Saturn-Neptune Aspects: Giving Form to the Spirit
“From ancient times Saturn’s day-or the period of Saturn-was recognized as a time of enforced rest and quiet on the outer plane, which would allow the spirit to become active.”1
In this article I will look firstly at the planetary energies of Saturn and Neptune in isolation, and then move on to an exploratory discussion of the interplay of these two archetypal energies. I will draw upon examples looking at the apparent effects seen at the mundane and global levels of a Saturn/Neptune conjunction, a speculatory discussion of a spiritual movement that seeks to allow an earthly link to the divine realm, and the charts of some individuals whose lives and charts reflect these issues.
Neptune, as one of the outer planets (along with Pluto and Uranus), is seen as operating at the transcendent level, as distinct from the personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury) and the social planets – Jupiter and Saturn.
The symbology of the hieroglyphic representation of Neptune relates to the semi-circle of the soul pierced by the cross of matter. The cross of matter is symbolic of the physical plane of manifestation and represents the interplay of the spirit and the soul. The semi-circle is representatives of the duality of existence, in that it takes the essence of life and gives it a form. This reveals Neptune’s role in allowing the light of the spirit to penetrate into the experience of the everyday world. In its modern form, the symbol for Neptune has evolved into a depiction of the trident representing the rulership of the oceans.² This is indicative of the association of Neptune with its ruler Pisces, the transpersonal water sign which is symbolized by the fish. At a more esoteric level, the ocean is representative not only of the vast feeling life of Neptune (and Pisces), but also of the psychological realm of the unconscious, symbolically evoked by the image of the magical secrets and unfathomable mysteries of the depths below the surface.
Accordingly, Neptune has as its natural home the twelfth house of the Collective unconscious. This house is also associated with pitfalls for the unwary or indiscriminate. Negative connotations include its reputation as being the house of self- undoing, and that of individuals who are strongly imbued with this energy, carrying a heavy psychological burden of carrying the shadow of their “collective”, that is of their family of origin or group to which they belong, which at some level is linked in its origins to the collective unconscious.
The energy of Neptune is frequently experienced as a yearning for something of greater connectedness and spiritual meaning than the experience of the everyday and the “here and now”. There is a deep feeling of being imprisoned by the immediate life circumstances, however, it is often difficult to articulate where the problem lies, rather it is experienced as a constant sense of disillusionment. In particular, it is the urge to go beyond the limits of the material world and material values, to experience the ecstasy of feeling at one with the universe, and of belonging in the divine order of the whole (this entity or feeling state goes by many names including the godhead, nirvana, heaven, divine light, universal energy).
The link to the twelfth house suggests that this energy represents an archetypal expression of collective feeling which resonates deeply in the collective unconscious. It is also believed that this collective archetype is personally mediated by the oceanic experience of the infant in its time within the mother’s womb. In this setting, the collective wellspring of feeling is literally manifest in the embryonic fluid of the womb. In his or her rulership of the ocean within the womb, the “Divine Child” experiences a state of sublime ecstasy wherein he/she is suspended floating between the two worlds, between formlessness and incarnation into the external world. This image is reminiscent of the depiction of entry into the idyllic Isle of Avalon, in which the initiated summon up the barge to take them through the shrouded mists from one world into the other, in the highly neptunian novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley “The Mists of Avalon”.3 In the blissful state, in utero, the child’s bodily needs are met effortlessly through the totally symbiotic union with the mother. In addition, it is believed that the developing child has no awareness of itself as a separate being or entity to the mother in whose womb it is carried, or indeed, of there existing any distinctions in its world, with its total sum of awareness being the experience of existing in this blissful state, and of this as constituting the whole of its universe.
There are several key qualities to this experience which typify the Neptunian realm: a disconnectedness from the demands of the material world, the dissolution of the individual ego boundaries into a vast collective entity, an experience of connectedness with the whole at a profound level, and a deep feeling of well-being or ecstasy. The child is engulfed in an undifferentiated sea of feelings which are archetypal and collective in origin. The adult Neptunian experience is often mediated through a group setting, for example in a group meditation, with a mass sensitivity to these collective feelings which are both undifferentiated and indiscriminate in nature.
Whilst the culture of the individual will influence the detail of the experience of the realm of Neptune, its universal characteristics are its links to the sphere of childlike beauty and bliss: it is the fabric of magic and creativity in the human experience, the dwelling place of both the faery and the mystic.
