Chapter 3

Earth & The Threefold Cycle

In the first chapter the mandala of the birth chart was described as having four quarters which can each be related to one of the basic psychological functions, thought, feeling, sensation and intuition. These functions are not normally marked on the chart, but their location and the roles they play should not be forgotten when they seemingly disappear, to be replaced by the so-called dial of mundane houses.

When one speaks of "mundane houses", or "mundane astrology", one is using the word not in its sense of "unadventurous" or "uninspiring" but in the sense of "Earth", relating to the influence and affairs of the world. The Earth in its annual cycle, as we have seen, can symbolize the individual human life considered apart from any outside influences. In this sense, mundane astrology transfers itself to personal astrology and must feature strongly in this highly selective study, our astrology of the inner self.

The twelve mundane houses, or psychological divisions, can be considered in various ways; but however they are interpreted, they are always taken to represent twelve distinct but smoothly sequential compartments of basic awareness, common to all humanity. Against this apparently fixed background the personal horoscope is plotted, an essentially human dimension to be considered when plotting the pattern of the zodiac and planets at any given time.

As a basic framework common to everyone, the dial of mundane houses represents the psychic groundwork; the dwelling place of soul (as distinct from "spirit"). It could be seen as a tract of virgin land which may be cultivated into a beautiful garden, or allowed to erode into worthless desert. From a rather more romantic viewpoint, it could be said to represent the Garden of Eden before the temptations of the encircling serpent of the zodiac introduced the polarities of good and bad into developing hearts and minds, and scattered humanity along different paths. It can certainly prove a useful aid in distinguishing between those human traits that are innate, and those which have been introduced through outside influence.

The point of individual birth on the personal chart is the dawning horizon recorded by the ascendant degree, corresponding with the soul's entry into the first house. If we think of the ascendant as a moving finger, the "point of self", we can see that it moves through life in an anti-clockwise direction as it passes through each house in turn. During its course it should plot the growth of personal understanding, the young child's increasing awareness of its own physical selfhood.

Each cusp or dividing line between houses, as it is passed in turn by the point of self, carries with it a certainly quality of ascendancy. It becomes, as it were, the eastern horizon anew, bringing a new day pregnant with possibilities in the light of a new guiding principle. This is before the zodiac degree, the Sun, the Moon, or the planets are even taken into account. The cusps therefore represent a kind of ladder of significances or critical stages, or varying modes of creative possibilities. The very fact that they represent a renewal of soul fabric grants the individual a certain reprieve from the consequences of former attitudes. It is at the cusps that a person becomes able to expand and change.

Houses whose cusps occur on the ascendant, the descendant, the zenith and the nadir of a birth chart are referred to as "angular houses" (numbers 1, 4, 7 and 10).


They carry the sense of projection, the putting into action of a newly discovered function. The so-called "succedent houses" (numbers 2, 5, 8 and 11) signify a reaction to the actions expressed through the angular houses. These reactions may be positive or negative, and if the latter they can imply that the inherited weight of materialism has tended to smother the possibility of truly spiritual selfhood. The so-called "cadent houses" (numbers 3, 6, 9 and 12) are said to make manifest the results: the sum, or the fruits, of the preceding two houses. New meanings, or a new set of principles—and again these may be either positive or negative—may arise whenever a new level of selfhood is reached. The principle of successive subtle changes is operative whenever earthly life cycles are involved, on whatever level they are being considered. They are all subject to the zodiac, and bearing in mind what has already been said about the nature of the zodiac, it is inevitable that the mundane houses share to a certain extent the characteristics of the zodiac signs.


Thus, the first house represents self concern, like that of a newborn infant, and corresponds with Aries. The second house represents possessiveness, like a child discovering the possibilities of having things and actually owning them, and is typified by Taurus. The third house symbolizes the adaptability necessary when seeking a relationship with one's environment, one's place in the world, as expressed by Gemini.

Together, these three houses are governed by intuition—the driving force of a young child, and a function at once higher and lower than either thinking or emotional feeling. Lower because, related to instinct, it is experienced in common with the beasts, and higher because it is a particular function of the soul, which alone is able to gain contact with celestial life forces higher than the human.

