On February 3rd of this year, Neptune moved into Pisces, the sign over which it has modern rulership (Pisces' classical ruler is Jupiter). When a planet is in a sign it rules, its influence is strengthened, so it's helpful to take some time to consider the issues that will be raised under this transit of Neptune. Understanding the astrological weather lets us make choices with greater awareness of what's at stake, which planetary energies we can draw on, and where we might encounter challenges as we navigate our lives.

Neptune is associated with formlessness, transcendence, and the ultimate reality of the Source. It reminds us that the totality of the universe we live in cannot be encompassed by our reasoning mind, and asks us to consider things that cannot be intellectualized, but must be intuited, because they are beyond the grasp of reason and intellect. The ineffable vastness of space, the minuteness of sub-atomic particles, the stretch of geologic time, the dreams that leave us longing for a utopia we have never known, the mysteries of the human heart, and the experience of unity common to mystics of all religions – this is Neptune's territory.

Neptune helps us realize that reason and order must come after experience and awareness, for we cannot conceptualize what we are not aware of. We have to learn to "grok" – intuitively expand our experience of – reality in order to grow. ("Grok" comes from Robert Heinlein's wonderfully Neptunian novel Stranger in a Strange Land). But Neptune's awareness can come with a price, for its influence easily crosses the line from expanded awareness into a loss of boundaries that leads to mental breakdown and the inability to function effectively in physical reality. Delusions, substance abuse, religious fanaticism, martyrdom, chaos and deception all reflect the energies of Neptune in Pisces, as do visionary breakthroughs, enlightenment, transcendent experiences, spiritual healing, shamanic states of consciousness, and utopian idealism. Neptune also rules theater and film, pharmaceuticals, oil (with Pluto), anything associated with the oceans, art, creativity, and imagination.

The events that play out on the world stage during the years of this transit will, almost invariably, have a strong Neptunian cast. Neptune takes about 146 years to make its way around the full circle of the Zodiac, and some of the large-scale trends and events during Neptune's previous passage through Pisces reflect its influence clearly. From 1848 through 1861, this transit overlit, for example, the birth of the Spiritualist movement, the flowering of Transcendentalism, and the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species", the book that led to an understanding of all life as being connected through shared genetic material. The idealistic Communist Manifesto was published, and the anti-slavery movements in the US and Europe flourished.

I expect the next 14 years to bring both mass spiritual awakenings and mass spiritual traumas based in fanaticism. Politically, movements such as Occupy will continue to challenge class divisions and highlight themes of social justice. Environmentally, we'll see major developments around issues of pollution, particularly water pollution. Trends in art and literature will highlight fantasy, spirituality, and themes of martyrdom and redemption. Some of the basic assumptions of science will, almost certainly, be challenged, and it's likely that the mysteries of quantum mechanics will cause even more upheaval and confusion in the scientific world as progress in this area reveals even greater puzzles, and the nature of objective reality is questioned.

I'll be looking at what we might expect from Neptune in Pisces on a more personal level in future posts.