The hieroglyphic for Saturn is composed of the same two elements as Neptune, however, the symbol for Saturn is a virtual inversion of the Neptunian symbol, wherein the cross of matter lies over the semi-circle of soul. This is suggestive of both the need for interconnection of these energies to fully experience the richness of their potential gifts, and the antithesis of their basic orientations, a topic to which I shall return after an examination of the energy of Saturn.
The overall symbology suggests that Saturn’s essence is related to learning to harmonize the imagination with the physical world. Alan Oken expresses it as the:
“Demand that one pass through the tests of material existence before being allowed to enter into the realm of the Soul and the resultant exalted state of consciousness.”4 and in esoteric terms it is said to represent “the darkness of matter, the material on which the spirit has to work to build its soul temple”.5
Saturn’s placement as the bridge between the collective or transcendent planets and the inner grouping of personal and social planets, mirrors the role Saturn plays in the development of the personal psyche, which approximates the roles ascribed to the Freudian constructs of both the “ego” and the “superego”. Many writers have cast Saturn in the inglorious role of the overzealous superego, however I contend that this depiction of Saturn conforms to a poorly-developed Saturnian function, and that the true sphere of influence of Saturn vastly exceeds this narrow watchdog role. As an earthy energy, it embodies the principles of containment, limits and structure. Its terrain is the concrete world of form, in which one cultivates the ability to accurately test reality and to meaningfully enter into the culturally defined world of a shared objective reality.
At the surface level, Saturn operates from a conditional approach to human interaction in which reward is gained by commensurate effort. When this notion is extended to the emotional realm, so that demonstrations of love are dispensed to those who have “earned” it by their virtue, and approval relies on conforming to a pre-determined moral code, the link to the conditional parent or the superego is self-evident. It is in this domain that the frequent association with crippling self-doubt and child-like fear of those areas in the personal chart that Saturn touches, can be readily understood. This is more pronounced in individuals who have not yet experienced their first Saturn return, an astrological event which encourages one to come to more fully embrace the challenge represented in the quest to use life to honor the soul’s purpose.
This energy does not sit comfortably, at least on initial appearances, with the area of relating, in which the conditionality is often perceived as debilitating to the spontaneity, passion and warmth, and constancy in attachment which are often highly valued, or perceived as being integral to this realm of experience. Contacts between Saturn and the personal planets can be very difficult energies to deal with as they touch deep wounds of feeling essentially unloved or unworthy.
Conversely, Saturn is known as the alchemist’s gold, the substance that remains at the end of the alchemical process of burning off the dross, and is the pure base material upon which the psyche or relationship is built. Whilst Saturn contacts have been found to be very important to enduring relationships, it is the symbolic link of the alchemical process to the development of the personal psyche that is most relevant to my thesis. The struggle to contend with the challenge of Saturn can be viewed as progressing through several octaves, in which the higher octaves represent successive moves from mastery of the material domain, to the development of an individuated self, to levels of more full realization of the soul’s purpose. This progression is illustrated by the link of Saturn to the tenth house.
The lack of clouding by attachment or sentiment is invaluable to Saturn’s role in the tenth house in mediating contact with the outside world. This sphere of activity is related to the vocation or contribution to the collective, as well as to status and the external perceptions of one’s place in the social world.
As the polarity of the fourth house world of the family of origin, it is also connected to the theme of parenting, through the role of the conditional parent as discussed above. It is in this sphere that Saturn’s direct and unadulterated feedback about worth, right and wrong, social mores, potential dangers to the physical body, and effort and reward are most vital in successful negotiation of the territory.
In this sense, Saturn can also be viewed as representing an adult form of Freud’s concept of the ego, in being the persona that protects the individual from the excesses of both the id (the primitive drives, which Freud postulated to be those of sex and aggression) and the superego (the ‘shoulds’ and strict moral codes which when excessively adhered to can be unduly restrictive and promote an imbalance to leading a well-grounded life (see the later section on the Saturn shadow for a more thorough outline). A well-integrated Saturn allows one to marry the ego and superego into a developed sense of personal autonomy and the ability to attune one’s behavior with an internalized moral code, without a need to seek external judgment as to the appropriateness of one’s actions.
In keeping with this theme, Saturn has also been linked to the concept of “Satan the tempter”, the urge to indulge in material pleasures at odds with external edicts of appropriate behavior. Contrary to the view of Satan as evil, I believe that an engagement in the human struggle of reconciling desire and morality, is not in opposition to the spiritual path, but rather an essential part of the journey (see later section on The Savior/Redeemer Myth).
