Pallas Athene by Gustav Klimt, 1899
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The Sabian Symbols in Astrology
by Marc Edmund Jones

Always round off a zodiacal degree to the next whole number when using its Sabian Symbol. For instance, the Sabian Symbol for both 23º01' and 23º59' Leo is 24 Leo. 23º00' is 23 Leo.
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PART TWO: Listening to the Eon Speak

In the first part of this article, we touched upon the background of degree-symbols in 20th Century astrology. The reader will experience at this point a change of direction, a shift of attention to a different level. The success of this change depends upon the writer's personal comprehension of the Eon as such—inevitably limited—and upon the reader's response to this particular treatment of it. Certain assumptions underlie our approach to "the material", as Rudhyar called it:
      (1) A degree-symbol and, subordinately, its keyword may give prophetic/poetic insight into a horoscope.
      (2) Our "heuristic" (that is, "incapable of justification") commentary seeks to bring astrology and history together in a way that is useful in the world of time-and-space reality—that is, the world of "facts".
      (3) Quotations from the objective source of interpretation (Marc Edmund Jones or MEJ) and from our example native's biographer (Mary Lutyens or ML) catalyze a sense of depth for the reader, and provide the substance or consciousness of interaction with the realm of the symbolic, or with the subjective realm of astrology itself.
      Quotations to follow ascribed to MEJ are from Marc Edmund Jones's The Sabian Symbols in Astrology, and those ascribed to ML are from Mary Lutyens's eminent biographies, Volume 1, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening, and Volume 2, Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfillment. The chart chosen to exemplify the meaning(s) of the Sabian symbols is that of Jiddu Krishnamurti, his horoscope based on the data: May 12, 1895, 12:18 AM LMT, 13N33 78E30.

Image copyright © 2000 by Michael R. Meyer


URANUS (18 Scorpio). A woods rich in autumn coloring. Fulfillment. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)
" exaltation of every ideal potentiality, dramatized in the form of inevitable and universal consummation of order and beauty." (MEJ, p. 197)

When Krishnamurti was fourteen years old, living in Adyar, India, the psychic C. W. Leadbeater perceived the radiation from him of a marvelous aura. This first step of discovery ultimately led to his being called the next "World Teacher" or an incarnation of the Lord Maitreya. Uranus is the potential of independence, uniqueness and discovery—and also rules the human aura. Elevated in the 9th house of higher understanding and consciousness, Uranus is together there with Saturn, co-ruling the Aquarius Ascendant. The connection to Krishnamurti's work as a teacher is clear by this 9th house indication, and Uranus exalted in Scorpio intensifies the aura.
      Leadbeater claimed that Krishnamurti had lived through many auspicious lifetimes of incarnation in the world, ranging back through time as far as 22,662 B. C. The Sabian symbol of Uranus evokes a past that has reached its reward at last, as when autumn leaves, through the natural action of time, reach their greatest glory.
      "...[Leadbeater wrote]...we are to have the karma of bringing up one whom the Master has used in the past and is waiting to use again..." (ML, v.1, p.24)

NEPTUNE (15 Gemini). Two Dutch children talking. Clarification. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"...the creative interest of man in the broad range of potentialities on which he may draw...self-confidence of spirit..." (MEJ, p. 224)

Neptune in Gemini is the potential of obligation and responsibility. These may seem to be Saturnian terms, but they are not, as Neptune's obligation is to see beyond the veil of illusion which may appear to blind us, and Neptune's responsibility is to be able to answer or respond to the truth as it is, unencumbered by delusion or misconception. Yet Neptune is also psychism, mediumship, and the native's inborn degree of access to the invisible world as he or she apprehends it.
      The duality of the symbol for this degree echoes that of natal Mercury (given later), with two children (naïveté) "talking Dutch", talking about foreign or even impossibly difficult matters, which the listener may but poorly understand. The (ML) quotation below is from a letter written by Krishnamurti at age fourteen—that is, as a child.
      Later in life, he rejected all forms of outer influence. His personal form of clarification lay in asking individuals to "go with me" in thought, and to respond to their inward leadings toward truth, striving always to see things as they are, in fact. Through Neptune's link to Uranus in the "Department of Significance", one may see from the Uranian degree itself that the "clarification" offered by Krishnamurti resulted from the fulfillment of a long spiritual seasoning and growth into the "childlike" attitude he often evinced. With Neptune in the 4th house, this quality was foundational, a product of his deep inner heritage.
      "Then He gave me the Key of Knowledge and showed me how I might always and anywhere recognize any member of the Great White Brotherhood when I met Him; but these things, He said, I must not repeat." (ML, v.1, p.40)

