PRACTICUM II

THE TRIPLE SPIRAL JOURNEY

THROUGH THE LABYRINTH OF LIFE
 

 

ON BEING ONCE, TWICE AND THRICE BORN

The concept of life as a triple spiral journey is proposed in the transpersonal astrology of Dane Rudhyar. His theory is that in the development of individual consciousness the archetypal life span of 84 years divides into three sub-cycles of 28 years each.

 . . . these three cycles correspond in a general manner [to] three levels of man's development as a conscious self. At the beginning of each of these cycles man experiences--theoretically--a birth. To the physical birth corresponds thus, at the age of 28, a psycho-mental or "second" birth, and at the age of 56 a spiritual or "third birth. (New Mansions for New Men, Hunter House, 1978, p9)

Rudhyar, considered by many to have been a twentieth century Renaissance person, is credited with reformulating astrology into a systematic symbolism by which cosmic cycles are found to resonate with those of the human psyche and its critical life passages. After pointing out that over the last century the role of religion has increasingly been taken over  by psychology, Rudhyar distinguishes between "normative" psychology and what he calls "metamorphic" psychology. In "normative" psychology "the goal of the treatment and cure is to make the disturbed person 'normal again.'" Listen, however, to what he considers the goal of astro-psychology:

The second type of psychology may be called metamorphic because it considers all crises as--at least potentially--means to induce and produce some kind of inner metamorphosis. Human life is seen, moreover, as absolutely requiring recurring and periodical processes of metamorphoses--thus crises--because without them, the person remains merely "one of the mass," normal perhaps, but patterned after a collective type or culturally accepted mould. To be truly an "individual" is to have emerged from, and risen out of, the collective norm of the society of the day; this emergence can take place only by passing through crises of some sort, through real and basic experiences of metamorphosis. These experiences are usually stressful and painful, and always disturbing; yet they must be welcomed, understood, and assimilated if there is to be real individual maturity . . .(Astrology and the Modern Psyche, CRCS,  1976, p 168)

 
     
 

Three Circuits Through the Labyrinth

Astrology's three births and the numeric structure of the seven-circuit labyrinth harmonize in a remarkable way. Physical birth is from a hereditary background and into a geographical-social environment. But around 28 a new perception begins to emerge of oneself as an individual. It is a time in life when a process may begin of coalescing what can be identified as one's own unique gifts and experiences--even to reexamining life's adversities for their value. The dawning realization is that all has been part of the process by which one's sense of self and individuality is coming together. Rudhyar calls this the second birth onto the psycho-mental level. The awakening that can come at this time, if embraced and pursued, can bring new and attainable goals into focus that will carry through to mid-life, and, in some cases, lessen the intensity of the passage through this second-birth's mid-cycle passage.

Elsewhere ( Practicum I, Figure 6 ) the seven major life transitions are noted: with birth as the first, puberty at around 14 the second; and the crisis of awakening individuality at 28 the third; and from there into the second and third stages of life.

As many can attest, at midlife around 42 a person's frame of reference as an individual and a contributing member of a socio-cultural group normally has reached a level of maturity. From this vantage point, an illusive something may be perceived as missing from life. Perhaps it is a more deeply felt personal meaning to life, a connection that promises greater emotional fulfillment. But at this point the second cycle is only half over. True, the cycle has reached its point of greatest fullness, nevertheless there may be a nagging knowing that from here on the waxing half of one's life is over and the waning half about to begin.

If life is not a continually ascending cycle, and individuality and its ability to achieve is no longer as rewarding as before, then what is? What will re-instill life with meaning? What is the personal meaning of one's life? This may become the big question and seem to call for a major crisis to answer. Nor is it a one-size-fits-all crisis. How it is experienced depends on what is out of balance in a person's life. What is missing? What unrealized potential is wanting--even insisting--on expressing itself? Puberty, also a mid-cycle crisis, had the advantage of a hormonal boost. But it was a physical cycle and the second is more of a psycle with the boost now needed something that will fill life with new meaning and renew one's zest for living. It is a convoluted passage because physical and emotional needs so often are indistinguishable.

