Esoteric Astrology

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Esoteric Astrology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Esoteric (from the Greek esoteros, meaning “inner”; derived from the Greek eso, meaning “within”) astrology is the general term for various schools of astrology whose practitioners view themselves as studying the “ancient wisdom” behind the science of the stars. The original sense of the word esoteric was that it was hidden from, or otherwise inaccessible to, the uninitiated. However, contemporary esoteric astrology is openly accessible to anyone who is able to read. The contrasting term to esoteric is exoteric (meaning external, as opposed to the “inner” significance of the esoteric approach), and, from an esoteric standpoint, all of astrology that is not esoteric is exoteric. Although modern esoteric astrology can appropriately claim an ancient lineage, the reformulation of the ancient wisdom tradition as put forward by Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society in the nineteenth century has been the single most important element in the shaping of contemporary astrology.

Esoteric astrologers are more interested in utilizing the elements of astrology for philosophical speculation than in the practical application of astrology to the concerns of everyday life. Hence, the erection and interpretation of individual horoscopes plays a relatively small role. In Fred Gettings’s Dictionary of Astrology, he describes esoteric astrology as “founded on the premise that the cosmos is a living being, that the destiny of the solar system is intimately bound up with the destiny of humanity, and that human beings reincarnate periodically onto the earth.”

Sample speculations characteristic of the esoteric approach are the notion that the individual soul incarnates in each of the 12 signs of the zodiac in succession (Manly Palmer Hall) and that each of the zodiacal signs has an “esoteric ruler,” different from an “exoteric ruler” (Alice A. Bailey). Other significant features are utilization of the notions of reincarnation and karma to explain hard aspects and soft aspects, the correlation of the planets with the charkas (the “energy centers” of the Hindu yoga tradition), and a spiritual interpretation of the elements. Beyond the aforementioned thinkers, other key shapers of modern esoteric astrology are Alan Leo, Max Heindal, and Rudolf Steiner.


Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of Astrology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.
McEvers, Joan, ed. Spiritual, Metaphysical and New Trends in Modern Astrology. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1988.
Simms, Maria Kay. Twelve Wings of the Eagle: Our Spiritual Evolution through the Ages of the Zodiac. San Diego: Astro Computing Services, 1988.
The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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