Neptune: The Problem with Oversimplification

Posted on June 8, 2016
Posted by Jim Sher

NeptuneMy experience reading and listening to how Neptune is described by astrologers has, for the most part, not been a good one. In fact, as I write this article, I am quite concerned that an opportunity to expand our understanding of Neptune that is being provided by the present New Moon could be wasted with superficial, stereotypical and distorted views of this important archetypal force. One cannot understand the potentials of this cycle if we do not understand how to interpret Neptune since it is such a critical part of this transit. For those of you who desire to get to my thoughts about the nature of Neptune, you can go down to the section ‘The Call of Neptune’ and avoid my critique of astrologers’ oversimplifications about this archetypal force.

What has motivated me to write this article now is that I received a link about this New Moon on Flipboard which illustrates the way that so many astrologers view Neptune. Because I do not mean to focus on this particular article, I am not citing the source since the views of Neptune expressed here are not uncommon. Here are some of the relevant quotes:

“With the Sun/Moon/Venus alignment square Neptune there’s an idealistic, fantasy based energy playing out…this can also unearth tendencies towards denial, delusion, deception (of self, of others or by others) as well as codependency, enabling, addiction, playing the victim or martyr and otherwise choosing to check out…”

“The fantasies and dreams of Neptune get faced with reality when Saturn faces off with him- and this can necessarily pop bubbles and bring up deep feelings of disillusionment, despair, disappointment and more.”

“Yet it can be easy to stay in the victim stance and feel like things are being done to you- but if you use Saturn’s energy wisely you can start to look at your piece in the puzzle and see where the situations you find yourself in are actually of your own making (on some level conscious or Unconscious)…”

Let’s pick out some of the terms used in this article, such as idealistic, fantasy-based, denial, delusion, deception, co-dependency, enabling, addiction, victim, and martyr. These terms can certainly be true at times and the author does point out that one can avoid the listed negative tendencies.  But to base an entire interpretation on them, is woefully unbalanced, inadequate and overly generalized. More importantly, the value of Neptune itself is left out. This results in a loss of understanding of how one can use the present transits to grow and expand one’s consciousness.

This type of description is quite common. When I began studying astrology in the 70’s, the majority of descriptions were, in fact, quite negative. For example, some of the primary keywords used in what’s called ‘Uranian’ astrology are “the unknown; deception; subtleness; dissolution; mysticism.” In another book by Sherman and Frank-Manske, Neptune is described as “illogical, impractical, illusion, amorphous, imposing lack of clarity” and further that Neptune produces such foggy perception that it allows for “vagueness, camouflage, ambiguity, obtuseness and mimicry, which may lead to confusion, deception, lying, susceptibility and delusion.” Of course, some of these keywords can be true at certain times and in certain situations but…

Please look and ask if it is very possible that a great deal has been left out. Is this all there is to the archetypal Neptune? And if not, what is missing? Moreover, why is this archetype regarded so negatively by some high-quality astrologers? It is worth mentioning here that all of us perceive the world through our own lens. That’s the nature of this reality and perhaps any reality. So, what do these primarily negative keywords tell us about the inner reality of these astrologers? Maybe it tells us more about the astrologer than it does about Neptune. What can we learn from this inquiry?

More Balanced Keywords

In the past few decades, astrologers have begun to look at Neptune in a more balanced way. They are more likely to add concepts such as compassion, realizing the connectedness of all beings, redemption, creative imagination, charm, aesthetic, merging, mystical states, philanthropy, peace-seeking, etc. They have begun to include the idea that because our culture tends to reduce the importance of intuition, an artistic temperament, thinking holistically, and even the experience of what can be called ‘Divine’ or unconditional Love, Neptune’s value can be unappreciated.

These additions are coming from astrologers who are working on their own spiritual practice and have begun to see how Neptune is affecting them in positive ways. Thus when they think of Neptune they will relate it to their practice of meditation and will include the word ‘spiritual’ instead of the term ‘religion.’ They are not likely to regard Buddhism, Zen, and other mystical religions as religions at all. If they do, they will refer to them as the ‘esoteric’ side of that religion. That type of astrologer will regard certain teachers such as Krishnamurti, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi and many others as particularly attuned to the energies of Neptune.

So it is true that there is more balance now in the interpretation of Neptune than there used to be. But why is this and why do we have far more work to do?

The Problem with Keywords

While I understand that the use of keywords can be a helpful starting point for beginning students of astrology, any reliance on them must lead to significant distortions. Keywords simplify, but if the astrologer stops there, their use so often leads to what I call ‘either-or’ thinking. It’s necessarily black and white and is, therefore, event-oriented. Either the event happened or it didn’t. This completely misses the most important aspect of astrology and its potential gift to humanity. Astrology is at its best when it helps us see when there is an opportunity for learning and what that lesson might be. This is only possible if we do not become absorbed in the event itself. This is the problem with dualistic thinking. Further, this orientation creates dogmatic thinking in that what we are seeking is some kind of certainty to ease our fears. The irony is that I have seen more times than I care to remember of how astrologers have created more fear for clients, not less.

