The Crowded House: the 8th House in Astrology

Originally published Feb. 20, 2009

Dear Friend and Reader:

Of the 12 houses, the 8th in my view is the most complex, the easiest to get trapped in, and the one where in fact most of us are snagged at the moment. It’s the house where we encounter just about every taboo subject we supposedly cannot discuss at dinner, and thus there is a veil of secrecy thrown over it. We typically have profound hang-ups with the subjects described by this house, which also includes matters of debt, credit and investment. You’re never supposed to tell anyone who you had sex with, or how much money you have, and these themes are the essence of the 8th.

The common thread is other people’s resources. It therefore includes and often is focused on loans and contracts, and the extension of credit. So if you look at this chart and consider what it’s for — an attempt to bail out the whole economy, using borrowed money — it starts to look like the chart of someone signing the biggest credit card slip in history; which is precisely what it is.

Section of the chart for the signing of the stimulus package, showing the packed 8th house of sex, death and other peoples’ money. Click for full chart.

This so-called stimulus package adds to the approximately $14 trillion national debt, most of which accrued during the Cheney/Bush administration in the form of tax cuts to the rich and military spending on Iraq and Afghanistan.

My old astro-tripping buddy Maria in Germany used to call the 8th the “crowded house,” because so much is going on there. One day, relatively new to her astrology studies, she remarked: “The 8th always involves somebody else,” which is true; it covers shared values and resources. Here, we have a chart with an extremely crowded 8th house, and interestingly, the sign involved is Aquarius — the sign of “all of us here.”

We are all involved; the 8th also covers reproduction, so our progeny are involved as well (our great grandkids are still going to be paying for this stimulus package); and it’s the picture of massive, incomprehensible debt, most of it owed to foreign governments, and we all hold a piece of this debt. Like it or not, we are all in this together. In my estimation, the way we got here was by thinking we have separate interests. That is one of the taboos of the 8th: particularly when Aquarius is involved, it represents one vast ground of common interest, but we treat it like private interest. We forget that economy is about something that we share, or it would not even exist.

What we currently share is not the wealth of the richest nation on Earth, but rather its debt. Part of that debt is the national debt, and a massive amount of it is private debt. Citizen economist Michael Hodges estimates that total household debt for the United States at $53 trillion. This figure dwarfs the $14 trillion in debt owed mostly to foreign nations by the United States government, which is considered astronomical.

At some point, through a long series of changes, the United States and much of the world switched from a gold-backed, cash-based economy, to a debt- and credit-based economy. And that is what we are looking at when we gaze into that 8th house of this chart.

Many other houses cover the subject of what we create. The 8th house is about what we consume, and just the portion of consumer debt as of 2007 stood at $2.7 trillion; this is unsecured debt, and does not include mortgages, which are supposedly backed by real estate and car loans, which are backed by the value of one’s car.

Instead of being paid in money, it’s as if we are paid in credit points, which we redeem for merchandise and then pay back at three times their worth. (Then, miraculously, the banks that hold this debt go bankrupt because they turned around and did the same thing on an astonishing scale.) Consumer spending is about buying stuff, and not necessarily stuff that we need. The American economy is in many ways driven by consumer spending, such as the purchase of new products like cell phones and iPods; and much of this is based on planned obsolescence.

Click for The Onion video about Sony’s hot new absolutely useless product.

It’s not that easy to keep or use anything for very long; we are inflicted with the sense that we have to keep up with the next great thing, and marketers know this. Now it’s not enough to call one another anywhere in the world; we need the technology to send naked pictures, songs and movies of our visit to the Mona Lisa.

In most economies, particularly those based on technology, in order to stay in business, it’s necessary for the manufacturers to keep coming out with new things that drive the market forward. Then you need the marketing campaigns (which as a guy in business personally drive me nuts because they consume so much time and energy, but nothing happens without them.) The Onion recently parodied this in a video about the next new worthless garbage by Sony that everyone has to rush out and get, for no good reason, except that everyone else is doing it.

This is really starting to look like the 8th house of the stimulus package chart. The notion of a social trend — a very Aquarian thing, particularly where consumer technology is concerned — imposed over the 8th house of debt and death — sounds like a whole culture based on “whoever has the most toys when he dies wins.”

Yet what is really driving all this consumer debt? Is it the need to conform? Are we covering some deep insecurity? Are we consuming because we have issues about our ability to create? A consumer-based economy is clearly the result of the feeling that we’re not creative people. Compared to vacations in the Bahamas, art supplies and musical instruments are cheap. Most of what we consume either has nothing to do with creating; or it could, if we applied the imagination to make it so. But that takes, well, imagination, and the boldness to use it. Learning to play the guitar takes practice.

