Neptune is the archetype of the transcendent, of ideal reality, of imagination and the spiritual. It represents the ocean of consciousness that dissolves all boundaries between self and other, between self and universe, between self and God, and between this concrete reality and other realities. In perinatal terms Neptune has much to do with the intrauterine condition in which the child's being and consciousness are not yet differentiated from the mother's, where there is a symbiotic union, a melting oceanic feeling. Individuals who contact this primal memory in deep self-exploration often associate that state with the mystical condition of oneness with Nature, union with God, or union with the All, and also with a free-floating consciousness in which many realities--spiritual, imaginative, or illusory--seem to interpenetrate without sharp distinction.
Neptune thus governs the ideal world, whether this be defined as the perfect all-encompassing maternal womb, the spiritual world of ideal reality, or one's highest dreams and aspirations. Yet, like every other planetary archetype, Neptune has opposite sides, light and shadow. For it can both illuminate one with the highest spiritual truths that transcend the everyday world, and yet also lead one into escapist fantasy, illusion, and deception. Neptune represents Nirvana, the supreme state of mystical bliss where all the divisions and structures of this world are transcended; yet it also represents Maya, the divine play which produces the many illusions of reality that enchant consciousness. Neptune relates to both madness and mysticism, and the line is often hard to draw.
Neptune can also be seen as connected to the Narcissus archetype--that which is absorbed in its own reflection. Again this can be understood as the ultimate Divinity eternally experiencing its infinite consciousness, as reflected in the mystic who is absorbed in blissful meditation; but also as the self-absorbed narcissist, the drug addict or alcoholic, the television couch-potato, the escapist, or the psychotic who can no longer accurately discern what is consensus reality. There is a selflessness and unworldliness to Neptune which is visible in the saint and martyr, the altruistic social worker, the yogi or monk. Yet these same qualities can result in an unhealthy denial of self, a sense of helpless weakness, a regressive impulse away from life and the challenges of being an individual self, or an exaggerated spirituality that would altogether deny the claims of the physical world and physical body. What is required of us, as always, is to find a good balance between the demands of Neptune and those of the other planets.
Neptune rules the basic human drive or thirst for transcendence: the yearning for an invisible ideal, the longing to dissolve one's boundaries into the cosmic unity, to melt into a dream, to transcend this world of separation and limit, to experience the flow of love and compassion and a transcendence of the boundaries of the personal ego. It is just this drive or thirst that fuels the addictive impulse as well as the spiritual quest. Because of Neptune's association with the ideal, with a kind of mystical paradise or oceanic womb of which the psyche may have, as it were, archetypal memories, there is often an accompanying sense of loss or longing connected with whatever it touches in the chart.
Because it dissolves one's boundaries, Neptune tends to sensitize one to everything--to other people and their inner states, to external stimuli, to other realities, and so forth. It greatly increases the intuition, but it can also make one liable to projecting one's own inner states on to others in a delusive way. Neptune is related to healing abilities, both physical and psychological. It has a refining, purifying, sublimating influence. Yet physically Neptune tends to weaken one's own body (in favor of the spiritual), just as psychologically it tends to weaken the ego (in favor of the larger whole of consciousness). Its constant dynamic is to dissolve structures, to bring all things back to an undifferentiated unity. Neptune also seems to be related to all things watery, whether the physical ocean or the amniotic fluid in which floats the embryo.
Since it governs the realm of imagination, Neptune can be seen as the source of all imaginative creativity and artistic imagery. It governs myth, dreams, symbols, and the flow of images in consciousness. It is the spiritual matrix of the anima mundi, the world soul or cosmic psyche. Also, as the symbol of the ultimate spiritual unity of all things, Neptune can be seen as the wellspring of love and compassion. It rules faith and hope, a sense of the unseen, the quest for spiritual beauty. It is the mystical religious archetype par excellence.
When a planet is in major aspect to Neptune, that second planetary archetype tends to be especially sensitized, sometimes weakened, sometimes spiritualized, sometimes both. The second archetype tends to be idealized in some way, making it subject to either illusion on the one hand or mystical meaning on the other. It becomes allied to the principle of imagination and the spiritual, and potentially can be a significant channel for the expansion of consciousness.