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photo of sculpture taken at the burning man festival

The first Saturn return around 28

A powerful impulse comes to an individual around the age of twenty-eight. It’s called the first Saturn return: the planet Saturn is back where it was in your horoscope at birth. In pop culture, astrology has become a means of checking out what will happen for you each week, month or year. More seriously it’s used as a kind of soul map. The reality behind this is the spiritual connection between the microcosm of the human being and the greater cosmos, the macrocosm depicted via the heavenly bodies. The Hermetic Dictum, ‘As it is above, so it is below’, applies in all our lives.

The sign for Saturn, still used in modern astronomy, is made up of a cross and a downward facing sickle or scythe shape. The cross symbolism reveals the penetration of spirit into matter. The scythe signifies Saturnus the Roman god of agriculture and symbolically means it’s time to reap the ‘harvest’ you have sown so far.

Saturn also represents restriction, prompting you to say, ‘Stop! Look! Listen!’ to examine the harvest and take stock of who you are and what your gifts are. In alchemy Saturn represents lead, the base element and foundation for the alchemical process of transformation.

So, the very beginning of this cycle from years 28 to 35 is a time of decision, a time to act on the ideas and views formed in the previous cycle.

It can be a time of turmoil because of a need to face your fears and change. This may be a major change in external direction. It certainly involves a focus on inner direction. Even if your harvest is fine, your soul may bring in another impulse. In my previous post I mentioned a dream I had around age 28 that clearly said, ‘follow a different way’. It’s wise to be aware of dreams, events or people you meet that can alert you to your future path.

The Intellectual Soul - a new soul expression

You are ready to make such decisions because a new soul expression is awakening. Feeling emerging from the senses was the guiding aspect in the previous stage of the sentient soul. In this second soul stage the emotional aspect of the soul matures and strengthens. And now the second aspect of our inner self, thinking, comes into its own.

This is the age of the intellectual soul and idealistic feelings of the previous stage must be translated into concepts if they are to be realised. The thinking that needs to be developed doesn’t refer to thoughts arising from reactions, in the manner of a child. It’s more about reason and conscious thought.

As the mind matures, we can establish what we think about the great questions of existence and contemporary issues. Previously we tended to adopt the ideas and attitudes of those we admired.

It’s important to remember that intellectual maturity is not about ‘cleverness’. The downside of the intellect can readily be seen when the rational mind gets stuck in concepts and any intuitive insights are rejected, or if concepts become like a personal possession we have to fight over to protect.

Maturity involves a sound and conscious relationship with your inner and outer world so that ideas, pictures, images and memories become enlivening potentials. In these years it is possible to cultivate an ability to respond as distinct from reaction. Through the mind we can develop genuine objectivity and clarity.

In these years serious questions arise directed to self, and your own inner state. From the Saturn return onward there is no automatic inherited development. In order to progress, this period involves hard conscious work on self as well as practical application of the intellect in our lives.

Typically, the cycle will be a time of energies directed towards your function in the world. You often find that money becomes important. And the years involve significant milestones like firming up a career path and raising a family. It’s often called ‘settling down’ although it’s really about commitment. 28 to 35 is the time of getting on with it!

Enter Karma

When we observe the trends in this cycle, we can appreciate that karma now begins in earnest. Karma involves unfinished business from past lives. Karma emerges because the soul is ready to deal with certain issues, through people we connect with, work we do and challenges and opportunities that confront us.

As karma takes effect, our inner sense of purpose and selfhood can seem to be thwarted, as if we keep being distracted. Yet karma presents us with the opportunity to learn, to transform self, to restore the balance so that the way is made clear for higher purposes. We have work to do, imbalances to correct, responsibilities to complete and see through. Life is a school and of course it’s challenging. When our way is difficult there are options; we can fight it, avoid it or recognise that the ball is in our court. It’s up to us to learn the lessons that we predetermined before we came into incarnation in order to progress.

Patterns in health can also be karmic. Inherent weaknesses may emerge and need to be acknowledged as a potential for learning on the soul level. It may involve acceptance of one’s limitations or of transforming self through them. And it’s pertinent to observe what happens to the physical body in this time. Often our health is a mirror image of an unseen disharmony in our being. As we take up the challenges of this cycle, our energies fluctuate. Stress becomes a real factor often leading to illness.

Through our choices and decisions, we find a transition from experiencing and embracing (21 to 28) to doing and maintenance (28 to 35). Meanwhile life becomes assessed in more rational terms. The intellectual forces of the soul can bring about great clarity and satisfaction after the strong emotional influences of the previous two cycles.

It is as if life no longer drives the individual, but a sense of objectivity and measure can now be applied. It is a balancing time and many people experience a sense of peace because of the solidarity and structure they are creating round about them.

Archetypal ‘middle age’ - 35

Many young people have an uncanny feeling that their life will be over by their early thirties. On a soul level this is isn’t such a fantasy. In the middle of this cycle there comes the final looking back upon one's youth before its golden hue is lost. You often hear this period in the mid-thirties described as ‘the old age of youth.’ Thirty-three, the year Christ died, marks a traditional milestone at which people tend to measure their achievements.The age of thirty-three marks a traditional milestone at which people tend to measure their achievements. It is the final looking back upon one's youth before its golden hue is lost. Some have referred to this period in the mid-thirties as ‘the old age of youth.’

By the age of thirty-five our life’s work is usually being set in place. We have fully immersed ourselves in the physical world and if we have been listening to our inner communication, it will have something to do with the deeper purpose or our incarnation.

Thirty-five is the archetypal midpoint of the life span. Strictly speaking this is the beginning of our middle age. In Jungian terms, the first half of life is the outer journey and the second half the inner journey. What comes after thirty-five depends on our own efforts to consciously experience what came to us unconsciously in the first half of life. From the age of about thirty-five a physical decline takes place, usually subtly, but there does not have to be a similar decline on the soul and spiritual levels. Ideally spiritual consciousness is enriched.

And so we move next into the third soul stage, that of the consciousness soul, which is about the fruitful functioning of the will.

(The photo - enigmatic sculpture by Alexandr Milov at the Burning Man Festival USA)

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