Maritha on Counseling

Maritha Pottenger

Continued from last issue

Levinson’s first transitional period is what he called the “Early Adult Transition” from ages 17 to 22. He considers this a crucial turning point in the life cycle—as are all cross-era transitional periods. They hit ages 17-22; 40-45; 60-65; and 80-85. Age 17-18 is also the ending of Erikson’s Stage #5: “Identity vs. Role confusion.” Age 18 is when many young people are legally recognized as adults for drinking, voting and warfare purposes, in our society. Age 21 is another common marker for adulthood in Western society.

At or around age 18, we hit Jupiter opposite Jupiter. Often there is strong confidence. Again, we may experience a sense of wider vistas: “Now I’m an adult; I can do anything.” We look to our goals and values.

Around 20 to 22, we hit several transits: Saturn squares Saturn; Jupiter squares Jupiter and Uranus squares Uranus. The basic struggle seems to be fitting the individual into the context of society—a good Saturn-Uranus conflict. During adolescence, we may have done a lot of putting our personal needs foremost. Now, we learn to fit into and contribute to society. If we over-adapt, we lose our uniqueness. If we are unwilling to cooperate, we may become chronic rebels, drop-outs from society. Levinson stresses, development is “a process in which opposite extremes are to some degree reconciled and integrated.” (p.30) Of course, astrology has recognized and dealt with polarities for ages. Hopefully, in our twenties, we begin to integrate personal needs with societal needs.

Saturn has to do with consequences of past actions. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” Thus, it is generally involved when we reap the results of our past activities. With the Saturn cycle, more so than any other, if we do not handle the task well the first time around, it hits us all the harder the next time. We cannot ignore the reality issues symbolized by Saturn.

Thus, the crisis around age 21 is partially Saturnian, and how well we resolve that has a great effect on how well we handle our Saturn Return around 28 to 30. As Levinson says, “In every period, we suffer because of the undone developmental work of previous periods—for ultimately these chickens do come home to roost—but we also have an opportunity to do further developmental work and to create a life more suitable to the self.” (p. 63, Levinson)

Levinson’s next major stage is called Early Adulthood, beginning at 17 to 18 and ending around age 45. This corresponds to Erikson’s Stage #6 of “Intimacy vs. Isolation” of the twenties and thirties, and Oretega y Gasset’s stages of Youth (15-30) and Initiation (30-45).

Within the large era of Early Adulthood, Levinson found several periods. From about 22 to 28, he called it “Entering the Adult World.” This is the period when most people make a life structure that works for themselves and their hopes and desires as well as for society. They move from their family of birth (origin) to establishing their own home base. They make and begin testing their choices regarding career, love relationships, values, peer relationships, and lifestyle. (Societal conditioning encourages women to develop only in areas of love relationships and peers and some lifestyle issues. Relationships are set up in opposition to career for women. They are generally mutually supportive for men.)

People in their twenties try to reconcile their needs to (p.58, Levinson) explore the adult world while keeping their options open and create a stable life structure, be responsible and “amount to something.” These two polarities could be seen symbolically in the Uranus square Uranus and Saturn square Saturn conflict of age 20 to 22. How the individual handles this polarity will have great bearing on his/her experiences age 28-30 when Saturn first returns to its natal position.

One potential path is the person who settles in comfortably to the structure. Such people choose an occupation, spouse, etc. of which society approves and build steadily during their twenties. Their Saturn Return is often a time of fruition and greater achievement. Their needs and drives are in tune with society. (This is a less likely path for oppressed groups, unless they settle for low-level accomplishment.)

Levinson lists four major tasks in what he calls this “novice” stage of adulthood (learning, trying out, an apprentice adult, as it were):

1. forming a dream (as exemplified in Martin Luther King speech) and giving it a place in the life structure.

2. forming a mentor relationship (with a wise, older person, who plays a supportive, teaching, counseling role)

3. forming an occupation

4. forming love relationships, including marriage and family. (p.90, Levinson)

Levinson notes how women are encouraged to make their love relationships their dream. Our society is totally non-supportive of two people of the opposite sex living together with their own dreams. Women are expected to support their man’s dream, if they are with a man. Other authors have noted that men are more reluctant to mentor women than they are to mentor other men —which is one of the many barriers to women in business and academia.

