by Boots Hart, CAP
Planet Neptune (not to be confused with the Greek god of oceans known to Romans as Poseidon) is currently in the process of transiting the zodiacal position in which it was officially discovered on September 23, 1846. And that it’s doing so (and thus will always do so) in late Aquarius says a great deal.
Aquarius is the sign of individuality and the collective. It’s society, and our place in that society. It’s the mass market, and the income we derive from that marketplace. Aquarius encompasses all the systems, energy sources, companies and corporations—the ideas which become products and the ideas which delineate, operate, report on and regulate the whole of society. And its systemic interactions. And its attempts to implement change, resist change, innovate and preserve stability (if not the status quo)—all at once.
Thus does Aquarius prove its importance in our individual lives. How we deal with interactions of the Aquarian kind (and 11th house matters, which always have a bit of an Aquarian undertone) becomes the "cause" which generates the "effect" of what we get from the world.
So to have Neptune—the final ruler of Pisces (the zodiac’s 12th and final sign) returning in Aquarius? That ties the two signs together. And on a more practical level it also says a lot about why so many things are now coming to an end. Or threatening to "go away." And why life seems so awash in confusion and deception, why ideals seem so good yet so unworkable…and yet…so… attractive.
Believe it or not, it’s all right on schedule—which may be some comfort. Or not.
To really understand what this transit is all about, we need build a mental construct of what Neptune represents (or maybe doesn’t!). Once we understand this, we can postulate why things have been as they have, what that says about changes (and confusion) of the moment—and where we all may well be headed.
This is a huge amount of information, so we’re going to tackle it in two parts, the first being about what Neptune represents, and why. Believe it or not (a Neptunian phrase to be sure!) understanding the processis half the Neptune game. Maybe more. Once we get a grasp on Neptune’s predictably nebulous methodologies, part two of our exploration will then focus on the actual Discovery and Return charts—an adventure well worth the popcorn. So stay tuned!
First, the basics. Neptune is astrologically conceptualized as all things unknowable. Neptune wasn’t found by direct observation, but rather through its "invisible" (gravitational) effects on Uranus—a fine testimony to Neptune’s metaphysic associations with fantasy, longing, faith/rejection of faith (religious or personal), belief in something/someone, inspiration, despair, addiction, altruism, loss of all hope (Dante, anyone?), integrity, intuition, imagination, art, mystery, miracles, illusions, trust, timelessness/eternity, fear of abandonment, dissolutions, expectations, connectivity, isolation, commonalties, confusion, mercy, the collective consciousness (otherwise known as mass movements/mob mentality), spirituality, toxicity, healing, epidemics, peace, mental illness, feelings of unification and connectivity, charity, transcendence of ego, worship, adulation…
…All of which, though truly felt, aren’t innately concrete. We see the mob and understand its intent. But the amorphous unity which connects and causes a mob to act with a purpose belonging to none and yet part of all? That’s what we’re talking about here. Fantasies inspire, but by definition aren’t real. Addiction and adulation are joined in rejection of reality’s everyday mundanity. As with spiritualism, all the above are qualities we understand emotionally, but can never quite describe how they work. Not in the gnat’s finely detail derriere sort of way.
This is an important concept to remember when talking about Neptune. Or Pisces, Neptune’s sign of rulership, where it finishes a process Jupiter starts. Even the 12th house—the horoscope’s native Piscean house. Neptune envisions all, but in terms which can never be entirely concrete. Once confronted by someone wanting to know when (and how) Neptune issues could be made real, the only way to answer was this: Never. And why? Because when something Neptunian becomes real enough to pin down it’s no longer Neptune—it’s Saturn.
Saturn symbolizes solidity and every means by which we define things, including what we use to do the defining with, whether that’s time or the physical structure of a thing—from the skeleton which allow us to grab our keys and dash out the door to the I-beams of a building or the education (and sometimes, degrees) which allow us to apply for the job. The process of building something is Saturnine: we’re bringing it into existence, making it real. Saturn is the outline, boundary, limit, limitation and everything which drives us to want or like limits (like fears), to the dislikes of limits or boundaries or many forms of realistic recognition (consciousness) which motivate us to tackle those challenges and change what those boundaries are.
So in one sense, Saturn and Neptune are opposites—which is interesting, seeing as these are the two local planets which have rings. Saturn’s are of course right in your face (or in your telescope’s face) and Neptune’s are wispy and ethereal. But that’s consistent with their symbolism: where Saturn symbolizes time, Neptune is all things timeless and eternal. Saturn—the last planet visible from Earth with the naked eye—defines the limit of our reach, the most worldly and public points in life and how we’re seen by the world (reputation, career, accomplishments, etc.).
