Esoteric astrology is the astrology of the soul. The delineation of a natal chart from the soul-centered perspective focuses on the purpose of the soul, why we are here, where we have come from, and where we are heading. Traditional or exoteric astrology is the astrology of the personality. Its focus is on the problems and potentials of the personality.
The body of knowledge known as Esoteric Astrology is drawn from the Theosophical tradition and the teachings of the Tibetan teacher Djwhal Khul, as dictated to Alice A. Bailey. It is contained in a voluminous set of books which form a large part of what is referred to as the Ancient or Ageless Wisdom teachings.
Soul-centred astrology is based on the understanding that there is a spark of divinity, or ‘soul’ within each of us. According to this cosmology, reincarnation and the reality of the soul are accepted as fact. Many sense this divinity. The moments of deep insight, peace, awe, wonder, grace and love that we have all experienced at some time are voices from the Soul.
Some call this divinity God/Goddess, the Higher Self, the Core Self, the Trans-personal Self, the inner voice, the Buddha or Christ. It manifests as the religious urge in man/woman. Indeed, Carl Jung, in his book Modern Man in Search of a Soul, makes the astounding assertion that in thirty years of treating patients in the second half of life, their illness or neurosis was invariably the result of a lack of spiritual or religious meaning:
“….there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.” 
This soul, or divine spark, strives towards unity and perfection, and according to the Ancient Wisdom teachings, its motivation is selfless and its purpose is service to humanity or contribution to the greater whole. It is essentially a humanitarian philosophy and is therefore highly appropriate for our incoming Age of Aquarius. According to the Ancient Wisdom teachings, the structure of man/woman can be symbolically represented as a downward-pointing triangle (the personality) linked by the Antahkarana or Rainbow Bridge to an upward-pointing triangle (the soul). See Figure 1
The highest goal of traditional or personality-centred astrology is the integration of the personality. This is achieved by recognising and striving to overcome the limitations and problems of the personality, such as physical excesses, emotional instability and negative thinking. The goal of personality integration is to bring the body, emotions and mind into a state of harmony. The orientation of many of the personal growth techniques and healing modalities is towards this end. For example, hatha yoga, nutrition and herbal medicine work on healing the physical body. The Bach Flower Remedies and counselling work on healing the emotional nature. Positive affirmations, Christian Science and prayer work on healing the mental nature.
The integration of the personality is an on-going process. Once this has been achieved to some degree, the goal becomes one of infusing the personality with the qualities of the soul, or to make the connection with the Higher Self. There are various techniques which can assist us to connect with the Soul or Higher Self. These include meditation, some forms of creative visualisation, dreamwork, psychosynthesis, artistic and musical expression, communing with nature, compassionate service, study of the Holy Scriptures and Ancient Wisdom classics, and so on.
The soul-infused personality is symbolically represented by the six-pointed star. See Figure 2. 
You will notice that the triangle of the Soul has a threefold nature corresponding to a higher octave of the personality vehicles. The physical body has its higher counterpart in Spiritual Will or Purpose. The emotional body has its higher counterpart in Universal Love, while the mental body or rational mind has its higher counterpart in Higher Mind.
There are several approaches to esoteric astrology, and it is indeed a complex body of knowledge. Therefore, I would like to keep it as simple as possible. One of the fundamental differences between esoteric and exoteric astrology is that both are based on a completely different set of planetary rulerships.
Some esoteric astrologers, such as Dr Douglas Baker, dismiss traditional astrology altogether and work only with the esoteric rulerships. Other esoteric astrologers, such as Alan Oken, recommend the interfacing or juxtaposing of the personality-centred chart with the soul-centred chart.
Another important point is that esoteric astrology has its foundation in an understanding of the Science of the Seven Rays.  This is a system of soul/personality typology and is referred to by Bailey as Esoteric Psychology. For the purposes of this article however, I am not going to deal with the Seven Rays, although their meanings are implicit within each of the astrological factors.
