The Saturn-Neptune Square

Saturn and Neptune will be in square from now until early December, 2016.  Those with planets in the first half of one of the mutable signs, especially Sagittarius or Pisces, will be the ones to feel this square most keenly.  Exact squares will occur around Thanksgiving this year (7 degrees), mid-June next year (12 degrees with both planets retrograde) and around 9/11 next year (10 ½ degrees, with Saturn direct crossing retrograde Neptune).  Some elements of the Uranus-Pluto square, which will continue in orb until May or June of next year, are present in the Saturn-Neptune square but with different colors.  I’m referring to the need for detachment under a power-freedom conflict. 

The detachment towards which Saturn-square-Neptune is pushing and pulling us is a more subtle detachment in a more complex and integrated dynamic than we may experience with Uranus-Pluto.  This dynamic is all about “reality” and “illusion.”  But, as The Moody Blues ask in The Day Begins on their Days of Future Past album, which is the reality and which the illusion?  It is not necessarily Saturn that represents reality and not necessarily Neptune that symbolizes illusion.  It is a Question of Balance.  Whichever side is out of balance, Saturn-square-Neptune calls to us to let go of our attachment to that imbalance.  So, if we are living a Neptunian illusion, we will get a cold shower of reality from Saturn.  And, if are attached to the illusion of Saturnian permanence, Neptunian forces will dissolve that away. 

Liz Greene put forth the idea of Saturn as the Cosmic Gatekeeper.  It is to the highest manifestation of what Neptune signifies that Saturn keeps its guard, letting none but the purest pass into the Purest Realm.  Neptune, however, perhaps manifests along the widest continuum of dark-to-light, negative-to-positive, of any of the planets.  Taking Neptune from its lowest vibrational level to its highest is a process of repeated purification and Saturn (particularly in this Saturn-square-Neptune configuration) is the agent for this purification. 

All of Neptune’s lower manifestations are illusion.  Yet, at every level, that illusion contains the seed of our deepest Neptunian yearning to surrender ourselves to the All, for our drop-ness to merge into the vast Ocean of all-embracing Love and forever lose its identity as a drop.  That is why, at every level, we cling so desperately to our Neptunian illusions.  We idealize these illusions, forever in hope that this one will be the vehicle that liberates us from our bondage to ego, that this one is that to which we can give ourselves completely.

A fellow astrologer, Gary Caton, provided me with the following insight.  He said that Neptune is the cruelest planet because it builds up our ideals and then mercilessly pops them.  If the natural working of the Neptune dynamic is to let us idealize something or someone and then deflate our ideal, telling us, “no, this too is not the Real, worthy of our adoration and self-surrender,” then we can expect this dynamic to play out all the more (and, likely, more harshly and more mercilessly) when Saturn squares Neptune. 

We can expect that this Saturn dynamic will dig deeper into our illusions, not content simply to rob us of our latest infatuation.  We can expect that the validity of some of our long-held ideals and beliefs will come under challenge as nothing but wishful thinking and delusion.  These may include some typically Neptunian constructs, such as our belief in egality, our feelings of oneness with the Universe and all-encompassing Love, our faith in the Unseen, and even the value of compassion.  This is not to say that these things are illusions, but we may begin to doubt our belief in them.  The key to whether our faith will survive the Saturnian challenge is how grounded we are in these beliefs to begin with.  If they are simply “woo-woo” fashions that we have tried on to impress ourselves or others, we are likely to be stripped naked under Saturn’s square.  If our conviction is firm and grounded in something approaching experiential knowledge, we are likely to stand the test.

Of course, the dynamic of the Saturn-Neptune square can also bring harsh reality down onto our lesser idealizations, illusions and attachments.  Whatever we are holding onto that is not real can be stripped away.  Often the vehicle is that we are made to confront what we had been pretending and hoping was not true, the reality against which we had been defending ourselves by choosing to believe the illusion.  The Saturn square may show us in ways that we cannot deny that what we thought was true, that in which we had put our faith, is undeniably false.  In this way, we are forcibly detached from our attachments because those attachments are now not what they once appeared to be.  

It is not just Saturn that bursts illusions, however.  The concept of Maya informs us that this entire material realm—in fact, even the astral and mental realms—is nothing but illusion.  Thus, while Saturn dispels us of the illusions we harbor within the life we are living, Neptune acts to dispel us of the greater illusion—the illusion that this concrete world is in any form “reality.”  This is Neptune calling Saturn to go beyond itself, or to transcend and transform the Saturnian concept of reality.  Neptune squaring Saturn will tend to force this realization on us.  For, we have, in a sense, idealized the Saturnian by investing in it the idea of permanence, of “solidity.”  Yet, nothing is permanent in the material world—it is all change.  As Heraclitus said, “No man steps into the same river twice.” 

It will be likely that, with its square to Saturn, the Neptunian archetype will forcibly bring to our attention the impermanence and unreality of all that we can observe.  Through disappointment, disillusionment, collapse, disintegration or by some other means, we will have no alternative but to let go of our attachments, concluding “Not this.”  If, while the things, relationships, or beliefs to which we are attached dissolve before our eyes, we try to hold onto them, distress and suffering are likely to be the result.  Only by gently acknowledging our foolishness to think that we could hold onto the Saturnian mirage, might we escape the harshness of Neptune’s square. 

Of course, the felt impact associated with Saturn square Neptune may not manifest as pain, wrenching detachment, your world falling apart, or heartbreaking disillusionment.  In fact, impacts of this scale are most likely to be felt if you are not paying attention to the issues involved (and some may pass through this transit feeling no turmoil at all).  That said, being conscious is not a vaccine for the more difficult transitions associated with Saturn square Neptune.  We are all attached to so many things, people, circumstances, and expectations.  We have layers upon layers of attachments, and we are completely unaware of many of them.  The conscious attitude toward Saturn-Neptune’s call to rid ourselves of our attachments and illusions is to gracefully let this happen, acknowledging our sadness and pain at letting them go if we are feeling that. 

(Back to the first part of that last paragraph), one possible manifestation of the Saturn-Neptune square is that we may feel compelled to seriously attend to things Neptunian.  This may be our formal spiritual work, or it may be becoming more compassionate, sensitive, and loving—cornerstones of true spirituality.  We may also feel compelled to actualize those ideals that have stood the test of Saturnian scrutiny, making our idealism or spirituality practical by putting it into action.  And, by seriously, I mean seriously, for if we persist in treating Neptunian Truth as if it were just another illusion with which to play around, chances are, we will get that rather unpleasant wakeup call during this transit.

And, of course, attending to Neptune’s positive call (and Saturn’s as well through discipline, discrimination, and care in what we are doing), should make it easier to lose those attachments and illusions.  When we are able to shed this baggage, we can expect to feel purer and lighter (Saturn’s positive) and clearer and more real (Neptune’s positive).  This would be accompanied by increased feelings of freedom and empowerment, resonating to the positive outcomes of the lingering Uranus-Pluto square.  So, though for some, this Saturn-Neptune square coming on top of the Uranus-Pluto square might feel like a never-ending psychological and spiritual struggle, know that all this has a purpose and that purpose is to draw us up toward the transcendent potentials symbolized by these planets.

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