There was a lot of interest stirred up by my articles on the Progressed Lunar Return: both the one on the 27 Club and the one on the Progressed Moon/Saturn cycle. When people first hear about the progressed lunar return, they often get a very wise ‘a ha’ look in their eyes, as if they knew that something was going on at the time but couldn’t quite put a finger on it, and now, finally, it makes sense. When it comes down to it, most of us remember that year between 27 and 28 quite well.
But the lunar cycle being what it is, most of us, if we’re lucky enough, will experience a second return, and some of us a third. A lot of Inner Wheel readers had questions: what happens next time around? How do I prepare?
The second lunar return is often (but not always) less dramatic, though no less profound. Where the first lunar return is about growing into individual maturity and spiritual responsibility in the world, the second return is about the transition between our material selves and our eternal ones. We are challenged to see how much of the bigger picture we can grasp.
Like the first progressed lunar return, the second return is part of a larger cycle with Saturn. By this time, Saturn should no longer be seen as an enemy. We should have experienced the building side of Saturn, and the Saturn who brings us rewards for good labour. We should understand, at this time, that we are co-creators and cooperators with the material world, and that the exchange of energy between the material world and individual creativity and inspiration is what keeps the world going round. We may not know this literally, but we will sense it–in fact, we need to sense it if we are to have any peace in the more mature part of our lives. At some point in this progressed lunar crossroads, we learn that we have a choice–we can cooperate with life as we know it, or we can rail and react against it. Retreating will cause a spiral backwards into old patterns of knowing, and this is the point where people begin to retreat, rather than progress. It can be the beginning of a long, silent, death.
The second progressed lunar return hits us around age 53-54. It is part of a cycle I call the Great Prime Years, when we are often faced with our greatest challenges and choices. Again, this cycle is rarely talked about, even in astrological circles. (Ever notice how all astrological discussion seems to stop at the Chiron return, as if there is nothing left after 50 but a great black void?) Well, you’d better hold on to your seats, because the Chiron return is only the beginning. It’s followed by the progressed lunar return, which heralds a spiritual clean-out and a new beginning, quickly followed by the third nodal return and the second Saturn return. Anyone who thinks that the second time around for any of these is going to be easier because we’ve ‘been there, done that’ is very much mistaken. When we’re 60, the progressed Sun sextiles natal Sun and can offer us wonderful opportunities–whether we can take advantage of them or not depends very much on what has occurred during these important cycles.
In other days, recently passed, perhaps in your grandparents generation, or the one before that, life may have been more settled and stable during these years, and the challenges may have been primarily internal. However, our lives are in a constant state of flux these days, with no more stability or security than a small country in a medieval war zone. We lose jobs, spouses, the market destroys our savings, families are uprooted and separated, and anything we can cling to is, at best, a tentative comfort. The year of the progressed lunar return needs to be spent assessing our relationship to the material world. Is it accepting and flexible, or is it hostile and combative? We need to begin to think about what we have, both materially and spiritually, and how we are going to share that with the world. We start to think about what our legacy will be. How we will spend the time allotted to us?
Health crises and challenges are common around this time. The Moon is our physical vehicle in this world, and she may need a tune-up. Old habits may have to be ditched and new, more appropriate ones found. We need to start respecting the body as a vehicle for our spiritual energies now, because we can sense the bits and pieces beginning to wear out, and feel time taking its toll. We need to be kinder to ourselves, physically. Fifty three is the average age women begin to experience menopause–no coincidences there–and many of the physical difficulties we face at this time may be related to the questions we must ask ourselves now. Our motivations for having good health change–we are no longer primarily focused on finding partners and creating families, but more appropriately want to live a pain-free and drug-free existence so that we may continue exploring the new goals and avenues that are presenting themselves to us. We also need to come to terms with the limits of our physical existence–whether we triumph over our inherited weaknesses or are forced to negotiate with them, we must first acknowledge them.
We may, at this point, mourn the material lives we will never have and the physical lives we will never have again. Men are often aware of gradually losing their strength and stamina; women know that heads no longer turn when they walk into a room. We know that we will never own that Ferrari or that villa in the South of France we fantasized about in our youth. This is the trickiest phase of the threshold, because this is when the ‘bad’ Saturn rears his head and we tell ourselves its impossible to do or have anything new or enriching anymore, either spiritually or materially. We begin to feel stuck, and in a rut, and blind ourselves to the opportunities that present themselves. There is no reason that we can’t revisit our old talents and creative pursuits, or find new avenues of expression for ourselves. The progressed lunar return encourages us to find new vehicles for our self expression, because it knows that we have been through the proverbial mill and we now have a great deal to say.
Mostly, the progressed lunar return is about a time of reckoning: how have I lived my life up until now, and do I want to continue this way? Often, crises come up during this time that force our hand, often leading us to make the right decision in spite of ourselves. We’re meant to clear away the old habits and patterns so that we can spend more time connecting with the people and things that give our lives meaning. There is often a lot of cutting off at the progressed lunar return, particularly of ties that no longer serve their purpose. If we’re doing our lunar returns correctly, we should be spending more and more of our time and energy on what matters.
Often, we lose parents at this crossroads. The death of a parent is often symbolic of the death of an old way of life, and at this time we may be able to step away from familial patterns and imprinted psychological constraints. We may discover how these patterns prevented us from acting as our genuine selves, and may feel a new sense of liberation. We may find that we can break the heavy chain of generations.
At the progressed lunar return, we will be confronted once again with the issues surrounding our natal lunar aspects. If we still haven’t come to terms with that Moon/Uranus conjunction or that Moon/Pluto square, now is the time, and circumstances will arise that will cause us to re-live them. This is a test of a kind, asking what you’ve learned over the years about these aspects, and how you deal with them. Some will have conquered the issues, others will need work, others will have to accept what they cannot change, and learn that there is a great deal of wisdom in knowing what can and what cannot be altered.
One of the worst things that can happen under this progression is the turning away from the new, and newly possible, and retreating into a fantasy of the past. We associate this mostly with older people, but it actually begins here, where the past can take on a romance of perfection that the ‘new’ life challenges can never match. This prevents us from actually taking stock of our lives the way we should. Have I met my material and spiritual goals, or should I shed them? Are my relationships vital, or a dead weight? On what, now, must I focus? What am I responsible for, and have I been living up to my responsibilities? The question of focus will come into light intensely with the next nodal return (hot on the heels of the lunar return), and responsibility will be the issue of the coming Saturn return. We will ask ourselves not only ‘have I behaved responsibly,’ but also, ‘what have I left to do?’
The ultimate goal of the second progressed lunar return, and the important cycles that follow, is to make us recognize that we are deeply connected to the world around us and that we still have critical work to do. Our contribution is needed in the great pool of collective wisdom, and the more we share, the more we own. The great reward of these years, after the shedding and the honing and the confrontation with the past, is the gift of being comfortable in one’s own skin; there is a power and a beauty in that that is beyond compare.
Some of this piece is excerpted from the book, The Inner Wheel: A New Look at Secondary Progressions, which will be available in the winter of 2012.