Four Elements, Four Goals, and the 12 Houses and Signs

The Vedas define four goals of life: pleasure (kāma), stability (artha), morality (dharma) and freedom (mokṣa). Each one of these goals corresponds to a cardinal direction (W, S, E, N), to an elemental principle (Air, Earth, Fire, Water), and thereby to an astrological house and corresponding sign.

First let’s get more clarity about the four goals themselves.

The Four Goals

The first goal, kāma, is not just “pleasure,” but it is happiness itself. It is  the underlying motivation for everything we do, and the ultimate objective of all the other goals. Consciousness itself has direct access to such kāma pleasure, described as ānanda, but since we are enamored with external existence we neglect to seek this kāma within our natural being, and make efforts to discover it outside ourselves. This necessitates the three other goals…
The second goal, artha, is not just stability but wealth, abundance, and prosperity. We resort to Artha when we need some way of bolstering and fortifying our external concept of pleasure. For example, everyone likes to play on the playground, but after a while we get hungry and need to eat. Having a supply of food, or some way to get food, is a primary example of artha. 
The third goal, dharma, is morality in the sense of accepting a certain role in society and not violating the limits of that role. The need for this dharma only arises when our concept of kāma is directed to the resources of the external world. To illustrate… we like to play on the swing, and we have enough food and drink in our lunchboxes so we can play for a long time, but there are other people who also want to play and eat, so now we need some sort of morality concerning how to take turns on the swings and not steal each others lunchboxes.
The fourth goal, mokṣa, is freedom – the ability to rest, give up activities, and be liberated from  responsibilities. This one is required because the quest for external kāma is exhausting and we need to rest. After playing on the playground for a long time, even with sufficient food and drink, and good manners and morals, eventually we get tired of it and need mokṣa – a break. A chance to just go in a corner somewhere by ourselves and stop everything, fall asleep, and recoup.
The most ambitious form of mokṣa is to entirely cease external existence altogether.

The Four Directions

The west is the home of kāma (pleasure), because that’s where the Sun sets, work is over, and we can relax and enjoy.

The south is the home of artha (abundance/stability), because if you look towards celestial south, you look down at the ground. The ground is the source of all wealth and stability. [If you’re in the southern hemisphere you have to research if perhaps the north needs to represent artha for you. I haven’t done this research yet].

The east is the home of dharma (morality, responsibility), because it’s where the Sun rises, the day starts and we get to work doing what we are supposed to do. The sun lights up things and defines the paths clearly, which is what morality does – defines everyone’s role.

The north [maybe south in the southern hemisphere] is the home of mokṣa because its the open sky, with just about nothing in it. It’s empty, free, boundless.

The Four Elements

Air is the home of kāma (pleasure) because air stimulates the sense of touch, which is the most pleasurable sense, and air is light and carefree. The mutual relationship with kāma causes air and the west to develop affinity.

Earth is the home of artha (stability/abundance) because earth is stable and produces food and wealth. Thus it develops affinity with the south.

Fire is the home of dharma (morality) because it is bright (illuminating the path we are supposed to adhere to) and also because it can be punishing. So fire and the east develop affinity.

Water is the home of mokṣa (freedom) because it is calm. Also because it is silent. Also water is reflective and can be deep, therefore it relates to the ultimate freedom: realizing one’s internal self and connecting to the kāma – ānanda that is effortlessly inherent within. Water and the north thus have affinity.

The Twelve Houses

The twelve houses represent the four goals because the houses are representations of the four directions. The first house is due east, the 10th due south, the 7th due west, and the 4th due north [again, hemisphere specific, maybe]. So the 1st represents fire/dharma, the 10th represents earth / artha, the 7th represents air / kāma and the 4th represents water / mokṣa. The rest of the houses follow this same pattern, sequentially.

1: Dharma

2: Artha

3: Kāma

4: Mokṣa

5: Dharma

6: Artha

7: Kāma

8: Mokṣa

9: Dharma

10: Artha

11: Kāma

12: Mokṣa

You’ll notice that there are three houses for each goal, and that these houses are always trine with one another. 1, 5, 9 are dharma houses. 2, 6, 10 are artha. 3, 7, 11 are kama. 4, 8, 12 are mokṣa. 

The first of the triads above is the root of the goal. The second exerts the effort towards the goal, its the way of working towards the goal. And the third is the result or fruit of the goal.

The 3rd (house of ambition) is the beginning of the desire for pleasure, the 7th (house of relationships) is where we work on realizing those desires and the 11th (house of enjoyment) is where they are realized and enjoyed.

The 2nd house (stability) is the root of the goal of stability, the 6th (house of work) is where we work hard to overcome obstacles to our stability, and the 10th (house of status) is where we reap the results of stability.

The 1st house (self) is the root of morality, the 5th (intelligence & education) is where we work to figure out how morality should work, the 9th (morality) is the fruition of morality – good fortune and ethics.

The 4th house (inner self) is the root of enlightenment, the 8th (mysticism) is where we work to attain it, the 12th (completion of circuits and dissolution of the tangible, ego‐centered self) is where we fully realize enlightenment.

The Twelve Signs

The twelve signs have the same pattern, because they are associated directly with the elements.

– Vic DiCara