The next three houses are governed by the emotional feelings, and in the fourth house these reflect domesticity as expressed by Cancer; in the fifth house they reflect the Leonine brand of creativity; and in the sixth house they relate to one's manner of personal expression, typified by Virgo.

The third set of three houses in this cycle is governed by the physical body and its sensations, and when these three are traversed by the point of self they inevitably represent a time in one's life of increased physical activity. Included are the seventh house, concerning Libran diplomacy and personal relationships, the eighth house where the Scorpionic preoccupation is with sexual regeneration, and the ninth house of Sagittarian physical projection, charting a conscious adjustment of one's attitude to others in the light of all past experiences.

The final three houses are governed by the thinking function: in the tenth house concerning the putting into practice of one's newly adjusted relationship with society, as typified by Capricorn; in the eleventh house regarding the manipulation of one's position within that society, as typified by Aquarius; and finally in the twelfth house, as a synthesis of all that has gone before, and reflecting the inner conflict so typical of Pisces, comes the often painful reappraisal of one's place in the world.

We have already seen how the horizon on the chart can be considered as the hand of a clock, measuring personal progress; and we have seen in the last chapter how an individual soul, in the guise of Earth itself, progresses through the seasons of the zodiac. Now we can consider a further set of cycles, based on these "houses of the soul". Each moment has its creative potential. By setting out to understand the nature of one's own personal cycles we aim to identify the points in time when a new creative cycle can begin; to this end we should think in terms of movement.

In everyday life a householder might feel the need to move to a new area, to a better house, a more congenial district. The soul too, having reached the end of a cycle and having moved from house to house—or maybe only from room to room within the same building— finally feels the urge to seek broader horizons. Such a move may involve something of an upheaval in one's way of life; it will be an adventurous step to take, abandoning the comforting routine of the old milieu. Progress seldom comes from looking round for reassurance, Meaningful progress may well involve some element of risk, and unforeseen problems; the choice belongs to the individual. But there are differing levels of attainment, and even when the best available choice has been made, the general trend of "progress" may seem to be on a spiritually downward curve leading towards a hardening of materiality. But it may nevertheless still work towards the development of the whole self.

The threefold cycle of houses is a convenient way of expressing the collective progress of the personal soul, and the instinctive attitudes and reactions associated with this progress. It carries a stage further the 84-year Lifespan of the Patriarch, or Matriarch, and the three consecutive life cycles are closely identified with the principle of "past, present and future."


It is not, of course, the only way of analyzing personal progress, but it is a particularly convenient one —a cycle within a cycle, a wheel within a wheel. As the point of self passes in turn through the four separate functions—intuition, feeling, sensation, thinking—each house is "occupied" in turn for two and one third years, during three consecutive revolutions of twenty-eight years each. In the course of an 84-year lifetime, twenty-one years will have been spent under the dominant driving force of each basic function.

The threefold cycle can equally well represent the upward spiral that we ought to follow, if the soul comes to its own awareness and the awareness of mind, and if we are able to live our lives in a way orientated towards spiritual attainment. In the majority of individuals, selfhood becomes so embroiled with the lower life forces of nature represented by the zodiac, that we remain set, as it were, within a recurrence of the lowest cycle. And even when the completed spiral is attained, its level in astrological terms may remain within the orbits of the inner planets: limited, that is, by thoughts and emotions. Only through an inward rejection of "passions" —quite involuntarily as far as the mind is concerned—can the truly human instinct take over and set the individual on an upward course. This is the integrating principle symbolized by the Sun having been imbibed by the inner self.

Compare this idea with the diagram of planetary orbits in Chapter 6. During the first twenty-eight years of life one's inner spiral can reach no higher than the orbit of Mars. During the second 28-year cycle one's orbit should include not only Mars and the lower planets, but also Jupiter, the god-ruler of the lower soul, reaching to the limits of the time god, Saturn.


In this sense one can become greater than Zeus, chief of the ancient gods. The third 28-year cycle in this spiral, when successfully accomplished, will allow the inner self to pass the Saturnian rings of death and take up residence, as it were, within the "collective" orbits of the outer planets. There, one can hope for the final rebirth, the symbolic passage through the zodiac, beyond our remote overseer Pluto, now to be considered as the custodian of materiality itself.

