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International Society for Astrological Research Journal article

Soul Mapping:
LifeCycles Astrology of the Soul

By Jef Bartow

Various astrologers and astrology schools, both past and present, have concluded that the soul can be represented in the astrology chart. These views have identified various components to represent the soul including the Sun; Pluto; the Ascendant; Uranus, Neptune and Pluto; the Moon’s Nodes; as well as an entire esoteric view of astrology as relating to the soul, just to name a few. One of the inherent difficulties in this is trying to use the astrology mandala to represent Beingness. 

Identifying levels of consciousness within the astrology chart is similar to identifying the Personality as a consciousness. We intuitively relate our sensing, feeling, imagining and thinking as part of our personality. We naturally accept love, joy, empathy, relatedness and our ideals and values as part of us. These functions, energies and qualities are all parts of our personality. A simple way that metaphysics defines the Personality is as an Entity. It includes consciousness and all the various functions we call parts of ourselves.

If we accepted the natal astrology chart as our personality and soul, then every individual born in the same hospital at the same time would be identical. A better definition for the astrology chart is that it is a matrix of energies that form a blueprint stamped within us to help us grow and develop as a personality. Life circumstances and our behaviors then become another major factor in who we become. 

Most astrologers use the natal, progressed and transit charts to describe the Personality and how it behaves within each and every area of life. In Soul Mapping as a part of LifeCycles Astrology, the soul is actually our subjective consciousness as part of the human Group Soul until it becomes individualized as a subjective self-conscious Being. The Personality is the Entity in material manifestation (i.e. in objectivity) that outpictures the subjective soul in life. If we make a small leap, the natal astrology chart becomes how our soul directs and conditions our life based on its mission. This is the basis for LifeCycles Astrology of the Soul. Soul Mapping is the term I use to lay out the soul’s intent, plan and blueprint for the individual’s life. Various aspects and parts of the astrology chart identify how the soul’s mission will play out through plans and activities. In effect, Soul Mapping synthesizing various views on how the soul is represented within the chart.

Methodology of LifeCycles Astrology 

LifeCycles Astrology is based on the premise that we begin life at the degree of our Ascendant and progress through life around our natal chart until we return to our Ascendant at a culmination in life. Essentially, the process-oriented astrology of Dane Rudhyar and Leyla Rael defines this journey. Alexander Ruperti incorporated major astrological age factors into a generic structure of life and proposed a 10 phase lifecycle from birth until death at proximally 70 years of age. Various cycles of the planets also became major contributing factors. After reviewing various ways that process-oriented astrology can be applied, I determined that I could not use an arbitrary age cycle. It was fairly easy to determine that Uranus and its 84 year cycle would represent the soul in embodiment with 12 sub phases of 7 years apiece. Figures 1 & 2 outline this journey of the soul.

An intuitive insight led me to the answer for the Personality. Since Saturn is regarded as the boundary of the Personality, then its cycle would be the key. If we use one cycle of Saturn as the waxing phase in life and another cycle as the waning phase in life, our life’s journey around the astrological chart is approximately 60 years, or 12 sub phases of 5 years apiece. To be precise, I concluded that two exact cycles of Saturn within the individual’s life represents its journey through the mandala. For most everyone, this is a cycle of 58 to 59 years. Without going into a lot of detail here, it is fairly easy to apply the activity-based form building of the waxing phase to relate to birth to our first Saturn return and our evolutionary expansion of consciousness simultaneous with the devolution of our physical body as related to the 2nd Saturn cycle until its 2nd Saturn return.

An article I wrote in 2009 within the ISAR archives lays out these two lifecycle journeys in more detail. I also gave a lecture at both the 2009 ISAR conference and the 2012 UAC conference that are probably still available. The focus of this article is to provide the souls map for its journey in this life and how it will influence the Personality along the way.

Soul’s Intent for this Life

The Ascendant is considered by many to be a key reflection of the soul in embodiment. I agree. But more precisely, the exact degree of the Ascendant represents the soul’s intent for this life. Because of this and that our LifeCycles journey begins at the moment of birth, it is very important that we astrologers have an exact time of birth. I have found that rectification of the chart when the birth time is not well known works very well in most cases. It is also a good idea to review the Sabian symbols of a few degrees before and after the determined time to confirm what one understands of the client and the rectification suggests. In a few cases, I determined to use a different degree on the Ascendant than that determined by rectification based on what I knew about a famous person in history or my personal relationship with an individual.

