ORBITAL ASTROLOGY AND THE NODES
Astrology is essentially a study of the ever-changing relationship between man and his cosmic environment — a study which seeks not only to discover facts concerning this environment (this is the task of the astronomer), but to uncover the meaning these facts have in terms of his individual or collective life, his basic character and the unfoldment of his innate potential of being.
The nearest factor in this cosmic environment are the planets — including in the term, planets, for present-day astrological purposes, the Moon and the Sun. These planets move each at a different speed, and their motions are periodical. Astrology today is basically the study of these cyclic motions. And in order to pursue such a study, the motions of the planets are plotted on a background considered to be fixed. There are two
backgrounds, or "frames of reference," in generalized use today: the zodiac, and the circle of the Houses based on the horizontal and vertical axes at the point of astrological enquiry.
A good deal of the ambiguity found in astrological concepts and practices is due to the fact that the astrologer today is thinking in both heliocentric and geocentric terms. He knows that our Earth is only one among several planets which revolve around the Sun, yet he also logically considers the whole solar system and the stars beyond as the environment of the Earth on the surface of which man lives, feels and thinks; thus in studying his relationship to this environment he has obviously to take a geocentric — and in natal astrology, a "person-centered" — point of view. He studies his own cosmic environment, as he relates to it directly.
Nevertheless man cannot ignore the fact that the solar system is a cosmic whole, that is, a more or less autonomous field of energies streaming from the central Sun. This field is only one among billions of other stellar fields which are parts of the vast galaxy, our Milky Way; and therefore the solar system as a whole obviously is affected by "galactic forces" and by the result of the interactions of a myriad of stars and solar systems. However, we know very little indeed that is specific concerning the galaxy and its stars, and at least at his present stage of evolution, the active and relevant part of man's cosmic environment is the solar system. Man looks at this solar system from his earthly point of view, yet he now knows
that it is a specific field of energies; and in order to try to understand the basic character of these energies and their essential meaning, he has to think of the system-as-a-whole — this means heliocentrically, for any organized system of interrelated parts can only be understood in relation to its center or radiating core.
The structure of the solar system results from the interrelationships between not merely the places occupied by planets at any time, but more basically from the interrelationships between the orbit of the planets. Seen from the Sun, all planets describe elliptical orbits. These orbits are well spaced around the Sun. They constitute a series of more or less concentric rings, no planet ever moving as close to the Sun as the one preceding it in the series, except Pluto which about every 240 years comes closer to the Sun than Neptune, because of its exceptionally elongated orbit. However, the planes of these orbits do not coincide. All planets do not revolve around the Sun in the same plane. All these orbital planes intersect. The line formed by these intersections is called the line of the nodes, or nodal axis.
From the heliocentric astrological point of view each planet should be given a meaning in terms of its distance from the Sun. Indeed if we try to get at the fundamental meanings of the planets we can readily see that these meanings refer to their serial rank in the solar system. The series of planets represent a series of phases in a definite process which deals with the progressive differentiation of the solar force. Mercury represents
bipolar electric energy; Venus adds to this electric force magnetism and refers thus to electromagnetic fields. The Earth gives substantiality and biological properties to these fields. Mars refers to the release of energy from all organic systems, etc. (For such a study of the solar system, I must refer the reader to my book The Practice of Astrology, Penguin Books, page 56, etc.)
In other words, each planet represents, as it were, a cosmic "quality"; but obviously it is this quality as we, human beings on this Earth, are able to see it and understand its nature; for it may indeed be that there are in the solar system planets composed of a type of substance-energy which we cannot perceive and which even our radio telescopes cannot detect. We can only measure and interpret what is within the scope of our senses and intellect. Thus when we study the basic structure of the solar system, i.e., the orbits of the planets, it is logical to refer the orbital planes to our basic life-plane, which is our own orbit around the Sun, thus, in astronomical terms, the ecliptic. Astrologically speaking, this is the tropical zodiac, or zodiac of signs (NOT of constellations) which begins at the spring equinox, or point of celestial longitude 0°.
