THE FOURTH HOUSE
With the fourth house we reach one of the most significant, yet generally one of the least truly understood sections of
the modern astrological charts. The reason for considering the
fourth house only in its most superficial sense — as referring to the
home and to all real estate values — is that most of us are still living
on an Earth which, in our basic feeling experience, remains flat
in spite of all that our intellects profess to know to the contrary.
Astrology is still drawing a great deal of its symbolism and meanings from a Ptolemaic conception of the world; thus it still associates
the fourth house with the idea that below the surface of the Earth
there is nothing but solid substance extending forever in depth
and with no other meaning except that it is solid and that it is a
foundation upon which to build houses and from which to raise
crops and extract subsoil wealth.
The fourth house does indeed have such a meaning, but as
we come not only to know with our brains, but to feel with the
whole of our personality — body and psyche — that the Earth is a
sphere and that we are living on its curved surface, the fourth house
takes on a new, much deeper meaning. It takes on a global
significance, for it not only comes to represent the productive soil,
the foundation for the home, and the Earth into which to dig
graves — the "end" of all things — but it carries the meaning, above all,
of the center of the globe. In the fourth house the person can and
should reach the experience of center — the center of his own global,
total personality as well as the center of global humanity, of a firmly
established and concretely real brotherhood of man. Without such
an experience of center, an individual can never demonstrate in
its fullness his human stature. He remains a creature of the flat
layer of productive soil which constitutes the surface of the Earth,
whether he roams upon it like a superior animal or settles in rigid
vegetable rootedness to a particular spot called "my home" or "my
The fourth house, then, can be said to have two basic meanings
according to the level at which a man's consciousness operates.
In a primary and biological-psychic sense, it refers to the soil in
which the "man-plant" (a term used in ancient esoteric traditions)
is rooted. The cusp of the fourth house is the point of deepest
sustainment and most secure foundation for the building of anything that is to rise above the ground. Thus it refers to the
ancestral tradition and the great images and symbols on which a
culture is built — Spengler's "prime symbols" and Jung's "archetypes
of the collective unconscious" — indeed, to all that a person takes
for granted as evident truths, including the postulates of science
and its constants.
In order to emerge successfully from the matrix of his particular culture and religious-ethical tradition a human being needs a
deeper and more individualized type of sustainment. Symbolically
speaking, his taproot reaches to the center of the globe. Individuality
can only be experienced as centeredness in self, and by self I do not
mean a transcendent, all-inclusive principle, but rather a rhythmic
power that resides at the very center of concrete existence. That
power has been represented as residing in the "heart," because the
heartbeats constitute the most fundamental rhythm of the living
organism. In Rosicrucian symbolism this center is pictured as the
Rose that blooms at the center of the Cross — a cross formed in the
human body by the vertical line of the spine and the horizontal line
of the extended arms.
In such a center, wherever it is exactly located, the Hindu
mystic and yogi felt and saw the presence of atman, the center of all reality. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna, the incarnate Deity,
says: "There dwelleth in the heart of every creature, the Master,
Ishvara, who by his magic power causeth all filings and creatures
to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time. Take sanctuary with him alone, with all thy soul; by his grace thou shall
obtain supreme happiness, the eternal place . . ." (William Q.
It is indeed in the symbolic Nadir — which is also the Midnight
point of the consciousness — that the "God-experience" can be had.
There dwells the immanent God, the God-in-the-depths who polarizes the splendor of God-in-the-heights, the flamboyant noon-God
whose face cannot be seen without blinding the onlooker. Every
truly individualized person "knows" by an intimate existential and
irreductible knowing that there can be no secure foundation except when he has reached a state of unshakable centeredness. Until
this state is experienced a human being remains bound to some
kind of matrix. It may no longer be the actual mother or substitute
Mother-image; but the cultural tradition, the organized Church, or
even the Party for old-time Communists, can remain an enveloping
psychic or ideological womb. All "solid" foundations may crumble,
the tree firmly rooted may be felled, but the globe forever retains
its center. "Global man" is secure in the centeredness of his individualized selfhood.
