but the personal, emotional, or physiological approach to the possibility of crisis may defeat the ability to use that technique. In some cases, the presence of a subconscious wish for failure or death may make defeat almost compulsive.

Discipleship, when properly understood, does not mean simply learning a skill. It is being subjected to the contagion of example from an individual who not only has the skill, but is able to use it to the fullest in times of crisis. A student acquires knowledge from a teacher; a disciple receives from his master the power to transform his personal attitude to life, to himself, and to God, so that he can use whatever knowledge he has or whatever inspiration comes to him effectively and creatively.

This power that the disciple receives, however, does not come to him unless he qualifies for it. He must discover the manner in which he can best qualify, and this implies always some kind of preliminary reorientation. Before the disciple can actually receive the power to experience, with the help of the master, a true inner metamorphosis, he must desire to change and to grow. He must be ready to serve and to obey, for true and eagerly accepted service is the only cure for egocentricity or selfishness. The capacity to obey and to take directions is necessary if the disciple is to pass successfully through crises that imply a challenge to the very existence of his ego.

Because the sixth house represents fundamentally everything that deals with personal crises and the way to meet them, it shows, more than any other factor in the whole of the astrological field, how an individual can grow and become transformed. It indicates, by its contents, the basic type or types of challenges to be expected whenever opportunities for growth are presented. These opportunities may be presented by life itself, or by the presence of the master and spiritual guide, whose task it is to make the opportunities more definite and, thus, the crises more focalized and acute.

In traditional astrology textbooks, the sixth house is said to refer to employment either to servants one employs or to one's employer to everyday work, to all forms of training, to matters concerning health and hygiene and in specific cases to military service. As usual, such traditional meanings by themselves are superficial, limiting, and fail to reveal the basic significance of this most important house.

The basic significance is that of personal growth. Growth means transformation or change of condition. This change requires taking a new step forward, or, if the motion is negative, backward. In every new step a person takes, there is a moment during which he is  off  balance,  having  left  a  previous  state  of  equilibrium  (or stability)  and not yet having reached the state ahead. This off-balance state indicates a crisis. All crises are transitions between two states or conditions of existence or consciousness. Most transitions are difficult or painful; hardly any man will pass through them deliberately and consciously unless he is made to desire the risk by a sharp or poignant realization that he lacks some skill, that he has, at least partly, failed or been defeated.

Illness may be the direct result of some defeat of the vital energies unable to cope with a challenge to grow stronger, or an attempt by the soul to impress upon the consciousness the need for a revision of attitude, or the normal sign of bodily disintegration in old age. It may also be imposed upon the body, or the mind, by the violent impact of some over-all social crisis, war, or revolution. In this case, however, the twelfth house is the main field of disturbance; the sixth house, its polar opposite, primarily shows the response of the individual to a social situation.

One should not forget, however, that for the individual to respond to a social or national need is the normal way to grow; this normal way does not inevitably require that he pass through acute crises or experience illness. What is demanded is that he contribute to the productivity and growth of his community, and this contribution usually takes the form of employment or service. Such a contribution may include a multitude of small crises or determined efforts to adjust to social conditions even if it is only daily commuting in crowded subways, or the effort to overcome fatigue every morning as the alarm clock the modem slave driver! whips one out of slumber.

If the relation of an individual to his community is negative, employment means slavery, crude or attenuated; if one's society is torn by war or revolution, the field of sixth house experiences means compulsory military service of some sort. Crises become sharper then, even if they are small and repeated. Yet these crises still can mean growth for the individual the slave can demonstrate far greater spiritual growth than his ruthless master! What counts is the attitude taken and the degree to which the spirit within, the inner self, has been aroused and has been able to induce transformations in the total personality. This should include, at least to some extent, the transformation of the body's responses and instinctual urges and desires.

At the limit, the alternative to transformation is death. Death can be a very slow and gradual process to which the individual soul assents or even induces out of weariness or despair. Growth always means some type of transformation. The message of the sixth house is: Be ye transformed! No person with an emphasized natal sixth house should seek to escape or refuse to heed this call for transformation.

To conform is to accept a static condition; it is to accept the inevitability of crystallization, the degradation of the living into the inanimate, the stone. All dynamic living implies transformation the transformation of one's personality and creative contribution to the transformation of society and civilization. To be creative is to be an agent of transformation; it is to use crises to the fullest so they come to mean effective and successful metamorphoses.

