Neptune, Liquid Assets, and Oil
I’m not a historian, so please don’t hold me accountable to the standards of my astrological/historian heroes: Richard Tarnas, Joseph Campbell, et al. But as an astrologer recently studying the transit cycle of Neptune through the USA’s chart since its discovery in 1846, I am impressed by the importance of this planet in recent history and also in the times we are living through.
Here are a brief set of basic astrological facts and observations about Neptune’s discovery, its placement in the USA’s chart, and its first full transit cycle (which is just now drawing to a close).
Neptune is Discovered
Discovered in September of 1846 through an assortment of observations by European astronomers, Neptune was the first major planet discovered since Uranus in 1781. While Uranus was assigned its archetypal meaning by astrologers as a planet of sudden disruption, emancipation, revolution, and freedom (the random mutation of evolution), Neptune was assigned the meaning of mystical unifierand boundary dissolver. It is of course interesting that Neptune’s discovery in 1846 happened after several random mutation-like observations by astronomers in different locations in Europe.It is as if by discovering Neptune we came to realize the greater purpose of Uranus. If Uranus disrupts and emancipates or liberates (think of the French Revolution or the 1960's), then Neptune uses all sudden emancipations and revolutions for the purpose of mystical unification.
As people interested in the evolution of consciousness it is important that we understand the sanctity of forms in time and space. Neptune does not want to dissolve the material world in favor of a spiritual world.Neptune does not want to eliminate time and space for the sake of some pure and undifferentiated state of being. Rather, Neptune wants to eliminate all boundaries, even those perceived boundaries between oneness and dualism itself.
For example, if we think about our great avatars, teachers, or the shamanic experience of death and rebirth, Neptune’s teaching is present. The body is not to be dismembered and discarded but rather transfigured and reborn. Neptune’s discovery began the global recognition that the process of evolution is ultimately one of complete integration throughout history. The project is that of total boundary dissolution, including the boundaries we perceive between spirit and matter or boundaries and non-boundaries themselves. To astrologers, Uranus’s discovery leading to Neptune’s discovery meant something like: the more integrated our notion of revolution becomes the more revolutionary our notion of integration becomes.
TheDiscovery of Oil and the Neptune New Moon
Two years after the discovery of Neptune, in 1848, the first major modern oil well was drilled in Asia. At this point in time Neptune was in Aquarius in the USA’s natal 2nd house (a house of values, resources,and assets). Oil was perhaps the first and greatest Neptunian discovery. What could be more literally Neptunian than a liquid asset from within our very own earth that could be used to perpetuate a global society?
By the time the USA had started to drill for oil on its own soil, in 1859, just miles outside the USA’s birth city of Philadelphia, Neptune had progressed approximately 30 degrees in its transit and was sitting at the nadir of the USA’s chart (the home, the roots, and the deep, lunar sense of self). Finding our roots as a young nation was intimately linked with the extraction of oil from our home soil.
At the base of our psychology in the USA there have been two major archetypal factors. Neptune (the spiritual desire to unify and merge all boundaries between ourselves and others, which is why America is called a melting pot) and this liquid asset of oil (the consumer substance we have identified with at the root of our national psyche). It is important to note that ourself-identification process in the USA initially involved a physical substance like oil. Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Or is Neptune’s message subtler than one of those two choices?
Perhaps our deep seated identification with a liquid asset is inspiring. There is, after all, a desire to use what is within us to spread out and merge. On the other hand, an over identification with a finite physical substance being exhausted from inside the earth seems like a baby step compared to the deeper liquid assets that Neptune might have in store for us.
First Quarter Moon (Neptune’s First Square)
A first quarter moon is thought to represent a crisis of action. All major astrological transits are measured by their hard aspects in correlation to the moon’s cycle (New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, and LastQuarter = Conjunction, Square, Opposition, Square). The first quarter or first square of Neptune’s transit (starting from the point of America’s first home-based oil well) takes us to the year 1899, placing Neptune in the sign of Gemini in the USA’s 7th house (a house of foreign relations). Among many things I noticed in my study of this first quarter/square aspect there are two that stand out: the Open Door Policy, and two major Earthquakes within 7 days in Alaska (a seemingly victimized piece of land in the unfolding oil saga ofthe USA).
The Open Door Policy as I've understood it marked a major conceptual change in International Trade Policy. Essentially, without any major imperial ruler ofChina, a number of powerful countries agreed to allow each other open access to trade with China. The use of oil in the economy was obviously working to the benefit of major imperial countries, and Neptune’s crisis of action seemed to be about the rapid expansion of free, oil-spawned trade. According to the highest Neptunian standards this would have seemed like a mark of progress. “No war here gang. Just an open door and trading through the machines and industry this oil has provided us!”
