Four Levels of Interpreting
Human Experience and Astrological Data - 6
Nodes, Eclipses and the Trans-Saturnian Planets
An added factor in the traditional and classical type of astrological interpretation at the sociocultural level are the Moon's Nodes. They are produced by the intersection of the planes of the Earth's and Moon's orbits. When two such planes intersect, a line of intersection is produced. In the case of the Earth and Moon, this line cuts the Earth's orbit (the ecliptic, which is also the tropical zodiac) at two points, the north and south nodes. Eclipses of the Sun and Moon can only occur when their mutual conjunctions occur close to the nodes in longitude.
Eclipses were once thought to be the portent of unexpectable, and thus more or less catastrophic (or at least upsetting) events. One of the Lights was being "swallowed up" by a cosmic dragon — hence the north and south nodes have also been called the dragon's head and tail. When the two Lights are in exact alignment — which can only occur at a New or Full Moon near the nodes — a total eclipse takes place. If this happens at New Moon (soli-lunar conjunction), the Sun is eclipsed; at Full Moon (soli-lunar opposition), it is the Moon.
It would seem logical to say that when the Sun is totally eclipsed the Moon absorbs, as it were, all the solar power. What the Earth receives is only lunar power, and this condition is likely to influence whatever may develop during at least the fortnight between the New and Full Moon — and perhaps, it is often claimed, a much longer period. The Moon symbol in such a case is, as it were, glorified at the expense of what the Sun represents, and the Moon always basically refers to the past. Even though the Moon represents the capacity for adaptation, this
capacity operates on the basis of the tradition or knowledge acquired in the past. A total solar eclipse may thus be considered a glorification of the past. A typical example is that of Mussolini, who proclaimed a new "Roman Empire" in 1936 around the time a solar eclipse occurred near the position of the Sun in his birth-chart. An old image was revivified, but it nevertheless collapsed within a relatively few years.
On the other hand, at the time of a total lunar eclipse, the traditional perspective born of past experiences of adjusting to life and society is blotted out by an eagerness to meet experience in a new, original manner. When a solar eclipse occurs on a degree of the zodiac occupied by the Sun, Moon, a planet or angle in a person's birth-chart, or when such a degree and its opposite are involved in a lunar eclipse, whatever is on these degrees is likely to feel some effect. But the effects can be varied and often not clearly marked.
It is particularly important to stress that when dealing with the nodes both of them should always be considered, and not only the north node as is often done. We are dealing here with a line
, not with mere points
. Similarly, an astrologer should never consider the Ascendant of a birth-chart alone. The position of the Ascendant necessarily implies that of the Descendant on the opposite degree of the zodiac, because Ascendant and Descendant refer to the line
of the horizon (in two-dimensional projection). The Midheaven and Nadir are also created by the meridian axis
and should always be studied and evaluated together.
The other planets of the solar system also have nodes which establish relationships between their orbits and the orbit of the Earth. As I stated long ago in an article on "orbital astrology" and in a chapter of my more recent book, Person-Centered Astrology
) such relationships between orbits have a non-personal, almost cosmic or "fate-ful" meaning — for they deal with space
and not with the planet as a material mass
In the case of the Moon's nodes, we are dealing with what might be called the karmic way in which the Moon's function operates in a human being. But the word karma should not be used only in the sense of "bad" karma. Karma simply refers to the fact that any new cycle of existence is always in some manner related to or is a sequence of a previous cycle. The new cycle inherits from the old some unfinished business
which needs to be dealt with, but it also inherits the results of some achievements. More specifically, the Moon's north node symbolizes new possibilities of growth on the basis of what has been accomplished "in the past" — let us say, in "past incarnations", although the concept of reincarnation is most ambiguous, or at least far more complex than popularly interpreted. On the other hand, the Moon's south node indicates in symbolic terms the pitfalls that the inertia of the past (or subconscious memory of past failures), places in the way of personal fulfillment. We should not forget that a person is first of all
operating in a biosphere with a long evolutionary past and in a society and culture conditioned equally by ancient, collective failures as well as great achievements. Thus karma is never
to be considered solely a personal matter; for it is also produced by a collective situation inherited from a long series of past generations.
The Moon's nodes have a retrograde motion in the zodiac, and the nodal axis completes one cycle of the ecliptic in about 18 and 2/3 years. The nodes of the planets are also moving, apparently in direct motion, at various but much slower speeds, most of them less than one degree of the zodiac per year.
Unfortunately, what I consider a basic misconception regarding planetary nodes has recently been introduced into astrological interpretation. At least some astrologers treat them as if they were observable entities like planets. Yet, I repeat, the nodes refer solely to the intersection of orbital planes, and such intersections are neither directly observable nor entities. They are truly metaphysical factors — factors to be calculated by the mind — which deal with space, orbital space.(6
) There is obviously some difference between the calculation of lunar and planetary nodes, because the Moon revolves around the Earth, while the planets revolve around the Sun. The basic frame of reference in relation to nodes, however, is neither the Earth nor the Sun, but the Earth's orbit
. The only thing that should be considered is where the orbit of any other celestial object intersects the Earth's orbit. This would be the case if we dealt with the intersection of the galactic plane or any other plane of cyclic motion and the Earth's orbit.