One can carry one step further the symbolism of the taproot
able to reach the center of the earth. The vertical line of the birth
chart (Zenith-to-Nadir) points to the Sky as seen at the antipodes.
If all men stood erect on the surface of the Earth, the downward
prolonged line of their spinal columns would meet at the center of
the globe and, going farther, reach the antipodes. By looking exactly
above to the Sky every man contacts a different star. The heads
of men are directed to different points of the Sky; their feet are
oriented to the center where all earthly things are one. Unity is at the
center of the Earth, not in the Sky. Man's common humanity
is experienced in the depths; it is the head functions which differentiate and divide.
This is why what is called depth psychology is so significant
today, in our era of individualization based on the superficial
pseudo-center of consciousness and desire that we call the ego. Depth
psychology uses the concept and the experience of depth to reach
the center. When a human being reaches his own center he also
discovers that he is one with all other human beings, for all things
converge at the center. In Masonic tradition this is referred to
symbolically as meditating on the Midnight Sun, for at midnight
the Sun is at the cusp of the fourth house, illumining the antipodes.
The individual realizes what he is by uniting with his opposite, and
philosophers have often spoken, in an abstract sense, of the reconciliation of opposites. Every value and quality can be defined by
reference to what it is not. The concept of good rests on that
of evil. The famous Shakespearean phrase "To be, or not to be:
that is the question" is a typical expression of the tragic duality
inherent in western society. However, being and nonbeing, life
and death, yang and yin are inseparable. A global, holistic consciousness — symbolized by Tao — includes these opposites but in varying proportions.
Astrological textbooks, inspired by statements made in Theosophical books, often claim that the first house is the house of
"personality." This, as I see it, can be most misleading, if by
the ambiguous term personality one means the total person and
what it radiates. What the Ascendant and the first house actually
represent is the original impulse of individual being or, we might
say, the self as a particular vibration and rhythm, and the unique
destiny of the individual ever so little different from all other
individuals. This impulse has to acquire substantial material around
it in order to exist as a truly functioning human being. The newborn,
with his rudimentary consciousness, has to learn what he is able to
use as body, faculties, and possessions — second house — then what the
limitations are that may be imposed upon this use by his environment, and the opportunities it also affords him — third house.
Only then can the consciousness, the I, become fully organized
and stable as a "person."
The fourth house experiences deal with this process of integration and stabilization. At the primary level of the biological and
psychic-cultural consciousness, integration is theoretically or ideally
achieved within a home and in terms of a definite, stable tradition.
The normal successfully integrated person is a sound specimen
of a family type as well as of a collective ideal of culture and social
behavior. As a truly individualized person he becomes centered in
the unique rhythm and power of his individual selfhood and destiny.
At a still higher level this individuality becomes consciously and
totally attuned to the needs of mankind, and the person becomes a
"personage" with some kind of mission as an agent of Man or God.
The astrological character of the fourth house and the planets which
may be located in this section of the chart should help to discover
the best way to reach a state of integration and to acquire a solid,
effectual basis for the personality.
Personality, as the term is used here, is more than merely a biopsychic organism able to function effectively among other organisms;
it can be considered an engine able to release power for work.
Indeed, every organism is actually an engine through which life
energy operates. The functional integration of parts within a living
whole generates power. This power has to be used in some manner,
and the experiences related to this use belong to the field of the
fifth house, which therefore is called the area of personal self-expression.
The vertical axis of an astrological chart refers to power; the
horizontal, to consciousness. The land of power related to the fourth
house is private, in the sense that it is produced by the biopsychic
whole that we call an individual person. It is the power of a
particularized manifestation of the type of life generally characterized by the human species, homo sapiens. It is the power implied in
"being a person." This person in most cases is basically conditioned,
if not entirely determined, by ancestral family and socio-cultural
patterns. It is an engine mainly mass-produced on the assembly
lines we call tradition, family, school, and environment. Yet, in
some cases, and in vastly increasing numbers today, these culturally
mass-produced persons leave the factory for special treatment, not
only acquiring individual characteristics — even mass-produced engines do not operate in exactly the same way — but becoming independent and self-actualizing. A person then is no longer a mere
biosocial specimen, but is truly individualized, which means that a
power operating at another level than life takes hold, at first perhaps
most hesitantly and incompletely, of the engine of personality. This
power can be called Spirit, Soul, Self, or even God according to
the kind of metaphysics one accepts. It operates through the mind,
which in turn affects the biological organism, but it is not mind in
the usual sense of the word. Some philosophers and psychologists
speak of will, but here again one must differentiate between what is
most often called will, and belongs merely to the realm of biological drives and emotional desires, and the spiritual Will which alone
can truly individualize.