Celestial longitude, from 0° to 360°, is measured along the ecliptic, which astrologers divide into twelve signs, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc., each sign occupying 30° of longitude. But there is also a factor called celestial latitude; and it is this factor which is basic when one deals
with the relationships between the orbital planes of the planet and our own orbital plane, the ecliptic. Each planet's orbital plane and the ecliptic intersect: and the lines of nodes represent this intersection. There is a north node and a south node. A planet is at its north node when it is at latitude 00° and moving north of the ecliptic; at its south node when it crosses the ecliptic in latitude and going southward. There are two moments in the cycle in celestial latitude of a planet when it reaches its extreme positions north or south. For most planets these extremes of latitude are very
close to the ecliptic, thus not more than 8°; but Pluto can reach latitudes of nearly 18°.
The orbits of the planets are not absolutely stable; their structural characteristics vary, but extremely slowly. Astronomers speak here of "secular variations." Changes in the obliquity
and eccentricity of the planets' orbits are measured by tens of thousands of years. The longitude of the planetary nodes likewise varies, but less slowly. According to modern textbooks, they gain longitude at the rates mentioned below.
Mercury - Taurus 17° 42' 11" 42.6 seconds
Mars - Taurus 19° 08' 56" 27.7 seconds
Uranus - Gemini 13° 43' 30" 18.0 seconds
Venus - Gemini
16°12' 09" 32.4 seconds
Jupiter - Cancer
9° 54' 47" 36.4 seconds
Pluto - Cancer
19° 35' 35" 48.8 seconds
Saturn - Cancer 23° 11' 38" 31.4 seconds
Neptune - Leo
11° 11' 43" 39.5 seconds
Whether this rate of progress is constant may not be certain, as some old Hindu books give very different figures. At any rate, here are the positions of the north nodes of the planets as they were listed in the American Astrological Ephemeris for 1947. The positions of the south node is always the opposite point of the zodiac; thus Mercury's South Node was at Scorpio 17°42' 11" and is now about to reach Scorpio 18°.
It should be clear, however, that these are heliocentric positions. They refer to the intersection of the orbital planes of a planet and of our Earth. This intersection and the nodes it produces symbolize the fundamental relationship between a planet and the Earth considered as two components in the solar system. The relationship has significance in terms of this solar system as a vast cosmic field of dynamic existence. When therefore, we apply it to the chart of an individual human being it should be evident that what this relationship — and therefore the planetary north and south nodes — mean in that chart should be referred to the most basic factors in that individual person, i.e., factors that are inherent in the essential destiny of the individual. They are factors which; reach deeper than the natural bio-psychic functions which planets normally represent in a birthchart — just because the planet as a moving small disc of light in the sky is something that the personal consciousness can normally perceive while the entire orbit of that planet is a cosmic fact which transcends sense-perception.
Astrology is a language which uses astronomical facts and celestial events as symbols of all-human and personal characteristics and biopsychic developments. The more unusual or remote
such astronomical events or the more cosmic or
abstract the relationship between celestial bodies, the deeper or more transcendent the characteristics which they represent in the personality and the life-experiences of human beings. For instance, the Sun and the Moon's apparent revolutions through our sky are always with us, regularly perceptible and closely relatable to what is most evident in us, that is, our very existence as a living organism and our capacity to adapt to our immediate surroundings. But eclipses of the Sun or the Moon which are visible at the place where we live are relatively infrequent and quite startling phenomena; thus they refer also to unusual changes in our lives or very special traits of character, if such eclipses not only occurred at the time of our birth but were facts of human experience at this birth locality.
We shall see later on how this applies to the study of the planetary nodes in a person's birthchart, but one more basic point should be stressed. The nodes constitute an axis; that is to say, the
north or south node of planets — and likewise of
the Moon — are never to be considered alone. The habit so many astrologers have of marking and considering only the Moon's north node in a chart does not make any sense. Both nodes form an unbreakable pair, just as do Ascendant and Descendant or Zenith and Nadir. Any characterization of the Ascendant which does not
include an indissolubly related characterization of the Descendant is incomplete; yet this is what is most of the time done in actual practice and even in textbooks.
