Over the last generation it’s become fashionable for astrologers to add a spiritual or “evolutionary” dimension to their work, noting past karma and the direction of a soul’s progress through lifetimes. Simultaneously, modern astrologers have emphasized the Lunar Nodes to add psychological issues over one lifetime or spiritual issues over many lifetimes.
I myself am not new to these trends. My first astrological training in the mid-1980’s consisted of a steady diet of Dane Rudhyar and the use of the Lunar Nodes for psychological problems and possibilities. And, as a practicing Buddhist for most of my adult life, I am not put off by ideas of multiple lifetimes.
As with any trend (astrological or not), we should always ask questions before adoption. Astrologers, being human, often absorb assumptions from their “tribe” without examining them. However, in order to understand our astrology, our Universe, and ourselves we need to think critically about the assumptions we make.
“Spiritual” astrology is not a new invention; our astrological heritage includes a rich spiritual legacy which spans many decades. In the past three years, I have focused on the spiritual cosmology of Dante’s Divine Comedy and begun teaching a series of courses on the history of soul and astrology. During this time I have become increasingly impatient that many in the modern spiritual approach gloss over the richness and depth that only comes through a deeper exploration and questioning.
So I’d like to propose a series of questions astrologers should ask themselves when approaching a chart. My intention is to raise questions for newer astrology students and their clients about the nature of the sacred dimension – soul, spirit, karma and other related concepts.
Modern Astrology’s Depictions of Multiple Lifetimes
In this article, I would like to explore some unanswered questions raised by discussions of multiple lifetimes.
If you accept that reincarnation exists ...
- Was there a beginning to all this, in time or in eternity?
- What is the end point to multiple lifetimes, if there is an endpoint?
- If our journey through different lifetimes is about a soul’s evolution, toward what is one evolving?
- How can a soul change? Is it bound by time?
- Are lifetimes sequential or simultaneous? If they are all simultaneous, how could one conceive of an evolutionary trajectory? (e.g. from less evolved, to more evolved)
- Do we all necessarily evolve, and if so, by what means, and how can this relate to the astrological chart for one lifetime?
- Who or What is keeping track of our journey through multiple lifetimes?
- If we want to talk about the “Universe” or the “Source”, then we need to attribute a kind of consciousness or super-consciousness to this universal entity or deity. How then would that universal entity relate to us and our ordinary human awareness?
- Am I headed for eventual redemption or assimilation into the One? How does that account for the diversity around me? (or what about the tick that I brushed off my leg yesterday?)
- What accounts for the continuity of identity over lifetimes? (Is there a continuity of identity over lifetimes?) Certainly it cannot be an astrological chart.
Is the multiple lifetime paradigm psychological astrology with fancy tail-fins?
Astrological indicators can point to character, personality conflicts, features of which we are unconscious, psychological vulnerabilities, childhood trauma – all within the context of a person’s life lived presently.
- What does anchoring these issues in past lives add to what psychologically-oriented astrologers often depict within a single lifetime?
- Isn’t a past-life account just another story, a personal myth? Wouldn’t it function the same way as stories about one’s extended family or ancestors or one’s early life or from studying the history of one’s culture?
- Wouldn’t the whole astrological chart, with its planetary deities and hints of a larger cosmos within which one lives, provides the most powerful story or all?
What does the chart show? One or many previous lifetimes?
- If we have lived many lifetimes in the past, do our natal charts express the great mass of all this karma that has accumulated over time? Or does it just reflect a few of these lives?
- If this lifetime is the result of karma from previous lifetimes, how do we know it’s from the last one?
- Can the conditions of our present environment prevent the karma of the previous lifetime from ripening?
- If the natal chart expresses the general karma of one or several previous lifetimes, couldn’t the “lessons” of one’s current incarnation only be marginal to the full journey across the vast realm of lifetimes?
Accounting for natal positions relevant to previous and future lifetimes
- Why are some positions (Lunar Nodes, Pluto, and more) significant for depicting previous lifetimes and not others?
- What are the qualities of the “karmic” positions that account for past-life or post-life relevance that are not found for other astrological positions?
How about the next lifetimes and the final picture?
- What is the relationship between fulfilling life tasks represented by a particular placement (e.g. North Node sign and house) and one’s spiritual progress from this lifetime to the next?
