If you ever have had to improvise a speech after a dinner party, you should know how difficult it is to bring your talk to a convincing and significant end. When coming to the close of their speeches, many speakers fumble, repeat themselves, go from climax to anticlimax — and perhaps at long last let their words die out wearily into an inconclusive end. The listeners by that time have become tired of expecting the end, and their minds promptly dismiss or forget whatever might have impressed them at some point of the speech.
The composer of music, the dramatist and novelist often find the same difficulty when confronted by the obvious necessity of bringing their works to an impressive conclusion. It is relatively easy to start something; the natural impulse of life within you, the emotional eagerness to express yourself can do the starting — and the people's attention is not yet well focused or critical at the beginning. They are warmed up only gradually and will forget how the thing began.
But nature in you will not produce a significant, worthy of remembrance conclusion; the natural end of everything is exhaustion — you get exhausted and so do the people around you. Your speech, or you yourself, dies rather meaninglessly of old age; the great moments of your speech or your life are clouded up by the settling dust of a wearisome end unless you, the self, the spiritual being, take control and, binding up all the loose strings of your great effort, gather into an impressive and revealing conclusion the most essential elements of your message.
Everything that came before may be largely forgotten; but such an end will be unforgettable. It impresses itself into the mind and soul of the people who are witnesses to it. It is like a seed, the last product — the consummation — of a yearly plant's life. The seed falls into the ground; but in it the power of ever-renewed life is contained. From that seed an abundance of results will come forth. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" — (John. 12:24).
Symbolically speaking every great and significant conclusion to a prolonged human effort can be a "seed." Every cycle of experience, as well as every human life, can end with the release of such a seed conclusion; if it does not, then what remains is only a fleeting and impermanent memory in the mind or the feelings of some witness to its achievements. The beauty of the flower of the cycle may be remembered; the leaves may have given shelter and food to some living creatures who lived more happily because of them; but if there is no seed, the essence and substance of the cycle of experience, of the speech, of the life are lost.
The Twelfth House
Astrologically speaking the achievements are symbolized by the tenth house of the natal chart (calculated for the exact moment of birth); but the seed consummation is represented by the twelfth house — the last phase of the cycle of experience. In this twelfth house the individual should bring all things to a significant and unforgettable end, an end filled with the creative potency of new beginnings. This alone is real success.
In India, where the belief in reincarnation has prevailed for thousands of years, it is said that the last thought held in death conditions the future birth. But by this last thought is meant more than a mere fleeting thought! What is implied is the final consummation of the long process of living experience, the "Last Judgment" (for the individual) — a balancing of the accounts of life within a final experience of value.
What value have I given to my life and to all I have felt, done and thought? What new value have I been able to project, as an individual, into the world? What value did my kin, my associates, my friends, my community find in my life; finding it, did they become for it better human beings?
The body dies; but the value remains. It remains in a social form, in the memory of friends or foes, if I have been able to make a valuable contribution to my community. The value of an Edison shines forth in every electrical lamp; it has its undertones in any phonograph recording.
The element of value is not a social factor only. It is above all a personal and spiritual factor. By living man adds value to his soul, for the soul is the granary in which the harvest of all cycles of experience is kept; this harvest of seed is the very substance of man's eventual immortality in a spiritual body. When the granary is full, then man reaches individual immortality. He has overcome death, not by denying it — a futile gesture — but by learning how to die significantly: to die the death of the plant which is rich with fertile, life-renewing seed.
Death can be made creative, exactly as the conclusion of the orator's speech or of the great author's novel can be made creative. They are creative if these ends release into the world unforgettable meaning and value, if they fill the soul's granary with a substantial harvest. The art of bringing everything and every experience to a creative ending is the greatest of all arts — and perhaps the least practiced in our Western world!
