Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Planets and Archetypes 10

Neptune: On the basis of unexplained aberrations in the observed orbit of Uranus, two astronomers, John Couch Adams and Urbain Leverrier, independently posited the existence and position of a planet beyond Uranus whose gravitational influence was pulling Uranus out of its calculated orbit. The new planet was discovered in the predicted position by Johann Galle in 1846 and named Neptune, after the god of the sea. In the ensuing decades, astrologers again gradually arrived at a surprisingly universal consensus concerning the principal qualities and themes observed to coincide with the new planet's position in natal charts and transits.

Neptune is associated with the transcendent, spiritual, ideal, symbolic, and imaginative dimensions of life; with the subtle, formless, intangible, and invisible; with the unitive, timeless, immaterial, and infinite; with all that which transcends the limited literal temporal and material world of concretely empirical reality ”myth and religion, art and inspiration, ideals and aspirations, dreams and visions, mysticism, religious devotion, universal compassion. It is associated with the impulse to surrender separative existence and egoic control, to dissolve boundaries and structures in favor of underlying unities and undifferentiated wholes, merging that which was separate, healing and wholeness; the dissolution of ego boundaries and reality structures, states of psychological fusion and intimations of intrauterine existence, melted ecstasy, mystical union as well as primary narcissism; with tendencies towards illusion and delusion, deception and self-deception, escapism, intoxication, psychosis, perceptual and cognitive distortions, conflation and confusion, projection, fantasy; with the bedazzlement of consciousness whether by gods, archetypal complexes, or ideologies; with enchantment, in both positive and negative senses.

The archetypal principle linked to Neptune governs all non-ordinary states of consciousness, as well as the stream of consciousness and the oceanic depths of the unconscious. Characteristic metaphors for its domain include the infinite sea of the imagination, the mystical ocean of divine consciousness, the waters of purity and healing, and the archetypal wellspring of life. It is, in a sense, the archetype of the archetypal dimension itself, the anima mundi , the Gnostic pleroma, the Platonic realm of transcendent Ideas, the domain of the gods, the Immortals. In mythic terms, it is associated with the all-encompassing womb of the Goddess, and with all deities of mystical union, universal love, and transcendent beauty; the mystical Christ, the all-compassionate Buddha, the Atman-Brahman union, the union of Shiva and Shakti, the hieros gamos or sacred marriage; the dreaming Vishnu, maya and lila , the self-reflecting Narcissus, the divine absorbed in its own reflection; Orpheus, god of artistic inspiration, the Muses; the cosmic Sophia.

Considered as a whole, these themes, qualities, and figures suggest that the name Neptune is both apt and inadequate in denoting a mythological figure embodying the planet's corresponding archetypal principle. On the one hand, central to the observed characteristics is an underlying symbolic association with water, the sea, the ocean, streams and rivers, mists and fogs, liquidity and dissolution, the amniotic and prenatal, the permeable and undifferentiated. In this regard, one thinks of the many oceanic and watery metaphors used to describe mystical experience, the primordial participation mystique of undifferentiated awareness, the fetal and infantile state of primary fusion, the realms of the imagination, the fluid nature of psychic life generally: the stream of consciousness, the influx of inspiration, the all-encompassing divine ocean of consciousness of which our individual selves are but temporarily separate drops, the mists of prehistory, the fog of confusion, drowning in the treacherous deep waters of the unconscious psyche, slipping into madness or addiction, surrendering to the flow of experience, dissolving into the divine union, melted ecstasy, and so forth. One thinks here, too, of Freud's reference to the oceanic feeling : a sensation of ˜eternity,' a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded ”as it were, ˜oceanic'. . . . it is the feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole. Equally relevant is William James' image of a transcendental mother-sea of consciousness with which the individual consciousness is continuous, and of which the brain essentially serves as a sieve or filtering conduit.9

On the other hand, in virtually all other respects the original mythological character of the Roman Neptune and Greek Poseidon ”tempestuous, violent, earthshaking, belligerent, often ill-tempered and vengeful (thus resembling most of the other Greco-Roman patriarchal warrior gods) ”is deeply incongruent with the complex set of qualities and themes that have been consistently observed in connection with the planet Neptune, and that are more accurately reflected in the mystically unitive deities and archetypal figures cited above. Nevertheless, as with Uranus's mythological association with the starry heavens and air, so also with Neptune's association with the sea and water: the name given to the new planet does seem to possess a certain poetic accuracy in terms of the mythological location and element associated with it, perhaps a reflection of synchronistic factors playing a role in the astronomers' intuition and choice of names.


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