Reflections on the Thema Mundi and Jaimini Astrology


Recently I’ve been trying to learn something about Vedic astrology and have been comparing the basic concepts of the Vedic approach with those of early Hellenistic astrology. Fundamental to the Hellenistic approach is the teaching device known as the Thema Mundi, which is a hypothetical chart for the beginning of the universe. Usually the Thema Mundi is depicted with Cancer rising (often 15 degrees of Cancer), as opposed to the Aries-rising chart which is common in both Western and modern Indian astrology.

Some scholars have argued that the astrologers of Egypt chose Cancer rising because it reflects the appearance of the sky at the annual flooding of the Nile, which was the beginning of the life cycle in ancient Egypt. If we follow this logic, it might be more fitting to have the boundary between Leo and Cancer (the summer solstice as seen in the sky in ancient Egypt) on the Ascendant of the Thema Mundi chart because that region signifies the union of the Sun and Moon which generated the universe as we know it. In other words, the sun-god of Leo had intercourse with its reflection in the Moon of Cancer, resulting in the conception of our world. The Thema Mundi modified to fit this conceptualization would look as follows:

Thema Mundi with the line of intersection between Leo and Cancer as the Ascendant, which divides the zodiac into its solar and lunar halves. Signs/houses are counted in zodiacal order from Leo in the solar half, and in reverse zodiacal order from Cancer in the lunar half. The symmetries in this scheme appear intimately connected with the Jaimini concept of Argala (planetary energies that are “pinned” to your destiny and can help you move forward in life).

The advantage of this modified Thema Mundi diagram is that it clearly divides the zodiac into a solar and a lunar portion, the “masculine” or yang solar hemisphere ranging in zodiacal order from Leo through Capricorn, and the “feminine” or yin lunar hemispere ranging in reverse zodiacal order from Cancer through Aquarius, with the lunar signs ruled by a particular planet reflected across the horizontal (0 Leo – 0 Aquarius) axis in their corresponding solar signs ruled by the same planet.

In a recent video posted at the YouTube site of Vedic astrologer Levi Cosign, I hypothesized that this modified version of the Thema Mundi might be related to the fundamental ideas behind the Rasi aspects of Jaimini astrology. In reading Ernst Wilhelm’s translation of the Jaimini Upadesa Sutras, it also occurred to me that this modified Thema Munda could shed light on the concept of Argala found in Jaimini astrology. Interestingly, if I am understanding Jaimini correctly, he uses the Hellenistic term “places” (sthah) rather than “sign” (rasi) or “house” (bhava) to define the Argalas in Sutra 1.1.4: dara bhagya sula sth argala nidhyatuh (“those in places 4, 2 and 11 should be considered Argalas” or acting like door bolts). The Hellenistic astrologers placed the rising sign in the first place, the sign following the rising sign in the second place, and so on around the wheel. The sanskrit word “sthah” appears to be related to the Spanish verb “estar” which means to be located at or to be in some place or state.

According to Jaimini, the Argala positions connected to any sign in the chart are the 2nd, 11th and 4th places (in zodiacal order) from the the sign where the counting starts, which is counted as the 1st place. These “places” of the natal chart refer to various types of resources or support at the disposal of the 1st place. Planets found in these positions are considered to be “locked in place” or “fastened,” like a door that has been bolted shut, to the features of one’s fate revealed by the sign where the counting starts. According to Laura Barat, Argala is first determined with respect to the Ascendant and Descendant axis of the natal chart, and then if planets are in the Argala positions (Asc and Dsc) with respect to the 1st or 7th natal houses they may also be in Argala positions with respect to other signs in the chart.

Looking at the modified Thema Mundi diagram with Leo in the 1st place, we see that the 2nd house is the next (second) sign after Leo in zodiacal order and the 11th house is the next (second) sign after Cancer in reverse zodiacal order. If the universe came into existence at the 0 Leo – 0 Aquarius “horizon,” then the 2nd and 11th signs act as guardians, hemming in this region our world was conceived by the union of the divine Sun and its reflection in the Moon. In fact, the positions of Mercury and Jupiter with respect to the birth of the universe in the union of Cancer/Leo (opposed by Capricorn/Aquarius) could well be related to the Jaimini concept of second strength.