Jungian psychology acknowledges the need around this time of life for a woman to establish a relationship with her animus--her inner masculine support system; and for a man to discover his anima as his inner feminine counterpart in order to develop his sensitivity to feminine values. Dante, too, shows the way through midlife's "dark and tangled wood," as first he descends through his personal levels of  hell and then undergoes purgatory's transformations, until finally it is the divinely feminine Beatrice's love that leads him to earthly paradise, the moon and realms beyond where, from heightened awareness, he is able to see the interrelated connection between all of existence. If this can be glimpsed at midlife, a third birth onto a transcendent level of consciousness is more likely to occur. Perhaps, however, it most often comes gradually throughout the final years of life. Concerning the third birth even Rudhyar is cautionary:

This "third birth" is only a potentiality which a very few indeed really experience. Yet the trend it represents is more or less felt by those individuals who, after the years of maturity, face life in a broader and less separative way; who serve their race or their ideals with a wisdom accumulated from the tragic struggles of the period of individualistic focalization. (New Mansions, p10)

 
     

Glyph for Aries
Figure 1

 

FOUR SIGNS / FOUR ELEMENTS
FOUR HOUSES /  FOUR PHASES

When the twelve signs of the zodiac and their respective houses are divided into an 84-year cycle, each covers a period of 7 years. In dividing the full cycle into three 28-year sub-cycles, the movement of each cycle is through four signs/houses/phases. In turn, each sign is associated with one of the four elements. Aries, standing at the vernal equinox, is a fire sign, and the house of the first seven years of life. The second 28 years begins with the fifth house of Leo, also a fire sign, as is the ninth house of Sagittarius which initiates the third and final 28 years. Each of second phases of life's three 28-year cycles is associated with an earth sign, the third phases with air signs, and the fourth phases with water signs.

What do the elements of fire, earth, air and water--in this order--communicate about how a cycle--all cycles--unfold?

With the lunation cycle as a model, the first phase initiates the cycle; the second builds towards its fullness; the third illuminates its meaning; and the fourth recedes back into the seed potential from which the next cycle will unfold. Such is the pattern of the unfolding/refolding phases of all cycles.

Thrust forward by the element of fire, the first phase initiates the cycle. The substantiating element of earth of the second phase builds towards the cycle's fullness. In the third phase, the element of air--the realm of light and consciousness--offers insight into the significance of the cycle. Finally, the fourth-phase dissolving element of water distills the progression of the cycle into the seed pattern from which the next cycle will unfold.

How does this four-phase sequence of a cycle apply to the first 28 years of life?

The fire of Aries is the life force contained within the seed by which life is initiated. Its glyph is the unfurling spiral of the ram's horn (Figure 1), or in the plant kingdom, the unfurling of the fern. The same spiral imprint is on the house of the snail, and also the formation pattern of galaxies. Aries, as the first house, is the impulse by which life is inspirited and animated. It is the infant's first cry that allows air swirls into and fills its lungs as it emerges from its watery womb.

The emergence of the first birth is into an existence as a separate being, but whose survival depends on being nurtured and cared for by others, and whose personality is formed and influenced by those into whose care it is placed as well as the environment of those first seven years. All of these circumstances are formative to the growing child's sense of self and the persona it is adopting in order to survive both physically and emotionally. But there are other factors--soul factors--that come into play as well so that even the adverse circumstances of a life can play a role in the wholeness and fulfillment of individual life purpose.

The sign of the second phase is Taurus, an earth sign, which corresponds to the second seven-year period of life. It is an accelerated time of building and developing physically. During these middle years the child's boundaries are extended to include a larger family, and a still larger identification with religious, racial, social and cultural traditions, but while still contained within the framework of and dependency upon a primary family. The end of the second phase coincides with the fullness of the cycle at around 14 when physical development is close to complete and the crisis of independence looms ahead.