Another thing in interpreting the Sabian symbol for the soul’s intent in life relates to what you learn from the rest of Soul Mapping. The soul’s plan and blueprint in life will help you understand the soul’s intent represented by the Sabian symbol on the Ascendant. It’s like developing a business plan. The whole plan doesn’t come together until all the key parts have been completed and documented. There is a specific phase in business planning where you review and reconcile conflicting aspects as part of the process of making the plan whole and complete. This is also true for Soul Mapping.

Because I’ve used Dane Rudhyar’s process-oriented astrology as a part of LifeCycles Astrology, I use his book An Astrological Mandala: The cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases as my reference book on the Sabian symbol for each degree of the zodiac. As a counselor/mentor, I personally take a more psychological/spiritual perspective in interpreting each Sabian symbol. 

For example, I did not interpret literally 20° Taurus represented by: “A finger pointing to a line in an open book” whose keynote is: “Learning to discern what in your culture and religion is meaningful to you personally” as “SUBSERVIENCE TO COLLECTIVE VALUES.” The individual who I was doing the reading for had been part of the Green Berets earlier in life; had at least 3 past embodiments within the military; and was suffering from PTSD. Based on an epiphany, he left the Green Berets early without being able to receive all subsequent benefits. He was haunted by the things that he had done during his tenure of high performance. He had obviously been subservient to collective values until his epiphany. His soul’s intent here relates to discernment what was meaningful to him, not just living subservient to collective values. It involved his consciously developing and internalized his values for this life.

Another example would be myself with a 20° Scorpio Ascendant, the exact opposite of our previous example. The Sabian symbol here is: “Obeying his conscience, a soldier resists orders.” The keynote is: “A readiness to face results of his refusal to follow the authoritarian patterns of aggressive society.” The keywords involve displaying “INNER FREEDOM to prove himself an individual.” Beginning at the age of 22 after graduating with an engineering degree from USC, I completely changed my life to pursue the ministry in an “occult” organization. Although I did pursue a career in the outer world, it was always subservient to my spiritual calling. At various points in life, I was faced with decisions of following the traditional path of society versus my spiritual path. A number of my life experiences/decisions would be considered insanity from a typical psychological perspective.

In LifeCycles Astrology, bringing meaning and understanding to any key event in life becomes interpreting the Sabian symbol for the exact time of the event and the aspects of that particular point in one’s journey to the natal, progressed and transiting planets at the time. If you see a trend that the Sabian symbol for various events doesn’t easily make sense, then it is time to review the symbols before and after and see if they fall in place intuitively and/or rationally. This is another indicator that the Ascendant may be off by one or two degrees, one way or another. We all know of cases where the hospital forgot to quickly document the time of birth and later just approximated it to cover their tracks. 

LifeCycles is an energetic science of astrology, but human nature typically isn’t scientific. In most cases, a verified birth time through the birth certificate is accurate. When a client gives you a rounded off time like 1 PM or 8:30 PM, it’s a good idea to question the exact time to determine the exact Sabian symbol that resonates with their life. The reason this is so important is that LifeCycles Astrology of the soul can become 4 readings per year, one each time the soul’s journey progresses to the next degree. In LifeCycles Astrology, all the natal, progressed and transiting aspects to each degree of progression change about every two to three months in life.

Key Personality Functions in the Soul’s Plan

The aspects that planets and key points in the natal astrology chart make to the Ascendant highlight the key players that will be involved in the soul’s plan. Traditional astrology uses various orbs regarding aspects to planets and key points in the chart, ranging from 1½ to 8°, or more. This is not the case in LifeCycles Astrology. I concluded that using an orb of 1 ½ degrees is appropriate. In some cases with key planets, 1 ¾° is acceptable. The reason for this is that LifeCycles Astrology uses all 13 major harmonics, not just major aspects. With larger orbs, every life point would have many harmonic resonances.

The 13 major harmonics are zero and one through 12. Further, there is a somewhat different interpretation of these harmonics based on whether they are in waxing or waning aspect. LifeCycles Astrology determines the phase based on which is the slower moving planet or key point. There are various sources available in understanding the dynamics of these harmonics, except for the 11th. I conclude that the 11th harmonic represents self mastery. The appendix of my first book LifeCycles Astrology: Journey of the Personality includes detailed descriptors of each harmonic aspect throughout the 360° astrology mandala. It also includes a chapter on Aspects as Harmonics. The detailed appendix is also available to download at livingspiritcommunity.net.

