It’s no secret that aging gets no respect in our Western post-war culture. Over the past 50 years or so (since Pluto entered Leo) youth has been celebrated and anyone who couldn’t keep up was shunted aside. Without respect for the wisdom and history of our aging population, they became lonely and abandoned. My mother turns 80 this month, and she feels she has little to celebrate at having reached this advanced age. All she feels is the isolation and loneliness of her widowhood and the trauma at having lost her health. It saddens me that she feels there is nothing to look forward to, and it makes me hope that my own aging will encompass a different experience.
Angeles Arrien, in a wonderful book called The Second Half of Life, says:
The second half of life is the ultimate initiation. In it, we encounter those new, unexpected, unfamiliar and unknowable moments that remind us that we are a sacred mystery made manifest. If we truly understand what is required of us at this stage, we are blessed with an enormous opportunity to develop and embody wisdom and character. We enjoy limitless possibilities to restore, renew and heal ourselves.”
I have had the good fortune over the past few months to see clients who are in their seventies: several women and two men. It has been inspiring to see how people on a path of growth and soul evolution have resolved the complexes inherent in their birthcharts and have gained greater wisdom and depth of spirit. It’s been interesting to note the gender differences: the women have primarily come into their own power at this stage in life; they have become better integrated persons and have claimed the parts of themselves that earlier in their lives they may have surrendered to men.
For the two men in their 70s (men typically are less likely to visit astrologers, at any age) the process is different; having split off the more feminine aspects of themselves (the Moon and Venus) in their marriages and relationships, later in life they reclaim the goddess archetype within them. Either they forced through divorce and the loss of their female to do so, or they discover the goddess willingly and are able to celebrate the softer aspects of themselves. Witnessing the soul growth and personal evolution of these clients has been an inspiration in learning how they faced the challenges in their lives and transmuted these challenges into wisdom and tranquility.
Angeles Arrien maps the journey of the elder hero as the Eight Gates. Eight of course is the number of transformation; it’s the number of Pluto and Scorpio, and there are eight gates of energy in Tai Chi, eight gates of zen practice, eight gates to Paradise in Islam. The eight gates that we encounter at midlife are:
- The Silver Gate – at which we surrender our egos and accept the aging of body and mind.
- The White Picket Gate – requires us to detach from the roles we have played in the past that have constructed our identity.
- The Clay Gate – constantly changing, the clay gate reminds us that we are living in a body that requires care as well as pleasure.
- The Black and White Gate calls on us to engage in relationships with others, overcoming self-imposed isolation.
- The Rustic Gate – here we explore meaningful work, service and creativity and reassess our life’s callings.
- The Bone Gate – strips away any remnants of our false self and exposes the “bones of who we are.”
- The Natural Gate – where we come home to our natural rhythm and internal sanctuary. (Taurus)
- The Gold Gate – where we waken to our deepest core, letting go and trusting our own higher self.
(I have added this great book to the booklist in the left panel). In this approach, aging becomes an adventure to the unknown instead of something to be dreaded and feared.
In seven years (at the age of 87) my mother will reach her Pluto Opposition, the time when transiting Pluto opposes Pluto in her birthchart (at 15 degrees Cancer). Hers is the first generation to experience that transit; for earlier generations this would have occurred only after age 100. (Geeky astrological detail: This can only happen because Pluto’s orbit is so elliptical that it spends different lengths of time in different signs. Pluto was in Cancer for 25 years between 1914 and 1939, but in Scorpio for only 12 years (1983-1995)). Our elders now have the opportunity to experience a major transformation with this Pluto Opposition that has never before been seen, and this will be true for the next few generations as well.