One should no more think of an Ascendant without a Descendant than of an electrical current without a positive and a negative pole. In a somewhat different yet related sense, there is no wind without a region of higher pressure and one of lower pressure. This same fact of polarity has to be considered also when we deal with astrological "Parts." The Part of Fortune relates the Moon and the Sun to the Ascendant; but it has also a polar opposite point which relates the Moon and the Sun to the Descendant — a point which I called in my book The Lunation Cycle, the Point of Illumination. In our individualistic society what refers to the self is emphasized — and of course it is basic; but a person's capacity for relationship (the Descendant) is implied in his attitude toward himself (Ascendant). As a man sees himself, so does he relate to others; and the way he relates to others conditions the development of his experience of self. The same situation exists if we consider the two "ends" of any axis. The two nodes are not separate points each with its individual meaning; they
are the two polar aspects of one single process. What should be studied and understood is, first of all, the process.
In the case of planetary nodes, I repeat, what is at stake is the fundamental relationship of a planet and of our Earth as two related members
of the solar system. More specifically, in terms
of individual birth-charts, it is the manner in which the essential quality of a planet affects the very structure and the roots of our individuality as a member of the human species.
In the case of the Moon's nodes one is dealing with a rather different situation, because the Moon actually is not a planet, but instead the Earth's satellite. The axis of the Moon's nodes also represents the intersection between the planes of the Moon's orbit and the plane of the Earth's orbit (the ecliptic); but the Moon's orbit is directly related only to the Earth, and therefore the lunar nodes are "geocentric" factors, while the planetary nodes are "heliocentric" factors. To try to consider these planetary nodes from the geocentric point of view not only involves very complex calculations, but by so doing one loses the true character of the nodes, which is to indicate the basic relationship of the Earth to every other member of the solar system with reference to this system as a Sun-centered cosmic organism. The geocentric positions of the planetary nodes are never exactly opposite to each other; thus they lack the very fundamental characteristic of nodes.
The nodes belong to what I called "orbital
astrology"; and this is a type of astrology which deals with the absolutely basic characteristics of the planets as members of the solar system, and with very large cycles dealing with the "secular variations" of the orbits: the orbits rather than the planets as material bodies. Indeed in philosophical traditions concerning the meaning of astrology it was stated that the fundamental reality of what we call a planet is not its material mass, but rather the space which its movements define.
In ancient geocentric astrology, the universe was pictured as a series of concentric spheres each having specific characteristics related to a planet. The moving planet was considered as a lens bringing to an ever changing focus the emanative energies diffuse through the sphere which it "ruled." Today instead of planetary "spheres" we have to think of planetary "orbits." These orbits are ellipses with two foci and the Sun is the common focus of all these orbits. We consider now the entire solar system to be an integrated field of forces. It is a cosmic organism; and the planets' orbits define several functional regions within this organism.
According to such a concept a moving planet represents an agency dynamizing or focusing by its motion the energies of a particular region of the solar field. Thus, Mercury is the space which surrounds the Sun up to the abstract dividing line marked by Mercury's orbit. Venus is the space that extends beyond Mercury's orbit and up to the boundaries indicated by Venus's orbit, etc. The planet's position at every moment of time indicates a point of focused release of energy. Every point of space is filled with
potential energy; but this energy becomes actualized in the solar system through the planet's motion. The constantly changing relationship
between these planets' motion produces, as it were,
a dynamic picture formed by activity-centers. Where the planet is, a "lighted point" appears; and these lighted points form indeed a pattern, a form of light.
We have a similar situation in a T. V. screen which is composed of a multitude of points potentially susceptible of becoming lighted by the electric current. It is the lighted points which in their togetherness produce the picture seen on the screen. This T. V. picture changes at every moment, and so does in a much simpler way, the overall
pattern of activity of the solar system. Each planet acting as a focusing channel for the release
of a specific type of energies, or a quality of being which is related to the space of its entire orbit.