Utilizing the rule of 1 ½° orb, the soul’s plan becomes those planets and key points that resonate with the degree of the Ascendant. The specific harmonic represents what is to be accomplished; the sign of the planet or key point represents the way it is to be accomplished; with the house representing the area of life that is most contributory. A trend of the same harmonic, sign or house that shows up in the plan becomes the keynote of the plan. In the earlier case of our ex-Green Beret, four of seven aspects are the 11th harmonic of overcoming challenges to self-assurance, spiritual attainment and self-mastery. 

Soul’s Blueprint

Much of what will make up the rest of Soul Mapping will be using our current database of astrological knowledge and expertise regarding familiar dynamics we interpret within the natal astrology chart. The soul’s blueprint is made up of the general pattern of the chart. Except that here were not just reading the resultant behavior patterns or energetic conditioning that comes from this general pattern, but what it says regarding the dynamics and opportunities that will contribute to fulfilling the soul’s intent in life. It will also begin to show some of the challenges and difficulties that are inherent in the soul fulfilling its mission. This includes interpreting the specific chart pattern; the hemispheric emphasis in the chart; any configuration of high focus and any key polarity formed in the chart. 

Mahatma Gandhi’s natal chart includes a 26° Libra Ascendant. His soul’s focus is “Transcendent Realization.” Its keynote is a “consciousness able to transcend the conflicts and pressures of the personal life.” The intent is to reach a “realm of unity beyond polarity.” For Gandhi, there was no hemispheric emphasis in the chart. The dynamics for him came with a locomotive chart emphasized by a T-square involving Venus and Mars conjunct in Scorpio; Jupiter and Pluto conjunct in Taurus; all square Moon in Leo in the 10th house. If that’s not enough, the same Moon in Leo is in a grand trine to Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Aries. With his North Node also in Leo in the 10th house, it is obvious his life was going to make an impact to the world in general and especially to the authoritarianism of society.

Highly interesting, my own natal chart is also a locomotive pattern. The locomotive pattern endows individuals “with a great amount of power… There is a psychological need to get on the right track to express the creative potential of the chart. These individuals have an inherent feeling that there is always a big job that needs to be done or a gap that needs to be filled.” Mine includes a grand trine in air with Moon, Venus and Neptune. One of my two T-squares includes the Moon opposition Pluto and square to a stellium in Taurus. With this powerful focus on the Moon in the 3rd house, my release or impact to the world would come through my thinking, communicating and writing. My first book God, Man and the Dancing Universe: A Synthesis of Metaphysics, Science and Theology, as a 21st century metaphysics, has yet to make any impact.

Soul’s Key Expression

The astrological Sun represents the Egoic Lotus in my metaphysics. As the spiritual Heart Center, it provides the source from which the soul and Ego express in each life. This is where our character comes from. Therefore, it is a primary indicator of the soul’s expression in life. A traditional reading focuses on the sign and house placement of the natal Sun, its ruler’s sign and house placement and key aspects natally. This definitely answers questions related to how the soul will express itself. But as important is the exact degree of the natal Sun and its Sabian symbol. It specifically identifies a key goal in this life. It represents a personality and Ego goal in expressing the soul’s intent and plan.

Defining this key expression of the soul begins with the Sabian symbol. For Gandhi, his 8° Libra natal Sun in the 12th house involves “Three old masters hanging on the wall of a special room and an art gallery.” The keynote is: “The need to return the source during a confused search for new value in a chaotic society.” The key words include “APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION” or “uninterrupted chain of gurus of Indian tradition.” Since Rudhyar considered that Moses and Elijah were involved in Jesus’ Transfiguration, it’s interesting to consider who the other two great masters that preceded Gandhi were.

Soul’s Catalyst for Growth 

This is the role that Pluto plays in everyone’s life. Within the makeup of each human as Spirit, Self/Soul and Personality, Pluto represents and fulfills the spiritual will function. It further represents the highest aspect of the spiritual Self which also includes Uranus and Neptune. The spiritual Self is not the soul, but represents the outer objective spiritual expression counterpart to the soul as it becomes a self-conscious Soul. Ultimately our Spirit (Monad) expresses through a subjective Being and objective spiritual Self. Since this is not achieved until the later parts of the spiritual Path, the soul’s intent in life is a direct indicator of what our internal Spirit is currently focused on in completing its process of material existence.

