The twelfth house of isolation, needs explaining as there is a good deal of negative connotations connected to this house in astrology. Many new students are left worried and confused by the misunderstandings that occur when trying to interpret the twelfth house. I describe this house from a modern astrological perspective, but will quickly explain the old view of this house.
In traditional astrology the twelfth house is an unfortunate house, in fact, all the cadent houses (3, 6, 9, and 12) were seen as less fortunate and weak houses in astrological interpretation. The word cadent means ‘fallen’ and any planet placed in a cadent house is weakened in power and expression. In practice, the twelfth house, in particular, can show hidden strengths rather than “perceived” or imagined “weaknesses”. A planet in the twelfth house behaves subconsciously, vague and unclear and this may be viewed as a weakness in character.
Others may not recognize the gifts concealed in our twelfth house, and we may not even know about our own hidden abilities. The twelfth house is associated with sad events, sorrow, anguish, imprisonment and persecution. The only other house that receives the same negative interpretation is the eighth house and when an attempt is made at deciphering their meanings – they are like two locked boxes, each containing the other’s key. The spheres of sin, debt and redemption and life after death are themes tied in with these two astrological mazes. Both houses are associated with transformation and transcendence, and the eighth house is especially affiliated with the process of metamorphosis and ultimately changing forms.
The twelfth house describes moving beyond our physical boundaries and letting go of our attachments, but it may also involve suffering in silence, and living in isolation or thrown into a state of disorganization and chaos. The two houses maimed with the “worse afflictions” (8th and 12th) are also the largest in meaning and reflect deep healing and will often involve the letting go of negative cycles, but they are painful nonetheless. The house of “death” and the house of “self-undoing” are not easy to understand and how do you go about explaining what transformation and transcendence means for each of us anyway.
The twelfth house can be both voluntary and involuntary confinement, and some people cannot cope with the daily grind of life. The twelfth house famously houses those with psychosis and other illnesses and rules over all mental institutions and hospitals, and people unable to adjust to daily living (6th). Likewise, physical illness is a time of deep reflection through suffering, helplessness and despair, and when the physical body is weakened we begin the work of reconnecting to our inner spiritual selves.
You cannot, however, shut off the rest of yourself so easily. Not only do these denied energies operate compulsively, indirectly, or through people and experiences which you attract to yourself…the more you have denied them, the more you experience them as alien forces possessing you…the Neptunian effect of the dissolution of your self image, emotional chaos, helplessness, resignation, or psychological paralysis. Your Secret Self: Illuminating the Mysteries of the Twelfth House
We are susceptible in the twelfth house of losing ourselves and coming apart at the seams. The use of drugs, alcohol and other stimulants that are used to help people achieve a temporary state of bliss, often lead to dissolution of the self. Isolation is not just for the criminally insane and people choose to live in a monastery, enter into a place of recovery or in solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Twelfth house energy operates behind the scenes and is hidden from public view, and it often demands a sacrifice of some kind and one that creates suffering, loneliness and isolation. Once more, it is all paradoxical because the meaning behind the 12th house is “oneness” and a feeling of unity with life and that means breaking down barriers that separate us from one another.
Another thing is that a twelfth house person may need isolation because he is so sensitive to his surroundings and can’t erect strong barriers to protect the self. Other individuals commune with an invisible entity and it takes a great deal of faith to do this work, and it is often done alone. However, a lot of people with twelfth house energy do live very public lives, but may sacrifice a large part of their own identity. There can be a deep sense of isolation and loneliness when no one understands us or “sees” us for who we really are.
Any planet in the 12th house feels unknown, unseen, unheard, unnoticed and unacknowledged. People with planets in the 12th house possess great sensitivity for those lost, shut off from society and rejected, and we may find them working in hospitals, institutions, and in foster care. It involves those who sacrifice their own personal life in order to help others, and in an act of selfless service they serve something greater.
The twelfth house represents complete integration with life. Necessary seclusion from the world helps the inner process of purification and this is silent development. It is work that needs to be done alone and “behind the scenes” . As corny as it sounds, we are never really alone in life. We have physical loneliness and material poverty, and at desperately low points we may have no-one in our life that we can turn to for support. We may feel isolated, stranded, separated, but in those poignant moments we connect to an invisible source.
The twelfth house is the area of LEARNING on the EMOTIONAL and SOUL level. This learning takes place through gradual growth of awareness that accompanies loneliness and deep suffering, through selfless service, or through devotion to a higher ideal, and through freedom from ghosts of past thoughts and actions. Stephen Arroyo’s Chart Interpretation Handbook: Guidelines for Understanding the Essentials of the Birth Chart
Some people may feel their sense of isolation is some kind of punishment inflicted on the soul. The 12th card in the Tarot deck shows The Hanged Man suspended in the air, signifying a sense of hopelessness and despair and is perhaps the best pictorial image for the astrological twelfth house. The twelfth house asks us to give up our defences and journey into self-doubt, isolation, abyss and loneliness to learn about what really supports us at a time when we feel most unsupported and to trust in what we cannot see.
“We have identified ourselves with our body, mind, and personality, imagining these objects to constitute our real ‘self,’ and we spend our entire lives trying to defend, protect, and prolong what is just an illusion. Contrary to most professional opinion, this gnawing dissatisfaction with life is not a sign of ‘mental illness,’ nor an indication of poor social adjustment, nor a character disorder. For concealed within this basic unhappiness with life and existence is the embryo of a growing intelligence, a special intelligence usually buried under he weight of social shams.” Ken Wilber