Of course, this space constantly changes, for the whole solar system is moving at high speed around the core of the galaxy; therefore, the planetary orbits actually extend into spiral-forms, but their relationship to and distance from the Sun does not vary and this is what matters. Each organic system in the universe follows very complex motions because it is a part of a series of greater systems, each of which also presumably revolves around some center; yet the various components of even the smallest system retain a basic structure of interrelationship. It is such basic structures that astrology seeks to understand; and it tries to understand not only how the structure works, but the meaning of this structure and of all that it relates together and organically integrates.
Before I conclude these general but basic observations, it seems important to return to the positions of the planetary nodes already listed in order to consider more attentively the fact that the nodes of all the eight planets are bunched around the summer and winter solstices. Mercury's north node is located today at close to 18° Taurus
and that of Neptune at about Leo 11°23' —
thus all north nodes are found within less than a square (90°), and so, of course, are the south nodes. The midpoint of the north nodes group is the last degree of Gemini, which interestingly enough is the location of the great star Betelgeuze in Orion; and I have often stated my belief that this star has a special relationship to the "Aquarian Age" which will start, according to my calculations, at about the time Betelgeuze will reach longitude 90°, that is, the summer solstice point in the tropical zodiac (cf. my book Birth Patterns for a New Humanity: A Study of Astrological Cycles Structuring the Present World Crisis — 1968).
It is difficult to be sure what such a bunching of planetary nodes means, but it must be significant because it is not a constant factor. Mercury's nodes move a little faster than Neptune's, and in about four centuries the nodes of Mercury and Mars will be conjunct in mid-Gemini, and also in conjunction with Uranus' nodes. Then the group will extend between the nodes of Uranus and Neptune. In about eight or nine centuries Neptune's north node will reach Libra 0°, the fall equinox point — and therefore its south node will be at the spring equinox point.
But let us consider what the situation is now. The summer solstice is a symbol of consciously individualized and stabilized power; Cancer refers to personal integration within a limited field of operation — a personality, a home. However, we must not forget that, at the summer
solstice, while the Sun is entering the section of the Earth's orbit which we call Cancer, the planet Earth itself is at the opposite point, entering the sign Capricorn. These solstitial points of the Earth's orbit are particularly interesting for the reason which we shall now explain.
An ellipse has two foci; whereas a circle has only one center. All planetary orbits have one common focus, where the Sun is located; this is the great symbol of the life-force and of light. But the planetary orbits have also what I have called their "individualizing focus." This is the symbol of the particular function and individual "quality of being," which the whole planetary orbit symbolizes. A planet is closest to its
individualizing focus when it is farthest from the Sun, thus at its "aphelion." For the Earth this point is close to the summer solstice point, when the Sun enters the zodiacal sign, Cancer and the Earth is entering the sign Capricorn.
In other words, our planet, in its orbital revolution, is closest to its individual focus when it is in the section of its orbit (the tropical zodiac) in which the south nodes of the planets are now gathered. As we shall presently see, the south node can be likened to the negative pole of an electrical system. It is a point of release, but what is released can be waste-materials, or at least the results of a highly particularized and individualized activity. At its south node the characteristic quality of a planet is almost forcibly thrown upon the Earth, while at its north node there is a much more positive and anabolic cooperation between the planet and the Earth.
The result of the present nodal gathering may therefore be related to the intense process of individualization which has gone on within mankind, and to man's specialization and stressful interest in "multiplicity" rather than in "unity" — in the many planets and their separate function rather than in the one Sun, source of light and undifferentiated power. The polarization should be particularly strong each year near the summer solstice when the Sun passes over the planetary north nodes, and the Earth over the planetary south nodes — at the very time our planet is close to the individualizing focus of its orbit. The presence of Betelgeuze then in conjunction with the Sun may tip the scales in favor of the Sun-force, and mankind may indeed move into an age illumined by a "unitive" type of consciousness.
Person Centered Astrology