People on the first path, call it A, accomplish the four tasks with relative ease in society and within their own being. The twenties are a time of building. Particularly around age 24, at the second Jupiter return, there may be great assurance, a feeling of really having it all together now. Often great optimism and confidence are felt.

Path B is taken by those who attempt to squeeze their psyches into the demands of society. They pursue a dream, a career, may start a family, but are increasingly frustrated as time goes by. What they are doing just does not meet their inner needs. When their Saturn Return arrives they are questioning everything and often ready to throw it all out and start all over again. They are generally best advised to do so. If they hang in, and try to make a non-viable life structure work, they will just have more intense problems with the mid-life crisis, and their second Saturn Return.

Path C is for those individuals who go temporarily outside the structure. They concentrate on keeping all their options open and exploring all their possibilities. If they are true to themselves and their search, they find a dream which is worthwhile to them and society by their late twenties. With their Saturn Return, they feel it is time to settle down now, and really accomplish something.

Path D is taken by those who begin like Path C, but never find a satisfactory dream or focus. They may end up the rebels, the drop outs, the perpetual rolling stones. Their Saturn returns are often quite painful as they examine what they have done, and see it is very little. They have the urge to be competent and achieve, but no inkling of where or how. They want to be productive, but have nothing into which to channel the energy.

It is important to remember that much of this is a matter of interpretation, and how a person experiences her/his life. People on the cutting edge of change may be pursuing their dream and still contributing to society (a la Socrates’ gadfly function, if in no other way, helping to question, confront, and assist changes). However, society may not recognize their contributions as such—brand them as radicals, etc. If such individuals feel, in their own center, that they are useful, we can see them as taking Path C. If such people accept society’s view of their activities (and the pressure will be intense for them to do so), they have taken Path D.

Around age 28 to 30, all humans experience their Saturn Return. Levinson calls the period from 28 to 33, the “Age Thirty Transition” and notes that it is a crisis for many. He stated at a conference that EVERYONE he knows had a different life pattern at 33 than at 28. The degree and kind of change varied, of course. In Seasons of a Man’s Life, Levinson notes that only 18% of his subjects had a smooth Age Thirty Transition. 62% had a “moderate or severe crisis” and 20% had a mixed, ambiguous period. (p.87, Levinson)

This is a period of appraisal and questioning: What have I done so far? Where am I going? Life seems more serious. All of a sudden, “It’s for real!” There is a tremendous consciousness of time and fear of “lost youth” and time running out before the individual does all s/he wants to accomplish. We look at our foundation and decide whether or not it is good.

As suggested earlier, how well or ill one handles the Age 30 Transition depends largely on the seeds sown and paths taken in the twenties before the Saturn Return. But, if unwise choices were made earlier, now is truly the time for change. And we must remember, it is not just what we do or do not do, but how we feel about it, how we INTERPRET our experience, that is vital.

In Chinese, “crisis” and “opportunity” have the same symbol. Every crisis is an opportunity for growth. We discover our structures are outmoded. Ways of being and doing no longer work, or are downright destructive. Change is inevitable. We can do it voluntarily, or wait until life forces us. The latter is generally more painful. During our Saturn Returns, we throw out what is no longer viable and try on a new structure, a new foundation for the adult world.

We try out that new structure from about ages 33 to 40 in what Levinson calls the “Settling Down Stage.” We are establishing our niche in society in terms of competence and we are “making it” —progressing in work, friendship, family, etc. We are moving from a “junior” to a “senior” member of the adult world. We are consolidating our position. Again, women—at least in the past—have been discouraged from entering the adult world. Attempts were and are made to isolate women and children from the adult world.

Levinson sees another stage around 36 to 40, which he calls “Becoming One’s Own Man.” (The book does only study men. No women were included.) The movement is towards doing more of what one wants, of being an authority. The mentoring relationship is being phased out. Few men have mentors by age 40, and after 40, they begin to be mentors themselves to younger men (and occasionally to women).

Astrologically, we see another Jupiter Return around age 36, so long range goals and values and ideals are again a focus and concern. And we see Saturn square Saturn around age 37 to 38. So questions of authority and who is really in charge may abound. If any children are in early adolescence (which is common), they may be experiencing their Saturn opposite Saturn, which can intensify authority conflicts. There is a strong desire not to buy other people’s rules. In many ways, this Saturn square Saturn is like an examination of the decisions made at the Saturn Return. Was that really the right choice—for me?

