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Astrology for the Third Act of Life

By Elizabeth Spring

I have been immersed in Demetra George’s book on ancient astrology this summer, but poked my head up long enough to read Elizabeth Spring’s book on “Astrology for the Third Act of Life.”

Elizabeth Spring rightly notes that most books on astrological cycles end around the time of the second Saturn return, which we experience in our late 50’s. Those experiencing a full life span of 80 to 90 years are only two thirds of the way there. Spring identifies this “third act of life” as “unmapped territory,” and she writes movingly from her own observation and experience about the growth which occurs at each point in the cycles which continue as we age. The first act of life involved personal growth and finding our talents and building relationships. The second act, beginning as the first Saturn return, challenges us to make a contribution to our society through our talents and to build a family through partners and children or through networks of friends. In this final chapter, we have the opportunity “to deepen and connect with our soul.” Because we are living longer lives and have opportunities for better health care, Spring tells us that we now have “the potential to remake the terrain of aging and to re-imagine the possible and to realize the re-enchantment that can exist along side the losses of aging.”

Spring first covers the cycles of middle age, the Uranus opposition, the Neptune square and Saturn opposition of the early 40’s, the Chiron return around the age of 50, and the Second Lunar Return and Trines of Neptune and Uranus during our mid 50’s. At the Second Saturn Return of the late 50’s, we begin what she calls “the Second Quest.” She warns that this period could first bring a sense of depression, feeling the effects of age, identifying unmet hopes and dreams, and being unwilling to make the effort to change. This melancholy, though, can be a source of creativity, as we search for ways to bring our inner and outer lives into alignment. This period benefits from a solid reality check as we note was is working for us and what needs to be left behind. We have a new wisdom which helps us to make wise choices, and we have the insight and willingness to take on long-term plans, understanding that small efforts made each day create big changes as those days become months and years.

At 63, we get what Spring calls “the shock of a second wind” as Uranus squares its natal position. We could experience a shocking change at this point which in the long run becomes a gift. The key is that a kind of liberation could emerge from whatever changes we are facing. It’s a time when many people are retiring or preparing to retire and facing the blank slate of how will we fill the hours of our day? The challenge is to find untapped interests or talents which we can now bring to our everyday life. Spring quotes Goethe, “’Whatever your can do, or think you can do, begin it.’” Be bold, Spring reminds us – and have fun.

The Saturn square to its natal position around age 66 could be felt as certain tensions in our life, wanting to go more but having less energy, struggling for relevance but not having an outlet, wanting to have direction but not finding it. Spring suggests that we should sit with these tensions until what Carl Jung referred to as “The Third Option or Way” emerges. Patience is required and we must develop a faith that the insight of what our soul needs for growth will eventually appear. Saturn is also a time of necessity, so just as we did at the Second Saturn Return, it is time to review what we can pare down, what habits can we eliminate, what we can do to improve our health, finances, and living arrangements. We should bow to the necessity of doing what Saturn requires, not as a punishment, but as a means of improving what could be 20 or more years of vital living.

We experience Jupiter returns every twelve years, which means that we get this boost of faith and optimism during this third act of life around the ages of 60, 72, and 84. Spring writes that these Jupiter returns are good times to ask what we can do to develop greater faith and ourselves and in life. Finding what we truly long for in our hearts and putting the message out to the Universe can bring us Jupiter’s gifts now.

The Saturn opposition to its natal place around the age of 73 presents us with our next significant turning point. Spring writes that challenging Saturn aspects can often give us an awareness of our aloneness, and this may be particularly true at this point. The way of Saturn, however, is to step by step, with the patience of alchemy, transform this aloneness into creative solitude. If we are facing health challenges or disabilities, the challenge is to find what we can achieve within our limitations to live a meaningful life. It is also a time to define our legacies, what we hope to leave behind for those we loved. Are there changes we can make to create a memory of our lives that includes love, courage, hopefulness and joy?

Spring sees the Nodal Return around age 76 as a time when “a karmic wave has finally broken.” For most of us, this will be our final nodal return. We may see our life with new lenses, understanding our struggles and losses as part of a grand pattern, and making our peace with them. Spring quotes Wayne Dyer, who stated, “’If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’”

We experience another Saturn square to its natal position around the age of 80, and many of us experience a bumpy transition into this new decade. Just the aspects of daily life we have taken for granted become huge questions. Am I able to care of my home? Am I capable of living alone? Am I still a competent driver? Can I still move around freely without assistance? This is definitely a time for inner toughness and the willingness to make some difficult decisions. But aging bodies and limited capacities do not signal that it is time to stop living life. This is the final chapter of our Third Act, and we can maintain our curiosity and interest in life and people, and we can seek out new horizons. Spring quotes Albert Einstein, who wrote that we need never grow old if we “’never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born . . .’”

A Jupiter Return and Neptune opposition to its natal place in our early 80’s helps us to let go of little things which have obsessed or bothered us and to connect more deeply with our spiritual Source. All this clears away debris in order to prepare us for the once in a lifetime aspect of the Uranus Return at age 84. “Personal epiphanies abound at age 84,” Spring writes, and people often notice a renewed sense of well-being and feelings of awe and gratefulness.” With the unpredictability of Uranus, some of us may leave this life, liberating our souls from our bodies. Others may have a resurgence in creativity. Artist Georgia O’Keefe famously had a retrospective exhibit of her paintings at 84, and Michelangelo was still painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Jane Fonda is approaching her Uranus return while starring in a hit TV show on Netflix. And others of us may find a special delight in breaking social conventions at this age, not caring what others think and speaking our minds for the world to hear. The opportunity here is to finally become most authentically ourselves.

This Third Act of Life comes to a close at the next Saturn return, around 88. I have noticed recently how often we seem to be losing people who are in their late 80’s. Toni Morrison died this week at age 88, still working on a novel. It’s as if our souls decide to begin the Fourth Act on the next plane of existence. Others will continue well into their 90’s and even reach the century mark. Our task during this time is to connect with the infinite, to realize we are part of all of life and feel the awesomeness of this “Great Mystery.” ElizabethSpring reminds us at the close of this lovely book that we encounter during this twilight time of our lives “the simplicity, joy and spaciousness that arises once you have fallen into something bigger than yourself. It’s a re-enchantment . . . .”


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