The earthy nature of the Saturnine principles of form and limits forces the individual to come to terms with the finite nature of the physical world. Thus a well-developed Saturnian must also reconcile the zeal of the wish to honor his or her moral code, with the need for sustenance and due care of the physical body, an area in which they are likely to have particular concerns. A true Saturnian places great store on their independence and the feeling of being ” a law unto himself or herself” in the fullest sense of not being beholden to any individual or group. This is often accompanied by a sense of the need to justify their existence by hard work and devotion to duty. Such an individual often possesses considerable reserves of capacity for hard work which seem endless and are fully exploited in early adult life. However, for the highly Saturnian individual the passage of the Saturn return is often marked by a crisis forcing recognition of the limits of one’s physical endurance in relation to tenth house pursuits.
A strongly Saturnian person has a gift for creating form and structure which is essential for the transmission of the creative insight or impulse in both the intellectual and the emotional domains into something of social value that can be both manipulated and communicated to the collective. The Saturnian also possesses an urge to build a social order that accords with his or her sense of natural order and justice. In addition, the Saturnian has a personal contact with the archetype of the teacher, in the form of one who passes on the knowledge and skills needed to allow for the continuation of the social order. As part of this grounding in both the past and present, with a view to building for the future, there is a great deal of respect afforded to traditional values, teachings and structures which have stood the test of time.
The Relationship Between Saturn & Neptune
These two planetary energies can therefore be seen as principles whose basic urge and focus are oppositional. It is one expression of the archetypal struggle between form and formlessness, between body and spirit. Neptune years for a return to an undifferentiated, formless and, in some senses, infantile state of bliss unfettered by the restraints of a physical body. In contrast, Saturn is characterized by the urge to growth, individuation and sustainability, through the development of forms and structure. It seeks a state of connectedness as an individual, with the material world which negotiates both the soul’s purpose in life and the demands of the immediate life circumstances.
However, Saturn has a role as the bridge from the collective to the social and personal, and can be viewed as the channeling force to connect the spirit with the material world. Equally, the rejuvenating energy of Neptune is needed to revive the flagging spirit of the diligent Saturnian domain. If the two energies can be engaged in a harmonious flow, then Saturn can ground the Neptunian spirit, and Neptune can give meaning to the Saturnian endeavors to structure the material world.
The Saturn-Neptune Aspect is a union of the elements of earth and water and essentially an inward-looking process which may then be given an external form. Whilst it is potentially a highly creative and brilliant connection, there are also strong potential dangers in the lack of air and fire in an exclusive union of these two energies.
The Mundane Level
At the physical level, Saturn rules the spine, the site through which the seven rays of unfoldment are said to enter the body and the location of the seven chakras, or energy centers. This link to the flow of spiritual energy is further indicated by Saturn’s association with the law of Karma or reciprocity of input and intent with output, as expressed in a mundane version of this concept. Karma is also understood in a more profound sense in spiritual discourse, to depict the movement of the soul in ever advancing spirals towards the great state of spiritual enlightenment or “at-one-ment” with the universal life-force known as the state of nirvana. This mundane expression of the law of Karma demonstrates very well the linear mode of Saturn, in which the spiritual essence must be reduced to a form which has meaning and value in the everyday social reality of linear space and time dimensions.
This reduction of the concept has occurred in several forms which are indicative of the nuance of the cultural setting through which the collective meaning is conferred. This ranges from the crude concept of the biblical “eye for an eye” to the idealism of the non-violence and peaceful co-existence across species of the Jain religion. Thus, whilst the process of concretization is necessarily a reductive one, it does not always have to result in a crudely literal translation of the original concept. The level to which it is reduced reflects the spiritual values of the culture into which it is translated.
The Global Level
The strong connection between Saturn and the ability to access Neptune is evidenced by the fact that Neptune was discovered under an exact Saturn/Neptune conjunction. The Saturn/Neptune conjunctions occur on approximately a thirty-five year cycle.
