Evolutionary Astrology
Part 3

by Gregory Ellison

Previous articles
in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
In this final article of the series, we’ll look at the system of evolutionary astrology whose most prominent contemporary teacher is Alan Oken. This system is more commonly referred to as Esoteric Astrology or Soul-Centered Astrology, but it certainly falls within the realm of what we have been calling Evolutionary Astrology in this series of articles, in that it focuses on the development of the soul over a succession of individual lifetimes, and on the relationship between the spiritual progress of the individual soul and the conscious evolution of humanity as a whole.

Esoteric or soul-centered astrology has its roots in the western metaphysical tradition known as Hermetic philosophy. While the original roots of the Hermetic wisdom are lost in the mists of time, it has been handed down through secret societies at least since the time of ancient Egypt, and is thought to have been the basis of the “Mystery Schools” of initiation that flourished in Egypt and pre-Christian Greece. Throughout much of recent history it was suppressed (in part by the Church, which branded it as heresy) and handed down from disciple to disciple through secret societies and occult schools. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it re-surfaced through such groups as the Rosicrucians, the Brotherhood of Light, and the writings of metaphysical teachers like Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and Rudolf Steiner. At the center of this occult renaissance was Madame H. P. Blavatsky, whose monumental work The Secret Doctrine attracted spiritual thinkers and practitioners worldwide and served as the seed of the Theosophical movement.

The Rainbow BridgeTheosophist Alice Bailey provided the most complete presentation of the astrological system taught by this school in her book, Esoteric Astrology, channeling the Tibetan Master Djwhal Khul. One of its seed ideas is that the horoscope maps both the lower Personality and the higher Soul intentions of an individual, and that the key to personal spiritual evolution is the linking of these two aspects, allowing the Soul level to “exteriorize” into the Personality level, thus aligning the physical personality with the higher spiritual intentions of the soul. The process of linking these two aspects of the self is known as building the Rainbow bridge.

Personality and Soul Evolution

Like other schools of evolutionary astrology, esoteric astrology proceeds from the view that the Soul is the eternal being that incarnates into a body. While the physical body and its personality last for but a single lifetime, the Soul has many incarnations, learning from each lifetime the lessons needed to fulfill its unique purpose. It is the Soul’s evolutionary direction to manifest its spiritual nature on the physical plane; the evolutionary task of the individual is to integrate and harmonize the personality in order to align it to the Soul’s intention, thus becoming a vehicle for the expression of spirit. This is a two-step process that consists of:

  1. Integrating the lower self or personality
  2. Linking the integrated personality with the Soul

In order to accomplish this linkage, it is necessary to understand both the personality and the soul intentions. Both are revealed in the natal chart, by interpreting its symbols in different ways. The personality is interpreted according to the familiar rules of exoteric astrology, while the soul level uses modified interpretations and different astrological rulers for the zodiac signs, as shown in the diagram above.

In addition, esoteric astrology uses another set of symbols known as the Seven Rays to amplify and shed additional light on the astrological signs, planets and houses. A thorough discussion of the Seven Rays is entirely beyond the scope of this article, as it is a detailed and highly developed metaphysical system in its own right, about which hundreds of books have been written. A good starting point for further investigation is Alan Oken’s Soul-Centered Astrology. For those not easily daunted, a complete presentation of the system is contained in Alice Bailey’s five-volume Treatise on the Seven Rays, of which Esoteric Astrology is the middle volume. The complete text of these books is available online at this link: Works by Alice Bailey and Djwhal Khul. A simplified listing of the rays with some of their important attributes is shown below:

Ray Name Planets Chakra
1 Will/Power Vulcan, Pluto Crown
2 Love/Wisdom Jupiter, Sun Heart
3 Active Intelligence Saturn, Earth Throat
4 Harmony Through Conflict Mercury, Moon Root
5 Concrete Knowledge Venus Brow (third eye)
6 Devotion/Idealism Neptune, Mars Solar Plexus
7 Ceremonial Order Uranus Sacral

The rays also express through the 12 signs of the zodiac, with each ray specifically influencing three signs, both exoterically and in soul-centered terms. The following table shows these influences and relates them to the traditional and esoteric rulers of each sign:

Sign Ray Traditional Ruler Ray Esoteric Ruler Ray
Aries 1,7 Mars 6 Mercury 4
Taurus 4 Venus 5 Vulcan 1
Gemini 2 Mercury 4 Venus 5
Cancer 3,7 Moon 4 Neptune 6
Leo 1,5 Sun 2 Sun 2
Virgo 2,6 Mercury 4 Moon 4
Libra 3 Venus 5 Uranus 7
Scorpio 4 Pluto, Mars 1, 6 Mars 6
Sagittarius 4,5,6 Jupiter 2 Earth 3
Capricorn 1,3,7 Saturn 3 Saturn 3
Aquarius 5 Uranus, Saturn 7,3 Jupiter 2
Pisces 2,6 Neptune, Jupiter 6,2 Pluto 1


On the personality level, the rays and esoteric rulers can be used to enhance and deepen the understanding of each placement in the horoscope by house. For example, if Gemini is on the cusp of the 6th house, the Second Ray of Love/Wisdom (the personality-centered ray that expresses through Gemini) can be understood to be working through the intellectual and communication-oriented qualities of Gemini in all matters related to the 6th house in that chart. You could therefore expect that blending and harmonizing opposites through communication would be a prominent goal of all 6th-house activities in that person’s life.

On the soul-centered level, you would look at the esoteric ruler and ray. For Gemini, this would be the planet Venus and the Fifth Ray of Concrete Knowledge. As mentioned earlier, the esoteric meanings of the planets are somewhat different from the traditional personality-centered interpretations, although related in essence. In the case of Venus, for example, the planet of love and beauty in traditional astrology, its esoteric significance is the emergence of the principle of Divine Love through the focused spiritual Will. Its function is to link the higher and lower mental faculties, thus turning knowledge into wisdom.