Body, soul and spirit

These three cycles have been called, respectively: "the ancestral" (that is, of the past); "the individual" (of the present); and "the collective" (of the future). They reflect, firstly, those characters which were inherited; secondly, the action or use that is being made of that inheritance; and, thirdly, the outcome resulting from these factors. From our present viewpoint, a more appropriate name for these three would be: the cycle of body; the cycle of soul; and the cycle of spirit.

The first cycle is concerned chiefly with our vessel for life on Earth. During childhood and young adulthood our personal and physical needs are of prime importance for each one of us. These comprise our orientation and beliefs, and our ethical guide will be our family and the traditions of our own native culture, the moral and religious restraints and obligations that we happen to have inherited. On its completion, this cycle represents the fulfilment of all that is past in relation to one individual life. In effect the whole cycle of that life, with all its available possibilities, will have been lived out in just twenty-eight years—but on a personal and ancestral level only. On its completion it must start again, but this time, if all goes well, it will be lived on a more exalted level.

The second passage through the dial of houses we call the soul cycle, not because it applies more particularly to the inner self than does the preceding cycle, but because the human soul comprises the whole contents of a person, and not merely the inherited parts. This time the characteristics which are being stirred within are of a deeper nature. Cultural tradition may be important, but it should not be allowed to override personal development; its days in command should be numbered when a person's twenty-eighth birthday arrives. The soul itself should now be the leader, and a person's entry into the first house of the second cycle should herald the awakening of inner awareness, the first stage of spiritual consciousness. To put it another way, rather than a ready-made set of rules, morals and beliefs, a person's guide from the age of twenty-eight onwards should be their entire psychic content, even if that should comprise the bad as well as the good.

The third and final revolution of this great spiral, reached when a person has passed the age of fifty-six, is named the cycle of spirit. If they have not already done so, it is time now for influences from beyond materiality to infiltrate the smothering layers of the zodiac. As the product and culmination of the two previous cycles, this time the mundane houses are occupied with an eye to the future. A person's guidance should now come, via the soul, from beyond both the self and the ancestors. The older person's ethical guide may be seen as "collective experience", or the spiritual principle, or even the Holy Spirit, depending upon the destiny of the individual.

Let us examine each cycle in greater detail. During the first seven years of life a child lives largely by intuition, gradually becoming more and more self-conscious as an individual, but still under the spell of subjectivity. There is little differentiation as yet between external facts, and mere ideas; objects are not really solid. During the passage through the third house at around five or six years, the child begins to relate more surely to his or her environment, while still emotionally dependent and wholly subjective in judgment.

At about seven years, the embryonic emotions which have been incubating for the past few years begin to take over from child-intuition as the driving force. The possessive infantile phase broadens out now into a new individual identity. In nine and ten year olds,


adventurous creativity is the norm. At twelve or thirteen the ego begins to crystallize into true selfhood, and rebellious self-expression tends to replace dependence on home and family.

The new-found ego leads outwards into the beginnings of true objectivity. Sexual desires begin to develop, and the accompanying crisis can be severe. Often, it is a time of physical illness brought on by the shock of transition from a safe world of the feelings to a new and aggressively physical environment, with no experience of handling it. For the first time, the outside world is seen through truly objective eyes, and its apprehension may cause a ripple of fear. In the teenager there is acute awareness of an imperative need to adjust to changing conditions, and an oft-perplexing degree of self doubt.

By the age of twenty-one personal and physical relationships will have been well tested, and modified by a growing awareness of the needs and natures of others. The psyche reaches its majority in the light of social experience accrued during the previous seven years, the period during which the child has been growing into adulthood.

Now follows the burden of social responsibility that accompanies initiation into adult society, and the age of twenty-five or twenty-six usually sees a conflict of identity. A crossroads is reached, with no clear signpost, only a pressing choice that must be made, relating to loyalties, behaviour, customs and company. It can be a time of great anguish, and if the individual is liable through karmic content to suffer from depression, this is when its worst effects may be felt. Such a one may well feel hampered by social or moral restraints or taboos that seem to run contrary to his or her own instinctive nature.

