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In the second section of this book, `The Planetary Cycles of Your Life', beginning on page 21, I have set out the Universal Cycles, Planet by Planet, from the Cycle of Jupiter to that of Pluto, in chronological order. First of all, though, we look at that moment when all cycles begin your birth, and the significant manner in which all the Planetary Cycles unfold from that point in time.
As I described in the Introduction, at the moment of your birth the Sun, Moon and all the Planets are positioned and seen to be in various parts of the sky relative to the Earth and your birth place. We also saw that the diagrammatic image of this is called your Birth Chart, and that the Sun, Moon and Planets will all be placed in Zodiacal Signs. Nearly everyone knows their Sun Sign, the Sign their Sun is placed in at birth, your Birth Sign, but your Moon and all your Planets also have a `Birth Sign'.
Starting from their positions in your Birth Chart then, the Planets proceed along their courses as seen from the Earth, our point of view. Each Planet has a journey or cycle of its own, from the year that the Sun takes to the epic 248-year voyage of Pluto.
The Divine Playwright
`All the world's a stage' as Shakespeare so aptly put it, and we can liken the Planets in your Birth Chart to the players that perform that production called Your Life. The author of this play that is your life has some idea or vision of what the play is going to be about: its plot, what point it's going to make, the effect it will have upon theaudience, etc. And as every playwright knows, the storyline is ultimately created by the characters in that play. Or as astrologers simply say, `Character is destiny'.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar
from `Intimations of Immortality' from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth
The author, who is whatever you regard as having created you in the first place, gives all these characters, the Planets, a role each to play. The astrological image of each individual role unfolding is symbolized by each Planet's own particular nature and Cycle.
However, there is a subtle distinction between the Player and the Planet. At birth they are, or appear to be, one and the same much as the cast of a play states that so-and-so will be playing the part of such-and-such and ideally a really good actor becomes the very part he or she is playing. The actor will even `flesh out' the part and develop it even more than the author had in mind. In other words, the individual lives up to their potential.
On the other hand, the actor might not live up to the part they're playing. So at certain times the writer/director has to step forward and say, in so many words, `Hey, that's not the part you are supposed to be playing' telling the actor that they are not doing credit to the part, or conversely, that they are over-acting or ad-libbing too much. In astrological terms, this is precisely when a particular Planet arrives at a significant point in its Cycle, and asserts the need for a `Course Correction'. Then again, there will also be times when the production is going well enjoying a `good run', as they say. Underlying all of this, remember, is the notion that every character has an energy and life of its own as well, thereby continually influencing, like the Planet, the overall plot of your life, that is.
The Nature of Planetary Cycles
So what are the `significant points' in a Planet's Cycle when a `Course Correction' occurs or when there is a `good run'?
The Course Corrections
The four most significant points of any Planet's cycle are when it reaches the quarter-way point (called the Waxing Square, which is at right angles to where it started), the half-way point (called the Opposition, directly opposite where it began), the three-quarter way point (the Waning Square, again at right angles to where it started), and finally, and most significant of all, when it arrives back to the position in the Zodiac it was at the time of birth (called the Conjunction or Return). A simple and very visible example of this four-part cycle is the phases of the Moon: New = (Conjunction to the Sun); First Quarter or Half Moon (right angles to the Sun) = Waxing Square; Full Moon = Opposition (to the Sun); Last Quarter or Half Moon (right angles to the Sun) = Waning Square; then Return to New and another Cycle.
