Midlife Crisis: Retrieving Your Soul

The midlife crisis is no joke, although it may look that way, to people my age who find it endearing that young people over forty are horrified when they find a gray hair. I try to remember the time when I thought forty was old, but I must’ve changed as I now consider myself to be young at sixty-nine.  And the loveliest thing about my gray hair is the ability of my beautician to make it any color I like.

I don’t mean to belittle the point here. The midlife crisis really is a once-in-a-lifetime deal and it really is serious. When I say you are on a journey to retrieve your soul, even though you didn’t know until now it had been misplaced, I’m not just speaking metaphorically. This is a crucial time in your life.

Have you been jogging along the right path lately? That’s the question that comes up when you reach your late thirties to early forties, a period of about four to six years. It’s been ten to fourteen years since you experienced your first Saturn Return and faced the first big milestone on your soul’s journey. But maturity is not an overnight process. Along with the new insights you gained back then you most likely had a job to maintain, a family to provide for, and all that goes along with being a responsible member of society.

Now transiting Saturn will enter the picture again when you’re about 42, but this time only as part of a complex series of transits that have already begun, to bring the new results to light.  By opposing its position in your chart, it’s asking “How are you doing so far on the halfway mark to your second Saturn Return?” And your cranky reply may well be “Would you quit being so serious for awhile? I’ve got all these other issues to deal with so you can just wait your turn!”

The other three transits just passing are Uranus opposing Uranus, called your “Uranus Opposition”, Neptune square Neptune, and Pluto square Pluto. All of these transits represent a complex of self-evaluations and choices you are making about your life. It is a process. Although I experienced my Uranus opposition first, many of you are experiencing your Pluto square first, as Pluto has been traveling faster recently.

Pluto is associated with psychology and some believe he even represents the soul. Since this is a one-time transit, it represents a life-changing crisis in action on a deep emotional and psychological level. It often begins with a growing awareness of our mortality. We become obsessed with the loss of youth and other signs of aging, and feel a deep sense of loss along with other intense feelings: of grief, depression, rage, jealousy, betrayal, isolation and disempowerment.

What’s really triggering these feelings is an internal process in which the unconscious is awakening, and something within us is crying out for greater depth of meaning in our lives. In Jungian terms, this phase represents the confrontation with our “shadow” and we are faced with the “demons” of the past. Through internal and external experiences we become more aware of those parts of ourselves we have repressed, buried, rejected, denied, projected and ignored.

It’s time to begin recognizing, owning and integrating these unlived parts of ourselves. In order to heal our wounded child it is also time for us to endure the pain and face the past, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This phase is not just about death, it is about birth and renewal.

For most people, the Uranus opposition follows and occurs between the age of 40 and 42 (others nearer to 38 or 39) which is at the midpoint of its 84 year cycle, the amount of time it takes to travel around the zodiac. Since an opposition is much like a full moon this transit of Uranus reveals what we have become in the first half of our lives. As we begin to see ourselves more clearly we also begin to feel an urge to free ourselves of attachments to the past in order to build a new identity. We want to explore new possibilities, do things we’ve never done before.

We want to reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve repressed. According to Jung, if we successfully navigate this midlife transition “Above all we will have achieved a real independence and with it, to be sure, a certain isolation. In a sense we are alone, for our “inner freedom” means that a love relation can no longer fetter us, the other sex has lost its magic power over us, for we have come to know its essential traits in our own psyche.”

The time of the Uranus opposition is exciting because we now have the impetus to make changes necessary for our growth, and can find ourselves inspired to follow our dream. However, our dream is undergoing a revamping by our Neptune square during this midlife experience.

We are faced with a crisis of ideals. During the Neptune square we may feel terribly disillusioned and depressed as we begin to see a gulf between what we once idealized and the reality in our lives, also reflected through our interaction with society. Now is the time we  face whether what we have become matches our ideal self. And, even if it does, we need a new dream to guide us in the second half of our life. What shall it be? This is a time many of us begin to question our religion as well as our spiritual and philosophical beliefs and whether they are still valid. We may feel an absence of meaning, the lack of a sense of purpose, or find ourselves in a state of mourning for the lost dreams of youth. By studying Astrology during this time in my life I experienced an entirely new awareness of the Divine Order of the Universe, God’s creation.

The importance of this journey through uncertainty is that it gives us the ability to connect with a larger spiritual purpose. Formal religion has its place but how many of us drop our spirituality in the collection plate every Sunday and forget about it the rest of the week? Religion is no substitute for spirituality. That sounds suspiciously like something my eldest daughter says, that “school is no place for children”, which is why she home schools. But that’s a decision she made after she had two more children near the time of her midlife crisis.