Will is power ready for concrete expression. It is that which
actualizes what has been only a potentiality. The Ascendant refers
to the potential of being. It is symbolically "the Word that was in
the beginning," the logos. But a word is only an image potently
able to mobilize force, of itself it can do nothing until it arouses
a feeling in a concrete, actual organism. Then the power inherent
in that organism is moved by the feeling and an action results. The
Ascendant gives the word: the Nadir and the fourth house refer to
the organism and its capacity to be moved by an image, a word, and
in general by the kind of feeling which spontaneously mobilizes and
directs the energies of the human organism, whether at the purely
physiological or the psychological-intellectual level.
The fourth house can be said, therefore, to refer to the basic
psychic function which Carl Jung called feeling. The first house
refers to Jung's intuition, which really means a definite sensitivity to
superpersonal directives or to image-symbols revealing at once the character and meaning of a whole complex situation. Both intuition
and feeling as defined in astrology are essentially personal, in the
sense that they produce intimate and incontrovertible experiences
that concern the individual and reflect his or her stage of development.
This stage of development is expressed in the second house by
the individual's possessions — possessions at all levels, of course — and
in the third house by the way in which the individual goes about
meeting his environment, reacting to it, and accumulating, then
formulating to himself information. A computer can be fed a multitude of data; in the same way the family environment, the society,
T.V. programs, newspapers, and a few years at college can feed the
growing brain of the child and adolescent a mass of information —
all third house experiences. These experiences are useless, and indeed often may become psychologically toxic, unless they are coordinated, integrated, assimilated, and therefore related to the self
and its unique capacity for centralizing consciousness — the Ascendant, symbolically. Thus there is a time at the end of the period
dominated by the third house — theoretically late adolescence in a
normal life — when one should know to stop ingesting more and
more data, and to work instead at the process of stabilization and
self-imposed limitations. In olden days this was the time for marriage
and home-building, that is, for defining precisely where one elected
— or was led — to stand, and for "taking root" in one's own place of
destiny. The concept of home and of building a family has evidently
lost a great deal of its meaning in our technological society of
rootless wanderers and of intellects avid for more and more information and excitement, but regardless of the association of third and
fourth house experiences with a particular period of life, the fact
remains that the passion for new experiences and the accumulation
of information are meaningless unless we, as individual persons,
carefully assimilate these things and make them the building blocks
of our own "house of personality." The Ascendant may tell us who
we are; but the Nadir indicates what we are, at least potentially,
and where we stand.
Third house knowledge should be transformed into fourth
house power. It is possible to stop looking for more knowledge too
soon so that personal integration and power to perform individual
acts may be too narrow and ordinary. It is also possible to keep on
acquiring data which cannot be constructively and significantly integrated into one's system of living and world view, and this can
lead to various types of catastrophes. Our whole western society is
following this latter course and may reach a stage at which it will
suffocate in a mass of unassimilable data and the neurotic compulsion to have and to know more and more of what it can no longer
integrate within a wholesome and harmonious philosophy of being.
In the sector of the astrological chart which begins with the
fourth house — usually referred to as the North-West sector, because of the two-dimensional character of the chart — everything depends
upon the indications related to the fourth house and particularly
to its cusp — the lmum Coeli, or Nadir. Fourth house experiences
tell basically what the human being is as a concrete, actual person.
These personal foundations condition what the individual will be
able to express, love or hate, procreate or create. All these activities
will have either a solid character or an uncertain one, a harmonious
or a congested quality of creativity — or no creativity at all. And this
in turn will lead to the reaping of the harvest — or to no harvest — in
the type of experiences to which the sixth house refers.
The Astrological Houses