Our lives are fixed in a certain pattern of energy, timing, and movement. We can see an expression of this pattern through the lens of modern science in our personal genome, the genetic material that we receive from our biological parents, and ancestral lineage contained in an individual form. We see a similar kind of “pattern” in systems like astrology and Human Design.
These systems are based on a relationship between the place where an individual is born into the world and the position of the planetary and other cosmic influences at that exact time. In the Human Design System, this relationship is said to be fixed through the timing, movement, and position of the planets as filters of the neutrino stream.
The Birth Imprint
A neutrino is described as a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron but has no electrical charge. Neutrinos have a very small mass which may be close to zero, and yet are one of the most abundant particles in the universe. According to the Human Design System and Ra Uru Hu’s experience of “The Voice”, the frequencies of the planets of our solar system influence humanity on this planet by filtering the neutrino stream through the prime crystal of the planet. Astrologically and in Human Design, these planetary influences are framed in the form of a human life in a ‘birth chart’. The astrological birth chart and the Human Design BodyGraph show a picture of the planetary movements or ‘transits’ of very specific moments of time. These birth charts are essentially planetary maps showing the positions and relationships of the planets in our solar system based on when and where we came into the world. This reveals a unique imprint of themes and characteristics for each individual.
Human Design gives us an additional moment of time approximately three months prior to the moment of birth which equates to exactly 88 degrees of solar arc before the position of the Sun at birth. This is the imprint of the physical form shown by the ‘Design’ or red activations in the BodyGraph.
The BodyGraph as a whole shows the patterns and themes that our Design/Body (The Red) and Personality/Mind (The Black) are imprinted with as a map of the energetic potential of this life. Like our genetic material, we carry this original imprint shown in our BodyGraph with us throughout our entire life and have an ongoing resonance with these two moments in time and space.
Human Design is a dualistic and natural system (with deep roots in the I Ching, a classic Chinese text describing a fundamental structure of nature) that describes in detail the ‘Mechanics of the Maia’ or the construct and patterns of our experience of reality. It offers us a way of seeing the underlying structure and behavior of the natural world as it relates to our own direct experience.
Our design shows what is fixed and reliable in our experience and from that we can experiment with how our life force is designed to operate in this world. That is, it brings with it the potential to align with our true nature as described by these two important birth imprints. When we align with and live according to our design, we get to experience our natural pattern and true self as it is.
The True-Self & Deconditioning
“When we begin this process, we are often confronted with what Human Design describes as the “not-self”. We are conditioned genetically to be attracted to what we are not. If we operate from where we are designed to be open and flexible and make mental decisions from the conditioning themes of our openness, it often results in our moving further away from our original nature and life force.
That’s when the weather is an ally. You see the program’s always a double-edged sword. I could have a Neptunian delusionary disaster as the not-self. Or the mystery of Neptune as myself. And all of that is about being me, living my strategy. All about living your strategy.
And that’s what the program is. It’s weather. And there are two things about understanding yourself and recognizing that it’s weather. One is very simple: if you’re not following your strategy, you cannot avoid the conditioning, and in most cases the negative conditioning, of the program. Because if you are not following your strategy, then you’re still operating out of your not-self strategies. And so it’s your not-self that’s going to be affected by the transit. And the only way that you can not be disturbed by the weather is if you’re moving through your life as yourself.”– Ra Uru Hu
Major Cycles & The Saturn Return
In addition to the constant movement of the planets in relationship to our birth chart placements, there are the major cycles of the Saturn Return occurring approximately at the age of 28, Uranus Opposition at about 42, and the Chiron Return at 49. There is also the Second Saturn Return at age 56 and the Uranus Return at 84. These major cycle transits represent points of transition in the pattern and trajectory of our life story. For the purposes of this article, we are focusing on the first Saturn Return at approximately 28 years of age depending on the speed and direction of transiting Saturn at the time of birth. The thematics of the first Saturn Return cycle run from 29 to around the age of 50 at the time of the Chiron Return.