In his article on the discovery of Neptune, Peter Clamp links the Saturn/Neptune conjunctions of 1846 (Neptune’s discovery) and 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall) with crucial stages in humanity’s collective evolution. He briefly traces historical events in the initial search for the realization of a communist utopia on earth and later, the dismantling of the totalitarian States, and links this to the interplay of Saturn and Neptune at a global level through the cycle of conjunction of the two planets.6
This is related to the quest to use the Saturnine capacity for concretizing and realization in a stable form, to create a version of the spiritual home of Neptune on earth. The marxist theme of emphasizing the level of the collective (in which individual differences are ignored at best, or more likely, coerced into non-existence) reveals the Neptunian intent to create a State in which ego boundaries are dissolved and individuals are at one in the vast collective sea of humanity. The principle of “to each according to need, from each according to ability” which assumes a highly sustained contribution from all, is a version of material karma applied at the societal level, indicating the strong Saturnine standards implicit in the vision. One could also characterize the worst depictions of Communist life as displaying the harsh, dour and frugal side of Saturn with the exceedingly poor capacity for planning for material welfare of Neptune, and the lack of spark, warmth and enthusiasm for life which stems from the positive infusion of the qualities of the elements of fire and air into a collective culture. Whilst the dream may have been pure and the vision splendid, this attempt at utopia reinforces Neptune’s capacity for deceit, treachery, false promises and the resulting disillusion without the balancing of a well-developed and integrated Saturn, which also allows for a harmonizing of life with the essential qualities of air and fire.
The Marxist State showed little trace of Neptunian wonder, however, the difficulty in handling the realm of spirit would seem to have had its origins in being possessed by the excesses of a dominant but poorly-developed Saturn, such as the experience of the grey solemnity and brutal excesses of Stalinist Russia. In this respect, it can be said to be an enforcement of a spiritual void on an unwilling people.
The Saturn Shadow
Liz Greene in her study of Saturn7, highlights its tendency to play shadow with any planet it contacts. Whilst this concept has many levels of meaning, I will concentrate on a meaning in which Saturn places a shadow on the planet it contacts so that both energies remain less well-developed or in the shadows.
For Saturn, this is likely to manifest in slavish or religious devotion to a value system and world-view that has not been fully examined and tested for its personal fit before its adoption as the one true code. In this scenario, the unflinching rigor of Saturn continues to seek a more profound honoring of its true challenge to the psyche and the individual experiences a continuous feeling of deep unease and doubt about their alleged truth. This complex results in even more slavish devotion to “the cause” and aggressive demonstration of the faith in an attempt to stave off this internal disharmony. This of course, continues the cycle.
It is perhaps this phenomenon that, in part, explains much of the brutal repression of difference that has characterized religious crusades over time. It is this form of the Saturnine temperament which has earned its reputation for bullying, rigidity in ideology, and punitive enforcement of moral or religious codes, that underlies much of the negative regard in which Saturn is held. In simple psychological terms, this can be understood as a primitive defence mechanism in which the source of unease, that is the doubt or difference in belief, is externally projected onto the “other” and vehemently attacked as a way of reducing the internal dissonance. This phenomenon is related to the concept of Satan and the externalized struggle with “evil” referred to above.
It is perhaps when one is not at peace with his or her own desires, and finds them unworthy, that they become “cast out” and reviled as “Satan the tempter”.
The Neptune Shadow
There is also a likelihood that the Saturn contact will also cast its shadow on the development of an integrated facility to cultivate the rich gifts of a Neptunian disposition. The Neptunian realm is particularly prone to distortion due to its tendency to seek regressive states of symbiosis and undifferentiated feeling, and its natural domicile being the ethereal theater of the sublime and the transcendent.
Some of the more recognizable qualities of a shadow Neptune are delusions of grandeur, false beliefs which are clung to with unshaken faith despite them being categorically refuted (although this is always a contextually loaded judgment) for example, the undying loyalty of the followers of Jim Jones. This tragic instance of human folly, in which nearly a thousand people participated in a mass suicide through following the pathological pronunciations of an obviously distorted mind, is a rich example of what I shall term the “double-shadow”, in which the shadows of inferior development of both Saturn and Neptune energies is evident.
Other qualities of the Neptune shadow include the urge to avoid reality and responsibility, states of illusion and delusion, excessive idealization of a situation or individual, the tendency to seek Neptunian-like experience in an addictive fashion, and a variety of ways to act without regard for the integrity of the physical body.
The Savior/Redeemer Myth
The Neptunian experience also pulls in the Piscean themes of playing the “victim/savior” and of personal sacrifice for the sake of redemption of others, echoing the Dionysinian myth closely connected with both Neptune and Pisces. In essence, this is a myth of sacrifice and leaving the physical plane to enter the higher spiritual realm, followed by spiritual redemption, which allows a triumphant re-entry to the physical plane as an exalted spiritual figure. It is echoed in the themes of the Christian myth of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and redemption. At a literal level, Jesus died to save his mortal brothers and sisters from eternal damnation for their collective sins. Joseph Campbell contends that the significance of this myth is the theme that one must enter into the suffering of human experience in order to gain entry into the spiritual realm, as did both Jesus Christ and Dionysus. He also contends that it is in their empathy with the suffering of the mortal God that others also contact the spiritual plane within themselves.8 This explains the centrality of the constant focus on the sacrificial figure in a variety of spiritual belief systems. At a psychological level, it represents an attempt to reconcile the tensions inherent in combining the search for the spiritual path with a human existence.