Returning to the idea of Argala, one could also argue that the 4th sign from Leo is pinned to our fate because it is the Angle or Kendra (kendra refers to the fastener or stake that holds the corner of a tent in place) related to the solar hemisphere at the birth of the universe. By analogy the 9th house from Leo, which is the 4th sign or Kendra from the Moon in the lunar hemisphere, in which signs are counted in reverse zodiacal order, could also be an Argala postion, which is linked to our fate by analogy with the solar half of the zodiac.

Another advantage of this scheme in viewing the Argala positions is that in this modified Thema Mundi diagram the 2nd and 11th Argala places from Leo (with Leo in the 1st place) receive full aspects from the benefic Jupiter across the wheel. In addition, the 4th and 9th Argala places from the Leo Ascendant receive full aspects from the benefic Venus across the wheel. Thus, planets in the 2nd, 4th, 9th and 11th places from the Ascendant receive the benefit of full frontal aspects of the two most benefic planets in the Thema Mundi. There is a controversy in the literature about whether the 9th or the 5th trinal position from the Lagna should be considered Argala, but the symmetry of the modified Thema Mundi chart strongly supports the 9th place, rather than the 5th, as forming Argala.

Jaimini also has a concept of positions which obstruct the Argala planets. These obstructing positions are the 3rd, 10th and 12th places from the Ascendant. Note that the 12th place receives a full aspect from malefic Saturn across the wheel, and the 3rd and 10th places receive full aspects from malefic Mars directly across the wheel. If we were to again adjust the Thema Mundi so that 15 degree of Leo fell on the horizon and then folded the chart in half from top to bottom, we would seen that the obstructing positions are reflections across 15 Leo of their corresponding Argala positions. In other words, the 12th place would obstruct its reflection in the Argala 2nd place, the 3rd place would obstruct its reflection in the Argala 11th place, the 10th place would obstruct its position in the Argala 4th place, and the 5th place would obstruct its position in the Argala 9th place. All in all, there is a beautiful symmetry in this formulation.

In addition to the Argala positions being the 2nd, 11th, 4th and 9th places from the 1st, Jaimini indicates that malefics in the 3rd place also form Argala with respect to the 1st. Why would this be the case? One could speculate that in the modified Thema Mundi with Leo in the 1st, Venus in Libra occupies the 3rd place. The third house of the chart is traditionally a location that signifies boldness and courage, as evidenced by assertive Mars being the karaka of the 3rd house. Venus in Libra can act in an accommodating, pleasing, pleasure-seeking and indecisive manner, in contrast to the directness and boldness of Mars. Perhaps it is of benefit to the native to have malefics in the 3rd to counteract the potentially pacifying and passive mode of Venus in Libra, a mode which could result in behaviors contrary to the native’s success in the world. To use an analogy, a malefic in the 3rd house, associated with Venus in Libra, acts like a grain of sand in an oyster and spurs the development of something quite valuable that is created by the oyster’s reaction to the constant irritation of the sand. Benefics in the 3rd would only increase the passive, pleasure-loving features of Venus and counter the development of the boldness and courage needed to succeed in life.

As a novice at Vedic astrology, I must confess that I may have misunderstood the sutras and my understanding may be way off base. For this reason, I look forward to feedback from astrologers with much more knowledge and experience than I have with these concepts.

P.S.: For a clear explanation of Argala I recommend the video by Laura Barat cited above as well as one by Ryan Kurczak at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCJidRN-2Pw&t=548s

As an example of Argala, let’s look at the chart of boxing champion George Foreman who is also known for having fathered ten children, five boys and five girls. Each of his five sons is also named George. Here is the chart in the sidereal zodiac with the Lahiri ayanamsa.

George Foreman Natal Chart, Sidereal Zodiac

In the sidereal zodiac, George Foreman has Leo rising with Saturn in Leo. Ketu, a malefic, occupies the 3rd house from Leo. A malefic in the 3rd counts as Argala and indicates a courageous, bold and assertive individual because Mars is a karaka (general signifier) of the 3rd house. The dispositor of Ketu is Venus, which lies in the 5th, a house related to sports and also to the production of children, so that producing children and being involved in sports are “bolted” to his personal identity (1st house). Counting from the Leo Ascendant, there are no planets in the 2nd, 11th or 4th, but Rahu occupies the 9th. Rahu does not qualify as forming Argala because it is obstructed by the Sun, Jupiter and Venus in the 5th.