Beyond Saturn lies everything transpersonal—stuff we can’t reach and therefore can’t control. And though astrology hasn’t "downgraded" Pluto the way astronomers have (astrology’s approach is to upgrade other Plutoid-class bodies to "Pluto status")…with Neptune now the "last" planet in solar system orbit, everything beyond Neptune becomes part of eternal teachings, experiences and influences. So all those dwarf planets, comets, Plutoid objects, KBO (Kuiper Belt Objects) and TNO’s (Trans Neptunian Objects)? They all represent ideas, lessons and experiences we end up having to consider (if not respond to) which come to us from out of the blue on a schedule not of our making. And though it’s valid to say that said "out of the blue" is all about Earth’s atmosphere, it’s equally true to say that it’s about that big blue planet out there—Neptune.
In essence, Neptune is the final planetary ruler of the final sign of the final house of the horoscope. From there it beckons, inspires and yes, threatens. With what? With our conscience. With the Jupiterian knowledge (Jupiter being first ruler of Pisces and the 12th) that where we end up depends on where we choose to go. So what will work? What happens if we stumble or fail in some way? Part of the reason people so dislike the Piscean 12th is because of the very knowing we can lose. That with love, trust, wealth, faith comes the danger of losing out on any one of them. No one is immune from such risks. Nor do we control them. Even the most optimistic person has moments of doubt. Even insightful people make their share of mistakes. The feelings we encounter in those moments test our internal emotionality. Can we forgive ourselves? And if or when we do, are we merely coping out? Lying to ourselves or others?
To understand how and why this is so importantly Neptunian, maybe we should pause for a little commercial about Triton, largest of Neptune’s moons. Unlike any other planetary moon, Triton circles Neptune in retrograde motion—meaning, instead of orbiting in the direction Neptune turns, Triton goes the other way. Some scientists suggest this means Triton is a "captive" Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) drawn in by Neptune’s giant gravitational pull. That in itself describes the allure of Neptunian situations and emotions rather neatly. If yes, also unsettlingly.
But as anyone into simple electronics will tell you, this also would seem to turn the whole planet/moon into a giant magnetic generator, accounting metaphysically for the magical, ethereal and sometimes self-destructive qualities attributed to Neptune. Some of this is very much about "going another way" (or against the grain, beyond the norm)—from which Neptune and Pisces have gained their fame in realms artistic, spiritual and erotic/fantastical. In Pisces’ image of the two fish going opposite directions we see the idea of stepping "outside" the mainstream and even outside of one’s "everyday life"—up to an including the human ability to live a "double life." Through this division we see the separation of our worldly and spiritual life and where ideas of heaven and reincarnation may have come from. But this is also about how we function on the inside. How the lies we tell others (and ourselves) really have the most to do with the discomfort so many of us have with resolving the emotional against the intellectual. In this two-fish image is our public versus private life and what we are willing to talk about with others as opposed to what we think or privately feel, believe in or fantasize about.
In Neptune’s massive gravitational pull and Triton’s counter-directional orbit are all such metaphysical suggestions about polarities—a concept embodied intrinsically in the astrological Neptune. But at the same time that they’re difficult, much of life and existence depend on such opposites: inhalation/exhalation, life/death, the pendulum’s tick/tock, the spin/counter-spin of electrons—even the "what you know is over before you can know it" of Quantum Theory.
All this is systemically and metaphysically Neptune, which some deal with very well… and some don't.. Many of us simply have moments of accepting and other moments of deciding to go another way. When we "get" the message, Neptune, Pisces and the 12th house become the soul of inspiration, imagination, spirituality, feelings of community, hope and trust, faith and belief (all soulful puns intended). Then again, some can’t deal with the feeling of being alone, awash in feelings. For them, Neptune, Pisces and the 12th house are painful, a veritable invitation to disappointment, disillusionment, intoxication, imprisonment (physical or emotional), denial, abandonment (of self, others or the effort) and escapism. Even suicide and addiction.
In our process of self-realization, what we’re meeting up with is a very uncomfortable place where in essence, Neptune meets Saturn—where Saturn reality meets Neptunian possibilities both good and problematic. And nowhere is this more true than through ideas expressed by water houses (and signs), all of which are astrologically connected wealth physical (money, possessions) and ultimate (contentment and security). This isn’t to say it all only works one way, either. You may be someone who is happy with nothing. Or someone who can only be happy with everything. To you, security may mean living in and on nature’s bounty. Or it may be all about having a bundle in the bank. Whatever that feeling is though, it’s all about feeling secured versus feeling empowered or helpless. And that’s Pisces, the 12th house…and therefore, Neptune.
