‘…The constant dance between form and formlessness, being and non-being, order and chaos, occurs in all epochs and at all levels.
Humans have created a range of paradigms and metaphors, from ancient myths to modern cosmology, within which to explore this dialectic. Our ancient Babylonian forebears envisaged the beginning of the world as a battle to the death between the great sea-serpent Ti’amat and her son, the Underworld god Marduk. He vanquished her, creating Heaven and Earth from her divided corpse. Meanwhile, the grapple goes on.
Astrology has its own language for this struggle, speaking through the polarity of Saturn and Neptune. Saturn at its core represents the drive to take form; Neptune’s teleology is that of dissolution…’ (i)
Here we are – again. We do not need astrology to tell us we are in the throes of that epic struggle between Ti’amat and Marduk as the two hundred years long era of Jupiter and Saturn meeting in Earth comes to a messy and turbulent end. The ‘official starting date’ of the incoming Air era is on 2020’s Winter Solstice, when Jupiter meets Saturn at 0 Aquarius.
The signs are everywhere you care to look: covid 19 is brutally upending our way of living, which has largely depended on trashing Mother Earth since the outset of the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions. Fire ravaged parts of Australia in 2019, and is currently blazing swathes of destruction through California on the one hand, and the Brazilian rainforests in another. Destructive flooding is on the increase. Species extinction is advancing apace. Social inequality is worse than it has been for a very long time. I could go on and on…
Where astrology CAN be helpful, at least for those of us of a philosophical bent, is via the perspectives which studying the larger planetary cycles can provide. We can thus step back, zoom out as it were (quite the apt expression since much of the world is now Zooming!!) and with even a sketchy grasp of an historical timeline reflect upon the scary evidence of an increasingly divided world in turmoil – from a longer-term and possibly more optimistic perspective.
From observing both my own life and that of our wider communities, it seems that the most fear-generating dimension is the profound uncertainty which contextualises all our lives at present. None of us can plan with any confidence for anything. Just today, as I write this on Monday 14th September 2020, the covid ‘rule of six’ has come in in Scotland – but with different restrictions in other parts of an increasingly fragmenting UK as the shadow of an impending no-deal Brexit lengthens under a chaotic government with little apparent respect for the rule of law.
Neptune – as Chaos– is surely gaining the upper hand. This been increasingly the case since Neptune’s entry into Pisces in 2011/12; Saturn is struggling to maintain order: his shadow, Fascism, with violence as its inevitable companion, is on the rise in various parts of the world.
As is often the case for me (and probably other writers…) when I’m reflecting on a possible column topic which has been chewing at me for weeks – in this case the Saturn/Neptune order/chaos dialectic, and where uncertainty fits in – I came across an essay in the wonderful aeon.com last Friday which was really helpful and illuminating, from a philosopher whom I only vaguely recollected from university philosophy (aeons ago, in my case!) – Karl Jaspers (1883-1969). The header quote on the essay stopped me in my tracks:
‘…To Karl Jaspers, uncertainty is not to be overcome but understood…’
Karl Jaspers’ work ‘…revolves around the meaning of uncertainty in an increasingly precarious and radicalising world…he is one of the very few existentialist thinkers…who did not seek to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life. Instead, he tried to cultivate a relationship to this essential quality of life and engage it on its own terms…’ (ii)
Even a sketchy understanding of history reveals that our collective attempts in every culture under the sun ‘…to master, tame or conquer the unknowable and finite condition of human life…’ have been held in the vast context of that dialectic between Ti’amat and Marduk, Saturn and Neptune, order and chaos. We have lurched between those extremes, with spells of varying lengths in which we managed to get the two in balance for a time – for ever.
The twenty-year cycle of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions concluding their journey through the Earth element and entering the new Air era, can roughly speaking, be mapped onto the waning crescent of the ‘old order’ and the waxing crescent of the new. This gives us a time period from around 2000 to 2040, a time in which, to use Robert Hand’s vivid phrase: ‘…the past has minimum hold upon the present, but the present has a maximum hold on the future…’(iii)
We are in a unique time now: not only humanity, but the whole of Mother Earth and all her creatures great and small are suffering the pain and turbulence of increasing chaos as the old order loses its grip. But without Neptune to dissolve the deadening rigidities of Saturn past its sell-by date in any phase of civilisation or culture, life could not go on. Dissolution precedes renewal.
In the meantime, we need to cultivate qualities which do not come spontaneously to most humans, but need to be cultivated these days, probably more than ever before in our long and bloody history: humility, patience, and tolerance for one another in the face of our our many-faceted differences. Times of uncertainty create great fear, but also greater potential to renew ourselves. Let’s not forget that uncertainty can be a harsh, but profound gift – which Neptune is offering us right now.
P.S. Of course, after writing this I couldn’t resist checking out Astrodienst for Karl Jaspers’ horoscope, and there it was, as I had suspected, right up there in the tenth house in Taurus: Saturn conjunct Neptune, focal point of a grand trine with Moon/Uranus in Virgo and Venus in Capricorn. Maybe we should all be reading him!
(i) From The Mountain Astrologer “Contemplating the 12th House: An Optimist’s Take on Self-Undoing,” by Anne Whitaker, in the Aug/Sept. 2014 issue.
(ii) From aeon.com (11.9.20) , an essay by Carmen Lea Dege who is currently writing a book on the theory and practice of uncertainty.