PLUTO (11 Gemini). A new path of realism in experience. Identification. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"...self-orientation as a consequence of a persistent weighing of pros and cons...a determination of values on the basis of their demonstrated usefulness..." (MEJ, p. 220)

Pluto of obsession, focus and genius—genius in the sense of an overshadowing talent or tendency—is conjunct Neptune in Gemini and the 4th house, and completes the planetary Department of Significance along with Uranus in the 9th. Krishnamurti, as when speaking below, could be brutally frank about the special demand he made of his listeners. Astrologically condensing the impact of these three planets in the chart into several words, his significant focus was to identify (Pluto) the straightforward means of personal clarification (Neptune) that could lead to unusual individual fulfillment (Uranus).
      "There is an action total, complete, holistic action in which thought does not interfere at all. Are you waiting for me to tell you? That's rather cheap! The speaker does all the work and you listen...What is the point of that?" (ML, v.2, p.221)


JUPITER (6 Cancer): Gamebirds feathering their nests. Meticulousness. (The Sabian symbol and degree for this degree.)

"...the satisfaction anyone may know through his conscious participation in a group destiny." (MEJ, p.244)

The enthusiasm and personality of Jupiter directly complements the sensitiveness of Saturn described next. Jupiter is exalted in Cancer, the sign of expansion and growth. In the 5th house, Jupiter emphasizes one's offspring, or the pure pleasure taken in some special "act of self". Since Krishnamurti had no biological children, we think of the multitude of surrogate "children" who looked to him, as students of his thought. His attitude toward them, and his personal traits also, were meticulous and correct. Jupiter rules the 11th house of group associations, and is in mutual reception (priority, consequence) with the Moon in that house. Through his inspired personality (Jupiter), he both mothered and fathered a vast outreaching and ongoing "family" as a form of "group destiny".
      "It is no good asking me who is the Beloved. Of what use is explanation? For you will not understand the Beloved until you are able to see Him in every animal, every blade of grass, in every person that is suffering, in every individual." (ML, v.1, p.269).

SATURN (3 Scorpio). A house-raising. Helpfulness. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"...the individual's realization of his own inherent divinity as he seeks his fulfillment through his fellows." (MEJ, p. 183)

Feathering a nest and building a house both involve concerted preparation for living as adults live. Saturn is the potential of sensitiveness to fine distinctions, or the thrust of wisdom itself. Saturn is in the 9th house of higher knowledge with the radical and freedom-seeking Uranus. There, Saturn completes the work of the adult Department of Motivation, along with Jupiter.
      We notice in his talks that Krishnamurti does not ask if we can ignore the knowledge given to us by our involvement with life, but rather, can we be free of it. There is this "heavy-duty" perspective in all his teaching, a common-sense approach that is both creative and trenchant (Scorpio)—as well as constructive and foursquare (Saturn).
      He was forever "building something". He placed burdens of insight directly upon its seekers, but at the same time looked for ways to implement his teaching at the individual level, and to implement its broader dissemination. In later years, a worldwide educational format was provided through lectures, seminars, books, and even special schooling for children.
      "Is it possible for me, as an individual, and you as an individual, to live in this society and yet be free from the beliefs in which we have been brought up? Is it possible for the mind to be free from all that knowledge, all that authority?" (ML, v.2, p.175)


MARS (12 Cancer). A Chinese woman nursing a baby with a message. Materialization. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"Life gains significance to the extent that each person embraces the totality of his kind in his own makeup, or seeks to embody universal values in his everyday consciousness." (MEJ, p. 250)