The third phase is in the house of Gemini, an air sign, and significant as an accelerated time of mental growth and development. This phase corresponds to ages 15 to 21 and marks the transition from adolescence to the onset of adulthood, the natural time of preparation for finding and fulfilling one's cultural niche. As the moon's third phase begins at the time of greatest light, so the third phase of life's first cycle is a time for dreaming largely about what one's life can be, and for following where one's interests, abilities and inclinations are leading.

The final or fourth phase of a cycle is its darkening, when the physical, social and mental development that has taken place is ready to meld with the whole of life so far. Cancer, a water sign, is the final phase of this first cycle. Its waters of dissolution are in preparation for the birth of the second stage of life when what has been realized during the first will be enlarged upon. On an intuitive level, Cancer's waters are experienced as a desire for permanent relationship and a home and family of one's own.

 
     
 

How the Labyrinth Overlays the Four Phases of Life's First Cycle

In order to show how the first four signs correspond to a journey in and out of the labyrinth, its structural derivation from the meander patterns needs clarification. Figures 2 and 3 below are repeated from The Murray Creek Labyrinth, Part Two, to show how the 14 angles of a meander pattern, when rotated, become a seven-circuit labyrinth.
 

 
     

 

Figure 2
The 14 turns (angles) of the meander pattern when rotated become the 14 turns to the center of the labyrinth
 



The right axis of the meander pattern (left above) moves clockwise from 0  to 45 to 90
. Then, as shown in the image to the left below, continues to move to a 180 position. The uppermost section of the axis of this same image (left below) then moves in a counterclockwise direction to a 270 position (center below), and finally completes the 360 circle to enclose the center and open the path which leads into the labyrinth.


 
 
 Revolve the meander (top, far left) and you have the seven-circuit labyrinth (lower, far right)
Figure 3

 
       
       
 

 

   
  Figures 4 through 9 below show where the meander's 14 angles fall on the labyrinth and how three complete circuits in and out of the labyrinth correspond to the 84 years of an archetypal life span.
 
 


First Journey IN - Age 0 to 14
From Crisis of Birth
 to Crisis of Independence
Figure 4


First Journey Out - Ages 15 to 28
From the Crisis of Independence
 to Crisis of Individual Identity
 Figure 5

 
     
 

The First In and Out Journey
(corresponding to the first to 28th year of life)

In the first in and out spiral through the labyrinth, the first seven turns correspond to ages 1 to 7 or life's first "house." Note how these years move recursively through the labyrinth's outer rings and by which the formative phase of the cycle is established. With the seventh turn, the fourth or pivotal circle is entered, four always being pivotal in a symbolism based on seven. In moving into the fourth ring, the second house of ages 8 to 14 is entered. The movement is now through the inner rings and towards the cycle's fullness at the center--the 14th turn. The journey out, then, is through the third house or phase of the cycle and corresponds to ages 15 through 21. Again the movement is within the inner rings--these being most closely connected to the fulfillment phases of the cycle. Finally, in the fourth phase, which will bring the cycle to completion, the movement is back out into and through the outer circles--corresponding to ages 22 through 28--the final waning with which the first cycle ends and from which the second will be born..

 
     
 

 

More about the First Journey IN
(Left, Figure 4, above)


When the angles of the meander are transferred to three successive in and out circuits of the labyrinth, on the first journey IN (Figure 4), the entrance corresponds to physical birth. This in itself is the first of seven major life crises, each of which serves life by compelling it to grow or die--either physically, emotionally or spiritually. The crisis of birth is the initiation into physical existence, and many who have worked with their own or others' birth traumas know that this crisis can leave emotional imprints and even cellular memories which later become blocks to wholeness unless cleared or transformed through consciously undertaken inner work.

 

Out of the darkness of the new moon the lunar cycle begins its movement towards fullness, reaching maximum luminosity at around fourteen days. With an infant's first breath, its life separate from its mother's womb begins, the relationship, however, at this point is one of total dependence, but to lessening degrees as the child moves towards the fullness of his or her physical maturity at around fourteen years.
 