Neptune is connected with the yearnings for the "good life"—however we define that. But remember that old saying: be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! That’s also Neptune, as what looks great in our imagination isn’t always so nirvana-like in real life. So while Neptune symbolizes all which can stimulate that imagination of ours (and yes, I do mean everything which stimulates said imagination!) it’s also the realization that the fantasy is never real. Once things become Saturn, we have to deal with all the mundane (and possibly icky or annoying) parts of the deal. And that’s so not ethereal and enchantingly Neptune. Except it is—the disappointment and tendency to think someone else is responsible for our happiness (or lack thereof) is very Neptune.
Famous for clouding up the works, Neptune tests our perspective and our ability to have faith—in the idea, in another person, in ourselves. Every encounter, conversation and situation carries with it not just the choices we make but the necessity to feel we can survive what happens, come what may. That’s Neptune. The doubts about it? That’s Neptune. Said to be "about" humility and modesty, Neptune, Pisces and the 12th get that reputation from the fact that all things Neptunian test our relationship to our ego. We hold the saints of charity high because they do for others with a simple faith that all will be okay. Do they know that for absolute sure? No! But they trust. Our relationship to trust is defined by Neptune and the 12th house. The sign on the house describes the area(s) of life through which we will be tested and Neptune’s placement (sign, aspects, etc.) describes the situations which will naturally do that testing.
And to make this all a little more challenging (as if it needed to be anymore challenging?), wherever Neptune is in the horoscope, its "condition" (placement, sign and aspect) defines a "blind spot" in life…to go with the Dark Spot on the planet. Two planets—Jupiter and Neptune—have such permanent spots: giant, planetary storms continuously churning out vast amounts of energy. Metaphysically, it's easy to see Jupiter’s Great Dark Spot as the Sagittarian knowledge driven by an inner knowledge that no matter how much we know, there’s always more to learn. So in some way, we’re always "still in the dark"! And with Neptune? Well, the Neptunian Dark Spot is (like Neptune) a bit more nebulous, suggesting we don’t always know what we don’t know.
Neptune, with dark spot visible
Given that Jupiter and Neptune are joint rulers of Pisces, these ideas come to represent the Piscean universal, emotional essence and its internal polarity (two fish which though swimming in opposite directions are ultimately tied together in being from the same "school"). Thus in Pisces, the Jupiterian "knowing" becomes understanding, and its Dark Spot signifies the challenge to accept against which Neptune asks us to surrender our ego, despite that Dark (emotional) Spot in our soul which fears not knowing what we don’t know—the revelation of our naïveté and innocence. Together they bring us to our need to find faith—and the strength to have faith in living with faith—in knowing we can accept (ourselves and others) while understanding that every other person who’s ever lived has endured such challenges and fears. It’s a very Piscean world. Ultimately, yes.
So what’s a mortal to do? The answer is simple—though getting to the answer is not simple for anyone. The rule with Neptune is that since we cannot know, that we allow ourselves not to know. Right—lose the ego thing, and all the fears and expectations which go with it. Grappling with this idea is very stressful because it stirs our sense of (ego) threat. But once we get there? When we don’t require ourselves to know the answer (or be right) we let go. We cease to stress. And just realizing that takes defensiveness and ego down another tick or two. In the end, allowing ourselves not to know is not only sometimes a necessity, but a gift. And once we allow ourselves not to know, then we can learn, and learn better. Thus can Neptune be liberation and defeat all in one, and thus is the relinquishment of ego the true birth of the Self—a freed Self.
So next time Neptune causes you to put your foot in it (literally or psychologically) try to remember this is just life asking you to check on your levels of emotional acceptance. Do you need a slice of humble pie? A cool, tall glass of humility? A little greasing of the wheels with anti-ego? In the Neptunian realm we learn to recognize that while a fog can distort, that distortion can be the turning of a mundane beam of light into a dazzling, evocative display or a swirl of spooky shadows which scares the willies out of us. Neptune is the power which fills words with inspiration and which allows us to suspend reality and be whisked away by a story, a love affair or a striking moment of natural beauty. But it can also be that which twists our understanding. Contacts between Mercury (thought, communication) and Neptune are famously signatures of lies and deceit—or simple misunderstandings.
But which is which? You’ve heard that old saying "only the Shadow knows"? Well the 12th house is the house of our psyche’s Shadow—so yes, the Shadow does know! And in the Neptunian, Piscean 12th the question really is about whether you are willing to let go. The classic Neptunian equation (sounding much like something out of Alice in Wonderland) says where Neptune or Pisces is concerned, that which you think most real is likely not to be real at all, while that which you think highly unlikely will ultimately surprise you by proving true. Why would that be? It’s because Neptune lies beyond Saturn—beyond our mortal known. The minute we glue something down in our mind, we’ve defined it. And that’s Saturn—the Neptune thing is different.