Not all Planets will complete their Cycle in a lifetime, and Neptune and Pluto cannot ever do so because they take 165 years and 248 years respectively. One of the most important Planetary Cycles of all is that of Saturn, which is 291/2 years long. This means that during its first orbit or cycle its Waxing Square occurs at around seven years of age, its Opposition at 14 to 15 years, its Waning Square at around 21 to 22, and its Conjunction or Return at 291/2 years at which time it then begins its second cycle. You can see from Saturn's Cycle where the idea of the `seven-year itch' came from, and also the well-known significance of the times of the Opposition (onset of adolescence) and the Waning Square (traditionally, coming of age). The Saturn Return itself is not so well-known but it ought to be! More will be described later about all these Saturnian influences, but for the time being ask yourself (if you're old enough) what happened, ended or began, on or around your 30th year. Also, keep this age in mind whenever you read or hear the news, and you will notice that this age (29 to 30 and the Second Saturn Return at 58 to 59) will crop up time and again regarding people going through some critical phase, either in a positive or negative sense.
It is also important to realize that Course Corrections are not always `bad' in the sense that there is something dire happening. If you have been `playing your part well' and living up to your potential, then you can find yourself being rewarded, going up in the world, learning something of value, or anything else which has a positive quality about it. But failing this, Course Corrections will hold you up or even regress you. It's all remarkably similar to the game of `Snakes and Ladders', except that with the aid of astrology and this book you will be prepared and informed to deal with Course Corrections.
Throughout this book, to help you see how powerful any Planetary influence is, I have given them one of three ratings, denoted by various shadings:
MAJOR MEDIUM MILD
Course Corrections are always of a Major or Medium influence.
With regard to these Course Corrections, it is important to emphasize, in this scientifically-led age of ours, that these four points are quite `real' and not just astrological notions. It is connected with electro-magnetic and resonant fields, and if you wish to know more about this I refer you to Dr Percy Seymour's book Astrology: The Evidence of Science.
The Good Runs
There are two other significant points in a Planet's Cycle, but they are nowhere near as dynamic or crucial as the above Course Corrections, which is why their influence is classified as Mild. They are more flowing and harmonious in quality, and open the way but neither push you down it nor block it. The first one is when a Planet reaches a third of the way through its Cycle (called the Waxing Trine) and the second when it gets two-thirds of the way through its Cycle (called the Waning Trine). It could also be said that the Return is a Good Run, as well as a Course Correction, but as you will see later, the nature of being human usually means that we go off-course more often than not! Taking the first Cycle of Saturn again as our example (0-291/2 years), it would reach its first Waxing Trine at around 10 years, and arrive at its first Waning Trine at around 19 years. By and large, you can get the best out of Trines when you use them consciously, which is why when you look back at times of Trines they often do not seem to have been especially `good'. Another reason why they may not have felt particularly positive is because some more difficult part of the Universal or Individual Cycle of another Planet could also have been prevailing, which would have been even harder without that Trine occurring simultaneously. In any event, I will be showing you how to get the most out of Trines, turn them into Medium or even Major influences, and into the advantages they potentially are.
Sometimes you will find you are experiencing the influence of one Planet that contradicts the influence of another. When two influences are simply `one helpful' and `one challenging' then it is quite evident how one serves the other. However, sometimes you might have one influence saying `do this' and another saying `do the other'. I have tried to cater for this as much as possible, but in some cases it is part and parcel of going through a difficult patch. Conflicting influences are more likely between the influences of Jupiter and the Moon because they are continuous. For example, Jupiter might be saying `let it be' while the Moon could be saying `take decisive action'. So a possible response to this would be to take that decisive action and then allow matters to develop from there, without any further action until it was deemed necessary.
Timing your Cycles
Although Universal Planetary Cycles are regular and their significant points mostly occur at the same ages for everyone, there are some variations owing to what is called Retrograde Motion. Retrograde Motion is when a Planet appears to travel backwards for a while. This illusion is created by our living on a planet that is also moving in its own cycle somewhat similar to two trains leaving a station at different speeds, so that to a passenger in the faster one the slower one seems to be going backwards.
