Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Neptune's Underworld and Neptune's Madness

I’ve felt haunted all my life. It’s becoming clear that there’s this guy in the unlit back room of the house who doesn’t want me to live, not my way. He wants me to live, if you can call it that, his way. He sees what I do as worthless, not the real thing, not what EVERYBODY ELSE does. Of course, he is also me. I spoke for him a few weeks ago, and it was fierce, it was like that moment in Alien where the predator bursts out of the guy’s stomach. Gotcha at last!

It’s been a long time coming. 35 years or so. For 10 years in my 20s and early 30s I lived him out, though I thought I was doing the opposite. Then Pluto got to work for 13 years. He finished in about 2004, and since then Neptune has been at work.

To be specific, over about 12 years Pluto hard-aspected my Sun-Pluto, MC, Asc and Moon respectively. All the important bits. And one of his main functions was to break down my Will. It took a long time. I’d keep standing up again and trying to ‘achieve’ things, and I did do some good stuff, but in the end he’d knock me down again. He’d abduct me to his Underworld, defeated, and demolish some more of my foundations.

At the end of this period I’d started doing astrology readings and then writing astrology. Neptune was moving towards my Sun, and Pluto had prepared the ground for something to flow through me, sufficiently unimpeded by weird notions of ‘achievement’.

So I have spent the last 7 or 8 years in a Neptune period, and there are some years yet to run. He will hard-aspect all the points that Pluto hard-aspected. And I have been trying to work out what it is that Neptune transits are about. For Pluto transits we have the myth of the abduction of Persephone to the Underworld by Pluto, she marries him, and from then on spends 6 months of the year in this world and 6 months in the Underworld, summer and winter respectively.

But we don’t really have such a myth for Neptune. And maybe that is appropriate, that we have nothing we can grasp hold of, we are left floundering.

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I think, though, that  a Neptune transit can be just as much of an Underworld as a Pluto transit. In both transits, ordinary life with its goals and drives is to some extent suspended and you are taken somewhere else for transformation, an inner place, and this can go on for years, it becomes your way of life. In the case of Pluto, it is an earthy Underworld where your building blocks are demolished and replaced. With Neptune, it is a watery Underworld where you are gradually washed away and absorbed into the greater consciousness around you.

It is interesting that the 2 crucibles of transformation should be Earth and Water, the still steady containing elements.

With Pluto you are abducted, with Neptune you are shipwrecked and drowned. And then after a while this happens:

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes;

Nothing of him that does fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

These lines are from The Tempest, and I think they’re a good metaphor for a Neptune transit. With both Pluto and Neptune we are taken apart and rebuilt, but I think they have different flavours. I spent some time trying to work them out psychoanalytically, Pluto does this to you and Neptune does that, but I’m not sure how possible that is.

What happens to us under these transits is essentially a story that has a feel to it. We went somewhere else and we came back different. The fairies took us away. Something out there took our soul away, and our soul is us, and we went to this other place with these people and we can never be the same again because we have seen this other place. It may be the Dark Earth we have tasted. Or we encountered an Angel:

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'

hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me

suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed

in that overwhelming existence.
 (Rilke: 1st Duino Elegy)

Paradoxically, we only belong here, we only incarnate, after we have been taken by Pluto or Neptune, abducted or shipwrecked, and then killed, dead to life as we knew it, and then reborn with that look in our eyes, that inner place we consult.


“And so long as you haven't experienced

this: to die and so to grow,

you are only a troubled guest

on the dark earth.”

Under my Pluto transits, I was always planning the next thing, doing it for a bit, then being taken apart. By the time it came to the Neptune transits, I was willing to flounder and not know where I was going in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to were it not for Pluto. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. But there has nevertheless been a flow as long as I’m not fighting what’s happening. My blog has flowed over the last 7 years, it has shaped me in a way nothing else ever has (it seems). And I have done it in a Neptunian way, I have written as and when I feel like it.

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes…

Neptune has dissolved me, and in has come coral and pearl from the surrounding oceanic consciousness. An ocean of riches, if you allow Neptune to shipwreck you. And while Pluto kept defeating the guy in the back room, Neptune has dissolved the wall between us so I can now start to see him.

There is also the madness of Neptune transits. With Pluto we are abducted by a god, with Neptune we are possessed by a god (when we’re not being shipwrecked!) With Pluto, elements of the psyche that need to come on board presents themselves as demons. Our job is not to slay them but to learn to live with them. With Neptune, these elements can take us over, we see reality through the eyes of the unlived soul part, and to others’ eyes it can seem like we’ve gone mad, which in a way we have. And the job is to live the main personality and the new bit together, rather than switching between the two. And Neptune, the dissolver of barriers, will do that for you.

That is one of the great things about these 2 planets: there are some big jobs to do, but they will do them for you. We couldn’t possibly know what to do anyway. Our part is to be patient and to stay with whatever’s happening, maybe over years. If big parts of your life don’t work anymore, or if you have no idea where you’re headed, that is probably fine, that is probably as it needs to be, and you just need to stay with it for however many years it lasts.