At a symbolic level, it portrays the sense of spiritual impoverishment of remaining confined to a purely individually oriented and material plane of existence, but equally, it highlights that the spiritual realm is not separate to human experience, but is entered through fully participating in the suffering and mystery of life with an openness to the experience of the Divine. Thus, the atonement for the collective sins is also the at-one-ment of the material and the spiritual at the point of entry to the realm of the Divine. This has important implications for those Neptunians who seek to distance themselves from a committed involvement with the earthy realm of Saturn, in a misguided attempt to attain spiritual purity.
The Creative Process of Saturn-Neptune Aspects
Similarly, the tension between Saturn and Neptune is played out in any creative endeavor, as the artist or creator seeks to give form to their vision or ideas, so as to manifest their creative impulse. The creative process allows every individual to access an inner awareness of personal divinity if they are sufficiently open to the process. If we are able to hold the Saturnian energy as a vehicle which gives a smooth passage to the Neptunian vision, then we are able to fleetingly experience the ecstasy of the contact with the Divine within ourselves. Frequently, the fear of Saturn, or the deception of Neptune, clouds this process to such an extent that we only experience the struggle and not the joy of the union of these two primary life energies. This applies equally to writing an essay or poem or performing a song, as to a great work of art.
At a psychological level, the tension results, at least in part, from the fear of judgment by others that is associated with Saturn, in case we fail to “measure up” and respect, approval, or love is withdrawn. This represents the negative aspect of our subjective experience of the Saturnian process. However, we also recognize that it is a necessary part of the creative process in its motivating force to strive for excellence, and in the subjective value we place on receiving positive acclaim in the context of fear that this would not be forthcoming. Whilst success is not always attained, we also learn that the terror of relative judgment to our peers serves a purpose in giving up (hopefully) accurate feedback upon which to make decisions about our future activities and to have a grounded sense of our place in the external world.
This process is heightened if the creative endeavor seeks to capture a glimpse of the sublime or the spiritual realm of Neptune, for in astrological terms one is trying to harness the free spirit which roams in magical and mystical ways. In the purest of Neptunian worlds, the spirit cannot be contained for this strikes at its very being, and thus the artist’s attempt to accurately convey his or her vision is essentially a futile mission. So, too, the mystic who attempts to communicate the splendor of the other world to the world of human enquiry. This is because the realm of Neptune is one which defies any attempt to fully capture it in language, by the very nature of language as a set of symbols seeking to separate, isolate and discriminate shades of meaning, so as to represent and give form to ideas and feelings. This process must therefore entail a reduction of that which is not bound by the limits of space and time, but may nonetheless hold enough of the magic to be truly inspirational, in giving form to the spirit.
The Application of Saturn-Neptune Aspects to the Realm of Spiritual Groups
The dynamic interplay of these two energies is strikingly evident in the endeavors of those who seek to gain access to the divine through yoga, meditation or belonging to a religious or devotional sect, such as “The Divine Light” or “The Orange People” or one of many other such groups. It is through the application of sequences and rules (Saturn) as well as ritual that individuals seek to access the experience of undifferentiated collective feeling of contact with the universal (Neptune).
In my experience of such groups they are characterized by a profound disinterest in the critiques offered of the intellectual basis of their teachings, and a curiously disinterested position in relation to the external world. Moreover, a lack of air is apparent and is manifested as a profound lack of intellectual discrimination and development of a theoretical basis to the group’s teachings. In addition, a lack of fire is evident as characterized in the emotional tenor of the group, as a distinct muting in the display of emotions, and my perception of an absence of passion, warmth and (ironically) of a lack of generosity of spirit to their fellow human beings.
The teachings of such groups are often liberally endowed with generalized and sweeping statements attesting to the spiritual impoverishment of the general community, in which a straw figure of the “common man” is set up for parody, by virtue of his status in leading a hollow, materially-driven and miserable existence. These superficial observations are offered as having universal application and are greeted by enthusiasts as somehow offering unique insights into a doctrine of spiritual truth. Whilst the glibness of the offerings may be excused as a rhetorical device appropriate to a public lecture setting, what seems less acceptable to me is that this superficial analysis is not developed any further or subjected to a fuller analysis, in the development of more extended texts or documents outlining the group’s beliefs and teachings.