With the Cycles of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, these variations can be considerable, especially with Pluto as it has a very irregular orbit anyway. So there are some simple Tables (page 289), which I will refer you to every so often, that tell you at what time in your life you will personally experience the influence of any one of these three Outer Planets', depending on your month and year of birth. During your Saturn Cycle you may find that some Transits or influences occur some months, even a year, before or after the age given but not both. With the Progressed Moon and Jupiter we do not have this problem because the Moon does not have Retrograde Motion as it goes straight around the Earth, whereas with Jupiter we are using the Jupiter `Years', the meaning of which is explained on page 23. However, the Moon does have fluctuations in its cycle, so the influences of her `Phases' can begin some weeks before or after the age given.
Your Birth is a Microcosm of Your Life
From the above, it could be understood that it is the more difficult and pressuresome Planetary influences that are most noticeable, and that easy passages are only there if you are aware of them. Most of us would agree, if we are being absolutely honest, that life is difficult much of the time and the natural world certainly reflects this fight for survival. But it also has to be said that it is through attuning oneself to ongoing Planetary Cycles and influences that one is able to `feel the force' more and more and get in flow with the greater current of one's own life and of life as a whole.
It is as if we come to this world to prove or manifest something, and, at birth, the first thing we prove is our right to exist, and the first thing we manifest is a separate physical body. Birth is a painful and anxious process, yet it can of course also be joyful and exhilarating. This is why a Birth Chart is the most significant entity in astrology. At that moment is registered the joy and the pain of the life to be, and in effect every day is a `birth' as we yet again emerge into the world from out of the `sleep and forgetting' of our night's rest. Insomnia, by the way, is often caused by that anxiety about being `born'.
Furthermore, the actual nature of our birth itself can be seen to encapsulate the nature of our life to come. An extreme example of this was of a client of mine who was always very afraid of not surviving, and had lived for 66 years `in the shadow of death'. On studying her Birth Chart, I saw that doom-laden Pluto had been cast in the role of making the first appearance upon the stage of her life. Upon this (and what it might mean) being pointed out, she at last `remembered' that she had been born almost dead with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck! Interestingly, at the time of her consulting me, Pluto itself was Trining that Pluto (see page 231) in her Birth Chart; Trines often iron out or clarify problems associated with the Planet in question.
So if you investigate and look into the details of your own birth, you will see how much it has affected your life as a whole. And as the Planetary Cycles unfold, you will see how, like a bud blossoms into a flower, you can bloom into what you potentially are, stage by stage. Furthermore, your life in your mother's womb that is, what was happening to you as an embryo or in your parents' lives at that time is also full of clues about the life to come. And again, the widespread complaint of chronic insomnia can be indicative of anxieties felt by your parents during gestation, or possibly because of some deeper karmic reason. It is as if the embryo picks this up and interprets it as life ahead being fraught with difficulties. Another example of womb-life that comes to mind is a client who was beset with inexplicable feelings of guilt. Upon inquiring into what was happening while in the womb, he discovered that he was one of twins, his younger brother being born dead. His parents were told by the doctor who delivered him that it was as if he had `taken all the sustenance and left none for his brother'. (See also `First Emerging Moon Phase' on page 49 for more about your birth's effect on your life to come.)
No One Player Makes a Whole Play; No One Planet Makes a Whole Life
Last but by no means least, it is important to see that any one Planetary Cycle is not happening on its own, but in concert with all the others, be it concurrently or consecutively. This is particularly true with regard to what Moon `Phase' you are going through, and also with regard to the combination of Jupiter's and Saturn's Cycles. These two form a pair in that Jupiter is Growth and Saturn is Status the one developing and the other maintaining a bit like director and producer. So whatever Saturn, or for that matter any other Planet, is doing, look to the year in your Jupiter Cycle that you are currently in, for this will show you what positive and expansive principle of Growth and Understanding, what `Growth Mode', is occurring at that time (see page 25). There is also further information on what I call the Jupiter-Saturn balance of power on page 265.
All of this has given you some idea of how the `cast of characters', the Planets, play and interplay on the stage of your life, but we now need to examine the Play itself.
