Uranus shows us how a generation wants to stand together as an individual group, separate from others but still a part of a larger collective. Neptune takes this a step further and dissolves into the collective, removing all boundaries that exist between members of the same culture. In this way, Uranus is the collective consciousness, showing everything you see out in the open - a culture's food, music, media, icons, beliefs, and values. And Neptune is the collective unconscious, ruling the emotional undercurrents rolling under a society's surface, which flares under traumas a nation endures and swells under national pride. Neptune provides the inspiration for trends, and in its 14 to 15 year cycle through a Sign, you see how music, fashion, film, television, books, and other media change to reflect the Sign the planet is passing through.
Like a drop of water dissolving into the ocean, Neptune loses all sense of self to merge with the collective. It selflessly sacrifices itself - its own dreams, ideas, ambitions, goals, and happiness - to become what other people want (or need) them to be. It is martyr and a saviour, a victim and a god, with extraordinary compassion and a psychic insight into the inner worlds of other people. Neptune is often associated with clairvoyant gifts and interest in religion, spirituality, occultism, or secular practices, which preach ethereal messages of love and peace and compassion for all. It gives us enormous sympathy for the pain and suffering of other people, even those miles away, separated by time and space, culture and language, religion and race. Neptune seeks to blend and merge all people together as one harmonious entity. But it is at the cost of personal identity and space, which can breed difficulties on more intimate, interpersonal levels, leading to depression, addiction, and a loss of happiness in one's life.
The unhealthy, immature, or negatively-aspected Neptune has enormous difficulty with boundaries, be they between themselves and other people, or between reality and illusion. In relationships, this means they may not respect another person's wishes or boundaries, and instead become invasive, obsessive, clingy, needy, and annoying. They do not put up interpersonal boundaries themselves, either, and give all of their time, money, love, and effort to whoever demands it the most. They are unable to say "no" to anything, or anyone. And in the process, they give and give and give until there is nothing left, and they are tossed to the side by a populace of takers who feel personally victimized the second the giving stops.
Neptune is often associated with fame for this reason. The allure of fame, of celebrity status, is something many people aspire to. And for so many more reasons than the glamour, the wealth, and the social status that comes with it. Being idolized as a public icon is the ultimate way to sacrifice the personal identity to the collective. It means having your image immortalized in your culture forever, seen and heard and understood by the society you are a part of. But here is where the earthly reality rises up to slap Neptune's vision in the face. Celebrities often encounter addiction, exploitation, abuse, lost youth, and number of powerful voices demanding what they do, what they wear, how they eat, what they look like, and how they act. Becoming famous requires a person to give up everything they love about themselves and everything they care about in order to become what other people believe them to be. The public wants to believe that this fictional avatar is real. And when they discover the very-human reality underneath, the reaction is outrage at the flaws celebrities actually have.
The healthy, mature, positively-aspected Neptune is sympathetic and spiritually enlightened. It has a truly selfless desire to heal the world and bring it into a Christ-like vision of compassion and light. The idealist image they hold of what the world could be is built out of love for humanity and belief in the inherent goodness of people - in their potential for great things, and the power of love over hatred and fear. This side of Neptune is giving, but doesn't allow others to take advantage of them, and it doesn't encroach on the boundaries others ask for. It sees how the differences that breed hate are meaningless and constructed out of paper-thin excuses for corruption and exploitation of our fellow man. It erases the lines that exist between races and religions, genders, sexualities, or national or language barriers, until all that is left is a soul-to-soul connection with our fellow human beings. This is the highest level Neptune can aspire to - the perfect world it envisioned from the start, where everything is sunshine and roses, and human beings are made in the god's own image.
The glyph for Neptune (♆) is a trident, given to the planet shortly after its discovery by the Bureau des Longitudes. As three arrows above a cross, it symbolizes upward ascension, in several directions, up and away from the ground below. The upper half of the glyph wants to move onward and outward, but it is held back because it is grounded to the physical limitations of the material world. This is why the astrological Neptune has so many connections to spirituality and enlightenment, as well as delusion and escapism.