A Case Study – The Natural Law Party
In my original plan for this article of Saturn-Neptun Aspects I had planned to look at the interplay of these two energies in a spiritual group as I have described above, with reference to a specific setting. This emanated from reflecting on a recent personal experience in learning the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and an unplanned attendance at a meeting of a newly-formed Natural Law Party (NLP). As part of this paper I had intended to study the astrology of the formation of the NLP in order to assess my assumption of a strong Saturn/Neptune theme and the relative strength of their placements. However, perhaps not surprisingly if Neptune is implicated, the NLP spokesperson was unable at present to give sufficient information for these purposes and was himself struck by his vagueness of such recent events. As a consequence, my observations cannot be examined in the light of information about the chart of this group.
This party was formed in approximately the middle of 1992 perhaps related to Neptune’s current location in Capricorn, the ruler of Saturn, and the associated tendency for spiritual groups to seek more grounding in the wider social reality, including the political system.
In my exposure to this group I was impressed with the benefits of the meditation technique, however, I was less than convinced by the poorly articulated theory used by the TM teachers in asserting TM’s status as a universal panacea to the world’s ills. An extension to the logic of this universal panacea claim, seemed to be the basis of the formation of the new political party, whose policies to date consist of teaching TM and more advanced techniques, holding mass group meditations (a 7000 group) and calling for a consensual approach to Government.
The spirit and intention of the NLP’s espoused commitment to consensual decision-making (indicating the Neptunian sentiment) may be admirable, but to date they have not addressed how this might work in practice, and in their elaboration of this much lauded principle, do not appear to conceive of the possibility of the existence of genuine differences and the incompatibility of competing needs based on core differences in values. For instance, how does one achieve consensus in the current debate between the opposing philosophies of economic rationalism and the Keynesian position of advocacy of Government intervention to protect the welfare of key social and economic institutions?
One might suggest that the NLP platform is indicative of a grafting of a collective sentiment (Neptune) onto the political arena, rather than a true expression of the fusion of Saturn and Neptune energies in a politically grounded spiritual vision. This would require an initial working through of the Saturnian realm of the social order before attempting to introduce a spiritual or collective sentiment to a political vision.
In addition, the devotees of this group do not believe in the inevitability of fear and conflict, and believe that with the correct learning and practice of TM these “negative emotions” need not be encountered. Despite the quite obvious implausibility of this position in both evolutionary and experiential terms, as well as its lack of intellectual force, this position seems to be freely espoused and unchallenged within the formal hierarchy of the NLP.
This reflects both the yearning for the undifferentiated collective feeling state of Neptune and the shallow thinking of the shadow Neptunian. It does not display an acceptance of willingly entering into the human condition as the route to the spiritual, as in Joseph Campbell’s elucidation of myth, but rather an avoidance of suffering. It also is an indicator of my impression that the contact with the ecstasy of Neptune through the meditation, is exploited as an avenue of finding the answer to life’s problems, and the necessary work towards ongoing personal development, of undergoing the process of individuation and development of the personal psyche, is prematurely suspended. That is, the Neptunian shadow results in a neglect of meeting the challenges presented by Saturn. In addition, the TM Center and the NLP both emphasize repeatedly the scientific basis to the meditation technique which they term a technology, and refer to an undefined “Natural Law”. In the instruction sessions, frequent, although fleeting, reference is made to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It appears that the Maharishi is the spiritual leader of the group, a status bequeathed through his “passing on” of the secrets of Natural Law. It is perhaps revealing, that the technique central to TM involves an exercise to “trick” the conscious mind so as to “close it down” and enter the realm of universal consciousness (Neptune).
Whilst there may well be a coherent development of thought and beliefs that link the teachings, theory and practice, I was not made aware of this knowledge and I came to doubt its existence. The disturbing aspect of this experience for me was that this was despite the grandiose claims that the theory was to be fully revealed in the ensuing lectures. However, I did not encounter anything of the sort, but rather a continued repetition of the joys of TM in response to any intellectual queries as to how the process could be understood in various contexts, as if the query related solely to the experience of TM teachers, and that their verbal assurances would be sufficient to dispel any lingering doubt. Any expression of a lack of satisfaction with the response to a question was met with the rejoinder of requiring the questioner to have faith and to try it for themselves. In fairness, it should be noted that the teaching of TM does include a theory of the mind/body which explains the alleged physiological basis to the benefits of the technique, of which I retain an uncertainty as to its accuracy, but which seems plausible, and to which the empirical evidence claimed by TM seems to be supportive.
