The tension of the future is unbearable in us. It must break through narrow cracks, it must force new ways. You want to cast off the burden, you want to escape the inescapable. Running away is deception and detour. Shut your eyes so that you do not see the manifold, the outwardly plural, the tearing away and the tempting. There is only one way and that is your way; there is only one salvation and that is your salvation. Why are you looking around for help? Do you believe that help will come from outside? What is to come is created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you.
— Carl Jung, Liber Novus, 130
Neptune stationed retrograde at 12º2′ of Pisces on 13 June 2016, with Saturn retrograde closely applying to a last quarter square at 12º20′ of Sagittarius. Saturn will perfect its square with Neptune on June 17 or 18, depending upon your time zone. There is an astrological construct that Saturn has the upper hand in this tension as it is in a “superior” square to Neptune, meaning that Sagittarius is the tenth place from Pisces. When a planet stations, however, it takes on far vaster significance than normal. In the case of Neptune stationing retrograde, its numinous significations corresponding to everything Saturn blocks with its stalwart boundaries possess an inexorable tide of salty seawater disintegrating the structures that have been defining one’s identity. Many are undergoing personal crises in which an identity, relationship, or path they had been attached to has been dissolving. In the wake of the familiar gone, the once ideal awash in bitter disillusionment, one’s ability to act with integrity can be corrupted by fear, anger, confusion, and insecurity. Neptune can be difficult to work with because its emanations do not fit neatly into consensus reality like those of Saturn. Yet when an exact square forms, we need to open to Neptune and begin to integrate what it is asking of us if we wish to be avoid becoming overwhelmed by the dynamic.
In the final paragraph recorded by Carl Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections he quoted Lao-tzu: “All things are clear, I alone am clouded.” It is the illusions we carry, picked up from outside sources, that cause us to become disoriented by a Neptune transit. When we realize that a beloved hope we had trusted to bring happiness or meaning is in fact illusory, a sense of drowning and disassociation can envelope our being. Carl Jung’s work illuminated the sense that both good and evil come from the divine, that the “world into which we are born is brutal and cruel, and at the same time of divine beauty” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 358). This is the realm of Neptune, a planet that signifies both the most wretched states of existence found in suicidal addictions, as well as the most fulfilled feelings of bliss and joy found in true love. At today’s juncture of the square between Saturn and Neptune, humanity is facing the terror of its own mass destruction, as numerous collective illusions have coalesced into an era filled with mass murder and environmental devastation.
While Neptune is not truly analogous to the prima materia of alchemy, when Jung in “The Visions of Zosimos” wrote of the radical, root moisture that connects the prima materia with the soul, there is a link to the numinous nature of Neptune we sense whenever we tap into the soul of the world. Contact with Neptune opens us to the collective unconscious, the wisdom found in the images of our dreams, and wherever we feel the presence of the interconnected, underlying field and fabric of reality. In the dewy mist coloring the earth as we awake from dream, as the solar rays prepare to emerge once again from the fertile night, we are given another opportunity to release ourselves from the illusions of our past and engage with the arising inspiration that brings life to our imagination and being. While Neptune transits can feel so disillusioning that we lose sense of meaning in life, they can also revivify our connection with the animating spirit of our universal matrix.
Carl Jung in relation to Neptune has been on my mind a great deal recently as I was fortunate to hear two talks given by Richard Tarnas at the Northwest Astrological Conference (NORWAC) of 2016. In both talks Tarnas spoke of the important influence the modern emphasis on individualism and the solar heroic self has had in terms of supporting the capacity of people to liberate themselves from oppressive authority and prevailing worldviews in order to discover their own authentic nature and beliefs to live from. Yet this emphasis on the individual also led to the disenchantment of the universe, a dissociative illusion of separateness from the interconnected streams of the Anima Mundi in which humanity has brought itself to the brink of extinction. Vitally, Tarnas emphasized that the Sun not only ascends, but descends, and that it is the descent into the many of the pregnant night where we experience alchemical transformation in our night sea journey, where the solar hero sacrifices itself to the whole, embraces and loves the whole, succumbs to the multitudinous of the moonlit night. This is not unlike opening the rigid, dogmatic confines of Saturn to the numinous realm of Neptune.
One word that was never spoken.
One light that was never lit up.
An unparalleled confusion.
And a road without end.
— Carl Jung, translation of text from image 55, Liber Novus
Carl Jung is exemplary as an individual willing to descend into his depths in order to bring back knowledge to share with the collective, not only because of the testament of his work such as the Red Book/Liber Novus, but also within the symbolism of his birth chart. Jung was born with a setting Sun in Leo, the very image of the solar self’s descent. Furthermore, Jung was born with an exact square between Neptune in Taurus and his Leo Sun. When Jung famously had his vision of the coming world war while riding the train to Schaffhausen, Switzerland in October 1913 (overcome by a vision of blood flooding the European landscape, with the Alps protecting his homeland), Uranus was directly on his ascendant in opposition to his Sun while Neptune was coming into range of a conjunction with his Sun and a square to his Neptune.