- Is there something more redemptive about fulfilling a rather limited task (like Node in Capricorn in the 4th house) that a lifetime of virtuous conduct, benevolence, and increasing understanding could not accomplish?
- What would post-life indicators suggest about the role of free will or consciousness in our present life?
- Does how we live now matter? If not, what does that say about karma?
The North and South Lunar Nodes
One interpretation of the lunar nodes is that the Moon’s South Node represents a comfortable and habitual range of activities and environments. Relying too much on the South Node can limit our lives’ greater possibilities and is the default mechanism, especially when times are difficult. The North Node, on the other hand, represents untapped possibilities and an initial discomfort that eventually becomes a psychological or spiritual resource. The North Node points to our potential strengths and represents the direction in which we should go.
Lunar Nodes and the visible sky
The Lunar Nodes are reliable predictors of eclipses since a conjunction of the luminaries to the Nodes indicates a solar (one Node) or lunar eclipse (both Nodes). When the Moon is conjunct the North Node it is conjunct the ecliptic at 0° latitude and begins a 14-day passage north of the Sun’s latitude and is visible for a slightly longer time in the Northern Hemisphere. (The Moon’s declination is a much larger factor.) When the Moon is conjunct the South Node, the Moon is beginning its journey south of 0° latitude and the Moon will be visible for slightly for less time in the Northern Hemisphere.
- What is it about the moving intersection between the circles of the ecliptic (depicting the Sun’s position relative to the Earth) and the Moon’s orbit around the Earth that qualifies the Lunar Nodes as indicators of a trajectory of a life or of many lifetimes?
- Why have the South and North Nodes have the meaning they have been given?
Is this a redundancy?
(how is this any different than deciding the nodes mean something else?)
In my mind the South Node resembles a rather stuck version of astrology’s Moon and the North Node is closer to the Sun’s ability to provide brilliance to life. Sun and Moon relate to depictions of soul relating to our desires for peace and comfort, worldly engagement and excitement, and to rise above – yes we want it all. As the most visible bodies in the heavens the Sun and Moon seem to be the best equipped to provide information about these basic themes of being human. Perhaps there’s a solar and a lunar element to the meanings given to the Lunar Nodes.
To determine how solar and lunar dimensions of life connect to an individual, we can compare the relative positions of the Sun and Moon. We can also look at factors derived from the Sun and Moon: the Lots of Fortune and Spirit (the Lots of the Moon and Sun respectively) that also include the Ascendant, the Sun/Moon midpoint, or the degree separation between the Sun and Moon and any harmonic qualities of that arc. One could factor in the North and South Lunar Nodes, especially as they make contact with planets or other positions in the natal chart.
Planets and Houses of Prescription and Proscription
Every placement in the astrological chart is capable of different grades of manifestation, from the most shallow and self-centered to the most benevolent and spiritually exalted. Yet our modern use of the Lunar Nodes assumes that the sign and house of the North Node is more oriented toward growth and those of the South Node would limit us. A planet conjunct the North Node would be a planet of opportunity and one conjunct the South Node a source of personal limitation. This approach fails to consider that all our planets are potential sources of difficulty and potential resources for us. It depends on what a person does with them.
Using the Nodes for prescriptive (North Node) or proscriptive (South Node) purposes makes it too easy for astrologers to assert to a client what the client should be like and what he or she shouldn’t be like. This prescriptive emphasis deprives astrology of its descriptive capacity, its ability to shed new light on what is occurring in a person’s life.
(there’s also the problem that the nodes are an axis.. that conjunct the north node is also opposite the south node.. or what if it’s at the bendings?)
“Empty Spaces” – what you don’t have
When the North Node is in a sign and house inhabited by no planet, can we legitimately ask the client to be more like that position? If, for example, one has no planets in Leo and one’s Sun is in Capricorn in the Eighth, can you ask a person to be more “Leo”? This seems to be another way of asking a person to be what he or she is not, or something for which there is little or no support from the chart. (This problem also occurs when considering the uninhabited space in a T-Square opposite its apex position.)
Our tendency not to examine what we adopt into our astrological practice is especially problematic when we’re working with issues of ultimate concern. We need to be caring and careful if we are making assumptions about many lifetimes. Especially so when we are in a position to influence how others understand and conduct their lives. If we are to practice spiritual and psychology well we need to be less assuming and compassionate with ourselves and our clients. Hopefully this short essay has helped to take a step in that direction.