The individual then reaches one of the periods of most intense transit activity. Between 37 and 43, we experience Uranus opposite Uranus; Saturn opposite Saturn, and Neptune square Neptune. Plus, for some of us, Pluto will square Pluto at the end of this period. What a package!

Age 40 is emphasized by a vast number of people. Jung, a pioneer in this area for psychology, marked 40 as the “noon of life.” He saw life as having two halves: before and after 40. The period after forty, he saw as extremely rich, when people begin reducing their imbalances, becoming more of all that they are capable.

Erikson saw around age 40 as beginning Stage #7: “Generativity versus Stagnation,” when older people need to become involved with teaching and aiding the younger generations—the mentoring relationship which Levinson discusses.

The mid-life transition, as Levinson points out, is also often a crisis. It is sometimes exacerbated by the fact that society tends to think one is “too old” for that sort of turbulence and change. Levinson sees the crisis as occurring about ages 40 to 45, sometimes starting as early as 38 or as late as 43. People become aware of their mortality. Instincts and drives are less strong. The slight physiological decline which is apparent can be used as a way to enrich the life with more inner, spiritual, and emotional pursuits, or as a focus for depression and self-pity.

The life is reappraised. Again, there is questioning and review. What have I done with my life? Where am I going? What do I want? People may look for new meanings in life. There is a parallel to the 17-22 crisis in losing something, but not sure what is being gained as yet. Many accept their success or failure, although the judgment is totally relative. There is often (but not always) a culminating event (especially in a career) which marks the time for the person. “In his mind it symbolizes the outcome of his youthful striving; it represents the highest affirmation he will receive in this phase of his life, and he uses it to estimate his chances for realizing his aims in the future.” (p.31, Levinson) It is important to remember that the success or failure judgments are relative, and totally according to the individual. The outside world may have a very different view.

Again, Levinson saw the seeds sown in the thirties as affecting the course of the Mid-Life Transition. He found five paths (p. 150) in the thirties:

1. Advancement with a Stable Life Structure. The individual progressed pretty much according to his(her) expectations and time table and was relatively satisfied. The mid-life transition involved shifts in the mentor relationship, love relationships, career, etc. to include more of what s/he felt was missing now, but generally stability was high.

2. Serious Failure or Decline within a Stable Life Structure. The person’s own time table for success was at odds with the world, and s/he experienced the self as a failure. Mid-life transition was difficult, and the individual often made major changes.

3. Breaking Out: Trying a New Structure. Some people tried to break out in the late thirties, during the “Becoming One’s Own Man” stage. EVERY one went through instability or flux for eight to ten years. They still had to face the mid-life transition, even if they changed and adapted in the late thirties!

4. Advancement Which in Itself Produces Change in Life Structure. In mid-life, these people reassessed the changes and looked at their new lifestyle in terms of: Is this really what I want? They made minor or major changes.

5. Unstable Life Structure. These people never really settled down. They felt more like failures at mid-life. They had a strong need to find SOMETHING to commit to.

The major tasks which Levinson sees for the mid-life transition are:

1. To reappraise the past (which is done very subjectively)

2. To modify the life structure, including mentor, family, love relationships, career, and one’s dream.

3. To balance polarities. If there has been an over-emphasis, to include more of the missing side. The four main polarities to be faced are:

a. Young vs. Old. One’s yearning for immortality must be faced. There is a danger of hanging on to “lost youth.”

b. Destruction vs. Creation which includes spiritual issues, ethical questions, looking at the context of human existence, and definitions of good and evil.

c. Masculine vs. Feminine. People tend to loosen up considerably in their following of traditional sex role divisions. Men can get in touch with and allow the “feminine” side of themselves; women can get in touch with and allow the “masculine” side of themselves. There is often a switch, with traditional men becoming much more emotionally, family oriented, and traditional women ready to go out the door and REALLY have a career now that the kids are generally grown.

d. Attachment vs. Separateness. Each person must reach a balance between the need to be close and emotionally involved with other people, while maintaining a clear sense of self and uniqueness. (p.197, Levinson)

All these polarities are faced and dealt with—at least to some degree. Rob Hand and other astrologers see the Uranus transit as the keynote theme for this period: really expressing oneself, going beyond societal expectations and roles to be all that one is capable of being, to re-discover and utilize missing sides.