The `Story' of Your Life
After some time studying and using astrology, it becomes evident that this wonderful tool for looking at life is asking you a singularly important question: what is the actual nature of this thing called `life' that you are looking at from an astrological viewpoint? More particularly it asks: what is the basic nature and purpose of this creature, the human being, who is living this `life', where did it come from, and where is it going?
In order to answer these questions in a way that is generally appreciable and useable, and not merely some scientific theory or abstract philosophy, I have found that it is best put in the form of a metaphor for life.
In the last chapter we saw how we can view human life as in Jaques' metaphor in As You Like It by Shakespeare that `All the world's a stage' and apply it to the meaning of the Planets, firstly as they symbolize the various parts of your personality, and subsequently as the various ongoing influences throughout your life. However, this metaphor only takes us so far, merely describing the journey in terms of the cast of characters and the fortunes of a theatrical production, rather than in terms of the `Play' or `Story' itself. So it is here we introduce the second metaphor, that also serves as a title for this Play.
A Voyage Home Via The Unknown
We can now view the Planets in terms of the main features of the story that is Life. At the start of each of the chapters on the individual Planets in the second part of this book, entitled `The Planetary Cycles of Your Life', these features will be explored more in the context of you and your own individual life. But as you will see, the individual's life and Life itself are ultimately one and the same.
This is the Joy of the Journey itself. Jupiter is the meaning and experience of travelling, and as such it says `Life is what you make it!'. Jupiter tells you how to enjoy life, how to grow and profit from it. It is also the Way or Path that you are travelling along, which suggests that there is some Philosophy, Belief or Law to go by. By the same token, because the `stone' you are standing on is ultimately connected to all the `stones' ahead and behind (like the Yellow Brick Road), this way contains a Prophecy of what is to come. Jupiter is the Prophet. And here's a little Word Magic `journey' is an anagram of `joy' and `rune', a rune being one of a number of stones or bones used to shed light on what is happening and where events are leading.
Jupiter's ongoing influence, as described on page 25, therefore tells you how to maintain a feeling that you are going somewhere, that there is a meaning to your life, that each stage of the journey is rewarding and encouraging according to the nature of that stage.
This is the Traveller on his or her way Home, with all the feelings and memories associated with where you have come from, and the needs, fears and longings relating to where you are bound which in fact have more to do with your past. The Moon therefore suggests that you left Home once upon a time, and are either still outward bound, or are on what is called your `Return Path'. All this begs the question of what the word `Home' means to you. It could be your family home, your place of birth, whatever you regard as a place of safety, where you go to after being out or at work, or the place and people you care about and care about you. Then again, it may be something more abstract or imaginary, like somewhere you long to be and which is definitely not where you are right now, or conversely, simply feeling at home with yourself. Viewed more spiritually, it could be the place from whence your Soul originally came. Your Soul on its Journey then got lost, went astray, until at last it had a strong feeling possibly through meeting someone you felt you already knew that there is a Way Home, and that you have to find it. Perhaps this is another meaning of the expression `Home is where your heart is'.
Whatever the case, the ongoing influence of the Moon carries for you the feelings of being `near or far from home' at certain points along your way. With her `Phases', like waves, bearing you back and forth with their ebb and flow, such emotions can therefore mean anything from feeling you are genuinely where you belong, to feeling you are having an identity crisis; from feeling safe and secure with whatever or whoever is family to you, to feeling that those same places and people do not really know or have much to do with the real you, and are holding you back.
At some point on your Lunar Voyage you may realize that Home for you is something other than what you had been led to believe, that Home is a feeling inside you which has its origins in the deepest and darkest recesses of your Soul. It is at this point that you would begin to take that Return Path, that path which would have you realize that everyone and everything in your life was entirely a reflection of your own story so far. So, at such a point, you have progressively to take responsibility for your Soul's state, which includes making any necessary `repairs' to it and taking stock of how others have been affected by it, and are a reflection of it, for good or ill. The Moon governs both memory and mirrors, and the Return Path is ultimately where astrology will lead you. It is the travelling of the Return Path that blesses your Soul, simply because you have remembered, or are in the process of remembering, who you truly are. Your Lunar Cycle serves to remind you of where you emotionally stand through putting you in touch with where you came from, familiarizing you with what `Phase' you are going through, and beckoning you ever on towards your Home.