To be sure, the Saturn Return itself is technically a ‘planetary transit’ referencing the position of the planet Saturn in the Rave Mandala or Zodiac wheel when it completes its 360-degree journey around the Rave Mandala and Zodiac Wheel and returns to its original position in the birth chart. In many systems of astrology as well as in Human Design, the first Saturn Return represents our entry into the “adulthood” phase of life. Human Design takes this a step further indicating that this is the time when our Incarnation Cross, representing the full potential of our life’s purpose, can be planted and we can start embodying that expression. Oftentimes the frequencies of planets are described in terms of the mythologies of the cultures interpreting the symbolism of the planets.
In ancient Rome, Saturn was associated with Saturnus, a deity originally linked with corn, wealth, and agriculture. Saturn was later associated with the Titan Cronos, the father of Zeus and the Greek god of time. Saturn became the ruler of the universe after successfully overthrowing his father Uranus, and fathered Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Ceres, and Vesta with his sister Ops. The day of the week, Saturday is named after him. In Hindu mythology, Saturn is called Shani and is the son of the Sun and Chhaya, the Goddess of Shadow. Shani is the Sun’s polar opposite, and as such its best traits are humility and perseverance.
In Vibrational Astrology, a system concerned with the fundamental principles of the cosmic influences, the energy process of Saturn is said to remove everything superficial to get to the essence of things. The force of Saturn strips things down to the bones and the fundamentals, focusing on what is of lasting value. It challenges us to discover what is really important, which can sometimes be more severe than most people prefer.
In the Human Design System, Saturn is described as “The Judge” or the “punishment” carrying a frequency related to discipline where we must deal with the consequences of our actions. It is seen as a very ancient yin force representing places in our lives where we may have to “pay” for incorrectness and not following through on our own laws and morals. In this sense, Saturn can be a profound catalyst that teaches us that “we reap what has been sown”. Alokanand Diaz, one of my main teachers and mentors in Human Design, says that the Saturn Return reveals what needs to be learned at this stage in order to implement your Incarnation Cross or purpose in this life. That the time of the Saturn Return is fundamentally about accepting the restraints of “I Am” (who you are) in interaction with the material characteristics of the world.
If your Saturn Return experience does not carry a theme of so-called “punishment”, then that may be a sign that you have been living correctly according to the mechanics of your design. If it does have that flavor, then we can view it as an opportunity to course-correct. We can then take responsibility for ourselves and embody a more authentic way of being in the world, bringing awareness to the essentials and what really matters to us.
In a Human Design Saturn Return reading (as well as with the other longer-term cycles such as Uranus Opposition and Chiron Return), the focus is on the Cross of the cycle chart comprised of the gates and lines of the Personality and Design Sun/Earth (Dependent Variable “I am”) and the Nodal themes (Independent Variable “Life Is”). The Nodes of the Moon show the directional themes of the cycle and how one’s environment and perspective may shift during this time.
While the Cycle Cross, Profile, and Nodes tell most of the story, one can also look to the inner planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars) as people who may be playing a role in the process and the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) as developmental themes. The Dominance Channels of the Cycle chart are represented by new channel definition and show the educational themes, where the Electro-Magnetic Channels created by a cycle gate activating a hanging gate and Compromise Channels overlaying a hanging gate show themes experienced on a more personal level. Individual cycle gate activations describe additional environmental themes which are of less importance in a cycle reading due to the length of the Saturn Return cycle.
Another thing that is important to look at with these longer cycle readings is the Profile Angle, Right (Lines 1-4 in the Personality Sun) or Left (5-6 in the Personality Sun). Someone born with a Right Angle Profile with a Left Angle Cycle Profile may find that there are forces that are going to come to their aid that they do not expect. On the other hand, a Left Angle Profile with a Right Angle Cycle Profile will encounter an unexpected limitation on being helped by allies in that period. When teaching how to do a Saturn Return Cycle reading, Ra suggests that the analyst take a “positive” approach so that the recipient’s optimism is enriched. In this, he seems to be referencing the first Saturn Return period in which the 6th Line profiles go “onto the roof” in order to begin the process of becoming a “Role Model” in this life and can develop a renewed sense of optimism appropriate to the 6th Line after the pessimism of the first 3rd Line phase of life (from birth until the Saturn Return).
