Initiation and the Saturn Cycle
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By Michael Erlewine (

Back in the 1960s, a very young me wrote this rather melancholy poem and dedicated it to the philosopher Parmenides, because it was he who said “Being Alone Is.”


Each to each the sorrow tells:
Find another.

Alone is borne the pain,
Alone the sorrow,
Alone the joy,
Today’s tomorrow.

The topic of the Saturn Return (returning back to where we came from) is echoed throughout the poetry and literature of the world. In a way, it’s the only story to be told, and we never tire of hearing it. As I used to joke to myself, “It goes without saying, or you can say it again.” In my case, I prefer to say it again.

I spent years teaching astrology, not that all that much was learned. In the 1970s, much was made of the outer planets, those planets beyond Saturn: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. They were, among other things, called the Transcendental Planets. My spiritual teacher used to click his teeth together and say “Transcend Dental, beyond the dental,” meaning beyond physical reality. Another nickname for the outer planets was the “Metaphysical Planets,” again: outside the physical. We all remember the cliché “Far out!” It seems that back in the 1960s everyone wanted to be far out.

Back then, many books were written about the outer planets, but almost no one seemed to know what these transcendental planets were all about and could tell their story.
Having lived through my first Saturn Return (29.4 years) consciously, I knew their true story from experience because I witnessed it, at least as best I could. My esoteric teacher taught me to witness and go through this climatic event with my eyes open.

These planets beyond Saturn are not romantic, and if you will study them carefully, they are, as their names suggest, not even physical. They are “metaphysical,” beyond the physical as we know it, and that is mostly all that we know. The outer planets are a rendition of what I spoke of yesterday, the point of no return, and the turning around (changing one’s mind) necessarily involved in that. Yes, these three planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) tell a coherent story, but in Western society that story is mostly whispered, if spoken of at all.

It is the story of impermanence, of reaching the prime of life, after which (physically speaking) there is nothing further. After the age of thirty years, our physical trajectory sustains for a while and then goes into a slow, but steady, decline. Physically, we literally wear ourselves out of existence over time. Like a chrysalis that breaks open, the physical breaks down and from that we emerge spiritually and, like a butterfly, gradually take flight. We rise from the grave of the physical and are, as the Christians like to say, quite literally born again, but not physically. It is a spiritual or psychological birth.

Otherwise, beyond Saturn’s return at 30-years of age, there is nothing else out there. The point of no return is when we realize this and stop looking outward toward the outer planets (stop wanting to grow older) and, instead, turn and start to look inward. We do a 180 and begin to embrace that from which we ourselves emerged, much like a mother cradles a child. In the esoteric world, the inside is the outside, and the outside is what is formed from the inside, just as a baby forms (or crystallizes) within a womb of fluid. We grow from the inside out, rather than vice versa. We crystallize.

The main point here is that there is a change of vantage point, a transmigration of view that happens sometime after the age of thirty, whether or not we are aware of it. We go from being on the inside looking out to being on the outside looking it. The beauty of it (or the terror) is that over our lifetime we play both parts and each with a straight face. “Now you see me, now you don’t.”

When we reach beyond the physical (age beyond 30 years), the only thing we see (like the astronaut up in space) is Earth itself. From space, Earth is most obvious. The mysteries of the outer planets are as simple as breaking out of (going beyond) the physical (Uranus), embracing that from which we emerged (Neptune), and finally realizing that we are going to do it all over again, and again (Pluto): rebirth. So, the outer planets (from the standpoint of the physical) are nowhere. They are meta- physical, and are nothing other than the stages of turning around and walking it back once we have reached the point of no return. This is why no matter how many new trans-Neptunian planets are discovered, their story will not change.
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