At this time of our life we have the opportunity to connect with the core of our being more than ever before, to help us make decisions about what we really want to do with the rest of our lives. All these values are activated following closure of the transits, not during the transits themselves. At last we feel free to express our gifts, unhampered by the restrictions of the past. At last we can retrieve our souls from obscurity.

Saturn Returns: Milestones In Your Soul’s Journey

Complaint Department: Line up here! What’s your beef? Oh, you’re having a Saturn transit? You hate Saturn? Many years ago, as a new student of Astrology and the mother of a teenage son I blithely told him one day when he was complaining that he was just having a Saturn transit, which would soon be over. “I hate Saturn!” he said, stomping out of the house.  I know, I know — I’ve mentioned my son before and bragged about him and now I’m saying he wasn’t a perfect teenager. Is there such a thing as a perfect teenager, who doesn’t yell at his mother when she insults him by making light of his suffering? But I was still in my amateur stage of being the mother of a teenager as well as being an amateur in Astrology. I had a lot to learn.

But learning about a thing is, by itself, rather meaningless unless we also understand it in the context of relationships, and I’m speaking also of the acausal relationship we have with the planets which help us to understand ourselves. For instance, in Astrology the planet Saturn represents the principles of limitation but it gets more complicated than that. As we limit ourselves, or else feel we are limited by circumstances, we must refocus our energy on what we wish to give form to. Hence, the finished products or structures in our lives, whether created from material or spiritual sources, have been given form by our own efforts, through hard work, which also focalizes the Saturn principle. In making our choices, we cut out the dead wood to make room for, and give form to, our intentions, and both processes are representative of Saturn.

Our first Saturn Return between the ages of 28 and 30 is one of the most important times in our lives, when transiting Saturn returns to the degree it held in our natal chart when we were born. It’s crucial because we often have a residue of unfinished business and will need to wrap up endings in order to prepare for new beginnings. Especially if we feel we are headed in the wrong direction. If we’ve been trying to reflect someone else’s idea of who we are, it’s time for introspection in order to discover our own needs and become our most authentic selves. But, while we take responsibility for our own lives we also recognize our responsibility to others, both individually and in the larger social order.

My son made friends with Saturn or at least reached a truce, learning and accepting responsibilities early. Quite a few years would go by during which he worked hard to get his education and forge a career as an officer in the Air Force. When he had his first Saturn Return during the years betwee 28 and 30, he married and started a family. Although these are positive, joyful transitions, I have no doubt that at some time he also dealt with the return of wounds from childhood and adolescence that most of us experience at this time, when past circumstances we faced are reawakened. It is as though we’re cleaning out the closet of old disappointments and anxieties in order to make way for a new life. We are on our search for the Holy Grail and are metaphorically reborn.

When we have successfully handled the frustration and pain of growth and change that comes during our first Saturn Return the rest of our lives will be better, and our second Saturn Return at age 58-60 easier. However, if we did not achieve the growth we needed at that time, if we have allowed ourselves to become further entrenched in an inauthentic life, the changes will be harder the second time around.

But it can be done. My first Saturn Return, which thankfully I had not thought about in a long time until now, was very painful, yet at the same time I did not understand what was going on or why I was so depressed. Had I known Astrology at the time, it would’ve helped me to deal with those feelings. However, by the time of my second Saturn Return, I had enough understanding about myself to realize I had to make drastic changes in my life. Although it was still hard, I can assure you the struggle was worthwhile. If you find you are living an inauthentic life even at age sixty, it’s still not too late to change.

Liz Greene, an internationally known Astrologer, says in Saturn: A New Look at the Old Devil that Saturn “is never easy to deal with because his function is that of promoting growth, and it is only frustration and pain which at present are sufficient goads to get a human being moving.”

Saturn has gotten a bad rep as you can see by the title of Liz Greene’s book, but it’s said half in jest because people dread their Saturn times. But Saturn is really a friend, not a foe. He represents our ability not only to deal with reality, but also to take personal responsibility for the structures we build in our lives during this sojourn on planet Earth. Of course, eventually some of those structures become rigid and outlive their usefulness. At which time the transits of other outer planets will reflect a different kind of change, which will also aid us in our continuous struggle to try to achieve the best that is in us.  But that is a different story, for another time.

Spiritual Reality Of Astrology

Spiritual reality underlies our physical world. We are individual manifestations of Spirit in physical form. Like leaves blowing in the wind, loose from their mooring, we appear to be separate, but we are all connected. We are all one. If you find it hard to feel brotherly love for some of Earth’s inhabitants, don’t feel bad. Just remind yourself to pray for their souls. We all come from the same source but some of us have lost our way.

