Saturday, March 14, 2009

Neptune and the Zeitgeist

Being the outermost planet, Pluto is generally used as the strongest significator of the age we live in. And his recent move from Sagittarius to Capricorn has seemed to justify this.

But what about Neptune? Most of the time, Pluto is further out than Neptune. But because Pluto’s orbit is so elliptical, there are periods such as the present when Pluto is, or was until recently, within the orbit of Neptune. You can check this through the ephemeris. The further out a planet is, the more slowly it moves. If you compare the distance through the signs travelled by Neptune and Pluto between say 1st Jan 1981 and 1st Jan 1985, you will see that Neptune moved about 8 degrees in that time, and Pluto moved 10 degrees. So Neptune was the outermost planet in that period.

Currently there doesn’t seem to be much in it. There has been a loose sextile between the 2 planets that has lasted since the late 1940s. This has occurred as Pluto increased his speed from Leo through to Sag, as he always does. He is currently slowing down again, and drifting further from the Sun.

So for the last 60 years, we would be justified in saying that Neptune has been just as strong a significator of the Age, and more so at times, than Pluto. Pluto is more noticeable at present because he has just changed signs, but Neptune will also change signs in 2 years.

One astrologer said to me that Pluto being within the orbit of Neptune means that transformation (Pluto) comes within the bounds of the imagination (Neptune). This has certainly been a new emphasis within astrology during this period.

For a start, astrology has become more Neptunian. Traditionally, astrology is associated with Uranus: insights from another dimension, and primarily an intellectual craft. But in recent decades we have learned to feel our way into the symbols and let them speak to us; we have started treating the planets as gods. Also, astrology has become a transformational craft as insights from psychology have been brought on board. So we could say that in astrology, at least, transformation has been brought within the bounds of the imagination.

Pluto is now slowing down, and we are at the end of this 60 year period where Neptune and Pluto have been moving at comparable speeds.

But it is interesting to look back and characterise the times according to Neptune, and treat this planet as an equally strong indicator of the zeitgeist as Pluto has been.

So, for example, Neptune was in Capricorn from 1984 to 1998. Recent decades have been characterised by a growth in globalisation, in terms of both trade (Capricorn) and culture (Neptune), and this configuration also describes the dissolution (Neptune) of national boundaries (Capricorn) involved. As Pluto has entered Capricorn recently, so there are signs that this globalisation may be going into reverse, economically at any rate, as countries move to protect themselves in difficult times.

More recently, since 1998, we have had Neptune in Aquarius, but it has been Pluto in Sagittarius, from 1995 to 2008, that has really grabbed the astrological headlines: Pluto in Sag describes the continued globalisation that has occurred, the rise of fundamentalism and the war on terror, and the sustained global economic boom, culminating in a huge bubble and its consequences. All that is pretty hard to ignore, but I think we have to take the influence of Neptune in Aquarius as equally significant.

In a way Neptune in Aquarius began back in the early 90s through Neptune’s conjunction with Uranus, the ruler of Aquarius. As that ended, so Neptune moved into Aquarius. Neptune in Aquarius is also a strong indicator of globalisation, but more in the sense of nations working together for common social and political goals, rather than the trade emphasis of Neptune in Capricorn. In the European Union, we had the Treaty of Maastricht in the early 90s, which was a huge step towards closer integration. As Neptune moves towards the end of Aquarius, so there are signs that the attempts at union are starting to unravel: firstly in the rejection of a Constitution by a number of countries; and secondly through the division between rich and poor countries that the economic crisis is opening up.

The international criminal court was agreed by treaty in 1998, as Neptune entered Aquarius, and brought into existence in 2002.

Perhaps the over-riding event of Neptune in Aquarius has been the internet, and the cultural impetus and further globalisation developing through that. The internet began at the tail-end of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction, and just as Neptune was about to enter Aquarius. The importance of the internet is widely understood; but if we put Neptune on a level with Pluto, then the internet’s influence and potential perhaps become even more significant. Instant electronic communication (Aquarius) with no boundaries (Neptune) - one more piece of technology, but still in its infancy, and with a transformative effect that is still too early to see.

Behind our understanding of the world lies mythology. It’s all about stories. Christianity was – is – a bunch of stories about the universe. Not a very good bunch, in my opinion, and what’s worse they get taken literally. Science is also a bunch of stories about the universe. Quite a good bunch in my opinion. Like Darwinian Evolution - a good 1/2 story. Like Christianity, however, their listeners think they give the whole picture and tend to take them literally. But we need these stories to give us a sense of the universe we live in.

Jupiter is stories. But I’d say Neptune is the ground, the metaphysical womb from which they come, particularly the big, mythological stories. So the sign that Neptune is in would indicate the stories, images and symbols that lie behind our understanding of the world. These come first, and the world we live in becomes an expression of those stories.

