Book review: Sabian Symbols in astrology

Marc Edmund Jones (b.1888 Missouri – 1980) was a Presbyterian clergyman, a philosopher and an astrologer. Interested by the astrological symbolism he searched for a set of symbols able to accurately describe the meaning of each degree. For a while he used the symbols obtained from Charubel (John Thomas), but he was not satisfied with them because were “too grooved in a single mood […] good or bad”.

The Story

The story of the Sabian Symbols as we know them began in 1923 when he met Elise Wheeler. She was a psychic suffering from arthritis and confined to a wheelchair. Despite her health problems she wanted to do something significant and, fortunately, Marc E. Jones knew exactly how it would be:

“I had to find a place where the conditions would be proper for Elsie Wheeler, through whose consciousness the laya center in each of the three hundred and sixty cases could get in a picture or situation with meaning in modern and common everyday life,

for that one of the Brothers who had the age-old and particular saturation in the true Memphite (earlier Egyptian) schematism from which the zodiac was derived originally, and myself, supplying the especially refined cabalistic training needed for the critical interpretation or rationalization of the relationships at the threshold of a new or atomic age, and so I located a section of Balboa Park, in San Diego, California, where a park lane with little traffic was within feet through a fringe of trees of one of the city’s busiest intersections. The whole task had to be completed without any breaking in of any other living entity or the intrusion of any sort of life situation, but here we could sit in a parked car attracting no attention, and yet we were meeting the requirement of natural law itself that this highest of spiritual tasks be framed in a milieu of the most complete possible intensity or turmoil of normal human living or business and personal affairs in the broadest possible intermeshing or superficial conflict.”

So, in one day of the year 1925, Marc went with Elise in the Balboa Park and, in multiple sessions during that day, she found the images for all the 360 degrees of the zodiac. The result is what we know nowadays as the Sabian Symbols.

The Sabian Symbols presented below are the original ones, presented in the book, but the most keywords are my interpretation. The keywords may represent the symbol in a positive or negative way, as the person may live the good or bad part of the same image.

To see the Sabian Symbols go here.

Apart from the Sabian Symbols presented, the book has another thirteen chapters which mainly present the basic concepts in astrology and spirituality in the author’s view, which I don’t consider to be relevant to astrology, so I won’t present those chapters in this review.


Conclusion.¬†There is a debate between astrologers about the Sabian Symbols, some sustain that are not working, some believe that are the result of a great state of spiritual inspiration and are perfect. It is difficult to appreciate who’s right. I think that, theoretically, every degree of the zodiac, which represent a specific kind of energy, can be represented by an image. The image can describe the type of energy represented by the degree with a certain kind of accuracy. We can have images which represent the degree very well, and images which are not very well suited to the symbolism of the degree. In my personal experience with the Sabian Symbols I found certain degrees to work very well and other degrees to be less representative. Probably every astrologer will judge the Sabian Symbols after working with them. Anyway, if the Sabian Symbols have acquired such a great recognition there must be more that a bunch of images invented by a psychic. There is no smoke without fire, no? My evaluation is 7,2.