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The Lunar Nodes, Philosophically-Speaking

Before I get to the story I mentioned in my previous blog entry about the recent learning experience brought to me by my Aries South Node, I want to look at the reasons astrologers interpret the Nodes the way they/we do.

As we discussed, through the millennia, astrologers linked the Lunar Nodes with the positive/negative duality we’ve come to associate with Cartesian thinking.

The fundamental problem with dualism, monism, or pluralism, for that matter, is that none of these systems allow us to be what we are: human. Multivalent. Confusing. Irreducible. Look, even pluralism puts you into a box of uniqueness, making it hard to get along with other people who don't resemble you in every finite detail.

The fundamental problem with dualism, monism, or pluralism, for that matter, is that none of these systems allow us to be what we are: human. Multivalent. Confusing. Irreducible. Look, even pluralism puts you into a box of uniqueness, making it hard to get along with other people who don’t resemble you in every finite detail.

Although the philosophy of dualism existed long before René Descartes, his struggle to understand his own existence led to a crystallization of thought around the concept of dichotomy (either one or the other exists, and both cannot be true at the same time).

Now, because I have time on my hands, I want to remind you (because maybe you forgot) that philosophers prior to Descartes often believed in something other than dualism.

They might have believed in monism, which posits that there is one ‘perfect’ source for something (usually energy, as in a substance, like fire or water; or the world, which comes from one creation myth that’s better than anyone else’s; or one God; or something that can be essentialized and reduced to a fundamental source, as in alchemy’s attempt to reduce lead to gold). If you’re a monist, you say things like “There is no God but God,” or there’s only one zodiac or one way of doing astrology; and you mean it, god help you.

Then there are the philosophers who brought us pluralism. Now, let’s be clear; pluralists are not the same as dualists. Dualists see the world in terms of one separate thing existing in opposition to another. Within the system of thought that is dualism, two things exist in separation from each other; the only sense in which the two things are similar lies in their fundamental oppositeness.

Beware of cul-de-sac ideas that lead nowhere good... yin and yang divides energy into two fairly rigid systems of being.

Beware of cul-de-sac ideas that lead nowhere good… yin and yang divides energy into two fairly rigid systems of being.

Metaphysical dualism divides the world into black and white, good and bad, and sees these as irreconcilable opposites. For metaphysical dualists, there can be no unity, no meeting in the middle, no blending of black and white to make grey. You’re either one or you’re the other.

Pluralists—no big surprise—think in terms of multiplicities of things being true all at once. Empedocles, an early pluralist, believed there were four elements, but that they couldn’t be reduced, and were sufficient to explain all change. Criticism of pluralism stems from its association with relativism, in which all things are equal (value-neutral). The inherent nullity of this position makes it hard to sustain, since, in my experience, it’s hard not to be judgemental—plus, the brain needs to put things into hierarchies—at least that’s my excuse.

Brains have been divided into left/right hemispheres for so long, we actually believe the overly simplistic, dualistic metaphor of right brain/left brain is true.

Brains have been divided into left/right hemispheres for so long, we actually believe that the overly simplistic, dualistic metaphor of right brain/left brain is true.

This is why most people are not pluralists, no matter how broad-minded we all think we are. We like the certainty dualism gives us, even in the relatively open-minded and liberal field of astrology.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are a pluralist; if so, then you’re comfortable with the idea that there can be more than one ‘correct’ or ‘true’ account of ethical, religious, cultural, and scientific beliefs.

You entertain the notion that there’s more than one meaning to a sign or symbol, which means you embrace the crazy quilt of astrological practices that have recently proliferated.

Pluralism has the obvious potential of leading to a fair amount of confusion, however. Believing in multiplicities of truths, albeit a popular postmodern response to the cacophony of opinion proliferating nowadays, brings one to a kind of mental sludge where no one belief takes precedence, no one approach is privileged over another, but everything has the same, neutral, value.

This stance is unsustainable in the human mind; we naturally assign meaning to something according to how we value it, which tends to challenge the fundamental precepts of philosophies based on the notion that “everything is equal.”

I think you’re beginning to see (as am I) where I’m going with this. Obviously, philosophy informed astrology over the millennia. We’ve inherited ideas that aren’t our own, but we’ve also inherited ideas that make phenomena like the Lunar Nodes easy to slot into a dualistic function within our chart. While that’s useful, it’s also somewhat ‘dangerous,’ in the sense that dualism tends to be reductive and overly simplistic.

That said, however, it’s damned seductive, because it’s easy.


Self-explanatory, n’est-ce-pas?

Take, for example, the dualistic nature of the Nodes. There aren’t a lot of naturally-occurring phenomena that come in a set of two. Humans like the number two. ‘Two’ leads to the idea of symmetry and synchronicity; when things occur in pairs, we tend to give the event more weight, more meaning.

And so we come to the interpretation of the Lunar Nodes themselves. The Nodes are interpreted through the lens of their “two-ness,” their duality, the notion of them as a pair.