In terms of astrology's "houses," the first journey into the labyrinth is through the first two of twelve houses. As can be seen in Figure 4, the first turn into the labyrinth is onto the third circuit. Immediately (turn 1) one is brought in touch with the cross by which the four directions are marked. Initially, the path moves clockwise out and around, negotiating a hairpin turn (2 and 3) onto level two. Here the direction is reversed to counterclockwise as the level two path makes a second hairpin turn (4 and 5) onto level one, and again changes direction to clockwise and leads back the cross (turn 7). Thus the circuit through the three outer circles--corresponding to life's first house--is complete.

 

We are so accustomed to equating existence with solid, physical formthinking in terms of life equating physical existence, and there is also the tendency to think of the first seven years of life as ones by which the child is primarily physically acclimated, yet the design of the labyrinth and the pattern of movement through the first seven circles indicates this is not predominately so. What then is the pattern saying? And here the answer comes from an Eastern concept, but one Western quantum physics is beginning to confirm, and that is built into the pattern of the labyrinth. Not only do we live in a multidimensional universe, not only is consciousness multileveled, but the physical body with which we are so identified is not the only one in which the soul is sheathed.

 

This first quarter of the first 28-year cycle gains its momentum in the outer or sensory circles of exploring and acclimating itself to the world of the five senses. From these explorations of physical reality the young child gains a sense of self from its immediate environment and primary personal contacts.

 

As the first quarter of the cycle moved through the outer rings, the second quarter--corresponding to ages 8 to 14-- moves through the labyrinth's innermost rings, coming first (turn 8) into contact the cross and then curving around what in the Murray Creek Labyrinth is the central Mother Stone, and leaping then to level seven, and back to six, five and into the center at the 14th turn. On the first journey in, the center coincides with the crisis of adolescence when there is a shift in the adolescent's frame of reference from being a dependent child towards being an independent adult. Former cultures marked this transition with rites of initiation, but because our culture offers little to assist this important passage, the crisis it provokes is often a battle of wills between the parent who fears giving up control and the child who is conflicted by a desire for and fear of assuming the responsibilities of independence.

 

If, having passed through the crisis of independence, unresolved conflicts or emotional scars remain, the labyrinth is a good place to bring these into focus, to gain insight as to their nature, and to resolve and release those who may have been involved. And if those others are no longer in this reality, the center of the labyrinth is a good place to call them to mind.. To do so may mean a willingness to both give and receive forgiveness as very often forgiveness works in both directions. If the soul of another has been held back by a need to give or receive forgiveness, our willingness to take the initiative will free ourselves and the other to further our souls' journeys.

 

 

More About the First Journey OUT - Right Above, Figure 4


The First Journey OUT (Figure 4) corresponds to ages 15 to 28, with 28 marking the end of the first of life's three-stages. At this point a full four-phase cycle has been completed. The first quarter phase has been from birth to 7, the second quarter from 8 to 14, the third quarter from 15 to 21 and the fourth quarter from 22 to 28. In overlaying the ages of life onto the labyrinth, the conclusion of this first full cycle comes at 28 and coincides with exiting the labyrinth. Astrology observes this exit point as a person's first "Saturn Return." Saturn (also Chronos or the personification of time) has returned to an approximation of its same place in the sky as at birth. It is therefore said to be in conjunction with one's birth. It is both a cycle completed and a birth, at least in potential, onto a new level of consciousness. At 14 Saturn, having moved to a place in the sky opposite its birth position, is a symbolic reminder of the law of limitation. As opposition implies tension, so life on the physical plane has extended itself to or near its full growth potential. The end of one cycle and the beginning of another is the place of greatest tension. It is where the cycle turns and heads back to a new beginning. When the longest day of the year is reached, the decline of light begins. When the moon reaches its maximum fullness, the waning of its light commences. In the adolescent's attainment of physical maturity and the hormonal changes accompanying this, the tension created is experienced as an impulse towards the next crisis. This typically occurs sometime around twenty-eight, but is of course only more of less so and with  Saturn and the Moon understood as symbolic of regulatory movements that are innate to the psyche itself.