RULERSHIP AND EXALTATION
Neptune was discovered in 1846, so it has no traditional Rulership or Exaltation. But modern astrologers (including me, believe it or not) have given Rulership to Pisces and Exaltation to Leo.
Neither of these Signs are very good with boundaries. Pisces wears their heart out on their sleeve, having too much sympathy for anybody with a sad story and a hand out in need. Their feelings are easily ruffled by the slightest bit of emotional wind around them; a bit of stress, and they crumble to tears; a manic high, and they run with glee. Leo, too, don't want the people they love to be too separate from them. They want to be their super-special one-and-only, and joyously cling to the arms of anybody giving them love and attention. These are two Signs who need to learn to disconnect from people in order to see the world more clearly. But both are also deeply imaginative, creative, emotional, and dramatic Signs, seduced by the arts, the allure of fame, and the words of spiritual teachers.
Neptune, then, would be in Detriment in Virgo and in Fall in Aquarius. Both of these Signs are intellectual, factual thinkers, who see the world very much as it is, despite what they would like it to be. They see how things can be improved - Virgo, being a perfectionist, and Aquarius, being a dreamer - and how the world should work more efficiently. It pains them to see others who live their lives deluded, themselves being Signs of science and rationality. But they are also disconnected from their own emotions and the emotional world around them, to the point where feelings become an unpredictable mystery. They also have an ego about being smarter or better than the people who believe in things like God or spirits without any concrete proof. And this removes them from an entire realm of human culture and, arguably, human experience. They must adopt a healthier relationship to the unknown and the mysterious, to the unexplained and the unseen. In turn, they become enlightened to possibilities they had previously been closed to before, and able to understand the world in a whole new way.
NEPTUNE THROUGH THE SIGNS
NEPTUNE IN LEO (1914-1929) is in its Exalted position. This time period in history was one where individual creativity, modernity, and glamour overtook previous values of formality and tradition. In the aftermath of World War I, western societies experienced huge economic and cultural booms that led to the very beginning of a wealthy middle class. Having won the war, the United States, Canada, and the UK transitioned nicely from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy. The soldiers that returned home received post-war payment benefits, and those who were fit for work re-entered the workforce. Women took around one-fifth of all the jobs as well to make up for the startling lack of strong young men, many having been widowed by the war. This led to a greater number of possible buyers, which in turn led to mass commercialization and the development of brand-new consumer tech. Automobiles, home appliances, and various household and medical products were made and sold to the public on a colossal scale. And the entertainment industry began its first big boom as radio, theaters, cinema, and early television became widespread commodities.
As the public gained greater wealth, tax revenues increased. Western governments invested in road construction, electric grids, telephone lines, and large-scale building developments across their respective countries. Farmlands remained poor; people began to move to big cities to live the good life where the action was. And they brought their music and traditions with them, which eventually led to the first generation of country music. Classical bands became jazz, which was played in clubs in all the major cities at the time. The most recognizable fashion trend of this era – the Flapper girl – was born from the desires of young women to rebel against traditional values. Suddenly there were skinny women wearing straight, flashy dresses with feathers and raised skirts. They had short, straight haircuts, smoked cigarettes and wore red lipstick. Many young people delayed getting married and having kids. With their own jobs and money, they could afford to.
Modern society was born from this fruition, complete with drastic changes to the way people lived, worked, dressed, and viewed each other. The flashiness of Hollywood, the allure of big city parties, the money that poured from large-scale industries, and the excitement of new products being made all contributed to our fascinations with wealth and fame. The generation born at this time all have early experiences with the wonder of this glamorous world. New things were always around the corner. Kids played chess, checkers, jacks, marbles, and cards. This is the first group of kids to watch cartoons, go to movies, and listen to shows on the radio. Of course, there were still poor children (mostly in the country) who spent most of their time working on their family’s farms. And that is not to say there were not hardships – poverty, racism, homophobia, and sexism were all still very real issues at the time. But the important thing to note is that you were born between wars, before the depression. You lived (if only briefly) in the wonderful time of the Roaring Twenties. And you carried those memories of pleasure into adulthood.