During Jung’s years of his descent into his depths of fantasies and communication with his unconscious from 1912 through 1917, Neptune approached and formed an exact conjunction to his natal Sun and square to his natal Neptune (this period also saw Uranus conjoin his ascendant, oppose his Sun, and then oppose his own natal Uranus). In Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung called this time of exploring his inner images the most important period of his life, “the prima materia for a lifetime’s work” he compared to a “stream of lava” in which “the heat of its fires reshaped my life,” calling his later works “a more or less successful endeavor to incorporate this incandescent matter into the contemporary picture of the world.”
Richard Tarnas gave a lecture at NORWAC 2016 entitled “The Natal Sun: The Solar Journey & the Forging of the Self” in which he used Carl Jung as a primary example for aspects between Neptune and the Sun. Tarnas illuminated the significance of Jung’s natal square between the Sun and Neptune, and how he serves as an example of how a square can be so well integrated in the course of one’s life that something is brought forth that had not existed previously, in Jung’s case the understanding of the Self with a capital “S” and “his sense that we are always moving toward wholeness and we need to have a coniunctio, a sacred marriage between the conscious and the unconscious, and in this case what he meant by the unconscious was the archetypal psyche and the whole Neptunian dimension.” Tarnas brilliantly made the point that the very word Self with a capital “S” is a great example of the Sun and Neptune together, it being a transpersonal level of the self and “a higher self that guides us to becoming ourselves in our own individuated flowering.” Tarnas also made the point that Jung’s concept of active imagination is a perfect description of the square between the Sun and Neptune in Jung’s birth chart.
Furthermore, Tarnas focused on the transit of Neptune conjoining Jung’s Sun and forming a square to his natal Neptune in which Jung had to hold on to his solar identity “against this tremendous influx of the Neptunian realm, of the archetypal psyche.” Tarnas spoke of Jung’s firsthand knowledge that we all need to encounter the Neptunian dimension in order to recover our sense of soul and meaning in life, as “the archetypal domain is where all our sense of meaning and purpose ultimately exists.” Yet, Jung also taught caution around descent into the archetypal realm, as Neptune also brings the danger of drowning with the influx of the deep psyche. Tarnas made the point that while the Sun is our center and sense of clarity, Neptune dissolves and disorients it. Tarnas said the influx of the numinous dimension ruled by Neptune into the solar principle can lead to not only divine inspiration but also inflation, a delusional messianic state. Tarnas said Jung believed that in most cases of westerners entering the archetypal realm of Neptune that they are likely to enter a state of inflation that must be guarded against, as Jung himself had to face. Tarnas explained that the western psychological emphasis on forging a sense of individual selfhood and egotism can more often than not lead to Neptunian inflation, instead of an ability to transmit the realm of Neptune with a self that has become “transparent to the divine that is coming through.”
As Jung stated in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
Numinous experience elevates and humiliates simultaneously . . . Wherever the psyche is set violently oscillating by a numinous experience, there is a danger that the thread by which one hangs may be torn. Should that happen, one man tumbles into an absolute affirmation, another into an equally absolute negation. Nirdvandva (freedom from opposites) is the Orient’s remedy for this. I have not forgotten that. The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong. The numinosum is dangerous because it lures men to extremes, so that a modest truth is regarded as the truth and a minor mistake is equated with fatal error. Tout passe– yesterday’s truth is today’s deception, and yesterday’s false inference may be tomorrow’s revelation. This is particularly so in psychological matters, of which, if truth were told, we still know very little. We are still a long way from understanding what it signifies that nothing has any existence unless some small- and oh, so transitory- consciousness has become aware of it.
— Carl Jung
The generation born with Neptune in Sagittarius will experience a square from Neptune as it transits through Pisces, and for those born in the same time period as myself we have Neptune exactly squaring our natal Neptune today while Saturn simultaneously is conjoining our natal Neptune. Others may have the current Neptune square with Saturn making other catalytic aspects in their natal chart in one way or another. Carl Jung serves as an example of someone who went into the realm of Neptune and came back with knowledge to share with and heal the greater collective. He did this through active imagination and making the effort to understand the inner images he experienced, writing in Memories, Dreams, Reflections that he tried “to plant the results of my experience in the soil of reality; otherwise they would have remained subjective assumptions without validity.”
As we head into the time of the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day in which the Sun reaches the zenith of its ascent and begins its descent that will lead us into the regeneration of Fall and the darkness of Winter, a Mutable Grand Cross will form involving Mercury in Gemini in opposition to Saturn in Sagittarius, both in square to an opposition between Neptune in Pisces with Jupiter in Virgo. This could lead to a breakdown or a breakthrough, and to experience the latter Jung’s emphasis on centering within is sage advice. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung declared, “There is no linear evolution; there is only circumambulation of the self.” Circumambulating, circling around our sacred center instead of becoming spun out in disparate directions through forces within our outer environment, can facilitate the grounding needed to gather insight rather than delusional, disillusioning experiences.
I accepted the chaos, and in the following night, my soul approached me.
— Carl Jung from Liber Novus, 106
Jung, Carl. (2009). The Red Book: Liber Novus. Edited by Sonu Shamdasani. Norton.
Jung, Carl. (1967). Alchemical Studies. Bollingen.
Jung, Carl. (1965). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe. Vintage.