At the same time, two earthquakes, back to back, hit Alaska, a place of great natural beauty and a place that is still linked with much oil controversy.
Since Neptune wants to wash away boundaries, the question as to whether or not the Open Door Policy was a good thing is perhaps irrelevant.Boundaries were being washed away and globalization was speeding up at the same rate the earth was being greedily depleted of this liquid asset.
The Full Moon (Neptune Opposition)
In December of 1941 Pearl Harbor was bombed and Neptune reached the full moon of its cycle since the first oil wells were drilled onAmerican soil in 1859. It took its place at the midheaven (public achievements,recognition, and reputation) of the USA’s chart in the sign of Virgo. The political mantra was that America would enter the “war to end all wars.” Oil had gone from a thing of open door trade to something that could be used to eliminate the evil “other” of the Nazis and Japanese. Oil was being used to fuel the machine of industrial warfare, and so long as it was being used against “the bad guys” (and think now of Hitler’s own ironic justifications regarding the German war machine's extermination of the Jews) everything was okay.
World War Two was a full moon moment for the USA (we were using our deepest assets and deepest sense of self, a heroic Neptunian desire to democratically unify all nations and a psychic overidentification with oil, to establish our global reputation).
Again, the question as to whether or not the fruit of our full moon was ultimately “good” or “bad” is perhaps not really Neptune’s question. Boundaries were continuing to be dissolved.
The Last Quarter Moon (Conscious Integration)
The last quarter moon represents a time of psychic integration.Our psyche produces results, and it learns the lessons of the transit by producing wisdom and understanding. In the winter of 1982, Time magazine named the Personal Computer “Man of the Year.” The Cold War was quietly raging. Neptune was moving in the sign of Sagittarius through the first house of the United States (our self image, our dharma and our approach to life).
The Cold War was a different kind of war. A more internalized power struggle between oil, money, resources and imperial power-house nations. A finger-on-the-trigger mentality. If oil had increased free world trade in the Open Door Policy, and World War Two produced anything of value as representedin this new “cold war,” then it was a recognition of what humanity’s shadowwas really about: not an external war over political or religious values but an overidentification with local, material resources. We didn’t have to fight on the battlefield anymore because we could outspend or outresource each other or build high-tech nuclear weapons to be used by the simple flip of a switch. It was at best a war of image and resources, rather than a conflict about the democratic mission of the USA to unite the world.
Meanwhile a strange electronic, techonological, highly psychic World Wide Web was being born.
The Cycle Concludes (New Moon)
It is no coincidence that as Neptune transited its return through Aquarius (the sign it was in when discovered in 1846), we saw the complete proliferation of the Internet starting in 1997 and concluded with the world’s largest Oil Spill to date in the spring of 2010. Oil has taken us perhaps as far as it can take us in the quest to merge and unify. As Neptune returns in the next decade to the Natal location in the USA’s chart where oil was first drilled in Pennsylvania, will we release our identification with this finite liquid asset in favor of something renewable?
I think now of the new oils I’ve learned about in my personal life. Solar power. Heart power. Plants. Water. Indigenous Medicine. Holistic health. Gift or donation trade models. Farmer's markets. And what of an oil even deeper? Of the human spirit or the soul?
I am inspired to know that at the base of the United States' chart, at our deepest psychic roots, is a substantive relationship with the planet of Neptune.This gives me hope. I believe with all my heart that Neptune’s teachings unify, rather than destroy, forms in time and space. To me that means that Neptune helps our rooting process (whether we are talking now about the USA as a country or the species itself). Hopefully this time around we can learn to expand and merge with each other without depending solely on an exhaustible, liquid substance like oil. Is there a message in the stars more appealing for Americans at this critical hour? Is there an astrological indicator more hopeful for the species?
I am also inspired to know that Neptune seems to work regardless of how aware we are of its presence. Neptune’s teaching is not one of binary oppositions or angered filled protest. And it is not a pathetic laissez faire optimism or spiritualism. It is the total nature of evolution itself, including protest and non action alike, where all things merge into one while at the same time embodying a radically charged selfhood.
As Neptune leaves Aquarius and enters the first degree of Pisces this April, my prayer is that we humans can find a new liquid asset. I’ll never believe it’s a cliché,especially not when talking about Neptune, to use the word “love.”