In old Asia death was seen with no fear or sense of tragedy because men there saw death as a phase of life — an end which was also a beginning. They prepared for it soon after reaching the age of personal maturity, just as a speaker deliberately works out a vital and effective conclusion for his speech, or the writer a striking end climax for his short story. How to tie the loose ends of living together, how to learn to meet the last moment before the great silence falls upon the living organisms, how to die with the whole of one's creative energies focused upon rebirth — this, every individual should learn. He learns it by realizing that every day is a small life cycle, that every experience should produce its seed harvest, that every human relationship can end in beauty or at least in profound significance if the value it holds is consciously extracted and understood by the participants.
There is no end that could not have led to a harvest of meaning and value for the soul that lived to face it — even the seemingly most tragic conclusions. The only tragic end is the end one lives through in complete meaninglessness and utter weariness or boredom — that is, in spiritual defeat.
In order to make a significant end, creative of new and greater cycles of future experience, one thing, however, is needed; this is the courage to repudiate the "ghosts" of the past. It is this repudiation which is also called severance. There can be no real freedom in rebirth without conscious severance from the past, without the ability either to bring the whole past to a significant and harmonious conclusion or the courage to say finished and to dismiss the memory of what one must leave unfinished, unassimilated, unsolved if one is to enter the new life, the new cycle of experience.
Ghosts linger on, alas, with subtle tenacity in the unconscious — the ghosts of things undone, of words unsaid, of small or big gestures which the heart and hands could not be made to perform. The speaker who sees from the clock on the wall that his time is over, that he must bring his speech to an end, may suddenly remember all that he had meant to say but did not. Will he try to crowd the unsaid into a jumble of last-minute statements which would leave his hearers completely confused? Speakers often try and, thus, defeat themselves. One must have the courage to dismiss the things unsaid, the gestures unlived, the love unexperienced and make a compelling end on the basis of what has been said and experienced.
This takes skill, of course; but it takes, even more, courage. It is a peculiar type of courage, a psychological kind but courage of the purest type and often far more difficult to summon than the strength to die well in the excitement of battle. The nature of this courage is usually neither recognized nor well understood. It is not an emotional or physical kind of courage. It is partly mental but mostly an act of spiritual will. You take your loss, and you go on anew — knowing full well that some day, in some place, the ghosts that you dismiss will be met again. But if, in the meantime, you have grown enough and established yourself at a higher level of consciousness and power, you will know better how to deal with the unfinished business.
Almost every fire leaves some ashes; every tree produces, besides seeds which germinate during the following springtime, green leaves which fall and decay. That which decays is fertilizer for that which will be born again; but with the reintegration of this fertilizer as chemical food for the new vegetation, there comes also the reappearance of the ghosts of the past — the memories of failure, the subconscious pulls of the unlived life of yesterday.
I have spoken in the language of symbols; but these illustrate facts of everyday life. Every day is a cycle of experience; every year, a round of births, maturing and dying. He who can live fully in the shortest possible span of time, he indeed is the master. He lives in a perpetual state of fulfillment; in the fourth dimension of time — past, present and future rolled into an experience of perfect activity which leaves no ghost, no ashes or, to use a well-known Hindu term, no karma.
The House of Karma
Astrological textbooks repeat that the twelfth house is the house of karma and of bondage. But it is also potentially the field of fulfillment and the symbol of the perfect end which is the prelude for more glorious tomorrows. What the natal twelfth house indicates is how you can reach perfect fulfillment, if you can at all reach it. It does not say whether you will or will not reach it. It does not say whether or not you will leave, at the close of your life cycle or of any smaller cycles, many waste products and much unfinished business. It does not say whether or not you will be able to dismiss your ghosts — dismiss them with a blessing and courageously renew your mind and your life. But it tells you something concerning the nature and insistency of the ghosts you will have to deal with; it gives you a general picture of your subconscious — the realm of ghosts and of the remains of unsolved problems or unlived experiences. It suggests to you the best way to deal with your ghosts and the disintegrating products of your subconscious.
The twelfth house gives as positive indications as any other house. There are indeed no bad houses. There are, nevertheless, fields of experience in which crises do occur; they must occur, for the sake of your tomorrows, for the sake of the future you, your greater self.