It is the extension of these impressive physical benefits for the individual to a direct impact on the State at the macro-level, of which I require an adequate intellectual rationale to justify such grandiose and apparently socially naive claims. The failure to discriminate the difference between a sound theoretical presentation and the grandiose statements that were offered, as well as the confusion of intellectual enquiry with a lack of faith, is perhaps another aspect of the lack of air evident in the energy driving this group. There is an over-reliance on the appeal to a scientific basis, as if this is unproblemmatic, and on the authority of both the teacher, and in turn of the Maharishi, to compensate for the lack of development of the critical faculties, combined with the reverence for traditions and law (Saturn). This is not however an expression of the higher octaves of Saturn, but more an over-estimation of apparent authority compensating for the lack of internal authority and sound judgment.
Whilst this realm also has obvious 9th house and Mercury/Jupiter overtones, I believe it is when the intellect or thinking function is underdeveloped or in the shadow that the Neptune/Saturn struggle is most visible and most vulnerable to also manifesting in the shadow qualities holding sway. I will therefore concentrate on the Neptune/Saturn conflicts in relation to these pursuits.
Saturn-Neptune Aspects- The Spiritual Teacher/Leader
It is in the role of the teacher or passer on of the knowledge that the Saturn/Neptune struggle is most fiercely evident. The teacher must simultaneously hold the magic of the divine to act as a medium or channel through which the unmanifested may catch a glimpse of the possibility of divine ecstasy, as well as entering the Saturnine realm of didactic teaching in which knowledge is passed on from one with higher or superior knowledge, to one of lesser knowledge. In spiritual circles, such a teacher is often conferred with the status of a guru. This is extremely problemmatic if the individual concerned has not sufficiently developed the higher octave of Saturnian qualities to recognize that true virtue comes from honoring your own individual value system and autonomous authority, rather than being seduced by the glory of status and externalized approval. This represents the danger of Saturnian authority being confined to a paler version residing in the shadow of the personal psyche. In addition, the truly developed Saturnian seeks to give form and order to his or her insights and knowledge as part of their gift to the collective, not as a means to attain a position of adulation.
There is also a Neptunian aspect of this dilemma, in that in a truly Neptunian experience the individual ego is rendered invisible and in a sense ceases to exist for that moment of ecstasy in which that being becomes one with the totality of the universe. Therefore, it is an irrelevance to consider the individual’s status or relative merit in the Neptunian world, in which al are part of the one and in this sense equal. The resolution may lie in remaining rue to the role of the teacher whilst shunning the status of the guru.
I will now look at the charts of several famous and infamous figures who have attempted to adopt the role of the spiritual teacher or leader in their life missions.
I will commence with Jim Jones who was mentioned earlier in this article.
In looking at the operation of the double-shadow at the individual level, it would be most insightful to examine the charts of Jim Jones‘ followers and the aspects to his chart. Whilst, we do not have access to the followers’ charts we do have access to Jones’ chart.
The chart displays a strong Saturn influence through its placement in its own sign of Capricorn and in the first house, and trining his fifth house Sun. However, it also is part of a loaded T-square including the Moon, the North Node, Venus and Uranus in Aries in the third house, and a Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in Cancer in the seventh house. Therefore whilst it is likely to have a strong presence in Jones’ personality, reinforced by a Capricorn ascendant, it is also retrograde, which may intensify its power, but is potentially more difficult to access and express fluently. This introversion is further indicated by the likely overshadowing in its development by his faith in his own thinking powers (the Aries stellium in the third) and the potency of the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction, adding a volatile and potentially transformative aspect to his relationships. The transformative power was unfortunately realized in a destructive form with tragic results.
As would be expected with a figure like Jones, this is a complex chart dominated by cardinal energy and many significant aspects including Neptune (also retrograde) in an exact trine with Mercury, semi-square the Jupiter, and trining and sextiling the Ascendant/Descendant axis. The strong cardinal presence and drive to realize his vision of a heaven on earth (represented by a heavily aspected Neptune) which he communicated in a stirring way (Mercury trine Neptune) captivated his followers. However, the dominant but shadow Saturn resulted in a profound inability to realize this dream in a life-sustaining form. In addition, the potency and major difficulties presented in the T-square perhaps underlay his apparent paranoia and feelings of persecution (one might suspect his oppressed feminine in the afflicted Moon and Venus in the third house) that typified his unstable mental health.
The followers of Jones may well have been typified by the double-shadow – a weak Saturn resulting in a tendency to slavishly follow another’s world view, and a shadow Neptune in which the thinking function was so poorly developed or stifled that, in their pursuit of an earthly nirvana, they virtually unquestioningly followed the pathological teachings of a disturbed mind, even so far as to blindly participate in a mass suicide by drinking poison.
