As of February 3, 2012, Neptune will commit to its transit of Pisces, the sign which it rules. In its home sign, Neptune’s vibration is at its peak; this amorphous, insidious energy permeates whatever it encounters, sometimes like a subtle drip-drip-drip, sometimes like a raging tsunami, but while at home its effects are most obvious to see. Among Neptune’s affinities are emotions, fluids of all types, deception and denial, self-abandon, ecstatic, mystic union, codependency and addiction, escapism, and spiritual or religious fervor.
The passage lasts until 2026, and may well mark the last hurrah of the religious perspectives which have dominated the Age of Pisces for the last 2000 years. Noted for an emphasis on sin and redemption, guilt, faith, zealotry, sacrifice and martyrdom, Neptune’s somewhat Jekyll-and-Hyde focus on both isolation and inclusion has been the governing spirit of the age, and as it passes through its home sign for what will arguably be the last time in this era, we’re likely to see played out a microcosm of the themes it has promoted.
Neptune can be a rather languid, slow-motion energy; like the water which it rules, it is pervasive and inexorable, but its effects may not be noticeable until much later. A quick scan of the history of the West reveals that when Neptune is in Pisces, religious and philosophical differences emerge which create conflict resulting in profound change in the long term, though not always peaking during the actual passage. These divisions percolate in Neptune’s crucible, and often erupt into full-blown conflict immediately after.
Neptune’s transit of Pisces in the middle 11th century brought to a head the ongoing differences between the Greek and Latin rites of Christianity, culminating in the Great Schism between the two churches in 1054, a breach which has never been repaired.
The next passage of Neptune through Pisces at the turn of the 13th century saw the Third Crusade (the “King’s Crusade”), with England’s Richard the Lionheart and France’s Philip Augustus battling it out with the Saracen Muslims for control of the Holy Land, a clash of cultures and religions which prefigured a millennium of conflict between Christianity and Islam continuing to this day.
Another religious imbroglio of the time involved the Cathars, one of the major heretical sects of Medieval Christendom, whose doctrinal differences precipitated a Christian-upon-Christian crusade in 1209, complete with the requisite atrocities that always seem to accompany the godly.
The Western Schism in the Roman Catholic Church was engendered during Neptune’s next Piscean sojourn, when in 1378 a three-quarter-century-long “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy in France was ended by a division in papal authority resulting in rival concurrent popes for the next 40 years, one in Rome and one in Avignon.
That rift had barely been patched up when Neptune’s subsequent Pisces transit coincided with the Reformation and the emergence of Protestantism as a vital force in religion and politics. Lutheranism, Calvinism and the Anglican Church all came out of that 1521-1535 passage, resulting in a permanent fracturing of Christianity.
By the next transit in the late 1600s, it was back to heresy as the theme, with Jansenism opposing Ultramontanism in Louis XIV’s France, and the Gallican Church threatening to secede from the authority of Rome.
Neptune’s foray into Pisces in 1848, just two years after its discovery, brought to the fore elements of the theosophical, spiritualist, and ritual magical traditions, leading ultimately to a resurgence of paganism in the West.
Throughout, there is a clear recurring theme of division and conflict sown by religious differences, and an appalling inability by humankind to adopt the more unitary, unifying precepts which Neptune also represents. Despite the efforts of such Neptune-in-Pisces-influenced mystics as Francis of Assisi (during Neptune’s 1197-1207 passage), Catherine of Sienna (during the 1357-1371 transit), Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross (both during the 1521-1535 stint), humanity as a whole and Christianity specifically failed to respond to Neptune’s urge to embrace one another in divine compassion and acceptance.
So what can we expect of this latest transit? Likely more of the same, unfortunately. As a species, homo sapiens takes a long while to learn its lessons, and although the cosmic clock is winding down on the age when such matters were taken far too seriously for our own good, there are still plenty of the faithful to take their whacks at those who remain faithful to different creeds. In fact, we might expect some level of escalation as the old order thrashes in its death throes, loathe to relinquish the power and control by spiritual “authorities” that has characterized the last two millennia. Neptune in the Sign of the Age may exacerbate these tensions, as the last, hardest lesson of all.
