Here’s what to watch for:
* Of all the planets, Neptune is perhaps the most archetypal of the bunch. It’s as though Neptune’s job is to broadly represent the symbolic presence of something divine or eternal within our everyday lives. This doesn’t mean that all of the other planets don’t reflect eternity in their own unique ways (they are each reflective lights, after all!) but for whatever reason Neptune is sort of the ambassador of the numinous, the ethereal and transcendent, the archetypal and the imaginal all at once. It’s our encounters with Neptune transits, for example, that most powerfully emphasize the spirit/matter distinction. The world without spirit feels dead, dry, and life is not worth living (think for example of the character played by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, encouraging his students to live deep and romantic existences). On the other hand, Neptune can represent the temptation to dissociate from the material world altogether… to live in a world divorced from the body, spaced out from material reality, from nature, and from the facts of our senses. In this sense, again, Neptune represents the archetype of the archetypal. We need some conscious relationship with the gods, with fantasy, image, and myth, but we must be careful, for these very same forces may also tear us apart, flood our small ships, and disorient us within the material world.
* When numerous planets, not to mention our recent full Moon and now New Moon, are passing through an opposition to Neptune, maybe the single most important question that comes up has to do with our relationship to eternity, which Neptune reflects as a symbol of the imaginal, mythic and archetypal.
* Put very simply, how do we live day to day with the knowledge that we are actually eternal souls, never born, never dying? What is the purpose of life in a body that will grow old, likely experience disease, and die? What is the purpose of life in a world where most anything we try to obtain for the sake of happiness will eventually slip away and most of the pain we try avoid is to some extent, finally, unavoidable?
* Usually we go to extremes. We go to extremes because the situation is extremely uncomfortable and there is no way around the reality of it. The first extreme is the extreme of denial. When we live in denial of eternity, then we tend to identify most intensely with our moment to moment, day by day, pleasure, and pain. We have no way of seeing our daily circumstances in light of eternity, because we deny or ignore the felt sense of our own eternal nature by means of our daily choices, and our lives become primarily about achievements, work, pleasure, and the avoidance of pain. In this extreme state, Neptune transits show up in a very predictable manner. Neptune will flood the circumstances of our lives, such that our defenses or barriers to the eternal are drowned out or washed away. The eternal comes pouring through when our defenses against it are no longer possible because our structures of defense against eternity, against impermanence, against suffering, pain, or even profound bliss, will not be able to withstand the flood of life events that will flow through. Note, for example, the surge of tremendous natural disasters over the past month. These are events that literally flood our collective consciousness and remind us of the larger, interconnected nature of things. These great floods and tremendous shakings reflect the archetypal realm and our aversion to eternity in general.
* When we are overwhelmed by pain, suffering, and impermanence, we turn to eternity. In one form or another, we return to the eternal when we suffer. We find our religion again. We find our yoga. Both the words religion and yoga are verbs that we treat like nouns. They both mean re-joining or yoking together. When Neptune floods our lives we remember eternity because our defenses against it are overwhelmed, and when we’re living in the extreme of denial, in nothing but the pursuit of material pleasure and the avoidance of material pain, then Neptune makes our material pleasures finally hollow, empty, and unsatisfactory, robbing us of our illusions, or it finally makes the reality of pain unavoidable or even necessary, deep, meaningful, ecstatic, and transcendent.
* The other Neptunian extreme is to live in complete and total denial of the material world. So in love are we with the reflections of eternity that we see in the shimmering waters of the material world, that we fall into a sickly spiritual coma. Obsessed with our own spiritual nature, our spirituality becomes a kind self-righteous tranquilizer, a numbed out, blissed out, denial of the most basic and common physical facts. We are here. We are alive. Destiny awaits us. In this extreme state of spiritual dissociation, we believe that because the material realm is impermanent, dry, boring, mundane, or disappointing, because our bodies will die, because there is so much selfishness, we believe that this world should be left behind, and sooner than later, with self-righteous fury. “Burn it down!” we shout. And so we become ideologues, hypocrites, self-righteous Peter Pans, living in a material delusion we never, never want to return from.
* Neptune’s general effect for the spiritual materialist is to flood their lives with unavoidable material confrontations that feel devoid of any greater meaning. Ideals are dismantled, bodily illness becomes unavoidable, bottom lines and facts collide like rude comets, and spiritual living fails, hypocrisy takes us out for coffee but won’t let us drink anything with caffeine, and we are asked to feel the weight, to actually bear the burden, to experience the bliss of the bread broken apart. Our willingness to be here, as eternal souls, is learned as much as it is chosen because it turns out that being a servant is the only way to receive the eternal cup.
* Finally, consider the bizarre idea that Neptune’s symbolism isn’t really “the eternal,” as much as it is about the “objects” of eternity. Neptune is like a transpersonal Moon, in this regard. Neptune reflects the light of eternity on a grand scale and makes it appear to us as a tangible object, a coherent symbol or experience, an embodied being we call “cosmos,” “imagination,” and “myth.” And yet Neptune’s physical body is often the hardest to discern amidst its reflections. Neptune itself is wraith-like and pitch black behind the shimmering of its blue stained glass images.
* It’s not surprising that Neptune was first discovered in a conjunction with Saturn. We are eternal beings who can’t rush eternity. We are eternal beings who can’t desacralize the body, though it will not last. We are eternal beings in desperate need of divinity. We are eternal beings so frequently terrified by our own images, so frequently lost in them.
* What is love, then? Love is the only thing greater than God. Because it turns out that eternity, that God, is governed by the love of its eternal created objects. We are the loving objects of divine affection….every last thing. In our endless objectified states, the only thing that matters is that each and every action become the words of intimacy, of closeness, of a call and response love song. We don’t need to balance being spiritual with being material, we are not students of infinite calculus…we only need to sing.
Prayer: Teach us to sing so that we might find ourselves as servants of eternity, once more. Teach us to sing so that we might become objects of love, entering into your living touch.