of an Eighty-Four-Year Life Cycle




The Whole Cycle - Radio 1:1
Figure 1


Astrological symbolism understands a whole life cycle as consisting of seven-year passages through each of 12 "houses" or "signs." This time span corresponds to the 84-year cycle of the planet Uranus which bears the name of the Greek god of the sky. Since Uranus visits each of the zodiac's 12 "houses" for seven years, his circuit of the heavens takes 84 years. But even before this planet's late eighteenth century discovery, ancient astrologers knew 7 times 12 as the timeframe for passage through the twelve facets of human experience, and by which alteration of life energies a person is periodically renewed.




The Half Cycle - 1:2 Ratio & Quarter Cycle - 1:4 Ratio
Figure 2


When  Uranus' 84-year cycle is divided in two, the mid-life point falls at 42. When life's mid-point is reached the energies Uranus embodies become disruptive of whatever status quo a person, out of fear of change, may have settled into. As can be read in the cycle's downward descending line (Figure 2), the passage is from the above-the-line curve of feeling in conscious control of life to experiencing unconscious pulls from unfamiliar or fear-laden  territories.

A quarter or ratio 1:4 cycle is a sub-harmony of Uranus' disruptive energies and is considered relevant to mental activity. The energy symbolized  is sometimes associated with earthquakes and is substantiated by dreams in which to the ground on which one is standing is being shaken. In other words, an earthquake dream may portend the shakeup of one's ingrained or underlying attitudes, or one's unexamined assumptions--the solid ground on which one has been standing.

Aside from the proverbial mid-life crisis, other times that call for a re-examination of values may come around ages 21 and 63, and mark the high and the low points of the mental characteristics of this cycle. At 21 the vantage point is from a high, wide-open perspective of life's many possibilities; but by 63 the mind is contemplating the advantages of narrowing its vista in order to experience what has been missing or out of balance in one's life.

The ancient Hebrews had an interesting astrological perspective based on the 20-year conjunctions of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. Rabbi Joel Dobin (Astrological Secrets of the Hebrew Sages, Inner Traditions, NY, 1977, p 33) explains that since Saturn was such a slow moving planet and the farthest visible, it was considered to be the Divine Messenger:

. . . since the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction was a 20-year occurrence, the idea developed that God passed on the message of His Divine Will at every Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. Jupiter then passed the message on to every planet in the Heavens during the year following the conjunction. Since the planets sunward of Jupiter make at least one conjunction with Jupiter each year . . . the astrological rationale for the necessity of reaching the age of 20 to be counted as a responsible member of the community was that at least one Jupiter-Saturn conjunction would have to have occurred before the twentieth birthday--and the young man could know God's will for him by consulting his astrologer.




The Triple Cycle - Ratio 1:3
Figure 3




In spiritual direction or life-cycle discernment processes, the ratio 1:3 cycle is helpful in honing in on the nature of a crisis or passage. If a person is able to identify the nature of a crisis, this can help clarify the choices being presented--where the journey toward wholeness is beckoning them to come. The same is true in working with the labyrinth as a tool for spiritual growth. In astrological symbolism, the three stages into which this cycle divides the whole of life coincides with both the moon's and Saturn's returns to their approximate birth position every 28 years. Moreover, these "returns" appear more emotionally than mentally or physically relevant. This seems particularly true of the lunation cycle, while the symbolism of Saturn is more suggestive of a sense of loss, even grief, over the passage of time and the fear that life on some level is passing a person by. Although these "returns" are approximated at 28, 56 and 84, the actual timing is more or less 28 to 30; 56 to 59; and 84 to the end of a life. And of course all cycles archetypally understood are only more or less applicable to particular lives or times. Crises of independence, identity, meaning, purpose or limitation can come at any age under unusual circumstances. Nevertheless, in the natural flow of a life the first half is one in which it is appropriate to build structures that strengthen the ego, and the second half a time to tear them down. Because of this Jung considered analysis and individuation processes best undertaken during the second half of life. Life cycles, then, are to be understood as approximations, but nonetheless a place to begin that often does lead to fruitful insights and that can enable new life-transforming choices.

Still another significance of the triple cycle and Saturn symbolism, is the demand periodically made to learn from and resolve the lessons and experiences of life. Here the nature of spiral progression applies, (and will be expanded on in Praticum II). If, say, the first stage of a life ends with unresolved issues or unhealed hurts, there is a good chance that at the same approximate place on the next spiral up similar limitations, patterns or emotions will again be experienced. Not that the connection will be obvious, because the circumstances will be different, but the clue will be in the feelings. One may say, "It feels like I've been here before." When this happens an understanding of cyclic spiral progression can become a shortcut to the kind of insight that heals, transforms and frees one from the pain of life's hurts. 





