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The Philosopher’s Stone – An Old Horary on Spiritual Enlightenment

This article is based on William Lilly's horary chart found in his Christian Astrology, page 442. The querent approached him asking whether he would attain the "Philosopher's Stone".


The Philosopher’s Stone is Lilly’s cultural alchemical equivalent to the modern (or Buddha’s) “Enlightenment”, or Advaita’s “Self-realization”, or the religious concept of “Union with God”. 

From Lilly’s writing, we can gather that part of his reasoning reveals someone familiar with the non-dual concept of “non-doership”. That is, the notion that the  Philosopher’s Stone or Enlightenment is not achieved by effort or personal will and is but a “gift from above”.

That concept is present in the Christian tradition in the saying “Thy Will be Done.” And in Buddha’s words: “Deeds are done. There is no doer thereof”. It is nowadays present in non-duality teachings and was so for thousands of years in Advaita Vedanta in India. In Tarot’s Major Arcana, this concept as well as the insight into the truth pointed at by the concept is depicted in “The Hanged Man”. (The Hanged Man’s insight, by the way, resolves the conundrum of fate vs. free will.)

The context of the search for enlightenment is such that those who seek it usually have had a taste of it and “lost it”, and then want that taste back, preferably permanently!

However, part of the insight from the “taste” is that there is “no doer thereof”. Therefore the desire to achieve or obtain enlightenment is countered by the insight that we cannot do. 

Even though that conundrum is based on the mind’s inability to grasp our True Nature it creates suffering of a very peculiar kind. That suffering of “conscious separation from god” is an actual experience and a source of much pain and distress. Yet it may serve as fuel for the seeker to deepen his/her pursuit (Saturn) and move beyond the limitations that the mind presents (Saturn).

This chart tells the story of someone around that point in his spiritual path.

Let’s delve into the chart while keeping the context in mind.

Mercury and the Moon signify the querent. Mercury has just turned direct and its last aspect was a square with Mars, L9. That aspect beautifully represents the previous encounter with the “stone”. That is the first moment of insight or taste of enlightenment that came about. That “taste of god”, that moment of revelation or truth, or “meeting the philosopher’s stone” is a house 9 experience. This was a square with negative reception, it was likely not through beauty that this came about but through pain or some form of hardship. This is a known pattern on the spiritual path.

Obviously, the bliss that that insight or revelation brought to the querent is now gone. So the spiritual seeking begins again, with all of its attending challenges, sense of separation, and anguish. We know this by understanding the context. If the querent were at peace spiritually he would not be asking such a question.

Mercury being peregrine is an apt description of someone who would truthfully say: “thy will be done” while, being angular, experiencing the drive to do something to attain enlightenment at the same time. There is an uncomfortable spiritual conundrum present at this point of the querent’s spiritual path depicted in this Mercury: Thy will is done but I want to do something!

But Mercury does not want Mars here, it is in Mars’ detriment. It wants Venus.

This tells me that this is no ordinary querent. This is someone who has passed quite a few thresholds in his spiritual path. (He is past the Hanged Man) This is an old soul; spiritually focussed and no longer in need of having revelatory spiritual experiences. He is no longer aiming at house 9. He has had the insight (Mars, L9) and knows its place in the process. He is after something else now, some other “house”.

What house is it? What is this “enlightenment” that is not a house 9 experience?

Mercury has just turned direct. There has been a change of direction in his spiritual path. This, again, is a known pattern on the spiritual path and the horary describes it beautifully. Mercury is set on Venus.

Mercury does not want to go to church, he does not want to go see a guru, and he does not want to study the scriptures. He/She wants a spiritual experience that is present in everyday life permanently. He wants that truth or insight revealed by Mars to be expressed daily in his life in the form of peace of mind and spirit which is then naturally expressed as love and beauty. That is the goal of every true spiritual teaching including Jesus’, Buddha’s, Ramana Maharshi’s, and many others throughout history. It is the goal of every human being, as misguided as we may be in our pursuit of it.

“To Reflect or not To Reflect”, that is the question.

Mercury is fixed and intent on a house 3 matter, which is ruled by Venus. The final enlightenment sought that all spiritual traditions talk about is a house 3 matter. It is not a house 9 matter.

The daily bread is not in church or at the feet of a guru or in the next mediation retreat or Ayahuasca session, it is not in house 9, it is in house 3. That is why it is called the “daily bread” and not “Sunday bread”!


Seeking knowledge and guidance and revelation (house 9) happens earlier on the spiritual path. Once revelation occurs a different process begins.

We are no longer spiritual seekers, we are now spiritual janitors and the house must be cleaned and the surfaces polished so that the mind and body may reflect the light of the Self. The light which was never absent, to begin with; the truth which was at the core of the Revelation.

With the “enlightenment of house 3” the Moon finally reflects the Sun’s light on the earth. We “live the teaching”. We embody the words. Jesus, Allah, Awareness, Love, Peace, are no longer in heaven but are at the core of our daily living. We live as our True Nature. The enlightenment of house 3 is represented by “The World” in Tarot — spiritual peace and freedom among and within the four elements.

Look at where Fortuna is in this chart. Right on the 3rd cusp, revealing what the querent wants above all and wants to know about by asking this horary.