Counting from the 7th, there are planets in the 4th and 11th from the 7th, that is, in the 10th and 5th houses of the birth chart. The Moon (in Mulatrikona) occupies the 4th from the 7th and is unobstructed. The Sun, Jupiter and Venus in the 11th from the 7th (the natal 5th house) are potentially obstructed by Rahu in the 3rd from the 7th but they outnumber Rahu, so there is no obstruction. Thus, through his wife’s house (the natal 7th) the natal Sagittarius 5th house of children is again highly emphasized and tied to his fate. Also noteworthy is that George Foreman’s atmakaraka (signifier of self), the Sun, lies in the natal 5th where it conjoins the two benefics Jupiter and Venus. Jupiter in the Sagittarius 5th house is also dignified, being in its own sign. In addition, Foreman’s Putrakaraka (signifier of children) is Saturn, which occupies Leo in the 1st house, and the ruler of Leo (the Sun) occupies his natal 5th house of sports and children where it conjoins Jupiter (a signifier of children) and Venus, is Darakaraka or signifier of his spouse.

George Foreman round natal chart in sideral zodiac

All original material in this post is copyright Anthony Louis 2019.

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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7 Responses to Reflections on the Thema Mundi and Jaimini Astrology

  1. coreydowds says:

    That is very interesting. Im always fascinated by the conceptual charts that are used for learning purposes. Cancer rising is also very interesting to me. The Moon is the planet of “samkhya yoga” which is the vedic science of how the cosmos is manifested in sequential stages.

  2. Astrologer Rok Koritnik posted a comment on Facebook, which I have copied and pasted below:

    What I’m skeptical about when it comes to Jaimini is that we can’t say for sure that he wanted us to use that South Indian square chart as the basis for figuring out his doctrines. He was born in Nepal and it seems that the rashi aspects doctrine as we know it was already a norm in certain South Indian traditions and it is possible that the early commentators of Jaimini simply approached his rashi aspects sutra from their established point of view. We do find the instruction to craw a square chart or even a circle with Cancer and Leo in the east in Brihat Parashara Hora, but we also know that this text has some corrupt Jaimini ideas.
    I find it a bit odd that a particular graphical representation of the zodiac is necessary in order to see his aspects doctrine.
    The sutra itself says that a sign is looking straight at the sign that is in front and also to the two signs that are on the sides.
    Astronomically this would translate to opposition and two squares, and this then no longer contradicts the other established aspects doctrine in Vedic astrology where every planet has a full frontal 180 degree aspect. It also doesn’t conflict with the idea from Hellenistic astrology, that squares are powerful. We no longer have the 6th and 8th aversions counting as full aspects either.
    Additionally Jaimini uses what in the west we’d call the 3rd harmonic chart and the 9th harmonic chart. If he reads squares and oppositions via the radix chart, he then reads trines, sextiles and noviles through these two harmonic charts, but the divisions themselves dictate the orbs of the aspects as it is all sign based.
    Just me thinking out loud, trying to understand this puzzle called Jaimini

  3. Rok Koritnik says:

    Anthony, this is the most profound explanation of Argala I’ve come across. Imho the astrological community would benefit greatly from your Jaimini astrology musings.

  4. Lulu says:

    Dr. Louis, will you be writing and publishing “Vedic Astrology Plain and Simple”? I hope you will. Although I own and have read several Jyoti-sh textbooks and although James Braha is a family relative of one of my family relatives, this is still “Sanskrit” to me. 😵
    I bet my vedic natal chart shows no talent for astrology, even though Guru and Ketu are holding hands.😥

  5. Hi Lulu, Thanks for your comment. At this point I’m still trying to learn the basics so it will be a long while before I feel competent to write such a book.
    Tony

  6. GR says:

    A minor typing error for correction in this sentence in the last paragraph: “Also noteworthy is that George Foreman’s atmakaraka (signifier of self), the Sun, lies in the natal 5th where it conjoins the two benefics Jupiter and _Saturn_.” (Venus, not Saturn)

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