Inherited characteristics may be a matter of genes. More mysterious, perhaps, is the accumulation of personal karma which seems to enter the vessel of the soul at the moment of birth—an additional inheritance that has lain trapped, as it were, between onion-skin layers of the inner self, demanding release. This deeply interesting subject may be approached through a study of the individual birth chart in its relationship with the zodiac degree symbols described in the ensuing chapter. The awakening of soul to consciousness sees the commencement of a process entailing systematic removal of these inhibiting karmic factors—a process which, by way of synchronicity, may perhaps be logged by the outlying planets.

Inner tension

The more "individual" a person's character, the more strongly he or she takes after the birth ascendant sign. The "collective" aspect of personality, on the other hand, most strongly reflects the Sun sign. Indeed, some astrologers and others interested in the subject are able to tell, from physical characteristics alone, whether a person is centred mainly in collectivity, or individuality. The ascendant type of personality, as a rule, becomes most easily identifiable soon after the age of thirty-five, as the emotionally-felt "new-found identity" grows out of the intuitional phase that preceded it.

When the individual makes contact with the "collective soul" and its "collective passions", a great tension can be set up between these two "selves", characterized by the Sun sign and the ascendant. When both are of a like nature (referring to the four elements, fire, air, water and earth) the tension is less. When the two signs are distinctly opposite in character, tension can reach crisis point, sometimes bursting out in odd behaviour or "unsocial attitudes". This itself constitutes an inheritance over which the individual can have had no control.

Cyclic rebirth through the mundane houses is a time of great significance. If the inspiration is not accepted and followed, the frustrated psyche, unwilling to face the ordeal of impending cyclic rebirth, may choose to remain within the symbolic womb of becoming, and languish on the level of ancestral culture. But if all goes well, symbolic rebirth means that the individual becomes free to leave his or inherited, regulated past, and concentrate instead on building a solidly individual present.


As children, inwardly passing through the first three houses of the first cycle, we were still in touch with our own souls, though to a progressively decreasing extent. With the growth of emotional feelings, the contact was finally lost. From then on, our hearts and minds took over control of our lives, with all their ups and downs. Typically, the late twenties are somewhat turbulent times psychologically. As the first cycle comes to a close our minds can seem in a helpless whirl. But then comes the first rebirth and the start of the second cycle at the age of twenty-eight, and quite suddenly, sometimes instantaneously, a new intuitive grasp of our life situation arrives to provide whatever answers we need; and with this new understanding, often enough, comes freedom from the old, stifling, conventional restraints.

Provided the second cycle has "taken" satisfactorily, once this soul cycle has been established, we may find we have regained soul-contact by means of a new intuitive driving force. A person approaching thirty should be living largely by intuition, "following instinct", and this artless faculty can provide the urge to look deeper into the inner self. Through becoming aware of a mysterious capacity we did not possess before, we may well have caught a glimpse of new and still more mysterious worlds open to exploration. With this renewal typically comes a longing for contact with true spirituality. Instinctively, the individual must seek such a contact, and seek it urgently.

Of course, the flash of intuition that served to realign our progress was not the result of our own wisdom. It was an automatic and perfectly natural function of our own inner nature; a straightforward cyclic rebirth, re-entering the first house. It is only as we approach the close of our second intuitional phase, towards the age of thirty-five, that we will begin to entertain doubts about the wisdom of continuing our intuitive course through life, correct though we know it to have been.


It will be an emotional time. Now that our intuitional capacity has developed as far as it is able, it is the turn of our feelings to be dissatisfied. All this happens quite automatically. We come to realize that a new way of expressing ourselves is needed; a new emotional identity; a new kind of creativity within our lives.

By the time we reach the sixth house at around the age of forty, we should have established that new identity—or rather it will have established itself—rising out of our own intuitional understanding and expressing itself in emotional terms. A new and more subtle ego will have emerged from within our own personality, and the concern of this ego is not the body, but the soul—the sum total of all our past experiences, physical, emotional, intuitional and intellectual.