Neptune represents the delusions and imagination of society, both good and bad. When Neptune was in Leo, society got caught up in the splendor of living a free, creative life. Every day was a magnificent adventure, full of celebrities, snazzy cars, hot fashion, and loud music. This was a period that resembled the summer months in a year of sorrow – thirteen years of happiness bookended by two World Wars. People expected to be entertained constantly, never wanting to grow up and stop having fun. Go to another party, buy another drink, see another show; light up a cigarette and drive away to where you want to be. As said in The Great Gatsby, “I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
NEPTUNE IN VIRGO (1928-1943) is in its Detriment position. Two of the most important events in recent history took place in this time period. The first was the biggest economic crash of the 20th Century followed by the Great Depression of the thirties. The Dust Bowl events began as well; North American prairies dried up and turned into a dusty desert, where little (if any) food could be grown. Then hit the second event: World War II, in 1939. Back home, the citizens of these countries experienced many devastating blows. But they somehow managed to pull through to the other side, and by the time Neptune left Virgo the Allies had gained a sizable advantage in the war.
Throughout this time period citizens were largely living in poverty, fighting in the war, or contributing to the war effort at home. There was not very much room for culture to develop as creatively as it did in the past. Nightclubs went out of business because people had little to no money for basic living, let alone leisure activities. But swing still gradually replaced jazz as the dominant style of music. And in the south, a second generation of country music began - this time even louder, and even more energetic. The cowboy trope had become a staple of Hollywood by this time, and people did enjoy seeing westerns when they could. Radio was the main consumer technology of the day, one of few things that many people had in their homes. With the poverty of the Depression and rationing of the war, many basic things were in short supply. If one were to look at the fashion of this era, for example, all the lines are straight and minimalist. Most people wore whatever they could, and it had to be functional, whether it was their military uniforms for their service or the industrial worker’s uniforms they were given.
NEPTUNE IN LIBRA (1942-1957) Beginning with the war swinging in favour of the Allies and ending with the formation of the European Communities (now the European Union), this time period saw a great many changes in politics. The aftermath of the war was disheartening, of course, even though the fighting had stopped. These fourteen years were only the initial end, when nations started to climb out of the chaos that had completely consumed them. New countries were formed as territories were granted independence, and powers were shifted from one radical form of government to the next. Science and engineering rapidly evolved because of the terrifying nuclear technology that silenced the world gave birth to a new kind of conflict: The Cold War. Believed to have begun in 1947, this stand-off between East and West struck terror into the hearts of civilians. Duality coloured the social and political landscapes of the time, polarizing broadly into Communism VS Capitalism. The most destructive war in the world may have been over, but the fear was far from gone.
At the same time this was going on, the post-war economy was well in favour of the western nations that emerged victorious. Formally the rationing of supplies for the war limited the amounts of food and supplies available to citizens on the home front. But when that ended the market was flooded with fabrics, metal, rubber, crops, and so on, which the now-middle-class people of America and Canada gladly bought back. This affluence can be seen in how dramatically fashion changed during this time. In the 40s and 50s the hourglass shape returned for the first time in nearly three decades. Layers of fabric, buckles, belts, frills, lace, patterns, and embroidery all came back. Women liked big skirts, but also shorts and pants, which they wore while working in previously male-dominated industries. And a return of wealth meant that the struggling entertainment industry grew back some of its stems. Swing was popular at this time, as was doo wop, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll music. And a third generation of country music sprang up, combining influences from modern and Tejano music.