 

As the movement OUT has been both away from one crisis and towards another, so a semblance of independence having been realized, the driving impulse now is towards a personal or individual sense of identity. This at least is so to the degree a person's life follows the natural typical progression. In approaching the crisis of identity the uppermost question may be: What role do I want to play within the context of the society in which I live? And it may not be the one for which a person has spent years in preparation or education. Or perhaps some one-sided development or some unrealized talent or interest has arisen to demand a reexamination of choices previously made. In this case, the question may not be "Who am I?" but "Who also am I?" "What else do I want to do with my life?" If the weight has been on mental development, the demand may be for greater emotional fulfillment. Or if life has been emotionally fulfilling the emptiness may be mental or spiritual. These are questions that surface at the end of the First Journey OUT, and the ones with which the Second Journey IN begins. Of the moon's four phases this period between life stages coincides with the dark, inseminating days just before the waxing of the next cycle commences.

 

 

   
 

The Second In and Out Journey
(Figures 5 and 6 below) 
 

 
  The second 28-year sub-cycle of life follows the same pattern as the first. It contains four phases which correspond to astrology's fifth through eighth houses and to the signs of Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio as fire, earth, air and water signs. Again the first initiating phase moves through the three outer rings until at 35 (7 x 5) the path moves into the fourth or pivotal ring and enters the second phase which again moves through the three innermost rings which lead to the center. The same 14 turns to the center are negotiated, only when the second journey is overlaid the labyrinth the corresponding years are from 29 to 42, with 42 being the fullness of the cycle and the initiation or passage that takes place at the midlife point of the overall 84-year cycle. The movement back out, then, is phase three of the cycle, a time for discernment concerning the crisis and the restructuring of life based on both the experience and the understanding that has come through it. Again the cycle has begun with the fire of Leo's creativity, carried to full by Virgo's down to earth gift of sensing where life is leading, and Libra's insight into the need, at this stage of life, to attain a greater balance and harmony between physical, mental and spiritual activities. Otherwise one aspect may run ahead or lag behind the other and one's wholeness be effected. Whereas the symbolism the waters of Cancer brought to the final phase of the first journey were personal and individually directed, those that Scorpio bring to the fourth phase of the second journey penetrate to deeper, unconscious and collective levels, dissolving the ego's boundaries and preparing consciousness to accept a broader, more transpersonal perspective on the meaning and purpose of life. Whereas at midlife the experience may be of a "dark night of the soul," the death endured between 56 and 59 is one St John of the Cross described as "the more terrible dark night of the spirit." And as the crisis evoked at this time goes deeper than any other, so it's birth is onto a transcendent level, perhaps what Sri Aurobindo experienced as the transformation that leads him beyond fear to a constant "supramental" state of being.

 

 


Second Journey IN - Ages 29 to 42
From the Crisis of  Identity
 to Crisis of Personal Meaning
Figure 5


Second Journey OUT - Ages 43 to 56
From Crisis of Personal Meaning
 to Crisis of Larger Purpose
Figure 6

 

 

 
       
 

The Third In and Out Journey
(Figures 7 and 8 below) 

On the third journey in, the crisis begun at the end of the second cycle extends into the initial years of the third cycle. The fire with which it begins is Sagittarius' far-reaching ninth house perspective--the fire with which the arrow pierces to the heart of life's purpose: to transcend. The movement of the ninth house, as in all initial phases of a cycle begins slowly, with only a sliver of light to reveal where the journey will lead. In the labyrinth, the beginning movement is therefore recursive and through the outer peripheral rings, giving time to contemplate the new choices life's most opportune crisis is offering. If grasped, the second phase of life will have brought a realization of the larger purpose of life and in entering life's final stages this larger purpose will be further defined as transpersonal. And when confronted with physical limitations these too will be accepted, as will the inevitability of death which hopefully will be compensated by a faith in the transcendent and eternal nature of the soul..

 

Third Journey IN - Ages 57 to 70
From Crisis of Larger Purpose
 to Crisis of Physical Limitation
Figure 5
 



Third Journey OUT - Ages 71 to 84
From Crisis of Physical Limitation
 to Crisis of Death
Figure 6

 

 
  Return to Labyrinth Home

 

 
  Return to Elliott Home Page