In the great majority of cases, planetary nodes are of no real meaning in the lives of human beings. They acquire at least potential meaning when a person, as a participant in a sociocultural whole, can be considered a mouthpiece or channel for the operation of collective forces. If the person has reached the stage of individual development at which he or she is actually conscious of what happens through his or her being, then the transpersonal level has been reached; but if there is no consciousness of being an agent of some supersocial and supercultural Power, but only a kind of unconscious mediumship
the person still operates at the sociocultural level.
At that level, the trans-Saturnian planets — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — also act mainly in an indirect and collective manner; that is to say, they operate through changes occurring in the society or culture as a whole — for instance, as changes in life-style, fashion, and education, or changes in the political and economic structure of a nation. To the great majority of people living in more or less normal and relatively stable periods of cultural and political evolution, such changes cause a minimum of personal problems; people readily adjust to them. Yet, since the process of individualization has reached a stage at which it has become a public issue, and the attainment of a state of conscious, free and autonomous individuality is presented in one form or another all over the globe as the ideal goal of human evolution, the trans-Saturnian planets play a critical role even at the sociocultural level of astrological interpretation.
When in a birth-chart either Uranus, Neptune or Pluto is conjunct, opposed or even square a planet, or is found at the horizon or meridian, whatever function or mode of personal expression is involved, tends to take a non-traditional or unusual form. This function often becomes a source of irritation or dissatisfaction, but in some instances, the person, through an exaggeration or extraordinary development of the function, may gain fame or notoriety.
In the following chapter we shall see how each of these three planets tends to operate during the process of individualization. However, the astrologer should realize that most people today believe they are already at a far advanced stage of this process. This may not be the case, and it is better in principle not to assume that any client has to be treated as an individual whose problems have a character transcending the sociocultural level. Yet, because our entire society is in a crisis of transformation, facing the critical necessity and potential of taking a radical step in its evolution, most of the people who are "progressive" enough — or sufficiently disturbed, restless, and confused — to seek astrological guidance can be considered to be at a stage of psychological development (and of relative alienation from the norm of the collective psychism of their sociocultural environment) which allows for the direct and cathartic impact of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
Such persons also may have failed to adapt to some basic transformation, either in their biological environment or diet, or else in the ancestral way of life they had so long been taught to accept unquestioningly as the one and only good and valid type of existence. In all such instances, Uranus deals with upheavals that challenge the worth and meaning of the great images of the sociocultural tradition; Neptune tends to dissolve encrusted prejudices, sap the strength of all that the Saturnian drive to security has built and the Jupiterian ideals had presented as desirable achievements. Pluto adds a note of extremism or fanaticism to any crisis or religious, political, or artistic "conversion". It tends to make any transformation irrevocable and to destroy any safe means of retreat. Pluto atomizes all that has solid substance, reducing every concept or feeling-experience to its barest essentials — and such a process of "reduction" can lead the mind to a state in which everything appears to be inherently absurd and utterly hollow. Nevertheless, it is a state of chaos out of which a new world may be born.
This "new world" need not be really or radically new. It may be built out of fear of the unknown and constitute only a resurgence of ghosts acquiring at least a temporary substantiality. Neptunian crises may lead to a psychological "return to the Mother" — a largely unconscious sinking into the collective psychism of a revived allegiance to some old or exotic but traditional way of life. Plutonian crises, on the other hand, often lead to totalitarianism or gangsterism — a resurgence of dependence upon a father-image or ruthless authority with a strictly personal or ideological character.
It is in this sense that the three trans-Saturnian planets, which are the most usual symbols of transformation, can operate in the lives of people who are still basically acting, feeling, and thinking at the sociocultural level. Yet the "spirit of the time" is relentlessly pushing toward a truly new state of human existence, a state in which society and all collective factors are meant to be only instruments making it possible for human beings to take as their most fundamental and valuable goal fulfillment as individuals
"The Space Era and Orbital Astrology," Horoscope
Magazine: July, 1961. Person-Centered Astrology
, Chapter 5. "Planetary and Lunary Nodes" (Santa Fe: Aurora Press, 1976). Return
Nodes are "exact points" only in an abstract sense. At such points there is actually nothing. They exist only by isolating on paper
two orbits and calculating where they intersect. In fact both orbits are parts of much larger orbits, and as every celestial body moves at terrific speed one cannot speak of nodes as actual entities. This is why the mean position
of any periodically moving factor is more valid an element in the language of astrology than a so-called "actual position." All planetary longitudes used in astrology refer to the centers
of celestial bodies, thus to the motions of abstract points. Return