The 80s and 90s were the peak of relativism and deconstructionism, particularly in the academic world. That is, we came to realise more fully that there are many truths, none of them absolute, and that ‘objectivity’ is very hard to achieve, as we are all arguing from a particular set of assumptions and cultural conditionings. This is very different to a traditional mind-set, whether Christian or Muslim or even Scientific, which assumes it has the absolute truth, and judges other viewpoints according to that light. Of course, we can then get absolute about relativism, and many people did.

But I think that Neptune in Capricorn – the dissolution (Neptune) of the traditional mind-set (Capricorn) – describes well what happened. Neptune was actually outside of Pluto during much of this period, appropriately making the point that it is mythologies that come first, and that that is what accepted religions and philosophies are: mythologies, not facts. (This period was also a peak in feminist activism, and again we have the dissolution (Neptune) of rigid male authority (Capricorn)).

This process prepared us well for Neptune in its next sign of Aquarius and the cultural diversity of the internet.

So Neptune in Capricorn, the Uranus-Neptune conjunction and Neptune in Aquarius have created a great open-mindedness among people. I imagine that people must have experienced something like this in the old empires, before the rise of modern nationalism, where you had people of all sorts of nationalities and religions living side by side in the big cities.

But it is not easy to live like this without a certain inner security and sophistication. It is a threat to simpler minds, and that is why we have had a concurrent rise in religious fundamentalism worldwide (wow, I sound like a real elitist here, but I’m prepared to be when it comes to fundamentalists!) This was Pluto in Sagittarius, pulling in the opposite direction to Neptune in Capricorn/Aquarius. And now Pluto in Capricorn, where we are starting to see religious fundamentalism go mainstream, particularly in the Middle East. (Guess what - I don't like the 'Rev' Rick Warren! Puffed up, smug, authoritarian, anti-gay creationist...)

I don’t think that Islamic fundamentalism is just a response to ‘western cultural imperialism’, for we have seen a similar rise in religious fundamentalism in the USA. It is certainly a response to cultural values that have arisen in the west, but I think they are part of an organic process that has a lot to do with science, and modern science has its roots in a more civilised Islamic world hundreds of years ago. So up yours Osama!

In 2 years time, Neptune will enter Pisces and a new mythological age will begin. At present we have a coming together of different mythologies from around the world, as well as conflict between them and a retreat into fundamentalism. Neptune in Pisces looks to me like a continuation of the process of globalisation of mythologies: not just having them side by side, but more of a blending, and a recognition that all mythologies have the same source - spontaneously arising out of the depths of the Mind in response to a world for which we need explanations as well as a sense of enchantment.

It is Mind, in a sense, that comes first, as the Buddhists would say. This is why science can never achieve the objectivity it aspires to and pretends to. It is just another myth, good in some ways, but a very partial one.

The chart for Neptune’s entry into Pisces is very nice.

Click to Enlarge

Not only is Neptune conjunct Venus and Chiron (‘healing mythologies’), but there is also a New Moon in Aries involving Jupiter. If anything is about a new start, a new vision, it is a New Moon in Aries, and Jupiter emphasises that and brings self-belief, good fortune and….. stories! Uranus conjunct Mars in early Aries and square to Pluto adds exceptional dynamism to this chart. 6 planets in Aries!

The world as we know it is being destroyed as Pluto (destruction and regeneration) begins his journey through Capricorn (tradition), and as disruptive and liberating Uranus approaches a square with Pluto. That process of destruction has only just begun, so much so that we are collectively still attempting to recreate the old through fiscal stimuli, renewed commitments to free trade etc.

This economic destruction is just Pluto’s entry point, and the coming square with Uranus will affect us on all levels. In 2 years time it will perhaps be clearer that the past is the past and that it is time for a new way of looking at the world, a new myth to replace the old one of endless economic expansion and technological progress – a form of progress that we mistook for progress in human consciousness itself. Pluto in Capricorn, as well as being a retreat into tradition, is also likely to take further a process of destruction of tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years in the west.

On another note, Neptune indicates fashion. We are passing through a period where cat-walk models, and therefore our idea of womanhood, have become an expression of Aquarius at its worst - a disembodied ideal. It's worse than that, because it seems like an attempt to keep women physically adolescent or even child-like, while at the same time we have moved into a time of greater awareness of, but also demonisation of, paedophiles. Yet these fashion gurus want us to find these anaemic sticks sexually attractive. It's sick! It's been said that a lot of the main fashion designers are gay men who naturally prefer a boy-shape. It's probably also got something to do with the shadow side of feminism, in which women feel they have to compete with men on men's terms, and that means no curves!

Neptune is on home territory in Pisces. Pisces also doesn't have a problem with eating plenty - no boundaries - when they remember to eat! So it may be fashionable to be a proper woman again - or a mermaid!

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