The 12th House: The Intermediate State
Even though I have the Sun, South Node (Ketu), Vesta and True Lilith located there in my own natal chart as well as the ruler of my 12th (Mercury) conjunct my Asc, I have delayed writing an article on this particular house for such a long time. Why? Because the 12th house is the most elusive house in astrology. Difficult to put into words, hard to describe. Even hard to define. It is shrouded in mystery.
We know it as the last of all houses, the “end of the journey”, and so it is also known as the house of “endings” as opposed to the 1st house, the house of “beginnings”. Now, if we think of the astrological chart wheel as the Wheel of Life & Death or the Cycle of Transmigratory Existence (called Bhavachakra, the natal chart, in Sanskrit), a symbolic representation of Saṃsāra (“a passage through successive states of mundane existence”), then the 12th house would be Jarāmaraṇa (“old death and age”). Jarāmaraṇa is the last of the Twelve Nidānas, directly conditioned by birth (jāti), meaning that all who are born are destined to age and die.
Thus the 12th house, from a Buddhist perspective, is identified as the twelfth link within the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. So, what does this all mean? Let’s plunge deeper into the mystical 12th house and find out.
The last house is basically where the entire mass of dukkha (“discontent, unsatisfactoriness, suffering” in Pali) of life is felt. In Traditional Astrology, it is known as the House of Self-Undoing. However, if we look at it from a Buddhist point of view, the concept of self-undoing does not specifically mean ruin or a downfall of the self but rather “non-self/non-ego”. In other words, selflessness. The female buddha that rules this house in Buddhist Cosmology is Nairatmya. Her name may be translated as “Lady of the Void/Emptiness (shunyata)” or “She Who Has Realized Selflessness”. The colour of her body is blue, the colour associated with space and also Neptune. She is seen as an enlightened manifestation of highest compassion, selflessness and sacrifice – the traits of Pisces. She also embodies the realization that what we perceive ourselves to be – namely, independent, separate selves – is Maya (“illusion”), for in truth we are connected with all that exists in a vast web of communion. This is Neptunian wisdom.
“Like the element of space, she flows through the universe without impediment, for she has transcended ego-centered existence. Her eyes blaze with the wisdom of one who understands the mysteries and depths of life. Knowing all that is to be known, she manifests a divine form that expresses this completeness, inviting others to strive for the highest level of spiritual awakening.”
― “Buddhist Goddesses of India” by Miranda E. Shaw
The 12th house denotes the intrinsic insubstantiality of all phenomena and the inevitability of decay and death – the impermanence of physical existence. It is the total dissolution of experience and experiencer. It rules the dream world, sleep, the pineal gland or the third eye, healing, astral plane, fantasy, illusion, moksha or nirvana (enlightenment), psionic power, distance, intuition, ESP ability, telepathy, trance, channelling, water, creativity, ancestry, spirituality, the collective subconcious, past lives, unconsciousness etc. Dr. Rick Strassman has hypothesized that the pineal gland, which maintains light sensitivity, is responsible for the production and release of DMT (dimethyltryptamine), an entheogen which he believes possibly could be excreted in large quantities at the moments of birth and death.
As Neptune is the higher octave of Venus, it brings us closer to unconditional love, rooted in the Buddhist concept of selflessness and non-attachment. Space, known as akasha in Sanskrit, is the subtlest element of the phenomenal world where all forms arise and dissolve in its subtle expanse. A harmonious 12th house in the chart gives one the ability to perceive without distortion. And since it is the last house, it is the universal portal through which sentient beings can access the Akashic Records via dissolution into the 5th element known as aether or quintessence (or akasha). It can also be accessed through the dream world (pineal gland), shamanic trance, samadhi, past life regression etc. In the ancient world, various oracles, seers, shamans, yogis, dakinis, priests and priestesses, and other psychics across cultures around the world were consulted for this purpose.
“When selflessness is seen in objects, the seed of cyclic existence is destroyed.”
The 12th house, ultimately, is the intermediate state between life and death, known as bardo in the Tibetan language. In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhava. It is the state where our consciousness temporarily dwells (or becomes stuck as ghosts, poltergeists etc due to karmic attachment) between death and rebirth. Therefore natives with planets in the 12th house find themselves with one foot in the “here and now” and with the other foot in an elusive state beyond physical existence. That is why it is so hard for them to strongly identify with their ego or their “earthly self” the way other people seem to do, as their subconscious mind is aware of the impermanence of all phenomena. They know, deep within, that there are no real boundaries to this world because imagination and illusion, ruled by Neptune, has no border. In the words of the Buddha to Venerable Rohitassa, “The beginning and the end of the universe can only be found by investigating within.” In this instance, the Buddha refers to the mind or the consciousness. Venerable Rohitassa, a yogi who had mastered levitation in a previous lifetime, tried to reach the end of the cosmos or outer space (literally), but died on the way because of the inevitably short human life span, and so he never really reached the “end” of the universe. After his death, he took rebirth in one of the heavenly realms, and approached the Buddha to tell him his past life story. Buddha listened to him and said, “It is in the very fathom-long physical frame with its perceptions and mind that lies the world, and the arising of the world, and the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.”
The cessation of the world takes place in the 12th house, including the cessation of suffering and attachment. Knowing this helps us understand how the 12th house is associated with enlightenment. Because without hunger, clinging and grasping or dukkha, we would not seek liberation. In order to bring forth a final shift in consciousness, individuals with 12th house planets first experience a feeling of alienation. 12th house placements help us cultivate compassion and overcome worldly ignorance, leading us towards a spiritual awakening to the true nature of reality.