Life Cycle Ratio 1:6
Figure 4


When the full life cycle is divided according to a ratio of 1:6, the pattern reveals seven crises or initiations that occur every 14 or so years. These transitional crises are the means by which a person is initiated into the next stage of life:

The initial Crisis of Birth
The Crisis of Independence at 14
The Crisis of Identity or Individuality at 28
The Crisis of Personal Meaning at 42
The Crisis of Larger or Transcendent Purpose at 56
The Crisis of Physical Limitation at 70
The final acceptance of one's Mortality or the Crisis of Death

Each of the above represents a passage or an initiation that requires an acceptance of the next stage of life. Each is a time for the re-evaluation of life choices and for agreeing to the transformations that will allow one's life to continue on its path towards wholeness, or one's Return to the Whole (which is the title under which some of my writings on symbolism, spirituality and Jungian psychology appear.)

When life is viewed as three consecutive 28-year ascending spirals, the furthest "extension" of the cycle is at 14, at which point the movement turns around and heads back. Thus at somewhere around 14, 42 and 70 the mid-points of each of life's three stages are reached. These approximate the crises of adolescence, midlife, and the realization of the waning of life's physical energies and capacities. When the numbers 14, 42 and 70 are placed on the pattern of the labyrinth, (see Praticum II,) they fall at the center, bearing out that they truly are the "U-turn" places of life. The midpoint of any cycle signifies that its direction has moved as far as it can go from the cycle's beginning. Symbolically, these points correspond to the fullness of the moon and the beginning of its waning phase. The light having waxed to its utmost, now turns and begins to wane. Archaic peoples understood this as the way of all life. Their sense of selfhood was not individualistic as is our Western orientation. Their sense of identity, meaning and purpose was their connection to the cosmos. They understood all life as returning to the Source. To them this did not mean oblivion but the continuity and rebirth of their lives in a new cycle. Western peoples, having transferred their allegiance from the God of the cosmos to the God of history, consider themselves to have advanced from primitive cultures. But having done so, they now suffer the existential fear and angst that with the end of history--theirs or their civilization's--they will cease to exist.



Life Cycle Ratio 1:1 through 1:12
Figure 5


Life, according to the harmonies of 7 and 12, progresses cyclically and spirally. It moves both forward and upward through the seven above described crises or initiations. As can be seen in Figure 5 above, at 42 sub-cycles 1:2, 1:3 and 1:6, all converge. Another visually informing coincidence of lines is at 56. Here the same three feeling-related sub-harmonies all appear to be emerging from their troughs to ascend from below to above the line in unison. This trough to crest ascent in consciousness often, but not always, coincides with ages 52 to 59. If and when it is successfully completed it leads to a new, transpersonal perspective on life--that of the Self. Psychologically understood, it is the ego's displacement by the Self as the new center of the total person. It is also the passage classical mysticism describes as the dark night of the soul. But its fruit is the rebirth of spiritual vision by which one sees the larger purpose of life and by which a person is re-energized to serve Life. Jung, in emerging from his death-of-self-will crisis, ever after understood his life as no longer belonging to himself but to the whole of life.


A Way of Journaling with Life Cycles

Life's Seven Major Crises or Turning Points
Figure 6

1. Referring to Figure 6 to the left, list ages 0. 7, 14, etc to 84. Label ages 0, 14, 28, 42, 56, 70 and 84 as "Crisis of Birth," etc.

2. Check in to each 7-year period. It may help to imagine yourself time-traveling back to your birth. Once there in imagination, you might want to initiate your inquiry into this period by asking:

    What family stories do I recall concerning my birth?
    What question would I like to ask of those who were present?
    What feeling tone do I pick up?

    Next make a statement concerning your birth.
    Is there anything or anyone there that strikes you as significant?

3.  Time travel ahead to the next 7-year period. If for any time period you draw a blank, go to the next period, coming back to this one later.

  4.  Record in your Journal any insights that come to you.
     Are you able to detect any patterns?
    Were there any  needs that were not met during the period?
    Did you receive any memorable gifts during this time?
    Were there any persons whose presence brighten your memories of this period?
    Does anyone come to mind to whom you would like to extend forgiveness? Or who wants to ask your forgiveness? If so, engage in a journal dialogue with the person. Nor does it matter whether the person is still in this life or not. As Carlo Suares reminds: We live in a multidimensional universe in which there are no walls of separation.

5. To ease into a dialogue with a life period, Ira Progoff suggests beginning by writing: "It was a time when . . . ." And then write whatever comes to mind.

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