Various keywords for Pluto include catalyst for drastic transformations; power of regeneration and death; unconscious compulsion for change; regenerative power to make us perfect; and our internal spiritual will. Although many first Ray (Will) souls resonate to this, souls of Love and Wisdom do not. The conclusion that I came to in my metaphysical research and studies is that none of the planets represent subjective aspects of our Beingness. Because they are in outer expression, they better represent parts of our objective selfness. Pluto represents the highest spiritual function within our makeup. In life, it is the catalyst for our change and growth in becoming our potential while fulfilling our soul’s intent.

Interestingly, both Jeffrey Wolf Green and I have Pluto in Leo in the 9th house as our most elevated planet. From my experience, it’s easy to understand how Pluto would take on the most important and powerful aspect within the manifested Self and Personality. Since my natal Pluto is not only a part of my major T-square, but also my natal Kite and Yod, it is the obviously catalyst for most everything that has gone on in my life. At 17° Leo, its Sabian symbol is: “a chemist conducts an experiment for his students.” The keynote is: “inquiry into the hidden process of nature, the human mind experiences the thrill of discovery.” The highest activity level here is “ALCHEMY.” Rudhyar’s key sentence here for me is: “The individual demonstrates his power, which is founded on a long series of efforts.” Today, I consider myself an accomplished metaphysician and spiritual alchemist. It is up to Spirit to see if my books and article series will demonstrate the truth of it to humanity.

Challenges in this Life

Many astrologers relate the North and South Nodes of the Moon to current challenges and aspects of the past that we must overcome in this life. Synthesizing various key astrologers, I conclude that as personality factors, the North Node represents: critical issues we must confront; lessons to be learned; a new challenge in this life; needs of the soul in this life; positive traits we must cultivate consciously; and making dormant capabilities conscious. Spiritually, the North Node helps with healing energies of the universe; provides a point of spiritual fulfillment; a place of incoming cosmic energy; and a path to life purpose.

On the other hand, the South Node at the personality level represents: deeply ingrained traits that need to be reevaluated; line of least resistance; default patterns/karmic habits; subconscious motivations from the past; innate talents and strengths which we utilize frequently; and unfinished tasks/lessons not learned from the past. Spiritually, the South Node becomes where we can most powerfully give/express to society; where we need to share our knowledge and experiences learned at the North Node; and strength to be disseminated from a new North Node orientation. All in all, both these points in the natal astrology chart outline challenges to be faced in fulfilling our soul’s mission in this life. Experiences in each life add to our karma. Successive lives demonstrating the same issues and traits become built-in to the soul as soul problems. A part of each life then becomes dealing with one or more of these ingrained issues. 

As mentioned, Gandhi’s natal North Node was at 5° Leo in the 10th house. This Sabian symbol includes “a collective, cultural and social crisis challenges us to realize THE RELATIVITY OF SOCIAL VALUES.” The keynote is: The need to transcend our subservience to fashion, in morals as well as in clothes.” Gandhi’s Lifecycles personality progression conjoined 5° Leo in 1915 when he made the decision to open an Ashram. With his natal North Node in a waning 9th harmonic to his Soul’s intent (his Ascendant), this represented a point of fulfillment and interior culmination identified with his purpose in life. Gandhi was not just a political rebel; he became the spiritual leader for his people. The way he would do this would be through dramatic self-expression and shining his own glory to the outer world. This conjunction on his life’s journey represented a new impulse; release of energy and threshold of a new beginning that his Ashram would represent. Sri Aurobindo, also an Indian political revolutionary in the early 20th century, followed his North Node at 9° Gemini in the 10th house at an 11th harmonic to his Ascendant by also opening an Ashram and communicating his synthesized spirituality to the outer world from his inner spiritual home (South Node in Sagittarius in the 4th house)

Gandhi’s South Node at 5° Aquarius in the 4th house highlights his past preparation for this key life. His innate talents from the past include “having assumed a TRANSPERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.” His “involvement in long-establish patterns of activity aiming at the release of collective power” became the foundation for his greatest expression in this embodiment. Frankly, his accomplishments brought about the death of colonialism (relativity of social values).