In the 5th house conjunct Jupiter, Mars shows potential initiative, the potential capacity for risk-taking, that Krishnamurti had "in his own makeup." This trait is common to the human race at large, it seems. However, Mars in this sign, its fall, is quite strong. The Sabian symbol's keyword is striking in terms of the effect of Mars ruling the 3rd house of communication or thought-energy. Krishnamurti not only took risks, he materialized them—or they materialized in him. For long periods in his life, Krishnamurti underwent a mysterious, sometimes frightening type of psychic manifestation, which he came to call simply "the process". Through this "process", which was accompanied by intense pain and distress, he (and others) felt that his physical-mental system was wholly reorganized. Krishnamurti's personal energy often seemed to spring from some invisible, super-mundane fountainhead. At another level, the symbol of this Mars illuminates the superior and purely human powers he bravely embodied for many years before the world at large, sustained as he was by the quiet force of his Eastern cultural heritage.
      "'I have been stocked...The tank is full.'"
      "The pain had gone from his face...He seemed to grow. We felt something tremendous pour into him. There was a throbbing in the atmosphere. It filled the room...he opened his eyes and said, 'Something happened—did you see anything?'...He said, 'My face will be different tomorrow...I will be like a raindrop—spotless.'" (ML, v.2, pp.69-70)

VENUS (29 Gemini). The first mockingbird in spring. Quickening. (The Sabian Symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"Here man's aspiration becomes articulate far in advance of his self-refinement and...may be manifest in achievements of which he would be incapable in normal course...he is called to attempt a self-revelation which will add real stature to his role..." (MEJ, p. 238)

Venus, the lesser benefic, the potential of acquisitiveness or value-recognition and magnetism, is in Gemini mutually received (priority, consequence) by Mercury in Taurus at the 4th cusp, described next. In Gemini, the function is vivification or the "inbreathing of life". This image of a wholly free bird of spring resonates with Mercury as the ruler of Gemini, and with the precise duality of Mercury's own symbol. The duality of all birds is certainly, in one sense, that of air and earth.
      Krishnamurti's facility for balanced, felicitous expression of thought was acute. Many listeners felt they had experienced some ineffable turning-point while hearing him speak. Yet he said (ML, v.2, p.15): "I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever...I desire those who seek to understand me, to be free, not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage."
      Does an uncaged bird at spring represent only itself, or is it part of the whole of Spring that is seen and heard in all birds of the season? He said, in effect, consider the birds of the air, they are free; do not hesitate to follow their example.
      "Often people have felt when listening to K that a talk has been particularly revealing and inspiring; then, when they come to read it afterwards, they are somewhat disappointed. It is probable that during such special talks K has been experiencing this strange power, this benediction, and has conveyed it to his audience who have been inspired by the power rather than by his words." (ML, v.2, p.115)

MERCURY (29 Taurus). Two cobblers working at a table. Capability. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"Here is emphasis on man's discursive [digressive, analytical] reason, or the balancing of the pros and cons in his mind as he works out his ideas with the general assistance of his fellows." (MEJ, p. 208)

Krishnamurti at times seemed almost to propound a mental attitude that might be called, for lack of better words, "not thinking" (see also Pluto, earlier in this series). Yet to explain "not thinking" one must be capable of actually not thinking, or at least capable of not thinking about what one is explaining (making plain) at any given moment.
      Very close to the 4th house cusp, the foundational IC (Imum Coeli) is the planet Mercury, the potential of mentality and realization or sense-of-presence in the world. Mercury's degree is at least as dual as is Mercury itself in essence. There are two cobblers. Cobblers make two shoes, in pairs. It is not known whether the cobblers are working one on a right shoe and one on a left shoe—or whether they are perhaps working on the same sides of different pairs. The image is exceedingly dual.
      This is a most Mercurial image; Krishnamurti's mentality was "most Mercurial" as well. The flow of his mentality was natural, consistent, very much in tune with the symbol for its degree. What is apparent is that the two cobblers work together in a mutual enterprise at which they are highly skilled, able to produce something substantial. Shoes protect the feet of the traveler as they touch the earth in his lifelong sojourn upon its surface.
      Mercury is as Mercury does. When Mary Lutyens was interviewing Krishnamurti about the nature of the occult overshadowing in his life, he actually ended-up asking as many questions of the interviewer as she asked of him. His complex life at core (IC) exemplifies his highly integrated mode of thought manifestation. Being so capable of thought, he had many thoughts about (or without) it, about the essential practice of thinking itself.
      "...thought is always trying to find a place where it can abide, abide in the sense of hold. What thought creates, being fragmentary, is total insecurity. Therefore there is complete security in being absolutely nothing—which means not a thing created by thought." (ML, v.2, p.209)