This two-ness makes it so much easier to apply al-Biruni’s dualistic principle of black and white, good and bad, Dragon’s Head and Dragon’s Tail, to the interplay of the Nodes as they intersect the ecliptic, and, not coincidentally, the Sun and Moon’s trail as they move across the sky.

See all the twos, all the duality? The Sun, the Moon; The Dragon’s Head, Tail; South Node, North Node. The philosophical principle that best suits all this two-ness, duality, makes it so much easier to turn the Nodes into positive and negative experiences. The farther back you go (in terms of relatively recent history—the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, let’s say) the greater the likelihood you’ll see al-Biruni’s perspective repeated, like a template, until you reach Postmodernism, where the confetti of human experience was thrown into the air.

Which brings us to today, when the (still rather rare) astrologer can be seen throwing the baby and the bathwater at the Nodes, interpreting them any which way they please, which makes a lot of astrologers (myself included, having learned in the School of Dualism) nuts. We go back to the earlier texts, (the ones that made some sense, dammit, we insist to ourselves) for interpretation.

Click on the picture and read what this person has to say. I think they fall into the dualism trap, quite honestly.

Click on the picture and read what this person has to say. I think the writer falls into the dualism trap.

However, somewhere in all of that history, when Indian (Vedic) astrology began to seep in to Western thought, we began to accept the idea of Karma influencing the Nodes.

The only real problem with the concept of Karma, as far as I can see, other than paying it, is that it’s not intended to sound as judgemental as it does.

However, we in the West, coming out of guilt-induced religious systems, reinterpret Karma as another one of our “Thou Shalts,” and then feel bad if we can’t do that thing, if we can’t be the persistently good version of ourself the North Node seems to demand of us.

I can be foolish anywhere in the world, it turns out

I can be foolish anywhere in the world, it turns out.

So now that I’ve introduced the themes of guilt, blame, and karma, I’ve reached the point in my story where I and my South Node did something foolish.

I attribute my foolishness to my South Node for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above; because virtually any reading into the Nodal axis will take you to the South/North dichotomy, where one node is particularly bad, the other particularly good.

Then, you have karmic astrology telling us, This is where you’ve come from and this is what you should aspire to. So my South Node in Aries in the 3rd house, according to astrologers I’ve read, brings with it memories of impulsiveness, a sense of alienation, isolation; independence, the need to do things, as Frank Sinatra once sang, My Way.

Now, from my perspective, with Saturn in Capricorn on the Ascendent, and one parent with Saturn in Aries conjunct Moon, another with Saturn on the Ascendent in Scorpio, independence is a good thing. I had very little experience in my childhood (the period of life one associates with Aries) with a parental message reinforcing dependence (weird for this Sun in Cancer, but one of many life-schisms I live with).

Independence, doing things for myself, and, most particularly, on my own, comes naturally to me. It’s easy; it’s what I know how to do. There is an advantage in not needing to rely on anyone else, since people can be so unreliable, not to mention messy and slow. Further, I’d go so far as to speculate that my entire sense of self as capable of functioning without your help, thank you, is reinforced by the rest of my chart.

Ah, but there lies the rub. Surely, if you know what’s limiting about your South Node, you can see the irony.

Saturn is now transiting over my natal Moon sign, Scorpio. Knowing this, I deliberately signed up for a group tour with a bunch of women. I wanted to test my Moon issues, because I’m ornery like that; but in fact, how does one grow except by doing things you don’t want to do?

I had to get out. I was desperate.

I had to get out. I was desperate.

By the third day of this enforced group experience, I had had enough.

I knew this was a mistake. I was in a perpetual bad mood; I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I wasn’t getting enough coffee, I wasn’t getting enough solitude first thing in the morning.

People were pressing in on me, expecting me to be cheerful on demand, since that’s tour group gestalt. Everything in my chart cried out in pain.

Then came the day that broke me. The tour that day took us to a god-forsaken part of the planet known as The Burren (pronounced, ironically, given the nature of my South Node’s ruler, Mars, ‘burn’). It’s an incredibly interesting place, but can also be incredibly dangerous. In my opinion, it was unwise to go into the part of the Burren we explored; it’s too rough a terrain for anyone who doesn’t hike, and a few of us weren’t prepared and didn’t have hiking boots.

As for me, I’d had one personal comment/question too many. I snapped internally (I kept some aplomb and didn’t bite anyone’s head off, thank goodness), but decided to go back to the bus. On my own. I had to get away from them for reasons too complicated to explain, and no, I’m not menopausal for god’s sake (when these otherwise nice women couldn’t accept that it was possible to just simply not do mornings well, I think they decided I was semi-permanently ‘on edge’). I sensed the wagons circling; I was about to be ostracized, and had only my own bad humor to blame.

I wrestle with a fair few demons, and my Moon issues are possibly my biggest downfall. With a minimum of 9 moon squares, at some point you just stop counting and go ‘you’re so screwed this lifetime’.

I headed back the way we’d come, or so I thought. During the harrowing hour or so when the group enjoyed the company of each other and the guide told stories and recited Irish poetry, I struggled against nature, getting lost on the Burren not once, but twice. I always had the bus in sight, I just couldn’t find a direct route that would get me to it.