The problem with making astrology too simplified is much more problematic when it comes to how we interpret the ‘outer’ planets of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. This is because in their most essential meaning or purpose, these planets represent three holistic aspects of consciousness transformation. They certainly can create events that happen to us, but the events themselves are not what is actually important. Their importance is how the events affect us and most of all in how we respond to these events. The critical question here is – ‘how can I respond to what is happening in an optimal way, in a way that is in a fundamentally different manner than the way I have responded before?’

When we use such ‘either-or’ terms with Neptune, for example, we are going to lose any hope that we will understand what this archetypal force is invoking, leading us towards, or nudging us to understand. And most importantly, that Neptune can never be understood by the use of words. Sure, we need them to communicate, but we must remember to use them as pointers or metaphors, not as facts. What Neptune asks us to experience is a question that reveals a much better approach.

The Call of Neptune

I regard Neptune as the call to an inner process. In fact, all of the outer planets are best thought of as calls to a new ‘Way of Being.’ Here are just a few of the urgings that Neptune calls forth in us:

  1.  To allow our ‘self-importance’ to dissolve in favor of developing a broader perspective.
  2.  We are urged to view what is happening to us as part of an underlying ‘Unity’ that is always connected to others and with the multi-verse itself.
  3.  To see ‘Others’ from their perspective, rather than only our own.
  4.  To feel compassion for others and to learn to respond accordingly.
  5.  To learn to observe from a more impartial place that honors all of our experience while seeking some kind of ‘higher’ understanding.
  6.  To quiet the mind so that we are not controlled by all the chatter and might become able to hear our ‘inner knowing’ or ‘wisdom.’
  7.  To put aside any kind of martyrdom which can now be seen as an aspect of ‘self-importance’ that ought to be ‘sacrificed’ so we can move into a higher level of consciousness.

So, where are the negative keywords on this list? They are certainly part of the ‘ego-dissolving’ process, but ‘ego’ is what we are to confront and transform. When we begin to do this, we become able to respond to the ‘call’ of Neptune. The negative keywords used in astrology only occur because they show us what is in the way of our real growth. They block us from hearing Neptune’s call to ‘becoming Love.’

I want to emphasize that the negative keywords that are associated with Neptune are not due to its nature. The source of these negative attributes is the human ego. It is caused when the human ego meets the call of Neptune and refuses to transform. Instead we hold on to our ego for dear life and instead of letting go of selfishness, greed, etc., we idealize and justify it. We regard others as objects to be manipulated and deceived.  We are secretly controlled by fear and use our control of others as proof of how important we are. Ego ‘trumps’ compassion and declares victory over others who are ‘weak’ or ‘corrupt.’ We lie to get our way and sabotage the call to our highest instincts of Love and compassion.

It is a very big mistake to identify Neptune with the negative keywords I have listed in this article and which has too often become the norm in astrology. Yes, we must still use the skills we have learned from Saturn so that we are not confused or deceived by others. We must still have clear boundaries when they are appropriate or necessary. But, inside, we can still love, have compassion and help others when it does not take anything away from the other.

But the best way to work with Saturn, when it is part of our Neptunian paradigm shift, is to really focus on making a strong and consistent effort on applying the new principles we are being called to deeply feel and to receive the new, ever creative Life energy that can now arise from the deepest part of our Soul. Gurdjieff would have called this ‘creating our Soul.’ Whatever one may call it, Neptune asks us to hear the call to being full participants in the entire reality in which we live.


Astrology Astrology Neptune Outer Planets
Jim Sher

Jim brings over 35 years of experience as a therapist and transformational counselor to his practice of astrology, metaphysics, meditation and philosophy. He operates as a teacher and counselor and specializes in the use of discourse as a part of his teaching approach.

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6 responses to “Neptune: The Problem with Oversimplification”

  1. anitacampion@yahoo.com' Anita says:

    Dear Jim: it is SOO refreshing to read your article on Neptune; you are courageously bringing forth a new perception in line with the transition of consciousness we are all experiencing during this transitional new cycle of Life. THANK YOU, Anita

  2. LA90048@gmail.com' Jo White says:

    Thank you Jim, for another beautifully written article. I appreciate your positive descriptions of the planets and transits, and the especially the encouraging reminder to focus on a new ‘way of being’, and ‘becoming love’.

  3. mjwevers@mac.com' Mary Jo says:

    Thank you for your insightful interpretation of Neptune. Perhaps our misunderstanding of Neptune arises from clinging to distorted beliefs from the last 2,000 year Age of Pisces. Your description of Neptune aiding us in ‘ego-dissolving’ and ‘consciousness transformation’ is much more appropriate, uplifting and hopeful!

  4. Ledesmalaura@socal.rr.com' Laura says:

    Great article JIm, …..Thank you, Laura

  5. rhcelticwoman@gmail.com' Francesca says:

    Ever so relevant, especially at this moment in time.

  6. arisinggoddess@gmail.com' jane fryer says:

    HI Jim, as one natal Neptune square the Sun, and a 12 th house stellium, and Pisces midheaven, your insights, and perspective come at a great time to renew the awareness of ego. Blessings,…

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