(iii) From “The Astrology of Crisis” Llewellyn Publications 1993, p116
(This post is a slightly edited version of my 31st Not the Astrology Column featured in the November/December 2020 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.)
1150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page
17 thoughts on “Neptune and the ‘gift’ of uncertainty…”
Fascinating, well done. I agree the Jupiter Saturn Great Conjunction at 0 degrees Aquarius is highly symbolic, auguring in the Age of Air, rather than any age of Aquarius imho. We shall surely begin to move away from materialism for materialism’s sake, to a more truly humane world (Aquarius) where equality is about freedom of opportunity, localism, all backed up with a more truly scientific spirituality based on real truths rather than exploitation of the masses. The first stage, from 2020 to 2040 will be about establishing groundwork in a humanitarian, planning, communicative and legislative sense (Aquarius) in each region of the world. I go on to long. Best wishes.
Thanks for dropping by, and for this thoughtful comment, Francis.There are indeed some reasons for optimism in the 2020 to 2040 period.
Clyde Peck Trujillo:
As above so below…
In my microcosm of events, I’ve been “dealing with” Neptune for a few years now. I’m a Sagittarius with a total 4 planets there…Venus, Mercury, Sun and Mars. Neptune has been transiting my 9th H and just hit my MC. Neptune also was aspecting natal Neptune, Pluto and my Cancer asc.
When Neptune was square my Mercury I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. A manifestation of the negative affects, I thought to myself. I then meditated on Neptune to bring a more positive view.
This brought huge changes to my life including quitting my job and moving to another state on the pacific coast (rather Neptunian). I learned to go with the tides that Neptune brings. And with this I’ve been going through my second Saturn return this year.
Life is better now than I thought it ever could be. I simply embraced the unknown and went for the ride.
Thanks so much for this affirming and encouraging feedback. I went through a long Neptune lesson in uncertainty between 2001 and 2010 as Neptune opposed all my 5 12th house planets. Your final paragraph sums up my response to Neptune’s long visit…
Thank you very much. I will rethink my relationship to Neptune, which I have been thinking about all day as “ambivalence” in my VE/MO/NE TSQ.
Thanks for your feedback, Carla! I must say that I really appreciated coming across Karl Jasper’s approach to uncertainty…
How does this effect the USA elections?
Didi, just a short wander around various astrology sites will show you that there are squillions of commentaries on the American election from every perspective. I didn’t consider I needed to add my opinion to all that! I enjoy taking a broader philosophical perspective on the astonishing times in which we are living…
Not to mention Neptune Rx squaring the Nodal axis. Dissolving the past and forming the future. It’s a stormy sea, for sure. Thank you as always for your in-depth insights.
That’s kind, Margo, thank you…And yes, absolutely, re Neptune square Nodes…
Also, retrograde Mars in Aries has been back and forth to the conjunct aspect with Eris in Aries, and will return in mid-December, while Saturn and Pluto in Cap have been squaring it (retrograding away, then returning, etc.) That certainly adds to the element of chaos!
Thanks for this added perspective, Sherrye. Absolutely!
With the new moon only a delicate breath away, you are on my mind – as you are most every month, when new or full moons approach. I always wonder what words of wisdom (how’s that for spontanaeous alliteration?) you would share with those around you. Many times ‘there you are’ sharing those tidbits and musings via WordPress. It’s always a joy to see notifications of your posts and ponder what you have to share. Thank you!
As this complex year reaches the end, you’re on my mind. It is said that it’s easier to move on than to be left behind, but you seem to be one of those rare and grounded individuals who accepted and adjusted to being ‘left behind.’ With grace, you shared the story of losing Ian – when many would have augered inward to process a spouse’s death. You continue being a light, and this is a year when many people need extra grounding. You provide that, especially if they know your story of the past year.
It’s my loss to have never met you in person, but I am very grateful to know you from afar.
The final weeks of this year will be extra full with an eclipse and the solstice, in addition to Christmas and New Year’s traditions. The year brought a lot of suffering and death, lots of anger and chaos, and even the storms and wildfires seemed angrier and more malevolent than usual. Like the moon, our planet is going through a dark time, and I hope that we will be waxing into better times. Will we, as a species, have learned valuable lessons? Some will, but I suspect that many will revert back to the same attitudes, learning nothing from Mother Earth’s Timeout Corner.
Suffice to know that I might be silent, but you – and your posts – are greatly valued!
Sending you strong energy from the equator,
Lisa, what a wonderfully affirming comment! I am honoured and uplifted by it, as we approach winter’s deeps. And what a winter, as an 800 years, 200 years, and 20 years cycle all end on 21st December, and we look forward to what the new beginning brings with Jupiter conjunct Saturn at 0 Aquarius at the entry to a new 200 years Air Era . I am excited by these prospects, despite the pain and turbulence of this passing year, one way or another, for us all…I am grateful to know you from afar, too, Lisa, as you keep offering us artistic inspiration and wise words of your own throughout all the turmoil you have also endured in the last few years. We are survivors, both of us – and still manage to find our joy in Life despite its pain. Sending you a big virtual hug from Scotland! Anne
It’s 8 pm here on the 23rd, so you’re waning into Christmas Eve.. The sun was huge and stunning today as it set on the horizon. I hope that it’s an omen of better days ahead.
Feliz Navidad, lovely friend.
Solstice Greetings, Festive greetings, and every good wish for 2021, dear Lisa.