The double-shadow would also seem to be implicated in the followers of another deranged messiah – Charles Manson. Once again it would be instructive to be able to examine their charts for both the natal themes and the transits occurring at the crucial times. Whilst this is not possible, we can see some indications of Saturn/Neptune themes in Manson/s own chart. He has, as would be expected, a complex chart including a tight Sun/Venus conjunction in Scorpio, an exact Mars/Neptune conjunction in Virgo, as well as the angular Pluto on the IC squaring a twelfth house Uranus. The fifth house Mars/Neptune is also sextile the Sun/Venus contributing to a rampant ego and his own sense of himself as the messiah. He also has the North Node exactly conjunct his Moon (a fated aspect) in Aquarius squaring his Mercury in Scorpio on the Descendant suggesting a difficulty in integrating his emotional needs with the exercise of his rational faculties.
One can readily understand how his message of peace, love and understanding (the Aquarian/Uranian theme) became confused with his personal power and sexuality (strong Scorpio/Pluto presence, which is intensified by his Venus in Scorpio as the ruler of his Ascendant) and the infusion of his drug-induced vision (Mars-Neptune aspect) being imposed on the world (dominant Mars). The overpowering Scorpio flavor in his chart would have resulted in his neptune being overwhelmed by the Mars, as Mars is the co-ruler of Scorpio. His Saturn is also in difficult aspect. It is in the eleventh house in Aquarius squaring the seventh house Sun/Venus conjunction in Scorpio and widely inconjunct his exact Mars/Neptune conjunction in the fifth house. He appears to have had a very weak Saturn, displaying a negligible capacity to control his own will and actions in his contact with the wider society. He may have projected this control onto society at large, suggested by his experience of society as both harsh and punitive towards him, and morally reprehensible. The latter sentiment was at the heart of his self-appointed mission to destroy the “rich, white pigs” and the zeal of his deluded crusade was suggestive of a shadow Neptune quality.
The combination of these two energies does not always result in the enactment of a pathological vision of the deranged leader of a fringe cult as in the above two examples. We can see in the chart of Hermann Hesse these energies positively expressed through the inspired work of a writer whose work entered the intuitive realms of the development of the soul’s purpose in life. He explored the theme of the mystical journey to the East, symbolic of the spiritual home, in the development of relationships and personal happiness in life.
In his lifetime, Hesse was also renowned for his strong personal stand against fascism and his endeavor, through his writing, to inspire within his culture the embracing of a greater love for collective humanity and the urge to strive for personal autonomy and the development of a highly integrated ethical and spiritual approach to life.
Similarly to Jones, Hesse has a loaded third house with four Pisces placements, including the North Node (indicative of the soul’s purpose) and Mars and the Moon both on either side of, and widely conjuncting, his Saturn, which is also square Jupiter in Sagittarius in the first house and widely trining his Sun in the seventh house. His Saturn in Pisces was also retrograde, again serving to intensify both the power of this energy and the difficulty in fully developing this power. The Pisces placement is a literal statement of the union of Saturn with Neptunian themes. His Neptune is also in fortunate aspect. It is in the fifth house, and therefore tied to his creative power as well as sextiling his Mars and the North Node, indicating the ability to use his will (Mars) to draw out the Neptunian vision in realizing the soul’s purpose (North Node).
He clearly developed his Saturn energy well, and could therefore integrate his role as a spiritual leader (Neptune in the fifth) in fully utilizing the vast potential of his loaded third house. The grounding of a strong Saturn, plus the inspiration of the Pisces/Neptune (including Neptune contacts) in the third house of communication, are aspects that are extremely well suited to his vocation as a writer and his quest to give form to the spirit.
1. Hodgson, Joan. “Astrology: the Sacred Science.” The White Eagle Publishing Trust; 1978, Liss, Hampshire, England. p. 79.
2. Oken, Alan. “Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology. Rev. Ed.” Bantam; Toronto, Canada, 1988. p. 278.
3. Bradley, Marion. “The Mists of Avalon.” Sphere Books Ltd., London, 1982.
4. Oken, Alan. op. cit. p. 274.
5. Hodgson, Joan. op cit. p. 77.
6. Clamp, Peter David. “Neptune Unveiled.” The FAA Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3, Sept. 1992.
7. Greene, Liz. “Saturn. A New Look at an Old Devil.” Arkana; London, 1976.
8. Campbell, Joseph. Television series: “Power of Myth”.
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