NEPTUNE IN SCORPIO (1955-1970) This time period was dominated by political differences between communist and capitalist states around the world. What began as polarization in the previous decade had evolved into extreme differences by the 1960s, and citizens on both sides lived in fear of what the others were capable of doing to the at any moment. But the defining feature of the Cold War was that it was never actually fought out in the open. It was fought in the shadows of espionage, spies, and secret technologies. Nobody trusted anybody. Governments on all sides lied to cover up their intentions and actions, such as the U-2 Incident of 1960 where Eisenhower lied about why American planes had been shot down over Soviet airspace. These thirteen years were full of subtle power games between these two forces, each trying to get a hand up on the other. From nuclear technology to the space race, eastern and western states fought with all the intensity of an actual war without the overt aggression of one. People lived out their daily lives unsure of what was coming, knowing full well that they could be running for a bomb shelter any day.
During the hidden political chaos of the Cold War, western nations fully embraced capitalism and all it could do for them. After WWII war technology and equipment was still in high demand, fueling industries that created the tools for warfare. But in addition to that, new strides in farming technology and the demand for consumer goods also skyrocketed. With production up, low costs, and a healthy middle class, citizens were able to afford the good things in life without breaking the bank to get them. Families moved to the suburbs, bought a new car, and settled down with a family and good-paying job close to the city. The “baby boom” that occurred during this time was a result of all this affluence. The youngest generation (thanks to their large numbers) established their own presence in the world with new ideas on race, gender, sexuality, war, and authority; anti-establishment opinions and pro-environmental agendas. And as somebody born at this time, you learned a lot from your older brothers and sisters.
NEPTUNE IN SAGITTARIUS (1970-1984) Although the Cold War was still very much under way during this time period, globally more and more nations began to have an impact on the west. Many countries gained their independence in the 1960s, and economically they began to participate more and more in the global economy. China, Japan, and Germany in particular saw their economies grow in industrial strength and influence. But as these countries began to compete for jobs and resources, all nations saw their collective economies drop. In 1970 the USA reached peak oil and had to begin importing oil from the Middle East, most notably Saudi Arabia. Due to international conflicts and their rising political and economic strength, the OPEC placed an embargo against several First World nations in 1973. The subsequent Oil Crisis drove up the price of oil from $3 a barrel to $12 over the course of a few months. Even after the embargo had been lifted a year later, the effects continued to resonate throughout the decade.
As other nations gained economic power and sought to become more developed, competition for resources and industrialization began to affect those living in the western. As other countries began to fight for their own piece of the oil and economic pie, western society started to fail in comparison to what it had once been. The Energy Crisis of the 1970s did not help, as a recession blanketed the land in unemployment and rising inflation. In the previous decade society underwent a lot of social revolutions, spurred by changing attitudes towards race, sex, gender, the environment, and authority. These fourteen years continued developing those changes, but in different ways. The Green Revolution followed the environmental movement as the Energy Crisis made people realize the need for sustainable energy. Second-wave feminism gained new ground as households required dual-incomes to support their families. And racial equality, sexual education, and freedom from religion all followed as our culture got more comfortable with the changes they brought.
NEPTUNE IN CAPRICORN (1984-1998) Politically, this period is notable for the decline and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. There were several reasons for the end of the Cold War, among them being Russia’s inability to compete economically with the rest of the world, increased pressure from nations that wanted independence from the USSR, and new attitudes within the Russian government about transparency and capitalism. Following a flood of new information from the west and uncensored criticism of the nation, the Soviet Union fell apart into several independent states. Worldwide, capitalism and democracy began to spread like wildfire following the end of the USSR in 1991. And by the end of the decade mass globalization had taken the world by storm. This had been going on for quite some time, but the opening up for many formerly communist states saw a giant surge in trade across the globe.
Aside from a few (major and minor) bumps in the road, this period is generally seen as economically fruitful across the world. In the USA, for example, unemployment dropped from 7% in 1984 to 4% in 1998. Consumerism rose sharply, especially with the invention of hand-held electronics, video game consoles, home computers, and the internet. But while employment and consumerism were up, civilians were not taking home as much income as they had in the past. Most multi-national corporations began to relocate where labour was cheaper, and western society saw an even bigger drop in industrial employment and a rise in customer service as a result. These jobs were not unionized and they generally paid less. Income inequality rose sharply in this period as the wealth of nations became more concentrated. Income inequality began as the top 20% earners saw their profits increase several hundred times over; the bottom 20% saw their profits go up only a few dozen notches. This remains an important issue to this day.