While house 9 is an important “high” on the path. House 3 is the daily bread, as the Moon reflects the Sun’s light. There is only One Light. The same light above, now below. Jesus (house 9) in our hearts (house 3), for the Christians. The essence of Omnipresence. “The Sun is Knowledge, the Moon is Commentary; the Sun is Truth, the Moon is Proof” as Ibn Arabi put it. The proof of God is in our daily actions, not only in scriptures, philosophies, myths, or sermons.

Saturn and the Lights

Let’s pause a moment to appreciate the astrological paradigm.

What stands in the way of the search for god or revelation (house 9)? What stands in the way to a liberated or enlightened house 3? What keeps people in the dark about our True Nature and thus the nature of “Everything”? House 12, stands in the way, the house of darkness and ignorance.

It is in the subject matter of psychology and spirituality that we see with clarity the congruence of the arrangement of the signs ruled by Saturn in opposition to those ruled by the Sun and the Moon in the Zodiac. With the Moon reflecting the Sun and Saturn being both the obstacle and the solution to their drama. While the rest of duality is equally distributed on both sides of that axis in the form of the other signs ruled by opposing planetary qualities.

Ok. So will the querent get his enlightenment or not?

Here is the rest of the story told by the horary chart and my answer to the querent’s question, albeit some centuries too late…

As the astute reader might have guessed, no true spiritual story can take place without our dear companion the Devil, or house 12, being in the spotlight. And so here it is.

Venus, L3, is conjunct the Sun by antiscion. His L12 afflicts that which the querent is seeking. This is by no means unusual, it is the norm. There would be no spiritual search if it were not for the mess our house 12 creates in our lives.

So, for our dear querent, the mind is still not cleansed enough. It is still beset by false beliefs, false ideas of self and negative emotions based on fear – all of which are manifestations of house 12.


The Moon, who has power over Venus and has power over Mercury by exaltation, has just left its sign where it would do a good job of cleansing, to go under the rulership of the Sun (L12), which we have seen, afflicts and obscures Venus. We have a case of negative emotions and fear overwhelming the querent.

That is, an active house 12 is the obstacle to his enlightenment.

The conjunction by antiscion hints at the fact that the querent is still unaware of significant manifestations of his house 12 and thus must still work for it to be brought to light. This too is a known pattern in the spiritual path and is depicted in Tarot by “The Devil” and in astrology by the Arabic Part of Captivity.

The querent must become conscious of his house 12 before any “permanent enlightenment” of the kind he seeks (house 3) becomes possible. This shows the need to harness Saturn to conquer Saturn. That is clearly shown by Mercury’s applying conjunction to Saturn. Saturn aptly being the dispositor of the Arabic Part of Captivity in the chart. The Arabic Part of Release From Captivity could not be a more eloquent name for the process of liberation from house 12 which applies perfectly to this context.

13Venus is conjunct the Arabic Part of Dismissal, emphasizing that something must be given up or eliminated for Venus to come to fruition. This too is another known pattern on the spiritual path and is shown by “Arcanum 13” (or Death) in Tarot: the need to “eliminate the unnecessary”.

However, if house 12 wins, Venus is the one dismissed and the querent lives the rest of his days in negativity and fear. Also a common pattern in the spiritual paths of many.

True Enlightenment is not an acquisition of Truth but is an absence of falsehood — something is removed, and nothing is added. Remove the false and the True becomes evident.

So the work is to investigate. Pay attention. Bring to light. Wake up. Give up the house 12 activity that is the obstacle.

A spiritual teacher, therapist, friend, or astrologer who understood the context of the question from experience, could drill into those beliefs and fears and help the querent uproot them. Or simply meditate carefully if going alone.

The peace that Mercury seeks and which depends on the Moon (Mercury is in the Moon’s exaltation) is out of reach for the time being.

There is much a tear to be shed still, and much disappointment, as spelled by the conjunction of Mercury and Saturn to the star Alcyone.

This is a querent that still has psychological cleansing and spiritual work to do and encouragement is not undue. Go do it. Who cares whether what you seek is given from above or whether it comes about by hard work? That is all notional anyway. Let go of those notions too.

Mercury is angular so is full of willpower. Use it. Mercury has power over the Sun by disposition. That is exactly the configuration needed for such cleansing or purification work to be performed. Although his emotions will pull him on the contrary direction. But that is the nature of spiritual work.

Take your time, throw light, and unravel the workings of house 12. And hang in there because Alcyone is not for jokes. Much pain and disappointment will surface. There is nothing easy in this chart. But Venus is conjunct with the North Node. You can expect good things from that which you desire and seek.

Back to Lilly

As for Lilly advising the querent to give up on his pursuit, a little more heart and less brain would have been nice in such a delicate matter. Lilly’s obtuse advice to the querent tells me he had only a theoretical understanding of the subject he was “advising” the querent on. That is a problem when we, as horary astrologers, attempt to answer questions we do not understand the context of.

Yes, in theory, the querent could be ill, being conjunct L6. And the Sun could be a cow or a whale that swam up the Thames and is bothering the querent. But what has that got to do with the question? Come on, Lilly!

The querent’s attention must go into house 12, not house 6, as far as the question and what the querent desires are concerned.

You may find my work with Marseilles Tarot at:


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