We can carry this farther by examining the Ray-quality of the ruling planet of the house, both exoteric and esoteric. For example, if the Sun is in the 10th house with Leo on the cusp, then it is in the house ruled by itself, and the ray-qualities One and Seven will strongly color the personality expressed through the Sun. Esoterically, the ruler of the Leo 10th house is also the Sun, so this placement would show the karmic influences on 10th-house matters to also be aligned with First- and Seventh-Ray intentions.

Here is where a comparison can be made between the outer personality drives and the karmic conditions that reflect the soul intentions. Simplistically, we could say that our soul’s “reason for being here” in this particular incarnation is to express the intentions shown by the ray of the esoteric ruler, while our physical personality is pursuing the agenda signified by the ray of the exoteric ruler! These agendas can be aligned, as in the example of the Sun in a Leo-ruled 10th house above, or out of step with each other, as for example a Fourth-Ray Harmony Through Conflict karmic intention and a Sixth-Ray Devotion/Idealism personality expression.

In this second case, the individual might consciously seek to pursue a path of passive discipleship or contemplation, but find that it fails to lead to the inner peace desired. By becoming aware of the Fourth-Ray soul intention, the individual might be empowered to align the personality and soul intentions in any number of ways ... perhaps by realizing that the expectations one had for the peace that would follow from devotion to a particular path or guru were unrealistic, and that only by experiencing and accepting the “conflict” between expectations and results would it be possible to detach from expectations and thus arrive at the peace and harmony that were the original goals.

Of course, the intuition is of paramount importance in drawing such inferences, and the development of such intuition with regard to soul intentions is at least as important as the formal rules and attributions. Esoteric astrology is an enormously large and detailed study (the Alice Bailey volumes on the subect alone comprise well over 5,000 pages of densely packed information!) To present even the most abbreviated listing of all the esoteric interpretations of signs, planets, houses and rays is far beyond the scope of this brief article, and developing the mindset and intuition to combine these factors in meaningful interpretations is a major study in itself. The “big picture” view of esoteric chart interpretation, however, can be summarized in a few points:

  1. First interpret the chart according to traditional astrology, with the addition of the influences of the Seven Rays. This provides an understanding of the individual at the personality level — that is, the physical personality in this particular incarnation. In general, the less evolved the consciousness, the more important the position of the planets by houses will be, since the houses relate specifically the “departments” of life that express in the outer world.
  2. The Sun sign and its exoteric rulers show the major themes of the personality for the present incarnation. The primary ray of the Sun sign reveals much about the nature of the personality.
  3. The rising sign and the esoteric rulers of the signs and houses show the spiritual goals of this incarnation.
  4. Compare and contrast the horoscope of the Sun sign and the exoteric planetary rulers with that of the Ascendant and the esoteric planetary rulers to see the relationship of the soul and the personality. Analyzing the relationships between the exoteric and esoteric factors shows whether the outer personality is aligned with the karmic life purposes of the soul, and the kinds of thoughts and actions needed to bring them into closer alignment.

The Goal of Esoteric Astrology

The goal of esoteric astrology is to provide insight into the relationship between the soul and the personality, in order to integrate the personality and align it with the soul intentions. Contained in this is the implication of a transformation of consciousness that involves shifting one’s primary sense of identity from the primarily ego-centered and separative personality to the spiritually-centered and integrative soul. In the understanding of esoteric astrology, as in other approaches to evolutionary astrology, this step, while available to extraordinary souls throughout human history, is one that is of important to all of humankind at this moment of unfolding consciousness, for humanity as a whole is at a stage of evolution in which the emergence of a spiritual consciousness on Earth is critical to the survival and continued growth of the human species.

And, we are indeed at a stage where more and more people are rapidly evolving, integrating, and seeing the birth of a global spiritual consciousness. It is our destiny to bring spirit into manifestation on the physical plane. In a collective sense, that is the “reason for being here” of all of us incarnated at this time. As with all major shifts in consciousness, it is not an easy process, as the conflicts and crises of this time amply demonstrate. As Linda Goodman was fond of saying, sadness rhymes with gladness, and light attracts darkness.

This is a universal phenomenon, and times of transition are always difficult, but in the present situation there is a particular danger that is worth noting for all of us who aspire to spiritual transformation, and that is that the greatest danger to the the peaceful emergence of spiritual consciousness in the world does not come from those with unevolved souls who have not achieved any degree of personal integration, but rather from those who have advanced significantly along the path ... but have not yet linked the integrated personality to the soul. Such individuals have the awareness and power to attune to universal energies, but lack the identification with the spiritual power of Love. They therefore strive to pervert metaphysical and spiritual energies to the service of personal thoughts, desires and physical goals. As Alan Oken describes this danger in Soul-Centered Astrology,

“The stronger the ego in question, the greater the negative vortex, and more important, the greater the urge to create the universe in its own limited and exclusive image. All too often during the history of humanity, this has resulted in the attempt to dominate the will, intelligence and emotions of others. This is the intrinsic nature and structure of evil...

“Until each individual member of humanity recognizes his or her wholeness and at-one-ment with the Soul (and eventually , the unity of these individual Souls into the Soul of Humanity), such a polarization of so-called good and evil will continue to exist. It is the goal of this Aquarian Age to plant the seeds of this individualization so that the Soul focus of humanity may eventually exteriorize. The aim of esoteric, Soul-centered astrology is to provide a distinct tool to monitor the energies and cycles of this process at this critical, transitional time in human history.”

— Alan Oken, Soul-Centered Astrology