NEPTUNE IN AQUARIUS (1998-2012) is in its Fall position. Although this period is considered modern history, we can still pinpoint some of the most important events of these fourteen years. The Western world was heavily involved in the War on Terror in the Middle East, spurred by several terrorist attacks and government campaigns. This global operation to find and eliminate members of groups such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban really began at least a decade earlier. But following the 9/11 Attacks in 2001 the United States and NATO began conducting warfare in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Northern Africa. The war is said to have begun in 2001 and has lasted until present day, but under President Obama the United States slowly began to withdraw troops starting in 2009. Fear-based rhetoric that tries to polarize the issue into “Us versus Them” as the government and media did during the Cold War failed in large part because of increased globalization. Economically, the war cost western nations tens of billions of dollars, which none could afford. And rumours about corporate ties to oil companies with an interest in land in the Middle East persist, even today.
But aside from the political landscape of this time, there were also economic trends that affected not only those working in this period, but those born in it as well. By this point in history, wealthy nations had taken to consumerism particularly well, and both banks and industries flourished with tax cuts, deregulation, an improvement in shipping, and free trade agreements. With the rise of various kinds of communication technologies, how people functioned in their daily lives saw monumental change. And as people bought more computers, televisions, video game consoles, cellphones, eReaders, and tablets, The United States, Japan, and China became the largest three economies in the world. With the further deregulation of banks, loans and mortgages were doled out and plenty of average-income people bought property. However, Neptune’s time in Aquarius saw economic spikes and drops with the new information economies. The Dot-com Bubble of 2000 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 were the two biggest recessions of this time period. And although the world economy is now recovering, the effects of the latest disaster can be felt into modern times.
NEPTUNE IN PISCES (2011-2025) is in its Ruled position. This is the period of history we are living in now, and so we have little in the way of historical references so far. Until there is some distance between this period and modern day, sometime in the near future, we will not have an accurate picture of what it means to be born during these fourteen years. But thanks to a hyper-connected world we are able to see some of the global changes happening right now, and with the information given to us we can start to envision what this period will mean from a political, economic, and historical perspective. Right now the world lives in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis that started in 2008. In the economic disaster families lost a great deal of their wealth and assets in the ensuing years. As the western world now has a predominantly customer-service based economy (rather than industrial, like many Asian countries) jobs that are high-paying and unionized are increasingly harder to come by. Most available jobs are given to older citizens with experience, while younger people are put into minimum wage, entry level positions.
Luckily, we are now seeing some evidence of economic stabilization. While the housing market, luxury goods, and consumer-based businesses saw hard times at the end of the last decade, this new one has started with promising positive trends in an upward direction. Fashion so far has seen a mix of the bright, ornate patterns and high-end pieces common in time of affluence coupled with recycled vintage pieces. The style is reminiscent of times gone by, a mashup of clothing from different periods of the 20th Century. While “hipsters” may have been on the fringes of society in past years, ongoing trends suggest it may become the next new thing. Likewise, music has seen similar trends of mashing up genres to produce a final product that is the summation of decades of musical influence. Pop music is now Electropop, Techno is now Dubstep, and Indie has integrated all folk, rock, and popular band sounds into a singular, poetic sound. This process of taking the best qualities of several genres and creating a wash of music easily enjoyed by everyone is something that has been going on for years. But the lack of diversity nowadays is startling when compared to twenty or thirty years ago.
The collective unconscious is an ocean of all our emotion drops, all of it perfectly blended together, until no individual pieces can be seen. When our country is at war, or the economy suffers, our art and media reflect the fear, outrage, frustration, pride, hope, and sadness that we feel as the event ripples through our lives. We see the outcomes on the surface, but the cultural shifts happen first at the collective emotional level. That is where Neptune lives - where all people are merged together as one culture, one mind, one heart, or one lifeform, all psychically connected to one another.