MOON (26 Sagittarius). A flag-bearer. Nobility. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

" the call for a high self-sacrifice, and for the development of such dimensions of experience as will permit the self to realize its transcendental aspirations." (MEJ, p. 235)

Krishnamurti's Mercury is in triseptile aspect (154 degrees, 17 minutes, unanimity, collection of forces) to his Moon. In fact, Mercury is also triseptile Saturn, forming a special kind of Yod or "Finger" configuration that combines feeling (Moon) and sensitiveness (Saturn) to occultly empower the mentality itself (Mercury).
      The Moon is the mother, as well as the general principle of "mothering". After his natural mother died in 1905, he had no substitute for her until Annie Besant, a theosophical leader, became his legal guardian. He afterward called her "Amma" or Mother. Annie Besant was not only a standard-bearer in the movement; she and Leadbeater may be seen as the foremost leaders of the group that saw in Krishnamurti a new World Teacher.
      Flag-bearers always make a sacrifice to show the way. They carry a special burden, and they lead us forward. The Moon potentiality shows Krishnamurti's deep strength of feeling for the public, or for the world at large. He took an overview (Sagittarius) approach, and this was his sacrifice at root—his special concern and care for the group ideal (11th house).
      His "mothering" sensibilities also connect with Jupiter in Cancer and the 5th house of offspring, as mentioned before. He always made the most noble effort to transcend the commonplace aspect of mundane existence, and to see every facet of life as being somehow very special.
      "...after the first manifestation, as we believed, of the Lord Maitreya speaking through him at Adyar: my mother told him that same evening that his face had altered as well as his words and shone with a glorious radiance...'I wish I could have seen it,' he had replied wistfully." (ML, v.2, p.232)

SUN (21 Taurus). A finger pointing in an open book. Confirmation. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"There is here a dramatization of the racial wisdom as this becomes incarnate in conscious individuality." (MEJ, p. 200)

In Taurus, the Sun—one's purpose and authority in life—functions to integrate the concrete elements of life. Therefore, Taurus is also said to be the sign of the "body-psychic". Krishnamurti apparently delivered his message by two channels, as with the Venus (Taurus-ruler) already described, and by the solar authority that he convincingly embodied as a person. Even when his comments were most complex or seemingly abstract, Krishnamurti's purpose was solid, basic, down-to-earth.
      In the 3rd house, near the 4th cusp of foundations, the Sun of this lifetime shone most brightly through his affirmation of the pivotal reality of the individual, as based upon its own entirely unreflected solar truth. The only question about his being "used" is the idea of his being used "from outside" (see quotation below).
      There is the question of precise terms here. As the essentially lunar "flag-bearer" he reflected the glory of a greater being or wholeness, something far beyond himself alone. Yet as the solar seeker, the "pointing finger", he directed attention to the inward book, open to the world, confirming to the end its ultimate authority: the Self.
      "I am inclined to believe that K is being used and has been used since 1922 by something from outside. I do not mean that he is a medium. A medium is separate from what he or she 'brings through', whereas K and whatever it is that manifests through him are for the most part one. His consciousness is as permeated with this other thing as is a sponge with water." (ML, v.2, p. 236)

South Node-North Node

SOUTH NODE (19 Virgo). A swimming race. Elimination. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"This is...the utter impartiality of existence in any larger dimension..." (MEJ, p. 318)