Yet as most creative people will tell you, it’s difficult to make a living based on what you make. Most of us don’t actually purchase the work of craftspeople, artisans or artists; we purchase manufactured items — and all artists know it because most of us have to do something else to put food on the table. And often when art is purchased, it is done as an investment by the purchaser rather than for its own sake. The value goes up when the artist dies. I jokingly tell talented young artists not to accept payment in heroin. I learned this from an art dealer.

The House of Sex and Jealousy

In the 20th century, the delineation of the 8th house took on an additional meaning involving sex, bestowed (to the best of my research) by an astrologer named Alan Leo (1860-1917). It was intuitive enough; Scorpio, the 8th sign, corresponds to the genitals and sex is the ultimate use or experience of “someone else’s resources.” Also, as the house of marriage contracts, the 8th would represent what I call the sex license. Through the sex license, we have the legal means of possessing another person, or, at least in theory, legally enforcing their exclusivity. (Banning gay people from marrying is a futile and thinly veiled attempt to prevent them from having sex.)

One thing that I can tell you from being an astrological counselor is that many of these 8th house relationships are dissatisfying to the people in them; many people experience them as stifling, and say that the sex is not happening like we’re told it will in the advertisement. Countless emotional and spiritual hang-ups create this situation, particularly the fear of being alone, and using others as a means of filling in a supposedly missing internal piece.

Numerous other people spend their lives avoiding others, with the devotion of yoga, as if it were some kind of spiritual activity. It may feel that way, but on this planet there is no way to avoid relationships; you can only avoid yourself, and that is not spiritual.

What is funny about the stimulus package chart is that the house of monogamy is loaded with Aquarius planets — it’s about as monogamous as a big orgy. I could interpret this for a while, but for now I will leave it at this. We are a lot less monogamous than we think, or than we claim; it is jealousy that largely keeps us clinging to this model as the be-all and end-all of existence. One big not-so-secret is that many supposedly monogamous people are serial monogamists, which is really serial polyamory; and are the kings and queens of the one-night stand (such as when dating, between relationships, or during relationships). Meanwhile, our sexual habits in both Eastern and Western society are drifting toward obsessions with ever more intense media-based sex (known as porno), and sex and even desire are turned into products that you purchase.

Most people you ask would admit this is filling an inner gap of some kind. Consumer spending fills much the same role. Alan Greenspan, the former longtime chairman of the Federal Reserve, described the stimulus package this way: “Remember, the real test of fiscal stimulus is not whether it temporarily expands GDP, but whether it primes the pump for private demand.”

This language sounds awfully sexual. Even the words stimulus and package evoke images of, well, you know what. It sounds like a Viagra ad. And we do buy an awful lot of Viagra in our country, mainly because we’re so stressed out as a society, and we generally don’t have the inclination to be creative in the way that good sex calls for; we don’t think of sex as a creative experience but rather as one of consumption. Years ago, Planet Waves reported that even very young men are becoming Viagra junkies.

The words stimulus, expands and increase bring to my mind the image of America on Viagra with Greenspan the High Priest. So maybe this is telling us that America feels impotent; our exchange process seems to be stalling out, and there is a profound fear of sex in our society.

Besides showing up as sex-phobia, our emotional problems are congealing around money and specifically debt. Americans consume mindlessly, and it long ago turned into a full-blown habit. Admittedly, we are pushed to consume on a nonstop basis by the most expensive educational campaign in history — advertising.

Addiction is an inappropriate response to an emotional issue, and it is often hidden from view (veiled, like the 8th house). We have accessed debt at unimaginable amounts to finance this addiction. As a culture, we utilize our brainpower to rationalize our behavior rather than use it to recognize and define the problems underlying our addiction; or to turn our energy toward creation. The act of thinking has been co-opted in the service of our addictions. We feed our imagination titillation and fantasy to the point of total distraction. We shun the use of our creativity for problem solving, for pleasure, for beauty.

Why do we do this? Here are some questions we might ponder, provided this week by my friend Kelly after she looked at the chart:

— What are the emotional issues that are underlying our addiction? What are we avoiding? Why is any loss so difficult to deal with?

— What price are we willing to pay before we recognize that emotional processing should be part of our daily rituals, just like brushing our teeth, or eating? It is part of the maintenance of living.

— Why are we holding onto our paradigm of reality even when it is clear to any rational being that it is self-destructing? Doesn’t anybody notice that our knuckles are turning blue?

The Death of Capitalism; the Rebirth of Something

Capitalism, the theme of the bailout, is parked in the 8th house. Capitalism itself is an 8th house theme; and we’re all stuffed in there. We have been gradually witnessing the demise of Adam Smith’s theories, peaking with the federal buyout of the banks, a major insurance company and the auto industry starting late last year. The federal government has taken over business, and that is not any kind of “free market.” It is more like a lot of free cash for CEOs.