What I am presenting here is a somewhat eclectic approach which can only scratch the surface of this vast body of knowledge. There are a few basic principles which we can begin to work with straight away, and which will help us to shift the focus from personality problems and potential to spiritual purpose. I am not recommending that we forget the personality. I feel that it is still important to delineate the natal chart in the traditional way. But what we can do is add a soul-centred perspective to our traditional delineations.
Perhaps you have felt that there is a deeper meaning to the Rising Sign than a mere description of the physical appearance, the persona or the manner in which we project ourselves? In esoteric astrology, the Ascendant is the key indicator of the Soul’s Purpose. This does not mean that the empirical evidence of traditional astrology is invalid. What we can say is that the soul’s purpose is projected through the persona at the Ascendant.
It is a tenet of traditional astrology that the Ascendant is symbolic of the birth or point of incarnation, of the entry of the soul onto the physical plane or the cross of matter. Esoteric astrology merely takes this a step further. If we look to the qualities of the sign on the Ascendant, we can glean valuable information about the nature of spiritual purpose and service.
The qualities of the Ascendant sign describe the future direction of the soul, what we are growing towards, or new qualities that we are developing.
In this respect, we can see its meaning as similar in flavour to the North Node, although I would suggest that the qualities of the houses and signs of the nodal axis tell us how we can achieve personality integration, or integration of the yin and yang within the personality. The quest of the hero as symbolized by the North Node is the quest of the personality.
The sign on the Ascendant indicates how we can best express our personality gifts to extend beyond ourselves to help others, or to help the planet as a whole. The house position of the esoteric ruling planet of the Ascendant indicates where these gifts and qualities are best expressed. It points to the field of service of the soul.
The Esoteric Rulership of the Signs
These rulerships may seem odd at first, but a deeper study will reveal their significance.
Aries – Mercury
Taurus – Vulcan
Gemini – Venus
Cancer – Neptune
Leo – Sun
Virgo – Moon
Libra – Uranus
Scorpio – Mars
Sagittarius – Earth
Capricorn – Saturn
Aquarius – Jupiter
Pisces – Pluto
Vulcan is an undiscovered or hypothetical planet, and esoteric astrologers believe that it is located near the Sun. To date, there is no officially accepted ephemeris to calculate its position, and there are varying opinions as to Vulcan’s actual distance from the Sun. The astrological software package Solar Fire, developed by Esoteric Technologies, offers two options for the calculation of Vulcan’s position: the method of L.H. Weston or that of Dr Douglas Baker.  Note also that the position of the Earth is located directly opposite the Sun. For example, if the Sun is found at 9 degrees of Sagittarius, then the Earth will be found at 9 degrees of Gemini.
Some Ideas for Delineation
While there are ‘esoteric’ meanings for all the signs, planets and houses, the traditional meanings can still be applied in a simplified approach to a soul-oriented natal interpretation. We are not looking at ‘negative’ manifestations here. That is the realm of the personality-centered delineation. Of course, any personality problems or dilemmas are relevant in the soul-centred delineation, because they offer us an idea as to what is hindering or impeding the progress of the soul. The following are some suggestions for delineating the Ascendant from a soul-centered perspective:
If the Ascendant is in Leo, then the soul’s purpose is to shine, to express one’s creative gifts and facilitate leadership for the benefit of others. If the esoteric ruler, the Sun, is located in the 11th house, then the field of expression for the creative and leadership qualities is through group activity.
If the Ascendant is in Aries and the ruler, Mercury, is in the 6th house, then the soul’s purpose is to inspire others with ideas, through one’s work, through healing, or through developing techniques for self-improvement. This person may be an inspiring writer, counselor, healer or teacher. With the Aries emphasis, the focus would be towards empowering and enabling others through their mental and communication gifts.