An Example Saturn Return
Here is an example Saturn Return chart of Marie, demonstrating a few of the mentioned themes. Marie is a 2/4 Mental Projector with the strategy of waiting for the invitation and a soundboard/environmental decision-making process.
Marie’s Incarnation Cross is the Right Angle Cross of the Unexpected. This cross has the energy to encounter the unexpected and the discovery of a new experience. At the time of Marie’s Saturn Return, she was 29 years old living in New York City, and in the process of ending a relationship which was compelling her to begin reviewing her past relationship experiences. She was looking at her previous relationship patterns and whether these experiences supported and allowed her to truly be herself.
Her birth nodes show that she is here to be in environments where conflict and crisis are opportunities and she is here to see how ambition and drive can overcome a kind of mental oppression in order to achieve security (47.2). She is also here to learn about a natural emotionalness in social charm (22.2).
It was at 29 years of age that she met her future husband, a 5/1 Splenic Projector. His Personality Sun/Earth are also in Gates 49/4 as shown in the Design Nodes of the Saturn Return. This is a pattern I’ve seen in so many readings and analyses, where the Cross of the Return chart describes both the themes and the people that one is to encounter in one’s life in order to live out one’s unique life purpose. That is, where very important people show up in our lives around the times of these major cycle transitions, bringing in the frequencies and themes that the individual is here to work with as part of the unfolding life story. We can often see these people and themes in the Gates and Lines of the Cycle Cross and Nodes. For Projectors, it often signals a shift in relationships. For Generators, it can often catalyze a shift in how they are using their energy in the world.
In any case, the Saturn Return was a time of major transition for Marie. She moved from the East Coast of the United States to the midwest to where she currently resides with her now-husband. There was a lot of processing around her past relationship experience, looking back over past patterns (Gate 4 in the Cycle Nodes) and getting clearer on both her needs and the needs of her partners (Gate 49 in the Cycle Nodes).
This time also established the beginnings of and a foundation (Saturn Return Design Sun in Line 1) for creating a family together and the roles they would each play in the Penta (Gates 7 and 13 in the Cycle Nodes).
She began working with her husband in support of his new business and found that she was called out to a more externalized expression of their relationship and the projections (Saturn Return Personality Sun in Line 5) that come with it. This was a big shift for her as a 2/4 Profile as she was used to being more private and oriented to maintain her personal connections and network.
The Left Angle Cross of Informing (47/22 | 12/11) brought in themes around communication and her needing to bring more awareness to the cultural differences of New York City where she had been living and the smaller Midwest town where she moved. She had to be more cautious and graceful in how direct she was in expressing her ideas and truth.
This is just a quick overview of some of the main themes she was here to learn about and work with in her Saturn Return cycle. This time was also an opportunity for Marie to come into her own as an adult making her way through the world.
If we are living as ourselves, following our Strategy and Authority for correct decision making, we can interrupt the not-self mental decision making, meeting the conditioning and influences coming in from others and the planetary forces in an aligned way meaning that we will have a more true sense of what is for us and what is not in this world. Through experimenting with Strategy and Authority we can realign our lives and find our true role, purpose, and identity.
We’re here to live out our mythology, each and every one of us. That’s what happens when you stop being furniture, that you get an opportunity to become the character and role that you really are. You get to see the purpose of why you incarnated here in the first place. And you get to live it out. You get to live out your uniqueness and your capacity to filter the programme. When you filter the programme as yourself, you are an archetype. It is the whole point of our consciousness of illusion. The programme’s not the enemy and more than conditioning is the enemy. It’s the great available wisdom and it’s so perfect.– Ra Uru Hu, in Planetary Conditioning
If you are interested in more deeply exploring the themes of your first or second Saturn Return, John Cole and Amy Lee are available for individual Saturn Return sessions. Please click the preceding links for more information.