For when Neptune enters Pisces, it does not do so alone. Four fellow travelers form a precise phalanx of cosmic energies which may help to define the blue gas giant’s subsequent transit. Neptune’s closest handmaids are asteroids Sphinx and Hybris, one a degree ahead and the other a degree behind, which together modify and illuminate Neptune’s intentions.
Sphinx at 1 Pisces says that there are some questions not meant to be answered, which dovetails nicely with Neptune’s emphasis on Faith. The workings of the cosmos (or God, if you insist) are often inscrutable, and defy explanation. And attempting to answer the riddle of life has its consequences, though those who successfully assay the task may reap rich rewards.
Hybris at 29 Aquarius says much the same thing—have Faith, but don’t become so sure of yourself and what you believe in that you discount other possibilities, coming from a stance of arrogance and hubris that tempts divine retribution.
Asteroid Pallas, three degrees behind Neptune on the Hybris side of the equation, shows what to guard against. Representing hyper-intellectualism and the power of the mind to order reality and plan ahead, Pallas yet has limits. Intellectual certitude is no guarantee of moral rectitude, and some things simply are and will be, no matter how firmly we struggle against them with our minds, or how poorly they fit into our preconceived notions of what should be.
Three degrees ahead of Neptune at 3 Pisces on the Sphinx side lies centaur Chiron, the wounded healer. Among those questions the Sphinx will not allow to be answered is the mystery of pain and struggle as a tool to enlightenment, understanding and empathy, all positive Neptunian attributes. Without descent to the depths of despair and hopelessness which Chiron can represent, we could not hope to renew ourselves, Sphinx-like, and reach out to our fellow man, using those painful, tragic experiences as a base of common ground from which to connect with others.
Opposing Neptune is TNO Orcus at 3 Virgo, a plutino from the Kuiper Belt which is locked in magnetic resonance with Neptune’s orbit, thus highly influenced by it. Orcus is named for an Etruscan god of the dead noted for oaths and oath-breaking. Deep Space astrologer Philip Sedgwick relates all plutinos to the principle of evolutionary intensity, and Orcus specifically to alignment with a spiritual creed, a Neptune bailiwick if ever there was one.
Neptune entering Pisces for this last time in the Piscean age may indicate a final break with the oaths, or formal commitments and contractual/social obligations, of the past era, and hopefully an end to divisive adherence to conflicting views of the divine, as the human race evolutionarily transcends its need for an external source of divinity. Sedgwick further suggests doctrinal aspects to Orcus, which in combination with its natural affinity with cosmic shepherd Neptune could indicate the emergence of a new global spiritual/religious movement, something more all-encompassing and unifying than what has gone before, a planet-wide mythos for a new age.
On a more mundane level, Neptune’s earliest steps in its home sign will definitely impact the 2012 election cycle in the US. President Obama, seeking re-election with a flagging economy and high unemployment, has his natal Moon at 3 Gemini, in exact square to where Neptune will make its retrograde station in June. And assuming Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination, his 1 Gemini Ascendant is also in Neptune’s sights over the course of the year.
Neptune/Moon could spell a major disillusionment by the American people (Moon), a sense that Obama has disappointed, let them down, acted ineffectually, been too conciliatory in his dealings with the Republican opposition, or dilatory in his management of the economy and affairs of government. Romney’s path is not clear either; with Neptune squared the Ascendant, he may seem even more wishy-washy and contradictory, but Neptune also obfuscates and confuses, so Romney may be able to capitalize on this and promote an image Americans find acceptable and reassuring, however far from the reality of the situation it is.
Ultimately, it is the office of the presidency itself which is being transformed, as Neptune completes its sesquiquadrate (135 degrees) aspect to the USA natal Saturn at 14 Libra. Exact from 29 Aquarius, the transit is still within orb and will receive one final close pass from Neptune at its 0 Pisces direct station, less than a week after the November election, from where it will also be exactly semisextile Obama’s natal Jupiter at 0 Aquarius, perhaps spelling a political disappointment.
Hope and fear, faith and despair—they’re the alternate faces of Neptune, and in Pisces, both sides of the coin will be emphasized to an advanced degree. What is created in the next 14 years cannot be predicted, but one thing we can be sure of—it will encompass all the drama and fervor of which Neptune, god of the ineluctable seas, is capable.