If the Ascendant is in Aquarius and the ruler, Jupiter, is in the 2nd house, then the soul’s purpose of pouring forth the waters of knowledge for humanity, is expressed through a spiritual approach to gathering and distributing resources. There is a facility for manifesting on the physical plane, but the purpose is to gather resources for a higher or collective purpose. For example, this person could accumulate and distribute resources in order to fund some sort of group venture.
The esoteric rulerships do not cancel the value of the traditional rulerships. For the Aries Ascendant, the position of Mars points to personality problems, tendencies, talents and gifts, while the position of Mercury points to the area of service of the soul.
Aspects between the Rulers of the Ascendant
It is important to look at any aspect formed between the exoteric and esoteric rulers of the Ascendant. The ease or stress of this aspect indicates the ease, or lack of ease, with which the soul’s purpose can be expressed. Using the example of Aries Rising, a natal square between Mars and Mercury suggests that this person may experience some difficulty in manifesting the soul’s purpose. On a practical level, this may be because s/he has a tendency to communicate in a sarcastic way, or is bad-tempered. A trine or sextile between Mars and Mercury suggests that there is a harmony between the personality expression and the expression of the spiritual purpose. S/he may be an inspiring and enthusiastic communicator.
The Esoteric Meanings of the Signs and Ruling Planets
The following esoteric meanings are synthesised from the available literature on the subject.  The traditional meanings of the signs, planets and houses may also be utilised in a soul-centred delineation.
ARIES – to inspire others with ideas
Mercury – mind, communication; the ‘Messenger of the Gods’
Keynote – I come forth and from the plane of mind, I rule. 
TAURUS – to release personal desires and attachments
Vulcan – growth through change; illumination and enlightenment; the ‘Blacksmith of the Gods’
Keynote – I see and when the Eye is opened, all is light.
GEMINI – to teach Right Human Relations, between self and others, personality and soul, anima and animus, higher mind and lower mind
Venus – intelligent love; relatedness; resolution of polarity; turning knowledge into wisdom
Keynote – I recognise my other self and in the waning of that self, I grow and glow.
CANCER – to build a spiritual home and selflessly nourish others
Neptune – unconditional love and forgiveness; devotion and self-sacrifice
Keynote – I build a lighted house and therein dwell.
LEO – to express Divine Will through the qualities of open-heartedness, warmth, creativity, leadership and love
Sun – the self-conscious I; the integrated personality; creative equipment
Keynote – I am That and That am I.
VIRGO – to heal and serve others
Moon – the past (karma); the ‘Mother of all Forms’; matter; nurturing
Keynote – I am the Mother and the child. I, God, I, matter am.
LIBRA – to harmonise the opposites and choose the middle path; Transpersonal relations; perfected love Uranus – collective inter-relatedness; intuition; urge to better the human condition
Keynote – I choose the way which leads between the two great lines of force.
SCORPIO – to transform darkness into light; the battle between Soul and Personality
Mars – the desire nature; spiritual drive and idealism; the spiritual warrior
Keynote – Warrior I am and from the battle I emerge triumphant.
SAGITTARIUS – to uplift humanity through the revelation of Truth and Wisdom; fiery aspiration and one-pointedness
Earth – the physical location of a person’s path; dharma; where we materialise our solar potential
Keynote – I see the goal. I reach that goal and then I see another.
CAPRICORN – to express one’s true spiritual vocation and purpose for the greater good
Saturn – the Lord of Karma; the ‘Dweller on the Threshold’; opportunity through crisis and pain Keynote – Lost am I in light supernal, yet on that light I turn my back.
AQUARIUS – to serve humanity through the dedication of personal energies to the collective
Jupiter – intuitive understanding blended with impersonal love; abundance
Keynote – Water of life am I, poured forth for thirsty humanity.
PISCES – to sacrifice the self through compassionate service to others
Pluto – the destruction of negativity and separateness; surrender of the personality to the soul
Keynote – I leave the Father’s home and turning back, I save.
The Esoteric Meanings of the Houses
1st house – emergence of soul purpose, activities of the soul, the aura.