Because the South Node is the node of "fate" or "karma" in a horoscope, it is interesting to note again the events surrounding the discovery of Krishnamurti's aura. That first encounter also led to Leadbeater's occult investigation of his past lives, which was a further step in making Krishnamurti a world figure for many.
      The South Node may also be viewed as the repository of actual past experience that is most useful in the present life, the accumulated talent upon which one may draw as the direction of life unfolds naturally toward the North Node of the horoscope.
      Thus, the "lives" he had lived before presumably were Krishnamurti's reservoir of background character—a character of karma from the past that he had no power to control or change in his present lifetime—the background that made him what he was as Krishnamurti. The past lives "eliminated" that which had no spiritual use for him, or which was simply impossible to embody. Leadbeater's striking insight tracked amazingly the calling of the Moon's Nodes through their degree-symbols.
      "One evening Leadbeater went with his young assistants to [swim] and on returning...told Wood that one of the boys on the beach had the most wonderful aura he had ever seen...[he] predicted that one day the boy would become a spiritual teacher and great orator." (ML, v.1, p.22)

NORTH NODE. (19 Pisces). A master instructing his pupil. Elucidation. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"This is...the demand of human intelligence for the self-refinement and self-orientation by which a greater understanding is possible...[which] comes into its own when it is able to direct its own destiny." (MEJ, p. 319)

The sense and feeling of the South Node symbolically flowing into the North Node in this Eon is quite strong and positive. The North Node symbol is a marvelous suggestion of the historical nature of Krishnamurti's work and life-direction, for this is the Node of destiny, the place where one expands upon one's past experience and grows into the future. If the South Node is karma ("former action"), then the North Node is dharma ("duty, virtue"). We know of Krishnamurti's insistence that a student must find the true master in life itself. He never ceased attempting to elucidate that point into ever-greater significance for all people.
      "Every one of you is a disciple of the Truth if you understand the Truth and do not follow individuals...[if you] make Life itself the goal—Life itself the guide, the Master..." (ML, v.2, p.14)

Parts of Fortune-Illumination

PART OF FORTUNE (22 Virgo). A royal coat of arms. Prerogative. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"Right is dramatized as a privilege worthy of sustainment." (MEJ, p. 320)

Astrologers find many varied ways to use degree-symbols. Here, two final sensitive points complete the present survey of the Sabian symbols in Krishnamurti's horoscope. The Part of Fortune is the place of the Moon if the Sun had been exactly rising at the birth-time; the Part of Illumination is the 180-degree opposite of the Part of Fortune, or the Moon's place had the Sun been setting at the birth.
      The Part of Fortune is near the South ("fate") Node. From the moment Leadbeater first saw him, apparently, Krishnamurti's life was treated as that of a royal personage, and his response to this was quite natural, yet also regal in its own way.
      "Was the body [Krishnamurti's objective reference to his own physical being] prepared through many lives...?...Right through life it has been guarded, protected. When I get into an aeroplane I know nothing will happen...Always I have felt protected." (ML, v.2, p.226)

PART OF ILLUMINATION (22 Pisces). A man bringing down the new law from Sinai. Mandate. (The Sabian symbol and keyword for this degree.)

"The inspired prophets of each age have been custodians of an enduring morality, and this has its embodiment in the mountaintop aspiration of even the least of individuals." (MEJ, p. 321)

His early days were surely humble, and he never lost that fine human quality. Yet he did not hesitate to dare to prophesy in his own way, to speak poetically and summon up the best in every person. Clearly he felt himself called upon to give out the message that he heard. He had the courage to live his vision—even, perhaps, felt a mandate to do so. In 1980, writing of himself in the third person, he said:
      "...every night he would wake up with this sense of the absolute...The whole universe is in it, measureless to man...there was the perception that there was nothing beyond this. This is the ultimate, the beginning and the ending and the absolute. There is only a sense of incredible vastness and immense beauty..." (ML, v.2, p.238).

Copyright © 1990-2000 by Gavin K. McClung. All Rights Reserved.

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A version of the work first appeared
in American Astrology magazine, 1990. Reprinted here by persmission