The next era of Middle Adulthood lasts approximately age 40 to 65. The first period, “Entering Middle Adulthood: Building a New Life Structure” lasts through the forties. How workable the new structure is depends much on the decisions made in the mid-life transition. Some structures are fine in society’s eyes, but lack meaning for the individual. Others are fine in the individual’s eyes, but lack meaning according to society.

Middle Adulthood is when individuals play major leadership roles in social institutions for this generation. This corresponds to the stage Ortega y Gasset calls Dominance and what Levinson calls mentoring. Given the structure of our society, the power is generally in male hands. People can be more loving and tolerant, or more trivial and stagnant. Often, they reassess their relationship to their own parents during this period. People begin to re-own their projections, and love people for themselves, rather than for what the person cannot love in him(her)self. Levinson feels they are better lovers and mentoring is common now. If integrated, Levinson calls this the “fullest and most creative season in the life cycle.” (P.62, Levinson) He believes the passions, ambitions and illusions of youth are less strong. He feels there is deeper attachment to others, and yet a firmer centering in one’s own self. (This may very well be true, but we must remember this stage is the one Levinson himself occupies at present.)

The Building a New Life Structure stage includes a Saturn opposite Saturn and Jupiter square Jupiter around 45 plus a Jupiter Return around 48. If combined well, these truly are the great teacher and wise mentor to others. We can have high principles mixed with practicality, a blending of the ideal and the real. Perfectionistic, critical standards are the main danger.

Levinson charts another transition period from around 50 to 55 which he calls the Age 50 Transition. He says, “The functions of this period in middle adulthood are similar to those of the Age Thirty transition in Early Adulthood. In it, a man can work further on tasks of the Mid Life Transition and can modify the life structure formed in the forties. It may be a time of crisis for men who changed too little in the Mid Life Transition and then built an unsatisfactory life structure. In our opinion, it is not possible to get through middle adulthood without having at least a moderate crisis in either the Mid Life Transition or the Age Fifty Transition.” (p. 62, Levinson)

This Transition includes Saturn square Saturn which can symbolize a sense of limitations, of being boxed in by structures, including past choices and actions. We may need to confront reality very practically and make changes.

From 55 to 60 or so, we build our second middle adulthood life structure. This period seems analogous to the “Settling Down” period of the thirties. If we are handling it, fulfillment can be great. It includes a Jupiter opposition, trine and square to natal Jupiter, plus a Neptune trine Neptune, so satisfaction includes spiritual and ethical ideals as well as material gains.

Around 60 to 65, we get to Levinson’s Late Adult Transition, another major turning point, when we finish Middle Adulthood and enter Late Adulthood. This corresponds to Erikson’s eighth stage of “Ego Integrity versus Despair.” We learn to see a world of meaning and order and are aware of the relativity of lifestyles. We come to terms with our own mortality. Or, as Erikson says, “Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough to not fear death.” (p.269, Erikson) We use our wisdom. We renounce some material goals and gains for spiritual ones. We can move gradually from center stage. We have less interest in the rewards of society, but focus more on our own inner resources. Politically and socially, we hand the reins of leadership over to the next generation behind us, aged 40 to 60. (Again, race, sex and class will have a lot to say about how much or little power we hold in the world.)

The Late Adult Transition picks up the end of our second Saturn Return—truly a significant turning point. It also picks up Uranus square Uranus on the way back to the conjunction. And Jupiter also Returns to its natal position around age 60. For some people, Pluto squares Pluto during this time. We re-examine our goals and ideals. We may retire from certain aspects of life or a career. We express more of our individuality and uniqueness and care less what other people might say.

Levinson has little data, but a preliminary hint that another transition occurs around 80 to 85, into what he calls Late, Late Adulthood. This picks up the Neptune opposite Neptune around 82 to 83 and Uranus Returns around 84, plus another Jupiter Return at 84. All of these suggest change continues and flexibility is essential. We could expect a focus on the spiritual and mystical with Neptune’s emphasis, and ideals with Neptune and Jupiter both. Uranus’ Return suggests a finalizing of one’s ability to be independent, original and unique. Perhaps being more in touch with other levels and other planes of reality, we are less concerned with what people here think and do about us.

As the life span continues to lengthen, more cycles will be uncovered by psychology, and the transits in astrology will give us clues to the themes faced in each period. Some scientists predict that individuals now in their twenties could live to be 120 and beyond, so some of us may indeed make it to our Pluto opposite Pluto, which suggests transformation on the deepest levels and tremendous introspection and mastery. Pluto indicates depth sharing of power over the material, sensual world as well, particularly confronting those issues with a mate. We are likely to continue facing such issues even into old age, therefore!