Fortunately, the 8th is the house of transformation as well, since in esoteric language, death specifically refers to a change in form. That 8th house says that we are going through a massive transformation, and that we are all involved. Transformation is not easy, it takes constant work and focus, and group transformation is often far more challenging; we have to deal with our own stuff, and that of one another. People do indeed cling to old forms until their knuckles are blue. Many people among us would rather die than change, and often that is what they get.

An open farmers’ market like this one in Kingston, NY, is not capitalism; it is a form of grassroots trade, practiced for as long as human civilization has existed. Markets like this in many places offer products from around the world, and still would not qualify as capitalism — most of the time, they are the most accessible option to partaking in the corporate system. Photo by Eric Francis.

We have acknowledged many times that Pluto in Capricorn is about a major overhaul of the system, which will seek to restructure things from the foundations up; and that the ongoing Saturn opposing Uranus is about a shock or confrontation with reality. Remember, capitalism was never designed to be sustainable. It was designed to consume the planet and make capitalists rich.

The best news in this chart is the approaching Chiron-Neptune conjunction in Aquarius. This conjunction makes its first peak in the spring, and it develops over the next year. It represents the clearing of the fog on some of these issues we are seeing. It represents the willingness to heal addictions, to look at our delusions and to recognize that we are not in this alone. It is within the context of a spiritually (Neptune-ruled) consciousness that we find the solution, and since Aquarius is involved, there is a humanitarian theme. With Saturn ruling that 8th, the Spiritual perspective reveals the practical, concrete steps we must take, individually and collectively to move forward.

Letting go of our past expectations and fears, and presenting worries and insecurities is our salvation. So, too, is letting go of the idea that infinite expansion is the only way that we can keep the economy going.

Until we find our way to other planets, or are able to colonize other planes of reality, we need to make do with the finite resources we have here. Sharing what we have will help a lot — many of us have far more than we need, and many others have far less. Being disciplined will help a lot more; we do tend to lose control of our time and resources.

Barack Obama is often accused (albeit by Republicans, who hand out money to corporations by the truckload) of trying to be a socialist. Actually, the chart has this implication — of a more community based form of economy; structured by the Saturn association with Aquarius, and something inventive, energized by the Uranus association with Aquarius. We need a form of socialism badly; but the kind that is actually social in nature.

There is one strange part about this chart, and that is the position of the Moon. The Moon has special importance because it rules the ascendant. In this kind of chart, the ascendant ruler is about the issue itself, and the Moon is about the public; it really is about all of us. The Sagittarius Moon points to the inherently spiritual nature of the issue. But if you look you see it’s conjunct a centaur planet called Hylonome. My keywords for this point are “self-inflicted.” We have done this whole thing ourselves, and we need to get out of it ourselves, not by deus ex machina.

For this centaur, minor planet pioneer Juan Revilla down in Costa Rica offers the idea “the cry of the poor.” History is indeed the story of the struggle between the haves and the have-nots. It’s time we figure out who we are in that equation — and time we start listening.