It may seem strange when you first begin to study Astrology, but you’ll find out it represents a greater Truth. By analyzing aspects between planets in our solar system Astrologers can explain things that take place here on planet Earth. Dr. Carl Jung, the psychologist, studied Astrology and sometimes used it in his practice, creating the term synchronicity to describe the alignment of Universal Forces with the life experience of an individual. A birth is the beginning of something new, whether a person, a nation or some other entity. The United States was born on July 4, 1776 because that’s when we declared ourselves to be an independant nation.

By studying the movement of the outer planets as they transit through the astrological signs and form aspects with one another, we can understand the larger patterns of what is going on with the people on Earth. The zodiac consists of 360 degrees, thirty to each of the twelve signs, Aries through Pisces, and the divisions of that circle forms aspects that correspond to the meaning of the number. For instance a square aspect is 360 degrees divided by four to make 90; an opposition aspect is 360 divided by two to make 180; a trine 120, etc. The most important thing about these transits is that as they cycle through the heavens they represent long-term change and turning-points on Earth in matters corresponding to what that planet represents.

The word “cycle” is relevant. All cycles begin with a conjunction of two planets, i.e. at the same degree in the zodiac, and as the faster planet moves away from the slower planet a new planetary cycle begins. With the outer planets this means something new is happening on planet Earth. As the planets continue to cycle they create later aspects that show turning points or crises in the evolution of what began at the conjunction. Some cycles last for hundreds of years, the shortest cycle in the large social realm being the twenty-year cycle between Saturn and Jupiter.

Strangely enough, their conjunction in the year 1840 began a pattern that lasted 120 years, of every United States President elected in a zero year dying in office.* The first one was William Harrison, elected in 1840, who died of pneumonia; after that were Lincoln 1860; Garfield 1880; and McKinley 1900, all three assassinated. Elected in 1920 was Harding, who died of a heart attack and in 1940 Roosevelt, who died of a stroke. Then in 1960 Kennedy was elected and later assassinated, raising the total to four who were assassinated. Up until 1840 not a single US President elected in a zero year had died while in office. The fact that Jupiter and Saturn were beginning a new cycle in all of the zero years tells us synchronicity was at work. Simplistically, Jupiter represents the king or leader and Saturn the grim reaper.

On the other hand, instead of the 20 year cycle, often referred to as “Tecumseh’s Curse” we have another odd incidence of three presidents, Adams, Jefferson and Monroe, all dying on the fourth of July, two — Adams and Jefferson, dying on the same day in the same year. The presidency did not exist in 1780, but John Adams had occupied the office during the first zero year of 1800. Thomas Jefferson was his Vice President, succeeding Adams as President a year later, and Adams and Jefferson both died on the same day, the Fourth of July, 1826. James Monroe, who had been elected in 1820 also died on the Fourth of July, 1831, five years after Jefferson and Adams. 

Add an odd postscript: Adams had retired to his farm and penned elaborate letters to Jefferson. On July 4, 1826, he whispered his last words. “Thomas Jefferson survives.” But Jefferson had died at Monticello a few hours earlier.

Astrologers feared Reagan also would die in office and he nearly did from an attempted assassination on March 30, 1981 (Hinkley’s bullet missed Reagan’s heart by just one inch). Some believe that Reagan was spared assassination because the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction in 1980 was a special one in that it was also a Grand Mutation – when the conjunction switches to air signs. All the previous conjunctions involved earth signs. We might also add that Nancy was consulting an Astrologer daily about his movements while they were in the White House – whether that actually kept him safe, I don’t know.

As for George W. Bush, the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction in 2000 was unique in that both the earth and air signs were involved. So far, the closest Bush has come to death was on January 14, 2002, when he fainted after choking while eating a pretzel. Of course his term is nearly over and we pray that no harm will come to him.

For the past while, a series of aspects between the planets corresponding to what Astrologers call irrational degrees has been occurring, creating an opening between worlds, allowing alternate realities to disrupt our lives. Disruptive because they’re early precursors of accelerated changes that we know are coming although Astrologers cannot predict the outcome. On a personal level, when the forces of change seem to be trying to sweep us into deep waters, it is time to eliminate non-essentials from our lives, ridding ourselves of the poisons we’ve let creep into our bodies and minds, which have been steering us away from our inner truth and enlightenment. An activity that would help us to do this is chanting or singing, even if only in our minds, the simple words of a song written by Hal David and set to music by Burt Bacharach. “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, not just for some but for everyone.” 