Wounding to be Healed

For me, a final key factor in accomplishing the soul’s mission in life is to deal with a key past wound. Chiron represents the wounded healer and carries the crux of our Achilles’ heel. If not dealt with, it continually inhibits us in fulfilling our soul’s intent in life. Therefore, it represents a key part of our soul’s Map. Additionally, I conclude that Chiron is a better ruler for Virgo than Mercury. It’s easy to see how Mercury relates to various Virgo traits. But if you link Chiron to our imaginative nature and also providing a connection to our soul, Chiron makes a better ruler.

Synthesizing various astrologers past and present, Chiron represents our deepest psychological wound; our fragmented sense of isolation; our inner child; and a bridge between our objective and subjective nature. Spiritually it represents the power to heal the split between our spiritual and instinctual natures; a conscious pathway that leads to our personal destiny; a key or gate to mastery; and our greatest gift to be expressed to others. All in all, Chiron is a powerful factor in facilitating our soul’s mission in life.

I believe it is somewhat difficult to truly understand the impact of Chiron in our life. This is because it represents such a critical issue from past lives. Having learned and applied major techniques to not only uncover, but also re-experience the specifics of past lives, I will use myself as the example here. My natal Chiron is at 2° Capricorn in the 2nd house in a T-square with Saturn and Jupiter. Obviously, issues of self-esteem, self worth and resources will be impacted by outer authoritative society and my means of socialization and growth in this life. At 2°: “it shows us what is behind all uses of power, anabolic or catabolic: a strong DESIRE TO PROVE ONESELF.” With a Leo midheaven and Part of Fortune, I have always assumed and/or been motivated to demonstrate my creative self to the outer world.

The wound of Chiron in Capricorn is “feeling unrecognized, unappreciated, unnoticed, unacknowledged, unheard, and/or ‘passed over’.” It does include a “joy in struggling to climb the mountain of my own ambitions.” There is a “karmic crisis about succeeding in one’s quest and balance in life between success and nurturance.” These individuals tend to be people who are “almost all early achievers and very proud of it.” In the 2nd house, this woundedness will revolve around “issues of emotional and material security, safety, comfort, values, and well-being.” Values will be of prime importance in life and one will tend to be very sure of oneself, to “know, so to speak.” My natal Chiron is semi-square to my natal Aquarius Moon. I have definitely been accused of and embraced being a Knower (and/or know it all).

Without going into detail, my life included many early successes including being paid in the top 1% of business executives by the age of 35. This outer success has been complemented and superseded by inner spiritual steps that only a relative few achieve. Part of the price to be paid (as they say, no good deed goes unpunished) for this was my recent perfect storm personal bankruptcy during the Great Recession, all part of resolving my woundedness. I agree with Martin Lass in that my gift has become “the gift of sharing wisdom and understanding with others” (from my books and articles) and my being prepared to achieve inner peace through the “gift of the material world as a training ground for co-creators.”

Soul Mapping provides a dynamic new view of why we are here in life. As a one time reading, it sets the stage for multiple readings per year in helping our clients fulfill their soul’s intent and plan for this life. These ongoing readings become intimately linked to the soul’s Map by utilizing LifeCycles Astrology of both the soul and personality. Since LifeCycles Astrology is a deeper dimension beyond just looking at transits and progressions, it takes the typical cycles in life and uniquely individualizing them through utilizing specifics in the natal chart, including the degree of the Ascendant and key planets and points. The client gets what would take an extended period of time for a typical psychologist to uncover. Also, we astrologers gain a powerful new tool in our tool bag for counseling and mentoring.


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Huber, Bruno and Louise. Moon Node Astrology: The Inner Compass of Evolution. HopeWell, Cheshire, UK. 2005. 

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Reinhart, Melanie. Chiron and the Healing Journey: An Astrological and Psychological Perspective. Penguin Group, New York, NY. 1989.

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Spring, Elizabeth M.A. North Node Astrology: Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose. Archaeon Press, 2009.

Teal, Celeste. Lunar Nodes: Discover Your Soul’s Karmic Mission. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN. 2008.


Jef began his studies of astrology and metaphysics 40 years ago while becoming an ordained counselor and seminary teacher. His unique focus in astrology prompted him to develop LifeCycles Astrology for mentoring individuals in spiritual growth. In addition to his first book on LifeCycles Astrology for the Personality, he spoke at both the 2009 ISAR and 2012 UAC conferences and has been a featured speaker at a number of other national and international conferences/expos.

Jef can be contacted at: jef@livingspiritcommunity.net