In 2007, as I was beginning my long encounter with Neptune, I wrote a piece called A Myth for Neptune Transits. And it was the madness aspect of the transits that I focussed on. Below is what I wrote:

I Googled ‘god of illusion’ and the 1st result I got was Dionysus, who Liz Greene promotes as a strongly Piscean figure in her book ‘The Astrology of Fate’. In particular, there is the story of Dionysus and King Pentheus.


As a young man Dionysus had been driven mad by Zeus’ jealous wife Hera. “He went wandering all over the world, accompanied by his tutor… and a company of wild Maenads. He taught the art of the vine to Egypt and India, and then returned to wander around Greece. Eventually he arrived at Thebes, the place of his mother’s birth. There King Pentheus… disliked the god’s dissolute appearance, and arrested him and his shabby train. But Dionysus drove the king mad, and Pentheus found that he had shackled a bull instead of the god. The Maenads escaped and went raging out upon the mountains, where they tore wild animals in pieces. The King attempted to stop them but, inflamed with wine and religious ecstasy, the Maenads, led by the King’s mother, rent him limb from limb and tore off his head. Thus he met the same fate as the god whom he had rejected.” (From The Astrology of Fate)

And from Wikipedia: “The female worshippers of Dionysus were known as Maenads, who often experienced divine ecstasy. Pentheus was slowly driven mad by the compelling Dionysus, and lured to the woods of Mount Cithaeron to see the Maenads. When the women spied Pentheus, they tore him to pieces like they did earlier in the play to a herd of cattle. Brutally, his head was torn off by his mother Agave as he begged for his life.”

We could say that the essence of a Neptune transit is possession by the god. This is different to a Pluto transit, where you could say the essence is abduction by the god, and being brought to his underworld. Apparently this was one of the unusual characteristics of the worship of Dionysus in Roman times, that he was experienced internally i.e. you were possessed.

Pentheus is torn apart by the Maenads

The Maenads themselves are a graphic description of what happens when you surrender to the god, there is this experience of ecstasy as the normal inhibitions and controlling, rational will are no longer present. OK, they also tear animals and even people to pieces, but this is symbolic of the ecstatic freedom of primal consciousness, and the radical dissolution of ordinary, ego consciousness under a Neptune transit: you are torn to pieces, in particular your head is torn off by your mother! You are no longer in control (head), and this allows an experience of a primal, source consciousness (mother), that actually takes care of us (mother), and the transit is about learning to let more of that in to our daily lives. And it’s not like we have a choice. What happened to Pentheus is also a description of what happens when you resist Neptune/Dionysus, when you refuse, like Pentheus, to worship him. You get torn apart by mad women!

So the essence of a Neptune transit is surrender to this god, becoming a ‘walk-in’ if you like! If you oppose him you’ll be torn apart – and this will be the difficult part of the transit, because we all have our sides that want to remain in control. But this is also deeply transformative. And to the extent that we surrender, there is an initiation into his ecstatic realm. There was a long tradition of mystery cults around Dionysus, but very little is known about them. This is appropriate, for his realm is esoteric and beyond words, and people who have been there speak about it guardedly, if at all. Another reason for the secrecy is that this sort of experience/behaviour is felt as deeply threatening by conventional society. Hence the opposition that Dionysus regularly encountered. Hence, perhaps, the official opposition to ‘rave’ culture in the UK.

So the two mythical aspects around Neptune transits that I am picking out here are firstly the Maenads, who through surrender of the ‘civilised’ ego experience the ecstasy and secret knowledge of Dionysus’s realm; and secondly the story of Pentheus, who symbolises the transformation that the resistant, controlling ego undergoes. Dionysus makes you mad, and leads you to a place where you are torn apart. But which is the real madness, Dionysus’ realm, or that of the deluded ego which thinks it is in control?


Morvah said...

Great article Barry - I tried to share it but facebook tells me you've withdrawn it so I don't have permission - that seems a shame..or is it Neptune?

Barry Goddard said...

it's back on FB, I changed the pre-blurb a bit! Glad you like it :)

Anonymous said...

Just had Neptune go over my natal 0°Pisces sun. Was so confusing words cannot describe. Could not understand anything. After the exact hits of the conjunction were over, found out my ex was in Scientology and many people in my environment had been manipulated. No one really knew about the Scientology but people were rewarded for participating — like the "family doctor" and the neighbor across the street who kept a string of people informed of the going's on in my home. Yes, I was going mad.

My mother came and got me and extracted me. We went over a long ocean and ended up on a beautiful peninsula.

So the myth is confirmed, there is a religious cult involved and there is a mother involved and a lot of water and even broken washing machines flooding during the Neptune transit. Any time I tell this story people get scared and grossed out and I feel crazy. A saving grace is psychic intuition but I can't tell anyone about that either.

Coming up on a HUGE Pluto transit now, to be played out on the beautiful watery peninsula. My question is, what happens when Pluto comes again after Neptune? My chart similar to Barry's except Pisces. Had the Pluto conjunct Moon then the Pluto square Sun. Then the Neptune conjunct. Now comes Pluto to the ascendant.

