A basic explanatory model behind many esoteric teachings which also plays an important role in astrology. The concept of polarity teaches that opposites are mutually dependent rather than canceling each other out. A primary experience of this principle is the act of breathing which necessarily involves both inhaling and exhaling. Further basic polarities are day and night, summer and winter, warm and cold, male and female etc. In Chinese tradition there is the polarity of Yin (feminine, passive, night) and Yang (masculine, active, day). The well-known symbol (Yin/Yang) indicates that this principle is dynamic and that each pole contains its polar opposite; thus exposing the fallacy of favouring one pole over the other. On the contrary, neither pole can survive without the other. There can be no light without shadow, and no night without day. The challenge is always to integrate both poles.
In a nagative sense, polarity can degenerate into a form of dualism which ignores the fundamental unity of opposites. If one favours the seemingly good pole and suppresses the "bad" pole, it often grows rampant, expressing its most destructive characteristics. A tragic example is Christianity which propagated universal and infinite love, yet in the name of this noble concept set up the Inquisition, instigated witch hunts, and supported the often brutal colonisation of indigenous people.
In astrology the twelve signs of the zodiac can be divided into six complementary polar pairs of opposing signs:
- Aries/ Libra = Me and you
- Taurus/ Scorpio = Holding on and letting go
- Gemini/ Sagittarius = Communication and insight
- Cancer/ Capricorn = Nurture and discipline
- Leo/ Aquarius = Individual and social
- Virgo/ Pisces = Improvement and dissolution
To some extent, these differences also apply to houses with, for example, the first house indicating the individual personality and the seventh house indicating the individual subsumed as part of a couple. The fourth house deals with one's private home, but the tenth house expresses one's public image.
Polarity in astrology has a long history, with a division of earth and water signs as "feminine" and air and fire signs as "masculine" (elements); or planets categorized as hot or cold, moist or dry. Other examples would be the moon as mother and sun as father, or interpretive distinctions made depending upon whether an individual has a day or night birth. Some astrologers, however, such as the theosophists and Kabbalah practitioners were more concerned to find the unity of nature or the merger of the individual with the divine.
- The Sun and Moon in Families (Erin Sullivan; excerpt from The Astrology of Family Dynamics Weiser, 2001)
Notes and References
- Cover of the paperback issue, 1978