In the sixth house, the crises you meet are a preparation for your life of relationship (the field of the seventh house); you must meet them, and meet them successfully, if you are to experience true partnership and the deep, vibrant sharing of steady companionship. In the twelfth house crises are the outcome of the way you have worked out your relationship to family and community, to your culture and its values.
In the twelfth house you meet the results of your social and professional failures or frustrations — but, as well, of your successes and wealth. Above all you meet the less obvious results (the karma) of the methods you have used in order to reach fame and power or of the laziness and inertia which have brought you inner or outer defeat. Many achievements indeed produce a shadow as dark as the attainments were spectacular. Success often engenders resentment or enmity and perhaps causes misery or death to others.
Are you aware of these negative results? Are you aware also of those inner shadows: the fears, the sense of guilt, the remorses, the nightmares repeating past tragic scenes you cannot stop — the shadows which your own actions have produced, directly or indirectly, willingly or unwillingly?
Some day you will become aware of, or at least you will experience the results of, this shadow part of your inner being and of your outer achievements. Then there will be a crisis. If it is dire enough, you might be led by it to a hospital, an insane asylum, a jail; you may develop unexpectedly psychic gifts and behold the ghosts you have created. Obviously it is only rarely that a twelfth-house crisis is so serious.
Nevertheless, such crises must be met. If we do not meet ghosts, we may be blocked by hidden enemies, another traditional twelfth-house characteristic. In any case, it is the shadow of our failures or our successes which we must face; we face it in an even more concentrated form as we ready ourselves to make more important and creative beginnings.
The only way to deal with a shadow is to illuminate it by use of sources of light placed in different directions. It is not to become frightened or frozen up. Ghosts and shadows must vanish if subjected to the light of understanding and compassion.
Astrological tradition has given the meaning of "the end of things" to the fourth house; the reader may, therefore, wonder how this fits in with what has been stated in the foregoing paragraphs. This problem can be solved if you realize that the end of which the old astrologers spoke was a total end, an end without subsequent beginning. In the twelfth house, the individual faces an end which can and does become a beginning — thus, a transition between two cycles. A transition means a critical state, the threshold between two conditions.
But let us suppose that you stumbled over that threshold and collapsed; that as you met your ghosts, they overcame you. Then the new cycle is not a real rebirth but a more or less swift descent into the abyss of final and total disintegration. As you reach bottom (the nadir or fourth house), the end without possible beginning occurs.
In everyday life, many things do die without any conceivable return, at least insofar as your personal consciousness will ever be able to know. In horary astrology, when a person inquires about a particular concrete matter, the fourth house of the horary chart refers indeed to the end of the matter. Yet what seems very dead may leave ghosts; in this case, the remains of the matter you thought ended will come back in your subconscious life to obsess you.
The point is that nothing should be allowed to die a final death; everything should be transformed and transfigured — transformed in the eleventh house and transfigured in the twelfth. Every cycle of activity, as it comes to its eleventh and twelfth-house stages, should (theoretically) become transfigured into a new beginning of activity at a higher level. Nothing comes to a dead end unless at some crucial time of crisis and opportunity it has failed to become transfigured or translated into something new and greater. The symbolical place where it can become so translated is the twelfth house. It is only when this translation has failed that the ultimate fourth-house end comes inevitably, by progressive stages (in the first, second and third houses considered in a purely negative sense as phases of disintegration).
The twelfth house is, therefore, a most profoundly important field of experience, far beyond the superficial meaning attributed to it by classical astrology. By studying the zodiacal sign on its cusp, the planet ruling this sign and whatever planets (or other astrological factors) may be located in this house, one may come to understand better some of the deepest problems which an individual has to meet. These problems deal with the subconscious, with the way to deal with the insistent memories of the past and with karma, with the challenge to transfigure every closing cycle into a new and higher cycle. It deals even with one's approach to sleep every night and with the attitude one holds toward the activities of the day which is closing. It deals with all forms of activity because every act begins in a first-house phase, reaches achievement in a tenth-house zenith and must be brought to a significant conclusion if there is to be further progress, greater activity and true individual growth.