The distinctively sweet and woody fragrance of frankincense has always been used in ritual offerings to the gods, and it was known by ancient peoples to induce meditative states, and enable communion with the divine. Lately, it has been discovered that frankincense contains psychotropic properties that can induce visionary states of awareness, or direct communion with god.
This gift from the magi to the child, and humanity, so long ago was a symbol and a reminder that all is not what it seems, that the soul which is trapped in this five-sense world can transcend its confines and enter the vast and limitless cosmological reality which is its true home.
Astrologically, Neptune’s alchemical role in our transformation is the dissolution of fixed and solid appearances, breaking down substance and revealing it to be a fluid, shifting mass of potential. Neptune facilitates the opening of the inner eye that can perceive beyond the limited, prescribed existence of here and now into a limitless and wondrous cosmological truth where, in our true creative state, anything is possible.
The transcendent quality of Neptune’s archetypal influence defies the limited boundaries of language. Any attempt to focus and define it is to instantly dull and and sully the luminous, formless, shifting core of meaning. By our language and five senses we are trapped within a mirror image of reality – and Neptune, symbol of a universally creative reality, can reach us only through the altered states of imagination, meditation and dreams, calling us to awake from a long slumber.
Neptune is associated with spiritual and imaginative inspiration. It transcends the common material of empirical reality, and speaks through myth, religion, metaphor and symbol. The Neptune archetype inspires the highest expressions of art, music and literature – yet once crystallised into any of these forms it can no longer be what it was, that first inspirational cause that whispered to the artist and urged his talent and creativity.
We can only speak of Neptune through a series of metaphors, which are characterized by ideas of a fathomless ocean of consciousness, the domain of the gods, mystical union, platonic, universal love, and an overwhelming sense of beauty and perfection. It is personified in the concept of the mystical surrender of Christ, the enlightenment and compassion of Buddha, Orpheus the god of inspiration, and the spiritual beauty and wisdom of Sophia.
Neptune’s influence urges the surrender of ego control, the dissolving of all boundaries and ideas of separateness, and seeks to illuminate the underlying unity and wholeness of all that exists. Neptune seeks to reveal the illusion of our containment in the world, and set us free from its rigid structural prison.
Yet in the desire to surrender to a greater reality and all-encompassing compassion, there is a danger of becoming lost. Having seen a vision of beauty beyond description, ordinary life can seem meaningless and hopeless. Under Neptune’s sway the distinction between self and others dissolves, and we are left open to all the hurts of the world. This is the underlying source of empathy. Feelings of disillusionment and despair are common effects of Neptune’s influence in the natal chart, as we take up the delicate challenge of navigating the ever shifting currents of its watery deeps.
As Uranus is associated with the starry air, Neptune is associated with the ocean, and all that is watery, fluid, ceaselessly flowing and all-pervading. For some long time the grip of this brittle material world has been severely challenged by Neptune, and there are casualties and confusion in the dramatic shifts already in process. Visions of divine truth and the dissolution of reality can, for the lone pioneer, shatter sanity. The human soul is confused and forlorn upon realising its imprisonment and limitation, and is in danger of seeking escape in negative addictions and attachments. When the two realities collide, the imagination can run wild, and we can become victims of illusion and delusion, deception and self-deception, and escapism through all kinds of intoxication sometimes leading to psychosis. The beauty and grandeur of Neptune’s visions bedazzles consciousness, and enchants in both positive and negative senses.
A resurgence of mysticism, spiritualism, and the introduction of eastern philosophy and theosophy by the likes of Helena Blavatsky and Annie Besant in the mid 19th century collided dramatically with the new science, the ‘Enlightenment’ which denied religion and sought to strip away belief, magic and concepts of the sacred. Today the established ‘truth’ that the ‘external world has no meaning, is lifeless matter moved in a mechanistic way by material forces that can be measured, controlled and manipulated’ (Kieron le Grice, Disenchantment & Integrative Postmodernism, Archai) has run its course, and is no longer tenable. In this new Aquarian Age at the dawn of a new celestial day, the new science is coming ever more into harmony with the wisdom of our ancient ancestors, and a new kind of enchantment begins to illuminate our world. An enchantment that has matured and has its foundation in discipline and responsibility.
Again using metaphor (it is all there is) this world can be viewed as a caterpillar whose moment of transformation has come. All its cells are in chaos, some are committing suicide, some are murdering, as fear, panic and hate sieze them. Yet there are other cells who have realised something new is happening, who gather together and remain calm, no longer judging no longer acting – receptive, accepting, at peace. They undergo an alchemical transformation where all of their previous outer form is destroyed, and they are transformed as if by a magical process. After the turbulence, they emerge as shimmering creatures of the sky, no longer crawling in the undergrowth. All the world’s creatures must become finer now, as the flesh of a caterpillar becomes as gossamer wings. Impossible? It happens every moment! Our current turbulence is part of a process – like mixing two colours. There will be imbalance and chaos, until they find attunement, the right hue, with each other. All we can do is relax, and permit the motion and the turbulence. Attain higher awareness. This too shall pass …