This is the message the Universe is trying to send us.  Because we have free will, it is up to us how we respond.  But we also know there are two sides to everything – will we respond by loving our fellow man and trying to do what’s best for the entire world, or will we grab all the glitter we can hold and run?  Either way is synchronistic, but we must make the better choice.

If we can hold onto the best that is in us, if we can banish hatefulness and intolerance from our lives, we can claim the positive side of the coming world changes.

*Only one other president has died while in office, so the total for those dying in office who were also elected in a zero year is seven out of eight. The exception, Zachary Taylor, was elected in 1849 and died on July 9, 1850 of gastroenteritis. He was stricken on July 4th, after attending various Independence Day ceremonies. That evening he began having abdominal cramps which steadily worsened. Like virtually all Presidents, there were many people who might have wished Taylor dead. Because of theories that Taylor might have been poisoned, most likely by strychnine, his body was exhumed on June 17, 1991. With permission of descendants, samples of it were analyzed. Some arsenic was found, but in quantities said to be too small to cause harm. This has not satisfied some commentators, who find flaws in the testing methods.

Let’s Accentuate the Positive

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is,” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” — A. A. Milne

I once had a friend who called me every evening to complain about her boyfriend who had left her, her boss who had fired her, her other “friends”, her co-workers, her neighbors, her ex-boyfriend’s dog and Dr. Phil’s threats to drag someone off the sidelines and into the fray of life.

At first I was compassionate, kind, and understanding — we all go through bad times and she had sided with me through one of mine. I tried to cheer her up, get her to see the positive side of things. Thank goodness this horrible boyfriend was out of her life. Yes, her ex-boss was obviously dragging the company down and it would serve him right if the company went bankrupt without her. No, I didn’t think it was right for the boyfriend to let the dog sleep between them. I thought of Winston then, who sleeps with me. On the other side, perhaps, I said, but not in the middle. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

Not only did she call me every night but if I was online she IM-ed me, even if she had just talked to me for two hours. I finally blocked her so she couldn’t see when I was online. A mutual friend, who also received frequent calls from her suggested I do what she did, screen my phone calls. Don’t answer, she said, let it go to voicemail so you can see who it is. But sometimes people hung up without leaving a message and I would stew about it, wondering whose call I had missed. When another friend told me she had called earlier I said why didn’t you leave a message? It wasn’t that important, she said. Next time, I said, leave a message – please?

And, what if it was one of my children or a sibling who had called, needing help, but thought I wasn’t home? Not leaving a message for fear of worrying me. So I told them I was screening my calls–say something so I’ll know it ‘s you.

In the meantime I tried to cheer my friend up. Every time she said something negative, I said something positive. I refused to support her poor me act. I pointed out how gifted she was in so many ways but for some reason she didn’t want to hear that. She became very derisive towards me. Now I was the enemy with my stupid talks about taking a stupid walk in nature and smelling the stupid flowers, when she could buy them at the store and put them in vases in her apartment and smell them all day without doing all that stupid walking. I think her favorite word was stupid. By implication I was also stupid–well, she didn’t exactly say it but her tone of voice did.

One day I finally realized how toxic this person was to me. And also that I had been letting her bully me. After one harrowing conversation I sent her an email. Evidently, I said, the only thing the two of us have in common is we’re the same age. I really could think of nothing else to say, but she got the message and ended our communication.

Thank goodness! By that time I was all talked out, and drained of every compassionate feeling I’d ever had in my life.

But I have this stubborn belief that everything happens for a reason and that I was supposed to learn something from this experience. But what? I was reminded of a book I read years ago about games people play. One game mentioned in the book seemed familiar. In this “game” a person comes to you with a problem and you respond by trying to help him/her solve it. But everything you suggest is shot down by the other person as unworkable (stupid?) until you finally give up. Therefore, in this game, you are the loser, since the person who walks away still has the problem you were unable to solve.

Well, my friend had a plethora of problems, all resulting from a bad attitude, and perhaps like the foregoing she had made me an opponent in her game, but one thing I have learned from this experience is to protect my own boundaries, not allowing them to be encroached upon. I hadn’t realized before that this was a weakness of mine.

I’m reminded of the words of Carl Jung. The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.

Once I understood what the lesson was, I knew what to do, so I worked first on shoring up my walls before I lowered my drawbridge. Perhaps my former friend will cultivate a more positive attitude towards life, and perhaps one day we will even meet again. If so, I hope that she will respect my boundaries, but if not, I will be certain to keep them intact.