The Nodal Cycle of Incarnation and Return to Spirit

by Hank Friedman

"Getting on the wheel", i.e. choosing to incarnate, leads each of our souls on an amazing journey. We face a myriad of temptations, lessons, interactions, and other kinds of experiences, and grow along the way.

Many of the planetary pairs effectively symbolize specific polarities and themes that we encounter. For example, Jupiter-Saturn represents expansion and contraction, faith and doubt, indulgence and austerity, expending and conserving, and more.

As we journey through our Earth plane lives, our horoscopes show our "tilts", i.e. which way we lean, and therefore which way we need to "lean back" in order to achieve balance. A person with a very strong Mars, for example, may need to bring other planets (Venus, Saturn, Jupiter) into the equation more.

As egocentric beings, we often think that our (current) style is the optimal one. "If only everyone was like me." However, astrology teaches us the value of all of the ways of being (as represented by the signs, planets, aspects, etc.).

Our many lives therefore give us the opportunity to explore a wide range of temperaments, styles, and approaches to life, and to learn to navigate both the highs and the lows, the successes and failures along the way.

Nevertheless, the way is merciful, and as my Vedic guru, Hart DeFouw frequently says, "The law of compensation is at hand" which means that with every challenge (that a specific configuration indicates) comes a balancing positive effect.


in Vedic astrology, The nodes of the Moon are called, Rahu (the North Node) and Ketu (the South Node). Since the nodes are directly opposite to each other, they always influence each other, and it becomes hard to separate their individual meanings.

Nevertheless, the nodes do have their own qualities, and in my article Narcissism, Self-Effacement, and Rahu and Ketu, I explored some of these attributes and introduced the idea that if a person has planets in the same house as one of the nodes and not the other, they tend to embody that node's themes.

Rahu is often associated with drive, ambition, worldly success, enticements (and addictions), heterodoxy, all things foreign, subterfuge, rebellion, expansion, and extroversion.

Ketu is seen as representing passivity, surrender, Enlightenment, spiritual practices and retreats, introversion, self-effacement, losses, focus, detachment, anxiety, renunciation, and grace.


The choice to leave Heaven to come to Earth can be seen as Rahuvian, in that the soul is drawn to the attractions and actions that are only possible to experience in a body. The primary loss of Heaven, which can seen as a Ketuvian loss, is written about in the first verses of Rumi's ultimate work, the Masnavi:

Listen to the song of the reed,
How it wails with the pain of separation:

"Ever since I was taken from my reed bed
My woeful song has caused men and women to weep.

I seek out those whose hearts are torn by separation
For only they understand the pain of this longing.

Whoever is taken away from his homeland
Yearns for the day he will return.

[Translation by Jonathan Star, 1997]

All human yearning, suffering, and loss is a reminder that, in taking on a body, we have been exiled from Heaven, and an echo of the pain of that exile.

And in fact the losses that inevitably take place in our lives, each week, month, and year, teach us the value of Ketuvian detachment and surrender, and eventually lead us to shift our priorities from the transitory to the Eternal.


However, we mustn't give Rahu short shrift. It is Rahu who can lead us to great heights, towards diving so deeply into life that we are able to understand its language and meaning, and become artists of living.

While "The Earth is a Bewitching Bride" that none may marry ( a Sufi proverb emphasizing the trap of over-investment in the transitory), nevertheless, as my Guides say, "Everyone's first task is to translate totally here." In other words, in order to complete our journey, we must first take it.

And Rahu is the champion of making this commitment, of fearlessly going after what we want and expressing what we are capable of.

While we also have to navigate the traps that Rahu presents; of greed, lust, attachment, and blind ambition, these too challenge us to develop.


Through our losses and the awakening they elicit, Ketu invites us to begin our return journey via spiritual practices, selfless actions, and devotion to the Highest.

And therefore, the incarnational dance of Rahu and Ketu is one of moving towards and stepping back from life. Engaging and then disengaging, in order to digest, and then moving forward again.

And without both, our lives would be all the poorer. We need the motivation and courage and "Out of the box" thinking of Rahu to be pioneers in our lives and in our world. And we need the the clarity that comes with detachment of Ketu to keep us humble, honest, and to keep our egos from running amok.

And in the end, they both orchestrate our journey exquisitely, and bring us back Home.

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