More on the Lunar Mansions

Exploring Titus Burckhardt’s “Mystical Astrology According to Ibn ‘Arabi” continued:

Some may have difficulty bringing together a division of 28 given by the lunar mansions and a division of 12 given by the signs of the zodiac. Doesn’t this make things more complicated? A division of roughly 12 3/4 degrees?

We generally look at a chart on paper, that is as a plane and it is easiest to present all the relevant information in this form. This is legitimate as all of these details fit in with each other in one form or the other. It might however be helpful to consider an intersecting vertical plane.

As in all Semitic languages Arabic words are based on three letter roots. A root word can sometimes be helpful in understanding a basic meaning of a word. The word for a lunar mansion in Arabic is manzil. Its root is n-z-l. The root word is nazala, which means “he descended”. So it is very plausible to put the mansions on a vertical axis with respect to the signs of the zodiac which can be placed on the horizontal axis of a chart.


The first lunar mansion is an expression of the letter hamza ` (hiatus). The twenty-eighth lunar mansion is an expression of the letter waw. As Titus Burckhardt rightly says, the initial hiatus is not properly speaking a sound. It is a transitory instant between silence and locution. (The instant before “BE” is spoken!) The first sound is given by the letter ha, which expresses the second mansion. If we join the first and last sounds ha-waw to a word we have huwa which means ‘He’, “…the symbol of essence one and identical to Itself.” What is also interesting is that the first Intellect, associated with the first mansion has its culmination in Man (twenty-seventh mansion), who is the last in the whole vertical descent. The twenty-eighth mansion is associated with the hierarchisation of the degrees of existence, not their manifestation. So we have in the lunar mansions an expression of the descending degrees of Divine emanation. The Divine Intellect at the beginning and at the last degree of manifestation, Man, His image.

I would like to elaborate on this further in the next post.


4 thoughts on “More on the Lunar Mansions

  1. I love the idea of descent or induction of the mansions into the zodiac: it is (in one sense) like the union of the Moon with the Sun! The existent and the manifest … the eternal light and its temporal reflection. I look forward to more of your insights on the mansions!

  2. Indeed there seems to be just this sort of interplay between the two. I have come across a reference where the human spine is spoken of as having 28 vertebrae – modern anatomy speaks of 33 – and each vertebrae is associated with a lunar mansion! This of course is a wonderful picture of just that structure which enables the human being to stand upright, with all the implications of moral stature (having a backbone, etc.). The idea of verticality is thereby stressed and fits in well with the above picture!

  3. This is a beautiful image indeed. The reference to the spine is interesting, too.

    To be accurate, there are 24 vertebrae in what we would normally call the spine (vertebrae separated by discs, the part above the sacrum), and this is divided in three sections, numbering 7, 12 and 5 vertebrae, from top down. Notice how the numbers are not arbitrary, and have deep symbolic meanings.

    The sacrum (a large, complex bone located between the hip bones) is generally a solid piece containing 5 vertebrae. Below this we find the coccyx (meaning cuckoo) or tailbone, which is formed by 3-5 vertebrae.

    Looking at the numbers, I would most readily associate the vertebrae with the signs, houses or planets. If we include the sacrum, the resulting number (29) can be associated with the Moon’s synodic cycle.

  4. The reference to 28 vertebrae is from an Islamic cosmological source. It is not anatomically accurate but it conforms to the number of the planets, 1+2+3+4+5+6+7 = 28 as well as the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet which in this context forms the language of the Divine Word.

    If one could find a treatise on anatomy from the period that would be very helpful, but that would require an understanding of arabic!

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