This is Ground Control. Saturn can mean the `real world' in the sense of seeing life as being only what it physically appears to be. As such, we are controlled by the conditions of the status quo, and limited by what we see ourselves to be in the physical, financial or political circumstances in which we find ourselves. Alternatively or eventually it can come to mean a place where you have established yourself firmly enough in order to use it as a `base camp' from which to explore beyond the `known', `conventional' or `normal' world and discover a life and reality that is exciting, new and different. However, Saturn still has the `control' because it is that `consensus reality' which virtually everyone agrees on as being that `real world'. This means to say that whatever new ideas or inventions you might get or be given, they have to conform to what is currently regarded as practical and acceptable. For example, no-one would have wanted a can opener before cans were invented, would they? The same rule would apply to your emotional condition. Although the `real world' allows you a certain amount of privacy to be what you want to be, there can come a point where one has to measure up and grow up. Saturn is the adult world in that childish emotions are not tolerated for long unless you actually are a child and maybe not even then, it would seem. Saturn is the `hard, cold, cruel world' into which our little Lunar selves are thrown. Indeed, the restrictive and `only what you can touch and see is real' side of Saturnian reality is the only reality for some, or arguably most, people.
So, Saturn is Ground Control, either in the sense of being the material conditions and conventions that limit and control our lives, but to a certain extent maintain our stability, or in the sense of having one's feet planted firmly enough on the ground to be able to take a step beyond, into the Unknown, that which will one day be the `real world'. In both cases, however, it is a place of learning. Also, there are many shades between these two extremes, one being the person who is firmly established in the `real world' but is sick or bored with it, yet still finds it hard to get out of it because it is the `devil they know' (Saturn = Satan).
This is the Rocket Ship that launches and carries you into the Unknown, beyond the emotional constraints of the Moon and the physical limitations of Saturn. Uranus first `ignites' itself in your life whenever you initially feel that there is `something else' beyond what the Lunar/Saturnian world is presenting you with. Usually, such a feeling is characterized by a sense of restlessness, alienation and/or rebelliousness all of which are symptomatic of one thing: the desire to liberate yourself from whatever appears to be holding you down or back. Restlessness is basically a feeling that there is something you ought to know or be doing and feeling the cosmic itch. Feeling alienated is more likely to be a negative state because by its very nature it precludes support for one's unusual ideas or feelings from others (like friends or teachers). As such, your Uranian `thrust' can become inverted that is, neurotic or even present itself as some complaint like stuttering, hyperactivity, epilepsy or autism. Hopefully, such an `abort mission' will get a second chance later on in life. When rebelliousness characterizes your sense of Uranian thrust, you probably have the inherent will, intelligence and sense of your own uniqueness that will find a `launch window'. Then again it could launch you `outside' rather than into the beyond meaning you become an outsider and possibly an outlaw, rather than actually being free to be yourself and free from what is truly imprisoning you. Although there exist true liberators who fight for the rights of anything from humans to trees, from children to animals, all too often rebels are more Lunar than Uranian in that they are hurt innocents rather than behaving as genuine socio-political activists. In a large number of cases, Uranian thrust only shows itself momentarily in the growing being, for they swiftly revert to being one of the safe and conventional mass the silent majority. Yet again, later in life under the influence of Uranus itself they might again try to relaunch themselves, to rediscover their specialness and freedom. When all is said and done, Uranus makes you aware by taking you unawares, for shock or surprise are the heralds of change. And change is, after all, what Uranus is all about. However, you will still need to be in touch with Ground Control, that practical sense needed for the `real world'.