Yours & truly,


— with David Arner & Tracy Delaney

An Artifact: Weekly Horoscope for Friday, February 20, 2009, #754 by Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19)
It’s as if you can see in the dark. I recommend that you keep your eyes open anyway, because at the moment you need both kinds of vision. Being aware of your surroundings is the essence of leadership, and right now there are many people in your world who are looking to you not just as an example but as a kind of focalizing agent. Leadership, in the new sense of the word, involves following your inner guidance, and at the moment this is coming in strong. To make the best use of this, you will need to cultivate a different kind of trust than you are normally accustomed to. This involves both sides of your brain; not just the rational side. Learning to trust intuition may be the single most important growth point in human development; the ability to listen to yourself, and trust what you hear.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
I don’t know what you do for your work, and whether you find it satisfying. Regardless, this is the time to implement your highest vision. I don’t care what they’re saying on CNN about the economy, astronomy or the price of pastrami. You are in the moment of connecting with your calling. It’s likely to be the thing you’ve doubted the most for a long time. If that is true, you are in a moment of needing to confront your deepest fears and insecurities about your worth, your role in the world, and your ability to rise to the occasion of your life. You do not need an astrologer to tell you that the core of Taurean “stubbornness” has quite a bit to do with insecurity. I am not suggesting you give that up, but rather that you use it to stoke your engines.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
You are about to enter new territory — really new. Believe it or not, for all the energy pouring through your life at the moment, most of it has been invested in the past. Nearly everyone talks about getting out of history and into the future, without acknowledging one little hang-up; the future is not only unfamiliar, it is unwritten, and thus presents one of the most daunting creative challenges a mortal can embrace. We may ask why the world is so set in its ways, and I will tell you. Most of us are chicken shits who would not recognize originality if it fell through the ceiling and started tap dancing wearing a big sign that said ALIVE. I am guessing this is not your problem, right?
Read your 2008 annual for Gemini. Order your Next World Stories 2009 annual for
Gemini and Gemini rising here.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Keep negotiating, with everyone and everything. If you get a parking ticket, haggle with City Hall. If someone offers you a job, ask for more money. If you have an idea, revise the plan at least three times till you know you have it right. You have a few things coming to you, and one of the most meaningful things you can do is learn to choose. There are about to be a diversity of new options presented to you, so I suggest you bide your time for a week or two, and consider your life an experiment in the possibilities. Just remember, they are more and better than you were imagining, so it would be truly helpful to get your imagination into the act.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Are you seeing things as they are, or are you seeing them as you are? At this point in my journey I assume that the cosmos is a co-creative process; that everything is responding to everything else. We bring some of the energy; the people and events around us bring some of the energy. The key part of the dynamic, the meeting point, is awareness. That is where the alchemy of creation and change enter the equation. Your whole perspective on a complex situation suddenly seems to have changed, and this has shifted the situation itself. In other words, your awareness is not merely passive, but rather an activating agent in the world around you. Work with that.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
It would be difficult to fit more activity into your planner, and you may have already started stapling in extra pages. Over the next three weeks, you can expect the scene of your life to change rapidly from day to day. Fortunately you’re born under a mutable sign, and are a master at adaptation. The territory you’re entering is both challenging and satisfying, and I suggest you let it inform you of one not-so-small fact: you have not given up. You have persisted and against some significant odds have arrived in a place where you actually have a purpose: in truth, many new purposes that share something vital, and that are about to reveal themselves one at a time. Don’t be fooled by the seeming differences. Stick to what they share.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
Creative is what creative does; and more to the point, how it gets the job done. No matter what you are doing, make it a work of art. I know the world believes that cleaning the bathroom is different than taking sculpting class; that addressing an envelope is different than calligraphy. For your purposes, let there be no difference. I don’t mean to Zen out, but rather to treat everything you touch as turning to art, to beauty, to something better than it was when you first became aware of its presence. Complete everything you start, particularly small things. The result will be an incredible tour of your own potential, with some spectacular and unexpected options revealed to you.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
If you don’t want the next few weeks to be an emotional roller coaster, get some support from the people around you, and remember that you have an option at every moment. We’re taught to think that we’re confronted by facts; but each fact we meet is a juncture. There is an immediate choice involved for how to respond; for what to do; for what to say. This is no small matter. It is the only means by which we direct the course of our lives. If not for this, we would all be prisoners. As for that support: you have plenty to offer as well. You can, in one gesture, shift the dynamic of your life from being boxed into a corner, to an exciting exchange of experience and potential.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
The Sun’s entry into Pisces this week will give you some emotional grounding; these have been an incredibly mental few weeks. What you are likely to discover is how you feel about so many recent events. Though your mind was racing along, you hardly had time to note what you thought about them, and you may discover that the emotional dimension has a few surprises in store for you. One of them is likely to be the desire to go further into your experiences than you’ve been willing to go lately. You’ve been doing more wind surfing than scuba diving. You are not a dilettante; you are a high achiever. But at the moment, high translates to real, to focused and moreover, to deep.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
I suggest you go through every aspect of your financial affairs in the next couple of weeks. Get help if you need it, which would mean any patient person with a knack for figures and paperwork. You need to know exactly where you stand; how much you have in the way of money, debt and credit. The weather is uniquely fair for this exercise, which amounts on one level to an assessment of how much power you have. Be aware if you’re reluctant to do this exercise. The fact is that the truth will be better than you imagine, and you will discover that you have a diversity of unexpected options for how to handle your affairs.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
You are continuing to discover yourself; but it’s more like you’re getting pulled into the vortex of your own awareness. You may, however, be seeking a relationship as a means of stabilizing this incredible personal progress you are making, or wondering why you’re not in the cozy couple of your dreams. The answer is that what the world calls a relationship is precisely antithetical to the process you’re now in, which quite directly requires you to be a different person every day. If, however, you find yourself in the company of someone who can fully grasp this a reality, and the utmost necessity for your autonomy of mind and body, that would be a friend to stay in contact with.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
At long last, the Sun has returned to your sign. I can say, with a gleam in my eye, that you have no idea what is in store for you. Your imagination, your mind and very likely your hands have been working overtime, but you don’t exactly know toward what end. One thing you can count on is that the cosmic intelligence that holds the atoms together, the same one that invented DNA and tarot cards, has been working overtime right along with you. Keep yourself organized, well rested and well fed. Pace yourself carefully. In a very short time you will not recognize your life — and as we both know you’ve been long overdue for progress

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