The thing about astrology is that once you know a little bit about it, you quickly realize how much you don’t know. It’s a language with an almost infinite amount of dialects. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing! One of astrology’s least practiced and most mysterious forms is esoteric astrology, which first surfaced in the early 20th century and—for better or for worse—might be the O.G. manifestation trend! Here’s everything we know about it.
What Is Esoteric Astrology and How Is It Different from Reading My Horoscope?
So, what is esoteric astrology?
Esoteric Astrology is a soul-centered astrology. Less concerned with our singular outward personality or what’s going to happen to us in this lifetime, esoteric astrology is about defining our soul’s contribution to the evolution of humanity. It’s taught as a way of healing the relationship between soul and personality. According to esoteric astrologers, in order to reach our highest self and live with soul consciousness, we must transcend our material nature, using our personality as an instrument of soul expression, not the other way around. If this is already sounding a bit woo-woo, that’s because it is. Esoteric astrology originated with Theosophy—or, the “New Age” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
History of esoteric astrology
The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York City as a home for upper class intellectuals who had developed skills in mediumship and were hungry to explore esotericism. Think: Séances and the paintings of Hilma af Klint. Rudolf Steiner and Helena Blavatsky were two major contributors to the movement, along with Alice Bailey, the founder of esoteric astrology.
Alice Bailey codified esoteric astrology through her five volume A Treatise on the Seven Rays, which she claimed to have channeled through her disembodied spiritual teacher, DK (read: a ghost). In the introduction she writes, “Certain things I may say will probably be regarded by the academic and uninspired astrologer as revolutionary, or as erroneous, as improbable or unprovable.” She knows these teachings are controversial and the source is unreliable—kinda like Instagram-famous-crystal-healer vibes. Her teachings were carried into the modern day through the work of Alan Leo (the original sun sign horoscope writer), as well as modern psychological astrologer Dane Rudhyar.
How is esoteric astrology different from the astrology I know?
The biggest difference between esoteric astrology and the modern psychological astrology of sun sign horoscopes (and all those memes) is planetary rulers. In modern astrology, the rulers of the signs shake down like so:
Aries - Mars
Taurus - Venus
Gemini - Mercury
Cancer - Moon
Leo - Sun
Virgo - Mercury
Libra - Venus
Scorpio - Mars, Pluto
Sagittarius - Jupiter
Capricorn - Saturn
Aquarius - Saturn, Uranus
Pisces - Jupiter, Neptune
But because esoteric astrology is all about transcending our nature and finding our higher purpose within the collective (aka manifesting our best life, as well as the world’s best outcomes), the planetary rulers reflect each sign’s higher octave, or greater calling. In esoteric astrology, each sign has an exoteric planetary ruler, which reveals the pure outer expression of the sign’s characteristics, as well as an esoteric planetary ruler, which reveals the sign’s spiritual side. The exoteric rulers are the same as in modern psychological astrology, but the esoteric planetary rulers break from tradition as follows:
Aries - Mercury
Taurus - Vulcan*
Gemini - Venus
Cancer - Neptune
Leo - Sun**
Virgo - Moon
Libra - Uranus
Scorpio - Mars**
Sagittarius - Earth
Capricorn - Saturn**
Aquarius - Jupiter
Pisces - Pluto
*You might be wondering, what is Vulcan? Well, it’s...imaginary. Vulcan was presented by 19th-century astronomers as a hypothetical planet orbiting between Mercury and the sun, to explain some peculiarities in Mercury’s orbit. No evidence was found of its existence after several searches and Vulcan was scientifically abandoned after 1919. Despite this, “the planet” also shows up in some astrological texts from the 1970s.
**Also interesting to note that Leo, Scorpio and Capricorn keep the same ruler on the inner (esoteric) and outer (exoteric) levels.
What does my esoteric planetary ruler say about me?
Esoteric astrology is an exploration of our soul’s consciousness. The esoteric planetary ruler clues us into a more “evolved” version of ourselves.
Aries - Higher self is reached through inspiring others through thought and speech (Mercury).
Taurus - Higher self is reached through loyalty and an iron will (Vulcan).
Gemini - Higher self is reached through the love (Venus) of ideas.
Cancer - Higher self is reached through imagination (Neptune) as soul nourishment.
Leo - Higher self is reached through illuminating (Sun) others.
Virgo - Higher self is reached through acts of service and purity of instinct (Moon).
Libra - Higher self is reached when keeping progress (Uranus) in mind.
Scorpio - Higher self is reached through fighting (Mars) for a divine cause.
Sagittarius - Higher self is reached through a grounding (Earth) spirituality.
Capricorn - Higher self is reached through establishing rules (Saturn) for the collective.
Aquarius - Higher self is reached through wisdom (Jupiter) as humanitarianism.
Pisces - Higher self is reached through letting go of limitations via spiritual rebirth (Pluto).
The Seven Rays
Another key component to esoteric astrology is the Seven Rays (remember the title of Bailey’s book is A Treatise on the Seven Rays). Life coach and astrologer Marie O’Neill describes them as, “energy streams that enter our solar system from cosmic sources.” The seven rays pre-date esotericaAstrology and Theosophy, with possible origins in Hindu scripture, and are also a part of Catholic iconography. In Bailey’s writings these seven rays are thought of as the fundamental energies behind all existence. The seven rays are a primal creative force and an expression of divinity. In esoteric astrology, all planets express their power through different rays in the different signs.
The rays are defined as such:
1st Ray: Will or power
2nd Ray: Love wisdom
3rd Ray: Adaptability
4th Ray: Beauty or Harmony
5th Ray: Knowledge or Science
6th Ray: Devotion
7th Ray: Ritual
What can I learn from an esoteric reading of my chart?
We understand now that esoteric astrology is very different from modern psychological astrology. It’s a complex system with somewhat murky origins, and unlike traditional forms of astrology, practicing requires one to buy into the somewhat jargony language of “esoteric” and “exoteric” rulers, the seven rays and soul consciousness. Focused more on the collective than individual purpose, this type of astrology doesn’t predict life events or give hot takes on personality. An esoteric chart reading is focused on transformation and how we can better express our soul, which is lifelong work.
Esoteric astrology is less about who we are and more about who we could possibly become.