The 12th house in astrology isn’t known for being particularly transparent. It is, after all, traditionally the house of secret sorrows and self undoings. That can’t be good, my teen-aged self once thought, especially as I looked nervously to my Mercury, Neptune, and Mars conjunction hovering above my ascendant. Secret sorrows?? How does someone, especially an astrological novice, begin to wrap their minds around something so nebulous and frankly a little bit scary?

Marguerite Manning, karmic astrologer, author, and radio show host, has turned the lights on in the 12th house to reveal the truth behind its dubious reputation. She recently connected with Empowering Astrology to discuss the origins of her work and how the 12th house actually speaks of our previous life, not some tortured future.

To her, we all are spiritual beings having a mental experience in the physical world. Our birth chart reflects our “spiritual agenda” and the 12th house a rich mine of information that reveals why we are here in this lifetime and what we didn’t quite get right the last trip around.

In her book, Cosmic Karma: Understanding Your Contract with the Universe, Manning explains:

“The 12th house represents the final stage of life, and, for obvious reasons, is said to be the astrological home of the soul. To most astrologers, it’s that place on the birth map that mirrors your spiritual development and karmic journey . . . This is the part of your natal chart where the inner you keeps the memory and imprint of all that you were before, all that you are below the surface, and all that is not apparent. Evidently, like still waters, the 12th house runs very deep. It’s supposed to.”

When Manning looks at a natal chart, she starts with the sign on the 12th house and looks to the placement of its ruler in addition to aspects made to that ruler. Through that she is able to sketch a portrait of what she believes is our life previous to this one.

It’s more than morbid curiosity that makes this an important aspect of astrology. By knowing where we’ve come from on a spiritual level and proactively delving into 12th house unpleasantness, the “house of secret sorrows and self undoing” starts to look more like a how-to-guide for positive soul growth. If we are conscious of the aspects of ourselves that got us in trouble in our last life, then we have an evolutionary punch list.

Taking the horoscope beyond the veneer of fortune telling and utilizing it as a therapeutic tool for self development is an aspect of astrology that is very important here at Empowering Astrology. Other astrologers have successfully formulated their own unique therapeutic modality — Steven Forrest, Jeffrey Wolf Green, and Liz Greene come to mind. However Manning has claimed the 12th house as the cornerstone to her approach, using it and its ruler as the jumping off point for understanding the unconscious motivations of the soul.

I first came aware of Manning’s work back in 2008 when I caught an interview with her on an internet radio program. Since then, she’s grown to be a very popular guest with people queuing for a coveted on-air karmic reading, so much so that she’s now hosting her own bi-weekly show, Therapy for the Soul. And yet the phone lines still overflow. Her popularity is a testament at her ability to speak to deeply hidden aspects of the self that need to be integrated and healed.

Marguerite Manning
Marguerite Manning

“I want to validate the soul,” Manning says. And validate she does. I myself received an on-air reading and was dumbfounded by the story she told of my last life — a story both alien and familiar — that echoed aspects of my current life. Based on the affirmations of other people who have had readings, I am not alone in my experience.

I confess to Manning that the day after I received my own reading, I fell uncharacteristically ill — sudden chills, fever, energetic overload — as I processed very deep emotions associated with my last life. Manning confirms that it’s not unheard of for people to cry afterward as they consciously connect with suppressed grief in addition to other overwhelming emotions. That’s not to say getting a karmic reading is a negative experience, but her past life interpretations undoubtedly trigger something.

When you have an intense experience such as I had, the left brain begins to ask why. (Or maybe it’s my Gemini Moon at work.) I wanted to know how Manning was able to develop a way of working with the birth chart that was different than other astrologers and why the 12th house yielded the information that it did?

While Manning claims both Edgar Cayce and Carl Sagan as influences, it was astrologer Debbi Kempton Smith’s Secrets from A Stargazers’ Notebook that set her on the path of investigating the 12th house. “At the time, I was very inspired by her last paragraph in the small chapter entitled ‘Past Lives’ in which she suggests using the sign on the 12th house cusp to find out more about your last lives. That whetted my karmic appetite.”

It took Manning a couple of years to perfect her precise system of karmic astrology and “crack the code of the birth chart,” drawing on Edgar Cayce’s library of channeled information to create a hybrid of astrology and metaphysical teachings. She has come to see the birth chart as our “contract with the Universe.” And if it’s a contract drawn up before incarnating, then each planet represents a lesson, a gift, and a balance to redress. Neptune, for instance, is your karmic debt, the area of your chart where you promised to pay back. Uranus is your karmic gift of genius and the courage to go against the tide. Saturn, however, shows where we’re getting schooled in some serious life lessons.

“Saturn [in the birth chart] brings boundaries into conscious. It’s where we come into this world feeling incredibly inadequate. We’re given 29 years, until the Saturn Return, because we need that time to learn the lessons and do the homework.”

Cosmic Karma, published in 2007 by Llewellyn, is now in its third printing and a potential follow-up book focusing on the inner planets is in the works. Recent show topics on Jupiter and the Moon hint at possible book material. In the meantime, Manning utilizes her radio show, Therapy for the Soul, in addition to doing readings, as a workshop for teaching karmic astrology.

While there are many aspects to astrology beyond our karmic closet, it’s truly the 12th house where we find sleeping aspects of our soul. It is a place of empowerment, not disillusionment. Armed with a flashlight, Manning dares us to see beyond its terrible reputation and find true understanding of ourselves.