2nd house – spiritual values, use of life energies.
3rd house – mental energy, relating of higher and lower selves.
4th house – the foundation of the soul.
5th house – expression of spiritual will, actualization of Higher Self.
6th house – personality integration, service through healing and nurturing.
7th house – the path of inner union between the soul and personality.
8th house – the path of the awakening of soul consciousness.
9th house – knowledge of Cosmic Law and Ancient Wisdom.
10th house – spiritual purpose and responsibility.
11th house – spiritual visions, aspirations, spiritual groups.
12th house – unredeemed past karma, bondage to personality, selfless service to humanity.
Beginning a Soul-Centered Delineation
In esoteric astrology, the Rising Sign is symbolic of the soul’s purpose and the path of the future. Look to the qualities of this sign as an indicator of new qualities that need to be developed in this lifetime. The house position of the esoteric ruler indicates where these ‘new’ qualities are best expressed. Try to also blend the qualities of the sign and house position of the North Node with these Ascendant qualities. Together, they form a picture of the future path of the soul.
The sign and house position of the Sun is symbolic of the present, or the path towards integration of the personality.
The sign and house position of the Moon is symbolic of the past or karmic conditions which have been carried over into this life and need transcending. Try to blend the qualities of the South Node with these Moon qualities to determine the path of least resistance, the negative personality tendencies which hinder progress in the present, and the gifts developed in past lives.
The signs, houses and aspects of Saturn, Pluto and Chiron, and planets in the twelfth house will also give further clues to karmic factors which are relevant in the current life. Of course, the entire chart can be viewed from a karmic perspective, but we have to stop somewhere.
The Role of the Esoteric Astrologer
The fundamental qualities required by the esoteric astrologer are the intuition of Uranus, the sensitivity and compassion of Neptune and the profound understanding of evolutionary purpose of Pluto.
I do believe there is an urgent need, on the part of astrologers, to move away from the excessive focus on the negative expressions of astrological energy and the over-emphasis on events, effects and manifestations.
The focus of esoteric astrology is on cause and purpose, and the consecration of the self to the greater whole of which we are a part. Certainly, we must not ignore the ‘negative’ tendencies and manifestations of the personality, for these are guideposts to the past and present suffering of the soul, and point to ways of healing that suffering.
But the focus, in esoteric astrology, must ultimately be on the positive qualities and the highest potential that the client may express. Too often, traditional and even psychological astrology, has focussed far too intently on the greatest depths that the client can reach.
As esoteric astrologers, our role is to act as a trigger or catalyst to help the client contact their own inner sense of purpose. And this purpose can most easily be identified by asking the client what gives them the most joy; what is their passion; what do they love doing the most? Joy is one of the supreme qualities of the soul, and to focus on what gives us joy is to attune to our soul’s purpose.
JOY – Like a bird on the wing,
I fly towards the sun.
I sing in my soul,
so that all I meet can hear. 
by Candy Hillenbrand
 Jung, C.G., Modern Man in Search of a Soul, NY & London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1933,
 Oken, Alan., Soul-Centred Astrology, New York: Bantam Books, 1990, p. 33.
 ibid, p. 36.
 Bailey, Alice A., A Treatise on the Seven Rays, NY & London: Lucis Publishing Co, Vols 1-5.
 Esoteric Technologies, Solar Fire User Guide, Version 3. Adelaide, Aust: 1994-95, p. 177.
 For a more detailed approach, refer to Alan Oken, Soul-Centred Astrology (op. cit); Errol Weiner, Transpersonal Astrology, Gt. Britain: Element Books Ltd, 1991; and Kathleen Burt, Archetypes of the Zodiac, St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1988.
 The keynotes can be found in Alice Bailey, Esoteric Astrology, NY & London, Lucis Publishing Co, 1979, pp. 653-4.
 Bailey, Alice A., Ponder on This, London & NY: Lucis Publishing Co, 1983, p. 229.