We’ve talked in these pages quite a bit about Saturn over the past months as Saturn and Neptune have danced through their opposition, but it’s more difficult to discuss Neptune. Defining Neptune is a delicate task; by its very nature it is mysterious and confusing. Neptune calls on us to blur the boundaries of reality; to go beyond the mundane world and embrace that which is beyond.
Neptune in its highest form is the call to experience the divine. Through music, art and other creative endeavors we channel divine inspiration into craft. Through meditation, song or chanting we go beyond the mind to achieve a state where we merge into oneness. Mystics of all faiths, following the path to a divine experience, have heard the call of Neptune. Neptune calls us into a limitless expansion in which only the present moment exists. Early 20th century philosopher Augustine Poulain writes:
Then the spirit is transported high above all the faculties into a void of immense solitude whereof no mortal can adequately speak. It is the mysterious darkness wherein is concealed the limitless good. To such an extent are we admitted and absorbed into something that is one, simple, divine, and illimitable, that we seem no longer distinguishable from it. . . . In this unity, the feeling of multiplicity disappears. When, afterwards, these persons come to themselves again, they find themselves possessed of a distinct knowledge of things, more luminous and more perfect than of others. . . . This state is called the ineffable obscurity. . . . This obscurity is a light to which no created intelligence can arrive by its own nature.” In “The Heart Sutra” what is apparently the same state is expressed as follows: “And no feeling, thought, impression, understanding, and no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, No form, sound, smell, taste, touch or thought. . . .”
Each of us have Neptune somewhere in our charts, indicating how we perceive the call to the divine and how it is likely to be expressed, but not everyone feels that call directly. A challenging aspect from Jupiter to Neptune can show a conflict between the need for social constructs and theological dogma (Jupiter) and the spiritual quest (Neptune) and could denote a person for whom religion is more important than experience. A challenging aspect from Saturn to Neptune reveals a conflict between a reality-based approach to life (Saturn) and the call to mystery (Neptune) in which the pressures of hard reality (Saturn) could push the individual off the deep edge of Neptune’s escapist tendencies resulting in the darker side of Neptune. There are many different ways these combinations can manifest depending upon the rest of the chart.
Neptune is said to be the “higher octave of Venus” because it guides us to a more transcendent experience of divine love. Where Venus demonstrates love between humans and love for ourselves, Neptune confers compassion and universal love and a sense that all is connected into a great Oneness and for this reason it has a very different nature than religion, which falls under Jupiter’s need to codify our quest for meaning into laws and dogma. The magic of synchronicity of this Oneness is a large part of the Neptuneian experience. But Neptune has a dark side as well.
The myth of the Sirens depicts the simultaneous beauty and horror of Neptune: The Sirens sang a beautiful song that entranced all who heard it, enchanting the sailors who passed by their island and enticing them to dive into the sea and drown or be devoured by birds. Odysseus, desiring to hear the call in a way that wouldn’t risk his life, had his sailors plug their ears with wax and tie him to the mast of the ship so that he wouldn’t be tempted to dive into the deadly waters. The call of Neptune, like the Sirens, is irresistible in its promise of divine joy but to fully experience Neptune it is essential to balance its Siren call by keeping our feet firmly on the ground.
The dark side of Neptune creates an urge to escape reality rather than transcend it. Neptune is often prominent in the charts of alcoholics and drug addicts, and those who dream rather than act. Neptune creates an urge for sacrifice which can be noble, but it can also be self-destructive. The urge to sacrifice oneself creates a pattern of victimization which can be quite pronounced under the influence of Neptune when the more negative qualities are expressed. In fact, there can be a fine line between the ecstatic experience of Neptune and psychotic breaks from reality. As writer Joseph Campbell says, “”The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”
Altering the more negative patterns of Neptune requires an understanding of the Neptunian need for transcendence and choosing a healthier pathway for this to take place. Meditation has been proven to cure addictive behavior, for example. Because Neptune bestows empathy and sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others it is the planet of psychic awareness, but it can also create difficulty in setting healthy psychological boundaries. Successfully navigating the Neptune experience requires the development of a healthy ego, something that is often ridiculed by many spiritual practices.
By consciously seeking to express Neptune through its higher forms we can resolve Neptunian problems of addiction and self-deception, and fulfill its highest promise of revelation and ecstasy. The opposition of Saturn and Neptune that concludes this month forces us to confront (Saturn) our self-deception (Neptune), but can also be utilized to stabilize our ego (Saturn) in a way that supports an ever-more transcendent experience of divine bliss (Neptune).