I would like to add a few astrological postscripts from my own experience. Of course, we always look at the transits in the context of a natal chart. Natal charts will also give important clues as to handling of crises. For example, people with Saturns which are generally favorably aspected may have integrated Saturn’s challenges, and not have big crises with the Saturn cycle. However, another planet, say Jupiter, which has many tension aspects, may be a key to major crises in the life.

Saturn, more than any other planet, seems important in cycles because of its time-keeping function. However, for some people, Saturn-Sun (or other) contacts are more significant than Saturn-Saturn. Watch your own chart. Particularly watch any transits at degrees that are a part of a network effect of interacting aspects in your own chart (e.g. touching off a T-Square, Grand Cross, Grand Trine, etc.)

If we do not pass the exam the first time, the re-test is often tougher. That is true for other aspects, as well as the Saturn Return.

Retrogrades may prolong a crisis, but events can occur at any time during the cycle from when the planet is first within orb to the final separation. Often Retrograde periods form a mini-cycle of their own.

Different people find different transits more important for them. E.g., some people are very sensitive to the transiting Moon. Check it out. It may show up in the chart, e.g. a stellium, strongly aspected planet, planet on an angle, etc. The easiest way to check is to see what was happening in the transits during significant periods in your life.

If two planets are in a tight conjunction in the natal chart (especially if it is lifetime by secondary progressions) they carry the flavor of BOTH planets for you, whenever even one is transiting (progressed, etc.) E.g. Zip Dobyns gets a little Neptune with her Mars and a little Mars with her Neptune.

Although transits probably have some minor physiological effects, particularly the Moon, they are not primarily keys to events, but to psychological states. Every event was a state of mind first! If we understand the WHY, we do not need the WHAT of events. Once we know our own tendencies and character, we can grow and change to be continually involved with as satisfying and fulfilling events as possible. Transits, like everything else in astrology, have a positive and negative side. We choose which way to live. We have the power to choose always (or almost always) on the positive side of expression.

And, remember, you are never too old to grow! The universe is constantly in motion, and so are we. So, I wish you all exciting, dynamic, happy lives with ALL your cycles and transits!!


ECCLESIASTES 3:1-8, The Bible, King James Version

Erikson, Erik H, Childhood and Society, Second Edition, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1963.

Levinson, Daniel J. (and others), The Seasons of a Man’s Life, New York, Knopf, 1978.

P.S. Perhaps one reason behind doing this column now is that I am celebrating my own Saturn Return.

Daniel Levinson’s Stages in the (male) Life



Years 0-22

Early Childhood Transition


Middle Childhood




Early Adult Transition





Entering the Adult World


Age Thirty Transition


“Settling Down” Stage


Mid-Life Transition





Entering Middle Adulthood


Age Fifty Transition


Culmination of Middle Adulthood


Late Adult Transition





. . . . .

Transition to Late, Late Adulthood





Erik Erikson’s General Stages of Mankind

Stage #

Years Old

1 Trust vs. Mistrust

0-1 ½

2 Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt

1 ½-4

3 Initiative vs. Guilt


4 Industry vs. Inferiority


5 Identity vs. Role Diffusion


6 Intimacy vs. Isolation

20s & 30s

7 Generativity vs. Stagnation

40s & 50s

8 Ego Integrity vs. Despair


Approximate Planetary Cycles

Sun transits a sign (and equal house) in about one month.

Moon transits a sign in about 2-2 ½ days.

Mercury and Venus vary a lot, but are close to the Sun’s motion. Mercury has 3 retrograde periods per year.

Mars transits a sign about every 1-4/5 months.

Jupiter transits a sign in about one year.

Saturn transits a sign in about 2 ½ years.

Uranus transits a sign in about 7 years.

Neptune transits a sign in not quite 12 years.

Pluto transits a sign in about 20-21 years, but its motion varies considerably.

Approximate Planetary Cycles


Total Cycle

1/4 Cycle

1/3 Cycle

1/2 Cycle

2/3 Cycle

3/4 Cycle















29 1/2


































Total Cycles (approximate):

Moon: 27 1/3 days

Sun, Venus, Mercury: One year

Mars: 22 Months

Copyright © 1980 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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