Yoga of the Planets: Ketu

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Extract from Yoga of the Planets - Ketu

ॐ केतवे नमः

om ketave namaḥ

1. Salutations to the ray of light.

Ketu is one of the eclipse points where the Sun, Moon, and Earth align. It is the South node of the Moon. This is the point where the Moon crosses the ecliptic and starts to move to the South of the path of the Sun. It is interesting that the South node is associated with liberation and the North node, Rāhu, is associated with illusion.

Looking up at the sky, if we see two planets close together it is natural to make the inference that the planet higher in the sky, closer to the pole, is somehow dominating the one below it. In the Northern hemisphere, this means, the planet that is more to the North. This is why, in Vedic Astrology, the planet to the North is usually considered the winner in ‘planetary war’, a phenomenon when two planets come within one zodiacal degree of each other. In simple terms, two planets that are very close together compete and the one to the North wins, unless the lower one is exceptionally bright (like Venus).

The Sun represents the soul or consciousness. The Moon represents the mind. When the Moon starts to rise above the Sun’s path, then it is as if the mind is gaining ground over the soul. The Sun represents our true knowing, which is a function of something more fundamental than the mind. The Vedas say that the mind arises out of the heart. Feelings arise out of the heart. Mind and feelings are both represented by the Moon. The Sun represents the heart. When the Moon moves to the North, we move out of our knowing into our needs and wants, hence the uprising of illusion that Rāhu represents.

When the Moon moves to the South, it is as if the inner knowing is gaining ground over the worldly tendencies. There is more core honesty. We can enjoy many things but fundamentally we know that we do not need them. This realization is a part of liberation and this is indicated by Ketu. Ketu is the significator of enlightenment. This astronomical explanation is my way of remembering the roles of Rāhu and Ketu. It does not mean liberation is reversed in the Southern hemisphere.

Ketu is an eclipse point but it is not about darkness even though it may look like a black hole. A black hole is something into which one falls and, at a certain point, passes beyond any chance of return. Scientists used to think that black holes were black, but then Stephen Hawkings (author of A Brief History of Time) showed that they actually glow. In the universe we find some extraordinary phenomena – light shows on the grandest possible scale – arise due to black holes.

The picture below is of a jet streaming out from the vicinity of a black hole in the centre of a galaxy. The jet is many times bigger than any galaxy and is pure Ketu (photo from the Hubble Space Telescope, courtesy of ESA/NASA).



The Brahma Sūtras, the great Vedāntic text, end with a short aphorism that is repeated twice, ‘anāvṛttiḥ śabdādanāvṛttiḥ śabdāt. It means that ‘from here there is no return, this is the teaching’. The Brahma Sūtras describe the stages of final enlightenment – the various states or experiences along the way. Only when one passes beyond that point of no return, is one truly out of the field of relativity just like a particle crossing the event horizon of a black hole. Beyond that, ordinary Physics breaks down. It is utterly beyond our comprehension.

It is interesting that we are now discovering black holes all over the place, more than a hundred within our own galaxy. There is an enormous one at the centre of our own galaxy (in early Sagittarius), but many others are scattered here and there. Even a smaller one is heading our way though it is not expected to swallow the Earth. I grew up with the real possibility of a black hole being only a theoretical idea. Now we find that we are living in close proximity to a whole family of them.