Once again, if our lives have been forming a spiral of development, we will grow increasingly dissatisfied. Our milieu has not been substantial enough; our achievements have not been noteworthy enough; our degree of independence too slight. We begin to search for a more physical, more practical, more challenging outlet. Forty-two is the classic age for "changing horses in mid-stream", and the discontent we feel can often bring real hardship with it. When our habits become set, it is not easy to adopt a new pattern of life, particularly when this must involve a severing of ties, increased independence and an unexplained need to face the unknown future alone. In effect it amounts to a new puberty, and as with actual puberty there is an obsessive need to fit in and make a success of whatever looms ahead—the next step towards achieving true maturity.


The seven-year itch

It does not apply only to shaky marriages: the seven-year itch is more than a figment of the imagination. Perhaps it was more clearly to be seen in days gone by: for instance, John Wesley used to claim that he burnt all his sermons every seven years, realizing that his perceptions would have changed over that period.

Continuing our journey through the mundane houses of life, as another seven years pass and we approach the age of forty-nine, discontent creeps in once again, and we are liable to feel that our routine lacks the intellectual qualities, the mental stimulation that we need. We are facing yet another traumatic period of reorientation. Our friends may remark that we seem to be throwing away all that we have built up over the past years. independence alone, it seems, is no longer enough. A new understanding has been growing inside us, filling us with ambitious thoughts of our own potential value to society as a whole.

Up to this point, perhaps, we have assumed that our future was assured. Now we come to see that it is not. All our building so far had been for the present, the here and now. We had never really considered the future. It occurs to us very forcibly that there is a great deal of building still to be done; the idea of "building for posterity" may well cross our mind. We will probably have been working very hard over the last seven years; but how about our own soul—have we forgotten about that? We are obliged to experience a period of anguish as we reassess all that we are, and all that we know.


The reason for all this disturbance, of course, will be the fast-approaching point possible rebirth, the possibility of slotting into the next cycle. If all goes well, at the age of fifty-six we will once again be touched and subsequently guided by a new intuitional understanding; a new grasp of our situation in life. We will not be boasting when we say that our wisdom has been growing and leading us along sound lines during the past seven years. Our intellect has brought us to the present, but it is only now, under the reawakened guidance of intuition, that we can really begin to plan for the future.

Many people at this stage in life give careful thought to planning for the future security of their dependants, foreseeing possible eventualities. Some may concentrate their efforts as well on producing some special work by which the world may remember them. A few perceive intuitively that the time has come to build a spiritual future for themselves—and by doing so ensure that their dependants' welfare is taken care of in a way undreamed of by the materialistic majority.

At the age of sixty-three the emotional function again comes to the fore, strengthened this time by the recently acquired intuitive understanding. With this revitalization of the feelings comes a quite different sense of selfhood—a new ego again, but this time on a collective scale. This is not the selfish "me" of the twenty-eight year old, nor the more subtle "soul-ego" of the forty year old. This is the focal point of a much broader personality, orientated towards a far larger concept of life, embracing hopes of immortality.

Though we call it the spirit cycle, many people in their third cycle of life may not seem at all concerned with matters of the spirit. But although this aspect may not have come to their awareness, they can still lead highly significant lives. At around sixty-five they will have become reconciled to the inevitability of death, and found a way to use their emotional centre of gravity as the practical basis for a valuable phase of creativity. At retirement age, one is often free to concentrate on pleasant tasks and interests that one never had time for previously.

This refreshing mood may continue through the sixth house; but before long it is liable to give way to a premonition of crises to come. The symbolic third puberty at seventy years is inevitably a time for major readjustment, as emotions give way to a brooding sense of frustration. The physical body becomes increasingly querulous, as one's habitual approach to daily events and tasks no longer works as well as it once did.

If this stage of inner and outer reorientation is weathered successfully, at seventy-seven an individual enters the intellectual phase for the final time. Many great thinkers have reached the height of their powers during this seven year span, between seventy-seven and eighty-four. Physical shortcomings may be almost forgotten in the excitement of new understanding.

People in the twelfth house for the third time will be only too well aware that their current situation cannot last long; that a major reorientation is due. But the successful completion of the full cycle of houses at the age of eighty-four has brought with it a wealth of supportive wisdom and serenity—serenity which will carry them safely across the mysterious final barrier.

Copyright© 2006, Ray Douglas

Copyright© 2007, Undiscovered Worlds Press