Meanwhile, the ex in picture, the Scientologist, has Sun at 7° Virgo, Neptune ready to oppose. Our kid is with him, manipulated by Scientology too. Can anyone here say what is it like to have Neptune opposition Virgo sun transit? Or anyone tracked this yet? Birthday between August 23-30 involved in the Neptune Opposition.

Theresa said...

Dear Barry

I hope you will one day consider putting together some of your essays into book form. I do sometimes print them to read as I can't always focus when reading online. Would love a proper book! This essay on Neptune and Pluto transits is amazing. Like the "anonymous" post before mine, I suffered a psychotic episode involving a cult several years ago when Neptune was transiting my sun in Sagittarius. Pluto transiting Sagittarius was just as bad but I did manage to stay afloat because I was older and more self-aware. Having knowledge of Astrology is such a gift at these times. Thanks so much for all your wonderful insights, really does keep the right side of my brain active!

TheDeepGoat said...

Truly excellent piece, thanks for writing it! funny it should 'appear' for me as i found myself reading some stuff on 'possession' earlier today, from a christian point of view, talking of exorcism and the like.I have been thinking lately that as we grow up we make mental maps of everything so it makes sense for us..this is normal and part of how we do things...and maybe for the more intelligent amongst us, some of these maps are complex..if we are intelligent we want to understand, and to grow..but what if the maps are largely based on 'conventional' reality? then the maps can lead us into confinement eventually and then up wells the pluto and the neptune to rip it all apart and get us back into that ocean for the dark night (or era) of the often this is spent hastily constructing little rafts to attemptt to ride these cosmic waves...(scary)...then when utterly transformed (or mad:), we come back to the land and if we have any sense will be a bit more discerning in our map making:).....'from the sea unto the sand, now I'm washed up on the land...and I'm looking at the sky...the sun and moon above me fly' thing to remember is that the fish emerged onto the land:)...(in one of the myths anyway..ha ha!

Anonymous said...

Yup. Pluto squaring my Sun,Mars and Saturn all conjunct in late Aquarius sparked my awareness of astrology as something that was happening to me that was beyond control. Enter Neptune and I just couldn't see a future with me in it.

Neptune is still within the 8º orb of my Sun and Mars.

Gee, some people will never have the pleasure . . . .

Christina said...

What a wonderful post. So much food for thought.

Have you seen the film The Master? It's about the founding of Scientology and it's like a 2-hour Neptune transit.

With Neptune in Pisces now, maybe it's the artists and dreamers, the loons and the poets who have the answer to the Uranus-Pluto shake, rattle and roll.

PS Maybe "publisher" stand for "father"....

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barry, you describe my exact thoughts and experiences with Pluto and Neptune.

I would like to share something I experienced the evening my father was dying - my husband and I were in our car on our way to the hospital and noticed that the Moon had gone so big I was really getting afraid it might strike to the Earth.

Of course this was all an illusion - it was so big and so near to Earth that I was under the impression that in a moments time I would be able to hop on the Moon.

My father died later that evening and we often talked about this illusion - we both experienced it. So I know about Neptune - what he does ! All you can do is flow along with the energies of these outer planets and afterwards you look back and wonder whatever happened there.

I really like all you posts - please keep writing them.


p.s.: Neptune was exactly opposite my natal Moon that evening.

Anonymous said...

Another stonking blog. Through you I am learning about my brother whose chart is incredibly close to yours. I have never understood him - I have tried all my life - I am getting there. He's the second most fascinating person I have ever met. After you. He has been pulled to some very unpleasant places and is about to land on solid ground. I hope he won't find it dull after the tumultuous journey.

Armaan said...

Impressing article! Maybe the best i have read about Neptune. I have Neptune conjuction Asc and square Sun in my natal chart,i haven't had ever Neptune transit but i feel what you say. Two years ago i had a date with a man. When i kissed him he started crying and told me that he was moved by my feelings. He made a confession that he lost his boyfriend a year ago and he had drinking issues after this loss. I saw his natal chart and he was under Neptune - Sun transit in House 7. I often feel possesed in someway by something greater or lost. But i know it is a destiny to accept Neptune and groung his gifts...

Jamma said...

Thanks so much for your essay, which proved very meaningful for me.
Transiting Neptune is conjunct my natal Sun ... time has become fluid, stretchy ... feeling rich and strange ("Won'tcha let me take you on a sea CHANGE!") But it's so difficult to understand even the simplest instructions that I wonder if I'll be able to post this. Pluto, meanwhile, has just finished scouring my Asc and is en route to natal Venus in 1st. Can't wait to find out what I'll end up looking like!
Cheers ...

Sheri said...

Thank you for this ! I have been feeling possessed lately, it's been scary. Neptune has been opposite my Sun, Mercury, & Uranus lately. I feel like I am going mad! Good to know it will pass. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Neptune just finished with me, it really was a dismemberment!

I'm really getting the connection between Pisces and Dionysos, I will try to research it further.

Neptune (Poseidon) was originally the God of the Underworld before Pluto. His worship as such is from Greece's Dark Age so not much to tell, except from a great number of temples dedicated to him.

Before Neptune, the Underwold King was Erectheas. King does not fit as it was not a solar deity.