Currently transiting Aquarius, Neptune’s passage through this most public (public and societal) of air (concept-oriented) signs has decan by decan truly tested each one of us—and our world at large. Rolling into Aquarius in the late 1990’s (Aquarius = society, social systems, income, economies, freedom, equality, mass marketing, energy and all things electronic) it transited Aquarius’ first and most physical decanate between 1998 and 2002, bringing about new ways of doing things in the world (cell phones, Internet, interactivity) which was very egalitarian/Aquarian in its beginning to level the playing field between the individual and collective. With this (and as part of it) came a decentralizing of power, a decentralization which showed its down side as this period came to an end with an attack on America by a relatively small group of people in an event now simply known as "9/11."
As Neptune moved into Aquarius emotional 2nd decanate, expectations rose. As did debates over what freedom, humanity and equality really are, and how such definitions work for and against what are conceptualized as stability and security necessities. Against this background, markets soared, displaying typically Neptunian zeal in overestimating positives and negatives, creating real wealth along with mere appearances of health (and happiness) through enticing and exploiting trust and the common human yearning for security. In this social/societal atmosphere, more and more, profits and financial "ranking" began to rule—ultimately to the detriment of both buyers and sellers. In the end, Aquarius being truly impersonal, only corporations (and those embedded at their helms) would emerge/stand immune—and maybe not that for very long.
But as 2007 dawned and Neptune pushed to the end of the 2nd decanate, financial institutions had virtually separated themselves into an elite "class apart" (activating negative Aquarian attributes), and the stage was set. When Neptune moved into Aquarius’ 3rd decan where cosmic processes support/tear down societal/worldly efforts, Neptune’s symbolic ability to "dissolve" did so across the board, bursting its own bubbles of Aquarian idealism. Of course the first question was who fooled whom? Had everyone just destroyed their own chance to really have all they ever wanted? After the fall from puffed up Neptunian clouds into the sometimes all too clarified world of Aquarian Saturn/Uranus reality (where the twin rulers of this sign decree that the shunning of reality only leads to a commensurate shock when reality hits)…then came the broader Neptune/Aquarian awareness: how the measure of society really is the measure of humanity’s humaneness towards the fallen, the helpless. Human or not…you or…not.
Those questions remain with us, now posing extraordinary challenges in recognizing/dealing with isolationist thinking, intolerance, definitions of injustice and the ever-touchy problem of separating the truth of human religion (codified rules) from eternal (and Piscean) spiritualism—the mere recognition of something sacred. And how the problems of religion, whether seen in Aquarian or Piscean terms (Neptune moves into Pisces in 2011/2012) lies in how denial of ego can leave people open to being "programmed," and how it only takes one bad totalitarian apple to rot the rest of the barrel into toxic applesauce. Certainly those most invested in "separation" and delineation into/by group(s) are going to find incoming times hardest to negotiate with Neptunian integrity, but we can probably count on a lot of people using the Neptunian "fog effect" to promote fear as an avenue to trust—in them. Maybe more, considering how hard trust is to build (which requires letting go of fear) against how easily fear can be induced.
And how many societal quarters (media, religion, Madison Avenue, government) have learned so very well how to wield that whip of fear? There’s so much of it around and people have come to depend on it so much, who knows…maybe come Neptune in Pisces, we may find certain forms of fear being reclassified as a psycho-emotional addiction. How apt, and how fishily Neptunian.
That which we fix now, we will live to be happy about once Neptune commits to the transit of its home sign come early 2012. But that which we ignore? It will absolutely come back to haunt us. This is unlikely to be anything as apocalyptic as some suggest, but it’s likely to have powerful pro’s and cons. As always, the divider will be ego. And owning responsibility for self.
Pisces is not about surrender—that’s a Piscean negative. Charity? Charity is good. Listening? Supporting? All good. All positive.
But these Piscean commonalties only work when built on human strengths. Those are our gifts, gifts which in coming from the very best part of our individuality provide us with a lens through which the eternal light of our spirit and soul can truly shine.
To be continued in the October 2009 Daykeeper Journal.
Boots Hart is an ISAR-certified astrologer with over 25 years experience. She is a featured columnist for New York Spirit Magazine, long-time contributor to Zodiac Arts and author of a humanistic science-fantasy book series being brought to publication and film production. Boots can be reached at Mentorus@gmail.com for questions or astrological services.