Birth, catharsis, and metamorphosis most often imply suffering. The great sixth house test is the test of suffering and also of patience and endurance. The ability to endure with such vibrant and steady faith that the crisis will lead to a new type of experience and thus to a kind of rebirth or reintegration is the assurance of success. Still, faith does not make the pain or psychic pressures and anxiety any less real; it may, however, give them constructive meaning, and man can endure almost anything that he realizes to be meaningful, unless the vital powers of his body can no longer activate worn-out organs.

In a well-known Gnostic hymn of the early Christian centuries Jesus is made to say: "If you had known how to suffer, you would have had the power not to suffer." Suffering is the path to repolarization or rebirth. The Resurrection implies the preceding Crucifixion. One must learn to face failure with courage and clear thinking whether it be your own failure or that of persons close to you or of your society as a whole. One must confront the causes of failure or frustration objectively and dispassionately, as if from a distance, yet with compassion and without guilt feeling. This is detachment and also what is really meant by severance. Severance does not deny empathy; it creates distance, and distance is essential in the evaluation of what has happened.

It is said that time heals all wounds, but this is only because the many subtle bonds of feelings and memories which linked the doer with the deed one by one break and vanish from the consciousness as other experiences come crowding upon the mind moment after moment, year after year. The doer disinvolves himself from the deed, and the suffering is forgotten until the day, perhaps, when a new test of one's capacity to transform oneself and to reassess and reorient the release of the personality is met. It must be met at the very place within the field of consciousness at which a similar one once was experienced. All depends then on the quality of the healing process that had taken place. Complete healing strengthens the disturbed function; incomplete, it may leave the organism weakened and vulnerable.

The sixth house refers to all experiences of healing, and to the fear of illness" or failure. If the roots of the personality are not deep or extensive, the individual seeking self-expression and emotional fulfillment in fifth house activities is more likely to fail in his attempts if he uses self-expression to mask his longing for help. Failure then leads to self-pity. The hurt consciousness cries out: "Why did this happen to me?" It happened because the individual had not yet realized his full power and his essential destiny.

Such a realization often comes through dedication to a work. It may come in service, for it is only by serving that one can gain mastery. The deepest worth of an individual is revealed in his capacity and readiness to serve which may mean his ability to recognize greatness in others and to feel humble. The great person is humble because he knows, deep inside himself, how much greater he might have been. True greatness precludes self-satisfaction. Only the great man can see beyond himself; and the vision of that beyond must pass through the "shadow" attached to any achievement. In the sixth house the individual may meet his shadow not the final "Guardian of the Threshold" who belongs more to the twelfth house, but the shadow of one's desire to be great, noble, powerful. This may come through humiliation, illness, or uncontrollable fear when the challenge of destiny comes. It may be a strongly cathartic experience; it can also be an exalting and transforming Visitation. The quality of the response of the total being to this Visitation determines the quality of the truly productive relationships into which the individual can enter with others.

The presence of a planet in the sixth house of a birth chart does not imply that this planet is in a disadvantageous position. There is nothing intrinsically negative or "bad" about this natal house. When a planet is located in it this means that the basic function represented by this planet should be used in order most successfully to meet the experiences related to work, service, illness, self-transformation, retraining, and the repolarization of one's energies and of the ego that has used them to some extent ineffectually. These experiences are necessary to the total process of individual growth. They occur at two or three levels, from that of material work and health care to that of true discipleship to a "master of works." These experiences should not be shunned just because they usually involve strain and stress, pain and suffering. As I have written elsewhere: "Pain is the custodian of our undiscovered treasures . . . Men are not quite yet 'Man.' They are moving toward the Mastery, the right use of 'human power' . . . Suffering is the footstool of our divinity. We may stumble over it and fall back into the womb of time to renew once more our tragic attempt at metamorphosis. Or we may step upon it, raise our countenance by damming the very stream of our tears, and use suffering to reach the extended hands of Him Who is our resurrected Self. Suffering can only cease with the Resurrection, in any man who is truly human. For to be man is to be ceaselessly more what one is. Until humanity merges into divinity. Until the individual becomes Man. Until all victorious men, having learned to use rightly in its fullness the power that is theirs in God, no longer need suffering."*

*See An Astrological Triptych: The Test of Suffering.

 

The Astrological Houses

 

Mindfire