Whenever you do consciously lift off from your launch-pad of the Known, Uranus takes you up to a viewpoint from which you can see life on Earth from a different perspective. It does this through such means as technology, psychology, astrology, mythology, or any `ology' which streamlines, elevates or revolutionizes your way of seeing and being.
Sooner or later everyone has to encounter the Unknown, whether they do so deliberately or accidentally. You then find out that the Unknown is something which is simply not yet known, the future in the making, the invention waiting to be invented, the `you' waiting to be awakened, the truth waiting to be found, the realm waiting to be explored, the emotions needing to be liberated, a right waiting to be asserted, or anything that sets you or others free.
The Sea of Mystery. If we view the story so far in a global context, with a little imagination we can begin to appreciate that between the various expressions and interpretations of Jupiter, Moon, Saturn and Uranus an awful lot of problems and differences have arisen. For example, the Way of Jupiter could have got set down by one group of people as a system of Laws and Beliefs that intruded upon the Lunar security and customs of another group. With such different Saturnian realities and conventions, they then build a wall between each other. Through time, this pattern then gets repeated by other groups everywhere until we have a lot of groups who don't see eye to eye, giving rise to war and strife, not to mention a `have and have not' situation which ultimately threatens the stability of the whole planet. To add to the instability, there would then be Uranian uprisings in certain groups in support of certain `visionaries' or other groups as a result of them feeling trapped by their own respective Saturnian systems.
The story so far is that of Humanity, and as an individual you cannot easily exclude yourself from it and all the misinformation and disinformation that has been generated by it. This is the negative side of the Neptunian Sea of Mystery (or Sea Mist, more like) which has been called the Grand Illusion. It is called this because we are all infected, to one degree or another, with someone else's similarly confused version of what is going on. This is mostly a case of the blind leading the blind.
When you are still dwelling exclusively in the realms of Lunar racial and familial security, or of Saturnian conventionality and governmental system, then the Grand Illusion is not that clearly perceived, simply because you're in it! When, however, you have lifted off in your Uranian Rocket Ship, you see the whole scene with an increasingly clearer eye. Although Uranian blows for freedom usually start out as something entirely selfish or unconscious, in the end such a desire for truth and liberation is in aid of piercing the veil of that Grand Illusion, or dispelling that Sea Mist, so that the One People that we are can again be seen for the reality it originally was.
As you seek and sail upon the Neptunian Sea of Mystery, you will be pulled this way and that by the swell of political and religious propaganda on the one side, and incoming tide of genuinely spiritual, healing and creative inspiration on the other. After many lifetimes or `days at sea' we will all ultimately `cross over', depart from the Grand Illusion, and return to the `Heaven which is our Home' (Wordsworth). In addition to all of this, there is another dimension to your Journey that cannot be avoided, for it is the call of ...
Your Destiny. Someone once said that when you discover where you are really supposed to be, you find that you have been there all along. This is the link between the Moon and Pluto, between your Soul and your Destiny. What calls from your personal unconscious as a subjective longing for getting back Home is really a call to discover the ultimate reason for your being in existence at all. And remember, the ultimate reason for your being is to get back Home again.
The important point is that in taking this circular journey we become a better and better expression of Life itself, a Voice in the Wilderness, a Light in the Darkness, a Contrail of Significance. And when we have completed one round, we do it again, but at a deeper level, taking us one layer nearer towards the nucleus of our being. Pursuing your Destiny is like burrowing into your own centre, wherein dwells the most condensed and convinced you. But this journey through Pluto's Underworld can be gloomy, doomy and scary, as it purges you of superficial or lesser thoughts and feelings. To become more concentrated, you have to concentrate upon what are your deepest feelings and convictions, via your passions and obsessions.
So Pluto is Destiny in the sense of a compulsion to unite, or reunite, with whomever or whatever is genuinely one's own. Ultimately, after many, many rounds, we will all realize and feel we belong to the One Core, which means One Heart, in the same way that the Earth upon which we live has only one core, one heart.