During this hour or so of turmoil, a few things occurred to me as I grew increasingly exhausted. One was that I was absolutely determined not to let the group find me lost out here in the middle of the rocky terrain. They’d have to rescue me, and that wasn’t going to happen, not if my ego had anything to say about it.

The second was that it suddenly occurred to me that I was living out the reality of the South/North Nodal axis. I had deliberately left the group (Libra North Node), which is easy for me, but turned out, this time, to be potentially dangerous. I had a moment of epiphany. I realised that groups have a purpose; one that, if you believe in past lives and Karma, I had, apparently, yet to learn.

And this, Best Beloveds, is my South Node story. However, the fact that I took on the Burren and “won” did not transform me into a better, more Libran person. I met a woman on the tour, and found out when I did her chart that she has Libra on the Ascendent, with Moon in the 1st. When she heard me whining about my various aches and pains one day, I asked her, rather plaintively, what I could do to kind of get along with people better, and she said, “Cheer up!” I get the impression that Libra excels at getting along in groups by being cheerful.

If that’s a North Node lesson, then so be it, but I suspect cheerfulness is going to take a few more lifetimes to attain.

It is my belief that the Nodes are most effectively used if one thinks of them almost as points on a compass. Natal aspects, transits, and connections via synastry represent course corrections. The South Node can tell us where we’re coming from, the North Node where we’re going. Right here is where most people start getting all “You were a terrible person in your South Node previous existence and now you must blahblahblah.”

The stars can guide us if we let them act as the map they are.

The stars can guide us if we let them act as the map they are.

And who knows; maybe that is the way things work; maybe the laws of karma are really mean-spirited and wish you (well, mostly I) were a wiser, more mature soul.

However, I stop short at getting all Medieval and punitive about the inevitable dualist-thinking inherent in Judeo-Christian judgementalism. I think it’s vital that we accept that there are flaws in our personalities, and stop castigating ourselves, via the South Node, for all that we’re not, while at the same time we set the North Node up as a pinnacle of some kind of unattainable perfected self we’re not likely to become, largely because perfection is not humanly possible. I will never be a saint, but I could learn a few social coping skills to make it possible to get along with groups of people better. Especially when I haven’t had enough coffee.

So, for next time, let’s let that kind of interpreting go, and rethink the Nodes as points on one’s internal compass that we’re in the process of tinkering with—looking behind us, to see where we’ve come from and what we still need and can make use of, but also looking ahead of us to see what we’re going to need if we’re going to get where we want to go. The stars create a map we can use to help us find the way.

3 thoughts on “The Lunar Nodes, Philosophically-Speaking

  1. Well written! Might I add that with your South Node in Aries on the third you write about external struggles with aplomb! Case in point, this posting. Saturn in Capricorn on the 1st makes you one heck of a fighter for personal independence!
    I can relate to your South Node in Aries, ” grumble, grumble” I don’ t do mornings without my coffee! I too have SN in Aries, in the 8 th. I have NEVER done mornings well. Have always needed alone time, preferably until noon!!! Hah! I also share your Saturn in Capricorn. Mine sits in the 5th. Struggle with having lighthearted ” fun” anyone? And I have made it my career to do so, in my serious, methodical way. Which brings me to my final point. Thank you for sharing your viewpoints on the culture behind monism, dualism, and pluralism as it relates to the Nodes. You do us a favor in allowing us the freedom (Aries) to accept our flaws, embrace them, and learn that sometimes going out on a limb for the sake of our NN is uncomfortable, difficult, and generally annoying. But, as you humorously described, can teach us a thing ortwo about the direction we ultimately MUST travel! PS. A morning tour full of bright, cheery women? You brave lady, you!!!

    • It is true that I don’t do well in forced friendliness situations. As with animals, I need time to decide whether or not I’m going to come out from behind the curtains.

      I’m glad you appreciated the philosophical direction we went in here. It is very nice knowing someone read through that tome. 🙂

  2. I am too agree with some points and definitely let me thinking if I was a dualist, pluralist or monist….
    I can relate in how difficult is to want to be alone but having to socialize with people and be part of grous, that is one of my lifetime problems.
    I tell myself i need my time alone in other to be happy and give a better mood to the people I need to be with, but sometimes is hard. I think that applies more to my 12th house Sun thought.
    I have 3rd house Scorpio NN and 9th house Tarus SN…and there are times when i can’t stop thinking about how awesome my life would be if i just travel all the time, I’m always like dreaming that there is a better life in other places than where I am, I’m obsess with other languages and stuff, and also I’d like to eat all day haha. but that’s my taurus SN, and I need to understand that where I am is where I need to be and that I need to learn how to comunicate which isn’t easy for me. also I I need to learn to choose long term pleasure rather than short them pleasure in order to achieve everything that i want to do…well i’m still a young girl trying to learn astrology so that’s my interpretation but I know there is more I need to understand. I just had my first nodal return, and I find interesting that it happened when I started to be curious about astrology….nice to read you…greetings!

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